Single By 30 @shinygrowlithe12
Chapter 21

Been busy finishing class, and then I went on vacation, and then I got sick. I'm still sick, but I'm well enough to type. Don't worry. I don't have COVID. Also, my power went out for a few days this week, meaning I was unable to work on this story because I use Google Docs (and offline Google Docs wasn't working for me). Anyway, after a very busy month, we're back with the final chapter of Single By 30! Did I say "final"? Yes, you read that correctly! Thanks for hanging in there!


Chapter 21

"You gotta admit, though. It is cute seeing them continue their tradition that started all of this." the blonde woman notes.

"But is it really necessary? We all know it's her husband, Ash Ketchum, that she's seeing." the older woman adds.

Annoyed, the redhead shuts off the TV, causing her sisters to exclaim, "Hey! We were watching that, Misty!"

Misty rolls her eyes. "I don't get why you guys like gossip so much." Lily and Violet were watching the gossip channel. Of course, Kanto is bored, so they're talking about her recent secret encounter in the Victory Road cave. Thankfully, the world still thinks she's seeing Ash instead of Mewtwo. Last month, she almost got caught because Ash was spotted in Galar a few days before Misty met up with Mewtwo. Fortunately, Ash wasn't seen in public again for a few weeks, so people assumed he really was in Kanto with Misty.

Currently, Misty's sisters are visiting her. Well, they're crashing at her apartment because there's a League party tonight. Since Lily and Violet are still gym leaders for Cerulean City, they are always invited to the League events. Obviously, they only go to the fun ones to hook up and what not. Misty already laid the ground rule for them not to bring anyone to her apartment. Her sisters can go to others.

Lily waves off Misty's comment. "You and Ash don't need to sneak around just cuz we're here."

"Yeah. No shame if you're trying to work things out." Violet adds.

Oh. Misty wishes she could tell them off. Her sisters, as much as she loves them, annoy the life out of her. Nevertheless, trying to explain herself will result in them potentially finding out that she is meeting Mewtwo rather than Ash. "Ash and I are fine."

Lily and Violet grin mischievously at each other, making Misty nervous. "You're blushing, little sis." Lily teases.

With her blush intensifying, Misty mutters a quick, "Whatever." before rushing off to work.

On the short walk to the Indigo Plateau, Misty's mind wanders back to the raven haired man who has her heart. Her sisters' words remind her of him, though she's always thinking about him anyway. The last time she saw him was at Annalise's birthday party. Even though Brock cleared out Annalise's room for Misty, Misty ended up sharing the guest room with Ash.

Flashback

Reluctantly pulling away, the man huskily breathes, "We should stop."

"Yeah." The disappointed woman agrees. As much as their bodies are yearning for each other, they need to respect Brock's property and home. However, a part of Misty suspects Brock would actually encourage this as long as Ash washes the sheets tomorrow. "It's late anyway."

Nodding, Ash now shyly avoids her beautiful blue eyes. "And you have an early flight."

"Right."

Mew! They were doing so well before, and now they're back to being awkward again. This sucks. Letting out a long breath, Misty says, "I should probably go to sleep then."

Before she can get up, Ash unconsciously grabs her wrist, causing them both to make eye contact again. Nervously gulping, the man quietly states, "You can sleep here…" And they're both blushing profusely, not just from their little makeout session.

To both of their surprise, Misty sits back down on the bed. She slowly lays beside him, and Ash releases her wrist. "They did say I should sleep here."

"Yeah. We should do as Brock and Lucy say. It is their house." Ash's heart is beating rapidly. The woman he loves is beside him. After going months without her, all he wants to do is hold her close and never let her go again. Nevertheless, he isn't ready for that yet, nor will he put Misty through another heartache because he's not mentally there.

Out of an old habit with her, Ash brings his arm out, allowing Misty to rest her head on his chest-also out of habit for her. Besides for doing this cuddling action out of habit, they both miss it and want it. Who knows when the next time they'll see each other is. Or if they'll both still be able to behave like this? They've both been stressing a lot with their professions, so they can give in to their desires for tonight, right? Well, they want to.

Therefore, Ash pulls Misty in tighter to his embrace while Misty too clings onto Ash as if he'll be gone if she doesn't. Burying his face in her hair to catch a whiff of the scent he's missed the most, Ash whispers, "Good night, Misty."

While listening to his fast beating heart, Misty too softly replies, "Good night, Ash." They love each other, but it's not enough. Not yet. Fortunately, they both know of each other's feelings, and this moment just motivates them to reach their goals soon.

Hours later, the blaring alarm from Misty's pokenav springs her awake. Typical Ash Ketchum groggily moves his free arm around to try and shut off the noise. Being more responsible, Misty gets up to turn off the alarm. She's also tired, though this is the best sleep she's had in months. Glancing back up at the dozing man, her heart beats a bit quicker. He always looks so peaceful when he sleeps.

Mew. Misty loves him. With the dim sunlight peeping through the blinds, Ash looks so handsome and cute. That little line of drool seeping down his slightly agape mouth. That arm that's still extended from where she slept. Her face flushes recalling their makeout session last night. Thus, Misty quickly makes her exit before he can wake up because it'll be a lot more difficult leaving him if he's awake. She doubts she can say 'bye' to him too. Regardless of the intense ache in her chest right now, Misty will allow her pride to guide her back to Kanto.

Flashback Over

When Misty landed back in Kanto, she was disappointed to see there were no messages from Ash. What did she expect? For him to miss her so much that he messages her about leaving without a proper 'goodbye'? Okay. Their current relationship status is complicated. It's not like they message each other often either, so of course Ash wasn't going to send her a message. If she didn't have the decency to wake him and bid him farewell, then he doesn't need to text her his own farewell.

Since then, Ash and Misty occasionally text each other, like they had before the birthday party. It's just little messages here and there when they miss each other. Misty has to look online to check out Ash's rank because he doesn't tell her much about his travels. Neither of them have the courage to call the other first. Misty gets her monthly updates on the man too from Tina and Delia.

It's been a few months since she last physically saw Ash, but sometimes, his battles are televised. He is one of the top trainers to watch due to his fast rise in rank, past history as an accomplished trainer, and this being his first competition in over a decade. Whenever one of his battles is televised, Misty makes sure to watch it, and one of his battles is today.

Orre - Two Weeks Earlier

"A storm's probably coming." mutters Ash when the loud boom erupts from a distance away. The dark clouds in the sky tell him that he should take cover soon.

Pikachu, though, is more skeptical because he has better hearing than Ash. "Chu pikachu."

Currently, Ash isn't thinking too much about anything else. He's so close to the Ultra Class, resulting in his mind constantly thinking about her. About what he's going to say to her. It was a lot more clear and easier when he was further away from her. Before, all Ash wanted was to beat her in a battle and ask her to be with him again. Now, Ash isn't sure if that's enough. If that's all they'll need to get back together. If he should do more?

Even though he's been increasing in rank quickly, he doesn't feel like his life is going as smoothly as it seems. It feels like it's almost perfect. Almost is the key word there. Sighing, Ash gazes up at the cloudy sky again. "I'm missing something big, Pikachu." Bigger than traveling.

Most of last year, he couldn't wait to travel again. He was itching to get back on the scene, and a part of him fully believed that he'd be content with just this. Despite wanting Misty back in his life, Ash feared he would forget about her like he had when they were children. With him still feeling this intense void, he knows only she can fill it. But that's also not enough either because, all of last year, they were together, yet Ash still felt empty. Not empty from his lack of traveling, though something else.

Clutching his aching heart, he says, "I don't wanna lie anymore."

"Chu?" Pikachu curiously asks.

"It's one thing to lie to my friends and family, Pikachu, but lying to myself is the worst." Back when he lied that he and Serena would be okay after the miscarriage. He didn't fully believe those words, but he wanted to. Look where that ended him?

Now, he's lying to the world about his marriage with Misty. Okay. Divorce? However, it seems like he and Misty are lying more to themselves than anyone. Ash wants everything to be real. To him, to her, to their loved ones. He doesn't want to hide their love anymore, nor does he want to fake something that's so real between them. If it means making everyone disappointed in him for lying, he's willing to go through that all for his true happiness with Misty.

Before Ash can talk more to himself or Pikachu, another loud explosion shakes the earth. "Let's go, Pikachu!" Exclaims Ash. Obviously, something big is going on. The first sound could've been nothing, but two in a row? That's a concern. And typical Ash Ketchum will always offer his helpful services.

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu agrees while sprinting after his trainer, glad that Ash is out of his woes again. They're currently in the Orre region for Ash to learn from a hidden master. Ash spent the past week learning a new technique to help him be more in sync with himself and his Pokemon. That three year hiatus still had a void between him and everyone, though Ash feels a lot better now.

Soon, an intense gust of wind knocks Ash back as well as flings Pikachu in the air and into Ash's chest, knocking Ash to the ground. As Ash shields his eyes from debris, he tries to make out anything. Fortunately, the wind dies down enough for him to hear a distant, "Charizard, dragon pulse!"

A battle? Ash is excited to watch. It must be a powerful Pokemon to have developed this huge of a wind. However, he then hears a woman yell, "Chespie, stop Team Flare!"

Team Flare? With the wind now gone, Ash and Pikachu exchange worried looks. What is Team Flare doing out here in Orre? Granted, Orre is directly north of Kalos, but still. "Let's help, Pikachu!" Ash hisses.

"Chu!" The two continue their sprint just as a Pyroar unleashes a powerful flamethrower on Chespie.

"Pikachu, thunderbolt!" Ash commands to hopefully help the Chespie against Team Flare. Now in the battle, Ash indeed spots the bright orange jumpsuits.

Once Pikachu attacks the Pyroar, the non-Flare members curiously look at the new arrival helping them. That's when one of the women whispers, "Ash…" The shorter man awkwardly gulps as he looks between Ash and the blonde woman.

Ash is too focused on the battle to notice the other trainers. His concern is making sure Team Flare stops what they're doing. "Finish it off with electro ball!"

The taller man shakes his head to focus back on the battle. He hadn't heard his counterpart whisper Ash's name, though he is wondering why Ash looks familiar. Nevertheless, the task right now is to get rid of Team Flare. "Charizard, dragon claw!"

"Tch." One of the Flare admins furrows his brows. They were already in a losing battle, but now their opponents have one more strong trainer. It's best to flee for now. "Retreat!"

"Don't let them get away!" The Charizard owner yells. However, Team Flare unleashes a smoke bomb that's too thick to see or breathe through. Years of getting smoked on by Team Rocket still hasn't helped Ash prepare for this moment. When the smoke dissipates, and everyone catches their breath, Ash is roughly approached by the taller man. "Who are you?"

"Pikapi!" Pikachu sparks his cheeks.

Before Ash can meet the man's eyes, they all hear a soft, "He's Ash Ketchum."

Ash recognizes that voice. He snaps his attention past the man where he spots his ex. "Serena…"

"Ash?" The man holding Ash repeats in confusion.

"Yeah, Alain. Let him go." The short man pats Alain's shoulder, which does get Alain to release Ash. Pikachu is still on edge because Ash and Serena's eyes are glued on each other.

The fourth member of the group, the Chespie owner, can obviously sense the tense mood. Thus, she jumps in front of Ash to exclaim, "Hey, Ash! It's me, Mairin! Do ya remember me?"

Blinking back to reality, Ash gives Mairin a smile. "Hey, Mairin! How have you been?"

"Great! How about you?" Everyone from Kalos knows Ash and Serena are exes, and they know how bad the break up must've been to make Ash a recluse for 3 years.

"Pretty good too." Ash exclaims. "I'm ranked 273 now!"

"Whoa! I'm at 97 right now. It took me a while, but I'm finally at the Ultra Class!" Mairin pumps a fist up in the air.

"Pikapi." Pikachu leaps on Ash's shoulder to whisper.

Mairin watches the mouse and Ash as Ash's smile falls. He takes in a deep breath before facing the other three in the group. Extending a hand towards Alain, Ash says, "Long time no see, Alain."

"Uh. Yeah. Hi, Ash." Alain is still very confused on why and how Ash is here.

Fighting his racing heart, Ash moves his hand onto the other man. "Hey, Tierno."

"Hey, Ash." Tierno already got Ash's forgiveness, but it's still awkward. They did have bad blood for years.

Finally, Ash too is surprised by the genuine smile forming on his lips when he meets the wary blue eyes of his ex. "Hey, Serena."

