Holy Cannoli, I've been kicking this one around for a while.
Basically, the Subreality Cafe, in its many forms, is where canon characters hang out when they're not busy being in fic. I saw it used a lot when I (urk) read Farscape fanfic, back in about the eighth grade, but never for Newsies. I've wanted to use it as the basis for a one-shot for a while now but school always got in the way.
Also, the title of the fic comes from a Blondie song. I was listening to it in the car on the way to school one morning, and the lyrics, for whatever reason, reminded me of Sarah Jacobs (draw whatever conclusions you want from that one).
And now, on with the fic!
Rip Her To Shreds
The atmosphere—one of sudden gunfire in the soundtracks of old movies, a slurred sax overlay and the smell of cigarette smoke—was already firmly locked in place before the author even made it inside. As she whispered the password ("banana") through the sliding panel in the side door and allowed Mush, acting as bouncer that night, to relieve her of her rain- soaked trench coat and umbrella, she could hear a sweet little blues number played by a skillful improvisational trio drift down the narrow corridor, and she smelled the unmistakable juniper berry scent of bathtub gin in the air. She inhaled deeply, a faint smile already on her lips as she entered the crowded speakeasy setting that the Subreality Café had taken on tonight. She had arrived.
As she made her way across the barroom floor, she mouthed a quick hello to Jack and David, slow dancing in a dimly lit corner, and dropped a few coins into the empty highball glass that Racetrack—for once without a deck of cards in his hands—had set on top of his piano. However, she knew her true purpose. Neatly sidestepping Kid Blink and his trumpet, the author made a beeline for the bar. After years of searching, this was still the only place she could find that never carded patrons, regardless of age.
Sliding onto one of the well-worn wooden stools, she paused to take a look at herself in the tarnished mirror behind the bar. She was prepared for the worst—she had never quite forgiven the powers that be for outfitting her in a cotton candy pink poodle skirt and saddle shoes when the Café had taken on the appearance of a fifties-style diner a month or so ago—but upon close inspection she decided that she looked rather spiffing tonight, clad in an iridescent blue-beaded flapper dress, matching clôche hat, and made up with a simple cupid's-bow of cerise lipstick, and a dab of carmine on either cheek. Copacetic, to get right into the swing of things.
Evidently, Spot, working as bartender that night, did not share this sentiment. Looking up at her, he tossed a stray lock of hair out of his line of sight and regarded her steadily with a pair of gunmetal eyes that turned her spine to custard. He groaned. "Not you again..."
The author smiled devilishly, taking a maraschino cherry from a cut-glass bowl set out on the bar and popping it into her mouth. "'Fraid so, Conlon. Now why don't you can the sweet talk and fix me a drink? Swear I'll pay you back this time..."
"Yeah, yeah, tell it ta Sweeney," Spot muttered, but even so he pulled out an old cocktail shaker, and began to mix her usual dirty martini.
Swiveling around on her stool, the author leaned forward to look at Crutchy, decked out in what looked suspiciously like a canary-yellow zoot suit as he belted out an impressive rendition of I've Got Rhythm while Medda sat quietly by, enjoying her cigarette and whiskey soda. Who would have ever thought the fella had such a set of pipes?
Her train of thought was interrupted as Spot plonked her drink down on the bar. Picking it up, she absently took a small sip, only to sputter as the taste cut across her tongue. Barely choking it down, she turned back around to face Spot, who was making himself busy polishing a glass, eyes down, innocent as sin.
"Jesus Christ, Spot, this tastes like rubbing alcohol!"
"It is rubbin' alcohol."
"Oh." She paused, toying with the rim of her glass as she wondered if he had anything better back in the rotgut room. Maybe if she annoyed him enough he would spit in her drink on the sly. Could that possibly make it taste better?
"Say, Conlon, how long have you guys been stuck in the roaring twenties, anyway?"
"Since about eleven o' clock," Spot said, pulling the cocktail onion out of the author's drink and beginning to suck on it. Great. There went her dinner. "It was Race's idea...an' we figured, anythin' had to be better than last night."
"What was last night?"
"Square dancing." Spot grimaced. "Everyone got drunk on hard apple cider after about fifteen minutes. Then Mush got the bright idea to go tip cows..." he shook his head. "Let's just say you picked a good night to come, dollface."
The author smiled ruefully. "Somehow, no matter how many times I come here, I'm always surprised to find you guys aren't hanging out at Tibby's ..."
"Oh, God," Spot sighed. Evidently she had struck a nerve. "Tibby's. Right." He rolled his eyes. "If you had any idea how much time we spend there...and every day, sarsaparilla, cole slaw, coffee, hot dogs. Coffee, hot dogs, sarsaparilla. I mean, even me. I'm from Brooklyn, for Christ's sake—what am I doing in Manhattan all the damn time?"
Wisely, the author pushed her drink towards the still-ranting Spot, who picked it up without a thought, plugged his nose, and downed it in a single swallow. "You can't really blame us," he said at last, "for wantin' ta try somethin' new once in a while. I mean, we all gotta have a place ta go where we can relax..."
