It took them 7 years to get that ice cream. But in all seriousness, there wasn't even supposed to be a second chapter. It ended up happening though I didn't know how I wanted it to end and that's why I'm posting it now in 2019.
Anyway, as Royal Mask would say, enjoy!
Also this is unbeta'd...
Ash was in constant chatter as he led Paul through the suburban streets of Pallet Town. He pointed out various stores and nostalgic stories that accompanied each building, which had the brunet laughing and his companion shaking his head at his past silly antics. Pallet was a small town, the majority of it made up residential homes and the stores they did have were all family owned and friendly. Growing up in the city life of Veilstone, Paul thought it was a nice change. And it showed a lot about how Ash was brought up, he could definitely see the difference between the two of them.
The brunet skipped over to the ice cream parlor, which was just a tiny building by the side of the road. If Paul wasn't already informed of where they were going, he would have easily missed it since it didn't stand out too well either. There weren't any flashy signs that indicated that it was an ice cream store, but he trusted Ash to know where he was going. Ash pulled open the door, where a bell tinkled to notify the staff inside.
"Alice! Celice! I'm back again!"
A young lady and a slightly older woman greeted Ash with smiles. They looked very similar and it could easily be concluded that they were related. The younger one spotted Paul standing not too far from Ash and whispered curiously to the other female.
"I see you brought a friend with you Ash!" The woman pointed out pleasantly.
Ash blushed lightly and laughed it off as if he wasn't affected by the comment. The younger girl giggled and muttered something like "it's about time". She guided them to a table, where she handed the two laminated menus.
"Not that I think you'll need it Ash, since you only come here for one thing."
"Yup, I'll have the usual! Um," Ash glanced at his companion, "I suppose two spoons this time. Thanks Alice!"
Alice nodded and returned with two glasses of water. Paul saw the smile she threw at them before she giggled madly and returning to the counter where Celice was preparing "the usual". He put down the menu, deciding to go with what Ash had ordered since it was the reason he was here anyway.
"I always get the same thing, but it's good so there's really no reason to try anything else. Not that their other things aren't good."
Ash spoke of the history of the store and how the two sisters ran it together selling baked goods, coffee and ice cream all year around. The parlor was tiny but the service and atmosphere was good, along with the food, and most Pallet Town citizens had chosen this place as their go to for a coffee break. Aside from the two, the store was currently void of other customers. It was well past noon and lunch time but too early for dinner, so it was to be expected.
Paul assumed Ash's "usual" to be a simple parfait, or a banana split at the biggest. What Celice set down in front of them easily measured a foot in height of ice cream alone. There were fruits and nuts that donned the top and sitting under all the ice cream looked to be a stack of pancakes. Paul could only stare as Ash took the spoon in his hand and dug it into the pile of ice cream, removing more than enough for a mouthful and shoving it between his lips. The brunet seemed unfazed by the cold, swallowing quickly to scoop another spoonful. He noticed that his friend hadn't moved at all since the dessert was brought to them.
"You're not going to try some? There's a bunch of different flavors, so if you don't like one part you could always switch to another side. Like here!"
Ash scooped a bit of green tea ice cream, making sure to catch a slice of banana and a drizzle of chocolate. But he wasn't done there. With the other spoon that was meant for Paul, Ash sectioned off a piece of the pancake and plopped the ice cream onto Paul's spoon.
"Here, you should try it with a bit of everything. That's what makes it so special."
Paul hesitantly took the spoon and eyed Ash's expecting expression before swallowing the combination dessert. It was a mouthful but the ice cream melted against his warm tongue and matched well against the texture of the light and fluffy pancake. The difference of temperature wasn't as great as he had first suspected, leaving Paul with just a good mouth feel instead of a brain freeze. He wasn't one for sweets in the first place but Ash was right; the dessert was pretty amazing.
Ash smiled brightly at Paul's response and continued to dig away at the pile of frozen cream and pancakes. Paul took his time working on the ice cream slowly while Ash wasn't shy about eating like he hadn't in days.
"Oh, this flavor is a special of theirs. Here, try some!"
