You can look inside another world
You get to talk to a pretty girl
She's everything you dream about
But don't fall in love...
The Tubes, She's A Beauty
October 31st, 2007
Room 502, Dickinson Cottage, Whateley Academy
The door unlocked, Tansy led the way into her room and gave both girls with her a chance to look around. Most of the time she had been at the school she had never really decorated her room, lest people use that to get information about her to use against her. Now, with her single, she had relaxed herself a bit and allowed herself to surround herself with some of her favorite things. “You bought a guitar?” Lanie asked as she went over to the plain white instrument, sitting upright on a stand next to a small amplifier and a pair of very expensive looking wireless headphones.
“It was a gift, actually,” Tansy replied with a smile as she went over to her wardrobe and began to rummage. “Jericho gave it to me.”
Kayda smirked from her admiring of a framed photograph of Tansy in her Polo Team uniform, cantering on the back of her beloved Tango, mallet up, ready to swing, eyes alert. It was like something from a fragrance ad. “Danny told me about that jam session you put on with the Outcasts. Wish I could have seen it.”
“Be glad you didn't,” Lanie told her. “Jericho in a kilt. Ah still have nightmares.”
“Oh you do not,” Tansy scolded her.
“How would you know?”
“Because I'm usually having sex with you in your dreams!” the blonde shot back.
“Uh, guys? I'm right here, ya know!” Kayda complained, which got the blonde and red head laughing. “I wish Debra were here,” she mumbled.
“Oh stop pining for the fjords!” Lanie told her with a grin. “If Ah know you two, you're up to this and that in Dream Space just the same as Tansy, Wyatt and me!”
“'Pining for the fjords'?” demanded Tansy in an incredulous tone of voice.
Elaine made a gesture of innocence. “Blame mah dad, he loves Monty Python.”
Kayda sighed as her gaze shifted to a more casual picture of Tansy, wearing a one piece swimsuit and a pair of shorts. She was standing on the deck of an odd-looking sailboat, laughing and just starting to flinch away from the camera as someone was spraying everyone around with a massive bottle of champagne. “It is better than nothing, but it's hard not be a little jealous that you three also get to be together in the real world too! Say, Tansy, what is this?”
Tansy came back from the wardrobe, handing Lanie a bath robe and a bundle of clothes. “Oh, that was the victory celebration at the International America's Cup. I actually drank enough champagne to get tipsy! That's my yacht, the Tansy IV. We won.” She gave Kayda a critical gaze. “Kayda, I'm not sure I have anything that will fit you, looks like we have about the same hips, but all of my jeans will be too long for you.”
“What do I need clothes for?” she asked, puzzled. “And you named your yacht after yourself?”
“You want to stay in that grease monkey get up?” Tansy asked archly, indicating the grease stained coverall she was still wearing. “I don't know about you, but I want out of these sweaty work out clothes and a nice hot shower. And I didn't name her, Da...Mr. Walcutt did. I just got her when he had won and defended the title once and didn't want her any more.” She went over to a chest of drawers and rummaged a bit. “I have some shorts...?”
“Uh, sure,” the Lakota girl replied. “You and Lanie swap clothes a lot?”
“Well, Lanie is top heavy, but we're otherwise the same size,” the blonde returned.
“Ah don't recall you complaining about the size of mah tits when...”
“No need to air dirty laundry, or your dirty mind, Elaine Nalley!” Tansy told her quickly as she retrieved the clothing and led the way to the communal shower for the floor. It surprised Kayda as it was different from the bathrooms she remembered being in Poe last year. There were only three stalls and in a smaller room were a pair of shower nozzles separated by a pair of rubberized curtains on a track in the ceiling.
“This is kinda small,” Kayda remarked, looking around the room. Tansy closed a door Kayda hadn't seen and threw the slide bolt that would probably not stop any of the residents of the cottage were they determined to get in.
“There's only four of us up here,” she replied as she laid out her clothes, on a bench against the wall furthest from the nozzles, and began to strip. Neither she nor Lanie seemed self conscious as both girls were shedding clothing at a fair pace. Kayda stole a jealous glance or two as she disrobed, both because of some part of her remembering her time with Lanie in the sweat lodge and the fantasy of marital bliss that Coyote had tempted her with.
They moved over the nozzle and turned it on, steam quickly beginning to fill the room, some from the heat of the water, some from the passionate embrace the two engaged in as the water soaked their hair to their scalps and began to make their skin glisten. “I need to take a trip to Souix Falls,” she muttered under her breath as she got under the other shower head and let the hot water beat on her and tried not to listen to the sounds of their embrace as she did so. “Oh, get a room!” she scolded them.
She was surprised to hear them laugh, then she was seized by both of them and forced between them as they both leaned in and kissed her, one on each cheek. “Don't be jealous, little sister,” Lanie whispered in her ear. “Ah'll always love you.”
“Same with me,” Tansy replied on the other side. “You helped me take my first step. You need something, hell, you just want something, it's yours, Kayda. Promise.”
Kayda smiled and told herself her face was only wet from the shower as she got her arms around her best friends at the school and hugged them tightly. “You...you guys are the best!”
October 31st, 2007
1st Floor Game Room 'A', Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Lina sighed as she found nothing that interested her in the vending machines lining one wall of the little kitchen area and so left it, feeling despondent. Tonight was one of the biggest party days of the school year but she definitely didn't feel like celebrating. The 'extra' gift her male spirit had bestowed on her made her feel like a freak, even as her exemplar BIT was turning her into the luscious curves of the body of a male adolescent fantasy she had always wanted, her spirit was working over time making sure it's maleness was well marked on her.
If she had been born a boy, she'd be the envy of the locker room.
That would have been bad enough, but Lina had lost all attraction to boys as well and that bothered her deeply. Her mom, a young widow, tried to be supportive of her inter-sexed daughter, but there were just some things a young girl couldn't talk about with her mother. She stuck her hands in her jeans pockets, lamenting her inability to wear a skirt or a dress anymore and decided to try and take her mind off things in the game room.
