Author's notes (optional):
Oh man, I haven't written in this fandom for yeears. It's been a damn long time. I have a feeling that my time writing ff is about to come to a permanent end, so I had a sudden urge to revisit this fandom, just to show myself how much I've grown as a writer since joining this website. (My stories were so fucking cliche and terrible back then that I deleted most of them a long time ago, haha, so don't bother looking for them. But I think there's one left on my other account, if you really want to read it. You can find the other account through my profile page.)
I had a dream I was in Pallet Town last week, and everything was made of paper… I don't know why I dreamt that, of all things, but it inspired me to write this.
Story notes (vital):
This is loosely based on canon. By that I mean that I haven't watched the show religiously in a long ass time, and also that it's not cartoony. I like to add a bit of grit and reality to everything I write, so it isn't gonna line up exactly 1:1 with the show. But it's all for the sake of story, so just roll with it. I've been watching Indigo League all day as I clean my house and in episode NINE Ash says they've been travelling two months. HA! Hahaha. Only nine episodes in two months. I laughed so hard about the ridiculous canon timeline when I heard that. So let's make this realistic (because I love realism) and assume he left home at twelve years old (because ten is just too much) and the trio traveled for about five years. That's roughly one year per season. That brings us to the present day, where the trio is finally going their separate ways.
I always thought that this episode (Misty and Brock being shelved) marked the end of the show, in that it was the passage of Pokemon from tv show into commercial-with-a-story. Trading up likeable characters for freshness and marketability and ease of merchandising was a move done for profit, end of story. I was always kind of sore about that.
I mean, I know it's just a show, but the Saturday shows I watched when I was a kid were part of the process that inspired me to become a writer. I suppose I want to end my ff career by rewriting the end to my favorite childhood show. Here is how it would have gone had it been an anime written for adults instead of one marketed at children…
The Thing About Forks
The thing about forks was that they never seemed real until you were standing in front of them, looking with curiosity down one dirt path and then the other. Sure, you always knew it lay somewhere ahead of you. Intangible, though. Abstract. Somewhere and someplace, but always in the future, faraway and far ahead. Then one day you were there. The crossroad didn't exist until you first stood inside it, neck deep in the weight of decision. Then, and only then, all those imagined steps down possible pathways changed from the maybies of tomorrow into the consequences of today. Life always hinged on forks in the road, and this particular fork was the heaviest of doors; hinges so loose it rattled in its frame.
The shadow of the peeling roadsign fell across Misty's face as she crossed the center of the dirt intersection and squinted to the west, down a trail rich with raspberry bushes where she'd never walked before. Whoosh, the door opens. She swiveled to the east. A road she'd traveled a hundred times. Wham, the door shuts.
"About an hour till sunset," Brock noted, holding one thumb up to measure the sun's fiery descent behind the distant mountains. "Let's make camp down that hill there." He gestured back the way they'd come, where the soft grass sloped down into a cozy little crevice between the trees. But Ash and Misty weren't listening. They were both lost in thought, totally engrossed in the road sign pointing the way south back to Pallet, east onto Cerulean, north into Pewter, and west toward Hoenn. "That is, unless you want to just split up now and keep going…"
"What? No!" Ash shouted on reflex, then glanced sheepishly at Misty, who had also shouted a complaint.
Brock held his hands up in defeat and start backtracking to his proposed campsite, desperately trying not to laugh. "It was a joke, guys. Just checking if you were listening."
Ash shouldered his bag and followed after, grumbling to himself. "That wasn't funny."
Now that wasn't fair. Brock thought it was at least kind of funny.
Man, he sure was gonna miss these crazy kids. On voluntary dinner duty, he hummed to himself as the fire sprang to life, half-listening to Ash, who was enthusiastically reliving all their wildest adventures as a trio. Misty sat by the fire with both Pikachu and Togepi nestled in her lap, watching Ash with a tired smile as he bounced around the campsite with boundless energy, jumping between stories sometimes without even finishing them. She only interrupted when something didn't sound quite right.
