Huh. I actually gained six readers and only had one additional person hide my story after that last bit involving Willow. That's honestly a shocker. Moving on… this chapter is going to deliver a bit of information and then push us into Thanksgiving with the Rosenbergs, which is going to be somewhere between horrific and hilarious. After that, we'll finally get to see how our girls resolve the ritual arc over Chapters 31 through 33, and then… well, that would be telling.
November 23, 2011
Cordelia Chase's SUV
"I think I found a plot hole." Michelle tapped her fingernails lightly against the center console as Cordelia made a vaguely inquisitive noise before turning right at the intersection. "You've told me all sorts of stories about your mom, how Claire found out about mutants, et cetera and so forth… and according to all of them, she's supposed to have brown hair like you used to." Cordelia made the noise again and Michelle sighed. Seriously? "Either I was seeing things or your mother had green hair when I met her today."
Cordelia opened her mouth to reply, only to close in and frown as she pondered that. "I… am a horrible daughter, because I didn't even realize that until you told me. Although this is a perfect example of why I keep minions like you around, you know. I let you worry about the little things so I don't have to." She nibbled her lower lip contemplatively as they continued on down the road. "Let's see… she still had brown hair after Halloween, so it's not like she got hit by what turned me green. Um, I'm ninety percent certain she still had it as of… oh duh. Wanda was in town on Monday. I bet Mom got all jealous of me being out and fabulous and not chased with pitchforks and torches, and so she had Aunt Wanda undye her hair for her. And so now she's green again too. Mystery solved."
That… sounded plausible enough that Michelle could accept it unless informed otherwise. Not to mention that it was good to know she wasn't losing her mind, and that she fulfilled a valuable role in Cordelia's life. The former considerably more so than the latter, of course. The redhead's eyes flicked to the rear view mirror, but Kendra was either actually fascinated by the passing scenery or doing a damn good job of faking it. Which was fine with Michelle; she had no desire to explain even half of the whos and whats involved in that exchange to the Slayer.
The Slayer, Michelle mused. Was Kendra 'the' Slayer or just 'a' Slayer? Were she and Buffy equals in the eyes of… whoever upstairs kept an eye on Slayers… or did one have a truer claim to the title than the other? Whose death would cause the next Slayer to be called: Buffy's or Kendra's? Or would each's death call a new Slayer, meaning Michelle had created a permanent split in the Slayer line?
…actually, that'd be kinda cool, in a playing God sort of way…
As Cordelia's SUV rolled onward, Michelle flipped the passenger side sun visor down so she could stare at her reflection in the small vanity mirror mounted on the back. Frowning, she cycled through a handful of different looks - the hair she'd worn as Phoebe Frost, both the original and longer versions of the style Claire had come up with for her, the Rachel red mass of curls she'd briefly tried out on Sunday, a fairly good imitation of Cordelia's pre-Halloween color and style - before finally settling on maroon and gold ringlets that hung loosely around her face. Not that she was particularly full of school spirit or anything, but she was in the mood for something different. Speaking of things that were different, though, she was looking forward to her first Thanksgving that would involve something other than hiding in the basement watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
while eating whatever TV dinner was closest to the front of the freezer. And it made her wonder… "So, what're your plans for Turkey Day?"
"Dodging hex bolts and innuendo, mostly. And probably some shouting. Mom decided to invite all the non-incarcerated members from both sides of the family over for dinner." Cordelia shuddered at the thought. "Personally? I think she's insane. I mean, Dad's side of the family is pretty uptight and so smashing them up against Lehnsherr family shenanigans… there's no way it can end well. But hey. Not my problem. If things go to hell, I can fly over to your house."
Michelle nodded and then squeaked as Cordelia made the right turn into the small parking lot near the library's loading dock, clipping the curb and making the right side of the car bounce. Scowling at Cordelia, the redhead waited for the SUV to come to a stop in the parking spot nearest the doors before unbuckling her seatbelt and hopping out. Then she paused, staring curious at the unexpected vehicle sitting between Cordelia's Highlander and Giles's aging Citroën DS. Whistling softly, Michelle let her curls bleed to pure white to match the imposing Humvee. "Well, I guess this answers the question of whether she'd ship things FedEx or UPS."
