The Path I Choose to Walk

This isn't right.

The thought just wouldn't leave his head.

"Ash, sweetie? Could you lift your arms for me?"

Ash Ketchum snapped back to attention. "Oh, yeah. Sorry, mom." He raised his arms and spun, letting his mom check the fit on his suit jacket.

"Don't be Ash. Not today." She smiled brightly at him, then stood back to look him over. "It's perfect," she judged. She clasped her hands, and there were tears in her eyes as she exclaimed, "Oh… I can't believe my little Master is getting married!"

"Yeah…" He smiled weakly. Ash was in perfect agreement with that sentiment. Today seemed like a dream. But a dream he wanted more and more to wake up from.

"Okay, Ash… I've got to go see about the reception. So don't go anywhere! We've still got to do something with that hair." She laughed a little, then walked out of the little room Ash was using to get ready.

Ash sat heavily, and put his head in his hands. Keeping up the appearance that this was what he wanted was beginning to take its toll on him. And only the rest of my life to go, he thought bitterly. But he didn't get much of a respite, because only a few moments later, there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Ash said, trying to put some cheer into his voice. He sat up straight, regaining the image of the happy groom.

"Hi… Ash." The woman he loved walked into the room, her red hair cascading elegantly down over her neck and onto her light blue dress. Ash instantly wanted to say something about that hair, how much he loved it when it wasn't up in her normal ponytail. He wanted to hug her, tell her how happy he was to be marrying her, and then kid her about how he wasn't supposed to see the bride before the ceremony. The whole scene played out very smoothly in his head.

If only she was his fiancé.

"Hi, Misty." Ash said.

"So… this is it. Marriage. The big day," Misty said uneasily. She smiled. "Melody's very lucky to have you."

"Mhmm," Ash agreed. "She's… she's just great. A real good… person." You can do better than that! She'll know something's up! Ash scolded himself. But Misty seemed to accept his response.

"Where's Gary?" Ash asked, trying and failing to keep the scorn out of his voice when he said the name of Misty's long-time boyfriend.

She rolled her eyes a bit. "He's somewhere around here. I told him we needed to see you, but he wanted none of it."

"I don't blame him," Ash responded sadly. "I'm surprised he agreed to come at all. What I've done isn't really forgivable… and that's just what he knows about…"


Eighteen months earlier

"Wow… Ash, we've been talking for seven hours now. This is insane." Misty giggled into the phone.

Gary was gone, on some sort of research trip, and Ash was taking it upon himself to keep his best friend Misty company over the phone while her… boyfriend… was away. He may have become a bit overzealous about it, he now realized.

He was having a lot of trouble caring about that right now.

"I never get tired of talking to you, Misty. You know that," Ash said as he walked through the night, holding a sleeping Pikachu in his free arm.

"I know, I can tell," she replied, still giggling. "So… why are you talking to me so much?" She asked, finally stemming the flow of laughter.

"I…" he certainly couldn't tell her the real reason. "I just knew you'd be lonely, since you can't talk to Gary, and I wanted to make sure you had company…" He said. That was true enough, even if it didn't get to the heart of the matter.

"Well, that explains, oh, about four of the hours…" she said. "But out of the last forty-eight hours, you've been talking to me for seventeen of them. I think you might have another reason than that," Misty teased.

Ash stopped walking. She was right, of course. But did she know, or was she just kidding? Oh, what he would give to see her eyes right now. They would tell him. He stood in silence for a moment, just listening to the calming rhythm of Misty breathing on the other end of the line.

In the following months, Ash wondered what drove him to say what he said right then. He was a little tired, but that wasn't enough. His feelings were supercharged from talking to Misty so much, and that was probably most of it. But whatever the reason, Ash blurted out the whole truth right then, no matter what the consequences would be.

"I love you, Misty."

And there was a sudden silence.

"Oh. Ash… You mean… like… love? Like, Love love? Kissy, romantic, mushy fluffly love?" She asked, unable to believe him.