"I know exactly what you mean," the author said in what she hoped was a non- threatening tone, sliding a little farther away on her barstool. Just at that instant she caught sight of someone out of the corner of her eye, and turning around in her seat she saw the last person that she would have ever expected to meet up with tonight.
Clad in a modest white dress cut well below the knee, a single gardenia in her hair, Sarah Jacobs walked up to the bar, set her handbag down in the counter, and ordered a glass of milk.
The entire place got quiet. Even a group of rail-skinny Mary Sues drinking whiskey sours over at a table close by, easily the loudest group in the place, didn't make a sound for the longest time. The band stopped dead in the middle of the song, and Spot's look hardened to steel. Bashfully, Sarah lowered her eyes to the counter, and sat down.
The author had no idea what to expect. Spot was clenching a bottle of Stoli so tightly his knuckles had gone white. Closing her eyes, the author awaited the sound of bones splintering—and was shocked when, instead of that, all she heard was a question, muttered so low under his breath that it could barely be heard. "Would dat be hot, or cold?"
The band struck up again and the conversations started at full volume, albeit a little nervously. Looking up to meet his gaze, Sarah regarded Spot with surprising indifference. "Cold," she said.
"Strawberry? Chocolate? 2%?
"Just skim, please. Plain. Thank you."
Muttering something that sounded suspiciously like "stuck-up bitch, why couldn't Kenny have cast Mandy Moore?" Spot shuffled off into the back room to try and find a bottle of DairyGold. Sighing, Sarah raked a hand through her light brown hair and took a look around.
"That took guts," the author said.
Sarah looked up sharply. "Are you talking to me?" she demanded.
Oh God, the author thought, beginning to panic. She's a serial killer, I knew it, no one's really that normal. "Um," she stammered. "Yes?"
Sarah blushed a little. "It's just that no one ever does."
The author smiled at this, just as Spot returned from the back and slammed a glass of milk down on the countertop. Sarah took a tentative sip.
"You're here a lot, aren't you?" the author asked tentatively.
"Why do you ask?"
"No reason. I just always see you off in a corner booth somewhere. You do a surprising amount of knitting."
Sarah grinned. "I have a lot of free time. You know how it works here—the Subreality Café is where characters hang out when they're not busy being in fanfiction, and if you're never in fanfiction at all..." she trailed off, looking meaningfully at the author.
"You can blame Disney for that, too," the author added, knowing full well that she didn't have a leg to stand on.
"Well, they gave you about as much personality as the Hamburgler—less, even," she amended. "I mean, if your life is devoted to stealing from Ronald McDonald, you have to have some sort of MO."
Sarah laughed at this. The author was taken aback; she hadn't known Sarah had had a sense of humor. "I guess that isn't really fair, though," she admitted. "Most of the boys have just as many defining personality traits, and we still have field days with them."
"But the boys are hunky," Sarah pointed out.
"Hey, hey!" Spot called from behind the bar. "We don't tolerate that kinda language in da Subreality Café, thank youse very much."
"He gets a little spiffed around midnight," Sarah explained.
"Anyway," Sarah continued, "it's not being left out of fics that bothers me so much, just the fact that it happens with so little explanation. I mean, where did I go? I was Jack's girlfriend, and suddenly I don't exist anymore?"
"Maybe you died?" the author suggested mildly.
"Maybe people who die should have funerals?" Sarah spat, seeming on the verge of some sort of nervous breakdown. The author nearly flung herself over the bar, scrabbling for a bottle of gin. Barely even glancing towards her, Sarah grabbed it from her hand and took an enormous gulp. She set down the bottle, smiled, and stifled a hiccup.
"Thanks. I needed that."
The author took the bottle away and had a swig herself. "To be honest," she said, staring contemplatively up at the ceiling. "You never really did anything wrong—most of it's in the eye of the beholder. You're underdeveloped, but that's hardly your fault. You helped with the strike, you were Jack's love interest—"
"I let him steal my tomatoes..." Sarah interjected, to a bemused stare from the author. "What? You think I didn't notice that?"
"Took me a while to figure it out," the author admitted. "Still—it's through no fault of your own that people don't like you. And the boys seemed to be fond enough of you. Back then, anyway, if I'm going to judge from the look on Race's face when Jack kissed you."
Sarah smiled. "He always looks like that, if you haven't noticed."
Suddenly, around them, the Subreality Café began to morph into something entirely different. The half-drained bottle of gin on the counter in front of them turned into two strawberry daiquiris, complete with paper umbrellas. The bar and stools turned from elegant dark wood to a retro, Bradies-Do-Hawaii bamboo, the dark interior of the speak transformed into a lush, tropical setting, with open skies above and a magnificent sunset in the distance. The dark, pinstriped suits that the boys had worn, reminiscent of something Al Capone might have had on in the glory days of Chicago organized crime, transformed into loose-fitting swim trunks and Hawaiian shirts, and the orchestra pit was replaced with a pool. As Snoddy performed an impromptu cannonball, he managed to splash both Sarah and the author over at the bar, and they looked down to see their paper leis and hula skirts drenched.