There, she was startled to find Angelina Jolie, wearing a Queensrÿche tour T-shirt and jeans, sitting on one of the couches, playing Tomb Raider. “Who are you?” she demanded, wary, but the matinee queen's features melted and were replaced with the rugged good looks of an all-American jock who could have stepped out of any teen movie. “Steve?” she asked, confused.
“Yeah, sorry,” the senior replied in his normal voice as he paused the game and put down the controller to give Lina his full attention. “Sometimes I still shift forms when I'm not thinking about it.” He flashed a perfect smile that Lina desperately wished did something for her. “Hey, it's the big party night, aren't you going?”
Lina gave a gesture to the sofa and Rossiter waved with his hand to invite her. Lina plopped down with her legs crossed, sideways on the couch facing him. “Nah, I don't really feel like celebrating. What about you?”
“Me?” Steve replied with a laugh that didn't have any mirth. “Oh no, I hate halloween. The one day a year everybody plays with my problem and rubs my nose in it? No thanks.”
Samhurst cocked her head in confusion. “Do what now? Sorry, I am just a freshman...”
The smile flashed again, but didn't make it to his eyes. “Yeah, I guess I just assumed I'm the leading topic of gossip still.” He sighed and laid his forearms over his legs to lean on. “I have Chaney Syndrome.” Seeing her confusion, he continued. “It's named after the actor, Lon Chaney, the so-called 'man of a thousand faces'. This,” and he gave a gesture to indicate himself, “isn't what I look like.”
Lina shrugged. “So, what do you look like?”
Steven shrugged and stared at the oval rug the couch was sitting on. “I dunno. I'm a shifter four. I can only do mammalian bipeds or quadrupeds and I only have this much mass, but otherwise I'm any body.” He rapidly shifted, sex and appearance, movie stars, TV News Anchors, Presidents, then was back to the blonde teen paragon. “That's what Chaney Syndrome is. If you can be anybody, who are you?”
“Yeah, I guess that sucks,” Lina declared, her voice heavy with sarcasm. “I turned into a lesbian and grew a porn star's pecker but hey, that can't be as bad as being whoever you want.”
“Go ahead and laugh,” he growled, “Everybody else does. At least you know who you are!”
“Oh, come on, Steve!” she shot back. “Surely you've got pictures of yourself from before you manifested! Your parents...”
He laughed darkly. “Oh yeah, my parents. Man I thought nothing would be worse than coming out to them. Oops!” The smile left his face. “My dad bailed on mom, couldn't take it that 'his boy' was a flaming queer and a mutant.”
Lina flinched and in a quiet voice said, “My dad died in Afghanistan.”
“Sorry,” he told her. After a long moment of silence he softly said, “I think Mom blames me. I mean, she doesn't say it, but... Anyway, why would I want to be that guy?”
“Why wouldn't you?” Lina asked, leaning forward. “That guy sounds pretty brave to me.”
He looked up, his face wasn't so perfect, in fact it was rather forgettable, with mousy brown hair instead of the windblown blond boy band locks. But it was an honest face. “Thanks,” he said and made a gesture at the game. “You wanna play some?”
“Sure,” Peacock replied. “But, tell me something?”
“What?” he asked, resetting the game back to a start screen. There he realized it was a one-player game, and got up to find a game that had a two-player mode from the book shelf they were kept on.
“How...how do you...guys...deal with this...thing?”
“What thing?” he asked, turning form perusing the titles. Lina sighed and sat normally, indicating the bulge in the front of her jeans. His eyes boggled in surprise. “Damn, girl, you are packing!”
“Tell me something I don't know,” she drawled, rolling her eyes. “Like how to get it under control!”
“Sex,” he replied, as if declaring the weather. “Or jerk off a lot.”
“I can't spend my life in my room!”
He chuckled. “Well, there's always the cold shower, but, damn, I dunno with that meat missile of yours.” He selected a game and came back over. “Or think about something complicated that isn't sexual at all. Sports, cars, anything you like and are into.”
“Thanks, Danny, uh, Pounce suggested baseball...” She paused as the thought of the exotic cat girl in the shower made her predicament worse and, fit to die of embarrassment, she had to adjust herself to be comfortable. “God, I'm so sorry!”
“No, no, it's all good,” he replied. “Happens to all of us.” He paused and looked at her sidelong, down at her crotch, and then back up. “So...lesbian, huh? I mean....”
“I wish,” she replied. “I mean I want to like guys, they just don't do anything for me any more.” She blinked and looked at him. “Wait, you want...”
Rossiter grinned. “I guess I have dropped out of the gossip. Well, Mrs. Horton did tell me to tone it down, but Lina, honey, I am a flaming bottom.”
“Bottom? What...? Oh! You mean you...?” He stood, turned and bent over, presenting his ass which caused Lina to burst out giggling. “I would never have thought that about you!”
He shook his head ruefully. “Oh, there was a time! Mrs Horton really chewed me out last year, said I was putting the whole cottage at risk, being a jerk. Told me there was a difference from being out and proud as opposed to being a walking stereotype. She didn't pull any punches. I've tried to be discreet ever since.”
“I...I wish I hadn't been a virgin before I grew this damn thing!” she complained.
“Sweetie!” scolded Steve. “Don't think of it that way. I mean, I've tried it just about every way you can and there are few things I enjoy more than feeling my lover inside me. You get to give that gift to your partner! Don't hate it! Besides, there are lots of fun things you can do with it, trust me!”
“Yeah? Like what?” she demanded, then blushed when she realized she had all but propositioned him. Steve smiled a consoling smile.
“I'd show you, but being a wing adviser, I'm really not supposed to.”
“I thought you were gay?”
“I'm a shifter, sweet heart, as the song goes, 'I'm every woman'...”
“I...I could never ask you to be someone else for me,” she told him. “Especially not after you told me...!” Steve smiled a sweet smile that finally reached his eyes.
“You are one of the good ones, Lina. And I'm glad I know you. Now, I'm going to kick your ass in Mario Cart.”
“Bring it, Goldilocks! You are going down!”
