Monday, August 27, 2007 - Mid-Afternoon
Train to Dunwich
The girl on the train who'd plopped beside Danny Franks was cute enough, but the thing that was most annoying to the boy was that she was absolutely gushing about him as she petted the soft tawny fur on the back of his neck while he purred helplessly, betrayed by his own body into as much as screaming that he enjoyed the attention. In truth, he was of mixed feelings, because being a 'kitty boy' with some feline GSD was bad enough, even without involuntarily going 'furry' when he was embarrassed, but what was worse was that he actually felt good when someone petted him like Melissa Chambers, aka Mischief, was doing.
Melissa was talking a mile-a-minute, gushing nonstop in a dizzying commentary that included some of her summer adventures including having to deal with multiple villains, a villainess who she no doubt idolized from the way she was talking, a father who didn't quite understand his daughter, her expectations for Whateley Academy, to which both kids and the three girls in the row behind them were destined, and how much she adored 'kitty boy'. Despite a summer to adjust, Danny was still not used to the shifting his avatar spirit gave him, and the nickname 'kitty boy' was probably indelibly etched all over his future.
The boy couldn't help his appearance; his spirit, the Lakota cat-spirit Wihinape, didn't quite fit in his hallow, and as a result his body was changing under the psychic pressure into something of a hybrid cat-person. His nose was a little shifted, slightly more feline in shape, and his eyes were definitely cat-like, but the worst part for Danny was that his ears had moved slightly toward the top of his head and rounded off like those of the mountain lion spirit he contained.
"Don't worry, Danny," one of the girls behind him, his sister's friend Naomi, assured him with a chuckle. "A few weeks in power lab and you'll figure out how to control your shifting better."
"A few weeks?" the boy stammered in disbelief and horror. "A few weeks? Everyone is going to tease me until I can control it!"
Melissa gawked at him, then blushed and giggled. "Danny? I guess I got so excited that I forgot to ask Kitty his name!" She smiled. "How long have you been like this?"
"I manifested this spring," Danny grumbled. "And Kayda's ... that's my sister ... her spirit picked Wihinape for me so I didn't get something lame like a garden slug or nasty like a Lakota demon." He sounded far from happy about the choice that had been made for him. "When I'm not ... humiliated ... I can shift into four forms," he continued, glaring at the girl when he spoke the word 'humiliated' since her attention was exacerbating his embarrassment. "There's normal me ..."
"Show me!" Melissa squealed with delight.
"I can't. I get stuck when I get embarrassed," he replied unhappily. "So there's normal me, which isn't too great anyway because I look kind of ... gay," he turned away from her as he spoke, embarrassed even more by the thought of what she'd think of his normal appearance. "And this one - my .... kitty boy ... form."
The girl giggled with delight at that revelation.
"And then there's Wihinape. That form's kind of a ... a cat girl, with a tail and , and my final form is a mountain lion."
"Wait - you said cat girl?" Melissa gawked, wide-eyed at the boy. "Your spirit ... is a she? And she makes you look like her?"
"Sometimes," Danny groused. "I hate it."
"Show me!" the girl insisted.
"No!" Danny shot back firmly and angrily. Realizing he'd been a little too vehement, he glanced around. "Not in public like this. People aren't fond of mutants, you know!"
"Well, then," Melissa replied with a conspiratorial look in her eyes, "when we get to school, I'll come visit you and you can show me. You will show me, won't you?" Her voice was smooth as honey, her words practically seductive, and while he wasn't looking at her, he wouldn't have been surprised to see her batting her eyes at him.
"I guess," Danny murmured, trapped by her feminine wiles. He started when a flash went off at him. "What the ....?" he demanded of his sister, who was standing, looking over the seat with her cell phone in hand, having just taken a picture of Melissa petting and cuddling with Danny.
"Mom said she wanted pictures," Kayda said innocently, but her wicked grin betrayed her real intentions. For years, Danny had teased his older sibling, so it wasn't a total surprise to him that she was going to take the opportunity to humiliate him.
"You've taken enough pictures!" Danny complained. "When Val ... er, Card Trick ... kissed me, with your friends in Chicago, on the plane with that little girl, with the hoodie ...."
Melissa gawked, then drew back a bit, pulling the gray hoodie with a large red stain from in front of Danny. "Eeee!" she squealed with delight when she saw the 'Hello Kitty' logo in sequins on his hoodie. "I love it!"
"Not my choice," Danny shot back with a frown. "Some jerk spilled a red slurpee all over me in Boston, and Naomi," he paused to shoot a withering glare at Kayda's friend Naomi, "bought this. So I could hide my ears," he added quickly. "She probably got this just to embarrass me!" he added angrily. He turned his head slightly to glare at his sister, too, and she did her best 'who, me?' expression to proclaim her innocence in the "Hello Kitty" hoodie affair.
"I bet there's good stuff that's happened since you manifested," Mischief retorted enthusiastically. "You're just being grumpy about the hoodie!"
Danny was taken aback by the girl's unbridled enthusiasm and joie de vivre. Mentally, he began to reflect on what had happened since he manifested, in case the cute girl was right.
The boys in town teased him mercilessly, but the girls' reactions were the complete opposite - several of them had given him rides and had taken turns kissing him. Even girls in Kayda's grade seemed to be smitten with his bishi looks and kitty-boy form. And Danny had to admit that while he was no longer the chiseled boy he'd been becoming, he was still extremely fit and ... sleek. He cringed at that word even as he realized it was the most fitting descriptor. Sleek, like a hunting cat. Or a very fit girl, his brain added in disgust. Muscle and sinew and very little fat, and his taut skin across those muscles showed off his physique only too well. His reflexes were quicker, and there was promise of even more speed and agility when he learned to harness the cat, to use his spirit's gifts more fully.
But his face looked androgynous, even a trifle gay, and that was the source of much teasing. That, and the anti-mutant idiots who were jealous of the attention the girls were giving him and afraid of his potential powers. They'd tried to kill him, but the girls had helped him escape.
And yet, they treated him like a cuddly cat, petting him and getting him to purr between kisses. Even Wish List and Card Trick had taken turns embarrassing him, although he blushed at the memory of the kiss Card Trick had given him earlier that day at the airport. His toes practically curled at the mere thought. He let the gray hoodie slide down to his lap, just so Melissa wouldn't notice his reaction to the memory.
And of course there was Mom. Even though Dad had explained 'mush-brain' in some pregnant women, caused by an overload of hormones, it did little to assuage the total embarrassment his mother had accidentally dished out. Taking him shopping for girls' clothes was bad enough, but the underwear was humiliating. And Kayda had been there to rub his nose in the experience. The very intrusive visit to the doctor still made his cheeks burn with shame and anger - no boy should ever have had to go through a full gynecological exam. And Kayda was there to tease him, although Danny had to admit that his sister had been more supportive than he'd expected.
The worst part, though, was his mom's insistence that he was going to turn completely into a girl, and taking time to explain lots of 'girl things' to him, most of which were shockingly embarrassing. She'd taken him with her to her prenatal classes, reasoning that since he was going to ultimately turn into a girl, it wouldn't hurt to know more, and besides, Danny could be helpful. She apparently had forgotten that he'd be in school by the time she had her baby.
"Mom! There's no way I'm attending those classes!" Danny said shocked as his mother blithely organized assigned him and his father to attend various pre-natal classes.
"Nonsense dear, there is only your father and you with me here, you just might find yourself having to help deliver, besides dear, think of it as practice for your own Neo-natal classes when you get pregnant."
All primed to give a roaring denial at the need to deliver a baby, that's what hospitals and ambulances were for, Danny's mind shut down at the implications of being pregnant. "I'm a boy!" he gasped as he fell sideways off his chair in a dead faint.
Packing had been an adventure as well; despite strong protestations, he knew that his Mom had put girls' clothing, including the lacy underwear Kayda's friends had gotten him from Paris, into his luggage.
"Mom! I know she's a female spirit, but she swears she's not gonna turn me into a girl!" Frustrated, Danny stared in horror as the new bag of girls panties, that he had thought his mom had gotten for Kayda, were instead added to his own suitcase.
"I know dear, but we all know what happened to Kayda when she got her female spirit," his mother replied not even looking up from where she was kneeling beside his bed, packing the suitcase. "It will be best if you stay in Poe so you can be with your sister and girls who know what you're going through." Giving Danny a quick comforting hug, she returned to packing the suitcase.
"But Mom! I'm not turning into a girl!" Danny almost cried in frustration, staring in shock at the girls' underwear his mother casually added to his suitcase along with the expensive and very sexy lingerie Kayda's friends had gotten him in Paris as a prank.
"I hope so too dear." His mom seemed oblivious to his words. "Now remember you'll have to keep Poe's secret; you know how bad things were for Kayda …"
"Mom! The gay boys will hit on me!" Danny tried to get his mother to listen to him.
"I know dear, but you'll be alright once your changes go further. Then the proper boys will be interested in you. "
"Mom!" Danny gasped in disbelief. "I'm a boy! I'm staying a boy! I don't want to have a boyfriend!"
"Well if you find a nice girl like Kayda did, we'll support you in that too." Danny stared in dismay at his mother as she calmly continued packing his suitcase, blithely assuming he'd be a girl soon and totally ignoring everything he said.
"Arrgh!" Crying out in frustration, Danny stomped from his room, making for the stairs and the outdoors. Why wouldn't anyone believe the simplest things he was trying to tell them?
Sighing with frustration, he only hoped that when he got to his room, his roommate wouldn't be around when he unpacked his suitcase. And that his roommate wouldn't snoop, because when he had to be Wihinape, he was going to need girls' clothes.
The one bright side that Danny could see was that Wihinape was a kick-ass fighter, as she'd proven beating up the bullies who wanted to kill Danny, and again helping Kayda battle a Lakota snake-demon. She promised the boy that he'd learn to fight just as effectively; if he could defend himself with the ferocity and skill of the cougar, that would go a long way to protecting him against bullying.
The plane trip was a mixed bag - on the one hand, several people noticed his GSD, especially when a little girl fussed until she could play with 'kitty'. On the other hand, it kind of felt good the way the girl had been so playful and happy, and that he'd helped the girl with her fear of traveling. That was, until the little girl insisted very loudly that they should 'take Kitty home' with them. Of course, Kayda had taken pictures. He wanted to break her cell phone.
The boy snapped back to reality from his trip down memory lane, only to realize that Melissa was still talking while clutching him tightly to her shoulder with one hand and stroking his fur with the other, causing him to continue purring. He wondered if he shouldn't just cry and let his frustration out.
Monday, August 27, 2007 - Afternoon
Danny looked around at the kids; most looked relatively normal, but the Goth girl who looked about ten was a definite standout; the way she silently observed everything around her was kind of creepy, even though she smiled. It reminded Danny of a smug, knowing smile of someone who had a secret and found the plights of others amusing. And with his luck, the midget Goth girl was going to be even more of a pain than Melissa had been on the train-ride up.
Another standout was a girl with iridescent blue and green hair who seemed to be quite uneasy, glancing nervously around herself. Still another was the girl who had her own personal raincloud over her head; she looked seriously sad, but at least two girls were with her and it looked like they were trying to comfort her.
One of the boys, who was quite flamboyantly, stereotypically gay, kept smiling and winking at Danny, which caused him to shudder nervously. Another, taller boy looked very effeminate, but he didn't carry himself the way the first one did. If he hadn't known the secret of Poe, Danny wouldn't have guessed that two other boys in the milling group were most likely gay, either, but knowing they were, the glances they kept shooting his way were unnerving. The way things were going, it would likely be midnight before he was able to shift back from being fuzzy.
A whistle sounded, catching everyone's attention and silencing the many discussions, some of which were rather boisterous. It reminded Danny of a scene from an old comedy movie, except that the woman with the whistle wasn't a nun in a habit. "Attention!" she called out strongly. "I am Mrs. Shugendo, your new dean of students. We will have time for pleasantries later; right now, I need you to quickly gather your luggage and take it to the three Whateley shuttles in the parking lot. My assistant Ms. Claire and a couple of our Resident Assistants will check your name against our list and direct you to one of the shuttle buses. Staff will load the luggage into the trucks and it will be delivered to your cottages. If you have any questions or difficulties, come and talk to me; otherwise, let's move quickly please."
Danny followed his sister and her friends as they gathered their luggage; on the platform, people were not being shy about showing their powers, which caused Danny to wince. The ten-year-old Goth girl was carrying a very large trunk and a huge suitcase as if she was carrying ping-pong balls. Evvie was easily toting several bags. Even Kayda was easily carrying her huge bags, leaving Danny and his weak powers struggling with his rolling suitcases. It was another reminder that he was a relatively weak mutant, and by the time he sat down on one of the buses, he was in a funk.
Two of the three buses were for Poesies; the third was a mix of Poe upperclassmen and the non-Poe freshmen. He sat silently on the bus, hood up over his head, his red-stained gray hoodie held in front of his chest to hide the offensive Hello Kitty logo, feeling less and less sure about the whole adventure. Kayda had been bullied rather badly. Now he was at that same school, with probably some of the same bullies as well as new idiots, and he looked gay. Kayda at least had an excuse; once the rape became public knowledge, she got a lot less harassment and a lot more sympathy. What was he going to get? Nothing. Not that he wanted something that awful to happen to him, but he had no extenuating circumstances that would ever lead to sympathy.
"This is very exciting, si?" a girl sitting next to him said. Funny - he hadn't even noticed a girl sit beside him.
"Um," Danny stammered, "I ... I guess so."
