This chapter was posted while my normal beta was on vacation and so it was filled with assorted errors. And got patched up even more when she pointed out some actual plot and character errors, meaning I was really off my game. Which is why it's always a good idea to reread my stuff once in a while if it's been a while since I updated. Because hey, this version of the author's note was written over a year and a half after the chapter was originally posted, when I came back through to do one last round of cleanup and tweaking.
November 1, 2011
Sunnydale High School - Library
Xander jumped as the library doors slammed open, but before he could focus enough to morph his body into something a bit more human looking, his brain froze at the sight of a green-haired Cordelia. An exceedingly busty and green-haired Cordelia. "I don't suppose one of you freaks wants to tell me why I took my wig off this morning and found this underneath instead of my real hair? And don't even try pretending to be innocent; everything weird that happens in this town involves you people, at least since Buffy came to…" She trailed off, eyes coming to rest on Xander and, for some bizarre reason, he almost felt as if he… knew her? And not just because they'd been in school together for years. Other memories, separate from his own, danced just out of his reach. Taunting him. His suspicion that his demon form knew Cordelia was reinforced when her eyes narrowed hatefully. "Mystique!"
Before Xander had the chance to ask who or what the hell she was talking about, Cordelia thrust out her massive designer purse and yanked it open. Six jagged pieces of metal floated upward into view and hovered in midair for a moment before launching themselves at Xander. It was then that he learned he'd acquired - or rather retained - not one, but two gifts from his Halloween costume: the ability to shapeshift and incredible flexibility. He threw himself backwards, tucking his head and rolling until he landed on his stomach, legs spreading wide in a perfect split as he flattened himself against the table. The metal missiles whistled past overhead and then Xander was hopping up, hurling himself at Cordelia.
Two more pieces of metal rose up out of Cordelia's purse as she dropped it to the floor, larger sheets that wrapped around her fists to create metal gloves. WIth her precious nails protected from harm, she had no problem trying to counter his lunge with a sloppy punch that he evaded by twisting his body in midair, continuing on past her until he hit the ground. Rolling, he popped back up onto his feet and dodged two more punches as he circled to her left, waiting until she was pulling back in preparation for a third punch before lunging forward again. Cordelia threw the punch and Xander grabbed her wrist, pulling her arm forward until she squealed in pain at the overextension before chopping harshly at the back of her neck. She dropped to her knees and Xander tackled her hard, flattening her onto her stomach and perching on her butt as he grabbed both arms and yanked them back to the small of her back. "What the hell, Cordy? I thought you were supposed to be the one around here with class. Since when do you try to kill people with chunks of metal?" He paused. "Since when can you do that, by the way?"
"Like you don't know, Mystique. What the hell are you doing in Sunnydale? Did Grandpa send you to find me? I still don't agree with what he's doing and I'm certainly not going to help break him out of whatever plastic hole the government shoved him into." Struggling, Cordelia suddenly beneath Xander. "Wait a minute. 'Cordy'? You always call me 'Miss Lehnsherr' just to piss me off."
Xander rolled his eyes, with said eyes shifting from yellow to blue as he returned to his Willow-shaped disguise. He debated letting her up, or at least releasing her hands, but decided against it for the time being. Granted she probably didn't need her hands free to send those flying metal spikes of hers at him, but she wouldn't be crazy enough to try that trick when he was this close to her… right? "I have no idea who Mystique is, Cordy, I'm in Sunnydale because I've lived here my entire life, and I don't know a damn thing about your grandfather. And your green hair is probably connected to my blue skin. It's me. Xander."
Peering back over her shoulder, Cordelia raised an eyebrow at him and wiggled her wrists in his grasp until he released her arms. Once freed, Cordelia wriggled beneath him awkwardly until she managed to roll over onto her back, lying there and staring up at him with her mouth wide open in disbelief. It was silent disbelief for the first few seconds… and then the laughter started. "Oh my God. Xander? Seriously?" He nodded, setting off a whole new round of laughter. "And I thought my hair was bad. At least I can dye it. You got turned into Smurfette!"