Serena takes the hand, a small smile of her own shines to him. "Hey, Ash." It's as if time stands still while the former lovers take in the fact that they have moved on. That the closure they gave each other months ago really is it. Could they be friends again? Not right now, though they are very civil. Neither one is thinking negatively of the other.

"So what brings you to Orre, Ash?" Mairin jumps into the tense silence, making Ash release Serena's hand.

"I was training out here." Ash is grateful for Mairin being the talker. He hasn't seen Alain and Mairin since he was still with Serena. And it's kind of awkward being around his ex and her new fiance. "What are you all doing in Orre?"

"We were tracking Team Flare." Alain finally speaks once he's taken in the whole situation. The team leader is upset that they lost Team Flare again. "We tracked them from northern Kalos into the Orre region."

"Yeah. Team Flare is up to their old tricks again. They still haven't found Zygarde yet, but they just completed their weapon for when they get him." Tierno adds.

"We were trying to get the weapon or at least the important chip they're using." Serena finds her voice more comfortably now.

The Kalos Queen/King and Champion often work together on missions, like this, so Ash isn't surprised that Alain and Serena are tracking Team Flare. Serena and Tierno are together romantically, hence the reason Tierno is here too. Plus, Tierno is a strong enough trainer to handle his own. Back when Ash used to do missions in Kalos too, he'd go with Alain, Serena, and Mairin. Mairin and Alain are good friends who depend on each other. They're partners, thus Ash understands why all four of these people are together.

Rubbing his chin, Ash mutters, "So in case Team Flare gets Zygarde, you want to make sure they can't use their weapon?"

"Yup!" Mairin nods. "We have a team looking for Zygarde, but in the meantime, if we can stop Team Flare before anything big happens, then that's best for everyone!"

Pondering for a bit more, Ash meets Pikachu's eyes. The two don't need to say anything except nod. "We're helping!"

"Uh, Ash, you don't have to." Tierno isn't sure what Ash's motive is, even if they are on good terms now.

"I want to." States the Kanto native. "I can't just let Team Flare destroy Kalos when I can do something about it."

Alain can't help but smile seeing the old Ash again. Alain has heard the stories of Ash being a recluse after his break up with Serena. The fact that Ash is practically the same, and he can communicate normally with Serena must mean that those two have moved on from their pains. "We're happy to have you, Ash."

"Then it's settled!" Ash grins at the group. "We're gonna stop Team Flare!"

"Pi pika!" Pikachu chirps happily.

Tierno and Serena meet eyes before grinning as well. This is Ash Ketchum. The Ash Ketchum everyone remembers. He doesn't hold grudges or have malicious intent. He already got his closure and is ready to move on. Therefore, they don't need to be worried about him. "We're happy to work with you again, Ash." Serena affirms.

After walking back to their campsite and filling in Ash on the mission, the group is settling in for the evening. Tierno is cooking, Alain is training, and Mairin is looking over the plans again. Ash returns from training where he runs into Serena coming back from getting water from the nearby river. Since they almost ran into each other, Ash, out of reflex, grabbed Serena's shoulders to steady her and the bucket of water in her arms.

Awkwardly letting her go, he takes the bucket from her. "Um. Sorry."

"No. It's my fault. I wasn't looking where I was going." She has been lost in thought since he joined them, mainly because Serena can't fully believe that Ash just wants to help out. That he is fine after everything they've gone through.

"We can just blame the forest for being so thick." Chuckles Ash.

Giggling away the tenseness, Serena agrees, "Yeah." Pikachu is happy seeing Ash and Serena are fine. "Thanks for getting the bucket."

Ash lifts said bucket up. "It's nothing." And the two walk back to camp quietly. Everyone listens to the crunch of their steps, which become deafening. So much that Ash can't stand it anymore. He prefers awkward small talk over this silence. "How have you been?"

"Good." Serena too is glad he spoke. "You?"

"Same." Ash gives her a small smile that used to make her heart swoon.

Instead, her nerves are alleviated knowing he is being true. "How's Misty?"

Sighing, Ash gazes up at the dark sky. The same sky above Misty in Kanto. "She's doing awesome at her Elite Four position. I knew she would be great." He yearns to be with her again. To see her and touch her and hear her.

When he woke up that morning after Annalise's birthday party, he was disappointed to see Misty was gone. She really left without a word. Not even a text. Not wanting to seem needy, Ash didn't message her either. Since then, they've occasionally sent a few texts to each other, but nothing major. The more time that goes on, and the more Ash wants her. He isn't sure he can control his desires anymore, hence the reason he's been avoiding Kanto lately. If he's anywhere near her, he knows he'll run to her before he's ready to.

"How's the wedding planning going?" Ash chooses to switch the topic off of his own aching heart.

Serena smiles warmly thinking about her own happiness. Ash asking about it shows improvement between them too. "Tierno mostly plans it since I'm pretty busy, but I do give my input. We're planning for this summer...if we can get the whole Team Flare thing figured out."

"I'm happy for you two." In the corner of his eye, he meets her curious blue ones. "Like I really am."

"Pichu." Pikachu nods.

"Thanks, guys." Serena's eyes gloss over, and she's glad when Ash resumes facing the front of the path. This allows her to quickly wipe her few tears. "Can I send you an invite?"

"Huh?" Ash nearly trips, which makes Pikachu leap to the ground.

Nervous, the blonde quickly stammers, "Uh. I mean. We were friends, and Clemont and Bonnie will be there, and I know they wanna see you, and I feel like we're pretty good now, and it'll help with us being friends again, that is, if you wanna be fr-"

"Yeah." Ash softly cuts her off. "I'd love to go. You and Tierno are still my friends. It just took me a few years of anger to figure that out." He sheepishly adds.

Blinking at Ash, Serena soon smiles back. "Misty is invited too of course."

And there it is again. That same sad look in Ash's eyes. Serena noticed it when she first brought up Misty a few moments ago. She wasn't sure what that sad look was for, so she didn't think much of it. However, Serena is sharp enough to realize that Ash is bent over Misty for some reason. He does have his wedding band on, which Serena spotted at the Flare battle. Serena recalls Ash stating his marriage to Misty is fake, but the feelings between the two seem very real.

"Is everything okay, Ash?"

Chuckling sadly, Ash resumes walking with Pikachu leading them. "I don't know." He isn't sure if he should be talking to her about this. About relationship issues. Serena is his ex. Besides it being awkward, it's not right to confide in another woman he once had romantic interest in.

"Seems like something's bothering you." Notes Serena. "We were good friends before we were dating. And I'm assuming I'm the only one who knows your marriage with Misty is fake?"

"Brock and Lucy know." Ash then sweatdrops. "And you." Only those three know of his fake marriage to Misty. Groaning, Ash asks Serena, "Did you tell Tierno?"

"Yeah… sorry…" winces the woman.

Shaking his head, Ash says, "It's fine. I trust you two won't say anything." While he did expose his secret to Serena out of anger, the fact that Serena and Tierno haven't told anyone shows they are trustworthy. This is shocking given Ash and Serena's relationship breaking over their lack of trust in each other. "We're divorced now."

"What?" Serena stops in her tracks. She can clearly tell Ash is in love with Misty still, so why the separation?

Because Serena isn't walking anymore, Ash turns to patiently wait for her. "We haven't filed the papers cuz we don't want to deal with the media right now, but our families know we're divorced."

Massaging her temples, Serena tries to take in the information. Ash's romantic life does seem like such a shit show. "Not that it's any of my business, but can I ask why?"

Shrugging, Ash too is amazed that he is speaking with Serena about this. "We just figured that separating while I achieve my dreams is better for us."

"Yet you're still wearing your wedding ring-"

"Because the world thinks we're still married."

She's not fully buying this. He can try to tell the world these lies, but Serena and Ash were close friends for years. "You still clearly love her, Ash."

"Uh. Yeah, I do." Blushes the man who now averts his gaze to the ground. "But love isn't enough."

Serena knows all about how love can't quite be enough. Sighing, she states, "Love wasn't enough for us, Ash. But is it enough for Misty?"

"I'm not gonna compare my relationships."

"Tierno is enough for me." Her words make Ash look up at her again. "I was in love with you since we were kids. After the miscarriage, I pushed you away. I felt it was easier having you hate me than to be reminded that I lost our baby-"

"It wasn't your fault."

She raises a hand to silence him. "Let me finish. Please, Ash. I know that now, but it took until I got with Tierno to learn about that. To learn how to love myself first before anyone else. He got me to fight harder, and I know that he's enough." She giggles recalling her younger days. "I used to find him so annoying, but I can't imagine life without him. What I'm trying to say, Ash, is that love wasn't enough for you and me because...maybe we weren't really as in love with each other as we thought we were. We're not each other's soul mates. And after the breakup, I was still loving you and focused on you, but it wasn't you I wanted by my side. It was Tierno. It's still Tierno."

To Serena's and Pikachu's reliefs, Ash warmly smiles at her. "I'm glad it's Tierno."

Nodding, the woman adds, "Is Misty enough? You weren't enough for me, and that's not your fault at all. It's my own. Else, I wouldn't have cheated on you. And I know I wasn't enough for you because you were always out on missions."

"I did love you." Ash reassures her.

"I know. But it wasn't enough. Now, is Misty enough?" Serena questions while the man mulls over her words. "You keep saying love isn't enough for you two, but that shouldn't be it. A relationship is more than just love. It's a partnership, trust, dependence, and so much more. The love will always come, but there's more than just that."

Out of habit, Ash lifts his hand up to study the ring on his finger. His heart swells for the redhead. After a few silent seconds, he answers Serena, "I'm not ready for her. I want to make sure everything is perfect." He meets Serena's slightly disappointed eyes. "I don't wanna hurt her like I hurt you."

Since Ash was never really in love with Serena, he was going through the motions of a boyfriend. Of course, at the time, he thought he was in love with her. He tried his best to please her and keep her happy. However, that all came crumbling down after their miscarriage. So much that it hurt both of them tremendously. Ash is grateful for his relationship with Serena because it's got him to cherish Misty a lot more. Therefore, he doesn't want to put her through that pain either by rushing into things when he isn't fully aware of himself and his emotions.

"I can tell Misty is a lot stronger than me. It'll take a lot for you to hurt her, and even then, I'm sure she won't let you do it so easily." Serena explains.

Laughing a bit as he recalls his fiery lover, Ash agrees. "True. I do love Misty a lot. I'm so in love with her. And I know she's in love with me, but right now, we're not ready for each other. I'm almost ready." Ash never thought he could look at his ex with this much sincerity anymore. Without any hatred or pain. Just calmness. "When we have our real wedding, is it okay if I send you and Tierno an invite too?"

Serena is glad to see Ash in good spirits again. "Of course, but when will you be ready? Because a woman like Misty won't be single for long."

Despite knowing Misty would wait lifetimes for him, that's not what Ash wants. She should not be wasting her life on him. "Soon, hopefully. Once I get to the Ultra Rank, I'll battle her."

"I meant, when will you be ready to be with her again, Ash?" Typical Ash to only think of battling.

"I know. I gotta battle her first though." Grins the man as their campsite is within sight.

Whatever. Serena won't pry, nor is it her right to. She's lucky Ash has shared so much with her already. It is typical of Ash to be focused on battling. Recalling Ash telling Mairin his rank is in the 200s, Serena suggests, "Why don't you battle Alain? He's in the Ultra Class, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind battling you."

Shaking his head, Ash tells her the same thing he told Misty months ago. "I wanna make my way up like everyone else. I'll battle him when I get closer in rank."

"Battle who?" Mairin inquires when the two approach Tierno.

"Who?" Tierno is also curious. He trusts Serena, so he isn't worried about her being alone with Ash.

"I was saying Ash should battle Alain." Serena repeats.

"No. It's fine." Ash quickly shakes his hands.

"Wow! Alain won't battle me until I'm under 50!" Mairin astounds.

"Yeah. I don't wanna battle him til I'm there too." Ash tries to cut in, but the three are already enthusiastically talking about the rematch.

"What's going on?"

The new voice causes everyone to jolt away in surprise. "Whoa! Alain!" Tierno doesn't know why he's so nervous. It's not like they were saying anything bad about the champion.

"Um. Hi?" Alain curiously raises an eyebrow at them. "Do I wanna know what this is about?"

Ash quickly answers, "No-"

"Yes, you do!" Mairin grins while grabbing Alain's arm. This makes them both blush slightly. "Ash wants to battle you, so he can get in the Ultra Class!"

