Author's Note: I rarely do one-shots, but this just came to me one day after a discussion at Serebiiforums. Enjoy.
He was wiping down the front desk when he heard the swish of the automatic doors. The attendant had been working there long enough that he barely even noticed it anymore, but it was getting late. Every additional trainer rankled, especially when he only had a few minutes left on his shift.
The trainer strode in confidently—well, this was the pokémon center at Indigo Plateau, they all did that—shaking off her rain hat before closing the last few steps to the desk.
She had a nice smile. "Hi. These six, please," she said, pulling three capture balls off her belt, and then another three, clattering onto the dented tray.
"Any badly hurt?" he said, through the kicked-dog smile that always seemed to find its way onto his face when dealing with trainers. The machine would tell him if a pokémon needed special treatment, but he always asked, just to see if any of them would lie about it.
Not many did, surprisingly.
She looked pensive, replaying the day's battles in her mind, before saying, "No, I don't believe so."
He nodded. "Okay, should be about five minutes. Do you want us to call you on the PA?"
"No, that's fine," the trainer said, sliding him her trainer's card. "I'll come and get them when I'm ready—I feel frozen after walking in the rain."
She turned, walking off towards the lounge. They were overfilled because of the tournament, so it was likely to be noisy until the last few irate, sleepy trainers tried to smother the chattiest of their fellows with a backpack. He'd never worked the night shift, but apparently it could be as late as two in the morning if someone well-known had neglected to reserve a room in the 'center or in one of the Plateau's many hotels. The day manager had met Lance when she'd first started working here.
The attendant glanced down at the trainer card, out of habit; everybody who worked here was always hoping that they'd just helped someone famous—it took some of the sting off having to deal with the stuck-up, big-headed trainers that acted like they were performing the service… and of course, the ones that came through, flatly denying the condition of their pokémon…
Kris, said the black letters under the scratched, battered laminate.
Hmm. Where had he heard that name before?
Well, it wasn't surprising that he didn't know—he didn't follow pokémon trainers as obsessively as some as some people did, pouring over the gym wins and losses, trying to spot a rising star so they could say that they'd seen them first.
He slotted the worn, assorted pokéballs into the machine and closed the lid, the humming noise adding itself to the sounds from the lounge, which seemed to have risen in volume.
The attendant glanced at the clock and sighed—it was as if the minute hand had suddenly decided to work only as hard as its shorter companion, just like always—before saving the record of the pokémon the trainer had brought in to be healed.
He shifted his gaze to the countertop, where smudged fingerprints glared at him from where the light shone on it. Sighing again, he pulled a spray bottle of bleach out of the floor cupboard and proceeded to clean it, for what felt like the millionth time.
One minute, two minutes, four minutes, six… Tomoe was late again. The machine beeped loudly behind him and he ignored it, even though the counter was perfectly shiny. Finally he removed the pokéballs and put them back in the tray, the trainer's ID card neatly slotted beside them.
It was getting dark out, though the drizzle kept coming down, visible to him only as a vague sense of motion against the glare of a lamp outside. He tidied the junk on the desk although it was already perfectly neat, and wondered, not for the first time, if he'd died and his punishment was to spend all eternity in a limbo of waiting…
Salvation appeared in the form of Tomoe, who arrived at the desk, puffing and blowing like an old tauros.
"Ohmigosh, Dev, I am so sorry! I honestly got here early but then I fell asleep in the break room! I'm so so so so so—"
"No, it's okay, Tomoe," he interrupted, "I'm glad you came. See you later," he said, backing towards the door.
She smiled, embarrassed. "Okay. Bye, Deven."
"Finally," he whispered to himself as he trotted up the stairs to the locker room two at a time. A moment later, the pastel green shirt he wore as a uniform was safely shoved into his tiny locker and he was bundled up and ready to brave the elements.
He passed the entrance to the lounge as he was making his way out, and noticed that the trainer from before was currently the center of attention in the room, and evidently loving it. Curiosity drew him nearer, as it looked like she was someone famous after all.
"Hey Kris, I heard Gin was going to be here. What do you think of that, eh?" someone was saying.
The girl grinned and shook her head, her long, turquoise blue pigtails waggling. "Gin? I'm surprised they didn't lock him up after all the stuff he's done—they say he's gotten better, but dyeing the fur doesn't change the monster under the skin."
Several people nodded, yes, that's just what we thought of him.