"Yeah, well, I can shapeshift. As made obvious by my change from blue to Willow. Even your eyebrows and lashes are green, so have fun trying to make yourself look normal again." Xander paused as something occurred to him and he gave Cordelia a slow look over, or at least as best he could while sitting on her. When he was done, his eyes went to her chest and one borrowed red brow rose. "I was going to ask if all the hair on your body was green now, but I can think of at least one thing more interesting than your hair to ask about. Or rather two things."
"Oh, you did not just…" A knee abruptly slammed into his back, knocking Xander forward and leaving him unbalanced enough that Cordelia easily managed to grab him by his slim shoulders and shove him sideways and off of her body. Hopping back to her feet with surprising nimbleness - especially considering her new 'gifts' - Cordelia summoned her six deadly friends from wherever they'd landed and decided to make a second go of it, shooting the gleaming metal shards at him again. Xander rolled across the floor, both hearing and feeling the impacts as they slammed deep into the hardwood, before deciding to go with a variation on the technique that had previously brought him victory and launching himself at Cordelia again.
The key word being 'variation'. Running purely on his new instincts, Xander deliberately landed just short of Cordelia and dropped to the floor so he could sweep her legs out from under her. Cordelia let out a squawk of surprise before throwing her arms out and… not falling. Crouched on the floor, Xander stared up at Cordelia in disbelief as the green-haired girl floated there in midair for a few seconds before slowly righting herself and dropping back to the floor. Okay. So evidently Cordelia had been hiding a whole bunch of secrets from them…
Before they could go any further, though, Giles cleared his throat. "If you could keep from destroying my library with your childish behavior, I would greatly appreciate it." Rising to his feet, Xander exchanged a guilty look with Cordelia before edging away from her. "Thank you. Now, Cordelia, I had previously believed Xander to be some previously unknown species of demon but if you have information to contribute, I would like to hear it. Also… the surname Lehnsherr familiar to me for all the wrong reasons, and when combined with your other comments… I can't help but hope you are not referring to the man I think you are when you say 'Grandpa'." Pausing, Giles turned to look at the third of their number, drawing Xander's attention to where Willow stood with her shiny new white iPhone 4S raised in front of her. "…and what on Earth are you doing?"
"Um… a bit of cathartic transference?" Willow's reply made Giles sigh and pinch his nose, the redhead automatically turning her attention to deliver the explanation she knew he'd need. "I'm not really the catfighting type - or the confrontation at all type, to be honest - so I figured this would be the closest I ever got to getting back at Cordelia for all the mean things she's ever said to me. Because you looked like me while you were fighting with her. So… taped it. Gonna watch it again later and cheer 'me' on more."
Oh. Made sense to him. Sorta. Xander offered Willow a hesitant smile and a thumb's up. "Glad I could help?"
"This doesn't get you out of trouble for stealing my body, though."
Cordelia huffed, ignoring their byplay as she reached up to fuss with her hair. Once she was a bit more presentable, she turned her attention to Giles and answers to his questions. "If you're thinking of Erik Lehnsherr, also known as Magneto the psychotic mutant terrorist with the glowy energy weapon he tried to use on the UN delegation? You're not wrong. My mom's the youngest of his four children… or at least the four children we know about. With all his wandering and fake names and bad luck, there might be more out there and so I could have aunts and uncles and cousins I don't know about yet. Which… I don't know how I'd feel about that. On one hand, it'd be weird if I ever met them but on the other hand, they've gotta be better than the relatives I have right now…"
Coughing to get the green-haired girl's attention, Xander gestured for her to get on with it. "If you're going to monologue at us here, can you at least try and stick to one subject?"
