Disclaimer - I don't own Pokemon. There; I admit it. . . but if we all band together and start a funding project, me thinks we could take over! And then we could force Ash and Misty to kiss! Hah! How awesome would that be?!

Notes - Oh, God; I told myself if I didn't at least get a summary out for this, I'd be uber-disappointed. . . plus I'd probably forget what the entire thing was about. So I decided to throw down some notes and prelude to the fic, ya know? And just think; I could be doing my laundry right now. . . :D

Edited Note as of November, 2009 - It's a working title, seeing as I changed it after wondering if I should continue it into a two-shot. If you think you have a better title for this fic, please let me know. I'll change it and give you credit, okay?

Author - Chibi / Warlordess

OoO

Title - "Childlike Wonder" / (one-shot or two-shot)

Summary - AU fic. At age five, Misty meets Ash of Pallet Town in Celadon City. He tries to steal something she made, she slaps him. But when he shows her some compassion. . . AAML. Ish.

OoO

The daycare center was something special for every child, even though none of those children acted as though they cared when their parents or guardians came to drop them off before going out to tour Celadon and its many shops.

This was where Misty Waterflower, age five, had first met Ash Ketchum, age four. Their meeting was something special, too, in the sense that it was the one thing that ensured the daycare providers' migraine of the afternoon.

Misty Waterflower marched into the playpen with a scowl on her face. Unlike a fair percentage of the other children, she did not lower herself to tears at seeing her sisters walk out the door, leaving her behind, and she didn't hold any of their hands in hopes that it would convince them to stay. Honestly, she preferred the CDCC (Celadon Daycare Center) more than any time out with her siblings.

So her sisters signed on the sheet with their names, the drop-off time, estimated pick-up, and Misty's name as the client. Misty was given her nametag - not her first one - and asked what she'd like to do. She decided that her first stop would be the clay table, where she'd often snatch up the blue and try to make crafty forms of Poliwag or a simplified Tentacool. Given, as a five year old, she had no promising skill in the field, but it was definitely fun to do, and it showed her passion for Water Pokemon, something she never wanted anyone to ever doubt.

She ignored her sisters clustered farewell, graced them half a glance before turning back to her new project, and started rolling the great amount of blue play-doe into a ball.

She ignored the other kids, too, because they didn't really interest her so much. She came to enjoy herself, and to get away from flaunting relatives, and she enjoyed being alone to be honest. She wasn't anti-social; she smiled more at the kids sitting around her than she did with her siblings (seeing as they were actually tolerable in comparison), but she just didn't see much point in making valuable friendships with people she would be hard-pressed to see again. Yeah, she was a smart one, possibly too much so. . .

She grinned at her self-confidence, turning the blue clay until it became a rather mistmatched oval shape, then plucked a small bit of white clay over as well, pulling apart portions to mold into eyes and part of the tailfin. She often found when she wasn't particularly excited or angry or upset that she worked quite well, her projects far more realistic. And so, when she was done with her makeshift Poliwag, she set it to the side, knowing that it was safe from any prying hands that might try and rip it all apart to use the clay for their own invention.

After that she moved onto the the cardboard Legos. She liked to build great, tall things, thrones and castle chambers, and she liked to be gawked at by the younger children who could barely reach the height she piled these throne rooms up to. Because she was just a nice person, she let them all join her in those rooms she made, and everyone smiled and enjoyed themselves and, at some point, when she grew tired of those smiles and that increase in self-esteem, she would vanish and let those children destroy her creations, running to another part of the Center.

In fact, that was just what she had planned on doing within the next few minutes when. . . something distracted her. In fact, it was distracting everyone around her, including the adults. . . It was a constant, loud wailing coming from the front entrance.

Misty looked up, slightly aggravated, in time to see a young woman with dark burgundy hair half-dragging and half-carrying her son inside. The boy looked to be about four years old and, judging by his cries to leave immediately and never return, he was probably a first-timer at the Daycare.

