Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape, or form own Xiaolin Showdown or the characters it contains. All are the intellectual property of Christy Hui and Cartoonnetwork/WB. I do not make any profit off of this story, and write it only for enjoyment and to pass the time. However, I do claim ownership to the writing itself, and would hope that those who read this can respect that.
Category: No idea…snugglies?
Warning(s): None – it's clean. Shocking, isn't it?
Rating: E, for Everyone
Setting: …Under the earth's crust? Midway through season two, I assume.
Summary: Jack!Clay!Centric: Sorry, no romance. Clay and Jack, due to undisclosed circumstances, end up underground. Can the two get along and get out of this mess, or will this end in stitches? One Shot
Style: Third Person narrative
Additional Notes: My Goodness, I love strawberry juice. This was typed up late last night/early in the morning, when I found the oh-so-wonderful realm of slumber quite elusive. So, I'm expecting there will be some glaring errors – however, I'm afraid to read back over it completely and thoroughly - I'd much rather scan through it. Terrible, I know. The dialogue, as I recall, is slightly stilted…and icky. That's what I get for staying up late after a cram session, I suppose. Though the ending was added during a very, very, very dull portion of the day.
Homework has stolen my will to live.
Anywho, this was also written just to take a short break from 'My Better Half' – a sort of breath of new air – to open the proverbial window and let out some stale atmosphere. Don't expect it to be as…uh…'lovingly' crafted. Meaning, I'm not putting as much time and effort/thought into it; I never do in 'one shot' stories. It was one of those, 'write for the heck of it and completely disregard quality' things, but, despite my best efforts to fail (XD) it came out okay-ish; thus, I share.
I do believe Clay is one of the only two monks (the second is only so-so) on the Xiaolin side that could stand Jack for more than five minutes. Honestly, he would have been flat on his back with a black eye and a scream in two seconds if it had been Raimundo or Kimiko. Ah, well. That's the lot of life for a rather sarcastic teenager. …Though Clay came across as a rather silly bumpkin. Unfortunate, really.
I loathe the ending, but I'm far too lazy to fix it. It's so…tacky. Silly. Pseudo-romantic comedy asinine.
Still, it's just for fun, so enjoy. (Guess what I was studying. Just guess
…This has such a lame title. :3
It was needless to say that Jack Spicer was afraid of the dark. In fact, given the circumstances, it was fairly obvious he was. As soon as the light was expunged from the chamber, he had nearly thrown himself back, eyes widening to the point of painfulness in a vain attempt to recapture the ability to see. His knees buckled and knocked; his breathing hitched; a fast heartbeat tripled its tempo, thudding hard against his ribcage, echoing up to his temples and in his clenched fists. The uneven wall cut into his back, left tiny dents in his flesh, some venturing further to pierce his rather delicate skin. Any scream that attempted to sneak past his numbed lips died in the evil boy genius's throat, only adding to the sound of labored breathing.
"Are you all right there, Spicer?" A second youth asked quietly, in a Texan drawl. Quite calm, Bailey felt his way along the wall, following the sound of distress emitting from Jack. One large, firm hand was on the cave wall at all times, garnering comfort from the proximity of his native element, while the other blindly reached out, seeking that other body. His gloved fingertips brushed only darkness and chilled air for what seemed like an eternity, until something corporeal deigned to be touched in the dark.
The contact seemed to throw some sort of switch in the Heylin's mind, for immediately Jack began to scream, bolting like a terrified animal into the darkness. Clay, in alarm, dropped to his knees, feeling his way along the floor. The rapid footsteps soon lost him, and he had an urge to get up and race after, but he wasn't going to fall into a pit on account of one of Jack's paranoias.
"Now hold on just one second there, pardner," He called after, in vain. There was a sudden clunk, and the footsteps stopped accordingly. Clay gave a heartfelt sigh, and meandered his way over. "You aren't plum out now, are ya? Spicer?" His hand again felt something other than unyielding stone, someone's steady chest rising and falling. Rolling his eyes, the young Xiaolin apprentice took the skinny youth's shoulders, and shook him soundly.
