Misty watched as Ash stood up on the ladder fixing the lights on the trim of the house.
"Be careful!" She called up as she rubbed her gloved hands together.
"I think I can handle it," he said looking back at her.
"I know but…be careful…" She glanced around at the snow covered yard, it was a perfect Christmas Eve. There were soft flakes falling around them, all you could see in every direction was white.
"What are we bringing to Mom's?" Ash called back to her.
"I dunno…I figured drinks, cocoa and hot cider?" she thought, "Brock usually brings the fun eggnog, but I can't have that."
"Poor little Misty," Ash teased.
"If you're mean about it, I'll make a rule that you can't have anything I can't have!" She glared up at him.
"Don't do anything drastic!" He jumped down from the second to last rung on the ladder and went over to the house plugging in the remaining cord. As the house illuminated, he stood back admiring his work, "You should know by now that I only tease because I care."
"Yeah, still…" she was standing behind him speaking softly, "It sucks that there's so much I can't do and it's not really fair that you can."
"I didn't know it bothered you so much," he felt bad as he turned around, she was looking down digging her toe into the snow, "I can cut back or something…" he mumbled taking a step towards her.
"Oh, Ash…" she trailed off looking up with a sad smile, "You're so easy!" she laughed shoving a snowball in his face.
"Hey!" he yelled as she ran off and gathered more snow and flinging it at him.
The war was on, as the two of them laughed and ran through the front yard. Neither of them bothering to pack the snow before throwing it at the other. Ash, knowing that Misty wouldn't be able to run very fast, lost her in the backyard and set to work creating a huge snowball. As it was perfected he ran towards the front, looking for his victim.
Misty's eyes widened and she began to back away as she saw him coming towards her. Luckily for her, Ash slid on the walkway and fell backwards into the snow his snowball landing in his lap.
Misty rushed over and collapsed onto her knees next to him, laughing. Ash glared at her for a second then his face broke into a smile.
"Ow!" he exclaimed laughing with Misty. He stood and reached his hands down to help her up.
"Are you okay?" She asked kissing his cheek.
He sighed exaggeratedly, "I think I'll be alright…"
She smiled, "Would this help?" she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips.
Ash rolled his eyes upward and thought, "It helped a little…but I might need a little more."
Misty giggled, "Oh, really?" she kissed him again, wrapping her arms around his neck.
When they separated, Ash smiled, "Yep, all better!" she laughed as he walked back toward the house.
Misty stood in the kitchen at the Ketchum household stirring a bowl of pasta salad. Delia and Gary's older sister May were behind her, each working on their own dish. She could hear Ash, Prof Oak and Gary all shouting and laughing in the living room. Christmas Eve at Ash's childhood home has always been the same, the Oaks came over in the afternoon to help and chat. Now that Gary was assistant to a professor in another region, he and Ash didn't see each other as often and spent the entire afternoon talking.
She reached her hands down to rub her stomach. The baby moved a lot more now, especially when she stopped moving. Misty pressed her fingers into the bottom of her bump and winced.
"Misty?" May asked looking at her curiously, "Are you okay?"
"Huh?" she looked up blankly at the older women, "Oh! Yeah I'm fine, just…Braxton Hicks."
Delia nodded knowledgably, "I had those a lot when I was pregnant with Ash."
"Are they frequent? I thought it was just a once thing," May inquired turning to Delia.
"They happen more than once, but they're pretty random. That's how you can tell the difference. Labor pains come in waves and get stronger as they go, and Braxton Hicks are just one and the pain varies."
Misty let her hands drop and went back to her potato salad.
"It looks awfully domestic in here!" Gary announced from the doorway, "The little women cooking for their men."
"Shut up Gary!" May snapped, "the only couple here is Misty and Ash. So who exactly is your 'little woman'?"
Gary glanced around the room, then stepped over next to Delia, "Delia has always loved me! She's making my dinner."
May rolled her eyes and went back to her dish as Ash walked in behind Gary.
