Single By 30 @shinygrowlithe12
Chapter 11

I wanted the Brock saga all in one chapter, but that also involve traveling there and character development, and I brought back some other characters. Enjoy!


Chapter 11

Walking inside her house very late into the night, Misty isn't even surprised to see the man on his pokenav in the living room. He always stays up for her whenever she goes to the Cape. Fortunately, he hasn't questioned her in a long time. Ever since he told her he'd stop. Ash has been keeping his word. "Tired yet?"

"Very." he yawns and sits up, glad that she's returned safely.

"You do know you don't have to wait for me, right?"

Ash shrugs because no matter how many times she says that to him, he always will wait for her. What if something happens? He can't sleep until he knows she's safely home. Walking past her to avoid answering her question, he heads up the stairs. "We have an early flight tomorrow."

Sighing, Misty follows. "Are you sure you're ready to fly?" That'll involve a lot of people for hours. They'll be getting lots of publicity.

"I wanna see Brock." Ash hasn't seen Brock in years, and he feels terrible. Being married to Misty, Ash has learned how much his absence in her life has affected her. Thus, he doesn't want Brock to feel the same. Ash is approaching 6 years away from Brock.

Passing him since her room is down the hall, Misty nods. "See you in the morning."

"Good night, Misty."

"Good night, Ash."

When they both close their respective doors, they each lean their backs against it. That New Year's kiss is all they can ever think about. Since the Waterflowers and Sketchits were around for a few days after the kiss, Ash and Misty ended up interacting without talking about the kiss. Thus, the awkwardness between them disappeared that by the time they were alone again, they just didn't want to bring it up and be awkward.

Regardless of the kiss being an unspoken topic, they can't stop thinking about it. That sweet, intimate, gentle kiss. There was definitely something behind it rather than it just being a random kiss. They both felt something, which compelled them to kiss each other. Something Misty is trying to keep buried, and something Ash is trying to figure out.

"Pikapi?"

Ash glances over at his tired mouse who chose to sleep with him tonight. Well, Pikachu will be joining them on their flight to Brock tomorrow, so it's easier if Pikachu is here instead of the gym. "Sorry, buddy." Ash shuts off the lights and stumbles into bed, exhausted from staying up late.

The next day, Misty parks her car in the overnight airport parking as Ash grabs their bags from the back. When she starts walking with Pikachu on her shoulder, Pikachu notices his trainer isn't following. "Pikapi?"

Misty stops to turn back around where Ash is still holding onto the suitcase. They packed their belongings into one suitcase because this is only a weekend trip, and they both don't require much. Misty did pack her stuff after Ash so that he won't see her underwear. It's just more convenient having one bag, even if she'll be sharing it with this man who makes her blush.

"Ash?" He's wearing the hat she got him, and he's still frozen by the car's trunk. Approaching him, Misty curiously gazes up into his nervous brown eyes. "Wanna go back home?" As much as she'd love to see Brock and his family again, Misty's main priority is this man. Brock will understand.

Fortunately, Ash shakes his head. "I'm going to Hoenn." He needs to see Brock.

Reaching out a hand, Misty smiles warmly. "I'll be with you the whole time."

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu salutes Ash, causing the couple to laugh at his cuteness.

Ash grabs her small hand in his while returning the smile. He knows he can overcome anything with her by his side. She's shown him that he can. Ash isn't sure there isn't anything Misty can't help him with, though he doesn't want to jinx it. "I know."

A perk of being a gym leader is that Misty gets some celebrity treatment; thus, she and Ash are escorted through the airport. They're even allowed to stay in a separate waiting area from the public. This has helped Ash's anxiety a lot, especially when they had to pass through some excited crowds. Although Misty does greet some of her fans at times, right now isn't the time for that.

Misty had gotten them first class tickets to avoid more people. Therefore, traveling to Hoenn was pretty smooth. Misty also gave Ash the window seat while she sits in the aisle near anyone walking by. Ash hasn't been on a plane in years. Not since returning to Kanto, so he enjoyed looking out the window. Since this is their first public trip, many photos have been taken of the two.

With Pikachu on his lap, Ash is still amazed by the beautiful world outside his window. He can't believe he's been hiding in his room for all these years, away from this vast planet. It just makes Ash a little restless. He really wants to travel again. This world is huge, and he needs to see every inch of it. He needs to beat every trainer he can and be the best.

Feeling a weight on his shoulder, Ash curiously peeks over to see Misty had dozed off where she's resting her head on him. Blushing slightly, Ash uses his other hand to reposition her face more comfortably on his shoulder. This world is huge, and he wants to explore it, but he isn't sure he can leave her. While Ash did promise to visit monthly, will that really be enough? It's not like he has the best track record when it comes to making promises to see Misty again. Why does his heart ache so much? Eventually, he also falls asleep as Misty's head remains gently on his shoulder.

Hours later, their plane lands. Due to the abrupt wakeup call, Misty didn't notice she fell asleep on Ash. By the time they finally make it out of the airport, they hear a, "Took you long enough!"

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu exclaims before leaping into the arms of his old friend.

"Brock!" Misty grins happily to tackle him in a hug too while Ash shyly stands nearby.

Chuckling with Pikachu now on his shoulder, Brock releases Misty from the hug. He hasn't seen her since Annalise's last birthday. Glancing past Misty, Brock expectantly eyes his oldest friend. "Are you just gonna keep standing there?" Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head, not too sure what to do. It has been over 5 years since he last saw Brock, so this is very awkward. Ash's gaze is on Brock's feet, causing Brock to roll his eyes. "Come here, man." Brock wraps up Ash in his arms.

To everyone's relief, Ash hugs Brock back. "Sorry, Brock."

"You have nothing to apologize for." Brock softly tells him.

They pull away from the hug, and Ash sniffles lightly. His eyes are a bit glossy from a lot of things. Brock's unnerving forgiveness. This long overdue reunion. Realizing he's made a lot of progress. Everything he has right now is thanks to these two. His original friends and traveling group. Ash has missed having them all together, though he knows it's his fault that this took 12 years. Thus, Ash quickly grabs Misty with one arm and Brock with the other to envelope them in a group hug. "Thanks for being my friends, guys."

Misty and Brock exchange surprised looks before smiling and hugging each other back. Even Pikachu joins in on top of Ash's head. Once they all finally release each other, there isn't a dry eye among them. Brock shyly looks away to rub his eyes and grab the suitcase from behind Ash. "Let's get going." They're getting a lot of attention from the public, and Brock knows Ash doesn't like the media. Well, no one really likes the media, but Ash is traumatized by it.

On the road, Brock smiles at the man in the backseat. Ash wasn't sure where to sit, and he's still a bit awkward, so he decided the back would be okay. "How are Lucy and Annalise?" Misty, who is in the passenger seat, asks.

Brock smiles thinking about his family. "They're good. Annalise is starting to help me out with the baby Pokemon now too. She's formed a bond with Vulpix's daughter, Emmy." Emmy is short for Ember. Brock runs the Pokemon Daycare at the Battle Frontier while Lucy is still a strong Frontier Brain.

"I can't wait to see her again. She gets so big every time I visit." pouts the woman.

"You could visit more often then."

Misty shoots him an annoyed look. "You know I would, but I can barely find enough time as is for everything in my life." Now, she also has Ash to think about, though that will end eventually.

Looking in his rearview mirror, Brock's gaze softens on the man facing the window. "Annalise is excited to finally meet you, Ash. I've told her so much about you." Lucy even mentioned some things about Ash.

Ash is nervous about meeting new people, but Misty has always helped him. Annalise can't be as bad as Tina when Ash first met her, right? Annalise is younger, and Brock and Misty haven't told Ash to be wary of her. Thinking about Annalise and Tina just makes Ash's heart ache because so many people he knows are moving forward with their lives while he's been stuck. Gary is married and expecting a child, Brock is married with a child, Tracey is too. Everyone has accomplished so much except for him.

"Do they know about us?" Misty inquires because Ash doesn't say anything. "You know. About us being fake?"

Brock apologetically glances at Misty. "Lucy knows. Don't worry. She won't tell anyone." He just couldn't bring it upon himself to lie to his wife. Luckily, Lucy is soft spoken, so Lucy won't tell anyone, especially loudmouth Barbara. Annalise is too young to understand anything.

"She hasn't told anyone at this point, so I doubt she will." Misty breathes out. "It'll be nice not having to lie for once."

Chuckling, Brock reminds her, "Annalise doesn't know. She really thinks you're married."

"Mew. Thanks for reminding me of how many people are gonna be hurt when we divorce, Brock." sighs Misty. It seems like the longer Ash and her are married, the more people they are going to hurt when they divorce.

Hopefully speaking, Brock suggests, "Or you guys don't have to get divorced."

"We're getting a divroce." comes Misty's curt response, leading to Ash's frown deepening.

Brock can't help but smirk slightly noticing Ash's reaction. Although no one, not even Brock, knows what happened between Ash and Serena, Brock has always wanted Ash to find love again. Ash has such a big heart, so he deserves it. And what better person than the woman who will wait forever for him. "There's no reason to get a divorce if you're just gonna stay single. It'll also look less suspicious to the media the longer you're together."

As much as Misty would like to stay married to Ash, her heart can't handle knowing everything is fake. This is never how she wanted to be with him. Thus, she changes the topic, "What do you have planned for us today?" Annalise's birthday party isn't until tomorrow, allowing Ash and Misty time to spend with Brock and his family.

"Ash still likes staying in, so we'll just hang out."

"Are you gonna cook?" Misty eagerly asks, causing Brock to chuckle. They've missed his cooking. From having it every day to not having it at all, it's a huge difference.

"Of course, I'm gonna cook!" The Battle Frontier is on islands southeast of the Hoenn mainland, so it's pretty warm, despite it being winter. "We should camp in the yard. For old time's sake."

Misty peers over her shoulder at the quiet man in the back. "I'd like that. What about you, Ash?"

Ash's thoughts have remained on his upcoming divorce, which has distracted him from anything Brock and Misty have said. "Huh?"

While Misty sweatdrops, Brock can only smile. He's really missed having Ash around, especially with all of them together. Pulling up to his house, he announces, "We're here." Brock won't let them grab their suitcase because he says they're his guests. He handles that for them while Pikachu rides on Ash's shoulder.

When Brock puts the key in his door, Ash nervously reaches for the soft comforting hand of the woman beside him. Misty gazes up at the pale man, so she squeezes his hands reassuringly. Ash will be just fine. After seeing him interact with Tina, Misty knows Ash can handle Annalise. Annalise is a quiet, kind, polite girl. She's really just like the quiet Lucy. Misty really likes Brock's family. She's happy he finally found love.

Brock opens the door to walk in first, and Misty follows while leading Ash. Pikachu sees them holding hands, which warms Pikachu's heart. Misty is the reason for Ash's change. There's no denying that. Thus, the mouse really hopes Ash and Misty remain friends after all of this. Pikachu will do a better job of enforcing Ash visits his friends. Never again will Ash succumb to the state of loneliness he was at before.

"Daddy!" giggles a girl running into the living room where Brock picks her up.

Right behind her enters a tall woman with black hair. "Hello, Misty! Hello, Ash."

Misty feels Ash clench her hand, causing her to return the gesture. Ash is not alone in this. And meeting Lucy should be a lot easier for Ash because he's met her before and they don't need to lie to her. "Hey, Lucy." Misty releases Ash's hand, much to his dismay, to hug Lucy.

About 8 years ago, Misty finally met Lucy when Lucy visited Kanto. Apparently, Lucy and Brock had been dating for a few months, and Brock wanted to introduce her to his best female friend. Lucy was hesitant knowing Brock has a best female friend, but after meeting Misty, Lucy realized that Misty is no threat. Misty had her heart on someone else, who Lucy is glad Misty finally reconnected with.

Lucy then shyly approaches Ash. "Make yourself at home."

Seeing Misty's insistent look behind Lucy causes Ash to awkwardly side hug the woman. "Hey, Lucy. Thanks."

"Pikachu!" Pikachu jumps onto Lucy's shoulder to nuzzle her face. Although Pikachu wasn't close to Lucy, she did save him from Team Rocket once, and Lucy is Brock's mate. Obviously, Pikachu will like her even more now.

