|External Links:||at Speranza's site and on AO3|
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
Juggling Act is a Fraser/Kowalski story by Speranza.
art for this story by JS Cavalcante
Reactions and Reviews
If You Want to Go Right to the Heart of the Fandom: Juggling Act, by speranza. For me, this story really sums up the fandom – it's got pathos, humor, improbable situations, and clowns. And masturbating birds, and anti-animal-rights terrorists, and...well, just read it. Which is what I always end up saying about the best stories in this fandom, and that's why this is the heart of DS for me. 
What? I need another reason than Ray as 'The Angry Clown'? Purrrrlease LOL -- it's fun, it's awkward between the boys. An all around fun story as the guys go undercover in a small circus. 
So this whole mess begins with Frannie and her goddamned masturbating parrot. The one where Ray and Fraser go undercover at the circus. That should be enough to sell any fic, and to be fair it's what does sell this fic. It's thoroughly entertaining mostly because of the setting, so it hardly matters that the crime storyline isn't very developed. It's hardly necessary in fact. 
Many people have rec'ed this fic, but few have actually described or discussed in any detail what makes it so good. I think that's because it's so original, such a remarkable achievement, and there's just so much to it - the story is so flawlessly executed on so many levels that it's difficult to narrow down what makes it work.
Most obviously, Juggling Act is a showcase for Speranza's comic genius. The humor is broad and farcical at times, sharp - even barbed - at times, and always always clever - it's surely one of the cleverest, wittiest fanfics you'll ever read. The premise: catching Ray and Fraser juggling in the bullpen is the perfect excuse for Lieutenant Welsh to send them undercover in a travelling circus to try to nab a jewel thief. Fraser - the original freak - is, of course, a natural for the circus: [dialogue snipped]
Ray, on the other hand, is utterly horrified by this whole affair and has few circus-type skills to offer. The obvious role for him, then? A clown, of course - and not just any clown, but an angry clown. Ray's fury - a cover, really, for his cringingly acute embarrassment - knows no bounds.
This setting offers a multitude of opportunities for Speranza to demonstrate her deft comic touch. Take Fraser the Perfect Circus Mountie and Ray the Angry Clown, add masturbating budgies, bearded ladies, and assorted other whackiness to the mix, and the fic becomes laugh-out-loud funny. But once again, Speranza's fics are never, never one dimensional; there's always more to them than meets the eye. She's described Juggling Act as a sort of broad operatic comedy - and a comedy is more than just funny. In the best romantic comedy, the contrivances and artifices serve to generate deeper emotions and then as a foil to spotlight and showcase the depth of those emotions - and the emotions ultimately transcend the circumstances that gave rise to them. And this is so for Juggling Act, in which the obviously contrived humorous - even farcical - elements serve as a setting, a backdrop, for a more meaningful human drama.
The drama here is entirely Ray's. Comedy often deals with the ridiculous, which Plato defined as a "failure of self knowledge." The "ridiculousness" that provides comedic fodder in Juggling Act is Ray's failure - or refusal - to accept or even acknowledge his feelings for Fraser, because he is utterly terrified about what people will think of him if he does. It's social anxiety, pure and simple. So when he discovers that Fraser is attracted to him, he panics: [dialogue snipped]
So, in the best comedic tradition, the contrivances, the artifice - the circus, the clown suit, the bearded lady, the Romanov brothers - serve brilliantly to isolate and spotlight the reason for Ray's failure of self-knowledge - ie, his fear of public humiliation - and then provide the setting for him to face that fear. Ray is told that the secret to good clowning is to "find your inner clown, the clown that is the you deep inside" - and Juggling Act is, at heart, the story of Ray coming to terms with his inner Angry Clown, of finally, finally realizing "I am who I am--I'm a freak, I'm an angry clown, I might as well work what I got." Only when he faces this can he let himself love the man he loves. The contrivances thus serve to give rise to deeper emotions - love, tenderness, caring - and these emotions ultimately transcend the circumstances that engendered them, making the story so much more than mere farce.
I've rambled on too long, of course, but that is so ridiculously easy to do with Speranza's stories, because they have so many layers and there is just so much to say about them. Juggling Act is a remarkable piece of writing and a remarkably well constructed story by any standards. And at the same time - and certainly not inevitably; it is possible, in my view, for a story to be a wonderful piece of writing but not something I want to read in my fannish pursuits - it is also a wonderful piece of fanfic. It's true to the spirit of canon, it has the characters we know and love, the romance, the unfailingly hot sex, and the happy ending that I want from my slash.What more could any fan ask?