Notes: Yeah, this came out of nowhere... but I guess I'll roll with it, because it feels good to get a story out! Hope you enjoy, and feel free to give me any input!

Summary: There is more to Ash Ketchum than meets the eye; Misty understands this better than anyone, and in the process of understanding another, bonds are made that can withstand anything.

Disclaimer: I do not (sadly) own pokemon.

When everything first starts out, he is just some kid.

His raven hair drips wet against his forehead, the droplets of water sliding down the side of his face, and seeping into his clothes and skin, before descending down to the ground in all their glory. He'll have a cold within the next week, but she could care less. After all, he is not her friend, and he is certainly not her priority.

But the boy has the gall to wreck her bike within the next thirty minutes, and he becomes less some kid, and more some kind of nuisance.

Ash, she finds, is an enigma.

He has got to be the most inexperienced, dense, ignorant kid she has ever met, who she's sure has tried to stick his hand on a burning stove more than one occasion, just to see if it would hurt the second time around. She almost pulls her hair out when he sends out his caterpie (he even likes bugs, gross!) to fight a pidgey, and facepalms every time his pikachu refuses to listen to him.

How could he even think about becoming a great master, when he doesn't know the first thing about training pokemon?

Ash crouches down on the ground, tall mildew covered grass obscuring his childlike frame, and carefully cradles an injured rattata in his arms. "It's okay," he says in a soft voice, drastically different from his usual bellow. With the last super potion at his disposal, Ash sprays the pokemon's wounds, taking care to avoid getting it in the creature's mouth or eyes; when he's done, the rattata wrinkles it's nose, and bounds off, Ash watching in silence with a crooked smile taking up about half his face.

Misty does understand, in these moments, why his aura glows with something akin to hope.

He's all brooding features, crossed arms, and vicious snarls when he loses. Eyes as dark as shadows, and twitching unsure fingers, the boy snaps at anyone who comes into contact, and paces around the campsite looking lost and uncertain.

The defeats happen more times than he would like to admit, and sometimes he takes it out on her, yelling so hard that he shakes the ground with his screams. Misty matches his pitch, and fights just as hard back, because she has never been one to take abuse lying down, and he may be her friend, but that doesn't mean she has to go easy on him. After they've screamed their throats sore, and knocked each other over the heads, she'll grab him by the shoulders and pull him close.

She keeps him pressed against her beating heart, trying to remind him that they are only human, and that these things happen.

They become closer.

They learn each other's quirks.

They develop a bond.

Ash lies sprawled out underneath a tree, fruit scattering along the ground beside him, and the pungent aroma filtering into the air. Pikachu nuzzles his nose against Ash's side, and even in his sleep the boy wears an all too optimistic smile.

Misty finds herself watching him.

Her sea green eyes trace the length of his features, listening to the rising and falling of his chest, and tries to imagine herself by his side. Then, when she's mustered up enough courage, she places her head against his torso, knowing perfectly well that Ash sleeps through absolutely everything, and breathes. Just breathes.

Brock makes sure to tease her from across the campsite, and Misty curses at him as loud as she can, before reeling her body away from Ash's, quick-attack fast.

Misty likes to think of herself as a romantic.

Not that she believes in the stories where the princess is swept off of her feet by the prince, or where two forbidden lovers meet in dark places, and of course not the classic cliché of love at first sight; those aren't about love, they're about infatuation, and Misty, she's seen it all too much.

She remembers times when she'd hide in small corners, watching her sister's come home with a new guy each week, hanging giddily of their shoulders with their faces pink, and lips red, and high off the rush of the night's activities. The guys would whisper something into their ears, and her sisters would smack their chests, squealing out some kind of protest, not at all serious.

Love, the kind she hopes her father and mother had, should be built on relationships, bonds, and promises, sticking together when all hope has weared thin, and believing that no matter what happens, it will all be better the next day.

But from what she's seen, that kind of feeling has become a lost practice.

Pikachu's breathing comes out in short jagged breaths. There are burns covering his fur, pink skin peeking out from where there should be yellow, and the smell of smoke. That last part isn't from pikachu, but from Ash instead. Misty watches him as he stares at his partner, his thoughts muddled, and his eyes rimmed red, looking broken, and beat, and not at all himself. His skin is dusted with a grey sheen, and if Misty reached out she could wipe it all away with her fingertips.

Misty doesn't see it: the hope that should be beneath his skin, exuding from his aura; she doesn't see it, and that scares her.

"Ash," she whispers, chest tight, and lips wobbling.

When he turns to look at her with his eyes wide and afraid, and the pools of brown shimmering with the tears he tries desperately to hold back, Misty's heart suddenly skips a beat. Because when Ash looks at her, he is searching for the same thing.


Misty sets her jaw, and reaches her hand out towards him, her arm at a 90 degree angle, and the pull of a magnet between the two of them. His hand fits into her own, sliding against it like a missing puzzle piece, and Misty hears the sound of everything clicking in place. She nods at him.

"It will be okay," she says-promises-swears.

And it will be okay, even if it all ends in disaster.

