Single By 30 @shinygrowlithe12
Chapter 12

Hang tight. Some secrets will start unraveling bit by bit now that we've set everything up.

Also, I don't hate Melody. I just need a bitch in my stories and don't wanna create any OCs. There are too many amourshippers on here, so I can't make Serena the bitch. It's also out of her character. I like to think that Melody grew up, hit puberty, and became a mean girl lol. In reality, though, I like Melody. She really brought out a lot of Misty's obvious feelings for Ash. Melody really supported the ship in the second movie. Can't hate her for that.


Chapter 12

Pulling away, Ash fights falling into those blue pools he loves. He tears his gaze away from his wife to smile slightly at the stunned brunette. "Sorry, Melody. I just can't keep my hands off my wife." Ash then looks ahead to where his gate is and past all the cheering fans. "We were on our way to a coffee date if you wanna join?"

Blinking in confusion, Melody shakes her head to get back to reality. Is this really the same man from the dinner? Although she's heard on the news that he's going out more, she didn't think he'd be this forward. "Um. Let's catch up some other time. I know we're both busy right now." Melody sweetly mumbles, though she's just trying to get away from the scene now. She's out of things to counter Misty with due to Melody's flustered state. "Bye, guys."

With Melody walking off, Ash grabs Misty's hand to lead her towards their gate. There are still many fans following them while Misty is in a daze. Ash feels his ears heating up, especially from the sound of Pikachu's snickers. Mew. He was fed up with hearing Melody talking down on Misty about Misty's career, life, and choice in men. There's one thing he's able to change, so out of anger, he kissed Misty.

Feeling an intense squeeze in his hand, Ash knows his wife is back to her senses. He's in a lot of trouble. So much that by the time they grab coffee and are in their private waiting room, Misty hits him with her mallet. "What the fuck, Ash?" Ash opens his mouth to speak, but she won't let him. "You said we wouldn't kiss for show! What was that?"

"I-"

"Are you even thinking? Ever?" Misty growls as she runs a hand through her hair. Her pokenav has been buzzing since the incident, which she knows is from her sisters. "Of course not. You never think."

"Mis-"

"You said your rule is no kissing for show, but you just kissed me for show!" It's not just him breaking his rule. It's him breaking her heart. Are all of his kisses for show? Does it mean nothing to him when it means so much to her? Is the New Year's kiss nothing too? Obviously he doesn't know her feelings, but it's not fair. Every fake kiss he gives her crushes her heart.

Although he's slightly scared because he can't get a word in, seeing Misty shed a tear makes Ash quickly hug her. "I'm sorry, Misty. I won't do it again."

"It was your rule." She attempts to push him away, but Ash is pretty strong now.

"I know." Ash tightens his hold around her because he hates seeing her cry.

"Then why'd you fucking do it?"

Taking in a deep breath, Ash buries his face in her hair. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry isn't good enough." Sniffles the woman. "I need answers." She reluctantly cries into his chest. Since he's already breaking her heart, she may as well take in more of him.

"I know." Ash sighs. "I didn't like how Melody was talking down on you. It pisses me off."

"You didn't have to kiss me." Misty glares up into his apologetic brown eyes. "You didn't have to marry me either. You didn't have to do all of this, Ash!"

Why does he keep treating her like a damsel in distress? She's been fine without him, so she's still going to be fine. Moreover, she's the one who's been caring for him, yet he always thinks he needs to save the day. Instead, all he does is make everything worse for her. While Ash doesn't understand the effect of his actions on her, Misty's heart breaks more with every touch. Every word. Every look. It's not fair when he does things like this to break her even more.

"I'm s-"

"It's a permanent rule now." Misty frees herself from him, tired of his apologies. "No kissing for show ever. If you do it again, you have to tell me about your breakup."

"Misty-"

"Can you do it or not?" snaps the woman, causing Ash to furrow his brows.

This was his rule originally, but he's grown to not mind kissing Misty. Even though he kissed for show just now, he wouldn't have done it if he didn't want to. However, seeing those tears it's caused Misty hurts him, so he'll stop. "Okay. I won't kiss you for show anymore. I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing already." She wipes at her eyes. "Let's just move past this." Like they did with the other kiss. Like she does with her feelings.

Weeks later, Ash has lost to Misty in a few battles, though he's getting closer each time. The fake couple is back to their routine life. Much to everyone's relief, no affection has shown between them. All the kisses haven't been spoken of, so it almost feels like they never occurred. Despite avoiding the awkwardness, Ash and Misty both feel their hearts ache immensely from the distance. A distance they've consciously enforced on themselves since that airport kiss that was on the news for days. At least they got Melody to shut up for once.

After Ash closes the gym lobby for the day, he knocks on Misty's office door. She's finishing up with the papers she's on right now. Misty always has mountains of work, but she does her best to eat meals and hang out with Ash. With them avoiding any awkwardness, Misty has been working a lot more often since returning from Hoenn. Ash can't bring it in himself to pry her away from work because he doesn't know a good reason to. It's not like they can just freely hangout in the house, especially since he doesn't trust himself to not kiss her.

"Got any dinner requests?"

"No." she replies. Curt, like all of their conversations lately.

Taking in a deep breath, Ash shyly looks anywhere but at her. "We should go on a date."

"Why?" Misty doesn't even look up from her work.

Ash shrugs. "We haven't gone on one yet. I feel better." He also feels trapped in the gym. Add in the uncomfortableness with Misty, and Ash is suffocating. Some fresh air will do him good. "It's good for appearances."

"We don't need to do anything in public for a while." Misty notes. Ash's kiss at the airport will have the public convinced for many more weeks. Misty would rather avoid unnecessary fake PDA. It'll just hurt her more, and she's still trying to steel her heart in time for their divorce.

Disappointed, Ash isn't sure what to say. They haven't gone this long without a normal conversation since he first arrived at the gym. Back then, it'd be Misty prying words out of him. Right now, neither one wants to speak or hear from the other. If Ash had known kissing Misty would lead to this, he wouldn't have done it. Nevertheless, Melody's words just compelled him to. No matter how much apologizing he's done, Misty still won't talk to him like she used to. "Let me know if you want any help." Ash offers and starts to leave.

"There's something." Misty calls after him, stopping Ash. He curiously peeks his head back into the office as Misty lets out a long breath. "I have an errand. Can you run it?"

"What is it?" Although it isn't the date he asked for, it at least allows him to get out of the gym.

"I need to get Kingdra back from Vermillion City."

"Kingdra?"

She nods. "My Horsea evolved into a Kingdra. He's been in Vermillion City the past few years, but he's ready to come back to the gym now."

Ash now understands where she got a Kingdra from. How had he not noticed Horsea was missing? Most likely because Misty rarely used Horsea during their travels. "Why not have Kingdra come back through the PC?" Misty can get Kingdra back a lot sooner this way.

"Because you're restless." Notes the woman. She's noticed it a lot since returning from Hoenn. Ash is constantly looking outside. He goes into town more, and he ventures out further every week. Plus, getting Ash out of the gym will allow Misty to breathe for once. They've been inseparable for months now. That's a drastic life change from when she was alone for years. "Just go get him and do whatever you want."

Agreeing that he's restless, Ash replies, "Is he at the Pokemon Center?" It's been years since Ash was restless. While he's not nearly at the level as he once was, Ash knows getting out for a bit will help him. Every time he leaves the gym, he can be gone for longer and further away. Maybe he will be able to travel again after they divorce?

"He's at Cerise Park."

Ash freezes up. Misty doesn't notice because she's still doing paperwork, but Ash eventually comes back to his senses. "What?"

"Huh?" She thought he had left for dinner already.

"Where is Kingdra?"

"At Cerise Park. In Vermillion City. You know. That large dome with the lab."

"I know what Cerise Park is." Ash replies unamused. "I was Professor Cerise's first research assistant."

Now, Misty glances away from her paperwork to look at the anxious man. She had no idea he knew the professor that well, though she isn't surprised. This is Ash Ketchum. He's had many adventures and met many extraordinary people and Pokemon. Could Ash be nervous about reconnecting with people alone? All this time, Ash has met up with people when Misty was around for emotional support, so she could save him if things got uncomfortable.

"If you don't wanna go, I'll just have them send Kingdra over through the PC."

Ash quickly waves his hands. "No. I'll go. I haven't seen them in almost 10 years."

"Still better than 12 years."

He frowns from the reminder, but he deserves it. "I'll leave tomorrow and be back the next day."

"Stay as long as you want." Misty resumes working. "You and the professor must have a lot to catch up on. Maybe he'll ask for your help again?"

"If Goh and Chloe are there, I'll stick around. Else, I'll just have dinner with Professor Cerise and his wife and leave." There's not much for Ash to talk about with the professor.

"Suit yourself." Why does she want him gone longer and not at the same time? Misty constantly wants Ash beside her, but that's her heart talking. Due to her inner turmoil, she is uncomfortable with his presence. With Ash gone these next few days, Misty will use that time to guard her heart again. These feelings are slowly seeping out, and she needs to rebury them before she gets hurt. There's no point in confessing to a man who is still pining over his lover. Ash's ring in his Pallet Town sock drawer is confirmation enough to Misty that Ash will never see her the same way she sees him.

The next day, Misty doesn't bother to wake up Ash, but due to always waking up with her, Ash is awake by the time Misty finishes making breakfast. "Thanks." He mutters. Since he'll be leaving for Cerise Park today, Ash had Pikachu sleep in the house with him rather than the gym. The mouse has noticed the tension between the adults, but he chose not to meddle. It's unbearable, even for him.

"Are you sure you'll be alright on your own?" Misty doesn't want to come find him halfway through her day because he had a breakdown somewhere.

He nods. "Yeah. Charizard is fast. We'll avoid the media and be at Cerise Park by dinner time."

"Pipika!" Pikachu is excited to see old friends again. These past couple of months with Misty have been very exciting because Pikachu and Ash have reconnected with so many people.

Misty smiles warmly at the enthusiastic mouse. Loving Pikachu a lot, she's going to miss him so much when Ash leaves after the divorce. "Say hi to the Cerises for me, Pikachu."

