Happy Accident

By Maia's Pen

AUTHORS NOTE: This story is an Egoshipper. That means that it features a romantic interest between Gary and Misty. If this tends to bother you, then I recommend that you do not read this particular story. But if this is a pairing you enjoy, then by all means: welcome to my story and thank you so very much for your notice.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon or any of the cutesie 'lil characters. Unfortunately, I don't own Gary Oak either . . . but I have dubbed myself his unofficial cheerleader because I'm obsessed.

Dedication: This ones for you, Midnight Mist. I couldn't ask for a more supportive cyber-friend. You always seem to know just the right words to brighten my day. And your egoshipping stories have helped to revive the passion that I have for this pairing. Thank you.

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Today was her eighteenth birthday. It was supposed to be a wonderful, perfect day. Her sisters had gotten her a gift certificate to Cerulean City's most prestigious beauty salon, "Splendor Styles". Misty had rushed to the salon first thing this morning, determined that she would start her big day off with a stunning new look . . . well, she looked stunning alright . . . stunningly terrible!

Because she had been too impatient to wait for an appointment with the top stylist, Misty was accepted into the salon as a walk-in client. Therefore, she had to accept a hair-cut from whichever stylist was currently available. It just so happened that the woman available was extremely pushy, bossy, and (to make a long story short) had totally ruined Misty's hair! Misty had naively placed complete and utter trust in the woman whom she assumed was going to make her look marvelous. She innocently had instructed the woman to "do whatever she thought would look good" to her hair . . .

. . .big mistake. Although the stylist's intentions were good, she had ended up hacking Misty's once long, silky, ginger-orange hair to her chin. If that wasn't bad enough, the woman had insisted that Misty would look absolutely fabulous with a perm . . . yes, a perm.

Being clueless in regard to modern hair fashions, Misty had agreed to the perm; and now her hair resembled the big curly wig of a circus clown. Her hair had become a floppy ball of stringy, bouncing orange spirals – frizzing uncontrollably in every direction as though she'd just vigorously rubbed a balloon across her scalp! The hair was too short to even harness down within a hair clip or rubber band! Horror of horrors, she was stuck with this ghastly, godforsaken bush of mangy hair.

She wanted to cry her eyes out.

When she expressed shock at her new look to the stylist, the woman had insisted that she looked beautiful and that she was being silly. The woman was apparently in denial about the crime she had committed upon Misty's innocent head. Misty was not going to get a refund from this lady . . . and unfortunately the manager wasn't working again until tomorrow, but Misty was fully determined to call up "Splendor Styles" in the morning and give that manger a piece of her mind. Nobody was going to ruin her birthday (not to mention her life) without owing up!

Fortunately (and suspiciously), the hair salon also sold baseball caps. All of the caps sported the logo of various Pokemon types. Misty happened to have just enough currency remaining on her gift certificate to afford a cute turquoise cap which displayed the image of a Squirtle on the front.

Misty bolted like a Rapidash from the salon to her nearby parked car. As she ran, she was busy cramming each and every loose coil of hair underneath the cap. When she reached her car she plopped down into the driver's seat and sniffled miserably. It was taking all of her willpower not to burst into tears. Misty flipped down the mirror on her car visor and examined her reflection – she wanted to be one hundred percent certain that every out-of-control ringlet was concealed; after all, she was on her way to the Pallet Town Café to meet up with Ash and Brock for a big birthday brunch. She hadn't seen either of the guys in several weeks and she was anxious to catch up with them.

Ash was seventeen now and, although he had not yet achieved his title of Pokemon Master, he was extremely successful. Last summer Lance the Dragon Master had accepted Ash as his personal apprentice. Since then, the two men had been training across the globe. Misty and Brock had not been allowed to go with Ash, and he was rarely granted a chance to come home. Luckily he had been able to request a weekend off to see Misty on her birthday.

Brock was also keeping quite busy these days. He was twenty-one now, and finally getting out on real dates with willing young women. He had retained his position as Pewter City's Gym Leader and was also running a fairly successful Onix breeding program on the side.

Misty had taken over sole responsibility for the Cerulean City Gym. Her sisters Daisy and Lilly had both gotten married last year and moved away to start families. Violet had accepted a contract as a professional model and was living the high life in various big cities across the region – she was also engaged to a hunky actor from Saffron. Her sisters were very happy, had great relationships, and fantastic careers. As much as Misty loved having sole responsibility for the gym, she had to admit that it was really lonely. Sure she had her Pokemon and the challenging trainers to talk to – but it wasn't the same as having real company. She missed the close bonds that she had once shared with Brock and Ash; they had always been like a real family to her. In her youth she had been closer to those two guys than she had ever been to any other person in the world – even her own sisters and parents. Although Brock only lived one town over, Misty shamefully had to admit that she had been too busy these past several weeks to even try and visit him. Her skills as a water Pokemon trainer had greatly increased since she had stopped traveling with Ash a few years back. Since then Misty had had much more time to devote to focusing on her own training. She had since helped her Cascade Gym badge to become one of the most sought after, and toughest to acquire, badges in Kanto. . . the line of aspiring young trainers eager to challenge her was endless.

