Author's Note: I'm running a small Pokeshipping oneshot challenge over on Serebii. There's no prizes, just hopefully inspiration to write for Pokeshipping. There are fifty themes to choose from, and I encourage you to write for any that inspire you. Here's the list for anyone who's interested, otherwise: happy reading!
Pokeshipping 50 Themes Challenge
1. Spinning Wheels
2. Swimming Lessons
5. Like a Family
6. A Change in Wardrobe
7. Conversation Ender
8. By the Beautiful Sea
9. In-Law Blues
10. Excuses, Excuses
11. Alphabet Challenges
15. Final Kiss
16. With Me Always
17. Under the Staryu
19. The Mirage
20. Look at Me
21. A Badge is a Badge
22. Cycling Road
23. So Romantic
24. Taking Shelter
25. Jealousy Isn't Very Pretty
26. Autumn Festival
27. The Other Side
28. Bunk Bed
29. I Think We're Alone Now
30. Better Not Ask
31. Ruby of the Sea
33. Misty's Tears
34. An Unfair Comparison
36. Not Very Gallant Behavior
37. Getting Obvious
41. Arm in Arm
42. Can't Get Over You
43. The Friend Zone
44. Confusing Emotions
45. Like Little Kids
46. Dragged Along
47. Not My Type
50. Grown Up
Sink or Swim
The greasy rainbows of BubbleBeam reflected Ash Ketchum, back in his home region and in his prime. He knew it too. With his hat tilted backwards and a dream team of Pokemon he'd collected over several regions he knew that there was no place like home; and nothing like winning.
The reflections shattered violently as they broke against the cinnamon fur of a Vulpix. It fell backwards onto a lily pad with a cry. "Uh! Vulpix, are you okay?" his younger opponent called out. Ash smiled. He'd been just that age when he'd started off and had had just as much fire in his belly. But insisting on fighting with a fire type on a watery field like this had been an arrogant mistake on the part of the newbie trainer.
"Crawdaunt, you're looking great out there!" Ash called out encouragingly to his newly evolved Pokemon.
"Craw!" Crawdaunt agreed happily, having lost none of the spirit it had possessed as a Corphish.
"Vulpix, let's turn things around with Flamethrower!" the challenger ordered, once Vulpix had regained its footing.
"Crawdaunt, dodge it!" Ash countered.
Crawdaunt hopped nimbly to another lily pad, but wasn't able to completely escape the plume of fire that shot over the lake's surface and made steam rise all around them.
"Daunt!" Crawdaunt cried, clutching at its burnt left claw.
"Yeah!" the young Vulpix trainer cheered. "Hit it with Flamethrower again!"
"Not this time," Ash said with a smile. "Crawdaunt, go under water!"
"Crawdaunt!" Crawdaunt sounded its assent and dived into the murky lake water, under the radiating flames.
Ash's opponent gritted his teeth in frustration and looked from his Vulpix to the water, trying to see where Crawdaunt would reappear.
"You should've thought twice before you decided to battle me here," Ash taunted. "Me and Crawdaunt know how to use a water type field to our advantage. Crawdaunt, hit it with Bubble from under water!"
"You won't get the chance!" the trainer insisted, fists clenched. "Vulpix, dive under water after Crawdaunt!"
"Huh?" Ash said, completely taken aback as the fire type Pokemon splashed into the drink.
"You can do it, Vulpix! Quick Attack it from under water and send it into the air!"
"No way… Vulpix can't…" Ash began, but was interrupted by a crashing noise. The waters parted, sparkling in the sunlight, as Crawdaunt was shot into the air with Vulpix jumping up from behind it.
"Now, use Flamethrower at full power while it can't dodge!" the trainer commanded, completely in the moment.
"Vul-PIIIIX!" Vulpix cried, sending a column of super-heated air straight at the falling Crawdaunt.
"Daaaaaunnnntt!" Crawdaunt shrieked as the attack hit it. It fell back into the water. Vulpix landed neatly on another lily pad.
"Crawdaunt!" Ash shouted worriedly.
Crawdaunt floated to the surface, it had fainted, but it was okay.
Ash's face fell. He took out his Poke ball and called Crawdaunt back in a stream of red light. "You did really well. Thanks," he said to the ball before he put it away. He looked up at his opponent. "That was a great battle," he said appreciatively. "I never expected Vulpix would know how to swim."