Paul didn't have time to react to the spoon that was thrust out to him. It was kind of reflex but Ash's cheerful expression on the other end of the spoon had Paul sampling the flavor without question. It was only after the ice cream had melted in his mouth and Ash asked how it was that Paul realized what had just occurred. He gently agreed to the taste, which pleased Ash and he went back to the dessert, leaving Paul to recall the moment they had just mere seconds ago. If he had a problem with sharing a spoon with Ash, the only evidence was the slight scrunch of his eyebrow since the burning of his ears were easily hidden by his long hair. Ash hadn't noticed a thing.
Paul could say they were about halfway done with the dessert (mostly due to Ash's work) when the door's bell rang and the two researchers from the lab entered. Alice greeted Gary where he acknowledged the ladies before taking a seat at a table right next to Ash and Paul (despite there being so many other empty tables).
"I don't know if you have uncanny timing or an extra sense but how do you always manage to get here when Ash does, Gary?" Alice questioned as she handed them menus as well, even though she knew they wouldn't be looked at.
"I have my ways." Gary answered haughtily. "So I guess the usual for us if Ash is having his." He waved at Ash who was glaring at him from behind his bowl of ice cream. Paul wasn't affected by the new customers though he had a suspicion that their arrival time was no coincidence.
"No girlfriend this time?" Celice shouted from behind the counter.
"I got Tracey. Close enough." Gary shrugged and pointed to the pokemon watcher who only sputtered indignantly and asked what that was supposed to mean.
"Thanks toots." Gary called to Alice after she reclaimed the menus. She looked back at him with a serious expression to which he laughed apologetically and sheepishly added "Sorry, bad habit." Alice broke into a smile and shook her head.
"So how are you enjoying that ice cream, Ashy-boy?"
Ash's stare spoke multitudes of "Gary, what do you want?" and "Why are you always here when I am?" The grin on his childhood friend's face only widened at his irritation.
"Tastes a lot better with someone else, huh?"
Paul spooned another scoop of ice cream but made no comment about Ash's unusual silence. Ash didn't know why his face burned at Gary's words mixed with Paul's curious look but he decided it was best to ignore them to save himself from any further embarrassment. Gary had a good knack for getting him into uncomfortable situations without even trying too hard.
The two managed to finish up the monster of an ice cream dish, much to Paul's amazement. Ash had blatantly ignored Gary's remarks, because even though he didn't know what he was hinting at, Ash knew that Gary was making fun of him over something. The two sisters seemed to play along with Oak's grandson's game while Tracey sat quietly with his sketchbook and Paul found he enjoyed the company of Pallet town folks.
The four boys left the ice cream shop in high energy, even though Ash was still a little pouty over Gary ruining his moment. Gary eventually left him alone as they split ways where the researchers headed back to the Oak's laboratory and the trainers to Ash's place where he promised to give Paul his gift.
Ash hurried towards the red roof building where a Mr. Mime was sweeping the front. Ash waved at the pokemon before entering and announcing his presence, along with Paul's. Pikachu leapt up from the couch where he was napping. He voiced his concern for Ash's disappearance after Gary and Tracey had dragged him off. At the sight of an old face, Pikachu chirped a question to which Ash replied was the reason for his kidnapping. Paul acknowledged the pokémon and Pikachu did the same. The Pokémon could tell that the rival had mellowed out a lot since their last battle.
A middle age woman with light brown hair tied back in a low ponytail greeted the two boys, showing extra enthusiasm at her son's guest. Paul bowed to pay his respect and Delia squealed at how polite he was much to Ash's embarrassment.
"Would you be staying for dinner Paul?"
"I don't think so ma'am, but thank you for the offer."
Delia looked disappointed but offered to bring them snacks if they needed them. She also told them to play nice while Ash pushed his rival up the stairs to save the little dignity that he had left. Pikachu bounded after them.
"So, this is my room!"
Paul stepped into the surprisingly well kept room. To his right was the bed, which was really just a futon on a raised level. A plain desk and chair were placed below it. There was a globe and a pile of books neatly stacked on the desk shelf, no doubt they were Pokemon related. On the left was a short dresser with a flat screen and an old style stereo on top. A Snorlax plush sat by the foot of the dresser.
"Ah, make yourself comfortable. Here take a seat. I don't usually bring my friends up here but uh..."
Ash pulled out the pink chair by the table for him and scuttled off to look for something. He disappeared under the bed, where apparently there was a tiny closet door. Pikachu had made himself comfortable on the bed.
