Chapter 24

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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A week later


Despite being long past sunset, the street was well-lit by the Hunter’s Moon. As with last month, the streets were void of activity except for PAA students walking from the campus to the club. We flashed our student IDs to Melissa the bouncer and walked into the club.


As we entered the club I could immediately tell that Halloween and Lunacy made for a wild combination. The same effort that everyone had put into looking their best last month, had been refocused into having impeccable costumes. If I was actually the 14-year-old girl I appeared to be I would recognize more of the costumes in the room.


True to Sophia’s description, there were no witches. That particular costume was taboo. But there were plenty of vampires and zombies. The popular costumes were from current pop culture. Barbie and Ken. Wednesday Addams. Marvel Universe characters.


"You gonna be okay?" Sophia asked somewhat distractedly. It was clear that she had already spotted James.


"I should be fine,” I nervously assured her. “Don't let me keep you. How do I look?"


“For the thousandth time, Cate, your costume is awesome. You look adorbs.”


“Thanks,” I said. Her compliment didn’t make me any less nervous. I haven’t dressed up in a costume since when Cheryl and I were dating. And of course back then, I dressed up in a traditionally male costume. Last time it was a firefighter, I believe. This time was very different.


She smiled and gave me a quick hug before practically running to her boyfriend, the sparkles of her costume almost becoming a shimmering blur.


I looked around, checking out the costumes of people I knew. I recognized Kayla in her Wonder Woman costume, hanging out with other members of the lacrosse team. I made a mental note to say hi to them at some point tonight. Amanda, Jessica, and Sally were decked out as the Powerpuff Girls, although I have no idea which character was which. Amanda saw me, smiled and waved. Brandi was Spider Gwen


I knew Julia was trying to move past the turmoil caused by Allister, and then Jackie, so I was surprised to see her decked out in a very elegant evening gown.


“Julia - who are you supposed to be?”


“Myself,” she smiled. “I know it’s not a traditional halloween costume, but I wanted to be elegant and sexy - and most of all… seen.”


Lulu walked into the club dragging a timid Sam. Lulu wore a flowing pale pink dress and her hair was crimped to be wavy. Sam wore a feminine black short-sleeved v-neck jumpsuit and her typically pink hair was brown and cropped and slicked back. Her face was still the same, but she was a little taller than she usually is. I bet it took her seconds to shift into that. Cheater! 


“I didn’t expect to see you both at Lunacy,” I commented to the couple.


“Miss Grumpypuss over here didn’t want to,” Lulu said, while pointing at Sam, “but then I pleaded - it’s Halloween!”


“I only came to dance,” Sam flatly replied.


“Who are you two supposed to be?” I asked.


“Cate,” Sam said disappointed. “Seriously? I thought you, of all people, would recognize Johnny and Baby.” She struck a very confident pose.


“Wait,” I said, looking at them again. “Dirty Dancing?”


“Yup!” Lulu replied, smiling from ear-to-ear.


“Sam - you dance?” I asked.


“I learned to dance with my sister. It was one of the few things we bonded over,” she replied. 


“Great! You both look great. If you start a choreographed dance number, let me know! I want to watch.”


Sam then took Lulu’s hand and spun her onto the dance floor.


“Hey Sam, don’t put Lulu in a corner!” I called out, laughing at my own joke. I’m not sure if she heard me.


I once again found myself needing to get a drink. As I approached the bar I recognized the waitress-by-day, bartender-by-full-moon pouring drinks. She was wearing a Super Mario outfit - complete with red cap and fake mustache. "Hey Kristy, can I get a Coke?"


"Coming right up." She scooped some ice into a cup. "You know, I've heard a few rumors about you lately. Any chance there's some truth to them?"


I sighed. "Yes, I used to be a cop, and yes, with the help of my friends I was able to stop an evil plan that put students' lives in danger. You missed all of the commotion two weeks ago."


