A couple of people wanted her and so I deliver… Laura Kinney, more popularly known as X-23! And she's coming to Sunnydale too! Yay! Also, I had a hundred people add me to tracking after I posted Chapter 24. That's a hundred new registered users, for a total of 938. If only one out of four of those new trackers left a review… well, I'm sure you can do simple math. So I'll make a contest out of it. As of when I write this, I have 397 reviews. Starting at #400, every fiftieth reviewer will be allowed to suggest either a new character for Joetimatization into the fic or appearance as the focus of an upcoming chapter. So #400, #450, #500, #550, etc. And if you think you can just wait and watch and try to get lucky… the site's statistics engine doesn't update in real time. So while you're waiting for it to go from #448 to #449 so you can swoop in and get the lucky review… six people could have reviewed. In other words, you can't win if you don't play. After all, Laura's showing up because someone sat down and reviewed and asked…
As they walked away from the half-destroyed church, Michelle realized a small flaw in their plans for the DeSoto… one that she definitely wished she'd discovered earlier. "Uh, Cordelia? How are we going to get home?"
The white-haired girl opened and closed her mouth a few times before slumping. "Crap. Alright, we can call the house and get Maria to come pick us up… err, did either of you think to bring a cell phone? Because there wasn't room for one in this getup."
How there was room for Cordelia to breathe in the skintight black PVC catsuit was a question in and of itself, but Michelle opted not to go there. Both of her companions would probably construe it as her flirting with Cordelia, which would only serve to irritate Willow and that was something she really didn't need to deal with while they were dealing with their current problem. "Willow doesn't own one and the one I bum from you is wherever you left it when you realized you didn't have any pockets."
"Well, at least it's a nice night for a walk."
"Kinney! God dammit, I know you're in here somewhere! Kinney!"
Doctor Sarah Kinney groaned at the bellow from somewhere behind her, rubbing her temples as she pushed back from her computer. Although it was tempting to remain hidden, her employer had a hell of a temper and she didn't need him destroying something valuable in his tantrum. Leaving her inner sanctum, Sarah wandered out into the lab proper. "Colonel Stryker. You bellowed?"
Whirling, the man pointed a chubby finger at her. "What in the hell is your daughter doing?"
One brow rose at that. Sarah had a good idea what had caused a bug to crawl up the man's ass and die, but it was always a good idea to play stupid lest she end up confessing to something he had no clue about. "You have cameras in every nook and cranny of this base, Colonel." Literally; she'd heard two none-too-subtle soldiers discussing what she looked like naked one time. If she hadn't been part of a hideously illegal rogue military project, she so would have begun investigating her legal options after that one. "And I've been in my office working all day. So chances are, you probably have a better idea of her activities than I do."
"Oh, I know exactly where your daughter is and what she's doing. Alright, let's try a different question." Slapping a picture down on the lab table that separated them, Stryker went from threatening to poke her eye out to jabbing at the photo. "Why do I have a stripper pole in my base's gym? And why is my multi-billion dollar super-soldier using it?"
Sarah's lips quirked up in a smirk, mostly because the situation was the man's own damn fault. "You are the one who ordered her to undergo 'infiltration training' at local malls so she could learn to blend in with others her age, no?" Stryker nodded reluctantly and Sarah gestured to the picture of her 'daughter' with both legs wrapped around a shiny metal pole, hanging upside-down as she ran her hands up her sides. "She evidently picked a rather interesting group of girls to spend time with and came home with something called 'strip aerobics'. Two of your soldiers helped her install the pole and she's been at it ever since. I'm surprised it took you this long to come to me. It's been what, three weeks now?"
Snarling, Stryker dumped a few more pictures on the table, all captured by the gym's security camera and showing her daughter in a variety of sexual poses. "So sorry, Doctor, but some of us do have jobs that require us to do more than sit around staring at a computer." He gestured to the photos. "And you don't see a problem with this supposed exercise program of hers? She's supposed to be training to be a weapon of mass destruction, not a weapon of mass distraction. I've had six soldiers injured from dropped free weights and spotters who were spotting her instead of their partner."