Smiling at the mouse as she pets him, Lucy greets Pikachu too. "Hello, Pikachu."

After Brock brings Ash and Misty's suitcase upstairs with Annalise, he comes back to the living room where Misty and Lucy have been catching up. Ash has silently sat next to Misty this whole time while Pikachu has been on Lucy's lap. Sitting next to his wife as Annalise is on his lap, Brock grins at his friends. "Hungry?"

"Starving." Misty drools slightly thinking about Brock's cooking.

"What about you, Ash?" Brock chuckles from Misty's reaction.

"I can eat." comes the quiet response, which just makes Brock laugh more.

"Ash Ketchum isn't starving? This is new."

"He doesn't eat much, but his appetite is slowly coming back." Misty knows what Brock means. Ash's appetite was something that differentiated him from many people. It's a defining characteristic of his, so it is concerning that he's lost it.

Letting out a relieved breath because Brock knows Ash is in good hands with Misty, Brock leads them to the kitchen. After a nice long overdue lunch and cleaning up, everyone is catching up in the living room. Ash still hasn't spoken much besides for when Brock forces answers out of him. Lucy is shy too, but Misty is good at speaking to her.

Annalise is still clinging onto Brock who hasn't had a good chance to introduce her to Ash yet. They've been busy with getting Ash and Misty situated here. Misty leans over to extend her arms towards the shy girl. "Hey, Annalise. Are you gonna give me a hug yet?" Annalise only sees Misty once or twice a year, so the girl is still learning who she is. Misty would like to visit more, though Misty does call when she can. Brock does tell Annalise a lot about these two.

Smiling, Brock sets the girl on the ground and off of his lap. She clings onto him, so he sighs. Usually, it doesn't take much for Annalise to approach Misty because Annalise has seen Misty a few times already. Annalise is always shy around new people, and Ash is a new person. Brock gives the young couple an apologetic look. "Maybe later, Misty."

Sighing sadly, Misty sits back into her seat. "She's so big now."

Lucy nods. "I feel the same way every day."

Agreeing with them, Brock rocks Annalise in his lap before narrowing his eyes at his friends. "So we need to talk." Everything seems to have calmed down enough for this conversation to happen.

Ash and Misty knew they'd have to answer Brock's questions, but they're still not ready for them. Despite answering the same questions multiple times now from all the different people they've talked to, Ash and Misty still don't want to have this conversation with Brock. At least they don't have to lie to him. "Just go for it." Misty defeatedly groans.

Brock rolls his eyes at the two. "Why'd you decide this would be the best way to handle the media?"

"Wasn't my idea." Misty nudges Ash's arm, causing him to pale.

Of course Misty would call him out in front of Brock. "I panicked."

"Explain."

Letting out a breath, Ash runs a hand through his hair. How had he explained himself to Misty? Well, he was a lot more timid than he is now, so he couldn't say much back then. "I just didn't like how she was the only one suffering, but we were both involved. It wasn't right."

"But you didn't have to announce that you're married." Brock knowingly remarks.

"That's what I said." Misty agrees. Finally! Someone who she can express herself to about all of this. She's really glad they came to see Brock.

Ash's ears turn red in embarrassment. "I don't know. We weren't really friends anymore, so I couldn't say we were just friends hanging out." The media knew he was a recluse who kept to himself. Misty hadn't visited Pallet Town in years. Their lie would've just made the scandal seem more true. Plus, telling the truth wouldn't help either. It'll just look like they're trying to cover up a scandal.

"You didn't have to come at all. I would've handled it." Misty notes.

"I didn't want you doing it alone…"

With her gaze softening on the man, Misty lightly taps his thigh with her pinky. The angle they're on makes it so that Brock can't notice. Ash curiously meets her gaze where he is once again comforted by her. It warms his heart feeling her use his little taps that he usually uses on her. "I'm glad you came, Ash. It's the reason we're friends again." Although this whole marriage thing has been annoying and confusing, and many people will be hurt if the truth comes out, Misty's light is that her friendship with Ash has been rekindled. Hopefully, they stay friends after everything ends.

Lucy and Brock exchange knowing looks from watching Ash and Misty. After a few seconds, Brock clears his throat, getting the two to turn back to him. "Why'd you say you were married? You could've just said you guys are dating."

"Um." Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "We had a marriage pact."

"What?" The Harrisons exclaim. Even Lucy is shocked.

"When?" Brock presses.

"Back in Alola." comes Ash's weak response.

"That time?" The breeder asks, and they both nod. "Wow. I never would've thought." Brock knew Ash and Misty lost contact these past 12 years based on Misty's sad mood whenever Brock would ask about Ash. Every time, Misty would mumble something about how she hasn't seen him and for Brock to stop asking. Little did Brock know but these two would end up married.

"I pushed it on her too." Ash confesses. "It was my idea." It's always him imposing things on Misty, and she's been nothing but helpful to him. Ash feels the little taps on his thigh, telling him that she is on his side. She's always been on his side.

"I agreed though. It was just a silly thing we were doing, but it came true." Misty adds.

Brock still can't believe what he's hearing, so he just lets out a long breath. "Wow."

"I think it's sweet." Lucy smiles. "Even if it is fake."

Pang. Ash and Misty both feel that ache in their hearts reminding them that this marriage is indeed fake. The marriage led to a very real partnership they are experiencing right now. Regardless of what their status changes to, they will still be together...hopefully. The lines between what's real and fake is starting to blur between them as they recall that kiss. The kiss was in private. It wasn't for show, and Ash definitely wouldn't kiss for show. What are they now?

Disregarding the headache, Misty speaks to Brock, "It's happened, and we've made it work Brock." He's seen it on the news because there are no scandals involving them. "So you don't need to lecture us or anything."

Brock raises his hands up defensively. "I already lectured you guys when I did. And I'm glad you guys have made it work." He's more glad that Ash is getting a lot better. "I'll be honest, if you guys were in the same situation as back then, I'd be lecturing you a whole lot right now, but you guys really are managing to fool everyone."

Lucy agrees, "If Brock didn't tell me, I wouldn't know. The Oak wedding photos with you in the background looks so real." That's because they were real. Those were real authentic looks the couple was giving each other.

Sitting up straighter, Brock exclaims, "Whatever. What's happened has happened, and you guys are doing better than fine. I can't be mad." There's no use in saying anything now, especially since Misty has helped Ash improve a lot. Compared to when they last talked, Ash could barely make eye contact or hold his own. He looks a lot stronger today.

"Who they, daddy?" whispers the little girl. Being around the new people for a while now, she's starting to get more comfortable with their presence.

Brock quietly replies in her ear, "It's Mama Misty and Dada Ash."

"Mama Misty?" Annalise's voice is barely audible. The other three adults are wondering what Brock and the girl are whispering about. Even Pikachu can't make out anything. When Brock nods, Annalise now finally looks at the new adults where Ash shyly glances away. Misty's expectant eyes land on the girl's violet ones. Seeing Misty smile again causes Annalise to smile slightly too. "Mama Misty." She whispers once more and finally crawls off of Brock's lap.

Seeing this, Misty sits up to eventually receive the little girl in a hug. "Hey, Baby Leesee. I've missed you so much!"

"I'm glad to see she's finally recognized you." Lucy apologetically tells Misty. No matter how many photos and videocalls involve Misty, Annalise always seems to forget her face. With the girl getting older, hopefully her memory will retain who Misty is better. Ideally, Brock would prefer Misty visit more, but he understands that she can't. Misty has always tried her best to visit all of her friends and make sure they know she cares about them. Brock assumes it has something to do with all the times Ash has abandoned her.

Annalise holds onto Misty's neck tightly for Misty to lift her onto her lap. Although Tina is getting bigger, Misty still has little Annalise. "I need to visit her more." Misty tells Lucy. "Then she won't keep forgetting me."

"Annaleesee missed Mama Misty too." Annalise tells Misty who then kisses her head.

"Mama Misty loves Little Leesee." Misty coos to the three year old. Mew. She's going to be four tomorrow. Pretty soon, Annalise will be speaking full sentences. Pikachu hops onto Misty's shoulder so he can sniff the shy girl. Grinning at her, Pikachu cuddles into Annalise's lap. "This is Pikachu. He's friendly." Misty pets Pikachu's back, and seeing that the mouse is nice, Annalise hesitantly pets Pikachu too.

"Pi!" Pikachu purrs. Like his trainer, Pikachu loves kids. Thus, he snuggles into Annalise's lap.

"Pikachu is cute, huh?" Brock asks his daughter who nods. She really likes the little mouse. He's cute and soft, like Vulpix and Emmy.

"Why does she call you Mama Misty?" Ash asks. Wouldn't Misty just be Annalise's aunt?

Brock and Lucy curiously eye the mow quiet redhead. "You didn't tell him?" Brock inquires, and Misty slowly shakes her head.

"Tell me what?" Mew. Now Ash is starting to feel the weight of a secret being held from him. Pikachu too glances up at Misty and Annalise.

"Misty is Annalise's godmother." Lucy answers, causing Ash to blink in confusion.

Brock nods. "Yeah. Barbara is already automatically Annalise's aunt, but Misty is my closest female friend. Lucy and I want her as Annalise's godmother." Yes, Brock could've introduced Misty as an aunt, but Annalise and Misty aren't blood-related. Brock felt that the two would be a lot closer with Misty as Annalise's godmother. Plus, Brock hoped the title would mean Misty would come around more often.

"Oh. Congrats, Mist." Ash mumbles.

"Aren't you gonna ask who her godfather is?" Brock can't keep in his excitement. If Misty didn't tell Ash about being Annalise's godmother, then Misty definitely didn't tell Ash about who the godfather is.

Ash shrugs, not really caring because he assumes it's someone he doesn't know well or care for. "Who is it?"

Lucy opens her mouth, but Brock stops her from saying anything by grabbing her arm. "Misty should tell you. The godfather and godmother do have to work together, so Misty will need to maintain a good relationship with him." Seeing Ash furrow his brows makes Brock smirk. It's always so easy for Brock to read the jealousy on these two. They're adults, though they still show their childish sides.

"Who is it?" grumbles Ash to the now blushing redhead.

Hiding her face in Annalise's hair, Misty's response is inaudible. "We didn't hear that." Brock teases, earning him a very sharp glare from Misty.

Misty takes in a deep breath and responds in a louder voice, "It's you." And...silence.

Lucy nervously looks between Brock's smirk, Ash's confusion, and Misty's flushed face along with Annalise's obliviousness. Deciding that Brock has teased these two for too long, Lucy speaks, "You're Annalise's godfather, Ash. You're Brock's closest friend, and you also helped me and Barbara here years ago. You deserve to be Annalise's godfather."

When Ash quietly stands up and leaves the room, everyone watches him in confusion. Misty and Pikachu exchange very worried glances. "What's going on, Misty?" Brock asks.

"I don't know." the redhead replies. She places Annalise on the couch with Pikachu. "I'll go check on him."

"No." Brock stands. "Let me do it." It's been five years too long for Brock to not be a big brother to Ash. Moreover, Brock wants to know what's going on in Ash's head. Misty has been able to figure out more, though Brock is also Ash's close friend.

With Brock gone, Lucy gives Misty a reassuring smile. "He'll be okay. Can you take Annalise to see the baby Pokemon? I have some things I need to finish up." Distracting Misty will keep her from getting nervous about Ash in the other room.

Misty knows what Lucy is doing, so Misty gratefully nods. "Wanna go see the baby Pokemon, Leesee?"

"Emmy!" Annalise nods enthusiastically, causing Misty to giggle.

"Let's go, Pikachu." The equally concerned mouse trusts Brock has Ash handled. Pikachu couldn't reach Ash all these years, yet Misty was able to. Maybe Brock can get more to Ash?

In the backyard, Ash is sitting on the patio furniture with his head in his hands. He's breathing deeply as his eyes are shut since he's trying to block out the very intense ache in his chest. It makes him just want to vomit. He's so caught up in his mind that he doesn't notice Brock sit beside him until Brock's arm drapes around his shoulder.

"Water?" Brock holds out a waterbottle to Ash.