Misty groaned loudly as her car turned onto the main street in Pallet Town. "I don't even want to show my face at the gym or in public until my hair grows back. Or at least until it straightens out," her face tightened nervously. "God, if Ash says anything about my hair I swear to GOD I'm going to kill him!"

Did Misty miss Ash dearly while he was away on adventures with Lance? Yes, of course! Did she miss his incessant teasing and mocking of her faults? No way!

Misty swallowed anxiously as she parked her car in the Pallet Café. Brock's car was nowhere to be seen (but Misty wasn't surprised, he was never very punctual). However, Ash's veryexpensive neon-green sports car immediately caught her eye. She hadn't seen the car until now, but Ash had called her up last week in excitement after making the costly purchase. Apparently being Lance's apprentice had many financial perks.

Misty's face puckered sourly as she strolled past the sports car – Ash always use to make fun of his old rival, Gary Oak, for unnecessarily flaunting his convertible. . . and yet, here was Ash - in his modest little home town cruising about the dirt roads in a hot rod.

"Damn egotistical men" Misty cussed quietly to herself. When it came down to it, she was certain that all men were alike. "Maybe they think big flashy wheels will compensate for other shortcomings" she smirked bitterly, fully knowing that she was unjustly taking out her haircut frustrations on Ash's character.

Misty glanced at herself in the reflection of the shiny café door. She felt as though a dozen Butterfree's were having a hoedown in the pit of her belly. She did look rather cute . . . and, maybe it was possible that with the little cap on that Ash wouldn't even notice her awful hair cut . . .? Misty was wearing a flattering pair of dark blue jeans. They were her favorite pair because they seemed to hug the curves of her hips and slender thighs just right. Her top was simple, white, and sleeveless; but it had a few sparkly beads embroidered along the neck line. It was a flirty, feminine outfit; one that during her youth she never could have dreamed of pulling off . . . what with her old curveless tomboy figure and all. Although she had grown much slower than her sisters, Misty –eventually – developed an identically full, sexy figure to that of Daisy, Violet, and Lilly.

It wasn't that she had dressed up today to impress anyone - certainly not Brock or Ash. Misty had simply wanted to look good on her big birthday. Brock and Ash had always viewed her as a puny, scrawny girl. When she had last seen them several weeks ago she'd been dressed in baggy training gear, the guys had practically never seen her polished up.

Today Misty Waterflower was eighteen years old. And she was bound and determined to start looking like, and being thought of as a woman.

"Misty!" Ash leapt forward from a bar stool, nearly smothering her in a warm embrace. "God, I've missed you." He picked her up and planted a slobbery wet kiss on her cheek. Misty struggled out of his grasp, teasing him with a fake gagging sound. Her pretend disgust at his affection only encouraged him, and he planted another soggy smooch on her other cheek. As he finally released her from his arms, Misty couldn't help but giggle – Ash was acting as though he were ten years old again.

"Ash Ketchum, look at you, all grown up," Misty smiled warmly up at him . . . yes UP at him. Ash was a good head taller than her now. He still had the same boyish good looks, but had somehow sprouted up several inches without her ever noticing before. "What the heck is Lance feeding you?"

Ash snickered, gingerly taking her hand and leading her to an empty café booth. "You don't want to know," he grumbled. "Lance is a maniac about proper diet. He makes me eat nothin' but protein, protein, and more protein."

Misty squeezed his hand over the table top. "Well, you look great, kid," she winked playfully. "I'm happy for you, Ash. You're making your dream come true."

"Thanks, Mist. And, oh yeah," he instantly blushed. "Happy birthday, by the way! You've got me by another year! Getting' old, eh?"

"Shut your mouth," Misty threatened, although mostlyin lighthearted jest. She yanked her hand from Ash's and brandished a knotted fist in his face. "Brock is still older than I am, so pick on him when he gets here. And, hey, how late do you think Brock will be anyways?"

Ash huffed loudly, raking his fingers through his tousled main of raven-dark hair. "Who knows, his gym is outta control these days. He can't seem to get away even for a moment without more challengers popping up for a fight. But, we can go ahead and order our lunch without him. I'm starving. Let's not wait for him. "

"Typical Ash, always thinking about food," Misty moaned. Ash always annoyed her when prioritized food above all else in life.

Ash shrugged, suddenly eyeing her with a great deal of interest. "Hey, Mist . . . something is different about you."

Misty paled. "No, nothing's different."

"Yeeeeaah, there is something . . . it's. . ." Misty could almost hear the rusty gears in his head struggling to turn. "Ah, ha!" Ash raised a triumphant finger. "What's up with the baseball cap? You hate hats."
"N-Nothing," Misty mumbled nervously. The café was beginning to fill with customers and Misty did not feel like having Ash draw a spotlight of attention upon her ugly new haircut.