"Well, I wasn't too keen on the idea at first, but it seems to be doing wonders for her muscle tone and flexibility. And anything that improves her physical condition is good for the program, right? I'm tempted to ask her if I can borrow the beginner's DVD now that she's moved on to intermediate, actually." Picking up the photos, Sarah held them out to the colonel. "You can discipline her if you want, but it keeps her fit and out of trouble, so I'm not saying a word to her. Now, is there anything else or may I get back to work? Sir?"
Snatching up the picture, Stryker turned away and stomped towards the door. "Lucky she's a genius… doesn't need to walk much… should shoot her in the knee… remind her who's in charge here…" Pausing in the doorway, he turned and called back over his shoulder. "Oh, and by the way, a sister program of ours in California is reporting a rise in mutant activity in the area. I want you two packed and ready for a two week deployment by 1600 tomorrow." Then he was gone and Sarah waited until the door slammed shut behind him before bursting into loud peals of laughter. Only Laura would find a way to go on a training mission and come back with a souvenir like that. Her daughter was a strange, strange girl. Brilliant, beautiful, deadly… and strange.
Her daughter. It had been a decade and a half since Laura had come into her life, the product of some of the few DNA samples of James Howlett that Stryker had managed to recover carefully fused with one of her own eggs and carried to term in her own womb. It definitely wasn't the way she'd planned to start a family, and the knowledge that her daughter was a government weapon of her own creation kept her up some nights, but she wouldn't trade Laura for anything in the world.
Well, maybe for a Laura whose mutation hadn't been prematurely activated by bombarding her with radiation and whose claws hadn't been coated with adamantium… but there was nothing wrong with wishing her daughter had lived a gentler life, was there?
Turning to head back to her office, Sarah debated what to do with her remaining hours that day. Stryker was still harping on her to figure out why Laura had developed two claws in each hand and one in each foot so it could be 'fixed' in future versions, but she was pretty damn sure that was some sort of sexual dimorphism that would only be solved by finding a way to create male specimens. Which she thought she might be able to manage with a little more research… although the mental image of a small herd of Lauras driving Stryker insane made her want to fudge a few reports to say that she'd conclusively determined that only female units could be produced.
The door to the lab hissed open and Sarah sighed, preparing for a second round of Stryker's complaining. Instead of an aging, widening military man, though, she found herself staring at a buxom black-haired girl in a purple sports bra and shorts, a gallon jug of water in one hand and one adamantium claw extended from her other hand to serve as a skewer, nearly hidden from view by alternating slices of apple and what appeared to be beef jerky. "Hey, Doctor Mom." Laura bit into one of the pieces of jerky, tearing it from her claw with a casual toss of her head, before extending her hand. "Hungry?"
So very strange.
By the time they finished the hike all the way back to Cordelia's house, dawn was fast approaching and Willow had gotten to try out her new claws on four vampires and two demons of different species. She seemed oddly energetic and Michelle noticed that while she felt tired overall, her legs weren't as sore as she was expecting. Then again, she'd managed to keep up with a master vampire in hand-to-hand combat tonight. Emma had told her that skills would come to her as she needed them… maybe she'd realized she needed to be stronger and faster - or on the way home, possess more stamina - and her mind had altered her body to fit her needs? It was definitely something to investigate at some point, she decided. After some sleep and a chance to brag to Giles that they'd taken out Spike, that was. Telling him about Angel… Michelle wasn't too sure about that. At least not until they were sure he could keep that secret from Buffy when the blonde inevitably began freaking out about his disappearance.
Cordelia let them into the house using a key she retrieved from inside a fake rock by the back door, bending at the waist as she picked it up to create a gulp-worthy image. The tips of two of Willow's claws pricking at her side kept her from enjoying the view too much, though, and Michelle scowled at her doppelganger - or technically original, since she was the one copying Willow - before following Cordelia into the house. They seriously needed to find Willow a boyfriend or a girlfriend or… maybe some sort of anatomically correct robot or something. Because the bifurious mutant's antics had officially crossed the line from possessive into obsessive territory and Michelle was tired of it.
