Single By 30 @shinygrowlithe12
Chapter 8

Chapter 8

"Hey, Misty?" the raven haired man asks as he walks into the office. Misty is currently trying to organize her paperwork a bit for her meeting on Monday.

"Hm?"

"Can I change our bet?"

She looks up at him curiously. "To what?"

It's been a month since the Sketchits left. Daisy's YouTube channel has popped off. Tina and Delia call weekly. The traffic at the gym has slowed down considerably. Misty and Ash are co-living together just fine with Ash back in one of the spare rooms. The two filed papers a few weeks ago, and Misty bought some rings online. Thus, the two are wearing wedding bands and really looking like a married couple.

Furthermore, there is also less media outside because they're pretty old news now. Ash is getting more comfortable with being awake all day. He's still shy, though he tries his best rather than giving in like he once used to do. The two are really succeeding at this fake marriage. So much that they're comfortably lying to everyone now.

Just moments earlier, Ash challenged Misty to their first battle. She was pretty surprised, though she knows he's been training for it. Ash wants to beat Misty in a 6 on 6 battle, so he lost this time after only being able to knock out three of Misty's Pokemon. Misty does notice that he's getting a lot stronger.

"I don't want a day to myself." He tells her. "Can we change it to get to ask something of you?"

She rolls her eyes at his insistence of getting her to do something for him. What is it that he wants? "Why do you keep asking for that? Do you want something from me?"

Ash quickly shakes his head. "No. It's just…" He sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "I feel like I should earn something I want. I don't want a day to myself anymore. But I don't know what I want, so I might as well ask for a favor, right?"

Finishing with her papers, Misty walks past Ash to pat his back. She's glad that he doesn't sleep all day anymore, nor does he want to return to that life. "Sure. But that means…" The woman turns around where Ash practically runs into her due to her abruptly stopping. Determinedly looking into his eyes, Misty proclaims, "Everytime I win, I get to ask a favor from you."

"Okay." It's only fair.

Smirking, Misty now resumes walking back down the hall to the gym's living quarters. "I wanna go out."

"Okay." Ash mutters.

"Like now. For dinner."

"But you have to beat me in a battle for that." Ash reminds her, causing Misty to glare at him.

"I won 20 minutes ago."

"That wasn't part of the deal yet."

"Are you really backing out now?" Misty places her hands on her hips. That's not fair, Ash.

Giving her a slightly scared smile, Ash shakes his head. "Um. No. You're right. You won." He nervously eyes the window, which has had curtains drawn since his arrival over a month ago. "I'm not ready yet."

"And when will you be?" Misty walks into the kitchen. "The media hasn't seen us together outside in a month. People are starting to ask questions again." Even when they filed papers at the courthouse, they weren't outside for too long.

"But Daisy's videos are helping convince them." Ash notes.

"And she hasn't posted about us in a month, Ash." Misty narrows her eyes at him. "We don't need to sit down anywhere, but can we go to a drivethru and pick up food together? Please?"

Misty is directly in front of him with her large hopeful blue eyes. It makes Ash blush as his breath gets caught in his throat. All he can do is gaze down at her and nod, hypnotized by those enticing blue eyes. Mew. Misty has shown to be a great friend, but Ash doesn't remember his heart ever beating this quickly around her when they were kids. He doesn't hate the feeling, yet he isn't sure he likes it either.

The woman grins and hugs him tightly. It's the first time they're leaving the gym together in weeks. "Yes! Thank you, Ash! I'm so excited!" Feeling Ash stiffen up makes Misty realize their close contact, so she quickly pulls away with a blush. "Um I'm gonna go change." She is only in a bathing suit and jacket.

"Okay." Ash uncomfortably mutters. Once Misty is gone, the man leans against the counter and lets out a long breath. Maybe he should get out of the gym? Being around only Misty for so long is making him act different than he usually does. Some actual fresh air might help with that. Then he won't be feeling like this anymore...hopefully.

Because it's a Friday night, Misty and Ash are watching their weekly movie. Just because they're in a fake marriage, it doesn't mean they can't hang out alone as friends. They started this tradition the week after the Sketchits left because going back to sleeping in separate rooms made them realize how much time they're not spending together. Even Ash wanted to have more interactions with Misty. He was the one who brought it up.

Being put on the spot, Misty reverted back to their usual movie nights they used to have as children. Ash happily obliged; also since he still isn't comfortable doing too much talking. He speaks a lot more to Misty, though that usually is just about logistics rather than their emotions. Therefore, after getting burgers in a local drivethru, which brought them a lot of media attention, the two returned to the gym for dinner and a shower. Now, they're settling down for a movie, and it's Misty's turn to choose her usual romantic movie.

"What is it this time?" Ash is pretty sure he's seen each movie she picks three times by now, even if he watched most of them decades ago.

She rolls her eyes at him while setting down the chip bowl on the table. "I'm actually thinking of you this time." Misty searches on Netflix. Ash always picks boring action movies, so he shouldn't be complaining about her movie choice.

Eating a chip, he questions, "It doesn't count if there's only a minute of fighting." She did that the last time she chose a movie. A minute of action compared to an hour and a half of boringness is not something Ash wants to be misled about again.

Misty plays a movie. "It's a romcom. You like comedies, right?"

"Yeah." He shrugs. "But I like action movies better."

"Shut up and compromise already." Misty tosses a chip at him, earning her an unamused pout. Giggling at his face, she says, "Enjoy the movie."

Ash narrows his eyes at her. How can she just start a food fight and not finish it? Thus, Ash tosses a handful of chips at her. "Okay." He then comfortably sits to watch the movie.

Oh no. Misty Waterflower will not take this. "You're gonna clean this." Now, she's sitting on crumbs. This is going to be messy.

"I always do." With Misty always working, Ash takes it upon himself to do housework for her, especially now that the gym is less busy. He then reaches over to her thigh where a chip he had thrown is resting. The man eats it, causing Misty to blush darkly.

"Hey!"

"What? It's better I eat it than it goes in the trash."

"Then why'd you throw so many chips?" The movie is forgotten as they engage in one of their few playful banters.

Misty really enjoys Ash's company. After she stopped traveling with him, he came around a lot that summer, and they had so much fun. That then immediately stopped. She always longed to have these fun times with Ash again, and now she has them every day for the next year. It does worry Misty knowing that she most likely won't have Ash to herself like this anymore after the divorce. As much as they like to say they won't lose contact again, they always do.

"Because you threw one at me first!" Ash counters.

"You're such a kid."

"Says the one who started this."

Misty sticks her tongue out at him. "And I'm winning this too." She brushes the chips off of her lap towards Ash on the other side of the couch. Ash is fed up with this battle, so he grabs the chip bowl, which makes Misty glare at him. "Don't you dare waste all those chips."

"Or else what?" He positions the bowl to throw it's content at her.

Before Ash can toss the chips everywhere, Misty quickly tries to get it out of his hands. He puts it out of reach, causing her to be leaning over him on the couch. He's still seated, and she's kneeling next to him. Her whole upper body is on his, and Ash is laughing because she's too short to grab the bowl from his extended arms. "I win." When he turns his attention from the bowl back to her, he sees two large bulges directly in front of his face, making him blush profusely.

Ash drops the bowl onto the ground, and Misty glares directly down at him. That's when she sees their compromising position, so she hurries back to her side of the couch. With her own dark blush, she quietly watches the movie. Mew. She feels like an idiot for doing that. Ash must be so uncomfortable. No wonder why he dropped the chips.

The man, though, has brought his leg closest to Misty up to comfortably lean on the sofa. His hands are politely in his lap. All of these movements are really just to hide a painstakingly obviously lump he hasn't had in years. Ash's face continues to get hotter as he tries to calm down. Hopefully, Misty won't ask him to get up or anything. He can't even bring himself to look in her direction due to his embarrassment. Just what is he doing? Is he seeing her as a woman now? He likes it better that they're friends.

About a half hour into the movie, Ash has since calmed down. He actually likes the movie. It's pretty funny, so he's paying attention. For once, he is getting the romantic plot when he used to ignore it completely. Misty is right. He does like this movie. Finally, a movie he and Misty are both enjoying. He never thought this would ever happen. They used to bicker over movie choices all the time. He'll have to research romantic comedies for his choice next weekend.

"Hey." comes the soft voice beside him.

"Hm?" Ash doesn't want to miss any jokes that may be slipped into the movie.

Misty takes in a deep breath before apologetically facing him who is still watching the movie. "I have to go."

Now, Ash snaps his attention to her. "Go where?" The bathroom?

"The Cape."

He doesn't recall seeing her touch her pokenav, but that could be due to his investment into the movie. Knowing what the Cape means, especially this late at night, Ash feels his heart ache. Why doesn't he want her to go? Because they're actually enjoying a movie together? Because it's dark and dangerous outside? Okay. That's not the case. Misty is not a damsel in distress, and she's a much stronger trainer than him.

Nodding, he says, "Okay. I'll pretend like I'm not home."

"Thanks, Ash. Let's finish this in Pallet Town."

"Yeah. Don't worry about it, Misty." Ash gives her a reassuring smile. They're going to Pallet Town this weekend for Ash to grab more of his belongings. Plus, Delia expressed how much she misses Ash. Although she sees him doing better over the videophone, she'd like to see him in person.

Misty is soon gone, leaving Ash alone with the still playing movie. He doesn't know what happened in it the past 10 minutes because his thoughts are still on Misty with her mysterious Cape guy. She still won't answer any questions about him. Due to Misty not going to the Cape in over a month, Ash had forgotten all about the Cape guy. Seeing her leave so abruptly now, even though they were both having a good time, just reminds him that he comes after this Cape guy. Misty claims the Cape man isn't her lover. Just who exactly is he?

Ash could go to the Cape and find out right now. However, what if he gets caught by the media? That will compromise everything, and he said he'd stop being selfish. Misty doesn't pry about his ex, so he shouldn't sneak around to learn about her Cape guy. Ash sighs as he pauses the movie and turns off the TV. With Pallet Town not having much to do, he and Misty will have time to finish the movie tomorrow.

After cleaning up the chips, which takes a lot of thorough vacuuming, Ash heads to bed. He's still trying to mentally prepare himself to face his mother tomorrow. What if she has more questions about their relationship? How can he come up with new lies for her? As Ash lays in bed, he knows the one question from his mother he fears the most. She's always wanted grandchildren, and she won't hold back in asking for one from them, especially with Ash and Misty legalizing their marriage.

