Well... here we go. A new day, a new fandom. This was kind of a given once I saw the musical and it was cemented after I saw it three times in one weekend. Of course... my ficcing tendencies didn't go quite in the direction that I was expecting (then again, when do they ever? :P), but I'm pretty happy with where they went, so I'm not complaining.
For those of you who haven't seen either the movie or it's new stage adaptation (and why the hell haven't you? D:), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is about two drag queens and a transsexual who get on a bus and cross the Australian Outback to get to a gig in Alice Springs - which is in the back end of nowhere. They get into a series of adventures as they travel, each more ridiculous and unlikely as the next, and in so doing, become a tightly-knit, loving - if dysfunctional - family. Tony Sheldon (Bernadette), Will Swenson (Tick) and Nick Adams' (Adam) portrayal of the hapless trio is phenomenal. They are perfect, each and every one of them and I can not recommend this musical enough. ^_^ And if you can't get to NY or London and see the show, at least do yourself a favor and rent the movie. It's pure camp, but it's a beautiful, heart-warming story and I adore it. ^_^
*/end shameless plugging*
Fandom: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Pairing: Erm... nothing concrete? Mostly gen, believe it or not.
Rating: PG-13 for references to the events in Coober Pedy.
Word Count: 3,961
Warnings: Slash... sort of? Gender-bending and transsexuals, definitely. Allusion to an attack/attempted rape.
Disclaimer: Neither the musical, the movie nor the boys (or girls ^_^) belong to me. If they did they'd be groping each other on sta-. *pause* *blinkblink* Huh. Look at that... they do. *eg* :D ((The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was written by Stephen Elliott and adapted for the stage by Stephen Elliott and Allen Scott.))
Summary: 'There is something about the way he is sitting there, curled up and miserable by the campfire, that provokes an unwilling twang of sympathy from me.' Bernadette's thoughts after Adam's attack in Coober Pedy.
March 27, 2011: I haven't entirely made up my mind on pairings in this show. I think the Bernadette/Bob dynamic is adorable and I want to squish them all the time and the Tick/Adam undercurrent in the musical is bloody obvious and so dysfunctionally wonderful that I adore it... but there's a part of me that apparently leans another way. ^_~ Enjoy?
And do remember... comments and reviews are love! ^_^
Standing here, watching Tick tear into Adam, I can't help the uncomfortable feeling that I've done something dreadfully wrong. I haven't. I know that. I'm certain of it. Only... I'm not actually as certain of it as I was three hours ago. All of this, this entire disastrous scene, is wrong. And what's more, I really can't deny that I've had a part to play in it, as much as I'd like to. What part, you ask? The villain. I'm not comfortable with that role, never have been. I may have become hard over the years, calloused, but that was of necessity, because I had no other choice. I would never have chosen to be cruel. That came as an unanticipated and unwelcome side effect of having lived as I've lived. And of all the things I wished to impart to Tick, my occasional thoughtless cruelty was never one of them. Clearly I've done so, anyway. And now that I have... how on Earth can I ever undo it?
As Tick finishes his haranguing and finally storms off in disgust, I realize that it doesn't matter how I undo it... only that I do before it's too late. G-d help me. At least I have to try.
My first instinct, of course, is to go after Tick. Then again, it usually is. I have no use for brainless little twinks like Adam, never have, never will. It's boys like him that give women like us a bad name to begin with. They embody the very aggressive homosexuality that the masses of the great unwashed most fear. And in so doing, in feeding into that stereotype, they make things harder for all of us than they are already. They have no respect for the future or the potential consequences of their actions and worse, they have no respect for the past and those of us who suffered and toiled to gift them with the very lives they now treat so recklessly. And dear Felicia is one of the worst of them all. He has no respect, no sense of compassion and no common sense. He cares only for his own fun and to hell with who he may hurt along the way. And really, he brought this entire nasty mess down on his own head. Tick is right about that. Having been warned about the nature of the people in this town, what drag queen in her right mind would load up on drugs, doll herself up and expect a warm reception from the locals? But, as I've said, Felicia has no common sense and I have my doubts that she has any mind of which to speak, much less a right one.
