|Erin Ptah (ptahrrific) wrote,|
@ 2008-04-02 09:21 pm UTC
|Entry tags:||genre: comedy, genre: romance, pairing: "stephen"/zanna, pairing: jon/"stephen", pairing: kate/roberta, pairing: zanna/tank, series: fake news, series: zanna don't!|
Fandom: TDS, TCR, Zanna, Don't!
For the characters: The Zanna, Don't! characters and their universe are the creations of Tim Acito. Stephen's character is his own. Not mine. Sue me not, please.
And for the real people, the poem:
Please, make no mistake:
these people aren't fake,
but what's said here is no more than fiction.
It only was writ
because we like their wit
and wisecracks, and pull-squints, and diction.
We don't mean to quibble,
but this can't be libel;
it's never implied to be real.
No disrespect's meant;
if you disapprove, then,
the back button's right up there. Deal.
Notes: Crossover with Zanna, Don't!, a musical that opens in a universe where the majority of people are gay. The straight minority faces enormous prejudice; on the other hand, even the locker rooms are tastefully decorated.
Oh, and there's magic. Don't worry, it's easy to follow.
Your Moment of Zanna
It was Jon's first day as a junior, but Heartsville High felt the same as it always had. The lockers were the same cheerful purple, the boys were swooning over the returning chess champions, and Zanna was fluttering between the freshmen, his magic wand fairly singing as it picked up on all the new matches to be made.
Within a few days, Zanna would know all of their names, the way he knew the name of everyone else in Heartsville. A few weeks later he would have paired most of them up, and at least half of those relationships would stick through high school and beyond. Those that didn't stay in their first Zanna-made match would usually stay in their second, and you could count on one hand the number of people who had needed more than three of Zanna's romantic interventions.
Jon was one of them.
"Jon!" exclaimed Zanna, spotting him and skipping over. "I really think this is your year, honey. I've been checking out the boys in the new class, keeping you especially in mind, and I've seen at least three that you'll agree are just adorable!"
"Aw, come on, Zanna," protested Jon. "Date a freshman? I'm already enough of a geek for playing soccer."
"Age doesn't matter when it comes to love!" enthused Zanna, then leaned over to rest his head on Jon's shoulder so that they were at the same eye level. "Look -- right over there!" He pointed, a slender graceful gesture by a slender graceful person with a slender graceful wand.
Following the line of sight, Jon immediately spotted the boy Zanna was aiming for. He was dressed a little too formally, in a collared shirt and dark slacks; he had thick brown hair, fluffy but under much better control than Jon's own wild Jewfro; and he was standing alone, surveying the hall with an expression like he owned the place.
"He looks like he's doing all right on his own," observed Jon.
"Nonsense," replied Zanna. "He's lost, and trying not to show it. Go help him out!"
With that, he pushed Jon in the boy's direction and gave a little wave of his wand. There was a tinkling of bells, and the boy tripped over nothing at all.
Zanna winked. Jon shot him an exasperated look before holding out a hand to help the boy up.
It was a moment before the freshman spotted the hand; then his eyes followed the attached arm up to Jon's face. Jon smiled hopefully.
The boy glared. "I don't need your help."
"Fair enough," said Jon, and stuck his hand behind his back. There was another tinkle, and suddenly he was holding something. Darnit, Zanna...
The freshman picked himself up slowly, expression still hostile. "What do you want?" he demanded.
"Nothing! Just to say hi." Jon paused. "Um. Hi."
"Hello," said the boy warily.
"I'm Jon," added Jon.
"Stephen," said Stephen.
Jon pulled out his hand to see what was in it, hoping it wasn't terribly embarrassing. Fortunately, it was just a map of the school, and he held it out. "Here. You might need this."
"I don't need special treatment," snapped Stephen. "I'm going to pull myself up by my own bootstraps."
"This isn't special," improvised Jon. "All new students are supposed to get one."
"Well, here you go." Jon held the map out; Stephen snatched it and ran his eyes over it.
Zanna chose that moment to twirl up to them. "Hey, honey, welcome to Heartsville High! I see you've met Jon. He's a really friendly guy; you should ask him to show you around."
"I don't need help," repeated Stephen, but this time in a stutter; he was staring, eyes wide behind his glasses.
Zanna smiled brightly in return. "Don't worry, it's perfectly normal. Nobody knows where they're going on their first day. Everyone needs a little help sometimes."
"O-okay," stammered Stephen.
"That's the spirit!" Zanna winked at Jon. "See you two around!"
With that, he pranced off. Stephen's gaze followed him.
Jon knew that expression all too well. Most people wore it after an encounter with Zanna. The difference was that usually it was directed at the person Zanna had just introduced them to.
"Who," breathed Stephen, "is that?"
