luxken27: (Heroes - Peter contemplation)
LuxKen27 ([personal profile] luxken27) wrote2012-07-10 09:51 pm

Sweet Valley series | Oneshot: Tears of a Clown

Title: Tears of a Clown
Fandom: Sweet Valley
Universe: Post-canon
Genre: Drama, Friendship
Rating: T
Warning: Language, innuendo
Word Count: 2,725
Summary: Winston accidentally learns of Todd and Jessica’s affair, and struggles to deal with it. Sweet Valley Confidential fix-it fic.

Links: | LJ | DW | AO3

This is my birthday present for [personal profile] impy, my Sweet Valley partner-in-snark =) Last year, when Sweet Valley Confidential dropped, I think we only managed to save each other's sanity by breaking out the big guns of snark. That horrible book practically demanded fix-it fic, and at the top of the list of character assassinations? Winston Egbert.

Poor Winston. First he had to suffer the fate of being the stereotypical nerd character (tall and thin with glasses and way too obvious crushes) AND the class clown (complete with very cliche Tears of a Clown moments of seriousness). Then, to discover his fate in the highly anticipated sequel as a rich bitch misanthrope who fell to an early death at the age of 26?

WHY, Francine?! Why?!

He's your lovable scamp! He's friendly and loyal and decent and nice!

Then again, pretty much every SV character took at 180 for the premise of this novel, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised :-/

This story is basically fix-it/gap fic, jumping off from one of the flashback scenes in SVC. It's important to know the context, I think, to understand what I was going for.

This is taken from pages 62-64, and is a flashback told from Jessica's POV.

Not three days after that last meeting, we have a scare. Elizabeth is with me at the bookstore, picking up some textbooks for her psychology course, when we run into Todd and Winston. As usual, Winston is being his goofy self, hopping up on the ladder, pulling erotic titles down from the shelves, and suggesting he read them to me.

"That reminds me, I'm gonna need Thursday night..." he says to Todd in a fake confidential voice, "...alone."

"No good, man. I have that physics final Friday," Todd says.

Winston climbs down from the ladder and hands the books to Elizabeth, who starts to put them back on the shelf.

"Come on. Wasn't I nice to you a few weeks ago?" Winston gives Todd a kind of leering smile. "Remember, San Diego?"

Elizabeth is busy with the books, her back to Winston and not really listening, but the reference to San Diego grabs my attention.

"You probably didn't even know I got back Saturday night." Looking at Elizabeth, he says, "I knocked, but you guys were very busy."

At that point, I like deflect the action, quickly handing a book to Elizabeth, who automatically takes it and turns to find a place for it on the shelf.

"I had to crash at Bruce's pad that night. And man, he wasn't happy. You owe him one. Me, too."

"What are you talking - " Then it hits Todd what night Winston is referring to, and his face freezes.

I catch his change of expression and know my own face is like registering the same shock. Winston, who is momentarily confused, sees Todd's expression, then mine, and to my amazement, he seems to read it right immediately. All the while, Elizabeth is busy trying to squeeze a fat edition of Havelock Ellis back onto the shelf.

It is only the strange silence that makes her turn around.

"Huh? What's up? Something wrong?"

Strangely, it's Winston, the insensitive clown, who so saves the moment for us by doing a really funny bit about mistaking his girlfriend for her dog. He like tells it so fabulously that Elizabeth practically falls off the ladder, and even Todd and I can't help laughing despite the horror of the situation. Rescued just in time, but too late for their friendship.

When someone knows a terrible secret about you, and you can't in good conscience kill them, you get them out of your life. And that's exactly what Todd does that very day. With some cliched excuse about like needing his own space, Todd moves out and finds an apartment on the other side of town.

Time passes and only a few people notice that the relationship between the best friends has dissolved. Of course, I'm one of them. Elizabeth like sort of notices and I hear her ask Todd a few times where Winston is, but he always has some reasonable-sounding excuse. She even mentions it to me a couple of times, but I say I don't know anything.

