Socks to Sandals
by rocket jesse
The more Misty ate dinner at Mrs. Ketchum's, the more she realized that there must be something going on between Ash's mom and Professor Oak. Not only did he show up every time Misty visited which, granted, was only about once each month but Professor Oak also gave the impression that he was a nightly fixture. He was prone to say things such as, "Did you enjoy the extra noodles for lunch today, Delia?" and, "My my, this tempura is even better than the last seven times you made it." He followed the latter statement recently with, "You must share the recipe sometime!" but Misty dismissed this as slightly less than relevant information.
Tracey, however, clearly did not join Mrs. Ketchum and Professor Oak for dinner unless Misty was visiting. Mrs. Ketchum always asked both Tracey and Misty what they had been up to since Misty last came to Pallet Town, then mentioned she had heard from Professor Oak that Tracey was working on grooming or some such thing.
After another satisfying meal provided by Mrs. Ketchum, and once Tracey had snuck into the kitchen and done all the dishes, he asked Misty if she wanted to go for a walk. He rubbed the back of his head and avoided meeting her eyes, which put Misty on alert.
"Sure, Tracey after all, I wouldn't have come all the way here if I couldn't spend time talking with you. Lead the way!" She smiled encouragingly.
He returned the smile and held the door open for her. "I thought I we could walk along the beach, unless you think it's too dark."
Misty worried at Tracey's subtle uncertainty. "That sounds perfect," she began, then asked, "Tracey, are you feeling alright?" once they had progressed a few meters from the front door. Classy piano music began to pour from Mrs. Ketchum's house, and the two could hear it faintly as they receded.
"I'm great, why do you ask?"
She studied him, squinting in the twilight. "No reason." Resolving to lighten the mood, she continued, "Can I ask you something
" and switched to a whisper, "Secret?"
As they crossed the empty road, Tracey ghosted his hand across the small of her back. "Of course," he whispered back. For some reason, his touch and his quiet voice made Misty giggle.
Grinning, she peered back at the glowing house for a moment. "Do you think Professor Oak and Mrs. Ketchum are seeing each other?"
"Oh yeah," Tracey said without hesitation. "He goes to her house every night for dinner and sees plenty of her, I'm sure."
Misty, about to burst with excitement, suddenly reviewed Tracey's words and found them uncharacteristically suggestive. "What do you mean?"
They began to descend the short slope to the waterside. "Just that they are seeing each other every day. Why, what do you mean?"
She had to laugh. "No, Tracey! I'm asking you if you think the two of them are in a relationship. You know, dating?"
"Ohhh," Tracey pronounced sagely. "No, I hadn't really given it much thought, to be honest. Do you think they are?"
Misty was stunned. She knew Tracey was a little slow on the uptake regarding these sorts of things, but she had decided that Mrs. Ketchum and Professor Oak were more than friends based on evidence she found unequivocally obvious. She had a hard time accepting that Tracey, who watched Pokémon so well, had never even thought about it. "Are you serious?"
" Misty noted the change in his tone. "Actually I've been thinking about a different
set of people."
Totally thrown, Misty checked Tracey's expression and found it difficult to see. "What people?" Was he thinking of Jesse and James? Misty doubted it they were no more or less obvious than Mrs. Ketchum and Professor Oak.
" Tracey stopped walking near a bush of wild Pecha Berries, so Misty followed suit and turned to face him. "I have to tell you something. It's a big deal."
The way he stepped closer to her made her feel exhilarated, but the gravity he placed in his voice still gave her pause, and she wasn't sure why. She didn't know what to do. Running away and staying put at the same time sounded okay, until she realized that she didn't know Double Team. The least she could do was nod for him to continue, and after a few seconds she managed to do just that.
Tracey made sure he had eye contact before speaking. "I love you," he whispered, terrified and happy.
Her heart sank. "Tracey "
"You're the reason I haven't moved on from Pallet Town. I got accepted to a great Watcher program miles away, but I didn't go because I couldn't leave you behind."
She had to make him stop talking, but he wasn't pausing. "You "
"And I think we really have something special, Misty, I don't really know if you feel the same about me, but sometimes I think that maybe you do, and it makes me so happy "
" you have no idea, you're so nice to me "
Something snapped. "TRACEY!"
