Note: As I am always promising to finish what I start, and this only had one more chapter to go, I decided to plunge into this at January's end…then February…and now it's March. Except now, as I'm posting, it's July. :O Er, my bad. It's been a fun ride, and I want to thank Jean Cooper once again for convincing over half the fandom of this pairing's cuteness. Because…it's adorable! xD
Out of the Blue
Part Five: Overboard (With Chick Flick Cliches to Spare)
The first thing Kai did when he read Mary's novel was declare her an idiot, because a genius like her should not resort to cowing away from a goofball like himself. He'd laughed at her jokes, failed to hide a smile at her romance, and promptly shouted at her when she left him with a cliffhanger on her final chapter. "How can you do that to people?!" he accused. "They go through all the trouble to read your book, fall in love with the characters, and then you go and leave them hanging? You're cruel, baby."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Mary giggled. "Authors just need a little research sometimes…when it comes to experiences they haven't had themselves." Confidentially, she bent her head down close to his, and whispered, "See, I've never been to Paris. So I can't describe anything without feeling like an uneducated imbecile."
"Really?" Kai raised his eyebrows and grinned. "It just so happens, actually, that I have been to that particular city."
"Oui, mademoiselle. What do you want to know?"
This time spent between them, Kai decided, came second only to spending time at the beach. There was no way to describe the swell of pride he felt as he rattled off all his adventures in other cities, other oceans, other time zones. Had he ever shared so much with anyone—even Popuri? And had Popuri listened if he had?
Popuri. Ah. The other day, Kai would have sworn he was hallucinating if he saw his ex walking hand-in-hand with Gray down the street, smiling. Except he did see that, today. They weren't walking, though; they were running. It looked like Rick had been behind them shouting something—and what this something was Kai didn't really care to know, but it sounded like Gray was in for some awkward form of punishment that was illegal in all fifty states of America.
At any rate, things were as peaceful as they could possibly be in Mineral Town, and Kai decided to enjoy it. The fact that the calendar didn't choose to slow down, however, nagged at him.
"I've hit a dead end, my wanderer," Mary announced as Kai entered her little library. Her tired bleary eyes looked up at him and she sighed. "I don't think I can write this next section without straying into cliché territory."
"And clichés are bad because…?"
"Because they're trite, Kai!"
"Oh, trite. Yeah. Totally can't be trite." The cook frowned and sat beside her. "Trite is, uh, a bad thing, right?"
Mary rolled her eyes. "The dictionary is to your left, should you choose to use it."
"Yeah, I think I'll pass on that." He looked over her shoulder to gaze upon the sea of words before her—smudged in ink, yet beautiful beyond expression. Okay, so maybe Kai couldn't appreciate many books. He admitted that. Yet Mary's work came from the heart; he could tell just by how much tender care was placed on each and every syllable. Okay, and he was biased. So what? "So, it's a romance scene?" he surmised from his viewing.
Mary nodded, still frowning. "Mhm. Kissing, forgiveness, and then an end. Sort of."
"Well, I haven't decided yet. I can't seem to make them embrace. It's really not working for me, Kai, and I haven't the foggiest idea why."
He grinned. "Huh. You know what I think, Miss Librarian?" His arms wrapped about her as he planted a kiss on her cheek. "You need some hands-on research."
"I'm too tired for this, Kai," she dismissed him with a gentle swat of her book. "Do it some other time, when I'm not working."
"But this is work."
"It isn't. This is play."
"Well, who says we can't have both?"
He worked himself from her cheek to her lips, and Mary groaned a bit but found it hard to resist kissing him a little back in response. He tasted warm and salty on her tongue, exotic and new. Then, just as suddenly, she pulled away and smacked him with the book again. "There. We've played. Now back to work."
"But it was just getting fun…"
Well, there would be no schmoozing with Mary today; she'd gotten into Writer Mode, and Kai had learned better than to interfere with that those past few days. However, he'd also learned how to brew a mean pot of coffee to keep her up writing, and he'd also learned more grammar than he'd ever cared to understand in school. Of course, Mary had learned a bit from him, too, he liked to think. Swimming in the ocean. How to share her stories without losing confidence. The ancient art of book wielding against obnoxious travelers. You know, important stuff.
Yet neither had learned how to deal with that one important word: good-bye.
