Normality or a Lack Thereof

"Well, nobody's perfect," Osgood says cheerfully–

And the world stops and stares at him for a moment, trying to figure out if he could have really just said that.

Then the moment ends, as Sugar, apparently finished reuniting with Joe, leans over into the front of the motorboat. "Where are we going?" she asks breathily. Her wrap trails off her shoulders, and both ends of her jiggle. Osgood and Joe both stare at the end nearest them; Jerry-who-until-just-now-was-Daphne glowers at them both. Good lord, he thinks distractedly, she can't really not know what her breasts are doing right now. And my fi– Osgood is practically drooling on her. His hand itches to slap Osgood back into line; Daphne would have. He doesn't.

Osgood mugs at Sugar, surprisingly, in a grandfatherly rather than flirtatious fashion. "Out to my yacht. We're going to South America! I think."

"Nooo, we're not," Jerry says dully. "We ain't eloping, Osgood."

Joe leans past Sugar into the front of the motorboat as well. He's already back to being one hundred percent Joe, like the dress he's wearing and the past couple of weeks of his life just don't, and never did, exist. "Ohhh yes we are, Jerry. We're still going to South America."

Osgood pats Jerry's hand. "We'll talk about it later," he says, and turns to Sugar. "I don't think we've been introduced. I'm Osgood Fielding III. And you are?"

Introductions ensue, or re-introductions anyway. Sugar, upon learning Joe's name, giggles and says she gets it and begins telling him about another saxophone player who she fell for who was also named Joe. Jerry catches his breath and tries to return to the reality he's been away from for so long, the one he's been waiting to come back to.

And he realizes that he isn't succeeding. He's too confused. He's wearing a bellhop's uniform and high heels underneath a dress, and there's a wig on his lap, and he's sitting next to a man who apparently thinks that the two of them are eloping together and his real sex doesn't make any difference whatsoever to the situation. He's heard millionaires are supposed to be eccentric, and he knows Osgood is a little kooky, but this is not a little kooky – this is completely insane.

The Caledonia II looms up ahead of them in the dusk. It is enormous close up. Jerry's only ever caught glimpses of it from the shore before – he's been busy dragging Osgood off to roadhouses and things, too busy lying about seasickness and about everything else. To tell the truth, he has no idea whether or not he gets seasick, but he suspects miserably that he might. Well, it's not like he can remember the last time his personal convenience was anywhere near the top of the priority list anyway.

The crew is present today, and they help everyone on board. Jerry gives Osgood an arm up – the man is in his sixties, after all – and Osgood somehow twists it around so that he, Osgood, is giving Jerry his arm up. Jerry's too dazed to resist. He's feeling a bit lightheaded.

Osgood waves to the crew, who scuttle off to weigh anchor or do whatever they've been told to do previously, leaving just the four of them on deck. Joe sidles up to Osgood. "Hey, can me and Jerry borrow some clothes? We left our suitcases at the hotel."

Jerry glances at him sidelong. The hell he did; the only men's clothes either of them had, and it was only one suit anyway, came out Beinstock's suitcase and they both know it. But he does feel an urgent need to change out of all these clothes – at least then maybe his head will stop spinning quite so much.

Osgood nods agreeably and calls to the crew to show them to their rooms and provide them with some spare uniforms to change into. Sugar tags along, peeking over their shoulders into the large nautically-trimmed rooms, until Osgood takes her elbow and shows her into another room down the hall. Jerry glances in and sees a sea of pink – pink walls, pink shag carpet, pink bed, pink furniture, pink everything. Billows of perfume waft out the door and down the hallway.

Osgood leaves Sugar emitting cries of delight and sidles back down the hall to Jerry's side. "It was going to be yours," he says. "But I thought you might need some time to..."

Jerry nods and flees into his bedroom, slamming and locking the door behind him. There's running water in the bathroom, and he realizes that in fact he's just locked himself in Joe's room. That's okay, actually. That's good. Maybe Joe, for whom things always turn out okay against all logic, can talk some sense into this situation.