"That's not how it happened," she would declare hotly, and then set about telling the story from a completely different angle.
Brock deposited a handful of carrots into the stew he was concocting and smirked as he listened to their latest disagreement. There was no malice there, just challenge. He was gonna be so bored without these two.
But despite all the "good times" talk, the night grew late and still no one had addressed the reason they were all sitting here. The fork in the road. The impending split of the group. Brock sighed, knowing it was gonna have to be on him to get serious.
"Hey, guys…" Brock pulled the whistling teapot off the fire and fished three little teacups out of his bag. "I gotta say something important."
Ash had been snickering away at some story Misty was recalling, but they both clammed up at the serious look on Brock's face. He just smiled, and dutifully poured them each a cup of tea.
"We've been traveling together a very, very long time," he began. "In some ways I guess I thought we'd always be traveling together. Now that it's over, I'm really gonna miss you two." They each carefully accepted their steaming mugs, avoiding his eye contact in a pouty sort of way. "I wanted to thank you for inviting me along when we first met in Pewter. It's really shaped my life in an unexpected way, and for that I will always be grateful. Plus, you guys mean the world to me. And…" He frowned, testing the temperature of his tea with his pinky. "Not to be a nag and a worrywart, but you had both better call me, all the time. Keep me updated. That's all I ask."
They nodded, and Ash, never one to filter when a dramatic opportunity presented itself, rose from his seat by the fire. "You guys are the best friends a guy could ever ask for." But he hesitated there, choking on the rest of his heartfelt words. He looked across the warm firepit, through to flames toward Brock, then to Misty, and the image of the empty campsite he'd be inhabiting tomorrow crashed into him full speed. He swallowed, fighting tears, and summarized the rest of his speech because he was pretty sure he was going to lose the fight if he tried to say all that he wanted to. "Thanks for everything." He raised his cup. "To the road ahead!"
Brock beamed, raising his own. "And the road behind."
Pikachu perked up on Misty's lap, so she placed a gentle hand on his head as she raised her own cup, as if to say, I'll miss you too. "To us," she concluded.
The two boys each took a giant gulp and yelped as they were burned.
Misty waited for them to stop spluttering, then took a tentative sip of her own tea and sighed. "I'm grateful too," she threw out there, an afterthought. "I didn't know what I was looking for when I left Cerulean all those years ago, but I think maybe I found it."
Sighing again, she scooped the two resting pokemon off her lap and onto Brock's sleeping bag before getting to her feet with an ungainly stretch.
The moon was half full tonight and the autumn woods were outlined in silver. A warm breeze ruffled her hair and clothes, wakening the leaves behind them for miles into a susurrus of evening whispers. She turned away from the campsite before they could see how much their toasts had gotten to her. "I'm gonna go down to the river, okay? I'll be back in a little while."
The boys watched her go forlornly. "She's upset," Ash declared as soon as she was out of earshot.
She'd worn nothing but a happy-face about it ever since she found out she'd have to take the head spot at the Cerulean Gym in order to keep it from closing. But up until that moment, she'd been fully planning on continuing onto Hoenn with him. Ash had been crushed when she told him. But Misty had insisted that it was all for the best, and it was her responsibility so she just had to do it, no if ands or buts. But… every time she thought he wasn't looking, he caught her frowning, or sighing, or grumbling at nothing. He knew she didn't want to go back. He understood why she was doing it…. but wasn't she unhappy? Didn't that matter?
"Of course she's upset," Brock scoffed, somewhat impatiently. "You should go talk to her."
That snapped him out of his thoughts. "What? Me? Why me?"
Brock rolled his eyes. For someone who wore his own heart stapled to his forehead, Ash sure could be obtuse when it came to reading the emotions of others. "Ash, you two have been traveling together for as long as I've known you. It's been... What?" He counted on his fingers. "Five years?"