"Pi!" Pikachu salutes her, and Ash feels his heart ache watching the interaction. Misty has always been the traveling partner closest to Pikachu. Ash enjoys Pikachu and Misty's interactions, but there's too much tension between Ash and her. It pains him, though he isn't sure what to do.

After breakfast, Misty washes her dish while Ash and Pikachu are still eating. She starts to leave the kitchen until Ash speaks up, "Are you gonna be okay alone?" She's been asking how he'll fare alone, but what if it's her who doesn't want to be alone? Has she been lonely all those years prior to their marriage?

"I can't wait to be alone." admits the woman, aching Ash's heart. "It'll be nice to have time to myself."

Gazing back at his food, Ash mutters, "Don't work too hard." Will Misty take breaks or will she work herself sick? Maybe Ash shouldn't leave?

"The gym is all I have. I need to work hard to keep it."

"You have me and Pikachu."

"Not until we divorce."

Ouch. "But I said I'll still visit."

Misty laughs in mock amusement. Whether it's the stress, the tension, or the fact that her heart and mind are constantly battling, she's tired. "You always say you'll visit, and you never do. Don't try to get my hopes up again, Ash."

"Pikachupi!" scolds the mouse.

"You know it's true, Pikachu. Don't cover for him." Misty crosses her arms over her chest to glare at the annoyed man.

"I've changed, Misty!" Ash exclaims. "Don't push me away!"

"Like how you continuously push me away?"

"I have nev-"

"It's awkward being friends with Misty when I'm in a relationship." growls the woman as her heart feels like it's tearing apart. "I was fucking there, Ash. I heard you over the videophone." Seeing Ash's face fall indicates to Misty that he too remembers that day.

Flashback

"Misty, dear! I'm so happy to see you!" Delia envelops the young woman in a tight hug. Misty visits every few months to see Delia, though sometimes, Misty has to stop by the lab.

"Hello, Delia!" This visit in particular is a request from Delia. Usually, Misty is the one dropping by whenever she can, but Delia specifically asked Misty to come over today.

While Misty hangs up her coat, Delia eagerly tells her, "I can't wait for you and Ash to meet again. It's been far too long." Delia knows well enough about how her son continuously neglects his friends. Being an aspiring Pokemon master constantly keeps him out and unaware of how much time has passed.

"I can't wait to see Ash too." Misty smiles. That's the reason she's here. The chance to see her best friend again. Her old crush. Okay. Her current crush who she's trying to get over because Ash is dating. "And Pikachu. It's been three years." Seeing Ash today will have him really fulfilling his promise. He will be getting better at visits rather than the 5 year separation from last time.

"Have you met his girlfriend, Serena Yvonne? They knew each other from when they were small children."

"I heard about her from Brock once. I don't know too much about her, but I'm pretty sure she's nice. Ash wouldn't date anyone with a bad heart." Misty giggles thinking about her friend who she misses. Her heart aches talking about him with another girl, but that's just how life is. Misty never expected anything more to come out of her and Ash's relationship, even if they made that stupid marriage pact years ago. It'll all go to naught since she'll be seeing him before they're 30, but that's how it's supposed to be. Misty would rather see Ash now than wait 12 years and fulfill a silly little pact.

"It's a shame Brock couldn't make it." Delia pouts. Brock is in Hoenn researching, though Misty knows he's also there dating. The day Brock manages to bring someone to meet Misty, then Misty will take his stories seriously. Apparently, he's dating a Frontier Brain, which Misty really finds farfetched.

When Delia walks towards the kitchen, Misty says, "I'm going to use the bathroom. It was a long trip."

"Sure, honey. Come keep me company when you're done." Misty is like a daughter to Delia. There was a time she hoped for Ash and Misty to date, but the two have shown to just be friends. And now Ash is dating Serena, who Delia also likes. Delia and Serena's mother are old friends. Everything is working out, and Delia couldn't be happier. Next step is for Ash to give her grandchildren.

After using the bathroom, Misty walks back down the hall, but she stops in front of Ash's door. Smiling as the old memories of sleepovers here flood her head, Misty curiously opens the door. She knows no one is here because Delia did say Misty is the first to arrive. Misty always arrives early to help Delia, and it's a habit. The young woman can't wait to see her friend and Poke pals again.

Gazing around the room, Misty notices that it looks exactly the same as all the times she's been here. It's like Ash only comes home for a few days and then leaves. The room has never changed, which brings an ache of nostalgia to her. Occasionally, she's spent the weekend in Pallet Town with Delia, so Misty would sleep in Ash's room. She's comforted by his scent, even if she's slept in his bed more than he has recently. Serena is a lucky woman to have Ash's heart, and Misty will always support Ash's happiness. She always has by burying her feelings. This is nothing new, despite it hurting the most now.

In the corner of the room, Misty walks up to the desk to look at many of Ash's photos from his travels. Misty knows of Serena due to Serena being the Kalos Queen, and Misty has seen pictures of Serena, like the one on the desk. Serena looks like a nice girl. Someone who will love and treat Ash the way he deserves. Misty turns her attention to a really old photo, which is of her, Ash, and Brock. She has the same photo at the gym, but it's not this dusty. Ash is never home, so she can't blame him for how dusty it is.

According to the internet, Ash has risen through the ranks of the world competition. Misty knows he'll reach the Monarch in no time because that's just who Ash Ketchum is. Give him a few years at most, and he'll be there. Moreover, she'll always be there for him. As his best friend and as someone who has a huge crush on him. Misty can only ever support Ash from afar by burying her own feelings for him, such as now with this dinner.

Taking in a deep breath, Misty gathers her emotions. She can cry about Ash later, even though she's told herself to stop doing that. Right now, she needs to show Ash and Serena how happy she is for them. She needs to show Ash how they're still going to remain best friends regardless of the changes in his life. Regardless of him being in a relationship. Misty would never ruin Ash's happiness, so the best thing she can be for him is his best friend.

"Honey, I don't understand." Delia's voice from the kitchen makes Misty stop in her tracks. Who is Delia talking to? "Ash, Misty is already here. We're both so excited to see you." Delia's disappointed tone worries Misty who now knows Delia is talking to Ash.

"Mom, I can't come okay? I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you some other time." Mew. That familiar voice sounds much deeper and more grown. Misty's heart beats faster while she wonders how Ash looks in person. How much taller is he compared to her now?

"Serena said you could come." Delia presses.

"I know." Ash sighs. "She said I can still come without her, but I don't know, mom. It just doesn't feel right."

"Why not? You're just seeing your mother. It's unfortunate that Serena had to be called in for duty, but you can still spare an evening with your mother." scolds the older woman. "I haven't seen you in months! Misty hasn't seen you in years!"

"That's the point!" exclaims the frustrated Ash. "Mom, I'm taken. I am happily in a relationship with Serena. Mew. I have never been this happy before, so I don't wanna screw up." He runs a hand through his hair, and Misty feels her heart breaking with every word from Ash. She expected him to be really in love with Serena, but hearing him say it hurts a lot. "It's awkward being friends with Misty when I'm in a relationship."

That's all Misty needs to hear to go back down the hall. She'll wait until Delia is off this call so that Delia doesn't know she was eavesdropping. Misty can't bear to listen to any more comments from Ash. How can he just throw her away like that? Just utterly disregard her because he's in a relationship? Another reason Misty had to leave is because she feels tears coming, which she will shed in the bathroom. It's not fair at all. Why has Ash always treated her as disposable?

Fine. If that's how Ash Ketchum views her, then she will respect that. She will treat him just the same. Misty was such a fool waiting for him and loving him. After this solo dinner with Delia, Misty won't involve herself with Ash anymore. No more visits to Pallet Town. No more waiting for Ash. No more thinking about that dense idiot who continues to break her heart. He wants nothing to do with her, and she doesn't deserve that treatment. Now that she knows Ash's real feelings towards her, Misty will completely cut him off too. It's what he wants, and, like always, she'll support it.

Flashback Over

"Pika chuuu." Pikachu sadly speaks with his ears flat. So that's what happened? Pikachu recalls Delia telling Ash a lot about how Misty stopped visiting, though Delia assumed Misty grew busy with the gym. Now, Pikachu is very disappointed in his trainer who hasn't said any objections, indicating that Misty's story is true. "Pikapi."

Rolling her eyes, Misty stands up from leaning against the wall. "Don't switch up on me, Ash. I know how you feel about me, and I know where I stand in your life. Don't force yourself to be my friend out of obligation." Just because she's helped him. Just because they've been getting along lately. Just because they've kissed a few times. This relationship is just contractual. They will never be friends again, so they both need to stop kidding each other.

"I didn't know you heard that." Ash recalls his mother saying Misty wasn't in the room.

"Does that even matter?" snaps the hurt woman. "You still felt it and said it. Don't ever apologize for your feelings." Misty looks at the clock to see she needs to open the gym now. "We can stop forcing ourselves to be friends. Have a safe trip."

When Misty is out of the kitchen, and Ash hears the door leading to the gym shut, Ash rests his head on the table to groan. Pikachu glares at his trainer. "Pikapi pikachu pikachupi pika?"

Why did he say that? Ash only said that about Misty all those years ago. He's seen May, Dawn, Iris, Chloe, and his Alolan friends without his ex around, and it was just fine. Ash wasn't uncomfortable around any of them, nor did he feel like they'd threaten his relationship. Mainly that was because May, Dawn, Mallow, Lillie, Lana, and Iris were in relationships. Chloe and Ash have never been close because she's much closer to Goh.

"Pikapi!" presses the angry mouse.

"I don't know!" Ash admits while clutching his hair. "I don't know why I said it." At the time, he just felt like he shouldn't be alone with Misty since he was taken. Something about how Misty was very close to his mother, and Ash didn't want Serena feeling like she didn't belong. Ash doesn't know. He just didn't feel comfortable anymore.

"Pika pikachu pi pika pikapi pikachu." They have a long flight, which Pikachu will use to pester Ash. He knew Ash was an idiot, but really? To say that and push Misty away from everyone? That was uncalled for.

