Rainy Days and Mondays
Nothing is really wrong
Feeling like I don't belong
Hanging around, some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.
- The Carpenters
Kai had always made a habit of studying people and right now it was annoying him. It was so habitual that he found he couldn't not do it, even when he wanted to read his book and study his book and keep his eyes on the page, well clear of his present company. He sat in his usual place, to the left side of the bus backseat, spine just touching the appropriate cushion - his tutors had never had to order him to sit up straight - and one leg crossed over the other. The book was held in both hands, his thumbs bruising the same double page as he tried to concentrate on it over and over again. It wasn't working. But even if the words jumped about and he read the same lines over and over, Kai was just not good at giving up. It would have been easier, he felt, if his brain would also stop skipping and repeating. Like a goddamn scratched CD. He gripped the book harder and tried to haul his mind away from the window again.
The faint itch of Kai trying to ignore him felt sort of like a mosquito biting, in the mind. Brooklyn had never been one for swatting at insects, though, so he just continued to stare out of the window, chin resting on one upturned palm. The fake glass was half-steamed up in odd patches, which made the curve of wet tarmac road outside slightly more interesting to look at. He had also been observing - with whatever fascination became when it wasn't really thinking - the progress of a large puddle across the road. Logic dictated that, having brought a book, he should read it, but he was too distracted with the rain and waiting for Kai to make a decision about whether to read or watch. Read or watch. He was curled up across a seat one row forwards from the other, on the opposite side of the bus, and declined moving enough to look at him. That left the book. It was interesting, yes, and he'd read it before and liked the story, but something seemed strange about it at the moment. The text looked unfamiliar, there were lines...he frowned slightly, turning back to the window, and listened to the sound of Kai trying to make up his mind.
As loath as he was to admit it, Kai had begun to think the whole thing useless. He couldn't focus on the words. Not with something peculiar to observe so close, and not with...well, whatever those things were at the corner of the page. And over by the margin. And curling between the lines of the Prince's soliloquy. What the hell were they? Vines? Here and there a leaf was suggested, but then the strands drew away to a sort of scribble and whirled around it, then ducked off to make a perfect cosine wave heading off the edge of the paper. He caught himself trying, out of curiosity, to find the wave on the next page, but only encountered some illegible writing in what might have been French; a pencil sketch of the sigil of the Illuminati on a Starbucks' cup; and a completely unrelated drawing of a ribcage. He scowled at the book and let it close as much as it could, index finger holding his place. He never drew on books. Underlined, wrote notes, made bullet point reminders, but never drew - except on the pad by the phone at the dojo, and that wasn't really a book. Leaving drawings for anyone to find was just careless, in his opinion. His eyes meandered thoughtlessly up to the window again, and the scowl deepened; doing things just because you had nothing better to do, that was careless too. It was why he had ended up stuck in a bus waiting on a rainy Monday morning anyway. The big conglomerate of teams staying at the Granger dojo - Tyson's idea, that idiot - had decided to take a trip to the outdoor pool - Tyson's idea again - because apparently there was nothing as fun as going there in the rain - Tyson had a lot of ideas like that. Kai didn't like it. Somehow, whenever Tyson had one of those ideas, he ended up in the same situation; lightly teased for not participating, and left to wait. Though solitary by nature, Kai still got pissed off with it, and he didn't want to go swimming with the idiots and be divebombed by Max and splashed at by Daichi and jollied along by Rei. But he didn't really want to be sitting in the back of the bus by himself, either. His eyes drifted again, and glaring, he let them.
