Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon, or any related characters and concepts.

JKA: So, this is my first attempt at a Pokemon story, and an AAML. That being said, I'm going to apologize ahead of time if it seems cheesy or any of the characters are OOC. Although, I've been a Pokeshipper for practically my whole life, so hopefully I did an ok job. XD

Also, to darkecomuse and MikaHaeli8 (on the off chance they decide to read this), that oneshot I promised you would have already been up, but my computer that it was saved on crapped out about two weeks ago, and has yet to be fixed, so I'll get it up as soon as I can.

Now, all you die-hard Pokefans out there, read, review, and enjoy. ^_^

Hidden Affections

"Come on, guys, can't we please set up camp?"

"Ash, it's not even sunset yet!"

"But Misty," Ash whined, fixing the orange-haired girl walking beside him with pleading chocolate-brown eyes, "we've been walking for hours!"

"Do you want to make it to Pallet Town by tomorrow or not?" Misty demanded, clutching Togepi closer to her as if it would help prevent her from bringing out the mallet and whacking Ash over the head with it.

"Yeah, but I'm starving," Ash complained, gripping his stomach as it let out a particularly feral rumble.

"Pi pikachu…" Pikachu agreed from his usual perch atop Ash's shoulder, his long ears drooping and a rather forlorn expression on his little face.

"I'm ok with pitching camp here tonight," Brock piped up from Ash's side opposite Misty, his nose buried in a map. His three companions knew him well enough to know that he only wanted to stop for a chance to use his surprisingly excellent cooking skills.

"Three to one, you lose, Misty!" Ash declared, immediately perking up now that he'd persuaded his friends to call it a day.

"You are the most immature sixteen-year-old I have ever met," Misty huffed irritably, shifting her glare to the worn path beneath her feet.

The three trainers and their Pokémon had been travelling through Viridian Forest for a good portion of the day. They were headed to Ash's hometown of Pallet, where he would stay and work on his training until they needed to set out for the Pokémon League. The young trainer was competing in the event for the first time since his loss six years ago, and this time he was determined to emerge victorious.

Ash and Pikachu were both more-than-eager to go home, seeing as how they hadn't been there since the start of their second journey through Kanto. Brock and Misty were excited to be paying a visit to Ash's home as well, the former intrigued by the idea of spending some time with Professor Oak in his research lab, while the latter simply wanted the comfort of a roof over her head along with seeing Delia — Ash's mom — again.

"This looks like a good spot to crash," Brock remarked, gesturing to the small clearing they had just stumbled across. One side was bordered by a gently bubbling stream — much to Misty's delight — while the others were surrounded by sheltering foliage and trees.

As soon as the words had left Brock's mouth, Ash dropped his pack unceremoniously to the forest floor, flopping down next to it and lying back on the grass, his hands folded behind his head. Pikachu slumped beside the raven-haired boy, mumbling a disgruntled "chu" as his stomach snarled loudly.

"Don't you think you should help set up?" Misty suggested exasperatedly, rolling her eyes at Ash and setting her pack down as well. She dug through it for a moment, and then pulled out her much-abused sleeping bag, laying it out near the center of their chosen campsite.

"Hungry… need food…" Ash groaned dramatically, his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth longingly as his mind conjured up the image of a large, juicy hamburger.

"How could someone who wants to be a Pokémon Master be so lazy?" Misty sighed, moving to go help Brock unload his cooking supplies.

"I am not lazy!" Ash objected, sitting up straight and sticking his tongue out at her. "I just can't do anything on an empty stomach."

"Excuses, Ketchum," the ocean-eyed girl snorted, purposely trying to wind him up. "You just hate doing anything that requires energy. It's no wonder you're so far behind in your training for the Pokemon League."

"What do you mean behind?" Ash demanded, hopping to his feet and causing Pikachu to wisely leap away from him. He knew that Misty was deliberately antagonizing him, but at the moment he really didn't care. "My Pokémon and I are training hard day and night! We're exhausted!"

