*3 Months Later*
Misty brushed an loose strand of hair out of her face then frowned as she noticed the pale blue paint on her fingers. She groaned and looked up toward the bright sun above her.
"Why?" She sighed, "Why is it that I get one lousy month of vacation and as soon as I get back my older sisters, the actual owners of the gym, flit off to God knows where and leave me to all the maintenance?"
Stepping down the rungs of the ladder and leaping off the second to last, she decided it was time to take a break. Misty wiped her hands on her already stained jeans and turned toward the door thinking about the mint chip ice cream waiting in the freezer.
The red-head froze, she knew that voice. A thousand emotions ran through her as she tried to find one to express when she turned around. Misty chose to be blank as she faced him.
"Hello, Seth." she sighed.
Even though it had only been a few months, it felt like she hadn't seen him in years. His hair was shorter, and lighter, the way it always was in the summer and he held a bit of a tan, leaving her to wonder how he had spent his time.
"You look good," he took an awkward step toward her, "really good. You went on the cruise this year?"
"Yeah," she nodded breaking eye contact for a second.
"I've been trying to figure out how to come talk to you, I've been doing a lot of thinking..." Seth broke off, clearly trying to organize his thoughts. And suddenly Misty knew exactly what he was going to say. The words she ached to hear ever since he told her he had been cheating on her.
"I haven't been the same since we broke up, I thought I knew what I wanted but once I had it...I think I made a mistake and I want to fix it." His gray eyes met hers expectantly, waiting for an answer.
She didn't know if she had one, if this had been 2 months before she would have screamed 'yes' and lept into his arms, but now that didn't feel as obvious. They stood there, staring at each other for a long time each one not sure what to say.
Misty's attention was stolen for a second as a red sports car pulled up on the street in front of the gym. She had never seen a car like that in Cerulean City, unless of course it was just passing through. And the gym was closed for maintenance, everyone knew that. The driver side door opened and the corners of Misty's mouth turned up into a smile.
"Hey Mist!" Ash exclaimed walking toward them swiftly. His eyes darted from Misty to Seth, then brightened in sudden clarity. He took a quick sweep of their surroundings and adopted a tone of nonchalance, "I told you not to start painting without me."
Before Misty had a moment to look confused, Ash's lips connected with hers in a soft yet obviously possessive gesture. She was grateful that she was facing away from Seth so he wouldn't see her eyes pop open in shock before returning the kiss.
He pulled away slowly and winked at her, then turned to Seth and smiled smoothly.
"I'm sorry, I'm Ash Ketchum, and you are?" he held his hand out to shake.
Misty watched nervously as both men stared at each other, sizing one another up and trying to decide where to go from here.
Seth hesitantly put his hand in Ash's with a quiet, "Seth Olesen."
Ash nodded in understanding, "Oh! The ex!" They stood there for a moment, forming a triangle as Seth tried to come up with his next move.
"So she told you about me?" Misty saw a smirk appear on his lips. She turned her attention back to Ash, waiting for retaliation, when a thought struck her. What was he even doing here?
The two had been inseparable the first week and a half into the cruise and then barely spoke to one another after Misty broke it off. The last thing they had said to each other was a passing goodbye as she disembarked in Vermillion City. No phone calls, no letters, no contact. And now he appears out of the blue in what can only be described as perfect timing.
"Of course she told me, don't you share your history with the girls you're sleeping with?" his face remained impassive but Ash knew he had gained the upper-hand with that question. Misty felt her cheeks go red and she looked down to avoid the accusing stare from her ex-boyfriend.
"I didn't realize that you had..." he trailed off, visibly upset, "I mean we've only been broken up for a couple months."
Her head snapped back up to glare at him, "Are you seriously trying to make me feel guilty for moving on too fast?" she asked incredulously, "Remind me, how long were we broken up before you started sleeping with half the town?"
Misty didn't give him the opportunity to answer before laughing, "That's right, a year before you had the balls to fucking break up with me!" She paused a moment to take in a deep calming breath, "No, Seth. My answer is no. You may have made a mistake, it might end up being the biggest mistake of your life. But I'm not going to make one in taking you back. I loved you once, but now I feel nothing but pity and disgust." She shook her head and turned to walk back into the gym feeling emotionally drained but also a strange sense of relief.
