"Again Ash, why did you want to bring me all the way out here?"
Misty walked along the bank of the river just a half a mile outside of Pallet Town. Misty couldn't understand why Ash would drag her out in the middle of nowhere without telling her why. Her folded arms seemed to be a natural complement to the look of skepticism on her face.
Ash wouldn't let Misty's lack of enthusiasm tamper with his resolve. He remained smiling and glowing with his left hand braced to his hip. His other hand was shielding his eyes from the bright eastern morning sunlight, trying to screen the rays that the bill of his cap could not. Pikachu walked next to Ash's feet, happy to serve as a witness for what Ash was planning.
"C'mon, Misty" Ash happily goaded, "You don't recognize where we're going?"
Ash briefly ceased shielding his eyes to let his right arm reach out and sweep in front of his body, his motion directed towards the entire landscape surrounding the three. The exaggerated gesture was supposed to convince Misty the significance of the place they were visiting but she felt it was doing the opposite.
"Ash, all I know is that the farther we walk from your house, the longer it is to walk back to it," Misty pointed out, "I mean, if we walk any farther, we might as well be going to Viridian City."
"Hey, now there's an idea," Ash remarked, sounding genuinely inspired, "Maybe we could grab a bite to eat in Viridian!"
Misty rolled her eyes. Her observation was supposed to discourage Ash, not enable him. "Uh, I don't think my idea of a productive day is to walk all the way to Viridian just to watch you eat a gross looking bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with peppers again."
"But it's so good!" Ash asserted, almost lamenting that Misty couldn't see the culinary brilliance of a bacon-wrapped hot dog with fajita toppings. "Someday you'll see what I see, Misty. Someday."
"Oh, I very much doubt that," Misty steadfastly denied, "I'm already still just having trouble trying to see what you want me to see."
"What a shame, Pikachu," admonished Ash as he turned his attention to his Pokemon, fully intending that Misty would be privy to their dialogue.
"Pi pikachu," Pikachu drolly squeaked as he nodded his head.
"At least we remember," he quipped prompting Ash and Pikachu to share a look of exaggerated disappointment on their faces as they shrugged together.
Misty wanted to roll her eyes even more but she knew that her eye sockets were already at their physical gimble limits. Misty's patience was evidently wearing thin and Ash's equivocations weren't helping.
She decided to give an ultimatum. "Ash, you're not giving me many reasons to keep walking with you. Turning around back to Pallet is sounding better and better with each step."
Ash apparently wasn't listening to Misty's threat of departure as they finally emerged past a cluster of trees that obscured the trail. "Hey look, Pikachu!" he exclaimed, "We're here!." Ash's announcement was followed by Pikachu's squeals of excitement. Misty could see Ash and Pikachu break into a running stride towards a rocky ledge that overlooked the river.
"Man, I didn't realize we floated that far from Pallet," she heard Ash mutter under his breath. "Chu pika," Pikachu confirmed with awe.
Ash, standing on the ledge, turned himself towards Misty who was still making up ground. "Well, so this doesn't ring a bell?" he asked. Ash held his arms out as if it the rock was some sort of stage and he was the corny emcee of a live production.
Misty continued her current walking speed, not wanting to validate Ash's enthusiasm. She scanned her surroundings as she closed the distance. When she finally stood on the ledge beside Ash, she shook her head.
"It's… a ledge," Misty observed rather dryly.
Ash scratched his head and looked worried. "Man, Brock and Cilan made this out to be much easier said than done," he whispered to himself.
"Huh, what was that?" Misty asked.
"Uh, nothing," dismissed Ash, "Here, maybe this will jog your memory. Just stand right there and… Help me out, Pikachu!" Ash picked up Pikachu and cradled him with his right arm. He jumped off the rocky ledge where they were standing and walked several paces away from it. He reclined on the dirt while Pikachu morbidly pretended he was dead. "Chaaa," the Pokemon dramatically moaned.
"So, what does this remind you of?" Ash quizzed.
Misty cocked her head down at Ash's posture as she tried to frame the scene in front of her in a multitude of different ways. Her face conveyed a look of irritation, evidence that Misty was making a serious mental effort to put an end to Ash's dumb game.
It didn't take long for that look of irritation to melt away. It was obvious by the way Misty's eyes widened and watered. Misty tried to fight a smile that refused to hide Misty's somber and pensive feelings that emerged from her epiphany.
"Ash," she murmured, "This…"
"This is where we met!"
