wizened_cynic: (crackfic)
[personal profile] wizened_cynic
Yeah, I finally finished the stupid fishkeeping au fic, and it is pointless and retarded but apparently, [livejournal.com profile] bank_farter likes it and [livejournal.com profile] speshtian needs bedtime reading material. Therefore, here it is, behold behold behold!

I need to go back to writing straight up Claire fic again, because seriously. Someone's been mixing detergent in with my cocaine.




Practical Fishkeeping



The first time Alex sees her is at the store.

"My fish won't die," she says.

Alex blinks. "I beg your pardon?"

"My fish won't die," she repeats, this time putting the fishbowl onto the counter and waving her hands in emphasis.

It takes a couple of minutes before Alex can actually spot the fish in the muddy water. It's a guppy, with parasites and fin rot and what is becoming evident an incredible will to live.

"Do you want me to kill it for you?" Alex asks. It's against store protocol, but she thinks she's probably doing the fish a favor by putting it out of its misery. She'll be doing a favor for the fish and the owner, apparently.

The woman looks vaguely horrified. "No, I don't want you to kill it," she says, "I want you to find me a fish that looks exactly like it, a fish that will die, because otherwise I'm going to have to marry my boyfriend."

Alex tries to process her words, and fails. "There is very little about that sentence that makes sense."

"Okay, you see --- what's your name, by the way? You should wear a nametag, you know, one of those that goes, 'Hello, my name is . . .'" A brief pause, and then a slightly dumbfounded, "See? This is the part where you tell me your name."

"Alex," says Alex, and glances at the clock. Usually the crazies don't show up until the afternoon, but this is apparently her lucky day.

"Alex, great. I'm Lorelai. And this is Rudy."

The fish stares at Alex mournfully through the glass.

"As I was saying, Rudy here is immortal," Lorelai continues, glowering in the direction of the bowl. "Normally, I would find an immortal fish to be completely awesome, because, hi, it's like that episode of the X Files with the guy who can't die, except --- here's the part that's not cool and it's probably the only uncool thing about having an immortal fish --- I promised my boyfriend that I would marry him if he could keep a fish alive for more than six months, and what do you know? Tomorrow is six months!"

"Congratulations?" Alex offers.

"No! Not congratulations! Very, very far away from congratulations!" Lorelai puts her face in her hands. "I don't want to marry him! He asked me, and he was so sweet about it, got down on one knee and everything, and I couldn't say no. How could I say no? Would you have said no? You wouldn't have said no. The rational part of my brain said no, but the mouth part of my body said, 'If you can keep a fish alive for more than six months, I'll think about it,' because the rational part thought that there was no way he could keep anything alive for six months --- I didn't even think he could keep himself alive for six months, since he doesn't even have a job or anything --- but then I got stuck with a stupid, goddamn, immortal fish and now I have to marry him."

"I'm starting to think," Alex says, "that the problem isn't with the fish."

Lorelai sighs and leans against the counter. "I know I should just break it off with him, but I'm still holding out, you know? For the off-chance that he'll leave me for some skank, so that he'll be the bad guy instead of, I don't know, writing a song about me. His band sucks, by the way. I don't want him to be all, like, serenading me outside my window at three in the morning, because then I'll need to get a temporarily restraining order, and I've already been there, and that's a real hassle."

"So," Alex says slowly, "do you still want a new fish?"

Lorelai looks at the fishbowl, and then at Alex, and then back at the fishbowl again. "No," she says finally. "I'll just take Rudy home. Maybe this is happening for a reason. Maybe I'm meant to marry Jason, and I shouldn't go against fate or whatever. I mean, why else would I have been cursed with an immortal fish?"

Alex think it's just pure dumb luck that the fish is still alive, but it is clear to her that Lorelai needed immediate, intense therapy and not the truth, so she rings up a bottle of water conditioner and fish medicine and takes Lorelai's Visa instead.

"You know, I don't really need this stuff," Lorelai tells her, slinging the bag behind her shoulder as she leaves the store, one arm hugging Rudy's bowl to her chest.

"No refunds," Alex says. "Store policy."


