isty? Um, Misty..."
Something was poking her shoulder. Misty groaned and swatted at it blindly, then curled up into a tighter ball and wondered groggily why her legs were so cold. A moment later she was nearly asleep again, but a whispered conversation taking place somewhere above and behind her made her pause.
“She’s ignoring me. Maybe I should just—”
“What? No! I can’t—”
“Pika pikachu, Pikapi.”
There was a pause. Misty frowned and tried to force her heavy eyes open as a shadow fell over her. Something warm settled on her shoulder, and an instant later a small electric shock pulsed up and down her arm. Her eyes flew open and she yelped.
“Mew!” She hastily shoved herself up into a sitting position, her heart beating wildly. When she saw Ash watching her from the side of her bed she squeaked in surprise and immediately bunched her covers up under her chin. It took her a moment to realize that she was on top of all her covers, and that she was fully dressed.
“I’m sorry,” Ash apologized hurriedly. He glanced at Pikachu, who grinned, patted his shoulder once, and clambered down his shirt to drop with a padded thump to the floor. Ash watched him scramble up Misty’s dresser with a look of confusion, then horror as he realized what the mouse was doing. He stumbled after him. “Hey—hey, wait! Where are you going? You can’t just—”
Pikachu used the light fixture above her desk to crawl up into a dark hole in the ceiling, too small for Ash to follow. His head reappeared again a moment later. He gave Ash a cheeky grin, then vanished and slid the missing panel back into place. Ash stared at it in dismay.
“What are you doing here?” Misty demanded sharply. Her heart was pounding. Ash slowly turned to face her, and seemed to regain some of his composure.
“It’s um, ten o’clock—”
“So?” Misty was feeling a little more secure with something clutched to her chest, but not much. Then she glanced down, confused by its unfamiliar texture, and realized it was Ash’s jacket. She jerked her head up again; he wasn’t wearing it.
“Well I know your first class is at eleven, and I didn’t want you to be late or anything—”
“How long have you been here?” she interrupted, alarmed. “How did you get in?” Hadn’t she locked her door? And what was he doing here, anyway? Her mind was buzzing too quickly for her to grasp a coherent thought, and her stomach was in knots.
He gestured vaguely at the door. Misty glanced at it, then glared at him and snarled, “Did you pick my lock?” Ash took a step back.
“Of course not! It was unlocked when I came in last night—”
“You’ve been in my room all night?”
“Well I thought you’d wake up earlier!” he said frantically.
“Why didn’t you just wake me up?” she demanded angrily.
“Because I didn’t want to make you mad!”
“And breaking into my room to hang out while I was asleep wouldn’t?”
Ash looked panicked. “I knew this was a bad idea,” he said quickly. He folded his arms across his chest self-consciously. Without his jacket, Misty could see that both the bandages and gloves were missing from his wrists, which looked raw and painful. “I told them you wouldn’t like it. But Brock said you were still up—”
“You talked to Brock?” Misty gasped. “When?”
Ash nudged his sunglasses nervously, his eyes everywhere but on her, and shifted his feet on the floor. “Before I came. I wouldn’t have come if he hadn’t said...And then Pikachu said you were only dozing...”
Misty stared at him. Ash met her eyes apprehensively, then quickly looked away again and cleared his throat. “He uh, told me to come earlier, but something came up and I couldn’t—”
“What do you mean, ‘earlier’? When did you talk to him before?”
“Saturday night, after uh...” He trailed off nervously and stared at the toes of his shoes as a furious blush splashed across his ears. Misty had time to feel only a tinge of anger at Brock’s concealment of this information before it was quickly swept aside by her own embarrassment. Saturday night. Right. Mew.
There was a tense moment of silence between them. Misty twisted her hands in her lap; the butterflies clawing at her insides seemed to be armed with an array of tiny daggers. Now what? Did he want to pretend it never happened? Could she even do that? Mew, what was she supposed to do?
She took a deep breath and forced herself to calm down. She could do this. If she could break up with Rudi, she could at least get through this one conversation with Ash.
