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Six Times One of the Stratford Sisters Got Kissed, Got Wise, or Got Married

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1.

"You should have called me the second after it happened! You shouldn't have waited a week to tell me you kissed some other girl and her squishy, flat stomach in a jacuzzi!" She can hear her voice going shrill and crazy-sounding, but she can't stop it, can't do anything but stare at the freeze-frame of Joey's totally hot mouth on this skank's trampy little boyfriend-stealing face.

"But I am! That's why I'm calling you now!" And, okay, usually she loves how Joey is so honest and straightforward and sweet and uncomplicated, how he sees everything around him as wonderful and nice and full of possibilities, and how he makes her feel wonderful and nice and full of possibilities, and how he always makes her feel like everything is going to be okay, but right now Joey freaking Donner is dumb as rocks and she's so completely over it.

"Joey, the show is on a week-long delay!"

"I know, babe, I thought of that - that's why I'm calling you now, because you just saw it now."

"That doesn't even make sense," she screams into her phone, and Cameron tries to use Dawn as a human shield, which is just…why?

"No, see, I thought about it, and I wanted to tell you what happened right after you saw it, so you'd understand it wasn't what it looked like."

"If you told me before I saw it, then I'd already know it wasn't what it looked like." The crystals on her rings and digging sharp little welts into her palms, she's squeezing her fists so tight.

"But I…oh. I guess that makes sense." He sounds so disappointed with himself that for a second she forgets that she wants to strangle him with his own football uniform, and she just wants to tell him that it'll be okay and he's going to be a great model, the best, because he's a good person and he has a dream book and she loves him because no one as amazing and kind and loyal as Joey should ever feel like they let themselves down. But then she looks at the tv screen again, and she feels like she's sitting on her stairs again while half the school tears apart her house, like everything is ruined and horrible and it just won't end so she can curl up in a ball and die. Except this time Joey is in New York, kissing Stupidface Co'lliviette and her dumb, squishy baby-stomach, and no one here is to fix everything and make her smile.

"Fievel?" He asks hesitantly.

"Joey, I just need to be mad for a while, alright? Do you get that?"

"Will…being mad help make you happy again…?"

"I don't know. I hope so. Maybe."

"Okay, Fivehead. Whatever you need, I'm here for you."

"Bye, Joey," she whispers, and clicks her phone off. For one super-freaky second, she and her dad start screaming in exactly the same pitch, and then a naked Patrick Verona is being thrown down their stairs and out onto the front porch, his boots sailing after him one after the other, the second one bouncing off his head.

"Can I at least get my pants?" Patrick yells through the door. Her dad's only response is to start running at the door holding a can of pepper spray, screaming like he's in Braveheart. Patrick takes off running.

"This is the best day of my life," Michael breathes, ecstatic, and she heaves a throw pillow at his face.




"Do we hate Joey?" Kat asks into her shoulder, which is covered her favorite gross hoodie from Ohio, the one she only wears when in complete and total I Give Up situations, along with her Broken Dreams pajama pants and her Failure slippers.

"We hate Joey," she sobs into Captain Snuffles's ear, and Kat just holds her tighter. (Not that Kat has anywhere else to be. Kat is grounded until she dies.)

"I called Co'lliviette a skank," she snuffles bleakly. "That's bad, right? I shouldn't call other girls skanks or sluts or anything?" She only really remembers Kat's feminist stuff when it overlaps with Mean Girls.

"No," Kat sighs, brushing her messed-up hair back from her face. "But given that you were under extreme emotional duress, I think we can make an exception for her."

A text from Chastity buzzes on her phone:

don't worry, i've already organized an online smear campaign, check fb, luv ya! air hugs xx C

"I just - how could he kiss her? How could he kiss her? Her name is Co'lliviette!"

"I don't know, baby," Kat replies, sighing again, and giving Bianca a kiss on her temple, which is nasty and sweaty from crying like a loser for the past eighteen hours.

"Boys suck," she mumbles to Captain Snuffles again. The Captain just looks solemn and fluffy, a wise gleam in his black bead eyes, the smartest bear in the world. The Captain would never kiss a gross model in a hot tub on tv.

"Not all of them," Kat murmurs, and Bianca rolls her eyes at Captain Snuffles, because Kat's just lovestoned, like Justin Timberlake talked about. "And for what it's worth, I think Joey's one of the not-all-of-them's."

Bianca doesn't say anything, just checks her phone again to find out what Chastity's latest plan of attack and social ruin is.




2.

