Disclaimer - I'm just your regular klepto, stealing characters relating to my favorite OTPs and forcing them to interact the way I want them to!

Author - Warlordess

Notes - Saw a prompt on Tumblr. Thought I'd try and use it to write something since I haven't been able to write anything in so long. Here's hoping for the best! Btw, Ash and Misty are in their mid-teens and I figure this would take place a year or so after separating in Johto (you know, assuming they actually aged in canon).

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Title - "Head Over Feet Over Heart"

Summary - An unexpected injury may cut Ash and Misty's heartwarming reunion short, or at the very least, bungle their original intentions… Pokeshippy. One-shot. :-D

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The sand squished between her toes just so as she took in the sight of the sunset clashing against the sea before her.

It was a cool comfort to Misty as she avoided all eye contact with her so-called best friend, Ash Ketchum, after he'd interrupted her dinner by making an impromptu visit to Cerulean City on his way home from Sinnoh. The simmering frustration she'd felt towards him for so long had started to die out the longer she remained at home, whiling away her days, weeks, and months running the gym, but that didn't mean she wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt quite yet. It was better to let him stew a bit first.

So she breathed in the salty air and took in the familiar sights of her hometown, the breeze ruffling her hair and sending an array of goosebumps up both of her arms and legs.

"Pikachupi!" Pikachu moaned from his trainer's shoulder, yearning to leap into her arms, but even he could sense her uneasiness and thus held himself back.

"It's okay, Pikachu. You know I missed you," the redhead smiled and finally broke her stride, leaning over and scratching him under the chin. "Now, him on the other hand…" she started, then faltered long enough to stick her tongue out.

Ash's brow furrowed at her behavior.

"Well, it's not like I missed you either, Misty!" he humphed while crossing his arms and turning his nose up at her, his own bare feet shuffling in the soft, wet sand as he tried his best to avoid getting his rolled up pants sleeves wet from the tide.

"Oh, really?" she asked with an all-knowing Cheshire smirk.

"Of course, really! A future Pokemon Master has plenty more important things to do with his time!"

"Then why are you here, oh mythical and wondrous future Pokemon Master?" she asked, prodding him in the chest with such intensity that he almost stumbled backwards in recoil. "I definitely don't remember asking you to come straight to Cerulean before going home to see your mom. And I certainly wouldn't have asked you to come right in the middle of dinner."

Of course, underneath those feeble complaints and stock stubbornness, she was of course at least a little bit happy that he'd come to see her. They didn't get to talk much due to both of their hectic schedules, after all… Still, and not that she'd expected Ash to know any better, her sisters were due to have a field day knowing that baby Misty's boyfriend had come all this way just to see her.

Honestly, she could feel the sickening sense of foreboding fill her at their familiar cackling in the distance.

"Well, uh," the raven-haired trainer fumbled in an attempt to find a new and unused excuse before noting the overeager mouse-type Pokemon still balancing himself on his shoulder, "Pikachu begged me to bring him here! I may not miss you at all but, for some reason, he does and I care about whether he's happy or not so here we are!"

"Pikapi, pikachu!" the electric-type Pokemon admonished his trainer with sharp eyes, and Misty stifled a retaliatory smirk. Of course she knew his ego was just as much for show as hers.

"Well, that's a shame then, Ash," she started mysteriously, turning her back on him and propping up her arms behind her head, fingers laced, "'cause I was actually joking anyway when I said all that stuff before. But if you're only here for Pikachu's sake..."

Then she twisted on her heel and leaned in once more, this time her face and that odd smile that always made Ash's insides knot up in the strangest way much closer than he would have liked them to be, and yoinked Pikachu straight from his shoulders.

"... then I guess I'll just take him and be on my way!" She giggled at her best friend's dumbstruck expression before turning tail and running as fast as she could, which was moderately difficult with such obstructive terrain. Nevertheless, she'd had the element of surprise on her side as well as a height advantage, no matter how slight, her legs stretching a little longer than his with every step.

So she ran with everything she could, Pikachu's initial squirming coming to a grinding halt as he took in her enthusiastic expression and decided he definitely didn't mind the joke she'd decided to play on their mutual friend. At some point, she released the mouse-type Pokemon so that he could climb up her arm and onto her shoulder, where he clung to her tightly as she continued her adventure.

