Author's Note: Hello everyone. This is my first fanfiction and I hope it's successful. As stated in the summary, this is an anti-Amourshipping story. The purpose of it is not to bash Serena as a character, but to show why I don't think Serena and Ash work as a couple. Let me know in the reviews how I did with that. I chose Pearlshipping as a counter-balance because it's always been my favourite and I think the two character's work very well together. That's enough from me! I hope you enjoy the story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon. The characters here all belong to their original creators.
"Hey Ash!" Serena asked. The trainer from Pallet Town turned to his blonde-haired friend with a smile.
"Yeah, Serena? Did you want something?" He asked.
The girl blushed. "Well, I was wondering if… While we're resting in Lumiose City… If you wanted to, maybe go out with me?"
The scene replayed in Ash's mind as he lay on the sleeping bag he slept in whilst resting at Clemont's house. The group had arrived in Lumiose City again and Ash had finally earned his fifth badge against his friend, Clemont. Afterwards, they had all decided to spend a week's holiday in the bustling capital. Last night, after dinner and the others had gone to sleep; Serena had come up to him and asked… Of course she had been asking him out on a date. Ash may have been ignorant when he first started travelling, but after 8 years of wandering the world, he was much more aware about matters of the heart. However, that did not mean he had any experience. Why did I say yes? He wondered to himself. Curiosity? Politeness? He had no idea what he felt for his most recent travelling companion, though she was very pretty.
Ash had encountered romance many times throughout his journey, though he had never felt attracted to anyone beyond friendship before. It had never been a priority as there was always a new challenge just around the corner and there could be no distractions on the road to becoming a Pokémon Master. The eighteen-year-old eventually decided that he needed help. Advice from a friend would definitely clear up the issue for him. But who to ask? May? Misty? Both had teased him mercilessly in the past about his ignorance in romance. Brock? He was certainly had experience… and then again no experience at all. His advice could be more damaging than Ash simply winging it. Iris? She was worse than May and Misty put together in terms of her teasing. Cilan? A very good candidate, but Ash had no way of getting into contact with the Connoisseur. His mother? Never. Professor Oak? The man was a father figure to him… but still, the kindly Professor was obligated to tell Ash's mother everything he heard about her travelling son, so that was another no. That left… Dawn! The girl was the perfect candidate. Not only would she know about the topic of dating (particularly what girl's expected from one) she was also much less likely to tease him about 'finally growing up'. Her constant optimism and bubbly outlook on life could be the confidence booster he needed. It was decided then: he would call Dawn from the Pokémon Centre in the morning and formulate a plan for tomorrow evening. Until then, he could sleep.
The next morning, Ash and Clemont were just clearing up after breakfast.
"Clemont," Ash said. "I need to go down to the Pokémon Centre and make a call. Tell the others I'll be back in about an hour."
"Okay Ash," the young inventor replied. "But, are you and Serena really going out on a date tonight? That doesn't sound like your style."
Of course Clemont had heard. Serena shared a room with Bonnie so it was only natural that the talkative seven-year-old had been told about Serena's 'victory'. She had then, presumably passed the news on to her brother.
"Yeah… she did ask me out," Ash responded. "But I need some advice on how to act, so I'm gonna call an old friend."
"Of course. Good luck!" Clemont said. Ash waved his goodbye to his friend and ran out of the door, Pikachu jumping onto his shoulder as he did so.
It did not take long for the boy to reach the Pokémon Centre at his speed. Upon entering, he immediately went to a booth and proceeded to make the call. There was just one problem.
"Hey, buddy," he asked his electric mouse. "I know Dawn just started travelling through Hoenn, but where the heck do I call?" Pikachu shrugged. He had no idea why his friend was so worked up about a simple meal. He loved food! What made this so different? "Guess I should call her mother in Twinleaf Town. She will know where Dawn is."
After a few minutes the phone was picked up by a blue-haired woman.
"Hello?" Johanna asked. "Oh, Ash! It's nice to hear from you after all this time! What's this about? Dawn?"
"Err, hi Mrs Berlitz, I wanted to get in contact with Dawn, but I don't know where in Hoenn she is right at the moment. Could you tell me where she is, by any chance?"
"Hmm, yes. She's preparing to get her third contest ribbon from the Lilycove City contest. You should be able to reach her from the Pokémon Centre."
"Thanks Mrs Berlitz. I'll call her immediately. I gotta go then." Ash was about to hang up when Johanna stopped him.
"It's been so long since we last talked Ash. How have you been?"
Ash sighed. This could take a while.
A quarter of an hour later, Ash was finally able to get off the phone. Pikachu, who had wondered off to talk to some other Pokémon, came back to join him. As he scratched behind his friends ears, Ash dialled the number for the Lilycove Pokémon Centre. Naturally, a Nurse joy answered.
"Hi, I'm Ash Ketchum," the boy said. "Is there a Dawn Berlitz staying there?"
"Yes there is. She is such a talented coordinator. She's outside training right now. I'll go and find her." The Nurse left the screen with a smile. Roughly a minute later there was the sound of sprinting footsteps. There was a blur of blue hair and Dawn's grinning face appeared on the screen.
"Ash!" She cried. "It's so good to see you. How long has it been?" She asked excitedly. Ash smiled happily. It was good to Dawn's face again. He could see she was wearing the same outfit she had in Sinnoh and she sounded as energetic as ever. It was good to know that some things never changed.
