AN: This first chapters of this fic were preciously up under the unwieldy title of Truly Outrageous Designing Woman. It is currently being largely rewritten, expanded and continued. Major pairings are Kimber/Stormer and Pizzazz… well, that would be telling.
The Holograms, the Misfits, the Stingers, Techrat, Rio and Eric don't, sadly, belong to me. All chapter headings are – naturally – Misfits, Stingers and Holograms song titles. All quotes are Jem lyrics. And my Beloved provided ideas, help and encouragement.
Chapter One: "It All Depends on the Mood I'm In"
Eric Raymond shifted uneasily in his seat. Disaster was looming. He could sense the rising tension in the restaurant, feel the anxious glances of fellow diners and waiters as they too realised the dreadful truth.
The Misfits were showing visible signs of boredom.
There were times when the put-upon entrepreneur seriously wished that he had somehow patched up his relationship with Jerrica Benton, irritating little upstart that she was, instead of going solo. At least when he worked for Starlight Music, the only children he had to deal with were Jerrica's snotty-nosed orphans. It was easier being Uncle Eric to genuine rugrats than to a group of overindulged brats with too much power and the delusion that they were rock stars. That they really were incredibly successful girl pop stars only added insult to injury. In the proper scheme of things, media publicity for girl pop stars was in the order of cuddling kittens and making chastity statements, not hijacking trains.
If they would only behave themselves a little better, there would be so much more money available for embezzlement. He was becoming more and more tired of watching Stingers Sound's profits go up in the smoke of smashed equipment and incinerated hotel rooms. Once Pizzazz had become aware of exactly what terms her father had locked Eric into when he transferred the record company, all his hopes of gaining control over the Misfits were gone for good.
Eric had taken the Misfits out to dinner to divert them from the problem of exactly where the profits from their latest single had gone, but he was afraid he hadn't arranged for enough stimulation for "his" girls. Sooner or later, one of them was going to start breaking things, or worse still, talking money. Eric spent a good proportion of his life discouraging the Misfits from talking about money. Fortunately, Pizzazz had so much personal wealth that actual band profits could often vanish without too much question.
Eric sighed, picked up his menu, and tried to judge his charges' individual moods.
Jetta, for her part, was doing her best to fill in the tedium.
"But you know, Di was always jealous of me. And the Queen Mum never approved of our relationship." She shook back her masses of teased hair, the silver strands catching the light from the chandeliers. "I think she thought I was too attractive," she confided. "Jetta, love, she said, how is Eddie going to feel when you're chased by other men? It's bad enough that he doesn't even have his own Duchy yet, she said, I don't want my grandson's heart broken in the bargain. I mean, Andrew already couldn't keep his eyes off me. I was really becoming scared of Fergie – you know what redheads are like, eh? Worse than our Roxy. So I did the right thing, as a patriotic Brit, and came to America to let Eddie forget me." She sighed tragically and tipped an oyster into her mouth.
Stormer's lashes fluttered over her wide blue eyes. "Um – so that's why you joined the Rockerbillies? Weren't you really disappointed you didn't get to be a princess instead?" Her throaty voice was warm with sympathetic concern.
Eric beamed approvingly at the youngest Misfit. Stormer, bless her little pop star heart, was never really a problem unless the others swept her along. He couldn't tell whether she was too polite to challenge Jetta's ludicrously self-aggrandising fantasies, or if she was naïve enough to actually believe her. Either way, it made very little difference from his point of view. What was important was that a willing audience effectively kept Jetta out of trouble, her raven head too occupied with inventing details of her tragically doomed love affairs with royalty to invent mischief.
It was the other two Misfits who were the real danger.
Roxy, of course, was always a problem. It had taken generous bribes to even permit her inside the door after her last visit here, during which she had decided the head waiter was giving her the eye and responded by pushing his head into a flambé pudding. Much as he took issue with her method of dealing with it, she probably had been right in her assumption that he had been leering at her, Eric admitted, eyeing her now and taking in the effect of the outfit she had chosen as suitable for formal dining. She was dressed – barely - in a green mesh top, belted over a black bathing suit and lace tights. Whatever Roxy's other sterling qualities, subtlety was not one of them.
