Ok, so I've written an advanceshipping (which I will update to a two-shot), a pokeshipping triangle (which I will update soon) so I thought I'd give pearlshipping a try. Let's see what you think of this.

Good, bad, somewhere in the middle? Read, review and tell me! I hope you enjoy it anyway.


"Hey, Ash, you feeling okay?" Dawn asked concernedly to her black-haired travelling companion as he narrowed his dark eyes once again at his surroundings. "You've been squinting a lot lately."

Ash blinked and turned to her. "No, I'm fine." He turned back to squinting ahead of him. Dawn just gave him a disbelieving look.

"You know Ash, your eyesight may be failing on you." Brock said, walking ahead.

Ash froze in his tracks. No, that couldn't happen. Not to him, not with his goals and dreams. He couldn't remember a single gym leader with glasses. Glasses, simply weren't cool. How could this happen, to him of all people? Why not Gary? Or Paul? Or Dawn? He shot a glance at the navy-blue haired girl walking ahead of him, still unaware he'd stopped. How would she look in glasses? Ash mentally shrugged. She'd be able to pull any mode of fashion into looking good. Maybe it was a girl thing. He shook his head, getting back to his spectacle dilemma. No, he wasn't going partially blind, it was just the haze and lack of deep sleep finally taking its toll on him. 'Yeah that's right.' He thought to himself.

"Ash? Are you sure you don't want to stop for a little rest or something?" Dawn's voice floated back to him. He looked up at his two friends who'd stopped to look at him. Now that he thought of it, they did look a bit blurred. He shook his head.

"No, everything's fine. We're going on to the gym. And there's nothing wrong with my eyes!" he finished off heatedly, as if trying to convince himself more than anyone else. As he started walking forward, Pikachu jumped back onto his shoulder, as if sensing he was feeling ticked about something. Suddenly, he felt warmth on his arm and turned to Dawn again. Why did she look so worried?

"Maybe you should have your eyes checked, just in case?" she asked. More like suggested, really. He lifted her hand from his arm. How could she also think his eyesight was getting weak? Didn't she trust him?

"Yeah, if you're having problems with your vision, it could affect your next battle." Brock said, wise as he insisted upon being. But when had Ash ever taken notice? He crossed his arms and walked on.

"Nothing's wrong with me, alright?" he repeated angrily and walked ahead, hearing Pikachu trill softly beside him.

"If you say so." Brock said, starting after the stubborn trainer.

"Alright, Aipom, let's do this!" Ash called out, throwing out his final Pokémon. He had to admit, he'd probably never felt so nervous in a gym battle. Two of his Pokémon were already down for the count , while Gardenia, the gym leader, still had all three left. For some reason, he hadn't been able to call out dodges as fast, or hadn't noticed subtle changes in his opposition's Pokémon, like her Turtwig's shift of feet to trip his one. Or an upward twist of the same Pokémon's head to see that an upward dodge wasn't the right move. Even his chimchar had fainted because of his lack of calling dodges. For some reason, all he could see was a dark green and, now, a purple blur on the battlefield.

"Let's hope you have something hidden up your sleeve with this Pokémon, Ash, because I was really expecting a challenge from you." Gardenia called out across to him. Ash felt himself flush in anger and embarrassment. He had expected more oomph from himself too.

"You can do it Ash!" He turned to the stands where Dawn and Brock were standing and locked his unfocused eyes on the pink blur he knew was Dawn. "No need to worry!" Despite the situation, Ash smiled. After a quick thanks, he turned back to the battle.

"Well, I'll give you first hit, Ash!" Gardenia called.

"Fine!" Ash replied. "Aipom, hit it with swift!" The monkey Pokémon immediately jumped and swatted its tail roughly, raining a shower of stars towards the grass Pokémon.

"Dodge, Turtwig!" Gardenia ordered, and the small Pokémon quickly leapt aside. The purple blur landed lightly on the ground again, awaiting its next command. But Ash was focusing on the green blur that was the turtwig. What was it doing? If only he could see it. "Tackle!" Ash suddenly snapped out of his daze and called a dodge, but he was too late. Aipom skidded to a halt a few meters in front of him.

"Leaf storm, Turtwig!" A ring of glowing, twisting leaves appeared around the Pokémon.

"Double team, Aipom!" Ash yelled, and watched as a parade of purple blurs filled the arena. This had to work.

"Let it out as a wave, turtwig, all around you. We'll hit it, wherever it is!" Gardenia called. Ash narrowed his eyes in frustration. But surely she couldn't do that with leaf storm. The leaves were only –

His train of thought was cut through as a strong wave of wind and leaves washed out through the gym. As he squinted through the wind, he made out the many purple blurs disappearing, leaving just one, which in turn crashed to the floor.