"My papa - he go to this school many years ago. He tell me always, Christina, Whateley, it's very good, very fun!" the girl continued. "I hope-I find good friends." The Italian accent was so thick it could nearly be cut with a knife.
"My sister was here last year," Danny mumbled, still feeling a bit sorry for himself. "She ... she has a lot of friends. She had a lot of ... adventures ... last year."
"Ah! That's good, si?" The girl seemed to catch herself. "Scusa," she said with a wince. "I'm Christina. Christina Violante. I'm from Italia."
"Danny Franks," the boy said. Why couldn't she just be quiet and let him brood and stew in peace? "From South Dakota."
"What's your power?" Christina asked bluntly. "I'm a PK supergirl," she said proudly. "In Firenze, my papa, he calls me his little Striatura Blu, his Blue Streak, because my field glows blue when I get hit or when I fly."
"My sister told me about a girl last year called Crimson Comet, for kind of the same reason, only her field was red."
"Interesting. Is she going to be a hero, perhaps?" Christina smiled smugly. "I'm going to be a hero, like my papa! I hear there is a club for those who want to be heroes."
"My sister said something about it," Danny replied, "but I don't know the details."
"You didn't answer - what do you do?" Christina pressed.
"I'm an avatar," Danny muttered. "I've got a cat spirit, and ... and it's given me some minor GSD. And shifter power. And a little bit of regeneration, they think."
"Ah. So the hoodie, no?" Christina turned slightly, her feminine charm and eyes like soul-swallowing pools of blue turned on the hapless boy. "Let me see. Please?"
Danny's willpower lasted all of five seconds under her charm offensive. "Oh, all right," he grumbled. Slowly, cautiously, he pulled the hood back some, revealing his fuzzy form in all its glory.
"Ooh, that's so cute!" Christina squealed delightedly. Her outburst got the attention of the rows in front of and behind them, and the girls there turned to see what was going on, only to add their shrieks of delight to the commotion. Before he knew it, Danny had five girls trying to touch him, to stroke his fur. He wanted to curl up and die.
Monday, August 27, 2007 - Afternoon
"Poe Cottage. Last stop! Everybody out," an upperclassman in the bus called when it halted in front of a massive building, trying to be a bit of a smartass. "Line up, and we'll separate you into groups for the rest of the day's activities. Once that's done, claim your luggage and go inside; the Resident Assistants are waiting inside with your room assignments and to help you move in. We'll give you an hour to get your luggage moved in and deal with any unexpected difficulties. Then you'll meet back up for the campus tour and orientation. Any questions?"
"The following students go line up with me," Mrs. Shugendo looked up. "Danny Franks. Shawn Grace. Jessie Harrow. Martina Hughes. Alyss Morgan. Lina Samhurst. Victory Jaxton."
"Just Victory, please," a girl said.
Mrs. Shugendo raised a quizzical eyebrow. "You want to go by just one name?" With a shrug, she blew it off. "Happens often enough. The rest of you - girls go with Rosalyn Dekkard. Boys, go with Steve Rossiter."
As the other groups began to wrestle their luggage inside, Mrs. Shugendo turned to the group. "You will all follow Ayla," she said, remarkable in timing in that the indicated girl had just shown up, "and she'll show you to your rooms." She handed a sheet of paper to the upperclassman.
"Ayles," Kayda volunteered, "since I came to help my brother move in, I'll take him off your hands so you have one less problem."
"Spoken like a true older sibling who's suffered torment at the hands of a younger family member," Ayla said in a deadpan. "If the stories you told last year are true ...?"
"They are," Kayda chuckled, while Danny glared at her.
"... then you taking him off my hands would be an act of mercy for which you no doubt will expect some favor."
"Which room is his?" Kayda asked. Danny noticed that neither of the older girls was acting or speaking like he was even around, and that annoyed him.
"Two eighteen. He's with Hank," Ayla replied after glancing at the room assignments. "I assume he knows what he needs to know?"
"Yup." The Lakota girl turned to her younger brother. "Get your stuff and let's get moved in."
Inside the door, Kayda paused to gawk. "Wow! They went all-out!" Danny just stood and gaped at the extravagance and comfort; it was quite unlike what he'd been expecting from all of Kayda's tales.
A moment later, Kayda snapped out of her reverie. "Come on Danny! Quickly!" she urged her brother. "We need to get you out of that hoodie."
"Why? Why now?" Danny griped, tugging his large trunk across the floor toward an elevator. "I wanted to change at the station when we got the bags, but ..."
"But we got rushed onto the bus," Kayda shot back. "Besides, I packed the suitcase keys in the bottom of my carryon because I didn't want to lose them! And I was not going to start the year arguing with Mrs. Shugendo!" she added.
"What's so urgent ...?" Danny was totally confused. Up to this point, his sister had taken some perverse delight in his misery, even teasing and taking all those pictures to send to Mom - including with that girl petting him. But now?
"She's supposed to be helping move-in and orientation and tours! We have to get you out of ..."
"I can ...."
"We'll get you in your room so you can hide it, too!" Kayda urged. Prodded by his sister, Danny tugged his luggage across the floor toward one of the new elevators. Kayda pushed the button by the elevator door, and tapped her foot impatiently as they waited. After about ten seconds of waiting, all the while glancing around nervously, Kayda turned. "Up the stairs!" she commanded.
"What?" Danny exclaimed, jaw hanging open. "Why not wait ...?"
"We can't hang around in the foyer," Kayda explained. "She's helping with tours and check-ins and such."
"She?" Danny demanded, his confusion growing.
Kayda didn't have time to answer; the elevator chimed that the car had arrived and the door opened.
"Kayda!" a lithe black girl called out enthusiastically.
Danny turned back toward the elevator, noting that Kayda was cringing, but her expression brightened almost instantly. "Toni!" she greeted the girl happily. "I didn't know you were going to be here early!"
"Well, with the new cottage and lots of incoming freshies," Toni replied happily, giving Kayda a hug in greeting that seemed bounding with energy and enthusiasm, "they need all the help they can get. It's almost a blanket invite for everyone in this cottage to come early." She glanced over toward Danny, who was trying to hide behind Kayda.
Under the inquisitive stare of the cheerful upperclassman, Danny found himself blushing, then mortified as he felt cat-ears appear and fur start to cover his face. Scrunching down behind Kayda, Danny blushed as his sister made the introductions.
"Toni Chandler, this is my …"
"Oh wow finally! We've get one of the exotic cat girls!" a dulcet voice sang out cheerfully from the stairs behind the little group. The patter of feet running down to the foyer immediately followed the cheery voice.
It took a second for Kayda's eyes widened in horror. "No, Mary! That's my ...." she called out as Mary Goodhope - Angel - engulfed Danny from behind in a full-body hug. With a delighted grin, Angel leaned down and rubbed her face against Danny's cheek, covered as it was in soft fur. "... brother." Kayda finished.
"Brother?" Toni declared, her mouth open in shock. "That's your brother?" She gawked at Danny, with Angel draped all over him. "That's ... that's impossible!"
"Hmmm," Angel practically purred as she hugged Danny. "Doesn't feel like a brother to me!"
"You told mom you weren't turning into a girl!" Kayda stammered in disbelief, staring at the sight of Angel happily embracing Danny.
"I did! I'm not!" Danny cried back, embarrassed that Kayda would yell something so personal out in the middle of a public place with other people around.
"That's strange, because Angel's allergic to boys!" Toni chuckled. She looked at Kayda. "Is there something your bro hasn't told you? Like maybe he's getting a thing for lacy lingerie?" she asked with a wink.
"How do you explain this?" Kayda demanded, pointing to the obviously content Angel, who was clearly enraptured hugging Danny, in no small part because her stroking his fur had set him to purring.
Horrified, Danny turned his mind inwardly to his resident spirit Wihinape. You promised me! You said I'd stay a boy!
Mmmm, she's niiiice, the voice in his head purred back. Let's keep her!
Almost in tears, Danny's disconsolate gaze dropped to the floor, ignoring the attention he was getting in his shame and humiliation.
Angel smiled in delight at the sound, "Pretty little kitty with her pretty Hello Kitty hoodie!" she murmured happily, renewing her full body hug of the boy.
"Hello Kitty?" a voice called out from the stairs.
Shocked, Angel shared looks of horror with Kayda and Toni as a pink rocket charged down the stairs and leapt at Danny, wrapping him in a smothering hug that nearly bowled him over. "Hello Kitty pink hoodie! Yes!" Danny listened in growing horror as she continued squealing. "You're going to love my friends! I can't wait to introduce you! We'll have so much fun this year!"
"Oh no, Jade!" Kayda groaned, wincing at her engulfed brother, embarrassed as he was at the two girls practically smothering him with affection, so totally embarrassed and in Fuzzy mode that he probably wouldn't recover before dinner - many hours away.
Danny's eyes desperately sought out and pleaded with Kayda, who shrugged helplessly. Finally, unable to meet Danny's anguished expression of humiliation with a touch of betrayal, Kayda retrieved her phone from her pocket and began taking pictures of her brother with the tiny girl clutching him around the waist, her eyes looking adoringly at his hoodie, while behind him, leaning over him, Angel continued to embrace the boy, her eyes closed in bliss and her wings outstretched so that it looked almost like an angel was watching over the kitty-boy. After all, her mother had said to send her pictures.
Monday, August 27, 2007 - Afternoon
2nd Floor, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Danny rolled his eyes at the prolonged kiss that his sister was giving Elaine Nalley, their Resident Assistant and Kayda's dear friend. "Would you two get a room?" he grumbled.
"Ah think that can be arranged," Lanie chuckled, "but Ah don't think Deb or Wyatt would be too happy."
"And Mrs. Horton would probably have something to say about it, too," Kayda added with a smirk that announced her delight in tormenting her little brother in any way possible.
"Let's get you moved into your room, Danny," Lanie said after completing her greeting to Kayda. "Angel and Ah are having a joint wing meeting later, so if you wander around, don't go far."
"He already met Angel and Jade," Kayda chuckled, pointing to the Hello Kitty hoodie that the luckless boy was wearing.
Lanie eyed the offending garment, then grinned. "And he hasn't torn it up yet? How did you get her pried off him, anyway?"
Kayda laughed, which only made Danny flush red - and then almost immediately thereafter, he fuzzed. "Mrs. Horton sent her with a campus tour group."
"Ah'd tell you to burn the hoodie, but Ah suspect that you're going to find more 'Hello Kitty' themed clothing and accessories mysteriously appearing around you."
Danny's face fell at that prospect, although in his heart he already knew, from Kayda's 'tales of Jade' and from meeting the little dynamo that Lanie was right. He whimpered in fear as his imagination ran wild at the thought of being overrun with Hello Kitty everything.
"You're in 218, with Hank. He's not here yet; he should be here later today or tomorrow," Lanie added. She led the Franks siblings to the room, and after coding the lock with Danny's thumbprints, making him repeat the coding process in all his forms, including attempting to code in the mountain lion form.
"Do we have to do that form anyway?" Danny griped. "I can ...."
"If you change back from the mountain lion form," Lanie observed, "you'll most likely be in the hall. Naked." Danny blanched.
"Or you might get temporarily stuck," Kayda pointed out. "In Dr. Quintain's power theory book, he noted that sometimes shifters do get stuck."
Grumbling, Danny let himself shift to the cat form. As he tried to code the door keypad to that form, a sudden 'Eep!' sounded behind the group; they spun as one to see one of the new freshman girls, having come around the corner from the second floor lounge, gawking wide-eyed at Danny, a somewhat terrified expression on her face. He recognized her as the Italian girl from the bus, Christina Violante.
"If you want unusual," Lanie drawled at the startled girl, "you should go to Hawthorne. Comparatively, this is nothing."
"Remember me?" the boy said, startling Christina more by talking, which she didn't expect. It wasn't every day one met a large talking feline. "From the bus? I'm Danny. This ... is one of my shifted forms." The electronic beep of the keypad mechanism surprised him a bit more.
"That does it," Lanie glanced at Danny. "You can change back now."
Danny looked at his pants on the ground, where they'd fallen off his mountain lion form. At least his shirt was still on him - sort of. "But ...." he stammered, looking uncertainly at the Italian girl who was still standing and staring.
"Danny," Kayda chuckled, "when you're stuck as her, you're going to be using the girls' bathroom, and the girls will see you naked, so you might as well get used to it."
Shooting his sister a glare, Danny turned his back toward Christina, then his body flowed and rearranged itself until he stood, back toward the freshman girl, in his cat-girl form. He bent over to get his pants, stopping suddenly when his sister and Lanie chortled. "What?"
"Nothing," Lanie tried to say through her chuckles. "You just gave her a free shot when you bent over like that!"
With a horrified expression, Danny spun so his bare bottom was pointed away from the girl, and then when she grinned, still looking down, Danny realized he'd just given her another free view. He clutched his pants in front of his crotch, cringing and blushing furiously. At least he didn't turn into 'Kitty Boy' when he was embarrassed in either of the two female forms.
The girl waggled her eyebrows appreciatively. "I like that shape a lot more than the one you had on the bus," she said with a bit of a leer. "Since we're both Freshmen, maybe we will be in classes together? So we can ... study together, si?"
"I'm ... I'm not looking for a girlfriend," Danny stammered, flustered even more by Christina's blatant come-on.
"No?" She put on a pout. "Too bad. Well, I'll be seeing you," she looked up and down the cat-woman body Danny wore, touching her tongue seductively to her lips, "around. Like perhaps in the showers? Hopefully quite a bit." She turned and sashayed down the hall, pausing to turn back and blow a kiss to Danny, who stood, gawking in place and not quite believing what had just happened.