"I had just arrived in Shalour City to fight Korrina and her Lucario. I won by the way, and now I've got 5 badges in total."
"That's brilliant Ash! So is this call just a catch up or is there something else you wanted to talk about?" She asked. Ash felt a stab of guilt. Did he really only make contact with old friends when he wanted something?
"Well… you know my most recent travelling companion, Serena?" He asked, hesitantly.
"Yup. Pretty hair, blue eyes. The sort of girl you love to travel with." Dawn laughed, winking. Ash blushed. He did have a habit of meeting attractive girls and travelling with them, much to his friend Brock's envy.
"Yeah," Ash cleared his throat. "She kinda asked me out on a date… and I kinda said yes…" Dawn squealed and Ash had to jerk the phone away from his ear temporarily. After she had calmed down, he returned it to his ear.
"That's so sweet Ash!" Dawn cried. "I knew you'd finally find a girlfriend. So where are you going? Movie? Meal? Both?"
Ash hesitated. "Well, she said she wanted to go to this restaurant called Le Wow. It sounds really fancy… black tie or whatever it's called."
"Wow. That sounds serious for a first date…" Dawn mused. "A fancy restaurant is very romantic but, are you sure you can handle it?"
"Normally I'm ready for anything. Plus, she really has her heart set on this restaurant. But this is completely new to me… That's why I called. I need advice."
Dawn was silent for a couple of seconds. "Well, considering this is you Ash, the first think you need to think about is how you actually feel about Serena. The fact that she asked you out means she has liked you for a long time. She was probably getting impatient as most girls think it's more romantic for the guy to do the asking."
"How do I feel about her? Well she is a really good friend… but I have no idea what it feels like to like someone, you know. It's all too confusing for me. And I did know that Serena was interested in me… I just never knew how to respond to it."
"Wait, no idea at all?" Dawn sounded confused. "So she flirts with you and you just carry on as normal? She really must be impatient."
That didn't bode well. The date hadn't even started and he was already on Serena's bad side. "She completely surprised me by asking me out. The truth is I think I only said yes out of politeness."
Dawn frowned. "It sounds like you need a lot more time. Serena's expectations for the evening might be through the roof. It may not be a good idea for you to go through with it if you don't even know how you feel about her."
"I guess. But like I said her heart is set on this, and I don't want to hurt her feelings." Ash mumbled.
"Even so, one of the most important things in any relationship is honesty. I mean, look at when Kenny and I dated. If I hadn't told him that it wasn't working out he would never have left me alone and I would be stuck in a really awkward relationship."
"You're right. But that did cause Kenny to never talk to you again… I don't want to lose Serena's friendship over this." Ash said.
"Okay, good point… I know this sounds a little clichéd, but let her down gently. Tell her you're confused and still need more time to think it over. I'm sure she'll understand. No need to worry, right?"
"That's when I worry the most," Ash sighed. "But I should tell her how I feel… Okay Dawn, thanks for the help and good luck with your contest."
"Heh heh, thanks Ash. Good luck to you too. By the way, of things don't go well, just call me and…" Dawn paused, blushing slightly. "I'll always be there for you, okay Ash? Whenever you need to talk, wherever I am in the world."
Ash smiled. "Same for you Dawn. And thanks for everything."
"Oh!" Dawn cried, suddenly. "One last thing Ash."
"What?" Ash responded.
Dawn grinned. "Shave."
The eighteen-year-old rubbed his chin and sure enough felt the rough stubble of facial hair. "Oh, man! I always forget in the morning. Thanks for the save."
Dawn laughed. "No problem. Goodbye Ash! Talk to you soon."
"Agreed." Ash replied. Having said that, Ash hung up and Dawn's smiling face was replaced by blackness. He picked up the now napping Pikachu and went to find Serena.
Where had all the time gone? It had felt like just minutes ago when Ash had spoken to Dawn on the phone and now he was getting dressed for the big evening. Ash sighed. He had been completely unable to have the conversation he wanted with Serena all day. Whether it was his cowardice or just Serena's smiling face, so happy that she was finally on a date with her crush, he just couldn't work up the courage to tell her. It was far too late now anyway. He stood in front of a mirror in Clemont's room, awkwardly pulling at the tie that Bonnie had helped him to put on (Clemont was just as clueless as he was). The younger girl had also been insistent on taming Ash's infamously messy hair for the occasion. The end result was a good-looking youth that Ash did not recognise, staring back at him from the mirror's reflective surface. He was wearing a simple black tuxedo with a white collared shirt on underneath. The tie was a vibrant red. It was not the fanciest outfit in the world, or even of the things he had worn in his life, but Ash could already feel the pressure that wearing the outfit entailed pressing down on his shoulders.
He felt Pikachu nuzzle up against his trouser leg, giving him a reassuring 'chaaa' as it noticed his trainer's worry. Ash smile down at his Pokémon.
"Don't worry, buddy," he said. "I'll be fine. I'm just sorry you can't join us… I could use something to break the tension." Pikachu gave him as sympathetic look followed by a smile. He then went over to the bed and curled up. It would be a lazy night for him, much to Ash's envy.
