It was early morning when he received the call; the call that stopped his heart, and made his blood run cold.
“s-she’s ill?” he stammered
It was very early still, he was barely even awake yet that was not the reason he faltered now at the news
“yes I’m sorry Ash, she’s not been herself for a while now but what ever it was seems to have peaked now. We phoned you because…well…she’s been drifting in and out of consciousness for several days now but in the times when it has been most hopeful that she would wake, she said your name Ash” came the reply from the other end.
It was professor Oak who had called, having been spending a lot of time at the hospital along with Tracy, Mrs Ketchum and the three other girls.
For Ash though this was still a lot to take in. He was waking up more now, slowly, but even had he been wide awake he would have found it difficult to put into words the mixture of fear, worry and regret now playing through his heart.
“Ash? Are you ok?” professor Oak asked, having noticed Ash looking somewhat peaky.
“I…yea I’m fine professor I just cant believe…Misty’s ill?” Ash repeated, still trying to clarify the fact in his own head.
He had known Misty for a long time now and, though they had not seen each other in a while what with Ash travelling in Hoenn with May, Max and Brock, and Misty’s being forced to take over the Cerulean gym, he could never seriously tackle the concept of Misty; the fiery tempered red-head, the bossy, stressy…friend…more than just a friend…though of course he would never admit it, he hadn’t even to himself yet though there was always that underlying feeling…
“well…I’m afraid ‘ill’ may be an understatement” professor Oak said grimly, “Ash…Ash I’m sorry to have to tell you this but…well it looks as though she might not have long left…”
Ash’s jaw dropped, this couldn’t be it just…it just wasn’t right.
“you mean she’s…she’s…she’s dying?” he asked, and his voice was weak.
Professor Oak nodded his head gravely
“I’m very sorry Ash…you two are good friends I know, and so I thought it would be right for you to hear…it’s just a pity that it had to be like this” he said.
Ash was speechless, he couldn’t utter a sound for fear that, if he did, his voice would crack and the tears would come spilling out. He was fighting them now yet, try as he might, he couldn’t stop the lone tear trickling down his cheek.
“I’m very sorry Ash…” professor Oak said again. He didn’t know what else to say truth be told, it was too sudden, too unexpected and it had been a deeply upsetting time for all those concerned, those who knew the girl.
“…I’m coming back” Ash said finally, after taking several shaky breaths
“coming back? But how? There won’t be any more ferries for a while, the winter weather had made it impossible…” professor Oak began, but Ash interrupted him.
“I don’t care, I’m coming back” he said, “I’ll surf there if I had to I just…I need to be there”
“Ash now come on be reasonable, I know you must be feeling…” professor Oak began but was again interrupted
“you have know idea what I’m feeling!” Ash said, his voice was raised now though he hadn’t noticed, he wasn’t in a state to notice anything very much.
“you must see sense!” professor Oak pleaded, “if you surf back you’ll likely catch your death of cold!”
“then that’s something I’ll have to risk” Ash said coldly, before ending the call.
Death of cold indeed, his best friend was laid in a hospital bed, dying, and all professor Oak cared about was Ash getting a cold?! No, no it didn’t matter how cold it got now, nothing would stop Ash getting back to Cerulean city, nothing.
“Ash?” came a concerned voice from the doorway.
Ash had just turned to leave however the door had been opened before he got to it and now Brock, May and Max were standing there, eyes heavy with sleep but Brock seemed to have realised something was wrong.
“I’m going” Ash said and tried to get passed, but he couldn’t, they were in his way
“going? Going where?” May asked sleepily
“to Cerulean” Ash replied, he was getting desperate now, he didn’t know how long Misty had left but his efforts to leave were being thwarted by the very people who were supposed to have been helping him
“but…why?” May asked
“Ash what’s happened?” Brock asked, he being more alert to the situation than the others, and had realised that something was wrong, and something bad given the state Ash was in now.
“it’s Misty…” Ash said, and already he could feel the tears fighting to get out, “she’s…she’s dying” he said quietly, and then the tears did break, and ran down his cheeks in never ending torrents. The other three moved forwards to try and comfort him but he shrugged them off, he didn’t need comforting, he needed to be in Cerulean.
“well…we’d better be heading off then” Brock said.