"Aw, I didn't get a picture of you with your new girlfriend!' Kayda said with a mock pout.
Scowling deeply at his giggling sister and her friend, Danny turned and stomped into his new room, his pants still in his hand. A moment later, he came back out, grabbed his luggage, and still frowning, stomped back into his room.
"I guess I should apologize for laughing," Kayda said with a grin. "See you later?"
"Count on it," Lanie replied with a come-hither look in her eyes and a seductive lilt in her voice.
Monday, August 27, 2007 - Late Afternoon
Outside Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
"Okay, you've seen the classrooms and the Homer Gallery, which is the second-to-the-last stop on our tour. Any questions?" Ayla, dressed smartly in his Whateley uniform, gazed over the new herd of freshmen he was guiding around campus. After waiting a moment, during which time no hands or voices were raised, he smiled. "Good. If you've seen one classroom building, you've seen them all. And frankly, the things in the Gallery, while interesting, aren't the most interesting things on campus."
"What is, then?" one of the girls piped up. "I mean, a ton of gold? How many times do you see a ton of gold?"
"Yeah," another girl added. "That's got to be worth ...."
"Just over thirty-five million, five-hundred seventy thousand, with today's spot price on the exchange," Ayla recited nonchalantly, causing a few more jaws to drop.
"Thirty-five million?" the first girl gawked. "And that's not interesting?"
"Considering the value per ounce, it's not," Ayla replied, bored. "Highly advanced computer chips no bigger than your fingernail weigh only a couple of grams and are valued at nearly the same as an ounce of gold, which makes them ounce-for-ounce twenty-five to thirty times more valuable than the gold. Other precious metals and some gemstones are far more valuable per unit weight. Adamantium and Ebedium are ..."
Danny, hanging toward the back of the mini-mob, just shook his head. "Damn, Kayda was right," he muttered to himself.
"What was that?" Ayla had picked up some of his comment because of a momentary lull in background noise.
Danny blushed, and almost immediately flipped to Kitty-Boy, but that was hidden behind his hoodie - the gray one with the red slurpee stain. "Nothing."
"Are you sure?" Ayla pressed. "You're Kayda's brother Danny, right?"
Danny sighed. "Yes."
Ayla smiled. "Then she probably suggested, if not bluntly stated, that she thinks I tend to be a little pedantic, correct?" he asked with a carefully neutral expression, neutral, that is, except for the quizzical eyebrow that was lifted. "I thought so," he replied seeing Danny's expression. "It has been brought to my attention a time or two that my explanations tend to be precise and sometimes lengthy." He looked around. "Since we've had one introduction, and since no-one else is in earshot, this would be a very good time to do the rest of the introductions." He looked around the freshmen. "Did you wonder why your group was split the way it was? Do you wonder why Poe students are here before everyone else?"
Danny rolled his eyes. "Because Poe is an alternative sexuality cottage for those who might have difficulty in other cottage," he intoned as if reciting a menu, "and by arriving first, we have a little social cachet on campus which is supposed to help us seem more established and thus less vulnerable to others."
"Go on," Ayla prompted.
"And the three groups are the dykes-in-training who went with the dark-haired girl, the gay-boys who went with the male RA for their group, and the rest of us who are changelings." He realized everyone was staring at him in disbelief.
"Correct," Ayla prompted politely. He hadn't expected anyone to know all the details. "Danny's sister is a Poesie, so no doubt she already gave Danny the run-down."
"She also said you wouldn't be pissed if I stole your thunder," Danny added.
Ayla shot Danny another quizzical look that made him wonder if Kayda's information was correct. "Now, what makes all of us unique is that, for some reason or other, we are all defectors in the battle of the sexes."
The shock of being revealed was profound, but that was followed by a dawning curiosity on all the new students' faces as they gazed around, not quite sure how to handle the fact that there were others in the same boat as they were.
"Basically," Ayla continued, "either you started life male and are turning female, or you started female and are turning male, or in some rare cases, you have a more ... complex ... anatomy." He looked very specifically at the girl with the blue and teal and green hair. She saw him looking at her, and she flushed beet red.
"Yeah," Danny grumbled. "You can say that again."
Ayla looked at Danny and smiled. "Since you are so enthusiastically vocal about how things," he prompted, "why don't you go first and tell everyone a little about yourself. You'll have a wing meeting later for more detail, but at least introduce yourselves."
Danny glared at Ayla, mostly because he knew that Ayla was right, that he'd brought this attention on himself. "Danny Franks," he muttered. "My older sister is here to torment me. She's in Poe, too. I'm ... an avatar, and my spirit gives me the ability to shift forms. A little."
"Can you show us?" one of the girls asked. "Please?"
Danny glanced at Ayla, who simply shrugged. "I've got three other forms I can shift into. One ... is a mountain lion. The other two ...." He took a breath, closed his eyes, and shifted into Kitty Boy form.
"We don’t have time for all of you to demonstrate your powers," Ayla cautioned. "Please keep that to a minimum for now."
"But - why are you in Poe? Unless you started out as a girl?" one of the girls asked curiously.
Danny sighed, then answered by letting his body shift again, this time into the cat-girl form, the one he called Wihinape and which his mom called 'Slut-Kitty'.
"That explains a lot," the little Goth girl said dryly.
"Yeah. I go by Danica when I'm in this form," Danny said, shifting back to normal. "So ... I'm complex."
"But which do you prefer?" the curious girl asked with raised eyebrows. Danny just blushed rather than answering.
Danny's little demonstration, though impromptu, was exactly what was needed; the rest of the kids opened up, although it took Ayla explaining his peculiar situation to get the girl with the green and blue hair - Lina - to open up; she had the same problem as Ayla, although she had started female.
"If you want to talk anytime," Ayla added, "ask."
Lina nodded slowly, still extremely embarrassed, but when she looked at Ayla, she saw sympathy and understanding. It was exactly what she needed to see and hear; for the first time, she thought that maybe there was hope.
The rest of the group introduced themselves. The little Goth girl was Alyss Morgan, aka Ribbon because she manifested ribbons. Lina Samhurst was called Peacock because she had a peacock spirit, which also explained her blue and green hair. Amy Maguire took the code-name Roulette because her powers shifted daily due to micro-burnouts; everyone felt a little more sobered by her story.
Martina Hughes went by Knockoff because she was a regen clone of her mother caused by an emergency transfusion after a backpacking accident. Shawn Grace, Teke, was the token female-to-male changeling, and very delighted about it, though it would take time for his body to catch up. To Danny, Shawn's appearance as somewhat effeminate made him worry a little less.
Jessie Harrow, Scapegrace, was a package-deal-psychic and exemplar. Victory apparently went by a single name, like Cher or Madonna, and was an exemplar brick.
According to Ayla, there were two more who hadn't arrived yet - Frank Danielson who was an astral wunderkind, and Fina Valocco. For all of the new freshmen changelings, it was eye-opening to realize that there were a lot more kids in the same boat.
"You know," Danny said thoughtfully after the introductions were done and they were walking back toward their new home, "according to the handbook, eventually we'll have to be on training teams. Maybe we should form our own, since we'll be living on the same wing, and we all have something in common."
It was the first that Knockoff had heard of the idea, but she immediately picked up on it. "We could maybe call our team the Chaos Monkeys?"
The look of abject horror on Ayla's face was priceless.
Monday, August 27, 2007 - Late Afternoon
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
"Please?" Danny practically begged his sister. "With the tour and everything, I didn't have time to do any more than drop my bags. I could use a little help organizing and stuff."
"And then you'll want to go with me to dinner, right?" Kayda asked sarcastically. "Having a little brother here is going to be a major pain in the ass!"
Kayda pushed past him. "Hank's not here yet. Okay, let's put you on the left side." She pointed to the furniture. "That'll be your wardrobe and your desk."
"Well, duh!" the boy snorted, since each side of the room had a desk and chair, a wardrobe, and a bed. Danny took the proffered keys from Kayda and unlocked his luggage. "Why the left side?" he asked simply.
"Jamie ... was on the left side, and ... I don't think Hank would be able to ... to sleep in that bed."
"Hank took it pretty hard. He had problems sleeping in his room for a while after ...."
"After what?" Danny asked, curious. "Took what pretty hard?"
"Hank's roommate last year was Jamie. Probably his best friend, too." The girl dug out her cell phone and flipped through the pictures until she found one to show to Danny. "That's Jamie, on the left."
"Wait ... Jamie ... was a girl?" Danny exclaimed. "I thought it was boy-boy, girl-girl for rooms so it didn't seem different than the other cottages?"
Kayda gawked at him in puzzlement for a moment, then smiled sadly. "It ... wasn't like that. Hank and Jamie were changelings, like me, but ... the other way. They both started as girls."
"So ... Hank's gay? They put me in a room with a gay boy?" Danny gasped in disbelief.
Kayda couldn't help but chuckle at her brother's horrified expression and almost girlish screech. It was only when she saw genuine fear in his eyes that she gained a bit of sympathy for him. "Oh, good grief, no! It's ... Hank is definitely not gay. Ask Lily when she and Hank get here. She's his girlfriend. You're with Hank because he's the only straight guy in Poe."
"Oh. How about you give me a hand unpacking?" Danny asked impatiently to change the subject and hopefully take Kayda's mind off of whatever had her upset.
"Why?" Kayda smirked. "You were off gallivanting around campus while I had to put my stuff away - by myself!" After watching his lip tremble from anger, she helped him. Even that was torture - she took the garments which were suitable for Wihinape, including the obligatory little black dress that she'd slipped into his luggage, and put them on prominent display in the cabinet, then took her time arranging the 'in case' female underwear that their mom had packed for his Danica form. Danny groaned seeing the number of skirts and blouses and dresses which had been packed for him.
As he finished putting away his male clothing, Kayda sat back down on Hank's bed while Danny finished hanging his clothes. "You need some shoes," she observed. "At least a pair of pumps, and maybe some heels. Oh, and over-the-calf tight boots are an absolute must!" she added with a chuckle.
To punctuate his displeasure, Danny closed the wardrobe door with a slam. "No."
"There's storage in the basement for your suitcase and trunk," Kayda noted when Danny looked at them and then around the room, wondering where he could store them.
After Danny finished making his bed, Kayda said, "While you were seeing the campus, I had a look at the new features we have in Poe. How about I show you around, and maybe introduce you to Mrs. Horton?"
"Okay," Danny agreed. He was still very nervous about being at the same school as Kayda; she had been teasing him non-stop all summer and all along the trip, but at the same time, she was family, and she knew her way around, and most importantly, the two of them had a shared sense of 'no-one hits my sibling but me.' He might have mixed feelings, but at the moment, he felt glad that she was here as he started the new adventure that was Whateley.
Kayda paused and contemplated Danny's shirt as he stood up. "You might want to change the shirt," Kayda suggested with a slight frown.
"Why?" Danny asked puzzled, looking down at one of his favorite new t-shirts.
Kayda smirked and pointed at the red-haired, fiercely-scowling, naked except for some strategically positioned leaves, elf-like girl on Danny's shirt. "Nikki wasn't exactly happy about them taking that picture," she reported, "and if she knows it's on t-shirts, you probably don't want to be the first one she sees. She's in our wing, and trust me, a pissed off Nikki is only slightly less of a problem than your own personal tornado. I don't know if she's on campus yet, and I have no idea when she's going to arrive, but I don't think you want to take a chance of her seeing you wearing that shirt."
"But ...," Danny stammered, "she's so pretty!" He'd met Nikki during the summer, on the adventure with the second snake demon, and to say that he'd been enchanted by her would have been the understatement of the century. "Why wouldn't she ...?"
"She's had way too many images and likenesses of her show up in unauthorized places last year, and it kind of pisses her off. Also she's Hank and Jade's team mate in Team Kimba."
"Eep!" Danny squeaked. He shucked off the shirt and tossed it on the bed, then grabbed another one from the wardrobe. "That's all I need, another reason to get the Poe nutcase excited over me."
"Oh Jade's not the Poe nutcase!" Kayda giggled, defending Jade. "She's just a little ... eccentric. She's, like, only fifth or sixth on the list, and that's without including all you new freshmen!"
"If Jade's not the Poe nutcase, who is?" Danny asked, stunned.
"A lot of people would claim it's me," Kayda admitted offhand to the disbelief of her brother. "Apparently there was some stiff competition before I arrived, but then I kind of stole the show."
Danny stared at his sister, before he slowly pulled on a new, plain red t-shirt. While her tone had meant to be joking, her voice couldn't fool a deep sibling familiarity. He heard the deep hurt, and he knew Kayda wasn't taking it as a joke, but that she truly did think she was the Poe nutcase. Many times over the summer Danny had seen his mother's silent pleading for time alone with Kayda, and he'd made his excuses, leaving her alone with Kayda, assuming it was for 'girl talk'. Now, though, Danny couldn't help but wonder if his sister had told their parents all of the events of her spring term. Maybe he needed to spend some time tracking down exactly what she'd gone through.
"Come on," Kayda called from the door, giving her brother a 'hurry up' gesture before exiting the room. Hearing Kayda excitedly greet someone else in the corridor, Danny stepped forth to do battle with High School.
Monday, August 27, 2007 - Late -Afternoon
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Danny seemed permanently stuck in gobsmacked mode as he walked with Kayda up from a tour of the basement. "That's ... that's all ours? We ... don't have to share with other cottages?"
"Our own spa? And gym? And dance hall?"
"There are reasons to be nice to Ayla Goodkind," Kayda chuckled.
"Maybe we should all get together and throw a 'thank you' party ...?" Danny started to say.