“Here's hoping!” he shot back and the new friends shared a salacious laugh as the game loaded.
October 31st, 2007
Room 502, Dickinson Cottage, Whateley Academy
The girls, laughing and still drying their hair, were surprised to find Ms Hartford waiting on them by Tansy's door. “Uh...Ms Hartford?” Tansy greeted, caught more than a little off guard. The Assistant Headmistress said nothing, merely pointing to the door, which Tansy quickly unlocked and led the way inside.
The Three Amigas watched the older woman enter, turning slowly in place as she took in the entire room. “Goodness, this brings back memories,” she declared softly, almost to herself.
“Ma'am?” asked Elaine in confusion.
Hartford smiled at the girls, and for once the smile seemed appropriate on her face. “I haven't been in this room for almost twenty years!” Hartford declared with a rueful smile. “I like what you've done with it, Tansy.”
“This was your room?” Walcutt demanded somewhat incredulously. “You were in Dickinson?”
“Class of '88” Amelia replied. She chose one of Tansy's wing back chairs and sank into it, encouraging the other girls to join her in the other chairs. “Girls, we need to have a very serious discussion. Tansy, have you made sure this room is secure?”
Elaine reached over and grabbed her purse, pulling out a small, beige device and opening it. After a moment, she declared, “Nothing electronic that Ah can detect.”
“Nothing magical,” Kayda replied as well.
“Good,” Hartford declared solemnly. “I need you to understand this and for all of your sakes, you are not to breathe a word of this to anyone, other than myself, Sensei Ito or Headmistress Carson.”
“What about Ms Imp?” Tansy asked pointedly.
“If you need to,” Amelia allowed. “But I doubt she'll bring it up. Tansy, Mrs Carson and I have conversed and we believe that you may have a very, very rare gift.”
“What?” she asked. “I mean, I'm nothing special...?”
“I'll let Professor Geintz help you with your self esteem issues, my dear,” Hartford told her. “But, suffice to say you are quite wrong.” Amelia leaned forward and licked her lips, trying to be certain of the words she wanted. “You told me when you accidentally pulled Grizzly from Elaine, that it was hard for you to separate them?”
“That was an accident,” Elaine said, her eyes moving between the administrator and her lover.
“Yes,” Tansy allowed hesitantly. “But what...?”
“And that you expelled more than one spirit without suffering spirit separation shock?” The confused blonde nodded slowly. “Tansy, Elizabeth and I think you may be able to create a Force.”
“No way!” she protested instantly.
“What?” demanded Kayda. “Like the Astarte Force or the Champion Force?”
“Quiet!” Ms Hartford did not raise her voice, but it commanded instant obedience and all three girls immediately fell silent. “We do not know yet. And until we do, the three of you are to speak of this with no one. Not even amongst yourselves! Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes ma'am,” the girls chorused.
“Good girls,” she complimented.
Tansy thought for a moment, then turned back up to the administrator to ask, “So, Ms. Hartford, what am I?” At the questioning look on her face, Tansy elaborated, “I mean, my new classification?”
“Oh,” Amelia declared with a smile. “Tansy you are an Exemplar Four, though there are some overlaps with your spirit's assistance. With Mustang's help you can pass yourself off as a five or even a six if needs be, but my advice is for you to be discrete. Speaking of Mustang, our best guess is for your avatar trait is that we don't have one. Were I to have to update your MID, I would probably mark it as a four because that would give you some plausible deniability with our theory. In reality, if people were not evil, you would be a five simply because that is where we classify people with 'beats us' abilities.” She chuckled ruefully and then turned her attention to Lanie. “Now, Elaine, what did Professor Geintz say to you?”
“What about...? Oh! Ah have to start seeing him Friday, after class. And that Tansy could come, too.”
The two girls shared a smile, then looked back up at the administrator. “Good. Take what he has to say to heart and work on it, alright?” Elaine nodded. “Excellent. Alright girls, off to dinner and enjoy the festivities this evening, but stay alert, just in case.”
October 31st, 2007
1st Floor hallway, outside Game Room 'A', Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Mrs Horton smiled to herself as she quietly left the door way of the game room where she had been eavesdropping on Steve and Lina. It was good to see Lina making friends and coming out of her shell. She had been so withdrawn when she first arrived, Bella had been worried about her. Of course, it was also good to see all the work she had put into Steve Rossiter was paying dividends and he was becoming a fine young man, or whatever he would eventually choose to be.
The doorway to the laundry opened in front of her and she paused to let a laden Bethany Anders by, both hands full with a basket full of neatly-folded clothes. “Hi, Mrs Horton!” she greeted as she went by, heading towards the elevators.
“Hello, Bethany,” she greeted as the young girl trotted by. Bella smiled, feeling contented at having a job that played so well into her personality. Magic kept her mind sharp as well as other perks, but mothering was by far her favorite hobby. Getting paid to do it? Well, as the saying went, find a job doing what you love and you'll never work another day in your life.
Now, if only Trish Savage...
She shook her head, laughing at herself. She had thought herself far too old for crushes, but she had to admit, the fascination she had for the younger housemother of Whitman was wearing out its welcome. Too many more dreams about the tall, shapely blonde and she might actually have to do something about it. “As if she would be interested in an old frump like me,” Bella muttered to herself, catching her reflection in one of the mirrors in the laundry room as she pulled the door shut.
Bella had always been curvy and a larger woman. In her day, that had been the fashion and she had used it well to attract and marry Mr. Horton. That was a long time ago and fashion had changed, thin petite girls were all the rage and while she could be many things, thin and petite would never be among them. Mrs Horton sighed as she looked at herself in her mental mirror.
Working out with Mrs Savage over the summer and fall had had results. She was no longer in danger of being called an 'Earth Mother' and truth be told she liked to consider herself back in the Rubenesque range; certainly full-figured, but the right kind of full-figured. And she had lost a good thirty pounds doing it, which made her doctors happy.
While she had a great friend in Trish Savage, Bella was all but certain that on the baseball team of sex, Trish was not a switch hitter. “I'm too old for this nonsense,” she muttered to herself as she got back into the great room and settled at the little 'information' style desk there that let her keep an eye on the comings and goings, as well as enforce her strict sign in and out policy.