Ash wouldn’t notice now, he was in too much of a state to do so, but had he been more calm then he would have noticed how Brock’s voice had become grave, how pale he had become also at hearing the news, because after all, he and Misty had been good friends too, the news was bound to affect him also. It wasn’t as bad for the other two, for May and for Max, as they had not known her as well and so had less of a reason to be saddened, though of course both were. For Ash and for Brock though this news struck hard, and for Ash most of all, but for a reason he had never explained and didn’t truly understand himself.
“w-what do you mean?” Ash asked, wiping away the tears roughly
“well we’re going to Cerulean aren’t we?” Brock asked
Ash looked at him, surprised
“y-you’re coming too?” he asked
“well you didn’t think we were going to let you go alone did you? Right guys?” Brock asked. He wore a determined smile, though his eyes were glistening
“err…right yea” May said, a little taken aback
“too right” Max said, a little more on the ball.
“thanks you guys” Ash said, and managed a strained smile.
“but how are we going to get to Cerulean?” May asked, “I didn’t think there were any more ferries for a while”
“she’s got a point” Max agreed, “it’d be too cold and too far to try and swim there”
“time to ask a favour from an old friend then I think” Ash said, and led the way out of the pokemon centre at which they had been staying.
Around an hour later and the small group were down by the shore of Littleroot town, and they had been joined by another, a larger shape in the water.
“Lapras old buddy it’s good to see you again” Ash said, doing his best to give a warm greeting to the pokemon he had let go years ago. Lapras replied and nuzzled its head against Ash’s arm, and Ash petted it fondly
“Lapras I need a favour, I know its cold but I…we need to get to Cerulean and quickly too. Could you carry us?” Ash asked, hoping against hope that his pokemon would agree. There was only one thing in the world now that he wished for more, and that was when he got to Cerulean, to find Misty alive and on the mend, to pass the whole thing off as a scare and nothing more.
Lapras nodded its agreement and Ash’s heart skipped a beat
“thanks so much Lapras, I’ll explain on the way, but we really need to get moving now” Ash said, quickly jumping on his pokemons back to be followed by Brock, May and Max.
They left the shore and steered a course for Kanto, and then Lapras put on an extra burst of speed and they were off and away, speeding towards Cerulean city.
The journey lasted all night, though it would have taken longer on a ferry. Max, May and Brock soon managed to get off to an uneasy sleep, adjusting to the movement of the waves after a while, but Ash staid up. It was not the waves, the cold or the spray of the sea that was getting to him, rather a heart deep worry and fear about what he would find upon arrival at the city, and above all, about how Misty would be. He still hadn’t managed to comprehend the possible outcome, that if everything went as feared, then he wouldn’t see Misty alive again. It just wasn’t a concept he could grapple.
Misty, for as long as he had known her, had been an immensely strong force of good, of optimism, of strength and friendship. She had been there for him throughout their adventures together, had always done her best to help and guide him, had never in his living memory let him down. On top of that though she was just fun to be around, she had a great sense of humour, and a ferocious temper to match yet even that had its funny side, and had helped inspire Ash to continue, to not give up hope no matter what happened. She had saved his life, she had been there for him when no one else was and of course, there was that…other thing…the thing that had captivated them both, particularly nearing the end of their time together. Attraction was it? no, it was more than that really, a deeper feeling. Of course Ash was not sure whether the feeling was mutual yet somehow, deep down, he knew that Misty felt the same, and with the same passion. But of course, neither of them had told the other, despite how many times they had come close to doing so and then, on the road on which they were to part ways, on what could have been the last opportunity to finally confess it…there had been nothing, no words spoken. Tears were shed, of course, and there were subtle things between the two that each had tried to discretely give out, in the hope that the other had picked up on it, only to part ways finally, with heavy hearts believing that they had failed. But pick up on it they had though, or at least Ash had picked up on something, he hoped Misty had done the same. It was the handkerchief, the one that Misty gave him on their tearful parting. Misty must have thought that Ash didn’t realise but of course he had, he just hadn’t managed to sum up the courage to say anything. It was a question of culture, so naturally Misty must have assumed that he, Ash, the dense one, would have had a hard time picking up on it, however he was not so averse to culture as she had thought, and had picked up on what he hoped was the meaning behind it…
Ash continued sitting wide awake all night, lost in his thoughts. If worst came to worst, if the end really were to come and all that he feared come true…would he have the courage to say it? of course he would, he must! He had done so much during their adventures, braved so many difficulties and challenges, overcome impossible odds and stared death in the face so many a time and yet now, when it came to it, he could not bring himself to finally say, to finally admit, those three words that he knew now must be true.
