Disclaimer - I'm too lazy to try and be creative about this. No, I don't own anything to do with the series, including plots or characters. I just take advantage of them.

Notes - Hah, well, I've been working on this fic in my notebook since around November of last year and a lot of things have happened that put it on hold, but I wanted to have it up on FFN by February 14th. You know, as a Valentines gift for all of the Pokeshippers still out there, let alone those of you who remember me. Lol.

Oh, also, there's some warning for. . . mature!Ash. Lol. I just wanted to put that out there in the open so nobody can come whining to me about how he isn't like himself.

This fic starts in Johto.


Author - Chibi / Warlordess

Title - "The Ancient Language of Mistynese"

Summary - Ash learns the difference about boys and girls while trying to understand Misty better. And thanks to Brock of all people.


Part Three


Ash awoke the next morning to a brisk fall chill and weak sunshine landing right in his eyes. He turned over and ignored the calling of daytime hours until he realized that it was a little too quiet for his liking. And then, of course, memories of the night before flooded his consciousness and he gasped, leaping upright and twisting in all directions.

Team Rocket was gone. . . and so was Pikachu!

"Should've known. . . Should've known!" Ash muttered furiously, sliding out of his sleeping bag as fast as possible. He was on his feet in an instant, turning round and round and gritting his teeth, fists clenched. He bent over and smashed his cap against his scalp, throwing his bag over his shoulder and snapping his PokeBelt to his waist. He shoved his feet into his tennis shoes and stood tall again.

"Pikachu!" He shouted as loud as he could, then turned around again. "Pikachu! Can you hear me?!" He cupped his hands to his mouth and tried one last time, calling out for his Pokemon but to no avail. He didn't know what to do. While he slept, Team Rocket had betrayed their truce and taken off. Who knew how much of a head start they had gotten? Where was he supposed to start looking? What was he supposed to do?

"Pi. . . ?" A muffled voice questioned behind him.

He turned and caught sight of Pikachu slowly marching forward, an apple clutched tightly in his mouth keeping him from openly expressing himself. Knowing that he was back at the campsite, he sat on his hind legs and placed the apple in his front, taking a bite and smiling up at his trainer, happy to see him awake and curious as to why he looked so panicked.

"Pikapi, pikachu pipipi chu pika?"

"You - you're okay. . ." Ash breathed deeply, aware that his knees had almost crumpled beneath him in his grief. Instead he slowly gained the strength back in his limbs and stumbled forward until he had reached his Pikapal's side and sat beside him. His appetite wasn't even awakened at the sight of the healthy looking fruit placed before him. "You are okay, right? Why didn't you answer me then? Where did Team Rocket go?"

"Pikachu pika pika pi chu chu."

"They left. . . earlier?" Pikachu had the grace to stop eating for a moment, the apple held in his mouth again as he lifted a paw and pointed to the other side of the campsite where Jessie, James, and Meowth had slept the night before. Not having a notepad or a pencil at the ready (at least, this was what Ash surmised), they had taken to writing in the dirt with a stick.

"We'll be back for that Pikachu!" Fancy, curvy writing wrote first. It could only belong to a woman, which meant it was from Jessie. "Thanks for the meal, Twerp." James' messy scrawl came next, begrudging but at least he had tried to be sincere. "Meowth, dat's right!" Well, it was pretty obvious who had written the last one.

"So. . . they really stuck to their promise?"

"Pika!" Pikachu nodded, then went on to say, "Chu chu pi pika pikachu."

"The apple. Of course. So I slept a little late, huh? And you were hungry so you went to get something to eat?" Ash wanted to admonish Pikachu for worrying him, but he was too relieved that everything had worked out. Still, according to his Pokemon, they'd lost some time in traveling to Pallet, and since his stomach was queasy even now from the worry he'd felt up until a few minutes ago, he could go without breakfast. They were only an hour or so from his hometown anyway. He could wait until then. Plus, his mother's cooking would make him feel loads better compared to the instant packet miso Brock had supplied after his leftover stew.

"Well, hurry up buddy! Let's go home!"

Pikachu nodded his head excitedly and dropped the apple core to the ground. Then the two of them took off at a mad dash towards the direction of the giant dome-shaped building he saw in the distance over the treetops; Professor Oak's lab.