*


The second time Alex sees her is also at the store.

"Do you remember me?" she asks.

Alex does, actually. The woman had the bluest eyes Alex has ever seen, as well as several personality disorders. "Hey," Alex says, "how's your immortal fish?"

"Oh," Lorelai says, "he died."

"I'm sorry," Alex says.

"It's okay," Lorelai says. "We weren't close."

A moment passes, and then Lorelai holds up her left hand. "I didn't marry him," she informs. "Jason, I mean."

"I figured you weren't talking about the fish. Anyway, are congratulations to be in order?"

"Way, way, way in order." Lorelai's smile is luminous. "I moved out, actually. Changed my phone number to one that's unlisted. You know, in case the restraining order doesn't hold up."

"Yeah, good luck with that."

Lorelai shifts her feet and says, "My new apartment's kind of empty, and it gets lonely at night, so I thought maybe I could get a fish or something. To keep me company. Do you think I can get a fish?"

"I don't think we have any immortal fish in stock," Alex says.

"Oh, I don't need an immortal fish. A normal fish is fine. A goldfish or something."

Alex gives her usual lecture about how goldfish is probably not a good fish for beginners (especially beginners with a record of attempt fish-murder in the past), how fishbowls are inhumane, and she sets Lorelai up with a 12 gallon aquarium starter kit and half a dozen red swordtails.

Lorelai holds up the plastic bag and squints. "What do you think I should name them?"

"Excuse me?"

"The fish. They need names. Come on, I'll let you name one of them. You get naming rights for giving them to me."

"I'm selling them to you," Alex corrects.

"Yeah, whatever. I think I'll name one of them Jaws. This one here, this liddle widdle shrimpy one, he's Jaws."

"He's a girl," Alex tells Lorelai. "Though I suppose Jaws could be a unisex name."

"And this one's Phoebe."

Well, at least Phoebe's the right gender.

"Phoebe, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Jaws," Lorelai announces. "Ross isn't there, because I don't Ross." She must've noticed the way Alex is staring at her, because she adds, as an afterthought, "You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"

"Not a clue," Alex concedes.

"You've never seen Friends?"

"Not on purpose."

"Well, then. Sorry you didn't get to name one of them. You had a chance, but you weren't quick enough. That ship's sailed, baby."

"I'll live." Alex reminds Lorelai that these fish are (probably) mortal, and that she will need to put in the necessary neutralizers before putting the fish into the tank.

"If I run into any trouble, I'm taking it up with you," Lorelai says.

Alex shrugs. "You should be fine."

She gives the fish ten days.


*


Surprisingly enough, they last three months.

Alex is vaccumming the gravel in the loach tank when the phone rings.

"I HAVE A FISH EMERGENCY!" the voice on the other end belts out before Alex can even say hello.

"Who is this?" Alex asks, even though she's 80% sure she knows.

"Who do you think this is? I don't have time for this! Hurry up!" Lorelai rattles off an address in Alphabet City and hangs up without waiting for Alex to inform her that, sorry, but Alex doesn't take house calls.

It's the middle of September. All the kids are in school, and business is slow. The last customer left an hour ago, and the store is empty except for Alex and the fish.

It's almost lunch time, Alex notices.

She sighs and hangs the GONE FISHIN' sign on the front door. She would've preferred an ordinary one that said something like BACK IN 15 MINS, but the owner, Cragen, likes the irony.

Lorelai buzzes her in and is waiting for her at the top of the stairs. "You're too late," she tells Alex. Her voice wavers, as if she really were about to start crying. "Joey coded ten minutes ago. Time of death, 1:23."

For some reason, hearing her say it instills an uneasy pang of guilt in Alex, even though realistically she knows there's nothing she could've done. The fish was probably too far gone anyway. At most Alex only could've euthanized it with a Ziploc bag full of ice cubes.

Lorelai wanders back into her apartment, leaving the door open. Alex considers for a second before following her into an eighty-square-foot space with a futon on the floor. The only other piece of furniture is the fishtank, also on the floor.

