Well, it's almost the end of the Summer, so I guess it's about time I started something new! This is a new fic, with my first Original Character in a fic (Cheers loudly). It's going to begin as a PG to PG-13, but probably end up as an R. At least, if it goes how I think it might...Anyhow, enough of my babbling.

This is the basic set out for the story :

"Words spoken by humans"

("Words spoken by Pokemon")

The POV is mostly first-person, changing between characters. All POV changes occur between paragraphs, not mid-paragraph. Also, if a Pokemon speaks but the POV is that of someone who can't understand them, the words spoken aren't given. (Logically).

*These indicate thoughts*

A couple more notes - Chikorita is a main character in this fic. She has evolved in the anime, but I love her as she is. Plus Pikachu is female - it seems according to Pokemon Silver Pikachu is in fact male, but I've always written her as female and I'll only confuse myself if I do otherwise. Also, the characters are a few years older in this fic - Both Ash and Misty are sixteen.

Well, Here goes, again.

Disclaimer - All characters in this fic are owned by the owners and proprietors of Pokemon, except Hazel who is mine.

Where the River Flows - Chapter I

11.45 PM, 20th July: Dear diary, it's night time now, but it doesn't make much difference to me. Nothing makes much difference to me right now. Logic says sleep, my body says sleep, my mind asks me "But what if I don't wake up?" And then it asks "Will it make much of a difference? Will it matter?" I can't answer that. And nothing worse than the question you are always asking yourself, but never able to answer. Especially one such as this. I know it will make a difference to the ones I travel with, but at the same time, how much? They'd still have one another, and one of them never seems to notice the outside world right now, not in the form of people. Always what will happen next, and where. Not what is happening now, or who it is happening to.. ..And the fire has just gone out. I hope that I'm still writing on the lines. It doesn't matter really. What does? That question again. It's a draught, a breeze which pushes a glass, my glass to the edge of the table, where it teeters on the brink. To be seen by a caring eye, or to slip from the edge and shatter on the floor? Or can it be seen, but the eyes are uncaring? Or do they assume the glass will not break? Can't they see the glass is fine as moonlight, the ground hard and unforgiving? I'm babbling now, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. What does?

I suppose that I could get back in time for supper.. ...if I could only get that thing down from that damn tree.. .. My firey hair washes across my shoulders, aquamarine eyes straining to pick out exactly where it had landed. The tree in question, a dense evergreen, just seems to laugh at me by swaying lazily in the wind. It sways, all the branches move, but it still seems singularly determined to hold on to its prize. A red and white cap. Ashs cap. The cap Ash'd leant to me when I went to collect some herbs to try and add depth to the increasingly thin soup and dodgy rice which is our supper. I suppose it may seem insignificant, but I'd been stunned by his show of faith. This cap has more history than a library. He said that since I'm red-headed with pale skin that I should "Wear the cap, to keep some of the sun off." Well, we'd been travelling all day, and I had been suffering a little. It is June, after all. He took over cooking duty tonight, and I'd gone off on this mission. Ever since our old friend Brock settled down just this winter, we've had to sustain ourselves. Ashs concoctions have been of varying quality, while mine have been consistent. And you ask why I'm not doing the cooking? Well, they are consistant, but consistantly tasting like dog food.

("Erm, Misty, I'm hungry as well y'know. This isn't the time to be dozing off.. ..") A voice snaps me from my reminisence, to see Cyndaquil peering up at me. I don't know why he ended up coming with me, Chikorita would have been a more logical choice, her expertise with plants considered. Also, she'd have been a star for getting this cap out of the tree, if I could spot it that is. Cyndaquil just appears short-sighted, but he isn't a whiz at herbology, or climbing for that matter (although I don't think that was of importance at the time we left). He just decided to. Just then another gust of breeze stirs the tree, displaying the cap about twenty feet up. Hmmmm.

