Stormer's head and eyes ached with crying. Some of the sick feeling in her stomach was hunger, and she knew it was time for dinner to be served, but she didn't dare face the others with a swollen face and reddened eyes. Maybe later, if she heard the roar of the lime-green Cadillac, she would sneak down to the kitchens and beg something calorific and comforting off the servants.
Not ice cream, though.
She glared at the picture lying facedown on her bedside table. She'd lifted it and looked at it four times already that evening, and the more she told herself to leave it alone, the more she felt the compulsion to check. It wasn't as if the picture would have changed; she and Kimber still pressed their cheeks together, laughing, and they still looked glowing, happy in each other's company, as if nothing and no one would part them.
The picture had been by Stormer's bedside table ever since a fan had snapped it for her, and she'd woken up next to it morning after morning until it was ingrained on her imagination. It was her fault, really, she thought bitterly. Maybe she shouldn't have taken a nightclub snapshot so seriously - that was worse than taking the publicity shoots for Back to Back, when they'd run along the beach hand-in-hand at sunset, as proof that they were special to each other. She'd done that too, of course. She had always tended to let her imagination run away with her.
It was painfully clear that Kimber only cared about Stormer when she needed her, either as a weapon to use against Jerrica and the Holograms or when she needed some shoulder to cry on. Stormer was sick of being everyone's sap, she told herself. Kimber was worse than the other Misfits, who at least were straightforward about taking advantage of her. But...
She sighed and reached out for the picture again, just to check their joined hands and look for clues in Kimber's deep blue eyes, one more time.
There was a tentative knock on the door, and Stormer guiltily slammed the picture back face down, before realising that it couldn't be Roxy, Jetta or Pizzazz, who wouldn't bother to knock.
"What?" she asked, wiping the back of her hand across her face. "On second thoughts, get lost!" One of the things she had picked up from the other Misfits was a disregard for the conventions of manners, and anyone who bothered to knock probably wasn't important enough to talk to, anyway.
"It's me - Clash. Let me in?"
Definitely not important enough. "I said get lost!"
"Please, Stormer? I'm just worried about you!"
At the note of distress in Clash's voice, Stormer instantly melted. Here she was, being mean to the only person who had cared enough to check on her. "Oh, okay, if you really have to."
Clash came nervously into the room, looking around with wide eyes. She had never, as far as Stormer remembered, been admitted to the inner sanctum of a Hologram bedroom before, and she looked as if she didn't know whether to be awed at its grandeur or scared by the fact that Stormer was actually pretty tidy, at least for a Misfit. After a general mutiny, none of the servants ever stepped foot in Roxy's room, and rumour whispered that an entire band's worth of bass guitars had gone missing there.
By the time Clash reached the bed, her gaze had come back to Stormer, who had just realised too late that she was clutching a very un-Misfit teddy bear and was trying to conceal it under one of her U-shaped pillows. Clash glanced at Mr Teddy, but was obviously on a mission of mercy and, in any case, didn't have the overbearing confidence that would have made a real Misfit jeer; Clash was fine with jeering at outsiders, but "her" Misfits were different.
Stormer scrunched up on the bed a little to let Clash sit on the edge, but closed her eyes, not really willing to acknowledge her. She was already regretting the softness that had allowed the other girl in. Her misery was her own problem, and a Misfit shouldn't show weakness to a mere fan, no matter how favoured and useful.
"She's not worth it, Stormer," Clash said, but Stormer ignored it. She'd heard it all before; Pizzazz, Jetta and Roxy could get quite eloquent on the subject of Kimber's unworthiness as a friend. It didn't change the fact that Kimber had been the one person in all the world Stormer thought she could depend on to always care about her. It certainly didn't take away the ache at the pit of her stomach. She pouted a little, and kept her eyes firmly closed.
As a result, she didn't know she was being kissed until she'd had time to register the pressure on her mouth. She had been kissed far less often than the media would believe of a Misfit, and the lips pressed against hers and trying gently to draw them apart had never before been sticky with thickly applied lipstick, but once she'd felt that sensation it was impossible to mistake. It was gentle, and determined, and definitely not chaste; it was her first kiss from a girl - and it wasn't Kimber. Her eyes flew open as she pulled back.
