Sophie's - or rather now Ivette's - role in the last chapter obviously changed quite a bit between the two versions of this story. In the original, I had no real plan for where Willow was going and so Sophie was positioned as a potential romantic interest. This version is much more clearly outlined, and that's not in it. Ergo, that particular piece of fat was trimmed. Sorry if you found it amusing.
November 19, 2011
Rosenberg Household - Michelle's Room
"Do you think she'd go out with me?"
"Well, Lar, that's a tough question to… no. Not a chance."
It was a surreal experience, Michelle decided, to be not only reliving a month old event but to be doing so as a spectator, watching as her old male self engaged Larry Blaisdell in a very familiar disagreement over Buffy. This was the day before Halloween. The moment that had led her to try and prove herself, which in turn had brought her to the Senator Kelly costume and her new blue form.
"Why not? I heard some guys say she was fast."
"I hope you mean like the wind."
"Yeah, you know what I mean."
"That's my friend that you're talking about!"
"Oh, yeah? Well, what're you gonna do about it?"
And so unless this was some alternate universe superhero version of Xander, this was where things were going to get ugly… or pathetic, take your pick. "I'm gonna do what any man would do about it." Michelle watched as her old male self grabbed Larry by the shirt, shaking her head. And here came the humiliation. "Something damn manly."
Larry just laughed in Xander's face, knocking the slimmer boy's hands away and using his right hand to grab Xander by the shirt. He pulled his left hand back, fingers balling into a fist, only to be brought up short when Buffy grabbed him by the wrist, pulling him away from Xander. And then, just like the first time around, Buffy proceeded to humiliate him… her… them… by slamming Larry into the soda machine, knocking free a can of Diet Dr. Pepper. Which, if Michelle remembered correctly, wasn't even the soda she'd asked for.
"If that's what your old life was like, I can see why you wouldn't want to go back to it." Looking back over her shoulder, Michelle found the purple-haired girl from the graveyard standing with her arms over her chest as she shook her head in disgust. Behind her, the redhead she'd been walking with and Ivette groaned in sync before slapping their companion upside the head from both sides at once. "Ow! What? It's true. Willow did the research, Buffy was the hero, and Xander… Xander was bait. And got snacks. And got used as a stripper pole once when Buffy wanted to make a corpse jealous."
Michelle winced at the reminder of the beginning of that school year. "Thank you, I'd finally just managed to repress that, too." After taking one last look around, she turned to face the trio who didn't belong in the scene any more than she did. "So… what exactly is going on here? I'm guessing this isn't a normal dream because if I was dreaming about girls as hot as you three? There'd definitely be a bed and a lot less clothing involved. Or maybe a pool. Ooh, that'd be cool. We could have a bit of a Wild Things
The color began to seep out of the world around them before dissolving into a white mist, which soon parted to reveal… an expensive looking house with an expansive in-ground pool beside it, the water lit from beneath the surface and casting a soft blue glow over everything. It took Michelle a moment before things clicked: it was the aforementioned pool from the hot lesbian scene in Wild Things
. Okay, all joking aside, she definitely hadn't been expecting that. Especially given that if the girls were as close to her age as they seemed, the movie in question had come out back when they were three. Come to think of it, why did she even… oh, right. Huge crush on Denise Richards. Mmm. Denise Richards…
A soft cough brought Michelle's inspection of her surroundings to an end, drawing her attention back to the mysterious purple-haired girl. "As amusing as being the Suzie to your Kelly sounds, I'm still trying to recover from what happened earlier. And I have a problem closer to my own body to worry about, so I can't really afford to split my concentration like this for too long. Word of advice, though? I've seen Ivette's mom wandering around our school in a corset now and then. I'm pretty sure her apple fell from the tree and landed on a root. If you can ditch the ginger, you might actually get lucky…" Offering Michelle a wink, the girl turned on her heel and disappeared with a pop.
"So… Michelle obviously knows what's going on here. Betsy knows what's going on here." The redhead looked from Ivette to Michelle and back before scowling. "Does someone want to fill me in on the pop culture references I'm not getting, or do I have to do a bit of brain spelunking?"
