It came without warning, like an assassination in the night. They had inexplicably begun teasing him, egging him on about his "obvious" crush on the girl. He'd had little luck deciphering their motives. Perhaps for their own sense of entertainment or pleasure, or maybe out of sheer boredom, or maybe they'd had some life-altering revelation that dictated that they make a mockery of his love life, or lack of. This had gone on for months now, and from the beginning their jests had been nothing but an annoyance, comments constructed for the sole purpose of provoking him. As time passed, however, their words slowly worked into his mind like tiny drills, and eventually their lies shifted into his truths. With each passing day, his blushes grew darker, the racing of his heart became more rapid, and his thoughts were more isolated, focused solely on one person.
Eventually he'd returned home, where he was met with a surprise greeting with the girl. The moment he saw her, everything came full circle. He knew her eye color, and could recall it to the exact hue, but he'd never noticed the sparkle in them when she smiled, like the ocean reflecting the early morning. Speaking of her smile, hers radiated in a manner that had never before tugged at his chest the way it did now. He must've grown taller, maybe a few inches or so, because now he had to lower his gaze to meet hers, a fact that stirred a sensation of dominance in him. As she hugged him, there was an aroma, a sensation that tickled his nose and levitated his heart into the back of his throat. He fought to swallow it back where it belonged, pumping blood at a comfortable rate instead of trying to suffocate him internally. There was a firmer press from her body against his torso, one he'd felt from her hugs in the past but never to this extent. His breaths were released in shudders at her closeness, at her touch, and it was an experience completely foreign to him.
Of all this, however, what stood out most in his hormonally driven, out of control mind was the feeling of her skin. Maybe it was for the sake of nostalgia, or maybe it was because of the warm weather in Pallet Town, or even both, but she had reverted back to the outfit she'd worn during their first encounter. In their embrace, his fingertips lightly grazed the small of her back, and even that miniscule meeting of flesh sent his body and mind into a maddening frenzy. It was a miracle to him that he wasn't bursting at the seams from exhilaration, but it was conceivable that somewhere, in the depths of his throttled brain, the notion that he was enjoying the contact helped him keep his sanity in check, or whatever he could retain in his situation.
He gently allowed his consciousness to return to him, realizing that she'd finally ended the embrace. The lingering remnants of her scent must have been playing tricks on his sight, he concluded to himself as the girl headed inside the house, urging him to follow. That couldn't have been a brush of red on her cheeks. Could it?
Through the excitable reunion with his mother and the miniature feast prepared for his return, he finally gained some alone time, even if only a little. Lying on his bed, he attempted to tie down his thoughts, hoping to make sense of them all. In the past, the relationship between his head and his heart had always been platonic, and it worked for him. Never concerned with romance, he instead put all his efforts into his dream. Not that anything could deter him from this goal; anyone and everyone who knew him could tell he would see it through to the end. He didn't mind small distractions here and there; helping someone in need, making time to meet new friends, participating in a competition purely for personal enjoyment. However, he perceived anything with the potential to make him lose sight of his ambition as a threat.
And love reeked of potential.
Not that he harbored any gripes with it. It was that emotion that let him care for his mother, as well as all of his friends, albeit in a strictly friendly way. To see it grow into something that would avert his gaze frightened him. Years had passed, and yet no experience or mix of words had diminished his desire; in fact, as his journey had progressed, the vision of being named the World's Greatest Pokémon Master only clarified.
And yet, why was he thinking about it now? He initially decided to lay the blame on his friends' taunting, but that couldn't be right. False accusations against his heart had been presented before, but they'd never gotten this kind of response out of him. Not in all his years of traveling had he struggled to calm his body down outside of a Pokémon battle. And yet here he was, at the mercy of a girl who held him delicately in the palm of her hand, and she didn't even know it.
Ash rolled to his side, allowing the warm sunlight to seep through the window and caress his face. He groaned, shuffling in place and closing his eyes to keep from being blinded as a soft slumber began overtaking him. He resisted, although weakly. Perhaps the days of travel were catching up to him, or the familiar softness of his own bed was luring him in, pleading to be occupied once more. Whatever the cause, he curled up closer onto the bed, kicking his shoes off and letting them fall to the floor with a dull thud. The sedation only furthered as he pulled the blanket over his body. A small nap wouldn't hurt, he thought, and so with a small yawn, he allowed himself to be carried off into his dreams, that faraway place where there was no confusion, no worry, and where his feelings were as clear as the pools of water he saw in Misty's eyes.
