Title: Coldplay Said It Best

Author: Tote

Genre: mostly…general? Minor angst, minor humor, minor romance but no particular genre prevails. Ah, well, whatever.

Rating: PG, I'd say unless hand-holding gets you an R-rating these days.

Original A/N: This was written in celebration of Coldplay's new album, which is another mind-blowing thing of beauty and because I've had my share of bizarre and scary experiences at bus stations in regular, broad daylight and I wish God could've been a stranger on the bus one of those days. Oh and the Calcite meanings are verifiable. Enjoy and review, please or I may just sunbathe forever and ever and never write again. 

A/N for second posting: For reasons I wasn't and still am not clear on, this story mysteriously vanished from after I posted it a month or so ago. Luckily, I found out that I hadn't deleted it off my hard drive, so here it is again: for the few people that asked where it went. It is deathly cold and wet here and I couldn't help but smirk at how warm it was when I wrote this story. Damn you, August! Damn you!

The yellow bus streamed into the station, seeming too bright for its murky, dark surroundings.

It was the time of night when good, middle-class Arcadians were sure to remain in their nice, suburban homes, curtains shut and TV's on.

They wouldn't take a bus this time of night, when shady people traded baggies of white powder and rapists lay in wait, following young pretty girls home while cars stopped for desperate, broken girls in short skirts, beckoning them inside.

Arcadia was safer these days—but it wasn't safe.

And yet, Joan sat at the bus stop, unafraid and kind of bored. She tore open the foil on her Kit Kat with steady, ungloved hands and ate it in three big bites. Her stomach still grumbled but she ignored it and held her Starbucks coffee tightly, letting it gently warm her hands.

It wasn't that she didn't know the dangers. A boy in her calculus class had once deferred her to this very place 'if she was looking to catch a buzz'. Hanging with Adam had its disadvantages as far as reputations went.

And her Dad was a detective for God's sake—how many times had he bitterly complained about the number of irresponsible parents who let their daughters take the bus home that late at night?

No, Joan's calm had nothing to with the dubious bliss of ignorance. She just didn't care.

She took a tentative sip out of the steaming coffee: it slid down her throat, burning pleasantly all the way down. Joan took another, bigger sip, relishing the sensation. That was all that mattered. That moment, the good coffee, the sensations, the fact that in less than five minutes, her bus would arrive.

Gifted in the art of denial, Joan blocked out all thoughts of the past and all thoughts of the future—she remained in the present, uncaring and bored, a little hungry.

"Hey, baby…" a male voice slurred and Joan rolled her eyes at the appearance of a very drunk, very skinny boy who slid down beside her on the bench, a lit joint in his trembling hands.

"Fuck off," she told him. Her voice was clear, hard. She looked into his red-rimmed eyes as she said it. Her parents having the history they had and also happening to have a very pretty daughter had led to long, instructive lectures about what to do in situations like this.

"Hey, hey, I don't mean any harm…" the boy mumbled, his hands held up submissively, "just sharing the love, sister…" he held out the joint and it glowed in the darkness.

Joan surprised herself. She was actually tempted to take it. That was stupid.

In her moment of hesitation, as she regarded the joint warily, the boy slumped toward and over her, his lips seeking hers. His breath was foul and his unshaven cheek scratched against her smooth one. Wincing, she threw him off her with all the strength she could muster, yelling the words: "Leave me the hell alone!"

As if by divine deliverance (and very possibly it was) her bus arrived, its doors sliding open with a mechanical, whishing sigh. With the boy lying submissively behind her, Joan got on and sat right in front, making eye-contact with no one: more habit, really than precaution, but the stoner kid had rattled her a little.

It had shaken something loose inside her mind and the cool numbness she'd felt began to slacken. Wild, anxious thoughts danced across her mind: did Mom and Dad know she was gone yet? Should she have left? Should she have called Adam, just to let him know? But no, no, she didn't owe him anything anymore: they were barely friends, they…

"Hey, Joan," said a soothing, slightly amused voice.

Joan looked up, surprised to feel wetness in her eyes. Standing there, smiling sadly, was Cute Boy God. Secretly, she was glad—he was God's easiest carnation to resent, to bitch at. She was in sore need of a bitching outlet right about now.

"What the hell are you doing here?" she snapped, too loudly. She felt the rustle of movement go through the few passengers in the back but didn't care, again. Her rash anger swallowed up any kindness or mercy or goddamn social decorum. She glowered at her God.

"I think a better question would be: what are you doing here?" Cute Boy God retorted smoothly and seating himself beside her, he added: "and I don't care for your tone."

"Deal with it," Joan mumbled, but there was no heat in her words. A sudden wave of sadness overcame her and she moaned aloud, dropping her head into her hands. "Oh, God."

She felt a reassuring hand on the back of her head, "I know, Joan."

A sob wringed its way out of her. "I can't go back there," she said into her hands.

God lifted his hand and she felt him lean back into his seat. "What is it your afraid of, Joan?"

Sighing deeply, she lifted her head and looked at Him, her lips trembling a little. "You know what I'm afraid of," she whispered.

"Yes." He looked up at the ceiling, suddenly smiling to Himself, as if somewhat pleased. "But even I didn't count on this."

Joan giggled, despite herself, despite misery. She'd surprised God. Delighted, she mumbled, still crying a little: "What? Me the fugitive?"

