"Rearranging Everything I Know"
A/N: Song lyrics are from Matt Hires' "Out of the Dark," my current favorite song. At least until next week. As usual, I don't own these characters. Just what I make them do. I've never really written a fic like this; it's a bit jumpy in the scenes and timing, and I hope it's all linked together enough to make sense. And I'm sure you'll get this, but anything formatted like this: -- -- is supposed to be something Charlie knows. That sounds weird when I write it, but just read on. It will all be clearer (hopefully). Thanks again for reading!
"in a strange, strange place
lying on the edge of a star
in these violent days
i only want to be where you are"
Charlie Landers knows a lot of things.
--13-46-5 was his seventh grade locker combination--
--Boise is the capital of Idaho--
--September 14, 2005 was the first day he ever played "Hero Rising"--
--Michigan State University is where his dad went to college--
--The ulna and the radius are the bones Jason broke,
after sledding down Suicide Hill when he was seven--
--And January 29 is National Cornchip Day--
He knows a lot of things. But he doesn't know everything. And that's the problem.
He looks over at the petite girl sitting next to him. Her fingers glide over the buttons on the controller as if they are racing one another. Her dark brown eyes are glued to the screen, and she is contemplating her next move. After a few moments of intense concentration, her avatar kicks his avatar's feet out from under him and she wins the round.
"Yes!" she says, raising her arms in victory. She turns and looks at him, eyes shining. "You better watch it, Aaron Stone. I'm getting pretty good at taking you down." She smiles at him, expecting a retort.
But he just smiles back and shrugs. He studies her face for a moment.
She narrows her eyes and lightly punches him on the shoulder. "Are we ordering pizza or what?" Standing, she grabs the phone off the stand and begins to dial the number.
--434-555-3209 is the number of Angelo's, the best pizza place in town--
"What do you want on it?" she whispers, holding her hand over the receiving end of the phone.
--Green peppers and olives are her favorite pizza toppings--
--Pepperoni and extra cheese are his favorite pizza toppings--
"Green peppers and olives," he whispers back. She grins in appreciation and continues placing the order.
Charlie knows all of these things. And some would say that these things are important.
They are. But so are other things. Things that take a while to learn.
One thing Charlie Landers doesn't know is exactly when she became his person.
The one he told the big things and the little things to. The important stuff, like what he wanted to be when he grew up, before the whole Aaron Stone thing happened (a pilot). Or why he was always a mess on March 4th (the day his dad died). Or why he worries about his mom all the time (she cares so much for him and his brother, but he knows she's lonely).
And even the little stuff. Like why he would always believe that Strawberry Twizzlers are better than Cherry ones (the Cherry ones taste like cough syrup). And that Ghostbusters II, while being a fantastic film, will never quite live up to the brilliance that is the original Ghostbusters (what movie every will?). And that he might have eaten paste once or twice (or four times) when he was in kindergarten.
Somewhere in their year and a half of working together, she became his person.
And he has no idea how it happened.
Only, looking back, maybe he does.
--The Cutlass 670 was the gun she used the first time she saved him--
He still remembers the green light zipping by his head. He knew he was in trouble, outnumbered and outmaneuvered, when out of nowhere a shot was fired that wasn't aimed at him.
He turned and saw her standing there, wig and costume covering up her true identity to those who may want to do her harm. But he knew her, immediately.
And although confused as to her presence there, he had never been so glad to see anyone in his life.
--Her birthday is May 14th--
And Charlie had no idea what to get her. He had known her for five months but was still at a complete loss. For someone he saw every day, she certainly was elusive.
He wandered around the mall with Jason for a couple of hours, shooting down all of his ideas ("Everyone needs an 'Amazing Flying Monkey!' It screams and flies 50 feet in the air! She'll love it," Jason had insisted), before finally stopping at a music store. He vaguely remembered her mentioning that if she could ever go back in time, she would want to meet The Beatles. He had wanted to meet Bernie Mac. Of the two of them, she always did have better taste.
He journeyed up and down the aisles before settling on the remastered version of "Abbey Road."
Her eyes lit up when she opened it, as she bounced over and gave him a hug. She popped open the case and inserted the CD into his player, flipping to "Here Comes the Sun."
As the first few guitar chords echoed through his room, she grabbed his hand and made him dance with her.
And as they moved back and forth, arms swinging around, he realized something. For the first time since he had become Aaron Stone, he felt light. As if nothing could touch him in that moment.
She threw her head back and laughed before saying, "We need to work on your dancing skills. You look like Stan, when he tries to 'bust a move.'"
"What?" he asked innocently and smiling, as he continued doing "The Sprinkler."
They'd had fights before. But none of those could even compare to their third fight. They had come so close to capturing Xero, which would have been a huge gain. But they had a miscommunication and he had gotten away. Mr. Hall was not pleased, lecturing them for over an hour and by the time they had gotten home, neither had much to say.