Thankfully, nobody was up and awake to question them about their late arrival and Cordelia scribbled something on the dry erase board stuck to the fridge before leading them through the first floor of the house to the staircase, up to the second floor, and down two more halls to her bedroom. "Alright, here's how it's gonna be. Willow, you can stay in here because I'd rather know where you are rather than put you somewhere else and wake up to an extra body in my bed. Michelle, shift back because… yeah, one Willow is enough. You get to sleep in the middle because I'm not in the mood to get groped by Willow. Don't like it, either fix the sleepwalking or fix the sleepgroping, I don't care which."
"Joy." Looking down at the clothes she was wearing, Michelle frowned. "Um, small problem with the Michelle versus Willow body thing. These are the only clothes I have. Same with undies. If I want to go back to my normal body, I'm going to have to sleep naked because they won't…" She trailed off as Cordelia blushed faintly, edging over to her dresser and pulling out the bottom drawer with a wave of her hand. "What?"
Cordelia reached down to scoop a plastic shopping bag out of the drawer before tossing it at Michelle, reaching down again to grab a smaller black bag with red letters on it and sending it flying Willow's way. "I may or may not have snitched some of your clothes the night I slept over. Just in case. And bought her a nightshirt, since I didn't really want to go raiding her room."
Peering into the bag, Michelle's eyebrows shot up. She'd been wondering where the 'Pink' pajama pants that Cordelia had bought her at Victoria's Secret had wandered off to. And the t-shirt Cordelia had swiped was her second favorite out of her entire wardrobe and not one she normally wore to sleep. To think that she'd wasted three hours turning her room upside-down looking for it when Cordelia had… well, her heart had been in the right place. "Thanks, Cordy. Although next time, can you ask before you steal my clothes? This is a real tee for me, not a sleep tee. I've been looking all over for it."
Cordelia winced and nodded, and Michelle looked over to see what Cordelia had given the third member of their group. It took all of her self-control not to burst out laughing at the expression on Willow's face. The black-haired girl looked like she was sucking on a lemon as she held a black t-shirt at arm's length, staring at the chest. Or, more precisely, at the uppercase, rainbow letters that proclaimed 'RECRUITER'. "Gee. Thanks, Cordy."
Smirking, Cordelia made a tugging motion and a silver necklace floated up out of the bag Willow had dropped. After carefully unhooking the fastener, looping the chain around Willow's neck, and refastening it, Cordelia let it drop to rest against the black leather of Willow's top and Michelle finally got a good look at the pendant: a pair of interlocked Venus symbols. Cute. "Well, I figured that since you don't seem to want to go to the girls, I'd bring the girls to you. I'm just trying to help, you know."
"Uh huh." Scowling, Willow stomped towards the door, likely intent on visiting the bathroom so she could change without an audience. She didn't seem to remember that it wasn't anything Michelle hadn't seen - or Cordelia for that matter, thanks to the showers at school - but the redhead decided that pointing that out wasn't a good idea. Willow was clearly in a foul mood and a few minutes alone to collect herself might… oh, who was she kidding? "You just want me to find a not-Michelle girlfriend so you can get rid of the competition."
Cordelia opened her mouth to reply, only to freeze when Michelle lunged forward and clapped a hand over the white-haired girl's mouth. "Don't." Willow made her way out of the room, shooting a smirk back at the glaring Cordelia, and Michelle waited a few more seconds before releasing her friend. "Just… she has until Christmas. Emma mentioned wanting us to visit then, remember?" Cordelia nodded slowly, still quite clearly unhappy with the situation. "Just give her until Christmas to grow up on her own and if she doesn't, we'll have Emma give her a push."
After pondering that one for a few seconds, a wicked smirk crossed Cordelia's face. "You know, Sophie got off on watching Willow beat up on the X-Dweebs after Mister Summers knocked you out. Maybe we should ask her to do it. Doubt she'd complain about making sure the girl she has the hots for likes her back."
That… wasn't an entirely bad idea. Her original idea had just been to push Willow towards non-her people in general to avoid treading on her free will any more than absolutely necessary, but having a specific target might make the transition easier. The fact that there was someone out there willing to draw Willow towards herself was even better; it gave the benefits of the latter plan without the guilt factor of siccing her on some poor innocent girl. "Fine, but if this works, you have to be nicer to Sophie than you were at the Bronze. The last thing we need is to trade fighting for fighting."