Having to be out of her apartment to do it was the only real down side to the new design for the cottage, but, the extra space was certainly nice. The kids would be heading to the party soon and then she would be able to go and observe the holiday privately and meditate with the local spirits.
She sighed again and tried not to be melancholy. Such was the path of the solitary practitioner. Still, it would be nice to not be solitary all the time.
“Mrs Horton!” The call drifted down the stairwell in front of her and was urgent the way only teenagers could be. Chuckling at herself, she stood and began to mount the steps.
“Coming!” she called. To herself, she added, “Alone? You wish you old fuddy duddy!”
October 31st, 2007
Fixer's Patio, Schuster Hall next to the Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
The back patio of Schuster Hall, an open, paved space lined with picnic-type tables had long been the domain of school's movers and shakers, but it was also the school's de facto party location, due to the seating, its closeness to the Crystal Hall and its kitchens and the surprisingly good natural acoustics.
On the gently sloping lawn down towards Laird Hall, where it was still almost perfectly level a wooden dancing floor had been laid out, with a stage at the far end that faced Schuster for live band music, as well as a DJ between sets. Heartbreaker and the Alphas had pulled out all the stops, draping the hanging lights with orange and black crepe paper streamers wrapped around the supporting wires. In addition to the bulbs, multicolored 'Christmas Tree' lights, but themed for Halloween were also added, giving the area an almost magical glow. Large propane outdoor heaters were already placed to ward off the New England chill and Chef Marcel had outdone himself with a buffet of treats and both hot and cold beverages spread out over six tables.
Watching over this were a number of costumed teachers and staff, some more creative in their outfits than others. Hulking king of the shop, Melvin Donner had somewhere found a pair of purple corduroy pants he had cut into ragged knee shorts and his impressive physique was covered in green body pant. He was enjoying a glass of punch, brought to him by a nearly unrecognizable Ms Dawson, already a tall woman, she went to imposing as her four-inch boots took her statuesque form over six feet while it was wrapped in a black spandex body suit with white strips that left her arms bare. Her skin was a crimson red and she was sporting yellow contacts and a massive black wig that went down to the small of her back with red stripes of hair running through it.
Ian Parker was working the other side of the gathering, nearer the dance floor, sporting an emerald green suit and matching fedora with a green half face mask while his new husband, Bo Zhang-Parker was laughing at some funny moment in their conversation in a charcoal chauffeur uniform and a black mask. However, in many ways, the students were out shining the teachers.
Tansy had decided to own her reputation and wear it on her sleeve. She was dressed in a dark purple jumpsuit and a hood type mask covered her head completely and came down to a mask with eye holes. The face of the mask was black as were the cat ears on the top of the hood. The jumpsuit had a belt of yellow disks that were actually compartments and surprisingly well designed. It was set off with black thigh-high boots and over-the-elbow gloves that had sharp, hard 'claws' in the fingers. Over her left shoulder to right hip was a coiled black bullwhip.
“Woof!” declared Murphy as the senior sauntered up to where she was standing by the stage, having a conversation with Jericho who, contrarian as always, was wearing a pair of jeans under a black T-shirt with the batman logo on it and a pair of sneakers. “I never thought I'd see you literally be catty, Tansy!”
“Meow,” Tansy returned with a smile. “I have this past, so I might as well flaunt it. Besides, who doesn't like Michelle Pfeiffer, right? Not that I would ever been seen in hand stitched PVC, so I thought I'd go Old School. And Joseph! What happened to you?”
The boy grinned, not quite looking at Tansy. “What? You don't like my costume? I'm a teenager!”
“Bravo! Well played!” Tansy complimented. She noted that Murphy's skin was now completely milky white and both eyes were disturbingly black, but she was wearing a T-shirt of a rock band Tansy had never heard of and jeans. “What are you dressed as, Miss Murphy?” she asked.
“The future,” the other girl replied darkly.
“The Ghost of Halloween Yet To Come?”
“No, the future of Joanne Gunnarson,” the rainbow haired girl replied. “Ever since this thing with my BIT every time I heal, my skin goes white. Just like Vamp, who's BIT got tangled with mine. There's nothing I can do about it, so...” she gave a gesture to indicate herself. “Scary, huh?”
“Joe, would you excuse us for a moment? And if you need a spell with guitar I'm available.”
“Sure, Tansy, and thanks,” the other said as he turned and walked over to Razorback to help him set up the amplifiers. The blonde watched him go for a moment, then opened one of the disks on her belt and withdrew an envelope that she handed to Murphy.
“What's this?” she demanded, opening the envelope to see and pair of boarding passes inside. “Plane tickets? You trying to get rid of me?”
“Just trying to help,” Walcutt returned. “There is a specialty clinic on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. “They deal in BIT malfunctions, probably the best on the planet. And they know how to bill me.”
Joanne frowned and put the envelope on the stage in front of Tansy. “I haven't done anything to earn something like that, and I don't want your charity. I earn my own way in the world.” Tansy reached down and pushed the envelope back at Joanne.
“Once, another hero asked The Batman what his superpower was. Do you know what he answered?” Murphy shook her head, a strange expression on her face with her disturbing black eyes. “He said, 'I'm Rich,'” Walcutt said with a smile. “I know I'm a bitch, Jo, and I know I can't buy forgiveness, but if I can't use my money to do good, then what is it good for? The tickets are good for a year. Think about it.”
“Why are there two tickets?” she demanded.
Tansy shrugged. “I thought one of your parents would want to be there for you. Besides, unaccompanied minors traveling internationally have all kinds of problems. Trust me, I know.”
Grudgingly, Murphy picked up the envelope and put it in her back pocket. “Alright, I...I'll think about it.” The taller blonde nodded and smiled.