“Look, I‘m sorry I yelled—”
“I’m sorry I ran away when—”
They both stopped short and blushed fiercely. Misty’s heart was beating so quickly she thought it might be audible from the other side of the room. Mew, was she really screwing this up already?
She braved a glance up at him when he cleared his throat. He had his head turned to the side, his arms crossed tightly, and was staring heatedly at the legs of her computer chair. “I’m sorry I ran away,” he said forcefully, deliberately, like he was regurgitating a speech. “It was a stupid thing to do, and I wasn’t thinking clearly. I didn’t mean to make you think it wasn’t...to make it look like I didn’t...that I was leaving you.” What was visible of his face beneath his bangs was tinged a deep red; he was obviously terrified of what he was saying. So was Misty; it was a struggle to force air into her lungs, her chest was so tight. Ash shifted his footing.
“I just, I wanted you to know that what you did the other night, it...” He glared furiously at the chair. Misty was frozen to her spot on the bed. It what? It was stupid? Crazy? Unfixable? What?
He was shaking his head and mumbling inaudibly to himself. Misty had to strain to hear. “I can’t do this. Mew, I can’t...” He trailed off softly and looked at Misty, then at the door. A second later he made a break for it.
Misty was not willing to let him go again, not like he had last time, not if it might actually be the last time. If he was trying to leave her, to set her down gently and walk away forever, well, she had a few things to say to him before he went.
She tumbled off her bed and lurched wildly for the door, and was barely in time to slam it shut on his nose. Ash took a step back, startled, and Misty glared at him. She kept one hand on the door to make sure he couldn’t slip out and slipped her hand under his on the doorknob to lock it. Ash jerked away from her touch as if burned.
“Misty, what are you—”
“Not yet,” she growled furiously, advancing on him. He stepped back, eyes wide over his glasses.
“You’re not leaving me yet, Ash. There are a few things I want you to understand first.” She had to force the words out of a burning throat thick with painful tears. Ash took anther step back and she followed, her eyes stinging. “You have this horrible habit of running blindly away from anything you don’t agree with—”
“I’m not ‘running away’—” he began defensively, but was cut off when Misty suddenly closed the distance between them, hooked her fingers around his ears, and pulled him down roughly for a kiss. He jerked back, surprised, but Misty clamped her hands around his head and refused to let him leave.
“I love you,” she told him firmly, holding the silhouette of his eyes through the tinted plastic. He shivered violently and dropped his gaze. Misty didn’t care. “I love you, Ash, and you know what? I’m not going to stop. I don’t care if you’re human or not, or even if you walk out that door and never come back—” Her voice cracked, and she was forced to stop and clear it. Ash tried to use the pause to break away from her, but she wouldn’t let him. “No, Ash, you need to listen to me. You just can’t seem to grasp some things. I love you. Know that at least, before you leave.”
Ash ceased his struggling and looked at the floor. “Misty—”
“No. You know what? Look at me. Look at me.”
He reluctantly met her eyes through his glasses, and before he knew what was happening she’d grabbed them with her fingertips and slipped them off.
His first reaction was to duck his head behind his elbow and stumble blindly away from her. Misty followed, and when he glanced up again he nearly tripped at how close she was. Misty knew she was terrifying him, but she refused to back down. He was so ashamed of what he was; Misty hated it, and even if she never saw him again after this, maybe she could at least pound some self-respect into his head before he managed to escape.
He held out a hand as she backed him up against the wall. “Give me back my—”
“No. Look at me.”
He hid his eyes behind his arm and tried scooting along the wall, but he was trapped between the corner and the foot of her bed. Misty made sure she filled his only escape route and folded the sunglasses in her hand. She reached out and tried to lower his arm with the other.
“Dammit, Misty, don’t—Stop it.”
He sounded angry. Good; Misty knew how liberating anger could be. She tugged harder at his arm, but he refused to cooperate. His free hand darted out in a mad attempt for his glasses, but Misty dropped them on the floor and kicked them behind her before he could reach. He made a frustrated half-growling noise.