Ash grimaced. He was beginning to see the point. "Yeah. So?"
"So you guys have been the sole constant in each other's lives for five whole years. Now you're splitting up. That's kind of a big deal."
"Yeah, I know." Obviously it was a big deal. Brock didn't have to rub salt in the wound. "It sucks. It's the worst! But what the heck am I supposed to say?"
Brock stared him down. He really had to spell it out for the guy, didn't he? "How 'bout a proper goodbye, you dolt."
Rude. Ash jutted his lower jaw out at him. Brock wasn't usually one to call namesㅡthat was Misty's forte. "I thought that's what this whole thing was about," he answered, sloshing his half empty teacup.
"No." Brock shook his head, setting his own cup aside. "That was goodbye for the three of us. For the group. You need to say goodbye to Misty. She's been there longer and gone a lot farther and sacrificed a lot more for you than me. It's different, Ash. It's a different kind of goodbye."
The breath Ash was holding came out with a long and disdainful whoosh, and he poured the rest of his tea on the ground. When Brock was right, he was right. "Shit."
Grinning in an impish way that Ash didn't like, Brock gave him a quick thumbs up. "Good luck!"
With nothing but the moon to light his way through the thick canopy of trees, he meandered downhill toward the sound of flowing water. What was he gonna say? Hey, you're my best friend and it's really messed up that you're leaving... No, that would just make her feel worse.
The trees abruptly quit, and he stopped at the edge of the clearing when he saw her twenty feet ahead, sitting there in her pajamas at the edge with her legs in the water, looking across the river toward the other bank. There was something heart wrenching about it, the whole scene laid out in shades of blue and gray. Their last night together shouldn't be this depressing.
A mischievous idea struck him then as he waited out of sight. He knew precisely how to cheer her up.
Misty nearly jumped out of her skin when a shadowy figure went hurtling past her, landing in the river with an enormous splash. But before she could react he surfaced. Oh, it was just Ash. That moron, was he trying to give her a heart attack?
He made sure she had seen him, then flailed a bit for effect. "Help, I'm a half-drowned idiot and my Pikachu needs a doctor!"
She blinked at him a few times before it clicked, and then she couldn't help it. She bit her lip, torn between laughing and crying.
Swimming towards her against the current, he flailed about with more and more exaggeration. "Come on, throw me a line! I won't even steal your bike this time!" He gave in to laughter then, abandoning the joke. "Get it?" he laughed. "Same river and everything. Can you believe how long ago youㅡ Whatㅡ! Hey! Are you crying?"
He grabbed onto the rocky ledge at her side. Still chest deep in the water, he dug one foot into the riverbed and pried one of her hands away from her face. She was crying!
"Crap, I'm sorry!" He was so insensitive, ugh! Stupid! "I should have just left you alone."
Misty shook her head. "No, it's not that. It's just…"
She impatiently wiped at her eyes. She hated crying.
That Ash and his timing. She'd never thought about it this way before, but if she hadn't been there to pull Ash from the river on the day they met then he'd surely have drowned. He'd be dead. She searched his dripping face. They'd both seen so many trials since then, grown so much, walked so far… and there'd been plenty more occasions where he would have died had she not been there. She furrowed her eyebrows down at him and made a noise of blind frustration, which made him wilt a little more and release her hand.
Ugh! How could someone so softhearted attract so much damn trouble?
Before he could retreat any further, Misty shocked him by pulling herself off the rocky ledge and into the water, right on top of him, throwing her arms haphazardly around his neck and burying her face in his hair. Ash's foot slipped under the current and her sudden weight; he clutched the ledge even tighter to keep them from being swept downstream.
"Hey, it's okay…" he offered weakly.
"Just promise to be careful!" Her voice was muffled and full of hot-headed concern. Underwater he laid his free arm across her back, thanking the stars that Brock wasn't here for this intimate embrace. "You're always getting into trouble, so I know it's useless to even ask, but I have to. Please, Ash. Be careful. I'm not gonna be around to save your sorry ass anymore."