He stopped. It wasn't fair that his eyes were already welling up.
Misty instantly hated everything about him because he had ruined her whole world. "Listen to me!" she practically shouted. "I don't feel that way about you! I am sorry! I'd like to be alone!" She stomped a few paces and wasn't really surprised when Tracey followed her.
"But Misty, I'm really sure about this, I think I think we might be "
"What, Tracey? Soulmates? Meant to be? We're obviously not. Accept it." Misty wanted to run, or swim, or fly.
"Why? What can I do to fix it?"
She rounded on him, feeling emotions shooting out from her uncontrollably like ribbons of flame. His desperation increased her anger and even made her feel good to be incensed. "Nothing! I don't want that with you! You're so naïve, you didn't even notice Professor Oak is seeing Mrs. Ketchum! You say the most obvious things, all the time! You turned down a Watcher program for no reason! You wear nothing but green! You wear shorts with socks! You never talk about your past! You've never told me anything about your dreams until that moment!" She took a shuddering breath. "I don't know what else to tell you, Tracey, but the point is that I am not interested. Thanks for being my friend. Goodbye."
Ignoring the way he had wilted as she yelled, Misty ran away.
By the time she reached the gym, she had decided not to discuss this matter with a single living soul, including her sisters. It was an easy choice to make while traveling alone, without any means of communication.
She lasted five minutes before calling Brock.
"Misty!" he exclaimed as his image popped up. "It's late, are you okay?"
"Oh, I don't know, Brock
do you have a few minutes to talk?"
Distracted, he leaned backwards and shouted, "May and Max, watch out for Pikachu, it's been eyeing your dinners for half an hour! And Ash, you can't put Tabasco sauce on sushi!" He may or may not have rolled his eyes. "Sorry, Misty. Sure, I have a minute, what's up?"
"Well," she began, nervous. "It would be really great if nobody overheard
Brock nodded and looked to the left again. "I wouldn't worry. The kids are all too busy shoveling my famous cooking into their mouths." He reached for something, then consumed a piece of sushi himself. "Excuse me while I eat. Now, what's the matter, Misty?"
She ran her hands over her face and winced as she spoke. "Tracey."
"He told you."
Mortified, Misty gaped at Brock as her mind whirred. Tracey must have shared his plan with Brock! "How did you know?"
Brock tapped his chopsticks against his chin. "Hm, let's see. He didn't accept his placement in the Watcher program. He visits the Cerulean gym once a week, despite the distance. He does anything you ask him to. And I mean the first time you ask, not like this guy," Brock pointed leftward with his chopsticks, "who only responds the second or third time. Tracey talks about you whenever Ash gets in touch with him. Would you like me to continue?"
I didn't realize it was so obvious." Misty's shoulders slumped. "I must have been the only person who didn't know. Until tonight, that is."
"Don't feel bad, Misty. I can see more than the untrained eye when it comes to relationships. I don't blame you for not noticing. But something clearly went wrong what happened?"
She crossed one arm and, resting her elbow on it, rubbed the bridge of her nose with her fingertips. "He said he loves me, and he was so sure I was going to return the feeling, but he wasn't listening to me. I got angry and said some pretty mean stuff. I don't know what to do, and I can't stop thinking about it. I thought you'd be able to give me some advice, Brock."
"Hm." Brock took another bite. "Well, in the uncommon chance that my feelings are not returned by a beautiful woman, I would prefer that she not mention it ever again. Especially if we were going to continue being friends. You might want to consider doing the same with Tracey, especially if you said something you're not proud of."
"I should apologize to him, though!"
For the first time during the conversation, Brock looked uncertain. Ash's voice came over the speakers loudly enough for Misty to hear, "Ishat Mishy? Teller I shed ai!"
Brock looked toward his left again, then turned back to Misty. "Ash shed ai. I'm sure you can translate. Let me check something
" Without raising his voice or turning away from Misty, Brock said, "Ash, I made your sushi out of mud."
Misty and Brock waited for Ash to say something, but nothing came. "They're still not listening over there?"