A sharp knock on the door. "Ash!" Bonnie's voice. "The Lady is waiting downstairs. C'mon, c'mon!" It was time. Ash made his way to the door and began down the stairs; Bonnie's footstep's eagerly clattering behind him.
"You look so cute Ash," Bonnie giggled. "Serena is going to love you!" Dedenne chimed in its own agreement from in her bag.
"Thanks, Bonnie," Ash said, feeling slightly more cheerful. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "And thank you again for doing my tie. It would be really embarrassing if Serena found out."
"Found out what?" Serena called from downstairs. In spite of himself, Ash stopped, and staggered slightly as Bonnie bumped into him from behind.
"Err, hey Serena," Ash said nervously rubbing the back of his head. Bonnie had been right to call her a lady. Serena was dressed in an elegant, full length red dress (matching Ash's tie, much to his embarrassment). With her honey blonde hair braided into a pony tail running down her shoulder, and light yet beautifully done make-up, Serena looked radiant.
The girl cocked her head to one side. Ash realised that he still hadn't answered her question. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Oh, nothing serious… are you ready to go?"
When he switched the topic back to the date, Serena's eyes lit up instantly. "Of course Ash," she giggled. She reached out and grabbed his hand. "There's a taxi outside waiting for us already. Let's go right now!" They were half way out the door already and Ash only had time to give one last, semi-desperate wave to Bonnie and Clemont before it closed behind them. The night had officially begun.
As soon as he saw the restaurant, Ash knew that he was in trouble. The fancy black entrance had the restaurant's name written in elegant cursive and had three golden stars beneath it. He knew that it went up to 5 stars in total, but it was still the fanciest restaurant he had ever entered. As they exited the taxi, remembering to tip the driver, Ash looked around at the other people entering the restaurant. There were several young couples who all looked to be in their early twenties, with the men dressed in suits and the women in their expensive-looking dresses. Seeing one of the men hand his partner a single rose was a jolting reminder to Ash. Roses had been what Drew had done to flirt with May. How could he have forgotten a romantic cliché such as flowers? He silently prayed that Serena hadn't realised his mishap. Wordlessly, he linked arms with her and stepped inside.
The restaurant certainly looked like it deserved the praise in the guide books. The floor was entirely carpeted in red, trimmed with gold and the room was lit solely by candles, a warning that this was a place for couples only. Ash confirmed his fears as he looked around. The restaurant was nearly two-thirds full with people on dates. He felt the familiar trembling of the pressure he felt when seeing the competition at a league. The surrounding people would determine exactly what Serena wanted from Ash. If he didn't equal or surpass the other men in the restaurant as a date, then the evening would be a failure. It was quite intimidating.
"Right this way ma'am," a man said. Ash came back to reality. Serena had talked to the waiter at the front desk, who was now showing them to their table. Upon reaching it, he bowed slightly before leaving, stating he would be back in a minute. Ash shuffled nervously. What was Serena waiting for? He looked around briefly. Seeing another couple just sitting down, he had a flash of inspiration. Pulling one of the chairs outwards, he gestured for Serena to take a seat. The girl smiled at him, causing him to blush. She took her seat. Sitting down opposite her, Ash sighed in relief. Maybe, just maybe he could pull this off without ruining their friendship. Now that he was here, he might as well make the evening as successful as possible and break the news that he was confused the following morning. There was no need to worry; he could do this.
The menus arrived. Thanking the waiter, Ash opened it up, eager to see the range of choices such a restaurant would offer. Looking over the options, Ash winced slightly. He could barely understand any of these options, and those that he could seemed bizarre and revolting. Slowpoke tail cooked in Arbok venom, really? He glanced over the top of his menu to look at his date. Her menu was flat on the table whilst she read over it and there was no confusion at all on her face. She must have done her research, or at least actually tried some of the foods listed.
Serena noticed his gaze and immediately made eye contact. "So, Ash," she asked. "What do you feel like eating? Personally, I like the sound of the Escargot for appetizers… oh, and the Clampearls in the lemon and garlic sauce!" She squealed slightly. "It all looks so romantic! C'mon Ash! What do you think we should have?" She looked at him, eyes shining with more enthusiasm than he had ever seen in them. It was a little off-putting, her being more invested in this evening than anything on their journey so far. The pressure he had felt earlier returned with a vengeance and he suddenly felt hot under the collar. This was the side of eating that he had no interest or expertise in. It was best left to chefs such as Brock and Cilan.
Eventually he replied, rather unimaginatively, "I'll have whatever you're having." Ash said shortly. Serena nodded, looking a little disappointed at his abruptness. Their waiter returned, glancing between the two, clearly expecting an order to be placed. Serena glanced back at Ash. He supposed that he should be the one ordering, since he has the 'gentleman' for this evening. After several seconds of searching he requested the dishes that Serena had mentioned. The waiter then asked what wine they would like. Ash hesitated. Both he and Serena were 18-years-old now and therefore at the drinking age in Kalos. He had never had the opportunity to try it and did not think that tonight was the best time to take a risk. However, Serena had other ideas.
"A bottle of the Merlot please," she said sweetly. "Don't you think that's a good choice Ash?" The boy simply nodded. He was fairly certain that 'Merlot' was a red wine, but beyond that he had no idea. With the order finished the waiter departed and an awkward silence fell over the two of them. As the seconds ticked by like minutes, Ash felt more and more uncomfortable and Serena was beginning to frown with impatience. Suddenly, she released a sigh and the silence was broken.