There was a childish part of him that desperately wanted to poke fun at her for worrying about him, but he quelled it. This moment was important. There were a lot of things that crossed his mind right thenㅡassurances, denials, indignancies, bargains, pleases, sorrys, thank yous, miss yousㅡbut they were far too many to choose between. (And besides, even though they'd always had a way of leaving the most important stuff unsaid, he knew that she knew it all already. It was just.. their way.) So instead of babbling like an idiot he simply held onto her as the force of the rushing river pressed her against him. When after several minutes had gone by and he could feel her beginning to pull away, he leaned down to press a kiss onto her cheek.
It seemed fair. She gave him a hug, he gave her a kiss. What more was there to a proper goodbye?
Misty's arms slackened and she finished pulling away, fixing him with a startled expression. Did he really just do that? Ash seemed to read the question on her face because he grew flustered and refused to look her in the eye, and slipped an inch more on the bedrock so that water splashed up briefly between them.
It was the water hitting her face that woke her. Everything sharpenedㅡthe chorus of the water as it rushed its way east through the valley, the glitter of the small town unpolluted night sky, the black backdrop of forest, the warmth on the air. Her cheek burned where he'd kissed it and she was suddenly, completely, utterly aware of her actions and their position andㅡoh god, she hadn't only hugged him (which wouldn't have been new). No, she'd practically strangled him with affection. A wild grimace lit across her face and she retracted her arms at Mach 5, falling underwater with an undignified yelp, realizing too late that Ash had been the only thing keeping her above the water line. Curse genetics for keeping her short…! She hadn't grown a centimeter since she was fourteen!
She finally righted herself by turning around and grabbing onto the rocky outcrop where Ash still had his right hand locked in place. When she'd finished spitting out river water she bit her lip at the dark layers of rock, squeezing her eyes shut. How humiliating… Now he was gonna remember this moment of weakness whenever he remembered her!
She almost jumped out of her skin when his left hand moved. Even though she'd had a minor seizure, he hadn't flinched, so the hand that had rested on the small of her back before was now resting on her stomach. Her bare stomach. A shiver that had nothing to do with the temperature of the water passed up her spine.
His other hand curled tighter on the rock when he felt her shiver. "Do you want me to let go?"
The question caught her off guard. It was so genuine, so full of concern. Peeking at him over her shoulder, she tried to size him up. On any other night she might've dunked him and ran off… but… tonight wasn't any other night. It was the last night she was going to see him for a long time. For a terribly long time. After a loaded moment she managed to say, blushing furiously, "No."
Ash sighed with relief. "Oh, good." For a second there he thought she was going to kill him.
The word stuck in her ear like a dart. She swiveled back toward him then, stabilizing herself by grabbing onto the front of his soaked t-shirt. His grin was a little manic, like he'd spoken without thinking and realized the implication an instant too late. But he'd said it. Good. And Misty's resolve softened by an nth of a degreeㅡjust enough to pass the point of no return.
A girl travels a thousand miles with a boy, and at the end of it she says she doesn't want him to let goㅡand he says good. A girl too proud to say "I love you" funnels all the unspoken words into a hug, and even though he's the biggest spaz in the entire eastern hemisphere, instead of spazzing out, the boy holds her close and kisses her cheek. Almost like he loves her too.
It wasn't her fault. She'd always been a romantic at heart, and with the looming prospect of being forced to return home for good, that romantic voice clamored for immediate action, drowning out every other rational thought.
So she stood on her toes and kissed him.
For five endless seconds the kiss was tentative; her cold lips barely touching his warm ones, both hearts hammering in their chests. Far away in the night an unknown pokemon cried out.