"Aipom!" Ash called out.

"Leach seed!" the grass Pokémon gym leader called. Ash, eyes locked on his Pokémon, watched Aipom shakily get up after a moment, but otherwise seemed unaffected by the previous call.

"Ha, it missed!" Ash cried happily. Finally, something had gone his way.

"Think again!" Gardenia said. Suddenly the purple monkey let out a shriek as a casket of energy surrounded it, absorbing Aipom's life. Ash furrowed his eyebrows. How could he have not seen that?

"Hang in there, Aipom! You can fight it! Swift!" He watched as the loyal Pokémon sent out the array of shooting stars again, this time hitting their mark. "Alright!" Ash cheered, and his Pokémon joined in, though the celebration was short lived as the energy surrounded Aipom again, zapping more of its strength.

"Ash, you have to get rid of the vines, otherwise Aipom won't make it!" Brock called out to him. Ash nodded to show he understood. But how? How could he find a way to shake off the zappers if he couldn't even see them?

"Focus punch Aipom!" Ash yelled, even though he felt his certainty of a win ebb away. Chimchar had managed to apply some real damage to Turtwig, but it still had quite a lot of energy left. But the purple Pokémon's tail started glowing a bright white as it began storing energy while charging towards the other Pokémon.

"Tackle, Turtwig! It doesn't have much energy left, we won't need much to finish this off!" Gardenia yelled. Ash closed his eyes as the two Pokémon met head to head. The gym leader was right. There was no way poor Aipom would pull this off. His eyes were failing him. He should have listened to Brock and had his eyes checked. Maybe then the match would have ended differently. This was all his fault-

"Turtwig is unable to battle. Aipom wins this round!"

Ash's eyes snapped open at the judge's call. His eyes moved onto the stands where Dawn was cheering. He smiled as he felt some of his confidence drip back. Pikachu also gave out a hearty cheer, but Brock just gave him a curt nod, which Ash understood immediately. This battle wasn't near over. His eyes moved onto the small Pokémon who had come to stand in front of him. And the confidence left him as soon as it had come. Aipom didn't look far from fainting. It's fur was disheveled and it was trembling with the effort of standing up. It's breath was coming in quick pants. Ash's frown deepened. He could finally see the leach seed's vines still wrapped around it. That wasn't good.

"Come on out, Cherubi!" Gardenia called. A small, pink Pokémon appeared on the field, looking healthy and strong. Too strong for Ash's liking and his current situation.

"Hang on, Aipom." Ash said, but before the Pokémon even had time to nod, the vines once again zapped it of its remaining energy and it collapsed. Ash stood still for a moment.

"Aipom is unable to battle! Cherubi wins!" The referee called out. 'And it didn't have to move an inch.' Ash thought, mutely returning Aipom, a depression like none before encasing him. Now he would have to wait until after the Sinnoh league before he could get this badge. That's what most gyms were like.

"You were great, Aipom." He said to its pokéball. "It was an incredible battle. If only I hadn't …if only I'd been more…attentive…or was focused enough to guide you through. I'm sorry." He ended in a whisper, then reduced the pokéball's size and put it on his belt. That was it. He'd have to wait another year for a rematch. Or at least until the Sinnoh league was over. He felt a gentle hand take his and looked sadly up at Dawn's eyes. At least something was still the same as always.

"It's okay Ash." She said kindly. "I thought you were awesome."

He sighed and looked away from her soft eyes. "You always think that Dawn." He replied sullenly. He felt Brock walk up to him along with Gardenia. He looked up at them, slightly relieved that they, now back in range, finally had clear outlines.

"You know Ash, if I said that was a great battle, I wouldn't be telling the truth." Gardenia said. Ash looked down. The grass Pokémon lover continued. "But anyone with eyes can see how well your Pokémon have been trained. They just kept taking blow after blow without taking much damage. It took some of my strongest moves and strategies to knock them out." Ash smiled slightly despite his loss as Dawn gave him a playful punch in agreement. "But anyone could also see the clear lack of communication between you and your Pokémon. Which was strange, since it takes that connection to train them so well."

Ash flushed slightly. "That was probably because I could hardly see what was going on." He said, while laughing nervously.

"I told you to get your eyes checked." Brock said. Ash looked anywhere but at the breeder.

"I know." He said quietly. This wouldn't help him now. He wouldn't get another chance in the near future. But he'd have to let this go sooner or later. Gardenia took this in.

"You mean to say your eyesight isn't one hundred percent?" She asked, and Ash nodded.

"That'll teach you to listen to us next time!" Dawn scolded, and he shot her a half-hearted smile.

"Tell you what," Gardenia said as they all turned to her. "You get your eyes checked, then meet me back here for a rematch. How does that sound?"

