"Ash!" Misty screamed.
Misty's shout finally broke him out of his trance, and at the last possible second he leapt out of the way. The donphan skidded and slammed into a nearby tree, temporarily dazing it, and Ash used the opportunity to run away, towards Brock and Misty. He was breathing heavily, his heart pounding. What just happened?
His friends gave a sigh of relief at this narrow escape only to be shocked again when he ran straight between them without stopping. His head was ducked so far down into his chest that Misty couldn't believe he didn't run into any trees because he couldn't have seen them. Something was wrong...
"Hey, Ash! What are you doing?" Brock yelled.
"You try to capture it! I don't want it!" Ash shouted without looking back. He disappeared into the trees. Pikachu bolted after him.
"Ash not want a pokémon?" Brock asked incredulously. Misty stared in the direction Ash had run in.
"I wonder..." she mumbled softly.
"You wonder what?" Brock asked.
She shook her head quickly. "Never mind. I think I know what it is. Pikachu, wait! Stop!" she shouted, running after the two.
Pikachu gave her an extremely irritated look and barely slowed its pace, turning around only long enough to give an argumentative "Pika pika, pika pi!"
"Hold on, let me handle this," she said. "Trust me, I can help him!" Pikachu came close to a stop but Misty kept running. Ash had a head start on her and she couldn't afford to lose any time. "Stay here and watch Togepi. I promise he'll be okay. I just need to talk to him. I know what's the matter."
Pikachu grudgingly turned around and let Misty run ahead of him. "Thank you, Pikachu," she whispered, though she knew he couldn't hear her.
Brock watched as one of his friends ran into the woods and out of sight, chasing after the other one. He decided to stay there and start cooking something, because forget the snack—knowing them, it would be suppertime by the time they got back. Though he did take a moment to silently wish that whatever Ash's problem was, Misty would be able to help him. Life was never boring with those two around.
"Pika pi..." Pikachu said, pulling at Brock's leg. The poor thing wasn't used to having to stay behind when his trainer was in trouble. And Brock wasn't used to having to interpret its speech without Ash's assistance.
"Uh...say that again?" he said. Pikachu responded by curling up in a ball and rolling.
"You're a...oh, I get it, a donphan! Hey!" he said as Pikachu's message dawned on him. He looked around for it in vain—it had used the distraction to escape. "Where'd it go? Did I miss it? Damn!"
Pikachu scratched his head sheepishly, and Brock shrugged. "Oh well. There will be other pokémon. For now, let's just get Togepi, and..."
He stopped, and he and Pikachu exchanged a look that was a cross between commiseration and distress. A little egg shaped pokémon was conspicuously absent from their group. Brock took advantage of the fact that he was temporarily relieved of having to set 'a good example' and cursed again. "Where did it go this time? Not again!"
"Pika chu," the pokémon agreed in misery.
Where was he?
Misty looked around and sighed. This was just great. He couldn't have gone far, but on the other hand, neither of them knew their way around the woods. It would be easy for one or both of them to get lost and complete miss finding the other. Not that Ash was looking for her. She took another deep breath.
"Ash!" she yelled for what seemed like the hundredth time. "Ash, where are you?"
The call of a pidgey was her only answer. She rubbed her eyes tiredly and kept walking. He had to be somewhere around here. She would find him. She perked up when up ahead, she saw a gap in the trees. Beyond it was open space. Was this her lucky break?
She stopped when she reached the edge of the trees and glanced around hesitantly. There was a river nearby. That was handy to know—they might camp there tonight. If they ever found Ash. She looked up and down the bank despondently. The entire area was clear. If there was a little boy to be found, she should have found him right away...
...unless he was lying down.
Relief washed over her as she looked farther down the river and saw a telltale red and white striped hat just barely sticking up from the grass. She walked towards him quietly. So quietly, in fact, that she was almost standing over him before he looked up and noticed her. He hastily sat up and wiped his eyes. She examined his face closely—he may have been crying. Or he may have just been on the verge of it, she couldn't tell. She sat down next to him.
"Misty? What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you, silly." Her voice had none of the usual animosity in it. She leaned over and sifted her fingers through the grass distractedly. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he said.
"Yeah, right," she chided gently. "Why did you run away?"
"I...I don't know," he admitted. "I just couldn't do it anymore."
