Pokemon: Reunions and Resolutions
a fanfic by Jaelle and Orla

***

Disclaimer:

We do not own Ash, Misty, Brock, Team Rocket, Pikachu and the other 150 Pokemon, who are far too many to name individually. Though we'd like to catch them all - except Jigglypuff because we'd kill the little fluffball after listening to _that_ song too much (if we could stay awake)! *Achem* Anyway, Pokemon belongs to it's owners, Japanese and otherwise - you know who you are.

***

Authors note: As far as we are aware Ash's mother has never been given a first name. So, since Mrs Ketchum has a fairly large role in this story we made one up for her, it's a bit of a combination of Ash and his original Japanese name - Satoshi.

***

This story takes place about eight years later than the current Pokemon TV series.

***

C & C welcome, but flames will be answered with a flamethrower from Charizard.

Comments to: ladyorla@yahoo.com or jaelle@ihug.co.nz

***

Part Three: Arrival

***

With a sharp tug Sasha Ketchum dislodged another weed from the flower bed and deposited it into the bucket held by her Pokemon, Mr Mime. She looked at the flower bed and smoothed the dirt she had disturbed. With a sigh, Sasha stood up and stretched her cramped muscles. Mr Mime scampered off to deposit the rubbish in a large bin near the house.

"It's my own fault that the front garden looks like this," Sasha commented to Mr Mime. "Just because I'm engaged I shouldn't forget little things!"

"Mr Mime? Mime!"

Sasha laughed and pulled off her dirty gloves. "I know, we won't be living here after the wedding, but I couldn't bear this house to move into other hands looking a mess!"

Sasha sat down on the front step and rotated her tight shoulders. "Besides, Ash might want somewhere to live now he's going to live in Pallet and build his Gym." Tears of pride sparkled in Sasha's eyes. "My little boy, a Pokemon Master and a Gym Leader!"

Mr Mime beamed at her and Sasha smiled back, then an uncharacteristic worried frown clouded her expression. It had been a long time since she had last seen Ash, nearly three years, and seeing him on the video-phone was not the same. How much had her only son changed? And was he okay with her engagement to his old mentor, Professor Oak? Sure, he had appeared happy when she told him, but she saw the shock in his eyes, what was he really thinking about the situation?

Sasha shook herself. "No good sitting here getting gloomy, right Mimie?" she stood up. "Let's go inside and..."

"Mom!"

Sasha whirled around and stared at the tall young man with a Pikachu on his shoulder hailing her from the road. As she hastened to the gate, her hand to her mouth, he got off the bike he was riding and ran up to her.

Ash hugged his mother as soon as the gate was opened. Sasha stifled her tears and stared openly at her 'little boy'. "Ash... how did you get so tall?" she cried.

Ash rolled his eyes. "What is this? You all keep saying the same thing!" he laughed. "This is becoming a theme!"

"Pikachu!" agreed Pikachu. Ash gave his mother another little hug. "It's good to see you too, Mom! I grew."

"Very much so!" interjected an amused voice.

Sasha looked around Ash at the speaker who was watching them from her own bike. "Misty!" she cried. "Oh, I'm so glad you could come dear."

Misty grinned and got off her bike. "I didn't really have a choice, Mrs Ketchum, Ash kinda carried me off!"

Sasha blinked. "Uh..."

Ash blushed. "Misty!" he cried. "It wasn't like that at all!" he quickly explained to his mother the events leading up to their arrival.

Sasha shot Misty a sympathetic look. "I thought something was up." she said. She turned back to Ash. "Well, sweetie, I want to hear all about you adventures, but first I think there are some more people here that you'll want to see."

"Who?" Ash asked curiously.

"Brock! Richie! Ash is here!"

"ASH!" the door was flung open and a tall man with spiky brown hair bolted out followed by a shorter young man with auburn hair, with a yellow blur behind him.

"Brock! _And_ Richie!" Ash exclaimed.

"Pikapi!" came an imperative sound.

"And Sparky," Ash laughed as Richie's Pikachu jumped onto him. "It's good to see you! I knew you would be here Brock, but Richie?"

Richie, the only other Pokemon Master to rival Ash as well as one of Ash's best friends, grinned. "Well, it was meant to be a surprise, Ash."

"It sure is! How ya doin' buddy?!" Ash enthusiastically hugged his friend. Ribs creaked ominously.

"Gah... ah... *gasp*..." said Ritchie.