Then his arm tightened around her waist and everything else ceased to exist. No birds rustling in the branches, no wind, no water, nothing but breath and sound, his hand on her back and hers in his hair, both drenched and shivering but not at all cold. The air between them ignited, working itself from timid candle to fervent flame to dangerous wildfire in the space of a single breath. One second she was kissing him and the next he was totally blind to everything else, pushing through the water until she was wedged between him and the rock face, as if it would somehow keep her from slipping away.
Shellshocked by his explosive reaction, Misty opened her mouth to speak. To say something. Anything. But Ash was gone; his tongue was in her mouth before she'd even sucked in enough breath to fuel words. Whatever she was going to say flew out the back of her head, then. Her brain couldn't untangle itself from his tongue. So she met him head on, tilting her jaw opposite his until he fit into her like a puzzle piece, his legs interlocking with hers to keep her grounded in the insistent current. When he pulled back half an inch to breath, dragging his teeth on her lower lip, she had to fight herself to surface from the druggish haze. "Ashㅡ"
He froze with her lip still in his teeth, fixing her with that patented you started it look, daring her to tell him to stop.
Not that she wanted to stop, but… "This is a bad idea," she managed to groan.
Ash had to smirk at that, and released her lip, moving instead to her neck where it met her jawline. Now that he had her like this he wasn't about to just drop her without a fight. What was he, insane? "Everything we do is a bad idea," he argued, watching goosebumps rise as he warmed the skin on her neck. "Never stopped us before."
"You can't kiss me the day before I leave," she shot back, shaken from the brief spell, and ignoring the fact that she had indeed been the one who started it. "It's not fair."
"Don't leave, then," he countered, simply.
She whimpered as he found her pulse and kissed that too. "That's not fair either."
Ash straightened, glaring down at her from above. "You think I'm being unfair?" he scoffed. He honestly couldn't believe what she was saying. Maybe she was the one who was insane. "What about being forced to take a job you don't want in a city you don't wanna live in, huh? How is that fair?"
Scowling hard, she moved her hands from his hair to his chest to put some distance there. "You don't know what you're talking about. I never told you I didn't want to go back. In fact, I'm pretty sure I said the opposite."
"I'm not stupid," he snapped. Who did she think she was fooling with her tough guy act, anyway? "I've known you for five years and I know you don't want to go back to Cerulean City. So just don't. It's simple."
"It's not simple!" she seethed, finally gathering the willpower to shove him away. She clambered up onto the ledge past his outstretched arm, pulling out her ragged wet ponytail as she went, yelling all the way. "If I don't go home then my sisters will have to sell the gym. I have to go."
Ash glared up at her from the river, pausing halfway up the rock face. "So what? You don't have to do anything about it. It's their own fault they lost their gym license, not yours, so why's it have to be your responsibility to clean up their mess? Would you get back here? We're not done talking about this."
"There's nothing to talk about," she called back, already entering the dense grove of trees. "They're my family, that's my home, and that's it. I have a duty to uphold."
"What about their duty to you?" he challenged, seizing her arm as he caught up to her. "They're shackling you in a city that you literally ran away from. Tell me again, Misty, how is that fair?"
"It's not, okay?" She wrenched her arm from his grasp, wheeling on him furiously, letting out all the rage she'd felt at her sisters, all at once, on him. "It's not fair! Is that what you want me to say? Fine. I admit it. I don't want to be stuck in Cerulean for the rest of my life. But I will be, because if I don't then the gym I grew up in will pass out of my hands forever and that guilt will never leave me. I thought you understood." Tears welled up in her eyes again, but this time they were tears of anger, tears of frustration instead of sorrow. Those were the worst kind. "I can't live with that, don't you get it? This is the way it is, Ash, and if you can't understand that then maybe I should just leave now."
"Come on, don't be like that." Ash backpedaled furiously, softening his tone, but she was already stomping away uphill back toward the campsite. "Misty, wait! Come on!" By the time he arrived back at camp she was already shoving her sleeping bag into her backpack, ignoring all of Brock's anxious questions and Pikachu's intense circling. Was she seriously going to leave? "Cut it out!" he growled. "Why are you being this way?"
