A Pokemon One-Shot. . .

Author - Chibi / Warlordess

Disclaimer - What? I haven't written enough fan works to prove that I can do nothing to make the series mine so that writing out my frustrations is all that works? Gods, you guys need to hit yourselves. . .

Notes - I'm back with a vengeance, baby! You know you've been asking for it! Oh, wait, that's wrong. You guys were asking for updates on SkoL and IS, huh? Um, well, too bad! Only good authors give their readers everything they want, and I pride myself on being a bad author! So there!

Oh, and for the sake of it, we're going back to basics. This takes place before Sinnoh, before Kanto Battle Frontier, and before Hoenn. I will be honest in saying I don't follow the series anymore, and doing this is better than coming up with a poor excuse (or lack thereof) that knocks out the current trainers (like Dawn and Paul). Sort of. And I can't keep relying on phone-call fics. I wish I could include Tracey. . . but. . . Oh well.


Ages are as follows -

Ash is 14.

Misty is 15.

Brock is 17.

The trio is traveling through Johto.


Team Rocket's schemes almost always went too far, and always in the same fashion. They would go out on the town (on the company's dime, of course), drug themselves with delusions of grandeur that happened to include them somehow beating Ash and Pikachu. Under that influence, they would buy some huge robotic atrocity (company's dime), trick it out with guns and missiles and smoke bombs (company's dime), and put together an elaborate plan to steal Ash's Pokemon that one of them would somehow mess up. If they had thought that any brain power was worth buying, they'd spend the company's dime on that, too.

And Ash and his friends would retaliate the first twenty or so seconds with shock and awe before fighting the Poke-burglars off. They would either be immediately successful (though sometimes by accident) or they, too, would mess up, and thus the routine chase would begin. . . and then end with a shocking explosion that included an equally shocked Jessie, James, and Meowth getting blasted off into the sunset.

After which it was time for dinner; the best part of the day in Ash's opinion. Misty always liked to tease him for it.

But today was already starting out badly. The group had accidentally overslept and been woken up early by the sudden feeling of being drowned. The torrential rainfall came without notice from the west and stopped just as soon. Still, Ash, Brock, and Misty were all soaked through and not in the mood to try and wait out the sudden dark gray skies which were streaked with lightning flashes. Even the wind refused to relent, tugging on their clothes as though trying to tear them from their bodies.

"How much farther is it to the nearest shelter?" Misty asked Brock as she struggled to roll up her damp sleeping bag. Ash was dusting down the campfire just in case and gathering the pots from dinner the night before. At the same time, Brock polled out his laminated map and attempted to look it over, thankful that the shower had ended quickly but knowing that it could start up again at any moment.

"About a quarter of a mile away. As long as we head out now, we should be there by around. . . noon." Brock added as an afterthought, "You know, as long as there's no trouble on the way."

All three friends glanced at one another.

"So. . . lost cause, then?" Ash joked, putting Pikachu, who had been dozing off on his cap, into the dry warmth of his blue vest. Pikachu, for his part, curled up and fell back asleep.

"Probably," Misty agreed with a nod.

"But shouldn't we try anyway? You never know, this could be our once-every-other-month good day. . . !" Brock threw his huge sack over his shoulders with a yawn, map in hand, and set off up the path.

He was wrong.

Jessie, James, and Meowth, ever so single-minded, stared stealthily at their target from beyond any normal range of sight. The dastardly trio had already cooked up a plan earlier and were ready to put it into action. They just had to wait for the right moment. . .

It came almost too suddenly.

Ash, Misty, Brock, and Pikachu were halfway up a steep hill; it overlooked a river that connected to the local reservoir. They admired the view for only a moment from their perch on the path that formed into the street which led to the town nearby. That was their destination.

However, the skies were gray, the storm passed but thunderclouds remained, and every other second, a bit of lightning struck the horizon. More than that, the wind was strong enough so that they had to hold most of their possessions dear to them or risk them being stolen. The four friends walked in a stupor, wary about the weather and still tired from their disrupted sleep.