From where Paul was sitting, he noticed there was another dresser behind the door. The various items scattered on top of the appliance caught his attention and he strode over to take a closer look at them.
The set of long thin badges were easily the most noticeable, next to the odd wooden Teddiursa statue. They weren't from any of the regions he knew of, so Paul could only assume they were fresh from Unova. He would have to ask Ash about his endeavors later. Behind the badge case were a pair of bells with yellow ribbons. He picked them up; the bells jangled in his hands.
"You still have them."
There was a loud "thunk" behind him. Paul turned around to see Ash rubbing his head as he moved away from beneath his bed. Pikachu murmured a low "Pikachu" at his trainer.
"Ow. What was that?"
Paul motioned to the bells.
"Oh yeah, of course I still have them, they're kind of like a gift from you. Uh, even though I'm sure you were just getting rid of them because you thought they were useless. It's actually a miracle we actually won that thing with how much you didn't care about teamwork. "
Ash laughed nostalgically while Paul just huffed, but in good humor. He set the bells down and picked up one of the plaques that were on the dresser.
"That was one of the first times I could say I actually beat you." Ash pointed out over his shoulder. Paul remembered the PokeRinger event well. He was slightly impressed with the turn of events but of course he never would have told Ash that in the past.
"Oh so here. This is for you."
Ash held something in his closed fist. Their fingers brushed when the gift was passed over but neither one mentioned the jolt they felt. Paul chose to observe the object he had been given instead. It easily fit in his palm and looked to be based off a pokemon he was unfamiliar with.
"So I thought you would like something practical since you need all your things to be "useful" to keep them around. It's a Bisharp pocket knife." Ash scratched the back of his neck. "It looked like a pokemon you would have on your team, they're pretty impressive."
Paul played around with the pocket knife, discovering just how many features were hidden in the tiny thing. He stole a glance at Ash, who pretended not to look too expectantly but was failing.
"It's great. Thanks."
Ash shrugged casually but he was obviously pleased. He picked up the bells that Paul had set down earlier. Paul pocketed the knife when Ash held out something else for him to take. It was one of the Soothe Bells.
"Here, you can have it back."
"..Why? I don't really have a use for it."
"Well, it originally was yours, I'm just returning it to you. And I don't use it either, it's more for sentiments."
After a moment of mental hesitation, Paul took the offered bell. Ash hadn't expected him to tie it back with the other one on the dresser. He tensely bit his lip.
"One gift is fine. Just keep it. They look more complete as a pair anyway."
Ash's gaze went from the Soothe Bells back to Paul. Paul's expression was soft and he could make out the slight upturn at the end of his lips. The tension in Ash's shoulders left him. For a moment, he thought that Paul was rejecting their friendship. Even if their relationship might not have started out so well, Ash would still be glad to call Paul his friend.
There was a moment of silence where neither of them knew where to continue. Paul could feel Ash's eyes on him and he's embarrassed he said something so corny. Ash looked on eagerly; his joy just radiating off him.
"So um, want to take a look at my pokedex from Unova? I can show you Bisharp's entry."
Paul agreed and went to pull out the chair. He realized Ash only had one seat and turned to let him take it but he had already climbed up to his bed. Pikachu made way for Ash. The trainer leaned on the wall and crossing his legs. He pat the space next to him as an invitation.
He only hesitated because he wasn't sure if he would even fit up there, Paul told himself. There was plenty of room though so he had no choice but to join Ash. There was no reason to refuse the invitation like he would have in the past. He shuffled next to the boy, still leaving a safe few inches between them. The scent of Ash was almost dizzying but not in a bad way.
After Paul situated himself, Ash pulled out his pokedex, which looked a bit different from what he was used to but it was still identifiable as the pokémon encyclopedia. Ash flipped through the entries before settling on a bipedal pokémon with razors for arms and a helmet. He handed it to Paul and explained that was the pokémon his gift was based off of.
Paul pressed a few buttons to scroll through it's entry and other stats. He could feel Ash leaning towards him, the warmth of his arm nearly touching his own but not quite. He looked through other pokémon entries, Ash recalling some stories on his journey for each one. Paul watched him talk animatedly. He didn't realize he had a smile on his own face until Ash slowed down in his storytelling.
"You actually have a very nice smile."
