Finally! We have reached the thrilling conclusion! Which may or may not be thrilling, considering on whether you read this for 'shipping. Merry Early Christmas, by the way!

Oh, and I'd like to take a moment and thank all my loyal reviewers who stuck it through with me until the end; and those who are just joining us now. (I'd name you guys, but I don't want to leave anyone out. ^^;) Man, I love being able to say this is all done. ^^ Then again, I'm kinda sad it's over. It's been a fun time to write, and has had the BIGGEST AUTHORS NOTES EVER WHAT THE HELL. D8 Although, I had a moment of panics insecurites because... my reviewers have better idea for how the story should pan out than I do so I did a few tiny tweaks and yeah ok I think I'll be all right. ^^ ...Why do I still feel like a 12 year old when I write this stuff? Arg.

I'm sorry for wasting my words on these sections; but I just love you guys and feel like I can just... chat with all of you~ Because in a lot of ways, this is goodbye; I'm heading off to college in the fall and have to actually start focusing on things like jobs and education and crap like that.

So... yeah. Maybe I'll be able to do some fanart or oneshots or something. See you at story's end.

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Part Seven

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Thankfully, Viridian's roads were clear, and they made good time. Unthankfully, they had arrived just as the whole thing started, so Misty had little to look forward to outside of avoiding Gary and Ash and making awkward small talk with a room full of distinguished Leaders and Elites.

She identified most of the Leaders as soon as she stepped inside the extravagant rose and crimson room; there was Winona, talking with Steven Stone and Wallace by the Piano, with Faulkner approaching them; Bugsy, Maylene and Erika were in energetic conversation by the punch bowl, and Misty refrained from sighing; Whitney was flirting shamelessly with Mortimer as he seemed to debate movesets with Fantina, while Wattson, Lt. Surge, Pryce and Sabrina started a game of Electrode Hold 'Em at a corner table.

Her reason for dismay was that with younger Leaders like Maylene there, the punch would be non alcoholic. What a shame.

"Ooooh, there's Samuel Oak! Is that... Delia with him?"

"Omigosh, I think it is!"

Her sisters whispered among themselves for a moment, and then were all calm politeness as Giovanni followed the Professor in mild conversation with Gary. Misty shivered inwardly as they passed by; the Leader smiled suavely at her, and the grandson nodded absently in her direction.

"Lackluster first meeting, wasn't it?" Daisy lamented into her shoulder, faking a cough. Her two sisters shushed her as Misty quietly melted into the crowds, joining Jasmine at the door.

"Oh, hello. ... It's Misty, isn't it?"

The Cascade Badge's Leader nodded and the young woman dipped her head in return, falling into a contemplative silence. Both stood together in a corner of the room for quite some time as more Leaders and a couple Elites filled in; talking when they wanted and otherwise entertaining their own thoughts.

Shortly, Volkner joined them; the handsome young man with a face too melancholy for his age taking a spot at Jasmine's elbow, where they sighed together and went back to people watching. Sensing something between them, even if it was little more than true kindred spirits contemplating reality together, Misty backed away and began to orbit around other circles of conversation.

A few trite words here, a laugh there; an hour passed with little happening. She'd seen Ash a few times with some girl on his arm; an indigo-haired slinky beauty in a pink dress shorter than the one Misty had considered wearing, with tall white boots. It miffed her slightly that their breakup didn't seem to bother him much in the least; but she decided to let it slide.

For now, at least.

"Say, that's Ash, isn't that?"

Gardenia was at Erika's shoulder a few feet away, observing the same scene as Misty alongside Phoebe. The Elite grinned.

"Yeah; the new Bi-Regional Champion with his girl. They've been dating for... how long now? Three, four months?"

Unconsciously, Misty took in a sharp breath and let it out with a ragged sigh, unobtrusively joining their circle with hatred bubbling in her veins.

"Oh, has he been dating her that long? I didn't think they were really serious until a week or two ago," Gardenia noted, and then caught sight of Misty. She clamped her mouth shut. "Sorry. Misty, right? You're his ex?"

The Cascade Leader shrugged. "Yeah, but it's fine. I guess I just didn't think he'd get over me that fast," she lied.

"Fast? You broke up a while ago, didn't you? Not that I blame you," Erika added. "Who could date someone who travels that much?"

If the three had stopped talking and listened, they could have heard the fraying of Misty's temper.

So... everyone thought we were history that long ago, huh? Guess that's what I get for not reading the news.