Suddenly left holding the bag, Ivette groaned and rubbed her temples. "It's this stupid 'erotic thriller' that's famous for some rather racy scenes between a guy and two girls as well as the two girls on their own, and… you know what? Google it when we're done in here. Or ask Betsy for details; she's evidently a fan. I'm not. As long as we're here, though…" Waving one arm over herself, the blonde turned her white halter top and skirt into a tasteful but sexy white bikini before moving to sit at the edge of the pool, dipping her legs in the water. "The three of us need to have a talk."
Michelle looked down at herself, noticing for the first time that she was still in the sweater and jeans she'd worn to the Bronze. Back in her Michelle façade, too, for some reason. It was the former rather than the latter, though, that had the potential to make sitting on the wet tiles that lined the pool with her legs in the water rather uncomfortable. Before she could say a word, though, her clothes rippled and changed into a considerably more modest bikini the same shade of blue as her base form. Not… entirely objectionable. Moving to sit beside Ivette, she peered back over her shoulder at the third member of their little group. "I'm pretty sure she said the 'three' of us. And I'm not going to stare up at you for an entire conversation. Well, unless someone promises me a massage after."
"We're on the astral plane, Michelle. Your neck would only hurt if you wanted it to hurt." The redhead mimicked Ivette and waved her arm over her body, turning her street clothes into a white tankini with a golden bird stretched across the chest before moving to join Ivette and Michelle at the edge of the pool. "I'm Rachel, by the way. Rachel Grey. Just so you can stop thinking of me as 'the redhead'."
"Duh. I'm a telepath, Michelle. How else could we be inside your head?" Leaning forward, Rachel gestured first to Ivette and then back at herself. "We're going to be handling the mental manipulation of the Rosenbergs for you and Willow. Emma thinks it's good practice, since we'll need to implant dozens of memories that are simultaneously related and yet disconnected. The first step was for us to take a walk through your mind, and I figured it'd be smart of us to save some time and do it while you were passed out anyway. Otherwise you'd be stuck sitting there twiddling your thumbs while the two of us sat there staring off into space."
Michelle nodded. Seemed sensible enough to her. Well, except for- "And, uh, why exactly do you 'need' to go poking around inside my head?"
Sighing, Ivette buried her face in her hands. "Mother always said boys were only good for one thing, and it wasn't their brain." Um, hey? "Think about it. You've told a lot of people a lot of lies about 'Michelle'. We need to know every last one of them so we can implant the right knowledge in the Rosenbergs' minds. Rather than trust you to remember exactly what you've said every time you've talked about yourself to every person you've met since becoming Michelle, we went in and watched all the memories ourselves. We went a bit too far back and ran into the scene between you and Larry. I'd say sorry, but it was actually kinda informative."
"Well, I'm glad you got something out of it." Michelle furrowed her brow, trying to figure out how seeing that particular scene could have been at all constructive, before giving in and glancing to her left. "…what did you get out of it?"
The little smirk that twisted Ivette's lips made Michelle simultaneously dread and anticipate the answer. "Well, I think I figured out why you can't return to being Xander. That's something, isn't it?"
Out of all the things she'd been expecting, that… hadn't even been in the top ten. Jaw dropping, Michelle stared at Ivette. "Are you serious?"
"No, I'm Ivette. Sirius is Harry Potter's godfather." Ugh. There was a reason she'd avoided something as predictably mockable as 'surely you can't be serious'. Evidently, she still should have chosen her words more carefully. Twisting so she was sitting Indian style facing Michelle, Ivette planted her elbows on her knees before resting her chin in her palms. "Jokes aside, yes, I think I know why you can't turn into your old self. I want to bold and underline the word 'think', though. Don't quote me on this. But… when Betsy called your old self a loser? I noticed that you didn't exactly argue with her. Maybe because you agree with her?"
