Single By 30 @shinygrowlithe12
Chapter 3

Chapter 3

After Misty abruptly ends the press conference and Ash returns Dragonite, Misty drags the man inside the gym. Reporters are trying to get them to answer more questions, but Misty is in no mood for that. The gym doors lock out the reporters as Misty takes Ash to the privacy of the office where Pikachu also joins them. Both Pikachu and Ash are slightly terrified of Misty's furrowed brows.

When Misty slams the office door shut, she gives Ash an intense glare, causing the man to gulp. "What the fuck are you doing here?" She shouts. It was one thing having to have this press conference to get the reporters to quiet down somewhat. However, Ash showing up and announcing that they're married just made everything a thousand times worse!

"Uh." Ash opens his mouth to speak.

"You don't even know!" Misty throws her hands up in defeat. Massaging her temples, she exclaims, "Now they think we're married! I had everything under control!"

"I'm sor-"

"Damn right you're sorry!" Seethes the woman. "Do you know how the world is gonna view me now when I tell them we're actually not married? That you don't know what you're talking about. Oh my Mew, Ash! It's gonna make me look worse! I could lose my gym!"

"I don't think you'd lose your gym over this."

"You don't know the League." Misty quips back. "Some of us are famous. We have an image to hold so that we can live peacefully. We can't just hide from the world and sleep all day!"

Ouch. That hurt. Even Pikachu winces for his trainer. Sighing, Ash gives her an apologetic look. "I thought I could help."

"You made shit worse, Ash." Misty growls.

There's no good way to come back from this now. If she tries to explain that Ash is wrong, it'll make it seem like she's covering something or that she played him to the point where he's delusional about her. If she goes along with his lie, the world is going to be expecting a lot from them. Everything got worse without her realizing it. This is what she gets for being kind to an old friend.

Her pokenav ringing makes her groan again. Only personal contacts are on it. Her sisters have been blowing it up since the news broke out this afternoon. So much that Misty has blocked them for the time being. Glancing at it to see who could be trying to reach her, she frowns. Gary Oak. The reason for all of this. If he hadn't tricked Ash and Misty into going to the League dinner yesterday, then none of this would've happened. She'll let him hear it.

Picking up the call, she angrily yells, "You're so dead, Gary!"

"It's Delia, Misty."

Misty's face heats up in embarrassment. "Oh. Hello, Mrs. Ketchum." Ash and Pikachu curiously watch the redhead. Why is Delia calling Misty?

"Can I talk to Ash?" He doesn't have a pokenav, so there's no way to contact him.

"Uh. Sure." Misty passes over the device where Ash gives her a confused look. "It's for you, idiot." She hisses.

Quickly grabbing the pokenav so as to not piss off Misty more, Ash says, "Hi, mom."

"Is it true?" comes Delia's stern voice.

"Is what true?"

Sighing, Delia asks, "Are you and Misty married? I don't believe it. You shouldn't lie-"

"Yeah. We are." Ash answers. He doesn't like hearing that disappointed tone from his mother. Seeing Misty burn holes in him with her eyes is making him think otherwise now. She knows exactly what he just confirmed to Delia who must've been watching the news.

"Ash!" Misty snaps, but he's focused on his mother.

"I don't believe it. You're always home." Delia tells him.

"Uh. Well, I sleep in all the time because I go to Misty at night." Yeah. That's a good lie. Good job, Ash. However, he does feel bad lying to his mother.

"How do you get there? How long has this been happening? Why didn't you tell me?" chokes out the mother.

Ash feels his chest ache from her voice. "Mom, I'm sorry, but I'll explain later."

"Ash, don't hang up on me."

The man eyes the angry redhead whose glare has never left him. "Misty and I are talking right now. I'll call you later."

Sighing reluctantly, Delia nods. "Okay, Ash. Call the home phone."

"I will." He then ends the call to look at Misty's angry face. "Um. So-"

"You just fucking told you're mom we're married, huh." It doesn't sound like a question, so Ash just nods. "Fucking idiot!" Misty facepalms. "What makes you think it's okay to just tell people we're married? Where did you get that dumb idea from?" She's so mad right now that she doesn't care she's scaring Ash and Pikachu.

