Disclaimer: I own nothing; you know the drill

Feedback: Always welcome

AN: Re-reading a few old favourites suddenly got me thinking; I found a few short AU fics based around the idea of Ash losing the final match against Rudy and/or Misty taking more time to make her decision in 'Misty Meets Her Match', but I never found anything that thought about what would have happened if she actually did stay behind, so I came up with this storyline. It won't be very long, but considering the likely timeline of events- assuming that 'The Power of One' took place around the same time in the series as it aired in reality, which would set it just after 'Charizard Chills', and thus only a couple of weeks after Trovita at most- I was suddenly intrigued at the thought of how Ash would cope with those events without Misty present, and that just spiralled into this

AN 2: This will probably only be a few chapters long, but I hope everyone enjoys the result anyway.

A Perfect Match?

She'd been in Trovita for a month before Misty began to seriously consider that she'd made a mistake accepting his offer.

At first, she'd put her initial uncertainty down to the simple fact that she and Rudy were each trying to find their way with the new arrangement, her staying in one place and him adapting to another female presence in his life, but the more time she spent there, the more she realised that this wasn't the life she wanted for herself.

On some level, she found herself missing the freedom of travelling and exploring that she'd enjoyed ever since she left Cerulean to make her own way. Even if… someone else… had always had final say in choosing their primary destination, she'd always had some input in how they got there, able to suggest detours or ask to stay somewhere for longer, but Trovita just wasn't big enough to engage her interests in the same way as constant travel.

She appreciated having her own room after so many months of camping out, and she wasn't complaining about having an actual bed to sleep in, but every day she got to know Rudy, the more she realised that she didn't have enough in common with him to make a relationship work.

Rudy was content with what he had and where he was, and while Misty appreciated that he knew his place, she didn't want to feel 'obligated' to stay put after she'd left Cerulean City to avoid that kind of forced responsibility. She'd still managed to explore the surrounding area since arriving at Trovita, and she'd even managed to capture a Poliwag during a visit to a neighbouring island, but every time she'd left, Rudy's words made it sound more like he expected her to come back, rather than just looking forward to it.

As well as his unvoiced 'expectations' for their relationship, there was also Misty's private concerns about his training methods now that she'd seen them long-term. It wasn't that Rudy didn't care about his Pokemon, but she never got the impression that he really cared about them as individual Pokemon. While he spent time training them in dance techniques to improve his own fighting style, she'd never seen him send out a Pokemon just to talk with it, or leave them out once he'd completed the night's training.

She appreciated that every trainer had their styles, but she'd really come to appreciate the merits of having a fixed team that you could spend time with for reasons beyond just winning the next battle…

On a personal level, she was also growing concerned about the friendship she'd formed with Mahri. While Rudy's little sister was a nice enough girl, everything for her seemed to revolve around her brother and how 'cool' he was; even when she was spending time with Misty, Mahri was still talking about her brother. Misty knew that her strained relationship with her sisters wasn't normal for siblings, and she wasn't going to object to Rudy being a good brother, but she just wished that Mahri would show more interest in things that were just about Mahri herself, rather than every conversation she tried to have with the girl relating back to Rudy.

The thing that kept her at Trovita, however, was always the same; Ash had made his feelings clear in their last conversation.

OK, she acknowledged that she might have crossed a line in that last argument after Squirtle lost to Starmie when she said that getting Togepi and meeting Rudy were the only two good things that had ever come of their travels together, but he understood that she hadn't meant that seriously; they always exaggerated in their arguments. They'd always argued when they were travelling… and she knew she'd made more than a few disparaging comments about his abilities as a trainer when she was frustrated… but she'd always had faith in him in the end, and he had to know that.

But even after all that they'd been through, once he'd heard that she was staying with Rudy, he'd gone and left the island without even saying goodbye. Her last words had been an attempt to apologise by saying she'd be there to see his rematch with Rudy, but he hadn't even followed that up; he'd just left that night without another word, and she hadn't even seen Tracey before learning that they'd both gone.

Whatever Rudy's problems, at least he made it clear that he cared about her; Ash had just stormed off in a huff without even saying goodbye because he was in a bad mood.

If he could leave that easily, he wasn't worth it, Misty told herself each night.

Maybe she'd eventually believe it…

Besides, if she didn't completely approve of the way Rudy treated his Pokemon, she could help him realise that there was a better way, right? Part of any good relationship was helping the other person grow, and Rudy wasn't treating his Pokemon badly; he just needed to interact with them more.

Misty forced down the traitorous part of her mind that reminded her that Pokemon interaction was one thing Ash had never had any trouble with; he might have been good at being friends with his Pokemon, but he'd been so immature when it came to people…

It would be easier to get over him if Togepi didn't keep asking 'Toge Togeprii?' every few hours. It might sound the same as everything else her little egg said, but just like with her other Pokemon, Misty had picked up enough of Togepi's language to understand what it was saying, even if she'd never told anyone this bit.

Where's Daddy?

Misty had always had some ideas about how the egg Pokemon saw Ash, but she'd always tried to convince herself that it was just because it saw Pikachu as a brother rather than a specific attachment to Ash himself, even if that was apparently not the case now that it was asking for 'Daddy' rather than 'Brother Pikachu'. She'd pushed the questions aside by saying that Ash had just gone off to do something, but she wasn't sure how long that would last; Togepi might be a baby Pokemon, but it wasn't stupid.

Sighing in frustration, Misty sat up from her bed and stared out of the window, Togepi still resting silently beside her pillow.

Why was it so hard to get over missing Ash? Rudy might not be perfect, but Ash was an immature kid who made impulsive decisions and relied on luck more than training, and that was before she started thinking about all those times he got mad at her for stupid little things; she was better off with someone who actually knew what a girl wanted.

Who cared if her old travelling companion was also the most compassionate boy she'd ever encountered, willing to put himself at risk for people and Pokemon he'd never met against impossible odds, who treated his team as friends rather than tools, who wouldn't even give up on the Charizard that cost him the biggest match of his life at that point…

Her train of thought was interrupted when she heard her room's videophone ringing; while Rudy might have certain expectations of their relationship, he had still respected her request for privacy, which included her own number. Getting up from her bed, she walked over to the phone and pressed the 'Accept Call' option, surprised at the sight of the person on the other end of the line.

"Tracey?" she said, looking at her old friend in surprise.

"Misty…" Tracey began, looking awkwardly at the Water Pokemon trainer. "Ash is in hospital."