Categories > Cartoons > Jem

Ready to Roll

by Stormkpr 0 reviews

During the episode "The Stingers Hit Town", the Misfits face a crisis when Pizzazz falls for Riot and chooses him over her own band.

Category: Jem - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters: Jetta, Pizzazz, Roxy, Stormer - Warnings: [!] - Published: 2005-08-08 - Updated: 2005-08-09 - 5700 words - Complete


Author's notes:

This is intended as a stand-alone fic; you do not need to be familiar with any of my other stories in order to read (and, hopefully, enjoy) this one. However, this fic can also be viewed as a prequel to my "Farewell to Life the Way We Knew It" fic.

Denisia and Severine both beta-tested, and I would like to thank both of them for their assistance.


Roxy clenched her fists. Other than that gesture, her body was motionless as she stood inside the small living room and looked at Stormer and Jetta.

During the past few days, her world had lurched to the side like a car veering wildly to avoid hitting a child who had run into the street. Well, what else was new? Ever since that night when the slick corporate suit named Eric Raymond had scouted her out, driven her to Starlight Music, and introduced her to the smug Phyllis Gabor, Roxanne Pelligrini's life had been full of enough turmoil and adventure to last a few decades.

Which was generally fine with her. Roxy grew bored and restless easily, and the past few years with the Misfits had been a whirlwind joyride, albeit a joyride with several large potholes along the way. The last pothole had now, apparently, caused the Misfits to break down for good.

Roxy eyed Stormer, who sat mournfully strumming a guitar. Jetta slumped in her chair next to the keyboardist, clearly despondent. Roxy didn't quite share their dejection though. Anger was the emotion that coursed through her system. The more she thought of it, the hotter her face got.

Pizzazz had abandoned the rest of the group. She had chosen Riot over the Misfits. Despite everything that band had been through, despite the number of disasters they had survived together - Stormer's defection, Roxy's departure, Jetta's deception, countless losses to Jem and the Holograms, not to mention childhoods that would have wrecked most other souls - Pizzazz had declared her allegiance to a manipulative man she had just met, tossing aside her own bandmates with whom she had played for years.

Roxy could not have known Stormer's thoughts at the time. The blue-haired songwriter was wondering whether they perhaps deserved Pizzazz's abandonment. Maybe, Stormer wondered, Pizzazz felt that the rest of the group had shown her no loyalty and thus deserved none in return. Maybe, Stormer speculated, Pizzazz had been hurting at the fact that Roxy and Stormer had each left the band at one time and Jetta had lied. Maybe Pizzazz wanted to inflict a little emotional pain of her own.

'Maybe that damn Riot has her under some kind of spell,' Roxy wondered instead.

Roxy was still mad. Though neither woman would ever verbalize it - or even consciously dwell on it - Roxy thought that she and the singer had bonded over the years. It was an odd pairing, the wealthy spoiled California girl and the impoverished illiterate from Philly. Despite the ocean of differences between their backgrounds, their personalities melded together like a catchy riff and a strong singing voice. They both loved music, trouble, breaking rules, food, fast cars, excess, disposable boyfriends, excitement, and living in the moment. They had worked together, mostly smoothly, during countless schemes attempting to foil Jem and the Holograms. They had managed to have fun during six-month tours, endless media obligations, and late night video shoots. But apparently their bond wasn't strong enough to withstand one charismatic man, despite everything.

"Our music doesn't sound right without Pizzazz," Stormer finally muttered, though they had never even attempted to play one song without her. The three women had no idea what their future would bring, though they had barely left each other's sides since they delivered their fateful ultimatum to Pizzazz yesterday.

Last night, Roxy, Jetta, and Stormer had left the Gabor mansion. "She won't listen to us," Jetta was saying. "We might as well leave."

Roxy shook her head at images of Pizzazz being manipulated by Rapture. The Misfits' leader was dressed in a ridiculous costume, obeying the scheming woman's every command, and even drinking a revolting mixture that contained raw liver, causing the singer to vomit. Rapture seemed to take a sadistic glee in humiliating Pizzazz. Pizzazz allowed the Stingers to stay at the mansion despite their repulsive treatment of her. Seeing their leader treated this way degraded all of the Misfits.