Ordinarily, fresh meat wasn't Misty's business. None of those other kids were either, but it was always more fun to be around people who weren't in tears and looking for sympathy rather than those who were unable to stop the waterworks. . . but she also knew she'd become greatly irritated very soon if she had to hear of this boy's poor attitude for much longer, so she paid attention to his registration process.

"Oh, c'mon now, Ash! It's only for a couple hours, just while mommy goes and does some shopping! You do want that new bed, right? I have to go schedule the department store for the delivery!" The woman stated as clearly as she could over the boy's - or Ash's, as he was now known as - cries.

"I don't wanna stay here while you go, though! This place is. . . Don't leave me!" He finished, shaking himself from her arm and, instead, throwing himself against her leg.

The woman sweatdropped and turned to the receptionist behind the front desk.

"I'm sorry for the trouble; I hear this community center offers free babysitting services to tourists and Celadon shoppers. . . That was what my neighbor mentioned to me. . ."

"Oh, yep, that's us!" The man behind the counter smiled honestly and handed the woman a clipboard and a pen; obviously there was paperwork involved. "All we need is some contact and medical information; you know, just in case something might happen that we think you should be aware of. And then the only other things we'll be needing are your childs' name, for his nametag, and a timeframe issued for his pick-up. Do you know when you'll be back?"

"Oh, hm, I hadn't thought too much on it. Honestly, this will be the easiest thing I have to look forward to today." The woman laughed as she held up the clipboard, making a point before continuing to fill out her name and address. "I suppose I'll only need about two hours - or three, tops. . ."

"Th - three hours. . . ! But that's practically forever!" The boy screamed, kicking back up again after almost completely calming down. Misty flinched at the sound of his high-pitched wails. There was no way she'd be able to stand three hours of that.

"Oh, Ash, don't act like that; you know you can't even tell time yet." The woman blushed almost embarrassedly, filled out a few more lines, then handed the clipboard back to the receptionist. "Honey, your mommy loves you! Why else do you think I'd be letting you stay here rather than taking you with me? You'd hate where I'm going, you know? You'd be so bored! And I'm sure you'll have a fun time here, and you'll meet lots of kids your age to play with!" She smiled kindly at Ash, kneeling down to his level and pulling him into a hug.

In response, he almost quickly silenced himself except for a few sniffles, and nodded into her shoulder.

". . . You'll be back, right?" He asked with wide, worried eyes, and she giggled again.

"Of course! I couldn't stand to be away from you any longer than what's needed! I'll be back in a little while and, if I hear you've been a good boy, I'll treat you to ice cream, too! How does that sound?"

". . . You will?" He asked hesitantly in reply, looking more hopeful now that he knew he wasn't being abandoned, "A - and maybe a cheeseburger, too? And fries!" He continued rambling, now excited.

"Um, s - sure. . . We'll see if you're hungry for all that when I get back, okay honey? But remember, it's only for if you're a good boy! So don't disappoint me!" She reached her full height again and turned to the man behind the desk, who had been waiting patiently to clear the registration form.

"Okay, Miss. . . Delia Ketchum; everything's okay here. We'll expect you back in a few hours. . . Oh, and would you like us to keep this form on record for future visits?"

Ash was looking suddenly horrified again now and threw himself at his mothers legs, making sure she wouldn't leave.

"Oh. . . no. . . no, no, no! I mean, I don't think I could ever. . ." But as she spoke, she nodded her head hurriedly, keeping a close eye on Ash and making sure he didn't see, ". . . ever, ever leave my son here again. It's nice but it's impossible to let my little boy go for so long, especially more than once. . ." And she didn't stop nodding her head until the very end.

The man winked and replied in a mock-disappointed tone, "That's too bad, but if there's nothing we can do to have you further the use of our services. . . After all, who are we to get in the way of the bond a child has with their parent?"