"Hey, Myst! You get back here! Pikachu," Ash shouted with heaving breath from behind them, doing his best (and failing rather miserably) to catch up, "how could you?! I said wait up!"

She smiled confidently as she took in the sight of the grains of sand slowly being riddled with fragments of smooth river rock beneath her feet. She was approaching the Cerulean Cape, well-known dating site to native and tourist alike … but not to Ash. Nevertheless, a few random passersby did offer curious expressions due to her sprint but she ignored them, instead drifting in the jubilation that filled her so suddenly from everything that was going on.

The water to her right vanished from her sight as she ran, the sand quickly molding into a new, easier-to-maneuver terrain. Up ahead she could see a wooden boardwalk-bridge and, to either side, a sudden drop with more rocks.

"You ready, Pikachu?" she asked with another giggle and the electric mouse gave a soft "chaa" in affirmation. She veered left at the last minute, quickly sliding down the precipice with fluid skill. A few seconds later and her feet hit the chilly water of the stream that flowed underneath the Cape bridge, one way leading to a secluded pond and the other leading out to the beach where she'd first started.

The redhead hugged the bluff wall and smiled confidently at her hostage before easing herself towards the pond in relative stealth.

"Misty! Pikachu!" Ash shouted, dashing full-speed across the bridge above her. He would have completely missed her if not for her bright red hair and yellow shirt contrasting so steeply with the environment.

Instead, he immediately stalled and turned a glare in her direction, following this action up with a growl.

"I'll get you for that, Myst!" he told her exuberantly, leaping up onto the banister of the bridge without hesitation.

"Wait, Ash, don't do th-," Misty started in shock at his inattention and recklessness, as if she should have been surprised at all.

"Pikapi!" Pikachu wailed as well, leaping down from the redhead's shoulder and waving his paws frantically, but it was already too late.

The raven-haired trainer hurdled over the side of the bridge and landed in the half-a-meter high water, but the triumphant expression he wore soon melted off his face as he slid on some mossy stones under the surface and he fell over instantaneously afterwards.

"Pikapi! Pikachupi, kachu pika!" cried the electric mouse as he half-swam and half hopped towards his trainer in concern.

Ash, now relatively soaked, tried to shake off the sudden chill he felt from the brisk early autumn temperature. He noticed his two so-called friends - traitors! he shouted internally - making their way over to him and he couldn't help gnashing his teeth as he shook droplets of water from his hair and face, taking one hand and tousling his hair in order to clear his vision.

Both his wrists ached from breaking his fall but, otherwise, he seemed alright. Still, he wasn't letting the girl off that easy after her latest spectacle.

"Gee, thanks a lot, Myst. Now look what you did!" he whined pettily.

"Whoa now, hold on, Mr. Pokemon Master!" she responded, brows furrowing in aggravation at what he was insinuating. "Did I tell you to leap over the side of that bridge? Don't blame me for your stupidity! You should have known better than to do something like that! I mean, you don't even know this area! What would you have done if something worse had happened and you'd gotten really hurt?"

"Pi pikachu, Pikapi?" Pikachu asked cautiously, extending a paw and patting Ash on the knee.

The raven-haired trainer finally broke aggressive eye contact with the redhead who'd decided to berate him in order to supercede her own guilt (not to mention that it was in part his own fault) and took in the sight of the small Pokemon begging him with the appropriate expression to be okay, and to forgive them both when they were just trying to have a good time and play a minor, innocent joke.

He immediately felt his frustration and resolve to stay angry weaken in response before he sighed and dropped the subject.

"I guess we should head back now," Misty stated dejectedly.

The moment was over, the fun and magic ruined. She should have known it wouldn't last. It never did with them. Either someone started a stupid fight or got hurt or misunderstood something the other one said or else they left the other one behind for a good year and rarely went out of their way to call or write…

Well, there was no use in holding a grudge. Things were the way they were.

"Yeah, maybe you're right." Ash said, bracing himself to stand up, "I'm getting hungry anyway and, from what I can remember, you didn't get the chance to finish dinner either."

"Yeah, thanks to you," Misty muttered.

"I'm sorry; what was that?"

"Nothing!" she replied, squinting her eyes shut and blowing a raspberry in his direction.

"Yeah, whatever - aaargh!" he yelped as he fell back down into the water again after only reaching half his full stature.

"Geez, what's wrong now?" the redhead asked, crossing her arms.

