Together

Disclaimer: I do not own Pokémon. I do, however, own this story.

Angie hummed a cheery tune, swinging her arms back and forth in time as she and Dawn approached the table where the gang would be eating breakfast that morning. Her blue-green hair had been stylishly combed by Dawn into something more neat and manageable than its usual mopped mess, and a tint of pale pink gloss shone on her thin lips. When she caught Ash's glance, she flashed him a toothy grin.

"Hi, Angie, how are you—wha?" Ash did a double-take, turning around again to look Angie square in the eyes.

"What?" Angie feigned innocence, batting her (seemingly extra black and long!) eyelashes at the aspiring Pokémon Master.

"It's just that you look different, although I can't quite put my finger on the how or the why of it," Ash admitted, fingering his chin in thought. "There's something funny going on with your lips; they're all shiny or something," he added.

"Do you like it?" Angie asked naively, gripping her hands behind her back and sort of swaying back and forth in place.

"No, you look stupid!" Ash scowled, looking away from Angie and taking a bite of his toast.

"I--what?" Angie frowned, biting her lip as if to keep from crying. "What did you say?"

Ash, however, simply continued to eat his toast, crumbs dribbling down his shirt, almost as if he hadn't a care in the world. When he failed to respond to Angie's question, Brock tapped him on the shoulder.

"What, Brock? Can't you see that I'm eating?" Ash exclaimed angrily, frustrated that his older friend would interrupt the most important of daily rituals.

"I think Angie's trying to talk to you, Ash?" Brock whispered to his younger friend.

"Huh? What is it, Angie?" Ash turned towards the young girl.

"I said, 'What did you say?'" Angie returned in an irritated voice, her anger with Ash overcoming any sorrow she may have felt.

"I don't know. Did I say something?" Ash questioned, having already forgotten the less than kind words he had directed towards his friend from the Pokémon Summer School.

"You said I looked stupid!" Angie cried.

"Did I? Well, you do look kind of dumb today for some reason. I mean, your lips are all sparkly and—"

"Humph!" Angie turned around with a flourish, running off to the room she was sharing with Dawn.

"Ash, don't you have any tact?" Dawn asked angrily.

"What? What did I say?" Ash wondered aloud, his mouth full of toast.

"Ugh, you are so dense! Angie looked like that because she was wearing makeup!" Dawn exclaimed with irritation. "Don't you know anything?"

"Hmm, I thought that may have been the case," Brock chimed in. "A real lady's man can always spot makeup."

"Why would Angie wear makeup, though? Isn't makeup for girls?" Ash stated honestly.

"Ash, Angie is a girl!" Dawn sighed. Obviously her plan had not gone as well as she had thought it would.

"Oh, oh yeah. I guess I kind of forget that sometimes," Ash admitted, sweat dropping slightly.

"Ash, I think you should really apologize to Angie," Brock suggested.

Grumbling, Ash stuffed the remainder of his toast in his mouth and headed off towards the room Dawn and Angie shared.

***

Angie punched her pillow in frustration, tears rolling down her carefully made-up face. How could Ash be so mean? She had gone out of her way to make herself pretty, had gone out of her way to make herself pretty for him, and this is how he had reacted? Maybe he wasn't worth it after all; maybe he wasn't worth her time or efforts.

Then again…

Angie smiled, picturing the way the crumbs from Ash's toast had strewn themselves across his shirt, the way Ash had stuffed the toast in his mouth absentmindedly, the way he had smiled. He was so cute!

How had Dawn's plan failed, though? It had seemed like the perfect idea…

"Dawn, what do you think I should do? How can I get Ash to notice me?" Angie asked, fingering her green top nervously. Now that her secret was out, she felt painfully exposed. Would Dawn tell Ash how she felt about him?

"What do you mean, Angie? I'm sure Ash notices you as it is," Dawn replied with a reassuring smile.

"I don't think so, Dawn," Angie began sadly. "Don't you think I look kind of plain?"

"Oh, I see what you're thinking of," Dawn stated. "You want Ash to notice your looks. Well, a little makeup never hurt a girl, and I suppose we could do something with your hair. Personally, I have Piplup use Bubblebeam on mine," Dawn said with a grin.

