As they say, "Once more with feeling!" Anyway, Pokémon SS is actually a massive canon of mine spanning over 10 years of real time (the original was written back in 2000) and many different incarnations over the years. I won't bore you with the history of it, except to say that the current version is like the 2000s version of Battlestar Galactica: Based on my old work, but not connected to it in any way. Also, while "SS" was originally short for "side story" (the same kind of connotation that'd be behind a name like "Pokémon Gaiden"), the name remains only as acknowledgement of the story's roots. In another respect, I consider this the "fixed" version of the story. That aside, I'd just like to say a few more words before I begin, mostly in regards to clearing up potential ambiguity in characters and setting, because certain details are kept vague within the story itself: The central trainers' ages aren't specified, though they're generally understood to be in their early-to-mid twenties (at the start, Sam is 20, Alex is 22, Terry is 23, and Melanie is 26). One of the main characters being transsexual isn't a fantasy "boy magically becomes a girl" thing, but a realistic portrayal drawing in part on my own experience as a trans woman (basically what's called MTF, for those unfamiliar with that subject). Team Rocket is less a gang with stealing Pokémon as its primary focus, and more an organized crime syndicate with that as one of its many arms. The story is set around 10-15 years after the anime "ends." That said, SS exists within its own world drawn from the canon of all of the anime, the games, and the manga. The specific location of Idama (the country most of this story is set in) isn't explicitly stated, but if Kanto and Johto are in Japan, then Idama would be somewhere in Southeast Asia (drawing upon Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam as of this update). Western-sounding city names (such as Darkwood City) work under the convention that that's what their names are when translated. Now for Pokémon SS. Feedback and constructive criticism are always welcome. Pokémon SS Table Of Contents: Newfound Sisterhood Ersatz Outlaws Midnight Rifts Dal Niente Fortunate Happenstance Encircling Waltz Within Vices Gentle Storm Earned Respite Second Crescendo Nursing Wounds Different Ways Three Types Welcome Reprieve Once Again With Feeling Downward Spiral Afternoon Stroll Casual Conversation Free Will Loud Greetings Shaky Redemption Saturnine Diversion Everyday Shuffling Two Pair Smiling Reconciliation Hollow Victories Quotidian Procession Closing In Self Discovery Not Around Shared Secrets Everyone's Price Too Far Seventh Evolution Chapter 1 - Newfound Sisterhood Sam glanced at her watch. 11:47 AM, and the date, of which she’d since lost all mental track, seemed to be several days until her arrival in Cerulean City. A week aboard a ship was mind-numbing after the novelty of being on a boat wore off. Take a good hard look at the Mankey-flinging boat, Sam mentally grumbled to herself. There really wasn’t anything else to do but sightsee a vast ocean. Idly she picked at her lunch. She wished she’d packed more in the ways of actual time-killers. Textbooks were fine and well, but she needed some way to unwind. True, there was an onboard arena for Pokémon battles, but battling wasn’t her forte. “Excuse me,” someone said from behind her. She turned to face the speaker. Despite that his medium-length hair was a soft, ethereal white, he looked to be only in his early twenties. He was extremely pale, and his eyes were oddly coloured. “Yes?” Sam asked. “Your name wouldn’t happen to be Sam by any chance, would it?” “Uh, yes, it is.” “Mind if I have a seat?” Sam made a show of looking around. “There are plenty of empty tables.” The man smiled politely. “I know, but I was hoping I could speak with you.” Sam eyed him cautiously. “What about?” “It’s about your sister, actually.” Right. Sister. Sam scoffed lightly. “Sure.” The man sat down opposite her. “Maybe I should introduce myself. Your sister ever mention a Terry?” Now everything fell into place. Sam was less than amused. “Yes,” Sam said, and paused slightly. “… She did.” “I guess that makes this slightly less awkward,” Terry said. “Anyway, I was talking to Alex earlier and she mentioned she was going to be in Cerulean for a while. Wanted me to see if you’d be fine with the both of us going to meet her once we’re in town.” “And, uh, she couldn’t have just asked the both of us separately?” Terry shrugged. Sam felt like groaning. She