A/N: Another one of my AAML fics, please read and post a comment! :]]

I do NOT own Pokemon.

"Yeah RIGHT!" Misty shouted across from Ash.
"I don't need your help Misty! You think you can do better, then let's see it!" He shot back. She swiped the map from his grasp and scanned the front of it.
"The problem with you Ash is that you don't listen to detail nearly as often as you should!" She scoffed.
"Your problem with you is that you interfere too much!" Ash fired back. "And I don't need you butting in to try and run my life either!" He added.
"If I hadn't been there to do it, we'd never find our way around this map!" She yelled back.
"Oh yeah?"
"Oh yeah!"

Brock however stood on the sidelines of the Pokemon center rubbing his temples.
"Sounds like they must be a really close couple to be fighting like that," Came the soft voice from the pink haired nurse of the center.
His demeanor changed almost instantly.
"Nurse Joy, you and I would make a much more suitable couple, wouldn't you agree?" He gushed as he held her hands.
"Uhh.. "
"Let's go, Romeo." Said Misty. And once again, dragged him off by the ear. Once away, she let go. Brock held his ear. "You know if your not careful, your really going to mess me up one day." He said.
"Welcome to my world." Ash added.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Misty said rounding on him.
"I mean it's surprising I'm not off somewhere hiding by now! Your constant nagging is enough to drive anyone crazy!" He retorted.
Misty scowled. "I only do that to help you know! If you weren't busy acting so macho all the time, then maybe things would be different!" She said.
"Yeah, but how different?" Ash stood defiantly. Misty glared at him. "Your lucky to have me around to help!" She snapped.
"Lucky? I'm only cursed with you around!" But as soon as the words left his mouth, he instantly regretted it.
"Misty wait, I didn't-" But she only pulled back. "No. Don't." She spoke in a softer tone this time. Ash would have preferred she shouted. And before anyone could stop her, she turned and fled from the room.
And Ash could have sworn he heard a muffled sob before she ran off. He turned to Brock with a pained look on his face, then looked down in shame.

"I didn't mean to make her cry.. shit." He mumbled.
"My thoughts exactly." Brock replied.
"Why do you let things get so out of hand?" He said.
"She just gets me so angry! ....I can't help it. And what do you mean 'let'? Shit just happens Brock." Ash said as he ran his gloved hands through his hair. "I didn't mean it.. you know I didn't mean it, right?" He said.
"I think what's important is if she knows it. You should talk to her." Brock answered.
"Talk to her? That's like jumping into a snake pit!" Ash sputtered. But he knew Brock was right. He felt bad enough already, but seeing her cry like that just made it ten times worse.
Unable to carry it in his concience anymore, he stood up. "I'll be back Brock.. I'm going to go see what I can do." He waved and walked out the door.

He thinks he's.. cursed? Why would he say that? Am I really that horrible? Misty thought to herself. She ran from the building they were in and out of sight into some secluded looking park she found after walking for a while. She didn't really know where she was, all she knew was that she didn't want to be seen by anyone.

How could he say those things to me.. ?

Misty thought again as she rested her forehead on her knees as she sat with her legs up on a bench. She meant well...she did, all she wanted was for Ash to appreciate her guidance once in a while..

"Excuse me miss, I couldn't help but wonder- what's a lovely young lady like yourself doing out here all alone?" Came a male voice.
"Hm..? Oh," Misty looked up as her thoughts became disrupted by a man, no older than 30, gazing down upon her. She really wasn't expecting anyone to find her. Surely he couldn't have been wandering out in the middle of nowhere for no reason..? But then again, she had.

"Just.. just getting some air." She said keeping her eyes averted. "Beautiful place for it." He replied. He seemed nice enough, but Misty had always been sensitive to strangers. "Not as beautiful as you, of course. Do you mind if I sit down?" He asked. And that was exactly why.
"Oh.. err.." She stuttered, but he sat down anyway. Her paranoia was increasing, as well as her breathing. She was getting scared.

Keep it cool Misty, keep it cool. She told herself.

"You know.. it's not often I find myself in the company of such an attractive woman." He drawled.
"I-is that so? She tried to sound casual, but her voice ended up coming out high pitched.
The man nodded smiling. "Very so."

