Notes: Some reference is made to slashy situations. Please don't read if you can't handle that sort of thing. Also, this is completely self-indulgent whimsy, so please humor me -- and again, feel free to simply delete it. Kielle has blanket archiving permission; this fic will also be archived at the Bronze Menagerie. Feedback, as always, is welcomed at hutch @ jazmer.com.
For Ana, because.
It was almost a typical night -- almost, that is, if one ignored the multiple Buffys, Angels, Willows and Spikes littering the trendy nightspot. With the house band, Dingoes Ate My Baby, onstage, a variety of fashionably-clad young fictives crowding the dance floor, and an equal number of fictives playing pool, arcade games, or merely hanging out, the Bronze Menagerie appeared almost exactly like its Buffyverse counterpart of the Bronze.
That is, until one started noticing the repeating faces in the crowd. Almost everywhere were various versions of Buffy, of Angel, of Xander and Cordelia, Anya, Tara, Riley, Willow, and more. Several Rupert Gileses (Gilii?) were sitting in a corner, commiserating over the fact that they weren't as popular with young fanfic authors. The Xander cleaning glasses behind the bar added to the air of surreality, as did the Faith playing bouncer just outside the main door.
A Faith who, at the moment, was more than happy to enforce her position.
"I don't care who you are, lady. All I know is that it ain't Saturday, and you ain't gettin' in." Faith snapped her gum, fixing the Writer with her best 'bored' look. She'd been itching for a fight all night, and she was hoping the Writer would be kind enough to indulge her.
"Beg to differ," Hutch replied, "but actually, it is."
"No, it isn't." Faith casually slapped one fist into her other palm.
Calmly, Hutch pushed a button on her watch to light up the digital face. Then she held it up close enough for Faith to see it in the shrouded darkness of the doorway. "12:01 a.m., Saturday, three eleven... aww, crap," Faith mumbled. "All right, g'wan in.
"Damn Writers," she added acidly after the door closed.
In lieu of an "I heard that", a tubful of green slime splooshed down over Faith's astonished head.
* * *
Barely in the door, Hutch found herself descended upon by multiple fictives. It was the standard Season Two group -- Buffy, Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Giles, Oz, and Angel, along with a delightfully toasted Snyder -- with a couple of original vampire fictives in tow.
"What too you so long?" Angel asked.
"Yeah, we've been waiting forever for you!"
"Sorry," Hutch sighed. "I've been busy, you guys know that. Round Robins, work, trying to do some drawing... you know."
"Oh, I get it. You're avoiding us. Mm-hmm, I see how it is." Xander's tone was teasing, but Cordelia bapped him anyway, and added a "Shut up!" when he pretended to whimper in pain.
"God, and they call me the tactless one," she grumbled.
"It's called humor, Cor. You might try learning it sometime." Xander's gibe was affectionate despite his words.
"It's great to see you guys," Hutch smiled, "really. But there's someone I have to talk to. Just give me a minute, and I'll come and hang out with you, okay?"
With parting hugs and smiles, she moved past the group, towards the back of the Menagerie. The area was set up with a variety of couches, lounge seats, loveseats and easy chairs for more private conversations. Passing a Buffy and an Angel making out on one loveseat, and a Buffy and a Faith gazing deeply into each others' eyes on another, the Writer approached a couch where two male fictives sat, engaged in quiet conversation.
"Angel, Doyle," she greeted them with a small smile. They glanced up as one; looks of fleeting guilt eased into relaxed, anticipatory gazes.
"Ah. I was wonderin' if we might be seein' yeh around here," Doyle said lightly. Slipping his hand from where it rested beneath Angel's on the couch, he reached for a tumbler of whisky sitting on the adjacent table.
"Well, I had to show up eventually, right?" Hutch tried for a light tone, but it somehow failed to fly.
Angel glanced from the Writer to Doyle; then, as if coming to a decision, leaned back, casual and aloof. "What's up?" he asked.
Hutch sat down on the table, tucking her legs underneath her. Flustered though she might be at the close proximity of Angel -- even with this one's inclinations -- she managed to keep a cool veneer.
