It was a relatively simple assignment.
Get in, grab the briefcase, get out.
He was doing this on his own, as he didn’t quite trust his partner after he’d been on a ketchup-and-vodka bender all night. Pikachu was never quite accurate when he was pissed, and Ash needed accuracy. After all, any guard he missed might be the one that nailed him in the back on his way out.
He didn’t know why they wanted the briefcase, didn’t really care either.
All his job was to provide a service, and achieve his goal. Rather, the goal of his client. This client was powerful, and had a lot of money.
Quite a lot of money.
Certainly enough to keep Pikachu in ketchup and vodka spritzers for a very long time.
His pokemon snoring in the seat beside him, he stepped out of the car, backpack over one shoulder. He’d parked a few blocks away, as not to draw attention to himself. After all, what kind of backpacker -for with his torn jeans, rumpled shirt and backpack, he fitted the description of one- drove a black Rapidash 380?
On foot, sneakers squeaking on the pavement, he moved towards the building entrance, drawing the attention of the security, but only in a what-kind-of-trash-are-you-and-why-are-you-here kind of way. Showing his pass, he entered, just another tourist in Saffron city.
The inside of Silph Co. was just as he remembered.
Gleaming marble tiles, expensive glass sculptures, decorative tinkling fountain.
Anyone would think it was a first-class hotel rather than the most profitable organisation -aside from the one he worked for, of course- in Kanto.
He gazed around, every bit the awestruck tourist, but instead of gawking, he noted the guards at every entrance, and the alert receptionists.
Silph Co. had really stepped up the security ever since it was infiltrated by Team Rocket some sixteen years ago. Pity it wasn’t good enough to stop him.
One of the guards was watching him, and that tinkling fountain was really starting to get on his nerves, so he decided to make a move. Ignoring the couple taking photographs -whose view he ruined by walking past them- he headed for the staircase, joining a tour group.
“…and was founded over fifty years ago by Joseph Silph. The company later grew to be the most important pokemon product manufacturer and research centre in the KanJoh continent.”
Nodding along with the rest of the crowd, but not really listening, Ash slipped away to the elevators. Pretending to take photos, he spoke to the guard that was staring at him questioningly.
“You mind being in these? My daughter wants me to take heaps of photos for her, as she’s in hospital, and can’t come on the tour with me and my wife.”
The guard, pleased and happy to help a young man with a sick daughter, acquiesced, and grinned stupidly as Ash snapped away. What he didn’t notice was that the camera was geared for the pokemon attack Flash. Dazed and confused, the guard was easily shunted aside, and slipping into the surveillance cameras blind spot, Ash entered the elevator.
He shook his head at the guard’s stupidity, and wondered if any guards at all were remotely intelligent, considering how easily they seemed to be fooled in both real life and the movies.
The doors swished shut, and using an old keycard that he’d filched off Giovanni after defeating him sixteen years ago, he entered the command for the ninth floor, which was the home of the warp tile that would take him directly to the Chairman’s office. He wasn’t really surprised at the use of psychic technology, considering that Saffron city was home to Sabrina, ex-gymleader and the world’s most powerful psychic.
He shuddered. Psychics gave him the creeps. Still, he wasn’t quite as bad as Brock, who ever since his run in with Sabrina, was terrified of dolls. Couldn’t stand the things. Hell, he broke out into a cold sweat every time one of his numerous younger siblings dragged him into a toy store, and into the doll section.
The ninth floor was deserted. He supposed this was cause it was a Sunday, and no-one worked on Sundays. Sneaking as quietly as possible with his squeaky sneakers, he passed doors and halls, and found the object of his search.
Humming slightly, and glowing in the disquieting gloom of the corner in which it was hidden, the warp tile was a lot smaller then Ash remembered. Still, it provided a means to an end, and stepping on it, he once again felt the disturbing sensation of being scrunched up small and stretched out as long as possible at the same time, and the last thought of his before he was scattered into a collection of atoms, was that he felt like a puzzle that had been strewn by a careless older brother.
Alive, and once again in one solid piece, Ash stepped out onto the plush carpet of the executive office with a relief that was almost orgasmic in its intensity. Shaking his head to dispel the lingering sensation of dizziness teleportation bought, and once again hidden in the surveillance blind spot, Ash slunk through the decorated office, heading for the door. Using his cardkey on the security command centre, he disabled the security for the eleventh floor, and deleted the past hour of security footage, setting the companies clocks in daylight saving mode. Then, that done, headed for the executive desk, entered the code to the desks online computer -honestly, everything was computerised these days- and accessed the hidden drawer, which wasn’t as hidden as the Chairman had thought it was. Opening it, he reached in, and completed his mission. Now, all he had to do was get out of here.
Briefcase on the floor beside him, Ash rummaged through his bag, pulling out an escape rope. No one, in all the years of pokemon trainers, had ever figured out how escape ropes worked. Still, they worked, and a few disorientating minutes later, Ash found himself in Silph Co. car park, briefcase in hand. It looked like a pretty ordinary briefcase to him, black leather with a mahogany handle, and a silver combination lock. Still puzzling over what was so important about an ordinary black briefcase, he opened his door, and slipped into the car.
It was his car, bought and paid for in the same day, as a reward for a particularly successful mission, and with the help of a particularly fat cheque. Pikachu, still in a ketchup and vodka induced stupor, didn’t even notice him slip in. Briefcase on the back seat, and Ash was ready to go to the drop off point, and ready to collect his reward. Then, home for a quick shower, and off to his mother’s place for Sunday night dinner.
“Roast tonight, Pikachu. I can almost taste those roast potatoes.” Stomach growling louder than the car’s engine as he started it up, he scratched Pikachu behind the ears, and the golden pokemon opened bleary eyes.
“Piiii….” It moaned, ears drooping.
Ash snorted, not showing his under-the-weather companion any sympathy. “It’s your own fault. I’m not gonna feel sorry for you, when you did this to yourself. And stop acting so miserable. Mum’s gonna notice if you’re sick, then I’m gonna cop it, not just from her, but from Brock too. Then, cause Brock will be angry, May will be too, then Max, cause May will beat him up if he isn’t, and then I’ll have a whole house of people angry at me.”
Turning out of the car park, and into the busy Saffron traffic, Ash was thinking of his mother’s famous roast, and not concentrating on the other cars, and failed to notice the car that was tailing him. It would not be the first time his stomach had distracted him from the task at hand, nor would it be the last.
The car, red and new, hung just far enough back for Ash not to perceive it, but Pikachu did. The golden-furred mouse pokemon, head throbbing from a splitting headache, had looked back to see a dark-suited man driving, the kind of man who would be more interested in cracking heads than talking, and the kind that would rather drive a big, black 4WD rather than a sporty, red coupe. Although his head was hammering with a very intense hang-over, Pikachu had the presence of mind to alert Ash to the man tailing them.
Ash groaned. “I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as it was.” Slightly puzzled back the lack of sense he was making, he pulled out into a different lane, drawing the man out onto a remote road. Although Ash could kill, had killed when he’d had to, he preferred not to, especially when there was innocent people at risk. Team Rocket, on the other hand, were little more than moving targets in his opinion, especially the grunts. And grunt is what the man tailing him was.
“I mean, just look at him Pikachu! If he’s not a rocket grunt, I’ll eat my hat. With ketchup. He’s wearing a suit, and he’s got dark glasses. Geez. Why not just hang a sign around his neck that says ‘I’m a member of an evil secret organisation, take aim’? Honestly.” He sped up, heading out into the countryside. “Pikachu, in my backpack, there’s a long slender case. In it there’s my rifle. It’s in two pieces; screw them together, click on the scope, and load it would you?”
“Pi.” Pikachu’s small paws made light work of assembling the rifle and loading it.
“Thanks. Just drop it in my lap.” He shot a glance at the small pokemon beside him. “And, if I were you, little buddy, I’d put my seatbelt on.”
Richard wasn’t having a good day.
Not only did that idiot mercenary he was supposed to tail get into Silph and complete his mission, he did it so fast, he’d barely had time to grab a cup of coffee. And, it wasn’t just that. He’d spotted him tailing, he was sure of it. And that gods-damned Pikachu. For such a small pokemon to be so powerful was unnatural, he was sure of it.
So intent was Richard on bemoaning to fate, he wasn’t prepared for the black car in front of him to swerve suddenly, and stop. Foot jamming on the brake, Richard breathed a curse as the driver door of the black car -the one facing him- opened and the man he was following stepped out.
Richard noticed two things about him.
One: he had a gun.
Two: it was pointed at him.
He swallowed, then, with reflexes slower than he’d hoped, scrambled for his own gun.
Ash closed his eyes when he felt the gun fire, not really wanting to see the red coupe’s upholstery decorated in shades of grey matter and blood.
He opened his eyes, looked away from the gruesome sight. Then, he sighed, lowered the rifle, and began to pull it apart as he stepped back into the car.
“Well, Pikachu, I don’t know about you, but that just ruined my appetite. C’mon, let’s get rid of this accursed briefcase, grab our money, and get out of here.”
Pikachu nodded his agreement, and concentrated on looking forward to the bottle of ketchup awaiting him at Mrs. Ketchum’s house.
“Ash! So good to see you! Oh, how long has it been? Come and give your mother a kiss!” Ash grimaced as his mother pulled him into a hug, and kissed his cheek.
“Hi, mum. It’s only been a week. I came over last Sunday, remember?” All the same, he kissed her cheek, and smiled.
“Come in, the others are all ready seated at the table. They wanted to eat, but I said we had to wait till you got here. After all, you can’t have a family dinner without all the family here, can you?” Ash let her babble wash over him, as she led him through the door, and into the dining room. Pikachu followed, looking slightly perkier after a quick wash and a bowlful of Berocca.
Entering, he grinned back at Brock, who was drumming his fingers on the table.
“’bout time you showed up, Ketchum. Never known you to be late for a meal before.” He shook his head. “We were starting to get worried.”
Ash took his seat, at the head of the table, his mother’s seat on his left, next to Max. Brock was to his right, May next to him. The seat at the other end of the table was where Pikachu sat, with the aid of the cross-continental phonebook (which was almost a foot thick).
“Nothing to worry about Brock, it’ll never happen again. Just got held up with work.”
“Oh, what happened Ash?” asked May, curious, as Mrs. Ketchum bought in the roast.
“Nothing major. Just a bit of traffic trouble. But we sorted that out, didn’t we, Pikachu?”
The pokemon nodded, mouth stuffed with roast potato.
“Pika chu.” he mumbled, around his mouthful. Ash passed him the ketchup.
“And Pikachu, try to eat civilised. Please.” The pokemon swallowed, licked the ketchup of his chin, and grinned at Ash. “On second thought, I don’t think you know what civilised means.”
The meal passed with idle talk about what Max had been doing on his course at Pokemon Tech, what pokemon Brock had successfully bred at his pokemon breeding centre, how Mrs. Ketchum’s tomato plants were doing, and various other topics. Ash, as usual hedged around any questions about his work, and what he’d been up to (none of the others knew what his actual job was, or where he worked, or even what he’d been up to lately) and asked questions of his own. After, with cake and coffee, it was revealed that May and Brock were an item now, which didn’t really surprise Ash considering that May was basically a female version of Brock, and that Mrs. Ketchum was going to a pokemon gardening expo on Tuesday.
Full and content, Ash felt more relaxed than he had been in days. It was nice every now and then to be able to forget about the world outside, and just concentrate on his extended family. Sometimes, he just wished he could just tell them all about him, but he knew the risk of them becoming involved. All their knowledge of his work would do is put them in danger.
“Well, mum, I’d better be off. Gotta get up early, and it’s a long drive back to Indigo.” He kissed his mother on the cheek, wished Max could luck with his upcoming exams, wished May and Brock luck with their relationship (“even though you guys probably don’t need it”) grabbed Pikachu by the scruff of his neck, and headed home, feeling vaguely guilty over his continued deception, but ignoring it. Tomorrow was a new day, and a new assignment.
“Welcome to The Company. Please enter your codename and password.” The female, slightly metallic voice greeted Ash chirpily.
Ash, on the other hand wasn’t feeling remotely cheerful at all, and had a strange impulse to smash that gods-damned machine.
“Welcome to The Company. Please enter your codename and password.”
Once again, the voice asked him the question, and Ash sighed, reached an arm out the open window, and lazily typed in his codename (“hat boy”) and password (“ketchup”) into the robotic keyboard waiting for him.
“Welcome, Mr. Ketchum. You have no new messages and one new assignment. Please proceed to the debriefing hall.”
The bar obstructing him from the driveway rose, and Ash drove through the gateway and into the car park of a building that looked much like any other office building in the world. The difference between this building and any other buildings like it was that this one not only housed the most sophisticated technology currently available, but it was home to The Company.
The Company could only be described as a mercenary organisation, with mercenaries for hire. If you had enough money, they would do anything you asked of them, complete any task you wished for them to perform, obtain any object.
But only if you had enough money.
Ash walked through the door, passed through the metal detector, Pikachu trailing.
“Good morning, Mr. Ketchum. Please proceed to the debriefing hall.” The receptionist smiled at him, passing him a calico file. Her smile didn’t reach her eyes.
“Thanks. Pikachu, c’mon, we gotta go.”
The pokemon flicked an ear, poked its tongue out at the receptionist, and ran after Ash.
“Stupid Pikachu.” Muttered the receptionist as they left.
“Nice of you to join us, Mr. Ketchum.” The woman at the head of the sleek, modern-styled stainless steel table jerked her head to the side, indicating his seat. “Sit.”
The woman gave him a smile as warm, welcoming, and pleasant as a slit throat.
Ash found it interesting that she referred to herself as ‘us’, as there was no-one else in the room. Dutifully, he sat, and focused on the head of The Company.
Miss Midas was what they called her.
For, indeed, everything she did or touched, it seemed, turned to gold.
She was middle-forties, but as youthful as a woman in her early-thirties. Ash had once suspected plastic surgery, but realised that no doctor had such finesse as to completely stop the ageing process, and Miss Midas had not aged a day in the eleven years he had been under her command.
It was really starting to creep Ash out, but he didn’t show it, and she didn’t seem to notice.
“And Pikachu. There’s a bottle of ketchup on the floor next to my briefcase.”
“Your new task is one of utmost importance. For this assignment, you will be working for the Pokemon League.”
Ash was surprised, but didn’t show it. The Company was, according to the League’s laws regarding such organisations, technically illegal. But then, after Gary Oak had became Master, gyms had been disbanded, replaced by modern “training houses”, one in every town or city; many laws had changed, and it had simply become a matter of a large… donation to the League’s retirement fund for The Company to continue working unhindered. Even so, such co-operation was unheard of.
“The reason we are being hired by the League is none of your concern, but it does involve the recent spate of League crack-downs on Team Rocket.”
Miss Midas ignored the slurping coming from Pikachu in the corner, and continued.
“You are to infiltrate Rudy of Trovita Island’s household, and obtain as much information regarding Team Rocket as possible from the evidence contained therein. Mr. Trovita has long been suspected of being a Rocket sympathiser, and you are to prove him as such. You are also to obtain as much information as possible regarding his pastimes, habits, vices, anything of use to the League. You are to seduce his wife, pump her for information, then dispose of her. Use any means necessary.”
For the first time in his history of employment by The Company, Ash felt the need to question his orders.
“Is that really essential to the assignment?”
“Mrs. Trovita is suspected of being in league with Team Rocket also. After all, she is married to the man who is suspected of being of great importance to the Rocket hierarchy.” She scrutinized Ash with eyes that were violet ice. “I did not think you would have qualms over such a simple task as a seduction and assassination. You have been assigned to similar missions before and completed them. What is it about this task that you feel unable to complete?”
Ash hesitated. He couldn’t quite put words to the horrifying sensation that was, at the current moment, curdling his insides and gnawing away at his stomach like some weird flesh-eating virus.
“What if the wife is innocent? What if she is not involved in Team Rocket? You must admit that is a possibility.” Again, he hesitated. “And do I really need to seduce her?” He’d always felt uneasy about any missions of his that required such methods, and always felt… well, dirty afterwards, even if the woman involved was the one at fault.
Miss Midas raised one perfectly groomed and arched eyebrow. “If she is, kill her. If she isn’t, capture her, and use her as a hostage to lure Trovita into the League’s trap. Simple.” She paused. “And as for the seduction… you need this woman to trust you completely, be utterly open to you, be prepared to answer any question you have, perform any task you wish her to. In short, this woman must be completely infatuated by you, even love you. That is what is meant by the term ‘seduction’.”
She placed her hands flat on the table, calico file beside them and forgotten.
“I hope that this mission will be as successful as your last. The League are paying quite a lot of money to ensure it is so. Your commission will, once again, be ten percent of the fee paid.” She passed him the calico file. “A grand total of ten million, I believe.”
Ash suppressed a whistle. That fee meant that this task was costing the League one hundred million. Ash was curious as to why the League required the services of The Company, considering such a task could be undertaken by the League itself. Still, he knew better than to ask.
yourself with the blueprints and notes regarding Trovita’s household, staff and
wife. You will also find a photo of the woman in question, and plane tickets to
Ash nodded, called Pikachu (who was still licking ketchup of its whiskers), and left, calico folder in hand. As he left the debriefing room, Ash tried not to think of the woman whose life might be ended at his hands. Calming himself, he reasoned that he did not know her, did not even know her name, and that she might not be a Rocket sympathiser anyway. He resolved not to even look at the folder or read the information about her till he was on the plane.
I know it’s short notice mum, but my boss obviously needs me to do this.” Ash,
who was packing whilst on the phone to his mother, rummaged in his drawer,
searching for his passport. “And, a holiday on
“Yes, I’ll bring you back a souvenir. I dunno, probably one of those decorative teaspoons, you like them, don’t you?” The passport was placed on the bed, beside a wallet, suitcase, and a small, sleek silver handgun, currently snuggled in a holster.
“Yes, I’ll be careful. Yeah, I love you too. Okay. Okay, I’m going now. Bye mum.”
He shook his head as he hung up, and finished packing.
“Well, little buddy, looks like we’ll be gone in the morning. Got anything to add to the suitcase?” Even as Ash said it, he knew the mistake he’d made. “No, Pikachu, you’re not packing three litres of ketchup. And especially not with my best white shirts.”
“Why not? Because those shirts are three hundred dollars each for a start, and I’m not getting ketchup on them. And besides, you can’t take food in a suitcase.”
“Pika chu pi.”
“No, you can not. Look, I’ll buy you some ketchup when we get there.”
“Pika ka chu pika.”
“Whaddaya mean it’s not the same?! Pikachu, its just ketchup.”
After the crackle of electricity finally ceased, and Ash finally regained consciousness, he compromised.
“Okay, you can take one bottle. Just one, and I’ll take it in my backpack. But that’s all, got it?”
Three bottles of ketchup later, and an hour into the flight, Ash was in a bad mood. He had a headache, he was tired, and Pikachu was really pissing him off at the moment, calling every damn hostess he saw over. And while Ash was sure all of these women were reasonable, logical and intelligent, they all fell to pieces when they saw Pikachu. If he heard one more “aw look at the little schnookums isn’t he sweet” he was gonna pull his pistol out of its shoulder holster (as Ash was a registered private investigator-an alibi long used by The Company- he was licensed to carry one) and start shooting people.
And to make matters worse, Ash felt guilty about lying to his mother, and bad about the fact that in seven hours time he was going to meet a woman who he would manipulate like a puppet.
And he felt even worse knowing why Miss Midas had chosen him.
Not only was he a skilled member of The Company, he was a faithful one, and he completed all of his given assignments.
he was also -and this was what made Ash uneasy- considered fairly attractive by
many of his female colleagues. Ash was, surprisingly, a very modest man. He did
not think of himself as intelligent, attractive or any such thing. Any one who
knew him as a child would find this hard to believe, but it was true. The only
thing Ash prided himself on was his skill as a pokemon trainer. He’d beaten
He’d given up on that dream many years ago, along with a few others besides.
But that was beside the point. He knew he was considered easy on the eyes, knew it and was acutely embarrassed by it, and he’d been chosen above all others because of it. And there was another reason, one he knew, one he hadn’t been told about.
Knew it by the pity he’d seen in Miss Midas’ eyes, as he’d walked out the door. The first human emotion he’d seen her exhibit.
She knew something, something bad.
And that was why he was putting off reading his file, not wanting to read it and know the reason, and know he couldn’t complete the mission.
And he also knew he was in danger of doing something exceedingly dangerous.
Breaking the rules.
The Company had three rules:
One: Always obey.
Two: Always complete.
Three: Always succeed.
Always obey orders (even if you don’t like them), always complete the mission (achieve the main goal of any mission. If you’re sent to find someone, and you do, but they’re dead, it still counts as an assignment completed), and always succeed (if you failed, you were retired. Forcibly.). These three things were beaten into recruits until it was impossible to forget them, and Ash was in danger of breaking all of them. There was a fourth rule, one that was never spoken, but still there.
Break the rules, and you’re dead.
Ash felt sick.
And Pikachu, licking his partners face when he noticed how pale he’d gone (as pale as an albino Persian chasing a Rattata around a corner and running into a Mightyena pale) didn’t exactly help either.
And so, Ash tried to calm himself, opened the folder, and found out what Miss Midas knew.
Alicia was a hostess, and rapidly working her way up the hostess hierarchy, simple though it was. She was hostess to the first class, those rich and influential people who flew from business meeting to business meeting, or party to party, battle to battle, or concert to concert. Usually, at least once a trip, she’d meet someone famous. This trip however… no one remotely interesting caught her eye. Except, of course the passenger sitting in seat 11a, the window seat.
She’d walked past him once.
He was tall, only a couple of inches under six feet, and slender, which was strange for a guy, as most guys grew up, they grew bulkier too. At first she’d thought he was an athlete, could tell he’d worked out, and carried himself with the confidence that he could handle anything thrown at him. And, he was cute too. Very cute.
She decided to push the trolley past him again, ask if he wanted anything, juice, sandwich, magazine, membership of the mile high club…
Giggling at the last suggestion, Alicia made her way down the aisle, completely ignoring the president of the League Pokemon Breeding Union.
“Anything I can get you sir?”
Ash looked up, and tried to smile. It didn’t quite work, and he suspected it left him looking as though someone had ripped out his heart and shoved a festering, mouldy lump of flesh in its place. Which was how he felt anyway, so it was surprisingly accurate.
The hostess, the cute blonde one who’d come by earlier, let out a little gasp when she saw his face.
“I’m fine, thanks.” He managed to get out, wondering how the hell he was supposed to complete his given mission if he couldn’t even talk to a bloody hostess.
“Sir, forgive me for saying so, but you don’t look fine. If you’re feeling sick, I can give you some anti-nausea tablets or-”
“I wouldn’t worry about it. I’m not that kind of sick.”
She smiled brightly. “You sure, sir?”
“I’m sure. Thanks anyway.”
She seemed about to leave, and Ash was relieved, even though he knew it was probably uncharitable to wish her to go away when all she was trying to do was her job. Then, she bent down and picked up a loose sheet of paper.
Oh gods, what if it’s my mission briefing? What if she’s found the blueprints? Stupid, stupid, stupid! Should’ve kept the folder closed-
“Sir, did you lose a photo?”
Startled, Ash could only nod as she examined the photo.
“Wow, she’s really beautiful. She your wife?”
Ash, still in a state of shock, managed to blurt out “No, she’s an old friend, actually, I haven’t seen her for about eleven years, and I hope she remembers me.”
Actually, she really is an old friend, one who was my best friend, but she left eleven years ago, and then I left, and joined this secret organisation who wants me to seduce her and kill her, then capture her husband. And I hope she remembers me. I hope she remembers me vividly, enough to ensure she slams the door in my face when I knock it, then opens it again and comes out with a shotgun, and blow my brains out of my gods-damned head.
“Oh, really? Well I wish you luck. I hope she’s as happy to see you as you are to see her.”
“Not too happy I hope. She’s married.”
To an asshole, an utter prick, someone who I’d gladly blow his brains out, would do it for less than a cent, then I’d have to give them change back, ‘cause he ain’t even worth that much. And I don’t know how someone like her would ever end up with someone like him. Oh, I hope it wasn’t because of me, even though it probably was.
The hostess laughed, and Ash realised she’d thought he’d made a joke.
“Well, good luck anyway.” She smiled again, and Ash tried to smile again too, but had the strange feeling it just looked as though he were constipated. As she left, he turned over the photo of the woman.
She really was beautiful.
Pale orange hair tied back in a casual pony, a few wisps loose enough curl around her face. A crooked, half-smile balanced perfectly on rose-pink lips. A pert nose, ever-so-slightly turned up at the end. Her cheeks were flushed, the photo obviously taken shortly after activity, and a slender, delicate hand reached up to brush loose tendrils of hair away from her eyes. A ring, gold and ruby, shackled her ring finger, completely out of place.
The fool, thought Ash, she’s not a ruby girl. Look at her! Look at her colouring! She’s not a red gem; she’s a blue, sapphire to be specific. For a brief period three years ago, Ash had pretended to be a jewel analyst, working at the most exclusive jewellery store in Johto in the attempt to foil a jewel heist. He’d learned a few things from the owner while he was there, including never to trust sweet old ladies, that Pikachu could indeed scull a bottle of ketchup in less than thirty seconds, and how to tell what gem colour a person was. And this girl was obviously a blue gem person. You just had to look at her eyes.
Ash had never been a romantic fool, scratch that, had never openly admitted to being a romantic fool, but the sight of those eyes -even as they were in a photo, frozen, lifeless- was enough to drive a sane man to his knees, spouting sonnets and comparing her to a summer day.
And I’m supposed to try to seduce HER?
And that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was who she was, someone who he’d thought he was over, but obviously wasn’t, someone who he thought he could forget about.
Ash was doomed.
She picked me for this reason, this reason alone, but how did she know, how could she know, I’ve never told anyone, the only one who knows is Pikachu, and that’s cause he was there when she left, he was there, but how can she know, unless... unless… no, it couldn’t be, it’s not possible, couldn’t have been… so how? How?
Ash closed his eyes, slumped back in his seat.
Miss Midas so obviously knew what everyone else did.
It was always easier to seduce someone when you were in love with them.
“-passengers entering from the Arrivals Terminal head to the Arrivals lounge please. Could passengers entering from the Arrivals Terminal head to the Arrivals Lounge please.”
The metallic voice droning from the speakers was putting Pikachu’s teeth on edge as he hid in Ash’s backpack. It was comfortable in the dark, apart from that damn folder sticking into his back. But hey, he had ketchup, he was warm, comfortable, a pokemon in his prime. Apart from that annoying folder, everything was fine.
He knew Ash wasn’t though. Something was wrong, and he wouldn’t say what. Pikachu knew it had something to do with that photo. Couldn’t guess what though. Shrugging, Pikachu slurped on his third consecutive bottle today.
Ignoring the slurping noise coming from his bag, Ash made his way to the men’s bathroom, after grabbing his luggage, intending to change, then book a room at a hotel. After that, he would go to the address that he was given, and try to avoid fate.
Sighing, he headed to the exit, now appropriately dressed in an older, scruffier version of what he had worn as a kid (he didn’t think she’d quite believe that the older Ash Ketchum would actually, willingly wear a Geodude-Armani suit, or that he could actually afford one), complete with scuffed baseball cap, loose jeans, old, faded black shirt, and loose, blue-and-green jacket. The grazed and scratched filthy sneakers, with laces so knotty he couldn’t untie them finished the ensemble.
Pikachu, out of the bag now, rested on Ash’s shoulder, chattering indignantly over having his ketchup taken away.
“Pikachu, get over it. Honestly, anyone would think I’d stolen your first-born child or something.”
Pikachu was still sulking, even as Ash hailed a cab, with an ear-splitting whistle that caused the small electric mouse to flinch.
“So where to?” The cab driver seemed friendly enough, but Ash wasn’t really in the mood.
“The Golden Magikarp.” The cab driver gave Ash a once over, as if wondering how someone who looked like he earned less money than he did could afford to stay at the most expensive hotel on the island. Then, his gaze travelled up, meeting Ash’s face.
Though his eyes were hidden by a pair of sunglasses, it seemed to the cab-driver that those eyes bored into him.
Behind those glasses was a seriously pissed-off individual.
“You the boss.”
The interior of the Golden Magikarp was gold plush carpet, golden marble, and, surprisingly, gold. Even the uniforms of the attendants were gold.
Including the one of the doorman, who looked like he’d rather throw Ash out than offer him to take his bags to his room. Walking toward Ash as he stood in the foyer, a wide mouthed Pikachu at his feet, he held the swagger of one who knows no matter what he says, it’ll be right. Or at least he did till Ash flashed him the League Union Card.
The League Union Card was created by Gary Oak as a means of allowing his employees free accommodation, food, supplies as they went about their business, unsavoury though it was. Ash’s card wasn’t actually genuine, but it was an excellent forgery, and no-one would look twice at it.
The look on the Doorman’s face as he strode over, and stopped mid-swagger was comical, but Ash wasn’t in the mood to laugh. Pikachu was though, and collapsed into hopeless giggles as Ash strode away, then panicked as he ran to catch up. He strode up to the receptionists, requested one double room for himself, and not for the hotel to bother with room service as he’d only be staying one night.
In truth, Ash didn’t even plan to stay for that long, hoping to have wormed his way into Rudy’s household by this afternoon. Still, the room would be a nice place to leave his bag till he called by to collect it later that day, although he did grab a few things out of it, namely his briefcase with the lock and his laptop.
He smiled at the receptionist, and left, Pikachu looking disappointed at not having the chance to try a Bloody Mary from the hotel’s bar. Still he followed his trainer, laughed at the Doorman, who was still in shock and looked rather like he had lost control of his bowels, and ran out into the mild spring day outside.
goes Pikachu. You remember the story?”
“Pika pikachu ka chu pika ka chu kachu, pika ka chu ka pika chu ka pikachu.”
“Right. We’re travelling while doing work from the League -which is true enough- and we thought we’d drop by.”
“Pikachu! Stop with the foul language, please.”
Pikachu stuck its tongue out at Ash, and ignored him. Ash, not exactly over-the-moon about what Miss Midas wanted him to do, took a deep breath, and did the bravest thing he’d ever done in his life: walking calming down the street to the Trovita household. He stopped at the gate, and looked around nervously. In truth, Ash wasn’t nervous at all, but he had his character in mind and he was going to stick to it. He took off his hat as he stepped up to the speaker, and twisting his hat in his hands, pushed the buzzer.
“Can I help you?” asked an imperial voice over the speaker. Since it was male, and Rudy was away -probably working for Team Rocket- Ash assumed it was a butler of some sort.
“Uh, yeah. My name’s Ash Ketchum, you’ve probably never heard of me, but I’m an old friend of Misty Waterflower’s, except you’d know her as Mrs. Trovita.” babbled Ash, pleased to hear a slight nervous tremor to his voice. Pikachu, ever attuned to his trainers mood, acted nervous as well, headbutting Ash’s leg, and chattering.