"I am. Family. Pondering potential relatives I've never met is part of that. Duh." Rolling her eyes, Cordelia stalked over to one of the tables and took a seat. "But since I need to keep things simple for you… the ones we're sure of? He used to have a daughter named Anya from his first wife but she was killed, and then Magda freaked and ran off. Probably because he went insane and used his powers to kill the people who kept him from saving his daughter and then took out what was left of the town just for good measure. It turns out that Magda was pregnant when she ran off on him, and later gave birth to a pair of twins: my Aunt Wanda, who can mess with reality for giggles, and Uncle Pietro, who has superspeed. Not sure how that worked out or what either has to do with magnetism, but that's genetics for you. My only two cousins are from that branch of the family." Cordelia shrugged before pointing to herself. "Moving on… eventually my grandpa met a woman named Suzanna Dane. She's my grandmother. She gave birth to a bouncing green-haired baby girl named Lorna, who has Grandpa's powers but thankfully lacks the whole 'take over the world' gene. She took the name Miriam Lockner when her father ran off to go on his Pinky and the Brain
kick and married a boring flatscan so she could live a life of wealth and comfort. I'm the product of their largely loveless marriage. Before last night, I had the powers without the freaksville look that mom gets when she forgets to book an appointment to have her roots touched up but I guess I can kiss my days of blending in goodbye."
"I'm sorry…" Giles looked utterly baffled, not that Xander could blame him. It was a lot to take in. Cordelia was a mutant? Whose grandfather was Magneto? And Miriam Chase, whose picture was probably next to MILF in the dictionary, was really a green-haired mutant who had inherited the man's fearsome magnetic powers before passing them on to Cordelia? Except it turned out Giles was stuck on something else entirely. "Who or what are 'Pinky and the Brain'?"
Eyes wide, Cordelia stared at Giles in disbelief. "You're serious? 'Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?' 'The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world!' No? Nothing? Doesn't ring a bell?" Giles stared back at her blankly before slowly shaking his head and Cordelia threw her hands up in the air. "Seriously, even I've seen that cartoon. It's hilarious."
Fairly certain that Cordelia's homicidal moment had come to an end if she was quoting Saturday morning cartoons - and was it wrong that hearing her do it made her seem even hotter than she did before? - Xander wandered over to perch on the table near her. "So… about this Mystique person. I'm going to go out on a limb and say she's a fellow mutant who works for Magneto? A blue shapeshifter? Looks a lot like I did when you came in?" Cordelia nodded. "Would your grandpa ever, say, assign her to pretend she was a United States senator?"
Cordelia shook her head, paused, and then nodded slowly. "He wouldn't have before, but now that he's captured and imprisoned… especially if the senator was someone who had access to information about him, I can totally see Mystique doing it. But what does that…" Reaching out, Xander fluffed the former brunette's hair a few times and then comprehension dawned. "That's how you got blue. Who'd you dress up as? And… God, what kind of freak dresses up as a politician for Halloween?"
Scowling, Xander went to cross his arms over his chest before aborting the move on account of the awkwardness of having breasts. Stupid temporary girlhood. He settled for under his breasts instead; it pushed them up and together a bit but it wasn't like there was anyone around who would have appreciated the view even if his borrowed clothes showed the slightest hint of cleavage. "I went as Senator Robert Kelly. One of our state's senators. I had to grab a costume last minute, so I borrowed this suit I found in the basement of my house and then stopped back at Ethan's on my way to school. I picked up one of the dud Blackberries I remembered seeing; according to him, a lot of girls were going as smart and powerful women, so there was a market for them. Oh, and he threw in this little flag pin to wear on my suit jacket's lapel when I told him what I was doing. Next thing I know, I'm blue. So I'm going to go out a limb here and guess…"
Even Cordelia could put two and two together. "…Mystique has replaced Senator Kelly to get information to free my grandpa, and when you got turned into Senator Kelly, you really got turned into 'Senator Kelly' and so now you have her powers." She tapped one finger against her chin even as the fingers of her free hand made a beckoning gesture, causing her makeshift projectiles to float up off the floor and return to her. "If Mystique is Magneto's minion, and I'm Magneto Junior Junior while you're Mystique Junior, does that mean I get to have you as my minion?"
Xander snorted. "Uh, no. Whole world of no. Unless…" He trailed off, looking Cordelia up and down as best he could from where he was sitting. What exactly did minionism entail? Was it anything like being a Cordette? Because they got to see Cordelia in the locker room showers and stuff. If that was part of the minion package, then color him interested. "Well, I guess I could be open to negotiations. What kind of benefits package do you offer?"
