Hen Night

~*~

"Hey Tracey! We're finally getting married!"

Ash Ketchum beamed, and affectionately squeezed his new fiancé's hand as he relayed the joyous news to his old friend. Tracey smiled uncertainly, and surveyed the couple, both of whom he had known for a very long time. "And since there's no way I could choose between you and Brock, I was wondering if you'd mind sharing the duty of Best Man?" Touched, Tracey showed his appreciation by thumping Ash lightly on the shoulder, and allowing a faint blush to cover the bridge of his nose as he nodded.

He assessed the couple again – sure they weren't the most economically dynamic of couples, and she was known to be a bit bossy, and have her fair share of tantrums when things didn't go her way, but he guessed that was meaningless in Ash's eyes if he loved her. As he watched her, she flipped her long brown hair over her shoulder as she adjusted an earring. Then Tracey spoke, in a flat voice.

"Have you told the others?"

"You mean have I told Misty…" Ash replied uncomfortably. Melody stared all around her with fake looking, doe blue eyes.

"Oh yes! Misty! I haven't seen her since our little escapade back home on Shamouti!" she said. "She's going to be the Maid of Honour right Ashy? OoOoOOoh I can't wait to meet up with her! We'll be such good friends – Ashy's best friend and his wife! Oh I don't know anyone in Kanto, all my friends are back on the island! We'll go dress shopping together, taste wedding cake samples, it all!"

"Well I was kinda leaving her till last…" Ash said quietly. Tracey nodded, and pointed behind him to the green wall unit in the next room.

"No time like the present."

In an apartment in the very south of Cerulean City, twenty-two year old Misty Waterflower lay sprawled over her sofa completely in the dark, save for the flickering of the television's artificial colours. On the screen, a buxom woman with glasses, and violet hair was ordering a Jynx to attack a Xatu.

Misty sat, absorbed in the battle. She was wearing a large man's shirt, and two odd socks, and under her eyes was a week's worth of slept-in black mascara. Her now long hair was twisted up into a very haphazard bun on the base of her neck, and on her knees she balanced an expensive looking box of chocolates. Her slender fingers ruthlessly hovered over the wrapped shapes continuously. The chocolates were another present from the latest 'loser' who was trying so hard to win her heart. He had no chance, but that didn't mean that the chocolates had to go to waste did it?

RING RING RING! RING RING RING! PHONECALL!! PHONECALL!!

Misty glared at the device in the corner of the room, as she laboured out the stretches to get her off the couch. Suddenly conscious of her appearance, she set it to Audio Only before she picked up the receiver.

"Hello, this is Misty," she recited.

"Hello- er, I mean, hey Myst, how've ya been?" Ash's slightly nervous voice wavered through the phoneline. Misty broke into a glowing smile – Ash had been off training in the Orange Islands for almost 18 months now! A postcard now and then wasn't enough!

"Ash!" she yelled happily. Ash had to smile at hearing his best friend's warm voice again. "You twerp! How long have you been back!?"

"Just since this morning – eh, Misty? I need to tell you something."

"Good or bad news?" Ash hesitated.

"Good I guess, I mean, I know. Misty, I'm getting married." There was silence on the other end of the line.

Misty swallowed deeply, and focused on keeping the phone clenched in her shaking hand. There had to be some mistake – surely. Ash was in love with her after all…he had told her so years ago. "Misty? Misty you still there?" came Ash's voice, slightly worried.

"Um yeah sorry about that," came Misty's voice out of her dry throat. "Getting married?" she repeated.

"Yeah…ehehe, who'd have guessed it. And it's to Melody – remember her?"

It took Misty a few seconds to realise that the warm tears running down her now pale cheeks were her own.

"Yes," she answered. She tried hard to conceal her emotions, but her voice, and her best friend's expert ears betrayed her. "I remember her Ash."

"…Myst? Misty are you okay? It sounds like you're crying…I'm gonna turn the Video Mode on-"

"DON'T YOU DARE!" bellowed Misty down the phone, making Ash's ear ring with an after-tone, and Tracey and Melody in the next room to him turn around.

