Metronome - Chapter 11

They had practically reached the edge of the forest, but it was just too dark to continue safely. They were all exhausted, and they had no way to defend themselves if they should happen to run into anything. It agitated the two to no end, but it was necessary they stop for the night.

Nokomis had somehow slept the whole trip, and even when they slid her into Ash's sleeping bag, she didn't stir. Ash was actually a bit relieved. He had thought earlier that Nokomis was seriously hurt, but apparently she just slept like a rock when she was truly tired. That was all well and good in his opinion; at this rate, she wouldn't be up and hungry until they got to Pewter tomorrow, and with their food supply practically depleted, Ash hoped for her sake that's what happened.

Nevertheless, when he and Nikola set about divvying up the two remaining sandwiches, he'd set the last one to the side for if and when Nokomis did finally wake up, and tore a piece off the other before handing it to Nikola. He could live a day without food. He'd done it a few times before on the road after they'd left Brock, seeing as he wasn't very good at planning meals in advanced. Nikola gave him a look, but didn't argue as she tore into the sandwich. They were huddled around a small fire Ash had managed to build. He'd found that fire scared away more of the pokemon in the forests, or at least kept them far enough away to avoid confrontation. Besides that, it was rather chilly out – more so than usual—and with the sleeping bag taken by Nokomis, there wasn't much to keep the two warm.

"Well, I know one thing that could keep us warm," Ash thought, sneaking a peek at the blond across the fire. She looked gorgeously tan with the orange glow of the flames on her face and arms, and her breasts bounced in rhythm with her enthusiastic chewing rather suggestively beneath the dark fabric of his t-shirt…

Immediately Ash felt guilty. Nikola didn't think of him that way – she was his friend, and a pokemon at that!

"But she's not a pokemon now," he mentally argued with himself, "and what about the other day? She kissed you didn't she?"

Ash shook his head hard, trying to clear the confusion away. Arguing with himself was pointless-- Nikola was Nikola, his friend, human or pokemon, and their mission at the moment was finding Nokomis' parents.

"None of that involves having…" he stole another glance at Nikola, who was meticulously sucking the last of the peanut butter from each of her slim fingers, one-by-one, "…relations."

This prompted another vigorous shake of the head from Ash, and when he opened his eyes, he found Nikola staring at him, the peanut butter all gone.

"Is everything okay?" she practically whispered. Ash saw a shiver go through her, and wondered how cold she was in that t-shirt. If only he had more than one jacket. He only had one and he was wea-

What an idiot he was! He quickly stripped off his jacket, standing and shuffling around the fire to Nikola. The night air hit his arms with a brisk whip of coolness, and he cursed himself for not realizing this sooner. What a fool he was! No wonder Misty hadn't ever wanted to go out with him; not that he'd asked… but still, not even a sign from her.

He wrapped the coat around Nikola's shoulders, and plopped down next to her. It was one motion altogether, but it seemed Nikola that it took quite a long time. Nikola felt a tingling sensation at the top of her head, and it reminded her vaguely of the other day when they'd first entered the woods together. She smiled, and brought her knees up to her chest.

"Everything's fine," she heard Ash say next to her, "except for the fact that I'm an idiot. I should have known you were cold. I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize," she mumbled into her knees, not wanting to look him in the eyes for some reason she couldn't quite understand, "I was fine. Now you'll be cold. Take your coat back."

But no, she didn't really want him to take it back. Not only was the combined heat of the coat and her now-blushing body shooing away the cool air of the night, but the smell of him surrounding her within the fabric of the thin jacket was exhilarating. There was nothing in the world that would change her feelings on this matter, except for Ash's own admission of wanting the jacket back, and so Nikola didn't argue when she heard him reply.

"I want you to wear it. I'll survive, trust me."