Clash's eyes weren't as deep and velvety as Kimber's, but they were blue, and shining like stars. "How about it, Stormer? The Holo-brat's no fun. You'd be much better off with me than with a beanpole like that." She slowly drew a glitter-painted nail down the side of Stormer's face, pouting a little and licking her lips.
Seeing all this desperate attempt at sophisticated seduction, Stormer felt a little like she was going to kick a puppy that was trying really, really hard to please her. For all her Misfit toughness, her stiletto pumps never forcibly came into contact with puppies, let alone ones that were holding her slippers in their mouths and frantically wagging their tails at her. She was far more likely to guiltily cuddle them in a safe place, far away from paparazzi or other Misfits.
She suspected, however, that cuddling this particular puppy might turn out to be a bad idea in the long run. After all, encouraging her to think of herself as a de-facto Misfit hadn't been very good for Clash.
"Cut it out, will you?" She pushed Clash's hand away, as gently as possible.
"But - I could be really good for you, Stormer. I - I love you." Clash lifted her chin, defiantly.
"Oh, give it up, Clash! If Pizzazz or Roxy would give you the time of day, would you even be here? I'm sick of being the next best thing! And you deserve better than that, too. "
She saw Clash's face crumple, and half of her wanted to just put her arms around her, and settle for a cute friend who would adore her. But she knew she was right, and suddenly, overwhelmingly, she was aware that what she'd tried to ignore all along was true: she wanted Kimber. Wanted her in any way, even if it meant being a disposable friend who would be cast aside every time a cute boy looked in Kimber's direction, even if it meant watching her marry a soulless "teen idol" like Sean or a brash idiot like Jeff, so long as sometimes she got to spend time with her and have some little piece of her heart. Most of all, though, she wanted Kimber to kiss her the way Clash had. And it was useless - Kimber had called her up when she needed her, and Stormer had ruined everything. She'd lost her best friend because she'd wanted more, and now she had nothing and no one.
"I do love you," Clash said, mutinously. "I love all of you."
"Oh, Clash! One day, you'll meet the right girl, one who likes you back. But she's not me. Oh, just get lost, Clash!" Stormer buried her face in her pillow. "Kimber's never going to talk to me again, and I want to be alone."
"I do love you. And I'll prove it!"
Stormer heard her door open and close, very carefully, but she didn't look up. She just hugged her teddy, and wondered what the other girls' reaction would be if their next single was a tender ballad about unrequited love. Possibly, there was a way to disguise a broken heart as an anthem about Pizzazz grinding her stilettos into Jem's face. It might be worth a try.
It might relieve her feelings a little, but she doubted it.
Kimber had never been so depressed, not when she'd been shipwrecked on a desert island, not when Zipper had tied her up and left her in an erupting volcano, not even when Sean had wanted to see if she could stick to just one boyfriend for a bit before they got married.
Stupid Misfits. They were all alike - unreliable, obnoxious and just plain nasty. Stormer had just seemed like the sweetest, prettiest, most fun Kimber had ever met. Deep down, a Misfit was a Misfit.
She could hear the phone ringing downstairs, but she ignored it. It would either be for Jerrica or for Jem - either way, Kimber's sister hogged the phone.
There was a tap on the door, before Ashley popped her head in, not bothering to wait to be invited. "Phone for you!"
Kimber's heart leapt for a moment; then she went back to pouting. "It's probably just Sean. I'm not in the mood."
"Nah, it's a girl," said Ashley, approvingly. She was going through a stage of hating boys. At least, Jerrica said it was a stage. Kimber wasn't so sure.
She bit her lip. It wouldn't be Stormer, but... "Okay. I'm coming."
She tried not to hurry down the stairs, with the result that she moved so slowly that Ashley got impatient and shoved her along, chanting "Hurry up, slow coach! Hurry up, hurry up, slow slow coach!" As a result, Kimber was somewhat breathless when she picked up, wishing again that she could have less than six other girls, plus Rio, all blatantly listening as she answered.
