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This story is No. 1 in the series "Blue Belle Universe". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: He dressed up as his state's senior senator. Now he's a blue woman. How the hell does Xander keep landing himself in these situations?

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > X-Men > Xander-Centered
Marvel Universe > Avengers
(Moderator)JoeHundredaireFR1841161,48041588207,55920 May 097 Apr 13No

Chapter 42

Joe's Note: Joining Nomma at #400 with Moira MacTaggert and KiraTsume at #450 with the Black Widow is… Meneldur at #500, who selected Sooraya Qadir. She should make a fun addition to the cast. Also, as I said when I started the contest, you don't need to put your wishes into the reviews you leave. Mostly because you probably aren't going to be that one in forty-nine and it gunks up the review page. And if you review multiple times per chapter to try and be the person chosen - you know who you are - I will skip over any extra reviews when counting up to the next milestone. But now that all of that is out of the way… let's get on with the show.

     "So they really… made Aura the only black girl in Sunnydale again?"

     "Well, Drusilla did, but yeah." Looking both ways, Michelle leaned in closer to Cordelia and lowered her voice as they walked down the hall towards the school's twin gyms. "Basically, Kendra was out on her own, probably patrolling after Buffy got bored and turned in for the night. She came after the two of them because she recognized Dru and Victor let her get a few hits in while trying to talk her down. When they realized Kendra wasn't going to walk away, Dru… well, as Victor put it, Dru had some dark meat for dinner."

     Cordelia grimaced at that. Great, a cannibalism visual. Perfect way to start her day. Not. She felt something brush against her fingers and looked down to watch Michelle briefly intertwine their fingers, hers bleeding blue for a second, before pulling away. The move brought a smile to Cordelia's face; while they had yet to discuss exactly how they were going to handle the public aspects of their relationship, the fact that there was finally a relationship to discuss was good enough for her for now. Pushing that aside, she decided to stick with the current conversation, albeit on a slightly less icky level. "So, how are you handling that? I mean, you're generally pretty 'grr vampires' and 'yay humans' and now your… whatever Victor is in your messed up family tree. Let's go with uncle. Your uncle's girlfriend is a vampire and killing humans and all."

     Silence reigned for a few seconds as they walked, broken only by the soft clicks of Cordelia's heels against the linoleum. Then Michelle answered. "I… well, I'm not happy that a human died. But in their defense, she attacked Dru and Victor. And yes, I believe them about that. Because think about it: why would Victor go out looking for a fight while he's trying to get a woman home so he can bang her? So clearly she brought it on herself. And Kendra was one of those Council drones that Giles told us about: the Potentials who are taken from their parents, trained for their entire childhood, and last only a few months in the field. It was kinda inevitable that she'd throw herself at something too big to handle because she didn't know any better. And at least with Dru, the whole thing was quick and clean. She hypnotized Kendra, bit her, and fed. Dru didn't rape her or torture her or anything. So as far as death by vampire goes, it was a peaceful death."

     All very good points, Cordelia had to admit. And if someone had come after her with lethal intent, she was pretty sure that she wouldn't have shown the restraint that Dru and Victor had. She did, after all, carry jagged metal spikes in her purse and she wasn't afraid to use them. As they entered the small gymnasium that was essentially claimed in perpetuity by the cheerleading squad and gymnastics team for a practice space, something else occurred to Cordelia. "So, how was dinner? I mean, Mystique was always a bitch to me when she visited and the one time I met Victor, he was… well, not like the other night. All long-haired and snarly and seriously in need of a makeover. And wearing enough fur to make PETA sob."