He was brought abruptly out of his thoughts however as a large sheet of water was kicked up as a result of something landing in the ocean next to them, causing the other travellers to awaken with many a moan and complaint. There was another splash, and another, and Ash had enough on the job experience by now to realise that they were under fire, and since there was only one organisation with a grudge to settle with him then he knew who it was.
“team Rocket!” May, Max and Brock shouted in unison.
Above them, hovering in the sky, the all too familiar Meowth head balloon hung level with them, a canon of sorts attached to the underside of the basket and firing at them.
“woah Lapras watch out!” Ash warned as one of the cannon-balls landed perilously close to them. They hadn’t brought their pokemon with them of course, Ash had been in too much of a hurry to leave the pokemon centre and so had left even Pikachu in the care of Nurse Joy.
Another cannon-ball landed right in front of them causing Lapras to stop and rear back in alarm.
Ash was getting desperate, he needed to get to Cerulean and yet again they were being hindered, Lapras unable to move anywhere for fear of being hit by the cannon.
The Meowth head balloon was directly over them now and, with a puff of smoke, the team Rocket trio burst into their motto from where they were balanced on the side of the basket.
“to protect the world from devastation”
“to unite all peoples within our nation”
“please shut up!” Ash yelled
“don’t interrupt the motto” came Jessie’s warning before the two continued
“to denounce the evils of truth and love”
“to extend our reach to the stars above”
“shut up! Just shut up, shut up and leave us alone!” Ash screamed into the night.
Such was the ferocity of his voice that even Jessie and James faltered in their motto. Meowth appeared on the side of the basket at that moment.
“c’mon, the twerp clearly ain’t gonna be polite tonight, lets jus grab em now an get the hell outta here, I’m freezin!” he said.
Jessie and James, for once, agreed with him and then, with a hiss, a net was fired from the cannon and flew down to ensnare the helpless party below.
Lapras panicked, it had been expecting a transport job, not a full-scale ambush and, as loyal as it may be to Ash, it dived underwater and fled the battle, leaving Ash, Brock, May and Max stranded in the freezing water. They did not remain that way for long though as the net had now managed to ensnare them, and then they were being lifted up out of the water, shivering and soaked to the bone, towards the basket of the Meowth head balloon.
“well well, what a pretty kettle of fish” Meowth commented, looking at the dripping figures in the net now on the floor of the basket.
“let us go, we’re in a hurry!” Brock yelled
“oh we saw, so we figured we’d take the opportunity to relieve you of your Pikachu, now…hey, where is he?” Jessie asked, realising for the first time that none of the group appeared to have any pokemon on them at all, let alone the yellow mouse that they had been after now for such a long time.
“I told you, we’re in a hurry, we didn’t have time to get them” Brock explained, doing his best to be patient but it was very difficult.
“but…but the twerps never travel without their pokemon” James said,
“what’s the hurry anyways?”
“we’re trying to get to Cerulean” Ash said quietly
“Cerulean! We’re trying to get to Cerulean city!!”
“ok ok there’s no need to shout” Jessie said, making everyone sweat-drop
“why are you tryin to get to Cerulean? I thought yous lot were travellin around Hoenn now?” Meowth asked
“it’s Misty” Ash said, not really wanting to go into an explanation with these three, he didn’t feel as though he could anyways.
“oh yea her, we ain’t seen her in a long time, where’d she go anyways?” Meowth asked
“I miss her” Jessie said, much to everyone’s surprise, “she was a girl with spirit, knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to try and get it. reminds me of myself”
finally Ash gave up, there was so little chance now of them escaping this trap in time to get to the hospital, he might as well explain.
“ok…ok so you want to know where Misty is” he said, and his voice was grave. Jessie, James and Meowth turned to look at him, puzzled at his attitude which seemed so different from that of the twerp who had foiled their plans so many a time. “well…she’s in hospital…in Cerulean, she’s ill and…and…” Ash’s voice cracked, and amid the shivers from the damp and cold a sob threatened to overwhelm him, and it took all of his resolve to keep from breaking down altogether. Jessie, James and Meowth were listening closely by this time, captivated yet also concerned. After all there had been occasions when they had abandoned their evil ways to help the twerps, and they cared about them, in a bizarre way. “and…and she doesn’t have much time left” Ash finished, and then there was silence.
“you mean she’s…she’s…dying?” Jessie asked, completely shocked by the revelation
“yes” Ash answered fatly
“but that’s terrible!” James exclaimed, and it came as no great surprise to see that there were tears in his eyes…or perhaps it was, after all, they were hardy friends
“right then…full speed ahead” Meowth said, and Jessie and James immediately got to their feet, and the balloon began moving.