Ash immediately perked up. Was she serious? He was getting another chance? He looked gratefully up at her and she returned his enthusiastic smile with a kind one. He was getting another chance. His smile widened as it sank in fully and he felt a weight lift off him. This was utterly incredible. He was getting another chance!

"Really?" He asked. Gardenia just nodded.

"Alright!" Out of his happiness, he pulled Dawn into a hug, then pulled Brock in with them too for a group celebration, not noticing the heat rise in Dawn's face. He laughed as Pikachu came up to join him in his merriment. This was definitely one of his happier moments. Of course, this meant getting glasses. In other words, becoming 'uncool'.

Ash gently creaked open the door of the Pokémon Center's small apartment they were staying in . Peering through, he saw the coast was clear. Taking a deep breath, he opened it wider and turned around to shut it as softly as possible. This was probably…no by far the most embarrassing predicament he'd ever been in. He finally heard the lock click back into place. He lifted his hand to rub his face, but then remembered he couldn't, since a certain pair of utensils was blocking him. He sighed again. He looked like… he shuddered, like Max.


Ash's eyes snapped wide open as he saw his most loyal Pokémon run towards him. He knelt to the floor and put a finger to his lips, desperate to make the happy Pokémon calm down. Or at least become quiet.

The little Pokémon tilted its head. "Pi?"

"Pikachu, don't you notice anything different about me?" he asked it. It shook its head. He blinked and almost slapped his forehead, but he still couldn't because of that same obstacle. He pointed at the darned glasses, and Pikachu blinked. "I'm wearing a new pair of dorkiness." He hissed. But his small friend had already caught on and was thrown into a fit of pika-giggles. Ash crossed his arms and looked at it through half-lidded eyes. "Well, I'm so glad you approve." He lowered himself down to Pikachu's level. "But you can't tell Brock yet. Or Dawn. I'll show 'em when I'm ready, okay?"

"Wow, Ash, back already?" Brock's voice cut through his pleas to his Pokémon. He froze. No, not yet. He kept his head turned away from his older friend.

"Uh…yeah." Ash said, hoping against hope Brock would just leave. "They, um, they had a bunch of ready-mades."

"Well, let's see those glasses then." Brock said, and Ash could hear that smile in his voice. And he knew what that meant, never any good. Only one thing left to do. Refuse.

"No." he said.

"Oh come on, I'm sure they're not that bad." Brock said, almost comfortingly.

"Easy for you to say." Ash muttered huffily.

"You're gonna have to show us sooner or later. So why not just get it over with?" Ash closed his eyes. Why did Brock always have to make sense? Well, when he wasn't around other girls, that is.

"Fine." He said, then stood up and turned to look at Brock. There was a moment's silence where Ash just shot a nervous smile. Then Brock cracked. Wide laughter issued from the breeder unlike Ash had ever heard out of him before. He folded his arms and shot a glare at him. Suddenly Pikachu hopped onto Brock's shoulder, and after taking another look at its trainer, it burst into laughter as well. Ash angrily rolled his eyes.

"Okay, okay, you guys had your fun, so can you please stop it now?" he asked, but the other two barely heard him through their fits. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. He still hadn't shown his glasses to one more person. Now nervous, he clamped his hands onto both their mouths, trying desperately to muffle out their laughter. "Guys, can it! Dawn'll here you. Shh!"

"Brock, did I just here Ash? Is he back?"

Ash's eyes widened as he heard the coordinator's voice. Why was he the unlucky one today? He turned back to a still-chuckling Brock and shot him a death glare. "Tell her I'm not home, okay?" With that, he ran to the bathroom and locked himself in. He heard Brock and Pikachu burst into laughter again. He didn't look that bad in glasses. Right? He looked at himself in the mirror and winced. He really and truly looked like a nerd. Ugh, how was he supposed to battle in public wearing those?

He took them off and gazed at the lenses again. The world around him went blurry once more. He groaned. Why couldn't there be another way of fixing his eyesight? He leant against the door and slid to the floor. This changed everything. Suddenly he heard voices in the hallway where he'd left Brock and Pikachu. Dawn must have reached them. He pressed his ear to the door, wanting to hear, but there was only silence. Then he heard a knock on the door and fell back in surprise.

"Ash, are you in here?" Dawn again. Drat.

"No." Ash said before he could stop himself, then slapped his forehead. Great. He heard Dawn giggle slightly, and suddenly didn't feel so bad about it.

"Well, can you come out?" she asked, the smile clear in her voice.

"No." he repeated. There was no way he was going to humiliate himself in front of her.

"Come on Ash, I want to see you." she said. He blushed and mentally slapped himself. She didn't mean it in that sense. "Please Ash?" she continued after he didn't reply. "For me?" He groaned. He could almost imagine her pouty face, her eyes bigger than usual and with even more shine. He slowly got up and wearily opened the door. He looked at her and she stared back. Any moment now, she'd burst out laughing too.