Ash swallowed hard. Well… might as well. It's out there now. "Yeah… that whole thing. All of that and more. I… love you." And suddenly, it was as though a flood was released. All the pent up times he should have said it, they all came bursting out. "Oh, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you… Misty, you have no idea how much, how long I've wanted to say that to you."

"Ash… why now? Why not back then? Back when I was… available?"

"I should have. I wish I did. I hate myself for not saying it then, but I can't act like it's not true anymore. I can't. It's too much."

"Ash…"

There wasn't much to say after that. Misty wouldn't leave Gary, she loved him. Ash's love remained unrequited. He told Gary what he said, and apologized… Gary was angry. Apocalyptically angry. But he held his rage, and only told Ash to watch himself.


Fifteen months earlier

"It's not that bad, Ash! It was just one little… mess-up. He's still a good guy!"

"No, Misty! You don't get it!" Ash yelled into his cell phone, alerting Pikachu. "That's who he is! He's an ass, and he always has been!" Ash scratched Pikachu's ears to calm him down, sending him back to sleep.

Misty had called Ash a few minutes earlier, crying about Gary standing her up on a date. This was commonplace; when Misty needed someone to turn to and Gary wasn't available or was himself the problem, she always went to Ash. And Ash had always defended Gary before today. Gary was his good friend now, and Ash didn't want him hurt, no matter how jealous he was. He would calm Misty down, get her to think, and she'd eventually get back to normal with him. Except… now, Gary doing this kind of thing had become the norm, and Ash had had enough.

"Misty, I've tried defending him. I've tried that over and over. I've told you what you needed to hear to stay happy with him. But I can't keep doing this, because I can't keep watching him hurt you. I love you too much for that."

"What are you saying, Ash?"

"I'm saying that this has gone on too long. He's lied to you over and over, broken promises, and stood you up four times! You told me once before that if he did any of those things enough, it would be enough for you to leave him, and yet now he's done them all again and again, and you're still ready to give him another chance!"

"Of course I am! I love him!"

It burned Ash to his soul to hear her say that, every single time. But he pressed on. "I know that…. But is love worth you being hurt over and over like this? Is it really?"

"Yes! It is to me!"

"I don't think it is. It's not to me." Ash sighed. "Misty… all I want is for you to be happy. I think… I know I could make you happy. But I don't want you to be with me, I just want you to be with someone who can do that for you. And Gary has shown me again and again that he can't. I can't keep telling you to stay with him, Misty. It isn't right. You shouldn't."

"Ash… you're going too far," Misty said warily.

"No, I'm doing what I should have been doing for two months now. As your best friend, as someone who loves you, Misty, please tell me you'll break up with him. Find someone better. Anyone. You deserve that, you deserve someone who will make you happy, and Gary isn't that someone."

"I won't leave him, Ash, no matter who tells me to." Misty stated softly.

"Misty… who else has told you this?" Ash asked.

She was quiet.

"Misty?"

"Brock, Tracey, and my sisters," Misty mumbled.

"Please, Misty, listen to the people who care about you and dump that jerk!"

"No!"

Ash sighed heavily. "Then… fine."

"Are you going to leave me now?" Misty asked him.

"No, never," Ash replied. "Not unless you force me away."

"Good." Ash heard her phone beeping. "I have to go, Ash. Gary's calling me."

"Fine. Goodnight, Misty."

"Bye, Ash." She hung up, and Ash was left to wonder what else could go wrong.

The next day, he found out exactly what else could go wrong. Misty had accidentally blurted out to Gary all the people who had told her to leave him, including Ash. Gary wouldn't speak to Ash anymore, or even acknowledge his existence to anyone else.


Thirteen months earlier

"Ash… there's something you should know."

Ash lay on his bed, phone in hand, and readied himself for whatever hell Gary was putting her through this time. "What is it, Misty?"