Misty was really beginning to heavily regret running out earlier. Ash was being a jerk, sure, but hell.. at least she knew she was safe with him. The man now eased his elbow onto the bench and turned to her. That's when she jumped up.
"I'm sorry but I have to get going." She said.
"So soon?" He said as he got up. Who, she realized now that they were both standing, was much taller than she was.
"Wait, I don't even know your name." And the stranger was actually gripping her wrist by this point.
Misty instantly tensed, every hair on the back of her neck stood on end. She didn't have anything to back her up either, she left her Pokemon behind at the center. Smart.

"Sir, I don't mean to offend you but.. I'm just not comfortable here, I'd really prefer to leave. Please let me go." She said in what she hoped to sound polite and casual.

"Oh.. that's cute, actually. I knew I liked you. Come on, we can go to my place. It's not far from here, I promise you'll be comfortable there." He said.

"No, now please.. let me go." Misty said more sternly. But the man didn't so much as flinch. He actually started to pull her to him.
"Your not listening to me.." He hissed.
Misty pulled back quickly, fear evident in her voice.
"Stop!!" She cried, flailing her arms and legs.
"Your only making it worse.." He whispered, despite her shouts.

Meanwhile, Ash searched up and down the streets, and still.. no sign of Misty. He ran his gloved hands through his jet black locks, an act of nervousness.
"Misty!" He called out desperately.

Through the struggle to get free, she heard her name faintly being called. Ash!
Oh god.. she couldn't let it be known that she heard him, otherwise the man attempting to hold her captive would know her name.. and calling Ash to her would mean putting him in harm's way. And this man was clearly dangerous. No, she'd get away. She had to..

Ash was running now. Forms of sweat glistened across his forehead, he was scared out of his mind.
"Misty please, where are you! I'm sorry!" He called in a panic. People walking nearby turned and looked at him as though he were insane.
But Ash paid no attention. He just ran the streets back to the center.

Misty was crying by this point. She distinctly heard him call his apology to her. That gave her a bit of strength she needed to fight back.
She was kicking and clawing at every piece of the man that her nails and legs could find. She wasn't going without a fight.
"Ah ah ah.. " He said, his voice dripping with poison. Misty just tried to elbow him in the ribs this time. This only angered him.
"Watch it, princess." He spat. Then he lifted her off the ground with his arm around her neck.
"Not so flexible now, are you?" He snared.
Misty was being choked, but she refused to give up. She had never been so scared in her life. But then she got an idea, and headbutted the back of her head to his face.
This loosened his grip, causing her to fall down. But not before he snatched her up by the hair and pulled her back. Then he began to try and drag her off to god knows where, her clothes becoming tattered and torn along the way as she fought with all her strength to free herself.

Ash ran through the doors of the Pokemon center. He looked at Brock and Pikachu.
"I.. I couldn't find her.. I looked.. everywhere.." Ash panted bent down with both hands on his knees.
"Unless.. did she come back?" He asked as he lifted his head back up. But one look from Brock told him his answer.
"It's late.. she's been gone for hours Brock. I'm worried.. what if something happened to her?" He said.
For once, Brock did not carry words of comfort. This only added to Ash's level of panic.

"Okay.. just let me find officer Jenny and see what we can do." He finally said, then left in search for the cop. Ash nodded as Pikachu lept in his arms and sat in his lap.

"Pi Pikachupi Pikapi?" Where's Misty, Ash? It said.
"I don't know pal." Ash's mind began to pace. Then he buried his face in Pikachu's fur. Why had he let the argument get so out of hand? Why?
The tiny Pokemon seemed to sense it's master's distress, and placed a paw on his knee for comfort. Ash only somewhat smiled distractedly.

"Pi Pikachu.." I'm sure she's fine.
He looked away. He desperately wanted to believe so. But of course, he was jumping to the worst.
Thousands of horrific images suddenly flashed through his mind. He sat forward, and eyes shut tight, he hunched over in his seat with his elbows on his knees.
He began to rub his eyes and pinch the bridge of his nose.

Just where the hell was Brock already?

Unable to sit still, he leaned back with his palms over his eyes.

"You Ash Ketchum?" A stern voice suddenly asked, causing Ash to nearly fall off his seat in surprise. Officer Jenny. Finally!
"Yeah, I am." Ash said standing up.
"Your friend here told me about a third of you being lost." She said indicating Brock. Ash nodded.
"Well.. we don't usually handle missing persons case till it's at least it's been 24 hours." She added. Ash quickly jumped in.
"Officer please, this is my friend- we're new to this town, she could be anywhere, please-" He pleaded.
"But," Jenny said as she placed a hand up, cutting him off. "There's been a new.. threat." She said choosing her words carefully. Though she was not careful enough unfortunately, seeing that a sheer look of panic had crossed the handsome young trainer's face.