"N - nothing, it's just… heh… I think I may have, um," he faltered here, blushing pink from embarrassment, "sprained something."

"Sprained something?" Misty's stance crumbled as she kneeled down beside him, Pikachu moving aside so that she could get a closer look. "You mean you're actually hurt?"

"W - well, I guess, maybe… I took the fall harder than I thought…" His tone, laced with dour, belied his disappointment.

"Ash, I told you not to do it! I told you to be careful! Why do you always have to take the easiest, most reckless route?! This is the reason I spend half my life worrying about you!" Misty admonished him, one hand firmly grasping his shirt while the other tenderly inched towards the leg he was clearly troubled by.

His original intentions ready to defend himself, the raven-haired trainer fumbled after hearing the last part of Misty's statement, and then even further when she - careful as she could be - pulled his already semi-swollen ankle up onto her knees so that she could more closely examine it.

He flinched at the unfortunate contact but knew there was no avoiding it. Still, for the following few seconds, he was downright enamored with the redhead, expression grim, fiery hair fading in the sunset coming from behind him, concern etched into every line on her face and fragile movement of her arms.

These rare pieces, even rarer moments, of his best friend always left him in a state of awe. He did his best to ignore them, to take them all in stride when compared to his other companions, but seldom did it ever do him any good. There was just something so, so intense and ethereal about Misty when she put their petty squabbles aside and proved just how good-natured she inherently was.

His stomach tumbled and twisted, knotting itself into a ball and somehow shutting down his lungs for a quick second as it did so. When he finally came to and resumed proper respiratory control, Misty was looking him in the eyes once more as if she hadn't noticed his acute stare.

"Pikachupi, pika…?" Pikachu asked fearfully beside them both.

"Well, I can't tell if it's broken, hopefully not though. But you definitely managed to sprain it pretty bad so kudos to you, oh mythical and wondrous future Pokemon Master!" she sighed exasperatedly but still had enough capacity to use all of her self-restraint so that she lowered Ash's injured limb back to the water as softly as possible. "Don't worry, Pikachu," she turned and gave the Pokemon a reassuring grin, "your stupid trainer will be just fine! But for now, let's work on getting him back to the gym."

She placed her hands on her knees and slowly rose to her feet, taking in the sight of the incapacitated boy before her as well as the terrain they would have to navigate first back to their shoes, and then even further back to her home.

Man, if only she had thought about bringing Gyarados with her, at least the first half of their trek would be made a lot simpler. Alas, her sisters had needed him for gym battles so instead she'd brought Corsola just in case they ran into any wild Pokemon… but a lot of good she'd do them in their current predicament.

"Alright, Ash, gimme your arm," she told him, and ducked down in order to pull aforementioned limb across her back and over her opposing shoulder before using her legs to lift them both up into standing positions.

Ash balanced awkwardly on his one uninjured foot, the other up in the air and waving sporadically behind him as he did his best to keep upright with her assistance.

"Pika?" Pikachu asked from the ground.

"Don't worry, buddy," Ash replied with a smile, "I'm fine," but he sucked in a quick breath when he accidentally bumped his swollen ankle against Misty's shin in an effort to remain balanced, "or at least I will be eventually."

"We better start heading back before it gets much darker," she said rather unsympathetically… or perhaps not. After all, whatever situation they were in would be made a lot worse if they waited much longer, so Ash tried not to take her sudden emotional distance too personally, especially since she was also using her strength to practically carry half of his dead weight back towards the beach.

"Hey, Pikachu, could you run up the ledge and we'll meet you there in a little while? Just head around past the bridge and wait for us there," Misty begged of the electric-type Pokemon, knowing that she wouldn't be able to handle even more extra weight and that the water was surely getting deeper with every step they took.

Pikachu nodded affirmatively and did as he was told without another word, though he did cast a wary glance back at his two favorite trainers.

Ash and Misty, now alone, meandered in silence for the following few minutes, the raven-haired trainer hopping awkwardly while redhead slowed to keep pace as she lifted both of them along, at the same time trying her best to remain upright when standing in knee-deep water. It took them fifteen minutes of overly-cautious wading to reach the other end of the stream on the opposing side of the bridge.

The ground was steeper here, the water rising up to their mid-thighs, but Misty knew that she would be able to reach the beach quicker and safer from here than if she were to try climbing back up the precipice she'd slid down before. There were a few meters in which the beach and the cape river rock intercepted and created an incline that they could hopefully use to crawl or stumble up back onto the mainland if they were careful and determined enough.

