A/N: So I was done with this fic, completely and totally. Unless, of course, the anime did something I felt the need to respond to.

Damn the anime

Seeing Red

There's a ringing coming from somewhere in the room; a few soft notes repeating on loop. Brock winces his eyes tighter and rolls over, wearily ignoring the noise. The ringing repeats, louder and more insistent. Brock groans and pulls his blankets above his head. It's late…maybe...or early...he's not entirely sure which-but it doesn't matter. No one should be calling now. The ringing repeats again, volume mind numbingly loud. Brock groans and opens his eyes, blinking against the twilight darkness of the room. Blearily he glances around and...hang on…

This...isn't his apartment

The walls are white and these are not his sheets and...

Is that...wooden plank above his head...is it the ceiling?

Where?

Fuck!

Brock's eyes shoot open and it's only due to years of practice throughout a sleep deprived residency that he avoids concussing himself on the upper bunk.

He's in the on-call room. He's on call. And the phone? It's been ringing for a while.

Heart speeding quick attack fast, Brock takes a few breaths and crosses to the small phone across from the beds. He flicks on a small light-thankful that he seems to be the only doctor in the on-call room- and grabs a water from the fridge under the phone counter. Sitting down, Brock takes in another deep breath through his nose and blows it slowly out through his mouth. He grins wryly, composed as he's going to get, and presses the small button on the monitor screen to answer the phone.

He doesn't even get a greeting out before a voice pours through the speakers, panic dripping from every word. Sleep deprived as he is, it's a few moments before Brock is able to hear anything in the rapid fire speech beyond gibberish and a few moments beyond that before he's able to decipher the image on screen as Ash. Ash, on the other hand, seemed somehow to know it was Brock even before his own image had resolved on screen.

Or...

Maybe he'd just assumed that Brock would pick up and begun speaking.

Either way, its seconds into Ash's tirade before Brock is finally able to pick out the opening volley in what he is sure will be an exhausting night.

"Brock, Brock, oh Brock." Ash cries.

Brock breathes in deeply through his nose and takes sip of his water.

"Thank Arceus it's you. Oh Brock, I'm dead. I am so dead. She's going to kill me. I'm a dead man. Brock, she kissed me and now I'm dead." Ash continues, not even taking the time to breathe between words.

"Ash, breathe." Brock answers calmly.

Ash opens his mouth, and Brock can practically see the words beginning to form even though face is growing red.

"I mean it." Brock says, supported by an annoyed chuu from Pikachu on Ash's shoulder. "Right," Brock nods, agreeing with Pikachu, "People are not supposed to be that shade of blue."

Ash scoffs but takes a few breaths.

Brock smiles. "Good, now, what was all of that about?"

"She's going to kill me, Brock." Ash moans, dropping his head to the counter in from of the phone's vid-screen. Pikachu grunts an annoyed pii at being knocked from Ash's shoulder but settles in front of the vid-screen. He pats Ash's head lightly, kaaing in what Brock assumes must be a comforting tone.

Brock blinks, "who's going to kill you, Misty?"

Ash nods miserably, hat bouncing against the camera. "She kissed me, and now I'm dead."

"Wait, Misty kissed you and now you're dead?" Brock asks, confusion coloring his words. "I was pretty sure that you two had done more than that."

The only patch of Ash's skin that Brock can see-the one between his hair and jacket collar- glows magmar red. He moans, misery muffled into the countertop, and Pikachu pats his head once more.

"Seriously though," Brock says. "Misty probably wouldn't kill you for kissing her. You're fine. Now, I'm on call, I love you man but I have to go and get some sleep before they call me with an emergency."

Ash mumbles something into the countertop and Brock freezes mid reach to the button to end the call. He could end it here, he should end it here, but Ash rarely calls unless it's important.

This had better be important.

"Ash, I can't understand you when you talk into the table." Brock sighs and rubs his temples. "Look, it's late. I need to sleep. Unless you have something important to say, I have to go."

Ash sits up, staring red faced into the phone's camera. "It wasn't Misty who kissed me." he whines.

"Who kissed you?" Brock asks.

"Serena." Ash replies plainly.

Brock blinks. The name is familiar but he can't quite place it in the haze of his mind. He glances at his watch and just barely swallows back a groan. He's slept an hour in the last 24 and still has 6 left on call.