"Um…" Here it came. "Where are the glasses?" Ash grinned to himself as he remembered he'd taken them off only a few moments before. Finally, something had momentarily gone right since he came back. He lifted them and showed her.

"So put them on." She pressed. What was it with people and him wearing glasses?

"No." Wow, his range of vocabulary was astounding. Dawn clasped her hands together.

"Oh, please, come on Ash!" She said. "For me?"

He looked at her. "Why do you keep saying that?" he asked, but raised the glasses to put on again, not noticing Dawn's small blush. As the room came back into view, he looked at her again. With clear eyesight again, Dawn looked even prettier than normal. He blushed as the thought sank in. What made him think that?

"They're not that bad." She said, a smile clear on her face. He arched an eyebrow towards her. She shrugged.

"Go on, laugh, it's okay, I've already taken it from Brock. Even Pikachu." Ash said grouchily, crossing his arms, not wanting her to hold it in front of him, then laugh behind his back. He felt her place a hand on his shoulder.

"Really Ash, they're not that bad." She repeated. He mentally sighed. She was probably just saying that because she didn't want to tell him the 'painful' truth. Curse her for her kindness. "We just haven't gotten used to you in them." She ended and he looked at her, grateful that she was trying, and she gave him a warm smile.

"You can laugh if you want, though. I won't mind." He said, and she giggled. He smiled with her, not minding her laugh as much as he had the previous two.

"I'm not going to laugh at you for that. I just think it's funny that you think it's funny. Okay, maybe it does look a little different, but it doesn't look that bad on you. You can wear anything and it'll look good, Ash." She said and he chuckled slightly.

"Funny, I thought the same about you." he replied, and her smile grew. Just then, Pikachu ran in the room, taking its place on his shoulder. "Hey, pal, got all the laughs out of you?" Ash asked it, not wanting it to burst into giggles again, and the Pokémon nodded happily, grinning. Dawn smiled and scratched Pikachu behind the ears.

"He's so cute." She said softly, looking at Pikachu, then at the trainer on which it was sitting.

Dawn sat tensed in the stands. She didn't even know why she was nervous. Maybe it was because the concentrated look on Ash's face was so convincing that she could feel it too. Both him and Gardenia were down to their final Pokémon, and with Ash's final Pokémon as Staravia, it certainly seemed as if he had the upper hand. But the extreme sense of focus Ash seemed to be emanating was so strong she could feel it from her position on the sidelines.

"All right, Roserade, Magical Leaf!" Gardenia commanded.

"Blow it away with gust!" Ash yelled. Staravia blew away the multicolored leaves the other Pokémon had been releasing with a strong wind by flapping its wings. "Now, quick attack and hit it with a wing attack too!" Staravia immediately dove into a dive, hurtling at a great speed towards the grass Pokémon. Once in range, its wings started glowing with energy as it prepared for a hit.

"Dodge it!" Gardenia cried, but Staravia had hit its mark. Roserade crashed to the floor as the brown bird made a 360 and flew back in front of its trainer. Dawn let out a cheer which went unnoticed by Ash, who was too absorbed in the battle, watching as Roserade shakily got back up. She watched as the black haired teen called out to his Pokémon again.

"Let's go Staravia, Wing Attack again!" he called. The bird's wings started building up strength again as it bulleted towards the opponent.

"If we can't dodge, use weather ball, Roserade!" Gardenia ordered. A large fiery orb appeared between Roserade's bouquets. Dawn's eyes widened as it hurtled straight at Staravia. At the speed it was going, there was no dodging it.

"Oh no!" Ash yelled as Staravia faltered and hit the floor. "Come Staravia, you can do this! Get up!" The bird flapped its wings and quickly took to the air again.

"Magical leaf, Roserade!" The Pokémon quickly shot a barrage of razor sharp leaves once again towards the flying-type Pokémon.

"Fly up and let it follow you!" Ash called. Staravia quickly flapped its wings and shot straight up into the sky, the torrent of leaves still on its tail. Dawn furrowed her eyebrows as she tried figuring out Ash's strategy. The higher Staravia inched, the more energy the leaves lost, and finally they fell to the ground.

"Oh." Dawn whispered to herself, finally realizing what Ash had meant.

"Not a bad call." Brock said, almost smugly.

"Now come down nice and slow!" Ash yelled loudly, cupping his hands to his mouth so Staravia could hear. Once again, Dawn was at a loss of reasons for his order. Clearly, so was Gardenia.

"Keep your eye on it, and hit it with a weather ball when it's in range!" she ordered. But just as the Pokémon looked up to aim, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds above the gym's open roof, and Roserade was temporarily blinded.