"So, how's running the gym?" Ash offered in hope of breathing life into the quiet formed between them.

"Not… now, Ash!" Misty huffed as she drew in a deep breath and tightened her grip on him.

"Oh, c'mon, we haven't talked in forever, and I can't help thinking you're planning to do something to me when you give me the silent treatment like you're doing now."

"Ash, this isn't the silent treatment! This is me trying to concentrate so you don't get hurt even worse than you already managed to do to yourself," and, when he opened his mouth abruptly to respond to him, she tugged on the arm wrapped around her neck and shoulders and went on so that he wouldn't bother, "or else to prevent one of us from getting swept away with an unexpected tide."

Needless to say he bit his tongue at that point, just in time for them to reach the precipitace upslope.

"What now?" Ash gulped in fearful expectation of what was coming.

"We keep walking, or crawling; whichever one suits you better," she scoffed at him as he unleashed a slight whimper, doing his best to stifle it so she wouldn't hear his complaints.

"Seriously…?" he groaned at her, practically slumping even further against her and causing her to nearly fall on her side.

"Ash, I will drop you if you don't grow up and start pulling your own weight. Besides," she noted absently, though with the knowledge of someone who'd traversed the city and its limits far longer than he, "there's no other way to get back to where we started."

"Pikaaaapi! Pikachupi!" Pikachu wailed down at them from about five meters away, hopping onto his hind legs and waving his little paws around to help them see in the semi-darkness that was now befalling them.

"C'mon, Ash, let's get going…" the redhead began with what sounded like a resolute tone, not noticing his extended silence, "The sooner we get back up onto the beach, the sooner we can head home."

"Well why not just leave me here like you wanna do, huh?" he asked tersely with a grunt as they took their first step up onto the sand embedded with smooth river rock.

"You know I didn't mean that!" she fought back, still refusing to look at him though, "I wouldn't leave you here. I spent almost three years having your back. Why would I turn around and abandon you after all this time?"

The raven-haired trainer, apparently having held a slight grudge at her original grievances, reverted back to abated quiet at these words, doing his best to not look at her. Honestly, it was rather difficult what with their close proximity and the faintest brush of her side-ponytail against his cheek every now and again… and then those words, that confession. But he did his best anyway.

Their every step became more and more difficult. It took them a good five minutes to reach the top of the crest they were challenging and then, upon doing so, they noticed how the low tide had caused more of the sand to dry out. Between that and the disappearance of the landscaping on the no longer stony pathway, it was going to be mighty difficult getting the rest of the way back. Not to mention there was nobody left on the beach now since it was nearing nightfall.

If Misty squinted, she could still see a couple random people walking back towards the city street running parallel to the beachline but they were too far gone to call back for assistance.

"Pikapi, Pikachupi? Chu pipi pikachaa!" Their comrade, who'd waited loyally uptop the slope for them to join him, pointed to a small pinprick in the distance, barely visible, that was their shoes.

And thus, with a unanimous sigh, the group of three slowly ambled back to their leftover belongings. The extra weight on Misty's shoulders and squishy, unstable terrain made the commute dreadfully difficult and drawn out. With nearly every step, the sand below her feet shifted and she almost lost her footing. Ash did his best not to make things more difficult by moaning every time he accidentally bumped his foot against the ground unexpectedly, his injury jostled by the slightest bend or twist.

Every once in awhile, Pikachu would run a few paces ahead of them and then stop, waiting for them to catch up. The two trainers did their best to mark each successful advance this way as a means to distract them from the still expansive overall distance they had yet to travel.

By the time they finally reached their destination, night had come and the beach had been swallowed in blackness. Round lights from streetlamps glimmered in the distance to their right. Ash, taking initiative at the sound of Misty's heavily labored breathing and sweat-strewn face, slipped his arm from around her shoulders and rolled away from her, easing himself to the ground and kicking his injured leg high as he did so just in case it were to accidentally bang into something on the way down.

"Let's take a quick break," he offered carelessly, still not looking at her too much.

Misty propped open her mouth to tell him no thanks, to remind him just how much further they had to travel, to state clearly just how hungry and tired she was now after her little workout, but her knees were already buckling under her and she hit the ground and unfolded her legs out before her so that the muscles could stretch and uncramp successfully.

