Disclaimer - I don't own Pokemon. I do, however, own the massive amount of creativity used for my disclaimers.

Notes - This is an epic little two-shot for me. I really like the idea, although I think I may have stolen it from another fic of mine that I wrote semi-recently. . . But I also seemed to have magnified the plot in this one. Which is strange, seeing as that other fic was longer. . .

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Title - "Tactless"

Summary - When Ash confessed to Misty during a personal moment, it is the cause for humiliation. But how many chances will she give him before finally getting fed up?

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Characters / Ages -

Ash / 16

Misty / 16

Brock / 19

Dawn / 12

Tracey / 18

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part two of two

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Team Rocket groaned unanimously from their place on the ground, twitching their limbs every once in awhile to see if they could still work properly. Finally they began to untangle themselves from one another, jumping to their feet in such a hurry that they should have received some form of whiplash.

"Haha, you twerps can think what you want but we know that the new motto is just too genius for you to understand it." Jessie said with her arms crossed and a smile on her face. Interestingly enough, everyone decided to ignore her.

"So it looks like they didn't use any disguises or fake stories this time. Does that mean they've gotten stronger or stupider?" Misty asked, turning to look at Ash and Brock for confirmation.

"What do you think?" Ash asked, quirking an eyebrow, twisting his cap properly around and letting Pikachu leap onto his shoulder.

"Oh, right. Silly me." Misty sighed, pulling out a Pokeball. Dawn stood beside her with Prinplup at the ready. "It's been awhile since I had a chance to do this. You guys don't mind if I get first dibs, right?"

"Not really, as long as you remember to save a turn for us."

"We'll see," a small smile formed on Misty's face again before she tossed the Pokeball she'd been holding forward onto the ground, "Misty calls. . . Politoed! Use double-slap!" she shouted, pointing towards the heap that was still Team Rocket's Pokemon scrambling to right themselves and form a defensive line. Politoad gave a call of its own name as though rooting for itself in utter confidence before starting to close the distance between it and its adversaries.

"Carnivine, bind!" James responded first, and his Pokemon leapt forward and into action.

"Dodge it, Politoad!" to which the frog-type Pokemon did so successfully, hopping to and fro as a means of evasion.

"Oh, wait, let us help out too!" Dawn shouted, running up to Misty's side and launching an offensive with her own Pokemon, "Prinplup, use peck!"

Prinplup braced himself, fins at his side and waddling forward as fast as possible, his beak glowing white in preparation for the use of his technique. He made contact with Carnivine, ferociously stabbing the plant-type upside the head repeatedly like a woodpecker before falling back. Carnivine matched him move for move, also flipping backwards to increase the distance between them.

"Hey, Pikachu, I think it's time you got in there too!" Ash said, fist clenched confidently and a smirk on his face, "Go! Use quick attack!"

Pikachu nodded, happy to oblige, and took off at full speed, so fast on his little paws that nobody could trace his movements.

"No fair, no fair, no fair!" Team Rocket chorused, holding onto each other and bouncing on the balls of their feet. Jessie separated from the rest of her team and took the initiative this time.

"Gr. . ." she growled furiously, "Seviper, get that little rat before he knocks Carnivine out! Poison tail!"

The snake Pokemon slithered forward, passed the plant-type as a means of intervention, tail glowing a hot white, and he and the "little rat" met midway. Pikachu in fact tried to veer to the left, sensing the danger, but leapt up into the air and made to slap Seviper on top of the head, automatically already in sync with his quick attack. Seviper whipped around and lifted his tail up into the air, slashing at his opponent and causing Pikachu to fly back towards his trainer.

"Cha. . . !" he yelped as he went, hitting the ground hard and rolling backwards.

"Pikachu!" Ash shouted and ran forward, kneeling down to check on his buddy. Tracey and Brock watched as the girls took lead in the battle for a moment, Tracey cursing, wishing he'd brought his Pokemon with him. Alas, they were across the field in the feeding shed, carefully watching the snack dispensers and supervising as some of the other Pokemon ate. And he couldn't exactly just walk away without Team Rocket catching on.

"Politoad. . ." Misty started.

"Prinplup!" Dawn continued as if the two of them had rehearsed this beforehand.

"Bubblebeam!" both girls shouted in unison, side to side and pointing furiously at Team Rocket and all of their Pokemon. Politoad clapped his hands excitedly a few times before opening his mouth wide and unleashing a shower of bubbles. Prinplup followed suit in agitated confidence due to his fallen comrade and the blow grew critical, a storm of water flooding the air and propelling towards Team Rocket.

"Yanmega, go!" Jessie screeched furiously, not wanting to lose so soon, especially after making such a crucial dent in the twerp's team. "Use steel wing!" The Pokeball she'd pitched towards the middle of the field burst open and a dragonfly took to the air, wings transparent for only a moment before they started glimmering a silver-white. The bubblebeam duet was cut short as it made contact, Yanmega not even recoiling from it thanks to Jessie's idea of using the steel wing as a defensive maneuver.

"Ah, darn it!" Misty stomped her foot to the ground and began to think of their next tactic. As an added blow, she now had a truly gross bug-type to contend with as well! Team Rocket wasted no time, however, obviously hoping to catch the beloved twerps off their guard for once.

"Use bite, Carnivine!" James shouted after what seemed to be a meditative moment.

The plant-type dove forward and targeted Prinplup, mouth wide and fangs showing. He even seemed hungry, drool glistening just before he clenched his jaw tightly shut on Prinplup's neck area. Prinplup shrieked in agony and began to struggle against the grip, albeit unsuccessfully for now.

Misty took this as incentive to attack again, angry at the ruthlessness that had just taken place before her. Though technically it was all fair game in battle, she also couldn't bear the thought that - for goodness sake - they were losing! To Team Rocket! How was it even possible?

"Mega punch, Politoad, and then use body slam and make sure they stay down!"

Politoad, using such a combination of power to his full advantage, hopped up into the air, slowly higher and higher, until he was able to slam a webbed fist into Yanmega, causing him to flail and flutter. He struggled to stay airborne but sailed swiftly down to the earth, implanting in the ground. And Politoad fell as well, though landing on his feet again, and immediately smashed into Carnivine, forcibly removing him from Prinplup and causing him to stagger back.

"Sudowoodo, hammer arm!" Nobody had even noticed Brock entering the battle, but he had apparently already called his Pokemon from its Pokeball and run forward, tired of sitting on the sidelines. Ash was still sitting back and nursing Pikachu back to health with a quick antidote application.

"Suuudo. . . wood!" the earth-type whinnied in its high-pitched voice, the strange tree branch or hand or whatever it was on its left side suddenly oddly stiff as he took off for Carnivine as well, rushing past Politoad, who had taken a moment to congratulate itself with a gleeful clapping of its hands.

Misty felt herself grow exasperated as she watched her Pokemon cheer itself on, though Dawn patted her on the back in sympathy.

"I think it's kind of cute," she said with a smile. They weren't the greatest words of atonement that Misty had ever heard, but she supposed she'd take what she could get.

Both girls looked up just in time to see Sudowoodo smash into Carnivine, who flew backwards and hit the ground again, stunned and down for the count. Afterwards, Brock's Pokemon did a little jig at the success of his own technique.

Jessie growled, gnashing her teeth together. They had actually been doing rather well, holding off those twerps for this long. She couldn't let them lose again! "Yanmega, get back in there! Sonicboom!"

Gusts of wind, powered by Yanmega's wings and his confuse ray, barreled across the field. They blew back against all of the Pokemon Misty, Dawn, Ash, and Brock still had out beside them, and indeed even the trainers themselves. Politoad and Prinplup, Bayleef and Sudowoodo all latched onto their human partners, holding them in place as all heels and claws still available latched into the earth to keep everyone standing.

