Disclaimer: All characters and quoted lyrics are the property of Hasbro/Sunbow, not me.
Author's note: This is not only my first Jem fic, but my first ever fanfic. Constructive criticism is more than welcome and much appreciated. Many thanks to Stormkpr for the excellent beta.
Who the hell am I dealing with? Pizzazz's mind raced as the Misfits beat a hasty retreat from Starlight Music.
It's only Stormer, she chided herself. Get a grip.
But Roxy and Jetta were watching and she had to do something. She'd lost face in Jerrica's office only a few moments ago, completely taken aback by Stormer's demands. Her sense of relief at the songwriter's decision had turned quickly to consternation.
How dare that little wimp dictate terms and conditions to me? And what, exactly, is "equal partner" supposed to mean?
In the elevator, she had stiffened as she watched Roxy pull Stormer into a bear hug and Jetta wink complicitly at the band's youngest member. Now, she stalked several paces ahead of the trio as they made their way across the parking lot to the Misfits' van. The others were quiet, sensing her upset.
Pizzazz slammed her door shut just a little too forcefully. Thank god it was Roxy riding shotgun. No one said anything. The windows of the van were rolled up, muffling the noise from the street. Stormer was mouth-breathing, something that annoyed Pizzazz to no end. She abruptly whipped around to look Stormer square in the face. She could feel Jetta's eyes needling her, assessing her every micro-expression.
"Don't ever pull that shit again. You hear me?" She fixed the younger woman with her most menacing scowl, but her voice—expressive as always—betrayed her with a perceptible catch. Roxy snorted.
Stormer's eyes were deliberately, unreadably docile. She remained silent for so long that Pizzazz could feel a scream beginning to curdle in her stomach. What would it be like, just once, to grab those silly, flower-festooned tresses and—
"Yes, Pizzazz," came the rusty squeak of a voice, finally, mouth curving quizzically at the corner.
She's humoring me. Pizzazz swung around, violently keyed the ignition, yanked the gearshift, and stomped down on the accelerator. The van lurched into reverse.
"Turn on the radio, Roxy," Jetta wheedled, with a perfectly calibrated note of mockery.
"You want it on, you turn it on," Roxy retorted, not budging.
"You're closest. Or perhaps you need some 'elp with it?" Jetta leaned forward to direct her taunts into Roxy's ear. "See the little button? You take your finger and put it right—"
"Finger? How 'bout my fist?"
Roxy swiped at Jetta, who shot backward with a shriek of laughter, narrowly missing Stormer, who compliantly shifted to her left.
Good old Jetta. Pizzazz was inwardly grateful for the distraction as she peeled out of the parking lot. She flipped on the radio herself, as Roxy and Jetta pelted each other with insults.
Stormer was being awfully quiet, but that was nothing unusual for her. Pizzazz found herself hoping that things would settle back into their normal pattern with a minimum of effort on her part. Maybe there would be no need to put Stormer in her place. But there was no getting around tomorrow's session. The new album was weeks behind schedule, and the music would not write itself.
Stormer closed her bedroom door with a sigh. She had opted to spend the night at the Gabor mansion instead of her own bungalow for appearance's sake, although she really could have used the time alone.
In the fading light, she crossed the room to the immaculately made bed and perched on its edge, folding her arms across her chest, which ached with a kind of homesickness. Making music with Kimber had been nothing short of a liberation. They had been on the same page, producing songs at a lightning pace and complementing each other's considerable talents. For once in Stormer's career there had been no need to tailor her creative output to someone else's specifications.
Writing songs for Pizzazz was like navigating a minefield. Only a narrow range of topics were acceptable to her, and anything that smacked of introspection or vulnerability did not make the cut. She seemed to have an allergic reaction to anything "soft" and, by extension, to Stormer herself.
That had always been a sore point. Before befriending Kimber, Stormer had berated herself for every reproving glare and harsh word tossed her way. On the rare occasion that Pizzazz praised her work, she would glow for hours afterward, despite herself. In the Misfits' earliest days together, she had thrown herself with abandon into their mischievous antics, as it seemed to be the only way she could prove her worth.
But the easier it became to assimilate herself into the Misfits' culture of tough gestures and clipped tones, the more convinced she grew of her bandmates' indifference toward her. In a desperately impulsive bid for acceptance, she had presented them with a song wrenched from her very gut. They had summarily ripped it apart, and she had been devastated.