"Take that hat off, Misty. C'mon, what are you hiding? You shave your head or somethin'? C'mon, take it off! Off, off, off!" his voice jumped an entire octave when he whined. . . Misty hated it. The more he griped the more frayed her fragile nerves became.

"Nothing, shut up, Ash!" she snapped curtly, but her obvious anger only heightened his curiously.

Without warning Ash reached forward and snatched the cap from Misty's head. Her curls of terror sprang to life – each individual spiral protruding outward in a different direction. The hair continued to branch forth until she thoroughly looked like a Chea-pet that had not only been abandoned to overgrow wildly, but the shades of orange in her hair made it look like a Chea pet on fire!

Ash's eyes expanded to the size of a Machamp's fist, and his mouth gave way to the most hysterically uncalled for laughing fit that Misty had ever heard in her entire life. "Hahaha, is t-that you-re rea-al h-hair?" Ash sputtered uncontrollably; his finger outstretched and pointing at Misty as though he were accusing her of an appalling crime.

Misty felt her face burn with embarrassment and rage; she began sinking slowly into the café booths cushion- trying to duck out of sight.

One might have thought that Ash had just narrowly escaped from drowning by the way in which he was desperately wheezing for air. "Haha! I-I didn't know t-t-that you had taken up a job-as-as a court jester! Money must be tight at the g-gym!" Ash now began clutching his side as though he were experiencing liver failure. . . Misty growled under her breath . . . she was tempted to cause Ash some serious organ pain.

"Ash," she seethed his name like it were a curse. Misty noticed that several customers were staring at them and snickering. "Give me my cap back. It's not that funny!"

Tears of hysteria began pouring from Ash's eyes. "Y-yes it IS that funny! You look like a Red Apricorn Tree! Hahaha!"
About a dozen other customers were looking at her now. Misty slouched down farther in the seat. "Ash, shut the hell up!"

Ash seemed oblivious to her extreme discomfort. He could not seem to find the strength to calm his boisterous chuckles. Misty felt her throat tighten up as emotions of shame and betrayal surged within her.

"Ash, please-"

"Misty, you are one strange girl. No wonder your sisters are all married or models and you're stuck alone in the gym, haha!"

Ouch. He hadn't meant it as a slice to her feelings, however, she was already teetering on an emotional edge, and that personal comment had shoved her forcefully overboard. How dare he use her accidental haircut as a way of ranking her below her sisters! The blow was far to low for Misty to ignore.

"Damn you, Ash Ketchum! When are you going to grow up?" Misty bolted upward, sized her cap back, and slapped him as hard as she possibly could across the face with it. "DAMN YOU!" having gotten that off of her chest, the bitter tears burst forth. And Misty - who was now mortified beyond words - rushed towards the café exit.

"Move it!" she wailed, almost knocking a young man to the ground a she hustled out the door.

"Misty, wait!" Ash jumped upward, his face was stiff with regret. "I'm coming! I'm sorry!"

Out of nowhere, a firm grip latched itself painfully onto Ash's wrist. The excruciating grip was followed by a disturbingly familiar voice: "What did you do to her, Ashy-boy?"

Ash glanced up, startled, into the accusing face of his life long rival, Gary Oak. Gary's arctic-blue stare slammed into Ash like a condemning judge's mallet. Ash looked frightfully bewildered. "Gary? What are you doing here?"

Gary's glacial eyes flared with irritation. "Never mind why I'm at a café in myhometown. Wasn't that your old girlfriend, Misty Waterflower? What happened? She nearly bulldozed me over at the door!"

Ash's face bleached with shame. "She got some new haircut and it looked really bad, so I just picked on her, ya know? It was innocent. I don't know why she freaked out like that. Misty use to be able to take a joke."

Gary raised a skeptical eyebrow. "That'swhy she's in tears and-" Gary glanced out to the parking lot. "Oh no."

Misty had actually sprinted as fast as she could into the parking lot, had momentarily stopped by her car, fumbled with her keys, dropped them, screamed at her full blown intensity, then randomly darted off into the forest across the street . . . apparently she was too upset and flustered to pick her keys up off the pavement and drive away.

Nowthat was one angry woman.

"I'm going after her," Ash insisted, trying to shake his wrist loose from Gary's death grip.

"No way, Ash. I haven't seen you in years, but still nothing has changed. You know absolutely nothing about women! It's pathetic. Don't you know that you should never,ever bust on a girls haircut, outfit, weight, or overall general appearance? I've spent enough time with my cheerleaders, sister, and other casual girls to have learned that much."

Ash flushed deeply, his eyes falling to the floor. There was a crowd of people standing around them - anxious to eavesdrop on the conversation between the famous Ash Ketchum and that of Gary Oak – the top young researcher at Viridian University.

"So what do I-" Ash began his plea for guidance, only Gary curtly severed his words.