"Were you scared?"
"No." She gave him a look and he flushed. "Okay, a little."
"I told you, I don't know!" he said, an edge to his voice as he shot her a glare. It wasn't her he was mad at, though, and both of them knew it. He was upset because he had asked that question of himself and didn't know the answer. So for once Misty didn't let it frustrate her—she sympathized even more with him instead.
He looked down at the ground. "Sorry," he whispered, ashamed of his behavior.
"That's okay." The two sat there in silence for a while, collecting their thoughts. Ash picked up some small stones and tossed them into the river while Misty watched the clouds, waiting for him calm down. She didn't want him to be angry when she talked to him. Finally she thought it was safe to speak.
"Ash...have I ever told you about the time that I was scared of water?"
Ash gave her a startled look, the last stone in his hand left unthrown. "What? I though you always liked water pokémon," he said in astonishment.
She bit her lip timidly—she had never told this story before, and she wasn't the type to let herself appear vulnerable in front of another person. But unless she missed her guess, Ash would be the last person to tease her for it. She swallowed and began.
"You're right. I've always liked water pokémon. I said I was scared of water. But some of my fear did rub off onto water pokémon, because you can admire something and still be scared of it. You see...when I was eight years old..."
Approximately six years ago
"Horsea! Horsea, no, wait!"
The little girl ran alongside the beach shore, her short red pigtails bobbing frantically. The horsea was swimming back and forth about five yards off. It had come close enough to let her feed it bait, then panicked when she tried to touch it.
"Horsea, no, it's okay. I don't want to hurt you, I just want to pet you. Please come back here!" The horsea stopped swimming in circles, but just stared at her from its position. She looked at it and bit her lips. She wasn't supposed to go in the water by herself, but her sisters were all the way inside. The horsea may be gone by the time she came back. Surely it couldn't hurt to wade in just a little bit.
She took off her flip-flops and hesitantly tested the water with her foot. The horsea darted forward to investigate her toe, then darted back, dancing excitedly at its adventure. Misty giggled in delight.
"No, come closer again..." she reached out her hand. The horsea swam a few feet farther back, then stopped, waiting to see if Misty would follow it. Misty glanced back at the beach worriedly, then stepped forward, so that she was in up to her knees. "Horsea, please..."
It relented. It came close enough for Misty to reach out and pat its head, and her face broke out in a wide grin. Then it spit a little bit of water at her and swam slightly farther back than it had been.
"Are you playing with me?" she asked. Her face fell in disappointment. "I'm not supposed to play in the ocean by myself."
The horsea stopped bobbing so enthusiastically. "Seeeee...." it whined. Misty sniffed.
"I know. It's not fair. My sisters swim by themselves when they've got Seel. I should be able to, too." She looked at the horsea thoughtfully. "Although...Horsea, pokémon are supposed to help keep people safe. Would you watch me while I swam? Would you keep me safe?"
"Horsea!" it squealed, and Misty clapped her hands.
"Yay! Let's play!" She dove into the water, shrieking in happiness as the water soaked her and the horsea swam back and forth playfully. "Horsea, I bet I can catch you!"
The horsea took her up on the challenge and swam farther off into the ocean. Misty swam after it. She was on the Cerulean City Starmies, the ten-and-under division of the swim team. She was too young to worry about the competition aspect (though she was quite proud of the red ribbon she had won at her summer camp swim meet), but she was still a fair swimmer for her age, and it didn't bother her a bit to go out so far that she couldn't touch the bottom.
She couldn't stop laughing as she raced to catch it. Third-place ribbon holder or not, horsea were faster than eight year old swimmers, especially little girls that were distracted by a case of the giggles. The horsea was never in any danger of getting caught and grew less cautious, squealing itself as it dashed just under Misty's hand only to be gone when she reached to catch, and skimming right over her when she put her head under the water to look around.
Suddenly she realized she had swum a long way out. "Horsea..." she said. "Can we get closer to the shore? I don't think my sisters want me out this far...I should probably go back in before they find me... "
But the horsea was hyper after having a playmate for so long. It dove under the water, staying down there for many seconds. "Horsea?" Misty asked, and it swiftly reappeared behind her, leaping in the air and dancing atop the water, making Misty catch her breath, enchanted by its antics.
