Okay, this is a sliiiiight change of pace from most of my Pokefics. This is actually the first Pokefic I ever started (yet I only recently finished it), and I'll admit I'm a bit reluctant to post this one. It's very dramatic, slightly violent in places, and it's an Ash/Misty story. They do kiss, so if you don't like this sort of thing, you don't hafta read this. Okay, I'll step off the soapbox now and let you read the fic.

by Alyssa

In a small forest clearing, a young redhead was telling her audience what her problem was... it was a rather large problem.

"...and I can't tell him about it, not *now*! What am I supposed to do?"

"Psy yi yiy," her audience responded.

Misty smiled a little, despite her mood. "Thanks for the insight, Psyduck." A pause. "I still can't believe I chose *you* to confide in."


"No offense."

"Psy. Psy yi yi yi duck!"

"I might as well get to sleep... I'll think about this tomorrow."

Psyduck looked slightly miffed that his advice had been totally ignored, but said nothing more that could be heard as Misty returned him to his Pokeball and headed back to camp, getting into her sleeping bag.


"...I dunno, Pikachu. I could tell her, but I'm not sure she'd listen."

"Pika pik?"

Ten-year-old Ash Ketchum was having a problem similiar to Misty's. In fact, the problem was *about* her.

"No, I'm not sure... I'm just afraid she won't listen, is all." Ash sighed. Pikachu was worried about his trainer - normally Ash was full of energy, and then some. It was rare that the hyperactive boy ever got so quiet and serious.


"I'll talk to her tomorrow, I guess," Ash said, standing up and heading back to camp. Pikachu's ears drooped. He wanted to help Ash, but didn't know how.

"Chu," Pikachu sighed, and followed Ash. When he got to the camp, Ash was already in his sleeping bag and snoring quietly. The little electric mouse sighed and got into his own little bed. The problem could be addressed tomorrow.


"Something's wrong," Brock announced. "You two haven't even been talking all day!"

"We, uh... just don't feel like talking," Ash said. It was a lie. He had no idea what Misty's problem was, but he knew what his was. All day, he had been trying to think of ways to tell Misty, playing every possible scenario out in his mind. So far, he hadn't come up with a suitable way to tell her.

Before Brock could respond, there was a loud explosion.

"What was that??" Ash demanded, half glad for something to take his mind off Misty.

"Sounded like a loud explosion," Brock said in that matter-of-fact way that only accompanies such answers, and is immeasurably irritating. Before Ash could come up with a caustic reply to Brock, another explosion sounded, closer. Misty saw something through some trees that chilled her blood: a black outfit with a red R on the front.

"Team Rocket!" she exclaimed in fear.

"What, Jessie and James? Then we have nothing to worry about," Ash said.

"No! Their outfits are black! And if they were Jessie and James..."

"They would have said that speech by now," Brock finished. "Oh, no. I heard rumors about these guys back in the last city!"

"Who are they?"

"They're a small split-off group from Team Rocket, they believe in casuing complete destruction, with no questions asked! If they're attacking us... I don't think we'll have much of a chance."

Stunned, frightened silence from the two younger ones.

"Wait a minute!" Misty broke the silence. "Can't our Pokemon protect us?"

"There'd be just as much risk to them as to us," Brock said, shaking his head. "It'd be like ordering them to die."

That was even worse. Ash found one hand automatically moving to cover his Pokeballs protectively. He could feel Pikachu pressing against his leg, and shivered, kneeling.

"Pikachu," he told the electric mouse quietly, "you'll have to get in your Pokeball. I know you hate it, but it's for your own safety."

Pikachu abhorred being in a Pokeball, but he knew that Ash wanted him to be safe - and like it or not, the safest place was in the Pokeball. Pikachu hit the button on his Pokeball and was pulled into it. Ash protectively cradled the ball to his chest, standing up.

One of the explosions suddenly grew terrifyingly close. Team Rocket members swarmed onto the path.

