Trent Lane belongs to Viacom. Darnit. The story is my idea, sort of. Or Maybe Trent's. Let's call it a Trenty-Sue.
OK, this is maybe PG-13 in terms of content. I'm just experimenting with the mature audience card.
Author's Note: This was written back when I was married to the guy mentioned in this fic. Clearly, things have changed. I'm not sure if my boyfriend knows about my relationship with Trent.
Story of My Muse : A Creative Manifesto of Fan Fiction (to eventually
become "Conversations with Trent" possibly. Or to be
at the sheer surreality of this crap.)
"GAH!" the redheaded woman sat up from her bed with a horrified shriek, almost the same pitch as her electronic alarm clock. She reached over from the bed and fumbled with it, somehow knocking it under her bed without actually turning it off. She rolled her body to the side of the bed, suspended only by a too-tightly tucked sheet, to reach underneath and grab the offending clock. Just as she managed to shut the clock off, the sheet gave way under her weight and she landed on the hardwood floor with a thud.
"Must be Monday," she mumbled. "What did I drink last night to have a dream like that?"
half whispering male voice above her corrected her. "Today is
you have the day off work, and you went to bed completely sober after spending too damn long at the computer again."
rolled off the floor and grabbed her bedsheet around her. A cartoon
was sitting on her bed, smiling lazily as she clutched her sheet around her naked body. "Nice toga, medea42, but I thought you were over that frat girl look."
"Trent?" the woman goggled.
looked down at himself. "In the...flesh doesn't really work here
me, does it?"
half-smiled. "I'll leave you to get dressed. Let me see if I
get your coffeemaker working." He looked her up and down. "You're the type that keeps coffee in the freezer, right?"
"Yeah," she said.
"Please, call me Di!" she said to the retreating cartoon figure.
"But that's so morbid!" he called over his shoulder.
sat on her bed for a moment, doing her best to regain her senses.
She hadn't been sleeping much, and she did need her dream periods to remain stable. She also hadn't been writing much, and she was very driven creatively by her dreams. She wished fervently her husband were home to verify whether she was having a hallucination or a straightforward psychic event. He had a list of symptoms she'd given him, but he couldn't very well drive her to the hospital when he was piloting an international flight.
rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and after considering a
dragged some bell-bottomed jeans "Flare leg my fashionable big ass," she muttered and a tank top with a heart on it. Still barefoot, she stomped into the kitchen wondering where she'd put her slippers. Di hated walking barefoot; the floor was cold, and the housekeeper was afraid of the linoleum ever since she'd found a few protective runes Di had etched into the floor. She hated scratchy feelings under her feet.
the time Di finished her tangent, she was almost convinced that
Trent hallucination was simply a continuation of the truly messed up dream she'd had the night before. She sleepily picked up the coffee mug that was steaming for her on the kitchen table and shuddered at the memory before taking a slug of the bitter Mexican blend. In her dream, she was no longer the round friendly redhead of her daily life. She was thin, which was okay...and blonde, which was annoying...and dumb, which was horrifying. What made the dream a nightmare was that she was dating Jesse from the cartoon Daria. What made the nightmare an insult was that she herself was a cartoon.
was something Jesse had said to her, right before she woke up.
took another gulp of coffee. She was dumb in the dream, and maybe her memory didn't work so well there, either. Di disliked this; normally she could take control of her dreams, and in this one she was trapped by her own cartoonishness. Something about...a muse...and her gazebo.
stared down at her coffee cup, and it occured to her to wonder where
the hell the coffee had come from. She spat it out in surprise.
Trent's voice floated towards her from her home office. "What's
the matter, med- uh, Di?"
"You are!" Di poured her coffee into the kitchen sink and walked into the
room adjacent to her office. She kept sage and holy water on her desk. Her standard cleansing rituals worked on ghosts and insurance salesmen; manifesting cartoon characters were probably included in the list of entities easily driven from her house.
opened the door that joined her library and office with her ritual
"You're not going to shake sage at me again are you?" Di already had it lit and was doing an incantation while stomping on the sparks that came flying off the leaves. She glared at him, marched up and waved it at him.