It came when they had reached the point of the steep turn in the road. There was only an array of yellow steel warning signs and the railing separating the three of them from the wide span of sea below. But they had already taken a moment to overlook the water so they decided to move on. . . That was until the area started filling with smoke and a familiar cackle broke out.

"Prepare for trouble. . . !" The voice was half-choking as the person speaking inhaled the thick gray fog accidentally.

"And make it double!" A second person said.

Ash, Misty, and Brock groaned in unison, accustomed to this nearly daily ritual but not feeling any less frustrated. Two distinctive shadows posed at them from a distance as the three trainers just stood there. What else could they do? If they chose to interrupt, Team Rocket would get loud, angry, and rant for twenty extra minutes about it.

". . . To denounce the evils of truth and love!"

"To extend our reach to the stars above!"

Jessie and James recited their names and finished their contradictory introduction. Ash and his friends remained silent through the irritation. After all, if they tried to make a complaint, it would only excite Jessie into going on and on about how lucky - how honored - they should feel to be targeted by the great Team Rocket. But instead. . .

"I should have known we couldn't go a day without them stalking us!" Ash groaned in exasperation once it was all over, wiping the rain water from his brow. It didn't seem to matter though.

"Geez, if you guys don't care about us, the least you could do is care about yourselves! I mean, do you want to get sick?" Misty yelled through her aggravation.

James and Meowth took a moment to sob gratefully at her misplaced empathy but Jessie was her usual gung-ho self, wanting the job done and as soon as possible. She signaled to Meowth, who immediately stopped his weeping and pulled out a small remote from nowhere. He pushed the only button visible on it and a second later, their balloon began to rise from right behind them, beyond the steep cliff, above the crashing waves.

"Hahah!" Jessie cackled, "Nothing can stop us as long as we have a speedy getaway on our side!" She shouted, leaping backwards and into the basket of their hot-air balloon. She pulled out a Pokeball and held it out, "Arbok, g--"

"--Wait a minute! If your plan is to escape as fast as possible, then are you also planning to leave your Pokemon behind while you drift away?" Brock asked her.

"Uh. . ." She replied, obviously not having thought of that.

"Fine, then! Meowth, go straight to part B of the plan!" James yelled ferociously, a finger pointing at the group of opposing trainers. Ash and his friends just sighed. All they wanted was to get out of the rain. How was that going to be possible with these three stooges goofing up for so long?

"Alright, Jimmy!" Meowth shouted with a nod, joining his partners in crime at last. Ash blinked, Misty shrugged as if not fazed, and Brock started making a pot of hot tea to sooth him and his friends after the weather had drenched them. But all of those expressions changed when Meowth pulled out a. . . trashcan lid? James took it from him, Meowth climbed onto the side of the basket they were standing in, claws tightly gripping the ropes holding their vessel together. Then James removed a Pokeball of his own.

"Go. . . Victreebell!" He shouted. There was a flash of light and a huge plant appeared next to him. It opened its carnivorous mouth and gave a shriek, leaping at its trainer as though wanting to eat him. But James was prepared for this, holding up that same trashcan lid from before and protecting most of his upper body. "Hahah! I knew that would work! And to think you doubted me, Jessie!" He laughed at her irritated expression, all the while keeping Victreebell at bay.

"That's great James! Now why don't you take advantage of this opportunity before the tailwind carries us too far away?" She exclaimed, not nearly as pleased as it would sound at first.

"Right! Victreebell!" He called his Pokemon, who was at attention at once. "Use your Vine Whip to nab that Pikachu!"

Long green limbs floated upward then jabbed straight at Ash and his friends all at once. Pikachu was ripped right off of Ash's shoulder and into the air before he could even attempt to strengthen his own hold on the small Pokemon. The next thing any of them knew Jessie was holding him in another one of their signature glass cases that withstood electricity. He tried to escape anyway, shocking uselessly at his cage before calling out to his trainer for help.

