Behind the Metadata Wall

"Look alive people! The new story alert just went off," Mr. Collins shouted. The warning was, of course, unnecessary because the flashing yellow light over the story door and in the corners of the rooms had already alerted them all. Most of those assembled in the Jane Austen originals rooms groaned at the sound of his voice, but they did physically perk up a bit and start preparing.

"Not another one!" Fitzwilliam Darcy said forcefully as he stood up and straightened his cravat. "That last one was so raunchy I was embarrassed to know about it, let alone be a participant. I don't know how the people in the moderns room can stand all the smut their writers put out."

Elizabeth Bennet patted him on the shoulder as she walked by. "I rather enjoyed it," she said teasingly, "despite the story having nothing in common with our original except our names." She winked at him before walking over to the story board posted by the door.

"Well, some of it can be fun, but they always make me out to be such an arse at the start," Darcy complained as he slowly followed her, smiling a bit at the memory of a few of the scenes in that last one-shot.

"You are an arse, Fitzwilliam," she replied, chuckling. "It is part of your charm."

"At least you are an arse with a backbone. They usually make me so spineless it is a wonder I can stand up, let alone move around on my own," Charles Bingley complained from the billiards table where he had been playing a game with one of the unnamed officers. He put away his cue and followed the others.

"Spineless or not, you are generally one of the good guys. I am almost always a villain and usually get punished for it as well. Some of those writers can be incredibly vicious." George Wickham stood up and struck a villainous pose complete with an evil leer.

"Are you saying you don't enjoy it?" Lydia grinned wickedly at him. He winked at her.

"Like Darcy just said, some of it is fun. In fact, some of the punishment is fun too. I wish Regency dress allowed me to be all kitted out in black leather. That could set some villain tone." He chuckled at the thought. "I could rock the Mad Max look, you know."

"You just keep thinking that, Wickham," Captain Wentworth said, looking over the top of his newspaper and shaking his head. "We've all heard it many times before, but it doesn't change how they portray you."

Wickham pouted as the others laughed at him. Far from being a villain, the Jane Austen originals all knew Wickham was really the class clown. It was an often-expressed wish from the cast that a few of the writers would figure that out and give him a story that played up the part so he might finally stop complaining about being misunderstood.

Captain Wentworth spoke again. "I am glad the Persuasion FanFiction board doesn't generate so many new variations. They tend to stick closer to canon as well. Is the summary data up yet, Darcy?"

"Yes," Darcy said glumly.

"That doesn't sound good," Wentworth replied, "What is the problem?"

"The author."

Bingley took a close look at the board and grimaced. "A daily poster! I remember this one."

"Do you remember the week she posted three times each day? I was wishing a few of the others would step up production just to get a bit of relief from her story." Darcy replied.

"Another advantage of being on a slow board," Wentworth said, chuckling. He shook his newspaper open a bit and settled back into his chair. "Where does it start?"

"The assembly," Darcy replied absently as he returned to studying the story board.

"Where you, as usual, will not dance," Wentworth suggested as the Bennets, various Meryton worthies and Bingley's siblings all started to make their way over to what would become the entrance to the assembly rooms.

"Don't get too comfortable, Wentworth," Darcy said with a smirk as he looked up from the board. "It's a crossover. You're in this one, too. Chapter one, no less."

Captain Wentworth folded up his newspaper and set it down on the side table. Standing up, he stretched and groaned a bit before heading over to the story board to see how bad the upcoming experience would be.

"Well, Bingley, it looks like I get to steal Jane from you this time," he said after glancing at the relationship settings. "I suspect you are going to have another jellyfish spine experience and I will catch her on the rebound."

Bingley shook his head. "I wonder what they have planned for me this time?"

"It looks like we are about to find out," Darcy said. "The story metadata has all been saved and she just put in a title for chapter one. It looks like she is about to hit the publish button and put the chapter out there."

Almost as he spoke, the light over the story door changed to green. It swung slowly open to reveal the assembly room scene.

"Here we go again," Bingley said softly, as one by one the various players stepped into the room and took their assigned places.

Fitzwilliam Darcy shook his head sadly. There was nothing to do but go out and play the part written for him. Another Pride and Prejudice variation was now available on FanFiction.

AN: This weird little piece came as a glimmer of an idea that I scribbled in my notebook with a few lines of dialogue when I watched The Man Who Invented Christmas a couple months ago. I enjoyed the scene when Scrooge and the other characters were gathered in Dickens's study telling him what a loser he was because he couldn't figure out how to end the story. This story slipped in and wrote itself out this morning as the characters in my next three story ideas were arguing over who should take precedence. Of course, if you think about it too closely, this becomes an infinite range of mirrors, as the characters are waiting to play the parts of the characters waiting to play the parts. Hmm. I hope you got a kick out of it. And no, I'm not drunk, although I might be deranged. :oD