"Guess not. They are still eating, after all. I'm surprised Ash even realized it was you! Now, you were wondering about apologizing
That's a tough one, Misty. On the one hand, I'm sure you'd feel much better if you said you were sorry. But keep in mind, on the other hand, that any apology for refusing his feelings might sound to him like you didn't mean anything you said tonight."
"So he might think I really do feel that way about him if I apologize?"
"Yes. You might want to say something like, 'Tracey, I'm sorry about what I said, I didn't want to ruin our friendship.'"
Misty nearly giggled at hearing those words come out of Brock's mouth. "Okay, I can do that. Anything else I should worry about?"
"Just try to act normally. Tracey will probably feel pretty weird being around you for a little while, but you can help that by just being your regular cheerful self. He'll recover."
Misty took a deep, relaxing breath. "Thank you, Brock. That makes me feel much better."
"Good. And, hey, Misty you're still single, I'm still single
"Brock!" Misty laughed. "Stop it!"
He dropped his chopsticks and put his hands up. "I'm joking, I'm joking! You're safe from me, Misty, you're like a little sister. But now that the guys are noticing you, I'm going to have to be a little more protective!"
Grinning, Misty flexed her arm muscles. "Oh, you don't have to worry about me! I'll fight them all off myself."
Brock snorted, which Misty chose to ignore. "Ash wants to know if you shed ai back."
"No, but tell him I said hi and don't talk with your mouth full."
After Brock relayed the message, Misty heard a loud, "Aww, MISHY!"
The following morning after Misty had eaten breakfast, Tracey walked into the gym with bags under his eyes. "Here," he said, before Misty even had time to process his arrival in her brain, and he handed her a stunning Eevee with a blue bow tied around its neck.
Everything Misty meant to say or, rather, what she knew she was supposed to say slipped out of her grasp for a few moments. The Eevee was warm in her arms and took an immediate liking to her. She got several licks on her nose and began to giggle in spite of herself. "Aw, it's so cute!" The Eevee cooed and burrowed its face into her neck, warm and soft, which tickled, but in a nice way.
After Misty's initial shock wore off, she realized she was holding a very valuable gift from someone who was trying to win her over even though she had insulted him to his core. She couldn't possibly accept the Eevee. "Tracey, I really appreciate this, but I can't take it "
"It's just my way of apologizing for last night and making amends for our
argument." Tracey was blushing, which endeared him to Misty. Maybe she should apologize right away. "I'm sorry I made you uncomfortable, and it won't happen again. You're a wonderful, terrific, amazing person and I want to make sure you'll still be my friend, even after I messed up. So what do you say?"
Misty was overwhelmed. "
I need to sit down."
Daisy chose that exact moment to come bustling in wearing her yoga clothes and a ponytail. "Tracey! Wow, what a nice surprise to see you here so early! Do you think you could help with the "
"No!" Misty said firmly. "Tracey is not doing any work today, Daisy, he needs a day off."
Daisy looked slowly from Tracey, with his red cheeks, to Misty, with the beribboned Eevee snuggled in her arms. With growing horror, Misty realized what Daisy was going to say next, and she tried to think of some way to stop her, but
"Oh. My. God. Tracey, are you taking Misty on a "
"No!" Misty shouted. Unfortunately, she couldn't think of any polysyllabic words to add.
Tracey smiled, but apparently was having the same problem.
"Misty." Daisy always assumed the worst. "It's okay, I knew this was going to happen someday, you don't have to be so totally embarrassed! It's cute, I think you guys are totally meant for each other and stuff."
Briefly, Misty wondered what would happen if she could sic Eevee on Daisy. It probably knew Tackle
"Actually, this Eevee is a gift from Professor Oak," Tracey said, glancing conspicuously at Misty while he spoke. "He, uh, wanted to thank Misty for being so helpful over the years, and now that she's leading the gym, he figured she wouldn't have the chance to go out and catch Pokémon anymore. I think he presumed she would evolve it into a Vaporeon." Tracey exhaled and wiped his hand across his face.
Misty felt immense gratitude toward him, and tried to convey it in her expression she knew how difficult it must have been for him to lie on the spot like that. "Well, you'll have to tell Professor Oak I said thank you very much, and I will definitely evolve this little one into a Vaporeon one day."