Angie sweat dropped at the final statement but regained her composure before Dawn could notice. "Do you really think that's a good idea, Dawn? I mean, I've never worn makeup before," Angie admitted.

"Sure it's a good idea! Don't worry, Angie; tomorrow I'll make you so beautiful that Ash won't be able to take his eyes off of you!" Dawn squealed.

Why hadn't Dawn's plan worked? The blue-haired beauty had assured Angie that it would, and Dawn really seemed to know a lot about boys. After all, Ash was a boy, wasn't he?

***

Misty patted her sopping red hair dry, wringing it out with her towel. Letting out a sigh, she looked at the clock on the table by her beside; it was relatively late, almost time for Ash's next Sinnoh League match. Misty certainly didn't want to miss the match, but a large part of her didn't really want to go either. Left reeling from the conversation she had overheard between Dawn and Angie the previous night, she didn't particularly feel like seeing Angie…or anyone, for that matter. While she had been feeling relatively great before overhearing the conversation between the two girls, Misty was left feeling rather depressed and hopeless upon learning of Angie's crush on Ash.

Misty quickly dressed, not wanting to be late for the Ash's battle. Figuring that Ash and the others would be eating breakfast in the main room of the Pokémon Center, she thought she'd sneak down and grab something to eat without being seen and meet everyone at the stadium; the less time she had to spend with them the better. With her hair still down, Misty quietly exited her room and snuck off to get some breakfast…

…only to bump into Ash!

"Misty, hey!" Ash exclaimed happily, always glad to see his gym leader friend.

"Oh, Ash, hi," Misty stated softly, unaware of what to say to her longtime companion in the light of the revelation Angie had made the previous night.

For a moment the two friends simply stood looking at each other, Misty awkwardly twisting her wet hair with her fingers.

"Umm…" Misty began slowly.

"Yes?" Ash asked expectantly.

Misty made no answer, however. Ash looked at his friend curiously; it was then that he noticed that her hair was down.

"You…you…your hair is down," Ash stammered.

"Yes, it is," Misty stated matter-of-factly. What was Ash getting at?

"It's just, well, I like it," Ash continued.

What was going on with him? Misty wondered. Why was Ash acting so strangely? She looked towards her friend and noticed the smallest bit of red tinting his cheeks. Was he blushing? He couldn't be…could he?

"Well, um, I'd better be going," Ash said, beginning to walk past Misty.

"Oh, right. Where are you going?" Misty asked.

"To see Angie."

Something inside Misty snapped, or at least that's what it felt like. He was going to see Angie?!

"Well, don't let me stop you, then," Misty began in her nastiest voice. "Go right on ahead!"

"What's gotten into you?" Ash asked, annoyed by the sudden change in his friend's demeanor.

"Nothing!" With that Misty stormed off, leaving Ash alone to question her odd change in mood. She hadn't meant to snap at him, but she had just gotten so angry when he mentioned he was going to see Angie. What, were they going to admit their secret feelings for one another?!

***

Ash felt strange as he approached the room Angie and Dawn were sharing. Why would Misty get so mad over nothing? More importantly, why did he suddenly feel strange, almost nervous and as if Butterfree were dancing in his stomach, when he saw Misty with her hair down? Why had his cheeks felt warm? Why had he felt this inexplicable urge to reach out and touch her hair, to stroke it, to push it behind her ears? Why had he called her hair pretty? What was going on with him?

Knocking on Angie's door, Ash took a deep breath. He had never been particularly good with apologies, and was feeling especially nervous this time because he hadn't even really been sure what he had done wrong; Angie had looked silly, after all. This was going to be difficult.

"Come in," a small voice rang from within.

Ash opened the door hesitantly, entering slowly. Angie looked surprised to see him.

"Ash?" she said in shock. Then, however, her features hardened. "What do you want?"

"I, err, I wanted to apologize," Ash began slowly, not having expected such a harsh reaction from his friend from summer school. He had to remind himself that he had insulted her.

