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16 November 2008 @ 06:17 pm
Fic: Middleman  
For galpalficathon

Title: This Is Where It Starts
Fandom: Middleman
Prompt: Wendy and Lacey, Freshman Year
Rating: G
Spoilers: Um. None, if you've seen the series, its all background stuff. If you haven't, um. You might want to watch episode 5 first. But nothing plot-destroying.

Many thanks to Elaine and doyle_sb4  for beta-reading and valiant attempts to figure out wheres and whens.

This Is Where It Starts

They met the first day that you could move into the Freshman Dorms. Lacey Thornfield arrived first, then Wendy Watson walked in and the conversation about everything and nothing started and has, in one form or another, been going on ever since.

Lacey had packed all her worldly possessions three days previously, and really honestly thought her mom would drive her to college. Two days before they were supposed to leave, UNICEF called and Dr Barbara Thornfield MD PhD went to Bosnia and left her PA to drive Lacey to college. Lacey determinedly did not cry until she was alone, and has never, ever, said anything about this to anyone.
Wendy packed all her worldly possessions into her car at the very last minute, and started driving. Wendy’s mom and Wendy’s Aunt Imelda followed closely behind in Wendy’s mom’s car, watching paranoidly for smoke, sparks, or other signs of Wendy’s car disintegrating into its component parts across the interstate and killing them all. Or just bursting at the seams from sheer weight of stuff.

The car did not smoke, spark, or disintegrate into its component parts across the interstate and kill them all. Or burst at the seams from sheer weight of stuff.

(Despite having packed all their worldly goods, they later discovered Lacey was mysteriously lacking in matching socks and Wendy was equally mysteriously lacking in toothbrush. Wendy’s mom still doesn’t know.)

Lacey started unpacking the second she got all her belongings up the stairs, scattering scarves and throws and colour across the utilitarian room, shining with eagerness and excitement and deliberately not thinking about Dr Barbara Thornfield MD PhD. Wendy looked at her, standing alone in the sea of colour against white walls, and promised herself she would paint that scene, one day. Wendy’s mom just looked at Lacey, looked at Wendy, and thought, for the first, but by no means the last time, about home truths she would like to tell Lacey’s mother. Then she got distracted by the horrors contained in the dorm kitchen. Wendy’s Aunt Imelda just handed them both twenty dollars and laughed at Wendy’s mom’s admonishments about eating properly, and dressing properly for the weather, and only going out with nice boys.

‘Go out with the pretty boys, girls. Time for the nice ones later.’

They have never yet managed to eat properly, although both of them mastered dressing properly for the weather quite fast, and it took eight years for Wendy to start going out with a nice boy.

(Lacey has left behind her a trail of broken hearted nice boys, who couldn’t keep up with a vegan crusading confrontational spoken word artist. The day she meets one who can, and who isn’t Wendy’s boss, Wendy will probably die of shock.)

Two days later they met Noser. If screaming and running away under the impression that the tall figure staggering towards them groaning ‘Coffeeeeee,’ was a zombie (because it was far, far, too early, and they’d been watching Evil Dead till 3am) actually counts as meeting someone. They edged carefully back into the kitchen when it became clear that the figure was only going to flail pathetically at the coffee maker, rather than attack their brains.

‘He’s only a coffee-zombie. That’s ok’
‘I don’t trust coffee-zombies. What if it’s like, levels?’
‘Levels? Of zombie-hood? Lacey, nobody trains to be a brain eating zombie. It just happens.’

By the time they got all the possible ways of becoming a brain eating zombie thrashed out, Noser had drunk all of Wendy’s coffee, and was starting on Lacey’s. After that, they developed a morning routine largely focused on making sure they were up in time for the coffee-zombie performance. Especially once they realised that Noser, being under-caffeinated and thus impressionable, had spent the thirty minutes they were arguing worriedly feeling his own pulse to make sure he wasn’t actually a brain eating zombie. Lacey’s severe guilt over this led to her making extra coffee for Noser for the rest of the year, although they always said he was stealing it.

Habit led to them making extra coffee for Noser for most of the years after that as well, and they still said he was stealing it.

(Noser has never yet remembered exactly how he met them. He’s too laid back to ask.)

A week later they had their first unscheduled genuine actual smoke happening fire alarm. Wendy threw a jacket at Lacey on the way out the door and Lacey was too busy staring at a particularly hot fireman to catch, so they spent quite a lot of the evacuation time untangling buttons from Lacey’s hair. It was better than realising how unbelievably cold it was.

‘Ow, Dubdub!’
‘Well, you should have caught it! Instead of perving!’
‘I was not perving!’
‘Lacey Thornfield, you so were.’
‘Wendy Watson, I so was not!’
‘Oooo. We can go back in now!’

