NOTE: Okay, my copy SO has correct punctuation. Apparently can't deal with commas and question marks now.
Oh dear lord. Where did this come from?
I've just finished this and realised there are no Pokémon at all. Not even Pikachu. No, I don't know where they are. Deal with it ;
The first person narratives at the beginning and end are from Misty's point of view. The main story is sandwiched in between. Oh, and there are flashbacks in there too. Bear with it!
LAST TRAIN HOME
With foresight, leaving the car at home was a good idea, as it meant that I could join you as you drowned your sorrows. Although it's not exactly where I wanted to be on a Thursday night - sitting in a pillow den in your living room in Pallet - but a best friend must answer to the summons.
It's one of the perks of having a male best friend, actually. No snivelling. Minimum on the uncomfortable bitching. Just clean getting trashed out of our minds in a sort of bittersweet celebration of the untimely end to a promising relationship.
Yet after six hours I feel like I have Jack Daniels and coke leaking from every pore and follicle and the final train to Cerulean leaves in twenty minutes. You seem to have perked up (fourteen consecutive wins on Pokémon Stadium will do that to a person) so I make a break for my bag and my jacket.
But all of a sudden you face screws up and you start a misdirected rant concerning the failings of the female sex. And your eyes are all shiny and you're waving the Nintendo controller around so pathetically - and I've never been able to just leave you to yourself.
I drop my bag back down on the chair. And I miss the last train home.
Misty cursed under her breath as the contents of the milk carton flowed unceremoniously to the tiled floor. Funny how hours of binge drinking left you incapable to make a cup of tea. Ash's raised voice continued to rant from the direction of the living room.
"-this time I'm serious, Myst. We would have half decent kids and -"
Misty bent down to swab the floor with a damp and browning gingham tea towel, rolling her eyes. It was the same story. Every time Ash got dumped, he would get trashed and propose marriage to her. Luckily she had never got so past it that she had called his bluff. The last time she had tried something as clever as that - well, it had been uncomfortable...
"We were good in bed together!" Ash was continuing to develop his argument as Misty walked through the door balancing two mugs of tea. She smacked them down on the table and put her hands to her hips.
"ASH! Is that never talking about it again?" she chided, sinking into the chair opposite him. Ash smiled thinly, eyes bleary.
"Sorry. I'm like, really, really drunk."
"Like you were the night in question," Misty pointed out dryly, before sipping her tea. "As was I. Incredibly so. You could have been screwing a hole in the mattress and I wouldn't have noticed."
Ash made a face as he reached for his cup, obviously too incapacitated to think of a suitable retort.
"Anyway," Misty deftly changed the subject, "I'd better go to bed."
Ash's face fell. "Bu- it's only- it's only - I mean, it's not even midnight!"
"Yes, and I have work tomorrow. AND I have to stop home en route to change!"
Ash surveyed her appearance. "Why can't you just wear that again?"
Misty screwed up her face. "Because I smell like a bus station full of hobos! And besides," she sniffed, "you NEVER wear the same outfit more than one time in a month! And what about clean underwear!"
Ash's face darkened. "Oh... she might have left some around..."
"Ash, I am not wearing that tramp's thongs," Misty said, matter-of-fact, as she downed the sugary remnants in her cup. Ash's face remained impassive.
"I thought you said you quite liked her."
Misty rolled her eyes. "Ash, she was a tramp. You always, always go out with tramps. That's why they always, always cheat on you-"
Ash was glaring at his mug like he wanted to burn the patterned enamel off with his vision. Misty sighed. "Ash, sorry but-"
Ash stood up.
"Yeah, so, anyway. Bed. You take mine. I'll get the spare blankets out of the linen cupboard. And a towel. I assume you want to shower?"
"You remember how to set my alarm clock, don't you? What time will you need to get up?"
"I... I'll need to get the nearest train to six, half six..."
Misty watched Ash's back through the open door as he hunted through the linen cupboard in the hall. You could see how tense he was, how set his shoulders were even through his clothes. She wanted to do something for him, anything for him. But she was tired, and could feel the beginning of her hangover start to gnaw at the back of her consciousness.
Ash flinched as he felt pressure on his shoulder blades - Misty placed a hand on each and rested her right cheek against the back of his neck, the end of his hairline tickling against her nose.
"I'm sorry," she murmured, the vibrations from her throat against his bare skin making him swallow deeply. "You're my best friend and I love you. I just think that nobody's good enough for you."