After a couple of minutes mentally cursing himself, Ash takes his dishes to the sink. His lack of an appetite is gone now. All that he can think about is what Misty just disclosed, and why he even said those words. He doesn't feel like he wants Misty out of his life, so there must be a reason he said that all those years ago. What a dumb thing to say. Ash could just stay and talk this out with Misty, but talking seems to be making things worse. He'll give her the space she wants, and hopefully, it'll allow him to gather his thoughts to make up with her.

The trip to Cerise Park is smooth. Charizard avoided the media, though the media is over Ash and Misty's marriage at this point. Pikachu kept scolding Ash during the flight, which just irked Ash more. He already feels shitty about pushing Misty away. Pikachu is making it worse. Even if Ash can figure out why he spoke those words, he wouldn't tell Pikachu. It just sounds like an excuse at this point. Regardless of whether Misty heard him or not, he still believed that, at one point in his life, he didn't want her in it anymore. The fact that she still helped him after everything shows how kind of a heart Misty has always selflessly had.

Landing outside of the Cerise lab, Ash returns Charizard. He takes in a deep breath. It's been years since he's been here, so he isn't sure what to say or do. Plus, after this morning's conversation with Misty, Ash isn't in the best mood. Did Misty tell the Cerises that Ash would be here? Maybe he should've called ahead of time? No. They must know, else they would've sent Kingdra through the PC.

Before Ash can gather the courage to knock, he and Pikachu hear a familiar yap from behind the door. It is soon swung open as Pikachu leaps off his shoulder to greet the electric dog. Ash is met with the sight of two people his age looking at him. The man is smirking while the woman is smiling. "Hey, Ash!" She says.

"Took you long enough." comes the man's smug voice.

Ash shyly smiles at them. "Hey, Goh. Hey, Chloe." He's glad they're here. It's been years since he saw them last. Although Ash is still awkward around his past, he already feels a lot better just seeing old friends again. They could get his mind off of Misty, which he desperately needs right now.

"Come inside! My dad has a lot to talk to you about." Chloe ushers Ash inside as Pikachu leaps into her arms.

Goh claps Ash on the back. "How was the trip?"

"It was good." Ash awkwardly mumbles. He's always so surprised at how easily his old friends can speak to him. Despite how much time has passed, everyone acts like they just saw each other the day before. It makes Ash grateful to have such great friends.

"So the rumors are true." Goh knowingly remarks, causing Chloe to give him a sharp look.

"Goh!"

Goh ignores her, like he always does when Chloe tries to lecture him. "You changed." He feels Ash stiffen up as Pikachu worriedly looks at them. "You really don't talk much anymore." The Ash Goh remembers would talk nonstop. It was annoying yet this quiet Ash isn't who Goh wants.

"Leave him alone, Goh." Chloe scolds.

They soon reach the research room where Professor Cerise smiles at them. When Yamper was barking, that indicated to them that Ash must be here. Goh and Chloe went to greet him, so the Professor knows it's Ash walking in. Pikachu now jumps into Professor Cerise's arms. "Pika!"

"Hey, Pikachu." Professor Cerise chuckles. He then extends a hand out towards Ash. "Hello, Ash."

Ash shakes it. "Hello, Professor."

"Parker is still on a journey, but he wishes he could be here." Referring to her younger brother, Chloe informs Ash who nods.

"When we found out you were visiting, Chloe said we had to come see you." Goh notes, causing Chloe to blush in embarrassment. The woman comes off as indifferent, so she gets shy when others realize she has feelings towards them. With Ash, he's just a good friend of hers. They did travel together for some time.

"Oh. Um. Thanks. It's good to see you guys too." mutters Ash.

Goh rolls his eyes. "The news said you're a lot better now that you're married. I'd hate to see how you were like before."

"Goh!" Chloe isn't even surprised, but she still wishes Goh would shut up.

"Oh yes. Your marriage!" Professor Cerise chuckles. "I never knew you and Misty knew each other." Months ago, Ash and Misty were all over the news. That's when many people found out they used to travel together.

"We traveled around Kanto and Johto together."

"And the Orange Islands." Goh adds.

"Yeah." Ash uncomfortably replies. "Is Kingdra here?"

"He's at Cerise Park." Professor Cerise informs Ash. "Chloe, take Ash there to get Kingdra. I'll see you all at home for dinner."

"Sure, dad!" Chloe is eager to get on the move so that Goh stops saying things that shouldn't be spoken. "See you later!" She grabs Ash and Goh to drag them down the hall.

"I've caught a lot more Pokemon since you were last here, Ash!" Goh brags. "Even more legendaries too, but they come and go."

"Sorry about Goh, Ash." Chloe sweatdrops.

To Chloe's surprise, Ash smiles slightly. "No. It's fine." He knows how Goh is. The two did travel together for a few years before Ash quit the world competition. "I missed hearing him talk about his captures."

"You're the only one." Chloe giggles. She recalls Goh as the one always trying to catch Pokemon while Ash was always trying to battle. Knowing that Ash isn't the same as before, she is being careful around him. Something he hates, but he can't control it. That's also why Ash doesn't mind Goh's unfiltered words.

As Goh is still bragging about his many Pokemon, they enter the park. Ash does see it's filled with lots of Pokemon who are excited to greet Goh. Cinderace eagerly reconnects with Pikachu while Ash stares around the dome in awe. Goh caught so many Pokemon. "Are these all yours?"

Goh grins proudly. "Most of them. Chloe and Parker contribute too."

"You have such a big head!" Chloe crosses her arms.

"I'm surprised you haven't asked one of us to a battle yet, Ash." Goh notes.

Ash is still gazing around the dome. "Did you want a battle?" He's only challenged Msity a few times, though it's usually people who challenge him now. Ash isn't quite back to himself where he'd constantly ask people to battle him.

Goh and Chloe exchange defeated looks. The media was right about Ash being a recluse. A shut in who gave up on life. "You know catching Pokemon is more of my thing." Goh reminds Ash.

"And learning about them is mine." Chloe chimes in. Ash was always the battler.

"Okay. If you wanna battle me, just let me know."

"Isn't it usually you who wants the battle?" presses Goh as Ash shrugs.

"I'm still trying to get that passion back. It's coming slowly." He then heads over to the side of the pond. "Where's Kingdra?"

Sighing, Chloe follows along with Goh. "How long are you staying, Ash? It'll be dark after dinner, and your Pokemon must be tired from the flight."

"Charizard's had worse." The flight from Cerulean City to Vermillion City is nothing for Charizard. He could do the trip many times in one day.

"What Chloe is saying, Ash, is that you should spend the night. Let's catch up! It'll be like old times sake!" Goh smiles at Chloe. "We're in town for a few days anyway, so it'll be fun."

"Yeah, Ash. If you have time, we'd love to have you. My dad has been helping us conduct research on Mew."

"I will catch Mew!" Goh exclaims. He's ran into Mew a few times but failed to capture the Pokemon. Mew is the reason Goh is so passionate about catching all the Pokemon in the world.

Contemplating the offer, Ash peers down at Pikachu who meets his eyes. "What do you think?"

"Pika!" Pikachu nods. He's missed his poke pals here along with the people. Also, Misty does want Ash gone for a few days. She expressed it earlier today. Pikachu thinks that time apart will relieve enough tension for these stubborn adults to talk to each other.

"We'll stay a few days." Ash grins.

"Great!" Chloe claps her hands together. "You should let your Pokemon out to play and rest here. You can take them and Kingdra back when you leave."

Ash calls out his Charizard, Sceptile, Noivern, and Lucario. Lucario and Cinderace are happy to see each other again since they grew a lot together years ago. Ash left Totodile with Misty because he needs an open space for Kingdra. "This is Cerise Park, guys. We'll be here a couple of days, so enjoy yourselves."

"Whoa!" Goh jumps in surprise at all of the Pokemon. "A Charizard! Sceptile! And Noivern! Wow, Ash!" Not trying to be around this energy, the cool Sceptile leaps into the trees for a nap. Charizard too flies off, away from Goh. Noivern enjoys the attention from Goh while Ash and everyone else sweatdrop.

With Goh admiring Ash's Pokemon, Chloe decides to catch up more with Ash. "How come Misty didn't come?"

The raven haired man feels his chest tighten. He was doing so well ignoring Misty. "She's busy with the gym."

"Dad said he would've sent Kingdra through the PC, but Misty said you'd pick him up. I thought she'd want to come too. Don't you guys go everywhere together?" Chloe recalls the news talking about Ash's trip to Hoenn with Misty.

"This is my first time alone since we went public. We want to see how I can handle it."

"I think you're doing good." Chloe reassures him. "I've never met Misty, but dad says she's nice and strong. She's one of the best gym leaders in the world. I never knew you traveled with her."

There is a pause while Ash reflects on Chloe's words. Although he's on not the best terms with Misty right now, he can't help but say, "She wasn't always like that. I was way stronger than her when we were younger."

"Well, duh. People don't start out as the best. They work hard for it."

Chuckling, Ash gazes up at the clear dome sky. "She's worked very hard for it." He hopes Misty is taking breaks. She works too hard that Ash doesn't like leaving her alone. He did instruct Totodile to check on her for him.

Chloe's face relaxes seeing Ash's care towards Misty. Even though the marriage was unexpected, Chloe can tell that the love is there. It's the reason the media has stopped questioning Ash and Misty's marriage. "Let's get dinner, guys. Mom is excited to see you again, Ash."

At dinner, everyone has a chance to catch up. Ash learns that Parker and Jinny are in Sinnoh where Jinny is a coordinator. Parker is doing research on Sinnoh Pokemon. Apparently, Parker and Jinny like each other but they have yet to confess. Talia is overjoyed knowing they're traveling together. Chloe just wants them to start dating already because all of the tension can be felt by everyone.

"I'm sure you'll see them next time." Professor Cerise smiles. "They're always here in the summer."

Ash nods. "I'll be sure to stop by."

"Bring Misty next time too." Talia notes.

"Uh yeah." mutters Ash.

