By the end of the chapter, we'll see the rise of Michelle and the use of female terms regarding Xander. He's going to be living as a girl; it's probably a good idea for Michelle to start thinking of herself by her new name and using appropriate gender terms to describe herself, no? Not to mention… can you imagine how jarring it'd be to read Cordelia talking to or about 'Michelle' and then see 'Xander' reacting? Yikes. Pass.
November 1, 2011
Rosenberg Household - Living Room
"Considering the whole boob rant from earlier, isn't this kinda awkward for you, Wills? I mean, with me having said boobs pressed up against you and-"
"The only out lesbian I can think of at school is manlier than some of the football players. Considering this is probably the closest you'll get to another girl for a long time…"
"…you have an excellent point, oh bestest bud of mine. Shutting up now." And, actually having two brain cells to rub together unlike the aforementioned football players, Xander proceeded to do so, running his fingers through Willow's long hair absently as they lay together on the couch. Her crying while clinging to him had become her crying while clinging to him while they both sat on the couch, which in turn had become her leaning heavily on him and sniffling. He'd shifted a bit to fight a cramp, only to wind up tipped over by his best friend's weight. Now he was lying on his back with Willow stretched out atop him, her head pillowed on the chest she'd complained about an hour before.
Even though he was now living as one, Xander was pretty sure girls would forever remain a mystery to him.
He still wasn't sure what to make of Willow's ranting and the crying jag that followed, much less how to solve the complaints she'd voiced. Was it really his fault that he'd never seen Willow as anything more than a sister? After all, if people could control who they were attracted to, he was pretty sure Jesse would have shed his crush on Cordelia two years and many rounds of insults before his death. Crushes were par for the course when going through puberty, but the constant verbal evisceration must have gotten old fast.
As for the changes he'd made to her body? He'd opted not to say it because he couldn't think of a way to phrase it that wouldn't lose him both a place to live and a best friend, but pretty much any change would have been an improvement. Not that he thought Willow was ugly or anything, just painfully average. Which meant that when it came time to individuate them to look more like cousins than twins, he had two choices: make a number of minor tweaks to keep himself average - albeit a different average - or become prettier than Willow. And why settle for mediocrity just because Willow's good genes were on the inside instead of the outside? He could control precious little in his life at the moment, his looks being one of those things. Why not take advantage of the gift he'd been given?
And then there was the Buffy thing. Staring down at the top of Willow's head, Xander narrowed his eyes. He wasn't sure how he felt about her little slip of the tongue… if that was all it had been. He had a feeling it wasn't. And that had him wondering… could he count on Willow to stick by him through this? She was with him for now, but would she stay there? Or should he start trying to hedge his bets? Expand his horizons a bit as 'Michelle'? Hell, he'd managed to partially thaw Cordelia in just one afternoon. How hard could making new friends be?
The minutes passed by in somewhat companionable silence, and then Willow stirred. "I should probably go finish setting up your existence. It'll be kinda hard for you to go to classes as Michelle if she's not enrolled. Or doesn't even exist." Wriggling around atop him - an action that caused considerably less discomfort now than it would have twenty-four hours ago, Xander mused - Willow consulted her watch. "Wow, yeah, it's almost eight. Makes me glad neither of us drive. Turns out it's a lot easier to get a fake state identification card than a fake driver license. Which kinda makes sense, since one requires you to take lessons and tests and the other you just show up and get."
Nodding, Xander waited for Willow to settle back down before returning his hand to her hair. "Kay. Please tell me we're going to eat at some point, though? Cordelia wouldn't let me eat at the food court in the mall because she supposedly has nutritional issues with it - I think she just doesn't want to eat with the commoners - and so I haven't had anything since that apple you grabbed from the cafeteria and snuck back to the library this afternoon."
Willow's body quaked for a few seconds with repressed laughter before she settled down. "Yeah, the freezer and cupboards are stocked. Or if you want something fancier than 'TV Dinner à la Michelle', we can call out for pizza or Chinese."