After awhile Winston's absence becomes as natural as his presence had been and for us, the ex-lovers, the betrayers, senior year, like the longest year of our lives, crawls on toward the relief of graduation.

(Aside: OMG THAT WRITING. It's painful to read, much less type. Frannie should've let the professionals write this, even if she was bound and determined to burn her universe to the ground and then dance on its grave.)

A Big Deal is made of the fact that Winston strikes it rich and becomes a bitter, resentful man, pushing away everyone he's ever known, to the point where he's basically sequestered in his gilded golden dream house. At his funeral, there's some speculation that maybe somebody pushed him from the balcony, but nobody can really dredge up any sympathy for him, because look at what a horrible person he became.

When we were snarking the book, at the top of [personal profile] impy's list of possible fix-it fics was finding some way to redeem poor Win. This particular scene struck a fairly strong chord with me, so when I turned back to these ideas in search of a birthday gift, I decided to tackle this transformation.

The story opens with the scene in the bookstore. The titles Winston and Jessica tease each other with are the names of famous erotic novels, most of which were considered scandalous in their heyday and banned. The books are linked in all of the postings except, which doesn't allow outside links, so if you're curious, you can click through and read all about them. Havelock Ellis, who was name-dropped by Francine in the flashback scene, is famous for his books on sexuality, most especially homosexuality - hence Jessica teasing Winston about reading gay porn in his spare time :P

So Winston is noticing all the weird looks Jessica is shooting at her sister and Todd, but he basically chalks it up to twin weirdness. It's only when he requests to have their shared apartment alone for a date that he realizes it's not Elizabeth that Jessica keeps looking at, but Todd. He's teasing Todd about accidentally walking in on him and Liz, when - in actuality - he accidentally caught Todd and Jessica having sex.

All three of them are reeling, but Liz is none the wiser - and Winston saves the day by distracting her before she can figure it out for herself. He slips into class clown mode, pulling out some of his best material in a dual-purpose role: to keep Liz from discerning the truth of her sister's betrayal with her boyfriend, and to run from the truth himself, which has shaken him to the very core.

Todd and Winston are considered be to great friends in Sweet Valley High, which is the series I'm most familiar with. Winston is the first person Todd tells when he learns the news of his family's move back to the Valley, and they seem fairly close, considering the fact that they move in different social circles. By their senior year of college, they are still close, sharing an off-campus apartment together. Winston's pretty loyal towards his friends - hence not wanting to blab Todd's secret right there in the middle of the bookstore - and I think a betrayal of Todd's magnitude would be enough to send him over the edge.

Francine tries to portray the secret lovers in a sympathetic light for pretty much the entire book, but its hard to feel sorry for someone willing to cut people out of his life in order to keep his tawdry affairs to himself. Todd practically pushes Winston out of the circle, and in my mind, he does that by being an A-1 world-class first-rate jackass. His response to Winston learning of the night with Jessica is to move out and run away, to pick a fight with one of his oldest and closest friends as an excuse to kick him out of his life. One less person to worry about having enough dirt for future blackmail, and all that.

I imagine this makes Winston feel isolated, not only from Todd, but from everyone. Plus, he's being eaten up by the guilt he feels over keeping this horrible secret from Elizabeth, who has always been very supportive of him. The original confrontation between Winston and Todd featured an almost Todd-punch (very characteristic of high school era Todd), though I wasn't sure if he'd actually hit the guy he considered his best friend - especially if said best friend was in the right. I edited it out, but I couldn't resist putting in one of St. Liz's patented condescending shoulder pats at the end, LOL :P

Winston sees Elizabeth, by happenstance, and comes thisclose to spilling Todd's secret. What does he have to lose, after all? Todd has already cut him out of his life, and this is his chance to save Elizabeth from certain heartache - but in the end, he can't do it. He never wanted to be a part of the mess Todd and Jessica made; he stumbled into it, quite unwillingly, but the consequences of their actions reverberate beyond just the two of them. Their betrayal of Elizabeth is what alienated Winston from the group, and neither one of them did a damn thing about it. They are rewarded, in fact, given a happily-ever-after that neither deserve.