Feeling a bit self conscious now, Paul rubbed his mouth with the back of his knuckle. Ash just chuckled lightly and flashed him his own grin.
"I'm glad! That means you're enjoying yourself! I thought I might have been boring you with all this talking."
Paul couldn't tell him that he would rather be here with Ash than anywhere else in the world right now. He almost didn't want to head home so soon. If he could stay in Pallet Town for a while longer, he would not complain.
Ash leaned over to press a button on the pokedex that was still in Paul's hands. His hair tickled Paul's cheek and he had to suppress the urge to touch it, even if just to move it out of his face. Ash hadn't pulled back when he looked up to talk to him. Even though Ash had hugged him earlier in the day, this felt somewhat more intimate. Probably because there was no one else besides the two of them. (Aside from Pikachu.) Paul tried to pay attention to the words coming out of Ash's mouth but he was too focused on the other boy's face and it's proximity to his own.
Of course at that moment, Ash's mother knocked on the door and let herself in with a plate of cookies in hand. Ash finally pulled away and Paul let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. His heart was still hammering against his chest but luckily that was not noticeable to the regular eye.
Delilah smiled and noted that they seemed to be getting along very well. Ash thanked his mother but Paul could tell there was a hint of embarrassment but also the underlying plea to getting her to leave. She eventually does but the atmosphere from before was ruined. Paul doesn't know if he's glad or disappointed.
Ash continued his story about the Duckletts and Paul listened patiently while snacking on the cookies. Ash went on a tangent through several other stories but eventually Paul stopped him when he noticed the sun getting lower in the sky. As much as he'd like to watch Ash talk animatedly for the rest of the night (and longer? Paul quickly diminished the thought) he had already made up his mind to not stay for too long. Even if Ash and all of Pallet Town were so welcoming, Paul hadn't actually thought he'd spend the entire day here.
When he came to Pallet with the small hope that he'd get to meet with his ex-rival again, he didn't actually expect to see Ash. He didn't have a plan for what he'd do if they did reunite. Ash just pulled him along and he went with it. He couldn't believe how easily he was swayed. How did he manage to keep Ash away in the past when his presence was just so comfortable? That it felt so right just to be next to him?
"What's your plan for the night? You're not heading back to Viridian to stay at a center are you?"
That was exactly Paul's plan. If he spent any longer with Ash, he was afraid he'd never leave.
"You can stay here! And you can try my mom's amazing cooking!"
"I really don't want to impose. Especially since I already said I wasn't staying for dinner."
Ash frowned and tried to protest but Paul had already moved off the bed.
"I'll still be in Kanto for a few more days."
Paul didn't continue further, hoping Ash would fill in the rest. He didn't have the courage at the moment to outright ask for what he wanted.
Ash hopped off the bed as well after Paul had gathered his things.
"What other places were you going to see before you head back? I could show you around? I mean, if you don't mind traveling with me? You're probably tired of me from today huh? Gosh you're all ready to leave now." Ash started waving his hands around. A nervous Ash was still a weird sight to Paul.
At Paul's non response, Ash deflated. "I guess I'll see you out."
Deliah waved goodbye to Paul as the boys passed by. Ash rocked on the back of his heels as they stood by the door. They both looked like they wanted to say something but expected the other to start.
Of course, between the two of them, Ash had more courage and reached out to grab Paul's jacket.
"Um, you don't have to hang around with me but I do want to see you again. At least to keep in touch."
Paul's shoulders relaxed. He pulled out his Pokegear and looked expectantly at Ash.
"Do you remember your gear number?"
Ash brightened up immediately at the question and nodded furiously. Paul handed him the device to let him enter himself as a contact. Paul's lip twitched when he saw the little icon Ash had chosen for himself.
"I'll call you when I get to the center, so you can have my number as well."
Paul replaced the gear in his pockets and glanced at Ash one more time. Somehow it was harder to turn away from him now. The sunset dyed them both in shades of orange and it reminded Paul of the scene on the stairs right after their battle.
"I'll see you later then."
"Of course! See you soon!"
Paul properly waved him off this time before heading out.