"Ooh, pizza. Haven't had that since the last time dad didn't blow his entire paycheck at the liquor store on the way home." Willow's face fell but Xander waved her concern away. "Hey, cheer up. I'm finally free of them. They'll think I ran away and… you know, I bet they won't even bother to file a missing person's report. Not that the SPD would do anything if they did, but still. Although we should probably use an ATM to clean out my savings account before they realize I'm gone. Oh, and you do know you can still call me Xander around the house, right?"
Shaking her head at that one, Willow stared up at Xander. "You're the one who was all 'yay girlhood'. I'm just going along with it. And considering you'll have everything but your physical state ID card done by the time you wake up tomorrow - and a Social Security number, which I have no idea how to get for you - you're coming to school with me tomorrow, missy. So shouldn't you be getting used to being called Michelle?"
Xander pouted but had to admit, she was definitely right. It was going to be weird responding to a new name, but he'd already trained himself to do it once in his life, going from Alex to Xander when he was younger. He'd manage again. He had to. "I guess you have a point. So, how does Meat Lover's from Pizza Slut sound for dinner?"
Groaning, Willow straightened up and poked Xander in the chest, being careful to avoid his breasts. "All right, first of all… no more calling it that. You're not allowed to make jokes like that now that you're a girl. It's weird. Second of all, no more Coronary on a Crust for you. On a medium pan Meat Lover's? You get eighteen grams of fat and three hundred and thirty calories with each slice. Each slice! Now that you're my size, if you eat half a pizza like you normally do, that's eighty-five percent of my daily caloric intake and seventy-two grams of fat and-"
"Willow? I'm a shapeshifter. Are we sure I even have to worry about getting fat? Or that cholesterol and stuff even affects me?" Reaching up, Xander poked the upper slope of one breast. "Who knows, maybe this is the two extra helpings of pudding I had at school the other day." Ooh, that was a girl perk he hadn't even thought of before now. He could indulge in his obsession with chocolate in all its forms and he would just be a 'normal' girl.
Willow paused, jaw working soundlessly as she considered that. Evidently, an answer wasn't forthcoming because she opted to redirect the conversation. "You do know Buffy and Cordelia are going to hate your guts when they find out about that, right?"
"Cordelia already knows. She was annoyed but she'll get over it." Reaching up, Xander poked the redhead in the ribs. "Are you going to tell me you're not just as jealous?"
Letting out an unfeminine snort, Willow slid off Xander and onto the floor before rising to her feet. "Like there's anyone around here who looks at my body. Who'd notice if I gained a pound or ten?" Waving her hand dismissively, Willow headed for the stairs. "Fine, go order your pizza. Get me a medium thin crust Veggie Lover's."
Xander propped himself up on his elbows, watching his best friend ascend the stairs towards her room. Even though he'd won the right to order the dinner of his choice, he had the distinct feeling that he'd somehow lost as well.
November 1, 2011
Rosenberg Household - Willow's Room
Well, it was official. Michelle Flaherty was now a junior at Sunnydale High School, registered for the majority of Xander's old classes with a few electives swapped around just to keep people from getting too suspicious. Leaning back in her chair, Willow rubbed her temples and cursed herself for her earlier loss of control. What in the world had she been thinking? That ranting and then crying all over Xander would make him get down on one knee and declare he'd been wrong all these years and that he now recognized that he loved her and wanted her to be his one and only forever and ever? If anything, she'd provided yet another reason she wasn't the right girl for him: she wasn't pretty enough and she was crazy to boot.
Oh, and she couldn't even remember who her best friend was. That had been slick of her.
Eyes widening, Willow realized… she was Ginny Weasley. She'd created this idealized version of a person she liked and planned a future around it without any real regard for reality. She'd even begun using other boys in an effort to attract Xander's attentions, albeit in a slightly more complex way than Ginny's 'make out with people in public and hope he gets jealous' plan. The problem was that unlike Ginny, real life didn't come with a J.K. Rowling waiting in the wings, willing to give her a badly written romance with the object of her affections-slash-obsession. Which left Willow with a pressing question: now what?