Misty reached the door that separated the gym area from their home and heard footsteps behind her. She turned on the intruder with an expression similar to the one she had given Seth, "Ash, what are you even doing here?" she asked with a sigh.
He smiled, more genuine than the one he had flashed at Seth, "I thought you would be happy to see me."
She opened the door and gestured for him to follow. Ash had never been in this part of the massive aquarium building. He walked down the surprisingly long hallway at a slow pace, glancing at every childhood photo on the wall and smiling. Misty led him to the small living room and waved him toward the couches.
"Would you like something to drink? We have iced tea, soda, lemonade..." she trailed off wandering into the kitchen.
"Tea? With a splash of lemonade, please." Ash responded as his eyes darted around the room, landing on a framed photo on the bookshelf. He could hear Misty gathering glasses in the kitchen as he walked across the room and picked the frame up for a closer look.
"I didn't know if you like sugar in your tea so I brought some out with me," Misty announced walking back into the room with a tray in her arms, "What's that?"
He smiled, "I was thinking about what you told me about your sisters that first day on the cruise, I guess they didn't get rid of all the pictures." Ash held it over his shoulder for her to see.
"It's one of the few pictures we're all in," she whispered gazing into the photographed eyes of her parents. Misty cleared her throat and went back to the couch, "I guess you've confirmed that I'm a natural red-head." she joked.
Ash set the picture back down and joined her on the opposite couch, "I confirmed that our first night on the cruise."
Misty's cheeks flamed up again and she busied herself with her glass of tea, "You were going to tell me why you're here, not make dirty jokes."
Ash laughed, "Do I have to have a reason to stop by? Can't I just visit a friend?"
"We aren't friends, so that won't work."
"We could be friends, I genuinely like you," he looked down for a second, as if trying to collect his thoughts.
Misty allowed her voice to soften a little, "We could be. But not if you don't tell me why you showed up out of the blue today. Although your timing was perfect."
He grinned, "It was pretty good, wasn't it?" Misty nodded and then gave him a look urging him to continue.
Ash cleared his throat and took a long sip of his iced tea before turning to face her, "We weren't together very long on the cruise. It felt like forever, but it was only a little over a week. I thought it was because you were new and different that I was always so excited to see you." he hesitated, realizing that he wasn't making any sense.
"When I got home, my mom was asking me about the cruise. I had been really excited about it before I left, and even though less than half of it was spent with you...you were all I could talk about."
Ash caught her eye for a second, trying to read her expression, "You're kinda, all I want to talk about. You're all I think about and all I dream about. And I've never experienced that in my life."
Misty looked down, hiding her smile, she had been right all those weeks ago when she broke things off. She could see the signs of a man falling too hard, too fast. She had seen the same longing before with her sisters' many "friends". But she had never expected this.
He waited only a minute but it felt like hours, Ash wasn't great at articulating his feelings but he had forced them out and now it was her turn to respond.
"I'm not sure I understand what you're proposing," Misty sighed, "One of the first things you told me when we met was that you didn't get involved in serious relationships because you travel too much."
"That's true," Ash immediately deflated, he hadn't thought about that. He wouldn't say that he had had a charmed childhood, he wasn't spoiled. But one of the first lessons he learned was that if he wanted something bad enough, things would just work out. Ash had done his part, he had come here, confessed his feelings, and now it was time for it to work out.
Misty nodded slightly, "So...you're saying that you have feelings for me, but you don't want a girlfriend?"
"I dunno, maybe we can try a...like a long distance thing? I'll still be around for another month or so and if things are still going well, we can take it from there."
"And we could...call each other every night, or something?" Misty expression was strange, "You would be out traveling and I'd just be here and we'd keep in touch when we could, in any way we could."
Ash nodded but a little half halfheartedly, even he wasn't buying that this would work out.
"Or," she took a deep breath, "or, I could go with you."
They went silent for a second, neither one of them wanting to be the first to speak.
"You could go with me," Ash said softly. Almost instantaneously, he was on the same couch with only a few inches separating them. He leaned forward to kiss her but Misty pulled her head back slightly.
"Is that your car?" she asked suddenly.
Ash gave her a strange look, "Does it make a difference?"