Beside the aquarium lies a plastic Spongebob plate, and sitting in the middle of it are the earthly remains of Joey the Swordtail, God rest its soul, if it even had one.

Alex wonders if Lorelai expects Alex to pay her respects to the dead fish, and decides that she's not going to, because as genuinely heartbroken as Lorelai seems over the untimely demise of her pet, it is --- was --- still a fish.

"Can you check out my setup for me?" Lorelai says at last. "I did everything you said, and I googled for more advice. I even went back to the store to buy more stuff for them, but you weren't there."

"I was probably in class," Alex explains.

"Practical fishkeeping?"

"Criminal law."

"Oh." Lorelai is silent as Alex examines the aquarium and its equipment. Everything seems to be functioning the way it should. "I don't get it then," Lorelai heaves. "Why did he die?"

"Sometimes fish just die," Alex says. "It's not your fault."

"Yes, well." Lorelai sniffs, rubbing at her nose with the back of her hand. "Joey was a good fish."

"I'm sure he was."

"Should I flush him down the toilet now?"

"Probably."

Lorelai mumbles a short prayer, and then Joey spins in circles as it vanishes into its watery grave. "So," she says afterwards, "do you want to grab something to eat?"

They walk five blocks down to a fish and chips restaurant. "Hold the fish," Lorelai says when they order, so basically they just have French fries. Alex sprinkles salt and pepper lightly on her fries, while Lorelai drenches hers in vinegar. They talk about Lorelai's fish, and Alex's criminal law class, and Lorelai is mostly horrified to discover that Alex has never seen any of the movies in her list of Top 10 Bestest Best Movies in the Entire History of Ever.

"Did you at least watch Finding Nemo?" Lorelai asks.

"I'm not really a fan of animation," Alex says.

"You'll like Finding Nemo. Are you free next weekend?"

I think you got asked out on a date, the loach says to her later that night, when Alex stays overtime to finish cleaning its tank.

Great.

She spends a couple of hours with Lorelai, and now the fish are talking to her.


*


It's not a date. It's two people sitting on a futon and watching cartoon fish move around on the 7 inch screen of a portable DVD player, occasionally reaching over one another for popcorn and cheap red wine.

"So you didn't like the movie?" Lorelai asks, once Nemo has been found.

Alex tries to find a nice way to put it. "Not really."

Lorelai nearly spits out her wine. "Seriously? Have you no soul?" Alex frowns, but Lorelai barrels on, "Do you even like fish?"

"I don't hate them," Alex says.

"Then why the hell do you even work in a fish store?" Lorelai asks.

"I like the quiet."

"The library is quiet."

"Fish are less annoying than students."

Lorelai shakes her head, still incredulous.

Then, without warning, she reaches over, leaning on one hand, and presses her lips against Alex's, the sudden movement so startling that Alex doesn't have any other choice but to kiss back.

Reality strikes and Alex moves her head away, so that Lorelai is kissing the corner of her mouth, and then Lorelai isn't kissing her at all, and Alex is saying, "What the hell was that?"

Lorelai straightens her posture, jams another handful of popcorn into her mouth. She swallows and says, "I just wanted to see if you were a human, or if you were actually a cyborg, is all."

"By violating me?"

"You taste like the ocean," Lorelai says.


*


"Already making out on the first date, huh?" the clownfish says.

"I did not make out with her!" Alex protests, indignant.

"Oh, shut up," she adds a moment later. "You can't even talk."

Lorelai leaves seven messages on her voicemail, which is funny considering Alex doesn't remember giving Lorelai her number.


*


"Look," Lorelai says. It's two weeks later. Voicemail number 59. "It obviously didn't work out between us, but YOU NEED TO COME TO MY PLACE RIGHT NOW. NOW! Fish emergency! Code red fish emergency!"

Alex is a glutton for punishment, but not a masochist. Especially not when it comes to dealing with a woman who talks to fish and drinks red wine with popcorn and creeps into Alex's mind at the most inopportune times, such as when she puts up her hand in class to ask for clarification on a point, and then suddenly forgets what she wants clarified when the professor calls on her.