"Hey," he smiled using his finger to scoop some of the potato salad.
"Don't do that! No one wants your germs in their food," Misty slapped his hand as he leaned down and kissed her.
"You guys are so cute!" May squealed as Gary scrunched up his nose and stuck his tongue out, "You're just jealous you don't have anyone!" she hit his stomach making him laugh.
"Welcome to my family," Ash whispered in Misty's ear as she giggled.
"I'm here!" Brock called from the living room as he shut the door behind him.
Gary and Ash exchanged a glance and ran out of the kitchen and the loud conversation started back up.
Delia and May were talking and laughing with each other and Misty tried to pay attention but she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen again.
"Excuse me," she whispered walking upstairs and to the bathroom.
Ash looked up as his mother and May brought out the snack food.
"So, Brock," Gary started grabbing a handful of seasoned cashews, "How does it feel to know that Ash is settling down while you're still girlfriend-less?"
Brock laughed, "It is a little weird…"
"It's very weird. I always thought you'd be the one to knock up some girl."
"Some girl?" Ash smirked.
"You're right, this is Misty. Raise your hand if you're surprised!" he chuckled as everyone else joined in, until they heard a scream from upstairs.
Ash didn't even pause to figure out who wasn't in the room before he bolted for the stairway. Misty was standing in the bathroom, tears streaming down her face.
"Mist? What's wrong?" he asked struggling to remain calm.
"I'm in labor!" she wailed through her tears.
"That's impossible," he shook his head.
"No it's not, Ash," Misty snapped, "I thought I was just having Braxton Hicks pains again until your mom said that they weren't consistent."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that I've been in labor for the last 3 hours!"
"What? How can you be sure?"
"I just said! I have had consistent waves of pain for the last three hours,"
"But that could just be false labor right?"
"My water just broke," she pointed to the puddle of water at her feet.
"Oh my god…" Ash mumbled, then reached forward as Misty doubled over in pain, "Oh god…alright then…we're on our way to the hospital!" he wrapped an arm around her waist, "You can walk right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, it just hurts….oh! This wasn't supposed to happen!" she sobbed.
"I know, we're just going to have to make the best of it," he helped her down the stairs and out to car, ignoring the stares from everyone in the living room. As soon as he made sure she was fine, he ran back in, "Misty's in labor…I don't know what to do!" he exclaimed.
"What do you need?" Prof Oak asked.
"I don't know…I…a bag! We were supposed to have a bag of clothes, for the baby and for Misty and stuff like that but we didn't make one yet because we didn't expect…"
"I'll go to your house and get a bag together for her, anything else?" Delia asked walking over to the closet.
"Uh…can someone call her sisters, and tell them to come to the hospital…I think that's it…" he started back toward the door as everyone began to rush for their coats and car keys, "Oh! Brock! Do you think-" he was interrupted by the sound of a car horn. Ash glanced out the open front door and saw Misty sticking her head out the window.
"Hello! This baby isn't casually suggesting that it would like to come out!" she yelled.
Brock chuckled as Ash turned back to him, "Brock…call Jordan…let him know, and tell him to meet us there"
"Are you sure?" Brock asked.
"No, but it seems like the right thing…" he shrugged before running to the car and taking off.
10 hours later, Ash walked out into the waiting room where everyone had set up camp, and collapsed in one of the chairs. May and Gary were slumped next to each other, fast asleep. Brock, Daisy, Delia, and Prof Oak had started a game of Screw Your Neighbor and Jordan sat flipping through a magazine.
Delia was the first to notice him, "Ash?" she asked, smiling at the sight of him in the gown they gave him to wear in the delivery room.
"I just watched Misty give birth," he announced.
"And?" she urged him to continue while Brock hit Gary and May in the legs to wake them up.
"It was really gross,"
He held up his right hand, "I think she broke my fingers," he mumbled studying them.
"Ash!" Gary groaned sleepily, "We don't care about your damn fingers or scarred mind, how's the baby?"
His face broke into a grin. "She's perfect."