She hesitated. "Ash… you've always been here for me. You've put aside your League duties for me, you've neglected training for me… Ash, I know how much you sacrifice, and I'm not even your girlfriend… And that means so much to me. You understand me better than anyone, and you're… Ash, you're perfect for me. I've thought for a long time, and I've realized something. I just want to say… I love you, too, Ash."

Ash was shocked. He very nearly dropped the phone. "Wha—what? You… you love me? What do you mean? Why tell me now?"

"I don't know. I realized… I still love Gary, I'm not saying I don't. But sometimes… I wish he was like you. And I know now that I love you too. But… I don't know why I'm saying this. I just wanted you to know, I guess. I won't leave him, not even for you. We've been together for almost a year now, and I can't just throw that away. So… I guess it doesn't mean anything to you that I love you, does it?"

Ash sat, and thought. Then he smiled and laughed once. "No… it actually does mean something. It means a lot to me, knowing that you feel the same way I do. It doesn't fix things… but it makes it easier to take it."

"That's good. I guess."

"Yeah… it is."

"Ash?"

"What, Misty?

"I want to see you. Can… can we meet somewhere?"

Ash sighed. "You know how I hate being the third wheel, Misty."

"No. I don't want Gary there. Just you and me."

"He'd never allow that, not after what I said."

Misty whispered, "What makes you think I plan to tell him?"

Ash was stunned. "You want to go behind his back? For me?"

"Yes."

Ash felt torn, but he knew what he was going to do. "Tell me where and when, and I'll find a way to be there."


"Thanks for coming, Ash," Misty said.

They were meeting on the banks of the stream between Pallet and Viridian, exactly where they had met nine years before.

"No pole, Misty? Not up for catching any trainers today?" Ash laughed and hugged her close. Misty didn't respond. They stayed that way for a while, until Misty pulled away and sat down. She had a blanket set out for him, and some picnic food.

"Hey, do you remember the lure I gave you?" Misty said, looking into the river. "As a memento? I wonder what happened to it."

"Um…" Ash shuffled his feet a bit. "Well, I still have it…" He pulled it out of his pocket. It was old, and the colors were fading, but it was definitely Misty's lure. There was no mistaking that design. "It reminds me of you, so I carry it with me. I don't use it very much, though…." He offered it to her. "Do you want it back?"

"No! It was a gift. You keep it," Misty said with a smile.

"Good. I like it." Ash put it back up, then sat down next to Misty. He was surprised and overjoyed when Misty snuggled into his side.

"Misty, what are you—?"

"Shhh…" she silenced him. "I just wanted to know… what it's like with you."

"Misty…" Ash put an arm around her.

They sat together watching the river flow and listening to each other's heartbeat for a long time before Misty finally moved.

"Ash?" Misty turned and looked into his eyes. He saw worry in her sea green eyes, and his first instinct was to wrap her into a hug.

"It's okay, Misty… you can go if you want."

"But I don't want to go. I want…" she pulled away from him, but only so she could move her face in front of his. He looked into her eyes again, and now she was resolved. He would have asked what she wanted, if she hadn't moved forward right then and kissed him.

Ash's mind imploded. He never thought this would happen, never. Hoped? Yes. Wished? Prayed? All of that. But actually expected it? Never. He felt a rush of nervous excitement flow through him, but before he could start to respond to Misty's advance, she pulled back away, shaking her head.

"What am I doing?" she mumbled to herself. She moved away from him and turned away, wrapping her arms around her legs. Ash was worried about her, but the joy that flooded through his head just wouldn't go away. He laughed a little.

"What are you laughing for?" Misty snapped at him.

"It's just…" Ash laughed again. "You have no idea how long I've wanted you to do that. It's been so long…"

Misty was quiet for a minute, then said "I've wanted to do it for a while, too. Would…" She paused for a long time, then faced Ash again. "Would you kiss me again?"