"YOU, Ashy-boy, will do nothing," Gary hesitated; he really did not want to get involved in the petty drama between Ash and his old girlfriend (or whatever she was). "I. . . I'll handle this."

Ash's face glimmered with hope. "Really? Thanks, Gary. Calm her down for me, will ya? I'm kinda afraid of her right now. I'll owe you one."
Gary ground his teeth regretfully as he marched towards the café exit; he was already distressing over offering to play mediator. "What was I thinking?" Gary muttered under his breath. "I'm going to try and calm down Misty Waterflower? I must be insane. If I remember correctly,"Gary began scouring his memory for his last encounter with Misty – about three years ago, "this girls got a temper to match that fiery hair of hers."

"Oh, and Gary," Ash timidly called after him. "Today is her birthday too, by. . . the. . . way."


As Gary jogged towards the forest where Misty had fled too, he passed a very confused Brock who was getting out of his car - a pile of presents in hand. "Hey, Brock, do me a favor and give Ash a lesson on how to treat a girl, will you? And when you're done, punch him in the face."

Brock only stared blankly, utterly dumbfounded as to why Gary Oak was running into a muddy forest while clothed in a designer business suit.

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"Ouch," a thin tree branch whipped across Gary's face. It wasn't sharp enough to break the skin, but he wouldn't be surprised if a welt appeared in the morning.

Oh great, Gary thought sarcastically. The tabloids will have a field day with this. First I'm seen arguing with my former rival at a public café, then I'm seen disappearing into the Pallet Woods after a girl I don't even know, then I emerge with a face welt and- Gary suddenly slipped on an oily patch of moss and came thudding down on his left knee. Fantastic. Then I emerge with a face welt AND various bruises across my body.

Gary hadn't prepared to be dashing through a swampy forest when he woke up this morning and got dressed. He had an important business meeting with a major researcher company official. The company was called "Ashes to Ashes" and were located in the Cinnabar Islands. They focused on researching Magmars and were currently working on a way to get the Pokemon to produce enough fire in their Flame Thrower attacks to aid in maintaining the dying-out volcanic activity in the islands. The head executive was sending his daughter (who was also the corporate donation representative) to meet with Gary today in the Pallet Café. Gary had done his research on the "Ashes to Ashes" company. He knew that the executive's daughter was cute, single, and was a big fan of his career . . . thus; he had dressed to the 9's in hopes that he could use his charm to sway her into having her father's company fund his doctoral research project. A project that just happened to be on Magmar breeding. Specifically which seasons tended to produce the most powerful offspring. An arrangement between Gary and this company could prove to be mutually beneficial.

Gary's appointment with the young woman was at noon . . . it was eleven thirty a.m. now and – as another branch whacked him in the face – he was seriously wondering what in the world had possessed him to feel sympathy for Misty Waterflower now,today of all days! He only hoped that he could find her, calm her down, and be back to the café before lunch time. He knew that his appearance was now a sham, but he had an extra business suit in the trunk of his car. Gary always carried a spare when he traveled – just in case an unforeseen disaster presented itself . . . such as this one.

Gary was running at his top speed now. He was trekking through the slimy, oozing mud and could easily follow Misty's fresh footsteps; she wasn't far ahead of him now.

He skidded to a stop as he heard a muffled whimpering from behind a thicket of trees to his right. Being cautious so as not to alarm Misty with his presence, Gary cleared his throat as he pushed his way through the dense wall of shrubbery. It had been a beautiful sunny day; however, this deep into the Pallet Woods the sun was struggling to drip more than a few rays of light through the canopy of trees overhead.

There. Misty was sitting miserably, her knees pulled into her chest. She was atop a mediocre sized boulder which was overlooking a rather pleasant forest pond. The pond was small, no larger than three Dragonite's together in length; but the water looked cool, clean and actually rather inviting given how overheated Gary had become jogging in his heavy business suit.

He stood only several feet from her, but Misty didn't notice him. She was sniffling quietly. Her striking jade eyes were glazed over, and her cherry-hued lips were formed into an adorable little pout as she wallowed miserably to herself. She had a flawless ivory complexion that contrasted exotically with those appealing sulking dark lips . . . Okay, so it wasn't really appropriate for Gary to be fixating on her lips, after all, the girl was in tears on her birthdayIn tears all because Ash was such a dimwit and had to make fun of her haircut. Speaking of which, Gary couldn't tell what her new haircut looked like because she had a Squirtle baseball cap on her head. Gary couldn't help but smirk; he'd never seen a girl so attractive sporting a Squirtle icon before. Squirtle was a Pokemon near and dear to his heart, his first starter Pokemon had been a Squirtle. He liked that cap.

"Hey," Gary greeted casually, ignoring the pure shock which was plastered on her face upon seeing him here.

Misty rubbed at her damp eyes; blinking vacantly as though unsure if there really was a person standing before her.

