Aaaaaaaand I owe a huge apology to anjumstar for taking THIS long to update this chapter, besides a huge THANKS too! She beta-read it and I totally recommend her, she's great! :D
Four more characters appear. Their ages: Delia – 36 (Bulbapedia it if you must, she was 30 when Ash was 10, so I did the maths); Prof. Oak – 56; Tracy – same as Brock (21); Gary – same as Ash and Misty (16).
Above the clouds
A week passed by. Our heros had managed to get to Pallet Town for New Year's Eve. After late unwrapping presents and telling Mrs. Ketchum all the details of their journey, all fell quiet and peaceful in Ketchum's residence.
Too quiet and peaceful.
It had been a whole week with no arguments between the fiery-tempered redhead Misty, and the stubborn raven haired Ash. Brock had grown suspicious at their attitudes, all the time observing them and taking mental notes. They talked as little as possible, didn't look at each other in general, and most of all, did not argue. As thankful as Brock's ears and head were, he found it very odd. They had been behaving like that since that kiss.
Yes, that kiss had saved Brock from craziness, but turned his friends into something too… well, weird! He briefly wondered how much longer they would manage to stay like this, or if there were any other strong reasons– such thing as feelings. He grinned. Maybe this was the perfect opportunity for the two to finally admit it once and for all.
Evening had stepped in quickly, and they found themselves dinning in the company of Gary, Professor Oak, and Tracey. They talked about pokémon and research, as well as many other things, when Gary decided to point out what Brock had been observing lately.
"Why haven't the two of you tried to rip each other's heads off yet?" He eyed them suspiciously, from out the corner of his eye. "It's getting boring! Not even a single comment or insult?" There was no answer however. The two merely stared at him, slightly shocked, glanced at each other, and then to their food again, their facial expressions unreadable.
The room had fallen silent and everyone's expressions were from pure bewilderment to surprise, save Ash, Misty, and Brock, who was sitting with his brows furrowed. Even Delia was taken aback from the lack of an answer from her son.
Ash was walking on a deadly unknown territory - he was perfectly aware of that. Now, the reason for why he was doing it was just too strong to keep him from risking utter mortification - he knew he would be anyway. It was her, Misty. And once again, he blamed the hormones for that.
He tip-toed his way to the couch, making sure to not wake Togepi and get killed by Misty. Once arrived, he sat in the middle of his two friends, Brock and Gary. They stopped talking the moment he sat, their eyes locking down on him, waiting for Ash to explain himself.
"Hum… Well I…" he started, then gulping and inhaling slowly. He had to do it. "Togepi's sleeping, I didn't want to wake it…" Really smooth, Ash! His brain mocked him. Gary's brows lifted up on his forehead, one of them hiding under his hair. "Ugh… You know… I…" He glanced at Brock for help. "Didn't Brock tell you?" He asked, rather surprised.
Gary looked at Ash, and then, using his elbow as support on the couch, he lifted his body a bit to face Brock. "Tell me what?"
And that was when Ash realized he should have kept his mouth shut.
Soon enough, Brock began telling every little detail he could remember to Gary, whose bewilderment turned to a smirk, and then to a teasing expression. Meanwhile, Ash had ducked down on the couch, blushing madly, and almost praying to be engulfed by it. He had pulled his cap down to his eyes and scolded himself internally.
"… and then they pulled apart. You're not gonna believe it, but I almost had to drag Ash to eat! I mean, food!" Brock finished incredulously, adding extra emphasis to the words 'eat' and 'food', as if it was the only thing Ash thought of, besides pokémon, of course.
"You can't be serious!" Gary laughed, throwing himself backwards.
"Oh, shut it Gary!" Ash said between clenched teeth. He had finally emerged from the couch, gazing at his friend's humored figure. "I-I just kissed her because there was mistletoe."
"Well, to me you looked like you didn't even know your name!" Brock teased.
Ash twisted his head to face him. The trainer's face was in between annoyed and troubled. This caused Brock to stop mocking him and put a serious face. Gary had also stopped, somewhat sensing the tension around him. Brock's facial expression encouraged him to say what he wanted to say, as if he would have the answer to his problem.
"Well, you see… I felt… different after kissing Misty." Brock's gaze shifted from Ash to Gary, and then back to Ash. "I felt
good. No, I felt great. Then, I felt empty." Both friends were listening carefully and attentively, when Ash's cheeks turned a bit pink. "And after that, I've wanted to be around her, even more than usual."