"I've called to collect."
"Jem and the Holograms" - Kimber was quite impressed by the way Clash managed to sound as if she was swearing - "are performing tonight, right? Some big charity do?"
"Yeah..." Alarm bells went off in Kimber's head. "For scholarships for girls with disfiguring elbows. I wrote a song."
"I need a ticket for a friend."
"It's sold out! And I won't do anything to hurt the concert! Those girls need the money!"
"Relax. I won't do anything to hurt the concert, I promise. My friend's a big fan of yours - she's got really bad taste."
"Oh." Kimber thought for a moment, staring into space, hand covering the mouthpiece. Seven pairs of eyes stared curiously back at her. She should talk to Jerrica, she knew. The concert was really important, and Jerrica would know whether she should trust Clash - Jem had defeated Clash and the Misfits, every time. She should humble herself, and beg them for help, again...
"Kimber, is there something I can do to help you?" Jerrica, who had decided to be Jem for this particular date with Rio, looked at Kimber with gentle - and authoritarian - concern.
That settled it. "No. Everything's fine!" Kimber snapped, and turned back to the phone. "I'll find you a seat," she promised. She'll make it up to Astral later.
She just hoped she was making the right decision. She hadn't been very good at them, lately.
Stormer, her masses of bright blue hair bundled under a scarf, dark glasses over her eyes and a dark coat over her rather fetching little tropical number, perched uneasily on her seat and tried to watch the concert. It was unnerving, being surrounded by Holograms fans like this. She kept expecting one of them to denounce her as a Misfit. She'd been nervous ever since Clash turned up to collect her, wearing 'Jem!'-emblazoned overalls, her purple locks hidden under a short brown wig and checked kerchief.
She tried to quell her nerves by focussing on the concert. The Misfits really could do with a drummer, she realised, as she watched Raya. But the Holograms really could do with a lead singer who could hold a high note without screeching, she mentally added, with a little more loyalty. Jem looked pretty, even in that dreadful gold and fur outfit, and there was something impressive in her earnest determination to do good for under-privileged elbow-hampered girls, but Pizzazz could out-sing her any day. Shana was terrific, though, and Aja looked fantastic out there, playing up to Jem for all she was worth. While Kimber...
...it was no good. Stormer really wasn't interested in anyone else. Kimber whirled from one keyboard to the next, long fuchsia hair flying. She'd worn that pants suit with the roses when she and Stormer had been playing together, and she always looked particularly pretty in it. She was smiling and singing, but did she look a little pale and strained? Or was that just wishful thinking? She probably didn't care less. Stormer must have been crazy to agree to Clash's plan.
The lights suddenly went out on the stage, and the music fell silent, Jem's voice trailing a little after the others. Stormer could hear the audience murmuring in consternation, rising to their feet as she scrambled onto her seat. She could back out now, slip away in the darkness but... then she'd never know.
A spotlight fell on her and she blinked, dazzled and blinded. She pulled her hair out of the scarf, tossed away her dark glasses, and shrugged off her coat, as her vision adjusted to the sudden light. She could hear the noise of the crowd around her, as she was identified. If this didn't come off, she'd be lynched.
"Stormer!" If Clash had done her job, there was no way for Jem's voice to be projected across the stadium, but it was, as was her suspicion and outrage. "What are you Misfits up to this time?"
Stormer fumbled with the portable microphone that Clash had assured her would be linked into the stadium speakers. Sure enough, her voice echoed out. "It's not the Misfits. It's just me. I - I have something to say to Kimber."
Right on cue, a single spotlight lit up the stage, illuminating Kimber alone.
"What - what is it, Stormer?" Kimber's voice was magnified, too. She looked nervous, but - hopeful. Her blue eyes were wide. Stormer took courage. After all, what was the worst that could happen? She'd make a fool of herself in front of a few hundred, possibly a few thousand when the television audience was taken into account, people. Public failure and humiliation were nothing new. She was a Misfit.
"Kimber- I want you to know, I want everyone to know, that I'm in love with you. Please, please don't try to marry anyone else. I love you."