"So what are you going to do at the end of the season?"
Kai blinked at Gray's frank question and fumbled a bit with his words. "Uh, what do you mean? Are you trying to ask if I'm staying?"
"No, Kai," the blacksmith retorted. "I mean, what are you going to tell Mary?"
"Mary. Ah." He cleared his throat. "Haven't decided that yet."
"…You heartless little bastard," Gray accused. "You mean you're just going to leave her here and say good-bye at the last minute? What are you, the Runaway Bride?"
"First of all, I have no intention of being a heartless little bastard, and secondly, since when did you watch Julia Roberts' movies?"
Gray shrugged. "Popuri tends to bring out my sensitive side. Chick flicks aren't half-bad, you know."
"This coming from the guy who thought cologne and bowties brought down a man's pride…" Kai shook his head. "Man, Gray, your man points just went down by like twenty."
"Shut up. At least I'm not playing some stupid game of pretend with myself—what the hell do you think is going to happen, Kai? By some incredible stroke of fate, Mary will be okay with this? Or, better still, she'll run off with you into the sunset after dating you for only a season—not even?"
Kai bit his lip. "Alright, I admit it. I haven't decided what's going on between us yet."
"Honestly, Kai, it's not totally your decision. Be straight up with Mary; believe it or not, she's a strong girl. This affects her just as much as you. So talk."
"Who died and made you Doctor Phil?"
"Talk," Gray repeated, and with that, the blacksmith left.
It was a sad, sad day when Gray knew more about love than Kai the traveler did. He began with some self-pitying moping, followed by some mindless pacing, ridiculous schemes, and finally the realization that, darn it, the blacksmith was right. He had to talk with Mary. But what would he say?
"You're incredibly tense today," the librarian commented as he flipped through a book mindlessly. "Bad day at the Snack Shack?"
"No, not really. Business is going great." He smiled awkwardly. "How about you?"
"Well," Mary replied with a grin, "I am getting a certain regular customer, and I think he likes how I run things."
"Really," she answered and scooted closer to him to lay her head on his shoulder. It smelled sweet, Kai noted with a sigh, and it felt soft, and he could feel her breath upon his neck, and for the love of all that was good and pure in this world, why did he have to break this beautiful girl's heart?
"I can't take this anymore," he announced finally, standing up. Mary gave him a puzzled look and Kai paced the room, sweating. "I can't handle this, Mary—you're being so nice. Too nice. You…you need to stop being nice."
Mary raised an eyebrow. "I do?"
"Yes! You do!" Kai snapped back. "Because when guys like me say mean things to girls like you, it just makes us that much worse!"
"What on earth are you talking about?" Mary asked, amused. "What's gotten into you?"
"Autumn! Freakin' autumn! That's what."
For a single, stunned moment the librarian gaped at him. The book in her hands fell to her lap, and her lips parted to release no sound. She blinked. "Y-you're leaving, Kai?"
"Well, that was the plan." Suddenly eye contact hurt too much to bear and Kai found himself saying to the wall, "What am I supposed to do, Mary? I'm a traveler. Traveling is what I do."
"But I thought—"
"What? You thought what?" Kai laughed. "Being in love works like an anchor or something? Falling for a cute librarian turns a roaming fool into a respectable gentleman? God, Mary. I thought you'd at least considered what happens when summer ends." The wall didn't lose a beautiful smile when he said those words; the wall didn't break into tiny, hurt pieces of perplexity.
"I—I see." A sniffle. "Of course. I've just, uh, been reading too many happily ever afters, haven't I?"
But the wall couldn't comfort a crying girl, and Kai found himself dropping his harsh persona to become the genuine, worried, literate boyfriend he'd become in just a few weeks. Why, oh God, did it have to be at this cost?
Manna was spreading rumors again, and Mary had decided to let them be this time. "Is it true that Kai's breaking up with you?" her mother had insisted, but the librarian had quietly continued her ordinary day without so much as a shrug. "Is he abandoning you like he did to poor Popuri?"
"Popuri is perfectly happy," was all Mary replied.
"And you could have been, too, if you'd just fallen for a boy in town," she caught her father mumbling. This, too, she ignored. What good would more crying do? What was decided was decided. Mary could write him, couldn't she? Mail him chapters. Sit out on festivals. Surprise him with care packages.
