A Cerulean Reunion.

Having arrived at a Pokémon Centre on their way to Driftveil City Ash and Iris immediately asked Nurse Joy to give their pokémon a check up.

"Of course," she said with a smile as she took the pokéballs. "I'll take good care of them."

"Thanks Nurse Joy," said Iris.

"Hey," asked Ash looking around, "where'd Cilan go off to?"

"Hmm," replied Iris, "he was here a minute ago."

"Pika?" chimed in Pikachu.

"Ah," came Cilans voice, "the new issue of Connoisseur Weekly!" Ash and Iris wandered over to a corner in the centre to find Cilan sitting at a computer.

"What'cha doing Cilan?" asked Ash, emphasised with a "Chu" from his trusty companion.

"Just checking my e-mail," he answered not looking away from the screen. "I've got messages from Cress and Chilli too."

"E-mail?" ask Iris. Her two companions turned to stare at her. "What?" she asked.

"You're kidding right?" asked Ash, sceptical. "You don't know what e-mail is? And you call me a kid?"

"You are a kid Ash Ketchum!" said Iris. "Ax, Axew," added her little dragon-type from within her hair.

"You take that back!" yelled Ash, taking a step forward and raising a fist.

"I will not!" shouted Iris mirroring the gesture.

"Easy, easy," said Cilan, raising his hands as he stood. "There's no need to fight." Once the two had settled down he turned to Iris. "E-mail is a little like the pokémon transfer system, only instead of pokémon letters and images are sent from one computer to another. It's a very useful tool as it allows people to stay in touch from opposite sides of the world."

"Ooooh," breathed Iris, impressed.

"That reminds me Cilan," said Ash, turning to his friend. "I should probably check my e-mail, if you don't mind?"

"Go right ahead Ash," said Cilan, gesturing at the computer. Ash sat down and began typing with two fingers and clicking the mouse.

"Let's see," he muttered to himself before clicking one last time. He leaned closer to the screen as he read, eyes darting from side to side. Pikachu leaned in too to get a better look.

"Augh!" exclaimed Ash, standing up so fast that his pokémon lost its balance with an enraged "Pika!" Ash didn't notice. "No Way!"

After getting his pokémon back from Nurse Joy Ash took off at a dead run, with Iris and Cilan trailing far behind him.

"I've never seen Ash like this," said Iris, panting, "You'd swear he was chasing a pokémon."

"He sure is eager," replied Cilan, who was panting harder than Iris. "But it will be dark soon." He glanced up at the orange sky. "I don't know how much longer I can keep this up."

"Ash!" called Iris. "Slow down!" Ash didn't hear her. He was already far ahead and getting further. Iris heard a loud sigh followed by a thump behind her. She turned to find Cilan collapsed on the road, breathing hard. The girl rushed back to him and knelt down. "Cilan."

"Connoisseurs. Were not. Meant. To run." he panted. Iris stood up with a determined, and annoyed, look on her face.

"Ax?" asked Axew, peering at its trainer.

"I'll stop him," she muttered as she readied a pokéball. "Go Emolga!" she called as she threw it. "Stop Ash with Discharge!"

"Pika?" muttered Pikachu turning its head. It suddenly leapt from Ash's shoulder with a yell of "Pikapi!" Puzzled, Ash turned just in time to be hit with the electric attack. He screamed.

"Ow," he breathed before he fell.


After it had gotten dark Ash and Iris were sitting at a table waiting for Cilan to finish preparing dinner. Ash looked a little sullen.

"What's gotten into you?" demanded an enraged Iris. "You were gonna leave us behind!"

"I'm sorry," said Ash, "I just wanted to get to Driftveil City."

"The Driftveil gym isn't going anywhere Ash," said Cilan patiently, "there's no rush."

"It's not that," sighed Ash, "I've got to meet a friend there, is all."

"Well if we leave here tomorrow morning we should get there by nightfall. That okay with you?" asked Cilan, who was just about to serve up dinner.