"What threat?" He said sharply. But officer Jenny only waved her hand.
"Details later. Right now, my main focus is to get your friend back." She said, and she headed for the door. Ash followed, but only to be stopped by Brock.
"Let Jenny do her job Ash. It might not be safe if you go with her." He said. But Ash only shrugged him off.

"Like hell I'm staying here. Misty is the one who might not be safe. And I'm not the type to just sit around either, you know that. I'm going." And with that, Ash turned and trailed officer Jenny.
Brock looked from the exit to the lobby of the center.
"Oh.. wait up." And he was last to follow. Nurse Joy took it upon herself to care for Pikachu while they set off.

Jenny whipped out a flashlight and began to search the streets.
Oblivious to the looks of mild surprise from onlookers of his hurry, Ash raced up and set off past her.

"Hold it young man! You shouldn't even be allowed to come with me and you just jump ahead? I don't think so, get back here." Jenny ordered. He only reluctantly agreed and heeded her command. He then went to unclip a pokeball to get his pokemon to help their search, but was stopped again.

"No Pokemon either." She said walking ahead.
"What? Why not?" Ash asked with an edge. Jenny raised an eyebrow.
"Because I ordered you not to. Now do as I say, not as I do." She said.

Gritting his teeth, he kept walking in line behind her with Brock. "I understand your worried for your friend, but don't worry. I'll make sure we find her." Jenny then said softly. She flipped on her flashlight as they began to enter a darker part of the town covered with underbrush. Brock nodded in silent agreement. And so, they quickened their step.

Misty was fighting with every ounce of strength she had in her. She doesn't go down without a fight, hell no. And this asshole was pissing her off. His grip was around her neck again as he began to drag her off in a second attempt. Her airway was becoming heavily constricted, but then Misty suddenly saw something bright flashing toward her. Was she having a near death experience?

This is it.. she thought. I'm dying...

"M.. Misty? ..Oh shit, Misty!!" A voice rang out. Ash... Ash? Despite her current position, she snapped back into focus. Which was difficult to do when you had a death grip around you.
"Hold it right there!" Another voice came. The light.. it.. it was a flashlight.. and sure enough, she could see officer Jenny. She was holding up the flashlight in their direction with one arm, and holding Ash back from causing an uproar to the man choking her with the other.
"Misty, oh god.. are you okay? Say something!" This time it was Brock who spoke. Ash however raised his gaze to her captor.
"Get the FUCK OFF OF HER!!" He shouted making a furious attempt to free himself, but only to be held back. But by Brock this time.
The two boys held a look of pure murder on their faces to the man behind her.
Jenny looked.. well, a little less than pleased.

"Release the girl!" She ordered. Misty flailed helplessly and tried to throw him off, but to no avail. What was she thinking? He was at least twice her size.
"Misty.. " Ash mouthed.

But then she felt something cold and sharp press against her face. And silver..

"Drop the knife!!" Jenny shouted. Seeing this, Ash's demeanor changed just as quickly as Brock's had earlier to nurse Joy. He clenched his fists.
"NO! Please.. please don't hurt her!! I'll do anything, just please, please don't take her from me!"
The man only smirked at his pleas. Hearing Ash's words had touched Misty, despite the current situation. That's when she tried to free herself again.

Ash was about to attack when the man spoke.

"Ah ah ah.. take another step and your next move will be her last breath!" And as if to accentuate his point, he pressed the object to her throat.
Ash, Jenny and Brock all had looks of panic cross their faces. Misty however was refraining from showing any signs of fear; she wasn't about to let him have the upper hand.
Ash seemed to be thinking along these lines too, because almost an instant later, he recovered and faced them.

"Your only furthering yourself in deeper trouble by doing this. Let her go, or I will be forced to take drastic action." Jenny warned. Ash would have given anything he owned to take back her words.

"So will I." The man threatened twirling the silver dagger between his fingers. Ash looked away, his mind in a state of frenzy. He couldn't take this. Couldn't take seeing Misty in such a dangerous place. He realized that he would do anything it took to get her out of here. Even if that meant putting his life in danger.
Ash wracked his brain tremendously hard for a way to get her safely out of this.