“Saturdays are my day off.” There was a look in her eye. "My father was a cop. One of the good ones. He moved us to this town when my ... sister ... needed to change schools very suddenly. I'm glad to know there's finally a good one in town again."


I smiled at the recognition and the not so subtle dig at Sheriff Dearing. The use of past tense told me her father wasn't around anymore. Too bad, we probably could have been drinking buddies. “So your sister goes to school here?”


“Went,” she corrected. “She graduated a few years back and is at college now.”


“Did she… like it here?”


“It changed her life for the better.”


I nodded at that. I needed to hear these statements. They affirmed that I made the right decision. That PAA can be my new home. As long as I’m stuck in Emma’s body, that is. "Well, tonight I want to forget all that and focus on just being Cate Fox, the student."


She handed me a cup, I grabbed it, but she didn't release it right away. "I recommend you sip that,” she leaned over the bar, whispering, “and don't expect another."


I nodded. It seemed like being a hero sometimes did come with perks.


Speaking of the Sheriff, he was put on desk duty while the department investigated his role in Jackie’s death. Rumor has it, he’s going to get off scot-free because he acted in self-defense. But that ignores his recklessness leading up to that moment. No one was ever going to believe the eyewitness accounts from a bunch of PAA girls. But I digress. Too bad you can’t impeach the sheriff in this town. His re-election won't be for another year, but then again, I’m no longer old enough to vote.


A few sips later I was feeling that familiar warmth, and I felt a little more at ease. Which was good because I didn't know if I would have had the wherewithal to do what I had planned next.


I had spotted my target. Slowly, I approached a group of girls talking near the dance floor trying not to make my presence known. There was a nearby table that I set my drink on. Hopefully no one would get it mixed up with theirs.


I placed my hand on her shoulder and as she turned to face me I quickly moved my other hand to the small of her back and bent her over. As her long blond fair fell behind her I moved in and kissed her deeply. God, how I had missed those lips.


As I pulled Brittany back to her feet everyone nearby cheered and whistled for us. There were definitely a few camera flashes, and I knew I was going to be getting a number of texts tomorrow with pictures.


Brittany was completely flustered. As she came back to her senses she looked at me and her eyes went wide. Just the reaction I was looking for.


"Cate!? Wow, I mean, and you, but..." she stammered and trailed off. She examined my costume. “You’re a-a kitsune!” She tugged at my fox ears, firmly attached to my hair by a shit-ton of bobby pins that Sophia stuck into my head. She put her hands on my kimono-clad shoulders. “Nice kimono.”


“I found it online. Two-day ship.”


She looked into my eyes, then down at my lips. 


I’m already ahead of you, girlfriend. I pulled her into another kiss before I pulled her onto the dance floor.


“What about being ‘just friends?’” She asked with a smirk.


“I only said that to Brett. As for you - I figured I still owe you a date.”


Her expression changed to a serious one. “What if I’m not OK with you dating just Brittany?”


“Seriously?” I whispered. I had a worried feeling in the pit of my stomach. Had I judged the situation wrong? “I thought this was your idea?”


She stuck her tongue out at me and giggled. “It was. I just like seeing you get flustered, Cate Fox. You look so cute when you turn red and scrunch up your nose.”


“I am not cute,” I pouted.


“Exactly like that.” She pulled me over and kissed me. I offered zero resistance and put my hands around her.


“So, kitsune,” Brittany asked, “are you gonna tell me how many tails you have under that kimono?”


“Nope,” I teased. “If you want to know, you’re gonna have to find out for yourself.” I wiggled my kimono-covered butt for effect.


We started dancing, and when we did, the rest of the people on the dance floor disappeared and it was just me and Brittany.


I already did the math before coming out tonight. The peak of the full moon was this afternoon at 4:30. I had just under 36 hours - or until early Monday morning - to enjoy Brittany. I was going to make every minute count.