Lacey’d never been so happy about going back into a building in her life. Wendy was only marginally less happy, but only because she’d lived in colder places than Lacey, and had marginally more tolerance for 3am pouring rain in October. It started a tradition of responding to late night evacuations and divers alarums with argumentative equanimity and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Once they moved out of dorms, the evacuations stopped, but late night divers alarums are still responded to with argumentative equanimity and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

(The hot fireman remembered the two girls with the jacket for years after he’d forgotten what call-out he’d seen them at. They never have realised the impression they can make on people when they’re just being them.)

The whole floor had a Halloween party, and Lacey dressed as a cat and Wendy as a witch. Wendy took a ridiculous number of black and white photographs, most of which turned out silly, and a few of which turned out eerie and fabulous. Lacey ran around sneaking up on people and meowing, achieving three screams, four spilled drinks and one karate take-down when she snuck up on the girl with the previously unmentioned black belt.

‘Oh god! I’m sorry! Reflexes.’
‘S’ok. I’mok. M’fine.’
‘Lacey? Oh dear.’
‘You’re laughing at me.’
‘No. No, I absolutely, definitely, am not.’
‘You are, Dubdub.’
‘Yeah, I am. Wanna hand up?’

Once Lacey’d scraped herself off the floor, they retreated from the kitchen and common room, ridden as it was with people with previously unmentioned black belts and hair-trigger reflexes, and went and watched old scary movies in their room. People flowed in and out around them until they finally threw everyone out and huddled themselves against the radiator, because sleep was not happening on Halloween night after that many creepy movies, no matter how bad they were. Wendy talked about her dad. Lacey talked about her mom.

They still reserve Halloween night for Wendy talking about her dad, and Lacey talking about her mom.

(They pulled the comforters off their beds and wrapped themselves in colours, and Noser came in the next morning to find them asleep on the floor. He’s made a point of making sure they make it to a bed every Halloween since.)

Wendy’s mom, who has more of a handle on Lacey’s home-life than either of them give her credit for, decreed they were both coming to her for Thanksgiving, no arguments, here’s the gas money. Wendy spent most of the drive nursing the engine along and devising ever more creative insults for the car, the traffic, the radio traffic reporters, the inventors of the highway system and everyone even marginally involved in the creation of the interstates. Lacey spent most of the time she wasn’t navigating with a ten-year-old map attempting to keep the heating at something resembling warm, until the dial came off in her hand, stuck on cold.

‘We are never doing this again. Never.’
‘Or at least if we do, we don’t do it in your car. Why do you still have this car anyway? It wants to freeze us to death!’
‘It’s a good car!’
‘It’s a terrible car!’
‘Next year, we get the Greyhound.’

They vowed to never do it again, because, hey, Road Trip From Hell, but it was worth two days driving across states to get to Wendy’s house to be properly fed and fussed over. Wendy’s mom veered wildly between praising them for keeping off the freshman fifteen and wailing about how they clearly hadn’t been eating properly. Wendy rolled her eyes a lot. Lacey lapped up the attention and rolled her eyes at Wendy rolling her eyes.

They took the Greyhound back for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the rest of their time in Art School, and Wendy kept rolling her eyes, and Lacey kept rolling her eyes at Wendy rolling her eyes.

(For the rest of time, they will catch each other’s eye two days before Thanksgiving, one or the other will whisper ‘Road trip From Hell,’ and they will laugh themselves into hysterics at the memory.)

Because some kind soul among the Powers That Be decreed the practicals for Mid-Terms should be relatively small-scale, all their instructors took the opportunity to be truly diabolical with what they set for Finals. Wendy will never actually remember the week before her project was due, mostly because she stayed in the studio every night until Lacey came and dragged her out – usually when Lacey woke up at 3am and remembered Wendy hadn’t come home.

‘Dubdub? You need to stop now.’
‘Nearly done, I’ll just be a minute.’
‘Wendy Watson, you are coming home right now.’
‘But. But nearly. But.’
‘Now, Wendy.’

That was pretty much the only way Wendy got any sleep, and she ended up returning the favour the week after, when Lacey took up residence in the Library in a way that scared even the Seniors. Wendy had to go fetch her every night, and Noser took it upon himself to feed them both, after he realised he hadn’t seen them in the kitchen for two days. The exams passed in a blur of paint fumes and microphones and cameras and blue-lined paper and sheer vibrating anxiety.

For the rest of their college career exams always went by in a blur of paint fumes and microphones and cameras and blue-lined paper and sheer vibrating anxiety.

