Greetings everyone, here's a sweet oneshot dedicated to one of the greatest Pokeshipping artists of all time: HollyLu. I've recently gotten to know Holly and I'm honored that I can call her my friend, and this story is based off of one of her drawings, so go check out her Tumblr when you have the chance. With that said, I hope you all enjoy! I own nothing except the story.
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Ash Ketchum had never felt so low in his life.

Sure, he was only twelve years old, he still had a long way to go in life. There were new regions to visit, new challenges to conquer, new Pokémon to discover, and there would surely be bumps in the road on that journey, Heaven knows he'd already had a few bumps during his trips through Kanto and the Orange Islands.

But here and now, on a quiet evening in the middle of a grassy clearing where they'd decided to camp for the night, Ash wasn't facing a bump in the road.

In his heart and mind, it was more like a mountain.

Ash sat on the edge of the lake they had decided to camp by, staring at the moon's reflection in the water with his knees hugged to his chest and his arms resting on top of them. He took another glance at the piece of paper in his hand that he'd received from Prof. Oak just before they left the last town, still in disbelief over what was written inside.

He shut his eyes tight and gritted his teeth, fighting back the tears that were threatening to escape. He'd learned a lot of harsh realities in his first two years of traveling, things didn't always go your way and that was just something he had to accept and overcome.

But there was no overcoming the punched in the gut feeling that came from reading a letter that said that your mother had been hospitalized.

The moment he read it the day he received it, he'd been excited that Prof. Oak actually took the time to write him a letter, he naively thought that maybe it was a letter of congratulations for being as awesome as he was and that he was proud of him for coming so far.

Naturally, Misty berated him for thinking with his ego.

But as soon as he actually read the letter, his hands began to shake and he actually dropped the letter to the ground, and he'd stood there frozen for a few moments while Misty and Brock read the contents of the letter.

He hadn't said a word since then.

Oh, Misty and Brock tried to reason with him of course, they stated over and over again that even though the letter had said his mom had been hospitalized, Prof. Oak had made it a point to say - in all capital letters no less - that Delia was actually fine, and that she'd simply passed out because she overworked herself one day. Just a simple case of overexertion, she'd exhausted herself, it was no big deal.

For Ash however, it was a very big deal. He kept his mouth shut for the rest of the day, mindlessly walking behind both Misty and Brock as they led the way to Cherrygrove City. They'd had to stop him from walking without them when he'd failed to hear that they were stopping for the night, and he didn't even have anything to eat as his appetite had actually failed him for once.

How could he eat when the image of his mother laying in a hospital bed kept flashing through his mind?

He finally let loose a tear despite his closed eyes and gave a strangled sob that he wished he could take back. How could he have let this happen to her? After all she'd done to raise him, all the love she'd given him growing up, no one else had ever showed such devotion towards him before and he doubted anyone ever would again. The least he could do to repay her was to take care of her, but he'd failed. That's all he really was, a pathetic failure, a selfish brat who took off gallivanting around the world while his own mother worked herself to the bone and ended up in the hospital, how could he-

"Ash?"

His eyes snapped open and his pity party was immediately broken up by the approach of Misty, and he hastily wiped his eyes of his tears and tried to put on a neutral expression. "Hey Misty."

The redhead crawled over to him and positioned herself next to him, and she stared at the moonlight's reflection in the water with him for a few moments before turning her head to look at him. "Ash, she's ok, you know Prof. Oak wouldn't lie to you."

Ash's brow furrowed and he shook his head. "I know that Misty, it's not that she was ever put into the hospital that's the problem!"

Under normal circumstances, Misty would raise her voice to match Ash's frustration, but as she looked closer, she could see that this wasn't something childish that Ash was stressing over, she could see in his eyes the barely contained sorrow over whatever was on his mind. "So what is the problem Ash? Talk to me, tell me what's on your mind!"

It was a request, not a demand, but with all the anger and sadness that was building up in his soul, it was enough to make the black-haired trainer snap. "Alright Misty, you wanna know what's on my mind?! Here it is!" he glared at her fiercely as tears began to involuntarily flow from his eyes. "I'm selfish, and I'm a horrible son! I could've stopped this from ever happening in the first place!"

