Title: Know vs. Think
Summary: When Cid, middle child to the max, wishful writer, and parent of a pair of proud mental complexes, meets Logan, eldest sibling, successful law student, and ridiculously well balanced, he doesn't expect much. As the only Englishman in his tiny American high school, he's used to being ignored. Unfortunately for him, Logan isn't. M/M SLASH
The only thing worse than thinking you're the best, when you're actually not, is knowing you're the best, when you're actually not. I'm not going to go into the details of thinking vs. knowing or anything, but it's a fairly strange problem. I suffer from it. See, I think, when I hand in an essay- this is not amazing, this isn't the best essay in class. I think- there are people who are smarter than me here, they've written better work than I have. Yet, when the essay is returned, I am shocked if I get anything less than an A. Despite my thoughts, my subconscious is bound and determined to consider myself the best.
It's an interesting contradiction, apparently. Jason is writing about it for a Psych paper- he says it's like a subconscious superiority complex. I know that I am better than everyone else, even while my thoughts are acknowledging my lack of ...superiority, I guess.
Jason says I am the first person he's met who has a superiority and an inferiority complex.
Jason and I have a strange relationship- we're not exactly friends, but I see him more often than anyone who could claim that status. We met four years ago, at some assembly, and he latched onto me. He's spent that time, up until now, observing me and writing down various observations. He's sure that I'm going to get him a PhD. I don't think I'm actually that interesting. There must be other people who can't seem to decide if they're wonderful or horrible. Jason says that it stems from my natural intelligence and lack of drive. I was top of the class all through primary school, but when I reached secondary school and things weren't so easy, I fell to the middle ranks.
Naturally, this explanation kind of depressed me: it's sad to think that you peaked at eleven. It's not that I am not smart, kind of? I am smart. I have a good memory for most things. I just...suck. In general, I suck. I find it impossible to write in academic english good enough for an A essay. I can't remember exact dates in history. Writing a lab report seems impossible- you have to explain the same thing over and over- surely the examiners have figured it out after the second repetition? Apparently not. There are, however, a few things I'm good at. I can argue. Very, very well- I love debating, although I don't often get the opportunity, and I find it difficult to *not* argue if somebody says something I disagree with. I like to write. Fiction, not essays, of course, and it's generally loaded with cliches and purple prose, but I find it far more fun to dive into the life of somebody who actually is awesome, than deal with my far inferior life. I have written many, many stories, and I occasionally work up the courage to send them to a publisher- I have a nice collection of rejection letters in one of my desk drawers.
I groaned, slitting my eyes open to look at the alarm clock. Nine o'clock, on a saturday morning. Too early.
"Cid! Your friend Jason's here!"
That woke me up. Right, Jason had said he'd be an hour earlier than usual this week. I'd cleaned my room yesterday, so at least I didn't have to worry about dirty clothes on the floor before Jason came upstairs.
I fell out of bed and jumped up, shouting down stairs, "One minute, mate!"
"No problem. Take your time!" Jason replied, and I scrambled back into my room in search of clothes. I'd slung my favourite pair of jeans over my desk chair last night, and a teeshirt with an angry penguin on it that was half under my bed passed the sniff test, so about twenty seconds later, I was dressed enough to have one of Jason's 'sessions'.
"You were asleep?" Jason asked, turning my desk chair around so it was facing my bed.
"Well, yeah, but that's because I was up until two last night." I shrugged, taking a sip of water.
"Hmm." Jason nodded, and unzipped his back pack, pulling out an mp3 recorder and a yellow legal pad. As usual, Jason was polished and pressed to within an inch of his life- neat dark jeans and a bottle green long sleeved teeshirt, with a suit coat that he took off and hung neatly over the back of my desk chair. His hair- which was that red brown colour just dark enough to stop him from being called a ginger- was recently combed, still wet, and his eyes- which were a remarkable dark green colour- were alert, already watching me analytically, as though I was a particularly interesting experiment.