“What the hell are you doing?” He peeked over his bare arm to glare at her, and Misty caught a flash of gold in his eyes. Her insides squirmed briefly, then settled. She couldn’t see much, but what she could glimpse was definitely different. Not scary, though; not anymore. But still, she hated that he was so ashamed of them.
“I’m tired of the glasses, Ash,” she told him evenly. “I’m tired of the secrets, and I’m tired of the shame. Put your arm down.”
“Dammit, Ash, put your arm down.”
She yanked it down, and he reached out to shove her away, and she caught his hands and held him there, barely mindful of his sore wrists. He lowered his head and glared at her from beneath his bangs. Misty met what she could see of his eyes and held them until he lowered his head and slumped weakly against the wall, the fight obviously gone from him. Misty seized the opportunity to step closer.
“Ash, you are a person,” she said firmly. “There’s nothing about you to be ashamed of. So your eyes swirl. So what? I think they’re beautiful. I love your eyes, Ash. And I love you.”
He was trembling, refusing still to look at her even as he felt her lean in close and rest her forehead against his own. Misty was fighting to suppress the sinking feeling in her stomach. She was probably ruining any chance she had with him, but dammit, he was so afraid of human contact, so immersed in this belief that no one would accept him, that if it took Misty’s relationship with him to prove him wrong, well, so be it. She took a deep breath and watched him carefully while she thread her fingers through his and rested their hands against his chest. He was terrified of what she was doing.
“I don’t love just a part of you, Ash” she continued relentlessly. “I love all of you.”
“I’m not—Misty, don’t— ” He was breathing heavily now, his hands limp and shaking in hers.
“I’m not saying this to trick you—”
“—and I’m not lying to you. I just want you to understand before you leave that I will miss you. I love you, Ash, and it’ll hurt when you’re gone. Just—”
She was in tears now, but she was ready to accept what she was doing. It hurt—oh, God, it hurt—but maybe in doing it Ash would see that he wasn’t worthless. Maybe in forcing him to face her like this Ash would see that there was something in him to be loved. Maybe she could help him.
“Look at me, Ash, just once. Please? Just let me look at you.”
He raised his eyes, finally, slowly raised his eyes, and braced himself when she looked into them. Misty smiled weakly. They were swirling black and gold around the faintest hint of chocolate, and they really were beautiful. She found herself drawing even closer to him, as close as she could.
“Ash, can I...”
She didn’t know why she was asking for permission this time, but he made no move to object when she lowered her head and gently kissed him, well aware that it would be their last. Well, her last. She made it last as long as she could, and when she finally forced herself to release him she was startled when he stooped his neck to follow. His grip tightened weakly on her hands. Misty started shaking. All the places their bodies met surged suddenly with a strange electric heat, and she jerked back to stare at him with a startled gasp.
He was looking at her as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, his eyes swirling a rich chocolate now, and he was crying.
Misty never showed up for lunch, so when Brock caught sight of her marching toward him later that afternoon while he was busy digging his keys out of his jeans, he immediately straightened and smiled.
“Hey, Mist, we missed you at lunch today—”
He stopped short at the look on her face, and swallowed hard. Uh-oh. Ash must have shown up after all, and he must have done something horribly wrong.
She stomped to a halt in front of him and glared. “Um, everything okay?” he asked cautiously. She responded by raising her hand. Brock winced.
“I am this close to killing you where you stand, Brock Slate,” she hissed angrily, indicating a tiny portion with her fingers. “How dare you interfere with my life like that? How dare you make plans with Ash behind my back, and not even tell me? You lying, scheming bastard.”
She made to raise her other hand. Brock cringed again, fully expecting a blow this time, and instead froze as he found himself wrapped up in a tight hug.
“Thank you, Brock,” Misty murmured against his collar. “I hate you so much for doing that to me, but thank you.”
After a moment’s confused hesitation, Brock smiled sheepishly and patted her awkwardly on the back. “Um...you’re welcome?”
“So it worked.”
