Disclaimer – I don't own anything. You'd all be surely disappointed in the current canon if I did, wouldn't you?

Author – Warlordess

Notes – I've been slowly trying to fulfill as many requests from my Tumblr as possible so here's the third one I was able to write in three days. Certainly enjoying this leftover vacation time after the blizzard we had a few days ago…

Anyway, please enjoy and review if you can! Thanks so much!

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Title - "Say the Word"

Summary – Misty plans to surprise Ash when he returns to Indigo Plateau for a second go at the Kanto Championship title. What will happen when she runs into some people intent on criticizing Ash's five years worth of battling history?

Tumblr request (exact words) - "Requests, eh? How about Pokeshipping with a protective Misty. Is that too vague?"

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Five years, three months, twenty-nine days. That's how long it'd been since she'd been here.

Usually her sisters were the ones to visit Indigo Plateau for the boring gym leader congregations and meetings, though that was mostly in part due to the fact that making connections with people like Erika and Elesa were good for their modeling careers.

But there was a reason that Misty had wanted to come to this one herself.

"It looks like Pikachu is in quite the pinch with Pinser having nailed him to the wall. He's struggling valiantly but his electric moves won't have much effect with the earth-like environment!"

Misty, who had paused mid-step at the mere mention of the electric mouse Pokemon, sighed and regained her stead. First things first, she knew; she had to get to the front counter and sign in. Then she had to go to her room and and put all her stuff down. And then, finally, she could head over to the Indigo stadium viewing box that was reserved for only gym leaders and champions.

"Miss Waterflower, right?" the friendly young woman behind the counter asked after reading her signature on the clipboard. "Great! I'll give you your badge and room key - they're on the same lanyard - and then you can head upstairs. You'll be in room 411, so that's the fourth floor, and then you just hang a left and keep your eye out for the fifth room on your right, okay?"

"Y - yeah, thanks."

There were monitors up and down the halls of each floor with silent play-by-plays of the previous battles already taking place at this year's Kanto championships. Most of them already had small flocks of people watching avidly, some commenting, others just cheering for which trainer they liked the best, mild moments of criticism; oh, that wasn't a great Pokemon choice; wow, I don't think they stand much chance with thatterrain… Stuff like that.

The redhead wanted to ignore them. She was late enough as it was, seeing as the tournament had started almost a week ago. She'd already missed the first three qualification rounds due to all the time she had to spend convincing her sisters to let her go but…

Well, like she said before. She had to come to this one.

"Hey, isn't that Ash Ketchum?" a random voice asked to her left and she stopped once more upon feeling the wave of nostalgia that name brought on. "I remember him! He was here five years ago and made it to the top sixteen! Pretty good for his first championship-level tournament, right?"

That's right, Misty thought to herself. Although Ash had been really hard on himself at the time, he hadn't done so bad. The best part of placing at the Indigo Plateau was that he had enough nerve to pull himself back together and try again in other regions.

"Yeah, but," another voice intruded on her internal cheering, "while top sixteen was nice, he hasn't improved much since then. Top eight here, top four there, sure… But in Kalos last year, he backtracked to sixth place. His only win was in the Orange Islands a few years ago. A lot of people think he doesn't stand a chance this year because of how he seems to rely mostly on his Pikachu."

The redhead stopped and bit her lip, fist clenching on the handle of her rolling suitcase. It was taking a lot of willpower not to turn around and berate that person for having so little faith in her best friend. Besides, whatever, Ash would show everyone anyway, right? And it wouldn't do her any good to try and convince that person they were wrong. They would understand at some point but… some people, once they'd made a choice about something, were hard-pressed to think otherwise about it.

It honestly wasn't worth her time… and it was just the one person, right?

She was facing the door leading to her room before she knew it, so she leaned down a bit until her card key could reach the magnetic lock and swiped it to disengage. The small red light on the doorknob turned green and she released her badge and grabbed the handle as fast as possible, flipping it to the side and opening her door.

The room wasn't so bad. A faint perfumic scent wafted throughout and one of the windows on the other side was open a few inches to let the fresh air in. She had a relatively nice view of the stadiums but they were still pretty far so she'd have to take the hotel commute rail to reach them if she wanted to view anything live.

She hadn't even told Ash she'd be coming.