Wait. Wait and wait and wait.
"Is there anything more boring than waiting for something?"
Popuri looked up from her chickens to see a forlorn little librarian standing there, arms wrapped about herself tightly. The poultry farmer smiled. "Ah, you're experiencing pre-Kai-Departure syndrome. Or, as I fondly call it, PKDS."
"I don't suppose you know a cure?" Mary muttered glumly.
"For PKDS?" Popuri tapped her chin in thought. "Well, at the time, seeing Kai helped a lot. And working—working is good, too."
"Not when your career is reading and writing romances that don't end with the boy running off and leaving the girl all alone and sad and miserable and—oh, Popuri, it's so unfair," she trailed off bitterly. "Why did I do this to myself? Why?"
The poultry farmer patted her on the head in understanding. "There, there. You know what you need? Chocolate."
"Chocolate is not going to keep my boyfriend in town—"
"You need chocolate," she stated, stronger this time. Popuri, good as her word, brought the little brunette inside and directed her to her super-secret-stash of chocolate cookies and fudge, which at first Mary was hesitant to touch. But under Popuri's direction, she found herself nibbling…then biting…then scarfing down the whole batch without a second thought. "Feel better?"
"A bit," the librarian admitted.
"You know, there was this study done? And apparently, eating chocolate makes you feel as good as if you were, you know, kissing a guy." Popuri winked. "And desserts don't bail on you when you need them."
Despite herself, Mary realized she was hunting for crumbs on her plate, and blushed.
"To be serious, though," Popuri started, "why are you mad at Kai, exactly? Didn't you know that he was gonna leave?"
Mary rolled her eyes. "Well, I considered it, certainly. I just didn't think he'd…I mean…"
"You thought you could change him?" Popuri finished.
A meek, ashamed nod.
"Oh, Mary, you're so cute when you get like this, you know that?" The pink-haired girl giggled, then shook her head. "But that's what you'd do in a novel, not in real life. I mean, if I date Gray—which, oh wait, I do!—I don't expect him to stop blacksmithing, right?"
"And Karen doesn't expect Rick to stop caring for chickens," Popuri continued, "just because he smells like animal poo, right?"
Mary sat up straighter. "Right."
"And Cliff doesn't expect Ann to stop cleaning up the Inn every five minutes just because he'd rather be spending quality time with her instead of a broom, right, Mary?"
"Right!" she exclaimed. "Oh, it sounds so much simpler now—you're saying I shouldn't expect Kai to stop being Kai just because I love him, right?"
"Absolutely!" Popuri chirped. "Just like he doesn't expect you to stop writing and librarian…ing."
"So I need to tell him everything's okay!" Mary's heart fluttered a bit in her chest at that thought. Oh, how selfish she'd been over the whole thing; of course it'd be hard, certainly, but writing letters wasn't too different than writing stories, was it? And love wasn't entirely physical, even though she'd miss the kisses, and the hugs, and the whisperings in her ear, and the long, long talks into the night…
Suddenly Mary wanted more chocolate.
If I could write you
A thousand words on paper
'I love you' would do.
Kai didn't know what to call the paper on his door anything except a completely, totally, absolutely beautiful jumble of words. It had been Gray who'd called him a moron for not recognizing a haiku, and told him, "You're a lucky purple man," at Mary's sending of it. So he'd returned her apology with one of his own: a pineapple tied up in a bow.
Gray had called him a fruity idiot for that. Kai had ignored him.
And with a shy meeting, they'd reconciled over ordinary conversations, kisses, and hugs. Both found themselves determined: I will not let time cheat us. I will not, I will not. Kai talked of Paris; Mary spoke of stories. Kai cooked dishes; Mary waxed poetry. They swam in the ocean; they had picnics in the moonlight; they joked about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Together, they wasted time, until they had none left.
"It's not going to be too hard on you, is it, sweetie?" Anna asked her daughter. Mary had buttoned up her new blouse and brushed her hair till it shone, yet all the same something sad sparkled in those eyes, and Anna could see it all too well. "He'll come back."
"I know." Mary bit her lip and smiled. "And we'll…we'll write, of course."