Actually, sometimes Eric had difficulty deciding what Roxy's sterling qualities actually were. She had considerable talent on bass guitar, and could handle herself on electric, but she was proudly lazy, would bite the head of a baby bird if she thought it was chirping at her in a provocative manner, and had a concept of innocent fun involving frequent explosions. She probably cost the group more in damages than the other three put together. If Pizzazz, Eric's main meal ticket, hadn't seemed so oddly attached to the platinum blonde, Eric would have let her stay in Philadelphia.
At least Roxy was quiet for the moment, confining her destructive impulses to ripping her serviette to shreds between strong fingers. Very strong fingers, Eric noted, as the serviette was linen. Nevertheless, he was rather alarmed at the bitter scowl she was directing at Jetta. Eric was afraid that unless Roxy was distracted, she was going to offer her honest opinion on Jetta's current line of balderdash, and then it would be on for one and all.
The animosity between them was no longer amusing, and he was beginning to suspect why. He shifted uncomfortable, feeling the pores of his wrist crawl. Pizzazz… was rather fond of Jetta. His mind shied away from analyzing why this seemed to make Roxy more sullen and erratic than ever. The fact remained that the rivalry between the bass player and the saxophonist was beginning to seriously affect the group dynamic. Maybe he would have to try to do something about it, although reconciling twin pit vipers would not be a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Responding automatically to the image of pit vipers, Eric shot a glance at Pizzazz. His little star was swinging back in her chair, one stiletto-booted foot resting on the table in defiance of glares from the staff and other diners. She seemed to be ignoring Jetta, neither interested enough to egg her on nor mock her pretensions. That was good, he supposed. At least it didn't actively provoke Roxy.
But what she was doing worried him. Her hands behind her head, Pizzazz was idly scanning the room - for trouble, he had no doubt. The corners of her mouth were turned down, and as near as he could tell through the plucking and barbaric face-paint, her brows were drawn together. Fuchsia nails tapped slowly on the edge of her plate. The signs were not good, not good at all.
Eric was uncomfortably aware that Pizzazz was self-centred and spoiled enough to cause real havoc and real damage to his own pocket, for no reason other than a moment's amusement. He began to speculate about whether it was worse actually worth deliberately provoking Roxy. She was at least only vicious, not brought up to riches, and so sometimes saw destruction on less of a grand financial scale as an outlet for aggression. Sometimes Eric wondered if buying out the music company, and consequently taking on responsibility for his charges' damages, had been a sensible course to take.
If he was lucky, and if Roxy and Jetta had a flash of kindly spirit towards each other, he might escape with only another public food fight. Most of the tabloids took quite an indulgent attitude towards Misfit food fights. Anything that could be put down to girlish high spirits, especially without accompanying hospital bills, pretty much equated to a get out of jail free card. Eric knew all about those.
There was a small flurry at the entrance, and Eric glanced up to see two young women arm-in-arm. The quietly dressed blonde seemed an odd match with the girl sporting a mane of neon cherry hair and clownish pink makeup. He groaned silently. This was not good, not good at all. Of all the thousands of people Pizzazz obsessively hated, Kimber Benton was right up there in the top two.
The older woman met his gaze, her eyes widening as she flicked her gaze across the Misfits, then back to Eric. He took care to make his glare as threatening as possible. There was a moment in which he actually hoped that his old adversary would show some discretion and remove her sister from the place before the Misfits noticed her. She was a sensible girl, after all, and she disliked confrontation. He felt a stab of triumph as she pressed her teeth into her lower lip.
Then she tilted up her chin, set her shoulders back, and took a seat, her small mouth in a firm line. As Kimber slid into the seat opposite her, Jerrica snapped her menu open with a sharp flick of her wrist. Eric buried his head in his hands.
His girls still hadn't noticed, however. He half-stood, hastily. "Ladies, it's dead in here," he announced. "Let's go find a club more worthy of your presence and make some noise, don't you think?"