It took them the better part of the morning to finish their run back to Pallet Town, but it was worth it when Ash caught sight of the familiar homes and landscapes. He could even smell it in the air. This was his home, and he had learned to miss it well while he was away. He decided to slow down now. He could see the roof of his house from where he stood at the edge of the small town, but he also wanted to drink everything in.

Pikachu leapt up his arm and onto his shoulder, patting him on the head when he finished. He probably missed this place too.

The two of them cautiously marched the pathways into the residential district of Pallet, seeing and smelling Mrs. Ketchum's vegetable garden long before they'd made it to the yard. All seemed to be quiet as far as they knew.

Well, at least until Ash opened the front door.

"Surprise!" A chorus of voices rang out. It was a good thing he had been enjoying the familiar scents because his breath was temporary lost to him now. Pikachu nearly fell off his shoulder from the excitable shock, and it showed on Ash's face how much he hadn't expected anything like this.

The front door of the Ketchum home led straight into the kitchen and dining area, where the main table had been filled with all sorts of party foods and drinks. Behind that stood his mom, Professor Oak, Tracey, Brock (wasn't he supposed to be back home?), and Misty. Wait. . . Misty?

His eyes bugged out for a second before he lost sight of everything, thanks to his mother running up to him and throwing him into a fierce embrace.

"M - mom. . ." He heaved, but put his arms around her too. He couldn't turn down the affections of his mother after all. And when she'd finally chosen to release him a second later, he was able to ask, "What's going on? Why's everyone here?"

"Oh, c'mon honey, you did so well in the Orre region, and I knew you'd be hungry when you got back home. I figured we could make an event out of it. And your friends wouldn't want to miss it if they had the chance of being here with you." Delia smiled down at her son, before a slightly troubled expression found its way to her features. "I tried calling May here too, but she said that some Team Rocket members had intervened in the Johto Coordinating Festival, so they fell behind this year. She's supposed to be battling Drew tomorrow actually. . . She told me she was sorry, but we both agreed that you'd understand."

"A - ah, yeah, sure. . ." Darn, it would have been fun to go over May's latest techniques. He would have enjoyed meeting any and all of the new Pokemon she had to have caught while in Johto too, even if he had seen them all before. But that train of thought careened to a halt as his mother released him from her vice-like hug and his eyes tentatively landed on Misty. Just for a moment because he didn't like the feeling he got when he looked at her. How the hell was he going to act if he had really had the guts to venture to Cerulean then?

"Way to go, Ash! The Professor and I were watching the finals while you battled! You were great, as always." Tracey clapped him on the back with a friendly smile. Ash grinned weakly at him and he let go, only for Professor Oak to pat him on the shoulder a couple times.

"Never a dull moment with you, is there?" The elderly man said with an accompanied chuckle and a clearing of his throat. "How many times did you have to send Team Rocket packing?"

"Well a few. . . but not as many times as you would think." Ash laughed, facing the slightest bit of guilt at the thought of how he'd doubted them all that very morning. Just to have them prove him wrong. Well. . . there was a first for everything, wasn't there?

"And how's Pikachu doing?" Tracey said, and the Pokemon gave a friendly squeal of its name before leaping onto his shoulder. "It's been awhile hasn't it? I was starting to miss him. Man, and you're looking really well too," he said as he scratched behind Pikachu's ears, "If only I had my sketchpad with me. . ."

"Pikachu Pi!" It took less than a second for Pikachu to jump away from Tracey and straight into the approaching Misty's arms. He rubbed against her chin in a cat-like fashion and she giggled.

"I'm really happy to see you too. I'm glad someone didn't forget about me." And as she finished her statement, she turned and stuck her tongue out at Ash.

Huh? What did that mean? Shoot! It had been awhile, so his girl-reading skills had gotten a little rusty. But Brock was there too! He could always go and ask for that guide back, right?

"Hey Misty," and speaking of Brock, "I think I hear Azuril upstairs. It sounds like she woke up from her nap. I'd go get her but I need to check on a couple of the dishes."

"No, it's fine, she's my Pokemon anyway," and then she turned her gaze downward, "Hey Pikachu, you wanna go see your friend Azuril again?"

