Single By 30 @shinygrowlithe12
Chapter 15 (Part 2)

Shoutout to juaniu1994 for always being a loyal reviewer/follower/supporter! I needed your review after that one dunce keeps reviewing the same thing yet they still read this story when they find it "annoying." Like I always say, if you don't like it, LEAVE. Shoutout to the rest of you loyal readers though! :D


Chapter 15 (Part 2)

Misty takes her hand off the door knob. She faces him to see his back is still to her as he sits on the porch steps. With her aching heart shattering, she takes in a deep breath to level out enough of her shaky breath. They knew this break up was going to happen. She just thought she'd have more time. But she can't be selfish and ask him to wait longer. That's being selfish on her too.

"Okay."

"You're not gonna fight?" Ash stands up, and Misty can see the pain in his eyes.

"It's gonna happen anyway. Let's stop playing ourselves." It's taking all she has to not break down right now. She just wants to go to her room and be sad there, but her body won't move from his enticing eyes. Neither of them want to end this relationship. It's the universe. It's life.

They have to stop, though why is she allowing Ash to slowly approach her? Why is she letting his gentle hands brush at the few tears that had managed to escape her eyes? Why is she letting him hug her? Bringing her own arms up, Misty sniffles into his chest. More tears fall, which he catches in his shirt. His arms tighten around her, and she can feel part of her hair getting damp. He's hurting just as much as she is.

Is this really the right decision? Nevertheless, this pain now compared to the pain she will be facing much later is better. She can't do it again if Ash forgets her. If she's the only one who will be hurting. "I love you so much."

"Then don't do this, Mist." he pleads. "I don't wanna lose you again."

"I don't know."

"Please."

Taking in a deep breath, Misty forces herself to pull away from him. She wipes at her eyes to dry them completely. Controlling her breathing, she genuinely gazes into his hopeful mesmerizing eyes. "Can I have more time to think about it?"

That's a lot better than her blatantly ending it. Ash smiles with an eager nod. "Please think about it." He slides his hand from her arm down to her hand where he intertwines their fingers. "I love you so much too."

Nodding shyly, Misty rubs her thumb against his hand. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too." He hates hearing that defeated voice from her, so he pulls her a little closer to kiss the side of her head. "Please give me one more chance, Misty." She'll think about it, and that's enough for him for now. It's enough to alleviate this tension. It's enough because their love is enough.

"Do you really think we'll be okay when you leave?"

He gives her a small smile. "I know I love you, and I'll do anything for you."

Is that good enough? She really doesn't want to break up with him. His sweetness, though, is getting to her heart, so she holds onto his arm tightly. Tiptoeing, Misty plants a light kiss on his lips. "Can Charizard fly us onto the roof?" Misty doesn't want to walk past her family again, especially after crying just now.

Chuckling, Ash nods and reaches for a pokeball. "Yeah." They might break up anyway, but it's a might now. Ash is making progress with Misty. Hopefully, by the time summer ends, she'll want to make the distance work with him.

A few days later, the family has spent lots of time together. The Waterflowers and Sketchits are happy to see Ash and Misty getting along again. The tension is gone, and everyone is enjoying each other. Ash still avoids Jayson, but with the many adults around, there is barely enough Jayson for everyone. Ash appreciates this so that he can continue hiding away from the cute baby. Of course, only Misty realizes this because everyone else thinks Ash is just shy.

"So everyone is leaving tomorrow?" Tracey pouts. They've had so much fun the past few days.

"Yup! Vi and I need to get on our cruise!" Lily grins. They're restless, remaining in one place for too long.

"Uh huh! We'll visit out baby Jayson often though!" Violet agrees.

"We promised Gary we'd help at the lab since he's a new dad." Misty sighs.

"Daddy, let me hold Jayson!" Tina whines, which makes Tracey carefully pass his son over once Tina is seated beside Ash. The only spot open was next to Ash. Misty notices Ash flinch slightly, so she uses her pinky to lightly tap on his thigh. With his attention now on her, Ash gives her a grateful smile.

"Oh right. Congratulate him for me! I'll bring Jayson by to visit when I can." Tracey and Gary are friends due to Tracey once working for Professor Oak. Since Gary also has a son who is Jayson's age, Tracey would like them to grow up together.

Fortunately, Misty's family hasn't questioned her and Ash about having children. They listened to Misty the first day, and they also don't want to be the reason Misty and Ash argue again. "So where are you gonna travel next year, Ash?" Daisy asks, which makes violet and Misty nervous. Only Violet knows about the pending divorce, though she hopes that was resolved already.

"Uh." Grateful for the distraction from Jayson right beside him, Ash is now getting sweaty from Daisy's question. He and Misty have been trying to avoid that topic again due to always arguing when it comes up. "Uh. I was thinking of competing in the World Cup. I want to finish what I started."

"Really? I thought you'd want to travel around Kanto again so that you'd be close to Misty? And then try to be the Kanto Champion?" The blonde pushes. "You know, Jimmy the Elite Four member is challenging the champion next week! If he wins, his Elite Four spot opens!"

"You should apply, Misty!" Lily excitedly exclaims, making both Ash and Misty blush.

Ash and Misty are the only ones who know Misty applied for the position already. "Heh. I'm fine with the gym." Mew. She came to Daisy's to avoid the current tournament. It makes her anxious. However, being in Johto, Misty should've known Jimmy would be all over the news. Everyone in Johto wants him to be the Champion. He is the one who was born and raised in Johto, and he's a legendary trainer from small New Bark Town. He's very much like Red, the Kanto Champion.

"We can take over the gym." Tracey pipes up.

"You have your job here." Misty reminds them.

Tracey shrugs. "I have more friends in Kanto. We'll be closer to you and the Oaks. And Cerulean City is Daisy's hometown." Tracey figures he can help run the gym while also conducting research for Gary. It's a lot more fun than working at the radio tower.

"Well, I doubt I'll get the position if it is opened up." Misty nonchalantly shrugs as Tina and Ash are engaged in a whispering match beside her.

"Then we can just move back and help you with the gym, right? I miss putting on water ballet shows! Tina would be in them!" Daisy gushes. "And Tracey would do research with Gary again!"

Misty massages her temples and inwardly groans while her other two sisters are now excitedly talking about what a good idea this is. Once Ash is gone traveling, Misty will be busy with the gym again. Having the Sketchits around will help her a lot, though Misty is sure Daisy just wants a free babysitter again. She pulled this same stunt when Tina was born. As much as Misty loves her niece and nephew, she has enough on her plate already.

"Like you should totally do that, Daisy!" Violet gleefully says.

"Misty's gonna need a strong man to fix the gym whenever it breaks too!" Lily nudges Tracey, making Tracey shyly blush.

"Uh. I mean. That's if Misty is okay with us coming back. It is her gym." Tracey mutters. No one notices Tina convince Ash to hold the innocent baby, nor do they notice Ash visibly pale and shaken. At least Ash has a strong hold.

"It's technically my gym." Daisy reminds her husband. "Our parents left it under my name because I am the oldest."

"Yeah, and you ran its reputation to the ground. I fixed it!" Misty sighs.

"You'll still be running the gym! Just let us come help you!" Daisy insists. She looks over at the stiff man. "Right, Ash? Tell Misty she'll need our help once you're gone."