Comparatively, I'm sure I was a disgrace, with my blond-brown hair rumpled from sleep and standing up strangely, my angry-penguin tee-shirt crumpled and looking distinctly pre-worn, and my blue eyes all sleepy and mucked up. Still, even though he was used to seeing me a little more put together, he would have to survive sleep-rumpled Cid for today.
"So, tell me about your week," Jason said, switching on the recorder and setting pen to paper.
I lay back on my bed, and began to run through my week.
Jason left around an hour later, with a satisfied expression. At the end of his allotted hour, he leaned back, announced that I was making progress, and stood up to shake my hand before he left.
It's sad that the guy who is essentially my best friend acts like my psychologist.
I eventually made my way downstairs, dodging my sister's clarinet. She always leaves it leaning again the banister, and the unwary always knock it over. I, however, am a well-established clarinet dodger, and manage to get to the kitchen unmolested. My oldest brother, Michael, was eating sugary cereal and reading a car magazine at the table, ignoring the rest of the world. Anna, the clarinet player, was reading a ridiculously thick novel, shovelling yoghurt into her mouth without looking at the spoon. Consequently, there was a trail of orange peel laden white stuff dribbling down her chin. At sixteen, I have the joy of being the middle child of six- Michael is twenty five, and works at a garage, helping to support the family. He's angry a lot, because of that- he wanted to be a doctor, before Dad died.
Oh yeah. I didn't mention that, did I? My father was a major in the RAF. He was shot down, eight years ago. I don't remember him very well, but I remember we got on? I think? He introduced me to reading- Tolkein and Lewis, Frost and Tennyson- he used to read The Hobbit to me as a bed time story. I remember he was brave, and he didn't like shaving- I used to run my hand over his chin when it got stubbly. It's all a scatter of memories and sensations- he smelled of leather and tea, I remember that.
My Mum isn't around much. She works hard, supporting the family. I'm still not exactly sure what she does, but she'd usually exhausted, when I get to see her at all. So Michael is the angry parental figure I've grown up with. He doesn't like talking much. He certainly isn't interested in my declining grades and status as the subject for a future psychological paper. No, my second oldest brother, Nicholas, has the joy of looking at my frankly abysmal reports and hearing about Jason's theories. He's working his way through university, all the way back home in London, and calls every week, like clockwork, to hear about our lives. After that, it's me, at the joyful age of sixteen, enjoying the double bonus of being both a middle child and the only Englishman at my American high school. Then Anna, who's fourteen, and a bit of a music geek. She's part of a band where she plays the drums, is in the marching band, and also is part of a community orchestra- that's her true love, the clarinet. She's reasonably popular at school- she learned the American accent, and you can barely tell she's English, now. She's skinny, but not a stick, she dresses in that 'I am a stylish yet independent girl' way, and she's the class representative of her homeroom. She always has friends over, clogging up the living room with romcoms and high pitched giggling. Not like me- we left too late for me to be able to blend in with the crowd. My London accent always pushed me out, and I've never been able to dress to fit in. I wear dark teeshirts with strange pictures on them, and a range of jeans that cover every style that's been popular in the last four years. Add that to my distinctly uncontrollable blond hair and my eyes, which I've been told make people feel as though I am looking through them, rather than at them, and you have the hallmarks of an outcast. After Anna is Tommy, who's twelve, and can't remember Dad at all. He likes cartoons and American football, and he speaks with a perfectly American accent. You would never know that he was a UK citizen. He's king of his grade, as far as I can tell. When he leaves the house, he is surrounded by a posse of adoring minions- he's on the football team, the baseball team, the volleyball team...basically, if it has -ball at the end of it, he's on the team. Finally, we have our baby girl, Jenny. She's named after Dad- he was called Jimmy....although it's a strange permutation, because Dad had wanted to name Anna Jenny until Mum put her foot down- because she was born about six months after his death. That was a difficult time, from what I remember. So anyway, Jenny, who's seven and a bit years old and likes ponies. That's really all I know. I'm not great with kids who're at that in between state. I can deal with babies and toddlers, or children who are over ten, but between five and nine, there is large blank spot in my knowledge. She likes the colour green, and ponies, and enjoys playing football with me when we come home from school. Real football, not the American kind. She also has a great fondness for chocolate milk. Beyond that, I don't know much.