"Really? Because I don't think sitting around and stuffing your face every chance you get counts as 'training'," Misty smirked, folding her arms over her chest. Togepi wobbled away to join Pikachu near where Brock was constructing a make-shift fire pit out of stones.

"Sitting around?" Ash echoed incredulously, his face heating up as anger began to flicker in his chocolate-brown eyes. "I was in four battles yesterday alone, and five the day before that! You call that sitting around?"

"No, but that's all you ever think about, isn't it?" Misty snapped, her short temper flaring as well. "Every second of every day, it's all about battling and winning and being the 'world's greatest master'! There are other things in life besides Pokémon, Ash!"

Brock — who had until that moment been studiously ignoring his friends' bickering, a skill he'd acquired after years of enduring it — glanced between the two fuming teenagers, his eyebrows furrowing uncertainly.

"I'm just gonna… go get firewood…" he muttered, standing briskly and disappearing into the surrounding woods.

"Pika pi, pika," Pikachu added, shaking his head sadly at his trainer's display and then following Brock out of the clearing, Togepi on his heels.

The trio's departure went unnoticed by Ash and Misty, who were currently glaring at one another so fiercely that it was surprising neither of them had burst into flames.

"I know there's more to life besides Pokémon!" Ash growled, his hands curling into fists at his sides. "But I'm supposed to be training for the Pokémon League, Misty! Of course that's all I'm going to be thinking about right now! I can't become a Pokémon Master without winning the League!"

Although she'd never admit it, Misty was a bit stung by Ash's words. If becoming a master was the most important thing in the raven-haired boy's life, then that meant she must have been at least second place on his list of priorities. Sure, she'd never actually told Ash how she felt… but what good would it do? If he was so focused on winning battles and making his team stronger, what was the point in opening up to him, only to have her heart broken?

"Maybe you'd have a better shot at winning if you'd let Brock and I help you train once in a while!" Misty shot back, placing her hands on her hips and seriously contemplating whipping out the mallet. Perhaps a good whack on the head was just what Ash needed to help him understand why she was upset through his thick skull.

"What, you think I'm not capable of training my own Pokémon?" Ash retorted scathingly, his eyes narrowing furiously. "I don't need your help, thank you very much!"

"Oh, you don't, do you? If I hadn't helped you, then you and Pikachu would have drowned in that god-damn river I fished you out of!" Misty yelled, gritting her teeth to fight back the tears that were threatening to spill. Normally, when she and Ash fought, it was all in fun, but his rejection of her offer — despite how heated it had been — wounded her. How could he not see how much she wanted to be a part of his training… his life?

"We could have gotten out by ourselves!" Ash snarled, his fingernails biting into his gloved palms. His stubborn pride wouldn't allow him to admit that if Misty hadn't pulled him out of the river when they'd first met, he probably wouldn't have made it past day one of his journey.

"Please," Misty snorted, her fingers itching to bring out her wooden tool of preference and knock some sense into the dense trainer. "Even if you had, you would have never made it to the Pokémon Center in time to save Pikachu if you hadn't stolen my bike." The reminder of her lost mode of transportation ignited a long-buried rage in Misty's mind, and she threw her hands forcefully up into the air. "Speaking of which, you still owe me a new bike, Ash Ketchum!"

"Oh my God, FORGET THE FREAKING BIKE, MISTY!" Ash bellowed, sending several terrified Pidgeys fleeing to the air somewhere nearby. "That was over six damn years ago, and I only took it because Pikachu could have died if I didn't!"

A sudden thought pushed itself to the forefront of Ash's mind with the brought-up issue of Misty's bike, and the anger burning in his dark brown gaze abruptly vanished, hurt pulsing its way through his veins.

"Is that why you've stuck around this long, Misty?" he asked hesitantly, his voice much lower than it had been only seconds before. "You just wanted to get your bike back?"

"What?" Misty stammered, blinking rapidly in shock. "No, Ash, that's not —"

"Well, if that's all you want, then why don't you just leave," Ash stated flatly, turning away from her to hide the pain that was slowly etching itself onto his face. "If I haven't gotten you that stupid bike after six years, then there's no point in you waiting around anymore."