"I hate it when this happens," Sarah sighed.
"Trust me," the author said, taking a sip of her daiquiri. "A lot worse is going on."
Following the author's gaze, Sarah glanced over next to the pool to see a tableful of Mary Sues conversing loudly, ogling the boys as they walked by. The canon characters all ignored them completely, and it was obviously no small feat—the girls were absolutely gorgeous, an irresistible hybrid of Brontë heroines and Bond Girls in training. Their silky curls, in crimson, ebony, and gold, were set loose over bony shoulders, either a burnished bronze or inexplicably as white as virgin wool. Tropical flowers adorned their ears and necks, tied at wrists so slender it made one wonder how they could afford to be so thin and at the same time so voluptuously fill out their coconut bikini tops. They currently seemed to be in the middle of an animated argument over precisely what color Jack's eyes were ("muddy-gray-green-hazel-amber-emerald-smoky-fawn" was the apparent consensus)—yet, even in the heat of debate, their voices as they floated over to the bar were as melodious and lovely as that of a coloratura soprano's.
"Don't look directly at it," the author whispered to Sarah, who was currently glaring at them with a murderous glint in her eye. "If anything, they're your saviors."
"How's that?" she asked curiously.
"No matter how much somebody hates you...they automatically hate them more. And no, I don't think you look fat," she added, almost reading her mind.
"Now that was a Mary Sue moment," Sarah said with a smirk.
As they were clinking their glasses, one of the girls, a cultured-looking blonde with a turned-up nose and masses of honey hair, managed to disengage herself from the conversation, and sauntered over to Spot's side of the bar.
"Hi," she said, smokily. "My name's Lily-Rose Thornbriar Harlow III, what's yours?" She pulled a wad of cash out from her cleavage, set it down on the bar, and waited for the usual response that her money was no good here, because he loved her madly, goddammit.
Spot let out a ragged sigh, and looked at her levelly, seeming oddly in-character. "What can I get ya?"
"Only this," she said, huskily, and with no further warning grabbed hold of him and stuck her tongue down his throat.
When Spot came away it was clear that she had worked her magic. Even before he began to spoke there were tears welling up in his eyes, and by the time he finish, he was nearly sobbing with emotion. "Lily-Rose Blackberry—"
"Whatevah." As he continued, his accent got stronger and stronger, until his words were nearly indistinguishable. "Lily-Rose, I'se love ya like I've nevah loved nobody befoah, an' I wanna devote the rest a' me life ta makin' shoah dat no one evah hoits you, oah ouah unborn children, 'cause I've nevah met a goil as sexy as youse are, an' I nevah will again."
"You bastard!" she shrieked. "I am not a girl! And being sexy has gotten me in a lot of trouble, and I don't trust anyone enough to love them!" With that, she swung at Spot with a spectacular right hook and stomped off. Spot, meanwhile, collapsed, crumpling like a paper napkin at Arby's.
"See what I mean?" the author said.
"Yeah...but wouldn't you kill to be able to punch like that?"
"Sarah," the author said, "I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. The whole infamous wall-punching scene? We gripe about it, we make fun of you for it, we like to think that under the same circumstances we would fight like the Karate Kid. But to be perfectly honest, I doubt that most of us would have even thrown a punch. You did good, kid."
"Who're you calling kid?" Sarah, asked, but she was smiling.
The author just grinned and settled back against the bar, sipping at her drink and looking around at the happy scene spread out before her.
"You know," Sarah continued, "if I have any misgivings about that scene at all, it's that it made the Delanceys seem so evil."
The author looked away from the pool, where she had been admiring Kid Blink's high-diving skills, and wondering how he kept his patch from getting wet. "Hmm?"
"They just never struck me as that demonic...I mean, Oscar's even kind of nice, in a way..."
"You like Oscar?" the author asked, aghast.
But Sarah didn't reply. Following her gaze, the author looked over to the other side of the pool, where Oscar was sitting at a table with Morris, his eyes locked in a heated gaze with Sarah's. Suddenly, he got up, and began to walk toward her.
As he strode over to the bar, the atmosphere once again flickered and changed, and when the light came on they were in a setup reminiscent of Dirty Dancing: a dimly-lit clubhouse smelling of spilled beer and cigarette smoke, couples out on the dance floor, bumping and grinding to the tune of an Otis Redding song.
The utmost in politeness, Oscar raised Sarah's hands to his lips and kissed it gently. "Miss Jacobs...may I have dis dance?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
Smiling, the author watched as the couple tore across the dance floor, a spectacle for all to see, curving, twisting, and moving to the music—set free from who they were supposed to be on another Saturday night at the Subreality Café, where anything in the world can happen, so long as it follows canon.