"I can't take any more of this!" Roxy had declared, repulsed, before the three walked out.

They piled into the Misfits' van, with Stormer driving, Roxy by her side and Jetta in the back. Roxy rolled her eyes as Stormer reached for Roxy's seatbelt and compelled her to put it on. Not long ago she would snap at Stormer when she suggested Roxy buckle up. She grudgingly obliged now, pushing away the thought that she actually liked the fact that someone was concerned with her welfare.

Stormer started the engine, Roxy blankly looking straight ahead towards the east wing of the Gabor estate. She tried to shake away the image of a green-faced Pizzazz cupping her mouth and running towards the bathroom. It felt odd to be inside the group's van without Pizzazz - Roxy could not remember ever doing so. ` Pizzazz sure wouldn't notice right now though,' Roxy mused. 'We could drive the damn van over a cliff and she wouldn't care.'

"So where do you guys wanna go?" Stormer asked.

Her question was met with silence. She looked at Roxy and could tell that the guitarist's mind was elsewhere.

"How about somewhere not so bloody noisy," Jetta suggested. "Like the beach."

Roxy raised an eyebrow. The evening was unseasonably cool and they likely wouldn't be doing any swimming. It seemed like an odd suggestion, but Roxy shrugged and muttered words of assent. She had no desire to disagree just for the sake of being contrary to Jetta's idea. The two women had an uneasy truce. It wasn't as though Roxy had that many other people in her life now anyway. She had Stormer, of course. Clash had been banished - not that Roxy had ever liked her much in the first place - and as for Pizzazz....Roxy didn't want to even think about it.

She stole a sideways glance at Stormer. Somehow she suspected that Stormer was going to make her think about it.

"How 'bout getting some food on the way there?" Stormer suggested. "I'm getting' hungry. Roxy?" she asked. She knew that her bandmates thought better on a full stomach and she wanted them fortified in preparation for the discussion that she was going to force tonight.

"I'm always hungry," Roxy answered.

"Me too," Jetta said.

After their stop for food, Stormer expertly steered the van towards the picturesque beach. The Gabor mansion was just a quick drive from the shoreline. Roxy affectionately smirked at the way Stormer always came to a complete halt at the stop signs and cautiously looked in each direction. Pizzazz would simply have barreled straight through.

The three Misfits settled on a small grassy hill that bled into the beach. Stormer opened the plastic shopping bags and began arranging the chips and spreads, and opening the bag of cookies. Jetta reached in and began munching on the chocolate chip richness right away. Roxy studied the way Stormer took charge of the food preparation and remembered again how bad it had been during the time Stormer had been away from the group. None of the others had realized that when the band wasn't at the mansion or a restaurant, Stormer had always -- quietly and efficiently -- seen to it that they had provisions. She always took care of the little things. When she had returned, it was the first time that Roxy had thought to thank her.

Even so, when Stormer had returned, Roxy had still been putting her energies into trying to curry favor with Pizzazz and retake the position at her side that Jetta was constantly trying to usurp. Even then she hadn't been giving Stormer the focus she deserved. She hadn't realized how skimpy her welcoming of Stormer had been until Roxy herself had returned to the band after the Roxy Rumble and Stormer had, on the plane ride back to L.A., demonstrated how a true friend acts.

Roxy reached for a chip and thrust it into the thick spread. She brought it to her mouth where it stayed for several seconds. Roxy realized that she really did not have much of desire to eat now. She shrugged and forced herself to chew. She automatically repeated the process.

"I love the sound of the waves," Jetta murmured. They were high and loud tonight, crashing boldly against the shoreline. The setting sun painted the sky an unusual mix of yellows and oranges. A couple slowly walked by, hand in hand, ignoring the three Misfits.

"Me too," Stormer said. "My parents used to bring Craig and me here all the time when we were kids."

"God you were lucky," Jetta said. "The beaches in England are cold and rocky. Not that my parents took me anywhere except the horse races, with all the completely blocked old men."

Roxy reached for another handful of chips and crammed them into her mouth. This was pretty new, this practice of Jetta freely revealing truthful information about her childhood.

