In the '09-'10 version of Blue Belle
, this chapter contained our first taste of Westchester. We got a hint of it in Chapter 3 this time around, but the second half of this chapter remains the first time we see - or at least see references to - a number of canon X-Men. For those of you who want the CliffsNotes version of what's gone on before this story - apart from X-Men
, that is - Emma Frost originally had a school of her own in Massachusetts - the Massachusetts Academy - that she merged into Xavier's after Erik's stunt at Liberty Island. Also, in case you couldn't tell from the glimpse of her in Chapter 3, the fact that I'm using only X-Men
as source material means that both the half-assed Emma from X-Men Origins: Wolverine
and the one from X-Men: First Class
who'd be seventy at a minimum are both ignored. So is Remy LaBeau's appearance in XMO:W
and… well, any other mutant that appeared in anything other than the original movie from 2000.
November 18, 2011
Sunnydale High School - Cafeteria
Staring down at the salad on her lunch tray, Michelle shook her head mournfully before looking up with the best puppy dog eyes she could manage. "Come on, Cordy. You know I'll work it off." Actually, she wouldn't but one of her few remaining secrets - apart from the obvious ones, such as her origin and her blueness - was that she could use her mutation to make any fat she didn't want to deal with disappear into thick air. No need to make them any more jealous of her powers than they already were, she figured. "Please, I'm begging you! Not yet another day of leafy green things!"
Just like every other time they'd had their little argument for the last three weeks, Cordelia simply pointed her fork at Michelle's lunch. "No, no, and a great big hell no. It's what, taco day? The last thing I need to see is you inhaling three helpings of stinky, spiced USDA Grade F beef. Your eating habits make me want to have a sympathy heart attack. Even if you work off the calories, all that grease and junk can't be good for you. Besides, I don't even want to think about the stench you'd end up making this time tomorrow if you actually ate that trash. So sit down, shut up, and eat your damn salad."
Michelle pouted and let out a heavy sigh as she picked up her fork. "Yes, Mistress Cordelia." The other girls tittered at their byplay, more than used to it after hearing it daily for almost a month now, before settling down to nibble on their own lunches. There was half a farmer's market on their long table, Michelle mused as she took in their expanded group: with the entire varsity cheerleading squad - plus a few friends - joining the Cordettes today, there were two dozen identical garden salads on display, plus Michelle's own grilled chicken salad. Which meant she couldn't really complain, she supposed. After all, unlike the other girls, at least she got some kind of protein with her meal. And she was allowed to pick from the real salad dressings the school offered, instead of being limited to the 'lite' crap.
Life among and around the Cordettes, Michelle had come to realize, wasn't as bad as she'd feared it might be the morning she'd 'met' the girls for the second time. While Harmony's bulb was lit but dimly, the other girls weren't quite as dull as she'd feared. Most of them lacked the wit and conversational skills she found necessary to genuinely enjoy spending time with a person, but then again, Cordelia had selected the girls to be her minions rather than her equals. And she had Willow - and now Gwen - for when Cordelia wasn't there to keep her entertained. On the rare occasion that none of her favorites were around? The other girls were at least capable of discussing mundane things like music, movies, and the school's sports teams if she was desperate for some mindless chatter. Most even knew a passable amount about professional sports so they could understand what their boyfriends were talking about.
Willow was turning out to be a huge surprise, even more so than the presence of a genuinely intelligent Cordette in Gwen. Michelle leaned forward, staring down the length of the table at where her supposed cousin was conversing with Harmony. Evidently, Willow wasn't quite as ready to forgive and forget Cordelia for the tormenting in the past and so she gravitated more towards the Cordettes than their leader, with a preference for Janet and Harmony of all people. Personally, Michelle didn't understand the latter; Harmony had been almost as mean as Cordelia in the past. But if it made Willow happy… whatever.
Rather amusingly, at least from where Michelle was sitting, Harmony's bet with Cordelia had actually led to the blonde undergoing a transformation of her own. A few days after the debut of the new leather-clad Willow, the pair had gone off together after school and come back with matching black dye jobs. Willow's hair was now short and spiky, while Harmony had left her hair long and begun adding a bit of curl. It was actually rather attractive on her, Michelle had to admit. She was still nowhere close to being as hot as Cordelia, but Harmony had closed from a county away to a mere two or three miles behind. Marked improvement. As for Willow… her abrupt change in style had done wonders for her self-image and happiness, and that was what was important in Michelle's book, even if it wasn't a look she would have chosen for herself.