Not soon enough, thought Ash. But he just nodded.

"Pikachupi?" asked Pikachu. Ash smiled at his little friend before petting it. "Kaaa" shrilled Pikachu, obviously pleased.

After dinner the three trainers got into their sleeping bags. Pikachu, Iris and Cilan all fell asleep easily but Ash didn't. Try as he might he couldn't let himself drop off. His mind was too occupied with thoughts of Driftveil City, and of past adventures. Sure his friends were asleep he got up and redressed. He had nearly finished packing his bag when Pikachu awoke.

"Pika?" it asked sleepily.

"I can't sleep Pikachu," said Ash as he brought out a pen and a sheet of paper from his bag. He hastily scribbled a message to Iris and Cilan before leaving it where it could be found. "I'm going to keep walking to Driftveil City. We should be there in the morning. Here." He knelt down beside his friend, the open backpack in his hands. "Hop in and you can sleep while I walk." Pikachu complied and was asleep again before Ash had even gotten put the bag on. The two of them got back on the road and walked onwards towards the city.

I'll be there, thought Ash, I have to see her, no matter what!

It was a bright morning when Ash Ketchum crossed the bridge into Driftveil City. He was tired, hungry and dragging his feet but he was glad to be there.

"Well Pikachu," he said to his bright-eyed and lightning-tailed companion, "We're here." He yawned. "Now we just need to find-" He stopped, suddenly wide awake. "There!" he shouted, pointing at a large structure whose architect had tried to emulate the Coliseum. "That's got to be it! Driftveil Stadium! Come on Pikachu!"

"Pika!" shouted Pikachu as Ash took off running to the stadium.

Meanwhile three figures were atop the stadium roof. Jessie, James and Meowth lay at the edge, peering inside with binoculars. The stadium was full of people, the seats rising in tiers around an Olympic sized swimming. Four circular floating platforms were spread out around a larger one in the centre of the pool. Two young women stood at either end of the pool waiting to battle. The trio had eyes for none of this, concentrating instead on the winner's trophy, a golden statuette of a Basculin with an actual water stone between its jaws.

"So," asked James, "what's the plan?"

"We wait until the trophy is presented to the winner," answered Jessie, "Then we net them both and fly away."

"I like it," said James, "Simple yet elegant."

"Plus we get all of the tournament winners primo Pokémon to boot!" added Meowth with a smile.

"Exactly," began Jessie, "So we'd better- Oh No Way!"

"What is it Jess?" asked James.

"Look who's about to battle," she snarled.

"That's the returning champ right?" he said, regarding a young woman in a sleeveless black wetsuit with green hair braided halfway down her back. "Hey," he said, "I bet she has some pretty amazing pokémon."

"Not her," growled Jessie, "Look at her opponent." He did. So did Meowth. They gasped.

"This can't be!" shouted James.

"I don't believe it..." breathed Meowth.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," came the announcer's voice, "Welcome to the final match of this year's Driftveil Water Pokémon Competition! We have two very talented young ladies here ready to show us a battle we will never forget. On one side we have last year's champion, and favourite to win, Driftveil City's very own water warrior, Evelyn!" At this the crowd exploded. The green haired woman waved to her fans, a smile on her face. The announcer waited until the applause died down before introducing the second woman, who was scanning the crowd. "And her opponent, a young trainer who has been a strong contender throughout this competition, please welcome, all the way from Kanto," he paused before announcing her name. "Misty from Cerulean City!"

"The Red-Headed Twerp!"

"This match is a three-on-three battle with no substitutions," explained the referee, "there is no time limit. Misty will have the first move. Begin!"

"Alright," said Misty as she reached into the blue jacket she wore over her gym clothes. She drew a pokéball and shouted as she threw it, "Staryu, go!"

"You're up Alomomola!" cried Evelyn.

"Staryu, Rapid Spin!" ordered Misty.