Chloe worriedly eyes Ash, but she won't question him. "We should go on a double date next time." While Chloe likes to keep to herself, she wants to hang out with Ash more. During these past few years of knowing he was hiding in Pallet Town, Chloe felt like, if they were closer, she'd be able to help him. Maybe he wouldn't have been depressed for three years?

"What?" Ash looks at Goh and Chloe in surprise. "Double date?"

The couple shyly nods, and Talia eagerly replies, "I've always known they'd be together. Right, dear? These two were always together, and they care about each other a lot!"

Chuckling, Professor Cerise's gaze softens on his daughter. "I still don't like knowing my little girl is growing up, but I am glad it's with Goh."

"When?" Ash repeats now that he's comprehended more.

Goh counters, "When did you get married? When did you even start dating Misty?"

This and that are different. Ash and Misty's relationship is fake, but these people don't know that. Paling, he mumbles, "I asked you first."

Sighing, Chloe cuts in, "We started dating after you stopped traveling with us. I guess the alone time made us realize how much we like each other."

"Chloe confessed her love to me first." Goh boasts, earning him a kick in the leg from his girlfriend.

"Wow." Ash smiles warmly at them. "I'm happy for you guys." His heart aches because these are just even more of his friends moving on in life. While Ash is still trying to get back to who he used to be, he's nowhere near anyone else. Misty tells him not to compare himself, but that's hard. Maybe it's the reason he likes being with Misty too? That fact that they both aren't advancing, and they did enjoy each other's company. This makes Ash want to grow and push Misty too.

"Thanks, Ash." Chloe returns the smile. "Bring Misty by some time!" Seeing Ash's smile fall confirms Chloe's suspicions. Did Ash and Misty argue?

"Yeah." The Pallet Town native gazes back down at his food, reminding Chloe that he's been looking absentminded all evening.

"Is everything okay, Ash?" She asks.

Faking a smile, he nods. "Yeah. I'm just tired from the trip." And the socializing. Usually, Misty would do the talking for him. Misty. He can't stop thinking about her, especially that pained expression this morning. Feeling like such an idiot, Ash internally groans. How could he treat Misty like that? And then he just left without trying to make up with her. Although he isn't sure how to talk to her, he feels like he shouldn't have left. What if this time apart just makes her hate him more? Makes them realize that they really aren't friends anymore?

That fake smile isn't fooling anyone, so Talia pushes her chair away from the table. "I can show you to your bedroom, Ash."

"Uh. Thanks." He's glad he left Pikachu at the lab, else Pikachu would scold him more. Ash tells the others that he'll come hang out later, but he'll take a break for now. Of course, this worries them because the Ash they remember never took breaks.

At the guest bedroom door, Talia opens it and motions inside. "You can stay here as long as you like." Nodding, Ash steps inside. Before Talia can close the door on him, she says, "All couples argue, Ash. Just like when you'd lose battles, they made you stronger. Every argument strengthens your relationship." Her smile grows when Ash raises his head to meet her eyes. "As someone who's been married for decades, trust me when I say, never go to sleep without letting the other person know you care about them. You have a right to be mad, but your relationship shouldn't just be that. Make sure you call Misty and let her know how you feel, okay?" Talia then closes the door without a response from Ash.

Blinking at the door in confusion, though he knows what Talia was saying, Ash lays on the bed. Fortunately, no one has asked for details about this fake marriage yet. Ash knows he can't lie with the state he's in right now. They'd see right through him, especially the observant Goh. This is a fake marriage, so Ash doesn't need to call Misty, like Talia suggests. They're not in love, nor are they even friends. Ash is supposed to spend these days away because Misty is tired of him.

However, he doesn't feel the same way, and he sure as much doesn't feel like he did when he cut her out of his life a decade ago. Why can't he remember the reason he did that? Ash has never felt like Misty was a nuisance. Mainly because he was rarely home and never kept in contact with her. Thus, what made him say those words to his mother? He doubts it was from his ex being insecure. She wouldn't force him away from any of his friends, and she was very secure about their relationship...at first…

Groaning, Ash pulls out his pokenav to see he still has no messages. Nothing from Misty, indicating that she doesn't care. That she's still mad, and she has every right to be. Seeing the dark sky out the window, Ash lets out a long breath. Regardless of this fake marriage, Talia is correct when she says people shouldn't go to sleep without knowing they care about each other. Misty has every right to be mad at him, but he has every right to let her know he still wants her friendship. That he still wants her in his life. He made a stupid mistake in the past, which he has learned from.

With his thumb hovering over Misty's contact, Ash shakes his head. This is so nerveracking! Would she even pick up? It's way past dinner time, so usually, Misty would be working in the office. Prior to Hoenn, Misty and Ash would hang out after dinner. Whether that was doing chores, training, or genuinely partaking in a recreational activity, they were always together. Since Hoenn, they rarely spend time together due to the amount of tension between them. It's like they're both avoiding the other, and Ash hates it. Clenching his fists, he decides he won't call her. She'll just yell at him or something again, which he wants to avoid because that'll just make things worse between them.

"Hello?" comes the slightly faint familiar voice. Ash opens his eyes to cautiously look around the room. Who said that? "Hello? Ash?"

Following the voice, Ash gazes down at his hand and pales. No. Did he accidentally call Misty while he was deep in thought? Oh no. He is not ready for this! Nevertheless, hearing Misty's annoyed voice calling his name again causes Ash to weakly respond. He knows that if he doesn't, then she'll be more mad at him for calling and not speaking. Although, he could always blame it on a butt dial. Too late for that now. "Yeah?"

Misty rolls her eyes. "You called me. What is it?" Mew. To think, she was worrying about him, like something had happened during his trip. That's the only reason she picked up and stayed on the line, even after he didn't respond the first few times. Hearing that he's indeed okay, Misty is not amused. She told him this morning that she wants time away from him, so he shouldn't be calling for no reason.

"Um." Ash's mind is blank. He hadn't thought this far. Well, he wasn't planning on calling at all. "Can I ask my question?" Yes. Good save, Ash!

They haven't asked their questions in weeks because they've been avoiding each other. Plus, it's not like there's anything the other is eager to ask. While they both have many questions for the other, they don't want to ask them out of respect and fear for what the answer could be. With the current situation between them, it's not safe at all. "What is it?" Misty returns her attention to her computer screen. Because Ash is gone, she's getting a lot of work done, but she is pretty lonely. It's different compared to before the marriage. Having him around for so long makes her mind wander a lot today. She won't let him know that.

Okay. Now, Ash is stuck. He hasn't thought of a question. "Um." C'mon, Ash! "How was your day?" Idiot!

Skeptical by his question, Misty inquires, "Why?" That's not a question they usually ask each other.

Well, Ash is in too deep now, so he shrugs. "Just curious. It's the first time we haven't spent a day together since we got married."

He's right about that, but Misty refuses to let him know that she's lonely. "It was fine. How was your day?"

"Is that your question?"

"Sure." She doesn't have one for him. Misty figured they stopped with their questions like how they stopped with their interactions. Their Friday movie nights are not what they used to be anymore either. The two just put on a movie and mind their own business.

Biting his bottom lip, Ash contemplates an answer. Again, he wasn't ready for a conversation with Misty. As prideful as he is, he wants to tell her he's fine too. That he has been having fun without her. That she hasn't crossed his mind at all. That Talia made him call Misty. However, Ash knows these are all lies he can't bring himself to tell, mainly because he has a feeling that if he said any of them, that'd be it for him and Misty. Ash isn't a ten year old kid anymore, so he's learned when to swallow his pride.

"You know, even though I saw my friends again and we were catching up, I just couldn't feel happy." admits the man. There's silence on the other end, so he continues, "I can't enjoy myself knowing you're mad at me."

"I'm not mad at you." Being mad over a comment he made a decade ago is not worth Misty's energy. She's gotten over it, but she just wanted to remind Ash that they're not friends. That this relationship means nothing to him, so he can stop with the lies. She's already accepted that he'll be gone again, so she needs him to do the same instead of making these stupid promises.

"But this morning-"

"Look, Ash." Sighs Misty. "I'm not mad, okay? I've had nearly 2 decades to learn where I stand in your life, and I'm fine just being acquaintances. We don't need to force a friendship. That ended when we stopped traveling together." The two times they've parted has shown that their relationship has never meant to be anything more when they're not together.

"No!" Ash exclaims, surprising Misty. "I know you don't believe me, and you have every reason not to, Misty. But don't count my feelings out like that."

"You have shown me twice now that our friendship is just convenient."

"Then I'm an idiot! You're right, Mist. I'm the biggest dumbass you know. I'm such a dumbass that I'm gonna keep trying to be your friend, even if you don't believe me." Ash knows he doesn't want this woman out of his life. He's made that mistake twice already, so he won't do it again.

"Like you said, I have no reason to believe you." Misty reiterates, unfazed by his outburst. "If you're calling to try and convince me otherwise, don't waste your breath. I'm busy, so bye."

"Wait!" He can't let her go like this. That's not the reason he called, but why won't the words form in his mouth? Why can't he just tell her?

"Hurry up already." Mew, Misty is tired of him already. This was such a waste of time. They already argued about this this morning, and she'd rather not be reminded of that.

Taking in a deep breath, Ash reaches into his pocket to pull out an old worn pink cloth. Even when he was in a relationship, he still carried this cloth everywhere. Misty has always been his biggest supporter. She's always the one who can reach him best by telling him like it is. That's why Ash likes being with her because she doesn't treat him like a piece of glass.

"This is my first night without you since we started living together." He nervously chuckles. "I don't know? It just feels weird without you."

Trying to ignore the ache in her heart, Misty coldly replies, "You've been too dependent on me. You'll get right back to ignoring me after some time apart." That's how it always is. The days after they hang out, Ash is good at communication. Weeks later, Misty goes back to not hearing from him. She's used to it.

"Misty-"

"Ash, this is a fake marriage. A fake relationship. We've attempted being real friends, and it hasn't worked out twice now. Let's stop kidding each other."

He won't let it be like this. There's a reason he carries her handkerchief everywhere. "I know you don't believe me, and I won't try to make you, but can you at least listen to me?"