Then again, a lot had changed lately.

"So guys," Stormer began, after clearing her throat, "what are we going to do about Pizzazz?"

"We've got to get her to stop acting all dolally over Riot!" Jetta exclaimed.

"Well, yeah, no shit," Roxy said, with more vinegar in her voice than she'd intended.

Jetta's back began to arch but Stormer gently touched Jetta's arm. Jetta looked at the keyboardist and sighed. She appeared too weary for a fight.

"Jetta's right," Stormer said. "We have to get Pizzazz to come to her senses. I just don't see how our band can possibly continue if she remains obsessed with the lead singer of another band."

"Yeah, she won't be able to focus on getting us press or singing songs or touring if all she can think about is how much she fancies that bloke and what can she do to get him," Jetta added.

"She used to be so dedicated to the Misfits," Stormer mused. "Well, I personally think she's always put way too much energy into getting at Jem. But when she wasn't obsessing over Jem, she was a good leader."

"Now she's obsessing over another singer, in a different way," Roxy said. The anger again began to build and she almost wished that it had come to another fight between her and Jetta. She could have used an outlet. "Damn her," Roxy rasped. "Damn her for forgetting about us and everything we've done the past four years!"

Damn her for not being a better leader....or a better friend, Roxy added silently.

"I think Pizzazz is a great singer," Stormer began wistfully. "She has so much charisma and she's always been able to - to get the attention of an audience or the media. She's always been able to get people to notice her and do what she wants them to. I admire her for that." She paused, her gaze in the direction of the ocean. "But there is a lot she could do better as the leader of our band too. Like drop her obsession over Jem and instead focus her energies on making us the best."

"Well I certainly don't disagree, Stormer," Jetta began, "but patching things up with Pink Hair doesn't seem too likely, especially now that Pizzazz has forgotten that anyone other than Riot exists."

"No matter how ya slice it, we can't do jack shit till she comes to her senses again," Roxy summarized. She looked at Stormer and added, "And I agree with you too. This crap with Jem's been goin' on too long. I'm tired of fightin' against them every time and gettin' our butts kicked again and again."

"We can do well enough on our own, if we'd quit faffing about with this ruddy rivalry," Jetta added.

"One editorial in `Cool Trash' said that we should change the name of our second hit and call it 'Losing is Everything' instead, because of the number of times we've messed stuff up," Stormer glumly shared. She had gone to great lengths to hide that recent issue from the rest of the band but now was wondering if maybe they should have seen it instead.

Roxy and Jetta digested that for a second or two. Roxy finally said, "How embarrassing. And we've only got more embarrassments and crap ahead of us if Pizzazz continues like this."

"I wonder if there's any chance she'll just drop this obsession," Stormer speculated.

"Yeah," Roxy snorted. "She goes through guys like toilet paper." She stopped and then shook her head. "But I never seen her like this over a guy."

"Me neither," Jetta said. "I think we should go back to the mansion tomorrow and check in on her. It is possible that she'll be back to normal. But I am surely not going to hold my breath."

"I won't either," Stormer said, realizing the truth of her bandmates' words.

"So how do we stop her, get her back to normal?" Jetta asked.

"We gotta let her know how pissed we are at her!" Roxy declared. "I still can't believe that she went to the Rock Hard Café without us!" The sting of Pizzazz's betrayal chewed on Roxy. "And I can't believe she let Rapture treat her that way!"

"Roxy," Stormer began, in her best soothing tone.

"I wanna take her by the shoulders and shake her!" Roxy said.

"But we can't do that. It'll just make her madder and push her away. I think we should talk to her."

"She didn't listen to us at all yesterday, though," Jetta observed, reaching for another cookie.

Stormer crossed her arms. "Well maybe tomorrow she'll be more open to reason, after she's slept on it and barfed her guts out --- and after Riot probably thought her get-up was ridiculous."

"Maybe," Jetta said. Her worried gaze was fixed in the direction of the ocean.

Stormer held up her hands. "But what else can we do, other than talking to her and telling her how we feel? Beating her up or ignoring her won't work."

"But tellin' her how we feel isn't exactly guaranteed to work either," Roxy said. She looked at her friend, "No offense, but feelings are your arena, definitely not Pizzazz's."

