COPYRIGHT NOTE: I don't own Pokemon / Pocket Monsters. If I did, Ash would be more of a mess than he already is, wouldn't he? ;)
COMMENTS: Welcome to the grand finale of my miniseries! It's been a fun little ride (or I hope it has been, of course ^^). As mentioned in Ch.3's ending A/N, Ch.4 is a shorter epilogue just to tie this fic's loose ends. And I did promise a little Pokeshippy, didn't I? Well, here you go! :)
The Buzzards and the Bees
That afternoon, Ash returned to the riverbank to finally finish washing the group's laundry. He did promise, after all, and Ash Ketchum always kept his promises. Plus, after this morning's enlightening chat with Brock, Ash felt rejuvenated. He and Brock returned to camp shortly after noontime. Ash's appetite returned full-throttle for lunch (especially since he never finished his breakfast). The boy was animated as ever, making up for lost time. Pikachu was so happy for his dear Pikapi.
Speaking of Pikachu, Ash made sure to tell the mouse that Misty was okay. Pikachu had been present during the panty incident and deserved clarification. Unfortunately, Ash was not sure he could explain the details to Pikachu as well as Brock explained them to Ash. But to the trainer's wide-eyed surprise, Pikachu had already learned the truth!
While Ash and Brock were gone, Pikachu had discussed the matter with the other Pokemon, specifically Misty's Pokemon. They already knew about the redhead's condition because this was not the first time she had her period! Apparently a period was called "time of the month" because it happened once a month…every month. How long had Misty been getting these periods? Why had she not told Ash and Brock when she first started?
Probably because Misty figured she might freak us out or something. Ash sweatdropped.
It was none of Ash's business. The kid knew he had already infringed enough on Misty's privacy. If Misty ever found out about this…
"Jeez, Ash Ketchum, it doesn't take much for you to throw somebody in the grave, does it? I never knew you were such a hypochondriac."
Ash never had the chance to ask what a "high-poe-something" was before Misty made a surprise appearance next to him. The pair of jeans he was currently scrubbing had been dropped back into the water, and Ash fumbled to catch them before the pair drifted downstream. It was the perfect excuse for him not to make eye contact with Misty.
But when Ash reminded himself of what Misty just said, he could not help but spin around and shriek, "Wait, Brock told you?!" Oh sure, and everybody claimed that Ash was a bigmouth! Thanks, Brocko! Now I'll never live this down! His eyes wandered back to the water, and Ash felt like jumping in and swimming away for dear life. Who knew what Misty would do to him after today's escapades?
Instead, Misty slowly lowered herself onto the bank next to Ash. He was afraid to look at her. The boy's cheeks were on fire and his body tensed, ready for Misty's wrath. When Misty did not smack him, Ash bravely stole a glance beside himself, watching the redhead out of the corner of his eye. The girl remained quiet and sifted through the laundry pile, pouring liquid soap onto a tank top and then scrubbing it in the water.
Not that Ash was complaining, but, Um, why's she helping me instead of pounding me? There was one way to find out.
"Are you mad, Misty?" Ash could not believe how small his voice became whilst asking that timid question. He could not remember the last time he was so afraid of Misty. Her moods were too unpredictable, and man always feared what he did not understand.
After wringing out the water from her tank top, Misty began folding. Ash could tell that she was purposefully avoiding his eyes. "Am I mad at a person who snooped through my underwear? Yes." Here it comes. Ash braced himself, but Misty never struck. "Am I more mad at myself for mixing my laundry with two boys', thinking they'd be mature enough to handle it? You'd better believe it!"
Seizing a pair of dirty socks, Misty held them under the water as though she were attempting to drown them. Ash imagined himself swapping places with the socks. It was the lesser of two evils.
"And am I mad at some lamebrain because he somehow got into his head that I was going to kick the bucket?!" Misty exclaimed, her tone emphasizing the absurdity of the situation. Setting aside the socks, Misty rubbed her temples. "Argh! I swear to God, Ash, the one time you actually use your brain and this is what comes of it!"
