Disclaimer - I don't own the things. None of the things. Except the prompt, I guess.

Author - Warlordess

Notes - Yo, guys! This fic was created as a sample after I finished writing all my Pokeshipping Week contributions. I was still high on the awesome that is my number one OTP and I had decided to open submissions for one-word-prompts that my readers could send in. Since then, I've received (and completed drafts on) about 6-7 of them (out of 20+) but I haven't typed any up yet since I've recently decided it might be time to quit the writing game altogether due to the lack of reader response I've been getting after posting my new works/chapters.

So this sample is now being put to more use as another warning or whatever, as well as the mandatory update I'm making to multiple sites so that all of my fics are posted everywhere they can/should be. If you like this prompt, if you want to see more, if you would like the opportunity to submit your own for me to fulfill, then show me it's worth continuing to post stuff at all. Review this fic, favorite it, send me a message. Because I've drastically lost faith in myself and potential readers over the past year or two.

OoOoO

Title - 1WP : "hair"

Summary - Ash Ketchum can handle practically anything that gets thrown his way. But not her. Not right now. Not after some apparently significant changes in both of them. Pokeshippy one-shot.

I don't include a setting in this one minus the fact that the characters involved are obviously at a restaurant, so I'll just summarize that they're having dinner together because the characters mentioned were unable to attend Ash's latest reunion/victory party that his mom threw him.

OoOoO

This had never happened to him before.

Ash Ketchum had met a surplus of a couple hundred girls while on his Pokemon journey. He'd traveled with a handful of them sporadically for years. He'd even been in the company of a girl who'd done the very opposite of what Misty had apparently decided to do while she was running the Cerulean Gym…

Somehow nothing had prepared him for the sight of his redheaded friend sporting a new, lengthy do.

"Misty, it looks so good!" May crooned in admiration, even going so far as to hold up her hands and form the square she usually reserved for when she pretended to direct her expedition series.

Misty flushed, lips puckered, and sunk bashfully into her seat out of flattered embarrassment.

"Thanks, May…"

"Really though, I've seen pictures of you with short hair. How long did it take to grow out?" Dawn asked next, eyes glimmering excitedly at the conversation topic. Personal hygiene and fashion were her specialty, after all.

"Oh, a couple of years."

"Why'd you do it?" Ash interrupted rudely from across the table, clearly not thinking his tone through.

All three girls stopped their giggling and fussing and turned a collective stern gaze in his direction. He cleared his throat, awkwardly distracting himself with the glass of water the waiter had brought him a few minutes ago. He could feel Brock boring holes into the side of his head from where the older youth sat, probably internally wishing his soul luck on its trip down the River Styx since Misty was due to end his life after such a crass remark.

Oddly enough, however, the redhead subdued her rage and gave a rather eloquent (read: polite) answer.

"I just felt like trying something new, Mr. Pokemon Master. What's it to you?"

Okay, so maybe not that polite.

"Well, I think it looks great," May told her, patting her on the knee with a smile. "And you can do so much with longer hair too! Maybe I should grow mine out…"

"You'd look amazing with long hair, May!" Dawn complimented, "It's a bit harder to manage, especially if you're on the road, but I can give you both some tips on how to keep it shiny and healthy."

"Thanks, Dawn. I might take you up on that actually. I've never let my hair grow this long before and, since I do a lot of swimming and stuff, it tangles really easily so…"

Ash tuned the three girls out as they deteriorated further into their glamorous, girly world.

"Brock, what do we do?"

"Wha'd'ya mean, Ash?"

"Well, they're just…" And the raven-haired trainer gestured helplessly in their direction, not sure how to explain himself and his discomfort better.

"Just let them talk themselves out," the doctor-to-be replied with a shrug. "None of them get to socialize with each other all that much, especially not in person. At some point, they'll run out of questions and they'll realize they need to look at their menus and pick something to eat. Besides, like Misty said, what's it matter to you, right?"

But it did matter. The raven-haired trainer turned back to his own menu, hoping to distract himself with an internal battle over which of the five entrees he was in the mood for would be most tasty and filling. And, in a way, it worked. At the very least, he was able to ignore their actual voices and conversation.

But some part of him was being consumed by agitation. One of his legs was rapidly trembling, his foot inconsolably tapping against the ground (thankfully under the table where nobody could see it).

He looked at her from over the top of his menu then dropped his gaze hurriedly back down to the page he was currently on.

Like he thought before, he hadn't been prepared for this.