Ash looked up for the first time in awhile now and, while the man smiled at him honestly, he hugged his mother tighter in a posessive manner. Miss Ketchum shook him off and stepped back, kissing him goodbye from a distance and walking out the door. Ash immediately felt his eyes water up again, and the incessent need to scream as loud and far as his voice would carry.

To keep the boy occupied, the man rose from his seat and stepped out from behind the desk, leaning down next to him.

"It's okay, it's okay! My name is Mr. Pichu! Can you tell me yours? That way we can write it down and make sure everyone else knows."

"Pichu? I - I like Pichu. . . 'cause they evolve into Pikachu, and Pikachu are awesome!" Ash suddenly exclaimed with a sense of passion. "B - but. . . um. . . my name is Ash. I wish I were named after a Pikachu!"

"Oh, why would you want to be named Pikachu when Ash is such a cool name? It's very creative and powerful." The man smiled again and noticed that Ash seemed to take a genuine interest in the conversation, unaware of the fact that his favorite Pokemon had actually been an inquiry on the registration form. There was hardly any easier way to connect to a child on his first time away from his parents other than exciting his greatest hobby. "Hey, can you spell that name for me?"

"Um, I think so. . . Let's see, I don't really know what it looks like, but it's spelled A - S - H. I start school soon, though, so I'll be able to write it, too!"

"That's great; how about I write it today, and, if I ever see you again - maybe if you like it here - you can write it for me next time? I'd like to see what you learn in school." The man finished writing something down, ripped a sticker off of the sheet of blank whites, and smoothed it across Ash's shirt. "This is for you. It's so everyone can know who you are, that way you can meet them and know who they are too, because everyone here has one of these. It's sort of like. . . a special badge, just for you! And you get a new, higher level one each time you come! Isn't that fun?"

Ash's eyes lit up in excitement. Maybe this place wasn't so bad after all. He hurriedly placed the jacket he held in his arms into a cubby - (which his mother had made him wear despite the fact that it was about seventy degrees outside) - and he marched off to find something to do, hurriedly traipsing up to a few kids who were playing basketball with a small hoop and ball along one of the walls opposite where Misty was.

Huh; maybe she wouldnt have to worry about him after all. . . To be sure, though, she watched him throughout the coming minutes, and eventually up through the next hour and a half. In no time at all, the naive boy had made everyone he was hanging out with smile kindly, and he'd even made a few friends. For whatever reason, Misty wasn't happy about this at all.

While she moved on to dolls, he moved on to building blocks. When she moved on to arts and crafts, he moved on to storytime. By the time everyone had finished their snacks of peanut butter crackers, Misty had practically gotten bored with him. Naptime was postponed and all of the children went back to playing with one another. While the Cerulean redhead walked over to join a bunch of other young girls and boys who were playing house (the boys had been forced, or so they would tell everyone later on to avoid the embarrassment of such a cooty-ridden game), Ash found his way to the play-doe table. There would have been no reason to care, also, if Ash had just kept his grimy hands to himself and the available colors but. . . the next thing Misty knew, he'd begun reaching across the table and towards the windowsill, where she'd placed her Poliwag figurine. It hadn't dried completely yet and, with a bit of water, would have been easily reuseable.

Not thinking, she immediately screamed out.

"Hey, wait! Don't touch it!" And she started running over to him as fast as she could in the frilly little blue dress her sisters had made her wear that morning.

"But I need. . ." He started, already grabbing a hold on it and pulling it down towards him. Not very fond of being careful, he recklessly started pulling apart the tail and by the time Misty had smacked the blob of blue from his hands, it was already in about three seperate pieces.

"I said not to touch it! It's mine, not yours! I worked hard on that earlier!"

"B - but. . ." He replied, eyes already tearing up from the slap. He drew his hands to his chest - (more to keep them out of her reach because it hadn't really hurt too much to begin with) - and stared at her helplessly, having had no prior experience with this kind of social predicament.