"Ash," Misty suddenly choked out. His head snapped up at once hearing her speak for the first time.
"Do us all a favor and send this crazy bastard straight to hell!" She stuttered. Ash almost smiled at Misty's words. But that moment ended almost as quickly as it came, for the man now lifted her off the ground.

Ash couldn't take it anymore, and dropped to his knees in despair.
"Please.. she's everything I've got. I.. I can't do without her. Please let her go.." He voice trailed as his shoulder shook.

"This is touching, really. But she should have thought of that before she made things difficult." Said the stranger. And still in his iron grip, he turned as if he were about to make a break for it.

Misty's surge of confidence was also extinguished as this happened. She couldn't help the small, fearful cry that escaped her.
And it was that cry that did it. Not only for Ash, but for Brock and Jenny too. They had had enough.
If they didn't do something, he was going to choke her to death!

Ash would never stand by and see one of his friends die. That in mind, and despite his threats, they bolted forward in one swift movement. The man jumped back in surprise. This lowered his handle grip on the knife, luckily catching him off guard. He wasn't expecting this. They weren't lucky enough, however.

Just seconds away before he was tackled to the ground, he took the knife and plunged it into Misty's back. At this, she let out an earsplitting scream as she lost all balance.

"Misty!" Brock shouted. "NO!!" Ash launched himself forward stretching out his arms, and caught Misty just before she hit the ground. Looking from one deathly scene to the other, Brock quickly helped Jenny cuff the criminal.

Ash though quickly took Misty away from the chaos and cradled her tiny frame in his arms. His hands were coated in a warm substance that he knew instantly to be blood.
"No no no.. no, Misty talk, say something!" Ash pleaded. But to his horror, nothing was said. Misty was beginning to sweat profusely.
"Call an ambulance!" Ash cried. But he was only met with the sound of a phone being snapped closed.

"Done." It was Brock. Jenny had the man cuffed in seconds and now had her team of trained Growlithe on the spot surrounding him from every angle. He wasn't going anywhere.

He quickly kneeled next to Ash looking at Misty. "You'll be okay Misty, just please hang on," Ash said. Brock too was uttering words of comfort to her, but the mad pounding of his heart drained out of what was being said.

With a painful realization, they noticed that the knife was still lodged in her back. Ash looked at Brock helplessly.
Seeing this, Brock gently eased Misty so that the front of her was pressed into Ash. He quickly caught on, and placed his fingers around the knife. Ash tried to steady himself as best he could.

"Misty I'm so sorry.." He whispered as he shook off inevitable tears. Ash then took the knife and pulled it out of her back as fast as possible. Misty cried out as he did so, causing physical pain to course through Ash's heart. He pressed his hands over the wound to desperately try and stop the blood flow.

That was when Misty began to shake. "A..sh.. " She choked out. He snapped himself back to focus at once. "I'm here, I'm right here Misty, you'll be okay- it's not even that bad, you'll-" He began to soothe, but was cut off.
"I'm n.. not going t-to.. make it.." Her breathing was becoming labored.
"Yes you will! Don't you say that!!" He said fiercely. Brock squeezed one of her hands.
"Yes you will Misty, you just have to fight okay? Please, you have to fight!" He said.

"I'm s.. sorry.." Misty began to cry. She was really beginning to feel herself slip away.

"NO! You have never apologized to me a day in your life and don't you dare start now!" Ash choked out.

At this, Misty actually smiled. "S... sm.. smartass.." she breathed. Tears formed in Ash's eyes seeing this. He smiled too, but it was more for Misty's sake. This was when he began to breakdown.

He just shook his head.
"No. No, your going to make it dammit, do you hear me?! I won't let this happen to you.. not here, not now, not ever!" He said furiously. Misty only looked at him apologetically as Brock placed a hand on his shoulder.

But Ash retracted from him as though he were burned.
"Don't! You'll be okay, you'll be okay.. please you've got to be okay!" Ash leaned down burying his face in her hair. Tears began to flow freely now into her fire engine colored red locks. Brock began to shed silent tears of his own.

It was then that the blaring sound of sirens could be heard. Brock quickly stood up wiping his face and raced to lead the paramedics to the scene.