- - - - -
The week that followed was unlike anything that Ash had experienced before. He'd lost control of his bodily functions more often than he could count. First thing to go were his vocal chords. Misty's presence was enough to render the boy speechless, or at the very least unable to speak a coherent sentence. And when he could manage a civil conversation, the chances of the sentence making any intellectual sense were hopeful at best.
Next was his sense of direction, though some would say he never had it to begin with. Walking into walls, slipping on objects, knocking objects over; he'd even temporarily forgotten where his room was when Misty had greeted him from his exit from the shower, an incident he'd rather be shoved deep into his memories, never again to see the light of day. Though, he was almost certain that her gaze was upon him longer than a normal glance should be, and when she'd turned away, his eyes had fooled him into believing she was grinning.
It was then, really, that he'd named his sight as the third function he'd lost control of. It wasn't so much that he was losing his vision; no, what was happening was that he was seeing things that weren't really there. His eyes had betrayed him, casting illusions and mirages to distort him into losing focus on what was real. Often times, during the middle of the utter catastrophes he called talking to her, he noticed more smiles, more blushes. On the occasion when his eyes wanted to truly abandon him, he'd be unable to avert them, succumbing to their desires to remain fastened to her.
Indeed, the previous days had been a nightmarish agony, and as he gazed up at the ceiling, he angrily interrogated his emotions, slaving away for a confession. He wanted to know everything. He knew, in the back of his emotionally obliterated mind, that he had special feelings for her. Not ones a simple friend could admit to; oh no, no. This, this was something far more sinister. Whatever this was, it was wreaking havoc on his very being. And he wouldn't let this go unanswered; he wanted names, places, anything to give him a clue as to when, and why.
Why. Now that was the truly elusive one, particularly because there were so many whys that he couldn't comprehend, the most prominent being why her. Perhaps it was the duration he'd spent with her, or the sense of friendship they'd managed to forge over the remains of a broken, charred bicycle. He'd never understood what made her special, and no matter how hard he sought to understand, every step forward seemed to be in the wrong direction.
Feeling his blood boil, he jumped up from his bed, hopeful that a walk would appease his growing temper. Closing the door harder than he'd intended, he descended the stairs to find his mother staring at him questionably from the kitchen.
"Ash, honey, is something the matter?"
Even without the obvious sign of the door slamming, Ash knew his mom would've known about his foul mood with just one glance at him. She'd always been able to tell, despite how he'd try to hide it. Even now, soft as they appeared to be, her eyes were scanning him, picking out each and every tidbit of distress in his heart. He'd even go so far as to assume she already knew the problem, or at the very least had a notion.
He smiled as honestly as he could, knowing full well she could see how fake it was. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just gonna go for a walk, okay?"
For the briefest of moments, silence. Her eyes never wavered; neither did his. They shared not words or expressions, but a basic understanding that there was a problem, one which could neither be discussed nor solved through any ordinary or simple means. It would take time. Patience was the solution. Or perhaps action; a firm, head-on assault against the issue. Or
maybe both. A strategic, well-timed ambush would be most effective. Wait for the right moment to strike, and victory was assured.
All of this was conveyed between them instantaneously, in a manner only they understood, shared by the bond of a mother and son.
"Okay, but be careful. And don't stay out too late, alright?" She warned, but quickly followed with the special, small smile a parent saves for their child.
This time, Ash's grin was genuine. "Sure, mom." And moments later, he was gone.
Down the dusty road he went, going wherever his feet carried him. He reveled in the crunch of the dirt below him, savoring the gusts of wind passing by. It was all so familiar, and in that familiarity there was solace. His hands slid into his pockets, his thoughts fixed on a destination. With the sun only an hour or so away from departing for the night, he imagined the beach would be a good way to ease his mind. It was one of his most beloved spots in all of Pallet, and to see it below the glow of the evening sky was a rare treat for him.
And perhaps Misty would be there. He grimaced, unsuccessfully attempting to usher the redhead from his thoughts.
It wasn't long before the hard dirt beneath his steps turned into soft sand, crushing and sinking beneath him. The waves lapped softly near the shore, occasionally leaving behind a strand of seaweed or pulling a wandering Krabby back into the murky depths. The smell of the sea whipped around him, salty and slightly chilled by the approaching night. He removed his socks and shoes, leaving his feet vulnerable to the still warm sand and smooth seashells. He wiggled his toes, relaxed by how the miniscule grains clung between them. He walked towards the water, halting when it rose to his ankles. It was cool, but warm enough for a person to enjoy, if they were smart enough to keep their body moving.
Absentmindedly, his eyes scanned the beach, looking for any signs of human life. A tiny flock of Spearow cawed from above, but otherwise, only the lapping of the waves filled the air.