He changes out of his motley assortment of garments at the foot of the bed. The bellboy's uniform was really much, much too small for him, and he's feeling cheered up by the small comfort of getting to take it off. Right up, that is, until he notices the spray of tiny bloodstains on the jacket and pants, blank stencil marks in the cloth's folds and where Joe's arm was around him; Spats' blood. Then he feels sick. He wads the bloody uniform up in his dress and shoves the whole thing down at the bottom of the clothes hamper, then sinks down on the bed and sticks his face in his hands. "What am I going to do, Joe?" he calls to the bathroom. "What am I going to do?"

Joe emerges from the bathroom in the snappy blue-and-white nautical uniform worn by all the Caledonia's crew, wiping his face with a cloth. "Whaddaya mean, what are you going to do?" he demands from the doorway. "We don't have to do anything anymore, Jerry! We're sitting pretty! All our troubles are over! Your fiancé is taking us to South America, all expenses paid, and Sugar and I are engaged."

"My fiancé," Jerry repeats, "is a man. We're done pretending, okay, Joe? We're not with the band anymore, we're done dressing like ladies, and we're done with everything that went along with that. You understand that? Osgood and me are not engaged anymore."

"I know that, you idiot," Joe says. "But he's still our ticket outta all this. So we both gotta be nice to him, okay? Now go wash your makeup off."

Jerry realizes, in the bathroom, that he's shaking; the shock of all the enormous number of things that have happened in the last hour or so is just beginning to set in. Joe sits on the marble-topped counter by the sink and watches Jerry while he scrubs his face and stares at the last traces of Daphne swirling around the sink, down the drain, and disappearing. "We did good this time, Jerry," he says.

"No, we didn't," Jerry says, and walks out of the bathroom and out of the bedroom. Joe stares after him and sighs.

Osgood and Jerry do not talk about it later. Osgood and Jerry don't talk about much for the rest of the week, really – they make small talk just like everyone else on the boat. Everyone and everything seems to be in a sort of limbo – outside of the plot, outside of reality, outside of all commitments. They all know that eventually the yacht is going to arrive at its destination – somewhere in Guatemala or Nicaragua or one of those places, Osgood is the only one of them who really knows geography out of the United States at all – and they're going to have to pick up dealing with all the complications of their situations more or less where they left off, but for now they're taking a break from life. As a foursome, they play a lot of pinochle and pool and do some fishing and eat wonderful shipboard meals. Osgood does what he seems to usually do on the yacht, which is sit around on the bridge and drink things. Joe and Sugar make leaps and bounds of interpersonal discovery, Joe's bedroom almost always empty at night. It absolutely astounds Jerry that Joe's deception doesn't seem to bother Sugar at all, but then, that's Joe for you: he always gets what he wants.

Jerry... Jerry tans, and wanders around the boat in shirtsleeves, and tries, as much as he can manage, not to think about anything at all whatsoever. He mostly talks with Joe, who, bizarrely, has not changed a bit since before this whole situation, and he wonders about whether Joe and Sugar will really make it together even until they reach land. He mourns the loss of their bass and sax – he knows there's nothing that could be done about it, seeing as they were fleeing for their lives from gangsters, and Osgood has promised that he'll buy them new instruments when they reach land... but Osgood, Osgood as to do with Jerry is a touchy subject in any context, and anyway Osgood has been known to be fickle. Really, Jerry and Joe and Sugar should be thanking God, or perhaps questioning God, that he's even taking them to South America at all. But Jerry still misses having his bull fiddle, because with it he could at least have been Jerry the musician, and without it he is just very, very confused.

There is one awkward time when Joe walks into Jerry's bedroom without knocking and catches him in a pair of high heels which he's surreptitiously saved from the day when Joe ceremonially threw all of their women's clothing overboard. He almost punches him hard enough to break several of Jerry's ribs, but ends up just sighing and saying, "Jerry, I don't know what to do with you."

"If it's any comfort," Jerry says, "I don't know what to do with me either."

Life, or rather existence, goes on. And even though it shouldn't in any way, shape, or form, it shocks the hell out of Jerry when Osgood finally comes into his room one day and says "Daphne, can we talk?"

"My name's Jerry and you know it," Jerry says wearily. Scratch that, he isn't shocked as hell. He's terrified as hell.

But far be it from him to deny anything Osgood asks, even if he felt he had a right to. He pulls a couple chairs out from his dresser table – he has a dresser table, for god's sake, this is probably the first time in his life he has had a dresser table – and sits down in one of them. "Have a seat. What is it?"

