Pointless Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon – but by the end of this story, maybe you'll wish I did.
Author's Note: In my mind, each generation of the anime lasts for roughly 1.5 years. Therefore, in this fic, Ash: 17, Misty: 17, Brock: 22. Enjoy.
Thwack, slap, smack, thwack.
Misty hopped down the corridor of the Cerulean Gym, the fin of her mermaid's tail slapping against the vinyl flooring. She gripped the nearest wall with one hand, barely keeping her balance, and peered over her shoulder nervously. A long trail of puddles marked the footsteps – well, finsteps – she had left in her wake. She was still soaking wet from her underwater acrobatics; her hair extensions weighed her head back like an iron veil. But there was no time to dry off. Right now, she had bigger issues to deal with, and the first of those was to make it to her dressing room unnoticed. Because after all, a pink seashell bikini top was the last thing she wanted to be seen in – at least, up close and personal.
Thank Mew the hallways were empty – this would be embarrassing enough if it happened before the show. Certainly not during – not right at the start of intermission, of course not. Why settle for a minor setback when you could have a total disaster on your hands?
"Because that would be too easy," Misty muttered to herself, hopping along, giving a voice to Atropotema. "Let's see how she can handle it without legs." She leaned forward, peering around the corner of a junction. Her dressing room door stood like a shining fire escape along the wall of the conjoining hallway. Thankfully she hadn't made a wrong turn along the way. The panic that had gripped her when she realized the gravity of her predicament – it was enough to disorient even her in this place.
Misty pressed forward, hopping towards the door. Almost there. Crisis on hold. Dignity intact. Maybe there was no reason to be freaking out about this. Well, no – there was a reason, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. It was just a small little problem, a tiny little issue, and there had to be some way to fix it. She would figure something out.
Misty reached out towards the door handle – and lost her balance, her tail swishing out from under her. She fell forward with a yelp, slamming her head against the wooden surface of the door. THUD.
"O-ow…" Misty clutched her forehead with both hands, glancing up at the handle from her new-found bed of floor tile and water puddles. "Damn it!" She reached up and ripped the door open, dragging herself inside the dressing room like a beached Magikarp. Still on the floor, she pushed the door closed behind her, making sure to lock it with a click. The back of her head came to rest against the burgundy wall, almost of its own accord. She let out a heavy sigh.
"Yep. Total disaster."
At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Brilliant, actually. The Cerulean Gym's semi-annual Water Ballet was its (and the Waterflower family's) largest source of revenue. The show far outpaced the money made through registering gym challengers, and it even dwarfed the mandatory contributions from the Indigo League. All in all, it was a hit – except for the simple fact that people weren't showing up.
Each year, the lines that stretched outside the gym grew shorter. Each year, the stands were less and less full. And each year, the money made from the show – the money used to keep the Cerulean Gym in business – dwindled. It was getting to the point of being unsustainable.
Misty knew why. It was obvious. No matter how amazing their performance, no matter how hard she and her sisters – well, mostly she – worked to make it happen, there were only so many times people would come to see the same show. Aside from the gym, Cerulean City wasn't exactly a tourist hotspot; some coastal bluffs, a bike shop, more … coastal bluffs. Most of their audience lived here; the out-of-towners that did show up were few and far between. Eventually, people had gotten bored seeing the same thing over and over. As Daisy would put it: "The water ballet? That's so last year."
So, of course, this meant that Misty had to try something new. And what better way to revive the show than with a new script, carefully plagiarized from the plot of The Little Mermaid? Throw in a little transformation, a couple of beach and castle scenes, a sinister new villain, and a bit of tragic romance with an (ultimately) happy ending. It would be a hit! Of course, right?
Well, it was. People had shown up in droves, packing the gym's stadium seats shoulder-to-shoulder. The cheering crowd seemed larger and louder than even their very first opening day. Even Ash and Brock were here, though that was no coincidence: the latter lived just a city away, and she had threatened to drag the former to Cerulean City by the hat if he didn't show up for this one. Never mind that he was traveling the world; she wanted him here. For this. I-it was a premiere, after all! Not a convenient excuse at all. Nope.
And yet, despite all this planning (and threatening), Misty soon discovered a flaw in her plan. She had made one slight miscalculation: her part in the play had grown that much more difficult. Before, at intermission, she could simply swim to her conch shell, pretend to fall asleep, retrieve her hidden oxygen device, and spend the next fifteen minutes resting, preparing herself for Act II. Now, the list of tasks to be done had gotten … a bit longer. The entire bulk glass structure of the ballet had to be lowered back into the pool. The retractable floor had to rumble back into place. Curtains had to be drawn all along the length of the newly-created stage. Scenery had to be set up. And most importantly, she had to change her outfit to something that accommodated legs.
And that's where the problems started – with a simple, panic-inducing SNAP.
Misty looked down at her mermaid's tail in frustration. She moved her hands to her hip, fiddling with neoprene, pulling at the wetsuit-like material. After a moment, her fingers found the seam – and the broken zipper that lie underneath.
