Disclaimer: Moving out soon, so can't afford to own or buy a majority stake in Pokémon. Oh well ...

Firstly, I've gotta say, I'm really sorry about the delay! I've had writers block and everything, and I have agonised over the decision I took in this part. I just hope that you people won't hate me, cos I followed my vision. Now, that out of the way, please, Ladies and Gentleman, relax and enjoy the very belated part 8 of:

How Much Can Happen In A Year?

They never even saw it coming, and the stupid thing was, they should have done. The sudden 'appearance' of transportation to get them home, as well as their stupid and blinding acceptance of it, without any questions whatsoever. At the time, all that occurred to them was that it was anything to get them out of there and get themselves to safety. And on top of that, the three of them had been so nice and considerate. "Are you ok back there?" "We'll be back soon, don't worry."

Their biggest mistake was that they invited them inside, and into the safety of their home. Why hadn't it occurred to them that they would betray them? They were Team Rocket ... They had always been Team Rocket. And when they made their move against them, there had been nothing they could do to stop them.

"Ash!" Misty now screamed, struggling against the arms that held her, her hair tangled and dangling over her face and in her eyes. As the tears welled up from within them she found it even harder to see Ash, unconscious on the floor, a regrettably familiar feline figure standing over him with a look of self-satisfaction on his face. Pikachu lay besides him, equally as limp and unconscious.

"Shut up," the man restraining her said, tightening his already strong grip slightly. Struggling against the pain she reluctantly complied, not for herself, but for the life and safety of her child.

"I must say, you have a very nice place here," Jessie said both smugly and sarcastically, walking slowly around the main room of Ash's house. "That's what I like about Pallet Town ... It's so dead that even after ten years everything is the same, and no one notices or even cares to do anything about it."

"Bitch," Misty spat out weakly, drawing Jessie's immediate attention as she walked over towards her. "How can you do this to us?" Misty continued, looking up towards her. "After all we've been through together and all the times we've saved your sorry ass, you turn around and you do this to us! And I'm pregnant as well! I'd have thought you of all people would understand!" Her surprise was evident, but, she remembered and realised that she only had herself and her blind view that "everyone has a good side" to blame.

Behind her James laughed as he released his grip and threw her on to the sofa, her arms bearing the brunt of the impact. "You don't think that actually happened do you?" he asked her, an even bigger laugh following when he realised that she did. "

"Trust a stupid runt to believe a sob story like that, just like Botch and Cassidy!" Jessie giggled, almost doubling over in her hysterical mood. "You're even more blind than I ever thought you could ever be."

"Well, she deserves an answer, doesn't she Jess?" James said, leaning in close to Misty. She could smell his breath as he spoke quietly to her. "It's because we're Team Rocket agents," he answered simply. "Or didn't you really notice? Must have been the twerp distracting you." He moved away to stand next to Jessie, Misty curling up into a tight ball as best as she could in her condition.

"Don't look so shocked," Jessie coldly addressed her, the two of them appearing menacing as they looked upon her. "Please don't delude yourselves that we were anything but enemies!" she laughed, seeing the look of disappointment on Misty's face and taking great delight and pleasure from it.

"All we ever wanted you for was for your money and your Pokémon, nothing more," James added, raising a hand to his hair and flicking it back, placing it back on his hip afterwards. "Don't think for one second we gave a damn about your whole 'humans and Pokémon love each other' crap, or your pathetic journey with the twerp and every charity case you and he ran into."

"And my, my, wasn't that pathetic," Jessie added mockingly, glancing at James before she turned back to Misty. "You followed him around like the ugly, love-struck runt you were, all the time hoping he'd turn around and see that you loved him, or all the time hoping that someone out there would just give a slight damn about you."

"Shut up," Misty whispered deeply, fighting against the tears. They knew her well ... They knew her too well. They'd watched her fall in love with Ash from afar and now all she could do was sit and listen, feeling helpless as they picked at the scab that was her love for him, turning it all into a huge joke.