Even more surprising than Willow's choice in new friends, at least to Michelle? The fact that while she wanted nothing to do with Cordelia, she didn't seem to fault Michelle for wanting to spend time with a fellow mutant, especially one with links - tenuous as they may be - to the source of her mutation. So despite their diverging interests and friends, they had gotten past the immediate awkwardness of Willow's explosion and their friendship had rebounded to something close to pre-Buffy levels, albeit presented in slightly different terms in public. Caring family, rather than just friends. It was odd to think about. Her transformation wasn't just physical… her entire original life was gone. One of her best friends had become her cousin, the other was dead by her own hand, and the girl she'd idolized since their first meeting didn't seem to realize she was gone.
Hearing about that from Willow had been one hell of a shock: Buffy had only approached her supposed 'best friend' two times in the weeks since Halloween, both times about research rather than anything even remotely friendship-related. And Michelle's former male self hadn't come up once. That both mystified and disturbed her. Had Buffy fallen back into her whole 'it's my calling so I need to be alone' rut and so her absence just meant one less person to push away? Was it something mystical, like her bad behavior after the Master's death and near-resurrection? What were Giles's thoughts on the matter?
And for some odd reason, the lack of Slaying was starting to get to her. Not that she'd been a major player doing serious damage to the demonic population before Halloween, but now Michelle was doing even less. Just sitting around hosting study parties or sleepovers with the Cordettes at the Rosenberg house, or attending girls' nights at Casa Chase. Meanwhile, just outside their safe little bubble of normalcy, vampires preyed on the weak, innocent, or stupid. It grated on her. The problem was… how could she change that? Could she approach Buffy without risking Cordelia's wrath? Would Buffy want anything to do with her, especially after being lied to for a month?
The answer to both of those? 'Probably not'. Glancing over at Cordelia, Michelle made a mental note to speak with the magnokine after school. Maybe the two of them could go out at night and do some slaying together. She remembered reading about that sicko vampire who enjoyed torturing people with railroad spikes… Cordelia could probably have some fun of her own with those. Or her jagged metal spikes. Or any of a thousand other makeshift metal weapons, and that was before they even got into real weapons like swords, axes, and maces. Although speaking of after school… excusing herself, she hopped up and made her way down to the black-haired trio at the opposite end of the table. "So, Willow, what are you doing this weekend? Am I actually going to get to spend any time with my favorite cousin?"
Turning away from her conversation with Harmony and Janet, Willow arched a brow at that. "Michelle, I'm your only cousin."
"So? You're still my favorite. Well, at least until we find the long-lost sister that your parents gave up for adoption because they weren't ready for that responsibility. I bet she'll be much cooler than you."
Sighing in exasperation, Willow shoveled a forkful of lettuce into her mouth and chewed as she thought. "Well, if the Delivery Status widget is right and UPS drops the box off tomorrow, I'll have what I need to fix Aura's computer. So I'll be visiting her house at some point this weekend. Oh, and Harmony and I are going to the salon after school today. Janet wants some moral support for when she chops her hair off." Ah yes, that whole 'moving in packs' thing that popular girls liked to do. Well, at least they hadn't invited her. Not that she had anything against Janet - far from it - but she had no desire to sit around a salon gossiping and watching someone get their hair cut. No siree Bob. Suddenly, Willow shot upright. "Oh poop. Michelle, my parents are coming back on Sunday."
Michelle blinked. "Okay? So? Do we need to go get them from an airport somewhere or something? Oh wait. Do you even have a license? Because I know I don't; I've been mooching off Cordy."
"Yes. I know." The other girls' chattering fell away as Cordelia leaned forward, jabbing her fork in Michelle's direction. "Let me tell you, with how much extra gas I'm going through? You are this close to getting put out on the street corner to earn your keep, Red."
Cherry tomato halfway to her mouth, Harmony paused. "How would that help her get money?" The other girls exchanged looks before leaning away, Willow eventually taking pity on her friend and leaning over to whisper in her ear. Harmony's eyes went wide. "Wow. So glad I have my own ride these days. Eww."