"Okay, I see it. Could you go back to the camp and see if you can get Chikorita here without disturbing Ash? I know she's usually all over him like a rash, but try your best." He nods once, and trots off. At least he has good directional sense, he can find his way back easy enough. Heads I'd get lost, tails I'd actually find my own way back. I'm not about to take that risk. I could follow my nose to the cooking smell, but it's not exactly reliable either. I'll just sit here on a tree stump, fiddle with one of the red shoulder straps of my top, and work out a plan B. The cap getting up there in the first place was a total freak event. I think the mischevous bird, the Spearow in question, was having a laugh. The bird decided to swoop down and pinch it right off my head. Soon as it did, the seemingly insignificant foot-high shape beside me had lit the bright fire quils on his dark back, and shot a marksman sharp lick of fire over it. Cue frantic sqwaking and flying headfirst into a tree, tail smouldering. It shot out the far side like an exocet, without a trace of hat, and disappeared into the forest trailing smoke. Stupid thing.

("...This one?") I look down again and see Chikorita, shaped like a small dog with pale green fur laying flat, sat beside Cyndaquil.

"Yeah, you can just see it about twenty feet up, on this side." She shoots a glance up to me, and giggles. No doubt the ever trusting (and sometimes naive) Cyndaquil has filled her in from start to end. I will see the funny side, as soon as she gets the thing down. Until then, it's angry Misty.

"Look, there's not enough time to be fuss-arsing around, the sooner we get this down.. .." She interjects, a cocky look to her smile.

("You mean the sooner YOU get it down.. ..") I growl and grit my teeth. She's right, but I didn't need that comment right now.

"Okay, yes. Just do it. Please." A please through gritted teeth never carries the same sincerity, but she just smiles at me once more before sprouting two vines from her neck and reaching up with them to snare the offending object. The bow she takes is a little extravagant, but I'm too relieved to care. Just one little thing more to take care of.

"Right you two, a single word to Ash about this, and.. .." I leave the threat open, and they both obediently nod. Who am I kidding, it'll slip out at some time during the evening, and I'll end up looking a little silly. But when the evenings are long and warm, and the sun sets for hours, there have to be words to fill the silence. The five of us in the group make good work, but the departure of the sixth member has left a few lines empty. About all of our souls have been spilt, we know each other better than ourselves to be honest. Everyone has things they will always hide, but I think that many of the things which Ash has told me would have rather surprised his mother. They surprised me. Especially the one about.. ..nah, that's for my ears only. Not even Pikachu knows that. Speaking of Pikachu, she's sitting by the fire and looking a little cross. She's hungry too, we all are. Whether you're an eighteen-inch yellow electric mouse who looks like a rabbit or a teenage girl twenty-four hours without food is enough to spark an appetite. God, I have to stop thinking about my stomach, it's starting to dominate my life! I chuckle to myself at the thought, earning a glance from the brown eyes of the figure stirring the pot. There's a touch of reproach in them, but then again he has been spending the last quater of an hour trying to stop the rice from boiling dry and the tea from boiling over.

"Glad to see you could join us." I answer the sardonic tone from Ashs light voice with a sarcastic nod.

"It's an honour."I sit down on the floor as Cyndaquil gets the bowls ready, Pikachu hopping over to help with the cups. Chikorita, the most dexterous of the lot of us, pours the tea out, and then assists Ash with the ladling. He gives the three of them a quick pat in thanks as he lays their food out before each of them, before dishing out our own.

"So, care to explain why you've been off for almost forty minutes and then returning without anything? I was staring to get worried." I blow on the hot soup contemplating my reply. The truth? A lie? A jest at his caring words (for old times sake) ? Bingo.

("She was getting your hat down from a tree.") Before I can open my mouth Chikorita is straight in. She's not in my good books right now.

".. ..Okay. A lot of questions come to mind, like how did my hat end up in a tree? But I'm sure you'll kindly answer them all.. .." The humored way he says those words takes off any edge they might have carried, and I chuckle to myself.

("I'll help!") Cyndaquil pipes up from my left, before choking on his food. As Pikachu slaps him on the back to dislodge the offending rice, I wonder if he'll ever learn to not speak with his mouth full.

("I could do with a laugh.") Pikachu sits back on her haunches, looking interested. I let my eyes drift, over Chikorta who just keeps on eating with one eye on Pikachus almost untouched plate, Cyndaquil wiping the tears from his eyes having dislodged the mis-swallowed mouthful. And finally they drift to Ash, who meets them. Then it comes as a little jolt, he hasn't met them, he was looking at me already.. ..he realises this about the same point I do, but just smiles slightly.