"Use Aqua Jet!" countered her opponent. The two pokémon collided under the water and shot into the air.

"Water Pulse now!" shouted Evelyn.

"Dodge it and use Water Gun!" yelled Misty. Her Stayu spun away from the enemy attack before hitting it with its own. Alomomola slammed into a platform. Staryu landed on one as well.

"Yes," said Misty, clenching a fist.

"Use Heal Pulse Alomomola!" cried Evelyn. The pokémon began to glow and flopped itself back into the water. A moment later the glow stopped. "Now Water Pulse again!" This time Staryu couldn't dodge in time. It was blasted back towards Misty.

"Staryu, are you okay?" she called. Staryu recovered quickly. "Good, now get under it and use Bubblebeam." A moment later Alomomola was being kept aloft by a constant stream of harmful bubbles.

"Alomomola, Wish!" commanded Evelyn.

"Oh no you don't," muttered Misty, "Staryu, Rapid Spin!" Staryu exploded from beneath the water and crashed into Alomomola.

"Alomomola! No!" cried Evelyn. Alomomola fell down into the water. It didn't move.

"Alomomola is unable to battle," announced the referee, "Staryu wins."

"Way to go Staryu!" shouted Misty with a smile.

"Well done Misty," said Evelyn as she recalled her pokémon. "But this match isn't over yet." She drew another pokéball from her belt and shouted "It's your turn Jellicent!"

Misty stared as the pokémon appeared on a platform and for a moment she was a kid again. Just like she had been when she was travelling with Brock and... Ash.

"Oh it's adorable!" she squealed, clasping her hands together, stars in her eyes. "It reminds me of a Tentacruel!"

"I'm glad you like it," said Evelyn with a grin, "But you'll be singing a different tune after this. Jellicent Rain Dance!" A sphere of water shot up from Jellicent and a moment later hard rain was soaking the pokemon, competitors and spectators to the skin.

(Meowth suddenly yelped: "Ack! I hate the rain! Make it stop!" He was quickly silenced by his two human partners.)

Misty's attention snapped back to the battle. She ordered Staryu to use Swift and immediately tiny golden stars shot from the jewel in its centre. They flew straight at Jellicent and, to Misty's great surprise, flew straight through it.

"What? But how?" she asked, looking at Evelyn.

"Sorry Misty," replied Evelyn, her grin now even wider. "But Jellicent is part ghost-type, and you know what that means. Jellicent, Water Spout!"

"Staryu, look out!" cried Misty, but it was too late. A torrent of water crashed down on Staryu, pinning it to the platform. When it had passed Misty saw that her old friend was done for the day.

"Staryu is unable to battle," announced the referee, "Jellicent is the winner!"

"Thank you Staryu," Misty whispered to the pokéball after she had recalled her pokémon. "But I'm just getting warmed up! Go Gyarados!" her most vicious, colossal and terrifying pokémon appeared on the battlefield, letting out an incredible roar. Even Evelyn took a step back. "Gyarados," said Misty, "Use Bite!" Gyarados clamped its jaws down on Jellicent with a dangerous amount of force. It shook its head once and hurled the pokémon into the water before its trainer.

"Jellicent!" cried Evelyn. Spurred on by her emotions the pokémon got up. But it was shaking as it did so.

"Again," shouted Misty but this time Gyarados didn't move. "Gyarados?" Her pokémon turned its head to look at her and Misty could see that Gyarados was trying to close its jaws but couldn't. A strange purple light seemed to be stopping it. The great see serpent let out a sound that only its trainer knew was a worried one.

"That's cursed body," said Evelyn, "Physical attacks get disabled upon contact. Jellicent, Ominous Wind!" The air was filled with dark light, which carried the rain with it as it struck Gyarados. The pokémon cried out, more in rage than in pain, as Misty decided what to do.