"So…" Serena started, hesitant to be the one to begin the conversation. "I heard from Clemont that you talked to an old friend today," she continued, clearly fishing for a conversation starter. "How did that go?"
Ash brightened up slightly. At least friends were a topic that he knew well. "Nice to hear you being interested Serena!" Ash smiled. His honey-haired friend had often avoided the topic of people he used to travel with, whether it be a slight jealousy or a fear that she would one day join them as 'old friends he used to travel with.' "After you asked me out, I felt a little nervous, so I asked my old friend from Sinnoh, Dawn. You know, the Coordinator?" Ash became aware that he may have said the wrong thing, especially considering Dawn's gender. Serena's face fell further and tinge of annoyance could be seen in her eyes. When on a date, other female friends of a long-time crush were best left unmentioned and Dawn had been brought quite suddenly into the spotlight. She was present in both their thoughts (though for very different reasons) and her name fell between them heavily, an unexpected third member to their already awkward meal.
"That's… nice," Serena said, after a while. "What did she say about us?" She was eager to know exactly what his old friends thought as she may encounter some competition. Ash tried to keep his face neutral, but he winced internally. That would be tough to answer… Sorry, Dawn. I know you said honesty is the best policy, but I can't exactly tell her that your advice was to abandon the evening and think about it some more.
"I just needed to know what a girl might expect from a date… you know me, always doing the wrong thing." Ash said, nervously. Serena's frown deepened. That sounded like a complete lie.
"Why would you need advice on that?" She asked, stubbornly. In her mind, Ash could do no wrong. He should be the perfect gentlemen and that meant politeness, conversation, romance and no mention of any other girl close to his age.
On the opposite end of the table, Ash was surprised. Each and every one of his travelling companions, regardless of gender had at one point commented on Ash's density; Ash himself knew it to be an indisputable part of him. To hear Serena deny its existence was somewhat flattering, but also mildly disturbing. What else is she ignoring? He thought. He then noticed that Serena was still glaring at him and he had been silent for nearly a full minute.
"Serena," he began. The girl raised an elegant eyebrow. "You know that I'm not very good at this sort of thing… and I don't have any experience what so ever." He paused, staring down at the table. What the hell was he doing? This was the conversation he should have started hours ago, why had he brought it up know? Perhaps it was because he was starting to feel a little desperate. He could feel an argument coming like Pokémon could sense an approaching storm.
A movement to his left caused both of them to jump. The wine had arrived. The waiter poured a minute amount into Ash's glass and then looked at him. He knew from watching Cilan have wine that he was supposed to taste it. He raised the glass to his lips, wrinkling his nose slightly at the pungent smell of the alcohol. What was wine supposed to taste like? Ash couldn't tell. All he knew was that the single sip of the beverage was an overwhelming punch to his taste buds.
He nodded to the waiter, allowing him to re-fill the glass. There was little point in creating a fuss about it; he would simply not drink, or at least stretch a single glass across the course of the meal. Serena could do what she liked, but Ash felt that wine was not the right choice for him, at least not at 18. Thinking of Serena brought him back to the real issue at hand. What would he do now? Serena's hopes for the evening had been dashed and Ash's fears had been realised. All there was left to do was try and end the evening as quickly and as politely would as possible. They would eat and leave, then discuss their problems in the morning Ash decided. It would be easier for everyone. Unfortunately, Serena had other ideas.
The waiter, having served Serena her drink, had left the wine in a bucket of ice to the side of their table and departed once more. Serena raised her glass and drained almost half of it in a single gulp, before returning it to the table, rather abruptly. She locked eyes with Ash, silently demanding him to continue.
"In all honesty, Serena," Ash sighed. "I wasn't sure about this evening from the start. I don't really feel comfortable in this environment." Subconsciously, he reached for the shoulder where Pikachu always perched and rubbed it absentmindedly. Serena slumped back in her chair and let out a very un-Lady-like sigh of frustration.
"What do you mean, Ash?" She said, her voice rising in volume. "Isn't this evening good enough? Aren't I good enough company? Or would you rather be with Dawn?" She spat the blunette's name out as if it were a barb designed to rip into Ash's heart. In turn, Ash felt a flash of annoyance. Serena was beginning to get on his nerves. What did she expect from a Pokémon-obsessed boy from a quiet country town who did nothing but travel and fight? And now she was bringing his old friend into it, as if Dawn had somehow insulted her without the two ever having met?
"This is nothing to do with Dawn," Ash rebuked. "All she did was help me sort through my confusion. I am completely new to this. I don't know what you expected from me, but I don't think I can deliver. Not in a place like this, with food I've never heard of, my best friend on the other side of the city and dressed up to the point where I don't recognise myself in the mirror." He paused to catch his breath, not meeting Serena's eyes. "I knew this before tonight, and I am so so sorry that I didn't have the courage to tell you-"
"Ash," Serena responded, shortly. "Stop talking now." Ash's jaw clamped shut. He glanced at the face of the person he was ranting to and saw hurt, anger and confusion in her eyes. Maybe he had been a bit too honest with his little speech. "How could you say something like that?" Serena continued. "Tonight is supposed to be the best night of my life! I can't believe that you're saying these things… do you even care about how this is hurting me?"