* * *


Five Months Later


It was a back and forth slog between the red team and blue team. The red team was leading for almost the whole game. Kayla Robinson, the captain of the red team, was obviously a beast on the field and a ball hog. I, Cate Fox, the captain of the blue team, on the other hand, was more of a team player so I passed the ball and set my teammates up for shots all game. Both strategies worked, however I felt better about my own sense of teamwork. 



The blue team was down big at the end of the first half. Months ago, the blue players scoffed at having a freshman join their squad, but I quickly earned their respect and was voted captain. During halftime it fell to me to rally us together. I gave a rousing speech about sportsmanship and playing as one team with a common goal.


The blue team responded with renewed enthusiasm, and here we are tied with a minute left. It was time for a faceoff. Naturally, Kayla took her position. I’ve been spreading the faceoff duty around the team all year, but right now my teammates insisted I faceoff with Kayla.


I twirled my stick as I approached the center of the field.


“Fox,” Kalya said with a grin. “You want a piece of this?”


“Maybe after the game, Robinson, but right now I just want to kick your ass,” I replied confidently.


We touched our nets together in anticipation.


Ever since that first time, Kayla doesn’t underestimate me, so I rarely win these faceoffs against her.


As the ref put the ball between our nets and backed away, I focused hard on the ball and my breathing. My team was counting on me. No pressure, Cate.


The whistle blew and we both fought to get control of the ball, but it launched straight up in the air. I managed to nudge Kayla out of the way and knock the ball towards one of my waiting teammates.



She caught it and rushed towards the goal, a red player blocked her, and she passed it to another blue, when it was intercepted by red.


I saw the girl staring down her target, so I ran to get between them. When the pass was in the air, I snatched it and kept running towards the goal. Nobody was between me and the goal - except Kayla.


I saw a teammate out of my periphery, but stared down Kayla. Just when I was almost on top of her, I launched it to my wide-open teammate. Kayla was stunned and watched helplessly as blue scored the winning goal.


My team cheered, and we all gave high-fives.


“Good game, Fox,” Kayla said, catching her breath.


“You too, Robinson.”


We tapped our sticks together in a friendly gesture.


“Hey, whatcha doing tonight?” she asked, as we walked over to grab our stuff.


“Nothing,” I replied. “Just how I like it.”


“My gym crew was looking for another girl for a pickup soccer game.”


“Thanks, but I think I’m going to pass this time.”


“Aww, you haven't joined us since basketball last month.”


“Yeah, and I got rudely reminded how short I am.”


“Cate, don’t take those types of things seriously. It’s just a fun game.”


“Yeah, well you had a Shifter on your team who grew to seven feet tall, just to dunk on me.”


“She said it was a joke.”


“I know - it’s also been a long week, and I was looking forward to a nice quiet night with a book.”


“I don't know how you get any quiet nights with that roommate of yours.”


“Noise canceling earphones,” I laughed.


“Hey, well, I’ll catch you next practice. G’night, Cate.”

“Good night, Kayla.”


As I collected my gear I saw Coach Barnes meet up with her husband. They shared a hug and a kiss, and walked off the field holding hands. I’m not sure what happened behind closed doors, but I think the couple rekindled their marriage. I do wonder how they did it, though I know better than to pry into their private affairs. My own marriage is done and over with, but maybe I could get ideas for the next time.


It was a gorgeous spring afternoon as I walked back to my dorm after practice. I love spring. PAA switched to their spring uniform, which is more flattering on the girls. And there’s no shortage of cute girls on campus. The old Jack - especially when I was in high school the first time around - was very appreciative of cute spring attire. Now that I’m one of them, I occasionally feel the societal pressure to conform and look just as cute. But I still wear the chinos variant of the uniform, because that’s just who I am. At this point, if I showed up with a skirt, someone would think something’s wrong. Right now I’m wearing my sweaty lacrosse uniform, so I doubt I’m attracting any attention.


