Disclaimer: Same as every other fanfic you've read. I don't own the Pokemon franchise, no money is intended to be made from this....etc, etc, etc....
"Brock, do you know where Misty is?" asked Ash, waking up and realizing his friend wasn't around.
"No, I haven't seen her since last night," Brock replied, holding his frying pan over the bonfire.
Ash had just beaten Clair the day before and won the Rising Badge, and now the trio was on their way back to New Bark Town. After walking for a couple of hours, they had stopped off in a clearing for the night.
"Bwahahahahaha!" came a couple of voices from behind them. Startled, Ash and Brock turned around to face the familiar faces of Team Rocket.
"Prepare for trouble, we've captured your friend,"
"And make it double, our problems will soon end,"
"To protect the world from devastation,"
"To unite all peoples within our nation,"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love,"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
"Two Team Rocket groups have united and we've finally done something right!"
"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"
"Meowth, dat's right!"
"Team Rocket!" Ash exclaimed. "What have you done with Misty?"
"Take it easy twerp, your friend is right here," replied Jessie, gesturing to Misty, who was just behind them in the landed balloon basket, tightly coiled up under Arbok's Wrap attack, "all you have to do to get her back is give us Pikachu!"
A rage welled up within Ash. Even from her position in the basket, Misty could see a fire and determination in Ash's eyes that was even greater than they looked in his most important tournament battle.
"Never!" yelled Ash, furious. "You're not getting Misty OR Pikachu! If you want them, you'll have to go through me and every single one of my Pokemon first!"
"You're not leaving me out of this, she's my friend too!" Brock agreed. "Ash, you realize it looks like we'll have to battle all four of them."
"I don't care, I'm not letting them take Misty!"
"I don't blame you, pal. OK let's do it!"
"Go, Wobbuffet!" called Jessie.
"Weezing, get in there too!" said James, tossing his Pokeball.
"Do you guys really want to battle us?" Ash spat out angrily.
"What are you talking about, twerp?" Jessie mocked him.
"Watch," Ash snapped, releasing all of his Pokemon. Brock followed suit. "You guys only HAVE five Pokemon total. Between me and Brock we have ten. Do you honestly think you can win when you're outnumbered two-to-one?"
While Ash distracted Team Rocket, Brock had given a quick, silent signal to Geodude and Forretress to slowly spread out and come at the ballon from either side, and now they almost were in position. Ash now noticed this. He usually wasn't that perceptive, but when it came to situations involving Pokemon battling, he was incredibly sharp. Thinking quickly, he continued, "You guys have been after us for what, three years now? And what have you done? Nothing! You've never gotten Pikachu, and you've never successfully stolen any other Pokemon either! Why don't you just give up?"
"You know, sometimes I wonder that too..." James mused.
"James!" Jessie scolded him. "This is the best we've done so far, and we are GOING to win this time!" exclaimed Jessie.
"Now!" Brock suddently called.
Jessie and James never knew what hit them. Geodude and Forretress Tackled them from either side, knocking them into each other. They slumped to the floor of the basket, knocked out cold.
"And now for you, Meowth!" Ash exclaimed. Meowth had speechlessly watched the whole thing, surprised at how quickly the tables had turned, and was now frantically trying to escape. "Pikachu, Thunderbolt attack!"
A powerful bolt of electricity arced from Pikachu to the cat Pokemon, shocking it in its tracks and making it faint.
"Um...guys..." Arbok was hissing at Misty, refusing to let go of its captive until its master told it to, despite the fact that its master was now unconscious.
"Mist, sorry but I'm gonna have to attack Arbok to get you out of there," Ash apologized.
Misty grimaced, expecting a gigantic electric shock. "Just hurry, please."
"And I know you'd rather be wet than shocked..." Ash added. Misty grinned in spite of herself. Ash was thinking more than usual. "Totodile, Water Gun!"
Totodile shot a continuous stream of water at Arbok. Of course, it couldn't help completely soaking Misty in the process, but being a Water Pokemon trainer, she didn't mind. After a few moments, the water became too much for Arbok, and it loosened its grip on Misty, enabling her to slide out.
"OK Pikachu, finish off Team Rocket with your Thunder attack!" Pikachu did so, and Team Rocket, their balloon, and their Pokemon were enveloped in a huge blob of electricity.
The balloon's burner exploded, and Jessie and James regained consciousness just in time to shout "Looks like Team Rocket's blasting off again!" as they were blown away by the force of it all.
Ash and Brock congratulated and recalled their Pokemon. A moment later, Ash felt a wet hand on his shoulder, and turned around to face a waterlogged Misty. Suspecting this would happen, Brock quietly slipped away to pack up their camp.
"Ash," Misty said quietly, "I...I just want to thank you for what you did."
"I couldn't let them take you," Ash replied sincerely.
"Also," Misty continued, "I couldn't help but notice that look in your eyes when you took on Team Rocket. I've never seen that kind of fierce determination from you before. Was it all because of me?"
Ash toed the ground, and nervously put his hand behind his head. "Yeah..." His heart was beating a mile a minute.
So was Misty's. "Ash, is there something you're not telling me?" Misty was pretty sure she knew what it was, but she wanted to hear it from him, to prove it to herself if anything else.
"I...I..." Ash stammered a bit, gulped, and looked Misty straight in the eye. "I couldn't stand the thought of losing you, Mist. Without you being around through all of my battles and everything, I don't know where I'd be right now."
"Thanks, Ash." Misty smiled warmly. "Now there's something I have to tell you." Ash waited with keen interest. "I've been holding it in a long time....too long. But after what just happened, I realize that things can change so quickly, and....what I mean is....I love you."
Ash was stunned. He'd always hoped to hear those words, but never thought he actually would. "But....but I thought the whole reason you were following me..."
"....Was for the bike?" Misty finished. She smiled and shook her head. "Nope, it's just that I've never had the courage to tell you this....so I guess I've always been using the bike thing as an excuse. But I forgot about that ever since Cinnabar Island, because that was when I realized that being with you means much more than some stupid bike."
"Wow..." Ash was still trying to take this all in. "I just....I never expected to hear all this...I mean, I've always wanted to, but...." He suddenly toughened, and quickly added, "I love you too. You're my best human friend in the world, and I never want to lose you. Today I thought I might, and now I'm spilling all this out....I guess cause I'm so relieved."
The two suddenly realized that during the conversation, they'd been getting closer and closer together. Both stopped talking and stared into each other's eyes for a moment, and as if by mutual consent, kissed. It was the first time for both of them, and it only lasted a few seconds, but it simply felt magical.
"Um, Ash?" Misty shyly asked when it was done.
"Yeah?" Ash couldn't take his eyes away from hers.
"I...could really use a change of clothes." She was still soaked and was starting to get cold.
Ash laughed. "OK, c'mon." He took her hand and led her back to Brock and their camp.