Following a bizarre turn of events, that same song had topped the charts only weeks later, and for once, her sense of accomplishment had nothing to do with Pizzazz's—or the others'—opinion. She thought back to the night of her first big club date with Kimber, when the remaining Holograms and Misfits had charged the stage en masse. While Jem tried to reason with Kimber, Pizzazz had seized Stormer roughly by the arm, gripping her so tightly that the manicured talons had left angry marks on her skin. The blood had pounded in Stormer's ears as Pizzazz, her green eyes snapping, fingered the strand of pink beads around her neck.
"Without us, you're nothing," Pizzazz had spat, her face so close that Stormer had inadvertently inhaled the singer's hot breath. "You'll come crawling back."
At the time, it had left Stormer shaken, and she'd pushed down the conflicting feelings that squirmed inside her as Kimber had taken her hand and offered sweet, uncomplicated friendship. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, she realized what Pizzazz had really meant. Especially after today, when the woman had come to her, pleading.
It was as if an unspoken code had cracked of its own accord, dispelling her past insecurities. The Misfits needed her; they always had. The look of naked helplessness in Pizzazz's eyes had confirmed this, making any other choice impossible. No amount of manipulation or bribery on the singer's part could have achieved the same effect.
It wouldn't make Pizzazz any easier to deal with, of course. On the contrary, the Misfits' volatile leader seemed to be all too aware of the shift in dynamics. She had been twitchy and irritable ever since leaving Jerrica's office that afternoon. Upon arriving at the Gabor mansion, she had barked out, "Session tomorrow at noon. That means you, Stormer." And tromped off without a backward glance.
The encroaching darkness had thickened the air in the room. Stormer wondered how Pizzazz had survived growing up in a place like this, with its marble formality and darting, aloof servants. The silence at night could be overwhelming. You could shout yourself hoarse and never be heard.
She was about to flip on her bedside lamp when she heard a familiar thudding on her door. Roxy. She smiled faintly.
"Stormer, you in there?"
"Yes," she replied, rising, and headed towards the door, which did not wait for her to answer it. The guitarist poked her white-tufted head into the gloom.
"What're you doing? It's all dark in here."
"We're watching a movie. You wanna?"
Roxy regarded her steadily. "Zazz isn't. So."
"OK." Stormer feigned nonchalance. "What are we watching?"
Roxy paused. "Yeah. Don't worry about her." She pushed the door open towards Stormer, giving her room to pass.
3:33am. Shit. Triple digits again.
Pizzazz was wrested from sleep by a shapeless yet overpowering unease that rolled over her in waves, forcing her to catch her breath. Her extremities were numb; her heart bucked fitfully against her rib cage. She knew the signs, but it never got any easier. The disorientation was overwhelming, and for a few moments she even forgot her own name. It eventually came back to her as a meaningless jumble of syllables, and she mouthed them wordlessly: Phyllis Gabor, Phyllis Gabor. Her whole identity, in fact, seemed to hang in the balance between being and oblivion, as something completely arbitrary and trivial. She could die right here and now, and no one would be the wiser.
She impelled herself from her bed, half wondering what mental apparition she might encounter. It had happened before—in broad daylight—though she had never told anyone. Mostly, they were just pesky inconveniences, like the miniature version of herself that had hovered at eye level during the Indy 500, claiming to be her conscience. She'd waved it away, but it had cost her the victory. Other times, they had posed far more of a threat. Once, a giant eagle had caused her to lose control of a hang glider, and she had nearly crashed to her death.
Par for the course when you're as crazy a bitch as I am.
She shivered and, pulling a silk robe over her bare shoulders, padded across the rug to her bathroom. Without turning on the light, she stared with dilated pupils at the reflection in the mirror—a pale, angular face that shape-shifted before her eyes into unrecognizable forms. She blinked. Who is she, anyway? The lyrics cycled through her head, dogging her.
She tried to focus on her onstage persona, which gave her the greatest sense of security she had ever known. As a performer, she preyed upon her audience, which offered its energy as lifeblood to satiate her bottomless craving, filling her to overflowing with a power that palpably stretched the dimensions of her physical self. Or that was the way it felt, anyway. But she saw nothing of that Pizzazz in the mirror and the feeling eluded her entirely.
Sucking in air, she turned away from her reflection and, stumbling to her bedroom's outer door, tentatively drew it open. Moonlight streamed in from a window at the end of the hallway, casting long shadows of the sconces on the wall. The neoclassical mansion was lifeless at that hour, and its oppressive stillness buzzed in her ears.