Pizzazz looked startled and displeased. "We haven't even ordered dessert yet. Don't try to wriggle your way out of this, you sleaze. You offered dinner – we want the full four courses."
Roxy's glower tilted upwards into a smile. It wasn't really much of an improvement, so much as pleasantness went. "Yeah, take a seat, Eric." She seized his sleeve and yanked down hard.
He did indeed flop back into his chair, not so much because of the manhandling but because a clear voice from the next table had exclaimed, "Look, it's Kimber of the Holograms!"
Within minutes, Kimber was immediately swamped by a small, adoring crowd. Eric winced. The Misfits were already drawing themselves up out of their bored slouches. Jetta spiked her fork into the table, and the accountant's part of Eric's mind gloomily calculated how much that particular piece of vandalism would add to his bill.
Roxy was already snarling. "Why does a nobody like that kid Hologram get so much attention, anyway?" Her fist clenched around the remains of her serviette. Eric wished, he really wished, that he dared point out to his girls that maybe the reason the kid was being asked for autographs was that she actually signed things instead of laughing in her fan's faces and telling them to get lost, but he knew that this was really not the moment for a lecture on public relations.
Pizzaz's beautiful face screwed up as if she had bitten into a lemon. She was going to crease her makeup if she didn't watch out. "Eric, why don't we get jumped like that?" Her powerful voice rose in a shrill wail that felt like it was puncturing his eardrums. "It's your job to arrange publicity!"
"Uh…" he began, articulately. He tried very hard not to think of the Lamborghini he had bought out of the last PR allowance. Pizzazz had an uncanny habit of reading his mind at times. But surely babysitting these brats gave him the right to some fringe benefits -he certainly earned them.
At that inopportune moment, there was a gap in the appreciative crowd, and Kimber's gaze inevitably swept around to centre on Stormer, with a particularly pathetic lost puppy expression. Stormer gave one scared look around her own table, then, with a fatal attack of loyalty towards he best friend, sent the Hologram a 'subtle' smile and wave.
There was a sudden icy silence before the Misfits turned on their youngest member. Eric grinned to himself. With any luck, Stormer had arranged just the diversion for which he had been praying.
"You traitor!" said Roxy. "Why are you fraternising with the enemy?" Fraternising… Amidst his horror, Eric was somewhat impressed that Roxy knew that term. She was picking things up, although heaven knew how, as she never seemed to even speak to anyone outside the band, hardly a literary circle. He resisted the desire to pat her encouragingly on her platinum head.
"Yeah, treacherous little snake, just like all bloody Yanks!" Jetta chimed in, forgetting her rivalry with the bass player in the joy of picking on the keyboardist. Stormer-bashing was a special bonding activity for the Misfits.
There was an almost unconscious moment in which everyone waited for the leader to put her word in on the situation. Waiting until she had the table's full attention, Pizzazz gave a nasty grin, her green eyes sparkling devilishly. "She didn't wave back, I noticed. Guess that means she really is in love with Sean and doesn't need to play with the girls anymore. I warned you that goody-goody would break your heart."
Stormer pressed her hands pitifully together. "She didn't… Pizzazz, you know all that isn't true. Kimber cares about me. She's my best friend!" Her eyes filled with tears, and her ever- present flower seemed to wilt in her sky-blue hair.
"Well, that makes us feel special, dearie."
"Jetta…" The one-two hit of rejection and guilt seemed to be confusing Stormer.
"If you're such good friends, why doesn't she acknowledge you, then?" challenged Pizzazz.
At this moment, Jerrica turned away to speak to a waiter, and Kimber took the opportunity to surreptitiously blew a kiss towards the Misfit's table. There was a chorus of squeals and laughter, and then three out of four Misfits began to make violent gagging noises.
"Guess you were wrong, Pizzazz. Kimber still has the hots for our Stormer after all." Jetta reached over and straightened Stormer's purple lurex lapels, fluffing her curls a little. To her credit, the usually mild Stormer looked as if she was considering biting her band mate's hands.
"Leave me alone, you guys, okay?" Despite her insipid protest, she still had tears in her eyes and was beginning to show genuine redness under the diagonal stripes of colour. Eric judged that she was passing from embarrassment into anger. Her friendship with Kimber was a touchy subject for Stormer.
