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Jun 26, 2019 3:57 PM
Dusk in Fabulous
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She knows just enough to be frustrated at how easy it would be to make a mistake.

The - dream, editor, whatever you'd call it - showed up for her a few weeks ago. She knew enough not to ignore it, but not to make more than the tiniest change, either, and now she has a tiny butterfly tattoo, plausibly enough just an odd bruise, on the sole of her foot, and a deadline, and no idea how long the deadline gives her, or whether she'll have any warning before she loses her chance forever.

It's been two weeks. She can't wait much longer; even if the deadline itself isn't too close yet, they're starting to notice that she's distracted, stressed; if they decide she's misbehaving, and drug her, she won't be able to do anything at all, probably. Not a risk she can take, anyway, not on her one chance at freedom.

It's hard to get to sleep - it's always hard to get to sleep, she's never properly tired at the right time even if she's exhausted - but knowing that tonight is the night helps, a little.

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Whenever she wants it, the same toolset that let her add the butterfly is there. She could remove the butterfly - she hasn't added enough that it's no longer permissible to take away - or she could do anything else - fiber optic hair or corner-to-corner gold eyes or protruding spikes down her spine or mermaid-bright scales up her shins or switchback digitagrade knees or coal-dark fur or glinting ruby claws? -

She's going to need clothes too but she has not yet earned the privilege of magically adjusting those.

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The very first thing she does is adjust her weight. She's so thin; almost every kid she knows is too thin, but she doesn't like to cooperate, so they don't feed her more than they absolutely have to. But she doesn't have to make a choice between letting them change her body and letting them change her mind, any more, so she doesn't; she pads herself out until she looks like the kids on TV, the kids who've just come in from outside. It's a relief already, though not as much of one as she expected it to be.

She pauses, then, for just a moment, before tweaking her face - nothing drastic, compared to what she's already done, but she angles her eyes slightly differently, changes the shape of her ears, her nose, lengthens her hair and makes it darker; she's not sure how much it takes to make someone unrecognizable to most people, but it won't hurt, at least.

She pauses again, this time to think; she has some ideas for clothes, but nothing special in mind for how her body should look, yet.

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The magic waits patiently. Well, probably patiently; the exact figure of how long you can keep it after making a few adjustments but not a magically adequate overhaul is not widely known. Maybe it is very impatient and if she doesn't have hooves and elephant ears in the next fifteen seconds it will leave her forever, obliged to explain being moderately different-looking.

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Just sitting doesn't really help, anyway. She does know enough to make some guesses - she knows that more dramatic changes mean more magic; she knows that too dramatic of a change is bad, though not why. She's not really sure what makes a change too dramatic, or not dramatic enough. She knows that you can't hide being a magical girl.

Maybe it's that simple. Maybe she just needs something she can't hide.

She turns her eyes deep indigo-blue, the color of earliest night, clearly inhuman.

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Closer. No cigar.

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But closer.

She changes her hair to match and gives it a slight sparkly sheen. If that's still not enough, she'll try swirling indigo tattoos up her arms - actually, now that she's had the idea, she likes it; she'll do that anyway. It's not too dramatic.

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Almost almost almost...

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Almost!

What else what else what else... more tattoos, down her legs this time, she doesn't expect it to be enough but the imbalance bothers her. More colors, maybe, streaky horizontal stripes gesturing abstractly at sunset-tinted pink and orange clouds, just a few.

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The tattoos, colorful though they are, don't quite get her there, and increased coverage doesn't add as much as putting the first ones on did, but she's really quite close...

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Well, they're pretty, anyway. She likes them.

She really just needs one more good idea - maybe not even a good idea, if there's some rule like 'you can't just do all color changes'.

 

Claws. She'll take claws. Little shiny blue-silver ones, shaped like regular nails filed to points, but sharper and sturdier. She tweaks the color until she has something that looks good with the tattoos before checking what the magic thinks of this one; she has another idea, too, if it's still not enough.

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Claws do it. She's got magic.

Just enough magic to do clothes; the institution has not clad her in haute couture.

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She wouldn't know haute couture if she was buried in a pile of it, anyway. But she can do better clothes: jeans that aren't many-times-over hand-me-downs, in the same indigo as her tattoos with the metal parts in the same shade as her claws; a similarly new tee shirt, silver-blue and metal-sheened, with bright sunset clouds streaked across it front and back; gloves, biker-style, glimpsed in an ad a few months ago, indigo leather with shimmery pink-orange piping at the wrists and matching insets where the originals had breathable mesh; steel-toed boots, half-remembered from a magazine, indigo again as the base color, pink-orange toes and fittings; silver-blue socks.

She looks okay, now. Not amazing, there's definitely plenty of room for her to improve. But she doesn't look like someone whose very existence is at someone else's whim; she's her own, she's free, even if she hasn't figured out how to leave yet.

The magic surely has an opinion; she might find that she cares, later. For now, it's time to look for her magic, get started on figuring out how she's going to get out and how much more she needs to change to have enough oomph to.

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She has a little magic now. Apparently this outfit is at least OK.

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She gives it a nudge - is there any sense of what she can do with it?

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She could - talk to people, sort of - just think at them -

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That would be much more useful if there was anyone she could safely talk to that way. Well, she can let Janet know she's leaving, maybe.

Hopefully it won't all be like that; there's only one way to find out. She adds swirls of silvery-blue to herself; not just a color, this time, but slightly raised lines of the same metal as her claws, complementary swirls accenting the tattoos on her arms and legs. She extends the tattoos and metal swirls to her torso, while she's at it, not because she expects that to help with the magic but just because it looks better, and then adds filigree to her face, a symmetrical pattern that starts with a curl at her cheeks and runs below her ears to meet at the base of her head. She adds some to her forehead, too, a simple sunburst pattern, and then checks the magic again.

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A little more, maybe enough for the spell to work better, but not enough for more spells.

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She expected that to work better. Maybe the aesthetic is just wrong? She's a little tempted to start over, see if something else gets better results - she likes this, but it doesn't matter if she likes it if it doesn't have her out by morning.

She'll try something less drastic, first. She changes all the indigo to hot pink, all the orangey-pink sunset parts to bright yellow, and all the silvery metal to black.

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Doesn't help. A little worse if anything.

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Okay. Might be the aesthetic, but she's not on a blatantly wrong track. She puts the colors back to how they were, thinks about it for a few seconds, and then adds cat ears - light orange inside, indigo fur on the outside, and, importantly, properly mobile for expressing herself with - and a long fluffy cat tail to curl around her feet, and changes her eyes again to orange cat's eyes. She double-checks that she still has the option to remove things, and adds fur to the tattoos, too.

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She can remove things, and the ears and tail don't help - the ears make things a little worse and then the tail brings it back up. The eye change makes it worse.

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Okay, that's weird. There's something she's not getting, here.

What if she extends the indigo skin and accompanying fur over her entire body, losing the metal swirls and cloud streaks? And changes her shirt pattern from clouds to plain? And gives herself a little muzzle? And then changes the fur to a dark grey, like a real cat might have?

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Turning into a catperson loses most of her progress and de-clouding her shirt loses the rest.

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She changes everything back to how it was before she tried the ears. Saves the tail for last, checks if that's still an improvement on its own, it can stay if it is.

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It is not an improvement on its own.

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