Framed. [Farscape - Ugly Betty Crossover, rated K+]
Total Fluffy Silliness, for which I apologise in advance: No sex, no violence, no angst, no horror, no strong language, not much characterisation and precious little plot. Contains one Farscape made-up swear word. Thus rated K+.
Crossover of Farscape with Ugly Betty (yes, indeed, you read that right the first time). set 6 years post PKW for Farscape, i.e late 2008. Spoilers for FS up to the end of PKW. I can't think of any spoilers for UB.
I was sitting watching TV with my wife one evening when Harvey the Demon Plot Bunny whispered this one in my ear. As he wouldn't shut up, despite me trying to ignore him for a couple of weeks, I thought I'd better get on and write it. Oh, and I've deliberately not included any Aeryn 'English mispronunciations.' There are enough cliches in this piece already, and, if she could pronounce 'Earth' properly during COD then I'm sure she would have cracked the rest 7 years later. I have deliberately made her speech patterns quite clumsy, however.
Previously posted on Terra Firma.
Disclaimers: The usual. Neither Farscape nor Ugly Betty are mine, this was not for profit, just for fun, and LB is based on no one I know or have ever met. Honest. Please don't sue me. Pretty please, with a cherry on the top.
The preliminary editorial meeting for the Christmas-party-outfit feature was not a happy one, even by Mode standards.
'That is Such a cliché!'
'Well people, I think we are done here,' said Willhelmena Slater with a scowl deeper than usual. 'I expect more from all of you at our Wednesday meeting!' She left the 'Or else….' unsaid, but everyone present knew it was implied.
Betty tottered down the corridor, following Daniel back to his office, wrestling to hold onto the loose collection of papers she carried with one hand whilst stopping her glasses from slipping off her nose with the other.
'Ah, Betty, what are we going to do to make that feature something….. really special..?' Daniel sighed, bouncing into his chair like an overgrown schoolboy whilst simultaneously and absentmindedly flicking on the TV which hung on the wall of his office. Unusually for Mode, the TV was showing a general news channel rather than fashion news. He lowered the volume and turned his attention fully to his PA, 'We lost another quarter point of market share to Sophistication last month. We need to pull off something really different to pull that back.'
'I thought there were a couple of good ideas at the meeting,' encouraged Betty, hugging the pile of papers to her chest.
'You really think so? Asked Daniel with a smirk which belied her suggestion.
Betty swivelled from side to side on her hips, opening and closing her mouth soundlessly. He was right of course. No one had any exceptional ideas for the feature. 'Well, alright, no, but….' Her gaze roamed the office and settled on the TV for a few seconds. She frowned, trying to remember what the soundless pictures she was seeing were about. Then she bounced up and down on the spot and an excited smile broke across her face. 'Daniel! Daniel! Turn up the TV! Her!' Betty squealed, pointing at the TV. 'Her!'
Daniel pulled his head back and narrowed his eyes in an unspoken question as to why Betty had got so excited as he turned up the volume on the TV. A handsome man and an attractive woman, both poker-faced were being hurried by a security team through a large foyer crowded with press and numerous sober-suited people. She was dressed in an incongruous, relative to everyone else, black leather coat and pants, with long, loose raven hair framing her striking face. She was certainly quite a 'looker', albeit in a severe and unusual way, Daniel thought.
'…… missing astronaut Commander John Crichton, who two months ago returned to Earth for the first time in 6 years, was today meeting representatives and officials at the UN with the alien woman Aeryn Sun…' intoned the commentator. The pair stopped for a second, allowing the camera to zoom in on them. Her face was blank, but then Crichton whispered something in her ear and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a stunning smile spread across the whole width of her face. '.. this is the first time the couple, who it is said are married and have two young children, are known to have travelled outside of government facilities since arriving back on Earth….'
'Wow,' breathed Daniel, as the news moved on 'You want HER in the feature? That would be….. Different.'
'Black is so her colour,' observed Betty nonchalantly. 'and it's the party-season feature……'
Daniel thought about the idea for a moment. 'I can't see it happening. But, if anyone can pull it off, it's you: It's your idea - run with it. And let me know how it goes, but do it quickly. We're on a schedule, remember.'
Betty 's desk phone rang whilst she was speaking to her sister on her Blackberry '… got to run, Hilda. Work calls.'
'Betty Saurez, Meade publications.'
'Ah, hello Ms Saurez. My name is Louisa Bach, assistant communications director at IASA. I'm calling regarding the request you made to us earlier this week. I must say, it was rather unusual and intriguing. However I'm afraid the Sun-Crichtons wish to have only essential dealings with the media during their visit to Earth, and we are thus regretfully declining your request.'
Betty's heart sank, but she quickly rallied, 'But it would be such good public relations for you, for them. It would really show a different side to Ms Sun.' Louisa remained silent. Betty sought another approach. 'And you could see it as the space programme reaching out to a whole new group of tax-payers who might not normally be that interested …'
'It is a little more complicated than that Ms Saurez,' Louisa cut in. 'We… they... were very unhappy about the way they were represented in some parts of the media when they were on Earth a few years back. You may recall…..'