Ash got onto his knees and half-walked over to her. "Well, duh," he said, smiling. She laughed once, then their lips were locked together again. Ash felt a little outclassed: Misty knew what she was doing, and he had no idea. But he tried hard to move how he thought she wanted. She parted her lips a little, and her tongue flicked over his lips. So he opened his own lips, and let her in. They fought back and forth, exploring the other's lips and tongue, both eager to learn exactly what they had been missing out on.

A few minutes later, they had to part for breath. Breathing heavily, Misty shook her head. "This is… so wrong."

Ash shook his head. "No. We love each other, and…"

"But I'm taken. I've always hated people who do what I'm doing now. And I feel like I should hate myself… but I don't, and that feels even worse. I feel terrible because I think I should feel worse than I do." She stood up. "I need to go. I can't think straight around you." Ash stood up with her, and she hugged him. "Thank you, Ash… thanks for coming."

"I love you, Misty," Ash whispered to her.

"I love you too," she whispered back. Ash's heart soared.

She gathered up the blanket and the forgotten picnic basket, and rode her bicycle away, towards Viridian and her home. Ash started back towards Pallet Town.


They met several times over the next few weeks, always in that same spot. Each time, Misty would get a bit closer, a little less worried, until finally Ash's reputation caught up to them. One day, he was followed by a reporter, eager to get a scoop on the young Master's private life. If Ash hadn't heard the snap of the camera, or if he had missed the photographer running through the trees… It would have destroyed Misty if Gary found out what was happening, to say nothing for Ash's reputation. Ash was able to get the man and buy his silence, but it served as a wake-up call for Misty and Ash. Together, they decided that as long as Misty was taken, the risk of exposure was too much. But Misty had one more word before they parted.

"Ash… move on. Find somebody who can be with you and love you, and not have to hold back. You deserve that more than I do," Misty told him.

Ash stood motionless. "And what if I don't want to move on? What if I want to wait, and hope it works out someday? There's always a chance…"

"Please? For me?" Misty pleaded. "I hate thinking of you being alone forever just for me. I'm not worth that."

Ash was ready to fight, but in the end he couldn't deny her. "I'll try… I guess. But I don't know if I can…"

A few weeks later, Ash met Melody again at the League conference. She was overjoyed to see him still single, and she asked him out on a date. Ash wanted to refuse, but he remembered his promise to Misty, and he went out with her. Ash didn't feel anything but a kind of kindness and friendship towards her, mixed with a bit of hidden annoyance that she wouldn't just go away. This combined to make a kind of friendly tension between them that Melody happened to like. So she asked him out again. And again after that. And then they were dating.

And the months flew by, Ash just barely caring enough to hang onto the relationship, always secretly wanting it to end. He didn't want to do anything with her, but kissing her, holding her, those seemed necessary to keep her around, even if all the time he thought of Misty being the one he was kissing, the one in his arms... But he wouldn't sleep with Melody; somewhere in the back of his head, he was still dead set on sharing his first time with Misty. He kept Melody off by pretending he was waiting until he was married; kind of an antiquated opinion, but one people tended to accept. Ash still never intended to marry anyone but Misty; the thought barely crossed his mind. So it came as a sizable shock when Melody proposed to him.

What was he to do? He knew from the way she said it that it was an ultimatum; she was tired of waiting for Ash, and she was ready to either go to the next level or not go on at all. And Misty was still with Gary; Ash was almost surprised (though pleased) that Gary hadn't proposed yet. Ash accepted Melody's offer, settling on putting off the wedding as long as possible…


And now it was here.

"Ash?" Misty said. He broke out of his thoughts.

"Huh? Oh… yeah. Sorry, Misty. Thinking about the past."

They stood in silence for a moment.

"Ash… I know you wanted more than this," Misty said. "But thank you for finally moving on."

I never moved on, Ash thought. He muttered "You're welcome," in reply.

"I hope she makes you happy," Misty said quietly.

"Me too."

"I… I think I should go," Misty said. She walked closer to Ash and embraced him, then scurried out of the room. It was hard to tell, but in the instant before she left, Ash could have sworn that there were tears in her eyes.