Pikachu grinned widely and leapt down from her arms, practically racing her into the living room and up the staircase.

By the time she'd come back downstairs with her infant Pokemon, the festivities had started. Ash wasted no time in filling two plates for himself and finding a seat by the archway leading into the living room. His mother was rushing around with Brock, making sure that any last minute platters and arrangements were taken care of, so he entertained Professor Oak and Tracey by giving them a play-by-play of his final match in the Sinnoh League championships. Misty joined the queue just in time to hear the disappointed undertone in his voice as he recalled his defeat, and Brock and his mom joined them during the awkward silence that persisted afterward.

He rubbed Pikachu affectionately under the chin, nibbling on a suddenly flavorless finger-food. He couldn't pay attention to it, he could barely recognize the action that was his chewing something edible. He didn't realize it until now that he'd hoped to do so much better. He had really gone to win. He loved participating in the Leagues around the world but he would admit to himself that it sometimes felt like he was growing sideways.

But if ever there was the perfect time for him to be down on himself, it was when he was around his family and friends who could boost him back up. This was why he couldn't live without them, why he always needed someone around. Sure, it was always more fun to experience things with other people, but more than that was the thought - the ability - to rely on someone in even the worst of situations and moments in time.

And boost him they did. There were plenty of handshakes, and his mom didn't know when hugging became a form of martial arts rather than endearment. It was comforting though. Even Brock, who had been there through the whole thing anyway, chose to give him an extra dose of condolence. If nothing else, it was the perfect distraction for Ash. He was able to ask the question that had been bugging him for the past forty or so minutes, even if the words he chose to use seemed a little bit insulting. Why was Brock here?

". . . Really Ash, if you had bothered to pay attention to any of our conversations having to do with my family while we were traveling then you would have known from the moment I told you about my sister leaving for her journey that it was a lie. All of my siblings have been on the road for at least half a year." Brock rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, "Then again, I told you that lie specifically because I knew you didn't pay attention so I guess it's fine."

Needless to say that after that Ash felt a little embarrassed and humbled. So Brock had intended all along to beat him to his hometown and help set up the party with his mom. Well, it was fine. In the end it was just a good feeling to have these people around who had been with him since the beginning of his journey, or almost the beginning in Tracey's case.

After that he chose to enjoy himself. He had a mock battle against Brock in the backyard (swearing to his mother beforehand that he would keep far away from her garden), he let Tracey sketch Pikachu (although there was a quick pit stop to the lab up the street to pick up his sketchbook which everyone had forced him to leave behind that morning), he even made plans with Professor Oak to go visit his Pokemon the next day. Of course, that would only be after a good night's sleep.

Basically Misty was the only one he hadn't spent any real time with. He admitted that it felt a bit awkward around her, even if he couldn't place why. Even if it had been awkward around her for awhile now. He would have usually ignored that because she always acted normal. Now though, now she was avoiding him just as much as he was her. He couldn't imagine why. It wasn't like anything had changed between them, you know, unless she had realized that - as aforementioned - he had been feeling differently towards her for awhile and it had showed in his behavior.

Oh no. . . Could that have been it? It wasn't like he had particularly tried to hide it, but he hadn't considered that she could be any more perceptive than he was. The only reason that he had known the difference between the two of them at all was because of that stupid book Brock had leant him a few years ago. . . Jeez, had it really been that long now? But retaining focus meant realizing that, indeed, one of the differences between boys and girls might have very well been that perception. Slowly, slowly. . . Ash's doubt had grown and his feelings had begun to bubble overtop his head over the course of the past few years.

Leave it to Misty to know this before anybody else.

After his second battle against Brock, he sat down on the white bench on the back patio. The sun was brighter now than it was in the semi-darkness of the wooded area between Viridian and Pallet, and it had gotten warmer. Of course these mental notes only served the purpose of distracting him from what he had been concluding before, but not so much as what happened next.

A tall glass appeared right in front of his face, between his eyes, held up by a pale and slender hand. A hand that could only belong to a girl.

Rather than take the glass of water, he continued to stare blankly. Finally Misty got fed up with that and came from behind him, rolling her eyes and scoffing. Apparently she had to use her words, something Ash didn't seem capable of just yet.