Then, the silence was broken, by a person emerging from the sea. And for a fleeting moment, Ash swore he'd seen a mermaid.
It took him two blinks to realize that it was Misty, who'd let her hair out of its ponytail to swim. The flush in his cheeks that he'd become so familiar with in the past week returned, as he watched her swim along the surface, occasionally diving below. He grinned to himself, admiring how graceful she was in the water. He'd known swimming was her specialty, but she was far more enjoyable to watch than he last recalled.
It wasn't long before the redhead became aware of her audience of one, moving to the beach to get a closer look. "Ash? What are you doing here?"
Looking for you.
"Uh, I just went for a walk, and I wanted to come here. To see if there were any Pokémon I could catch." He wasn't very good at lying.
Fortunately, she seemed to believe him. Ash's cheeks warmed, feeling his stomach tingle as Misty rose from the water. Her tangerine hair spilled down her back, reaching down to tickle the middle of her back. She wore a blue two-piece, but it complimented the shapeliness she'd acquired in the years. It wasn't skimpy, but it was all kinds of alluring, enticing him as he felt his leg take small step forward. He managed to keep the other leg under control, but the one step was enough to get Misty's attention.
"Is something wrong?"
I never realized how pretty you became.
He grit his teeth as discreetly as he could, hating the flood of thoughts that swallowed his mind with each conversation they shared. The fact that no one else was around only increased the tension he felt. He shook his head, both to clear his head and to answer her question. "I'm fine. So, why are you out here?"
"Well, it's been so long since I've been able to swim at a beach, so I thought now would be a good opportunity. The Gym is nice, but a beach feels so nice and open."
Suddenly, there was a strange look in her eye, one he'd seen a few times through the week but never managed to decipher. Her hands clasped behind her back, gently putting her weight on one leg to lean to the side. "So, Ash, do you think I look good in this?"
His face was frying as he worked to keep his composure. "Huh? Um, well
yeah, you look great." He inwardly applauded himself for making a sensible sentence.
Misty giggled. "Thanks." Her eyes widened for a moment, before turning her attention to the ocean, then back to Ash. "Hey, you wanna go swimming with me?"
"Huh? But, I
"Come on, Ash, it'll be fun!" Misty quickly took his hand, pulling him back towards the ocean. Only a few steps in, however, she found Ash had rooted himself to the spot. She eyed him, curious, worried. "Ash, is something wrong?"
Ash, however, was focused only on the hand that held his. It was soft, and he wasn't able to control his thumb as it gently rubbed along the top of her hand. His gaze remained fastened to the ground, fearful of what she'd say or how she would look at him for his actions. "Misty, um
It was gentle, but her grip strengthened. He looked to find a smile on her face. It was then that a wordless connection was made, an extrasensory union much like with his mom but on a more intimate level. He knew exactly what she was thinking and feeling, and vice-versa. All of his worries, his confusion, his affections; she saw it all. Nothing was hidden from her, no matter how embarrassing or secret. And in her he could see the same. He felt hope, wonder, curiosity, hurt
but most of all, love. In some ethereal transition, their thoughts were being shared, and they both understood.
They didn't have to say a word. They both knew how the other felt.
Ash smiled in return, gingerly squeezing Misty's hand. He knew her heart must have skipped a beat, because his did. She gently nudged her head to the waters, and he smirked. He managed to remove his jacket, gloves, and cap, and he only just barely pulled his shirt off before Misty dragged him to the ocean. His yelps were quickly drowned out by seawater, having been rashly dunked under the surface. His body surged with a jolt, unaccustomed to the sudden drop in temperature. His mind blanked, for a moment, before he was able to properly feel the hands down upon his shoulders. Managing to scrape the sand below with his feet, he jumped up, breaking through with a breathless gasp. His hair clung to his face as his eyes flickered about, searching for a sign of the girl. She'd disappeared, most likely underneath him. He felt like prey, soon to be the meal of the menacing predator that'd set their eyes on him.
Ten seconds passed, yet still no glimmer of movement. He groaned; he was aware of how long she could hold her breath if she really tried. It would be another minute, maybe sooner, before she emerged. Adrenaline pumped through him, heightening his senses. No sloshing of the waves went unnoticed, and no unnatural breaking of the water would be out of his vision. Suddenly, he froze, feeling a set of hands wrap around him from behind, caressing his stomach. The touch wasn't threatening, so he relaxed as he felt Misty rise behind him.