He didn't know why it bugged him. It was just hair. On Misty. Hair on Misty. Long hair on Misty. And it wasn't even that long. It only fell to a few inches above her elbow. He'd seen her wear a couple of wigs that allowed for the same illusion when they were kids.

No, wait, they were still kids. They were just… mildly closer to adulthood than childhood at this point.

He didn't know why it bugged him so sincerely to see the fiery red-orange strands fall around her face, some framing her brows, her cheekbones, her chin; all of it contrasting to her pale complexion, her teal eyes; all of it bouncing and fluttering enthusiastically with her every move…

He was letting it affect him too much. He didn't even know it was possible to have so many active thoughts about hair of all things.

"… Ash?" a familiar voice called out, "Hello…? Ash?"

He came to as Brock clapped him on the shoulder, shaking him from his unrelenting torture.

That's right, he thought, She's torturing me. She knows exactly what she's doing.

Okay, yeah, that wasn't paranoia kicking in or anything.

"I'm fine, Brock," he finally got around to saying, and he thought for sure that he meant it, "I was just… trying to figure out what I wanted to eat."

"Well, I hope you worked it out because our waiter's been standing patiently while you were lost in your… whatever that was."

"Uh, y - yeah, I mean," he paused, eyeing a suspicious and impatient redhead from across the table and taking solace in the fact that at least the torture seemed to be applied in both directions, "I'll get that."

He didn't even look at what he'd pointed out to the waiter. It didn't much matter. Everything on the page was a beef-related dish. It was pretty much impossible to screw up beef. Besides, he had other things on his mind. Obviously.

"And how would you like it cooked?"

"Aaah, yeah, medium is fine, whatever."

Misty finally broke eye contact - a victory he would definitely claim all for himself, he decided triumphantly - and went back to her conversation with May and Dawn which had, thankfully, left hair care behind and landed instead on their latest battle challenges.

He should be thrilled. He was a lot more comfortable with this subject than the last, he could actually contribute to it if he wanted to…

But this had never happened to him before.

He didn't know what to do. His agitation was increasing with every minute that passed by and, with it, an urge to do something (though he didn't know what) grew, consuming his gut, making his limbs ache, his fingers itching in anticipation.

He wondered if it was because they hadn't seen each other in so long. Misty was - had always been - very good at getting under his skin. It was just weird because she usually had to do or say something directly to him, she usually had to instigate something, to get to him this much.

Then Misty laughed.

Ash's stomach dropped and his chest caught fire.

"I've gotta…" he said suddenly, licking his lips, "I've gotta use the bathroom. Be right back."

His group of friends nodded as he rose to his feet. He knew where the bathroom was, knew it was on the wall behind him, knew it was completely unnecessary to walk around to the other side of the table where the three girls were grouped together, but he did it anyway.

And, as he ambled by her, he raised the hand closest to her head and leafed his fingers through her hair, from the top of Misty's scalp down past the back of her neck, each digit enveloped in soft, downy locks.

"What the–?!" the redhead yelped in shock, shoulders stiffening as she hopped to her feet, but Ash had already made it passed May, passed Dawn, and even passed the next table over.

Lucky for him, her outburst had drowned out his own shuddering retaliatory breath.

"What's wrong, Misty?" May was first to ask, and Ash turned his head just far enough to note a similarly confused expression on Dawn's face.

"N - nothing," the Cerulean gym leader squeaked, regaining her seat and biting her lips as she did her best to stifle the flush that had graced her cheeks and ears at the raven-haired trainer's transgression, but the goosebumps pickling her arms and legs were a giveaway all their own.

Good; he'd gotten away clean.

Or so he thought, because Brock was staring at him, eyebrows raised so high that they vanished into his hair.

Ash hadn't been prepared for this (and neither had Brock, it became painfully clear), but at least he and Misty were still on equal ground. An eye for an eye, as both of their states of shock would entertain.

A heart for a heart, as both of theirs beating erratically would prove.

Oh no.

He hadn't been prepared for that either.

OoOoO

Notes - Thanks for reading! Just so you know, this fic was borne due to a fair number of Misty/Pokeshipping fans wishing/wanting her to grow her hair out! I've received some criticism for my older!Misty art because I personally believe she'd keep her hair short (and also because of the deleted Mewtwo movie footage, where older!Misty does indeed have short hair). But it's also interesting to consider older!Ash's reaction to a Misty who would grow her hair out just to try something different… ;-D