Bianca shows up for the Spring Is Sprung Seasonal Talent Show because Chastity makes her because Chastity is performing and Chastity demands homage like the Roman emperors she still needs to finish a report on for History class but has been too miserable work on due to sobbing her face off every half hour for the past week since Joey got back from The Biggest Poser. (He got second place, which is ridiculous, Joey's a better model than Jean-Claude could ever hope to be in a hundred million years, even if she's can't make herself stop being mad at him no matter how hard she tries.)

She can't find Dawn or Cameron in the auditorium, so she gets stuck sitting next to some sweaty football players, which is the cherry on top of a really, really sucky cake. She's trying to make herself as small as possible to avoid their Axe stink when the lights go down and Joey walk onstage in a pair of Mickey Mouse ears.

He steps into the spotlight and looks around the room until he finds her, and smiles like a big, handsome dork, and starts into "Somewhere Out There." Dawn steps out from behind the curtain and joins in on the harmony and Cameron and Kat comes in after that and holy shit Chastity, too. Even Patrick Verona is onstage. He's completely silent, arms crossed, and the mouse ears he's wearing somehow only make him a million times scarier. Every time someone looks like they are maybe about to start laughing or throw stuff, Patrick makes his serial killer face at them and they shrivel up into their seats on the spot, but Bianca barely notices because this is for her, all of it is, all of them. Chastity steals the high note on the finale, of course, but she's Chastity and that's her right and she still showed up after everything because best friends are best friends, even when you kind of hate each other most of the time.

When they finish the last note about how they'll all be together out there where dreams come true, Bianca elbows her way past the Axe-gorillas and runs onstage (so glad she wore flats today) and sort of attacks Joey with her face and the auditorium goes crazy behind them while Principal Hollands yells for order.

"This is, like, way better than winning The Biggest Poser," Joey says before kissing her again, and yeah, it totally is.




Two weeks later Patrick has completed peace negotiations with Daddy, and shows up at their house after school looking all tall, dark, and sexually active. Her dad smiles way too cheerfully when he ushers him inside. It's pretty much the creepiest thing she's ever seen.

Patrick drops his backpack by the door and plants himself on the couch looking like he's about to get waterboarded.

"Let's do this," he grunts, his jaw doing a totally gross but also kind of hot manly twitching thing.

Dad just whistles cheerfully and pulls up his slideshow.

"I had a friend send this to me just for the occasion - triplets."

After that Bianca figures he's probably suffered enough, so she doesn't say anything when she catches them having sex in the yearbook staff dark room.




3.

Kat gets into Brown because of course she does. Blank, with his lame accent, makes a concession speech to her at lunch on their last day of high school. Patrick, to everyone's shock, including his own, actually manages to get into a non-awful state school the next town over from Kat, and doesn't even get arrested before graduation, despite the incident with the stolen mascot and the principal's car. Kat majors in Political Science (since she can't major in Know-It-All Hippie Studies) and Patrick, weirdly, majors in Art. His pieces are all weird and metal and apparently involve a lot of welding. Bianca's not really into them, but apparently a lot of local art galleries are, because the world is apparently just as weird and messed-up as Kat's always claimed it is.

"They're bullshit!" Kat shouts, indignant. "He told me that he just likes to make random things and then tell people that they mean something he makes up on the fly." She's home for spring break, filling out lots of applications for study abroad programs - for realsies this time, she claims.

"Well, how do you know that's not what all the weird artists you like do?"

Two hours of deep spiritual crisis later, Kat is tossing back homemade jell-o shots and muttering darkly about Jackson Polluck, a broken shell of a liberal.




Kat goes to Brazil for a whole year for her study abroad, which is ridiculous, because she's not even going to the parts of Brazil that have phones and because she's going the same year that Bianca starts college at UCLA and her big sister is on another continent and it's all just big and scary and strange.

There's a village near the tribe Kat's living with where she can get mail and phone calls by satellite phone - but only in case of emergency - so Bianca sends her super-long letters about how freaked out she is by dorm living and shower etiquette on her Hello Kitty stationary. Patrick keeps sexting her in the Amazon, except since of course cell phones and computers and stuff don't work down there, he has to send them by mail, so Kat keeps getting postcards that just say I WANT U ON TOP spelled out in sharpie, although Bianca is under no circumstances to tell that to anyone. She tells Joey, obviously, and Dawn and Chastity, because duh.

Kat, in return, sends her native jewelry and essential oils from trees with weird names, and she totally gets why Kat's a weirdo for all this green stuff, because it's awesome feeling so morally superior to everyone all the time when she tells them it's from tribesmen her sister is helping in the rainforest, like that amazing glow that comes off you when you're on a juice fast and everyone knows it, admiring your self-control and sacrifice for the sake of clearer skin and an ideal hip-to-waist ratio.