So anyway, saturday morning in the Jones household. As I padded over the the fridge, I felt myself begin to list over, and grabbed the edge of the deep-freeze to stop myself toppling.
I have an inner ear problem- I have no sense of balance, and I'm completely tone deaf. I suppose I sound like I have a lot of problems, don't I? I guess I just hit the jack pot.
"Is there breakfast?" I asked, opening the door and scanning the contents. We were down the very basics- the random things people bought on whims, a little milk, some cheese, the last scrapings of nutella.
"I have work. There's money in the jar. You go shopping." Michael grunted, pushing away from the table with great force.
"Okay," I looked at Anna, "Do we have a list?"
"On the white board," she replied, licking away the dribbles of yoghurt from her bottom lip.
"Has everybody else eaten?"
"Tommy has- he's gone over to that skating place with M.J." Anna explained, flicking a strand of blonde hair over her shoulder.
"And Jenny?" I asked, and, as if summoned by her name, I felt a tug on the back of my teeshirt.
"Yeah, Jen?" I turned and smiled at her. She was still in her pyjamas- an oversized green teeshirt and shorts- and her hair was all goofy, just like mine.
Jenny was a bit of a mini-me. I wasn't really comfortable with her because of her age, but she was still awesome. Maybe it was because she hadn't changed her name, just like me.
See, my dad was a reader, a scholar, and also a manly man- which makes me, a reader, not so much of scholar, and the weediest thing on the planet, feel a little inadequate- and he named three of us. He liked strange names. Michael was really Mikael, but he'd changed his name. Tommy is actually Tumnus- but nobody outside the family knows that. Dad was the reason that I'm Cid, not Sid. And Jenny is actually short for Jennjer- which is pronounced Ginger, by the way- Anna only just avoided the name, but I guess Mum felt like she would agree with his last wishes for Jenny? Or something.
Jenny lifted her arms, and I pulled her up, allowing Jenny to cling to me like a koala.
"I'm hungry!" she announced, tucking her head into the gap between my neck and shoulder.
"I'm on it, Jen. You want nutella?"
"Nutella!" she repeated happily, squirming until I almost dropped her.
"Roger, roger." I said, putting on a robot voice. Jenny had watched Star Wars a few days ago, and she had cried when the droid armies died.
"My name's Jenny, not Roger!" she giggled, and I smiled briefly, grabbing the nutella from the fridge.
When Jenny was sitting at the table, happily chewing on a crustless nutella sandwich, I went back searching for my own breakfast. Unfortunately, now that the last of the chocolate spread was gone, I had a choice between artichoke hearts, anchovy fillets, and roquefort cheese for breakfast.
I guess it can wait until after I do the shopping.
"Anna, are you here today?" I asked, copying the shopping list down from the white board.
"I was gonna go round to Katie's place. Why?"
"Jenny doesn't have karate this week, and I need to go out and get us food." I replied, waving the list in the air.
"I'm soo, soooo, sorry, Cid. I can't cancel!" Anna stretched out the words, standing up and straightening her trendily out of fashion sixties mini skirt. "I'll be back in like, three hours, though?"
"Right. Well, have fun." I sighed, unscrewing the jar which held our shopping money. "Jenny, you finished?"
"Ya." Jenny said, and I turned to see her face and hands covered in chocolate. How, I have no idea. Kids, man. I tell you, they can get dirty without any effort.
It took twenty minutes to clean Jenny up and get her ready to go out. Anna usually deals with her clothes, so there are a lot of skirts and 'cute' shirts. When Jenny and I deal with her wardrobe, it's a bit more tomboy-ish. I washed her face and hands quickly, tied her me-like blonde hair back in a ponytail, and got her dressed in jeans and her favourite green teeshirt. Trainers on her feet, keys and wallet in my pockets, and we were on the way to the shops. I don't drive, I have a bike, and Jenny was a master of balancing on the handlebars or the back of the seat. We both have helmets, she has knee and elbow pads, and I wear wrist guards- my issue with balance extends to the bike, although enough practice has me only wiping out two or three times a week, rather than two or three times a day. Maybe by the time I graduate, I'll be able to ride a bike as well as my twelve year old brother.