"You wanna know one of the really sad things ... " Jessie continued, kneeling down as she spoke. "He couldn't stand you. Every time he looked at you all he could see was a pest ... A tomboy ... An itch that if scratched would just keep coming back to bother him." She paused briefly, feeling satisfaction from the distress she was inflicting upon Misty. "Why do you think he enjoyed himself so much in Hoenn? For one, Ash had a girl round him he could have a good time with. And my, she didn't have a problem flirting with him, or him with-"

"Ash loves me!" Misty cried out, bursting into sobs. As she covered her face with a nearby pillow, Jessie laughed and stood back up, her posture straight as ever. James laughed along with her, turning to face Meowth who was finding all of the events boring, and was busy scratching a groove in the wall.

"Meowth," James called with a slight and dying chuckle, drawing the feline's attention. "It's time." A wry smile spread across his face.

"Finally we's got something better to do's than just stand around here watchin' her cry!" Meowth moaned with relief. He walked over to James, who then nodded to Jessie. As the walked out of the door she put her attention back upon Misty one last time.

"Don't try and escape," she warned. "If you do then the Boss' earlier trick won't turn out to be so fake." She then left the house, and as the echoes of the slamming door echoed into the darkness, Misty continued crying as she threw the pillow to the floor in anger both at Jessie and herself. Maybe Jessie was right ... She looked across at Ash who was moaning slightly as he slowly regained his senses.

"How can you love me?" she quietly asked him, turning her body away from him, sighing heavily whilst wiping furiously at her eyes. After several silence-filled seconds she continued. "You hated me ... You can't lie to me, I saw it in your eyes. It was my fault I fell in love you ... I actually deluded myself you felt something for me." She felt the baby kick inside of her and she placed her hand on top of her bump. "You felt sorry for me that night," she continued. "We were dancing ... And I let it slip. I let you see that I loved you. And because you felt sorry for me ... " she trailed off, wiping yet again at this time fresh tears, "you slept with me. And now you're stuck with me."

"Misty? That you?" Ash asked her quietly, making her flinch and turn back to see him walking over. Lacking the strength to smile, she only watched as he sat down on the sofa next to her with Pikachu on his knee, still unconscious but seemingly ok. "Ugh ... I don't remember much," he told her as he stroked his sleeping starter. "I remember getting back, then all of a sudden I-" he stopped, noticing the tears on Misty's face. "What's wrong?"

Besides him Misty's stomach turned itself in knots, nausea coming over her. "I ... I don't know," she began to weep, leaning over as much as she could and placing her elbows on her knees. "It's nothing," she sobbed. "I'm just scared, and tired, and I want all of this to stop!"

"Mist ... " Ash began, placing an arm around her shoulders and pulling her to him, feeling her tears dampen his clothes. "It'll be ok," he comforted. "We'll be ok, and we'll get out of here.

"You're just saying that," she whispered into him. "Why don't you just leave Ash?" she said suddenly, removing herself from her shoulder. "Leave now why you can! You couldn't stand me years ago and you can't stand me now, and I can see why! I was always having a go at you, putting you down, calling you dense ... You hated me, and you still do!"

"Hey!" he scolded, angry at her suggestion and that she should even think something like that. "Don't you dare tell me what I do and don't feel for you!" He took hold of her hand and looked into her eyes, staring her out. Slowly, his face began to soften and a small smile appeared. "I'll admit, there were times you drove me up the wall ... But I was only a kid back then. And I bet there were times you could have murdered me, right?"

"Yeah ... " she mumbled, feeling uncomfortable in the situation, and guilty as she realised that, yet again, her mouth had run off miles ahead of her brain. After being silent for a few seconds, she opened her mouth to speak. "I'm sorry."

"I know you are," he replied simply. Remembering his friend, Ash removed his hand from Misty's and moved it to Pikachu, trying to wake him gently, whilst at the same time checking for any injuries he may have sustained.

Misty watched him as he did so, feeling the love that she had always felt for him warm her up. She could have sworn that it was just another normal day, and that they were watching the sunset after a day out at the beach. Then, the serious reality of the situation came back to her like a punch in the face, and her calmness dissipated, replaced by a nagging worry. "How are we gonna get out of here?" she asked him despairingly, sighing yet again.