"Quick attack, Staravia!" And sure enough, the bird Pokémon came shooting down, fast as a bullet, and just as damaging, too. Roserade was knocked several feet back, but clearly Ash wasn't taking any chances. "Now, Aerial Ace!" he yelled, and Staravia flipped back, then shot forward with even more speed and strength and crashed once more into Roserade.

"Ya! Great job, Staravia!" Ash cheered, as the opposing Pokémon teetered and fell, finally out of energy.

"Roserade is unable to battle! Staravia wins! The match goes to Ash Ketchum!" The judge called out.

"All right! Way to go Ash!" Dawn called, running towards him as he recalled his Pokémon. He turned to flash his smile at her and she felt her heart flutter. "That was amazing!"

He scratched his head embarrassedly. "Thanks a bunch Dawn." He said. Then he leaned closer to her and she felt her breath catch. "But I doubt I'd have been able to come out here in the first place, if it wasn't for you." He whispered to her. She blushed, both from his words and the close proximity between them. But he didn't seem to mind. He straightened up as Gardenia neared them and Dawn took in a deep breath.

"Now that's what I wanted from you, Ash." She praised and he grinned widely. Dawn smiled too. This was a complete turnaround compared to last time. "Connection obviously needs to be there when battling."

Ash nodded and took off his glasses. "Well, no need for these anymore." He said.

"Clearly you need them because you couldn't beat me without them." Gardenia replied. Ash groaned.

"I hate glasses!" he burst out. Dawn rolled her eyes. Sure, nothing looked better than his eyes, but with glasses on, he didn't look as bad as he thought. They were just…different. But Ash could look good in anything, because he had that air about him, that confidence that made one feel anything was great.

"I can't see why, Ash, they don't look too bad." Gardenia said.

"That's what I tried telling him, but he won't listen." Dawn burst out. She felt the eyes of everyone fall on her and felt the heat rise in her face. "What?" Ash shot her a gentle small, unlike anything she'd seen him wear before.

"Thanks Dawn." He said quietly. She just felt herself grin timidly and her blush deepened. But Ash had turned away and, after a bit of hesitation, put the glasses on again.

"Well, either way, the battle was wonderfully memorable and in turn won by you. So it is my honor to give you this, the forest badge!" Gardenia held out her hand, and on her palm rested a small square piece of metal, dented with a pattern of green squares branched out like a tree. Ash took the badge, a disbelieving look on his face. "Well done."

Ash shot his trademark smile at the gym leader, then quickly moved his eyes back onto the badge again. Dawn had to admit, if he'd been wearing glasses, she'd never have noticed the way his eyes danced in obvious pleasure and pride. Or maybe she could, but she wouldn't know, since he hadn't yet won a badge and kept his glasses on. Whatever, the point was if he was happy, she was too. She watched as Brock walked over to Ash with Pikachu and congratulate him. All the while, Ash seemed off in another land, distanced out, still unbelieving he was holding the badge he had lost so badly not so long ago.

She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn't notice someone side up next to her. "You can stop ogling him now. He might just notice."

Dawn gasped and turned towards the redheaded gym leader. She was wearing a knowing smile on her face and Dawn felt herself flush. She wasn't ogling him, just…staring? Oh, there was no point denying it, she thought Ash was amazing, in every aspect, and she just couldn't seem to change her mind. But was she making it that clear? No, she had to control herself more. Her eyes moved once again to the trainer who was now readily showing off his badge to his Pokémon. She grinned dazedly, then snapped out of her trance when a hand clapped her on the back.

"Ah, young love, too bad I couldn't experience it. I don't have any real advice for you. You've obviously been travelling with him for a long time. How long has it been?" Gardenia asked. Dawn gave her a look, but then answered.

"No, it's nothing like that, I mean, sure, we've been travelling for about a year now, but-" Dawn started, blushing at the thought of anything other than friendship between her and Ash, but the gym leader cut across her again.

"Come on, now, you don't have to be shy about it. Remember I'm a woman, too. I'll understand these things more than either of those two guys over there." Gardenia then bent down to Dawn's level. "So if you're ever in Eterna city again and need some advice, or just someone to talk to, give me a visit. Okay?"

Dawn gave her a smile, still unsure of what to think of the past few moments of conversation. She really needed a little space right now to figure things out. "Thanks. I'm going to first have to sort all these thoughts out. You know, time to myself." She said, and Gardenia straightened up.

"Understood." She said, giving a mock solute. "You go get 'im, partner!" Dawn blushed at how that sounded, but politely nodded. Just then, Brock came over and grabbed Gardenia's hands, kneeling in front of her. Dawn rolled her eyes. For a second she had thought Brock had forgotten. She should have known better. As Brock began preaching that 'her beauty was rivaling those of grassy meadows' Ash sided up to her. She felt her breath catch again, even though he was keeping his fair distance.