"It can only do it for a short time," the trainer said sheepishly, approaching Ash. His Vulpix followed along, shaking out its wet fur. "But it really comes in handy in a pinch."
"Well, you did a really good job teaching it," Ash said sincerely. He'd once used Cyndaquil in an underwater battle and knew how much technical control and trust it took to handle a fire type in the water.
"Oh, it wasn't me that taught Vulpix," the trainer confessed. "This really nice lady was doing swimming lessons for all Pokemon—not just water types. I gotta admit, I didn't think Vulpix could learn how to swim. It wouldn't even go near the water when we started out. But after working with her, it does a great job." He smiled down at his Pokemon. "Right, Vulpix?"
"Vul!" Vulpix agreed with a smile.
"Pokemon swimming lessons, huh?" Ash said, scratching his chin. "That sounds like a really great idea! Knowin' how to handle a water type field with a fire or ground or rock Pokemon's gotta do a lot to diminish the water type's natural advantage. It'd probably catch most trainers of guard too—I know it did for me."
"You can check it out if you want," the trainer said with a grin. "I think she's still doing them." He pointed down the road. "Just keep heading south until you get to the Cerulean City Gym. That's where the lessons are."
"The Cerulean City Gym," Ash repeated dumbly, exchanging a look with Pikachu who was leaning forward excitedly. "Misty?"
"Yeah, she's the gym leader there," the trainer beamed. "She's really smart and really nice. She's probably help you train if you asked."
But Ash was in another world, as he looked beyond the trainer and down the pier road.
"Misty?" he said again.
Ash shuffled into the expansive stadium room as the light from outside was just beginning to fade and was greeted by the strange, but somehow pleasant scent of chlorine, and the significantly less pleasant scent of fish. "Pika pi…" Pikachu said, looking around the large room from his shoulder.
They'd certainly done a lot of hiring since he'd last been there. He remembered that it had been a struggle just to keep the pool clean and the Pokemon fed with only Misty, Daisy, Violet and Lily. Especially since Misty was forced to do most of the work with her sisters passing along excuses like "I have to catch a flight to Goldenrod this afternoon for a modeling gig!", "I have to memorize this script for Highspeed Hannah 2: Saffron Drift. It has, like, so many lines!", and "Flawless skin and chlorine don't mix, not that you'd understand." Occasionally Tracey would help out, generally if Daisy was the one that asked, but other than that maintenance had been almost entirely left to Misty.
But now it looked like things had drastically improved. The pool was ranged with men in tall chairs, wearing swim caps and expressions like they meant business; a few people were busy feeding the Pokemon swimming contentedly in their aquarium homes; some kids who looked like they were about six were lined up against the edge of the pool, kicking their feet as they practiced swimming, a few with neon orange water-wings; and all around the pool were women that Brock would've probably called 'bathing beauties.' In fact, if Brock had been with him he would've already had an elongated earlobe and a red slap mark across his face.
"Ash Ketchum!" a voice shouted angrily.
"Huh?" Ash turned to be greeted by a vicious slap across the face.
As the shock of pain faded and his hand reached up to touch his sore face, he saw Misty shaking out her surprisingly-strong-for-a-girl-her-size backhand. She'd definitely grown a couple inches since he last saw her and… well, grown in other places better not to dwell on. That fact was highlighted by the sporty blue bikini she was wearing. She had a towel around her neck and a wrathful expression on her face.
"What was that for?" he demanded, rubbing at the red slap mark she'd left. What the hell? How'd he end up being the one slapped by a girl? When that happened to Brock he got what he deserved for ogling a girl, but Ash wasn't even doing that… much.
At all! More like at all!
"That's for never answering my e-mails," Misty said haughtily.
"What?" Ash said, having expected something more damning. "I do so answer your e-mails!"
"Yeah, like a month later," Misty retorted, crossing her arms.
"Well… uh…" Ash started as Pikachu put its paw up to its forehead in a nervous gesture. "Come on, that's a little harsh. I get to them… eventually."
"Hmph!" Misty looked deliberately away from him. "I'm glad I'm worth getting around to talking to 'eventually'!"