Cordelia snorted loudly as she circled around the front of the Highlander, the SUV's alarm chirping once. "Huh. I never knew they actually made a courier service for when it absolutely, positively has to get there in a way that screams 'I'm compensating for something'." Shaking her head, Michelle fell in beside Cordelia as they entered the school, Kendra trailing behind them quietly. Normally the arrangement would have been a bit awkward, Michelle mused, but since the Jamaican seemed utterly incapable of keeping up her end of a conversation… well, there was no harm in letting her lag behind, was there?
As they approached the library doors, the sounds of loud arguing reached Michelle's ears. Exchanging a look with Cordelia, the redhead took the lead even as her companion opened up her purse and gathered the metal shards she'd need to… actually, Michelle wasn't quite sure why Cordelia thought she needed them but knew better than to question her by now. Peering through the window, she blinked a few times at the sight that greeted her before slowly pushing the door open and stepping into the library. "…do I even want to know?"
"Let's see. You're neither Asian nor green-haired, which eliminates the two most visually obvious suspects. You're not growling or trying to attack me, which eliminates a third. By process of elimination, that would make you Raven Darkholme's daughter, I presume?" Holding out her right hand in Michelle's direction even as the left kept the prongs of a stock prod pressed to Buffy's neck, the woman offered a polite smile. "Magnolia Wainwright, at your service."
Hmm. A Brit. Michelle wasn't quite sure what to do with that; out of the three she'd met so far, one was cool enough for an adult, the second had gotten her magically transgendered, and the third… was Betsy. Closing the space between them slowly, the redhead looked Magnolia up and down slowly before taking the woman's hand. While they shared the all-white wardrobe and similar skin tones, she was very much the darkness to Emma's light with steely grey eyes and pitch black hair. She was also a few inches shorter than the blonde mutant, falling roughly halfway between Michelle's own height and Buffy's. Buffy, who was still being held at bay by a shock prod for some reason. "So… I know the 'white after Labor Day' jokes must get old after a while, but isn't that a little excessive?"
Magnolia raised an eyebrow at the seeming non sequitur before following Michelle's gaze over to Buffy. "Hmm? Oh, nothing of the sort. Miss Summers here was apparently unable to grasp the concept that there might be things brought into 'her library' that were not in fact her property. When she attempted to force the matter, I found it necessary to engage in some… simple behavioral modification techniques."
"Translation: Buffy tried to get all grabby hands with the new toys Emma sent us, and it took the threat of electrocution to make her stop." Cordelia strode into the library, her metal spikes dancing in a complex ballet over her extended left hand as she made her way over to stand beside Michelle, her Jamaican shadow still tailing her obediently. "Hopefully just the threat of, though, because if I missed the chance to see Buffy getting tased? I'm going to be very upset."
Taking a slow step backward away from Magnolia and her weapon, Buffy glared over at the new arrivals. "Just out of curiosity, Cordelia… do you ever get tired of being a terrible person?"
Cordelia simply shook her head at that before chuckling softly. "I'm not a terrible person, Buffy. I just hate you." Offering the blonde a dismissive wave with her free hand, she turned to Magnolia and the half-dozen large white boxes spread out on the three nearest library tables. "Just out of curiosity, did Emma send anything for Buffy? Because it turns out someone upstairs decided to run a BOGO sale on 'one girl in all the world's, and they ironed out a lot of the bugs when they released Slayer 2.0." Jerking her head in Kendra's direction, she smirked. "She's quieter, smarter, less whiny, and - best of all - not a necrophiliac. Oh, and she's trained to obey British people, so I'm pretty sure you can tell her to jump and she'll just ask 'how high?'."
"I'll be sure to keep that in mind in case I need something from a tall shelf while I'm here." Magnolia looked from Buffy to Kendra's silent form and back as she lowered the shock prod, collapsing it before tucking it into her pocket. "And while I'd much rather bestow certain items upon someone who would be properly grateful, they've been tailored to suit Elizabeth's needs using a combination of precise measurements and certain memories that Miss Frost… borrowed… during her last visit."