Osgood sits down. Their knees are touching, so are their hands, and Jerry is both very aware of it and not at all sure what he's supposed to do about it. And he could be imagining it, but is it just possible that Osgood looks a tiny bit nervous as well?

"I, uh, just wanted to make sure you were doing okay," Osgood begins. Jerry looks at him rather uncomprehendingly. "What? Me? I'm doing fine. Just fine." He's never really known before, he thinks, how Osgood relates to other men. At least when he had been a woman, she'd known where she had stood with him, even if it was somewhat unstable and unsavory ground.

"You just seem very quiet," Osgood says. Jerry stares at him. He doesn't understand what is going on in this conversation. "Well, I've always been kind of quiet, I guess. Joe's the outgoing one, I just tag along with him. It's a bad habit really."

Osgood's still looking at him like that. He's got amazing eyes, really, big deep brown puppy dog eyes, and Jerry fully realizes that there is no way he should be registering that. He stops staring at them and remembers to register the rest of the dirty old man's face when Osgood says, "You know, when you were Josephine and Daphne, it was the opposite. Miss Kowalczyk's been telling me."

"Oh," Jerry says. His shoulders sag. And silence falls, with it that enormous tension of an unopenable subject being opened up and both sides waiting for the other side to continue the conversation.

Eventually Osgood says, "You know, I did mean what I said."

"Huh?" Jerry blinks. "When?"

Those puppy eyes take up the whole world. There's no looking away from them. "At the roadhouse," Osgood says, and he doesn't sound at all like a dirty old pervert. He just sounds like a man, a man in love. "On the motorboat." There should be a violin playing somewhere, some kind of music, but instead there's no soundtrack but static silence. "I love Daphne and I want to marry her, and I think she feels the same about me. I know we've got a lot to talk about, but..." He leans forward, staring right into Jerry's eyes. Daphne's eyes. Whoever's eyes. "But we can make it work. I promise you, Jerry, that Daphne will be happy."

Jerry stares at him for a long, long moment. And finally he swallows and says, in a hoarse whisper, "Can I... Can I borrow one of your wives' dresses?"

It takes about an hour. The makeup is easy, and she remembers how to put on all the clothes and stick the wig on so it'll stay, but the undergarments take some time to sort out and it takes them a while to find fitting clothes and a wig in the first place – Osgood's wives, who thankfully seem to have come in all different shapes and sizes, apparently left quite a lot of their outfits in various closets around the boat, but even so there isn't an enormously wide selection of dresses tailored to fit a 5'11" dame with shoulders like Daphne's. They do the best they can.

"You look wonderful," says Osgood.

"I look horrendous," snaps Daphne, turning this way and that in the mirror. "This dress looks like it was worn by my grandma."

"It might have been," Osgood admits. "Or someone very much like her, anyway. I'll get you some nicer clothes when we reach land. Now can we talk?"

Daphne sinks down on the bed and sighs. "Yeah," she says. "I was trying to avoid that."

"Don't worry," Osgood says. "I think we've already worked through the hard part." He sits down on the bed next to her.

"Daphne," he says. "I have a confession to make. I think it might change your mind about some things."

"Yes?" Daphne says, nervous.

"I knew."

Daphne frowns. "Knew what?"

"I knew what you were from the moment I saw you. I've been married seven times, I stopped being naive a long time ago. Doesn't make a difference to me. If someone wants to live their life as a girl, then as far as I'm concerned, they're a girl."

Daphne stares at him. "I didn't want to–" But she can't stop the enormous smile spreading across her face. "You knew the whole– as soon as you– Osgood!"

Osgood grins back. "Yes, Daphne?" And then he takes her face in his hands and kisses her until they both come up gasping for air. This is not make-believe anymore. This is completely, terrifyingly, wonderfully real.

As they fold back into the kiss and farther, the bit of Daphne which is Jerry worries briefly about what this new development means and about what will happen in the future and all that. But the bit of Jerry which is Daphne, and she always was more sensible than he is anyway, knows not to worry about it. Things have a way of working out if you let them. Especially if your husband is a millionaire.

...

A/N: I have been working on this fanfic for way too long. I mean, way, way, way too long. A couple months, at least. So it could probably still use some refining, but since I am just sick of it, you're getting it the way it is.

It's way too late at night to write author's comments. Maybe tomorrow.