Ash grinned at the Starlie chirping overhead. It was a brilliant summer's afternoon in Unova – though the weather was pretty close to brilliant year-round anyway – and Ash, Iris and Cilan were enjoying the walk through the Lostlorn Forest.
The three had been travelling together for a few months now and it was no surprise that Ash had found yet another two good-hearted friends in the companions.
Pikachu nuzzled his cheek affectionately and Ash raised a hand to his best friend's head, ruffling his fur slightly.
"Wow Pikachu, this view sure is something else huh?"
Pikachu murmured back agreement in his own language.
"Let's start setting up camp for the night. I'm starving!" Iris' voice broke Ash out of his thoughts and he looked to the purple haired trainer, excited at the prospect of Cilan's cooking.
Cilan chuckled, "Sounds great to me."
After training through the afternoon, setting up camp and eating dinner, Ash was exhausted. As he lay down in his sleeping bag, Pikachu curling up beside him, he watched the stars above. They looked so beautiful from the forest, as he had always noticed in his travels, rather than clouded by the smog of the cities he'd seen. He took a moment to think about her. He wondered how her day was, what she had for lunch and if she had thought of him too. Idly, he wondered if she was looking at the same stars, then frowned when he realised it was impossible due to the time difference.
His friends were snoring lightly in the background and Ash eventually grew sleepy, drifting off under the stars, thinking of the girl he missed so much before his thoughts twisted into dreams.
The sound of ruffling began to pull Ash out of his slumber slightly and he briefly mumbled for Cilan to stop moving around. The ruffling stopped and Ash took this as a sign to snuggle back into his pillow.
Then the rustling started again, and Ash groaned, irritated at the noise being so close to him. Footsteps soon followed, and Ash groggily looked up from his pillow, Pikachu moving slightly beside him, clearly doing the same.
He felt very awake once he realised that someone dressed in black pants and a green jumper was running from their campsite. Sitting up immediately, he glanced around and noticed that his two companions were still asleep, but all of their stuff was gone, bags, their cooking utensils they'd left out last night.
"Hey!" Ash screamed, getting up and chasing after the figure. The figure seemed to panic and threw some pebbles back behind them. Ash was still at least ten metres away at this point and slid on the pebbles, falling face first into the gravel. He got up as quickly as possible, looking around urgently for any sight of the person. Panic struck him, and he ran a little further into the bushes, frowning when he saw nothing except a few Pokemon among the trees.
Ash ran a hand desperately through his hair, hoping for this all to be a dream. Someone had stolen his bag. His bag.
"Pikachu!" Ash turned to see the mouse Pokemon jump into his arms, catching him with ease and pulling him into a hug. If Pikachu had been taken too, he wouldn't know what he'd do.
Ash and Pikachu jogged lightly back to camp, where Iris and Cilan were sitting up, both surveying their surrounds.
"Someone stole our stuff," Iris said in disbelief, "Who does that?"
Cilan frowned but said nothing.
"We need to move, we need to get our stuff back!" Ash was fidgeting and quickly leaned down to gather up his jacket which he usually kept inside his sleeping bag in case Pikachu was cold. Sliding his belt on, he looked expectantly at his travelling partners. When they didn't move he added, "Come on, let's go, we need to go now!"
"Ash, relax, it's just a bag. Jeez, you're such a kid," Iris rolled her eyes at Ash's childish antics. In her mind, for his age – newly seventeen – he could certainly be the most immature person she had met. Her eyes darted back in shock as his screaming brought her back from her thoughts.
"IT'S NOT JUST A BAG, IRIS!" Ash closed his eyes, breathing out heavily and bringing his fingers to rest lightly on the bridge of his nose, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. But you don't understand."
Iris exchanged a wary glance with Cilan, who was equally as shocked from the outburst. Ash, from their experience, had always been cheerful, happy go lucky, strong willed and care free. It was unusual for him to overreact to something as small as someone stealing their stuff.
Pikachu, who was on the ground, leapt up to his trainer, resting on the front of his right shoulder. His ears were folded as he too, being so linked with his best friend's emotions, realised the implications of Ash's bag being taken.