"I am forced to agree," Jetta chimed in. "Pizzazz has never been, shall we say, particularly attuned to the emotions of other people."

"She does care about us, though," Stormer insisted. "Not in a really mushy way, but she cares. I mean, there's a reason why she lets us live at the mansion and why she drags us with every time she leaves town. Like that trip to Alaska - there was no reason for us to go, but to Pizzazz it was always like we were comin' with and that's it. I was surprised when she first said that she wanted us there till I figured out what it meant."

Jetta and Roxy listened to Stormer's words. Since the keyboardist's return to the group following her successful side project, Stormer had been a force to be reckoned with. A quiet, gentle force but nonetheless an effective one.

"Righteo," Jetta finally said. "I just hope she listens."

"Yeah, me too. I don't think the band can continue on without her," Roxy said grimly.

"I was thinking about that myself, on the way here," Stormer added. "I mean, I'm a good singer. So's Roxy. But I just don't see one of us becoming the Misfits' lead singer in a band without Pizzazz. It just wouldn't be the same. It's almost laughable, in fact."

"So we throw her an ultimatum," Jetta said. "We tell her that she has to pick either us or Riot."

The trio fell silent. Roxy sighed as she listened to the loud roar of the waves. A few seagulls squawked as they coasted by. In the distance, Roxy could hear the engine of a dune buggy heading their way. The three women remained in their spot as the sun slowly gave way to darkness. Roxy reached for more chips and ignored the insistent pain of anxiety in her gut.

The next morning, it had happened. After a nearly-sleepless night spent crashing at Stormer's, the three made their way up the towering stairs and imposing main doors of the Gabor mansion.

It soon became apparent that Pizzazz hadn't changed at all. If anything, her obsession with Riot was even more severe. Listening to her blathering on about him, Roxy was reminded of her grandmother in Philly. As the old woman's condition had begun to deteriorate, she had moved into the one-bedroom apartment that Roxy shared with her mother and whoever her mother's boyfriend was at the time, with occasional stays by Roxy's older half-brother. Her grandmother slept in the kitchen where the heat from the stove kept the room marginally warmer during the frigid winter when electric bills sometimes went unpaid. Her grandmother lived in a dream world, babbling on about events that took place decades ago. Roxy would shiver during the night under the sofa's blankets, listening to the coughing of the old woman who could not even comprehend the seriousness of her illness. She died in her sleep one night. Roxy remembered looking out the window and watching the hearse drive off.

"....or the group is FIN-ISHED," Roxy finished, following Stormer and Jetta's remarks and completing the ultimatum.

Pizzazz hastily lunged towards her bandmates. "Wait, I - " the singer began.

Roxy's heart flipped over and a small dose of relief crept in. It would be all right! Pizzazz did want to commit to the band! Their gambit had won.

But then Eric steamrolled over it all. The snake grabbed Pizzazz's arm and pulled her back. "Hold on, Pizzazz," he began slyly. "Which do you want more? The Misfits? Or Riot?"

Roxy glanced at Stormer, who was holding her breath. Then Roxy saw Pizzazz's eyes glaze over and the guitarist's hopes disappeared.

"I want Riot," Pizzazz said, her voice dazed and dreamy.

"Then goodbye to the Misfits," Roxy said, furious. She slammed the door.

Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta walked back down the main stairs at a funereal pace. They silently filed into the Misfits' van.

Instead of placing herself on one of the seats, Jetta flopped down onto the floor of the back of the van. "That wasn't how it was supposed to turn out." She took a breath. "Bollocks! It's all gone up the left now!"

"What do we do now?" Stormer asked miserably.

Roxy tuned out Stormer and Jetta's discussion as her own thoughts reeled. So this was it for her and Pizzazz. No more friendship, no more profound musical collaborations, nothing. Would they ever even see each other again?

Maybe once or twice, they'd see each other, when Roxy moved her belongings out of the Gabor mansion. Roxy would probably crash at Stormer's - just like the old days - till she found a new place. She did welcome the idea of staying at Stormer's again, sleeping in that tiny third bedroom that used to be Stormer's own when she was growing up. It boasted a twin bed, small closet, dresser, and enough room to take a few steps. It still had its girly wallpaper with flowers, at which Roxy had smirked the first time she'd seen it, so long ago.