As the cheerleaders broke into a round of giggles at that, Willow pinned Michelle with an intense gaze. "No to the license, not that it matters. They left their car in a long-term lot down in Los Angeles. But remember, we haven't been able to get in contact with my parents lately and so they probably still don't know that you're at the house. Especially if they ignore emails from your parents as much as they seem to ignore emails from me. Cue major awkward when they get home."
The way Willow stressed 'don't know that you're at the house' set off warning bells in Michelle's head and after a moment, she realized what her friend wasn't actually saying. It had been easy enough for them to hack Michelle into existence and lie to people like the girls at school, but Sheila Rosenberg wouldn't suddenly think she had a niece from a non-existent sister who was married to an equally non-existent man who wasn't really related to a major league baseball player… who did exist, not that it helped them any. Crap. "Ah. Crap. Remind me when you get home; you'll call Aunt Sheila, I'll take Uncle Ira, and we'll keep redialing until we get something other than voicemail. But speaking of forgetting things, before I do it again…" Trotting back down to the head of the cheerleaders' table, Michelle tapped Cordelia on the shoulder. "Cordy, can I borrow you for a moment?"
"Ugh, but I just got my food and sat down…" Michelle narrowed her eyes, her irises flashing the yellow of her natural form, and Cordelia raised her hands in surrender. "Fine, fine. But grab my lunch tray. My nutritionist gave me lots of warnings about having good eating habits and I'm not going to screw my body up just because you're having an attack of the rudes." Not wanting to argue, especially since she needed Cordelia's help, Michelle swung her backpack up onto one shoulder before taking a tray in each hand and leading the green-haired girl towards the cafeteria's exit. As they walked, various students waved or called out to them… and more than a few of those greetings were directed Michelle's way.
Much to Michelle's surprise, the way her peers had reacted to her back on November 2nd had become her new norm, rather than an exception. Maybe her generation was too short-sighted to realize the threat that mutantkind could pose to them, maybe she was given a pass because her powers didn't seem dangerous to them, or maybe 'she's cool because Cordelia says so' was enough to get them to ignore her status as an open member of Homo sapiens superior
. Whatever the reason, she was given the same status as any other Cordette: guys flirted with her - and were gently turned away, albeit with no mention of her sexual preference to avoid annoying Cordelia - while girls wanted to be her. Or wanted her to be them. In the time it took to walk from the table where Cordelia usually held court in the cafeteria to the exit, Michelle counted two dozen girls who had changed up their look based on 'what would I look like if I…' encounters with her.
Michelle's first thought as to where to take Cordelia for this particular discussion was the library, but a quick peek through the windows in its swinging doors revealed that it was already occupied at the moment. Crap. Cordelia would probably put a metal spike through her head if she suggested sitting on the stairs or something. Then Michelle's eyes landed on the closed door of a darkened classroom, abandoned since the teacher who'd previously occupied it was killed by a 'gang on PCP' back in September. Perfect. At least in her mind; Cordelia didn't seem quite as enthused as Michelle led her inside. "All right, now, what's so damn important that I have to each lunch in the Crypt?"
Setting Cordelia's lunch down, Michelle even went so far as to pull out a desk chair for her friend, pushing it back in after Cordelia had taken a seat before moving to sit opposite. Never hurt to butter up the person one needed help from, after all. "Is there any chance you can get your aunt to visit? Or… I don't know, do you or your mom know any telepathic mutants?"
Cordelia frowned thoughtfully as she went back to picking at her salad. "Aunt Wanda, no. She and Uncle Pietro just sorta wander the world with my cousins and drop in whenever they feel like it. Why?"
"Crap. You said she could mess with reality; I was kinda hoping she could actually… I don't know, insert me into the fabric of reality so that I really was Sheila Rosenberg's niece Michelle or something. Assuming she couldn't get rid of my whole 'really a blue girl' problem and turn me back into Xander Harris. Um, what about the other idea?"
"Telepaths?" Cordelia's jaw worked slowly as she pondered that. "Three. Well, technically eight, but three adults and so those would be the ones to talk to. I told you I'd met Emma Frost, right? She runs a Massachusetts school for gifted students of all kinds, some of which are mutants. Despite what she claims in all her interviews, looking 'rather spectacular in the light' isn't her only power. She's a telepath. So are her daughters. And my grandfather, he has this rival named Charles Xavier who runs a mutant boarding school in New York. Xavier came out to visit my mom once, and brought this woman Jean with him. They're both telepaths. Why?"