Now, Misty turns her frustrated attention to Ash where her glare falls. He looks a lot worse than at the hospital with Sammy. Ash is very pale, sweaty, and he is breathing raggedly. Jayson is curiously peering up in Ash's face, and Misty is glad to see Ash has a firm hold on the baby. "Ash?" Like always, Misty's soothing voice breaks him out of thought. Ash quickly passes Jayson off to her, stands, and exits the room.

"What was that about?" Lily inquires. Are Ash and Misty still having problems?

Watching where he disappeared to, Misty worriedly hands Jayson to Tina. Pikachu scampers after Ash. "I'll be back." Misty follows the mouse.

Violet gazes at her siblings. "So…" She wants to ask a lot of questions, but Tina is right there.

"Where did they go?" The girl didn't notice how shaken Ash was. Her attention had been on her giddy brother the whole time Ash was holding him far away.

Innocently smiling, Tracey answers, "They went to talk about if we should move back to Cerulean City or not." Tracey hopes that's what they're talking about.

"Really?" Tina grins. As much as she loves her grandparents in Johto, most of her family is in Kanto. She gets along a lot better with her aunt Misty and uncle Ash, and she's always looking forward to seeing them more.

Tracey and Daisy exchange approving smiles. The move back to Cerulean City is the best thing for their family, though it depends on Misty. They don't want to intrude on her life if she doesn't want them. "Yes, sweetie!" Daisy confirms.

Outside, Misty grabs Ash's hand before he can reach Charizard's pokeball. "Ash!" His arm drops, and Pikachu worriedly stands between the adults. "Are you okay?"

Chuckling sadly, Ash brings a free hand up to his face. "Nope." How could he hold someone so small and pure? How can he be blessed with all these lives he never asked for, but he's grateful for? It's not fair, and it hurts a lot. He can't even fake being okay right now, especially to Misty. "Not at all." Adds the distraught man.

"Pikapi." Pikachu hops onto Ash's shoulder to nuzzle his face, bringing Ash to tears.

She hates seeing him so broken. It's been a long time since she last saw him this hurt. What could break him this much? Why does he do this whenever he's around babies? What has traumatized him to this extent? Watching his shoulders shudder as Pikachu hugs his head, Misty decides that she doesn't need to pry. She doesn't need to hurt him more than he's already hurting himself. Thus, she pulls him into a warm tight embrace where his sobs now become uncontrollable.

"I love you, Ash." Misty chokes out because seeing him in tears makes her sad. His arms squeeze around her, and the three just remain in each other's arms while Ash cries his heart out on Misty's shoulder.

After a long time, Ash's tears subside, but his eyes are still puffy and red. Misty and Ash want to avoid her family, so they go out for ice cream. Misty takes him to a Route north of the city which has a small island she likes to relax on when she needs a break from her family. Instead of having to swim there, like she usually does, Charizard flies them. Pikachu is glad that Ash is in a better mood.

However, like Pikachu has noticed between these two, they're brushing this topic under the rug too. They have been ignoring a lot of conversations that Pikachu thinks they need to have. Yes, it'll be painful, and they'll argue terribly. But it'll make their relationship stronger. By hiding everything, it just adds more tension that will eventually boil over beyond salvageable.

"I'm sorry, Misty." Ash throws another pebble in the water.

"It's how you feel, Ash. You can't control it." shrugs the redhead who is skipping stones nearby while Ash is seated. They were just silently minding themselves until Ash spoke up. Misty isn't one to pry.

Sighing, he picks up another rock nearby. Pikachu and the other Pokemon are playing in the water. Charizard is basking in the summer rays. It's nice having this small island to themselves. "I wanna hold Jayson. I wanna be okay, but I can't."

"Don't force yourself."

"But what if I need to? Like I need that shove to fully recover?" Like he needs her to push him into finally getting rid of that damn ring?

After tossing another rock, Misty stands up to fully face him again. "What do you want me to do?"

"Push me."

"I've done that enough this year."

"Yeah. And it's worked." Ash stands up eagerly. "I'm not getting better on my own. I've had three years to try that. I only started getting better once we met up again, Mist."

She shakes her head. No way will Misty be the one to traumatize him with his past. What if it makes him relapse? "I've helped you enough. What's left is for you to deal with."

"Why?"

"Because I can't carry you through everything, Ash. This is your final battle. Everything I've done to help you this year has led you to this point by yourself." She can't even fathom what his demons are.

Running a hand through his hair, Ash watches Misty pick up another smooth rock. As much as he wants her support through this, he is not ready to speak about his pains. He can't confide in her. What if she sees him differently? Misty is right. He needs to overcome this last hump by himself, but she can still help him, right? She doesn't need to know the details. All he wants is her support. Is that too much to ask when they almost broke up earlier this week?

"Maybe I should start by holding baby Pokemon first?" Ash wishes he had spent more time in Brock's daycare center.

"That's a good thought." Misty gleefully watches the rock skip. "There's a Day Care Center south of town."

"Let's go!" Ash grabs her wrist before she can pick up another rock.

"Huh?" Misty exclaims as Ash gets on Charizard and returns his other Pokemon.

"Return your Pokemon, Mist! Let's go to the daycare center."

"Now?" she is very confused.

He nods. "Yeah! We leave tomorrow! I wanna hold Jayson properly, so we need to do this now." Pikachu jumps on Ash's shoulder, also confused.

When Misty registers Ash's words, she can't help but laugh. Returning her Pokemon, she climbs on top of the lizard who takes off for the southern part of town. "I hope this helps."

"Me too." grins the man. He's already feeling a lot better. All he needs is her by his side, and he can overcome anything.

They eventually reach the Day Care Center, and Misty stops Ash from entering. "What are you gonna say?"

"That I wanna hold a baby Pokemon?"

"That's creepy, Ash." She deadpans, and even Pikachu sweatdrops.

"Pikapi…"

"What?" Ash wonders, but Misty walks past him.

"Follow along, idiot." Pikachu hops onto her shoulder, and Ash chases after them.

"Mist-y?" He watches her approach the counter where an elderly woman is sitting and looking at a small TV.

The older woman sits up with a smile. "Hello. What can I do for you two today?" She spots Pikachu perched on Misty's shoulder. "Would you like to leave your Pikachu ehre?"

Misty quickly waves her hands up. "Actually, we're not here to leave our Pokemon. Thank you for the offer though, ma'am." Smiling warmly back, Misty adds, "I'm actually the Cerulean City gym leader, and I'm doing some research on water Pokemon. Could I check out the pond you have here?"

"Here? We have lots of natural water surrounding the west side of Goldenrod City."

"I've just returned from those waters. Day Care Centers interest me, so I also want to make sure the water levels are at the most optimal for the Pokemon. Just in case." Misty explains. "We will only be here a few minutes to check the chemical balances."

Ash pulls his cap over his eyes to shield his face. Misty is really good at this. She must've picked up these tricks from Gary and Leaf. It amazes Ash just how versatile this woman is. She's definitely not the same person he remembers meeting as a child. With his cheeks hot and his heart picking up speed, Ash is reminded that he needs to keep fighting for them. He can't let Misty end it with him in a few months.

A soft arm linking with his makes him realize Misty is leading him out the back door to the day care Pokemon. "We don't have much time before they get suspicious." She warns him. Misty already identified herself, so if word gets out that the Cerulean City Gym Leader is using her title to lie, Misty will be in a predicament. She's already lied enough to get out of trouble. She can't do it again.