Caffeine.

He needs caffeine.

"Who?" Brock asks, reaching for the coffee that he knows is on the table.

"Girl I was traveling with"

"Huh." Brock replies. He takes a sip of his coffee and grimaces. Its hours old and stale. He could make more but...it's been on the burner and it's...almost warm?

"Huh?" Ash asks. "That's all you have for me? Huh?"

Brock nods, picks up the pot and, bracing himself, knocks half of it back. "She won't kill you." He chokes out, face twisting around the bitter coffee. "You two aren't kids anymore. Just tell her. When did this happen anyway?"

"Like a week ago."

Brock's eyes widen. "A week ago?" he asks, aghast. He whistles, shaking his head. "Yeah, you might be dead."

Ash moans again and drops his head to the table with a resounding thunk. Pikachu pats his hair again and kaas.

"Why didn't you tell her?" Brock asks, eyeing the coffee pot distrustfully. Ash mumbles something that is lost to the table and Brock sighs. "You know I can't understand you when you talk into the counter."

"I wanted to tell her in person." Ash groans.

Brock nods. "Seems like a plan so long as she doesn't from out from someone else."

"About that…" Ash starts, whatever else he says is lost to the phone ringing.

Brock shakes his head and holds up a hand, cutting Ash off. "Hey, man I've got to go. I will call you back."

Ash's eyes widen. "My life is falling apart here, Brock-o. You can't just leave me."

"Look, Ash." Brock replies, pushing his hair into some semblance of order. "I want to help but there's another call coming through."

"So, ignore it." Ash whines. "Your friends are more important than some random call.

"Ash," Brock chastises, shocked at Ash's reply. Pikachu glares at his trainer and, with an annoyed pika, smacks him with his tail.

Ash glares at Pikachu but the pokémon replies with a string of chatter that has Ash's eyes softening. He looks at Brock apologetically. "Sorry, Brock. I forgot you were on call."

"It's okay, Ash." Brock replies, fastening his lab coat. "Look, it could be nothing and I do want to help you. I'll put you on hold. If it's nothing, I'll be back in a few minute."

Ash nods and Brock reaches forward to press the hold button, smiling as Ash's face fades to black. Taking a deep breath, Brock settles himself down and presses the button to answer the next call.

He does not even get a word out before a feminine voice claims that, "He's a dead man, Brock."

Brock sighs, near instantly recognizing Misty's voice. "Who's a dead man, Misty?" Brock asks.

"Who else?" Misty replies, face resolving into an angry scowl.

Brock picks up the rest of the coffee and downs it, grimacing as he swallows. He's on call. They know he's on call. They also know that him being on call means that it is Tracey's turn to deal with their...whatever this has become. Brock sighs deeply and sets more coffee to brew. They're not going to call Tracey; he may as well just... give up and settle in for the fight. "He is half the world away, what can he possibly have done this time?"

"Oh, I don't know." Misty says breezily. "Just kissed some random girl."

"Why do you care?" Brock asks, exasperation bleeding into his tone.

Misty tilts her head at him, raising her eyebrow, "You knew already." she accuses. "Arceus, he told you. He's on the other line, isn't he?"

"Maybe." Brock replies. "Just...why do you care? You haven't gotten this worked up over anything he's done in a while."

"Gee, Brock, I don't know. Maybe it was the fact that I woke up to this." She states, holding up a paper.

Brock squints to read the screen, offering a low whistle when he's finally able to make out the somewhat fuzzy image of a young male trainer with a Pikachu on his shoulder kissing a young female trainer with honey blonde hair. "Romance on the League Circuit?" He asks, puzzling out the blurry words over the image.

Misty nods, "He's dead." She says.

Brock huffs out a sigh and rubs his temples. "Why do you even have a copy of that?"

"Lily is shooting a movie in Kalos and apparently we just, "she pitches her voice higher, "Like have to know like every time she's, like, mentioned."

"Ah," Brock says. "So...have you heard his side of it?"

"Don't care, going to kill him."

"Ok," Brock says, taking a deep breath. "I'm going to add him to this call so that we can all talk about this. But this? Right here? This is stupid. You two are over twenty years old, I should not have to break up your fights."

"Arceus, Brock I don't want to talk to him." Misty whines.

Brock smirks. "Too late." he says and presses the button to add Ash to the call.