Roxy shook her head. She'd never been much of a planner, never one to mull over her next step. Though after the disastrous Roxy Rumble, she was less opposed to the idea of thinking ahead.

Roxy's thoughts careened back around to Pizzazz. Roxy clenched her fists. That bitch. After all they had been through together - every harebrained, half-assed scheme that had backfired, all the tours from the early ones at dingy bars to the later ones at packed stadiums, after their show in China when they'd elatedly walked backstage, arm in arm. All the nights spent drinking and partying till 4 a.m., after all the crazed joyrides with Pizzazz at the wheel, Roxy drinking a Midori, something she'd never had until Pizzazz turned her on to it. After all the shopping sprees when Pizzazz spent obscene amounts of money on strappy shoes and animal-print lingerie, and automatically handed over her credit card to cover her bandmates' purchases too. After all this, it was over. Pizzazz was pitching Roxy, and the rest of her band, the way she sometimes indifferently tossed a guitar pick to a hungry audience at the end of a show.

"We don't f---ing mean anything to her!" Roxy exclaimed. "That self-centered, crazy, mean bitch!" Roxy punctuated her explosion by ramming her fist into the window.

Roxy's outburst startled Stormer and Jetta. The van suddenly fell silent. As she rubbed her very sore hand, Roxy realized that she had no idea where Stormer was driving and it appeared as though Stormer hadn't selected a destination either and was just aimlessly maneuvering the vehicle through the thick L.A. traffic.

"Yeah," Stormer finally said, quietly. "I'm shocked. I thought she did care, deep down. I-I really don't know what to do now."

"Well, I have an idea," Jetta, who was now seated in the back, began. "Let's try to think about something else. We can't do anything now anyway."

Stormer shrugged. "Let's head to the mall."

Shopping was the panacea, and Jetta and Stormer eagerly embraced it.

But what Roxy really wanted was to head for the gym and attack a large punching bag. She wanted to hit it for calling her stupid and never apologizing, for gloating when the Roxy Rumble failed, for ever believing Jetta's lies. For being such a crappy excuse for a friend. `And for putting me down in order to make her feel better about herself,' whispered a voice inside Roxy.

She also wanted to hit Stormer and Jetta for not sharing her anger.

And mostly Roxy wanted to hit herself for allowing herself to care about Pizzazz, for the way her insides crawled and her heart had fallen towards her gut over that woman's rejection.

The guitarist looked at her wrists. At least the scars had faded. And she wasn't going to start again, no matter what Pizzazz had done. She had Stormer and, perverse as it sounded, she knew she had Jetta too.

Pizzazz madly drove her convertible. Evening was beginning to settle in and she nearly forgot to turn the headlights on. She narrowly missed colliding with a minivan and, minutes later, almost hit a pedestrian who had made the mistake of crossing the street as she roared her red vehicle around the corner.

A few images from the long day replayed themselves as the woman drove. The pompous elephants lumbering to Starlight House behind crowds of fans and Stingers banners. The putrid messes that the elephants dumped on the streets during the procession. Pizzazz riding in the car with the top down, behind Eric and his crazy plan, being too love-numbed to marvel at how the businessman had thrown this together in one afternoon. Riot being wooed back into Eric's clutches. Looking out the window as the MISFITS MUSIC sign was unceremoniously removed from the top of the tall skyscraper. Eric's sketches of the new Stinger Sound logo. Riot's despair over Jem's rejection. Riot taking Pizzazz into one of Misfits Music's - no, Stinger Sound's - empty offices and pushing her down onto her knees in front of him. Pizzazz hoping that it would lead to more but being left only with Riot's taste in her mouth and, later, an order to re-form the Misfits.

She squinted at the road, not able to recall the last time she had been to Stormer's place. She knew that wherever they were, they would all be together, the three of them. Stormer's house was the logical starting point; the keyboardist had been such a stabilizing force in the band lately. Pizzazz continued to peer at the road and then blinked a few times. Somehow it shifted into focus. The road began to seem a bit clearer. The haze that had settled over her during the past few days started to lift.