"Don't," Kayda snapped, interrupting her brother. Sensing rather than seeing his confusion, she explained. "Ayla doesn't do this kind of thing for personal aggrandizement. He does it because, well, because he genuinely cares about the people who live here - like an extended family to him." She shook her head. "Throwing a party would ... embarrass him."
"Just drop it Danny." Kayda sighed. "You met Ayla on the tour. Did he say or do anything to show that he's rich, or that he thinks he's better than anyone?" She paused to let him think. "Look, it's an open secret that Ayla helped fund the cottage improvements. A lot of us know, but we're going to keep our mouths shut so we don't embarrass Ayla." She stopped and grabbed her brother's arm, spinning him toward her. "And that includes you. Got it?"
"O ... okay," Danny replied with a gulp. They walked up a flight of stairs in silence. "Are the gay boys always so ... forward?" Danny asked with a slight cringe. "It's kind of creepy."
Kayda resisted the urge to chuckle at her brother's plight, not that she'd have understood anyway. Last spring, she'd known that she was a lesbian, and in Poe, none of the boys hit on her, but it felt comforting and even reassuring that some of the girls were flirtatious. It reinforced her self-confidence. "They'll settle down a bit; you have to remember that most of them are freshmen away from home for the first time, and in a cottage where they can cut loose and be themselves for the first time in their lives. Until they got here, they probably lived in fear that someone would find out their sexuality, and they had to hide their feelings." She smiled. "Give them a week or so, and they'll calm down." Then she chuckled. "Or you can just be Danica whenever you're in the cottage so they don't bother you!"
"And get hit on by all the lesbians?" Danny gawked. "Like that's any better?"
"Like what's any better?" another voice called from the head of the stairs they were ascending. "Hi, Kayda!" Rosalyn Dekkard called happily as the pair got back to the main floor. She swept the Lakota girl into a huge welcoming hug.
"Hi, Ros," Kayda said, pausing to give the raven-haired beauty a kiss.
"Are you ...?"
"Sorry, still attached," Kayda giggled. "And you?"
"I had an interesting summer," the girl replied before turning to Danny. "I'm Rosalyn Deckard," she introduced herself. "One of Kayda's friends. And you are ...?"
"Ros, this is my brother Danny. Danny, Ros. She's a senior, a member of the sisterhood, and a damned good kisser," Kayda laughed. "Ros, Danny's a freshman. And a changeling. Sort of."
"Oh? Which way? Did you used to be Kayda's little sister, or are you still changing the correct and best way?" the senior joked, waggling her eyebrows suggestively at the idea that Danny might still be mid-change and becoming a girl.
Kayda laughed, while Danny squirmed uncomfortably at the senior's bluntness. "Always been my little brother. But ... well, it's complicated. He's an avatar, and his spirit is female."
"Oh, so that explains why Angel is running around gushing about the boy she can hug! She means you, right?"
Danny simply nodded.
"She's changing him a little, but mostly, he ... well, just show her," Kayda continued.
Danny gawked at her, but then remembered that unlike back home, he was free to show his powers. "But ...," he objected.
"Please?" Ros asked, her big, soft eyes pleading.
Reluctantly, Danny sighed, then closed his eyes and focused. He was getting better at shifting; now he could change in a couple of seconds; Ros gawked as his form flowed. A tail pushed up out of his pants, while his waist narrowed considerably and his chest blossomed. His slightly-GSD ears shifted up into more feline, mountain-lion ears higher on his head, and his nose changed to something a lot more cat-like while he grew a few cat-like whiskers. He'd lost an inch or two in height, and his body was very toned and ultra-sexy as he became a kitty-girl.
"He goes by Danica when he's like this," Kayda noted.
"Wow!" an excited girl's voice called from the staircase to the second floor. "Hey everyone! The cat-girl is down here, and she's really cute!"
Danica winced, glancing at the excited voice and the sudden noise of several feet trampling down the stairway, fearful of what was going to happen. When she glanced back at Kayda and Ros, she found herself suddenly and completely enveloped in Ros' arms. The older girl's lips pressed eagerly to Danica's, who was surprised and resisting. Knowingly, Kayda glanced at her watch, then smiled back as a group of girls swarmed down to the main floor, looking admiringly on as Ros' lips continued their attempt to seduce Danica.
"Thirteen seconds," Kayda called out with a giggle as Danica began to eagerly reciprocate the delicious kiss from the raven-haired senior. On an impulse, Kayda snatched her cell phone from her purse and took a couple of pictures, while the other girls, known to Kayda as lesbians and not changelings, began to jostle for position so they could have a turn kissing the new kitty-girl, too.
"At least the gay-boys aren't going to hit on you now," Kayda joked to Danica when she broke the kiss and came up for air, a look of total bliss on her face. "But now you'll have to fend off all the sisterhood!" she added with a giggle as Selkie nudged her way in front of Ros and took Danica in her arms, eager to deliver her own personal 'welcome' to the cat-girl. With a grin, Kayda raised her phone again. "Mom's going to be very happy that you're making friends so quickly!"
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - Noon
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
The noise of a tray clattering to the floor stabbed at Danny's brain like an ice pick, causing him to flinch enough that Martina and Fina Valocco, who'd arrived just that morning, noticed. "Are you okay?" Martina asked, concerned. Danny had forgone the opportunity to eat with Kayda; it was bad enough being in her shadow at Poe as much as he already felt without also feeling like he was trying to become part of her circle.
"Just a headache," Danny tried to excuse his reaction. "I'm glad I'm not in Jinx's group."
"Hmmph," Martina snorted in agreement, "you can say that again. If I was Lexi or Cindy, I'd stay the hell away from her! She's bad luck."
"She's a probability warper," Fina interjected with a shrug. "She can't help it." Then she gave a quick smile "Anyway, I'm not going to tempt fate."
Danny cringed again from another stab of pain, worse than the first one, bad enough that if he hadn't had his tray on the supports of the checkout line, he would probably have dropped it. For several seconds, he clamped his eyes shut, standing still to minimize any kind of motion which might increase the pain.
"I think you should go to Doyle," Martina said to him when she noticed his reaction.
"No," he objected softly, getting enough control of the pain to move forward in line. "I get these ... sometimes. I just have to take my meds, and I'll be okay."
With a skeptical glance at the other girl, Martina grudgingly accepted his explanation. After he checked out, she took his tray in hand. "I'm not gonna let you drop it," she pronounced. Not willing to fight because of his throbbing head, Danny nodded gingerly, then followed the two girls to a table where Lina, Shawn, and Jessie were already sitting. All three of them noticed how hesitantly the boy moved and the pained expression on his face.
Sitting down, Danny dug in his pocket and extracted a pill bottle. Carefully putting two tablets on his tray beside his beverage, he put the bottle back, then swallowed the pills. "That'll help a little."
Martina's powers of observation were honed from years of living with her mom, the sometimes-villain Setup. "Vicodin?" she asked, her eyebrows climbing up her forehead. "Two of them?"
"I've got a prescription," Danny protested weakly. "And I just need to get through the day. Then I can ... well, I can get it taken care of."
"You can talk to us, Danny," Jessie assured him from across the table. "We all understand if there's something ... different." She looked up when two girls, Beth Anders and Pam Greene both freshmen Poe girls in their wing, showed up with trays, asking silently if they could join the group. "Pull up chairs," she said to the two girls.
Right behind those two were Alyss Morgan, Lanie, and Kayda. "Mind if we join you?" Lanie asked.
"Sure," Martina said eagerly. It was nice to be with a Resident Advisor and upperclassmen to help them get used to life at Whateley, but she failed to notice the pained expression on Danny's features.
"It's ... it's something I have to deal with," Danny tried to divert attention, concern mounting that no matter what, he was going to be in his sister's shadow. It had been a heavy burden in school back home, because he was always being compared to Kayda. Now, it was the same thing all over again. "It's nothing." With visible effort, he pasted on a smile. "So who's registered for classes?"
Another of the new Poe freshmen, Christina Violante, who Danny had talked to on the bus, was walking from the checkout lane. He waved to her, in case she wanted to sit with them, and at first, she seemed to perk up, her face brightening as she changed direction. The others looked around to see who Danny was waving at, and no sooner had Christina seen them than she halted, her expression changing instantly to a hateful glare. Instead of joining them, she stomped off in another direction.
"What the hell?" Danny asked, confused by Christina's startlingly-quick mood swing.
Martina sighed. "Christina? She's my roommate. Striatura Blu is what she's called. Italian for Blue Streak. Her dad is some big-shot Italian hero. Anyway, she knows about my mom, so she considers me evil."
"Your mom?" Lina asked, perplexed.
"Mom is ... a sometimes villain," Martina admitted softly. "She got outed as a mutant a couple of times, and it wasn't good, so ... she started using her talents to ... do jobs."
"Like ... killing people?"
"No!" Martina snapped back a little too forcefully and quickly. "No, she's never done that. She ... has standards, and won't do anything ... dirty." She looked around defiantly, as if daring any of the group to say anything. To her relief, all she saw was curiosity, except for a curious expression on Fina. "She ... specializes in framing people, like for embezzlement. She's the best in the business," she added with more than a hint of pride. "So good that she's done a few 'white hat' jobs for intelligence agencies."
"So Christina hates you because your parents are on opposite sides of the law?" Jessie asked somewhat in disbelief. "Like you could stop your mom doing what she does, or she could stop her dad doing what he does?"
"I just wish I didn't have to room with her," Martina grumbled. "Supposedly, they're not supposed to assign rooms like this, except by choice. So I'm going to have a long term feud with the queen bitch!"
"Ah'll talk to Mrs. Horton," Lanie drawled. "There's supposed to be a policy against rooming children of heroes with children of villains, unless they ask. If she's that bad ...."
"She is," Martina confirmed.
"It might take a while," Lanie said apologetically. "Things are a little chaotic at the start of the year."
"In the meantime, you can hang out with us so you can avoid her."
"So ... aren't you guys upset that Mom's a villain?"
"Actually," Beth giggled, "it might be kinda cool. I wonder what it'll be like on Parents' Day when we get heroes and villains and everything on campus?"
"Well, you're not the only one, from what I hear," Pam said in a conspiratorial whisper. "My cousin Duane in Pittsburg said that Lady Havoc has a daughter that they sent to a special school. I didn't think anything about it, but now ... I wonder if they meant Whateley." She peered at the diminutive Goth girl. "You're from Pittsburg, aren't you? Maybe you're Lady Havoc's daughter?"
Jaws dropped in nearly perfect synchronicity. "Lady Havoc? The supervillain?" "No way!" "Is she ... your mom?"
"And you believe third-hand rumors?" Alyss retorted calmly, one eyebrow cocked quizzically.
"Even if Ribbon was related to Lady Havoc, and I'm not saying she is, but even if, that doesn't mean she's automatically going to be a villain," Fina said calmly, defending the girl unexpectedly, "so what difference does it make?"
Danny started to say something, but he was hit with another stab of pain and cringed with an audible gasp of surprise.
"Danny," Lina scolded him lightly. "What's going on?"
With a put-upon expression, Danny looked around the table. "It's ... it's her," he said, as if that would explain everything. Seeing the blank looks, he sighed. "It's my spirit. It's ... she's too big for my hallow. That's why I have ... these," he reached up one hand cautiously to touch one of his slightly-rounded, slightly higher ears. "And my eyes. It's ... her spirit trying to fit into my hallow. They call it Spirit-Hallow-Mismatch Deformity. Like GSD."
"So you get headaches from it?"
Danny nodded, wincing at the motion. "I have to change ... into her at least a day and a half every week. Otherwise, the pain is unbearable, and the deformity will get worse. Eventually, I'd look totally like her."
"Hold on," Pam interjected, confused. "You keep saying 'her' and 'she'. What's ... what's ...?" Suddenly, things she'd heard clicked. "Wait, you're the one who changes into the cat-girl?" she asked, her mouth hanging open. "You're the one who was making out with all the sisters last night?"
Danny nodded almost imperceptibly, his pain the only thing that kept his embarrassment from kicking him into Kitty-Boy form. "Yeah. I figured word would get around pretty quickly."
"And I didn't get a turn!" Beth pouted.
Danny grimaced. "We shouldn't talk too much outside of Poe," he said, looking around a bit. "There aren't a lot of other students, but still, we need to get in the habit ...."
"Good point," Fina replied. The others readily agreed, and the table lapsed into silence for a few awkward moments.
"So?" Beth said after a bit, "are you gonna show us?"
"It'll make your headache go away, won't it?" Pam added, trying to persuade Danny to change.
"We saw it earlier," Martina said smugly, "when we were doing our tour. I think it's cute."
"Not gonna happen," Danny protested.
"I'll just talk to Ros," Beth said with a smile. "I hear she's good at persuasion."
Fina leaned a little closer to Danny. "And if you change, the Nancies won't be hitting on you," she said, adding another reason. The girls were definitely not giving up, at least not the lesbians who hadn't seen Danny change.
"Except for Jonathan," Lina chuckled. "From what I hear, he's like totally bi, and such a horn-dog that he'll hit on anything that walks and breathes."
"From what I hear, those two conditions are optional," Beth added.
"Just great," Danny grumbled.
Eventually, the pain of the headache and the badgering by the girls wore him down, and after a heavy sigh, Danny glanced around, seeing that the only ones in the cafeteria were Poesies, as far as he could tell. muttered, "Okay. If I do it this once, will you leave me alone?" A couple of the girls nodded, so Danny let his body shift.
"I'd kiss that," Beth chuckled to Pam as she stared at Danica.