(The security guys and the librarians got to know them, and Lacey never had to sign in to go fetch Wendy out of the studios and Wendy never got asked for her card when she went looking for Lacey.)

When they’d come back in the New Year, they’d had to pick provisional Majors, which were never in dispute, Wendy Painting, Lacey Performance, and by the third week of term, independent projects, which were. After two weeks of intense discussion Wendy settled on fighter planes, and Lacey, after much negotiation to get her to pick something that wouldn’t get her hauled up before the Dean, settled on a piece decrying the fate of the local zoo animals.

‘Fighter planes.’
‘You know, there’s channelling your issues and then there’s being really, really, blatant, Dubdub.’
‘Yeah well, I’m good at planes. And you can’t do a piece against the Board of Governors, Lace, that’s just asking for trouble!’
‘Um. Development of the parkland!’
‘No Lacey, it’s the college park, remember how you’re not going to pick something that’ll get you called up in front of the Dean?’
‘Oh. The zoo then. That’s ok, isn’t it?’
‘Should be. Don’t swear.’

Wendy’s project on the history of the visual representation of fighter planes, and her final, abstract, piece won her the Dean’s prize. Lacey’s impassioned defense of the free-range lemurs, and the accompanying film and photography, won her one of the legacy scholarships. Wendy’s mom nearly burst with pride, and then when she saw the project, cried. Dr Barbara Thornfield, MD PhD, never rang back, so they don’t know what she thought of it at all. By then, Wendy’s mom had a whole new list of things that she would like to have a word with Lacey’s mom about, and Wendy had developed entire strategies devoted to nudging her mom into splitting her praise between them.

Wendy’s mom would still like to have a word with Dr Barbara Thornfield MD PhD, and Wendy has never realised that she never needed to nudge her mom into splitting her praise between them.

(One day, Wendy’s mom and Dr Barbara Thornfield MD PhD will meet in circumstances which do not require party manners and there will be an almighty, all-out, row. It will probably make no impact on Dr Barbara Thornfield MD PhD, but Wendy’s mom will feel a lot better for it.)

They had decided at the start of the year that their first Spring Break was not going to be the crazy hedonism practised by tradition. So they saved and saved and a month before Spring Break discovered that they actually might have enough money to go somewhere interesting if they were extremely cheap while they were there. By that point they had also realised that given the horrors of the previous term’s Finals, it was going to be their last chance to do anything even vaguely unrestrained and fun that lasted more than a few hours. So they lay on Wendy’s bed and compared finances with flights for hours.

‘Be nice. Sun. Volcanoes. Sea.’
‘Ah. Damn.’
‘Can’t afford it.’
‘There’s some really good shows on in New York.’
‘I’ve never been to New York.’
‘Seriously, Dubdub?’
‘Yep. Unless flying through JFK counts.’
‘We’re going to New York. And we’re going to all the galleries.’

They went to New York. They got horribly lost in the subway, and accidentally went to Coney Island while trying for Brooklyn. They stayed with a cousin of Wendy’s, who took them to old bars and ancient graveyards, and on their final night, the top of the Empire State Building. There’s a photo on the wall in the loft of them with the city spread out behind them in the dark. And they discovered that their student IDs got them free admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and their MoMa admission got them into P.S.1’s galleries as well, and the only reason they were ever seen again, between the two, was that Wendy ran out of sketch paper.

They went back to New York for their treat to themselves after graduation, and Wendy did not run out of sketch paper.

(Wendy’s cousin is another in Lacey’s trail of broken hearted nice boys, although not in the usual way. Lacey was too high on art-overload to notice he liked her, and he was too smart to risk Wendy’s wrath by asking her for help. So he pined, slightly, for a while, every time he turned up photos from their visits.)

The night before everyone went home for the summer, the night everyone had packed up, ready to haul their belongings to their news dorms and apartments, was the origin of the first Thursday Night Drunk. Although they didn’t get all that drunk, and it wasn’t technically Thursday. But it did have a fair amount of wholly illegal punch, and a lot of singing and hugging and lying on the grass in the quad in the dark having deep conversations about their first year in Art School, away from home, being artists.

‘We survived a whole year, Lace.’
‘And we only set one thing on fire.’
‘That saucepan deserved to burn! It was an evil saucepan!’
‘It truly was.’
‘I can’t believe it’s the end of the year.’
‘It’s been a pretty brilliant year.’
‘It has.’
‘D’you think we should stop Noser lying in the middle of the quad like that?’

They did, eventually, get up from the grass, and prise Noser off the flags, and crawl into bed in their newly bare room. The next morning was a blur of frantic activity and goodbyes, and exchanges of addresses and phone numbers and searches for keys and hats and clothing that had gone astray over the year. The floor, those of them who were staying within the College housing, at least, made a solemn promise to have a proper party for their return the next term. And since that was a Thursday, Thursday Night Drunk was born.