"Chu," he offered, with a shake of his head, staying close to Ash to offer his own comfort.
"Okay," Cilan began cautiously, "Help us to understand then, Ash."
Ash let out another long breath, raising his head tiredly, "It's not the bag I care about – it's what's in the bag."
"Ash, all your Pokemon are kept on your belt, and money, wallets, clothes – they're all replaceable," Iris interjected, she couldn't understand why it was such a big deal. Was it annoying? Sure. Would it require them to go to all the effort to replace their stuff? Definitely. But it wasn't worth freaking out about it.
Ash sat down, rubbing his temples therapeutically, his eyes closed and knees up in front of him, "I can't… I'm not…"
Cilan perked up in alarm. This was very un-Ash like. Iris, too seemed to sense something was wrong and both instinctively moved closer to him, offering a sort of comforting, protective barrier.
"Ash it's okay, we can get all of that stuff really easy," Cilan prodded gently, "In fact if it stresses you out this much then I can organise it all for you and that way you won't have to worry about it."
By this time Ash was taking long, laboured breaths. Pikachu had his head buried in Ash's stomach, both were becoming rather distraught.
Iris frowned, perhaps this wasn't just about his stuff.
"What's in the bag, Ash?" She asked, just as gently as Cilan had minutes before.
"Things that can't be replaced," Ash responded softly, though his expression and position didn't change.
"Alright," Cilan began, clasping his hands together and taking charge, "We will work through this together, okay? We'll head out of the forest and to the nearest Pokemon Centre and then we'll reassess."
Ash seemed to be calming himself down, his therapeutic techniques looked as if they were working.
Slowly he nodded but made no move to stand. Instead, he lifted his hat off, turning it over to look inside. He carefully reached a hand inside, pulling out a piece of faded, pale, pink cloth with an embroidered edge.
Pikachu looked relieved and let out a content sigh, Ash let out a shaky breath as he clutched the cloth that meant so much to him. If the other things were gone, he at the very least still had this.
Iris and Cilan just looked on, confused and bewildered. Ash had never appeared to be an overly sentimental guy, but whatever he was holding, he was treating it like it meant the world to him. Perhaps it did.
Ten minutes later, they found themselves walking through the forest once more, Iris trying to keep the mood upbeat despite the very dejected Pokemon Master-hopeful.
"You know Ash, once we get to Nimbasa City we could go to the theatre, or go on the Ferris wheel, just have some fun."
"Nah," Was the only reply she received. After an encouraging nod from Cilan, Iris tried again.
"Well there's always the battle institute, and the battle subway! After all, nothing cheers you up more than a great battle!" She kept the enthusiasm in her tone but once again Ash declined.
Cilan frowned, Ash never said no to a battle.
"Well, what if we went fishing off the Marvelous Bridge Instead?" Iris proposed yet another idea but soon realised it was the wrong thing to say as Ash stopped in his tracks, a horrified look on his face.
"Ash?" Cilan asked, gently laying a hand on his shoulder, "Are you okay?"
Ash went back to breathing steady, long breaths, "Mhm," he mumbled in response.
"Let's just get to the city, then we can talk," Cilan said finally.
Ash nodded and started to walk again, very slowly. His two companions exchanged a look. They were becoming very worried about Ash's strange behaviour. Neither said anything about his pace and instead just walked along either side of him, every few moments looking his way to check he was still alright.
When they finally reached the city, Iris had never been so relieved, "Great, now that we're here let's go straight to the Pokemon Centre and check in.
Ash's state had improved slightly, he was no longer concentrating on his breathing, but he hadn't talked at all since their last brief exchange.
Nurse Joy happily accepted their Pokeballs and when Cilan asked Ash if he was going to hand Pikachu over, the mouse Pokemon firmly shook his head, leaving Ash to let out a relieved sigh. Pikachu knew him better than anyone, and he was glad he didn't have to face being alone at a time like this.
"We should probably report our stolen things," Cilan said.
"Yeah, we can do that now before we get settled in for the night. Ash?" Iris turned to him expectantly.
Ash shook his head stiffly, "I need to make a call."