"It's too bad Tracy can't make it!" Ash said as he released Ritchie. "But a job at Pinken Island doesn't come along every day!"

"Hey, what about me?" Brock demanded plaintively. "I don't know, you cook for a guy, you help him become a great trainer, you pick him up when he falls on his nose and then years later he ignores you!"

Ash grinnned and thumped Brock on the back. "And how could I forget you, my second mother." he grinned.

"My... ribs..." gasped Ritchie.

"My... back..." gasped Brock, sprawled on the ground. "Ash... you've..."

"_Please_ don't tell me that I've grown!" Ash begged. "It's getting old."

Brock grinned and winced. Then two shapely legs set themselves in front of him. On his hands and knees Brock looked up... and up... "..." he said.

"Well Brock, aren't you going to say hello to ME?" Misty asked him.

"Hello pretty lady..." Brock said as the surroundings dissolved into pastels and pretty flowers. Bubbles floated in the air. "My name is Brock, and..." he stood up and stepped forward, and bumped into Ash's outstretched arm.

"Now Brock," said Ash. "Snap out of it! Don't you recognise her?"

"Oh, I'm sure I'd have recognised a beautiful young lady like this if I'd ever met her before," said Brock.

Richie backed off to a safe distance. "This doesn't look good Sparky."

"Pika," Sparky agreed.

"Pikachu!" Pikachu added his two cents worth.

"Oh reaallllyyyyy..." Misty drawled.

*WHAM*

"You big dumb goof!" she shouted, grinding her foot into his back.

"Oh, hi Misty." Brock managed. "Ow."

"Now dear, you know you deserved that," came a voice from behind the group.

They all turned. Nurse Joy beamed at them. She was... well, exactly like all the OTHER Nurse Joys... except that...

Ash stared. "You're not wearing a Nurse's uniform!"

Joy giggled. "Of course not, I'm on holiday!"

Ash and Misty kept staring. Brock scrambled to his feet.

"Sweetheart! Joy... honey... you know I didn't mean anything... I was just so surprised to see Misty like _this_."

And promptly tripped himself up by putting both of them into his mouth.

Joy smiled as Misty fumed and patted him on the shoulder. "It's alright Brock dear, I'm used to it."

Ash felt a sweatdrop trickle down the side of his face. "Tolerant woman." he muttered.

"Pika..." said Pikachu. [Translation: You said it!]

"Misty, it's so good to see you again," said Joy, walking past Brock and clasping Misty's hands.

"Um... have we met before?" Misty asked.

"Of course! Don't tell me you don't remember?"

"Ummmmmm..." Misty sweatdropped and looked frantically at Ash for help.

"Er, say Richie, how are all your Pokemon? Sparky and Zippo and Happy?" asked Ash hurriedly.

"Zippo evolved..."

"Uh oh, this won't end well." said Brock.

"Into a Charmeleon." finished Richie. "He's great."

"He is?" Ash asked.

"Yeah! I can't wait for him to evolve again!" Richie said, grinning widely.

"Oh..." Ash drooped.

"See Ash," said Misty. "I told you it was you! Why do you get all the weird pokemon?"

"Psy-duck?" said Ash.

"Oh shut up."

Brock rolled his eyes. "Some things never change." Midway through their revolution they noticed something.

"Hey... is that by any chance...?" he pointed.

"Huh?" said Ash. "Oh, that's Misty's new bike? Like it? I got it in Saffron City."

Brock stared at the bike. Tears formed in his eyes. "You... you bought Misty a bike?" he sniffled. "You mean... you mean... you mean I don't have to listen to that stupid argument ever again?"

"Hey!"

"I never thought this day would come! I'm so happy!" Brock put his arm in front of his face and bawled.

Ash and Misty fumed.

"It wasn't stupid!" Misty muttered. "It was my bike! He owed me a new one!"

"Well I can understand some of his reaction," said Ash. "You did go on about it an awful lot."

"It was important!"

"It was an emergency!"

"Dammit Ash Ketchum, you..."

"STOP IT!!!!!!" Brock howled. Misty and Ash recoiled. "But..." they both said.

"No! Stop now! I refuse to hear another word!" Brock turned away.

Silence.

"Would anyone like tea?" Mrs Ketchum asked brightly.

***

A road outside Celadon City:

Lily took a deep breath. "This, like, totally sucks!" she complained.

Violet grimaced as she looked at her hands. "My hands are all covered in this... _icky_ grime!" she complained.