She'd expected to go through him, but Trent proved quite solid for something made of ink. She defiantly blew the sage smoke into his face. Trent coughed.
"Dammit, Di! I have asthma!" Di's throat began to itch; she wondered if
Trent was a projection of her subconscious, though why she'd give him her asthma symptoms to share was beyond her. She bapped Trent on the head with her sage for good measure before grabbing her homeopathic asthma medicine off her desk and taking the dosage she needed when handling incense smoke. She could feel her trachea expand and the itch disappeared, but Trent was still coughing.
felt a twinge of compassion, hearing his desperate wheeze on the
She opened the vial of medication and popped three pills into her hand. "Here!" she said, deftly slipping the medication under Trent's cartoon tongue. She was surprised that his mouth was wet and warm. He somehow seemed more real despite his inky nature.
That's not quite what happened, and you know it, Trent!
I'll admit that that's not when it really began. Hey, you're the one who asked.
I'm the writer, it's my job to ask.
Aw c'mon Di, you left journalism years ago. Why be so picky about details, especially when the story's about you and me?
I left journalism, but I didn't leave my brains with it. And there's always been way more than you and me to this story! Hurry up and get on with this!
Everything in its own time, baby.
Call me baby again and I really will bap you with burning sage.
Hey, be cool, Di, be cool.
Trent's own asthma attack cleared. "Magic stuff?"
Di smiled. "The magic of homeopathy. Not that Mr. O'Neill makes it seem any more legitimate."
Trent grinned, and Di started to relax. Zelda Fitzgerald wasn't the first person to try riding out a nervous breakdown, and Di figured she was due. Might as well see where this trip took her. Hallucinating a cartoon character was a far cry from inflicting harm on herself.
"Cool as you are, I'm not here to hang out." Trent perched himself on the cedar chest that Di kept next to her computer. She had a strange compulsion to mix antiques with modern equipment. For every ounce of technology in her home, Di had an antique to complement it.
"What are you here for?" Di wished she'd finished drinking her coffee.
"I'm here for you to write."
"Oh." How disapointing. Her hallucination wanted her to get her work done.
"And I'm NOT a hallucination, Di."
"What are you then?" Di mentally flipped through her files on banishable non-physical beings.
"In the strictest sense of the word, Di, I'm here to ask to be your muse."
"YOU'RE my muse?" Di looked at him in slight disbelief. Trent Lane?
"I am the spirit of the character Trent Lane, and yes, I can be your muse."
Di sat heavily in her chair. GREAT. "Uh, why?"
Trent smirked. "Well, Jesse thought the fanfics you wrote about me were kinda cute, and when he checked you out, you were totally non-groupie so he passed your name along."
"Huh?" Di was feeling about as intelligent as she had in her dream the night before. "Uh, those were just for fun."
know. Haven't read them. Don't touch the stuff myself; worse on the
essence of a spirit than laudanum." Trent was making fan fiction
sound like something between heroin and alcohol. Wait, laudanum was
heroine in alcohol. Di dismissed her herbal studies from her mind to
focus on her nervous breakdown at hand. After a pause where Di
continued to stare at him in utter confusion, Trent leaned forward
and whispered in her ear, "I've enjoyed our conversations in the
gazebo, so I decided to come inside and
pay you a visit."
The gazebo was Di's "happy place", never revealed to anyone. She would conjure it in her mind when she was lonely and confused, or stuck in a creative rut. Often, she conjured a friend to sit and talk with her, help her work out her creative problem or talk about the feelings she'd internalized. Sometimes she called on a friend who'd passed on; other times, she went to her imaginary friend Dobby; for some reason lately, she'd been going to meet Trent. The scenes had been growing more and more intense, almost sexually charged. Nate, when he was home, noticed a slight difference, but made no comment. He was used to his wife maintaining relationships with realities unseen, and felt his energy was much better spent loving her than worrying about any nonphysical person she loved too. When Di had admitted to Nate her slight crush on cartoon Trent, Nate had smirked and said "Papercuts!" before asking her to pick their next vacation spot.