“Good. I hope you take advantage. It's a lovely clinic, practically a resort, and everything is included.” She turned to lean against the stage and look back out over the party. Murphy was pretty sure she hadn't done it on purpose, but the way she leaned against the stage set the costume to clinging at her and put her magnificent body on display. It was hard for the rainbow haired younger woman to not be jealous. “So,” Tansy remarked, casually, saving Joanne from the Green-Eyed Monster. “What can I do to patch up you and Lanie?”
She indicated with her head and Jo turned to see the red head just arriving on the arm of a massive Batman who could be no one but Wyatt. Jo had to admit, the classic charcoal tights with black accent gloves, boots, cape and cowl looked good filled out with six foot six Alaskan bad boy. Lanie was wearing a green Merry Widow with pale green fishnet tights with matching opera gloves and knee boots, all in a plant theme with little leaves giving the illusion the outfit was alive.
Murphy snorted. “I thought she was going to wear that stupid Banshee outfit of hers.”
“She was,” Tansy admitted, “But I talked her out of it.” She gave a pause long enough to give Murphy a chance to answer her question if she was going to. When it became obvious she wasn't going to, she asked, “Honestly, what is going on with you two?”
“Nothing,” Murphy growled and turned her back to the crowd and her former friend. “I don't even know why I'm still here, everyone else has moved on.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Tansy asked, tilting her head to one side. “Last year you two were...”
“Yeah? Well, that was last year,” Murphy declared morosely. “Before I turned into a bully,” she whispered. A wave of warm, soothing comfort washed over Joanne from her right, soothing the ache in her breast and suddenly she was filled with hope that her mistakes could be sorted and made up for. She looked up, confused, some part of her trying to be upset that she was under an attack, just in time to see Tansy's hand cup her cheek.
Don't be afraid, the blonde's voice said in her mind. Show me what happened so I can help.
Joanne fell into herself, falling through her memories and her only anchor to sanity, to not be lost in terror, was the feeling of Tansy's hand and the soothing, all is well feeling that came from it. Then the darkness brightened and Joanne was outside the Crystal Hall. The sun was shining and it was early May from last year once again. She saw herself standing with Nacht and Vamp, watching Tansy walking in the direction of the hall. Joanne braced herself for the tirade she expected from the blonde next to her when her memory self threw the ice ball into memory Tansy's face, but the look on the face of the Tansy next to her was more ashamed. “I...I...I mean...”
The face in the Catwoman mask smiled and it seemed genuine. “I had worse coming.”
The shade of Murphy left her new friends and headed towards the Crystal Hall, followed invisibly by her future self and the former object of her ire. There was an actual spring in her step as she filled her tray and began to walk to the Lit Chix table. The good mood didn't last long as she saw the shouting match that was in progress. “Ah will not leave the Lit Chicks just because you…”
Memory Joanne froze in her step, and Tansy felt her internalize what she was seeing and digesting it as being her fault. “You didn't...”
“Watch,” Murphy whispered, shame practically dripping off her.
Maggie had leapt to her feet, her face a mask of rage. “You let that monster into you, and I’m not going to watch it eat you from the inside!” Maggie was almost to the point of screaming. Elaine was gripping the edge of the table and her face was red, obviously trying to master her temper.
The Memory of Joanne stumbled to her place at the table, convincing herself it was her power of manipulating probability that had set the closest pair of friends in the club at each others throats.
“Look, this isn’t the place to hash this…”
“You have this obsession with this stupid Wicked persona and then you go and have someone bind a bear spirit into you and you expect me to sit still and watch you parade around like you’re not wearing my friend’s skin like a fucking cloak?”
Tansy felt the memory of Elaine have her last straw break and lose her temper. Then, before she could say or do anything, in a desperate attempt to deal with her anger, Grizzly manifested over her form and roared her outrage at the abuse. Joanne's head snapped up as the roar penetrated her self recriminations and the native Alaska was presented with something all to memorable and familiar.
Before her was a full grown Grizzly, on her hind legs and roaring. In her experience, a nasty, possibly fatal mauling was imminent. Joanne didn't think, she acted. She jumped to her feet and leapt, putting everything she had in it to reach the most sensitive part of a bear. She slapped the wet nose as hard as she could.
“Not cool, Loophole!” she shouted. The pain of the strike and the use of the name she hated broke through to the red head. The huge, green eyes filled with tears as the Lit Chix behind Murphy screamed with fear, backing away from the bear, towards Maggie. Grizzly faded away as tears streamed down Elaine's face as her heart broke. Joanne looked into her friend's face once more as the tears were like knives being driven into her stomach. Elaine spun around and fled, sobbing as Joanne's gut wrenched.
Suddenly the memory froze and she felt Tansy hugging her. “You thought the others were in danger,” Tansy told her softly. “It wasn't your fault.”
“I hurt her,” Joanne whispered, seeing the frozen look of anguish on her past self's face, frozen in her memory. “I was the bully. Me! I broke her heart!”
“Did you mean to hurt Elaine?” Tansy asked rationally.
“I...I didn't know that she had manifested Grizzly to deal with her temper. I thought she was going to maul Maggie...”
“So you tried to save your friends,” Tansy said. “Elaine would understand that. Tell her what happened after.”
“Oh thank God, at least someone could get it through her…”
“Shut up!” Joanne roared as she turned, enraged and spoiling for a fight. Instead she settled for grabbing the table and flipping it over, dumping food and notebooks, computers and everything else. “You shallow fucking bint, what the fuck is the matter with you?” Nose to nose with a very startled Maggie she shouted. “I shoulda let her smack you!”
She looked at the other Lit Chixs, covered in food, and the mess of belongings from the over turned table, staring wild-eyed at this new danger. “All it takes to abandon a friend is a bit of Intermittent GSD and an avatar schtick?” Spittle was flying as Murphy screamed out her outrage. “Fuck you for being a shallow cunt, I hope they room you with a Rager. And the rest of you… Why? One twit freaks out and it’s off with her head?”
“You don’t...” started Rebecca, but Murphy would have none of it.
“You’re right, I don’t. I’m done with you.” She turned on her heel and snatched up her book bag. “I’m done with all of you!” Her final taunt hanging in the air, Murphy watched herself vanish.