There was no 'maybe' about it, Michelle thought with a snort, but she failed to see the relevance. "Which tells us we have self-esteem problems, not why I'm stuck as-"
Ivette straightened up a bit, holding up one hand to interrupt Michelle. "Please let me finish my thoughts before I decide to reach into your brain and turn off your ability to speak." Wide-eyed, Michelle pantomimed zipping her lips. "Thank you. So, assuming that it's true that you think your old self is a loser, what does that make Michelle in your mind? Someone better. It reminds me of a pattern I've noticed at the school: the students with the least-interesting lives before their powers manifested are the most eager to adopt mutant names and cast off their birth names. To them, their powers make them important and so they don't want to be reminded that they were once average. It's the same with you. Xander reminds you of back before you were cool and interesting and liked. Back when you were the nobody in the Scooby Gang. And so on a subconscious level, since you don't want to go back to being that person, your powers won't let you. It's not that you can't. You won't."
"You got all that from watching me get slammed into a soda machine?" Not that Michelle was necessarily disagreeing; it was a better theory than anything she or Cordelia had come up with. It just… well, wasn't something she could think of a way to fix. Which was a majorly bad thing in her book. As much as she was coming to enjoy her new life, being given the option to return to her old one would be nice.
"Actually, we've been working for the better part of four and a half hours now, sorting through a month or so's worth of Michelle memories. And pretty much any reference to your old self reeks of self-loathing the way the boys' locker room at school reeks of… well, I'm sure you remember. Seeing the bit with Larry - and how you reacted to Betsy - just reinforces it." Rachel jerked abruptly, wincing as she reached down to rub her left calf. "Oh, and did you know you kick in your sleep? I wonder if there's a way we can fix that before we leave. Whoever you end up dating in the future will thank us."
Carefully lowering herself onto her back, Michelle stared up at the night sky as she pondered the telepaths' words. Was it her fault her memories of being male 'reeked of self-loathing'? Xander Harris had been a straight C student with a promising future in the burger assembling industry, a whopping two friends - one of whom was such a good friend that she'd yet to notice he'd fallen off the face of the planet - a house that threatened to collapse if someone sneezed too hard, and parents whose twelve-step program was stumbling the six steps to the fridge to get a new beer and then six more steps back to the couch.
Now that she was Michelle Flaherty, she had… well, three good friends - Willow, Cordelia, and Gwen - along with a few fairly close acquaintances in the rest of the Cordettes. Not to mention that people weren't beating her up or otherwise making her life hell just for giggles, her room at Willow's house was almost twice again as big as her original bedroom and didn't come with the stench of booze standard, and her parents were literally non-existent. And her aunt and uncle were never home, leaving her and Willow to their own devices. It was perfect. It was Eden.
Of course something had to come along to screw it up.
Her view of the stars was abruptly cut off as Rachel and Ivette leaned over her from opposite sides, cracking their heads together. "Ow! For the love of… is your skull still made of diamond or something? Shit that hurt." Rachel used one hand to push Ivette away before turning back to Michelle. "We're done for the night; Larry was a bit further back than we meant to go, as Ivette said. It'll take some time to go through everything we learned and figure out what holes there are to plug. That'll be tomorrow's task, though, because I'm about to fall asleep. Mind playing pillow for a few hours, since we're already laying in your bed?"
Michelle blinked. The comment about her kicking, she'd figured Ivette and Rachel were sitting on her bed or next to her bed or… something. Not- "You're not like, spooning me with a hand in a naughty place or anything, are you?"
"What? No! Gross! You used to babysit me when I was…" Rachel trailed off, grimacing. "Right. We haven't had that particular talk yet. Let's just go with 'no, nay, never' and leave it with that. I was being literal about the pillow thing. You're on your back, and Ivette and I are on opposite sides of you with our heads resting on your chest. Willow's in her room with Betsy, who's keeping her calm after an… incident… earlier tonight."