"Actually, I don-"

"It'll be awesome, Alain! You haven't been dethroned at all! Everyone will love to watch the rematch between you and Ash!" Teirno is hyped up. Ash and Alain were the ones in the finals the year Alain won. Alain only became the champion by defeating Ash.

"Uh…" Alain looks at the sheepish Ash. "Do you wanna battle, Ash?"

"Not until I'm in the Ultra Class." Ash is glad he can finally get a word in. "I wanna battle you again some day, Alain, but I wanna do it when I'm closer in rank."

"Aw." Mairin pouts. If anyone can defeat Alain, it'd most likely be Ash. Not that she wants to see Alain lose, though it'll be an exciting battle to watch.

"Then how will you reach the Ultra Class, Ash? You need to battle people in higher ranks to climb faster." Serena reminds him. The tournament season is about through this year.

Once again, before Ash can answer, someone cuts in for him. "I think you should battle Mairin." Alain innocently states, causing the group to look at him in shock.

"Why Mairin?" Serena asks.

Alain gazes between Mairin and Ash. "Mairin is in the Ultra Class, so if Ash can beat her, he'll most likely be in the Ultra Class too."

"But I won't lose." Mairin narrows her eyes at Alain. "And it's more fun if Ash battles you! Ash and I have never battled before."

"All the more reason you two should battle now." Alain tells her. "Ash is a serious competitor. His rank doesn't define the true trainer he is. If you can beat him, then I'll let you battle me." Alain has a strict rule of battling those ranked under 50. He is currently ranked 15th, which is mainly because he doesn't partake in the World Coronation Ceremony. The ten in the Master Class are active participants of the World Tournament.

Blushing from the compliment, Ash rubs the back of his head. "I'm down for a battle with Mairin if she is."

While Ash wanted to wait until he was in the 100s to battle someone in the Ultra Class, he sees what Alain is saying. It'll take a while for Ash to reach the Ultra Class and higher if he's taking it slow. Right now, he doesn't have the time to take it slow. He can't risk losing to someone in his class and dropping back down a lot. That's what's taken him so long to get to where he is now. It's now or never.

All eyes are expectantly on the brunette who is now shyly looking between Ash and Alain. Giving in, she lets out a long breath and extends a hand towards Ash. "Fine. But I'm not gonna go easy on you just cuz we're friends!"

Ash shakes the hand. "I don't expect anything but your best, Mairin. We're here to bring it too, right, Pikachu?"

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu flexes his arms.

"This is so exciting!" Serena practically squeals.

"Ash Ketchum makes his return to Kalos! The region is gonna be celebrating!" Tierno notes.

"And then they'll celebrate when their own native defeats him." Alain wraps an arm around Mairin's shoulders.

"Okay! Enough talk about the battle! We need to find Team Flare first or else there won't be a battle!" Mairin wants the attention off of her.

Soon, the group eats dinner and goes over tomorrow's plans before calling it a day. To think, a year ago, Ash wanted nothing to do with Kalos, especially his ex. Here he is, working with her and the other Kalos leaders. Not only has he changed, but those around him have too. For the better.

Present Day

After tracking Team Flare through southern Orre for a few days, Ash and company finally cornered a couple of members. The group then broke into the Flare base and managed to not only destroy the weapon chip but the weapon itself too. Authorities arrested some Flare members who couldn't get away. Although Team Flare is not fully eradicated, their numbers are low and their power is weak. As long as Kalos keeps an eye on Flare operations, Team Flare won't pose a huge threat to the region anymore.

With the return of the Kalos heroes to Kalos, news of Ash's and Mairin's battle spread quickly. One, Ash Ketchum is back in Kalos. The last time he was spotted here was during his relationship with the Kalos Queen, Serena Yvonne. A relationship that has since ended and brought Ash into a deep depression in Kanto. Plus, Ash used to be a prominent figure in Kalos due to him being a strong trainer. He has major ties to this region.

Moreover, Mairin is a strong trainer who trains with the Kalos Champion. She could've been an Elite Four Member, but declined due to not wanting the constraints of a formal job. Therefore, she helps out on missions often, though she mainly travels around the world competing in the World Coronation Ceremony. Being one of Kalos's strong trainers, she too has many eyes on her.

Thus, this battle between Ash and Mairin, who have never battled before either, is much anticipated. So much that news of it spread all over the world. That and the fact that Ash has quickly climbed in the ranks from 50000 to 200 in under a year. People are shocked he still has the knack for battling in him after so many years away from the scene. Nevertheless, this is Ash Ketchum. The boy from small town Pallet Town who made a name for himself immediately after his first year of his journey.

"This is too much." Ash mutters to Pikachu backstage. None of his battles have been on a huge stage like this. Although Ash and Mairin said they just wanted to battle in a small arena with just their friends around, the region decided otherwise. Now, they're performing on a stage grand enough to be the Monarch battle. Of course, it's because Ash is the one battling, and he has complicated ties to Kalow, but still. This is too much.

"Pi pikachu pika pikapi pikachu." Pikachu whispers back in response.

Ash hung out with Bonnie and Clemont yesterday. They're here at the League to watch the battle. Serena hung out with them all too because the four of them were a group who traveled together. At first, Clemont and Bonnie were hesitant about Ash and Serena hanging out together, but the four soon were conversing like nothing terrible had happened between them. Ash really missed the siblings.

Being backstage, Ash would normally have people here to pep talk him. Of course, he doesn't want Serena and Tierno back here. Clemont and Bonnie are seated with Serena in the stadium because Ash doesn't want them to see him worrying like this. Does Mairin have anyone? Her family? She is a Kalos native, so Ash is sure she's got many people in her room with her.

He's been trying to talk to Pikachu and alleviate his nerves. Although it's helped distract him a bit, that's all it's done: distract him. The moment he and Pikachu stop talking, Ash is reminded of the battle again. It's not that he's nervous to battle Mairin. Nor is he nervous that this battle could bring him to Misty. Ash is nervous because of the many eyes on him. He has had a few televised battles before, though they were not as big as this one. It's not like this is an important battle or anything, yet Kalos thinks it is because of the trainers involved.

Catching his wedding band in the corner of his eye, Ash clenches his fist. He lets out a loud groan. "We can do this, Pikachu!" The man is mainly trying to reassure himself of his words.

"Pika!" Pikachu can sense his trainer's nervousness, which makes Pikachu nervous as well. This is Ash's first huge battle to be televised in over a decade. Even though Ash is back to the trainer and person he was prior to his depression, anyone would be anxious on a stage as grand as today's. And in an opposing region too.

As if on cue, his pokenav buzzes. Ash already spoke to his mother this morning, and she wished him well for the battle. Besides, Delia doesn't know how to text. Ash hopes it's the person he occasionally gets texts from, though he has been getting various messages from his many friends over this highly publicized battle. Fortunately for him, the message is indeed from her.

We're ready whenever you are.

Ash can't help but smile. He is about to text her back, but being in an anxious state over the battle, he gives in to his desires and calls her. To his surprise, she picks up immediately during the first ring, like she had been waiting on his response. Nevertheless, the two awkward adults don't know what to say. It's their first time speaking with each other since the makeout session, despite all the random texts they've sent.

Sighing, Misty is the first to break the silence, mostly because she assumes his nerves have got the best of him. "I'm not gonna ask how you're doing, Ash."

Mew. He loves hearing her say his name. With a smile on his lips, Ash softly replies, "What if I wanna know how you're doing, Misty?"

"It's not me you need to be worried about."

"Then who should it be?"

"You, dumbass." deadpans the woman. Misty sent him a text just cordially. She didn't expect him to call, but the fact that he did, caused her to worry. Ash never calls. She never calls either. "Why'd you call?"

"Um. I don't know." Sweatdrops Ash. He was nervous, though not so much anymore. Misty is best at calming his nerves. "I just sort of did."

"Well, I'm glad you did." She really is glad he called because she's missed his voice. She's missed him. Just watching him on TV isn't enough. Despite her pride telling her not to admit that she's yearned for anything from him, Misty figures he needs to hear this more than her. "It's gonna be the last time you make your promise to me."

Chuckling, Ash finds himself grinning widely. "I'm glad you have a lot of faith in me."

"One of us has to since it sounds like you don't believe in yourself." notes the woman.

"It's not that I don't believe in myself-"

"But you're nervous."

"Yeah." He hangs his head in shame. "It's my first time on such a big stage like this. This isn't even that big of a battle, but I don't get why Kalos needs to make it such a big deal!"

"Maybe cuz of your history there?" Misty was shocked to hear his next huge battle would be in Kalos. She figured Ash steered clear of that region. Luckily for her, the media hasn't caught sight of him in Kalos until today.

"I guess." The man defeatedly mutters. "Look, Misty. I'm nervous. I usually am for battles and stuff, but it's never been this bad."

Letting out a breath, Misty wishes she could be there with him. To hug him and reassure him that he's got there. To physically support him. He must feel like the region is against him due to his history with Serena. Ash isn't showing it as much, but Misty can tell his nerves are besting him. "So what are you gonna do about it?"

"There's nothing I can do but battle, right? Like it's too late to run away now." Ash could scheme with Mairin to battle somewhere more private. They just want to battle. Not put on a show for Kalos. Nevertheless, Kalos would be upset, and Mairin doesn't want to disappoint her region like that.

"If no one's opinion mattered, would you run away right now? If no one would say anything or judge you about it." questions the redhead.

"No."

That was much quicker than expected. "Why?"

Running a hand through his hair, Ash looks out the window at the large crowds outside of the League. There's a large jumbotron for people outside to view the battles for free. "I don't back down from battles."

"That's the Ash Ketchum I remember." Misty grins.

It took some time, but Ash is being reminded of who he is. Forget the stage. The crowd. His opponent. All he knows is that he wants to win. "Thanks, Mist."

Mew. That nickname that only he has for her. With her aching heart, Misty responds, "That's what I'm here for."

Chuckling, Ash walks back over to Pikachu. "You're here for much more than that."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah." Pikachu climbs on Ash's shoulder.

"How so, Mr. Pokemon Master?"

Feeling his own heart beat quicker, Ash states, "You'll find out after I defeat Mairin."

Even though she's eager to hear his reasoning, Misty won't pry right now. She finally got Ash back to the confident battler he is. Thus, she just says, "I'd wish you good luck, but you don't need it."

"Save all that luck for yourself when I come for you next." smirks the man who approaches his door.

"Wow. Cocky much, Ash Ketchum?" teases Misty.

"Nope. I just want us to be at our best for each other. Thanks for the pep-talk!"

Giggling to herself, Misty's cheeks are more flushed. "I expect nothing else from you, Ash. Your next battle is gonna be with me!"

"I know. See ya, Mist."

"See ya, Ash."

With the call ending, Ash pockets his pokenav. He and Pikachu make their way down the long hall towards the stadium. They're ready. They're more than ready because this is Ash's last obstacle before he can be with the love of his life. It's only fitting that his last battle is in Kalos, the place that brought him so much pain. "Let's get to Misty already, Pikachu!"

"Pi!" Pikachu sparks his cheeks in excitement.

Eventually, the stage is set, and Ash's nerves are since gone, thanks to his call with Misty. On the other side of the arena, Ash meets Mairin's eyes. He's glad to see she's just as pumped for this battle as he is. When the officiator tells them to begin, Ash yells over, "Let's have an awesome battle, Mairin!"

"I was gonna say the same to you, Ash!" Grins the woman. "Let's show em how we do it, Bebe!" Mairin's flower Pokemon emerges from her pokeball as Ash calls out his Charizard. This causes Mairin to become more eager because Alain has a Charizard too. "I didn't think you'd use your Charizard so early." Alain's and Ash's Charizards interacted during their mission, though Ash's Charizard isn't friendly.

"He's been itching to battle again. I figured I'd use him first." Ash sheepishly recalls Charizard being frustrated about not getting enough battling time.

Mairin has battled Alain's Charizard a few times, so she figures Ash's won't be any different, even if Ash mega evolves his Charizard. "Well, we aren't fazed. Bebe, Leaf storm!"

Smirking, Ash returns his attention to the battle. "Charizard, burn the leaves away!" Charizard is one of Ash's strongest Pokemon; thus, his flamethrower easily burns the Leaf Storm attack away, and the flames hit Bebe.

