chapter 1 of 14
Crossover With: Star Wars, the Oz books, My Chemical Romance. Kind of. In a way.
Characters: Tara, Dana, Buffybot, Andrew, Xander; appearances by Giles, Willow and Kennedy, and some surprises. Also an original watcher who is absolutely not, in any way, the author, and three original slayers who have absolutely no connection to jillyh2009, thexbatxbuckle, or strangexgirl. Honest. Would I lie?
A very special thanks to the incomparable kazzy_cee for the wonderful banner she made just for this story!
Rated: PG-13 eventually, for character death. But don't panic.
Warnings: Extreme Mary Suism.
Disclaimer: All characters who belong to Joss and co, belong to Joss and co.
Summary: post-Chosen: A group of watchers and slayers taking a creative writing class are assigned a simple lesson in author intrusion. But nothing’s ever simple when magic is -- literally -- in the air. (Note: This is a serious story, in a manner of speaking, in that it’s not farce or satire. It’s set in my fictional universe in which magical spells have helped heal Dana’s mind and the Buffybot’s body, and may also have had an effect on the resident ghost -- Tara. None of which means things don’t get a bit ... whimsical.)
MARY STU GOT HARRIED
Chapter One (in which a suspiciously inordinate amount of time is spent describing non-canon characters):
The unmoving bodies of the slayer team lay scattered on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. A caped, black clad figure loomed over them at the edge of the cliff, laughing. “You fools have no power over me. You have no idea what I’m capable of.”
“I do,” said a voice.
The being swung around, incensed that anyone could still be defying him, and saw a lone man standing by
a copse of trees. “Who are you?”
“Richard Philips, Watcher.” The middle aged man, wearing glasses, his dark hair blowing in the breeze, looked completely unthreatening even as he walked toward the Dark Mage.
“And what makes you think I won’t simply blast you away, as I did them?” The evildoer waved his hand to encompass four unconscious slayers, along with another watcher and a now powerless robot. Even Tara McClay, a spirit who shouldn’t have been affected, had succumbed to his bolt of black magic.
“Because you think I can’t beat you.” Richard walked forward, stepping over broken weapons and craters caused by explosions of magical energy.
“You can’t!” the mage insisted, laughing as Richard drew closer.
“I have no magic.” The watcher kept walking. “I have no weapons. I have no slayer powers.”
“Exactly!” the mage roared, as Richard got close to arm’s length. “And I have no weaknesses!”
“You have one.”
“And what, pray tell, would that be?”
When he got to the evil being, Richard didn’t stop walking. He simply reached out, shoving with both hands. With a surprised cry, the mage fell over the edge of the cliff and plummeted down, into the dark, cold river.
Richard finished his tale and looked around, to find his class staring at him in silence. “Those of you who were there: Could it have happened that way, if I’d been present?”
There was a pause, before Bottie, who’d breathlessly recounted the real story just before class began, raised her hand. “Um, the black mage was never anywhere close to the cliff edge -- he stayed in the center of the clearing.”
“Besides,” Teagan the slayer added, “The cliff was only about ten feet high.”
“And he wouldn’t let anyone near him,” Andrew added. “Is any villain really that overconfident?”
“Also, he didn’t have a cape,” said Kara Philips, Richard’s daughter.
That was all Richard could hear before he burst out laughing. “The other question is, would I have had the courage to do that even if I’d had the chance, after watching that wizard take down everyone who tried to stop him? But the story I told wasn’t about what really happened: It’s about what I might have written, had I wanted to make myself the big hero. If this had been a fictional universe, instead of the real world, that would have been a perfect example of a Mary Sue.”
“A Mary Who?” Bottie asked.
“A Mary Sue,” Richard explained, “is what can happen when an author inserts himself as a hero into his own story.”
Across the crowded classroom, he saw puzzled expressions. A barely visible hand emerged from a few rows back, making Richard smile. “Suzy? Is that you?”
The others giggled. “I was late,” explained Suzy, the shortest slayer in the class.
Looking embarrassed, someone who appeared to be Buffy Summers bounced out of her seat in the front row. “I’m sorry! We were talking when everyone came in, and I forgot to move.” She quickly traded places with Suzy, while Richard wondered again what Buffybot thought she could get out of this class. Bottie was programmed with so much knowledge that she actually taught a few classes herself.
It still amazed Richard that his fiction writing class filled up so quickly when he offered it as an elective. Maybe it was simply because they didn’t have many electives, and this was a nice break from biology, math, or geography. Still, in addition to two dozen of the younger slayers, some of the building’s occupants who weren’t required to take high school courses had also signed up.
