As we sat down, Casey opened her starter's Pokeball, letting him sit down in her lap. Babe was momentarily surprised to be let out, and he soon looked up at his trainer with a concerned look on his face. Meanwhile, I sat down next to her, while Brock and Misty sat across from us.
I was excited, though also apprehensive. Casey had always been so secretive about herself, and I wanted so bad for her to open up to us. And yet she was clearly uncomfortable with sharing her secrets, like we would push her away if she told us the truth. But why?
Does it have something to do with Paul?
"So, what do you want to tell us?" I said as Pikachu sat down in my lap.
Casey didn't answer. She looked nervous. More nervous than I'd ever seen her.
"Can… can you promise me something?" she asked, her voice trembling as she spoke.
"What is it?" I said, wondering what was getting her so worked up.
"Just… promise me that you won't get angry with me, or hate me, or say I'm weird, or a freak, or anything like that."
I looked at her in shock. Why would she ever think that we would think that of her? That we would act like… well, like Paul?
Fortunately, Brock and Misty were quick to offer their support.
"Why would we ever say that?" said Brock. "You're our friend. We'd never say anything like that!"
"Yeah!" said Misty. "We're here to help you, not make fun of you!"
Determined to make her feel at ease, I took her hand and held it with both of my own.
"You can tell us whatever you need to," I said, giving her a smile as I did. "I promise we won't judge you."
For a moment, Casey seemed shocked that we were so supportive of her. And for some reason, her face seemed to be getting a bit red. Was she having a fever or something?
Fortunately it passed quickly, and she gave us a small, but grateful smile.
She then took a breath, clearly trying to prepare herself to tell us… whatever it was that was weighing so heavily on her. As she did, Babe placed a vine on her hand, doing his best to reassure her.
"Chiko, chi!" Babe said encouragingly. Casey didn't quite smile, but she still took the vine in her hand, clearly appreciative of her starter's presence.
Then, she said something that I really didn't expect.
"Ash… do you remember going to Professor Oak's summer camp a few years ago?"
I looked at her in surprise. Did she go there too or something?
"Uh, yeah?" I said. "Why?"
"Well," Casey continued, "do you… remember helping out a boy who was there?"
I blinked. How did she know that particular detail of that summer camp?
"Yeah, I do," I said. "There was this boy who hurt his leg, so I helped him get back up. And then I led him back to the camp nurse so he could get better."
It was then, as I looked at Casey, that for the first time, I noticed something that had been escaping me since I first met her.
"Come to think of it… you look a lot like him. Is he related to you or something?"
"Um… something like that."
She looked extremely uncomfortable as she said this, which worried me greatly. Did she have a brother or something? And if she did, was he like Paul? Or… was he not around anymore?
"Is something wrong, Casey?" I said, my worry now making its way into my voice. "Please tell me."
Casey was fidgeting a lot, clearly knowing what she wanted to say, but not quite able to get it out. I was hoping that she would tell me soon, because I was now really worried about her.
Finally, she spoke.
"So, the thing is… that boy… was me."
To say I was not expecting that would be a huge understatement.
"You… what?!" I said in shock.
"I'm sorry!" she said, closing her eyes and holding her starter close. "This was a bad idea! Just forget everything I said! I-"
Before she could continue, I grabbed her hand again. Quickly, she stopped speaking and looked at me.
"Hey," I said reassuringly. "Just… tell us."
I took a quick glance at Brock and Misty. They seemed just as shocked as I was, but eager to hear more. Brock in particular gestured at her, urging her to continue. Seeing this, Casey took a deep breath and continued.
"When I was born, I had… a boy body. And since I had a boy body, everyone just assumed I was a boy, and so they treated me like one. I had boy clothes, boy toys, and I had to act as if I was one. And for some time, I tried to do so. But even if I didn't say it, I never really felt comfortable like that."
Casey looked down at Babe, who looked up at her with concern.
"Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind some of it. I mean, I've never had a problem wearing shorts or pants instead of dresses, and I did like most of the boy toys my parents got me. And I always loved playing baseball. But there were always some things that just kept nagging at me. I always hated going into men's restrooms. I felt weird whenever people called me 'he' or 'him' or whatever. Sometimes I even wished I could wear dresses or skirts, or play with dolls. And anytime I looked in the mirror, there was always something that didn't quite feel right."
Her face then grew red as she said the next part.
"And whenever I went to the restroom… or took a bath… I always hated looking… down there."
For a moment, I didn't quite understand what she was talking about. And then, as I realized what she meant, my face suddenly felt very hot.
"Ooh," I said.
"Yeah," said Casey. "I didn't really understand it at first, but I eventually realized that I was… tras… trans… what was it again?"
"Transgender?" said Brock, causing us all to turn to him.
