I'd like to thank Denisia for doing a fantastic job beta-testing, as always.
This fic is rated PG-13 and centers around a romantic relationship between two women. If that squicks you, then hit the "Back" button now.
Also, please note that this is a stand-alone fic; it is not connected to any of my other Jem fics.
The hotel's indoor swimming pool was surprisingly devoid of swimmers the evening that Stormer decided to take a dip. The entire pool room, adjacent to the fitness center, was empty. Having donned her heavily-used black and white striped suit, the keyboardist gingerly approached the stairs on the pool's edge. The water was cold against her toes but she forced herself to enter, slowly and steadily. The shock of the coldness against her bare skin was nearly painful at first but she moved forward into the depths until the coldness no longer bothered her.
The walls of the room were a lighter blue than Stormer's hair. In addition to the main pool, a small hot tub – similarly abandoned – was nearby. Dull saxophone music escaped from the speakers. It sounded like cocktail music for a boring party and bore no resemblance to Jetta's fiery playing. A rack of neatly stacked white towels stood off to the side.
Not being one who enjoyed exercise, Stormer eschewed the idea of swimming laps. She instead doggy-paddled to one edge of the pool and pushed off against the wall, coasting to the pool's other side. She repeated the process a few times, aimlessly playing around.
Stormer then stood in the center of the pool and touched her fingertips to the top layer of the water. She spun around, watching the water swirl as she moved in a circle. It had so many different colors, all of them pretty, and it felt good to her as she kept spinning and felt the water swish around her fingers. Stormer used to twirl around her small bedroom as a kid, awkwardly trying to dance to the music that she heard inside her head and didn't know how to bring to life until Craig begged their foster parents for music lessons. She began to sing a line or two from a song but abruptly stopped. The sound of her single voice echoing around the deserted room was disquieting.
The pool room remained empty despite the fact that Stormer's solitary frolicking had lasted nearly a quarter of an hour. Standing up to her chest in water, she glanced around the empty room again. She began to feel lonely in the center of the deserted pool. That was fitting. She had fled to the pool by herself because of an acute sense of loneliness in her love life.
Normally when her mood was this low, she would head straight for her keyboards. But right now she didn't want anything related to music; she needed to steer clear of anything that reminded her of Roxy and, to her way of thinking, separating music and Roxy was nearly impossible.
Stormer looked at the large glass doors leading to the outside. The pool was attached to a garden. Several brightly colored flowers returned her gaze, smiling at her in their various hues of pink, red, and purple. Stormer longed to spring from the pool, throw open the sliding doors, and gather a few of the beauties so she could adorn her hair with them. But away from the other Misfits, she had no strong desire to cause mischief, even low-level mischief like the theft of a few flowers.
She blinked as she looked at the surrounding shrubbery. She expected to see palm trees but then realized that Miami had been several cities ago and she didn't think they were in Florida – or even in the South -- any longer. After so many long weeks on tour, she really had no idea which city she was in anymore. She was just glad that the band had no concert until tomorrow.
The Misfits were in the middle of another whirlwind tour. It was their fourth long tour in as many years, and it was in support of their latest smash hit album. The Misfits had been through four interminable years of rivalry with Jem and the Holograms, four years of endless press conferences, TV appearances, radio interviews, and fan mobbings. Four years of mayhem and mishaps whenever they went up against their rival band. Stormer felt dizzy just thinking about it and had no idea how they kept up the pace.
She also didn't know how she and Roxy kept up whatever it was they had between them. It couldn't be called a relationship, not in any conventional sense of the word. They never talked about it anyway. They didn't have a name for it. They were just, apparently, two young women in love (though that word was never used either), enjoying being with each other.
Except that Stormer hadn't been enjoying much about it lately.
Soon after they became more than friends, Stormer learned that Roxy was not an affectionate woman. The whole area of touch was hard for her.
It hadn't been a surprising discovery. Stormer remembered once, early on, reaching for Roxy and trying to pull her into a hug. Roxy shrugged her off. After a jam session, they would retire to Stormer's room and she would want to kiss and cuddle. Roxy would sometimes grudgingly indulge her, but more often say, "I hate that mushy stuff."
Of course Roxy didn't really let anyone touch her. She was pretty close to Pizzazz, and Stormer would sometimes see her with a friendly arm around the singer's shoulder or something similar. Stormer knew that she should be delighted for the times Roxy did show affection to her – it was certainly more than she gave to anyone else -- and for a long time it was enough.
Roxy had her own rules for what was acceptable and what wasn't in the area of touch. Stormer could put a hand on Roxy's shoulder or take her arm. She and Roxy did make love, with Roxy taking the lead. But off-limits were caresses of Roxy's inner thighs, any caresses at all that were too soft and not firm enough ("You're tickling me!" Roxy once exclaimed in disgust), any lengthy kiss not initiated by Roxy herself, any bedroom maneuver that caused Roxy to be passive or underneath Stormer, and absolutely no nibbling of earlobes.