He tried to break the silence as she headed to her house, but she turned and looked him straight in the eye. The darkened street was empty, but her voice was still hushed and low.
"I don't want to see you, I don't want to talk to you, I don't want to hear you. This," she said, gesturing between the two of them, "is on a break."
"What?" he screeched. "Emma, what are you talking about? What's wrong with you?"
"You!" she shouted, before catching herself. She started again, much quieter. "You don't trust me, Charlie. And I can't believe after all this time that you don't think I can take care of myself or even help you!" He started to protest, but she stopped him. "No. You don't get to say anything right now. I need, I need time." She shook her head and went into her house, shutting the door quietly behind her as he stood there, flabbergasted.
--23 hours is a long time to not speak to someone,
especially when you're finding out that that someone is your best friend--
She walked right by him at school the next day and by eighth period, he was going slightly crazy. Mostly because he wasn't entirely sure what he did wrong. And a little bit because he hated knowing she was mad at him. And an even smaller, somewhat unknown, bit because he was recognizing how weird and quiet his life would be without her in it. He didn't like how it felt. Empty.
So after dinner he climbed out onto the roof and saw her bedroom light on. "Em! Emma!" he whispered. Slowly he saw her pulled back her curtains and look at him. She opened her window and not a moment too soon, as he jumped through it.
She leapt back. "What are you doing?"
He stood up and looked around. "I don't think I've ever been in here before. It's very . . . pink. I wouldn't expect you to have such an overwhelming amount of . . . pink, Emma."
She stared at him. "I am a girl, you know."
"I know." They stood there for a moment. He could tell she was still mad.
"Okay, so what did I do wrong?" he finally said.
She walked over to her bed and began folding the pile of clothes that sat on it. "You seriously have to ask that question?"
"Honestly? Yeah, I do. Because I don't understand why you're so mad."
"Why am I mad? Hmm, why am I mad? Let's see, my whole life is this job practically and I found out last night that my partner, the one who's supposed to share duties with me, the one who knows I hate peanuts and the one I know cried when he watched "Bambi," doesn't trust me during missions."
His eyes narrowed. "You said you wouldn't bring that up again. It was one time! And I wasn't feeling well. And besides, who doesn't cry when Bambi's mom dies? That stuff's traumatic! And what do you mean I don't trust you? Of course I do."
"Really? You trust me?" she stepped closer to him and matched his eye contact. "You knew I had a shot last night, but you didn't let me take it. You took it instead. And you missed. That shot would've been a game changer. We would have caught Xero. And Mr. Hall wouldn't have chewed us out."
"There's no guarantee you would've made that shot, Emma."
"Are you kidding me?"she said, her voice getting louder with every word. "I have a 94% accuracy rate. And what's your accuracy rate?"
"89%," he said quietly.
"But you haven't had as much practice under pressure as I have. You can't know for sure that you would've made that shot."
"Well now we'll never know, will we?"
He took a step towards her. "No we won't. And I'm sorry. I was in the wrong and I should've let you take the shot.
"I do trust you, Emma. More than anyone. I'm sorry if you felt like I didn't. Next time, I won't take any shots at all. Scouts honor," he said raising his right hand in salute. He smiled a hopeful smile at her.
Slowly she smiled back. "Well you'll have to take some shots. Just your own, okay?"
He couldn't help but whistle as he strutted down the hallway. He, Charlie Landers, had a date for the dance. And that date was none other than the most amazing Chase Ravenwood. It was pretty much perfect.
He didn't know what inspired him to do it, maybe confidence from his Aaron Stone experiences, but he had walked up to her and asked and she had said yes. It was so simple; he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before.
The night of the dance found him dressed and ready to go an hour early. But he didn't mind. He was finishing tying his bowtie when Stan and Emma broke through his door.
"Charlie, we have to go now," Stan said.
He was a little taken aback and couldn't remember if he had ever heard Stan so anxious.
"But. . ." Charlie said.
She stopped him. "It sucks, I know," she said tugging at the hem of her emerald party dress. "But we have a real chance at getting Cerebella this time."
Charlie looked back at the mirror, his hair perfectly gelled, his suit perfectly pressed, his bow tie completely askew.
He thought of Chase, looking stunning in her shimmery dress. And he momentarily thought of forgetting all of it. The whole Aaron Stone persona. Just for one night.
But he turned back to Emma and Stan. "Let's go."
They changed on the SSJ and called their dates and went in and did what they were supposed to do. Cerebella was apprehended. And Stan was so proud.
Charlie held out a little hope that they might be back in time for the end of the dance, but it was past midnight by the time they were done.
He flopped down on his bed.
"Was she mad?" Emma asked.
He stared at his ceiling. "Oh yeah."
"Can't you make it up to her in some way?"
"I think we're past that point. I mean, I bailed on her an hour before the dance and couldn't even really explain to her why."
"Know what will make you feel better?"she asked. He sat up and looked at her, curious.