"Where'd you learn to lie like that from?"

"I'm not proud of it." Mutters the woman who knows she picked up the bad habit from a married couple in Pallet Town. They near the small pond, and Misty spots a baby Poliwag. Her eyes open widely into hearts and she releases Ash to approach the Pokemon.

Pikachu is on Ash's shoulder now to hear him mumble, "Her and water Pokemon." The man is slightly upset that Misty stopped touching him.

By the time he is beside her, she has managed to befriend the baby to trust her. Misty stands up with the little Poliwag in her arms. "Isn't he so cute?" She gushes.

All he can see is the woman he loves looking really happy. Water Pokemon always makes her happy and excited. Ash loves how passionate Misty is about it. "Yeah." He agrees, though he's talking about her and not the Pokemon. When Misty extends her arms towards him, Ash stammers, "Huh?"

"Hold him." That's the whole reason they're here. Pikachu is talking to Poliwag's mother in the pond.

"Uh. But you like holding him more." Ash awkwardly replies.

"We're here so you can hold him." reminds the woman.

Right. Unlike with human babies, Ash isn't nervous. He easily takes Poliwag from Misty's arms. With a small smile on his face, he holds the baby Pokemon. Ash has never had a problem with Pokemon. He loves them. It's a natural skill of his. Maybe if he thinks of Poliwag as an infant baby? As Jayson?

Closing his eyes, Ash pictures the baby he held earlier today, and his breath hitches. Misty notices, so she places a comforting hand on his arm. Using her other hand, she plays with the Poliwag, which will keep Poliwag from getting scared due to Ash's current demeanor. He was just fine grabbing Poliwag. What happened? Was he forcing himself, and now he can't do it anymore?

"Ash?"

"Yeah?" He opens his eyes curiously. Spotting that the life in his arms is just a Pokemon, Ash relaxes.

"Are you okay?"

Nodding, he places Poliwag on the ground to go back to her mother. "Yeah. I'm fine." Smiles Ash, causing Misty's heart to beat faster. That sweet smile of his. "It didn't work." Ash admits in defeat. "Pokemon aren't a problem. It's just human babies."

Misty knows the reason has to do with her breakup because he had said it months ago. "Guess we'll just have you practice holding Jayson a bunch of times today."

"Daisy is not gonna like us experimenting with her newborn." notes Ash. He never knew Daisy to be so protective. Misty and Tracey say she was worse when Tina was born. Daisy's maternal instincts are on overdrive the first few weeks after having a child.

"We can try with Sammy." Suggests Misty. Those damn Oaks are always looking for a way to have fun. They'll take any free babysitting.

"True. If I can hold Sammy, I can hold Jayson." Sammy is much younger than Jayson.

"Your logic. Mew." Misty sits by the edge of the pond. "What are we gonna do?"

He sits next to her to sheepishly say, "Heh. Thanks for your help."

Playfully shoving his arm, Misty replies, "You better thank me. I do so much for you."

"Hey! I do a lot for you too!"

"Chores and cooking for me don't count! I do those too!"

Pouting, Ash watches Pikachu play in the small pond with the baby Poliwag. "I input the trainer data."

"I was fine without it." She's done a lot for him without asking for anything in return. He needs to know that. And she likes teasing him about it.

"I got you out of our scandal."

"And you got us into a bigger one, dumbass." She whacks the back of his head with her mallet.

Wincing as he rubs his wound, Ash shoots her a glare. "If I didn't bring up the pact, we wouldn't be dating right now!"

"You'd be hiding in your mom's room. I know."

They sit in silence for a bit, listening to the splashes in the pond until Ash eagerly states, "I help you have fun!"

"I can have fun without you too." Mew. Here he goes now. Just when Misty thought she'd hear it less from her Pallet Town friends.

Ash shakes his head. "All you did was work before I came to live with you. Admit it, Mist. I make your life fun!"

"You make my life stressful." She stands to hopefully walk away from the dumb conversation. Fun. Psh. Yeah right. All he's done is make her life a lot harder than it was before. The moment she thinks this, she feels herself get lifted off the ground. "Wha-"

Splash! Misty sits up in the shallow pond to glare at her boyfriend laughing in front of her. He jumped in with her in his arms, so now they're both wet as Misty is sitting in between his long legs. "Admit it, Mist."

"That was not fun." she denies.

Smirking, Ash splashes the pond water at her. "Stop being stubborn."

"Wasn't fun." She splashes him back in annoyance. Ash starts tickling Misty's sides, and she fights off his hands. "Stop being annoying! We need to get out of this pond!" When did he get so strong? It's impossible to keep his hands away as he touches her sides.

"Admit it, and I'll stop!" Laughs Ash. He loves it when her small hands try to block him, but he loves it even more seeing her laughing face. Misty is most beautiful when she's having fun. Fun she rarely ever has.

Ash has been selfish thinking about his own problems that he's forgotten about her well-being. Misty comes off as strong and independent. She's always helping him, so he began thinking she doesn't have problems. Neglectful thinking on his part. No wonder why Misty finds it hard to believe his words that he won't forget her when he's already forgetting her well-being. Ash will do better. For her and for them both because he always wants the woman he loves to be happy.

"Hey! What're ya doin in der?" comes an angry shout, causing the humans to stop their tickling battle in the shallow pond.

"Shit." Ash whispers when he spots the angry old man approaching them. Quickly pulling Misty out of the pond, Ash calls out Charizard's pokeball. "Let's go, Pikachu!" Pikachu leaps onto the lizard along with the humans right before the old man gets to the pond. Charizard is not happy about all the wet bodies on him. He's throwing a fit in the sky. If Ash wasn't in a rush, he would've called out Noivern since Ash knows how much Charizard hates the water. He is a fire type after all.

"Oh my Mew!" Misty groans as she rests her head against Ash's wet back.

"What?"

"They know who I am, remember? What if they tell the League? I'm really fucked." Yup. That Elite Four position is definitely never going to be hers.

"You worry too much." Ash continues laughing. "Live a little."

"We're 31, Ash. We don't have time for these childish games."

"You grow old because you stop having fun. Not the other way around." he smirks over his shoulder. "Admit it. You had fun."

"You're an idiot."

"You didn't deny it." the triumphant man pumps a fist in the air, earning him a smack on his back. Before he can whine about it, he feels a warm hard press, which he knows is Misty's head. He loves it when she lays on him. This morning, he woke up with her in his arms for the first time since they started dating.

"You're such an idiot."

Bringing his hands down to hers around his waist, Ash squeezes them. "I love you too, Misty Waterflower."

She really fell in love with this man. This idiot who she isn't even sure she'll still be with in a few months. They have lots of fun together, and they've grown tremendously. The only thing holding her back is his lack of commitment to her. He loves her, and she believes it. However, there are other factors she knows can pull him away. The fact that he still has that ring means she isn't completely over his ex. Misty needs to do what's best for her and guard her heart, but her heart is telling her to trust him again. All he's done is make her life a lot harder than it was before...but she doesn't mind it.

When both adults return, they make it in time for one final dinner. The family plays many games together, and Ash even interacts with baby Jayson a bit. Ash doesn't hold him again, but Ash does rattle the toys to Jayson. The little steps are good enough for Misty. She does smother her nephew in many hugs and kisses because she knows the next time she sees him, he'll be much bigger. Ash can't help but smile at how motherly the normally hot headed tomboy is.