"Well, you can…what?" Angie seemed surprised but why Ash had said.

"I said I wanted to apologize."

"Oh." Angie still looked sad, so Ash motioned for her to sit down on the bed and sat next to her. Much to his surprised, she turned red.

"Why would you want to look silly, Angie?" Ash began, trying to uncover what had caused his friend's strange behavior.

"I thought you'd like it if I wore makeup. That's what guys like," Angie said simply. She then turned an even deeper shade of red, having realized just how much she had revealed. She'd have to be more careful from now on! Ash, however, didn't seem to notice.

"Maybe weird guys like Brock like makeup, but I think it's stupid," Ash admitted.

"Oh."

"Why would you want to change the way you look? You look fine the way you are."

Angie's face seemed to brighten, and she slowly began to smile.

"Really, Ash?"

"Sure." Ash offered Angie his hand. "Friends?"

Angie's smile disappeared at the word, but, nonetheless, she took Ash's hand and shook it.

***

"Well, everyone, it's time for the second round battles of the Sinnoh Pokémon League to begin!" the cheery officiator announced that afternoon to a packed crowd in the Sinnoh League Stadium. "Today we have Ash of Pallet Town versus John of Sunnyshore City!"

The crowd seemed to roar with excitement, and Ash beamed with pride, that morning's incidents with Angie and Misty all but forgotten.

Up in the stands Brock and Dawn sat contently, ready to watch the next match with Piplup perched between them. Misty, however, looked annoyed and Angie appeared downcast.

"The roulette has determined that John of Sunnyshore will select first. If both contestants are ready, then let's begin!" the officiator explained to the crowd.

"Alright, Ash, you're going down! Go, Wartortle!" A blue turtle Pokémon with a fluffy white tail appeared at John's command.

"I don't think so, John! I choose you, Pikachu!" Ash stated confidently, and in an instant Ash's most trusted Pokémon had scampered from the side of its master to the middle of the stadium.

"Alright, Wartortle, prepare for Skull Bash!" John commanded.

"Pikachu, use Volt Tackle before it can attack!" Ash ordered.

Pikachu's Volt Tackle hit before Wartortle could make its move.

"Alright!" Brock and Dawn cheered simultaneously from the stands.

Wartortle, however, wasn't defeated yet, and slowly regained its stance.

John, it seemed, had decided to try another strategy.

"Wartortle, Rain Dance!"

The heavens opened and rain began to pour over the stadium, drenching Ash, John, and the boys' Pokémon.

Ash just grinned.

"Pikachu, you know what to do! Use Thunder!" Ash exclaimed.

Pikachu let out a loud cry and released thousands of volts of electricity from its small body, effectively knocking Wartortle out.

"Yes!" Ash cried. "Good job, Pikachu!"

"Pika!" Pikachu squealed happily.

"Wartortle is unable to battle!" the officiator announced.

"It looks like you forgot that Rain Dance gives Thunder perfect accuracy!" Ash taunted John.

"I'm just getting started, Ash! Go, Steelix!" A giant steel and rock snake Pokémon materialized from the Pokeball John held in his hand.

"Oh no!" Dawn cried from the stands. "Pikachu is weak to ground attacks and its electric attacks will have no affect on Steelix!"

"Ugh, Pikachu, use Agility!" Ash called out to his electric Pokémon.

Pikachu relaxed its muscles and began to speed up its body.

"Steelix, use Mud-slap!" John commanded.

Despite Pikachu's heightened speed, Steelix's mud attack hit Pikachu square in the face, temporarily knocking the mouse Pokémon down.

"Pikachu, no!" Ash cried.

"OK, Steelix, now's your chance! Use Earth Power!" John ordered.

With a mighty roar Steelix caused the very ground of the stadium to shake and tremble, creating fissures and cracks in the stadium's foundation. Pikachu immediately fainted.

"Oh no!" Ash exclaimed.

"Pikachu is unable to battle!" the officiator proclaimed.

"What's Ash going to do now?" Dawn asked.

"Piplup?"

"Don't worry, Dawn; I'm sure Ash will think of something," Brock stated. "Right, guys?" he asked, turning towards Misty and Angie.