Ash paused before answering. "I ... I don't know," he answered truthfully, staring out of the window at the rising sun, wondering just what time it was. He could feel the responsibility weighing down on him like a Snorlax, but, he knew he had not only to protect Misty, but to reassure her as well. "But we will, I promise you."

"Pikapi?" Pikachu weakly asked out, his body stirring from its unconsciousness. Ash's attention was immediately drawn down to him, and he gently used his hands to help him sit up on his lap.

"You ok Pikachu?" he asked with concern. Pikachu nodded slightly and shook his head. Blinking afterwards he cried out with happiness and threw himself at Ash, hugging him gently, Misty leaning across so that she could rub the top of his head affectionately. Then, a sudden tapping caused everyone to flinch, and their attention, instead, to be drawn to a figure at the window.

"Ash!? Delia!? Misty!? Anyone in there!?" a desperate male voice cried out. It was a bloodied and obviously frightened Professor Oak, who, when he saw Ash and Misty, displayed a look of shock so great that it appeared as though Oak thought he had gone mad and dreamed everything.

"Professor!" Misty exclaimed, getting up from her seated position and moving over to the window. Ash placed Pikachu down and followed after her, struggling against the strength of the stuck window. "What happened? Are you alright?" she asked him loudly through the glass.

After several sharp tugs, Ash was able to open the stiff window. Leaning outwards, he took a grip and pulled Oak inside. Once in he slammed shut the window again and moved over to sit down on the sofa next to Oak. Misty, meanwhile, was in the kitchen fetching a damp cloth.

"Thank God you're alright," Oak gasped, regaining his breath and his strength. Misty returned into the room and pressed the cloth she was carrying to a painful looking gash on Oak's head. Pikachu looked with concern upon his original capturer as Misty quickly worked on his wounds, Ash helping her as much as he could.

"Who did this to you?" Ash asked whilst he and Misty worked.

"Don't worry about this," Oak answered, obviously uncomfortable with the situation and the question. "Just where have you been!? God, Tracey got so worried that he went to look for you with-"

"With Brock and May," Ash finished for him. He stood up and offered his hand out to Misty, who used it to pull herself up onto her feet. "We ran into them last night and they helped us escape."

"It was from some Team Rocket hideout near Viridian," Misty continued from Ash, handing the cloth to him as she arched her back slightly to ease her discomfort. "Dan was a Rocket agent. He used Delia just to get to Ash ... He didn't love her at all," she added sadly. Oak looked at her with surprise, about to say something when a loud banging noise from outside distracted them all. Oak almost immediately stood up and moved towards the door, peering through the spy hole on it. After looking out for a several seconds, he turned back round to face them all.

"It's not safe," Oak whispered, looking towards Misty. "It's not safe at all, especially for you," he said, referring to Misty. She placed a hand on top of her bump, protectively, and glanced nervously at Ash.

"Just what do they want Professor?" Ash asked him, clenching his fists in anger. The hand holding the cloth dripped water onto the carpet as he did so, and Misty swiftly took steps to remove it from his hand. "If it's a fight, then I'll give them one." From the sofa, Pikachu nodded with equal determination.

"Fighting's not the best thing now Ash," Oak told him almost condescendingly, taking the cloth from Misty and walking briskly into the kitchen. After several seconds of rummaging he returned with a backpack. "Fill this up with what you'll need, and fast," he told both of them, handing Ash his old bag. "And put on something more comfortable, but make it quick. We need to head up to the Lab, maybe then we can send for help."

Nodding their agreement, albeit a confused agreement, Ash and Misty moved off to get ready. Several minutes later, having put on his jeans and a jacket, Ash returned into the main room from the kitchen, having filled up his bag with various foods as well as water. At almost the same time, Misty made her way down the stairs, having swapped her dinner dress and high shoes for trainers, a t-shirt and jacket, and a loose-fitting long skirt.

"I think it's safe," Oak told them quietly, Ash nodding whilst reaching out for Misty's hand. He found it and gave it a reassuring squeeze, Misty returning it with equal force. Pikachu jumped onto Ash's shoulder, gripping his hair for support just like he had always done.