"You look thirsty."

". . . Huh?"

She shoved the beverage into his arms without holding back, almost spilling it down his front. Why did she have to be so persistent? But the better question than that was why was she trying so hard if all he was going to do was stare through her?

"I said you look thirsty."


"What are you, Ash? Deaf? Just drink it already!" She nearly yelled. Tracey glanced over at the two of them from his spot in the living room where he was sketching a content Azuril, but then he turned back with a small grin. The Professor had gone to the kitchen area to help Mrs. Ketchum and Brock clean up some of the dirty pots and utensils.

Finally he glanced down at the water in his hand and took a gulp, Misty saw it as an opportunity to sit beside him. Even though that made him feel even more uncomfortable about everything, Ash chose to ignore it at first. But of course, he couldn't entertain himself with his drink for much longer. . . And sure enough, a few hearty gulps later and it was completely finished.

"So. . ." He started by means of breaking the ice.

"Yeah. So. . ." Well, she had to start somewhere. "So you placed fifth in the Sinnoh League? That's not bad, Ash. I'd say after six years you're finally starting to retain something from your training that will help you where it counts. Good for you," she finished with a smirk.

"Oh well I'm glad that you think so, Misty. Your opinion matters so much to me." But instead of matching his insult with a facial expression he began to look troubled again. Damn; and right after he'd almost come to terms with that loss. Of course she'd be the one to beat him up about it.

". . . But I was serious." Misty murmured, her own expression unsettling. Ash wanted to believe her but found it hard to look her in the eyes. "Fine Ash, you can think whatever you want and sulk for however long you want. But the way I see it is if you try and try and fail, and you care enough about your failure to be disappointed in yourself, then that means you'll feel obligated to try harder. You'll do better next time won't you? Just think about the Indigo League. You tapped out after getting into the top sixteen and you didn't even want to get out of bed because you couldn't get over the loss. . . But when you challenged Lance at the Orange League, you beat him. Do you see what I mean? It'll happen again as long as you take your failure and use the experience to your advantage."

He hummed at her to show that he had heard. Strangely enough her words made him feel a little bit better. She had gone through so much trouble to bring him down; he didn't think she was capable of building him back up too.

"So do you know where you'll be going next?"

"No." Well at least she had gotten a response from him, "I'll be doing a little research with Professor Oak tomorrow when I go to visit all of my Pokemon at the preserve. He said that a few new specialty Leagues have opened up that I might be interested in."

"Oh. I suppose Brock will be going with you then, won't he? And knowing you, you'll probably get there and meet a lot of new people on your first day and someone else will end up traveling with you. . ." She faltered here, the sense of nostalgia striking against her sinuses.

Ash wasn't really sure about that, no matter how much Misty seemed to be. He could see what she meant though. He'd met May really early on into his journey through Hoenn, and then Max soon after. And Dawn had already become pretty good friends with Pikachu before he'd even met her, so it almost made sense that she would join him if only to sate his Pokemon's feelings. It had never been hard for him to befriend people, and though there were a lot of trainers who chose to travel alone, there were still some who cared more for being part of a group, like him.

"Yeah, maybe. But that's not a bad thing, is it? I'd like the chance to help some other younger trainers out, just like I did for May and Dawn."

This wasn't what Misty wanted to hear. In truth, she really didn't know what she wanted to hear, but him bragging about how he'd bettered novice trainers and basically moved on from the three-plus years that the two of them had traveled together was not at the top of the list. Ash finally sensed something was amiss and, almost automatically, a continuation of his previous statement flowed from his lips.

"I mean, I got so far because I had more experienced trainers helping me from the beginning."

She gave a sharp little laugh, not cold but just a little skeptic. It had been awhile since they'd talked like this. She had almost forgotten what Ash was able to say to her in order to keep her frustrations in check.

"Yeah, and as we're both aware, the worst thing about beginner trainers is that they think they know the answers to everything."

"So true. Why else do you think I want to be the motivating coach that brings out the best in them earlier on?"

"Right? I mean, some of them even start out ignoring the advice of their betters and pitting bug Pokemon against bird Pokemon despite the so very obvious type disadvantage!"

"I know. It's so hard to believe that some of them could be that dense, isn't it?"