"If I can't see you, then how do I know I'm talking to the real Misty?" he teased.

"IF YOU TURN THAT VIDEO MODE OPTION ON ASH KETCHUM I'LL POUND YOU INTO OBLIVION!"

"…I guess that's how I know," he joked. "Why not?" Misty caught sight of her red eyes, with round tears clinging obstinately to her long lashes.

"I-I-I'm not dressed," she bluffed.

"Why?!" came Ash's reply; then his voice became coy and teasing once more as he relaxed into the conversation. "Have I interrupted something!?"

"Oh grow up!" Misty snapped, as she ran a sleeve across her nose.

"Heh okay; listen, I've got to go now, but can you come up to Pallet at the weekend?" There was nothing Misty wanted more or less.

"I-I'll try Ash."

"Great! Okay, talk to ya later Myst!"

"Bye…" came Misty's blank reply as she heard a click, and her life and her apartment fell silent once again.

Moving like she was in some sort of dream, Misty walked across the room and perched herself down on the edge of the sofa. She let the tears overcome her, and threw herself face down onto the sofa cushions as she was wracked with silent sobs.

He loved her! HER! MISTY! He had always loved her! But now for some reason Misty couldn't seem to place, he was marrying that WITCH Melody.

"Me…he loves ME…" she whispered reassuringly to herself as she re-ran the events of her sixteenth birthday party in her head. She could picture him, feel him, and even smell him. Prior to the party he'd raided Brock's bathroom cupboard and drowned himself in Lynx. He'd approached her silently, bashfully, thoughtfully scratching at the shadow that was developing on his cheeks and chin and scuffing his best shoes against the ground. He'd asked her if she wanted to dance with him. She said she'd rather dance with no one else.

So they'd danced, and they danced, and they danced some more. And then he'd leaned gently into her, brushing his lips against her hair and her ear, and he'd told her. Told her that he thought he was in love with her, and would she mind if he kissed her.

Misty's breath had caught in her throat, and she couldn't force out a single word. Well she had managed one word.

One stupid, stupid word.

Hormones. Hormones she'd said. Letting your hormones get away with ya Mr Pokémon Master? Ash had blushed horribly, but then laughed weakly and agreed. No more was ever said.

Stupid. So very stupid. So now, six years later, Misty lay on her sofa all alone and cried her heart out, or what was left of it, because she was sure, deep down that it must be broken.

~*~

Misty pinched her am frantically. Next to her, Delia raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Melody dear?"

"Yes mom?" Delia noticeably winced.

"Are you quite sure that's what you want the bridesmaids to wear?"

"Oh I know they're a little extravagant, and expensive but hey, Ashy can afford it!" Delia locked eyes with Misty in sympathy. Such a nice girl Misty, and she and Ash knew each other back to front, inside out, and both had soft spots for each other – she couldn't understand why it wasn't this nice girl whom she'd be more than proud to have call her mother, that her son was marrying. In fact, she'd asked Ash. He'd blushed hotly, and answered simply that he loved Misty, but platonically now, and Melody was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

"What am I going to be wearing Melody?"

"Oh Myst! I've told you a million times! You can call me Mel like Ashy does!" Misty managed to turn a grimace into a convincing smile and Delia smothered a giggle by turning it into a cough.

But both their jaws hit the floor as Melody staggered under the weight of Misty's Maid of Honour dress. The first thought that hit Misty was: I wouldn't be seen dead dusting with that thing, let alone wearing it.

Later that night, Melody returned to hers and Ash's modest little cottage in Pallet – Ash refused point blank to live anywhere else. Oh well, thought Melody. That will change once we get married I guess. She completely ignored Pikachu who had scampered to the door to greet her, thinking she might be Misty because she smelt vaguely like her.

She walked into the sitting room but Ash had headphones on, and hadn't heard her. She noted affectionately that he was looking at a photo album, but on closer inspection, felt jealousy stir up in her as she realised they were all of a certain red-head, who'd been her competition since they were twelve year olds.

