A/N: I don't know what I'm doing with my life. But here's a Pokeshipping one-shot. :D
Disclaimer: Let's not kid ourselves.
Ash and Misty lay on the familiar grass in front of a familiar river in a familiar town in an unfamiliar situation.
It was peaceful and quiet between the two, but it was acknowledged as a comfortable silence that is only experienced by two people who had lived lives so similar to theirs. Lives that were spontaneous, intertwined, and constant. And just this once, idle.
To be fair, it was a well deserved rest. The events from the past few weeks had left everyone in Ash's company exhausted, the aforementioned being no exception. Excited, but exhausted.
Just a few weeks ago, Ash had accomplished what he had set out to do when he was just ten years old.
He had become the champion of the Sinnoh League, eight years later.
Eight long years. Eight long, troublesome, distancing years. Five of which had kept him and his best friend on different continents, for the most part. The pair did not approve of this. They both felt that something needed to be done about it.
So, as usual, Misty had taken the initiative and flown herself to Sinnoh for the competition, successfully surprising Ash.
Not surprising him because she was still supportive of him, as she probably believed, oh, no. He was quite sure of that and always would be. But he was surprised because it had been a wish come true, really, to have her by his side for his last showdown.
He hadn't told anyone else but Pikachu, but Ash had decided that that would be his last loss, if it came to that. Another tournament would be pushing him past his prime.
So maybe it was Misty's presence that gave him what he needed to finally be victorious. Maybe it was her return after so many years, still loyal, still caring. Maybe it was just her.
Yea. Just her.
Ash liked that answer. It was just Misty, showing up to be Misty.
It wasn't like she had treated him any differently. She had yelled at him and insulted him whenever it seemed like he was losing even an ounce of hope, but it was all worth it to see her smiling and running towards him to wrap him in a congratulatory hug.
And so it was her turn to be surprised when Ash had requested- no- insisted on her accompanying he and Brock back to Pallet Town for further celebrations despite her protests that she had responsibilities to handle and sisters to keep in order back at the gym.
But even eight years later, she couldn't deny herself the chance to spend more time with her best friend.
And so, the two found themselves relaxing for the first time since his big victory and they were relishing every minute of it.
Misty lay flat on her back, hands behind her head, eyes closed and face angled up to welcome the warm glow of the sun with Ash at her side.
They had managed to slip away from the hustle and bustle of the Ketchum house, flooded with phone calls from reporters, bombarded with fan mail and packages, and visited by friends and neighbors at all hours of the day. Ash welcomed the attention, hell, he basked in it, which consequentially inflated his ego, much to the redhead's dismay.
But even Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town could grow weary of attention and restless in his own house.
The two had effectively managed to avoid discovery for several hours now.
It would not have been hard to find them if anyone who knew anything about the pair had bothered to look.
They had returned to where it had all began, of course.
To the river. This time, they were sans an injured Pikachu, a bike, and an enraged swarm of killer Beedrill.
And Misty was fine with that.
This was probably symbolic of something or romantic, even. Or ironic, at the very least, but Misty was too relaxed to even care.
And Misty was too wrapped up in her thoughts of soft grass, a flowing stream, and clear skies to consider how strange it was that the two had been able to escape quite so easily.
It was almost as if all of the hustle and bustle had been nothing more than an incentive to drive the two so stir-crazy that they run off together and confess their love and-
Oh. No. That would have been ridiculous and unethical. Not to mention crazy. And there was no way anyone could have pulled such a stunt without Misty knowing about it. So she had assured herself that this was nothing more that a friendly activity of friendship between friends. That was all. Her thoughts would not stray to fantasies. Not today.
But maybe, if she hadn't been so carefree at the moment, she would've picked up on how Brock's smile had seemed a bit too cynical this morning and how Ash's mom had really stressed all the hassling phone calls Ash had to return right away…
She sighed in aggravation at her own far-fetched thoughts, breaking the silence for the first time in what seemed like hours, yet was probably only minutes, but could have been days.