Lily threw down the socket wrench. "We finally get this bomb running and then we, like, blow a tyre! I can't _believe_ it!"

Daisy yawned and stretched. "Yah, it's real hard." she agreed.

Lily and Violet stared at her. She was sitting on the bank, sunning herself while they knelt by the car.

"_You_ could, like, help!" said Violet.

Daisy blinked. "But I don't know what to do," she said.

"And we do?" asked Lily. "You seemed to have a pretty good idea what to do ten minutes ago!"

Daisy shrugged. "That's 'cos I watched Fletcher-honey work on his BMW," her eyes went dreamy. "He looked so cool working on it."

Violet sighed. "Why are we doing this anyway?" she asked. "I mean, Fletcher's got it all wrong, don't you think? Misty didn't _steal_ any Pokemon from us, they're all hers!"

"Yah," agreed Lily. "I don't get why he's so mad at her either, you'd think he'd be happy to, like, see her go after all the stuff she said about him."

"That's not the point!" snapped Daisy. "Misty has totally left us hanging, we need her back! Fletcher is soooo right to go and tell her that her place is with us!"

"Well, yah..." said Violet. "But he doesn't, like, have to _drag_ her off if she doesn't want to go!"

"Why not? Ash Ketchum dragged her away from us in the first place!"

Lily giggled. "She didn't, like, seem to be complaining that hard! Not that I would in her place... that kid has _grown_!"

"And how!" agreed Violet giggling.

Daisy looked peeved. "Just fix the stupid tyre!"

Violet and Lily exchanged long-suffering glances.

"Y'know what?" Violet whispered to Lily. "I hope neither us nor Fletcher catch up with Misty until she's had some fun!"

"For sure!"

***

Ash stretched out and put his feet on the coffee table. "It's nice to be home," he said, looking around the place approvingly.

"Mime!" *Whack!*

"Yeouch!" Ash got his feet _off_ the coffee table whilst Brock and Richie laughed at him. Sheepishly, he joined in.

"What's so funny?" Mrs Ketchum asked, entering the room, Joy and Misty trailing behind her.

"Uh, nothing." Ash stood up and banged his head on the lightshade. "OW!"

"Oh dear!" said Mrs Ketchum. "It looks like you're getting too big for the house! And I was so looking forward to you moving in with your bride and bringing _your_ children up in here."

Ash replayed that sentence in his mind. Something was wrong here.

Richie choked. "Bride? You're ENGAGED???!!! And you didn't tell us???? That means..." he looked at Misty, then leapt out of his chair and ran over to clasp her hands. "Congratulations!"

"Wha...?" said Misty.

"Pika?"

"I knew it!" said Joy. "We all knew it!"

Brock patted Ash on the back. "I knew you two were meant for each other."

"Bwah??? Did we have a conversation I missed?" Ash asked.

"Huh? I don't know what you're talking about!" Misty had gone as red as her hair. She pulled her hands free. "I think Mrs Ketchum was just talking about someday... some far off day in the future... that's all."

"Oh. Ummm..." Richie looked at Ash, who glared murderously at him. "Right. Sorry. Uhhh... Just jumped to the wrong conclusion. Don't know what came over me. How did that happen? Ahahahahahaha!" he nervously sat down.

Misty stared at him. *He knows something,* she thought. *Hmmm...*

Joy smiled to herself.

"Uh... did you want help with anything Mrs Ketchum?" Brock asked, trying to change the subject. "Just sing out if you need a hand, after all it's the least we can all do since we're all staying in your house."

"Oh, that's alright," said Sasha. "I just wanted to tell you that Misty, Joy and I are going out shopping. She needs some clothes for the party tonight..."

Misty nodded.

"... And of course, she needs to have a fitting for her bridesmaids' dress."

Misty nodded... then paused. "Eh?" she demanded.

"Uh, oh yeah!" said Ash. "In all the fuss I forgot to tell you that Mom wanted you to be a bridesmaid."

"How could you forget something like that?" Misty demanded.

"I was, um, temporarily deranged." said Ash. "And busy. Very very busy."

"What fuss?" asked Brock curiously.

"Er, well, we had some trouble getting out of the gym," said Ash. "Fletcher the Lecher didn't want to let her go."

"Fletcher the who?" Brock demanded.

"Misty's soon to be brother-in-law. He's a major jerk." said Ash.

"Pikachu!" added Pikachu fiercely.

