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[Originally, this was to have been yesterday's update, but I was late getting it done. Then I lied to my betas and told them I was posting it this Friday--my life: a web of deceit. This morning I remembered that for the next two days I'll be in an exhaustion-induced fugue state, and then on Saturday I'm off to spend a week with friends, so my chances to post (much less reply to comments) will shrink dramatically after tonight.

So: here it is. To get the intended impact you should time-travel back to yesterday and read it. Or read it on Friday.

Also--and there is no way to phrase this that doesn't make me sound like a giant dweeb, so just try to overlook it--you all know who I am, right? I mean, you know my non-Mina identity? Because it's not meant to be secret or anything; as much as I like it when people stumble across this without any idea where the hell it came from, any of you who want to know are welcome to.]

The more I’d brooded over recent events, the more peeved I’d become. I was filled to the absolute brim with indignation by the time I went storming over to Earnshaw House, Seldom in eager tow, to confront Jen over this Razz Martini stunt. After all we’d been through--after summer camp! after Christmas Eve!--it wounded me that she could have made use of me in that beastly, callous way. How could she have used my fannish capital to re-establish her online pseud? How many pseuds did she need, anyway? She already had her much-admired and lusted over Josh Amos persona; heaven knows he garnered far more attention than any fiction ought. What was she, a shape-shifter?

It didn’t help my mood that I’d been finding myself somewhat disenchanted with Sanguinity fandom of late. It wasn’t just me; a sort of ennui seemed to have crept through the fandom as a whole. No one was out-and-out abandoning the game, but people had seemingly begun to drift off to other interests, no one of which was gripping enough, unfortunately, for everyone to feel compelled to follow. And of course, outside the game the exodus had begun, scattering people to backup journals hither and yon. Most of us were waiting around on these, as on a series of rafts, for some sort of Ark to be built.

Seldom had, as I’d fully expected he would, leapt at my offer to ‘meet one of my real-life fannish friends,’ as I’d discreetly pitched it to him. Not that that cautiously-worded invite was spectacular enough that I’d usually anticipate much leapage in response to it, mind you. It’s just that the archive had lost much of its joie de vivre, Arc having left early to go spend the hols with her family, and most of the assistants being sunk in gloom and term papers. I expect my suggestion came as a sort of manna even before he understood the full extent of the adventure on offer. Once we were walking across the campus and I let him in on the rest--to wit, that the friend we were off to see was the fanficcer formerly (and, irksome to state, presently as well) known as Razzberry Martini, well, a sort of graduate glee suffused his features. The boy fairly danced his way to the dormitory. I’d not have been much surprised if he’d burst into paeans to spring.

He was so visibly bucked up and excited I found myself feeling a little less irked as well. Perhaps, I mused, I should be shooting for an empathetic note. Undoubtedly Jen had erred, and erred badly, in failing to seek my informed permish to stage ‘Razz’s’ re-emergence on the back of those photos. Undoubtedly, too, she was being awfully grasping in resurrecting a once-infamous pseud when her current pseud had already seized more than his share of fandom’s attention, possessing as I thought he did that guarantor of perquisites: an imaginary penis. But confound it, perhaps she’d simply been infected by the same spring fever we’d all come down with. Maybe she was planning to change fandoms. I ought, I supposed, at least hear her out.

Jen’s door, when we got there, was ominously ajar. That was, in retrospect, stunningly careless of her. Jen’s room, when I tentatively pushed the door open, was decorated with several large framed fanpaintings, clearly original work, of Starsky and Hutch. Under other circumstances those might also have been stunning, but under these stunned-to-capacity circs it’s faintly puzzling that they registered at all, really. Possibly my mind fixed on them in a desperate but futile effort to escape the rest of the scene in front of us.

Josh was lounging against his desk, jeans unzipped and partly pushed down over slim hips. And there was no doubt, now, about his Joshness. There could never be any doubt again. The fictional accoutrement I’d ascribed to Jen had, I saw now, a solid and undeniable actuality. Josh was corporeal, almost excessively so. It was Jen that was the pseud. And if the point had needed further underlining--which I assure you it really, really didn’t--well, Rabbit was there doing her shocking best to underscore it. On her knees.

I shot out of his room backwards like a squid, and a cloud of ink to cover my mortification wouldn’t have gone amiss. Seldom was looking green about the gills, not that I could blame him. I was feeling a little g. about the g.s myself, not to mention guilty for having brought him along to this den of thingummy. The poor fellow looked beyond the help of footnotes. We stood frozen in the hall, transfixed with mostly-horror. We heard Josh chuckle, a low and horribly sensual sound, and he said something to Rabbit that I couldn’t quite catch. Then he wandered out into the hall, still zipping up his jeans.

‘Sorry about that,’ Josh said offhandedly, ambling towards me. ‘I have something for you.’ I, understandably, backed up further, so fast and far I smacked the back of my head off the wall opposite his door. ‘Are you all right?’ he asked, stepping uncomfortably close, and he touched my left cheek with his fingertips, which did nothing to particularly increase my allrightness. I ducked to one side, and he looked puzzled for a moment, and then reached for my hand, which I pulled away and tucked behind my back for safekeeping. ‘It’s a gift,’ he said, holding something up in front of my face. It was a gold keychain shaped like a tiny airplane, with a single key on the ring. ‘I picked it up for you a while ago, and then kept forgetting to give it to you.’

I didn’t particularly want to touch anything Josh’d held in his hands, but it seemed churlish to say so, and I couldn’t just keep backing up forever, so I squeamishly accepted it. ‘I brought someone to meet you,’ I said awkwardly, nodding towards Seldom, ‘but I guess this isn’t a good time.’