But now he focused on Suzy, who was dressed in her usual costume of what she called “bondage pants” -- Richard desperately hoped she never explained the nomenclature -- and a baggy black sweatshirt. She’d pinned to the shirt a hand printed sign that said Slayer for Hire. “Now that we’re settled again, what was the question?”
“I thought you said good authors always put themselves into their work,” said Suzy, as thirty or so slayers and watchers nodded. Suzy was 17, and still at the junior level in school because of the normal chaos that had ensued when she became a slayer a year earlier. By the time Giles tracked her down, she’d beaten up two school bullies, foiled a convenience story robbery, gotten expelled from school, and generally turned her home life upside down to such an extent that her parents had actually been relieved when she rode away with Giles and Faith in the “school” van.
Beside her, Teagan tilted her head to one side. “But ... not really.” Teagan was Suzy’s roommate. They’d lived only miles apart pre-slayer, and had even encountered each other a few times before each received the calling and managed to turn their home lives into wreckage. Despite the difference in their heights, some of the other slayers teased them about being twins.
“You mean, not literally,” Suzy corrected.
Teagan nodded. “Author intrusion.”
“You’re right, that’s the term --”
“I win!” Teagan stuck her tongue out at her friend. On this particular day, the dark haired girl had gone heavy on the eyeliner. That was supposed to mean something, Richard recalled from overhearing previous discussions, but he couldn’t remember what.
“That’s part of it,” Richard agreed. “In a Mary Sue the author joins in the tale literally, but the story’s also set in the context of a known universe created by someone else -- usually for a television show or movie, sometimes a book or comic book.”
“Graphic novel,” Andrew said from his normal place at one end of the front row.
Richard felt the entire room tense up. Andrew had a tendency to go off on tangents, and it annoyed most of the others to no end. Of those taking the writing course, Bottie was the only one who seemed to enjoy sparring with the young watcher.
“Whether called graphic novel or comic book, the result is the same --”
“But they’re two different --” Andrew began, but Richard had been prepared for that.
“Two different things, I know, but that discussion’s not germane to my point.” He leaned forward. “Germane is my word for the day.”
The class laughed at Richard’s standard joke, completely cutting Andrew off. As planned.
“Why Mary Sue?” Dana suddenly asked, with a rather offended tone. “Why not a male name?”
Richard and Andrew were the only males there, but since Richard had expected that objection, he’d come forearmed to prevent a battle of the sexes. “The term originated with Star Trek fanfiction, and the vast majority of that show’s fanfiction writers at the time were female. The plot would focus on a female, generally a junior crew member who would show up and heroically save the day -- often in an unrealistic way -- while the show’s stars stood by helplessly. Not only were Kirk, Spock and company portrayed as hopelessly inept compared to this brilliant lieutenant, but one or both of them -- or the entire male cast, and sometimes the females, too -- invariably fell in love with the new character.”
Richard paused for effect. “The generic name given this new character was Mary Sue. And who was Mary Sue?”
“The writer,” most of the class members said in unison.
“Exactly. Now the fanfiction craze has exploded, so when males go overboard with the author intrusion, the story’s called a Mary Stu.” Richard propped himself on his desk and crossed his arms. “It’s okay to put yourself into a story, but fanfiction is legally questionable to begin with. You’re using someone else’s characters and universe, after all. It sinks from legally questionable to morally unsound if you then go completely against both character and storyline, by having an original character come in and do things the established characters are quite capable of doing for themselves.”
Now Richard allowed himself to smile. Back in his original teaching days, before his daughter became a slayer and he moved with her to the Chicago headquarters of the new Watcher’s Council, he’d taught creative writing. He loved this part, although when he’d done it before it had involved only author intrusion, not fanfiction. “Now, your next assignment will be a two parter. For the second part, you’ll use your favorite show, movie, book, or --” He nodded toward Andrew “-- graphic novel, to write a story showing how you can use someone else’s universe, while staying true to both its design and its characters.” That would teach them about characterization and internal consistency.
“But first, I want you to purposefully do it wrong. I want you to take that universe, and write yourself a Mary Sue. Go crazy; save the universe, have everyone love you, be all powerful. Use what I’ve taught you about creative writing so far -- the writing itself should be right -- but show me you understand what not to do with characters.”
As he had expected, the students started eagerly chatting among themselves. The idea of writing within the confines of their favorite mode of entertainment (he expected to see something out of Star Wars from Andrew) would give his students a little jump start, something that might make them more interested in both writing and reading.
Strictly speaking, it was illegal. Of course, strictly speaking, so was this school.
