Disclaimer: Hahahaha! I don't even own the inspiration for this fic, let alone the characters!
Author's Note: So initially I started writing up a song-fic for Taylor Swift's new ditty, "Love Story,"—which is totally pokéshipping, by the way— and I may still finish it at some point, but when I first listened to the song this was the story that popped into my head, and it works so much better as a one-scene ficlet. So here we go.
Ages: Ash- 22 / Misty- 24
Dedication: This is for Milotic, who has been so wonderful in reviewing each of my Pokémon fanfics. Thanks, hon— you're a treasure!
It was one of those mornings that began usually enough—the sun rose, her alarm went off, she burnt her toast and was, as always, out of jam—but soon twisted itself into the kind of Life Changing Day that no-one can ever truly prepare themselves for. Misty, in her own opinion, had suffered more than her fair share of those sorts of days; the example she always clung to was that morning so long ago when she fished a soggy, no-name trainer out of a river. Oddly, most such days seemed to focus on this particular young man with untamable black hair… That being said, this day, unsurprisingly, was no exception.
However, instead of a fishing pole, this particular morning started off with a text message.
Her phone had sung its three-note trill—Dewgong-gong-gong!— as she had been choking down the last of her dry black toast in her family's shared kitchen. Being a gym leader, it wasn't unusual to get calls at daybreak for challenges at noon; at least they'd waited until after sunup, she'd thought, whoever they were. With this lighthearted musing, idly dusting what looked like charcoal crumbs from her Staryu-print pajama pants, Misty flipped open her cell, skimmed the message—
And immediately dropped the phone onto the cold linoleum floor, barely even wincing as its decorative faceplate cracked.
In fact, the young trainer was hardly breathing in her cushioned wooden seat, thin fingers clenched in her lap and wide blue eyes staring dumbly into the distance. If it wasn't for the taste of scorched wheat in her mouth, she would have assumed she was dreaming. Though maybe, despite everything, she was dreaming anyway… that email address… that sender. The letter and the signature.
It couldn't be. She must have misread.
With a sudden burst of energy, Misty nearly toppled sideways: scrambling to scoop the small cell from the ground. It took a few tries, but she eventually managed to reaffirm her grasp on the phone… though at this point her stomach was on her seat, rather than her rear, and her sleep-rumpled locks were looking worse than ever. Shivering faintly—whether from shock, suppressed joy, or intense fury, even she wasn't entirely sure— Misty pressed the appropriate buttons, calling the text message back to the screen.
Misty— it read, in deceptively unthreatening Arial font— I don't really know what to say… except that I'm sorry, I guess. No, not that "I guess" I'm sorry—I know I'm sorry. I just… guess that's all there is to say. I realize this is late but… well, you know me. Better than anyone. Please write back soon; I can't take this anymore. – Ash.
She read it once, twice, three times, and after each perusal felt her heart swell and smolder simultaneously. Around the thin, blameless cell phone Misty's hand clenched, already pale knuckles turning bone-white… Her molars ground together, making her jaw tighten and forehead furrow.
And despite everything she'd sworn to herself, she typed in return:
Sorry? About what, exactly? Not bothering to call or write or visit for a year? Or that other thing, you jerk? Screw off, Ash. You made your choice clear.
The young woman pushed the "send" button with such decisive ferocity that she nearly broke the keyboard; the phone was snapped shut and slammed down with a bang that made the back-casing splinter and spider-web. And still, Misty didn't care. Rather, she felt faintly ill… Sliding out of her chair, she leaned against the table leg and lowered her head into her arms, hoping she wouldn't throw up her toast. That had certainly ruined her good mood. But… if nothing else, at least it was ov—
Her back involuntarily straightened. It couldn't possibly… Even he wasn't that stupid.
Well, all right, maybe he was. But she certainly wasn't stupid enough to read whatever dumb message the asshole had left for her this time. She was stronger than that. She was over him. She was a different person now.
…or so she told herself as her hands (involuntarily) flipped the phone screen up once again, scanning the new message with eyes that burnt and blurred the note before her.
For all of the above, I suppose. And not just that— I'm sorry for everything. Everything that I ever did to hurt you. And if that includes… that other thing… then I'm sorry for that, too.