Sighing, Ash takes it to chug down. This further worries Brock because, like Misty had said, Ash doesn't have much of an appetite. Why does Ash look so parched? Brock can feel the buildup of sweat on Ash's shirt already. It's not that hot here because it is winter, though it's a warm island. Brock removes his arm since Ash seems really hot. Hopefully, Ash isn't sick. He looked fine inside. Is he just shocked to find out he has an almost 4 year old goddaughter?

The two sit in silence for a long time before Ash's breathing steadies enough for him to gather his thoughts. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why me? I cut everyone off. I don't deserve it."

Brock sadly watches Ash put his head back in his hands. "You do deserve it. You're my closest frie-"

"I didn't even know Lucy was pregnant. I only heard about you having a kid through the news one day." This is Ash's first time seeing the little girl. "I don't deserve it!"

"You do, dumbass." Brock narrows his eyes at the young man. "It doesn't matter what you think because Lucy and I chose you! We both think you deserve to be Annalise's godfather."

"I don't want it." Ash sternly states.

Feeling his heart ache, Brock pauses in surprise. Eventually, he's able to formulate a sentence, "I want you to have it. You're my best friend, Ash. The time we've been apart doesn't matter to me. I want you to be her godfather."

The raven haired man shakes his head. "I can't do it, Brock. I don't want kids."

"She's my kid."

"But she could be mine, right? Like Mew-forbid anything happens to you and Lucy, but that'd make her mine. I don't want kids. I don't want the responsibility!" exasperates Ash who looks like he's on the verge of tears. "I can't, Brock." He whispers in fear.

Running a hand through his hair, Brock sighs. "Why not, man?" Brock thought Ash likes kids. Ash has always been great with them, which Brock attributes to Ash's once childish and playful nature. From what Brock has heard from Tracey and Misty, Ash is really good with Tracey's daughter Tina. What's the difference between this and that? The fact that Ash doesn't have that title?

"I'm not meant to have kids…" Ash clutches his chest painfully to croak out, "I don't want any." Everything hurts, and he feels like he's going to hyperventilate again.

Brock hates seeing Ash like this, so in defeat, the older man tells Ash, "Think of Annalise as your niece, like Tina. You like Tina, right?" Ash nods. "Then think of Annalise as a less energetic Tina."

"Can I just stay her uncle?"

Pursing his lips, Brock defeatedly says, "I'd prefer you be her godfather." If Ash had picked up his calls, he'd know he was Annalise's godfather when she was born. Misty visited when Annalise was a month old, and that's when she found out she had the honor. After asking who the godfather was, Misty was not pleased to know it was Ash.

"I'm sorry, Brock. I can't do it."

Brock leans back in the chair to think. Is it selfish of him to want Ash as Annalise's godfather despite Ash not wanting it? Yes, but Brock knows only Ash can fill this role. "Act like her uncle this weekend, and if you'd rather stay her uncle, then I'll let you."

After a few seconds, Ash nods. "Thanks." He knows Brock is disappointed, but Ash doesn't want this responsibility. If he can't fathom being a father, how can he think about being anything close to it, like a godfather? The difference between Tina and Annalise is that Tina is very independent. Ash rarely feels like he's babysitting or being an adult figure. Annalise, on the other hand, is very quiet and young, like she needs guidance. He isn't the best adult for that. He did spend the past three years of his life in hiding.

After some time, Ash and Brock eventually make their way inside where Lucy informs them that Annalise and Misty went to see the baby Pokemon. Brocks suggests Ash go, but the quiet man would rather stay away from Annalise for now. However, when Brock leaves to take care of the Pokemon in the Daycare Center, Ash has no other choice but to follow. He could nap, though he already doesn't have much time here with Brock.

Brock just so happens to lead Ash into the room with the baby Pokemon, so Ash sees Annalise, Misty, and Pikachu. "Pikapi!" Pikachu leaps onto Ash's shoulder to nuzzle his cheek, happy that Ash looks better.

As Ash scratches Pikachu behind the ears, Brock picks up his daughter. "Are you having fun?"

Annalise shyly nods. "Yes."

Misty and Brock can clearly see how uncomfortable Ash is. Brock knows it has something to do with their conversation, but Misty assumes it's because Annalise is a new person to Ash. "She's barely four, Ash. She won't bite." Misty does recall 4 year old Tina biting when she was upset. Nevertheless, Annalise is the complete opposite of Tina.

Stiffening up, Ash shoots Misty an annoyed glare. "I'm not scared of a kid."

Misty pinches Annalise's cheeks. "Seems like it."

"Well, I'm not."

"It's okay, Leesee. I think you're very cute. Mr. Ash is a big scaredy Meowth." coos Misty, causing Ash's glare to deepen. How can Ash be so shy around this sweet quiet girl?

Brock sighs. "Misty, I-"

"I'm not scared of her." comes the more irritable voice of the young man.

"Here we go again." Brock sweatdrops as Pikachu leaps onto his shoulder to do the same. Regardless of the now large argument going on, Brock doesn't find it as annoying as he once did. He's missed this a lot. After Misty quit traveling with them, it was so quiet. Max, May, and Dawn were great and all, but it was just so different without Misty. No one can replace her. And it's not just because she was the first one to travel with them. Misty and Ash have always had a connection that none of Ash's other relationships can compare to.

They fight all the time, are constantly competing against each other, tease one another, but at the end of the day, they are each other's number one supporters. Brock has watched them grow from immature bickering children to these adults doing the same exact thing. Nevertheless, Ash and Misty are actually having arguments that make sense rather than their, well mostly Ash's, farfetched logic.

"At least I'm not scared of Pokemon!" counters Ash. "How can you be a gym leader but scared of bug Pokemon?" He wonders how she fares when a challenger has a bug Pokemon. Does Misty just automatically let them win?

"I'm scared of one thing!" Misty holds a finger up. "You're scared of everything!"

"I've never been scared of anything." Just because he hid from the world doesn't mean he was scared of it. Ash just wanted to be alone. "Tell her, Pikachu!"

"Chuuuu…" Pikachu shakes his head to avoid getting pulled into the argument.

Seeing that this is getting as pointless as it once used to be, and Annalise is slightly scared, Brock steps in between them. "Guys-"

"Let's settle this with a battle!" Misty challenges. "3 on 3, right now."

Without any hesitation, Ash flips his cap backwards, "I'm winning this time."

Brock rolls his eyes, though he really has missed this. The three of them and their antics. Actually, just Ash and Misty bickering while he tries to stop them. "Let's go to the backyard."

When they walk back into the housing area of the Day Care Center, Misty shoves Ash to run past him, "Last one there is a rotten egg!" Pun intended because Brock is a breeder.

"Hey! No fair!" Ash sprints after her.

Looking at Pikachu, Brock exchanges a large grin. Ash definitely is getting much better. So much that Pikachu hasn't seen Ash sad since the Oak wedding. "Let's get out there before they kill each other."

"Pi."

"Are they mad, daddy?" Annalise whispers.

"No. That's just how they love each other." Platonic or not, arguing has always been how Ash and Misty communicated best. It brings them closer to each other.

"Why?"

As Brock enters the backyard where he sees Misty and Ash back at arguing, he answers, "Because that's what two people do when they like each other."

"Pi." Agrees Pikachu.

"Mommy?" Annalise also watches her godmother and the stranger interact.

"She's finishing some work right now, but we'll see her later."

"No." Annalise shakes her head. "You and mommy fight?"

Chuckling, Brock kisses Annalise's head. "Love is weird, Annalise. Mommy and I don't fight. But trust me, okay. When Mama Misty and Mr. Ash fight, it's because they love each other."

"Ohtay." nods the girl and Brock sets her down. He calls out Crogrunk for babysitting duty since Brock most likely will have to officiate this match.

Approaching his friends again, Brock grabs both of their shoulders to push them away. "Are we gonna battle or just listen to you two argue all day?"

Like when they were younger, Ash and Misty both cross their arms over their chests and turn their backs to each other. "Brock, tell Ash that I won't talk to him until he admits that I'm right."

Ash opens his eyes in shock and annoyance. "Brock, tell Misty that I won't talk to her until she admits that I'm right!"

"Broc-"

"Let's battle already!" the older man shoves them to opposite sides of the yard. Sighing at Pikachu, Brock mutters, "Do you deal with this all the time?"

"Chu." Pikachu shakes his head. This is actually the first time Ash and Misty have argued like old times. The past couple of months, they've teased each other a bit, though not for long or to this extent. Maybe having Brock here is reminding Ash of his old self more? And Misty isn't as cautious around Ash because she knows Brock will support Ash in case Misty goes too far. Pikachu knows Misty has been bottling up many things due to Ash's sensitive state. It's good that both Ash and Misty are finally able to express themselves.

Pikachu then joins Ash as Brock officiates the match. With it being a 3 on 3 battle, both competitors can't be wasting attacks. Thus, Sceptile knocks out Staryu, Gyarados finishes off Sceptile and defeats Noivern. Of course, Misty had to mega evolve him to help with this feat. Ash's Pokemon are much stronger than the last time she battled them, and Ash is a much better trainer too. Pikachu manages to defeat the large Gyarados, and just as Misty is about to call out her Corsola, one of her pokeballs on her belt shoots out a red beam.

"Oh no!" She only brought four Pokemon with her, and Corsola's pokeball is in her hand.

Ash grins at the easy victory. It's about time he finally beat her. "Yes! We're gonna win, Pikachu!"

"Psyduck! Get back here!" Misty exclaims at the very confused duck. He felt left out because everyone was getting a chance outside except for him.

"Psy?" Psyduck cocks his head to the side, and Brock can't help but chuckle.

Nearby, Annalise and Crogunk are eagerly watching the battle. Annalise likes watching battles because her mother is a strong trainer. Croagunk has missed seeing Ash battle, and he's seen a few of Misty's. Moreover, Croagunk is happy to see some of Ash's Pokemon again who he knows, like Pikachu. "Pikachu is cute." Annalise tells Croagunk. Seeing Pikachu work alongside Ash takes a lot of trust. Young Annalise is less scared of Ash now because of his relationship with Pikachu.

"I didn't call him out!" Misty yells at Brock.

Ash, though, shouts, "It's cheating if you switch him out!" This is a 3 on 3 battle. Misty chose it.

Groaning, Misty places Corsola's pokeball back on her belt. She sticks her tongue out at Ash before telling Psyduck, "We need to win this, Psyduck!" Fortunately, Gyarados had done enough damage to Pikachu, but Pikachu still has a lot of energy.

"The rules are the rules, Misty." Brock tells her. "Begin!"
Knowing how to battle Psyduck, Ash commands Pikachu, "Tickle Psyduck!"

"This is so not fair!" Misty growls at the laughing man across from her. "Psyduck, headbutt!" Of course, Misty knows she's ordering Psyduck to no avail. The duck doesn't even know they're battling. Psyduck thinks he and Pikachu are playing. Misty sweatdrops and pulls out Psyfuck's pokeball. There's no point hoping for a miracle because Psyduck might pass out from Pikachu's tickling.

However, as Psyduck is rolling around on the ground while Pikachu's tickles keep moving him all over the field, Pikachu is so focused on the task that he doesn't notice the very large tree stump until Psyduck's head hits it...and Psyduck hits it hard. "Psyaya…" Psyduck's head already hurts from his laughing fit, along with his constant headache, so this really triggers it.

"No. Pikachu, dodge it!" Ash panics, but it's too late. Pikachu can't avoid the intense Psychic attack that sends him flying into the tree nearby.

"Yes! Psyduck, you did it!" Misty exclaims gleefully. She runs over to hug her very confused Pokemon. "I knew you could do it! I'm so proud of you."

Picking up the weakened Pikachu, Ash pouts when he's beside Misty. "You didn't even wanna use Psyduck." He reminds her, which she waves off.

"I was trying to give you a chance at winning. I knew you couldn't beat Psyduck."

Ash rolls his eyes because Misty always does this: whenever Psyduck pulls through, she states that she believed in him. In reality, Misty would never have chosen Psyduck to battle, which is the reason Ash was surprised she called out Psyduck in Alola. Ash hasn't seen Misty use Psyduck to battle at all until now.