"That," said Jon with a sign of resignation, "would be Zanna."
"Yes. Yes, he is."
"We tried to be nice to him, we really did," Jon overheard Candi say at one point, "but he's just so insufferable!" And because Candi was involved in everything that mattered at Heartsville High, from the student government to the drama club to the chess team, Stephen ended up quietly rejected by all of them.
The two boys didn't see much of each other during the day -- Stephen was two years below Jon, after all -- but Stephen began showing up on the benches during soccer practice, and one day Jon jogged over to talk to him.
"Hey, Stephen. Thinking about trying out for the team?"
Stephen shook his head. "I'm not that much of a nerd. What was your name, again?"
"Oh, that's right."
"You know," said Jon, trying to be reassuring, "I got rejected from the drama club too. It's very competitive, especially since the biggest scholarships always go to the star performers. I'm a pretty bad actor, but there are a lot of good ones who get cut too."
"I didn't want to be in the stupid drama club anyway," snapped Stephen, folding his arms indignantly. "Have you seen what the school musical is going to be about?"
"I think everyone in Heartsville has heard about it by now," sighed Jon.
Stephen told him anyway. "Heterosexuals! And whether they should be allowed in the military! It's disgusting, Jon!"
"Is it really that bad?"
From the look Stephen gave him, Jon might as well have just asked if it were really so terrible to drown puppies. "It's wrong! And it just goes to show how far the straight agenda has gotten that we're even asking the question. It's right there in the Bible: sex should be about love, not base biological functions!"
"But don't you think heterosexuals can love each other too?"
Stephen eyed him suspiciously. "Are you trying to tell me something, Jon?"
"What? No!" Jon held up his hands. "I'm not straight! I'm just saying, maybe..."
"Well, don't. I mean, ew."
Time to change the subject. "If you don't want to try out, why are you here?"
"No reason," said Stephen quickly. "On a completely different and totally unrelated topic which has nothing at all to do with your question, doesn't Zanna watch the sports teams practice sometimes?"
Jon smiled in spite of himself. "Once in a while."
Actually, Zanna rarely went to any team practices except football. But Jon decided not to mention that to Stephen.
Winter passed gently through Heartsville, and the crocuses were beginning to open when Jon first got the idea that something was wrong. He had ordered a chocolate milk at the local diner, and Roberta, one of Zanna's classmates, started pouring.
"...and she's totally responsible about everything else, homework, sports, the musical, oh, yes, those are great, I know I shouldn't complain, but then she'll completely forget my birthday, or our six-month anniversary, it's just not like her..."
"...and I love Kate, I do, Zanna knew what he was doing when he hooked us up, and I know she loves me, but I just get so worried..."
"...and, what, Jon?"
Jon was too busy grabbing napkins to answer; all at once Roberta noticed the milk pouring out of the cup and flowing across the countertop. "Whoa! Sorry about that!" she exclaimed, snatching a towel from behind the counter to mop up the mess. "You won't tell my supervisor, will you? I'm real sorry; I've just been so stressed. Kate and I..."
She stopped abruptly as Zanna entered, and put on a wide, fake smile.
"I'll distract him," murmured Jon, and, grabbing his chocolate milk, headed for a booth, waving to Zanna on the way.
Sure enough, Zanna only stopped at the counter long enough to order a Coke before taking a seat at the booth himself. "Jon, honey, I haven't talked to you in ages!" He leaned in conspiratorially. "So, any luck with Stephen? Tell me everything!"
"Uh," said Jon. "I'm not really sure I'm his type, to tell you the truth."
"Oh, don't be silly, Jon! You're a wonderful catch. You just have to reach out to him a little."
"That's not exactly what I mean. Listen, Zanna, you're kind of a catch yourself. Have you ever tried matching somebody up with you?"
For a split second, the shadow of a pout appeared on Zanna's face.
Then it was gone, the charming smile back with full force. "Oh, Jon, don't be silly! Bringing people together is my calling; I couldn't do it well if I got involved. Fairy tales don't happen by themselves, you know." He twirled his wand. "Someone's got to wave this thing."
The wand tinkled and flashed.
"What's up with it?" asked Jon.
Zanna frowned prettily at it. "It's been acting up recently. Right now, it's probably picking up on your extra love." He tapped the wand. "I'm working on him, so you behave! Otherwise I'll take you straight home!"
The wand sparkled and rang some more.
"So sorry about this, Jon," said Zanna, standing up. "I don't know what's gotten into it. Time to go give it a good talking-to. In the meantime," and he winked, "try giving some of that extra love to Stephen! I just know you two will be happy together, like Kate and Roberta, or..."
The wand let out an irritated clang.
"You stop that!" exclaimed Zanna, flicking it with one elegant finger. "Sorry again, Jon. See you around!"