Why did you come to the gazebo, really?
I don't know. It's not like you're lonely or anything.
A surrogate. Maybe to help you stay married and resolve things with someone else who still loved you.
Oh puh-leeze, I'm not that hot to trot.
You could be.
Trent, cartoon or no, you had to have some selfish motivation, too.
That really hurts, Di.
Yeah, I'm just a bitch today, aren't I?
OK, so I DID have a selfish motivation. I wanted someone to hear my side of things.
Before or after "In a Nutshell?"
Before. I snuck in and started whispering to you while you watched it the first time.
You wanted me to give you a voice?
I wanted a voice that was something more than a vacuum-cleaner attachment to Daria!
Now there's an image.
"C'mon Di, think about it?" Di booted up the computer. Trent was clearly not going anywhere.
"I don't know. I'm not into making commitments to cartoon characters." On a good day, she couldn't commit to keeping a hair appointment. Marriage pretty much took all her limits in that territory.
"I'll let you have your slipppers back," Trent wheedled.
Di glared at him. "So YOU are what happened to them?"
Trent looked guilty. "Actually, Nick thought that gold harem slippers were cool, and they fit him..."
"And now I understand that there is actual logic to foot binding. Women can keep their shoes safe from cartoons!"
Di checked her email and left for a long, long walk. Trent managed to appear in the gazebo. "Please, I just want to help!" he insisted.
"Fine," Di said out loud, startling a woman ahead of her who was walking her dogs. "What does this involve?"
"Who are you talking to?" the woman asked, looking at Di in confusion.
Di smiled and waved. "Good morning Lottie. I'm just having another nervous breakdown and arguing with my imaginary friend. Happens all the time!"
Trent did his laugh/cough. "You know she's going to call the state on you someday."
"She already has, twice," she told him. The first time, Nate had to go get her because the therapist wouldn't leave off of her "witchcraft delusion" until she asked him if he thought the ACLU was also a delusion. The second time, she wound up evaluated by a younger man who kept a pentacle poorly tucked under his lab jacket who gave her a quiet talk about shielding and suggested she start carrying her certificate of sound mind in her wallet next to her driver's license.
Di began thinking of something besides Trent, calling an old friend into the gazebo. The conversation always started the same way; You're darker than I remember you, and she would remember in frustration the last email he'd sent her right before her wedding. Trent inserted himself into the role of her friend: You're wilder.
Di flinched. "Trent!" she snapped. "Get out of my head!"
"Sorry," Trent mumbled and disappeared in a poof of dried ink.
You went with it and you know it.
Not when I knew it was you.
I just wanted to prove I could help you by showing you how a muse works.
But fan fiction Trent? Please, I've been above that for years! It's so... high school.
Then why'd you do it in the first place?
Because it's a no pressure/no brainer thing. I could get my crap out onto the fan fic, and let my mind process the stuff I write for publication.
I never will get you.
Then why are you here?
Because you're so...Di...
Seriously; why choose me? I couldn't be any less rock'n'roll.
Because you're not rock'n'roll. You're about consequences, and so am I.
Is this going to break into a condom advertisement?
Ask your husband, smartass.
Di decided to leave the house, go bury herself in a bookstore or library and call it publisher's research. She wished she had friends who lived close by; a long path of alienation had led her thousands of miles from people she loved, and Nate wasn't going to be home for another two weeks. She debated hopping on IRC and seeing if Bunny was around, but Bunny, like her, had a job, and the people who hung out during the day were usually sleep-deprived and a bit more interested in their own projects. Besides, this situation would make the loserhood of cybersex pale by comparison. Her two best girlfriends wouldn't get the situation at all - Julie would tell her she was crazy, and Beth would say something completely incomprehensible, and then burst out after Di had resolved the situation with something actually insightful about it. Besides, one was in Indiana and the other was in Wisconsin. Bunny was her best bet for a person with the bizarre intelligence needed to handle cartoon related paraphenomena, and she was in Florida, hopefully being swept off her feet by a nice compatible guy.