“I’m sorry sir, but-”
An angry voice interrupted him.
“Charles! Do not presume whom you are to allow entrance! Misty has a lot of old friends, and if he’s one of them, do you really want to risk offending him, or angering her?”
Ash thought he could hear Charles, whoever he was, swallow over the intercom.
“Good. Return to the kitchen and assist Cookie with tonight’s meal. It’s broiled fish, I believe.”
Footsteps, then the second, female voice edged closer to the intercom.
“I’m sorry about that. Charles sometimes gets too big for his boots. What did you say your name was?”
Ash swallowed, perhaps in sympathy with Charles.
“My name’s Ash Ketchum. I’m an old friend of Misty’s.”
“Ash! Oh gods, its you!”
Ash couldn’t quite tell whether this was a good thing or not.
“You were with Misty the day she saved me and my Seel’s life! Come in, I’ll open the gates!”
The gates groaned, and slid slowly, jerkily apart.
“Here goes,” muttered Ash as he stepped onto the paved driveway, passing rolling green lawns, marble statues (mainly of water pokemon), and rare and exotic flowers. Pikachu leapt off Ash’s shoulder, and sniffed a patch of petunias, then jerked back when he realised they weren’t petunias, but Bellossoms. Ignoring Pikachu’s cries as he was Stun Spored, Ash walked towards the door where the girl that had intervened in his conversation with Charles stood.
He knew it wasn’t Misty.
This was Rudy’s younger sister, Mahri. She’d only been three when he’d first met her, so she’d be about nineteen now. She was an attractive, friendly-faced youth, and Ash felt guilty about what he was planning to do to her sister-in-law.
“Hi Ash. Wow, you’re so different! I was kinda hoping you’d be shorter,” she added mournfully.
Ash laughed, relieved she was still the lively little Mahri he knew. “Well, you’re different too, Mahri. Hell, I was still thinking of you as a three year old up until two minutes ago. You sure grew up fast.”
“No faster than you. Misty’s out shopping, but she’ll be back in about five minutes. She’s got some visitors coming over at twelve.” She narrowed her eyes. “It wouldn’t happen to be you, would it?”
she doesn’t know I was coming over. Hell, she probably thinks I’m dead.”
“Come in. Why’s that?” he followed her into the opulent parlour, and whistled.
“Wow, this place is beautiful. I haven’t been in contact with her for about eleven years.”
Eleven years... it’s been that long since I last saw her. I know I came to Cerulean, but she couldn’t see me.
“Sorry, off with the pixies. Which reminds me…” he turned and whistled, and Pikachu, tired, dirty and smelling of compost skidded in the door.
“Well, it’s your own fault for waging war on them,” remarked Ash. “I mean, it’s not like you absolutely had to attack them. No-one’s forcing you to.”
Pikachu muttered darkly again, Mahri wasn’t sure what about, but it seemed nasty anyway.
“Mahri, this is Pikachu. Pikachu, say hi.”
“Pika.” Mahri crouched down, and scooped the pokemon into her arms.
“Oh, you’re so cute!”
Ash, still puzzled over why exactly girls thought Pikachu was so cute, took Mahri’s distraction as a chance to look around, and mark doorways, windows, halls, and most importantly, security systems. The discreet Growlithe sticker on the window by the door informed would-be burglars that this house was protected by League Security Systems.
They’re expensive. The policy’s probably in Rudy’s name. The nerve of the bastard! Everyone knows you gotta work for the League to get those guys to even look at you for a policy, so how the hell did he manage to swing it? Either that, or it’s in Misty’s name, but what if she’s…
Ash let that thought trail off, not particularly wanting to even think about that possibility.
“Well, I’m kinda thirsty. You want a drink?”
Following Mahri into the kitchen, Ash felt vaguely guilty about wearing dirty shoes inside such a beautiful… -mansion, for lack of a better word- but then remembered who the house belonged to.
“So, uh, where’s your brother?” asked Ash as he took a seat at the kitchen bench. The kitchen was so huge, and so well stocked, he was sure if Brock could see it, he would’ve burst into tears at the sheer beauty of it.
“Oh, Rudy’s away on a business trip. At least that’s what he calls it, but I know it’s just an excuse for him to get out of the house when Misty’s here.”
Ash took a sip of the drink she handed him.
“When Misty’s here? I thought she lived here?”
does, it’s just she travels as well. Once she went to the
At her words, Ash froze. He knew he looked shocked from the expression on Mahri’s face. Even Pikachu joined in, ears perked up, eyes wide, mouth open.
“You didn’t know, did you?” Realised Mahri with a jolt.
Ash shook his head, sighed and took another sip of his drink.
“It’s to be expected, I guess. I mean, she’d be about…” Ash made a show of doing mental calculations, counting under his breath, “Twenty-eight by now. I’d heard rumours, but I didn’t want to believe it. After all, this is Misty we’re talking about, world-famous feminist and most frightening female trainer around. I know she scared the hell out of me more than once.”
Mahri didn’t look at him, no doubt feeling sorry for him.
Well, now I can add lying to my considerably long list of sins. I wonder how much time you get in hell for lying to an innocent teenager (even though there probably is no such thing), a hostess, my mother and the various other people in my life. Probably around six centuries. Great.
“Does it bother you? That she’s married, I mean.”
Ash shrugged, and Mahri guessed he probably didn’t want to talk about it. Then, a different voice called out, one as familiar to Ash as the sun was to the sky.
“Hey Mahri! You wanna give me a hand with the shopping?”
“That’ll be Misty. I’ll go give her a hand. You wait here.”
She smiled at him, and ran back down the hall, towards the foyer.
“I’m an utter, utter bastard Pikachu. I’m gonna burn in hell, Pikachu. And I know that, cause when Misty sees me, she’s gonna kill me.” Muttered Ash as he disobeyed Mahri’s recommendation, and went for the foyer. Pikachu, sure it wasn’t a smart idea, followed anyway, wanting to be in the front row when the bloodbath started.
Struggling with three bags of shopping at once, Misty cursed silently.
What’s the point of having a butler if he’s never there to help you? Where the hell is Charles! I’m gonna drop this damn bag if he doesn’t-
The bag held between the one in her left hand, and the one in her right hand began to slip.
Oh-oh! No that bag, not the one with the glass in it! Damn! Why does this always happen?
“Hey Mahri! You wanna give me a hand with the shopping?”
She could hear the girl’s footsteps as she skidded on the marble flooring.
She wasn’t gonna be there in time. Then, another’s footsteps, louder and faster. She couldn’t see who was running due to that accursed bag obscuring her vision, that thrice-cursed, gods-damned bag which was starting to slip out of her grip…
Then, footsteps louder, the bag was steadied.
Not by her, her hands were full. Not by Mahri either, she could hear the girl panting as she ran.
“Geez, Misty, you might wanna wait to I’m there to help you next time, huh? If he hadn’t been here, and a faster runner than me, your bag would be all over the floor.”
“Thanks.” muttered Misty, not exactly in the best of moods, but grateful all the same. “Whoever you are, thankyou.”
“No problem. Here, I’ll take it.”
That voice… I know it! But, it’s… different, older. Who is it? Damn! I know whose it is, I just can’t think…
The offending bag was removed, allowing her a clear view of her saviour.
He’s tall… just under six feet I’d say… he’s tanned-no wait, that’s his natural skin colour. Dark hair, longer than is usual for a guy… Tracey had hair that long, but it can’t be him, he’s dead, and he was never as good-looking as that. Could be anyone, but no-one I know has eyes that colour… except… except…
The other bags she held were dropped, smashing to the floor, contents splashing out. Mahri cried out, but Misty couldn’t hear her. All she could hear was the ringing in her ears as her open hand collided with the side of his face. He didn’t move. As a child, a slap from her could send him reeling, but he didn’t move.
Shaking, trembling, quivering with anger she lowered her hand, and the red mark that spread across his cheek did nothing to calm her.
And that expression on his face, that smug, infuriating expression. He hadn’t changed a single bit! But wait…
It doesn’t reach his eyes. His face, it’s infuriating, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.
That was true. Eyes like molten gold smouldered with an emotion she’d never recognise, especially on his face.
“You… you…” Her voice trailed off.
“As articulate as ever, aren’t we Mist? Still I’m surprised you recognised me. It’s been eleven years.”
His words dripped off his tongue like honey, but Misty didn’t notice what was being said.
“Gods-damn you, Ash Ketchum.” she whispered. “I hope you burn in hell.”
He laughed, and it was bitter, nothing like the Ash that she knew, so long ago.
“That’s where I’m heading Misty, whether you hope for it or not. That’s where I’m heading.”
He cocked his head, and gave her a mocking smile.
She blinked, paralysed by anger.
She didn’t notice Mahri was watching them, gobs-smacked, her mouth opening and closing in a perfect imitation of a stunned Magikarp.
But he did.
“Mahri, why did you let him in?” Misty said, words clipped and savage in their use. “Why did you let him in?”
Mahri, nervous by the anger in her sister-in-law’s tone, stammered.
“Don’t blame her, Mist. She didn’t know what she was doing.”
“Don’t call me that name!” hissed Misty, seething. For a moment, she watched him, he watched her, and Mahri watched them both.
Pikachu broke the silence.
With a hiccup.
All heads swivelled to the small golden pokemon, hiccuping at Ash’s feet.
Pikachu grinned bashfully.
Misty blinked, Ash covered his eyes with his hand, and Mahri burst into laughter.
Gods, Pikachu, that was pathetic. At least you broke the dramatic tension. It was kinda getting out of hand for a moment there, and I thought she was gonna hit me again.
Misty was fighting a losing battle against the laughter welling up in her throat, and Mahri was rolling on the floor, giggling helplessly. Pikachu had both its paws clamped over his mouth, desperately trying to stop the hiccups escaping.
Misty was still angry, he could see it by the grim set of her mouth, and the furrows in her brow, but her eyes sparkled with suppressed laughter.
She probably hasn’t laughed in a long time. Mind you, I wouldn’t be happy either if I was married to a dickhead like Rudy.
Finally, much to Pikachu’s relief, the hiccups stopped. Pikachu scowled at Mahri, who’d been laughing so hard she was crying, and frowned at Misty who was now watching him with an impassive expression.
She turned towards Ash, and spoke, her tone so cold Mahri swore she could hear the crackle of ice in her voice.
“I still hate you, Ash Ketchum. That is not going to change, no matter how stupid Pikachu acts.” Pikachu growled, offended at being called stupid, but Misty ignored him. “You have ten minutes to explain your presence here, any longer than that, and I will call security and have you thrown out. Understood?”
Yes m’am!, thought Ash, but he wasn’t dense enough to say it out loud.
Misty blinked, and when she spoke, it was a snarl.
“Don’t call me that you idiotic, thick-headed, betraying bastard!” She blinked again, ignored Mahri who was staring at her, dumbstruck, and headed for the kitchen.
“Um… I think I should go get Charles. He’ll clean up this mess.” mumbled Mahri, and fled down the hall.
Ash looked down at Pikachu, who was still stunned by Misty’s outburst.
“It’s to be expected, little buddy. As far as she’s concerned, I’m still the foolish fifteen year-old she once knew.”
He sighed, and wondered why -not for the first time- it was always so easy to hurt those you cared for. “C’mon Pikachu. If I don’t go and talk to her, she’s likely to skewer me with a handy sharp implement.”
Pikachu nodded, and followed his trainer, wondering why on earth human courtship rituals were always so violent.
“As you can tell, Ketchum, I’m not happy at all to see you. In fact, I’m wondering why in the name of the Poke-Gods you’ve come to see me.” She paced through the kitchen, shoes clicking on the tiles. Her shoes, flat-soled, proved a source of distraction, as Ash watched her pace.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Ash was getting dizzy.
“Answer me, Ketchum!” she snapped, and Ash reluctantly tore his eyes away from her feet.
She always used to wear sneakers. Either that, or she went barefoot. She had really dainty feet, and I remember she used to paint her toenails. Once, Brock feel asleep after we’d been swimming, and she painted his toenails pink. I can still hear us laughing as he tipped us into the stream. Lucky for him she had polish remover.
“Well?” She tapped her foot, and Ash’s gaze travelled from her feet, up slender stockinged legs, past the pinstripe skirt hugging boyish hips, past the pale blue blouse that clung to her slim shoulders, past the beautiful, albeit angry face, and to the hair done loosely in a bun.
“I was just thinking of when you painted Brock’s toenails pink.” Said Ash, surprising her.
She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head, a loose tendril of hair escaping to curl around her cheek.
“As easily distracted as ever. Ketchum, why are you here? As you remember, you and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms, so it’s not as if you came to chat with an old friend.”
Well, I’ve been hired by the
Pokemon League to find you, sleep with you, pump you for information, and then
kill you. I’ve also been hired to capture your husband, and hand him over to
the League so
“Well, my boss sent me here to do something for work, and I know you moved here so…” He shrugged. “Thought I’d drop by.”
Misty just stared.
“Obviously, Ketchum, you’ve forgotten what happened between us in the past.”
He shook his head, shaggy black hair sliding over his shoulders.
“No, I remember.”
And I remember you, too. I remember waking up next to your sleeping bag in the morning, and I remember how you always used to accuse me of getting us lost, when Brock was the one that had the map, and I remember how when you got scared you’d grab my hand, and how at the princess festival I thought you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and how when you left it really, really hurt…
Misty, for some strange reason, was getting seriously annoyed by that old, scuffed hat.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to wear a hat inside?” She snapped, swiping it off his head, and onto the floor. Ash blinked at her.
“Look, I don’t want to have to put up with you. I want you out in the next ten minutes. I’m expecting the Trovita Island Homeowner’s Association around for lunch, and I don’t need you around screwing things up. Go back to your hotel room or something.”
“No hotel room. All the rooms in town are booked out. So is the Pokemon Centre.” He added as she opened her mouth to protest. Misty sighed.
“You mean to tell me you haven’t got anywhere to stay?”
Ash shook his head.
Actually, I do, but since I have to try and work my way into your bed I may as well work my way up from your guest room.
Misty pinched the bridge of her nose, then shook her head.
“Fine, you can stay here, but I want you out of my way. Rudy gets back in two days. If you’re not gone by then…” Her voice trailed off.
“I promise I won’t be sleeping in your spare room in two days time.” swore Ash, raising his right hand.
By then, I intend to be in your bed, Rudy or no. Judging by the layout of this house, the bedroom connects to an office. Who knows, maybe Rudy’s dumb enough to keep evidence of his activities where someone like me could easily find it. Or maybe you’ve made a slip up. Maybe you’re the Rocket mastermind. It’s a possibility, but I’d hate it if you were.
Ash refused to admit -even to himself- that if Misty were a Rocket, that he’d probably commit suicide rather than be the one to live with her betrayal.
I am such a hypocrite.
“Fine. I’ve gotta go to the airport to get my luggage.”
“I’ll get Jacob to run you to the airport. He’s the chauffeur.” She added, seeing Ash’s vacant look.
Ash shook his head, hair rustling on his shoulders.
“Nah, it’s okay, I’ll grab it. Just get him to run me downtown. Leave you to get ready for your guests. If you want, Mahri can come with me, cause I get the feeling she’d rather be somewhere else.”
Actually, she’s listening in on this conversation, I can hear her breathing. No doubt she’s wondering how you and I ended up with such a degree of animosity between us, especially considering how close we were in the past.
Misty smiled, but it was a false smile, designed so that the person seemed sincere without actually being so. Ash thought it paled in comparison to the crooked, radiant smiles she had rarely given him as a child.
I remember when you smiled at me like that, it was though I was the most important person in the world.
“Thanks. I’d appreciate that, although it still doesn’t get you into my good books, Ketchum.” This time, she gave him a half-smile, and once more, Ash was struck by the fragile beauty of that smile, and the person it belonged to.
“Oh, and one more thing,” she began, heading for the door. “I’m hosting a dinner party tonight. If you stay, the guests will expect you to be there. If you come to the party -and that’ll be the only place you’ll get food here tonight- I expect you to be clean-shaven, neat and wearing a suit. Understood? If you don’t have one, talk to Charles and he’ll hire you one, else you can stay in your room and starve.”
Once more, she flashed him that false smile, and disappeared out the door, almost -but quickly regaining her composure- tripping over Mahri.
Mahri, embarrassed at having been caught eaves-dropping, turned an interesting shade of pink as Ash regarded her.
“C’mon, Mahri. You and me have gotta go down town while Misty entertains her guests. And I’ve gotta get my luggage.”
She nodded, and -still blushing- took the helping hand he offered her off the floor, gratefully.
He’d told Mahri to wait at the local information bureau while he went to grab his luggage. Slipping into The Golden Magikarp, he dithered with the receptionist, flirting absent-mindedly as he waited for his bags to be collected. The receptionist, a brunette by the name of Rebecca, was clearly smitten by him, and Ash felt uncomfortable about leading her on, but knew he hadn’t really meant her any harm. And so, Pikachu trailing him, the small creature lost in its own thoughts, he met up with Mahri, who was browsing through tourist brochures.
“Find anything interesting?” He remarked, leaning over her shoulder and making her jump.
“Um, no, not really. You got everything?”
“Yeah, and I don’t need to hire out a suit either. I’ve got one on me.” He grinned. “Always be prepared. I could’ve been a boy scout.”
“From what Misty tells me, you were never prepared.”
Ash looked at her curiously, as Pikachu scampered up his arm.
“So, Misty talks about me?”
Mahri shrugged as they walked away from the stand, and towards the car park, where their limo waited.
“Sometimes. Only when she wants to piss Rudy off. He’s jealous of you, you know.” she added, watching him from the corner of her eyes.
You’re trying to provoke me, trying to psych me out. Unluckily for you, I’ve been mind gamed by experts and your pathetic attempts at psychology aren’t going to have an effect. Still, I’ll play along, only because I’ve got to get you to trust me, trust me enough to let me know everything about your brother that I want to know.
Ash shrugged, then casually replied.
“Really? Well, good for him.” He grinned at her. “Rudy can be as jealous as he wants, it doesn’t bother me.”
“You’re the same Ash Ketchum I met all those years ago. You haven’t changed a bit!”
Ash gave her an enigmatic smile.
“No, I’m not. You just don’t know how much I’ve changed, that all.”
Puzzled, she regarded him with narrow eyes, but he made no move to enlighten her as to the changes that he’d made.
Still thinking, she followed him into the limo, almost sitting on Pikachu and receiving a thundershock for what was -in the electric pokémon’s eyes- the most grievous of sins.
No matter how hard she tried to concentrate, the conversation at the table -a couple revealing how their waterfront mansion had been invaded by Rattata- as enthralling as it was, soon slipped over her head. It was all she could do to smile and nod politely, or look appropriately horrified when the conversation called for it.
Instead, her thoughts -in themselves much more interesting than the debate over whether peanut butter or chocolate made the best lure for mouse pokemon- kept slipping away to him.
Damn you, Ash Ketchum. I thought I’d got you out of my life. Now, you’re back. What did I do in a past life to deserve this, cause this has got to be some form of punishment from the gods.
She sighed again, taking a polite sip of her orange juice. Next to her, the president of the Home Owners Association laughed raucously at stupid joke about Rattata someone had just made.
Depressed, Misty could only imagine the fiasco tonight’s dinner party would be.
And, even worse, he’ll be there. With him as a source of distraction, I don’t know if I’ll even be able to make coherent speech. Gods, he’ll probably show up wearing that stupid hat of his… why the hell did I even agree to let him stay?
In her mind, another, smaller, weaker voice spoke up.
Because eleven years ago, he was your friend.
Misty had the strange feeling that something was going to happen tonight, something involving her, something that would change her opinions on the dark-haired, annoying yet strangely endearing, disturbingly good-looking man that was, at the current moment in time, entertaining her sister-in-law.
Oh, why couldn’t have Mahri stayed here and listen to the anecdotes about ‘the funniest place you’ve been bitten by a Rattata’ and I go down town with Ash?
“So then I says to George -he’s our butler by the way, second-cousin of our doorman Jack- don’t worry it won’t bite-”
Wishing that she hadn’t opted for sobriety, Misty, once again, sighed.
It was a very disgruntled red-head that answered the door to Mahri’s frantic ringing.
“Hi Misty! How’d the luncheon go?”
Thank the gods Mahri, that you’re a half-way decent trainer and have a pretty face, cause with a mind like that, your life would be hell otherwise.
“Mahri, don’t tease. It’s obvious by the expression on her face that she was bored practically to tears.” Ash grinned at her, and looked her over. “Hmm. No whisky bottle. You were sober? My gods Misty, you’re made of sterner stuff than I thought.”
“Ketchum, go to hell. And take that stupid yellow rat of yours with you.” Misty smiled at him politely, all the while giving the impression she’d rather slit his throat, and left them standing in the doorway.
Pikachu, dismayed and offended by what the slender ginger-haired human had called him, pouted, ears drooping. Ash put on a stunned face, even though he had expected her reaction.
Misty never was one for having a lot of patience. If I keep riling her, she’ll let her guard down. Even when we were kids, she was easily manipulated. Something unpleasant writhed in the base of his stomach. Gods, I feel like an utter jerk-off doing this.
“Don’t mind her,” disclosed Mahri, “she’s just a little upset.” Mahri thought for a moment. “That’s strange.”
Ash looked puzzled, and genuinely meant it.
“What do you mean?”
Mahri looked thoughtful. “Well, whenever Rudy’s not here, she’s usually so happy I’m surprised her face doesn’t split in half, cause she grins so much. It’s unusual for her to be angry like this. And,” she added, “Before you can make any remarks about it being ‘that time of the month’ she’s on the pill. Always is, so it’s not hormonal.”
Ash had already known this, it had been in the file he was given. Misty was also on heavy-duty anti-depressants, something which he bet that Mahri, as close a confidante as she was, didn’t know.
“I know what’s bugging her.” Ash smiled at Mahri, before turning to take his bags to the guest room. “It’s me.”
Mahri watched him walk off, droopy eared Pikachu following.
It wasn’t until he’d got half way down the (considerably long) hall that she wondered how he knew where the guest rooms were, considering that she hadn’t told him.
“This is a wonderful dinner, Misty. However did you find the time to organise it?’
beamed politely at Lady Alice, wife of the Honourable George Farley, the mayor
And speaking of picnics, where’s Ash? Hopefully, he decided to starve. I just know all of these dainty ladies would love an excuse to gossip about me, and what better excuse than for me to have a single, attractive male staying at my house whilst my husband is away. Oh, I hope Rudy comes back soon, if only to make him go away. At least he’ll be good for something then.
“Hey, Misty. Hello Lady Alice, it’s good to see you.” Mahri, dressed in what Misty thought was the shortest cocktail dress she’d ever seen (and living with her promiscuous sisters, she’d seen a few), walked over to them, champagne glass in hand. Misty knew it was filled with lemonade.
Mahri just doesn’t have the head for champagne, thought Misty, remembering how the girl had passed out at her wedding after drinking only one shandy. Mind you, she was only nine at the time.
“Mahri, darling girl, how are you?”
Misty excused herself, and left, narrowly missing the lecherous hands of the Chairman of the P.H.A (Pokemon Hunting Association). Normally, she abhorred such a practice, but the Chairman was a close friend of Rudy’s and there would be talk if she treated him in a less than polite manner.
How did I ever end up like this? Why didn’t I stay a trainer? I hardly spend any time with my pokemon any more, and I know they all miss me. Oh, why couldn’t I have run away when Rudy proposed to me, like all my common sense was urging me to do? Why?
Tiring of asking herself endless rhetoric questions, she turned to the gardens water feature, a sculpture of three leaping Dragonair.
It was then that Ash chose to make his entrance.
He’d always had a dramatic flair as a child, and now was no different.
Fashionably late, and fashionably clad in the most exquisitely tailored suit Misty had ever seen, he strode over to the drinks table, Pikachu in his wake, golden fur shining in the glow of the garden lights. His jacket -long and collarless in the mandarin style, with fine black corded buttons- parted slightly as he walked, revealing a black-and-silver embroidered waistcoat over a smart white shirt that hugged his sender figure perfectly. His trousers were neatly pressed, and his black shoes polished. He wore no tie.
He smiled at her, a Cheshire Meowth smile, and one that left her feeling as though the quarter of a glass of white wine she’d had earlier had gone straight to her head.
Talk buzzed around him, and although Misty heard snippets, it made no sense to her, so focused was she on him.
“That’s Ash Ketchum! I thought he disappeared years ago-”
“-can’t be, didn’t he leave for Hoenn?”
once, but quit in favour of
As he approached her, that sphinx-like smile fixed on his lips, Misty felt like smacking him, right in the middle of that smirking, stuck-up, infinitely kissable mouth of his...
Wait, I’m supposed to be mad at him, not attracted to him! Gods, girl, get a grip! He still the same bratty, thick-headed, dense, idiotic jerk he used to be, just cause he’s sexy doesn’t mean anything!
When he was close enough for no-one else to hear him, he spoke.
“Betcha didn’t think I was coming.”
She ignored his conspiratorial whisper, and turned away, resolutely not looking at him.
“I knew you couldn’t resist food, Ketchum. I knew you’d be down eventually to gorge yourself. Where’d you hire the suit? It’s actually reasonably stylish.”
Ash laughed, low and soft, pretending she hadn’t called a seven thousand dollar Geodude- Armani suit ‘reasonably stylish’.
“Didn’t hire it, Mist. It’s mine, tailor made. I think it’s a pretty good fit, don’t you?”
That sentence, just inviting her to turn around and look at him.
“As arrogant as ever, Ketchum.”
He laughed again; not noticing Pikachu, who’d snuck off into the party-goer’s and was now charming his way into leftover hors d’ouvers.
“You can’t say you don’t find that attractive, cause I know you do. That’s what you always liked about me, wasn’t it Misty? That I was always confident. That and the fact that I was there for you whenever you needed me to be.”
Misty, speechless, felt the sudden urge to turn around and fly-kick him in the head. Realising that would be impractical considering that she was wearing a dress; she decided to yell at him instead. As she turned to face him, the garden band that she’d hired struck up a waltz, as they’d been directed to at eight o’clock exactly.
Notable couples passed the pair onto the way to the outdoor dance floor.
“Dance with me.” He commanded, and it was a command, said in a tone of voice which travelled all the way up her spine and into her brain, controlling the right synapses as it went. She couldn’t resist.
He pulled her over to the paved area, along with every one else, placed one of her hands on his left shoulder, the other hand in his, one hand on her right hip, pulled her close, and led her into a waltz along with all of the other couples.
“You bastard!’ she hissed as they moved slowly in a circle. “I’m gonna make sure that you have to use two hands to hold a spoon to eat soup from now on. And you’ll be eating to soup on account of having no teeth!”
He just laughed.
“Smile, Mrs. Trovita. You’re being watched.”
She shot him a smile that could’ve been from a ravenous Carvahna.
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU!
As though he could tell what she was thinking, Ash got the distinct impression were there not at least one hundred other people watching, he would’ve been a red smear on the pavement by now.
She’s gonna kill me after this. She’s gonna shred me, sprinkle me on her cornflakes, and eat me for breakfast. Then she’s gonna chew me up, spit me out and feed me to a rabid Gyarados. I’m gonna die. Is ten million really worth agonising death by dismemberment? I’m not sure it is.
Another voice, one that was becoming all-too-familiar to him, spoke up.
You gotta admit she’s beautiful when she’s angry, though.
This was true. Dressed as she was in a dark blue cocktail dress that hugged her boyish figure to perfection, and with her hair tied in a neat French roll, with those few loose tendrils escaping to frame her face, softening her expression, she was beautiful.
With that spark of anger burning in her eyes like the fires of war, and the slight flush her temper had brought to her milky cheeks, she was ravishing.
Ash, who’d never really noticed how blue her eyes could be -as cliché as it was- now did. Almost eerie in their colouring, and as clear and as deep as the tropical ocean, those eyes almost caused him to slip in his composure.
“Ketchum, when Rudy gets home, he’s gonna kill you.” This statement was declared in a quiet, sing-song voice, and delivered with a viciously alluring smirk.
Rudy. It’s always Rudy, never ‘my husband’. And not once while I’ve been here has she actually spoken of him in a slightly fond tone of voice. In fact, when she has spoken of him, it’s as though he’s getting in her way. How much do I bet that there’s no love lost between them? Not a mouldy ketchup sandwich. Well, it’ll make my job easier.
you sound like a petulant child. When my big brother gets home he’s gonna
smash your face in! I thought you were twenty eight, not eight.”
“And I thought you’d know better than to show your face around here, considering how much I hate you.”
He laughed, throwing back his head as though she’d told a hilarious joke.
Misty, as furious now as she’d been merely angry before, tried to stamp on his foot. It didn’t work.
The musicians, hearing the click of an angry heel on the pavement, took it as a cue to change the tune. This time, they started playing a rapid tango.
Ash laughed again, spun her, and pulled her -somewhat reluctantly on Misty’s part- into a tango.
Pikachu, watching from the sidelines with an abandoned plate of crepes, reached the conclusion that Misty was very shortly going to: a) kick him, b) kill him, or c) kiss him.
His money was on either b) or c), possibly both at the same time.
The other couples followed Ash and Misty’s lead, but none of them could quite match the level of ferocity both poured into their dancing.
Misty sought to maim, and if possible kill, using her high heels.
Ash sought to tire her out, or get her so mad at him she’d spontaneously combust with rage.
At the moment Ash was winning. At one point, he twirled her away, then jerked her back, and she’d slapped him in the face. He grinned at her when he felt the blow, and the other couples all thought it was part of the dance. In return, he’d spun her around so fast, her hair clips had come loose, and her long pale-orange hair came tumbling down over her shoulders. Misty hissed at him, and tried to trip him. Instead, her cocktail dress ripped, leaving a long slit all the way up her left leg, revealing quite a lot of smooth pale thigh.
Ash had to admit he was having fun.
Just like the old days. You and me against each other, and you trying to kill me, or at least mortally wound me. I never felt truly alive unless you wanted me to die.
Misty, realising how perilously close she was to losing the remainder of her now tattered dress, decided to end this.
“That dress was a genuine Ninetales creation! It cost me a year’s salary as a gymleader!”
She tried to kick him again; the spike on the base of her shoes aiming for his shin, but Ash pulled her into a dip. As the music finished, he held her there.
He was so close, she could smell him.
And, he smelt good.
He was wearing after-shave, not so much that she was swamped by it, but not too little that she couldn’t smell it all. Instead, he had just the right amount, enough so that she could catch the faintest wisp of the scent. It was rich and dusky, yet strangely delicate too. It put her in mind of dark chocolate, red wine, and a night spent entwined in his arms.
Stop it Misty! You’re married, dammit!
Yeah, added that small, faint other voice, to a jackass who tricked you into marrying him because you thought you were pregnant. Turns out you weren’t, and now you’re stuck with the bastard because Kanto law forbids divorce unless a reason is given. And you know he’s cheating on you, he wouldn’t spend so much time away if he wasn’t, but you’ve got no evidence, and until you can prove it you’re stuck with him!