"Hey Brock-o is everything-" Ash begins, trailing off with widened eyes as soon as his image resolves. He opens and mouth and shuts it just as quickly-a fantastic magikarp impression, before glaring at brock. "Traitor," he hisses darkly. Pikachu smacks his head with his tail.

"Thank you, Pikachu." Misty utters, tone frigid.

Pikachu looks towards the phone, ears twitching to hear Misty's voice and launches into a volley of excited chatter.

"It's nice to see you too, Pikachu." Misty smiles. "Your trainer though, him I could do without."

Pikachu looks towards Misty and tilts his head, blinking widely. He turns from Misty to Ash, still glaring at Brock and then Back to Misty who is scowling at Ash. Pikachu grumbles an exasperated chuu and smacks his head with one of his paws.

"You and me both, buddy." Brock commiserates. He breathes out deeply and nods. "Okay, talk. One of you. Both of you. I don't care. Just talk. There are six hours left in my shift and I would like at least a short nap before an actual emergency comes up."

Misty's glare softens as she turns from Ash to address Brock. "Brock, I am so sorry. We don't need to talk. Ash and I are through so there is nothing to talk about."

"Oh come on, Mist. Don't say that. It didn't mean anything." Ash pleads.

"If it didn't mean anything why did I have to find out from a fucking tabloid?"

Brock winces. Misty's voice is too calm, too casual. This is the calm before the screaming storm. He grabs the coffee pot, coffee finally finished brewing, and takes a sip.

Ash's head hits the table again. "I wanted to tell you in person." He mumbles.

"Yeah," Misty scoffs, "And how did that work out for you?"

"Not well." Ash mumbles.

Brock snorts, drowning a sarcastic giggle in his pot of coffee. He shouldn't be laughing at this but...sleep deprivation. He's going to blame it on sleep deprivation.

Pikachu shoots him an odd look, his head titled with his ears down. His nose even crinkles, bringing his red electric sacs closer together so that they almost form the points on either ends of the line of his mouth. He kaa's confusedly but Ash and Misty don't even turn from their stare off.

"It was over a week ago!" Misty replies, voice beginning to reach truly glass shattering pitches.

Ash winces. "I know." he moans, miserably.

"Were you even going to tell me?"

Ash huffs out a sigh and rolls his eyes. "Yes, when I got to Cerulean."

"Ash, you're not getting here for another week. You weren't going to tell me for two weeks?"

Even Brock swallows hard at that tone. It's filled with hurt and anger and betrayal and backed with more than a slight threat of being malleted out of existence.

Ash shrinks back from the phone and looks down. "I'm sorry?"

"Damn straight you're sorry," Misty hisses. "Ugh, I bet you even liked it. Jerk."

Brock scrubs his face with his hands and Pikachu slumps forward, ears drooping in defeat. They both know where this is going.

"Did not." Ash hisses, staring at Misty's face with all traces of apology drained to cold anger.

"Did too." Misty replies.

Brock groans. Pikachu offers a warning pika.

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Did not."

"Did too."

Brock takes another sip of his coffee, feeling more awake as the static of the way too familiar argument washes over him.

Pikachu offers another warning, a darkly uttered kaa as his cheeks spark up. Ash ignores it in favor of another volley. "Did not."

"Did too." Misty replies, evenly.

"Did..." Ash begins only to be cut off by a short but intense shock. Ash sputters, coughing out what looks like char and groans. "Quit it, Pikachu."

Pikachu launches into rapid fire chatter at Ash before turning to Misty and offering the same.

Misty grumbles and sticks out her tongue. "You can't shock me, Pikachu."

Pikachu glares at her and twitches his ears towards Brock as though saying to the older trainer, "your turn."

Brock nods. "No, he can't." he sighs. "But is this did not/did too stuff actually getting either of you anywhere? Has it ever?"

To his relief, Ash and Misty both shake their heads.

"Then what will get you somewhere?" Brock asks.

Ash shrugs and Misty rolls her eyes.

"I told you, Brock. We're through." Misty states.

"Oh come on, Mist." Ash pleads once more.

Misty's eyes soften and Brock lets out a breath that he hadn't known he was holding.

"Okay, Ash." Misty starts.

"It didn't mean anything. She was just a kid with a crush." Ash replies, smiling. "Besides, you are way better at it then she is."