As the battle commences, Charizard makes it through three of Mairin's Pokemon before he's knocked out himself. Mairin is down to her last Pokemon, Chespie, who has just knocked out Ash's Sceptile, leaving Ash with only Pikachu. Therefore, Mairin and Ash have their last Pokemon, but Ash's Pikachu is a lot more refreshed than Mairin's Chespie. Chespie has already battled 2 of Ash's Pokemon, and now he has Ash's strongest one yet.

"You can do it, Mairin!" The unusually loud voice makes the battlers turn to the sidelines where the Kalos Champion is on the edge of his seat. His brows are furrowed as he, once again, yells, "You and Chespie have trained for this! Beat him and then battle me!"

Mairin blushes while watching the very serious man cheer for her. Of course, everyone knows he's on her side, but it still makes her heart beat quickly. "I know, Alain!" Mairin calls back to him. "Chespie and I got this!"

Ash flips his cap backwards because he recognizes that look in Mairin's eyes. It's a look he gets when he's at the end of a battle and needs to win. Mairin and Chespie won't be going down easily. "I hate to burst your bubble, Mairin, but I need this win too. Pikachu, quick attack!" The mouse and Chesnaught engage in a very heated battle. Neither starter wanting to let their trainer down. However, it was obvious from the beginning who would turn out victorious from this battle.

Kanto

"You must be happy your husband won." comments Lorelei, breaking Misty from her thoughts.

Misty jolts up in surprise because she hadn't even noticed Lorelei enter the office. "Oh. Um. Hi, Lorelei."

Smiling warmly at the grinning redhead, Lorelei says, "It's good that Ash is rising. He's in the Ultra Class now." Lorelei wanted to run something by Misty but was waiting for the end of the battle. Everyone at the League knows Misty watches all of Ash's televised battles, like a supportive wife. Lorelei just didn't expect Misty to still be in such a daze over Ash's victory. The battle has been over for 20 minutes now.

"I know." Misty can't fight the huge smile on her lips. "He's really grown."

"I wonder who he'll be battling next?" The Ultra Class mainly consists of Elite Four members and other top trainers. Thus, everyone in the Ultra and Master Class generally knows of one another.

"He'll be coming here."

"Huh?"

Misty turns her attention back to the screen that has Ash's trainer picture displayed on it. It's such a terrible picture of him, but it's so him. He took it at the beginning of this year. His awkwardness over getting his picture taken is apparent, causing Misty to giggle. "We promised to battle when he gets to the Ultra Class."

"Don't let the director find out unless you wanna be on a big stage like that." Lorelei motions to the TV.

Even though Misty knows how nervewrecking performing in the stadium can be, she's sure that she and Ash can handle it. They can tackle anything together. Nevertheless, Misty prefers to battle somewhere else. A place more fitting for her and Ash. "Even if the director finds out, Ash and I will do our own thing." Misty is rarely one to follow League orders. It's nothing new.

After an evening of congratulations from the various League staff over her husband's new ranking, Misty finally makes her way home to relax. Unfortunately, she forgot that her annoying sisters are there as well, preparing for the League event tonight. At least they'll be gone in an hour or so. With Lily and Violet not caring for battling, they don't know of Ash's new rank, and they forgot about his battle today. Misty appreciates some quietness, so she doesn't mind their airheadedness.

"I'm gonna take a bath." The redhead informs her sisters while looking through today's mail. "Make sure you lock up before you leave."

Lily rolls her eyes. "Like, we are older than you. In case you forgot."

"You sure don't act like it." Misty mutters.

"Mew, Misty, smile a bit, will ya?" Violet chimes in.

Sighing, the Elite Four member gives her sisters a serious look. "I love you guys, you know that. But this is my home, so you need to follow my rules."

Lily waves her hand. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like, we know, little sis. Lock the door when we leave."

Violet nods in annoyance. "And make sure we have our keys, so we don't wake you up."

"And don't bring anyone over." Lily adds.

"And don't have sex here." Violet boredly replies.

"And-"

"Okay. I get it, You guys know what you're doing." Misty massages her temples.

After a long day at the League, she just wants to relax tonight. And maybe call Ash to congratulate him. He hasn't messaged her at all since his win, so she assumes he must be celebrating. Would it seem weird if she called him twice in one day? They never called before. Arg. Misty just needs to end this day already.

"Yeah. Like, it's not our first time visiting you, Misty." Violet smiles.

Now, Misty gives them a small fatigued smile of her own. "I know. I lay these rules on you guys, but please call me if you're in trouble." If they're too drunk to get back by themselves. If someone is following them. If something happens. Misty would rather be woken up from her much-needed slumber than lose anyone important to her, even if they constantly annoy her.

Lily gets up to hug Misty tightly, causing Violet to join. "Thanks, Misty! We promise to be good!"

Normally, Misty would be irritated with their excessive bodily contact, but this is warranted. She giggles while hugging them back. "Alright. Have fun, guys." The three separate, allowing Misty to finally head to her room, which has its own bathroom.

Some time passes while Misty is bathing in the warm bath. The water always feels great on her tense and tired muscles. Eventually, she gets out and decides that a nice romantic movie to end her day will be acceptable. Oftentimes, she brings work home to do until late in the night. Misty is a workaholic. However, with the League event tonight, work has been slower this week, so she's been able to catch up on everything. For once, she may get to sleep early.

Knocking on her door gets her attention as she's browsing for a movie. "We're leaving now, Misty!" comes Violet's voice from behind the door.

Still looking at the television, Misty yells back, "Okay! Call me if you need me!"

Soon, the apartment falls quiet. Lily and Violet are always blasting their music when they're preparing for anything. It took a lot of forceful reminders from Misty for them to learn to turn everything off when they are done. This habit had to be established at the gym, and it's transferred to her Indigo Plateau apartment now.

A few minutes later, she hears a knock on her door again. "What is it?" Did her sisters forget something? They better not try to convince her to come with them again. They tried that all yesterday. With her eyes still browsing for a movie, she isn't paying attention to the door that's slowly opening. When she hears the door creak open, she internally groans. "If you're here to try and convince me to go with you guys again, it's still a 'no'."

"Actually, I was hoping you'd watch a romcom with me."

What? That voice is way too deep to be her sisters. Moreover, she can recognize that voice anywhere. She heard it earlier today. Snapping her attention to the open doorway, Misty's jaw drops as the yellow mouse leaps into her arms. "Pikachupi!"

Misty can't believe he's here. That they are here. Pikachu's soft warm fur in her arms lets her know that this is not a dream. There's no way she fell asleep so soon after trying to search for a movie. It doesn't matter how exhausted she is. Squeezing Pikachu tighter, for fear that this could be a dream, Misty returns her shocked gaze to the man approaching her bed.

"Hey, Mist." Damn. That goofy handsome grin of his.

"What are you doing here?" she practically whispers.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Ash takes the remote from her hands. He can't help but chuckle, despite his own racing heart. "Fulfilling my promise." There's been a romcom he's wanted to watch for some time now, but he's been waiting to watch it with her. Thus, Ash quickly puts on the movie.

Misty is still trying to find her voice and process the situation. "Aren't you supposed to be in Kalos?"

He meets her stunned confused eyes. After defeating Mairin, Ash skipped the ceremony that Kalos wanted to throw for him. He healed his Pokemon and then caught a flight straight to Kanto. Granted, he did interact with his friends in Kalos before leaving, but his focus has been on getting here as soon as he can. Everything he's worked for this year is for him to reach the Ultra Class...and her.

When he arrived at Misty's apartment building, he ran into Lily and Violet in the lobby. The sisters were excited that he's visiting Misty. Therefore, without many words from Ash, Lily and Violet meddled to get Ash to Misty's room. They gave him one of their keys to Misty's apartment, and told him that she's alone, suggesting more to the dense man. It took a bit of courage from Ash to walk into Misty's apartment. Add in him leveling his excitement and nerves, and now here the couple is.

"I prefer being here more." Ash is grinning so large that it hurts his face. However, he can't help himself. "With you."

"Since when have you been romantic?" Her normal senses are finally returning to her.

"I'm pretty sure you made me watch countless romance movies for almost a year."

Rolling her eyes, Misty is glad they're conversing like no time has passed. Like their makeout session the last time they saw each other isn't affecting the way they interact. The thing about her relationship with Ash is exactly this. No matter how much time passes or what happens between them, they will always interact like they were traveling together yesterday.

Mew. Misty's heart aches recalling the happiest days of her life: traveling with Ash and Brock. Had she known those would be two short years, she would've cherished their time together more. "You liked them." Teases the redhead.

"I fell asleep through most of them." Reminds Ash.

"Whatever. You still haven't explained why you're here."

Pulling out his pokenav, Ash gives her a victorious grin. "I'm back at 99."

"I know. I watched the battle."

"You watched my battle?" He curiously asks. Does she watch them all? Does she keep track of him? Just how involved is she in his progress? Ash is eager to think that she's constantly following him like he is her.

"Duh." Misty tries to play it off now that she sees that excitement in his eyes. "I knew this could be the one that brings you to the Ultra Class. I had to stake out my future competition." When Ash pouts, Misty can't help but giggle. Alright. She'll let him have this one. "Of course I watch your battles, Ash! I love watching you battle!" Partly because she loves watching him. It's the only time she can see him. Another reason she loves watching him battle is because it's the most Ash-like he's been in a while. No one can tell that he's been in a depression or on a hiatus when he battles. He's the Ash she remembers. The Ash she's missed.

Hearing that she watches his battles makes Ash love her even more. The fact that she's still so invested in him when they broke up must mean she still loves him, right? As much as he loves her too. It has to be. "I watch your battles too!" Sometimes, Misty gets challengers in the World Tournament. She's only lost to one this year, but her rank is still high.

"So I'm assuming you're here to challenge me, huh?" Misty suggests when Ash pockets his pokenav.

"You know it! My team and I have been training for you."

"Are you sure you don't wanna rest and train for a few more days?" He did just have a big battle today.

Shaking his head, Ash tells her, "Nope!" He's been training this whole year for her. With the sole purpose of defeating her, something he hasn't done since they were kids.

Laughing, Misty says, "Okay. We can battle tomorrow...if you're up for it."

Ash pumps his fists in the air. "That's plenty of time for my Pokemon to recover!"

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu joins in on the cry.

"I was thinking we should battle at the gym."

Ash curiously raises an eyebrow at her. "Why there? We could just battle here." He doesn't mind the cameras and the stage.

Shrugging, Misty glances back at the movie Ash put on. She already saw it because she watches all romance movies. "It's where we've always had our battles. I feel like it's where this one should be."

The man grins in realization. "Hey, that's a good idea! I'll beat you at the place you always beat me!"

"You're not gonna win." Misty bursts his bubble.

"I'm pretty sure I will. I feel it! This is the one!"

"Sorry, not sorry, Ash, but I'm gonna stay the better trainer between us."

"First off, I'm not the same trainer I was last year." Notes Ash. "And-"

"First off." Misty cuts into his ego. "You need to take a shower." She shoves him off her bed while scrunching up her nose. He really did come straight here from his battle. Ash always gets very sweaty when he battles.

Although Misty doesn't mind him right now, her heart can't handle seeing Ash on her bed with her. Granted, Pikachu is here, but still. Him enthusiastically talking about battling like when he was younger reminds her of her childhood crush on him. Add in the fact that he's himself again, and Misty just wants to pounce on the man. Her body yearns for him, especially after their makeout session in Hoenn.

Therefore, she manages to push Ash into the bathroom with a towel and his backpack that has his change of clothes. Ash scratches his head in confusion. Sniffing his own armpit, he too wrinkles his nose in disgust. No wonder why Misty got him off her clean bed. "Don't watch the movie without me! Pause it!" He yells through the door as he quickly strips to take a fast shower.

"I've already seen it." She informs him.

Groaning aloud, Ash exclaims, "You should've waited for me!"

"I've been waiting for you to come battle me for months. You can't be upset that I watch romcoms without you."

The bathroom door swings open as Ash shows her his pout. He's shirtless with his jeans unzipped, allowing Misty to really take in all of Ash's muscles. Mew. In Hoenn, he had a shirt on the whole time, but she could feel his chest was harder. This is the first time she's seen him with less clothing all year. Traveling has done wonders on him.

"Romcoms are supposed to be our thing, Mist."

Arg! She hurriedly sheilds her eyes and points back at the bathroom door. "Shower. Now, Ash."

"Fine." He throws his hands up in defeat. "Just pretend like you haven't seen this movie before then. I wanna watch it."