A couple of years later, an older Ash bursted out the door of his house after calling out a farewell to his mother and her Mr. Mime. Pikachu followed after him but Ash was too excited to even slow down for his partner to catch up. The few residents who were out and about had to move to let the blur through or else they'd get knocked over. They weren't angry though, Ash was always a pleasant sight to see in Pallet town and with the wide smile and slight flush on his cheeks, they hope wherever he's going is worth it.
Ash only started slowing down when he spotted the familiar tiny ice cream parlor at the edge of the hill. He took deep breaths to catch some air before stopping at the entrance. Pikachu caught up with him a few seconds later. He looked mostly composed before he opened the door. The bell jangled above him and the sisters' voices greeted him to which he automatically responded.
However, Ash's focus zoomed in on the table to the far side of the tiny cafe. The familiar purple hair and dark blue jacket made his heart leap. The man occupying the table looked up at the new arrival and waved him over.
"You know you don't have to run here every time, right?"
Ash pouted as he made to take a seat. "I didn't run."
Paul raised an eyebrow. He looked to Pikachu who had already leapt onto the table to chug a glass of water that Paul had the foresight to order before hand. Ash sheepishly accepted the second glass of water.
"Well, I'm just excited to see you, okay?"
"Thanks but I'm not going anywhere anytime soon so you can take it easy once in a while. Though maybe that's too much to ask from someone like you."
"Hey, I know how to relax…"
"The last time you went somewhere for a vacation you ended up winning the league there."
Ash scratched his cheek.
"Welcome back Mr. Champion! The usual?"
"Alice please… I'm not actually a Champion yet…" Ash took small sips of his water to at least act like he's modest about it but the grin on his face said otherwise.
"You're pretty much there aren't you?"
Paul's lip twitched in a small smile at Ash explaining the steps it took to become an actual Champion to the older lady. True Ash isn't one yet, but he's made a notable name for himself that he's known as a truly strong trainer. He's grown a lot over the years, both in the Trainer aspect and physically. Maturity though, Paul can't exactly vouch.
After Alice retreated to the kitchen to place Ash's order, Ash turned the subject around and asked about Paul's adventures as Frontier Brain. Paul shrugged and told him about his pretty uneventful past few months since the last time they got together. After the initial few months as Frontier Brain it actually got pretty repetitive that it was just routine now. In comparison, Paul thought it felt like only a while ago that Ash had brought him to the ice cream parlor for the first time. After that day, true to his word, they kept in contact and always made plans to meet up whenever they were both in Kanto.
Ash was in the middle of recalling a tale about a giant Snorlax when the bell of the cafe door rang with new customers.
"Ladies! One usual please!"
Ash groaned and visibly deflated when Gary marched over to the table next to theirs. Tracey waved at the two and at least looked apologetically at Ash. Paul acknowledged the new comers and took a quiet sip of his coffee to hide his amusement at Ash's annoyance. He could hear the sisters giggling from over by the counter.
"Gary, remember what we talked about." Tracey warned, though it was said with a smile.
Gary's eyebrows scrunched.
"I was joking! Alice, don't actually put that order in!"
"Too late! I expected this!"
Gary grumbled and sunk in his seat. Ash was the one with the triumphant laugh this time. The two monsters of a sundae arrived soon enough and presented in front of the two. Ash had happily dug into his bowl while Gary gave Tracey pleadingly sad eyes for assistance but Tracey held firm.
"Paul, here's your spoon."
Paul accepted the spoon but left it on the table. He'd learned by now that Ash could and will finish the monster sundae by himself and sharing was mostly just pleasantries.
Somehow watching Ash tackle the ice cream brought back the competitive fire in Gary and he attempted to shovel ice cream into his mouth at a faster rate. Ash noticed and suddenly it was a race to see who could clean their bowl first. Pikachu cheered them on.
Tracey laughed and leaned towards Paul. "We sure know how to choose'em huh?"
Paul looked at the researcher with question. The humor dripped off Tracey's face when he realized Paul didn't seem to catch what he was implying.
"Ah, um, you and Ash?"
Paul's eyes widen and he turned away, quickly pulling his coffee to his mouth to hide his reddening cheeks.
"We… we're not together…" he mumbled.
"Oh! My gosh, I'm sorry. You guys just seem really close. Gary always referred to you two as a pair, I thought you guys were an item."