"Ash that's crazy! How could you-"

"I could've kept her from winding up in the hospital!" Ash continued as if Misty never spoke, and he heaved as he tried to get some air in his lungs as his chest felt extremely tight. "Do you know what she's meant to me Misty?! Do you know how much she's done for me?! I wasn't an easy kid to raise, you point that out all the time! But she never gave up, she loved me no matter what, and she always made sure I knew that! She was the only one!" he wiped at his tears with his palms and sobbed. "E-Every night, she would tuck me into bed, and tell me h-how much she loved me, how proud she was of me...a-and how do I repay her? I take off on this stupid journey, chasing a dream that literally millions of other kids try to chase and never even come close, so what makes me any different?!"

Misty wanted to come up with an answer, but her mind was in shock and her heart was aching at just how distraught Ash was over this. There had been times where Misty was truly jealous of Ash because he had a mother, and she often thought that he took her for granted...but after seeing this outburst of raw emotion from him, she knew she would never make that accusation again. Finally she was able to speak again. "Ash, your mom wanted you to go on this journey, and as for what makes you different...well...there are at least a few things I could think of."

The black-haired trainer gave a tearful scoff as he glared at her skeptically. "Yeah? Like what? Don't forget I'm the same moron who thought that it was a good idea to catch a Pidgeotto by using a Caterpie to battle against it, I'm the same moron who challenged a rock-type Gym Leader with nothing but a Pikachu and then refused help that would've made the battle a walk in the park! I'm the same moron who-"

"Shut up!" Misty slapped the boy's cheek and stopped his ranting then and there. She'd made sure to not hit him too hard, but by the way he was now raising his hand to his cheek, she'd effectively gotten his attention. "I don't want to hear you demean yourself for one second longer, do you understand me? No more!"

He rubbed his cheek and growled in frustration. "Well tell me I'm wrong Misty, tell me I didn't do all those things! Oh wait, you can't, because I did!"

Misty growled right back and sat up tall. "No, I can't deny that you screwed up, you made some pretty dumb mistakes in your rookie years."

"That's what I thought." he flinched when she raised her hand to slap him again, but luckily she restrained herself and instead took a deep breath.

"You made mistakes, but every trainer does the same things starting out, need I remind you that even I made some rookie mistakes? Remember when I tossed out Goldeen and she flopped around on the floor uselessly because there was no water? That's the sort of mental lapse that every trainer goes through." she made a move to raise her hand when he opened his mouth, and she smirked when he closed it again without a sound coming out. "But here's what makes you different...you care about your Pokémon more than anyone else I've ever known, and you've already accomplished more than most trainers could ever dream of, Mr. Orange League Champion."

"Well...I guess..."

"I don't guess, I know." the redhead scooted closer and smiled softly at him. "Ash, you are special, and I can pretty much guarantee your mom is so proud of you for who you're becoming that she probably spends half her time bragging about you to all her friends back in Pallet Town. Could you have kept her from exhausting herself? Maybe. Maybe you would've been able to do a couple chores around the house instead of chasing your dream to become a Pokémon Master, but you wouldn't be who you are now."

"Well, who would I be?"

Misty shrugged. "I dunno...but then again, we can't spend our lives wondering about the road not taken." When he tilted his head at her, she gave a small laugh. "I mean that you can't spend all this time thinking about what could've happened if you chose to stay home instead of starting your journey."

The boy frowned and looked away as he buried his chin into his arms. "I could've kept my mom from ending up in the hospital."

"You don't know that," she got closer still, which got him to turn his head in her direction, and by this point she was almost nose-to-nose with him, and she could feel her cheeks starting to flush from the proximity. "But here's what I do know...if you had stayed home, you would've never gotten Pikachu and become best friends with him, you wouldn't have been able to save the world like three times or whatever, you never would've met Brock...you never would've met...me."

Ash frowned when she looked away from him, looking absolutely miserable, though for what reason he didn't really know. "Well...you probably would've still had your bike, and you probably would've met someone else instead."

She looked back up at him with an incredulous expression. "You think I still care about that stupid bike? Ash, I'm with you on this journey because you're my best friend, and I care about you. You and Pikachu ruining my bike was the best thing that ever could've happened to me. Don't you know how..."