"I don't want to." It'll make her want to believe him, which will make her let him in again. She can't allow that when she knows fully well that he won't be here this time next year.

"I'll make it quick then." Ash tells her. "I don't care about how we reconnected. I said something stupid, like I always do, but I don't regret it. I appreciate everything you've done for me, Misty, and I…" Sighs. "I wish you were here."

"I'm glad you're not here. Good night, Ash." She hangs up before he can't respond because her heart is racing. If she listened to him any longer or stayed on the line, Misty knows her heart would win this battle. As much as she wants to believe Ash. To let him back into her life. To let herself freely enjoy his company again. She needs to protect her heart in the long run. These next few months are going to be painful, but afterwards, she'll be thanking herself for holding back now.

Slightly peeved, Ash glares at Misty's contact. Why is she being so stubborn? They're both extremely stubborn, but he was putting his heart out here, and she's just shooting him down. Calls aren't going to work. They need to talk in person, but will that even work? This morning, he just froze up. Although Ash knows he doesn't deserve Misty due to his words years ago, he wants to be selfish again. These past few years, his life felt like it was all going wrong. The first thing he felt went right was marrying Misty, and then so many other aspects of his life were turning up too. Ash can't just let her go again. He can't lose her for good this time.

They're too old for childish games and forgiveness. Ash knows that if they lose connection again, it'll be the end. They barely made up this time, which was largely because Misty would force him to make this work. Now, it's on Ash to maintain their relationship. A call right now will just piss off Misty, so Ash sends her a text. Hopefully, she'll learn to believe in him again, though he knows he needs to earn that trust from her.

Back in Cerulean City, Misty's pokenav buzzes. Glad that it buzzes once, indicating that it's just a text, she continues working. That means Ash hasn't called back. Even if he did, she'd ignore it. Talking to him any more than she already has will just make things worse for her. If she lets him back in, there's no turning back. She'll just look like a fool. Thus, she needs to keep Ash a good distance away from her until they get a divorce.

Hours later, Misty tiredly calls it a day. Why does it feel like she can never even get a dent in her work? When she lays in bed, she checks her pokenav for any messages. There are a few from her email, which she's seen while working on the computer. Having only one text, Misty opens her messages and frowns. Why won't he just leave her alone? He's just as stubborn as her. Stubborn enough to not let her go.

I wish you were here. Good night, Mist.

That annoying man. Misty quickly closes her pokenav because looking at that text any longer will make her want to call him. Want to let him back into her heart. Want him. "Fuck you, Ash." She wishes he was here too.

The next few days go by with Misty just working. Totodile tries to distract her, which she assumes is Ash's doing. Occasionally, she'll allow herself to take breaks just because Ash went through the effort to get Totodile to bother her. Besides, taking breaks to hang out with the Pokemon are always her favorites. Without Ash, Misty feels more at ease, like she isn't on guard to avoid him. It's really helping her relax more, though she does miss his presence.

In Vermillion City, Ash has spoken over the videophone with Parker and Jinny. Ash has helped Goh and Chloe go around the city searching for Mew. Apparently, Mew likes to be at the Vermillion City docks. It's a very crowded city, helping Ash overcome more of his fear of the public. Goh and Chloe keep a close eye on him. Their adventures are similar to when they used to travel together, minus Team Rocket and having to save the day. Ash even had a meal with Goh's family. They trio just enjoy each other's company. It causes Ash to want to travel again soon. Venture further than a few miles away. He's sure that by the time he gets divorced, he'll be ready to travel again.

Furthermore, Ash has also told the Cerises and Goh about his marriage to Misty by saying the same lies he's been telling everyone. It really is easier to lie after all of this time. Although he is still upset about Misty ignoring him, he texts her every night. Of course, he still doesn't get a response, but he knows she reads them, and she hasn't told him to stop. Despite wanting to travel again, Ash will visit Misty often. It's a promise he's made to himself more than to her.

"Pst. Ash!"

Being accustomed to waking up early, Ash easily hears the whisper. It's a deeper voice than the one he's pining to hear, though he still opens his tired eyes to look at his cracked door. "Hm?"

Peeking his head inside, the tan man hisses, "Can you come with me?"

Yawning, Ash sits up. Pikachu has been spending nights at the park along with the other Pokemon, leaving Ash alone in the house. "Sure." Going on adventures with Goh and Chloe help distract Ash from the redhead constantly on his mind. Goh walks inside and shuts the door as Ash changes into new clothes. "Where are we going today?"

"Around town."

"I know that." Ash isn't amused with the obvious response. "Where's Chloe?" Shouldn't Goh be waiting with her?

"It's just us."

Putting on his jacket, Ash curiously faces Goh. "Why? Is she busy?"

"Um. Yeah." Goh is glad Ash is still too dense to notice anything. "C'mon, let's go! Be quiet so we don't wake anyone up!"

It is now that Ash sees the time is very early. Even the professor doesn't get up this early. "It's 5AM?" He exclaims, causing Goh to cover his mouth.

"Shh! I'll explain later, but just shut up and follow me!"

All this time away from Misty has really been messing with Ash's sleep. Once outside and a few blocks from the house, Ash once again asks, "Where are we going? And why so early?" The sun is barely up.

"I need you to cover for me." Goh tells the confused man.

"Okay? Shouldn't we get some Pokemon from the lab?"

"Beat you to it." One can never be too safe without Pokemon. Goh hands a pokeball to Ash. "It would be too obvious if I brought Pikachu and Cinderace." Those two like being out of their pokeballs.

Ash notices he has Noivern's pokeball, which he assumes is because Noivern is the only one who would listen to Goh. "You haven't answered any of my questions."

Goh brought his Inteleon. "We're going to someone my grandmother knows, but you're the only one who knows this."

"Why?"

Sighing, Goh looks around to make sure they're alone. He then grabs Ash's collar to bring Ash's ear towards his mouth. "She's making me a ring."

Still confused, Ash says, "Huh?"

Mew. Leave it to Goh to be friends with the most oblivious person on the planet. "I'm gonna propose to Chloe!"

"Ohhh." Ash nods now. "When?"

"Whenever the ring is ready." Goh facepalms. It's too early to try and talk to Ash. "The lady isn't awake right now, but it's the only way I can get away from Chloe. We need to kill time for a couple hours." Chloe and Goh are always together, so if he were to go to the mall, she'd have an idea that he's getting a ring. Also, Goh feels like Chloe is too special to get a largely manufactured ring. She deserves a ring just for her, and Goh's grandmother happens to know a jeweler in town.

Unfortunately for Goh, Chloe is very smart. He's snuck off a few times and even told some lies to get away and meet the jeweler. Chloe has questioned him at times, though he's managed to avoid giving anything away. Every time he tries to see the jeweler, it gets more difficult to slip away. Goh figures leaving while Chloe is asleep is best. He just had to fall in love with the smartest woman in the world.

"Is anything open right now?" inquires Ash.

"Some cafes."

"Any breakfast places?"

Goh stops in his tracks to give Ash a surprised look. "Are you hungry?"

"A little." admits the man.

"Wow." The past few days, Ash hasn't expressed the appetite he once had. Goh figures it is due to his past depression, so hearing him have any sort of an appetite makes Goh relieved. "I can't take you to my favorite place because Chloe might find us there. But I know a less known place with good food."

"I'm fine as long as I eat." chuckles Ash, which amazes even him. Where did this appetite come from?

After the diner, the two are walking through town when Goh's pokenav goes off. "It's Chloe." He doesn't even have to look at it to know who it is.

"Are you gonna pick up?" Ash watches Goh continue to let the pokenav ring.

"She can always tell when I'm lying. I'd rather not pick up at all." Else, he'll be on the call for hours.

"But she'll question you later."

"I'll deal with it then. You'll help me, right? I need you to cover for me, Ash."

Before Ash can respond, his own pokenav rings. Hopeful that it might be Misty, Ash quickly grabs it and frowns. "Chloe."

"She knows we're together." concludes Goh. "Pick up."

"What? Why me?" panics Ash.

"She's not gonna question you too much! And she won't be able to tell if you're lying over a call!"

"I'm not lying to Chloe!" Goh takes the pokenav from Ash to answer it and put it on speaker. Tossing it to Ash earns Goh a deep glare from Ash.

"Ash?"

Mew. Goh owes him big time. "Hey, Chloe. What's up?"

"Are you with Goh?" comes the curious voice.

Meeting the eyes of his friend, Ash raises his eyebrows. How should he respond? Goh nods, so Ash replies, "Yeah."

"Can I talk to him?"

Goh shakes his head, so Ash says, "Uh. He's busy right now."

Sighing in annoyance, Chloe asks, "Where are you guys? Why'd you leave without me?"

"Um. We're just, uh." This is so hard when he hasn't planned a lie. "I have some things to do here, and I asked Goh for help. We didn't want to wake you."

"I can meet you now." Next time, they should just wake her. However, she isn't buying this from Ash. Chloe has noticed that Goh slips away for hours at a time whenever they're in Vermillion City. Every time they're home, he's gone even longer each time.

Seeing Goh furiously shake his head makes Ash exclaim in too high pitched of a voice, "No!"

"Huh?"

"Um. No. I also just want some guy time with Goh. You know. Since we used to travel with just the two of us. We'll see you later, Chloe." Ash really hopes he hasn't hurt Chloe's feelings.

Skeptical of the response, she wonders, "Are you lying to me, Ash?"

"No. I would never!" Ash can feel himself sweating a lot.

Reluctantly letting out a breath, Chloe says, "Fine. I want a detailed report of your day later. I'll question you both separately."

"Okay." Ash weakly agrees. After hanging up, he shouts, "What are we going to do now?"

"Calm down, Ash." Goh knows he has it worse than Ash does. Chloe tiptoes around Ash, so he'll get off easy. "We'll be telling the truth most of the day. We went to a diner, and now we're going to this in home pokemart I know. We only need to lie when at the jeweler."

"And what are we gonna say?" Ash follows his friend who has started walking again. It took weeks for him to perfect his lie with Misty. He had to let her do all the lying at first. Right now, Ash only has a few hours to come up with a lie with Goh.

