Shanna and Toby
February 21, 2002
I suspect it's a result of finally finishing Rebellion, but even if not, I feel the need to rant on about Toby and Shanna. If you have no idea who I'm talking about, read Prodigal Refused AND Rebellion on the Shadowrun Fiction page. Otherwise none of this will make sense.
Purely from a writing standpoint, Shanna is my darkest, most abused character. She is always the one I drag out when the world is evil, to show the shadier side of life, the darker aspect of Shadowrun. She is the hero that can't win. She faces down all the evil, all the drek life throws her, persevering through all. She goes in knowing she can't win, but does it anyway, just because of who and what she is.
I love Shanna as a character. She's so wonderfully blunt and independent, so bloody determined to finally go her own way and screw the world that says otherwise. In a large way, she's an incredibly strong person- oddly enough, I don't have the stats here with me, but I do recall when making her to role play that she did have a pretty high will power. She's simply been kicked and knocked down by life so many times that she's become fixated on, if not fighting back, then at the very least staying afloat. Rather a principle of she's seen it all, done it all, and now she's out to do her thing. End of story.
Yet she's paradoxically, utterly human in that she has so many weaknesses. She's trapped in the wheelchair, can only see through machines, and the only life she has tends to be limited to a small apartment and the Matrix. She has the will to live, but what sort of a life is it that she has? She knows this, and that, combined with all the pain, betrayal, and loss she's seen, has formed a very bitter, angry personality. She knows this isn't how life should be, she realizes that things are wrong and unfair. She hates being so trapped. In many ways, I think she hates living like she does. There really seems to be nothing left for her to live for at all.
Hence the need for Toby. When I first wrote Prodigal, he was simply a means for Shanna to survive, a little live in help. He'd have to be a friend, because no one could stand to be around the Ever Angsty Elf without a very strong friendship to fall back on. She wouldn't tolerate pity, even if she does suffer an eternal dose of it. So I needed a reason to why he was still with her.
They're not really opposites. Toby was born and raised in the Barrens, the eternal street rat trying to get a leg up in life. He's not cheerful, optimistic, or happy. He's gotten his own bruises, it's just that in comparison, they don't seem like much. Shanna has that tendency to overshadow people. But Toby seems to thrive there. He IS Shanna's shadow, the ever-present help, ear, kick in the butt, whatever is needed. A large part is that he loves her, probably has since not long after they met. And guilt is an equally important factor. But most of all, it's that she loves him.
In my mind, the two are unquestionably soul mates. They were meant to be together, as friends, lovers, probably spouses, but however you call it- they are vital parts of each other's souls. They do complement each other. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say complete each other, due mostly to natural reluctance to wax so romantic, but also the fact that they... well... don't. At least not in my perspective. Feel free to disagree. Back to the point. It's not the classic brains and brawn, gutter and sophisticate comparison. The fact that Toby has excessive guilt and compassion he's willing to lavish on Shanna, who in turn shows that softer side ONLY to him. He's the only person she could possibly even imagine treating like that. They both maintain utter control over themselves. They've both learned that to look weak is just a quick way to pain, compassion will most likely get you stabbed in the back, and people leave you no matter how much you love them. They also feel that this isn't the way the universe should work, and since it happened to them, it makes them somehow unworthy. They can't admit love, they don't dare express more than friendly affection for each other.
Sometimes I think I really should give in and let them get together. There's a half written bit hanging around- not quite AU, and certainly not as wild or intense as Rebellion- where they end up with the perfect life. She's unscarred, able to walk, and he's human (well, they both are, but that's mostly Toby's hang up). They finally have a touch of happiness, he almost asks her to marry him, and then it goes right back to the drekker and depressing reality. I can't write even that shade of a happily ever after for them. It's tragic, it's depressing, but it seems to just be the way they're hardwired.
I'm sure part of it is I'm fascinated by writing the extremes and hints of soul mates willfully, intentionally keeping apart from each other. Rather sadistic and evil, but so be it. By this point, I don't think they COULD be happy, even if they did finally admit to things. Well, it's something to play around with.
Rebellion was a particularly fun facet to explore. Toby without his guilt, Shanna without her scars (mental and physical)... it all came from one basic "What if". What if Shanna's mother had grown a spine, and actually taken risks to protect her children better than just shoving them off to be fostered? My sense of irony demanded that she have similarities to the real Shanna, hence the fact that she was now stuck in a wheelchair, with a bit of facial scarring. But beyond that, it all sort of came together by itself- and ruining my plans. It started off with a vague plot of a now much more active Shanna would be kidnapped at a gymnastic meet/exhibition at a mall, taken by Toby and his team. Beyond that, well, maybe a bit of steamy, usual unresolved sexual tension.
Instead, Shanna turned into a slut. I intended for her to have a nice chat with her brother- who would drive her to the meet- about her current love life, which had to be Simon. Then somewhere along the way, Quietus/Datafage's fic about Simon's dinner date jumped out at me. So I adapted to use that, putting Shanna in his date's place. And somehow, Shanna took that as an opportunity to turn into someone who would sleep with anything. Her brother, who I generally view as an irritating git who wanders between na´ve and manipulative (depending on how evil I feel, he's either a dupe or the bad guy), turned outright scary. But Toby....
The AU Toby, I think, is a true samurai. He wants to be the white knight, but life will only let him go so far. And dreamers don't proper in Shadowrun. Well, not this AU version, anyway. I don't know if I'll do any more in this version of reality. It was interesting to see that the soul mate thing kicked in, and the sparks finally flew, but what do you do when the greater half of your soul is dead? Maybe she'll go on, finally step away from the corps. Or maybe she'll just give up, let her soul go, and become another one of the puppets she so desperately despises and fears becoming. She's got the seeds of good, but it feels like Toby was the only one who could bring those out in her.
On a side note, that whole rant of Shanna's on the nature of the corporations is based on a similar, lengthy ramble I wrote up for the normal version. At one point I was going to use it in a profile, but it became a paragraph instead of a quote. I think whatever reality I write her in, she still knows 2 things, deep down. 1, that the corporations will kill her at one point, physically or emotionally. And 2, that Toby is her other half. As much as he tends to be in her shadow, there can't BE a Shanna without Toby.
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