"See Misty, they're here, they're here and they're going to help you okay? I promise, just please, please stay with me," Ash mustered up in as strong a voice as he could.

"She's here, please be careful!" Brock emerged back with a team of paramedics, equipment and all. Ash realized he was shaking as they carefully removed Misty from his hold and onto the stretcher.

Brock went back to inform Jenny what was happening and asked if he should stay, but she assured him she had the situation handled.

Misty was now eased up into the ambulence. Seeing this, Ash jumped in right beside her. Brock was in also just moments later.
The siren could be heard again as they sped toward the hospital.

Her breathing was becoming steadily worse, both boys noticed noticed in a panic. "We're almost there Misty, come on.. " Ash whispered.
After what felt like an eternity, the ambulance finally came to a stop and the back doors opened. Brock and Ash fled the vehicle as they wheeled out Misty. The team helping her to the hospital doors were so quick that they had to run to keep up. Ash tried to follow them into the E.R but was held back.

"I'm sorry young man, but that area is off limits. You'll have to wait out there." A nurse had told him. Ash's heart was racing. He had no choice but to wait.

He took a seat next to Brock and rested his elbows on his knees with his forehead in his hands.
Brock looked on in sympathy as he took in the sight of his best friend looking more worn than he had ever seen him.

He was having a mixture of feelings at once. Anger, worry, compassion.. and all for different people. He had to give Ash credit though. He handled the situation swiftly, and fiercely.. yet with passion and concern. And a fragile situation it was even. He admired that.

"It's my fault you know." Ash suddenly said in a hushed tone, disrupting Brock from his thoughts.
He leaned forward.

"No Ash, it isn't. It was one of those wrong place- wrong time scenario's." He said quietly. Ash only lifted his head and looked at him in disbelief.

"No it's not, how can you say that? I've done this, I'm the one who drove her here!" He shouted. More weird looks.
Brock put a hand on his shoulder.
"This isn't your fault Ash. You can't control things like this. What happened was awful, yes, but it wasn't because of you."
"Don't Brock. This IS my fault." Ash said as he swiped his friend's hand off his shoulder.

"You said it yourself earlier, Ash. Shit happens." Brock said more sternly this time. He was right. But still. Ash only muttered an apology and held his head in his hands. Brock, being the wise leader of the trio, nodded in understanding. He placed a hand on his shoulder again in an attempt for support.

That's when officer Jenny walked in. Both boys looked up. "He's taken care of. He'll never be heard from again." They nodded.
But then Ash spoke.
"Who was he?"

"A predator. One that moves from city to city. He disappears after he's had about two victims. He evacuates quickly so no one will catch him. He thought that if he was fast enough, no one would have time to gather any information about him."

Ash just leaned back and looked away. "That's disgusting." He said. Brock looked livid too.

"It gets worse." She said. Both boys looked her way. "What?" They both asked in unison.
She took a seat and went on.

"Apparently, he doesn't let himself be seen. Most criminals don't, but this one was especially tough to spot out. He's tortured young girls before, and has even killed." She continued.

Ash and Brock both swore out loud.

Jenny nodded warily. "The reason he was caught so quickly this time around was because he comes around every five years or so so police can never eyeball the pattern." She paused.
"You know.. day in and day out as a cop, you get used to stories like these. But that doesn't make it any less horrific." Jenny added.

Brock was fuming, and Ash was clenching and unclenching his fists without even realizing it. The story had affected them deeply. Brock, being the caretaker and big brother type to his two younger friends, thought this out to be just unforgivable. And then there's Ash, who was the more protective one of the trio. He always made sure they were safe. And now..

Jenny just nodded, understanding their feelings. But then she wore a rare look of sympathy.
"But he's caught now.. and.. how's your friend?" She asked in a soft tone deciding to drop the subject. Ash glanced at Brock then returned his gaze to the floor once again.
"We don't know yet." He mumbled.

"I'm truly sorry for what happened." She said sincerely.
"Thank you.." Both boys muttered.

"Well.. I should get going. Take care and I wish nothing than the best for your friend." And with that, Jenny stood and departed.

"That psycho son of a bitch.." Ash swore quietly under his breath after a minute.
"I'll have him.. mark my words.. he'll pay for what he did to her.." he breathed.