She shook her head, and smiled, "Just curious."
He laughed, "Nope, I borrowed it from a friend." Ash placed a hand behind her head and kissed her, "Are your sisters home?" he asked kissing her again.
"Nope," she returned his kiss with a deeper one of her own.
"Do you expect them anytime soon?"
"Nope, they left right after I got back and didn't say how long they'd be gone."
"Perfect," he murmured moving her closer to him.
The couple stayed locked in their embrace for awhile, losing a few articles of clothing in the process. When Misty and her sisters had reached adolescence, the problem became where the appropriate places were that boyfriends could be allowed. As the youngest, and the last to ever encounter this issue, Misty had adopted a very strict "bedroom only" policy that her sisters were a little looser on. But with Ash right here it seemed like a lot of work to interrupt their activity just to go upstairs.
Ash hesitated for a second, questioning how much further she wanted to go without actually verbalizing. Misty nodded her consent and kissed every inch of skin she could reach.
"Gary Oak! Get your hands off my little sister!"
The door to the living room crashed open causing Ash and Misty to jump up. Misty hid behind him, her eyes darting around the room looking for something to cover herself with.
Lily stood in the doorway, her eyes wild as the elder two Williams sisters peered in from behind her.
"Not Gary, just his car," Ash laughed seemingly unaware of the awkward situation he found himself in.
The pink haired sister turned red as she surveyed the room, "Oh, I just saw it...and thought..."
Daisy stepped in front of her, smoothly scooped up Ash's shirt from the floor and tossed it to Misty who scrambled to put it on.
"Sorry to barge in, we pulled up to the gym and when Lily saw the car she freaked. She wouldn't tell us why though," she smiled as if the whole thing were completely normal.
Although fully clothed, Misty stayed in her spot behind Ash as she responded, "How did you know it was Gary Oak's car?"
Lily's face flushed a little deeper, "We may have dated briefly."
"That doesn't surprise me," Ash and Misty groaned in unison.
Daisy tossed the rest of their clothes at them, "Now that we've established who he's not, would you mind telling me who he is?"
"I'm Ash Ketchum. Born and raised in Pallet Town, recent Division One Champion and currently dating your baby sister," he smiled holding out his hand for Daisy to shake.
"Oh dear God," Misty moaned burying her head in his shoulder.
The three older sisters looked him up and down in a way Ash wasn't used to. Usually he just won people over his is charm.
"A Champion? Does that mean you're a trainer?" Violet spoke up for the first time since their arrival.
"Yeah, I'm trying to become a master," he nodded.
"So, you're traveling around. Especially if you're trying to become a Champion in Division Two," Lily asked.
Ash nodded slowly, very aware of the sisters closing in on him.
"So you just stopped in and decided to feel up our sister before taking off again?" Lily narrowed her eyes as her twin gave him an equally dirty look.
"No, not that," he frowned.
"Leave him alone," Misty groaned.
"I didn't just stop in, we met on the cruise and then I came after her. We were just talking and she's-" Ash paused his thought briefly. He realized that this was probably something Misty wanted to discuss with her sisters. As the youngest of four children that had never been apart, the departure of one was probably not something that should be blurted out by a half naked stranger.
He glanced over at Misty who's cheeks still held a bit of pink but she smiled and asked, "Are you guys hungry? I was just telling Ash about the burgers at Sadie's. He said he's never been there before, I'm sure he wouldn't mind picking up dinner for all of us."
The elder sisters were distracted while they placed their orders and gave the out of towner directions to their favorite diner.
"What's going on?" Daisy asked once he was gone and the sisters were alone.
"I know I told you that I was going to have a fling on the cruise and learn to be someone different, but you were right, I don't know how," Misty sat down and gestured for the Sensational Sisters to do the same.
"I fell really hard and I was lucky enough to find out that he did too. I know we're a lot closer now than we were a decade ago when I ran away a lot. This time, I'm leaving because I think it'll be good for me, not because I feel like I need to get away."
"You're leaving?" Violet asked, then nodded in understanding, "You're leaving with him."
"I thought it would be a long time before I met someone that makes me feel like this, and the fact that I've always wanted to see more of the world than what's around me. I can't help but think this is fate, I know you guys will understand." Misty bit her lip slightly still worried they might say no or find some way to make her feel guilty.