Misty, who had thrived on survival expedition excersizes when being the smallest and least superior in comparison to her sisters, couldn't help but notice that she seemed to have a lead on the boy, and it made her feel good inside despite the guilt from the literal actions she'd taken.

The next thing the two children knew, one of the daycare providers was running up to them in hopes of quelling the fight between them before it had really started.

"What's going on? Ash, are you alright?" The woman asked, leaning down in front of him to read his nametag and be sure of his identity.

"Huh? How'd you know my name? Oh, are you physic?" He asked, mispronouncing the word.

"Um, sure. . . let's go with that." The woman laughed, drawing her eyes up and away from his tag, staring him in the face. "My name is Miss Chansey! I came over here because it sounded like you were hurt. . . Why are you holding your hands like that? Did something happen?" She asked cautiously, already trying to pull his hands from his chest and towards her for a better look.

"Um, yeah, but. . ." He looked up at Misty, afraid of the retribution he faced for telling the truth, but finding himself unable to lie to the nice lady, "I - it was her! She came over here and smacked me and I. . . I don't get it! Why'd she do it? She's a big meanie!" He began to wail anxiously, already snapping his head away from the girls' because he didn't want to see the fierce anger in her eyes.

The woman turned a suddenly stern expression on Misty, who gulped but placed an indignant mask over herself.

"Misty? I'm surprised at you! You're almost six years old, you should know better than to hit the other children! How would you like it if they tried to hurt you?"

". . . If someone tried that on me, I'd punch 'em in the face. . ." She muttered, not meaning for anyone to hear.

"Well, let's just be lucky that Ash is more well-behaved than that!" And Ash beamed honestly at the woman for the compliment. "Misty, tell me your side. . ." She sighed, "You've never done this before so it seems unlikely that you would just start doing it today. . ."

"Fine! I'll tell ya what really happened!" She said, crossing her arms in an aggravated way and beginning in a know-it-all tone of voice, "I was just over there minding my own business," and she pointed towards the large kitchen set almost fifteen meters away from where they were all standing, "and I saw him," she nodded her head aggressively towards Ash, "trying to take my Poliwag doll that I worked really hard on earlier today!" Everyone's eyesight finally fell on the broken play-doe figure laying on the floor.

The woman sighed again, decidedly disappointed.

"Misty, you've been coming her long enough to know that that clay belongs to everyone; and everyone is allowed to use it when they try to make something. All of these toys were bought by people who are dedicated to you children, and they were donated here for everybody. That means that you aren't allowed to confiscate any certain one toy and not let anyone else use it after you're finished. Why would you know these rules and yet place something like your Poliwag up and out of the way so that the other children wouldn't be able to use the clay it was made from. . . ?" She asked hesitantly.

Misty was suddenly feeling hot and uncomfortable. She didn't want anyone to know why she'd done what she'd done. The fact was, she worked hard on something and she wanted credit for it! And she didn't want it destroyed so recklessly by a little boy who couldn't even refrain from getting in someone's personal space. . . ! But that was her business and no one elses!

"Ash," the woman looked kindly at the raven-haired boy with watery almond eyes and gave a grim smile, "Misty was wrong for hitting you, but she wasn't wrong for standing up for something she worked hard to accomplish. I know you're new here but the point is that when you see something that was obviously placed to the side so that it wasn't supposed to be used by the rest of you, you have to respect that it was something that another child worked hard on. You wouldn't want something you worked hard on to be taken and torn apart by Misty, would you?"

Ash had an expression similar to Misty's on his face now, one of stubbornness. He definitely didn't want to admit that he was in the wrong. The next thing any of them knew, though, he sighed and dropped his eyes to the ground.

"I. . . no. . ." He shook his head and then looked back up at Miss Chansey.

"You two," the woman was suddenly smiling as she rose to her full height, "are here to learn, too, even if it doesn't seem like it. Now I'm going to leave you both here for a few minutes to try and work the rest of this out on your own. I hope that when I come back you two will be friends again, okay?"