For a moment, Misty thought her chest might burst; her fingers flew before she could consciously stop them: How could it not include "that other thing" you— here she typed a word so foul that even she hated the sight of it, but she kept it in the message anyway, as she could think of nothing else to adequately describe the bastard—? You left. You didn't even say goodbye! You just left! How could you not be sorry for "that other thing?!"
She pressed "send" again, breathing hard and very close to crying. Why was she doing this? Why was she answering these stupid texts? (Other than the fact that her automatic reaction to every slight was to fight about it—he was clearly exploiting his knowledge of her psyche in his sending of these messages.) He didn't deserve to hear from her—not even if it was to yell at him. And this was doing nothing but destroying the minimal progress she'd made healing her bruised ego and broken heart.
"I must be a masochist…" Misty mumbled to herself, raking a hand through her matted locks and snorting as—again—her phone sang. "Good God…"
She didn't even bother pretending she wasn't going to read it this time. Damn him—damn him and the way he controlled her without trying…
I'm not sorry for "that other thing." Ash had typed, and the words made Misty's blood boil. It was only a tremendous amount of willpower—and the memory of how much this cell had cost her— that kept the young woman from chucking it across the room. It took an equally impressive amount of willpower to keep reading; if she was going to submit herself to this torture, she might as well see it through all the way to the end. If it hurt you, I'm sorry for that. And I'm sorry for what I did afterwards. But I'm not sorry that it happened.
Her ocean eyes narrowed, becoming dangerous slits of blue. You liar.
His response was nearly instantaneous. She wondered if he'd known what she was going to say.
I'm not lying.
Yes, you are, Misty texted back, head drooping past her bent knees as she curled forward, focused on the much-abused phone in her hands. You always lie to me.
This reply was just as fast. Yes, the young gym leader decided, he must have known what she was going to say and had typed it before she'd even had a chance to respond. Double damn him—after all this time, he still knew her better than she knew herself.
Misty, you are the one person in the world I have never, ever lied to.
His audacity was maddening— her heart throbbed with frustration and fervor inside her aching chest. But even as the intensity of this sensation grew, she felt it slowly ebb away… bubbling over and leaving her oddly empty, hollow. With deadened fingers, she pounded out:
That's a lie.
Tell me one lie I ever told you.
He was going to make her say it? The answer was so obvious— unless it'd meant even less than she'd thought and he'd forgotten that he'd spoken the words at all.
Chuckling coldly, hating herself for every having put stock in the confession, Misty reminded him:
You told me that you loved me.
For the first time, there was a brief pause before the increasingly annoying new-message-trill. In some distant corner of her mind, she wondered if it was from surprise or embarrassment… maybe he hadn't counted on her remembering. Maybe he was stuttering indignantly somewhere far away, muttering how he'd never once said—
I do love you.
Misty blinked. That wasn't the denial she had anticipated…
But it still wasn't the truth.
Liar, she accused a second time, cursing her heart for having jumped at the claim. Would she never learn?! If you loved me, you wouldn't have used me, you bastard.
His reply returned with the swiftness of the previous messages; clearly Ash knew what to expect from the conversation again. Good Lord she hated him—!
I didn't use you, the jerk claimed, his response short and swift and so galling that Misty had to pointedly choke back a scream.
Really?! she keyed instead, wishing with all her might that it was possible to send scathing looks across phone lines, as well as words. You didn't use me? It certainly felt that way when I woke up all alone the next morning!
She'd barely pressed "send" when his response appeared, more insistent this time. At least, as much so as it was possible for a text message to be.
I didn't use you.
Then why the hell did you leave?! Misty challenged, so engrossed in her typing that she'd forgotten that she was sitting on the kitchen floor, dressed in a ratty old t-shirt and sleep pants. She was subconsciously elsewhere— back in his Cerulean City hotel room, a year younger and crying her eyes out. Why didn't you call?! Write?! Why did you just leave me on my own?!
I had to think.
In her mind, she clobbered the young man with a baseball bat. She itched to do the same in reality, but forced herself to be content with the sending of an equally blunt response:
For a fucking year?!
I was scared.
Like that was any excuse. Never mind the baseball bat, if she ever saw him again Misty was going to wring his neck with her own two hands.
How the hell did you think I felt?!
Wisely, Ash chose not to go there. Instead, after a hesitant pause, he returned her simple message with one of his own:
I was wrong.