"The reporters were saying-"

"Screw what they're saying! I had it under control until you showed up!" Misty shouts. "You think you're some knight in shining armour flying in on Dragonite to save the day? I'm not a damsel in distress! I've been completely fine on my own!" She's been fine without him. He's the one who forgot about her, making her stronger to everything. No pain is worse than heartbreak.

"I never said you were." Ash frowns. He really wasn't thinking. But hearing those reporters say terrible things about Misty made him intervene. She doesn't deserve those comments. Not this kind woman who always puts herself last.

Narrowing her eyes at him, Misty sits on her desk. "Well, do you have a bright idea of getting us out of this mess?" He's only made it worse with his call to his mother. Mew, Misty shouldn't have picked up. Seeing Ash shy away from her causes Misty to tug at her hair in frustration. "You're a fucking idiot."

Ash looks at the scared Pikachu. Opening the office door, he asks his starter Pokemon, "Can you leave us alone, Pikachu?"

"Pi." Pikachu couldn't have left any quicker. He still remembers where the gym Pokemon are, so he makes his way there. He hasn't seen them in over a decade.

With Pikachu gone, Ash shuts the door. He awkwardly shifts in front of the angry woman. "Do you remember the last time we saw each other?"

"You mean this morning?" She coldly answers.

Shaking his head, Ash nervously meets her blue eyes. "In Alola."

Misty's face heats up. How could she forget? He's always had her heart, so she loved that deal of theirs. It was also the last time they saw each other, so she couldn't forget that. She couldn't forget him. "What about it?"

Ash rubs the back of his head. "The pact."

"Hm."

He takes in a deep breath. "It's been 12 years, and we're both single...right?" There are those rumors of her with this mysterious Cerulean Cape man.

"Yeah." Misty mutters. She's never dated anyone because no one could compare to him.

"Then we should fulfill the pact."

"That's stupid." Misty tells him. "We were young kids who were joking."

"Yeah, but it's the only solution now. You said so yourself."

"Because you fucked it up for me." She reminds him, causing him to hang his head. When Ash doesn't say anything, Misty dwells on her thoughts. The world and Delia now think she and Ash are married. Everyone thinks they're married! She hadn't seen Ash in 12 years and here they are: apparently married! While she doesn't mind marrying her childhood crush, she does mind the reason for their marriage. No one wants to marry over a deal or a pact. They want to marry for love. "We get a divorce in a year."

Ash looks up in surprise. "What?"

"We get divorced in a year." There's no good way out of this now. They have to be married. In a year, Misty will say that bringing their relationship public ruined them. It'll make the media and people feel guilty, and Misty will save face.

"Oh. Um. Yeah. That's fine." He's grown since that pact was made, so he believes more in the sanctity of marriage. However, he wasn't thinking when he heard all those false accusations at Misty. It just made him intervene with that old pact of theirs.

Letting out a long breath, Misty gets off her desk. "You should probably move here now."

He nods. "I'll tell people that it's me who meets you at the Cerulean Cape. Like it's the reason I'm always sleeping in."

"Now you're thinking." mutters the woman.

Ash, following her, curiously looks at the back of her head. Who is the mystery man at Cerulean Cape Misty frequents? She says she's single yet there are those photos. "Who's the Cerulean Cape guy?"

"I don't ask you about Serena. Stay out of my business."

His chest tightens from that name he's been hearing a lot of lately. "Can you not say her name?"

"If you stop bringing up my Cape affairs."

"We don't want it to ruin your image." He reminds her, earning him a glare.

"You're the reason for all of this."

"We have a marriage pact. We both agreed on it."

"It was a joke!" Misty yells as she turns to face him. Mew! Could he be any more dense? "We were kids, Ash! You broke all the promises you made back then! You can break this one too!"

He furrows his brows. "What promises?"

Scoffing, Misty shakes her head in disbelief. "Exactly."

Ash grabs her shoulder to make her face him again. "What promises, Misty?" He presses.

When Misty finds the courage to meet his eyes, Ash sees a lot of pain. So much that he looks away and lets her go. "You promised to be a Pokemon Master next time we meet." She lets out a breath. "You promised it wouldn't take 5 years for us to meet again." Closing her eyes painfully, she adds, "And you promised it definitely wouldn't be 12 years."