Thankful that there was no eye contact and the gloom of the hallway hid any blushes, Misty reached forwards and plucked a towel from Ash's limp grasp. As she mounted the stairs she chanced a glimpse back down. Ash remained in position, furiously eyeing a folded tablecloth. He must be so plastered, she thought, sadly.
In the near decade it had been since her first tipple, Misty had come to realise that she would never be one of these people who fall into a blessed, somewhat comatose state after a heavy night's drinking. Although she sobered up fast, this also quickened up the onslaught of her hangover, often before she could fall asleep at all. Cue a sleepless night thrashing around and a total monster to be around the following day.
Her mouth was almost unbearably dry but she couldn't quite bring herself to get up for a glass of water. She also didn't want to wake up Ash - no doubt blissful and comatose on the sofa en route to the kitchen. She licked her lips and blushed as the motion put her in mind of the last night she had spent in this bed. She remembered rolling her eyes back in her head so that she could see the distorted shape of Ash's hair and the headboard from an angle and wondering, somewhere in her fuddled mind, how Ash could be so drunk yet kiss so well.
Afterwards, Ash had folded her up in his arms, content smile on his face. But Misty was sobering, horrified, disgusted, reviled - lying still as a corpse watching Ash sleep in the light from the chink in the curtains. And realising that nothing would ever be the same again.
Misty turned briskly to her side, facing those same curtains. Tonight they had been closed carefully, and were only evident as a soft rectangle of grey in the black of the darkness. She should have known that sleeping in this room would do nothing but plague her with memories - ones she didn't want. Remembering the things Ash had said - borne of drunken confusion, but said with such an honest face.
Misty didn't jump when the door opened; she had almost been expecting it. Many times she had been startled awake by a half-asleep Ash, who had been to the toilet in the middle of the night and then forgot the sleeping arrangements. She began to turn around as he sat on the bed.
"Can't sleep?" came his hushed voice. Misty blinked at him, pulling the covers a little higher.
"Oh," she said, "you're properly awake."
"I can't sleep," came his reply, a silhouette in the light from the hallway.
"Shut that light off," Misty squinted, nodding her head towards the bedroom door. Wordlessly, Ash stretched out a leg and kicked it shut. The room fell into dark and silence.
"Thinking about last time?" enquired Ash. Misty made an exasperated noise and thumped her arms against the covers.
"Wow, that's two mentions tonight of the Thing Never To Be Spoken Of. What time is it?" she neatly avoided the question.
Ash peered behind her to the green digital display. "Ten to five."
"Ten to FIVE? Bloody hell, I might as well get up," Misty growled, turning around to the clock.
"No, wait," Ash murmured, crawling across the bed towards her. "I have a question."
"Oh Ash," Misty sighed, "let me guess. Is it - why do all girls hate me?"
"Ash, we've been through this!" Misty moaned. "It's not your fault. It's just... you're looking for love when everyone else around you is looking for fun. Give it time."
"Is that why you didn't want to know?" Ash accused, bitterly. The question hung in the air between them.
"Want to know what?" Misty answered carefully. "I was so drunk I can hardly remember."
"How convenient," Ash muttered darkly.
"Oh, and what's that supposed to mean?" Misty countered in exasperation. The shape in the gloom that was Ash was silent, but Misty could easily picture his petulant expression.
"Nothing, it means nothing."
Ash exhaled slowly. The sound was wet. Misty kept staring at the numbers straight ahead, luminous in the gloom, ignoring the slight tension and release of the bedsheets on her lower leg as Ash's fingers played uneasily on the linen, short fingernails scratching at the fabric.
"I'm drunk," Ash said finally.
Misty sighed. "Yes. Yes you are. Go... sleep it off or something."
For a moment Misty thought she'd have to physically escort Ash back downstairs to the sofa, but after another silent hesitation, she felt his weight lift from the bed, and saw his shadow cast elongated on the wall as he opened the door into the hall. For a brief moment, the silhouette distorted as he turned his head to look back at her and Misty felt herself edge under the covers a little further at some explicable unease. The door clicked quietly shut and the adrenalin seeped out of her so that she felt flat to the pillow. She didn't pull herself up and gaze at the closed door. That's what got her into this uncomfortable situation in the first place...
Ash snorted as he dumped her unceremoniously onto his bed. Just as unceremonious, Misty burped. Ash snorted again. As the onslaught of giggles faded, Ash squeezed her fingers and sought out her gaze.
"You're a star," he said, beaming. "Thank you."
Her neck at an awkward angle on the pillow, Misty surveyed Ash. His eyes were a little bright, his cheeks a little flushed. He wasn't sober. But he was happy - and for once, able to form a coherent sentence. Misty beamed back, lifting her hand and bringing both sets of their fingers to her mouth.