"I wonder if that Gary guy likes Dawn, though," Gardenia noted coolly. The fraying stopped, and almost snapped. Instantly, Misty was fully alert.

"She looks kind of dumb to me," came the insult, and Misty bit her lip as the other three girls turned to look at her.

The Elite grinned. "Ah, so that's what they mean when they talked about the Water Trainer with the spirit of fire. Nah, you're right though." Phoebe shrugged. "She's kinda a ditz."

"I heard she was gay," Erika offered innocently, and Gardenia almost choked on her punch.

"Oh, Eri, you're terrible."

The Kanto Leader blinked at her fellow Grass Trainer. "But what would a researcher want in a 'ditz' like her? I think he'd like someone who could at least keep up with him; a Jolteon and a Muk comes to mind, but maybe I'm being too harsh..."

Gardenia cleared her throat; sll eyes of their circle were instantly on the Sinnoh Leader. The Grass Leader smiled mischievously.

"Mist, if you're bitter about your break up, you're gonna love this. So, there was that Trainers and Coordinator's Conference, right? I was up there since my Gym was closed for repairs and I had some time to burn. Anyway, Gary was up there. He talked with Ash and Dawn for a bit, seemed like a nice guy and all, then left."

Her grin widened. "Suddenly, he's back a couple days later, soaking wet from rain and having ridden a Aerodactyl up there in a storm. Ar-ce-us, that boy is cut. It's such a waste."

"Spit it out," snapped Phoebe, thought the blush on her cheeks revealed her jealousy at having missed such a sight.

"Anyway, he hunts down Ash in the middle of the hall and just decks him." Gardenia laced her fingers together and let out a muffled squeal. "It was the hottest thing I'd ever seen in my entire life."

Erika cut suddenly into the other Leader's reverie - and Misty was reminded of the rumors that Gardenia had a kinky side - with a sigh. "I don't see what that has to do with him and Dawn."

"The thing was, he was yelling at Ash something about a girl who loved him, and how he needed to be there for her. Dawn had been sick all day with food poisoning, so I figured..." She let out another bubbling sigh. "But who cares? I love dominant guys like that. It gives me chills just to remember! Mmm, what a waste of a man to be single!"

The blood was draining from Misty's face, and pooling in the pit of her stomach. She backed away, excusing herself with the excuse to get some punch, and hardly paid attention to where she was going.

Millions of thoughts and memories were running through her mind, and she let them go without clinging to any of them. She drew up a cupful of some artificial Cheri-Pomeg blend with too much spice, and was pressing the rim to her lips when a rush of heat ran down her spine.

Turning around was pointless. She knew who was there, and downed the beverage anyway, missing spilling it by millimeters and going back for another cup.

"You do realize that's non-alcoholic, right?"

His voice was a far cry from the sensuous purr she remembered so vividly, but it still made her tingle as she turned to flash him a confident smirk, shaking on the inside.

Yes, what you've done is very sweet, she informed him in her head as he offered a polite and totally non suggestive smile, but I'm on the rebound and you didn't follow it up with anything and, oh my gosh, please tell me this means you're taking your coat off, she finished as he moved the side of his houndstooth jacket away from his gray button up shirt.

His smile turned more playful as he pulled out a narrow flask. "I love living in a country where the drinking age is 18," he joked, filling half his glass with the stuff.

"I see your nice clothes are still as monochromatic as the rest of your wardrobe," she commented dryly, taking a shallow sniff of the bottle he offered. "Tequila?"

"Yes and yes."

She dosed her drink lightly with the sweet drink, and the researcher stashed the flask as Bugsy pattered by. Taking a sip, she watched Gary drain his glass, and noticed the faint glisten of sweat at his collar.

Is he nervous?

"Have you been drinking much?" Misty felt suddenly concerned for him, as his dark gaze slid away to watching Winona play piano to meet hers.

"Not really. This is my second glass," he admitted, hesitantly.

"Why?"

He raised one broad shoulder in a shrug. "I got nothing better to do."

She was baffled for a moment, and then Gary nodded to where the other Researchers were tightly huddled around something on the coffee table.

"...Oh."

He forced a cynical smile. "Yeah. I didn't really want to come, but Gramps didn't want to come alone with Delia."

"Is that the only reason you came?"

Once again, her voice betrayed her; the phrase sounded hurt, needy, alone; it sounded like something a girl who'd just found out her boyfriend had, perhaps inadvertently or perhaps not, cheated on her then broken up with her.

Don't cry, Misty.

Gary looked away, quite obviously. "Kinda," he mumbled, and then raised his eyes. "Are you... ok?"