That stung. "I do care about how my friends feel Serena! And I'm saying these things because they're the truth-"
"Friends?" Serena interrupted. "You mean a lot more to me than a 'friend' Ash! I knew we were meant to be before I even started travelling with you-"
"What are you talking about?" It was Ash's turn to interrupt. "How can you like a person before you even know them? You saw me do one crazy stunt on the news and you knew me for like an hour when we were seven. That's not enough to know a person! Pikachu and I never got on when we first met, neither did Dawn and I… it took arguments, apologies and compromises before we became friends. You need to get to know a person first!"
"And there's Dawn mentioned again," Serena cried, getting to her feet. "I knew you when you were young! That's more than any of your old 'travel buddies' can claim to!"
Ash felt a strange calm move over him, in spite of the near disaster, a single glaring thought entered his head and he couldn't help but retaliate with it. "And yet, we never talked," Ash stated. Serena paused in her ranting to look at him, noting the quietness that had entered his voice. "We never talked," Ash said again. "We never had a heart to heart discussion about anything. I don't know what you want to do with your life and you have somehow ignored or not noticed the fact that I'm a complete idiot at romance. This is the first honest conversation we've had with one another in 5 months of travelling together."
Serena was silent. Her shoulders shook and Ash couldn't tell if it was from anger or tears, possibly it was both. "Serena," Ash said, trying to sound gentler. "I am so flattered that you like me the way you do, I really am. You're the first girl to actually tell me that. But I don't know how I feel about you and it seems you're feelings-"
"Are for some abstract version of you that I dreamed up," Serena finished for him. Ash could only nod. Serena sighed again, this time with sadness. "OK Ash," she said after a moment of silence. "Let's split the bill and go back to Clemont's. I've lost my appetite." Once again Ash nodded. That was the thing about Serena, she had her pride but she wasn't stubborn enough to maintain an argument, especially in a public place. Noticing that the argument had stopped, the waiter once again approached the table, already with the bill printed. Clearly romantic dramas were frequent at Le Wow. The payment was settled in silence, a silence that continued out through the door and to where Serena wordlessly entered a taxi. The agreement was that Ash would walk home. He wasn't complaining. He needed the fresh air and something to eat.
An hour later he was outside Clemont's house, his stomach full of fast food. He slipped inside quietly, praying that Serena had just gone straight to bed. Fortunately, that was the case and he was able to tip toe into Clemont's room and settle into his sleeping bag, his blonde friend already asleep in his own bed. Pikachu shifted in his sleep, probably sensing his trainers return, but did not wake up. Ash was grateful. He did not need any more drama tonight. His head and heart were heavy and all he wanted now was sleep, and hopefully forgot the night's drama and confusion. He honestly could not have imagined his first date ending any worse than it did.
Ash awoke to sunlight streaming onto his face from the window. Groaning, he forced his eyes open and looked around. Clemont has already woken up, as had Pikachu. They were probably somewhere downstairs. As he climbed out of his sleeping bag, Ash realised that he was still in his suit. He made his way out of the room, and after a brief check that the coast was clear, he entered the bathroom. If he was going to get into an argument about last night, he at least wanted a shower and a change of clothes.
The shower was blissful. The hot, steaming water seemed to erase the tension and soothe him into the sweet oblivion of forgetfulness. However, it could not last forever and Ash soon found himself heading down to the kitchen. He was dressed in his usual outfit for Kalos and was feeling much more relaxed. Unfortunately, he knew that the peace would be broken. Things had been said last night that could never be forgotten by either party. His and Serena's friendship had taken a sudden step into the dangerous unknown.
"Morning Clemont," Ash said politely. His cheer sounded forced, even to himself. "Breakfast looks good." His blonde haired friend looked up from the stove. Ash could not read the expression on his face. Pity? Anger? Confusion? Most likely it was a combination of all of them.
Ignoring Ash's poor attempt to make light conversation, the Lumiose Gym Leader decided to find out the truth about last night. "Ash," His tone was entirely neutral. "What did you do? Serena was crying her eyes out when she came home early. I had to reheat some food for her but she barely ate. Or spoke for that matter."
Ash felt the crushing feeling of guilt. He knew that he had been more than partially responsible for the disaster, through his own ignorance and cowardice. "It… didn't go well," Ash said, lamely. Clemont raised an eyebrow, inviting him to continue. "I has unprepared for a date, I knew I would mess up somehow and I couldn't pick up the courage to tell her that. And I don't think that any guy alive could meet Serena's expectations for that evening, or at least I certainly couldn't."
He went into a more detailed account, starting from his fears that morning to the lonely walk home. However, he glossed over his conversation with Dawn. He did not want to implicate his old travelling companion in this. When he was finished, he looked Clemont in the face. His friend would not look him in the eye.
The silence stretched out for a few more painful seconds. Finally: "Ash," Clemont said. "I don't know how girls work. I don't know how love works. All I know is that two of my friends are very upset and they seem to have done it to themselves… Bonnie's angry with you by the way. When she heard about the date, you were already married in her mind. Don't worry though; I'll keep her here whilst you go to the Pokémon Centre."
Pokémon Centre? "Clemont?" Ash asked. "Why would I go there?"