"Ash, careful, this guy sounds like a real lunatic from everything I've heard so far-" Brock said.
"Careful? He's lucky if I don't kill him! Because you know that that's what his intentions were. To kill.. " But he wouldn't finish his sentence. He couldn't. The reality of how serious the situation is was still hard to grasp.
The absence of Misty made him realize quite a bit.

The last thing he said to her was that he was cursed to have her around.. he had never loathed himself more in his life. He never said anything so awful, so.. untrue in his life. If only he could have just one last chance with her.. but then he shook his head. He can't start thinking like that. Ash knew he'd lose his sanity if he did. He was having enough difficulty already with trying to keep his composure.

Unable to swim to his thoughts any longer, he stood up and went to the front desk asking how much longer the news of Misty would be kept from them.
His answer only disappointed him as he slumped back into his chair.

Brock remained silent however. It was evident that no news had come up. He sat painfully still for the next 10 minutes.
Then for the next hour, Ash was either pacing or running his hands through his hair stressfully.

Until finally at long last, a tall doctor wearing a white lab coat came out.
"Ash... Ketchum?" He said as he folded back papers on a clipboard he was holding. No sooner had he spoken that Ash was up front and center.

"Yes," He said in a rush. The doctor swung his gaze to Brock, who was now on the other side of Ash.
"And you must be Brock Slate. My name is Dr. Whitman. You both brought in Misty Waterflower, correct?" He said.
"Yes, please- how is she?" Ash blurted. The doctor lowered his papers, and withdrew his black rimmed glasses in his hand.
Ash's stare was penetrating, yet pleading. Brock seemed to be holding his breath.

"Your friend sustained severe injuries. There's been minor accounts of blood loss, and scar tissue has been damaged." He said.
Ash's heart was pounding.
"But will she be okay?" Brock spoke for him. The doctor looked from one to the other. "She will be just fine." He concluded with a soft smile. There was a soft thump as Ash leaned back against the wall for support. The news of Misty actually surviving this had nearly caused him to faint with relief.

Brock shook Dr. Whitman's hand and thanked him. That's when the doctor took the end of his glasses and put the tip of it into the side of his mouth.
"I have to say though, it was very.. interesting she pulled through." he said.
"Leave it to Misty to be stubborn under even hospital care," Ash laughed lightly. He smiled for the first time that day.
"It's really very remarkable though. Most stab wounds to the back result in fatalities. The worst places to get considerable blows to the body include the chest, abdomen, legs and back. I've seen many cases before, but this.. this was something. " He finished.
Brock and Ash listened closely.

"Are.. are you saying she could have died?" Ash asked quietly. The doctor paused for a moment.
"She almost did." He said. Ash looked away as he felt the color drain from his face.
Seeing this, the doctor quickly added; "But she will be fine, she made it through the surgery and just needs time to recover."

He nodded. "Can we see her?" He asked.
"One of you may. But only for a little while, because as I said, she needs time to recover."
Ash looked over to Brock. "Get out of here." He smiled softly. "You sure?" Ash said.
Brock nodded. "You go, I'll stay."

Ash turned to the doctor.
"Okay, right this way." He led him to the room as Brock took the opposite direction.

"Doctor.. thank you. I meant to say so earlier." Ash stated as he followed Dr. Whitman to Misty's room. He simply waved his hand.
"I understand. I've had people faint before, it's actually quite common. Sometimes the news of a loved one surviving what would most likely lead to bad news, can come to fainting spells of relief. Nothing to worry of though."
"It's like that old saying.. you never know what you've got till it's gone. I'm grateful that that's not the case today though."
"You and me both." Ash answered.
Then they stopped outside of a door that he had to assume led to Misty.

"She is asleep however. But you may go." Dr. Whitman adjusted the door handle, gently pushed it open leaving it ajar.
He then turned and left.

Ash slowly started forward,.. and stepped in. Misty lay before his eyes, asleep as the doctor had said. He failed to mention she would be wired to machines though. He suddenly felt his chest grow tight, alerting his attention back to focus. He closed the door and made his way to the side of the bed where she would face him.

His eyes wavered on the motionless form before him.

He had always seen her asleep, countless times.. but never with any hospital attachments at her side. But as long as she was alive and this was all he had to see.. so be it.

Ash then reached out a gloved hand to hold hers. Her hand against his fingertips were icy to the touch, though he didn't retract his grasp. For a few moments, he said nothing. Just simply gazed at his red headed best friend through his piercing Auburn eyes.