"Fine. Now, can I please get out of this catsuit? I barely got it on tonight; I think I've grown a bit since Halloween. Hell, if I didn't know any better, I'd swear that I've grown since I put it on. I'm seriously surprised I haven't popped a seam just from breathing." Cordelia began tugging at the zipper of her catsuit and Michelle turned away, deciding against enjoying the free show that Cordelia was evidently offering. Maybe someday, she decided, but not now. She still had issues to figure out and didn't want to encourage Cordelia until she had herself sorted out. "Next time it's daylight and we're conscious, I'm calling Dominique. I need a new costume before we pull something like that again."
Michelle debated waiting for Willow to return so she could go change in the bathroom before shrugging and tugging the zipper on her pants down. Just as Cordelia had seen Willow in the locker room, they'd seen each other. It was nothing new to Cordelia, assuming she decided to peek. Besides, considering she'd taken on Cordelia's nude form way back on that first morning of her change… if Cordelia wanted a peek at hers, it was only fair. "Speaking of costumes and superheroics and stuff, we should probably find a good place to stash my new toys in case your mom decides to stick her head in again. I don't need her thinking Mystique replaced me and getting out her floating gun again."
Gesturing to the bed, Michelle paused. Was Cordelia even still looking her way? Well, she wasn't going to check, just for safety's sake. And so as she wiggled out of her pants and panties, she went with a verbal response instead. "The guns I took from the lady in the church. Which I know a scary amount about considering I'm not a gun person. I guess Emma was right about things coming back when I need them." Seriously, she wasn't supposed to know that she now owned a pair of SIG Sauer P226s chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum rounds. Or how to disassemble, clean, reassemble, load, and unload said guns. Tugging the panties from the bag Cordelia had tossed her up her legs, Michelle carefully shifted her lower half back to normal, feeling her hips and butt expand until the panties fit properly. "Makes me wonder what else is floating around inside my head."
Finished changing, Cordelia wandered over to sit on the bed in front of Michelle, fiddling with the redhead's purloined pistols as Michelle pulled on a pair of pajama pants and then went to work on the vest she'd borrowed from Willow. "Maybe you'll turn out to be a cunning linguist?"
Ten hours later found the girls refreshed, showered, fed, and - in the case of Michelle and Willow - dressed back in their outfits from the night before, carefully cleaned by the Chase family's servants. An hour and a half after school let out, the Cordettes descended on the house in search of news about what had come of the information Harmony had found for Giles. After a lengthy retelling of the battle the night before - and Willow showing off her new coat - the group separated and spread out through Cordelia's palatial house: Harmony and Willow arguing over what alterations Willow should make to her 'liberated' duster to make it better suit her shorter and slimmer figure, Cordelia, Aura, Aphrodesia, and Janet sitting down with a sketchpad at the kitchen table to hash out ideas for a new costume for Cordelia, and Michelle taking Gwen out for a walk around the grounds to discuss an email she'd found on Cordelia's computer.
"…so that Julian kid stole some of our hair for DNA testing on Emma's orders and my test reports came back that I'm not a mutant yet but I probably will end up one?" Michelle nodded, watching Gwen's reaction carefully for any sign of explosion. There was no one cause of X-gene manifestation according to Emma but a status-conscious girl having a total meltdown about her impending fall from grace had the potential to be a traumatic enough event, at least in Michelle's mind. "I… huh. Well, I guess I'd be more freaked if you and Cordelia and Willow weren't mutants too. At least I won't be the only one. Can they tell form that test what my power is going to be?"
Michelle shook her head before rethinking her response and raising her hand, wobbling it back and forth. "Kinda. You're definitely a 'transmorph' according to Emma, which means you'll turn into something. Like she can turn into diamond, or there's a student at her school who can cover himself with steel armor according to the email. Or maybe you'll be able to turn into flames or water or electricity or something." Looking down at her own arm, Michelle shifted it from her normal pale skin back to her scaly blue form, then to a darker shade similar to Aura's. "Who knows, maybe you'll be able to turn into whatever you want. Wouldn't that be cool?"
