DISCLAIMER: I do not own Pokémon.
This story is intended purely to encapsulate everything I love about the Pokémon anime; just a nostalgic, detailed, humorous imagining of an adult Ash discovering his feelings for Misty. Originally a oneshot, but eventually became a multi-chaptered story.
CHAPTER 1: PROLOGUE
"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
According to Brock, this is one of Newton's three laws of inertia. Don't ask me what 'inertia' is, because I've got no idea. Hey, maybe it's a new type of pokémon! Or a new training method, maybe? Must be, otherwise why would Brock have pulled me aside in the pokémon centre specially to tell me this? Dawn's probably wondering where we are now, and I can hear Pikachu chanting his 'Pikapi's from the foyer, but after eight years of friendship, I've come to accept that there's just no escaping my older friend's annoying 'pep talks'. It's then that I notice Brock's suddenly stopped talking my ear off and is giving me a look as if he wants me to say something.
Before I can open my mouth, however, he lets out a sigh and crosses his arms. "You weren't listening to anything I just said, were you?"
I scratch at the back of my head sheepishly. "Er…"
"Thought as much. Okay, since you're even further gone than I thought, I'm just gonna give you the quick recap."
Just what did he mean by that? Do I look tired or something? Oh, it could be the cheeseburgers we had for lunch; man, I sure can put those things away. Come to think of it, a nap sounds pretty good about n-
"So basically," Brock begins before I can drift off again, "if I push against this wall here, the reason it doesn't fall over is because the wall is pushing back with the same amount of force as me. The two forces are in equilibrium, and so cancel each other out."
I don't think I've ever been more confused in my life. "Equi-whatty-um?"
"Equilibrium, Ash," Brock reiterates. I can tell he's trying hard to maintain his patience, but right now I'm quickly losing mine. "It means they're equal, balanced, in harmony with one another."
"So, to put this theory into practice…remember about a week ago when we went shopping in Hearthome City?"
"And we could hardly move through the streets because they were so crowded?"
I nod, massaging a faint bruise on my arm from where someone had almost knocked me over as they sped past.
"And we lost you for about ten minutes because you started running towards a girl with bright orange hair?"
Suddenly, I feel my cheeks start to heat up. "Hey, that was an honest mistake! From the back, she really looked like…" I clear my throat and look down at the floor so as not to meet Brock's rather intimidating gaze, "Misty."
Eyes still fixated on the chansey-patterned carpet of the pokémon centre, I hear a rustle of fabric as a large hand clamps down gently on my left shoulder. I slowly tilt my head up to look its owner in the eye. To my surprise, he doesn't look annoyed at all – in fact, he's smiling.
"Ash, why would Misty be all the way out here?" His voice is soft, and as he moves to take his hand off my shoulder, he gives me a small pat on the back. "We're hundreds of miles from Kanto, and she's got a gym to run all by herself."
Somehow, hearing Brock say that makes me feel really down. True, it was stupid to think that she'd come all the way to Sinnoh just to join the mobs of shoppers in Hearthome, but I haven't seen my best friend in over a year, and I was so excited that day when I thought we'd get the chance to hang out for a while. Damn it, my face feels really warm again; there's gotta be something wrong with the AC in this place.
"I know," I eventually say, although I think my voice sounds a little weaker than I had intended. "But I just really thought it was- HEY!"
Across from me, Brock jumps slightly as I realise that our conversation has taken a swift detour.
"Why are we suddenly talking about Misty? I thought you were trying to feed me some crap about 'Numel's laws of inebriation'?"
Apparently what I just said was hilarious, as Brock lets out a sharp blast of laughter, which he tries to stifle behind his hand. He looks away and holds his index finger up at me, telling me to give him a minute to compose himself. But I can feel myself getting quite pissed off now; just what is going on here? Is the aspiring pokémon doctor in on some elaborate plan that somehow involves both Misty and all this science mumbo-jumbo? Time to get to the bottom of this.
"Just where are you going with this, Brock? I'm really not in the mood for one of your lectures today, so can you please just cut to the chase?"
Within a few seconds, the former gym leader's face turns serious once again. He briefly squeezes his temples with his finger and thumb and then looks back at me.
"Okay, Ash, since you clearly haven't got the message yet, I'm just going to be straight with you." Thank god, I think to myself.
"I'm afraid there's no delicate way to say this, but…" He stops for a moment, as if trying to decide his next words carefully. "Ever since you saw that girl in Hearthome City, you haven't stopped…" I see his lips contort into a slight grimace, "fondling that handkerchief in your pocket."
As soon as my ears receive these words, I feel as if I've just been dunked headfirst into a camerupt's hump. A hot flush surges through my body, oddly causing me to shiver, and as I pull my hat over my eyes to hide the redness staining my cheeks, I realise that my other hand is, and has been throughout our entire conversation, exactly where Brock had just described.