"Tell me Ash, what do you think of Misty?" Brock asked.
"She's a great friend?" He offered shyly.
Brock shook his head slowly. "That's not what I meant. Did you feel that just after kissing her?"
"No," he said, "no, I didn't. I feel strange things when I'm around her for a while now."
"Well Ash, I'm no expert, but from what you're telling me, and for what I've seen, I'd say your problem's gotta a name." Brock said. Ash urged him with his eyes to tell him what it was. "Love."
The three fell silent then, and Ash entered in a reflexive mode.
"Come on Brock; let's leave Ash with his thoughts." Gary said, rising up, followed by Brock.
Ash observed them walk away quietly. Brock's words continued to run through his mind. Was that word the explanation to all of those feelings and emotions? Somewhere his mind was shouting that it was the truth, but another part of him was reluctant to admit it. Was that fear he felt? No! Ash Ketchum afraid? As if! Yet he didn't dare to deny that she had him attracted to everything she was, even her flaws seemed to pull him in. He knew her well, and she him. So, why now? Hormones?
Ash threw himself back on the sofa with a frustrated groan, clasping one hand on his face and closing both eyes. All that thinking was getting him nowhere. He opened one eye at the sound of giggles outside and rising up from the couch, he saw her outside. She must be freezing! he thought.
"You'll get a cold if you stay outside in this weather." Ash stated, as he softly dropped his coat on her shoulders, almost embracing her. He didn't see it, but a faint blush covered her cheeks when she felt his breath on her hair and his hands on her shoulders.
She sightly shifted her head to give him a small warm smile, which caused Ash's cheeks and ears to turn instantly pink. "You'll get one yourself, Mr. Pokemon Master, if you insist on dragging that black t-shirt around." She retorted jokingly.
"Says the girl with the short-shorts!" he teased back, lifting a brow and one accusing finger at her. "You should just thank me for coming out in mercy to save you from freezing!"
"I don't recall asking for any help!" She turned to him provokingly, a smirk on her lips. Lips that once again seemed to gain Ash's attention, as he quickly glanced at them and had the urge to kiss her smirk away.
"Priii!" The little egg Pokemon trilled blissfully, waving its arms to gain Ash's attention.
"Oh, hi, Togepi! I didn't notice you in there, I thought you were inside." Ash said, coming to his senses again, looking down at the baby pokémon, half inside Misty's red bag.
"I just thought I'd let Togepi see the snow falling. I think I succeeded; it sure looks happy." She giggled when she caught sight of the small Pokemon trying to catch a snowflake.
Ash laughed as well, his eyes then drifting to a bush nearby at the sound of something suspicious.
"Prepare for trouble!" A familiar female voice said.
"Make it double!" Said another familiar male voice.
"Not them again…" He sighed as he sweat-dropped.
Misty facepalmed at the sound of their voices. Team Rocket, however, continued to recite their old motto as if Ash and Misty hadn't said anything.
"Meowth dat's right!" The cat Pokemon jumped in front of the two of them.
"What do you want?" Ash shouted as they finished the uninvited old poetry.
"You know what we want!" Jessie yelled from the other side of the frozen garden.
"That is your Pikachu!" James joined in.
"Speaking of which, where's Pikachu?" Meowth looked around, trying to catch glimpse of yellow fur.
"Pikachu's not here!" Ash said. "Now leave before we send you flying as usual!"
"How come? It's your Pokemon isn't it? It must be here!" Jessie's expression turned from anger to confusion.
"I know!" James declared. Everyone's eyes turned to him, waiting for him to continue. Finally he shouted dramatically, "Pikachu's abandoned you in order to be with us!"
Misty, Ash, Jessie, and Meowth fell back as Wobbuffet got out of its Pokeball saying, "Wobbuffet!"
Jessie angrily called it back while Meowth's claws met James' face as a suggestion for him to shut up.
"I'm tired of you people," Ash reached his belt and took a pokéball, releasing it, "Go,Quilava!" The fire-type appeared, his flames igniting almost instantly.
"As am I." Misty took out a pokéball from her bag. "I choose you Politoed!"
"Get them Victreebel!" James called, almost immediately being engulfed by the grass type. "Them, not me!" he cried from inside its body.
"Well, if you're so occupied, I guess I have to defeat them. Go Arbok!" Jessie threw a Pokeball in the air, releasing the purple serpent.
Ash turned his head in time to see Pikachu making its way out of the house and onto his right shoulder.
"Oh, there's Pikachu! Hurry up and get it!" Meowth screamed, pointing wildly at it.