Michelle rolled her eyes. Cordelia was a phenomenally bright girl most of the time… but was also capable of missing some spectacularly simple things. "Well, unless you want me moving in with you until the Rosenbergs leave town again?" Cordelia shrugged, not looking too put out by that idea, and Michelle decided to file it away as Plan B in case they couldn't come up with a better solution. "Well, since the 'have your aunt turn me into the person I claim I am for real' plan is a no-go, I was thinking that maybe a telepath could make the Rosenbergs think I am who I say I am."
Polishing off her salad, Cordelia sat back and stared at Michelle contemplatively. "You do realize that this is pretty much giving up on Xander Harris, right? At least for a few months? Even if Giles finds a cure for you, you can't use it if the Rosenbergs are expecting their niece to be around." The redhead paused before nodding; she hadn't thought of that but after one month, what was another or two? She'd manage. "In that case, I'll send an email to Xavier's when I get home to see if they're willing to help with our problem. If not, Emma left her card and really wanted me to come to her school. Maybe we can trick her into visiting to 'discuss my enrollment' and then sic her on the Rosenbergs in exchange for… well, we can negotiate with her if we can get her out here, I suppose." Staring at the remains of Michelle's salad, she licked her lips. "Hey, are you going to finish that?"
Blinking, Michelle looked down at the two-thirds or so of her lunch. "What happened to your super important, have to follow it diet plan?"
"Can the girl who's probably going to be saving your ass eat the salad or not?" Smirking, Michelle skewered a piece of chicken with her fork and popped it into her mouth before pushing her tray across the desk to Cordelia, who dove into the remains of her lunch. "Quid pro quo, Red." Eh, whatever. She'd just walk home and stop at Jack in the Box for a burger or two. "And don't you dare think about walking home so you can grab fast food. Someone we know still might see you."
November 18, 2011
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters - Emma Frost's Office
Westchester, New York
Leaning back in her desk's chair, Emma stared up at the ceiling of her office as she pondered the email she'd just read. It had referenced the Massachusetts Academy, easily dating the author as someone she hadn't spoken to in over a year. And it was: one Cordelia Chase. Or, if 'Miriam' ever up and reclaimed her birthright instead of trying to hide from her heritage behind a rich flatscan, Cordelia Lehnsherr.
Emma had last seen the mother and daughter a little shy of a year ago, just before she'd dissolved the Massachusetts Academy to fold its mutant students into Xavier's far better protected school in the wake of Erik's foolish attack on the United Nations delegates. She'd actually gone to California hoping to acquire both: mother magnokine as a teacher and daughter as a student. But despite their past history together, Lorna had given her a resounding no and chased her away from Cordelia, despite the dark-haired girl's interest. And now Cordelia was writing to her, asking if Emma herself would visit Sunnydale to 'revisit the possibility of my admittance to the Massachusetts Academy'.
What did it mean? What was Cordelia's motivation? There was no possible way she'd missed her grandfather's misadventure at the Statue of Liberty and subsequent imprisoning. Was she genuinely interested in an education, or hoping to fish for information because she knew Emma had once been connected to Charles and Erik? Would she still be interested in schooling once she found out Emma and Charles' schools were now one and the same?
A knock on the door made Emma look up and curse softly; she'd been so involved with the letter and her thoughts that she'd let her passive scanning lapse. Reaching out with her mind, she scowled at the identity of her visitor. Alas, ignoring her would help nothing and Emma couldn't afford to trap herself in her office given she had something important to take care of. Sighing, she stretched out a tendril of power and touched her coworker's mind. A roiling mix of indignation, curiosity, and distrust met her probe, and Emma's scowl morphed into a smirk. Someone was in a wicked bad mood. 'Do come in, darling. Unless you actually find my door that fascinating to stare at. I realize it probably reminds you of your boyfriend, but-'
"Professor Xavier has an after-hours mission he'd like you to go on." Looking like she'd sucked on a lemon, Jean Grey stalked into the room, shutting the door behind her with a thought before slapping a paper down atop Emma's desk. "It's regarding an empath, and…" She trailed off, crossing her arms over her chest as she stared down at Emma. "What?"
After letting her eyes wander up and down Jean a few times, Emma raised an eyebrow. "I know your upbringing is a bit suspect, but you do know that it's considered a bit of a fashion faux pas to wear white after Labor Day, don't you?" On the other hand, imitation was supposedly the sincerest form of flattery, and could serve as the fodder for jokes aplenty if it continued…
Jean blinked a few times at that. "You wear white after Labor Day all the time." Then the obvious finally caught up with her and she scowled, thrusting a finger in the blonde's direction accusingly. "You're wearing white right now!"