"RUN!" Brock yelled. Ash and Misty didn't question the order, and the three scattered. Ash had no recollection of the running, so the next thing he knew, he was leaning against a huge boulder, gasping for air, and someone else was beside him, also gasping.

'Please,' he thought. 'Let it be Brock, I can talk to him, don't let it be her, please, not her...'

He turned his head in the direction of the other, and saw who he had hoped he wouldn't see. There, red hair tied in a ponytail on one side of her head, green eyes closed as she caught her breath, was Misty. Ash's heart leapt in a mixed reaction of dismay and... no, he wouldn't admit it until he had a decent chance to say it to her face.


Her eyes opened and she looked at him. "Ash!"

"Misty, I..."

He didn't finish. Misty suddenly hugged him, burying her face in his shoulder. Not quite sure how else to react to this, Ash put his arms around her comfortingly.

"Ash, I'm scared," Misty whimpered. Ash swallowed. Misty was relying on him for protection or comfort or something, and he had to provide it. He... liked her too much to let her down.

"It'll be okay," he said softly, hugging Misty just a little bit tighter. 'At least, I hope it will,' he thought.

This sweet little moment was interrupted by a nearby explosion. With lightning reflexes, the young trainers let go of each other, got up, and ran. Ash seemed extra motivated, and ran way ahead of Misty. That was his error.

A time bomb planted nearby exploded just as Ash ran past it. He screamed as he was knocked away by the force of the explosion, hot shrapnel tearing into his body. He landed awkwardly against a tree, his ears buzzing. Just before he went under, he thought he could hear Misty's voice screaming. He hoped that she was okay, and that was his last thought before he fell into the oblivion of unconsciousness.


"Ash..." Misty croaked weakly, kneeling by his side. He was breathing, but barely. It was a terrible sight. He was lying in a small pool of his own blood, more blood trickling slowly from his shrapnel wounds. Tears flowed relentlessly down Misty's cheeks. She sobbed quietly into his chest, noting with intense relief that none of the cruel metal shards had made it there.

She suddenly realized something. Sitting here and crying was not going to help Ash. He needed a hospital, and he needed it now. Carefully taking the future Pokemon Master in her arms, Misty began running back the way they'd come, screaming Brock's name, hoping he would hear.

She didn't quite find Brock, but as she quickly learned, sometimes even your enemies can be your friends.


"What's that?" a blue-haired bishounen asked, looking up from his sandwich.

"It sounds like that little girl... what's her name?" the red-haired woman replied. "Misty, I think."

The cat-like Pokemon nearby couldn't believe that his human partners could *eat* while the forest was being blown up around them. Jessie's reasoning: They wouldn't hurt other Team Rocket members! James' reasoning: We're hungry.

"Yeah, that's her," Meowth muttered. They heard Misty's screams again, closer. "Sounds like she needs help."

"We're the *bad guys*, Meowth," Jessie said. "We don't play hero."

"Did I suggest that we do?"

James, sandwich forgotten, looked at Jessie with his most pitiful expression. "But we can't just sit here!" he wailed.

Jessie knocked on James' head, fully expecting it to sound hollow. It didn't, to her amazement. "We can leave it to that little brat Ash or maybe Brock."

"Uh..." Meowth said. Being a cat, he had sharper hearing than Jessie and James. "She wants help for Ash. I'm not sure, but I think he's in deep trouble."

"That does it, then," James announced. "Bad guys or not, we can't just let a kid die!"

"Watch us," Meowth muttered.

"Actually, I'm with James on this one," Jessie said. "As much as I hate to say it, just letting somebody die goes against my morals. Even if it's Ash."

Outvoted, Meowth grumbled, following Jessie and James as they left, lunch forgotten.


"Please, somebody," Misty moaned, sinkinng to her knees. "Anybody... help him..."

"Anybody? That's an invitation if I ever heard one."

