Reviewing is not optional :
Ever since the start of their malformed relationship, Iris and, to a lesser degree, Ash had discovered that privacy was something that the world would never have let the two of them have. Being constantly on the move meant that there was little time to just slow down and enjoy the little things in life, and having a travelling companion meant that there was little room for alone time, even when they would stop to rest. The closest thing to an actual date was when they would stop at a Pokémon centre, get a separate table for themselves and, if there was not enough of an audience nearby, hold hands underneath. Still, these moments were few and far in between, and despite her roughish exterior, Iris was a girl, and she too had expectations; of long romantic walks on moonlit nights, of rides on Nimbasa city's Ferris wheel, of picnic dates in the heart of a quaint forest. She would regularly spend a large portion of her time, worrying herself over how damaging lack of intimacy could be to a newly formed couple. Knowing well enough that her clueless, or publicly so, boyfriend wouldn't do anything about the situation, Iris had given a new meaning to the phrase "being aggressive in love". When they would walk, she would obstinately keep her hand wrapped around Ash's own, regardless of their position or company, only very dejectedly letting go if Ash or herself, were about to have a battle, or, of course, if Georgia happened to be nearby. When they stopped for lunch or at a settlement, she consistently tail the poor boy, making sure he stayed away from any prying female eyes
Tonight was one of the rare moments since their inception as a couple that the two of them had finally gotten time on their own. Today was a full moon, an anniversary of sorts, marking an entire month since that fateful night near Nimbasa City. To be able to snuggle in comfortably with Ash at night, and more importantly, under Cilan's nose, meant that she'd had to sacrifice what she'd labeled her "midnight lonely hour". Tonight however, was different. Tonight there was no sleeping, or snoring or sweating because of Ash's stupidly designed, undersized sleeping bag. Tonight it was the two of them lying at the base of a giant old true, looking up at the moon, a thousand different thoughts going through each of their minds, yet a single thought never leaving.
Ash lay on his back, his tangled head of hair resting on one of the snarled roots of the tree. Iris lay directly atop him, with his arms around her waist, holding her close as firmly as he could without hurting her, a constant reminder of how passionately he loved her, even if he couldn't truly understand it himself. Iris, for her part, held his hand soothingly, rubbing her thumb against him palm, a subtle reaffirmation that she would be his as long he wanted her to be. She could feel Ash's breath on her neck, his gentle kisses cascading across her should, onto her neck. He wasn't exactly the best kisser in the world, but his touch was loving and innocent and respectful, and after all the waiting, it felt right-there was really no other word for it- to have his lips on her skin again. For the past month Iris had dreamed of the moment she would finally have Ash to herself again. Her fantasies had varied starkly, from eviscerating his lips in repeated kisses, to far, far more perverted scenarios. It was ironic therefore, that when the time actually arrived, Iris found herself perfectly placated by sitting with her head on his shoulder, his face in her hair, an occasional naive kiss, the only form of physical contact. Cuddling deeper into his chest, Iris sighed contently, and marveled at the change that overtook Ash when they were alone. She had to remind herself that this was the same guileless boy who had thought that the Cottonee mating ritual was a bond of friendship.
In any case, Ash certainly knew how to cuddle. He held her delicately, yet confidently, like a piece of china he was afraid of breaking. If anyone else treated her like a damsel in distress, her immediate response would have been to slap them across the face. But this was Ash. This was the one person who could understand her for what she was, the one person who, she sincerely believed, would always be there to dry her tears, would always be there to hold her at night, to wake her up from her frequent nightmares, and cradle her until reality reinstated itself. He hadn't done any of that yet, but someday he would. Right now she was perfectly satisfied with moments like these, with him holding her against him.
Despite the serenity of the situation, at the back of her brain a notion kept nagging at her. Ash obviously knew how to treat a girl; his embrace was perfect, almost experienced. Experience. That word immediately shook her to the core. Detaching his arms from her waist, she whirled around and fixed him with a stare that would have stopped a charging Bouffalant. He was obviously confused by her sudden change, God he looked so cute when he was confused. Snapping herself from the daze induced by the look on his face, Iris asked as gently as possible, trying to keep the scorn from entering her voice.
"Say, Ash. You've never….talked much about your old friends."
Ash blinked twice, apparently still trying to process her change of heart.