     As Michelle snickered over that one, Cordelia slipped her heels off and began stretching. Not that she was going to do any serious working out without changing into more appropriate clothes first but if a muscle or three started screaming now during simple stretching, she could save herself two trips to the locker room before her visit to the nurse's office. Letting her feet slide about a yard apart on the padded floor, Cordelia bent down and touched the floor before stretching to touch her left foot, then her right. Michelle let out a wolf whistle, making the cheerleader blush faintly, before answering Cordelia's question. "A healthy mix of informative and traumatic. Well, as healthy as anything traumatic can be. I found out Raven has two other children, and that Victor has had sex with pretty much every woman in existence. Including Willow's mom - while she was sleeping with his half-brother, even - and yours." For some reason, Cordelia couldn't even bring herself to be surprised. Victor was apparently a manwhore and her mother… Cordelia had stopped trying to have male friend-friends the eighth time she caught her mother trying to go all Missus Robinson on one. They were both mutants and had a connection via her grandfather. Of course they'd have met each other at some point. And inevitably had sex, because that was just the kind of people they were. "Oh, and he'd take me for a tumble if I'd let him. You're invited, of course. So is Sophie, for that matter."

     "Ah ha ha, no. To the you with him, us with him, and us plus Sophie with him versions of that idea."

     "What about just us plus Sophie?"

     "Also no." Straightening up, Cordelia slowly sauntered over to where Michelle was watching her with an openly lustful look. It was something Cordelia hadn't really taken into account when she'd begun thinking about Michelle in 'more than friend' terms, but she really was glad that the boy-turned-girl was her first girlfriend. Despite a month and change with the Cordettes, Michelle still had enough Xander left inside her to be a bit less adept at disguising her emotions and thoughts than her friends were. She didn't guard herself the way the others do and so when she thought Cordelia looked hot, Cordelia knew it. And, well, while being drooled on got old fast, a girl liked knowing her efforts to keep a certain someone's attentions were appreciated. As she drew close to Michelle, a decidedly foreign memory flicked through her head and she reached out, pulling the redhead across her body and flinging her to the ground in a textbook Hane Goshi. A Spring Hip Throw. Which was judo. Which she didn't know and had never taken classes for. Kneeling on the mat beside Michelle, Cordelia blinked a few times. Huh. So that was what it was like for the shapeshifter when Mystique's memories popped up. Freaky. Shaking off her disorientation, Cordelia forced a smile to hide her unease as she cupped her girlfriend's cheek. "As if you could manage to handle two girls at once. You've got your hands full just with me."

     Turning her head to look at the mat she was now lying on, Michelle let out something halfway between a wheeze and a laugh as she looked back up at Cordelia. "You're not going to be this rough on me all the time, are you? I may look like her, but I don't have Willow's healing. That hurt."

     Cordelia smiled as she leaned closer, white hair sliding to fall like a curtain around their faces. "Aww. Poor baby. Do you want Cordy to kiss it and make it better?"

     "Mmm, yes please." Suddenly, the world spun and Cordelia found herself on her back staring up at Michelle and the ceiling… at least for a few seconds, before the redhead leaned down and kissed her hard. As Michelle's tongue traced over her lips, Cordelia let out a soft moan as her eyes fluttered shut. When had her girlfriend learned to kiss like this? Or had she been holding out? She almost would have suspected Michelle of getting practice in elsewhere, but with how long it had taken the shapeshifter to open up to her, she sincerely doubted that was the case. Oh well. She wasn't going to complain. Their kiss seemed to go on forever and very well might have - especially with the way Michelle's fingers were teasing the sensitive spot right behind one of her ears - if not for the bell ringing, signaling that while classes weren't yet in session, students were now free to start wandering out of preapproved areas like the cafeteria towards the rooms where their first classes would be. A rule that she'd disregarded but hey, she was Cordelia Chase. The white-haired girl slowly opened her eyes… to find Willow Rosenberg staring down at her in all her dyke spiky, black-haired, blue-eyed glory. "Boo."