"Gr, Team Rocket!" Ash shouted, and he was holding out a Pokeball threateningly in the next instant, all too ready for a fight.

Misty and Brock joined him too, each of them preparing to get Pikachu back no matter what it took.

But Team Rocket was fluttering away thanks to the strong winds that the bad weather had brought them. They had actually thought it through a little bit, seeing as they were heading across the sea and not back into the mainland. Nobody was sure they even had a Pokemon on them that could reach Pikachu at this point.

"I could use one of my water-types. Maybe we can get them from below." Misty wondered aloud.

"I don't trust those waves. It looks like they could take down anything short of a Gyarados, and none of us has one of those." Brock replied. "Ash, what about Noctowl? Wait. . ."

". . . Yeah, with the wind as strong as it is, he'd probably be too weak to handle it." Ash nodded and he looked grim at the thought. What could they do?

"Hahah!" Jessie squealed in delight. "Looks like Team Rocket has gotten the best of the twerps! Finally we win!"

"Meowth! And now I can be's da Top Cat!" Meowth exclaimed. He and James high-fived while Jessie held Pikachu above her head tauntingly. And what happened next, nobody saw coming.

Her grip, lax due to her confidence, slipped from the moisture in the air. Pikachu fell down, taking the perilous tumble into the crashing waves of the sea below. He let out a wail while Victreebell tried to grab a hold of him again but it didn't catch.

"No!" Everyone gasped at once, Team Rocket sobbing again and Ash almost tripping over his own feet. But there was no sign of his friend, he was already below the surface. That did not deter his determination. He was going to get Pikachu back no matter what!

Team Rocket couldn't do anything else other than cry and yell at one another as they continued to fly away from them.

"Team Rocket's sailing away again. . . !" They called as they began to vanish behind some cloud cover.

Immediately, Ash discarded his bag and Pokebelt, removing something quickly before giving them to Brock. Then he handed his hat and jacket to Misty. They would only drag him down and that was the last thing he needed when he was already going to--

"Ash, are you crazy? You can't go after him! We already said that it would be too dangerous for a Pokemon, let alone a human being!" Misty shouted in fear.

"Yeah, well what else do you want me to do, huh? That's Pikachu down there! I'm not going to lose him just because Team Rocket screwed up again!" And he marched forward, leaping over the steel guardrail that marked the end of the road. His friends followed after him, trying to find the words that would change his mind. But there was nothing that could combine with the hopes that everything would work out okay. "Just hold onto my things. I'll be back, I promise!"

"Ash, maybe we should try getting help? I mean," Brock gulped as the cliff steepened and met with the high tide, "that looks more than dangerous."

"We're too far from town, and I'm not going to risk looking for another trainer nearby when Pikachu is getting farther and farther away!" He gave them both one last look, one filled with courage and terror at what he was going to do next. "I'll see you two in a little bit."

He started the climb down towards the highest of the waves, trying to see if he would find Pikachu while avoiding any unnecessary harm. But his grip wasn't steady anyway, and it took him only five seconds to realize that, unless he wanted to waste more time, he would have better luck just falling in. He quickly took the thing he'd pulled from his bag out of his pocket and placed it into his mouth. It was a breathing device, like those used in the Sensational Sisters underwater ballets.

He let out a shout as he released the rocky earth beneath his dirty palms, tucking in his arms and legs and landing as flat as he could. The last thing he saw were Misty and Brock's terrified expressions before the vision went blurry and he was being tossed around by the unfathomable sea.

He quickly noticed that he was being dragged in a certain direction and looked around, assuming it had been the same for his PikaPal. His sight was poor underwater but he did realize that the cliff he'd jumped from, though worn away by the constant erosion, cluttered the wall beside him with age-old roots and brambles. If he was lucky, he could use them to control where he went for the most part.

So as he drifted by he tried to grab one but missed as it slipped through his fingers. The second one came apart in his hands. The third one, as they say, was the charm. Thick and strong, he held on tight and refused to let go, always looking ahead to find Pikachu and the next thing he could use to move forward.