As they sat at Norm's 24 hour diner and shared a slice of the world famous apple pie, he couldn't help but think one thing:
--Not even the ultimate unattainable fantasy in a shimmery dress
could make him want to be anywhere but here--
--Things fall apart--
For tenth grade English, they had been assigned to read Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart." He had actually enjoyed the book, but didn't understand the title. Until now.
His fingers were broken and her face was bruised and Stan had been damaged and he had to wonder if any of it was worth it. Powers had gotten away (again—would they never catch this guy?) and because they were unable to stop him, a whole section of the Brooklyn Bridge had been blown apart. They had managed to alert the authorities who had closed the bridge down, so no one had been killed, but still. Still.
Sometimes you just need a win. And tonight was not that time.
He finished wrapping his fingers in a splint before sitting on his floor and burying his head in his hands.
She quietly entered through his window and sat next to him. Gently, she raised her hand and brushed some of his hair to the side of his forehead.
"Hey," she said quietly, but he refused to look at her.
"Hey," she said again, using her hand to make him meet her gaze.
"Don't say it, Em," he said. "Don't say, 'We'll get him next time' and that 'It will be okay.' I'm tired of that."
"I know. Me too."
"Why are we even bothering anymore?"
"We saved people tonight, Charlie."
"But some people still got hurt."
"That's true. But those were only minor injuries. We may not have stopped Powers entirely, but we certainly helped diffuse the situation."
"I—I don't know if I can do this anymore, Emma. I don't know if I want to do this anymore."
"So what? You'd rather sit idly by? Knowing that you can at least help and not do it?"
"No, it's just. . . I don't know. I'm frustrated."
"I understand. I am too." She paused. "It's kinda funny. They don't train you for what to do when your mission is neither a success nor a failure. Or how to deal with all the emotional stuff." She inched a little closer to where he was sitting.
"But you know what?" she continued. "Bridges may be falling down and it might not be okay, but you and I will be. I'll make sure of that. Somehow." She rested the side of her head against his arm.
He looked down at the girl leaning against him, her left cheek completely blue and purple and wondered at her resilience. "Promise?" he whispered.
--Sometimes you can pull the pieces back together again--
Necros' nuclear weapon had finally been captured and the three of them were in such high spirits that they celebrated in Charlie's room. She told them about how she came to work for Mr. Hall. He was intrigued by her story, but a little distraught that he never knew it before. Especially since Stan seemed so well versed in her history.
Stan eventually said his goodnights and went to power down, leaving just the two of them. She got up from his chair and headed towards the window. But he stopped her and asked her not to go quite yet. So instead, she sat down next to him on his bed. It was only when she was so close to him that he realized how cold she was.
"Here," he said, tossing her one of his sweatshirts. It was about four sizes too big, completely covering her hands and reaching down to her knees.
They talked for hours about everything and nothing and before Charlie knew what was happening, he woke up.
She was half curled up beside him, practically drowning in a sea of blue fabric that moved up and down with every breath she took.
He still doesn't know why, but he watched her sleep for half an hour that morning, before she finally stirred and woke up.
"I can feel you watching me, even when I'm asleep you know," she said, eyes still closed, as she stretched out her arms and legs.
"How did you—?"
But she just smiled a secretive smile and rolled over.
"Five more minutes," she said.
--She sighs every so often when she sleeps--
It wasn't much. Just a ton of little things that, together, made something big. Some big part of himself that he gave to her. That only she knew.
He was actually surprised at himself, that he was willing to give so much to her. He didn't even hesitate. Maybe there was something about her. And about who he was when he was with her. Not Aaron Stone, not some sort of savior, but just Charlie. A Charlie who occasionally would save the world, but who also could school her in the great zombie films of the 80s and help her solve problems like her Class President campaign.
The pizza guy arrives and the two of them dig in.
"Movie?" he asks between bites.
"Mmm," she replies. He knows that means "yes."
He looks at his family's movie selection. She hates sappy romantic comedies so all the movies his mother owns are out. As is every movie without a plot (sorry "Dude, Where's My Car?," one of Jason's personal favorites). He finally pulls out "Charade" starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
The two settle on the couch and by the time Audrey's character, Regina, has almost solved the mystery, the pizza is mostly gone.
The music builds and Regina enters a hotel room bathroom . . . only to find a dead body in the bathtub.
She jumps in her seat when she sees this and reaches out and grabs his hand.
"I hate that part! I always know it's coming, but it gets me every time," she exclaims.
He looks down at their intertwined hands and then back at her.
"You know, I would think for a top crime fighter, you'd be able to handle a little more suspense," he teases.
"Watch it, superhero," she says, smiling.
She turns back to watching the movie, but doesn't let go.
Neither does he.
--18 months after meeting her, he realizes that maybe he really only knows one thing:
This is only the beginning. And he can't wait--
A/N: Thanks for reading and reviewing. Love to all.