"Misty Waterflower, hi, I don't know if you remember me, I'm-"

"Gary Oak," Misty finished for him, her tone bland of interest. "I know who you are, Ash's old rival," her face tightened with strange amusement.

"Wow, you remember. Okay, I wasn't sure since it's been a few years since I've seen you. I hardly recognized you when I saw you in the café," he offered her a lopsided smile; unsure as to why she was eyeing him so intently.

"Well, I've seen you on the television a few times, I even read your book on Dragonair advanced evolution," Misty responded flatly, and apparently unimpressed.

In response to her recognition, Gary flashed Misty with his trademark prideful grin. He always had a smile ready to offer an admirer. "I'm the first student at Viridian U to ever publish a book before completing his doctorate degree. I'm also the first student under nineteen years of age to be accepted into an evolution doctoral program."

Misty narrowed her eyes as though dulled by his words. She decided not to feed his ego by acknowledging his successes. Instead, she sighed, cocking her head with confusion. "I'm sorry, Gary . . . but why exactly are you here? Why did you follow me into the forest for god's sake?"

Gary's confident grin constricted into an awkward frown. "I just wanted to see if you were okay, that's all."

Misty's sharp emerald eyes lanced him with suspicion. "You followed me out here," she gestured to his clothing, "dressed in a thousand dollar blazer to see if I was okay?"

"You don't believe me?"

"Not really," she stated flatly. "What do you want, Oak?"

Gary took a few steps forward, and invited himself to sit next to her on the rock. Misty's nostrils flared, he was invading her personal space and she did not appreciate it.

Gary at once noticed her obvious discomfort at his presence and stood back up. He paced nonchalantly in a circle by the pond. Then, Gary's head shot upward; he blasted her with his cool sapphire eyes - seizing her complete attention.

Gary had dramatically captivating eyes; they were bluer and fiercer than an artic blizzard, and just as hypnotic as watching snow flakes falling in the night. A lesser person would have been instantly demoralized by the bold frosty bite in his stare, but not Misty . . . she was actually intrigued. Intrigued, and curiously unnerved - for it felt as though he were peering in to the secret depths of her desires. She'd never noticed how piercing his gaze could be, she'd never before felt vulnerable beneath a man's stare. The tabloids certainly didn't do justice to his eyes with their crappy photographs; and Misty didn't remember his face clearly enough from the memory banks of her childhood. In the past, she only remembered turning away with dread when he would come waltzing into a room. His head was always inflated with such enormous pride that she was constantly amazed that he fit through most doors. Back then she knew that he was only going to pick a fight with Ash and annoy the hell out of her; thus, she avoided him like the plague. But, he seemed much different now . . . true, Gary still radiated an overdose of self-confidence, but it wasn't quite as infuriating as it had once been, rather it was kind of . . . enthralling. He was a man who was so certain of his abilities that nothing could deter him from his goals and dreams. He was the kind of man that could probably perform any task that was thrown at him, and not only complete the task - but do it the best. It was actually an admirable quality in a man. A man . . .? Had Misty just thought of Gary Oak as a man? Not as a snobby rich little brat?

He effortlessly continued to imprison her attention. It was like he'd shot an invisible Ice Beam from his eyes and had somehow frozen her in place; she couldn't bring herself to look away from him. Misty was a willing captive beneath that icy-gaze. Instead, Misty granted herself permission to scan the rest of his body . . .

. . .He had really grown up. Gary was more than a head taller than her, and he had stunning good-looks. His features were charmingly fair; his face looked as though it had been chiseled flawlessly from bronzed stone. His hair was still styled in a wild array of cinnamon spikes, but they didn't look sloppy like Misty had remembered them, they were natural . . . carefree . . . attractive . . . just like the rest of him. His shoulders were broad and he had a lean muscular body; he perfectly filled out his expensive light-gray suit. It looked as if the suit had been especially made to fit him. Gary had a pinstriped necktie secured skillfully about his collar. Misty watched with mysterious fascination as he reached a finger up to loosen the knot, letting the tie hang carelessly about his throat.

Misty suddenly blushed with horror as she realized that she was actuallychecking out Gary Oak It was an unbearably shameful realization. Gary Oak may have grown up to be extremely handsome, his confidence might have even been alluring . . . but he was still Gary Oak!He was still the same petty jerk who tried to make Ash's life miserable any chance that he got.

Gary seemed to notice her frightful embarrassment. He grunted with amusement, nodding his head as though certain that she hadin fact been admiring his looks. Misty's face was only turning a deeper shade of scarlet.

Just as quickly as he had commanded her attention, did he abruptly turn his face away. Just like that he had shattered the Ice Beam which detained her focus. And just like that Misty silently scolded herself for ever admiring such a conceited person.

"Listen, Misty," Gary avoided her eyes as he spoke. "I saw you running out of the café, and I saw Ash yelling after you. You looked really upset. I asked Ash what he had done to upset you and he blabbed something about making fun of your haircut."