She just stayed quiet. They sat that way for a while, watching their breath fan out in front of them and merge effortlessly into the smoke and heat of the fire. It was a comfortable silence. When two bodies had been together as long as they'd been, silence became almost as natural and meaningful as conversation. They both heaved a large sigh, happy to be off their feet.

After a bit, Ash felt himself unconsciously inching closer to the heat. He stretched out his legs, eager to get his feet as near as possible to the warmth of the fire. With this motion, his arms spread out and rose above him, reaching upwards to grab the stars. His eyes closed in this relaxed moment, and it wasn't until he'd begun lowering his bare arms he realized that Nikola had scooted up and into his body. Her head nestled under his chin. He brought his hand around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him. His chin rested atop her head.

"Ash," Nikola said quietly, "We're going to find Nokomis' father right?"

"Mmm-hmm," he hummed reassuringly.

"I just feel so close to her," Nikola mumbled, "Like I've known her since she was born."

Above Nikola, Ash's eyes widened a tad. He'd felt the same exact way—like everything revolved around Nokomis and her happiness. He realized only now that he'd felt miserable until Nokomis had acknowledge him as a comrade earlier, and that he hadn't felt right about leaving the young girl until he'd been sure she was comfortable and warm in his sleeping bag, and how he'd saved the last sandwich for her, even with his own stomach howling at the moon like a lonely houndoom. He had felt like she was something small and frail he needed to protect; almost like she was her little sister.

A shiver passed through him, and for the first time that night, it wasn't because of the cold. Nikola shifted beneath his arm, so Ash moved it. She pulled back, daring to look in his eyes now, even if the feeling in her mind discouraged it viciously for some unknown reason.

"Hmmm?" Ash said nonchalantly, his heart began to race, "What's up Nikola?"

"You're cold," she said, a pout appearing on her cute little lips, "you need your jacket."

Ash shook his head, his eyes remaining on her slender face.

"You're fibbing," she countered, "Don't lie to me-- I've known you long enough to know when you're fibbing."

She spread her arms, opening the jacket wide, and pressed herself against his arm. Ash cringed as he felt the soft, warm flesh of Nikola's breasts press against him. Her arms encircled him as best they could, and clamped down, covering half the boy and managing to press Nikola even tighter to his body.

"Nikola, I-"

"No!" she huffed into his shoulder, "I'm not letting go until you admit it!"

"But-"

"No buts!"

Ash sighed. The situation was getting dire. He needed to use a secret attack.

"I wonder," he thought slyly, his free hand moving around towards Nikola's back, "if she's still ticklish there…"

His hand reached the middle of her back and began scratching, and a sudden yelp answered his question. He laughed, feeling Nikola's grip loosen as she giggled manically into his shoulder. She wiggled and squirmed, but the tickling became too much, and all at once Ash felt a nip on his shoulder. It wasn't hard, but it surprised him, and he tumbled to the side, out of Nikola's grip.

Nikola rolled back at this release, still giggling foolishly, and pulling the coat around her. She landed on her back and let the laughing take its toll while she looked up at the sky. The clouds shifted gracefully, and the stars peeked out behind them, shy all of a sudden now that they knew someone was looking. Ash fell back and on his side. The same view of the stars greeted him from above. He smiled, truly happy for the first time all day.

It was only a moment before Nikola's playful and happy face slid slowly into view, blotting out the stars; that was okay with Ash though. Her eyes and body were much more interesting then the stars at the moment.

She was leaning over him, and with one somewhat graceful movement, she threw her leg over Ash's body and straddled him. It was meant to be a playful movement—pikachu tended to assume this position for play-sparring when truly excited, and Nikola was most definitely excited right now—but it turned into something bigger the moment she did it. Ash felt her legs against the sides of his thighs, her hair tickling his face, her stubborn, gorgeous blue eyes looking into his with the playfulness of the pikachu he'd known for so long. He grinned in what Nikola was surprised to find was a rather bashful manner. His arms splayed out on either side of him, unsure what to do and therefore useless.

