A warning: The friend who requested I write this virtually shot me for what I did.

The pecking order

Part 2: The claws come out

Inside the Cerulean City guest room May and Dawn had engaged in a subconscious battle of One-upmanship. For every bracelet Dawn slipped over her thin wrist, May found herself adding an alluring ring to her finger which, of course, caused Dawn to seek out the most magnificent contest ribbons she possessed and pin them to the white blouse that covered her bathing suit.

"Are you sure about wearing those, Dawn?" May asked as the girl admired the ribbons on her blouse pleased "It might get rowdy down there, you know?"

"No need to worry." Dawn smiled, turning to her friend "They'll hold up great! And why not take pride in what I struggled for, right?" She did a small twirl in front of her friend as Piplup hopped up and down beside her in agreement.

"I guess you're right!" May said, feeling her coordinator inspiration manifest. Dawn watched as May searched through the various items she had brought with her from Hoenn and tried not to gasp when the girl brought a glorious, half ribbon from her possessions and pinned it to her own blouse. Her half of the Terracotta ribbon that she and Ash had tied for so long ago and broke in half to signify their… their….

"Checkmate" May thought to herself before grabbing Dawn's hand "Let's go!" she smiled, leading the girl out the room.

"Y- Yea..." Dawn murmured as she was pulled along by May, Piplup wobbling in hot pursuit.

All three girls were astonished by the amazing work Brock, Tracey and, dare say, the sensational sisters had done in the short absence they took to prepare for the celebration. They had managed to get all of the Gym's guests to shed their inhibitions, toss on their swimsuits, and turn the usually serene waters of the Cerulean Gym's pool room into a boiling pot of activity. Across the pool trainers that the girls haven't seen in years mingled with each other while they awaited the party's guest of honor; each one telling the story that had made Ash become an associate of theirs.

Trainers weren't the only ones to come out for the festivity, however. Around the gym Pokémon made their way through trainer's legs while others sat calmly by their side. High above the pool in the gym stands Ash's Charizard snoozed lazily, exhausted from its journey to the gym and uninterested in the water filled activities.

"This is great!" Dawn shrieked, clapping her hands together. She spared no time rushing into the party crowd to get reacquainted with her old friends.

"Amazing!" Misty smiled, feeling slightly nostalgic as she gazed at her old friends around the pool "I wonder if Toge-"Her question was cut short as the Pokémon she was thinking of quickly flew from its hovering place over the gym's pool and into its former owner's arm.

"Tic!" The creature piped as it dug itself deeper into Misty's embrace.

"Togetic!" Misty cried joyfully, hugging the happiness Pokémon with all her might "I've missed you so much!"

As Misty and Togetic began a tearful, albeit blissful, reunion, May decided to inch away from the two as they got reacquainted with each other. She felt herself become nostalgic as well as she walked the outline of the pool admiring Max and the three journeying companions he had found himself among.

"I wonder what Ash will think about that." May wondered, remembering the battle promise that He and Max kept on their last days as a group "Knowing him, he'll probably challenge half the party guest here."

"Oh to be young, in love and incredibly stupid again!" A voice called out to the girl, snapping her from her thoughts. May turned slowly, registering the voice inside her head and, upon realizing she knew who it belong to, let out a very blunt sigh.

"Well that's not nice at all!" Harley huffed, placing his hand on his hips "And here I come all the way from Johto at Max's request to see your wonderful reunion with Ash!" He folded his arms and turned away from the girl as dramatic as always.

"Its not like-"May began before hanging her head in defeat "It's great to see you Harley!" She said with an unsure smile. Whether it was insincere or not didn't matter to Harley, who turned back around to face her again, eyes gleaming.

"Now that's more like it!" He fluttered closer to May and threw a friendly arm around her shoulder. "What has it been, three months since I last saw you!? Not since Drew-"

May quickly slapped her hand over Harley's mouth and dragged him to a deserted corner. "Don't!" she said darkly "Don't mention that name!" Nearby Professor Ivy felt a chill run down her neck.