Iris shrugged at Cilan, at least it was better than half responses and stumbled words.
Ash sat down in the booth and dialled the all too familiar number, silently begging the person in question to pick up.
"Ash?" The very familiar face of Brock appeared on the screen and Ash let out a breath of relief. He was here, he was okay.
"Brock, I'm so glad to see you," Ash choked out the words as best he could, and Brock frowned.
"Hey Pikachu," He started, "Ash, are you okay? What happened?"
Brock and Ash had always been the closest of friends, brothers, even, and the older guy had always known when something was bugging Ash, even if the younger didn't know it himself.
"My bag… It was stolen."
Iris and Cilan were lingering in the background, and both were expecting Brock, whom they had met via video phone multiple times in their journey, to shrug it off and tell Ash he was being ridiculous. Which is why Brock's actual response shocked them.
"Oh, Ash, I'm so sorry," Brock offered Ash a small smile, "It will be okay. You know we're always with you."
"Yeah," Ash replied, though he looked utterly dejected. His eyelids drooped a little lower.
"I'm coming to see you," Brock said simply. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for Ash.
Ash brightened slightly, "Really?"
"Yes. I'll leave in the morning. Will you be staying in Nimbasa city?"
Ash nodded, "Brock, you know you don't have to come all the way out here, right?"
He said it, though the words on his tongue were reluctant. Ash could feel his anxiety rising and he knew that his long-time friend would know how to help him.
Brock's expression deadpanned, "I'm coming Ash, end of story. I'll see you soon. Don't panic, just breathe."
Ash nodded, and the call ended. He felt slightly better already. He hesitated, his hand still holding the phone, debating whether to make the second call. Letting out a sigh, he decided he wasn't up for facing it right now, and that he would face the music in the morning instead.
Iris and Cilan were standing supportively near him and gestured for the door to make a statement about their bags.
He nodded, even though they hadn't asked him anything out loud and proceeded to walk towards the entrance.
Ash hadn't slept at all. Not even five minutes. He couldn't stop thinking about the invaluable, irreplaceable items in his bag.
They had been with him from the start, and his collection had grown over the years to include something from each of his travelling companions. While all of them were important to him, there were none that meant as much to him as Misty's.
What had been given to him as a friendly good luck charm had become so much more to him than a simple good luck charm could ever be. They were his rock, his bravery, his courage – even his love. Without them he felt alone and empty.
Every day since Misty had left he had thought about her. They spoke regularly but it wasn't the same. The only thing making it better were the items she had left in his care – as if a part of her had always been with him.
Since then it was if it had become an automatic, unspoken rule that each of his friends left something with him when they parted ways. Brock, Tracy, Gary, May, Max, Dawn, his mum – even some of his Pokemon had left him small tokens that Ash believed kept their friendship alive.
Realistically, he knew that friendship extended beyond more than just items and things that could be touched. But he had always kept these tokens with him for the days and nights that he felt lonely, when he was at his worst and when he felt like he couldn't do it anymore – this journey.
Misty. Oh, how he missed her. He missed every single one of his friends, but not like how he missed Misty. Even Brock – the two were the first friends he ever made on his journey and their friendship was like an anchor that always kept him grounded. He couldn't put into words how much they meant to him. He felt a little choked up at the thought.
He looked beside him, to see his other best friend, loyally sitting by his side, snoozing lightly. Ash loved Pikachu too. He was so lucky to have had so many experiences and met so many people along the way – and Pikachu had always been right there beside him from the very beginning.
Ash smiled slightly at the sleeping Pokemon, and carefully reached above his head for his hat that was always close by. He had loved his many hats over the years, but the reason he had always been so protective of them was because of what was inside. He lightly pulled out Misty's Handkerchief, thumbing it gently. Sometimes he wondered if it was just his imagination that whenever he pulled it out, he could still faintly smell the ocean and a hint of vanilla.
He took a deep breath. It was a little early to do so but he figured it was time he got up for the day. Brock would arrive later tonight and Ash was so excited and anxious to see him that he could hardly wait.