"Oooouch," Groaning, Jack came to, timorous whine echoing around the enclosed area. "What the heck hit me?" Bailey was somewhat thankful that he didn't take off shrieking again; his ears were already aching.
"I think ya'll mean, 'what did I hit'." There was a long, awkward pause.
"…Are my eyes closed…or is it…very dark in here?" The rather effeminate voice trembled over the words, losing the battle of confidence badly.
"Which would you prefer?" Bailey snorted, releasing Jack's shoulders. Again, there was a long silence, stretching into the infinity between heartbeats. Quietly, the prone Heylin whimpered, drawing in on himself. Clay frowned in the opaque gloom. "Now don't go all catatonic on me, ya hear? It's just a little dim in here; that's nothing to get all worked up over."
Jack didn't respond.
The patient Texan rocked back on his heels, one hand rubbing his dirt-smudged forehead. It wasn't so bad, really; they were just underground. He reckoned he could figure out how to get out as soon as he deciphered which way was nearest the surface. Though he had to admit, he had been terribly surprised when the ground had given way under his feet. There was a sense of betrayal in him; after all, he was supposed to be in tune with the earth, right?
Ah, well. Let bygones be bygones, as they say.
"Could be worse," He conversationally stated, voicing his 'optimistic' thoughts. "The ceiling could have come down on us as well." Patting the floor affectionately, he found himself pleased with the sturdiness of the chamber. It would probably hold up to a bit of good ol' Xiaolin dragon ground moving.
"You should never look into motivational speaking." Jack, very slowly, rolled over, almost glad for the darkness that hid his terrified expression and darting eyes. By all that was unholy, he loathed the dark. All of its unknown horrors and potential looming beasts; the way he couldn't tell if his eyes were open or not; the feeling of being utterly helpless. Shuddering hard, Jack forced himself into an upright slouch, wrapping his lanky arms around his shoulders in a ruse of protection. At least…at least there was someone there with him. In all honesty, he would have given in to utter hysteria at this point, had not Bailey been sitting there. The monks really didn't need another thing to pick on him about.
There was already so much material to choose from.
"I think I can get us on outta here. It'll be dang hard without being able to see, though. Why, I'd hand over my favorite hat for a light right about now." Seeing that Jack was either sufficiently calmed (or at least struck dumb from his head injury), Clay rose to his feet, dusting off his gloves on his jeans. The dragon again felt about for the wall, placing both palms down upon it when it was found. He closed his blue eyes, focusing on that inner well of power. In response, the earth around him trembled, sending pebbles dancing along the floor, their clatters echoing soothingly.
He had a sense of open sky…more to the…the left? No, no; too far. There was more…openness on the other side. Ah, there it was.
Clay delved deeper into that source of calming, solid earth; it embraced him, encased him in protection and solidity. Unbelievably deft, the hulking cowboy twinged the stone, pushing it over. As a master musician, utterly in tune with his craft, he moved the very earth, shifting it about to suit his needs. However, there was discord; a sense of looming—
"Watch out!" Tearing himself from that calm center, Clay hurled himself back, catching a very surprised Spicer by his shirt collar, hauling the protesting youth back as a massive slab of stone crashed down upon the previously occupied space. Breathing hard with shock and exertion, Clay slumped back, his benumbed fingers still clutching the fabric of the shirt in a death grip. "That was closer than a—"
"Than a giant rock squishing us into paste? Yeah, pretty close." Jack yanked himself away from the apprentice's hold, shaking harder than he cared to admit. Clay had just…saved his life. For inexplicable, mystifying reasons, it filled him with vibrant hate toward the cowboy, inadvertently supplying a new outlet for his fear. "Spare me the home-grown aphorisms, alright? What, do you people get a book of these or something?" He took a long, quaking breath, making a rather poor attempt at composing himself. When that didn't quite work, he fell back on sarcasm. "See here for tacky, stupid hick sayings that make absolutely no sense."
Clay, at first taken aback, realized with the quivering breath that Spicer was scared clean off his rocker. Rather than take offense and snap back with some derisive insult, he, too, marshaled himself back into a stoic demeanor, straightening his trademark ten-gallon hat. "Ya don't have to be rude about it, pardner. If you don't like 'em, I won't say 'em." Quietly, Clay obliquely rebuked the previous outburst, calm in the face of animosity.