Soon the chill had worn off and he'd grown mostly comfortable with the way the water yanked him this way and that, not that it was a good thing. On the other hand, his hopes were growing thin and his mind was getting jumbled. Where was Pikachu? Would he ever find him? Had he taken too much time getting as far as he had? The guilt made his heart jump and he feared for the first time that he would die there too, having no way to get out and no success in finding his friend.

And all of a sudden there was a strange glimmer from somewhere ahead. He realized that the cliff to his right was narrower, shorter, and that the water and land must have been evening out above the surface. There was the faintest light of the skies above and it was reflecting off of a glass case about ten meters in front of him.

Pikachu had caught a lucky break. He had been pulled along with the current for ages but had kept getting pushed against the wall of the cliff by the water. Because of it his journey had slowed as he kept getting caught on the branches. And now he'd ended up lodged between two rocks half embedded in the earth.

Ash took the plunge and let go of the two roots he was using to keep steady, floating directly towards his friend.

"Pikachu!" His speech was garbled thanks to the breathing device, but it did no good anyway. Pikachu was unconscious, though he looked relatively unharmed. It was probably due to the beating he had taken as he traveled, seeing as he only looked dizzy and tired. Ash couldn't have been more relieved. Quickly he pulled the glass container out and held it to him, trying to figure out how to accomplish his next feat. He had to find some way to the surface. . .

But nothing seemed to come to him, nothing sounded plausible enough to work. The only way he could see was to simply be carried a little farther down. After all, if the river was getting more shallow then he should naturally reach even land if he kept to his right. It was his only shot.

So he held Pikachu to his chest as tightly as possible and lost his grip on everything else. His eyes tightly closed and his breath held even though it wasn't necessary, he soared on his backside until he realized that that backside was making contact with the bottom of the river. And opening his eyes brought to light the slightest of skylight. The current had weakened now because there was barely any water left for it and he quickly sat up, breaking the surface of the water at once.

The wind still blew, but not as bad as before. He felt a chill go up his spine nonetheless and slowly reached his feet. He didn't notice at first that his knees were wobbling, and he couldn't tell if that meant he had been scared or if he was just knocked for a loop and needed to get his bearings again.

He took the two or so steps needed to get out of the water, collapsing onto his bum again and twisting off the safety cap of the glass container. There was a nick here and there, and a crack running from the rounded dome halfway down the diameter, but no water seemed to have gotten in. The one thing Team Rocket had succeeded in doing was making sure Pikachu's cage was impenetrable.

"Cha. . ." The electric Pokemon sighed to himself, then continued to sleep soundly. Ash wanted to wake him and be sure he was okay, but at the same time wondered if it was better to leave him be. If he looked okay, then he had to be okay, right?

"Ash. . . ?" A voice called from behind him, and he turned at the sound, "Ash!"

Misty and Brock came running as fast as their legs could carry them, approaching him from the hill they had been standing on before. They were heaving breath as though they'd been trying to keep up all along, as though they'd been running for awhile.

"Hey guys! I told you it'd be okay!" He said a little too confidently after removing the breathing device. They both stood before him and stared him down, not sure what to say.

"Ash, you shouldn't have done that. You just got lucky this time around. We get it, you love Pikachu, but. . ." Brock was at a loss for words now and could only gape. He couldn't believe they'd both made it out of there, not only alive, but completely safe.

"But nothing. What was I supposed to do? Nothing is more important to me than my Pokemon. I'm going to protect them no matter what, especially from Team Rocket." He sounded confident as he said it, but also a little bit disappointed. He thought that they'd know that about him by now. Weren't they supposed to be his best friends?

"Still, you need to learn to think before you leap. And don't roll your eyes or laugh at me when I say it just because you don't think it's true or necessary. This journey isn't about how many times you can escape injury or worse. You're supposed to be getting stronger as a trainer so stop trying to end the journey early." Brock let the ringing silence take over for a moment, whether it was because he had nothing else to add or he just wanted it to sink in a little bit. ". . . And I'm not alone in thinking this, I know I can't be. Don't you agree with me, Misty?"