Nikola was coursing with energy at the moment. When she was small, the best she could do about the damn tickling was bolt away or submit to the giggles. Now she had Ash pinned—time for revenge.

"So Ash," she growled, "Are you ticklish? Let's find out!"

She let her weight back onto her knees and brought her hands to his side, wiggling her fingers all the while. He jerked at the sensation, almost knocking Nikola over, but she stayed upright and kept right on tickling the boy.

"N-n-nikola! Puh-puh-" Ash pleaded, but he couldn't get the words out, as they were now distorted by uncontrollable laughter. His eyes were clamped shut, and tears streamed out. Nikola was enjoying this thoroughly. She didn't notice Ash's hands coming up to wrap around her wrists until a second too late.

He pulled her arms outward, and she found herself losing balance almost instantly and falling forwards into Ash's chest. She squirmed, but he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her to him in an irritatingly pleasurable fashion.

"Nuh-uh," Ash gasped, short on breath, but still laughing, "I'm not letting you go until you calm down a bit."

Nikola squirmed some more but finally lay still, feeling the energetic excitement slowly fading. Her breathing slowed down, and she brought her arms in under the jacket, pulling Ash's hands along with them to rest under her breasts. When she was finally settled down, she risked a glance at Ash. He was looking down at her, his breath for the most part back in him.

"I'm not ticklish," he grinned.

Nikola frowned at him, so he let go of her wrists, and brought his hands back to lay behind his head.

"Okay, maybe just a little," he confessed, looking back up at the sky.

Nikola stared at him, and suddenly she felt the tingling sensation creeping over the back of her neck and taking its customary spot at the top of her head. She tucked her face into her hands, surprising herself as the scent of Ash's being enveloped her one again. She sniffed a little, and shifted her nose this way and that against his chest to bring forth more of the scent. It was very strong, and Nikola felt the tingling sensation spreading—something it hadn't consciously done before now.

"Hey," Ash laughed quietly, "I thought the tickle fight was over. C'mon Nikola, what's up with you?"

But Nikola wasn't listening. The smell was overtaking her mind right now. It reminded her of so many things. Of hot summer nights, licking the sweat from Ash's neck; of cool fall mornings when she'd sit grooming herself near his sleeping bag as she watched the sunrise, waiting for him to wake up; of winter days in which the only way to while away the gloomy sit-ins at the centers during snowstorms was to have tickle-wars and play card games—it was all so overwhelming. She grabbed at him, tugging at his shirt, hoping to pull him closer.

"Hey, Nik-"

His words were cut short by two perfect lips pressed against his own.

"Mmmmm-pfh!" he cried, thoroughly shocked. His arms wrapped around Nikola, pulling her into him as he sat up, before pushing her back. He immediately regretted it.

"Kaaaa," Nikola breathed, falling back. Her eyes were shut, but now they opened slowly, worried about what expression she'd find on Ash's face.

The blur of his head came into focus. His hat was knocked askew, reminding her of an almost identical situation that had occurred not two full days before, back when she'd still been a pokemon. The look on his face was rather blank. He wasn't angry, that was good. He didn't look too happy either-- just extremely confused.

"N-n-nikola. Did you just…" Ash's breathing was speeding up, "Did you just kiss me?"

Nikola didn't quite know how to respond to this. Was he asking a serious question? Of course she'd just kissed him-- and she was already starting to regret it. She wasn't sure what had come over her, but what she did know was that right now the tingling sensation had spread to her entire body, and for the first time since it had arrived, she felt a sort of peace and acceptance of it.

"Sorry?" she offered halfheartedly.

Sorry? This gorgeous girl had just kissed him, and all she had to say was 'sorry'?! Ash was feeling faint. Nothing was making sense.

"Ash?" Nikola questioned, but he didn't seem to hear her, as he was now on the verge of hyperventilating in front of her, so she quickly leaned forward and kissed him again. This one managed to surprise Ash even more so than the first. He pushed her back once again, once again regretting his decision.