As much as he may have denied it, the idea that Misty had only been by his side during his journey to get her bike repaid was like a stab straight to his heart. She meant more to him that anything, more than becoming a Pokémon Master even. Of course, he'd never revealed that little secret to anyone, — except Pikachu, who'd figured it out on his own — and had no plans to do so any time soon, but surely she must have realized how much he cared for her?

A few of the tears that Misty had been desperately holding in leaked down her cheeks, although they were not of fury as they had been previously, but rather of sadness. Ash was her closest friend, and for him to think that the only thing she was concerned about was that ridiculous bike… it was like he'd pierced her heart with a shard of ice.

"Ash…" she murmured, taking a step closer to him. "How can you even say that?"

The ebony-haired boy's gaze flickered in her direction and away again. "Well, why else would you have travelled all over the world with an annoying, immature guy like me?"

"Because I l—" Misty began without thinking, and then she abruptly cut herself off, quickly switching gears before she accidentally spilled her secret. "I-I like being with you, Ash. You're my best friend, even if you are annoying and immature."

She offered him a small smile, and he lifted his eyes to meet hers once more, returning her warm expression.

"Thanks, Mist," Ash said quietly, feeling the remorse in his chest fade away under the sparkle of her beautiful sea-colored irises. "And despite the fact you're one of the most stubborn, hot-tempered girls I've ever met… You're my best friend, too."

Misty lowered her gaze to the grass beneath them, a faint blush dusting her pale skin.

Tell him now, a small voice in the back of her mind encouraged her. Just tell him. You may not get another chance like this.

Seeing the truth in her conscience's words, Misty inhaled deeply, preparing herself for what she wanted to say. She returned her focus to Ash's face, and the instant she looked into those chocolate-brown eyes, she felt as if a swarm of Butterfree were battering the walls of her stomach.

"Ash…" she breathed shakily, swallowing the lump that was forming in her throat. "I h-have something I want to tell you."

Ash nodded once to show that she had his attention, his heart hammering in his chest. There was only one thing he could think of that Misty would want him to know that could make her look this nervous, and he waited hopefully while she steeled her resolve, praying to any higher power that may be listening that his guess was right.

"Ash," the fiery-haired girl repeated, her cheeks rapidly darkening as embarrassment washed over her. "I —"

"Is it safe to come out now?" a familiar and highly unwelcome voice called, interrupting whatever Misty had been about to say. A moment later, Brock appeared from between the trees, his arms laden with branches, Pikachu and Togepi a step behind.

"Pikapi!" the little electric mouse cried, bounding over to Ash and leaping into his trainer's arms.

"Hey, Pikachu," Ash greeted his partner, patting the yellow creature on the head and forcing a smile. He couldn't help but feel slightly irked towards Brock and the two Pokémon for cutting off Misty. And judging by the disappointment that had fallen upon her visage, Misty felt the same.

"Toge toge!" Togepi squealed, stumbling over to Misty, who promptly scooped the little egg-shaped Pokémon into her arms.

"Did you have a nice time in the forest with Brock and Pikachu?" she asked him, earning another squeal from Togepi, his tiny arms waving excitedly.

"I'll get started on dinner, guys," Brock announced from where he was just finishing arranging the sticks he'd collected into a suitable campfire.

"So, Misty, you were saying?" Ash inquired as Pikachu clambered onto his shoulder, turning back to Misty, trying to ignore the curiosity that was gnawing its way through his stomach.

"O-oh," Misty mumbled, her gaze sliding to the ground awkwardly. "It was nothing… Just forget I mentioned anything."

"Oh… ok," Ash sighed dejectedly, crestfallen. Pikachu tilted his head to one side, obviously wondering why his buddy was so upset.

