Notes: I devised this little tale after watching the Frasier episode where Diane comes back and realizing that, essentially, she'd hired an actor to date her and pretend to be Sam. Which is really fucking funny and begs to be explored in the weirdest way possible. I was imagining this at first as a silly one-shot but after contemplation realized it needs to be an EPIC INVOLVING EVERYONE. So get stoked. They're probably not perfectly in character because I made them so over-the-top, but hopefully it's funny!
Frasier's response to the play caused Diane to realize that "Rhapsody and Requiem" still needed some serious work, but on the morning of her departure from Seattle she lacked the energy for it. After she and Stan had taken their seats on the plane – (and what the hell was his real name again? Henry? Harry? Huckleberry? She kept forgetting but was pretty sure it started with an 'H') – she removed the binder from her carry-on, but only managed to skim the first few pages before returning it. She took the in-flight magazine from the seat pocket and saw that they'd be playing "Troop West Hollywood" which, according to the blurb, was about a wealthy, self-absorbed woman running a Girl Scout troop. That sounded fun! Well, no, it didn't sound fun at all, it sounded really stupid, but she remembered seeing the starlet in something else and liking her. What was the starlet's name? Why was she suddenly forgetting everyone's name? It was Sally Bong or something like that. She dug out the headphones and was about to pop them in when Stan started blathering about something.
She turned to him, hoping this wouldn't take long.
"I was thinking maybe we could talk about the play…"
Oh geez. "What about the play?" she said, rather curtly.
"Well, I thought it was done but now you're saying… it's just… How much longer do you think this is going to take? We've been working on it for a long time and I'd like to—"
"Stan," she said, "I'm an artist."
"That's another thing," he said, his nose wrinkling. "Will you stop calling me Stan? My name is Neil."
Neil! She knew it didn't start with an 'H'. "Stan, I've already explained, I'm helping you get in character."
"Um…" He looked to his hands. "I know, I've just never heard about this method anywhere els—"
"STOP QUESTIONING MY METHODS, STAN, I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING."
"Okay," he said sheepishly.
This sort of timidity was good where – what was his name? Henry? – was concerned, because it meant he did whatever she told him to, but it was no good for Stan. This was how she knew that her method was brilliant, even though she couldn't remember where she'd read about it. But she'd definitely read about it somewhere and not made it up, despite what Patrice – the insufferable bitch who played Marianne – sometimes insisted. Henry, Harry, whoever he was, needed to learn how to be Stan and she was doing her darndest to teach him.
To her annoyance she saw him extract his own copy of the script from his backpack, but she forgot about him only a few moments later when the film started. God – this actress was just so cute! At this point in her life, Diane was pretty sure she wasn't a lesbian, but if anyone could turn her… Wouldn't it be so much easier to be one? She couldn't think of anything about being a lesbian that would be hard – those people just had it so easy, and what an idyllic romance she and Sally Bong would have together! She sensed that the two of them had a lot in common, which was rarely the case with the men in her life. But instead she was straight and stuck with Stan – who was having a really hard time figuring out how to be Stan – and Frasier, who had just made her feel inordinately guilty for something that she spent a huge percentage of her time trying to repress. How rude! Men were so rude!
Stan proved his fundamental rudeness midway through the movie, when he tapped her on the shoulder. She took out one headphone and looked at him balefully. "What is it, Stan?"
"I wanted to ask you about this line…"
God, why was it that every time she got on a fucking plane, someone wanted her to confront painful truths or have a traumatic near-death experience or otherwise annoy her? She just wanted to watch the goddamn in-flight movie for once! "Stan, can we do it later?"
"How much later?"
She sighed, feeling that this was more or less inescapable. "How about when we land?" she said. "Just give me a few hours to clear my head. How many times do I need to tell you that I'm an—"
"Oh, I guess I did tell you."
When the movie ended she began to prepare herself for the inevitable conversation with Stan. He was just such an idiot, and not in the way he was supposed to be. He really liked her, which made sense, but was also always attempting dopey things, like serenading her with Rilke poems. Ordinarily she liked this kind of stuff, but it wasn't in character! She was trying to help him get into character and he wasn't paying any attention! Well, the not paying attention was in character at least. That was a proper "Stan thing."
At LAX they clambered into his car and headed towards his house, a little condo in Culver City – she'd been staying with him since being evicted from her own place after losing her job. "Do you want to get something to eat?" he asked. She inwardly groaned, knowing that he was proposing this because it would prevent her from slinking off to bed instead of talking about the play. She usually liked to talk about her work, but after everything with Frasier, it was – for whatever reason – making her feel uneasy. She thought there was something contained in the script that she hadn't fully understood, even while penning it. It seemed she would need to eventually consult someone about it, get some advice on what to do, but it would be very out-of-character for Stan to help. Then again, she was hungry.