It worked better than any biting comeback would have.
Jack flinched, scuffling his boots on the floor petulantly. He opened his mouth to apologize, but thought better of it, instead harrumphing with a quiet, "Whatever," and plopping back down onto his rump. Yet again, that so-very-uncomfortable silence descended upon them, widening the gulf.
Surprisingly, Bailey was the first to break. "It was just so gosh-darned hard to know what I'm doing without a light." When the other youth remained in sulking silence, he tried again. "Guess that's pretty bad of me; we're supposed to be able to fight in any conditions, but I reckon I just rely on seeing too much. I bet Omi and the others woulda figured a way outta this ol' mess quicker than a — erm, already." He broke off lamely, uncomfortably rubbing his head again. For a few heartbeats, he thought Spicer was going to brush off the clumsy attempt at conversation again, but found himself surprised by a quiet, contemptuous 'ha'.
"Oh, please. The oh-so-humble puffball thinking his way out of a trap? Don't be ridiculous, Bailey. This place would probably be neck deep in water by now." He was obviously inexperienced in such dialogue, but he decided to throw in another attempt. "Besides, you're still an apprentice, right? You could get that Fung guy or someone to help with any weakness or whatever…though it's not like you've got room to complain. Come on, freaking controlling the earth? Talk about a real ego boost there. Get mad at someone and bam- there's a nice pile of rocks on 'em, all dandy like." Glowering at the darkness, he fought his irrational burst of jealousy. Stupid monks.
Clay smiled at the honest, if rather morbid, attempt at cheering him up. "Thanks, Jack."
"Say what now?" In all honesty, Jack had heard just fine; he just wasn't quite ready to believe what his ears were telling his brain. He raked back over his previous statement, and mentally berated himself. Great, getting all buddy-buddy with the enemy now? Isn't that just peachy. What next, inviting them over for teatime? He nearly snorted at the notion; as if that would ever happen. He'd eat his goggles long before he ever….
Well, there was that whole ice cream thing. But it didn't count! He hadn't been thinking right – it had been a very traumatic time. Oh, for the love of…he rolled his eyes, hunching over his lap. For some reason, he didn't think goggles would be a very good snack.
Unaware of the inner monologue, Clay reiterated. "I said—"
"Never mind," Jack cut off the blonde, needlessly waving a hand in the 'cease and desist' motion. "It's not important." For the sake of fiddling with something, not wanting to focus on the blackness that enveloped his sense of sight, he slipped a hand slipped into one pocket. There, he found and mentally checked off his supplies: a screwdriver, a consistently refolded piece of paper, a mini-flashlight, a pen, a gum wrap…per…?
Blinking, Jack went back over that list. His hand brushed along the flashlight, just to be sure, and flicked the tiny switch. Immediately, a soft, greyish glow emitted from his trench coat, painful to eyes that had adjusted to blindness. Wincing from the acute change in atmosphere, Jack removed the tiny light from the confines of his coat, squinting as his retinas attuned with the ambience. "Ha! And who said that keeping junk in your pockets isn't helpful?" He nearly flashed an honest grin at a greatly heartened Bailey.
However, with the ability to see each other came that self-conscious feeling. The two looked away from each other, the mild camaraderie that had formed utterly obliterated within the space of a breath. "Well, there we go," Clay muttered gruffly, pushing his hat lower.
"Yup," Spicer set the light down beside him, unwinding from the tense little huddle he had been in. Seconds ticked by slowly, each youth doing all in their power to disregard the other's existence. "Well, do your thing," Jack blurted abruptly, unable to cope with the tension. He flinched at the volume of his own voice, ducking behind the high collar of his coat. "I don't have all day to be stuck here." Adding on the half-arsed insult lamely, he felt the excruciating awkwardness that only those teenaged souls were capable of.
"I reckon it'd be about that time," The Texan carefully stood again, half-thinking to offer Spicer a hand to get him to his feet. However, he thought better of it. It would be too…weird.