The next day, on the drive to Pallet Town, Ash isn't sleeping like he did the last time they ventured to his home. He and Misty had packed prior to their movie yesterday, so they left early this morning. Despite knowing they'd be leaving early, Misty was insistent on a movie night last night. She doesn't want the tradition to stop. Ash isn't sure when she returned, though he was glad to see her this morning.

Noticing her yawn for what seems like the fifth time into this half hour drive so far, Ash asks, "When did you come back?"

Misty is focused on the road because she thought Ash was preoccupied with his pokenav. Pikachu and Psyduck curiously watch from the back seat. They have a movie playing on Misty's tablet, but this conversation seems a lot more interesting. "Huh?"

"Last night. What time did you come home?" Ash repeats a little louder. He reaches over to shut off her radio since this is a conversation he wants to have.

Misty shoots him a slight glare. While she is relieved to see him taking more initiative in his life, she doesn't want to be on the receiving end of it. "I don't think I need to tell you that."

"I should know in case someone asks, right?" Ash presses. Why is she getting so defensive?

Scoffing, Misty can't believe he's doing this again. Asking about her Cape affairs when they made the deal to not do so. She isn't asking him about his breakup with Serena. Ash needs to respect her as much as she respects him. "Fine." She growls. "I'll tell you if you tell me why you broke down when the Sketchits visited."

"Pikachupi!" Pikachu scolds Misty.

She gives the mouse an apologetic look in her rearview mirror as Ash glances out his window with a frown. They now drive in uncomfortable silence. Psyduck, who has no idea what's going on, resumes the movie. Pikachu is relieved to see Ash and Misty stop questioning each other, so he returns his attention to the tablet too. Ash is fighting the intense ache in his chest. Misty is right. He was pushing it, and he knows it.

"2:30." The Pokemon and Ash snap their attention to her. While Misty was being stubborn and didn't feel a need to tell Ash anything about her Cape affairs, she knows she went too far asking about the breakdown. That's really sensitive, and her Cape affairs isn't a sensitive topic for her. "You should learn how to drive. In case something like this happens again." Thank Mew for the invention of coffee. However, Misty has functioned on even less sleep in the past. Having Ash around has helped diminish her workload by a lot. She's able to actually get some consistent sleep.

Slowly nodding, Ash hesitantly replies, "We only need to drive when we're moving things. We can fly on my Pokemon when we don't need much stuff."

"So are you willing to learn?" Pallet Town is less busy, so it's a perfect place to teach Ash how to drive. Moreover, there's less reporters and traffic in Pallet Town.

"Do I have to?"

"It'd be nice. Else I'm always doing the driving."

The man glances at her where he notices her bags again. Although he could make a case that she's tired because she was out late with her mystery man, he won't. Even if Misty wasn't at the Cape last night, she does a lot for herself and him. She'd still be tired. "Fine."

"You don't have to if you don't want to." Misty doesn't want to force him to do anything.

"I'll do it. I don't do much anyway."

Smiling slightly, Misty meets his gaze for a second. "Thanks, Ash."

After a couple of silent minutes, Ash mentions, "We're staying the night, right?" His mother had asked them to because they were only around for a few hours last time.

"Yeah." Sighs the redhead. "We're gonna have to be in the same room."

"I'll clean it." Ash blushes in embarrassment since his room is a mess. "And my mom will knock, so I'll sleep on the floor." They won't need to worry about getting caught not being in the same bed.

"I don't want to take your bed." Ash had let her have her bed while he took the floor. Thus, Misty can't make him give up his bed too.

"It's fine. My mom would kill me if she found out I took the bed while you got the floor."

"Your mom won't know."

"I'll know." Ash shrugs. Besides, it doesn't sit well with him if Misty is on his dirty ground.

Misty's pokenav ringing interrupts their conversation. Sighing, she answers it. Because it's on the car's bluetooth, everyone inside can hear it. "You're on speaker. What do you want?" Misty turns the stereo back on because it's easier than turning her pokenav off bluetooth and then putting it to her ear as she drives.

"Wow, Misty. Is that how you greet your best friend?" comes a high pitched voice.

"We're not best friends, Leaf."

"Right." Leaf says in amusement. "You married your best friend. Hey, Ash!"

With a dark blush on her face, Misty hisses, "What do you want?"

Giggling, Leaf replies, "Gary says you're coming to Pallet Town today. I'm here. We should hang."

"No thanks."

"Ash, sweetie, go on a double date with me and Gary?" comes Leaf's sweet voice.

Misty shoots him a sharp glare as she shakes her head. "You're not even dating Gary." The redhead reminds her friend on the call.

"True. But we're exclusive. C'mon, Mrs. Ketchum. Hang out with us!"

"Yeah, Red! Ashy Boy! Let's double date indoors since Ash can't go outside yet." the couple hears the obnoxious voice of their playboy Pallet Town friend.

Ash inwardly groans. "I can go outside."

"Wow. Ashy Boy is talking back to me? It's been a while since I heard that." cackles Gary.

Misty rolls her eyes. "We'll talk about it."

"Don't be like that, babe!" Leaf pouts. "I haven't seen you in months."

"Because you skipped the League dinner."

"I kinda wish I didn't. Then I could've seen you and your man who I still haven't met yet!"

Looking at Ash, Misty mutes the call. "What do you wanna do?"

Ash nervously scratches the back of his head. "I've never met any of Gary's girls before. And I never met the Viridian City gym leader."

"She's just as bad as Gary. We're gonna have to deal with two Gary Oaks." Misty warns him.

Nodding, Ash gives her a reassuring smile. "I feel better, Mist. Gary always came to hang out with me. I wanna do the same."

Leaf and Gary's voices are still heard over the call because they realize they've been put on mute. Misty glares at her pokenav and lets out an annoyed breath. "Fine, Ash. But if I don't wanna talk to them, you have to entertain them."

"Or we can just leave." suggests the man.

"You haven't tried leaving a Gary Oak and Leaf Green conversation before. They're worse than my sisters."

Chuckling slightly, Ash reaches over to unmute the call with his male friend yelling. "We'll see you for dinner?" He and Misty already agreed to have lunch with his mom when they arrive. She'll understand that they're visiting Gary for dinner.

"Oh shit. Ashy Boy! I never thought I'd hear you willingly agree to something." Gary genuinely says despite his playful voice. The professor actually is relieved to hear Ash's voice. It just means Ash is getting better, and it's all because of Misty. Gary is glad the two are together.

"Stop teasing before we take it back." Misty growls.

"Don't be like that, Misty!" Leaf speaks. "I can't wait to see you! And I can't wait to meet your hunk of a husband! Gary says you've had the hots for him since you were 10."

As Misty's face turns a dark shade of red, she exclaims, "Bye!" And hangs up on the laughing couple. It's a good thing Tina already outed Misty for having a crush on Ash. Else, this would be an awkward car ride.

"Did everyone know you had a crush on me?" inquires the slightly pink man beside her.

"Guess so. Brock knew first."

"Pi pika!" Pikachu raises his paw in the backseat, and Misty groans.

"Okay. I guess everyone knew."

Chuckling, Ash's face heats up. "Brock and Pikachu knew about mine too. Gary. Team Rocket. I think that's it."

Misty now giggles too. "So I guess everyone knew but us." Mew. Even Psyduck knew.

"Guess so." The two friends laugh in embarrassment at their childhood selves.

"Is that why you made the pact?"

Ash shyly looks away. "Kinda. It was a bit of a joke, but I also didn't mind if it came true. I did have a crush on you. Is that why you agreed?"

She nods. "Yeah. I had a huge crush on you. I thought it'd be nice to finally be romantic with you." Although she had her qualms at the time because she wanted real love, Misty still agreed to the pact due to believing they wouldn't go 12 years without seeing one another.

"We're kinda romantic now."

"We're fake romantic." Misty reminds him.

"Do you think we're believable?" He doesn't watch the news, so he doesn't know what they're saying. During training sessions, he's noticed there are less reporters outside every week.

"We're very believable." Misty raises a hand at him. "Good job, partner." Ash chuckles and high fives her. According to Daisy, her youtube channel is doing really well, especially from the videos including Ash and Misty. Plus, Misty watches the news occasionally, and the media has since moved on from them. Even the League doesn't bother Misty as much about her relationship anymore.

Hours later, they finally pull up to Delia's home. Of course, the older woman is always eager to see Ash, so she's out the door before the couple can even turn off the car. The moment Ash steps out of the car, he's smothered in a hug from Delia. "Ash! How are you?" Dotes the woman. She's been watching him on the news, though that stopped about a week ago. Delia knows Ash has been training again, and from the looks of the media, Ash is getting back into his old rhythms. Even Charizard is there now. Delia is very happy with Ash's progress this month, especially after she wasn't able to do anything the past few years.

"Hey, mom." Ash smiles warmly as his large arms envelope Delia.

When Misty walks around the car, Delia hugs her tightly. "Misty! You're always so skinny. Are you eating?"

Misty giggles. "It's the fast metabolism." Misty feels like she's been eating a lot more with Ash around. Meals are a chance for them to actually interact. Else, she'll be too busy to leave the gym.

Pikachu hops in Delia's arms next. As Misty reaches for the luggage in the trunk, Delia says, "Let Ash get your bags! Come inside, Misty!" Delia then grabs the redhead who shoots Ash an apologetic look.

Once the women and Pikachu are inside, Ash gazes down at the always confused duck. "Can you help me, Psyduck?"

"Psy?"

Chuckling, Ash grabs the two backpacks in the back where he also notices Misty's fishing poles. Does she always have them back here? How often does she even fish? She seems too busy to do anything these days, though she does try to spend time with him. Swinging the two light bags over his arms, Ash closes the trunk and walks inside with Psyduck.

Over lunch, Delia asks about what the couple has been doing. She's so excited, especially knowing Ash hasn't been in bed all day. "I think it's adorable how you two still relive your mysterious Cape dates." gushes the woman, causing Misty to practically choke on her food.

"Huh?"

Delia nods. "Yes! The media caught you both last night. I saw it on the news this morning." The older woman then looks at Ash whose attention is shyly on his food. "Ash, honey, you don't have to wear that hood when you go there anymore. Everyone knows it's you."