Plus, I’ve got a girlfriend… kinda. Or rather it’s a mutual friends with benefits arrangement for only three days a month. Sadly, today is not one of those three days. One more week. It’s Brittany’s turn to plan the date, so I’m looking forward to that. But the full moon is a week out, and my girlfriend doesn’t technically exist, so I suppose I’m allowed to look, right?


I’ve been Cate Fox for six months, and the body I’m in is starting to feel comfortable. Do I feel like a girl? Some days. The occasional nights we go out clubbing and I’m coerced into wearing a dress. All other times, I stick to a pretty androgynous routine. My school uniform with chinos and minimal makeup. On weekends you’ll find me in T-shirts and jeans. I typically put my hair up in various ponytails. Sophia braids it whenever the mood strikes. I’m tempted to cut it - long hair is a pain to wash and care for - but I’m still worried about making sweeping changes to Emma’s body - even though it’s been six months.


The warming weather is reminding me that I’m going to need to exchange my cold weather wardrobe for my warm weather one. Of course, that will require me to either convince Kayla to drive me home, or invite the Kincades to come here for a visit. Ugh. Guess I’d better start sucking up to Kayla. The warming weather is also reminding me I may have to shave my legs to put on shorts. It’s been weeks since I last shaved to go out with Brittany.


Speaking of Emma, there’s still no sign of her or my body. Frankly, I’m worried something happened to her. Occasionally I dream she reached out to me. In that dream we can finally talk about all that’s happened since the train station. I would hope she is making the best of the shitty situation the Shifter placed her in. Sometimes in the dream she’ll criticize my fashion sense or my lacrosse play. Then I wake up sad. I really do want to meet Emma, and I want her to be happy with the way I've lived her life while she was gone. 


As I walked through the quad I passed a whole bunch of people I’ve gotten to know since I was first enrolled.


One girl saw me and smiled. “Hi, Cate!”


Yup, that’s Patricia from my Transformation Studies class. She’s a Magic. She originally was a boy who cast a spell to possess a girl in her class. Apparently she did it one too many times and got stuck and fused both people together.


Another girl, Renee, waved at me. She’s a Were, and will be a tall muscular guy in a week.


A guy ran up to me. This is Travis who lives on the second floor of Cooper. In his past life he was a girl who wished for a boyfriend one Christmas and woke up with a dick instead. “Yo, Cate, I’m having a bunch of people over to play Switch this week. You game?”


“I’m always game, Travis. Jackbox again?”


“You know it.”


“You guys better bring your A game,” I warned.


He laughed and waved bye to me.


I’ve become somewhat of a local celebrity around campus since the whole Case of the Fading Magic ordeal. Maybe it’s because I was a cop, then expelled, then busted up a trafficking ring, then saved the sophomores from unwanted detransition. Or maybe they just like my wit. I’d like to think it’s the latter. Brittany is still convinced I'm the spirit of a kitsune sent to watch over PAA.


I walked into Cooper Hall and up four flights to my room. 


When I walked in Sophia was waiting for me with something held behind her back.


“What’s that?” I asked.


“Happy Birthday!” she squealed.


“Birthday? My birthday isn’t until August.”


“Not Jack’s birthday. Emma’s birthday. You’re 15 now, Cate!”


“Well, I don’t feel any older,” I chuckled. “What do you have behind your back?”


“I had to pull a lot of strings for you,” she teased.


“You’ve piqued my interest.”


She took the item she was holding behind her back and held it in front of me. It had wrapping paper on it and a bow.


I took it. It was heavy. I ripped off the wrapping paper to find…a six-pack of beer.


“Oh, Sophia, you shouldn’t have.”


“I know you miss it and I wanted to get you something special for your big day.”


“I have a confession, though.”


“What?”


“I may talk a big game, but I’ve been sober for the last four months.”


“Really?”


“Yeah, I figured I'm a teenager now, this body’s tolerance is like - zero - and I’ve been literally given a second chance at growing up. I decided I was going to try to be a better person this time.”


“That’s very mature of you.”


“Thanks. I’m trying.”