The redhead was not aware of the pairs of eyes that drifted over her. Or rather, if she was, she didn't make it known to them. She stood there, clutching Togepi in her arms, her bag draped over her back and Ash's jacket hanging around her elbow. She was wearing his hat, something that they would notice and maybe even laugh at her for at any other time, but she couldn't care about that now. Her shoulders shook just enough to notice and she was staring at the top of Ash's head as though she didn't see it.

"Misty?" She wasn't even sure who was saying her name anymore.

"Stupid. . ." The word flowed from her lips automatically. It was a familiar insult of course, but that didn't make the shot any less effective. "You dense idiot! You. . . Why would you. . . ?" She was having trouble putting any form of a sentence together but she had to say something. She had to do something. He had to know that he had pulled a rather stupid move and she wouldn't just let him get away with it. Not as a friend or as a human being.

The next thing Ash knew, a crack almost like lightning wrent the air and his cheek stung. His mouth fell open and his hold on Pikachu went lax for a second as one hand felt at his face. Misty had just slapped him! He turned eyes on Brock who seemed just as speechless as him. Neither of them could understand it, neither one of them had even attempted to use that as a method of communication before.

So when Brock spoke again, Ash took his advice almost gratefully for the first time that day.

"Uh, you should get Pikachu to the PokeCenter. You know, just in case." He started distractedly.

"Y - yeah, you're probably right." Ash replied at first, "Where is it? How far? I don't know after having to swim half of the way." He finished by way of making a mild joke.

"Luckily you traveled in the direction we were going in anyway. We should only be about ten minutes from town, walking. If you run. . ." He let Ash form his own conclusion. "And I'll take that for you. Just hurry up. We'll, uh, we'll meet you there." He picked up the breathing device from beside his friend and pocketed it, not bothering to open Ash's bag and put it back in. He probably wasn't capable of thinking of it.

Ash didn't bother asking why Brock and Misty would have to meet him there. He didn't want to know anyway. he just wanted to get away from the redhead before she happened to want to hit him again. And maybe that was Brock's plan. In Ash's absence, Misty would probably calm down after awhile.

"Toki?" The egg Pokemon in her arms asked, staring innocently up at its mother. It had no idea what had just transpired, but it could still tell she was upset. "Togepri!" It chirped next, wiggling in her arms, wanting to turn around and comfort her with a hug but she wouldn't let it. Maybe she wasn't even paying it attention for once, which is what Togepi thought too, because it started crying right after.

"W - what? Togepi, what's wrong?" Misty asked, holding up her baby and staring it in its wailing face.

"I bet I know." Brock replied monotonously, "You wore your emotions on your sleeve and Togepi just wants you to be happy. When you hit Ash and we all reacted negatively, I assume it noticed something was wrong even if it didn't know what exactly that was."

Misty didn't respond to this; she simply held her baby closer and grunted irritably. Still, she knew he was right. She really didn't want Togepi to be upset at her and she soothed it to sleep as soon as possible by humming under her breath. Soon the sobs were stifled and then non-existent. She was grateful that she'd had so much training with her youngster Pokemon that she knew what to do when the situation was serious.

Now she could use the time to think on other things.

This was exactly what Ash had in mind as well. It was strange that the whole time he was rushing Pikachu to the PokeCenter, his mind was on Misty's actions. Why would she hit him? What had he done wrong? More than that, what had he done that she wouldn't have done had it been her own Pokemon? This was why he rarely ever dealt with girl-things, or Misty-things. They were too complicated for him to figure them out.

He clutched Pikachu to him as he approached the end of the dirt pathway. It melded into stone and then cement, and then he found himself standing in front of a city gate. He marched through it without a second thought, found the giant symbol that stood for the PokeCenter attached to a huge building towards the center of the small town, and ran for it. At the same time, he tried to shake those thoughts from his mind. He couldn't help it that things had transpired the way they had, so rather than dwell on it, he would just have to let it go. It was hard to think clearly too. He was still worried about Pikachu.