"And here I was thinking Brock was giving croagunk some time off." He said to her in a low undertone as the blue frog hopped out and dragged Brock away, the latter twitching with light poison. Dawn giggled.

"Ash, you should put it away before you lose it." Dawn told him. The trainer had been staring at his badge again, still ecstatic about his victory, with coos of excitement from Pikachu too. Two peas in a pod those two were. He really did seem like a child receiving his dream gift. Except Ash looked much cuter when he was excited. Dawn sighed as her words ran over him without even leaving a mark. Forget cute, right now, he was just being exaggerated. It was just a badge! She wouldn't go crazy for a ribbon like he was doing now.

"She's right Ash," Brock commented from his leading position ahead of them. "You might just trip and the badge might fall into the sewers through one of these things here." He said, pointing at one of the ducts leading into the underground sewage system. That statement seemed to sink in immediately with Ash, as he quickly took out his badge case and put it away. Dawn folded her arms. Maybe that's the way she'd have to get Ash to do things from now on; by giving him the many horrible yet possible circumstances. They lent on the wall of the building, waiting for Ash to carefully tuck his case away as Pikachu held the bag up for him.

Suddenly, they heard a scoffing voice. "Well, well, look who it is." Ash looked up at Dawn as she shot him a worried glance. An all too familiar voice, to which their fears were confirmed as Brock let out a gruff "Paul."

As Ash stood up, his change of demeanor was clear. Where his step first had a happy bounce to it he now stood firmly planted on the ground. One hand clenched into a fist. Clearly Ash still remembered all that Paul was infamous for. And the whole Chimchar escapade. Of course, Paul was only too happy to show that part of himself off. Pikachu gazed uncertainly from one to the other. Ash's eyes narrowed and frown deepened as Paul took in Ash's appearance and then smirked. Dawn glared at the pitiless trainer and stepped forward next to her present best friend. If Paul did anything to mess up Ash's annoying, yet cheerful mood, he'd hear it from her.

"What are you doing here?" Ash asked at him, clearly trying to keep his voice leveled. "On to win your next badge?"

"Ha!" Paul said. "I won that badge days ago."

"Then what are you still doing here?" Ash shot back. Dawn winced. He was already on defensive. "You couldn't have been at the Pokémon center since you obviously don't care about your Pokémon healing."

"Right," Paul agreed, as if it wasn't a big deal. Dawn could hardly believe he'd admitted to it. He had an even larger ego than she'd thought. "I was here, first to win that badge, then pick up some things for my brother. Not that it's any of your business."

"So how many badges do you have now?" Ash asked. Dawn mentally sighed. Amongst all of Paul's bad qualities, Ash still found a rival in him. Well, like the saying went, you can learn something good from us of all. If Paul could be counted as 'us'.

Paul looked Ash over, then smirked. "Seven." Dawn felt her hopes let down as Ash's shoulders slumped. Ash had six now. Paul turned away from them as if he'd never started a conversation.

"Hey, wait a minute!" Ash called out to him. What more did Ash want from him? But surprisingly, Paul turned.

"Don't feel too bad. At least now your pathetic insides are shown on your face as well." Ouch. Dawn felt her eyes harden a glare on the purple haired trainer who was now heading away from them. After all that work they'd had to go through to make Ash believe his glasses weren't something to be ashamed of, Paul had to go and stomp on it. Ash was already sensitive about them, and Paul had probably made him feel worse. No, definitely made him feel worse.

Dawn's eyes softened as she looked over at Ash. Slowly, she walked over to him and put her hand over one of his clenched fists. But Ash ripped his hand away from her touch and roughly snatched the glasses off his face. Dawn looked concernedly at him for a moment, then desperately at Brock, silently pleading for help. Brock walked over to them.

"Ash, you can't let what he says get to you." Brock said kindly.

"Why not?" Ash growled, his voice low in clearly contained anger. "Why shouldn't I listen to someone who's better than me?"

"He's not better than you!" Dawn said, trying to snap him out of it. "Look at how him and you train Pokémon! You're better! Look at how much Chimchar's grown with you! It loves you unlike it had ever loved Paul before! Look at all the people you've helped. It's your big heart that's slowed you down a bit. Paul would never stop to help someone, which is why he's got more badges. But among all that, you're only one badge short! And on top of that," she lowered her voice, now speaking of herself. "You treat everyone … like they're important, like they mean something to you, so they feel special. That's something Paul's personality can never dream of having."