She knew Roxy cared. Every now and then, the white-haired guitarist would reveal that. A kiss, a sincere compliment, and even – shockingly – fresh flowers one Valentine's Day. But most touches and caresses were rare, nearly as unusual as was any discussion of what the relationship actually meant.
One evening Stormer, unsure of what she was or of what her relationship (if it could be called that) with Roxy meant, went in search of answers. Incognito she visited a gay and lesbian bookstore while telling herself that those labels didn't apply to her. She scooped up a small truckload of books and paid cash to the wide-eyed clerk. Reading through them in her hotel room that night, something caught her eye. She located a few references to "stone butches". One of the books contained a glossary of terms used by this strange community, and it defined a stone butch as "a lesbian who prefers not to be touched sexually during intercourse." After giggling quizzically at the reference to intercourse, Stormer wondered if this might describe someone she knew.
Perhaps this term really did apply to Roxy. Maybe it simply indicated that Roxy's dislike of touch was just a preference she had, like a preference for a denim skirt over a silk one. Stormer suspected there was more to it than that, though. Roxy had revealed, perhaps inadvertently, enough clues over the years.
However, one particular incident drove Stormer to her lonely sojourn in the hotel pool that evening. The four Misfits had returned to the hotel, following a rowdy night on the town that featured several interruptions from star-struck fans and a five-course meal at the most expensive restaurant in the city.
"I'm so full my stomach hurts," Roxy muttered, as she and Stormer reached their room. Although the two women always had adjoining rooms booked, they usually only inhabited one of the rooms. Roxy flopped down on one of the king-sized beds.
Stormer smiled at Roxy's comment. She knew how much the half-Italian woman loved food. Even more so, Roxy loved the sensation of a full belly, of there being no chance for hunger pangs to assault her.
After a quick shower, Stormer rummaged around in her suitcase for something and then joined the mellow Roxy on the bed.
"I'm so glad we don't have a gig tonight. We can sleep in tomorrow," Stormer said. "We're not leaving for the next city till after lunch."
"Good," Roxy smiled.
"Not that it matters to you…you'll sleep in even if you need to be carried to the airport," she teased, affectionately.
"Yeah. So?" Roxy teased back, reaching for a few locks of Stormer's hair to playfully and gently tug.
"So, what you got in your hand?" Roxy asked, her eyes traveling down Stormer's body to the curved fist of her right hand.
"Oh, just a little surprise for you," Stormer answered.
Roxy's eyes lit up. She loved surprises and loved gifts. She'd never received Christmas or birthday gifts as a child. Stormer handed her the small package and Roxy tore through the sparkly purple wrapping paper.
As Roxy opened it, Stormer said, "I wanted to get you some earrings. Since I can't kiss your earlobes, I thought you could wear these."
Nestled inside the small jewelry box were two tiny silver earrings, shaped like small "X"'s. The delicate earrings caught the light and glistened. The box indicated that they were purchased at a posh and expensive jeweler.
"See," Stormer coaxed, "they're little 'X's', like little kisses. Of course I really wish I could kiss your ears myself, but since I can't, you could wear these…" Stormer's voice trailed off when she saw the look on Roxy's face.
"Don't you like them?" Stormer softly asked after a moment of awkward silence, trying to mask her sorrow.
"They're okay," Roxy shrugged. She looked at the earrings. In their world of big 80's glamour, high hair, and bold jewelry, Stormer's gift appeared hopelessly retro.
It wasn't just that though. Where Roxy came from, anytime someone gave you a gift, it meant they wanted something in return. Besides, the gift was too damn mushy. Roxy had already forced herself to leave way too much of herself vulnerable with Stormer.
She tossed the earring box towards the nightstand. It hit the surface with a slight tap.
Stormer looked at the box, thinking of the happiness – and the love – she had felt when she purchased the earrings. Wordlessly she hoisted herself from the bed, grabbed her suitcase, and left the room.
Stormer looked at her shoulders and arms. She had goose bumps already and knew it was time to leave the swimming pool. After climbing out, she headed for the small hot tub, eager to warm her body.
She slowly descended the steps into the tub, looking at the water which swirled around rapidly. Entering a steaming hot tub used to cause her pain but the near-scalding water didn't worry her skin in the least now. Stormer felt nearly nothing as she immersed herself. She idly wondered if this was akin to how Roxy felt all the time -- so armored behind multiple layers that nothing from the outside penetrated her shell, nothing could hurt her.
Stormer gazed hazily at the white and blue depths of the spiraling whirlpool, glad to un-focus her eyes and stare at the water as she tried to dislodge fears of the future and pains of the recent past. The raging waters seemed a good metaphor for her own life now.