Great timing, Brock, the raven-haired teenager thought sarcastically, shooting Brock's back an annoyed glare as Misty spun around and strode quickly away, seating herself on the grass a few feet from where the former was currently cooking something in a pot over the fire. Ash folded his arms irritably over his chest and flopped down closer to the fire, staring blankly at the swirl of orange and red as if the sparks of color would somehow give him the answers he wanted.

Sometime later — neither Misty nor Ash knew how long as they were both preoccupied — Brock removed his pot from the flames and served the stew he'd made.

"Enjoy, guys," Brock announced, grinning at his strangely subdued friends.

"Thanks, Brock," Misty said absentmindedly, taking the bowl he offered and beginning to eat without any real conscious thought to do so.

"Thanks," Ash echoed, stirring his stew around unenthusiastically. His appetite had abandoned him after his argument with Misty, and the fact that he was desperately trying to figure out what she'd been about to tell him wasn't making the food look any more enjoyable.

"What's the matter, Ash?" Brock questioned from where he sat opposite the fire from the younger trainer, digging into his own meal. "Ten minutes ago you were starving, and now you don't want to eat?"

"Not hungry," Ash replied quietly, setting his bowl down on the grass and glancing upwards at the rapidly darkening sky.

"Are you feeling alright?" Brock pressed, his eyebrows furrowing in concern. Pikachu was staring anxiously at his partner as well, for he'd never seen Ash reject the opportunity for food before.

"Fine," Ash muttered briskly, lowering his gaze to the ground again and ignoring the worried expressions his friends were giving him.

Movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention, and Ash turned to find himself drowning in Misty's ocean-blue eyes. The instant he looked at her, however, she promptly shifted her focus somewhere else, a faint blush rising to tint her cheeks. Ash felt his own face reddening as he swiftly followed her example, wondering what could possibly be on her mind that would make her so embarrassed.

"Pikachu pika, pikapi?" Pikachu asked, his ears flicking uncomfortably. Sure, he'd seen his partner and the water Pokémon trainer act strangely around one another before, but it usually wasn't of this scale.

Ash — having understood what Pikachu said — glanced at the little electric mouse, his visage rather somber.

"It's nothing, pal," he reassured his Pokémon, flashing him an unconvincing smile.

"Pika pi pika…" Pikachu grumbled to himself, and then he returned his attention to Ash. "Chu pikachu pi pikachupi?"

"W-what makes you think that?" Ash stammered, his already flushed face darkening a few shades. He didn't need to ask to figure out what the yellow rodent meant.

Pikachu waved his hand vaguely between Ash and Misty, the latter of which still had her eyes firmly averted from the former. "Pi pika pi pikachu pika?"

"Don't know what you mean," Ash muttered evasively, instantly switching gears when he saw static beginning to crackle around Pikachu's face. The raven-haired boy sighed in defeat, frowning at his buddy. "No, I didn't. I'll explain later, Pikachu, ok?"

The Pokémon seemed hardly satisfied with this answer, but he nodded nonetheless, plopping down in front of the bowl of food Brock had laid out for him.

"What was all that about?" Brock inquired, as neither he nor Misty had learned to translate Pikachu's language fluently like Ash had. He quirked an eyebrow at his disgruntled friend, his squinty eyes narrowing suspiciously — quite an amazing feat, actually.

"None of your business," Ash quipped, picking up the stew he'd been ignoring and shoving a spoonful in his mouth, providing him with an excuse not to talk to anyone else. Brock watched him for a moment, and then shrugged and returned to his own dinner, while Misty appeared to be lost in her own little world, staring blankly down at the grass beneath her.

Silence reigned over the group as the evening wore on, the sun vanishing beneath the horizon and stars beginning to glitter against the velvet night above them. No sooner had the trio finished their meals than Brock suggested they turn in for the night, seeing as how the tension had yet to dissipate between the other two trainers. Both Ash and Misty easily agreed, and the three companions settled into their sleeping bags, arranged around the now-dowsed campfire with the Cerulean Gym Leader and the Pokémon Master-in-training situated as far from one another as possible. Togepi snuggled into Misty's red bag and promptly fell asleep, while Pikachu curled up on Ash's chest, his nose tucked under his tail.