"To call Dawn," The other boy stated. "Tell her about what happened and try to get everything straight in your head. I'll do the same for Serena here… though I might need her mother's help. When you're both straightened out, meet up and settle this issue before you lose your friendship."
Ash choked up a little. This was a much better response than he was expecting. He was so disappointed in himself that he thought everyone else would feel the same way about him. He needed to take this chance to set things right. Clemont was correct. A clear head would help him repair the damage and to move past the awkwardness that now existed between him and Serena. Slightly misty eyed, Ash could only nod his thanks to Clemont. He grabbed an apple from a nearby fruit bowl and set off out the door. As he was leaving, Clemont called after him. "Ash!" The black-haired boy paused. "Make things right. For Bonnie and I as well. You and Serena are our closest friends."
Ash smiled. "I will Clemont. No need to worry." He noticed Pikachu playing in the yard with Dedenne and decided that his friend was best off where he was. Biting down on his light breakfast, Ash once again made all speed towards the Pokémon Centre.
Nervous. It was not a word that Ash normally associated with talking to Dawn, but that is exactly what he felt when staring at the black screen of the video phone. In the back of his mind it occurred to him that she would have performed in the Lilycove City contest by now. He wondered how she did. Just what would she think of him? Disappointment? Pity? He was not sure that he could take either from Dawn. For seem reason he always had to seem strong around his blue-haired friend because he knew that when he was strong, so was she. He took a shaky breath. It was time to make the call.
After a brief exchange with Nurse Joy, Dawn once again rushed onto the screen grinning broadly. Her eyes were gleaming and she held a ribbon in her hand, already proudly showing her achievement to her closest friend. Her smile quickly faded however as she saw Ash's face. The ribbon slipped out of her hand, temporarily forgotten.
"Ash!" The girl cried, worriedly. "What happened? You look terrible." The boy once again felt the sting of guilt. Here he was ruining another person's day, and it was his closest human friend no less.
"Sorry, Dawn. I shouldn't have bothered you-" Ash started, his hand already moving to hang up the phone piece.
"Stop right there!" Dawn said, suddenly. Ash paused. "I'm worried about you Ash. Talk to me, please! Is this about the date?" Ash hesitated. Was further involving Dawn really the right thing to do? I'll always be there for you, okay Ash? Whenever you need to talk, wherever I am in the world. Dawn's words from the day before. Yeah… he should tell her.
"Yeah, it is." He sighed. Dawn leaned forward slightly, resting her head on her palms and listening intently. Ash haltingly explained the events of last night. Dawn did not interrupt once. Once he had stopped talking, he could only look at Dawn and await her response. The girl's eyes were misting with tears.
Finally she spoke. "Ash… It sounds like the two of you had a terrible time last night. I understand what you're saying about losing your nerve about telling her to cancel the evening. It was a little silly of me to assume that intentionally hurting a friend would be simple for you."
"But it would have been the right thing to do," Ash sighed. "I see that now. I could have hurt her a little and saved her a lot of pain in the long run. I feel like absolute crap right now." Dawn seemed surprised to hear Ash using foul language. It was, amongst other things, an indicator that he was at his lowest point since his loss to Paul at Lake Acuity.
"Ash, your face…" Dawn whispered to herself. Ash still caught it, however.
"What's wrong with it this time?" He muttered aggressively.
Not at all offended by his tone, Dawn explained. "Your eyes, Ash," His eyes? "They're dull and empty. That's not you." This saddened Dawn. Ash's eyes were a window to his soul, reflecting back the innocence, ambition and enthusiasm that she herself had. Seeing him like this, it was as if she too was broken.
Ash didn't know how to respond to her words. "I don't know what to do Dawn… romance, love… They aren't things that I understand. But I've hurt Serena and I don't know how to make it better."
"Things can't go back to the way they were before, you know that right?" Dawn replied. Ash nodded. There was a pause whilst Dawn tried to think. Eventually, she looked up from the desk, which she had been staring at and met Ash's eyes. "Tell me about love Ash. The romantic sort. What does it mean to you?"
Ash thought for a moment. His views on romance had changed drastically over the course of eight years, especially in the last 24 hours. How could he describe it all? "Well, when I first started off in Kanto I had a typical view of it. It was something for adults, gross and weird, that I wanted to avoid for my entire life. When I got to Hoenn, I was older. I knew that it was normal for people to go through it, that I would probably experience it one day. But it still confused me. The in Sinnoh with you and Brock… it was cute I suppose…" Ash trailed off. Dawn had raised an eyebrow at his last words, but made a gesture for him to continue. "What I mean is, Brock would run off and flirt with some girl, or Buneary would chase after Pikachu and we would look at each other and laugh. We were just two kids then and love was this quirky thing that neither of us had time for."
Dawn actually laughed at that and her eyes lit up for the first time in their conversation. "That's true I suppose. We had much more interesting things to focus on: Gyms, contests, tag battles. But what about now Ash?" Her smile faded away again. "What do you think of love now?"
Ash removed his hat from his head and buried his face in his hands. He let out an aggressive sigh of frustration. "It can hurt. It can cost friendships. Serena and I will never be the same again… all I know is-" He stopped abruptly.
"Know what?" Dawn asked. Seeing him begin to clam up, she smacked her palms against the desk, making the boy jump.
