School is now officially in. If you're wondering, John Flaherty is a real baseball player of no particular acclaim. He was drafted by the Red Sox in '88, and played up through their farm teams before spending MLB time with Boston ('92-'93), Detroit ('94-'96), San Diego ('96-'97), Tampa Bay ('98-'02), and the New York Yankees ('02-'05) before retiring and going to work for YES Network. Coincidentally, I met him when I was six and he played for the New Britain Red Sox in 1991. Small world, huh? And for those who are seeing shades of The Other
here, Cordelia wants Michelle close and so Michelle has to deal with the Cordettes. She'll make friends with one of them outside Cordelia, but she won't turn into a pom-pon waving, insult-slinging little bitch or anything.
November 2, 2011
Sunnydale High School - Hallway
Cheerleaders. The final frontier. She was about to boldly go where no man - or rather no straight man - had gone before. Michelle took a deep breath to steady her nerves, watching as Cordelia pulled away and walked towards the knot of girls clustered near one locker. Was it too late to change her mind? Flee school, stick to the shadows until she could manage to resume a male form of some sort again, and then reinvent herself yet again? Maybe as Cordelia's new boyfriend or something, if she really had some sort of plan that required her cooperation?
Cordelia turned to look back at her, beckoning impatiently, and Michelle sighed in resignation. Fixing a fake smile on her face, she moved forward to 'meet' the Cordettes. To her left, she could see a smirking Willow escaping towards the library and Michelle made a mental note: she was definitely going to take advantage of Cordelia's vow to take them as a package deal and drag Willow into the Cordettes as well. If she had to suffer through the horror of hanging out with girls whose IQ was smaller than their band size, so would her 'cousin'. Finally she got close enough that Cordelia could reach out and grab her arm, and Michelle stumbled as Cordelia yanked her in. "So, girls, meet Michelle Flaherty. She's Rosenberg's cousin on her…"
"…mother's side. Thankfully I grabbed her before she got sucked into that black hole that is Harris, Rosenberg, and Summers." The girls tittered at that and Michelle bristled mentally but managed to keep her fake smile on her face. This was nothing new, she reminded herself. She'd known all along how the popular kids at school regarded the Scoobies: Willow had never been popular, neither had her previous form, and one mishap after another had quickly destroyed what little chance Buffy had of regaining even a portion of her Hemery High social status. "So, girls, meet Michelle. Michelle, these are the girls. The faux blond is Harmony Kendall, the platinum blond is Aphrodesia Michaelis, honey blond is Gwen Ditchik, and then we have Janet van Dyne and Aura White, the school's token Asian and black girls. Seeing as how there's only one of each, I had to have them because… well, precious commodities and all."
Michelle arched a brow at that but since neither Janet nor Aura seemed to take offense at Cordelia's words, she decided that she wasn't going to go to bat on the pair's behalf. If they wanted to defend themselves, she reasoned, they could open their mouths. "Nice to meet you. So…" Safe topic… safe topic… think of a safe topic… "Cordelia mentioned she was the varsity cheerleading captain. Are you all on the squad with her?"
Grinning, Janet leaned forward and pointed over at one of their number. "All of us except Harm. She can't walk and chew bubblegum at the same time, so we don't exactly trust her to catch someone being thrown into the air or anything like that." Harmony let out an indignant huff and tried to counter, but Janet smoothly steamrolled over her sputtered objections and pushed onward with the conversation. "What about you? Were you a cheerleader at your old school? And why'd you decide to transfer, anyway? Especially to Sunnydale?"
"Well, I didn't really decide to transfer. My parents had this monster fight because they both found out the other one was cheating, decided to look up a marriage counselor because it was cheaper than two lawyers, and now they're off on a second honeymoon to try and put their marriage back together." That matched what she'd told Buffy, but since they weren't sure how long she'd be stuck like this, Michelle and Willow had cooked up an excuse as to why she might be in Sunnydale for longer. "And after that, they have a couple of major business trips early next year - they work for the same company in the same department, it's how they met - and so when you put it all together, they're going to be gone for like, eight months. So they sat down with me, we talked it over, and we agreed it would just be easier for them to send money to my aunt and uncle and have them take care of me for the rest of the school year. I might leave early if something changes, but until I hear otherwise… well, I'm a Sunnydale girl from now till June." Michelle paused, wondering how to handle the sports question. All but one of the Cordettes were cheerleaders and she was supposed to be trying to fit in with Cordelia's friends so the magnokine would have an easier time of keeping her close. But even if she was a biological girl - or at least playing one these days - hell would freeze over before someone forced her into a miniskirt and gave her pom-pons to wave. "And no cheerleading. I'm more of a softball girl."