"Pikachupi, pika…?" the electric mouse between them asked her, patting her soundly on one of the hands she'd thrown out to break her fall (and then to hold her upright afterwards).

"I'm alright, Pikachu, thanks for asking," the redhead replied with a faint smile. Really, she was exhausted after the past forty-five minute venture she'd embarked on (once more for the sake of her best friend; just like how it used to be).

Unfortunately, such a thought caused a quick snort to escape her and Ash jumped before turning to watch how she laughed at the very idea that she was still so dedicated to him.

"Uh, what's… why are you…?" he asked, obnoxiously pointing at her.

"Nothing; it's nothing," she managed to say between intermittent giggles, waving one hand before her in order to get him to drop the subject. He did so, quirking a brow at her before turning and facing the glowing water underneath the moon.

"... I guess you must really like it here," he said next, uncomfortable with the silence that had been stalking them since they started back from the cape.

"Of course, it's my hometown! There's a reason I happen to love the water so much and this is probably it, right here," she went on, nodding towards the landscape spanning out before them. "I don't really know how anyone could look at the water and not see something amazing!"

"Really…?" he asked, clearly unsure, finally staring at her profile in the dark.

The way her eyes lit up, her entire facial expression filled to the brim with enthusiasm and affection, he couldn't help agreeing with her, though for different reasons than she may have expected.

"Yeah, really!" she exclaimed, perhaps thinking that his doubtful tone was his way of instigating something with her. "You can travel just as far in the water as you can on land, Mr. Pokemon Master; probably even farther! And there's so much that still hasn't been discovered because of the sheer distance and depth! Water is amazing!"

After stating her defense all in one breath, Misty's flushed face turned more neutral, and possibly even a little bit flustered at the grin Ash wore as he stared her down.

"Yeah, Myst," he agreed with a clearing of the throat, "maybe you're right." Well, her stellar zeal alone was almost enough to convince him, not that he'd thought differently than her to begin with. Still, it was rather entreating to watch her whole being come afire with confidence and zeal at the merest mention of her passion.

He supposed he could appreciate such things a little more now than he could before when they were traveling together. Absence makes the heart grow yadda-yadda and all that, right? Well, he had to admit that he found certain elements attractive in her… Maybe more than he'd like to admit. (Hey, it had only taken him five years to do just that to any varying degree of acceptance.)

"We should start heading back again," Misty said, covering the silence with logic and the advice of their next move.

She reached her full height once more and quickly dusted excess grains of sand from her legs before leaning down a bit and sliding on her flip-flops. At the same time, Ash did similarly with one shoe, opting to hold the other one instead of forcing his swollen ankle into it and causing further pain. Then the redhead allowed him to throw his free arm back around her shoulders and, together, they eased him up into a standing position before being on their way, Pikachu following loyally at their side with a wary gaze on his trainer.

A hush fell over them for the following few minutes, punctuated only by their breathing, which was becoming rather laborious with every other step. Misty did her best to simply focus on the task at hand get them off of the beach as soon as possible. Her muscles ached more and more from the extra weight and the endurance it cost her to keep them both steady on the precarious territory. She couldn't help clenching her toes into her sandals, the fist at Ash's back weaving into the fabric of his shirt, as if such things would not distract either of them and would assist in helping them keep balance.

Finally, with perspiration dripping from her forehead and back of her neck, drenching her shirt in the process, she sighed at the respite that came with them approaching the wood staircase leading to the boardwalk another fifteen minutes later. The redhead was able to pull and heave the two of them up while Pikachu pranced along at their heels. Then, when they'd finally reached solid ground again, the two released each other so that they could both take another quick break, Ash leaning against the banister of the path that now stretched out before them, his injured foot still held up behind him, while Misty grasped a nearby streetlight pole for aid.

"So," she began between a few deep intakes of air, "how's your ankle… doing?"

"Uh," and, on queue, Ash winced in pain without any sort of preliminary contact. Hissing in retaliation, he passively went on, "... Don't know… What do you think?"

Then he slid on his one good heel so that his injury was visible to her, held under the white light of the streetlamps.

Misty wiped her brow before approaching him and taking everything in, wondering if she'd know any better than him based on her (obviously rather limited) medical knowledge.