"Not much," she admitted. "I know you guys have to be tired of being in limbo, so I was wondering if you'd be willing to help me bounce around some story ideas. I want to get 'Uninvited' finished just as much as you do..."
Angel's smile crooked just a bit, making the Writer's heart do a sudden backflip in her chest. "Well, we do, but..." he started.
"Well," Doyle said, leaning forward a bit, "ye've got this... history, let's say, of abandonin' characters." Before the Writer could protest, he continued: "Not like y' didn't give 'em happy endings first, y'know, an' we appreciate that. But, well, we're worried that you'll finish this story an' never write us again."
Hutch took this in, blinking bemusedly. After a moment, she replied softly. "I admit I'm a bit surprised... I'd think you'd be happier at least knowing that your story's been finished and posted, rather than still being in the half-written stages. And I'm sorry you feel that way. You know, I've tried coming up with sequels for 'Into the Mouth of Hell' and 'Guilty Pleasures', especially since I had so many requests for more of those. But nothing ever worked out, nothing halfway decent anyway.
"I just can't make that kind of promise. I mean, would you rather have one wonderful standalone story, or one great story followed by a series of rather mediocre sequels?"
Doyle promptly began to assent, but Angel squeezed his shoulder warningly and the Irishman closed his mouth, casting a slightly resentful look Angel's way. "I understand," Angel said. "But -- you have to realize why I'm bringing this up."
"Oh, I do," Hutch hastily replied, knowing without having to say the name of that dreaded place for neglected fictives. "But you won't be in danger of that. Believe me, I won't stop working on you guys in some way or another until I'm dead -- if then." When Angel and Doyle glanced at each other uncertainly, Hutch sighed. "Come on, guys. I've never abandoned a fictive. I'm still maintaining characters I created when I was ten. Just look at the 'ItMoH' crew. They'd be gone by now if I didn't care, wouldn't they? I wrote that in '98, after all."
Angel had to nod in agreement with that. "All right," he said. "It's about time we got some resolution going."
"Considering we haven't done more than kiss yet," Doyle added, leering for the Writer's benefit.
"Well, settle down, then, and we can get to work." Chuckling, Hutch produced a laptop from thin air and settled it, conveniently, on her lap. "Where do you want to start?"
* * *
Several hours later, Hutch emerged from the back room to which she'd retreated with Angel and Doyle. At some point in their discussion, things had become a bit too... intense... for public viewing, and so they'd borrowed the room from the somewhat indignant Hostess. Hutch was exhausted now, her hair mussed and rumpled, but she looked quietly ecstatic.
Pausing a moment, she turned back to the door of the room. Angel and Doyle stood there, the latter leaning casually in the embrace of the former. Something had eased between them, something immeasurably relaxed in the way they touched each other now. Impulsively, Hutch went back to them. Standing on her toes, she kissed first Angel, then Doyle, full on the mouth. Both responded warmly (well, as warmly as Angel could, considering), each putting an arm around her in turn.
"I'll be back," she said, winking, "once I've got the new material worked in."
"Take yer time," Doyle advised, and, with a low laugh, Hutch turned and headed for the door.
* * *
"Huh. Big shot Writer, now she's too good to talk to us."
"Oh, be nice, Xander." Buffy leaned out of the curve of her Angel's arms to give Xander a glare. "You should be glad she's your Writer."
"Yeah, I know." Xander sighed, rubbing one hand over his mouth. "Can you blame me, though?"
"You'll excuse me if I don't answer that," Cordelia replied, rolling her eyes.
"Besides," Willow put in, smiling, "I have a feeling things are going to change soon."
"You do, huh?" Buffy asked, her answering smile warm and fond for her friend.
"Yep," Willow replied. "I do."
Credits: The Season Two gang, plus original fictives, are from my fanfic "Into the Mouth of Hell". Doyle and Angel are from an unfinished fanfic of mine, "Uninvited"; "Guilty Pleasures", mentioned herein, is also by me. The former and latter fanfics mentioned can be found on my website, as well as a few other Buffy fics. (And someday "Uninvited" will be there, too.)
The Bronze Menagerie is Ana Lyssie Cotton's brainchild. Subreality belongs to Kielle. The television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the WB, and 20th Century Fox.
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this page last updated on 18 january 2003