Kayda grinned and pulled her cell phone out of her purse and took a bunch of pictures of the freshman Poe girls huddling around Danica. "Mom is gonna love how quickly you're making friends," she chuckled, to Danica's horror.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - Early Afternoon
Schuster Hall, Whateley Academy
The boy had only been in junior high, which in small-town South Dakota meant that he went to the same classes as everyone else at the same time. In a way, it was no different from elementary school except that the class moved to different rooms with different teachers, but there was no variation in schedule allowed. He snorted at the memory; he hadn't had any experience with varying schedules and locations, but since Kayda had been in high school, she ... er, Brandon ... had, and so it wasn't so foreign when she'd started at Whateley. It was a slight advantage to Kayda, but it was an advantage that Danny didn't have. Damn - Kayda, Brandon - that sounded weird. Had Danny already gotten so used to Kayda that he hardly thought of Brandon, the boy Kayda had once been, the brother he'd once had?
Now Danny sat in an advisor's office to select which classes he was going to take from a veritable smorgasbord of offerings. It was a little overwhelming to him; he stared at the large laminated card his advisor, Charlie Lodgeman, had placed in front of him.
"Given your relationship with Wihinape, we'll put you in Avatars 1. That's a hugely important class to learn how you and your spirit function together." Tapping a few keys on his computer, Mr. Lodgeman's display of a weekly class schedule lit up the possible sections of Avatars 1 that Danny could take.
"Okay," was all Danny could mumble, grateful that Mr. Lodgeman knew what he was doing, because he had no idea.
"I would suggest the section with Dr. Hewley, as he's the resident expert on the avatar power. Although with Wihinape," the older man added with a grin, "there are probably a few things you'll end up teaching him. Sentient spirits are rare, and I don't think he's studied many of them."
"So I'll be a lab rat," Danny groaned. Another stab of pain hit, and he winced and glanced at his watch. Three hours until he could take more pain meds. He'd hoped that spending a few minutes as Danica at lunch would have given him some relief, but apparently that was not the case.
"You're going to be a lab rat when it comes to powers testing," Mr. Lodgeman informed him. "Your Spirit-Hallow Mismatch Disorder has the lab team very interested." Seeing the boy's question already forming, Mr. Lodgeman headed it off. "You're not the first with SHMD," he added, "but you are the first that can shift into another form to temporarily alleviate the pain and the pressure on your hallow."
"Just great!" Danny grumbled unhappily.
Mr. Lodgeman ignored him. "We'll do the standard classes - English 1, a math class, a science class. That'll leave you a free period for an elective. Art, history, language. Speaking of language, you'll need at least two years, 4 credits, of language while you're here."
"Doesn't Lakota count?" Danny asked hopefully.
"Kayda tried that trick. It doesn't fly."
"Figures," Danny grumbled. "How about ... French? Mom said it was good to know one of the Latin-based languages."
"Which math? Algebra? Or are you advanced in math like Kayda?"
"Algebra," Danny replied almost bitterly. There it was again - being compared to Kayda. While he could see benefits of being at the same school as her, this was one of the downsides.
Charlie handed the laminated card to Danny. "The electives available to freshmen are highlighted in green. The science classes you can take with your background are in pink. I'll key in the classes you will be in - Avatars, Power Theory, Power Lab, Algebra, and English 1" As Danny studied the card, Mr. Lodgeman made some selection, and his on-screen copy of the list reduced by two-thirds, since the scheduling program could find no schedule that would allow the four already programmed in with the now grayed-out choices.
"I'll take French," Danny said, looking at Mr. Lodgeman's computer instead of the card. Three of the classes had locked in due to scheduling conflicts, and the list of available elective classes had been cut to around half a dozen.
"Oh, damn - I forgot martial arts," Charlie cussed mildly. He tapped a few keys on his computer, and the screen displayed the results. There were only three electives if he wanted to take a seventh class - Art, Biology, and American History.
"Do I have to take all seven classes?" Danny asked with a look the bespoke of a plea for mercy.
"No. You'll have plenty of class-load with what we have." Charlie pressed a couple more buttons and the schedule finished filling itself in, locking in his choices for classes for the term. One more button and the schedule printed.
"I assume you'll join The Nations?"
Danny nodded as he looked over the sheet Mr. Lodgeman handed him. A matrix showed his classes day-by-day, hour-by-hour, including the building and room, and at the bottom was a list of supplies for each class. "Yeah. I'll try. It'll depend on how much of pain Kayda is running the group, though."
Charlie laughed softly at that comment; he understood sibling rivalries, and younger siblings feeling in the shadow of older siblings. "There are enough students here that you shouldn't feel like you're totally in Kayda's shadow," he reassured Danny. "You will hear it occasionally, though, so just try to ignore it. But if there's a teacher who is comparing you to your sister to the point that you're uncomfortable, come and talk to me and we'll get it straightened out. Okay?"
Danny felt a little hope at Mr. Lodgeman's observation and willingness to help. "Okay."
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - Dinnertime
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
"Nope, Danny! Nope, nope, nope!" a little ball of energy called out as Danny carried his tray toward the kids from his wing. He turned back, puzzled as to who would be calling him and he cringed when he saw the Prankster Princess of Poe clad in a bright pink shirt embellished with rhinestone or sequins in a 'Hello Kitty' pattern, beaming and moving quickly his way. Her tray floated in the air behind her, as seemed usual for her. "Come eat with us!" Jade said, taking Danny's arm so firmly that he didn't think it possible to escape.
"Us?" Danny gulped nervously.
"Anna and Lindsay, of course!" Jade replied, tugging him toward a table where two girls already sat. "Molly, Bunny, and Misty will be here probably tomorrow, so you can help us plan a 'welcome back to school' party!"
"What?" Danny gawked at her, halting at her suggestion. "I'm ... I'm not good at parties!"
"You'll have fun! Our parties are always fun!" Jade enthused. "We'll have a sleep-over, and watch some movies, and do each other's hair and nails, and watch more movies. There's a new series called Kamichara Karin! It's so kyooot, and I bet the others haven't seen it! And with the money I earned this summer, I got Happy Seven and Futari Wa Precure! We're going to have a lot of sleepovers!"
"I can't do that!" Danny protested. "Boy, remember?"
"Not if Angel can hug you," Jade shot right back.
"The house-mothers won't let ...."
"I'll talk to them," Jade rebutted. "You'll have a blast! Have you ever seen Tenchi Muyo?" Seeing Danny's puzzled expression, Jade smiled. "You have to see Tenchi!"
Danny felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. Why couldn't Kayda come and rescue him from this little lunatic and her obsession with cute? He was getting roped into something that he wanted nothing to do with, and as he became embarrassed at being seen with the denizens of Cute-ville, he involuntarily shifted into his Kitty-Boy form.
The two weaved through some tables, and in his haste to keep up with Jade, who was practically dragging him, Danny bumped into a boy. "Sorry," he apologized pre-emptively.
"Watch it!" the guy shouted angrily, leaping to his feet and grabbing Danny's arm. "What are you, some kind of fruit? Playing with the little girls?" His dining companions roared with laughter at his feeble and bigoted humor.
Danny stared at the buttons at the large boy's neckline; no doubt he was an exemplar with the over-developed body to go with it. "I said I was sorry," he repeated, nervous at the size differential between him and the guy razzing him.
"Leave him alone, you meanie!" Jade snapped, stepping beside Danny. "You must be freshmen, because otherwise you'd know better than to bully my friends!"
"Buzz off, short-stuff!" the bully said, drawing himself up and puffing out his chest ominously as he ignored Jade. "I don't like poofy boys," he snarled.
"I'm not poofy!" Danny shot back, feeling a mixture of anger and embarrassment.
"You look like a cat-girl!" the bully smirked. "No masculine guy would look like that, so you must be a faggot!"
"Kitty Compact, fly!" Jade said through clenched teeth, releasing her pink Hello Kitty holdout as she squared herself to the oblivious freshman. The gizmo's blades deployed as is spun very slowly, and a syringe with a wicked-looking needle came out the bottom until it looked like a Hello Kitty version of Darth Vader's interrogation droid. The bully stood his ground, one eye on the flying toy and the other on the runt of a girl who dared to stand up to him. It was a standoff to see who was going to make the first move.
"Security Auxiliaries! Hold it right there!" a very strong, stern male voice barked at them as the armor-clad figure of Adam Ironknife darted to interpose himself between the two parties. "Jade, power down your devise."
"This poopyhead started it," Jade growled, reaching out her hand and retrieving the now-inert spinning compact of mayhem. "He was trying to pick a fight with Danny!"
"The little shit bumped into me - on purpose!" the boy lied, and his friends nodded and murmured their acquiescence to his fabricated tale.
"Would you like to go to the Security offices in Kirby and review the security tapes?" Ironknife, aka Stormwolf, proposed with a quite intimidating air about himself.
The would-be bully stared at Adam, trying to gauge how serious the security auxiliary was, clad as he usually was in his armor. To the side, Mindbird was moving toward the group quickly, also in her armor and he noticed that as well. "I suppose if he apologized ...."
"I did apologize!" Danny spat angrily. "And then ...." His words choked off when Adam held up his hand, signaling him to back down.
"I must not have heard it," the bully said with a smirk.
At Adam's stern look, Danny glared at the bully. "As I said before," he said through clenched teeth, "I'm sorry I accidentally bumped you."
"Names? For the report," Adam requested.
"Matt Thatcher," the bully said smugly. "Dump Truck."
"Danny Franks. Pounce."
"If security has any questions, they'll be in touch." Adam stood like an iron statue, indicating that Danny and Jade should move along and that he was going to watch to make certain nothing else happened. The boy couldn't help glancing back at his would-be tormenter, and the look that Dump Truck shot him made Danny gulp nervously; clearly, the bully had decided that Danny was a target. More worrying were the evil grins on Dump Truck's dining companions; no doubt they were also bullies.
"Anna, Lindsay," Jade greeted the girls cheerfully. "This is Danny, Kayda's brother." She put Danny's tray next to hers, across from the other two girls.
"I love the cat look!" Lindsay practically purred. "It's so kyooot!"
"He has a Hello Kitty hoodie he was wearing when I first met him," Jade proclaimed. "So he loves cute, so he'll fit right in."
Anna, though, seemed a bit hesitant around Danny for some unknown reason. That reduced by a tiny bit the amount of humiliating attention he was getting about being cute.
"We have to have a sleepover!" Jade proclaimed. "As soon as everyone is here." She grinned. "I got Happy Seven and Futari Wa Precure this summer!" The girls' conversation degenerated into a jumble of summer adventures, cute clothes they'd found, movies and anime series they wanted to watch, including something called Magical Girl Sasame and Ranma, clothes, boys, classes, makeup, and other such things to the point that Danny was starting to wish a meteor would crash through the dome of Crystal Hall and put him out of his misery.
Suddenly interrupting the chain of conversation, Danny and the rest of the table heard, "No way, Teri!" from just two tables away.
A small seven or eight inch tall fairy was tugging on a girl's hand, actually lifting her halfway out of her chair. "But Mary! He's cute! I love kitties!" the fairy cried looking straight at Danny.
The girl smiled apologetically at Danny, before glaring at the fairy again. "I don't care!"
Suddenly the fairy stopped pulling, becoming completely still. Danny saw what appeared to be a werewolf coming up behind the fairy, and tried not to cringe; he'd heard of the ultraviolent who actually was a werewolf from Kayda and had been warned to stay far away from him.
"That must be the new UV I heard about!" Anna said, wincing nervously.
Jade nodded. "Ayla gave us a rundown this morning. Freshman named Greg Abernathy, called Rottie. He's an avatar with the spirit of a Rotweiler. He's an ultraviolent and might be a rager."
"And GSD, so he looks kind of like a mean dog," Anna added unnecessarily.
"Why is he coming over here?" Danny asked nervously. He could feel the huge degree of unease in the cat spirit within him.
"Maybe ... your spirit?" Jade guessed, reflecting what Danny had already surmised.
The girl stared at the ultraviolent with large black eyes, while the fairy simply floated in the air, at least until the freshman ultraviolent growled.
"DOGGY!" the fairy shouted, moving in a blur to hug the werewolf.
Not expecting it, the newcomer staggered back as the fairy began crawling through his fur tickling him. Seeing the large, terrifying dog-person trying not to laugh as he slapped and grabbed unsuccessfully for the fairy made the entire cafeteria burst into laughter and jeers.
Frustrated at not being able to catch the elusive little fairy-girl, Rottie threw himself down, slamming the fairy into the floor with his entire weight. Rolling to his feet he snarled at the fairy who for her part was staring at the ceiling waving her arms in the air.
"I see stars!" she giggled.
The girl who had been sitting with the fairy lunged to her feet, her shirt ripping open at the back to reveal two large wings made of black energy. "All right! That's enough."
As she charged at the dog-boy, Rottie backhanded her out of the way like she was a fly.
Danny was one of the only ones close enough to see the dazed and happily confused look on the fairy's face turn into one of outrage, her eyes glowing purple. As the ultraviolent boy took a step towards the fallen girl, clearly ready to attack, the fairy went from zero to a hundred, catching hold of the ultraviolent and slamming him through the nearest doors with a painful bang.
Through the crystal the students could see trees shaking as the dog-boy and the fairy flew away from Crystal Hall.
"Dammit!" The girl cursed getting to her feet holding her ribs as her wings shrank. "She's going to get another detention. And this is only her second day!" Waving away some helpful students, she headed out following the path of broken branches and trees.
Jade gawked at where the fairy had gone. "Did you hear? That little fairy-girl thinks Danny is kyooot! I bet she'd love to be in Wondercute!"