His face flushed, yet he was pleased at the redhead's gentle affections. He couldn't say he disliked it; being so close to her was sending a warm shudder through his body. She seemed captivated, taking him in and memorizing every muscle and piece of skin. Her chin rested on his shoulder, their cheeks grazing together. A mere day ago, all of this would have been strange, even taboo. No more would that be the case.
His mind and body told him to touch her back, and for the first time in a week, there was no resistance. He snuggled his face against hers, his hands taking a hold of hers. She giggled, gently planting her lips on his cheek. His previous blush doubled in strength, his stomach swelling as she slowly kissed him over and over. She'd been waiting for this, for years; he'd seen it when they'd made their connection. The dam had finally been allowed to break, and he was being hit with the aftermath. No longer worrying about hiding or concealing his emotions, he let his fingers intertwine with hers, and through the touch he felt warmth fill his veins. The moment seemed perfect.
That is, until Ash decided to have some more fun.
With an "accidental" slip that tossed him off his balance and a scream, the pair fell backwards, surrounded once again by liquid. Misty was the first to rise, gasping for air. She moved the strands of hair in her face behind her ear, searching around for Ash. Though it was predictable, she didn't expect him to come from behind, taking a firm hold on her. Now it was she who was the captive; not that she minded. Unlike before, however, Ash turned her, leaving them face to face.
For the second time that day, their gazes were locked. Ash's fingers fiddled with her slick lower back absentmindedly, his fingernails occasionally scraping the skin. Misty grinned pleasantly, though he was unable to tell if it was from the gentle caresses, or something else. Her arms snaked up his chest before ensnaring his neck, taking hold and pulling herself closer towards him.
"You don't have to be so nervous, Ash."
It was barely above a whisper, yet he heard each word loud and clear. Immediately, his competitive instincts kicked in. "I'm not nervous." He replied with a small pout.
Misty's response was an amused laugh. "I can tell that you're nervous, you know."
Ash tilted his head, intrigued at the girl's claim. "How can you tell?"
She giggled, almost victoriously. "Because you just told me."
The boy's heart sunk, as did his jaw. Once again, Misty had managed to outwit him, and there was no chance that he would admit it. There was no way to counter her tactics. Unless
"Well, you're nervous, too. I can tell."
"Oh, really? Well, how come?"
Inwardly, Ash cringed. She hadn't worded it properly for him to retort. All hope seemed lost, as his brain wracked itself in all manners possible in an attempt to find a viable solution. Suddenly, however, he felt something. It was gentle at first, but he soon knew exactly what it was, and he grinned; he'd found his answer. "I can feel your heart beating really hard."
Misty's expression blanked for a moment, blinking twice before realizing just how tight of a hold she had on him. She blushed sharply, before her body reacted on instinct. "ASH, YOU-!"
The poor boy didn't hear the last word, as the combination of a loud smack and the crashing of water drowned out his ability to register sound. Moments later, his body slowly rose to the surface. There was no point in tending to the searing slap mark on his face, he thought; the pain would dwindle away eventually.
And besides, seeing Misty with a genuinely concerned look on her face was enough to ease his grief.
"Ash, are you alright?"
He chuckled, carelessly floating along the water's surface. "Yeah, that still hurts."
Misty smirked, half annoyed. "Well, maybe next time you won't say things like that."
The sun was now below the horizon, making the visibility of the shore dim. The water had become chilly, ushering the two out with a small, icy wave. Soaked and with no more light to dry them off, the pair groaned in frigid agony. Fortunately for them, there was no breeze to freeze their skin, but the risk of catching a cold was not one either was willing to take. The two got dressed, but Ash took note of Misty rubbing her arms, attempting to gather warmth. He thought to himself for a moment, and then grinned.
Misty continued to apply friction to her body, hoping to retain as much heat as she could. Her skin was still moist, and she shivered under the cooling night. Suddenly, she felt something warm cover her shoulders. She gently turned her head to see Ash placing his jacket around her, wearing an affectionate grin. Magenta seared across Misty's face, though she managed to control it all with a tender smile.
With the sunset behind them, the two departed back to Ash's house, their shadows firmly connected at the hand.
- - - - -
The moon had long since replaced the sun as ruler of the sky, leaving the world covered in a black veil. Hours after everyone had gone to sleep, Ash and Misty had snuck out, sitting atop the roof. Reflected in their eyes were countless stars as they sat together, leaning against each other for warmth and support.
"Hey, Ash?" Misty wrapped her arms securely around his, her head on his shoulder.
"Yeah?" He whispered back, his cheek plopping down softly atop her tangerine tresses.
"Talk about something."