"It's a girl?" Delia squealed jumping up.
Ash nodded, still smiling, "She has Misty's eyes and I dunno…she just looks like a baby…"
The mood shifted a little, the same question on everyone's mind but no one wanted to ask.
"But," Ash started getting the attention back, "I think she has her grandmother's hair."
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as Brock laughed, "Can we see her?"
"Uh huh, you just…I can't tell you what her name is, at least not until Misty wakes up and I tell her…"he trailed off.
"You named her while Misty was asleep?" Gary asked.
"The nurse brought in the birth certificate and I just…I don't know, I'm running on adrenaline."
Everyone except Jordan got up to follow Ash to the nursery to see the baby. No one even noticed right away that he wasn't there.
Misty opened her eyes slowly and saw Ash sitting in the armchair next to the bed cradling the baby, the same sight she fell asleep to.
"Have you moved at all?" She asked sitting up.
"Yeah," he smiled at her, "I went out to tell everyone about her."
"Did they see her?"
Ash nodded and went to sit next to her on the bed handing the baby to Misty, "Mom thinks she looks exactly like me, but I think that's just what newborns look like."
Misty studied her daughter's sleeping face, searching for some similarity between her and Ash, or even Jordan. The only indication she could find was that she shared the same reddish brown hair as Delia, but that could easily be explained with her side of the family.
"What are we going to call you?" she asked the infant in her arms.
Ash cleared his throat next to her, "I picked a name for her."
"Oh? You thought of a name? What is it?"
"No…I mean…I picked her name, and filled out the birth certificate…"
Misty shut her eyes and took a deep breath, "I don't care if you lost a bet…so help me god if my child's name is Brock…"
"It's not!" he exclaimed holding up his hands in surrender, "I promise."
"So, what did you name her?"
"Misty, say hello to Aurora Dee Ketchum," he whispered stroking the baby's soft hair.
"Aurora Dee…" she tried the name out, "I like it, good job."
He smiled, "I've been calling her Rory, no one in this family has more than two syllables."
Misty laughed and rested her head on Ash's shoulder, they had been through a lot in the last eight months. Yet, she couldn't imagine herself with anyone else right now, "Ash?" she murmered, "I love you."
He smiled slowly, even though she couldn't see it and leaned his head against hers.
"Marry me," she blurted out without thinking.
He didn't answer right away then she felt his head shake against her hair, "No," he said.
"No? Why not?"
"Before Christmas, I went shopping…I think I went to five different jewelry stores. I had plans to propose to you but, then I started thinking. We never really dated, even before the accident we had to do everything in secret and then this time you were pregnant and I think…I think it would be better if we spent some time just being us, you know dinner, movies," he stretched his legs out, pointing his toes, "besides, you got to ask last time."
She laughed and grabbed his chin in her hands, turning his face towards her and kissed him, "Now, you need to go home. Let the nurses take care of Rory, go to sleep, eat something. Then come back and visit me."
"I'm fine here," he smiled standing up with Rory, "If you're tired go back to sleep, I don't even want to talk about where the baby came out of."
Misty giggled, "No, go for you. We'll be home soon enough and you'll wish for the days when we were still at the hospital. It will make me happy for you to go home."
"Your mom is trying to get rid of us," he whispered to the baby, "Alright, we'll go, but you'll be lonely without us so I'll come back in a couple hours."
"I can't wait," she smiled as he leaned down to kiss her.
"Bye Mom," he said in a baby voice waving Rory's tiny hand. Misty laughed sinking further into her pillows as he left the room.
Ash rocked Rory slowly as he walked down the halls. He still couldn't believe he was a dad, it was an odd feeling to know that every decision he made from now on would affect his tiny daughter. As he reached the door to the nursery, he saw Jordan standing in front of the window. He ignored him as he opened the door and was greeted by a nurse.
"I'm being kicked out and sent home," Ash smiled halfheartedly handing Rory to the older woman.
"Oh, don't sound so down, it's a good thing. You and Mom need all the rest you can get before this little one goes home," the nurse smiled.