Although Ash is the very first Alolan Champion, that's all he's accomplished. His travels afterwards didn't result in anything close to being a champion. The things he's been doing these past few years don't make him a Pokemon Master. He's just some loser living with his mother. And the years it took him to see Misty. She's right. He's lied about all of those things, yet he wants to impose their silly marriage pact on her. "I'm sorry, Misty."

"No use in apologizing." She mutters. "The damage is done." They'll just have to make it through this year.

Hours later, the two are still hiding from the media. They fed the Pokemon, and Misty has been on the pokenav with the League since they know she turned off her gym phones. Due to Ash's lie, now Misty is dragged into it. She's surprised he even remembered that pact when he was engaged a few years ago. It makes her feel warm inside knowing a part of him didn't completely forget about her.

Fortunately, the gym has a living quarter in the back where Misty and her sister's live. The Sensational Sisters haven't lived here in years, though Misty still keeps their rooms intact. She walks into the living room to see Ash is laying on the couch napping. Because she's been busy with the League, Misty hasn't cleared out a guestroom yet. She frowns watching him sleep. Is this all he does nowadays?

Pikachu has been trying to enjoy himself during these times, so he's with the rest of the gym Pokemon. Misty doesn't blame him for wanting to be away from his trainer. Pikachu must have had to take care of this Ash for years now. The mouse is exhausted. What has Ash Ketchum been doing to himself and those around him? Misty knows that this won't be kept up in her house. She's already busy enough with her life and gym that she can't be taking care of this grown man.

Thus, she walks over to slap his chest hard. As she expects, he doesn't immediately wake up, though he does grumble, "Mhm."

"Ash." No response. How can he sleep so carefreely when she's going through a crisis? A crisis that he made worse! Furious, she pulls the heavy man off the couch. Unlike with at the hotel, Misty slips to the floor, so Ash lands on top of her.

He groans loudly. "Stop doing that!" The man is starting to think he prefers Pikacu's electric alarms over being pulled to the ground. Despite his annoyance, he keeps his eyes shut as he tries to fall asleep on the surprisingly soft ground.

The woman below him, however, is blushing profusely. She tries to shove him, but he's dead weight. "Ash, get off of me!" Mew. If he doesn't get off soon, Misty is sure her face is going to explode. Managing to get her hands on his chest, she attempts to shove him.

This gets his attention as he curiously opens his eyes. Orange. Ash quickly shoots off of Misty when he realizes why the ground was so soft. With his own dark blush, he looks away in embarrassment. "Uh. Sorry."

She avoids his gaze too. "We need to make some rules." He can't just sleep all day. Since he's the one who imposed this marriage on her, then she will put him to work. A marriage is a partnership, even if theirs is for show.

Ash sits on the couch and nods. "Sure."

Sighing, Misty takes her seat on the other couch. "I just spoke with the League. We need to make this marriage believable." She already lied to her employer, so to keep everyone happy, this marriage needs to look real.

The man nods. "Yeah. I told my mom too." Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. Why is he so nonchalant about this marriage? He once believed marriage was sacred...until that day…

Misty narrows her eyes at him. "You also cannot sleep all day."

"Uh. That's what I do best." Ash mumbles uncomfortably, which earns him a hard hit on the head by her mallet.

"Yeah. And I'm best at being single, but look at me! I'm fucking married!"

Ash furrows his brows because he knows he's the cause for all of this. It's always his fault. Running a hand through his tangled locks, he asks, "Do I get to make my own rules too?"

"We can compromise." Misty crosses her arms in annoyance.

Nodding, Ash tells her, "We can hold hands, but no kissing. Even if people ask us to."

Misty's face turns a bright red again. She wasn't thinking that far. Why was he? "Uh. I never put on a show for the media." Trying to change the topic, Misty adds another one of her rules, "You need to help me at the gym." Before Ash can retort, she explains herself, "How would our marriage look if you slept all day while I managed the gym by myself? Everyone knows I'm already swamped as is."

Ash sighs. "Fair. But I don't have to get up until noon."

"Eight." Misty sternly says.

Shaking his head, Ash repeats, "Noon."

"Let me remind you, Ash Ketchum, you imposed this stupid marriage pact on me!" No grown man should be sleeping until noon.

"Fine. Ten." Ash attempts to negotiate.

"Nine. That's it."

Pouting, Ash mumbles, "Okay, but you can't force me to leave the house. I won't be going to events."