"S'ok," she slurred, clumsily kissing Ash's knuckles before letting her arm drop back down.
It hadn't hit the mattress before Ash's lips were on hers, harder than he probably intended, pushing her neck straight again, bunching the pillow up between her crown and the headboard.
With her free hand Misty gripped the sheets in shock. Ash broke for air and repositioned, planting his free hand on the side of her face to support his body. Disorientated, Misty obeyed the panic, turning her face to the side and placing her hand on his chest, an instant barrier. Immediately she felt him freeze, her palm on his chest felt his breathing and pulse slow.
Misty was transfixed with the pulsing of Ash's heart. It seemed to match her own, a sensation she could feel to the tip of every extremity. She brought her face back around. It was dark - she could barely see his features.
Ash seemed to have nothing else to say. Their still entwined fingers were sweaty. Ash pulled his hand free and got up, going straight through the door without a word. It clicked quietly shut. Misty pulled herself up on her elbows and stared at the closed door. She could still hear his heavy breathing on the other side. The door rattled slightly as he leaned against it.
Unsteady on her feet, Misty padded to the door; smoothing back her hair with one hand, she reached for the handle with the other. The tips of her fingers touched the cold metal. Ash wasn't like this, she thought, half-deliriously, Ash was warm.
Ash grimaced as he knocked over what remained of the bottle of Jack Daniels onto the carpet. Luckily that wasn't much. He kicked at it half-heartedly for a moment, the moisture soaking up into his sock, before sinking back down into his makeshift bed on the couch. It was uncomfortably warm, sticky. The room smelt of sweat, alcohol and her perfume. Ash closed his eyes in annoyance as another fleeting memory surfaced, a memory of the night where he had run the tip of his nose along her collarbone and smelt all three scents combined in one.
I love you, he had said, holding her. Isn't everything wonderful.
No, she had said. Holding the sheets around her. Horrified.
I won't be a replacement for your sluts, she had snapped.
No, he had cried, as she sped around the room gathering discarded items of clothing. Don't you understand? They were the replacements. It was always, always you.
"Always you," Ash murmured, as the clock on the wall chimed five.
I love you, he had said, holding her.
His eyes a little bright, his cheeks a little flushed. Giddy. Tipsy. Overflowing.
A million thoughts crashed into her with the force of a truck.
I'm late for work. I've just slept with my best friend. I could be pregnant. He's seen me naked. He said he loves me.
She couldn't get out of that house fast enough, but the next time she'd seen him she took control, told him how big a mistake it all was, how they were never to mention it again, explained just how drunk he'd been.
Ash had been quiet for a second, but never broke eye-contact. Just like that night. His eyes bright, flushed cheeks. And suddenly Misty felt like she was going to cry, that despite her best efforts something had been broken, never to be fixed.
Misty turned the shower off.
The scene replayed over and over in her head as she got dressed. Ash's expression as he sat there silently. As sincere and accepting as he ever was. As he had been that morning. She'd felt his heartbeat pressed up against her, steady and genuine. I love you. It was always, always you.
Misty brushed her hair, standing in front of the mirror but not seeing her own reflection, wondering if this was the end of her friendship. She burned at the thought.
She finally caught her own eyes in the mirror, and smoothed underneath them with her fingertips. From downstairs, the dim chime of six o' clock was audible. Her train was in thirteen minutes.
She thought about the day ahead. The same as every day? A few hours work, and then the train again, speeding along to nowhere in particular. She'd get home and turn all the lights on, dither for about an hour, then jump in her car and go to Ash. How could she risk such a large part of her life?
Giving her appearance a final once-over, it was her empty Cerulean bungalow that flew before her eyes. She was jolted out of her reverie at the creak which signified Ash was on the stairs.
Her chest pinched with the pressure. Weighing everything against Ash, she knew what she was going to risk.
All the pressure's gone. I feel giddy. Tipsy. Overflowing. I throw open the bedroom door and the dawn light rushes in from the windows of the balcony to fill up the bedroom and exorcise all its demons.
You look up at me from the bottom of the stairs, bleary-eyed. Obviously you haven't slept either, but I'm being sustained by something else now. I don't need sleep, or alcohol. I just need this moment.
My hair's fallen out, I probably look a mess. But that flush on your cheeks is rising and your eyes are clearing. You hold out your hand for me as normal and I laugh, I can't help but laugh. We're already sweaty as we touch, and the kissing is as clumsy and frantic as it was before, but it's not about that. It's not about anything like that anymore.
My life clicks together.
And I miss the train home.