Misty looked behind her and scowled at the two white-uniformed people and the cat Pokemon. "I didn't mean *you*!"

Jessie held up a hand. "You can trust us this time."

"That's right. For once, we're here to help."

They seemed sincere enough, and Misty was pretty desperate. "Where's the nearest hospital?"

"In the next town, over that way," Jessie said, pointing in a direction.

"We were already going that way... good! Is it close?"

"If we wait much longer, it won't be close enough," James warned, taking Ash from Misty's arms. Jessie helped Misty to her feet.

"Meowth, find Brock," the older redhead commanded.

"No way!"

"Or I'll throw you into a river," Jessie added. That was sufficient motivation for Meowth to instantly spring up and look for Brock. The two Team Rocket members headed in another direction.

"Hey!" Misty said angrily. "You said --"

"And we mean it. We're just taking him back to the jeep we... uh, borrowed... so we can get him to the hospital faster," James explained. "Are you coming?"

"Oh," Misty said weakly, following the two. "Okay."


Ash awoke to find himself... well, not where he'd passed out. Everything was black. He looked at his hand. Judging from the fact that he could see it rather clearly, he decided that this place was supposed to be entirely black. Which did not comfort him in the least.

"Where am I?" Ash asked the air.

"Between dreaming and death," a voice answered. That was not a good thing to hear.

"Am I going to die?"

"It depends."

"On *what*?"

"On whether Jessie and James are truly honest."

Ash blinked, in stunned silence. "What does Team Rocket have to do with this?"

"As we speak, they claim that they are taking you to a hospital. If they are speaking the truth, you might live. If not, you will die."

"*MIGHT* live? Even if they're telling the truth, I could still die??"

"It depends. On whether they can get you there in time, on whether you are still strong enough to live if they do."

None of this was really helping Ash's state of mind. He thought of Brock, Pikachu, his mother, Gary, his other Pokemon, his dreams of becoming a Pokemon Master, and...

"Misty," he croaked. "Misty! I can't die! Not while Misty's still alive! I have to see if she's okay, I have to tell her..." he trailed off.

"You are stubborn. Your resolve will not change anything."

But this mysterious voice was underestimating two things: the strength of the human spirit, and how incredibly stubborn Ash really could be.


Brock glanced at Misty. She was pacing restlessly around the waiting room, visibly upset. Not that Brock really blamed her. He stole a glance at the emergency room door and decided that if he were in Misty's situation, he would be just as distraught.

Jessie and James had told the truth when they'd said that they could be trusted this time. They really had seemed concerned for Ash's well-being, and had hurried to the hospital. They hadn't hung around afterwards, but that was probably because their Team Rocket uniforms would stand out.

Pikachu had been let out of his Pokeball when the jeep hit a bump, causing the Pokeball to fall off Ash's belt and hit against the floor. Misty hadn't wanted to explain Ash's condition to the little mouse Pokemon, but there was kinda no choice. Pikachu had curled up on Ash's chest and refused to leave, until a nurse armed with rubber gloves had forcibly removed him and shooed him out of the ER. He was now curled up on Brock's lap, making pitiful crying sounds from time to time. Brock occasionally petted the little Pokemon, murmuring somewhat half-hearted encouragements.

The ER door opened, and the nurse (who, it should be noted, looked absolutely nothing like any of the Nurse Joys) came out, looking somewhat discouraged.

"Is Ash okay?" Misty dropped the question almost immediately.

"It's... hard to say," the nurse said quietly. "I removed all the shrapnel, and I've done everything else I can for him... but it's still hard to say whether he'll survive..."

Misty valiantly fought back tears. "Can I see him?"

"I suppose so... he's still unconscious, though."

"I don't care," Misty said quietly. "I need to see him."

"Go on in, then," the nurse said. Misty nodded and went into the ER.