With Ash back in the bathroom, Misty falls back on the bed with her arms trying to cool her red face. "Help me, Pikachu."

"Pi?" Pikachu cocks his head to the side.

"Why am I in love with the biggest idiot in the world?" mutters the woman.

"Pi pika pikachu pichu pikapi pika?"

"I guess you're right. Love can't be explained."

When did she fall in love with Pikachu's trainer? She knows it's when they were traveling together, and pretty early on too. Was it seeing his care for all Pokemon? His natural tendency to see potential in everyone? His caring nature? His confidence? His goals? Trying to pinpoint the single moment she fell in love with him is useless because Misty knows she fell in love with all of him. As she got to know him more, she found more to love him. Now, she can't see her life without this dense man.

After a much-needed shower, Ash has resumed watching the movie with Pikachu and Misty. She fed him some leftovers because he missed dinner. Due to Ash's hunger and excitement, his mind hasn't quite wandered to the same thoughts as Misty. Misty is constantly thinking about Ash in bed with her. He is sitting on the bed with her, but she's dwelling on more lustful ideas. Fortunately, Pikachu is around to prevent anything from happening.

With the movie ending, Ash is washing the dishes in the sink. Misty told him he didn't have to do it, especially since they're mainly her sisters' dishes. Nevertheless, Ash wants to do his part because Misty fed him and is providing him a place to sleep. Psyduck and Politoed are showing Pikachu a game on their tablet in the living room while the humans are in the kitchen conversing.

"That did not happen!" laughs the redhead.

Chuckling beside her, Ash exclaims, "I'm not lying! You can ask Pikachu!" Ash has been telling Misty about some memorable moments during his recent travels.

"Actually, having a flock of Tailows steal your clothes while you're swimming does seem like something that would happen to Ash Ketchum." smirks Misty.

Ash rolls his eyes. "It wouldn't have been that embarrassing if Pikachu wasn't too busy laughing." Pikachu totally could've taken that flock of Tailows out.

"You can't really blame him for enjoying the show. Mew! I wish I was there to see it."

His features soften as he responds, "I wish you were there too…"

And there. Her giggling stops along with her chin slowly raising until her eyes meet his warm chocolate orbs. Has he always been this easy to read? Okay. Yes. Ash Ketchum is very easy to read, but can Misty believe there are certain aspects only she can see in him? Like that longing look they both share for each other. "Ash-"

"Psy!"

Shutting her eyes in frustration, Misty isn't sure whether to be upset or grateful. She turns on her heels to give her duck an annoyed look. "What is it, Psyduck?"

Psyduck's face is red, indicating his anger. What's gotten Psyduck so riled up? "Psy psyduck psy psy!" He exclaims.

Ash, whose blush is cooling from behind Misty, states, "He seems mad."

"Duh." Misty sighs and lifts her head up high to yell past Psyduck and into the living room, "Politoed! Give Psyduck a turn!"

Beginning to retort, Politoed's voice can be heard shouting back, "Pol-"

"If you both cannot share, I'm gonna take it." Misty sternly tells the Pokemon, causing Psyduck to furrow his brows.

Eventually, they hear Politoed growl loudly, "Poli pol!" Psyduck scampers back, content enough with the sharing situation.

Once the kitchen is rid of Pokemon, Misty rests her head on the counter and groans, causing Ash to chuckle. "This sounds like it happens often."

"Too often." grumbles the woman. Why have kids when Daisy continues popping out little geniuses, and Misty's own Pokemon bicker like children? "But, uh, tell me more about your travels." Hearing Ash share his stories not only interests Misty, though it also excites Ash. She loves seeing him so eager, like the young Ash she fell for.

"Oh!" Ash is easily brought to anything involving traveling and Pokemon. "I learned that Alain and Mairin are engaged!" He is still trying to process the information he learned a few hours ago. The thrill of coming to see Misty took over that fact.

"Really?" Of course, Misty knows Alain is the Kalos Champion. She only heard about Mairin through Ash's battle today, but Misty doesn't know too much about Mairin. Does Ash also know Mairin through his young traveling days? Misty wouldn't put it past him to have that connection too.

Nodding, Ash wipes his hands dry. "Yeah. Like after the battle, Alain came up to her backstage, and Mairin just kissed him on the lips. In front of everyone, and no one was surprised. Did you know they were engaged?"

"I don't know anyone's personal life, Ash. I just work with them professionally." Especially those in Kalos who she rarely interacts with.

"Right." mutters the man in thought. "Clemont told me they've been engaged for years. I had no idea." Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "I don't know how I missed that. I used to work with them all the time."

"You're not exactly a-"

"Don't say it." He cuts her off knowingly. For a year, he had to listen to Misty say these things about him.

"Not exactly a-"

"Misty. Stop. I'm warning ya."

Slyly grinning, she continues, "romance or anything but Pokemon kinda guy."

Pouting, he says, "I too know romance."

She waves off his comment. "Now you do. Thanks to muah."

"I knew it before you too."

"Nah."

"Yes!"

"Nope."

"Yes!"

"No-" Firm lips press onto hers, making Misty melt into the long-overdo kiss. Not fair at all, Ash Ketchum, but she won't push him away. How many nights she's dreamed for his touch. His kisses. For him. Now, he's here, and surprisingly making the first move, so she will bask in this. Thus, Misty wraps her arms around his neck as his snake around her waist.

Arguing with Misty never gets them anywhere, and it usually results in him looking like an idiot. Brock and Pikachu would disrupt, but both of them aren't here. Therefore, Ash had to end the argument in a more satisfactory way: by shutting her up with a kiss. That, and the fact that he's been itching to hold her for months now. These pent up emotions both adults have been burying cause them to make out their way down the hall and to Misty's room. Of course, they pass the Pokemon in the living room, so Pikachu knows to avoid the Master Bedroom tonight.

The next morning, Misty wakes up before Ash, like usual. She took the time to examine his peacefully sleeping face. That man is so handsome, and very cute when he's asleep. It took a lot to force herself out of his embrace, but she has too much to do today. Plus, she didn't want to wake him after his very long day yesterday. That intense battle and all that traveling took a toll on him.

Walking into the kitchen to prepare breakfast for them, Misty hears very annoying voices, "So how was your night, little sis?"

Inwardly groaning, the redhead mutters, "Good. How was yours?" Please don't let her sisters catch on. Let them be the airheads Misty knows and loves.

"Sounds like your night was much better than good." Violet teases.

"When did you two come back?" Whatever. They know she and Ash did it. It's not like it's a surprise or anything because her family believes she and Ash were married for a year.

Lily continues smoking at Misty. "We came back pretty early, but when we saw Pikachu out in the living room, we left to give you and Ash some more privacy." When Lily winks, Misty could die of embarrassment. "So we got back like an hour ago. I can't believe you were still in bed."

"I can." Violet giggles.

"Are you two done yet?" Misty does appreciate her sisters giving her space, though they didn't have to. She's sure she and Ash aren't too loud.

"Nope." Violet swings an arm around Misty's shoulders. "But we'll stop...for now…"

"Yeah. Until Ash wakes up. It's more fun teasing you both together." Lily adds as she follows her sisters into the kitchen while Misty groans louder.

Like the Waterflower sisters stated, Ash was indeed teased once he woke up. Of course, he didn't know what the sisters were suggesting at first, but when he figured it out (with Misty's help), he was blushing just as bad as Misty. One would think these two would be used to teasing now. They've spent their whole lives being teased, yet they still get so embarrassed by it.

Since it's a weekend, Misty doesn't work, so she and Ash prepare for their trip to Cerulean City. Obviously, Lily and Violet are coming too. They were planning to leave anyway because they only come to the League for Misty and League parties. The League party was last night, hence, they'll follow Misty. Besides, Cerulean City is their home, and where the little Sketchit children are.

Eventually, everyone arrives in Cerulean City, the Waterflowers are coddling over Jayson, and Ash is whisked away by Tina. "Um. Everyone is back there." Ash manages out as the girl is dragging him upstairs.

"I know that! But I wanna talk to you!" Tina then brings Ash into her room where she locks the door. Facing the very confused man, she seriously asks, "What's your plan?"

"Huh?" Ash is still trying to process everything. He, Misty, and her sisters just arrived a few minutes ago. After greetings, Tina practically kidnapped him. Not that anyone would notice right now because they're obsessing over the cute baby. "What are you talking about?"

Tina groans. "You said you had a plan once you got in the Ultra Class! You're in the Ultra Class, so what's your plan?" Every time Ash visits, Tina constantly asks him how he will get Misty back. Ash never tells her anything, though she does pry. Now, he's finally achieved his goal, so he can say something, right?

"Oh!" It clicks in his mind now. "Yeah. I do."

"So what is it?"

Blushing shyly, Ash looks away. Pikachu is with Misty and the others right now, leaving Ash and Tina alone. Nevertheless, all of Ash's Pokemon know of his plan. "Promise me you won't tell anyone."

Their eyes meet, and Tina gives a firm nod while extending her pinky finger out. "I promise!"

Smiling, Ash feels his nerves relaxing as he connects their pinkies. "Alright. We're gonna battle, and when I win, I'm gonna ask her to marry me." The girl gasps, louder than Ash likes, so Ash quickly shushes her. "Shhh! It's a secret, remember!"

Tina hurriedly clamps a hand over her mouth before calming down. She then does a zipper motion over her lips. "Yeah. Your secret's safe with me!"

"Thanks, Tina." It's not really too elaborate of a plan.

"I can't wait to see you win!" She excitedly squeals. "I know you're gonna win it!" Even though Tina has only known the Ash who loses to Misty, Tina is confident this is the battle Ash will win. He's grown a lot and become a much better battler these past couple of months.

Before Ash can respond, knocking on the door causes the whispering pair to alertly turn their heads. "I hear you two. Open up." Comes the very stern voice.

Tina furrows her brows, upset that their secret conversation is disrupted. "Let me know how I can help!" She quietly tells Ash and then opens the door. "Hi, Aunty Misty." Grins Tina innocently at the redhead who is holding baby Jayson in her arms.

Studying the room, Misty soon lands her sceptical eyes on the wary man. "What're you two doing?"

"Nothing!" Ash and Tina speak too fast.

Misty is already suspicious because the pair disappeared quickly. Now, she's caught them whispering to each other and obviously hiding something. Should she pry? It's not like she and Ash are romantically together or anything… Last night's thoughts rush to her head, causing her to blush profusely, so Misty buries her face in Jayson's hair. She mutters, "Come down soon." And then leaves before anyone can see her red face.

Last night's events and the fact that Ash and Tina get along so well make Misty want to pounce on Ash. That, and various other factors about the man she loves but isn't with. Mew. Life is so complicated. Surprisingly, life was easier when they were pretending to be married. Misty can't believe she's thinking this.

Gazing down at Jayson's large green eyes, she tells him, "Auntie Misty is an idiot." All the baby does is babble back happily, oblivious to the qualms of these adults.

After everyone settles down for dinner, the small talk has subsided enough for Tracey to inquire, "So what's the occasion for all of you being here?" He knows Ash visits monthly, and it's about that time for him to come by. Misty is usually too busy with the end of the tournament season. And Lily and Violet never stay put for longer than a few days. Therefore, having everyone here at the same moment, and knowing they came together, brings about lots of questions for Tracey.

Violet shrugs, and Lily gives Misty and Ash a smirk. The divorced couple is seated next to each other. "We're just following Misty." Violet states.

"Yeah. It's not everyday that the whole fam is together!" Despite enjoying the teasing, Lily loves it when her family is all together. The occasion is more rare now that Misty doesn't live in Cerulean City.

"I like it when we're all here!" Tina chimes in happily. "I miss everyone."

"Aw." Violet pinches Tina's cheek. "Auntie Violet misses you too, Tina."

"What about you, Misty?" Daisy speaks up. "Why are you here? Aren't you like crazy busy with all the challengers wanting to advance their rank?"

Sighing, Misty responds, "Yeah, which is why I'm here on the weekend."

"Pretty sure you usually work on your weekends too." Notes the blond, making Misty shoot her an annoyed look.

"Lily and Violet are in the region. All four of us sisters have to hang out when we can. It's rare." Not that Misty ever wanted to actively hang out with her sisters anyway.

"Uh. Misty and I are gonna battle, and we wanna battle in the gym, if that's okay?" Ash interrupts when he senses the tension. Although the Sketchits asked innocent questions, Misty is always on the defense with her sisters. It comes from years of being teased by them, so it's a natural interaction for her to have.