Perhaps it was for the best that she had made a noise. It reassured Ash that she was alive if he had began to wonder, what with her abnormal lack of conversation topics. Or perhaps he had already taken it upon himself to assume that she was still in fact breathing, and she had instead given him the confidence to say something he had been planning to say for quite some time. Or maybe her gesture had simply reminded him of something he had been trying no to forget to do. Or maybe her disturbance had made no difference at all and it was only coincidence that Ash took up speaking again shortly after the event.
"It took me a while, but I finally got it."
"I think…yea…I got it."
"What's that?" Misty slurred lazily while her eyes remained closed.
"I had to come full circle, with some obstacles along the way, but I'm pretty sure I got it," Ash went on, moving to sit up next to Misty.
"What, pray tell, are you saying, Ash?" Misty mumbled sleepily with not a hint of interest in her voice.
"Life! Life, Mist! It's not about Pokemon or titles. It never was. Right?" But he continued, not waiting for an answer to his question.
"I mean, what a stupid concept. Just because I beat someone in a battle, that's supposed to mean that I'll be happy for the rest of my life? Well, I'm already not happy. I guess I'm not unhappy. I'm just not as happy as I should be…as happy as everyone thinks I should be. Then again, that trophy is pretty damn big. You saw it, didn't you?"
At this, Misty snorted.
"So, trophies and Pokemon are not enough to satisfy you anymore, Ash. What about food? That hasn't failed you, has it? If it has, I'm quite sure that the world will be abruptly coming to an end and I'm going to need to go find the nearest bomb shelter."
Ash let out a sigh, sounding not annoyed, exactly, but almost disappointed.
"No, that's not what I mean. Food is necessary to live. I'm talking about…real meaning. And happiness. Being content with what I've done in my life."
"Ash, is this a midlife crisis?"
"Good. I'm not ready to deal with that just yet."
"Sorry! Go on."
"Okay," Ash said with another sigh.
"I thought that the rest of my life would be set in stone if I ever became a Pokemon Master. I thought I'd always be happy and always know exactly what I'd want to do. But now, I just feel less confident and more unsure. But at the same time, I know exactly what I want right now. In this moment."
At his words, Misty shifted on the grass and opened her eyes.
Ash continued, eyes twinkling as he looked toward the sun.
"I sorta realized this a while ago. Before the tournament even started, I knew winning wouldn't be enough for me. I was looking ahead. Being number one wasn't the real prize. And once I accepted that, there was no way I couldn't win because without winning and overcoming that road block, I wouldn't be able to get to the real prize," he said with a crooked grin, eyes locked on hers.
"Ash, I don't understand. You're saying that what you've been working toward for almost a decade, your lifelong dream, means nothing?"
"No, Mist. I'm not saying it means nothing. I'm saying it doesn't mean everything. Not anymore," Ash replied softly.
Misty's breath caught in her throat and her heart started pounding at a dangerous rate, but she had yet to understand why. She had yet to understand what Ash was trying to convey to her.
He noticed her discomfort and chuckled.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted you to know how I came to the conclusion. I though it was important. Or would be to you, anyway. Hopefully."
He paused to clear his throat before speaking again.
"So, I set out on this journey when I turned ten. And I ran into some problems. A lot of problems, actually. And it was only the first day. But I met this girl who gave me the impression that she would be one of those many problems, even though she saved my life.
"Well, I fried her bike, and I guess that kinda made me her problem, too. And she stalked me for a while, complaining about that damned bike. She eventually gave it up and I started to think that maybe we were even becoming friends. At the very least, we were able to communicate without yelling.
"She stuck around for a few years, always supporting me in ways that I couldn't yet realize, until she had to go home. And I had to continue journeying, searching for the perfect strategy, the perfect team. We kind of kept in touch. I had wanted her to stay all along, of course. Though I'm not sure if she ever knew that.
