Zepfics: Short Stories [Review]

No, Robert Plant did not really draw this Jimbert (Robert x Jimmy) pairing on the chalkboard. Some clever Photoshopping did that.

Angels Losing Sleep, by Leah
Part 1, Β Part 2, Β Part 3

Ten years ago Livejournal had a short-lived Zepfic community, which in turn had replaced an earlier one that was short-lived; from the more recent one (active 2011-2014) I read this story. Zepfics have a rich range of real-life conflicts and tragedies to hang their plots on, and this story concerned the death of Robert Plant’s son, Karac, in 1977. The event caused the second half of their American tour to be cancelled and Robert to seriously evaluate his life and whether or not he would continue with the band. But there wasn’t any of that in here. It was a Jimbert pairing and so was about the relationship. Which was fine, I can go for Jimbert any day, as far as Zepfics go. But using the death of a real-life child to portray domestic displays of support and affection between the pair went too far for even for my somewhat unprincipled tastes. I couldn’t suspend my sense of disbelief that Robert wouldn’t be more devastated than he was; he’s more concerned for Jimmy, who’s withdrawing from heroin at the same time. It’s presented to the reader as Jimmy’s way of supporting Robert in his hour of grief; but, bad timing, dude.

The fic also features a character assassination of long-suffering Maureen Plant as she rails at Robert for bringing his gay lover to their son’s funeral. Not nice.

Nearing the Close of the First Era, QueenBoudica1770

Heroin rears it white, ugly head again in this story, where, instead of the 1977 American tour cutting off because of a family death, the tour continues with Jimbert going full throttle, up to the night Jimmy ODs on smack with the needle hanging out of his arm! Oh noes!! (He survives, but the tour stops.)

QueenBoudica1770 is a prolific and imaginative writer who has almost 50 Zepfics to her credit on AOW, and though this story doesn’t stand out and is mawkish at times (during his recovery Jimmy gets mad at Robert and throws a tchotchke at him, knocking Robert clean out and causing much angst from Jimmy) I enjoyed it enough to read it again. There are some wacky, creative touches here, like Richard Cole appearing in a jeweled thong and John Paul Jones trying to CPR Jimmy back to life.

The story also spotlights Jimmy’s heroin chic, which is an essential part of his fanon character. Wan and drawn, pale and otherworldly, rail-thin with hipbones jutting — he’s like a helpless faerie prince in need of rescue. Sexed yet sexless, Heroin Jimmy is the ultimate bad boy in need of being saved from himself. It’s a potent narcotic for a certain kind of female.

In the Light, AshesToAshes77

This fic begins like it should be about heroin too, but Jimmy’s just depressed. Restless, he putters around his hotel room, then decides to take a bath, and who should come in but Robert, who tries to get him to talk about what’s troubling him. It turns out, it’s because Jimmy feels he’s letting the band down because he hurt his hand (a real-life incident on one of the tours) and can’t play as well as he should. Awww!

It sounds like I’m making fun of the story, but I’m not. It was a very good description of someone mired in ennui and unable to snap out of it, wondering why his emotions seem so blunted. And who wouldn’t want Robert to attend to your bath, washing your hair and assuring you everything will be all right and that he’ll never leave you, no matter what?

Post-coital bliss? Artwork by Vltraviolet.

The Needle and the Damage Done, electricsorbet
(The link is to the first chapter, the others can be accessed through here.)

Electricsorbet is a Deviantart fanfic writer and artist with a fetish for Heroin Jimmy. There’s not only a cartoon series about it on her site, but also a darkfic, this aptly named one, which is hypnotic in its intensity and features some pretty damn good writing. The Zep are touring again and Robert, as usual, is worried about Jimmy’s addiction, I mean really worried. But he won’t confront Jimmy directly about it and Jimmy won’t talk, either. That’s all the story of 11 chapters is, the skirting of the issue, the false justifications, the desire not to make waves. Finally one night Jimmy gives in to Robert’s concern, there’s some kinky sex, and Jimmy comes down; it seems the problem’s solved, for now.

This is another fic with magnificent literary writing and for once, I could picture the band members really thinking, acting, and doing what they do as English men born of a certain era and place. The only time I went “hmm?” was when the smaller and frailer Jimmy violently pushes Robert into a closet, which I couldn’t see happening. But otherwise, I was there, drinking and smoking with the members and being onstage with Robert and Jimmy as they perform in conjunction with each other. I bet the author studied a hell of a lot of concert footage!

I’ll be posting more of electricsorbet’s Zeptoons later.

A drug-ravaged Jimmy gives Robert some ideas. Artwork by electricsorbet.

Down to the Sea, QueenBoudica1770

I read a second Zepfic by QueenBoudica1770 just on the strength of its premise: in Medieval England, Jimmy, an orphaned fisherman, catches a merman in his net one day, Robert! Jimmy realizes Robert has been helping him out by driving fish into his net. An affair follows which is more earthy than the cozy, ethereal sex that usually happens between the two. As usual no one in the story questions the gay element.

What makes this story interesting is how it spins off into fantasy, the author putting her own seal on mermaid myths. Her Robert merman is tall and strapping, but has sharp pointy teeth, superhuman strength, and a fish tail that peels away and sheds when he is on land, giving him legs. He’s also his own creature; if you went into this story blind, without knowing it was a Zepfic, you wouldn’t be able to tell. That to me is a mark of good writing right there. The Zepfic functions as a way of giving fans a little extra fun, the ambience recalling the Physical Graffiti song “Down by the Seaside.”

I thought the story would be a one-off but it spun off into multiple chapters before it ends at a climactic scene — James has been kidnapped by an evil group of merman who also hold Robert’s daughter by a human woman, and their plan is to take over the merman kingdom, and Robert, along with some elves, his ex-lover, and the Bonzo and John Paul Jones characters, are attacking them on a bridge. Boy can this author write a good action scene. I’m even going to prod her finish the tale, something I don’t usually do on the site.

I couldn’t find Robert as a merman, but I found Jimmy! Catch of the day. Artwork by MarauderofWorlds.

Kashmir, ledbythreads

This Zepfic was one of the serious ones, a literary mood piece rather than a narrative. It’s the 1990s and Jimmy and Robert are giving press interviews in Japan for their Unledded tour. A young Middle Eastern music journalist, Naz, comes in to talk to them, and they both get turned on, by the reporter and by each other. The old affair, given up in the 1970s, flames back to life.

β€œAnd now you are – back together. But you have never entirely been apart, right?”

β€œWe have an open marriage.”

Maybe the slightest stumble but Naz takes the pass smoothly. A sight smile. He gets out a yellow legal pad. Like Cameron, all those years ago. But he’s not a boy. Not at all the cub reporter. He turns to Jimmy without making Robert feel the connection shift. He’s good at his job. It’s reassuring, that competence. That deft touch.

I’m quoting because I like the descriptions ofΒ  body language so much, and the double meaning of “old marriage” to mean a musical partnership and a sexual one. Tension continues to shimmer and the two wind up involving the young man in a threesome. It also has this gem of a line (from Jimmy, referring to Robert) “Rarely touching him openly, as he wanted to. Only with sound.”

This one bears repeat reading.

Artwork by Nicola Rivka

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