Still... There is something about the way he is sitting there, curled up and miserable by the campfire, that provokes an unwilling twang of sympathy from me. After all, he's accustomed to being treated as the queen we all claim to be. He has an entire court of sycophants at that club of his. They fawn and worship at his feet in such a shameless manner that, to be truthful, it makes me jealous at times. He has the entire world laid out for him, anyone and anything his just for the asking. It's almost too easy to see why he would have thought that the men of Coober Pedy would be just more of the same. And when they weren't... Good heavens, that must have been a horrible shock. He must have been terrified. And no matter how disgusted I am with him usually... well, no one deserves to be violated in that way.
So, though my first instinct is to go comfort Tick, I find myself unable to walk away from Adam. Even so, I can't force myself any closer, either. Compassion for Adam does not come easily to me. I've hated him - and all he represents - for far too long. I turn towards our rickety old bus to put my coat inside, buying myself a little time to think of something to say, anything that might break this uncomfortable silence. I nearly smile when it finally occurs to me what needs to be said.
"You know... Tick is wrong about one thing."
Nothing. No reaction. Oh dear.
One step closer.
"The cities may be dangerous - and don't get me wrong, you can get your throat slit for a cough lozenge..."
Still nothing. Not even an obligatory chortle.
It's only now that he's so unnaturally still that I realize I've never seen Adam as quiet as this. Even in his sleep he is restless, a quicksilver bundle of energy that knows no stifling. It seems wrong to see him so subdued, now. I almost wish he would look up, give me that over-broad sneer of his and say, "Fuck off, Ralph." Almost. Not quite. OK, not really at all.
I take a step closer and say, "...but really, they're the safest place for us. I sometimes wonder if that wall of suburbia has been built to keep us in... or to keep them out."
Finally, a reaction. But it wasn't the one I wanted. Adam's lower lip trembles, juts out a little. His eyes scrunch, his chin quivers and he chokes as he makes a last-ditch effort to hold in the emotions that have been riding him since we found him... but ultimately he loses. With a small hiccupping cry, he begins to sob.
I am so stunned that it takes me a moment to react. In spite of everything, I did not expect this from him. He has a right to be upset, yes. He has a right to be afraid, certainly. But I still didn't expect this. In my heart, I thought, "Surely, he's too shallow to be permanently affected, even by this." Clearly, I was wrong. And now that I think on it... I'm a little horrified by my own thoughts. No one is that shallow.
Uncomfortable in the extreme at Adam's loss of control, I say, "Oh... None of that. Just, stop. Hush."
And it would be difficult to say which of us is more horrified when he tries to obey me and can't. Instead, he continues to sob, louder than before, and finally ducks his head onto his arms, as though to muffle the sound in whatever way he can. I take another step closer, drawn in in spite of myself, memories of my earlier conversation with Tick swimming frantically in my head. I did want children. I had wanted them so badly once that it nearly tore me apart. What I hadn't told Tick was that he was the one who had stepped into the void of that need and ultimately allowed me to indulge that desire in the only way that I could. And now... now there was this boy and my instincts were rearing their ugly head, again.
At a particularly pained sounding sniffle, I can't take it anymore. I close the remaining distance and drop to my knees beside Adam, "There, there... come to Nana!" He doesn't hear me at first, so locked up is he in his own misery. I take him by the shoulders and give him a little shake. He looks up at that and I give his arms a tug, motion that he can wrap them around me if he wishes. And the look he gives me, then... Dear G-d, I've never felt so wretched in all my life. I can see it, lurking in the depths of his eyes... mistrust. Where before there had been only innocent joy, now there is this fear, fear that he will be hurt again, fear that he will be betrayed. And what put that look there, it isn't entirely the fault of those men... and that shames me most of all.