Kimber seemed frozen with shock. Stormer stood and waited - there was nothing else to do, now. Her heart hammered and her skin iced over with cold sweat. The crowd was in uproar, but all Stormer was conscious of was Kimber's beautiful face, the light slowly dawning on it.
"I'm in love with you too, Stormer." Kimber's voice faltered a little, but her chin lifted proudly. "I guess I always was - I just didn't realise what it was. Can you forgive me?"
Stormer couldn't find the words, but as the crowd parted between them, just like in the very best movies, she found she didn't need them.
The Misfits never watched Jem and the Holograms perform on television; they obviously couldn't care less about what a group of losers like that did. Therefore, there definitely wasn't a group of stunned women on the leather couch in Pizzazz's favourite playroom, watching one of their own seize Kimber Benton in a fierce embrace.
Eric rocked back and forth in his chair, head in his hands. "I'm going to kill her, I'm going to kill her, I'm going to kill her."
There was a long silence and then, unexpectedly, Roxy said, "Get over it, Eric. What century are you living in, anyway?"
"What?" He stared at her, aghast and betrayed, although he wasn't really sure why he felt that way, given the Misfits contrariness. If he'd expressed himself delighted for Stormer, they would probably have planned to tar and feather her.
"Sure, the kid's a beanpole goody-goody, but who really cares?" Pizzazz tossed her neon head. "So's Stormer. As long as we don't have to hang out with them and watch them be soppy - yech."
"Cheer up, ducky." Jetta patted his back, almost managing to extract his wallet in the process. "It worked for David Bowie, didn't it?"
Eric glared at her on principle, but the tension in his shoulders, if not his grip on his personal belongings, started to relax. One thing was certain - no one in that stadium was looking at Jem at that moment. He'd make sure Stormer was still a Misfit. And money couldn't buy publicity like that.
And best of all - Jerrica was probably crying her eyes out at right that moment.
Eric beamed. Maybe Stormer wasn't such a bad Misfit, after all.
Clash slipped from the stadium, shedding her stage crew gear as she went. She'd shown Stormer, after all - she'd sacrificed her own happiness for love. Not only had it been the scheme of all schemes to pull off, but she'd made Stormer happy. It was really noble, she told herself, blinking back tears, to prove that she would do anything for a Misfit, even send her into the arms of another woman. She really was their greatest fan. She just wished she had someone around to appreciate this. Times like this, a girl would be grateful even for the company of Cousin Video.
Maybe it was time to go back home to Daddy for a bit. Clash didn't think she could stand to see Stormer hanging all over an insipid goody-goody like Kimber. It was so utterly unfair and uncool. There was finally proof that a Misfit liked girls, and even she didn't want Clash. It was worse, somehow, than just hanging on and hoping and tell herself that, if it wasn't for the tragedy that they were all straight, Clash would have a real chance...
Occupied by her own thoughts, she stumbled into a girl who was busily spray painting the wall at the back of the stadium.
"Hey, watch it!" Clash snarled.
"You watch it!" snapped the girl, tossing back a long golden mane. "Are you like totally clumsy or something?"
Valley girl, Clash thought with the fine dismissiveness of a small-town girl making it in the city. She started to turn away, when she was interrupted by a squeal.
"Like, oh my God, I know you! You're a Misfit!"
At the magic words, Clash hesitated, then turned back. She hadn't paid attention to the graffiti before; now she realised that the stranger had been carefully painting a Misfits logo over a gigantic Jem poster. "Yeah? And?"
"I totally worship you!" The girl clasped her hands together in excitement. "I'm your biggest fan!"
Clash looked at her more carefully. The girl had a mass of blonde hair, that was to be expected, but her paint-splattered tights and red vinyl mini were, well, cool, and her face was adorned with bright abstract makeup. Her light blue eyes were very large, and lovely - and shining with adoration.
"I'm not really a Misfit," she admitted reluctantly. "But I'm their biggest fan."
The light in the girl's eyes didn't waver for even a second. "Like, duh. You're Clash, right? You're the one they let hang out with them and everything? The one who pretended to be Jem for, like, ever? You're totally cool! I can't believe I've really met you! And you're way hot, too! I have a whole scrapbook of pictures of you!"