"See..." it whined, then dove down again. It stayed down there for about as long as before, this time doing a somersault as it came up.
"Oh, Horsea...I know you want me to stay...it's just that my sisters...you don't want me to get into trouble, do you?" she asked. It dove back under in a last ditch effort to keep her there. Misty sighed, and waited for it to return.
It was underwater for a long time this time. Misty looked at the spot where it had gone under worriedly. "Horsea?" she asked, uncertainty in her voice. "Horsea, come back up now, you're scaring me." It was still down there. She bit her lip. Horsea didn't have gills; they couldn't stay underwater forever. It had to come up soon...unless it was in trouble.
She took a deep breath and dove under, looking for it. Her concern grew as she looked around and didn't see it anywhere. Had it swum away without her knowing it? She surfaced, took another breath, then dove down again. This time she combed the bottom of the ocean, and her heart skipped a bit when she saw her new friend. She swam up and got one more gigantic breath, then swam down to meet it.
The water wasn't extraordinarily deep, only about ten feet, but that was an enormous depth for a little girl. And the horsea was all the way at the bottom. It had gotten caught in some seaweed and was now struggling frantically to free itself. Misty would have cried at the sight if she wasn't so busy trying to reach it. But she had to be strong...she had to help her horsea...
She reached the patch of seaweed and tried to brush it away in order to reach the pokémon, but the horsea had managed to get stuck smack dab in the middle of it. She couldn't help it unless she got into the patch herself. She let her torso wiggle into the mess of plants and then she was able to touch the horsea. It wriggled wildly at her touch.
Don't fight me Horsea... she pleaded silently, and it almost seemed to hear her, for it calmed down long enough for her to break the seaweed entangled around it and let it go. It swam up as soon as she did, and her heart leapt in joy. She had done it! She had helped her horsea. She didn't want to think about what would have happened if she hadn't been there...
She started to swim up herself, but something tugged her back. Her excitement changed to fear as she realized that the seaweed had wrapped itself around her left arm, snaring her instead of her pokémon friend. Her lungs were crying out for air, but it shouldn't take too long to free herself. She used her right hand to try to release the other one, but the seaweed just wrapped itself around her even tighter. She started kicking. She had to escape. But somehow she had managed to work her entire body into the patch, and now her left leg was trapped, too.
Horsea, I need help... she thought in fright. Once again she felt it knew what she was saying. The horsea was above her, and though the water distorted the sound, she could hear it crying out, literally crying for her. It was scared for its friend. She couldn't cry herself, she couldn't afford to lose the breath...but it was almost gone anyway. She would have to breathe any second. She was scared too. She didn't want to die...
There was a violent pull on her arm, and she cried out, choking in the process. She started coughing water harshly. She had run out of time, but her arm was still being yanked, and suddenly it was free. Strong arms gripped her around the waist and pulled her up. She broke the surface and gasped, taking in great gulps of air, until she had caught her breath enough to start wailing with fear.
"Shh...it's okay...don't cry, Misty, you're safe now..." Her savior, her sister Lily, held her baby sister in her arms as she tread water, stroking Misty's hair comfortingly. She had seen Misty from the shore and had come to her aid without her realizing it, the horsea marking the location where Misty had gone down.
The horsea danced around long enough to see that Misty was okay, then ran away, scared of the new human. Lily continued talking. "It's alright, I need you to calm down, we need to swim back to shore...shh, there now, you're okay..."
But the damage had been already been done.
"You didn't drown?" Ash asked in surprise, and Misty let her head fall into her hands in exasperation.
"No, Ash, I'm lying. I did drown, and I'm not sitting her and talking to you right now," she said sarcastically. Ash's face turned red.
"No, I mean...uh..." he stuttered. "That was dumb. Never mind."
Misty rolled her eyes and grinned. "You're such a nut."
He shrugged self-consciously, then looked at her. His gaze was different than any other time, his face a mixture of disbelief, sympathy, and astonishingly enough, pride. "Do you mean you're scared of water now?" he asked. "And you still want to be a water pokémon trainer? I never would have thought..."
"No, of course I'm not," Misty said cheerfully. "Come on, Ash, you've seen me near an ocean. I adore water." Ash gave her a perplexed look, like he couldn't figure out quite what she was trying to tell him.
"I'm confused," he said.