Fine, so Xander didn't think she was pretty the way she was. She could change. Granted some things were out of the question, since she had neither Xander's new powers nor a bottomless bank account to ply a plastic surgeon with, but why not start with the basics? Buying her own clothes, for one. Clothes that a girl her age would actually wear, as opposed to clothes a pair of middle-aged psychiatrists thought a girl her age should wear. Doing something with her hair and buying some makeup might also be a good idea. She had a really good memory; it wouldn't be hard to memorize instructions if she went over to a department store or something and got some tips. Or… Xander hadn't exactly looked repulsed at the idea of her dying her hair blond…
And then her train of thought slammed to a screeching halt as the rational part of Willow's mind reasserted itself with a vengeance. First of all, there was no guarantee that any amount of change would make Xander start thinking of her as potential girlfriend material. She'd end up looking - and feeling - darn stupid if she spent a lot of time and money renovating herself into Willow 2.0 only to find herself remaining in exile in Justfriendistan.
Secondly? While Michelle would still be Xander on the inside, she'd still be a girl on the outside. A girl Willow was supposedly related to. Not only was she not from West Virginia, but even if she did want to endure the harassment that would come with dating 'her own cousin'? She didn't like girls. Well, she liked them - or at least she liked the ones who were nice to her - but she didn't like-like them.
Not to mention… her eyes slid upward to the barely visible dot that was her iMac's built-in webcam, and then Willow spun in her chair to stare over at her hamper. Specifically the red satin bra at the top of the pile. While she knew that most people would find what she did to be equal to - or worse than - what Harmony and certain other girls did to earn their popularity with the boys of Sunnydale High, but the redhead thought that was just plain crazy. After all, her idea of fun didn't have the potential to end in a visit to Planned Parenthood or a STD test. Enjoying a bit of dirty chat with guys was just a way of helping them feel good while exercising her formidable mind. As for her cam shows… okay, well, those might be getting a bit close to the line of good taste, but those were fun and she never showed much more than she saw other girls showing at the beach. She just let guys see it from the comfort of their desk, instead of having to go outside. And on someone they knew and liked instead of a random stranger.
The arrangement benefited her, too, and not just in the form of the presents her friends sometimes sent her. She was a growing girl, both physically and emotionally, and in need of an outlet of some sort for her newfound urges. What better way to express herself than this? Okay, maybe the fact that she had to lie about her age and exactly where in Sunnydale she was going to school was a sign that what she was doing wasn't quite right… but again, it beat the 'go do it for real' solution. After all, the only thing she knew about motherhood was that she definitely wasn't ready for it - or the effect it would have on her life - at sixteen.
What did any of that have to do with anything? Willow stared at the red bra for a moment before her mind pulled things together, turning her tangental thought into a viable part of her debate with herself. While her online games had yet to yield any real world rewards beyond a few presents from admirers, they had already provided - several times over - something even more valuable than nifty stuff: validation. They proved that there were guys out there who thought she was pretty as-is. That she wasn't some sort of hideous freak who would be better off becoming a cat lady or something. Shouldn't the interest of the many carry more weight with her than the disinterest of one person?
In the end, Willow decided that the answer lay somewhere between the two extremes. While it was impossible not to see the value in putting a bit more effort into her appearance and wardrobe, she wasn't going to do it to try and cater to Xander's tastes. Or any other guy's, for that matter. She was going to do it for the person who mattered most: herself. With that settled, at least for now, Willow turned back to her computer and cracked her knuckles. The school's relatively unprotected server had been a piece of cake. Now came the fun part: the state birth registry.