Brock walks over to them. Even though he didn't call the battle, it seems like these two did. Ash didn't want Pikachu getting more hurt because they are on vacation. Annalise releases Brock's hand to hug Psyduck. She really likes the ditzy Pokemon. "That was so cool, Psyduck!"

Misty giggles and ruffles Annalise's hair. "I know. Psyduck is the coolest."

"Pika!" Pikachu jumps onto Misty's shoulder.

"You're cool too, Pikachu! You all are." giggles Misty.

Seeing Misty bond with the Pokemon and girl causes Ash's gaze to soften. He can never be too mad at Misty, especially over stupid little arguments that always feel like they mean the world to him. These arguments are never anything really worth arguing about, and despite how annoying they are, it's something that he only shares with Misty. He's had time to cool down, and he's not even sure what they were arguing about to begin with. She beat him fair and square today.

Watching just Ash, Brock smirks seeing the way Ash is looking at Misty. Ash isn't looking at the Pokemon or Annalise, but his eyes are focused on Misty. When Ash and Serena first started dating, Brock was disappointed that Misty missed her chance. Nevertheless, Brock saw how happy Ash was, so Brock supported Ash whole heartedly. Once news of the engagement came, Brock really believed Misty and Ash would never be. Thus, the breeder is still surprised by their current situation. Brock is glad that it happened because he's finally got both of his friends by his side again. It's been 12 years too long for this.

After hanging out and having dinner, Brock gets called to help with a very sick Pokemon brought into the Pokemon Center. Despite being a breeder, he also achieved his Pokemon Doctor certification, so he occasionally helps at the Pokemon Center. This leaves Lucy with the Kanto couple. Ash is opening up more now that he's somewhat comfortable with being here. While Ash hasn't spoken to Annalise, Misty notices that the two are very similar because of their shyness right now.

That night, Brock still isn't back, but Lucy suggests that Ash and Misty sleep. They did have a long trip today. Because Lucy and Brock know about the fake marriage, this allows Ash and Misty to sleep in separate rooms. It is very nice not having to fake anything for the time being. There's no being overly cautious or looking over each other's shoulders.

While Lucy is tucking in Annalise, there's a knock on Ash's door. Pikachu is sleeping with Annalise because he's been sticking by her side the whole day. Thinking that maybe Brock came back, Ash opens his door to blink at the redhead in front of him. "Hey, Misty?" He figured she'd be asleep by now or just doing her own thing.

"Hey, Ash. Can I come in?" Stepping aside, Ash nods. Once Misty is inside, Ash watches her in confusion. There's no desk in this guestroom, so Misty sits on the edge of the bed. "Can I ask my question first today?"

They've sat next to each other plenty of times, and they even slept in the same bed once or twice. However, Ash can't bring himself to sit beside her on that lone bed, so he leans his back against the wall. "Sure." So that's why she's here. Why was a part of him hoping she'd want to share a room with him, like they usually do when they're not alone overnight? Fighting the thumping in his chest, Ash tries to give Misty his full attention without letting her realize how much she agitates his body.

Unfortunately for him, Misty's soft blue eyes meet his anxious brown ones. And that smile. Mew. That smile he just can't ever get enough of. "What's your biggest fear?"

Ash blinks himself back into reality. What did she ask? Oh yeah. Fear. Why? Does she really think he's scared of a little girl? Although Ash still hasn't interacted with Annalise, that doesn't mean he's scared of her. If Misty is trying to argue again, Ash isn't having it. "Why?"

She shrugs. "Everyone is scared of something, but you said you're scared of nothing." Misty is pretty sure even the young fearless Ash who constantly saved the world had some fear. This Ash must too.

Sighing, Ash runs a hand through his hair, thus breaking their eye contact. Is this a trap? For her to tell him she told him so? "If I have one, are you gonna use it against me?" Their one question a day requires honest answers. He needs to be careful, though Misty has never used any of his answers against him.

"Do you really think that little of me?"

Ouch. He felt that despite her having the painful voice. Stop being paranoid, Ash! This is Misty! The person who whipped him into shape when no one else could. The person he's wanted to do anything for since reconnecting. Although his mom and Gary were constantly by his side these past few years, Ash didn't want to do anything. It wasn't until Misty came along that Ash wanted to change. To make her life easier. To make them both happier.

"My only fear is my biggest fear." Ash practically whispers. "I'm scared of losing those I love. The important ones. Pikachu, Brock, my mom." He chuckles slightly. "Even Gary. Heh." All of his friends he's traveled with and met throughout the years. His Pokemon. Even his ex. She was once his friend; however, Ash doesn't like thinking about her, and he hasn't thought about her in weeks because he's been focused on someone else… "You…"

The ache in her chest intensifies now, but it's not from her feeling hurt by his words anymore. It's the fact that he's also scared to lose her. Misty slowly returns her soft gaze to him where she sees he's still focused on his feet. Why did he say her name last? And he hesitated. If this has always been a fear of his, then how come he forgot about her twice? Will he forget about her again after they separate? She can't let that happen, even if it takes two to maintain a relationship.

"I lied too." admits the woman, which makes Ash flinch from her voice. They were sitting in silence for so long he forgot she was here because he was deep in thought. "I'm scared of more than just bugs." Misty shivers from saying the word. "I used to be scared of a lot of things: failure, murderers, dying. But after meeting you and seeing how fearless you were in the face of danger, I knew I couldn't stand next to you if I was so scared."

For the first time in a while, Ash meets her eyes with his curious ones. "Mis-"

"I mean, like how can I expect myself to be your friend and stand by your side when I'm scared of dying? When you attacked Mewtwo all those years ago, I was scared, Ash. I did nothing, and then you died. I was so scared of dying myself that I let you die!" Chokes the woman, making Ash quickly move to her side.

Sitting next to Misty, Ash pats her back. "It wasn't your fault. I was a reckless kid."

She shakes her head. "I just felt awful. You're my best friend, and I didn't do anything."

"I'm here now." Ash reassures her. Yes, he's cheated death many times now, but he's still here. She has nothing to cry about. "And you saved me on Shamouti Island!"

"Yeah." Misty leans into his comforting side as his arm drapes around her.. "That was after I forced myself to stop being so scared. By the time we had to deal with the whole Power of One thing, I knew I needed to support you."

Their bond was also much stronger by that point due to spending more time together. When Ash had fallen into the ocean's rough currents, Misty wasted no time in rescuing him, and she knows it's because she spent the past year overcoming her fears. She had to overcome them in order to save this reckless boy. In order to justify remaining by his side because it was never and will never be about that damn bike.

Giggling a bit through her sniffles, Misty adds, "But I can't get over my fear of bug Pokemon for you."

Ash chuckles, glad that Misty isn't down anymore. "Dang. That was the only one I wanted you to overcome."

Playfully shoving him causes them to separate, something both don't want. "Too bad." Misty sticks her tongue out at him while her heart is picking up speed at realizing they're sitting on the same bed so closely to each other.

Ash gives her his signature goofy grin to continue cheering her up, though it just makes her heart pick up speed. "So since you answered your own question, does that mean I don't get to ask one today?" She went more in depth than he did. Ash is glad Misty didn't ask him follow up questions or anything pertaining to herself specifically because he's still trying to figure that out. Why is he most scared of losing Misty?

"Ask your question." Misty rolls her eyes.

What is his question? If anything, all of his questions are for himself rather than her. She is the cause for them, but she won't know the answer. Ash rests his elbows on his knees as he leans over the side of the bed, his gaze on his enclosed hands. "What's keeping you from leaving the gym?" It's something he's thought about a lot lately, especially after New Years. Misty seems to be tying herself down to the gym. She claims it's for her sisters' sakes, but they don't seem to care about the gym. Therefore, Misty has no reason to remain there if she wants to do something else.

"Why are you asking?" Misty raises an eyebrow at him.

"You told your sisters that you're trying to preserve the Waterflower family legacy, but they don't seem to care. So why are you still there? Do you like being a gym leader?"

"I love it." Misty replies with no hesitation. "It's stressful, and my sisters may not appreciate it, but I love it."

"Why?" Ash is glad she loves what she's doing. He wants to get back out there to love what he does as well.

Shrugging, the redhead thinks about it herself. Why does she love being a gym leader? "Cerulean City is my home. I like helping and leading it. And I get to battle lots of different people. It's an honor to my city, and I get to battle often."

When Misty brings her legs up to sit crosslegged on the bed, Ash gets uncomfortable seeing her very short shorts exposing her inner thighs. He's seen Misty wear short shorts the whole time he's known her, he's seen her in her bikini plenty of times; but right now, on his bed, alone in this room, Ash doesn't want this view. He gets up to dig in the drawer, and Misty watches him in confusion. Ash then tosses a blue tshirt at her.

"Wha-"

"Put it on please." the flustered man mumbles with his back still towards her.

"Why?" As much as MIsty likes wearing his clothes (she's done so a few times already), it makes her feel awkward. Wearing his clothes is intimate, which they are not! That New Year's kiss flashes back into her mind, causing Misty to shake her head of it.

"You're showing too much."

"What are you talking about?" Misty looks down at her outfit. Yes. She's in a tank top and short shorts, but that's how she likes to sleep. With it being winter, she's had to sleep in long sleeves and pajama pants, though they're on a warm island this weekend. She's not going to pack winter clothes for a warm island. It's a warm winter here.

Waving his hand at her, Ash's face turns an even darker shade of red. "Please, Misty." He doesn't want to argue about this, and he doubts he can. "I'll answer a second question if you just put it on already."

Well, that's all she needs to hear, so she slips on the tshirt. It smells just like him, even if they both use the same detergent now that they live together. Ash has his own scent, which Misty finds relaxes and excites her at the same time. "No takebacks."

Relieved that the distraction is gone, Ash faces her, but he stays by the dresser. Mew. What were they talking about before all of this? Oh, right. Her being a gym leader. "Have you thought about being an Elite Four member? Or just traveling again to learn from different people and become the best water Pokemon trainer ever?" There's only so much Misty can learn in her gym, and she's mainly battling new trainers rather than established trainers who have perfected their craft for years. Ash just doesn't want Misty to feel like she's wasting her years at the gym instead of working towards her dream.

This man just continues to confuse her, so Misty wonders, "What's so bad about being a gym leader?"

Sighing, Ash meets her eyes to let her know that he isn't trying to offend her. "I just think you're stuck. Like you're not going anywhere at the gym, and I wanna see you reach your dream."

"What makes you think I'm not working towards my dream?"

"Because you're always working at the gym. When's the last time you battled someone who taught you something? The last time you trained with someone to learn something new?" Ash has learned a lot about mega evolving, gigamax form, and various other ways to get stronger.

"Way to make someone feel shitty about their life."

Ash quickly sits beside her again, frantically explaining himself, "No. Misty, I'm not trying to say that."

"Sounds like it."

"No." He nervously runs a hand through his hair, fully understanding that the words came out of his mouth wrong. Moreover, he's sitting beside her so that she doesn't storm out of here, like that look in her eyes is telling him she wants to do. "Look. I just think you have a lot to show the world. You're really strong, Mist. Like really really strong, and I think you're too good to be a gym leader the rest of your life." She's learned a lot from being a gym leader, but Ash believes she's been at the gym for far too long.

"And you think I should be an Elite Four member?" deadpans the woman, though she is flattered knowing Ash thinks highly of her.

"That or a wanderer, like Red was before he was the champion. People used to search Mt. Moon for him all the time just to battle."

"I doubt I'd be like Red." Misty notes. Red was a recluse, and Misty has too many people in her life she doesn't want to stay away from.

"Then be an Elite Four member. Or be the first champion who specializes in water Pokemon."

Studying his insistent features, Misty asks, "Do you really think I can do it?"

"I think you can lead the whole world if you wanted to." Ash was once a recluse, and Misty saved him. She can do anything.

Ash is relieved to see Misty smile gratefully at him. "Thanks, Ash, but there aren't any Elite Four openings." Jimmy Kenta took over after Agatha retired years ago, though there are accounts that he's going to try for the Johto Champion position again. It's been a few years since he attempted it, and Jimmy has always wanted to be the champion of his home region.

"I don't remember Misty Waterflower letting anything stop her."

Playfully pushing him again, Misty replies, "Well, Misty Waterflower is an adult with responsibilities now. Even if I was able to be an Elite Four member, I can't just up and leave Cerulean City. I have responsibilities there."