Tugging on his jacket and shoes, he gently woke Pikachu up, heading for a walk before he would spend some time with his Pokemon. That would cheer him up.
A knock brought Ash out of his thoughts and he looked up to see Iris standing at the door to their room.
"Cilan asked me to come and get you, dinner is ready," She smiled.
"Alright, I'll be out in a minute," Ash replied absently. He carefully folded his beloved Handkerchief and placed it gently back into his hat, flipping it onto his head.
Pikachu jumped onto his shoulder and Ash reached out to touch his head affectionately before walking out of the room and heading to the cafeteria.
He stopped in his tracks as he saw Brock talking with Iris and Cilan at the table. Ash stared in awe, almost not believing that Brock was real.
Soon he broke out into a grin and a light jog, following Pikachu who had leapt off his shoulder the minute he saw Brock.
"Hey Pikachu, it's good to see you too!" Brock laughed, scratching lightly behind the Pokémon's ears, receiving a content "Cha" as Pikachu nuzzled his hand.
Brock then turned to Ash, an affectionate smile on his face as Ash reached him, a big bear hug coming from the younger of the two.
"Hey Brocko! I can't believe you're really here. In person! It's awesome!" Ash practically yelled, gaining the stares of the few people that were staying in the centre.
"Yeah, it's good to be here, Ash. I've been looking for an excuse to come and check up on you, anyway, so this is as good as any."
Ash smiled sheepishly, "I see you've already met Iris and Cilan in person, must be nice to put a face to each other rather than just one on the computer screen."
"Yeah it sure is," Cilan interjected politely, "It's a good opportunity for us all to get to know each other better too."
Ash nodded eagerly, feeling his anxieties start to dissipate. Brock was here, and everything was alright.
"Oh, there's one more thing, Ash," Brock started, earning himself a confused look from the boy, "I brought a friend with me, I hope that's okay with you."
Ash smiled, though he still looked a bit confused, "Of course Brock, any friend of yours is a friend of mine!"
Brock nodded to the door to the right and Ash turned, awe immediately reaching his face, stunning him into standing still with his mouth hanging open.
Misty was here – in the flesh.
"Are you really just going to stand there and gawk at me, Ash Ketchum?" Misty's voice filled his ears like music and he grinned.
"Pikachu Pi!" Pikachu exclaimed from Brock's shoulder, but he didn't move to greet his second favourite person in the world.
Ash walked to her slowly, still in shock and when he reached her, he placed his hands on either side of her shoulder – just to check she was real – before pulling her into a bone crushing hug.
"You're here," He said simply.
"I am," She replied, almost teasingly, though he knew she was just as awed by it as he was.
He held onto her for a minute longer until a cough from Iris could be heard. Reluctantly, he pulled away, but his hands never left her shoulders.
"Misty, I can't believe it's really you! You look different than you do on the screen."
Misty's temper flashed, "You see me for the first time in four years and you don't have anything nice to say to me?"
She was frowning, her hands on her hips and she had moved slightly away from him, out of reach of his hands.
Ash started laughing. Uncontrollable, whole-hearted laughter that filled the entire Pokemon Centre.
Iris and Cilan shared an amused glance between themselves, and Brock watched on in adoration at the two. The three hadn't been united together in years, and even with the frequent video chats that they all shared there was just something about seeing Misty and Ash together that made him smile.
Misty bit her lip, trying not to join in with the laughter and remain mad instead. She yelped when she felt him pull her back in for another hug, "I've missed you so much, Mist."
It was quiet. Whispered in her ear and no one else would have heard, but she bit her lip, willing herself not to tear up and whispered back, "I know. I've missed you too."
He pulled back, positively glowing with excitement as he grabbed her arm, pulling her over to the table.
"Pikachu Pi!" Misty smiled fondly as the small Pokemon ran towards her and jumped eagerly into her outstretched arms. She caught him and spun around, pulling him into a big hug.
"Hi Pikachu! I've missed you so much!" Pikachu responded something in his own language and Misty giggled.
Ash smiled, there weren't many people who were able to understand Pikachu like he could. In the whole world there were only two and they were both standing in the room with him.