"Oh, come on, you guys. This is totally lame." Daisy began to walk down the corridor toward the changing rooms. "One day, you'll both realize," her voice echoed, "that you are totally soulmates
Misty stared after her sister for a moment, then beelined for a chair and let her knees buckle. Eevee crawled onto her shoulders and licked her ear in a very reassuring manner. "I apologize for my sister. You know how she is."
Tracey kneeled on the floor in front of Misty and petted Eevee. "Yeah, I know, it's okay." He smiled weakly. "So are we good?"
Shaking her head, Misty sighed. "Tracey
I'm really sorry about those awful things I said last night. I didn't mean any of them." She considered adding what Brock had suggested about addressing the friendship piece, but just looking at Tracey took her resolve away. It would be too mean after all he had been through in the past fourteen hours, and he probably knew they were just going to be friends, anyway. So, to cap her apology, she smiled albeit with fatigue back at Tracey.
"It was my fault, if I hadn't pushed you, you wouldn't have gotten angry with me."
Her heart felt squeezed in her chest. This was like watching somebody beat up a Pichu. "Please don't feel guilty. Why don't we just agree not to mention last night anymore?"
Tracey rocked back and crossed his legs on the floor. "Agreed. I hope you'll keep the Eevee, though, it's very healthy and it seems to love you."
This time, Misty's smile was real and glowing. "It is a wonderful Eevee
" Then she remembered herself. "But I can't accept it, Tracey. You didn't owe me anything, and I don't need this kind of gift to continue being friends with you. You should keep it."
As Tracey began to retort, the Eevee cooed and butted Misty's head, as if to tell her that it fully intended to remain with Misty, thank you very much. "Misty, I'm not taking it back, it would probably attack me. Besides, you took that Azurill egg without question. What's the difference?"
If there was one thing Tracey was stubborn about, it was his kindness. With a nose bump to her new Eevee, Misty allowed the reality of the gift to sink in. She knew Tracey had stayed up all night looking for this, but her guilt receded. She felt warm all over.
It wasn't until after Tracey left that afternoon that she realized (with Daisy's help) that Tracey had been wearing blue instead of green, sandals instead of sneakers, and no socks.
As soon as she had taught Eevee its first new attack Iron Tail she brought it with her to Pallet Town to battle wild Pokémon along the way. Misty was excited to show Tracey how much experience it had gained in just five days.
She arrived right after lunchtime, and the first thing she noticed as Tracey came rushing out to greet her was, again, his blue clothes, his sandals, and his lack of socks. Since they had agreed not to talk about that night anymore, she kept the observation to herself. Curiously enough, instead of feeling guilty that he changed his attire because she had yelled at him, she was touched, perhaps because Tracey was the sweetest guy she'd ever met.
Their first couple of hours together passed quickly, as if the embarrassing night had never happened. Misty was elated that it was behind them and assumed it would never bother her again. She was truly, as Brock had advised her, back to normal with Tracey.
By mid-afternoon, Misty, having walked all day, begged to rest and sit by the beach for a little while. "My feet are killing me, I would love to dip them in the water." Eevee hopped to the ground and curled up in the sand for a nap.
Tracey obliged her and was the first to slip his footwear off. He made a contented noise as his feet made contact with the cool water.
Misty startled herself by sitting close enough to bump shoulders with him. Maybe she should have scooted away, but that could've hurt Tracey's feelings, so she stayed put. "That's much better," she proclaimed as she slid her own toes into the water.
I have a question for you," Tracey said, looking at Misty with a smile of suppressed excitement.
Without hesitation or trepidation, Misty grinned. "Yeah?"
"Do you think Jesse and James are
you know. Together?"
This delighted Misty to no end. Nobody had asked her this before; not even Brock or Daisy! She couldn't control her laughter, so she planted her face in Tracey's shoulder and nodded vigorously.
The force of her faceplant tipped Tracey to the side, but he righted himself after a second. "Really? You do? Good, because I was wondering and I figured that if I noticed, you must have noticed."
"Mm-hm!" She lifted her head and wiped a tear from her eye. "Oh, Tracey, I'm so glad you asked me that!"
"How come?" He was obviously pleased with himself, but in his own modest way.
"Because! I've been wondering for years! Ever since the St. Anne, I thought something was going on. Oh, but can you imagine what that must be like? I almost feel sorry for James, Jesse is such a fireball."
