The Oceanlight Ball
-Disclaimer: No financial ties to Pokemon, no profit intended, this is just a fanfic. But you knew that.
-A/N: This is set a few years after the current series. I'll explain things as I go along.
George's Dress Shop was a small, quiet clothing store that did moderate business. It could have been any number of small, quiet clothing stores in the country, one couldn't tell from the interior. There were two things, though, that set it apart from any other clothing store. For one, the name. A male name on the front of a dress shop might have seemed odd to some, but not to the residents of Cerulean City. For they knew that George was, not the owner's first name, but her last name. Yes, the owner was Gwendolyn George. She thought "Gwendolyn's Dress Shop" wouldn't sound very attractive, so she used her last name instead, counting on that bit of intrigue to at least draw some interest. But the shop had been open for twenty years now, so she could actually change the name whenever she wanted, but she liked to keep things as they were. In any case, the other difference about this particular shop was its current customer. For no other dress shop in the country could boast that its owner had known one of the country's top Water Pokemon trainers since her birth. Yes, Cerulean City Gym Leader Misty Spring was currently in the dress shop, trying on one of Gwendolyn George's (or "GG" as Misty affectionately called her) most beautiful, expensive dresses.
GG was a diminutive, soft-talking woman whose salt-and-pepper hair was always tied up in a neat bun behind her head. She had known Misty all her life, had kept in contact with her during her travelling years, and viewed her as a surrogate daughter...or maybe as a granddaughter, GG hadn't quite decided. She was certainly old enough to be Misty's grandmother. But Misty had matured so much, physically and otherwise, since she first left Cerulean City nine years ago that GG thought she looked older than her nineteen years. Her fire-red hair had grown quite long now, and she usually wore it in a single long ponytail that reached almost to her waist. Her figure, while not being paper-thin, was slim and beautiful. Indeed, not only was she the top Water Pokemon trainer in all of Kanto, and one of the best anywhere, her fame and good looks had drawn the attention of many males. But as GG watched Misty twirl around in the dress she was wearing, she knew that there was only one young man on the young Gym Leader's mind. His name was Ash Ketchum, and three years ago he had officially earned the title of Pokemon Master, the youngest ever to do so. He now led the Indigo League Elite Four, and often had to go away on business or to accept battle challenges. He and Misty had remained best friends since their travelling days however, and he frequently visited her and his mother in nearby Pallet Town.
Indeed, Misty was thinking of Ash as she admired the spaghetti-strap dress in the store's floor-length mirror. It was her favorite color, cerulean blue. It was knee-length and of a modest cut around the chest, yet it was form-fitting enough to show off her figure. Looking again at the reflection of the dress, she noticed that it wasn't just one color. In fact, the cerulean blue started in a light shade at the top and faded in a very slight gradient to a darker shade at the knees. Its silky material felt very comfortable against her skin.
Suddenly hearing the door open, GG turned around and, with a knowing smile to the new arrival, returned to the counter and busied herself tidying things up. Misty was still admiring herself in the mirror, apparently lost in thought, not even having heard the door chime. The newcomer nodded at GG and smiled, then slowly strode up to Misty. The mirror was to his right, so Misty was not alerted to his presence by it. He stopped, easily within arm's reach of her, and said one word, "Beautiful."
Startled, Misty turned around to find a very welcome sight. Standing in front of her was none other than Hoenn League Champion and Pokemon Master Ash Ketchum. Misty admired once again how much he had grown since their travelling days. His lean build had stayed with him, but it wasn't difficult to tell that he had gained a fair amount of physical strength through his teenage years. He was still quite the kid at heart though, his hair was just as unruly as ever, and he had a new Pokemon League hat, just like the one he had worn through the first few years of his journey. In fact, his original hat now rested on a special hook in Misty's bedroom at home. His Pikachu was of course, with him, and they had become closer than ever. Without even being told, Pikachu had retreated to a corner of the store when Ash had entered, in order to give his trainer time to talk to Misty alone...as alone as one could get in a public store, at any rate.
He spoke again, now that he had her full attention. "You look beautiful in that dress, Mist. Are you going to the Oceanlight Ball next week?" They had been dating casually for about two years now, but still, every now and then, when he looked deep into her eyes like he was doing right then, Misty was left at a complete loss for words.
"Um...y-yes, yes I am..." Misty managed to stammer. "I thought you were away on business..."
"I came back," Ash explained simply. "I heard about the dance, and I had to be there with you. I'm expected to go alone, because they want me to give a speech beforehand encouraging everyone to be kind to their Pokemon and stuff like that, so I have to go early to practice." Misty knew what that meant. Ash was terrible at public speaking, so every time he was called upon to give a speech, it took him hours to practice beforehand, even if the speech was very short. "But will you save the last dance for me?"