"This is Iris and Cilan in person!" Ash cheered, he grabbed her wrist again, pulling her closer to the group.
"Hi!" Misty smiled, taking a seat next to Ash in the booth as he pulled her with him.
The other three joined them and Cilan dished up the food for each person.
"Well it's nice to see Ash is fixed again!" Iris said excitedly.
"Oh yeah," Ash began, "Mist… My bag was stolen. I've lost everything."
Misty looked solemn before offering him a wry smile, "I heard. I'm sorry. Look at the bright side though – it only took you seven years to finally lose something."
Ash's mouth remained open for a minute, until he gave a small smile, "Yeah, I guess."
"Well, would you feel better if I told you I brought you a present?" Misty nudged him with her elbow.
Ash's eyes lit up slightly, the idea of a present from Misty pulling him slightly out of his sombre mood.
"Here," She said, handing him a small gift wrapped in one of her infamous handkerchiefs.
Ash's eyes widened as he took the gift. He handled it with care, as if it was the most fragile thing in the world.
The handkerchief itself, wasn't the same as the one in his hat, but it was similar, a pale blue with dark blue embroidery, and he could smell a strong scent of vanilla and sea salt and it wasn't anywhere near his face. Ash knew he'd cherish it like the first.
"Misty and I thought you could use a few new treasures to start a new collection," Brock elaborated, more for the benefit of Cilan and Iris who looked downright confused.
Ash carefully unwrapped the handkerchief, finding a multitude of different items. He thumbed each one carefully as his eyes moved over the items.
The first one Ash could recognise with his eyes closed. It was bright blue, shiny and in the shape of a teardrop. The Cascade Badge from the Cerulean Gym. His favourite badge out of all the ones he owned. The next item he saw was undoubtedly from Brock – it was a lightning bolt shaped pewter pendant, attached to a black elastic string. Ash guessed it would be long enough to hang down to his mid chest if he put it on. He found out that he was, in fact, correct when he eagerly pulled it over his head to wear it. It would always remind him of his first gym match, the one he and Pikachu won against all odds. And most importantly, the first time he met Brock. A small silver photo frame was seen poking out from behind the handkerchief, inside was a picture of the three of them, taken at his house when they returned to their Kanto home towns for the Christmas Holidays one year, before they had parted ways.
Ash noticed that there were still more items in the parcel and he picked up one randomly – a piece of paper with a grey lead sketch of Ash's Lapras and Ash grinned, his mind filling with memories of Tracy and their adventures through the Orange Islands.
There was a set of chopsticks with a Pikachu faced pattern on them – no doubt from his mother and a photo of all his Pokemon's footprints that had been made years before from Professor Oak. A piece of meteorite was the next gift he picked up, and he recognised it as the piece May had collected from their adventure with Deoxys. A Pokeball with a blue and red patterned top half followed, the first Pokeball Ash had ever given Max to cheer him up when he was upset about not having his own Pokemon at the time. Now Max was returning the favour, he mused. The last were a set of golden triangle hair clips – Dawn's favourite, lucky hairclips.
Ash was touched. They had done this for him. It was so kind and so incredibly thoughtful, and it made Ash feel a fair bit better. Not completely better though, because Ash knew that there was one thing missing that could never be returned. Something that meant everything to him.
"Thank you," he said, sincerity shining through his voice, as he looked up at all of his friends sitting around him, "These mean so much to me. How did you get them together so quickly?"
"You'd be surprised what can be achieved with a few quick phone calls to the many people that love you, Ash," Brock responded, a half smile on his face.
"So, what exactly are all of these things?" Iris asked, she and Cilan had not yet been clued in on what they were talking about.
"Every single person has left Ash with a token. It's not something that was ever planned, but if you've ever seen Ash look through his bag when he's stressed – that's what he's looking for," Brock happily brought them both up to speed.
"I understand," Cilan spoke up, "Ash takes a part of each of you with him as he travels."
Ash nodded, still a little bit awed by the generosity of his friends and family.
"Does this mean we have to give you something too?" Iris asked slyly, folding her arms.
"No, not at all. It's just something that happened, I don't know if May, Max and Dawn or even Tracy ever knew about them," Ash assured her.