"Hahaha! Like you could beat us!" Jessie barked in maniacal laughter, a hand covering her mouth and her pinky crooked in generic bitch-mode. Meowth and James stood in the background wearing cheerleader uniforms, chanting in excitement.

"Prinplup, can you still fight back?" Dawn asked, grateful for the support she'd been given but definitely not wanting to give up the battle either. Her Pokemon nodded and she grinned back, "Alright then, use hydro pump! It should be strong enough to bypass these winds! Aim for Yanmega!"

Although he was still holding his trainer upright, it wasn't difficult for Prinplup to twist his head sideways and catch sight of the bug Pokemon flying high, his wings still flapping intensely. The water-type felt his throat tighten up, his element power building from within before spewing at its highest level from his mouth.

Yanmega received a vital hit from the attack, his wings going buggy as he tried to remain in the air once again. Slowly, he started to decline, twirling sideways until he hit the ground hard for a second time.

"Now peck, Prinplup!"

"Wrap him up nicely, Seviper, before he gets a chance!" Jessie intervened again, stomping forward and standing tall. In the background, James and Meowth seemed to be investigating something of their own now, although Ash and his friends weren't paying enough attention to see what that thing was.

The snake Pokemon smirked and slithered his way towards Prinplup, who was in the middle of his attack and didn't even seem to notice.

"Yeah, like I'll just stand here and let that happen! Bayleef, quick, use your razor leaf!" Ash rose to his feet again, Pikachu in his arms still, and nodded to the grass-type sitting loyally at his side. Bayleef gave a confident nod and hurried up to the battlefield, leaping onto her hind legs and whipping her head around. Sharp leaves that were able to cut through most anything dislodged from the plant around her neck and took aim for their targets.

Seviper was forced to curl up and defend itself while Yanmega, laying almost directly to the right of it, buzzed as it was hit with some strays. This effectively knocked him out of the battle. Meanwhile, Prinplup, who had gotten confused by all the technique exchanges between trainer and Pokemon, realized that his original target was unconscious and glanced around for a new one, eyes landing on Seviper almost immediately. He gave a little smirk of his own, wishing vast amounts of payback on his new adversary thanks to what had happened to Pikachu earlier, a confident chirp of his name, and allowed his beak to start glowing again as he took off running and prepared his peck attack.

"Hey, Politoad, you're still okay to battle, right?" Misty asked, ignoring the howls and hissing taking place before her as Seviper was knocked out as well. The match was now turning in their favor so she didn't mind standing back and addressing her own partner for a quick second. And, behind her, she heard Ash ask the same thing of Pikachu now that the antidote had taken affect and the poison had worn off.

The yellow mouse leapt out of his trainer's arms and to the ground, stretching his limbs out and pumping his arms to show that he was back to (nearly) full health again.

"Agh! James, do something! Don't just sit back there and watch us while we lose to the twerps again!" Jessie shrieked, her head growing to ten times its natural size as she fought with her teammate.

"Do. . . something?" James looked curiously around. His secret weapon was still finishing up the super potion he'd just administered and his only other option was. . . well, he supposed he'd have to give it a try anyway. "Go, Mime Jr.!"

The infantile psychic Pokemon cautiously advanced onto the field now, everyone staring at him. James had never been reduced to fighting a real battle with this Pokemon before, although Jessie refused to give up so easily and he had no choice if he didn't want to be flayed alive by his partner by the end of the day. Jessie felt her eye twitch as she waited for James' strategy to play out.

"Uh, use. . . tickle?"

"Tickle. Tickle? Are you serious, James? What's wrong with you? How can we possibly win using-" But Jessie was interrupted by her teammates Pokemon beginning his attack.

Mime Jr. glowed blue for a few seconds as mediocre psychic power welled up within him. His small arms stretched up into the sky as he began to meditate, his eyes closed in concentration. . . And nothing happened.

"Whoa, hold on, time out!" Tracey called, putting his hands together to form the official 'T' of such a thing. "Conference!"

Ash, Brock, Misty, and Dawn all nodded and leaned in to form a small, enclosed circle. This would have been a perfectly opportune moment to attack them. . . if Jessie hadn't been so furious about James' ridiculous attempt to disarm any or all of their Pokemon a moment ago. She was livid, yelling at him with her back facing the rest of them. Even though James was attempting to tell her about their advantageous instant, pointing towards the twerps all along, she ignored him. Meowth had even scratched him across the face in frustration.

"And. . . break!" Tracey uttered again, clapping his hands together. This was enough to cause the whole of Team Rocket to turn and face them and the two groups of trainers stared each other down from across the field. "So, uh, we've discussed it and. . . we decided we simply can't agree with such a thing."

"What are yous twoips talkin' about?" Meowth asked them, pointing one claw in their direction in case this was a trap.

"As a future breeder, I have to say that it would feel just wrong attacking a baby Pokemon." Brock said, stepping up now. "And Ash, I mean, look at him! He's got enough heart to eradicate even the nastiest Pokemon's mean streak! And Misty, she's like the adoptive mother for baby Pokemon everywhere! And Dawn says that Mime Jr. is cute so she's out too. . . What I'm saying is, honestly, we'd all be very uncomfortable telling our Pokemon to attack him."

"So what, twerps?" Jessie stated carelessly with a wave of her hand, and then she got excited, a devious idea poofing magically into her head. "Tell you what. . . you won't have to attack Mime Jr. if you hand us all of your Pokemon now!" This divulging of her marvelous, wonderful, spectacular, absolutely amazing idea was interrupted by Mime Jr. vanishing with a flash of red light.

Furious once again, she turned to her human partner, who was still holding up his arm, Pokeball in hand, and weeping openly.

"James, what is your problem? Get yourself together now! And why would you call back your Pokemon? He was our ticket to a promotion!" she muttered venomously.

"Meowth! I coulda been da top cat!"

"I'm. . . I'm sorry!" he wailed, "I just couldn't subject my little Mime Jr. to such hostility! And the twerps. . . the twerps! They understood too without me saying a thing!" and he broke down into a sniveling mess again, putting the Pokeball on his belt and holding an arm over his face as if ashamed to be seen like he was. . . which he probably should have been.

Everybody sweatdropped at his behavior, although Jessie still wasn't gonna give up, placing a heel to his shoulder and nudging him angrily, hoping to force him into taking action.

"Do you want," nudge, "to be kicked off the team? Do you want," nudge again, "the boss to disband us? Do you want," nudge once more, "to be hated and ridiculed by everyone else because we keep losing to these stupid twerps?" six more nudges and a ferocious kick later, and James rolled over on the ground before leaping to his feet again, Jessie's speech having somehow spurred him on.

"No, I refuse to lose here too, Jessie!" He shouted with clenched fists, then he poised one finger towards the sky and continued, "And it's not over yet! Go, Carnivine!" His first Pokemon, which had been near fainting before but had been given a super potion while nobody was paying him any attention, appeared from behind him, their secret weapon in case all of Jessie's Pokemon had failed.

"Ah!" Brock yelped, not expecting this. Of course, none of them had. "Sudowoodo, double-edge, then follow up with flail! Force him back again!"

"Vine whip, now!"

Sudowoodo was met with an instant KO thanks to his rocky weakness to plant-types.

Jessie and James, shocked at this turn and ecstatic that they might actually succeed this time, turned and hugged each other excitedly, jumping up and down. However, their moment of glee was interrupted by Meowth, who knew better than to celebrate just yet, and shoved his way in between the two of them to make his point.

"Nya! Hey, pay attention, you twos!"

"Bayleef, payback time! You use vine whip too!" Ash yelled, punching a fist into the air. His plant-type obeyed him immediately, and Carnivine, without direction from James, released his own vines to combat his adversaries. They wrapped around one another and became a tangled mess of tugging and pulling. Unfortunately, they were pretty evenly matched.