"Wonderful Ash," said Misty. "Just tell the world why don't you?"

"Oh dear," said Joy. "Is he still bothering you? Have you tried using the mace my second cousin sent you?"

"Wha? How did you...? Nuh... AGH!" said Misty.

Richie frowned, puzzling it together. "Jerk, brother in law, mace... OH!!!! You mean pond-scum!!!"

"Pond-scum??!!!" everyone stared at him except Ash, who was making frantic shushing motions.

"Pond-scum?" repeated Misty.

"For months Ash has talked about nothing but some major jerk who's been harassing you. But he never mentioned his name, just called him pond-scum... and, er, other things I cannot mention in polite company."

Misty looked accusingly at Ash, who blushed.

"Pond-scum?" she asked him.

"I'm sure I didn't call him that all the time," said Ash, scratching his face.

"Well no, mostly you called him a ..."

"THANK YOU RICHIE!" said Ash loudly.

Misty stared at him a moment longer and then turned away, smiling slightly. *That's actually kind of sweet,* she thought.

"Well, you don't have to worry about him now, Misty dear," said Sasha. "He's in Cerulean City and you're here. Now, why don't you come along with Joy and I and we'll go shopping." She picked up her shoulder bag from the coffee table. "Ready, Joy?"

"Of course, Mrs Ketchum."

"Right," Sasha looked at the boys. "Now, the party is at Okido's..."

"Who??" chorused Ash and Misty in confusion.

Sasha blinked. "Professor Oak, dear, that's his first name. I can't call him 'Professor' when we're getting married!" she smiled. "Anyway, the party starts at 6.30, so don't be late and _try_ to look presentable!"

"_Mom_!" Ash's expression was one of hurt. "I am _not_ a kid anymore!"

"No dear, you're a young man, and that makes you ten times worse!"

Ash fumed as Misty giggled. "Thanks alot!"

"PiPiPika!" laughed Pikachu and Sparky.

After the women had left and Brock had gone into the kitchen to clean up, Richie turned to Ash. "So, what's the deal with you and Misty?" he asked.

Ash swallowed. "What do you mean?" he asked nervously. "We're just friends."

Richie looked skeptical. "Uh-huh, riiiight. Ash, you're talking to the guy who you've been writing to for the past few years, and I noticed Misty came up _alot_ during this year! She's obviously on your mind!"

Ash quickly got to his feet. "I was just worried about her!" he said defensively. "She's been having a rough time!"

Richie shrugged. "Okay, whatever," he grinned at Ash. "How about I change the subject?"

"Good!" Ash was relieved. He wasn't ready to tell _anyone_ how much he had been thinking about Misty, especially during the time they'd been travelling to Pallet. Ash was aware that he felt something for her, but when he started to examine it too closely he felt dizzy. "What's the new subject?"

Richie held up a pokeball. "How about a match?"

Ash grinned. "You're on!"

***

"Come on come on come on..." Brock snapped, flapping his hands at the other two. "I can't believe you! Five minutes after you meet each other for the first time in years and you have to go get in a huge Poke-battle and make us all late!"

"Chill out Brock," said Richie. "You're just mad YOU didn't get a turn."

"I am NOT!" yelled Brock. "That has absolutely NOTHING to do with it! Nothing, nothing at all I tell you!"

Richie and Ash exchanged glances.

"Thanks for lending me this shirt Richie," said Ash, plucking at it. "I'll try not to drip anything down it."

"Okay, _now_ I'm worried," said Richie. "Ash, that thing is silk, if you drip anything down it..."

"You'll have to buy me a new shirt..." all three men chorused in unison.

"Why do I have a disturbing sense of deja vu?" Ash asked.

"Pika-chu."

"That's not fair!"

"Enough chatter, now MARCH!" ordered Brock.

Ignoring him, the two younger Pokemon Masters and the pokemon chattered amiably as they were shooed up the steps to Professor Oaks' house. Ash banged on the door and then turned to reply to a comment of Brock's. The door opened.

"Er, bride or groom?" asked a hesitant voice.

"Huh?" said Ash, turning back. "Neither, I'm just the best man."

Richie, Brock and Pikachu face-faulted.

"Ash?" asked the man at the door.

"Professor!" said Ash. "It's so great to see you in person again, instead of on those little vid-phones."

Professor Oak stared at him. "Little vid-phones... yes, that must be it. I didn't realise how much you'd _grown_!"

Ash gritted his teeth. "Gah!" Then he held out a hand. "Congratulations... um, Professor."