A loud *bang* startled her out of her reverie.
The fireworks had started right on time.
As all the other couples turned to watch, she broke free of his grip, landed on the floor, scrambled to her feet and ran off, leaving him watching her as she fled.
Unbeknownst to both of them, Mahri saw her flight also.
“Gods damn you, Ash Ketchum.” breathed Misty as she leant against the bedroom door. “What the hell did you do to me?”
He’d done something to her, she wasn’t sure what, but it was turning her insides into soup, and was making her head spin.
She slid to the floor, kicking her shoes off, and sat there for a good five minutes, trying not to think, and instead listening to the pop and crackle of the fireworks outside. Dull shadows of the fireballs of colour were cast on the bedroom floor, through the wide window. It was her room, Rudy slept in the guest room when he was home, for sure as hell she wasn’t going to let him touch her again. Not after what he’d done to her before. Once, she supposed, Rudy had loved her, or at least cared for her, but these days he was married to his job, whatever that was.
It always puzzled her that she didn’t really know anything about him. She’d married the guy, when she was young and foolish, and now she had to put up with him until she could prove he was unfaithful, or until he died. Whichever came first.
But, no matter how hard she tried not to think, he kept slipping into her thoughts.
“Damn you.” She whispered as hot tears washed away her mascara (sure, it said waterproof on the packet, but the damn stupid stuff ran at the first sign of tears).
Gods, she wanted him so bad it hurt!
He knew what he was doing to me out there, he knew it. And he kept laughing! Gods, he has got to be the most infuriating, dense, idiotic, irritating, arrogant, drop-dead gorgeous man I’ve ever met. She sighed, sliding down the door further.
Anyone but him. Anyone but him. I could’ve handled anyone but him! Oh, gods, why are you doing this to me?
But the gods were silent and were no more considerate of her fragile emotional state than Ash had been.
After the fireworks had finished, Ash explained that Misty was feeling ill, and would not be able to farewell her guests. Lady Alice, ever concerned about the ‘poor girl’ seemed unwilling to leave until Ash (“he’s such a handsome young man, and so nice”) had reassured her. Mahri did her part, escorting guests out, and -avoiding the groping hands of the Chairman of the P.H.A- leading them to their cars. Every now and then, she snuck a surreptitious glance at Ash, but his polite expression was as helpful as to revealing what he was thinking as a brick wall would be.
After the last of the guests had gone, and it was just Ash, Mahri and Pikachu watching Charles lead the other employees in cleaning up the remains of the dinner party; she turned to him, mouth open to accuse him.
Ash, however, got in first.
“Three things. One: I did nothing that she did not want me to. Two: what happens between us is none of your business. Three: no, actually, I don’t give a damn if she’s a married woman or not, because she’s married to your brother, and frankly, he doesn’t count. Understood?”
Mahri closed her mouth in shock, amazed that he’d beaten her to the point.
“Now, I suggest you go to bed. The last thing I suggest you should do is go see her. Right now, she’s probably so angry she’s likely to bash the head in of the person who knocks on her door. If I were you, I’d take the advice that I’m giving you.”
Mahri nodded, still in shock. She toddled off, still dazed by the speed of his words. She got about three feet before she turned back to him.
“Just one thing, Ash.” Her normally effervescent expression was replaced by a sombre mask.
“If you hurt her, if you hurt the only person in the world who actually gives a damn about me, I’ll call down all the curses of the gods I can to condemn you to an eternity in the lowest of the seven hells. Got that?”
“Good.” She smiled again, once more vivacious, and practically bounced into the house.
“Pikachu, kachu pika chu pi.”
“You got it, little buddy. I don’t think I’ll ever understand girls either. C’mon, let’s go back up to the house, and see what damage we’ve done.”
Pikachu scrambled up his shoulder, and Ash felt nauseatingly remorseful as he walked.
I am an utter, utter bastard. I truly am. I’m going to spend the whole of eternity in the lowest of the seven hells, and even more. I’m going to spend eternity being tortured and devoured by all kinds of demons and devils. All because I am the only guy selfish enough to hurt the woman he loves, all for the sake of money. Gods. If Misty doesn’t kill me, Mahri will for making her miserable.
Pikachu felt bad too, even though the electric mouse had done nothing wrong. It was guilt by association, and the small pokemon had a strange festering sensation in its stomach, partially due to all those hors d’ouvers he’d scoffed before, but mostly due to remorse.
Should’ve stuck with the ketchup, it thought as it rubbed its churning stomach, if they have to make the food look pretty to get people to eat it, you know there’s something wrong with it.
He sighed, and shook his head as Ash opened the large doors that led to the house.
As Ash paced back and forth in the guestroom he muttered to himself angrily.
“Why the hell did I have to take this damn assignment? Should’ve stuck with pokemon training…”
Pikachu, who’d been dozing on the bed, opened a lazy eye, saw it’s trainer pacing, and went back to sleep.
Ash’s mobile, resting on the side of the bed, began flashing bright white.
“Phone call? But who could be calling me, it’s past midnight in Kanto…”
Answering the phone, Ash nearly dropped it when he realised who was calling.
“Well, Ketchum, why haven’t you completed the task you were set?”
“Miss Midas, it takes more than one day to complete such a difficult task. Besides, Mrs. Trovita has complicated matters somewhat.”
“She hates me. Obviously, this makes my assignment a lot more difficult than was intended. I cannot cause her to love me if she detests me.”
“Not so. Hate is merely the polar opposite to love, and in some cases, just as attractive.” Her voice, as always, was colder than a sub-artic snowstorm.
And that’s cold. Gods, I’d be surprised if that woman even had a heart.
“You will complete your mission as soon as you are able, understood? Do not forget the rules, Ketchum.”
“Good. When is Mr. Trovita due home?”
“Two days time.”
“Good. You will be prepared to apprehend him.”
“Yes, m’am. Also, what am I to do with his sister?”
“Whatever you wish. She is not important. Secure her brother, and dispose of the wife. That is all you must do. When this mission is successful, you will report back to The Company for you next assignment.”
Ash laid the phone on his beside table, and rubbed his eyes.
“Gods, I hate my job.”
“Pika chu, pika.”
Ash turned to the dozing electric pokemon.
“I can’t just quit, Pikachu. The next mission they’ll assign will be my assassination. I like being alive, and I would like to stay that way. Although, Misty is probably likely to kill me sooner or later, but hey, at least it’ll be death at the hands of the woman I love.” He added as he paced besides the bed. “‘I’ll follow thee, and make a heaven of hell, to die upon the hand I love so well.’ (Shakespeare, a Midsummer’s Night Dream, act two, scene one).”
Pikachu, alarmed by his trainer spouting rhyming couplets when Ash had never shown any poetic inclinations before, urged him to go to sleep.
“You’re right Pikachu. I should get some sleep. Maybe this’ll be a whole lot easier in the morning.”
As he undressed and slid under the covers of the -quite large- bed, Pikachu groomed himself at the foot of the bed.
Of course I’m right, Thought the pokemon drowsily as it turned in a circle to go to sleep, I’m a pokemon, aren’t I? Honestly, Ketchum, if it wasn’t for me, you’d be dead.
Mahri wasn’t prepared for the sight that met her as she steeped into the kitchen.
Instead of Cookie making breakfast and humming to herself, she found Ash Ketchum -clad in a dressing gown (black), track-pants (black) and socks (obviously black) - sitting at the kitchen bench, making coffee. He looked up at her and grinned.
“Morning. Do you want some coffee?”
Mahri blinked and rubbed her eyes. He seemed so… normal. No sign of the suave, sophisticated devil-in-a-black-suit that he had been last night. It was almost as if he was a different person around her than he was around Misty.
When he’s around Misty, he oozes sex appeal, but when he’s around me, he acts just like a big brother… well, that’s more than mine does at any rate. Gods, I’d be surprised if Rudy knew I was alive. Or cared, for that matter.
“Mahri? Earth to planet Mahri, are you receiving?”
“What? Oh, sorry, still half-asleep. Coffee sounds good, thanks. I’ll have it-”
“White, with two sugars and a teaspoon of Horlicks.” He smiled at the stunned expression on her face. “Yeah, I know I’m good.”
She laughed and shook her head.
“How did you…?”
Ash tapped his nose. “Sorry. If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Hey, I’m just kidding.” He added, seeing the colour drain from her face.
Mahri blushed. “I knew that.”
Ash raised an eyebrow. “Sure you did. Here you go, one coffee ala Ketchum.” He passed her the mug, and took a sip of his own. Pikachu sat on the table, eating toast slathered with…
“Ketchup. Honestly, Ash, does he eat anything else?”
Ash thought for a moment. “Well, he likes tomato soup, Bloody Marys, fried tomatoes, Brock’s Poke-chow (tomato flavour), mum’s Spaghetti Bolognese and… that’s about it. Oh, and apples-”
“Apples? Well at least-”
“-covered in ketchup.” finished Ash.
“Ye gods! What’s with the ketchup?” snapped Mahri, turning to Pikachu, who finished its toast, preened its whiskers, and ignored her as it began to wash itself.
“I mean, it can’t be normal for a pokemon to eat that much tomato! Then again, I suppose Pikachu isn’t exactly normal either.” Mused Mahri as Pikachu started drinking ketchup straight out of the bottle.
Ash shrugged. “No-one’s as normal as they think they are. Nor are they as strange as they say. It’s just one of those things.” He took another mouthful of his coffee, and looked up as Misty walked in.
“Just one more word, Ketchum, just one and you’re gonna find yourself in a world of pain. Understand? I’m not feeling very social right now, and would be more than happy to serve you up an ass-kicking before breakfast. Morning Mahri, you sleep well?” she smiled at Mahri, who stared, dumbfounded as she walked over to the kettle, past Ash who watched her with an expression Mahri couldn’t determine, and poured herself some coffee.
“Tea, not coffee. Hot and black, no sugar, and a teaspoon of honey. Same as when we were kids.”
She stared at him, he who, even with a promise of pain, had just disobeyed her.
“Course back then, I used to tease you about drinking tea. I used to claim it was an old lady drink, and continued to do so until we met the kimono sisters in Eucreteak city, and they showed us a full tea ceremony. From then on, I called you a geisha. I remember the first time I did, you slapped me so hard I was surprised I still had any teeth left. Brock was laughing at me, and you slapped him too, and stormed off. Course, after that, Team Rocket showed up, Jessie, James and Meowth, and they captured you. Me and Brock, we got you back, and you forgave me, but I had to promise never to call you that again. You made me promise a lot of things, in all the time we travelled together, and I never broke a single one.”
“You broke a promise to me. Just one, but the most important thing you ever promised me, Ash. That’s why I hate you. I bet you don’t even remember which promise you broke.” She walked past him, head high, mug in hand, and with a more regal mien than any empress of old could ever hope to achieve.
“Wait. I don’t remember breaking any promises.” He stood up, and walked towards her, a puzzled smile hesitant on his face, as though wary of the danger it was in.
What promise did I make, what promise that was so important to you that you hate me for breaking it- something I’m sure I never did- enough to want me out of your life?
Slowly, she turned to him, her face as blank and perfect as that of a porcelain dolls.
“That’s because you broke it.”
She turned back, and once more as cold and as distant as the moon, and just as beautiful, walked out of the room.
Mahri watched all of this with an expression similar to a beached Magikarp.
Ash, confused, and slightly afraid that he could forget something so important, watched her walk, doubt curdling in his stomach.
Ash froze as his expression rapidly turned into one of disbelief.
“My gods, Pikachu. ‘Sorry, I missed that, what just happened?’. My gods. Sometimes, little buddy, you should be glad I’m slow to anger, because that has got to be the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard! She, Misty, the girl who has for the best part of sixteen years haunted my sleep, just gave me a reason as to why we fell apart, just gave me a reason as to why she hates me, and I don’t understand it and you… you can’t even remember what she said! Perhaps the most significant sentence to ever pass those lips and you weren’t listening!”
Ash turned to the small pokemon, his face twisted into the most unspeakable expression Mahri had ever seen, and he just stopped. Gradually, his face changed, and once more he was Ash, not that creature he briefly had been, that creature that Mahri never wanted to see again.
He sighed, and that single sound of air that whispered past his lips expressed how tired he was.
“I’m sorry, Pikachu. I really am. I didn’t mean to lose it like that. Sorry, Mahri, you shouldn’t have had to see that.”
The girl nodded, and the small golden mouse pokemon leapt into his arms, nuzzling into the space under his chin.
“Yeah, I know you’re sorry too, Pikachu.” He sighed again, and closed his eyes, and once more regained his composure.
I don’t think I can do this anymore. It’s just getting too complicated. I mean, I know this wasn’t exactly gonna be easy, but I was just planning on getting here, finding Rudy, telling her he’s a Rocket. She’d be stunned, be angry at him, be happy with me for telling her, I’d tell her what I was and what I was sent to do, we’d capture Rudy, handcuff him, and send him back to The Company. Then, we’d get my money, tell them to stick it, then elope. There’s just one problem. Suddenly it’s just become a helluva lot more complicated, what with me being in love with her, and Mahri being here, and Misty hating me and all. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.
“Ash? Can I ask you something? And, you gotta promise to tell me the truth.”
He’d all but forgotten she was there. Ash opened his eyes, and smiled sadly at her.
“In case you haven’t noticed, Mahri, I’m not that good with promises. But, go ahead; I’ll answer as best as I can.”
Mahri took a deep breath.
“Why are you here? Really? I don’t want anything about how you’re just visiting a friend or any shit like that. I want the truth. I wanna know why you’re here, and what you’re gonna do to Misty.”
Ash sighed for the third time in as many minutes.
“You want the whole truth don’t you? Not some half-baked lie which would be easier to believe, but the whole truth.”
“Oh, well. Here goes.” This time, taking a deep breath of his own, Ash spoke. “I’m here because I’m a mercenary. You know, one of those soldiers that work for money, except I’ve never been a soldier. I’m here because the people that I work for, The Company -that’s what they’re called- got paid a lot of money to ensure I would be. I’m here because your brother is supposed to be a ‘big man’ in Team Rocket, he’s supposed to be real powerful, but the League can’t prove it, so they hired The Company -and in turn, me- to find him, find all the evidence I need by whatever means necessary, including seducing his wife too, then killing her afterwards. They didn’t count on you though, so when I asked my boss what to do about you, she said that you weren’t important and I could do whatever I wanted with you. That’s not a very nice thing to say, and you’re just lucky I’m not some of the bastards that belong to The Company because you’d be dead by now if I was. As for what I’m going to do to Misty…well, I was supposed to seduce her, pump her for information, and while she lay on the bed once I bonked her brains out, (then blew them out, via a hand gun) sneak into the office -which is connected to her bedroom, according to the blue prints I have- get all the evidence that your brother left behind such as invoices, plans, maps, any incriminating information such as a piece of paper that says ‘I’m a bad guy, really I am, trust me on this’, then set fire to the house via the explosives I have -and let me tell you it was a bugger getting on the plane with them- and leave. Then I was supposed to get paid. But, well, I don’t think I can do that. And, I’m ashamed to say I might’ve been able to were it anybody else.” He looked thoughtful. “That’s about it, isn’t it Pikachu? I don’t think I left anything out.”
Pikachu shook its small head, long ears flopping madly.
“Oh yeah, and I’m in love with your sister in law. Have been since I was just a kid, probably since the day she pulled me out of the river, cause I hated her then, really, really hated her, and for me and Misty the lines that separate love and hate have never been quite clear. You know, the whole love-to-hate-and-hate-to-love thing. That’s us to a tee. That’s one of the reasons I can’t do what I’m supposed to. And, the truth is, I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I mean, I’ve been in denial about whether I could do this when I know I can’t, so there’s no actual point in me being here.”
He took a sip of his coffee, which was now cold, and pulled a face.
“Bleargh. Do you want another cup? Mine’s gone cold, and your’s probably has too.”
Mahri blinked once, then blinked again.
“My gods…” she breathed “You sure can talk a lot, can’t you?”
“Yeah, I’ll have a cup. Though I get the feeling I’ll need something stronger. That’s why you’re here? Gods, and I thought I had problems.”
As he poured her another cup, and as Pikachu -now sitting on his shoulder- preened itself, he mused out loud.
“You know, you’re taking this surprisingly well. I thought you would’ve called the cops, or screamed or something.”
Mahri shrugged. “What’s the point? The League hired you. They’re the bosses of the cops. If I tried anything I’d be dead. Simple. Whereas, with you, there’s always the chance that I’d survive. And as for Rudy being a Rocket, it makes sense. He’s hardly ever home, and when he is, he’s very hazy as to what he does while he’s away. He never talks about what he does for a job, cause after Gary Oak disbanded gyms all those years ago, he got a new job. He isn’t the same person anymore. He’s rude, is mean, and is an utter bastard. And those are his good qualities. Misty and he… well, I’m surprised she hasn’t killed him by now, that’s how much she hates him. Probably more than you, although… well, it’s a different type of hate. She hates you, but it’s hot and fiery, and you can tell it’s just a cover to hide how much she cares for you. But she loathes him. It’s cold and calculated.” She shuddered. “I hope she never hates me as much as she hates him. I really do. She’s frightening when she’s around him. You can practically see the cogs working as she plots to get him out of her life. If it weren’t for Kanto law, they’d be divorced by now, but Misty can’t divorce him unless she can prove he’s done something wrong. Otherwise, she’s gotta wait till she can prove it, or until he’s dead. I mean, I know he’s related to me, but he’s not my brother anymore. Let’s just say I won’t exactly be in tears at his funeral, and Misty would be a very happy widow indeed.”
Ash gazed at her for a moment, scrutinizing her thoughtfully.
“You know, Mahri, you’re a lot deeper than I thought you’d be. All we need to do is work out what I’m gonna do. I’ve gotta get Misty to trust me, and your brother-”
“Please, he’s not my brother anymore. He’s a Rocket. He’s as good as dead.”
“-okay then, Rudy, gets back tomorrow. I have to think of a way to capture him. He’s coming in at nine o’clock at night, so we’ve got a bit of time.”
Mahri, slightly puzzled by how Ash knew her brother was coming back at nine when neither her nor Misty did, watched and listened as the mercenary who’d ever so recently been hired to kill her, planned.
“It’s crazy, but then, when is the famous Ash Ketchum not? It’ll work. It has to.”
How could he forget? I remember. I’ll never forget what he did. What he did to me. I’ll never forget. Oh, I wish he’d never come here. Why couldn’t he just leave me be? I wasn’t happy, that much was true, but I have my Prozac, and there’s always chocolate… I would’ve coped, would’ve survived, and now he has to come along and stir up old feelings long gone.
That small, other, treacherous voice spoke up.
No, not gone. Forgotten, but not gone. Still a part of you, as much as the blood in your veins. You know you can’t resist him; you’re paper to his fire, straw to his scythe. He could do anything to you, you’d be powerless to withstand the vigour of him, and you have to admit you would love to surrender.
Misty tried to block out that niggling little voice.
No matter what happens, you know you’ll always be his. You’ll do anything for him. That’s why you married Rudy, to prove you’re not nothing without him, even though you know you are. Misty without her Ash is like the sky without the sun, like the clouds without the rain. No purpose without him. Purpose with him. Do you really have a choice?
Screwing her eyes shut, she tried to force that small voice away from her, drawing on all the memories of the pain he’d caused her.
There were many, all memories of her youth, and the time she had travelled with him. Right from the moment she’d snagged him on her line did he hurt her. He hadn’t meant to, and that boyish, bashful beam he’d given her had only twisted a knife in her heart. She followed him, and as the days passed, grew closer to him then she ever thought she would to any human being. She had a deep distrust of men, ever since her father had left her family when she was still a little girl, but this short, dense, stupidly courageous, cunning, charismatic child had changed all that. She’d only been with him for three days when she realised how she cared for him, something she’d sworn she’d never do, for all affection led to pain.
And pain was something -even at her young age- that she’d had a surfeit of.
But still, she followed him; still she grew closer, promising herself that she was only following him for her bike. Towards him, she was mean, bullying him, but that was only to turn him away from her, make him hate her. For, if he hated her, he would break her heart, as cliché as it was, and she’d be over him. But, it never worked. All it did was make him closer to her, and her to him.
She left him, tried to escape him, but in the end, she always came back. Brock had once remarked that she was a boomerang that Ash had thrown. Sure, it’d fly away, but it would always come back to him. She’d given him a black eye for that, and got bruised knuckles for her efforts, but the squinty-eyed breeder was right.
We met up shortly after he’d
come back to Kanto. He came to see me, Brock, May and Max in tow, and I
remember how he was then. Taller, thinner -that pinched look of someone who’s
grown a lot in a very short time- tired, and brilliant in his weariness. He’d
won the Hoenn championship, just as I knew he would, and he’d come back to try
the Kanto League again. He came to see me though, just as he said he would, and
that’s when he promised me something. That night, just before he went to sleep
-and he was tired, having flown seven hours on a plane to see me, and through
differing time zones- he promised me the most important thing he’d ever sworn
to me. He knew how I felt, but I’d long given up on him, or at least, I swore I
He knew I was lying.
“I’ve moved on, Ketchum. That was a long time ago.”
“Maybe. But, you gotta remember a long time ago, you were my friend, and something more. As stubborn as we were-”
She turns to him, mouth open, ready to object.
“-all right, as stubborn as I was, I never admitted it. And now… you’re telling me it’s too late?”
“It is. I have a boyfriend, Ash. He won’t be happy about this.” She looks away, staring out at the balcony, out at the sea gilded with the city’s lights.
“Really? Well, that doesn’t faze me. It took me five years to realise how much I care for you. I’m not giving up on you now.”
He turns her head towards him, gently, his fingers soft and light on her skin. She can feel the calluses on his fingertips; feel the tender strength in those long, slender fingers. Facing him now, he raises her chin, she can’t look up at him, can’t look at those eyes, cause she knows if she does, she’ll be gone, she’ll be powerless, his to do with what he pleases, mustn’t look…
Gold, and dark, molten in the light from the city behind them, and smouldering in their intensity. She’s lost.
“I will never give up on you. Never.”
She sighs, and gives in to fate.
“You better not forget that you said that, Ketchum. Cause I know I never will.”
“I promise I won’t. I promise I’ll never forget.”
“Good.” She sighs again, leans against him, and for a moment, they stand there, time, fate and other responsibilities forgotten. She moves away.
“You’d better get to bed. You’ve travelled a long way.”
He grins at her, and for a moment, he’s brighter than the stars above them.
“It was worth it, though.”
Misty, eyes closed, stops the tears trying to squeeze past her shut lids.
You said you wouldn’t forget. But, you did. You gave up on me, and you can’t even remember that you did! You promised you never would. You promised. And how childish was I to believe that such an insignificant thing would be remembered by you, you who were higher than the stars. Too high, too high for me. Too high above me to ever be mine, but the gods know I’m yours.
“I can’t do this anymore. Ketchum, you’ve got to go.”
“So, you know what you have to do?”
“Yep. When my brother comes, lure him into the-”
“No, I mean now. You have to do something for me now. Remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” Ash rolled his eyes at the deep, but still slightly ditzy girl sitting on the kitchen bench. “I have to get Misty out of her room, preferably out of the house, and out of your way. That way, you can break into the office, and snoop around.”
“I do not snoop. I am not a spy, private investigator, or any such thing. I’m merely a mercenary. Give me enough money, and I’ll do anything.” Ash thought for a moment. “Actually, no, not anything, you couldn’t pay me enough to ensure my mother dies, and the same with my extended family.”
“How much are you getting paid for this?” asked Mahri, curiously.
“Well, I get ten percent of whatever fee is paid for the assignment, so about ten million.” remarked Ash absently. “That’s the most I’ve ever been paid, but other tasks have earned me up to five million.”
There was an audible thump as Mahri fell off the chair, and onto the carpet.
“You’re a millionaire!” she squeaked.
Ash thought for a moment.
“Yeah, I suppose I am.” He shrugged. “But, you guys are rich, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, but we never earned ten million for a week’s worth of work!” said Mahri from the depths of the plush-pile carpet. Pikachu, curious as to why the human female was lying on the floor, sniffed her hair, shrugged and clambered up Ash’s leg, torso and eventually landed on Ash’s shoulder. Ash winced as the small pokémon’s claws dug into him.
“Claws, Pikachu. Claws. Watch it, little buddy, I’m not wearing a shirt and those sharp little things go straight through terry towelling.” Ash thought for a moment. “I’d better get dressed. Mahri, you know what you have to do, and for heaven’s sake, get up off the floor.”
Mahri blushed, and stood.
“Much better. Well, go get Misty out of here; I’ve got things to do.”
As he turned to walk out the door, Mahri called out after him.
“Just so you know, I trust you.”
“You shouldn’t. There’s only one other person in the world that trusts me so completely, and look at what I did to her.”
“Misty? Hello? Any one in there?”
Misty frowned when the girl’s voice rang out.
“Mahri, what is it now? Please don’t tell me it’s something to do with him. I’d rather swallow a pineapple whole than talk to him right now.”
Mahri, grinning ecstatically, peered around the door, then gasped.
“Misty! Oh, I knew something was wrong! Come on, I know just the thing to make you feel better!”
Misty wiped away a stubborn tear. “Really? You have Ash’s head on a pike?”
Mahri frowned. “Misty, that wasn’t funny.”
“Who was joking?”
Mahri blinked, shook her head, and grabbed the woman by her arm. “Come on, I know just the place to take you. The Milotic Spa. Sure, we haven’t got a reservation, but they’re not gonna turn away the wife and sister of Rudy Trovita without a damn good reason. Don’t worry, everything is gonna be fine.”
Misty hesitated. “Why don’t I believe you? And what about Ash?”
“What about him?” replied Mahri chirpily. “C’mon Misty, you hardly get time to do anything for yourself any more. And besides, Rudy gets home tomorrow. When he’s here, what chance do you have of enjoying yourself?”
Still hesitant, Misty murmured “Well…”
“C’mon, Misty.” wheedled Mahri.
“Oh, okay. But only a short stay, I’ve got tax files to organise.”
Mahri beamed and practically dragged the girl out the door.
“You’re not gonna regret it, Misty! I hear they’ve got some new cabana boys who are real spunks.”
As she dragged Misty out of the door, she winked in the general direction of the kitchen.
As soon as she’d gone, Ash spoke.
“Well, Pikachu. Time to get down to work.”
“I don’t know what a cabana boy is. Probably some sort of repairman or something. Stop asking stupid questions, we’ve got things to do.”
Sure that no-one else was around, Ash slipped into Misty’s bedroom without a sound, except for the slight murmur of his breathing, Pikachu behind him. The room was not what Ash had expected. Almost austere in its plainness, he was surprised to find how simply it had been decorated. Every other room in the house was richly decorated, with plush carpets and ornate decorations, but this room was different.
Old, weathered floor boards, coloured creamy sandy gold.
Faded white walls, the wall behind the bed washed with blue.
Two large glass doors opening out onto the balcony, each hung with bamboo blinds.
The bed itself was covered with a white doona, and blue blanket. Four pillows, two white, two blue. A simple painting hung above the head of the bed, a landscape of the sky and sea. From Ash’s perspective, it was almost impossible to tell the difference from the glassy ocean and the perfect cerulean sky, which was unmarred by a single cloud. The signature in the corner of the painting was familiar.
“T. Sketchit. Misty must’ve commissioned Tracey to do the painting, or…” he headed around the bed, and standing on tiptoe, lifted the painting carefully off its hook. “Just as I thought. ‘To Misty. Many years of married bliss. Take care of your Marill, and may this maritime scene provide peace when you need it. Love and best wishes, Tracey.’ This was a wedding present, Pikachu. He must’ve been at her wedding.” Carefully, he hung the painting back in its rightful place. “That’s funny. I didn’t know Misty had a Marill.”
Heading for the door in the wall opposite, he slipped on his gloves.
“By the looks of this room, and according to the blue prints, the open door way over there leads to the ensuite and this leads to the office. Lets see…”
Kneeling down, he tried the handle.
“Locked. Hmm. Pikachu, lock picks, please.”
“Thanks.” Delicately inserting the silvery pick into the lock and turning it, Ash listened for the tell-tale click.
“Nope, not that one. Try number seventy-eight.”
“Pika.” The key was passed, and the lock opened.
“Bingo. C’mon, Pikachu, and remember: try not to moult. If you leave any fur in here, she’ll know I’ve been here. Hell, maybe you should just wait in the hall… nah; you’re the only one who knows how to work the camera.”
Pokemon and trainer entered carefully. In accordance with the other rooms of the house, this office was opulently decorated, and in Ash’s opinion, far less attractive than Misty’s bedroom.
I gotta admit, I like the Spartan style. Reminds me of my apartment. Still, I’ve got work to do.
Looking around, he took in the computer, computer desk, filing cabinet, locked cupboard and safe.
Guess the safe’s a good a place as any to start.
“Pikachu, you work on the safe. We don’t have a stethoscope, and you’re ears are sharper than mine. I’ll start with the desk.”
Pikachu, muttering something in Pikachu that roughly translated as “stupid lazy trainers”, got to work. Its small paws were best suited for delicately turning the combination lock, and like it’s trainer it wore a pair of latex gloves, though his were specially fitted. Carefully, it turned the lock, listening for the slightest sound. As he worked on its combination, Ash, across the room, was sorting through drawers, all the while muttering under his breath.
“Tax papers, bills, receipts from the Water Pokemon Charity Fund… this is just stuff that Misty’s been working on. Next drawer: stationary. Hmm. Unless Rudy’s smuggling illegal staplers or something, I don’t think that’ll help. Lets see… ah, cupboards. Cupboard number one: computer software, anti virus programs, Microsoft Word. Well, that’s not going put Rudy behind bars. Cupboard number two: files. Hmm. Maybe there’s something in here…” Ash leafed through the paper, calling its contents as he went. “Tax receipts. Business paperwork regarding the mortgage of Cerulean Gym. Lists of shopping. Pokemon check-up receipts. Gods, there’s nothing of remote interest in here at all. This is all just stuff Misty does.” He shrugged, and replaced the files. “Should’ve known Rudy’s not dumb enough to keep anything of real interest in plain sight. Oh well, onto the filing cabinet. How you going with that safe, Pikachu?”
done. Good. Well, let’s see. Alex, I’ll take drawer number one!” muttered Ash,
doing an impression of a contestant on a game show. Pikachu rolled its eyes.
“Here we have… more paperwork. Hey, some of this stuff is in Rudy’s name, maybe
I’ve found something.” Ash rifled through it. “Nope, this is just stuff from
when he was a gym leader and… hello, his resume. Seems he tried to get a job
“You’re right, there is no need, cause every one already knows. How you going with that lock?”
“Pika chu kachu.”
“One more number? Geez, you’re going fast. How many digits?”