Never in all his life had he thought she would be in such a situation.. but who would? Fate today had taught him a dangerous lesson. Valuable, but dangerous.

"Misty.." Ash breathed out through his lips, hand still enclosed upon hers. She didn't respond, but he didn't expect her to. After several moments, he spoke.

"I.. I don't know what to say.. or where to even start," He half whispered to her.
"I know you can't hear me.. or maybe you can.. I don't know. All I know is that I have to say this.." He added.
"I.. Misty, I.. I'm so sorry.. for everything. For all this, you wouldn't be here if I wasn't such an ass to you.. I'm just.. sorry.."
He felt that tightening sensation in his chest again.

"And.. I never meant what I said to you.. I wish I could take it back. I do need you.. all the time, everywhere I go. And now your hurt because of me.." He began to say in a rush.

"I promise things will be different when you wake up. And.. Misty.. you have no idea what I'd give to hear you yelling at me right now for being a careless twit," Ash laughed softly. He felt just the smallest bit of pressure lift from his chest at that. He could almost picture her rolling her eyes at his remark. Her beautiful, cerulean eyes that Ash couldn't wait to see again.

But then felt an unfamiliar tug at his heart. Where had that come from?
Dr. Whitman's words from earlier suddenly rang in his mind.

"You never know what you've got till it's gone..."

Ash shook his head. He didn't know what the hell that came from.. must have been his emotions in a jumble from the mess from earlier. That had to be it.
Misty was his best friend after all, so naturally he cared about her.

...Right? ...Ugh.

He didn't doubt that he cared for her.. but he was questioning his heart whether it may be something more.

I'm a guy, I shouldn't stress over this. Especially now.. I can't fathom these thoughts.

But just then, a Chansey made it's way inside disrupting his reverie and pressed a hand to Misty's forehead. It perked up satisfied, it strode out and left.

Ash took this a good sign and smiled.
"Good.. I knew you'd pull through this. You have to Misty.. you can't leave me alone to deal with Brock's nutcase behavior with nurse Joy by myself," He laughed softly.

"I heard that." Came Brock's voice from the doorway. He was leaning to the side with his arms crossed. But a soft smile was visible when he spoke. Seconds later, nurse Joy found her way inside.
"I'm sorry young man, but she must be left alone now." She whispered gently. Though Ash would have gladly slept in the chair overnight, he obeyed and stood up.

He cast one last glance back to the redhead he met at the pond all those years ago. An idea struck him just before he left, and he removed the jacket he was wearing, and placed it over her sleeping form. Ash then made his way out with Brock, nurse Joy closing the door behind them.

Unbeknownst to them however, the cerulean eyes of that redheaded girl blinked open.

That morning.
Ash could barely sleep. He must have snuck into Misty's room at least 6 times. He shifted in his seat and sat up.
Moments later, he saw Brock stride in carrying a coffee. He smiled broadly.
"Guess who's awake." He said, not really indicating it to be a question.
Ash jumped up instantly, alerting his electric pokemon in the process.
"Pika?" It's ears twitched.
Brock waved his hand, not even needing hear what was going to be said.
"Yes go, go." He said taking a seat down by Pikachu.

Ash nearly tripped making his way to Misty's room. He finally made it to the door and knocked. "Come in," Came the voice of her.
He let the soft, subtle sound of it sink in before he entered.

Once inside, he couldn't take his eyes off of her. "Hey," She smiled somewhat nervously at him, and strangely, that made him want to fall over. He crossed over to her bed slowly, never taking his eyes away. Afraid if he did that she would disappear. Misty looked up at him. And without a word, Ash just leaned down and wrapped her up tight in his arms. This made Misty's heart skip. She closely hugged him back wanting nothing more then for him to just stay there.

He was then physically urging her to let him support her. Realizing this with no words spoken, Misty gave in and literally let Ash hold her up. And he did, careful of course that he didn't brush against her injury. They both breathed in the others hair, just happy to be in eachother's presence. It wasn't awkward like Misty feared it to be. It was more of a silent understanding of just how much one meant to the other.