     Letting out a little scream, Cordelia squirmed out from beneath the Willow-shaped shapeshifter, crab-walking backwards across the mat until she'd put a bit of room between them and then collapsing onto her back and gasping for breath. A few feet away, she could hear 'Willow' laughing at her trauma and she scowled. "Not. Funny." 'Willow' just laughed louder and Cordelia sat up, bending her legs to sit Indian style as she crossed her arms over her chest and scowled. "Seriously, it's not. At all. That's like, call the therapist kind of traumatic shit. Just for that, you're not going to be getting anything from me for like, two weeks. Maybe three."

     'Willow' opened her mouth to protest, but was interrupted by someone new joining their conversation. "Err, this might be a stupid question but… why would Willow be getting anything from you ever, Cordy? Because if you're into threesomes - which I'm pretty sure you're not - you should probably wait until we've been dating for more than twelve hours before suggesting one. And, you know, ask me before you talk to the other person. Plus it's Willow. You know, my 'cousin'? Oh, and obviously I'm new to this dating thing, but I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to bitch about you giving Willow a ride to school this morning but not me, right? Hell, I think I'm allowed to bitch about that on a 'just friends' level; now that we're dating, I can put you in the doghouse for it."

     "What the..?" Looking over at the doorway, Cordelia's eyes widened at the sight of a half-amused, half-curious Michelle with hair the same shade of violet as her eyes. And a quarter inch of black root and black eyebrows, she noted absently, so people would write it off as a dye job and not as a visible mutation. Smart girl. "Michelle?" Her girlfriend nodded and Cordelia hopped to her feet, slowly moving towards the girl who should have been the girl on the floor because at least then all of this made sense. "But I did pick you up. You and Willow. And we went to the Espresso Pump and you… actually ordered something different for a change." She paused, looking over at the black-haired girl sitting on the mat and smirking at them. "Huh. That probably should have been a hint. But then if you're you… then who is..?"

     Slowly rising to her feet, 'Willow' rolled her shoulders a few times before interlacing her fingers and stretching her arms upward. Then Cordelia realized she wasn't just stretching upward, she was actually growing taller. And her pale skin was becoming a very familiar shade of blue even as her hair fell flat against her head and turned bright red. As her leather pants and black t-shirt melted into a white dress, Raven smirked at Cordelia. "Welcome to the family, Miss Lehnsherr. In the future, though, perhaps you can stick to kissing the correct blue woman?"

     Cordelia made a face at that. Even if it had been accidental on her part, she'd kissed her girlfriend's mother. That was just… eww. And she'd kissed Willow too. Kinda. Sorta. Close enough for the double eww in her opinion. She shuddered before crossing her arms under her breasts and glaring at the yellow-eyed woman. "Funny, Mystique. Real funny. But did you have to turn into Willow? I mean, I can get wanting to prank me and all, but that's just cruel and unusual."

     "Well then maybe next time we talk, you won't call me a bitch."

     Oh. Oops.

     Two weeks passed. Michelle 'forgave' Cordelia for kissing another girl - not that she'd actually been mad, but saying the words had seemed important to Cordelia and so she had - and Cordelia had waived the two week no naughtiness ban for the prank that hadn't actually been hers. The Cordettes had accepted her relationship with Cordelia, which had helped bring the non-Cordette cheerleaders around and from there the rest of the school.

     Well, the Cordettes had accepted her for the most part…

     "Hey, Michelle, can I talk to you for a moment?"

     Michelle looked from Gwen to the new arrival, the faintest hint of a frown tugging at her lips. While she and Aura were civil enough - just like her and pretty much everyone at school who wasn't Cordy, Willow, or Gwen these days - Aura never really sought her out to engage her in conversation. Which made this weird. And potentially important. Looking back to Gwen, she arched an eyebrow and the blonde nodded; their discussion about Michelle's 'uncle' John moving from the Rays to the Yankees via free agency and whether she needed to buy new shirts could be continued another time. And so when she returned her attention to Aura, she nodded and gestured for the cheerleader to follow her. She debated where to go before deciding to use the Crypt. After all, if it was important enough for Aura to seek her out and do it while she was busy talking to someone else, she probably didn't want their discussion to be overheard. Reaching the abandoned classroom, she gestured for Aura to precede her before following and closing the door behind them. "So… what's up?"