As the girls exchanged looks, Michelle knew she'd have to play the ensuing explanation carefully. Despite her true thoughts on the matter, she didn't want to put down their sport of choice lest they decide she was a bitch, which would cause problems for Cordelia. But then she also had to appear loyal to her sport of choice without coming across as a fanatic: the former might get her an invitation to cheerleading tryouts while the latter would also make it harder to win Cordelia's friends over, leaving the magnokine in the same difficult position. Finally Harmony spoke up on behalf of the Cordettes. "Oh. Softball. That's… nice."
Michelle shrugged in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner. Here went nothing; hopefully her farting around on the Internet while waiting for the pizza to show up was about to pay off. "Well, my uncle - on my dad's side, not someone related to Willow - was a major league baseball player. Now he's a commentator. John Flaherty. Wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of him; he was a catcher for the… hang on, I actually have to think about this for a second. The… Red Sox, then the Tigers, then the Padres, then the Devil Rays, and finally the Yankees. Then he retired and started working for YES. Anyway, he used to drag some of his old pads with him even on vacation so he could keep in practice and so I'd see dad pitching to him out back on nice days. I was kinda chubby in elementary school and so my parents wanted me to do a sport… I thought Uncle John was pretty cool and so I let them sign me up for the local Little League Softball league. It just sorta stuck." Hmm. Oh! Way to stroke their egos. "Besides, I don't have the work ethic to be a cheerleader. I mean softball is just a bit of workout year round and then getting my butt in gear each spring, but you guys are busy pretty much all year. I can't imagine how hard that's got to be."
Thankfully, before she had to add any further to the growing nest of lies that was her new pretend life, Cordelia stepped in. "So, has nobody noticed the all new me in the excitement of the new girl? Or are we going to pretend there's nothing there and hope it goes away, like we do when Summers comes near us..?"
"I was kinda curious, but I couldn't really think of a tactful way to phrase 'Cordelia, why do you look all freaky?'." Aphrodesia leaned forward, tugging gently on Cordelia's bright green hair, which the cheerleader had decided to leave down that day. "But, since you brought it up… Cordelia? Why do you look all freaky? I mean, my first guess would have been a bad reaction to dye but you had white hair last night. Which was a wig. So you weren't messing with dye at all, making it hard for you to have a bad reaction to it."
Cordelia batted Aphrodesia's hand away, running her fingers through her hair to smooth it back so the others could see her roots even as she arched her back a bit to thrust her chest out. "Tact is just not saying true stuff. You know how I feel about that. And besides, a hair dye accident wouldn't explain my chest, would it?" The girls shook their head in confusion and Michelle cocked her head to the side, wondering how Cordelia was going to talk her way out of this one. Cordelia's next words made Michelle's jaw drop. "So, anyone else here buy some or all of their costume from Ethan's? Not remember much of last night? Have any weird thoughts still floating around in their head?"
After looking around uncertainly at the others, all of whom save Harmony were shaking their heads, Aphrodesia slowly raised her hand. "I, uh, may or may not have some pretty impressive parkour skills now." Michelle raised an eyebrow at that revelation; what the hell had one of Sunnydale's finest dressed up as that she had memories like that floating around in her head? Thankfully Aphrodesia realized the 'new girl' might need that little tidbit of information to be able to follow the conversation, and volunteered it without being asked. "I went as… well, not exactly Captain America, seeing as how I'm a girl and all. But I don't understand-"
"Long story short? Magic is real. Amber Grove bursting into flames last spring during tryouts? Magic. My sudden blindness? Magic. Equally sudden cure? Magic. Unless any of you have a better explanation for those things?" Cordelia looked around, waiting until each Cordette had shook her head, and then continued. "Last night, this guy turned everyone who bought anything from Ethan's into their costume. So Aphrodesia, you turned into American Dream and I turned into the Black Cat. And other people turned into pirates, medieval ladies, ghosts, demons, whatever. Except for some lingering memories, everyone else I've talked to turned back to normal after a few hours. But something weird happened to me and… well, when the costume came off, all of the catsuit's padding was a part of me and my hair and eyes had changed colors." Cordelia let out a huff of annoyance as she leaned back against her locker, crossing her arms under her breasts. "Since I can't seem to find someone listed under 'wizard' in the phone book to fix me, I'm pretty sure I'm stuck like this. I was thinking about dying it back to normal, but I'd have to constantly touch up my roots and don't even get me started on my eyebrows. And I looked into surgery… I should probably wait till I'm older to make sure I'm done growing, and even then there's risk of scarring, loss of sensation, and a bunch of other crap. No thank you. I think I'll just date a masseuse."