". . . You do realize I was talking about you, right?" She asked with a quirked eyebrow.

"No!" Ash gave a mock-shocked look and placed a hand to his chest as if wounded by her words, "I definitely didn't know that at all!"

". . . Just checking." She was silent for a moment longer before gracing him with a few more choice words. "You know what though? I just realized that I never had the chance to find the answers I was looking for."

"What are you talking about?"

"Well you know," she began to count the instances on each of her fingers, "you started treating me differently - good, but still obviously different. You knew what to say to make me feel better, you kept us from fighting a lot of the time, and then. . . you sort of grew distant. You began to separate yourself from me. As far as I can tell, it can all be traced back to your growth spurt in Johto. You know what I'm talking about."

Oh. So they were back to that, were they?

"Don't get me wrong. Like I said before, it wasn't a bad thing. But it freaked me out at first, and then it started scaring me." She ignored the look she received after admitting that. She wasn't prepared to tell him just yet why his change in behavior happened to scare her so much.

"An Ash who understands me can do a lot more damage to me than an Ash who doesn't."

That was what she'd told Brock so long ago, and it still held true. Ash looked her over, waiting for her to continue talking, but she clammed up after that. She was waiting for him to break the ice. After so much silence, after their time together, time apart, and now the in-between that led to the re-growth of what they'd been able to share when they were younger. . . he had to help bridge some of the gaps that he'd caused.

Really, he was almost okay with it. Thinking back on it, he had never meant to leave her without those answers she craved for so long. He had told himself from the beginning that it was only until he could understand her better, and then when she had gotten suspicious, he had forced himself to wait until he could figure out why he wanted to understand her better. But then her sisters had contacted them in Viridian and she was gone the same afternoon. After realizing that Brock's book had not helped him in telling her what she needed to hear, after vocalizing what he had internalized for many months beforehand, she had suddenly left and he had returned that book to its rightful owner. Honestly, he had forgotten that there might come a time when she would again ask for the truth, even if he owed it to her.

"Do you remember the first time I said the right thing to you?" He asked her. She furrowed her brow and shook her head a second later. Well, it had been a few years. "We were fighting about getting lost again and I brought up how you had gotten us lost the other time but you blamed it on me and said it was because you couldn't concentrate since Togepi was unhappy."

"Okay. . ." She drew out the last syllable, "But how is it that you remember all of that?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's important, or maybe it's not. Anyway, it was about a week before that when Brock pulled me aside and offered me this stupid, stupid book he'd written. And I'm serious, he hand-wrote it. He told me it was a guide on how to figure out what girls meant when they talked. Since I'm such a nice guy I didn't know how to tell him that I definitely wasn't interested in it, so he gave it to me to use for awhile." Throughout this explanation he could tell that Misty's expression was changing from curious to mild disblief. "But wait, there's more. I read a little bit at night and, at some point, something stuck with me. Enough so that, when we had that argument, I remembered something I could use."

"Y - you. . . you used a book to figure out what to say to me? A book that Brock wrote?" She didn't sound like she wanted to shoot him dead yet, which he assumed was her permission to keep talking. Little did he know that she was retracing the memories all that time ago.

"Um, yeah. At first it was great because I knew how to one-up you. I mean, you didn't know what to say the first time I used the books advice. I mean, you apologized to me. I wasn't sure why at the time, and I felt bad because I thought I was tricking you," he forced himself to ignore her flinch as she realized the same thing, "but then Brock has happy and Pikachu stopped shocking us out of our fights. I figured it was a win-win. And the second time I used it, I was able to tell you something that you wanted to hear. It made me feel good for some reason because we started getting along better.

"It only got better after the third time. You were angry about all of those girls that Brock was flirting with, and don't even tell me that's not true!" He got a little louder to stop her from interrupting him. "You laughed at my jokes because they distracted you from your frustration. That's right, it took me a few years but I figured it out at some point.

"Unfortunately you got suspicious, which I guess makes sense. I mean, you're not dense so of course you would. I realized though when you were trying to interrogate me that I kind of liked it when we weren't fighting and when I knew what you were trying to tell me. I didn't get it before then, why you were always bossy and loud and even a little violent. I thought you just didn't like me at all." Her jaw dropped and she opened her mouth again but he grinned at her. "Well, I guess that's laying it on a bit thick. Yeah, you probably liked me before I knew what to say. It's just that it was still hard to get along with you. So I lied when you tried to get me to tell you what was up.

