This is my very first Simpsons fanfic, having been officially obsessed with Sideshow Bob for over a year now. It takes place immediately following the events of "The Italian Bob" (season 17, episode 8). You may want to watch it before reading this, even if you've seen it before. Just a suggestion.
Since we all know that Bob loves to quote Shakespeare, I have listed the source of each of his quotes (play, act and scene) at the end of this chapter. Italian-to-English translations are provided via Google Translator.
SUMMARY: After yet another failed attempt to kill Bart, Sideshow Bob realizes his life is a sham and vows to start anew. But when an evening at Moe's goes horribly awry, the Simpsons find themselves in the awkward position of caring for their wounded archenemy. Humor/Drama, PG-13 for language and suggestive themes.
Act I, Scene I
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts. ~ As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
The words of the Immortal Bard rang especially true to a certain man - a man who could quote Shakespeare as flawlessly as he could belt out "Vesti la giubba" while orchestrating a multiple homicide before a live audience.
Robert Underdunk Terwilliger was an amazingly versatile actor, having played a wide range of roles throughout his life: the wayward son, the loving husband, the devoted father, the esteemed mayor. Some roles had been thrust upon him, dubious parts in which he took little or no pride: the mute sidekick, the jaded buffoon, the hardened criminal, the capricious psychopath.
As the Colosseum fell dark in the wake of the Simpsons' escape, the night sky came to life with stars that, only moments before, had been outshone by Sideshow Bob's moving aria of heartbreak and deception. Gazing up at them with a sudden air of calm, his desire to sing to the heavens themselves was quelled by the soft touch on his hand. He looked down to see Francesca standing beside him, her hand in his, with that seductive yet sinister smile that spoke a dark secret he had yet to uncover. This woman, who played the role of wife and mother, had stood by him through this fiasco. That much he had not expected.
He returned her smile and the two strolled hand-in-hand out of the Colosseum. Little Gino ran on ahead of them, swearing gruesome vengeance on a butterfly whose only sin was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Farfalla! Farfalla vendetta! Ack! Ack! Ack!" He stabbed the air with his knife. Bob chuckled. The hand holding his tightened its grip. Beside him, Francesca made a low sound like a growl as she watched the boy with narrowed eyes. That wasn't a good sign, Bob knew.
They hailed a taxi and rode home in silence. Their driver cast more than the usual amount of suspicious glances in the rearview mirror, and it wasn't until Bob reached up to tug at his suddenly too-tight collar that he realized he still had his costume and makeup on.
A horn blared behind them. The driver leaned out the window to curse and gesture obscenely as the offending motorist passed him. Gino stood up on the seat and raised his knife, shouting "Vendetta! Vendetta per il tassista!"+
"Silenzio!" Francesca hissed. She took the knife from him and forced him to sit in her lap. "You are not-a the creeminal, Gino."
Bob stole a sideways glance at her. An unsettling change had occured in the woman he called his wife, and it worried him. A lot.
The remainder of the ride was as silent as duct tape, the tension building behind it waiting to tear loose with a scream.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. ~ Macbeth, Act V, Scene V
It was late by the time they returned to the village of Salsiccia. Late and dark and quiet. Most of the villagers had already turned in for the night. A coldness seized Bob's heart to see shards of glass glinting in the moonlight. Some malcontent had taken a rock to the downstairs windows of the mayor's estate. His home. Approaching the front door, it appeared damaged. The rich varnish was severely scuffed, the door frame splintered. An Italian profanity had been written on the door as well, probably by the same person who'd failed to break it down. The reek of urine suggested that it had been peed on as well.
Francesca held Gino close as they entered the house, glancing about nervously as if expecting an ambush. When it seemed the coast was clear, she fled upstairs. Bob heard the slam of their bedroom door and sighed. Very slowly and reluctantly, he ascended the staircase. With each upward step his feet seemed to grow heavier. It felt as though the clown shoes he'd donned as part of his Canio costume - floppy even for him - were slowly filling with molten lead. It seemed impossible that he would reach the top step, but somehow he managed. He looked first to his left, toward the bedroom, then to the right - his office. The desire to be alone with his thoughts pushed him toward the latter.
Inside his office, the mahogany-paneled walls threatened to close in on him. The only light in the room shone through the door from a ceiling fixture in the hallway. The opulent oak desk, behind which he'd mused and deliberated on all variety of subjects, stood as void as an empty coffin in the gloom. It seemed to grow as he approached it. Or maybe he was shrinking. Placing his palms on its cold, lacquered surface, it suddenly seemed far too big a desk for him. Like something he was expected to grow into, but never did. And never would.