"Gyarados," she shouted, "Dragon Rage!" A bright light welled up within Gyarados' mouth and as the creature roared the light shot towards Jellicent. It almost seemed to gain jaws of its own before it crashed into its target. The impact created a large wave that shielded the result from view. But when it passed, so had the rain.

"Jellicent is unable to battle," said the referee, "Gyarados is the winner!"

"Alright Gyarados!" shouted Misty. She was feeling good. Gyarados was one of her strongest, if not the strongest, pokémon she had. It was so strong in fact that it had been a long time since anyone had defeated it. Misty was confident it could take on whatever pokémon Evelyn sent out next.

"Lantern, go!" shouted her opponent, hurling a pokéball. Misty almost panicked as the pokémon emerged. She knew she'd spoken too soon. "Discharge!"

"Gyarados look out!" cried Misty, but it was too late. The electric attack, Gyarados' greatest weakness, struck with full force. The giant pokémon writhed in pain before falling backwards. Misty had to leap as its head crashed down next to her.

"Gyarados is unable to battle," said the referee, "Lantern is the winner!"

"It's ok Gyarados," said Misty softly, petting her friend. "Return." She turned to her opponent and readied her final pokéball. She grinned. "Kingdra, go!" The part dragon-type emerged and appeared to be almost standing on the water.

"Clever," muttered Evelyn, "Lantern, Thunder Wave!"

"Dragon Dance!" countered Misty. Kingdra leapt from the water and twirled gracefully through the air, avoiding the electric attack. "Smokescreen!" Inky black smoke billowed from Kingdra's snout, engulfing Lantern.

"Blast," growled Evelyn, "Go under and use Spark!" Lantern obeyed its trainer and leapt from the water at kingdra. But Misty had been ready.

"Dragon Pulse!" she shouted. A sphere of bright green energy shot at Lantern. It struck the pokémon dead on sending it flying back through the smokescreen. When the smoke cleared Lantern was belly up in the water.

"Lantern is unable to battle," announced the referee, "The winner is Kingdra. Which means the victor, and the new champion, is Misty, of Cerulean City!"

"I won?" asked Misty, disbelieving. "I won!" The crowd roared their approval.

"Azu, Azu!" cried her Azurill who was bouncing up to her from where it had been waiting during the match. Misty gathered it into her arms, twirling as she laughed. She turned to Kingdra and planted a kiss on its head, congratulating it.

"Well done Misty," she turned to find that Evelyn had walked up to her. The runner-up extended her hand, which Misty gladly shook. "You're a great water pokémon trainer."

"Thank you," said Misty with a smile.

Misty stood next to the mayor of Driftveil, Azurill in her arms, as she listened to him address the crowd.

"And so we present Misty with this trophy as proof that she is this year's Champion of Water Pokémon. We hope that she will return next year to defend her title." He turned to her and offered the statuette. "Congratulations."

"Thank you," said Misty. She took the trophy in one hand, heavy as it was, and hefted it over her head for all to see.

Only one thing could make me happier right now, she thought as she smiled out at the crowd, but no, he's no here. Her thoughts were interrupted when a net suddenly fell around her. A moment later she was lifted from the ground as the crowd stared on in shock.

"What?" demanded Misty, clutching Azurill closely. "What's happening?"

"'What's happening' is the question, so twerpish indeed!" came a voice from above.

"The answer to come as we feel the need!" answered a second voice. Misty's heart sank. She knew those voices.

"Bringing the blinding white light of evil into the future!"

"Thrusting the hammer of justice down onto the black darkness of the universe!"

"And carving our names in the Rock of Eternity!"

"The fiery destroyer, Jessie!"

"And with thunderous emotion I am James!"

"Wisest of the wise, Meowth!"

"Now gather, under the name of Team Rocket!"

"No!" cried Misty, clenching her eyes shut. "Anyone but you three!"

"Quiet twerp!" snapped Jessie, "We're not exactly happy you're here either!"