Oh sure, he'd asked her too (and sent her heart tail-spinning at the same time), just like he'd asked all his Kanto friends and family, but at the time she was sure she wouldn't be able to make it so she'd refused to promise him anything.

Now she was suddenly here without a real plan and wondering how she'd ever be able to find the opportunity to see him up close. It's not like their rooms were stationed next to each other after all.

As she was unpacking the few outfits and hygienic supplies she'd brought for the next week or so worth of action-packed battles, she turned on the television to view the digital line-up of that day's fights.

It took a few minutes but she finally found the name she was looking for.

"Aha! So Ash's next qualification battle is in… ten minutes? I'll never make it in time!" she groaned, ruffling a hand through her fringe. It was definitely true she wouldn't, but maybe she could make the second half if she ran for the rail right now that would take her to the stadiums. And perhaps then she could find a way to see Ash in person and greet him face-to-face for the first time in three years.

The thought alone gave her the motivation to try, so she grabbed her shoulder bag, made sure she had her badge and room key, then bolted out the door and down the hall, swiftly sliding between many passersby who happened to be watching the monitors and stopping short at the elevator to press the down button.

The hotel she was staying at was contractually linked to Indigo League so their basement level housed the rail connecting to the stadiums. Simple enough architecture…

After a minute-long elevator ride, a nine minute long wait for the next metro, and a ten minute ride through the system of plateaus leading to the stadium entrances, she was finally almost there.

"Uh, hi!" she said breathlessly to the first front desk attendant that happened to be free. "I'm Misty Waterflower from Cerulean City," and she paused for a few seconds to flash her official invitee badge, "the gym leader there… I was hoping you could direct me in the direction of the league member seating box?"

"Oh, sure! You would just take your right around that bend there. You'll eventually come to a few elevators on your right-hand side. Take one of them up to the twelfth floor. Once you're there, head down the hallway straight in front of you and it'll lead to some double-doors. The gym leader attendee seating area is just inside!"

"Thanks!" the redhead shouted just as breathlessly, already running again but still courteous enough to wave in gratitude to the young man she'd left behind at the counter.

The whole trip upstairs took another solid seven minutes but she could feel her heart race and fingers tingle a bit when she heard the ding and the doors slid open on floor twelve.

"Wow, they go all out, huh…?" Misty asked herself, noting that there were monitors running up and down the hall here too. Some of them were showing the series of battles going on in the stadiums outside while others allowed viewers a solid look at contending trainers and their stats.

She shook herself out of her thoughts and began pacing toward the hall that would lead directly to her destination but stopped short when she overheard that familiar name again.

"Wow, it says on his bio that Ash Ketchum took part in the Indigo League before, huh?"

"Yeah, top sixteen, lost to some kid named Ritchie. They used a lot of similar Pokemon too. Guess that Ash guy just couldn't measure up."

Just keep going, the redhead told herself, trying to drag her feet the rest of the way down the hall, but it was a fruitless effort.

"Yeah, I don't know, looking at his history makes him seem so disappointing. I'm guessing he's Pallet Town's underdog, right?"

"With averages like that backing him up, that's probably true!"

The group of three who happened to be taking part in the conversation stopped to laugh riotously at their own implications and Misty felt that odd ticking in the back of her head that usually meant she was going to kill someone if she or they didn't make an escape as soon as possible. Her fingernails were already hurting since she was clenching her fists to tightly that they dug into the skin of her palms.

"He's been at this for going on six years and he's lost almost everywhere he's gone! The only place he made it out of with a win was the unofficial Orange League out in that archipelago! I can't believe he even bothered to keep going! If you haven't made a name for yourself within three years, after all, what's the point?!"

"HEY!" Misty shrieked before her brain could tell her mouth to hold back any longer, and she twisted on her heel and marched up to the group of spectators who'd been talking.

She couldn't help thinking about how she used to say similar things about Ash years ago, before they'd become friends (let alone acknowledged it). Still, nothing she'd berated him with had been nearly as bad as what these guys were saying… right?

Shaking her head free of a fresh wave of guilt, she held her head high and stood as tall and imposing as she could.

"Yeah? Wha'd'ya want?" one of the three guys asked, staring her down with a narrowed gaze. Who was she to intrude on their roast after all?