Sometimes Brock likes to tease them about fighting like an old married couple.

The two deny it resolutely, shaking their blushing faces from side to side, and reeling back from one another like they've touched fire.

"We do not!" she protests obstinately, crossing her arms over her chest, and haughtily sticking her nose up in the air.

"Yeah!" Ash agrees, glaring at their companion.

Brock smiles knowingly, but keeps his comments to himself. They've grown so much, but at the same time are still so young.

Moments later the two of them will argue about the other one getting them lost, and they'll scare away the pokemon Ash was trying to catch with their screams.

Ash collapses against her body like a sack of potatoes, taking up the whole log they sit upon, and shoving his face against her shoulder.

"Ash," she warns, holding out the 'a' sound so he understands the seriousness behind her threat. She sees the whites of his teeth peak out along his face, and feels the rumble of his laughter against her skin.

"Aww, come on Mist," he says in the way that makes her heart flutter, "give me a break, I'm exhausted!" His breathing becomes steadier, and she suddenly becomes aware that the fire isn't the only thing making her warm. He smells like ash, and grass, and something oddly sweet: the scent that sometimes lingers on his clothing when it's her turn to do the laundry. He sighs into her arm.

From within the tent beside them, Brock snores loudly, mumbling things about Nurse Joys, and fixing broken hearts.

Misty smiles.

She's made a family, it seems, and she thinks that at the end of the day she'll love them no matter what.

She doesn't fall right off the bat; It takes time. The blooming happens slowly, and painfully, and dawns on her years after she's already left.

She's busy cleaning out the gym's pool when his letter arrives. It comes to her by pelican, the dirty envelope wrinkled, and sealed with some kind of psyduck sticker. Misty takes it with a shaking hand, and chooses to close down the gym for the rest of the day. She runs back to the pool in her bare feet, sitting on the edge of the diving board, and trying not to cry.

Hey, Mist!

You'll never guess what happened….

She sees it, within the letter, the bond between them still burning bright, and getting stronger.

...pikachu misses you, you know...okay fine, I miss you too…

Ash has a habit of dropping by at random moments when he feels It necessary, stealing whatever food is in her fridge, and challenging her to battles.

He likes to watch her feed her pokemon, likes the smell of the sheets in the guest bedroom, and enjoys hearing her sing when she thinks he's not listening.

Sometimes she dreams about him, and more often than not it involves him smiling.

He battles in the most beautiful way she's ever seen.

Ash's eyes lock onto the battlefield, ready to withstand anything that comes his way. He radiates energy, his whole body giving off hope, and a feeling that no matter what happens, all of his hard work, sweat, and blood will have paid off. He commands his pokemon with more emotion than his opponents could ever manage, and she feels it resonate from within his very soul every time his feet hit the arena.

Ash Ketchum, she knows, will be able to make it out on top, because he has no plan, no technique, no hidden secrets, and relies solely on the fact that he believes in his pokemon. Emotion will triumph over anything, and the love he has for his companions will allow him to defeat giants.

If he can triumph over the most formidable opponents with sheer willpower, than there is nothing stopping him from becoming master. So Misty will believe in him right down to her very core, and never stop, not until his dream becomes a reality.

She will wait, and all of the pain and longing that comes with it will be worth it.

"Thank you, Ash."

"For what?"

"For everything."

Misty holds onto the feeling of hope within her arms, grasps it with more tenacity than she ever has before, and doesn't let go.

Look at me, she thinks-wills-screams, come on.

From below her, the battle field stretches on for miles, and Ash looks so far away she's afraid she he won't be able to see her. But he has to see her, it's all that matters. For all of the years they've waited for this moment, it will all be for nothing if he doesn't look back.

The announcer says something overhead, and the crowd begins to go wild.

Ash Ketchum let's a smile run along the expanse of his features, swallowing all the nervousness he may have had, and ever so slightly turns his head towards the crowd. Their eyes meet, lock in place like a bullet into a gun, and she swears something within her bursts.

He can see it, her aura glowing bright and powerful with something akin to hope.

It's all she needs to show him how she feels.

Misty understands Ash better than anyone she knows.

He smiles at her with his wide toothy grin, before stalking over to her in two long strides, clapping her on the back with his hand, and pulling her close. He has the nerve to laugh at the glare she sends him, and she almost hits him when he tells her how much she looks like a gyarados when she's angry. But that's just Ash being Ash, so she forgives him, for the time being anyways.

"You're something else, Ash Ketchum," she tells him, easing herself against his broad shoulder.

"You're one to talk," he jokes beside her.

The two of them share a look that only they can decipher, and Misty thinks that maybe love isn't as lost of a practice as she thought it was.

Misty's heart is beating right out of her chest.

Ash cradles her face in the palm of his hands, calloused fingertips grazing the edge of her milky skin, and with a breathy laugh, dips his head down until he hovers directly over her lips. His smile takes up about half of his face, which Misty believes is half of her own, and with but a moment's hesitation, they close the space between them.

Their aura's glow brighter than they ever have before, and Misty can finally breathe soundly.