Aphrodesia looked Cordelia up and down slowly a few times before clucking her tongue. "Huh. Suddenly, thinking that it's normal to jump a wall instead of going around it… not so bad."
"I know. That's rough. I think. I mean, if you'd straight out turned into the Black Cat… she's pretty. And the white hair would be exotic. But green? That's kinda freaky." Harmony trailed off, looking to the other Cordettes for support that failed to materialize, before returning her attention to the leader of her pack. "But, well, I guess green is exotic too. I mean, nobody else has green hair. Just… you're not going to try and turn it into an 'in' thing and make us dye our hair green too, are you?"
Cordelia reached up and pulled a strand of hair forward, staring at it as she contemplated the blonde's words. Eventually, she let out a snort. "Now why would I do something stupid like that, Harmony? Then I wouldn't be the exotic girl with green hair anymore. Supply and demand. Right now, I've got the only supply and once guys get a good look at me, I'm sure there will be demand. Blondes, brunettes, redheads… dime a dozen. Green…ettes? Zip. Zero. Zilch. I'm one of a kind. Well, even more than I used to be."
The Cordettes were left pondering that as Cordelia opened her locker, pulling out the textbooks she'd need that day, only for Harmony of all people to broach a subject Michelle had been hoping to avoid. "Speaking of redheads… does Michelle being around mean we have to be nice to Rosenberg from now on? And, uh, why exactly do we have Michelle around? I mean, I could understand it if you were going to recruit her for the cheerleading squad or something, but-"
"Because she's like Janet and Aura… and now me. Unique." Cordelia's words brought Harmony to an abrupt stop, but earned her looks of confusion rather than acceptance and so she sighed before turning to Michelle. "Show them."
Show them… what, exactly? Her mutation? Michelle was reasonably sure that was the only halfway unique thing about her, considering redheads were hardly a rarity in Sunnydale. Case in point: Willow. But why did Cordelia want her to… Michelle sighed. Whatever. Cordelia had mentioned some sort of plan on the way to school; chances were that this somehow fit into it. If this blew up in their faces, well, Cordelia would be the one left cleaning up the mess. She'd gone from Xander to Michelle in less than twenty-four hours; she could always reinvent herself again to escape any fallout. Letting her eyes roam over the assembled Cordettes, Michelle quickly narrowed her choices down to two girls before picking the one closest to her body's current size. "Right. Um, Gwen was it? Ever wonder if you'd make a cute redhead?" Fixing an image of the blond cheerleader in her mind, Michelle tweaked her mental Gwen to incorporate her own hair color and then shifted.
The entire hallway abruptly went silent as other early arrivals stopped what they were doing to watch what was going on. Holding her breath, Michelle waited as Gwen looked her up and down before reaching forward to play with Michelle's shoulder-length red hair. "Huh. I might need to make an appointment with that stylist Cordelia keeps mentioning. I look kinda hot like this. So you're what, then, a mutant or something? I mean, you could be some kind of magical shapeshifter girl, but Cordelia doesn't seem to like magic much so I doubt she'd keep you around if you were." Michelle nodded dumbly; this wasn't exactly how she'd pictured people reacting, especially given Willow and Cordelia's responses the day before. "Well, I can honestly say I don't know another mutant. Guess that means Cordelia was right about you." Pausing, she let out a soft giggle. "You know, taking you to the mall is going to be awesome. Now 'I' can try stuff on twice as fast. Just split my pile and give you half." Looking back over her shoulder Gwen let out a loud whistle before making a shooing gesture. "Show's over, folks. I'm not gonna make out with my temporary twin sister or something. If you want to get to know the new girl, start writing notes to pass her during class or something."