“Seven, huh? Well that’s an average size. Anyway, keep going.” He closed drawer number one, and opened the next. “Well, seems I’ve found all the Birth Certificates and such. Mahri’s, Rudy’s, Misty’s… hey, what’s this? …It’s their Marriage Certificate.” Pikachu turned to its trainer. There was a dangerous light in Ash’s eyes. Pikachu felt uneasy.
“Pika chu kachu pi. Pika chu kachu pi ka chu pika chu.” It said urgently, trying to dissuade its trainer from an act of vandalism.
“I know I can’t destroy it, Pikachu. You don’t need to warn me. I was just wondering how a simple piece of paper could cause such misery.” He sighed, then turned back to the paperwork in the cabinet.
Pikachu, concerned, watched him for a moment, but Ash seemed to be recovered from his brief moment of melancholia.
“Well, we’ve got pokemon licences… driving licences… two gym licences, Misty must have collected Rudy’s when gyms were disbanded, what else have we got here… paperwork for a gun licence? Hey, this is registered to Misty. Something must be wrong if she feels she needs a gun to protect herself. Remind me to go through her handbag.” Closing that drawer, he moved onto the next, and tried to open it. It was locked. “Well, this is interesting. Pikachu, pass the lock kit over here will you?” The black kit slid along the floor.
“Thanks.” Selecting a lock pick, Ash went to work, just as Pikachu let out a cry of triumph upon opening the safe. “Pikachu, Shh! Do you want to alert all of the other people in this building to our presence? And besides, I’m trying to concentrate.”
The small pokemon mumbled darkly to itself as it sorted through the contents of the safe. It found a small, black file, emblazoned with the Rocket ‘R’.
“Pika!” he cried, and Ash turned.
“What did you find?”
Pikachu held the black file aloft. Ash whistled.
“Well, I’ll be a drunken Snorlax… you hit the mother lode, Pikachu. Take a photo of every thing you find in the file, and then put it back in the exact spot you found it. I’ll keep working on this section of the filing cabinet.”
Pikachu nodded, ears flopping.
Meticulously, the pokemon photographed, using a small, digital camera. Several photos were taken of the file, of its thickness, its size. Then, its contents, peeling each page apart separately with his thumb, he took photos of that too, even though he had no idea what was on each one. Like most pokemon, Pikachu couldn’t read human writing. Nevertheless, he clicked away, and as Ash worked, the soft hum of the camera as it photographed became part of the background noise.
Turn page. Click. Hum.
Turn page. Click. Hum.
Turn page. Click. Hum.
“Good, lock’s open. Lets see what’s in drawer number three…” Ash drew open the drawer with a flourish. “… Nothing? But, why would it be locked if there’s nothing in here… hang on, that back looks far too short to be part of the drawer… it’s a false partition!” Knocking on the end of the drawer, Ash nodded with satisfaction at the hollow sound produced by his knuckles rapping on metal.
“Pity we don’t have an oxy-torch… hey, Pikachu, come here for a sec, will you?”
“Pika chu…” with a final turn, click and hum, Pikachu laid down the camera, and scampered over to Ash.
“Here’s what we’re gonna do… you’re gonna charge energy, just like for a thunder attack, but you’re not gonna release it. Instead, you’re gonna build it up to the point where it’s almost painful, build it up and concentrate it on your paws, okay? You might wanna take your gloves off first. If I’m right, and I probably am, you’ll heat up, and your paws -cause that’s what area you’ll be concentrating on- will become very, very hot indeed. Then, all you gotta do is trace one of your claws around the edge of the partition, as close as you can get it to the edge of the real cabinet. If we’re lucky -and I pray to the gods we are- the partition will fall away, sliced by the heat at your fingertips. Or pawtips. You ready little buddy? You understand what I want you to do?”
Pikachu nodded, sparks flying from its cheeks.
“Okay, you do your stuff. Let me know when you’ve got through. I’ll put the file back, and close the safe.”
“Ka!” Pikachu concentrated, feeling the energy in him blossom forth from that secret place inside him, felt the familiar prickle which had been part of him as long as he could remember, felt the tingle which flowed through him, and earthed itself in his paws, concentrating. His skin felt hot. Very hot, but he could bear it. When the heat grew to such a point where his claws were glowing, the small electric mouse that crackled with energy reached out and scratched away the partition. It fell forward with a thump.
“Chu, pika!” called out Pikachu, and Ash -who was just turning the lock closed on the safe- headed back over.
Ash, who prided himself on being a master of his emotions, and the control thereof, suppressed an involuntary gasp at what Pikachu had found.
“See? I told you this was just what you needed! I mean,” added Mahri, her words slightly muffled by the fact she was lying facedown while she was being massaged, “You gotta admit that there isn’t many things in the world that are better than being given a rubdown by an extremely hunky masseuse, excluding chocolate, of course.” Mahri, her head firmly in that space for the face on beds such as these, grinned at Misty, even though the older woman couldn’t see her face.
Misty shook her head. She was sitting in a lay-back chair, having a pedicure. Mahri had always been amazed at how delicate and dainty Misty’s feet were, and now the woman sighed in pleasure as the pedicurist rubbed essential oils into her feet.
“You have got a point Mahri. Although, I am married, and am not technically supposed to notice the attractiveness of the masseuse.”
Mahri laughed. “What, are you trying to tell me you keep your eyes to yourself? I don’t think so, Misty. Last night you were undressing Ash with your eyes, I could tell you were. You can’t deny it. You wanted him, and you wanted him bad.”
Misty, indignant at this accusation, lifted the slices of cucumber that covered her eyes, and fixed the girl with an artic stare.
“Um, no, Mahri. I wasn’t. Admittedly, yes, Ash Ketchum is attractive -considerably so- but I was not ‘undressing him with my eyes’. If anything, he was the one undressing me. My dress is ruined, and that cost me over a year’s salary as a gymleader! I should be asking him to foot the considerable bill of its repair.”
Mahri rolled her eyes at her sister-in-law’s piqued tone.
“Misty, please. You don’t have to lie. I know you’ve got it bad for him, and judging by that look in his eyes every time he sees you, Ash has got it hot and heavy for you, too.”
Misty sighed, and replaced the cucumber slices.
“You’re never gonna believe me, are you? Yes, I can admit that I am attracted to him, but only slightly.”
Mahri snorted in disbelief, an action that caused the masseuse to look at her, puzzled.
“Okay, maybe a bit more than slightly. But just a little bit.”
Silence from Mahri.
“Okay, more than a little bit.”
More silence, in which Misty swore she could hear the faint sound of someone suppressing giggles.
“Okay, a lot. Satisfied?”
Mahri laughed, nodding, auburn hair sliding over her shoulders.
“Yeah. It’s good that you’ve finally admitted this, Misty. It’s not healthy to suppress one’s desires, and I can tell you desire our friend Mr. Ketchum very muchly.”
Misty blanched, turning white even under her avocado face mask.
Mahri, surprised at the lack of an answer, sat up, disturbing her masseuse. Misty was pale, and the slice of cucumber covering her left eye was sliding slowly down her nose. Her eyes were scrunched shut, and her voice was strained when she finally spoke.
“Mahri, I am faithful to your brother. I always have been. And now that I am tempted not to be, I ask your help in resisting this. You know our relationship is somewhat overwrought these days-”
“That’s the understatement of the year,” murmured Mahri.
“- but that is no reason to forget my vows. I am as faithful to him now as I ever was.” A single tear chased avocado away, revealing chalk-white skin beneath.
Mahri realised that she’d gone too far.
“Misty, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I know how hard it’s been for you. I also know that you don’t love my brother. You never did.”
Misty opened her eyes. A single, sad sigh passed her lips.
“Don’t hate me, Mahri. I tried. I really did. And although I never loved him, I did care for him-”
Mahri sighed, and got up off the bench, wrapping her towel around her. Her masseuse, frustrated at having a patient that refused to sit still, huffed and left the room. She walked over to the woman she had come to think of as a sister.
“Misty, the man you married was not my brother. My brother died years ago, ever since he decided to hurt you. You’re the only person alive that gives a damn about me. I couldn’t hate you if I tried. And as for your wedding vows… my brother is dead. You are a widow, and I’m pretty sure widows can do whatever they want.”
“Following a period of mourning. And I’ve been in mourning since my wedding night. I think that’s long enough?” Misty’s smile was bright and fragile.
“You got it! Hey, there’s a spa waiting for us in the spa room. It’s hot, bubbly, and there’s a couple of gorgeous guys waiting for us in it. What say we wash that gunk off your face and go enjoy it, hmm?”
“Maybe, but there’s only one gorgeous guy on my mind right now.”
My gods… and I thought the file was good… my guess is that it was a distraction, meant to draw any who would bother to search this room away from the bottom draw of the filing cabinet. And, we’ve still got the cupboard to go. Rudy, you’re gonna fry. Which reminds me…
Ash’s stomach growled loudly, indignant at the thought of being denied breakfast for work.
Pikachu, alarmed by the loud noise, growled back.
Ash blinked, shook his head, and tried not to think about his pokemon having a growling contest against his stomach, which was protesting hunger, when it was so obvious that his stomach would win hands-down (if it actually had hands, that is).
Carefully, and using gloves that would ensure no fingerprints were left behind, he levied out what he had found.
This folder was slim, grey and unmarked, looking for all the world like an ordinary portfolio. Instead, inside were receipts, donations, bank transfers, high-priced purchases (honestly, who actually bought a solid gold Pidgey-feeder?), and various other slips of paper.
“He must’ve been laundering money. Then, once the money was clean, he’d transfer it into this bank account at...” Ash looked back at the file, and his eyebrows rose. “… ‘The Altaria Parachuters Bank ltd.’ I’ll sauté my hat and eat it with a fine white sauce and…” Ash suppressed a shiver “…mushrooms if that’s a real bank. It’s gotta be a false fund. I mean, the title’s so phony. Then again, there are some weird names in the world…” he shook his head. “It’s gotta be fake. I think, Pikachu, that you’d better get your camera out and start snapping away. I don’t know how long Mahri can keep Misty out of the house and I wanna be out of here when she gets home. Then, all I have to do is concentrate on convincing her that her husband is a Rocket. Aack. Well, I can try. I just hope she doesn’t kill me before hand.”
Pikachu nodded, aware that the ginger-haired female that it’s trainer was preoccupied with, held within her an incredible amount of anger, an almost inexhaustible fountain of which, a fountain that was inclined to erupt with the least of provocation.
“Well, Pikachu, are you going to sit there, or are you gonna start taking photos?”
“I have to admit, I am glad that you dragged me here. It is good to get out of the house every once in a while. And to spend a day that I would’ve spent doing tax reforms in a warm spa, and with a bottle of cold white wine… this is very nearly my idea of bliss.”
“I know what my idea of bliss is,” murmured Mahri as she slowly sank into the depths of the spa, “bliss would be here, right now, with a cold drink -some of that white wine would be nice- in one hand, and a-”
“-hot hunk in the other. Mahri, you are so predictable. I think the wave of hormones that crashes over teenage girls was a tsunami in your case. Multiple tsunamis. And, no, you can’t have any wine. You can’t hold your alcohol.”
Misty laughed at the incredulous expression on Mahri’s face. It was the first time she had laughed in what felt like days. In fact, it was the first time she had felt truly happy in a long, long time. And, this happiness was achieved without the help of prescription drugs, either. She felt the giddiness of a girl freed from an imprisoning marriage, and one who was finally ready to admit her affection for a certain other young man, one who, unbeknownst to her, was planning on how to trap her husband, and make her a widow.
“It’s good to have you back. C’mon, we’ve still got the manicure and contour wraps to go yet. Then, I’ve got my pedicure, and you’ve got your massage. Out we get, cause we’ve got a lot of pampering to do, and only a little time to do it in. After all, you do want to do your tax today, don’t you?”
Misty laughed at the girl’s mocking tone.
“My tax can wait for another day. After all, it’s not like it’s going any where, nor is my office being burgled.” Still laughing, she climbed out of the spa and headed back into the massage room.
Mahri, a little disconcerted at how close Misty had come to the truth, followed her, planning on stalling her as long as she could.
“I think we’re done. You got all your photos?”
“Pi. Pika, chu kachu pika chu pika ka-pikachu?”
“We can’t. The filing cabinet is ruined, but it still looks whole from the outside. We’ll have to lock it up, but most importantly, leave that file in there. That way, it’ll just look as though that partition collapsed. We’ll lock the drawer back up. I checked out the other cabinet while you were taking photos, nothing of great interest. Basically, just a bunch of old trophies and such. Got some old photos in there, too.” Added Ash, thinking of the photo of him and Misty he’d found.
It was like the one of her, me and Brock taken outside my house, but in this one, we were older, and Max and May were with us. It’s strange though. I can’t remember posing for that photo, even though I know I did. And, I wouldn’t have forgotten about that photo, considering whose arm is around my shoulders in it, but why can’t I remember…?
Puzzled, Ash shook his head. He had no time to wonder about that, Misty and Mahri would be back soon, and he wanted time to download the photos from the camera to his laptop so he could analyse their contents.
“Yeah, I’m coming.” Ash locked the filing cabinet, and giving the room a final once over, stepped back into Misty’s room, Pikachu waiting for him, and locked the door.
“C’mon, Pikachu, lets take a look at these photos. After that, I think we’ve got time for breakfast.”
“Yeah, you’re right, it is almost noon. I guess its more brunch than anything else. C’mon, my stomach’s growling.”
“Yes, I know you can hear it. It’s not my fault I’m hungry.”
After her massage, manicure, pedicure, contour wrap, facial and a long soak in a spa, Misty was feeling completely and utterly relaxed. On the way home, she laid back against the limo seat, and closed her eyes.
Mmm, I feel so good… thank the gods I let Mahri talk me into going to The Milotic Spa, because that was just what I needed. It was so relaxing… my gods, I sound like a television commercial. Well, there goes the feeling of peace. When Rudy gets back, I’ll definitely have to go pay them another visit. After I’ve filed for divorce, that is. I’ll just say that he’s neglecting his duties as a husband. Which is true, I just won’t tell the judge it’s with my help. Of course, I could always cheat on him, which would give him reason for divorce, but then, this marriage is very convenient for him. After all, it’s stopping all those nasty rumours about him. And besides, that option would mean I’d be the one paying him damages, which is not something I want to do with my money. Or his, for that matter. Indeed, I’d like to keep his money where it belongs: in my bank account.
“Misty, you awake? We’re pulling up.” Misty yawned as Mahri’s voice pulled her out of her reverie.
“Yeah, I’m awake. Utterly, utterly laid-back, but awake. C’mon, let’s go inside and see what damage Ash Ketchum wrecked while we were gone.” She stepped out of the limo, and gave the mansion a once over. “Well, it’s not burnt down. That’s a good sign. I’m going to give everything a once-over, then I’m going to go let Marill out. It’s been a while since she’s been out of her pokéball. No doubt she’s getting a bit cramped in there. I would’ve let her out earlier, but I’ve been so busy lately.”
I’ve not only been neglecting myself, I’ve been neglecting my pokemon. Marill, I’m sorry. As soon as Rudy gets back, I’m telling him I want a divorce. I want to be free again, I’m sick of being married. Bring on bachelor-hood!
As she walked up to the entrance, past the Bellossoms frolicking in the flowerbeds, Misty turned back to face Mahri.
“Hey, Mahri, when I divorce Rudy, do you think I should be Miss Waterflower, or Ms Waterflower? Personally, I like the latter. I mean, it’s not like I’m innocent any more, and ‘Ms’ gives me a bit of maturity. What do you think?”
Mahri stared at her stunned.
“Yeah, you’re right,” continued Misty. “Definitely the ‘Ms’. Oh well. Guess I’ll have to start looking for an apartment, cause I’m planning on moving after the divorce. I might head on back to Cerulean, or I could always try the Sevii islands…”
Still talking, Misty moved inside.
Mahri, who’s thought processes had finally caught up with the rest of her body, ran after the young woman, happy to see that she’d regained the confidence she’d lost during her decade of marriage to her brother.
Ash, in the kitchen, was lost in thought as he crafted himself a sandwich.
Let’s see... we have cheese, pickles, ham, tomato, a different type of cheese, red onions, silverside, cucumber, some more cheese, lettuce, capsicum, some cold roast, yet another type of cheese -gods, how much cheese do these people eat?- and some ketchup. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.
Ash closed the fridge, and decided to check the pantry.
Pikachu, who’d been peering over his shoulder, had seen the ketchup and leapt into the fridge after it. Ash, who’d been preoccupied with thoughts of his own, didn’t notice.
“Let’s see… well, there’s seven different types of bread for a start… rye, wholemeal, white, toast, linseed and soy, country style, hell, there’s even a baguette in here! Ye gods, who knew making a sandwich was so complicated, hey Pikachu?” when no answer came, Ash spun around. “Pikachu?”
Still no answer.
“Hey, little buddy, where’d you go?”
Still silence, but Ash thought he could hear a muffled sound coming from the fridge…
Ash practically tore the door open, and found a small, shivering golden pokemon, clutching a bottle of ketchup as if it were a life-line.
“Gods, Pikachu! I’m so sorry!” Ash pulled the pokemon out, and placed him on the bench, rubbing him to get him warm. “Don’t ever jump in the fridge again, you hear me?”
My gods, that has got to be the weirdest thing I’ve ever said, and I’ve said some real pearlers in my time.
The small electric mouse nodded vigorously, then brandished the bottle of ketchup as though it were a trophy.
Ash shook his head at his friend’s idiocy.
“Pikachu, when we’ve completed this assignment, I’m taking you to see a pokemon psychologist, got it?”
Pikachu ignored him, biting the cap off the ketchup bottle and slurping greedily.
“Well, at least we’ve got your lunch sorted out, although what I’m gonna eat is beyond me. Doesn’t this place have any leftovers?”
“Sorry, Ketchum, we don’t have leftovers in this place. They usually end up as hors d’ouvers, or incorporated into other meals. Roast meat into stews, and so forth.”
Ash smiled, and turned to face her.
“Hello, Mist. How was the spa? Refreshing I hope. Don’t mind Pikachu, he’s just confiscated your ketchup.”
Misty raised an eyebrow at the pokemon gorging itself on its favourite condiment, topping, entrée, main course and dessert.
“Well, Pikachu obviously hasn’t changed. Nice to see you didn’t totally ruin the house while we were gone, although I suspect if I step into the backyard, I’ll find a crater in its place. Are you eating again? Gods, it’s only been three hours since breakfast.”
“For you maybe, but I didn’t eat breakfast. And, for your information, Mrs. Trovita, I haven’t eaten at all today.” Misty shuddered at that name.
Trovita, no more Ketchum. I’m going to file for divorce.”
“Really? I thought you couldn’t divorce under Kanto law without-”
“- a reason, yes, yes I know. But, the law does state that if one of the parties involved in the marriage is unfaithful, grounds for divorce are granted.”
Ash laughed, and Misty was acutely aware of the tremble that reverberated through her at that sound.
“Have you been a naughty girl, Mist? That, I don’t believe. You were always honest as a child, and you always kept promises. I can’t see you breaking a vow.”
Misty ignored his mocking tone.
“Unlike you, Ketchum. And besides, promises -or vows for that matter- don’t count if they are made under duress, as were my wedding vows. And, I have reason to believe that Rudy is unfaithful to me. He spends so much time away; I’d be surprised if he wasn’t cheating on me.”
with your attitude, so would
Misty’s expression was priceless. Ash wished he had a camera so he could take a photo and file it under ‘fury held off by shock’.
“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”
Her voice was calm, but there was an edge to it that implied that it wouldn’t be for long. Ash, ever intent on aggravating her, knew that he was very close to her breaking point, at which she’d haul off and hit him with something. Something hard. Something very hard.
Why don’t I feel that this is a good idea? I know she’s probably gonna hurt me, but that’s natural. Misty’s always hurting me. It’s just what she does. And I know that when she’s angry, she’s easiest to manipulate. But… why do I need to manipulate her? I’ve already decided what I’m going to do, and Mahri’s going to help me, so why am I doing this?
“Well, we’re both adults. I’m sure I don’t have to explain what I’m talking about, Mrs. Trovita.”
Misty snorted in derision, a motion highly unladylike, and one that reminded Ash of the fiery twelve year-old she’d been when he’d first met her.
“You, an adult? Hah! Don’t make me laugh. Maybe in age you are, but you’re still the same, dense, bratty, arrogant kid I pulled out of a river. I’ll be a sautéed Horsea if you’ve ever had a girlfriend, let alone getting married.”
Ash froze, and his expression was that of a Magikarp pulled out of the water and thrust into a boiling cooking pot.
Pikachu, who was watching this argument, gave a point to Misty. She’d hit Ash’s sore spot. As a mercenary, Ash Ketchum had never actually had a girlfriend. Never had time. Sure, all the people he had been over the years, all the aliases he’d abided by had had a lot of fun with many different members of the opposite sex, including getting his nose broken once, which had only been fun in a not-fun-at-all kind of way, but with all the different people he’d been, all of the different assignments he’d completed (with this being the first one in which he’d never had to have taken a false name), Ash Ketchum, as himself, had never been able to have a proper, adult relationship.
There was always the risk that the person he cared for might get hurt, or die because someone had a grudge against him. He’d never wanted to risk it, and he’d always been hung up on Misty anyway. In fact, the reasons for Ash not having a girlfriend were long, complicated, emotional, and made perfect sense. Still, this had been no comfort to Ash, who spent long, cold nights in bed staring at the ceiling, wishing he’d had someone to talk to.
Misty, pleased that her insult had actually worked, got ready to fire another one.
“Hell, I’d be surprised if you even knew what to do with a girl.”
Gods, Ketchum, pull yourself together man! She’s insulting you! Are you gonna let her get away with it? This is a matter of pride, dammit!
Giving himself a mental shake, Ash regained his senses.
“Mist, let me assure you I do, in fact know what to ‘do’ with a girl. I know incredibly well. Indeed, weren’t you the one who was practically trembling with lust last night? That’s not very good for a married woman, even if she is getting divorced. Remember, divorce proceedings can take weeks, months, years. It might be that long before you find yourself in a real relationship.” He smirked at her bewildered expression. “And that’s a long time to be alone, Mist. A very long time.”
Misty was slightly alarmed at how quick he’d bounced back, and startled at the speed at which he’d turned the subject around to her, leaving her uncomfortable.
“I’ve spent over a decade alone in my bed at night, Ketchum. I think a year or so more won’t bother me.”
Ash grinned, and it was alarming Misty that such a simple expression could create such a riot in her stomach, which felt as though a horde of cannibalistic butterfly pokemon were slowly eating themselves in there.
“Well, why be alone when you can have company? I’m sure you’ve got young men practically tripping over themselves to keep your bed warm at night, Mist. You are very attractive. And after all, you said yourself vows don’t count if they’re said under duress. And besides, Rudy’s the one cheating on you. Why don’t you give him a taste of his own medicine, hmm?”
Somehow, he’d moved around the kitchen bench, and was slowly backing her against the wall. He was getting too close, far too close. And it was unnerving her. He was causing her to feel things that she’d joked about earlier, things she knew were highly unrealistic, things that she had no right to feel, that he had no right to arouse in her.
Arouse. Oh great, really good word to use when I’m like this. And, he’s toying with me! He knows what he’s doing to me; it’s just like last night! Oh, and if he doesn’t stop soon, I’m not gonna be able to either…
Her back met the wall. She hadn’t been aware that she’d been slowly moving backward, but he had.
Hah, you’ve got her on the run, Ketchum! Now, when she least expects it, move in for the kill!
He was still moving forward, that smirk fixed on his mouth, and Misty felt such a curious mix of emotions, she wasn’t able to think.
She closed her eyes.
Even Pikachu, who’d been watching avidly, had no idea what Ash was going to do next. He’d never seen his trainer like this. Slowly, and completely unbeknownst to Pikachu -who was so enthralled by Ash’s slow advance- the ketchup bottle slid out of his paws, landing on the bench with a soft clunk.
Gods, I’m doomed. He’s going to kiss me, and I won’t be able to resist…
That small, other voice whispered into her mind.
Is it you won’t be able to resist, or is it that you don’t want to?
Ash, who’d been so confused by the hunting metaphor his brain had handed him earlier, had given up thinking about what he was doing altogether. Instead, he was acting purely on instinct, some strange and deep primitive instinct, an echo of all the ancient urges felt by his ancestors so many years ago. This was tempered by that fierce, gentle affection he so clearly felt for her, an affection which she had seen once before, but failed to recognise in him now.
And so, obeying the laws of nature which governed such situations, Ash, with eyes closed, kissed her. This ended a chain reaction of chemical attraction that had started some sixteen years ago when they had met, and sparking a new, more urgent reaction, one that washed away all resistance like a tsunami wipes away sandcastles on the beach.
Pikachu, stunned to the point of almost having a heart attack, fell slowly backwards onto the bench, landing beside his abandoned ketchup bottle with a muffled thump, eyes open and blinking vacantly at the ceiling.
Neither Ash, nor Misty, noticed this.
Both were too preoccupied.
Mahri, who’d finished setting up the swimming pool for an afternoon full of swimming, playing with water pokémon, and girl-chat with Misty, was getting impatient.
“Where is she? She said she was going to go and make sure Ash hadn’t blown the house up, and that was a good fifteen minutes ago. Surely, he couldn’t have done anything to warrant her to watch him constantly, so why is she taking so long? Honestly. I even went into her handbag and got her favourite pokémon’s pokéball out, almost shooting myself in the process -why she needs a handgun in there is beyond me- and she doesn’t even show up!” Mahri huffed, piqued at her sister-in-laws behaviour. Grabbing her dressing gown, and throwing it hastily over the top of her bathing suit, still muttering angrily to no-one in particular, she ran inside the house, heading for the kitchen.
Maybe she went to get some snacks or something. I mean, it is lunchtime. Yeah, that’s it. She’s in the kitchen, cause she went to get something to eat.
Almost slipping on the marble tiles, she tried to slow as she went around the corner that led into the kitchen, not wanting to run into a wall and become Mahri pâté.
Skidding to a stop, Mahri gasped like a beached Goldeen when she gazed upon the sight that met her in the kitchen.
First, she took in Pikachu, who was lying flat on its back on the kitchen bench, next to a half-empty ketchup bottle. This wasn’t so surprising, since according to Ash, this happened on a regular basis. But, the electric mouse appeared to be conscious though, and was just staring at the ceiling, blinking. Occasionally, a small moan would issue forth from it. Puzzled at what the pokemon was staring at, Mahri looked up, found nothing, and looked down.
Looking down, she found her sister-in-law twined amorously in the arms of Ash Ketchum, who seemed to be quite preoccupied. They were still clothed, which -observed Mahri- was a small relief, although judging by their actions, it was only a short matter of time until said clothes were removed, having become an obstruction to their activities.
Some small part of Mahri had been expecting this, for it was obvious there was some form of attraction between the two, and she knew precisely how each cared for the other, even though they themselves might be oblivious to the fact.
However, the rest of her was just as surprised to see their affection displayed so obviously before her, as Pikachu had been.
She was unable to suppress a small squeal, which awoke Ash Ketchum from his state of semi-consciousness, in which he was relying totally on instincts, and the small sounds Misty was making, to guide him.
Ash’s eyes opened, and he lifted his head, removing it from the hollow of Misty’s throat.
He blinked once or twice, realised what was happening, took in Mahri’s stunned expression as she stood above him (both he and Misty had slid down onto the floor some five minutes ago), took in Pikachu’s stupor, took in his own precarious position, took in the way Misty’s head was tilted back, eyes closed, lips parted slightly.
Then, he shrugged, and went back to whatever place he’d been occupying recently, obviously deciding that the real world was no match for it.
Mahri squealed again, and backed out of the room slightly, tripping over a chair as she went.
In accordance with the laws of physics, the chair fell, landing on the ground with a loud bang. In accordance with the laws of sound, this sound travelled through the air, reaching the ears of Misty, who according with the laws of such situations, regained her senses (and was disappointed to find she’d done so at such an inconvenient time), and gasped, causing Ash to snap back to reality for the second time in less than two minutes.
“My gods…” she breathed, as she and Ash disentangled themselves, and moved away from each other as fast as they could, “What did we just do?”
Both stood, at least a metre apart, and met each others eyes.
“What did we just do?” repeated Misty, sounding confused. Pikachu, who’d been snapped out of its stupor by the noise, watched with interest.
“I think that it would be fairly obvious what we just did.” Replied Ash, whose voice was slightly husky from emotion. He licked his lips nervously, and was startled to find he could still taste the salt of her skin.
Misty looked away, refusing to meet his gaze, refusing to look at him.
Mahri, who was still on the floor, separated herself from the chair and stood, acutely aware of both of them watching her. She blushed as she straightened the chair.
“This didn’t happen.” said Misty, still not meeting anybody’s eyes. “This did not happen. It was just a mistake, and I’m sorry.”
“If this didn’t happen, why are you apologising, Mist?”
Misty shivered. “Don’t call me that. The less familiarity from you, Ketchum, the better.”
Ash was getting annoyed.
Look at me, Misty. Look at me! You can’t deny what just happened, it’s been sixteen years in the making, Rudy or no. I still can’t understand why you’re angry at me, when I’ve done nothing wrong, except fall for you.
Misty, head bowed, was dealing with problems of her own.
I can’t believe what I just did! Why, why did I do that? And why with him? Gods, he hurt me in the past, hurt me so bad… so why am I standing here like a shy school-girl?
That other voice spoke up.
Because you love him. Because you want what just happened between you to happen again, and you want to be caught out. Just so you can say, “Yes, I am with him, and I don’t care what you say.” That’s why. That’s why you won’t look at him, because if you do, you won’t be able to stop yourself.
“You can’t honestly say that. Look at what just happened! You can’t tell me you didn’t know this was coming.”
Sharply, abruptly, Misty’s head cracked upwards.
“Yes, I knew this was going to happen. I didn’t want it to, didn’t want it to be you, anyone but you.”
Ash, not in the mood for this, snapped at her.
“Why not me? Why anyone but me? Am I not good enough for you? Am I not your friend?”
“Answer me, dammit! You’ve been evasive towards me ever since I got here, and I want a straight answer!”
Briefly, she looked away, towards Mahri, her eyes unseeing. Mahri could see the tears coursing down her cheeks.
She looked back at him, crying now, and spoke, her voice distant.
“Not you, because I’ve cared for you for so long it’s painful. Not you, because I know such a liaison would be brief, albeit beautiful, and agony in its shortness and eventual end. Not you, because you’ve hurt me before, you don’t remember that you did, but you did, you said you’d never give up on me, you promised you’d never forget, but you did, and hurt me. Not you, because you’re too good for me, too high, too unattainable. I may as well love a star, because you’re that distant to me. Not you, because I love you, because I love you too much, and because you don’t love me. That’s why not you.”
She closed her eyes, and when she spoke again, her voice was thick with longing.
“Are you satisfied, Ash Ketchum? Are you happy now? I married Rudy Trovita because I knew I could never have you, because I thought I was pregnant and Rudy wanted the child born in wedlock, even though it turns out there was no child, after all. I didn’t want to die alone, and alone I was.”