"Go on, we're all ears." I look down to my dish, letting my own grin grow.

"Well, there's not a lot to tell really.. .."

Now all the laughter has died away Misty is looking a touch embarrased, and Pikachu is through shocking Chikorita for attempting to filch her food, silence has descended. I guess I've taken the understanding of the Pokemons language for granted, it's nights like these when just two people would be hard pressed to prevent boredom creeping in. It's taken years of travelling with the three of them as a group to understand them all well. Pikachu has always been riding shotgun upon my shoulders, but Chikorita with typical stubborness decided that it was the life for her as well. Then Cyndaquil asked rather more politely if he could stay out of his pokeball. And so to the situation we find ourselves in. I've just turned Sixteen, and we're god knows where. The party was a bit of an anti-climax, the 'Highlight' a single candle in a single cup-cake. It was our last cup-cake, and we had been on the road for over a week. Splitting it into five equal slices was the hard part. Well, I'm not going to just wolf it myself. Maybe I would years ago, but people change with time. Misty kept on apologising time after time that it was her fault we were out here. We are out here for her, but it's not like I hold it against her in any way. She went through so much with me that I probably owe her twenty years of my time, and I don't mind giving it to her either. I told her that it doesn't matter, I never wanted a big thing anyway. I felt the same at One AM aged Sixteen as I did ninety minutes previously aged Fifteen. I idly watch Misty clearing away the plates in the fading summer light, brushing black hair out of my eyes. To be honest, singing acapella-styled Karaoke with hummed music and telling stories was better than a Disco and dance followed by my mother telling everyone about the first time I learned to ride a bike. One little anecdote about a husband and wife in a car is one I'll keep in store for parties to come.

("It's a gorgeous evening.") Pikachu settles beside me, and twitches her ears as I reach over to scratch between them.

"It is indeed. And it'll be a nice day tomorrow, the sky is red." My tone changes from relaxed to probing. "Now are you sure you're happy about this competition break? I don't want to hold you back." She shakes her head, voice reassuring.

("No, a break will probably do us good. I'm pleased we're not pushing too hard. After winning the Indigo league at our third attempt, it would have been too tempting to storm on to the Elite four. We need to develop more before we go for the stars.") A fair comment. My rival, Gary, he won the league at his second attempt. He went straight on, not considering his path, and got hammered by the elite. That year was a humbling experience, getting beaten badly myself in an early round through cockiness and then seeing my rival cruise through before being beaten soundly himself. But it taught me a valuable lesson, a lesson I should not have needed. Patience is a virtue.

("Besides, it's not as if we haven't got time to enjoy life. We're all young, and don't have responsibilities, except to each other. Soon as we bust in at the top, it's going to tie us down.") Cyndaquil chips in, joining us. I sense more than hear Misty sit down beside me on the other side from Pikachu, and a disgruntled humph from Chikorita who probably had designs on that spot.

"I suppose I've got away with this lifestyle for too long. I can't stay free forever, none of us can. Besides, one day I'd quite like a house and family of my own, although the mortgage isn't something I'm looking forward to." Chikorita, now sitting directly in front of me with her back to the smouldering fire, gives me a quizzical look. "It's basically the massive loan you have to take out to buy a house, and seem to spend the rest of your days repaying it." I fill in quickly, and she nods in understanding. She then gives me a definite "Pick me up" look, one I comply to.

("I wonder what it's like, all that responsibility.") She murmurs lazily, wriggling into my grasp while earning a scorned glance from Pikachu. She's always considered Chikorita to be too posessive, perhaps because I'm the one she's trying to possess.

"Well, I know someone I can ask." I turn my head to my left, and look at Misty. She's deep in thought, already considering her answer. I can see it in her eyes, it's not her favourite subject, anything which was previous to meeting me is not.