"Hm, water-type moves don't work much against plant-types, right? And neither do electric types. . ." Dawn asked Misty, biting her lower lip. Most of her Pokemon's moves were water-based, with the exception of peck and bide. And neither one would be able to do much damage against Carnivine now, especially without drawing attention and causing a whiplash effect.

"Yeah, you're right. . ." It took Misty a few seconds before she came up with an idea, snapping her fingers and turning to her friends, "Hey, Ash, I need you to call Bayleef back when I give you the signal. Everyone else, either do the same or make sure their ears are covered! Yours too, since I've never used this attack before and I don't know what kind of damage it's capable of. . ."

"Uh, okay, Myst." Ash nodded and kept his eyes on her in wait of this aforementioned signal. He clapped his hands to his ears, watching Pikachu do the same as he pulled them and held them to the electric sacs on his cheeks. Dawn called Prinplup back to his Pokeball before following suit, curiously staring at Misty and wanting to know what her plan was. When Brock and Tracey had done as she'd said as well, she took action.

One meaningful nod to Ash and he knew.

"Bayleef, come back!"

The plant-type disentangled herself with her foe and galloped to her master's side, and he gave her a grateful smile and nodded his head towards the feeding shack, asking that she go and join the other Pokemon there. Although she stared him down with doe eyes that begged she get to stay with him, she knew better and dashed away again.

Carnivine, confused at first about his enemy running away from him, decided it didn't mean he should stop his assault. His vines, with nothing to hold them back, began stretching and lengthening as they advanced rapidly on the two Pokemon still left on the battlefield.

"Politoad, use hyper voice now!" Misty shouted, hands still clamped over her ears, although she was still worried that it wouldn't be enough since she'd never used the technique before and standing so close to her Pokemon while he followed through was probably rendering her already weak defenses as moot.

The water-type Pokemon opened his mouth as wide as he could and, the next thing any of them knew, Carnivine had halted in its tracks, shaking furiously at the horribly high-pitched wailing of his new adversary. But. . . Ash didn't hear a thing. And, even though he wasn't sure it was the best decision he'd ever made, he slowly and cautiously removed his hands from over his ears.

It was a very strange feeling he had as he watched his friends follow his choice of action, all except Pikachu who seemed to be teetering on his hind paws and clenching his teeth.

"Pikachu!" He hurriedly picked his friend up into his arms and held him close, somehow easing the pain. The electric mouse gave an occasional twitch, his ears still forced flat against his cheeks, but with Ash's arms covering him as well, he was able to ease his tightened muscles just a bit as he waited it out.

He gazed up and forward again at Team Rocket's side of the field. Meowth had long-since fainted and seemed to be foaming at the mouth now. Of course, that could have been because Jessie, none the wiser about what was going on, was continuing to shake him around and around, hoping he'd somehow wake up again. James' eyes were on Carnivine who, Ash could now see, was even worse than Pikachu had been, standing rigidly tall as if he couldn't will his body to move anymore. The earth seemed to shake and quake even though nobody looked as though they were having trouble staying on their feet, the Pidgey in the nearby trees quickly evacuating and flying off towards Viridian Forest.

"Mi. . . Misty, what is this?" he asked his redheaded friend, acknowledging that she too had removed her hands from her ears after realizing she had nothing to fear. "I can't hear anything but. . . but Pikachu. . ." he looked down at his Pikapal, wishing he could do more to help him, ". . . and what's with Meowth and Carnivine?"

He would have liked to have gotten his answers sooner rather than later, except for that Politoad chose that moment to close his mouth again and topple over exhaustedly. He hadn't fainted, but he would be rather hard-pressed to continue battling after such continued duress.

"Thanks so much for your help, Politoad. Maybe I should let you go back inside your Pokeball and have a nice, long rest." Misty was about to recall her Pokemon as well, but it seemed to have been a split second too soon.

"Oh no you don't, twerps! I have no idea what that was supposed to be but we're not done yet!" Jessie screamed, dropping Meowth to the ground and noticing James' Pokemon still twitching where it had fallen as well. "James, tell Carnivine to get up, it's not over until we've finally beaten those twerps!"

"Ah. . . yeah. . ." although James wasn't so sure. Still, he'd rather not face Jessie's wrath by saying that he wouldn't at least try. "Carnivine, you can still battle, can't you?" And he waited as his plant-type Pokemon struggled to reach his feet before giving him any orders to follow.

"Pikachu, are you okay now? Or do you need to rest some more?" Ash asked his friend at the same time, watching as he slowly opened his watering eyes. But the electric mouse shook his head as if shaking off the effects of Politoad's hyper voice and cautiously reached his feet, still in his trainer's arms. He was a little shaky, but he was gaining his strength back every second.

Unfortunately, he didn't seem to be the only one.

"Use bullet seed on that Politoad before he tries to use that weird attack again!"

"What?" Misty gaped along with the rest of them, and she was so shocked that she actually dropped the Pokeball she'd just found amongst her things, Politoad's, and fell to the ground to find it again and call back her Pokemon before he was hurt anymore.

Carnivine took another few seconds to gain his footing then turned to stare in Misty's general direction. He propped open his mouth, gave a shriek, and multiple glowing seeds began shooting out of it. At the same time, he finally seemed to give in, falling to the ground again in a dead faint. . . but the damage was already on its way to being done.

"Pokeball, Pokeball. . ." Misty murmured to herself before finding it around Politoad's left heel and quickly picking it up, "Politoad, return!" and then she turned swiftly too, hoping to scatter along with everyone else and make a clean getaway. Unfortunately, the plan didn't seem to pan out accordingly.

"Misty, look out!" someone shouted in what felt like slow-motion. Arms enveloped her waist and tackled her to the ground. She felt winded and accidentally bit her tongue, taking a moment after to see if she'd taste any copper. . . Luckily, she hadn't drawn blood.

There was the sound of the aerial assault impacting with some part of the Oak preserve earth behind her, enough for some light dust to flutter up into the air before settling again.

Finally, all grew silent and (almost) peaceful once more. Misty eased her eyes open as grass continued to tickle her nose. She could still feel an arm around her waist, curling towards her stomach. . . And then she squeaked as it softly, accidentally, caressed her left breast. She jumped to her knees and shoved whoever it was away from her just in time to see Dawn staring down at the two of them looking angry with her hands on her hips. Misty, still slightly bemused by what had just happened, didn't realize what the younger trainer meant by that look until she said something.

"Ash, that is not what I meant!"

"W – what?" Misty asked, turning to see who it was that had pulled her out of what they all presumed was the line of fire and caught sight of her best friend staring between her and Dawn with a sheepish expression on his face. "Ash! What do you think you were doing?" she yelped next, trying to force back the embarrassment of having his arms draped around her middle, the mortification of him accidentally – (at least she was moderately sure it was an accident) – touching her breast. And even more important than that. . .

"Ah! My clothes! There's grass stains all over my clothes! Ash, you idiot!" she yelled at him, fists clenching into the dirt. She was so angry she couldn't even look at him properly, so instead her vision focused on a plot of land about fifteen meters over his shoulder, where she noticed the ground had ruptured a bit after facing Carnivine's bullet seed attack. But. . . so far away. . .

"Really, Myst, you're worried about your clothes now when I saved you from becoming a piece of Swiss cheese?" he countered, before turning to Dawn, "And what do you mean it wasn't what you meant? I did exactly as you said, Dawn! You thought it would be the most romantic thing in the world to be saved by your handsome prince from some perilous doom!" he scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest as he sat cross-legged on the ground as well, "I didn't exactly have a lot of options without putting her in danger myself, which woulda been just stupid! I saw a chance and I took it!"

"Ash, I have no idea what's going on. . . but would you please turn around for a second?" Misty asked, so sweetly that he blushed red, thinking she had decided to be grateful for what he'd done, and doing as she'd said without much of a fight.