"Goodnight, guys," Brock yawned, his eyelids falling shut wearily. Within seconds, low snores were emitting from his throat.

"Goodnight, Brock," Ash chuckled, folding his hands behind his head and closing his eyes as well. "Goodnight, Pikachu. Goodnight, Misty. See you in the morning."

"Pika, pikapi," the electric mouse lying atop him sighed, and the two of them succumbed into sleep just as quickly as Brock had.

"Goodnight, Ash," Misty murmured, rolling over onto her side so she could see him more easily. "Sweet dreams…"

Watching Ash's peaceful face as he slept, his chest rising and falling with each breath, Misty couldn't help but wish she'd told him the truth earlier, while she'd still had the chance. She wanted him to know so badly, just so the strain of keeping her feelings locked away wouldn't eat her alive anymore. But… what if Ash didn't return those feelings? As much as she just wanted to pour everything out to him, she couldn't risk ruining their friendship, not to mention having her heart broken.

Heaving a sigh, Misty wriggled out of her sleeping bag and strode quietly over to a nearby rock, sitting on its smooth surface and gazing up at the ebony sky overhead. The stream bubbled serenely in its banks a few feet away, its rippling surface reflecting the image of the stars and shimmering in the silver light of the moon.

Why can't I just tell Ash how I feel? Misty wondered sadly, resting one arm on her bent knee and shifting her attention to the ceaseless current of the river. I can't stand not having him know. We could have so much together…

Exhaling in a loud gust, Misty watched the glow of the moon dance across the top of the water, lost in thought. She wasn't sure what compelled her to do it, but suddenly, she began to sing.

"Out here in the quiet of the night," she hummed under her breath, making the words up as she saw fit. Perhaps she simply needed a way to vent the emotions that were tearing her apart from the inside, and singing seemed to be the easiest option. "Beneath the stars… and moon.

"We both know we've got something on our minds,

We won't admit, but it's true."

She cast a somber glance in Ash's direction, wishing with all her heart that she was correct, and he did have the same thing on his mind as she — when he was awake, at least.

Returning her focus to the gently flowing stream, the water Pokémon trainer continued her song.

"You look at me… I look away.

I wanna tell you what I'm feeling, but I don't know how to start.

I wanna tell you, but now I'm afraid that you might break my heart.

Oh why should anything so easy ever be so hard to do?

I wanna tell you what I'm feeling and to say that…

I love you."

Unshed tears began to prick at the corners of Misty's sea-colored eyes, and she blinked rapidly in an effort to dislodge them, listening morosely to the wind playing in the trees and the rhythm of Ash and Brock's quiet snores.

"I practice all the things that I could say,

Line by line, every word.

I tell myself today could be the day,

But every time… I lose my nerve."

And the conversation she'd had with Ash not two hours ago had certainly been no exception. She had been so close… and then, as usual, something had gotten in the way, and she'd chickened out. What made it worse was the fact that Ash had almost looked… eager, as if he'd somehow guessed what she wanted to tell him through that dense skull of his and was hoping she'd go through with it.

Shaking her head wearily, Misty threw Ash's dozing form another miserable look, frowning when he rolled over in his sleep so that she couldn't see his face.

"I look at you… you look away.

I wanna tell you what I'm feeling, but I don't know how to start.

I wanna tell you but now I'm afraid that you might break my heart.

Oh why should anything so easy ever be so hard to do?

I wanna tell you what I'm feeling and to say that…

I love you."

Observing the way Ash's raven hair shown in the pale rays of the moon, and the outline of his body as it rose and fell in time with his breathing, a few drops of moisture managed escape Misty's attempts to hold them back, rolling silently down her cheeks. She cared about him so much… and he was completely oblivious, as he had been the entire six years she'd known him.

And yet… what if he was simply apprehensive, just as she was? Afraid of rejection; of having his heart broken?

Misty groaned in exasperation, wishing she could just figure out how Ash felt already and get on with her life. Gazing at the rippling stream once more, she quietly continued her song.