"Daddy," she whimpered softly, then cursed herself in the same breath.
But Harvey Gabor took up residence in a different wing from the one occupied by the Misfits. Even when he was at home, which was rare, days would go by and she'd never see him. Sometimes, just to reassure herself of his continued existence, she would hunt him down under the pretense of wanting some trifle or another. Was he home right now or away on business? She couldn't remember, and she pushed him from her mind.
Roxy's room was closest to hers, and she veered toward it unsteadily. She had always hidden her panic beneath a veil of lust, and Roxy had a way of providing just the sort of unquestioning solace she needed. As she neared the door, she realized that what she had taken to be a shadow was in fact an open, black void. Peering inside, she made out a mass of shapes—junk strewn everywhere, rumpled bedclothes—but no signs of life.
Of course. Stormer was back.
An agonizing rage flooded her system, driving back the fear that had gripped her since waking. Stormer's closed door, directly across the hall, mocked her, and she wanted to fling it open and punish the two with the wildest tantrum she could muster. A scream was building again and she gave voice to it—why not? —but to her surprise, it was born as a choked wail. And then it was impossible to hold back. She clutched the door frame as her body shook, biting her knuckles to stifle the wracking sobs which threatened to give her away.
Too late. Without warning, Stormer's door opened, and she found herself face to face with her blue-haired bandmate, who gaped at her in bleary bewilderment.
Roxy, ever the B-movie buff, had chosen some obscure monster flick from the 50s, and her selection was not up for debate. That didn't prevent Jetta, who preferred a good murder mystery or psychological thriller, from rolling her eyes at the primitive special effects and mimicking the hackneyed dialogue. Stormer could barely follow the thin plot, between cracking up over her bandmate's caustic wit and trying to prevent Roxy from pummeling the saxophonist into silence.
She finally threw her hands up in defeat as a full-on pillow fight erupted. While Stormer rushed to protect the imported sofa from spilling beer and popcorn, Roxy wrestled a giggling Jetta to the floor and straddled her, pinning her wrists above her head. Jetta's manner changed abruptly as she struggled to no avail against her confinement.
"Let me go," she hissed, her voice measured and mirthless.
"Had enough, Brit?" Roxy smirked, clearly enjoying her victory.
"Well, that's up to you, now, isn't it, duckie?" Jetta's grey eyes had turned to ice.
Roxy deftly switched her grip on Jetta's wrists to one hand, as she reached toward a stray seat cushion with the other.
"C'mon, Roxy, that's enough." Stormer gently touched her friend's taut shoulder.
"Back off, Stormer," Roxy warned, without lifting her gaze. "Not 'til she gets what's comin' to her."
"And just what is coming to me, eh, Roxy?" Jetta challenged, her nostrils flaring.
Sphinx-like, the two rivals glowered at each other, until Jetta, after an interminable pause, parted her full pink lips and moistened them with a flash of tongue. Realizing that Jetta neither required nor wanted her help, Stormer discreetly slipped away. She was tired anyway, after the long day's bafflements and revelations.
As she passed Pizzazz's bedroom, she paused, wondering what was going on with the lead singer. Had her absence that evening been Stormer's fault? No, of course not. She wasn't going to think that way any more. Still, she had to fight the urge to knock, even if she knew better than to disturb Pizzazz in her lair.
She continued on to her own room and pulled out her manuscript notebook, determined to jot down some ideas for tomorrow's session. Despite giving the impression of disdaining work, Pizzazz could be a taskmaster when it came to the Misfits' music. But where to begin? Out of habit, she ran over a mental list of themes guaranteed to meet the temperamental singer's approval: bragging, gloating, sexual prowess, bashing Jem, playing dirty games, winning said dirty games, bashing Jem, survival, comparing self to heavenly bodies or ferocious beasts, bashing Jem. Stormer was accustomed to creative compromise; she had always buckled to some extent under the weight and force of Pizzazz's rather single-minded vision. But that wasn't going to be the case any longer. She had to stand her ground or risk losing the respect that she had demanded in no uncertain terms that afternoon.
It was of no use, and she was too weary to arrive at any sort of breakthrough that night. Reluctantly putting the notebook aside, she made her way to the shower. Tomorrow, she would simply have to think on her feet.
The cry tugged at her dream like a small child, insistently and petulantly, until she woke. Something was off. Stormer rubbed her eyes, trying to clear the fog that still clung to her. Her body was leaden and overheated; she should have remembered to open a window. With a groan, she heaved herself to her feet and froze, as she suddenly became aware of an undistinguishable something just outside her door. She held her breath. There it came again.