"All I know is what I should have known yesterday, that I don't like Serena I that way. Last night proved that we're too different. We have different interests and ambitions. A romantic relationship wouldn't work."
Dawn was silent. What Ash had just said made sense. "Then it was inevitable," she stated. Ash looked at her, surprised and hurt. Dawn backtracked quickly. "What I mean is that last night was no one's fault. It would have happened to the two of you eventually. Whilst it would have been better to tell her before the date, this is more honest than forcing yourself into a relationship doomed to fail."
"I guess… but what do I do now?" He asked.
"You stand aside and let me talk to Dawn." That was a new voice. Familiar to. Ash whipped around and saw Serena standing there. She was dressed in her usual outfit, but her eyes were red and blotchy from crying. However, she looked at Ash with more determination than he had ever seen from her before. Still in shock, Ash could only move to one side as his Kalosian friend sat down.
The boy glanced at the screen. Dawn looked as surprised as he felt, her brow wrinkled slightly as she frowned in apprehension.
"Could you give us a moment Ash?" Serena said. Ash looked at Dawn again, who met his eyes and nodded. He made his exit and left the two girls to talk. He could only wonder how much Serena had heard before making her presence known.
Dawn sat uncomfortably in her seat. Her ribbon still lay forgotten on the desk in front of her and she could only stare in slight fear at the tall blonde girl who stared her down from the screen. When Ash had first called her about his date, she had been elated for him, sure that it would go well. She had ignored the slight prickling of jealousy at the thought of him dating another girl and instead decided that his happiness was worth it. But the evening had not made him happy. It had ruined his friendship with someone and he had come to her for more help and support. Now, the other victim was glaring at her and Dawn had no idea how the conversation would play out.
"So I guess he doesn't feel that way about me," Serena said, accusingly. "I probably should have guessed."
Dawn felt guilty. If she had a crush that had rejected her and then gone to talk to another girl, of course she would feel the same anger that Serena did. But still, neither she nor Ash had meant to offend Serena with their conversation, and the blonde needed to understand that.
"Serena, I'm sorry about this. But Ash and I… I didn't mean to come between you, and Ash never wanted to hurt your feelings."
"I know," Serena said, quietly. She paused to wipe a tear from her eye. "I was listening in ever since Ash finished recounting the evening. I wanted to know how he felt."
"And now?" Dawn asked.
"I have questions…about Ash."
"Go head, Serena."
The blonde sighed. "OK. First of all, what did I do wrong? I thought I knew him…"
Dawn thought for a moment. "You only knew a part of him Serena. There is a heroic aspect to Ash, it's true. When I first met him he tried to tackle a mecha single-handed just to get Pikachu back, so I can see why you would… like him for that." She hesitated over the last part.
"When I saw Ash for the second time… he threw himself of a building to catch Pikachu." Serena responded. The girls exchanged a slight smile at their friend's recklessness.
"But there is so much more to him than that," Dawn continued. "Firstly, he loves Pokémon battling be it Gyms, a League or a Contest. As I've heard, you aren't really that interested are you?" Serena could only shake her head, ashamed.
"There's nothing wrong with that!" Dawn added, hastily. "The point I'm making is you already have little in common, so how could a relationship work? Ash is so much more than what you fell for. He can be reckless, true and he can be caring. But he's also thicker than a Golem and can be completely immature. You need to… embrace him, I suppose. Accept and love all the different parts of him. "
"Like you do?" Serena asked.
Not noticing the implication of that statement, Dawn could only agree. "Mhmm, like I do. Ash and I make a brilliant tag team, because we know each other so well."
Serena smiled sadly; Ash and Dawn really did belong together, even if neither of them had realised it yet.
"So, what do I do now?" Serena asked, as much to herself as to Dawn. The blonde turned away from the screen. She could make out Ash's back from where she sat. He was at a distance where he couldn't hear them talking but could be called over. "Ash!" She cried. "Come over here and talk to me!"
Ash hurried over, looking relieved at her calmer tone.
Dawn smiled slightly. "I'll leave you two to talk. Call me back in a few minutes, okay Ash?" The boy nodded and Dawn hung up.
Ash and Serena faced each other. Serena was first to speak. "Ash," she began. "I'd like to apologise for yesterday. I should have known it wasn't your thing… and I should have taken the time to get to know you."
"Serena," Ash said, gently. "I owe you an apology as well. I should have confronted you sooner, months ago about your crush… I just couldn't."
"Can we forgive each other then?" Serena asked, her voice brimming with hope.
"Okay… I accept your apology if you accept mine." Ash replied.
"Agreed," Serena smiled and they shook hands. "So what do you think I should do?" Serena continued.
"That's for you to decide Serena. It's time you choose something for yourself instead of making every decision based on someone else."
"Okay…" Serena said. After a moment of thought, she carried on. "I think I want to do PokéVisions with my Fennekin. My first one was really popular."
"That sounds great Serena! I don't know much about video making, but if it makes you happy then go for it!" Ash cheered; delighted that his friend had finally chosen her own dream, even if it wasn't one they could share.
"You know what that means don't you Ash? I won't be able to travel with you anymore. I'll have to stay here in Lumiose if I really want to improve."
The thought upset Ash. Leaving a friend behind was never an easy thing to do. Still… "It's your ambition Serena," He said. "It would be wrong of me to keep you from it. Travelling with you was really fun and I'll always remember it."