Damn right he was. But telling him that once he'd already admitted it wouldn't give her the vindication she craved… and with that being the case, she wasn't sure what else there was to say. So she said nothing at all. And it seemed, wherever he was, Ash felt the same way.
A minute passed. No bells, no texts.
Yes, it appeared they'd reached the inevitable impasse. And neither of them had ever been very good at breaching such barriers. This was, in all probability, the end.
No question about it. This was the end.
Into the silence, Misty breathed a heavy sigh, snapping her phone shut and lightly closing her eyes; as she did so, she felt her tightened insides loosen, her tensed emotions becoming somehow lighter… it was a textbook moment of catharsis. Despite everything, she felt a faint smile touch her lips. It was time to let things go…
But the somber farewell was interrupted by a chipper: Dewgong-gong-gong!
Her eye twitched. How very much like Ash, ruining a moment of beauty by merely existing.
With a deft flick of her wrist, the phone was back open. Resting her chin on her knees with an exhalation of resignation, she willingly resubmitted herself to the twisted game of tag and all of the soul-wrenching, belly-flopping irritation that went along with it.
She really was a masochist.
I was wrong, Misty, the small white screen pleadingly proclaimed, and Misty had to pretend she couldn't hear his beseeching voice as she read it. God, if I could do one thing over, I swear to you I'd—I don't know, but I definitely would have stayed. But even you have to admit how bizarre that whole night was. We'd barely admitted our feelings and all of the sudden… everything just got so out of hand. I didn't know how to control myself, and afterwards I just… I was so sure you'd hate me. I had to get out of there.
She knew the feeling. But that didn't make things any better, or keep the pain of memories away. With a dry snort, the now-expressionless trainer keyed into her phone: It didn't occur to you that I might hate you more for leaving me to wake up alone in that strange bedroom with no note or reason or explanation or contact whatsoever for 365 days?
There was a beat that suggested no, it hadn't occurred to him. But if that was the case, it wasn't the reason he gave.
I thought it might be better that way.
And people said girls' minds made no sense.
If you hated me, I couldn't do that to you again. You could find someone better than me. Someone worthy of you.
Misty's lips pursed, forming a thin, aggravated frown. "I refuse to answer that, Ash Ketchum," she whispered to her cell; she would not allow him to scrape by on self-depreciation. If he thought he could earn her forgiveness through trite phrases and cheap flattery—
But to the young woman's surprise, he didn't wait for her to agree or disagree with his self-directed loathing. Rather, the first message was quickly followed by a second, as if he was trying to commune everything in one breath. As if he realized there was nothing she could say to make this fact any more apparent. As if he actually understood that what he'd done was wrong. And in his doing this, Misty knew that Ash truly, genuinely, and completely meant everything he'd put in the notes he'd sent her…
And that frightened her more than words could express.
Shaken, she read the newest note:
But I can't take it anymore, Misty. I can't be good anymore. I can't stand not talking to you, not being with you, not seeing you. Without you, every day is like a hell… I can barely eat or think or walk or train. All I can think about is you. I swear, I'm going crazy over here—this past year has been… I can't even describe it. But if nothing else, it's given me perspective. I know what I need to do now.
Her fingers were trembling again, just as they had when this bizarre conversation had started. This time, however, she knew distinctly why: the tears trickling down her cheeks made her feelings entirely obvious, even to individuals as emotionally dense as herself. Regardless, with a noisy snivel she gingerly typed:
Nothing you do will make this better.
A pause; he seemed to digest this. In her mind's eye, she could see him nod in weary agreement before adding:
Will you at least let me try?
How? she texted in return, barely managing to contain a wry grunt. No matter how many times you write "sorry" to me, I'm not going to forgive you.
What if you hear me say it?
She glowered, brow creasing in exasperation at his impudence. Over the phone? Forget it.
How about in person?
For the second time that day, Misty froze in surprise—the astonishment wiping all traces of anger from her pretty face. That had been unexpected… was he coming to town? The last she'd heard, he'd been training in the remote regions of—
Her thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell.
Jumping in shock, the top of her head slammed against the bottom of the table. For an instant Misty was left seeing stars, but the pain was dulled by the sensation of her stomach dropping and her heart short-circuiting in her ribcage.