She closed her eyes, swallowing the sobs that welled in her throat.
You know now, you know it all, and I don’t know if I can cope with this. Gods, I wish you’d never come here, wish I’d never met you, wish I’d never pulled you out of that gods-forsaken river!
She turned away from him, and Ash, who’d had no idea what was coming, just stared.
Misty opened her eyes, tears still falling, and walked out of the room.
No one moved to stop her.
Ash, completely and utterly shell-shocked by what had just happened, felt himself move, pull a chair up, and sit. Felt himself do it, for at that moment, he was completely isolated from his body, and whatever nerve impulses controlled him were doing so on auto-pilot.
Pikachu, stunned more thoroughly than forty Stun Spore attacks delivered at once, leapt off the bench, and onto its trainers lap. Slowly, inevitably, Ash’s head slipped forward into his waiting hands, face obscured by splayed fingers.
Mahri could see his eyes were closed.
Well Ketchum, you certainly screwed things up didn’t you? She just bared her soul to you, and the reason for all her hurt, all her pain, is you. Are you proud of yourself? Gods, you hurt her once in her past, in your past, hurt her so bad she still remembers it gods-know how many years later, and you can’t remember! You can’t remember hurting her! Gods-dammit, you love this woman, and you still hurt her. You’re pathetic. Truly, truly pathetic. And, to make things worse, she’s on antidepressants. She’s in a very fragile state of mind. And you’ve just upset her. Wonder what’s going to happen now?
As this last thought sank in, Ash sat bolt upright, regaining some sense of consciousness.
“Gods…” he breathed, completely unaware of Mahri staring at him. “Misty’s on antidepressants. Two tablets, twice a day. She’s taken her tablets this morning, no doubt, but she’s still upset. Miserable in fact, because of me, so what’s to stop her taking some more to feel better? She’ll double the dose, and take it early. That’s what she does when medicine doesn’t work.” A recollection of the time Misty had taken six Panadol in less than ten minutes flashed through his mind.
She got sick, not badly sick, but sick enough. Brock had to carry her to the nearest hospital, and I was really scared. Doctor said she’d be okay, that she was really lucky, she’d live. Happens all the time. She was so pale, lying there, in that bed, chalk white, hair damp with sweat. She really scared us, and Brock made sure she never took too much medicine again, but Brock’s not here now…
He leapt up, still on auto pilot, Pikachu falling out of his lap, and a bewildered Mahri raced after him as he ran, no, sped towards the bedroom, faster than she’d ever seen a human being run, he ran as though the hounds of hell were at his heels.
This was ridiculous, cause the only thing chasing after Ash was Pikachu.
Misty lay there, staring at the ceiling, unsure of how she’d gotten there, on the floor, empty jar next to her fingertips.
I’ll have to get my prescription filled again. Third time this month, and a jar’s supposed to last a fortnight.
A hysterical giggle, caught in her throat, bubbled past her lips.
Her head felt hazy, she couldn’t quite focus, but that was okay, cause she really didn’t want to think right now, cause thinking meant remembering, and she didn’t want to remember now, not at all, cause remembering meant him, and she couldn’t stand him; hated him; hated the taste of him, good though it was; hated herself for hating him.
Before her eyes the ceiling, light and airy though it was, grew dark. Strange shadows swirled around her, and for a moment, she felt nauseous, but it passed. So did the shadows, leaving a darkness she couldn’t escape, even when she closed her eyes.
That’s silly. Every one knows it gets even darker when you close your eyes. But what does it matter? Nothing matters any more…
Another giggle, this time desperate, tore free from her closed mouth. Laughter dissolved into panicked sobs, as that tightness in her chest, unnoticeable before now, grew in intensity, squeezing her so hard, she thought her ribs would crack, shatter, splinters of bone skewering her heart, and ending everything.
She couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, but could still feel wetness on her cheeks, trickling down past her lips, mingling with the bitter aftertaste of her tablets, and the taste of Ash’s mouth.
So tired. So sore, but I won’t feel when I’m dead. But, I didn’t want to die, just taking the tablets like I was supposed to, take ‘em when I feel bad, that’s what the doctor said, and I feel bad now. Shouldn’t take any more, can’t take anymore, none left, and I took too many any way. And I forgot to say goodbye to Marill, she’ll be scared when Mahri tells her. Sorry, girl. I’m so sorry…
Head aching now, sharp ache wrenching her into more darkness, darker dark, deeper dark, falling dark…
Pikachu knew something was wrong even before Ash burst into Misty’s room, knew it, could smell it, could smell that sweet, subtle scent that all humans were scared of, that scent that meant death, or death to come soon.
A shiver passed through him as he ran, and he felt fear.
Mahri noticed, and almost without knowing she was doing so, sent a prayer to whatever gods might be listening. She didn’t know what had happened, but Ash was scared, so was Pikachu, and that scared her, she knew something bad was happening, something involving the woman she knew as sister, and felt a sharp pain at the thought of losing her.
Ash skidded to a stop ahead of her, trying the door handle. He shook his head, backed up a step, and kicked the door.
With the crack and splinter of wood breaking, he burst in, pokemon and girl running after; found him dragging her onto his lap, her eyes sightless, cheeks tear-stained, lips blue, mouth open but not breathing.
He blinked back tears, laid her flat across his lap, kissed her.
No, thought Mahri, not a kiss, resuscitation. He’s trying to make her breathe.
He gave her air, pumped her chest. More air, and still she did not move.
Is it just me, or does she seem less pale?
More air, this time followed by a ragged gasping breath, white foam bubbling over Misty’s lips, dripping down her chin, but Ash didn’t care, wiped it away, tipped her head sideways. Another wrenching breath, and she spasmed, legs kicking desperately, but he held her still, kept her in his arms, even as she thrashed, fingers curling reflexively, back arching, head snapping wildly.
“Easy…” he whispered, and Mahri heard the tone as one used to comfort a panicked pokemon, crazed by pain. “Easy, shh, easy, shh…”
He flipped her onto her back, and she blinked up at him, still sightless, but alive.
Mahri crouched down beside her, saw that though she was alive, Misty clearly wasn’t home.
Her eyes closed, almost peacefully, and her body was relaxed, but still Ash held her.
He didn’t want to let her go, and if Mahri had been him, she wouldn’t have wanted to either.
“What were you talking about before? With the anti-… something-a-rather?”
“Antidepressants. Prozac, to be specific, because according to this jar, that’s what Misty’s on. She’s probably got her script in her handbag.” Misty herself was lying on her bed, where Ash had laid her, eyes still closed, but definitely alive. She shivered, cold sweat soaking her pillow. According to Ash, this was normal, and he’d given her water, and propped her up so that if she rolled over, she couldn’t swallow her own tongue. Strangely, though, he hadn’t called a doctor.
“And what is Prozac?”
Ash, distracted by the slight movement of Misty, even though she was restrained by rolled up blankets, answered vacantly.
“Prozac is a brand of antidepressant. Antidepressants are tablets given to those that suffer from any of a number of mental conditions resulting in chronic depression. Misty is obviously depressed. Therefore, she takes the tablets -two twice a day- which release certain chemical endorphins into her bloodstream, certain chemicals that cause an improvement in mood and overall attitude when they reach the brain. In short, she takes the tablets, they make her feel better. She’s overdosed -that is, taking too many tablets at once- because she no doubt feels miserable due to what happened between us about-” Ash checked his watch “- seven minutes ago. An overdose is serious, but she should be fine within a day or so. Well, physically at least. Mentally… well, I don’t know how long it will be before she’s back to… well, normal.” He frowned, and checked the temperature of her forehead with the back of his hand. “In fact, there’s always the possibility that she will never be back to a ‘normal’ state of mind. The chemicals within the tablets could have an adverse effect on her. But, I don’t think that’s likely, all the same.”
“Why? You said it could happen.” Mahri’s voice trembled when she spoke.
Ash turned and gave the girl a wan smile. “It can. But -and this is the important thing- Misty’s been on Prozac for a very long time. Eleven years. Doctors hesitate to prescribe strong medicines for long periods of time, in the knowledge that eventually, the body will become ‘adapted’ to all the chemicals in the drug. It’s like… getting Pidgey-pox. You get it when you’re little, you might get it a couple of times, but eventually your body gets used to the little infecty thingies -as you can see, I’m being real technical here- and you don’t get it anymore. Misty’s body has got used to the drugs. She’s become immune, and they don’t work as well as they used to. So, to counter that, she takes more, and more often. So, really, Misty has been over-dosing for a very long time. Because of that, her body’s reaction to a large overdose is still bad, but not as bad as it could have been. If she hadn’t been overdosing for a long time, she would have died, and there would have been nothing I could do.”
He turned back to Misty, noting the slight flush of colour in her cheeks.
“So… she’s going to be okay?” Mahri’s voice was hopeful.
“Probably. It’s all up to her now. We can’t do anything more for her.”
“We could call a doc-”
“No.” Ash’s voice was surprisingly cold. “No doctors. No. Her doctor is the one who put her on such a strong drug without explaining to her the dangers of overdose.”
He smoothed back damp hair from Misty’s forehead.
“She hasn’t got such a bad temperature any more. She should be okay. What she needs is rest. Apart from that, there’s not much we can do, except wait.”
There was a silence, then Mahri filled it.
“What are you gonna do when she wakes up?”
Ash didn’t look at her.
“She hates you now. I don’t think she’s going to be very cooperative when Rudy shows up.”
“Misty’s always hated me, Mahri. Always will. For us, that’s normal. But, I can live with that. She always looks so beautiful when she’s angry…” His voice trailed off, and for a moment, the room was filled with a wistful silence.
“Besides, she’s always at her most vulnerable when she’s irate, and in my opinion, the most attractive. And as for the hate… well, that’ll just make things more interesting. I am not made of stone, Mahri. I was as troubled as she was last night, and believe me, my dreams were just as haunted.” He turned back to the object of his affections, and Mahri could see the hunger in those gilded eyes. He moved off the edge of the bed, and headed for the door, Pikachu following.
“She needs rest. She should be up and about tomorrow morning, which is just what we want. When Rudy gets back, his wife will be just as he left her. I won’t do anything, Mahri. I won’t touch her. I have some self control, thank you very much.”
After he left, Mahri wondered whether he’d be able to keep this promise.
I don’t doubt you have self-control. It’s just that Misty can be very persuasive, and right now, I’d say she’s got it just as hot-and-heavy as you do.
She decided to give Ash the benefit of the doubt. Who knew, maybe he would be able to control himself. After all, he was trained for this kind of situation.
It wasn’t until later that Mahri wondered how he’d been trained to react in this situation.
Charles was worried.
His Lady was spending far too much time in the company of that impertinent cad that had arrived, as if from no-where, upon the doorstep two days previous. He’d worked his way into the house as though he were a greased Ekans, and he’d charmed the Lady faster than any man had right to. He didn’t approve of this, and knew that his Lordship wouldn’t be pleased. True, his master seemed distant lately, and true their marriage was somewhat strained, but his Lord and Lady were married, and such vows were permanent.
I shall inform his Lordship of this recent development, and so remove temptation from my Lady’s path. My Lord will reward me for my constant vigilance.
And so, with this in mind, Charles reached for the phone, and called his master’s number, the number he’d been given to use in the case of dire emergencies.
And, there was no doubt in Charles’s mind that this situation was an emergency.
Misty woke, mind still hazy from the drugs she’d taken.
She tried to sit up in her bed, but her head swam horribly, so she accepted the message she’d been given by her brain, and lay back down.
Uh… what happened to me? Why am I…?
Reality did not flood back, for a flood would be too gentle. Instead, it crashed over her, and for a moment, she couldn’t breathe. It was as though she’d been dumped by a wave.
Cold, hard realisation shuddered through her, and for a moment, she wished she were back in the warm, pink land of incoherency.
“Oh, gods…” She whispered, as with rising lucidity, she’d recalled the events of the previous day.
The fight… the spa… the second insult-slinging match…then… then… oh, his mouth… then I… the tablets… and now…
She blinked a few times, trying to clear what felt like decades worth of cobwebs from her mind. She was teetering dangerously on the edge of consciousness and sleep, and felt sure that the littlest movement could send her tumbling over either edge.
Then, voices. Straining to hear, and still confused, Misty tried to understand.
“… if she’s not okay? What if she doesn’t get better?” Mahri’s voice, with the familiar Orange Islands Lilt.
“Misty’s a lot tougher than she looks. I should know. She’s kicked my ass gods-know how many times, and probably still can.”
Ash’s voice, deeper, huskier, and as always, holding secrets within its inflection.
Misty tried to sit up again, and the blood in her ears pounded briefly, and half a sentence was lost.
“… kill you if she finds out. She will, you know. No matter if she loves you or not, she wants blood, Ash.”
Laughter, his laughter, huskier than it had ever been in his youth.
“She’s not the only one. I have a lot of enemies, many of whom who wish me dead or worse.” Her door swung open, and Misty blinked hazily at her visitors.
Mahri, dressed in a skirt that could have passed for a belt, and Ash. It seemed he’d given up on the scruffiness, and was neatly attired in collared shirt and jeans. He held a tray. Misty couldn’t quite focus on what was on the tray, but there was something there, she was sure of it.
“Misty! Are you oka-” Mahri tried to run forwards, but was held back by Ash.
“Don’t, Mahri. She’s not ready to cope with your enthusiasm. She’ll still be groggy.” His voice was cautious, and he edged forward slowly, Pikachu creeping along beside him.
“She probably doesn’t know what’s going on. The tablets she took might’ve had a permanent effect on her. I don’t think they did, but until she’s better, we don’t know.” He placed the tray on the bedside table, and lifted off a cup.
A cup… I knew there was something on there, why couldn’t I think of what it was? Oh, I’ve got a headache…
The small, conscious part of Misty’s mind railed at the rest of her thoughts, which were clouded and hazy, trying furiously to get her to understand.
“Misty? I don’t know if you can hear me, but you’ve got to drink this. It’ll help the drugs wear off quicker.”
Misty blinked slowly, trying to understand. She knew what he was saying, could recognise the words, but they didn’t make sense…
“Here…” He helped her sit, his hands strong and gentle. Slowly, he raised the cup to her lips, and kneeling down in front of her, made her drink every last drop. Misty swallowed, and Ash could see lucidity returning to those eyes, but with lucidity came realisation, and with realisation came anger.
Misty’s hand connected with the side of Ash’s face, but he didn’t even flinch. He stood, cup still in hand, and Misty scowled up at him.
“Bastard? Asshole? Prick?” supplied Ash, “Take your pick, Mist. I don’t really care.”
Ash felt reckless. For some strange reason, his nerves were sizzling, and her slap had only intensified that curious sensation in his stomach.
“And you know what, I don’t really care about anything else either. Yes, I hurt you. You say I did, and you never lie, so it must be true. I can’t remember it. There’s holes in my memory, always has been, and one day I’m gonna figure them out. I’m sorry. I know it probably means nothing to you, but I am. And yes; I did kiss you. Glad of it, in fact. Personally, I think it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I enjoyed it, and I’d do it again any day of the week. And no, I don’t give a damn what your husband says, because he’s Rudy, and frankly, Rudy doesn’t count. So, I don’t care what you say anymore. Because I was sent here for a reason, and I’ve just realised it has nothing to do with what my boss tells me to do, but what I want. And, I know what I want, and regardless of others say, I’m going to take it.”
“So you’re a rapist now, are you?” asked Misty, blue eyes glacial. “Wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Hell, no. Why take by force what you can take with a kind word and a gentle hand? I abhor violence. You know that’s true.”
For a moment, she watched him, eyes drinking in every feature on his face. Particularly the mouth.
“You were always a gentle child. You didn’t like hurting people, or pokemon, and I could see that every time you won a battle you felt guilty for hurting your opponents’ pokemon, even though you knew that was the only way you could win. You hurt me, though. Cut me into ribbons with that smile of yours, and you didn’t know what you did. By the time you realised, it was too late.”
“You’re telling me it’s too late? Really? Well, that doesn’t faze me. It took me sixteen years to figure out how much I care for you. I’m not giving up on you now.”
Those words shivered through her, almost exactly them same as the words he spoke that night, so long ago. Ash looked puzzled, as though he was searching for a memory, something evanescent that flitted just out of his reach.
Mahri, all of a sudden aware that she was intruding on a very private situation, decided to leave.
Pikachu, who was ever attuned to his trainers mind, could smell the pheromones in the air. And they were pouring off both of the humans, flooding the room with conflicting scents.
Lust, love, longing. Three of the most enticing scents emitted by both of them. Anger, that came from the ginger-haired human. Fear, that slightly sweet scent, was wreathing his trainer. Ash was afraid of Misty, and with good reason.
Never get a female pokemon mad. They’re much more likely to go into a berserker rage than a male pokemon, and when they do, they’re so much more vicious. I hope he knows what he’s got himself into. I just know it’s gonna get messy. Humans are always so violent when they mate.
Pikachu shrugged, and leaving the couple to their own devices, dragged Mahri out the door by her socks.
Ash and Misty continued to watch each other, ever wary for who would make the first move, neither willing to concede to the other. Eventually though, Ash lost the fight, as he knew he would.
Even as a child, she’d always get the better of me.
This thought burst into Ash’s mind as Misty dragged him onto the bed, via his shirt collar.
Then, as his mouth met hers in a brutal, conquering kiss, all thoughts, repercussions and responsibilities were forgotten.
All was lost in the face of that brief, explosive sensation, which quickly led to another, and other, more complex, but just as shattering, actions.
All was lost, including the memory that Rudy Trovita, the husband of the woman entangled fiercely around and outside of him, would be home that day.
Unbeknownst to Ash, he would also be early.
“I’m not stupid, Pikachu. I know exactly what’s happening between those two. Ash said he wouldn’t touch her. I guess he lied. Mind you,” she added, stroking Pikachu behind the ears, “Misty wasn’t exactly making it easy for him.’ She thought for a moment, briefly stopping her petting of Pikachu. Pikachu head butted her hand, and once more she resumed her petting, her words following the same rhythm of her hands.
“He’s not going to hurt her, is he?” she asked, and Pikachu sensed the anxiety in her tone. “I mean, it didn’t seem to me he was thinking with his head back there.”
Pikachu, deciding that to calm the girl would be the only way to get her to continue stroking his fur uninterrupted, shook his head, and chattered a sentence at her.
kachu pika Pikachaa.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, but I guess it was along the lines of ‘Ash can’t hurt Misty’, right?”
Pikachu nodded, and rubbed against her open palm.
“Oh, all right. Gods, Pikachu, any one would think that you’d never been petted before. After this, I suppose you’ll want me to go get you some ketchup?”
Pikachu just grinned.
Charles paced anxiously. True, his master had been angry when he’d heard of the dark-haired infiltrator, but he’d been pleased with Charles for telling him. And he had been angry at her Ladyship, but Charles knew it was only anger at himself for not being there to take care of his wife. If his Lordship was angry, he certainly wouldn’t take it out on the Lady as he’d sworn he’d do. She was only a weak woman, no more capable of resisting temptation than a new-born Magikarp.
His Lordship was very angry. And, Charles knew that when his Lordship was angry, he was prone to losing control. Although his lady had betrayed her husband, he did not wish to see her beaten.
And so, he paced, apprehensively, waiting for his master to arrive and sort out this horrid mess.
Half asleep, half awake, Misty nuzzled into Ash as she lay curled around him.
Pale orange hair spilled across his chest, and as it darkened in the dull light of the room, Ash was disturbed at how much it reminded him of blood.
He was wide awake, unlike Misty, who had slipped into sleep. He could tell by her breathing, which was slow and steady, unlike the frantic gasping it had been moments before.
Ash was quite comfortable, and there was such a… a… rightness to her warm weight against him, that he felt no inclination to move. He knew he should, knew that there was no possible way of untangling the strands of their somewhat complicated relationship now, and that to hold such a childish hope that they could actually sort this out was utterly useless.
Still, Ash had always been a dreamer, and even though adulthood had suppressed those dreams slightly, they were still there.
A single tendril of hair floated over Misty’s mouth, and fluttered with every breath she took. Gently, he brushed it away, and found himself wondering how the hell Misty had ended up the way she was.
There were scars on her, such scars as might come from a leather belt, or a broken bottle. Small, faded scars, but still there. And these were old scars, scars from a hard mans hands in her youth. She didn’t remember her father, but she still bore the brunt of his lack of affection for his youngest child.
That mind, razor sharp and ever-so-quick when thinking up insults to direct at him, was sheathed in the most ethereal face he’d ever seen.
She was beautiful, that was true, any red-blooded man could see that, but that wasn’t what made her so attractive to him.
I probably only find her sexy cause I know that if she knew I did, she beat seven kinds of living hell out of me. I’m beginning to find it frightening that I actually enjoy it when she hurts me. Gods, I never knew I was a machoist.
Ash sighed, and closed his eyes, wondering how the hell he was going explain this to her husband when he came home.
Which reminds me…
Ash turned his head, trying not to disturb the sleeping figure entwined about him (partly because she looked so peaceful when she was sleeping, partly because he had the idea that she wouldn’t get the chance to get much rest later, but mostly because he realised she was going to be extremely pissed when she woke up), and looked at the clock.
3:27. Good. Rudy’s not gonna be home for another five and a half hours. Give me plenty of time to get out of here, and set up my trap.
He looked back at the sleeping Mrs. Trovita.
Scot-free adultery, hey Misty? Well, at least you’ll get the grounds for your divorce. And I can promise you that I’ll be there at the divorce proceedings.
The thought of promises reminded him of a promise, one which was the most important he’d made, one which he’d forgotten.
No, not forgotten. It’s not that I can’t remember, it’s that I don’t have the memories. I know I went to Cerulean city when I got back from Hoenn, but why don’t I remember seeing her? All I remember is The Company…
Suspicion budded and rapidly bloomed in Ash’s mind, but it was a blind suspicion, focused on something Ash couldn’t quite recall. It slipped through the fingers of his mind like a bar of soap.
Misty sighed, and snuggled closer. Sleepily, she murmured something into his chest, but Ash couldn’t hear what. All he knew was that it tickled. Well, whatever she was saying, she seemed happy to be there, wrapped in his arms, and Ash was more than happy to oblige her. Still, he knew that she wouldn’t be too pleased when she woke up.
Mahri’s gonna kill me. Pikachu’s gonna kill me. Misty’s gonna absolutely obliterate me, scatter me into atoms and spray me across the furtherest reaches of the universe, then piece me back together so she can do it again. Still, it was worth it though…
Ash closed his eyes, planning on savouring this moment while he could. Knowing his luck, it’d never happen again. The pain that he knew inhibited his future could be put off for now, and though he’d be in a helluva lot of agony when Misty woke, it would’ve been worth it.
I’m pretty sure someone once said that a second of bliss was worth an eternity of pain, and considering I’ve had roughly six hours of ecstasy, I’m due for something excruciating. Knowing my luck, fate has probably intervened and sent Rudy home early, or something.
Ash thought for a moment, concentrating as hard as he could with those neurons that weren’t preoccupied with how soft Misty’s skin was and how warm it was just to lie like this, still entangled within her, and reached the conclusion that fate couldn’t be as twisted, or as cliché to send the husband of the woman he was currently entwined with home early.
After all, no one’s that cruel.
Eventually though, said neurons went back to contemplating the wonder of how her body fitted perfectly to his, and all thoughts of Rudy were forgotten.
Mahri slunk down the hall.
Pikachu, somewhat drowsy after gorging itself on a certain tomato-based condiment, followed, stomach aching and ears drooping.
“Piiiiiiii…” it moaned, and fell onto its side.
“Oh, shut up Pikachu!” hissed Mahri, “I’m trying to sneak into Misty’s bedroom.”
Pikachu looked at her blankly, wondering why in the name of the Poke-Gods she’d want to do such a thing, before realisation dawned.
Mahri, startled by the look on Pikachu’s face, realised what the pokemon was thinking.
“No, it’s nothing like that,” she added hastily, “I just want to see if they’re awake. Ash’s got to get up, and set up his trap for Rudy. He’s gonna be here in less than three hours.”
Pikachu nodded, and still wary, followed the girl into the room.
Mahri, slightly perturbed at what Pikachu had been thinking, eased open the bedroom door. It didn’t squeak.
Edging inwards, trying not to skid on the floor boards in her socks, she closed the door behind her, almost catching Pikachu’s tail. The golden mouse pokemon would have shocked her, except for the fierce look on her face.
Mahri looked around the room.
Pretty much the same as it had been that morning, except for the pile of crumpled clothes next to the bed.
For some absurd reason, one of Ash’s sneakers was lying separate from the rest of the clothes, and was pointed towards her, the tongue hanging out, and laces torn.
Well, I’m not surprised he had to tear his shoes to get them off, considering the state of those laces, but I thought they were his favourite shoes. Mind you, I suppose a favourite pair of sneakers pales in comparison to her.
She scrutinised the sleeping couple twined within the bed sheets.
From what she could see of them, they were tangled to the point of inextractibility; it was almost impossible to tell where Misty ended and Ash began. Indeed, were it not for the difference in their skin tones, Mahri wouldn’t have been able to tell at all.
But this had been expected.
Mahri was an adult; she knew perfectly well what had occurred between the pair, as was evident by their closeness.
Misty’s head was pillowed on Ash’s chest, and her expression was peaceful.
She’s going to be pissed when she wakes up. I don’t think Ash will care though.
Pale orange hair spilled over his bare chest, and one of her arms was flung loosely over one shoulder. The other was curled to her breast, and wrapped in the sheet. The doona seemed to have slid to the floor.
Ash, on the other hand, had one arm laid across the length of the bed, and the other wrapped around Misty.
His face was relaxed, no sign of the strained lines that crowded his brow.
Unlike Misty, though, he wasn’t asleep.
“Seen everything, Mahri? Or would you prefer to continue to gawk? Either way, it doesn’t bother me.”
Mahri blushed furiously.
“I never knew you were a pervert, girl.”
“I’m not a little girl, and as for being a pervert, you can talk. You’re the one who was sent to seduce her.”
“Maybe. But, I have to say, she was the one who seduced me. This is entirely beside the point. What is your purpose for disturbing me from my state of ecstasy? Tell me as quick as you can so I can go back to dozing.”
“My brothers going to be home soon. When he does, he’s not going to be happy to find you in the arms of his wife. And, you’ve got a trap to set up.”
“I’m not moving.”
Mahri’s mouth fell open.
“This is the last chance I will ever have at being with her, by her, beside her, inside her, Mahri. Do not ask me to squander it. I will get up, but only when she wakes up. Till then, you would do best to leave me. Forgive me as I enjoy this while it lasts.”
He closed his eyes, and Mahri huffed as she headed for the door.
Pikachu, surprised but not shocked at his trainer’s behaviour, shrugged and followed the girl. Besides, the room was getting a bit stuffy, and to his super-sensitive nose, it smelt like sex, which only served to remind the small golden pokemon of Ash’s threat to get him neutered if he couldn’t control himself when he came into rut.
Ash can talk. All she has to do is look at him with those eyes and he’s randier than a horny Tauros.
Mahri’s thoughts as she opened the bedroom door, closed it, and with Pikachu turned to face the man standing in the hall, the man with the gun pointing directly at her face, were a lot simpler.
Oh gods, I’m gonna die.
As Ash watched the door close, he got the feeling that something was wrong.
He closed his eyes, and tried to ignore that small voice in his head that was chiming away at the incredible wrongness of the situation.
He concentrated instead on the slow rise and fall of Misty’s chest as she breathed, trying to put that insistent whine in his head to the back of his mind.
“Dammit,” hissed Ash as his eyes snapped open, “why do the gods conspire against me? I just want to be able to lie here, in her embrace, for another hour or so. Is that too much to ask?”
Ash groaned, and slowly disentangled himself, limb by limb. Gently, and oh-so-slowly he rolled Misty onto her side, trying not to wake her.
Then, as his ears heard a subtle click, all gentleness was forgotten.
He tore himself out of her embrace, and fairly flipped off the bed.
As he scrambled into his jeans, he felt for the holster wrapped in his shirt.
That sound that had so alarmed him was none other than the sound of a safety lock being disengaged. He knew it as well as he knew the sound of his own breathing.
Misty, woken by Ash’s sudden departure from her embrace, opened tired eyes, and found Ash’s hand clamped over her mouth.
“Shh,” he hissed in her ear, “does Rudy own a gun?”
Misty, still half asleep, and obviously angry at him, tried to talk.
“Don’t speak Mist. Just answer the question. Does Rudy own a gun?”
“Shit. We’re in trouble now. Guess who’s outside your bedroom door?” Then, as he released her, Ash voiced his own puzzled thoughts in a whisper.
“Rudy shouldn’t be home yet. It’s not nine o’clock, and there’s no way he could know that I’m here, unless… the butler! Damn, it’s always the butler!”
Misty, still half-asleep, was suddenly afraid. Ash was scared, she could tell, and she understood something about Rudy being home early, but other than that, she didn’t know what was happening.
“Get dressed. Something bad is gonna happen, I can tell. You’ve gotta be ready to-”
The door handle turned.
Ash’s head snapped towards it, and he slipped into a snipers crouch, handgun cocked and ready.
How’d he get a gun?, thought Misty as she clutched the sheet to her chest. Abruptly, the door snapped open, and Misty found herself staring at her husband, who held his gun, the one Ash had been so concerned about, in a direct line with Mahri’s left temple.
“Drop it.” Rudy snapped, and Ash’s gun clattered to the floor.
“Mahri! Gods, Rudy, let her go!” cried Misty, and started to move off the bed.
“Don’t move, honey. Else your bedroom’s going to be redecorated in shades of grey matter and blood. You,” He jerked his head at Ash, “stand up. Real slow. Hands where I can see them.”
Ash did as he was told, arms raised slightly and hands open-palmed.
Where’s Pikachu? Don’t tell me the bastard’s done something to Pikachu-
“Don’t try anything fancy, Ketchum. Your little electric rat won’t help you this time.”
The arm that wasn’t wrapped around Mahri’s neck delved into a pocket, and threw something on the ground in front of Ash.
Or, more specifically, a Master ball.
The small purple sphere rocked back and forth as Pikachu struggled to get out.
When Pikachu gets out of there, he’s gonna be pissed…
“You’re gonna die, Rudy. He hates pokéballs. You’re gonna end your life as a pile of charred soot.”
“Don’t think so. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m the one with the gun, which is currently pointed at this waste of space.”
Mahri, who’d been silent up until now, whimpered. Rudy squeezed harder, the barrel of the gun digging into her temple.
“Just one question: what are you doing in my house, and why were you in bed with my wife?”
“I’m not your wife, Rudy. I’m very shortly going to be Ms Waterflower, whether you like it or not.” Misty’s voice was so cold, Ash swore he heard the tinkle of ice. Still, Misty’s eyes were afraid.
