Sitting there was still a Chris of the female persuasion, and not the old, masculine sort I had grown used to seeing over the last few years. She was resting with her chin in her hands, resting her elbows against her legs, looking at the two of us, waiting.
I shifted from looking at Chris, to turning back to Ashley, my own imploring gaze moving to the girl who was supposed to have fixed this.
"What happened?" I asked. I needed to know if it was just a simple error, and asked the question I knew was on Chris's mind, since it was on my own. "Was that it? Did you forget, as simple as that? Or were you waiting until we were done, to fix the two of you last?"
Ashley straightened up in the chair, trying to get comfortable on the hard, wooden seat, after standing for so long. She brushed back the thick, shining hair from her face, and I could see the exhaustion in her eyes. The actions we took were just as draining as she had said they would be. I felt it as well, but the effects were nowhere near as bad.
She looked at the two of us for a long time, and with the exhaustion, I could also see something else in those sparkling emeralds; remorse.
"I'm sorry, Chris. There's nothing I can do."
At those words, Chris almost fell off the bed. Her head slipped from her grasp, and caused her to propel forward. She was only able to stop herself at the last moment by planting her feet on the ground, and getting a firm grip on the bed. Chris was crestfallen, and her look shifted to one that matched Ashley's.
"I did all I could. I tried, I really did," said Ashley. She leaned forward on the chair, and reached out to take Chris's hand. "Whatever Sebastian did to everyone, the spell was focused on you. It changed you so fundamentally, so completely, that there's no you I can find to fix you, even with Martin's help. The spell went beyond just your structure, but altered you on a very base level of reality, and if I pulled at those strands, I don't know what could unravel."
Chris just nodded while listening, dumbstruck by what she was being told.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. If there was anything I could do to help you, I would."
Chris swallowed hard, the truth of the matter sinking in. "What about my family, my friends? They're all kinda expecting a decidely male Chris to come home in a few days. I can't just go home and say, hi mom! You know how you always wanted a daughter? Well, guess what!"
"I don't think it will be a problem," voiced the Phoenix.
Chris pulled his hand back and sat straight up, beginning to yell. "Not a problem? What part of "I'm a girl" is not a problem? I can't just say that some guy hit me with a magic whammy because I was crossplaying as Batgirl. They'll lock me away and say I'm crazy. Not to mention wondering where the real Chris is, when he's right here!" She began pointing at herself, not realising the juxtaposition of saying he's right here, while pointing right at her new female sexual characteristics protruding from her chest.
"Calm down," uttered Ashley, and it was more than a request. I witnessed a trail of flames trickle from her brow and over her head, down the back of her hair. I thought I could even sense Ashley applying a little psychic pressure on Chris to get her to calm herself as well.
With Chris becoming less shouty, Ashley continued, "The spell Sebastian weaved around you, it was really only intended for you. He was very powerful, but not very skilled. He wanted to affect you, but made the wrong gesture, said the wrong thing, or just weilded too much power and did more damage than he intended. The spell that hit you exploded and bled over into the entire convention. Those caught in the splash of the spell only were hit by the edges of it. They were changed on the surface, but you..."
"What?" I asked. "What happened?"
Ashley looked from me, and back to Chris. "You were the focus of the spell, the center of it, you were hit by every effect, and Sebastian meant to change not only you, but your reality. And he succeeded, to an extent. If anyone encounters you now, who used to know you, they'll see the Chris they've always known: a cute, young woman. As far as they're concerned, you've always been like this. What Sebastian did shifted the fundamental base of reality to turn you into what he wanted."
I coughed and raised my hand, not wanting to interupt. When Ashley gave me a nod, I related what was on my mind, "Point of order. I know she should be a he. Andy knows it. You know it - well, ok that makes sense, you being the Phoenix and all. My other points remain, though."
The fiery redhead just shrugged. "I can't say for certain, but it could be because you know Chris so very well that you can see through it." I was about to bring up Andrea again, but Ashley continued on, "But the others, maybe it's because we were all within the spell boundaries, I don't really know. Magic is newer to me than even telepathy, I'm totally winging it here."
"Little burning wings, even," quipped Chris.
The joke broke the tension, and the trio of us let out some nervous laughter amidst the serious situation.
"Anyways," Ashley continued, "it may just as well be that he's a pretty shitty magician. Whatever the reason, I'm pretty sure that whatever keeps me from fixing you, will make it so you won't have too much difficulty in returning to your old life. There should be differences, to be sure, but most folks will remember you as female Chris. They might have odd feelings of deja vu, or where something doesn't quite match up. If you were on the football team, that might cause some major cofusion in peoples' memories. Overall though, the human mind will just gloss over anything that doesn't completely mesh, and shrug it off."
