Part 3: Reconnect
About an hour after Brock's proposal, Ash was sitting outside on a bench Delia had placed in front of the house. He was gathering his thoughts of everything that had taken place. From seeing Misty to Brock's engagement, that was a lot to absorb in a short amount of time. Misty walked outside and found Ash out there.
"Oh!" Misty gasped.
Ash looked at her and blushed. "Oh. Uh. Hey."
"Hey." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I'll, uh… go back inside. I didn't mean to bother you."
"Don't be silly. Come, sit down."
"Okay!" she said, immediately. She stopped. "I mean… thanks." She walked over and sat down.
"So, can we talk about Brock now?" Ash asked, smiling.
"Oh, my God, yes!" Misty replied, instantly.
"How crazy is this?!" Ash threw his back against the bench.
"So crazy! I can't believe this! Brock is getting married!"
"But it's to Lucy. At least, it's not some random girl he was proposing to, like he used to."
Misty giggled. "Yeah." She remembered back to that time in their lives. "Those days were fun, though. Weren't they?"
Ash smiled. "The best."
"I never knew what was going to happen next. But I couldn't have asked for better company."
They fell silent again. They wanted to say more, admit a lot of things, say speeches they had each rehearsed hundreds of times. But it was so hard to interrupt the perfection of the moment of just getting to be next to each other again.
"Nice night," Misty said, breaking the silence.
"Yeah," Ash said. He looked up at the night's sky. "Always great to come home."
"For me, too."
He looked at her, his eyebrow raised slightly.
She looked back at him and giggled. "Don't look so surprised. I consider this home, too. Your mom invites me enough."
Ash rolled his eyes. "I knew it."
"Don't get mad at her, I subtly beg." Misty shrugged, "Like, every other time we talk."
"It's okay." He stared at Misty for a few seconds.
Misty noticed his gaze and started to blush. "Wha, uh… what is it?"
"Walk with me," Ash said. "It's been a while since we walked together."
They got up and started walking down the path, leading away from the house. They walked for a while it total silence. But they didn't mind. They were back in each other's company, something they had wanted for a year. It was a little cold tonight but they hardly noticed. Nothing could stop this moment.
If they could only figure out what to say to each other.
Ash finally found a way to break the ice. He cleared his throat, getting Misty's attention. "I, uh, thought I'd be seeing you in Goldenrod at some point." It was a lousy opener, he admitted to himself, but he wanted to say something.
Misty blushed and swallowed the lump in her throat, "Oh. Uh… yeah. Just… kept being busy. Ya know. Water Master and all."
"Yeah, yeah. That can get crazy."
Misty let out a frustrated exhale and stopped walking, causing Ash to stop as well, "Okay, okay! I'm sorry! So many times I wanted to come see you. But… it… got so hard. I just… after we broke up…" She paused and shook her head, "I couldn't face you."
"Misty, I wasn't any better," Ash replied. "What? I can't get a ticket to Cerulean?"
"I guess it just hurt too much."
"Yeah. I knew the second I saw you… I'd do everything I could to get back together with you."
Misty nodded her head, "Yeah. Ditto."
He looked up the hill, gazing at a bench at the top. "We're back here."
She looked at the bench. "Whoa. We are."
They walked up to the bench and sat down. It before Christmas last year when they broke up. The snow hadn't fallen in Pallet yet, but fall had set in, completely. Their minds drifted back to that fateful day, getting caught in the emotions of it all.
"I replay that day a lot," he admitted.
"Yeah," she whispered. "Me, too."
13 Months Ago.
Ash and Misty sat looking at the sun setting, preparing to go in their own directions. Misty was getting a chance to rise through the ranks of the Kanto region gym leaders with the possibility of becoming one of the Elite Four. Ash knew that there would be, at least, two Leagues he could compete in within the next year. He could be a Champion twice over, putting him firmly on the path of earning the title of Master. But he would have to go to Johto and Hoenn to accomplish that.
They agreed that they needed to go their separate ways to do this. They just needed to leave. That was the hardest part.
"So," Ash said. "Are we really doing this?"
"It's the right thing to do," Misty said. "But… boy, is this hard."
"Tell me about it."
She looked at him, "Ash. Please, don't think for a second that this means that I don't love you."
"Not at all." He smiled. "I hope you know the same is true for me."
"I know." She felt tears coming, she quickly turned around. "So… Goldenrod."
He felt a few tears trying to work their way down. "Uh… y-yeah." He took a deep breath. "Bright lights, big city."
They both were silent for a long time. They just stared at the scenery of Pallet.
Misty smiled. "You're gonna do it, ya know. You're gonna take the world by storm."
Ash grinned. "So are you. You're gonna be the Water Pokémon Master that the world has been waiting for."
"Thanks." Misty looked at her car. "I… I should probably start driving home."
Ash nodded, solemnly. "Right."
Misty stood up. "I would ask for a hug… but I wouldn't let you go."
Misty walked away from the bench but stopped, staring at her car. "Good-bye, Ash."
Ash couldn't turn toward her. "Good-bye, Misty."