Thankfully, I managed to get to the shops without crashing, which Jenny hugged me for. I think she thinks I do it for fun. I locked my bike, told Jenny to hold on to me-she decided to loop a pair of her somehow-sticky-again fingers through a belt loop and trail along, pretending to be a balloon- and went in. My friend- singular, the only one other than Jason who will talk to me- was manning the register, and I nodded to him as I walked past.
"Oh, the state of youth today," he lamented loudly, "Another teenage father."
"Shut up, Ryou." I replied, grabbing a basket, and he sniggered.
"Still paying alimony, eh?"
"Shut up, Ryou." I said, glaring, and swept into the supermarket, Jenny trailing behind me, making 'whee!' noises as the wheels in the soles of her shoes let her skate.
Before I'd made it down the length of the aisle, I fell over.
Onto somebody else.
I knew the lack of bike accident was too good to be true. There's a reason my knees and elbows are always wrapped in bandages, and it's not a fashion statement: it's pre-emptive first aid. Jenny managed to let go before I toppled, and her shoes took her another metre down the aisle before she stopped them.
The guy I fell on was a bit older than me, maybe nineteen or twenty- definitely not older than Michael- with disarrayed black hair and hazel eyes.
"I'm so sorry," I said, colouring, and tried to stand up. Unfortunately, our limbs had tangled in the crash, and our baskets had twisted themselves together.
"Ah, no problem?" he replied, and managed to not only disentangle himself, but also retrieve his basket and help me up.
"I apologise," I said stiffly, picking up my various not-yet-purchases. They all looked alright, although I would have to replace Anna's diet coke.
"You're...English?" he asked, squinting at me.
"Um. Yes. Again, sorry." I nodded, looking at his shoes, and he chuckled.
"Seriously, man, calm down. It was an accident..." he smiled, "it was an accident?"
"Yes. Rather." I scratched at an almost healed cut on my cheekbone, and he very obviously looked me up and down, from scuffed up converse trainers to horribly unruly hair, lingering on the angry penguin. When he leaned over to pick up his own shopping, I took the opportunity to look at him. He was taller than me, and his dark hair wasn't in such a mess anymore, but smoothed down, with only a few strands hanging around his face. Apparently the disarray I'd seen was just the crash, rather than his personal style, and he was wearing an elaborately patterned, old fashioned silk waistcoat over a black teeshirt and blue jeans with biker boots.
"Cid?" Jenny ran back towards me, eyes wide. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Jen." I soothed her, patting her on the head. She clutched my belt loop and glared at the guy I crashed into.
"Don't pick on Cid! He didn't mean to crash into you! He has a thing!"
"A thing, huh?" asked the guy, smiling at me. I felt myself colour again, and I covered Jenny's mouth.
"Ha. Ha. Ha, she's joking. Come on, Jenny. I'll get you an icecream if you shut up now." I hissed, and she bit me.
"I'm Logan by the way," the guy introduced himself.
"I'm Cid, obviously," I smiled tightly, ignoring the pain in my palm as Jenny began to grit her teeth, grinding them together.
I let go.
"For god's sake, Jenny!"
"If you pick on Cid, I'll punch you."
"Scary." Logan teased, and Jenny crossed her arms.
"I do karate."
"So it's not an empty threat?" Logan asked, and Jenny looked at me.
"What's an empty threat?"
"When someone threatens something they can't follow through on," I defined without thinking, and Jenny nodded.
"Well it's a full threat then." Jenny told Logan, scowling.
"Jen, you can't say that." I shook my head.
"Well, anyway, Cid, it was nice to meet you," Logan said, smiling, "you too, Jenny."
"Yeah, it was nice to meet you," I said, and shook his hand.
"You keep on looking after your dad," he told Jenny, and exited.
"I'm not her dad!" I called, but he was already gone.