Paul was quiet. Throughout the years, he finally figured out that he had feelings for Ash. Of course he would liked to act upon them but he was also content with how things were at the moment. Just being his friend felt like enough for him and asking for anything else would be selfish. He also had to take Ash's feelings into consideration. Was Ash even interested in a relationship?
"Don't take too long. You know Ash is very popular. Anyone could snatch him up." Tracey advised. "Though, if you ask me, I think you're already ahead of the race."
Paul blinked at the last few words.
Ash's spoon dropped into the empty bowl and he cheered with raised hands. Pikachu clapped and handed his friend a glass of water. Meanwhile, every spoonful of ice cream and nuts looked like poison to Gary.
"I don't know how I used to do it. This is too much sugar…"
With a sigh, Tracey picked up the extra spoon and mercifully decided to help. He chided the researcher who looked sincerely apologetic. Paul watched the two interacting, actually just realizing they were together. He should have noticed it earlier but then again he didn't bother to keep up with the affairs of others. He glanced at Ash from across the table who was also contently watching the two researchers.
"Must be nice, having a forever partner"
Paul looked at Ash with question. Ash rolled his shoulders and rubbed Pikachu's head.
"Forever partner? Wouldn't that be Pikachu?"
Ash shook his head.
"Mmm. He is my partner but that's not what I meant. More like… Professor Kukui and Professor Burnet."
Paul recalled they were the foster family that had taken Ash in during his stay in Alola. Ash had also mentioned he had attended their wedding ceremony. At that time he talked about them, his eyes were wide eyed with excitement and joy. His tone right now was not one of elation. Paul wanted to say he knew Ash enough to know how to read him and right now something was off.
"Are you okay?"
Ash hummed in thought and Paul just wanted to reach out and touch him but he held back. Pikachu also noticed his trainer's shift in mood and put a paw on the hand on his head. And just like that, Ash had reverted back to his energetic persona.
"Anyway, I was telling the story about the giant Snorlax before Gary came in!"
Paul easily got caught up with the change in atmosphere but in the back of his mind he couldn't get rid of the image of that contemplative Ash.
Tracey and Gary finished up their dessert and listened in on Ash recalling the story. The four of them exchanged events and complaints of their lives for the next few hours. Other patrons came and left the cafe as the sun lowered in the sky.
The group decided it was time to head out as some of them had agendas to stick to. Ash and Paul branched off from Gary and Tracey and the former two found themselves walking side by side against the setting sun with Pikachu by Ash's feet.
Ash was surprisingly quiet this time around. Paul took glances at him, wondering what had the trainer so out of character. He thought back to the enigmatic mood Ash had been in a few hours back.
Paul found Ash's eyes on him the next time he looked over. Ash cocked his head to the side while Paul raised on eyebrow and they found themselves in a stare down. Eventually Ash couldn't hold back his amusement and he let out a laugh.
"What's up with you?" Paul asked with a hint of a smile.
"I should be asking you the same, you were looking at me."
"Are you feeling okay? From before?"
"When you mentioned something about a partner." Paul shoved his hands in his pockets.
"Oh that." Ash tensed and he looked away.
It was quiet again.
"Come on Ash, you know I depend on you to do enough of the talking for the both of us."
Ash pouted at that. "What if I don't want to talk about it?"
"That's new then. You almost never shut up."
Ash knew Paul was goading him into conversation by teasing him but Ash still held back.
"It's… kind of embarrassing…"
"Since when did you care about what others thought?"
"...I care about what you think."
Paul almost missed a step but caught himself. Ash didn't seem to notice as he was staring at his own feet.
"If it involves me then I think I deserve to know."
That made Ash withdraw even further between his shoulders. He eventually mumbled something that did not reach Paul's ears.
"Ash you need to speak up."
"If I could, I'd choose you. As my… partner…"
Paul stopped. Ash was still looking at the dirt, his hands clenched against his jeans. Was this for real? Is Ash referring to what Paul thought he was?
When Paul didn't respond, Ash let out a forced laugh, never meeting the other's eyes.
"See, I told you it was embarrassing. Just… forget what I said."
Ash started to move away but Paul caught his arm. Ash didn't turn around but he brought up his other arm to rub at his face. Paul heard the sniffle and saw his trembling shoulders.
"Are you crying?"
"...Paul let go."
"Why are you being a big jerk right now?"
"Because you're crying and I don't know why."