Daisy and Sketchit blink in surprise. That's not what they expected, but it makes sense now that Ash is in the Ultra Class. "Yeah. Feel free to use the gym." Tracey smiles warmly. Regardless of Misty's new role, this gym belongs to her family. Tracey will always allow her to have her name and legacy in her home.

"That's it? You two came all the way here to battle?" Daisy isn't one to be interested in battling.

"It's where we always battled when we lived here." Misty is grateful Ash has the patience to deal with her family. "So it's only right we battle here for our first officially ranked battle." She can't help but give Ash a smirk as she says this.

The man returns the determined look. "Yup! I gotta beat Misty in her home turf! Right, Pikachu?"

"Pi pika!" Pikachu chirps from the ground.

"Guess we'll be having a show." Lily also isn't one for battles, though she will always support Misty. While the Sensational Sisters don't really watch any battles, they will watch this one because it's important to Misty and Ash.

"Can I vlog it?" Daisy excitedly asks. Her inner vlogger returning, especially because she always gets the most views with content involving Ash and Misty.

"I can't wait! Uncle Ash is gonna win!" Tina enthusiastically announces, which makes all the adults but Ash give her confused looks.

"You're not gonna root for me?" Misty pouts, somewhat hurt to hear Tina confident in Misty's opponent. Misty will give Ash a lot of credit for improving these past couple of months, but she also got better too. Is Tina rooting for Ash because Ash visits more? Misty basically raised Tina from when the girl was a baby. Ash has only known Tina for a year and a half. This is not fair.

"Uh." Tina gulps nervously. Oftentimes, her mouth speaks before she thinks anything through, hence bringing her into uncomfortable situations like this. "You always win, Auntie Misty. I wanna see Uncle Ash win for once. Um. Because underdogs are so cool!"

Being nervous that Tina might give him away, Ash slightly chokes on his food. This makes Misty think he's laughing, so she turns on him. "Rich. You find this so amusing, huh?"

Still coughing, Ash drinks some water to speak. Misty's glare is terrifying. "No! I just choked. That's it."

"Because you think it's funny my own niece, who I raised since birth, wants you to win?"

"No!"

"No need to hide how happy you are." The redhead continues to pout. "This just motivates me to destroy you tomorrow." She then glares into Ash's scared brown orbs. "You're going down, Ketchum."

Seeing her intensity, Ash returns it. No matter how much Misty terrifies him, he will never back down from a challenge, especially from her. She's his number one rival right now. "No way! Tomorrow is my day! I know it!"

Hence, dinner continues with Ash and Misty bickering over who will be victorious tomorrow. The Sensational Sisters finish dinner and go talk amongst themselves. Tina, feeling slightly bad for starting the argument, helps her father clean up. Ash and Misty are too heated to realize that everyone has left them alone to argue. Nevertheless, this is typical for this couple who always finds something to disagree on. Regardless of how often they argue, one thing they can agree on is their unconditional support of each other.

The next day, everyone eats and feels ready for the battle. Ash is returning from pep talking with his Pokemon in the yard. He went through some strategies they've been working on. The Sketchits, Lily, and Violet are already seated in the arena. Misty is in the Pokemon room talking to her Pokemon there.

When Ash enters the arena, Misty isn't there yet. He hears a loud shout from the stands, "You got this, Uncle Ash!"

Looking up at the little girl, Ash shoots her a grateful smile. Despite this being a huge battle for him, he isn't as nervous as he thought he'd be. Could it be due to battling in this gym? This gym he's battled in countless times and feels very at ease in? Or could it be because his opponent is someone he used to battle weekly? Or maybe he just feels ready? He's finally Ash Ketchum again. Finally someone he's proud of and feels worthy enough for Misty's love.

"What's with that smile?"

Ash now shoots his attention over to the redhead approaching him from the Pokemon room. Mew. She's beautiful. He saw her this morning, and they spent the night together again last night, but Ash just can't get enough of her. "Today's the day. I know it."

Misty rolls her eyes. While she will always cheer for Ash, she won't allow him an easy battle. She wants this win. Scratching Pikachu under the chin, she responds, "Nope. I am the better trainer, Ash."

"I'm not who I was last year." He reminds her.

"Chaaaa." Pikachu is enjoying the scratches before he has to go to war against Misty.

"I'm not either." Misty smirks, now meeting Ash's gaze. They will never grow out of their competitive natures, especially against each other. "I kinda miss your cooking, Ketchum. Better have a meal in mind for when you lose."

"No way! I'm not losing!" Ash counters.

"Ahem!" Tracey coughs from the podium. He will be their ref. As much as he likes to avoid getting in the middle of Ash and Misty's arguments, Tracey doesn't want to wait hours for them to stop, like yesterday. These two can bicker until the world ends if people allowed them to.

"We're coming!" Misty calls over in annoyance. When she faces Ash again, she feels soft lips on her cheek, causing her to blush a bit.

Ash removes his face, with his own dark tint. "For good luck. You'll need it." Before Misty can register his words and fight him, Ash hurries off to the challenger's box. Misty's sisters are gawking in the stands. Daisy is trying to get the best angles for her video. And Tina is on the edge of her seat in anticipation of the battle.

Once both trainers are in their respective boxes, Tracey officiates the start of the battle. Misty releases her Starmie, and Ash chooses Totodile. "So you still won't use a type advantage?" Misty yells over.

"Don't need them! All I need is to believe in myself and my team." Ash grins. "Totodile, fury swipes!" One could say, Ash would be a more powerful trainer if he used type advantages. However, that's boring, and not how he likes to battle. When battling skilled trainers, type advantages are not enough. Ash will always trust in his Pokemon, something he learned a lot about these past few years. Never again will he give up on anything.

"Use water pulse, Starmie!" Misty commands her Pokemon. The last few times she and Ash battled, Misty barely won. Now, she and Ash have improved considerably since those battles. There's no telling who will win today's match, which excites both adults. Not only are they having a rigorous battle, but they're battling their rivals.

Starmie takes out Totodile, though Ash's Noivern finishes Starmie off. Misty's Corsola defeats Noivern. Ash's Gliscor puts up a great fight by knocking out Corsola; however, he's heavily injured. Thus, Gliscor and Corsola fall, leaving Ash with three Pokemon, and Misty with four.

"How ya doing over there, Ash?" Misty sweetly calls over as they prepare to summon their next Pokemon. Although she knows a winner isn't determined until the end, she can't help but tease Ash.

Smirking at Misty, Ash flips his cap backwards. This makes Misty's heart beat quicker because she finds him most attractive when he's overcoming a difficult battle. That's the most Ash Ketchum-like he can be. "We're just getting started! I choose you, Sceptile!" In Ash's mind, he is thinking Misty has grown a lot. She's a much stronger trainer than he remembers. While he thought he improved greatly, Misty leading him right now just shows how much she's worked to get better.

Could her huge improvement be because she's alone now? She has free time to train and focus on being an Elite Four Member? When Ash was living with her, she would always try to spend as much time with him as possible. Even though Misty never neglected her gym duties, Ash knows she wasn't training as often as she did without him. Now that Misty doesn't have him hanging around her every day, she's back to training as rigorously as she's used to, and Ash sees the fruits of her labor. He's very proud of her. They've both grown so much this past year.

"Politoed, let's finish this!" Misty points directly at Sceptile. "Swagger!"

"Use Leaf Blade!" The swagger attack hits first, causing Sceptile to fall into a confusion and hurt himself. He falls off the platform and into the water, which immediately shocks him out of his stupor. Seeing that Sceptile is back, Ash grins. "Give em that Leaf Blade!"

"What?" Misty hadn't noticed Sceptile recover so quickly because she was inwardly happy Sceptile fell in the water. Her Pokemon have the advantage in the water. Mew. Being one up on Ash made her get too arrogant. Now, Politoed flies back from the very powerful Leaf Blade attack. Fortunately, he's still standing with plenty of energy. "Are you okay, Politoed?"

"Poli!" Politoed gives her a thumbs up as he jumps on his feet. Dancing, he's eager for Misty's next command.

"You can do this, Misty! Show them that Waterflower spirit!" Violet cheers.

"Uncle Ash, you need to win!" Tina shouts louder than anyone.

Ash and Misty gaze over at the stands and sweatdrop. This is Misty's family, and this is a family that Ash feels he's a part of. Having them here means the world to him. Ash does wish he invited his mother, but the past few days were moving too quickly. Plus, he didn't exactly plan the logistics of this.

"I will!" The man shouts over to his niece. "Just keep rooting for me!"

"You will never beat me in this gym." Misty smugly tells him. The first time they battled here, Ash was given the badge out of a technicality. Sure, he probably would've won if Team Rocket didn't interrupt, but he didn't win. Therefore, that doesn't count. The times she and Ash battled against each other in the gym after that resulted in her winning. Misty won't lose this streak. This gym is hers. "Politoed, Bubble and then double slap!"

"I'm gonna win this one, Mist." Ash informs her. "Just watch. Sceptile, Leaf Storm the bubbles away!" Just like Misty has been watching his battles, Ash watches as many of her battles as he can too. He's seen this technique of hers. Thus, before the bubbles can shine in the light and temporarily blind Sceptile, Sceptile's Leaf Storm summons hundreds of leaves to instantly pop the bubbles and stop Politoed's doubleslap attack.

"Dodge in the water!" Misty desperately tells her Pokemon. There's no way Politoed can survive two intense grass type moves back to back. He manages to avoid the Leaf Storm by diving deep into the pool.

"We've got them where we want them, Sceptile. Bullet Seed!"

The seeds collide with the water. Fortunately, Politoed is deep enough to avoid them because the seeds either don't make it all the way down or the seeds slow considerably the deeper in the water they get. Soon, Politoed emerges from behind Sceptile's platform to Headbutt Sceptile into the water. The grass type loses his balance, falling in as Politoed now inflicts another Bubblebeam his way.

Furrowing his brows, Ash remains calm. "Agility to get out of the water!" The agility saves Sceptile from further torment by Politoed. With Sceptile already being very fast, he avoids an incoming attack.

"Dive back in the water!" Misty knows Sceptile clearly has the land advantage. Although this battle looks like a stalemate because Politoed is in the water and Sceptile is on the platforms, Misty has a plan. The platforms aren't exactly too sturdy. She just needs to tire Sceptile enough to make him fall in the water again. "Bubblebeam the platform!"

"Hang on tight!" Ash has a strategy of his own. Misty's arena at the Elite Four is also a pool, so he came up with many techniques for the pool battle.

Eventually, the bubbles stop as Politoed catches a slight breather. That's all the time Sceptile needs to use agility into the water. He does so without Ash commanding him. Misty should be happy that the battle is in the water now, meaning she has the advantage. However, Sceptile willingly leapt into the water. He didn't fall. And that sexy smirk on Ash's lips isn't helping alleviate her worries.

"You know what to do, Sceptile!" Ash shouts, though he isn't sure if Sceptile can hear him.

"Politoed, water gun!" Misty hopes Politoed can handle whatever surprises Sceptile may have.

A green glow emerges in the water, indicating that Sceptile is doing something. The two trainers expectantly watch the water along with their spectators. The pool is deafly silent. No one is exactly sure what's going on beneath the surface. Once the glow stops, a loud splash, followed by the fast Pokemon standing on the platform lets everyone know who won this battle.

When Sceptile sets the unconscious Politoed on the platform, Tracey announces that Politoed is unable to battle. Sceptile's agility attack got him to dive quickly into the water right when he saw Politoed was within reach. He then latched onto the frog, and being much faster, unleashed a Leaf Storm directly on Politoed. Politoed, already weakened from the Leaf Blade attack, couldn't withstand this one too.

"Yes! You did it, Sceptile!" Ash cries out.

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu cheers alongside his trainer.

Misty is grateful that Sceptile brought out Politoed instead of leaving him in the water. Her Pokemon became good friends with Ash's Pokemon during their stay together in the gym last year. Regardless of the intense rivalry, they are still friends, like their trainers. "Thanks, Politoed. You did great." She whispers to her pokeball. "My beautiful blue beast, let's show them what we've got!"

Sceptile alertly gazes at Gyrados. All of Misty's Pokemon are formidable opponents, but Sceptile weighs Gyrados as her strongest. It's an honor to Sceptile to defeat Gyrados. "Scep!"