"Trans...gender?" I said.
"It means someone is born with a gender identity that doesn't match their body," Brock explained. "Like, someone who was born with a boy body might realize that they actually don't feel right as a boy, or they were born with a girl body but don't feel right as a girl."
"Yeah, that's it," said Casey. "Like, imagine being stuck in a girl's body when you were born."
I thought about that for a moment. I then remembered the time I had to dress up like a girl just to get access to the Celadon Gym, and shuddered at the memory.
Man, I really didn't want to remember that.
"Oh," I said, slowly starting to understand. "Yeah, that sounds awful."
"It really was," said Casey.
"So, is that how it was for you?" I asked.
"Yeah," Casey said, still looking downwards. "I guess you could say that I was born with a boy's body, but a girl's heart."
"Wow," I said. "That's…"
I tried to finish the sentence, but no words came out. There simply wasn't any way for me to imagine being in her place. I mean, the whole thing with Erika had been embarrassing, but it had only been that one time. And I still had a boy body. But if I had to do that every day of my life… and have the wrong body on top of that…
"Yeah, it's crazy," she said. "And the worst part was that my parents always wanted me to be more boy-ish. My dad in particular never liked seeing me be interested in anything girly, and my mom tried to encourage me to listen to him. So it took me years to gain the courage to finally tell them the truth about who I was."
"So, how were you able to tell them?" said Misty.
Casey gripped Babe tight, clearly trying to gather the courage to tell us the rest of her story. After a moment, she relaxed her grip and began to speak.
"When I was six, I went to Professor Oak's summer camp. For the first few days, I didn't have too much trouble. I did my best to fit in, even though I hated being in the boy's cabin. It just felt… wrong."
She shuddered as she spoke, no doubt remembering whatever had happened during her time at the camp.
"Then, the day after you helped me out, my cabin's group went swimming in the river. I was going to go too, but…"
Casey tried to continue, but no more words came out. And to make matters worse, she started panting rapidly, as if she couldn't even breathe. It was clear that even after several years, she was still deeply shaken by whatever had happened to her that day.
Whatever had happened, it must have been really bad.
Worried for her, I placed my hand on hers, and I wasn't the only one; Brock and Misty both walked up to us and held her hands as well.
"Take as much time as you need," Misty said in a kind voice. "We're all here for you."
"And if you don't want to talk about it anymore, we can talk about it later," said Brock.
I smiled as she looked at us, surprised by how much we were willing to support her.
"And," I said finally, "for what it's worth, you're not a freak. At all."
Casey turned to me, staring at me as if she was shocked by what I had said. Then, her eyes began to well up. For a few seconds she tried to keep it in, clenching her mouth shut as she sniffled. However, she quickly burst into tears.
Without even thinking about it, the three of us scooped her in our arms and hugged her as she sobbed. We held her in our embrace for several minutes, keeping her close as she let her emotions come out.
Who else had she told this to? Had she even told anyone before us? And if she had… had anyone else ever accepted her for who she was?
Finally, Casey stopped crying, and looked at us.
"Don't mention it," Misty said with a smile. "You're our friend, Casey. We're here to help you, not make fun of you for being… well, different."
"Yeah," said Brock. "And it means a lot to us that you told us all of this."
Casey smiled at us. She then took a deep breath and continued her story.
"So, I was supposed to go swimming with the rest of my cabin. But, well, we didn't have much privacy in the locker rooms."
"Oh," said Ash. "So, I guess you didn't get the chance to change into your swimsuit?"
"No," said Casey. "When I was in that locker room, surrounded by naked boys, and realized that I needed to take off my clothes too, I… had a huge panic attack. The camp staff had to take me to the nurse so she could help calm me down. Then, they ended up calling my parents, and so I went home early."
"Oh," Misty said as she placed her hand on Casey's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Casey."
"Thanks," said Casey. "I still don't like to think about that day, to be honest."
"I get it," said Brock. "It must have been a pretty traumatic day for you."
"Yeah," said Casey. "But it also made me realize that I just couldn't pretend to be a boy anymore, no matter how hard I tried. So as soon as I got back home, I told my mom and dad that I wanted to be a girl."
"And how did that go?" I asked.
"They were shocked at first," said Casey. "But once she got over it, my mom was able to accept it pretty soon. My dad wasn't happy at first, but my mom was eventually able to convince him that this was who I really was. After that, they took me to see the doctor, so we could start to talk about the transition process."
"Is that why you take those pills of yours?" asked Misty.
"Yeah," said Casey. "I use them to keep my body girly. Apparently, they block out my, uh, boy growing up things."
"Hormones," Brock said helpfully.
"Yeah, those," said Casey. "And then when I get older, they're gonna have… other stuff to do."