Both Misty and Angie were looking down towards Ash, each with a worried look on her face. Brock smiled knowingly.

"Thanks, Pikachu! You did great, buddy," Ash comforted his Pokémon, calling it back. "OK, John, you're going down! Staraptor, I choose you!" With a loud screech Ash's bird Pokémon appeared, its red eyes glowing and its white hair blowing in the wind.

"Staraptor, Close Combat!"

Staraptor began attacking Steelix, and the rock and steal snake was too slow to avoid the bird's mighty kicks.

"Err, Steelix, use Mud-slap!" John commanded desperately. Staraptor, however, was far too quick to be hit with the attack and continued its assault on Steelix until the mighty snake had fallen.

"Steelix is unable to battle!" the officiator announced.

"Yes!" Brock and Dawn cried. Even Misty and Angie, both of whom had looked rather forlorn at the beginning of the battle, smiled, Brock noticed.

"This isn't over yet, Ash!" John exclaimed. "Luxray, I choose you!" A large black and blue electric dog Pokémon appeared from John's Pokeball.

"Luxray, use Discharge!" John ordered. Luxray released an onslaught of electricity, once that rendered Staraptor almost helpless.

"Staraptor, no!" Ash cried. The strong bird Pokémon, however wasn't about to give up.

"Staraptor, use Brave Bird!" Ash commanded, and Staraptor swiftly attacked Luxray, temporarily weakening it.

"Don't think I'm done, Ash!" John warned. "Luxray, use Thunder Fang!" Luxray quickly attacked Staraptor, and the bird Pokémon soon fainted.

"Staraptor is unable to battle!"

"What's Ash going to do now?" Dawn mused.

"Don't worry, Dawn; I know which Pokémon Ash has left, and I think he might just be in luck," Brock commented.

Ash looked towards his friends in the stands, wandering what they were thinking. He wanted to win so badly for them. He suddenly locked eyes with Misty and felt his face grow red. Why did he feel so strange at that time? At that very moment he wanted nothing more than to win for her and for her alone, and determined to do so, released his last Pokémon.

"Gliscor, I choose you!" A purple bat Pokémon immediately appeared and flew over to Ash, hugging its master.

"Not now, Gliscor! You have to battle!" Ash exclaimed with embarrassment.

"Gli!" Gliscor nodded and flew out to the middle of the stadium.

"Gliscor, Sand-attack!" Ash ordered.

Gliscor whipped sand in Luxray's face, temporarily blinding it.

"Ugh, Luxray!" John cried.

"Now, Gliscor, use Fire Fang!"

Gliscor swooped down towards Luxray, biting it with its now fiery jaws.

Luxray, greatly weakened, struggled to stay conscious. It wasn't about to give up, however.

"Luxray, use Crunch!"

Luxray successfully managed to clamp its jaws down on Gliscor. Gliscor, knowing the importance of this match, continued to fight.

"Gliscor, use X-scissor!"

Gliscor unleashed its powerful bug attack, and this time Luxray couldn't hang on.

"Luxray is unable to battle! The winner of this match is Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town!" the officiator announced.

"We did it!" Ash cried happily.

"Pikachu!" Pikachu squealed.

"Gli!" Gliscor flew over to its master and proceeded to hug him. Ash somehow managed to let out a muffled "thanks" from underneath the winged Pokémon.

Up in the stands, Brock and Dawn beamed. Even Angie looked happy once again. Misty, her eyes shining with proud tears, couldn't help but smile. She had seen Ash struggle as a Pokémon trainer from the beginning, and now he had made it this far. She couldn't have felt prouder to be someone's friend and to forget all of her previous annoyance with the kid from Pallet Town.

"Come on, guys! Let's go down and see him!" Brock suggested, and the four friends made their way through the crowds towards Ash and Pikachu.

"Hey, everyone!" Ash exclaimed once his friends had reached him.

"Congratulations, Ash!" Brock , always the affectionate older brother type, patted Ash on the shoulder.

"Yeah, congratulations!" Dawn added, approaching Ash.