Scowling, Buffy stomped her foot against the floor loudly. "Okay, let's get a few things straight. One: my name isn't Elizabeth. It's Buffy. Two: I'm not a necrophiliac. I haven't had sex with Angel, and even if I had? He's not a corpse. He's a vampire." Michelle snorted at that; there wasn't a whole lot of difference in her opinion. "Three: I didn't give anyone permission to 'borrow' my memories. If there's not something really cool in my box, I'm going to be seriously upset." After a moment, she decided to add another entry to her list. "And four: I'm not whiny, either."
There was a moment of silence as Michelle waited for someone - likely Cordelia - to rebut that last claim, and then Magnolia cleared her throat. "Quite frankly, I don't particularly care what you choose to call yourself. With that being said, there's no box here for 'Buffy Summers'. I do, however, have a box that an 'Elizabeth Summers' can sign to take delivery of. Make of that what you will." Before the blonde could respond, Magnolia turned and walked over to the leftmost table, running her hand over the slightly larger of the two cases resting on it. "Given that Mister Giles has informed me that the crisis you were worried about will occur in two days' time - and each hour I spend here costs Miss Frost nearly twice what a minimum wage worker earns in a week - I suggest we move on. Miss Chase?" Reaching down, she undid the three latches holding the case shut and then lifted the lid.
November 24, 2011
Weapon XS Facility - Sarah Kinney's Quarters
"You are so creamy, I will love you forever, dear mashed potatoes."
Laura shook her head, watching as her younger sister Belladonna Kinney shoveled two heaping spoonfuls of potato onto her plate before passing the bowl onward to Rose. After watching her youngest sibling fumble with the combination of large bowl and oversized spoon for a few seconds, she leaned forward and took hold of the dish so Rose could use both hands to hold the spoon. Turning to the sole adult at the table, she raised an eyebrow. "Wasn't the haiku thing supposed to be a phase she'd grow out of, Doctor Mom?"
Sniffing, Bella reached out and ejected one of the bone claws in her right hand, spearing a piece of turkey. "This is not a phase, because I will always have, a beautiful soul." The claw disappeared back into her hand, the piece of poultry dropping neatly onto the few inches of clear space on her plate.
"Bella, no stabbing things at the dinner table. I put a serving fork out with the turkey for a reason." Picking up the aforementioned fork, Doctor Sarah Kinney moved a large piece of turkey to Rose's plate before taking two pieces for herself. "And I'm thinking I'll give her another month or two before I start worrying, Laura. It's only been three months, and I distinctly remember a certain daughter of mine spending close to five trying to put peanut butter on everything she ate. Every meal. Every day."
Placing the bowl of mashed potatoes on the table, Laura picked up her fork and pointed the tines at her mother. "There is nothing wrong with enjoying peanut butter. It's delicious. Haiku, on the other hand, are weird. They're supposed to be poems but they don't even rhyme."
Bella huffed at that, picking up her own fork and using it to flick some corn across the dinner table at Laura. "The noble haiku, is older than our country, you're just dumb, Laura."
"For the love of… can't we pretend we're a normal and loving family for at least one meal? Please? It's Thanksgiving!" Her glare sweeping back and forth across the table, Sarah waited for both of the offenders to apologize before sighing. "I swear to God, I do my best to raise you girls right and this is what I get in return? I should disown you both and grow Rose some new sisters. Maybe William will take you two in..?"
It didn't take Laura long to realize who her mother was referring to with 'William', and Bella only a few seconds longer. Shuddering, she sat up a bit straighter as she shook her head vehemently. "Could just dump Laura, Rose and I get along well, cuz I'm not a bitch."
Before Laura could reply, Sarah slammed her silverware down against the table and rose to her feet. "That's it." Grabbing Bella by the ear, she pulled the protesting girl out of her seat and led her towards the ensuite kitchen. "You got off with a warning last time, but I told you what would happen if I caught you using that word again…"
"Oh no not the soap, my heightened senses make that, a fate worse than death!"