Misty walked to her car while Ash kept staring at the landscape. Misty walked slow, trying to make herself move faster so shouldn't rush back over to Ash and stay with him. Ash was fighting every single urge in his body to get up and chase after. He wouldn't even let himself turn around to see her leave. That alone would hurt too much. Misty got her car, she couldn't look back at Ash. She started her car and drove away.
They both had tears streaming down their faces. But they were doing the right thing. Or so they had convinced themselves.
As the memory completed its replay for them both, Ash and Misty both had to take deep breaths and steady themselves, even though they were sitting down.
"That was a hard day," Ash admitted.
"Yeah, it was," Misty agreed. "It was a long drive back to Cerulean."
"How'd you make it?"
"But." Ash shrugged. "We did it. So. I… guess it was worth it. Right?"
Misty smiled. "I guess so. We lived our dreams. Got…" Her smile fell a bit. "…got everything we ever wanted."
"Yeah." Ash looked at the lake, "Yeah. Everything."
Misty's became fixed on the ground as she started rubbing her arm.
Ash stared at Misty and took a deep breath. He really had enough of this and he had one chance to do this. "Ya know what? I'm not letting this get away from me."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean… let's give this another shot. All in. You and me."
Misty looked at him, astonished. "What?"
Ash took hold of Misty's hands and declared, "I'm in love with you, Misty." It felt great to say that to her. "I have been since we were kids and it never stopped. And it never will. At all. Even if I could stop it, I wouldn't want to. I love you too much to ever that let go."
"Ash…" she whispered.
"We can work out living situations and everything but…" He shook his head, "Misty, I've got everything I've ever wanted. But you're the one person I've always needed. You motivate me, pick me up when I'm down, and you don't let me think less of myself. You don't always pat me on the back because you know how stubborn I can. You have to smack me in the head, sometimes, and, somehow, you always know when I need one or the other."
Misty smiled, "It's because you're so thickheaded! Hardly can tell when the slaps get through."
"It's hit-and-miss, to be honest."
They laughed at that.
Misty stared at him. She was already convinced. She'd wanted this for a year. She wanted to hear him say those words to her for a year. It was worth the wait. "I love you, Ash. I love you so much. It was so hard to break up with you back then."
"For me, too," Ash said.
"If we do this… and believe me, I want to… how? I mean… you're in Johto, now, and…"
"So, I'll move back to Kanto."
She stared at him, blankly. "What?"
He chuckled, "What? A Champion can't move back to his home region? I can move to Saffron. Bright lights, not-quite-as-big city, but, hey, that works for me."
"Ash. You can't change your entire life for me."
He stared at her, indignantly. "Says who?"
His simple response left her speechless.
He smiled, lovingly. "Did you hear a word I said a moment ago? Misty, you let me go so I could chase my dream. You loved me enough to say 'go do what you have to.'"
"You did the same for me," she said.
"But if you had asked me to stay with you while you became a member of the Elite Four, even if that meant that I couldn't be a Champion, for you… I would've done it. No problem. But you didn't do that. You let me chase my dream while you chased yours." He shrugged, "I did it. And it's because you didn't want to hold me back. You never would have, anyway, but that's a point we'll argue for the rest of our lives."
She laughed again.
"Us ending hurt you," he admitted. "I know it hurt me. But look at you. You're a Master, too. You got what you wanted because you earned it."
"Yeah," she replied.
"So… I'm hoping I'm still on the list of things you want."
"Yeah, you are." She threw her arms around and hugged him with all she had. "Ash." Tears were streaming down her eyes. "I've missed you so much."
"I missed you, too," he said, hugging her back. "Man, I love you, Misty."
"I love you, too." They pulled back but kept their arms around each other. Misty gazed into Ash's eyes, "Please, kiss me."
Ash didn't say another word before he moved forward and pressed his lips to hers. Misty was almost surprised by how suddenly he kissed her, but she was a long way from complaining. After the kiss, they stared at each other.
"You know Brock's never gonna let us live this down, right?" Misty asked. "Or my sisters."
"This is you assuming my mom won't be the worst of all of them," Ash remarked.
Misty giggled. "Let's be honest: they'll all be horrible. For at least a month."
"Or forever. But… it'll be worth it."
"Yeah, it will."
Ash gazed into her eyes. "Misty. I want to ask you something. And, no matter your answer, it's okay. Nothing about what we just said will change."
"Okay," Misty replied.
"Will you marry…"
"Yes," she interrupted.
Ash's eyes widened. "What?"
"Yes, Ash. Absolutely."
He smiled. "I don't have a ring."
"That can wait," she said. "I hardly need one." She motioned toward her bracelet. "This can count."
"For now." He smiled. "I love you, Misty. With all my heart."
"I love you, too."
A/N: AWESOME NEWS! I AM ENGAGED! MY GIRLFRIEND OF THREE YEARS SAID YES!
That's just one reason why I'm glad it took me a year to finish this one. It coincided perfectly with that great news. Everyone knows that I love AAML and this is one of my favorite Christmas and AAML stories.
For other news, this story and the Sleepy Hollow one-shot I uploaded should be up on Archive of Our Own in about a week or so. I'm gonna be posting stories here and there starting in 2019. At least, that's my plan.
Thank you all for sticking with me. Take care and stay blessed. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!