"And the new gym leader can handle that." Ash notes.

Misty shakes her head as her smile falls, worrying Ash. What's wrong? "I can't leave my Cape responsibility."

After a few seconds, Ash looks at the ground. He forgot about that even though that's where she was last night. Due to him telling Misty he'd stop asking about her Cape affairs, Ash has been trying to focus less on it. However, he is constantly irked by this responsibility of hers that she puts above everything, even him. Who is her Cape man? "You only go to the Cape like once a month. Can't you just visit Cerulean City once a month?"

"It doesn't work like that."

"Why not?"

Misty is about to answer him when she remembers that this has nothing to do with his original question. Thus, it's not a follow up question. "I don't have to answer that."

Ash narrows his eyes at her in annoyance. "Then I'll just ask it tomorrow."

"Fine."

"Fine." If this was her room, he would have left now, but it's not his room, and she's still sitting comfortably on his bed...in his shirt…

They're both still peeved with each other, making the silence even more deafening. Nevertheless, Misty breaks it because she needs to get in her second question before the start of the new day. "Why won't you talk to Annalise? She is your goddaughter." Misty didn't want to be the one to tell Ash, so she waited until Brock could. When Misty first found out Ash is Annalise's godfather, Misty was not happy at all. She wanted nothing to do with Ash, especially since he was still in a strong relationship with Serena at the time. Now, Misty wants Ash to take the responsibility.

"Dunno." Ash shrugs, but Misty's incredulous look makes him sigh. "She's shy. I don't wanna scare her."

"You were just fine with Tina."

"That's cuz Tina talks to me. Annalise doesn't talk to me."

"Because you're the adult, Ash. You need to talk to her first." exasperates Misty. "She's sweet. Quiet, shy, very loving. There's nothing you won't like about her."

Laying back on his bed to groan, Ash covers his eyes with his arm. "It's not her, Mist." He will never blame anyone for anything except himself. "I just don't wanna be a godfather."

"Why? You're basically just an uncle. And you're a great uncle to Tina."

"But that's different." sighs the man as he tries to think of the correct words. "After we divorce, I have no obligation to Tina. I could cut her off completely if I wanted to, but I won't!" He quickly adds the last part, which makes Misty very relieved to hear. Despite that, her heart aches being reminded of their divorce, something they both know will be happening. "But I will always have an obligation to Annalise. I don't want that."

"But you said you won't be cutting off Tina, so just think of both relationships as the same."

"I can't. Tina will never be in my care because she has you, Lily, and Violet if something happens to her parents." Ash hopes nothing happens to any of his friends. "But if something happens to Brock and Lucy, then I have a kid. I don't want kids."

Misty's gaze softens on the honest man who is painfully speaking to her. What hurt him to this extent? It couldn't just be because Serena was talking to someone else while she was with Ash, right? "Why don't you want kids?"

"That's not your question."

"It's a follow up." It's very relevant.

Removing his arm, Ash meets Misty's curious eyes. "It relates to the breakup." She shut him up earlier by connecting her answer to the Cape. He can shut her up the same way with his forbidden question.

Misty raises her hands up defensively. "Okay. I get it." Standing up, she heads for the door. "Good night, Ash." So many questions are running through her mind pertaining to Ash's aversion towards children. He's so great with them. Why doesn't he want any? He'll be an uncle, but he won't be anything more?

"Misty." He doesn't want to end the night on such a low note. Not with Misty.

"Hm?" the redhead rests her hand on the doorknob.

Ash has resumed putting his arm back over his face. "I hope nothing happens, but if anything does, and you have to watch Tina or Annalise or both, I'll help you." Mew. His chest tightens painfully thinking about any scenario making this a possibility. Moreover, if Misty ever has to care for either of the girls, she'd be alone. Ash can't let her be alone. She's already having enough trouble with the gym and herself as is. Add in a young child, and Misty will be overwhelmed. Ash can't let that happen to her. He's already overcome a lot due to her, and he'll overcome more just for her.

Feeling the thumping in her heart, Misty is smiling ear to ear. Although she is still wary of his words involving them having any sort of future together, just hearing him wanting to stay with her warms her heart. The fact that he'll step up into the father-figure role if needed just to help her means he finds her important in his life...right? "That's not going to happen, but thanks." Misty doesn't want to think about those situations ever occurring.

"Yeah. I know." Ash weakly smiles at the ceiling. "Good night, Misty."

"Good night, Ash." After opening the door, a thought comes back to her head. "Oh. Since I won the battle today, you have to do something I say." He groans, making her smirk. "Talk to Annalise. At least say hi to her tomorrow."

"Fine."

"Good." Amused by his reaction, Misty goes back to her room for a much needed night of sleep.

In the middle of the night, Ash wakes up to use the bathroom. Maybe he shouldn't have gone downstairs to drink a few glasses of water after Misty left? But, Ash's throat felt parched. Something about Misty takes his breath away and makes him feel like he's drowning. Regardless of the suffocating feeling, Ash doesn't want to be away from her. She's always been special to him, and now that he's not an immature kid only focused on Pokemon, he is starting to cherish her the way she deserves to be cherished.

On his way back to his room, he overhears some sniffling. Is someone sick or crying? Is it Misty? Quickly moving to Misty's door, Ash doesn't hear the noise as loudly as before. He curiously follows the whimpering to Annalise's door, causing Ash to freeze. Maybe he should get Lucy for this? Unless Brock is back now? But what if something is happening right now? Pikachu is in there, but what if it's someone stronger than Pikachu making Annalise cry?

Out of immense concern, Ash opens the door to check on his Pokemon pal. Blinking in the dark room, though there is a small night light near the bed, Ash takes in the sight of a little girl clinging onto Pikachu. Pikachu is in her lap as her knees are up and her face is buried into his fur. Seeing his trainer, Pikachu's warm brown eyes meet Ash's to show how worried the mouse is.

Annalise looks up from the noise of the door, and that's when she sees Ash. "Mister…"

Ash awkwardly rubs the back of his head. "Um. I'll get your mom."

"No!" Annalise sheds more tears, and Ash is shocked by her loud voice. She's been whispering around him all day. "Don't leave me alone please." whimpers the scared girl. Although Pikachu is comforting enough, Annalise feels a lot more protected with an adult around.

"Uh. Okay." Ash continues standing by the doorway uncomfortably. "Do you want the lights on?"

She shakes her head. "Mommy and daddy say I'm a big girl." The night light is supposed to be enough.

Annalise then reburies her face in Pikachu's fur while Ash continues to stand in the doorway. What is he supposed to do? This is his first interaction with her, and he's not the ebay at comforting people, especially children. Why is she crying? Ash meets Pikachu's gaze again to mouth, "What?" Pikachu sharply looks from Ash to Annalise and then back to Ash, like he's telling Ash to do a better job of comforting her. Unfortunately for Pikachu, Ash just shrugs. Maybe he can slip out and get Lucy? Is Brock even back yet?

As Pikachu and Ash are having a silent battle with their eyes, Annalise whispers, "I'm scared, Mister."

Scared. He and Misty just had a conversation about this hours ago; thus, Ash's heart clenches. "Do you wanna talk about it?"

Annalise shakes her head. "I want a huggy." Whenever she has a nightmare or isn't feeling well, her parents always hug her. She wants that comfort right now, even if it's from this stranger. Pikachu trusts him, so Annalise has no reason not to. Plus, Annalise just wants a hug right now. She wanted one the moment she woke up, which is why she clung onto Pikachu.

"Do you want me to get your parents?"

"Don't leave me." More tears, and Pikachu shoots Ash a sharp glare that tells him to just hug her.

Sighing, Ash approaches the bed where he rests a comforting hand on Annalise's head. He isn't quite ready to hug her, so this will do, right? As soon as he starts patting her head, Annalise releases Pikachu to hug Ash's side. Her wet tears his his shirt, and he freezes, unsure of what to do. Pikachu jumps onto Ash's shoulder to nudge him back to the situation. Ash did not sign up for this. Why is he constantly babysitting other people's children when he wants no children of his own?

"I had a bad dream."

Oh. So that's what it was. "Was it scary?" Of course it was scary! That's why she's crying, but he doesn't know what to say to her.

"Mhm." She nods and sniffles.

"Pikapi pika pikachu!" Pikachu hisses into Ash's ear.

"I'm not hugging her." Ash whispers back. Patting her head as she hugs him is enough.

"Pikapi!" scolds the mouse, and Ash internally groans.

Hearing Annalise's sobs get louder, the panicky man lifts her up into his arms. He's held children before, though it's been years. Annalise is small, so she's very light. Her arms tightly wrap around his neck as she buries her face into his chest for comfort. The warmth radiating from her body helps relax Ash as he gently rocks her back and forth. Still hearing her sniffle, despite her sobs slowing down, Ash says, "Sometimes, if we talk about what scares us, then we're not so scared anymore." He felt a lot better after expressing himself to Misty earlier.

After a few seconds, Annalise quietly tells him, "It was a big monster and it ate mommy and daddy, and it was about to eat me."

Ah. The typical giant man eating monster nightmare. "Do you wanna know how to beat the monster?" She nods, so Ash smiles at the mouse on his shoulder worriedly watching Annalise. "Pikachu is very very strong. He's little and cute, but he's so strong he can beat any monster. If you sleep with Pikachu, he will always protect you."

"Pika!" Pikachu boasts proudly.

To both of their reliefs, Annalise smiles slightly. "I like Pikachu."

"And he likes you too." Ash soothes her, causing Annalise to further bury her face in his chest.

"Is that why mister not scared of the monster?"

"Yeah." Ash chuckles. "Pikachu protects me from the monsters."

A few silent minutes go by, which makes Ash assume the girl has gone back to sleep. When he looks back down at her, he meets her curious violet orbs. "I wanna be like you. I don't wanna be scared anymore."

Ash tightens his grip on the girl. The longer he spends with her, the more comfortable he is around her. He knows he's always been good with children. It's the reason he connected quickly with Tina. However, Ash would rather stay as far away from them as possible and not add anymore to his life. "I'm not scared of monsters, but I am scared of one thing."

"What?"

Lowering his lips near her hair, he whispers, "Losing your Mama Misty is the thing that scares me the most."

"Daddy and mommy said you love Mama Misty." Annalise recalls her parents telling her that her Mama Misty is married, and marriage is for two people who love each other.

Pikachu stifles his giggles as Ash's face flushes a dark shade of red. "We care a lot about each other." Feeling Annalise squeeze her arms around his neck makes Ash take in a deep breath. "I lost Mama Misty twice already. I don't wanna lose her again."

"Did a monster get her?"

A small smile graces Ash's lips due to her cuteness. If only it was that easy, but Ash knows he's the reason he lost Misty, and he'll always be the reason. She's there unconditionally for him. It's just him who ignores her. Wow. He is a monster, but he can change it. "Yeah."

"Maybe Pikachu sleep with Mama Misty?" Annalise would rather have the monster get her than her godmother.

"Pikachu will sleep with you. I'll protect Mama Misty." Though Ash won't be sleeping with her. His ears get hot, which Pikachu notices with a smirk.

"You're very nice, Mister."

"You're very nice too, Annalise." Ash can feel himself getting tired too as Annalise yawns.

"Can you wait until I go sleep?" She'd rather be awake with an adult around, and then Ash can leave after she's sleeping.

"Yeah." Ash softly affirms her, causing her to close her eyes. Being in his large warm protective embrace is very comforting. Annalise isn't scared anymore, and Pikachu is nearby. After a couple of minutes, Ash hears the rhythmic breathing of the little girl. "Annalise?" He whispers. "Annalise…" No response. Perfect. She's asleep, but now he has a new dilemma.

How does he set her back on her bed without waking her? He's never had to put a sleeping child down. Moreover, Ash finds comfort holding this little girl, and he wants to continue protecting her. Protecting others is something he's always loved doing. Seeing as how Annalise is asleep, the tired Pikachu hops back on the bed to sleep. He'll curl up next to Annalise whenever Ash sets her down.