The two remaining sisters watched Bella's struggles in silent awe as their mother hauled her out of the room. As soon as the pair disappeared around the corner, Laura turned to her youngest sister. "Tonight's lesson? Most of what you hear the soldiers say should not be repeated. Ever." The dark-haired teen cringed as her keen ears did far too good a job of picking up the sound of Bella gagging in the next room over. "Or if you really, really want to? You don't do it somewhere Doctor Mom can hear you."
Rose nodded solemnly before turning her head a bit, eyeing the pumpkin pie that sat untouched at the far end of the table. "…do you think she'll still want her piece of pie?"
November 24, 2011
Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters - Emma Frost's Suite
Westchester, New York
"If you're going to insist on staring at my legs all evening, Scott, let me know now so I can take my pants off. I'd feel a bit less awkward that way."
It wasn't until Emma hooked a finger in the waistband of her white sweatpants and began pulling them down on one side that the words penetrated and Scott jerked, looking up guiltily. "Sorry. It's just… you know what sweatpants are? You own sweatpants? I honestly did not see that coming."
"…said the blind porn star." There was a pause as the quintuplets looked at each other in surprise before narrowing their eyes as one and turning to glare at a smirking redhead. "Damn it, Rachel!"
Chuckling, Rachel raised her hands in surrender. "What? It was funny. I would have said it myself, but Mother can't smack all five of you upside the head like she can with me." Without warning, her body jerked forward and she cried out, reaching up to rub the back of her head. Looking to her right, Rachel's eyes slowly slid up Jean's form to her distinctly unamused face, and then she grimaced. "…right. I'm back to having two parents. Shit."
Jean offered her daughter a pat on the head before moving to join Emma on the room's biggest couch, the quintuplets a twisted pile of limbs curled up between the two women. "Remember what your mother taught you, dear: only use your powers to cheat when you're sure you won't get caught. In a room with two adult telepaths? Not one of those times."
Considering that didn't exactly seem like the sort of thing that Jean would have taught her daughter… Scott sighed, eyes jumping from his girlfriend to her daughter and then on to said daughter's second mother. When Rachel had arrived at the school, Scott hadn't been quite sure what to make of her. While she'd acknowledged Jean as her mother and treated her accordingly, she'd been remarkably tight-lipped about her paternity. For a while, he'd actually believed her excuse of not wanting to affect the future… but then he'd realized something. He was with Jean. They'd been together for years. How would recognizing him as her father change anything? It wouldn't, as best he could tell. Which meant only one thing.
Rachel wasn't his.
While it'd hurt to know, Scott hadn't panicked at the realization. After all, he could think of several reasonable explanations. Maybe he was sterile or some future injury left him unable to… send soldiers to the objective… and they'd decided to have a child using a sperm donor. Maybe Rachel was some sort of bizarre experiment that they'd rescued from a mad scientist's lab and raised as their own because she was part-Jean. Or maybe… maybe Jean had cheated on him once and it only took one time. He loved her. He'd forgive her, and treat the child as if she was his own. And Rachel… of course she wouldn't want to cause herself to be unmade, even if it meant forcing her parents to go through some unpleasantness.
This… was not a scenario he had even considered, nor was it one he knew how to handle. Scott looked from Emma to Rachel and then back, his frown growing. Rachel was just a symptom. Emma - and what she represented - was the problem. She was someone he couldn't compete with on several levels, the most important of which being… well, he wasn't a woman. Did Jean actually prefer the company of the fairer sex? Because if she did, he'd pretty much lost the race before the starting gun.
The sound of Emma clearing her throat pulled Scott from his thoughts, the blonde gesturing to the article of clothing that had drawn his attention in the first place. "I host a charity gala every New Year's Eve, and Charles has informed me that being on staff means sacrificing my Christmas for the sake of the student body. This is the one holiday I can still enjoy with my family this time of year, and I'll celebrate it however I see fit. I want to lounge around in sweats and a t-shirt while I watch Peanuts
with my children. If you have a problem with that, there's the door. Otherwise, be a dear and shut the hell up. It's time for This Is America, Charlie Brown
. I've watched 'Mayflower Voyagers' every Thanksgiving for the last thirty years, and I'm not about to break my streak now…"
November 24, 2011
Chase Household - Dining Room
"This year, I'm thankful that I didn't walk in on James fucking one of his sluts. Oh, and that all the alimony and child support came on time so I didn't need to take him back to court."