Ash finally faced him and Paul's heart stopped. If not for the red under his eyes and the snot slowly threatening to spill, Paul would have thought Ash looked beautiful against the orange sunset. He brought a hand over to wipe the tear that had yet to spill. He felt Ash tense up.
"Tell me why you're crying."
"I'm allowed to be sad after I got rejected aren't I?"
"...I never said that."
Ash glared up at him. "Actually you didn't say anything and that didn't help me at all."
Paul took a step closer and pulled Ash against him. His heart was beating like crazy and Ash could probably feel it too. A bunch of thoughts ran through his head but the words that left Paul's mouth were:
Ash sputtered and slapped Paul's back. "You made me say embarrassing things but then when it's your turn you won't?"
Paul hid his face in Ash's hair but didn't let go of him. He could feel Ash slowly relaxing in his hold. Ash eventually reached his arms to embrace him as well.
"I guess you don't have to answer me right now but I just want to let you know that I like you a lot."
If the world ended right now, Paul would be fine with that. Ash felt so right against him, he didn't want to let him go. He held him tighter. Paul struggled with the words he wanted to say. A simple "I like you too" should have been easy but it just wouldn't come out.
He felt Ash pat his back, a sign asking to be released and Paul reluctantly did. He still held him at arm's length. Ash smiled up at him. Paul didn't think he deserved it for not even properly answering him.
"JUST KISS HIM ALREADY!"
The two jumped at the voice. They saw Gary popping out of his hiding place behind a tree. Tracey was trying to shush him and pull him back. Pikachu, who was actually hanging back with the two, also screamed at Gary for ruining the atmosphere.
Ash yelled at them and the two took off in the direction they originally said they were supposed to head to. Pikachu remained but still hid himself and pretended he wasn't actually there.
Paul glanced down at Ash and could see his face was just as red as how warm his own felt. But that did sound like good advice.
Ash looked up at him with wide eyes.
"I mean, don't force yourself. He's just being stupid and it's probably funny to them-"
"I want to."
Paul faced him properly and finally-
"I like you too Ash Ketchum."
Paul didn't think it was possible but Ash's face got even redder and his eyes started watering again. Ash gave a nod and that was enough for Paul to enter his space again.
It was a simple press of lips against lips but it felt like everything to the two. It was the conclusion to their long time journey of rivals to friends to this. No it was not a conclusion, it was the beginning of them.
When they pulled apart, they were both flushed but with smiles wide on their faces. Ash let out a laugh and threw his arms around Paul. Paul embraced him back; his past self never would have imagined he would be able to do this so freely.
"So, does this mean I Got you?"
Paul gave Ash a look to which he responded cheekily.
"You know, since I Choose You?"
Paul sighed and rolled his eyes. "I'm not a Pokémon you know."
"I know, geez it was a joke. Professor Burnet said it worked for her."
Ash's pouting face was too cute. He screamed indignantly when Paul brought his hand up and squeezed his nose. Ash swatted at him to which Paul dodged easily. It turned into a weird game of tag that eventually had Ash back in Paul's arms.
Pikachu watching from the bushes cooed happily. Having been with Ash the whole time, he understood just how long his friend had wanted this. The bushes rustled and the entourage from earlier reappeared. Pikachu chided Gary for almost ruining the moment but the two were busy watching the new couple.
"Finally, took them long enough." Gary nodded sagely.
"Well it might have taken even longer if you hadn't interrupted."
"What?! I clearly sped up the process!"
"We don't know that, it could have deterred them."
"Well whatever. Now they can stop making eyes at each other when they think they're not looking. It was so painful to watch."
Tracey hummed while adding a few more strokes on his current sketch. It showed Ash and Paul walking towards a sunset with fingers interlaced.
Happy Comashipping Day ya'll! I waited to post this today! It's been years since Shinji's last appearance but I remember clearly when I first got into Comashipping. To think I would still be making content for them today astounds me.
Past me would actually be surprised I let them go this far but future/present me realized I need them to be more developed to finally be able to do that. So how do I do that without actually writing that much? Timeskip. Genius. I apologize if it seems disconnected from chapter one or even the first part of this chapter, it's because, as I said before, I started chapter 2 in like 2012 without a conclusive ending until 2019 where I decided to finally finish this.