"Why thank you Ash," said Professor Oak, shaking it. "But please, come in!"

"Sorry we're so late," said Brock.

"Oh you're not late," said Prof. Oak. "I told Sasha to tell you it was an hour earlier than it is so that you could get here on time."

"Great," said Brock. Ash blushed.

"As it is, I'm the one running late. Could you boys finish setting up while I get changed." asked Professor Oak. "The ladies are already upstairs getting ready and I've got to catch up!"

"Sure thing." Richie and Brock set to work. Ash headed off to help too when Prof. Oak grabbed his arm.

"Er, Ash," he began. "Are you, um... that is, I know that this is a little awkward... ahh..."

"Yeah," said Ash. "Well, as long as you're both happy then everything's okay."

"Oh good, good," said Professor Oak, breathing a sigh of relief. "I was worried that you would be upset about suddenly acquiring a new father."

Ash tried not to think about that. "I'm fine! Really!" he said.

"And then there's always the fact that Gary will now be your relation," Prof. Oak continued.

Ash tried _really_ hard not to think about _that_. "I'm sure we'll all be one big... family." he said.

"What a relief!" said Prof. Oak. "Well, must go and change!" he set off. Ash shuddered and set to work. In the midst of setting a table he heard someone clear their throat behind him.

"Well, well, look who it is. The prodigal has returned."

Ash blinked and lost some of his composure. "I know that voice." He turned around. "Gary!"

His rival of many years faced him, a familiar confident smile on his lips. "So you finally made it back home. I didn't think you knew the way! Who'd have thought you had sense enough to come in from the rain?" Outwardly, Gary was the same as ever. Same smile, same sneering tone, and he even looked pretty much the same, only taller and a little older. Inwardly he was surprised. Ash had sure grown since they last saw each other.

"Gary," Ash repeated. "Long time no see. How's life treating you?" He looked around. "Where's your cheerleading squad?"

"Oh, I put that sort of ostentatious display behind me _years_ ago," Gary said with a casual wave. "I don't need them to tell me how great I am anymore."

"How... nice for you." said Ash, sweatdropping. "So, what a surprise this turned out to be, huh?"

"If you say so. _I_ of course knew all about it, could see it coming a mile away." Gary smirked.

"Is that why you wrote me that weird letter?"

"Uhhh..." It was Gary's turn to sweatdrop. "Well, uh..."

"Not too keen on becoming my step-nephew?" Ash asked with a grin.

"Listen you little twerp, just because..." Gary took in Ash's big grin. "Oh, you were kidding."

Ash's grin got wider. "Don't worry Gary, I promise not to presume on our new relationship."

Gary glared but eventually could not prevail against the grin on Ash's face, which was threatening to engulf it.

"Okay okay, peace." he said finally. "I admit, I was a bit, um, surprised by this turn of events, but it's actually worked out okay." He looked surprised to hear himself say it.

"Yeah, I have to admit I'm a little uncomfortable about this whole thing," said Ash. "I mean... you know."

"Yeah," Gary agreed wholeheartedly. "It's more than a little weird."

There was an agreeable silence. Of course, it couldn't last.

"So, how are you doing collecting Pokemon?" Gary finally asked.

"Oh, pretty good." said Ash, with a smile. Then he sobered. "Although one was stolen from me recently."

"Stolen?" Gary was shocked. "Someone _stole_ one of your Pokemon?"

"Yeah, Kingler, you remember it don't you?" Ash asked. "I'd left it with Misty at the Cerulean Gym but... well, it's come under new management lately and they sold it without consulting either of us." He punched his fist into his hand. "Dammit, I shouldn't have let Misty distract me from Fletcher. I should have beaten the tar out of him."

Tears glimmered in Ash's eyes. "I'll make him pay!" he swore. "And I'll keep searching until I find Kingler."

"This Fletcher guy," said Gary slowly. "Blonde? Wears leather? Drives a motorcycle?"

"Yeah," said Ash. "Really gross guy, he's been harassing Misty and threatening her Pokemon."

"Really?" asked Gary in surprise. "I'd heard things were getting pretty bad at the Cerulean Gym, but not that they'd gotten so out of control!"

"Multiply whatever you've heard by a factor of three," said Ash. "I practically had to kidnap Misty out of there! She'd barricaded herself into her room with all her Pokemon."

"Oh hell!" Gary looked annoyed.

"I know," said Ash, commiseratingly.