She walked away from them, reaching a child over by the front door next to the lobby who needed to go to the restroom and helping her out towards the public lavatory. Ash was giving Misty a look that said he was more than ready to reconcile, but the redhead wasn't having it. Especially after what Miss Chansey had claimed. . .

"I - I don't care what she said, I'm not your friend!" She yelled aggressively, turning on her heel and facing the opposite direction with her arms crossed and eyes closed.

It was such a sudden move that Ash felt he'd just been hit with whiplash. He looked a bit sad but wiped it off his face and stuck his tongue out at the girl in reply.

"Yeah, well I don't like you either you big cooty-keeping meanie!"

"You're the one who's a meanie! I made that thing special for my sisters and you broke it!"

"It wasn't yours to keep for your dumb sisters, so there!"

"That doesn't matter! You heard what Miss Chansey said! It was something I worked hard on and I. . . I wanted them to see it before I had to give it back. . ." Misty suddenly sniffled, and Ash's glare dissolved into shock. He. . . he hadn't been expecting a crying girl! Ack! How was he supposed to react to that? Girls were scary already without them crying about things! "Now they'll never like me. . ." She sniffed some more and finally collapsed onto her bottom, beginning to cry outright.

"Huh. . . ? B - but they're your sisters! Th - they have to like you, don't they?" Ash replied, hitting the ground in a flurry - too - and looking into the girls' face for the first time. Her pale skin was suddenly splotchy from the tears and her wide blue-green eyes were glassy.

She didn't respond at first, lost in her misery, so he poked her and she pushed him backwards onto his butt. As she half-glared and half-gasped because she hadn't meant to respond so aggressively, Ash found himself almost breaking out into laughter.

"Heh. . . !"

She blinked, not quite understanding.

"W - what's so funny? Or do you cry weird, too?" She asked, though she already knew full-well how he sounded when he cried.

"Nah! You're just funny to look at when you're not all mean looking!"

Misty was angry at first but then blinked from the shock. There was no way. . . Had Ash forgotten already about being mad and at odds with her?

"Hiya! I'm Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town! I wanna be a Pokemon Master when I'm bigger!" He laughed and held out a hand.

"I - I'm Misty. . ." She replied, still obsorbing the fact that this boy seemed to have the attention span of a small rodent, "I. . . I live with my sisters in Cerulean. . . I like Water Pokemon, so I wanna Master them!" And she, too, seemed to forget about her anger and held out her own hand to shake his. . . before finding herself caressing air.

"Huh?" She asked, blinking at him in confusion again, "Why'd you. . . ?"

"Um," Ash looked suddenly edgy, as if a certain piece of knowledge had just slipped into place and he didn't know how to react to it, "you're a girl, aren't you?"

She gawked at him, feeling that nasty surge of displeasure creeping up inside of her again.

"Yeah, of course I'm a girl! What did you think I was?" She almost shrieked.

"B - but. . . Gary Oak told me that girls were weird and they could get sick from something that would really hurt guys if we touched 'em too much! He said it was something only you could get from hanging around Pokemon, but you could give it to me. . . !" He looked suddenly fearful and Misty almost giggled. It figured that's where this was going.

"We can't get sick like that! We get sick from the same things you get sick from, and nothing else! This Gary Oak guy just doesn't like girls! Or. . . maybe he's afraid of us!" She laughed out load and Ash seemed so relieved by the news that he joined her. Or, he did for a few seconds anyway. . .

The next thing Misty was aware of was him leaning down further and picking up the fallen pieces of her precious Poliwag doll and trying to fit them back together.

"W - what are you doing?" She asked, reaching out to take those pieces from him but he pulled away.

"It's okay; I've got it! I broke it, so I gotta be the nice guy and put 'em back together, right?" He replied, grunting as he attempted to mesh them into one by force.

