Summary: Some relationships come easily, others have to go through trials and tribulations before they even begin. A quiet night causes Ash to ponder the way his relationship with Gary has evolved over the years. Palletshipping five-piece.

Disclaimer – I own the storyline, my interpretation of the characters, and nothing else.

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Kanto - Mutation

A soft sigh caused me to glance up from the television to peer curiously at the source of the frustrated sound. As usual, Gary was busy typing away on his laptop, working on some sort of research that went straight over my head whenever he tried to explain it to me. I had been having a difficult time not watching him until a pokemon battle came on tv; it was hard to not be infatuated with the way his long fingers gracefully flew across the keyboard or the way the light from the screen lit up his face, reflecting alluringly off of his eyes. Of course, those brown eyes were currently narrowed as they scanned whatever was on the screen. Gary frowned slightly and shook his hair out of his face, causing me to smile; that action was always adorable, no matter how irritated he was when he did it.

"Bored?" I asked, partially hoping that he would agree, put up the computer, and join me on the couch so that I could watch the match on tv with his sarcastic commentary.

"Incredibly," he replied dryly, once more continuing his incessant typing.

Nights like this, though infrequent, had become one of the banes of my existence. Other banes included pretending that we were no more than friends when family visited and doing chores. Of course, these were all parts of life, as well as a part of being in a relationship. Because of this, I had learned to deal with it, no matter how much I disliked it. It was just that nights like this made Gary uncomfortably serious and made me miss him even though we were in the same room. Missing him often made me think back to the way things had begun to evolve from a simple friendship to the serious relationship we now had.

It all started with a kiss, which I suppose is the way many relationships begin. It was at a holiday party at Professor Oak's house, induced by the unfortunate placement of a sprig of mistletoe that I was still certain had been placed there intentionally by his sister; after all, anything out of the norm in Pallet Town had to have been influenced by the mischievous May Oak. But I digress, I was fifteen at the time while Gary had turned sixteen perhaps two months earlier with our rivalry put aside well over a year earlier. Gary's presence, though expected, was oddly surprising and I have to admit that I still can't figure out how he managed to make simple jeans and a t-shirt look so attractive.

The adults had only been out of the room for a minute but that was all the time May had needed to set up the event that ultimately led to myself and her brother hooking up. Gary hadn't realized that I had shown up yet and had been "hiding out" in his bedroom, as May put it, though I was sure he had only lost track of time while reading. She had ran upstairs to get him, telling me to stay in the doorway that led into the living room, which was exactly where she had hung the lone piece of mistletoe. Being happy to see each other, neither Gary nor I had noticed that stupid decoration until May pointed it out and even then, we had jumped out from beneath it the second she did so. For what felt like an eternity but couldn't have been more than a moment, Gary and May seemed to have some sort of nonverbal argument before he gave in.

To this day, I still don't know what I was expecting – perhaps a quick peck on the cheek followed by some sarcastic comment or even a playful kiss followed by an unfazed smirk. What I didn't expect was for Gary to gently cup my cheek in one hand and press his lips against mine before pulling away after a second of hesitation. There was some uncertainty in his eyes as he gazed at me afterwards: a strange gleam that indicated a jumble of mixed emotions – confusion and perhaps some pain. Somewhere in the depths of those dark orbs was something that told me he wasn't unhappy about having to kiss me but the way his eyes narrowed slightly said that he wasn't entirely thrilled either. I still don't know if he had wanted to do that for some time before it had happened or if he did it to placate May and then realized that it was what he had wanted all along without realizing it.

Gary shook his head slightly and grinned, making some smartass remark that made me laugh at the time. It somehow relaxed both of us enough to forget about that kiss for a little while so that we could go about our business at the party as if nothing was wrong.

Of course, that kiss had stayed in my mind throughout the entire party and straight through the night to the next day. It had been intoxicating – the most wonderful five seconds of my life, up until that point in my life, at least. His lips had been softer than I expected, parting slightly as he did the taboo deed while mine stayed closed until he pulled away; that was when my jaw dropped in shock. Thinking back, that's probably what made him smile in the first place.