Joanne closed her eyes, trying to blot out the image, and when she opened them once more she was once more at the party, by the stage, watching Tansy's hand withdraw from her cheek.
“You...you came into my mind,” she declared, feeling she ought to be more outraged at the psychic intrusion than she was.
“Yes,” Tansy admitted. “I'm sorry, it was the only way to help you. You're free to turn me into Mrs Carson or Mr Geintz and I will admit to everything.”
She would never be able to say why later, but for some reason Gunnarson knew the blonde was speaking the truth. Joanne's eyes filled with tears and she sniffed mightily, trying to keep her sinus' open. “Well, now you know I'm as much a bully as you were! Happy?”
Tansy smirked behind the mask. “Honey, a simple misunderstanding between friends has nothing on me! It was just a mistake, Joanne! Is it so hard to say, 'I'm sorry'?”
The rainbow haired girl scowled up at the costume of the cat themed vigilante. “You don't understand me at all, do you?” she demanded angrily. Tansy frowned and crossed her arms over her bust and the bullwhip.
“What's to understand?” she asked sharply. “Subtlty never seemed to be your forte, Joanne. I'd call you a cow in a china shop, but cow's are actually pretty nimble!”
Joanne tried and failed to hold onto her anger, and spit a little as she couldn't contain a laugh. “Cow? Me? All ninety eight pounds soaking wet of me?”
Tansy admired the claws built into her glove like they were her own nails. “I happen to like Skinny Cow ice creams,” she retorted, then joined the other girl in a giggle. “Ok, so if it's not pride, Joanne, clue me in, what is it? Why won't you just go talk to Elaine?”
Murphy stared at the boards of the stage and sighed. “Fear, alright?” she whispered. “I'm afraid that I'll make things worse. I don't care what you think, I know my mangling is what put Lanie and Maggie at each others throats. Come on! I asked around, those two were BFFs for life. Damn near sisters. I came and shit all over it. Lanie is better off hating me.”
“Let me tell you what I know,” Tansy replied softly. “I know that saving me and redeeming Wyatt and the Alphas cost Elaine every friend she's had here. She did it anyway and she'd do it again because to her it was the right thing to do. Her mutation cost her the friends she grew up with in Georgia. She is alone, putting on a very brave face, but I am a telepath and she can't fool me. And as the Queen of Selfish Bitches, I'm here to tell you, Jo, either go make up with her or put my crown on your head, because you'll have earned it.”
Joanne looked up from the stage, her features drawn in pain and self hatred. “That's cold, Blondie!”
“Imp, calls me Blondie,” Tansy said. “You call me Tansy. Friends are on a first name basis.” She smiled behind the mask and gestured. “Go on.”
“But nothing,” the other ordered. “Go.” Murphy sniffed and ran her arm under her nose.
“I was wrong about you, Tansy. And I'm really glad I was.” She turned, straightened her back and went off into the party in the direction of The Batman and Poison Ivy.
October 31st, 2007
Foyer, Dickinson Cottage, Whateley Academy
Adam Lambert had always been a bit of a movie geek. He knew that he didn't really have the physique to pull off Marc Anthony, but something about the quality of the armor and the tunic he was wearing had him feeling very manly. His back was ramrod straight, thanks to the steel breast plate and so, with his posture corrected, forcibly, his entire carriage was altered. His walk had purpose, the purpose gave the illusion of confidence. The weight of the Galea helmet forced him to hold up his neck, which re-enforced the illusion.
No one would ever mistake him for Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, or even Richard Burton, but few would realize it was Adam Lambert either.
So now, Adam, giving a vigorous college try to appear to be the might of Imperial Rome, waited at the foot of the stairs in Dickinson cottage, watching the other girls leaving for the party with their dates; girls and even some guys, who remarked on how great his costume was, started in surprise to see who was wearing it.
Lambert turned at the sound of his name, looking up the stairs to be stopped dead in his tracks. Ever since Vivian Leigh had stunned Clark Gable coming down the stairs of Twelve Oaks all the way to Kate Winslet stopping Leonardo DiCaprio in his tracks on the Grand Stair Case of RMS Titanic, Hollywood has loved to introduce beautiful women coming down stairs.
Finally, Adam Lambert understood why.
On the landing above him, Prudence Tavori stood, her lush model's body covered in spun, liquid gold, that clung to every curve and flowed like a river to her feet. Her left shoulder was covered in a cape that left the right arm bare and gathered at her hip. She was bedazzled in what looked like a King's Ransom in jewelry and was as regal as if Liz Taylor herself had been reincarnated in her. She gathered up the skirt and floated down the stairs to a fanfare of trumpets Adam was sure he heard, then smiled as she reached out and pushed his chin up to close the mouth he didn't even know was hanging open.
“If you think I look good now,” she whispered in his ear. “Just imagine getting me out of it...”
Adam grew two inches taller as he gave his elbow to this queen and set forth to a high school party as though he had earned a Roman Triumph. For once, almost appropriately, in the back of his mind, his conscience warned, Be wary, Caesar, for all glory is fleeting...
October 31st, 2007
Fixer's Patio, Schuster Hall next to the Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
It was a party.
The freshmen didn't understand fully why the upperclassmen were all just a bit tense, nor why superhero costumes, and not poorly made rentals, but well done reproductions that could be fought in, many with functional weapons, were so popular with them. They chalked it up to the weirdness that was Whateley Academy. Best Entrance honors went to Stronghold and Megagirl, who dressed as Beta Ray Bill and Lady Sif respectively, floated down to the patio in a corona of lightening bolts. Stronghold's masterful costume, complete with latex prosthetics for the character's horse-like face came in second in the costume judging.
Rebecca Corbin's obsessive attention to detail won her the first place award for her exactingly perfect Lady Lightening costume.