Also as he had expected, the moment the bell rang (well, okay, a buzzer) a line formed in front of his desk. Any fictional universe? asked Bottie, as she bounced eagerly on her heels. Yes, any. Could more than one fictional universe be combined? Yes, indeed. Could more than one real life person be in the story? Absolutely. What about bringing fictional characters into the real world? Go for it.
The room was mostly empty when Dana shuffled up to his desk, her head down, face mostly hidden by wild tangles of dark hair. Kara and Bottie had been working on Dana’s personal hygiene, but she still had her off days. “What if all these people come to life, together?”
From her position behind Dana, Suzy gave the other slayer a concerned look.
“That’s been done before,” Richard said, choosing his words carefully. “Characters from a half dozen or more different universe, together in one story. But it’s very hard to pull off -- you might want to start with just one.” For the life of him, Richard couldn’t remember Dana ever discussing any form of entertainment. But whatever she chose, the fact remained that Dana was barely writing at a fifth grade level, and would have trouble pulling off one crossover, let alone multiples. He was fairly sure she’d never have taken the class if her roommate, Kara, hadn’t signed up first.
Narrowing her eyes, Dana gave him a look that could only be described as haunted. “It would be bad.”
“Well, yes ... it could be.”
Nodding once, Dana turned and headed out the door with a purposeful stride.
Suzy watched her go, then turned back to Richard with a raised eyebrow. “Is she okay?”
“She’ll be fine. Kara keeps an eye on her.” He didn’t add that the idea of his daughter being Dana’s roommate sometimes terrified him.
“Well, she just seems ... off. More off. Than usual.” Shaking her head, Suzy handed over a bound manuscript. “Here it is.”
“Finished already? You must have crossed yourself over with The Flash.”
Suzy laughed. “It’s the extra credit assignment, to make up for missing last week’s classes.”
“It wasn’t necessary, you know.” Slayers got unlimited time off for doing their job, and Suzy had been busy helping to tackle that Missouri chaos demon -- or dark mage, no one was entirely certain which -- who’d tried to unleash the New Madrid fault. “I gave you credit for those classes even before I found out you got zapped with black magic.”
“It wasn’t so bad. It was like having your foot fall asleep all over. Anyway, if I’m going to get a scholarship I’ve got to keep the grades up.”
Suzy turned to leave, and only when the line before his desk was finally gone did Richard notice someone still sat at a desk, smiling at him.
“I thought it hurt,” the ghost of Tara McClay told him from the back row, where she had a notebook, a binder, and a copy of How to Write a Damn Good Short Story spread out before her. “It was like being poked all over with hot needles.”
“The black magic, or the writing assignment?”
Tara gave him that gentle smile that made everyone fall in love with her -- despite the fact that she’d died over two years before.
“Have you been here the whole time?” he asked her, smiling back. “Or did you just fade in?”
“I walked right in along with the chattering rush.” She started gathering her materials together, unconsciously mimicking what Richard had begun to do. “Now I feel bad that I didn’t do any extra credit work.”
He started to remind her she didn’t need the grade, then caught himself. “Come to think of it, you could transfer your UC Sunnydale credits to another college. Giles told me he’s never encountered a spirit able to interact with the real world as much as you.”
She gave him a strange, startled look, as if she’d been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, then shrugged. “I’m happy here, being a watcher.”
“On a related note, Andrew told me they had to carry you off in a stretcher after that chaos worshipper blasted your group. Was he exaggerating again?”
“Not exactly.” Standing, Tara ambled toward the front of the room, her class materials clasped against her with both hands. “It just caught me unawares, that’s all.” Watching her hair tumble over her shoulder and her peasant skirt swish around her legs, Richard found himself entranced. How could a spirit seem so solid and real, all the time?
“I just wanted to say how much I like your latest assignment,” Tara said. For just a moment Richard was troubled with the impression that she’d deliberately changed the subject, but he couldn’t imagine why. “Everyone likes your class. But this idea -- writing about their favorite movie or TV show -- really excited them.”
“Kara should get part of the credit,” he told her, trying to hide a little burst of pleased egotism. “I’d never heard of fanfiction, until Kara sent me a link to some stories based on the Oz books.” Off her puzzled look, he gave an embarrassed shrug. “My parents bought me the original fourteen Oz stories when I was a kid, and then I read them to Kara. She knew I’d appreciate knowing there were others out there who cared that much about the world Baum created -- I mean, who cared about his books, rather than the Judy Garland movie.”
“Ah.” Eyes twinkling, she shook a finger at him. “Are they still under copyright?”
Laughing, he shook his head. “Don’t worry. Most creators turn a blind eye to fanfiction, since it serves to increase interest in their own work. As long as nobody in the class tries to sell their stories to a publisher, I can’t imagine anything going wrong.”