Jessie turned to James, who had finally managed to get out of Victreebel, and whispered something in his ear. He nodded and took something out from behind his back.
Meanwhile, Ash commanded Pikachu to attack them, and without Misty noticing, Togepi had escaped from her bag, following after Pikachu.
James had a mischievious grin on his face, and by the time Misty and Ash realized what they were up to, James had already thrown the net, capturing both Togepi and Pikachu.
"Now James, pull it and let's get outta here!" Jessie said.
"Oh no, you won't!" Ash interrupted, "Pikachu, thunderbolt attack!"
The electric mouse obeyed, but the net gave no signs of giving, nor did its attack reach out of it. Team Rocket just laughed.
"Use however much you want to, Pikachu, that net doesn't conduct electricity!" James informed.
"Let's get going!" Meowth pressed a button, making Team Rocket's air balloon appear from the trees.
They got in quickly, with Pikachu and Togepi in a box that seemed to not conduct electricity either, proven by Pikachu's continued failed attempts to get out of there, or at least shock the members of the evil organization.
"Togepi!" Misty cried. "Politoed-"
"Arbok, Poison Sting!" Jessie cut her off, motioning toward the purple pokémon already inside the balloon's green basket.
The serpent attacked Politoed, who fell backwards. However, the attack didn't stop and headed directly towards the redhead, who stepped back, but was still too shocked to move.
"Misty, watch out!" Ash yelled, pushing her down with him to dodge the attack. They fell as soon as the stings flew close to them, hitting the ground behind. "Are you alright Mist?" The raven haired boy asked, concern evident in his voice, as he lifted himself from her.
"I am, thank you." Misty replied, taking his hand and standing up.
Team Rocket, however, was already high up in the sky, smirking down at them.
"Let's go team!" Jessie ordered blissfully, throwing a punch in the air.
"Quilava, use Flamethrower!"
The fire type did as told, with Team Rocket cowering down in the basket, but Quilava's attack never reached them.
The resonant laugher of Jessie filled the cold night air, confirming the teenagers' expectations. James soon followed after, and Meowth bid them farewell as they turned and left.
"No! Pikachu!" Ash cried.
"Togepi!" Misty's desperate voice surpassing Ash's.
"Damn them!" He swore under his breath, turning his head to look at the girl beside him, who seemed to be scared for her Pokemon as much as he was.
Just then Brock, Tracey, Professor Oak, Delia and Gary came running out of the house with worried facial expressions.
"Ash, Misty! What's happened?" Tracey asked as soon as he reached them.
Gary and Professor Oak had kneeled next to Politoed, examining its wounds, while Delia and Brock reached them.
"Team Rocket took Pikachu and Togepi." Ash informed, then gazing back at Misty. She was still staring up to the skies in deep distress.
"Are you two alright, darling?" Delia asked, tenderly laying a hand on her son's shoulder.
"Don't worry mom, we're fine."
"But you're bleeding!" Brock stated, looking at Ash's shoulder.
Misty seemed to wake up from her trance after hearing that, instantly turning to Ash and glancing at his wound.
"Oh, it's nothing." He said, covering his shoulder with his hand. "Come on Mist, we've gotta save Pikachu and Togepi!" Ash looked at her, took her hand and threw another Pokeball in the air, revealing Pidgeot.
"Okay!" She nodded determinedly, climbing onto the bird's back with Ash.
"Be careful," Delia murmured when they were already up in the starry night.
Misty was stressing for being in such a high spot, which was quite visible to Ash's eyes. The pokémon trainer merely squeezed her hand in his to give her some assurance. Pidgeot was fast, and it freaked Misty out, but when she felt his hand squeeze, she enlaced her fingers with his sheepishly, and gladly saw Ash's shy blush.
It didn't take much to spot the air balloon, a few feet in front of them.
"Hey, you give me back my Pikachu!" Ash shouted.
"Oh, look, it's da twerp!" Meowth said surprised.
"And he brought his twerp girlfriend with him!" James added anxiously.
"Arbok, come here!" Jessie called and Arbok's head popped out of the basket, in position to attack. "Shoot them down with Poison Sting!"
"Dodge it Pidgeot, then cut the balloon!"
The bird pokémon turned left to avoid the attack gracefully, spinning and making Misty feel dizzy. Ash tightened his grip around her waist to keep her from falling and into the trees. Just that thought caused a chill to run up his spine.