"Somebody help!" screamed Misty.

"Pikachu, Iron Tail!"

"Huh, Pikachu?" muttered Misty opening her eyes to see a familiar Pikachu cut through the net with a swing of its steel hardened tail. She screamed as she fell, holding on to a scared Azurill for dear life. She expected to hit the hard ground beneath her but instead she was caught in strong arms. She looked up at her saviour.

"Oh, Ash," she whispered. He didn't answer. He laid her down gently before looking up at Team Rocket. As he did Misty saw how much he'd changed since she'd last seen him. He was definitely taller now, and less scrawny. He even had the beginnings of a beard sprouting on his chin. But those weren't the most shocking things about him now. Misty was most shocked by his eyes. The deep brown eyes that she loved so much now burned with a rage she had never seen before. They weren't directed at her and she still felt a little scared.

James swallowed loudly in the balloon. "Is it just me or is the twerp angry?" he asked nervously.

"Maybe we shouldn't have messed with his girlfriend," muttered Jessie.

"Yeah," added Meowth, "I have a feelin' we're gonna regret it."

Ash held his hand out. Pikachu hopped up to stand on his palm. "Quick Attack," he said quietly before hurling his friend at Team Rocket. The speed of Quick Attack and the strength of the throw let Pikachu practically fly up to them. "Thunderbolt!" came the trainers command.

Misty didn't bother to watch what happened to the trio of thieves. Her eyes were only for Ash, who caught Pikachu as he fell back down. He then turned and knelt beside Misty. He laid a hand on her shoulder, the anger in his eyes replaced with a deep concern that made her feel safe.

"Are you okay Misty?" he asked gently. She didn't answer, she just pulled him into an embrace that threatened to break bones. He hugged her back. He couldn't have stopped himself if he wanted to.

"Thank you," he heard Misty whisper into his ear. Ash just hugged harder.

Ash and Misty sat together on a wall overlooking the beach. They were eating ice-cream in silence while Pikachu and Azurill played in the sand. Ash was the first to break it when they had finished.

"You look good Misty," he said, heart hammering in his chest.

"What?" she asked, puzzled.

"With your hair down," he explained. And although he had meant that he'd also everything else too, from the way her eyes shone in the sun, to the curve of her lips, to her other curves which were driving the teenage boy crazy. "You look really... good."

Misty blushed. "Thanks Ash," suddenly afraid of an awkward silence she fell back on an old standard: insults. "You on the other hand just look tired. What'cha do? Walk through the night to get here?" She meant to tease him but Ash just chuckled.

"Actually," he began, "That's exactly what I did."

Misty's voice softened. "Now why would you go and do a silly thing like that?" she asked.

"I wanted to see you Misty," he answered looking into her eyes. "I missed you. I... I..." He couldn't find the words. Somewhere between his heart and his mouth they'd gotten lost. He saw Misty lean towards him, waiting for him to finish his sentence. He wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, how much he cared for her and how much she meant to him. And then he remembered that actions speak louder than words.

He kissed her. And a heartbeat later she was kissing him back. It felt wonderful, better than any of his victories ever had. Ash felt that nothing else mattered at that moment except the two of them and the feeling of her lips on his. That is until something forced its way out of a pokéball, knocking him off the wall and onto the sand below.

"Psyduck!" screamed Misty before she opened her eyes. "You're not Psyduck..."

"Oshawatt," said Ash's water-type.

"Cutie!" yelled Misty, gathering the pleased pokémon into her arms.

Meanwhile Ash opened his eyes to find Psyduck standing on his chest.


"Good to see you too Psyduck," he muttered darkly.

"Duck," answered the yellow pokémon before it waddled off to join Pikachu and Azurill. Misty leapt down and allowed Oshawatt to follow suit.

"I guess some things never change, eh Misty?" said Ash, who was still lying on the sand.

"No," said Misty with a smile. "But some things do." And with that she leaned in and kissed him.