"That's what Misty said too, I just…I don't want to miss a single second."
"You're too sweet, not a lot of dads are as eager to care for a baby as you," Ash smiled proudly as she held Rory close, "Go home and rest, we'll take good care of her."
He started to walk away then stopped and turned on his heel and went over by Jordan.
"You came to see her?" he asked.
Jordan was startled but recovered quickly, "Yeah…I didn't when you first came out, I figured I should let you and your family…"
Ash nodded and pointed to the plastic crib Rory was placed in, "She's cute right?"
Jordan smiled, "Yeah, she is. She looks like Misty."
"Really? I just think she looks like a newborn."
The two men laughed a little, then Jordan's expression turned serious, "Listen, Ash, I'm sorry."
"For what? This whole thing wasn't anyone's fault. Misty and I are still going to have the paternity test done, you know, just in case."
"Don't worry about it, I don't think there's a doubt in anyone's mind that she's yours," he sighed, "I meant that I'm sorry for starting things back up with Misty after her accident. I didn't even think that you two might have…"
Ash smiled slightly, "No one did, apparently Mist and I are really good at keeping a secret. Wait, how did you know?"
"Everyone told me, while we were in the waiting room. I can't even imagine how you must have felt. I mean your wife was in that hospital room not able to remember anything about your relationship and I just swooped in and took her. I can't believe you didn't punch me. I would have punched me,"
"You didn't do anything wrong, I mean I was mad at first, but it's not like you knew the story and still went after her," they fell into silence both staring at the baby, "Jordan, you know that Misty and I…nothing happened before you guys broke up. I mean, she didn't even know about us until after. I just don't want you to think that she…" Ash stopped himself, thinking that it probably wasn't best to use the word 'unfaithful'
"I know, I think I always knew…I was just embarrassed and hurt about being left at the alter." he sighed, "But, I'm not anymore."
"Nah, I mean, does it suck? Yes…but…I've seen her with you and, I don't think I could have made her that happy."
"Thanks," Ash mumbled not quite sure what to say when your girlfriend's ex says something like that.
"Go home," Jordan smiled, "And don't worry about the paternity test, but if you guys still choose to do it, don't tell me the results. The way I see it, either way she's yours."
Ash watched him incredulously as he walked away, waving behind him. Then he glanced one more time at Rory sleeping before he went towards the elevator.
*3 years later*
"Are you guys ready? We have to go soon," Misty called as she walked down the stairs putting her earring on. She paused as she reached the doorway of the living room and smiled.
Ash, in his dress shirt and slacks, was sleeping on the couch with Rory fast asleep curled up on his back. Misty marveled in the fact that Rory looked more and more like Ash everyday. She reached down and lifted her daughter up before gently shaking Ash.
He slowly opened his eyes and sat up, stretching his arms over his head, "Hey…how long was I out?"
"I dunno, I was upstairs," she shifted Rory in her arms, "Rory, wake up," she sang stroking the toddler's back. Rory shut her eyes tightly, moaning and burying her head deeper into Misty's shoulder.
"Rory," Ash laughed gently tickling her sides as she tried to stay asleep, "Come on," he took her from Misty and set her on her feet, "you have to go get your backpack so that you're ready to go to Grandma's."
"No," she said in her small voice.
"Yes, you were excited about it yesterday now go," when Rory didn't move he knelt down to her level, "remember, today's a very important day and Mom needs you to be on your best behavior or she'll go crazy," Ash widened his eyes to make his point as Rory giggled and ran upstairs.
"I will not go crazy," Misty protested.
"If you ask me, I think you're already crazy," he smiled taking a step towards her.
"If I'm so crazy why are you still with me?"
"I like crazy," he leaned forward kissing her. As his fingers found their way to her sides, he wondered how long Rory would take upstairs and how quick they could be.
"Ew!" Rory laughed covering her eyes in the doorway, "Don't kiss!"
Ash and Misty stood, their faces just an inch apart, "Remember when she couldn't talk?" he asked laughing.