Deciding to pace around the room, Ash continues gently rocking Annalise while lost in his own thoughts. Could he really be her godfather? This isn't bad, though he really doesn't want that responsibility. Nevertheless, if Misty was thrown into having to raise Annalise, Ash said he'd help her. There's no doubt that Ash will help Misty whenever he can, even after their divorce. He's overcome a lot for her already, so he's sure he can overcome more.

The man is so deep in thought that he doesn't notice someone approach the doorway until the lights are turned on. "Ash?" comes the curious voice.

Looking from the girl to the doorway, Ash shyly smiles at his old friend. "She had a nightmare."

Brock just returned home from a late night and seeing Annalise's door open, he decided to check in on her. He just didn't expect to see Ash walking around and rocking her in his arms. It warms Brock's heart and brings a knowing smile to his face. Ash may not want to be a godfather, but he's constantly stepping up to help people. His helpful nature will never change, and that will lead to him overcoming a lot of the limitations he places on himself, like being involved with children.

Carefully taking the girl from Ash's arms, Brock gently places her on the bed to tuck her in. Pikachu curls up next to her, and Brock quietly leads Ash out of the room. After closing the door, Brock asks, "Still don't wanna be her godfather?" Brock does wish he took a picture to show Misty. Women love men who are nurturing.

Ash scratches the back of his head uncomfortably. He really wants nothing to do with children, but he's already told himself and Misty that he'll only be involved if she is. He won't leave her alone to this feat, especially since he's sure she would be alone. Unless her Cape guy steps in? Though Misty has made it very clear that her Cape affairs are not romantic affairs.

"I'm gonna go back to sleep." Ash avoids answering Brock's question.

Chuckling, Brock pats Ash's back. "Good night, Ash." Brock doesn't need an answer because he can already see it on Ash's face. Plus, it is late right now, and they have a big day tomorrow with Annalise's party.

The next morning, Brock is cooking breakfast for everyone while Lucy gets Annalise ready. As a typical early riser, Misty wakes up before Ash. She groggily makes her way downstairs where Brock is alone in the kitchen. "Morning, Brock."

Brock nods. "Morni-" His eyes finally land on the tired woman, causing a smirk to form on his lips. "Whose shirt is that?"

MIsty glances down at her outfit and blushes to see she's still wearing Ash's shirt from last night. "Uh-"

"It's all fake, huh?"

"Shut up." mutters the embarrassed redhead.

Chuckling, Brock speaks before Misty can leave to change. "How are you doing, Misty? You know. With this being fake and all."

She crosses her arms over her chest to look at him suspiciously. "Why are you asking?"

The man continues making pancakes. "I know you never stopped loving him. I'm just worried about you."

Yesterday, Brock could tell that Misty is head over heels for Ash again, though Brock can't figure out if Ash views Misty as only a best friend or something more. Ash has always been difficult to read when romance is involved. Brock doesn't want Misty to be hurt again when all of this is over, despite him really not wanting this to end. Seeing Misty in Ash's shirt further reminds Brock that real feelings of those he cares about will be very hurt, and Brock can't bear to watch Misty overcome her heartache over Ash again.

"I'm fine, Brock."

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself that?"

Annoyed, Misty walks out of the kitchen to change for the day. She was going to see if Brock wanted any help, but it's too early for his teasing and lectures. So what if she still has feelings for her fake husband? So what if she knows he'll leave her again? So what if she'll be heartbroken from him once more? Misty has already come to terms with herself. If it's not Ash, then it's no one. No matter how hard she tries to move on, it will always be Ash, so she'll allow herself to go through this again.

Passing the very man who's constantly on her thoughts, Misty walks into her room. Ash had brought a hand up to wave, but his voice got caught seeing her in his shirt. Now that Misty is out of sight, Ash can focus again. Did she just ignore him? Was she upset? Her face seemed deep in thought. Did he do something? Oh no. Slightly worried, Ash makes his way into the kitchen where Brock is setting up the table.

"Morning, Brock."

"Oh. Morning, Ash." Brock was still thinking about his friends' fake relationship, so he wasn't paying attention to his surroundings. "How'd you sleep?"

"It was great. Thanks, Brock."

"Hey, Ash. How do you feel about Misty?"

Why this? Why now? Ash's face flushes and he shyly looks at the table. "We're friends again. I'm happy."

"Is that it?" Brock smirks slightly seeing Ash's reaction. Maybe Ash doesn't totally view Misty in a platonic way?

Could Brock be the reason Misty was so deep in thought? What did they talk about? Oh no… Ash worriedly eyes Brock's growing smirk. "Did she tell you?" When Brock winks, despite not knowing what Ash is talking about, Ash rests his head on the table to groan. "Why'd she tell you?"

"I am your guys' best friend." Brock reminds Ash.

"Right." Sighing, Ash feels his ears getting hot now too. "I don't know how it happened, Brock. One moment, we were talking, like we do every night, but then all I remember is looking at her eyes." Those beautiful magnificent cerulean blue eyes that only belong to her. "And then…"

Brock is leaning over the table a lot now. What is it, Ash? What happened between Ash and Misty? Fortunately, dense Ash has no idea he's being duped by Brock. Misty would know and be more cautious. Brock watches Ash let out another low groan. Noticing Ash's red ears, Brock knows this information must be good. Why won't Ash just spill it?

"Mew, Brock." Ash lifts his head to meet Brock's curious gaze. "We-"

"I think we're all ready for Annalise's big day." Lucy's voice makes Ash look away, and Brock defeatedly slumps his shoulders.

Kissing his wife and daughter, Brock greets them. "Why don't you go get Misty, Ash?"

"Pikachupi!" Pikachu smiles from Lucy's shoulder.

"Uh. Right now?" Ash is still thinking about that kiss, and he isn't sure he should be the right person to be alone with Misty when she told Brock. That must mean she's thinking about it too, right? But why? Did she hate it? Is she just as scared as him about what is happening to the friendship they just recovered?

"Can I get Mama Misty too?" Annalise innocently asks the adults.

Ash is quick to hop on this offer, so he reaches out to take Annalise from Lucy's hands, surprising Lucy who still hasn't heard about Ash's time with Annalise last night. "Thanks for the help, Annalise."

Once the pair is gone, Lucy looks at her husband with confusion. "Is everything okay?"

Brock wraps his arms around Lucy's waist as Pikachu jumps onto the kitchen counter. "I think so." Something must've happened between Ash and Misty one of these nights, and Brock is very curious about what it is. Moreover, the way Ash seemed so mesmerized by Misty's eyes...can Brock really hope that more is finally going on between those two?

When Ash gets upstairs, it's Annalise doing most of the talking. Misty does notice Ash this time, and she greets him normally. Ash, though, isn't sure how she's able to be so normal after telling Brock about New Year's, but Ash will play along, like they've been doing. The group then has breakfast before setting up last minute decorations and food for the party. It's being held in the backyard.

Ash meets the outspoken strong Barbara again who comments a lot about his soft demeanor now. Misty comes to his rescue where Barbara notes she's just joking and glad that Ash is doing much better. Barbara is glad to have finally met Misty, especially after hearing so much about the gym leader from Brock. The Harrisons are busy with welcoming guests and getting the birthday party under way, so Misty and Ash are on their own for most of the time. Ash is still awkward around Misty who still can't figure out why, though she isn't going to question him.

"Ash! Misty!"

Ash's eyes open wide at the familiar voice while Misty tackles the brunette in a tight hug. "May!"

Ash watches the green haired man approach him to clap him on the back. "Long time no see, Ash!"

A weight is soon on his shoulders as someone jumps on him. "Ash! It's great to see you!"

"Max, get off of him!" May scolds while walking over to smile at Ash. Ash slowly stands up and looks around at the old faces, but May envelops him in a tight hug. "I'm so happy you're here, Ash!"

To her relief, he pats her back before hugging her in return. "Hey, May."

Brock approaches the group because he just greeted the Maples and their partners. With an arm around Misty's shoulder, Brock smiles at the scene. Although Brock hasn't seen Ash in almost 6 years, May and Max haven't seen him in longer. "I'm happy for him." Brock tells Misty as Ash now hugs Max.

Misty relaxes under Brock's arm. "Me too." Ash is reconnecting with so many people, which is a lot better than before his depression. He used to never see people at all.

When Brock leads Misty into the group, May grabs Misty's hands. "Oh my Groudon! I almost forgot to congratulate you two! I knew there was chemistry whenever I saw you together!"

Ash and Misty blush. "Thanks, May. Congrats to you and Drew on your engagement." Misty replies. Misty then nudges Ash. "Say something."

Snapping out of his daze, Ash smiles at May and Drew. "Yeah. Congrats, guys."

"Hey, Max and Vivi." Misty greets the young couple. She's met Vivi at all of Annalise's birthdays. Ash is still in disbelief by the amount of people he knows at this party. Well, he knows many people because of his many travels. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people he knows here who he's very close to.

"Hey Misty!" Vivi hugs the woman.

"Ash! Hello? Are you there?" Misty waves a hand in front of his face, causing Ash to bat it away. When he hadn't greeted Max and Vivi, Misty intervened again. "Mew. Where's your head at?"

Ash rolls his eyes at her. "I was finally enjoying some peace and quiet."

Shooting him a sharp glare, Misty growls, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"What does it sound like?"

Huffing out an annoyed breath, she counters, "I talk a lot because I'm not an open book, like you."

"I'm not an open book!"

"Are too!"

"Am not!"

"Are too!"

"Stop!" Brock cuts in between them, silencing the couple. Max, May, Vivi, and Drew are very surprised to see Ash argue with anyone, though May and Max have witnessed these two bicker in the past. "It is my daughter's birthday party. Get along!" When Ash and Misty cross their arms over their chests as they turn their backs to each other, Brock sighs. They really do act like children, but he's missed it a lot. Soon, all the guests are here to fully celebrate Annalise's birthday.

"Dawn is sad she couldn't make it this year. She really wanted to see you." May tells Ash once everyone settles down after the festivities have begun. Max and Vivi are off catching with others, Drew is talking to a coordinator here, and Misty is talking to Brock. Whenever Misty talks to Brock, it makes Ash nervous, but May is doing a good job at keeping his thoughts away from that conversation.

"Really?"

May nods. "Yeah. She's in Sinnoh, so she doesn't come to Hoenn often, but she always tries to make important events. She'll be at my wedding." Apparently, Dawn and Paul are needed in Sinnoh for multiple Team Galactic attacks going on around the region. It's nothing Sinnoh can't handle, but it requires a lot of time from the Sinnoh leaders.

"Guess I'll see her then." Ash smiles warmly at May. The two have spent a lot of the time catching up, which is something he's missed. May never experienced the extent of Ash's depression, but she's glad to hear from him rather than the stories she's heard from the media about him. "Congrats, May."

"You better be there! And Misty too! You two are so cute together. I'm happy for you, Ash."

Chuckling, Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. His gaze shifts to across the yard where his eyes subconsciously land on the redhead. "I'm happy too, May."

"Soooo." May grins mischievously seeing Ash looking at Misty. "When did you finally realize your feelings for Misty?"

"Finally?"

May rolls her eyes. "C'mon, Ash. I know I'm dense, but even I could see it. You two have always had this intense unspoken love for each other."

With his blush intensifying, Ash just hopes to escape from this conversation already. "What are you talking about?"

"Your eyes always wander to Misty. I noticed it back then too when we used to travel together and we ran into her." Recalls the woman. "You two always had this bond that couldn't compare to any other. It was like you were in your own worlds even though we were all there."

"Uh. Sorry."

May waves at him. "That's nothing to apologize for." She reassures Ash. "I'm just pointing out that you have the largest smile when you're with her. And when you're not with her…" May nods at where Brock and Misty are talking. "You're constantly looking for her."

Following the gaze, Ash settles his eyes back on the redhead. As much as he wants to deny May's claims, he can't. When he was younger, he could always deny these claims, but he's older and more self aware now. May is right. Ash has always been happiest with Misty. So much that whenever they had to separate again, he'd hate it. It's the key reason he sucked at keeping in contact with her because it's always so painful saying goodbye to his friends, especially Misty. Although he never wants to separate from Misty again, he knows it's inevitable. This fake relationship will come to an end.

"Hey, Ash! Can we battle?" yells Max as he runs up to them. "I'm much stronger now, and I want a rematch!"