"Thanks Ash!" Serena was touched. "I'm going to do my best… in PokéVisions and in moving on from this. We'll always be friends though right?"
"Of course, Serena!"
"And I'll see you at the league Ash… I know you'll win this time!" Serena cried happily.
A few minutes of pleasantries later, Serena departed to update Clemont and Bonnie. Ash was left to call Dawn and tell her what had happened.
"So that's it." Ash told Dawn. He had finished telling her the details of his and Serena's conversation. After the euphoria of being forgiven had worn off, Ash was left feeling a little melancholy about the whole thing. He was glad that Serena was trying to move on, but he knew it was the end of their time travelling together and when they met again her attitude towards him would be entirely different. One way or another, love can change friendships. That fact was unavoidable.
For her part, Dawn looked thoughtful. She has happy that the situation had been resolved and that Ash was feeling better, but she could also see that Ash was still bothered by something. "It's good that she has her own path now," she said. Ash nodded. "How do you feel about the whole thing, Ash?" She asked.
"I dunno, Dawn. A few days ago I didn't have a worry in the world… now all this has happened and I'm not sure I trust myself with, you know, romance anymore. The risk just seems too big." Ash responded, despondently.
Dawn sighed. It was natural for the whole thing to give Ash cold feet about romance. After all, she herself was reluctant to risk a friendship. She had lost her childhood friend Kenny thanks to his crush on her. It had made everything so awkward. She could see where Ash was coming from. In spite of this, she should try to leave Ash on a high note.
"It's a normal reaction Ash," She soothed. "Maybe now just isn't the right time for you. But don't give up on it all together. Love can lead to some pretty amazing things, including family. I mean, you're a family guy right?"
"Well, I never thought about marriage much, but I would like to be a father one day."
"Just seeing you raise Infernape tells me that you would be a great father, Ash." She then smiled with such warmth that Ash couldn't help but blush. However, Dawn had one more idea to share. "The next time we meet, Ash, I'd like the two of us, and just the two of us, to go and have a meal out." Ash began to protest, but Dawn raised a hand to silence him. "I know you don't like the sound of that, but it wouldn't be serious. It'd just be the two of us hanging out and eating together. That way you can relax. Be yourself…because…because…" She trailed off.
Ash raised an eyebrow. "Because what?" He asked nervously. "You were going so strongly." He was now curious as to what Dawn was talking about.
"Because the real you is pretty amazing Ash." Dawn stated. She was a little red in the face. Ash felt his blush deepen. He had no idea Dawn thought that of him.
"You're pretty awesome yourself Dawn!" Ash responded, his voice a slightly higher pitch to normal. Dawn giggled a little at Ash's immature phrasing. "I mean," he continued. "I was right to trust you with this. You've helped Serena and I so much and I'm really grateful Dawn. I'd be flattered to hang out with you, and just you, when we meet up next."
It was Dawn's turn to become flustered. She coughed nervously, trying to cool down the heat in her cheeks from Ash's sincere words. "Thanks Ash," She said, after a moment more thought. "I look forward to it."
They chatted for a while, in which Ash finally congratulated her on winning her ribbon and described his own latest victories over the Coumarine Gym and over Clemont in Lumiose. When he had finished, they realized that they had been talking for over half an hour and had used up their allotted time on the public video phones.
"I guess we have to hang up now," Ash said, sadly. He had enjoyed talking to Dawn again. "No need to worry though, I'll call you real soon and I hope I can see you in person at some point in the near future."
"Ditto, Ash. It's been great to hear from you again, in spite of all the emotional drama. Good luck with your next gym battle!"
"And good luck at the next Contest. I know you can win it Dawn!"
"Bye Ash!" She paused for a moment, then swallowed nervously. "I'll miss you." She said in a quieter voice.
Ash felt a strange movement in his chest. Or was it his heart? Either way, he smiled sincerely, not knowing why his eyes had watered slightly. "I'll miss you too Dawn. Goodbye, see you soon."
They hung up at the same time, both doing so reluctantly.
In the end, Clemont and his sister stayed in Lumiose. Clemont said that it was so he could start having Gym battles again (Ash had 'fired him up'), but Ash suspected it was more to do with keeping an eye on Serena, who had managed to get into contact with Alexa from Lumiose Press. The reporter had promised to help the blonde to jump start her career into PokéVisions.
As for Ash, he would be making the long walk to the next town with just his Pokémon. The idea was intimidating, but if there was anything he had learned over the last few days, it was that he had a lot of growing up to do. Travelling on his own for a while could help with that.
Then again… In his mind's eye, Ash could see Dawn making her way on her own journey, perhaps bouncing down a road in her usual cheery manner, or standing on the deck of a ferry, the wind blowing through her blue hair. Either way, Ash knew that as long as Dawn and his other friends moved towards their own goals, he was never completely alone.
He would keep moving. He may not understand love today, but he would one day. Until then, he looked towards the future.
Finished! If you read to the end, thank you so much and I hope that you enjoyed it. Ash feels a little OOC in this, but he is a fish out of water on his date. Please review. Constructive criticism is welcome. If I feel like I did a good job with the story, then I may write a sequel one-shot where Ash and Dawn meet up and focus more on Pearlshipping.
Once again, thanks for reading and please let me know what you thought.