So, Jack rolled to his own booted feet, crossing both arms over his scrawny chest, slouching further than what was really necessary. Then, after another pause, he griped, "Well? What are you waiting for?"
"Could you…hold the light up toward the ceiling?" Subdued, the normally affable cowboy's tone was husky, the request hanging between them like some sort of scandal.
"Yeah, yeah, sure." Jack stooped, lifting the tiny light up to illuminate the roof of the chamber. "…Yeech." The top was off-kilter, to put it mildly. The first stone had dislodged the hitherto tightly packed slabs, leaving them to hanging slightly out, menacingly, over the duo's heads.
Clay hesitated. He was still in training, and though he tried to exude bravado and self-assurance, he didn't quite feel up to the task of holding potential lives in his hands. It was risky to move the stone; very risky indeed. He had completely missed the threat before, nearly to their tragic end, and that had been a rather strong blow to his self-confidence. But he could hardly admit to such an inadequacy, with Spicer there.
The others were so… poised in their powers. They always knew exactly what they were doing, and did so with a certainty that truly humbled the hulking dragon of earth.
After a long moment of eyeing the death trap, he wasn't at all sure he could pull off the stunt. Groping for a good excuse, he stood apprehensively, expression caught between deep thought and befuddlement.
Jack, however, didn't know of the monk's demoralizing thoughts, and impatiently tapped one foot. "Hello, anybody home?" Waving a pale hand before the glassy blue eyes, he again cursed fate that he was trapped with the hick. Bailey moved slower than a half-dead cactus in an icebox…
Had he just…?
Wincing, he put one hand to shade his eyes, hiding his discomfited blush, utterly mortified. Was this hick stuff contagious? "My brain betrays me…." He muttered darkly, fighting the sincere wish to slap himself silly.
"I don't think I can do it," The voice was faint, nearly lost in the velvet gloom. Jack looked up sharply, torn from his thoughts and put ill at ease by the unusual timbre.
"Do what?" He unthinkingly blurted, as he so often did, saying the first thing that came to mind. "Be transmittable?"
"No, I-" Clay stopped again, hunching his expansive shoulders. Did he sound…embarrassed? "I don't think I can…do…that." He gesticulated vaguely toward the portentous hunks of earth, hat tilting forward to hide his face. It took Jack a few moments to catch on to what he meant, clicking in that too-analytical mind.
Again, tactlessly, he asked before he thought. "Why not?"
The cowboy ducked lower, face warming. His mouth opened to respond, but instead hung slack, waiting for the words that wouldn't come. As he came to the realization that the Heylin was still awaiting his answer, his jaw snapped up, clicking his teeth together. An unfamiliar scowl darkened his features, and he adverted his body slightly, as if to hide, utterly humiliated.
Baffled, Jack waited for what seemed like an hour (more likely, a minute), before catching sight of the pink tinge to his companions face. Great. What a wonderful time to get stage fright, hickster. He sighed, settling in for another endless interval. However, something happened he hadn't at all expected nor particularly wanted.
"I didn't mean to, last time," Voice throaty, Clay propped his back against the wall, staring at his feet. "That…you know. I didn't mean to." He wasn't at all good at those emotional revelations – a real Texan, through and through. "So…so I don't know if I can control it this time around. I mean, there isn't much room to mess up now, is there?"
Considering the words carefully, Spicer tapped his chin thoughtfully. He hated it when people went all gooey-emotional on him. It wasn't as if he could really do anything to…ah, wait. Maybe he could.
"Where do you figure the nearest route to the surface is?" He asked nonchalantly, drawing his pen like a sword, shrugging off his coat. Befuddled, Clay nonetheless pointed to the direction, homing in on the spot instinctively. Jack eyed the angle, and muttered to himself, scrawling the messy calculations on his bared arm. His handwriting was chaotic, yet precise, a stunning mixture only the genius could pull off. The pen cap was unceremoniously propped between his lips; unheeded blue ink staining one side of his mouth. "How far is the surface at that point – be as accurate as possible."
Still not understanding why Spicer was giving himself an impromptu tattoo, Clay frowned, briefly tapping into that intoxicating power. "Roundabout thirty feet."