"Haha, sure Misty, what was it you. . . wanted t – to. . . show me. . . ?" and he caught sight of Carnivine's unintended target. True, Misty might have had to deal with some dust if she'd continued standing where she'd been but she would definitely have been in no danger, had she simply braced herself for the smallest amount of kickback. Apparently, Carnivine had been so rattled by Politoad's hyper voice that his aim had been altered too, and he would have missed Misty by a fair ten meters anyway. Quite frankly, she would have been better off.

"Exactly, Ash, if you had just been paying attention then you would have seen that you were causing her more trouble by 'saving' Misty than by letting her take care of herself," Dawn exclaimed with a huff. "I mean, look at her! Look what you did! You knocked her to the ground, you destroyed her outfit, you embarrassed her by behaving so rashly!" Of course, she would have continued, but she'd finally glanced down at the aforementioned redhead and seen the bright fire of fury glowing in her eyes.

"Uh, what's going on?" Tracey in turn whispered (none-too-quietly) to Brock.

"Oh, well, Ash is in the process of confessing his feelings to Misty, but she's demonstrated to be a bit high maintenance and wants him to prove himself or something. I don't really know. . ." Brock shrugged, not exactly keeping quiet either. This only seemed to ignite Misty's anger even further.

"Ash! You stupid, dense, idiotic, simple-minded. . . Ugh!" She was on her feet in an instant, glaring down at him as though willing for him to spontaneously combust. "Unbelievable! I can't believe this! How could you be so – so. . ."

"Brainless?" Dawn offered.

"Dimwitted?" Brock and Tracey recommended in chorus.

"Blockheaded? Thick? retarded?" James shouted to her, at the same time alerting everyone to the fact that Team Rocket was still around. They turned to stare at him, mostly curious about how he would have so many examples at the ready, but then again, he did have Jessie as a partner. . .

Misty, refusing to take advice from any of them, gave Ash one final, meaningful glare and took off, stomping back towards the sliding glass doors that led to Professor Oak's lab area. No doubt she would probably rush through there without stopping to talk to anyone and head back to Ash's house.

"Agh! Darn it!" Dawn ruffled a hand furiously through her dark bangs and stared frustratedly down at her friend, who was still sitting there, half sulking and half defending his own intentions; which, honestly, may have really been her intentions. But she had been trying to help! "Ash, if you had just listened to me when I explained everything, then this wouldn't have happened! If you had just listened, Misty would probably be kissing you right now!"

"K – kissing. . . ?" He gulped back whatever feelings he may have had towards that possibility and glared back up at her as well. "I told you, I did listen to you! I did exactly as you said! I waited until she was in danger, I acted chivalrous – whatever that means – I put my arms around her and rescued her on my own! I even maintained that stupid lingering grip you talked about, as if it symbolized that I never wanted to let go of her!"

"Wait, so you're saying Ash really does have those feelings for Misty? And he realized it all on his own?" Tracey asked Brock, the two of them continuing their own conversation again.

"Yeah, I'm as impressed as you are. Of course, things seem to have gone. . . ridiculously downhill since then." Brock sighed. "Quite honestly, I don't understand how my advice didn't work but, well, knowing Ash, he probably didn't follow through with it correctly anyway," he finished with a shrug.

"You gave him advice too? But Misty told me a long time ago about how you're their resident comedy act. You've tried to flirt with a record number of girls and never once been accepted, right? I'm pretty sure that was you she was talking about. . ." and the Pokemon watcher placed a hand to his chin and considered it thoughtfully. "She said your worst endeavor was that Professor Ivy from the Orange Islands. . ." when he next turned and looked at Brock, the future breeder was laying on the ground in a fetal position with his thumb in his mouth. "Did I say something wrong. . . ?"

"Gah! Ash, you obviously messed up! For one thing, when a prince or knight in shining armor saves the maiden, they never embarrass her or mess with her appearance! The entire rescue is flawless until the very end so that she feels safe and falls madly in love with him!" Dawn shouted back, pointing a shaking index finger in his direction.

"Oh, c'mon Dawn, be serious! That's not even possible!" Ash fought back, finally on his feet and ready to beef it out.

All of this was interrupted by Jessie, who chose to use her sweet voice on them as James called Carnivine back to his Pokeball and lifted Meowth up into his arms.

"Hello, twerps, I just wanted to make sure you haven't forgotten about us. Say, how about we let bygones be bygones and we'll just. . ." she faltered, James using his free hand to wave a small white flag of surrender behind her.

"Pikachu," Ash's fury did not distinguish which foe he should be venting on, however, "use thunderbolt. And don't hold back."

OoO

Sometime later, everyone (minus Tracey) had returned to the Ketchum home. Misty had yet to be seen. According to Mrs. Ketchum, she'd reappeared and gone straight upstairs, silent until the very end. She'd drawn a quick shower and afterwards retreated to the guest room she was sharing with Dawn. However, when the younger girl had tried to get inside and talk to her, she found the door to be locked and no words seemed to reach the redhead on the other side. Sadly, she gave up for the time being.

Hopefully Misty would unlock it before going to bed so she wouldn't have to sleep on the couch.

During the mid-afternoon, Mrs. Ketchum had decided to get started on dinner and went outside to her garden to get some fresh vegetables for the marinara sauce she was making. Unfortunately, she had to walk past the flowerbed in order to get to the vegetable plot, and what she saw there made her scream.

"Mom! Mom, what's wrong?" Ash yelled, flying out the door behind her and Pokeball already clasped in his hand just in case Team Rocket had somehow wandered back again and were looking for a rematch. However all he saw when he found her was a house maker standing in front of her ruined flowers. And she was already sure who was to blame.

"Ash. . . honey, I love you, I do. You're my flesh and blood and I'd bear you again if need be but. . ." her tone wavered as she slowly turned to her son, a sick smile twitching onto her face. Ash was reminded of his very few experiences with ghost-type Pokemon, she looked so scary.

"B – but what, mom?"

"But I need you to do something for me."

"S – something?" He should have known this was coming. . .

"Get your butt over here and fix this mess!" It was amazing how she could turn so quickly into a drill sergeant when need be. "And if it isn't right by sundown, young man, you can say goodbye to dessert!"

So Ash sighed, placing his Pokeball back on his belt, and dejectedly shuffled towards the shed at the back of their yard. Just inside, on the table to his right, sat a wicker basket of items Mrs. Ketchum often used when tending her garden. Shears, trowel, small watering can, extra seeds. Next to that were the heavy bags filled with fertilizer.

He spent the next hour-and-a-half fixing the mess he'd left after pulling the flowers he'd picked for Misty from his mom's garden. He trimmed the bushes he'd otherwise butchered and tilled the area where he'd forcibly removed a few tulips by their roots. The sun finally began to set, although it was a double-edged sword. Sure the summer heat would die along with it but he still had to replace the flowers he'd taken by planting new seeds, watering them, fertilizing them, and he only had about an hours' worth of daylight remaining. If he didn't hurry, he could say goodbye to whatever surprise his mom had baked him for dessert.

Due to that thought, he nearly declined the offer his mom made around six o'clock when she returned and placed a plate on the table on their back porch.

"Ash, come have something to eat. I'll go get you some water. I don't want you to get dehydrated from working in the sun so long." She, in fact, didn't give him much chance to say no, walking back inside without waiting for his answer to get him the aforementioned drink.

He slowly stood up to his full height again, dusting his hands off on his jeans and walking back towards the porch. If there was one good thing about cleaning up his mess, it was the fact that it distracted him from what had happened at the Oak preserve earlier that afternoon. He sat down in the chair beside his food and said a quick prayer before beginning to eat.

"Ash Ketchum! You'd better get inside and wash your hands before you touch that tray or you'll soon live to regret it!" his mom shouted, smashing the glass of water down on the table as she caught sight of him again and resting her hands on her hips. "And when you get back here, you're going to tell me what's wrong with you."

