Disclaimer: Not so much.
Author's Note: I've got a couple of fic ideas revolving around weddings and dresses… but let's get the depressing one out of the way first, shall we?
"You look beautiful."
He smiled brightly when he said this, and Misty knew he meant it. And, in theory, she supposed she should agree: her long ocher locks, usually tangled and thrown into a messy side-ponytail, had been fashioned into a delicate braid, interwoven with white roses. Her slim, athletic body—the one he'd so often called scrawny— had been draped in the gown of her dreams, all pale silk, chiffon, and pearls, with teardrop opals sewn into the heart of the bodice.
An ironic choice, she thought, as she rubbed repeatedly at the streaks of mascara running down her rouged cheeks.
"Really," Ash continued after a brief hush, his voice soft and sincere as he watched her from the doorway, dressed in his own finery: a pale tux and pale tie, which in turn brought out the paleness of his skin… and the enchanting darkness of his hair and eyes. "I mean that. I'd never have believed you could be this beautiful if I hadn't seen it myself! Right, Pikachu?"
On his shoulder, the small yellow pokémon— bedecked in a tiny black vest and tie of its own— chirped its agreement with adorable vigor; its trainer chuckled, rubbing its little head. "See?" Ash then said with an enthusiastic sort of beam. "Misty, you're a vision!"
The young woman snorted, still seated in her vanity chair. "Yeah, a vision all right," she agreed dourly, yanking a Kleenex from the box beside her and dabbing at her ruined makeup. Her eyes were puffy, and her voice sounded thick and hoarse from tears. "Like a nightmare."
His face fell, his head cocked; he seemed surprised by the forceful anger in her tone. "Misty…"
"Don't, Ash," the bride whispered, tearing her gaze from his reflection in her mirror. It was too painful… Her glossed lips quivered, pursed into a thin line. "You're not even supposed to be here. Seeing the bride before the wedding is bad luck."
At this, the young man's grin returned and widened; he winked cheerfully. "C'mon. You know that's only true for the groom!" he admonished with a laugh. "Don't think I don't know what you're up to— you're just trying to get rid of me so you can go back to crying your tears of joy in solitude."
He chortled at his own antics, making his dark eyes wide and bubbly as he affected a high pitched squeal. "Oooo, I just can't wait—!"
The ice-cold demand cut through Ash's teasing like a knife; the Pokémon Master froze, startled, as he stared at his long-time friend: she'd slouched over her vanity, body shivering, hiccupped sobs tearing themselves from her much-abused throat.
"Just shut up…" Misty reiterated in a whisper, fingers clenched into tight fists beside her hidden face. "I don't want to hear it… I don't want to be here… I don't want to get married…"
As the admissions left her, her childhood friend relaxed a fraction. Pikachu leapt to the floor; Ash slowly made his way over to the young gym leader. "Aw, don't act like that, Misty," he murmured, placing an encouraging hand on her trembling shoulder. "You've just got a case of cold feet, that's all. It'll pass. I mean, your fiancé is great— he loves you so much, and you'll never want for anything! Just think of this as another adventure… you know, just with less fighting and camping and walking and more food and money. What else could you possibly need?"
The reply was a breath, automatic and unintentional and so soft that for a second Ash thought he had misheard; still, his eyes widened in alarm, and his hand leapt from her now-still shoulder as if he'd been shocked. After a full minute of heavy silence, Misty managed to twist her head, looking up into his doe-brown eyes. Her tears had been replaced by a piteous expression of sorrow and desire, while a hidden fire burned within her watery gaze.
"W…what?" Ash soon asked, voice strangled and visibly stunned. He took an automatic step backwards; Misty stood noiselessly, turning to face her old traveling companion.
"You," she repeated, stare steady even as the quaking of her hands persisted. Her fingers shot out without warning, grabbing his broad shoulders and forcing him closer. He'd grown so much taller in recent years… Misty had to tilt her head backwards to meet his eyes, and reach to cup his face. "I need you. Ash, how can you not tell…? After all these years, how can you not know why I'm crying…?!"
"Misty—" Ash hesitated, gingerly grasping her slim hips—looking highly uncomfortable as he did so. "Misty, please don't s—"
But she said it anyway.
"I love you, Ash," the young woman whispered, the words full of such adoration and devotion that they knotted his stomach; for the first time in hours, she offered him a genuine, albeit wet, smile. "I've loved you ever since we were kids, when I fished you out of that damn river… I thought that it was a crush, and that it would fade with time, but it never has! Even after I left… even after I came back… even after all of this… I love you."
And with a swift tug on his lapel, Misty's lips met his.
If only briefly.
For in the next second, Ash was carefully pushing her away, the weight of his hands on her shoulders effectively forcing the heels of her feet to reconnect with the ground. Startled by this curt rejection, Misty blinked her wide blue eyes… then turned faintly green as the realization of what had just taken place hit her full force.
"Oh… God…" she retched, taking a staggering step backwards as she saw the pity in Ash's gaze. "I just… oh my God, what have I…?"
Ash, brow furrowed in sympathy and regret, moved as if to touch his friend's face. "Misty, I—"
But she slapped his hand away with such desperation that made him wince. "No," Misty hissed, shaking her head vigorously back and forth. "I don't want to hear it. I don't want to hear it! Don't tell me you're sorry, just go!"
"Misty…" he tried again, scooping the now-frightened Pikachu into his arms. "Misty, please, just let me say how I hope we can sti—"
"GO!" she shrieked, chucking the tissue box at his head before collapsing once again at her vanity. This time she couldn't quell the sound of her sorrow; each heartbreaking gasp and noisy tear tore at Ash's soul, ripping it into smaller and smaller pieces.
He couldn't stay.
With a muttered apology—one that only succeeded in making her scream, her cries growing ever louder— Ash slipped back out the door, into the solitude of the hallway.
The sudden silence rang in his ears.
Feeling faintly ill, Ash walked as swiftly as possible away from the heavy oak door, content to lose himself in the labyrinth that was the white-tiled halls of the small church. His footsteps echoed loudly in each corridor, brisk and crisp and all alone… Before he could stop himself, he felt his own chin start to wobble, and his retinas begin to burn.
It's for the best, Ash told himself for what had to be the millionth time, throwing back his head as if to force the tears to return to whenever they'd come from. You're poor and always traveling and have nothing to offer her… His throat felt as if it was on fire; on his shoulder, Pikachu mewled in a show of empathy.
It was too much.
Pressing a hand to his mouth to muffle his own croaked scream, Ash crumpled in upon himself, sliding down the nearby wall as muted tears streamed down his cheeks. He clamped his eyes shut, shoulders shuddering as he curled into a tight ball, hardly able to breathe.
"Pikapi…" Pikachu whimpered, tenderly nudging its trainer's thigh. When Ash didn't respond, the dejected pokémon burrowed itself into the young man's arms, as if trying to help fill his emptiness.
But for all this, Ash continued to shake. "Misty," he choked out after what seemed an age, his voice warbled and husky and nearly inaudible in the long empty hall. "I'm sorry…
I love you, too."