It was fully swollen now, largely inflamed, a softball-sized lump forming at the crux where the bottom of his calf met his heel. Needless to say, Ash wouldn't be walking anywhere for the next couple of days at least, especially not all the way back home to Pallet Town.

"I'd say it's pretty bad," she noted warily, ignoring another crashing wave of guilt as it descended ruthlessly on her conscience. Not that she'd ever admit to him, but clearly she'd had some part in causing his sprain… Clearing those thoughts from her mind, she looked her friend up and down and then sighed again.

"I guess there's no other choice."

"Uh, w - what's that mean?"

But Misty had already turned away from him once more, still less than a meter away of course, and bent down until her knees were practically on the ground, toes digging into the planks of wood on the boardwalk, her arms held out behind her in the most accommodating manner possible despite the slight wrenching it all caused in her muscles.

"Myst, what are you doing…?" the raven-haired trainer wondered aloud, pointing obnoxiously at her change in posture, though she didn't see it luckily enough.

"What's it look like, Mr. Pokemon Master? I'm going to carry you back to the gym. I guess you'll have to," and she paused, gulping back anxiety and tension at the idea of how her sisters would react when she told them the news later on, "spend the night with us."

"Says who?" he yelped at her in reply, nearly taking a leap backwards if not for his one foot obviously preventing that. Still, he managed to wave the one shoe he was still holding around quote emphatically instead.

"Says me! And your ankle, since it's clearly only getting worse! A - and…" She paused here, glanced down, and then back up at her friend, "And Pikachu!"

"Pika?! Pikachupi, kachu pikaaaa!" the electric mouse wailed, having been almost forgotten up until now. His original intentions were to back away and have the two humans sort out their own affairs - it was probably going to get worse before it got better, after all - but as he took in his trainer wavering on the spot despite his best attempts to remain proud and manly as well as the redheaded gym trainer whose gaze was shrouded with sympathy, guilt, and frustration, the Pokemon felt himself inevitably come to a decision.

"Pikapi!" he exclaimed, leaping beside Misty and standing on his hind legs, staring his trainer fiercely in the eyes. "Pikachupi chu Pikachu pika chaaa!"

"Y - you're… worried about me, huh, Pikachu?" Ash replied softly, his own defiant stance weakening until it had faded altogether. Apparently, two against one (and possibly the severity of the pain his injury was currently causing him) was enough for him to reevaluate his position. "... Okay. Fine; you win. But do you think you can do it?" he asked curiously, already leaning forward and hooking his knees over and around the delicately thin hips of his best friend, one arm crossing over the front of her torso to hold himself up while the other did its best to keep his shoe out of her face.

"I guess," the redhead grunted, trying to remain steady and to indeed reach her full height once more, "we'll… find out!" And with the emphasis on the last word of her statement, she did so, though her knees almost buckled again in the first few seconds.

"Whoa," Ash moaned in fear, his heart leaping up into his throat for a second following, "Y - you gonna be okay…?"

"Yes," the redhead groaned, now more than ever grateful for the number of years she'd spent training as a professional swimmer and diver, as well as her time traveling on the road with her best friend. Such exercising regimens had developed her calves, thighs, and biceps to stellar measures. If not for that, she was sure she wouldn't have been able to pull this off.

And, with that final mental pat on the back, the two of them were on their way once more, making the strenuous trek the rest of the eight blocks to the gym and ignoring the few curious glances random passersby happened to shoot in their direction the whole while. Ash was doing his best not to feel thoroughly embarrassed and emasculated by the situation, but it was getting rougher and rougher by the minute.

Honestly, he couldn't help wondering how it would feel if the situation was reversed… At least then he would be able to, you know, prove himself… if that made any amount of sense. But still, and he couldn't help glancing down at how his legs fitted over Misty's hips so snugly that he could feel the soft curves contour under his shins. Suddenly his heart was in his chest again, mind racing over the eventful two hours that had flown by since he'd first arrived in town.

Had it really only been two hours…? It seemed like far longer.

He did his best to ignore the ache stirring up within him at the very thought of just how long it had been… since they'd seen each other last, since they'd met each other again now.

All of it was adding up to equal something he simply wasn't prepared to admit to - as if it'd take much on his part… Nevertheless, he simply couldn't and so he prayed his hardest for a distraction. Anything to keep his thoughts from circling lower and lower before they came crashing down on him from above. Luckily, Misty wouldn't let him down… At least, not yet anyway.