"You're blushing."

"Am not!" Ash stammers in embarrassment as Tracey laughs beside him.

Tracey hands Ash a bottle of water. "Misty will make a great mom someday. She's already an awesome aunt."

Gazing down at the bottle of water, Ash nods. "I know." Although Misty says she's never thought about having children, Ash knows she deserves them. She's great with kids, and they love her too. He's never seen her so gentle with anyone besides for children.

"I don't know what's going on between you two, but just don't forget how much you love each other." The older man claps Ash on the back and then joins his wife on the couch.

Ash's eyes fall back on Misty who is holding Jayson up in the air. Tina and Pikachu are trying to tickle him, and Jayson is finding the whole situation hilarious. His cute little giggles are lighting up the room. Misty's smile is the brightest Ash has ever seen it. Her laughs are angelic to his ears. Just watching her compels him to set his waterbottle down and approach her. Tina is standing on the couch, so she's able to tickle some parts of Jayson every now and them as Misty tries to hold him away.

Life hasn't worked out the best for Ash. He's dreamed and he's fallen. He's loved and he's lost. He's been at the lowest point in his life that he never thought he could rise from, but he did. As much as it pains him to interact with children, he knows he can't hide from them forever. He's going to keep getting older. Children will keep being born. His friends will keep having babies. Ash doesn't want to hide from his friends anymore, so that means he needs to get comfortable. It's a lot easier said than done, though this woman here makes it worth it.

Tracey is right. Misty deserves to be a mother some day. Ash can only see her with him, which means Ash needs to get himself together. He needs to stop allowing his past relationship to dictate his current one. That will help Misty trust him more, and then she won't break up with him this fall. Besides, baby Jayson can barely keep his head up. There's no way this little harmless baby can hurt Ash. Ash needs to stop associating all children with his past, and start thinking of them as individuals.

Tina is Tina Sketchit. Annalise is Annalise Harrison. Sammy is Samuel Oak Jr. And Jayson is Jayson Sketchit. They are all children he met long after his breakup, and they are all children he loves tremendously just because he loves their parents. Ash wants to keep them all in his life, meaning he needs to interact with them. Taking in a deep breath, he gets up behind the oblivious Misty. With her, he knows he will be just fine.

To everyone's surprise, especially Misty's, Ash takes the light baby from her hands. He's much taller, so he holds Jayson up high. Now, Tina definitely can't reach him. "Hey! No fair, Uncle Ash!" whines the girl.

Smirking, Ash looks into the baby's eyes, and his heart melts when Jayson gives him a cute smile. Feeling warm inside, Misty leans back with Pikachu on her shoulder curiously watching Ash. "Little by little." Misty whispers to Pikachu who nods.

"Chu."

Regardless of his past traumas, Misty won't let them run his life. Ash seems to not want to let them ruin his life either. Hugging him from behind, Misty grins warmly up at the startled man. His attention was on Jayson, so he forgot about everyone else in the room. "Having fun?"

Ash lowers Jayson protectively into his arms. "He's our nephew. I should hold him properly before I leave, right?"

"You should do whatever makes you comfortable." Misty softly tells him while reaching around his back to pinch Jayson's plump cheek.

"You make me feel comfortable." He feels like nothing is impossible when he's with Misty. That's why he can't lose her again. She's his strength. His support. His love. Therefore, using one arm to support Jayson, Ash brings up his free hand to lift Misty's chin and kiss her passionately.

The couple seems to have forgotten that they are not alone. "Ew!" Tina scrunches up her nose.

"Like get a room, guys!" Lily covers her own eyes.

Even though Violet is glad to see the love is there again, she'd rather not watch her sister liplocking it up with Ash. Whatever speculations the Waterflowers had in the beginning of the year pertaining to the authenticity of this relationship is now gone. Ash and Misty are very much in love. "Stop already!"

The couple in question pulls apart quickly. Each person donning a dark blush. "Uh. Sorry." Ash mutters uncomfortably.

Daisy leans back into Tracey's arms, smiling up at him. "Our babies are already match makers without knowing it."

"I don't think that's it." Tracey sweatdrops. "They're just cute."

Daisy rolls her eyes. "They got that from me, right babe?"

"Yes, sweetie." Tracey pecks Daisy's lips to silence her. He is not trying to get into an argument he will lose, though they rarely argue anyway.

That night, Ash and Tina had one final battle, which wiped her out. She knows when she wakes up, everyone will be leaving. It makes her sad because she rarely has her whole family together. Misty had showered before Ash and Tina came in, so Ash is left in cold water because Lily and Violet also used the same shower before him.

Running into the room, Ash quickly closes the door, making the curious redhead look up from her pokenav. "Why are you run-" Her jaw drops. There, glistening in all his damp muscular glory is a shirtless Ash Ketchum. Mew. Working out this past year alongside his Pokemon has made him a lot better looking than she could imagine.

"Did you take my last shirt?" Ash's towel is around his torso, though it had slipped when he closed the door. At least he has on his shorts. He could've sworn he had more than enough clothes for the trip.

Due to his fatigue, he didn't fully check when he left for the bathroom, so he didn't realize he was lacking a clean shirt to change into there. Fortunately, Lily and Violet fell asleep early due to them needing beauty sleep. That way, Ash was able to sneak down the hall without anyone seeing him without a shirt.

As he continues looking through his suitcase, his towel long forgotten on the ground, Ash feels like he's speaking to himself. Is Misty even in here? He'll feel like such an idiot if she's not. Stopping in his shirt, he turns to the bed where he makes eye contact with the very flushed woman. Why is her face so red? Oh no. Is she sick? Does she have a fever?

Ash quickly approaches her to place a hand on her forehead. This jolts Misty away, her blush darkening. "Where's your shirt?" A shirtless Ash Ketchum in all his muscular glory is very dangerous right now. Her heart is beating uncontrollably, and her brain is clouding all judgment.

"That's what I was asking you." Sighs Ash. "Why are you covering your face? Are you sick, Misty?" Did she catch something from their pond battle earlier?

"Just put a shirt on already!"

"I would if I had any!" He's checked the suitcase many times already. What happened to all of his shirts? Has someone been stealing them? Pikachu? Wait. Ash blinks at the embarrassed redhead. He remembers packing this shirt. "Misty, have you been taking my clothes?"

"I always take your clothes." She reminds him with her face in her hands.

Sighing, he turns his back to her and shuts his eyes. "I'm out of shirts. I'm gonna need that one back." Well, he caught his culprit. Why is she wearing his clothes? Didn't she pack some of the clothes she's already taken from him? The first night, she was wearing one of his shirts she had packed.

"Go outside." Misty can't change with him in here shirtless. She'll pounce on him.

"No way. Your sisters might come out!" Ash's cheeks tint pink because he's very self aware.

"I'm not changing with you in here." As much as she'd love to keep him shirtless, that is too dangerous right now. He needs this shirt, and she happens to have his last clean one. Why didn't Ash pack more shirts? He knows she always takes them from him!

Recalling that it's pretty late already, Ash convinces himself that the Sensational Sisters are deeply asleep right now. No one will catch him if it's only a minute. "Fine. Be quick." He makes his way out to the hall.