Despite sensing a story there, Michelle decided not to push. She could easily get the details come morning when she awoke. "What about Cordy? And your friends? And-"
A wave of orangish-red light rolled across Rachel's eyes for a split second as she cocked her head to one side. "Well, it's just us girls in the house at the moment. Willow and Betsy in Willow's room, and the three of us in your room. Cordelia went home and took Mom and Professor Frost with her, or at least that's what I was told. I don't feel them nearby, so I'm going to assume that's what happened. As for Professor Summers and the boys… they should be about two-thirds of the way back to New York by now. Any other questions?" Michelle thought about that for a moment before shaking her head. "In that case, night. See you in the morning."
Rachel rippled before dissolving away into nothingness, Ivette leaning over Michelle's supine form and waving before doing likewise. Propping herself up on her elbows, Michelle looked around with a bemused grin on her face. "Uh, guys? Aren't you forgetting something?" Silence. "Hello? Someone? Anyone? Do I get to dream tonight, or am I gonna be sitting here by myself until it's time to wake up?" More silence. "Crap. Now what?"
Slowly raising one leg, Michelle watched the beads of water roll down her skin and drip back into the pool. Granted it was a pool inside some sort of funky mind projection thing, but why not take advantage of the situation? Indulge in a nice, relaxing swim? It was an activity she'd always found relaxing, but something she hadn't been able to indulge in since her transformation given that wearing bathing suits and actually entering the water seemed to be mutually exclusive activities with the Cordettes.
After forcing herself up into a sitting position, Michelle tipped forward and fell into the lukewarm water, closing her eyes against the slight sting of chlorine as she went under. Hmm. Considering this was a pool in her mind and there would only be germs if she wanted there to be germs, did she really need to have chlorine stinging at her eyes and messing with her hair? Not really, no. There was just one small problem. Unlike Rachel, Ivette, and Betsy, she had no idea how to mess with her dreamscape.
…maybe the Wizard of Oz
approach? 'I want to swim in fresh water, I want to swim in fresh water, I want to swim in fresh water'? Michelle felt… something… change and opened her eyes hesitantly. Huh. No more stinging feeling. Cool. She suddenly found herself wondering what the limits of her newfound power were, and if she needed a telepath to jumpstart things for her or if she could enter this state on her own. Because if this could become a nightly thing? Getting her eight hours would definitely be a lot more fun.
Slowly kicking her legs as she made her way down the length of the pool, Michelle surfaced once for air before sinking back under the surface. Hmm. What about another, more significant change? Thinking back to a Discovery Channel special she'd watched with Willow, she fixed an image in her mind and watched as the white tile bottom of the pool rippled and discolored, turning into sand. Next came a colorful coral reef that ran down the middle of the pool, and then fish of all shapes and sizes appeared, a few brushing against her body as they passed.
Returning to the shallow end, Michelle leaned against the metal railing near the steps as she contemplated her next move. So she could change things, add things, add animals… did that mean she could add people, too? Most of her dreams involved them, Michelle reasoned, so it wasn't as if it'd be odd to be dreaming about someone who wasn't a telepath wandering around inside her head. Well, there was only one way to find out. Turning her gaze to an empty stretch of tile beside the pool, Michelle centered an image in her mind as if she was about to transform, pointed at the spot, and then grinned as a person on a wooden deckchair appeared with a faint pop.
"What the..?" Cordelia glanced down at herself, taking in the skimpy black bikini she was wearing, before shooting Michelle an annoyed look. "Sigh. We can take Michelle out of the boy, but not the boy out of Michelle. Figures."
Michelle eyed the brunette uncertainly. "Considering this is my dream and I'm supposed to be in control, shouldn't you be… I don't know, nice? Nicer? Something?"
Shrugging, Cordelia crossed her arms under her breasts before thinking better of it and moving her arms up to cover her chest. "Maybe I'm your subconscious's way of telling you that you need to stop being such a pervert?" Looking down again, she scowled as she tugged at her bikini top, trying in vain to get it to cover just a tiny bit more of her. "I mean… seriously?"