Ash sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "Uh. It was kinda chilly last night." He lies.

Misty agrees. "And it's kind of exciting. It's like back when we were sneaking around the media." Please believe them, Delia!

Fortunately, the brunette drops the topic. Judging by Ash's demeanor, Misty knows he's annoyed by this, though she doesn't know why. Anytime her Cape affairs come up, Ash always seems so agitated. She's not as bothered about his breakup with Serena as he is bothered by her Cape guy. Shaking her head, Misty comes to a resolve. What she does in her time is her own. She doesn't need to keep explaining herself to Ash or trying to alleviate his concerns. He needs to back off because that was part of their deal with their one question a day.

After some more catch up talk, the three finish dinner. Once again, Delia asks an uncomfortable question, "So when am I getting grandchildren?"

The couple blushes immensely, and Misty warily eyes Ash. He always looks so uncomfortable around babies and pregnancies. Awkwardly clearing her throat, Misty mutters, "Um. We're not ready yet." She had said the same thing to Daisy last month.

Sighing, Delia cups her mug in her hands. "You've been married for 2 years now? You're both 30. You're not getting any younger, Misty."

Mew. Misty's face color rivals her hair right now. Seeing the timid man beside her, Misty knows she's on her own with this topic...again… "Yes, Delia. We are, um, just busy right now. I'm busy with the gym. It's too stressful to have a baby."

Delia narrows her eyes at Ash who has been very quiet so far. "Are you helping Misty, Ash?" Knowing that Ash is still unemployed, Delia hopes he's helping Misty. It's stressful enough running a gym by herself. If Misty were pregnant, that amount of stress isn't good for the baby. Ash needs to start helping more now so that Misty isn't as stressed.

The redhead quickly comes to Ash's rescue. "He helps me a lot, Delia!"

"I could help more." admits the man, causing Misty to be surprised.

"It's just gym paperwork. You do what you can." She has to handle the official paperwork. "And you clean the gym and input everything on the computer for me."

Despite Misty saying all of this, Ash does think he could do more. Misty is always so tired. "Uh. Just let me know if you ever need anything else. I'll do it."

Delia is very shocked by Ash. There are more resemblances of the Ash she remembers now. Smiling at the pair, Delia tells them, "Take your time, but just know, I'm always excited for another Ketchum." The woman then grabs the dishes to wash, leaving Ash and Misty to blush again.

Ash motions to the living room with the hallway. "I'm gonna go clean my room."

"I'll help." Misty whispers, and the two head off.

"I washed your sheets and did some laundry for you!" Delia yells.

When Ash and Misty open the door to his room, they see it is significantly cleaner and it smells better. Delia must've been cleaning it a lot this past month. With Ash gone, she has had a lot of time because she isn't constantly catering to him. The room is still slightly messy, but nothing Ash and Misty can't handle. Ash notices that his mother left a bunch of stuff in a pile near the trash, like she's unsure if he wants to keep it or not.

While Ash sorts through that pile, Misty brings their bags into the room. Psyduck and Pikachu are spending time with Delia, allowing the couple to be alone, though Misty has left the door open. "Are you ready for this double date?"

The man shakes his head as he throws away most of the random items. "I'm not ready for Gary's teasing."

"Leaf is worse. She has Gary wrapped around her little finger, so she does most of the teasing now." Misty groans and lays on the bed.

Chuckling, Ash says, "You guys seem close." It sounded like it over the call.

"She was a lot better before she met Gary." Misty recalls the first couple of times she would see Leaf at the gym leader meetings. Leaf was sweet. A bit playful but overall friendly and responsible. It wasn't until one day when they had a weekend long gym leaders conference where Misty had to stay the night. Not wanting to be surrounded by the other weird leaders at the Indigo Plateau, she accepted Leaf's invitation to stay at the Viridian City gym.

Once at the gym, Leaf had dropped the unexpected news that a friend of hers would be coming by. Leaf didn't invite him. He just invited himself, and Leaf was very apologetic about it. Misty told her it was okay, especially since Leaf was saying how she would see what her visitor wanted and then make him leave. Nevertheless, when Gary Oak walked into the gym, Misty and Gary both knew what Gary was there for.

Of course, Leaf was surprised at how close Gary and Misty are. All gym leaders know Gary. They have to work with the professor at times, though it's all professional. Gary's and Misty's interaction was anything but professional. Gary was teasing Misty while Misty was angrily yelling at him. Leaf could tell they must've known each other for a while. After the two confirmed their friendship, Leaf's true colors slowly started showing to Misty. Moreover, because of Gary's constant teasing on Misty, Leaf felt like she could tease Misty more too without losing a friend.

Therefore, Leaf deems Misty her best Kanto friend just because Leaf can be herself around Misty, and Misty can handle Leaf's playful personality. Misty is constantly third wheeling with the two as well as being the sole victim of their tag team teasing. Sometimes, the redhead wishes she could go back in time and never accept Leaf's invitation to staying at the gym. Then Leaf would've never found out how high Msity's tolerance is to teasing like Gary's teasing.

"I'm sure she's not that bad." Ash is pretty sure he would've heard stories about Leaf if Leaf was a notorious player like Gary.

"She's worse than Gary. Trust me."

"Guess I'll have to see for myself."

Misty sits up on the bed to watch the man who is almost through with the pile. "You look different."

Ash looks at his arm and shrugs. "I've been training outside for hours every day. I think I got a tan?"

She shakes her head. "No. You look healthier."

"Tan?" Suggests Ash again.

Misty giggles while rolling her eyes. The last time they were here, Ash was lethargic. He didn't want to do anything. Being awake longer than an hour was draining on him. Now, as Misty has watched him interact with his mother and clean his room, he looks so full of life. He's still not as talkative as he once was, but he's better. "Are you happy?"

Ash stops picking through the pile to curiously gaze at her. "I'm not sad." He's not sure if he's happy. Some things in life he can't move on from. However, does that mean he has to stay sad forever? Ash doesn't think so. He's not entirely happy, but he's not as sad as he once was.

"That's a start."

"Yeah." He smiles and finishes with the pile. Misty expectantly watches him, thinking he'll open up that sock drawer, but he never does. Instead, he stands and stretches a bit. "What do you wanna do before we see them?"

Trying to hide her disappointment, Misty suggests, "Wanna train? Your mom said she'd be gardening, so we'd all be out there together."

"Sounds good." Ash knows his mother has missed seeing him train.

Before their scheduled dinner with Misty's friends, the couple trained, showered, and Misty taught Ash how to drive a bit. It's still a work in progress. Misty enjoyed training with Ash because it's the first time they've trained together since they traveled together. Although they started out clumsy, they ended up working together well. Delia loves seeing Ash doing what he used to do, and she really likes it that he's doing it with Misty.

"Ready?" Misty asks the man looking at himself in his mirror.

"Do I look weird?"

"Gary's seen you worse." Misty rolls her eyes at Ash being insecure. "As much as I'd love to be late, I don't wanna hear their suggestions on why we're late." Gary and Leaf have dirty minds. They have dirtier minds when they're together, and Misty would rather avoid hearing anything in that realm of their heads while she's with Ash who most likely will miss every inappropriate reference.

Nodding, Ash follows the woman out. Because they're just hanging out indoors, everyone is dressed casually. Since Misty expects there will be drinks, like there always are, Charizard flies them to Gary's house. As they near the familiar house, Ash nervously whispers, "Can we bail?"

Misty shoots him a glare. "You're the one who agreed to this!"

"I know, but I haven't met Leaf before. She's new."

"You never met Tina."

"She's a kid."

"Think of Leaf as a big kid." They're already here, so Misty would rather not deal with her friends' disappointment and teasing for bailing.

"Misty-"

Misty grabs his hand in hers. Looking into his slightly scared eyes, she says, "Breathe, Ash." He doesn't need to start hyperventilating now. To her relief, Ash calms down after a couple of deep breaths. "You can do this. You're strong, Ash." Plus, Misty wouldn't bring Ash around someone if she thought Ash couldn't handle it. Leaf is very nice, despite all of her teasing.

Ash squeezes Misty's hand. "Don't leave me alone. I might screw up the lie." Gary Oak is cunning and smart. Ash knows Gary can easily read him. If Leaf is an enhanced version of Gary, like Misty has been saying, then Ash definitely can't lie to Leaf.

"Course not." the blushing redhead mutters.

They soon land, and the front door swings open as a loud voice exclaims, "It's the Ketchums!"

Ash returns Charizard, and Misty gives the auburn haired man an unamused look. "Hey, Gary."

Chuckling, Gary brings Misty in for a hug. He then claps Ash's back. "Come inside, guys. It's kinda cold." Once inside the brightly lit house, Gary gets a better look of the two where he's surprised by how alive Ash seems. "How are ya, Ashy Boy?"

"Good." Ash shyly mumbles. He then follows Misty to a seat on the couch.

"Where's Leaf?" Misty asks.

Gary peers down the hall. "Bathroom?" She was just there before Gary greeted the Ketchums. "How's the married life?" Gary notes their wedding bands that they didn't have last time.

"Good." answers Misty, making Gary's smirk grow.

"C'mon, Red. No need to be modest. Tell it like it is." Gary and Leaf never held back their inappropriate conversations in front of her. Granted, they mainly did it to make her uncomfortable. "You finally got to fulfill those teenage fantasies, huh?"

"Gary!" Misty's face turns beet red along with Ash's as Gary laughs himself to tears.

Before Misty can berate the professor, a woman emerges from the hallway. "No fair, Gary. You're supposed to wait for me."

Gary wipes his tears, and Leaf sits next to him where she cuddles under his arm. "Sorry, babe. It just happened."

Leaf studies the stranger in the room. She's seen pictures from Gary and Misty before, and she's recently seen him on the news. Unlike with his younger photos, this man looks less lively. He seems lost and apathetic. Leaf then notices that Misty and Ash have a gap between them on the couch, which makes Leaf narrow her eyes at them suspiciously. Leaf and Gary have spoken about this very surprising marriage they find hard to believe.

"Hey, Ash. I'm Leaf Green. The Viridian City Gym Leader."

Ash nods politely. "Hello, Leaf."