Sophia walked to our own door and knocked on it, then opened it.


A large group of my friends and classmates bounded into my dorm room all shouting Happy Birthday. Sam, Kayla, Brett, Amanda, Jessica, Sally, Brandi, and a whole bunch of people I’ve gotten to know over the last few months.

“Sophia, did you organize a surprise party?” I stared at her with mock anger.


“Who, me?” Sophia smiled and feigned innocence.


“Kayla, what happened to soccer?” I asked.


“I was tasked to make sure you walked back here,” she replied.


“So you were in on this too,” I jokingly accused.


“Well that,” she confessed, “plus letting you win on your birthday.”


“Letting me? In your dreams, Robinson.” I gave her an exaggerated stink eye and we both burst out laughing. I’m really going to miss her after graduation.


Then Lulu came in holding a cake with a “15” candle burning. Lulu started singing “Happy Birthday,” and everyone else joined in.


As everyone sang, I looked around at my friends. It’s crazy how attached I’ve become to them since I first came here. I care about all of them. God help anyone who tries to hurt them because Cate Fox is ready to protect each and every one of them.


Sophia and I really have become besties. I resisted for only so long. But I genuinely like hanging out with her. I finally made good on my promise to have a girls’ night. We went out shopping then had a night in - and finally locked the door! She got the matching pajamas and face masks. I got the movie and pizza. When it's just me and Sophia, it’s the closest I feel to being a girl. Of course, I do feel a little jealous that she brings Jamie places now. While Sophia and James are dating, Sophia still hangs out with Jamie, minus the intimacy. Funny, that stuff never bothered me as Jack.


Sam and Lulu are great. It seems like a lifetime ago that I was at odds with Sam. But after seeing how she was willing to put her life on the line for me, I can say I trust her completely. Sam keeps me in check. When I have a problem, I run it by her and we figure out how to solve it. Of course having a shapeshifter around always comes in handy. Lulu likes to organize day trips on the weekend. Sometimes it's hiking, sometimes it's game nights. Lulu’s friend Suzy came to visit in January and all of us girls hung out. We made her feel at home, and Sam did crazy shifter tricks.


Brandi is so grateful to be rid of the extreme dysphoria her ring caused. For the first time since seeing the Mystic they are clear about who they are. No matter which gender they are on a given day, they have become vibrant and outgoing. Where people used to avoid them, they are now sought out. I’ve hung out with both Brandon and Brandi. Sometimes it feels like they’re two different, but wonderful, people.


Julia has come a long way since the tragedy in the cornfield. She’s attempting to balance her genders - much like Brandon, but it’s newer for her. In January, she cut her hair and went by George. But she reversed that a month later and goes by Julia again. Everyone supports her and we remind her that PAA is the place to experiment with such things.


More people know about what my journey as a Displaced is like, and therefore I get asked if I want to go by Jack. I always decline and say I choose to be Cate while in Emma’s body.


I have gotten to know Ashley Tart too. The girl who started this whole thing. Ashley originally was given a second chance at being a teenager - then she fucked around with magic and came close to dying of old age in that nursing home. Now that she has her third chance, she cherishes every day like it was her last day on earth. I didn’t know Ashley before her ordeal with the Tech Club, but the Ashley I do know is the ultimate optimist. For her, the glass isn’t just half full, it’s overflowing.


“Make a wish!” Amanda urged.


“Just be careful what you wish for,” Ashley cautioned. 


“I know what she’s wishing for,” Brett laughed.


“That’s your wish, dork,” I said, elbowing him.


“One more week,” he laughed.


I looked around at everyone in the room again. If I look at things from Jack’s point of view, lIfe’s not perfect. I’m living in a borrowed body. The perp is still at large. From Emma’s point of view? We still can’t find her body. She’s hiding somewhere. But Cate’s life? Cate’s life is damn near perfect.


I started off this journal looking to investigate magic. I know it’s cliché, but perhaps the real magic was the friends I made along the way.


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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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