In lieu if any decent conversation topic, the redhead let the first brash question that came to her fly without internal consent.

"Please tell me," she began between a few deep breaths of air, "that you have someone," another breath, "you can count on to help you," another, "when this kinda stuff happens on your journey…" And then, her true aim was revealed, "You know, since I'm not there."

Ash blinked, clearly unsure at first as to what she was complaining about or what point she was trying to make. But, much like her, a response started spilling from his lips before he could reel it in and properly construct his statement.

"Of course I do…" He gave pause following the first four words, "Hey! For the record, this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't stolen Pikachu and run off with him!" he finished, quick to turn the tides of the not-quite-an-argument. But it swiftly escalated into one from that point.

"Pikaaaa," the electric mouse still trailing along beside them moaned in a high pitch, though his apparent pleas fell on deaf ears.

"I did not steal Pikachu; he was a willing participant all along!" The redhead screeched, freezing for a second before giving him a little jostle - possibly just so that she could readjust his weight but perhaps because she was trying to send a particular message - and flashing him a flurry of red hair and striking teal eyes, "And besides, I didn't tell you to jump from that bridge!" She went on, nodding back at where they'd traveled from, presumably in the direction of that aforementioned bridge (not that he could tell the difference since he wasn't as familiar with the surrounding area), "In fact, I distinctly remember telling you to do the exact opposite of that!"

"It doesn't matter what you told me to do! I wouldn't have done anything at all if you hadn't taken Pikachu from me and that's that!" he reminded her, but she quashed the guilt that she'd been feeling before and immediately lashed back out at him.

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't have taken Pikachu from you if you had just admitted that the reason you came to visit me was because you missed me, instead of relying on him to be your excuse!"

"Why should I admit something that isn't true, huh?" he exclaimed haughtily in response, so frustrated by the accusation that he tried to wriggle away from her out of retaliation, but to no avail. However he did manage to almost hit her with the shoe he'd been holding so carefully away from her.

"Hey, watch it!" she yelled, no longer caring if anyone they happened to walk by was staring at this point.

"You watch it!"

"I didn't do anything to you!" Misty heaved.

"Yeah, well you sure don't mind saying things that aren't true about me! And don't forget about my ankle!"

"I didn't have anything to do with your stupid ankle!"

"Sure, whatever! Because I wasn't chasing after you when it happened!"

Misty groaned, also taking the opportunity to catch her breath after such a harsh exchange. They weren't getting anywhere with this, instead simply repeating over and over the very same four statements that had been the basis of their whole evening. However her temper wouldn't be stifled simply because she'd realized they were trapped in a loop.

"And I wouldn't have been running if you had just admitted that you missed me all along!"

"Argh, fine! I missed you, okay?!" he shouted so furiously that she almost didn't believe him.

But in the stark silence that covered them both whole next (as well as Pikachu, who'd forgotten to continue walking at that point and had simply faltered some three meters behind them now, jaw dropping a fair few inches), she could hear the thudding of his heartbeat and feel the indentation of his fingernails around her collarbone, hear the sharp intake of breath that punctuated the nerve-wracking confession that had just been bellowed for the entire world to hear… sense the heat radiating from his face as he flushed the brightest of reds.

"I…" he started, but quickly fumbled afterwards.

Misty, for her part, thought that they were past this point. When she'd left Ash behind in Viridian City all that time ago, she thought that they'd turned a corner, that they'd become more open and honest about how they felt for each other. Because what they had was no coincidence, because what they had was worth the distance they'd been forced to endure since then… or so she thought.

In fact, she couldn't help wondering why Ash would waste so much time pretending. After all, he was the one who'd chased her down and come clean about the strength of their relationship on the day she was due to return home. What did it matter now, a couple of years later…?

"There," she practically murmured, deciding to offer him a bone anyway and initiate the next part of the conversation, "was that so hard?"

As if coming to, Ash did his best to start breathing regularly again, unlatching his claws from her flesh (though, outside of base recognition, she hadn't really cared or noticed the pain that action was causing), withdrawing from her, if only by an inch or so, because he needed the space now more than ever.

"... Maybe not as much as I thought," he admitted obstinately. He paused for another few seconds, tapping her rhythmically on the shoulder with his one available and empty hand with vigilance. Then, finally plucking up the courage, he repeated his earlier claim.