"Why? Why do you turn away?

It must be, you're afraid like me.

I try, but I can't pretend that I don't feel for you the way I do.

Can't you see?"

Unbeknownst to Misty, her worn-out grunt had not gone unnoticed by her companions — or rather, one in particular. Ash stirred groggily in his make-shift bed, dragging his heavy lids open and yawning soundlessly. He struggled to figure out what it was that had awoken him, maneuvering onto his other side.

He didn't have to wonder for long, however, as he instantly spotted Misty seated upon her rock beside the river, apparently talking to herself. It took him a moment to realize through the sleep-filled haze clouding his mind that she was singing.

"I wanna tell you what I'm feeling, but I don't know how to start.

I wanna tell you but now I'm afraid that you might break my heart.

Oh why should anything so easy ever be so hard to do?

I wanna tell you what I'm feeling and to say that…"

"I love you," Misty whispered, the anguished tears flowing freely down her soft skin now. She didn't bother to try and wipe them away, instead choosing to curl her legs up to her chest and wrap her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees.

Ash's eyes widened with shock, hardly daring to believe his ears. For once, everything clicked into place in his head within a millisecond, and his heart began hammering almost painfully against his ribs.

Misty had just confessed — indirectly, of course — that she was in love with someone. And judging by her behavior earlier that evening, he had a pretty clear idea of who that was…

Deciding that he couldn't stand to wait any longer for the answer he so desperately craved, Ash deliberately shifted noisily in his sleeping bag, closing his eyelids and letting out a long yawn. When he dragged his eyes open halfway once more, he realized that Misty had shifted her gaze to him, something akin to panic glittering in her ocean irises. Astonishment almost forced Ash to drop his "just woke up" façade when he noticed the wet trails glittering on her pale cheeks. He'd never seen Misty cry, not once in the six years he'd known her.

"Did you say something, Misty?" he asked groggily, rubbing his eyes tiredly for good measure.

"M-me?" Misty stammered, her voice cracked with emotion, probably an outcome of the tears still pouring relentlessly from her ducts. "N-no, nothing. I didn't say anything, Ash."

"Really?" Ash pressed, not quite managing to hide the smirk that tugged at the corners of his mouth. "Because I could have sworn I heard someone singing, and it sounded a lot like you…"

Horror flashed in the water Pokémon trainer's gaze, a deep crimson rising to darken her skin as she buried her face in her folded arms, her shoulders trembling slightly.

Concerned, Ash wriggled out of his sleeping bag — being careful not to disturb Pikachu — and slowly approached her, sitting hesitantly on the rock beside her and watching as her body shook with repressed sobs.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Ash murmured gently, laying a soothing hand on her shoulder.

"You wouldn't understand," Misty mumbled almost unintelligibly, refusing to look at him.

"Try me," Ash encouraged, lifting her head with his other hand so that their eyes met, chocolate-to-cerulean.

Misty was quiet for a long moment, weighing her options as Ash's deep gaze bored into hers. On the one hand, she could tell Ash how she felt, and risk the chance of him either returning those feelings, or rejecting her. On the other hand, she could keep her feelings for him a secret, and continue to deal with the torture of trying to hide them from him.

"I don't know…" she hedged, biting her lip uncertainly. She knew the smart choice would be to just say it and take whatever consequences it brought about, but she wasn't sure she'd be able to stand the pain if he pushed her away.

"Come on, Mist," Ash whispered reassuringly, moving the hand that still rested on her shoulder and twining his fingers through hers instead. "You can tell me anything."

The fiery-haired girl blinked at him, surprised by his tender gesture. She struggled to form the right words for what she wanted to reveal in her mind, smiling the smallest bit when Ash gave her hand an encouraging squeeze.

"I know, I-I'm just not sure how to say it…" she sighed, breaking away from his intense stare as she tried to make sense of the turmoil currently ravishing her thoughts.