"…no way…" she muttered, physically shaking her bruised head in an attempt to dislodge the stupid thoughts now clogging her brain; through the fog of her disbelief, she heard her phone's happy trill. Wide-eyed and understandably incredulous, she looked down to find a new message:
Misty, the latest text read, answer the door.
The cell tumbled to the floor with a gasp and a clatter, dropped as if it had suddenly burnt her. But against the pale flatness of the linoleum, its final message continued to glow on the LED screen.
Misty, answer the door.
"No way…" Misty said once again, the hissed words unusually loud in the heavy hush. For that was all there was now: a hush. No typing, no rustling… She rather expected to hear a more persistent ring of the doorbell—or perhaps she was half-waiting for her phone to beep for the umpteenth time, alerting her to the existence of a new, impatient message.
But no. There was only silence.
The choice was hers, now.
And she was only fooling herself if she thought for even one moment that there was any "choice" in the matter.
Tentatively, ears buzzing and mind reeling, Misty managed to pull herself to her unsteady feet, supported by the wooden table. Her eyes focused on the floor, trying to keep herself balanced… and still, the gentle command shone up at her from the small square display.
Misty, answer the door.
She was in the apartment foyer before she'd even realized she'd moved. That was fine—she didn't want to think about this. If she thought, she might change her mind. And if she did that… No, she couldn't allow herself to think! With this decision spurring her on, Misty grasped the small silver handle of the door, yanked it open—
And saw no one.
Until she looked down.
And there he was. For the first time in over a year, she gazed upon the face that had haunted her daydreams and nightmares since the tender age of 12: at the boy who had made her laugh, at the man who had made her cry… it seemed he'd barely changed. His naturally pale skin was dark from the sun, his dirty clothes threadbare; his shaggy black locks were kept in place by a new league hat, and his doe-brown eyes were full of determination as he knelt there in front of her, barely moving: a discarded cell phone at his side and a ring in his uplifted right hand.
Misty sucked in a silent breath, but otherwise said nothing—her face as deadpan and dull as his was animated.
"Misty," Ash murmured—and God, she had forgotten how wonderfully he said her name; she had to fight to keep the tears from spilling down her face again— "Misty, I love you. I have a fucked up way of showing it, but… but I know now that I'll always feel this way. Please… will you marry me?"
The young woman said nothing for a full minute. Ash continued to gaze earnestly up at her, undaunted, never moving an inch.
That irritated her; Misty's fingers tightened on the silver knob. If she had any sense at all, she'd slam the door shut in his arrogant face… Her cold blue eyes hardened and narrowed as she glared down her nose at the world-worn trainer.
"…I opened the door for an apology, not a proposal," she told him coolly, the words barely a whisper, her countenance more impassive than ever before.
But Ash—triple damn him!— was never one to be fooled by her antics: he smiled gently, warm eyes alive with adoration and sincerity. "I know," he quietly agreed, still offering her the modest silver ring, "but I figure… this way, I can spend every day of the rest of my life apologizing and making it up to you."
Crap. That was a good answer… In the doorway, Misty bit her bottom lip, gaze flicking to the side in a vain attempt to stop her cursed tears. She sniffed once, keeping her voice determinedly low and gruff. "Every day?" she then pressed, refusing to meet his stare.
Though she did not look at him, he nodded just the same. "Every day."
"And you'll never leave again?"
"Not without you."
Another pause. She seemed to be mulling over the idea; for an unbearable three seconds, a glimmer of true fear flickered in the depths of Ash's brown eyes. But before the terror could fully take root, Misty—gaze still averted— offered him a brusque nod, and held out her hand.
His face broke into a smile so bright and beautiful, it almost hurt to see.
So she continued to refuse eye contact.
And as he slid the ring onto her finger—and as she proceeded to slam the door shut in her fiancée's face— Misty couldn't help but realize how this was another one of those damnable days that started off normally, but then morphed into something utterly life changing and wholly difficult to digest. It really wasn't fair; she truly hated days like that…
But then again, she decided later— after she'd showered and changed and grudgingly let Ash into the house— such days, in retrospect, usually ended up being her favorite. Like that morning long ago when she'd fished a soggy, no-name trainer out of a river… Oddly, most such days seemed to focus on that particular young man with untamable black hair.
And this day was certainly no exception.