Brock's head hits the table as Misty explodes into an angry red.

She screams wordlessly for a moment. "I can't believe you were comparing us."

"I wasn't. It was a...I mean..." Ash replies, inarticulately. He looks to Brock, begging for help. "It was a compliment?" He asks.

"How in the world could that be a compliment?"

Ash scrubs a hand over his face and looks to Brock again, pleading.

Brock sighs. "He means that he….was only thinking of you during the kiss...or something. Not as a direct comparison, Misty."

"Yeah. That. Exactly that, Mist." Ash cries, latching onto Brock's words with such fervor that Brock has to cover his mouth with his hand to hide a smile

Misty shakes her head and glares, fighting a smile at the corner of her mouth. "Yeah," she sighs, finally shaking her head and giving into the smile. "Okay." She blinks and her smile twists into a mischievous smirk.

Brock groans, never in his life has anything that followed that smirk been good for his sanity.

"Arceus, though, Ash. You are a moron." Misty says, eyes flicking to Brock even as she addresses Ash. Pikachu agrees with a solemn kaa. "You know I can still take back that yes, right?"

"You wouldn't." Ash grumbles, edge of panic rising again in his tone.

"..." Brock's mouth drops open and nothing comes out. What just happened to this conversation? Had she really just? She can't have meant...

"..." Brock opens his mouth once more to no sound, his breath is caught in his throat, stuck. He's genuinely worried that he might not recover.

Misty's eyes flick over to Brock's and she smothers a giggle with her hand. "I don't know…." she practically sings. "It might save me an awful lot of trouble down the line."

Pikachu offers an agreeable chuu and Ash groans. "Not you too, Pikachu."

"..." Brock tries again. The phone rings, a small icon in the corner flashing to let Brock know that he has another call coming through. He has to answer it. He knows he has to answer it but...he can't seem to move his hands or his mouth or...anything really.

"Thanks, Pikachu." Misty smiles. "See, Ash. Even Pikachu isn't sure you can handle... I mean… it's a pretty big promise you know," she continues, underscored with a warbled kachu from Ash's shoulder.

The icon flashes larger, blocking Ash's face on the screen so that Brock can't see him when he replies, "I do understand promises, Mist."

Brock takes a deep breath. He should ask them how in the world they think they can manage this. He should ask them what this...engagement…means for their futures. He should ask them...a lot of things. He should but, when he finally manages to convince his body to make any noise it's only a weak, "Guys?" that he manages to cough out.

They ignore him completely, and he's not sure how he ever thought it would work.

"Oh," Misty says, smirking, "like how you promised me my bike back?"

"There's a call," Brock tries again, voice a little louder and only cracking slightly. On the screen, the icon flashes red.

They ignore him again and he huffs out a sigh. He practically doesn't exist during arguments like this. It's been that way…since he met them.

Ash sighs, "You got your bike back."

"Yeah," Misty scoffs, "because Joy fixed it."

"Hey." Brock says firmly, the icon on the screen enlarging so that he can barely see either Ash or Misty. "I need to go."

"Okay," Misty says easily. "We'll just...settle this in a battle then when you reach Cerulean, Ash."

"You really think you can beat me?" Ash asks, grin audible even in his voice.

"A pokémon master wanna-be? Please, I can destroy you with Psyduck."

"Is that really the best way to settle this?" Brock pleads, head in his hands. The phone has begun ringing loudly, he can just hear Ash and Misty over the constant tone.

"Yes!" They cry together.

"Arceus, I need to go." Brock moans.

"Then go, Brock. We're fine." Misty says. "And thanks."

"Yeah, Brock-o. We're fine." Ash agrees and then pauses, eyes widening. "Only, could you not mention this to mom?"

He opens his mouth to say something, anything back and finally just sighs. He nods at them, smiling and waves before depressing the button to end the call. He smacks his head on the table as they are off screen and is still groaning when a nurse rushes in seconds later.

"Doctor, they're pag…" she stops, blinking at his face. "Are you alright?"

Brock groans and sits up, scrubbing a hand over his face. He nods.

"Then what…" The nurse asks.

Brock sighs deeply and grabs a stethoscope from the chair, "I just…" he begins and then stops, breaking into tired laughing. "Sometimes I wish they had just stayed ten forever," he sighs.