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Synergy

written and illustrated by Iron Eater

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/302824.html)

The first time they actually met, Dazzle had a backstage pass and Prisma was busy putting all of her energy into projecting the Prisma Experience, because you couldn’t just turn off being the frontwoman for Prisma and the Dream Girls, not when tickets easily went for several hundred dollars a pop and especially not when you were as black and as fabulous as she was. There were other people with passes, too, mostly excited girls of various ages under twenty, but none of them were dressed like Dazzle was. Why would they be? Prisma’s act was a family-friendly gig, not quite Disney-Channel sanitized but not the sort of thing most parents would worry if their kids liked, whereas Dazzle was the lead—”Ringmaster,” said their liner notes—of the one and only Freakshow, which meant her preferred look involved stomping around in black leather and wearing face makeup that looked like a kabuki explosion. The other attendees gave her a wide berth.

Dazzle held back and picked at her devil-red polish until the more normal fans had collected their autographs and taken their celebrity selfies. She held out her hand and made sure the pyramid studs on her bracelet caught the light as aggressively as possible. “So you’re Prisma, huh? Name’s Dazzle.”

To Prisma’s credit, she didn’t so much as bat one of her half-inch metallic lashes. Her handshake was strong and confident. “A pleasure to meet you, Dazzle. I hope you had a good time tonight!” The shimmering robin’s-egg blue lipstick she wore framed a genuine smile as she spoke.

“Not my usual scene,” said Dazzle, which was certainly true. The show had taken up an entire sports arena which held more people than she’d ever seen at all of her shows combined, and there’d still been hundreds of ticketless fans huddling around the screens set up outside. The arena halls were an ocean of merch; absolutely everything was pink and glittery. If you so much as whispered a word of the filthy gigs Freakshow usually played, something would’ve caught fire. Dazzle had spent the entire show oscillating between wanting to murder the people around her and being creeped out by the Dream Girls themselves, leaving her feeling as basic as a lye crystal hucked into a vat of acid. At least her mood was in a properly sour place for the night’s business.

Of course, if Prisma actually noticed how pissed and vicious Dazzle felt, she did a good job of not letting it melt that girl-next-planet glow. “I’m so happy you gave my music a try! I love meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds, especially when they never saw themselves as someone who’d give us a listen. But here you are! With a backstage pass, no less!” Her eyes twinkled.

“Yeah, about that,” said Dazzle. She put one hand on her hip and started cracking the knuckles of the other against her thumb. “I’m actually here on business. You familiar with a little group of shitheads called Gnash Ass Records, by any chance?”

Prisma raised one sculpted magenta eyebrow. “Private label, right?” she asked. “Deals mostly in she-thrash and bootshit bands, limited analog runs but pretty good digital distribution in underground music circles? I heard they got bought out recently.” That the self-described Pink Crystal Princess of Glitterspace knew about a nasty little no-name outfit like Gnash Ass was surprising, but besides the point.

“Yeah, by your label.” Dazzle put on her best sneer, though if Prisma cared she was good at hiding it. “Does it feel good, grinding down the junior leagues? Makes you feel big and important?”

“I do not personally represent every single decision made by Supernova Music Group,” said Prisma with a voice that sounded instantly tired beyond measure. “It’s emotionally impossible for me to perform and record so much while micromanaging the numbers behind the scenes. I’m very sorry if this business deal has made it difficult for you to interact with your favorite groups, but—”

“‘Favorite groups’ nothing, Gnash Ass covered my girls!” roared Dazzle. Some besuited figures in earpieces made to take her away, but Prisma held up her hand and stopped them in their tracks. “They might’ve been shit in a lot of ways, but at least we could sell CDs at our shows! At least they didn’t try to censor us! Now that we’re all a big happy Supernova family they’re saying we either tone it down, keep it safe for the kiddies and the weird old dudes from Tahoe with ponytails and motorcycles and fuckloads of money, and if we don’t tone it down? If we don’t roll over and take it? Freakshow gets dropped, then blacklisted, then unable to perform anywhere, then we probably run out of money for hot dog rice within six months, all while you” —here she drew the syllable out into a banshee screech— “just go on to another show like nothing happened!”

Prisma frowned. It looked out of place on her, like mud on a butterfly. “I specifically state in my company’s merger policy that any artists we acquire are required to maintain their artistic freedom if they wish to remain with a sublabel. Why didn’t you have your agent contact me?”