Up until that point, I hadn't even realized that he was what I wanted, or rather, who I wanted. I had been so caught up in training back then that I never thought about companions of that sort; I had met so many girls and never felt fazed by them and I had met so many guys and never felt fazed by them. And then there was Gary, who had just turned that entire part of my life up-side-down and had somehow switched on the part of my brain that dealt with attraction and sex and… all of that stuff. I had felt so confused about it the next day that I hardly ate, which, of course, alerted my mother to the whole situation.

She had asked me what was wrong and I admitted that I had kissed someone under the mistletoe and that I now felt weird about it. Mom was the one to guess Gary, how or why she came to that conclusion was something I had never asked about. I suppose my reaction to that guess was all the confirmation she needed because she smiled and hugged me, telling me that she would support me in anything and that I could tell her anything, anytime. She still supports my relationship with Gary, even though I'm not entirely sure he even realizes that she knows about it. Everyone knows about it except for Professor Oak, though I'm sure he has some assumptions that our relationship isn't really platonic. I would tell him the truth but Gary… Well, let's just say that the word "gay" is highly taboo and is never uttered. It's one place where his confidence fails him unless he's around me.

Again, I digress. Mom's talk was really all the encouragement I needed at the time, so I headed over to the Oak house after lunch with Pikachu happily perched on my shoulder. Once reaching the house, May directed me up to Gary's room where he was, and I quote, "being a lazy pain in the ass." I found him lying on his bed, listening to music as he read a book with his Umbreon curled up at the foot of the bed. He glanced up in surprise when I came in, his eyes never leaving mine even when Umbreon awoke and climbed off of the bed to greet Pikachu.

This time I was the one to make the first move, crossing the room in a few quick strides to grasp his chin and kiss him with a vigor that shocked me to the core. All the while, I had no idea what I was doing; it was only my second kiss ever and here I was trying to dominate my friend and former rival in a battle of tongues and lips. My lips were a bit moist when we pulled away and we were both panting from the unexpected experience, Gary was slightly flushed and I can only assume that I was as well. Neither of us knew what we were doing, we were just following our instincts, but even the most primitive instincts leave you abandoned when you come back to your senses and that was exactly what happened.

"That was… interesting," Gary said softly once I had taken a few steps back to let us both recover and to also judge his reaction. I could only nod in response. "What does this mean, Ash?" His voice gave away little more than the uncertainty that was obvious in his gaze.

"Whatever you want it to," I heard myself say. I had no control over my words.

His gaze drifted to the dark blanket on his bed before snapping back up to meet my own. "Why… What made you do that?" he asked cautiously. At one point in time, I would have been thrilled to see him so confused and flustered but this was different.

"I like you," I replied, once more in no control of my vocal chords. Gary's face was impassive and I had no idea what he was thinking at the time. I'm certain he was surprised at the way I said it so easily and so confidently but then again, maybe not – I always was the rash one out of the two of us. He was always the reserved one who thought things out while I acted on gut instinct and adrenaline; truthfully, an interesting combination for a couple. "I never thought about it, maybe I didn't even notice until last night but that's the truth." I paused for a moment, unsure of what to do next. "Why did you kiss me last night?" was the first thing that popped into my head and, consequently, out of my mouth.

"Same reason." It was the simplest explanation anyone could ask for and I accepted it eagerly.

"Where do we go from here?" Apprehension was finally beginning to creep into my voice; this decision would undeniably affect our friendship. Ignoring what had happened last night and today would make things awkward and would have negative consequences for us. Pursuing something with Gary could also have negative consequences but there was still that chance that things would be okay. Either way, things would change no matter what.

Gary sighed quietly and shook his head. "Ash, I'm leaving to return to Sayda Island in a week. I don't even know when I'll be back in Pallet."

"And I'm going to be competing in the Battle Frontier. I guess we won't really be seeing each other, huh?"

"Guess not. Maybe we should just see where things go?" Gary suggested after a short pause.

I agreed quickly as this seemed to be the best decision that we could possibly reach at the time but I still held a secret wish for us to do more than simply see where things went. That was good for the time but times change constantly, sometimes drastically.

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A/N – This story is already mostly done, the rest of the chapters just need some fine tuning and should be up within a few days of each other. This is my first attempt at Palletshipping, so please let me know what you think. Thanks!