"Ready, Ash?"

Delia hooked her arm through her son's, and they started to walk to the altar.

It was a beautiful scene, he had to admit. They were getting married on the beach of Shamouti Island, Melody's home. There was an archway set up over the altar, and Ash could see the three elemental islands over the water. He lost himself in the scenery, and so he barely noticed when his mother let go of him and sat down, leaving him standing by his best man Brock and his groomsmen Tracey and… Gary. Gary had barely agreed to take the role at Misty's request, but he actually looked the happiest of those behind him; he was probably just glad that Ash would be out of his hair forever.

"Almost there, man," Brock whispered to Ash. Gary snickered behind him. Ash didn't notice, though. He had his eyes across the aisle.

Mixed in with Melody's bridesmaids was Misty. He didn't know why Melody had chosen her, unless it was just to give Ash's best friend a place in the wedding, but he couldn't take her eyes off of her.

There was no doubt that there were tears in her eyes now. She caught Ash's eye, and tried valiantly to smile at him, but she couldn't pull it off. She settled for looking at the ground, and as she did, Ash saw the tears begin to fall.

A very profound sense of wrongness rang through Ash. This isn't right. Nothing that makes Misty feel like she does now can be right. Ash struggled in his head, trying to reconcile those thoughts with what Misty had asked him to do.

The flower girl came up the aisle; some little cousin of Melody's whose name Ash had never learned. Then Pikachu came afterwards, carrying the rings. The whole crowd cooed when he presented them.

Then the wedding march began. Ash had never heard it sound so… dark, but he suspected that that was just him.

Melody came up the aisle, escorted by her father. She was definitely beautiful, Ash had to admit that. But he had to keep stopping himself from turning to look at Misty. Finally, Melody took her place opposite Ash, blocking Misty from his sight. He was inexplicably annoyed at this; how was he supposed to know how Misty felt if he couldn't see her? But Melody just gazed at Ash, love and joy dominating her features.

The ceremony started. Ash was in his own world throughout it, trying to think of what would make this right. He was so disturbed, he almost ran, but he held his feet still. But then the moment finally came. The minister asked Ash the question.

"Do you take this woman, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?"

There was a very long pause.

"No."

Ash didn't even have to think. He didn't know if he could have forced himself to say "I do" in any case. But at that moment, he knew this was all wrong, and he needed to fix it.

Of course, there was a very shocked gasp from the congregation, the people at the altar, and most especially Melody.

"What? Ash? What are you saying?" Melody asked, her happiness displaced by fear and pain.

"I can't do this. Melody… I'm so sorry. I don't love you. I never did. I should never have agreed to this. I…" Ash backed away, then did what his feet were still screaming at him to do: he ran away. Down the aisle, across the beach, and away from the horrible mistake that he had almost made.

Melody fell to her knees at the altar, crying at her loss. Gary, of all people, ran to comfort her.

Misty felt outraged that Ash would do this to someone, and she started after him. She met Brock in the aisle, and they were soon running after Ash as fast as their formal clothes would allow.

They found him at another altar, where he had placed the three treasures so long ago to calm the Birds and save the world. He sat in the center with his head in his hands.

"What the hell are you doing, Ash?" Brock demanded. He looked up at them, and Misty took the more direct route of slapping him in the face.

"Ow!" Ash cried. "Let me do this, damn it! I'm doing what I should have been doing this whole time!"

"What are you, insane?" Misty demanded. "You just threw away your chance at happiness, and for what? Cold feet?"

"You know that that's not why I did this. And I was not happy with her. You know that too," Ash said calmly. "I've only ever loved one person, only been truly happy with one person, and Melody isn't her."

"Then why did you agree to this charade in the first place?" Brock asked.

"Because I was trying to make the person I do love happy. But then I saw how much today was hurting her, and I realized that this wasn't the way to do that." He looked meaningfully at Misty.