"This year, I'm thankful that I'm with someone who's not a shrew who tries to suck the joy out of everyone else's lives so they're as miserable as she is."
"This year, I'm thankful that Tori graduated back in June. Catching a ride to school with your step-mom is one thing. Doing it because she's a senior at your high school? Something else entirely."
"This year, I'm thankful for the same thing as Madison." Mallory Chase leaned forward, looking past her twin sister at the young blonde who seemed entirely out of place sitting at the 'adult' section of the table. "Because… yeah."
Blowing a bubble of bright pink gum, Victoria Chase nodded fervently. "I know, right? So glad I'm finally free. I was seriously worried they were gonna, like, make me stay for a seventh year."
Beside Cordelia, Anya let out a soft snort before leaning against the green-haired girl and lowering her voice. "And you say my family is Jerry Springer
"You're the mutant incest baby of the fraternal twin children of one of the world's most wanted terrorists. I hate to break it to you, Anya, but you're walking episode of Jerry Springer
." Cordelia looked from Anya's indignant face to where her Aunt Simone and Uncle James were arguing - her 'Aunt' Tori sitting calmly in the middle as she texted away on her phone and blew bubbles with her gum - and then back to Anya. "Sure, that branch of the family tree might be the episode filmed right after yours. That still doesn't make your parents any less of a train wreck."
After spending a second or two contemplating that, Anya shrugged. "True. Could be worse, I guess. We could be an episode of Maury
, or the Steve Wilkos Show
." Considering one tended to revolve around the antics of the dumb and slutty while the other focused on abuse and other creepy shit? She had a point. "…so…"
Cordelia tapped her fingers lightly against the arm of her chair as she tried to figure out where to go from there. Discussing love lives was right out; hers had been in a coma for almost a month now and Anya… well, given her parentage and the fact that she had a fraternal twin brother of her own, Cordelia wasn't sure she wanted to know. What about… well, fashion was generally a safe subject. "That's an… interesting… outfit you have on. It's, um, rather unique."
"You do know that the word 'unique' isn't modifiable, right? There's no 'kinda' unique or 'rather' unique or 'somewhat' unique. Something's either unique… or it's not. Don't they teach you anything in public school?" Anya smirked at the sour look Cordelia shot her in reply before glancing down at herself. "And… well, I'm getting a little tired of Mom making jokes about me dressing like I was Tommy's twin brother. So I decided that maybe if I went reality walking, I could find a world where we'd met in the middle - you know, somewhere between slacks and hot pants - and take a few cues from that Anya." Sighing, Anya shook her head. "Joke was on me. In all but four of the worlds I hopped into, I was Tommy's twin brother Billy. And only two of the four had Anyas."
While Cordelia usually found her cousin's powers incredibly intimidating, this was one of the few times she was jealous. She would kill to see what life was like for other Cordelias. What was it like for her in worlds where she hadn't been born X-positive? Or in worlds where Buffy never came to Sunnydale, allowing her to live in blissful ignorance of the things that went bump in the night? Or… well, she'd gone through a dozen serious costume ideas before settling on the Black Cat for Halloween. What was life like for her these days in the realities where she'd gone as one of her other ideas? After a few seconds contemplation, she shrugged and moved on. "So, you got that from one of the two other Anyas? Or was one of the Billys getting his Eddie Izzard on?"
Anya shook her head in response to both of Cordelia's questions. "Alternate version of Mom, actually. I figured that if I went ultra-feminine but weird, it might scare her into backing off. I was wrong." Reaching up, she fingered the tiara she was wearing. "That was one weird world. Mom was Wanda 'Maximoff' instead of Lehnsherr, and was part of a quintet that served as the hosts of a cosmic creation entity known as the Phoenix Force."
