Ahh! Please don't kill me for not writing for a while. I've actually been writing a lot, just not in the PJO/HoO fandom. And I didn't really feel confident enough to write in the other fandoms at first . . . But I've finally decided to put this up.

I've put into it my headcanon that Misty grew up into Gym!Misty, like she looks like in the video games. I also made her quieter.

Also I have a headcanon that Gary pushes everyone away eventually and becomes really awkward with people. It's hinted in here. But I'll write fully about that later.

I've also changed styles. A lot.

Update: I don't know how to thank all of you lovely anons, since I can't message you guys, but thank you so much :) Don't worry, I'll never stop writing!

When he arrives, it's a pleasant surprise, and she closes down the gym for him.

She doesn't ask any questions, because she's almost afraid that she's fallen asleep again,and that he's just another blissful dream, one of those that'll wisp away once she reaches for him.

He helps feed her pokemon, and she pets Pikachu, and it almost feels like the last visit, six years ago.

( Almost because this time, he knows why he's here and she doesn't care why anymore. She's just glad he is.)

She feels as though she should be mad, because Mew, he hasn't contacted her for several years and he just thinks it's okay to just pop in and say hi?

But she can't push him away, and she takes off her coat, placing it on the floor.

"So . . . how's Dawn?" She asks, setting her Pokemon out from their pokeballs and sitting down beside him, feet in the water.

There's no insults, no playful banter. But he glances into her eyes briefly, searching for what they used to have, and he finds it. It's there. Just barely. It's enough for him to believe that the girl he knew might still be in there.

He motions for Pikachu to go join her Pokemonin the center of the pool, and the electric type reluctantly does, watching them from a distance, sighing.

( Some things cannot be saved.)

"It's Iris now," he tells her.

"Oh. What's she like?"

And he tells her, he tells her almost everything.

Everything but the fact that he has loved them, he's loved them all. May, Dawn, and Iris and her. Misty. But she's the one that he fell for first, and the only one he hasn't fallen out of love with yet. And he doesn't think he will, not ever.

( And he's too wrapped up in his storytelling that he can't see how pale her face has gotten and how her eyes are a little watery, and how the fact he's not telling her everything is killing her. )

She has seen it on the news, the girls that change quickly, cheering for him on the sidelines as he wins (because he always does). The girl that used to be her, used to be May, used to be Dawn. She wonders if the new girl, Iris, has fallen for him yet.

( "Yet" because it is inevitable, it is inescapable, that someday in the future, Iris will fall in love with him and they will part ways, like all the other girls he has traveled with. )

"I'm engaged to Gary." She says after he finishes, and she blinks lightly, causing her unshed tears to roll down her cheeks, and she tries to wipe them away . All he can do is gape, until he notices the teardrops falling from her face.

"Hey, are you alright? Is he threatening you? Hurting you?" He stares at her. "'Cause if he is, I can take care of you."

She laughs quietly, but it's a broken sound and she wraps her arms around her knees, pulling her legs out of the water so he wouldn't see
her cry. "They're happy tears, Ash. Gary is nice to me. He's perfect for me. I'll take care of him."

Happy tears. That's what they should be.

Gary loves her, she can tell, and she loves him back. She does. But Ash is different. Ash was first. Gary would understand.


Gary put her back together, and she made sure he didn't break. They made it work because they could. Because they would. Because they knew they had someone they could finally depend on.

Even so, having Ash here makes her regret almost everything.

But then she remembers that he's the reason for it all.

"We've been going out for a few years, and," she glances up at him, "I haven't told anyone else yet. My sisters are gonna kill me when they find out you were the first."

She chuckles, wiping her eyes again and stretching her legs back into the water.

And something in him drops, like lead, like stone, and he almost hates Gary, stupid Gary Oak, and his stupid haircut and stupid necklace and stupid everything.

But then, he starts hating himself instead, and the guilt almost overwhelms him. He should have kept in touch, he should have stopped by more, he should have told her . . .

"I'm glad you trust me enough to tell me first." He replies coolly, fingering the hidden sapphire ring in his pocket and she smiles that smile that brightens up the whole room, that one that makes everything quieter.

"Of course. You're my best friend, Ash."

All he can do is smile back, smile back sadly because that's all he'll ever be. Because she's happy and he should be too.

But he wants to tell her everything. That he's loved her since they were eleven, that he's spent nights awake because of her, that he never got to tell her and that's why he came today.

That maybe the ring in his pocket is for her, and that he spent weeks trying to find the perfect one without anyone finding out, and that he really would like to find forever with her.

But he's too late. He always is.

They fall into an awkward silence, each blaming themselves for what time does.

"Remember that fishing hook you gave me?" He asks after a while, and her eyes light up because he remembers, he remembers, he remembers.

( Her. )

"Yeah, wait a sec, I'll be right back," she says, and she runs off, her feet slapping against the wet floor, eventually coming back with something cradled in her hands.

"I made another one. The fish like this one more. You can have it, if you'd like." She carefully places it in his hands, smiling up at him nervously, awaiting his reaction.

He likes it. It's different from the first one she gave him, with lighter, blonde hair, and a swimsuit and a coat, but it's still her.

Just not the one he grew up with. She's grown up, and she's quieter and softer, and he barely knows his best friend.

"You better not lose it this time, Ketchum!"

Or maybe he does.

They talk some more, and he helps her around the gym, cleaning and showing off his badges while Pikachu plays with her pokemon.

Her sisters are out for the weekend, she explains, and Gary went to a scientist meeting. So she's all alone. She usually is, but the trainers that ask for a battle keep her busy.

He asks her hesitantly if he could stay for a little.

That smile.

They talk about everything and anything, and to be honest, he's a little jealous.

She likes it here, she really does.

She has a life. She has a place where she belongs, where she can stay and know she'll be okay.

He has nowhere. That's why he keeps moving, keeps battling. He doesn't dare think of after. Because after everything is over, he has everywhere to visit and nowhere to live.

He's just a boy that knows how to fight back.

She tells him about how she's finally going to college, finally finishing her education. How Tracey has finally manned up and asked Daisy out. How she visits his mother often. How Brock is with a pretty gym leader from the frontier. Everything, really.

They talk and laugh until it gets dark and he has to go.

( Why? )

She hugs him before he leaves.

It's odd because if they close their eyes, she's eleven again, and he's ten, and nothing has changed, nothing has changed at all.

( She's not engaged, he's not taken, and they're young, with everything, everything ahead of them. )

But he keeps his eyes open because what if the next time he sees her, she's a mother, with a husband and little children with brown hair instead of black?

What if?

( He keeps his eyes open because her hair isn't orange anymore, and she smells like tears and chlorine, and he can't get used to it at all.)

But she keeps her eyes on the clock, because she wants to hold onto him forever, and five seconds aren't enough, it's never enough, because he's going everywhere and anywhere and what if he forgets?

What if he forgets her?

( She keeps her eyes open because she has to make sure it's him, it's him, it's him, and that she's not just dreaming again.)

When he does leave, he looks back, and he regrets every bit because he doesn't want to go.

Pikachu frowns sadly, wondering how something that could have been so beautiful turned out all so wrong.

But in the evening light, her light hair looks red and in the shadows, his eyes look black again.

He leaves even if he knows it's wrong, and she smiles anyways, and they're both pretending to be alright, because it's what they do.

But when they fall asleep, they're ten and eleven again, and all their mistakes are erased.

And it's almost enough.

But almost is never enough.