"Yes. You're rather good at that, too." She watched her daughter fidget with her hands and glance side-to-side, as if unsure of where to step next. She watched her fight down the sadness that had engulfed her before, and she watched her try to rationalize over this hurt in her mind: I will see him again; this is his life, and I have to accept it doesn't stop just because I'm in it. Anna found herself fidgeting as well. "Mary, darling?"
"I don't think I've…ever told you about how I met your father, have I?"
Of course you have, Mary almost said, before the truth struck her: no, she hadn't. Basil marrying Anna seemed as understood as the fact that the sky was blue; it hadn't ever occurred to Mary, really, that her parents had shared a real romance of any kind, though of course they had.
"I was about your age," Anna continued. Her hand began to play with her short silky locks, identical to the ones woven in Mary's braid. "He only stayed for a couple seasons in my hometown…said he studied plant-life. Fascinating, really. How many men know how to grow their own roses, besides your father, Mary?" She chuckled to herself. "I fell head-over-heels. He courted me with an ease that not a single man I'd been courted by before had possessed. And then, as winter approached, he told me…that he was leaving."
"Just like Kai," Mary breathed.
"Just like," Anna agreed.
"So…what happened?" the daughter prodded. "I mean, you've been married, so…?"
"Frankly? I ran away with him."
Anna—practical, doting, matchmaking Anna—had run off in her youth to marry. Mary didn't know what to do first; ask questions burning in her throat or close her hanging mouth. "H-how could you do that?" she sputtered. "Didn't your parents—?"
"They knew I loved him."
"But surely your job—?"
"I had no use for it, not really. Besides, my favorite hobby could exist wherever I lived—cooking." Anna smiled. "Perhaps that's why I liked this Kai of yours initially. We chefs are cut from the same cloth, you know."
Mary leaned forward, mulling over this new knowledge. Running off with Kai. Well. It seemed a bit extreme, didn't it? What about her library, her parents, her friends? She'd never known anything outside of Mineral Town. What on earth would be worth leaving her home for?
You could see Paris.
That's what photos and books were for.
You could meet new friends.
Pen-pals could do nicely.
You'd be with Kai.
"Do whatever you feel in your heart is right," Anna told her, standing up. "We'll be leaving in an hour to tell Kai good-bye, so think about it until then, okay, dearest?"
"Okay, Mother," she murmured softly. But in reality, she wanted to ask her mother one little question:
Was it entirely necessary to dump this on her within an hour's notice?
"So you're doing it."
Kai didn't look up from his bags at Gray's comment, and simply shrugged. "Yes, I'm leaving. Don't sound so shocked."
"Shocked? No, not that," the blacksmith disagreed. "Just disappointed."
At that the traveler paused in stuffing his boxers in the suitcase and smiled broadly at his companion. "Gray, you're going to miss me? Aw, you big sentimental hammer-holding lug—"
"No man-hugs, I draw the line at man-hugs," he protested as Kai opened his arms wide. "And by the way, while I just might miss you, that wasn't what I meant."
"You're leaving Mary anyway?"
"So that's a yes."
"That's an 'oh.' Totally different letters used."
"I dunno, man," Gray sighed. "I guess, I just sort of was expecting…"
"Kai, don't you have a brain?" he said finally.
The cook blinked. "Yes…?"
"Then you should know that if Nora Ephron was writing this, you'd be discovering you prefer being with the love of your life over traveling over a cold dead unfeeling world, and you following this would run a beautiful little shop by the sea and have adorable bandana-ed and bespectacled children and complete the sickeningly adorable happy ending!"
Kai dropped the boxers to the floor. "What the hell has Popuri and her chick flicks done to you, man?"
"Weigh it in your mind," Gray urged. "Being with Mary, or being seasick on a boat?"
You could have a home.
That's what boats and hostels were for.
You could have permanent friends.
Foreigners could do nicely.
You'd be with Mary.
"Look, I've just seen Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail one too many times lately, but think about it. Do what you feel is right, Kai." The clock sang out, and Gray patted his roommate on the back. "And the boat is ready for ya. Think fast."
"…I hate you and your sage advice."
Gray smirked. "Well, what are friends for?"
It had taken all of an hour for Mary to pack all her belongings into one simple suitcase. Wearing the same dress everyday had its benefits, and besides, it had been mostly her papers and books that had needed the space. Her mom and dad had kissed her and hugged her until she felt her entire body squished with affectionate goodbyes. "We'll miss you, dearest," Anna had sighed. "Write often and give me beautiful grandchildren!"