     "You may not have first period but I do, so I should probably make this quick. I know you think we're all sheep and just following her to be popular and all, but Cordelia and I are actually friends. We have been since before there were Cordettes and we will be after everyone graduates and goes off to wherever. So while they don't really care one way or the other… I don't want to see my friend get hurt. And if you do? Hurt her, I mean? I'll hold you down, cram one of my pom-poms down your throat, and sit there painting my nails while I watch you choke to death." Michelle found herself staring at Aura with wide eyes as the dark-skinned girl gave her a wide, Colgate white smile. "A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend."

     Michelle shuddered as she thought back to her little encounter with Aura. And here she'd thought vampires, demons, and mutant Willow PMSing were the scariest things she'd ever face. Who would've thought that a pom-pom princess with an IQ on par with her bust line - in imperial, even, not metric - could be so scary?

     Shaking her head, Michelle went back to watching the cheerleaders practice. Now that she was a girl, she didn't get quite as much flak for it… even if everyone did know exactly why she was there, thanks to her relationship with Cordelia. But hey. If they had a problem with her enjoying the scenery, they didn't say anything. And that was good enough for her. Although there was one piece of scenery that she had to be very careful not to enjoy the sight of too much…

     Down near the front, wearing a maroon sports bra and matching shorts, was a woman in her early twenties with dark blue hair and yellow eyes. While the cheerleaders hadn't known quite what to make of Michelle's friend being a shapeshifter - or at least the ones who weren't Cordettes in the know about Michelle herself hadn't - they'd warmed up to her quite a bit after Raven revealed that while she'd never been one of them, she had done a bit of stripping… and was a classically-trained ballerina… and knew ballroom dancing… and had been one of the original cage dancers at Whisky a Go Go back in the summer of 1965, 'just to pass the time'. Which had, of course, elicited thoughts of Bring It On and the technique the Toros had used to create their new routine - fusing traditional cheerleading with outside material. With Cordelia and Michelle's permission, the girls had begged Raven to approach the school about filling the vacant coach position that had been neglected since the last woman had been killed during Michelle and Cordelia's freshman year. Cordelia had offered to waive her 'I'm pissed because you tricked me into kissing you and then turned into Willow' iciness period if Raven was willing to perform 'community service' and a day later, the girls had a coach.

     Between her responsibilities as Senator Kelly and the Sunnydale High's new cheerleading coach, Michelle wasn't sure when Raven was planning to find time for her… not that she minded. While some of their time was spent talking or in other normal activities, most of it seemed to involve guns or fighting or fighting while shooting at targets placed around the sparring circle, and she always ended up limping away from those to go take a two hour soak in the tub before whining at Cordelia until her girlfriend came over to give her a massage.

     "So, who's the Chest of the Day?" Michelle looked to her left and raised a questioning brow at Cordelia as her girlfriend settled in beside her, gesturing to the practicing squad. Ever since her magical enlargement, her ability to participate had been limited and so Cordelia had slipped into what was essentially an assistant coach's role beside Raven, although she did join the girls out on the floor for each game's big half time dance 'n cheer number. With the girls working on lifts, throws, and tumbling that afternoon, though, Cordelia had plenty of free time on her hands. "What? You were totally zoned out. And you can't lie and say me because I'm not even dressed today, much less down there with them. So… who is it?"

     Chuckling, Michelle shook her head. "Nobody." Cordelia looked less than convinced and she held up her hands. "I'm serious. Well, first of all, even if I was? I wouldn't admit it. Cranky just-friend Cordy was bad enough; cranky girlfriend Cordy is even worse. But no, I was just thinking about the weirdness that is Coach Raven. My mom, the immortal terrorist shapeshifter… is now coaching high school cheerleaders."