Although Betty had only been a teenager when Crichton and his alien companions had made their first visit to Earth, she did remember that there had been a lot of very unpleasant things said about them: Even a year after the aliens had left Earth the press had been filled with wild, lurid and often hostile features. Admittedly though, thought Betty, all the speculation about whether Commander Crichton and Aeryn Sun were lovers now seemed to have been proven to be right.
'Well…..I'm sure we'd be happy to give you, and them, final approval over everything,' interjected Betty. Mode was just a fashion magazine - Betty couldn't imagine what IASA or the Sun-Crichtons might object to them publishing.
'We would expect that as a bare minimum, Ms Saurez.' Said Louisa brusquely. There was silence on the line for a few seconds. 'I'll tell you what, leave it with me. I make no promises, but I will discuss it with Ms Sun and call you back early next week. Goodbye.' And with that Louisa Bach hung up. Betty was flummoxed.
And, much to Betty's astonishment, three days later she got an email to say that a photoshoot should be scheduled for four weeks time, subject to contracts and security clearances.
It was a hectic month: They had agreed that the working title of the article would be 'The Big Night Out' and that they would do a night-time location shoot at the Space Center in Florida. IASA and their security people insisted that the Mode location crew be restricted to no more than eight people, all of whom needed security vetting, whilst all of their equipment and outfits where to be shipped a week in advance for security checks.
Come the big day, Daniel, Betty, Christina, who was in charge of the outfits, and two stylists found themselves alone with a generous buffet in an outside conference facility at the Cape. They had been waiting for a couple of hours. Daniel let out a bored sigh and got up to get himself another coffee, when the door opened and in walked the photographer, his assistant and a charismatic blonde woman of about 35, whom neither Daniel or Betty had previously met.
'Mr Meade, Ms Saurez, so pleased to meet you. I am Louisa Bach,' the woman said in a bubbly, friendly manner, advancing on them, hand outstretched. Her warm smile and demeanour was quite at odds with her first, frosty phone call to Betty. 'Your photographer has agreed on all the locations we might want to use and I've just heard from our security that Ms Sun has arrived on site. Perhaps you'd like to go out to the car park and meet her?'
Two minutes later and they were standing in the cool sun of an October afternoon. Two cars pulled up in reserved places near the door to the conference suite. The second vehicle to arrive, but first to empty, was a dark SUV. Two men and a woman got out, their clothes and bearing shouting 'security detail.' The other vehicle was an expensive German sportscar, everything about it projecting speed and aggression. The passenger door opened and a serious-looking red-haired woman in a smart dark suit got out and scanned the parking lot with her steely gaze . Then Aeryn Sun unfolded her long, leather clad limbs from the driver's seat, stood up, and, so Daniel imagined, briefly caressed the roof of her car before unemotionally looking his way.
'We need to get some shots with her and the automobile….' said Daniel excitedly in an aside to the photographer, whilst not taking his eyes from either Aeryn or the car.
'No,' interjected Louisa flatly, appearing between them as if by magic. 'Too much of a security risk.' she finished in explanation.
'We could use mine instead?' Daniel chirped, reluctant to discard his idea so quickly. He gestured slightly further down the parking lot where another exotic, but much more feminine looking sports car stood out amongst the workaday sedans and compacts. However, Aeryn and her entourage had reached Daniel and his group by then, so he was denied a reply from Louisa.
Introductions were made, through which Aeryn did barely more than nod. With her blank expression, Betty's first thought was that Aeryn was arrogant and aloof, but the Mode team were all used to models like that. Without saying a word in reply to the chatter around her, Aeryn accompanied Betty and Christina inside to a smaller room which had been set aside for costume changes and make-up. No sooner had the door shut behind them than Aeryn spoke, her voice deep and slow, with an Anglo-Australian accent.
'I'm afraid I don't understand any of this.'
'I'm sorry..' began Betty, slightly worried now that Aeryn was about to call off the shoot.
'Earthwomens clothes and… things. They are so impractical - how - why - do you manage?' Aeryn continued, casting an unreadable eye over Betty and her companions. Without waiting for a reply she continued. 'I only agreed to this whole idea because John persuaded me it would help humans to accept us,… and our children. I don't know what you want me to do, and now I'm not sure I want to do it.'
Betty and Christina exchanged a worried glance. They were expecting some sort of dramatic follow up to Aeryn's remarks: Unreasonable demands or a dramatic interlude would be the usual follow up a model would make after being so negative. But Aeryn remained impassive. After a painful silence Aeryn seemed to decide some further explanation was needed: 'I must seem very strange to you, I know. I have trouble understanding your culture. In my culture we are very clear about saying what we mean. And everything, especially clothes, is very practical. Not like here. And your language, it is sometimes difficult for me to get the meanings right.'