"Assuming Kai agrees to being husband first," Basil had added warningly.
And Popuri had squealed when Mary had shared her scheme and gone off on some tangent about how Nora Ephron would be oh-so-proud and that they absolutely had to run off together, that it'd be the most romantic thing in the history of ever and that she'd be so jealous and so happy and—about here Mary tuned her out because she was impatiently waiting for Kai on the boat.
"Ever actually left the time, missy?" Zack questioned, and the librarian blushed while shaking her head shyly no. "Well then you're in for a treat!"
"When's Kai getting here?" she mumbled, and the sailor shrugged.
"Any second now, I believe. He'd better hurry, though, or else we'll be leaving without him."
"Why so stunned? I've got a schedule to keep. 'Sides, he'll be here on time. He always is."
"Mary will be here. She always is."
Kai was in fact pacing the library door. For some reason it struck him that Mary would expect to walk with him to the dock, and in his mind it seemed much more overwhelmingly romantic to sweep her off her feet at the door and tell her he was willing to stay.
Except the door was locked. Dang it.
"Mister, are you alright?"
"I'm waiting for the library to open," he told the intruder who had stumbled by: a little boy with a bowl-cut that he was pretty sure was named Stu. Or Sue? Stuey Suey?
"Oh." The boy glanced at the door then back at the purple man. "You have a funny hat."
"You have a funny face."
Stu frowned. "You're mean."
Okay, Mary did not usually arrive this late. What if she was at the dock after all—? Well, she wouldn't be going anywhere, and he could wait at the door for her return anyway. Gray had told him of cliché romantic goodness, and darn it, he was going to be the gooiest cliché he could muster.
Meanwhile, this kid really, really ought to leave him be.
"So why ain'tcha at the dock?"
"Because I'm waiting for Miss Mary," he replied slowly with just a touch of irritation.
"Huh. Isn't she at the dock though?"
"So…why not go there, Mister?"
"Because Nora Ephron would say no."
"Romantic comedy screenplay writer. Look you, beat it, you're not part of my Prince Charming plan. I have to wait for Mary to come back and then act all romantic."
"Well that might be difficult, Mister."
"Cause Mary's going on that boat. And it's leaving…um…right about now!"
If he weren't running for his life, Kai might have stopped long enough to beat Gray and his stupid love advice into the ground.
"We're moving. Why…are…we…moving?"
Mary clung to her side of the boat in terror as it lurched, and Zack shrugged again, looking to the sky. "For some reason Kai ain't coming it seems. Oh well, a schedule is a schedule, and I have got to deliver these crops before they expire."
Mary covered her mouth and found herself hyperventilating; oh no, this wasn't part of the plan, not at all, and oh Goddess they were already away from the dock. Oh, no. Oh, no. Nothing had prepared her for the possibility of leaving alone for an unknown city. Oh, she just might be sick…
"Mary! Stop the boat! Zack, stop the boat stop the boat stop the boat!"
And then the librarian looked up from where she was doubled over the railing, and there he was, panting as if he'd run all the way around the world and back and eyes wide and frantic. "Kai?" she exclaimed.
"Mary! What the hell are you doing?!"
"I'm riding off into the sunset with you!" she screamed back from the boat.
"How are you going to do that exactly if I'm not in the boat?"
"Well obviously it'd have helped if you'd come faster!"
To their absolute disbelief, both of them were laughing even as the boat continued onward. "I wasn't going to leave, you silly girl."
"I was going to stay here with you!" he continued, roaring over the wind. "I didn't want to leave you behind!"
"Don't be an imbecile: you're a traveler, and you are going to travel," she retorted.
"Not if I can't be with you I won't."
"Well luckily I happen to be on a boat!"
"And you're only getting farther and farther away," Kai complained. Then, with a devilish glint in his eyes, he tore off his shirt and dove headfirst into the sea. Some of the ladies onshore gasped (Karen and Ann cheered) and Mary felt her heart leap into her throat as he paddled harder and harder against the current.
"Kai, you can't possible catch up that way!"
"Watch…me…try," he gasped back.
Mary flailed a bit on the deck for a bit before yelling at Zack to slow down and getting the same "I can't, the wind decides that," from him each time.