~*~

"Remind me again why I am the one who's organising Melody's Hen night?" groused Misty bitterly to Brock and her sister Lily.

"Now Misty, I can understand why Melody isn't your absolute most favourite person in the world-"

"Well is she yours?!" Misty challenged incredulously.

"Prissy little twit," Lily suddenly cut in violently, partly out of sisterly devotion to Misty, but mostly because she simply could not stand Melody. "I just wanna like, grab her and shake her and like, tell her to stop being so…prissy!" Misty nodded. Brock blinked.

"Well ladies, thank you for the pleasure of you company – I'm off to sort out the catering," he sighed.

"She's married…" He sloped out of the room.

The room fell silent as the two sisters continued their allocated task of organisation of the Hen night. Suddenly, Misty looked up from her task, and eyed her youngest elder sister carefully.

"Lils," she spoke, in an undertone.

"Ummhmmm?" came Lily's preoccupied mumble.

"Can you help me with something and not tell anyone? I mean, something really important…" Lily's biro stopped scratching on the paper and she looked up in interest.

"I knew it! You're like, planning on trashing the wedding on Saturday! If it helps, I know this guy, you pay him a few thousand yen and he'll set up this like, system that will dump Muk sludge-"

"LILY!" Misty interrupted. "As appealing as that sounds, I was going for something less drastic."

"Like what?" Misty hesitated.

"I don't know. I guess I want you to stall Melody…"

"Stall her? Why?"

"So I can tell Ash something very very important." Lily smiled knowingly at her baby sister.

"Only for you Misty, only for you would I like, do this." Misty grinned a thank you at her pink haired sibling. "But you need to like, help! I have this idea – I read it in my magazine the other week, and we'll do it Friday night, at the like, Hen party…"

~*~

Melody was drunk. So was Maren. Even Delia was – in fact almost every woman in that club was completely off their heads.

Almost venomously, Lily and Misty offered Melody cocktail after cocktail, till the woman could barely stand up. Sure enough, their hard work paid off, and soon that pretty long brown hair was sprawled all over a table laden with empty cocktail glasses as the bride lost consciousness.

Feigning the same amplitude of drunkenness as the rest of the gathering, Lily and Misty, who were actually completely sober, bid farewell to everyone, saying that they'd make sure the blushing - and now elegantly vomiting in her sleep – bride was tucked up safely in bed.

Upon leaving the nightclub, Misty sucked in a lungful of the crisp night air. Half of her, the rational half was screaming at her. Ash loved this woman, and he was her best friend, what did she think he was doing?

And then the other half, the half that was in love with him urged her forwards, saying that Ash deserved to know he had a choice, and that if he had loved Misty once, he could, and he would love her again.

Melody's comatose form was bundled into the backseat of Lily's car. On they drove, in shocked silence at what they were doing, from the club in Viridian, back through Pewter, Cerulean, and turned to the south to cross the border into Saffron City.

Almost mechanically, Misty tucked Melody, still out cold, into the travel bed in a compartment in the Magnet Train. She signed her in with her own Rail Pass, knowing that Melody would not have one, and that this would stall her even further, and even more so would be the fact that she now knew Kanto fairly well, but had never stepped foot in Johto, and would (hopefully) be completely lost in the sky scraper maze of Goldenrod City.

She stepped off the train as she felt its engine shudder, and walked back to where Lily was standing. Silently, she mouthed sweet dreams, as the train chugged its way away from the station platform, before shooting off into the dark tunnel that connected the land of the East to the land of the West.

The things women do for love, she thought.

~*~

The organ was playing some stupid sombre music, women were dressed in feathered and oversized hats, men had wilting flowers shoved into their buttonholes. Oh yes, this was definitely a wedding. Misty hid behind some pillars, holding her bouquet up to hide her low neckline. She looked like a cerise meringue.

At the front of the church, and at the top of the aisle, Ash stood with Brock, Tracey, Professor Oak and his mother, laughing and looking carefree. He raked his hand backwards through his still spiky, yet obviously groomed for the occasion, hair, and Delia tutted and hit his hand lightly. Pikachu rubbed up against his leg affectionately, one wedding ring around each ear.