"Are you checking me out?" Shuddering, Cordelia made a motion with her hand, bringing the hovering metal shards back towards her and then around to float between the two of them. "I just got checked out by Willow Rosenberg. Actually, being ogled by Willow would be bad enough. But no, I got checked out by a boy wearing her body. My dive into the world of creepy stuff is officially complete."
Rolling his eyes, Xander decided to take advantage of his new powers to freak Cordelia out and smoothly shifted from Willow's form into a replica of what Cordelia had looked like before the magic of Halloween had changed her. And ow, stuffing that much chest into a Willow-sized bra was not comfortable in the least. Not to mention that he felt like he had the world's worst wedgie. "Aww, I'm sorry. Would it be better if I checked you out while I was wearing this body, Cordy?"
Cordelia frowned, tilting her head to one side as she stared up at him. "I don't know. Would that be lesbianism, incest, or masturbation?"
"Wow. Okay, you two are done talking. See. Resolve face. No more perversity." Willow's glare swept back and forth between the two of them and Xander raised his hands in surrender, shifting back into the redhead's twin before changing a few small things up just to make who was who easier for Giles and Cordelia to keep track of. Ah. Much more comfortable. "Now that we're done with that, why don't we take turns. Cordelia, you and Giles can talk to see if he can solve your problem while I find out more about why Xander's been wandering around town wearing my body. When you're done, either you leave or I'll help you look stuff up if Giles has any leads and Xander, you and Giles can go back to talking about your problem. Does that work for everyone?"
Snatching the metal shards out of midair, Cordelia shoved them back into her purse one by one. "Fine. You two stay over here until I leave, though. I've already been infected by your weirdness enough today. I don't need any more rubbing off on me."
Given their previous topic of conversation, he so could go somewhere with that one… but he had a feeling Willow would not be amused, so Xander just kept his mouth shut as Willow approached him. Circling him slowly, she reached up to run her fingers over his cheek. "This is so weird."
Xander blushed, half at the fairly intimate contact and half in embarrassment over what he'd done to his best friend. "Sorry, but I kinda had to. Whatever's going on, it's hard for me to turn into anyone I don't have a really good mental image of. Turns out… don't look at myself in the mirror enough for my powers' taste. That left Buffy, Cordelia, you, or a few other girls I wouldn't have been able to fake half as well. And since you were the only one who I could figure out how to steal clothes from…"
"You stole my clothes?" Willow's eyes went wide and then she narrowed them at him. "I thought you stopped at a store on the way over here and got that outfit. I haven't even had a chance to wear that sweater yet, darn it! Meanie. I'm sending you to the mall later with my parents' credit card, mister. I don't know why, but you in my clothes is even weirder than you borrowing my body." Then something else occurred to her and she looked both ways before seizing the shoulder of his sweater, pulling it just far enough to one side to reveal the strap of his liberated bra. "You stole my underwear?!"
Her indignant shriek attracted both Giles and Cordelia's attention and Xander groaned in embarrassment, hiding his head in his hands. "Way to go, Wills. Was kinda hoping we could keep that one between us."
As Giles polished his glasses furiously and Cordelia laughed anew at his humiliation, Xander pulled away from Willow and returned to his perch on a library table, wondering if it was possible for things to get any worse. And then it did. Well, insofar as he wanted to keep knowledge of his problem to as few people as possible and the world decided another person needed to know. Buffy breezed into the library, checking her appearance in a compact as she walked. Peering over the top, she waved her free hand. "Hey Giles. Willow. Cordelia. Another Willow." Then she paused, realizing what she'd just said, and looked up slowly. "Since when do we have two Willows?"
Willow looked at Xander, not quite what to say, and he grinned as an idea came to him. After all, even he didn't know the full extent of Willow's family; assuming Giles could fix this relatively soon, the whole thing could be written off as Xander conveniently being out sick with the flu the few days that Willow had family in town. Mouthing 'go with it' at the redhead, he turned his attention back to Buffy and scoffed as he did his best to channel Average Cordette #3. "Um, so not Willow. My eyes are brown. And I have freckles. I'm Michelle. Michelle Flaherty. Willow's cousin. My parents sent me to stay with Aunt Sheila so they could go on this month-long second honeymoon without getting charged with neglect or abandonment, except Aunt Sheila evidently forgot to tell them that she wasn't going to be in town either. So it's just me and Willow, but that's cool because Willow and I get along well. Who are you?"