"I… I missed you. I really did, Myst," he told her, voice and breath now drawing against her neck and doing their best to set her heart on fire despite his melancholy.

"I missed - miss - you too," she told him with a rapid series of blinks at her own audacity. She'd even surprised herself there.

"You do?"

"All the time," she reiterated for him, and felt what seemed to be a soft chuckle vibrate from his lips to her neck as she paused once more to adjust the weight distribution.

"How much…?" he dared to ask her next and she wondered if perhaps he had some ulterior motive in regards to the question.

"A lot," the response came oddly naturally now after ages of living it, hours of denying it to his face. "Probably more than you think."

"Oh," he stated stiffly with a resolute clearing of his throat, "that's good… Real good." And he gripped her tighter, as if trying to convey a similar measure of emotional context.

"Hey, Ash, c'mon; you're making it hard for me to move when you hold on to me like that…" she attempted to warn him, craning her head sideways to try and meet his gaze. "... What?" she inquired upon observing the intense sentiment in his eyes, "What is it now?"

"Nothing; I'm just trying… to figure something out."

"Oh," she remarked, unable to keep up with him and instead, turning and staring down the street ahead of them once more while her face flushed and goosebumps rose in rapid succession upon her arms, legs, and the back of her neck. "Well, if you feel like letting me know what that something is anytime soon, that's be-"

"-Actually, I think I may have it already."

"... That's good then, I guess. So what is it? Or am I not allowed to know?"

"Nah, no point in keeping it to myself, really… Hey, Misty," he tried again though it was suddenly very hard, all of his limbs aching (though he was sure it was nothing compared to what she was going through) and his throat parched, but he had to do his utmost best to convey the message he'd come to know, come to say.

He looked at the side of her pale face, cheeks blotched red both from exertion in her laborious task as well as probably discomfort over the mood set between them. Then he took in her arms, wrapped tightly around his legs in order to hold him steady, he looked at the pavement below them and the buildings and streetlights they passed with every step Misty took. He looked at his bare foot, injured ankle, balanced precariously at an odd angle (nevertheless an angle that would ensure it didn't receive anymore unnecessary damage), and his own arms and legs wrapped around her… and he wondered. And he knew.

"Did you wanna tell me something…?" the redhead questioned observantly, and he realized that he'd forgotten to finish his statement in his haste to know exactly how he felt, where he stood, and what he wanted to say to her; but no more.

"Yeah, I did. I mean I do. I just wanted to say..." And the last two-and-a-half hours flashed before his eyes, the last two years without her, the three years previous in which they walked side-by-side, practically the same as they were now. The times she poked fun at him and he vice-versa, the times they had a rare moment of mutual connection, the times he thought so little of her only to be blown away by how much she cared about him and how obvious it was and how he'd never known the proper way to articulate his gratitude. The nostalgia made him sicker with every second he drowned himself in it… but it was the good kind of sick, if ever such a thing existed.

They'd finally reached the pathway leading from the main street to the Cerulean Pokemon Gym's front door, and Ash realized he'd run out of time. Well, there was no time like the present anyway, right?

"... Thanks for carrying me this far," he told her, and she paused mid-step, stood there with bated breath at what seemed to be the closest thing to an "I love you" that he was comfortable giving her at the moment, "I never would have made it all this way without you."

This far.

How far was this far?

Not just carrying him from the cape to the beach or from the beach to the gym. Not just today. Not just the past two years of sporadic phone-calls and reminders that he still had some training to do in order to become Pokemon Master.

Five years… Five years later and this is how far they'd come together.

"Yeah, Ash," Misty responded, gazing up at the starry night as they approached the gym's front entrance. She did her best to keep her sniffles and tears to a minimum but she had to admit that she was facing some difficulties there…

"I never would have made it this far without you either."

No matter the distance, I'll carry you if you carry me.

OoOoO

Notes - Oh, thank goodness that's over! Wah, I'm so glad I was able to write something Pokeshippy, even if it veered a bit off-course. Still happy enough with the finished product to post it online for the world to see though. Lol. Btw, I really wanted to write Misty playing the role of the "prince" and Ash the role of the "princess", which is why he's the one who's injured and Misty's the one carrying him on her back. You go, girl! I love you!

All likes/reblogs/favorites/reviews are appreciated, of course. Imma go to bed 'cause it's going on two o'clock in the morning now! Toodles!