"Gyraaaaaa!" Roars the serpent.

"Are you gonna Mega evolve him?" Ash asks.

"Don't need too."

"Pretty sure you do." states the man knowingly.

Misty shoots him an annoyed look. "I never did it before. I don't need to do it now." Sure, she's mega evolved Gyrados during her battles as an Elite Four Member, but she's never done it with Ash. Ash did defeat Mega Gyrados before when Tina was using him.

Struggling, despite his smug grin, Ash replies, "Whatever you say, Mist. Sceptile, bullet seed!"

Despite her pride wanting her to not use a mega against Ash, Misty fully believes she'll need all the power she can get. The reason she doesn't want to use a mega is because Ash isn't using one. That, and she never used one against him before. She wants to keep these battles as similar to their old ones as possible. Nevertheless, she can't keep using the same tricks on Ash. Misty knows this all too well as an Elite Four Member, and as Ash Ketchum's friend. Ash is gifted in battling. He learns quickly. Misty needs to switch her tactics up against him.

Swallowing her pride, she takes out her side ponytail, causing her hair to fall to below her shoulders. Ash sees her with her hair down at night and in the morning, though her beauty always amazes him. He's in awe at her swift movements, like she's in water. Misty holds up the hair tie with her trademark mega stone. "I don't want to hear you complain about me going easy on you. Let's show them our full power, Gyrados!"

The water Pokemon roars again as he glows into a Mega Gyrados. The water in the pool is splashing around more hecticly, making it difficult for the weakened Sceptile to remain standing on it. Nonetheless, this is the battle Sceptile wants: to defeat Misty's strongest Pokemon at his strongest. "Tile!" The grass type tells Ash.

Nodding, Ash is just as eager as his Pokemon to continue this battle. Misty is showing more of her powers with each Pokemon she uses. This is truly an exciting battle. The most exciting they've ever had. "Agility and then Leaf Blade!" The platforms are moving too much to remain atop for long. Sceptile is better off running full speed, which allows him to somewhat glide on the water too.

"Make it rain!" Fortunately for Misty, Gyrados is pretty fast too. The rainstorm makes Gyrados even fast, and it causes the platforms to be more slippery. Sceptile loses his footing, making him collide into the water. "Get him now!" Misty was hoping this would happen.

"Sceptile, Leaf Blade!" Ash's initial attack may not have worked to his liking, but he's good at improvising. It's who he is. Sceptile regathers himself in the water just in time counter the Crunch attack with his own Leaf Blade. Sceptile's blades connect with Gyrados's jaw. The impact is powerful enough that both Pokemon fly backwards, bringing Sceptile out from the water. Sceptile manages to land on a platform, though he's exhausted. Gyrados is a bit shaken up, but fine regardless.

"Are you happy I mega evolved Gyrados?" Misty knows she has the advantage in this battle.

After making sure Sceptile is okay, Ash meets Misty's amused blue orbs. Although the battle is intense right now, he can't help but fall more in love with her. "We're always happy for a challenge."

To Ash's surprise, Misty gives him a warm smile. "We're happy to finally be battling the true Ash Ketchum." Well, she's mainly the one who's happy. This is totally the Ash she remembers and more. The Ash she believed him to be. He's exceeded all of her expectations, making Misty eager to see what else he has in that dense head of his. Battling is truly Ash Ketchum's passion, which he's finally gotten back.

However, typical Ash Ketchum doesn't entirely understand her, so he cocks his head to the side. "What do you mean by that?"

Misty rolls her eyes because he ruined the moment. Whatever. They're supposed to be battling anyway. "I'm just saying, you're the aspiring Pokemon Master I remember. Gyrados, hydropump!"

Not fair, Misty! They were in the middle of a conversation. A conversation Ash was using to give Sceptile a breather. Nevertheless, Misty restarted the battle so she wouldn't keep answering his questions. Ash bushes recalling her words. She says he's himself again. The person who knows him the best, besides himself, agrees that he is Ash Ketchum again. He's returned, and stronger than ever too.

"Agility to dodge it!" That mini break, despite it's annoyance, provided Sceptile with enough energy to find some speed. He avoids the hydropump and continues with his sprint towards the serpent.

"Hurricane!" Misty commands when Sceptile leaps in the air for another Leaf Blade attack.

"What?" Ash's jaw drops. When did Gyrados learn that attack? Sceptile is pelted by the sharp winds, making him fall onto a platform hard. At least he didn't fall in the water. Ash sees the grass type struggling to stand up. Sceptile has made this battle personal. He won't back down, and Ash appreciates that.

"I told you, we've gotten better too." Misty reminds Ash. The time apart allowed her to become the Misty she remembers. While Ash was becoming himself, Misty was finding herself again too. Ash helped her develop a new life purpose by being an Elite Four Member. Misty focused on herself to be the dedicated top water Pokemon trainer she knows she's always been.

"I think that's pretty hot."

Now, Misty blinks at the blushing man in confusion. Did she hear that right? She looks at Tracey for confirmation, and Tracey shrugs. "Are you seriously flirting with me right now?"

Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "Uh. I thought it'd make you lower your guard. Did it?"

"Who told you that?"

"Gary."

"Of course it's Gary." Misty rolls her eyes unimpressed.

"Did it work though?"

"No."

"I think it did."

Huh? Misty returns her eyes to the now empty platform. Please tell her Gyrados was keeping watch on Sceptile! However, the serpent seems just as lost as his trainer. Before they can find Sceptile, he hits Gyrados with a hard Leaf Attack, knocking Gyarados into the water. Gyrados's crash makes a big splash and many waves. The platforms are unsteady again, but Ash is trying to finish this battle as soon as possible. Sceptile is barely hanging on.

"Finish it with Leaf Storm and Bullet Seed!"

"Gyrados, dive under the water!" The rainstorm stops, much to Misty's dismay. Even though Gyrados is in the water, Sceptile is very fast. The attacks hit Gyrados's large exposed body enough to weaken him considerably. He does manage to dive away with the last of his energy. "Hydropump!" Misty hopes her serpent is alright.

"Leaf blade with Agility!" Like before, Sceptile runs with full force towards the hydropump from the now surfaced Gyrados. To prevent himself from getting hit by the water, Sceptile brings his blades up to shield him. With his speed, the water slices right past him, limiting the damage it does to him. He then is able to hit Gyrados directly in the face with two Leaf Blade attacks. Gyrados falls, exhausted.

"Gyrados is unable to battle! Ash and Sceptile win!" Tracey announces.

Slumping her shoulders, Misty returns Gyrados. "Cheap shot, Ash!" She pouts, but she's more mad at herself for getting distracted by him. C'mon! She's an Elite Four Member. She's not supposed to be distracted from the battle! Her ego from always beating him is causing her to get careless. Now, Ash has three Pokemon while she only has two.

"Yes! We did it, Sceptile!" Ash jumps up alongside Pikachu.

"Tile." Sceptile tiredly salutes his trainer.

"You deserve a res-"

"Scep!" Sceptile shakes his head. He wants to see this battle through until he can't go any longer. Touched by his Pokemon, Ash smiles warmly and nods. He will always respect his Pokemon's wishes. They are a team, especially from their engagements this past year. They've grown a lot closer and built newfound trust.

"Sceptile is tough." Notes the redhead as she returns her Gyrados.

Ash knows this. All of his Pokemon are tough. "You taught me to not give up. And to believe in my Pokemon. That's why we're not giving up. No matter what! Right, Sceptile?"

"Sceptile!" Sceptile shouts loudly too with his newfound energy. He may have taken out two of Misty's Pokemon so far, and he has Charizard and Pikachu to rely on. Nevertheless, Sceptile wants to give it his all. It's his own personal goal to help Ash beat Misty.

Giggling, Misty is glad to see these improvements from Ash and his Pokemon. Regardless of her happiness and love for her opponent, she won't allow herself to be distracted again. "We got this, Gol-Psyduck, no!"

It's too late, the duck is standing in confusion on the platform. "Psy?"

In the beginning when she'd battle Ash, Misty would sometimes use Psyduck because it'd allow her to perfect her partnership with the duck. Also, Ash was such a terrible trainer that Misty could afford to lose a Pokemon if Psyduck couldn't use any psychic attacks. Towards the end of the year, as Ash was getting much better, Misty used Psyduck less often. There were times he popped out on his own, like this, but she hates when he does that because he's unpredictable. Moreso, in this battle that actually means something! It's ranked!

"Psyduck, you dumb duck!" Misty groans. It's her own fault for [putting herself in this situation though. If she hadn't gotten sidetracked by Ash, she wouldn't be feeling this far behind. Ash still has his two most powerful Pokemon left.

"That's not nice, Auntie Misty! Psyduck is smart!" Tina scolds from the stands, further reminding Misty that her own niece is cheering for the other team.

Sighing, the redhead hopes Psyduck will get it together for this battle. "I know, Tina."

"Psyduck's pretty strong, but we know how to handle him." Ash grins. A part of him wants Psyduck's psychic powers to unleash in this battle. That way, Ash can be sure he's really facing Misty at her best. Nonetheless, he wouldn't mind if Psyduck just didn't do anything. Misty and Psyduck have been good at getting him to use his Psychic attacks.

"It's okay." Misty breathes out. "I trust my Pokemon too."

"You didn't take a three year break from them, Mist. I know you've got this too." Ash reassures her.

"Aren't you supposed to be my opponent?"

He shrugs. "I wanna beat you at your best. No excuses."

She suspiciously eyes him, but Ash never has any ill intentions. It's Ash Ketchum she's talking about. The sweetest man and easiest person to read. Meeting his encouraging gaze, she finds more confidence in herself. "I told you. You're not gonna beat me, Ash."

"That's the Misty Waterflower I know."

"And you better remember it. Psyduck, scratch!" That's all this Psyduck knows.

"He can't swim, Sceptile!" Ash reminds his Pokemon. Battling Psyduck in this state is easy. They just need to get Psyduck in the water, tickle him, or just anything that doesn't involve making his headache worse.

This is not how Sceptile wanted to battle, but he'll trust his trainer. The gecko leaps onto the same platform as Psyduck. Psyduck curiously looks up at Sceptile. "Psyduck, what are you doing? Scratch him!"

"Psy?" Psyduck just cocks his head to the other side, causing Misty to sweatdrop.

"You can do it, Psyduck!" Tina cheers for the duck. As much as she wants Ash to win, Psyduck holds a special place in her heart. He's often looked down upon, but he's really strong.

"Psy?"

"Psyduck, just do something. Please." exasperates Misty in defeat.

"Um. Sorry, Psyduck, but we gotta do this." Ash hesitantly apologizes. "Push him in the water."

"Psy!" the duck definitely does not want that. Where are his floaties? He clings onto Sceptile's arm tightly. "Psyayaya!" Misty can only put her face in her hands, utterly embarrassed.

"Uh. What do we do?" Ash yells over.

"I don't know." Misty wants this misery to end, though she doesn't want to see Psyduck get hurt.

"C'mon, Psyduck!" Roots the little girl.

"Looks like she switched sides." Misty notes.

Chuckling, Ash replies, "Just temporarily. I know she wants me to win the battle though."

"Guess I'll be disappointing you and her today."

"Very bold words from a trainer whose water Pokemon can't swim." Ash refers to Psyduck and Sceptile's squabble as Psyduck is still hanging onto Sceptile for dear life.

"You wouldn't even be here today if I didn't take you in last year!" snaps the redhead.

"You're just upset that I can go from zero to hero in a year."

"Are not!"

"Are too!"

"Are not!"

"Are-"

"Psy!" The quarreling adults made Psyduck's headache worse. Thus, he uses an intense Psychic attack on Sceptile, knocking Sceptile into the nearby platform hard. No one saw the attack coming, especially since Sceptile lowered his guard.

Due to already being very weak from his past two battles, Sceptile faints immediately. "Sceptile is unable to battle! Both trainers are left with two Pokemon each!" Tracey states.

Ash mutters a choice word under his breath and returns Sceptile to thank him. Sceptile truly put up a magnificent battle. Ash is just upset that they unleashed the powerful Psyduck. "Pikachu, you're up." If anyone can handle Psyduck, it's Pikachu. The impatient Charizard will only make Psyduck stronger.

"Yes, Psyduck! I knew you could do it!" Misty continues to encourage her Pokemon.

Ash rolls his eyes at her because moments ago, she was berating Psyduck. Typical Misty stuff. Once Pikachu is in the battle, Ash yells, "He still can't swim! Volt Tackle him into the water!"