His shadow, black as nothing, stretched across the desk and fell upon the crimson drapes behind it. Distorted by the deeply pleated velvet folds, it glared back sightlessly, the silhouette of a monster.
"The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed the shadow of your face," Bob murmured, quoting King Richard II. The corner of his mouth twitched and his hands clenched into fists on the desktop. "The shadow of my sorrow? Ha!" His laugh was explosive and venomous, like a spitting cobra. "'Tis very true, my grief lies all within; and these external manners of laments are merely shadows to the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured soul! There lies the..."*
Bob flinched, then growled. "I told you never to interrupt me when I am invoking the words of the Immortal Bard!" he snapped, spinning around.
Francesca stood in the doorway, suitcase in hand, Gino at her side. Both wore matching glares of contempt aimed squarely at Bob. His eyes flitted over the little boy briefly before doing a double take. His hair - his untamed mop of curly red hair - his most outstanding feature which bore him his strongest resemblance to Bob - lay in a heap at his tiny little feet.
Bob stared at the wig as if it were a massive blood-colored tarantula snoozing in the middle of the floor. The boy's real hair was as ebony as his mother's. What hadn't been shaved off now clung in thin, sweat-dampened locks to his too-round head.
"Gino, why...?" Bob whispered, turning questioning eyes to the child who no longer even remotely looked like him.
"It's over, Roberto. If-a that ees your real name," Francesca said coldly.
"Of course it isn't my real name!" Bob retorted. "I've told you time and again that it's Bob! Simply Bob! Or Robert, if you insist on the formality, and even that you somehow manage to butcher, with your exorbitant R rolling and that damnable gratuitous O!" His voice was rising, changing in pitch from his natural smooth tenor to the guttural quality of some agitated beast. "It's Robert, raaaahhh-bert, not row-bear-toe! For God's sake, woman, is that so difficult?"
Francesca laughed bitterly. "Ha! Look at who ees-a the talking! You, who are-a the one ruining everything! If not for that heedeous prison uniform you are-a wearing like the underwear all of the time..." she referred to the orange jumpsuit he'd had on under his clothes when a drunken Lisa accidentally disrobed him.
"I told you, that cursed Armani suit you force me to wear to galas always gives me a rash!"
"Then wear-a the Gucci!"
Bob gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes, piercing her with a look of purest loathing. "Gucci. Doesn't. Breathe."
"Stai zitto! Sei un uomo patetico con i vostri capelli ridicolo pagliaccio e piedi!" Francesca shouted fanatically. "Ora la mia reputazione è rovinata per colpa tua! Tu sei un marito indegno e vergognoso il sindaco più questa città abbia mai visto!"++
At any other time Bob might have laughed at how absurd she sounded, like some God-awful Desi Arnaz impersonator running off at the mouth. He waved a hand to shush her.
"Yes, yes, everything is my fault. Blame the trophy husband after all he's done for you."
"It ees-a your fault, you bastardo idiota!" the woman snarled. "I made-a you what you are, Rrrrrrroberrrto," she hissed, deliberately rolling her R's just to irritate him. "I made-a you the husband of-a Francesca Graziella Louisa D'Angelo Bernarducci the fashion model! Me! Francesca!"
"Only because you needed a husband to avoid the stigma of being an unwed mother!" Bob shot back, folding his arms. "Making your son wear that ridiculous wig to look like me so that none of the fourteen sperm donors you shacked up with in a single weekend could lay claim to him!"
"It was-a four men, not fourteen!" Francesca's face was pink with embarrassed fury.
Bob snorted. "Four, fourteen... what difference does it make? When none of those men were foolish enough to marry you, you preyed on me, the one man in Italy ignorant of your reputation."
Of course he knew Gino wasn't his. The boy had been nearly a year old when the couple first met. They'd dated briefly and dispassionately. Then Francesca dropped a bombshell. It wasn't as much a surprise that she had proposed to him as what she had proposed: a trophy marriage. They each needed a crutch, and each suited the others' needs perfectly. And so, one public marriage announcement later, Bob resurfaced as a new man in a new country, starting a shining new life, while Francesca resurfaced with a ring on her finger and a red wig on her baby's head to keep the tabloids from talking.
The woman's face grew redder. "I made-a you il sindaco! The mayor! Those brainless pidgeons elect you because you are-a marry to me! You are-a nothing without me!"