There had to be a rock Ash could crawl under. But before he could plan his escape, the kid jerked forward when he felt an arm thump itself against his back. The only reason Ash never fell face-forward into the stream was because Misty's arm held him in a half-hug.
"No. I'm not mad, Ash."
It took a few seconds for Ash to realize he was not about to be pulverized. In true Misty fashion, the girl ran hot and cold; one minute a threatening storm and the next merry sunshine. She felt so warm and soft, encompassing Ash like the world's best security blanket. As her other arm completed the embrace, Ash returned the gesture. Whatever happened today, he was just eternally thankful that Misty was still by his side. Nothing else mattered.
"You honestly thought I was going to die, Ash?" Obviously, Brock had told Misty everything, including Ash's embarrassing breakdown. But the girl's voice was not sarcastic whatsoever. Her sweet voice was full of comfort and pity for Ash's innocent misunderstanding.
Sheepishly, Ash dipped his head into Misty's elbow. Against the laws of physics, his blush reddened more brightly than it already had been. Yes, he had been stupid, and his best defense for it was, "…I didn't know. Sorry."
But instead of rightfully calling Ash an idiot, Misty just giggled and squeezed him. Not only did this moment feel great for Ash, but it was also the best Misty felt all week. She treated Ash and Brock like crap lately. This mess never would have happened if Misty had been upfront with her friends in the first place. Ash's misunderstanding was karma's way of getting back at Misty.
"There's nothing to be sorry about, Ash," Misty reassured, encouraging the boy to look into her honest eyes. It was impossible for Misty to be mad at Ash when he honestly did not understand what was happening to her. Brock relayed the details of the boys' talk, and the redhead nearly cried when she heard how devastated Ash behaved when he thought she might die. Although Misty and Ash enjoyed tormenting each other, Misty never wanted Ash to get that upset. "You're right; you didn't know, and I never told you. Plus, I should be the one apologizing for acting so bitchy this week. This stuff just puts us girls in a foul mood, that's all."
Ash took no offense anymore. In Misty's shoes, Ash doubted that he would act hunky-dory if he peed blood.
"So…you're okay?" Ash hesitantly asked, briefly scanning his eyes up and down Misty. He did not expect or want to see any outer signs of Misty's state, but he needed to be sure.
"I'm not dying, if that's what you're asking," Misty winked, smiling as Ash's face brightened in relief. It was one thing for Brock to say that Misty was fine, but it was even better for Misty to say it herself. "Really, Ash, did you think I'd die before becoming Water Pokemon Master?"
For the first time all day, Ash laughed heartily.
"Besides, I can't die before you pay me back for my bike. You're not getting off the hook that easily, Ash Ketchum."
Ash was so happy; he would buy twenty bikes for Misty if he could.
"And I can't die before we– uh…"
Noticing the pause, Ash blinked and cocked his head curiously. "Before we what, Myst?"
It was Misty's turn to blush, her face becoming almost as red as her hair. She and Ash were still in each other's arms, and it did not feel awkward until now. Loosening the hug apart, Misty passively waved her hands. "Forget it, Ash. It's nothing." But if it was "nothing," why was Misty so flushed? Ash decided not to ask, knowing that he endured enough Q&A for one day.
The duo then proceeded to finish washing the laundry. Misty took the liberty of cleaning her own clothes. Ash did not protest. Splashes were the only sounds shared between the two kids until the laundry became a neat pile of wet articles. Ash was surprised when Misty said she pitched the campsite's clothesline before joining Ash at the riverbed. That would make the chore even easier.
After separating the laundry into one stack for each kid to carry, Ash and Misty gathered their belongings and headed back to camp. There were still plenty of hours left in the day, and Ash did not want to waste them on laundry. But for once in his life, Ash was not eager to spend the rest of his afternoon training. He loved to spend time with his Pokemon, of course, but today was special. Ash felt as though he was getting a second chance with Misty, and he wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon with her.
