Disclaimer: I do not own the Hedwig universe, and I don't intend to make any money from it.
Author's Note: If you are planning to review, please read my profile first. Might save you some time. I just saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch performed live, and I feel it is probably impossible for me to do justice to something so amazing and inspiring. Still, I do enjoy my escapism. I apologize in advance for what must certainly be an unworthy tribute, and extend that apology to any other stories I may write in this fandom. I borrowed a few background details from im36degrees, and I am grateful to that writer for coming up with them.
Krystal stared at her reflection in the big dressing room mirror, looking for flaws. She decided the lipstick was too red. A darker rose shade would be better. Frustrated, she began wiping it off.
"Take it easy, sweetheart", Tabitha said, puffing on her cigarette. "You look beautiful." Tabitha was perched on a folding chair in the nearest corner of the little room, and she took care to smile encouragingly every time her friend met her eyes in the mirror. She wasn't working tonight, but when she'd heard about Krystal's crazy idea she'd decided to come along. Krystal was too optimistic for her own good, and far too sensitive. As her best friend, Tabitha would be there to comfort her and make sure she was okay when this plan inevitably failed.
"Five minutes!" the stagehand called.
Krystal took a deep breath, composing herself. She had been performing since she was 17, and she usually wasn't nervous at all. But tonight was different. Everything depended on tonight. Tonight she was opening the show for an American rock band called Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The lead singer had managed to escape from Communist East Berlin. She would understand what it was like to be trapped in a bad situation. She would understand, and she would help her.
"I've got to go." Standing up, Krystal faced Tabitha. They clasped hands, because a hug might mess up Krystal's hair or dress. "I'll miss you, Tabby. Thanks for everything."
"Don't start composing your farewell speech yet, sister."
"This will work. I know it will."
Tabitha sighed. "Well, just in case it doesn't, you know I'll be waiting for you."
Krystal nodded and gave Tabitha a last long look, trying to memorize every detail. Tabitha had been her best friend and surrogate older sister for three long years. When they'd met, Krystal had been a newly homeless teenage boy wandering the streets of Zagreb with no idea where to go or what to do. Tabitha had taken him home with her, and helped him become the woman he was meant to be. Leaving Tabby was hard. Turning away, she strode out onto the stage.
Under the bright light, in front of the crowd, Krystal was in her element. She was beautiful and sexy and alluring. Her voice conveyed innocence and passion mixed together into something which seemed to hold the audience spellbound. She sang two songs, and left the stage to loud applause and whistles.
Backstage, she got her first look at Hedwig. Krystal stood back against the wall so as not to get in the way of Hedwig and her band when they went on. She thought Hedwig was breath-taking. Then she heard what Hedwig was saying.
Hedwig was arguing animatedly with a woman in a pants suit. The woman looked flustered and responded in a cajoling tone that became ever more pleading. Behind them, four men who were obviously the other band-members watched Hedwig with expressions ranging from incredulity to resignation.
"I'm not following that show-boating lounge singer!"
"Please, Hedwig, you're every bit as good as-"
"As good? As good? I'm a hell of a lot better! That applause should be for me!"
"It is, dear! You're the main act! You're the one everyone's here to see!"
"Well that's too bad, because I'm leaving." Hedwig cast a furious look at her band, and two of the four quickly moved to follow her. The other two (temps that Phyllis had hired to play with them while they were in Croatia) stayed where they were, staring.
"Is she serious?" one asked the other in an undertone.
Tabitha nudged Krystal. "Come on, honey. Let's go home."
Krystal looked from Tabitha's kind face to Hedwig's retreating form. "She's horrible, isn't she, Tabby?"
"Yeah, she kind of is."
Krystal's heart was racing. She knew her only chance to get out of Croatia was rapidly disappearing. They'd only have to be married for a month or two at most. Hedwig would probably reject her anyway, but she had to try. She couldn't keep living like this.
"Bye, Tabitha," she said, and hurried away from her friend before she could lose her nerve.
She caught up to the group outside. "Ms. Hedwig?"
Hedwig spun around, glaring. Her manager looked nervous. Trying to sound bold and confident, Krystal looked Hedwig in the eyes and said the lines she'd practiced for the last week. "Please, Ms. Hedwig, I have to get out of this place. Will you marry me?"
Hedwig's glare slowly faded. She laughed, though not unkindly. "You're not my type."
"We don't have to stay married. I just want to get out of here. Away from Croatia."
"An… interesting proposal," Hedwig said, eyeing Krystal speculatively. "What's in it for me?"
"I'll do whatever you want. I don't have any money, but… anything else you want," she finished, looking at the ground now. The confidence had died out of her voice.
Hedwig was silent for a long time. At last she said, "Let's discuss this somewhere more comfortable, just the two of us. Don't wait up, boys." She turned and walked away without waiting for a response. Krystal followed her.
They found an all-night diner and Hedwig ordered them both coffee. They sat in silence until the waitress brought the cups and left. Hedwig took a sip, set her cup down, and said, "What do you look like as a guy?"
"What?" Krystal asked, hoping she had misheard.
Hedwig rolled her eyes. "Don't waste my time."
It's only for a couple of months, Krystal reminded herself. She couldn't shake the feeling that Hedwig was toying with her. "I have dark brown hair", she said uncertainly.
"Let me explain something, baby, before you get yourself into something you can't handle. Let Auntie Hedwig tell you the facts of life. I won't have another queen traveling with me. You have a good voice, Krystal, but that's all you have. And it's not enough. If you were a man, I might let you come with me. Or maybe not. But," and she leaned forward across the table, "I'll be damned if I'm going to marry a fucking woman."
"I guess I could be male while we were together. Um… I don't think I can… you know?" Krystal finished in a whisper. She hadn't expected this to be so degrading.
"I think I can live without…you know," Hedwig said, her tone low and mocking. She crumpled her cup and left it on the table as she stood. "Let's go."
Krystal obediently followed her from the shop. She didn't ask where they were going.