     Cordelia nodded before leaning over and resting her head on Michelle's shoulder. "Mmm. Although if she starts going to the Bronze with them, I reserve the right to be super creeped out. I mean, I know she's not Victor or Dru old, but she's… what, five times their age? Six?"

     "Something like that."

     "Yeah. I mean, her hanging out with a bunch of teenager girls would be like the college guys who date high school girls. I mean, inviting us to parties is one thing… great way to break up a sausage fest. But actual dating? It says something about a guy, and not something good either."

     "What about Victor? He's like… ten times our age. And wants to have sex with us. That's worse on two separate levels."

     "Nah, that's different, Victor wants to screw any woman with a pulse. And some without them. I'd actually feel a bit insulted if he didn't want to have sex with us."

     "…you know, weird as it sounds, I kinda agree."

     "My plan is so incredibly simple, it can't fail. All I have to do is… tell Willow the truth."

     Maggie Walsh stared at the teenage girl in front of her incredulously. "Tell her… the truth. Two weeks of surveillance, studying dossiers, and planning… and that's the best you can come up with? Clearly Colonel Stryker's faith in you is grossly misplaced."

     Scowling, X-23 - it was just a weapon in Walsh's opinion; it didn't deserve a real name - raised her free hand and extended her middle finger. "You know, I've been nothing but helpful the entire time I've been here… saving your squads from shit they can't handle, letting them spar with me so they can get used to superhuman opponents, passing on tips for dealing with any mutants that pop up after I leave… and you've been nothing but nasty to me. I mean, if you're going to ride my ass, at least pull my hair while you're at it."

     "Inappropriate, Laura." Peering over the top of her laptop, Kinney waggled a finger at her… Kinney called it her daughter, which indicated a dangerous level of attachment to one's work in Walsh's book. "Not that I disagree, but you compromise your credibility when you phrase it like that."

     Rolling her eyes, X-23 waved her creator off before returning her attention to Walsh. "Would you like to actually hear the plan before you reject it or make ignorant snap judgments?"

     Walsh checked her watch. She had blocked off the entire half an hour to meet with Kinney and X-23. Why not? "Alright. Explain this 'tell the truth' plan of yours that you think is so brilliant to me."

     "Well, like I said, it's simple. I tell her the truth, or at least most of it. Because I'm okay with the fact that I was created to be a weapon, you're okay with it, Doctor Mom's okay with it… but that would probably freak a normal person out. Make them think I need to be 'saved' and shown a normal life and blah blah blah. I was actually thinking that I should even bring her by here to visit and show her 'my room'; she doesn't need to know that it's empty because it's a VIP room you're loaning me. It'll just reinforce what a sad and messed up existence I have to her." X-23 flipped to the next page of the notepad she was holding before pointing upward. "Then we send her home. And she tells the others, they begin planning a rescue operation - probably bringing Mystique and Sabretooth for their knowledge and the extra firepower, so to speak - and when they come down here to 'save' me… they're on your turf. Seal off wherever they sneak in, gas them, and overnight them to Alkali Lake. Five mutants for the price of one." Checking her notes again, X-23 frowned. "I still need to figure out how to deal with Miriam Chase, since she can stop bullets and even mess with my claws, but considering she's a housewife who enjoys wasting her husband's money and trying to seduce underage men… does it really matter whether or not she's in town? She's clearly not a threat."

     Hmm. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't as bad a plan as Walsh had assumed it'd be. Still, it hinged on X-23 being able to get to her target, something she had yet to manage once in the past two weeks due to the girls' tendency to move as a group. And at night, things got even more dangerous: Sabretooth seemed to be with them constantly, and the elder shapeshifter Mystique made regular appearances as well. "You've reported that attempting to infiltrate Sunnydale High is unfeasible, as is approaching them at night while they're on patrol. How are you planning to enact your plan, considering you can't get near Miss Rosenberg?"