"I never go to those anyway." Misty shrugs. Sometimes, she'll go to League meetings, but she avoids the recreational events.

"And you need to help me lie to my mom." adds the man. "She'll believe us more if you say it too."

Misty looks away from him. "I can't lie to your mom."

"I know it's hard." Mew! Ash hates lying to his caring mother, but he had to do it earlier. He needs Misty to be fully on board too, else his mother would be devastated. "But I'm helping you lie to the world. You just need to help me lie to my mom."

This lie that he imposed on her. Misty furrows her brows as she takes in a deep breath. She can't lie to Mrs. Ketchum. Ash's mother is the closest person Misty has to a parent. Even though Misty hasn't been in communication with Delia for almost a decade now, Misty isn't sure she can lie. "I don't know." She defeatedly whispers.

Ash's face falls from hearing her down voice. She's been so fiery and headstrong since he met her yesterday that he didn't know she could be this vulnerable. Despite not seeing each other in 12 years, the two are basically talking as if no time has passed. They both seem to have their own demons, but they're managing for one another. It makes Ash feel more guilty about losing connection with Misty. He knows it's more his fault than hers that they never communicated after Alola.

While Ash isn't fully revealing himself to Misty, he knows she isn't doing the same to him either. He won't pry because he doesn't want to say anything about himself. "I'll help you."

"I haven't talked to your mom in almost a decade." Misty conesses.

"I figured." Whenever Ash used to visit home during his travels, his mother would tell him about the redhead's visits. Those had stopped long before Ash returned home for good.

"I didn't say bye or anything." Misty frowns. "I just kind of ghosted my visits."

"It's okay, Misty." Ash tries to reassure her. "We were all busy."

She shakes her head. "I've never been too busy to see your mom." Taking in a deep breath, Misty mutters, "I just stopped."

As Ash opens his mouth to ask her what she means by that, Misty's pokenav rings loudly. She groans thinking it must be the League again. Pulling out the device, Misty's annoyance turns into surprised fear. "Who is it?" Ash worriedly asks, hoping it isn't his mother again.

Misty's worried blue eyes meet Ash's brown orbs. "Brock."

"Fuck." Ash sinks into the couch cushions. The one person they definitely cannot lie to. It's not that they can't lie to Brock. It's just that he can read them. He knows when they're lying. They can lie to the world, to Delia, to anyone, but they can't lie to Brock. "Don't pick up."

"He's gonna know something's up if I don't!" Misty hisses. She always picks up Brock's calls unless she's in a trainer battle or meeting. However, everyone knows the Cerulean City gym is temporarily closed as Misty deals with this marriage news. It's too late in the evening for her to be in a meeting. Brock will know she ignored his call. "I'll talk to him first." Misty glares at Ash. "Get a grip because you know Brock will wanna hear from you next." Ash gulps while watching Misty pick up the call. "Hey, Brock." The woman tries to sound normal and happy.

"Put me on the video phone." Comes the stern voice from the other end.

Misty winces and looks at the scared man in front of her. She starts pointing to the videophone in the kitchen, though Ash doesn't understand what she's trying to tell him. "Uh. It's off so that I-"

"You can turn it off again after we talk." Brock grumbles.

"Brock-"

"Are you hiding something?" questions the Pewter City native.

If she lies to Brock, Misty feels like she'll be able to lie to Mrs. Ketchum. However, this is a lot scarier than she expected. "Can we call you back?"

"So you can have time to formulate your lie?" accuses Brock.

"It's not a lie." Misty hopes she sounds convincing. Lying to Brock over a voice call is so much easier than lying to his face. He'll be able to read them. The woman shoots Ash a helpless look that makes him awkwardly look away. In Ash's mind, Misty is on her own right now. He's not ready to talk to Brock.

"Then put me on the video phone right now."

Misty is pissed that Ash isn't helping her. He looks like he's trying to mentally hide from the situation. "Okay, Brock. Ash will keep you company while I start up the videophone." She smirks watching said man panic. Ash starts waving his hands in front of him because he doesn't want the pokenav. Misty doesn't care as she tosses it to him before walking to the kitchen.