"Let me think of it, Ash." Goh reassures his panicky friend. "Just tell the truth for most of the day. It won't be too hard."

It shouldn't be too hard. With the extensive lie he's had to come up with covering for two years, Ash should be able to handle a lie covering him for an hour. "Fine. Is this home pokemart legal?"

"I don't do anything illegal." Goh rolls his eyes. "It's mostly herbal stuff. It's cheaper than the pokemart, but it's really bitter. The Pokemon hate it."

"Then why are we going there?" Ash figures Goh can afford the better tasting pokemart goods.

"Because Chloe doesn't know where it is." Chloe goes to the standard pokemart or the mall. She won't feed her Pokemon anything bitter.

"I don't think I'll buy anything." Ash doesn't want his Pokemon eating very bitter medicine.

"Just buy the lava cookies. They're like full heals. The Pokemon like them."

"Okay, but I don't wanna be walking randomly all morning." There has to be somewhere they can just relax at. Ash understands going to Goh's house is too risky. These past few days, Goh has been staying at the Cerise's just to be near Chloe. His parents are on a business trip, but he's used to them always working. They'll be back tomorrow, and they invited Ash and Chloe to dinner.

"Chloe and I grew up here." Goh sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "So we both know the same places and more. I'm not sure where we can hide."

"Let's nap at the Pokemon Center." Suggests Ash. Napping is better than aimlessly walking around town trying to hide from Chloe. Ash hasn't napped in a long time. A part of him has been scared to nap. Like he fears it'll cause him to nap more and turn him back into a bed dependent person.

"Nurse Joy won't lie to Chloe." Nurse Joy wouldn't lie at all. Plus, Goh won't make Nurse Joy lie for him.

"Hotel."

"Everyone here knows the Cerises, Ash. They're not gonna lie to Chloe."

"The woods? It was your idea to get me to come with you, Goh. How are we going to kill time?"

Checking his pokenav to see some very threatening texts from Chloe, Goh replies, "After the pokemart, we can go check out a contest. It should be open by the time we get there, so we can see the morning contest."

"I only watch contests if my friends are competing." Ash hasn't watched a contest since Kalos. Mew. That ache in his chest, though it hurts less as time goes on. Time really does heal all wounds.

"Exactly! Chloe won't think to find us there!" Goh is only interested in capturing Pokemon. Ash is a battler. There's no way Chloe will look at the contest hall.

"I'll be taking a nap there." Ash notes as they round the corner.

"Thanks, Ash!"

After buying lava cookies from the inhome pokemart, Ash feeds on to Noivern who loves it. This makes Ash run back inside to buy more. They're cheap, so he wants to make sure he gets enough for Misty's Pokemon too. As Ash and Goh walk towards the contest hall, Ash asks, "What makes you wanna marry Chloe?"

Ash isn't close enough to ask Drew why he proposed. Gary proposed because Leaf got pregnant, though Ash knows Gary loves Leaf too. Brock expressed his reason for marriage years ago, but now that Ash is recovering from his depression, Ash needs a reminder. A current one rather than one that is years old. His marriage to Misty is fake too. Thus, Goh is the only one Ash knows who is getting married solely out of love.

Blushing slightly, Goh keeps his attention ahead of him. There are more people out now that it's a normal hour. "I like her."

"You love her." Ash has heard the two express their love once or twice already. He is their third wheel.

"Yeah. That's enough reason to get married, right?" He peers at Ash from over his shoulder. "Isn't that why you married Misty?"

"Uh. Yeah." Ash uncomfortably gazes at the ground. "But it's more than that, right? Because you've loved Chloe for some time, but you didn't decide to propose until recently. What made you want to take the next step?"

Why is Ash asking this? Ash was the one who proposed to two different women in the past three years. "It's not fair that you're prying into my life. I'll only answer that question if you do too." Goh is curious about Ash's mysterious marriage. Ash went from a public long time relationship with Serena to the world immediately finding out he's married to Misty. Not much has been publicized about his marriage, so Goh has many questions.

"Fine." Ash groans. What's a good reason to tell Goh? "You go first."

"No way. You want something from me, so you go first."

Dang it. Ash was hoping to draw inspiration from Goh's response. "I don't know." Shrugs the older man. "The moment just felt right. It's all I could think about." That isn't a lie. He felt like it's all he could say to the media that day.

"Did you have a ring?" This sounds spontaneous, which is totally Ash Ketchum.

He shakes his head and chuckles recalling that day Misty almost murdered him. "No. It just happened."

"Wow. So you love her that much?" Ash has been grumpy all morning due to this situation. Seeing him smile indicates to Goh how much Misty makes Ash happy. Goh is glad that Ash is finally happy again.

Ignoring the question, Ash tells Goh, "Your turn."

Goh defensively raises his hands up. "A deal's a deal." Thinking to himself, Goh tries to figure out when he realized he wants to spend the rest of his life with Chloe. "I'd say it was this summer. No. It was this summer." He smiles recalling the day. "I just lost Mew again, and I was really discouraged. Chloe dragged me out of bed a few days later to go to the beach."

Beach. Ash's heart aches because the beach reminds him of the redhead who wants nothing to do with him. He deserves it. After neglecting her for years, she's allowed to push him away this time. He really doesn't deserve her, but he wants her. If only Misty will give him a chance to show he's changed. However, does he really believe he isn't using her as a rebound? It sure looks like he is just using Misty.

"I was pretty upset still, but she somehow convinced me to get in the water." Goh continues. "Eventually, I wasn't thinking about Mew anymore because of how much fun I was having. By the end of the day, we were watching the sunset. You know that feeling when the woman you love is in your chest after a fun day together? A day with no responsibilities and complete freedom?"

Ash knows. The few times Misty has fallen asleep in his arms, Ash has felt the most content. "Yeah…"

Goh grins widely. "And then she said we'll find Mew again. We've seen Mew a lot more often than anyone else has, so she's sure we'll see Mew again. I wasn't even thinking about Mew anymore. But her believing in me and my goals." The young man lets out a breath. "After cheering me up and supporting me, all I could think about is how lucky I am. I just remember looking at Chloe under that setting sun and thinking I never want this to end. I always want her in my arms. I always want her by my side. Just her. It's always been Chloe." Chuckling shyly, Goh claps Ash's back. "So I'm gonna marry her."

Nodding, Ash continues walking beside Goh in silence. Goh is still thinking about the woman he can't wait to marry, and Ash's thoughts are on Misty. Ash has only done one real proposal before, but he can't remember why he proposed. He also would rather not remember those painful memories because he's doing so well right now.

However, hearing Goh's reason makes a lot of sense. After these past couple of months with Misty, rekindling their friendship, Ash doesn't want it to end. She's always been his biggest supporter. The fact that she's pushing him away hurts him, but he won't give up. He can't give up on the only happiness he's had in a long time. Misty is that light that saved him. "I'm happy for you, Goh."

"She hasn't said, 'Yes' yet, Ash." Goh is nervous about popping the question, even if he knows Chloe will say yes. He's also planning to ask Chloe's family once he has the ring. Chloe is important to him, so Goh wants to do this right. He's been planning a proposal Chloe will love. She isn't one for grand gestures. Just something intimate between the two of them.

"She'll say yes." Ash assures his friend.

"I sure hope so."

They're now in front of the contest hall. "She will." Ash grins. "Let's go take this nap now."

Fortunately, after the contest ends, Goh's jeweler is ready to see him. As much as Ash would like to fly around town, Goh says they need to avoid Chloe. She might be flying around looking for them. At least Goh has had them staying around the same part of town, so they don't have to walk too far. They eventually arrive at a house where a nice older woman lets them in. Apparently, she's Goh's grandmother's friend from karaoke.

Entering a bedroom that looks like it's turned into a workstation, Goh knocks on the open door. "Hey, Elle."

Looking up from the desk, the young woman smiles. "Hey, Goh! Long time no see." They mostly communicate through calls, which requires Goh to sneak around Chloe when they travel together too. Goh hates sneaking around Chloe, but it's for the best.

"This is my friend A-"

"Ash Ketchum. Married to Misty Waterflower, the Cerulean City Gym Leader." Elle finishes. She wipes her hands on her apron and approaches Ash to shake his hand. "I'm Elle Diamond. Owner of Elle's Diamonds." She giggles. Elle's bubbly attitude reminds Ash a lot of Dawn.

"Nice to meet you, Elle."

Looking at Ash's wedding band, Elle frowns. "If you ever want new wedding bands, just let me know. I hate these big manufacturers. There's no love in their jewelry."

Chuckling nervously, Ash nods. "Uh. Yeah. But it's about love, so the ring doesn't really matter."

"Right. I heard you two only got rings after you went public. Like you were married in spirit or something until a couple of months ago."

"Yeah." Ash glances at Goh for help.

Clearing his throat, Goh asks, "So how's the ring?"

Sighing, Elle walks to behind her desk to show Goh the ring. "It should be ready by tomorrow. I thought I could get it done today." She has been too busy working away this morning to contact Goh. Also, the last time she tried to reach him months ago, Chloe picked up. Fortunately, Elle didn't say anything to give away the surprise.

"That's fine." Goh reassures her. "I want it to be perfect, so take your time." Elle shows Goh the minor imperfection she found today. Being a jeweler, Elle also wants her jewelry perfect. Else, she'll be no better than those large corporations.

Goh is thinking about how he'll ask Chloe's parents. He always planned it to be over a call, but now that he's in town, it'll be even better in person. It's more respectful, especially because Chloe's parents have been like parents to him. Professor Cerise and Talia are always home, so Goh was constantly at their house. Maybe Goh will have Ash distract Chloe later. That way, Goh can have alone time with Chloe's parents.

"She's gonna love this ring!" Elle gushes. "I'll see you back here tomorrow?"

Goh nods. "Yeah. Let me know if anything changes."

"Yup! If I can somehow finish this today, I'll be happy to see you twice in one day." Elle then waves at Ash. "And if you want anything special for your wife, I love making water-inspired jewelry. I use sapphires, mystic waters, anything blue really."

"I'll remember that." Ash thanks her. "But Misty isn't a girly girl. She isn't a big jewelry person." Misty appreciates all gifts.