Bianca is Skyping with Joey and rubbing some pretty-smelling stuff from Kat onto her skin because it makes an amazing moisturizer when all of a sudden she screams and Joey jumps up in a karate pose in the chat window, ready to defend her all the way from San Francisco.

"Joey!" she shrieks, ecstatic. "I totally know how we're going to start my makeup line!"




"It's not a big deal," Kat's voice crackles over the satellite phone, "I don't even care." It's so bored and offhand that Bianca knows she's devastated and she is so going to murder Patrick Verona dead for doing this to her sister again, that douchebag.

"He's a moron, Kat."

There's a long minute of just staticy sounding noise and then Kat says, "I've gotta go, Bianca, tell Dad I love him and I'm still not pregnant" super-fast and then hangs up.




4.

Kat comes back from South America with dreadlocks and a tattoo. Dad, predictably, loses his mind, but Kat comes with an entire power point about its spiritual significance and how it enables her to fight the patriarchy. In any case, the loopy tribal symbol eventually washes off when Joey accidentally douses everyone with soapy water while trying to wash the cars. But thanks to a miscommunication issue involving the shower curtain, Bianca later discovers this is all actually a Chastity-level sneaky feint to distract Dad from ever finding out about the for real tattoo on her butt - it says "K+P" encased in an imprecise heart, meant to look like it was carved into a tree, except the tree is Kat's butt and she has blackmail material forever and it's amazing.

She also comes back with a new boyfriend she met while protesting...somewhere, about something. She shows Bianca a picture of him on her phone, and he's cute in a flannel-y sort of way.

"He's my intellectual equal, he respects me as a woman and as a human being, and he's vegan. I'm so bored I could cry. When he kisses me, I think about hummus recipes. I haven't had an orgasm in three months."

"Wow, TMI much?" Bianca's putting garnish on some deviled eggs and so doesn't need to have her sister's sex life in the back of her head while anywhere near food. They're throwing a party for the first batch of her mini-line of beauty products, featuring all natural ingredients produced in partnership with Kat's Brazilian tribespeople for reasonable rates and it's awesome. Her dad helped her with the business loan and Kat's friend Mandella designed all the packaging, and they're only for sale online and in a few speciality shops in L.A., so it's going to be a long time before it's ready to sell to a conglomerate, but she's doing it, for real and she's never been this proud of herself for anything before.

"Look, I'm just - oh, my God," Kat squeaks, dropping the cheese plate into the sink. "Oh, my God. I - oh, my God. Just - tell him to go away." And then she's running up the stairs and out of sight. It all happens so fast that it takes a second before she sees Patrick Verona at the front door, holding a bouquet of carnations and looking stupid and unreliable and emotionally unavailable and stupid and she hates him.

She stalks over to the door, flings it open and throws a deviled egg right in his stupid face and shouts, "Go away!" so loud he jumps, which would be really funny under normal circumstances because Patrick is eight feet tall and Bianca needs a step-ladder to get things off the top shelf of her closet. But it’s not normal circumstances, because her big sister isn’t afraid of anything and she just ran away from this toolbag and it’s not funny at all.

"You broke - my sister's - heart!' she screams, enunciating each word with another deviled egg. "Get back - on your stupid - motorcycle - and go - away!"

He drives off, eyes wide and terrified, in a sea of egg yolk and paprika, like a little wuss. She spends the whole night up in Kat's room, arms wrapped around her sister, listening to the sounds of the party going on downstairs because they're sisters, and that's what sisters do.



5.

There's a Ken doll and a Fievel Mousekewitz figurine on top of their wedding cake (from Fievel Goes West, obviously) and their first dance is to "God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You," because if she's not actually going to be able to marry Justin Timberlake, he's at least going to be there in spirit.

Daddy's toast predictably devolves from memories of Bianca's first talent show (which is she won, duh) into detailing the various kinds of STDs men who cheat are likely to contract. Kat follows him up onstage, and for once looks pretty presentable in her blush pink bridesmaid dress, at least now that her hair’s grown out a little.

"Bianca, you're my sister. You're my only - you're my baby sister and I love you and I'm actually pretty sure you're maybe my best friend. You deserve to have someone who loves you as much as Joey and who's as perfect for you as Joey is. Joey, buddy, you're a great guy, and I'm happy to welcome you into the Stratford family. And if you ever hurt my sister, I'll kill you and make it look like an accident, using natural poisons I learned from the Tapirapé people of Brazil. Namaste."

Dad gives her a standing ovation, clapping wildly and cheering until Ms. Tharpe ("Darlene." Whatever, weirdness.) has to gently tug him back into his seat and hand him a fresh champagne glass.