Mentally cursing himself, Ash stares at the pokenav in his hands. He can hear Brock's voice clearly, making Ash sweat. Maybe this marriage thing wasn't a good idea, though Ash Ketchum never thinks. He goes into situations head on and deals with the consequences later. Knowing that he imposed this marriage on Misty who is doing her part in making it believable, Ash finds the courage to put the device to his ear. "Hey, Brock." Ash knows he squeaked that out for Brock to hear.

"What took you so long?" questions the older man.

"I was in the bathroom." Ash lies. It's a terrible lie. More terrible than the marriage one.

Brock can definitely hear the lie in Ash's voice. Even though Brock hasn't spoken to Ash in years, Brock can tell Ash is lying. Brock is concerned about his old friend. What got Ash to be a recluse? It happened immediately after he returned home from Kalos once Serena announced the broken engagement. Did something happen to Ash during that time? Brock had met Serena once, so he doubts she did anything to hurt Ash to this point.

The older man has so many questions to ask his estranged friend. About this marriage. About Ash. About what he can do to help Ash. However, the current problem at hand is this marriage that involves both of his best friends. Brock knows for a fact that Misty hasn't spoken to Ash since Alola. Unlike with Ash, Brock speaks to Misty regularly. Whenever topics of Ash come up, Misty genuinely shows sadness in her eyes. She's gotten better at masking her pain, but Brock can see it. Thus, he finds this marriage hard to believe. How Ash and Misty reconnected, Brock has no idea. But the current circumstances are not ideal to either of them if this marriage is a sham.

"How are you?" Brock will ask about the marriage once he sees them face to face.

"Good." Ash hasn't sweated this much in a while. Even more than when he embarrassed himself at the League dinner yesterday. "How are you?" Not only is it nerve wracking lying to Brock, it's also awkward speaking to him after five years. Brock was supposed to be Ash's best man before…

"I'm good. Thanks for asking." Brock replies. "Annalise is pretty fast for a three year old."

The raven haired man smiles slightly hearing about Brock's life. Ash is happy for Brock. Brock has a loving wife and child. Something Ash once thought he'd have by now. "That's good."

"You should meet her." suggests Brock. "You'll love each other."

"I'm not who I used to be." Ash reminds Brock.

"You're still my friend, Ash. You're still kind and-"

"That's it." Ash doesn't need to hear Brock's pitiful words. All Ash has kept from his childhood is his kindness and respect for his mother, though he is lying to Delia. "I'm gonna go see if Misty is ready."

Brock wants to question Ash, but he doesn't. Instead, he says, "Thanks. Let me know how it's going."

Ash makes his way into the kitchen where he sees Misty is seated on the chair in front of the videophone. The videophone looks like it's been on for a while now while Misty's head is resting on her arms on it, like she's not looking forward to this call. Ash nudges Misty with his foot, getting her attention. He points to the pokenav to remind her about Brock, which makes her inwardly groan.

Taking the device from Ash, Misty says, "I'm calling you now."

"You better." Brock sternly replies.

Soon, the couple sees the unamused face of their old friend. Knowing that Ash obviously isn't going to say anything, and Misty is tired of Brock's judgmental glare, the woman greets him, "Hey, Brock."

"Is it true." He cuts to the point.

"Is what true?" Misty innocently asks.

Narrowing his eyes at them, Brock explains, "Is your marriage true?"

The woman nods. "Yes." She really hopes Brock can't read her eyes. Misty is trying her best to not shift them from Brock's face.

"Why aren't you saying anything, Ash?" inquires the older man.

Misty now looks over at her partner who gulps. Coming to his rescue before he gives them away, even though this was his idea, Misty answers, "You know Ash doesn't talk much. It makes him uncomfortable."

"He can at least talk around me." Brock counters. "It's a yes or no question, Ash. Then I won't ask you anything else."

Ash's gaze is in front of Brock rather than at Brock. The raven haired man can't bring himself to face Brock. It's harder lying to Brock because Ash hasn't seen him in years. Ash feels guilty for the broken friendship, and Ash doesn't like it when others see him like this. Others who knew him at his best. It just makes him feel worse about himself.

Feeling a soft squeeze on his hand, Ash directs his attention to his lap where his hands are. He sees a third hand that belongs to the woman beside him. Allowing her to slip her fingers between his, Ash feels his heart beating quicker. He looks up to see she's still looking at Brock, but Ash appreciates her support. Why is Misty helping him? He's the one who's only caused her trouble, though she's been helping him since she saw him yesterday.