“Not if there’s nothing left to become Ms Waterflower, my dear. You see, when I was alerted to the presence of our friend Mr. Ketchum, I hurried home as any good husband would do. Imagine my horror when I found that the aforementioned Ketchum had ravished my wife, and murdered her and my sister in cold blood. Imagine my rage when the crazed criminal turned on me, and imagine my fear as I shot him in self defence, not noticing that he’d set the house alight. I managed to escape, along with a few precious belongings, but my sister and wife’s bodies were consumed in the blaze, as was this horrible perpetrator. Imagine my grief, which would quickly subside even as I left for Hoenn.”
“And Team Rocket headquarters, where you’d report my death to your superior.” added Ash.
“Oh, so you know about that, do you? Gods, Ketchum, you’re smarter than I gave you credit to be.” Rudy shrugged. “Oh, well, it’s not like anybody else is ever going to find out. All in all, I’ve been rather discreet. I mean, even my wife had no idea what I’d been up to.”
Misty was confused.
“What are you talking about, Rudy?”
Rudy smiled at her, but it was the same type of smile you’d expect from a Seviper.
“My dear, I’ve been a member of Team Rocket for over a decade now, since before I married you. In fact, that was the main reason I married you in the first place. You were a powerful trainer, and a well-known friend of Ash Ketchum, child master, who openly detested the Rockets. Where better place to hide my true inclinations than as the husband of such a woman? True, it wasn’t exactly that hard on my part to marry you -you had the most gorgeous ass I’d ever seen-, although I did have to fool you into thinking you were pregnant. After that, even after you found out about my duplicity, it was a walk in the park.”
Misty froze. For a moment, she watched him, and Ash saw in her eyes the most petrifying expression he’d ever seen. If there was one thing Misty hated besides bugs, it was being made fool of.
“Rudy,” she murmured, “let her go. Right now, slowly and gently. Then you’re going to put the gun down. If you do that, your death will be quick.”
“Babe, even if I was in the habit of listening to a word you said, I’d remind you that I am the one with the gun.”
Rudy was so preoccupied with Misty, he didn’t notice Ash edge closer to the shaking, rocking pokéball, nor did he see him nudge it with his foot.
What he did notice, however, was the screech from Pikachu as it was freed, and the crackle of the lightening bolt which earthed itself on Misty’s floor boards.
Ash, who wasn’t stupid, ran for cover, diving on top of Misty, and pushing her to the ground.
Rudy let go of Mahri, and shot blindly at the electric mouse, who fired off bolts of electricity in a blind rage.
Mahri wrenched herself out of her brother’s grip, and ran for cover also.
As Pikachu screamed with temper, Ash covered Misty and held her on the floor. He’d knocked her off the bed when he leapt, and narrowly missed being shot in the head in the process.
“What’s going on?!” cried Misty, even as she heard the shots ring out. Ash, who was counting bullets as they fired, wasn’t listening to her.
Four…five…six, he’s out!
When he knew Rudy was out of bullets, he flung himself off of Misty, vaulted over the bed, and scrambled for his gun on the floor.
Pikachu, still crazed and wild with fury, provided the perfect distraction. Ash scrambled for the gun, felt the cold metal of it in his fingers before…
Ash strangled a scream that welled in his throat, but gasped with pain as he dropped the gun. Rudy, who was better at arithmetic than Ash, knew he had a single bullet left, and had shot Ash’s hand as he reached for the second gun. The bullet had seared over Ash’s palm, nicking it with enough force to break the skin, if not any bones.
Ash hissed through his teeth as blood, his blood, splattered the floor.
Ash’s fingers curled in on themselves, and Ash grasped his injured hand with his other one, holding it to his chest.
“You bastard.” he hissed, trying desperately not to scream. Gods, it wasn’t as though it was a serious wound, the worst that could’ve happened was a few tendons were torn or maybe a finger broken, and tendons and bones could be repaired. But, by the gods, it hurt.
Rudy laughed; although Ash could see in his eyes he was rattled.
Pikachu was still enraged and was now trying to thundershock anything that moved.
“You know, everyone seems to be calling me that. I wonder why. I mean, it’s not like I’ve done anything wrong.”
He laughed again, and stood. He’d dived to the floor during Pikachu’s rage, and as he stood, he narrowly missed a thunderbolt aimed for his head, which sizzled against the door.
Mahri, smart girl that she was, had crawled underneath the decorative coffee table in the corner of Misty’s room. She shivered as she watched the impasse between Ash and Rudy, knowing that Rudy was the one with the gun, even if it had no bullets. And Ash was hurt.
Misty, lying on the floor as she was, could see a pokéball, her pokéball wedged under the bed.
It must’ve got knocked off the bedside table when Ash swept me onto the floor. And by the looks of it, it’s Marill’s pokéball! Pikachu’s still going nuts, maybe I can use that as a chance to…
She reached for the pokéball, and stood in one sweeping motion and lobbed the ball into the air. Human beings will, by nature, turn to watch anything new that rises suddenly. So it was, as one, that Rudy, Mahri and Ash turned to watch the pokéball as it rose. At the peak of its arc, the ball burst open.
“Maaaarrrrrillllllll!” screeched the blue mouse as it landed on the floor. It shook its head once, and Pikachu, still enraged, turned to attack it.
“Marill, Quick Attack!”
“Rill!” The small pokemon flashed into a streak of white, knocking Pikachu down.
“Again, Marill! Knock him out!”
Again, and Pikachu was knocked down, and stayed down.
“Now, Marill, Water Gun!”
Marill turned to Rudy, who saw a stream of water growing larger and larger…
Smash! Rudy crashed through the door, limbs flailing, and slammed into the wall opposite, and was gasping for air as water blasted him.
Ash, using this as a distraction, managed to grab his gun with his unhurt hand. When the stream of water finally stopped, and Rudy could finally breathe again, he stood to find a barrel pointed directly between his eyes.
“Don’t think you’ll get off easy because I’m holding this in my left hand. I’m ambidextrous, you bastard.”
“Don’t kill him, Ash. I want to do it myself.” Misty’s voice was calm, and as usual, cold. She ignored Ash as she walked past him, bed sheet trailing after her like a ball gown.
She stood in front of Rudy, Marill following, and gave him a frigid smile.
“Hell hath no fury, Rudy. None at all.” She didn’t look at Ash when she spoke. “Give me the gun. I want to blast his brains out. Give me the gun.”
“Uh… no. I want Rudy alive cause there’s a rather large bounty I want to collect, and it’s a condition of my employment any way, and I don’t like the sound of your voice at the moment. Mahri, grab something I can tie your brother with, would you?”
Mahri did as she was bid, running off in the direction of the kitchen.
Misty, in the meantime, had turned on Ash.
“What do you mean, ‘a condition of your employment’?”
Rudy laughed madly.
“Oh, honey, didn’t you know? Ashy-boy’s a mercenary. He was hired to seduce you, and capture me. That’s the whole reason he came here. Or did you actually think it was because he gave a damn about you? Oh, poor baby.”
He smirked as Misty’s face froze, and her eyes hardened.
“You bastard. How did you…” Ash stopped the question there, because already an idea as to how Rudy knew was forming.
“There’s no point in denying it if it’s true, Ketchum.” said Misty, blue eyes chips of diamond. “So? Is it? If it is, I only ask that you give me my husband, to be dealt with as I will.”
Ash said nothing, but his silence was confirmation enough. Then, he spoke.
“I can’t give you Rudy. I wish I could, but at the moment, and with my current employer, it’ll be his life or mine.”
“And you think I care which?” Although she hid it with the aloofness in her voice, he could tell she was hurt. Badly. “Right now, Ketchum, I want blood. I don’t care if it’s yours or his. You can make the choice.”
“I got some rope! It’s only garden rope, little more than twine really, but it should be strong enough!” yelled out Mahri as she ran up the hall. She skidded to a stop at the door, almost tripping over the prone form of her brother.
“Do you want me to tie him? I mean, with your hand…”
Ash nodded, not taking his eyes off Rudy. His injured hand was still curled to his bare chest.
“Pi…?” A sleepy chirrup came from Pikachu, who slowly straightened itself. Misty’s Marill tensed, prepared to launch an attack, but no such order came.
“’bout time you got up, little buddy. You’re missing all the fun. Marill had to knock you out when you went nuts. Still, you are claustrophobic, so I know it’s not really your fault you lost control.”
It’s mine for letting you get into such a position in the first place. Once again, Ash Ketchum thinks with another part of his anatomy besides his brain…
“I want to be compensated for all the damage done to my room.” Misty’s tone was all business. “There is considerable damage to the floor boards, the walls, my bed…”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Mist. It’s not like the house is going to be around much longer, as I plan to set fire to it once we’re out of here. If I were you, I’d get dressed, and gather those belongings of yours that are most precious. They’ll have to fit in a suitcase though, as we’ll be leaving in…” Ash checked his watch, “…ten minutes. Though if you still want a check, I’ll write you one.”
“And what makes you think I’ll be leaving with you? And don’t call me Mist.” asked Misty, as Mahri finished adding the final knots to the trussed up bundle that was her brother.
“Rockets never travel alone. Bastard though he is, Rudy’s not stupid. He’ll have backup. If you want to be attacked, beaten, raped, then murdered by marauding Rocket soldiers, it’s fine by me. Stay here. Meanwhile, I’ll be taking your husband and collecting my bounty.”
“I want ten percent. After that, you’ll never see me again. I’ll leave you alone.”
Ash thought for a moment.
“If you come with me to The Company, I’ll give you your million.”
“I never want to see you again, Ketchum. Afterwards, I’ll leave you alone, you’ll leave me alone. Got it?”
“Done. Mahri, do you want to gag him? We can’t have him chattering away in the back of the car.” He turned to Misty, lowered the pistol, and spoke.
“Get dressed. You’ve got less than eight minutes. I’ve got to pack my things.”
Pikachu ran past him, gathering shirt, socks and discarded sneakers, and Ash headed off to the guest room. Misty looked down at her trussed up husband, who was wriggling like a Wurmple caught on a fishing hook.
“Sometimes I think it would’ve been easier if I never married you in the first place.”
She shrugged, and swept back inside the room. Marill eyed Rudy dangerously, head butted him once in the ribs, and satisfied when she heard a crack, left Rudy alone.
“Ash, how are we getting to the airport?”
“Not going to the airport, Mahri. Harbour. An old friend of mine owes me a favour.”
Ash was dressed now, injured hand hastily bandaged. Rudy lay at his feet, and the Trovita mansion roared as it was consumed by flame behind him.
“Oh. But how are we getting to the-”
She cut herself off as a black car pulled up in front of them.
“Company car.” was all Ash said, as he lifted Rudy into the boot, opened the back door, and ushered Mahri inside.
Misty was watching the house burn.
“Mist, get in the car.”
“Got any petrol?” she asked as she did as she was bid. “And don’t call me ‘Mist’. Marill, come here.” Marill jumped onto her lap, and Ash sat next to her, Pikachu on his.
“Harbour.” said Ash, and the driver nodded, put his foot down, and the car screeched away.
“Who’s your old friend?” asked Mahri, wanting to break the uncomfortable silence that stretched between Ash and Misty.
“Who’s Tracey?” asked Mahri, puzzled.
“Tracey’s dead. He died a year after I married.” replied Misty.
“Yes, that’s what everyone thinks. I assure you, I am not a channeller, and Tracey is very much alive. He’s just in hiding, that’s all.” Ash shifted in his seat, as Pikachu dug its claws into his legs. “Do you mind, Pikachu? That’s quite painful. You remember the Rocket bust that happened years ago?”
Rockets were found at
“The key witnesses were a man named Tracey Sketchit, and a woman named Melody Yujido. I believe her last name is Sketchit now.”
“Why didn’t he call me, or write to me-”
Mist, he was placed in witness protection, given a body guard for a year, and
given a new identity. I was assigned to protect him, after he hired The Company
to provide the means for him to start a new life, with his new wife. They live
Misty was silent for a long while.
“Don’t call me Mist. You really are a mercenary, then.”
“Yes. Have been for eleven years.”
Misty thought for a moment.
Ash became a mercenary the year he came back from Hoenn. He mentioned something about gaps in his memory. What if… no, it’s not possible.
“What was the date when you became a mercenary?”
“It was the sixteenth of June. Why?”
That’s the date Ash was visiting me in Cerulean city! But how can it be? It’s just like he said… he doesn’t have the memories. But the only person who could tamper with memories is a psychic, so how did…?
Misty puzzled over this, and didn’t answer him.
bored and worried over the silence between the pair, tried to sleep. She’d only
slept for three minutes when the car lurched to an abrupt stop at
“Long time, no see Ash.”
to you… what are you called now?”
Tracey laughed, and shrugged.
“Can’t remember, to tell the truth. Just stick with Tracey. No one knows who I am around here.” He turned to Misty, who watched him with an impassive expression.
“You cut your hair…” she murmured.
This was true. Tracey now had a neat black goatee, and short-cropped black hair.
“I know. Didn’t want to, but everyone knew that Tracey Sketchit had long hair. Melody’s cut her hair too. She dyes it, as well. At the moment, I’m married to a blonde with a pixie haircut. Our daughter’s hair is brown, though.”
Melody, who up until previously had been below the deck, came up with a toddler in her arms. The small girl wriggled, and Melody let her down to the deck.
“Misty, you remember Melody, don’t you?”
Misty nodded, and took Tracey’s out-stretched hand to jump onto the deck. Mahri, entranced by the toddler, jumped up too, trying to get the girl to talk to her.
“Hello, I was at your wedding. I don’t know if you remember me?”
Melody gave Misty a fragile smile. There were shadows under her eyes, and she was slightly too thin. She looked like a woman that had been running for a long time.
Misty smiled back, remembering the tall, lithe brunette that had came to her wedding, and absolutely captivated Tracey.
“Oh, look at you! Who’s a little cutie, then? Oh, you are! Yes you are!” Mahri had convinced the toddler to come closer to her.
All heads turned, and Tracey laughed as his daughter replied to Mahri.
“While I appreciate the fact that you are unaware of my remarkable intelligence, I would ask to you to stop with the baby-talk, as it is extremely patronising.”
Mahri, stunned, felt her mouth drop open as the toddler regarded her with cold, violet eyes.
“Meet my daughter, Melissa. She’s a child psychic and a prodigy.”
“Glad to meet you, Melissa. My name is-”
“Misty Waterflower and you are twenty-eight years old. You hate bugs, carrots and Ash. You love water pokemon, the ocean and Ash. At the moment, your conflicting emotions are a response to the betrayal by the one you love. And, interestingly enough, you know you could never physically hurt Ash, although that doesn’t stop you from threatening him.” The little girl smiled, and turned to Mahri.
“You are Mahri Trovita, and you are in a state of shock because you refuse to believe one as young as me can be so insightful. You are currently terrified of Ash, even though you refuse to admit it, and you are wondering why it is when action heroes get shot in movies, they show no signs of pain, yet Ash almost screamed when shot.”
“The answer to that,” grunted Ash as he flung Rudy’s bound form onto the boat, followed by Misty and Mahri’s bags, “is that action heroes rarely do their own stunts. Hello Melissa.”
“Hello Ash. Your mind stinks of psychic activity. Someone’s blocked you.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m a little busy at the moment. Talk to me later.”
Ash leapt onto the boat, grimacing when his hand caught the railing.
Tracey’s eyebrows almost disappeared into his short hair when he saw Rudy.
“Well, you’ve sure been busy. Is he alive?”
“Of course he is. I wouldn’t get my bounty if he were dead. Tracey, remember Rudy?”
He nudged the prone figure with his foot. Rudy’s eyes snapped open, and he writhed furiously, trying to get out of the rope.
“Mmmph!” He spluttered furiously through the gag.
“Marill, up here pet.”
The mice pokemon leapt up, and each went to their respective owners.
Both pokemon glared at Rudy, and Rudy, who was smarter than he looked, shut up.
“Pikachu, need I remind you what will happen if you don’t control yourself?”
Pikachu shook its head, ears flopping madly.
“Pi kachu pika.” It muttered darkly.
“Well, maybe it isn’t fair, but I’m the human. I’m the one with the opposable thumbs, and the only one who might be inclined to feed you.” Pikachu snorted.
“What was that about?” asked Mahri.
“Pikachu has trouble controlling his animal urges. I’ve threatened to neuter him if he can’t keep his paws to himself.”
“Unlike his trainer.” remarked Misty.
Tracey, who was preoccupied with starting the boat, didn’t notice the argument between Ash and Misty. Melody, who was holding Melissa in her arms watched, captivated. Mahri sighed, and sat and waited for it to finish.
“As I recall, you were the one that pulled me onto the bed.”
“Yes, but you were the one that was trying to tear my clothes off the night before.”
“No, I wasn’t, but even if I was, you didn’t seem to be complaining.”
“I was not!”
“I was not!”
“You were too!”
Mahri sighed, and as Tracey goggled at the sight that met him as he came back on deck, she turned to him.
“If I were you, I’d get your daughter below deck. The past two times Ash and Misty have argued like this, they ended up tearing at each others clothes. The first time, I kinda distracted them, the second time I just ran away, not wanting to be witness.”
“This is just like when they were kids. Except, of course, they didn’t try to tear each others clothes off. Melody, do you want to take Mel below deck? I’ll be there in a minute or so. The boats ready to go.”
“Okay, but you might want to grab something to hold on to, as we’re going fast.”
She climbed downstairs, and five minutes later, true to her word, the boat went very fast.
“Welcome to Kanto, ladies and gentlemen.” remarked Tracey as they pulled up at the dock in pallet town. “Please gather all of your luggage, passengers and bound prisoners as you leave the boat. Say ‘hi’ to your mum for me, Ash.”
Ash, who was currently concentrating on disentangling himself from Misty, succeeded and stood. True to Melody’s word, the boat had gone very fast, and both Ash and Misty had been knocked off their feet, and into the others arms.
“Will do, Tracey. Thanks for the lift.”
“No need. Hell, if you hadn’t saved my ass all those years ago, gods-know what would’ve happened to me and Melody.”
“I would not have been born.” chimed in Melissa, watching Ash with solemn eyes. “You need to have a long, hard think about all the things you are missing, Ashley Jude Ketchum. There are gaps in your memory that are not natural.”
“Thanks, Melissa. If I ever need more advice from a two-year old, I’ll come to you.”
As Ash, Misty, Mahri and Rudy (who was slung over Ash’s shoulder) as well as the pokemon departed, Melissa turned to her parents.
“The strangest thing is, he was sincere.”
“Wow, Pallet is so… small.” remarked Mahri as Tracey’s boat sped off into the distance.
“I mean, you’d think the town that produced the famous Ash Ketchum would be more… I dunno, imposing somehow.”
“Well, it’s not. Come on. No matter how fast we got here, Rockets aren’t stupid (with the possible exception of Jessie and James) and sure as hell, Rudy had a back up plan. And besides, I’m not leaving my mother where she can be targeted. Nor Prof. Oak, even if he is my mum’s boyfriend.”
“Your mum and professor Oak?” asked Mahri.
“Yes, strangely. Don’t ask me any more, I don’t really want to think about that. I mean, this is my mother.”
He shifted the dead weight of Rudy onto his other shoulder, and grabbing his briefcase (containing his laptop and the all-important camera) headed towards the Ketchum household.
Misty, watching him and Pikachu walk, the small yellow mouse pokémon’s tail bobbing slightly, was unsure of whether to follow. She knew how she felt regarding a certain dark-haired individual, and she was sure of his lack of affection for her.
After all, the bastard was hired to seduce me. It was part of his job. And surely, if he cared about me, he would’ve said something. I guess the only reason I have to follow him now is because he promised me a million. That’ll be enough to buy myself a nice house in the Sevii islands where I never have to see anyone ever again.
She sighed, and headed after the now rapidly-disappearing Ketchum, Mahri and Pikachu, Marill following.
At least I won’t lose out totally.
“Ash! Oh, hello! I wasn’t expecting you till Sunday, and it’s only Thursday!”
“Hello, mum, no time to talk. You might want to grab some clothes, handbag etc as we’re leaving in five minutes.” Ash smiled at his mother, pushed past her (stopping to give here a quick hug) and moved round the house, getting her stuff together.
“Ash what’s going-”
“Don’t worry about it mum. You might want to go get Prof. Oak. That is, if you want him to live. Mahri, do you wanna start grabbing photos off the walls, please?”
“Sure.” Mahri stepped in, nodded at Mrs. Ketchum, at started to gather the photos.
“Who are you and why are you in my-”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Ketchum. I’m a friend of Ash’s.”
Cordelia’s eyes narrowed. “You wouldn’t be his girlfriend by any chance, would you?”
Ash sighed. “No, mum. She’s not my girlfriend. She’s the sister of the guy trussed up on the front veranda.”
As her son disappeared upstairs, Cordelia stepped outside, careful not to tread on the body.
“Hello, Mrs. Ketchum. Long time, no see.”
Mrs. Ketchum turned, and smiled back anxiously at the ginger-haired woman that leant casually against the post supporting the veranda.
“I don’t suppose that you are Ash’s girlfriend?”
“Mum! I don’t have a girlfriend! Are we going to get Prof. Oak or what?” Ash was slightly frazzled as he lugged out his mothers suitcase.
he’s at a convention in Johto.”
“Oh, good. C’mon then, lets go. Mahri, you take the suitcase, Pikachu you grab some photo’s, I’ll take Rudy… Mist, do you think you could possibly lend me a hand considering I’m the one who’s carrying your husband?”
There was a hidden current of anger that ran beneath Ash’s words.
“Sure. Don’t call me Mist.”
Mrs. Ketchum froze, turning to the red-head.
“Misty? Is that you? Dear girl, you’ve grown so much!”
Misty smiled, embarrassed by the attention.
“You’re a woman now, dear. Where did you disappear to?” She thought for a moment, then turned to her son, who was dragging suitcase, Rudy and Pikachu down the driveway.
“And what did you mean about her husband, Ash?”
“Misty’s married, mum. That’s her husband, leaning up against the fence in the rope there. Mahri’s Rudy’s little sister.”
Mahri waved at Mrs. Ketchum.
“Hi. I met you inside, remember?”
Ash turned to the group, who were milling around the house.
“Uh, Ash, hate to rain on your parade, but how are we going to get…wherever it is we’re going?” asked Mahri warily.
Ash smiled, pulled a pokemon whistle out.
“Ever travelled by Pidgeot?”
“Oh, no. Oh, no. I am not getting on a Pidgeot. Especially not with you driving. The last time that happened, we -and when I say we, I mean you- almost wrapped the bird around a tree. Not going to happen, Ash. No way.”
“I can’t believe I let you put me on one of these things!” screamed Misty through a mouthful of her own hair. “You bastard! You utter, utter bastard! I’m going to kill you!”
Ash ignored Misty’s screams, concentrating on steering the bird on which he rode, Misty clinging frantically to his waist. Rudy was tied to the birds back, and Pikachu sat in front. On the Pidgeot behind them, Mahri steered, while Mrs. Ketchum hung on for dear life.
The luggage was on the bird behind them, with his mother, and Ash laughed as Misty clung tighter when he forced the bird pokemon into a curve.
“ASH! YOU BASTARD! IF I DIE, I’M HOLDING YOU RESPONSIBLE!” shouted Misty as the pokemon plummeted earthwards. Behind him, Ash could hear Mahri’s whoops of excitement.
“Yee-haw! Just like the pokemon rodeo, Mrs. Ketchum!”
“Relax, Mist. I’m not going to let you fall. You’ll be fine.”
“Just you wait until we get on solid ground!” was the reply that was hissed into his ear.
Ash laughed again, pulled the bird into a tight turn, and grinned as Misty held him all the tighter as the bird pokemon swooped downwards.
Well, maybe I am going to die when we get on solid ground, but it’ll have been worth it. Gods, this is so much fun!
Misty took a deep breath, and screamed again, right near his ear.
“Mist, stop screaming! If you keep on like that, I’ll lose my concentration, and we’ll fall!”
Misty was silent, by her arms wound tighter around his waist. She leant against his back, and Ash could fel the hammering of her heart through their clothes. For a moment, he felt ashamed of making her frightened, then he remembered exactly how many times she’d scared him during their youth, and no longer felt sorry for her.
She’s scared me heaps of
times, so why do I feel guilty? Oh well, there’s
He slowed the Pidgeot, and Mahri followed his lead. The trees in the forests outside of Pewter bent in the updraft of wind created by the Pidgeot’s flapping as they landed. Ash, with Misty still clinging tightly to him, lowered Pikachu to the ground, turned and let down Misty, and jumped off himself. Mahri had leapt off on her own, and was helping his mother down. Ash untied the luggage, and suppressed a laugh when he realised that Rudy had fainted.
“Well, I think that’s all of us. Every one in one piece?”
Mahri nodded, his mother and Pikachu voiced their agreements, and Misty just glared at him.
He sighed. “Misty, don’t be such a sour Persian. You look like you’ve swallowed a lemon.”
Misty blinked at him, and turned and stalked off in the direction of Pewter, muttering something along the lines of “you bastard” under her breath. Ash sighed, grabbed his suitcase, strapped on his backpack -into which Pikachu leapt- and slung Rudy over his shoulder.
“Mum, you’re gonna have to carry your own suitcase. Mahri, you too. Misty’s got her knapsack, so let’s go.”
But why are we going to
Ash smiled as Mrs. Ketchum answered for him.
“Because Brock lives there. Am I right in assuming that I’ll be staying here until whatever you’re so worried about blows over?”
“You got it, mum. You should see what he’s done with his kitchen. Mahri, you’ll get along with May. You’ve got the same things in common, you know, nail-polish, fashion, whatever.” Ash waved his hand vaguely, unfamiliar with the subject. He stopped, and pointed at a building on the outskirts, surrounded by fenced off fields.
“That’s Brock’s Breeding centre. We’re almost there.” Misty was still off in the distance, although she stopped and waited for the others to catch up. She made a point of ignoring Ash as they walked, and didn’t stop till they got to Brock’s door.
“So you’re being chased by Team Rocket? Again? Old habits certainly die hard, hey Ash?” Brock shook his head, and leaned back in his chair at the kitchen table.
He grinned as he took in the expression on Ash’s face.
“Well, I won’t get involved, as this is your business, not mine. What I will do, however, is let your mum and-” he paused, not having been introduced to Mahri yet, “- this young lady stay here. Misty, you can stay if you like.”
Misty shook her head.
“Thanks, but no thanks. Ash owes me a million, and I’m not leaving until I get it. It’s good to see you though.”
“Same, though I still can’t believe you’d marry an Ekans like Rudy though. I mean, if there was anybody you’d hook up with, I would’ve thought it would be-” He cut himself off, and sent a meaningful glance in Ash’s direction. Ash ignored him, and concentrated on picking the burrs out of Pikachu’s fur.
“Well, anyway, you guys are welcome to stay. Mrs. K, you can have the spare room, and you, young lady-”
Mahri smiled. She didn’t know who this guy was, but he was a friend of Ash’s, and no doubt a nice guy. Plus, it wasn’t as though he was bad-looking, although his girlfriend was sending vicious stares in her direction.
“My name’s Mahri Trovita. I’m Misty’s sister in law.”
Brock grinned at the girl, white teeth flashing in his dark face.
“Pleased to meet you, Mahri. I’m Brock, and this beautiful young woman behind me is my girlfriend May. You’ll have to bunk in Max’s room, as he’s the only one with a bunk bed. And Max, I expect you to be on your best behaviour. Just because this girls sleeping in your room, doesn’t mean you can try anything funny.”
Max, who’d been sitting next to his sister, blanched as he stammered an answer.
“Brock! W-what are you talking about! I-I…”
Brock laughed, and May, who’d been giggling at her brothers embarrassment burst out into laughter. Even Mrs. Ketchum had to suppress a smirk.
“Relax, Max. I’m only joshing you. Besides, by the look of this one, she’d eat you alive.”
“Well,” commented Mahri “I have to admit he is kinda cute, in a geeky sort of way. Well, hot stuff, are you going to show me where I can put my bag?” Mahri winked at Max.
Max blushed, pushed his glasses up on his nose, and still stammering, followed Mahri down the hall, unable to keep his eyes off her swaying hips.
“Don’t worry May. She won’t hurt him. She’s just been dying to try her feminine wiles out on someone. Rudy never let her go out, so she’s got a lot of disreputability built up in there.” remarked Misty.
Brock grinned again, and asked how long Ash was planning on staying.
“Well, I’d like to leave right now, although I would like to borrow your shower first. Pikachu says I smell like blood, and it’s disturbing him.” He looked down at his bandaged hand, and all of them could see the blood seeping through. His mother obviously looked as though she was dying to ask how he’d got hurt, but was suppressing her maternal instinct. Misty decided to break the long silence that had grown, which was only interrupted by Mahri’s giggles from down the hall.
“I’ll have my shower first, if you don’t mind, Brock?”
“Good. I’m sick of smelling like your aftershave.” She glared at Ash, and headed for the bathroom.
Ash sighed, Mrs. Ketchum looked puzzled, and May looked thoughtful.
“Tell me, Ash, how exactly did Misty end up wearing your aftershave?” She asked, eyebrow raised.
“Well, May, if you really must know,” remarked Ash, eyes closed, and in the kind of sing-song voice of one who dreads what he’s going to say next, “I slept with her. And by sleep, I mean I became as intimately related with her as is possible for two people to become. I enjoyed it, and judging by the fact I’m not dead, she did too. Then Mr. Trovita here made the mistake of telling her I was a mercenary and that was what I was hired to do, aside from capturing him, and now she thinks I did it only for the money, and hates me.”
Brock, who wasn’t at all surprised by this revelation, commented “But Misty’s always hated you.”
“Yes, but now more than ever. It’s not the same kind of hatred. Now she’s cold towards me.” He sighed. “I think it would’ve been easier on me if she’d killed me, post-coitus.”
“What does ‘post-coitus’ mean?” whispered May.
“It means, ‘after-sex’. Kinda like what bug pokemon do to their mates.” whispered back Brock.
“Oh.” May thought for a moment. “Eww.”
“Ash!” admonished Mrs. Ketchum, “You didn’t mention that you and Misty where an item!”
Ash sighed again.
“That’s because we’re not. She hates me mum. Do I have to spell it out? S-h-e… h-a-t-e-s… m-e. As far as she’s concerned, the sooner she gets her money -she demanded a ten percent finder’s fee considering that Rudy is her husband- the sooner she can leave and never see me again.” Ash paused, and rubbed Pikachu behind the ears with his good hand. “It’s probably a good thing. Being involved with someone can only lead to them being hurt.”
“Really? Explain.” stated Brock, leaning forwards, face stern.
“I’m a mercenary. No mercenary ever dies from old age, or natural causes. And in order to climb the ladder within mercenary society, the most common method of advancement is to either hire someone to kill the merc ahead of you, wait till they die from some kind of assassination attempt made by someone else, or kill them yourself. Once you become one, you die one. Simple. It’s not like I can just hand in my resignation to my boss. If I did, she’d probably kill me on the spot.”