"Fine, Fine!" Harley grumbled, removing the girl's hand "It's not as if saying it'll hurt! You've already missed out on your little Pokémon Master, Miss Tent." He pointed a finger into the crowd. Looking closely, May could see that he was aiming at Dawn specifically, who chatted away with several coordinators "Little Miss Sinnoh was the last girl to tag along on one of his little adventures and I bet they're just dying to see each other again."

May tried to hide the florid hue that crept across her face from Harley, but the boy was too perceptive when it came to other's embarrassment.

"Now don't blush!" Haley squealed, wrapping his arm tighter around her before whispering into their ear "I can help you out and handle that girl, I have a little bone to pick with her myself since she stole a ribbon that was rightfully mine. "

"I don't have anything against h-"May began before Harley put a finger to her mouth, silencing her.

"Shush. Just leave everything to me. I'll make sure you come out on top over the competition." The purple haired boy removed his finger and shimmied away from May to the direction of a now alone Dawn "Oh Wigglytuff!" He called into the crowd until his sweet, pink, terrifying balloon Pokémon hopped to his side. May tried to put herself deeper in the corner as she watched everything unfold.

"Wow, thanks!" Dawn exclaimed, taking the drink Harley had offered her. "I haven't seen you since that contest! I'm happy you still remember me."

"I'm sure you are." Harley said with a smile as he clinked their glasses together. He was using all his strength to keep himself from ripping the contest ribbon he had lost to her from its spot on her blouse. "So Dawn, tell me what you've been up to since…" Harley mentally rolled his eyes as he trailed off and Dawn began a cheerful recount of all the journeys he didn't care about. He looked over Dawn's shoulder to find Wigglytuff and smiled when the Pokémon nodded its head to signal that Piplup wasn't nearby. "Oh, do go on!" Harley grinned to Dawn, practically forcing the words through his teeth.

As Dawn recounted a vicious appeal round in a Johto contest, Wigglytuff inched its way closer to the girl's turned back. May watched nervously in the distance, becoming even more nervous when Delia Ketchum, Togetic and Misty made their way to her side.

"Are you okay May?" Delia asked, looking over the girl with concern "You look sick."

"I'm f-fine!" May stammered before bowing to the two and walking away on shaky feet. This unintentionally gave Misty, Delia and Togetic a good view of Harley and Dawn.

"And that's when I got this ribbon." Dawn beamed as Harley admired it with mock wonder. As he inched closer to get a better view, Wigglytuff coyly, but forcefully, pushed Dawn into Harley who, as they planned, leaned over in such a way that both of their cherry red drinks poured over Dawn's white blouse completely soaking her and the ribbons she had earned. The gasps from Delia and Misty were covered by the mighty wail from Dawn, which got a good amount of attention from the surrounding trainers and Pokémon, save the now hidden Wigglytuff.

Dawn let out a quick apology for her clumsiness to Harley before she was rushed out of the room by Zoe, Kenny and a devastated Piplup. Harley reveled in her defeat when she was gone and walked towards the smell of Brock's cooking content. Wigglytuff smirked before waving frantically at May, who seemed to be choking on her drink after what she just watched.

"I can't believe…" Misty spoke quietly to Mrs. Ketchum as she watched May give a forced wave to Wigglytuff, who was prone to attack when being ignored "That May would do that to get Ash's…" She trailed off when she realized who was standing by her.

"Oh my." Delia sighed, placing a hand to her cheek "This is something, isn't it?" She looked over to Togetic for an answer.

"Someone has to do something!" Misty fumed with a shaky fist, realizing the injustice of it all "I'll go talk-"

Togetic flew closer to Misty and placed its dainty white hand over her fist. "Tic!" The creature said before smiling to the two females. It raised both its arms and began to wave them back and forth.

"T-Togetic. What are you doing?" Misty stammered "Please don't tell-"

Togetic's arms continued to wave back and forth before producing a steady, white glow that Misty had seen several times before.

"D-d-don't use metronome!" Misty stuttered "You don't know what you'll-"The white glow from Togetic's arms died down and the Pokémon piped happily at the move it just released. Misty looked around the crowd nervously before focusing on May, who she was sure Togetic had used the attack on. She watched the brown haired girl look towards the ground confused before hurrying into the party crowd with a terrified expression.