After the marathon shopping session -- interspersed with a long break for lunch and peppered with requests for autographs from fans - Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta hauled their bags back to the Misfits van. Each autograph they had signed felt like it might be the last; Roxy took extra care when she wrote out the four letters of her name. In the cutthroat music business, the Misfits might be forgotten within months of their having disbanded. The van felt eerily empty and foreign, bereft of Pizzazz

As they loaded the shopping bags into the van, Stormer's eyes briefly met Roxy's. "Are you alright there?" she asked, her voice just above a whisper, her eyes fixed on Roxy's wrist.

Roxy nodded quietly and pulled down her glove to display the unbroken skin there. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks."

Stormer drove her remaining bandmates back to her place hoping that a few drinks would perk them up before they debated where they wanted to head for dinner. Discussing any future plans, even those as trivial as dinner arrangements, would be painful since the future was now so muddy.

None of them succeeded in forgetting about Pizzazz. Sitting in the front seat, Roxy glanced down at her shopping bags and felt that they would not make her feel any less miserable. She would throw out half of her purchases anyway, unless Stormer's usual entreaties reached her and she decided to donate them to charity instead. Roxy's feet ached too. Wearing three inch heels during an all-day shopping spree was not the best idea.

"You guys wanna stay here again tonight?" Stormer asked, once their drinks had been downed and the day limped towards its conclusion.

"May as well," Roxy shrugged. She didn't know why she was even trying to feign indifference to Stormer's offer. Where else would she go? No, it wasn't just that. She wanted to be here, and Stormer probably knew that as well.

Roxy wondered if it may be worth it to try to swallow their pride and approach Pizzazz again about the band. Not tomorrow, maybe not even after a week. Perhaps once a few months had passed the singer might miss her friends and miss the fame that went along with being in a band.

That is, if she wasn't serving as a back-up vocalist for the Stingers. Roxy clenched her fists again; the very thought of Pizzazz reduced to second fiddle made Roxy wanted to vomit.

When she tuned back into the conversation, Stormer was saying, "Our music doesn't sound right without Pizzazz." She was seated on a plush chair, identical to the one Jetta occupied.

"Yeah, and the Misfits were such a great name," Jetta added wistfully and lovingly. Roxy peered at her old rival. As different as she and the saxophonist were, she knew that they both loved the fame, the music, the thrill of being in a band, performing to a screaming crowd. They both had risen from meager beginnings to international stardom, and Jetta was mourning that loss just as Roxy was.

But Roxy was still more angry than sad. Gesturing towards the doorway, she responded, "Well don't expect Pizzazz to come trippin' through that door and - "

Roxy's hand made contact with something hard. Startled, Roxy whirled around to see Pizzazz. "Watch where you're puttin' that thumb!" the singer exclaimed, gripping her face. Roxy's hand had accidentally jabbed her between the eyes.

"Pizzazz!" Roxy cried out. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Stormer and Jetta leap to their feet, Stormer's beloved acoustic guitar tumbling to the ground with a loud twang. Roxy's anger evaporated instantaneously.

"I was wondering," Pizzazz began, not missing a beat. "I - I wanted to apologize and...ask you to take me back."

Her voice carried sincerity and humility. The first trait was rare and the second unheard of for Phyllis Gabor. She also emanated tenderness and shocking vulnerability. She appeared to wring her hands for an instant and her jaw wasn't set as harshly as it usually was.

"Us - uh - take you back?" Roxy asked, her voice conveying amusement at the request.

There was absolutely no need to discuss or debate. Instantaneously and simultaneously, the three women answered, "Sure!"

Along with cries of "Yay!", "Misfits rule!", "Let's go!", Roxy, Stormer, and Jetta then impulsively advanced on Pizzazz and pulled her into a group hug.

During the split second Pizzazz saw the hug coming, she instinctively stepped backwards. A hug? They were that glad to have her back? They wanted to express affection for her?

But then the shock wore off and Pizzazz permitted herself to accept the hug and enthusiastically return it. The gesture was much more than Riot had ever shown her. Indeed, it was more than anyone had shown her.