“what? What are you doing?” May asked in astonishment, they appeared to be heading towards the city again.
“well we may be villains and all” Jessie began
“but it wouldn’t be right to stop her love being there before the fall” said James
“Meowth dat’s right”
“huh? Her love?” Max asked as the balloon began picking up speed
“oh come on!” Jessie exclaimed
“you mean you still haven’t figured it out?” James asked in astonishment
“no? what?” May asked
Jessie, James and Meowth looked pointedly at Ash, whose eyes had only once left the floor since they had arrived, and that had been when the balloon began moving again. His eyes were raised now though, and he was looking at the stars with a distant expression, the closest to a smile they had seen on his features since the trip began.
“you mean Ash…and Misty?” May asked
Brock chuckled quietly, it appeared as though it was not just he and Tracy who had picked up on this.
“oh it’s blatently obvious” Jessie scoffed, “right twerp?” she asked, addressing Ash.
Ash did not speak in response; he just continued looking at the shining stars for a few seconds. He had seen the shining point of light fly across the sky, the shooting star, and a spark of hope had been awoken in him, the chance of a wish coming true… he turned back to look at the other occupants of the basket, a grim yet determined and hopeful smile on his face, and nodded.
“told you” James said triumphantly.
The rest of the trip had continued in silence mostly, with the occasional cough or sniff from those who had landed in the water. Ash in particular looked as though he was coming down with a bad cold but he didn’t mind, for all that he was cold, wet and shivering, there was still that one faint spark of hope alive inside him.
Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the shining lights of Cerulean city could be seen, glittering on the waters as the balloon approached.
The next five minutes or so passed as a blur for Ash, as the balloon descended and came to a halt on the steps of the hospital, and then he was jumping out of the basket, ignoring his sodden clothes, and sprinting as fast as he could into the hospital.
“Misty Waterflower, where is she?” he asked the surprised looking receptionist as the others joined him, all but three dripping wet.
“well she’s…well first I’m going to have to take your names, are you family? And what’s happened to you?!” the receptionist asked, having been taken by surprise by the sudden entrance of this bedraggled group and not reacting too well to it.
“my name’s Ash Ketchum now can I please see Misty?” Ash asked hurriedly
“well I hardly think in your state…” the receptionist began
“oh please! Ash pleaded
“Ash?” came a voice from beside them and then his mom was there, followed by professor Oak, Lily, Violet and Daisy. Immediately Delia Ketchum had Ash in her arms, tears in her eyes, but withdrew quickly as she felt the sodden clothes
“Ash what happened to you? Are you ok?” she asked frantically
“yea I’m fine now I want to see Misty!” Ash said, getting angry now. He had gone through all the effort of finally getting there and still there were people in his way!
Ash ignored his mothers attempts to dry him with a face flannel that had appeared from no where, and pushed past to come face to face with professor Oak
“oh professor, you aren’t going to try and stop me too are you?” Ash pleaded
“no…no Ash but I think…I want to warn you now Ash, she’s got worse, I doubt she’ll be conscious when you see her…you might want to think about how to…say goodbye” professor Oak said sadly, and at this Ash’s heart sunk.
The hope that had lit itself began to dim, but still it lingered on, just a spark for him to cling to.
Without pausing for words Ash walked past professor Oak and into the room where Misty slept on. The others followed him in but hung back, not wanting to interrupt but even had they been closer Ash wouldn’t have realised, he wouldn’t have cared, for him there was only one person in the room at that moment and that was Misty.
Drawing a chair up, Ash sat down beside the bed and fumbled around, finding the handkerchief that she had given him all that time ago. He gently mopped her forehead with it, before placing it lightly on her lap.
From then onwards he kept one hand locked to hers, and the other stroked her cheek. He had wanted to do this for so long, to care for her, to love and protect her. Now he could, but like this…it was at this point though that the realisation struck him that this would probably be the last time he laid eyes upon Misty, the last time they touched, they last time they could be together. He knew now that this must be the end, that he would never again hear her voice, would never be able to talk to, to console and be consoled, to play and to fight…she would go soon, and he would be alone with nothing but memories and a lingering love, one that he knew would stay with him until the day he died and left the world, to join her again in death, where they could be together forever more.
He was crying now, he didn’t have to hide it and he did not want to, but it was because of the tears blinding him that he did not straight away see the movement, the flutter of her eyelids as he gently laid a hand on her cheek.