"It's not all bad, there are satisfactions to it. Like one of the few days when, after I'd done my job meeting trainers and the paperwork, I looked over the Gym when I turned out the lights and thought 'I've done a good job today, I'm proud to be doing what I am.' But then some relative who shall remain nameless goes and spends it all." Yes, I can see it in her face. Responsibility is something she's had enough of. Perhaps that's why she chose this lifestyle. "It'd just be a nightmare." She continues woefully, fingers working at each other with characteristic nervousness when we're combing her past. "I guess you still remember that I blamed the loss of my bike to follow you Ash, well in fact to start off with it was because I didn't want responsibility. Defending the honour of the Gym and it's debts, at the age of Ten, along with a few other incidents - it was too much. When I met you I just latched onto you and let you lead my life. Followed you so I didn't have to lead my own life, be responsible for my own fate. Now, now it's different, I'm finally beginning to make my own way again." Without realising I've reached out and put my arm around her, and she's leaning into my shoulder, red hair flowing laconically down my back. Eventually she notes my action, and gives my hand a quick squeeze of thanks.

("Sounds like I don't want it.") Chikorita sniffs, sounding worried.

("You won't have it you plonker. It's not like you'll end up running a Gym.") Pikachu replies haughtily.

("And you're any more likely?") Well, here we go.

("Nope, but I'm not too dim to realise the fact.") Chikorita growls at the sharp retort, and snaps straight back.

("The only bright sparks you have come from your cheeks.") Pikachu jumps around from her seat to my right with feline grace to face down Chikorita, who glowers straight back from my lap.

("This coming from someone who doesn't know what a mortgage is?")

("Yeah, well, you don't know the meaning of photosynthesis, so don't go thinking you're so smart!") I would break this up, but I'm quite enjoying it, plus I'm rather comfortable right now. Cyndaquil is also enjoying the little competition, and I'm sure he's smart enough to not get in the way.

("Why in the name of thunder would I need to know? You use it for gods sake, but I don't!")

("So why would I need to know the meaning of mortgage then?") Nice counter. Pikachu is stumped.

("Bravo! Twenty points to the winner!") Cyndaquil chirps, before noticing the glares he's now receiving from both of them. I think he's looking for somewhere to hide, just in case....

"Ah well, back to the present." Misty breathes in my ear, before getting up. I don't know why she's moving exactly, it's one of those limbo moments just after supper in a long evening, where it's too bright to get a fire going but too late to do much else. "The examination papers are coming up in a short while, so do you think you could test me again?" I nod, and she throws over a book, one I've gotten to know as well as her. 'Physiology and Pathology of Water Pokemon'. She's out here in the area of the Great lakes of North Kanto, home of all sorts of freshwater species, to gain experience with them and study. She's got entrance exams to study specialist nursing for aquatic species. I'm here to help officially, but I know, she knows, and we both know each other knows I'm here for her. And she likes the attention.

"Okay, go to the section on Totodile, and I'll see if I can work out some common ailments and treatments." I obligingly flick to the page, only looking up to see Chikorita chasing Cyndaquil for some (probably inoccous) comment. Eyes down again, and -

"What is the most often seen serious physical injury in a Totodlie after full maturity?" Her eyes flick skyward, thumbs pressed together in front of her red clad chest.

"Ummm, I think it's a torn Achillies Tendon." Correct.

"And why?" Again the skyward glance, thumbs pressed together.

".. ..Totodiles are very agile and have great jumping ability, but as a result they place a lot of strain on their relatively small legs, especially the lower leg flexors and tendons." Spot on.

"You really are good at this." I shoot her a smile, one she blushes at slightly.

"Well, practise makes perfect." Pikachu lands with a puff of dust between us before scampering off, pursued by the other two. God knows what they're playing, but at least they're happy.

"Okay, Gyarados. What are it's main inherent health problems due to it's evolution from the far smaller Magikarp?" No pause here, she's straight in.

"The massive elongation of the spine leads to arthritis with increasing age, and the blood supply to the head can be impaired by rapid muscular growth along the neck." Yep.

"Okay. Why does a headache increase the psychic abilities of a Psyduck?" This time her brow knits, struggling for an answer.

"It's uh, it's um.. .." She falters, before giving me a shrug.

"Well, it's reasoned that the psychic abilities come from the head, so it's also reasoned that pain in the head increases the focus of conscious attention to the area where the psychic abilities are generated. This amplifies the conscious effect on the generated psychic force." I slide her a glance, one she replies to with a sigh and a winsome smile.