Ash was silent for a moment as Dawn just stared at him, seeing what sort of effect her words had on him. "I want to say I hate him." He said finally. "That I'm better, but that's not me. If he's got more badges, he's better, whatever excuse I try to find as to why that's so. Once I'm better, then I'll say I am. Then I'll say I hate him. But right now, he's just a very tough, not-liked rival of mine. And I don't care what he thinks of me."

"But Ash-" Dawn started, but Ash cut her off by shoving his glasses into her hands. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and started forward, head down, Pikachu quietly following him.

"Ash, you need those to see clearly!" Brock said to him, stating the obvious. Ash stopped.

"Let's just go back to the Pokémon Center Brock." Ash said, almost hollowly, and Brock followed. Dawn stood for a moment, looking at the object in her hands. Everything had just taken a turn for the worst. Why couldn't Paul have left earlier? Even an hour before them. Heck, even a minute. Or why couldn't he have come down this road after they'd passed? Dawn closed her eyes. There was no point dwelling on the 'what if's or 'could have been's. Now they'd just have to find out a way to bring Ash back to his normal self. Somehow, she had a feeling it would be up to her.

She sighed and started after the others. Gardenia was right. She was head over heels for that boy.

When they finally reached their room in the Pokémon Center, Ash immediately went to his room, quickly followed by Pikachu, and slammed the door shut on them. They hadn't seen him since. A few hours before, Dawn had placed the glasses in front of his door, knocked, then walked back to her room, knowing Ash wasn't in the mood for talking just then.

The blue haired girl spent the next few hours to herself. She thought about everything, what Gardenia had said, what she'd been thinking, how she acted, how Ash acted around her. She had just sat there on her bed, clutching the pillow to herself. She had been like that when Brock had come to call her for dinner. But she didn't go, because Ash wasn't coming either. Sure, it wasn't fair to Brock who had probably put so much effort into cooking the meal. She told him she'd come later. Brock had just nodded, and she wondered whether he knew what she had been thinking.

It was night when Dawn finally looked out her window. But the peaceful breeze filtering through it didn't feel as relaxing as it should have. Because she had finally understood what her feelings were. She hadn't even realized it and she'd developed strong feelings for her black haired companion. And she was going to take Gardenia's advice and tell him. Heck, even if she could just see him, she'd feel better, being close by.

Either way, when she walked over to his room, she found the door open, and him near the window, lost in thought. Had he gone to eat? Dawn sighed and her stomach gave an unpleasant flip of hunger. Maybe she should have gone too. For a moment, Dawn just stood watching him, wondering what he was thinking about, whether he ever thought of her when she wasn't around, whether he felt anything. Then she took a deep breath and stepped towards him.

"How're you feeling, Ash?" she asked quietly. He turned around and smiled once he saw her.

"Better." He replied. "What are you doing here?"

She shrugged and stood next to him. "I don't know, just checking, I suppose. It's good you're feeling better." They both turned to look out the window. Not really a spectacular view since the Eterna Forest started right next to the Pokémon Center, and the first of the thick trees were only a few meters from them. Being on the second floor helped, since they could see the rooftops. But the real eye-catcher was the moon. Though that in itself was a half one. Of course, Dawn could think of another thing she liked looking at.

"Actually," Dawn started, turning her head to him though still looking at her hands resting on the wide window sill. "I came here to ask you something."

"So shoot." Dawn nodded.

"Um…well I… where's Pikachu?" she asked, noticing the absence of Ash's forever present Pokémon companion.

Ash grinned embarrassedly. "Well, in my anger before, I kinda, sorta, maybe just…threw my glasses out of the window…?" He ended in a falty question. Dawn stared at him. "So Pikachu went out to get them back, since my eyesight's bad anyway. Hehe…."

Dawn continued staring at him in disbelief. Of all the immature, crazy, unthinkable actions he'd done before, this one was by far the greatest. How could someone throw their only chance of sight out the window? She sighed. That was Ash for you. But then he turned to look at her, and she noticed once again, how wonderful his eyes looked without glasses.

"But I don't think that's what you came to ask. Right?" He asked.

"Yeah…" She mumbled incoherently, just staring at him. Maybe it was the lighting, or maybe it was the angle or maybe it was because she was so closely looking at them. Whatever it was, she was suddenly entranced by his eyes. And the fact that he was looking at her straight on wasn't helping either. She blinked and Ash straightened up and looked out the window again, rubbing the back of his head nervously.

"S-sorry," he stuttered. Dawn blinked again. Ash was stuttering? And apologizing? "It's just….um…your eyes…" he nervously trailed off. She blushed. He thought her eyes looked nice? Had he ever looked in the mirror? "So what were you going to say?"

She bit her lip and hung her head. How did she say this? "Well, I was talking to Gardenia today," she started. Ash looked at her. He probably thought this was something to do with battles.