"Ash?"

Brock's voice snaps Ash's eyes to the screen where Ash gives Brock a small nervous smile. "Yeah."

Frowning, Brock looks back at Misty. "You're both terrible liars." It took Ash too long, and his shiftiness gives him away. Misty not meeting Brock's eyes gives her away too.

Slightly panicking, Misty exclaims, "We-"

"Save it." Brock raises a hand to silence her. "Give me one good reason why I should uphold this lie for you two."

Misty sighs in defeat as she looks at Ash who is avoiding eye contact with her and Brock. Why is Ash so quiet? Why isn't he helping her when he was the one who imposed this on her? "I could lose my gym if the truth comes out, Brock." Misty will tell him the obvious answer.

"Then why'd you say you were married?" exasperates the older man.

She can hear his disappointment and disbelief. Misty doesn't blame him because she'd be the same way if something like this happened to someone she knows. "It was just easier saying that."

"But you know the consequences will be worse if you get caught now."

Nodding, Misty replies, "I did say I could lose my gym."

Brock runs a hand through his hair. Despite his friends being 30, they still don't think. Turning his gaze to Ash, Brock inquires, "Why aren't you talking Ash? How did you get dragged into this?"

"He didn't get dragged!" Brock better not be assuming this is Misty's doing because it's not! She didn't want this!

"I'm asking Ash." Brock waves off Misty who shoots him a deep glare.

Ash nervously shifts in his seat. He hasn't looked at the screen in a while, and his throat feels really dry. Feeling Misty squeeze his hand again makes him squeeze hers back. This is the only comfort he's had in a long time, even if it's small. "I wasn't thinking, Brock." Ash admits. "I forced it on Misty, so now we have to make it work."

Brock has always wanted these two to be together. However, after Ash started dating Serena, Brock figured that was it. Despite Misty and Ash being in a fake marriage right now, Brock is relieved to see them getting along. He's more relieved seeing Ash has support, and Brock knows Misty's tough love reaches Ash the best. "You guys do know that marriage is more than just a piece of paper right?"

"We're gonna get divorced in a year." Misty informs Brock of the plan. "We'll say making our relationship public ruined us."

"That sounds like a good plan." Brock is upset hearing that Ash and Misty plan to separate so soon. "Who else knows it's a lie?"

"The Pokemon for sure." Misty answers.

Ash nods. "Pikachu."

"Humans?" inquires Brock.

"Just you." Misty informs him.

Although Brock is surprised Delia doesn't know about the lie, Brock can see why. Delia interacts with so many people. She may accidentally slip up information. "You two need to make this work." Brock zones in on Ash. "Especially you, Ash. You got Misty into this mess, so you need to help her survive through it."

"I will." mumbles the younger man.

"Look me in the eyes and promise me." Brock sternly tells Ash.

Ash can't do it. He hates looking people in the eyes. Clenching his clammy hand around Misty's soft one, Ash slowly forces his head up to meet Brock's expectant eyes. Ash fights the urge to look away as he says, "I promise." That's all the young man can say before he stands up and hurries out of the room, leaving the other two adults confused.

"What's going on?" Brock is worried about his friend.

With a frown on her face, Misty looks at where Ash disappeared out the room. "You're not the only one who wants to know." She sighs. "I'm gonna go check on him, Brock. Thanks for keeping our secret."

"Wait, Misty!" Brock quickly speaks when the redhead reaches to end the call. She raises a curious eyebrow at him while her eyes show worry. "Take care of him. I don't like where he's going with his life."

Misty purses her lips and nods. "I know, Brock." Brock never had to say anything. The moment Misty saw Ash yesterday, she wanted to support him. To bring back the old Ash. To figure out his pain. There was a time she was lost, and he helped her. Plus, Ash was a great friend. Just because they haven't spoken in 12 years, that doesn't mean Misty will ignore a person in need who still means so much to her.

After hanging up with Brock, Misty curiously makes her way out of the kitchen to search for her Ash. She doesn't see him in the living room, but she does notice the bathroom door is shut. Not hearing anything from behind the door, though it is locked, Misty knocks. There is still nothing, which makes her think the worst. Thus, she pounds on the door. "Ash!"

"Leave me alone."