Danny stared at her in disbelief for several long seconds before he lowered his head onto his arms on the tabletop. "God, please just take me now!"
Somehow, by some minor miracle, Danny slipped free of the Wondercute girls and the Three Little Witches, now wanting to be called the Cutettes and to hang around with Wondercute and especially Danny. Shaking his head, he avoided the area where Thud and Dump truck and their friends were still sitting, knowing they were glaring at him and probably mocking him. He had to remind himself that he'd helped kick a demon's ass, and that it was highly unlikely that they'd done anything similar. And yet their taunts had really bothered him. At least he'd shifted back to normal once he got far enough away from the Wondercute madness.
As he set his tray on the conveyor belt to be carried to the dishwashing area, Danny felt more than noticed someone approaching thanks to the senses Wihinape had been tutoring him in. Turning warily, he was surprised to see that it wasn't a tormenter, but a girl who was busing her tray as well. With dark hair in a sassy-yet-sophisticated syle, she had a pert little Gallic nose, and though she was wearing tight jeans and a T-shirt, she looked quite comely, making every curve count through the denim fabric.
There was a momentary awkward dance as the two tried to get out of each other's way. "Pardon," the girl said, and Danny nearly melted at the mellifluous voice with the sexy, charming French accent.
"Allow me," Danny replied, his heart strangely all a patter at the girl. Gallantly, he took the tray from her and put it on the conveyor belt, then turned and smiled.
"Merci," the girl said with a charming smile. "I 'ope all the boys 'ere are as polite as you."
"I try," Danny said, then realized his comment was rather dumb, but he was tongue-tied and his brain was having trouble keeping up. "I'm Danny. Danny Franks."
"Pleased to meet you, Danny," the girl replied. "I am Amelie Vitesse. My sister ...."
Danny's eyes went wide. "Vitesse? Is Adalie your sister?"
"Oui." It was the girl's turn to be at a loss for words. "But ... 'ow ...?"
Danny grinned. "Kayda is my sister. She and Adalie and Alicia are good friends."
Amelie squealed with delight. "Oooh! 'Ow wonderful! I met 'er in France this summer. She was very nice, and she told many fun stories!"
"She talked a lot about France," Danny practically purred. "She loved it. I ... I was really jealous, because it sounded like a wonderful trip." He noticed that she seemed a little hesitant and distracted. "Am I keeping you from anything?"
"Non," Amelie answered. "I was going back to my cottage to meet my roommate so we could go to the bookstore to get our books and supplies. She probably thinks I forgot."
"Well, I'll walk you back, and you can tell me all about Bordeaux and the museum and all the details that Kayda left out?" He gulped nervously; he'd never been in this kind of situation with a girl before, and he wasn't quite sure what to do. "I wasn't planning on doing anything," he added, "so I could help you carry your books and supplies if you needed."
"Are you trying to be a chevalier galant, to protect a demoiselle en détresse?"
"A what?" Danny gawked, not understanding her question.
"A gallant knight, to protect and rescue a, 'ow do you say, a damsel in distress?" Amelie giggled. "Per'aps on a étalon blanc fin as well?" She giggled again, a melodic sound to Danny. "A ... fine white stallion? Like in the movies?"
Danny blushed furiously. "I was ...." he stammered.
"I was joking, non?" Amelie said with a smile. "And I appreciate your offer of 'elp. I would very much like your company, as I know so few people, and since you are Kayda's brother ...."
Tuesday, August 29, 2007 - After Dark
Near Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
"Hey! It's the little queer-boy from the cafeteria!" a voice boomed from the walkway, alerting Danny who had just left Amelie and her roommate in Melville with a huge load of uniforms, books, and supplies. Danny perked up, startled, looking around frantically to find out who was yelling. There was no doubt in his mind that, given the choice of words, someone meant him.
Before he could see in the darkness pierced by too few walkway lamps, spaced just close enough that he couldn't really adapt for his cat-eye night vision, a large fist hit the side of his face, and he spun, knocked several feet back and to the ground by the force of the blow.
"You little faggot! You got me in trouble, bitch-boy!" the deep voice snarled, "and I don't like that! No more than I like faggots!"
"I'm not gay!" Danny retorted, trying to shake off the daze from the blow he'd suffered. His head spun from the forceful impact; he wondered if his tormenter had hit him hard enough to cause a concussion. With the headache from his hallow mismatch, his head throbbed painfully, threatening to make him pass out. "I'm not a faggot!" He rolled to his butt, sprawled out with his hands splayed behind him to keep him sitting sort-of upright. In the dim light, aided by his cat-eyes, he recognized Thud, Dump Truck, and their two friends from Crystal Hall.
"You must be," another voice snapped. "You look like a faggot!"
Danny glared up at the three burly boys who were around him. "Well," he shouted back without thinking, "you look like an idiot, but that doesn't necessarily make you one!" No sooner had the words left his mouth than he realized that was the wrong thing to say. Maybe he could have gotten away with taunting Kayda like that, or making wisecracks in his school last year where everyone knew him and expected such jokes, but this was a whole different situation.
"What did you call me?" Dump Truck growled, enraged and leaning down threateningly.
"He called you an idiot!" one of the others said, provoking Thud's rage. "Isn't that right?" he prompted the other boy. Clearly, the other two wanted to see Danny thrashed.
Dump Truck grabbed Danny's shirt and hauled him up so the boy's feet were several inches above the ground. "You're gonna regret those words, queer-boy!" He started to wind up his other fist to smash into Danny's face.
Danny had nothing to lose. "Afraid of a fair fight?" he defiantly challenged the bully.
"Three against one, blind-siding me," Danny continued. "You must be afraid of me."
The huge bully glared at him. "I ain't afraid of no little sissy boy!" He dropped Danny to his feet. "It'll be more fun this way, too!" he quipped, gesturing with head jerks for the other two to back off so he had room, ostensibly to administer a proper beating to the cat-boy. "I'll even let you take the first punch!"
Regaining his balance, Danny glanced at the other two, afraid they were going to jump him unfairly, but they had backed a couple of paces away. He looked back at Dump Truck who was grinning wickedly. "First punch, huh?" Danny asked. "Then ... duck!" he snapped, startling the two boys as he turned and bolted into the trees with cat-like speed and agility. His ploy gained him half a second at most before he heard the trio of bullies roar in anger and pursued.
Halfway to a huge tree, Danny willed his body to shift. His nails grew out into claws and his shoes fell off his much-smaller feet, while tawny hair spilled down his back. On his rear, a tail sprouted and painfully wiggled out of his pants, which, given the other changes such as slightly wider hips and narrower waist, gave it room. Rounding the tree, Danica leaped upward, her claws snagging the bark as she scrambled up the mighty oak and onto a large branch that was easily twelve feet above the ground. Crouching down, she watched and listened as the surprised bullies crashed through the trees, looking in the fading light for the boy and making so much noise that they hadn't heard the cat-girl climb up the tree.
When they were several yards away, fanning out to search for their target, Danica gracefully leaped to the ground, retrieved Danny's shoes, and then climbed up another tree many yards away. This time, she crouched in a fork, watching and waiting; she didn't want to be caught on the ground, nor did she want to hang around in case the idiots decided to look up in the trees.
Eventually, the four boys stomped off, frustrated in their game of picking on him. With a sigh of relief, Danica climbed gracefully down from the tree fork.
Halfway down, the cat-girl realized that someone was watching her. "Damn!" she swore softly. She'd tried to avoid a fight, but if one of the idiots had stuck around ....
"Security," a voice announced as a flashlight snapped on, pointing directly into her eyes.
"Oh, great!" Danica muttered to herself in frustration. "What else can go wrong?"
"There was a report of a disturbance in this area," a second voice - another security officer, no doubt - explained in a less-than-friendly voice.
"Duh?" Danica snapped angrily. "Four bullies try to beat me up, I run away, and now you show up to help?"
"The security camera footage shows a boy being struck," the first officer noted. "Where is he?"
"I'm a freakin' shifter!" Danica protested. "And would you get that damned thing out of my eyes? Cat mutation? Light-sensitive eyes?" Her patience was thin, given the attempted bullying in the cafeteria, being hit by Thud, having to run away in mortal fear, and now having security act like she was the perpetrator. The light was lowered away from her face - and Danica belatedly realized that it still illuminated her, only below her neck. "You wanna see my student ID? And there's probably a helluva bruise from ... him hitting me!"
After examining the ID and the bruise, the officers seemed a little less suspicious. Of course, the two asked if Danica knew who'd hit her, but she was reluctant to say because she knew how bullies worked; Dump Truck had already announced that he blamed Danny for almost getting in trouble in the cafeteria. If security tried to pin this on him, the target on Danny's back would be glow-in-the-dark neon red. Of course, the 'helpful' security officers took Danica to Kane Hall to fill out a report, which of course led to more 'interrogation' about who'd been bullying her, as well as repeated descriptions of how she'd gotten away.
It was well after curfew when Danica finished with security and was summarily dismissed without any offer to escort her back to Poe. Helpfully, when she'd been first brought in, security had called Mrs. Horton to report her presence, which momentarily confused the house-mother who'd never seen the slut-kitty form.
With a heavy sigh, Danica set out, avoiding the paths but using Wihinape's cat-like senses to move quietly across the lawn and among the trees to hide - just in case the bullies were lurking about to ambush him. No doubt the level of hostility to Danny was going to increase significantly.
At least Mrs. Horton showed sympathy, checking the bruise and making Danica sit with an ice-pack on the battered cheek while she offered Danica some cookies and soft drink. After she was sure that Danica was calmed down from the experience, had vented about the impersonal, uncompassionate security officers, and that Danica didn't need to go to Doyle, she walked the cat-girl upstairs to her room.
As she started to get ready for bed, Danica remembered that she'd had a headache earlier and knew it was time to be slut-kitty for a while. Now was as good a time as any, she supposed. No roommate - yet - and it seemed that most of the girls were settling down for the evening.
Danica neglected to think that it wasn't a school night, and the girls were up late. As gossip circulated around the cottage like wildfire, Danica found herself being fussed over by Ros and several upperclassmen girls, though Ros was being a little possessive perhaps. She certainly was eyeing the cat-girl with unadulterated lust in her eyes, and the offer of helping Danica get her shower was a little too suggestive, as was the rather blatant invitation for her to use the 'special feature' of the Poe girls' bathrooms. Or soak in the hot tub downstairs with Ros and a few of the freshmen lesbian girls.
Danica begged off on the excuse that she was very tired, and as she lay in bed, before drifting to sleep, she wondered just how she'd been cajoled into promising a hot tub session on the weekend with Ros. And Cindy. And several other girls.
It was a more frightening thought than having to confront Dump Truck again.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Morning
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
After a whole summer of spending a night or two every week as Danica, it no longer bothered Danny to wake up with long hair splayed haphazardly around his head and breasts pressed in awkward ways because he habitually tossed and turned a lot while sleeping. Climbing out of bed with a huge yawn, Danica tore off her night-shirt, then slipped into a robe that had been draped over the bed's footboard. It was only her second night at Poe, and the first as Danica, so she was a little dazed. She started out into the hall, but then, recognizing that she wasn't at home and her toiletries weren't in the bathroom, she grabbed them and slogged bleary-eyed down the hall.
"Wrong one, sport," one of the boys said as Danica turned toward the bathroom door. Startled, he looked up into a rather disgusted expression of one of the gay boys who was not too happy that Danica was about to enter the boys' bathroom.
"Not awake yet," Danica muttered, turning and trudging down the hall to the girls' restroom. At the door, she paused, gulping nervously as Cindy walked in while giving Danica the eye and a friendly smile.
"Coming in?" she asked with a wink.
Danica winced. "Maybe I'll go ...." She grimaced as she realized she didn't have any good options - it was either the boys' room or the girls' room, and as Danica, she was not going in the boys' bathroom. Undecided on how to handle the situation, Danica stepped back and concentrated to change back to boy form; her headache was reduced, but still present, and as she'd learned over the long summer, until the pain abated to a point, she wasn't able to focus enough to change back. Her choice of which restroom to use was forced upon her.
Still torn as to what to do, Danica was still thinking when Christina Violante took her elbow. "Come on," Christina said. "You won't be showing anything I haven't already seen."
"But ... but ... when I'm not ... like this?" Danica cried. "I don't want to make things weird!"
"Weird? When we have girls like Lina?" Christina grinned. "Since you're a boy most of the time, you still have a boy brain, so consider it a chance for a free show," she added with a laugh.
"You just want to gawk at me naked," Danica pouted.
"The thought had crossed my mind," the Italian girl grinned. Before Danica could think of another objection, Christina took her arm and led her into the bathroom. "Buongiorno," she called out happily to the other girls, but Danica noticed that her gaze paused momentarily on Martina, and Christina's features hardened into an angry glare which quickly faded before she thought Danica would see it. "Is a bella giornata, si? A beautiful day?"
Cindy was getting out of the shower, patting her flawless skin dry, and Danica couldn't help but stare at her luscious curves, with her breasts jiggling very seductively as she toweled herself off. She glanced up and saw the cat-girl staring, and she winked at the girl suggestively.
"Don't drool," Rose said softly to Danica, but her voice was loud enough that the cat-girl figured everyone could hear. "It's not lady-like!"
For Danica, things just got worse. Several of the girls looked askance at Danica, as if she had the plague or something, which was understandable; most of the time, Danica was a guy, which was a hard fact to forget. Naturally, some of them like Martina and Jessie were understandably self-conscious, while Victory and Amanda were dubious about Danica sharing a bathroom with them. More to the point, Danica was rattled by the tented robe that Lina had on, which caused the peacock girl no small amount of embarrassment, and Danica was highly embarrassed by the way Cindy, Bethany, Rose, and Christina were very blatantly checking her out, Rose going so far as to comment aloud that "I like what I see" as Danica stepped nude from the shower. Most of the lesbians turned at that, and there were several catcalls and whistles of approval as Danica grabbed for a towel to hold in front of herself, while her cheeks reddened all the way to her toes.