Let me think; I was involved in a one sided relationship for at least three months, I can't bring myself to hate my ex, and all I want right now is to have hot, drunken sex with you and feel for a minute as pretty as I thought I looked in a mirror before I got here.

"Fine," she ground out, and stalked off for the bathrooms. As she hit the tile floor and left the plush carpet, the heels of her shoes clacking angrily on the ground, hot tears gathered in her eyes.

Ash had been the cheater, maybe; but she was guilty to a degree, too. She'd clung to their relationship, blind to his feelings and the rift that she now knew had been there all along. It had been so long since he'd called her 'baby' or tried to kiss her. But...

"It's just so goddamn unfair," she spat, heading for the back door and exploding through the metal door into the warm summer night. The sounds of Krickitunes and Ninjasks were filling the air, so she stayed pressed against the brick walls that still seeped heat from the sunny day.

Why does he get a happy ending?

The door slammed open, and Gary practically tripped on the threshold, his gaze desperate as he took in a deep breath, she guessed to call for her; dark brown eyes landed on her, warm with worry that filled her body with more heat than she could blame on the shot of tequila.

He straightened his shirt, scrapping together Oak charm and greeted her with a casual, "Hey," as though they'd just met beside the punch bowl again and he hadn't been making an uncharacteristic fool of himself.

It all dissolved when a hot tear splashed down her face, streaking, she was sure, her mascara. Gary's shoulders dropped, as though two Golems had just jumped onto his back.

"You are crying," he concluded, and wiped her cheeks with his sleeve. "Is it Ash?"

She bit her lip and nodded, keeping an otherwise calm face as more tears dripped down to dampen his jacket. As he dabbed at her face again, the smell of papers, cologne and coffee filled her nose.

"You smell like a sexy bookstore," she blurted, and he blinked. Misty raised her hand to run her fingers through her hair, tugging at it in a sort of self-punishment.

Way to go, Mist.

The laughter that burst from his mouth was totally unexpected, and as he doubled over, his face cracking into a relaxed grin, she had to swallow a sudden blush. This was Gary when he was being honest, and she'd never wanted him more.

"Sorry," he chuckled, glancing up with the lights above the back door dancing in his eyes. "That was just the most... random thing I have ever heard you say. Seriously."

Her heart was pounding so much it hurt; she closed her eyes, saving the mental snapshot and pushed it away as she tried to ignore the way her mouth was practically watering at the thought of his kiss.

When she opened her eyes, he had composed himself, although an impossibly sexy and kind smirk was hovering around his cheeks as he observed her.

"You all right?"

Misty nodded. "Yeah, I'm just... a little confused right now." Suddenly, she felt flustered, standing beside him and taking the initiative. She was used to their typical back and forth; he'd invade her personal space, she'd snap at him and push him away. This was almost frightening, and she felt vulnerable, like a just-hatched Vulpix lost in the cold.

"That makes both of us," he murmured, and she glanced back at him from her shoes to notice the young researcher ruffle his fingers through his hair.

Damn it. I've had no trouble saying stupid things all evening. Say something!

"I heard what you did with Ash."

Gary glanced up, his eyes flashing with shock, like a Stantler caught in the headlights. Misty willed herself to go on.

"Gardenia told me and a couple others about it. I-"

"I'm sorry," he cut her off suddenly. In most other circumstances, she would have liked to punch him for interrupting her and shattering her self esteem, but she stayed silent.

"Honestly, I didn't think he'd break up with you. I... I just..." He glanced at her, then away again, and spoke so softly she had to strain to hear it.

"It just killed me to hear you say you loved him. Because... No one should ever leave a girl like you alone like that."

Dead silence rolled between them; the sounds of the nighttime bug Pokémon seemed to come from miles away.

Maybe she was on the rebound. Frankly, she didn't give a damn. Gary was there with her now; gentle, strong, attractive, honest, brilliant Gary.

"Are you going to leave me, then?"

He almost jumped when she broke the silence. "What?"

"I said," she repeated, forcing herself to be confident and strong; even though she felt she knew how he felt about her, there was still the lurking fear of rejection, "are you going to leave me like he did?"

Dark eyes flashed with understanding as she stepped forward, but he stayed still, neither retreating or advancing. "Misty, are you-"

"I know what I want," she murmured, standing before her and only having to look up slightly, with the added height of her heels, to loose herself in the chocolate pools of his eyes. "I want a happy ending. Even if it's just for a night."