Kai was definitely glaring now and as such, that was situation normal. Reacting was the problem. A glare prickled too much to ignore, but turning and glaring back was too confrontational to occur to him, and he wondered what to do. Interacting with Kai was difficult, among other reasons because neither of them were particularly good with the concept of normal relationships. That, of course, was how they'd ended up stuck in the bus at the same time. Tyson had explained to the group that Kai was antisocial and a real grouch and a lot of other things that probably meant the same, until someone had floored him with a throw pillow. For his part, Brooklyn had grown up lonely and wasn't particularly used to large groups of people; crowds tended to make him nervous, depressive and short-tempered. Garland, as a pillar of sense and absolute mother hen, had nodded in understanding and ruffled his hair reassuringly. "It's alright, Pigeon, if you don't feel like it just stay in the bus. We won't be long." Pigeon was a nickname, one of many devised during the Christmas party last year when everyone had been decidedly tipsy; unlike most of the others', "Pigeon" had stuck. He didn't mind it, even if it did cause Kai and Tala to make snide comments in Russian which they thought he couldn't understand. And Kai was still glaring, back in the bus. It was getting tiresome. In the absence of Garland, Hiro or even Tyson to advise - though all three had told both of them not to fight - Brooklyn resorted to his default reaction, and smiled vaguely at Kai. The latter seemed a little wrong-footed, but sneered anyway, and rolled up one sleeve to look at his watch impatiently.
Ten minutes? There were still ten minutes? Kai wondered how long ten minutes would turn out to be if he had to spend them on the receiving end of a disturbingly vacant smile. He sternly reminded himself that it could be worse. After all, Max, Enrique and Mystel - among others - all had teeth resembling recently-polished bay windows, and took every opportunity to display them. That would have been possibly more unnerving. But Kai was never unnerved. So he glared some more and looked at his watch again. Ten minutes still. If time started to go backwards then he would have Words with someone. It was too hot in the bus, too humid, and he was effectively trapped with, well, he wasn't quite sure what but didn't like it at all, until his friends came back. God knew why Tala even liked swimming anyway, but everywhere he went Bryan followed, and they weren't going to be back for another whole ten minutes. This could be difficult. Kai tried looking at the book again, but it seemed to have got worse; Act Four's title page had a red biro moonscape behind it, littered with an inexplicable amount of beach umbrellas, and a line of stickmen making nonsensical semaphore messages danced along the foot of the page. Kai shook his head and checked again. Kai looked at his watch because he wanted to know time had moved.
The puddle had stopped moving and was fairly uninteresting when still, and the book had not improved at all. In fact it was getting worse. There were underlinings and bullet point notes in a neat left-slanted hand everywhere. That was incomprehensible to Brooklyn. He understood the language used, certainly, and the writing was perfectly readable - very far removed from his own, but he hardly wrote anything down anyway. It was the concept that was foreign. The writing all relates to the text, so if you have the text, why do you need the writing? Luckily, Kai had stopped glaring for a moment that was big enough to think in. But why...Kai had a watch, and kept looking at it. Very often. Too often to be telling the time with it, which was the first idea of having a watch. They weren't late for anything, just waiting, so he must have been looking for some other purpose, Brooklyn reasoned. He wore a watch because Garland had given it as a present and in that way it was a communication, a friend. Kai was always casual about friends, but that made it look like he missed them when they weren't there. That was good, according to Garland; that was right. But the book was still totally wrong.
Having determined that time was neither backwards nor at a halt, Kai had given a sigh of relief and then on trying to read it again, had finally got fed up with the book. He looked at the cover. The same book, definitely, and the same edition, but absolutely not his copy. His copy didn't have another scribble - what looked like half a poem - and a detailed study of an upside-down suitcase in black marker pen on the front cover. And he'd looked up to roll his eyes, and noticed something. Brooklyn was reading, too, and seemed equally puzzled, if his peculiar body language was anything to go by. Kai, having spent that much time habitually watching people, knew the signs of sadness, happiness, anger, intrigue and confusion for everyone in the dojo - at present just over twenty individuals. Rei, for example, bit the tip of his tongue when disappointed about something. Bryan made fists with both hands when pleased, only one when angry. Hillary fiddled with her earrings when thinking. And, when confused, Brooklyn pressed his right palm to the corresponding temple and ground his teeth. Kai was fairly sure. He was more interested in the fact, however, that the apparently puzzling book looked very similar to the one he currently held. He tried speaking again, because it hadn't worked the first time.