"Hmmm. Well, there's so much to talk about. We traveled all over Kanto and Jhoto and Hoenn and Sinnoh. We had a lot of great times together"
When he spoke about his former adventure, a glint seemed to enter his eyes, one that usually only presented itself during a Pokemon battle. By all regard, his words should have comforted her. His happiness was supposed to be her happiness. She should be overjoyed that her boyfriend was a friggin socialite. But his words only deepened the discomfort in her. Ash had other friends to look to. If she ever lost him, she had no clue what she'd do. She had no shoulder to turn to. But Ash had other people to comfort him. He had a parent and contacts all over the Pokemon world. Despite the short length of their relationship, Iris had always believed that the two of them would only ever have each other, that it would always be the two of them against the world. She knew it was idealistic and a little naive, but she'd firmly adhered to her fantasy. His words, however, also added fuel to her initial suspicion.
"Tell me about them. What are their names? What were they like?" How close were you, she almost added.
"Well there was Brock. He's probably the closest thing I've ever had to a big brother. I'm pretty sure he's the only person on earth who could cook better than Cilan."
Brock. Sounded safe enough, Iris had to assume.
"There was also Misty. She's the gym leader of Cerulean City. Pikachu actually sort of fried her bike" Ash admitted sheepishly.
Iris could swear she heard her heart quiver at this. Misty. That was definitely a girl. But before she could inquire further, Ash continued, unknowingly breaking her heart further.
"There was also May and Dawn. They're both Pokemon coordinators. I guess you wouldn't know what those are. Man, you should have seen the two of them. They…"
"I KNOW WHAT POKEMON COORDINATORS ARE YOU LITTLE KID!" The outburst caused a number of pidove in a nearby tree to fly off. Before Ash could respond, Iris had pushed away from him and climbed up the tree. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Ash again found himself marveling how graceful she could be as flew through the air, her hair fluttering majestically behind her. Snapping himself back into reality, Ash smacked his forehead, wondering exactly what it was that he had done this time. Why did girls always have to be so complicated?
Up in the tree, Iris quietly sobbed into her palms, the irrational grief racking her body, making her wheeze and leaving her almost breathless. Ash knew other girls. Why was that so hard to stomach? But coordinators? She knew what they were like, narcissistic prissy girls, who cared little about the soul and heart of their Pokemon, only about the glossiness of their fur or the color of their own nail polish. Ash had travelled with them, made friends with them, learned to cuddle with them. This thought bought a fresh new wave of tears, and she descended one more into hysterical sobs.
Yet the worst part for her was not the knowledge that Ash may have ever eloped with one of his former companions. The pain didn't stem from that. The worst part was acknowledging that cruel voice inside her that seemed to whisper "maybe you aren't good enough for him". Maybe, just maybe, the coordinators would have been better for Ash than she. Perhaps they would have made him happier. She cared too much for Ash to not want what was best for him. Even if it broke her heart in the process, Ash deserved happiness. She let loose another wave of sobs, harder, rawer than ever. Her eyes were blood shot, her hands drenched, her heart stuck in her throat. It was then that she felt a pair of familiar arms wrap around her, and pull her into a warm, grass scented chest. She resisted, thrashing a bit, trying to pull away from that addictive set of arms, but the temptation was too great, and for once, Iris found herself overpowered by Ash.
She snuggled into his chest, letting the tears flow freely
"I'm not… I can't…. You don't…." For several seconds Iris continued to babble unformed sentences, while Ash gently stroked her hair
"Shhh, shhhhh shhhh" he attempted, rubbing her back to placate her, to stop the flood of tears that hurt him almost as much as they did her. "I'm right here, please don't cry, please stop"
Sure enough, in a while, Iris's bawling turned to quiet whimpering, and she looked up at him with puffy red eyes. Those eyes don't deserve to have tears in them. Ever.
"I just want you to be happy", the hint of a sob was still present in her voice.
"Seeing you cry won't make me any happier"
"I don't deserve you" she looked down at her feet, once more attempting to pull away from him hold
"No, you deserve so much more" He pulled her closer to himself. "I'm sorry", he added as an afterthought, wiping away the last remnants of tears from her eyes
For the first time it occurred to her that Ash had done nothing wrong. He was apologizing for a crime he didn't commit. She was the one who had asked him to talk about his past. In the end, she had broken her own heart. But he'd still been there to dry her tears.
For what seemed like eternity, they sat there on the tree's branch, tightly wrapped around each other. Iris finally spoke, the simplest of question, yet one that had been bugging her for so long.
"Do you really love me?" Immediately, she regretted her words, the look on his face speaking volumes of pain. That she could really question that hurt him more that her insults ever did
"Ofcourse I do, with all my heart, more than anything. I wouldn't let you go for the world."
"Ash, those girls you used to travel with, did you ever love any of them" The question that had been eating away at her for weeks.
Ash actually smiled at this.
"Do I really seem like I'm used to having a girlfriend" Despite the situation, Iris found herself giggling at this, a light, merry sound that was like music to Ash's ears.
"I love you" she said finally.
"I know" he replied, and for the first time in weeks Iris truly believed him.