“It was still a mean thing to do.”
“But it worked.
“But it was mean of you.”
Misty glared, and Brock offered her a wide grin. He stretched himself out on his bed and locked his hands behind his head, his grin widening as Misty’s fierce expression melted into a dopey smile. She couldn’t stay mad at him for long, now that she knew he’d spent all of Saturday night coaxing Ash into speaking with her again. He sighed, relieved. Misty was almost giddy with happiness, and she wasn’t going to murder him after all. If all of Ash’s effects on her were so pleasant he could definitely get used to the guy, Elemental or no.
“So what happened? You have to tell me everything, you know.”
Misty’s smile faded. She ducked her head to look at her hands. “I don’t know if it’s my place to,” she said softly. “He’s so...vulnerable. He’s good at hiding it, but Mew. You should have seen the look on his face when I finally convinced him that I...that I accepted him. He fell apart.”
“What do you mean?” Brock wanted to know, intrigued. Ash hadn’t wanted to do any of the suggestions he’d made Saturday night, but Brock had written it off as the nervousness and anxiety that everyone felt when they entered a new relationship. Hell, he was dealing with it right now with Suzie. His face flushed suddenly and his stomach churned. He knew he was smiling stupidly, and he didn't care. Suzie...
Misty sighed. “It’s hard to explain, and I don’t really want to. But jeez, Brock, he really didn’t think I was okay with his...Elementalism.” She frowned. “That’s such a stupid word. Why aren’t there any words for this stuff?”
“Because there aren’t any Elementals to describe with them,” Brock reminded her. “But what about Drake? You said he was Ash’s uncle, right?”
Misty nodded. “On his father’s side.”
“So his father’s brother, right? Older or younger?”
“Younger, by about five years. He said their mother died when he was ten. She was the last Elemental they knew.”
“So females can get it too?” Brock clarified. “Interesting. Why doesn’t Drake have it?”
“I dunno,” Misty shrugged. “He said they didn’t know how it worked. He’s got something, though, a strong sort of...connection.”
“Yeah, all Types. He said his brother had a connection with all of them too, but he could only channel Electricity. Their mother was Water.”
Brock frowned. “That makes no sense.”
Misty sighed again. “I know. Drake said he and Cypress—that’s Ash’s dad—never got it either, and they had no one to ask. It was sort of a learn-as-you-go thing.”
“Same for Ash?”
“I think so. He as much as told me once, a long time ago. He said his dad wrote a lot of stuff down though, and those rooms he lives in are filled with old books. I bet a lot of them did.”
“Yeah. Or—” She stopped suddenly and frowned. “I dunno, maybe they didn’t. They might not have thought to; Drake said there used to be a whole group of them living down there, they just sort of...dwindled. Most of them must not have had kids, or else they didn’t get the thing, or something, or—dammit, I don’t know!” She glared furiously at a Breeder Type Chart on his wall. “I don’t know anything! And I don’t think Ash knows much either; I think he thinks it’s some sort of horrible monstrosity—he thinks he’s a monstrosity—and it took me all day just to get him to look at me without cringing. You’d think he’s worn those goddam sunglasses since birth.”
“He might have,” Brock pointed out quietly. “He must have had it drilled into his head what would happen if he took them off.”
“Yeah, well he was drilled a little too deeply,” said Misty angrily. “He doesn’t like people anywhere near him. He jumps when I touch him, or starts shaking, or accidentally shocks me—oh, and don’t even get me started on his constant apologies! Mew! He reminds me of your Zubat when you first caught her.”
“He’s that bad?” Brock asked, eyebrows raised. He’d caught Crobat—Zubat—in a large chain of caves a few miles outside of town. He’d jumped at the chance to find a new Rock Type when he’d won a coupon for hunting rights in that area through an essay contest, and even though his heart had been set on a Rhyhorn, when he’d caught side of that poor bat, barely able to keep hold of a low-hanging stalactite with one claw, its wing broken in two places, well...Zubat were notoriously weak and often picked on by younger Trainees or even common passersby, since they hung in easy throwing-distance of small rocks. They were like Magikarp in that they had great potential, but not a lot of Trainers had the patience for that kind of regime. Brock thought it was one of the best experiences he’d ever had, especially since he hoped to make his career in raising small, weak Pokémon from birth. He didn’t regret adopting the poor creature.