Winston struggles to deal with all of this, and its at a very crucial moment of his life - his final semester of his final year at SVU, right before he and all the rest of them are launched out into the "real world." Shit is tough enough without friend drama, you know?

I sympathized with him a lot, and thought he deserved better. Todd was the jerk. He keeps this secret for eight years, before Elizabeth finds out in an equally humiliating way, one that makes her flee to the other side of the country to get away from him. To think of the time and trouble Winston could've saved them all from...especially since Todd wasn't man enough to own up to it himself.

This isn't a happily-ever-after fic, but redemption fic doesn't have to be, I think. The important thing is, [personal profile] impy seemed to enjoy it, so yay! Happy birthday to her ♥

The inspiration for this piece was the song it was named after - "Tears of a Clown," by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. This is my favorite song of theirs:

It makes me think of the brave front Winston puts up, in the face of his adversity - during the fight with Todd, ultimately holding his tongue in his last conversation with Liz. He puts on a happy face to save others from their pain, all while he suffers it himself.

This is also the first piece I've written for one of the Summer Mini Challenge prompts! :D Super excited to have even filled in one, which is better than I managed last year, LOL. I chose the prompt laugh, which is represented by Elizabeth's clueless response in the bookstore. And the idea that you have to laugh, lest you cry, at the horrible twists and turns taken in life.
starzki: (FMP: Danger!)

[personal profile] starzki 2012-07-11 03:20 pm (UTC)(link)
That totally sucks what they did to Winston's characterization. And it sucks even more that the author was fine that Todd and just totally ostracized him for something that TODD did. Ugh. (And what is with Jessica and all the "like"s? That was too distracting. Isn't that supposed to be college?)

And do Todd and JESSICA end up together?! Based on their characterizations from your excerpt, they sound like they deserve each other.

Anyway, I may have to check out your story!
starzki: (IY: MirSan Deadly Duo)

[personal profile] starzki 2012-07-11 05:19 pm (UTC)(link)
es. And it's written like that was the endgame pairing all along, which just boggles the mind.

W. T. F.? Like I said, they seem to deserve each other.

Elizabeth, if you're curious, ends up with Bruce, who had a complete personality transplant when his parents died in a car crash.

I kind of worry about the car crash mortality/injury rate of SV. With Bruce? Eugh. Why can't YA/serialized novels that grow up with the characters have realistic endgame pairings? People rarely end up with those they knew in high school. Why not just have her traveling to New York, meeting a nice guy who shares her interests and goals, and have her settle with him?

Oh well. Looking for logic. My bad.

Did you leave the 'guest' review on this fic?

Oh! Sorry! That was me! I thought I was signed in. Oopsie!
starzki: (Default)

[personal profile] starzki 2012-07-11 05:30 pm (UTC)(link)
Actually, I WAS signed in. I think it must have signed me out right as I left the review.

starzki: (IY: Sango Grr)

[personal profile] starzki 2012-07-12 03:32 am (UTC)(link)
Jeffrey was such a drip.

I mostly agree, but I did kind of see the attraction before they were actually dating. But I always liked Todd better. 'TIL NOW!

He *also* just so happened to be a Todd doppelganger!

*yawn* Oh, THAT old story? /bored.

And he's pined away for Liz for 10 years, and stayed celibate the entire time.


Okay, that made my night.

Seriously, WTF?! I've always know SV is not real life, but that just really breaks my suspension of disbelief for that universe, you know?

As for her being a Bruce/Liz shipper: that's her right. She's writing their stories. But as a writer, she should have made the endgame a little more obvious to readers so they weren't always actively hating on Bruce for what a dick he always was.

ext_1162274: (Default)

[identity profile] 2012-07-12 08:42 am (UTC)(link)
1 down, 4 to go. yay! :D
... unless you want to tackle another table after finishing this one. ;)