It wasn't perfect, there were a couple of scuffles that almost got to violence but the great aplomb with which Mr Donner was pulling off the alter ego of Bruce Banner, usually kept tempers from getting out of hand. As the evening wore on, people seemed to relax and genuinely begin to enjoy themselves. For many, the highlight was the surprise of the evening. More than one gasp ran through the crowd as Lord Paramount, looking exceptionally regal as Prince Charming, escorted Amelia Hartford, who was dressed in Cinderella's classic blue ball gown, out to the dance floor and slowly waltzed to an epic cover of Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson's duet of Beauty and the Beast by Diamondback and Jericho.
There were a number of kids who had to be encouraged by the chaperones to keep their hands from wandering on their dates, and letting them come up for a breath of air now and then. There were silly games, and laughter, there was dancing and knowing smiles shared by the adults.
Mrs Carson actually seemed to be having a good time, even bright red and in red and black tights as the Fabulous Imp. More than one picture was taken of the pair, made more humorous by the Imp's costume as an Angel, complete with halo.
Finally it seemed the photograph seekers were satisfied and Imp yawned looking at her watch. “Well, I think I'm going to call it a night.”
Carson looked at her own and frowned. “Already?” she asked. “It's not even eleven!”
“Yes,” the art teacher replied with a smile. “But I've had a busy week! So some time staring at the back of my eyelids sounds wonderful.”
Liz smiled and noted her glass was empty. “Pleasant dreams. I'm off for a refill.”
“Night!” the departing teacher gave a wave and began making her way through the press of students in the direction of The Village.
“Well, there almost is truth in advertising!” Tansy arched an eyebrow under the mask as she turned to face a somewhat belligerent Black Canary with her hands on the hips of her bustier and fishnets. “Almost!”
“Hello, Dale,” she replied coolly. “Tell me, who, to your mind, I should have come as instead?”
“Well, Krypto comes to mind,” the green eyed blonde returned sharply. “But he was a hero.”
“And male,” Tansy said, the cool in her voice now decidedly frosty. “So I guess your bitch analogy falls flat.”
“Can't resist a catty remark I see,” Mindbird shot back.
“I can resist plenty of things, none of them matter right now,” Tansy declared as she took a sip of her punch. “Is this where you remind me for the umpteenth time that I'm not fooling you and you'll prove I'll return to my, oh one second.” Tansy put down her punch cup so she could wring her hands properly. “Eeevile ways?”
The Black Canary took a step forward. “You're a bitch, Walcutt, from a family of bitches and assholes and that is your legacy!”
Tansy rolled her eyes. “Oh get off it, Dale! You want me to say my father is an asshole? Well, I sure as little green apples agree with you! Was I a bitch when I came here? Sure, I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas and a drawer full of knives just itching to be plunged into backs! But I've done something you refuse to, and that's grow up! I was an abused child, what's your excuse?”
The sound of the slap across her face rung around the patio and was so unexpected it caught Tansy flat footed, exemplar reflexes or no. It didn't truly hurt, but feeling the anger burning off of Dale Townsend did. It was the kind of rage that wasn't healthy, that would fester into ulcers and worse. “You disgusting cunt!” Dale hissed. “You think you can pretend or buy your way out of all you've done? That you won't have to answer for Montana? Or Trap Door? Or me? You haven't changed. You can't change! You might change sides, you might even fool Carson, but deep down you will always be the selfish little whore that almost made Montana hang himself.”
Tansy took a step back from the burning anger in Dale's eyes. “That's not true!” she countered. “I...”
“For what?” Dale continued, talking over her as if she hadn't spoken. “Climbing the social ladder in High School? I just hope I'm there when they catch you and haul you away. I hope my smiling face is the last thing you see before they stuff you into the back of the cop car!” Dale stood up straight and pronounced, “Bitch!” with the finality of a Judge handing down a death sentence, then turned on her heel and stormed off.
Still holding her cheek, Tansy watched her depart and wondered bitterly if some how, some way, Dale Townsend might be right.
“Two, please,” Maggie asked of the kitchen lady that was serving the punch. She gave Maggie a smile as she handed them to her and complimented her on her costume. Maggie returned the smile from under the fedora of her Indiana Jones costume, complete with it's shoulder bag and a Smith and Wesson M1917 revolver in the holster at her hip. Just like the hero she had chosen to pretend to be, she had to make sure things were just perfect.
“Miss Finson,” Carson greeted from behind her. “I trust you have the NAZIs suppressed?”
Maggie nearly dropped the glasses from surprise. “Oh! Mrs Carson! Yes...Yes, ma'am, I've got the NAZIs taken care of!” She forced a smile and gave a terrible Harrison Ford impersonation. “NAZIs, I hate those guys!”
That accomplished, she muttered an “Excuse me,” and scurried off. Liz watched her go for moment then shook her head and extended her glass for a refill.
“You're keeping young Bobby Earl well away from the punch, I trust, Maria?”
“Ci, Señora Carson. No punch will be spiked on my watch!”
“Outstanding,” the Headmistress complimented.
Maggie looked over her shoulder as she moved to a more secluded spot to see that Mrs Carson wasn't watching or following her. Wyatt had left and someone with pure milky white skin was walking up to Elaine. It was her moment, she had to go now. Setting the punch down, she dug into the bag and took out the small wooden vial and broke the wax seal. The powder disappeared into the punch, making it bubble slightly as she picked the glasses back up carefully.
Maggie swallowed to calm her nerves. She must not spill. “Left for thee and right for me,” she half sang half whispered to herself and began to walk towards Elaine and the other girl. “Left for thee and right for me...”
“Uh...Lanie? Can...Can I talk with you?”
The red head turned so Murphy could see her face, even her make up had a bit of green tint to it. Joanne had to admit she really pulled off the Poison Ivy look. The green eyes blinked in surprise. “Jo?” she asked, startled.
Gunnarson forced a grin and tried to feel like this wasn't so important to her. “Heh, yeah, great look right? If I were a Little Pony, I could be Rainbow Death.”
Elaine rolled her eyes. “What can Ah do for you?” she asked a bit warily.
“I...uh...well, I wanted to apologize,” Joanne managed. “For last year.”
Lanie's eyes narrowed just a bit. “Which part?” she asked softly. “Almost breaking mah nose? Or...?”