"You're hardly a fugitive, Joan," He replied calmly, "And no, that's not what surprised me. This did." He pointed to the necklace hanging around her neck.

Sobering, Joan fingered the silver chain with a troubled, distant look. Her heart was full again and her words, when they came out, felt heavy: "Yeah, Adam has a way of catching people off guard."

"He's cool that way," Cute Boy God commented, "and cruel that way, too."

Joan nodded in agreement. Cool and cruel, kind and heartless, beautiful and terrible, innocent yet sinful: her Adam, her love, her enemy. Contradictions, contradictions…her life seemed filled with them. Exhausted, afraid, she closed her eyes.

She wanted to end this before it started up again and she felt sure God was there to stop her. "Can't I just give up? Once? On just one thing?" She looked at him pleadingly. "I'll, you know, counter-balance evil and save the world, I'll obey, I just—" her breath was coming out too fast, too shallowly and she wanted to scream, "I need to get out."

"The thing is, Joan, this running away—" he began.

"I'm not running away," Joan interrupted irritably, "I'm taking a break. You know, from being used for everybody's cosmic or emotional target practice."

God gave her a short, skeptical look. Then, "This running away is inspired by fear. Do you remember what I said about fear, in the book store last year?"

Joan banged her head against the window twice, and then stopped abruptly, reminded of Adam. "Yeah," she admitted. "Fear…doesn't leave room for anything else. Takes your boat-making mojo away."

"Among other things," God replied, grinning slightly at her, a child. "It doesn't leave room for reason either. Or beauty, or purpose, or love, or kindness—it makes people do things they regret."

Feeling as if she'd been slapped across the face, Joan stared at Him. "You are not saying that," she said, anger and sorrow rising together, "you are not saying Adam sleeping with Bonnie was some…" she spluttered, "fear-induced, like, mistake that I should just overlook."

"No, you're right, Joan, I'm not saying that," God answered, voice ringing with snippiness, "maybe I could finish what I am saying?"

Joan crossed her arms across her chest.

"What are you so afraid of, Joan?" God asked in a whisper that got stuck in her soul.

"Ryan!" Joan burst out, voice rising. "And like, evil and the responsibility of saving the world, how about that? I mean, if you want the full list—"

"And Adam?" God wondered, "Are we adding him to the list?"

Joan was struck silent. She touched the charm on the silver chain of the necklace: it was odd and beautiful, like everything Adam made. It was a made up of metal wires, bent and soldered into the shape of a rose. Hanging off the rose, like a tear-drop, was a grayish blue gemstone Joan didn't know the name of.

"I'm not afraid of him. I'm afraid of what he'll do to me." She squeezed the stone between her fingers like a talisman, trying to squeeze out its meaning.

"If you let yourself love him?" God's voice was gentle.

Joan laughed a dry, unhappy laugh. "No, I love him anyway." Her mouth twisted bitterly. "Unfortunately."

"What then?"

"If I trust him again," Joan whispered, "it gives him another chance to break my heart. I won't recover a second time. There are too many, too many other things I have to fight—I can't fight him too."

They were quiet together for a moment. The bus drove over a speed bump and rocked slightly. Glittering, dark scenery flashed by like snapshots of Arcadia as dangerous backstreets gave way to public ones, to mailboxes and white-painted houses. The bus driver turned on the radio and Chris Martin's voice broke the silence:

"How long before I get in
Before it starts, before I begin
How long before you decide
Before I know what it feels like
Where to, where do I go
If you never try then you'll never know
How long do I have to climb up on the side of this mountain of mine"

"You know, that gemstone has an interesting meaning behind it," God said conversationally. "It's blue Calcite. It's said to have energies that focus on power, love… healing." He paused as Joan met his eyes with her wide, shining ones.

"Look up, I look up at night
Planets are moving at the speed of light
Climb up, up in the trees
every chance that you get is a chance you seize"

"It's associated with the throat Chakra: known for aiding clear communication." He took her hand in his; squeezing it lightly and she felt a rush of gratitude to him, for his words, for his wisdom. For speaking to her.

Joan smiled. "Is that your subtle way of telling me Adam and I need clearer communication?"

God cocked his head to the side, scrutinizing her. "Or is it Adam's way of trying to communicate something?"

Joan stopped smiling. God let go of her hand.

"How long am I gonna stand
with my head stuck under the sand
I'll start before I can stop
or before I see things the right way up"

"Can you promise me he won't hurt me again?" Joan asked, now holding the charm tightly clasped in her hand.

"No, Joan," God said calmly, as if this were obvious. "That's the risk you're taking."

Joan stared at Him, her fear beginning to ebb away. "It's about trust."

God stood up and smiling, said: "It's about faith."

"All that noise and all that sound
All those places I got found
Birds go flying at the speed of sound
To show you how it all began
Birds came flying from the underground"

The bus halted and God stepped off, with a cheerful, "have a good night," at the bus driver, who merely looked startled.

"If you could see it, then you'd understand"

Joan realized the next stop was in front of her house. In her confusion, she had taken a bus that took her right back home, back into Arcadia, not out of it. She smirked after God as He crossed the street. "Always with the tricks," she muttered.

God only lifted his hand in backwards wave.

The bus began to slide away, to Joan's stop, where Adam stood waiting.