He flinched at her tone of voice but did as he was told, hurriedly dropping the fork of spaghetti noodles back on his plate and running around her, inside the door leading to the kitchen and up to the sink to clean his hands. As he stood at the counter and lathered up some soap, the water running, he noticed the few plates sitting in the drainer, already clean (probably thanks to Mimey or Brock, who had both retired to their rooms), meaning everyone else had eaten already. He didn't think to count them before turning the faucet off, drying his hands on a nearby dishtowel, and running back outside.

His mother sat and watched him eat for a few minutes. Ash, just now realizing how hungry he was, gulped half of the plate down in three bites before his eyes met Mrs. Ketchum's and he slowed down so that he could actually taste the food. Or, you know, otherwise risk being further punished for his impolite behavior. Still with his chest feeling strangely heavy after what had happened earlier with his friends, a question fell from his lips.

"Hey, mom. . . did Misty come down for dinner?"

"No, she didn't. She seemed really upset when she came home earlier. I had meant to ask you why she came back on her own. Did she say she felt sick or something that would explain her lack of appetite?"

". . . No." He felt even more ashamed as he said so, something that Mrs. Ketchum seemed to notice.

"What happened?"

His stomach, hollow despite him filling it even a little, churned anxiously. It finally hit him that he hadn't even told his mom how he felt for Misty all this time. Yet somehow, he couldn't help wondering if she'd known for awhile without him saying anything. Weren't mothers supposed to have an intuition like that?

"Uh. . . well. . . I tried to tell Misty that I liked her. You know, like that."

"Really?" Her face lit up before she placed a hand over her mouth to quite her girlish giggle. "Awe, Ash honey, I didn't think you were brave enough to do it so soon!"

"Mom!" he whined in response, "It's been almost a year! I had to say something, you know!"

"So what did she say?"

"She?" His mom nodded. "As in Misty?" Another nod. "She said. . . that I must have been kidding if I thought she'd respond to a confession like that." At this, Mrs. Ketchum frowned, unsure of what it meant.

"Ash, just what kind of thing did you say to her?"

"I told her – point blank – that I liked her." There was a brief pause before he divulged the rest of the information. "Of course, she happened to be using the bathroom at the time. . ."

"ASH!"

". . . but I still don't see why that should be a problem! I mean, she's supposed to have liked me for years! Why should she really care when or how or where I say it as long as it gets said, right?" He looked up pleadingly towards his mom as though begging for her to agree with him. Alas, it was not to be.

"Honey. . . No. Just no." A hand flew to her temple as she felt a headache coming on. Her poor boy, her poor little boy. She had hoped he would know better at some point. But then again, lacking such experiences. . .

"Well, why not? Misty said something like there's a time and a place for certain things to be said but I just don't get it."

Delia thought it over carefully, wondering what she could say to him to get the point across. In her eyes, the way Misty worded it couldn't have been explained more clearly, but her darling son was a little bit. . . dense. And then, randomly, something came to mind that she hoped would clear up all confusion.

"Ash, I'm getting remarried."

Her son stared at her from across the small porch table, eyes wide in shock. He hadn't seen that one coming at all.

"Wh. . . what?" he squeaked, taking a chance to breathe as he did so. He seemed to have forgotten how to do that beforehand.

"Yes, I've been meaning to tell you and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! So. . . what do you think?" Even though his mind seemed to be drawn back to the previous day when Misty had voiced this exact same example to him, he still couldn't comprehend it.

"I think. . . I think. . ." He wanted to say that it was great, that he was happy for her, that he couldn't wait to meet his new dad (even though it sort of pissed him off that he hadn't met the guy until after the proposal). But none of those things came out of his mouth. Instead, he was on his feet in an instant, shouting what had first come to mind. "I think you should have said something before now! I think I should have a say in this! I think you should tell whoever it is to go straight to he-"

"-Ash!" Delia stared down at her son with wide eyes as though daring him to finish that sentence. When he had regained his seat and taken a few breaths, she continued. "I'm not serious."

"What?" he yelped in a high-pitched tone again, his face drained of most color.

"I wasn't being serious. I was just trying to make a point. . . But go ahead, honey, tell me why you would be so angry about that. I would think you'd be happy for me."

"I. . . I would've been. . . I mean, if you had. . . but now. . . I wasn't expecting. . . I thought I should say those things but. . ." he fumbled, trying to find the right words to describe how he felt. "If I had known there was a guy, if I'd met him myself, if I had seen this coming. . . I would have reacted differently, I think."

"Alright, fair enough." Mrs. Ketchum nodded to him. He opened his mouth to say something else but she poised a finger over her lips as though to shush him and continued speaking. "So explain it to me. You've been traveling through Sinnoh for a little over a year and, other than a few phone conversations, we haven't talked or seen each other since before that time. I haven't hinted at all that there might be someone I've taken a special interest in, I haven't mentioned dating anyone, nothing. And now, as you're eating dinner, not paying any attention to a change of topic, I suddenly announce that I'm getting remarried.

"How do you think Misty felt when you stood outside that bathroom door yesterday and said, without any previous intervention, that you had those feelings for her? You've probably talked a few times with her too while you were in Sinnoh but did you hint about how you felt then? Did you lead her to believe that you would say something to her when you next saw her? Did she even know that you were interested in girls at all?"

"Alright, alright mom, I get it. . ." Another sigh and the heavy guilt seemed to settle in the pit of his stomach again. It didn't help when Mrs. Ketchum, speaking softly as though wishing she didn't have to mention the possibility at all, whispered to him again.

"Ash. . . are you even sure she has these feelings for you? Or are you just pressuring her by telling her how you feel and trying to push her into lying and saying she likes you too?"

"I. . . I don't. . . It's just that Pikachu said. . . I just thought that she wouldn't have changed her mind, even if I hadn't seen her in so long." He bowed his head, a hand drawn to ruffle his scalp. He hadn't even thought of that. He'd just been so – so sure! Could Misty have liked him a couple years ago but since gotten over him? Had he missed any chance he would have had if only he'd moved a little sooner?

"Ash, it's not about that, okay? Sometimes liking someone isn't enough!"

That was true. . . If she really didn't like him, would she have tried to boost his ego back up after it had been deflated by her initial rejection? Wasn't she sort of rooting for him to continue trying to win her heart? She had only wanted him to try a little harder, she had only wanted it to mean something, she had only wanted to see if he could give her hope.

"Ash. . . ?" Mrs. Ketchum coaxed him, reaching across to pat him on the shoulder. "Are you alright?"

He sat there, his face slowly growing redder. Yes, it was definitely true, Misty definitely liked him! She had for so long, he felt bad for making her wait all this time. And even now, she was holding herself back to make sure that he wanted to try as hard as was possible for him to be with her. Honestly, yes, she was probably angry that he would be so dense so as to have confessed to her while she was using the toilet. . . but beyond that, he was pretty sure that she was insecure, more than anything else. Maybe this was just another challenge, right? Maybe they would get together and he would keep disappointing her, over and over, until she couldn't take it anymore, and then they'd break up and be unhappy whenever they saw one another. . . Maybe she assumed that to be the case and was trying to prevent it.

Misty just wanted to be happy. She just wanted the both of them to be happy.

"Ash?"

"Yeah, mom, I'm alright. And yeah, I know it. I'm sure Misty's liked me for a long time now." He smiled up at her confidently again, though his heart was beating so fast through the declaration. "And I've liked her for a long time now too. I just didn't see it at first."

Delia stared at her son, blinking at him in wonder, before smiling softly in reply.

". . . I think so too."

"The only problem now is that I don't know how far I'll have to go to win her over. I messed up pretty bad earlier today. . ."