"Nah, I don't reckon there are any. Just what are you up to, pardner?" Bailey sidled closer, curious despite himself. There was a muddle of numbers and Greek symbols all over Jack's white skin, stark and sharp as if it had been written on paper. Abstruse, elaborate equations and seemingly nonsensical angles were drawn up in a noticeably everyday manner, like love notes to mathematicians. Clay had never been particularly good at arithmetic – let alone what Jack seemed to be doing – but he was pretty certain it meant nothing. What in tarnation was that triangle doing next to a 'v'? Bemused, the Texan asked as much.
Spicer snorted derisively, hugging his equations to his chest protectively. "That's not a triangle; anyone who took basic high school physics knows that." He thought a moment, and came to the conclusion that Bailey had done no such thing, and thus elaborated. "It's a delta symbol. It's the fourth letter in the Greek alphabet, derived from the Phoenician letter 'dalet'. I'm using it to symbolize the difference in the initial velocity, that's 'v'. Velocity is being defined as a rate of change of displacement, or just speed in a given direction. The average velocity of an object moving a displacement, s, in a straight line during a time interval, t, is fully described by the formula v equals s over t. In layman terms, s – that's speed – divided by t – time – gives me velocity. Got it?" He glanced up to see how his explanation of the basic physics formula was taken.
Clay was nearly slack-jawed. He whistled low, visibly impressed. "I have no idea what you just said there, Spicer," Murmuring quietly, the cowboy tried to piece it all together in his mind, but it was no use; he was given more to solid concepts such as geography or history, things that didn't change on a moments notice. "But I reckon you're a sight smarter than I gave ya credit for." However, the explanation had done nothing to abate his bewilderment. "…Now, just how is that supposed to help us outta this whole mess?"
"Just gimme a second, alright?" Jack tried to be snappish and rude, but it was all-too-obvious he preened over the praise, evidenced by his genial smirk. Again, the pen scrabbled against his skin, revealing long lines of equations. Occasionally, he asked Clay what seemed like a completely random question, things about weight and angle and size, mumbling to himself soon after. The Texan had questions of his own, though he tried to keep them to a minimum.
However, Jack quickly ran out of arm space.
Frowning, the genius mulishly glanced about, not at all pleased with the interruption. He dare not mess up his precise, beloved calculations by his shoddy left-handed writing. No, he'd need a new….
Red eyes fell upon the untapped plethora of blank space that was Bailey's arm.
He scooted closer, still wrapped up in his math and not at all noticing how the monk flinched back as he seized his appendage, shoving back the sleeve. "Hold still," The distracted robotics expert commanded, an unusual tone of authority ringing in his voice. Clay responded to the timbre – after all, he was no leader, but rather 'reinforcement of the law', thus quite used and comfortable with taking orders – and became motionless, still rather surprised at the change in Spicer. Where had this surefire confidence sprang from? But no indication of a response came from Jack; his eyes following the pen doggedly, unusually bright in the darkness. His tongue flicked out one corner of his mouth, fiddling with the heavily gnawed cap. "Other arm," He murmured, snapping his fingers impatiently.
The monk readily complied, holding out the other limb, mystified with his acquiescent behavior. Ever lengthening numbers and letters spilled against his flesh, wounds from which no blood would spring. In perpetual motion, the deft pen scrawled onward, the nub warmed by his body heat, never showing any sign of uncertainty. It was fascinating, really; the dragon finding himself utterly spellbound by the pure assurance of the youth beside him.
Jack's brows lowered in concentration, his eyes twitched and narrowed, forgetting his companion completely as he lost himself within the safe realm of numbers and physics. Here was a thing he could control and understand; a place with rules and boundaries – a place where he was the master.
Clay thought his expression was rather close to a religious experience, utterly enraptured by the otherwise meaningless squiggles.
The pen stalled, pushed on once more, and eventually drew to a stop, ending the spell that had been placed on the young Heylin. Jack sat back with a sigh, avariciously eyeing his handiwork. Not bad, not bad at all, given the circumstances. What he would have given for a calculator, though. Not that he really needed it, but it did make things so much easier.