“‘My agent’?” asked Dazzle with a cough of laughter. “Are you fuckin’ listening to yourself, honey? Do I look like I have an agent?” She gestured at herself: her fishnets had holes, her boots were held together with duct tape in one place, and nobody needed to know how many days she’d been wearing her bra. Even in her nicest, cleanest clothes, Dazzle was not exactly at her most dazzling. At least her makeup was flawless. “Nobody’s bothered returning my calls. My email gets form letters. I had to pool money with my girls and rely on a last-minute cancellation to even get this damn pass to talk to you, and that still means we’re all eating dollar store mac ‘n cheese until we get our last check.” She panted. It felt weird yelling at a pop star, but still very right, in a way. When you thought about it, wasn’t that as punk as you could get? Even if the large men in the large suits threw her out on her ass, she’d yelled at the Prisma, the second coming of glam, directly to her airbrushed face, and maybe that’d be good for a free drink in the right bar.

With a click of her fingers Prisma summoned a much reedier person in an earpiece. They exchanged a brief, hushed conversation before the smaller one bobbed his head and vanished back into whatever dimension people like him stayed in when nobody was looking. Once she failed to be grabbed by the shoulders and bodily removed, Dazzle found herself more confused than angry, and she was still pretty angry.

“The fuck was that about?”

“Trying to get one of my business people on the horn,” said Prisma. “If I’ve got a scumbag on my payroll, it’s my responsibility to do something about it.”

It took Dazzle a moment to realize she was gawking. She covered up her disbelief with more attitude. “So that’s all it took? I show up uninvited, I yell some, you wave a magic wand and suddenly all my problems are solved? Bullshit.”

Prisma sighed and sat down on an ottoman shaped like a brightly-colored mushroom. “No, they’re not all solved,” she said. “This is the sort of thing that’s going to take a while to get sorted out, even if I can instantly put all the pieces together. Which I can tell you now I probably can’t.” She rubbed her temples, her rainbow nails bright against her dark brown skin. “What I can do is sort out a temporary royalties option and make sure your existing catalog is easily available digitally, swears and all. I can front you and yours a little money to cover lost revenue until my accountants finish going over things with a fine-toothed comb. It’s not great, but you’ll still be living off your music. Deal?”

Dazzle narrowed her eyes. It sounded like a not-just-good-but-downright-great deal, but then again Faust had probably thought the same, and even an undereducated gutter rat like herself knew how that’d turned out. Then again, Faust didn’t have to worry about keeping the power on. “Give me something in writing and I’ll think about it.”

It turned out that Prisma’s dressing room hoard included some sort of newfangled portable computer that looked like a laptop but had a printer built into it; in a few short minutes Dazzle had a freshly drafted contract in her hand with both their signatures at the bottom in glittery gel pen. It was printed on some sort of lavender stationery with little star watermarks that appeared when it was tilted at the right angle. Going by the law of averages there had to be worse-looking contracts in the industry, but the longer Dazzle held on to it the more she felt like the bell curve was plotting to do her wrong.

There was something else that had been bothering Dazzle about the whole affair, though.

“You’re taking this awful well,” she said as she peered over Prisma’s shoulder. Of course there was more paperwork, but Prisma was unnervingly deft at fishing most of it up despite being exhausted from a show. “Why haven’t you so much as asked me to show some ID?”

“Probably the same reason I’ve heard of Gnash Ass, Dazzle,” replied Prisma. “I’ve had a physical copy of Lovesick Fistfight since they started printing them with actual labels on the front.”

That put it as a few years since Freakshow had gotten together, though still pretty early; the first few CD runs had been burned on someone’s creaky old computer with the names stenciled on in Sharpie since printer ink cost too much. Back in those pre-Gnash-Ass days, poor Thunder had to regularly stay up until sunrise cutting out and hand-stapling all the inserts she’d printed out behind her boss’s back at her shitty retail job. Sometimes they sold, usually they didn’t; nobody had even given half a shit about them until they’d started doing shows with Sin Skullcannon, and even then they’d had to kick and claw their way to being something other than a forgettable opening gig. It felt like forever ago.

Dazzle had expected Prisma to be many things, but a fan was not one of them.

The rest of the evening was weird in the way that anything that involved a lot of money was weird. Prisma talked a good line about “reimbursements” and “royalties” and similar corporate babble, but Dazzle barely heard any of it over the deafening sound of the number of zeroes written on the turquoise-to-pink check in her hands. It sounded like paying off a lot of thrice-overdue bills. Christ, with that sort of money maybe Moxie could even afford those online classes she kept longing for when they were between gigs. The girls would be thrilled. Pissed, too, since you had to be a little bit pissed when your tits were stuck in a corporate vice, but Dazzle was already looking forward to taking everyone out for dinner at a sit-down restaurant. It had to be something fancy enough to let them know they had some breathing room, something nice. Maybe a Denny’s.

Eventually Dazzle got an escort back to the public parts of the arena, and it was so late by the time she returned to reality that even most of the bootleggers had closed up shop. The parking lot was quiet enough for her to gather her thoughts. It hadn’t been what she expected, but she still wasn’t sure exactly what she’d expected. There probably should’ve been more screaming. She had to sit in the driver’s seat of her terrible van—which had miraculously not been stolen for all this time—to process everything.

She knew that the contract guaranteed Freakshow the services of a Supernova Music Group agent named Derek Somethingorother (who, judging by the photo Prisma had given her, was a real grade-A shitfucker and probably someone Dazzle would get along with swimmingly), and she knew Prisma had personally whitelisted the shabby little email account she’d had since she was twelve, and she knew that at some point in the future Prisma or Derek or both of them would get in touch to talk about the potential for a more permanent sublabel agreement, but it refused to click together into something real. One of the biggest pop sensations of the decade being into her music was out of the question. What was real was the check and its siren song of solvency.

Dazzle turned the key in the ignition, swore, turned it again, swore louder, then coaxed the engine into turning over on the third attempt. Car repairs: those sounded pretty real, too.

The second time Prisma and Dazzle met was strictly business and strictly boring, and so were the third and fourth. Freakshow saw Derek Whatsisface a lot more often than they saw his boss. Ah, Derek. Derek was an utter tool of a man who lived a cozy little life hiding behind an impenetrable shield of daddy’s money, but he was ruthless in helping them chew through legal messes and he wasn’t averse to sniffing out paying gigs for them so long as he got a cut, so Dazzle couldn’t have been happier. It was just as well; a more professional rep would’ve been eaten alive by Moxie the minute he stepped through the door.

It was strictly professional until one mild morning two months down the line. Dazzle hadn’t planned to see much of anyone that day, given how her head was still pounding from the show afterparty the night before, but at ten AM sharp someone started to rap on her door and wouldn’t go away until Dazzle staggered out of bed to answer it.

The person at the door was certainly shaped like Prisma, though her cloud of tightly-curled hair was a far more sedate henna than the electric pink that made it into all the promo images. Save for the skin tone and the rainbow-colored nails, she barely even resembled the glittering fae creature that had been putting out multi-platinum records since Mahou Shoujo Overdrive. She was wearing a kerchief. Dazzle was briefly reminded of her kindergarten art teacher.

“The fuck are you doing here?” she slurred as she blinked against the bright and hateful eye of the sun.

Prisma the Librarian tapped the folders she was holding against the palm of her hand. “I’m here to let every little black girl who wants to be a crystal space princess know she can do it,” she said, crisply. The words came with the smooth, practiced cadence of someone who’d used the pressure of the public eye to become a diamond.

Dazzle groaned. “No, I mean here. Right now.”

That got a tired sigh from Prisma. “I think you drunk-dialed me last night. You said you wanted to talk in person and not through a proxy, so I gathered up the most recent progress on the Gnash Ass situation and scooted on over.” She paused. “More than that, I wanted to make sure you were okay. You sounded awful,” she added, her voice tinged with concern. Dazzle would’ve written it off as fake as hell if she hadn’t had that backstage meeting.

“I’m fine.”

“A black eye is fine?”

So that was why her face was sore; Dazzle had assumed it was just part of the hangover. “Yeah. I got all my teeth and I can still sing with split knuckles. You should’ve seen the other guy.” She scratched the side of her neck. It felt like there was a little dried blood there, but it was probably somebody else’s and therefore not her problem.

Once Prisma refused to go away after a long, awkward minute of them staring at each other across the threshold, Dazzle finally caved. “Fine. Come on, I’ll go clear a flat surface to put that paperwork bullshit on.”

Freakshow’s palatial estate consisted of a few grimy rooms on the upper floor of a converted industrial building, which meant they had plenty of space to rehearse in exchange for wiring that was dubious at best. Between the four of them they never seemed to have the time to actually clean the place, either; a few weeks of positive income had helped fix the more broken parts, but it was going to take a lot more than Thunder’s valiant efforts at unclogging the toilet before it looked like a place fit for human habitation. Dazzle swept the worst of the clutter off the kitchen table with her forearm and scrounged up a pair of chairs. It would do.

They actually talked about the label thing for a while, which Dazzle honestly hadn’t expected from Prisma’s mother-hen act, and even though most of it was ground they’d already covered with Derek it was nice seeing someone else point out how all the little dots were connecting. What was also nice was how Prisma didn’t say anything about their little rathole or the fact that places like theirs usually smelled so strongly of orange-scented aerosol spray for a reason. It was purely business.

Business got boring.

Dazzle, when bored, was the kind of woman who would scrabble for any entertainment she could manage, and an out-of-costume pop star sitting on a folding chair with her so-smart, so-fancy dress clogs crushing spilled corn flakes looked like she could be plenty interesting. The other girls wouldn’t be back for hours, so where was the harm? At any rate, Prisma was the one who’d invited herself over in the first place. You didn’t wander into a tiger’s den if you weren’t in the mood to see their stripes.

“So what’s with the Stepford trio?” she asked halfway through something about distribution rights.

Prisma didn’t stop taking notes on her legal pad, though her looping strokes slowed. “Beg pardon?”

“You know. The Weird Sisters. Your Dream Girls. They’re creepy.

“Only because you don’t know them well enough.”

Dazzle scoffed. “And you do?”

Click went the little button on Prisma’s pen, then clack went the pen against the paper. She folded her hands on top of it. “Given that I programmed them myself, I’d say so.”

This wasn’t exactly news. Even if you weren’t a fan of the Dream Girls—and Dazzle most certainly was not—it was hard to escape some general knowledge of them, what with how they went above and beyond the usual polygonal puppets the kids played with on YouTube. More than just synthesized voices, gushed the tech sites, and more than the smoke and mirrors that could summon rappers from beyond the grave, the Dream Girls were the first genuine digital performers, complete with awkward rewrites of labor laws to allow them to earn their own income. They had the same sort of inhuman polish as a high-quality model kit. Dazzle couldn’t look at video footage of them without feeling her skin trying to crawl off her body.

“So you’re best friends with HAL and Eliza and Hikaru Miku, great. I’m sure they’re fantastic conversationalists.”

Prisma shrugged. “I suppose I’m used to them.”

“Are you?”

“Well, we first started working together when I was still a teenager. They were up there with really good chatbots then, maybe a little more so. Good at learning, a bit stiff.” She circled some numbers on a graph. “I taught them to sing since I didn’t know anyone else who could, and when I reached the limits of what tech at the time could do I taught myself to do it better. That’s why they sound like more than a bunch of prerecorded syllables strung together: they’ve got real voices and they understand how to really sing.”

Dazzle scratched at her track pants. “Still sounds like a weird replacement for people made of meat,” she said.

Prisma tapped her pen against the table. “Their AI is evolving every day, you know.” There was something about the way she said it that sounded off. Dazzle had years of being a schoolyard bully behind her; she could smell weakness a mile away. Maybe she felt bad about that and maybe she didn’t, but either way she lunged.

“Ooh, ‘evolving.’ Can you socialize with them away from a power strip? Are they much fun when you don’t have a laptop around to handle their robot brains? You can’t, like, go bowling with someone made out of reflected light.”

“I’m a celebrity, Dazzle. I can’t do that anyway.” She looked hurt behind her projected mask of quiet cat-lady serenity. Still got it, Dazzle thought, though she was old enough now to feel a little bit disgusted with herself. There was a difference between her current vices of getting smashed and picking fights and…whatever this was. It was hard not to give in to the old habits of raging against any machine you saw, even if it was your own life support.

Prisma leaned back in her chair, making the cheap plastic creak. “Should I even bother being here?” She looked down at the sheaf of paperwork then back up at Dazzle. “If you don’t want us to be having this conversation, I can pack up. I don’t have to waste your day. Derek says he’s been taking good care of you and the numbers agree, so it’s not like Freakshow’s future relies on us doing everything face to face. You’ll be fine without me.”

Dazzle growled. Maybe it was the headache or maybe she still wanted to pick up last night’s brawl with anyone nearby, but someone being reasonable was the most infuriating thing in the world to her at that moment, and it was awfully hard not to give in to those old, bad urges. “Who are you to say who’ll be fine and who won’t be?” she spat. “You show up all ‘dressed down,’ like you’re just one of the girrrls, and you’re still wearing an outfit that costs more than half my wardrobe put together. You see the kind of rathole we live in and you say that this…that some version of this can be ‘fine.’ What the fuck, Prisma. Who are you to say that? You’re the least qualified of anyone!”

“What?”

“You sold out!”

There was that tired look again, the one Prisma had worn that first night backstage. “That’s just something people say once you can actually take care of yourself,” she said, softly. That was all she had to say about that: Prisma gathered up her things, paperclipped Dazzle’s duplicate copies together, and saw herself out.

The sixth time they met was at the press event officially announcing that Supernova Music Group was restructuring how its subsidiary labels worked in regards to creative control, and for most of it they’d been actively avoiding one another. One of the Dream Girls (the purple one whose name was Ezme or Etna or something with an E) gave a little speech, then Sable (whose Kiwi accent was always a crowd-pleaser) talked about how grateful they were for the opportunity and how they’d continue to create the same Gnash Ass sound their fans knew so well, and at some point during the mingling Dazzle and Prisma ended up by the same weird art installation.

“Hi,” said Prisma. Her making the first move meant something; Dazzle had tried calling her a few times since their argument and every attempt had gone to voicemail.

“Hi.”

“How’s your eye doing?”

“It’s good. Hurts if I push on it, but I can wear my full face no problem.” What had once been a furious shiner was now little more than a bit of color around the socket. The fierce red and green over white makeup had gone on over worse, sure, especially back when they’d had to play even worse bars and Dazzle had needed to get between her girls and the crowd a time or two, but it was nice being able to paint up without thinking about anything other than getting her war-look right.

Prisma smiled. “I’m glad to hear that. I was worried about you.”

“Yeah, you said as much.”

“I meant it.”

Dazzle fiddled with one of her bracelets. Sometimes people took pictures of them together, but that was to be expected at one of these things, wasn’t it? She didn’t force a smile but didn’t do anything to make herself look more interesting, either. Just two musicians talking, nothing to see, take your pictures for your websites, move along. Nobody needed to know that they’d had a fight, or something very like a fight, and were now having to dance around each other like ex-girlfriends as they figured out what that meant for them. Assuming there was a “them” in the first place, which was silly to think about. They hadn’t even fucked each other!

Of course, for all that Inner Dickhead Dazzle could talk a long streak about being tough and independent, she was lousy at dealing with other people, so Nice Dazzle had to take the reins. “I’m sorry for saying you sold out,” she said once the latest tide of photojournalists had passed. “I mean, I’m not going to say you didn’t at all, ’cause Jesus, you have your own junior lunchboxes and shit, but I didn’t have to do it the way I did.” This was hard and it sucked. No wonder she’d never gotten in the habit of apologizing to anyone.

“Thank you,” said Prisma. She didn’t apologize for leaving, but then again that wasn’t something she should have to apologize for. What she did say was, “I’m glad you came.”

“It’s a PR thing. I kind of had to.”

“Still.” They were interrupted again by someone who was very interested in what they both had to say about a topic so boring Dazzle forgot what it had been as soon as they were left alone again. It might’ve been something about Derek’s management chops, but as Dazzle had promised herself not to be a complete asshole until she got back to her place, she couldn’t’ve said anything fun, anyway.

It was hard to have any sort of intimate conversation with cameras in every corner, so they talked about more general things, like what other Supernova labels would benefit from the deal. Everyone was on their best behavior. Ending a night with so much free champagne without Moxie having broken any windows was the sort of thing that would’ve been a punchline a year ago. Dazzle shifted in her spike-heeled boots; Gnash Ass was back to being the same gaggle of dirty, nasty assholes it had always been, but had she sold out, too? At least it beat sleeping in bus stations.

Something came to her somewhere around the third canned “look out, world!” soundbite she’d given that night, and that something was that she’d left an awful lot of voicemails.

“Hey, uh, sorry about all the messages I left on your phone,” she said.

Prisma did that thing where her eyes glittered, which Dazzle hadn’t realized was a thing people could actually do until meeting her. “All of them?” The corners of her mouth turned up like that Christmas Grinch cartoon Dazzle watched when she was a kid.

“What do you mean, ‘all of them?’ Did I ask you to prom in the four hundred and sixth or some shit?”

“It was the seventeenth one, I think you were drunk again, and if you’re free this Saturday I could probably clear my schedule.”

Dazzle couldn’t honestly say if Prisma was bluffing or not, as she’d left a lot of messages and drunk a lot of cheap booze in the days since she’d chased Prisma out of Chez Freakshow. She wondered if saying yes meant getting the Technicolor nightmare version of Prisma or if it was signing up for the one that looked like she had long years of experience with fingerpaints. Then again, did it really matter when they were both the same person?

“Yeah,” said Dazzle. “Yeah, I think I might have time. You like movies? We can go Dutch.”

“I like movies,” said Prisma. Her grin widened, somehow. “It’s a date.”

They were interrupted by some no-name dickhead blogger making Thunder cry, which meant Dazzle needed to rush to the rescue with a tongue full of venom and the threat, if not the reality, of being willing to give him a fat lip, but even the animal joy of putting the fear of death into a trust fund baby couldn’t compare to the warm, happy glow of someone cute asking her out.

The movie was shitty so they cut out early to get some cheap satay from a street stall instead instead. Prisma had dressed down again, this time going with the brain-itching concept of dressing as a Prisma fan, so combined with how Dazzle barely even looked like Dazzle herself without the stage paint nobody paid them much attention as they walked along the riverside. Dazzle let Prisma do most of the talking, since Prisma seemed to know more of what she was talking about when it came to criticism more complicated than hating the film through increasingly creative insults.

“Hope I’m not boring you,” said Prisma as they rounded a corner through a flock of browsing ducks.

Dazzle stopped picking her teeth with one of her satay skewers. “You’re fine,” she said. “I just can’t think of much to say that you’re not saying better.” That, and even when Prisma wasn’t needing to be outrageous enough to reach the cheap seats, her force of personality was like a wrecking ball. It would’ve been exhausting if Dazzle hadn’t been interested in getting into her rhinestone-adorned pants.

Prisma scoffed. “It’s only because I read a lot as a kid. A lot of good critique is just a matter of finding the right place to look to learn how to say what you want.”

“Yeah, well, you say that, but I still don’t have a fucking clue what a travelling matte is.”

“Most people don’t!”

“And most people don’t get dates with celebrities, either.” She shoved her hands in her pockets and allowed herself a bit of a sulk. “Hate to say it but I’m kinda star-struck.”

Prisma smiled behind her hand. “You’re star-struck? I first heard your stuff when a mix list I was listening to accidentally autoplayed someone’s camera footage of one of your Busting Cages sets. I had to hear more. I’m kind of a fan.”

Dazzle stopped, still up to her calves in uncaring waterfowl, then leaned back and brayed with laughter intense enough to scatter the ducks and attract worried glances from some of the other parkgoers. “You can’t be serious,” she said between panting wheezes. “You’re trying to tell me that the same woman who writes entire albums full of slush-pop crap like ‘Kiss Me in the Milky Way’ knows all the words to ‘Romeo’s Trash and Juliet’s Missing?'”

“Trick question, the song’s actually called ‘Romeo’s Trash and Juliet’s Wasted,’” said Prisma, which just made Dazzle laugh harder.

It was a special kind of magic hearing someone who did a lot of PSAs about drinking milk and being kind to animals singing Freakshow. Some of the lyrics had been from when Dazzle was having more of a problem with hard-partying and others were straight from the angry maw of a nasty breakup; even those that had gotten penned for reasons other than purging demons were not meant to be delivered in a sweet voice that would’ve sounded more suited to asking the boys and girls at home if they knew where the animated cat was hiding on the screen. It was a shame the others weren’t there to hear it; Sable in particular would’ve just about died.

While Prisma knew entirely too much about other people’s music, Dazzle usually only heard Dream Girls stuff when it was playing from other people’s devices (or on commercials, or while glowering in the cheapest seats while waiting for backstage access to open up), so she couldn’t exactly return the favor. Instead she let Prisma gush about music theory—or something, it was honestly a bit hard for her to follow—as the leaves crunched beneath their feet. As dates went she’d been on much worse.

“So I heard you’re working on a new album,” said Prisma as they relaxed on one of the benches on the park bridge. That wasn’t public knowledge yet, but between Derek being Derek and Prisma being Prisma it didn’t really surprise Dazzle in the least. She shrugged. A few hooks and some experimental practice sections did not an album make, and while there were some good lyrics in the works they just weren’t polished enough, or angry enough, to be worth so much as a B-side.

“Got anything you can share yet?” Prisma continued.

“Not really. We’ve done some shows, but up until recently it’s been tough doing new stuff. Legal shit always punches my creativity in the tit.”

Prisma smirked, which made the little sparkle-encrusted ring in her nose catch the light rather fetchingly. “Okay, so I can’t milk the fangirl angle anymore. What else is lying around that’s a good excuse for me to get you somewhere more private?”

“You’re cute and I want to get laid. That good enough for you?”

Leaning in and kissing someone on the mouth with cotton-candy-flavored lipstick was not strictly a yes, but it was probably close enough to count.

“You’ve cleaned since the last time I was here,” said Prisma as she stepped over a crate that someone was trying to arrange plates in. It was true: Casa de Freakshow now had more visible floor than it had in years.

Dazzle grunted. “I did jack shit. Daisy Maids, though, those ladies earned their paychecks.”

“Good to know. Want to show me how nice your bedroom looks?”

The answer was “nice enough,” though since Dazzle’s room had little in it aside from a mattress/box spring combo lying directly on the floor, some scavenged smaller furnishings, and a thick layer of posters papering the walls, that wasn’t saying much. At least it smelled clean and the laundry hadn’t built up too badly.

Prisma kicked off her shoes and folded herself up cross-legged on the bed. She patted the quilt next to her. They’d gotten the awful been-tested-recently questions out of the way on the way over, which was not exactly the sexiest thing Dazzle had ever done with a cute fan in a taxi, and while Dazzle could be pretty happy in just about any role when she’d been this long without some company it was a relief to hear that Prisma was in the mood for getting fingered and eating someone out. Stereotypes be damned, Dazzle always did like playing the more dominant roles when her partner was good and femmy. The mattress made a muffled sprang sound as she sat on it, then a grank as she leaned in for another taste of Prisma’s lipstick.

Dazzle was not the kind of woman who chased other musicians. Musicians were notoriously creative people, which meant they were far more prone to being flighty, flakey, or fantastically fucked up than your average Jane on the street. Take your typical college student with a case of the morbs: on her own she might need to go to the bathroom to pop a lorazepam if her anxiety started shitting the bed in the middle of a date but be otherwise fine, but teach her to play the guitar and you’d find yourself longing for those halcyon days when all that was going on were the brain problems. Dazzle looked out for a household made up of four musicians and didn’t need any outside bullshit getting in the way of the special brand of cat-herding that was taking care of the people she loved.

That said, if she was going to pick a musician to break her rule with, someone who could endure making wholesome all-ages entertainment for so many years without getting bogged down in some kind of gross sex scandal seemed like a good way to do it.

Prisma still tasted a bit like peanuts and coconut in addition to the chemical sweetness of her lip color, which Dazzle decided was a combination she liked. Prisma was also a very happy kisser: where Dazzle was aggressive with lips, teeth, and tongue, Prisma was much gentler, though certainly no less enthusiastic. Dazzle’s tongue stud sometimes clicked against Prisma’s teeth, which made Prisma giggle, and someone giggling for reasons other than covering up being nervous wasn’t the sort of thing Dazzle tended to see in the women she slept with. She decided she liked that, too.

It was easy to get Prisma on her back, which made the mattress go prink several times as she found a comfortable spot, but Dazzle was not expecting what appeared to be a simple denim jacket with Lisa Frank patches to be Fort fucking Knox. If it didn’t mean wrecking a garment that Prisma had probably owned since she was fourteen and sewn together from the scraps of her presumably tragic backstory (which Dazzle had been avoiding asking about, having had enough of that from her own childhood to last a lifetime), Dazzle would’ve just found her switchblade and cut the damn thing off. Doing things the hard way was so annoying. She would never understand how people put up with this many buttons and ties in their everyday wear. The incidental kisses between fumbles helped keep things from getting too frustrating.

The final zipper parted, followed shortly by Prisma’s frilly blouse, and of course her bra was some too-precious number with little gems on it that threw little pinpricks of light all across the poster-plastered walls. The front clasp made it the easiest part of the ensemble to get open, which seemed wrong, somehow. At least Prisma’s tits were worth it.

Dazzle ran her thumb over one of Prisma’s already-pert nipples. She was a simple woman with simple pleasures, and a pair of really good boobs was both very simple and very pleasurable. Prisma hummed happily as Dazzle played with her; she seemed quite happy to lie back and enjoy the ride, which Dazzle was fine with. Dazzle stroked and squished, poked and tweaked. She’d had to settle for impatient people so often it was nice being able to take her time and make completely inappropriate motorboat noises.

Breasts were a lot of fun but they weren’t sex, which was what they’d both planned on from the beginning, so Dazzle removed her jewelry and set her studded cuff off to the side with their discarded shoes. Prisma was in an adorable little skirt that accented her hips perfectly and also made for very easy access; Dazzle had much less trouble hiking down her galaxy-patterned leggings and a pair of modest panties that had a matching set of rhinestones as Prisma’s bra had. Dazzle knelt between Prisma’s knees to get a better look at things and answer some burning questions about just how much dye Prisma went through. Having a woman half-dressed was probably one of Dazzle’s favorite parts of the whole fucking thing. She cracked her knuckles and started to go through the finger exercises Thunder was fond of before they played a set.

“Forgetting something?” asked Prisma. She booped Dazzle on the nose. Upon seeing what must’ve been a very confused look on Dazzle’s face, she continued. “Safety first, especially with those talons of yours.”

Dazzle grimaced. Her nails weren’t that long, but human fingernails had the knack to feel about six inches longer and an order of magnitude sharper when they were inside someone. “Shit, hold on….” She rummaged furiously through the thirdhand nightstand next to the mattress. The box of latex gloves was buried depressingly deep—had it really been that long? apparently so—but they were still fresh, and so was the little bottle of Astroglide, which was what mattered.

Warming up the layer of lube on her fingers was one of those things Dazzle had learned to do the hard way. The way things looked it probably wasn’t necessary, but if you had enough sex you started to ignore your libido’s attempt to find shortcuts everywhere and take the thirty seconds needed to not ram ice-cold digits up someone’s pussy. She traced Prisma’s outer lips and toyed with her clit before easing her pinky finger inside. Prisma hissed in approval, hands tense against the sheets and her breath coming faster. Dazzle liked the sound of that.

She withdrew her pinky and replaced it with her pointer finger, which was well-received, and after a little exploratory wiggling added her middle finger to that; the way Prisma felt, Dazzle probably could’ve gone straight to her whole hand, but that might’ve given the wrong impression. She brushed her thumb against Prisma’s clit. The Internet was not shy about how much it wanted to do this exact thing, sometimes in words which made even Dazzle pause. Sucks to be you, Internet, she thought to herself as she rotated her hand into a new and exciting position. If an asshole like me can figure it out, the rest of you have no excuse.

It was a bit like picking a lock. Sometimes Dazzle would edge a little to the left or right, sometimes she would twist her wrist, and sometimes she just thrust in and out while she used the rest of her hand to toy with Prisma’s vulva; if you could hotwire a car, there was no reason you couldn’t at least keep a woman’s interest by putting your hand down her pants. It was also a lot easier to avoid feeling star-struck when you were inside somebody up to the wrist, but that probably applied to just about anyone.

With a final brush of her fingers Dazzle shoved Prisma over the edge. Prisma gasped and writhed, murmuring words of thanks so soft they were barely words at all. She was very pretty when she came. Dazzle in particular appreciated the way every little tremble of Prisma’s went all the way down her body; to think she’d never given fucking a fat girl much thought before. That was definitely going to change. She teased out a final little squawk of pleasure before she sat back up and pulled the glove inside-out as she removed it. By some miracle there was actually enough room in the trash can for it.

Jeans were an excellent invention but got in the way of cunnilingus, which meant they had to go. Dazzle stripped from the waist down until she was just in her fishnet knee-highs, her other clothes shoved gracefully off the side of the bed. She then placed her hands against the wall and one knee on either side of Prisma’s head. Dazzle looked down at Prisma, who looked up eagerly; the way the muscles on the sides of Prisma’s neck strained a little revealed how she was fighting the urge to rise up to meet Dazzle halfway. Enthusiasm was pretty fucking sexy.

Dazzle grinned like a wolf. “Time to smudge that pretty lipstick,” she said, then lowered herself down.

And smudge it she did; if Prisma had been any more enthusiastic with eating Dazzle out her head would’ve disappeared. Dazzle came very quickly the first time and wrenched her hips away from Prisma’s friendly tongue, which got a sulky little whine that went right to the base of Dazzle’s spine where her personal hot-o-meter was stored, but as soon as her breath returned she lowered herself back in place for a second (and third, and after a little rest fourth) go-around. Dazzle would’ve gone longer but her poor sex-starved thigh muscles were starting to give, so she rose off of Prisma and settled in next to her. Prisma kissed her cheek and left a little print of ruined makeup and juice. A shower was probably in order later.

They lay together, sticky and only partially dressed, and made small talk. Sometimes Dazzle pawed at Prisma’s tits and sometimes they kissed. It felt good. It would have fit perfectly on a Hallmark card, in fact, had it not been for all the lesbian sex.

The bad part about snuggling with someone in post-coital bliss was it was a great chance to see just how cluttered the room was, and Dazzle noticed a certain embarrassing something she thought she’d put away beforehand. Now that there wasn’t a layer of junk everywhere it was a lot easier to spot things that had gotten left in awkward places. She kicked her jacket off the bed in an attempt to cover it up; unfortunately, this just made Prisma all the more aware that there was something to hide, and she sat up to get a better look.

“Wait a second. I could’ve sworn that was Dream Me to the Moon.” Prisma nudged the jacket out of the way with her foot, revealing a candy-colored CD case with a very familiar face on the cover. She squeaked in delight. “Oh, gosh, it is! You actually own my new album! That’s amazing!”

Dazzle rolled her eyes. “I might’ve picked it up out of curiosity. Since you’re a fan and all.”

Prisma practically glowed. “So what did you think of it?” she asked, wiggling her shoulders eagerly.

“Ugh,” said Dazzle with a theatrical grimace. “Our songs are better.”

“You are impossible!” laughed Prisma. She snuggled up against Dazzle’s chest and rested her cheek against a tattoo that didn’t mean anything anymore. “I had fun, though. I like you, Dazzle. I think we’ve got that thing, what’s it called. That thing where two people together are much more than the sum of their parts.”

“Chemistry?”

“Something like that.” She wrapped her arms around Dazzle’s waist. “So when do we announce the first collab album?”

It was the worst idea Dazzle had ever heard. “When hell fucking freezes over!”

“I’ll have Derek put that in the press release,” said Prisma. Dazzle put her forearm over her eyes and groaned. Someday they’d invent celebrities that didn’t think of everything in terms of publicity and PR and which media outlets to contact first. Until then, she’d make do with Prisma, and that was terrible, and wonderful, and maybe even going to result in a second date.

There were worse ways to make it in the music biz.


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