"Let's hurry then," Ash mumbled as they opened the front door of the house and walked out into Pallet Town. Inside himself, Ash was surprised at how quiet and deceptively peaceful his hometown felt at dawn, not that he'd ever woken up in order to see it. His attention was then drawn towards the direction of Oak's Lab, as a loud crashing noise sent Pokémon flying from the trees above them. The three of them then set off, hurrying along the dirt path that led up to the Lab, Ash's hand remaining in Misty's the whole time as Oak led the two of them.

"Something's not right," Misty whispered quietly to Ash. Besides him he could hear how laboured her breathing was, and Ash decided that she needed to rest before she did herself or their baby any harm.

"Professor, we need to stop for a minute," Ash called after him. Pikachu having now jumped off his shoulder, he removed the bag and began searching inside of it.

"We don't have time Ash!" Oak shouted to them, having stopped and turned around, walking back quickly in their direction. Meanwhile Misty took a gulp of water, some of the contents running down the sides of her mouth. "We need to keep moving!" he urged them both.

"And she needs to rest!" Ash argued back, taking an aggressive step towards Oak. He couldn't help but feel anger towards someone who he considered to be the closest thing he'd ever had to a father, and was furious at the same time at Oak's lack of consideration for Misty's well being.

"Professor," Misty wheezed, "I don't understand." She paused, gasping for breath, a realisation hitting her. Both Ash and Oak stopped their fighting and turned to face her. "How did you get that cut? And just why are we going to the Lab, if you just came from there? None of this makes sense!"

"She's right ... " Ash mumbled. He stepped back to stand by Misty, not taking his eyes off Oak.

"And what would a pregnant good-for-nothing runt like you know!?" Oak screamed. Ash was overcome by surprise and then anger, now realising that the person in front of him wasn't the person he thought him to be. Pikachu moved to take a protective stance in front of Ash and Misty, sparks flying from his cheeks along with growls.

"Who are you?" Ash asked, ready to fight. "You're not the Professor, are you?" After several seconds of silence, Ash began to lose his temper. "Well!? Just who the hell are you!?"

The anger on Oak's face disappeared suddenly, and he seemed to stand up and look taller than he did usually. "You took your time," he said evilly, the voice coming from his mouth not matching his face. "Then again, you're just like Delia ... Slow to catch on to things." Reaching a hand inside his customary white lab coat, a beeping sound could be heard. A buzzing noise and a flash of light, and suddenly Professor Oak was standing before them no more.

"Bastard!" Ash screamed suddenly, anger filling him totally just like it had done all but a few hours ago when he had been standing in front of the same person he was now. His hands clenched up tighter than they had ever done before, and his stomach squirmed with nausea at the presence of the person he hated the most in the world, yet only knew existed a few short hours ago. "Why the hell do you have to come back here Giovanni!?"

"Because you are here, and I never give up," he replied simply and coldly. He removed his hand from his now suit pocket, and crossed both of his arms in front of his chest. "I could have sworn you have a guardian angel Ketchum. Because you've been lucky ever since the day you were conceived. But not this time ... Today, you won't be that lucky." He then unfolded his arms and reached inside his inner jacket pocket, holding the retrieved item out in his hand. It was a gun, pointing directly at Ash, who suddenly felt all of the anger inside of him turn into terror.

"Pikapi!" Pikachu shouted out, about to jump up to attack Giovanni when, instead, Giovanni pointed the gun towards the Pokémon. Pikachu froze, unsure of what to do, but sure that he wasn't ready to die just yet. Instead he backed off slowly, heading over to Misty to protect her. That was the most important thing to do, especially with a gun wielding manic who had already 'shot' her once.

"If that rat tries anything, I'll be eating him for supper," Giovanni warned as he pointed the gun back at Ash. Seeing the fear in both Ash and Misty's eyes, Giovanni couldn't help but laugh out loud.

"I fail to see what's funny," Misty said coldly, her voice full of hatred. She watched as Ash stood still, barely moving a muscle. His mind kept racing with thoughts ... He didn't want to die, not now. Not with Misty and his child watching. Not with the child he wanted to see born, and to see grow up.