Misty's hands flew defensively up to the cap on her head. "Ash told you about my ugly hair? How dare he! I'm going to kill him! And he told you that I ran away because of my hair? Didn't he mention his comment about what a loser I am compared to my sisters!" the sting of the hurtful moment threatened to bring more tears to her eyes, Misty was struggling laboriously to blink them back.

Gary's brow furrowed with concern. "He really said that about you?"

A single tear cascaded down her face; she covered her face in her hands, hoping against hope that Gary had not seen it. "Well, sort of," she breathed.

Gary took a hesitant step forward, he was careful not to get too close. His goal was to comfort her, not weird her out. "Sort of? Misty, I know Ash adores you. I'm sure whatever that idiot said he didn't really mean it," a pause. "You know that, right? No guy in his right mind would ever hurt you on purpose . . ." Gary's voice trailed off in a hushed whisper; the richly low tone sent a sultry tremor down her spine.

Misty clung more tightly to her cap, now hoping that Gary did not notice her tear or her red face. "I- I know. He just made a stupid joke and I guess that I overreacted. I'm just really sensitive, okay. I just wanted today to be perfect and Ash had to go and tick me off!" she was practically snarling now, the tears had been replaced by crude anger.

"Listen," Gary moved silently closer to her. "What that dumbass said doesn't even matter. What matters is that you get over your supposedly bad hairdo and get back to that café. I saw Brock on his way in as I was on my way into the woods. Okay? So stand up, brush your self off, and get back there, got it?"

Misty's eyebrow twitched. Gary Oak hadn't spoken more than two words to her in years and now he was telling her how she should behave on her birthday! The nerve! "No way, Gary! Thanks for nothing. Get lost, will you?"

"Take that cap off and let me see what the big deal is!" demand was evident in his tone.

"NO WAY!" Misty slid brashly off of the rock, and charged forward so that she was standing mere centimeters from Gary. She perched herself on her tip-toes and glared fiercely up at him. "GET LOST!"

Gary casually folded his arms across his (what Misty noted was a distinctively strong) chest. He glanced down at her with a mischievous smirk. Apparently, her yelling served only to interest him further, not discourage him. "I've never met a chick with a set of lungs like yours, Misty. Tell me, do you scream like this at all the guys you like?"

Misty puffed her cheeks out, unable to harness her temper any longer. "You must have a very large brain to hold so much ignorance!"

Gary chuckled; tossing his head backward with jest. "Gosh, you'recute. I wonder: why on earth did Ash allow meto run after youWhy did he not insist on having this honor all to himself?" his voice was drenched in sarcasm.

"You're an ass hole."
"I wish your charm could be bottled, Misty . . . then a cork could be put in it."

"Are you always this obnoxious or are you making a special effort today?"

"Um. . ." Gary tapped a finger on his jaw line, mimicking a person in deep contemplation. ". . . um, yeah, yeah I'm always like this."

Misty threw her hands in the air, exasperated, and stormed towards the pond. Gary exhaled, the satisfaction he had just received from taunting her was being rapidly dissolved . . . something was really bothering her . . . there was more going on here than a bad haircut and an insult from Ash.

Gary walked toward her and stood silently at her side. Their two reflections shimmered in the ponds surface. Gary smiled faintly, admiring her flushed face in the rippling mirror image. She really was lovely . . . and, she intrigued him despite the fact that she had the personality of an unstable volcano.

"So. . ." he began, that subdued intensity returning to his voice, "can we try this again?"

Misty stiffened, opting to remain silent as her response.

Gary gently reached his hand into the pond and retrieved a handful of small flat stones. He heedlessly tossed them into the pond, watching as they skipped across the waters surface. "You know, right now I may be displaying a mane of flawless hair, but," he paused to offer her one of his extremely rare shy smiles, "but, when my hair is wet, whow, look out. . . I look like a swamp monster. My spikes get all weighed down by the water and, believe me, it's frightful. I can't believe I'm admitting this. . ."

Misty glanced at him, raising a cynical eyebrow. "Seriously? Are you admitting a fault?"

Gary flaunted a naughty little grin. "I'll prove it."

Before Misty had a chance to question his meaning, Gary was yanking the tie from his throat with his left hand, and chucking his blazer to the side with his right. Misty nibbled her lower lip, unsure of how many layers of clothing he was planning to rid himself of . . . and also more than a little curious if his bare chest was as firm as that blazer had alluded it to be . . .

"Um, Gary, what are you . . ." Misty's mumbled words trailed off as shock expanded in her eyes. . . Gary was commencing to unbutton his dress shirt now.

He winked flirtatiously as he spun the fabric about his head ala exotic dancer mode. Misty gasped in shock; her face was blazing red with embarrassment at his random strip-tease. Her hands flew over her eyes, attempting to shield them from blatantly gaping at his bare chest. As much as she secretly may have wanted to spy on his muscles, she was not going to give him the satisfaction of seeing her swoon.