     X-23 tapped a finger against her chin for a moment before snapping her fingers. "I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier. The colonel has sent me to the mall near the base before to do infiltration training with teenage girls so I can act the part better. For some reason, he thinks I'd stand out." Walsh bit her tongue hard enough to taste blood, but managed to keep from responding to that one. "Not only are her friends teenage girls from the top of the social pyramid who love the mall, but it's Christmas shopping season. I bet they'll have to go at least one more time to pick up presents. So we wait and watch and when they go the mall, I follow them in and do my thing. Even if Mystique or Sabretooth are there, they can't possibly do anything to me without it turning into a huge public scene that would bring the cops down on them. And they're both wanted terrorists, so I doubt they'd want that."

     "Alright. I have serious reservations about this but since we had to call you in to deal with it, obviously we don't have a better plan. Let Agent Finn or Agent Hertzberg know if you need anything. Dismissed and good hunting." X-23 came to attention, saluted, and spun on her heel before stalking off. Looking over at where Kinney was hard at work on her laptop once more, Walsh coughed softly to get the woman's attention. "I'm going to send shadows with her in case she fails, you know. I can't afford to let these freaks keep running around my town causing problems for me."

     Kinney continued to poke at the keyboard for a few more seconds before looking up, locking gazes with Walsh. "I'm pretty sure she's going to fail. Still, she needs to learn to succeed or fail on her own, so I didn't veto this plan of hers. But know this… if your toy soldiers hurt my daughter in the process of bringing in the others, I'll kill you and then tear this place down around your corpse." Closing her laptop, she rose to her feet and used one arm to hug it against her chest, her free hand sweeping her lab coat back to show off the handgun holstered at her right hip. "Just so we understand each other."

     Eyeing the gun, Walsh nodded slowly. "Duly noted."

     As the door closed behind her lover, Drusilla Lanham stretched slowly and rolled her neck, wincing slightly as the half-healed bite mark protested the movement. It would be gone by the time he returned but still, it was ample reminder that despite his high body temperature and red blood, the being who shared her bed was not a normal human. Not that she minded the company of a fairly immoral, essentially immortal man who knew when to be rough and when to be rougher. Far from it…

     A few minutes later, she slipped out from between the shredded sheets - making a mental note to remove the remnants before Victor came home with replacements - and padded naked across the room and out into the hall, carefully navigating the mansion to avoid rooms currently exposed to sunlight. Drusilla was a woman on a mission… a very important, time-sensitive mission given to her by Miss Edith herself.

     Entering the kitchen, Drusilla made her way over to the phone and picked it up, staring at the keypad. With one finger, she began to punch in a string of digits she'd seen in the vision Miss Edith had delivered. After entering all ten, the phone began to ring like it had when she'd seen Spike and Victor use it, and she raised the handset to her ear. Two rings later, someone picked up. "You have five seconds to tell me why I shouldn't reach out with my mind and turn your brain into mush for bothering me on my personal line."

     "Hullo, luvvy. Miss Edith wants me to tell you that you have two hours to fly out here in your great metal thrush. Trouble is brewing in the land of greed and garland, and only you can save them from a most horrible fate. She just thought you'd like to know. Ta." Message delivered, Drusilla ignored the sputtering from the other end of the line and hung the phone up. Hmm. Actually, considering they wouldn't be coming back here, the sheets didn't really matter, now did they? And showering and dressing would only take her about forty-five minutes. That left her with a fair bit of spare time to burn.

     Drusilla hummed softly to herself as she made her way out of the kitchen, heading for the house's library. If they weren't coming back, she should probably pack up some of her favorite books, just to be safe. And her clothes. And Miss Edith…

     "The call was to the personal cell phone that only my daughters, Tessa, and a half-dozen others know the number for. And it came from a landline in Sunnydale. We have a precognitive mutant here in our own student body, Charles, we know that it isn't an impossible ability to have. If this is true and we ignore it…"

     Sighing, Charles Xavier reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. "I didn't say we were going to leave them to their fate, Emma, just that I would not allow you to lead a rescue mission. Simply put, your antics involving Sunnydale a month ago eroded what little faith I had in you. So while a team will be going to California, you will not be a part of it, much less in charge of it."