"This is, right here," Giovanni answered Misty, increasing his already strong grip on the gun, producing several clicking noises from it. "Ever since the day I knew Ash existed, I have wanted to kill him. And now ... Here I am, right now, a gun pointed at his head, and I can't help but think ... " He faded off, noticing the stream of tears that were running down Misty's face. "I can't help but think, and wonder, just how I want him to die."

In the near distance, footsteps could be heard approaching on the dry ground. When they stopped, Ash flicked his eyes briefly from staring down the barrel of the gun, to the three people who were now standing behind Giovanni. Immediately, he felt his anger rise again. "Traitors," he spat at them.

"We'd be the traitor's if we betrayed our boss," Jessie answered him. Keeping a few metres distance away from Giovanni, she raised her hand to her head, saluting him. James and Meowth copied her. "We've been up to the lab sir!"

"So, what about our dear friend Oak," he asked her as he turned to face her, lowering his gun. Ash took the chance to pull Misty towards him briefly and comfort her. "I trust you followed my orders?" Giovanni continued, making sure that Ash and Misty didn't use the opportunity to try anything.

"Uh ... " James hesitated, stepping quickly next to Jessie. The two exchanged nervous glances before returning their gaze back to Giovanni. "We trashed up the lab, but ... Oak got away." Ash sighed with relief, glad that the Professor was safe.

Giovanni, on the other hand, wasn't so glad. "You idiots!!" he screamed, pointing his gun directly at them, switching his aim between Jessie and James, both of whom looked suddenly petrified. "After all your difficult successes recently, I give you one easy job ... And you screw it up!"

"It wasn't exactly our fault!" Jessie defended, James shooting her a warning and panicking look. "Oak knew something was going on, he's not stupid! If I was him I'd have got out of there and not stayed in the most obvious place, just like he did!" Finishing her outburst, she stood taking several deep breaths, calming herself down. But, the thing that worried all of them the most, was the neutral look on Giovanni's face.

"You know the price for failure," he said quietly, raising the gun up to Jessie. Next to Ash, Misty was gripping onto his clothes tight. Was he going to shoot Jessie? Just then, before they could find out, a loud scream spreading itself across the quietness of Pallet Town, echoing around them like an air raid siren would. All of them turned their heads towards the origin of the sound ...

It was May, on top of a hill, screaming her head off. Tracey stood next to her, experiencing a mixture of surprise, shock and fear.

Giovanni, meanwhile, didn't waste any time taking advantage of the distraction. Whilst everyone's attention was focused on May, he raised his gun in the direction of Jessie and James and fired towards them. Realising what he was doing, James pushed Jessie out of the way, the bullet landing in his shoulder as the echoes of the bang resonated around them, mixing in with James's grunt of pain.

"Ash! Misty!" May and Tracey shouted out in unison, the two of them running down the hill and towards them as fast as they could. As they did so, Jessie moved to help James, Ash taking the chance to attack Giovanni. He kicked the gun out of his hand, causing him to fall to the floor with a loud gasp.

But in all the commotion, Ash didn't notice what was happening to Misty, who herself was now was on the floor, eyes open wide and her hand over the bump that was their child as she screamed out in pain, Pikachu standing over her. Forgetting about all the others, Ash turned around to look at her ...

And the blood that was now appearing through her clothes.

"Misty!" he shouted out, dropping to the floor besides her. He looked on, feeling more helpless than he had ever done in his life, as Tracey and May ran up behind him and kneeled on the ground, both of them secretly unsure of what to do in the situation. May placed Togepi next to Pikachu, who was looking obviously petrified, but remaining strangely quiet, something that seemed strange to Pikachu.

"Oh God," May gasped, fear threatening to freeze her totally. Noticing a bottle of water nearby, she got Pikachu and Togepi to fetch it for her. She took off her bandana, roughly folding it as Pikachu passed her the bottle, May pouring the water out of it and over her bandana. She then placed it on top of Misty's head, trying to cool her down. "Hey, keep in there Mist," she said, smiling at her.

"Ash, this is dangerous," Tracey warned him, Ash looking at him with total panic in his eyes whilst trying to remain calm and focused. Tracey then looked back towards Misty. "It's also really bad. She could lose the baby."