"Finally there were the Whirl Islands."

Misty quirked an eyebrow. True, she barely remembered everything he was telling her, but as he revealed the layers of his deception, the moments unraveled from her mind and laid before her like an old film. And she definitely wasn't seeing anything in her mind's eye that referred to the Whirl Islands. . .

"Oh, but I guess you never knew about it. Well, I bought you that stupid Tentacool doll you liked so much." Her eyes widened but she bit her lip, not knowing what to say to that one. "I was going to give it to you when you lost to me in our match at the Whirl Cup competition--"

"--Whoa, hold on, you thought I was going to lose?" She yelled at him, finally getting a word or two out.

"Uh, did I say when? I meant if. If is what I meant." He coughed and avoided eye contact, his fingers tapping against the glass still in his hand. "What, can you blame me? I was young, egotistical, irresponsible. Of course I thought I was better than you. . . Anyway, yeah, so I bought the doll to give to you. Or maybe I was never going to give it to you. I was really nervous holding onto it the whole time. I think I actually lost some sleep to it. But since you won, I really didn't know what to do, so I gave it to Nurse Joy."

Oh, that part she remembered perfectly. Well, at least finding out that someone had donated a plush doll to the PokeCenter. She almost couldn't believe that it had been Ash all along.

"I gave the book back to Brock the same day you went home from Viridian."

Her eyes narrowed here. She hated that day. She had been so emotionally spent by the end of it, even considering the best part, like when Ash had finally admitted to her that they were best friends, and that he'd thought they were destined to meet each other on the first day of his journey. Was he about to tell her that Brock's book had been responsible for that too?

"When you yelled at me at the PokeCenter there and then ran off, I felt ridiculous. I thought I was doing the right thing in telling you to go, I thought it was my job as your friend to wish you luck. But it wasn't what you wanted to hear. When Brock and I went after you and found you battling the three idiot trainers, I spent a lot of the time trying to figure out exactly what you were expecting from me. And whatever I said was right, I guess. . . The only problem was that, even though you seemed okay with leaving all of a sudden, I didn't really want you to go. Especially when Brock said he'd be going too." But he had kept that to himself the whole time, accepting the fact that sometimes people needed to separate themselves from others in order to grow.

"I met May a couple weeks later, and then Brock followed me out to Hoenn. At some point I started fighting with her and he offered me his guide again, but I didn't want it. I think he thought I wanted to struggle through on my own, but really I was just uncomfortable using it on someone else. I kind of liked knowing that I got to know you better because of it. And then there was Dawn," he hurried along in saying, feeling her stare him down after that particular comment, "and I started from scratch with her, but I think the guide was in my head by then. When she was trying to tell me goodbye and that she wanted to be independent - even in not so many words - I figured out what she needed to hear from me.

"And now. . ." He faltered, turned to look at her, and shrugged. He was tapped out. Really, there was nothing left to say. Well, nothing left for him to say.

"You idiot," she started with a huff, "I would have taken that Tentacool doll no matter what you said to me at the time." Though, in all honesty, she probably would have hit him if he'd mentioned how he thought she was going to lose their match in the Whirl Cup. "You do realize you're going to buy me another one no matter what, right?"

"Uh. . . Sure?" He said, hoping it was the answer she expected to hear. But her wrath wasn't over yet.

"And I can't believe this all happened because of Brock. You do realize I'm going to have to burn that stupid book of his, right? I mean, as if it really would help him figure out any girl. We're not stereotyped, you know? Just because it worked for me doesn't mean it would work for anyone else. I mean, it barely worked for me, probably only because I was such a romantic when I was younger. When you started treating me better, I thought that you. . . uh," she coughed here and decided not to finish what she'd been saying, "uh, well, I guess I thought you trying to trick me. But no, you used a book to get on my good side. You should consider yourself lucky that I see you as a victim too, otherwise you wouldn't be able to stand on your own two feet right now. . ."