"Oh my, are you two okay?" Nurse Joy asked with the ever-lasting pep in her voice as he approached the counter. She swiftly removed the electric rodent from the boy's arms and handed him to Blissey. Then she looked the boy up and down, taking in his disheveled and sopping appearance, waiting for an explanation.

"I don't think anything's really wrong. I thought he was just tired because we had a. . . well, it was a big morning."

"Ah, I understand. But sometimes isn't it better to let your Pokemon rest a little longer rather than getting up so early to train?" She smiled at him, apparently not understanding at all, "Well, who am I to criticize? Don't worry," and she nodded to Blissey again, who marched off with a chant of its own name, "We'll take care of Pikachu for you. Because the condition probably isn't too serious, you can accompany him if you want."

Ash gulped. Normally he would have done that in a heartbeat. He always wanted to know how his Pokemon were doing when they weren't with him. But now. . .

"Actually I have a couple friends who should be getting here in a few minutes. I think I should wait for them out here in the lobby."

Nurse Joy smiled at him and said, "Well, you can have a seat. If you change your mind, or if you need anything else, just let me know. Okay?" She chirped, then sat down and turned to the computer that had been there the whole time in front of her, typing some data into it.

Ash paid her no more attention and took the first seat he walked by. He hadn't realized how tired or cold he was until now. Not only that, but he must have been shaky from his experience that morning, too. His legs still felt a little bit like jello mold. Or was he just nervous? In a few minutes he would see Misty again, and Brock. . . but mostly the problem was with Misty. He wanted to tell her that he obviously didn't appreciate her hitting him, that she should either explain herself or apologize. . . but past experience had told him that neither part of that plan was a good one.

So he drifted off into a stupor waiting for them to arrive. In fact, the seat was nearly comfortable enough for him to fall asleep again. That's right, he had forgotten all about them waking so hastily earlier that morning to avoid the bad weather. Well, it was more because of the bad weather. . . Maybe he wasn't so tired anyway if he would let his thoughts wander that much.

Or maybe he was just trying to distract himself.

"Oh, Ash! There you are. We didn't see you, and thought you'd gotten lost for a second." Brock attempted to joke. Misty didn't say anything, though her cheeks were red and her face was a little splotchy. She sniffed at him, seemingly out of irritation. But she also seemed to be holding something back.

"So how's Pikachu?"

Ash sat up a little more interestingly now and replied, "Well, Nurse Joy doesn't think it's too serious. If you want, we can go see him together. I was going to wait for you guys to find me first anyway before I did."

As long as it's not serious. As long as Pikachu's okay, Misty internally noted. She still couldn't talk about it out loud. She sat down two seats away and soothed her sleeping Togepi. (Nobody was sure why she didn't take the spot next to Ash; maybe she thought she wouldn't be able to control her temper if she did.) She continued to ignore Brock's approval of Ash's plan and when they both started walking towards Nurse Joy to ask to see Pikachu, she didn't join them.

"Misty, something wrong?" Ash had the courage to ask her.

Brock noticed she wasn't answering so he tried too.

"Misty. . . I'm sure Pikachu would like to see you." She turned a hostile glare on him and opened her mouth to let loose a lot of what could probably be constituted as vulgar language, but he interrupted her before she could start. "But, ah, you know, if you just need a little bit more time to yourself, who am I to interrupt?" He laughed uneasily before he and Ash - who seemed to take her ignorance towards Pikachu personally - followed Nurse Joy into the back.

She wanted to regret her decision not to visit with the rest of them, and for Pikachu's sake, she did just a little. But she wouldn't face Ash yet. She felt like yelling and crying, and it was unexpected for her. She hadn't realized that the two of them had become so close. . . She wasn't looking for that in him, but she doubted now that she could change it. Truth be told, she should have known better. She had cried for him before, after all, and cried over him as well. She had just hoped. . . that it wouldn't be like this.