"No!" Misty squeaked in disbelief, tensing up as the streaks of pain ran throughout her body. "Not the baby!"

"No ... " Ash mumbled, feeling the anger, yet again, burn up within. "This is his fault," he murmured angrily through gritted teeth. "It's all your-" he began, turning around to face Giovanni.

But he wasn't there anymore. Neither was Jessie, James or Meowth.

"They've gone," he murmured, standing up. He turned around, trying to look for any sign of them. "Where the hell have you gone Giovanni!?"

"Pikapi! Pika pika Pikachupi!" Pikachu shouted to him, trying to draw his attention. Togepi called out to him too, and to both their disappointment, they realised that it wasn't working.

"Ash!" May called out to him. He again took no notice so, leaving her bandana on Misty's forehead and in Pikachu and Togepi's care, she went over to Ash and shook him violently by his shoulders, trying to snap him out of his stare. "Ash Ketchum! There's no point standing and shouting, to hell with Team Rocket right now! Misty needs your help, we can't do it alone! We have to help her or the baby will die!"

"Ash, please!" Tracey begged him, his sleeves rolled up his elbows. Realising the seriousness of the situation, Ash's anger subsided and May let go of him, letting him turn around to face Misty and move over to grip onto her hand. May moved back to Misty's head, helping the Pokémon to pour more water on her bandana and place it back on Misty's forehead.

"I'm sorry," he apologised, kissing Misty on her forehead. "You'll be ok," he reassured her, gripping her hand hard. He felt so torn up, confused as well. None of them had any idea what to do, or how to do it. All they could do was tell each other that it was gonna be ok, that everything would be ok and that so would Misty and the baby. Looking at May, Pikachu, Togepi and then Tracey, he wished that they all really believed it would be.

"It hurts," she whispered, gritting her teeth and returning Ash's squeeze on her hand. "Tracey ... Can you help? Do you know what to do?" she asked him desperately.

Unfortunately for all of them, Tracey shook his head, sadness and regret across his face. "I'm sorry Misty, I really am. I'm only a Watcher, I've never had to do something like this. I could try though," he offered. Misty tensed up again as another spasm of pain moved throughout her body and Tracey placed his hands on her knees, trying to hold her down.

"Isn't she meant to push when she that happens?" May asked, Ash and Tracey looking at her to see if she knew more. "I'm not sure, I only know stuff that I watched on TV!"

"Well there we are then!" Tracey shouted, moving from his position to besides May. "You're a girl May, you've watched something like this, so in the circumstances you're better qualified to deliver the baby," he said, urging May to the foot of Misty's body.

May looked on, feeling faint at the sight of blood. She swallowed heavily, rolling up her sleeves. "Misty, I'm not totally sure what to do," May told her, placing a reassuring hand on her knee. She fought to keep her hand still, not wanting to alert Misty to her fear. She looked over to Ash. "I'll do what I can Ash."

"Thanks," he said, smiling at May. She returned it before turning her complete attention back to Misty, Ash leaning down on Misty, kissing her forehead tenderly.

"It's getting worse!" Misty screamed as more pain crashed throughout her body. She tried to breathe as best she could, remembering what she had been told at the few pre-natal sessions she and Ash had attended. "Where's Delia? She was a midwife! She'd know what to do!"

"But there's been no sign of her," Ash told her, his hand stroking her cheek. He then watched again, helplessly, as yet again pain coursed its way through her, this time Misty shouting out to try and help herself endure it.

"Her contractions are getting closer, that means you've gotta start pushing soon," May warned, Pikachu and Togepi yet again helping Tracey to add more water to the bandana. "Don't look at me like that, at least I have some concept of what a birth is like!" she shouted at Tracey, who had rolled his eyes at her statement.

"Tracey just let her try!" Misty shouted out, sitting up as, yet again, pain washed over her and she screamed out. Ash moved to sit behind her, his knees being used to hold her upper body up.