"What's open?" she said dully.
Tito's Tacos was a dingy little restaurant, usually packed but relatively empty so late at night. They ordered their food and took a table, Stan laying out the script before her.
"I'm just having a hard time getting this," he said. "The relationship, I mean."
"What's there to get?"
"I dunno…" The cashier called their number and Stan sprang to his feet to retrieve their burritos, then quickly returned. "Like, these people are supposed to be in love, right?"
"Yes, Stan, we've been over this."
"I just don't really get why."
She scowled at him. Artists are never understood in their own times! He seemed a little cowed by her, as he always did, but nonetheless forced himself to continue.
"Why does Stan like Marianne?"
"Because," Diane said tersely, "she's a goddess. She's beautiful and intelligent and everything else that he's never been able to admit he yearns for desperately."
"Well, okay. But why does she like Stan?"
Diane chewed thoughtfully on a tortilla chip. Why did Marianne like Stan? This was trickier! "I don't know," she said finally. "She just does."
"You see, that's what…" He hesitated, seeming unsure if he should say what was on his mind. "I mean, as the playwright, you need to know that."
"DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO, STAN, I'M AN ARTIST."
"My name is Neil!"
Christ, his name was Neil? She'd sworn it was Hans or Herman or something.
"Look," he continued, "I have some ideas for the character… and I wanted to run them by you, because I think the play is good but it's lacking depth in some areas. I was wondering if—"
"Stan doesn't talk like this," she interrupted.
"But I'm not Stan, I'm—"
"At this rate you'll never be!"
"Fine," he said, looking annoyed. "Whatever you say, Marianne."
She glanced up sharply from her burrito. "What did you just call me?"
"That character is you, right? I really tried to give you the benefit of the doubt – because I like you, Diane – but after everything up in Seattle… Is that friend of yours Franklin?"
"None of them are real people," she said coldly. "That's just how I make up character names. I rhyme them with names of people I know."
"Okay, what rhymes with Stan, then?"
"A lot of things. Ann… ban… can…"
"Yes, that too. Dan, fan, hand—"
"Who is this guy?"
"I made him up!" she snapped. "I'm just really creative, okay? Have I told you that I'm an—"
"Oh yes, I have told you. Anyway, where were we? Flan – well, no, that's not pronounced right. It's sort of an off-rhyme. Man, naan – again, if you mispronounce it – pan—"
"Diane, you're avoiding the point."
Fuck him! She would recite the entire alphabet to avoid the point! That's why it was there in the first place! "Ran," she continued, "Sam—"
"'Sam' doesn't rhyme with 'Stan.'"
She blinked, feeling rather surprised at this – was it a Freudian slip? No, that would mean it meant something or had something to do with the play, which it obviously didn't. "Sam wouldn't point that out," she said irritably. "He would've missed it."
"Who the hell is Sam?!"
"I said Stan, Stan. Will you stop obsessing over Sam?"
They continued eating their food in silence; Diane was starting to feel depressed, although she couldn't exactly pinpoint why. It was probably just the disappointment of realizing the play would need to be redrafted again. She finished half of her burrito and set it down.
"This already hurts," she said.
"What does?" Stan figured out she was talking about the food. "Oh, yeah. Tito's will do that."
"Then why do we go here?"
"I dunno." He shrugged. "It's close… And it's good."
"Why do the things that are good have to hurt so much?" she demanded. The injustice of this encroached upon her in a slow, methodical way, and soon she felt as if she were sinking. "I WISH I WERE DEAD!" she wailed.
Stan turned to the cashier with a look that clearly said, Yep, sorry 'bout that, we're back. Then he turned back to her. "Is your artistic sensitivity flaring up again?" he asked.
"You have to care more," she mumbled.
"Stan would care more."
"I don't know…"
"Diane, I think maybe we need to…" He trailed off, grimacing, and seemed to change tack midway through his thought. "Take you home. I think we need to go home. You're exhausted."
She nodded weakly and they traipsed out of the restaurant. In the car she slumped against the window, not moving until she spotted some kind of dead animal along the side of the road. "Stan, what was that?" She craned her neck to look. "Was that a cat or a raccoon?"
"Forget about it."
"It looked like a raccoon when we were passing but maybe it was a cat."
"Stop looking back," he said, and a faint grin crossed his face. "You'll turn into a pillar of salt."