"Yeah," He said to no one in particular, nodding in satisfaction. "That should be about right." Still glassy eyes flicked up to the blue of the cowboy's gaze, drawing him completely from the fragile remains of his trance. "What? What's wrong?" He glanced about, askance, seeking the source of the unknown expression on Clay's face.
"I…it's nothing, pardner." The Texan was unsure if he was allowed to drop his aching arms yet. "What's all this supposed to do, anyhow?"
"This," Jack gestured to his pride and joy, grinning despite his sincere effort to be snooty and superior, "Is our ticket outta here. Following this, with your uh, abilities, we should be fine."
Clay quirked an eyebrow upward. "'Should be'?"
Jack looked away sheepishly. "It's only a two percent chance of miscalculation, really. Without the precise numbers and my tools, it was rather hard to be exact."
With a renewed sense of respect, Clay looked down at the numbers. He almost wished he had gone with physics rather than advanced biology in his final year of high school. But a second glance emphasized the 'almost'.
"Alright then, let's get this over with." He again rose to his feet, blood rushing through his rather cramped legs. This time, he helped Spicer up as well, even going so far as to steady him with one massive hand when the younger boy staggered slightly, off balance after sitting for so long. Uncomfortable with the sudden change in attitude, Jack murmured a quick "thanks," and edged back, out from under Clay's hand.
Nervous and out of his element once more, Jack directed the apprentice's movements, maintaining that careful balance he had equated. Corrections had to be made occasionally; unseen cracks, slight shifts in equilibrium had to be taken into consideration. At last, everything was in order. Getting ready, Jack carefully recalculated the formula, double-checking his work. There it was, the moment of truth.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Jack gathered himself, slipping back on his trench coat, holding the flashlight in a remarkably steady grip. With a sense of conviction he didn't really feel, the genius asked the final question. "Ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be," Clay grunted, careful to maintain the position he had been told to take.
"Go ahead when you—!" Jack pressed flat against the wall as the world seemed to rattle like a baby's toy, a deafening, horrible crashing drowning out his surprised shriek. The darkness exploded into brilliant white, and the bumbling techie was certain he had miscalculated, resulting in their death.
Choking on dust, Jack blinked up at the wan sunlight, one hand going over his sensitive eyes. Okay, not dead, then. His gaze slipped over, taking in a very shocked Bailey as he stood in the center, the deadly boulders stacked in semi-neatness around him. The cowboy looked about him, staggered at how everything had ended up so perfectly. He had…he had done that. Elation swelled in his chest, and he couldn't subdue an excited 'whoop' or the dopey grin that chased after it.
Jack, meanwhile, smirked only slightly, sobered by how very close those boulders had fallen – much closer than he had calculated. Still, better to not let the Texan know that little entertaining fact.
"Well I'll be a peg-legged square-dancing granny, would ya look at that!" Clay hooted again, pleased with himself. "These are neater than hogs in a chute."
"Yeah, well, don't let it go to your head, now," Jack snorted, teasingly. Bailey noted the lack of bite in his voice, and was grateful for it…and for the fact the goth hadn't mocked his rather silly adages.
But reality soon caught up with the two.
"I guess I'd best be moseying along now," Clay coughed, tilting his head toward the light. "So I'll guess I'll see ya around, Spicer."
Jack schooled his expression into one of contempt, scowling at the cowboy. "Good riddance; I don't think I could stand another second of bumpkin talk." He watched Clay ride up a wave of stone to the surface, not quite ready to activate his heli-pack. At the very edge of the crater, the monk turned back, waving.
"Thanks, Jack," He called back.
"This doesn't mean a thing, Bailey! Next Showdown, no gooshey-gooshey heart to hearts, alright?" Spicer snarled back, determined to be his usual snappish self. In response, the cowboy waved once more, and disappeared.
After a long moment of watching the dust settle, the boy genius snorted, dusting off his goggles. "…peg-legged granny." Though he tried his best to hide it, the grin softened into something a little less than sneering; a little less than cruel. In a moment it was gone, though, replaced by a grimace. "Pah. Stupid hick." He waved off such silly thoughts, such frivolous ideas, flicking on his primary mode of transportation.
Besides, he really didn't want to find out how goggles tasted.