"No you don't," said Gary. "And that's the problem. You're taking all the fun out of this!"

"Huh?"

Gary fished a pokeball out of his tuxedo pocket. "Does this look familiar?" he asked, activating it.

"KINGLER!!!!" shouted Ash. "But how did you...?"

"I thought you'd lost it or traded it or something," said Gary. "This guy - I think it must have been that Flatulent guy or whatever his name was - offered to sell him to me and I recognised him at once. I was planning to gloat at you and make you suffer before giving him back but now..." he handed the pokeball to Ash. "Here."

"Gary." Ash was speechless.

"Now don't get all mushy!" said Gary. "I'd have done the same for any loser trainer, so don't think you're special or anything."

Tears were pouring down Ash's face. "Thank you! I knew you couldn't be all bad! There had to be SOME good in that heartless, arrogant, self-centred, vain shell!" he hugged Gary tight.

"Urgh, you're wel... HEY!!!!" said Gary. He thumped Ash's shoulder. "Put me down you moron! You may have grown in size but your IQ's the same as ever."

Ash released him and he brushed himself off.

"Thank you Gary," said Ash seriously.

"Yeah yeah," Gary wandered off, shaking his head. The doorbell rang.

"That'll be the guests!" he called. "I'll get it." He smoothed his clothes into place and opened the door.

"Welcome!" he said.

Meanwhile, Ash knelt down and held his arms out to Kingler. "Did you miss me buddy?"

"*Bubble*" replied Kingler, and jumped into Ash's arms.

"Let's go and tell Misty that I've got you back!" said Ash.

***

Upstairs, Sasha turned to Misty and Joy. "Well? Are you girls ready? The party should be just about to start."

Misty swallowed. "Joy, I don't think I can go out there, I feel weird in this dress." she murmured to the pink haired girl next to her.

Joy smiled. "Misty, you look great! You're going to outshine _everyone_!"

Misty wasn't convinced, but she opened the door and stepped out... and nearly crashed straight into Ash who was running up the stairs three at a time.

"Oh!" Misty exclaimed blushing.

Ash stared. "M-Misty?" he gasped his own face reddening. With a thunk he dropped Kingler.

She looked... amazing. Wearing a spagetti strap sea-blue dress that matched her eyes, a simple chain necklet and high heeled silver sandals, Misty's appearance was totally different from the norm. "Misty... I..." Ash tried to articulate the words swirling around in his brain and failed.

However, Misty could see the admiration in his eyes and her confidence grew. She was also busy checking _him_ out! Ash's muscular form was complemented by his dark blue silk shirt and black jeans. She took a step towards him, one hand outstretched. "Ash, I wanted to..."

Before Misty could finish her sentence disaster struck. Misty's step forward brought her into contact with the fallen Kingler. Tripping over him, she tumbled forward. As she fell Ash tried to catch her, and he would have succeeded except that he was standing on the edge of the stairs. Ash overbalanced as Misty crashed into him, windmilled frantically on the top of the stairs and then gave in to the forces of gravity. With accompanying yelps of pain they both tumbled headlong down the stairs, Kingler hurrying behind them.

*THUD!*

"Pikapi!" Pikachu rushed over to the pair followed by Brock and Richie.

"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!" Gary collapsed on the floor and lay there clutching his sides as he howled with laughter.

Misty groaned and opened her eyes. Almost immediately her face turned as red as her hair as she realised that she was sprawled on top of Ash in front of all the party guests.

Ash opened his eyes and winced as Gary's laughter rang in his ears. "Oh great..." he growled. "Misty, are you okay?"

"Ah... yes." Misty accepted a helping hand up from Brock. "Sorry, Ash."

"'s okay." Ash grunted as he sat up.

"Don't worry about it, Misty," said Professor Oak. "I've been meaning to replace the carpet on that landing for _years_! It was just unlucky that it was you who tripped on it!"

"Yeah, unlucky." muttered Misty wishing the ground would open her and swallow her. "Some entrance."

A tinkling laugh made her look around. Beside Gary, who was wiping his eyes and getting up, a beautiful brunette in a pink dress was giggling. Seeing Misty looking at her she stopped laughing and assumed a expression of concern. "Are you alright?" she asked. "I guess you're not used to those heels, right?"

Professor Oak looked sharply at the girl. "May, I was wondering where you were," he said. "You remember Ash don't you?"