A gangly girl, her light green hair falling into her eyes, was pushed to the front of the crowd, clutching a sketchpad to her chest.
"Go on, just ask her!" said one of the people behind her.
"Um, Kris-san?" the green-haired girl managed to gasp.
"Yes?" said the trainer, amused.
"I… was wondering… if maybe—if it's not too much trouble—if you could sign this—for me—please, I—"
"Of course," Kris said generously, taking the sketchpad. "Got a pen?" The pen was produced. "Thanks," she said, scribbling her autograph with practiced ease.
The girl held the returned paper with reverent awe. "Thank you so much," she whispered. "You're the one who inspired me to be a trainer…"
Kris grinned. "Are you in the tournament?"
The girl nodded.
"I'll try to watch for you. I'm sure it'll be worth it."
The green-haired trainer gave a little scream of delight. "Go Cindy!" said one of her friends, thrusting a fist into the air.
"You really opened doors for all of us," said a plump, magenta-haired girl in a breathless voice. "Female trainers were a real rarity before you came along!"
"That's not true," Deven found himself saying, and to his horror, Kris turned to look at him, and with her came the attention of everyone in the room.
"What?" said the plump girl, looking vaguely annoyed.
"Oh hey!" said Kris. "Did you come to tell me that my pokémon were ready? That's awfully nice of you, most pokémon centers don't give that sort of personal treatment."
"Um, no, I didn't—well, I mean, they are ready if you want them—I was just walking by—" He stopped, as a number of people were starting to smile at him. Just a barrel of laughs, he was.
"I wanted to say, female trainers weren't a rarity. There've always been loads of female trainers. My—my mom was a trainer, and my aunt and a lot of their friends."
Kris smiled, and he found himself seething at the patronizing look she was giving him.
"Were they serious trainers?" she asked him politely.
Well, not really… they'd go out during the summer and try to win a couple of badges here and there… but what did that have to do with anything?
"Just hobbyists, right?" said Kris, still polite.
"I meant that serious female trainers were a rarity," the magenta-haired girl interjected. There was some murmuring of agreement from the crowd; he was thinking about junior trainers, ladies and lasses in polite trainer's slang.
He didn't want to be here, he wanted to be—anywhere else. Outside in the rain was an easily accessible option, hinted his legs and the sliding doors to his right.
His mouth betrayed him. "Well then, what about the gym leaders? Half of them are female—and same with Lorelei and Agatha. And, and what about all the, all the"—his brain drudged up some more trainer slang—"tamers and cool-trainers and them? They were in the tournaments even back then."
Kris was still smiling at him, the wayward child. She nodded as he spoke.
"Well, none of them were Champion, were they?"
Author's note below:
One attitude I've encountered is that female trainers must have been looked down upon in the pokémon world, and that Kris (Crystal), the first female protagonist for the pokémon games, must have broken barriers in some way by being the first female champion. While I think it's possible and an interesting 'fic idea that societies in the pokémon world might have restricted certain groups from equal access to pokémon as a real and symbolic means of control of those groups, I find this a strange outlook. First, we don't know the history of pokémon league champions prior to Lance (or Prof. Oak, depending on canon), and second, this discounts all of the women trainers present even in RGBY. 3/8 gym leaders were women, 2/4 of the elite four were women, and you faced women trainers from the beginning of the game right to cooltrainers in victory road.
There are plenty of problems common in media in the portrayal of those women- even in today's games the female characters are more scantily clad than their male equivalents, have one body type, and only young and very old women are seemingly permitted to be trainers, fitting with biases about middle-aged women necessarily being housewives—but they existed and they weren't rare.
Furthermore, most troubling is the attitude that these women don't matter because they weren't "the best". They weren't the Champion. Just as women's sports "don't matter" because there's no way a woman could be "the best", or that women's academic achievements don't matter because they "can't" be "the best" in their field. This is an absurdity. Imagine if on the way to the Stanley Cup, all the losing teams had to kill themselves, and the winning team had to select the best among them to receive the cup while the rest of them also committed suicide, all because they're not "the best"? What a ridiculous focus on superlativeness. Way to discount the very important though perhaps unglamorous work that women are doing and have done in every field. And what a cruelty to people who do these things as a hobby.
So here's one for all the summer hobby trainers—what you do matters and don't let anyone steal away the fun of your hobby just because you aren't "the best".