"Ash, I don't want you to be alone for me!" Misty yelled at him. "What does it matter if seeing you with someone else tears me up inside?"

Brock was stunned. "Ash, you… and Misty?"

"No, Brock. It's not like that. It's just… well, maybe it is like that," Ash said. "I'd rather be alone forever than see Misty like she was today ever again. I love her."

"You know I won't leave Gary for you. Why are you so dead set on this?" Misty asked. "Why won't you try to be happy?"

"Misty… I could never be happy with someone else. I've tried. It didn't work. I can't not think of you. I'm sorry to Melody that I didn't end things sooner, but I thought that me having someone would make you feel better, and…" Ash trailed off lamely.

"And what?" Misty demanded.

"And obviously I was wrong. I won't do that to you," Ash said. "And neither of you can change my mind." He faced the sea. "I've been following the wrong road for a long time now, because I thought that I could make things right on it. But now I see that I should never have left the path I started on." He turned back to face them, and gazed determinedly into Misty's eyes. "I will not settle for less that you, Misty. It's you or no one. If I have to wait fifty years, I will. I'll stick to your side 'til the end, if that's what it takes. That is the path I choose to walk."

Brock and Misty looked at each other. "Then…" Brock said, "that's your choice."

"I'll fight you every day, Ash. I'll make you wish you were with anyone else. I'll make you hate me," Misty warned.

Ash laughed. "Misty, you couldn't make me hate you if you stabbed me in the heart. I'll love you forever. Bring it on."

Misty giggled a little, then shook her head and tried to regain her angry face. "Ash…"

"Let's go back, then," Brock interrupted. "You can work out your squabble later. You've got some apologizing to do, Ash."

Ash shrugged. "Yeah, I know."

They went back to the former wedding. Ash gave his apologies, which were rather poorly received, but there wasn't much anyone could do about it. Pikachu did have to shock the father of the bride-to-be to protect Ash from being tackled as he returned, but that was the only hiccup. He took Melody aside (she was still hanging around Gary) and explained everything to her; he felt she deserved to know everything after all that she had to go through, even the things he would never reveal to everyone gathered there.

In the end, she took it well. She wasn't happy, but she understood. And understanding why Ash had done what he did was enough for her to forgive him.

The next day, they left the island. To spare Melody from having to sit next to Ash on the ride back, Misty switched tickets with Melody; Ash and Misty sat together, with Gary and Melody behind them. Gary, for some reason, seemed to accept this situation.


A week after his wedding fiasco, Ash walked alone through his suddenly half-empty apartment at the Indigo Plateau. The papers had been simply exploding with rumors about him since the wedding: he had a secret lover, he was gay, he was secretly a woman, he was sleeping with his Pokemon (Pikachu had been extremely angry at that one)… The list kept growing. Ash knew about them, but he was peacefully indifferent to all of that; as soon as he had talked things over with the Elite Four, they had dropped any notions of punishment, deciding that this was a personal matter that didn't need official attention. So he still had his title, and he had his feet on the right road now. "No matter where it leads, this is how it should be," he said aloud to Pikachu.

He glanced at his cell phone on the table beside him. Still nothing.

Ash was expecting Misty to call, like she usually did. She had been having some trouble with Gary since the wedding, and she had told Ash she wanted to talk to him about it after she talked to Gary tonight. Ash was waiting dutifully, but so far there hadn't been anything from her today; no texts, no calls, no anything. He was starting to worry.

"Whatcha think, Pikachu? Maybe she's working it out with him?"

"Pikaaaaa…" Pikachu shrugged.

Ash took the same view. Nothing I can do 'til she calls… Ash shrugged too, then flopped down on his bed and starting going over battle strategies in his head.

He was half asleep when a knock at the door rang through his home. Pikachu's ears shot up. Seeing Pikachu run towards the door pulled Ash out of his trance in time to hear the second knock.

"I'm coming!" Ash jumped out of bed and walked quickly to the door, wondering who would come so late.