Chris still looked uncomfortable, which was understandable, "One more thing, what about getting back into Canada? All my paperwork and IDs?"
She shifted on the bed, and began fishing through her belt, picking through the various pouches, and pulled out her wallet, then fished through it, pulling out several laminated cards.
A look of shock grew with each card she tossed aside and moved on to look at the next.
"Oh god, I hadn't even thought to check it, I'd been so busy."
I grabbed the one that had landed nearest me on the ground, Chris's driver's license, and saw the photo was the same, with the same expression he'd had before of a bemused shocked face, but now it was framed in the long, red hair of a girl, and wearing a pair of glasses in the photo. The birthday remained the same, but the name the card was issued to was a Christine Bennet, and the sex listed as female. The height and weight were different, but otherwise everything else remained the same.
"You weren't kidding when you said he altered reality." I tossed the card back to Chris, who let it fall into her lap. Leaning down, I gathered up the rest, all changed in similar ways, from debit cards, to calling cards; anything with Chris's old name had been changed.
Chris took them and stuffed them and her wallet back into the pouch. Without even bothering to clasp it, she fell backwards onto the bed, and covered her face in her hands. Her muffled voice eminated from behind them, "And my passport too?"
"Most likely," said Ashley.
I sat on the bed next to Chris. "Are you going to be ok?" I asked.
She let out a whimper, and her hands fell to her sides, and she stared up at the ceiling.
"Honestly?" she replied. "I should be, I guess. Could be worse. I could be a Tetris piece, or a pile of fruit, or a mannequin. Could've died today, too. I feel fantastic, and I'm still alive. Sure, I'm Christine now instead of Christopher, but as far as things go, I'd chalk today up to being a win. A bit of a pyrrhic victory, but I'm going home. Yeah, I'll be ok. Half the planet can do this girl thing, I think I can manage."
Ashley chirped, "That's the spirit!"
"I'm ok, that doesn't mean I'm exactly happy about this. Keep the chipper toned down a notch?"
"Awww, but Chrstine! Now we can totally go shopping together, and talk about boys!"
"Martin, kill me now?"
I shrugged. "Sorry, I've got a story to send to the paper, and a ton of pictures. We need to get this story out there. Seriously though, you're taking this rather well."
"Believe me, I'm freaking out on the inside, Martin," she said. "But I don't see much good in worrying about it. It can't be fixed, I'm stuck like this, so I either get used to the new situation and move on with my life, or I wallow. Better to not worry about the things in life I can't change, and get on with my life, whosever life that is now."
Chris elevated herself up on her elbows, and looked over to Ashley. "Speaking of whose life this is, is there anything you can do about the other voice in my head? It's bad enough without having actual voices that aren't mine making me think I'm crazy?"
"That's not part of your reality, so I think I can at least seperate the Barbara Gordon from you, and leave you just a normal Christine Bennet," said Ashley, starting to reach out with a gloved hand.
"Wait!" shouted Chris, stopping her before she could do her work. "Before you do that, I just want to be rid of the voice, I'd, well, um, I'd like to keep the skills, some of the knowledge? If I'm going to be like this forever, I'd like a leg up on the whole dressing thing. Not that I plan on wearing heels for much longer, but they come with the package, on occasion. And kicking ass is handy, too. I don't really want this crap, but I think I'll need it, and better to have it there now, than have to relearn it in a few seconds from now."
Ashley gave a nod, and Chris sat up. One redhead placed a golden gloved hand upon the brow of the other, and with a flicker of fire, she pulled back.
"There, your mind is your own now, and you won't have any trouble putting on makeup in the future."
"Ew, maybe I should rethink this."
"Trust me, Chris. You'll probably regret having me remove it all some day. Even if you don't use it tomorrow, or next month, some day... Even if it's just for an office party where you have to look your best."
Chris made a disgusted face, but knew Ashley had a point. There was a smile on her face once her mind settled though, and while it seemed forced, there was some genuineness to it. She was happy to be alive, and she would adjust, and survive. The situation sucked, but Chris was a survivor, and would make the most of it.
"Well, with Chris taken care of," I began, shifting my attention back to Ashley, "that just leaves you. You're still poking around brains, and making fire. What about you, Ashley? Going to change back, or keep the power for yourself?"