So she sat there for the following half-an-hour or so and whiled away the time trying to come up with the perfect excuse. She didn't want Ash to catch on (though he'd have to be hit upside the head with it for him to even begin to understand) and she was too tired to fight about it anymore for the day. But more than that, she didn't want her actions and thoughts to haunt her throughout the coming days.

". . . Okay," came a familiar exasperated and slightly aggravated tone, "So I'll wait for you to tell me why you did it." Ash was a little reluctant to sit beside Misty after saying that, though, especially when she looked at him as though wanting to maul him. "Wait, hold on. . . ! I was just kidding."


Ash finally sat in the empty seat next to her, which made her feel unnecessarily uncomfortable, and refused to meet her gaze. But he did grant her wish to keep talking.

"Actually, Brock already told me what I needed to know," and then, after allowing her to brace herself, he went on to say, "He said that you weren't really angry, you were just upset. That, and it was probably my fault. He said it's usually my fault." Misty almost laughed at the fact that it seemed to trouble Ash to know that. But she didn't. It wasn't really all that funny when it was true.

"Yeah, it's usually 'cause of you that I feel like kicking down trees. Personally, too; no Pokemon necessary."

"Oh. Well that's nice."

The silence was getting a little more awkward. Misty could see that Ash must not have thought this whole thing through because he obviously didn't know what else to say to her now. It was partially comforting to know it because that meant he only wanted to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. Maybe because he saw how much it was upsetting her? But, Ash being Ash, he knew no more than that. What should he say?

Well, what he did say definitely wasn't what she was looking for.

"I can't apologize for it."

"What are you talking about?" She asked, now very irritated. But she tried to pretend that she didn't know why.

"Pikachu was going to die. I can't say sorry when I know I helped save my best buddy's life. Don't you feel the same? What if it were Togepi?"

Misty looked just south of appalled as her gaze dropped to the infant Pokemon still slumbering in her arms. She gulped, terrified that the words he said almost made sense to her that way.

"D - don't try to turn this around on me. What you did was not heroic, Ash, so don't act like it was! What you did was irresponsible and careless and. . . Didn't you worry about us? Didn't you think of the consequences? I mean, what if you didn't make it out either, let alone Pikachu? What did you expect us to do? What did you want us to say to your mom, huh?" She didn't realize she was shouting until she had begun to heave breath towards the end of her rant. Afraid that she'd wake up her baby, she turned and begrudgingly removed her bag, placing it inside so that it could sleep soundly.

"Consequences?" No, maybe he hadn't. All he could think about was that stupid Team Rocket and how Pikachu would have no way of escaping from his cage on his own. His friend needed help and Ash was never one for turning a friend down. "I guess not. . . but it wasn't just for Pikachu. I would have done it for anybody. I would have done it for you, too."

"Me?" She asked skeptically. Despite that, her face glowed a little pinker.

"Yeah. You're my friend, too, Misty. If something happened to you and I stood a chance of helping, I wouldn't just sit back and pretend I couldn't. It doesn't even come down to Team Rocket. No matter what could happen, I have to protect my friends. My mom always told me that my friends are treasures and I should work hard to make them feel that way." He stopped talking there, though he looked like he could have said something more.

So even if I don't act like it sometimes, I am grateful for you being with me. If there was a look that could fit that description, surely he would be wearing it now.

This was what Misty had feared, she realized as her heart beat a little erratically. She didn't know how to deliver the message in words, but it had hit her earlier that day, as she experienced the sight of her best friend disappearing underneath the sharp waves of the river. She didn't think she could live without him. It was not something she had been looking for all this time, but now that it had happened, she didn't know what to say. He couldn't possibly understand how that felt, could he? To adore somebody so much (even through the worst of times), that you needed them to always be around to validate your existence. Then again. . . maybe he did. Maybe Pikachu was that somebody. Maybe, if she could count her lucky stars, she was also one of those somebody's.