"What other stuff?" I asked.
"Well, there are a lot of things they do," said Casey. "Like, they'll have me take girl hormones so I can grow up like a girl. And then I think there's surgery that they do to get rid of… my boy parts."
That's all I could really say. Partly because I really didn't want to think about… people losing boy parts. And partly because there was so little that I could say. Honestly, everything she had just told us was so strange and weird to think about, but I didn't want to just say that out loud, since I didn't want to hurt her.
Finally, I said the one thing that didn't feel like it could cause trouble.
"So, you're him?"
"Yeah," she said simply.
"Well," I said, "what cabin were you in?"
"The yellow one."
"Oh. Well, I was in the red cabin. I guess that's why we didn't meet until you got hurt."
"Yeah," said Casey. "And then I left early, so we didn't see each other again."
"Yeah," I said, remembering what she had told me. "You know, I really wanted to see you again. I thought we could be friends."
"Oh," Casey said, a crestfallen look taking over her face.
She sighed as she looked away.
"Honestly, I just wanted to forget that the camp had ever happened. It was the last time I ever had to be a boy, and it was hard to try to be something I wasn't. I tried my best to pretend, but it just didn't work out. And then… the whole thing with the locker room happened. And ever since then, I never wanted to think about the camp again. I just wanted to pretend it never happened, because all it ever meant to me was just how wrong I was."
She then looked at me, her eyes full of apprehension.
"When we met again, I didn't remember you at all," she continued. "But then, I got hurt, and you helped fix up my leg. And... it made me remember."
I felt a sinking feeling inside. All those painful memories that she had, and they had all come back… because of me.
"I'm so sorry," I said. "If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have to remember what happened. You wouldn't have-"
"No!" she said quickly, causing me to look up at her. "It's not your fault, Ash. I would've remembered somehow anyway."
She looked away in shame, hugging Babe close to her.
"And besides, I should be the one apologizing for leaving you alone like that."
With a smile, I placed my hand on her shoulder.
"It's okay," I said. "We're here now, right?"
Casey looked at me, and for the first time since she started her story, she smiled as well.
"Yeah," she said, "I guess we are."
For a moment, we all just sat together, letting everything Casey had told us sink in. I was still amazed that she had been going through all of that – that she was still going through it. And it was so strange to think that she had been born… like that. And I just couldn't imagine what it was like to be like that, to be born into the wrong body and be helpless to change it.
But ultimately, Casey's my friend. And I'll do what I can to help her. And I won't judge her for being different like that.
I'm not like Paul.
"Hey, Casey?" I said finally. "You know we're your friends, right? We're going to do everything we can to help you."
"Yeah," said Brock. "And we're really happy you told us about this."
"And we won't treat you like you're any different from any other girl," said Misty. "Because you're not."
As if to emphasize this, Pikachu jumped out of my arms and walked up to her. As he snuggled up to her, Togepi also jumped forwards, grabbing her arm and rubbing up affectionately.
At the display of affection from the two Pokemon, Casey nearly began to tear up again. Before she could, though, she wiped her eyes and smiled at us.
"Thank you, guys. It means a whole lot to me."
We all smiled, then dove in for a group hug. I don't how long we hugged her, but I do know that I didn't want it to end. Because there was no way I could leave her now. Not when she needed someone to be there for her.
I won't lie, though. It's still a bit weird to think about her that way. To think she has a boy's body even though she isn't one. Or that she needs to take pills to keep herself looking like a girl. And even now I can't help but think about the fact that she has… boy parts.
But Casey is my friend. So I'm going to help her in any way I can.
And if she wants to be a girl, then I won't treat her like she's anything else.
A/N: Oh man, I've been waiting for this chapter for so long. It's probably the most important chapter in the whole story, and I'm really excited to finally post it.
I must confess, I only started to headcanon Casey as transgender relatively recently. When I started writing this story, I had no idea that I would be writing her this way. But now I feel that it's the only right way for me to write her.
Admittedly, as a cis-het male, I'm worried that I may not be able to write her convincingly, or that I may be insensitive or offensive. It's a very delicate topic, and I really don't want to screw it up. But overall, I think the most important thing is that Casey is still the same baseball-loving girl we know and love. And, of course, that her friends will accept her for who she is regardless of her gender identity.
On a somewhat less important note, you may have noticed that she basically took Serena's place in this AU. While it's unlikely that they will meet anytime soon, I wanted to prevent any potential shipping conflicts in this story. Also, it kind of works for Casey's backstory. (Speaking of which, if you re-read the first few chapters you may be able to find some signs here and there that Casey actually recognized Ash long before her injury!)
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to Caellach Tiger Eye, who has been a HUGE help in getting this chapter right.