"Yeah, poor guy. But you can just tell how he feels about her. He has this way of looking at her like she's the only thing in the world that's ever mattered to him
Misty blushed, but maintained eye contact. "And how about Professor Oak and Mrs. Ketchum? Anything new to report?"
Tracey laughed this time. "Yeah! Yesterday the Professor got a phone call from her asking him to come help her out with the staple-gun. He left in such a hurry that he must have forgotten to turn the phone off, because next thing I knew, I heard his voice from the other end of the line. I saw him standing behind her with his hand covering hers, showing her the correct way to use the staple-gun." At this point, Misty giggled. "I turned the phone off before they did anything else."
"I hope they get married or something. I wonder how Ash would take it
Tracey chuckled. "I'm sure he would love to have Professor Oak living at his mom's house. Then he wouldn't have to walk ten minutes to the lab whenever he visits home."
Nodding, Misty had begun to contemplate something else about Ash. "Hm
Tracey, do you think Ash will ever find the girl of his dreams?"
Grinning from ear to ear, Tracey responded, "Why, do you think it might be you?"
She was about to scream, but then realized Tracey was joking, so she let her energy out in a laugh, instead. "No! Ugh, can you imagine?"
"Well, Misty, as a straight young man, I "
She punched him playfully in the arm. "Wow, you're funny today!"
"Thank you," he said, disarmed and smiling. "You were saying, about me imagining Ash
"No, I mean
" And before Misty knew it, she was blurting out one of her deepest secrets. "I used to like him that way."
Tracey seemed to fumble for words, but settled on smirking at her instead.
"Looking back on it, I'm not proud of myself! But I thought he was cute, with his passion for Pokémon and his friendship with Pikachu." Tracey continued to smirk as she spoke. "I don't feel that way anymore! It wasn't even until we met you that I realized I had even liked him in the first place. And by then the feeling was gone."
"Could you please say something, at least?"
At her request, he rolled his eyes and an uncertain smile appeared. "You finally admitted it. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone."
Misty cocked her head; he had read her thoughts. "Thank you, Tracey. I appreciate that."
Tracey bowed slightly and remained silent, leaving Misty fumbling for something else to say. Emboldened by her first confession, she felt herself making a second, even as she wished she wouldn't. "I think I used to like you, too."
She couldn't meet his eyes this time. Eevee shifted closer to Misty for warmth, so she picked it up and placed it in her lap.
Staring at the little patterns in Eevee's fur, she replied, "In the Orange Islands," and figured she might as well tell the whole story. "I think you were probably the reason I got over Ash I mean, when you put the two of you next to each other, you're miles ahead. Then I didn't see you for a while, but I missed you when you were gone you know, that's how I realized I had liked you! I guess I'm a little slow on the uptake." Bravely, she smiled up at him, trying to feel like this information would make Tracey happy.
"Talk about the ghosts of my past
" he began, unsmiling but not unhappy. The look he was giving her sent her insides spinning. "I was slow to realize it too, but I think by the time we got to Pinkan Island I knew."
She swallowed. "Too bad we didn't
Nevermind, we should probably get back to Mrs. Ketchum's for dinner." She moved Eevee to her arms, stood, and when Tracey was still giving her the same desperate look, she added, "I think she's making sushi," a statement she made up on the spot.
He slowly stood and stepped close to her, his chest just brushing her bundled arms. "Wait, Misty."
She could think of nothing else to do but wait.
"I know we agreed not to mention "
"If we hurry, we could help her in the kitchen," she blurted. Before giving him a chance to respond, she turned and walked away. She had taken several steps before she heard him follow.
The next time he visited the gym, Misty only noticed him when her battle had ended. She had lost to a strong trainer, but just after she had Corsola use recover, she spotted Tracey waving at her from the otherwise empty bleachers, brandishing a tiny flag that read "MISTY!"
Once Misty had given the trainer a badge and sent her on her way, Misty ran up to sit with Tracey. "Even that girl thinks we're together!" she greeted him, shoving him playfully, hoping to turn this into a running joke. "Thanks for the support, even if I didn't win."
"You did the best you could against all electric types. I thought Eevee would for sure win against that Magneton!" He pulled his sketchbook out of his backpack. "Here, I drew these, I thought you might like to look at them."