"Max, it's a birthday party." scolds May, though Ash is very relieved by this distraction.

"You two should battle." Lucy says when she walks past them. Annalise is currently with Barbara and Pikachu. "Annalise loves seeing how strong Pikachu is."

Nodding at Max, Ash stands up. "I've been training a lot lately, so I wanna see how I'll do against someone else." He's only battled Misty and Tina. He's battled mainly the same water Pokemon, but battling Max's diverse team will be interesting.

"Yes!" Let's go!" Max rushes off, leaving Vivi to sweatdrop at her boyfriend.

On the other side of the field, Brock is still interrogating Misty, trying to get her to spill whatever made Ash blush about this morning. "C'mon, Misty. Ash already told me, so I wanna know your feelings."

"No way, Brock. I buried those feelings."

"And they're back." Brock reminds the redhead.

"What do you want me to say? That I liked it? That I hope it leads to something more? We haven't talked about it at all, and we won't. He shouldn't have even told you." exasperates the woman who takes a sip from her water to hopefully cool her blush.

"Did you like it?" Mew. What is it?

Misty's blush deepens. "I'm not answering that."

"So you did."

"Brock!"

Chuckling, Brock pats Misty's back. He's missed teasing his friends, especially about their feelings they hide from each other. "Hey. Talk it out with me. Like practice. And then you can talk to Ash about it when you feel more comfortable."

"I don't wanna talk to Ash about it. It's better that we keep pretending it never happened."

"But it did, and that's all you both can think about."

Groaning, Misty runs a hand through her hair. "What'd he tell you?" Misty doesn't want to fully accept these feelings yet, but telling Brock will mean she does. Why did Ash tell Brock? Does he feel the same too?

"You know I'm not gonna betray Ash's trust like that." comes the knowing voice.

"Fine." Misty sighs in defeat. It's been weeks since New Years, and she gets more frustrated by Ash Ketchum every day. Taking in a deep breath, she meets Brock's expectant gaze. "Ash, we need to talk."

"About?" Brock plays dumb because that's exactly what Ash would do.

"About New Years."

He raises a curious eyebrow at her. "What about it?"

Frustrated because she knows this is exactly how Ash will play it, Misty hisses, "Stop playing dumb!"

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Misty?"

The redhead glares at him. "The kiss! We need to talk about it!"

"You kissed?" Brock breaks character to exclaim. Fortunately, no one is paying attention to them.

Misty pales. What has Brock been talking about all this time then? "Didn't Ash tell you?"

He shakes his head. "Ash said something happened, but he didn't tell me."

The shock now turns to anger as Misty hits Brock in the head with her mallet. "You lied to me, Brock? You conniving-"

"Don't kill him at his daughter's birthday party, Misty!" Drew grabs the redhead back. He was on his way to May when he passed Misty beating Brock with her mallet. Luckily, Annalise is by the incoming battle, so she didn't witness her father getting beat.

Because Drew doesn't know the marriage is fake, Misty keeps her mouth shut about her exact words she wants to scream at Brock. "I'm never telling you anything again unless you say it first." Drew is very confused about this comment, but he doesn't know Misty well enough to tease or question her.

When Misty walks off to the battle, Drew helps Brock up. Brock playfully yells at Misty, "I approve, Misty!"

"Approve of what?" inquires Drew.

Chuckling, Brock pats Drew on the back to lead him to the battle. "All of the relationships here. I approve of them all."

Ash narrowly loses to Max, which only fuels Ash's Pokemon even more. They're tired of losing. Thus, Ash promises to battle Max again the next time they meet. Annalise is still very proud of strong Pikachu. Everyone spends the rest of the party catching up, and luckily for Ash and Misty, their Hoenn friends aren't too skeptical of their relationship. May is too dense, Max has always seen the chemistry there, and Drew doesn't know Misty well enough to understand the dynamic between her and Ash.

After the party, Ash and Misty are helping clean up while Lucy moves Annalise's presents into her room in the house. They enjoyed seeing their old friends again, though everyone had to leave to make it back to their homes in time. Ash finishes sweeping, so he takes out the trash. On his way back, he spots Annalise and Pikachu sitting in the yard. Approaching them, he squats down to smile at the quiet girl. "Happy Birthday, Annalise." She was too busy today to be alone for Ash to say it. Now that she's finally alone, he can.

"Thank you, Mr. Ash." mutters the shy girl. Pikachu curiously watches his trainer.

Reaching into his pocket, Ash pulls out a yellow bandanna. "I wanted to get you a handkerchief, but I think this is more useful." It's a similar concept to what he wants. Ash had ventured out for a few minutes earlier in the party, though no one knew why. He hadn't had time to get Annalise a present, and he also didn't know what to get her. While Misty already had a present from the both of them, Ash wanted to get Annalise one after he got to know her. A gift he could pick out.

"Thank you." Annalise takes it from him, unsure of what to do with it.

Chuckling, Ash asks, "Can I tie it in your hair?" She nods, so he gently puts it in a high headband since that's all he knows how to do. "Your Mama Misty gave me a handkerchief when she had to stop traveling with me. I carry it everywhere I go." Ash feels his heart ache at the remembrance of losing Misty as his traveling partner. No one can ever compare to her.

"Can I see it?"

That innocent question makes Ash's cheeks heat up. He pulls out the gently folded handkerchief from one of his pockets, and Misty sees it. She's been watching the scene alongside Brock because they're both surprised that Ash is interacting with Annalise. Ash unfolds the cloth to show Annalise how worn it is, but it's still intact.

"This cloth makes me strong." Ash flexes with a small smile to make Annalise giggle.

Misty feels her heart race seeing those biceps in this sun. Not fair, Ash Ketchum. And the fact that he's showing off that handkerchief. And he really does carry it everywhere! He wasn't lying about that. Mew. Ash Ketchum continues to make her fall for him without even knowing it. It's torture and definitely unfair of him. How can he just go about his life not knowing what he's doing to her?

"I always feel protected when I have it, and I feel like Mama Misty is with me." Ash sighs thinking about that redhead nearby. Fortunately, he can't see her, else it'll make this very nervewrecking. "I got you a yellow one, like Pikachu, so you feel protected when we're gone. It'll help you scare away the monsters."

Annalise gently touches the pink handkerchief in Ash's hand. "Does this help you scare the monsters?"

He nods. "Mhm. Monsters don't like Mama Misty, so they stay away from me." Ash playfully chuckles thinking about how he knows Misty can scare away any one, including monsters. "Monsters don't like Pikachu either, so they'll stay away from you."

Reaching her hand up to the cloth in her hair, Annalise feels it. She already feels much stronger. Before Ash came, she was telling Pikachu about how happy she is on her birthday, and that she doesn't want Pikachu to leave. Now, she feels much better about Pikachu's departure. Thus, she tackles Ash in a tight hug. "Thank you, Mr. Ash. Can you come when I 5?"

Patting her back, Ash replies, "I'll be here for all of your birthdays."

"Pwomise?" she pulls away from the hug to stick out a little pinky.

Ash doesn't even hesitate to connect their pinkies. "I promise."

Yes, he didn't wanna be a godfather, but this is an exception. Annalise is sweet. Her godmother is Misty who Ash promised to help. Therefore, Ash has to be the godfather to Annalise. No. Regardless of Brock or Misty, Ash wants to be Annalise's godfather. This innocent child who has so much love to give shouldn't be abandoned by him. He already knows what it's like to be abandoned by a father, and despite not being Annalise's father, Ash is her godfather. He won't leave her. He doesn't want to. She gives him strength as much as he's been giving her.

"Call me, Ash."

"Daddy and mommy say to never call adults by their first name."

Ash laughs as he pulls away from the hug to pat her head. "But you have Aunt Barbara and Mama Misty." Also, all of Brock's family in Kanto.

"Mama Misty is my other mommy." That's what Annalise's parents basically explained to her. "Daddy says Mr. Ash is my other daddy."

"He did?" Ash figures Brock had told Annalise this throughout the years. She shyly nods. Taking in a deep breath, Ash's smile grows. "What do you wanna call me?"

"Are you my other daddy?"

"Yeah." His heart warms from the words. "Mama Misty and I are your other parents." He can overcome anything as long as it's with Misty.

"So can I call you Dada Ash?"

Feeling his eyes gloss over, Ash nods his head and wipes his eyes. "Yeah." He practically whispers. "I'm your Dada Ash."

That night, they're all camped out in the yard since it's Ash and Misty's last night before their flight in the morning. Brock wanted to do this for old times sake, so they're all sharing one large tent. Lucy and Annalise are joining, which means it's not exactly like it used to be, but it's close enough. Annalise has been telling everyone that Ash is her Dada Ash now, like Misty is her Mama Misty. Of course, this just makes Brock tease them more about their relationship, but he has yet to bring up this kiss again...until now.

Sitting next to Misty while Lucy is speaking to ASh and Annalise, Brock grins mischievously. Misty already knows what he's going to say. "No."

"C'mon, Misty. Tell me about that kiss. Since when have you kept secrets from me?" pouts Brock.

"Since Ash was involved again." She may have told Brock plenty of things about Ash throughout the years, but that was mainly about her heartache. No way will Misty disclose the details of that kiss she can't forget about.

"Because you still love him and you liked the kiss?" Misty did say that earlier.

Groaning, the redhead exasperates, "What do you want, Brock?"

Brock shrugs. "Why don't you two talk about it? It seems to be bothering both of you."

"Ash probably wishes it never happened. It's already awkward enough between us, so I don't wanna make it worse."

Brock eyes the man across the campfire who is laughing with Annalise. This whole situation is just like back then. Back when only Ash and Misty didn't notice their feelings for each other. Same thing, different year. Wouldn't these 30 year olds be able to figure each other out by now? "You won't know until you ask him."

"I don't wanna know." What if her assumption is correct? That'll make her feel even more embarrassed.

"I'm pretty sure you do."

"Why? Did you already ask Ash his opinion?" Would Brock please stop meddling already?

He waves his hands in front of his face defensively. "No! I just have a feeling you two need to talk about what you really want in this relationship."

"I wanna return to my normal life, and he wants to go back to traveling many regions. That will happen in a couple of months." They don't need to talk about it because they've shared their aspirations with others. Misty won't hold Ash back, especially after he's held himself back for so long. Moreover, despite all the fun they've had, Misty knows it's Ash's calling to be out traveling and training to be a Pokemon Master. She will always support him, even from afar, like she'd done for years.

"You don't really mean that." inquires Brock in disappointment. Why won't these stubborn adults tell each other how they feel? They're 30 now! They're not getting any younger!

Deciding that she's done with this conversation, Misty stands up. "It doesn't matter." She then walks over to Ash as Lucy is coming over to her.

However, seeing Misty's upset face while Brock is alone makes Lucy just sit by Brock. "What happened?"

Brock sighs while wrapping an arm around Lucy. "They're still in denial." Mew. This sucks, but there's only so much meddling he can do. Ash and Misty need to figure this out for themselves.

Across the fire, Misty sits beside Annalise, so that Annalise is between her and Ash. The redhead isn't in the mood to be next to Ash, though she'd rather be away from Brock right now. "Did you have fun today, baby?"

Annalise grins widely. "Yeah! It was so much fun!"

Giggling, Misty hugs Annalise. "I'm glad."

Looking between the quiet adults, Annalise tells Misty, "Dada Ash says he loves you. Do you love him too?" Annalise remembers her conversation with Ash last night.

Both adults blush profusely, and Ash quickly fumbles out his words, "I didn't say that exactly… uh. I said, um, Mew." He face palms while Pikachu laughs in Annalise's lap.

"You don't love Mama Misty?" Annalise's innocent question just makes them blush more. "Does Mama Misty love Dada Ash?"

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu falls over to roll on the ground in a laughing fit.

"I said we care about each other, Annalise." Ash manages to find the words in his throat.

Misty nods in agreement. That's most likely what happened, but Annalise misinterpreted it. "Yeah. We care a lot about each other."

"But mommy and daddy said people marry because they love each other?" Do her godparents not love each other, though they're married?

Who knew their faces could get any hotter? "Leesee, baby…" Misty mutters. "What else did Dada Ash tell you?"