Finally Pidgeot was able to approach the hot air balloon and made a big cut on the front of the Meowth face. Jessie, James and Meowth instantly panicked, running around on the green basket.
"Bulbasaur, use your Vine Whip to get Pikachu and Togepi out of there!" Ash commanded, tossing another pokéball in the air.
Bulbasaur came out and attended to Ash's order right away. Its strong Vine Whip griped the net and pulled it out of the balloon just in time to-
"Team Rocket's blasting off again!"
Ash and Misty gladly received the two rescued pokémon in their arms, laughing and thanking Bulbasaur and Pidgeot for their help.
"Hey Misty," Ash said after returning Bulbasaur to its pokéball, "do you wanna go for a ride?"
Ash noticed she was quite bewildered at his proposal, her gorgeous cerulean eyes growing a bit larger, and her brows raised in question. But then, her expression softened and she silently accepted with a nod of her head. He beamed at her, blushing.
"Alright, hold on tight." Ash said when Misty scooted right behind him.
She put her arms around his waist, her head on his shoulder, feeling his comforting warmth, and closed her eyes. Togepi was settled on her lap and against Ash's back as well, while Pikachu was on top of Pidgeot's head, happily chattering to it.
Pidgeot lifted them up in the sky, penetrating the soft clouds and revealing a breathtaking sky, filled with gleaming stars and a pale white full moon. Now the snow didn't touch them anymore. Misty reached her hand out to touch the clouds, watched and followed by Ash. They flew peacefully; Misty wasn't afraid anymore. It felt perfect, being with him like this.
"Thank you, Ash," she said with a dreamy smile, "for taking me."
"You're welcome. I suppose you're not afraid anymore then?" he asked her in a whisper, even if no one else was there - it felt right to not disturb the quiet night.
"I wasn't afraid," she protested, though it was not with an angry voice, it was soft and calm. Ash could even tell she was smiling, because her cheeks rubbed against his shoulder and neck.
His feelings for her seemed to be quite certain, althought he didn't know if the whole atmosphere was also causing him to feel this way, to feel… attracted? No, it was more than that, he knew it now.
"Are we more than friends?"
She lifted her head from his shoulder a bit to see his eyes. They were hidden under his cap, however, and she couldn't tell what would make him ask such thing. Her heart pounded against her ribs anxiously; what could she say to that?
Ash waited patiently for her to answer him, and finally she spoke, "As in best friends?"
Oh, that. He had expected her to say that. Of course they were best friends. But, was it all they would be? He knew he wanted more, but how to say it? He was scared that she would not feel the same, even if Brock said he thought she did.
"No," he replied, hoping that she would understand that, and respond him. When she didn't, he tried again, "As in more than even that."
Misty reflected for a second before replying, "Why? Do you want us to be?"
"I-I asked you first!" he half-cried, abashed.
She smiled at his discomfort with the subject; it was quite funny. She placed her head on his shoulder again, was he in love with her? She blushed at the possibility. Could it be…?
"I do," he said.
Misty didn't understand at first, and was tempted to ask him what he meant, when it hit her. Gasping and wide-eyed, the Cerulean City Gym Leader focused on staying calm, and on steady her racing heart. He was in love with her after all.
Ash began to feel too self-conscious, exposed. The lack of response from her wasn't helping that much, and he found himself opening and closing his mouth to say something, but he didn't know what, or how to do it in first place.
"I suppose," she started, which gained Ash's full attention, "we could be something more, if you want to… and if I want to too. But, what is it that you want to be?"
"I don't know - I want us to be us. You're special to me." Misty felt her heart grow in awe at his words. Ash wasn't really the romantic type, but he could be sweet when he wanted to. "I think I may be in love with you. Is it weird what I just said?" He turned his head to her; although, as he did, their lips almost met.
She didn't even flinch at the proximity, and he was able to see the happy smile on her lips, as well as her blush and content eyes.
"Shouldn't we come back?" she whispered.
Ash felt her breath on his face, and it took a while before he could say, "Do you want to?"
Then both leaned in, closing the gap between their lips, and finally kissing above the clouds, colorful firework behind them.
This would be a new beginning to both of them, a new journey, but they were not afraid, because they had each other, and wise-man-Brock of course!
The ride on Pidgeot's back may sound familiar to those who have already watched "How to train your dragon" - my idea came from there. It was inspired on that scene where Astrid is taken for a ride and on "Romantic Flight", part of the soundtrack composed by John Powell. If you haven't watched the movie yet, I encourage you to! :)
Don't forget to enter 2013 with your right foot!