It didn't help that several of the girls virtually ignored her, as if Danica was a natural-born woman and part of the gang. Given the difficulties Danny had had with being called gay and being bullied for his bishi looks, that was about the worst of the experience for Danica. That and Bethany putting on a show of shaving her legs totally starkers as she periodically glanced at Danica and winked or seductively licked her lips. Danica finished as quickly as she could and beat a hasty retreat to her room.
"You could have stayed longer," the cat-spirit chided her in her head. "I was enjoying the show!"
Danica gasped in horror. "Are you ... a lesbian?" he demanded of his spirit.
"I like the company of girls, if that's what you mean,” Wihinape replied with a seductive purr. "But I much prefer the company of males. We shall have to find one."
"What?!?" Danica dropped her towel in shock at what her spirit was saying. "Are you kidding?"
"It may take you a while to get used to the idea that when we're in the form your mother calls Slut Kitty," she spat the name distastefully, "we have our needs." She chuckled as Danica stammered incoherently, trying to find a suitable response. "But in the meantime, I suppose that Rosalyn would do. She is a very good kisser, wouldn't you agree? And Bethany and Christina seem quite interested and they're both extremely attractive.”
Danica sank onto her bed, almost in tears. "Mom was right! You are a slut-kitty!"
You don't know the half of it! the cat spirit purred with a bit of a wicked laugh.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Before Lunch
The Quad, Whateley Academy
In the company of Cindy, Peggy, Martina, and Heather, Danny was walking toward the cafeteria. This code-name / real-name stuff was getting confusing. Which did he use, and when? It didn't seem that there were any rules apart from arenas and power testing, and some preferred their code names. Cinderella, Diamanta, Knockoff, and Selkie he could have as well called the girls escorting him. Shaking his head at that bit of confusion, he turned instead to the events of the last day.
It had been almost eight-thirty before Danny had been able to change back to his male form, though his dull headache was still present. And he knew that all his night-time change had done was to put off the time he'd have to be Danica for a longer time-span. He was only too painfully aware that if he tried that too often, the deformity from the hallow-mismatch was going to increase, which would change him even more toward Wihinape's cat-girl form - permanently. Eventually, the bullies were going to find out that he had to spend a continuous thirty-six to forty-eight hours as a girl, and he expected the degree of bullying to increase substantially, so he wanted to delay that day of reckoning as long as possible.
Not that that had helped much. On the way to breakfast, Dump Truck had deliberately and very roughly bumped into Danny, sending the boy sprawling. To add to Danny's frustration, Dump Truck had pretended not to see Danny, then after a few disparaging comments about twinks and fairies, he demanded that Danny apologize for running into him!
To make things worse, Dump Truck's new friends - Thud, who he already knew, and two others called Centurion and Switchblade - penned him in, moving around him so that he couldn't easily get away, not that he hadn't tried, but as each boy outweighed him by at least thirty pounds, he really couldn't push his way between them. He wasn't enamored with the thought of trying to fight four bullies at once, either. He knew that any attempt to do so would result in him being on the receiving end of a thorough beatdown.
From the very start, Danny knew that Dump Truck and his gang of bullies understood their tormenting game well - they were taunting him without using 'fighting words' and pushing him around without really looking like they were pushing him around, so that if anyone reported what they'd seen or heard, the bullies could honestly say that they hadn't done anything but talk to him. No doubt they'd been practicing their bullying skills since long before they'd come to Whateley. It was his bad fortune that they'd so quickly formed a group, almost as if there'd been a "Bully Club" advertised to draw them all together.
As the boy walked along, his mind ran in circles, and no matter what he tried to distract himself with, the thoughts eventually circled back around .... "I look girly... Bullies pick on guys who look girly ... cuz they're gay ... but I like girls, so I'm not gay ... but would they like a guy who looks girly? Well, these girls wouldn't because they're lesbians ... but I could be Danica and they'd like me ... but then I'd be a girl and look girly ..."
He was so preoccupied that he didn't noticed the group walk right past Dump Truck.
"Good morning, girls," the bully announced his presence as he trotted to the front of the group, walking backwards so he could talk to the group. "I bet you'd like an escort to help keep you safe - I hear there are bullies, and some ultraviolents ... Hey!" he snarled suddenly, looking at Danny. "You're that poncy git who looks like a girl!"
Selkie took Danny's arm and stepped to the side, avoiding Thud. Or more accurately, she tried, but the boy moved in front of them. "You got me in trouble last night!" the bully said menacingly. "You owe me, you little fairy!"
Danny gulped - Thud was really, really angry. Worse, some of his buddies, and a few bigger, older students that Danny didn't know, were converging on the scene. "I didn't start anything!" he protested feebly.
Dump Truck, one of the bullies, turned his attention to the girls. "Me and Thud could forget all about this if one of you ladies would let me escort you to a movie tomorrow night." He moved between Selkie and Martina, bumping hard into Danny on purpose and nearly sending him sprawling. "Oh, sorry, Tinkerbell!" he mocked the boy. "I didn't see you. I guess I don't believe in fairies!"
Martina found herself infuriated by the bully. She dropped her shoulder and ran into the big guy to push him back away from Danny. "Leave him alone!" she growled. For all her effort, she could have run into a brick wall.
"Or what?" the bully said with an evil grin. He punched Martina - hard - and knocked her several yards back.
Seeing what was happening, and none-too-comfortable with the number of bullies converging on their little group, Cindy and Diamanta ran off abruptly.
The boy known as Thud sneered at them. "Just you and us, you little faggot!" he taunted Danny.
"Yeah, fairy!" another snarled as five additional older bullies converged around Danny.
"Sissy-boy!" "Little faggot!" "You can't be a real boy!" "Go put your dress on, you fruit!"
Dump Truck bumped violently into Danny again, knocking him backwards into one of the older boys behind him. With a laugh, he shoved Danny back at Dump Truck, who 'accidentally' elbowed the boy in the ribs.
"Leave me alone!" Danny cried out angrily. "I'm not gay! I'm not a faggot!"
"You sure look like it, you fucking Nancy-boy!"
Without warning, one of the lawn sprinkler heads popped up, and a very strong stream of water shot out, curving under Selkie's control, smashing into Switchblade like a fire hose and knocking him down. Unfortunately for Selkie, with the main valves turned off, the only water was what was in the pipes, and the stream petered out very quickly. That didn't stop her - with some focus, the nearby water, including that on the ground, rose up and coalesced into a water ball. Guided by her hydrokinetic powers, the ball moved until it engulfed Dump Truck's head. The boy began to thrash about frantically, unable to breathe through the water.
Buster, one of the older boys, noticed Selkie's action, and he charged at her, tackling her violently and disrupting her concentration, so the ball of water fell to the ground, soaking Dump Truck but allowing him to breathe again.
"Leave him alone!" a voice called out angrily from the side of the little gathering, startling the bullies.
Thud turned, and saw a Lakota girl and two friends dashing to the scene, anger writ large on the Lakota girl's face. "Oh look," he chortled as he roughly shoved Danny back into Dump Truck, "the little sissy has to have girls protect him because he's too much of a fairy to defend himself!" He glared at Danny. "Or he runs away! Fucking little coward sissy!"
"Leave. Him. Alone!" the Lakota girl hissed through clenched teeth. Even Danny could hear the rage in her voice, and could see the cold fury in her eyes. Her knife and tomahawk were in hand. Out of nothingness, a huge white buffalo manifested; he pawed the ground and snorted angrily.
Seeing the distraction, Martina bravely leaped at Anvil, one of the older boys, trying to pry one or more of them away from Danny, but the bigger boy threw her violently aside, where she landed hard on the lawn, which evinced a pained cry. Despite that, she scrambled to her feet again, looking ready to continue to defend her fellow Poesie.
To the side of Kayda, her former roommate Evvie was bracing herself, preparing to wade into a fight, while Naomi, Evvie's GF, pulled some threatening-looking gizmo from her purse.
The older boys nervously eyed the Lakota girl and the buffalo, and backed off a bit.
"Cagliostro!" Kayda said, shaking her head. "I should have known I'd find you bullying my brother! And Buster? And Anvil? And Legbreaker? And Gauntlet?" She chuckled. "I knew my brother could cut loose with his spirit, but I didn't figure it'd take nine of you guys to fight him!"
"What's it to you, bitch?" Dump Truck snarled at Kayda. "There's no place on this campus for faggots and gay-boys!"
"Are you guys going for an early start on detentions?" the Lakota girl chuckled very confidently. She paused to finger the charm about her neck.
"We ... we were just ... introducing ourselves!" Cagliostro stammered a feeble explanation, his eyes alternating between the girl's weapons and the angry buffalo. "Isn't that right guys?"
"Uh, huh!" "Yup." Buster was a little slow on the uptake, but after a few seconds while his brain processed things, he nodded eagerly. "Yeah. Just saying 'hi'."
The freshmen bullies weren't quite smart enough to realize that a girl defiantly wielding weapons with a ton and a half of angry white buffalo shouldn't be trifled with. "What's it to you, bitch?" Centurion demanded.
"Hey!" Danny protested from amidst the bullies. "Don't call my sister a bitch!" he yelled angrily, trying to get at the insulting boy. He wound up to swing at the boy, but Dump Truck saw him telegraphing a punch and backhanded him, sending him flying into Thud, who also gave him a rabbit punch, dropping him to the ground.
"What d'ya know?" Dump Truck laughed. "Tinkerbell has a temper! But she punches like a girl!"
"You don't mess with my brother!" Kayda aid evenly, her calm rather eerie considering she was facing down four strong bullies.
"I don't like faggots," Switchblade sneered, manifesting some kind of energy blade. "Whether it's your sister or not! And I don't take orders from sassy girls who don't know their place!"
Kayda laughed at him, which only upset the bullies more. "If you haven't noticed," she chuckled, "he has four girls interested in him. Four that are here right now. And I know of at least half a dozen more who find him attractive. Which is probably a lot more than I think would ever be interested in scum like you!"
"That's 'cuz he's just one of the girls!" Thud retorted, a little overly proud of his weakly insulting comeback. "So we want to have a ... friendly chat ... with the little fruit? What are you going to do about it?"
"Keep you distracted," Kayda chuckled. "for another few seconds until security gets here."
"Nice try, bitch!" Centurion growled, unimpressed. "Now run along while us boys talk, bitch!" The boys had more-or-less squared off against the line of girls. An iron grip on Danny's wrist kept him from moving anywhere as Dump Truck painfully twisted it, causing Danny more pain.
A booming voice sounded behind the boys. "That should be 'Miss', not 'bitch'." The bullies spun nearly in unison, shocked by the sound. They were even more shocked by the appearance of Lieutenant Forsyth and four heavily-armed security guards with heavy weapons at the ready. A step behind them stood Cindy and Diamanta, looking smugly at the bullies.
"Good afternoon, Kayda," Forsythe said warily. "You're off to an early start this year, aren't you?"
Kayda chuckled, surprising the security guards. "These guys were bullying my brother, and it was starting to get physical. I was just distracting them until you got here."
The lieutenant grinned and laughed. "That's better than last spring." His demeanor changed completely as he turned to the bullies. "I think, gentlemen, that we're going to Kane to have a little chat."
"We didn't do anything!" Switchblade protested, then belatedly realized that he had a manifested weapon. He let it demanifest nervously, trying not to be obvious. "We were ... we were just ... joking around a bit!" He glanced around. "Isn't that right, guys?" he prompted his buddies.
"Yeah." "Just kidding." "We weren't doing anything but joking around!"
Selkie stepped boldly to the boys. "I'm sure they'll make that determination after they review the security footage!"
"All cameras are recorded," Forsythe said with a smug grin. "And we'll see how well your stories compare to the footage and to their statements," he nodded toward Danny and the girls.
As Danny tugged to get away from Dump Truck, who still held him, the bully realized just how incriminating it looked that he was holding the boy in a fashion that was quite obviously painful, judging from the boy's posture and expression. He let go of Danny, who grabbed his wrist, pain etched on his features. "You broke my fucking hand, you asshole!" he screamed at the boy.
"Hmm," Forsythe's grin grew, "that sounds like a little more than joking around." He looked around, his team scowling and at the ready. "Now you can come peacefully to Kane where we'll have a little discussion, or ...," he glanced over his shoulder, "we can make you come with us. Your choice."
Grumbling, the older students nodded, pretty certain that they'd just get a talking-to, because they hadn't done anything, unlike the new crop of bullies, but they'd still showed up on security's radar. The new ones, though, seemed to take a little longer to assess their chances. "Don't even think about it," Forsythe snapped with a deep scowl, having read their body language.
Thud, Dump Truck, and the other two slowly stood down, their posture becoming much less defiant in the face of security.
"I need you to come fill out a complaint, ... er ...?" Forsythe hesitated when it came to the student's name.
"This is my brother ..." Kayda started to say.
"I'm Danny," the boy interrupted his sister. He did not want to be in her shadow any more than absolutely necessary. "My name is Danny." He glanced at the girls. "What if ... what if I don't want to ... fill out a complaint?" he asked nervously. Danny realized that he'd suddenly fuzzed, which startled Lieutenant Forsythe. Why hadn't he gone fuzzy when the bullies had been harassing him? Perhaps anger or fear overwhelmed his sense of embarrassment? He'd have to file that thought away for later experimentation.