Ash snaps his attention to the woman he's been trying to avoid looking at. "Hey!" That's not fair! "What did you and Brock talk about?"

Now, Misty meets his gaze with her own annoyed one. "I'm not the one telling Brock these things!" She's not making up things about love. She's not saying anything false, yet Ash is to a child.

Before Ash can counter, Annalise whimpers. She didn't want to make them argue. "I sorry."

Sighing, both adults calm down enough to soothe the girl. "Don't be sorry, baby. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled." Misty coos.

Ash shakes his head. "I'm sorry too, Annalise. I care a lot about you too, so I don't want you to cry or be scared."

"I don't like when you get mad." Annalise whispers.

"We're not mad." Ash tells her. "We argue, but we are never mad." It's another reason why Ash likes his relationship with Misty. No matter how much they argue, they always make up because they want each other in their lives. He lifts his head to look at the woman who is surprisingly already looking at him. Their eyes lock, and Ash quietly adds, "We can't be mad at each other."

"Because you love each other?"

Ash opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He's just gazing into those expectant blue orbs he loves. Misty too is mesmerized by his eyes. Hearing him say he cares about Annalise too, got Misty questioning who else he cares about. Is it really herself? He really told Annalise he cares about Misty? It just makes Misty's heart ache as her conversation with Brock comes back in her mind. Yes, Misty doesn't want this relationship with Ash to end, but she won't hold him back. Just when he's getting better and starting to be himself again, she won't keep him away from his dream. She can't do that to him because she loves him too much for it.

"We care about each other a lot." Misty answers for Ash after some silence. It's the same thing he had told Annalise yesterday, and it is the perfect response.

Ash is the first to tear his gaze away by standing up. He needs to get away from Misty right now before he says or does something he will regret. Plus, Annalise is here, so Ash definitely can't do anything stupid. Misty and Pikachu curiously watch him walk away, but Annalise gets their attention back. "When will you and Dada Ash come back?"

Inside the house, Ash is drinking some more water. Mew. Misty constantly makes his throat feel dry. "You gonna tell me about New Year's?"

Ash practically spits out his water as he gives the smirking man a shocked look. "HOw do you know about that?"

Brock steps towards Ash. "Misty told me."

"Why?" Ash can't fathom Misty wanting to even remember that. She didn't remember the first kiss, but that's because she was drunk. Nevertheless, her not bringing up the New Year's one must mean she wants to forget about it too. Right? Though why'd she tell Brock?

The older man shrugs. When he saw Ash and Misty blushing, and then Ash abruptly leave, Brock decided to check on Ash. "You tell me."

Ash doesn't want to have this conversation, though he's not quite ready to go back out there and see Misty. Running a hand through his hair, he exasperates, "I can't stop thinking about them, Brock. I told her I didn't want any kisses, but I keep letting her kiss me...and I don't hate it, but I don't know how I feel? I'm just so nervous, man."

"Wait." Brock curiously raises an eyebrow at Ash. "Kisses? As in you've kissed multiple times?"

"Shit." Ash whispers. "I meant kiss. Just one."

"You're not fooling me, Ash."

"Fine!" groans the young man. "She kissed me after Gary's wedding, but she was too drunk to remember."

"Any other times?" Brock is very interested in this development between his friends.

"Just New Year's. I don't know what it means, Brock. Why does she keep kissing me?"

"She said you kissed her at New Year's."

"Yeah, but she kissed me first...I think? Well, she kissed me first after Gary's wedding. I don't remember who kissed who first on New Year's." Ash is very frustrated with his relationship. There is so much grey area rather than the concrete black and white they had in the beginning.

"How do you feel about Misty?"

"We're just friends."

"Who have kissed twice." notes Brock.

Groaning, Ash drinks more water. "I don't ever wanna be in a real relationship again. We're gonna stay friends."

"Can you even guarantee that you won't kiss again?" Brock is disappointed hearing Ash's words. Has that one heartbreak really given him this much aversion in life? Fortunately, Misty has helped him overcome a lot, and hopefully she can help him overcome this one too.

"I'm gonna try. Friends don't kiss."

Brock takes the glass of water from Ash's hands. Any more, and Ash will be up all night in the bathroom. "Do us all a favor. Listen to your heart."

"What?" Ash reaches for his cup, but Brock holds it away from him.

"You didn't wanna leave your bedroom, but you did. You didn't wanna be a godfather, but you accepted it. You don't wanna be in a serious relationship, but you're kissing someone. Ash, you've overcome so much of your hesitations because of Misty."

"I know." The young man blushes again. "That's why I don't wanna ruin our friendship! I just got it back! She's helped me a lot, so I can't lose her again. We need to stay friends." He won't risk trying to pursue something more or just using Misty to get over his heartache. She doesn't deserve that.

"Ash-"

"No." Tired of others trying to meddle, especially Brock who knows about this lie, Ash tells him, "I've never chosen Misty, Brock. I can't choose her now that I have no one else. I can't do that to her."

"It's not like you didn't not choose her. You were just busy." Brock reassures his friend. Ash was always on journeys trying to be the best.

"I didn't choose her." Ash seriously says with his gaze on the ground. "I told my mom it'd be too awkward being Misty's friend while I was taken."

This is news to Brock. Is that why Misty quit visiting Pallet Town? "Why? You were still friends with everyone else." Even if Ash didn't see anyone else.

The raven haired man is very ashamed of himself right now. "I don't know. Maybe because Misty came around a lot." Or the fact that he hadn't seen Misty in so long he was scared of her reaction. Or was he more scared of his reaction? MIsty had always made him feel warm inside, and being taken, he shouldn't have these other feelings for another woman. His mother raised him better than that, so he made sure to cut off Misty specifically.

"But you haven't seen her since Alola."

"I'm not proud of it, Brock. I pushed her away, and she didn't deserve it, but I did it." Ash now meets Brock's gaze again. "That's why I can't use her for any longer than this fake marriage will last. I'm always using Misty and giving her nothing in return."

"Ash-"

"Can we stop talking about this?" Pleads Ash. He's already feeling pretty shitty recalling that day, and the fact that people keep pairing him with Misty.

Sighing, Brock reluctantly nods. "Let's get out there and sleep. You both have an early flight in the morning."

"Thanks for the hospitality, Brock." Ash extends a hand towards Brock. "I really missed you."

Instead of shaking the hand, Brock envelops Ash in a tight hug. "Don't let it be 5 years before I see you again."

Returning the hug, Ash smiles brightly with glossy eyes. "I won't." He did promise to come back for all of Annalise's birthdays.

The two pull away to wipe at their eyes, and soon, everyone is outside sleeping in the large tent. Annalise is cuddled with Pikachu between Ash and Misty. Although she is shy around them, she likes them. Knowing they'll be gone tomorrow, she's sleeping by them rather than her parents. Ash and Misty both appreciate Annalise between them because that forms a space, and it'll limit the likelihood they'll wake up in each other's arms again.

The next day, the Harrisons drop off Ash and Misty at the airport. Everyone says their goodbyes with promises of returning soon. They will see each other at the Hayden wedding this summer, which is a time Ash and Misty will still be married. Despite enjoying all the people he got to meet again, Ash is exhausted with the socializing, even if he didn't have to lie much because the Harrisons know the truth. Nevertheless, he's ready to return to his quiet life at the gym with Misty.

With Misty… Subconsciously looking her way as they walk through the airport terminals, Ash feels his heart pick up speed. After that conversation with Brock last night, Ash is curious what Misty said exactly about the kiss. Did she like it? Hate it? What does she think about him now? What does he really think about her? His face flushes while he's deep in thought, and Pikachu notices.

"Pikapi?"

"I'm fine." Ash takes in a deep breath. He doesn't even notice Misty stop until he practically runs into her. Like a few days ago, they're being escorted through the airport to avoid the mass of fans constantly giving them attention. "Mist-"

"I heard you two were in the area." comes a smug voice as Ash notices there is more airport security near them. The crowd thickens, making him more anxious.

"Just go on your way already, Melody." Misty sighs. She's not in the mood to deal with Melody, especially this early in the morning and in public.

Melody takes a step towards Misty. Looking up at Ash who is standing behind Misty, Melody studies the nervous man. She's close enough to whisper where only Ash and Misty will hear, "You're already a joke. Marrying him makes it more obvious." The selfish gym leader who only cares about herself rather than her region. Misty never leaves Cerulean City. And then she married the biggest failure from Kanto. What did people expect about a boy from Pallet Town? Did they really expect this small town boy to be a champion? Ash lived up to his potential by being a recluse, and Misty married him. It's perfect for the two.

Furious, Misty glares deeply into Melody's eyes. "Watch your tongue."

"Or else what?" challenges the brunette. They're both smiling, so the public thinks they're having a pleasant chat, which is anything but. "While I'm rising to be a top 10 singer, you're still stuck at the same thing you were doing when we were younger. You and you husband are never gonna amount to anything."

"Are you done yet?" Comes Misty's bored response, despite the irritation in her. If the public weren't here, Misty would have more choice words and may even strangle Melody. Who know? Okay. Maybe not harm Melody, but Misty would be more outspoken. Melody always plays dirty with the public because she knows it's the only place she won't lose.

"No." Melody looks up at Ash's glare, which does surprise the singer because she recalls Ash avoiding eye contact. Nevertheless, Melody won't back down. "If you care about Misty, you should leave her already. You're weighing her down."

"Stop it." Misty growls with a hand on Melody's wrist. She makes it seem like a friendly touch, though it's definitely not that. "Just go already."

Laughing, Melody waves a hand in front of her face. "You're always so boring, Misty. Always trying to save face and come off as this serious gym leader, but in reality, your life isn't what you wanted. You're bitter I'm living my life to the fullest while you're still stuck." Melody's eyes dart to Ash in amusement. "Though you did marry someone just as boring as you. I heard you don't go on dates."

"You seem to know a lot about me for someone who claims she doesn't care for me." notes Misty.

Melody pouts her lips. "Aw. I just feel so bad for you, Misty. You're always so alone, even now that you're married. You two don't even act like a couple." Melody notes how Ash and Misty were walking apart from each other and not even holding hands.

"We don't do PDA, and we don't need to explain ourselves to you." Misty grabs Ash's arm to walk off, but Melody stops her.

"Where are you going, Misty? It's been too long. Don't you wanna catch up?" Melody says this loudly for the public to even hear. Thus, if Misty walks off, she'll look like the bad guy. Misty's flight, which is the next flight to Kanto, doesn't leave for another hour, so she can totally make time for Melody. "Unless your husband is still too shy to interact with other people?" Melody's sympathetic voice makes her look good to the public, but Ash and Misty both know it's condescending.

The redhead fights the urge to furrow her brows and glare at Melody. Not with the public watching. While Misty is thinking of a snarky response appropriate for the public's ears, she feels an arm drape around her neck to lift her chin up and away from Melody. Confusion appears as her gaze is now on that of her husband's fierce brown eyes. He lowers his head towards hers, and the last thing she remembers before Ash's lips close in on hers is, "Sorry."


This chapter took me about the whole week to type. Updates will definitely be slower now. Like I said, I wanted to incorporate the whole Brock stuff in one go, so that's why it's so long. Wow. I'm really nice to y'all. There's been a kiss in the past three chapters, but I need new cliffhangers now haha. See ya!

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Prologue 3335 0 0 2. Chapter 1 3889 0 0 3. Chapter 2 5728 0 0 4. Chapter 3 6858 0 0 5. Chapter 4 7312 0 0 6. Chapter 5 8640 0 0 7. Chapter 6 9818 0 0 8. Chapter 7 19153 0 0 9. Chapter 8 16786 0 0 10. Chapter 9 13286 0 0 11. Chapter 10 15358 0 0 12. Chapter 11 19491 0 0 13. Chapter 12 16349 0 0 14. Chapter 13 11771 0 0 15. Chapter 14 20732 0 0 16. Chapter 15 (Part 1) 17389 0 0 17. Chapter 15 (Part 2) 11842 0 0 18. Chapter 16 16313 0 0 19. Chapter 17 14979 0 0 20. Chapter 18 14493 0 0 21. Chapter 19 13362 0 0 22. Chapter 20 19263 0 0 23. Chapter 21 19779 0 0