Ash stood in the blackness, staring into space as he pondered his situation. He was in grave danger; he wasn't dense enough to not recognize that. He was, however, convinced that he would make it.

"Your condition is grave," the voice felt like saying.

"I realize that!" Ash snapped, then realized that the voice had said 'condition', not 'situation'. "You mean..."

"Your body is very close to dying. I highly doubt that you will survive."


Misty held the unconscious boy's hand, tears running down her cheeks. His jacket and cap had been removed, and Misty could see the bandages covering his arms. There was also a rather ominous-looking one on his stomach area, over the shirt. As for his condition, Ash was barely breathing, taking short, ragged, uneven breaths. The heart monitor showed a not-too-smooth heartbeat as well, and Ash's hand felt frighteningly cool to Misty. His body was tense and stiff.

'He looks so cold and still... like in the Pokemon Tower...' the water Pokemon trainer thought. She shuddered slightly at the memory. She had been ready to give him up for dead just before he had finally returned to his body and woken up. He had explained everything later, of course, but that didn't change the cold feeling in Misty's stomach when she'd first seen his unconscious form beneath the chandelier, or the relief when he'd finally opened his eyes.

And it certainly didn't change the quiet terror she was feeling now. Ash looked very close to death. If only there were something she could do to help him! Running her fingers through his wild dark hair, she let the tears fall.

"Ash, please," she whispered. "Don't leave me..."


"What do you *mean*, you doubt I'll survive?? I have to survive! I have to!"

"Did you not notice that you stand very close to death?"

"Huh?" Ash looked down, and noticed that the "ground" wasn't solid black, but rather a very dark, swirling grey. And a few feet beyond the grey, was pure black, which was pulling at him. "You mean, that darkness there... it's death?"


Ash quickly stepped back, or tried to. He found that the tug was too strong to move back, and started to step forward towards his doom.


"You can't leave me... you're still so young, you have your dream of being a Pokemon Master... please, Ash, don't die!"

Misty wiped her eyes and gazed at Ash's still form. She was losing hope. His condition was slowly worsening. Death would come soon, and there was nothing she could do. She had never felt so helpless in her life.


Ash was clinging desperately to the edge of the grey - the edge of life.

He'd fallen over, and the pull of death was almost irresistible now. He had a feeling that the voice was surprised at him.

"You really are a stubborn little human," it said.

"I know," Ash answered, his voice strained as he fought death. There was so much left for him in life... his Pokemon, his friends, his family, his dream... his love...

"Misty," he whispered. With amazing strength, he started to pull himself up, back onto the greyness. It seemed an eternity, but he managed to crawl back on.

"You can't win. Your body is weak and dying."

"Because I'm so close to death!" Ash snapped, as he crawled slowly away from the pull. "If I get away, my body'll be okay, right?"

A long pause. "Yes, given time to recover."

"Good." Ash was able to stand now. Noting that the tug was less insistent now, he staggered forward, trying to get away. Trying to live. He stumbled and was dragged a couple feet towards death.

'No... Pikachu'll never get over it if I die... I still have so much... Pikachu, Brock, Misty... MISTY!'

He struggled back up and continued moving away. The tug started to fade.

"Misty... I'm coming back!" he screamed. "MISTY!"

He suddenly broke free of the insistent tug and tumbled forward, settling into oblivion.


Ash sighed, his body relaxing. His breathing grew deeper and smoother, and his heartbeat stabilized. Misty could swear that he was smiling slightly as well. His lips moved, whispering something.


"I'm here, Ash," she assured him quietly, squeezing his hand slightly.

His eyes opened, slowly. He turned his head to look at her, smiling as her face came into focus. "Misty... you're okay..."

"Of course I'm okay, you idiot!" she said, laughing in relief. He had been so close to death... but he was alive, and he was alright now. That was all that mattered.

Ash started to sit up, then gasped and fell back down, one hand moving to clutch one of his wounds. He clenched his teeth against the sharp pain, waiting for it to subside. Then he started to sit up again.