"Stop them with Psychic!" Misty gleefully commands. Has Psyduck gotten stronger? Pikachu barely sparks his cheeks before being lifted into the air, paralyzed by the Psychic attack. He is soon flung into the water. "Water gun!"

"Pikachu, thunderbolt!" Pikachu will be just fine in electricity. If Ash can't defeat Psyduck on land, he'll just need to push Psyduck into the electrified water. The pool water fills with electricity, making the sparks intense.

Psyduck feels the electricity zapping around his platform, which makes him nervous. "Psyduck, use Confusion!"

When Pikachu resurfaces for air, he is hit with a headache of his own. Luckily, it doesn't leave him confused, but it hurts. "Get Psyduck in the water!"

"Pi!" Nods the mouse as he fights through his pain. Sceptile did the hard part. Pikachu just needs to finish this battle. This battle means a lot to them and Ash. Therefore, Pikachu leaps out of the water when Psyduck gets pricked by another spark, surprising the duck.

"Psyduck, watch out!"

Fortunately, Psyduck catches Pikachu before Pikachu can push him into the water. Psyduck uses a Psychic attack to stop Pikachu. However, Psyduck has to back up a bit because Pikachu is too close to him. Thus makes Psyduck closer to the edge of the platform just as the water crackles a huge spark up, hitting his tail. Out of shock, Psyduck drops Pikachu on the platform.

"Now's our chance!" Ash doesn't need to tell Pikachu because the mouse is always looking for an opening. With Psyduck focusing more on his wounded behind, Pikachu easily nudges him overboard.

"Shoot! Return, Psyduck!" Not only can't Psyduck swim, but Psyduck has a very low pain tolerance. Besides, Misty saw his purple eyes were gone. She can only get his psychic side to come out once a day. There's no use making him subjected to any torture at this rate. Psyduck is very strong in his psychic form, but that form is easily broken. Misty has trained with him to stay in that form longer and with more resilience, though it's a long journey.

"Yes! We did it, Pikachu! Just one more!"

"Don't get too excited. Kingdra is strong." Misty pulls out the pokeball. Despite Ash still having two Pokemon left, Charizard is at a type disadvantage. Pikachu took some damage from Psyduck. Misty fully believes this battle is still anyone's to take.

Grinning across the arena, Ash replies, "I know. But I told you, Mist. I'm winning today."

"Yeah! Go, Uncle Ash!" Tina shouts, causing Ash to knowingly nod in her direction.

"See." The man triumphantly states.

"I don't know how you brainwashed my niece, Ash, but I'm gonna disappoint you both today. Kingdra, we'll end this here!"

After an intense match, Kingdra knocks out Pikachu. Ash brings Pikachu over to Tina on the sideline. There, the girl peptalks her uncle. He's already confident in Charizard's ability, especially because Pikachu weakened Kingdra, but he appreciates Tina's support. "Got it. We'll win." Ash winks, making Tina more excited.

Only Tina knows Ash's plans for winning. Although Tina loves seeing her strong aunt win, she wants Ash and Misty to be happy more. Losing the battle to win the war is prevalent in this Pokemon battle today. "Go, Charizard!" Tina yells when Ash releases the lizard. The wet Pikachu is dozing in her arms.

"When are you gonna cheer for me, Tina?" Misty pouts because she misses the days when Tina was her little cheerleader.

"Sorry, Auntie Misty! But I wanna see Uncle Ash finally win!" Plus, Tina already rooted for Psyduck earlier.

"Just let me get this one. You got all the ones from last year." Ash reminds Misty.

"I just don't get how you show up for a year and now she automatically chooses you over me, who raised her since birth." mutters the redhead.

That's an easy answer. Tina will always be on Misty's side. However, Tina knows this is the battle that will give everyone what they want. Hence, the reason Tina wants Ash to win. Once Ash wins, Tina will go back to unconditionally supporting her family. "I am her uncle." Ash grins. "Charizard, seismic toss!"

Focusing back on the battle, Misty won't allow herself to be sidetracked again. "Hydropump!" All they need to do is get Charizard into the electrified water. Water and Electricity are his ultimate weaknesses. That'll knock him out or weaken him enough for Kingdra to finish Charizard.

Ash is thinking the same thing. Although Kingdra is part Dragon, the electricity in the water will hurt him a lot. Charizard needs to toss Kingdra into the water, which will stun Kingdra enough for Charizard to keep attacking him. "Watch out for the Poison Point!" Ash warns Charizard. Too often, Kingdra's Poison Point ability has interfered with Ash's victory.

When Charizard picks up Kingdra, it allows Kingdra to deliver an intense hydropump directly into Charizard's chest. While Charizard is careful of the poisonous barbs, he's hurting from the direct water attack. This makes him throw Kingdra a lot sooner than anticipated. "Dragon breath!" Misty calls out.

Kingdra hears it in time to prevent himself from falling in the water. He uses dragon breath on the water, making him afloat until he lands on a platform. By then, Charizard has regathered himself to send a flamethrower in Kingdra's direction. Kingdra, being weakened from his battle with Pikachu, can't dodge it. At least the fire attack is at a disadvantage, so it doesn't do too much damage.

"Alright, Kingdra! Let's knock them with another hydro pump!" Misty knows her Pokemon doesn't have much time left. That, and the fact that Charizard is going in full force. Charizard is refreshed. He has lots of energy; plus, he's one of Ash's strongest Pokemon. Regardless of the type disadvantage, Charizard can do serious damage.

"We'll steam it away with flamethrower again!" Ash knows this isn't the best tactic, but he wants to finish this battle before Misty gains an edge. Charizard is pretty hurt from that direct hydro pump from earlier. Currently, Charizard has more strength than Kingdra, so Charizard's flamethrower attack will be fine against Kingdra's hydropump. It might even do better than fine, which is what Ash is hoping for.

Therefore, the stadium turns into a sauna of thick steam, too thick for anyone to see anything. The people are sweating profusely from the intense heat and humidity; however, no one seems to care about that. Everyone wants to know about the last two Pokemon. When the steam finally starts thinning out, faint shadows can be made, though it's still too foggy to tell which lump is which Pokemon. Just that one lump is visibly laying down while another is somewhat up.

As more steam is evaporating, the figures are becoming more clear. And Kingdra is the fallen one, leaving the heavily injured Charizard kneeling in exhaustion on the platform. "Yes! You did it, Charizard! We did it!" Ash jumps up in excitement. Seeing that he's won, Charizard now succumbs to his wounds, though Ash returns him before he can fall in the water. "Thanks, Charizard."

The redhead is standing in disbelief. She actually lost to him. After destroying him every week for a year, Misty doubted he'd defeat her so soon. She isn't sure how to feel. Upset that she lost? Or happy that he's back to himself? That he's finally beaten her after weeks of trying. That his bond with his Pokemon is stronger than ever. So much that they each fought until the very end for him, even when it seemed like his Pokemon didn't have any energy left.

Misty eventually comes to her senses enough to return Kingdra just as Ash has made his way around the pool to her platform. "So…" His stupid goofy grin is practically jumping off his face.

Sighing, Misty raises her hands up in defense. "Okay. I'll admit, you won this one." It hurts her pride saying it, but Ash deserves it. He fought hard and earned this victory by himself.

"Do you remember our deal?"

Now, she curiously blinks at his still excited face. "Wasn't it just that we'd battle once you reach the Ultra Class?"

He shakes his head. "No. Our original deal for battling. Uh. Like way back when I lived here."

Of course she remembers it. She remembers all of their deals due to how consistent they used them. Nodding, Misty groans aloud. "Fine, Ash. What's a favor you want from me?"

What's it going to be? She used to make him clean the house, though they're not living together anymore. Or she'd have him venture into town. She would try to use her favors to benefit him into coming out of his timid shell, so they were more for him than for her. What could Ash possibly want from her? He was the one who created this deal way back when they started their partnership.

Ash reaches a hand behind his back as he kneels down. Misty, the Sketchits, and Waterflowers watch him in confusion. "Ash, what's your favor?" Misty repeats. Or is he going to cash in on it later. Sometimes, she'd save her favors because she won so many that she didn't have time to use them all at the moment of victory. Could Ash be doing that? However, this is his first victory against her. He must have some favors in his head he's wanted to use for over a year now, right?

The man positions his body on one knee before locking his now warm and nervous brown eyes with Misty's wary blue ones. When he pulls out the item from behind his back, Misty gasps. "I want you to marry me, Mist. Like for real. A real marriage." Her gaze wavers between the sparkling item in the little black box and Ash's expectant chocolate orbs.

Is this real? Misty is in disbelief that Ash is doing this. Why is he proposing? For what reason? He didn't say anything. However, he doesn't need to say anything because one look in his eyes tells her everything. The year they were together, they allowed their buried feelings to flourish. When Ash thought he could never love again, when he fought so hard to stay away from any emotional pain, yet Misty, without knowing it, made him himself again. He loves her tremendously. More than words can explain; the same love she has for him. They don't need any reasoning.

"Say yes!" Shouts Tina from across the gym, causing Violet to shush her, though this alleviates the tenseness around the couple.

Misty brings a hand up to her face as she laughs. "Do I have a choice?" The favors are usually commands more than favors.

Ash too can't help but chuckle. "Technically you do, but this is my first win."

"I recall you objecting to a lot of my requests in the beginning, so you can change this one too." His heart sinks in fear. Was this too soon? Are they not on the same page? He figured she wanted him just as badly after everything they've been through lately. Seeing that sweaty, slightly scared look on his face, Misty decides she's teased him long enough. "But you're lucky this is a favor I wanna do." She brings her left hand out to him.

"Um. So is that a yes or a…?" He can't bring it in him to finish the question.

Rolling her eyes, Misty firmly states, "It's a yes, idiot." Ash is too excited to comment about her name-calling, so he clumsily slips the ring onto her finger.

When he stands up, Misty grabs his face to smash her lips on his as her family cheers loudly for them. The man can't help but smile through the kisses. He finally has her. The right way. The way they're supposed to be together. With both of them ready for this step in their lives and ready for each other. Ash's mind and body hasn't felt this in sync in years. Thus, he wraps his arms around Misty's waist to deepen the kiss.

Once the two finally break apart for air, Ash rests his forehead on Misty's. Panting, he says, "I love you, Mist."

"I love you too, Ash." Her face is hot from that passionate kiss, though it's mainly red due to Ash.

"Yes! You go, Uncle Ash!" Tina's very loud voice causes the now laughing couple to face Misty's family. Normally, they'd be embarrassed to do any sort of kissing in public, but this one is warranted.

Ash raises his hand that's intertwined with Misty's left hand. Showing off the ring on her finger, he happily proclaims, "She said 'yes'!" Misty's family resumes celebrating loudly, despite everyone already knowing Misty said yes.

Too excited, Ash is basking in the moment. Every breath. Every touch. Every heartbeat. Feeling Misty tap his thigh, Ash looks down to see her pinky. This makes his smile grow even more as his heart tightens. The pinky taps will always remain a key part of their partnership. It was how she would show her support to him when there was nothing romantic between them.

To think, he used to shy away from the world. A few years ago, he wanted nothing but to hide in his room until the day he died. His heart and spirit were shattered in Kalos. Ash really believed he could never battle or train again. He doubted he could love anyone, and he especially thought no one would want to love a loser like him. Nonetheless, Misty took him in to whip him back into shape. She showered him with tough love and support. Before he knew it, he recovered so much that he wanted to be the old him again. That he wanted to be someone she would be proud of. That he wanted to be someone he'd be proud of.

Squeezing Misty's hand, Ash gets Misty to look back at him. Teary joyful cerulean meets warm chocolate as Ash continues taking in every second of this moment. Not only did he overcome his depression, but he got Misty. And she overcame her own qualms about having a more purposeful life while also finally getting her childhood crush's love. Nothing is holding them back from truly enjoying their lives together. It's about time this marriage isn't a lie anymore. In sync, Ash and Misty meet in the middle to capture each other's lips again, both euphoric to finally find true happiness with each other.


Yeah. I'm tired of battle scenes, and there's no point in writing one for Ash and Mairin. And then I rushed Misty's and Ash's battle at the end, but I figured I typed enough with Sceptile. :P Next chapter is the epilogue, so you can see their happy ending. Also, I know there's a lot of things left hanging with this as the final chapter. Haha. That's why there's an epilogue. See ya!

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