"Are you a were, or a shifter?" Forsythe asked warily.
"Shifter," Danny replied. "And ... I don't want to file. It'll just piss them off more."
"Even if you don't," Forsythe sounded a bit sympathetic and understanding, "you are a witness, so you'll have to fill in a report." He turned back to the bullies. "You know, if you'd hurt her brother, there are some in security who'd just turn their backs while Kayda and her buffalo taught you guys a lesson, then have a discussion with you - in in Doyle Medical Center as you were being treated for your injuries."
The boys looked nervously between him and the still-manifested, angry-looking bison.
"Take them to Kane," Forsythe ordered his men. "And Anvil? On your way over there, perhaps you should explain to these ... nubes ... what Kayda's buffalo can do to a PK field. And you might want to tell them how Kayda killed two Class X demons." He watched the newbies' jaws drop a little. "Demons," he repeated with sadistic pleasure. "The kind that would warp your mind if you met his gaze. The kind that your PK fields and fancy manifested weapons would be useless against."
Three of the new herd gaped at Forsythe, not quite sure they'd heard him correctly, but Centurion displayed an overwhelming sense of arrogance and glared at both the cat-boy and the Lakota girl. Danny gulped - no doubt he'd made a permanent enemy of that one, and by extension, probably the other three as well.
Forsythe was quick at taking statements from Danny and the girls, because he could see how Danny was holding his hand and knew the boy needed medical attention. Following that, Kayda and her friends joined Danny's little retinue, changing destinations from the Crystal Hall to Doyle. He might have been a little terse or huffy when he turned down Kayda's offer of healing, but she'd already embarrassed him enough for one day; a healing would have felt like she was rubbing his nose in how helpless he seemed to be. Selkie, Knockoff, Diamanta, and Cinderella swooped to his side, perhaps even closer and more protective of the boy.
Inside, Danny wanted to cry. The girls were treating him like a pet, not like boyfriend material, and he'd had to be rescued from bullies by his sister and her damned buffalo. So far, Whateley sucked.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - Afternoon
2nd Floor Lounge, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
"Hey, why the long face?"
Danny looked up from where he sulked, half-curled up in a large overstuffed chair staring blankly at one of the fireplaces. Not even the holographic flames were turned on to distract him from his forlorn musings. "Huh?" he snapped himself out of his semi-zombied state.
"What's got you looking so down?" Cindy, one of the two who'd intruded into his quiet self-reflection, asked. "I mean, you look like someone just ran over your puppy." A grin crossed her face. "Or is that kitty?"
"Very funny!" Danny snapped sarcastically at her.
"What's bothering you?" Christina asked a little more tactfully.
Danny sighed. "I have to go buy my uniforms," he replied with a glum expression and tone.
Danny gawked at the two like they were from Mars. "So? It's ... it's embarrassing!" he finally spat, annoyed that they hadn't considered the obvious.
"What's ...." Christina started to say, but then her eyes widened as the realization hit her. "Oh."
"Yeah," Danny said, looking back to the unlit fireplace. "I ... I don't wanna do it."
"Would it help if we go with you?" Cindy asked, her voice surprisingly chipper.
Danny gawked at her again. "What?"
"Sure! I mean, it's not like it'd be weird to us!" she added.
"Of course it wouldn't be strange," Christina said with an enigmatic smile and a waggle of her eyebrows. "If you could handle us all ... admiring you ... this morning, it couldn't possibly be more embarrassing to go shopping with us, could it?"
"But ...." Danny sputtered, unable to refute her logic. "But ... outside Poe ...?"
Cindy stepped forward and lightly grasped the boy's arm. "C'mon! I mean, it's shopping!" she said brightly.
"I hate shopping!" Danny protested, even though he let the two girls maneuver him out of the chair.
"Blasphemy!" Cindy cried in mock anguish. "Blasphemy!"
"What's blasphemy?" Amanda, having just come out of the elevator with Bethany, asked, having overheard.
"This heretic doesn't want to ... to ..." Cindy turned away in mock horror, as if just speaking the words was the most hideous thing she could do, "to ... go ... shopping!"
"Gasp!" "No!" "Blasphemy!" "Heathen!"
"I'm a boy," Danny protested. "I don't have to like shopping!"
"Your logic was impeccable, save for one minor fact," Amanda replied with a grin. "This morning, you most certainly were not a guy!
"Yeah!" Bethany and Christina agreed readily.
"But ... I have to get uniforms!" Danny objected. "For ... for when I'm ... like that!"
"Oh, good! We'll make a girls' afternoon of it!" Amanda replied with way too much enthusiasm for Danny's liking. "Go change, and we'll all go!"
"Can we watch you change?" Bethany pleaded, her beautiful eyes giving Danny that sad puppy-dog look. "Please?"
"Yeah," Amanda agreed. "Unless you have to, you know, get naked to change! I don't want to see any guy's thing!" She had a look of utter disgust at that last thought.
"No, I don't have ...." Danny caught himself, but the damage had been done. He could have told them yes, and then they'd leave him alone. But no, he'd spoken before he thought, and now he was stuck as the small pack of excited, giggling girls led him to his room. Blushing, fighting to not slip into his kitty-boy form, he let his inner Danica come forth, much to the delight of the girls. And when he changed into a simple knit top and pair of tight jeans, they verbalized their appreciation, adding to the poor girl's embarrassment. At least as slut-kitty, Danica didn't suffer any form changes when she got embarrassed, unlike her normal Danny form.
The shopping trip was a shopping trip, and as much as Danica wanted to hate it, she had to admit - to herself - that being with the girls shopping was more fun than she thought. Her previous experiences shopping had included her mom and Kayda, and they managed to keep her embarrassed the whole time. This time, though, the girls only made him blush part of the time. The downside was that they made Danica try on a lot of outfits besides the uniforms.
With a grin on her face, Christina came up to Danica holding a lacy little bra. "I bet you've never seen anything like this before!" she said playfully, knowing that as a small-town freshman boy, it was unlikely that she was wrong.
"Oh, that's nothing! This summer, Kayda and her friends got me ...." Danica shut her mouth with a horrified expression, seeing the light go on in Christina's eyes as she interpreted what Danica had said. The poor cat-girl face-palmed. "Dammit," she muttered to herself angrily, "when am I going to learn to keep my mouth shut?"
"Spill!" Bethany urged the cat-girl. "What did they get you?"
Danica looked around at the girls, whose expressions ranged from pleading to mischievous. Damn, but Danny had always been a sucker for cute girls. "I don't need to buy any underwear, because mom already got me some!" Danica admitted. "And ... and my sister and her friends - they got me some ... embarrassing ... underwear when they were in France last summer." For the briefest moment, Danica had the strange thought of wondering how her bright crimson cheeks went with her tawny hair color.
By the time the girls were done, a quick trip to pick up two uniforms turned into three uniforms plus three other casual outfits, some makeup, and other girl essentials, like razors for shaving her legs, because, as Bethany pointed out, no-one in her wing wanted to see hairy legs when Danica showered with them. Which they reminded him was likely going to happen again, so Danica might as well get used to the idea.
Back at Poe, the girls stayed around Danica as she walked toward her room. "Thanks," she said, hoping the girls would take the hint.
"Admit it," Bethany practically purred, "you had fun, didn't you?"
"It was better than shopping with my mom," Danica admitted with a grumble. "Now I've got to put a few things away," she said as the door lock beeped from her thumbprint, "so I can get to dinner."
"That's not for a couple of hours," Amanda giggled, pushing right past Danica. "You get a single?" she asked in astonishment, looking around the room.
"No," Danica scooted inside, hoping to try to head off the girls and find some way to prod them out of the room. "My roommate's not here yet. So, like I said, thanks. Now I need ..."
"To put things away," Cindy said with glee as she scooped up one of the shopping bags. She threw open the armoire, ignoring Danica's protests. "Let's see ... ooohhh! This is darling!" she screeched with delight, grabbing the little black dress that Kayda had hung where it was prominent! "You're holding out on us!"
"Okay!" Danica tried to intervene, but outnumbered as she was, there was little hope of stopping four curious teenage girls. "Mom and Kayda got me a few things!"
"Did your mom get you these?" Christina squealed excitedly as she rifled through the drawers, pulling out the lingerie that Kayda had gotten in France.
Amanda took the bustier with a very huge grin. "You have got to model these for us!"
"No!" Danica protested, getting embarrassed again and determined to stand up to these girls. "That's what ... what my sister and her friends got," the cat-girl pouted. "I'm not modeling ... underwear!"
"Well, okay. If you won't model for us," Bethany said with a quite conspiratorial grin, "maybe we should get the whole wing! If you can't do it for us, imagine if all of us pressure you for a show!" She strutted to Danica, putting her hands delicately on the collar of the girl's polo shirt, staring seductively in the cat-girl's eyes. "Please!" she purred before touching her tongue to her lips.
Danica gulped nervously. "That's not playing fair!" she protested, knowing that the girls were going to get a show sooner or later, or they'd embarrass him to all the girls of the wing. With a sigh, she decided to just acquiesce and get it over with. "You're not going to tell the whole wing, are you? Or the whole cottage?"
"Maybe not," Cindy teased the cat-girl from behind, her warm breath tantalizing Danica's neck and sending a shiver down her back.
Danica gave in to the seductive teasing; the girls giggled when the cat-girl turned her back on them to strip out of her clothes and put on the naughty underwear Kayda and her friends had given her. She was blushing beet red at the hoots and cheers as she put the lingerie on, and when she turned, she expected more. Instead, the girls stared at her, slack-jawed, eyes practically bulging from their sockets.
"Wow!" was all that Amanda could say.
That was enough to break the enchantment. "Yeah, wow!" Christina said. "Girl, you're smokin' hot!"
"I'd hit that!" Cindy giggled, making Danica blush an entirely new shade of red.
"Now the LBD!" Bethany encouraged Danica with a bit of a leer.
"No," Danica protested. Seeing the disappointed looks on the others' faces, she softened her tone. "Not right now. I'm still sore from ... from lunchtime. I'm gonna see if the tub is free and take a nice hot soak."
Bethany and Christina's eyes lit up and they turned to each other. "Hot tub!" both said with glee.
"C'mon," Cindy encouraged the cat-girl. "Let's go have a soak in the hot tub!"
"But ... but I ... I don't have a swimming suit!" Danica protested, eyes wide with shock. She'd unintentionally overheard tales from Kayda, Lanie, and Deb about the lesbian hot tub parties, and she was suddenly extremely nervous.
"Who needs a swimming suit?" Amanda leered at her, waggling her eyebrows at the look of utter shock and disbelief on Danica's face.
"You can borrow one of mine," Bethany said, beating Christina to the punch by a couple of seconds.
"I'm not sure ...."
"Unless you'd rather change back to your ... ugh! ... Danny form, and go soak in the hot-tub with all the Nancy-boys!" Cindy suggested knowingly, certain that she had a winning argument.
She did. Twenty minutes later, the four girls and the reluctant cat-girl slipped into the hot-tub in the girls' spa room in Poe's basement. It was clearly a contest to see who got to sit beside Danica, with Cindy and Christina winning on the promise that they'd switch positions after a bit.
Christina heard the contented sigh as the warm water worked its magic on Danica, and with a near predatory smile, she leaned her head closer. "I told you this would be relaxing."
"Yeah," Danica admitted softly. "It is nice."
"So is this," Christina said with a wicked grin before planting her lips on a very startled Danica's. For a moment, Danica started to panic, but then she started to respond to the Italian girl's kiss. In a few moments, Danica was eagerly kissing back to the point that she only flinched slightly when Christina's hand slid softly onto her stomach and crept slowly up until it was cupping one of Danica's breasts.
"No hanky-panky!" a stern voice from the doorway interrupted the kiss.
All the girls turned, startled, toward the voice, and they collectively sighed their disappointment at the sight of Ros, one of the RA's, giving them a disapproving look. "Kissy-kissy - fine. Anything more? Not here," she admonished them. "You were told the rules."
Danica expected Christina to flinch, but she winked at the cat-girl and gave her another kiss.
"And you!" Ros said sternly, scowling at Danica, "you're two-timing me!"
Danica's eyes bugged out as she tried to pull away from the kiss Christina was reluctant to end. "Mmmpphhh!" she tried to speak, which was rather difficult with the Italian girl's tongue in his mouth, and pulling back was impeded by her hands firmly holding his face. When Christina let Danica come up for air, Danica turned fully to look at Ros, feeling quite confused. Why did she feel guilty that Ros had caught her kissing Christina?
"Might as well finish up with them," Ros chuckled suddenly, surprising Danica, "because once I take my turn, you won't want to kiss them anymore!"
Danica gawked at her, trying to sort out her feelings, but as her mind whirled, Cindy slipped beside her and began to kiss the cat-girl. Should it matter whether he was a boy or girl as long as he had girls kissing him? It was the only way the girls in Poe would pay attention to him. And ... they were pretty good kissers; Danica felt herself getting tingly from her head to her toes.
"Aw, to hell with it," Danica said when Cindy's lips parted from hers. "I might as well enjoy this!" She pulled Cindy back into another kiss, eagerly reciprocating the affection the girls were giving her. It might be a lesbian kiss, but inside, Danica knew that she was still Danny, still highly attracted to girls, and as long as it didn't go past kissing, it was exactly what the inner Danny wanted. Anything more? Well, Danny and Wihinape would have to have a long chat about that. But for now, he could just enjoy the luscious lips of the girls sharing the hot tub with him. Her. Danica. Whatever.