He chuckled, but inwardly reflected on how strange it sounded for Misty to say that. Maybe the long span of time had changed her, because the redhead he'd known years ago would never even have considered thinking it; she'd have more than likely said there was no point in talking when you didn't need to, or something similar. Or perhaps that would only have applied to him. The thought tickled his fancy and released another chuckle, and it was beginning to irk at Misty's curiosity.
"Hey, what's so funny?"
He smirked, his gaze still to the sky. "I guess I'm just kind of getting used to this."
He could feel her smile, before she nestled herself closer into him. "Same here. It feels a little weird, to be honest, but I don't think it's bad."
Ash hummed in agreement, and the pair was silent again, if only for a few moments.
Then Misty spoke up again. "Ash, I said talk about something." Her voice was meant to sound stern, but playfulness and affection seeped through the cracks.
He smirked, lovingly bopping his head against hers. "Well, give me something to talk about."
Misty tapped at her chin contemplatively, her eyes rolled back in thought. Her gaze floated along the starry ocean, taking in its majesty. "Have you ever made a wish on a star?"
Ash was quiet for a moment, and then laughed quietly. "Yeah, a lot when I was little. I'd wish I could find and catch a Pokémon, or that I could beat Gary at something for once."
Misty giggled, loving how Ash's expression suddenly turned pouty at the recollection of his rival. "Well, wanna make one right now?" Her hold on his arm tightened as she rocked the both of them side to side.
He grinned, scooting closer to her. "Sure."
Then, they looked to the stars. A minute flew by as they both contemplated potential wishes, and then looking for prime stars to wish upon. The two seemed to know when the other was done, because Ash spoke up just as Misty had finished. "So what did you wish for?"
"Ash, you're not supposed to tell. Then it won't come true." Misty complained.
"Come on, Misty, tell me."
As much as she hated to admit it, the immunity to Ash's slightly lopsided grin that she'd had as a young girl had abandoned her, leaving her unable to keep her thoughts to herself as much as she'd like. She wanted to tell him no, and that he would just have to keep wondering, but the endearing look in his eyes compelled her to tell him all of her hopes and wishes. Starting with the one she'd just made. "I will, but first tell me yours."
He raised a quirky eyebrow, huffing amusedly. His cheeks flushed gently, but he cleared his throat and spoke. "I wished that one day, when I become a Pokémon Master, you'd be there to celebrate with me."
Misty found herself blushing, as a joyous tingle coursed through her. She giggled blissfully as she released her hold on his arms, opting to secure his torso instead. It took Ash by surprise, but nonetheless allowed him to snake his now free arm over her shoulders.
"So what did you wish for?"
In her euphoria, she'd almost forgotten about her end of the deal. She'd hoped he would have as well, considering how embarrassing her wish was. She bit her lip gently, taking in a soft breath. "Well, I wished that we would be together
forever." In all her years of friendship, she couldn't recall feeling her heart moving so erratically. It felt foreign to admit such a thing, especially to the object of her affections. As if she were searching for reassurance, her hold on the boy strengthened, practically clinging for dear life.
She'd hoped to be met with comforting words, but instead, she received light laughter. It struck a nerve, as she glared upwards at Ash. "What's so funny?"
His chuckles were amused, but not filled with any sort of malice. "It's a nice wish, really, but it seemed a bit silly to me for a moment."
Her lips pursed, wondering what in the world Ash could be thinking. "How come?"
At this, his expression became earnest, his attention solely on her. "Well, it's not like you have to wish for that. We'll always be together, no matter what."
The words were simple, but the effect was astounding. She'd heard words of pure sincerity from him before, but never had they been so exclusive, so strong in magnitude that they left her speechless. She could only call it magic. His soft gaze, the tender smile, and the tightening in her chest were all the effects of the spell he was casting on her. Her breaths were caught in her throat as she silently lost herself in his eyes, nearly hidden under the shadows of the moonlight. She needed to tell him; she had to. She felt he had to know, but she couldn't bring herself to utter a sound. It was as if words would ruin the moment. In a crazed swirl, her thoughts screamed at her, dictating that he know of what she was feeling. But if words were useless, then how?
And then, the answer was obvious.
He appeared to have picked up on it as well, because he gently licked his lips, turning his cap around so as not to interfere. Their hearts jittered about in a crazed stupor as their faces inched closer, stopping when their foreheads and the tips of their noses connected. One last time, the pair exchanged glances, looking for signs of apprehension or discomfort. All they could see was what was reflected in each other, and they smiled. Then, with a gentle tilting of their heads, the gap was closed.
Words were meaningless. Their hearts said it all, loud and clear.