"You really are," Ash said in a voice implying that he thought he was being placatory. "I wish we got to hang out more, but there always seems to be something getting in the way.
She opened one eye and gave him a hesitant look. "Is… is that what you came here for now? Just to hang out?" she asked in a much softer, somewhat tentative voice.
"Well, sort of," Ash said nervously. "I guess I came here because I heard about your swimming lessons and wanted to check them out. I battled this trainer who really knew how to handle his Vulpix in the water, and when he told me you were the one that taught it, I just had to come and see—"
"Hey!" a voice barked from behind him. Ash turned to see one of the lifeguards getting down from his chair. "Lessons are done for the day, pal. It's Misty's break so why don't you leave her alone?"
Ash was taken aback. "Hey, I was just—"
"Murray," Misty said in an even, but somewhat dangerous tone. "This is Ash Ketchum, the one who inspired the entire Pokemon Swimming Lessons program. So how about a little respect?"
At those few words from Misty, the lifeguard known as Murray recoiled. "So sorry," he said, giving a half-bow to each of them. "I had no idea," he added before he slunk away with as much speed as possible.
Misty watched him flee determinedly and then turned back to Ash with an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry about that," she said. "The program's been very popular so a lot of people have been pushing and shoving to get in. My staff is just being protective."
But Ash was still looking dumbly at the lifeguard's back. "Was what you said really true?"
"About me being the one that inspired the program."
"Oh, yes," Misty said with an eager nod. "Ever since I became gym leader I've fought with a lot of different trainers here. Because the Cerulean Gym focuses on water types and therefore battles on a water type arena, I get to see a lot of trainers fighting in an environment that they're not used to." She shook her head. "Some of them are very strong—stronger than me, I can tell. But they end up losing because they can't handle the field. Their Pokemon can't swim and—especially if they have a strategy that relies on speed—they can't dodge quick enough with only a few platforms to walk on. And they're at a loss for what to do when my Pokemon hide under water and snipe away at them."
"But then I remembered you," Misty said. "How you always managed to use the field to your advantage in a way that your opponents never expected. Pikachu, Snorlax, and even Cyndaquil have managed to swim in a pinch, because you knew how to handle them. So I resolved to host swimming lessons for all types of Pokemon, to help them and their trainers understand the wonders of water."
"Wow," Ash said, looking at her in awe. "I had no idea I inspired something like this."
Misty smiled and cast her eyes down, as though Ash had no idea what he inspired period.
"See you later, Misty!" a few attractive girls in swimsuits called as the filed out of the stadium.
Misty turned back to Ash. "Say, we're closing for the day now, but would you like to stick around and learn some of our swimming techniques?" She reached out a hand and touched Pikachu's nose causing it to make a cute little squeak. "What do you say, Pikachu? Want to do some swimming?"
"Pikachu can swim just fine," Ash said proudly. "It's even gone scuba diving. It doesn't need to learn how to swim."
"Oh really?" Misty said archly. "Then how about a race with my Gyarados?"
Ash shrank back as Pikachu put out two paws in protest. "Maybe it's not quite that good."
"I'm sure we can really sharpen up Pikachu's swimming technique if we get in some practice," Misty said. "An electric Pokemon that can swim well is a force to be reckoned with."
"Well, I guess—"
"Ooh!" Misty said excitedly. "And we can teach all your other Pokemon to swim. That'll give you a real edge in gym and league battles. I'm sure Professor Oak would be happy to transfer them here."
"What, all of them?" Ash said in disbelief. With the amount of Pokemon he had, training all of them to swim as well as water Pokemon… he'd be there for months!
"And we should probably work on your own swimming technique," Misty added, as the last of her staff and students clocked out. "After all, the Pokemon learn best from their trainer."
"But Misty," he tried, "I really wasn't—"
"You really weren't what?" Misty asked, stopping in her tracks.
Ash looked at Misty, her 'trying not to look hurt' expression evident even to him. Well… he hadn't intended on staying in Cerulean City so long, but… well, there'd be a lot of benefit, right? Getting his Pokemon swimming lessons from the water-mistress herself would definitely boost their maneuverability. And… could he really think of anything he'd rather do then hang out and train with Misty? Could he?
He transferred his gaze from her to the pool and then back to her again.
"Last one in's a rotten egg?" he tried.