Ash leaned over, elbow on the table, one hand propping up his head and the other shoved into the pocket of his vest jacket as he tried to think it all over. Truthfully, he was all out of ideas. Maybe he should have asked Tracey for some advice too while he'd had the chance. But if Brock, Mr. Love Guru, had failed, and Dawn, a fellow girl, had failed, who else could he turn to?

"Ash, do you know what every girl in love wants?" His mother's somber tone caught his attention and he slowly glanced up at her. The sun, setting now on the horizon, flickered over the treetops in the distance, glimmering brilliantly off of his mom's skin. He stared at her profile and realized, yes, his mom had probably been in love once, was probably in love still with his dad.

"A new mallet?" he deadpanned anyway. The one hand was still fingering something he'd found in his pocket. Huh. . . that was strange.

"A what?" She turned to ask him curiously, effectively ruining the moment.

"Nothing." He was still distracted by that thing he'd found. He hadn't even known he'd been carrying it around with him. He had nearly forgotten about it all along.

"Oh, well. . ." She cleared her throat and tried again. "All any girl in love wants is to know that she's important. If she loves a boy, she wants to know that that boy wants and needs her. She only wants to help him achieve his greatest dreams, no matter what it takes. Even if she can't always be around, all she wants is to stay – to stay. . ."

". . . Connected?" he finished for her, finally pulling that thing from his pocket and holding it up for her to see.

"What's that, Ash?" Mrs. Ketchum asked him, leaning in to get a better look.

"Nothing yet. . . Well, maybe. . ." Ash amended in the end, smiling impishly at his mom before shoving the item back into his pocket again and taking off inside the house. "We won't find out until tomorrow though!"

"Tomorrow. . . ? Ash, you get back here and finish your dinner!" But he didn't seem to hear her, already galloping back upstairs and into his bedroom so that he could begin preparations for the next day. "And clean up these tools you left laying. . ." Her decibel point slowly declined as she realized she was alone. Sometimes that boy could frustrate her so much!

"Oh well. . ." she gave up, figuring that whatever he was planning had to be important if he wasn't going to finish eating. "As long as he changes his underwear every day, I suppose there's no real harm done." The sun finally seemed to set as she gathered everything up and put it all back where it belonged, taking the tray into the kitchen to wash it clean with the rest, "I hope he doesn't plan on asking me for dessert."

OoO

Misty woke up pretty early the next morning. True, she had gone to bed just as early so it made a fair amount of sense. To add to that effect, her stomach was growling pitifully since she'd skipped dinner. Still, she made no move to get out of bed and find something to eat. This was somewhat due to a silent vow she'd taken. She didn't want to see anyone else yet. Yes, she'd unlocked the guestroom door the night before so Dawn could get in to change clothes and get to sleep, but the other girl was still dreaming peacefully and Misty didn't want to risking shuffling around and waking her.

She wasn't sure who she was most angry at. As she'd laid there fuming the evening before, she had realized to some extent that Dawn and Brock were both just trying to help – even if their aim had been as off as Carnivine's. But still, she didn't want to face apologies or, in some cases, barely controllable laughter. She just wanted to be left alone until she'd finished stewing.

So, yeah, that was part of the problem. The other part was the strange sense of foreboding that pervaded her immature sixth sense. Something was wrong. Something was off. Someone other than she and Dawn was in the room with them. Again. And as soon as that last word had echoed against the walls of her brain, she knew who it was.

"Ash, I can't believe you were stupid enough to try this again!" she muttered furiously, flipping over as softly as she could and glaring daggers at him. He stared back at her, not smiling goofily as if he didn't understand, not frowning childishly as if he had grown tired of her ranting at him. It was enough for her to sigh and give in, offering him the chance to explain himself. "What? What the heck do you want to do to me now? I'm tired. Say what you need to say and then. . . leave me alone." In truth, she probably couldn't be more awake unless she ingested a gallon of caffeine. But she was tired of his antics, and that counted too.

So she twisted her neck back in the opposite direction again and refused to look at him. Part of her waited for him to give up and leave, and part of her knew that he would hardly be planning to do that so easily after pushing himself this far. So, again, she waited for his excuses.

"I want you to come outside with me."

She turned to face him again, eyes squinting dangerously.

". . . With you? No thanks, I think I've learned my lesson there."

He shuffled forward on his knees and placed his hands at the edge of her sleeping bag, almost as if he were going to bow his head and ask for forgiveness. But he didn't, a true testament to Ash's stubborn streak.

"I promise you won't regret it."

"That's strange, two days ago you swore that I would. Oh, and look what's happened! You're right Ash, I regret all of it! Maybe I should have. . . Maybe I should have said something else to you when you first confessed to me after all." She had meant that she should have given up and given in from the get-go, just telling Ash that she felt the same as him and letting things run their horribly dangerous course, but he thought differently, that she must have meant she should have rejected him no matter what.

"I know, you're right, but it's going to be different this time! I mean it!" She didn't say anything else to him and he sighed, withdrawing against the wall again and one hand rubbing the back of his neck. He should have known it wouldn't have been so easy to get her to go with him. Hadn't he himself said so last night, that he'd really messed up at the preserve and he wasn't sure how much he'd have to do to make up for it?

Misty wasn't budging and he couldn't think of anything at the moment that would force her to move.

". . . Alright, I give up. I guess you really were right," he told her exasperatedly.

Not able to hold herself back from the curiosity and pride she felt at one-upping him, she turned and replied, ". . . What was I right about?"

"Well, obviously, about-" but he realized he had her there and a small smirk grew on his face. "If you really wanna know, Myst, you'll have to come with me," he finished in a singsong tone of voice.

It took him a few moments of bated breath but she finally responded to his ridiculous form of blackmail, all the while knowing that she shouldn't have given in to him, that she should have known better.

"Wait outside so I can get dressed." Clearly underestimating her own curiosity, Misty waited until she'd heard the soft snap of the door clicking back against the frame built into the wall. With another sigh, she closed her eyes, attempting to extract all emotional demons still sitting in her head from the day before. She needed to be open-minded. She needed to give Ash a chance. It took a lot of chanting for her to remember that she, too, was looking forward to the time when (or if, which seemed more likely at this point) he would succeed in getting her attention.

She shuffled her way through the plush material provided to her by her sleeping bag, easing the zipper open from the halfway mark she'd left it at before turning in last night with as much demure finesse as was possible. Of course, constantly allowing her anger and frustration to get the better of her didn't allow much for this. Luckily, Dawn didn't wake up anyway but, then again, she had probably gone to sleep much later on.

After putting her clothes on, she turned, ready to leave, and saw her bag sitting on the desk. She debated with herself for a few seconds until she realized that she had no idea what Ash had planned or how far they were going to walk. Better safe than sorry, she decided, and slipped the bag over her shoulders. Just in case.

Quietly snapping the door shut behind her as well, she stepped out into the hallway.

"Now. . . what do you-", but she just as soon realized she was speaking to the semi-darkness of the upstairs landing, her best friend nowhere to be found. Her brow twitched, she considered going back inside the guestroom and getting some more sleep, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. "Fine. But if I walk downstairs and he isn't there either, then that's it!"

However Ash was indeed downstairs in the kitchen, pulling four canteens from the refrigerator, along with a small bag filled with something she couldn't see, and placing them both in his own backpack. Misty opened her mouth to vent at him a little more but found, with a cursory glance around the room, that another question slipped unbidden past her lips.

"Where's Pikachu?"

"Ah, he's still a little tired from yesterday so I told him he could sit this one out. It's fine, most of the wild Pokemon in the area are pretty weak. I'm sure they wouldn't stand a chance against any of ours."

He seemed far too excited for his own good, next turning and smiling so widely Misty was sure it would flop off the edges of his face. She pretended not to be drawn in, even by the sort-of-a compliment he'd given, her mind thinking over the small bit of knowledge she'd just been offered, whether Ash had paid attention to his own words or not.