Giving him as comforting an expression as I can manage, I motion, again. He doesn't need to be told a third time. Those strong, young arms latch onto me like a life preserver in a storm-tossed sea. A moment later, the sobbing resumes, quieter now, but no less pain-filled for that. This is the pain of that first unfairness all over again. No child should have to live through that twice - even the most obnoxious child - and my heart goes out to him.
The true shame of it, though, is that I'm not the one he really needs. Adam is only accepting this comfort from me because I'm here and I'm offering and he's hurting so badly that he just doesn't care. But the one he really wants, the one he looks up to, the one he needs... is Tick. And Tick is the one who has betrayed him worst of all tonight. In this one moment, this one moment when Adam needs him the most, Tick is so wrapped up in his own problems - whatever the hell they are - that he can't see how scared his young friend is and how badly Tick's own words have hurt him.
Which brings me back around to the part that I've played in all of this. Tick... my poor Tick... He is a soul divided, at war with itself. He speaks with great conviction of how the other woman in his life - Mitzi - ended any chance he had to work things out with his wife years ago, yet when asked to define his sexuality, he can't even do that. He revels in creating routines and new costumes for his stage show, eagerly accepts whatever meager praise there is from the men in the clubs when he is performing, yet when faced with an opportunity to trot any part of Mitzi out into the light of day, he is so deeply ashamed that he might as well still be in the closet. And his friendship with me has not done him any favors.
When he first came to Sydney, Tick was... dear G-d, he was so adorably clueless. I know now that he must have only recently separated from his wife, only recently discovered that his own sexuality veered from the norm, but at the time, all I knew was that he was a nave, wide-eyed caterpillar just waiting for someone to come along and teach him how to become a butterfly. And I wanted to be that teacher. I didn't realize at the time how deeply I was going to drag us both down to do it. I wish I had. I would have handled a great many things differently.
The difficulty was that Tick's was not the only soul divided at that time, nor is it now. I might have become a woman on the outside, but in my heart, I was still a drag queen, perhaps even still a homosexual. The men I was drawn to were those who would understand me, those of my kind... other homosexuals. But now that I was a woman in more than just name, none of them would be interested in me as more than a friend. Enter Tick.
...No pun intended, believe it or not.
Tick was entranced by the entire drag scene. The lights, the costumes, the glamour of it all. And when he discovered that the elegant woman paying him such attention was one of the most famous - or perhaps infamous is a better word choice - Les Girl of them all... I think he was a little starstruck. He wanted what I had had. He wanted the worship of the crowd, the glamour of being dolled up in sequins and feathers... the adoration of every man who crossed his path. And he thought that if he learned from me, he could attain that status. And if that was an exaggeration, can you blame me for not disabusing him of it? After all, what washed up old drag queen doesn't want a nubile, eager-to-please young man to worship at her feet and make her feel relevant again? I was no different than any other old drag queen that way. Unfortunately, it started a pattern that ultimately did harm to us both.
I taught Tick everything that I knew. The only problem being that all of my vaunted knowledge was from another time, another world, almost. Even then, a few brave artists were moving away from the lip-sync. Even then, the costumes were becoming more revealing, more flamboyant. Even then, the new generation of drag queens were becoming a little braver, a little less afraid... their flames burning that much more brightly. The concepts of "less is more" and of old Hollywood romance were rapidly going the way of the dodo. And poor Tick... he got stuck. Mitzi was a creation caught halfway between the old world and the new and not really a part of either. Tick spent so much time in my company that the other queens his own age started to doubt that he was even gay, at all. A window of opportunity closed on him during that time, coincidentally trapping him in a place where I was the only real friend he had who understood him. To this day, a part of me wonders whether I did it on purpose. Of course, left with myself as his only true companion, Tick began to have doubts about other things, as well. He worshipped me, adored me, looked up to me. In a way, I was a second mother to him... and in another way, I was nothing of the kind. I was an icon, a symbol, something which Tick wanted to possess. I think he may have been a little bit in love with me. Looking back on it... I was certainly a little bit in love with him.