Shrugging, Gwen stared down at her own hands. "I guess. Not sure what I'd do with it except turn into something hard to avoid being hurt, but I guess it could be cool. Maybe." Shaking her head, she flicked at Michelle's arm several times until the shapeshifter took the hint and returned herself to normal, and then looped her arm through the redhead's. "So, what's going on between you and Cordelia? I'm starting to think that Harmony wasn't as far off as you two claim."
"Err… umm…" Michelle debated lying for a moment, before realizing that she did need someone to act as her best friend now that Willow was abandoning the position. Cordelia was obviously out; if they did start dating, how could she talk to Cordelia about her girlfriend problems when Cordelia would be the problem? And Gwen was not only the Cordette she was closest to, but the only one who knew her secret. If Gwen could keep that secret, why not the rest of hers? "Cordelia has a crush on me, yes, but we're just sort of circling each other right now because… well… I don't know. I've let Cordelia and Willow shape things for me and create this little role I play for everyone, but if I start actually working to build a life myself and get a girlfriend and stuff, it means that Michelle is really real and Xander is probably gone and…"
"And you don't know how to deal with that. Or if you want to deal with that." Michelle looked over at Gwen in surprise; that was exactly what she'd been wrestling with! Huh. Maybe she should have confided in Gwen sooner. The two walked in silence for almost a minute before the blonde spoke up again. "Question for you, though. Not that I'm saying that doing this would count as giving up on being Xander ever again or anything… but would it be so bad if he was gone? You were the one who told me that you weren't sure you'd go back to being Xander even if you could. You have a life now as Willow's cousin and a room there and clothes and stuff… you have friends. Well, friends and whatever Harmony counts as. And some of what you wear isn't quite Cordelia's style, so I know you've been making some little decisions for yourself since the beginning. Would it really be so bad to finally take total control for yourself?" She let out a snort of laughter. "Or as much control as any Cordette can have?"
She had a point. Both about being partially in control already and there being an overall limit to how much control she'd be allowed in a best case scenario. Michelle nibbled on her lower lip uncertainly before looking over at Gwen. "Would you be weirded out if Cordelia and I did date then?"
Shaking her head, Gwen came to a halt, their linked arms forcing Michelle to stop too. "Not really. I mean, if you two break up then things might be pretty damn awkward because she's my captain but I think you're the closest thing I have to a best friend type figure at the moment. But the actual dating? Not really." She cocked her head to one side for a moment before snickering. "Actually, if you think about it, it makes showering with the two of you easier." Michelle made an inquisitive noise, prompting Gwen to gesture first to her own body and then the redhead's as she explained. "Well, Cordelia obviously won't be interested in me if she's interested in you. And, well, if she's your type? Yet again, I'm so obviously not. And even if I was, if you did try to look at me or one of the other girls, Cordelia would probably make you regret it."
"Point. Again." Looking around, Michelle decided to reverse course and began walking back towards the house at a slow pace. While it was only five-ish, they probably should get back to Willow's house one of these days, before the new and improved Sheila did something responsible like report them missing. Glancing back down at her hand as she walked, she let it revert to her natural blue coloration before looking over at Gwen and grinning. "Can you believe Cordelia thinks I'm pretty this way, too?"
Gwen blinked. "Huh. No, I can honestly say I didn't see that one coming." Then her lips turned up in a wicked smirk. "Ever think about shifting your hair to match hers when you're like that? You'd be a wet dream for any Smurf fetishist. They'd wanna smurf your smurf really smurfing hard."
Flicking her wrist, Michelle returned her skin to normal, and then let her hair bleed back to its real, unnatural red color just for kicks. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. Because if I did hear what I thought I just heard, then you are one strange and disturbed girl. And I already have strange and disturbed in Willow. I don't need to ditch a second best friend-y type in under a month. I'm just finally getting you broken in."
"Ugh. Compare me to her again and you'll need to find a new 'best friend-y type'." Gwen shuddered in disgust. "I'm starting to think that Harmony keeps her around because Willow makes her look normal by comparison. Although that brings me to another question. All of us knew you liked Cordelia as Xander. How much of your stalling in the last month has been because you have to rely on Willow for somewhere to stay and don't want to piss off your creepy stalker girl because you enjoy not sleeping in a box?"