It doesn’t happen every Thursday, and sometimes it doesn’t happen on a Thursday at all, but the tradition has been maintained and shared, and that was definitely how Thursday Night Drunk was born.

(They hid a note to the next comers under the bureau in their room. It’s just a sketch of them flopped on Lacey’s bed that Noser did one night while they watched a movie. But on the back it says ‘We met at the start of term 2001. We did ok. You’ll be fine.’)

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Duke Special - Songs From The Deep Forest
brista: AD // Don't let the vodka go bad!brista on November 16th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
Aw, this is very sweet. I love WW/Lacey's friendship so it's cool to see some background. I love how WW's mom adopted little baby bird Lacey. Very sweet. Lacey is totally family. Coffee-Zombie is hilarious. I hadn't even thought of Noser knowing them from art school.

(Also, you should post a link on middlefic!)
marymacmarymac on November 16th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
Thankyou! I couldn't bear to not have Noser in there. They're so very attached to him.

I should, but I'll give it a couple of days for ficathon-only first.
Hematite Badgerhematitebadger on November 16th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
I love every little bit of this, and the bit with the coffee zombie made me laugh out oud.
marymacmarymac on November 17th, 2008 10:49 am (UTC)
You know that bit where Wendy gets worried because he hasn't come and stolen their coffee yet? There had to be a reason for that. So I made one. And, oh dear, I have had that conversation about zombies.
mostly waving: middleman: noser/coffeewinterfish on November 17th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
Yay Wendy and Lacey backstory! I love them hauling each other home from the studio and library, and I love that Noser's there as well. And Wendy's mom taking to role of Lacey's mom is awesome. *hearts*
marymacmarymac on November 17th, 2008 10:51 am (UTC)
Thankyou! Somebody had to adopt Lacey, her mum's so very useless!
CrimsonQuills: GeekOutcrimsonquills on November 18th, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
This was a really nice story, and very much in the "voice" of the show! I love Wendy and Lacey's friendship, and these felt like very natural bits of it's history. :-)

Thanks for sharing!
Dignity, always dignity: TMM: Threesome_la_mysterieuse on February 6th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
This was a great story and lovely to see how they met Noser too!
Kat, most of the time anywaykdsorceress on May 3rd, 2009 02:17 am (UTC)
Ack, I can't believe I didn't comment the first time I read this!

I found you through tvtropes.org's reccomended fanfiction list. This is probably the best fanfiction I've ever read, and certainly the best middlefic. I love it with all my heart, and consider the entire thing to be absolutely canon.

So yeah. Thank you.

marymacmarymac on May 13th, 2009 07:24 pm (UTC)
Goodness, thankyou! Didn't even know it was recced!
peeps wanna see peeps boink: let the loving come back to memusesfool on July 11th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
This is lovely. I love their friendship, and the way Noser threads in and out of it.
Petrapetronelle on November 15th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
I adore the way you've written all three of them here. Aww, *kids.*
delectable tea, or deadly poison?: [middleman] the noser knowsgenarti on November 15th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
kdsorceress just linked me to this, and awwww! I adore this so much -- spot on characterization, and just the right balance of seriousness sneaked into the friendship and hijinks. I love Wendy's mother's adoption of Lacey, and I love Noser the coffee zombie, and basically I love this whole fic. :D
Classier than Elvis on Velvet: maniacal laughter goes hereranalore on September 27th, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
This is so excellent! It perfectly suits the Wendy&Lacey dynamic, and I love you for including Noser.
A chair with a panda on itamaresu on October 8th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
This is just fun. I had a grin on my face throughout the whole thing. Everything I love about the show only pre-show. Wonderful.
Olna Jenndormouse_in_tea on November 24th, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
best fic ever. found this linked on a 'dear yuletide author' letter, and I love it so much. this is what happened their first year of Art School, oh yes.
Kat, most of the time anywaykdsorceress on January 1st, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
This is possibly a weird and way-too-egotistical comment, but was it my letter? Or is there actually someone else out there weird enough to link fanfics as part of their Yuletide letter and who adores this one enough to link it all over the place? (And if so, who, because I must befriend them immediately!)

Olna Jenndormouse_in_tea on January 1st, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
Yes! Yes it was! And I'm glad you commented, because at the time I'd MEANT to go back and tell you that I'd loved reading the fic you linked, they were great, when it was "safe" to comment on yuletide letters -- I try not to do that when it would be possible to decide I'm you're assigned author :P -- and I forgot!