So they were leaving Pallet Town and heading out onto the nearby path. Was he taking her on a Pokemon-catching hunt? She really wasn't in the mood. Not to mention she could do without any ordinary Rattata or – a quick squirm – bug-types.

Ash urged her onward and the two of them stealthily left the Ketchum home from the kitchen entrance, looking the door behind them.

They did indeed leave Pallet for the trail and wooded area beyond it. Once or twice Misty considered turning back, still hungry (and her stomach groaning quite proudly) and growing more and more unsure of whatever Ash had planned for her. Ash countered her threats with the excuse that, oops, he seemed to have forgotten his house-key so she'd end up being locked out anyway until someone else woke up to let her in. And so, exasperated and doubtful, she continued on despite her better judgment. There really weren't any other options, after all.

She began to notice some familiar territory after awhile. She wondered at first if Ash had gotten them lost, something almost too in-character for him, especially when he was supposedly trying so hard to prove himself to her. There was the distinct sound of a waterfall shattering the silence somewhere in the far off distance to her left. Instead of heading towards it, however, Ash began slowly traveling through the downhill path created by relatively sturdy brambles and roots. Misty did not ask for help in easing her way down and he didn't think to offer it. But she hadn't expected him to, she wasn't expecting much of anything from him anymore. . .

She was so dejectedly focused on her own thoughts that she missed Ash's announcement of them finally arriving at their destination and walked straight into him.

"Ash, what's your problem? Why did you stop? Where the heck are-", she raged on, head whipping to and fro as she took in her surroundings. When she did finally realize where they were, she almost regretted yelling at him. She was sure this place would hold any affection for anyone other than her. She didn't even think Ash would've remembered it all this time, "Oh. . ."

Of course he would take her to the small cliff where they'd first met. Of course he would think that this place would make her feel better. Of course he would force her to come here with him in hopes that she would be so unbelievably shocked about it that she would let him say whatever he wanted to her. She should have known better. She should have told him no. She should have made him give up. She shouldn't have felt so damned humiliated and hopeful that he would. . . that he'd. . .

Luckily, her girlish tears were stopped by Ash's next statement.

"Hey, wanna do some fishing?" he asked her, removing his backpack before she'd even responded and pulling a portable fishing rod out of it. He turned despite his hands being so full, and dashed down the short hill towards the boulder protruding from the cliff-face. He sat even as her mouth opened silently, trying to find any objections she should have had towards him spinning his deceit.

"Ah. . . Ash, I don't know why you brought me here but of course you forgot one thing! I didn't exactly know where we were going so what makes you think I'm prepared for this, huh, Mr. Pokemon Master?"

"Yeah right, Myst, like you don't have a compact rod in your bag. Some future water-type Master you're turning out to be."

She felt her face grow a little hotter. Of course he was right, it wasn't like she'd forgotten about her trusty rod or her lure kit. But she felt like she had to find a reason to be angry, she did, because if she didn't then. . . then. . .

It was scary putting her faith in someone as dense as him.

Still she knew she had no way of escaping and he had worked hard so she felt like she'd better not waste his efforts. She softly eased her weight downhill, much slower than he had, and sat down beside him.

Finally, side by side.

However that only seemed to make it more uncomfortable for them both.

Misty removed her bag too, pulling it into her lap and rummaging around inside. She found her rod at the bottom, along with the lure kit, seeing as neither got much use while she was running the Gym in Cerulean. As she placed her bag beside her and snapped open the kit, something finally dawned on her.

"Hey, did you need a. . ." But one look at her best friend showed him removing something from his pocket, a very familiar fishing lure, and slowly looping the line through it. Well, even though her face couldn't possibly get any redder, at least she had an answer to her nearly unasked question.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), fishing was known as a silent sport. If they talked, it had to be in hushed tones and Misty knew she wasn't very good at using such a thing so she kept silent. And, whether he was as embarrassed as her or still trying to find the proper thing to say and the proper way to say it, Ash followed suit and didn't dare open his mouth. Not yet anyway. He seemed rather focused on judging her reaction to his latest tactic.

Misty, for her part, felt something akin to indigestion bubbling upwards from her stomach. Or maybe those were her feelings, the ones she'd put safely away until Ash would maybe have realized that she'd liked him as more than a best friend for a long time now. Her fingers grew agitated just holding onto the pole and waiting for that rather rare bite. Her nerves were on edge, wondering if either one of them would gain the courage to finally say something and stubborn enough to know that it shouldn't be her.

Ash was still in the Growlithe house with her, that was for sure.

But he had tried hard, hadn't he? And she knew that holding back now would only turn him off further. She should offer him the chance to try again by meeting him halfway, right?

Finally, she knew what she could say.

". . . I was sure you would have forgotten about that thing by now, or lost it, or something."

Red stained her cheeks in a rather pretty fashion, despite her embarrassment. Her line of vision seemed to only include the rock she was sitting on at the time, but she preferred it, unsure if she'd be able to appreciate Ash's return confession.

"Yeah, I may be just as shocked as you are," he laughed a little bit, and she would have flinched at the thought that he was so irresponsible, but he continued before she had that chance. "In fact, for a long time after I first got it, it just sat in my bag 'cause I didn't know what else to do with it."

"Ash, it's a fishing lure. What do you think you're supposed to do with it?"

"Yeah but it was hard to come by a lake where we could all sit down and fish for the afternoon. And whenever we did I was too worried to take it out. I kept remembering the note that came attached to it. I thought you'd beat me up if I let anything happen to it so I just refused to give myself the chance."

Misty couldn't help but laugh. Ash thought she'd beat him up? Sure, she was a little violent, but only because of her strong sense of justice. If she did do something to him, it would have been because he'd deserved it, she knew. And the note, the note, she'd forgotten about that one herself. It was only a few sentences long, just her way of stressing how important the thing was, how much effort she'd put into making it, how she'd made it just for him.

She definitely hadn't thought he would care about all of that.

"I was only kidding back then. I just didn't want you to go do something stupid with it. I didn't think you'd just shove it in your bag and never let it see the light of day. I made it so that you could use it to make your team stronger while you were in Sinnoh. It was supposed to be useful, Ash. As long as you don't use it to play catch with Pikachu or throw it at Team Rocket as some sort of sorry excuse for a weapon, then it's fine. It's not as important as helping you become a Pokemon Master," she shrugged as though cementing the fact that she couldn't really care less about what else he happened to do to her special lure but Ash wasn't having any of that.

"I know, you just wanted to help me. You always wanted to help me, didn't you? You just had a funny way of showing it sometimes. Maybe that's why I. . ."

He faltered and turned back to face the water, his hands clenching the fishing pole tightly again. Nope, still nothing biting. Misty had a feeling she knew what was coming, but she couldn't help but wonder why Ash was holding back. He'd told her more than once in the past twenty-four hours how much he liked her. She couldn't understand what was holding his tongue now.

"Besides, you don't have to lie about it. You always loved your lures. They're unique, right? One of a kind? That's why you shape them all like yourself. I haven't forgotten, although it's still kind of funny," he attempted to laugh but she gave him a short glare to keep him from mocking her. Instead he continued speaking, "Well, anyway, it was obviously important to you. Even only as a means of helping me, it was definitely important to you, wasn't it? So why shouldn't it have been important to me?"

He eased up on his pole and slowly reversed the line back towards the base until the famous Misty lure was hanging before them. They both stared at it for a second before Ash cleared his throat and continued speaking.

"It's because of this thing that I realized how important you are to me. Because I didn't show it to anyone until that day and I wouldn't let anyone else get a close enough look at it. I was a little embarrassed but. . . really, more than that, I was really possessive of it. Dawn wanted to see it, wanted to use it, but I wouldn't ever let her. It was a gift from you to me and I wouldn't let anyone else fish with it. And then Buizel showed up," at this he paused and gave Misty a moment to check her mental record of water-type Pokemon, searching the name until she'd found the picture to go along with it, "and he stole all of our fishing rods. The lure too."