"I just wanted to say… that you don't know anything about Ash Ketchum so you shouldn't be talking crap about him like that! At least he's competing! If all you're willing to do is come here and wrongly criticize people who can do more than you then you have no right being here at all!"

There. Eloquent, poignant, with just the right amount of insult.

"Oh yeah?" they asked, all crossing their arms and taking a step or two intimidatingly forward. "Well, not that it's any of your business, missy, but we can do whatever we want! This Ash kid is a loser if he has to compete in so many leagues just to have his chance at becoming a Pokemon Master! Let alone he came back to try Indigo a second time!"

"Hah! Yeah, I bet it's cause even the leagues in other regions gave up on him and wouldn't let him compete!"

"Probably that or he thought he could cheat somehow by coming back to where he might have the home court advantage!"

"Not that it matters, right?" the guy closest to her said, "The kid's a wuss, a nothing, a nobody who's barely capable of beating the little ratty Rattata living outside of his boony hometown!"

"W - what?!" the redhead shrieked incredulously, finding it hard to look her three opponents in the face without her own rage blinding her. "First of all, the name is Misty, not missy, and secondly, Ash Ketchum is a seasoned trainer with a ton of heart and compassion and skill! He'd wipe the floor with any of you if given the chance, which you won't, because you guys don't even look like you have a single Pokemon! What, huh? Your mommy wouldn't let you leave home to start a journey? It's probably 'cause she knew you'd open your big fat mouths, get your teeth kicked in by the first person you met, and then end up right back home again!

"Smart woman, I'd say!"

"Why you…" the apparent leader scowled and gritted his teeth at her latest particular barb. "Having heart is just code for not having the balls to actually train your Pokemon to win!"

"Wait, she said her name was Misty?" one of the guys in back whispered. "As in the gym trainer from Cerulean?"

"I think so… In fact… Yeah, that's totally her!" the third guy said, "I remember hearing about her taking over that gym 'cause her sisters totally flaked and went on a cruise or something!"

"Oh, really?" the leader asked with an egoistic return, "Guess that means we'll have two losers to talk about today, huh?"

"Wha…? I am not a… Ash and I are not losers!"

"Ash, huh? No last name? So informal! I'm beginning to think you know this guy! Well, at least you know the other loser I happened to be talking about before. I guess your type all gets lumped together at some point, doesn't it?"

"We're not… You…"

"She's probably only defending him 'cause she's got a crush on him or something stupid like that! She probably doesn't even like him as a person herself! I bet she doesn't even believe he can put up a good fight! She's just trying to convince herself like she's doin' to us!"

"I - I don't!" the redhead squeaked before she could stop herself, face burning scarlet automatically in response to the accusation. "That's not it at all, you morons! He's a great trainer! He's come a long way! He can win this!"

Honestly, she was so furious by all of their remarks that it was bringing tears to her eyes. Never mind the embarrassment at them somehow guessing that she had romantic feelings for the guy, never mind that they had decided to loop them in together and start insulting her as well, but they were… they didn't know Ash. They didn't know all of the amazing things he'd done over the years! How he'd come back from plenty of near losses in battle, how he put so much faith in his Pokemon that it literally made them stronger, how he had saved the world so many times, how he had… given her the confidence and faith she needed in order to return and man the gym, and how he'd given her a place in his life at all.

A home.

A friend.

Ash Ketchum was so much more than silly stats on a digital monitor… Why couldn't she make them see that?!

The thought she'd had earlier came to her again, this time louder than it had been originally, as if the words rang even truer now.

Some people, once they'd made a choice about something, were hard-pressed to think otherwise about it.

She realized now that there was no changing their minds. They were going to think what they thought and say what they said and nothing she tried to tell them would be enough to make them change their minds.

Okay then. It was time to give up.

There was a resounding ding, ding from the speaker system overhead and the doors leading to the regular patron seating of the stadium flew open so that people could exit.

"You know," Misty began, finally able to look them each in the face for the first time since confronting them, "you guys don't know anything. In fact, you're probably only about a tenth of what Ash Ketchum has grown to be, both as a trainer and - more importantly - as a person."

After finishing this intro, she took a step forward, noticing that they'd braced themselves for more insults and arguments… but, no, she was done with those tactics now.