"You know, I don't think I'll ever understand Psyduck." I would be tempted to enter these exams myself, it'd be interesting. I know by now training and travelling cannot last forever, and that nursing would be a good future. I'd do well too, I've learnt as much as Misty has, I've always had a way with Pokemon. But I couldn't do it to her. It's her dream, and I couldn't jump on her back. Just imagine, if by some freak chance she missed out while I got in.. ..I wouldn't do it to her.

("Aren't most of those taking the exam over eighteen?") Cyndaquil puffs, flopping down looking completely nackered.

"Yeah." I add, waiting for her answer.

"Doesn't mean I'm not good enough. I ran a gym at age ten, I'm sure I'm able to do it." Her confident tone leaves me hanging. I want to tell her that she shouldn't get her hopes too high, she hasn't had a real education, and that counts in examinations. Sure she's got lots of experience, but experience isn't always by the book. On the other hand I want to be her chief cheerleader, and crow her to the point she thinks she can fly. But, my mind reminds me, those who only think they can fly before their wings are ready come back down to earth with a bump.

("Yeah, I'm sure you can do it.") Pikachu puts in, also panting. She moves near to me, then flops down in a similar manner to Cyndaquil. Whatever they were playing has worn the lot of them out.

("After all, you don't need to read from the book, unlike Ash.") Chikorita gasps cheekily, before competing the triplet of belly-flops.

"Thank you for the vote of confidence." Misty smiles, before giving me a wink.

"And thank you for the comment, Chikorita. No more snuggles for you this week.. .." She gives me a pitiful look, added to by giggles from the other Pokemon.

"Snuggles?" Misty is curious. It's my turn for embarrasement.

"Well, it's when, uh, one of them is allowed to cuddle up to me in my sleeping bag."

"Awwwww, how cute!" I'm not sure if her voice is mocking or genuine. I don't mind either way.

"Care to try.. ..another question?" Oh my god, oh my god. I almost ended that with 'it yourself?'. Anyway, enough of that. I'm here to help Misty get through this exam!

"Right." She gives me a coy glance, before getting back on the subject. "Something on purely aquatic Pokemon?"

"What about.. .."

I'm bored, and I'm tired. I've had enough of Ash and Misty shooting questions at each other. I've had enough of Chikorita playing "I spy". I've had enough of Cyndaquil snoring. I want some action. I wasn't exactly lying when I told Ash earlier that I didn't mind the delay, but I wasn't entirely telling the truth. Back in the early days, just travelling brought adventure and excitement. Now, I just can't settle. I'm full of energy, trained so well that I can't not train. Chikorita is instantly fascinated by everything, and Cyndaquil is too laid back to get edgy. I'm full of nervous tension.

"Pikachu, you okay?" Misty peers at me from where she's unrolling her sleeping stuff in the gathering dusk, concern in her voice. I realise why - my cheeks are sparkling with unspent energy.

("Yeah, no problem. Just a bit hyper charged.") She looks over my head, and smiles.

"I think that you'll feel a bit better in a moment."

("Huh?") She turns back to her work as I feel Ash pick me up, and then set me down on my back, on his sleeping bag.

"Let's see if I can't loosen a little of that tension.. .." He slowly begins to massage my face, from top to the sides, and then down. I let out a vague squeak of pleasure, and settle down.

("Hey! There's someone here!") Looks like the bliss is going to be short- lived. Chikorita scurries to my side, rounding to face where she'd come from. A loud rustling, and.. ..

"Man, am I glad to be outta there!" A girl, a little shorter than Ash, emerges from the undergrowth. She pulls a few branches out of her red t- shirt, still muttering and oblivious to our presence. "Damn, it was quick. I'm sure it came this way though. Odd to see one around here, but why did it have to run me into a holly bush?!" She picks a final leaf out of her bushy brown hair, and takes a deep breath, before finally looking up. And looking a bit embarrased.

"Uh, hi.. .." Misty begins, before Chikorita gives up her silent struggle and bursts out laughing. I can't help it, I'm joining in too.

"What's so funny? Me? Nice of you to laugh at other peoples misfortunes!" Her eyes flick up to Ash, and face moves into a scowl. "Care to tell them to shut up?" Ash just gives her a small smile.