"Oh, please! They all but thrust me into office after I single-handedly brought in the wine harvest with these bunioned beauties!" Bob declared, implicating his feet with a grandiose gesture.
Francesca sneered at them before meeting his glare with a haughty one of her own. "So you are-a good for one thing only!"
"Ahem?" Bob crossed his arms again, indignant.
Francesca rolled her eyes. "All right, two things you are good for... but no more!" The momentary smug smirk was wiped clean from Bob's face. "You have-a ruin everything because you are-a swearing vendetta on-a pointy-haired leetle bambinos!"
"Vendetta! Vendetta!" Gino piped up. He began stabbing the air with an imaginary knife.
"No, Gino!" his mother snapped, grabbing his hand to still him. "You are not-a the creeminal! You are good boy... with bad father figure!" She glared up at Bob again, her dark eyes smoldering dangerously. "Worst of all, you have-a corrupt my son."
Bob smirked. "Not two hours ago you thought his newfound bloodlust quite endearing," he pointed out coolly.
The woman narrowed her eyes. "It was cute - until I see that he meant-a for-real vendetta!" She thrust the suitcase at him, but he did not take it. His hands hung limp at his sides now, dead weights. He just stared at her, at a loss for words. The suitcase, already packed by the sound of it, hit the floor.
"Leave Salsiccia," she told him, in a hiss that made his blood run cold. "Now. And-a never come back."
The door slammed behind her.
Bob sighed heavily, leaning against the desk for support. With a wife like that, and feet like his, he'd strutted his way into the mayoral office with undeserved cockiness. And of course, pride always went before the fall. What else could he have expected? He'd known from the start of their loveless faux marriage that Francesca could and would continue to live the wild life she'd enjoyed prior to her unplanned son. And he had stood by and allowed it with nary an objection, knowing full well that their little arrangement shielded all three of them behind its blissful facade. It shielded Francesca from being labeled a spoiled, reckless whore by cruel tabloids, Gino from being a bastard child, and Bob from the shadow of his criminal past.
The rings on their fingers were a constant joke, a tired running gag. They were cheap symbols of an unholy union between two people who'd sought only to use each other as a means to their own separate ends. There had never been a ceremony, no signing of a marriage license, not a single "I do."
Fidelity was another joke - one at which Francesca always had the last laugh. In contrast, Bob had been trapped by the pretend marriage, for no sensible woman in the village would even consider an affair with the illustrious mayor and husband of the fiery Francesca. For his part, he'd sucked it up and looked on the bright side of things: he was beloved and respected, had a beautiful new home and a wonderful new life, and at the end of the day, the woman who played his wife (usually) came home to him.
Now... now it was gone. Finished. Over. The end. He'd had it all and lost it all, and yet he'd never really had any of it to begin with. The love of the townspeople had been even more capricious than his own homicidal tendencies. He should have known he'd won them over too easily. The wife and son who made him look better simply by standing beside him: only actors. His demons: still present and accounted for, every single one of them. It had all been an act, an elaborate staging. The grandest of lies. And now... now his life was an empty stage.
A single tear forged a glistening trail down his cheek, smearing his clown makeup. "I hold the world but as the world," Bob whispered into the silence. "A stage where every man must play a part, and mine a sad one."**
ACT II: [link]
Note: The reason I wrote this intro is because A. I've never been happy with the idea of Bob being 'tied down' with a family, and B. I wanted to rid Bob of them without deviating from what is apparently canon on The Simpsons. Unlike some people, I couldn't just pretend that "The Italian Bob" didn't happen. Although the show is full of continuity errors (which bug the living crap out of me) I have a strong need for canonical stability. Ergo, this chapter was MY way of saying "Oh, hell no!" to the show's writers. XD
I mostly wrote this chapter for myself as a means of getting rid of Francesca and Gino as logically and painlessly as possible, meaning no character deaths and no bitter divorce. Nothing personal against Fran and Gino, or their admirers, but as a hardcore Sideshow Bob fan, I NEEDED to liberate him, if only for my own satisfaction. And it worked! I am QUITE satisfied now.
Comments on both chapter content AND the illustration are appreciated, but not required. It's just that comments in general are very encouraging for me. ^_^
*King Richard II, Act IV, Scene I
**The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene I
+"Revenge for the taxi driver!"
++ "Shut up! You're a pathetic man with your ridiculous hair and clown feet! Now my reputation is ruined because of you! You are a worthless husband and the most disgraceful mayor this town has ever seen!"