hadn’t actually talked to Alex in a very long time, and even then they’d only had a brief conversation over the phone. Most of their communication lately had been through texting. She’d never actually met Terry, although Alex talked about him a lot. The two met shortly after Alex’s last League tournament. It was shortly before Alex came out with something Sam still couldn’t believe. “What’s Alex even want, anyway?” Sam asked. “She says she wants to tell you something important, but… well… I think there’s another reason,” Terry replied. “We’ll see, I guess.” The way Terry nonchalantly talked about Alex as her sister was somewhat unsettling. It felt like reality was being bent over backwards. Still, Sam knew complaint was pointless. She had no control over Alex’s actions. “So,” Terry continued after Sam had been silent for a while. “What brings you to Cerulean, anyway?” “Figured I’d just go home for a while,” Sam answered. It wasn’t technically a lie. Her last job as a researcher for a Pokémon biotech firm fell through when she discovered the firm had Team Rocket connections. She’d enjoyed the work, but couldn’t bring herself to work for anyone linked to Team Rocket. Returning home was a chance to take a break and have some familiar surroundings while she tried to find a more honest employer. “I have to admit I’ve never been to Kanto before,” Terry said. “I never left it until recently,” Sam said. She tried to be polite, but boredom seeped into her voice regardless. “League reasons?” Terry asked. Sam scoffed, though it was a fair question. For trainers, participation in other League tournaments was among the most common reasons to leave their home region. “Oh, come on,” Terry said in a friendly tone. He smiled. “I looked you up, you know. Pokémon Master in the Kanto region. I figured you’d want to expand your title a bit.” Again, it was a fair assumption. However, despite being a Pokémon Master, she looked down on the “I want to be the very best like no one ever was” types. Too many kids left home to be a trainer, to wander around collecting badges, to compete in League tournaments, and too few ever amounted to anything. Most couldn’t even get a handful of badges. The ones who qualified for League tournaments usually had no hope of winning. “No, actually,” Sam replied. “I was working as a researcher in Hoenn.” “Ah, so an aspiring Professor,” Terry said. “Not in so many words. I mean, I wouldn’t mind being a Professor, but it’s not my focus. Most places focus heavily on Pokémon research, but it doesn’t really matter to me what sort of biology I’m doing. I don’t even know why I became a Pokémon Master. I was a kid, I guess. It was just the done thing. I don’t have much attachment to the title.” Yes, she realized, it was a terribly “I got mine” attitude, and the fact that she all but ignored her status as a Pokémon Master would infuriate people for whom that dream was a far-off goal. That she had everything they fought so hard for and still threw it aside would seem abominable. And yet… she simply didn’t care. Terry frowned. “Well, I admit there’s probably a bit more money in biology than training.” Sam smirked. “Quite a bit.” “No substitute for doing what you enjoy, though.” “I guess not,” Sam said distantly. Sam had tried to be an optimist. She tried to think that meeting Terry would at least alleviate her boredom aboard ship, but that was a false hope if she ever had one. It wasn’t that Terry was a bad person or anything, Sam justified the slightly ugly thought in her head, but… but… There were no buts. She’d just have to try to get to stand Terry, which wasn’t an easy thing to do after several days with him. Sam had no idea what Alex saw in the guy. Well, she thought, they were almost there. Give it a few more hours so she could take Terry to meet Alex, then however long it took them to go off and do their thing, and then she’d never have to worry about him again. “The SS Pacifica has arrived in Cerulean City,” the voice over the PA announced. “All passengers should be prepared to depart in ten minutes.” Terry hoisted his small backpack up over his shoulder and stood up at the table they’d been sitting at. “Well then, I’d say we should be going.” Sam stood up. “Yes,” she said with strained patience, “let’s.” Terry hadn’t been a bad conversationalist per se. The problem was he and Sam had nothing in common to talk about. He was a trainer with the goal of becoming a Pokémon Master, she was a researcher with a vague goal of becoming a professor. He’d had bad run-ins with Team Rocket