Misty can tell Leaf is trying to read them. Clearing her throat, Misty inquires, "I thought you guys were gonna limit the PDA around me?" She motions to them cuddled up closely.

"That's cuz you were a lonely third wheel. You're taken now, so we can do what we want." Gary smirks and tips Leaf's chin up with his finger before planting a passionate kiss on them.

"You guys are still disgusting." Ash and Misty look away shyly, causing the brunette couple to smirk more.

Teasing two people is a lot more fun than teasing one. Gary was right. Thus, Leaf points to the other couple. "Why are you guys so stiff and far apart? Haven't you been married for years?"

"We don't do PDA." Misty answers.

Leaf faints a pout. "Bummer. It's lots of fun."

When Leaf reaches for Gary's face, Misty threatens, "If you're gonna make out in front of us, we'll just leave."

Giggling, Leaf pulls away from Gary. "Calm down, Misty. You always have your panties in a bundle." The Johto native then stands up and motions to the kitchen. "Gary made dinner. Come eat before it gets cold."

"And then we'll catch up." Gary winks as he leads them into the dining room.

Leaf hangs back a bit to hug Misty since she didn't get to do so earlier. As Ash is walking ahead of them, and near Gary, Leaf whispers to Misty, "He's pretty cute. Like puberty did him good." Compared to the childhood photos she's seen of Ash, Leaf notes how Ash has grown into a more handsome man who's lost a lot of his childhood features.

Misty blushes a bit. Ever since Ash started training again, Misty has noticed his arms getting more tone and tan. There is a slight chest on the man too, which she sees through his shirt. "Yeah."

"Aw. Don't be shy, babe!" Leaf pinches Misty's cheek, much to her annoyance. "It's a compliment."

"I'm not sure I want any compliments from you."

"You're always such a downer, Misty. Live a little." Even though Leaf is also a gym leader, Leaf knows she has more fun than Misty. Misty has always been such a work-aholic. It'd be nearly impossible to get Misty to hang out with them in the past. Like they'd see her once every few months.

"I'm married, Leaf. I have adult stuff to do."

Leaf rolls her eyes. "You were doing this stuff before you were married too. Smile, will ya?" The women sit down at the table where the men are curious about their conversation. Leaf looks at Ash. "Misty's boring. Please tell me you guys do anything exciting." The most exciting thing Leaf has heard from Misty is her mysterious Cerulean Cape man who turned out to be Ash.

Despite wanting to defend Misty, Ash thinks back to his time at the gym. They don't really interact besides for meals and their occasional movie nights. It's not Misty's fault they don't do anything interesting. They're pretty content with their lives. Plus, it's not like Ash is doing anything either. "We have fun."

"See. Now leave me alone." Misty growls.

Gary, though, finds this as a perfect opportunity to tease them. "What kinda fun?" Misty's sharp glare makes him chuckle. "Calm down, Red. I'm just joking." To Misty's surprise, a warm smile appears on Gary's lips. "I'm glad you guys are having fun together. You both need it." Seeing Ash talk more and interact with others is a huge improvement. Gary knows he has Misty to thank for that.

Letting out an annoyed breath, Misty changes the topic. She and Ash have been at the center of it for too long. "Why'd you guys invite us over?"

"Just to meet your man." Leaf winks at Ash, making him uncomfortably look at his food.

"Cuz we missed ya." Gary teases.

"Knew it." Mutters the redhead. Leave it to these two to stay teasing. "Where's the alcohol?" Misty would really like a glass of wine or a can of beer right now. She always has something to sip on with these two to help her get through her time with them.

"Don't have any." Gary answers.

"Stop lying." Misty definitely doesn't believe this. She's gotten shit faced with these two plenty of times already. They always have alcohol.

"For real!" Gary defensively raises his hands up.

It's probably a good thing Gary doesn't have any alcohol. As everyone catches up, and Leaf and Ash get to know each other, they finish their dinner and clean up. The couples are now in the living room hanging out when Misty, who has been observing a lot more PDA from the two than usual, inquires, "Are you guys official now?" That's the only feasible explanation Misty can think of for being here.

Leaf winks at Misty. "Say. If we got married, would you be my maid of honor?"

Misty suspiciously eyes their smirking faces. "What's the catch?" There's never ever a real favor with Leaf and Gary.

"No catch." Leaf feigns hurt. "I'm being serious."

"Ask me when you're engaged." Misty leans back in the couch cushions. She really needs a drink to handle this couple.

"What if we're skipping that?" Gary suggests.

"I wouldn't be surprised." Misty shrugs nonchalantly. "You guys aren't conventional. I see you getting pregnant and having to get married." When the room falls into a silence, something that never happens with Gary and Leaf around, Misty opens her eyes widely at the two smirking brunettes. "No fucking way. You guys did not!"

"Surprise!" Leaf wiggles her fingers in the air. Ash is still pretty confused about the situation because he doesn't know Leaf as well as Misty. He does see that Misty was right about Leaf being another Gary. Fortunately, Ash does understand Gary a bit.

"You're joking." Misty says in disbelief.

"Kinda wish we were." Gary sheepishly rubs the back of his head, and Leaf elbows his stomach. "Joking, babe." he wheezes.

Massaging her temples as she takes in this new information, Misty shuts her eyes. "Okay. Make this make sense to me. Please."

Leaf rolls her eyes at her dramatic friend. "Gary knocked me up, so we're getting married in two weeks before my stomach gets big."

"Wait!" Misty raises her head. "Married? That's true too?" She doesn't know if these two are trying to mess with her or not. Like maybe because they want revenge for finding out she was married all of a sudden? "You guys aren't even dating!" They've just been friends with benefits for as long as Misty has known them.

"Well, birth control failed us." Gary shrugs. "We've practically been a couple, so we might as well put a label on us now."

"Yeah. As much as I'd like to keep our relationship the way it is, the kid should probably have a normal family." Leaf adds.

Misty shakes her head in disbelief. "Wow. Congrats then."

Leaf giggles at Misty's face. The brunette knew telling Misty would be the most fun, which is the reason they waited until Misty visited to tell her. If Misty wasn't coming into town this week, Gary and Leaf would've made the trip to Pallet Town to see her. "Pretty sure it was that night of the dinner…"

"Oh yeah. The League dinner we didn't go to, but you two went to." Gary chuckles. "Maybe we should've gone?"

"And missed out on Misty meeting her lover? No way." Leaf knows that Misty would've hung around them the whole time and wouldn't have even noticed a dark apathetic man. Gary did say that Ash was unrecognizable before his marriage with Misty was announced. With Misty being by them, Misty wouldn't have been caught with Ash, and then her relationship wouldn't have been revealed for everyone. Thus, it's a good thing Gary and Leaf skipped the dinner.

"Hello! We're talking about you guys!" Misty returns their attention to the brunettes,

Raising her hands up defensively, Leaf replies, "Okay. Okay, Misty. So will you be my maid of honor?"

"Yeah." Misty exclaims with a smile. "I'm gonna need to know where this wedding is and stuff and the attire. It's in two weeks?"

Gary waves at her. "We got that handled. Just show up with your speech ready. You'll walk down the aisle with my best man." The perks of being rich and famous means that Gary Oak can secure a venue and planner quickly. He and Leaf have been planning this wedding the past week.

"Who's the best man?" Misty inquires curiously.

With a large smirk, Gary motions over to the very quiet man. "Will you be my best man, Ashy Boy? You get to walk down the aisle with your wife." Gary knows Ash and Misty never had a wedding due to Ash's reclusiveness. Thus, the two have never walked down the aisle together. Misty always wanted to walk down the aisle with her lover.

Ash blinks at Gary in confusion. When Ash feels all the expectant eyes on him, he shyly shifts his gaze. "Uh-"

"C'mon, Ash!" Gary pleads. If he doesn't say Ash's nickname, it usually means Gary is being genuine. "Do you really want another man to walk down the aisle with your wife?" The other man would be Tracey who is Misty's brother-in-law, but Ash doesn't need to know that. Gary and Tracey got close over the years when they'd both work for his grandfather as youth.

Sighing, Misty comes to Ash's rescue again. "You don't have to do this." She whispers to him.

Her words cause Ash to meet her soft blue eyes. He doesn't have to do this, but he wants to. Gary is his best friend from Pallet Town, despite their disputes in the past. Moreover, Ash doesn't know how he feels watching another man walk down the aisle with Misty. Misty is his support right now, especially in public situations. If she's walking down the aisle with someone else, that will leave Ash alone. Misty will be helping with the wedding planning, and she'll spend a lot of the wedding with the wedding party, meaning she won't be around him much. Therefore, Ash's best bet in surviving his friend's wedding, which he won't miss, is to be a part of the wedding party.

"I'll do it." answers the raven haired man.

Gary breaks out in a grin. "Awesome! It'll be a small wedding with just close family and friends. Don't worry about it, Ashy Boy." Understanding that Ash still can't handle large crowds well, as well as the wedding occurring so soon, Gary and Leaf chose to keep it small. Besides, they'd want nothing more than to spend their special day with those that matter to them. Leaf has never been big on the public eye, despite Gary loving it. The man can make a good sacrifice for his future wife.

"Yeah! We're gonna be rehearsing a few days before the wedding, so you'll need to close your gym." Leaf informs Misty who nods.

"I don't get why I always get carried in with the mess you both start." facepalms the redhead.

Innocently smiling, Leaf sheepishly scratches the back of her head. "We're the only excitement you get. You love it."

As Leaf and Gary continue to tease Misty, Ash watches them. He doesn't feel as nervous as he thought he'd be. Leaf is really nice, like Misty had said. Ash is comfortable around them, and he appreciates how no one is trying to force him to interact with them. They also don't make him feel left out. Smiling slightly at Gary who is still focused on Misty, Ash is happy for his friend. Despite Gary's playboy ways, Gary has always been looking for a woman he can trust won't be after his family's fame and money. It seems like Gary has finally found that woman, and Ash approves of her. Even Misty likes Leaf, which usually means Leaf must have a genuine personality.

Ash shifts his focus on the couple to that of his fake wife. Should they have had a wedding? That would be too much stress for him. He doubts he would've survived one. Seeing Misty roll her eyes and tease the brunettes right back makes Ash's smile grow. Misty can take teasing and she can give it out. She always calls him strong, but Misty is the strongest person he knows.