"Is there anything special you wanna' do after we get all the laundry on the line?" Ash asked, much to Misty's surprise. "We could go fishing or swimming."
Ash was being nice to Misty just as he acted this morning during breakfast. She liked the special treatment, but honestly, Misty did not want Ash to be nice to her only on special occasions. But of course, friendship was a two-way street. Misty was not always the nicest person to Ash, either. Apparently, both kids had some more growing up to do. Perhaps today could be the beginning of a new direction for their relationship.
"Fishing sounds fun. But to tell you the truth, Ash," Misty admitted, shrinking her pink face behind the pile of clothes she was carrying. She was embarrassed to admit this to a boy, but, "Swimming is the last thing I want to do today, what with my…period and all." It would take some time for Misty to become comfortable saying such words around her male friends. But it was comforting to be able to talk to somebody about her growing pains. "Man! What sucky timing! Swimming would be perfect on a humid day like this. But…I guess there's no stopping you from taking a dip. You could always invite Brock. The Pokemon would love it, too."
Sure, but what fun would Ash, Brock, and their Pokemon have if they left out Misty? Shaking his head, Ash passed up her offer. "Nah. It'd be no fun without you, Myst."
Words alone could not describe how flattered Misty felt. Ash Ketchum could be a gentleman. "Thanks," she chuckled impishly. "But I hate being a party-pooper." It was not fair, but Misty knew she could not fight Mother Nature. Grumbling under her breath, Misty scoffed, "Menopause sounds pretty good right now."
"What about Metapods?" Ash chimed in.
After rolling her eyes, Misty coughed. "Never mind, Ash." And with that, Misty picked up her pace for the boy to follow. "Let's just get back and hang the laundry. I'm up for fishing afterwards. After all, I can't just mope around camp every time I get this."
Ash had to admit; girls impressed him. Back home, whenever he got sick Ash spent his whole day in bed. He hated it, yes, but he felt too crappy to do otherwise (that, and Delia insisted he get his rest. She would lock her son in his bedroom if necessary). But not Misty! She was not going to let a period slow her down. Where all women like that? Thinking back, Ash could not recall a certain time of the month when Delia was out of commission. Unless she was sick Delia was always fluttering around the house. Somehow, girls found a way to get on with their lives despite the discomfort. It fascinated Ash.
"You're really something else, Misty." The boy's compliment blurted out of his mouth before Ash even realized it. Both children blushed on cue. But now that the cat was out of the bag, Ash figured he might as well go along with it. Misty earned more compliments, anyway. Now was as good a time as any to give her what she deserved. "I-I mean, you know, you're not letting this thing stop you from having fun."
Misty did not think her perseverance was akin to walking on the moon, but she took a compliment when it came (especially if it came from Ash). She rewarded his kindness with a bright, appreciative smile.
"Thanks, Ash, but it's really not that big of a deal. I have to be tough," she teased proudly, winking again in Ash's direction. "After all, I'm the youngest of three sisters, and I have to keep you and Brock in line." Inching closer, she extended her elbow just enough to playfully nudge Ash's arm without knocking over their laundry piles. Ash grinned, about to launch a counterattack when Misty struck home. "And besides, if I don't go through with all this growing up stuff, how else will we get to have babies someday?"
Ash laughed, nodding over-enthusiastically. "Yeah! You're right! Haha!"
Misty paused, narrowing her eyes and waiting for it to sink in. Then she hightailed it back to camp the moment she saw Ash's eyes bug out beyond belief. Red-faced and mouth agape, Ash's quivering hands dropped his pile of clothes onto the ground. So much for the clean laundry, but Ash had much bigger concerns on his mind.
A/N: *giggles* And there you have it, folks. Thank you very much for reading, and special thanks to my faithful reviewers for their impeccable feedback. The Buzzards and the Bees marks my 10th Pokemon publication! *celebrates* It's been a pleasure and privilege to share my stories with the FFnet community. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me over these past few years. I love ya! :)
- Aiselne Phoenix Nocturnus