"Now, really, I don't care much what you say about me. I'm awesome. I really am, you can ask just about anyone who spends time at my gym. I've single-handedly raised our reputation from the proverbial sewer grate into something worth… something."

And she paused long enough to take another step forward.

"But what I won't tolerate," and they began to cower just a bit as her eyes flashed an icy gray color, very noticeable since she was only a foot or two away from their group, "is you insulting one of the best trainers - and best people - in the world. I just won't!"

Then she clenched her dominant hand tightly shut, pulled back, replanted her feet properly, and swung forward, slamming her fist straight into the first guy's jaw.

He hit the linoleum floor on his back and slid a couple of feet, his two friends apparently in shock or awe at what they'd just witnessed.

"Wha'd'ya do that for?!" they all yelled practically in unison, the two that she hadn't hit kneeling down beside their fallen comrade.

The redhead was just about to open her mouth and answer when, quite suddenly, she was distracted by some unexpected company.

"M - Misty…?" her best friend of six years asked from a slight distance, approaching from behind her former adversaries, now current victims. "So you did make it!"

"Y - yeah," she grunted, softly wringing out her wrist behind her and biting her lip, "Sorta…"

"Wow, it's really you!" Brock said, running forward and clapping her on the shoulder. "It's been way too long since the three of us were together! Not since you met us all in Pallet Town when May and Max came to visit Kanto, right?"

"Mmm, probably… Sounds about right."

"Misty, you look great!" Delia said, calmly stepping over the three bodies kneeling on the ground and embracing the redhead warmly.

"Pikachupi!" the electric mouse cried, leaping off his trainer's shoulder and landing on hers instead.

"It's really great to see you all, especially you three!" Misty joked, giving Ash the familiar stink-eye he'd almost come to find endearing over the past six or so years.

"Ouch, really, Myst?" he asked her.

"Well… I guess you're not such a sight for sore eyes either," she confessed, cheeks flushing slightly before another question came to mind and she couldn't help asking it.

"So, I only just got here about an hour ago and had to get settled first… Anyway, I kind of missed your latest qualifying round… How'd you do, Ash?" she asked, glancing at him and then eyeing the three fallen spectators on the floor.

"You even have to ask me? Of course I won!" he replied proudly, puffing out his chest and looking quite proud of himself.

"Oh, really?" the redhead went on innocently, still staring down at her three former adversaries with eyes of steel, daring them to stick around much longer at the risk of their heads being lobbed straight off their necks.

"Yeah… anyway, what's happening here?" Brock asked, pointing between her and the three guys still staring up at them all, this time in fear. "Did we interrupt anything?"

"Aaah, no, right?" she asked with a bright grin, finally shaking the clingy Mrs. Ketchum off of her long enough to hold her somewhat wounded hand and give her enemies one final chance at escape.

"Yeah, it's nothing, sorry to disturb you all, good to know you won your match, okay, bye!" they all shouted, on their feet in an instant and running in the opposite direction.

"Well, that's strange of them," Delia said with a soft pout, but it evaporated a mere two seconds later, "Still, at least they cheered my baby boy on!" And she moved to hug him tightly next.

"Yeah…" the raven-haired trainer contemplated, staring at the odd way his redheaded friend was standing, "I guess…

"B - but hey, mom, you can let me go now!"

Once he'd finally shaken her free and the group had learned that he had no more battles that day, they opted to get something to eat. Luckily the plateau, for being such an isolated area, offered quite the buffet to participating trainers, their families, and special guest gym leaders.

It was while Delia, Brock, and Pikachu (who had been promised a 64oz bottle of ketchup and was currently demanding the fulfillment of that promise) were off getting their second plates that Ash and Misty finally had the table to themselves.

The raven-haired trainer had never had much of an eye for detail… but lucky for him, Misty was pretty awful at hiding her injured hand. She did keep placing it against her ice water after all, as if that would be enough to keep the swelling from getting any worse.

"So… what happened there, huh?" he asked curiously, taking the opportunity to sip his soda at the same time so that he came out looking less concerned than he was.