"That doesn't take much," she retorted, and he smiled slightly. Then she turned serious, and after a moment, explained.
"Yes, I was scared after that. I was scared of water for almost a year. You can imagine how hard it was for me, living in a water pokémon gym. I quit the swim team. I begged my sisters to cancel their water shows the first few days after that, because I didn't want to lose them. They refused, of course, and told me that I needed to get back in the water, but I wouldn't. I...I screamed every time they tried to bring me anywhere near the pool, and they didn't have the heart to actually force me to go in," she admitted, blushing slightly. But she had been right—Ash wasn't laughing at her. He looked like he felt sorry for her instead.
"After a while they didn't try to make me do anything, though they still kept encouraging me. And I still liked pokémon, and since most of the pokémon we owned were water type, I couldn't hate them, despite my fear. I would go visit the ones we owned, as long as they were in the small holding tank instead of the big pool. And I liked to watch them on TV, and I dreamed of being able to one day have my own water pokémon show. I wanted to believe that by the time I grew up I would just have outgrown my fear."
"Is that all? Are you saying that it just got easier as you got older?" Ash asked.
"No," she said, and started giggling at the expression on Ash's face.
"I don't think I understand the moral to this story," he said dryly, and she laughed again.
"Well, I'm not finished yet," she said. "The way I was avoiding water all the time, I would never have outgrown it. I had to learn not to be scared."
"And how do you do that?" Ash asked. He was listening to her intently. She got the impression that he was trying not to act too interested, just concerned about his friend. But it didn't work, and she knew she was doing the right thing by talking to him.
"Well...believe it or not, I had another near scare," she said. "Do you remember that storm about five years ago? It was the worst one the meteorologists had seen in years. It was a...oh, what did they call it? I learned it in school." She frowned at the recollection. "Um...it was a gale, if that means anything to you. The winds were really strong and it was a really hard rain. A lot of towns flooded. Do you remember?"
"Yeah. My mom made us stay in the bathroom for three hours that night because she was afraid there would be a hurricane," Ash said. "We played Spit all night." He grinned and Misty rolled her eyes.
"You and that infernal card game," she said. "Well, anyway, Cerulean City was one of the places that was badly hit. It flooded some of the streets and knocked down trees and everything. Afterwards a lot of people went out in rescue teams. My sisters and I were a part of this, and we helped the people who were looking for pokémon that had gotten lost or injured during the storm. And we were assigned to the river.
"I didn't want to go near it, but I was too worried about the pokémon to refuse. And I did help. Most of the pokémon were wild ones that the storm had only spooked. Though I did find a hurt rattata and took it to the temporary PokéCenter, and I also found a lost growlithe. We knew who it belonged to because it was wearing a collar. It was actually that day that I caught..."
She paused. This and her near drowning were the two worst parts of the story for her to relate. But Ash was still watching her, looking as if he needed her to continue, so she just took a few deep breaths to calm herself and pressed on. "Well," she said, "I'm ahead of myself. The next pokémon I found was an eevee who had crept down to get a drink of water on the other side of the river. The eevee was really dirty, and I couldn't tell if it was hurt or not. The problem was I had no way of reaching it. Until I looked farther down the river, and there was a tree that had been knocked over by the storm. It bridged the river enough that I thought I might be able to use it to cross to the other side. But I never made it. So I never reached the eevee, either—I've worried about it since then. But I just had to hope that either it was okay, or that someone else found it."
She swallowed nervously, and Ash fidgeted, knowing this was hard for her. "I...it's hard to believe I actually had the courage to do this now, but I was really worried about the pokémon, so...I tried crawling over the log, but it was slippery from the rain...and I...I slipped...I fell in..."
"It scared you," Ash said softly.
"You'd better believe it did." She gave a shaky laugh. Even though she was over it, whenever she thought about that day she still remembered her fear. She couldn't stop here though. This was the most important part.
She looked Ash in the eye and said, "I was so scared that I couldn't move at first. It was like the fear took hold of my mind and I knew I needed to do something, but I couldn't. I just knew that I was going to drown, and I didn't want to fight something that I couldn't escape. It was almost like I was a spectator, you know? I was so disattached from myself that I just sat back and waited for it to happen."