"Well, I don't know about me, but don't you think Brock's had enough punishment, knowing that his so-called masterpiece never has and never will work for him?"

Her gaze softened just a little, and he wasn't sure if it was because she could tell Brock would have been suffering all this time or if his puppy-dog face was doing the trick nicely on its own.

"Fine. I won't hurt him. But I'm still going to have to burn the abomination."

"So you won't hurt him physically." In truth, that was good enough for him. Brock had spent months weeping over the loss of Professor Ivy. He could handle a few weeks more due to the loss of a stupid guide for dummies.

"But it makes sense, I guess. I mean, there's no way you would have grown up so much on your own in such a short span of time. . . I feel stupid for even considering it. And Brock had basically spelled it out to me that what you were doing wasn't all bad, and you too. But I didn't like that there was something going on and I was the only one who didn't know what it was." Her tone became more somber as she went on. "I guess maybe you were right when you tried guessing why I needed to know. Were you tricking me? Were you pulling a huge joke and making me wait for the punch-line? I hated knowing only half of what was going on, mostly because I didn't hate it, but I figured it was all going to blow up in my face. And then you really got me at the time by telling me that was exactly the opposite of what you were doing. So all I could think was that I had to trust you because you weren't going to come clean on your own just yet.

"Of course, then I left to go home after all of that crap in Viridian City. So much happened that I actually kind of forgot about it for a little while. But during those rare times you called or wrote, I kept wondering if the next thing you were going to say was going to be the truth, no matter if that was good or bad. And when you never alluded to it, I assumed that you'd forgotten it all too. And our conversations never got so deep that you would have to try those tricks on me again. . ."

She leaned back in her seat with a deep sigh as though she didn't have anything left to say. He followed her choice in action, but was still prepared when she finally picked her next words.

"You know, I don't know how to put it but I guess the best way is to just say it. I think - I mean, I know - that I'm stuck with the path I've chosen; going home, running the Gym, and now helping my sisters so that they can take responsibility for the Gym too. . . But back then, when we'd gotten to Viridian and had just found out that I had to leave, if I could have had more of a choice, and if you had told me something different rather than just wishing me luck. . . I never would have left you."

Ash blinked but made no sudden moves. It was one of many translated lines in the book, what she'd just told him. It meant so many different things though they were all related. Now that his not so new-found knowledge was out in the open, he could even wonder if Misty had worded her statement like that on purpose. It had been awhile since he'd relied on those notes Brock had made in his book, but if she was asking for this answer then he was certainly going to give it. And finally, casually and boldly, he was able to tell her the last of his few secrets.

"Yeah Misty. I love you too."


Notes - Awe, yay, it's over! I love the fact that, from the beginning, I knew exactly how I wanted to end it. Lol. This reminds me of what I've ranted to myself about all this time. It's not like Ash has no romantic feelings, he just doesn't get what it is. If nothing else, he's so in touch with his emotions that he's almost a wimp. Lol. I keep wondering, if someone were to spell out different situations to him at first, wouldn't he begin to understand everything better? Like the Rudi-thing. If Tracey had just said, "Dude, he's flirting his butt off with Misty," I think Ash would have had a more obvious response. Lol. But that's just me.

And I'd like to thank everyone who told me specifically how proud and impressed that they were about me keeping up to date with the series by including Ash's travels with Dawn. I admit I was a little nervous because I've mentioned her in fics before but never gave her a speaking role until now. Not only that, but I don't watch Pokemon anymore. I don't have the time and there's too much to keep up with. I own a few of the Sinnoh episodes in original Japanese on my computer, and then the English version of the Buizel (not sure I spelled that right) eppie because Ash had his Misty-lure and it was cool beans. Yes, I did just say cool beans. Screw you, I'm really old, okay? Lol.

But anyway, that's it I think. Thanks to everyone for reading. No, there will be no more chapters, and no sequels. This is it folks! But I appreciate the business. Please review and tell me what you thought! And that you liked it! XD (If you didn't then I don't want you here!) Also, for those who are curious, my next project will be the epilogue of Illicit Saints! I hope to have that posted in a few months or less, although I'm not so inspired to write it. I hope once I start, the words will just flow, like they did for this fic at some point. But nice comments about how awesome I am might inspire me more. {^.^}