It wasn't as if he wanted to start a conversation or anything, far from it, but the other looked up, startled, and he was obliged to say more.
"What book's that?"
"...This - oh. Just something I was reading."
Kai had not expected this. He wanted a straightforward yes-no type exchange. He tried again.
"What's it called?"
Fortunately, Brooklyn seemed to have an iota of common sense at that point, and just held up the closed cover. Kai frowned.
It was held out to him with a shrug, and he leaned across only a little hesitantly to take it, throwing the other copy in exchange as if it had recently died.
"Oh, thank you. I was looking for that."
Kai raised an eyebrow; the smile had, momentarily, flickered to genuinely pleased. He felt awkward to have been the cause. He had to say something, now, to finish the exchange.
This book made much more sense. Kai seemed to feel that way about the odd one with the notes, but kept looking at him, so he stopped trying to read again and looked back. Kai didn't appear particularly happy, just annoyed, and spoke.
"I left this in the kitchen yesterday afternoon. One of us must have picked up the wrong copy."
He hesitated for a moment, glancing at the bare cover of the other book.
"Why did you write in it?"
Kai seemed scandalised to have been interrupted again, but stopped and thought and actually answered.
"There are things about it that I want to remember when I read it."
This did not make a great deal of sense.
"They're things that you thought of when you read it before?"
"But won't you think of them again, when you read it again? Why write them down?"
Kai, at this point, put down his reclaimed book in frustration.
"So I remember, is why. Why draw all over it?"
Much to his disquiet, the smile sharpened out of vague and harmless again for a second.
"They're things about it I want to remember when I read it. Things I thought of when I read it before."
Garland, Kai recalled, had advised him a long time ago, the evening before the first battle. "...It's like...it's like arguing with a carnival mirror. I nearly lost my rag." Since then, he had to admit that he agreed. Though he had never actually argued with a carnival mirror, he suspected this was what it would be like.
"Those drawings don't make any sense. They're not of anything related to the text at all. How can they be notes?"
"They're not about the text. But they are notes."
It wasn't infrequently that he felt this irritated, but Kai always reserved a special level of annoyance for people he felt were deliberately stringing him along.
"Don't be stupid. Make sense or don't talk. How are those notes?"
The eyes looking at him widened slightly, and he suspected that asking may have been against his better judgement. But he didn't like mysteries, especially not as trivial as this was.
"Alright. They're notes because they tell me how I was feeling when I read that part. So that I know how I perceived it the first time, and then in a different mood, and then a different one, and so on."
Now Kai was puzzled, and placed his book on the seat, leaning over a little despite his misgivings.
"And what's the purpose of that?"
"Don't you see things differently when you're miserable than when you're not? And the more ways you look at something, the better the view that you get of it is."
The smile had changed slightly, to something Kai hadn't seen before; not so blank, but not narrowed to a smirk, either. He trusted his poker face, a faint scowl and nothing else, and kept it in place.
"There's no pattern in the drawings, no code. They're all different and don't point to obvious meanings, and if you have to remember what all the pictures mean then not drawing at all, or writing down the - mood would be simpler."
"I know what they mean when I look at them."
He watched the other flick pages of the drawn-over book, apparently looking for something. One page was paused at.
"Anyway, there's not the right words sometimes. Didn't you ever feel like this?"
Kai looked at the page offered to him. It presented a printed soliloquy in the text, covering a whole double page. Behind it, in the bottom left corner, was a very small circle. Opposite that, far off across the upper right corner of the page, several bands of unevenly sized crescents - the edges of concentric circles, or ripples, possibly - arched away from it in blank pencil grey, slightly smudged. He regarded it for several seconds, then nodded shortly. It felt odd to agree like that.