"Well what if we want to leave something of us with you too?" Cilan asked.
Ash let out a relieved smile, "Then it would be another excellent item to add to my new collection."
They laughed and only Misty noticed the hollow sound coming from Ash, like there was something still missing.
"Hey Ash, I almost forgot, this is for you too," She said, a knowing smirk on her face.
Ash glanced at her, only to find her holding up a brand new Misty Lure, identical to the one she had given him many years before.
"Oh my god," He whispered, swallowing the heavy lump in his throat and reaching out to take it from her hand, "It's perfect. I thought you had forgotten."
Misty laughed, "Ash Ketchum, I could never forget. Which is why," She reached into her bag, fishing around for something, "I made myself one too." In her hands was a miniature Ash Lure, with a miniature Pikachu sitting on his shoulder.
Ash grinned, he hadn't felt quite this happy – this whole – in a long time, "It's Brilliant, Mist. I love it."
She grinned back, and Ash started bragging to Iris and Cilan about his new lure, the others laughing at his cockiness. While it would never quite be the same as the original one he had kept for so long – it certainly made up for the hole in his heart.
Ash found her outside the Pokemon centre, sitting on the grass at the front, gazing up at the stars.
He felt awestruck as the gentle breeze blew through her hair and the moonlight caught her face in just the right light. Mew, she was beautiful. For a minute, he just stared, taking a mental photograph of the moment, then he moved slowly to sit down beside her.
"Hey," he greeted with a small wave from his hand.
"Hey," she replied.
They sat in silence for a moment, just looking at the view and enjoying each other's company. It was comfortable. They had known each other for so long that words weren't needed. They could just be together and it was enough.
"Is this real?" He asked, trying to come across joking.
"Mhm. It's almost hard to believe. You're always so far away, travelling, having adventures. It's indescribable to be here next to you."
"Yeah," Ash agreed with a small smile.
Again, they sat in silence, just enjoying the company when Ash felt Misty rest her head on his shoulder, a content sigh escaping her lips.
Ash felt very relaxed in that moment, looking down at her soft features as her eyes remained closed. He took slow breaths, noting that her scent was even stronger on her person than the handkerchiefs.
"I don't want this night to end," Misty admitted quietly, almost whispering.
Ash pulled back gently and laid back on the grass, nodding his head for her to do the same.
As she lay back and look up at the stars, commenting how beautiful the vast expanse was, Ash couldn't help but agree. Except he was too busy looking at the red head beside him that he was so fond of.
Ash couldn't remember how long they stayed like that. Just being together, laying and looking at each other, committing every feature of the other's face to vivid memory.
Ash woke to Starlie's chirping and groaned slightly when he felt a crick in his neck. He was momentarily surprised when he opened his eyes to a face full of red hair until he gathered his bearings. At some point during the night they must have dozed off and moved closer together for warmth.
He smiled. Having Misty this close to him was nice. Not to mention rare. In mere hours she would have to begin the journey back to Cerulean City and he wanted to make the most of every second.
Trying desperately not to move too much and wake her up, he gently pulled her closer, relishing when she unconsciously snuggled further into him to keep warm.
It seemed like only ten minutes before he could feel her start to stir. She pulled back and looked up to him with one eye cracked open. She scrunched her face up, attempting to wake herself a bit more.
"Morning," she yawned.
"Yep," Ash grinned.
The moment ended when they heard someone clear their throat.
They looked up to a grinning Brock, smirking Iris and smiling Cilan.
"Are we interrupting something?" Iris asked slyly.
Ash sighed and started to sit up. Misty did the same, quickly standing and walking past the group murmuring something that sounded a lot like 'Shut up Brock' from where Ash was standing.
"Breakfast?" He asked innocently, pretending to ignore the teasing hums from his companions.
Breakfast was a feast to behold with Cilan and Brock combining forces to cook for them. Even Nurse Joy joined them to try some of the food briefly, to Brock's utmost delight, and had not been able to stop offering the chef team praise ever since.