"Not until I see you." Misty recalls the many times she'd have to check on her sisters after breakups. While Misty would check on them out of obligation, even though she knew they'd be fine the next day, Misty is genuinely concerned about Ash. "Ash, I have the key to this door."

"That's creepy."

She smiles a bit hearing his small jest. "Please open the door."

Sighing, Ash mumbles, "I don't wanna talk about it."

"Who said anything about talking? I just wanna see you."

"I'm alive."

"Doesn't sound like it."

"Dead people can't talk."

"You're the living dead." she knowingly remarks. "Are we just gonna talk through a door or are you gonna let me see you? I'll leave you alone once I do."

There is some silence for a bit, and then she hears the door click. When it opens, Ash's head is hung low, like he's avoiding eye contact. "You see me."

Misty can't believe how broken this man looks. He's nothing like the childhood friend she remembers. Despite reconnecting somewhat yesterday, she's taking him under her wing. She doesn't want to leave him alone, and it's not because of a silly old childhood crush. "I'm gonna relieve some stress. Wanna join me?"

"Do I have to?"

"It'd be nice."

Ash shakes his head. "Can you just tell me which bedroom is mine? I wanna take a nap."

Rolling her eyes, Misty opens the door bigger to drag Ash out by the arm. "We're married, Ash. We have to do things as a couple now." Her face heats up saying this, but she's not sure how to get him to follow her.

"We're in the privacy of the gym though." he notes. The man is in no mood to socialize anymore. He wants to hide. It's what he does best, and it's what's comfortable for him.

"Let me remind you." Misty peeks at him over her shoulder as she continues to drag him to the arena. "You imposed this marriage on me. You need to do your part. If we can't interact in private, how are we gonna do it out there?"

"I-" Ash sighs in defeat. "Five minutes."

"This better take longer than 5 minutes." Misty lets him go once they're in the arena.

"What?" She hasn't told him what they're doing to help her relax.

Misty whistles loudly, causing the Pokemon in the resting area to come out. She smirks at Ash. "I usually train, but I prefer battling every now and then. It's been a while since we battled." She's also never battled his Dragonite before.

Ash watches Dragonite and Pikachu expectantly watching him, which makes him look away shyly. Awkwardly rubbing the back of his head, Ash mutters, "I'll just watch." He'll take a nap on the bleachers.

Misty narrows her eyes at him. "No way. We're battling." Since when has Ash Ketchum not wanted to battle? How long has this been going on?

"You can't make me."

"I'll tell your mom we're lying."

"Then I'll tell the media." Ash counters.

For the first time in a while, the two meet each other's eyes to glare at one another. Neither one backs down, making the Pokemon nervous. Eventually, Misty seethes, "Let's make a bet."

"Not interested."

Ignoring him, she says, "If I win, you need to do as I say. I'll be reasonable."

"I already said I'm not battling." He really doesn't want to battle. He doesn't want to do anything but sleep.

She rolls her eyes. "If you win, I won't bother you again. We'll go out in public once a week for an hour and look like a couple. The rest of the time, you can hide away in your room." In the past, Misty knew battling Ash would be very intense. No one could be sure who would win. Now, Misty has a good idea she will win, even with Pikachu's type advantage against her.

"No." Although tempting, Ash isn't in the mood. Maybe if he fights hard enough, he'll manage to get Misty to cave in and leave him alone without battling her.

"I'm not your mom." Misty crosses her arms over her chest. "I'm not gonna cater to you or let you do what you want. I have no time for that." And she doesn't tolerate it.

"I'm not battling you." Ash exasperates.

She shakes her head. "I'm counting this as a forfeit then. I automatically win the bet."

"I never agreed to the bet!" Ash exclaims.

"And I never agreed to this marriage! From that bet we made as kids!" If Ash wants to play this game, Misty has plenty on him.

Knowing she's right, Ash looks away in defeat. This sucks. He would lose on purpose so that he can stop battling, but Misty's bet makes him want to try. The man hasn't trained his Pokemon since he returned to Kanto much less battle. "Do I have a choice?"

"Did I?"

"Technically-"

"No, Ash. You fucking announced it in front of the world." Misty knowingly remarks. "So what's it gonna be." Seeing him reluctantly nod, Misty walks over to her battler's box. Ash knows where to go. Pikachu and Dragonite exchange worried looks, but this is the most progress they've seen from Ash lately.