"Well, we certainly can't let him drown!" Mary sputtered. "Um, uh…here, take this!" Her hands tangled on a life preserver and she tossed it into the sea, only to lose her footing and fall right along with it.
"Oh my God, Mary!" Kai screamed as she fell with a splash.
"K-Kai.." She spat out water and laughed. "I'm okay! Here, get the life preserver with me."
" 'Arturo, Arturo!' 'Caterina, Caterina!' " Popuri sighed. "Oh my God, Kai is Goldie Hawn with abs."
"So Mary…is Kurt Russell?" Gray commented.
"I knew you'd start speaking chick flick eventually!" she cheered, and kissed him full on the mouth.
"You are the silliest girl I have ever met," Kai laughed, and Mary averted his gaze from behind her soaked spectacles. "Hey, you. Thank you." He wiped the bangs from her eyes and smiled. "This is the most anyone has ever offered to do for me."
"I can't believe you'd have stayed for me," she blubbered.
"I guess we're both just crazy, huh?"
A mischievous smile tugged at his lips, and Kai leaned over his side of the life preserver to whisper, "I would be honored to travel the world with a girl like you."
"Are you sure?"
"More sure than anything I've ever been sure about in my life. But are you sure?"
"Mm." Mary gazed up at the sky above them, at the ship trying desperately to circle back towards them, at the people cheering from the shore who looked like little ants all the way from their corner of the sea. "I think it'd be an awfully wonderful adventure."
"And…perhaps just the right kind of happily ever after."
"So what happened next?! What happened, c'mon, tell us pleeeeease."
"Oh, but that's the whole story."
"Don't talk back to Mary now," Kai admonished the kids with a laugh. "You should be able to figure out the rest on your own."
"Well I have a question," one little girl demanded, sitting patiently in the library. "Why does this story mention my daddy more than Lily's daddy?"
"Because Lily's daddy is a blacksmith and not a dashingly handsome young traveler like myself—"
"Ooh, I'ma tell him you said thaaaaat!"
"Good work, Kai," Mary giggled. "I'll tell Popuri to hide his hammer again, okay? At any rate," she announced, stretching, "it's time for these little ones to go to sleep."
The little boy and girl pouted, and Kai pouted too. "But we want to hear more!"
"Now, now, begging isn't polite."
"No buts. Goodnight."
They were shepherded out the door with little sighs, and Mary clicked the lock on the library door with a practice that hadn't rusted with disuse. "So I suppose I'm getting sent to bed, too, eh?" Kai inquired, grinning.
"But see, you'd like that."
"So?" he replied, curling his arm about her.
"So what kind of punishment would that be?"
"The very, very best kind."
Their heads bent down close together, and just as their lips began to meet the door flew open and two figures paused in the doorway. "Oh, crap, I forgot they were back in town," Gray muttered. "Where else are we going to find a dark abandoned place?"
"Oh, if they're here, no one's at the Snack Shack!" Popuri exclaimed. "Later, you two."
"Ah, and one more thing, Kai," Gray added, frowning. "Your hooligans told me you lied again."
"Lied is a mean word…"
"Don't forget who holds the hammer here."
"Anyway, night," Popuri giggled, pulling her husband away. "See you later."
The door closed, and Kai offered himself a smug little grin. "Now, where were we…?"
"Somewhere between a cliché and a happily ever after."
"Well, I have no problem with that at all. Absolutely none."
"Funny, I don't either."
"Well then," Kai murmured, kissing her so that she blushed, "I guess here's where the story ends."
Neither of them had any idea that adorable Things 1 and 2 had discovered, at that very moment, that a blender and a story chapter made marvelous music together.
But then again, no story is perfect.
End Note: Hahaha, okay, okay, I had too much fun, I'm sorry. It's corny and cliché and absolutely addictive to write, and I'm glad I got to wrap it up like that. Also, kudos to anyone who names the movie Popuri referenced with Goldie Hawn. Also, sorry for the overload of chick flick references. I couldn't help it, I couldn't, it called to me. xD
Thanks again to Jean Cooper for inspiring me, and thanks to all readers who bore with my ridiculous late-coming updates. Love you all. :)
PS: Man I am on a roll with finishing stuff. Feels amazing. :D