She never even noticed him move, but his fingertips brushed the side of her neck as he tucked her hair behind one ear.

"I can do that," he gave her a slight grin, then leaned in and kissed her.

He was holding back this time, she could tell; but even the shallow, gentle contact made her weak in the knees. She melted into his arms, desperate for a deeper kiss, but he refused at first. It was irritating in its own way, and the chuckle he released against her lips did little to help.

Sliding her arms up his chest, she pushed the jacket off his shoulders, feeling the burning skin under his shirt and wondering how he stayed so calm, so chaste, as his heart pounded under her fingertips like a herd of Rapidash. His hand had traveled to the small of her back, and when he removed it and pulled away, Misty felt helplessly cold.

Fluidly, he tugged off his jacket, settled it around her shoulders, and then met her gaze. Fire flashed between them and he pulled her to the side and pressed her against the shadowed back wall, where he kissed her intensely, with less restraint and with a sort of hunger and passion that made her dizzy. The flask clinked against the wall, pressing against her ribcage; he brushed her chest as he slid the tequila out of her pocket and moved it out of the way to make her more comfortable.

Not that she felt uncomfortable. She was delirious, gasping for breath; he'd hardly started and she felt hotter than she'd ever felt in her life. Any hesitations she had about surrendering her body to him right then and there in the darkness were devastated when his hands slid down her sides.

"You know, Misty," he observed calmly, as though he was remarking on the weather, between scalding, teasing kisses that were starting to travel down her neck again, "I'll do whatever you ask me to do."

"Anything?"

He hummed a confirmation deep in his throat as his teeth and tongue began to tease the sensitive skin along her collarbone. When she whispered what she wanted from him, he shivered against her and swore.

"Too much for you?" Short sentences and simple words were all she could manage then, as her body and soul seemed to be blazing in the summer night.

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you doubted me. Didn't I tell you I was a genius?" And she would have been disappointed then, when his hands stopped running across the fabric of her dress like ripples, had they not began to trace along the bottom hem of her dress, dragging across her skin and bringing all sorts of thrills and bubbles up her spine.

She moaned against him, plucking impatiently at the buttons of his shirt. Gary batted her away playfully, but when she reached around to drag a fingernail up his spine, he hissed in pleasure and involuntarily sunk his teeth lightly into her skin. When she reversed the actions, adding more points of pressure, he groaned and attacked her mouth with a feral kiss. He'd still been holding back, but she could feel why. He was already hovering on the brink of taking her right then and there.

"Ah ha," she gasped, triumphant at having found the seams to his composure, as he pulled her to the parking lot. It felt good to feel him unravel against her.

"Shut up," he muttered, still flushed and panting, flicking a tongue across his lips and still more composed than she was. When he slid her into the front seat, he paused for a moment to study her.

The genuine affection that warmed his gaze pulled her out of her daze. "What?"

"If it's up to me, Mist," and the affectionate shortening of her name made her melt all over again, "your happy ending won't be just for tonight."

The cool night air rushing by her as they drove back to Pallet, to watch the sun rise from the ocean like she'd asked, could do nothing to muffle the warmth that was wrapping around her all over again. Maybe this time, it'd be different.

Maybe not.

But the smile that slid across his face when she leaned against his shoulder told her it would.

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Let's enjoy that moment for a second, m'kay?

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Well, that's a wrap. I wanted it to be a sweet/hot ending, so I hope it worked. I also wrote it late at night, so it's... pretty racy. Ha ha ha~ But is anyone complaining?

Gary's back fetish is something that's been in my mind since I wrote 'Push'. Which sucks, generally, so don't read it but still. So happy to make it more known~ Maybe it'll catch on? Oh, and I think Gardenia is into BDSM. Blame some kinky 'Vine Whip' fanart for sticking that in my head; that's why she found aggressive!Gary so appealing. Also, pease be kind to Ash. He is just an idiot. ^^

I can't top the oddly philosophical (or delusional, YMMV) story opening author's not, so I just figured I'd let out main characters end up doing something cute and romantic instead of just having (delicious) drunken rebound sex.

My mother's mother married my grandfather on the rebound. They loved each other for over 40 years, had two kids together and five grandchildren, and still loved each other when she died of cancer 5 years ago December 3rd. My grandfather still cries over her sometimes. So there is hope for Gary and Misty yet, if we choose to believe. ^^

But, um... yeah. Love again to all your Egoshippers; young and old, past, present and future. I can't promise there's a Gary (or Misty) out there for all of us; but hope springs eternal, even for failtacular chicks like me. ^^