And there's the rub, my dears. A newly emerged homosexual drag queen and a washed-up post-op transsexual drag queen in love? It was like a bad joke... or the worst case of missed timing there ever was. Had Tick been a few years earlier or I a few years younger... but we weren't and nothing would change that. Just another of a thousand regrets I've racked up in my life. And Tick... well, it confused him. I see that, now. I, at least, understood. I don't think he did. And that closed even more windows of opportunity. I'm almost glad that I didn't know at the time that he'd been married. I'm afraid that I would have reacted to that knowledge most inappropriately... and I'd have damaged my best friend irreparably.
And so we limped along, tied to each other in a way neither of us wished to break, even though we both suspected we should. And things would have continued on that way if not for Adam. Adam... dear G-d, I hated him. This was no innocent country caterpillar. Adam was a stooping hawk. Adam had the luxury of knowing exactly who he was and exactly what he wanted... and more importantly, he knew exactly how to get it. He was everything that Tick had wanted to be, he had everything that Tick had wanted to have and Tick was entranced with him from minute one.
I hated him on sight.
The true irony was that I didn't even realize why. Superficially, I could list a thousand reasons, but none of them explained my bone-deep animosity. I didn't see it at the time, but now, after spending days trapped on a bus with him, I understand completely. It was about Tick. It had always been about Tick and I had just been too blind to see it. Around me, Tick was Tick. Because of who and what I was, Tick played the gallant lover for me, the gentleman caller. He kept himself tied to his old, straight self, pandering to my need for romance, eagerly doing anything he could to make me smile. But around Adam... around Adam, he could be Mitzi. And after all this time bogged down in my old sentimentality, Mitzi desperately wanted to cut loose and play. And this side of Tick, this raunchy, inappropriate - dare I say it? - twink side of Tick... I didn't know him. I wouldn't have wanted to know him. He had the potential to turn into just another Adam - a vapid, thoughtless, reckless carbon copy of Felicia. And for that, I hated Adam most of all.
And so we stand. I on the side of class and old glamour, manners and good taste, Adam on the side of sensuality and innuendo, sex, drugs and rock and roll... and dear Tick stuck halfway between us both, desperately afraid to take a step in either direction for fear that it will be the wrong one. And on top of that - as though we need anything else piled on top of this mound of shit - now we find out that Tick was and, more importantly, still is married. And if his overreaction to tonight is any indication, something about this trip has him more tangled than Adam and I could ever get him between us... and that is saying something.
But even I can see that none of that matters right now. What matters is that Adam, as much as I resent him and as much as he brought this on himself, has been through a terrible ordeal tonight - one I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, if my preoccupation with his well-being is any judge - and he needs support and reassurance. And if Tick doesn't get his head out of his own arse where he's clearly buried it today and comfort his friend... I'm going to have a few harsh words of my own to say to him.
Turning my attention back to the shaking boy in my arms, I start soothingly running my fingers through his hair, "Easy, now. You're safe. It's going to be all right." Smiling softly, I push him upright to look down into his tear-reddened eyes, "Besides, I thought you came out here to climb every mountain... not mount every red-neck!"
That last finally startles a smile out of him, a brief chuckle between the tears. He sniffles, brushes a knuckle across his running nose. Frowning, I pull out my handkerchief and tap his hand with it. He takes it with a watery smile, then presses himself back against me, still shaking with the occasional repressed sob. I just cradle him against me, continuing to comb my fingers through his hair, "You're a good boy, Adam... somewhere deep down. I'm sure of it. We just have to find you."
I may have imagined it, but I could almost feel a ghost of a nod from where Adam's head was pressed against my side. Well... maybe there's hope for him, yet. I continue rocking him for the next several minutes, quietly singing one of the only Madonna songs I can actually remember the lyrics to, something about being "true blue." He stirs himself to sing along with me at the choruses, but otherwise remains silent. I'm disturbed to find that that quiet from him which I so craved is actually disquieting. By the time we've reached the end of the song and I've started fumbling my way through another one, we finally hear the murmur of other voices coming around the side of the truck: Tick and Bob.