Yeah, this definitely wasn't what she'd been expecting. Pitchforks and torches, maybe, or at least someone shouting 'mutant' before tackling her and pounding the crap out of her. But apart from some pointing and whispering? And a few phones being pointed her way in hopes of catching her doing something else interesting before Gwen discouraged them? Nothing. Where was the hatred? Where was the fear? Where was the- "So, do you have your schedule yet? We can show you where the office is. Although you should probably turn yourself back to normal so you don't freak the secretaries out." Harmony latching onto her arm and tugging gently brought Michelle back to reality. "That and if you're going to be the Cordettes' only other non-cheerleader, we should probably get to know each other."
Oh boy. Quality girl time with Harmony. Just what she'd always wanted…
November 2, 2011
Sunnydale High School - Cafeteria
"So, what do you think?"
Harmony looked up from her lunch tray, pondering the question as she tore open the packet of Lite Italian she'd picked out for her salad. The same thing she ate every day, but consistency was the key when it came to a good diet and she had to maintain her girlish figure. Plump and popular rarely went hand in hand, after all. "About what? This magical Halloween story of yours? The new you? Abercrombie & Fitch's winter collection? The fact that if I'd picked a better costume like you told me to, I could have super-soldier girl memories floating around in my head like Aphrodesia instead of poledancing lessons? Because… actually, I'm not sure how I feel about that last one yet. Being a soldier seems kinda butch, and the only people who like butch girls are other girls."
Rolling her eyes, Cordelia used her fork to point at something off over Harmony's left shoulder. "Michelle, dear. Although depending on how much you remember, I might have to hire you as a personal trainer. I hear it's a fabulous way to stay fit."
"Hmm. I could use the money… or maybe some of those shirts you can't wear anymore. Let's see how much I hung on to, and then we'll talk. As for Michelle, she's… interesting. Not exactly what I'm used to, but maybe that's a softball thing? You and the others are all cheerleaders, so it's not like I have anything to compare to there. Definitely a bit of an oversharer, but we can work on that. It's handy now when I know nothing about her, but it'll probably get old fast to have her constantly telling us every little thing about herself. Um, what else? Oh, there's the mutant thing obviously. I had her turn into a couple different versions of me just out of curiosity. Did you know I look good with black hair and purple eyes?"
The corner of Cordelia's mouth quirked up at that. "No. Probably because you're a blue-eyed brunette who only dyes her hair blond?"
"Oh. Right. Well, then I might ask for Claire's number too. Maybe buy some colored contacts. Have Michelle show you that version of me later; I'm totally hot. Other than that… well, we don't have too much in common but I suppose we can work on that. There's nothing wrong with her. Nothing right, either, if you wanna look at it that way. But since you seem to want her around for some odd reason, I'll make it work." Harmony trailed off as she watched the girl in question cross the cafeteria with her tray, setting it down across from another, more familiar redhead and sliding into a seat. "What are we going to do about Rosenberg? Because I noticed you didn't answer me when I asked this morning…"
A sinister smile spread across Cordelia's face and suddenly Harmony felt very much afraid. "A hundred bucks says you can't bring her up to our standards."
Harmony blinked. That wasn't what she'd been expecting at all. "What, you mean like She's All That
? Turn the nerd into a popular girl and all that?" Cordelia nodded. "Two hundred. I mean, have you seen what I'm working with here?"
Across the cafeteria, Willow shuddered. Looking up from her three supposed 'barbeque rib' sandwiches, Michelle gave her fellow redhead a concerned look. "Wills? You okay?"
"I felt a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced." After a few seconds, Willow pointed her fork at Michelle. "By the way, I know what you're thinking. And… no way, José. Err, Josefa. Josefina?"
Michelle did her best to look innocent. "I have no idea what you mean?"
Evidently Willow wasn't fooled. Probably because she knew Michelle inside and out. Well, a bit less on the outside these days, what with the changes and all, but she'd probably- "I'm not becoming a member of the Cordettes."