"Oh. Willow didn't mention me?" Buffy shot the redhead an odd look, equal parts curious and betrayed, before returning her attention to 'Michelle' and forcing a smile. "I'm Buffy. Willow's best friend. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other a lot. But, uh, that'll have to wait until later. Giles? Can I talk to you? Alone?"
As the blonde dragged her Watcher off to talk in his office, Xander bit his lip hard to avoid laughing. As soon as the door closed, though, he broke down with Cordelia following soon after. Willow managed to keep from laughing with them, although she did crack a smile. "Xander! That was mean! Why didn't you-"
"Later. Resolve face."
"Hey! That's my line!"
November 1, 2011
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters - Cerebro
Westchester, New York
"Now show me Esme, if you would?" Before Emma Frost could even finish her request, the ethereal people that filled Cerebro blurred around her and the glowing red form of her eldest daughter appeared between her and her student, sitting at what Emma recognized as the local Starbucks with a few blurry white figures. Flatscans. One of these days, she really needed to talk to her girls about making friends with the wrong sort. For now, though… "How do you keep-"
"This may be the fifth time you've done this exercise with me, but it's probably closer to the five-hundredth time I've done it with you. I learned your pattern back when you started training me." Raising her hand, Rachel Grey used a finger to trace fiery letters in midair, spelling out the word 'SPICE'. "You started by asking about each of your daughters in a specific pattern." Quick flicks of her finger added some arrows, and then another word below 'SPICE'. "Then you rotated who started each time after that." Rachel filled in 'PICES', then a second set of arrows, 'ICESP', another row of arrows, 'CESPI', yet more arrows, and finally 'ESPIC'. "So I just keep track of who you ask for first, locate all five at once, and then deliver them in the right order. Voila. Happy teacher."
Tilting her head to one side, Emma stared at the redhead standing in front of her until Rachel started to squirm, at which point Emma smiled. "So, since it's becoming increasingly clear that I've already taught you everything I currently know - including my morals - is there anything that you'd like to teach me?"
Rachel's brow furrowed as she contemplated that. "Well, considering you just gave me this secretive little smile when I asked who taught you certain things that not even Mom can do, I'm pretty sure that I'm actually supposed to teach you a thing or two while I'm here or else you won't be able to teach me in the future. Kinda like being my own grandma, just without the icky incest part. Let's see. I… can't actually let you try this because you don't have the power yet, but if you want, I can prove it is possible so you can try it a few years down the road?" Curious, Emma nodded and Rachel jerked a thumb back over her shoulder. "Behind me, please? And can you hold the back of my shirt up? It's one of my favorites and I don't want to torch it doing this."
Deftly ducking under one of the metal cables that connected Cerebro's helmet to the console, Emma moved to stand behind Rachel as directed. Using one hand to lift the back of the redhead's shirt, Emma used a finger from the other to trace the odd, blocky, vaguely avian tattoo that adorned the small of Rachel's back. "I still don't understand why it was necessary to deface your skin like this…"
"You will someday." Rachel's head lolled forward as she took a few slow breaths and then snapped back as she inhaled sharply. Beneath Emma's finger, the tattoo shifted from black to a fiery mix of red and orange, heat licking at her bare skin until Emma pulled her hand away. Around them, Cerebro surged to life but rather than display the faint outline of the Earth's continents set ablaze by white or red points of light, Emma found herself staring at… the surface of the moon? After a few seconds, the image shifted and zoomed in on a rather unremarkable spot to the northwest of the Sea of Tranquility. Or at least it appeared unremarkable at first; as Emma watched in disbelief, blue dot after blue dot flared into existence. "History always was my weakest subject. Probably because Professor Summers could put a statue to sleep. Have you met the Inhumans yet, Mother?"