Ash was perfectly still, staring off into the distance uncomfortably. He squirmed once, then dropped his hands in his lap. He felt like he should say something, something to encourage her or tell her that he understood, but the words wouldn't form themselves in his throat. But Misty knew what was going on in his mind. She gave him a moment to think, then continued.
"But luckily, I wasn't alone. Though I didn't know at the time that I was about to find a friend...well, anyway, I felt something poke me and right afterwards my arm started stinging. That startled me enough shake me out of it and I swam to the surface, though I still didn't know what to do. I was terrified; remember, it had just rained, and the river current was stronger than it usually was. But when I drifted I managed to catch hold of a rock that was sticking out of the water. When I looked at my arm, it was bleeding. Something had scratched me.
"I looked over and there was a Goldeen flapping towards me. At first I thought it was trying to attack me—what with its horn scratching my arm and all—but then it went limp, right there in the water, and the current carried it straight into me. And I mean, it slammed into me. I was so startled that I automatically let go of the rock to catch it, and as soon as I had my arms around it, it started swimming. It had tricked me into letting it carry me and brought me right up to the shore. I couldn't believe it had saved me without even knowing who I was; it just knew I was in trouble and it could help me. Of course, I knew couldn't let a pokémon that special get away," she said, smiling. "I had done that once with Horsea. But I wanted Goldeen to stay with me forever."
"You mean..." Ash raised his eyebrows. "The Goldeen you have now? It's the one who saved you?"
"That is what I just said," Misty said. "It's one and the same."
"Oh." Ash fell silent, then looked up. "But how did you...that is..." he shrugged helplessly. "I still don't think I understand why you aren't scared anymore," he whispered, an almost embarrassed tone in his voice.
Misty reached out to put her hand on his shoulder. He jumped at the touch, but then relaxed, letting her keep it there. "It's because I realized something that day," she said gently. "My sisters had told it to me before, but it wasn't until then that I understood. The water could be a scary place, but it could be caring, too. It wasn't good or bad—just powerful. And all I had to do in order to enjoy it was to respect its power." She squeezed his shoulder and her next question told him that they both knew what this conversation had been about all along. "You were scared after the houndour attacked you, weren't you?"
Ash was nodding in the affirmative before he even gave her a verbal response. His voice was wobbly in places—he wasn't used to sharing such personal things, either—but he held himself together enough to answer her. "Yeah. I was, a lot. I mean, it was weird. I still loved pokémon, and I still wanted to be a master. But I was just like you. I got nervous," he said. "I think it was...I had never really been hurt by a pokémon before. There were some close calls, but—even those other houndour in the woods we saw, when they attacked us, they were only trying to help their friend. But the one at Professor Oak's, it had no reason, except that it wanted to hurt me..." he hesitated. There was more to it than that, but it could wait. "I knew that not all pokémon would be like that. I've met other good ones and of course all mine are great. But it made me wonder how many pokémon—or even people, if you stop to think about it—were out there like the houndour. And it scared me that I wouldn't be able to tell if they were good or bad until it was too late. Just now...when the donphan attacked...I freaked out. I didn't even know I was so scared, and all of the sudden I couldn't even do anything because of it."
"It's hard," Misty said compassionately. "And you're right, its not easy not knowing what is going to happen. But the same thing that I said about water can apply to pokémon, too. A lot of pokémon can be powerful, and they're not always friendly. But you don't have to be scared of them, as long as you recognize their strength and respect them for it. Then you don't have to worry about knowing what to do, no matter what happens, because you'll have already anticipated it.
"Come to think of it, isn't that what training pokémon is all about? Respect. A pokémon won't obey its trainer if it doesn't respect him. Remember Charizard?" she punched him lightly on the shoulder and he grinned sheepishly. "And a trainer has to respect it—not to mention himself—for him to earn respect himself."
He finally looked up at her again—up at her, not near her or at the ground. He still looked a little scared, but he gave her a hesitant smile. "Professor Oak told me something like that, too," he said. "When I went back to pick up my pokémon, he made me walk around the reserve again. We went all the way back to the houndour pen. I didn't want to, but I didn't let the Professor know that. Although I think he guessed when I yelled and jumped back when the houndour came out and charged the fence." He chuckled softly to himself. Now that he was over the embarrassment, the Professor had probably found that amusing.