As he reached it, he was startled to hear sobs from the other side. He threw the door open, nearly smacking Pikachu, to see who it was.

Misty, of course. Who else would it be?

"Misty!" Ash said. She fell into his embrace. Pikachu moved off, feeling the need to give them some alone time.

"Ash, you were right all along…" She sobbed into his chest. "I'm sorry. I should have seen it coming. I should have listened to everyone."

"Misty, what happened?" Ash asked, eyes wide as held her.

"I went to visit Gary today… I took off from the Gym early so I could see him, because I wanted to talk to him, and get over whatever's been wrong since the wedding." She stopped for a moment, seeming to gather herself. "He was in bed with Melody."

"What?!" Ash said in shock. He would have expected this from Gary, the ladies man, but not from her.

"I know. It was bad… I knew he was comforting her since the wedding, but I guess he did more than that. I started thinking about what a slimy, heartless person he must be to take advantage of her like that. Then it hit me that he was cheating on me... I started running out, and he grabbed me, and I slapped him. I told him to keep away from me, and he didn't argue. It's over."

"Misty…" Ash said lamely. "I'm sorry, this is my fault. If I had just married Melody like I was supposed to, none of this would have happened to you."

"Don't blame yourself, Ash. This happened because Gary's a conniving jerk." She sniffled. "If it wasn't Melody, it would have been some other girl he met. Ash… I felt so hurt and betrayed and empty. And at the same time… I just didn't care. He's gone. It's done. I've felt it coming for a long time now, and now that it's finally here… I'm ready."

"Ready for what?" Ash asked, though he had a feeling…

"As soon as I saw him, I knew where to go. I knew where I wanted to be. I wanted to be here, in your arms again. And as soon as I was here, I felt safe. I don't feel so empty anymore, now that I'm with you." She looked up at Ash, and though there were still tears in her eyes, there was a smile on her face. "I think I know why. This where I should have been, all the time."

"If you say so, Misty…" Ash said. Then he grinned. "I guess I didn't have to wait as long as I expected."

She laughed through her tears now. "Nope… you were right after all." She looked into his eyes. "Thank you, Ash. I knew you'd be here for me. I just wish I'd seen the truth sooner. I could have saved you months of hurting."

"You didn't know how this would end," Ash said. "I knew what the path I chose meant from the beginning… and I really don't care what I had to go through, because in the end it led to you."

"Ash…" She pushed up, meeting his lips with a kiss. Ash moved with her, blissfully realizing that the walls between them were all gone at last. He didn't have to hold back anymore. He didn't have to worry about calling her too much, or showing up to surprise her.

And he had a feeling that the next time he got married, he would have a different answer when the moment came.

Ash pulled away from Misty for a moment so he could look into her cerulean eyes and tell her what he had been telling her all along.

"I love you, Misty. I always have, and I always will."

She put her head on his shoulder, and whispered back, "I love you too, Ash. Forever." They stood that way for a while.

After they broke apart, Ash and Misty moved out of the doorway and into Ash's living room, which was somewhat bare now that Melody was gone.

Ash and Misty sat together on his couch. "So… now what?" Ash said, scratching the back of his head awkwardly.

"If it isn't too much trouble… could I stay the night here?" Misty asked timidly. "I just don't want to be alone tonight… and it's a long way home for me."

"Of course, Misty. Melody took her bed a few days ago, but you can have my bed, and I'll sleep here." He patted the couch next to him.

"Well… that's not really necessary…" Misty said in a very small voice. "We could both sleep in your bed…"

Ash smiled. "I was kind of hoping you'd say that."

Misty stretched. "Well… it's been a really long day for me, and I'm kind of tired… would you mind going to bed with me?" She immediately realized what she had said, and blushed. "I mean… sleeping. Now. Please?"