in the past, she’d been duped into working for them once and it had ended surprisingly amicably. She was a vegetarian, he wasn’t. You’re really reaching, Sam told herself. She tried calling Alex on her cell phone once she was able to get reception, but didn’t get an answer. Sam sent a text, hoping Alex would receive it. Mumbling to herself, she stuffed her phone into her backpack and followed Terry off the ship. Cerulean was as nice a city as Sam remembered, at least, off in the distance from the port. Maybe it was personal bias due to it being her hometown, but Sam always found herself comparing each new city she visited to Cerulean, and kept finding them lacking. The city’s beauty certainly made up for the city’s obsession over water Pokémon. She couldn’t stand them, and that had partially influenced her choice of Bulbasaur as her starter. Alex, by contrast, had gone the standard Cerulean water trainer route, even performing as a swimmer in shows in the gym from time to time. Sam’s cell phone finally gave an “incoming text” beep on the rail into town. Sam and Terry met Alex at a coffee shop just off the main street. Sam was thankful she remembered how to navigate the city, as they’d never have found the place for the massive crowds otherwise. It was a small, independently owned place that put effort into a comfortable atmosphere, rather than yet another Starmiebucks. From a distance, Alex looked the same as ever as he sat at a table on the patio waiting for them, but as they drew closer, Sam could tell there was something different. Alex waved to the two of them. “Hi.” Sam sat down at the table opposite Alex, Terry to her right. Alex’s Marril sat on the table, casting a wary glance between the newcomers. After seeing they were no threat, it returned to eating its plate of seaweed. “Terry already explained everything, right?” Alex asked. With that, Sam’s remaining illusions had broken. She looked again at the woman who used to be her brother, and was astounded at the physical changes she hadn’t noticed right away. Alex had always been somewhat on the feminine side, even as a boy, so Sam had projected that old mental image over her, despite her now very distinctly feminine style and outfit. Seeing her up close dispelled that. Alex’s face was definitely a bit rounder, her features slightly softer, and her skin now had a much smoother, clearer look to it. Even her arms and waist looked thinner. The hormones Alex was taking were definitely kicking in—she’d been on them for about nine or ten months now, and the changes were extremely noticeable. Sam wondered what Alex would look like after another year or two. If she could even recognize the Alex she once knew. “As best I could,” Terry said. Terry’s voice temporarily broke Sam out of her transfixion. “He mentioned he was a friend of yours. Told me a lot about his Eeveelutions.” Alex laughed politely. “Yeah. He does it to me, too. I hear one more story about how his Espeon is, like, the greatest Espeon who ever lived and even I’ll raise a ruckus.” No question about it, Sam realized. Alex’s voice definitely needed more practice—she was still using her guy voice the last time they talked on the phone, so it was clear she’d only just started to use it fulltime—but was still different enough to make Sam feel awkward. Still, as much as she wasn’t fully comfortable with Alex’s… changes, she couldn’t deny that, brother or sister, Alex was still her sibling and she could put her personal feelings aside for Alex’s well-being. Especially because Alex didn’t have any choice in the matter—for people with her condition, transition was absolutely necessary. “Hey,” Terry grumbled. “It’s not just Espeon. Umbreon’s pretty good, too.” “Yeah, and Flareon, and Jolteon, and…” Alex trailed off. “You’re right," Terry said with an amused smirk. "They’re all pretty good.” Alex shook her head at Terry, then turned back to Sam. “He tell you about our plans?” “No,” Sam admitted. Terry talked about everything but their plans. To the point of aggravation. “We’re gonna go through the Neo League together.” “Neo League,” Sam repeated bluntly. “Neo League,” Alex confirmed. “You sure you’re up for that?” Sam asked. Alex shrugged. She leaned back in her seat, which made certain developments visible. Barely noticeable, but enough to remind Sam yet again that Alex wasn’t her brother anymore. “It’s an incredibly hard league challenge, I know,” she said at last. “Entire league is two-on-two, gym leaders don’t hold back like in most other leagues… but I think we can take