"I couldn't keep her from her family. I wasn't that selfish. I am now, obviously. So, to make a long story short, she got her bike, I got my title, and we came back to where it all began."
Ash stopped, looking Misty in the eyes and holding her gaze for all of what he said next, and the intensity in his eyes were enough to keep Misty from glancing away.
"Back to where I was supposed to be all along. The fates had given me a lucky hand. Our lives are about finding that one person to share it with. And a lot of people don't find the right person. They find someone, sure, but not the someone.
"And I found her when I was too young to know it. Maybe it was an unlucky hand, in that respect. But I don't think so. It took me eight years to figure out that I had gotten it right on the first day.
"It took me eight years to realize that I could stop looking. Or, rather, that I'd never have to start."
He collapsed so he was laying beside her once more and finished with a whisper, "All I've been trying to say is that I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you."
He turned to look at her, her eyes bright and shining with unshed tears.
And she laughed.
"Of course! This is the only way it could have happened. Ass backwards. Damn. Damn, damn, damn."
She stood up and walked to the water's edge, peeking over her shoulder to see if Ash had followed her lead.
At her look, he sprang up and dashed to her side.
"Well," he began awkwardly when a minute had passed without Misty saying anything.
"Well what?" She asked, finally turning to face him. "This is exactly where we're supposed to be, no? We were always destined to come back here, yes? And if there's one person for everyone, and I'm yours, then you must be mine, right? Because now, there's no room for negotiation or choice. It's already been decided. From what you've told me, anyway. So do I even need to say it?"
Her words did not seem to assure Ash, rather they seemed to make him more unsure and Misty could see regret creeping into his features as the seconds ticked away.
Misty sighed, not entirely sorry that she would finally be saying what she'd kept from her best friend for far too long.
"Ash, I've been in love with you for -"
But she didn't get to finish telling him for what, exactly, because the impatient, impulsive eighteen-year old with the same tendencies as his ten-year old self had shaken things up and taken the initiative, pressing his lips to those of the owner of a redeemed gym and repaired bicycle.
At any other time, Misty would have scolded him for rudely interrupting her because there wasn't really a polite way to interrupt someone, anyway. No "pardon's" or "excuse me's" would ever suffice.
But she figured that she could let it slide this time.
So, he kissed the girl who was his best friend. Who was his support, his motivation, his dedication. The girl who was his strength. The girl who made it all worth it. Who kept his ego deflated and his head on his shoulders. Who kept him smiling and dreaming. He kissed his beginning and his middle and what would ultimately be his end.
He kissed his past in the present for the sake of his future.
She kissed him back for all the same reasons.
When they broke the kiss, breathless, silhouetted by the setting sun, she smiled up at him, radiating happiness. He returned the smile, too giddy to see hers transform into a smirk.
Before he could lean in to steal another kiss, he was tossed into the river he had first become acquainted with on less positive terms.
It was colder than he remembered.
He broke the surface, sputtering and demanding an explanation but was met only with the laughter of a euphoric redhead who had finally gotten even.
When she regained her composure, which took more time than necessary in a certain master's opinion, she told him cheekily, "It's just like you said. Back to the beginning. Full circle. There just wasn't any other way."
He couldn't argue with that, (short of suggesting that maybe he should refry her bike as well to be on the safe side, of course) so he accepted her helping hand and let her pull him to his feet before engulfing her in a dripping wet hug.
No one questioned them when they finally made it back to Ash's house, but suddenly, Ash's championship wasn't the only conversation topic at the dinner table.
There was talk of a real future, a stable career, and settling down. Someday. Maybe. With grandkids, if Delia was lucky. And with the girl sitting across the table from him, if everyone was lucky, his mother said, making Misty laugh shyly while Ash rolled his eyes and scoffed, "Mom!"
As if the flushed faces, ruffled clothing, and breathless smiles weren't implications enough that Ash and Misty had finally come full circle.