"I'm Emma Frost… and you're not."
"Seriously, Emma? SNL
"The older episodes are full of quotable classics. Personally, I'm waiting for you to say just the wrong thing at a staff meeting so I can exclaim 'Jean, you ignorant slut!'… hold three seconds for laughs, and then use the opening to take over the conversation." As Jean sputtered, Emma placed her elbows on either side of the paper that had been deposited on her desk and leaned forward. "You were saying something about a mission before I derailed you for my own amusement?"
As she went to wrap her arms back around herself, Jean made a flicking motion with one hand and the paper resting in front of Emma rustled faintly. "Yes. It's regarding an empath, and since your telepathic skills are better developed than mine and he can't leave the school at the moment, you're up."
Emma smirked; hearing Jean admit that she was her superior in any way, shape, or form was enough to brighten up even her worst day. Looking down at the printout, she just barely managed to avoid giving away her true thoughts, forcing her face to remain emotionless and reinforcing her shields to keep Jean out. The last thing she'd expected to see was an email addressed to Charles that was shockingly similar to the one she'd just received from Miss Chase. The only real deviation was the mention of an empath in the one Jean had brought her, and it took Emma only a few seconds to figure out why. She was the only representative of her school. Charles had himself, Jean, Scott, and Ororo. Clearly Cordelia was trying to arrange it so that a telepath would come and visit her in Sunnydale; Emma could find no other explanation for that particular addition to the version of the email that the school received. But why? Unless she had a helmet like her grandfather's, her thoughts would be laid bare instantly and her plans revealed. Who would willingly subject themselves to that?
Now Emma was even more determined to get to Sunnydale and visit young Miss Chase. But just because she worked with Charles these days didn't mean she worked for Charles. Cordelia was a mystery she was going to figure out… for herself. If Charles and his minions wanted the answer too, they could chase it down themselves. Leaning back in her chair, Emma shook her head decisively. "Sorry, darling, but I have plans for this evening. I suppose your substandard telepathy will have to suffice."
Right eye twitching, Jean glared down at the blonde and Emma stared back tauntingly, wondering if her rival was actually going to remember where she'd long ago stashed her confrontational side and push the matter. Finally, quite predictably, Jean backed down and looked away, sighing as she scooped the printout back up. "Just out of curiosity… what makes you such a bitch, Emma?"
"Breeding, darling. Top class breeding." Jean opted not to engage in any further byplay before stomping out of the blonde's office, which suited Emma just fine. A battle of the wits with an unarmed opponent was terribly boring, after all. As soon as the door slammed shut behind the irate redhead, Emma reached out with her mind. 'Mister Keller? Please finish with Miss Braddock as quickly as possible, clean yourself up, and pack a bag. We're going on a little trip and I dare say you'll be far more pleasant company without that particular odor clinging to you the entire way.' 'Mister Lebeau? I dare say if you continue attempting to push your affections upon Miss D'Ancanto, young Mister Drake will likely freeze your hands again. Last time it happened, I seem to recall you complaining about stiffness in your fingers for days after. Perhaps you could instead go and pack a bag and meet me in the foyer in half an hour?'
As Remy hurried off to do as he was told, Emma frowned and considered who to bring along as the final member of her little team. A telepath, she decided; chances were they'd find themselves hunting Miss Chase down somewhere around town, since Emma doubted Lorna was aware of her daughter's machinations, and Emma had no desire to read the minds of endless vapid teenagers in an attempt to discover where she might find Miss Chase. The question was, which telepath? Rachel? No, she wanted a head start and Jean would notice her daughter missing far sooner than any other student. Quentin? Too much of a loose cannon. Ellie's precognitive abilities could prove very useful in a town as dangerous as Sunnydale… but like Rachel, her absence would be rather conspicuous. Betsy? …she wanted Cordelia located and questioned, not given an STD.
Finally, she sighed. Despite her desire to protect her daughters, evidently there was no avoiding it. 'Girls? I'll be leaving the mansion for a bit and can bring one of you. You have thirty minutes to decide amongst yourselves who will be accompanying me and pack a week's worth of clothes for that person. Your clock starts… now.'