Brock rounded on Ash with a scalding glare. "What the hell happened?" But the glare softened into something closer to confusion as he noticed that Ash's hair and sweatpants and t-shirt were dripping wet. Glancing back at Misty, he took note of her soaked shorts and crop top, then switched lines of questioning. "What, did you guys fall in or something?"
"Misty's being unreasonable," he answered, though he directed it at the accused.
"And Ash is being a dick," she snapped.
"Okay, well Brock is confused," Brock interjected, but it went unheard as Ash started pulling Misty's sleeping bag back out of her backpack when she went to go grab the sleeping Togepi from the Brock's bed. Upon seeing this development, the fight devolved into something of a violent tug-o-war, until Misty reached her boiling point and let go, which sent Ash reeling backwards into the dying fire. Hissing a string of expletives, he rolled out of it with a long burn on his arm in time to see Misty tying her pack shut with the sleeping bag still hanging halfway out.
"Fine, just go," he shouted, and swore again as he rolled to his feet, eyes watering from the pain of the burn. "I don't know why I even asked you to stay in the first place! Now that you got your bike you've got no reason to," he sneered. It was a cheap, false, unbelievably low shot, but whatever. He was feeling cheap.
Having just picked up said bike, Misty let it clatter back to the ground in order to pick up Ash's water bottle and hurl it at him. "What a stupid thing to say!"
Ash took it on the shoulder. "Just get out of here then, if you're dying to go home."
"I'm going," she yelled, and threw one leg over her shiny new bike, his parting gift to her. Five years on it had become more of an inside joke than an actual debt, and therefore she'd never suspected that he was actually going to repay it. But he had. Why did he have to make this all so much harder for her? "You're a real piece of work," she shot at him, though she herself wasn't sure what she meant. It might have been a compliment if not for the context.
Of course, in context, Ash took it the worst way it could be taken. "Yeah, well fuck you too!"
That was her cue. With one last huff she kicked off, flying toward the main road.
Ash stood there for a startled moment, drawn and quartered between about fifty different emotions. Brock loomed behind him, saying something, but he didn't process it at all. Fidgeting in place, he ran his hands through his hair and threw his head back, wasting one split second to curse every deity he could think of before giving in. "Damnit, Misty, come back!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, then took off the way she had left.
In the center of the wrecked campsite, Pikachu tugged on Brock's cotton pajamas with concern and sadness as he watched Ash disappear over the top of the hill. "Pika pi.."
Brock could only reply with a frazzled shrug. "I have no idea."
With nothing to do but wait, he set about stomping out all the stray sparks Ash had sprayed out of the fire pit when he lost the battle over the sleeping bag. It must have been ten minutes before Ash finally came sulking back down the hill into the campsite by himself, refusing to look up. He went straight to his sleeping bag and sat down on it, folding in on himself despite Brock's persistent questioning.
Eventually Brock threw his hands up in frustration at being ignored, kicking dirt into the fire to kill the rest of it. "For god's sake, what did you say to her? I thought you were just going to say goodbye!"
"I told her not to go," he mumbled into his elbows. Stupid. So stupid. "Dunno why I bothered."
"Oh." Brock deflated. He'd been suspecting a million illicit things, and was worried he was gonna have to go all big brother on him for Misty's honor… Now he was kind of wishing for that, instead of this. The reality was tragic. Pikachu pushed his nose up between Ash's leg and arm, trying to crawl onto his lap, but Ash didn't really seem to notice and wouldn't budge. Brock wandered over and sat at the other end of Ash's sleeping bag, really wishing he had the words to cheer him up. What a horrible way to end their travels. "You know Misty," he reminded his friend gently. "She's all bark and no bite, and she hates traveling after dark. She'll be back."
But Ash knew better. "No. Not this time."
And for once, Ash was right.
I swear to god this is going to have a happy ending. I mean, I'm not a monster.
Stay tuned for part two: