Wheeee. Took me long enough.
Gemma woke with a pounding headache. It felt like somebody was setting off fireworks inside her skull to the rhythm of her heartbeat, and when she tried to sit up she suddenly felt an irrepressible surge of bile forcing its way up her throat. Rolling to the side, she hurled all over the floor. Somebody's hands rubbed her back soothingly, raked through her greasy hair, wiped a damp rag across her chin after each heave. The person was whispering, but Gemma's head hurt too much to make the sounds connect into words.
It seemed like forever before the dry-heaves ceased and delicate hands presented her with a glass of water and two little white pills.
At the sight of the pills, Gemma nearly hurled again. She shook her headwind pushed weakly at the hand holding the pills.
"Take them." the kind voice insisted. "They make the hangover more bearable."
"Hangover?" Gemma croaked. "I don't drink. Not old enough."
A few chuckles. More than the girl in front of her, to be sure. But only the soft, kind voice spoke. "Take the pills, then we'll explain."
Gemma shook her head. She'd sworn off pills years ago. Never again, she'd promised herself. "Never ever." she croaked.
"Take the pills, or I might force you to take them." the voice said sternly.
Balking at the threat of force, Gemma accepted the pills and washed them down with the glass of water, grimacing as she did.
Slowly unfolding into a kneeling position, she came almost nose-to-nose with a healthily tanned face and warm brown eyes. Long brown hair hung to the floor, as the girl was kneeling and leaning forward slightly. "Who are you? Where am I? Why the hell was I drunk in the first place?
The girl smiled a bit. "I'm Panda. You're in your new 'dorm', and you went drinking with Jaques."
She puts air quotes around the word dorm, and Gemma glances around. Aside from berself and the tan girl, there are four other girls in the room. Three pairs of blue eyes watch the new arrival with varying amounts, and Gemma runs her hands over her arms to dispel the goosebumps raising there.
Being the centre of attention has never been her thing, especially when it's a group of strangers scrutinising her. "Uh, hi?" she waves uncertainly.
There's a bright smile from the room's other blond. "Hi! Where'd he pick you up?"
Gemma racks her brain, but can't remember the name of the town. It was so small, and her head is so fuzzy. But she does remember... "The Thirsty Coyote. He took me there."
His face pops into Gemma's head, and she clenches her fists. "That fuckass!" Gemma tries to leap from the bed she apparently slept in, but the tan girl holds her down. "Let me go! I'm gonna find him and kick him in the nuts!"
"No, you're not." the darker girl's voice is even, and her eyes bore into Gemma's until she stops fighting. "Do you know why?"
Gemma snorts. "What, is the door locked or something?"
"Not just that. Do unto others..."
"As you wish others do unto you." the rest of the girls in the room chorus, and Gemma catches a few eye rolls.
"Well does that mean I can knock the bastard out and kidnap him?" Gemma snapped back, crossing her arms. The pills had definitely made her feel better. Her head was no longer pounding as badly and she felt like she could move without hurling.
"Good luck. Door's locked." one of the brunettes on the other side of the room answers off-handedly. The one with pigtails.
"You haven't told us your name yet." the blonde from earlier says with a smile.
Gemma swallows anxiously, wetting her tongue and throat. "I'm Gemma. Who are you guys?"
"I'm Panda." says the tan girl again.
"Cyro." the blonde chirps happily.
"Cure." the girl with pigtails says with a small smile, blue eyes shining.
"Tweaksy." volunteers a girl with long curly brown hair and glasses.
"And I'm Little! Hihi!" smiles the smallest one in the room, pushing her glasses up to sit properly on the bridge of her nose.
Gemma raises her eyebrows. "Weird names." she mutters, and Panda laughs.
"More like nicknames. But whatever."
Gemma looks around the room, then reaches for where her iPod is holstered on her right hip. Her hand meets empty air. Instantly her heart beats faster. That device has her drafts, her ideas, her notes, her everything! "My iPod!" she blurts, panicking slightly.
Tweaksy sighs. "Jaques is probably having his friend crack the password as we speak. You'll get it back soon enough."
Gemma frowns, brows drawing together over her pale hazel eyes. "Why would he do that?"
Cyro holds up her own iPod. "So he can lock the Internet. Your phone is gone too."
Gemma's hand goes to her back pocket, only to find there isn't one. She is no longer wearing jeans, but a pair of shorts. Her own shorts, thankfully, but they are her summer pyjama booty shorts. The dark blue pair with snowflakes.
She feels a blush begin to rise on her cheeks as she realises that she's wearing just the booty shirts and her sole crop-top. The one with a set of little devil wings painted on the back, and Bad Girl written across the chest in red.
Tweaksy laughs and Gemma ducks her head, grabbing a blanket and wrapping it around herself. "Self-conscious?"
Gemma nods once, tucking her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them, eyes squeezed shut. "I just wanna go home. I wanna go home and see my mom and dad and sister and brothers."
Panda is the first one to wrap her arms around the new girl. Then there's a sound of shifting and bare feet on hardwood floor, and Gemma is the focal point of a group hug. "I wanna go home too."
"I miss my mom and dad."
"I don't want to be here either."
"I want to see my friends again."
"I wanna get out of here."
Gemma can't tell who's saying what, but her arms unwrap from around her knees and she hugs back, leaning into their support. She hadn't cried since the last time she fell off her bike, over a month ago, but now her breath hitches in her throat and her cheeks are wet. It's not long before she cries herself to sleep, something she hasn't done in the past thirteen years, and when she wakes up it is lunchtime.
The meal is small and unremarkable, but she eats it without complaint. Halfway through her sandwich, however, the door opens and everyone freezes. Jaques stands there with one hand on the shoulder of a blonde girl with glasses. Gemma swallows nervously, fingers piercing the bread of her sandwich. There's the answer to the extra plate on their lunch tray...
"Hm. Flashy, go on. I know you must be tired. Sleep. I'll bring Little with me to the movie."
Gemma watches as the blonde shuffles over to an empty bed and flops down, seeming to fall asleep instantaneously. Little, on the other hand, gets up and walks to the door. Jaques caresses her cheek, smiles sweetly, and Gemma bristles a bit. She barely knows these girls, but she thinks she knows them enough to feel indignant on their behalf.
Then Jaques looks right at her, and the indignant bubble in her chest bursts. "Gemma, darling. Sleep well tonight
. I would hate to see you unhappy."
Then he's gone, Little with him, and the blonde called Flashy is sitting bolt upright. Cyro hands her the untouched sandwich, and Gemma watches as the other girls fuss over their friend.
Tweaksy looks up, and her dark eyes meet Gemma's. "Get over here, goof. Don't you wanna meet Flashy?"
Cautiously, Gemma slips off the bed. Still clutching the blanket around her shoulders like a cloak, she pads over to the eating girl. Flashy indeed, her camisole is a bright rainbow and the knee-length skirt she wears is a glittery silver fabric which shimmers in the light.
She looks up when the sandwich is all gone, and Gemma notices her eyes look a bit purple in the room's fluorescent light. In the centre of her forehead, just at the point where her hair parts, the girl has a curled lock which hangs down into her face.
"Heyo." Gemma says with a nervous half-smile.
Flashy looks her up and down, hovering on her face, then smiles a little. "Hi to you too. I take it you're Gemma?"
Gemma nods. "Yeah."
Everyone else is now sitting on Flashy's bed, and Cure pats an open spot. Gemma perches on the foot of the bed uncertainly, noting as she does how the others have paired up.
She reaches for her iPod to record the sets, but her hand falls to the sheets when she remembers that it's gone.
Flashy sits alone at the head of the bed, with the two of the others on either side and Gemma at the foot. Cure and Panda lean against each other comfortably, while Cyro and Tweaksy do the same on the other side of the bed. Flashy looks a little bit lonely, but Gemma makes no move to sit next to her.
They chat idly for the rest of the day, and Gemma comes to know their stories, as well as tell her own in full.
It's sometime after dinner that the first tap sounds on the window. Every few seconds, a sharp rap on the high glass pane. It happens eight times. Gemma, who was beginning to doze, startles awake. The other five girls are already moving around, piling blankets and pillows under the window and speaking in hushed voices. They sound excited.
A sixth pillow and blanket are added to the pile, from the bed of the absent Little, and Gemma stands. Padding over to the pile, she adds her pillow and, after a moment, her blanket as well. Tweaksy and Cure smile at the new girl, and above them the window opens inward. A rope drops down, and Gemma gasps quietly as the first shadow blocks the wan moonlight. It slides down the rope and lands soundlessly in their pile of bedding.
The shadow detaches itself from the heap, and Gemma's eyes widen as it resolves itself into a human form. A muscular figure, broad-shouldered and with short hair. Light glints off their glasses, and as a lantern is lit Gemma sees dark stripes of face paint under the person's eyes. Intense, pale blue eyes.
"Who're you?" The person's voice is too high to be male, but the figure doesn't look female in the least.
"I'm Gemma." she responds automatically, still watching the figure as the figure is watching her. "Who are you?"
The figure's pale face is split by a sarcastic cheshire grin. "Call me Snake."
(by the way, Flashy, I'm sorry if you don't like the outfit. I needed a decent explanation for your nickname.)