Josh shrugged. ‘I don’t see why not,’ he told me. ‘I wasn’t doing anything important.’ I winced at this, and predictably enough there was a howl of outrage from his room. Rabbit shot past us seconds later, clearly in tears, and Josh casually waved us towards his now-vacant room. ‘Won’t you come in?’ he said, and went in without waiting for an answer.

Seldom moved closer to me. ‘Who is that awful person?’ he whispered, as soon as Josh seemed to be out of earshot. He was starting to look more impressed than appalled, though, and I’d have been revolted by that if I hadn’t been busy being revolted by everything else.

‘That’s Razzberry Martini,’ I said dryly, and felt a touch of smug satisfaction at his expression.

‘It can’t be,’ Seldom said weakly. ‘The pictures...?’

‘It is, though,’ I said.

‘But...the dorm,’ Seldom said. ‘St. Schol’s.’ And I understood his argument perfectly, even if he couldn’t manage to express it in full sentences.

‘He’s registered as a girl named Jen,’ I said quietly, and reflexively added, ‘Please don’t out him; they’d expel him for sure.’

‘Oh, no, I wouldn’t, I promise,’ Seldom said earnestly, making a crossing-his-heart gesture. ‘I take the necessity of gender subterfuge very seriously, you know. I’d never disclose this.’ I felt like rolling my eyes, but didn’t. ‘But how long have you known?’ Seldom went on breathlessly.

‘Oh, several minutes now,’ I said bitterly, and bravely re-entered Josh’s room.

Josh was pouring up snifters of brandy, which showed barrels more common sense than I’d have credited him with. He forced a glass into my hand, and gave me a concerned look from much too close a range. ‘That meant nothing, you know,’ he said, which the literary part of my brain scoffed at as a dreadful cliché.

‘Nothing to Rabbit?’ I said coolly. ‘I doubt that.’

He didn’t even look embarrassed, just amused. ‘It shouldn’t mean anything to Rabbit,’ he said. ‘After all this time, she should know better.’

I choked on my brandy. ‘After all what time?’ I asked, not particularly wanting to know the answer to this--it was more an expression of aghastness than an actual query. ‘How long has this been going on?’ He started to answer, but I waved my hands sloshily at him to stop, shaking my head strenuously. ‘No, please, don’t tell me,’ I said, stepping away. As I licked the brandy off the back of my hand I saw that Seldom was standing there with a pen and notebook. I couldn’t begin to fathom wanting to record this for posterity, but I’ve long suspected grad school has pernicious effects on the inmates. ‘Josh,’ I said, ‘this is Seldom. Seldom is doing a thesis on gender or something in the works of Razzberry Martini, and I thought that as you’re uniquely placed to help him, I should introduce you.’ Josh looked delighted, at least until I set down my glass and headed for the door.

‘You aren’t staying?’ he asked.

‘I really can’t,’ I said firmly.

‘Do you at least like the keychain?’ he asked. Seldom was looking from one of us to the other as if we were a citation waiting to happen, and I certainly didn’t want to prolong this closely-observed conversation any further, so I said yes, figuring that was the fastest way to close this discussion.

‘It’s the key to my room,’ Josh persisted, following me to the door. Seldom’s eyes widened, and the pen in his hand visibly twitched with excitement.

‘Oh?’ I said sweetly, goaded back to a comfortable state of sarcasm. ‘You’re going to start locking your room door? I must say I applaud the decision.’ Josh smirked appreciatively, and I stomped off, possessed of a slight urge to murder someone.

Back at my room I sent Arc a long and heartfelt email. I spared her a full description of the lewdness I’d witnessed, mentioning only that I’d introduced Seldom to Jen a.k.a. Razz, and that by the way I’d definitely gone off Jen. I moved quickly on to my vague discontent, confessing to her the truth I’d been trying to hide even from myself: I was tired of Sanguinity fandom. I needed re-gruntling.

I dreaded falling asleep that night, but my dreams were surprisingly non-sordid, even though Josh did feature in them. Thankfully the dream Josh was fully clad, and with a fresh, innocent, boyish charm that I suppose owed much to my powers of repression. I woke feeling vastly less icky, though still firmly resolved to steer clear of Josh and co. I needed, I’d decided, a break. It was clear I’d been running with too fast a crowd; no wonder I was feeling puffed.

And Arc agreed, even without the dubious benefit of knowing what I’d learned about Jen. In her reply email she suggested I spend some time renewing my enthusiasm. ‘Leave Sanguinity alone for a while,’ she urged, ‘and go enjoy something else. Mrs.Sev and her friends are having a meet-up this weekend. I bet they’d love to have you join them.’

‘You think I should attend a Tented Tartan meet-up?’ I IM’d her in perplexity, hoping to catch her online.

‘It’s just some fans of the Dark Schoolmaster,’ she responded. ‘It’s off-campus. Informal. Could be fun.’ And she sent me the particulars, including clear and precise instructions as to how to reach the coffeeshop, before pleading social responsibilities and logging off.

I considered her advice thoughtfully. It was true that I enjoyed Mrs.Sev’s company, at least when she wasn’t detailing the particulars of her fictional devotion. And the Tortured Tutor fandom had several things going for it. To begin with, the series was complete; with the canon safely closed, the fandom was probably safe from wank and controversy. And the author was said to look kindly on most fan endeavors, or at least on those upon which she could look from any vantage point short of a courtroom. Perhaps Arc was right, and I should take a sort of mini-vac amongst the Dark Schoolmaster’s devotees. I emailed Mrs.Sev and tentatively invited myself to her gathering, and was pleased but unsurprised when she promptly assured me of my welcome, urging me to join their new online community as well. Damned decent of her. I felt a sort of stirring of interest. Maybe I could write them a drabble or two, or some D.S.M.-inspired poetry. That should make them happy, I reasoned.
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