Eric straightened a little. He didn't want this to snowball from a distraction into a serious intraMisfit fight. Quite apart from the fact that Stormer was, as the most pliant Misfit, Eric's favourite, he didn't want to risk her quitting and running to Kimber again. That had turned out very expensive last time, and Pizzazz had been in a foul mood for weeks. It hadn't taken her long to decide her manager had been at fault, either. He shuddered, as memories of those days of terror returned to him.
But he was confident he knew how to handle his girls. Most of the time, in any case.
"You know," he said thoughtfully, "Stormer's friendship with Kimber – disgusting though it is," he supplemented hurriedly, as Pizzazz opened her mouth to object – "could actually be useful. After all, Kimber would obviously know Jem's real name…" He let his voice trail off, repressing a smile. Quite honestly, he was unsure why the Misfits were so convinced that publicizing Jem's real identity would ruin her career, but there were times when their childlike faith in the concept was undeniably useful.
It helped, of course, that Jem apparently shared their ideas, and protected her pointless secret fiercely. Maybe she really did have some kind of dirty secret. Or maybe they were all addicted to Batman. He knew Roxy, at least, had a desperate crush on Catwoman.
There was a moment while his pet pop stars – sorry, rock stars - absorbed his suggestion. One corner of Pizzazz's mouth turned up, while Jetta and Roxy, showing one of their rare moments of perfect communion, shared grins.
Stormer pushed herself back in her seat. "Oh, no…" The other three girls leaned in on her, smiling sweetly.
Pizzazz's voice dripped with only slightly acidic honey. "C'mon, Stormer, we only want you to talk to your very bestest ickle friend… Don't you miss your Kimber-wimber?"
Stormer gave her a suspicious frown. "I know you care so much about our friendship, Pizzazz." She stood suddenly. "I'm just going to go say hello to her. Because she's my friend, and it's my decision. She's much better company, anyway." She made a good attempt at a defiant look around the table, and Roxy sniggered.
"Sure," cooed Pizzazz. "Have a little talk with dearest Kimber and her big sister. And then if she should just happen to mention, you know…"
Stormer shrugged uneasily, her oversize collar nearly reaching her ears with the movement. "I'm not sure we can have much of a conversation. I don't think Jerrica likes me much since I came back to you guys." She looked sad at the thought, and Eric felt vaguely nauseous. After all, he'd dated Jerrica… sort of… and it caused him no lost sleep at all that she hated him.
Roxy sighed. "Besides, if Stormer's seen hanging out with Holograms again, it will destroy our reputation for all time," she pointed out. "They'll think we've all gone soft."
"So we distract everybody… C'mon, it will be easy," Jetta urged. "I was getting bored anyway. This is worse than Princess Anne's last horse christening."
"Yeah," Pizzazz agreed happily. "Let's make some noise!" She flung back her head of day-glo lime hair and rose to her feet, Roxy and Jetta moving automatically into supporting poses behind her.
Eric was beginning to feel he'd lost control of the situation… again. The band – his band – seemed to be prepping themselves for another random video clip played to imaginary cameras, and he didn't think he could afford the expenses from yet another trashed property. One day, he was going to have to teach them to sing without breaking things.
He opened his mouth to protest, but too late. Electric music began to pipe out from nowhere, and Pizzazz, jumping onto the table, launched into a wail of "How does it feel to be popular, knowing all the fans adore you?" Eric gritted his teeth, glared at the subtitles floating in the air in front of him, and tried to close his ears to the smashes. Not to mention the fire hose Roxy appeared to think suitable to the occasion.
She might not have been succeeding in her aim of capturing Pizzazz's exclusive attention, but the hotel staff were definitely interested in the rush of high-pressure water and breaking furniture. It probably wasn't worth worrying about, though, considering that the staff weren't having much success making it through the water blast.
If only, if only, the water was loud enough to cover Pizzazz's singing.
"You three brats are definitely going to bed without any television tonight," Eric muttered, under the cover of blaring pop music and wholesale destruction.