     Emma scowled, hands balling into fists for a moment before both her body and face relaxed and she nodded impassively. "Very well. If I'm not going, then who is? I can at least give them the information I have about the girls in question."

     Now that was a very good question. Emma was not going, that was for certain. Scott and Jean had been poorly received, so he was leery of sending them out to Sunnydale a second time. Lo… James was a wildcard on the best of days and with his own daughter involved, he had the potential to be even less tractable than usual. Which left - at least among the adult staff members - Ororo and Bruce. Not an entirely bad pair, he decided. Ororo's abilities could easily be used to create cover for an extraction and Bruce… Bruce was bulletproof and could be used as a human shield. Among other things.

     That decided, Charles turned his thoughts to the student body. Piotr would also make a good human shield for an extraction mission. And Marie could always borrow Piotr's powers for herself to create a second walking shield. Sooraya was immune to small arms fire and could also act as a diversion or even provide offensive abilities should they be needed. And… Ellie, perhaps? Her telepathy would allow her to serve as a coordinator for the entire group, and her aforementioned precognitive abilities might help them avoid trouble before it even started.

     "Ororo, Bruce, Piotr, Marie, Sooraya, and Ellie." Emma's mouth opened and then closed, presumably wanting to argue but knowing it was fruitless. "Once I organize them and they're ready for departure, I'll notify you so you can brief them telepathically. In the mean time, I have said organizing to do and I believe you have a class you should be teaching. One that will be keeping you busy for the next two hours, if I'm not mistaken?" Emma nodded once before turning on her heel and stalking away, and Charles let out a sigh of relief. Dealing with his ex-girlfriend was always a trial but the combination of money and influence she possessed - to say nothing of her formidable powers - made her impossible to turn away. 'Scott, if you would be so kind as to meet Ororo in the hangar and begin prepping the Blackbird for flight. Ororo, you and Bruce will be leading another expedition to Sunnydale. Bruce, if you can gather Piotr, Marie, Sooraya, and Ellie and bring them to the hangar, I'll have Emma telepathically pass on what she knows about the situation and the people you'll be meeting in California.'

     'And please, nobody breathe a word of this to James.'

     Ever after a month and a half as a girl, there was still one major part of being a member of the fairer sex that Michelle just couldn't wrap her mind around: the concept of mall crawling. While she had come to the mall with a specific goal in mind that day, the rest of the girls were just there to wander around aimlessly. Well, with the exception of Willow, who was in the mood to burn off some of the money she'd accumulated between Hanukkah and robbing demons while on patrol with another visit to Jekyll & Hide. Michelle shook her head in amusement; the idea of going to a store without actually needing to buy something in hopes that she'd find something she wanted to spend money on just seemed so… bizarre.

     With the 'dead cow emporium' - and wow, Harmony knew the word 'emporium'? - on the way to the store Michelle wanted to explore and the area that Cordy and her friends intended on window shopping in, they moved through the mall as one large, chattering group. And so it was the full group of eight that turned a corner and came face-to-face with a buxom, black-haired girl that shared Willow's taste in apparel. It, however, was apparently not the only thing that she and Willow had in common. "Hi. Willow? Willow Rosenberg?"

     The girls looked at each other before slowly parting so there was no one between Willow and the stranger. Stepping forward, Willow raised her chin and stared the girl down. "Who wants to know?"

     Raising her hands, the girl chuckled softly. "Relax. My name is Laura Kinney. And I've been looking for you for a while now because… well, I'm your half-sister."

     Willow opened her mouth to contradict her, only to pause when Laura lowered her hands and curled the right one into a fist. Two gleaming silver blades erupted from between her knuckles in the same spots that Willow's own claws emerged from and the elfin girl let out a little squeak, gaze jumping from them to Laura's face and back again. "Holy poop."
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