"I'm not ordering them around, this isn't some battle. Besides, that was kinda funny."

"So you're going to laugh too! Well, I'll just challenge you to a battle with my next capture, let's see how funny you find that!"

"Uh, haven't you already lost whatever it was you were after?" Mistys innocent question earns her the right to be glared at next.

"Oh yeah, did you see - Ah hah!" She sprints past me, shrugging off her shoulder bag, and I hop up to see what she' s after.

("Oh shit.") Cyndaquil mutters, straight in the path of the girls run. Then it clicks, he isn't in the way. He's the target. Ash is trying to shout out, but she's already got an empty Pokeball in her hand, poised to throw.

("Drop it!") Chikoritas vines lash out, and snare her wrist in mid-throw. For effect, Cyndaquil toasts the fallen Pokeball, setting alight to the grass at her feet in the process. Whoops. I would be alarmed, if I wasn't laughing my head off.

"Erm miss, you really shouldn't go messing with the Pokemon. They are rather fond of each other." Misty giggles, as the newcomer dances around trying to cool down her smouldering feet. Eventually she rips off her footwear and ankle socks, and sits in her jeans with feet in the air, attempting to cool them off.

"Here, let me help you with that." Ash releases Totodile, asking him to run some cold water over her feet. He does, but typically, with a little too much enthusiasm. Result, the feet are wet, but so are her jeans, shirt, and hair. Needless to say, it doesn't improve her temper.

"Jesus, if I'd wanted a bath I'd have said so!" She picks up her shoes, and examines them. "And these trainers were only new a week ago! Do you have any idea how much Nikes cost these days?" Not waiting for an answer, she throws them down and glowers at Ash. "You're going to pay for those!" Ash has a little patience, but I think it's wearing thin.

"And are you going to pay the fine for trying to steal a Pokemon from me? Do you have any idea how much fines cost these days?" Everyone sniggers as she looks abashed. "Tell you what, since you're obviously a beginner and didn't really know he was with me, we'll call it quits. Yes?" She growls for a moment, but nods.

("I'll help you with the damp problem!") Cyndaquil flares up, with the energy to warm me up from yards away.

".. ..Wha?" She looks noneplussed, but I think she has the idea.

("But don't think I'll forget this!") Chikorita adds haughtily, and Ash translates. The girl looks impressed. "Well, since I'm not going anywhere tonight with my clothes saturated, I guess I should at least know you're names." Not backwards at coming forwards, is she?

"Well, I'm Misty from Cerulean City." Misty slips on a tiny I-don't-know- you-but-you-scare-me smile.




"I think those need no translation. And I'm Ash, from the town of Pallet." She nods, just taking us in, Misty in particular.

"Well, I'm Hazel Thornton, from Cerulean too. You don't happen to be one of the Williams sisters?" Misty just nods in response. "Well, you're obviously the odd one out.. .." She turns away to Ash again, and I see Mistys face fall. It probably wasn't meant to be malicious, but that was a bad way to put a comment.

"Why are you out here? Just a newcomer?" Ash asks, settling down on the other side of Cyndaquil in the fast fading light.

"What makes you say that?" Hazel asks, brown eyes narrowing again. She sure has a suspicious streak.

"Oh, come on. You're up here, with no real posessions, just a small bag for one shoulder, wearing ridiculously new clothes without a patch on them." Misty puts in, still stung from the earlier remark.

"Yeah, and when you saw a Pokemon just then you just chased it. Now that either means you're not used to using Pokemon or you don't have any. And believe me, both of those can be costly mistakes in the wild." Ash finishes, running an eye over her. "What if you'd run into something six foot high with sharp claws?" She's taken aback, realisation of how dumb she's just been.

"I guess I'd have run very fast in the other direction!"

"The only reason Cyndaquil didn't set alight to your eyebrows was because he's a gentleman, Chikorita would have probably kneecapped you." Chikorita, stuck with the double-sided comment, eventually nods.