"Why do you keep doing that?!" he practically shouted at her. She flinched, and Ash felt his heart skip a beat. "Look," he continued, a bit calmer now, "you can't just kiss people. It's just weird…"

"Why?" she demanded, and Ash was taken aback by her tone of voice, "Why can't I kiss you?"

"B-b-becau-"

"All this time," she interrupted him, obviously not caring what his reply may be, "I've been in love with you for so long, and I finally get my one true wish and you… you…"

Her blue eyes overflowed as her cheeks sparked noticeably into the night. Ash was rather confused right now. Things were taking a turn for the worse rather quickly.

"You love me?!" he sputtered.

"Y-y-yes," Nikola stuttered through her tears. Her hands were rubbing at her eyes now, trying in vain to stop the tears, and instead rubbing her cornflower hair into her crimson cheeks. Ash had never seen anything so sad and beautiful at once. "Of c-c-course I love you! Where would I be without you?"

"But Nikola," he countered, incredulous, "Nikola, you're my friend, and my pokem-"

"Don't say it!" she hissed, her hands flying down, leaving her eyes free to glare at him with a new passion, her hair flew about her face in an eerie way, moved by a seemingly invisible force, "I know! I know! Don't think your mother didn't tell me plenty of times. I'm a pokemon. I'm a moronic, uncivilized, useless pokemon. I was a useless princess, a useless girl, and now I'm a useless pokemon—especially now." The last sentence was said with such spite and disdain, Ash felt his skin crawl.

Instantly Nikola's eyes softened, her hair fell down gently into place, "But you never saw me that way, did you?"

Ash shook his head, slowly. He'd never thought of her that way, and from this point on would make a point of never ever doing so.

"And that," she finished quietly, "along with a million other reasons, is why I love you."

They sat there for a moment. Ash was dumbfounded, and Nikola felt herself joining him as what she had just screamed into the forest registered in her mind.

Ash was starting to notice the cold seeping through his (lack of) thoughts, when all at once Nikola tried to stand. Tried, but failed, as her legs were terribly cramped, and walking all day, coupled with the tickle fight, had all but drained the last of her energy. God only knew how much of her energy this emotional strain in and of itself was zapping. She fell forward with a moan that resembled a sigh, and Ash caught her. Her head fell onto his shoulder. He cringed at the pain in his arm, but didn't move as she began sobbing into his shirt. Instead, he hugged her tighter, and she obliged by drawing herself up closer to him willingly.

He gave her a few minutes to cry. They were racking sobs—she'd just told him something she'd been waiting years to share; something that had stayed in the back of her mind the entire two weeks at his mother's home, even when all other thoughts had fallen away; something she'd never imagined she'd ever be able to relay to him in a way he'd understand or reciprocate. And now she was sure he thought her a fool. Indeed, she felt herself a fool; it was foolish to think that simply having had her body changed would make Ash feel like her the way she felt about him.

Ash, meanwhile, was starting to feel like the biggest jerk in the world. This was the second time in one day he'd made Nikola cry. Starting out this journey, he'd been excited about the lack of emotional input he'd have to provide—at least until they reached Misty. Now, it was becoming rather clear that he was going to have to swallow his pride, and start expressing himself, or else Nikola was going to start automatically assuming the worse. He wasn't quite sure what he should say to Nikola, so whilst she was crying, he took a moment to consider the situation.

Ash had always interacted with Nikola as a human would with a pikachu. Even today, he'd been going off what he knew of her from that form, and not how he would have reacted with another human. Had Misty tried to sit in his lap, or licked the tears from his face, or any of a dozen other, subtle things that Nikola had done since she'd first changed, Ash would have blushed to death and run off to hide in the woods. Up until this point, his interactions with humans of the female variety had been minimal, and most were fleeting. Nikola was female, but had always been a pokemon, and Ash had never even considered the idea of becoming romantically involved with her, not even after the kiss the day before, but now… it seemed he had a decision to make.