Daisy looked around the room covered in photographs of the four sisters in various stages of life, "I think we can manage pretty well on our own...provided that you bring us back really cool gifts."
Misty laughed, "I will."
"And call once a week, at least."
"I will," she said again, in a more serious tone.
"Is this guy really that great?" Daisy tried to keep her tone light, but all of them understood the underlying question. They had all loved Seth, he became like a brother to the older three, a handyman around the house, and he kept Misty out of trouble.
Misty smiled softly and closed her eyes, "He's kind of amazing. He brings out a completely different side of me, one that I like. I think you guys will love him.
"We'd better, or you'll be on the first plane back home," Lily snapped causing everyone to laugh.
A week later the red-headed sister was holding back tears as she hugged Daisy and said goodbye to her childhood home.
"Don't forget to call, or the presents," Daisy smirked trying to make Misty smile.
"I won't," she whispered.
"And you," the eldest directed her attention to the man leaning against the car on the street, "take care of my baby sister."
Ash smiled and bowed jokingly, "She'll be my first priority."
"Good," Daisy nodded then gave Misty a genuinely happy smile, "I hope this is everything you want, but remember, if it's not...there's no shame in coming home."
"I know, but it will be," Misty sighed and adjusted the straps of her new backpack. The only one they could find big enough to hold everything she wanted to take with her.
"I have to go, I'll call when we land and then as often as I'm able, and I'll write every night that I can't call." She smiled and with one last hug, ran over to the car where Ash was waiting for her.
"Ready?" he asked. Misty nodded in reply and opened the passenger side door. They drove off quickly because Ash wanted to make it to Pallet Town by nightfall so he could spend one more day with his mom before he flew out to the next phase of his journey.
The ride was mostly in silence but as they reached the scenic woods and fields outside of Veridian City she smiled.
"Whenever I ran away from home I would always make it this far before stopping," Misty pointed out the window where they could barely make out a small river cutting through the grass.
"I think I know where you're talking about, I passed it when I left home for the first time," Ash nodded, " I remember thinking that it might be a good place to go fishing when I was at home."
"I wasn't, I never caught a thing," They fell back into silence for a moment before she began to laugh loudly.
"Can you imagine if we had met back then? If by some random happenstance we ran into each other?" she giggled at the absurdity of her thought.
"I don't think you would have liked me, I was constantly getting myself into trouble. I had a childish sense that someone would always be there to catch me if I fell," Ash mused.
"I was a brat. Childhood was rough for me, and my sisters. They were a lot older than me and I wasn't easy to deal with." she nodded.
"So I guess it's a good thing we didn't meet as children, we would have wound up hating each other."
Misty sighed softly, "I dunno, do you believe in fate?" Ash looked over at her with a strange of expression that made her laugh, "I don't mean like that. I mean that there are some people that you're supposed to meet. If we hadn't both met Brock we probably would have hardly spoken to each other on the cruise. I think that if you're supposed to know someone it'll happen."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"Think about it, what if we were supposed to meet? There's a few missed opportunities. We both know the same river, you challenged my gym at some point. But decisions were changed and for some reason we didn't meet so we were thrown on the cruise. You said so yourself, you almost didn't make it home in time to R.S.V.P and if it had started a week before I would have still been with Seth. I think we were supposed to meet. Maybe if we had met as children we wouldn't like each other as much as we do now, but we would have been friends."
"It's an interesting thought," Ash shrugged before putting the car in park, "We're here."
Misty ducked her head down to look at the small farmhouse in front of them, "This is your house?" she asked.
"Yep, home sweet home," he smiled glad to be home again.
"I thought we were bringing Gary back his car," she looked at him confusedly.
"He can come get it, Professor Oak's place isn't far from here," Ash got out of the car and opened the trunk, pulling out her bag, "Come on, Mom's been dying to meet you."
Misty smiled and took his hand, following him to the front door.
A/N: That's it. Finished. Sorry it took me so long to get this last chapter up, I hope it didn't disappoint. There was a mishap with my computer and I lost everything and had to start over. They are now all stored in Google Docs. If you read any of my other stories, they will be updated, I promise. I just don't have a lot of free time and restarting chapters from memory is time consuming.