"What's wrong with you?" Misty squealed. "Have you gone totally mad? This is not how civilized people behave!"

His only response was a wild crack of laughter, followed by the sound of an enormous splash. Misty's eyes were still completely covered by her hands, and although she was curious as to what he was doing, she was still extremely hesitant to actually look. "Gary?" she snapped, wondering why the woods had fallen so suddenly quiet.

An uncomfortable string of still moments drizzled by. Finally, Misty was starting to wonder if Gary had drowned. She cautiously lowered her hands and examined the pond, all the while she was preparing to replace her eye-guard if he were exposing too much skin.

But, what she saw absolutely blew her away.

There, in the center of the pond was Gary. He was covered in water up to his bare shoulders . . . he was absolutely soaking wet . . . and he looked beautiful.

Misty swallowed nervously, Gary had told her that he resembled a swamp monster when his hair was wet, but the young man before her could only be described as an angel. Fragments of sun danced upon his features; each sunbeam was brilliantly highlighting the intensity in his cerulean eyes. Every smooth curve of his face was all the more radiant. His lips were parted ever-so-slightly, they quivered faintly as though there were words behind them which desperately yearned to escape and be heard. His hair had fallen into loose straight locks; wisps so delicate they seemed to be composed of liquid gold. His straight piles of hair fell easily to his shoulders; framing his face and making him look like the most purely desirable creature she'd ever seen in her entire life.

Gary tilted his head bashfully, he was nervous as to what she was thinking . . . all the color had drained from Misty's face, and he feared that he may have totally freaked her out with his messy drenched appearance.

"Misty?" he called her name uncertainly, immediately scolding himself for such an impulsively bizarre attempt at cheering her spirits. Oh well, he had good intentions . . . he had just wanted her to see that she was not the only one with bad hair.

Misty just stood there; eyes gaping blankly back at him.

"I'm sorry," Gary sighed, starting to swim back towards the edge of the pond. "Hey, at least the water feels good after my sprint through the mucky yucky woods," he grinned in spite of himself. Hell, she already thought that he was a lunatic beforehe got in the water, so how much worse could her opinion be of him now. . .?

Gary told himself that he didn't give a damn what this stuck up, drama queen thought of him . . . but he also knew that that was a lie. She'd gotten under his skin somehow. Maybe it was that cute sulking pout? Maybe it was that flaming temper, her fantastic curves . . . or maybe it was her mysterious sadness. The puzzling question of which was driving him utterly mad. He'd tried his very best to console her, and yet all of his efforts had failed miserably. She had definitely gotten to him. But he apparently hadn't managed to affect her in the least.

Gary reached the ponds edge, and was about to climb out when Misty's little hand touched his. "Wait," she spoke gently, but insistently. Gary glanced up at her, half expecting her to kick him in the face and drown him. What he certainly didn't expect was for her to jump into the water next to him with her clothes, jewelry, and baseball cap still on!

For such a petite young woman, Misty certainly generated a mighty splash; Gary couldn't help but laugh as he playfully shielded himself from the splatters of water. Misty emerged from beneath the water, only a few centimeters to his right. Her cap had been swept off of her head during her plunge beneath the surface.

Gary's head jolted backward with obvious surprise. The color in Misty's face immediately drained as she realized that her cap was floating away, and that Gary was looking at her bush of orange curls!

"No, don't look at my hair!" she wailed wretchedly loud, instantly forcing her hands forward; covering Gary's own eyes for him. "Don't you dare make fun of me! I MEAN IT!"

Gary tenderly reached upward and placed his hands over hers; his thumbs gently stroked her knuckles as he pulled her hands away from his face. For reasons unbeknownst to Misty, she didn't struggle as he dared to take her hands in his; nor did she punch him the face for staring at her so attentively. She should have ripped her hands from his as he gently continued to hold them beneath the water. She should have screamed at him. But . . . instead she had become once again frozen by those entrancing eyes.

"Misty," he breathed her name in a way that made her spine sizzle. "You're lovely."

"No- no," she stammered, "my hair-"

"Is perfect," he finished for her. "I mean it, you're so beautiful. What were you so upset about?"

"What?" Misty shook her head. Gary's eyes radiated honesty . . . he meantwhat he was saying to her. He actually liked her disgusting hairdo! Was that possible, or was he just crazier than she thought?

"See for yourself," Gary gestured with his chin to her reflection below them. Misty hesitantly agreed to take a glance. What she saw astonished her. The water of the pond . . . it had somehow weighed down her disorderly curls. Instead of looking like a flaming Chea pet, Misty's hair fell into a pin-straight, glamorously flirty style. Her hair dangled limply about her chin, making her appear very mature.

"I – I don't understand," she stammered. "I had this awful perm and-"

"A perm?" Gary squeezed her hands beneath the water. "Misty, didn't you know that you are not supposed to wet your hair for a few days after getting a perm? Too much moisture will undo the effects – you'll risk losing the curls."