As Misty and Angie were making their way towards Ash, a cloud of smoke suddenly appeared before them, blocking their view of Ash, Dawn, and Brock.

"What's going on?" Misty asked, coughing violently.

"Ugh, I don't know!" Angie struggled to answer.

Soon the smoke disappeared, and Misty and Angie were met with a most unexpected sight. Two women and one man, all with strange looking hair and clothing, were struggling to overpower Ash, Brock, and Dawn. Soon the odd looking strangers had won, and a woman with red hair grabbed Ash, a woman with purple hair grabbed Dawn, and a man with blue hair grabbed Brock.

"Let us go!" Ash cried.

"Ha, not on your life, little boy!" the red-haired woman replied, tightening her grip on Ash.

Misty and Angie immediately ran forward to rescue their friends, but as they did so three Pokémon, a Skuntank, a Toxicroak, and a Purugly, blocked the way.

"If you move you will get hurt!" the woman with the purple hair warned.

"But…Ash!" Misty cried.

"Do what they say, Misty," Ash pleaded.

Misty looked at Ash, shocked. It wasn't like Ash to just give up. Did he know something about these people that she didn't? He had such fear in his eyes. Misty did what Ash said.

Amidst the chaos a helicopter had landed in the middle of the stadium. Clutching their three victims, the strange people loaded them into the helicopter, which took off just as Officer Jenny and league security arrived.

"Team Galactic!" Jenny stated with anger.

"Who?" Misty and Angie asked in unison.

"Never mind. I'll explain once we get to the Pokémon Center." Jenny lead the two girls out of the stadium as league security tried to calm down the panicked audience and restore some order to the stadium.

***

At the Pokémon Center, Misty held her head in her hands, trying to keep from crying. All she could see, all she could picture in her mind's eye was the look of terror in Ash's eyes as he had pleaded with her not to fight with the strange woman. That look, she though, would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Angie looked equally somber, pacing the room anxiously. Jenny had just finished explaining about Team Galactic, a criminal organization akin to Kanto's Team Rocket that had been wreaking havoc throughout Sinnoh lately. Not much was known about Team Galactic except that they were dangerous.

"You know, you should have tried to rescue Ash!" Angie suddenly spoke, interrupting the silence.

"Pardon?" Misty asked, shocked by the young tomboy's statement.

"You heard me!" Angie cried. "Why didn't you try to save Ash?"

How could Misty possibly explain the look in Ash's eyes, the tone of his pleading voice, the things that had kept her from trying to save him?

"I, well, I had no Pokémon with me!"

"That wouldn't have stopped me!" Angie stated angrily.

"Well then, why didn't you try to save him?" Misty mocked, standing up so that she was facing Angie at her full height.

"Because you were in the way!"

"Girls, please!" Jenny interrupted. "Try not argue!"

"She started it!" both girls said in unison.

Jenny just sighed, sitting down in resignation.

Suddenly a tall blonde woman dressed in black approached the group. "I happened to be listening to your conversation, and I must say that you two will need to stop arguing if you want to get anywhere." Angie and Misty looked up, shocked. "Allow me to introduce myself," the tall blonde began. "My name is Cynthia, and I may just be able to help you."

Author's Note: Finally, right? I'm so sorry that it took so long for me to update this story; hopefully updates will be more frequent from here on out (although I do plan on sticking with the formula I described at the end of Always with You and will be updating that before I update this again).

I wrote this very quickly, so if it's not very polished or very good that's why. I wanted to finish this today because it's Sonic Boom from SPPF's birthday. Happy Birthday, SB!

Anyway, Ash's Staravia just evolved into Staraptor in Japan, so he officially has one now, and it does know Close Combat. As for Gliscor, I think it knows X-scissor and Sand Attack, and I know it knows Fire Fang.

Ketchum Kid, I'm really not sure what happened when Chimchar battled the wild Zangoose and Paul's Ursaring. Maybe it was some kind of Blaze thing.

I'm on spring break, so you may see another update or two from me this week.

Thanks for sticking with this story despite the long wait (and despite the fact that this chapter stinks)! :)