So she stays put, the African cichlids sweeping their tails judgmentally behind her. She dials Lorelai's number, and someone answers on the first ring.

"Do you know anything about fish babies?"

"What --- how did you even know that I was going to call?" Alex sounds more surprised than annoyed, but she is annoyed. Slightly. And a little terrified.

"Alex?"

"Yes."

"Wow, I didn't think you'd call back."

"You just asked me if I knew anything about fish babies."

"That's how I've been answering the phone for the last three days."

Of course she has.

"I still can't believe you're calling back," Lorelai says. "Guess the forty-eighth time's the charm."

"Forty-ninth."

"You've been keeping count?"

"Do you want help with the fish babies or not?"

Both Chandler and Rachel had given birth a week before, and the breeding tank suspended in the larger aquarium is now filled with bug-eyed fry. "There were more," Lorelai explains, "but the mothers ate them. Or father. I don't know. I looked away for one minute and BAM! Post-partum cannibalism hit big time. So I separated them, but then some of the babies died anyway, even though I did everything this online fish expert told me to do, and I know sometimes fish die for no reason, but I can't help but hope I can keep some of them alive. They're my grandchildren."

"You did not just refer to these fish as your grandchildren."

"They're our grandchildren," Lorelai clarifies, and suddenly, the talking fish don't seem as far-fetched as the idea of someone like her actually existing on this planet.

"I take no part in this," Alex says, crossing her arms.

"You sold them to me!"

"Exactly."

"Look, I don't care," Lorelai says. "Just save these fish for me, all right? Please?"

The fry wriggle in the water, like tiny orange commas.

"Fine," Alex says. "But I don't promise anything."


*

Every single one of the baby fish survives the arduous journey back to Alex's apartment.

"It's a fish miracle!" Lorelai says, when Alex tells her.

The most disconcerting thing is, Alex knew exactly what Lorelai would say, before she even said it.


*

Four of the fry don't make it through, but the rest thrive under her care and expertise.

Alex has never been emotionally attached to fish before --- it is her job to keep her merchandise alive, so she makes damn sure she does --- and this is the first time she is actually overwhelmed with sadness when she comes home from work to see the baby swordtails feasting on the bodies of their fallen comrades.

By the time Christmas lights start going up and elves appear at Macy's, the fish have grown to a discernibly fish-like size. Alex makes the mistake of telling Lorelai about it, so Lorelai invites herself over to see them.

"Whoa," Lorelai remarks, before she's even set one foot through the door.

Alex's sigh is long-suffering. "What?"

"Your apartment is like that scene in A Beautiful Mind. Except with fishtanks instead of schizophrenic newspaper decoding," Lorelai says. She looks around the room in wonder, gaze finally resting on the huge saltwater tank near the kitchen. "I thought you didn't like fish."

"I like the challenge," Alex says. It takes patience and diligence to keep a whole eco-system functioning, which, it suddenly occurs to her, is not unlike dealing with Lorelai.

"Well, it's beautiful, this place," Lorelai says.

Alex hesitates, and then decides to say thanks out of common courtesy, except Lorelai isn't listening. Lorelai has finished cooing at her "grandfish", as she calls them, and is flipping through Alex's CD collection. "Ugh," she comments, dropping them in a haphazard pile on the carpet, "do you listen to any music that wasn't written by someone who died 500 years ago? Oh, let me see what you have on your DVR."

"I don't have a DVR," Alex replies.

"How does anybody this day and age not have a DVR?" Lorelai turns on the television and scowls. "CNN, MSNBC, the weather channel . . . Court TV . . . do you watch anything interesting at all?"

"Turn the volume down," Alex orders. "It scares the fish."

"I thought you didn't like the fish."

"Still, I'd appreciate it if you didn't kill any of them."

Lorelai rolls her eyes and turns off the TV. She slumps on the sofa, propping her sneakers on the coffee table as Alex tries not to wince. Suddenly, frighteningly, she brightens. "Hey, can I look at your room?"

"No!"

"Come on, I let you look at mine."

"You live in a closet," Alex says pointedly.

"That I let you look at!"