A soft noise woke her. Stormer glanced across the room and noticed the large glass door from the fitness center had opened. She was no longer alone. Roxy, wearing her standard two-piece bathing suit, slowly walked straight towards the hot tub. The guitarist didn't flinch as the near-boiling water hit her skin.
As Roxy wordlessly descended the stairs to the tub, Stormer glanced at her. She looked at Roxy's slender feet. Her toenails were adorned by the bright fuchsia nail polish that Stormer had lovingly painted on her, two days ago. For months, Stormer had begged Roxy to allow her to paint her toenails. Roxy had always scrunched up her face and bellowed her displeasure at the idea until finally, inexplicably, she had relented one night and allowed Stormer to do her worst with the polish.
"So here's where you went," Roxy began, awkwardly, as she sat next to Stormer. Verbal communication was never her strong point.
It wasn't Stormer's either. "Yeah," Stormer answered, trying to keep her gaze straight ahead.
"Nice and toasty in here." Roxy looked around. After more silence she added, "We got the whole place to ourselves."
"Yeah." Stormer still avoided her lover's eyes.
Roxy took a breath. "Okay, you're pissed at me."
"Yeah," Stormer responded automatically, and then turned to look at Roxy. Her violet eyes showed a measure of remorse. Stormer felt the same way and her anger at Roxy quickly dissipated. She desperately wished now that help could somehow descend from the ceiling; she knew that neither woman had the faintest idea how to verbally communicate what needed to be said. She inched closer to Roxy so that their legs nearly touched underneath the water.
"I – I know this stuff is hard for you," Stormer began, taking a shot in the dark. Her time with Kimber had taught her that sometimes you just needed to try, even if you didn't have all the answers. "I just wish sometimes you'd…I dunno, be more loving to me." She let the words tumble out and then silently prayed that Roxy wasn't inwardly rolling her eyes.
"That ain't somethin' I'm too good at," Roxy admitted.
"I know. But I….I think you do care about me."
"Yeah," Roxy replied. And then, with a modicum of passion – so rarely heard from the woman who favored nonchalance, "I do."
"Maybe you can try to show it more," Stormer suggested.
Roxy sharply took a breath. "I told you. It ain't easy for me. Where I came from, no one gives you anything unless they want somethin' from you."
"I don't want anything from you," Stormer said softly, her voice just above a whisper despite the fact that the room was empty. "I just want…you to realize that I love you, and to love me a little in return." She said the words simply and delicately, without pleading.
Roxy closed her eyes. Her face betrayed the slightest contortion; she appeared to be in deeply suppressed physical pain.
"Did something happen to you before?" Stormer gently probed, knowing that she was walking near fire now. "Is that why love is so hard for you? Did someone hurt you? An ex-boyfriend or girlfriend? Are you afraid that I'm gonna hurt you too?"
Roxy inwardly groaned with agony. How to explain it? How to get Stormer to realize that Roxy was risking everything by making herself vulnerable like this? That Roxy had lived through abuse that would make Stormer reel if she heard the details. Roxy didn't want her pity. She didn't want to put herself at risk by telling Stormer everything. And she really didn't want to frighten her away either, as painful as it was for Roxy to admit that.
The intensity of Stormer's gaze never wavered and she remained silent, patiently waiting for Roxy's reply.
"There's some crap in my past," Roxy finally admitted. "It's hard to talk about." She swallowed and added, "I never let anyone do half the stuff I let you do." Roxy sat back and thrust her foot out of the water, revealing her painted toenails. "No one ever got near enough to do this," she gestured. She then took another breath and began, "But I do love –"
And then Roxy's ears perked up at sounds coming from the doorway. A gaggle of eager swimmers was entering the pool room, including a trio of loud teenagers and a husband and wife with two young children.
Stormer and Roxy's privacy was gone. Any second now one of the intruders might recognize them and ask for autographs or photos. Even if it didn't come to that, the two could no longer safely discuss their relationship here. Eric Raymond had, early on, sternly cautioned them on the importance of keeping things under wraps. Pizzazz had agreed; she didn't want anything to jeopardize their stardom or give Jem and the Holograms another edge. Roxy and Stormer certainly were not activists either and they also did not want their careers put at risk.
Stormer nearly sighed. The moment was gone. Getting Roxy in the mood to open up was more exhausting and difficult than a ten month worldwide tour.
"Hey," Roxy began softly, as the two began to climb out of the tub. "Take a look."
She pulled her long hair behind her ears to reveal two delicate earrings. Stormer's gift.
"They look nice on you," Stormer managed, her pain beginning to melt away.
The two bandmates were then accosted by a fan who had been in the fitness center and had seen Roxy enter the pool room. He handed them a towel and asked them to sign his clean T-shirt.
Roxy looked at Stormer as she took the marker in hand. Roxy had taught herself how to write and read, though Stormer had stepped in and helped at times. Her eyes looked directly at Stormer's as she wrote the words, "Love, Roxy."
Comments and constructive feedback are always appreciated.