And Pizzazz's response was more than she had shown to anyone either. She gripped onto her bandmates for several long, enjoyable moments.

When the hug finally, and reluctantly, was released, Roxy stepped back and surveyed the singer. Was this the same Pizzazz as before, the one who had flourished before the odious Riot ever hit town?

"I, uh, meant what I said," Pizzazz finally spoke again. "I meant that I am sorry...about everything."

This was definitely not the old Pizzazz. Her voice had been sincere and she'd made eye contact with Roxy and Stormer as she spoke the words. Roxy even wondered if the apology had meant to cover not just the last two days but also a few years of sins.

The other women were not quite sure how to respond. Stormer, wearing an overjoyed grin as bright as the flower in her hair, enthused, "We're glad to have you back."

Roxy had to say it. "But Pizzazz. What about Riot and all that Stingers nonsense?"

"Yeah," Jetta piped up. Roxy had to admit that she liked hearing Jetta agree with her. "You over that wanker?"

"Hey, I'm done with him," Pizzazz said, dismissively. Her eyes did not meet anyone else's. "He's gonna do things my way if he and I are gonna have any future together! Like my other boyfriends. And if he doesn't, then he can forget about anything between us!"

Roxy peered at her friend. Her statement, Roxy could detect, contained some bravado and her voice had wavered a bit. Riot would still be a problem. But perhaps a manageable one.

"But look, you guys come first, okay? The band comes first." Pizzazz said firmly. "Besides, I've never let my man-izing get in the way of the band before," she added, using a term that she and the others had coined as an alternative to the word "womanizing".

"We'll hold you to that," Stormer said. Roxy smiled at the confidence she saw on the keyboardist's face. "The band's really important to us too. And you're important to us."

Pizzazz nodded. "Yeah. Ditto." Her tone then took on its more familiar and rough notes. "Well, enough of this mushy stuff then! Who's up for a trip to the beach??"

"The beach?" Jetta asked. She, Roxy, and Stormer giggled.

"What's so funny?" Pizzazz demanded.

"We were just there yesterday," Jetta supplied.

"Well then let's just go there again. If we hurry, we'll catch a nice sunset. I'm ready to hit the road!"

Roxy followed the others as they headed out the door and towards the van. As Pizzazz ceded control of the vehicle to Stormer and the keyboardist stepped behind the wheel, Roxy wondered how the future would unfold. Pizzazz had changed. How much of the singer would remain as before and how much of the changes would be good ones? During the day without Pizzazz, the other three bandmates had functioned as equals. Stormer had been the emotional center, Roxy and Jetta's opposing dynamics had been there too, but the three had functioned well as a democracy. Now that Pizzazz had returned, how would the band function? Once again Roxy found herself pondering the future, an activity still somewhat foreign to her.

"You know," Stormer was saying as she drove, "it doesn't work without the four of us. Maybe we should stick together from now on."

No derisive replies were made to Stormer's declaration. Roxy saw Jetta nod and Pizzazz respond, "Yeah." Roxy herself was at a loss for words. She would tell Stormer, later, that she agreed.

She soon heard the crashing of the waves in the distance and instantly felt hope. Roxy wondered if this beach might be a source of strength to her band. She found herself running down the grassy slope and holding hands with her bandmates as they dashed towards the water, Riot's image slowly fading away as the sun gave way to a crisp midnight blue.


More notes from the author:

As you may or may not know, the title of this fic comes from the first line sung by Pizzazz in the song "Now". I've always believed that the line is "Now we're ready to roll"; however, I have seen it written out as "ready to load" on at least one website. I prefer the line "ready to roll"; it seems to make more sense both in the context and imagery of the video, as well as the rhyming scheme of the song. But I wanted to point this out in case anyone thought the song's line was "ready to load" and is therefore wondering what I was smoking when I titled this piece.

Also, note that this fic contains a few nods to Denisia's fics, "Trapped" and "It Takes a Lot". I highly recommend both of them.

And just as an aside, I do realize that in the actual episode, it does not appear to be early evening when Pizzazz arrives at Stormer's (unlike what I state in the story) but I ask you to grant me poetic license with this one. :-)
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