Misty threw up her hands in disgust. “He’s worse!” she cried irritably. “When I offered to let him stay with me tonight I thought I’d killed him, his face went so white. Oh—stop it! This isn’t funny!”
Brock was laughing at the mental image, but he quickly sobered when he saw the look on Misty’s face. “Well,” he said rationally, “maybe that was a bit fast for him—”
Misty’s face colored. “I didn’t mean for that!” she said frantically. “Mew! I only meant that he was so...so...Mew! I just kept thinking of him and all those empty rooms and how far away they were, and I didn’t like the idea of him going back to them alone while he’s so mixed up, all right? I hate the way he insists he live his life.”
“I don’t think he has a choice, Misty.”
“Sure he does! He doesn’t always have to wear those damn sunglasses, for one thing, especially around me. I hate them. Have you seen his eyes when they have brown in them? It takes over the black, and it’s so pretty with the gold—”
“What’s it for?” Brock interrupted, curious.
“I think it’s his natural eye color, the more I see it. It comes out more when he—” She stopped and blushed furiously, and Brock grinned slyly. It took a lot to get Misty to blush around him.
“When he what?”
“Well...I think it’s when he’s really emotional about something. Something good.”
“Like what?” Brock teased.
“Like...well, like when he kisses me—which he wouldn’t do on his own, dammit, I had to coax him into every one—and when he’s just...happy about something.”
“That’s interesting,” Brock mused thoughtfully. Misty was silent for a moment, staring blankly at a spot on the floor between her perch on Brock’s computer chair and his bed. Brock took the time to mull over the things she’d told him. She definitely had her hands full with Ash, that was for sure, but...she seemed happy. Happier, anyway. He wondered how the two of them would work out. It was obvious Ash loved her from the way he’d talked about her Saturday night, though he’d never actually admitted it, and Misty seemed to truly prefer him to Rudi, which was good. But he had a definite inferiority problem, and Misty hated it when people had no respect for themselves. Well, it would be interesting, if nothing else.
“I hope I can help him,” said Misty quietly, her eyes still staring vacantly at the floor. “Mew, he’s so screwed up inside. He doesn’t know how to act or what to think...but he’s trying, I think. He’s changed so much since we first met, and I wonder...if I did that much for him just by befriending him, what can I do by loving him, you know?”
Brock took a moment to think before he replied, and sat up. “Honestly, I think you’re perfect for him, Mist.”
She looked up at him, surprised. “You do? Why?”
He took a deep breath. “Well, you’re...you’re you. I think that’s enough. He seems...fragile. I’d just give him time, Misty. I mean, you said yourself that he changed just by knowing you. Can you imagine how he would have reacted to Saturday night if you’d done that when you first met him?”
Misty snorted. “He’d have bolted like a Rapidash out of water. And...he probably wouldn’t have come back.”
Brock smiled. “See? He’s coming around. You’re doing a great job.”
Misty looked at him and smiled. “Thanks, Brock. For everything. I don’t think I could have survived this long without you.”
“Oh, psh. You would have survived just fine on your own—but there probably would have been a few more injuries. Collateral damage, you know.”
She laughed and rose to leave. “Probably. I have to talk to my Masters now, though; I missed class again today. I still have homework to catch up on, too.”
“All right. Call me if you need something.”
She smiled. “I will. But...I think I’ll be okay now. I think everything’s okay again. It’s...nice”
He smiled as she left, relieved that she was finally feeling better. When the door closed behind her, though, he fell back on his bed and sighed loudly. Mew. His best friend was in love with what could quite possibly be the last Elemental on the planet, and he was helping her with him behind the headMasters' backs. Mew.
What ever happened to worrying about Pokémon and exams?
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