Once Misty hears the door click shut, she lays back onto the bed and groans. When did he get so attractive? When did he become hers? Is she sure she wants to let him go? Regardless of his stunning body, he's still Ash Ketchum. The sweetest man she knows. The only man who has her heart. The only one who can somehow get her to enjoy life again.

Due to Misty pondering in thought inside the room, ASh is left out in the hall a lot longer than he anticipates. He would yell through the door for Misty to hurry up, but he's scared that'd wake up the Sensational Sisters. When he hears a door open, Ash winces. Too late. He brings his hands up to shield as much of his body as possible in the dark hallway.

"Uncle Ash?"

Oh. It's just Tina. Great. Letting out a relieved breath, Ash whispers, "Tina? Why are you awake?"

Being younger, her vision is a lot better in the dim hallway. She sits beside him and Pikachu jumps in her lap. "I don't wanna sleep." She was on her way to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face and keep her awake.

"You're exhausted." Ash recalls their battle an hour ago. "You should sleep." She won't be able to send them off tomorrow if she's sleeping then. That's why she needs to sleep right now in order to have energy in the morning.

The girl cuddles up next to him, and Ash's heart melts. Tina was the first child he let into his life this year. She's helped him grow the most after Misty. Ash wraps his arm around her. No matter what Misty decides, Ash won't stop being Tina's uncle. He loves her. To think, he was scared of her when he first met her months ago. Now, he can't imagine life without the nosy curious girl.

"If I sleep, you'll all go away." sniffles Tina.

"Not forever." He assures her as Pikachu snuggles deeper into her lap. "We'll visit, and you'll visit."

"Mommy and daddy say we might move to Cerulean City. I hope we do because then I can see you and Auntie Misty every day." Tina recalls the conversation earlier.

Ash was busy holding Jayson, so he doesn't remember that conversation. "Really? Why?"

"My parents said something about helping with the gym because you'll be gone." shrugs Tina, happy to be distracted from the departures tomorrow.

Pikachu eyes Ash who fights his own frowns. "I'll be back a lot to visit."

Tina nods her head against Ash's bare arm. Sighing, he pulls her closer. "People leave, but it's never forever, Tina."

"I know. I just get sad when people leave."

He kisses the top of her head. "What will make you feel better?"

"If you don't leave."

Chuckling, Ash replies, "We have to leave tomorrow, but what if I promise you that I'll visit you every time I'm in Johto? Even if I'm all the way in Blackthorn City, I will come see you."

"But what if we move to Kanto?"

"Even better." Ash whispers. "I'll see you all the time then. We can play pranks on Auntie Misty."

As soon as Ash says that, the door behind him swings open, and he falls. Opening his eyes, he's greeted by his warm shirt falling on his face. Although Misty was flustered by Ash's shirtlessness, she's now surprised seeing Tina. "Tina, why are you awake?"

Tina stands to hug Misty tightly. "I wanna move to the gym with you."

Having anyone at the gym is a distraction from her routine life, but Misty doubts she can go back to that life completely after this past year. She doesn't want to go back. "Maybe." Misty softly replies as Ash slips on his shirt. It smells just like Misty. A scent he loves, though not as much as he loves her. "Your parents and I need to talk some more, but I'd love to have my little helper every day."

"Promise?" sniffles Tina.

"I promise, baby." Even if there's a new Waterflower baby in the family, Tina will always be one of Misty's babies. Tina was the first, and the only one for so long. Misty can withstand her annoying oldest sister if it means Tina is happy. Plus, Misty will watch Jayson grow up, but Misty is pretty sure she'll be on a lot of babysitting duty.

"See. Auntie Misty and I will see you a lot. It's not goodbye tomorrow." Ash ruffles her hair.

"Pi!" Pikachu agrees while jumping on Tina's shoulder.

Nodding, the girl hugs them into a group hug. Despite having godparents, she has always felt closest to these two after her parents. Misty practically raised Tina. "You promised." She reminds them.

Misty is curious what Ash promised about, but she won't question him now. They need to get Tina back to bed, which they eventually do after some more coaxing. She's so tired that she can't fight off the sleep for much longer. Thus, Tina falls asleep soon after, and Ash and Misty tiptoe their way back to their room where they each collapse on their side of the bed.

"Are the Sketchits really moving back to the gym?" Ash inquires.

"I don't know. Cerulean City for sure, but I'm not sure about the gym." Misty yawns.

Ash turns to face her in bed. Her eyes are shut because she too is very tired. He reaches out a hand to brush at the strands of her hair and then he gently kisses her forehead once he moves closer to her. "I think it's a good idea." With him being gone this fall, she'll have some company. He won't have to worry that she isn't having fun because Tina will care for her. And Daisy and Tracey will look out for Misty.

The woman opens her groggy eyes to meet his sincere ones. Using some energy, she lifts her head to peck his lips. "Go to sleep, idiot." Misty then moves Ash so that she can snuggle on his chest. This is her favorite place to sleep. The times she happened to accidentally end up on his chest were nice. Waking up on it this morning has gotten her a lot more comfortable. That and the fact that she's too tired to care right now. She wants to fall asleep to the sound of his heartbeat, though it is beating a lot quicker right now. Smirking, Misty is pretty sure this speed is because of her.

Ash is frozen in shock. How can Misty continuously make the first move on him like this? She held his hand first. She linked arms with him first. She kissed him first. And now she's cuddling with him first. Where does she get this courage? He's glad she's done everything first because he's too shy to do it. Relaxing, the man lowers his arms protectively around her. "Good night, Misty."

"Mhm." She's too tired to form coherent words, which Ash finds cute. Soon, the two also drift off to sleep, remembering the adventures they've had in their short week in Johto.

Back in Kanto, Ash and Misty are unpacking. Delia is excited to have them back. When they left Johto, Tina was sad, but she's eager to move to Cerulean City and see them again. Delia can't wait to meet the little girl who got Ash to start battling again, especially since that'll mean Delia will meet baby Jayson too. Ash and Misty have fallen back into their routine life. They've gone fishing, swimming, fed the lab Pokemon, and more.

"Where are you going?" Ash asks as he walks into the living room from his shower. He just lost to Misty in a battle yesterday, so he's been training hard. His goal is to beat her before leaving for his journey this fall.

The woman has her keys in her hand as she's standing by the front door. Delia is in the kitchen, but her attention is on the two. Delia is happy that Ash and Misty are such a lovely couple. She loves having them around. This marriage really has been the best thing for Ash, and Delia has Misty to thank for that. They've all come a long way this past year.

"I'm just running an errand. I'll be back later." Misty tells him.

Ash shakes his head. "I'll come too." He goes everywhere with her now. Compared to the beginning of their relationship when he relied on her to leave the gym, now, he's a lot more comfortable outside. He'd rather be with her in case the media or some annoying people try to do anything to her. It just eases him if he's with her, which is surprising considering how he wanted to stay away from her during the beginning of their Johto vacation.

"Um. That's fine. You don't have to." Misty raises her hands up as Ash walks towards her. Pikachu, who is perched on the kitchen counter, curiously watches them. Why is Misty being so secretive?

"No. I want to." Ash smiles warmly. "C'mon, Mist."