“This still doesn’t explain why you and Misty can’t be a coup-”
Ash gave an exasperated sigh.
“Don’t you get it? I can’t become involved because the person I become involved with will either be threatened, or taken hostage, or beaten, or raped, or killed! I don’t want to see someone I care about so much treated like that. That’s why I haven’t told you guys either. If I made it publicly known that I actually had a family, you guys would be the first to die. I’ve had threats on my life, I can deal with that. Its part of what I do. But if you guys… especially you mum… were targeted, I don’t know what I’d do. Understand?”
All was silent for a moment. Then, May, looking as thoughtful as ever, spoke up.
“Does that mean you’re still a vir-”
“May!” snapped Brock, “What kind of question is that?”
“A good one.” May retorted, indignant.
Ash laughed, but it was a bitter laugh.
“No, May. True I’ve never had a girlfriend, but I have been quite involved with women, under all the alias I have been over the years.”
May, not perturbed by the look her boyfriend was giving her, continued on.
“So, you’re saying that you’ve never had a girlfriend, so how did you-”
“It’s a reasonable question, Brock. I want to know.”
Brock muttered something along the lines of May being perverse, but Ash answered her question.
“On the third day of my employment, my employer hired an escort and told her to show me everything she knew. Simple.”
Mrs. Ketchum frowned.
“Ash, really, I would’ve thought that you knew that you should be pure before you are married. And besides… escorts are women of ill-repute.”
“Mum, you don’t even know who my father was. And besides, she had a very good recommendation by my employer, actually.”
Mrs. Ketchum said nothing, aware that her son had outwitted her.
“Thankyou. I hope Misty hurries up in there, I’ve gotta rinse my hand out.” A silence followed his words, and was broken only by the giggles issuing forth from down the hall.
“I hope Max knows what he’s got himself into.” remarked May.
“He’ll be fine. Mahri won’t hurt him.”
Ash stretched, and was whacked on the head as Misty passed him.
“I take it I can shower now?” he asked, but Misty ignored him, and walked directly over her husband, sneakers leaving an imprint on his face. She was obviously heading for the bedroom, as she could be heard muttering darkly under her breath that “that girl has no control. None at all.”
Ash shrugged, and made his way to the newly vacated bathroom.
As he stood there, under the cold shower -as Misty had used all of the hot water- Ash thought.
Well, I’ve basically completed my mission. The only exception being that I didn’t kill either Misty or Mahri. Miss Midas won’t kill me for that. What she will do, however, is retire me. Though there are a few things I’d like to find out before she does. How did she know about Misty? And why do I have all those gaps in my memory? According to Melissa, my mind reeks of psychic activity. Maybe the two are connected somehow. And I still don’t know why the League would hire me to do a job they could do themselves. And how did Rudy know what I was? Yes, the butler told him I was there, but the butler couldn’t have known what I was… so how? Well, I know what I’m going to do once I get home.
He stepped out, shaking his head, splattering water over the mirror. Drying and changing, he tried not to think, instead concentrating on simple tasks in order to prevent himself from speculating.
Some things you can’t change, this he knew. But, some things you could.
He stepped out of the bathroom, and headed back to the kitchen.
“Mist, I’m leaving now. If you want your money, you have to come too.” Ash leaned on the doorway of the bedroom as Misty emerged, followed by Mahri, whose lipstick was smeared over her mouth. Max followed, smothered in lipstick, and glasses hanging sideways off his nose.
“Coral pink is definitely your colour, Max.” remarked Ash as Misty brushed past him.
Max blushed, and pushed his glasses on straight.
Max had managed to wipe most of the lipstick off by the time Ash and Misty left, but there were still tell-tale traces at the corner of his mouth.
“Take care, mum. Don’t take any phone calls from people you don’t know, don’t accept any mail from someone you don’t know, don’t answer the door to people you don’t recognise, and for gods-sakes, be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Mrs. Ketchum was slightly alarmed by the reversal in her and her son’s roles, but said nothing.
“Make sure she’s okay, and Mahri too, okay Brock?”
“Sure. You’ll be able to see for yourself when you get back. And I’ll make sure Mahri behaves herself in regards to Max.” he added when Misty opened her mouth to speak.
Mahri grinned through the tears as Misty hugged her.
“Go easy on him, little sister. He’s just a baby.”
Mahri laughed a sent Max a look so laviscous he blushed.
“I feel like a sex-object.” he muttered.
“Enjoy it while you can, Max. It won’t last.” remarked Brock slyly.
Ash suppressed a laugh at the flustered look on Max’s face, and gave a single wave to the group gathered at the door as he got into the taxi waiting at the gate. Misty followed him, still not acknowledging him.
the scenery of Pewter speed by, Misty concentrated on thinking of what type of
house she would buy with her money, and concentrated on not thinking about how
painful it was going to be when she left, or how lonely she was going to be, or
even how much she would miss his thrice-cursed, gods-damned, infinitely kissable
mouth on hers. She shivered, and ignored Ash’s query as to whether she was
cold. The taxi driver tried to make idle conversation, but soon lost interest.
It was a long drive to
Misty stroked Marill absently, trying not to think of his touch on her skin.
Gods, girl, it was one night, and now you’re mooning like a love-struck Miltank! Get over it girl, there’s always plenty of other fish in the sea.
Yeah, added that other voice, that’s true. None of them are like Ash though. You know he’s one of a kind.
Misty sighed, and decided to stop thinking.
She was asleep by the time the car pulled up outside Ash’s place, and he carried her inside as though she were something infinitely precious. Which, in a sense, she was.
Misty woke to the smell of pancakes. She burrowed deeper beneath the covers, nuzzling into the warm blankets. The pancake smell was stronger now, and her mouth was starting to water. She blinked and opened eyes. The bed she was lying in was so soft and warm…
Wait a second… how did I get in a bed? The last thing I remember I was in the car with Ash…
Misty sat bolt upright, panicking.
Yes, she was in a bed, but thankfully she was still dressed. In fact, she was wearing the exact same clothes she wore yesterday, except her shoes were off.
Her shoes were placed neatly on the floor beside the bed, next to her knapsack, and she relaxed a bit.
That still didn’t explain why she was in a bed, but as she stood and looked around the room, she forgot about that puzzling question, and concentrated on another.
She assumed she was in Ash’s room, as Ash had been the last person she had seen before she’d fallen asleep, and they had been heading for his house.
The question she now puzzled over was how on earth this could be his room.
For starters, it was neat, and the Ash Ketchum she knew was as tidy as a Muk-pit.
It was also pleasingly –if spartanly- decorated, with cream walls, solid oak dresser and so forth.
The bed was absolutely huge.
At least a king-size, and covered with a Taillow-down quilt.
The carpet she stood on was thick and luxurious and she couldn’t help wriggling her toes through the thick pile.
Everything about the room suggested someone who valued the sense of touch as their most important sense, and chose to exercise that sense at every possible opportunity.
That’s more like Ash. He was a very ‘hands-on’ child. And, in many ways, still is.
Misty shivered slightly, but it was a self-indulgently pleasant shiver, which she inwardly berated herself for having.
After all, she wasn’t supposed to be dwelling on what Ash Ketchum liked to do with his hands, or any other part of his body for that matter.
Her stomach, much more interested in the possibility of pancakes than any part of Ash Ketchum, growled in agreement.
Misty yawned, deciding she’d try and figure out how Ash Ketchum had developed any sense of style or taste later, and that finding the kitchen was the best offer at hand.
The bedroom door, slightly ajar, showed a thin sliver of living room, and she assumed that the kitchen would be through there.
Shrugging, and deciding that the whole Ash-being-a-bastard thing aside, he did have pretty good taste, she walked through the door.
Ash looked up as his bedroom door opened. True, the third stack of pancakes were going to burn if he didn’t watch them, but he needed to explain the situation to Misty before she killed him.
As the girl stepped out of the room –eyes sleepy, hair mussed and mouth soft- he decided to speak with his head before any other part of his anatomy took over.
“Good morning. Once you’ve had breakfast, we’ll go over to The Company. I’ll hand your husband over, and get you your money. You haven’t got it now because I don’t have one million dollars lying around the house in loose change. I could write you a check, but it would bounce. You woke up in my bed because it’s the only bed this house had and since you’re the guest, you get it. I slept on the couch, no where near you. I didn’t do anything to you at all, besides take your shoes off, and tuck you in. Marill is fine, she’s in Pikachu’s basket, and Rudy is on the balcony because he’ll mess up the carpet. Pancakes are almost cooked, there’s maple syrup and honey in the fridge. Do you want some?”
“I’m still half-asleep,” she murmured in a voice as soft as feather-down, “I didn’t catch half of that.”
“The main point was you’ll get your money, I didn’t do anything to you, and there are pancakes for breakfast.”
Misty blinked again, and sat on a stool facing the kitchen bench.
“Pancakes, I understand. Pancakes are good.” She mumbled as Ash put a plate in front of her.
“Exactly.” He couldn’t help but smile, and Misty, for once, didn’t threaten him with violence or imminent death.
He figured that maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t mad at him anymore.
He wasn’t naïve enough to hope she had forgiven him –for Misty was the queen of grudges- but at least she wasn’t yelling at him anymore.
And so it was that a slightly happier Ash Ketchum ate his pancakes, and was pleased when Misty didn’t attempt to slander his cooking.
Rudy, still trussed up like turkey, had spent an uncomfortable night on the floor by the door, acting as a door stop and draft-stopper.
He didn’t know what was in store for him, but judging by the glint in Pikachu’s eyes every time it looked at him, he had the feeling it wasn’t going to be good.
“Where do we have to go to cash in this lump of useless-”
“Less with the profanity please,” said Ash quickly as he hefted Rudy onto one shoulder, “Pikachu is a young and impressionable pokemon. And I can’t tell you where we have to go.”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“Because you’d have to kill me afterwards, right?” she said sarcastically.
“No, because it’s in my contract. And I don’t want to kill you, believe it or not. And it was an option, and a decidedly easier one than the path I took.”
“Oh, so sleeping with me is harder than killing me, is that it?” said Misty hotly as Ash closed the door, and headed down the stairs to the car park, Misty trailing after him.
“No, it’s just more dangerous.” Said Ash, then blanched when he realised what he’d just said.
“May I remind you that if you kill me, you won’t get any money?”
Misty sighed. “Damn.” She looked around the car park, and seeing nothing, sighed again.
“We better not be taking a taxi.”
“No, we’re not. We’re taking my car.”
Misty looked around at the empty parking lot.
“Let me guess… it’s invisible?” she said sarcastically.
“Mist, this is hopeless. With all this hostility, I’m getting no where. I can’t even try and be polite to you, because every time I try you tear my head off, yell at me, and then sulk. Believe it or not, I don’t hate you, and I didn’t sleep with you because I was getting paid to. I’m not the heartless bastard you think I am.”
“Really? Ketchum, you’re a very good liar. You even got the impassioned plea down pat, although I never expected you to beg. It’s just not you; the arrogant prick I know is in there.” She shook her head, and checked her nails. “Pity you let your guard down. Otherwise I never would have known you were lying.”
Ash felt frustrated enough to scream.
“Why won’t you believe me?” he cried,
throwing hands up in the air and dislodging Rudy so that he fell to the ground
with a heavy thump. “Gods-dammit woman, I try and I try and still I get no
where! I don’t hate you, never have and never will! You’re the only human being
that I truly give a damn about, and the only one that I will willingly risk my hide for! I would die
for you, and you know it, but you refuse to see it! No matter what I do, you
refuse to believe me! I can’t take it anymore! Maybe it’s a good thing you’ll
never see me again, because I’m not sure I could handle much more of this,” he
added quietly, forcing her to met his eyes, “I know I’m screwed up, and so are
you, but it’s not my fault. I didn’t
try to hurt you, and I don’t even know how I did. Someone’s messed my head up,
and now I know that all the years of pain I felt at being alone were for
nothing if one fucked up person hadn’t screwed around with my memories! Do you
think I liked lying to you while I
He turned away, threw Rudy onto his shoulder, and headed in the direction of a shed in the distance.
Misty, stunned, and suddenly afraid that the shell she had been constructing since that night in Trovita had shattered, didn’t know whether to follow.
I want to follow him. I need to. Following Ash is what I’m all about. Even when I was on my own, having my own adventures, it never felt right. So why am I standing here?
The other voice, the one she was listening more and more to, spoke up.
Because you’re afraid. Ash Ketchum never does anything half-hearted, and now you’re wondering whether you can handle his whole heart.
Misty sighed, and headed after Ash.
Ash said nothing when she reached the shed where he stood, sorting through a pile of keys. When he found the right one –out of a stack of nearly identical keys- he opened the padlock on the shed, and threw open the door.
It’s black. With Ash Ketchum, how could it be any other colour? Misty asked silently as Ash opened the side door, and stood waiting as she climbed in. He closed it, leapt over his side –still saying nothing- and drove out.
After he’d got back in after closing the shed up, still not talking, Misty was rattled.
Ash Ketchum as a child talked constantly. Now he hadn’t said a word for a good five minutes.
Ash navigated down the busy
Ash’s face was cold and hard, and even Pikachu looked resentful. Misty shivered.
I wish I could let Marill out. It’d be nice to have someone to comfort me.
After ten minutes of the most excruciating silence Misty had ever endured, she cracked.
“Ash, I’m sorry. I-”
“Save it.” Snapped Ash, not taking his eyes off the road.
“You think I’m a cold, heartless bastard, so by the gods, I’ll act like one.”
Misty turned away in her seat, watching the landscape speed by. She didn’t even notice the dark clouds that rumbled overhead as Ash put the roof back on and the windows up.
She didn’t notice the rain pound down on the roof, or streaming down the windows, on account of not being able to see anything through her tears.
What have I done?
The other voice didn’t answer.
“Welcome to The Company. Please enter your codename and password.” Ash’s fingers moved smoothly over the keys, too upset to even notice how the metallic female voice annoyed him. Pikachu was silent, its excited chatter missing from his usual routine. Ash didn’t need to look at the back seat to know that his pokémon’s ears would be drooping as Pikachu lay curled in a ball, miserable.
Misty was his second favourite person, besides Ash. No doubt he’d be upset over their fight.
She brought this upon herself. I tried to talk to her, and she just ignored me. If she thinks I’m cold, I’ll damn well will be.
He ignored the ache in his heart at his cruel actions, and drove through as the gate opened.
“Welcome Mr Ketchum. You are required in the briefing hall urgently.”
Ash ignored the metallic voice. No doubt by now Miss Midas had heard about his assignment. She wouldn’t be pleased.
He parked the car, jolting to a stop suddenly, and causing Misty to slip forward and hit the dashboard. Ash got out of the car without even looking back. The boot sprang open, and he didn’t even look to see whether she was following as he grabbed Rudy.
Rudy, who by now was resigned to his fate, lay quiescent as Ash headed for the door, Pikachu following, normally upright and perky tail drooping in despair.
Misty was following though, and felt as though her heart had been ripped out of her chest. For all her bullying and teasing, she really cared about him, and now she realised what it felt like to be treated they way she treated him.
The grey building she entered was as cold and forbidding as the tenseness in Ash’s shoulders as she followed him in through the automatic door.
“Hey! No unauthorised citizens are to enter-” the receptionist cut herself off as she caught the look in Ash’s eyes.
She’d always thought Ash was the only mercenary that had any human emotions left, but his eyes now were as cold and as dead as a drowned body.
She shivered, and let him pass.
Misty followed, unable to ignore the fear in the receptionist’s eyes.
The fear that said that Ash was a dead man walking.
“Well, Mr Ketchum. You certainly know how to ruin things on a grand scale, do you not?”
Miss Midas didn’t even bother to look up as Ash walked through the door.
Ash ignored her, and threw Rudy on the long steel conference table with a resounding thump. Rudy slid along the table with the momentum gained from the force of the throw, and slid to a stop inches from where Miss Midas was seated.
“Here is the subject. I completed my assignment. Where’s my money?”
Miss Midas shook her head, and Misty flinched inwardly.
Those eyes where as cold as violet ice and as hard as purple diamonds.
“Mr Ketchum!” she admonished, smiling playfully. “You seem to have lost your manners.”
Her smile didn’t reach those eyes, which were unfeeling and unmoving.
“Well, it certainly seems you succeeded in your set task.” She stood and walked around the table, resting her briefcase on the end when she stood in front of Ash.
Misty, nervous about being in the same room as a woman who had obviously plunged off the boat of sanity into the deep end of the sea of madness long ago, crept closer to Ash.
Pikachu, who had snapped out of whatever stupor had claimed him before, agreed with her, and leapt into her arms, huddling closer.
Even if Ash couldn’t see it, Pikachu knew the Grim Reaper when he saw him, or in this case, her.
Oh poke-gods above and below, hear my plea: don’t let us die like this!
The gods must’ve been out to lunch, for Pikachu got no answer.
“Yes. Where is my money?”
Miss Midas clucked her tongue.
“Patience dear boy. You will receive your due in all good time.” The woman turned to Misty, who tried to hide behind Ash, and the look of false joviality on her face disappeared.
“Why is she alive? She is supposed to be dead.”
“She is alive, because I want her to be.” Said Ash simply, pushing Misty behind him.
Misty shivered where Ash’s arm curled around her waist.
Miss Midas narrowed her eyes.
“Ketchum, she is meant to be dead. Rudy is unimportant; she was meant to be dead.”
“Then why did you assign me to this task? You know very well that I care for her. That was why you picked me for the task. It would be easier for me to seduce her if I loved her. Simple.”
Pikachu sent a look at Misty as if to say see? I told you so.
“I want my money, and I want to leave. I fulfilled the mission given to me.”
“No, Mr Ketchum, you did not.”
Ash blinked, icy façade beginning to melt in the fires of confusion.
reason you where sent to
Ash blinked, stunned.
“Ketchum, Rudy failed to kill you. Therefore, his usefulness has ended.” Miss Midas sighed. “I do so hate getting my hands dirty.”
Faster than a striking Seviper, she spun, whipped out a pistol and shot Rudy point-blank in the forehead.
Rudy, whose eyes were wide with shock, didn’t have time to close them before he was dead, dark blood pooling behind his head where his skull had split due to the force of the expanding bullet.
Misty whimpered, and clutched at Ash, who didn’t try to push her away.
“The League never hired you. I am surprised that such a ruse worked on you, when it was plainly obvious that they would never hire a mercenary –an expensive one too- when they could do the job themselves for half the price. And besides, Master Oak is a fool. He has allowed Team Rocket to run this country, right under his nose.”
Miss Midas turned back to Ash, pistol hanging loosely in one hand.
“You were not bought, Ash Ketchum. You were sold. Team Rocket contributed greatly to my personal wealth for the chance to remove the thorn in their side that has irritated them for so long. They failed to exterminate you, so I fear I will have to do so myself and collect an even greater fee.”
Ash didn’t understand.
How could she have done this? How? It’s not possible!
“I did this, Ketchum, by using your lady friend as bait. The day you were recruited, I knew what you would eventually be worth. Never mind the millions I would gain from your employence, the billions I would gain from your death were more enticing. It was so easy to brush away your pathetic defences while you slept.”
She didn’t smile, she didn’t laugh, and her voice was as viciously evil as poison when she spoke.
“You can not remember that fateful night in Cerulean, because the memories were erased. In destroying such a blossoming romance, I sowed seeds of resentment and sorrow in you and your loved one. Years later, wondering what went wrong, you would try to reconcile with her in order to rebuild your shattered life. Perfect bait, and a perfect distraction from the trap that was gradually closing around you. If it had not been for the incompetence of our friend Rudy-” she indicated the dead body with a sweep of her hand “- you would be dead, and so would she, not to mention that annoying brat Mahri.”
This is impossible! Ash’s mind screamed.
“No, it’s not. Physically you were strong, but the defences of your mind were pathetic. Sabrina had weakened your mental barriers years before when she invaded your thoughts, and your emotional barriers were at an all time low. You were the easiest mind I had ever accessed.”
Violet eyes gleamed as all the pieces of Ash’s puzzle fell into place.
Misty gasped as she figured it out.
<I suggest you run, Ketchum. You and your lady friend will never leave this building alive. And before you ask something so cliché as why, realise I do not need a personal reason for your demise. Money alone was enough.>
Ash, aware of just how thoroughly he had been set up, grabbed Misty’s hand and ran. His feet pounded marble tiles as he ran for the stairs, hearing the click of locks as doors opened.
“He is heading for the northern staircase. Cut him off.” Miss Midas’s voice echoed over speakers as Ash desperately dodged the mercenary in front of him. Injured hand flying to his holster, he withdrew and shot, each bullet finding a target. Pikachu, angry and betrayed, crackled as he Thundershocked from his place on Ash’s shoulder.
Misty didn’t even have time to scream, Ash was moving so fast. The stairs whipped passed her in a blur as Ash dragged her down them, bullets pinging off the walls around them.
“Keep running. They won’t be able to fix a clear shot. As long as they don’t call out pokemon, we should be okay!” cried Ash as they turned sharply and ran down another flight of stairs, narrowly missing being shot from another entrance point.
“Oh, shit!” said Ash as they plummeted downwards, “I had to say that out loud didn’t I?”
He shook his head, and blew dark hair out of his eyes as they ran.
“We’re gonna die, and it’s all my fault!” Ash blinked away the sudden tears that welled at the thought of Misty dying, and yelled skywards as they burst out of a fire exit.
“Gods, why do you hate me? Why did you make my life so difficult?”
“Ash! Stop screaming at the gods! We’ve got to get out of here!” cried Misty as Ash dragged her across the car park, trying desperately to ignore the rattle of gunfire and the screeches of pokemon behind her.
“Fearow, use Hyper Beam!”
A white hot blast of pure energy melted a hole in the tarmac that sped past Misty, and she suppressed a scream.
“Charizard! Flamethrower them!”
Another blast, this time fiery seared a car passed by them a few seconds ago. The fuel tank, heated past explosion point by the tongue of fire, screamed as it burst skywards in a cloud of flame and smoke, the car flipping backwards from the force of the explosion.
This time, Misty did scream.
“PII… KAAA… CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!”
The Fearow screamed, and the Charizard roared as both pokemon were torn apart by the massive amount of voltage that crashed over them.
Pikachu screeched in triumph.
Ash’s car was rapidly approaching, and Misty didn’t even have time to protest as Ash threw her in, jamming the key in the ignition.
The car roared into life, as Ash screeched out of the parking spot. The roof down, wind whipped at Misty’s hair as Ash screamed towards the entrance, smashing through the wooden pole that barred the gate.
Above them, dark shapes swooped as bird pokemon owned by mercenaries, swarmed.
A clear bubble formed over the car and it’s occupants as Hyper Beam and Swift attacks bounced harmlessly off it.
The distant roar of engines could be heard even as Ash pulled the car into a different gear, and slammed his foot on the accelerator.
Gradually though, the bird pokemon ahead dropped back, unable to keep pace with Ash’s car.
Ash didn’t slow though, and roared down the highway, scaring the hell out of an Officer Jenny who had set up a speed camera.
They were going so fast, they didn’t even register on the radar.
When they were heading back to indigo city, Ash slowed.
“We have to ditch the car. They know my number plate.” said Ash, as they pulled into a car park.
“So you’re talking to me now?”
Ash sighed in exasperation.
“Mist, we honestly don’t have time for this. We’re being hunted by someone who is psychic and knows everything in my head. She knows where my mother is, and where we are and-”
“Psychics don’t work over long distances. Once you get away from them, it’s harder for them to concentrate. That’s not to say they can’t attack you, but they won’t be able to read your thoughts. And if you really, desperately didn’t want her to know about your mother, she wouldn’t. Psychics are no match for will power.”
“I hope so. All the same, we gotta switch cars.”
“Won’t she be expecting that?”
Ash thought for a moment.
“Yeah. I should just switch the licence plates.” He smiled at her, and even though Misty felt as though she was likely to die in the next hour or so, she couldn’t help but smile back. He leapt out of the car, and then ran to the nearest vehicle, a 4WD with Celadon City Grass Trainer plates. He grabbed the plates, and those of a nearby car, and switched them around so that his plates ended up on a red coupe, the Grass plates ended up on his and the coupe’s plates on the 4WD.
He jumped back in, a pleased -but determined- grin on his face.
“There. All muddled up.”
She smiled back and the soft look in his eyes made her insides melt like butter.
She bit her lip, unconsciously aware that she was staring at him, not realising he was doing the same.
To her surprise, and Ash’s utter shock, she closed the distance between them, her mouth colliding with his.
She had the strange feeling she might never be able to do that again.
Ash, shocked but pleasantly surprised, returned he kiss, feeling strangely light-headed.
Gently, her mouth parted from his, and Misty blanched, then blushed furiously.
“Um…” Ash began, thinking that he might as well tell her how he felt, and hope that this time she’d believe him.
“I just wanted to do that again before I died,” interrupted Misty, “because I wanted to have done that at least one more time before someone shot me, or fried me with a Hyper Beam.”
“Oh. That’s okay; I was kinda thinking the same thing myself.”
Ash sat back, knowing that he probably should get them out of here, but unable to move.
“Ash?” asked Misty hesitantly.
“I don’t hate you. I thought I did, but I don’t. And I’m sorry for calling you a liar, and not believing you when you tried to explain to me, and for being nasty, and making your life hell, and not telling you that I cared before it was too late and-”
Ash kissed her again, firmly but sweetly telling her to shut up.
When he pulled back, he smiled at her.
“We don’t have the time. We gotta figure out how we can get them off our tail. We can sort this out later, preferably away from here.”
Misty nodded, head still buzzing from the high brought on by the taste of his mouth.
Pikachu decided that this mushy stuff had gone on long enough –even if he was happy the pair had finally gotten together- and spoke up.
“Pika chu kachu pika chupi ka chu kachu pika chu kachu pika.”
Ash drew his gaze away from Misty and looked at Pikachu.
“You, my little electric friend, are a genius. ‘You gotta cut the head off the Ekans before you kill it.’ Brilliant, Pikachu. Simply brilliant. We get rid of Miss Midas, we solve our problem. The other merc’s won’t attack unless they’re getting paid. Brilliant, Pikachu! You’re getting extra ketchup tonight!” Ash thought for a moment.
“Assuming we live through this, that is.”
Misty grinned. She had some ideas of her own as to what she’d like to do to the bitch that ruined Ash’s life, and therefore hers.
“Well, Ketchum, what do we do first?”
Ash frowned thoughtfully.
“Get some ammo. Get some petrol. Get some food.”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“You never stop thinking about your stomach, do you? Here you are, plotting revenge with a beautiful woman by your side, and you’re thinking of a mid-day snack.”
“Honestly.” Misty was smiling as she pulled the gearstick and clutch.
Ash blanched as the car started to roll, then realised that Misty was telling him they needed to go.
“You’d better put your seat belt on.”
Pikachu agreed, and dutifully clicked his into place, eager to deal out his own can of Pikachu brand© ass-whooping (now in Family size).
“This is one of a couple of caches I have stashed around the city. More than once I’ve had to hide out in one of these places cause I was being chased by Team Rocket.”
Ash leapt out of the seat, and into the alley way. The car was still running, and in no danger of running out of fuel like it had been before. Pikachu leapt onto the driver’s seat as Misty climbed out.
“Where? I don’t see any-”
Misty cut herself off as Ash swung open a concealed door, exposing what looked like a shelter of some kind, dimly lit by closed windows.
“Oh.” said Misty as Ash disappeared into its murky depths. He emerged a few seconds later, a heavy burlap bag in one hand, and closed the door with the other.
“There. That should be enough,” he grunted as he swung the bag into the backseat.
Misty shook her head at the spill of weapons and ammo from the open bag.
“Boys and their toys. Some things never change, huh Ash?”
Ash scratched his head, grinning nervously.
“Heh. C’mon, get in. Pikachu, in the back. I can’t drive if you’re in the front seat. And Misty’s sitting in the passenger seat. Don’t even think about it.”
Pikachu scowled and leapt into the back, muttering darkly.
Ash smiled, and climbed in.
“Right. Next stop: lunch. Do you want pasta or pizza?”
Misty sighed and shook her head, realising the ridiculousness of her current situation.
Here I am, on the lam with the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever seen, who happens to think I’m pretty great too, and all he can think about is food and guns. Oh well, I am kinda hungry, and it’s not like we have time for anything else anyway. After all, we’re likely to die in the nest hour or so, and that isn’t long enough for what I had in mind.
“I’ll have pizza. What’s a mission of revenge without pizza?”
The grin Ash gave made her heart thump in her chest.
“Exactly.” He pulled out of the alley way, and into the roaring highway traffic. “I know this great place that does custom, takeaway pizza. They even made a ketchup pizza for Pikachu once.”
Pikachu, from his most uncomfortable seat atop the pile of guns and ammo chirruped an agreement.
“Custom pizzas, huh? I wonder if they do seafood topping. Marill’s probably a little hungry by now.” Misty withdrew her pokéball from her handbag, tossing it into the backseat, where it opened in a flash of red light.
Pikachu chirruped an agreement, and blushed as only an electric pokemon could blush –red sparks shooting from his cheeks- as Marill licked his face.
Ash shook his head, knowing that he wasn’t the only one smitten, and turned a corner.
“Why’d you let Marill out? Besides her being hungry, I mean.”
“Considering that we’re being attacked by gun-wielding mercenaries with murderous pokemon, I think it’s prudent to have as much backup as possible, don’t you think?”
“Ah, right. Didn’t think of that.”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“Ketchum, thinking was never your strong suit.”
Ash looked indignant.
“I am a very intelligent man, thank you very much. I have an IQ of over 130, Ms Smarty-Pants.”
“So what? A high IQ does not a genius make. You aren’t very good at thinking logically. In fact, Pikachu is probably better at making decisions than you are.”
“Hey! You know, since we’re together now-”
“Are we?” interrupted Misty.
“-you’d think you’d stop insulting me. After all, you said you would before.” finished Ash.
“No, I said I was sorry, not that I would stop. And besides, you deserve any insults you get. As I recall, you had a fairly big ego as a child.”
“Well I don’t now, thank you.”
“Really? What was that whole ‘I am a very intelligent man’ business then?”
Pikachu chuckled as he and Marill curled up together. He was happy to know that, couple or not, the pair would still bicker.
Some things never change, he thought as the pair argued good-naturedly all the way towards the pizza place, even if the people involved do.
Marill chirruped her agreement as the yellow pokemon shook his head.
Miss Midas frowned, or at least tried to. Since the Botox injections ten years ago, she hadn’t been able to.
The Ketchum fool was out of range. Psychic she may have been, and talented in manipulating thoughts, she was not very good at long distances.
All in all, her talent was rather limited, restricted to the manipulation of thoughts and the alteration of memories, and could not be focused in any physical way, such as telekinesis.
She didn’t know where he was, or what he was doing as her incompetent group had been given the slip. They were now attempting to track him by the microdots (microscopic tracking devices painted onto a vehicle) that had been secretly sprayed onto the underside of his car, but the incredible amount of static given off by that annoying electric rat was preventing a clear signal being given, masking their whereabouts as effectively as a EMP cloak.