May Oak glanced over at Ash who was back on his feet, her eyes widened. "_Ash_?" she whispered increduously.

"A shocker isn't it?" commented Gary. "One minute he's the Pallet Town shrimp and the next... well, the giant!"

Ash glared briefly at Gary before smiling at May. "Hi, May, you're looking good."

May pouted slightly. "Only good?"

Ash ignored her none too subtle hint and pushed Misty forward. "May Oak, meet Misty from Cerulean City. Misty's the other bridesmaid."

Misty smiled weakly. "Hello."

May's eyebrows nearly disappeared into her hair. "Really?" she smiled sweetly at Misty. "It's a pleasure. Please ask me if you need any help!"

Misty eyed May suspiciously. The sweet smile did _not_ reach May's eyes and there was a note of insincerity in her voice. "Uh... thanks."

May then brushed past Misty and laid a lace-gloved hand on Ash's arm. "My my Ash Ketchum, you've really _grown_!"

Ash looked pained. "I give up." he muttered. "Thanks May."
he smiled briefly at her.

Misty fought against a surge of jealousy as she watched May cosy up to Ash. But before she could act Sasha and Joy came down the stairs.

"Are you alright, Misty?" Joy asked.

Misty sighed. "Yeah, Misty the clumsy strikes again!"

Sasha patted her on the arm. "Don't be like that! Everyone will have forgotten all about it by tomorrow."

"Oh, so I just have to live through the sniggers tonight." muttered Misty glumly.

Professor Oak took Sasha's hand and led her away to meet some of the other guests. Some music starting playing and couples began to populate the dance floor.

"Oh! Come on Ash, let's dance!" May cried pulling on Ash's arm.

"Uh... I don't dance that well..." Ash protested looking over his shoulder at Misty, he really wanted to let her know that Kingler was back, but she was saying something to Richie and didn't notice him.

"Pleeeeese?" May begged. "For old times sake?"

"Well... I... er... okay." Ash saw Kingler scuttling over to Pikachu. *I'll tell Misty later, once this dance is over.*

Misty saw Ash and May dancing out of the corner of her eye and wished she didn't care. *She's an old _friend_!* she reminded herself *Of course Ash would want to catch up with her!*

"Hey Misty!"

"Huh?" she blinked and turned to Richie who was waving a hand in front of her face. "Oh, Richie, what is it?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Geez, you were in dreamland! I just asked you to dance with me twice!"

Misty couldn't help but smile. "Well, I don't..." she paused, there were a few things she wanted to ask Richie, this was as good a time as any to press for information. "I'd love to." she said graciously.

Ash's eyebrows shot up as he saw Richie and Misty dancing. He became acutely conscious of a feeling of hurt that Misty was dancing with Richie and not with _him_.

May smiled sweetly up at Ash, a smile designed to make men fall gibbering at her feet. However, the smile was swiftly replaced with a frown when she saw that Ash was not looking at her! Looking in the direction of his gaze she realised he was staring at the redheaded girl who had fallen down the stairs.

Richie swung Misty around and grinned. "You're a good dancer, Misty." he complimented her.

Misty blushed faintly. "I have a good partner!" she returned the compliment. "Uh... Richie, there is something I wanted to ask you."

"What?"

"Well..." Misty took a deep breath. "Why were you so quick to assume that Ash and I were engaged?"

Richie nearly missed a step, recovering his composure he smiled nervously at her. "Ah... well, it just seemed... you and Ash..."

Misty concealed a surge of triumph. "So he's been telling you about me?" she pressed on. "What?"

Richie looked pained. "Misty! You can't expect me to betray Ash's confidence can you?"

"Aha! So he was writing about me!"

"But why do you care _so_ much?" Richie neatly turned the pressure on her.

Misty blushed again. "I don't... I mean... Richie! That's mean!" she protested.

"Gotcha!" Richie teased.

Ash's eyes narrowed. *What is Richie saying to make Misty blush so much? And why is she laughing? Damn! I wish I could...*

"Ash?" May's voice broke into his thoughts forcing Ash to look down at her.

"Ah...yes, ah... May?" he asked.

May concealed her chargin. How could Ash be so interested in that clumsy nobody? Especially when he was dancing with her, May Oak, the accredited beauty of Pallet! *Well, there is one way to get him uninterested in that girl.* May thought nastily.

"I quite agree, Ash."

"Eh?"

"Your friends, they are such a picture perfect couple!" May gushed.

Ash stared at her. "Huh?"