Ash's smile falls a bit thinking back on his mother's and Leaf's words. Delia says Misty works too hard. While Ash pulls his share of the work he can do, Misty is still overwhelmed. Leaf keeps bringing up how Misty doesn't have fun. This has gotten Ash to think about what fun things he's seen Misty do, yet there's nothing explicitly fun he's seen her partake in. Unless she has fun with her mystery Cape man who the world thinks is him.

Letting out a small breath so that the three don't notice his inner turmoil with his thoughts, Ash decides that Misty deserves some fun. She works too hard and takes care of others too much where she neglects herself. These past couple of weeks, she's been caring for him. She's helped him see a life worth living again. The least he can do is help her have some fun instead of constantly being stressed.

Since Gary and Leaf are now playfully bantering between each other, Ash finds his hand slowly creeping towards Misty's by her side. His pinky taps hers, causing her to curiously look in his direction where she sees Ash is watching the brunettes. With a slight pink blush on both of their cheeks, Misty lifts her pinky to rest on top of Ash's. The married couple finds comfort in each other, and even the slightest touch reminds them that they're in this together. A fake marriage but a real partnership.

That night, the fake couple enter Ash's room exhausted from having to deal with the teasing they endured all evening. Despite all the teasing, they both had fun. Ash can see why Misty still hangs out with Gary and Leaf when those two constantly annoy her. Misty is looking forward to the wedding because she's always wanted the brunettes to officially get together. They've been doing everything couples do but without the title. Misty isn't surprised that it took an unexpected pregnancy to bring them together.

When the fake couple turns on the light to see Ash's lone bed, they both blush. "Uh. I'll set up my sleeping bag." Ash starts searching his slightly organized closet.

"It's fine." Misty awkwardly stands by the doorway.

He shakes his head. "Take the bed, Mist."

"It's your bed."

"You're the guest." Ash pulls out his old sleeping bag to give her a reassuring smile. "My mom would kill me if she found out I took the bed and gave you the floor."

"I feel bad." Misty frowns as the man lays out his sleeping bag.

He then walks past her to close and lock his door. That way, he can be sure his mother won't pop in on them not sleeping together. Ash knows his mother can't pick a lock, like Tina can. "How about I get to ask 2 questions tonight since you get the bed?"

"I might as well take the floor then." Misty giggles, which makes Ash's smile grow.

Motioning to the still empty bed, Ash says, "It's all yours." He then grabs his pajamas and leaves the room.

The woman sits on the bed. It's not the first time she's slept in this room or on this bed. She used to have sleepovers here when she was 12. This is totally different now. Sighing, Misty grabs her pajamas from her bag. While digging through her backpack, she sweatdrops. Did she really forget to pack pajamas? It's what she gets for being out so late that she didn't wake up early enough to double check her bag, like she usually does.

Groaning at her negligence, Misty looks around the room. She blushes and heads over to Ash's dresser. His clothes are clean now. Delia made sure of it. Plus, Misty isn't comfortable sleeping in jeans and this shirt that smells like food. Therefore, Misty opens Ash's shirt drawer to grab a large white tshirt she can wear as a dress. She doubts she can fit his shorts. Quickly slipping off her casual clothes, she throws Ash's shirt on over her underwear. The tshirt goes down to above her knees.

Hearing a knock at the door makes Misty's blush deepen. She quickly closes his drawer and says, "Come in."

Of course it's her fake husband who slips inside and locks the door. He hasn't taken notice of her as he tosses his dirty clothes in the hamper. When Ash raises his head to ask to turn off the light, his cheeks turn red and he quickly looks back at the ground. "Uh."

Misty's blush is even darker. "I hope you don't mind. I forgot my pajamas."

"Yeah. Um." Ash shyly mutters. "It's fine. I have a lot of clothes." Mew. Why is he stumbling like this? Misty's a friend. They're partners. He's seen her in a bathing suit often enough already, but seeing her in only his tshirt has his heart beating rapidly. The last time a woman wore his clothing, it was his ex fiance. Ash awkwardly clears his throat and makes a beeline for his sleeping bag.

Misty takes that as her cue to go under the covers. Ash turns off the lights. With the darkness, he doesn't see her anymore, though a part of him is disappointed he didn't look at her more while he could've. She looks sexy in his shirt. Ash quickly shakes his head. Stop it! Misty is his friend. They are nothing more, and neither of them are looking for a serious relationship.

As the two lay in silence waiting for their pounding hearts to stop clouding their hearing, Misty eventually speaks, "Are you gonna ask your question today? You get two."

Ash nervously laughs. "That's right." He takes in a deep breath because he still can't get the thought of Misty in his tshirt out of his mind. "Do you wanna get married some day?" All that talk at Gary's is getting to Ash's head. He also noticed that Misty looked slightly sad when Leaf and Gary were talking about their upcoming wedding.

"I am married." Misty teases, causing Ash to smile slightly.

"I mean a real marriage with a real wedding, like Gary's and Leaf's. Do you want one?"

"What woman wouldn't want one?" Misty sighs. Being a hopeless romantic, she's always dreamed of a wedding with the love of her life. As she got older and more busy, Misty doubted that'd ever happen. This is her first real relationship, and it's fake.

Feeling guilty that he took that fantasy away from her, Ash replies, "You can get married after we divorce."

"That's the plan. If someone wants to marry a divorcee."

"Divorce rates are kinda high." Ash reassures her, which makes Misty giggle.

"I don't think that's a good thing, Ash."

"Oh. Just trying to help."

Turning over so that she can look at him from the side of the bed, Misty smiles warmly. "I know. Thanks. But even if we never got married, I doubt I would've."

"Because you've never dated?" Ash recalls Tina's words.

"That and I don't think I would. I've gone on a few first dates when I was younger, but I'm too busy for that." Leaf kept saying how Misty only works and doesn't have fun.

Noticing her in the corner of his eye makes his heartbeat pick up speed, so Ash shuts his eyes. "I'm sure you'll have a real happy marriage some day."

"Can you see the future?" Teases the redhead who knows Ash could most likely travel to the future if he wanted to.

Chuckling, Ash replies, "No. But I know you, Mist. Anyone would be lucky to marry you."

Now, it's Misty's turn to roll back on her back so that she doesn't see the man who makes her blush. Hiding part of her face under the blanket, Misty catches a whiff of Ash's scent from his covers and tshirt. "You don't have to flatter me, Ash."

"I'm telling the truth." Insists the man. "I mean. You're nice. Strong. Selfless. Reliable." Ash turns over to gaze at his bed where he's glad to see Misty isn't facing him anymore. "You're a lot of things. Some guy will come along who deserves you." Ash is relieved to know that no one has caught Misty's eye yet. She's too special to be settling for some average guy. However, Ash doesn't know much about her Cape man.

"Thanks." whispers the woman. That's the nicest thing anyone has said to her in a long time, especially coming from Ash. "I think you're really great too, Ash."

He nods as his blush intensifies. "What's your question?"

Since Ash has been talking a lot more recently, Misty feels like she asks her questions when she has them throughout the day. Thus, she rarely has any important questions at the end of the day. Ash's breakup with Serena doesn't really make Misty curious anymore. Plus, with how great Misty's and Ash's relationship has been, Misty doesn't want to piss him off or turn him back into a recluse. Thus, she doesn't dig too deep into his past.

"What do you plan to do after we divorce?" In the beginning, Misty thought that Ash would return to his reclusiveness in Pallet Town after they divorce. However, his activeness everyday is now showing her otherwise. She would like him to continue getting better.

Ash shrugs as he lays on his back again. "Not sure."

"Are you gonna come back to Pallet Town?"

"Maybe for a bit." He really isn't sure what he's going to do because he hasn't thought that far ahead. Ash has been taking his life day by day.

"Maybe you should start traveling again?" Suggests the redhead. "Like the Champion Red spent a decade traveling around the secluded parts of regions to train. He met lots of experts who have chosen to hide themselves from the world so that they can train to be stronger."

"I don't think I'm ready for that." admits the man sheepishly.

"Well, not yet." Misty agrees. "But you've made a lot of progress in a month and a half. So in a year, I think you'll be ready to get out there again." Moreover, traveling secluded parts of regions to meet other skilled trainers is perfect for Ash because he is still nervous about the public eye. He seems to be getting back to enjoying training his Pokemon, so if he travels around doing that, he'll get stronger and do something he loves.

"Thanks for the faith." Ash chuckles. He's not upset or feeling down by her words. Instead, he's hopeful that they come true because he's also noticed his improvements. Rather than sleeping every day, Ash is striving to beat Misty in a Pokemon battle. He's constantly training and enjoying his life with her.

Misty turns over to face him again, though he's looking at the ceiling. Smiling warmly, she cheerfully responds, "Any time."

Without thinking, Ash finds himself subconsciously turning to see her. Their eyes meet, and Misty's smile falls as they're both mesmerized in each other's gazes. The dim moonlight seeping in through the crack in the curtain is all they have lighting up the room. Nevertheless, they can see each other clearly. This has been happening pretty often to them, and every time, they are still lost with one another.

"What's your other question?" Misty is the one to break it first. She's glad they're not sleeping next to each other. Else, Misty isn't sure they'd be talking like this. As much as she loves that endearing look in his eye, it's too dangerous for her, so she turns away.

With flushed cheeks, Ash shyly turns his back to her. "One sec." He needs to gather his thoughts and his heartbeat. Ash had a question he thought of today, but he doesn't remember what it is. Despite being tired before, Misty is very awake right now. She's glad Ash needs a second because she does too. She's not sure she could answer any questions coherently right now. After a few minutes, Ash remembers what was on his mind all day. "Do you want kids?"

Now, Misty is definitely not flustered anymore. She blinks in confusion. "Why are you asking?"

He shrugs. "Daisy and Tracey are having another. Leaf and Gary are having their first." Ash awkwardly adds, "And my mom did say you're not getting any younger. Don't women not get pregnant when they're older?"

Misty is surprised that he's talking about pregnancy when it made him shut down last month. Why is he bringing this up now? Was it actually something else that triggered him that day? "The average age for menopause is around 50." Misty notes.

"So do you want kids?" Ash repeats because Misty hasn't answered his question.