Instead of taking the drawings from him, she leaned close to him so they could both look. The first depicted Misty calling Eevee out to the field in beautiful detail. "Oh, this looks great, Tracey! Your art just keeps getting more and more refined." She turned the page, feeling the heat of his arm against her own. The next showed only Misty from the shoulders up. He had made her look so much more beautiful than she deserved to look, and if it were any less amazing she would have been able to hear herself gasp.
"Do you like it?" he asked quietly.
"It's wonderful," she nodded. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at his face, smiled, and said, "So, Tracey, what brings you here today?"
" his expression went slightly sour. "Remember that Pokémon Watcher program I told you about? The one I turned down before?"
"Yeah, I remember."
He sighed. "I'm leaving tomorrow. They said I have some special talent or something, so they're letting me in even though I refused enrollment earlier."
Tears sprang to Misty's eyes before she could stop herself. She stared at her knees and willed her eyes to dry. "Where is it?"
"On the Indigo Plateau, at Pokémon Tech."
"I thought Pokémon Tech was "
"This is a different branch, and it specializes in teaching, breeding, training, healing, and watching. The one near here doesn't have a program for Watchers."
She felt Tracey's arm slide around her shoulders, so she leaned into him. "How long will you be gone?"
"Two years, but I'll come visit on breaks."
Her reaction was all wrong. She was supposed to be happy for him, she had to be, so she forced it. "That's that's really great, Tracey. You'll do really well, I know it. You're so talented.
Tomorrow, you're leaving tomorrow?"
"That's right. Tomorrow morning."
She closed her eyes and fought away the metallic taste of panic in her throat. This felt just like saying goodbye to Tracey when they had left him with Professor Oak to go to the Johto League, and she didn't want to go through that feeling again. "Couldn't you
you know, wait, maybe, for the next semester to start?" she whispered.
Tracey wrapped her up in his warm arms. "I thought you wanted me to go."
Finally, one of them had breached the ban on discussing that awful night. Now Misty grabbed onto Tracey's shirt and tried to use this to her advantage. "I didn't mean it. I didn't mean anything I said that night! I was scared that you were so sure you wanted me instead of a great future, when I'm just a girl, I'm just your friend. I still want you to have a great future, but
"But I look better in blue?"
Her elbow connected with his stomach. "I told you, I didn't mean it, not even about your clothes! And stop joking around, this is serious."
She thought she felt him kiss the top of her head. "I'm listening, Misty."
miss you," was all she could say.
" Tracey said, letting his words dangle enticingly.
Since she suspected that he was smiling for some unfathomable reason, she looked up at him. He was, indeed, smiling. "What?" she demanded.
"I could take classes remotely
Half of her face contracted. "Did you know that this whole time?"
"Since I talked to them yesterday, yeah, they said they recommend taking the program in person, but if I have a scanner which I do they'll set up a video feed for me during classes."
Absolutely stunned, Misty grabbed Tracey's shoulders and shook him, shouting, "Why didn't you say that sooner?! Do you know how I felt?"
Tracey's eyebrows raised and he shrugged, bemused, inviting her to tell him.
"I felt like I was getting ripped in half, you jerk!" Even as she yelled, she began to laugh in utter relief. "I like having you around, you know! You can't leave me alone here with my insane sisters, who would I talk to?" She sensed herself getting dangerously close to disclosing her newfound truth, so she shut her mouth and stopped shaking Tracey.
Who was grinning. "Misty?"
"Can I ask you a question?"
"What?!" Her phony anger wasn't working Tracey's face was moving closer to hers and she felt her cheeks set on fire.
"Can I kiss you?" he whispered into her ear.
Her breath caught. Everything went quiet except for the buzzing in Misty's ears. "Yes!"
She shut her eyes, and as he kissed her, she felt such overpowering happiness that she could barely even gather her senses enough to feel his lips pressed against hers. When they pulled apart, she heard a click from across the pool, and dazedly peered over to find out what it could have been.
"That was totally perfect, Misty!" Daisy lowered the camera. "This is going out in the gym bulletin for sure!"
Misty looked back to Tracey. "I don't care," she said, and kissed him again.