It wasn't just broken, of course. Snapping the pull tag off the zipper in her haste to get changed obviously wasn't enough. It was stuck, too – jammed in between two teeth with little hope of coming free. No matter how she struggled with it, the fastener wouldn't budge, not even a millimeter.
"Ugh. This is ridiculous!" cried Misty, exasperated. "How am I supposed to get this off? A fish knife?" She soon found herself wondering if there truly was a cutting utensil known as a "fish knife". It sounded like something Ash would say, so she assumed there wasn't. Hey Misty, can you hand me that fish knife? Hmm. Not likely. Fishing knife, maybe. Fillet knife. Aquatic-related trivia always bothered her.
Clawing at the wall, Misty struggled to get to her feet – or in this case, fin – and looked around. Her dressing room provided some privacy to deal with this problem – more so than the shared locker room, at least – but a solution wasn't coming to light. The costume accessories and various cosmetic items scattered across her vanity provided no answers. She stared at her sopping, disheveled reflection in the brightly-lit mirror, wracking her brain for a way out of this mess.
Cut a new seam in the material? No, that was out of the question. It would be impossible for her to fix it later, and a mermaid's tail that wasn't waterproof? Less than useless.
Try to force it off? Impossible – at least, not by herself. The tail was skintight, custom-made with nothing left to chance. At the time of order, measurements had been taken to fit her figure exactly; Misty had been too paranoid about the thing slipping off during a show to settle for anything less. But that meant slipping out of it was like pulling off a Pokemon heist orchestrated by Jesse and James. Besides, that had been the first thing she tried.
Hope her sisters would notice? Fat chance. Daisy, Lily, and Violet were all busy preparing the stage during the intermission; there were too many tasks to handle for them not to be busy. Misty had been the first one to reach the locker room, and had hopped off in a panicked frenzy long before any of her sisters had shown up to change. None of them would have noticed that something was wrong. In fact – she let out a derisive scoff at this – they probably assumed that she was fixing her hair. And no one else knew about her predicament.
Pray for a miracle?
A knock at the door.
Misty blinked, incredulous. "It worked?" Apparently wooden crosses did more than ward off annoying Ghastlys. She might become a believer just yet. She quickly unlocked the door and pulled it open. "I knew you'd figure out some-"
Misty's exaltation died mid-sentence. Slowly, a look of horror crept its way onto her face, like a Haunter emerging from a beautiful antique portrait, more than ready to drag its victim to the afterlife. A bead of sweat wandered along her brow, dripping to the floor to join its siblings from the pool. Because outside the doorway stood not Daisy, nor Lily, nor Violet. Not even one of the random townsfolk they had hired to help with the show. No, outside the door was the worst nightmare imaginable – the one person, the only person she would have never, ever called to ask for help.
"Misty?" said Ash, looking confused from underneath the brim of his Pokemon League hat. "What's going on? Figure out what?"
A miracle? Scratch that. This had gone from a total disaster to an utter catastrophe.
"A-ash," said Misty, piling on her trademarked Innocent Sweetness™ like icing on a wedding cake. "Why are you here?"
Ash blinked. "What about you?"
"It's my dressing room, idiot. Why wouldn't I be here?"
"O-oh. Right," replied Ash, chuckling nervously, a hand behind his head. He paused for a moment, as if he had forgotten why he had shown up at her door in the first place. "Daisy asked me to help look for you."
"Oh, Daisy?" Inwardly, Misty breathed a sigh of relief. So they did notice something was up. She might be able to squirm her way out of this one just yet. "Wait. How did you even know where I was? You've never been down here before."
Ash nodded to the hallway, to the trail of standing water that ended beside his feet. "I figured I'd find you if I followed the puddles."
Misty rolled her eyes. Hansel and Gretel, undersea edition. But this was no fairy tale. "Never mind. Daisy, where is she?"
"Outside, getting things ready along with everyone else." Ash broke into one of his signature grins – the goofy kind that always tugged at her heartstrings. "You guys put a lot of work into this one, Mist. No wonder you needed the help."
Did she mention that she had convinced Ash to help set up the stage during the intermission, too? No? Minor detail.
Misty laughed ruefully. "I could use some of that now." She clamped her lips together, the regret hitting almost immediately. Misty wanted to take those words, stuff them into a jar, entomb it in a cement sarcophagus, and bury it deep beneath the Cerulean Gym's foundation.
Ash furrowed his brow, seeming concerned. "What's wrong?"
"N-nothing! Can you, uh …" Misty glanced back into her dressing room, at the clock hanging on the wall. 6:22 PM. Eight minutes until intermission was over. Eight minutes to find a way out of this. Eight minutes to get changed, restyle her hair, apply makeup, sprint up to the stage, remember her lines, not botch this entire play, and save the Cerulean Gym from certain bankruptcy.
"Misty?" said Ash.
She turned to look at him. They stared at each other for what seemed like ages. He blinked at her.
Tick. Seven minutes.
Misty grabbed Ash by the jacket collar, pulling him inside the room with an exasperated huff. "Get in here."