Sighing, the redhead shuts her eyes. "Never really thought about it." Nevertheless, she wouldn't mind starting a family with someone she loves. If they don't have children, she wouldn't mind that either. Misty is a hopeless romantic. She would prefer a real relationship. Thus, she hasn't thought about children or anything after finding a lover. "What about you?"

"I used to want kids. I like kids." Admits the man who now too closes his eyes. "I wanted a lot."

"Why are you speaking in past tense?"

"Don't want 'em anymore."

"Really? Even if you meet the love of your life and get married and she asks for a kid, you won't have one?"

Ash lets out a pained breath. "It'll take a lot of convincing."

"What if she gets pregnant, like Leaf did. Protection isn't 100%, Ash." Misty knowingly remarks. She wants Ash to be aware that having sex can lead to huge responsibilities.

"I can get surgery to not have kids, right?" Ash had heard about how women can stop having children. Maybe men can too?

"Are you sure you wanna do that?" the woman skeptically wonders. "Your mom wants grandkids, and you're the only one who can give her them."

Ash groans. "Thanks for reminding me. Maybe I'll just never get married, so she won't be expecting any."

Misty rolls her eyes, though she is curious on what makes him have such an aversion to having children. It's not like he hates kids. He's great with Tina. "What made you change your mind? About having kids?"

The man frowns and pulls the sleeping bag over his face. Since he doesn't want to talk about that, he changes the focus of their conversation. "What would you do if you were pregnant right now?"

Although confused on why he didn't answer her question, Misty needs to honor their agreement. Right now, it's Ash asking the questions to her. She'll have to wait until tomorrow for her turn, but it is surprising hearing him avoid a question. He hasn't done that in weeks. "I'm not."

"But if you were. Hypothetically."

"But I'm not." Misty isn't going to think about a hypothetical situation and make herself feel shitty.

"Would we tell the world that the kid is mine?" Ash doesn't want children, so he isn't sure how he'd feel about that. That situation would mean he and Misty would be tied together forever. And they'd be lying to the child as well as the world. But if they tell the truth that Ash isn't the father, then that'll just make Misty look bad in the public eye even if this is a fake marriage. A fake marriage Ash imposed on her, which is ruining her love life.

"I'm not pregnant, so drop it!" snaps the woman. Mew. This is not a conversation she wants to have. Why is Ash talking like she sleeps around? Misty Waterflower does not have time for that.

"But I don't wanna come in the way of you and the Cape guy." Ash apologetically says, which causes Misty to abruptly open her eyes.

"Ash, shut up." She warns him.

"I think we should talk about it." Ash hates how he's taking her attention away from her leisure activities. Misty deserves to have fun, like Leaf was saying. However, Misty catering to him is preventing the redhead from having free time for herself and others she cares about.

"About what?" Misty glares at him. "About the Cape guy being my lover? Ash, I tell you this every fucking week! He's not my lover!"

"Then who is he?" fires back the man. The more Ash thinks about it, and the more Misty avoids it, it just makes Ash suspicious that this Cape guy really is her mystery lover. Ash hates how Misty can't just be honest with him. It's not like knowing about Misty's real relationship will hurt Ash or anything, though he is slightly peeved she has someone else. Nevertheless, they are partners, so he should know what she's up to and how he can help her be happy. Ash doesn't want to separate her from her lover.

Misty shakes her head in disbelief and rolls over to have her back face him. "Good night, Ash." She isn't about to argue over this, especially with Delia a few doors down.

"Mis-"

"Drop it, Ash. Before you piss me off even more." warns the woman, which makes Ash reluctantly sigh.

He's trying to think about her needs and wants. Ash doesn't want Misty to come back at him later saying he wasn't giving her what she needed. That he was being selfish. Thus, he wants to make sure Misty knows that he's on her side. If she is in love with her Cape guy, then Ash is fine with that. Ash will do his part to allow those two to meet, despite the ache in his chest. Nonetheless, Misty is adamant about the Cape guy being nothing special to her, even though she will drop everything for the Cape man.

The next morning, Misty wakes up. She almost forgets that she fell asleep angry until she sees that she's in Ash's Pallet Town room. Regardless of being married for weeks now, Misty occasionally is surprised by the fact. The reminder on her left hand finger lets her know that this is indeed real and not one of her teenage dreams. Taking in a deep breath as she prepares to face the man causing her so much stress, Misty sits up in the bed. It is then that she notices that she's alone. The sleeping bag is gone, which she assumes he must've rolled up neatly.

Checking the time, Misty notes that it's barely 8 in the morning. Ash never wakes up before her. Out of curiosity, Misty opens his bottom sock drawer and digs a bit where she feels the ring box. She pulls it out to reveal the ring is still inside. So Ash didn't leave to throw it away yet. It's no biggie to Misty what Ash does with it, but she does hope he gets rid of it. This ring seems to be tying him to his depression, so he can't completely become himself until he gets rid of it.

Returning the ring, Misty feels slightly bad for snooping now. Nevertheless, Ash is constantly prying into her life without giving her anything in return. She's been nice enough to respect his privacy. Why can't he do the same? Similar to him, Misty is eager to know more about him, yet she doesn't ask out of respect.

After brushing her teeth, Misty heads downstairs to look for her husband. Hearing noise in the kitchen, she assumes Ash must be helping Delia. However, Misty only sees Delia in the kitchen along with Mimey. Delia smiles at Misty. "Good morning, dear."

"Good morning, Delia. Have you seen Ash?"

"He went to the lab with Pikachu earlier. I thought you went with him." Thus, the older woman is surprised to see Misty still here and in Ash's tshirt.

Confused, Misty motions to the teapot. "Can I have some?" Delia doesn't drink coffee because Delia is herbal. Misty doesn't mind nice soothing tea sometimes. Drinking the tea after Delia's permission, Misty says, "I just woke up. He never mentioned anything last night."

Delia smiles widely because she was shocked to hear Ash say he's going to the lab this morning. Ash hasn't been at the lab in years. "He wanted to see his Pokemon before he leaves again. I'm really happy for him." Her son has made a lot of progress since the last time she saw him a couple of weeks ago, and Delia knows it has to do with Misty.

"Same." Misty warmly replies.

Turning her gaze to Misty, Delia places a hand on the redhead's arm. "Misty, honey." Misty expectantly meets her eyes. "I'm so happy it's you."

Seeing Delia tear up, Misty quickly sets her cup down to pat Delia's arm. "Delia!"

The older woman shakes her head as she wipes a few tears. "My Ash has barely left his room these past three years. I didn't know who he was anymore. But seeing him this weekend.." The woman softly speaks. "He reminds me of himself. I wish he could've lived with you as soon as you two got married years ago." Delia still doesn't understand why the couple waited so long to announce their relationship and move in together.

With Delia's arms now wrapped around Misty in a hug, Misty returns the gesture. "I'm happy he's being himself again too." Misty is still upset at Ash, but Delia doesn't need to know that.

Pulling away, Delia dusts Misty's shoulders like a doting mother. "I know Ash is in good hands, but please let me know if you need anything, Misty."

"I will. Thank you. We'll be sure to visit often too." On top of Delia being Ash's mother, Misty loves Delia. She's missed their relationship, which she cut off a decade ago.

"I hope to have grandchildren soon." Delia grins happily and returns to making breakfast. Misty's face heats up to rival her hair color just as the backdoor opens.

The man entering looks to greet his mother when he notices a young woman wearing his white tshirt loosely over her body. His face turns a bright shade of red, so he quickly turns away while Pikachu snickers. "Pikachupi!" Pikachu leaps onto Misty's shoulder to nuzzle her cheek.

"Hey, Pikachu." Misty is grateful for the mouse's distraction.

"Hi, Ash." Delia greets her son who shuts the door. Nodding, Ash walks through the kitchen and down the hall to his bedroom. "He's still a little shy, I see."

"Uh. Yeah." Misty blushes. "How was the lab?" She asks Pikachu. Misty does wish Ash had waited for her. She hasn't seen the lab Pokemon in a while, though sooner than Ash has because Misty would see Gary a few times a year.

"Pika pikachu pikapi pi pika kachu pichu pi pikachu."

"That's nice that you had fun. I'm sure everyone is happy to see Ash again."

"Pi!" Pikachu nods. He then hops onto the kitchen counter to run over to Delia. Knowing that they'll be leaving after breakfast, Pikachu wants to spend as much time with Delia as he can. He used to see her all day every day. Now, he sees her for barely a weekend.

Glancing down at her outfit, Misty blushes. Fortunately, Ash's shirt is long enough to cover her body, but Misty is still embarrassed to be walking around Delia's house like this and showing herself to Delia in this attire. Misty is most embarrassed with Ash seeing her like this. After last night's incident and argument, Misty doesn't feel too comfortable in Ash's clothes. "I'm gonna go pack up."

"Okay. Breakfast will be ready soon."

Misty nods and exits the kitchen. She takes her time walking to Ash's bedroom where her belongings are. Taking in a deep breath, she silently steps in front of the doorway where she notices the man kneeling inside. His sock drawer is open, and he's in front of it. Therefore, Misty knows what he's doing, which isn't getting socks. "Morning."

Startled, Ash practically drops the ring in his hand. He quickly places it back in the ring box and looks at Misty. "Morning." They're both pretty awkward around each other after last night's argument. Ash also can't get this image of Misty in his tshirt out of his head. Why won't she change already?

Misty sits on the bed where her lips form a thin line. "What time did you wake up?"

Ash shrugs. "Early. Probably 6."

"Why?"

"Couldn't sleep."

"Any reason why?"

"No." lies the man.

Frowning from his distance, Misty inquires, "Why didn't you wake me?"

"You don't sleep enough, and you looked comfortable." Ash doesn't want to be the one making Misty sleep deprived when she already is.

"How considerate of you."

Despite her playful tone, both know she's feeling far from it. Ash turns his attention from the floor back to the ring box in his hand. "I don't think I'm ready."

Misty curiously watches his face fall, which makes her soften her gaze. "If you're not ready, then you're not." What did she expect? That a month at her gym would make him instantly better and move on from years worth of pain? Misty isn't that ignorant.

"But I wanna be." Ash painfully tells her. "I really want to be."

"You can't force yourself."

Sighing, Ash shuts his eyes. "I know." Even if Misty told him to throw it away, he knows he couldn't. He'd just hide it somewhere new.

Misty purses her lips. Regardless of their strife, he's still her friend. Thus, she gets up to pat his back reassuringly. "We'll be back here plenty of times. You'll have lots of chances to get rid of it when you're ready."

Gratefully nodding, Ash hides the box back in his sock drawer. He hesitates before closing the drawer. "I thought I was ready." the man defeatedly says.

"You're getting there, Ash. It'll happen someday. I know it."

"Thanks." Ash takes in a deep breath. He then opens his eyes and stands up where he's reminded of the beautiful woman in his shirt. "I'm gonna go help my mom set the table."

"I'll pack up."

Once Ash is gone, Misty locks the door to change. She then tidies up a bit before packing all of their belongings. Luckily, Ash had packed a few boxes of clothes and other items to bring to the gym yesterday. As Misty is putting Ash's charger in his backpack, something catches her eye. She pulls out an old word small pink cloth with yellow stitching, causing her to blush.

"He really does still have it." smiles the woman who gently refolds the handkerchief to replace in the bag.

After dinner, Ash, Misty, and Pikachu leave Delia. The older woman doesn't want them to go, but she understands that Misty needs to make it back in time for rest before the gym tomorrow. "Let me know when you get back." Delia hugs them.

"Yes, mom." The couple will be coming in a few weeks for Gary's wedding, which will be at the lab.

"And please, Misty. Let me know if you need anything or just want someone to talk to." Delia tells the redhead.

"Thank you, Delia."

"You can call me mom now." Delia waves off the formalities, but Misty isn't ready for that. Thus, the redhead just shyly nods.

Noticing that they've stayed longer than expected, Ash waves. "Bye, mom!"

"Bye!"

Once the couple and Pikachu are at the car, Misty pulls out her keys, which Ash swiftly grabs. He unlocks the trunk to put their bags in. Misty places her hand out for the keys, slightly annoyed that he just took them from her when she was going to open the trunk anyway. However, Ash walks past her to open the passenger side door. He motions for her to sit.

"What are you doing?" She narrows her eyes at him.

"Driving."

"No way." He just learned how to drive yesterday, and he wasn't that good. She will not put their lives in danger like this.

"C'mon, Misty. Just for an hour. I'll take the backroads, and I need practice, right?"

She does want him to know how to drive. Plus, with them returning to Pallet Town in a few weeks, it'll be nice to split the driving with him. At least he wants to learn. Whenever Ash willingly takes initiative, Misty usually gives in because he doesn't do that anymore. Sighing, she glances at Pikachu. "What do you think?"

"Chu…" Pikachu warily sweatdrops.

Misty meets the hopeful mans' eyes and steps inside the car. "When I say stop, you better stop."

"Thanks, Mist." Ash grins and shuts her door. He then makes his way around to the driver side where he adjusts Misty's seat. Pikachu hops in the back to put his seatbelt on, causing Ash to shoot Pikachu an annoyed look. "C'mon, Pikachu."

"Pikaaa." Pikachu shakes his head.

Giggling, Misty watches Ash buckle up too. "Put your foot on the brake."

"I know." Ash cuts her off. She wouldn't get off his case about the brakes yesterday.

Glaring at him for his snarkiness, Misty replies, "Watch it."

Ash gives her a sheepish smile and drives off. The whole time, Misty's eyes are peeled to the road. She won't let Ash drive above the speed limit, and she prefers he drives below it. Fortunately, Pallet Town speed limits are pretty slow due to many pedestrians and Pokemon venturing the roads. Like Ash had promised, he takes the small roads out of the town instead of the highway. This adds an extra hour to their trip, so Misty will end up driving the same amount of time anyway, but it's good for Ash to practice. Besides, it's not like she and Ash would do anything when they return to the gym anyway.

"The GPS says you make a right up ahead." Misty informs the man.

"Okay." Ash says, but when they reach the turn, he makes a left.

"Ash!"

"Huh?" he innocently replies.

"Turn around! You went the wrong way!"

"I know a shortcut."

She knows that's a lie because the GPS has the shortest route. Not wanting to spend more time on the road than necessary, Misty sternly says, "Pull over."

"But I'm having fun." lies the man.

"You said you'd stop if I told you to." Misty reminds him.

"Give me 10 minutes." insists Ash. "If your GPS says we're still on the long route, then I'll switch."

Sighing in defeat, Misty quietly sits back in her seat. At least Ash will be getting lots of practice. He's made a few scary turns, but for the most part, he's been a pretty safe driver. After 10 minutes exactly, Misty's GPS is still saying they should've turned around. "Okay. Pull over."

"But-"

"You said you'd pull over!" Exclaims the woman.

"Fine." Ash grumbles and pulls the car to the side. Due to it being a backroad, there aren't many cars around. Misty is glad they're here in the daylight because this secluded backwooded road would look terrifying at night.

Relieved that Ash has finally stopped to give her the reins, Misty eagerly hops out of the car. She walks over to the passenger side as Ash shuts the door. "Keys." Misty sticks out her hand, but Ash pockets her keys as he opens the back door for Pikachu. "Ash!" Mew. What is this man doing?

Ash then heads to the trunk where he pulls out two of Misty's fishing poles alone with her tackle box. "Let's take a break."

"We need to get back-"

"And do what?" No matter when they get back, they'll just be doing nothing. All they do is have the occasional meal and then Misty does gym paperwork while Ash trains. They can afford to spend a few hours out here before going back.

"I want to get back before late." Misty tells him, but Ash locks her car and starts walking into the woods. Groaning, Misty looks at Pikachu. "What is he doing?" Since when did Ash take initiative like this? When Pikachu gives her a sheepish shrug, Misty also reluctantly follows Ash. Surprisingly, Ash is walking really fast. So much that Misty has to lightly jog to catch up to him. "Where are we going?"

"Fishing." Ash nods at the poles slinged over his shoulders. He thought that was obvious enough already.

"Yeah, but where? We're in a forest." Plus, they're supposed to be mad at each other right now.

The man frowns slightly. Did Misty really forget? "We're on Route 1, Mist. There's a river."

Blushing because she now knows he still remembers that river, Misty quietly mutters, "Yeah, but there are only Magikarps there." Moreover, she's been too busy to go fishing. If she does fish, she fishes near the ocean where there is bigger game.

"But you caught a 10 year old boy there once." Ash knowingly remarks, causing Misty to giggle.

Grabbing the tackle box from him so that he has a free hand, Misty struts ahead of him. "By far, that was my best catch. Race ya!" Misty and Pikachu take off into the woods, leaving Ash to slightly blush.

"Wait up!" It's not fair because the fishing poles keep getting caught on the tree branches. Nevertheless, Ash soon reaches the river where Misty and Pikachu are laughing. Approaching them, he gently sets the poles down. "Uh. I don't know how to put a hook on good." He admits shyly.

Misty opens the tackle box and grabs a pole to start fixing the line. "Good thing you're with me, huh?"

Ash sits down beside her with a smile. He calls out his Pokemon to play in the river with Pikachu. "I guess that's a perk of being married to you."

"Ha ha ha. Very funny, Ash Ketchum." Misty rolls her eyes playfully. Over time, they've come to joke more about their marriage. She passes him the completed pole and starts working on the second one. "Why do you wanna go fishing anyway?" It was pretty random, especially coming from him.

He shrugs. "You said we have to look married, right? Figured we'd go on an outdoor date."

"Yeah, but the public isn't gonna see us out here." There is a low chance some passing trainers may see them.

"I'm not ready for too many people." Ash apologetically tells her. "But this helps."

Nodding, Misty finishes her pole. She understands that it takes steps before Ash can reach a goal. It takes steps for anyone. For example, battling against a 6 year old got him into the habit of training and battling to try and beat Misty. "What are we gonna do when you're ready?" Misty lets out her Pokemon to play too.

Looking away to hide his blush, Ash replies, "What do you wanna do?"

Misty casts out her line and expectantly waits for Ash to cast his too. "You're the romanticist apparently."

"Actually, that's you." Ash chuckles from Misty's annoyed glare. He then casts out his line too, careful not to cross hers. Ash knows how much it irks Misty when he crosses her line because that causes their lines to get tangled, which then results in Misty having to refix the lines again. "How about we fish at the Cape? Since everyone thinks I'm your mystery guy anyway."

Turning her gaze to the water, Misty tries to not focus on the ache in her heart. While Ash could be innocently bringing up her Cape guy, Misty keeps thinking about their argument yesterday. It seems like her Cape affairs and Ash's breakup are sensitive topics that cause them both to get triggered when they're brought up. Thus, Misty won't let this seemingly happy occasion get ruined by her outburst.

She takes in a deep breath. "Sure."

Ash, typical Ash, doesn't notice her change in mood. Instead, he's eagerly watching his pole. When they were younger, he fished with Misty a few times, but it's never been his thing. He doesn't have the patience for it. Just like now when it's only been about ten minutes. "Are rivers supposed to be this empty?"

Misty sighs. She knew his complaining was going to start eventually, even if this was his idea. "Depends. This river is pretty empty though." Misty can rarely catch anything at the Route 1 river. Well, except for a ten year old boy and his Pikachu 20 years ago.

With his pole loosely in his hands, Ash leans back against the large rock Misty is sitting on top of. Letting out a long breath, he gazes up where he partly sees her from the obstruction of the rock. "Hey, Misty?"

"Hm?" She's trying to focus on fishing and not being annoyed with Ash's questions about her Cape affairs. Something she's still very irked about because he keeps bringing it up knowing she doesn't want to talk about it. It's not fair since he isn't talking about his breakup, and Misty has respectfully stayed away from that topic. Nevertheless, Ash wants to constantly pry about the one thing Misty told him he can't ask about.

"I'm sorry." Ash quietly tells her, which perks Misty's interest. "For asking about your Cape stuff. I need to stop doing that."

Every time he'd look at his sock drawer, knowing what it contains, Ash couldn't bring himself to confront his past. Something he can't face yet he constantly makes Misty talk about something she strictly told him was off limits. Although Ash is curious about Misty's mystery man, the reason he's been asking is because his heart doesn't feel too good every time Misty leaves to the Cape. He's learned to listen to his heart when it tells him something isn't right, so Misty going to the Cape isn't right to Ash.

"Will you stop?" Misty finds it hard to believe since Ash constantly brings up her Cape guy.

"I'm gonna try. Please yell at me if I bring it up again." sighs the man.

Gazing down from the rock, Misty sees the top of Ash's head. His attention is on the water. He seems genuine, but will this really be the end of his questions? "How about, every time you bring up my Cape affairs, I get to ask about your breakup?" It's only fair, and it's the only sure way Misty has of getting Ash to ignore her Cape trips.

After a few silent seconds, Misty assumes Ash is going to come up with something else to avoid talking about his breakup. Some cheap shot that will just piss Misty off more and ruin this fake date. Instead, the man replies, "Next time I ask about the Cape guy, I'll tell you why we broke up." He shuts his eyes painfully. That will for sure keep him from asking about her Cape affairs.

"Thanks, Ash." Misty nods.

The man lets out a painful breath. "She was talking to someone else while we were together. Then she left me for him."

Misty hadn't asked anything about Ash's past, but he's bringing it up, like he does with her Cape affairs. Why Ash chose to say this now, Misty isn't sure about. Perhaps he's feeling guilty for his constant prying? "Her loss."

Sadly chuckling, Ash glances at the still river. "Actually, it was mine. I wasn't giving her the attention she needed."

"Don't blame yourself, Ash." Misty sharply tells him. Depressed people always believe everything is their fault. While Misty doesn't know the circumstances of Ash's breakup, she knows Ash well enough to know he isn't selfish. He would never neglect someone, like a fiance, though he did neglect Misty who was his best friend. Regardless, the bond between Ash and Serena was strong, so Misty doubts Ash would do anything to ruin that relationship.

"But it was my fault." Ash breathes out. "Now we're equal." He doesn't feel as guilty about his constant prying anymore. Of course, the price he had to pay is pretty painful, but he owes Misty that much.

Raising a curious eyebrow at him, Misty inquires, "What are you talking about?"

"I told you a bit about the breakup to makeup for all the times I ask about your Cape guy." Ash extends a hand to her. "Can we start new again?"

Despite her many questions and her annoyance with Ash deciding this on his own, Misty would prefer to be on good terms with Ash. Moreover, that pain in his eyes is telling her that he's doing his best to hold everything together right now. Recalling the morning with him looking at the ring, Misty understands that Ash is trying. He's not perfect, and neither is she. Thus, Misty shakes his hand with a smile on her lips. "Yeah, Ash."

The two then resume fishing while thinking their own thoughts. Ash is trying to get the painful memories out of his head by thinking of other things. He's mostly thinking about how happy he has been lately. Misty is thinking about all the questions she has, and she's trying to piece information together. According to the news that Misty hears occasionally, Serena started dating a Tierno Katsu shortly after her breakup with Ash. Could this be the man Serena left Ash for?

As the two sit in awkward silence, Ash's pole starts twitching. He is too deep in thought to notice, but Misty, sitting above him, instantly sees it. "Ash! Your pole!"

"Hm?" He glances at the pole and quickly tightens his hold around it in time. "I forgot what to do!"

Misty has left her pole while she jumps off the rock to join him. "Pull it and reel it in!"

"Didn't you say there's a pattern to this or something?" Ash can't figure out how to do both at once.

"Pull it!" Misty exclaims, and Ash tugs hard on his pole. "Now reel!" Seeing Ash struggling, Misty comes up behind him to help him pull. "Pull!"

"I'm trying!" Ash heaves. He feels Misty's slender arms wrap around his midsection. Despite the blush on his cheeks, Ash is adamant about reeling in this Pokemon. Misty is always the one who catches something before him. Unfortunately for them, Ash's line snaps, causing the two to fall back.

With Ash on top of her, Misty pushes at his back. "Get off, Ash."

Upset about losing his catch, Ash doesn't hear her. He continues laying on top of Misty and groans. "I was so close!"

"Get off of me!" She shoves him harder, making him realize their position.

Quickly standing up, Ash shyly rubs the back of his head. "Uh. Sorry."

Misty dusts herself off as she hides her own deep blush. "Let me fix your line for you." She grabs the pole from Ash and heads back to the tackle box.

Ash picks up her forgotten pole on the rock, so he can keep an eye on her line. Eventually, Misty returns and they swap poles. "Thanks."

"I should teach you. For next time." the woman says as she leans against the large rock with him.

"I'd like to learn." Ash has been learning a lot from Misty recently. It amazes him that she knows so much. She can cook, drive, fix fishing lines. He wishes he could help her or teach her something like she's done for him.

The two eventually sit beside each other and silently enjoy one another's company as they're fishing. About an hour later, their Pokemon are resting from playing in the river. All the Pokemon are on the riverbank taking a nap, and Ash notices that they're nearing lunch time. His mom had packed them some food, which is still at the car. Ash wishes he had brought the food too, but he didn't have enough hands at the time.

"Why are we fishing?"

The redhead's question takes him out of his thoughts. "What?"

"The river." Misty looks at him. They haven't come close to catching anything. "Why are we here? And why are we fishing?"

With a faint blush on his cheeks, Ash smiles nervously. "Why? You don't like it?" She was showing reluctance at the car, and she hasn't caught anything yet. Maybe there's a reason her fishing poles have been collecting dust in her trunk?

Misty quickly shakes her head. "No! I like it. I love fishing!" She exclaims. "But uh. I don't remember you liking it. You don't have the patience for it."

Ash chuckles in embarrassment. "I don't." Surprisingly, he doesn't mind fishing right now. Well, he never minded it whenever he was fishing with Misty. No matter how much he complained, Ash didn't care what they were doing as long as they were together. Today, though, Ash hasn't felt the urge to complain at all. It's not like back when he was tolerating fishing as a child. Instead, Ash feels like he's content just sitting beside Misty. "But it seemed like fun today." Plus, the weather is nice.

"Really?" Misty skeptically asks.

He nods. "Yeah! Route 1's river is pretty empty, so it's a good place for me to be outside. And this is where we met. I haven't been here in almost a decade."

Agreeing with him, Misty gazes back around their area. "Same." She used to stop by here occasionally whenever she'd visit Delia. However, that had since stopped nearly a decade ago as well.

Ash curiously watches her. "Are you having fun?"

Meeting his expectant eyes, Misty smiles. "Actually, I am." They haven't caught anything. They're running late to return to Cerulean City. And she's hungry, but she's having fun. This reminds her of when they used to travel together and they'd let their Pokemon out to play. All the stresses of their responsibilities are forgotten as everyone enjoys themselves. Maybe that's why Misty hasn't brought up returning yet? She likes this.

"That's good." Ash grins. His whole purpose of fishing is so that Misty can have some fun. She works too hard and does so much for him that he wants to make sure she's taken care of too. "I'm glad you're having fun! I am too!"

Seeing Ash's signature goofy grin after so long makes Misty's blush deepen. He's having fun too? After hearing him talk about his breakup, Misty expected Ash to be more down than he is now. He's proving to be a lot stronger than when she met him weeks ago, and this makes her smile grow. Without realizing it, Misty inches her face closer to get a better look at that grin she's missed.

Ash too moves towards her. Misty's mesmerizing blue eyes entice him when she looks at him like this. This look with so much care yet isn't pity. He knows that his progress is due to this woman. While Misty is his friend, Ash doesn't feel like that's all their relationship is. It's like something is missing, and the answer is in her eyes he's closing in on. They're so close that they can feel each other's breaths as both of their hearts are thumping loudly.

"Pika!" Pikachu's shout makes the two break apart.

With dark blushes on their faces, they look over at the Pokemon where they see Psyduck struggling to stay afloat. He must've fallen in the water. Misty has floaties for Psyduck at the gym, but this impromptu river day didn't allow her to plan for the floaties. Thus, Psyduck is supposed to stay out of the water, like Charizard. Nevertheless, Psyduck would be the one to fall in. Fortunately, Gyarados easily fishes Psyduck out. Misty assumes Gyarados's large scary presence must be keeping the wild water Pokemon away, which is the reason Ash and her haven't caught anything yet.

"You're the only one who's come close to catching anything." Misty sweatdrops watching the Pokemon flap their arms to try and dry off Psyduck.

"You've caught more here than I ever have." Ash notes, hoping his racing heart will return to normal. They've fished here a handful of times, and each time, Misty would catch more than him. Plus, she'd also get the first bite.

"True. Nothing can top a ten year old boy."

"Yeah." Chuckles the man who starts reeling in his line since they should start hitting the road soon. "We should get going."

Misty checks her pokenav's time and reluctantly nods. Despite all the fun she's having, she has to be at the gym to get enough rest for tomorrow. While the gym shouldn't be too busy anymore, this allows Msity time to catch up on work from the first few weeks of the tournament season. Moreover, Misty isn't sure she can sit beside Ash like this after almost kissing him. "Can we pick up dinner in Cerulean City?" She'll be too tired to cook today.

"Sounds good." The less work Misty has to do, the better. Ash already wishes she'd relax more, but this is good enough for now.

In the corner of his eye, he watches her go check on Psyduck before returning her Pokemon. Leaf and Gary are right. Misty doesn't have fun. She believes she's too busy for herself. However, Ash will make sure Misty has a fun life. She deserves it after everything she goes through in her stressful life. She deserves it after everything she's done for him.

Looking at his fully reeled in fishing pole, Ash's heartbeat quickens again. Misty may have caught a 10 year old boy here, but Ash is pretty sure he caught something else. Something that tops her catch, and he caught it today. These feelings are dangerous. His head tells him to stop, yet his heart tells him to chase it. The last time he chose his head over his heart, he ended up with an ex-fiance.

"Ready?" Misty yells to get his attention.

Meeting her glowing blue eyes, Ash nods. "Yeah!"

He returns his Pokemon, grabs the tackle box, and makes his way through the woods with Misty who has Pikachu on her shoulder. As Ash is walking behind her, listening to her talk about Delia's home cooked lunch she packed them, Ash is thinking about how lucky he is to have reconnected with Misty again. Without her, he would still be hiding in his Pallet Town bedroom. Without her, he would still be extremely depressed. Without her, he wouldn't be himself again. Misty will never understand the impact she's made on his life, but he'll show his gratefulness however he can. She deserves that.


Gonna be busy at the end of the month until July. I'm taking a part-time class on top of my full time job, which will also be getting more busy. Thus, updates are gonna start slowing down. I doubt I'll complete any of my stories before the end of the month, but I will update when I can. Happy New Year!

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