"Does she want the badge back or something?" he asked.

"No, no, of course not." Dawn said, trying to stop him thinking so negatively. It just wasn't his style. "I mean, she gave me some advice, and told me I should confess… because if I didn't it could be bad for the both of us…"

He put his hand on her shoulder and she shuddered as his skin brushed hers. "You're not making any sense, Dawn." He asked with a concerned look. She sighed.

"Yeah, I know. But I don't know how to say this…" she trailed off, wondering if this was a good idea.

"Hey," Ash lifted her face to look at him. "You can tell me, right?"

"Yeah, I sort of have to." Ash opened his mouth to talk but Dawn put her finger over his lips. "I can do this, Ash, just wait." She lowered her hand and took a deep breath. "We've been travelling for a year now, and during that time we've fought and laughed and … just had fun. Or at least I had. Each contest I won, we'd celebrate, each one I lost, you guys would help me back up. Especially you. And I tried to do the same with you and your battles. But over the time, I've begun to feel differently. I don't just want consolation or celebration, I want more…"

"Do you want to leave or something?" Ash said, sounding panicked. "'Cause if you are, please don't, I mean, I'll work harder, we'll be nicer to you, we'll let your contests come first, just please don't-"

"Ash, wait!" Dawn cut across, smiling. How sweet, he was willing to do all that just to make her stay. "I'm not done. That's not what I mean."

"Then what do you mean?" Ash asked. Dawn closed her eyes. Maybe this would be easier if she couldn't see his reaction. "Dawn?" There he went, again with that caringly sweet voice. Couldn't he see he was making things harder?

"What I mean is…I think I've fallen in love with you." Dawn sighed. "There, I said it. I love you. I said it. I said it…I said it…" She said quietly, then opened her eyes. Ash was staring at her, his mouth agape, eyebrows raised and eyes wide. He could have been a perfectly carved statue from how still he was standing. Even when he was shocked, she loved him. Loved him. It sounded so foreign to her fifteen year old mind.

She sighed and turned, walking away. This was all Gardenia's fault. She said herself she wasn't experienced in this love thing, so why did she drag her into it? Now she'd probably have to leave, since life would just become awkward, travelling with Ash now. Maybe she'd travel by herself, with Piplup, maybe she could-

She stopped in her tracks as Ash suddenly ran and stood in front of her. His eyebrows were furrowed, as if this whole thing took way too much brainpower. Maybe for him, yeah. He put both his hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. "When you say love," he said questioningly. "Do you mean as friends or as brother and sister, or as…something more?" She stared at him. Did he just see her as a sister? She couldn't let that happen. Not a sister. Sister's didn't stand a chance with him.

"I mean love like this." She said, her mind not thinking, and she stood on her toes and leaned upward and softly brushed her lips against his. The smallest of touches, and it sent waves of never before experienced feelings soaring through her body. She quickly pulled away and looked at him, his shocked expression now blushing furiously. She gave a sad smile and pulled out of his dazed grip. "Love like that." She murmured, walking away again. This time she made it to the doorway before he came and grabbed her by the wrist.

She turned around to look at him. He looked almost lost, his face still flushed while holding her hand. "I…um, well…that, that was different…" He said, clearly lost of words. She sighed and looked down. He pulled on her arm and drew her closer. He smiled gently, though with a spark of that confidence she was so used to seeing. "But good different. Awesome different. Incredible different. WOW different!" She couldn't contain her giggle. He smiled wider.

"And I like you a lot too. I don't really know what…love is…but maybe it is love, I don't know, all I know is I like you a lot, like really, very much, and if you ever left, I definitely wouldn't like it and um…wow, I'm really not good at this…" he trailed off awkwardly. Dawn just laughed happily and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"No, that was perfect." She whispered to him. After a moment, she felt him return her hug, and she snuggled deeper into him. This was just priceless. Almost like in the movies, except the guys tended to not be as dense as Ash about these things. But she wouldn't have him any other way. He was her dense Ash, and she loved him for it. Loved him. That felt so sweet and soft on her tongue. She could just say it forever. Loved him. Loved –


They both moved apart, Ash's arm still around her waist as they both stared at a confused Pikachu. In its paw it held a pair of mangled looking glasses. Dawn giggled and Ash faltered. "Oh man." He moaned, kneeling down to Pikachu's level, motioning for it to come forward. It put the glasses in its mouth and trotted forward, then dropped them into Ash's outstretched hand. He stared at them glumly.

"Brock's going to kill you." She stated happily, still quite unbelieving that the previous moments had just happened.

"I know." He moaned. She sat down next to him as Pikachu leapt onto his shoulder. She looked at the broken glasses, then into his eyes, then back down again. She grinned as an idea struck her.

"You know Ash, you could always just get contacts."