Pikachu had always been a very close friend of his. In fact, Ash felt it was safe to say Pikachu was most definitely his closest friend ever-- but that was the problem. This wasn't Pikachu he was dealing with anymore, this was Nikola. Nikola was beautiful and naïve and, from the looks of it, completely and utterly in love with him—all traits he'd never associated with Pikachu, even if the latter had been true all along. But now Nikola was so beautiful, and so in love with him, and for the first time Ash began to realize the little things she'd always done to show her affinity for him. She'd always been with him, she'd always made an effort to show she understood him, she'd always tried to comfort and please him whenever times were hard, and even when times were good. For the first time, Ash realized how far back Nikola's love for him truly did stretch, and it astonished him in a way that left him breathless.

Ash's hands began to rub Nikola's back gently, urging her to stop her crying, telling her that he was here and he would make sure she was okay, and indeed Ash's mind was now focused on doing nothing but atoning for the wrongs he had, up until this very moment, unknowingly committed.

"I told you I was an idiot, didn't I?" he mumbled into her hair. She shook her head, not wanting to believe what she was hearing—knowing it was too good to be true that he hadn't already pushed her away and run off, but Ash went on, "I am sorry. You have always been a close friend, but I don't… I don't know how I didn't realize how much you really meant to me, until now."

His breathing hitched, and Nikola stiffened in his arms. She wanted to pull back and look at him, but every fiber of her being was holding her back. The sensation was still there, tingling along the back of her neck and up to the top of her head. The tears stopped, and she sniffed a few times, but she stayed stiff in his arms until he spoke.

"I know you might not believe me," he hummed into her hair, "but I love you too."

And then Nikola did pull back, and what she saw made her feel like it was all worth it—all of it. From the moment she'd met him, to when she'd first fallen in love with him, to now, every moment, every single moment she'd spent pinning away for the boy who couldn't understand a single thing she said, was now worth it. He was smiling, and it was that same smile that had sent chills up her catlike spine so many times before. His eyes were jumping at her, like candle flame caught in a breeze, and they flickered mightily in the campfire light, welcoming her into his soul, into his being, and ultimately into his love.

The sensation exploded forth from the back of Nikola's head, surrounding her, pulsating with her heartbeat. She heard Ash gasp and saw his eyes change to those of surprise. His hair stood up beneath his hat, drifting about. Around them, a glow sprang up, separate from the light of the campfire, and it cast yellow into the trees and against their faces. Ash felt the sensation travel up his arms and center on his heart, encircling and warming it, making it beat faster than it ever had before. Nikola's lips parted, letting out a breath of confusion, and Ash couldn't help himself—the feeling was too strong. He leaned forward, and covered her lips with his own, shutting his eyes on impact.

Nikola's eyes fluttered shut, the eyelashes tickling Ash's own face. She pressed against him, bringing her arms up and around his neck, to dig her fingers into the soft blackness of his hair. She had waited so long, and even so, she'd never imagined it would feel quite this good. Around their lips, a tickling grew, crawling around and around their mouths before diving off their chins. Ash was moving his lips, but he was untrained, and though it felt good, he knew it wasn't the best kiss ever. Nikola didn't seem to mind though; she moved with him, matching his movements. In the end, the kiss was rather sloppy, but when the two pulled apart, they were grinning.

"What is this?" Ash mumbled, not taking his eyes from Nikola's. She registered slowly that he was referring to the static that now played around them, jumping away in the grass in tiny leaps. She simply shook her head. She didn't know, and right now she didn't care.