Ash was currently the centre of the group's jokes and stories as they all traded his most embarrassing moments, much to his dismay. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't enjoying watching Misty get all feisty as he interrupted her, telling her she was telling it wrong.
"Ugh! You're impossible. Even you have to know you've been the luckiest guy in the world to get away with some of the things you have." Misty was glaring, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Luck?" Ash questioned, "I believe you mean talent. It's okay, Mist. I get that you could never understand, I mean, you can't teach this."
He grinned as she huffed and muttered something inaudible under her breath.
"Wow," Iris breathed, sharing a look of incredulity with Cilan.
"I know right," Brock agreed, amused at the pair but mostly just watching them fondly. It wasn't like old times – it was even better.
"Well anyway," Misty changed the subject, "We should probably start getting ready to make the journey home."
There was a solemn shift in the group as they remembered the two guests would need to part soon.
"Walk me?" Misty requested of Ash who nodded, a small smile forming.
They walked, chatting idly about Misty's recently evolved Golduck until they reached her room.
"Misty, I-" Whatever Ash was going to say was cut off as Misty had not quite gently pushed him against the wall and leaned up to press her lips to his.
It wasn't their first kiss per se, but it was definitely their first kiss like this. He returned her kiss, turning them around to press her up against the wall instead, his hand tenderly stroking the side of her ribs, her white t-shirt lifting slightly in the process.
They fumbled momentarily with the door yet managed to barely break their kiss while stumbling through it.
Ash had a fleeting thought – wondering if Misty would yell at him if he picked her up. A moment later he was met with mumbles of "Ketchum" mixed up in a string of profanities and he bit back a laugh. He wasn't successful and felt her bite his shoulder slightly in what he knew was irritation as he worked on kissing down her neck.
He lowered her to the floor and they broke their kiss as she impatiently tugged at his shirt which he removed and realised she had also removed her own.
Their lips joined again as their kisses and touches got desperate. He pulled down the straps of her bra and gently thumbed her nipple, encouraged by the half-moan-half-gasp that escaped her lips.
"Something you like, Mist?" He teased.
She stopped their kissing to glare at him and he laughed easily, pulling her closer, lifting her up once more and carrying her to the bed.
"Showing off your new-found height?" She muttered between kisses. The resounding hum which counted more as a "Mhm" as he lowered his lips over her breast caused her to gasp once more and he gently bit down. She was enjoying the movement too much to stop and glare, pulling at his hair to encourage him to continue.
When they tugged off their pants he stopped, pulling back slightly to admire the red head clad in black lace underwear.
"Wow, Mist. Just…wow." He was at a loss for words, so in awe with everything she was and had always been to him.
Misty let a show of uncharacteristic vulnerability appear, smiling shyly upwards, biting down on her lower lip at the scrutiny.
He lowered himself down to her side, tenderly running his finger along the side of her jaw, leaving a trail of gentle kisses as he went.
Ash closed his eyes, his forehead pressed against hers as he felt her hands toy with the elastic on his boxer shorts, her fingers slipping below teasingly.
"I want you Ash. All of you."
He stared in awe as a nervous flush flooded his body.
"I know we've never talked about it but," he paused, his mind a whirl of words, "I'm committed to you."
"I know. I'm committed to you too."
He felt a wave of pride and relief wash over him. There were many things about them that didn't need to be communicated out loud. Did he love her? Yes. Did he know that she knew? Yes. Did she love him? Yes. Did she know that he knew? Yes. Did they need to tell everyone every five seconds? No. It just wasn't them.
He kissed her fervently, moving over her to press his body flush against hers, relishing in the appreciative sounds she made when he did so.
They moved together as they kissed, Misty's skin on his feeling so soft and warm, causing his nerves to perk up at the amazing feel of it all.
She was pressing herself up against him with urgency and grasping at his neck and lower back with her small hands, fingers once again dipping below his waistband. He moved back briefly to take his boxer shorts off, pausing to half smirk half smile at her before pulling hers off too.
She sat up, pulling him back into a kiss and leaning backwards on the bed, taking him with her.