"O...of course!" Misty replied. The last dance was only the most important one of the whole night. Up until now, they had both been afraid to commit, but now Ash was asking her to reserve that dance for him! She could just picture it...the lights would dim, the DJ would announce that this was to be the last dance, so everyone should find that special someone to share it with...then Ash would gaze at her from across the room, gallantly walk up, take her hand, and ask for the dance...it was going to be perfect.
Ash suddenly checked his watch. Annoyed, he rolled his eyes. "Sorry, Mist, gotta go. I have to phone the League President and argue over my schedule with him." Giving her a quick kiss goodbye, he collected Pikachu and quickly left.
"Well, that was easy," said GG, coming back over to Misty from her position at the counter. "When I was your age, you wouldn't believe how hard a time I had trying to find a date."
Misty giggled. "Now, GG, you were a knockout and you know it."
"I certainly didn't have your beauty, child."
"Yeah you did. I've seen pictures."
The elderly woman just smiled. "Anyway," she said, "will that be cash or charge for the dress? Your boyfriend certainly seemed to like it."
"He did, didn't he?" said Misty, smiling as she thought of him. Checking the price tag attached to the hem of the dress, Misty gasped. It was far out of her price range; in fact it was twice what she could afford. She had looked at all the other dresses GG had in stock, however, and none struck her quite as much as this one did. Slipping into the fitting room to change back into her clothes, jean shorts and a light blue tank top, Misty said, "Um, GG...I'm gonna have to think about this one. I really can't afford it, but I've gotta figure out a way to get the money."
Misty left quickly, but not before GG gave her some advice. "Remember, child, what's important is not what you look like on the outside, but who you are on the inside."
'Thanks, GG,' Misty thought as she crossed the street to the gym, 'but if I want to impress Ash, if I really want to show him how I feel, then I need to get that dress.'
After some thought, Misty decided that since her salary as Gym Leader was based on the number of challenges she accepted, she quickly got to work. She spent the rest of the day creating signs on the Gym's computer and printing them out to post on lampposts, bulletin boards, everywhere she could. "Cerulean Gym accepting any and all challenges! Contact Misty, Gym Leader," the signs read.
The rest of that week was filled with more battles than Misty had ever experienced before. It might have been too much for her moderate stable of eight Pokemon, but since her sisters joined that synchronized swimming league last year and were often away for competitions, she also often had access to most of their Pokemon. Now was one of those times, so Misty simply rotated all twenty-four of the Gym's Pokemon so no one group would be overworked. The same, however, could not be said for their trainer. The first day, Misty accepted three battles. The next day, three more. Four more battles came the day after that. It seemed that each new trainer had tougher and tougher Pokemon as the week went on, or maybe it was her own fatigue that made the opponents seem tougher, Misty wasn't sure.
At any rate, after receiving her paycheck at the end of the week, she finally had just enough to buy that dress. She cashed her check at the bank as soon as she received it in the mail, having just three hours to buy the dress and get ready for the dance. Rushing back to the Gym and up to her room, she laid the long, thin white box containing the dress on her bed and lay down next to it. Exhausted, the young Gym Leader just wanted to rest for ten minutes or so before getting ready. But soon, she found herself nodding off to sleep.
Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Misty slowly awakened to hear that noise at her bedroom window. Looking at her alarm clock, she screamed. "I don't believe this, it's 1:30 in the morning! I slept through the whole dance!" Crestfallen, she wondered what Ash would think of her now, having missed this very special night. Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap-tap. Finally going to the window to investigate, Misty saw a familiar pair of green vines. Quickly they retracted, and Misty's eyes followed them down as they returned to the body of a Bayleef she knew well. Standing next to it was Ash, still in his tuxedo from the dance. His hair was even slicked back and held down with gel. Despite having just come from a several-hour-long party, he had somehow remained looking as if he had just stepped out of the clothing store. Misty knew GG would describe Ash's looks right about now as "very handsome," although the young redhead hated that word. She was thinking more along the lines of "hot". Misty threw open her window as Ash recalled Bayleef and thanked it. "Ash?"
"You promised me the last dance!" he called up, with a twinkle in his eye.
Misty dashed out the door, took the steps down to the main floor three at a time, and ran outside. Her eyes welling up with tears, the two met in a loving embrace, then they began to slow dance, right in the middle of the sidewalk. "I'm sorry I'm not wearing the dress, Ash," Misty apologized.
Ash leaned in close. "GG told me the whole thing," he whispered in her ear. "It's okay, it's you who's beautiful, not the dress." There was no stopping the waterworks now. Misty laid her head on his shoulder, and the two continued to dance, not caring what anyone else saw or thought.
Down the street in another second-floor window, an elderly woman in a nightgown could be seen peeking through the curtains. Smiling knowingly at the scene, she turned away from her window and retired to bed. 'Misty always was stubborn, right from birth...she always had to learn the hard way,' Gwendolyn George thought affectionately.