MIsty grabs his arm to prevent him from getting to his shoes. "I'll be quick. You should help your mom make dinner. Spend some time with her since we'll be leaving next week." They have to go back and check on the gym, and then they have to prepare to go to Hoenn for the Hayden wedding. Misty is a bridesmaid for May.

Raising a confused eyebrow at Misty, Ash replies, "It's fine. I'll come back and help her when we're done." MIsty did say this would be a quick errand. "Let's go."

"Ash!" hisses the young woman in hopes that Delia doesn't notice the air.

However, Ash slips on his shoes and opens the front door. "We'll take Charizard. Leave your keys."

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Misty sighs. Maybe this will be good for Ash? She can't shelter him, but she just wanted to be in and out with no problems. Shutting the door behind her, Misty joins Ash on Charizard. "Pokemart please, Charizard."

After Misty buys a few things from the pokemart, Ash says, "We have bandages. You didn't need to buy them?" If she was buying them for her own personal stash at the gym, Ash is sure it'd be cheaper in a big city like Cerulean City. Small towns are always taxing extra. Also, the other items Misty bought confuse him. Why did she buy wet wipes? His mother has plenty of those, though the ones Misty bought seem like a smaller personal pack.

"It's not for me." Misty states as they get on Charizard.

"Then who's it for?" Mewtwo can't possibly be here, can he? Misty did leave him alone for a month, though she said he rarely gets challengers during this time because everyone is focused on the tournament.

Speaking of the tournament, Jimmy is supposedly fighting the current Johto champion right now. He made it through the Elite Four the past few days. The Kanto challenger lost by one of the Elite Four members, so currently, Kanto and Johto are psyched about Jimmy. Well, the world is excited to see how far Jimmy gets. He's a super talented trainer who is an Elite Four member. Everyone is rooting for him to finally take his rightful place as the Johto Champion.

Misty pats Charizard's back. "Take us to Gary's."

"Gary's?" When Misty doesn't respond, Ash frowns. That's why she bought all this stuff? And that's why she didn't want him accompanying her? "I'll be fine."

The whole time they've been back in Pallet Town, they haven't gone to the Oaks'. Ash was confused because he thought Misty really wanted to see Sammy again, especially since they'll be leaving in a few weeks. He figured it's because Gary and Leaf must still have visitors, but the fact that Misty is running errands for the new parents means the visitors must be gone by now.

Sighing, Misty continues looking over Charizard's shoulder at the fields below. This is precisely why she was trying to sneak out while Ash was in the shower. She isn't sure how he'll fair with Sammy, and she didn't want Ash to feel bad if he found out her reason for not wanting him to tag along. However, she did easily let him join because there is a part of her wanting to see his improvements. He was able to interact and hold Jayson last week. Maybe he's ready for Sammy now? At least he isn't as reluctant as he was the day Leaf gave birth.

"Sorry, Ash."

With him sitting behind her, Ash smiles and scoots closer to wrap his arms around her. He rests his face in the crook of her neck where his lips brush her soft skin. "It's okay, Misty. I can only do this with you." If his mother had asked him to see Sammy, Ash would be a lot more nervous.

Misty relaxes in his embrace. She's going to miss this a lot in the coming months. Ash's touch and company. This past year, he's constantly been by her side. She has not felt lonely at all. Life has been fun and rewarding. She's been loved tremendously, and she doesn't want it to end. Nevertheless, all great things come to an end. Ash has a destiny he needs to fulfill. Misty will not be the one holding him back. She loves him too much to do that.

"I can't wait to see him again. He must be so big now." Misty notes. The tabloids have tried to snap a few pictures of Sammy when Leaf left the hospital. Ever since, she's mainly been indoors or in the fenced in backyard with hers and Gary's Pokemon on guard duty.

Chuckling, Ash nods. "I can't wait to actually see him." Last time, Ash couldn't look at the baby at all. He feels a lot better, and he wants to fight. Fight against his past for the betterment of him and Misty. Once he overcomes everything, she'll allow him to keep being her boyfriend, right?

Charizard soon lands, and Ash returns him. The couple walks up the steps to knock on the door. It is eventually answered where they can hear intense crying from inside. "Thank, Mew, Misty! Bout time!" Gary looks very disheveled and tired. Misty and Ash feel bad for him as they enter the house.

"Calm down, Gary. I'm here now." Misty annoyedly responds while setting the bag on the table. She starts pulling the items out of it.

Ash worriedly pats Gary's shoulder, the crying still ringing throughout the house. "You look beat."

"Thanks." comes the blunt unamused response.

Of course he's beat! He's a new parent! Gary Oak has never had this much responsibility in his life. He's exhausted. It was nice the first two weeks when he had Silver and Daisy helping. However, the past three days, it's just been him and Leaf. Leaf is still bedridden, for the most part, leaving Gary on his own. He can't run errands, which is why he's been having Ash and Misty go to the lab for him.

Awkwardly rubbing the back of his head, Ash stammers, "Uh I, um, didn't mean it like that, Gary." He apologizes. "You should get some sleep. Misty and I will help." Ash notes how dirty just this living room looks like. Gary is always so neat and organized. Parenthood must be a lot.

Gary tiredly rubs his eyes as Misty walks over with a bandaid. She grabs his arm to stick it on his elbow, which he had forgotten was bleeding. It's the whole reason he asked for bandages to begin with. Gary had hit his arm against a sharp corner due to his fatigue making him lose his sense of balance.

"Ash is right, Gary. We've got it." Misty sweetly tells the man who sighs.

"Leaf is pretty territorial right now. I can't get her to put down Sammy unless it's for me to clean him." Gary admits defeatedly.

Misty pats his back reassuringly. "Daisy did the same thing twice now. Trust me, Gary. I can get Leaf to rest."

Ash nods. "Yeah, Gary. Get some rest, man." Ash is worried about his friend. Never has anyone seen Gary Oak look this terrible.

"I don't know…"

"Go." Misty sternly says. She starts her way down the hall to the source of the crying. Ash gives Gary another smile and then hurries up to Misty. Gary would rather sleep next to Leaf, so he follows the pair.

When everyone arrives in the master bedroom, they see it's a lot worse than the rest of the house. Misty scrunches up her nose at the smell of the diapers. She opens a window, and that's when Leaf finally notices it's not just Gary in the room. Leaf looks up from her screaming baby and asks, "What are you guys doing here?"

"You look worse than Gary." Misty notes walking back to the bed. She never expected to see these two cunning trainers look so defeated. Extending her arms out, Misty meets Leaf's fiery orbs. "We'll watch Sammy. You two need some sleep."

Leaf clutches her son closer to her chest. "I'm fine." She is slightly peeved that Gary called for help when they don't need it.

"Leaf, please. He's been screaming for so long, and we're too tired to do anything." Gary also isn't sure what his son wants at this point.

"No!" insists Leaf, making Sammy cry louder.

"Leaf, I promise I'll keep him safe. I have a niece and a nephew and a goddaughter. I've done this plenty of times before." Misty soothingly tells her friend.

Ash approaches the bedside and nods. "Misty's good with babies. I'll clean up, and she'll get Sammy to sleep."

Before Leaf can retort, Gary places a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Leaf, they're our friends. We trust them with our lives." He reminds her. "And Sammy is Misty's godson."