Running his fingers along her body, he tickled her until her heard her huff. Impatient – as always. He couldn't stop the grin that formed, and he moved his hand to her chin to pull her lips back to meet his. She obliged, and he continued his teasing ministrations over her lower body.
Finally he touched the spot she'd been waiting for him to get to and her back arched encouragingly at the sensation. Encouraged, he continued, trying different patterns and directions to gage her reaction.
Tension was building, and he watched her lips part, haggard breaths coming out as she reached her peak. If you had asked him mere hours earlier if Misty could ever get any more beautiful his answer would have been a flat no. But here she was, cheeks tinged pink from the contact, moaning at his touch. Enjoying herself – all by his hand. There was no way he'd ever forget how amazing it had felt making her feel so much pleasure.
Her head lolled to rest on his arm as she eyed him. Ash tenderly brushed a stray hair out of her face, thumbing her jaw gently afterwards.
"I meant what I said, Ash. I want you," Misty whispered, pulling his hip toward her slightly.
Ash smiled, kissing her and resting his head against hers. Misty took this as confirmation and reached for her bag that was nearby, pulling out the familiar wrapper that Ash also kept in his bag – the one that was now long gone.
He moved to take it from her, only to receive a cheeky smile as she moved her hands out of reach.
Misty ripped the plastic and rolled the condom over him, biting back a full blown grin when he grunted at her touch.
He groaned as he slid inside her slowly, both wanting this moment to last forever.
Misty was smiling and he leaned down and kissed her, her nails running over his back.
Being with Misty like this felt amazing. He knew that they had something special but damn, he didn't know that they were capable of melding together this perfectly. They moved together in harmony, kissing and occasionally murmuring sweet nothings, moaning when particular movements felt particularly pleasurable.
The feeling was becoming all too much and he came undone when she leaned up on her elbows to kiss him, pushing them even closer together.
Ash closed his eyes, savouring the moment and practically collapsing on top of Misty, not that she seemed to mind.
"I love you," He whispered, to which she hummed in content.
"I love you, too," Misty replied, kissing the side of his eye as she said it.
Ash slowed his pace as they reached the path where the two groups would need to part ways.
Brock was walking beside him and already starting to check up on his food for the rest of the day.
"Yes, yes I promise I'll eat enough," Ash chuckled, waving a hand dismissively.
"Don't worry, we'll make sure of it", Cilan confirmed, moving to shake Brock's hand.
"We always take care of this kid," Iris piped in, giggling when she received a glare from Ash.
"Well," Ash started, "I guess this is it…for now at least."
"Yeah, but remember we're always only a call away if you need us. Okay?" Brock reassured Ash, resting his hand gently on his shoulder before pulling him into a hug.
"Thank you. For everything." Ash muttered into Brock's shoulder as they patted each other on the back to end the hug.
Ash smiled and turned to face Misty.
"Suppose I'll see you round, Ketchum," She teased, a smirk forming on her face.
"Maybe, if you're lucky, Waterflower"," Ash replied with a shrug, feigning nonchalance.
They both laughed before Ash pulled her into a hug, Pikachu in the middle of them.
"I'll miss you," He said seriously, his forehead pressed lightly against hers.
"I know, me too," She replied before gently reaching up to kiss him on the lips. It was short and quick, but both knew it conveyed much more to them.
They pulled away, Misty walking over to the group of three who were each pretending to be looking elsewhere by the time they faced them.
"Bye guys!" Ash called out when they were becoming dots on the horizon."
When they disappeared from sight he turned with a new found determination to Iris and Cilan, each of them falling into step next to him.
"Are you going to be okay, Ash?" Iris asked shyly, worried that now the others were gone he might start going backwards into his anxious behaviour from before.
Ash didn't answer for a while, but when he did he spoke quietly, "You know what Iris? I think I'm going to be even better."
"Pika!" Pikachu piped in, feeling refreshed after seeing some of his favourite people in the world.
So what if his bag was lost? Yeah, they were things that were precious to him, but not all was lost. And better yet, what he found in place was so much better than he ever thought possible.
Ash and Pikachu nodded to each other, they were ready to face the world, to chase their dreams and to eventually, one day, find their way back to the people they loved.