"Nothing!" she tried at first, but he merely quirked a disbelieving eyebrow at her and mentally urged her to try again. "Well, uh… I fell. Yup. Fell hard. I was trying to run to make the second half of your match and I tripped and, well…"

"Really, Misty? You fell? Look, unless you fell and your fist landed in a wall, I don't think that's how it got this bad." And he chose to prod her right on her bruised knuckles for added effect.

Misty hissed in pain, withdrawing from him and holding her hand under the table instead. Perhaps she shouldn't have gone all out against that guy… If she'd held back some, she probably would have escaped without any visible injuries at all and Ash wouldn't have to know anything about what happened. But so far her excuses were amounting to nothing and she had a feeling she was going to have to come honest about it at some point.

"Look," she told him, "I just don't want you thinking that this really has anything t - to do with you, you know? I mean, just 'cause they were talking about you doesn't mean that–"

"–They? Do you mean… those guys from back in the hall at the stadium?" the raven-haired trainer asked.

"Aaaahayay… I… um…"

"Misty, did you punch one of those guys just 'cause they were talking crap about me?"

"I - I mean, they weren't just talking about you but… well, like I said, this isn't about you, Ash, even if you think it is."

"It certainly sounds like it was about me, doesn't it? What'd they say, huh? Was it something like how I'll never amount to anything? How I can't compete if I have to recycle old gym challenges just to get ahead? That there's no way I'd stand a chance at a championship title if I haven't already gotten one after so long traveling on the road?"

"I - I, uh, well those weren't their exact words but… Yeah… Yeah, that was basically the gist of it, among other things." Misty felt a little put out at the fact that Ash seemed to be familiar with such commentary about his trainer skills.

"And you punched them in the face over something like that?" he asked her as if it was the most outrageous concept in the world.

"… Maybe…" she whispered, now mortified that she'd made the wrong choice and that he'd be somehow upset with or disappointed in her.

Then he did something she never expected and softly nudged her in the shoulder.

"Hey, thanks a lot."

"… What?" she asked in wide-eyed curiosity.

"It's nice to know you think so much of me after all this time that you're willing to go to bat against anyone who has something bad to say about me. I guess you have a lot of faith in me as a trainer after all, huh?" he laughed at her, mostly due to the expression of complete shock on her face. "I mean, you gotta love someone a lot to punch people out just 'cause they say something bad about them, right?"

"I - I never said I l - looooved…" she stuttered and drew out the word unintentionally, "you."

"Yeah, well, I did. And, I mean, I'd do it too. Punch someone for you, I mean," he told her, this time in a much more serious tone of voice. "'Cause I love you just as much, you know?"

"I… Y - you do?" she asked now, pretty sure that her lungs were going to explode from her chest since she hadn't been able to catch her breath in the past five minutes worth of conversation. Then, realizing she was stressing too much on that particular part of his statement, she tried to regroup and move on, "I mean, you would?"

"Of course! You're one of my oldest friends, Misty! I'd do just about anything for you if it was needed, ya know? You just say the word and–"

But his next sentence was interrupted when she grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and pulled him forward into a quick and awkward kiss.

Five seconds later she breathed deep through her nose and released him, pursing her lips as he limply fell away from her lax grip on his collar.

"Sorry," she told him by means of an excuse, "I guess I just sort of… needed that."

"Oh." he replied, clearing his throat and balancing between staring her in the eyes, to staring her in the lips, back to her eyes, out the window behind her, her lips, the window, her eyes, her lips

"Oh, okay… I guess I just… Maybe next time you could give me some warning and say the word."

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NotesNeat, another completed request! Man, I really liked this one too but, unfortunately, it didn't come to me as easily as the other two had. I still enjoyed it though, especially the ending! I hadn't been planning to end with a kiss but, well, this is what happens when you ship something really hard.

A couple of things; one, the Pikachu Misty overhears commentary on in the first battle is not Ash's Pikachu. I don't think it's realistic for him to be taking part in back-to-back battles.

Secondly, and I'm only saying something because I sincerely don't want anyone to miss it, the line Ash uses at the very end - "Maybe next time you could give me some warning and say the word" - is just him retracing to the statement he'd been making a few paragraphs above that, just like Misty saying she'd needed the kiss right then was also playing with that same statement from him. (I know it seems silly to explain it but I felt like I might have drawn out the moment too long for everyone to grasp it.)

Okay, anyway, likes and reblogs are always appreciated!