"You know, maybe I'll try this again and then delete you. Second time's the charm, right?" Eyeing the existing Cordelia, whose appearance she had based on how her friend looked before her transformation, Michelle fixed a new image in her mind and then pointed at a spot a few feet to the left. Another pop heralded the arrival of a second, greener Cordelia. "Much bet-"
"What the..?" The newly arrived Cordelia glanced down at herself, taking in the equally skimpy green bikini she was wearing, before shooting Michelle an annoyed look. "Sigh. We can take Michelle out of the boy, but not the boy out of Michelle. Figures."
"I know, right?" The original Cordelia eyed the newer version of herself with disdain, her gaze eventually coming to rest on the green-haired Cordelia's chest. "Wow. She sure had fun with you, though. The green hair is bad enough, but-"
Chuckling, Green Cordelia held her hand in front of her breasts before slowly raising it, dragging her slightly younger counterpart's attention upward. "Actually, she didn't. This is what I… you… we look like these days." Brunette Cordelia's jaw dropped. "Yeah, I know. Halloween. It was this whole thing."
Michelle could only stare in disbelief as the two girls began chatting, passing through a brief period of back and forth insults before moving on to fashion and music. Wait a second. Wasn't she the one who was supposedly in control of this dream?
"You know, I still don't understand why I'm her 'father'. Out of the two of us, I'm definitely the more feminine one."
"You donated half of her genetic material and then sat around for nine months watching me get fat and cranky. You're her dad, Emma."
"If I'm her dad, we're doing Father's Day at Yankee Stadium next year."
"Shutting up." Turning her attention back to the field, Emma watched as a small herd of white-shirted children ran back and forth in front of the Green Monster, chasing after the fly balls sent their way during batting practice. Technically they were supposed to be watching everything from a 'VIP on-field corral', but she'd figured the children might enjoy the chance to blow off some steam and… well, anything was possible when you had the money to throw around. Narrowing her eyes, she watched as yet another ball curved unnaturally, landing in the white leather glove of a certain redhead. 'Rachel Anne Grey-Frost! What did I tell you about using your powers to cheat?'
Rachel held up the ball she'd just caught, making sure Emma could see it before turning and hurling it into the group of fans clustered along the edge of the seats. 'Only do it when you're sure you won't get caught? And I haven't been. By them, at least. They just think I'm lucky.'
Frowning, Emma pondered that. 'Still. There's such a thing as overdoing it. Be a dear and let the others catch a few?' 'Do I have to?' 'Only if you want to eat 'real food' instead of the menu that they're preparing for us adults.' 'Gross. Fine.'
As Rachel made her way to the back of the crowd, giving the other children a better chance at catching a ball of their own, five snickers emerged in perfect harmony from beside Emma. 'The only way you can make her play nice with others is by threatening to take away her Fenway Franks. You're a horrible dad, Mother.'
Emma rolled her eyes, shooting an irritated look at her grown daughters. 'And you wonder why I made you get your own seats instead of letting you sit with us up on the Green Monster?'
Reaching into her pocket, Esme pulled out a very familiar piece of plastic. 'Joke's on you. We got seats right next to the Red Sox dugout… and charged them to your credit card.' 'You do realize that the Ultimate Monster Package cost me more than many Americans make in a year, right?'
Technically, it had been Jean who'd taken care of reservations and payment, but considering her wife's plastic was tied to her line of credit… same difference, wasn't it? Reaching out, Emma reclaimed her credit card, undoing the top two buttons of the jersey she was wearing so she could slip it into her bra. 'I'll eat the cost of five field box tickets if it means being rid of you for the afternoon.' 'You're such a loving mother…'
Ivette's eyes snapped open to find Rachel staring back at her from where she lay on the other side of Michelle. One red eyebrow quirked upward as a foreign thought slid into the blonde's mind. 'Have fun looking around? I actually have that memory from four different perspectives, if you want to watch it again: Mother's, Mom's, mine, and Phoebe's.'
Shaking her head as best possible given her position, Ivette frowned. 'I can't believe Mother manages to infect us with her love of the Red Sox.' 'Really? That's what you're taking away from seeing all that?' 'Well, that and I clearly need to hire an image consultant. I can't believe I'm still working the all-white schoolgirl look when I'm twenty-something.'