"Ha, it finally took you long enough!" congratulated Ash as he let go of Pikachu and brought himself to his feet.
"Shut up," Misty giggled as she tried to hide her breaking voice. She was still standing on the very ledge where she hooked Ash and Pikachu using her fishing line on that fateful day. Misty was too preoccupied to get down as she sniffled and wiped her moist eyes with her right arm.
Ash returned back onto Misty's ledge. He walked past her and stared out over the vast expanse of water. "Me and Pikachu would've been toast if you hadn't fished us out of here at that very moment," Ash pensively observed.
Pikachu crawled up Misty's body and balanced himself on her shoulder. He nuzzled Misty's cheek to thank her. Misty returned the favor by rubbing the back of her hand on Pikachu's neck eliciting a loving "Chaa".
"That wasn't on purpose you know," Misty tried to minimize with levity. "I thought you were some juicy Poliwhirl or something," she claimed.
"Instead I got a Magikarp," she teasingly followed with a chuckle. Pikachu laughed in response. "Pi hee hee!"
Ash shot a look of vexed amusement towards Misty and Pikachu. He didn't want to honor Misty's disparagement with a response. He instead continued, "Remember what I said when we had to part ways in Viridian, Misty?"
"Yeah," Misty remembered while continuing to pet Pikachu, "You said it wasn't a coincidence that you met me out of all people. I thought that was really sweet and, no offense, unusually insightful for someone like you"
Ash ignored Misty's subtle dig. "Yeah, well, I don't think that was the whole story," Ash added.
"What do you mean, Ash?"
Ash took a deep breath. He held the rich pocket of air in his lungs before exhaling. It was now or never.
"I…" he nervously stammered, "I think it wasn't a coincidence that I met you of all people. And I think it also wasn't a coincidence that I eventually came to have feelings for you."
Misty widened her eyes once again. She calmly removed Pikachu off her shoulders and gently placed him on the ground. Pikachu looked at Misty with concern. She was already in a vulnerable emotional state from Ash's sweet gesture of taking her to where they met. Her mouth wanted to frown this time but she had no willpower left to fight it. Her hands compensated as they covered her mouth, muffling the small whine that was emerging.
"Misty?" checked Ash while worriedly scratching his ear, "Are you okay? I'm really sorry if this was sudden but Brock and Cilan told me to- woah!"
Misty lurched towards Ash and pressed her palms against his chest with the most force a swimmer's arms could exert. The kinetic force she delivered into Ash made him step back as his reflexes tried to brace his feet against whatever solid ground it could find. Only, there was none as his shoes stepped past the very fateful ledge where he met Misty. There was now only air and the water beneath it. After a brief sensation of weightlessness, a sudden shock of cold overcame Ash. He was back in the river once again.
Ash swam and breached the surface of the water. He looked up at Misty. She was now visibly weeping but this time paradoxically angry as well. Her hands were balled into fists, her arms straight and rigid from her sides. She was still frowning, but the frown was of contempt, not solemness. Pikachu's head hovered over the water to make sure his trainer was okay.
"What was that for!?" Ash yelled while treading water to keep him afloat.
"Because you're an idiot!" Misty screamed back.
"An idiot?!" challenged Ash, "Why am I an idiot?!"
"Because you took your sweet time to finally do this!" Misty passionately scolded.
Ash's look of shock and outrage transitioned into a sheepish smile of sympathy. He could now only imagine the pained agony and burden Misty held in hiding her feelings for him. He felt overcome by the countless days of awkwardness and anxiety that must have came from the uncertainty of not knowing if he felt the same way. He realized he couldn't blame her for reacting the way she did.
"I'm sorry, Misty," Ash graciously apologized. Trying to be diplomatic he added, "But I'll make it up to you!"
"How?" Misty stuttered while asking, trying to get a hold of herself.
"We… Why don't we go grab a bite to eat in Viridian City," Ash reminded her, "It'll be like our first date!"
Misty finished wiping her tears for the umpteenth time. The venomous look in her face was fading away. She giggled, finally realizing how ridiculous this entire scenario was.
"I'd really like that," Misty meekly acknowledged, her face now red from embarrassment.
"Let's go then!" Ash declared as he swam to shore. "Pi pikachu!" Pikachu excitedly confirmed.
"On one condition though," Misty stipulated while reaching her hand out to Ash.
"And what would that be?" offered Ash.
"No bacon wrapped hot dogs," she demanded.
"Darn it," mourned Ash as Misty pulled him out of the river. Yet again.