After that it's all a warm, sparkly blur as Joey waltzes her around the room over and over and over, regardless of whether or not the song is actually a good song for waltzing. Everyone keeps tinkling their glasses for them to kiss, so by the end of the night she's had way more champagne than she thought they even had, in the world, and Joey's mouth is bright pink from her lip gloss getting all over him ("My face tastes awesome! Thanks, babe!"). Finally, she has to sneak off to the bathroom just to sit still for a minute, because yeah, girls' bathrooms totally have couches wherever you go because sometimes girls just need to sit down after their amazing, amazing weddings. After a few minutes, she touches up her lip gloss again and then pads back to the side of the dance floor, holding her shoes (glittery embellished cream slingbacks, so cute) in one hand. It's because she's not clicking around in her heels that Patrick Verona doesn't hear her coming when he sneaks up to Kat, uninvited and super not-ugly in a wrinkly white dress shirt and a vest. Well, that and the fact that she's sort of hiding behind a trellis.

"Whatever it is, not tonight, okay?" Kat says with a sigh. "This is my sister's night. I don't want me or anyone else to remember this as anything other than the night page fourteen of Bianca's dream book came true."

"Okay," Patrick says simply in his big, growly voice and they just sit together for a few minutes before he tucks a gardenia (nice choice, very classic) behind her ear, and slips back out of the staff entrance. Bianca hides for a few more minutes before creeping out from behind the trellis and sliding in next to Kat on the bench, her dress foofing out around her in a cloud of tulle. Kat is drinking champagne straight out of the bottle and looking sullen and wistful all at once.

The reception is almost completely over, the only people left on the dance floor are not-important cousins and a few randos that are probably plus ones that just got minused (weddings are like that, she's noticed) and Joey doing an enthusiastic kicking dance for his babushka. ("Howdy, devotcha!" Grammy Donner calls, waving). She rests her chin on Kat's shoulder and Kat passes her the champagne bottle.

"Was tonight everything you wanted it to be?" Her big sister finally asks, bumping her knee against Bianca's.

"It was." She can hear the awe in her own voice. "I can't believe it was actually perfect - it was perfect." Normally this is when she gets all giggly and has to bounce around for a bit while Kat rolls her eyes and pretends like she's such a huge grown-up. But right now, all she can see are people she loves drifting around to one of Mom's records and she wants to stick this whole moment in a snow globe so everything stays as perfect as it is right now and she can take it out and shake it back to life whenever she wants.

"You know I love you a whole lot, right?"

Kat makes a soft little smiling noise. "I love you, too, munchkin. A whole lot."

"I'm sorry Patrick's being stupid again."

"Doesn't matter," Kat mumbles. "I've got you, right?"

"Yeah," says Bianca emphatically and presses a brief, strawberry daiquiri-flavored smooch to her cheek, because she knows Kat hates the gushy stuff, except when she doesn't hate the gushy stuff. "You'll always have me."




6.

Kat goes back to Brazil after she graduates to campaign for the land rights of indigenous tribes, and Bianca stays in L.A. where she's set up a tiny little office with a legit assistant who does filing for her. It's so cool. Joey's career is finally starting to take off, so he's in London for Fashion Week when she gets the first postcard from Kat:

P IS HERE. HERE!!!! HOW/WHY????

I MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE THROWN A MACHETE AT HIS HEAD. I HATE HIM. HIS FACE IS SO NICE. I AM RLY DRUNK. FREAKING VERONAS, AM I RIGHT?

XO,
K

"Not to be mean, or anything," Chastity muses over a glass of wine, fingers typing at high speed on her phone, "but your sister's kind of a freak."

"No arguments here," Bianca groans, because she and Patrick need to just get married or never speak to each other again because this is way too much drama to handle two weeks before her new skincare line goes live. She's a little afraid to have put the idea of machetes in Chastity's head, though, because while she can't actually confirm or deny her theory for paper trail reasons, she's pretty sure Chastity is secretly running the CIA. It seems likely, given that she keeps overhearing bits of conversation on her hot pink iPhone like, "What do you mean the target wasn't illuminated?" and "General, you're really making me start to question if you're really Black Ops material.” Bianca shudders, because pity the fool that doesn't make Chastity's state-sanctioned cheer squad. Either that or she's staging some sort of political coup. Either way, Bianca googles "plausible deniability" and decides she's for sure better off not knowing.




The next postcard comes a week after Joey gets back and she gets her first offer from Be Well Cosmetics:

PLEASE DISREGARD LAST POSTCARD.
LOVE
K + P

"They are totally getting married," Joey mumbles sleepily into her shoulder when they're curled up for bed and she's laughing at the postcard again because of freaking course.

"Totally."