Then Ash spoke softly into her hair.
"It's nice to see you with your eyes open." He whispered. This made Misty only grip him tighter. She didn't need to say anything, he well understood.
"And I'm so glad your okay," Ash breathed into her hair. At this, Misty began to ramble on about how stupid she was to run off. "Shh." He soothed. His own gentle nature with how he was handling her was slightly surprising to him, but it came naturally. He then lowered her gently back against the pillows to look in her eyes.
She looked so.. vulnerable to him. Ash suddenly wanted to take it upon himself to ensure that nothing like this would ever happen again. There were so many things on his mind he wanted to say to her that he didn't know where to start.
He nervously traced a finger over the nearest pokeball on his belt before he began, and sat next to her.

"Misty, god, I'm so s-"
"No, don't." She said cutting across him. Ash blinked. "It's not your fault.. I know you think it is, but it isn't." Misty said.
"How did you..?" "I heard you.. last night. I was awake.. I heard it all." She added.
"That.. was one of the sweetest things I've ever heard you say," She muttered blushing. Ash didn't quite know what to say. He was beginning to feel flustered at this point.
"I meant what I said." He said once he found his voice.
"I hope so.. I really love yelling at you," She teased. Ash just laughed.

Just then Brock opened the door. "I just got the OK to bail. Nurse Joy said we can leave whenever." He smiled.
"Heh, sure you don't want to stay Brock? Here your free to frenzy all you want," Misty laughed.
"Tough choice. You wouldn't have a chance to rip my ear off in here.."
"Not true, if we're allowed to leave that means I can get up and do as I please." She said grinning.
Ash raised a hand to the back of his black locks.
"Misty, your crazy." He said amused.

"Not as crazy as nurse Joy actually talking to Brock," Misty teased smiling.
"She did! No bullshit, she did." Brock countered.
"And what could she possibly have to say? I thought the last nurse Joy's would have warned her about you by now.."
Brock scowled. "Yeah well that last Joy actually made a comment about you both being a couple." He smirked. He thoroughly enjoyed the look on Ash and Misty's faces at this. What surprised him though was that they didn't contradict him right away as usual.

"Anyway.. Pikachu ended up chasing a Chansey down the hall.. I think he's getting bored. I'll be back for you both," Brock said as he exited the room.

Ash and Misty were both a furious shade of red.

"So uh.. " Ash spoke into the silence.
"Kill Brock once we leave?"
"Yes." They laughed.
Misty then sat up slowly and began to remove Ash's jacket from her shoulders.

"Thank you for this too, I-"
"You don't have to take it off." Ash said stopping her. She settled back into it. "And Ash.. "
He looked up. He suddenly became very aware of how close they were.
"Thank you.. for saving me." Misty said twisting her hands in her lap. He shook his head.
"You wouldn't have needed saving if I hadn't said all those things.."
It was Misty's turn to shake her head.

Ash was mere inches away from her face by now.

"Before you can stop me, please let me say this- I really am so sorry. I know you heard this already but now that I know your awake, I just want you to know, again, that.. that.. that dammit, I need you. I'd be a hopeless wandering nutcase if I didn't have you with me. Just.. just please be there to always keep me in line Misty. I'm too used it.. I don't tell you enough and.. just,.. I-"

And Misty suddenly did something so unexpected and kissed him right on the lips, stopping his sentence short.
Ash's eyes went wide with surprise. But he closed them and found himself kissing her right back almost an instant later.

Once he got over the initial shock of what was happening, he gently eased her to him and lifted a gloved hand to hold her face while the other tangled in her hair.
Misty leaned forward wrapping her arms around his neck.

I can't believe this is happening, she thought to herself.

She loved the way her heart was beating as fast as it was. And Ash was stronger than she realized, he'd been holding her up the whole time.

"I'll never let anything happen to you again." He suddenly whispered in a hush against her lips.
Misty pressed her mouth against his lips once more in a kiss he at once returned.
"This doesn't get you off the hook for me to not yell at you, ya know." She smiled against him.
Ash raised an eyebrow smiling back.
"We'll see about that." He said purposely deepening his voice. He leaned in taking her breath away with another mind blasting lip lock.

Little did they know that Brock had been witness to the last few seconds of the scene.
He had come back to announce Pikachu was back but instead quietly closed the door grinning to himself, only to run into nurse Joy.

"All set to go?" she asked.
"I think we'll need a few more minutes." Brock answered smiling.

A/N: Pheeeew! So sorry it's been a while since I've updated. Just been in a sea of distractions! .
But, I hope you all enjoyed the story. =]
Please make my day, and leave a comment! ^.^