Leaf looks around at the people in the room, and then down at her sobbing child. Gary is right. They're exhausted. She hasn't seen herself in the mirror, but she's sure she looks like Gary, if not worse. Ash and Misty are refreshed and caring. Bringing Sammy up to her lips, Leaf kisses his head and then passes him off to Misty. "If you need anything-"

"We'll come get you. We know." MIsty rocks the crying baby in her arms. "He's my godson, Leaf. I'll treat him like my own."

Leaf worriedly watches Misty leave the room, which is to get the crying to subside. That way, the Oaks can sleep without all the noise. Ash starts throwing things in the trashcan he soon takes out of the room too. With most of the garbage gone, and the window open, the master bedroom is smelling a lot better. Ash closes the door on his way out.

Gary lays his head on the pillow tiredly. "They'll be okay."

Leaf still eyes the closed door. "I know, but-"

"Leaf, baby, sleep. Please." He's more worried about her well-being than his. Leaf is still recovering. Also, she's the love of his life. He doesn't like seeing her bags her darker or her shoulders slumping. Reaching out an arm, he pulls her onto his chest. "I love you, so please sleep already."

Due to her fatigue, and the rhythmic sound of Gary's heart, Leaf calms down. She shuts her eyes and mutters, "I love you too, Gary." They're both tired, and they know they can trust Sammy with the Ketchums. His crying isn't as loud as it was before.

Out in the living room, Misty has changed Sammy's diaper and fed him, but he's still crying. The mess in the house isn't too bad. It's just picking up trash, so Ash is getting through things pretty quickly. When he enters the house again after taking out his most recent bags, he spots Misty isn't in the house anymore. Curious, he spots the backdoor open, so he heads out there where he is greeted by crying.

Misty must've gone outside because the crying wouldn't be as loud to the hopefully sleeping parents inside. Ash takes off his gloves and shuts the back door. Misty is bouncing the baby while walking around the fenced yard, but Sammy is still being fussy. Ash isn't sure how a baby can cry this much. How has Sammy not cried himself to sleep yet? Misty is looking helpless, unsure of what to do.

As much as Ash fears children, he fears not being able to help Misty. Not being able to make her smile. Not being able to make her happy. Thus, he approaches her with his arms out. "Let me try." Her arms must be tired by now.

Misty curiously eyes him. "Are you sure?" He only held Jayson for a few minutes last week, and Jayson was not crying.

Shrugging, Ash puts his hands under the baby. "Won't know until I try."

"Ash." Misty pulls Sammy away from Ash. "This is a baby. Not an experiment."

"I know. And you're starting to look as tired as Gary. Just give me a shot. At least let me hold him for a bit, so you can rest your arms." Insists the man.

Misty gazes down at the teary baby, and sighs. Reluctantly passing him off to Ash, she's careful. Misty makes sure Ash has a good hold on Sammy before she lets go. "Support his neck."

"I know. You said the same thing about Jayson." Ash rolls his eyes and slowly rocks Sammy.

Furrowing her brows, Misty is very jealous of Ash right now. He's always been great with kids, so she doesn't get why he doesn't want any. As soon as Ash's brown eyes are on Sammy's green ones, Sammy stops crying. The baby is sniffling, but he is mesmerized by the new face. The very friendly warm face. He feels very protected in Ash's embrace, and now, his fatigue from all that crying causes him to slowly close his eyes.

"Wow." Misty whispers in disbelief after a while. "He stopped."

Ash's attention has remained on the baby this whole time. He's scared that any slight movement will wake Sammy. "Yeah." Smiles the man, causing Misty's heart to melt.

He'll make a great father some day. Him holding Sammy this affectionately makes Misty just want to pounce on Ash. He's his most attractive when he's showing his tender side. And now he's also overcoming his fears. This is starting to look a lot like the Ash Ketchum she fell in love with all those years ago. The Ash Ketchum she doesn't want to lose again.

Watching the sleeping face of Sammy, Ash's own heart is melting. At first, it was beating fast because he was so scared. However, he's just as calm as Sammy now. This pure little baby who just wants comfort. Who just wants to be protected and loved. Ash fights the ache in his chest. No matter how many times he feels like he does not deserve to be this happy, there's always someone making him happy. Well, it's only been occurring this past year, which he knows is due to the redhead peering over his arms at Sammy.

Is it wrong for Ash to finally be happy? For Ash to fully move on? He never wants to forget his past, so he feels guilty every time he's happy. Nevertheless, holding this new life is making Ash feel like he has a new life. Maybe there is a way for him to move on without forgetting his pains? And he's pretty sure the answer to that lies with the love of his life. Therefore, Ash lowers his head to kiss the top of Misty's.

She curiously snaps her attention from the baby to Ash's warm chocolate brown eyes. They're not scared. There's a bit of pain, but he's not as terrified as he was last time. Misty loves these mesmerizing orbs. These orbs that only belong to him, so she gets a closer look as Ash does the same. They soon meet in the middle where they share a loving kiss, careful not to disturb Sammy's sleep.

Hours later, Misty has cooked dinner while Ash watches Jimmy's battle on TV. He's very interested in battles regardless of who is battling. The fact that this battle is important to Misty makes Ash want to watch it more. Misty is in the kitchen avoiding it. As much as she wants to tell Ash to watch something else, there's nothing that will interest him.

Earlier, when Ash tried to put Sammy down in the nursery, Sammy woke up. He quickly went back to sleep once Ash held him closely again. To avoid the baby crying, Ash and Misty decided that Ash will just hold him. Therefore, Misty can't complain when Ash is overcoming his fear, and he's babysitting for their exhausted friends.

Ash has been seated on the couch with Sammy blissfully sleeping as Ash has Jimmy's battle on low volume. Jimmy's battle has taken a few hours already, something expected from the Elite Four member. Ash is surprised that this champion has lasted long, though he is a champion for a reason. Apparently, he's been a trainer for decades, so he and his Pokemon are very strong.

Because Sammy is small, Ash can easily carry him with one arm. Using his free hand, Ash reaches for his pokenav. Since Misty is staying away from the battle, she's been sending him texts rather than walking into the room. It also helps her from making too much noise that may wake up Sammy. Reading the text, Ash's stomach growls. His appetite really has returned. Any indication of food, and he's automatically hungry.

Before he can respond, noise down the hall makes him look up. Soon, the Oak parents are blinking at him in confusion. "Where's Misty?" Gary whispers.

Ash points to the kitchen. "Dinner's ready." He quietly hisses.

The parents feel a lot more refreshed. That was a much needed nap. Approaching Ash, Leaf peers at her peacefully sleeping son's face. "He likes you a lot, Ash."

Ash blushes. "Uh. I guess?"

"I'm jealous." Pouts Gary. Sammy is a light sleeper. Usually, he'd wake up by any slight noise. The fact that Ash can watch this battle, though on low volume, means Sammy is very comfortable with Ash. "He hasn't slept like that since he left the hospital."

Leaf reaches out her hands. "Here. I have the magic touch when it comes to putting him in his crib."

"Uh. Yeah." Ash gently passes the baby to her, and everyone's breath hitches when Sammy shifts.

Eventually, Leaf returns without the baby. Stretching her arms over her head, she exasperates, "Suicune. Parenting is hard." She grew up an orphan, but no amount of crying will ever make her abandon her son. Leaf promised herself that when she was young.

"Wow. They're down to their last Pokemon." Gary astounds, making Leaf turn her attention to the men seated on the couch.

