"Hey, for as long as we've been living in the same apartment building, I don't really know all that much about you, BB. You're generally real shy. Not that that's a bad thing, but I'd like to know more about you."

BB glanced around the room nervously. Xey always dreaded having to talk about xemself. "Oh, haha. I'm not really anyone special, I've always been quiet - always been the shy one in the group. I'm honestly just not very interesti-"


"Are you coming, Bella? Good!" A nervous-looking boy peered out from his hiding spot, a worn baseball tucked firmly beneath his frighteningly pink jacket. He had a perfect spot, too. A tiny enclave at the very back of the playground, hidden between the fence and a hill. He always spent recess the same way: hiding from others. It isn't that they weren't nice to him - more so that he knew in the back of his mind that they judged him. Thought of him as just the weird kid. Today, however, he had a plan. He would prove to the world that he wasn't afraid. That he knew who he was, and wasn't ashamed. So when the bell rang, he walked into the building more excitedly than ever.

At the age of fifteen, Ben was already the top of his post-graduate engineering class. He had--

"Wait, your name was Ben?"

BB laughed. "Yeah. I honestly don't even mind that name much anymore. AMAB, AFAB - Ben, BB - it's all just me. Names are just words." "Yeah, but Ben??? Fuckin' Kenobi-ass name." Dana giggled and poked BB playfully. BB rolled xir eyes, laughed, and continued telling xer story.

He had skipped multiple grades in middle school, eventually taking his GED and graduating high school at the age of 14. A short and chubby fella, it was no wonder he turned heads in his school full of 20+ year olds - and not entirely just because of his age. He always had at least one miscellaneous object very prominently on his person at all times. Calling them his companions, he would talk to them when he needed advice - and they would talk back. Potted plants would gossip about the gardeners' habits, even the litter on the city streets would regale him with wild and fantastic stories. His school counselor had slapped him with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but he was never upset about or scared of that anymore. The medication he was prescribed helped him with his most harmful symptoms, but he secretly hoped that his psychiatrist would never discover that he still talked with his companions. He wouldn't be himself without them.

Recently, he had taken a particular liking to an antique baseball he had adopted from a thrift store, naming it Bella. It had changed hands many times before Ben had come into possession of it, and it immediately began telling him all sorts of wonderful stories about all that it had seen and experienced in its long life. Ben *loved* the baseball. He felt completely safe with it around. Stroking it gently in his hand, Ben tried his best to calm his nerves.

"I'm scared. What if they don't accept me?"

If they don't accept you, that's their problem and you shouldn't have to put up with it, BB.

He had started calling himself BB recently. Just to his companions, though. And never to anyone in 'reality'.

He had always had an odd fixation on the letter B. Ben, Bella, Baseball, Brontosaurus; his mind would find and draw connections that others would miss. Sometimes on purpose, but often by complete accident. So of course it was a no-brainer for Bella to have the name that it does.

"Bel, I still don't know. Everyone's so much bigger than I am, and I don't-"

Everything will be alright. I'll be right there with you.

Ben-- BB walked into his next class - Ms. Claire's. She was always strict - and honestly a bit scary.

"Um, hi, everyone." A dozen heads all turned simultaneously to look. "Now, settle down, class. I've been told that Benjamin has an announcement to make." "yesmsclarkeidoi'vewantedtosayi'mtransgend-" "Excuse me, but nobody can hear you when you speak like that. Please step up here to the front."

BB nervously stepped forward, inch by agonizing inch. "Hi, um. Everybody. I've been wanting to say that, um. I'm transgender." BB paused to try and judge the reaction of the room, but there was just silence. Hesitantly, xe continued. "I don't know really what my gender is yet, but I know it isn't just 'cisgender man'.. I, um. I like girls and everything but I just. I don't know." Xir voice trailed off. "...this was stupid." Tears began to well up in xir eyes, when xey felt a warmth. Ms. Clarke surrounded xem with a gentle hug, smiling softly. M "Oh, sweetheart - you don't have to know. Gender is so incredibly complicated, even for someone as brilliant as you. You don't need to know today, tomorrow, or ever, even. Your identity isn't just one flat, 2-dimensional thing. It's rounded. Like, well, that." She gestured to the baseball, held in a white-knuckle grip by BB. Xey wiped xir face on xir sleeve, before diving full-force into a hug.

"And that's when I first came out, I guess. I.. wasn't expecting to tell that story, haha."

Dana hid their face behind their t-shirt, desperately trying not to let her emotions show through. "Story was... okay, I guess." His voice quivered. "Kinda s..sucked-"

Dana suddenly catapulted herself into BB's arms, smiling and hugging xem. They shared a long (and very slightly awkward) hug, before Dana broke it off with a gentle noogie.

A familiar voice - now even closer to xem than before - spoke.

I told you there's nothing to worry about, dear. I'll always be here for you.