it.” In a way, Sam had thought Alex’s old bishounen aesthetic was the extent of things. It was an uncommon yet not unheard of style for guys, and she was always glad Alex went for that instead of a goth or emo look. But yet… that moment a year and a half ago, when Alex told her that she wished she’d been born a girl, that she couldn’t bear trying to live as male anymore, Sam thought Alex was joking. “Something wrong?” Alex asked after Sam had been silent for too long. “You seem really distracted. If it’s me, don’t hesitate to say so.” She scoffed lightly. “Nothing’s ever stopped you before.” Sam heaved a sigh. “It is. I’m sorry, it’s just… last time I saw you, you were… you know… male.” “I know it’s a hard thing to adjust to,” Alex said. Her tone was sympathetic. “I’m sorry there’s no way I can make it any easier.” Sam glanced back at Alex’s face. She could still see her brother in it for the moment. It made her feel bad knowing she was clinging to a memory, but some part of her couldn’t help it. “Whatever,” Sam mumbled. “If it’s what you need to do, then I won’t complain. Seriously, I mean it. Anyway, the Neo League is pretty far away. What were you doing in Cerulean?” “Visiting mom, for the most part,” Alex said. In a small voice, she added, “Bad idea.” Sam frowned. “I’m sorry.” “Nothing to be sorry about,” Alex admitted. “You were always her favourite. I guess I was mostly just looking for closure.” Alex’s comment stung. Sam knew she’d been her mom’s favourite ever since she and Alex were little. “I’m sorry,” Terry said. “I know it’s not my place to ask, but your mom had a favourite?” Alex explained in a hollow voice, “I can’t really explain why, but ever since I was little, my mom always liked Sam more than me. I guess because I was always pretty close with my dad, and they… didn’t get along well after the split.” “I don’t think it was that,” Sam said to Terry. “Or at least not exactly. Thinking back on it, I think Alex just reminded her of our dad. He always was his father’s son.” “She,” Alex prodded in a low voice. “Fine, ‘she,’” Sam said. Terry showed no reaction to the pronoun issue. “Anyway,” Alex continued, “my mom had custody, and it got to the point where the only time I was ever happy was when I was visiting my dad. I remember he had this Ninetails I used to play with all the time. Plus he always had these friends of his over.” She smiled strangely. “They’d always bring gifts for me. Sam never liked those guys, but… I dunno. I always felt better there than at mom’s place. “As you can imagine, I left home right at 10 to become a trainer. Sent in my application to the League, then headed right on over to the gym, took a few trainer classes, got my Squirtle, and left. Then I kinda lost contact with my entire family, except Sam. Anyway, I decided I’d do more than just write her every now and then, so I came home a couple weeks ago.” “What happened?” Sam asked. Alex sighed. “If you remember when I first came out to her, and she was a bit slow to accept it but said she was still my mother and she’d always love me… well, just started going fulltime, so naturally I go home to tell her.” Alex winced, looking hurt by recalling the memory. “She pretends she doesn’t know me. Tells me, ‘Alex is my son. I don’t know who you are.’ I didn’t stay after that.” “I’m sorry,” Sam said automatically. In light of that, she wished her reaction to seeing Alex like this for the first time hadn’t been to gape like an idiot. Showing off that she’d gone fulltime was obviously the real reason she brought Sam here, and there Sam was giving her a reaction only marginally better than their mother’s. “Kinda makes me reconsider my decision to stay ‘Alex,’” she said sadly. “Honestly, keeping your name does make it a bit harder to think of you as, well, a she.” Alex shrugged. “I might change it. Who knows?” “For what it’s worth,” Terry said, “I think it’s nicer as a girl’s name than a boy’s name.” Alex smiled at the flattery. “Anyway, while we were all in town, I figured we could take a few days, catch up a bit more, you know, make the best of it before Terry and I head off for the Neo League.” Sam eyed Terry with a hint of distaste. She put up with him because of Alex, but she didn’t want to spend any more time with him than necessary. She also couldn’t help feeling that catching up with Alex would be like meeting someone entirely new, even though she was well aware that Alex was still the same person she always was. “Yeah, okay,” Sam said. Her stomach twisted in guilt at how she instantly regretted it.