She needed to finish him off, not because she had already been paid to do so -she did not give a damn about “customer satisfaction”- but because it was a matter of pride.
No one gave Aura Midas the slip.
“Mist, before we go and commit suicide on a large scale, I gotta know: what happened in Cerulean?”
car winding quietly down one of the many by-ways that lead to The Company
Headquarters, Ash felt free to ask the question that had been bothering him
since they had argued on
Misty was silent for a long moment, and concentrated on wiping her hands clean with a moist towelette.
She licked the last crumbs of chocolate cake from her fingers –dessert after her seafood pizza- and closed her eyes, as though savouring the taste.
Ash knew she was considering what to tell him, and almost immediately regretted asking after seeing the quiet look of despair that spread over her face.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I just thought that I’d bett-”
“You’d just got back from Hoenn. I can remember you showing up on the doorstep of the gym with Brock, May and Max in tow.” Her voice was low and sad. “Instead of the Ash Ketchum I knew –that brash, brazen boy from pallet, who would have swaggered into the gym like he belonged there- you were someone else. You were quiet, polite and when your eyes met mine, I saw in them something I had ceased to hope for. You don’t know how fast you made my heart beat when I saw you again.”
She opened her eyes and looked towards the landscape speeding by.
Ash waited for her to continue, not daring to take his eyes off the road, afraid that any sudden movement would shatter this quiet, sacred moment.
“You stayed for dinner, over which you didn’t speak unless you absolutely had to. Max and May answered for you most of the time, and I couldn’t understand why you refused to meet my eyes. I thought it was something I did, but after as I showed Max and May to where they would be sleeping, Brock told me you hadn’t spoken all the way here, and you’d been like that –quiet, thoughtful- for a year or so now.”
She smiled faintly, and for a moment, her face was lit.
“I showed you where your bedroom was, and went to my own, and to my balcony. I always used to love watching the stars reflected on the pools surface.” She sighed happily, and then grew serious again. “You came up behind me, making no move to disguise yourself, but none to announce your presence either. I can’t remember why I wasn’t angry at you for coming into my bedroom. I guess I must’ve just been in a good mood. We talked about something; I can’t remember what, as the subject was probably inane. Eventually, the topic led to what I’d been doing, and what you’d been doing, and whether we’d each found someone. You said that you hadn’t, mainly because there was someone you cared for back home.”
Ash frowned. He could almost, almost tell what she was going to say next. It was as though he knew, but the words had slipped out of reach.
“I asked you who, and you were silent. Then, you asked me if I had really had a crush on you before you left for Hoenn. You didn’t know it, and I thought that maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but there was hope in your voice. I knew I was involved, and I felt hurt that you’d known and not done anything about it, and I told you that I’d moved on.”
She smiled again, and it was the same fragile smile he knew from their childhood, that same smile that could inflate his ego at the fact that she was smiling at him and nobody else, to breaking point.
“You told me it didn’t bother you, that you wouldn’t give up on me.”
Ash sighed, then spoke, and Misty thrilled to hear those words spill from his mouth.
“‘Really? Well, that doesn’t faze me. It took me five years to realise how much I care for you. I’m not giving up on you now.’”
She turned to him, and for a moment, her gaze met his.
“I almost remember now. Almost. It’s like it’s just beyond my reach,” said Ash quietly as he turned back to the road.
“I refused to look at you, and you lifted my chin so I had to face you.” Misty fell silent.
Ash grew nervous. Was that all there was to it?
“I was a goner as soon as I met your gaze. You had me, right then and there, and you could have done anything and I wouldn’t have protested.”
Ash thought for a moment.
“Anything?” he asked, and there was a dark tone to his voice that made Misty shiver pleasantly. “Gods, I was an idiot when I was fifteen.”
Misty laughed, surprised by this.
“Yes, you were.” Ignoring Ash’s protests, she continued. “After that, you said you’d never give up on me, and I made you promise you’d never forget what you had just said. After that-”
“I held you, and for a moment, we forgot about everything, about fate or boyfriends or the fact that we were supposed to be responsible young adults. Then I went to bed, but only cause you told me I’d better.”
“I felt elate for the rest of the night, and I couldn’t sleep for the excitement bubbling inside me. Then, as the morning came, and Brock went to wake you, you were gone. Not in your bed. Pikachu gone too, and all your things.”
She sighed, and her voice saddened.
searched for a month. All of us, the police, your mother, everyone. You didn’t
show, and eventually your mother got a post card. You were in Johto. Gone off
on a spur of the moment adventure. You came back later, but by then I was
already in the
She hugged herself, and her eyes shone with tears.
“You broke my heart. Actually, no, you tore it out of my chest and ripped it up into tiny little pieces.”
Ash was silent for a long time after hearing her last words.
“I woke up about three am to find myself already walking. I can’t remember exactly why I was going somewhere, but a black car picked me up, and drove me away. I fell asleep again, and the next thing I knew, I was a mercenary. I caught up with Brock and co after I’d been gone for two years. When they tried to talk to me about Cerulean, I thought that we’d had a fight, and I’d left. I couldn’t remember most of the details, and eventually they accepted my story. Brock always thought something fishy was going on, though.”
“Brock’s pretty observant when he wants to be,” remarked Misty thoughtfully, “especially when it comes to girls in bikinis.”
“Once was, any way. May keeps a tight leash on him from what I hear, and I think Brock rather enjoys being ordered around by her.”
Silence fell between the pair, but it was a comfortable silence. When Misty took Ash’s hand, he voiced no objections, and a small smile slid across his face.
“We’re about ten minutes away from the back of The Company’s land. We might as well stop here, and get ourselves ready. Once we know-”
Ash’s phone, up until now silent in his pocket, began ringing and vibrating furiously.
“Huh?” asked Ash, and pulled up to answer.
“Hello? Mum? What are you doing ringing me? Yes, I know that’s no way to speak to my mother. Yes, Misty’s here. WHAT? Mum, whether or not I have a girlfriend is none of your business.”
Misty watched, amazed as Ash’s ears turned red.
“Mum, it’s too early for you to want grandkids. And Misty is not my- hang on a sec,” Ash lowered the phone, and turned to Misty.
“Are you my girlfriend?”
mum, actually Misty is my girlfriend.
Yeah, I kno- hey, what do you mean about it being ‘about bloody time’? Hey, you
stay out of my personal life. What Misty and I do in our spare time is nothing
Misty collapsed into silent laughter.
Ash was almost bright red now, and turned an even deeper shade following Mrs Ketchum’s next comment.
“I am not Misty’s toy-boy! You tell Brock to stay out of this conversation, I can hear him laughing!”
Misty covered her mouth with her hands to stop her giggles escaping.
“Mum, put Brock on. Brock, if I’m Misty’s toy-boy, you’re a lecher. May’s eight years younger than you, and Misty’s only two years older than me. Misty is not a cradle snatcher!”
Misty bent over double, hands clutching her sides to stop them splitting from her laughing so hard.
Ash sounded frustrated now.
“Look, we’re in the middle of something here- Brock you dirty bastard that’s not what I meant!”
Misty tried to wipe away the tears that flowed as Ash dug himself into a deeper hole.
“Look, what I’m trying to say is that Misty and I are going to go destroy a nest of Sevipers. There’s about a thousand mercenaries that want to kill us and I don’t need you ringing up and being perverted! Brock, stop laughing! Oh, gods, put my mother back on. You’re hopeless. And stop laughing you piece of- oh, hello mum. Look, we have to go, we’ve gotta go and kill some people. Yes, I have a jumper. No, I haven’t got a cold, and Pikachu is fine. Stop worrying. Look, I really have to go. Yes, I love you too. Yes, I’ll be careful while I’m blowing things up- are you taking the mickey? Right, bye.”
Ash turned to Misty, who burst out laughing.
“Shut up. And don’t you start,” he added, turning to Pikachu.
“Oh, that was so funny,” breathed Misty as she wiped away tears of laughter. “So very, very funny.”
Pikachu agreed with her, as did Marill.
Ash muttered darkly about “traitorous relatives” and reached over into the back seat.
“Mist, I assume that you know how to use a gun?”
Misty gave Ash a look that said “what do you think”.
“Right. Well, I’ll give you a couple of pistols” -the items in question were passed to Misty, who spun them, and checked they were loaded- “and I’ll take a couple too. Oh, and a semi-automatic machine gun too. Do you want a grenade?” asked Ash as he stuffed a couple in his pockets.
“You got any flash grenades?”
Ash shook his head.
“Don’t need ‘em. Pikachu can Flash brightly enough to blind. What attacks can Marill do?”
Misty thought for a moment.
“Bubble, Bubble Beam, Water Gun, Hydro Pump, Hydro Cannon, Surf, Ice Beam, Blizzard, Sheer Cold, Tsunami...” Misty’s voice trailed off.
“I think that’s about it, she might be able to do more, I can’t remember.”
Ash shrugged. “Pikachu, you hear that? Whenever marill does an attack, you shock the person/pokemon/thing that’s getting wet. It’ll double the damage done.”
“Right, water conducts electricity. Smart idea, Ash. You sure you’re the one who thought of it?”
Ash spluttered with rage as Misty burst into laughter again. As he watched her double over, clutching her sides, Ash sighed.
Some things never change. At least she’ll always tease me. I bet that even if I was the ruler of the universe, she’d find something wrong with me. Oh well.
Ash twisted in his seat, loading the burlap sack back onto its seat, and jamming the pistols in his belt. The machine gun sat on his lap, and the grenades went in his pockets, along with a few handfuls of ammunition.
“I think we’re set. Well, you ready to go make hell?”
“Ash, I’ve been making people’s lives –particularly Rudy’s- hell for ten years. What makes you think you can compete?”
Ash rolled his eyes.
“Aim to kill. That goes for you too, Marill and Pikachu.”
Misty cocked her pistols.
“And you think you need to tell me that? I was planning on that, even if you didn’t tell me to. Miss Midas ruined my life. It’s about time I got even with her.”
Ash turned to her, then looked away, disturbed by the murderous light in her eyes.
Memo to self: do not piss Misty off. I repeat, do not piss Misty off.
He shifted the car into gear, and roared away.
The receptionist shifted in her seat nervously. She didn’t want that dark-haired mercenary to come back. He was a nut-case, that much she was sure of. And his girlfriend was worse. She didn’t want to be here when the sewage hit the fan. Instead, she planned to be far, far away, preferably on a cruise in Johto. And so it was that as she left the building, she left the fire escape open and unalarmed.
Miss Midas, who was occupied with finding Ash Ketchum, didn’t notice that her security system had been turned off, and that the fire door was open.
The building was vulnerable.
Honestly, thought Ash as he and Misty –followed by their pokemon- snuck in the fire exit. The security camera’s are off, the door’s open, and the alarms are turned off. If I know Miss Midas, she’ll have assigned every man she has to look for me, and left herself no protection. That woman has an ego bigger than Pikachu’s.
Misty nudged his shoulder, and jerked her head towards the elevators. The cameras observing them hung loose on their stands, and even the pinpoint cameras –those that Ash knew dotted the ceiling- didn’t shine with light like they normally did.
Communications are down. If the elevators are still on, we’ll be able to take them directly to the top floor. No-one will know.
He grinned. For the first time today, he felt lucky.
“Pikachu,” he whispered, and the little pokemon on his shoulder pricked up his ears, “I have something I want you to do. Listen carefully...”
Pikachu grinned as Ash outlined his plans.
Sometimes, he liked the way Ash thought.
Misty looked puzzled as Pikachu leapt off Ash’s shoulder, and ran towards a staircase she hadn’t noticed, but Ash seemed fine.
“Ash, what’s-” she began, but Ash silenced her with a finger raised.
“Pikachu knows what he’s doing. You and I have to go to the top floor. Pikachu will catch up with us. Now here’s the dilemma: do we take the stairs, which will take us far too long, or do we risk taking the elevator and being seen? I know the cameras are off-line, but that could be a clever ruse.”
“Ash, if the cameras are off, that’s because she doesn’t know they’re off. She would have planned everything, just like she did before. And besides, I don’t think she thinks you’re dumb enough to try and storm a building full of mercenaries.”
Ash smiled happily.
“Exactly. That’s where she’s wrong. I am dumb enough to do exactly that!” Ash thought for a minute. “Hey, wait-”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“Sometimes, Ketchum, I wonder about you.”
“I just insulted myself, didn’t I?”
“Ketchum, you’re not the brightest crayon in the box, but you are the cutest. Now let’s go.” Misty headed over to the highly-polished elevators, and pressed the call button.
“Ketchum, this place looks pretty deserted. My guess is, she’s sent everybody out looking for us. If we’re lucky –and I won’t jinx it by saying we are or aren’t- she won’t have kept a guard.”
“After you,” said Misty, pushing Ash into the elevator. Her hands met with resistance as Ash stood still.
“I dunno…” began Ash, as Misty shoved him.
“Ash, you can doubt in the elevator! Get in before it shuts!”
Ash did as he was told, moving as Misty pushed so that she stumbled forwards. Ash caught her wrist, and pulled her inside.
The doors shut with a click, and Ash pressed buttons in an apparently random pattern.
“It’s the passcode to the first floor,” he explained at Misty’s questioning look, “Miss Midas changes it regularly, but I bet in all the commotion in which we left, she hadn’t changed it yet.”
A small beep told him he was right, and Ash relaxed, leaning up against the wall, pistols stuck back in holsters.
“Ash, where’d you put the machine gun? I know you’ve got those pistols on you, and grenades in your pockets, but where’s the machine gun?”
Ash shrugged out of his suit jacket, and turned his back to her. A holster had been rigged to sit over his shirt, meaning that Ash merely had to pull the gun out through his jacket.
“Oh. You’re just full of surprises today-” she cut herself off when she caught the look Ash was giving her.
A hard, blazing look, one that promised tenderness and a ravening hunger in equal amounts.
“Mist, I want you to listen to me. We haven’t got long till the elevator stops. I want you to promise something. If I die up there –and we both know I might- I want you to run. Don’t do anything stupid. I want you to take Marill and Pikachu and run. Promise me.”
Misty, scared by the real fear in Ash’s eyes, nodded.
“Say it out loud, Mist. I need you to promise.”
“Good.” Ash closed his eyes and slumped against the wall again.
“Do you love me? Did you mean what you said?”
Ash didn’t answer for a long time, and Misty felt worried.
“Yes. Don’t ever doubt it.”
Misty nodded, and Ash stood straight as the elevator lurched to a stop, pulling the machine gun out of its holster, and flicking off the safety.
The door slid open slowly, and then the hall echoed with gunfire.
Is it blue wire connected to red wire, then tied around yellow wire, thought Pikachu as he connected wires to blobs of plastic explosive that looked rather like slumbering Dittos, or is it red wire connected to yellow wire, then tied around blue wire?
Pikachu held three wire ends in his paws and sighed.
It would probably help if I could see in colour.
He shrugged, and began connecting wires at random, figuring that at least one of the two dozen blobs of plastic had to blow up, and even if the others didn’t ignite properly, the chain reaction from the first explosion would make sure of a big bang.
The explosive lumps were clustered around the building’s power generator, meaning that when they blew, the whole building would too.
Pikachu sat back on his haunches and admired his handy work.
Nothing better than a successful explosion. I suppose I’d better catch up with Ash. No doubt he’s already done something stupid.
The distant rattle of machine gun fire confirmed Pikachu’s suspicions.
Oh well. And it was so peaceful while it lasted.
Misty flinched when she heard the gunfire, and made sure she stayed in the elevator until it had ceased.
“Mist, you can come out now,” murmured Ash, and Misty stepped out. The hallway was deserted and sterile white, just as she remembered. What she didn’t remember was the bullet holes that had torn through doors, walls, floors and windows.
“No one’s here,” she said quietly, even as she recalled Marill to her pokéball, not wanting to be proven wrong.
“Hm. If any one was, they’re either deaf, or extremely patient. The noise I made should have scared any one out of their hidey-holes. Pikachu probably heard us too, and he’s down in the basement. Come on.”
The pair walked slowly down the hall, their footsteps echoing on the ravaged marble tiles.
Misty crept closer to Ash, and took one of his hands.
“Ash?” she whispered.
“Don’t die on me, okay? I’ll be extremely unhappy if you do.”
Ash smiled back at her.
“You’re not getting rid of me that easy. And besides, you’re a very rich widow. What’s to say I don’t want to marry you? I can’t do that if I’m dead.”
Misty gave a feeble laugh.
All conversation ceased as they reached the office door, the only one untouched by bullets.
“Well, Ketchum, I did not think you had the limited intelligence required to do such a foolish thing,” said Miss Midas as she looked down her gun’s barrel and through the sight. “I did think you were a more intelligent man, but I guess I was proven wrong.”
She waved one hand towards a seat.
“Sit, make yourself comfortable. I do not see why you should spend the last moments of your life in pain. Hands where I can see them.”
Ash did as he was told, and Misty flinched as the gun turned around to her.
“You too, Mrs Trovita.”
Misty gritted her teeth as she sat next to Ash, whose hands rested on the table.
“Forgive me for the invasion of privacy, but-” Miss Midas shrugged as she pulled Ash’s guns out of his holsters, his machine gun from his relaxed hands, and the grenades from his pockets.
“Interesting arsenal. Where’s your electric rat?”
Miss Midas cracked him across the face with the barrel of her gun.
“I said, where is your electric rat?”
Ash said nothing, and didn’t move to wipe away the blood that dripped down his chin.
The only person who hurts him is me. The only person who can make him bleed is me. He’s mine to hurt, not yours. Get your hands off him, you smug, insufferable bitch.
Misty thought this as hard as she could at Miss Midas, who couldn’t help but hear. The older woman flinched and turned her gaze to Misty, gun still resting on Ash.
“Such language, Mrs Trovita. I suggest you watch your tongue, before I cut it out of your pretty head.”
There was no malice in her voice, only cold certainty.
She turned back to Ash.
“I will ask you one more time, before I shoot you. Where is the electric rat?”
Ash said nothing again, and his eyes were blank and expressionless.
Miss Midas sighed.
“While I appreciate your loyalty towards your pokemon –a noble quality- I must insist you tell me. I need your rat to earn another fee. Tell me.”
Still Ash was silent.
Misty knew that Ash would never speak, and saw this as her chance. Miss Midas might have checked Ash for weapons, but she hadn’t checked Misty…
Not even daring to think about what she was doing, she slid one of her hands off the table while Miss Midas was occupied.
“I understand that you are not going to tell me, even at the risk of your own death. You have proven to be incredibly loyal. And also slightly ‘devil-may-care’ in your attitudes. It occurs to me that I am not using the correct lever to pressure you. Perhaps if I threatened her?”
The gun swung around to face Misty, and she swallowed.
Slowly, so slowly, the gun drew nearer to her forehead, even as her own hand drew nearer to Marill’s pokéball and her gun…
“Ketchum, you must admit that you cannot hide your affection for the girl. Even as an adolescent, it was obvious. I do not think that you, as a man, would care for her less. I suggest that you act.”
A pistol cocked.
Misty closed her eyes.
“Don’t tell her Ash…” she began.
Miss Midas laughed.
“How wonderful. Noble to the end.”
Misty opened her eyes, meeting purple ice with blue diamond.
“…you don’t need to.” She finished, rising form her seat faster than a striking Ekans, pistol out and aimed, firing twice.
Miss Midas reacted exactly as Misty had hoped.
Three shots were fired.
One body slumped to the floor.
Blood soaked white carpet.
Pikachu heard the gun fire as he darted up the stairs, and froze.
Ears upright, tail erect, he sniffed the air.
Gun powder, blood and death.
Fighting down the rising panic, he fled up the stairs, as fast as his paws could carry him, praying to whatever gods were listening that they would all survive.
Misty shook, stunned.
Blood bubbled up past her hand as she clutched the bleeding shoulder.
Ash, for his part, was to busy trying to strangle the screams the welled in his throat.
“Gods…” murmured Ash as Misty tore a strip off his bloody shirt, and formed a tourniquet, “that hurt.”
Misty said nothing, but her hands were shaking.
She absolutely refused to look past her small field of vision which included Ash’s shoulder and chest, and absolutely refused to look at the body of Miss Midas, which lay on the floor, a bloody hole in her forehead, exactly the same as the hole in Rudy’s forehead, and blood pooling thickly on the carpet.
A strangled sob burst out, and Ash took her hands in his own, meeting her eyes.
She’s going into shock. I’m not surprised.
“Mist, look at me. Don’t look at the body, but look at me. We’re going to leave. We’re going to stand up, and go out the door. Don’t look at the body.”
Misty nodded, and Ash stood, trying valiantly to ignore the aching, burning pain in his shoulder.
Gods, I’d forgotten how much it hurts to be shot.
Misty was quiet, looking no where but Ash.
Neither of them looked back as they left the room, and the body of Miss Midas lay still and unacknowledged.
Pikachu started when it heard footsteps, and smelt blood.
He hid in the stair well, and planned to launch himself at the coming intruders.
He sniffed the air again, and smelt gun powder, blood, fear and desperation.
“Pika!” he cried out as Ash rounded the corner, shoulder clumsily bandaged, and Misty in the circle of his right arm.
“Hey Pikachu,” he murmured as Pikachu butted his shin.
Pikachu chattered away rapidly, asking what had happened, and Ash tried to explain.
we haven’t got much time. We gotta get out of here as fast as we can.”
Misty shivered again. Her lips were tinged with blue.
Ash felt so very tired.
I just want to lie down and sleep… but I know I have to keep going. Got to get to the car…
Pikachu nipped Ash’s legs as he slowed and stumbled.
“Mist, we should run. We’ve gotta get out.”
Misty nodded, and she forced her tired legs to move.
Pikachu herded the pair down the stairs, out the door, and across the car park.
“You can drive,” said Ash, tossing Misty the keys. “I’m feeling pretty useless right now.”
Misty nodded, and for a brief moment revelled in the feel of the leather steering wheel in her hands.
The first explosion that rocked the building behind them, and shattered windows as a massive fireball burst from the ground floor, snapped her out of her reverie.
“You didn’t tell me that the building was going to blow up!” cried Misty as she sped out of the car park.
Ash, who’d collapsed in his seat, rolled his head towards her.
“Mist, I’m dizzy from blood loss. It hurts to think.”
His face was pale and drawn, and Pikachu tightened his tourniquet.
“Stay with us Ash, don’t go to sleep.”
“I know,” mumbled Ash, and jolted upright as his phone rang.
Fumbling with his lesser-injured hand, he pulled his phone out of his pocket, and stared at it blearily. He shrugged, and threw it out the window, onto the tarmac blurring passed him.
In reply to Misty’s questioning look, he spoke.
“It was my mother. I didn’t really feel in the mood to explain to her why she doesn’t have grandkids yet.”
Misty nodded, and smiled as she recalled his previous comment.
“Ash, I wouldn’t think you should be worried about the headache. Since you don’t use your head that much, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Ash blinked at her, pleased to see that even such a close brush with death had not dampened Misty’s enthusiasm for teasing him, but dismayed that he was to be the butt of her jokes.
“You don’t ever stop, do you?”
Misty shook her head.
Ash closed his eyes.
Misty turned to him, alarmed to find him sleeping.
Sleeping. He’s not unconscious, he’s just asleep. How do I know that? Because he’s snoring. He always used to snore when he was really, really tired. Poor bugger.
She turned back to the road, and slowed as she prepared to enter the chaos of the city traffic.
“Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.” Ash repeated his expressions of pain with every wind of the bandage.
Misty slapped him upside the head, and Ash fell silent.
“I don’t need you distracting me, Ketchum. And stop being such a baby.”
“You’re not the one who got shot when Miss Midas missed you,” said Ash, but quietly, as there were many more painful things in his first-aid kit –the one she balanced on her lap- beside bandages.
Misty gave no sign of hearing his previous comment, and tugged the bandages tight. Ash winced.
“There. You can’t use that arm for a while, and don’t go-”
“-overexerting myself, yeah, yeah. You sound like a Nurse Joy.” Ash let out a small hiss of pain as he attempted to slide his shirt back on, and tried to button it with his injured hand.
Misty watched, amused, as Ash lost what little of his fraying patience he had left, following the day’s events, and tore the shirt off, throwing it on the floor.
“Don’t you start,” warned Ash, and Misty raised an eyebrow.
“Or what? Ketchum, I have you on a leash.”
Damn, she’s right. Ye gods, what have I gotten myself into? Oh well. Without the downside, there couldn’t be an upside, and if having her around is the downside, the upside has gotta be fantastic.
“Don’t frown,” said Misty as she steered him to his bedroom. “You need sleep. You’ve been yawning since you got here.”
“And what about you? According to Pikachu, you were falling asleep at the wheel.”
Misty shot a withering look at the small electric pokemon, who hide behind Marill in its basket.
“And besides, I can’t sleep on that bed. It’s too big for one person.”
“If I were any other girl, I would have said ‘we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?’. Unfortunately for you, I’m not. If you wanna get me in your bed, you gotta do it the hard way.”
“It’s always the hard way with you, isn’t it? Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to-”
He cut himself off, darting forward so quickly Misty hadn’t noticed he’d moved until his lips met hers, gently but firmly opening her mouth.
Misty tried to resist, but had been so stunned by his sudden action, her mind fogged and her thoughts turned to smoke.
Helpless, she kissed him back.
He broke the kiss abruptly, and as suddenly as he had initiated it.
“No fair,” breathed Misty as she tried to gather the shreds of her shattered composure.
“Not true. I’m a very fair man. I am merely repaying the favour. After all, you’re the one who has me on a leash, so to speak. I could never do anything contrary to what you wanted me to, so I have to press what little advantage I have over you in order to prevent myself from becoming your toy boy, as Brock so delicately put it.”
He smiled softly at her, and the depth of love and desire in those gold eyes made them molten and unfathomable.
“Damn you,” she breathed, as she took his hand and led him into the bedroom, “damn you for being so gods-damnably irresistible.”
Ash smiled again, and shut the door behind them with a soft click.
Sheets entwined around them, the couple slept soundly –his hands resting lightly on her waist and lower-back, and her arms twined around his shoulders and neck- and deeply.
For a brief moment, the constant -albeit good-natured- warring between the pair had settled into a peaceful truce, with neither side claiming the victor.
Unfortunately, the deep peace brought upon by their closeness soon shattered, as a result of the ringing phone.
Ash stirred drowsily, unsure of what had dragged him from the depths of sleep.
He tried to open his eyes, but couldn’t.
Too tired, said his brain, go back to sleep.
Ash’s body tried to obey, but something prevented it from doing so.
“Ring…” mumbled Ash as he tried in earnest to wake, “ring…”
Ash’s eyes snapped open.
“Phone!” he all but shouted, sitting up and scrambling for the remote on the bedside.
The computer that rested in a corner of the room flashed white as Ash pointed the remote at it, and a phone icon appeared briefly on the screen, before being replaced by the disgruntled face of his mother.
It was not, in Ash’s opinion, an opportune thing to see when he was wearing nothing but sheets, and being muttered angrily at by the semi-sleeping woman beside him.
“Ashley Jude Ketchum! Why did you not answer my last phone call?”
Ash flushed guiltily, remembering having thrown his phone out of a speeding car.
“Uh… I lost my phone?”
His mother frowned.
“Well, that seems to be an acceptable excuse… why are you in bed? It’s a quarter to four in the afternoon?”
“Um, I, uh…”
“Because you want grandchildren. Traditionally, Mrs Ketchum, you have to have sex to conceive a child.” Misty smiled sleepily at the woman on the screen, resting her head on Ash’s shoulder, and drawing the sheets up to cover her. “Admittedly IVF is becoming popular, but Ash is old-fashioned in his methods of conception.”
Misty, sitting up behind Ash, rubbed her eyes, and yawned.
Ash, shocked to the point of which he was gaping like a Magikarp, flushed red.
Oh gods… did Misty really just say that? Someone please tell me this is a horrible nightmare.
“Oh,” said Mrs Ketchum.
Misty smiled sleepily at Mrs Ketchum, fingers absently tracing circles on Ash’s bare chest, ginger hair spilling over the bandage.
“Is that why you called? I have to say that if you want Ash to have children, you’re going to have to give us some time. After all, it takes two to conceive.”
If possible, Ash turned a deeper shade of red.
It is a nightmare! Oh gods, what did I do to deserve this?
“Um, can we change the subject?” he asked, in a strangled tone of voice. “Please?”
Mrs Ketchum shook herself on screen. In the background, Ash heard Brock snigger.
“What I wanted to ask is did you have anything to do with the massive explosion that was reported on the breaking news this afternoon? And if so, please tell me you didn’t kill any people.” Mrs Ketchum thought for a moment. “Innocent people,” she amended, “guilty people are all right, but as long as no innocents where hurt.”
“Do I count as innocent?” asked Ash.
“No.” said Misty and Mrs Ketchum simultaneously.
Well, in that case, no. No innocents were hurt. Two bad guys were killed and a
building blown up, but that was all.” Ash thought for a moment. “I’m also going
to deliver a very long list of all of the people who made up The Company, and
all of their associates, to
Mrs Ketchum smiled.
“Good. And I’m glad to see you two are back together. All is right with the world.”
Ash smiled back at his mother, who was grinning happily.
Misty, who’d become bored of the conversation, and deciding to have some fun with Ash, let the sheets slip down. Covered as she was by Ash’s body, Mrs Ketchum didn’t notice. Ash however did notice, especially considering what intriguing suggestions she was now whispering in his ear.
It was very distracting, and Ash fought the urge to shiver, and grew even more so distracted when Misty nuzzled up against him.
“Uh, mum, you might have to call back…” began Ash, who was hurriedly trying to quash the chain reaction Misty was sparking.
“I agree with Ash, Mrs Ketchum. Ten years of self-imposed celibacy does take its toll on a girl,” said Misty mournfully. “I’m afraid I have a problem. And Ash is really the only one who can help me.”
Ash said nothing, too busy trying not to show how effectively she was getting to him.
“Any way, I’ll get Ash to call you tomorrow. Bye.” Misty reached over, and clicked the remote –ending the phone call before a stunned Mrs Ketchum could react- then fell back onto the sheets laughing.
Ash, infuriated and trying not to show how obviously he was attracted to her, but failing miserably, spluttered.
Misty laughed harder.
“That was my mother!”
Misty nodded, and wiped away a tear.
“Oh, Ash, you should’ve seen your face! You were as red as tomato ketchup!”
Ash sighed. It was obvious he wasn’t going to win this battle.
“Mist… you’re hopeless.”
Misty smiled up at him, a crooked, radiant smile, one that made his breath catch in his throat.
“No, I’m in love.”
“What’s the difference?” whispered Ash, as she drew him down to her.
“There is none,” she murmured against his mouth. “None at all.”
Ash nodded, agreeing with her, even as he kissed her, thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to be hopeless after all.
But then, all thoughts ceased as her hands slid over his shoulders, and tangled in his hair.