As he watched Zanna leave, Jon realized with a pang that in a few months the magical matchmaker would graduate.
He couldn't imagine Heartsville High without Zanna. Come to think of it, he couldn't imagine life without Zanna. Not that the older boy planned to leave town -- not when he had so many friends in the area -- but it wouldn't be the same. Jon would miss his presence, his smile, the energy and goodwill that he created whenever he walked into a room...
Oh, great. I'm not in love with him too, am I?
Nah. Well, maybe just a little. But I think everyone is. Even the girls.
But who is Zanna in love with?
Jon didn't usually get involved in social events, and that included dances; but the prom committee needed all the gofers it could get to pull off Candi's elaborate plans. He volunteered Stephen's help as well, promising Candi that he would take full responsibility for the freshman, including keeping him out of her hair.
"Why would I help out with the senior prom, Jon?" demanded Stephen. "It's not my prom. It's not my class. Why should I care?"
"Well, gee, Stephen, I guess you're right," said Jon nonchalantly. "It's just, this is Zanna's prom, and unless some senior invites you, the only way you're going to get in on it is to volunteer. But if you're opposed to that..."
"No, not at all!" interrupted Stephen. "How do I sign up?"
Jon didn't usually get involved in social events, and that included chess championships. He figured he would hear the results anyway the next morning on the student radio station, WLUV.
He did eventually catch the result of the match. The last-minute win by the Heartsville champion was newsworthy enough that it still got mentioned. But most of the talk centered on the real story of the night.
In the middle of the victory celebration, Kate had kissed the quarterback.
The female Kate! Roberta's girlfriend! With the male quarterback! Who was dating, of all people, the chess hero himself!
"I was there, Jon!" wailed Stephen when he ran into Jon at lunch (completely by accident, totally at random, and certainly not because he needed someone to talk to). "He kissed her! Right in front of everyone, he kissed a girl!"
"So I heard, Stephen."
"Like he had absolutely no shame! His dads are in the military; you'd think they would have raised him better!"
"I'm sure they did their best, Stephen."
"But it was so disgusting! Why would anybody choose to do that?"
"Uh, I don't think heterosexuality is a choice, actually."
Stephen gave him a withering look. "Of course it's a choice, Jon."
"But, Stephen, think about it. Those two, they're getting stared at in their classes. People are yelling across the halls about how they're perverts or deviants. Their friends are talking about them behind their backs. People are asking where their parents went wrong, where the community went wrong, where their girlfriend and boyfriend went wrong. Nobody's supporting them. Nobody's talking to them -- not even their friends. Now answer me this: Who would choose that?"
Stephen opened his mouth, but nothing came out. His brow furrowed.
"But it has to be a choice!" he burst out at last. "It isn't natural -- the Bible says so -- and if the Bible is wrong about that, then it could be wrong about everything else -- like loving your neighbor, and not killing, and honoring your parents -- and what about Jesus? What if he didn't die for our sins, but went off and raised kids with Martin Magdalene like it said in that book with the codes in the paintings? What if we're doomed to an eternity of nothingness?" He was clinging to Jon's shirt now. "Jon, if we give in to the straight agenda, then everything, everything, falls apart!"
Jon realized that he had to look up to meet Stephen's eyes.
When did he get so tall?
Of course, half the freshman class had already been taller than Jon before the school year started. But he hadn't been prepared for it with Stephen.
"Hey," he said gently. "It's not that bad. It'll be okay. Don't worry."
Stephen fixed him with that intense gaze for a moment longer, then shook himself.
"Who's worried?" he asked, letting go of Jon. "I wasn't worried. I know what's true, and I know what I'm supposed to be. There's absolutely nothing to worry about."
The theme of the prom was "Heaven"; Jon ended up behind the refreshment table serving sky-blue punch.
The school board had ruled against allowing a heterosexual couple to attend, so Kate and the quarterback were absent. All the normal couples seemed to be enjoying themselves regardless. (The single people, not so much. But that was to be expected, wasn't it?)
"Everyone's too busy dancing to eat," announced Stephen, appearing at the end of the table with a tray piled with morsels of angel food cake. "Can't I take a break?"
Jon scanned the room. Sure enough, everyone was on the floor; even the singles had at least clustered into groups of friends. "Okay. But just for a little bit. And stay right here."
Stephen nodded and put down the tray. Jon had figured he would want to get off his feet for a little while; but no, Stephen remained standing. Then he began tapping his toes.
Before Jon knew it, Stephen was dancing: a beautiful, full-body, hip-swinging, head-moving, foot-shuffling dance, perfectly in time with the music. Following Jon's direction, he didn't move from the spot.