There was a short silence, and both stared at the window, and out of it. The puddle covered nearly the whole width of the road now, and condensation was starting to tear inside the glass. Kai's watch beeped and he ignored it, but lowered his eyebrows a little, critically.
"...A lot of people have felt like that. You can't try to tell me that's how come - "
"No, it's not. It's because you're the one I showed the picture to."
One eyebrow raised again, and he snorted, turned to spare a derisive look, and stopped. For another flicker of a split of a second, Brooklyn had been smirking at him, smirking, with nothing but absolute, natural - though not hostile - cynicism.
"And because you happened to have the same book, of course. Total coincidence."
And to his own disbelief, Kai snorted in amusement at the light comment, grinning at the rain on the window. He glanced up at the grey dishrag-sky.
"It must be something in the water," he muttered, shaking his head, still grinning. Brooklyn nodded emphatically from somewhere beside him.
"Rainy days and Mondays," he said, laughing, "they get me down."
"Hey, are - are you two okay?"
Kai had been ready to say something else, to ask something, but the pneumatic hiss of doors and a worried voice cut him off. Both turned to see Hillary peering around the doorway nervously.
"Fine," he responded bluntly, poker face replaced in an instant. He was interested but unsurprised to see the vapid smile return as if it had never been away. Hillary looked somewhat suspicious, but said nothing, and was soon pushed out of the way by a horde of damp bladers trying to get in out of the rain. Kai observed the look she passed to Tyson and Garland, and then the way they moved in to separate... He shook his head and went back to his normal seat, opening the book.
Sure enough, Tyson landed beside him a second later.
"Hey, Kai, you guys not been killin' each other while we were - "
"No." He looked down at the book in his hands. On one page, a large pair of kitchen scissors demonstrated some complicated waltz steps; on the other, many tiny cups of coffee appeared to be attending a press conference - a scrawl under the King of Denmark's speech may have said something intriguing. Kai glared at Tyson to hide his grin. "No, everything's fine. Go away."
On the other side of the bus, Garland slipped into a seat, dumping his bag on the floor and looking concerned.
"...You alright, Pigeon?" Brooklyn smiled at him and nodded vaguely, mind not moving from the fascinating annotation he'd just found concerning Jan Kott.
"Mmhmm, fine. Did you have a good time?"
"It was great, we - what're you reading?" He held up the book obediently, without hesitation. Garland's smile turned a little worried. "Isn't that a tragedy?" He shrugged, and smiled back.
"It could be. Or it could just be completely absurd."
feather-duster is starting to feel a bit odd posting stories about the same things all the time, but no worries. What to say about this one? Hmm. It's just an interesting relationship to explore, and the fic was somehow spawned from the terrible old Carpenters song which became the title. (The song ends up romantic, but this wasn't intended as shounen-ai...is it even possible to read it that way? Arg. Damn subconscious?) Oh well. Notes must be made (says Kai):
1. What's the book? It's probably fairly obvious, but feather-duster wants to see who guesses (if anyone reviews, heh heh.)
2. The paragraphs are a bit screwed here. Eeevil ff dot net system...we hates it, preciousss...
3. Why the obsession with handwriting? feather-duster has studied handwriting analysis. Believe her when she says that most likely Kai writes in a left-slanted, neat, narrow, joined script. And Brooklyn's writing is totally unreadable.
4. That thing about body language - well, Kai watches people all the time (while standing around looking like he's just sulking or something XD). He would pick up on distinctive body language while doing so. feather-duster does it too and therefore noticed not only Kai's efforts to become Big Brother (ahem), but also the fact that Brooklyn seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with one hand close to/touching his own face, hair, temple, etc. Probably checking his brain still works, or something. Either way, what with feather-duster's morbid interest in small personal habits, no way was any of that going to get left out. Whahaha.
5. Must stop typing before ANs become longer than the actual fic. Argh.
Review and I love you!
PS Jan Kott had a theory about absurdism, and if you know what it is, you know what the book is. The last line makes a lot more sense, too.