This place is haunted, she thought, then quickly admonished herself. What a wimp, letting some silly movie get to me.
Bracing herself, she marched to the door and resolutely pulled it open, starting as she was confronted with something far more improbable than any low-budget phantasm: Pizzazz, her moonlit green mane a ghostly neon, was leaning against Roxy's door frame, shaking like a leaf, her sharp features glistening with a sheen of tears. As she met Stormer's eyes, she clambered to draw herself up to her full height, but lost her balance and pitched forward.
Instinctively, Stormer reached out to steady her, then flinched, expecting to be slapped away. But Pizzazz, her breath ragged, seemed to lack even the strength to stand. Doing what only came naturally, Stormer slipped her arm underneath Pizzazz's to support her. The woman was tense and quivering, and Stormer could see that she was fighting to regain her self-control.
Concerned, she searched Pizzazz's face, and marveled at its nocturnal manifestation. She couldn't remember when she had last seen the singer without makeup of some kind, and she could hardly reconcile the unadorned visage with its daytime mask of aggressive war-paint. The dainty arches of her brows, usually hidden with expert care beneath violet slashes, gave her an aspect of fragility. But the red-rimmed green eyes were narrowed warily, sizing up Stormer like a cornered animal determined to make a run for it.
Compassion overcoming apprehension, Stormer circled her other arm about her waist, embracing her gently. Surprisingly, Pizzazz did not resist, and a shuddering sigh escaped her as Stormer drew her close.
So soft. The scent of Stormer's apple shampoo in her nostrils, Pizzazz, weak and nearly delirious, buried her face in the blue tangles. Stormer's hand was rubbing her back in a steady cycle, and as her heartbeat returned to its normal pace, Pizzazz became aware that they were rocking together, as if borne by waves. Having received so little physical affection growing up, her sense of touch was extraordinarily keen, and although she would have been loath to admit it, she was luxuriating in her bandmate's tender ministrations.
This is unacceptable. Involuntarily, her arms snaked into the curve of Stormer's back to squeeze the softness to her; she felt the press of round breasts against her own, tiny nubs poking through the fine silk. Stormer's breath, so irritating to her that afternoon, was now coaxing to attention the little hairs on her neck. If she didn't do something, and quick, she would succumb to the irresistible sweetness.
Pizzazz nuzzled at the younger woman's neck, her teeth grazing the delicate skin. Stormer arched her back in response, offering her access to the smooth throat, and Pizzazz thrilled at the surge of power it gave her. She felt Stormer's pulse quicken against her lips, and she bit down gently, then nipped playfully, twisting her long fingers into the locks of blue hair.
Stormer's own hands were forging new trails, and as one dared to approach her breast, Pizzazz clasped it, jerking it behind Stormer's back. Stormer gasped in wordless protest, and in that instant, Pizzazz's mouth was upon hers.
The kiss was urgent and hungry, and Stormer surrendered to it, the strangeness of the moment dwarfed by a desire she had not been fully aware of until now. Twinges of pain shot through her arm, but with Pizzazz's tongue coiling about her own, it barely mattered. She was experiencing the distinct sensation of being devoured alive; it reminded her of the slow-motion tumble through blackness just before sleep.
As she felt herself going limp, Pizzazz drew back, loosening her vice-like grip. Stormer could not fathom the look in her eyes—they pierced her mercilessly, yet were not exactly hostile.
"P-Pizzazz," she stammered faintly, her voice trailing off as Pizzazz shushed her with a fingertip.
Clearly, a sort of battle had taken place, and Stormer could not tell if she had won or lost. She was tempted to think it was the latter. But as Pizzazz kissed her once more, lightly, almost beneficently, Stormer could not help but feel forgiven for her perceived transgression. Dumbfounded, she could only watch as Pizzazz, her strength seemingly recovered, spun away into shadow with a toss of her head.
A line had been crossed; another line had been drawn. None of it made much sense, and it would require more thought than she had energy to give to it at that hour of the morning.
Retreating to her bed, she wondered what tomorrow would be like, alone with Pizzazz in the studio. As her thoughts returned to her music, she took note of the subliminal rhythm that had been grinding away at her brain for some time—a swinging, reggae-inflected beat which merged perfectly with the gritty wail of Jetta's sax.
Somehow, Stormer mused, lack of inspiration would not be a problem.