November 1, 2011
Senator Robert Kelly's Office
Los Angeles, California
Rereading the priority email from her mole within Sacramento's information technology department, one of Raven's eyebrows crept upward. Someone from Sunnydale was attempting to hack into the state birth registry. Intriguing. Up until now, she hadn't given any thought as to what had happened to the mind of her young doppelgänger during the events of the previous night. Perhaps she should have, Raven realized. What if she'd ended up here in Los Angeles, in Raven's body? Seen what Raven was doing with her life and decided to take a page or two from her book? Although, given where she was - and why she was there - at the moment… who was she to judge if the girl did decide to pursue such a path? Coming to a decision, she fired off an email instructing Forge to let the hacker through, but to document their every move so she could review it later.
Sunnydale. It had taken Raven the better part of the morning to figure out that was where she'd been the night before and she shuddered at the thought of anyone having to live there. She'd only spent a few hours there, shaking hands with the town's mayor and visiting a section of the warehouse district that was undergoing revitalization, but that had been more than enough for her. Something about that town just made her skin crawl in the worst way…
A heavy pounding against Kelly's office door jerked Raven from her thoughts and she grimaced. Speaking of making her skin crawl. Still, she needed answers that she couldn't get through conventional methods and so sacrifices had to be made. Given her staff had long ago left for the night, she didn't even bother to shift out of her base form before opening the door to her office, nodding to the monster of a man waiting impatiently outside. "Victor."
"Red." Giving her a fanged smile, Victor pushed past and sauntered into her office, throwing himself down in a chair that groaned loudly in protest at the abuse. "So, since I doubt even you've figured out where Erik is yet, much less how to talk to him… I'm going to go out on a limb and guess this is a personal project."
Closing the door, Raven made her way over to Victor and perched on the arm of his chair, draping herself across his back. Running her fingers through his hair, she brought her free wrist up under his nose. "Take a good sniff. Your next stop is a town about an hour up the coast called Sunnydale. I need you to track down a teenage girl with my form and powers, and this is the only possible lead I can give you."
Victor chuckled before nipping gently at her wrist. "Misplaced another one of your kids, eh? You really need to learn to keep those legs of yours closed, Red." Narrowing her eyes at the insult, Raven gathered a fistful of hair and pulled hard, which only made Victor growl and stare up at her with hungry eyes. "Standard rates apply, by the way, even if this is just recon and not wet works."
Sliding off the chair, Raven shuddered as she made her way back around behind her desk, flopping down in her chair. And now came the skin-crawling portion of negotiations. "And who am I going to be turning into for you this time, Victor?"
Victor tapped his claw-like nails against the arm of the chair as he pondered that. "Not sure. You ever seen that show Mad Men
"Christina or January?" Raven rolled her eyes at the inquisitive noise she received in response. "Yes, Victor, I'm familiar with the show in question. Elisabeth Moss seems a bit too… mundane… for you for some reason. That leaves Christina Hendricks, January Jones, or one of the lesser actresses, and you do seem to have a thing for the popular girls." After a few seconds without a response, she scowled and crossed her arms over her chest defensively. "Don't look at me like that. I'm a United States senator with an efficient staff. Do you have any idea how little work I actually do? Without Netflix to help me pass the time, I'd go insane."
Victor let out a low chuckle at that before sobering. "Christina. She kinda reminds me of Emma, just… actually human. Emma frightens me sometimes and I'm… well, me." Tilting his head to the side, he thought for a moment. "Actually, she's probably what would happen if you crossbred Emma with that little Grey bitch that follows Xavier around. Reminds me, I still owe her one for that shit at the Statue of Liberty. Falling two hundred and fifty feet onto a boat hurts like a bitch. Maybe I'll put her on my to-do list; a nice hard revenge fuck sounds like a lot more fun than tracking down Xavier's kids and going another round or two."
"Especially since they keep beating you."
"Keep running that mouth and I'm going to raise my rates, Red. Effective immediately."
"Shutting up." Because a night of getting fucked as Christina Hendricks in exchange for finding out what was going on in Sunnydale was a pretty good deal in Raven's opinion. Given Victor's tastes, who knew what he might come up with if he really applied himself?
November 2, 2011
Rosenberg Household - Michelle's Room
"Michelle! Are you awake? You said that Cordelia's going to be here in half an hour, and I don't want to deal with her by myself!"