“All of it,” Joanne declared quickly. “Look, you, you turned into a bear, ok? Where I come from bear mauling is a thing. And we get taught to be loud in the woods so we don't sneak up and startle a grizzly on accident. I've seen what happens when a bear mauls someone and I just...acted, ok? I didn't know you were trying to keep your temper. I'm sorry.”
“Well, Grizzly says 'don't mention it',” she replied, still a bit aloof, and starting to turn away. Joanne reached out and took her arm.
“No, wait,” she pleaded. “I'm sorry to Grizzly too, but I'm here because of you. I...I never had somebody want to be friends with me. No...normally, I just ignore people. I...I don't really get people, ya know? And you accepted me! And you introduced me to your friends, though I would hardly call those cunts friends!” The expression on her face softened and Joanne got the feeling her opinion was slowly changing. Encouraged, she rushed ahead. “Yeah, I left the Lit Chix right after you! I couldn't believe they did that to you! My fuck up was I just didn't think before I...you know...”
“It's almost November, Jo,” Elaine told her softly. “Why didn't you tell me this last year? Or this year before now?”
“I came to Poe first day,” she told the other girl earnestly. “As soon as I found out you had been switched to Poe! And I was gonna say all this, but...”
Joanne found she could no longer meet the other girl's gaze and looked at the bricks that paved the patio. “When I came around the path the first thing I saw was you. But you weren't alone, you were with Tansy. And...and you hugged her. The bitch that I knew sent Hamper and Damper after us, who set us up to be raped and murdered!”
“I know!” Jo hissed, blinking back tears. “I know, now. But not then! Then it made me so...I just totally lost my shit! And it hurt so bad that I said 'Fuck Elaine Nalley!'” She trailed off and sniffed as her sinuses tried to clog. “I'm sorry. And I'm sorry that I'm the reason you and Maggie...”
Elaine stiffened at the mention of her former best friend. “Maggie is Maggie's fault,” she declared flatly. “Ya'll had nothing to do with it.”
Jo's black eyes came up and she bravely held back the tears. “No, it is my fault! I'm an odds mangler! Whatever can go wrong will! Don't you see? I am the reason you and Maggie are screaming at each other! If you hadn't taken me in, you'd still have your friend. I'm sorry, Lanie! God, I'm so sorry!”
The red head smiled, reached out and gathered the other girl into a hug that for several moments, Joanne was afraid to return. Finally, she reached up and squeezed Elaine, grateful for the feeling of being welcome and accepted. Slowly she stepped back and smiled at Joanne. “Ah'm sorry too, Jo. Ah should have come and said something. Ah shouldn't have held a grudge or thought you did it on purpose. It...it's just been a bad year, ya know?”
Joanne forced a smile at her restored friend. “Tell me about it.” She felt some of her normal spirit return as she grinned and declared, “Hey, Tansy is just back there and its Halloween! You want to pull a prank? I was thinking...”
Both girls turned at the soft voice to behold Maggie Finson dressed in a bomber jacket and a fedora over kacki field clothing with a pistol and a bull whip hanging from her belt. In her hands was a pair of punch glasses. Elaine blinked in surprise. “Maggie?”
“I...I...” the blonde stammered. “We...we're too young to smoke. And I don't have a peace pipe, so, punch?”
Her left hand held out the cup as Elaine grasped what her former friend was trying to do and her eyes teared up. Overwhelmed at the prospect of getting her friends once again, tears ran down her face and she declared, “This...this is the best night of mah life!” Even Joanne was elated by the hope she had finally beaten her luck and restored the friends again. Suddenly she felt back to her old self and eager to get into hijinks with her friends.
“Oh, thanks!” Jo declared with a mischievous gleam in her eye. “Dying of thirst, here!” She reached out and plucked the cup from Maggies hand.
“No!” Maggie shouted, but it was too late, the rainbow haired girl had already tossed the glass back, gulping it down. She smacked her lips as the cup slipped from her fingers to break on the bricks below.
To anyone with mage sight, they saw the shade of Joanne Gunnarson forced backward out of her body a look of shock and ecstasy on her face that was lost as the spirit vanished out, deeper into the astral realms.
On the Prime Material Plane, the All Hallows Ball came to a sudden halt, one of those moments where the zeitgeist of a crowd becomes aware as one that something horrific was happening. In the tableau of silence, under the gaze of the entire school, the body of Joanne 'Murphy' Gunnarson fell over dead.
Maggie screamed in horror as she stared down at the dead girl.
October 31st, 2007
Room 316, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy
Quickdraw came to a stop in front of the door Nimbus had told him to and pushed the key into the knob. He half expected it not to work, but the key turned and the door opened. He darted inside and carefully shut the door. He didn't know where his new boss had gotten a master key to Whitman and he didn't really care. He just knew he had to retrieve what he had been ordered to and not be seen.
As he turned back into the room, one of those nameless horrors Nimbus used appeared, pointing with its tentacle at the little foot locker at the foot of the bed. Edward lifted the lid, ignoring the box to concentrate on the lid itself. Ah, there it was, a little catch that looked like a nail from one of the corner protectors had over penetrated. He pushed it in and the top of the lid fell away revealing a leather bound book that was obviously hand made.
He couldn't read it, but that didn't matter, Nimbus had shown him what it would look like. He found the pages of the book of shadows that matched what he had memorized. It wasn't exact, of course, it had been done in her handwriting, but the required symbols were exactly as Nimbus had shown him, from the original he had arranged for her to find. Ed smiled as he ripped them out of the book, then he put it back in the hidden compartment and closed it.
Quickdraw ran, counting on his speed to keep him invisible, but carefully stuck to the route Nimbus had specified that would keep him out of range of any of the cameras. There was a hell of an uproar by the Crystal Hall, shouts, someone screaming their head off and over the band loudspeakers, the voice of Ms Hartford loudly telling everyone to stay calm. An Ambulance was bouncing over the grass up the hill to get to the party from Doyle Medical center, lights and strobes flashing.
Rutherford smiled as he ran. “Looks like Nimbus' test was a big success!”