Well, that certainly explained a few things, Cordelia mused as she eyed her cousin. Because while she could recognize some traces of her aunt's fashion sense in what Anya was wearing - like the red corset and skirt slit so far up the sides that even Harmony would have thought twice before going outside in it - other elements were completely foreign. Like the golden tiara with a decidedly avian motif and the golden bird that stretched across the entire front of Anya's corset. The hooded cloak, on the other hand? Cordelia was fairly certain that it wasn't something drawn from Aunt Wanda's wardrobe but if that was the case… what? Did the Phoenix Force think it was funny to make its hosts run around with bad cases of hood hair or something?
Before Cordelia could vocalize her thoughts on Anya's attire, there was a blinding flash of pink light followed by a heavy thump. Figuring that anyone who would bypass the front door and invade her home was likely up to no good, Cordelia didn't even wait for her vision to return to normal before acting. With a wave of her hand, she lifted all the forks and knives off the table, letting them float in midair for a second before hurling them at the figure rising from the floor. Much to her surprise, rather than dodge - or end up horrifically mutilated - the intruder shifted into dark pink crystal and let the silverware ricochet off her body. "Well, I guess it wouldn't be a family gathering without Cordelia trying to kill someone. The more things change, the more predictably homicidal she remains…"
"Mara? What are you…" Trailing off and blushing faintly as everyone at the table looked her way, Anya sighed and gestured to the new arrival. "I've been using my powers to wander from reality to reality in my free time lately. Just to see what's out there. I never really thought about the fact that if I could get there, other versions of me could get here. Everyone, this is Amaranth Frost. She's… well, we have the same mother and the same birthday, so I count her as another version of me even though I guess she'd technically be a half-sister if we existed in the same world."
After offering the adults a curtsy, Mara turned back to Anya and leaned down, lifting a couple of large shopping bags into the air. "I'm pretty sure you didn't leave the stuff you bought with Mother behind 'accidentally', but since she's the one who puts a roof over my head and pays off my credit card balance… she says jump and I ask 'which world?'."
Wanda eyed her alternate universe daughter as Mara shifted back into her human form, and then shrugged and gestured to the pair of empty seats that existed as a buffer between the 'kid' and 'adult' sections of the table. Then again, Cordelia realized, it was probably hard to phase a woman who had once created a living, breathing, zapping Pikachu for one of her sorority sisters just to prove she could. And Mara looked fairly normal, pink leather fetish aside. It wasn't like she was… blue with pointy ears and three-fingered hands or something. "Well, at least I've got good taste in women in your world. Hungry? Your aunt had the help make enough for a family twice this size, even after you take mutant appetites into account." As the strawberry-blonde girl made her way over to the table, Wanda leaned forward and shot a glare down the table at Anya. "And you'd better believe we're going to be talking about this 'going shopping with other moms' thing later…"
November 24, 2011
Rosenberg Household - Living Room
"I've got it!"
Even after living there for nearly a month, Michelle still felt a bit awkward answering the door at the Rosenbergs' house because… well, it was their house. She was just a long-term guest. Or at least that was true under normal circumstances. Today, on the other hand? The doorbell's trill seemed like a gift from God himself, allowing her to flee Sheila's lectures about the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Because as interested as Willow seemed to be in hearing about how Thanksgiving was 'nothing more than a morbid celebration of the destruction of our country's indigenous peoples'… pass.
Michelle ran her fingers through her hair as she approached the door, slipping back into her flesh-colored public face with the blond-streaked copper hair most of the neighbors were used to seeing. While Sheila didn't have a problem with her running around the house in all her blue glory - and all her classmates knew about her powers if not her true form - Michelle really didn't want to give old Missus Johnson from down the street a heart attack if she was coming over to borrow yet another cup of sugar.
Except it wasn't Missus Johnson, Michelle discovered upon opening the door. Instead, it was two people: a blond-haired behemoth of a man who stood at least a head taller than Michelle… and a statuesque redhead with blue skin under her simple white sheath dress. As Michelle's mouth worked silently, the large man chuckled and the woman who could only be Raven Darkholme offered a small smile. "Thanksgiving is a holiday for family, isn't it?"