Ruby loved late-night thunderstorms. She loved gathering blankets to make a tent, she loved running around in stocking feet as she rounded up her friends, she loved hunkering down with everyone behind a bowl of popcorn and a battered old kerosene lantern in the crowded shelter, she loved hearing the rain spray against the giant window in front of them. And she loved being smooshed up against Skullboy's side.
But most of all, she loved the thunder.
Everyone was chatting away under the improvised shelter, Misery talking about her various misfortunes involving rain, storms, lightning, or weather in general, and Iris enthusiastically recounting daring adventures she'd had in storms such as this one. Scaredy bat was nervously listing all of the terrible things that could befall them that night, until Doom Kitty wrapped herself around him and began to purr quietly, at which point he abruptly became fairly quiet. Poe preferred to stay in his birdhouse and channel his experience into poetry, and Boo Boo was unable to join them on such occasions on the account that his ectoplasmic structure was disrupted by the static electricity in the air. Skullboy tried to explain this to a confused Len, but eventually surrendered and let his brother and him attempt an a Capella rendition of “Rainbow in the Dark” which, thankfully, only lasted a few minutes.
Then, the thunder began.
A blue-white flash of light illuminated the wasteland surrounding the mansion for a fraction of a second, and just as suddenly left it once again in pitch darkness, the only sound the steady rain on the window.
“One,” Ruby counted just above a whisper. “Two, three, four, five, six, sev--”
A dark, contrabass rumble interrupted her counting. The storm proper was still a few miles away. Ruby noted this and the chatter in the tent began again.
“I got a great story,” Iris spoke up. “One time, Squig and I were flying over downtown Gloomsville on a night like tonight, you know, just to see a storm up close! Then suddenly we flew into a thunder cloud, and we almost got struck by lightning! And me and Squig were really surprised and we lost our balance and we started falling but then this weather blimp saw us and threw us a tether and--”
“Hang on a second,” Misery interjected. “'Weather blimp'?”
“Well, yeah. They keep the sky over Gloomsville clear,” defended Iris.
“I've never seen one.”
“Probably 'cos they work so fast and then move on to other towns. They can clear the sky in, like, thirty seconds flat!”
Misery blinked. “Only thirty?”
“Umm, yeah, why?” asked a confused Iris.
“Oh, no reason,” Misery answered distractedly. “It's just that you occasionally make things up.”
Another flash of light. “One, two, three four fiv--”. Rumble.
Iris snorted indignantly. “Like what? Name one story I've made up.”
Misery didn't even have to consider it. “The one about you getting a kiss from that boy at the county fair, for instance.”
“That actually happened though! I'm pretty sure that at some point we've all gotten a kiss from someone.”
An awkward silence filled the tent. Misery was the first to speak up. “I haven't." She was quiet, not entirely sure what to say. "I, umm, don't really like boys. They're just, kind of, obtuse. Present company excluded, of course.”
“What does 'obtuse' mean?” asked Len from the other end of the tent.
“It means, well, I'll tell you later,” responded Frank. “Anyway, I've only ever been kissed once, by this groupie on a tour. But it wasn't, you know, particularly pleasant.”
“Too bad for you, mon frère,” said Len. “I've gotten kissed like, a million times!”
“Mom doesn't count.” Momentarily discouraged, Len suddenly seemed to remember something and began to make a rebuttal. “Neither does Grandma.”
Yet another flash, brighter than the previous two, lit up the tent. “One, two, three, fo--” Instead of a rumble came a crackling noise, louder than before.
“I most certainly have never received a kiss, nor have I ever aspired to kiss someone else,” Scaredy Bat piped up. “I find the prospect of rejection to be most terrifying!” Doom Kitty looked at him askance for a moment, but then he added, “But, I would make an exception for the right girl.” Doom put her head back down and resumed purring contentedly.
“O......kay then,” said Iris, who had been staring at the two of them for a good while. She looked up from the pair to the only people left who hadn't put their two cents in. “What about you two?”
Skullboy's necrourgical heart skipped a beat. “I, ah, no. No I haven't. I don't think we-- I'm ready to. It's kind of a big step and it really changes a friendship. I hope I will, one day, but until then I--”
“You okay, Ruby?” interrupted Iris. “You look a little flushed.” This, of course, did nothing at all to help.
“I, um, yes, I'm alright. It's just, the, umm, heat! Yes, the heat from the lantern! It's making me a little warm.”
Misery gave Ruby a sly look, but didn't press the issue. “Well, I suppose we could turn in off.” The ban-sidhe reached out and gave the brass wick adjuster a turn and the light flickered out. “Better?”
The little redhead was now sitting in pitch blackness, pressed tightly against her crush, with every eye watching her from the shadows.
“Much better. Thank you.”
The darkness was broken for a split second by a flash as bright as daylight. “One, two, three--” An ominous booming sound. The storm was close.
“Well,” chimed in Iris, “You still haven't answered the question. Have you ever been smooched, Ruby?”
At the very least, no one could see her blushing crimson all over her face. “Well, no, but I think I'd like to. Maybe. It's just, I don't know if he likes me.”
Oh dear. Ruby a real knack for getting into these predicaments. “I mean, I don't know if he, whoever he turns out to be, would like me to kiss him! Yes, that's what I meant.”
“I'm sure he would, Ruby. He'd be a very lucky man to have you like him that much.”
“Aww, thank you, Skullboy. I'm glad you'd be--”
There was no warning this time. Searing white light and deafening roar hit at once, the incredible BOOOOM!!! rattling the windows in their frames and driving a sense unquestionable, primal fear into each body in the room.
Everyone instinctively ducked for cover. Frank and Len both grabbed Iris, as did Misery. Scaredy Bat dove into Doom's fur and she automatically curled up around him.
And Ruby and Skullboy held onto each other for dear life, the tightest, safest hug she had ever felt.
Ruby Gloom loved thunderstorms.
Even if they did always end the same way.