"You, Missy!" Ash exclaimed lifting her up and over his shoulder, "You just ruined something that could have ended very well for me!"
"Daddy, stop!" she shrieked with laughter.
"We'll be in the car!" he called back to Misty as she laughed.
She was a vision, a breath taking beauty. She looked heavenly in her flowing white gown as she walked towards him. He couldn't take his eyes off of her or wipe the grin off of his face. It wasn't a huge dress; it was simple and elegant, plain white with just a little bit of lace. A halter top kept her looking sexy while the long veil made it more appropriate. Her hair was down to the middle of her back and he could just barely see the blues in her eyes through the thin white lace.
This time, it wasn't a daydream.
Ash stood under an arch of honeysuckle as Misty walked slowly towards him. 5 years to the day of their secret wedding, Ash and Misty were getting married again. On Prof Oak's plantation with their closest friends and family as witnesses.
The vows seemed to drag on forever as he eagerly awaited the 'pronounced man and wife' part. When it did come, he couldn't lift the veil off her face fast enough.
"Finally," he whispered leaning down to kiss her.
They both smiled as they heard Rory squeal, "Don't kiss!" and the crowd start to laugh.
Ash held his arms out to their daughter and lifted her up, "Well Aurora Dee, are you ready to party?" he asked.
"Yeah!" she exclaimed.
"You heard the girl, to the party!" he laughed, wrapping his free arm around his bride's waist.
"Congrats," Gary smiled, kissing Misty on the cheek.
"Thanks, I'm glad you could make it," Ash smiled.
"Well, I had to forgo bringing a date, mind if I steal yours?" Gary joked.
"Any day but today," he laughed.
"Fair enough, I really wanted Rory anyway," he held his hands out and Rory went to him, "I think it's an open bar, name your poison."
"Gary! Do not give my daughter any alcohol!" Misty shouted after him.
Ash grabbed Misty's hand and spun her towards him, "So, Mrs. Ketchum. It's a beautiful night, we are finally married, and our daughter is staying at Mom's, what's the plan?"
Misty bit her lip and rolled her eyes upward in thought, "Well, there's one thing we haven't really been able to do since Rory was born."
"Yeah? What's that?"
"I am going to get a good night's sleep."
"What?" his face fell.
"Yeah, I'm gonna go home and take off this dress that I can barely breathe in and just sleep."
He stared at her, narrowing his eyes, "No…I'm going to take that dress off of you because we're having sex tonight, a lot of sex, that's what we haven't done since having a three year old."
She kissed his cheek, "Whatever you say, darling. Besides, we had to have sex at least once since Rory was born," Misty hinted placing her hands on her stomach.
He smiled hugging her against him, putting his hands over hers, "Very true. When do we get to start telling people?"
"Another month and we're through the first trimester. That's usually when you announce it."
"How do you thing Rory will take it?"
They both looked over at the dance floor where Brock and Gary were fawning over the toddler. As the only child that any of them had, she was spoiled by everyone.
"I'm worried that she'll be upset, she's been the only kid for so long and a new baby is exciting, she won't be the center of attention," Misty sighed.
"I don't think things will change too much for her, remember, she'll be a big sister it will make her feel like a grown up. I think she'll still get all the attention, just in a different way."
"I hope you're right," she murmured leaning her head back against his chest.
"Hey! Mr. And Mrs. Ketchum!" Their attention was brought back to the festivities in front of them by Brock's voice, "Do you mind joining us? No one can have cake until you cut it."
"I bet Ash is planning on keeping it all for himself," Gary joked causing them to laugh.
"Damn, they're onto me," Ash whispered as he laced his fingers between Misty's. She giggled, leaning down to take off her heels and they rushed toward their friends.
A/N: There you have it, the finale of the fic. It finally got the happy ending that I had to struggle not to write when I created the prelude to this.
Thanks so much to EVERYONE who read, commented, reviewed (good or bad), or anything. I greatly appreciate all of you.