"Well, I mean. . . yeah, but. . . It's okay. . ." She smiled grimly at him and finally succeeded in pulling the figure from his hands, pulling apart the little bit of white she'd pressed against the blue, and rolling all of the color into a ball. Ash looked even more ashamed as he watched.

"B - but you worked hard on it, right? You shouldn't have to throw it out, 'specially if you wanted to show your sisters! You have nothing to give 'em now!"

"Oh, it's alright. . . I've always made one, ever since the first time I came here, and I always showed 'em to my sisters when they came to pick me up. But. . ." And here Misty sighed exasperatedly, with an edge of dispair, "they never cared before. I won't lie and say that I think today's gonna be the day they start. Besides, I know I did good on it, and I know it was one of my best ever, so. . ." She reached her feet and distractedly placed the blue play-doe into its formerly empty container, which had been laying on the table. She was facing away from him but Ash could still hear the soft sniffled of a young girl disappointed in herself.

"Um. . . it probably doesn't mean anything now, but. . . I - I thought it was pretty cool looking! I mean," Misty's back stopped hitching and moving altogether as she anticipated his continued statement, "I mean, it was big and bright and looked sorta real, too! That's why I noticed it to begin with even though it was so high up!"

Misty turned to look at him with the largest googly-eyes he'd ever seen and he gulped in an anxious and scared way.

"Uh. . . yeah! Uh huh, I mean it!"

"Oh. . . Ash Ketchum!" She yelled happily, her eyes wide and watery and her cheeks red from both embarrassment and happiness. She launched herself at him but he dodged and she hit the ground. Nevertheless, when she rose to her knees again, she wasn't upset about it, nor did she try again. She'd learned her lesson the first time around. . . but she still felt a way she'd never felt before. . . She felt attachment to a degree that she never thought she would.

Her sisters often abandoned her at home when they went out to get their manicures, peticures, perms, etc. And when the group of four went out of town to places like Celadon, they often left her somewhere where they couldn't be bothered with her. It was because of this that she wasn't immensely close to them or anyone else; she'd learned to be independent in all the wrong ways when it came down to socializing.

"Y - you're a nice guy, Ash!" She said bashfully, her face bowed low from her place on the floor and Ash was almost worried that she may have hit the ground too hard when she'd fallen. Either way, though, he took her compliment to heart.

"Well, yeah. . . Duh," he replied sheepishly, a hand behind his head.

"In fact. . . !" She reached her feet and galloped towards him again and, before he could say otherwise, she grasped his hand in a strong grip, forcing him to look at her and hear what she had to say. "In fact, Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town, someday I'm gonna be your wife!"

"Mwah. . . ! What?!"

OoOoO

Notes - Hah! I loved this! It makes me giggle, though I'm afraid I might not be good at writing out kiddie-talk. I tried to dumb down the language compared to what I usually use for the characters, but I dunno if it worked very much. I mean, it's hard to imagine the extent of a four year old's grammar prowess these days. I know a four year old that listens to his rap and R&B and, because of it, his grammar is all words that I didn't know until I was ten! But whatever. . . If it was too bad, feel free to ignore it. I'm in too much the mood for happy comments about how you all love my stuffs, and sad comments about how I've started another fic when I have eight or more others to finish. . . Don't worry, I have started the next chapter of SKoL, and I've even included the moment where Ash decides to quit training! YAY! -gasp- Wait, was that a spoiler? Oh, well; we all knew it was coming. . .

Anyway, reviews! Reviews make the day brighter, my heart lighter, and they make it worth it to be a writer! Hahah! Rhyming at 12:30am is fun!

Edited Note (as of November, 2009) - Okay, I wrote this a few years ago and am still deciding if I want to make it a two-shot or not. Maybe even longer. But I've always imagined it as a two-shot. Still, the sudden ending here enchanted me when I recently reread it. Now I don't know if I want to continue.

Tell me what you guys think, okay? :D