"The houndour was really fierce, but the Professor had come to bring it food. And once he pulled out the package, it was amazing how much the houndour calmed down. It was still suspicious of the Professor, but it didn't growl at him anymore. The Professor threw the food over the fence and the houndour grabbed it and ran away with it. It didn't trust the Professor not to take it back."
"Remember how I said the houndour had no reason to attack me?" Ash asked. He picked at a stem of grass absentmindedly. "That wasn't the whole truth. We can never know for sure what happened, but Professor Oak told me what he thought, and it made me feel sorry for the houndour. He said that he thought that it had been abused in the past and that's why it acts the way it does. He said it's called 'fight or flight.' Remember how those Lapras were so scared of us, because of the pirates? They reacted by retreating, but the houndour just reacted by fighting back.
"The Professor said that was probably why it attacked me, too. It was afraid I would hurt it and wanted to stop me before I could. The Professor said pokémon do that a lot in the wild. They cripple something that seems like a threat just enough to allow them to get away. But since the houndour hadn't been around humans much, it couldn't tell that it had hurt me as bad as it had, either. Though it may have known, but it was just lashing out because of its fear or anger."
"That makes sense," Misty said. "There's usually a reason that we don't know about."
"That's what the professor said," he told her. "He said there was a reason for everything, we just don't always know it. But we didn't have to be scared of it , even if it was unknown. We just needed to be careful and treat it as if we already knew what it was. Or in other words, we had to respect what we didn't know. Not to mention what we did know, too."
"That's exactly what I meant," Misty said, smiling. "I didn't know Professor Oak had beaten me to the punch."
"He didn't," Ash assured her. "I mean, I understood what he was saying. But you were the one who helped me—don't tell him that," he said, and with a slight hint of bashfulness, went on to explain himself. "It just makes you feel better when you know that a person understands not just the facts, but the way you feel, too. They're not just pretending to understand because they've never been hurt like that. They've been there. Does that make sense?"
"It makes absolutely perfect sense," Misty said, patting him lightly on the shoulder. Yup, he was definitely shy at being this intimate—he smiled but looked down at the ground at this, his face a subtle shade of pink. But she was glad to have helped. "I have to ask. Do you feel any better now?"
"Yeah, I do." And he did look brighter. "I'm not so scared anymore. And that worried me, too—just the fact that I was scared—because I want to be a pokémon master. But pokémon masters aren't supposed to be scared."
"That's not true," she, said, but delivered her contradiction in a comforting tone. "What you felt was absolutely normal. It's okay to be scared. You just have to be able to put it in perspective. And in this case, respect is greater than fear."
"Right," Ash said. He sighed, then stood up and stretched. The conversation was almost over. "And you know, it's not like I ever disrespected pokémon. I've always loved being around them, and I always knew how strong they could be. You can't meet a legendary pokémon and not know that. It's just that...I had never thought about them quite that way before. Not pokémon in general. I think, if I make that one of my goals—to conscientiously respect them—things will be easier from now on."
"And if not, you've always got me and Brock to remind you," Misty said lightly, standing up as well and brushing off the back of her shorts. "Speaking of Brock, do you think he's wondering where we are?"
"Probably," Ash agreed. "We should probably get back."
"Probably." They smiled at each other and started walking, but hadn't take two steps forward when Ash put his hand on Misty's shoulder and stopped her.
"Misty?" he said, dropping his hand as soon as he caught her attention and looking down awkwardly. "I just wanted to say...thanks."
"I know you would have done it for me," Misty said softly. "You're welcome."
"Umm...can I ask you one more thing, though?"
"Do you happen to know the way back?"
"Ash!" It was amazing how quickly that boy could get her riled up. Her previous compassion switched to exasperation. And they wondered why they got lost so much...
"Well, I wasn't exactly paying attention when I came here..."
"Oh, come on you." She shook her head and took the lead.
"I guess that's a yes?"
"I said, come on!"
"Uh...thank you again?"
"ASH! JUST SHUT UP AND COME ON!"
"Alright, I guess I'll just follow you then!"
It wasn't smart to harass the trail guide, Ash realized too late, as she turned around and gave him an evil glare, revenge written all over her face. "I think it's time that I teach you to respect me!" she said, wiggling her fingers menacingly.