The corner of Clash's mouth turned up a little. Valley girl or not, the little graffiti artist didn't seem too bad. "I practically live at the Misfits Mansion," she confided.
"You're the luckiest girl in the world," sighed the other girl. "Set designing for the Misfits is, like, totally the dream of my life." She glanced down for a moment, and blushed a little. "Would you like to go get a soda or something? I'd, like, really like to get to know you better. If - if that's your kind of thing? Girls, I mean. I know I'm totally assuming here, but -" There was a mixture of nervousness and eagerness in her expression that set off resonances in Clash's head.
The corner of Clash's mouth rose still further, until it became a definite grin. One day, you'll meet the right girl, one who likes you back. "Why not? What's your name, anyway?"
The other girl slipped her arm into Clash's, and Clash felt a kind of poignant, twanging thrill at the touch. "Graphix."
Clash reached up her free hand, and touched soft blonde hair. "Cool name, Graphix. I think we'll get along just fine."
Perhaps tonight would be a good night, after all.
Backstage, Stormer was dizzy from kissing. Once Kimber took hold of a new idea, she really took hold of it. Although maybe her dizziness was from pure happiness, and the sweet miracle of Kimber in her arms, trading sweet kisses. Kissing Kimber was entirely unlike kissing any man had been, or being kissed by Clash - no one else's kisses had seemed to tug at her heart as well as her lips. Stormer felt wrapped up in a golden, melting glow.
"I guess that explains why I didn't really want to go through with marrying Sean or Jeff," Kimber said eventually, snuggling against Stormer's shoulder. "I knew something wasn't right."
Stormer's arms tightened around her. The last thing she wanted to think about was Kimber nearly marrying someone else. "You wanted me, right?" she asked, a little fiercely.
"Yes. Oh, Stormer. Jerrica's going to kill me." Kimber didn't seem entirely displeased at the thought. She giggled a little. "A girl - and a Misfit!"
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry!" Stormer bit her lip. Jerrica had been so kind to her; she wanted her to be happy that she and Kimber were together. Probably too much to ask, though, given that the Hologram's squeaky-clean image had probably been more damaged in the last hour than by anything else that Misfits had ever pulled at a Jem concert.
"Oh, she'll get over it. She always does." There was a knock on the door, and Kimber sighed. "I'm never alone. Okay, come in!"
The girls watched in some trepidation as Jem and her supporting Holograms trooped in.
"Um, how was the rest of the concert?" Kimber asked, a little guiltily.
"It was fine. We seemed to be missing our keyboard player, though," Aja added sharply.
The girls started to stammer apologies, but oddly enough, the Holograms were smiling. "It doesn't matter," Shana said. "The audience had enough excitement."
"Jem made a wonderful speech about tolerance and love and how straight and gay should join hands together to march towards a better future," Raya added, gazing with hero worship at her lead singer. "It made me cry. And then we sang Love Unites Us, and the audience joined in."
"You - you did?" Kimber sat up straighter. "Really?"
Jem nodded, looking as serious as a pink-haired woman wearing enough glitter and gold to dress the cast of Dynasty could. "It may take some getting used to, but - " She nodded bravely. "Welcome to the family, Stormer."
Kimber detached herself from Stormer's arms, and flung herself on Jem. "Outrageous! You're the best sister ever!"
Stormer looked from one to the other of them, then at the other Holograms, who were looking slightly aghast, her mind working fast. It was true that she'd seen very little of Jem during her friendship with Kimber, and a lot of Jerrica, but she'd assumed that Jem hadn't quite been able to bring herself to support a Misfit. And now Jerrica was nowhere to be seen. "The family... sister? I thought Jerrica was your sister."
Kimber looked at her over Jem's shoulder. "Um... oops?"
"KIMBER!" the remaining Holograms wailed.
"Aw, who cares? We have something a lot more serious to discuss."
"What is it, Kimber?" Jem asked, a little warily, probably because Stormer was looking hard from one to the other other them, working on certain conclusions.
"Do I get another wedding dress?"