Pulling a strand of hair forward, Michelle watched it turn from bright red to the same blue as her natural skin as she pondered Gwen's question. "Strangely enough? Not as much as you'd think. I mean, Cordelia wanted me around enough to put all that work into dressing me and teaching me to be someone you guys would like. I'm sure that if I'd needed it… you could move the entire squad in here. Putting me up wouldn't have been a problem. Actually, I was thinking more of Janae. You know, that lesbian everyone picks on? I mean, me with girls is a given. But I kept asking myself… do I really want to put up with all the bullshit I'm going to get from all the immature people at school if I come out?"
Gwen shrugged. "On the other hand, is anyone going to say anything to the person dating Cordelia Chase? Especially if the rest of the Cordettes back her on it? Besides, you've seen what cheerleader politics are like. You have to stay single for a little while after each breakup, but if you go too far beyond that? It's like cutting your leg and dipping it in a shark pool. Gossiping starts. What's wrong with her? Why can't she get a date? Especially since it's Cordelia and she has to defend her position at the top of the heap? You're lucky she's waited this long for you. There's no way she'll wait until after graduation day."
As they reached the back doors of the house, Michelle paused as she considered Gwen's words. "So, to sum everything up, I'm being an idiot, you don't mind if Cordelia and I date, and waiting won't work so I should let her know I'm interested before she finds someone new to ask out, boy or girl?" Gwen nodded. "Right. Do I have to pay you a normal therapist's rates or can we do this on the barter system? Maybe the boxes of comics I bought from the Harris's lawn sale last week?" And thank God Cordelia had been willing to give her a little money so she could buy choice possessions back from them. Idly, she wondered if they'd spent time with Jack or the Captain using the sixty dollars she'd given them for the several thousand dollars worth of comics packed neatly into three large boxes.
"Pshaw, you couldn't afford to pay me minimum wage and we both know it. No, I'll come over some time this week and take a peek through your comics to see if there's anything I like. I just finished Season of Mists
and have A Game of You
to see what happens next. Which reminds me." Reaching up, Gwen tugged on one of Michelle's blue bangs. "What's up with the whole Delirium look?"
Smirking, Michelle reached up to bat Gwen's hand away from her face. "Like you said… is anyone going to say anything to the person dating Cordelia Chase? I mean, I'm not going to be a total freak show, but what's wrong with having a little fun? Change it up every few days."
Gwen just shook her head before opening the door and gesturing for Michelle to precede her. "I think I've created a monster. But seriously, you've made her wait too long as it is. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero."
"Err, I know 'seize the day' but the rest of that… it's all Greek to me."
Rolling her eyes, Gwen slapped Michelle upside the head. "Latin, Michelle. It's Latin. 'Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.' In other words, you might die in your sleep tonight… so remember that before you say 'eh, I'll do it tomorrow'. And before you ask, Catholic middle school. They started us on foreign languages in eighth grade and I took Latin because… well, the teacher actually seemed to give a crap. If I'm going to go to class and do homework and stuff, I want to actually be taught something."
Michelle nodded; it made sense to her. She'd done the same with her new course schedule, cherry-picking her courses when Willow created her file at Sunnydale High so her teachers were among those who still actually gave a rat's ass about the impressionable young minds they were being asked to mold. As they entered the kitchen, Michelle paused and leaned against the doorframe, watching as Cordelia and the others continued to design her next costume. "Carpe Cordelia, huh?"
That earned her a giggle from Gwen. "Something like that."
"Alright. Hey, Cordy?" The white-haired girl looked up from her project, frown disappearing as she caught sight of who was bothering her. Michelle jerked a thumb back over her shoulder. "Can we go upstairs and talk?"