Goodness, she hoped so. She just didn't want these feelings to be useless, even if nobody else would ever know about them except for her. Because now definitely wasn't the time to burst out with something like that. But still, she felt like she needed to say something. He had to be waiting for her to reply to his confession.

"You would do that for me. . . ?" Her tone quaked under the anxiety. "Don't do that, Ash. Don't ever say that again." She wanted to yell at him some more, but she didn't have it in her. Despite the fear that one day he might do exactly as he'd said, she was a little flattered that he would consider her so special. And all this time she had allowed herself to be confused about what kind of friendship they had, if what they had constituted as a friendship at all.

"What? Why?"

"Because! Brock was right; that's not what we're supposed to be doing here. We're not supposed to be getting serious about things like that. You're supposed to be training for the League, getting stronger, gaining life experience. So don't plan for a time when you would have to - to do something like that!" Luckily, she was able to grasp at the final straw of anger. She ripped it apart and threw it at him fiercely. "Don't plan on dying!"

"But. . ."

But I never said I would plan on dying.

He didn't finish the statement but the words hung in the air without being said.

"You can't just think that because you aren't planning for it, it won't happen after all either. You can't control everything, and someday, you're not going to be able to depend on other people to save you, or good fortune to fix itself. Someday even I. . . might not be here for you anymore."

Oh. It stung Ash to think that Misty would just walk away. They had over three years behind them, all filled with ups and downs. Now she was saying he shouldn't count on that forever? She could just move on? He didn't know why it hurt as bad as it did, and he wouldn't dwell on it. Not right now.

"W - well. . . I don't want to think about that." He felt his breath catch in him for a moment but shook it off with a clearing of the throat. But he finally understood at least a little bit about why she'd hit him earlier. He thought he'd never get it - it must have been another one of those Misty-things - but he too would be moved into action by the distress of a dear friend possibly throwing themselves away, even for another.

"So nothing anybody says - nothing I or Brock or your mom try to say to you - will change this? You're telling me that this is just the way you are?"

He nodded but didn't elaborate. She would just have to suffer in the knowledge of what that nod meant.

She didn't say anything more, wasn't sure if there was anything left to say anyway. They'd covered all of the basics, and now it was just getting awkward. They could do without much more of that. So Ash did the most casual thing he could.

"You know, Pikachu woke up a little while ago. He was afraid that you and Togepi were hurt or something 'cause neither of you were there to see him. I think he'd feel a lot better if you went back with me and told him you were okay."

Ash reached his feet, avoiding her steady gaze by staring at the glass of the windows to the left of them. Then he held out a hand and waited for her to take it, the other one posed at the back of his neck as if ailed with a befuddling itch. Still, he could feel the short hairs at his scalp prickle. He was so nervous and he hated it.

She looked him up and down for a minute as though gauging how desperately he needed her to go with his flow. She was still scared if he really was that kind of person (but not enough to admit it), but she could see the gears turning in his head. He knew he was not the only one of them who could cease to be. He was not the only one who could leave the rest of them behind during the worst of situations, never to return.

". . . Okay." She finally decided, and took the invitation his hand offered to her.


Notes - Well, it was a little harder to write at some point than I hoped for. But I liked the prospect of a fix where Misty gets slapped in the face with Ash's selflessness. Heh. Sounded fun. And serious. Plus Ash got to tell her that she was important (in not so many words), and that's always a swift kick. But the good kind, right? Lol.

So now I don't know what to do. Part of me knows I need to stop with the distractions and go finish IS and write the next chapter to SkoL, but on the other hand, I've recently come up with two or three one-shot ideas that I'd really like to get off my misshaped chest. They would probably help me rebuild my reputation in the Pokemon FFN area, too. . . What do you guys think?

Reviews make me smile! (And laugh. And jump up and down. And I probably cry a little sometimes too 'cause nobody else loves me except for the people who read my fiches!)

Basically, what I'm getting down to is please review!