I pause for a second, then slowly feel my eyes creeping down to my side as I pull my hand out of my jacket pocket, fingers lightly wrapped around the object in question. The pink edges of the beautifully embroidered cloth feel smooth and silky, and, unfolding it, my lips curl upwards when I notice the striking yellow sun pattern in the centre. I trace my eyes along the little fabric square, observing every stitch and seam from corner to corner. To my dismay, I also take note of how dirty it has become from sitting around in my backpack for so long; I guess I've always been scared to clean it in case it fell apart.
Misty gave me this handkerchief on the day she left to become a gym leader. Looking back, it was probably the worst day of my life. She had been there since the first day of my pokémon journey, and from that moment on, we had never been apart for more than a few hours at a time. We fought constantly – sometimes verbally, sometimes physically – but eventually we grew to be inseparable, and when she finally had to leave me, I suddenly had to picture my journey without my best friend by my side, something I never thought I would have to do. Brock was always there, too, but for some reason (the age difference, maybe?), I always felt closer to Misty.
Before they left, they each presented me with a parting gift. Brock gave me a lunchbox filled to the brim with his amazing rice balls and other treats, while Misty gave me this handkerchief, wrapping it around the box to make it "easier to carry". Remembering this brings a peculiar question to my mind: why am I taking such good care of something that Misty only gave me to help with carrying a lunchbox? I mean, sure, it does remind me of her, but she couldn't have meant anything like that when she gave me it, could she?
Maybe it's the weird place my mind has gone to, or maybe it's the loud and slightly angry throat clear that Brock just performed, but I'm now all too aware that I've been standing in the middle of the pokémon centre for an entire minute staring at a pink silk handkerchief. Trying to ignore the muffled snickering from trainers over my shoulder, I quickly force the cloth back into my pocket and open my mouth to say something, but Brock beats me to it once again.
"Your equilibrium's off, Ash. You're unbalanced, because you're trying to push against forces that aren't there anymore. You do that and you'll just keep falling, because there's nothing to push back, and you'll end up burning out all your energy trying to find that one thing that can match the force you're putting out."
"What the hell does all of that mean?!" I'm angry now, and there's no way that Brock can't see that. "I thought you said you were gonna cut the crap! First of all, I wasn't fondling the handkerchief, I was, er, just ch-checking it for rips!" I don't think I sold that very well, and unfortunately, Brock looks like he can see that too. "And secondly, have you been borrowing books from Max again? What's with all this science stuff? Just tell me what's going on!"
Brock seems slightly stunned that I raised my voice at him, but thankfully shakes it off and lets out a small chuckle.
"Honestly, Ash, I didn't realise you wanted it this bluntly," he says with a smile, then motions with his head for us to sit down on the sofas to the left of us. I take a deep breath to calm myself down, walking over to the nearest sofa and taking my place opposite the pokémon breeder.
Once I meet his gaze, Brock doesn't hesitate for a second. "You miss Misty, don't you?"
"I…I…err…" My words trail off when I realise that I have no idea how to answer that question. Misty is my best friend, and it has been a long time since I've seen her, but actually 'missing' her is not something I've ever really thought about before (well, excluding that one time during the Millennium Festival a couple of years ago, but I convinced myself afterwards that I'd just inhaled too much 'space dust' that day).
I hear Brock laughing again. "You don't need to say anything, Ash, just…take this."
With that, he thrusts a few silver coins into my hand and points with his head towards the videophones near the reception area. Winking, he says in an almost whispery tone, "Just don't stay on too long, okay?"
Though my first instinct is still to deny this whole 'missing' thing, the huge grin that appears on my face instantly betrays any sort of anger I may be feeling. "Thanks Brock!" I exclaim before standing up and looking over at the lines of videophones on either side of the reception desk.
"But what was all that 'laws of ineptitude' stuff about?" I suddenly remember.
Shaking his head, my spiky-haired friend replies, "I was just trying to be poetic, Ash. Apparently chicks dig it."
As the breeder flashes his trademark 'chin-stroking flirty smile', I decide that this is a good time to make a swift exit. Just as I'm about to walk past him, however, he grabs my arm. "Oh, and just for the record," he starts with a grin, "It was Professor Oak I borrowed the books from, not Max. If there's anyone who knows how to blend science with poetry, it's him."
"Whatever you say, Brock," I laugh nervously, not fully understanding what he's getting at. Taking that as my cue, I begin to stroll energetically over to the row of videophones, taking one last glance behind me at my close friend of eight years. He's chuckling to himself again, and I swear I can hear him muttering something:
"If that's how he fusses over her handkerchief, I can only imagine what he's been doing to that lure…"
It's probably for the best that I've no idea what he means.