"What?" Misty stiffened. "Are you saying that I've cured myself of the curls by jumping into this pond?"

Gary only granted her a shrewd smirk in reply. He released her hands, and reached forward so that he could soothingly run his fingers through her straight mane. At first the feel of his hands in her hair was unnervingly foreign; it was rather presumptuous of him to assume that he could so freely touch her hair. However, as his fingers moved swiftly and smoothly through her locks, she leaned her head backwards, savoring how his skillful hands could so easily massage and relax her.

Misty giggled impishly, slightly flustered by how comfortable she was with this guy she really didn't even know . . . however, she was also thrilled by the raw sensations that his presence had invigorated with in her. In the past little while Gary Oak had made her feel infuriatingly enraged, embarrassed out of her mind, reduced her to tears, and had her laughing freely – as though any recollections of her terrible day had been nothing short of an unpleasant dream. But what stunned her the most was how his searing eyes could so effortlessly confiscate her every thought and desire . . .

. . . when he looked at her with those intense eyes, she felt like the most beautiful woman in the world.

"I think that's the best haircut you could have gotten, Misty," Gary admitted warmly. He confidently slid his hands down, affectionately grasping her shoulders. "In fact, I think you should get this haircut every time you go the salon."

Misty laughed. "I can't. I don't know what it is. It was an accident."

"Well, then, I think it was a happy accident," his grip on her shoulders tightened softly as he slowly pulled her small frame towards him, gradually closing the gap of narrow space between them. "I'm happy that it happened. I'm happy that Ash was such a moron that he inspired me to come after you. And I'm dammed happy to be wading in this pond with you now."

"Why is that?" she murmured quietly.

Gary leaned forward, allowing his lips to graze her ear. "I don't know," she could feel the smirk on his lips as they pressed against her ear – she didn't have to see it to know that it was the sexiest smirk on earth. He pulled his head back so that his sapphire eyes were once again incasing her within their addictive embrace. "Misty, there is just something smug, stubborn, and irritatingly cute about you . . . it kind of reminds me of myself. And by the way, happy birthday, beautiful."

Misty's lower lip trembled as a tender emotion threatened to overwhelm her. "Thank you, I'm eighteen today."

Gary beamed handsomely, flashing his flawless mouthful of pearly-whites. "I wish I'd known sooner that it was your birthday today, I would have gotten you a gift."

Misty reached forward, confidently draping her own hands around his neck. "Gary Oak, you didn't even really know me before today."

"Still," he frowned thoughtfully. "I would like to give you something. Eighteen is a major birthday and-"

His face was less than a centimeter from hers; and she couldn't resist the impulse any longer! Misty swiftly snatched a fistful of hair on the back of Gary's head and boldly drew his lips to hers.

At first his eyes snapped open in surprise! He certainly had been planning to kiss her this whole time; only, he hadn't expected Misty to actually make the first move. Her forwardness was startling and . . . incredibly sexy. At first her lips pressed timidly against his own . . . as though she were simply testing the waters, unsure of how deeply it was safe to tread. Her lips were seductively soft; gently pressuring him to continue, assuring him that this was the only birthday present that she had in mind! Gary was only more than happy to oblige. He cradled her chin in his hands as he returned the kiss - guiding her through a more intimate exchange of passionate lips and nibbles. Misty had laid such a tentative kiss on him at first, but the manner in which she was eagerly caressing his mouth now had his mind reeling uncontrollably! Gary had a lot of experience kissing other girls, yet Misty was the first who could devour everything his lips offered her and still yearn for more; offering it all back at him. She was unbelievable. She was incredible. And she had been under his nose all this time.

Remembering that oxygen was essential for survival, Gary and Misty allowed their lips to slowly break a part. They were practically gasping for air, and Gary had a blatant hickie on his lower lip. Misty's eyes shone up at him with amazement, genuine affection . . . and with an obvious desire to repeat that mind-blowing experience.

Panting (and reminding himself that he wasa gentleman), Gary leaned forward and planted an affection kiss on her forehead. "Damn," he breathed. "Who the hell knew that was coming?"

Misty wrapped her arms around him, resting her wet head on his strong chest. "I know what you mean," she giggled lightly. "Who knew you could actually back up all that haughty confidence with a display of skill."

From his blazer pocket on the shore, Gary's cell phone chirped with alarm. Oops, he'd totally forgotten about his business date . . . that was probably her -- wondering why the hell he had stood her up. Oh well, there was only one woman that he was going to devote his time to today; and she was already in his arms. The "Ashes to Ashes" company was going to have to understand that a little accident had run into him on his way to the café

"Gary, you're right. Today turned out to be a wonderfully happy accident after all," Misty kissed him lightly on the lips again, knowing that from this day forward her life would be anything but dull and lonely any more.

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NOTE: Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Please, if you would take a moment to leave a little comment or share a thought in a review I would really appreciate it. Your reviews help me improve, and let me know if anyone out there is actually enjoying my work. Thank you! Maia's Pen