"Pikachu, get some more water," Tracey said, Pikachu complying as he dug another bottle of out Ash's bag, handing it over to Tracey. He looked over towards Ash, feeling his trainer's helplessness, as well as his own, as Tracey cooled down the bandana and put it back on Misty's head, the tracks of water running off and onto the ground. He then looked at Togepi, feeling sorry that the small child had to watch his mother go through pain like this, knowing full well that Misty and her baby could both die.

"Keep her like that Ash," May told him as she reached inside Misty's skirt and pulled her legs apart slightly. "Holy shit!" May exclaimed, her eyes popping out of her head. Remembering where she was, she internally cursed herself, taking a deep breath to try and help keep herself calm. Now wasn't the time to scream like a school child.

"Wha is it?" Ash asked her quickly, only receiving a shaking head from May in return. Annoyance combining with fright inside of him, he started shouting without thinking. "May, you have no idea how helpless I feel! Our baby could die, and all I can do is sit here and do nothing to stop it!"

"Ash, you need to keep calm!" Tracey whispered loudly. "Misty needs moral support, something only you can give her right now! Reassure her Ash, do something!"

Something in the distance caught Pikachu's attention. Ears pricking up, a relieved smile appearing on his face. "Pichupi!" Pikachu shouted out, running away from the three of them.

"Pikachu!" Tracey called after him, raising his head from Misty to look in the direction Pikachu had taken off in ...

And never before had he been so glad to see Brock and Delia running towards them.

"Misty!" Delia shouted out as she approached them, mentally kicking herself that if she hadn't been sleeping, she might have been there from the beginning to help her. Hearing her shouts, Ash and May immediately looked towards them, both glad that someone was there who knew what they were doing.

"Delia!" Misty cried to her, pain causing her to almost scream afterwards. "The baby!" she called again, Ash pushing the hair out of her eyes. Togepi looked onwards, tears gathering in its eyes.

"It's ok dear, you'll be ok," Delia soothed them all as she reached May's position. "Let me take over sweetie," she said calmly, May almost too glad to be moved away by Brock.

"I tried," May wept, curling up into a ball with Brock, Togepi and Pikachu all beside her. "God Brock, I tried, but I didn't have a clue." Nodding in the direction of Tracey, Brock silently asked him to sit and comfort May. As he began to move over, Brock took the place of Tracey next to Misty, glancing up at Ash and giving him a reassuring smile.

"What happened?" Brock asked Ash, checking Misty's temperature with the back of his hand. Smiling reassuringly down at her, she managed a small one back before the pain returned to her again and she called out once more.

"Giovanni shot James," Ash told him, Brock looking at him with several unanswered questions. "Jessie and James tricked us, they tried to get to Professor Oak, and when they couldn't find him, Giovanni shot at them." He stopped as Misty cried out in pain once, Ash holding her down.

"When's the ambulance going to arrive?" Delia asked them both, worry clear on her face. She glanced towards Tracey and May, and then looked at Ash with disbelief. "You haven't called one!? Tracey, May, go and do it! Quick!"

"Come on," Tracey said, standing up and helping May, who was clutching a frightened Togepi, to do the same. Pikachu decided to go with them, feeling like there was nothing he could do there to help. The four of them ran off down the road in the direction of Delia's house, as Delia's voice took on an edge of urgency.

"Ash honey, let Brock hold her up," she said to him softly, almost like she was talking to a child. Misty already holding herself up, Ash moved to sit by her side as Brock took her weight off her arms and on to him instead. Ash grabbed onto her hand, kissing it as she groaned in pain again.

"Delia, she can't take much more of this," Brock warned her, Misty breathing heavily.

"She doesn't have to," Delia told both of them. She placed her hands on Misty's knees and leaned in towards her. "Misty dear, I want you to listen to me." Misty nodded her head weakly. "When you feel the urge to push, and you will soon ... Do it, as hard as you can. You're nearly there darling."

Nodding her head frantically, feeling the urge building up inside of her, Misty edged herself upwards against Brock, one hand gripping Brock's arm whilst the other was firmly in Ash's. "It's nearly- Aaaaaaah!" she screamed, pushing downward with what little energy she had left in her body. Her throat felt raw from the screaming, and then the pain ... It was everywhere, all around her, and all she wanted was for it to just leave her alone.