"Uh-oh..." Ash gasped as he recognized that as the dreaded 'tickle' position. He hastily tried to defend himself, knowing it was a futile cause. "No, you can't do that, I'm not a baby, that doesn't work on me anymore! I promise, you can believe me, don't come any closer! Stop right there! No...don't...uh..." And then she attacked, and once again he was helpless. But this time it was because he was laughing too hard to do anything else.
"I wonder what supper is?" Ash said as they approached the clearing where they had left their friend.
Misty gave him a look but let it drop for once. "Probably soup again. I think Brock still had some left over from lunch."
"Leftovers. Yum," Ash said sarcastically.
"Hey, at least you don't have to cook it."
"No, I only have to get the firewood. But where is Brock, anyway...oh!"
"Ash, be careful!" Misty hissed, but in a low voice in order not to wake up Brock, who was sprawled out on the ground, exhausted. Ash hastily sidestepped around him, just narrowly avoiding stepping on his head. Pikachu had curled up on top of Brock's back, as he was just as tired.
"Where's Togepi?" Misty asked. "Brock wouldn't have left it, would he...?"
"Priii..." A soft sigh came from inside Brock's backpack, and Misty leaned down and unsnapped the lock. Togepi lay there, talking in its sleep. After having to run off and catch it three times, Brock had shut it into his bag to prevent it from wandering off if it woke up before he did.
"You silly little egg..." she murmured affectionately. "Sweet dreams."
"Well, I guess I'll be cooking the leftovers then," Misty said to Ash as she stood up. "I don't think it would be right to wake Brock up, do you?
Ash made a doubtful face. "He'd understand if it saved us from food poisoning. You can cook?"
"I can heat up leftovers," Misty said in a huff. "Have a little faith in me, why don't you?"
"Tell you what. I'll believe it when I see it," Ash said, smirking. "I suppose you want me go ahead and get that firewood then, huh?"
"It would be nice to see you do something for a change," Misty said. "Do you want me to wake up Pikachu so he can go with you?"
"That's okay. I've got my other pokémon in case there's any trouble," he said, patting his belt.
"You always seem to find it," she said, then gave him a more serious look. "You will be okay...?"
"I'll be fine. I respect my pokémon and I respect myself!" he said, striking a muscle man pose. Misty laughed out loud then clapped her hand over her mouth, almost forgetting that Brock was asleep.
"Well, good. You know what my sister told me once?" she said in a normal voice. "Respect is the first step towards love. Maybe that's why you love pokémon so much."
Ash tilted his head. "The first step towards love. You know, I like that. Maybe so. You just may be right." He started to walk off, then turned around to tease her. "But you know, you don't follow your own advice very well."
"How's that?" she asked, taking it upon herself to rummage around Brock's pack for a snack to eat while she waited for Ash to get back.
"Well, you don't respect me as a pokémon trainer," he said.
And she had to laugh as he promptly missed a step, his head swiveling around in blushing surprise as she answered him with a wink.
"Now who's the silly egg? Whoever says I don't?"
Conclusion: He he, did you get it? Respect is the first step to love…Misty respects Ash? Ha ha…sorry, just had to beat you over the head with it…I'm so proud of that line… ^_^
Pokémon Did-You-Know: Japanese have a special headband that they call the Hachimaka. Besides its practical use of keeping sweat away from the eyes, traditionally it has the symbolic use of denoting studiousness and professionalism—like wearing a "Closed Study" or "Do Not Disturb" sign on your forehead. This may explain the headband in Tracey's outfit, as a pokémon watcher is continually working, and Tracey himself is always drawing in his notebook. Then again—maybe it's just Tracey. ^_~
Whoah-oh, I reached the end! Sorry again for the delay…my Microsoft Word program is still messed up. There was a lot of extrapolation of Misty's past in this part, but hey…it was six years ago. Hopefully it didn't bother you too much. And btw, no, I don't think it's out of character for Ash to be scared after a serious accident. Anyone who has ever been in a car accident can sympathize with me, that rationality isn't always a factor in your emotions afterwards… ^_^;
Thanks for all your reviews and comments. I've replied to some of them, and I've received replies back on most. If you haven't heard back from me yet on those, please forgive me. I'm an American, and after Tuesday's horrible attack, it's been hard to focus on getting things done. I pray that all of you are safe, and that God may be with everyone who was affected. See you next time.