"I think you've tried to rush into things, yes? You're four days walk from Cerulean, and those are clean clothes. You haven't got much space for things in that bag, either." Misty goes over to it, picking it up to test its weight. "Yeah, I'd say three changes of clothes. And two days food. Now clothes you can re-wear, sure your mother may have a fit about the you-know- whats.. .." - She slides Ash a wink - ".. ..but corner shops are few and far between fifty miles from the nearest town." Hazel doesn't say a word for a moment, dropping gaze to the floor. Eventually, more to herself than us, she moans quietly.

"Looks like they were right after all." She hasn't counted on my ears picking her up.

("What do you mean by "they"?") Ash, who has gained sharp hearing from years in the wilderness, puts what he heard of the mumbled sentence and my comment together.

"Did someone tell you this was a bad idea?" He shuffles closer to her, sensing the mood darken.

"Just about everyone I know. You may have noticed that I'm not a Ten year old, I'm Thirteen. But it was just five days ago I got my first Pokemon, my starter. Everyone said I was too childish, too headstrong and impulsive. They were right.. ..And why the hell am I telling you this?!" She finishes, backing away from Ash, voice growing angry again. One of the abilities Ash and Misty have learned through long lonely nights - getting each other and anyone else to talk.

"Is that all?" Misty glances to Ash, recieving a nod of approval. That means he's going to let her embarrass him. "In the first twenty-four hours of his trip, Ash half-drowned, destroyed my bike, and nearly got killed by a flock of Spearow, and got a Centre burnt to the ground. I'd say you're doing a little better than that."

"Hey!" Ash replies in mock-anger. "I'm still here, and so are you, so I guess I'm doing alright!"

"Barely." Misty answers flatly. "That first day one was one of the tame ones."

"Don't be so sarcastic! I didn't ask to be shot at, frozen, shocked, burnt, dropped, etcetera, etcetera. And it wasn't always my fault!" Hazels eyes are growing to the size of steak platters, half at the rate of the comments being thrown back and fore, and half at wonder as to what they mean.

"Whose was it then? I don't remember myself causing any trouble!" Misty teases, smiling all the while.

"Yeah, like last year? When we were heading to the league and you almost got arrested for-"

"Hey! I thought that was a secret between us! Well, us, and the local police!" Now Ash is the one smiling, while Misty has gone the shade of ripe cherry.

"You always said it was an accident, but I know that you had a few to many drinks, about a dozen too many. Birthday or not, it was a bit audacious!" Now all four of us are listening closely. Chikorita said Misty couldn't look Ash in the eye the next morning, not after he'd whispered a few words to her anyway.

"It was your fault for letting me get that way!" That was a growl, I think that she's getting worried.

"You were sixteen, you were supposed to be able to look after yourself. Besides, I did help you. Remember?" He blushes light red, her as bright as a snooker ball.

"I'm sure that was only so you could have a-a.. ..look.. ..and say it was in my best interests." She throws a definite glance at the four of us who are now in a close group and watching with rapt attention, as if to scream 'Not in front of them!'

"That's below the belt. I believe you blamed a belt, yes? Something about the fancy dress for the party, and a snapped belt.. .." He moves closer to her, cheeky grin splashed across his face.

"But it did!" Her tone changes, quietning into something silky and secretive.

"Just keep telling yourself that. I always knew you were a bit of an extrovert." Ashs voice drops to a purr, probably to prevent us from hearing. But as I said already, I have very good hearing.. .. "And an exhibitionist too.. .." Hello.

"Weeelllll, I guess I did get a bit over-excited. And ridiculously drunk on Tequila." She mewles back, casting a look to the rest of us to make sure we haven't moved.

"Well, the police in the helicopter said when Cinderella appeared on the roof of the Gym they thought she was searching for her slipper. They didn't expect her to flash them.. ..Or for Prince Charming to appear with a look of shock before persuading her to return into the building." Something makes them break off. I think it's my hysterical giggling. The legend of the 16th birthday exposed!

("Uh, okay, have you been drinking too much caffiene Pikachu?") Chikorita asks, clueless. Meanwhile, Mistys jaw has dropped and Ash has a calculating look on his face. Probably calculating the required bribe. I'm not going to succumb to bribery! Unless it's a very good offer, that is.