Christina bit her lip: Not being an American, she sympathised with Aeryn about differences in culture, although she could only imagine how hard it would be for Aeryn to deal with one so totally Alien to her. She patted Aeryn's hand, and smiled warmly 'Don't worry, sweetie, we'll work it out together…'
They had just returned to the conference suite for a change of outfits for Aeryn. Daniel was sipping on a coffee and nibbling a bagel: the coffee was awful, he thought, but at least the photoshoot seemed to be going well. The most unusual thing had been that Aeryn seemed to carry a small gun with her wherever she went, which was a challenge to hide in some shots: Earlier, one of the security detail had given a weary sigh when Daniel had tried to ask him about it. Just then a man, who Daniel recognized to be the astronaut, John Crichton, entered the room. Aeryn, who had been discussing something with Christina, turned and glowered at Crichton.
'How's it going, honey? You look gorgeous,' Crichton drawled in a Southern accent, seemingly immune to the ominous stare from the alien woman. Her expression made Daniel want to run and hide, even though it wasn't directed at him.
'I look ridiculous, Crichton. And these frelling shoes are awful,' Aeryn snarled. 'I can hardly walk, my feet hurt…' then she lapsed into a stream of tones and clicks that Daniel assumed was her own language. From her attitude, he wasn't sure he wanted to know what she was saying to Crichton, poor guy. She certainly didn't seem happy.
Crichton gently placed his hands on her upper arms. 'I thought we'd talked about all this, baby? We can trust Louisa.' he soothed, briefly kissing her on the forehead.
'Fine, John,' she snapped back, shrugging his hands away, but seeming calmer for their exchange 'But you had better find me some practical shoes to wear when they are not taking their photographs. I cannot keep changing into my boots.'
'Sure honey,' he said. 'I'll try and have something for when you get back from the next session.'
'And I'm taking some of these Earth-woman shoes to the shooting range with me tomorrow for target practice…' Aeryn continued.
Daniel felt Louisa's hand on his arm, distracting him from his eavesdropping. 'I've just had a call from security.' said Louisa quietly. 'Apparently there's a woman here claims to be one of your people and is demanding entry to the shoot. She hasn't security clearance, but she is kicking up one hell of a fuss and shouting about a senator and IASA budgets.'
'That'd be Wilhelmina,' sighed Daniel. She knew about the restrictions, but she told him she was just tagging along on our trip because she had other other business in Florida.
'Anyway, we need to go and deal with it.' Louisa stated. Daniel sighed and put down his coffee and bagel.
'Betty,' he called out. 'Louisa and I have to go sort something out. Look after things …'
'Betty Saurez, Meade publications,' Betty sung into her office phone. Several days had passed since the photoshoot and the editorial project was really starting to come together: They had layouts, draft copy and a shortlist of photographs from each location and with each outfit. She had emailed Louisa the day before to tell her so.
'Ah, hi Betty, it's Louisa here. I'm sorry it's such short notice, but I was wondering if you and Daniel could meet me downtown today to run through your copy, proofs and photos?'
'Oh,' said Betty, 'That is a little short notice. I'll have to check our diaries….'
'Yes, sorry about that,' continued Louisa, 'But we keep Aeryn's itineries on a need to know and short notice basis. It's for her security. Aeryn and John are in town and Aeryn has no engagements this afternoon, so we'd appreciate it if you could make it.'
Betty knew it would be up to her and Daniel to be flexible: No approval from IASA meant no article. 'Emmm. Yes. We can be free from about Four….'
'Excellent. Just you two. Bring ID…. and don't tell anyone except Daniel what this is about beforehand. We're at the Barclay hotel. Ask for me at the main desk, and we'll send someone for you.'
They had spent half an hour flicking through page mock ups and alternate pictures. Aeryn seemed quite bored with the whole business, thought Betty. Then suddenly Aeryn picked out one photo, covered her mouth with her long, fine fingers for a few seconds and laughed before treating Betty and Daniel to one of her dazzling smiles. Louisa leant over to see what had caught Aeryn's eye and scowled
'You can't use this one,' Louisa said firmly to Daniel. 'I'm sorry: It is just not the sort of image we want to promote for Aeryn. '
Daniel returned Aeryn and Louisa a boyish smile, whilst Betty looked concerned. The photo was of Aeryn, looking stunning in a beautiful evening dress. Her left hand held a handbag out of which her right hand was drawing some sort of gun. Worse yet, she was stood in front of her Prowler and the looming Peacekeeper spaceship looked like a threatening caricature of an Earth fighter jet. Daniel looked at the photo and sighed. He nodded 'I think that must have been taken when we got called away to deal with Wilhelmina. We'll get rid of it.' he agreed.
'Hmm,' said Louisa flatly, 'And we expect all electronic and hard copies to be destroyed, as per the terms of our contract.'
'But can I have a print, please, in a, what is the word? A frame?' Asked Aeryn, a wicked glint in her dark eyes and a half smile still lighting up her face. Betty, Louisa and Daniel looked uncertain, so she continued: 'John called me something about a year after we met, while we were still deciding how to deal with each other. He was teasing me and I didn't understand what he meant: I didn't understand half of anything he said back then,' she continued, holding down a giggle. 'I had almost forgotten it until I saw this picture. I'd like this picture for John as a present.' Everyone else still looked confused, so Aeryn continued. 'You see, John called me the pin up girl for frontal assault.'
The others looked at the picture again. He had described her picture-perfect.