"Diamonds are a woman's best friend."

"Misty isn't a normal woman." Ash smiles thinking about that tomboy he had a crush on. That tomboy who was his best friend. No. She still is his best friend. It just took him making a few dumb mistakes to realize how important she is to him.

"See ya, Elle." Goh then walks out of the office with Ash.

Before they can leave, Elle's grandmother stops them for lunch, which both happily oblige to. Leaving the house, Ash and Goh are talking about how stuffed they are. They are on their way to Cerise laboratory, but when they round the corner, Goh is instantly pinned to the wooden fence. Ash reaches for Noivern's pokeball, though he pauses seeing that magenta hair. "Chloe?"

"You fucking dog!" shouts the woman, earning many surprised looks from nearby.

Oh no. They're in public, and this is Professor Cerise's daughter. Ash can't let them get caught by the media. "Um. Chloe-"

"I knew it!" Chloe shouts in Goh's face who now wishes he was getting robbed instead of facing her wrath.

"Chl-"

"Screw you!" Chloe's eyes gloss over, but she won't cry in front of him. "I had my suspicions, but I trusted you, Goh!" I always gave you the benefit of the doubt, but now I feel like an idiot!"

Goh, being stronger and taller, manages to pry Chloe's hands from his throat. Coughing as he tries to keep her away from killing him, he asks, "What are you talking about?"

"I saw you! Last time we were here, I had Umbreon follow you, and she said you were at some other woman's house. I thought she was just a friend, but you're constantly sneaking off to her!" Chloe tells Goh who gulps. "I waited here for you after I found out you snuck out again. Did you know she called you last month, and I picked up? I'm not some stupid little girl! I'm a professor's daughter for a reason!"

"Chloe, you've got it wrong." Ash butts in.

However, Chloe now turns her anger onto him. Ash has seen worse from Misty, but he's still slightly terrified. "And you! Ash, I trusted you! How can you help him cheat on me?"

"I'm not cheating on you!" Goh exclaims to no avail.

"I'm not an idiot, Goh. I've seen the signs. The secrecy. The lies. The sneaking around."

"Chloe!"

"Your stuff will be outside when you come to my house. Don't bother coming inside." Chloe needs to leave now. They've attracted quite a crowd, and she doubts she can hold her tears in any longer. It's not fair. Chloe always thought she'd be with Goh. They have always been together since they were young. However, these past couple of months, he's been distant at times. Too secretive and suspicious. She'll cut him off before he can hurt her anymore. Before he can make her look more like an idiot. Thus after slapping Goh, Chloe gets on her Pidgeot, leaving the very confused men on the ground below.

Tired of the eyes and pokenavs recording them, Ash calls out Noivern. He manages to get Goh on Noivern, and then Ash climbs on too. "Follow Pidgeot!" Ash orders. Goh is still trying to process the situation, making Ash concerned by Goh's silence. "Goh! You need to tell her!"

"Huh?"

"She just broke up with you!" Ash can't believe Goh is so absentminded right now. "She thinks you've been cheating on her with Elle!"

"Wait. What?" Goh exclaims as he recalls the past few minutes. "Why?"

"I don't know. Something about a call and sneaking around." Ash couldn't completely comprehend Chloe. "You need to tell her the truth."

"But my perfect proposal."

"You won't have any kind of proposal if you don't tell her the truth now!" Having been emotionally cheated on, this situation matters a lot to Ash. Goh can't let Chloe go over a misunderstanding. Trying to come up with a lie now to save his proposal will just make Chloe more suspicious. She'll get even angrier and hate him. Plus, Goh can't put Chloe through any more heartache.

"Shit." Goh mutters as he takes in the gravity of what just happened. Forget his perfect proposal. Right now, Chloe's feelings mean the most to him. If only he was better at sneaking around, then she wouldn't have these unnecessary doubts. Nevertheless, Goh knows Ash is right: Goh needs to tell Chloe the truth or risk losing her forever.

Noticing that they've lost sight of Pidgeot, which Ash assumes is because there's too much weight on Noivern, Ash has Noivern drop him off. They're near the lab anyway, so Ash will just have Charizard help him search. Goh has been trying to reach Chloe's pokenav, though she isn't answering. The thought of her crying painful tears by herself hurts him a lot. He needs her by his side already.

"I'll join you as soon as I get Charizard!" Ash tells Goh.

"I'm gonna go check her house." Goh nods and Noivern takes off.

After running about a mile to the lab, Ash hurries inside to Cerise Park. All that training with his Pokemon has allowed him to run faster. Before he reaches Cerise Park, Ash backtracks. Magenta hair? And sniffling? Walking into the small storage room, Ash spots his friend sitting on the ground. Her face is buried in her knees. "Chloe?"

She recognizes that voice. "Go away, Ash. I don't wanna see you." Although he isn't one to comfort people nowadays, Ash can't leave Chloe like this. He pulls out his pokenav to text Goh, but Chloe spots it. "If you message Goh, I'm running away again."

Sighing, Ash steps inside the closet to sit beside Chloe. At least she isn't running from him, even if she thinks he's helping Goh cheat on her. Taking in a deep breath, Ash runs a hand through his hair. His heart is pounding, but it's not from that mile he just ran, nor is it from him fearing Chloe's wrath. "Goh isn't cheating on you."

"Right. Like I'd believe his accomplice."

"I was cheated on." Chloe blinks through her tears at Ash. He grabs a tissue box off a shelf that stores them. Opening it, he sets the box between him and Chloe. "I deserved it."

"No one deserves to be cheated on." Chloe tells him. Maybe Ash isn't Goh's accomplice? Seeing that sad painful look on Ash's face let's Chloe know he's being truthful.

"It's complicated, but I wasn't there for her when she needed me the most. I neglected her." He's good at neglecting people, especially people who want his time. "She was helpless and depressed, so she started talking to this guy who has always been there for her. She was blinded by her childhood feelings for me, but it took until my neglect for her to see this other guy. He loves her more." Ash chuckles sadly. "I'm happy for them."

Chloe's heart breaks for him, so she wraps an arm around him. Even though Ash is supposed to be the one comforting her, she feels like he needs it more. "Forget her."

"I am married to Misty now." Ash attempts to sound happy. He hasn't completely forgotten about his ex, but he's almost there. If he was in this situation months ago, he knows he wouldn't be able to talk about it. Ash would've completely shut down.

"That's good." Chloe lets out a relieved breath.

"But I just want you to know I'd never let Goh cheat on you. I know he wouldn't anyway."

"I don't know." The woman hugs her knees closer to her body. "I've seen the signs. I already feel so stupid." As someone who's always been very smart, Chloe doesn't want her one dumb mistake to be letting Goh cheat on her. She never expected him to do such a thing, but it's always the ones least expected.

"Trust me. As someone who's constantly done dumb things his whole life, I'm telling you, it'll be dumb of you not to beleive in Goh. We both know he'd never hurt you."

Chloe thinks about it. Now that she's calmed down a bit, she's thinking with a clearer head. "You haven't seen him the past few months, Ash. His secrets-"

"They're good secrets and lies. It's killing him to sneak around and lie to you. Just listen to him."

After a few minutes, Chloe nods, causing Ash to be relieved. "I'll text him to meet you here."

"Tell him to meet in the park." That way, if Goh really is cheating on her, she'll have her Pokemon attack him. Chloe also doubts Goh's Pokemon will protect him for betraying her.

Ash sends Goh a message, which is immediately tagged as having been read. "He's on his way."

When Ash starts to stand up for the short trek to the park, Chloe says, "I'm sorry your ex hurt you like that, Ash." No wonder why he was depressed. "I'm glad you're happy with Misty."

"Thanks, Chloe." Ash extends a hand to help her stand. "And thanks for listening to Goh."

"It's the least I can give him for years of happiness."

After a few minutes in the park, Goh is soon there. "Chloe!" He wants to hug Chloe, but she keeps him at arm's length away. "Ash, did you tell her?"

The other man was trying to slip out to give them time alone. "Uh…"

"He told me you're not cheating on me, but I need to hear it from your mouth, Goh! What's with the secrets?" Chloe glares at Goh.

Gulping nervously, despite him spending the past half hour worrying about her, Goh replies, "Can you wait until tomorrow?"

"For you to come up with a believable lie? No." Chloe crosses her arms over her chest. "It's either now or never."

"We've been together for years, Chloe! Just give me one more day." pleads Goh.

Scoffing, Chloe turns away. "I only agreed to listen to you for Ash. Wow. I'm so stupid."

"Chloe!" Goh reaches out to her, but Yamper sends a thunderbolt his way, keeping Goh separated from Chloe.

"Chloe." Ash speaks to the woman walking past him and towards the exit. She doesn't respond or even acknowledge him. Ash sighs. He's already done all that he can. It's on Goh who is blowing this miserably.

With every step Chloe takes, Goh's heart breaks. This can't be it? All over a misunderstanding. How can she just let years of being together go like this? Without giving him a chance to explain? Without giving him one more day? No. Goh knows he's most angry at himself. The moment he saw those puffy red eyes on Chloe, he knew he's the cause of them. Goh never wants to be the reason Chloe is sad. He's supposed to be her strength. Her happiness. Her love. She's all that and more to him.

Therefore, before Chloe can leave, Goh shouts, "Will you marry me?" Ash and Chloe freeze. The former watches Goh in shock who now gets down on one knee. Goh can't move because Yamper won't let him, so this is the best he can do. "That woman is Elle Diamond. She handmakes jewelry, and I've been going to her to make the perfect ring for you."

"I don't believe you." Chloe chokes out as she fights the tears.

"Come with me tomorrow to pick up the ring. I'll introduce you to her. Her grandma knows mine." pleads the man. "I love you, Chloe. Other than Ash, I have never cared for making any friends or knowing anyone else. It's only been you." His meeting with Ash was also by chance. Goh doubts he would've been friends with Ash under normal circumstances.

The woman shakes her head as her tears slip out again. Mew. She didn't think she'd have this many after she just cried for earlier. "I'm not stupid."