"Well, I suppose I need more practise." I look from Ash, to the Pokemon, and to Misty. I get the feeling we've got off on the wrong foot. I guess it was when I released my Charmander which I'd recieved as my starter, and she asked me why I'd not gone for the water choice, being from Cerulean. I'd told her I thought water types were dull. She wasn't impressed.

"Everyone has to start somewhere." Ash points out to me, poking the now happily cracking fire with a long stick.

"Even if it is a false start." Misty adds, not bothering to hide the snide element to her voice. Yeah, definitely off on the wrong foot.

"Enough, I know, I'm an idiot. Everyone told me that when I was Ten, so I couldn't get started. And when I got my approval to start. And just before I left. So I don't need reminding." I guess I'm sounding a bit like a bratty kid, but I don't care.

"Hey, take it easy." Ash puts a hand on my shoulder, and for some reason I calm down. Odd. Normally I need at least a half-hour to cool off over anything. Pikachu lets off a stream of chatter, which makes the others smile. Well, except Misty, who is still refusing to let her guard down.

"Care to fill me in on that?" Ash nods to Pikachu, who nods back.

"She just said that everyone starts out as an idiot." He smiles, and after letting the comment sink in, I smile too. Chikorita shuffles over to Ash, murmurs something, and Ash whispers something back. Then Chikorita turns and throws what sounds like a question to the others and Mistys face grows harder still. Pikachu responds with a nod, and Cyndaquil a cautious but positive squeak. Then all eyes turn to Misty, who, after shooting a skyward glance, gives a curt nod.

"You know, you could always tell me what you're talking about, then perhaps I could add to the conversation myself.. .." I mutter angrily, feeling like I was being left out. Sort of like sitting by the fire, but not being illuminated by it's light, or warmed by its heat, excluded.

"Sorry Hazel, but it was more for them to decide." Ash turns back to me, and looks into my eyes carefully for a moment. I just wait for him to continue. "Well, if you want, you could come with us for a while. We've been doing this for Six years, we know quite a bit. And we've got food, plenty of it, and we know how to do the washing, spot when it'll rain, when to stay and where to go. It'd probably help you." He casts a glance to Misty, before continuing in a gentle voice. "And I know you two haven't started well, but give it time. Whenever you wanted to, you could leave us. But you'll have trouble getting anywhere without enough food, and little experience. So, what do you say?" I don't know what to say. I never expected something like this. I came out here as much to get away from people, and the criticisms they constantly make, as anything else. But Ash is an experienced trainer, and he seems really nice. But on the other hand, Misty seems like a total bitch. And I'll keep on getting excluded whenever a Pokemon starts talking. But I like Ash, and I have to admit it to myself, I need his help. But then I'd be tied down again...

"Could you give me tonight to think it over?" Ash just smiles warmly, before noddng. I don't need tonight, I know what the answer is already. Of course I'm going to go with them. I want to find out what all those stories they alluded to are, and learn what it takes to do this, and if I have it. But damn my pride, it won't let me say it, not without putting up a facade. Oh well, I guess I'll have to wait.

"Where's you're sleeping bag?" Mistys clear voice cuts through my daze of tiredness, and I look up to see her staring at my bag, having weighed up if it could conceal some sort of minature sleeping bag-ette type thing, before deciding no.

"Why would I need a sleeping bag? It's June." I state, before seeing Ash and Misty throw each other a glance, one which just screams "newbie".

"It's only June Thirty days of the year." Misty, for the first time, isn't being sarcastic. Amused is a bit of an improvement.

"Is it Thirty? Or Thirty-one?" Ash mumbles that rhyme under his breath - "Thirty days have September, April, June - Yep, Thirty."

"So? Then it's July, and August, all Summer months." I point out.

"Hazel, you're on a mountain. Mountains equal cold, even at lower levels." Ash is trying not to laugh again, but I just sigh.

"Okay, I know, I'm an idiot." But tomorrow, I'm making a promise to myself. Promising that I will be an idiot no longer, and show all of those who doubted me how wrong they were....

Well, that's all for now.

Hope the spelling is okay, thanks to Cultnirvana and Heironeous for their beta-reading! I guess I should've installed word properly when I re-booted my PC. Damn Wordpad, no spellcheckers....

Anyway, I hope to get going on the next chapter, but it might take a while. I'll try!

Don't forget to review