"Maybe I've been working at home too long," Di mumbled. She loved writing full time, and accepted it was a solitary life, but sometimes things were a bit...off...after she spent too long alone in her office.
As she swept her keys off the library table, Trent appeared by he side. "Never thought you'd be pursued by the musician type, did you?"
"Only if you don't count that tuba player in the 9th grade," Di told him.
Trent disappeared before she got in the car. "Station wagons creep me out," he said, popping into his dried ink dust cloud.
Di brightened when she got home. Nate's car was in the driveway. "Natey home!" she bounced through the doorway. Nate was still in his pilot's uniform; he must have just walked through the door. Di hated how men looked in uniform, so he did his best to switch to casual clothing when he could.
"Hey sweetie. My plane got called in for maintenance." Nate kissed her and babbled about work and some online roleplaying game he'd missed a turn on. "So what's new with you?"
"I'm being haunted by a cartoon character that wants to be my muse. Trent Lane, that one I was writing about for awhile."
Nate pulled a list out of his wallet. "Nope, that one's not on the list of psychiatric events. Want to drive to the hospital anyway?"
Di wrinkled her nose. "I think Lottie's pretty reliable about turning me in when I need a checkup. Want to go for dinner?"
Nate smiled and rushed off to change clothes. Trent appeared in a corner.
I still don't see why you told him.
He's my husband. We agreed before we got married to full disclosure.
Yeah, but I felt so stupid.
YOU felt stupid? Trent, who approached who here?
Yeah, but you say crazy shit all the time.
Thanks Trent. I really like knowing you're just here to give me another push towards the nuthouse.
That's not cool.
Sigh. I know you'll be back tomorrow.
"So do you want to?" Trent asked.
Di just looked at Trent, a Daria-like mask on her face. "Do you give up?"
Nate appeared, tucking in his T-shirt. "Talking to Trent, hon?"
"Yeah. He's still bugging me about being my muse." Di paused a moment. "I'm tempted," she admitted to him. "How do you feel about it, Nate?"
"You'll still be sleeping with me?" Nate asked.
"Well, yeah. You're my Nate, and Nate first!" Di assured him.
"And I don't have to talk to him or anything?" Nate was still mad at the house faeries for their help in rearranging his shelving units while he was gone for ten minutes earlier that month.
Nate shrugged. "OK then. As long as no effort is required from me." He kissed Di and wandered into her office to check his email.
There's still one more part, Di.
Are you sure we should tell them?
Why on Earth do you want me to write this, anyway?
people know what a muse is and what it's about. So people understand
that it's not just love and money and attention that
And you're bothering me with it because?
C'mon Di, don't be like that.
All right. I'll tell. But Nate will be upset when he sees it.
No he won't.
Remember "Slacker". He hated it.
Di eventually consulted with Bunny about her Trent visitation. On IRC, with no facial expressions to back up conversation, Di could pretend her friend didn't think she was another loser who spent too long at the keyboard. Trent sat on her cedar chest.
"Tell Bunny I said hi," he told her.
Bunny was accepting of Di's insanity that night. Compared to other people she'd been chatting with, Di seemed almost boring. Or unboring, from what Bunny was dishing. "C'mon, you're lucky. He wants to be YOUR muse. Not many girls can claim that."
No, most girls wanted to be the muse. Di tried it once, but she didn't simper well and ended up throwing cold water down the guy's pants. Trent poked his head in front of her to read the screen, and gave his low laugh.
Finally, after Di turned off the computer, she turned to face Trent. "OK, I accept that your here," she told him.
"And I accept that you don't want to hurt me."
Trent nodded vigorous agreement.
"So what is involved in making you my muse?"
"This," said Trent, and he leaned over and kissed her. Di's mind was filled with cartoon dreams, and she swore she floated, computer chair and all, off the floor. Trent grinned as he pulled away. "That's it. Now you just call on me whenver. I can't guarantee quality - that's your job, but I will take my ideas to you."
I admit that wasn't so bad.
Then why'd you put up such a fight about it?