Lorelai jumps onto her feet and starts towards the hallway. Alex tries to block her by holding out her arms, and shouting, among other things, "This is my apartment. Jesus, Lorelai, you can't just come in here and make yourself at home. I barely even know you."

The second kiss is like the first, except this time Alex isn't caught off guard. Not as much, anyway, and to be very honest, she'd been expecting something like this, anticipating it even, so this time she is able to kiss back with equal ferocity, till all her nerves are shot and her hands are trembling, hot, against Lorelai's cheeks.

"There," Lorelai says, when they finally stop for breath. "Now you know me."




Many thanks to the Polar Bear and Lo and everyone else who held my hand (*gags*) and talked me through this. Y'all need help.

Date: 2007-12-20 04:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tremblingmoon.livejournal.com
Now I love you even more.

And I think it is perfectly right and just that Alex should fall in love with Lorelei again and again without knowing it in multiple cracked-out OTPs. It's the way the world should be.

This line, by the way, is brilliant: The second kiss is like the first, except this time Alex isn't caught off guard. Not as much, anyway, and to be very honest, she'd been expecting something like this, anticipating it even, so this time she is able to kiss back with equal ferocity, till all her nerves are shot and her hands are trembling, hot, against Lorelai's cheeks.

Date: 2007-12-21 01:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wizened-cynic.livejournal.com
Awww, I love you too, WORM! Just not as much as I love SM, but I love her a lot, so. I am really, really happy that you not only READ this crazy fic but that you liked it. DRIVE SAFE TO CALGARY. WATCH OUT FOR CONSERVATIVE COWBOYS.

Date: 2007-12-20 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mcdoh1902.livejournal.com
FISH!

You know, whatever universe you put these two in (outer space, pizza delivery), they'd still be super awesome. Awesome in caps.

Date: 2007-12-21 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wizened-cynic.livejournal.com
Aw, thank you! Hmmm ... SVU/Gilmore Girls/Futurama crossover. If I knew Futurama better, I'd write it just for you.

Date: 2007-12-20 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] raf-51.livejournal.com
It's a story about fish!!! Totaly crazy but I loved it

Date: 2007-12-21 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wizened-cynic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm really glad you liked it despite the ridiculousness of its premise!

Date: 2007-12-20 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] weazel-luv.livejournal.com
you know, my seven year old cousin used to have an immortal goldfish. She got Steve (cuz she loved blues clues) when she was four and he survived the Milk Disaster of '05, the Orange Juice Incident of '06 and when they moved houses in '07.

But my uncle changed the water for him a month ago and he died.

guess he wasn't so immortal...

Date: 2007-12-21 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wizened-cynic.livejournal.com
That's tragic. Did your uncle get your cousin a replacement fish named Joe? Or is your cousin beyond Blue's Clues now?

Date: 2007-12-21 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] weazel-luv.livejournal.com
nope, he bought her an xbox instead. which is, I think, some pretty awesome parenting.


Date: 2007-12-20 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] napn-zebra.livejournal.com
Yay! Fishies!

Yay! Lorelai and Alex!

I've never had immortal fishies...I once lived in a building where the steam pipes ran through the walls. When they burst, the walls got hot. And my fishies got cooked. I haven't been able to buy one since then.

Date: 2007-12-21 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wizened-cynic.livejournal.com
Hee! Also, I'm sorry about your dead fishies . . . although the way they died is kind of funny. Kind of.

I am a bad person, OKAY???

Date: 2007-12-20 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aquila1nz.livejournal.com
Only you could get me to read a story about fish keeping.

Just because Alex and Lorelai have grandfishes doesn't mean I'm going to tag this one fpreg.

Date: 2007-12-21 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wizened-cynic.livejournal.com
Dude, I made you read a story where Lorelai is a demon hunter who grows a penis and fucks her sister with it. And you balk at FISHKEEPING?

I mean, thanks!

Aw, should've made Phoebe knock Rachel up instead. That would've been fpreg. Or, well, fishpreg.

Date: 2009-05-30 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fallon-ash.livejournal.com
I can't believe I didn't comment on this the first time around. I love this fic.
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