"Come on Misty," Ash said, wiping at her sweaty forehead with his sleeve. "You're nearly there, you can do it." Through her gasping, she turned to look at him, taking strength from his gaze.

"I love you," she managed to wheeze out, her face screwing up in pain afterwards as the onset of a contraction neared. She readjusted her grip on Ash's hand, feeling like she was almost popping it off his arm as the urge to push flowed through her again. She acted on it, shouting out loud as she pushed down, feeling her baby move within her.

Then, suddenly, it stopped. It was all over. Collapsing exhaustedly onto Brock, she was surprised at the range of emotions that bubbled and washed over her in such a short period of time. Relief, exhaustion, love ... And a surprising sense of loneliness that, once again, there was no one inside of her to nurture, to look after. Finding from somwhere the energy to push herself up, she reminded herself that, instead, the person she had carried inside her for the premature 6 months was now real, for her and Ash to look after.

Except for one thing ... The baby wasn't crying.

"Brock!" Delia shouted out, adrenaline rushing throughout her body as she quickly moved to help save the baby, Brock moving from behind Misty and next to Delia to help her do so. Ash quickly took Misty into his arms, hugging her tightly and closely as the tears came quickly from her eyes.

"Mom, please," Ash begged, tears appearing in his own eyes as he looked on at her and Brock, the two of them trying desperately to make the baby breathe, Misty continuously sobbing into his chest. Looking at them, he felt a strange numbness settle over him, almost like it was a dream, and he was just an observer, not a participant.

And it was there that he watched as his dream turned into a nightmare, when Delia looked at Brock with a great sadness on her face. Nodding his head reluctantly, Brock took off his jacket and wrapped the small, unmoving form that Delia passed to him within it. Delia, her head bent over in sadness, defeat and grief, couldn't watch as Brock handed Ash and Misty their baby, and the grandchild that she couldn't save.

"Girl," Brock mumbled as he handed her to her father, unsure of what to say, but knowing he couldn't break down in front of Ash and Misty right now. He needed to be strong for both of them, he needed to help them get through it all, and the pain of losing their first-born child. But, at that moment in time, as watched his two best friends grieve, he knew it was one of the hardest thing he would ever have to do in his life.

"No ... " Ash mumbled, pulling back the jumper slightly to look upon the form that was his baby daughter. Misty watched him sheepishly as he did so, not wanting to admit and face up to what had just happened. "My little girl ... " he faded off, the tears flowing down his face. Losing the strength in his arms, he handed their baby to Misty, who clutched it tightly to her chest. Ash pulled her close to him and the two of them sat there, consumed in their own grief.

"They're on their way!" May called to them from down the road, Togepi in her arms as she ran and Tracey and Pikachu following shortly after them. "They said that-" she stopped, noticing the scene before her and the absence of happiness that she was expecting from the birth of the baby. Realising just what had happened whilst she had been gone, one hand moved to over her mouth as she, also, began to cry, Togepi curling up as she held him.

"Pikachu ... " Pikachu mumbled sadly, the tears creeping from his eyes too. Tracey, behind him, hung his head down sadly, feeling an enormous sense of failure within him. He could have done more to help ... He should have done more to help her! But, in thinking this, he wasn't alone.

And, as the group stayed there in their mourning, the wail of approaching ambulance sirens echoed towards them from the distance ...



Well, by now you should have read the 'twist' in this story ... So really I should probably justify this to you people (and there will be at least 2, I predict!) who now hate my guts.

Firstly, I'm trying to experiment with other themes in my story other than AAML. A baby, which seemed a great idea when I first wrote this, symbolises a lifetime bond. Plus, I ran out of ideas of what could happen to Misty next in her pregnancy, because it makes her friends seem like they do nothing all day but talk about her!

Also, when this fic finally gets finished, there will be several drastic alterations made, leading up the final 'complete' story being posted on ff.net! Ooooh, "How Much Can Happen In A Year? – Directors Cut", there's something to look forward to! Don't expect it for ages though.

Anyways, please RR! Part 9 hasn't been stated yet, so I could probably change all of this if I really wanted to. My public ... Tell me what you thought ...