"Yes, Misty. Let's go," Ash said, laughing. He put an arm around her, and they walked together to his bed. Misty kicked off her shoes, but kept on her clothes as she crawled into the bed. Ash lay down next to her, and she snuggled close to him. Luckily, being a Master, Ash had a rather large bed for one person… in fact, he thought it was much nicer this way.

"Pika?" Pikachu poked his head around the door, then jumped into the bed.

"Pikapi! Pikachupi pi chu kachu! Pichuka?" Pikachu asked Ash.

Ash blushed. "Well… that's not really my question to answer."

"What did he say?" Misty asked.

"Well…" Ash chuckled a little. "He asked if we were mates now. I don't think that's the right word, do you?"

"No, not yet," Misty said with a laugh. Then she realized what she had said again, and looked away, mortified. "I mean… no. Just no."

"I know what you mean," Ash said, full on laughing now. "Let's just say we're lovers and call it a night, okay? That good with you, Misty?"

She turned back to him and smiled. "I think I could live with that."

"Pi," Pikachu said, moving up and snuggling into a spot at the foot of the bed.

A few minutes later, Misty and Pikachu were asleep, and Ash was left awake to ponder today's events.

Misty… I knew it would work out... as long as I stayed on the path. He glanced at her sleeping face, and a quiet sort of joy flooded through him. This is right. This is how it was always supposed to be… even though I couldn't see it, I always knew that the road was going to lead to Misty in the end…

Not that the trip is over, though. It won't ever end. There's always a new adventure… But now I have somebody to walk with me down the next road, whatever path we choose together. The best companion of all… the person I love.

I love you, Misty…

With that thought, Ash closed his eyes, and let himself fall into the grasp of sleep. He was looking forward to tomorrow now.

Because whatever the winding path of life brought his way, he knew Misty would be there to tackle it with him.

The End


Okay… before I end things, I have to say that this story forced me to write it. I'm not kidding. I mean, I actively resisted writing it, because I wanted to work on The Spirit of Youth, and the story basically yelled at me from my head until I came in here and started working on it. So all of you TSOY fans, blame the story, not me. Hey, at least it only took me two days to write it. Maybe now my brain will shut the hell up.

So a lot of this story is based on a dream I had about a girl I know, and also on our lives. To protect the innocent (and the guilty) I won't say what was dream, what was reality, and what was my imagined additions. (The dream ended at the altar, though, so I had to make the ending myself, which is a good thing, because I have a dark subconscious, and I doubt you would have got a happy ending from my darkest heart. Also, there were spiders everywhere, and we were in the middle of a desert, or sometimes in a warehouse that looked a lot like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I took those parts out.) Afterwards, I was talking to the girl about it, and she actually told me "write it for me."

She then expressly forbid me to "Pokemonize" it, since she knew about my fanfiction. However, I like AAML, and I felt it would make an excellent one-shot/fantasy of how I would like things to go. In addition, making the characters Ash, Misty, and the rest allowed me to distance myself from the story enough to write it how I want it to go, rather than how I actually think it would go; I don't know if I could do that if all I did was change the names, without changing the places or the personalities. And I don't want to write angst. I get enough of that in my life as it is, thank you.

Pikachu was not present a lot of the time, when I thought that Ash should be completely alone. It happened a lot. I realize that. I also do not care. He was unimportant to the story, and adding him more than I did would have just cluttered it. That's lazy of me.

Write me a review if you want. I really don't care this time… I would be fine keeping this story unreleased, except that why would I do that now that it's written? But I got what I needed in the writing of the thing. But if you liked it, or you just feel like telling me something you didn't like, or you have a recipe for sesame chicken (I know I already asked, but I really want one!) then go ahead, click that button down there and leave me your thoughts (or recipes).

Oh, and I'd like to point out that, hey, this is my first one-shot! And my first completed Pokeshipping story! Huzzah, people!

Thanks for reading, assuming you didn't just skip to the bottom (if you did, get back up there and do it right, slacker!). I'll go get back to working on The Spirit of Youth now. Bye!

James