The position they were in, they realized after a few short moments of staring into each other's eyes, was a bit uncomfortable, especially for Ash. Nikola wiggled off him, and he splayed out in the grass with his hands behind his head, no longer cold. She snuggled into his side, nuzzling against him before bringing his face up next to his, resting it on his shoulder. She licked his cheek once before going in for another kiss, bringing her hand up to turn his face towards hers. It was short, but when she broke away Ash felt the world spinning around them. She lay her head back down on his shoulder, smiling contently. Her body was turned towards Ash—curled up against him—and her breasts and forearms pressed against his side. He brought his arm down to wrap around Nikola, kissing the top of her head gently.

The comfortable silence came in again, and Nikola was beginning to involuntarily doze off when she heard Ash ask her a question in a sleepy voice.

"Nikola?"

"Hmmm?" she asked cautiously.

"What was it you wanted to tell me when Nokomis told you her name? I know there was something, I could tell by the way you looked at me."

She opened her eyes to see his profile, staring up at the moon with closed eyes. He was smiling, breathing slowly as he drifted off.

"It's just a silly legend we used to tell the kits," she answered in a quiet, nonchalant voice, "Having to do with the Daughter of the Moon. It was one of my favorites to tell the little ones…"

She trailed off, yawning. It'd been a rather long day, and she was beat.

"Can you tell it to me please?"

She was going to say no, that she was tired and wanted to sleep, but he turned his face and opened his eyes and looked at her with such a look that she could not say no. Instead, she pouted a little. He grinned, then tilted his head forward and kissed her pouting lips, lingering for a teasingly short moment before pulling away.

"Pleeeease?" he asked again, blushing.

Nikola yawned again, pretending to be tired as she composed herself.

"Okay, fine."

Ash turned his head back to look up at the sky, shutting his eyes and letting a content look wash over his face. She felt his arm tighten around her. She cleared her throat, got comfortable after some shifting around, closed her eyes, and began.

"Legend tells that there are other worlds besides our own. Arceus put pokemon on-"

"Who's Arceus?" Ash interrupted.

"Arceus is a god. No one knows what he really looks like, but it's said he has created all there is, and all there ever shall be. Now hush, I'm trying to remember this. It's been a long time since I last told it."

And Nikola realized with a twang of guilt that'd it had been a considerably long time since she'd last told this story to any of the kits. They were probably all grown by now.

Ash simply gave a sideways grin, letting her continue.

"Anyway, Arceus put pokemon on other worlds besides our own. The cleffa are born on the moon, but for some reason not entirely known, some choose to come here to Earth, and evolve in clefairy and cleffable. On Mars and Jupiter, there are other pokemon who choose not to come here, and the same is true for any other planet or star you see, for the wise Arceus would not waste the energy and resources to make those places, had he not a plan for their purpose."

Nikola paused, preparing for the next part of her tale.

"Legend says that one day in the future, some planets will be endangered by other planets who wish to take control, and that order will be destroyed among the stars. When that happens, it will be up to a golden, outcast warrior to lead the Daughter of the Moon. They will take odd forms, twisting into something new by events they were not expecting, and ultimately the fate of the universe will lie in their hands."

Ash shifted, mumbling the question that all the kits had always asked Nikola at this point in the story, "And what happens to them? Do they win?"

"If the golden warrior succeeds in bringing the planets together, the Daughter of the Moon will take on an altogether new form, and vanquish the evil powers at work. But there was never really an ending, it was just a silly legend—see? Something I'd tell the kits to calm them down. It doesn't have any purpose…"

She trailed off again, realizing Ash was lightly snoring, and completely oblivious to her ramblings on absurdities within legends. She sighed, and then smiled, leaning forward and licking him on the cheek once more. The jacket lay beside her, and she picked it up gently, throwing it over the both of them and snuggling deeper into Ash's scent.

As she drifted off, a faint glow emanated from the pair, prompting a grumpy bunch of pidgey and pidgeot to shift further into their trees.


a/n: Hey there. Once again, I prove I'm not dead. :3 This was fluffy, but not lemony. That will be later guys-- I'm not Nora Roberts dammit. My stories do have plot, lol, if not pounds upon pounds of fluff. ;