"What did you do, Toge-?" Misty stopped talking as a shimmering, blue light began to manifest in front of her and Delia. The light began to mold itself into a small shape and, upon completing its form, stopped glowing revealing May's half of the Terracotta ribbon. The item fell to the Gym's floor with a small clank. "Oh thank goodness." Misty said, letting out a heavy sighing in relief "The metronome became teleport. Don't scare me like that again Togetic."

"Tic" the Pokémon replied, picking up the ribbon from the ground and placing it lightly in Mrs. Ketchum's hands.

"We should return this to her." Delia said, worried "She looked like it meant a lot to her." Misty nodded in agreement.

As the two woman prepared to walk into the crowd in search of May, another blue light began to manifest in front of them. They both squinted their eyes as the light began to form a larger item before them. As several trainers gathered to see the phenomenon, the blue glow began to fade from the item.

"Oh-oh my god!" Misty shouted as May's blouse and swimsuit dropped on to the pool floor in front of her. The scream that May released from the other side of the Cerulean Gym had more force than the one Dawn released moments ago.

Misty, May and Dawn sat quietly together in the Gym's guestroom after they each expressed how sorry they were to each other. Although they each didn't intentionally, or technically, harm each other, they couldn't help but feel guilty at the events that just took place.

"I'd hate to imagine that my son was the cause of all this." Mrs. Ketchum said, causing the girls to turn as the woman stood in the doorway with her Mr. Mime, Mimey, beside her. "I've just heard from Brock that he's walking towards the gym…"

"Really!?" Dawn hopped from her sitting place before sitting back down slowly at the sight of Misty and May's slouched forms.

"Its fine, Dawn." Misty spoke up "If we all have…whatever for Ash, we shouldn't try to stop each other from…expressing it." She lifted her head slightly to the other girls. "I mean, I'm sure he'd hate for use to keep the others down…"

Dawn hopped back up at Misty's words and grabbed the girl by her hand "You're so right!" the blue haired girl squeaked as she lifted Misty from her seat and spun around with her happily "Besides we're here to celebrate him coning back!"

"Right!" May jumped from her seat passionately as the girls looked at her with small smiles "And we have so many rivals already, what's one more in love!" The mention of love turned all three girls bright red before they exploded into a fit of embarrassing laughter. Mrs. Ketchum joined in on the chorus of merriment as it surrounded them all, releasing Misty, May and Dawn from whatever burden they had felt between them earlier.

"So are you ready? May, Dawn?" Misty asked her new competitors, who nodded their head in determination. The three of them out-stretched their hands and performed a three-way hand shake to signify their new found rivalry. "Let's go."

As the three girls made their way towards the smiling Delia Ketchum at the doorway, they were pushed a few inches back by an unseen force.

"W-what is this?" May asked, walking towards the doorway again, only to be tossed back by the invisible wall that blocked their path. "Mrs. Ketchum, there-"

"Oh, I'm sorry dears!" Mrs. Ketchum smiled as she placed a gentle hand on Mimey's shoulders. Misty, May and Dawn gave confused looks as the Pokémon slowly wiggled its fingers, as if making a box in the air "I can't possibly reunite with my Ash properly with such beautiful girls trying to take his attention at every turn!" She winked at the girls before stepping a few feet back. "After all, I'm the one on top of the food chain here. Keep using barrier Mimey, I'll be back in an hour or so "

"Mime!" the Pokémon exclaimed happily as Mrs. Ketchum happily strolled down the hall towards the Gym pool. The Pokémon kept forming a box with its fingers as Misty, May and Dawn banged on the force field that bound them, each shouting loudly. The noise they made was drowned out by the unified shout of 'WELCOME BACK ASH!'

A/N: And there you have it, ladies and gents! I'm sorry if anyone was expecting a couple towards the end, heh. But come on, Mom conquers all when it comes to who loves Ash the most, right? No, I don't mean incest…

If there was a food chain in canon, I believe it'd go from highest to lowest:

Delia-Misty-May-Dawn

For the sheer fact that I was one of those kids that saw the first episode of Pokémon in its USA premiere, so obviously think Misty is only second to Mom, heh. Hope you enjoyed it anyway! I can update my other story now *hint*, so see you all in the next chapter!