"Ash, don't, you're hurt--"

"C'mon, Misty, you should know by now how stubborn I am..." He smiled. Managing to sit up without any pain too great to be ignored, he took both her hands in his, his face dead serious. "Misty, I have to tell you something."

Misty looked at him in surprise, but nodded to indicate she would listen. Ash took a deep breath.

"Since we first met, we've mostly just fought with each other. You've annoyed me sometimes, and I bet I annoyed you. But... Misty, I came closer to death than you can imagine. I fought it, and I'm alive now because of you." He took another deep breath. "I don't know if you feel the same way, but... I love you, Misty."

Misty was speechless. Ash's confession left her with absolutely nothing to say. After all this time wondering how she could possibly tell him, how he would react if she ever was able to... and he already felt the same way about her! Misty could feel herself blushing.

Ash looked down, seeming dejected. Misty realized that he must think she had rejected him, and scrambled to find the words.

"No, Ash, it's not... I didn't..."

Ash looked up at Misty slightly with a piteous look on his face, before looking down again. 'He really does care,' Misty thought happily. 'Oh, Ash, how can I tell you... how can I tell you that I love you too?'

Since she couldn't find any words, Misty decided to let her actions speak for her. Letting go of Ash's hands, she raised his chin up gently so that he was facing her, and then kissed him quickly on the lips. As she drew back, blushing faintly, Ash stared at her, his eyes wide. Misty smiled and answered the unspoken question she could see in his eyes.

"Yes, Ash. I love you too."

Ash smiled happily and hugged her. She hugged back, not wanting to let go. His body felt so warm, so alive. Misty felt happy tears stinging her eyes. There are few things in the world that are more wonderful than knowing that the person you love, loves you in return. The trainers' lips met in a soft kiss.


"Pikapi..." Pikachu said quietly, staring at the ER door.

"Misty's been in there a long time," Brock observed. "Pikachu, lemme stand up."

The elctric mouse moped off of Brock's lap, and the breeder stood up. Opening the door a crack, he peered in, to see Ash and Misty wrapped in each other's arms, kissing. He smiled knowingly and closed the door silently, turning around to go back to his seat.


Feeling the need to breathe, Ash and Misty pulled away from each other, smiling as they gazed into each other's eyes. The moment was ruined as one of Ash's wounds twinged painfully, causing him to gasp, cringe, and clutch at his side.

"Oh, Ash..." Misty said worriedly. "You should rest, your wounds need to heal..."

Ash nodded, grimacing, and lay back down. Misty kissed him quickly on the forehead and stood up from the chair next to his bed.

"Tell Brock and Pikachu I'm okay, will ya?"

Misty nodded. "I will."

"Thanks." Ash pulled the sheets over him and closed his eyes to go to sleep. Misty smiled and left the room quietly. The look on Brock's face told her that he already knew.

"Pi..." Pikachu said quietly, unhappily.

"No, no, Pikachu, it's all right... Ash is okay."

"PIKA--!?" It was rare that Pikachu's eyes opened wide enough for the color of them to be discerned, and this happened to be one of those rare times.

"Yeah... he almost died, but he's okay now... so don't worry," Misty said, smiling.

"Pika pika pikachu pi pi pi pikachu!"

Misty took a guess. "Do you want to see him?"

Pikachu nodded eagerly. Misty held the door open for him.

"He's trying to get some rest, so his wounds can heal, but go ahead."

The little mouse scampered happily into the room. Misty closed the door and turned to Brock.

"We are *not* leaving this town until Ash can walk again."

Brock nodded in agreement, and he and Misty went to go see if there were any motels in the area.


A few weeks passed, and Ash's wounds healed nicely. Before too long, the group was on the road again. Misty and Ash were back to their normal bickering selves. Brock, smiling to himself, held back any comments about how they acted like a married couple.

And so, the journey continued.

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