When Misty suddenly trailed off and looked away, Ash sat up and let his legs stretch out as he leaned towards her. "How what Misty?"

Slowly, Misty turned her head back towards him and stared right into his chocolate-brown eyes, eyes that were always filled with passion for whatever he was doing...eyes that she'd come to adore so dearly. She could tell he was anxiously waiting for her to answer him, and in the moonlight, she thought for a moment that his cheeks were just as red as hers were, but surely it was just a trick of the light...

Wasn't it?

At this point, she didn't care. Her heart was pounding from how close she was to Ash and her own nervousness, but she needed to make sure Ash knew that he was special, and for her to do that the way she wanted, she needed to strengthen her resolve. Taking a deep breath to compose herself, Misty slowly reached for his hand and gave it a squeeze, staring right into his eyes the whole time. "Don't you know how special you are to me?"

Ash stared right into his best friend's blue-green eyes, and he suddenly became aware of his heart racing just from seeing the raw emotion in her eyes. Never in his life had he seen her more open, more unguarded than in this moment, not even when he first saw her after he first woke up after his out-of-body experience in the Lavender Tower. Her eyes were shimmering at him in the moonlight, as if trying to convey a message that she couldn't put into words. "Misty...I...do you mean that?"

She nodded and smiled tenderly at him. "I do, I really do." she squeezed his hand again, this time a little tighter. "You may think your mom is the only one who cares for you no matter what...but...the truth is, she's not...I do too Ash, and I want you to know that if you ever feel like this again, you can come to me. I don't care what it's for or what time it is, I'm here for you, you're just that special to me."

After hearing everything Misty had to say, and seeing just how strongly she meant it through her eyes, Ash felt tears pricking at his eyes again. Only this time, it was due to the swelling of emotion in his heart as the words of his best friends weaved their way through and around his heart. He wrapped his arms around her torso and pulled her close to him, silently weeping over her shoulder as she reciprocated the embrace. "Thank you Misty." he finally whispered.

"You're welcome." she pulled back and stared into his eyes, and her heart fluttered as he did the same. "You're an amazing person Ash, and both your mom and I are just so proud of you. There's really no need for you to beat yourself up over something you had no control over, next time she'll just be more careful. She'll probably just spend less time cleaning and gardening, and more time bragging about what an incredible young man her son is turning out to be, a man who I'm privileged to call my best friend."

Ash beamed and hugged her again for a moment before finally standing up and holding out his hand to her. "C'mon Mist, let's get some sleep, it's late and we've got a lotta ground to cover tomorrow."

"I know." she smiled and accepted his hand, letting him pull her up so she was standing at her full height, now only an inch or so higher than he was. "I would've been asleep a while ago, but I had someone special to take care of."

As they walked back to camp, Misty silently lamented that she hadn't just outright admitted her feelings then and there, but somehow, she could still smile knowing that she'd taken what she felt was a huge step forward. Judging by the change in attitude Ash was displaying, she'd gotten the message across that she cared for him deeply, and thanks to her, he was back to his old self.

Maybe next time, it would be easier to for her to tell him just how much she loved him.

Ash was smiling for a different reason however. Before Misty had arrived, he'd pretty much convinced himself he was a nobody, a total loser who would never amount to anything, and who should've stayed home to take care of the only person who ever made sure to let him know they cared no matter what. But after what happened tonight, Ash knew that was a lie. His mother wasn't the only one who loved him, his heart leaped at the thought that he could safely put his best friend Misty in that category as well.

His mom was still incredibly special to him, and he planned to contact her as soon as he could, but now he had to make room in his heart for two people instead of just one. Just thinking about what his life would've been like if he hadn't gone on his journey, all the adventures he never would have had, all the friends he'd never get to meet, and of course the special bond he now knew he shared with Misty, Ash knew that he would never again think about the road not taken.

He was quite content to take the road he was on, with Misty there by his side.
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A/N: Did you like it? I really hope you did. I'm working on getting more emotion into these scenes so it isn't boring and static all the time. Did I do a good job? Leave a review and let me know what you thought about this story. See you all next time!