Misty took a deep breath – this was it – and began to walk towards him. Automatically, the elderly organist began to play Here Comes the Bride, as Misty was walking straight down the aisle, and both her and Ash blushed crimson, and the priest made a cutting motion with his hands. The music stopped abruptly. Misty ducked her head down and hurried the rest of the way.

"Ash I need to talk to you…"

"Right now? Misty I'm kinda busy…" Misty looked at him desperately, with her teal eyes open wide and brimming with emotion, and suddenly Ash felt her need to talk to him through their link as long lasting friends. "Um okay, come with me."

He led her into a little room, off the side of the main church, closed the door behind them, and turned round quizzically; he was startled to see tears running down his best friend's face, mixed with black mascara and her pink eyeshadow.

"Don't worry about time Ash cos Melody won't be here for a while. Um, she was a little drunk last night see, and I think she got on the Magnet Train…" Ash saw through her immediately.

"Misty! Why the hell did you put my fiancé on a train to a place she's never been on the night before my wedding!" he cried, angrily, but it was hard to be angry at her when she was crying like this, and crying more with every word he said. "Why?? What on earth possessed you to do something like this to me?"

"SHUT UP!" she screamed suddenly, through her tears, silencing him instantly. "I did it because I love you Ash, I want to be you wife, I want to be the one who lives with you, has your kids, grows old with you! Yes okay I'm a selfish little cow, but I love you, and I couldn't let you get married without telling you that…"

The room feel silent save for an occasional sob from Misty. Ash had gone pale, and very stiff.

"Don't say anymore Misty," he whispered. "I'm going to marry Mel; I-I love Mel, really I do." What was left of Misty's heart shattered into dust.

"Then tell me you don't love me too," she challenged. "And not as a friend." Ash halted.

"Yes okay, I do love you. I love you very much but I love Mel too, and I said yes to Mel when she asked me to marry her, so the least I can do is go through with it. Do-do you understand Myst?" Misty shook her head through her blinding tears. "We can't be together, I'm so, so sorry but- but- you should have told me sooner."

Ash turned to leave, and once his back was turned to the girl, he let tears squeeze out of the corners of his eyes.

"Wait." He turned reluctantly at Misty's voice. She smiled, sadly. "Can I at least give you that kiss you asked for?" Ash's bottom lip trembled as a strong wave of desire to run to her, take her in his arms, kiss her all over her petite frame and never let her go rushed over him like water.

"I don't think so," he managed to say between clenched teeth. He left the room slowly, and Misty was left alone. She composed herself, stopped her tears and did her best to wipe the black smudges from under her eyes.

Undetected, she slipped out of the little room.

~*~

Misty walked all the way back to her apartment; from Viridian to Cerulean, cerise dress and all. The sun was lengthening, and she allowed herself to briefly wonder if Melody had found her way home yet, and whether or not the wedding was going on, with a groom with half a heart and no Maid of Honour.

Still sniffling, Misty walked into her flat, and then stopped abruptly as she realised it was clean – when she had left it had been a total pig sty. Brock, was her first thought as she saw a black suit jacket draped over the back of her sofa, but then her heart leapt up into her throat as she counted the men who were at the wedding who had keys to her apartment. Brock – grey suit. Tracey – pale blue suit. Ash – black suit...

"There you are," came her best friend's hesitant voice from the kitchen doorway. "I was beginning to think you weren't coming home at all Myst…" Tears clouding her vision again, Misty whirled around to see Ash, his hair dishevelled, his face covered in dust and his bow-tie loosened. Pikachu trotted in from the kitchen, and handed Misty the female wedding ring, and warmly licking her hand as she took it.

"Wha-what does this mean then?" she half laughed, half cried. Ash squirmed.

"Aww Misty…don't make me say it…"

"Say what?" she pressed, teasingly.

"Ugh," Ash grinned at her as he began to go down on one knee, his old, easy grin that made her feel ten years old again, warm and happy in a life time partnership, with him, her soulmate.

Thank God Melody had forced her to organise her Hen Night.