"If I win, you can't bother me anymore." he weakly tells her.

"If you win." Misty reminds him. She has no doubt she'll win this battle. "Two on two."

About ten minutes later, Misty emerges victorious just by using Corsola. Ash had no drive to win this battle, even though his offer is appealing for him. It was clear that Ash and his Pokemon are out of sync. Also, Ash looked very inexperienced despite being a trainer for 20 years. Something terrible must've happened for this man to not only become a recluse but to lose his passion for battling.

After sending her Pokemon back to play and rest, Misty walks over to Ash in the middle of the field who has Pikachu in his arms. She takes the mouse from Ash because it looks like Ash can barely hold him. Glad that Pikachu is okay, Misty returns her attention to the man in front of her. "Ready?"

"No."

"Well, now you know how I felt earlier." It's pretty late now, so she leads him back to the living quarters.

Misty prepares one of the rooms for Ash where she sets Pikachu down on the bed to rest. Turning to face her estranged friend, she says, "We should go to Pallet Town to get your stuff tomorrow."

"And talk to my mom." Ash sighs as he can finally lay on a bed.

Nodding Misty makes a note to mentally prepare herself for Delia. Since it's late, and Misty isn't sure what to speak to Ash about, the woman chooses to call it a night. Moreover, she's sure Ash prefers to be by himself anyway. "Be up by 9. Night, Ash."

Misty isn't surprised when she doesn't get a response. When she's about to shut his door, he mumbles, "Sorry." The woman isn't sure she heard correctly. Did she actually hear him at all. Closing the door a bit causes Ash to speak once more. "The marriage thing. I shouldn't have said it. It was selfish."

He's been feeling guilty about it, especially after Brock's words earlier. Ash imposed himself on Misty. Ash was selfish when he thought he wasn't. He wasn't taking Misty's feelings into account. Her reminding him after the call just made him feel even worse. Knowing he won't be able to get a good night's sleep, Ash knew he had to apologize.

The redhead gives him a small smile. "It wasn't selfish, Ash." Him putting himself into this situation because of these rumors against her is anything but selfish. With a small blush on her face, Misty softly tells him, "It's actually the nicest thing someone has done for me in awhile." Her sisters and Brock are gone. Leaf and Gary do their own thing where they occasionally see Misty. May and Misty call sometimes, but no one has been this selfless towards her. It was always him.

Ash's heart beats a little faster as he feels relieved. "I'll honor the bet today." She's honoring his bet from years ago, so he should fulfill his part of her bet this time. Ash has some courage to turn his head to see the redhead in the doorway. Their eyes meet, and he finds himself wanting to get lost in that pool of blue.

Misty's heart is beating quickly. He hasn't willingly looked her in the eyes before. It's been years since she's seen anything close to this look from him. Deep inside, she can tell there are remnants of the energetic Ash Ketchum she remembers. He just needs helping coming out again. Finding her voice again, Misty manages out, "Good night, Ash."

Her words shake him from his daze, causing him to blush and turn away in embarrassment. "Night, Misty."

When Misty closes the door, Ash shuts his eyes. Today has been an exhausting day. He was only laying down for a few hours. He usually lays down all day and naps. Despite the long stressful annoying day, Ash is going to sleep with a lighter heart. He should hate today a lot more than he does, but he doesn't hate it. Instead, the man found today pretty tolerable.

Pikachu, who isn't as tired from the battle anymore, smiles to himself. If anyone can reach Ash, it's Misty. There was a time Pikachu believed Delia and Gary could do it, but it's been years where the two have grown complacent on Ash. Misty, though, is not taking any of his melancholiness or excuses.

She has her strict schedule that he needs to be a part of now. Seeing her get Ash to battle as well as getting Ash to open up to her a bit shows to Pikachu that Misty is the one. Her tough love on Ash has always eventually reached him. Hopefully, she can change Ash back into himself, even after 12 years of no contact. Soon, the mouse turns off the lights when he hears Ash snoring.


Okay. Now I'm going on vacation. I leave tomorrow, and I'll be back Dec. 1st. That's when I'll start typing again, so bear with me. Next update should come sometime early to mid-December. Y'all are awesome! Happy Thanksgiving/Indigenous People's Day!

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