“A-Ash?” came a faint whisper.
Ash did not reply, he did not seriously believe that he had heard it, and just believed it to be a product of his deep, deep desire to see her awake, to have her speak to him again.
“Ash?” came the voice again.
Ash looked up, blinking away the tears and his eyes met with those eyes he had thought he would never see again, those aqua-marine lakes shining so brightly…except that they were not shining any more.
Misty looked at him as he looked at her, and her eyes were glazed over. The fire, that had been ever present in side her, had died, and the embers were slowly fading into nothing.
“oh Ash…” Misty whispered, raising her hand and placing it lightly on Ash’s cheek, as he was to her. It was a tremendous strain to do but she did it nonetheless, realising as Ash had done that this would likely be the last time they could see and touch each other.
She managed a smile, one which Ash returned.
“hey Misty” he said, trying to sound up-beat though they could both tell it was an act
“I’ve missed you” Misty replied, her voice faint and containing none of the passion and conviction she had once mustered.
“I’ve missed you too” Ash replied, nuzzling her hand. “you’re gonna be ok Mist you hear me? The doctors say you’re getting better” he said, still making the effort to be positive and he was doing well too, it was believable at least but Misty could see through him, she always had and always would be able to…for a little while longer at least.
“liar” she said and smiled, “you’ve never been able to lie to me, I can read you like a book”
Ash chuckled grimly in response, it was true, but it was a stark contrast to the last time they had had a conversation like this. Her voice had none of its power, it was weak and faint, and even as she spoke Ash could see the strain increasing. In the brief moment of silence that followed, they were both aware of the ominous beep…beep…beep of the machine monitoring her heart, and it was clear that there was little time left now, the beeps were becoming less and less frequent. There was just one thing now that prevented the machine from flat-lining, just one thing which was keeping her going, and that was the prospect of one more moment with Ash, their last time together.
“if you can read me like a book…then what am I thinking now?” Ash asked gently
“I…” Misty began, but her voice faded out and she shut her eyes, the pain closing around her chest as her life drew ever closer to its ultimatum “I don’t know…looks like I lost that ability” she said quietly.
“well…” Ash began, the tears falling freely down his cheeks again as he realised that this would be the one last time he could ever have the chance to tell her, “I’m thinking how beautiful you are…how good a friend you’ve been to me, the best friend I could ever wish for and…most of all…how much I love you”
that was it, he had said it, it had taken him years but he had finally said it, and…it was a relief in a way, that now Misty knew what he felt.
“that was the book I’d been too scared to open” Misty said and, for what was definitely not the first, but would probably be the last time, Ash gave her that familiar blank look.
“dense” she said, and smiled, “I meant that…for all this time I was wondering how you felt…about me…and…” she had to pause to take in a deep breath, as the beeping got slower and slower, “and I was always scared…that if I told you how I felt you wouldn’t feel the same way…”
“you mean you…you…?” Ash began, hardly daring to hope that the words might finally be uttered in reply
“I…I love…I love you” Misty said, and managed a small smile.
It took her three attempts to say it, as her energy slowly dissipated and even speaking became difficult. She winced as another stab of pain hit her, but then felt Ash’s gentle hand on her forehead.
“shh sleep now Mist…it’ll all be alright” he whispered, conscious now that the only way to end his friends suffering would be to help her to die peacefully and in comfort.
Ash leant over, and planted a soft kiss on her lips, one that she returned as best she could. She felt a tear land on her cheek, but whether it was his or her own she could not know…it was getting dark now, so dark…
“it’s ok Mist…you can sleep now…no more worries” Ash crooned gently, tears streaming from his eyes as the beep got slower…slower…..
“you’ve come to journeys end…nothing to fear now, just relax and…and…and sleep…one day, one day I’ll find you again and we’ll be together, not a care in the world but for now, just sleep, and the pain will go away”
“…I love you… so much…goodbye”
The green line was flat, the beep now a constant drone…she was gone, past, away beyond the pain and suffering – to a better place.
“heaven lost an angel…but it looks like they found her again…”
the room was awash with silent tears, yet no grief matched that now flowing through the heart of Ash Ketchum, as he clung on tightly to her hand and rested his head on her chest, hoping for one last smile, for one last beat of a heart that he could call his own…but there was nothing, she was gone.
Yet as her spirit left her
For one moment she clung back to say
I’ll love you for always Ash Ketchum
Forever and a day
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