"Ash, c'mon, you're saying that the very first day you pulled my special lure out to use it, you let it get stolen?" The slightest glimmer of faith in him that had been returned upon his latest attempt to win her over began to fade out again.

"Well I didn't let it get stolen. I didn't have a chance to stop it from happening. But I didn't let Buizel get away with it either. Nobody could understand why I was so angry. They were just fishing rods, right? Even if Buizel happened to get away with them, we could just get to the next town and buy some more. They're pretty cheap. . . but the rods weren't what I was after. I had to get your lure back, my lure back. Like I said, it was special to me too. And when Dawn mentioned how determined I seemed to be and Brock asked me why I didn't just give up, I realized right away that it was about you. I didn't want to let you down.

"My mom was telling me last night that, when a girl is in love with a boy, she only wants to help him achieve his greatest dreams. For a long time now, my biggest dream has obviously been to become the greatest Pokemon Master. I'll keep fighting for it too. . . but it'll be more worth it if you're there to help me like always, cheering me on in the best way you know how.

"So what I mean. . . or rather, where I'm going with this. . ."

It was here that he faltered, the worry and embarrassment that he should have felt from the get-go suddenly catching up to him and crashing into him all at once. How he'd managed to say it the first time, he didn't know but he had a feeling that it would be hard to get it out again. Misty stared blankly at him, before a faint laugh gathered in her throat. He was always so slow to catch on, wasn't he? But that was fine. . .

"Alright, alright, I get it. I accept your confession, Ash." And as a way to commemorate the moment, she leaned in and kissed him softly on the cheek. So softly that it tickled more than it turned him to mush, not that his line of defense was that solid to begin with.

". . . What?" he asked her, eyes wide. Apparently she needed to repeat herself, or explain her reasons.

"I've waited a long time for you to come around. I'm glad you see everything you put me through, Ash Ketchum; it's about time I gave you some grief too!" she started with a finger poking at his chest, but then she backed off again and continued, "For years, I watched you mature into a talented trainer, and for years I've known that you're the only guy I could ever li - love like I do. You're my best friend, you know me better than most other people, probably even my own family. . . but I'll let you get away with that if you let me stay by your side so that I can continue to watch you grow as a person."

It was his turn to stare at her now, eyes wide. Love. She loved him. To alleviate the burning sensation in his chest, he begged the following questions.

"So. . . that's it? I finally got it right? You're my girlfriend now? And I can stop trying so hard?"

"Well hold on, I didn't say you could stop trying. The point of all this was to prove to you how hard you would continue having to try to keep me, right?" she huffed at him in irritated response.

But he'd already leapt to his feet, fists clenched before him and his heart simply aching to jump for joy. Apparently he was content with ignoring her now, though he still managed to drag her to her feet as well so that he could hug her close.

"I win! You're mine! You're my girlfriend, Misty! Yes! Woohoo!"

One of his hands reached out and grabbed hers, holding them both in the air as he continued to cheer. Then he linked arms with her again and spun around with her in some strange version of the doe-see-doe. Yup, Misty thought exasperatedly, reminded of the time when he'd caught his first Pokemon, she was definitely just another catch to him. . .

But she let him continue to hold her close anyway, figuring that as long as she was his greatest catch, she wouldn't mind always being his.

The moment was ruined a few seconds later as her stomach, such a brick wall as it withstood so many hours of prolonged hunger, finally gave in and growled again for the first time since early morning. Ash loosened his hold on her and backed up a second, kneeling down and opening his backpack again, withdrawing the plastic bag he'd pulled from his fridge earlier that morning.

"Whoops, hehe, forgot about this. I brought a few boxed lunches from home in case we got hungry. I figure since you didn't eat dinner last night, and I kind of forced you to skip breakfast today, you'd probably be starving."

He waited for her to sit down beside him again, holding out the first plastic-ware box for her but refusing to let go at first.

"And now," he broke off as a giddy laugh belted from his throat, "that I've finally made you my girlfriend, I guess this can be considered our first date, right? I mean, once I leave again, who knows when we'll have another chance!"

He had a point there. Misty had always known that it would be a long-term relationship, one of the reasons why she hadn't pushed for a confession before she'd returned to Cerulean City the first time. She hadn't really minded in the long run, as long as Ash proved that he was willing to try. And now that he'd done that, she felt more secure about the course of their new relationship. So she could afford to give him this small consolation. He seemed so eager to move forward with her.

"Yeah, you're right Ash. This can be our first date."

Finally he let her take the box and she restrained herself from ripping it open and eating it all in one gulp. . .

Well, she was hungry, okay? So sue her!

"I brought four of these since I didn't know how long we'd be out here. But I suppose I could part with one of mine so you can have three of 'em, you know, since you skipped dinner. Consider it an apology, right? Because it was my fault you went to bed early last night. I have to make up for it somehow. . ." he rambled on, and Misty felt humbled by his not-exactly-an-apology, simply pleased with the fact that he would give up food for her. Who knew Ash Ketchum could be capable of such a thing, right?

And so they would continue to live happily ever after. . .

"Wait, hold on. . . Ash, did you just call me fat?" she wondered aloud with a glare as it finally dawned on her.

. . . Or not.

OoOoO

Notes - YES! It's finished! Jeez, that took WAY too long. This was supposed to be done by the new year. Yeah, that's right, over four freaking months ago. . . But I was distracted with all these hours I've been pulling at work, then I got sick for a week, then there was school, then. . . But no excuses. I'm sorry. If nothing else, I am happy that waiting all this extra time got me some more reviews. Warlordess likes reviews. And I hope I lived up to any expectations you all may have had for me.

I don't think I liked how the battle against Team Rocket turned out. It ended up more like a brawl than a legal battle. . . but it had to get messy for what I had planned between Ash and Misty, plus I couldn't figure out what I wanted Dawn's advice to be unless I did that. I'm not sure if she's the romantic type, I haven't followed the D/P season much. . . but I figure most girls inherently are so why not?

I wish I could have included Tracey more. He's always been a favorite, and I don't appreciate how he gets so much hate from the PKMN fan base. I mean, I know there's nothing I can do about it, and I often forget him and use Brock since Mr. Perverted Breeder has been around longer and more often, but still. . .

Oh, and wow, I'm not sure if you guys were joking, but a lot of you kept saying in your reviews for part one that you couldn't wait to see what I did to answer those questions I posted in my notes last time. You know, the ones about Prinplup and his website and Misty blowing up the world and whatnot? I mean, you do realize I was joking when I posted those, right? RIGHT?

AKA, the moral to the story is, when all else fails in trying to get a girl to fall for you, always listen to your mom! Well, as long as she isn't a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or a prostitute, or a. . . You get what I'm saying here, right?

Well, anyway, I think that's it. I don't know what to do now that I've finished this. Either I'll move on to another one of my new projects (in other words, long-term work) or I'll stick to the one-shot series for awhile. Yeah, maybe I'll do that since I've started at least three more "chapters" (that aren't really chapters since it's not a novel). If you could, continue to look forward to updates on that fic or else new stories. Check my profile for notice on what I will be working on next and feel free to send me a message if you have other questions or comments that you would prefer don't get posted to the public.

Please, please, PRETTY PLEASE review! Nobody does that anymore. C'mon people, how are we supposed to keep the fan-fiction world alive if you can't even spend five seconds (although hopefully more than that) commenting on a story that you liked? Or didn't like? Or thought this and that, yadda-yadda, etcetera about?

I feel like I've sold my soul. I should be more considerate towards readers, shouldn't I? But I worked hard too! The reason it took so long to post this is because I persevered!

Uh. . . anyway. . . please review! The end! Until next time, folks!