Ah, Bob... I do feel bad for him. Caught up in the middle of all of this drama, his life turned neatly on its end and he too much a gentleman to even protest the upheaval. He is nothing like what I have always desired... but even I can't deny that he might just be exactly what I need - what we all need. After all, a mother is all well and good, but don't boys do best with a ready father figure around, as well?
He and Tick slowly approach Adam and I. I am stunned nearly speechless a moment later when Bob indicates that he'll be joining us for the last leg of our trip, as well. I am speechless... and ridiculously happy. Maybe I don't have a right to be, but there it is. Before I have a chance to say anything much at all, Tick steps up next to me and drops a hand onto my shoulder. I can see from the look on his face that he's realized that he... overreacted. Reaching a hand down towards Adam, he offers the boy a gentle smile, "Come on, Felicia. We're not needed here. Let's go to bed."
And, oh... the look on Adam's face. I've never seen such an expression of purely innocent joy on his face before as the one he gives Tick when he realizes that he's been forgiven. Oh, child... perhaps you and I aren't so different, after all. It really always has been all about Tick, hasn't it? As Tick pulls Adam to his feet and into a gentle one-armed embrace, the last of the darkness leaves Adam's face and the expression that's left behind... I am humbled. This is Adam with all the show of his personality stripped away. And this Adam...
I forget, too often, how young he is and - for with all his touted experience - how innocent. He still believes in the essential goodness of mankind, still believes that all he needs to be is himself and people will love him for it. I lost that belief years ago... if I ever had it at all. And Tick, he has fought to hold onto the belief, but the last few years have made it harder and harder for him to do so. But maybe... just maybe that's what Adam has been trying to accomplish all this time. Maybe that's why he hates me so much. He's seen the negativity in me, the hopelessness, and how it bleeds into Tick... and more than anything, he wants to save his friend from becoming me... a washed-up, old has-been with nothing to keep me company but my own bitterness. All I need do is look in his unmasked eyes to see it... because he's a little in love with Tick, too.
Tick pulls Adam up against him, wrapping an arm firmly around the boy's waist. And Adam, eyes all innocent dancing glee, just turns to me and offers this sage advice, "Don't stay out too late!" And though I want nothing more than to walk over and smack him for the teasing, for once, I understand that it wasn't meant as insult. It was meant as a thank you. So, when I roll my eyes heavenwards and shoo them on their way, I hope he will take it as I meant it... as a thank you of my own. Because, I finally understand. I can't save Tick from himself... but I think maybe Adam can. I hope so. I truly do. And if he can, I'll try to be gracious enough to keep out of the way. After all the harm I've already done, how can I do anything less?
And besides... I look back at Bob where he's settling in beside the campfire. Bob is a gentleman of as classic and old-time a cut as I am a dame. He exudes that gallantry that Tick pretends to as easily as he breathes. I could do worse. In fact, I have done worse. Many a time. I could be happy with Bob. I could.
And if this feels more like I am trying to convince myself than him, if I can't help picturing a different man beside me in the night... who's to say that either of them has to know? After all, a lady must have some secrets...
Adam: *woobie eyes* What... what... That's not nice!
R-chan: O_O Really... someone should explain a few things to him.
Claude: *rolls his eyes* *wanders over and takes Adam by the elbow, begins talking to him in a low whisper as he drags him off*
Berger: *eyes Tick*
Tick: *eyes Berger*
Both: *blinkblink* Huh. Well that's... huh.
Bernadette: *stares at Tick and Berger* *clasps hands to her breast* Oh dear Lord, I've died and gone to Heaven! *_* *_*
Berger: *evil grin* Oh this has the potential to be sooooooo much fun! *grabs Tick by the elbow and drags him off in the opposite direction that Claude and Adam went* OK, here's what we're gonna do...
Tick: *tosses Help-Me eyes at the fic author*
R-chan: *eg* *settles in to just enjoy the chaos as it unfolds* ^_^
Questions, comments, raspberries?
Yes... yes... there will be more. I managed to curtail this one before it became a monster, but it bred babies in the other room when I wasn't looking. :-P Damn it.