For the first time, Michelle opened… her… eyes. She supposed it was time to start thinking in female terms. She. Her. Hers. Michelle. Not he, him, his, or Xander. Not anymore. And the sooner she came to terms with that, the better. Especially since she was going to be jumping into the deep end today, trying to fit in with other teenage girls at school. And not just any girls. Cordelia's girls.
Willow's fist pounded the door a few more times. "Michelle!"
"I'm up!" Michelle groaned, stuffing her head under her pillow. "What, does she think someone could sleep through a wakeup call like that?" After wasting another minute or two lying there, struggling her way to full awareness, she tossed the pillow away and rolled out of bed. Thankfully she'd messaged Cordelia the night before and laid out today's outfit with her help, meaning all she had to do this morning was shower and get dressed. Well, shower, dress, and then remember how to replicate the hairstyle Claire had created for her, since she'd somehow manage to shift herself into Cordelia's old hair overnight. And if she finished all that before Cordelia arrived, Michelle thought, she would probably try her hand at morphing on at least a minimal amount of makeup, lest Cordelia try to put the real thing on her.
Grumbling under her breath, Michelle grabbed her clothes and staggered out of the Rosenbergs' guest room, heading down the hall towards the master bedroom so she could use the bathroom Willow's parents weren't here to take advantage of. It had sounded bad enough in her head when she'd thought about it the day before, but now that she was facing it as a daily reality? This girl shit was a pain in the ass. If today's gym class didn't end with a steamy group shower full of hot naked girls, she decided, heads were going to roll…
November 2, 2011
Cordelia Chase's SUV
After a pass through the Espresso Pump, made substantially longer by Cordelia's five minute rant about how horrible Sunnydale was for having only one Starbucks and putting it at the opposite end of town as their school, Michelle was in possession of a large French Vanilla coffee, light and sweet, and was feeling a good deal more put together than she had when she'd stumbled out to the SUV and slumped into the front passenger's seat. Motion in the rear view mirror made her blink and look back over her shoulder, watching as Willow bounced up and down in the left rear seat, sipping at something cold and foreign-sounding. Suddenly, the seriousness of the situation dawned on her. "Wills? Is that caffeinated?"
"It's not fair, you know. I'm the good Jewish girl with Holocaust survivor relatives and he's a Jewish mutant who suffered through the Holocaust. I should be the one related to Magneto, not Cordelia. And then I'd have spiffy mutant powers and I could do all sorts of cool things, like make a staff wrapped in metal cable so I could stake vampires with my mind." Willow paused for a moment, taking another sip of her drink. "I'd have to be careful not to erase my computer's drives when I got moody, though… and I wonder if I'd accidentally end up with forks and stuff stuck to me, kinda like that time Jesse got covered in syrup at IHOP and we kept flicking balls of paper at him because they'd stick to his face…"
Cordelia looked stunned, alternating between glancing at the road and the rear view mirror. "Holy crap, you weren't kidding about caffeinating her. I am so, so sorry."
Letting out a muttered comment at that, Willow balled up the wrapper from her straw and flicked it to hit the back of Cordelia's hair. "I didn't ask you to drive me, you know. You volunteered for this. Which… why did you volunteer for this? You hate me. And Xander. And you're one of three people who actually knows Michelle is Xander, so I know that you don't think Michelle is cool but not know her secret or something."
"Simple. I have a plan. Michelle is an important part of it. Therefore, I have to be nice to Michelle. And if I need to put up with you in order to keep her happy, I'll manage." Cordelia floated a handful of coins up out of the change dish and pelted Willow with them, making the redhead shriek and bat fruitlessly at the air in an effort to protect herself. "Keep messing with my hair, though, and I'll turn this into a mutants-only carpool."
Sighing, Michelle left her oldest friend and the girl she was pretty sure was becoming her newest to battle for supremacy as the SUV rolled on. Picking sides would just alienate one of them and land her in trouble and besides, her coffee wasn't getting any warmer…