"It's hard not to look and them and be envious of such a great relationship!"

Ash stopped dead on the dance floor and stared wildly at Richie and Misty. "Couple?" he said in a strangled tone. "Misty and... _Richie_?!"

Richie leaned close to Misty and whispered something in her ear. A red mist swam in front of Ash's eyes and for a brief moment he saw himself going to them and choking Richie. Alarmed by such violent thoughts he swallowed against the surprising wave of rage and jealousy and took a deep breath.

"Don't jump to conclusions!" he muttered to May and left her.

May stared after him in disbelief. Ash had just _abandoned_ her in the middle of the dance floor! Only the fact that the music had ended kept her from being completely humiliated. Furious, May glared at Misty who had left Richie and was now chatting with Sasha Ketchum. It was all _her_ fault!

"Bad luck sis." Gary's sneering voice sounded by her side.

May turned her glare on him. Gary smirked. "Looks like Ash is already taken, and he's _not_ going to be swayed by you!"

May made a angry gesture and brushed past him. Gary watched her go to one of her other admirers and start flirting. He looked around for Ash and saw him walking towards Misty with a determined expression on his face. Gary sighed.

"Great, just what we need, misguided lovers! Ugh."

Misty drank the last of the punch Professor Oak had given her and set it down on one of the tables. The music had started again, she saw May Oak dancing with a man she didn't recognise, her heart lurched and she wondered where Ash was.

"Misty."

She looked up into Brock's face. He held out his hands. "How about a dance?"

Misty swallowed her disappointment. "Oh, sur..."

"Actually, I think this dance is mine." Ash cut her off.

Brock looked at Ash in faint surprise and shrugged. "Of course, Ash. I'll dance with you later, Misty."

"Ash, that was a little bit rude!" Misty scolded although she was far from mad. "Brock was..."

"Let's go." said Ash shortly grabbing her hand and pulling her onto the dance floor with him.

Misty frowned, Ash was acting as if he was angry.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked as Ash clasped her waist and they began to dance.

"I'm fine..." Ash paused. "Uh... what were you and Richie talking about?"

"Er..." Misty hesitated, she couldn't tell Ash that she had been asking about him! It would be just too embarassing! "Umm... nothing important."

"Oh? Nothing important makes you blush like a lovesick kid?!" Ash demanded his voice rising.

"Shut up!" Misty hissed. "People are staring! What _is_ your problem Ash?"

Ash gripped her hand tightly. "You... I just..."

"Ow!" Misty wrenched her hand away. "That hurt!"

Ash looked down at her confused eyes and felt like a major idiot. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I... I wanted to tell you..."

Misty's breath quickened. "Tell me?"

"That... Kingler is back!"

*THUD!* Misty facefaulted.

"Uh... ah... What?" she demanded, crawling to her hands and knees.

"*Bubble bubble*" [Well, YOU try approximating the noise he makes! - Jae.]

"KINGLER!!!" Misty lurched forward and threw her arms around the happy-looking crab pokemon. Ash resisted the urge to step on his pokemon and then realised how silly he was being. He helped Misty to her feet and then paused, his hands still clasping hers, Kingler between them.

"Oh Ash, this is so great!" she said. "How on earth did you find him?"

"Well... actually Gary did," said Ash.

"Oh, I must go and thank him!"

"NO!!"

Misty looked at Ash in surprise and blushed as she realised he was still holding her hands. "Ash..." she began shyly.

"Misty," said Ash. "I was going to say, that is, what I _really_ meant to say earlier was..."

*CRASH!!!!*

"MISTY!!!!!"

Ash and Misty jumped apart like scalded meowths. "I wasn't doing anything!" Ash declared loudly.

"Yeah! He wasn't doing anyth... _I_ wasn't doing anything either!" said Misty.

"How DARE you SHIRK your duties at the Cerulean Gym. You call yourself a pokemon trainer? You ran out on your sisters and me! You get your behind back there now!"

"What in the world??" demanded Ash. He turned to the door.
"YOU!!!" he shouted.

Misty turned as well, then went white when she saw who it was. "No..." she whispered. "Not... not..."

"FLETCHER!" said Ash in tones of loathing.

Fletcher sneered at him. "Kidnapper!" he accused.

"It's Fletcher the Lecher!" said Joy.

There was a long pause.

"_OH_, so THAT'S what Pond-scum looks like," said Richie.

"WHAT?" screamed Fletcher.

***

To be continued



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