Looking at the TV, Leaf says, "You're watching Jimmy's battle?" What a terrible friend she is! She totally forgot about his battle. While Jimmy is more Silver's friend than hers, Leaf has had many interactions with him. Even Jimmy's wife Crystal was one of Leaf's bridesmaids. "I forgot!" Leaf plops down next to Gary. Jimmy's battles are always very interesting, especially this highly anticipated one. If she wasn't recovering from labor, she'd be at the Indigo Plateau cheering him on right now.

"Typhlosion against Marshtomp." Ash frowns worriedly. "Jimmy's at a type disadvantage."

"Jimmy's a lot like you used to be." Gary grins. "Type advantages don't matter to him. Even if the champion still had his full team left, and Jimmy only had Typhlosion, Jimmy still wouldn't give up."

Nodding, Ash recalls his youth. Lately, he hasn't cared for type advantages because he's returning to his old self. Ash shouldn't count Jimmy out yet. Jimmy is an Elite Four member. Instead of using his Elite Four team of fire Pokemon, he's been using his diverse strong Johto team he first established as a young trainer. Typhlosion is his trusted starter.

"So I guess dinner will just get cold." comes an annoyed voice, making Ash's hair stand up on the back of his neck.

He fearfully glances over his shoulder at the redhead glaring at him. "Hey, Mist."

"Don't "hey, Mist" me. Aren't you checking your pokenav?"

"Hey, Red." Gary waves with his eyes still on the TV ahead. "Don't give Ashy Boy a hard time." It's now that Misty notices the Oak parents. When did they get here?

"Shh! Misty, we're watching Jimmy's battle!" Leaf hisses as Ash gets up to walk towards his girlfriend.

"It's almost over, so we'll eat after." Ash blocks Misty's gaze from the TV because he knows how anxious she is about this battle. Sighing, Misty hits his head with her mallet. "Hey! What was that for?" Ash exclaims painfully.

"Where's Sammy?"

"Leaf put him in his crib!" Ash whines. "Why'd you hit me? I didn't do anything wrong!"

"Answer your texts next time." Although, it is nothing new to her for Ash to ignore her communication.

Rolling his eyes, he grabs her arm to pull her close, causing them both to blush. "I don't think that justifies you hitting me. Apologize."

"Make me." challenges the redhead.

These words make Ash's lips break out in a smirk as he lowers his face. Despite being interested in Jimmy's battle, Ash prefers alleviating Misty's nerves more. He'll continue to irritate her and distract her from a very real situation she's about to face. Using his free hand, he cups her cheek. Because Misty is already meeting his gaze, her chin is up, so Ash easily lowers his face to close the space between them. Mew. He loves her so much, and she loves him just as much, if not more.

"Are you guys gonna watch this battle or keep making out back there?" Leaf feigns vomiting, though she is happy to finally see Misty getting some action.

Over the course of the year, Leaf and Gary have watches Ash and Misty grow closer physically. When Leaf first met Ash, he was so quiet and shy. He never touched Misty. A few months ago was when Leaf first caught them sharing a quick kiss. Now, those two are making out directly behind her in her own house. Even though Leaf just met Ash this year, she can already tell he's improved a lot just from being with Misty.

"Making out." Misty giggles with Ash's forehead resting on hers. They had separated from their kiss when Leaf spoke up.

"Hey. I've been meaning to ask you guys about that fight with Rudy. How'd that happen?" Gary snickers, his eyes still on the battle.

"Oh yeah!" Leaf enthusiastically faces her friends. "I heard Ash threw the first punch!"

"Wow! Ashy Boy's got big balls!" laughs Gary.

Pouting, Ash pulls away from Misty to look at the two. "Rudy deserves it."

"He totally deserved it. Good job, Ash." Leaf gives Ash two thumbs up, and then grins playfully at Misty. "I saw the segment where Misty slapped him too. It's about time you did that."

Misty inwardly groans. Thankfully, this battle is distracting her friends, else Misty is sure they'd be teased a lot worse than this. "We'll find out if it really worked next time I run into him."

"What?" Ash snaps his attention to Misty. Next time? She plans to see him again?

Rolling her eyes, Misty pats Ash's cheek affectionately. "We're gym leaders, Ash. I have to see him."

"Gary and I will try to be there to protect you." Leaf teases.

"You two never protect me." Notes Misty. Every time there's a League afterparty, Leaf and Gary get piss drunk and hook up somewhere, leaving Misty alone. That's when Rudy approaches her, and she has to fend for herself, which isn't too bad.

"There was that one time I scared off that douchebag!" Gary chimes in, recalling his heroic ways.

Misty massages her temples. "He was my sister's boyfriend at the time, and he was just catching up with me. You pushed him away for no reason." Lily's boyfriend at the time, boyfriends never last long with Lily, was asking Misty where Lily was. Apparently, Lily had ghosted him without breaking up with him. Misty is glad that Gary interrupted because she wasn't too sure how to break it to the guy that Lily moved on. The messes her sisters put her in without knowing it. It's nothing new.

"Oh. He won." Gary's words make the three adults turn their eyes to the TV.

There, on the bottom of the screen, in large bold letters, states that Jimmy Kenta is now the Johto Champion. The commentators are going off about how much Jimmy deserves this while the camera is on Jimmy celebrating with his family. Leaf is talking about how proud she is for her friend, and she can't wait to tease Silver about this because Jimmy is Silver's rival.

Gary is still watching the TV, and Ash is now watching the stunned redhead beside him. Everything is zoned out except for the TV where Jimmy is still celebrating. His position is open. That does not necessarily mean she'll get it, but it's open. This is very real. This possibility that she's been trying to ignore lately is very real now.

"Misty?" Ash softly whispers to the frozen woman. Nothing works until her pokenav goes off loudly.

Gary, Leaf, and Ash curiously look at Misty who reaches carefully into her pocket. "It's probably the League telling us about Jimmy's position." Leaf informs them. "Like we should start sharing the application in time for them to hire someone for next year's tournament." Her pokenav is in her room, so she'll just go off of what Misty's call is like. "Pick it up already, Misty!"

"Yeah! And then let's celebrate Jimmy's win here!" Gary grins, but Leaf smacks him. She can't drink yet. Plus, they aren't carefree young adults anymore. They have a baby, so they need to be responsible.

Ash is still warily keeping his gaze on Misty who now has her pokenav to her ears. He's worried about her. She's been avoiding the topic of the Elite Four these past few months. Any time, someone brings it up, Misty gets pale. Similar to how Ash gets nervous around babies. Who could be calling her right now? No one else but him knows she applied for Jimmy's position...right?

"Hello?" MIsty softly speaks into the pokenav as the Oak couple continues to bicker around her.

"Hello, Leader Misty Waterflower. This is Director Goodwin."

"Hello, Director Goodwin." Misty mentally curses herself for not checking the caller ID before picking up, but she was just so stunned and nervous. She still is! Why is the director calling? This gets Leaf and Gary to quiet down, and Ash grows anxious with Misty. Why is Director Goodwin calling? He never makes personal calls to the gym leaders unless they're in serious trouble.

Grinning, the director walks out of the tunnel and towards the stage where Jimmy is waiting for his trophy. "I want to be the first to congratulate you, Misty! Contingent on your acceptance, you'll be our newest Elite Four member!"

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