"Look at me, Chloe."

"No."

"I can never lie when I look in your eyes." He reminds her. "You'll see I'm telling the truth. I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I mean. I feel like we've always spent our lives together, but I want to make it official now. I only want you forever."

Being in the middle of all of this, Ash just wants to disappear and give them time alone. However, Goh is to his right, and Chloe is near the exit on his left. Ash just expectantly watches Chloe's back slowly turn around. She keeps her head down, though she does take a few hesitant steps back towards Goh. "Leave him, Yamper."

"Yamp!" Yamper warily watches Goh but listens to Chloe.

Relieved by the freedom, Goh quickly stands and rushes to Chloe. Instead of hugging her, because he doubts she'll let him right now, he gets down on one knee in front of her. It allows him to peer up into those tear filled green eyes of her, which breaks his heart. "Will you marry me, Chloe Koharu Cerise?"

"Are you cheating on me?"

"I promise." Goh smiles warmly at her, his gaze never wavering. "I am not and never will cheat on you."

Taking in a deep shaky breath, Chloe wipes at her neverending tears. "Then I'll marry you."

Goh breaks out in a huge smile, causing him to hug Chloe tightly. "Yes! I love you, Chloe!"

She giggles. Chloe always knew Goh would never hurt her, but the constant secrecy has made her overthink. Everything Goh has said makes lots of sense. Plus, Ash would never lie to her, especially about something like infidelity. Wrapping her arms around him, Chloe buries her face in Goh's chest. "I love you too, stupid."

As Ash slips out, Goh brings a finger to Chloe's chin, raising her face to his. He looks into her watery green eyes with a smile. Slowly inching his face down, he closes the space between them with a very passionate kiss. This misunderstanding may have ruined his perfect proposal, but everything feels perfect. Despite Chloe's painful tears, Goh knows her feelings for him are strong. Just as his are strong for her. There's no one else he'd rather be with than Chloe. It's always only been her.

Outside, Pikachu has followed Ash. He's walking back to the Cerise home to get in a nap. No. He already napped somewhat at the contest hall. Right now, Ash just wants to be alone. He wants some privacy to think about a lot. His breakup, which he's been trying to forget. His words to Misty. This situation with Goh and Chloe just reminds Ash a lot of so much that pains him.

"Pikapi?" Pikachu hops on Ash's shoulder worriedly.

"Hey, Pikachu." Ash scratches Pikachu behind the ears. "I'm happy for them."

"Pika." Pikachu smiles, though he's concerned with that look on Ash's face. That is such a sad smile. "Pikachu pika pikapi kachu pi?"

Sighing, Ash replies, "I'm fine."

"Chu." Pikachu doesn't believe him. Ash better not give him that stupid phrase saying he will be fine.

Putting his hands in his pockets, Ash continues walking down the street. "You know. I think I remember why I cut off Misty from my life."

"Pikachupi?" It's about time.

"Yeah. Mew. I really have always been a dumbass. She's right."

Having been at the Cerises for almost a week now, Goh and Chloe announce that they'll be leaving soon. They've announced their engagement to their families in person and over calls. Everyone is overjoyed with the news. The couple will be back in a few weeks for some wedding planning, but the adventures outside of Vermillion City are calling to them. Ash agrees he should probably return too. While he's had fun taking a break from the gym, his mind has constantly been on Misty. She's had a few days to herself, so maybe she'll be ready to talk civilly by now. It's the only reason he's stayed away this long, else he would've returned after the first night.

"I'll be going back tomorrow morning too." Ash informs them.

Sighing, Talia smiles at her husband. "It was fun while it lasted." With both Parker and Chloe traveling, the house is very empty.

"They're growing up so fast." Professor Cerise wipes a tear, which makes Chloe sweatdrop at her parents.

Since everyone plans to leave in the morning, they gathered their Pokemon from the park. Ash currently has Kingdra who has been very confused about the marriage. He was dropped off at the lab years ago for research, so he knows nothing about his trainer's romantic relationship. Kingdra does recall the times Misty has pined over Ash's neglect, so the water type isn't fond of Ash. Kingdra has many questions for Misty once he returns. It's the only reason he agreed to even travel with Ash.

"I can't wait to meet your wife, Ash!" Goh exclaims. Anyone who's managed to get Ash's head off of Pokemon battling must be very special. Plus, Misty is the one who got Ash out of his depression. A depression no one knows about, and it's something that even Goh won't pry into. Although Goh doesn't have a filter, he knows better than to dig into someone's pains.

Despite wanting to return to Misty, Ash is nervous. "She can't wait to meet you two too." Misty still hasn't responded or even tried to contact him.

"Pikachupi!" Pikachu happily cries, eager to see Misty again.

"What should we do tonight since it's our last night?" Chloe asks.

Smirking at Goh, Ash replies, "I want a battle!" Ash has seen Gohs interactions with all of his Pokemon this week. Being out with these two, Ash is reminded of his old traveling days. This was the last group he traveled with before he stopped. His passion for battling is a lot stronger than when he arrived last week. Because Goh isn't a battler, Ash figures he will win. With Ash just picking up training recently, Ash continues to lose to notable trainers, like Misty and Max. His Pokemon are tired of losing, so beating Goh will make them happy.

"Here we go again." Goh chuckles. Normally, he'd be annoyed with Ash's constant need for a battle, but this is different. This is nearly a decade too long without hearing from Ash. Thus, Goh will honor this request. "Let's battle after dinner." The old Ash would whine and then eat quickly. Goh, who isn't one to battle, would do what he's doing now: take his time. However, Ash still isn't who he used to be, so he agrees and eats.

"You placed 99th in the tournament before you left." Professor Cerise remembers. "I'm excited to see you battle again, Ash."

"He's nowhere near 99th anymore, but I'm sure he's still in the Great Class somewhere." Goh smirks. "Cinderace and I aren't scared!"

"And now here you go again." Chloe sighs at her fiance. Growing up, many people didn't like Goh for his know-it-all personality. Chloe has always been the only one able to be friends with him, though that is also due to her indifference as a child. The two were often alone, and that drew them together. They got along, so they remained friends. So much that they both understand each other really well. Thus, as adults, this mutual understanding that only they share helped them eventually realize their feelings for one another. The two can't imagine each other with anyone else. Chloe can't believe she's engaged to her best friend.

While everyone is laughing at the young couple's antics, Ash's pokenav goes off. He apologetically excuses himself to pick it up nearby without even checking the caller ID. Pikachu curiously looks at Ash because Delia already called him the other day. Thus, Delia wouldn't call him again so soon, right? Okay, she would, but she's been giving Ash space to recover and have fun. Thus, who else would call Ash? Misty is mad at him, so maybe it's Brock? Brock might be trying to meddle again if Misty told him about the tension between her and Ash.

"Hello?" Ash looks outside the large glass sliding doors to see the sky is dark. Apparently, a storm from the north is approaching, so Ash and Goh will need to battle quickly.

"Where are you?"

"Misty?" She's been ignoring him all week, thus he's surprised to get a call. He expected a text if anything or a reaction to his messages.

"Where are you?" She repeats, and Ash can sense the hurry in her voice.

"At the professor's house. Why?"

"Nevermind." hisses Misty.

"Wait!" Ash shouts, which causes the Cerises, Goh, and Pokemon to look at him. "Misty, where are you?" However, Misty hangs up, making Ash frantically call her back.

"Is everything okay, Ash?" Chloe wonders, but he has zoned everything out.

Why did Misty sound so scared? So worried? He heard lots of noise in the background, almost like rain. Is it already raining in Cerulean City? If so, then why is Misty outside? His calls ring to voicemail twice, making Ash let out a very concerned groan. Where is she? How can she just call him like that and ignore him? Does she not understand how much she worries him? Even though she's been the one caring for him, she can still be cared for by him! She needs to accept his help and rely on him!

Pocketing the pokenav, Ash rushes out of the dining area to the bedroom. He quickly packs his bag. Another reason he planned to leave tomorrow is to avoid this storm. He doesn't want to make Charizard fly through rain because Charizard is a fire type who really hates flying in the rain. However, this is an emergency. Misty could be in danger. If she's not, she's outside in this storm. Did she lock herself out? Did she call to see if he could let her in with his set of keys?

No. Misty would just call a locksmith for that rather than ask Ash for help. She's too prideful to let Ash help her. Therefore, there's only one reason Misty would be out right now, and it's not running errands. She always has her Pokemon run errands for her if not Ash. Plus, Misty wouldn't go out in the storm for an errand. Although Ash has hoped he's Misty's priority, he knows she holds someone else higher than him. Someone she's willing to swallow her pride for to even call Ash and ask for help.

Running back into the kitchen where the concerned party is, Ash faces Pikachu. "We gotta go, Pikachu."

"Pika?" Pikachu stays put, confused by his trainer, though Pikachu does know Ash was talking to Misty.

"Is everything okay?" Professor Cerise asks.

"I don't know." Ash frantically picks up the mouse. "Thanks for the hospitality, Professor. Let's postpone our battle, Goh." Ash nods at them. "Thank you, Chloe. Thank you, Talia. I really have to go." The family and Goh awkwardly raise their hands to wave at him, but Ash is already out the back door. He quickly calls out Charizard who Ash will apologize to about the incoming rain later. Right now, his wife needs him. "Misty's in trouble. Take me to Cerulean Cape."


I wasn't gonna bring in any more shippings, but I started watching a few new episodes of Pokemon. I love Sonia and Leon's relationship. It reminds me a lot of Ash and Misty. Leon getting big in battling and forgetting Sonia is totally something that would happen between Ash and Misty. Also, I grew to like Chloe's and Goh's relationship with each other. After realizing they're in Vermillion City, I finally talked myself into incorporating them into the story. Thus, here we are.

I never want to just throw random things in just for the ship because then this could've just been an extra. Everything I have is supposed to pertain to the actual story. For example, the Handyman and BrockxLucy relationships were to show Ash's development with children. This chapter unravels a bit of his breakup and infidelity, which ties into more. Tune in for the next chapter for that. And we're going to the Cape too? Wow. So many secrets are coming out! :O

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