"I have an idea…" Ash muttered, shifting the hand that cupped her chin to the drying skin of her cheek. He wiped the remaining tear tracks away gently with his thumb, a twinge of relief coursing through him as he realized that she'd stopped crying.

Confused, Misty glanced at him once more, just in time to have him close the distance between their faces and brush his lips against hers in a soft, chaste kiss. Her muscles locked into place for a moment as shock overwhelmed her, and then she gradually melted into Ash's embrace, kissing him back just as shyly.

After what seemed an eternity, the two teenagers separated, Ash's arms remaining wound around Misty's waist while hers were draped behind his neck.

"W-what was that for?" Misty stammered, already missing the warmth of his mouth on hers. She combed her fingers through his messy raven hair, her heart rate kicking up a notch when he flashed her a lazy grin.

"I love you, too," Ash replied simply, smirking as surprise flickered in his best friend's expression.

"How did you —" Misty began, bewildered, only to be cut off by a low chuckle from the boy beside her.

"I heard you singing, remember?" Ash laughed, leaning his forehead against hers. "I may be dense, Misty, but I'm not that stupid."

"How do you know that song was about you?" the Cerulean Gym Leader retorted, arching one eyebrow incredulously. The Pokémon Master-in-training blanched, his dark brown eyes glittering with fear, and Misty couldn't help but giggle at his reaction. "Ash, I'm joking. Who else would drive me as crazy as you do, crazy enough to think up a song about it?"

Ash heaved a sigh of relief, removing one hand from its position on her waist so he could flick her nose teasingly. "Don't do that to me."

Another giggle escaped Misty's throat, one that was quickly cut short as Ash claimed her lips with his own once more. The kiss was much deeper and less hesitant this time, allowing them to pour all the love they felt for one another into it.

"I love you, Ash Ketchum," Misty breathed when they finally parted, resting her head against his chest and letting her eyelids fall closed contently. "I have ever since the day you destroyed my bike, I just didn't realize it back then."

"Same here," Ash agreed quietly, pressing his lips to her bright orange hair briefly. "I love you, too, Mist."

A long yawn prevented Misty from responding, and the couple laughed once, Ash hauling both him and Misty to their feet.

"I guess that means it's time for bed," he snorted, releasing one of his arms from her and keeping the other wrapped around her slim frame.

"Guess so…" Misty confirmed sleepily, allowing him to guide her back over to the semi-circle they and Brock had created around the dying embers of the campfire. She slipped out of Ash's loose embrace and was about to head towards her sleeping bag when a firm grip on her wrist held her back.

"Why don't you sleep with me?" Ash suggested, a faint blush creeping up to tint his cheeks. "You haven't exactly had the best night."

"Sure," Misty answered immediately, smiling warmly at him as he led her over to his sleeping bag instead.

Pikachu had rolled off of Ash's temporary bed sometime earlier, so that he was sprawled on the grass nearby, leaving the sleeping bag to Ash and Misty. The ebony-haired trainer wriggled into the covers first, and then scooted over as far as he could, patting the space beside him. A light pink dusted over Misty's face as she settled in next to him, snuggling into his chest as he wound his arms around her.

"Goodnight Ash," Misty whispered, already feeling the weight of unconsciousness washing over her.

"Night, Misty," Ash murmured, tightening his hold on her as the two of them promptly succumbed into sleep.

Unbeknownst to the couple, Brock had been discreetly watching them for some time, his hands folded casually behind his head and his mouth curved upwards in a smirk.

"Well, it's about time," he snickered to himself, rolling over onto his side to give his dosing friends a little privacy.

JKA: Well, that wasn't too terribly awful, was it? I'm rather proud of this, actually, it's the longest oneshot I've ever written. ELEVEN PAGES! :D Hoping that all you AAML supporters out there enjoyed this. We gotta keep the couple alive, since the creators decided to remove Misty from the show for reasons I'll never understand. :P

Anyways, please, please, PLEASE review! I'd like to get some other Pokemon fics on here, but only if you guys let me know that this didn't totally suck. Just no flames, please, but criticism would be highly appreciated! Thanks!