"What, this little thing? If you think this is bad, you should see the reasons that Cordelia went upstairs in a tank top and came down in a t-shirt." Willow let out a huff before looking away and Michelle watched the dark-haired girl for a moment before shrugging. Whatever. She was in too good a mood to let Willow's bitchiness bring her down. She had a new girlfriend, a new best-ish friend, said friend was fairly certain that their other friends wouldn't have a problem with her and Cordelia dating… life was good. Well, except for the recurring issues with Willow, but she'd pretty much given up there. Willow wanted her but she didn't want Willow back and there wasn't any way she could fix that. Still, she had to live with the girl - at least until she and Cordy reached a comfort point as girlfriends where she could move in, or something catastrophic happened that compromised her ability to stay with the Rosenbergs - and so she decided to change the subject to something they could discuss without things ending in an argument. "So who won, you or Harmony?"
Willow pouted. "Harmony. She had a good point, which sounds really weird to say. But if I want to wear it around as a status symbol when I hunt - you know, a great big flashing 'I killed Spike!' sign - then it's probably best if I don't look like a little Willow playing dress up in a big Spike's clothing. It's not very intimidating."
Nodding, Michelle pulled out the compact Cordelia had loaned her and checked her hair. Hmm. Sheila was aware of her shapeshifting powers, so in theory her blue hair wouldn't be a problem. Then again, with her luck, she'd come home to find Sheila entertaining guests and… yeah. Better not risk it. Returning her hair to the copper mane with blonde highlights that was standard for her Michelle form, she tucked the compact back into her pocket and nodded towards the house that she and Willow shared. "After you."
"Easy: she's your mom. If she's upset, she can yell at you and I'll take advantage of the distraction to slip past and go hide in my room." Willow stuck her tongue out at that and Michelle laughed, mimicking the action as she shifted into a perfect replica of Willow, black spiky hair and all. "Okay, fine, I'll get yelled at too. Still, you go first. You're the one with the nose that can smell pizza through a box and a fridge door. I was hoping you could tell me if there was anyone there with your mom."
Willow reached up, tapping the shell of one ear. "My nose isn't the only sense that’s gone through the roof. Just so you know, next time you want to talk about me when I'm only one room away." Michelle paled; did that mean that Willow had heard Cordelia and her discussing… oh crap. Willow didn't elaborate, though, stalking forwards toward the house and Michelle decided not to ask, lest she accidentally confess to a conversation that Willow wasn't aware of. "And good thinking. I smell, err, Uncle Victor… death… and for some reason, it's like you're coming from two places at once. Or not quite. There are two different smells, but not by much."
Hmm. Victor was obviously Victor; there wasn't much room for interpretation there. Death, either Drusilla's odor was still clinging to him enough that Willow was picking it up as a complete second person or… Michelle sighed. Willow's uncle evidently was a bit of a manwhore. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise her to find out that his idea of dealing with Drusilla involved keeping her as a pet. As for the third scent… well, Victor had admitted to knowing her mother. Biblically, even. If Victor was in Sunnydale, why not Mystique too? Err, Raven. The woman did have a real name and she should probably use it, at least when addressing her face to face, Michelle realized.
Opening the door for Willow, she gestured for the other girl to enter ahead of her and Willow did, rolling her eyes at Michelle's actions. "Mom! I'm home!"
"We're in the dining room, dear."
Michelle and Willow exchanged looks. Well, Sheila didn't sound strained or panicked or anything, so chances were that everyone was behaving… or at least as best Drusilla could behave. Still, Michelle's hand slid back to one of the P226s tucked into the back of her pants as they walked down the hall. When they reached the dining room, she held up her free hand to bring Willow to a stop, peeking around the corner. And then she blinked. And blinked again, just to make sure she was seeing what she thought she was seeing.
The closest seat was occupied by a blue-skinned, red-haired woman who was easily identifiable even with her back to Michelle. Sheila sat at her right, seemingly unphased by being in the presence of a visible mutant; Michelle idly wondered if that was something Sophie had added so her 'aunt' would be okay with seeing her in her natural form or if she was that open-minded naturally. There was an empty seat between her and the end of the table, where Victor sat. For some bizarre reason, he was using a pair of chopsticks to feed bits of his dinner to Drusilla, who looked fairly lucid and was dressed in a sweater and jeans. Another empty seat sat between her and Raven, leaving room for both her and Willow at the table.
"Well, this looks… cozy."