None of the seniors were going to pay attention to a freshman waiter, so Stephen turned to Jon, his eyes hungry for attention, for approval. And Jon gave it to him, turning his full body and mind towards Stephen, smiling widely, putting his hands together in slow, silent applause.
Then lightning struck, and the world changed.
"And let's hear it for Steve Bookman and Kate Aspero, Heartsville High's King and Queen of the Prom! And now, to celebrate -- girls, grab your guys, and guys, grab your girls, 'cause it's time to go ... Straight to Heaven!"
Out of nowhere, Kate and the quarterback had appeared in the middle of the dance floor. They kissed as everyone watched, without disgust or horror or even any apparent surprise.
Jon looked around at the rest of the dance floor. All the couples had shifted: the girls were with guys, the guys with girls. He even saw Roberta and the chess champion in each other's arms.
What had happened?
Jon put a hand to his head as he felt his own memories shifting. There seemed to be two realities in his mind, two pasts existing next to each other. He knew heterosexuality was misunderstood at best, reviled at worst -- he knew that he had two mothers -- he knew that Zanna had gone about casting spells and making matches, hooking boys up with boys and girls up with girls...
But at the same time he had a new set of things known, and, like two ocean liners passing in the night, this set was coming to the fore as the other sailed off into the distance.
Heterosexuality was normal. He had never had more than one mother, but he'd had a father as well. And Zanna didn't do magic, because there was no such thing. These memories felt more and more real as the others faded away. He didn't forget, exactly; but somehow they didn't feel like things that had actually happened, more like a story he had read at some point.
Zanna chose that moment to skip in.
Zanna was flamboyant and glittering and gorgeous as ever, and Jon couldn't imagine why his heart sank to see it. Then the other seniors began to react, and he understood.
The matchmaker hadn't changed -- but the rest of the world had. And in this brave new world, Zanna was the strange one: weird, abnormal, unnatural.
The look on his face as his friends began to back away nearly broke Jon's heart.
He wanted to run over, to tell Zanna that he remembered, even if no one else did. But then Stephen, who had been standing in frozen shock, bolted from the room; and Jon had to follow.
The decor of the building they had rented for the prom was ridiculously drab. Jon thought of the elegant style that had characterized the halls of Heartsville High, and then he remembered gray boxy lockers and beige tiled floors and realized that these were real now. The purple lockers in his mind felt like a picture in a storybook, brilliantly detailed but ultimately flat.
Stephen ran down the hall, but you didn't play soccer for three years without picking up some speed, and Jon kept up with him easily. Then Stephen turned a corner, and when Jon turned it as well he found himself face to face with the other boy. They had ended up in a little alcove stocked with pay phones, and there was no way out but through him.
"Leave me alone, Jon!" Stephen hissed, voice low.
Of course, Jon couldn't do that. "Just listen to me for a second, Stephen. Do you remember the other world? The way it used to be?"
"Don't be silly, Jon. This is the way things have always been," said Stephen, in that shifty, panicky, insistent tone that had become so familiar.
Jon almost grinned with relief. "You do remember!"
"I don't. I don't. If I say so enough, it'll be true."
"That isn't how it works."
"If I say so enough, maybe it will be!"
"But why would you want to forget?"
"Because it's confusing, Jon!" cried Stephen. "It was right to be gay there, only I wasn't, and now everything's changed, so I should fit in, only I've changed too! And I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't know who I'm supposed to be!"
Jon shook his head. "Why don't you just be yourself?"
"I don't know how!"
This left Jon at a loss. Stephen closed his eyes, pressed his hands to his temples.
"Zanna knew," he whispered at last. "Zanna always knew who he was. And look what they did to him."
"You know," said Jon quietly, "I thought you were in love with Zanna."
Stephen shook his head. "I tried to be. He's pretty girly. Maybe I was. I don't know. I don't know."
Jon put a hand gently on his shoulder.
"You want to go talk to him? He could probably use a sympathetic friend right now."
The seniors had left the building for the after-party down by the lake; the dance floor was empty except for Zanna, and the DJ who had him in a passionate liplock.
"We'll talk to him later," whispered Jon. "Let's give them some privacy."
He pulled Stephen, still staring, away from the door and out into the hall. They walked a few paces: Jon's arm around Stephen's shoulders, Stephen plodding automatically in whatever direction he was led.
"What do I do now, Jon?" he asked dully. "What am I supposed to do now?"
Jon came to a stop and looked up, heart pounding with tenderness and sympathy and the closest thing to magic that anyone in this world could feel. "Now that you're not straight any more," he said gently, "sometime, do you think we could fall in love?"
Stephen stumbled to a halt.
"How about this Sunday?" Jon continued. "Or is tomorrow soon enough?"
A shy smile broke across Stephen's face. "How about tonight, then? Although, I tell you, I don't see how I'm gonna last that long if we don't fall in love right now."