"Oh come on. It'll be fun." Neither Michelle's words nor her best attempt at puppy dog eyes seemed to affect Willow, and she racked her brain for a new way to try and convince the redhead. "It'll be educational?" That earned her a raised eyebrow and so Michelle pushed onward. "I mean, haven't you ever wondered what the other half actually does when they're not here at school? Mall crawling and makeovers and sleepovers and maybe another thing or two that also end in 'over'?"
Letting out a sigh, Willow let her fork drop onto her plate before burying her face in her hands. "You're going to keep nagging me until I agree, aren't you?"
"Fine. If only to stop you from trying to actually do my resolve face. You look like a constipated chipmunk when you do it…"
November 2, 2011
Sunnydale High School - Hallway
"So, baseball and softball, huh?"
Jumping slightly at the unexpected voice, Michelle finished stuffing her textbooks into her locker before turning to face the girl who was easily the second prettiest on the varsity cheerleading squad. A girl she'd spent enough time admiring in the past to be able to imitate. A girl… whose last name she hadn't even known until Cordelia had introduced them. God. How lame was she? Pushing that from her mind, Michelle forced a smile. "Hey, Gwen. Uh, that's not a problem, is it? You didn't get hit in the head by a softball in gym class or something, did you?"
Gwen laughed at that, moving to lean against the locker to Michelle's right. "No, just wondering if you liked any other sports or were only into baseball because of your uncle. Football… basketball… hockey maybe..?"
"Um…" Michelle found herself between a rock and a hard place as she debated her answer; while she was far from a sports fanatic, she knew enough about baseball to support her cover story as a softball player - unless she was actually asked to join the softball team, that was - and a passable amount about football and hockey as well. But was Gwen actually curious, perhaps even sharing such interests herself? Or was there an ulterior motive behind this line of questioning? Finally, the redhead decided to just go ahead and risk it. "I went to a few Rangers and Islanders games back home in New York. They were pretty cool. Football's not bad. Basketball's kinda boring to me but people say the same thing about baseball, so eh. Why?"
Looking both ways, Gwen lifted the flap of her messenger bag to show off a collection of colorful pins bearing sports team logos. "I'm a bit of a sports nut. My parents are like, stuck in the Fifties and think that girls doing sports isn't 'ladylike'. Joined the cheerleading squad because it was the closest I could get to sports and, well, it doesn't exactly hurt my popularity either."
As she let out a laugh at the blonde's comment, Michelle made a mental note to look up a bit of information on New York sports teams… and fill Willow and Cordelia in on this new nugget of fictional background information. Then she realized that she was being given the perfect opportunity to make a non-Harmony friend among the Cordettes… and she sure as hell was going to take it. "You know, you should come over after school one of these days. The Rosenbergs have the super duper DirecTV package. If it's got YES and SNY, it's gotta have channels that show your favorite teams."
Gwen perked up at that, offering Michelle a smile that quickly faded. "If Willow lets me come over, you mean. I'd understand if she didn't; we haven't exactly been nice to her over the years." Pulling a scrap of paper out of her pocket, she nibbled her lower lip uncertainly before shoving it into Michelle's hand. "I never really understood what Cordelia's problem with her was, to be honest. If she's willing to let me, though, I'd like to try turning over a new leaf with Willow. If not… I wrote down my Facebook, AIM screen name, and phone number. And of course we'll see each other around."
Tucking the paper into her pocket, Michelle nodded. "I'll talk to her. And Willow's got a spare computer she was talking about setting up in my room. Until then, I have my iPhone. Talking to new friends from school. There's an app for that." Suddenly, something tugged at her pants and Michelle looked down to see the change in her pocket straining outward, tugging towards… Cordelia? The green-haired girl was staring at them with arms crossed under her breasts, tapping her foot impatiently. "I think my ride's going to leave me if I keep her waiting any longer."
"You know, all the other girls want to be her best friend, but if it's anything like being on the squad with her…" Gwen glanced over at where Cordelia had given up waiting and was stalking down the hallway towards the doors. "I'll pass."
Michelle chuckled, slamming her locker shut and swinging her backpack back up onto her shoulder. "You're a smarter girl than I, Gwen."