As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working on the writing of Chosen for approximately all of recorded time – or, more accurately, fifteen or sixteen years, since I was a Dragonlance-obsessed teenager longing desperately to write my own fantasy opus. The story has gone through dozens of different incarnations, though always with Nicholas and Kaine (and their relationship, be it BFF or something more) at the heart of it.
This morning, friends, I came across a version of Chosen that I would very much like to share, as it has given me great amusement on this otherwise irritating morning.
I call it: Kaine Searches For Peanut Butter
Okay, not really. But that’s the general gist of this two-page start to a story that never got off the ground. Rather than setting the story in an alternate fantasy world, Past Me decided to play around with the idea of Nicholas and Kaine living in the modern world. More specifically, in Chicago.
Here is the result:
Kaine Searches For Peanut Butter:
A Chosen AU, by a somewhat younger T.J. Baer
Sunday morning in Chicago. Accordion music blared from a second story apartment, cars and buses rumbled and bumped down a potholed road, and the air was October cool and laced with exhaust. Lying in bed in his tiny apartment, Kaine scowled and pressed a hand over his eyes. A beam of sunlight was fixed on his face like a laser pointer, sneaking in through the gap in the blinds and bringing him from blissful sleep to full, annoyed wakefulness.
Which was just as well, really. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in years, and managing to get one now might lead to some horrifying personality changes. Smiling, feeling at peace with the world, helping little old ladies cross the street—disturbing things like that.
Grumbling to himself about morning and the sun and other such evils, he crawled out of bed and headed into the kitchen to begin the daily transition from grumbly exhaustion to semi-irritated, tired-but-functional coherence. Once the coffeemaker had started dribbling liquid consciousness into the pot, he trudged over to the toaster to get breakfast started.
He was just beginning his daily search for the peanut butter jar when the phone rang.
He ignored it and kept his sleep-fuzzy brain focused on peanut butter. Had he put it in the fridge? No. The ramen cupboard? A few packages of noodles tumbled out and made an MSG-laden mountain on the counter. No. On top of the fridge?
The phone continued to trill at eardrum-piercing volume, but it was bound to stop eventually. In the vegetable crisper? No.
Since he was already busy ignoring the ringing of the phone, it was easy enough to ignore the sudden voice in his head.
Kaine, I know you can hear me.
No, I can’t, he thought back, and as a last resort, he opened up the oven and peered inside. It was grimy and crusty and tragically void of peanut butter.
The voice sounded more exasperated now. Kaine, will you answer the damned phone?
Busy? He could almost hear Nicholas sigh. Have you looked next to the toaster?
Kaine paused, half in and half out of the cupboard under the sink, and slowly straightened up. And when he turned his head, it was there. Peter Pan was grinning cheekily out at him from a peanuty background, right there next to the toaster.
He glared at Peter for a moment, then stalked into the hall and picked up the phone midway through its eighteenth ring.
“What,” he said.
“Good morning,” Nicholas said pleasantly. “Find it?”
“Yes, you did.”
“Well, now that the search is over, can we talk about something?”
“At least you’re up to two-syllable words now. When can we talk?”
“Fine. I’ll be over in ten minutes. That should give you enough time to get some caffeine into your system, but not enough time to run off somewhere and hide.”
Suddenly, he was wide awake. Wide awake and alarmed. “Nicholas, there’s no need to—“
“See you soon,” Nicholas said, and hung up.
Kaine stood there for a long moment, phone in hand and a number of complex emotions circling through him. It was stupid to be scared of Nicholas coming over, but he was. Or something that was similar to scared, but with a trembly little edge of anticipation stuck to the end of it.
He hung up the phone and went back into the kitchen. He wondered if he should get dressed, but in the end decided that coffee and breakfast were more important than wardrobe. Anyway, what did it matter how he looked? His hair was in its usual morning rat’s nest, hanging in dark tangles to his shoulders, and he was wearing a worn black robe over a T-shirt and boxer shorts. All perfectly normal and perfectly fine, but he had a mad urge to go comb his hair or shave off his stubble or maybe just put on a pair of socks that didn’t have holes in the toes.
But no. There was no need. No need. He would sit here and drink his coffee and eat his toast, and Nicholas would come over and they would talk and it would be fine.
And if it wasn’t fine, he could always excuse himself to the bathroom and crawl out the window again. Nicholas would sigh and know what he was doing but would let him do it, because Nicholas was an obnoxiously nice Boy Scout of a person—and that was a good thing to remember, really. How annoyingly nice he was, with that irritating warm smile and those soft blue eyes and that way he had of making you feel so disturbingly, disgustingly good about yourself all the time.
Kaine took a vicious bite of his toast.
It would be fine. Absolutely, completely, entirely fine.
He dropped his half-eaten toast and set off for the front door at a jog. As he wrestled on his shoes, he considered possible destinations. The Starbucks down the street? No, first place Nicholas would look. His mother’s house? He shuddered. Definitely not. Well, he’d just have to find a place—preferably one with coffee—and hide out there until Nicholas gave up and went home.
Shoes on and wallet stuffed in the pocket of his robe, he flung open the front door—
And found Nicholas standing there in a brown leather jacket and jeans, blond hair hanging in soft tufts around his face. “Hi. Going somewhere?”
Kaine opened his mouth, closed it, then settled for folding his arms and scowling. “How in the hell did you get over here so fast?”
“I called you from down the block.” He hefted a brown Starbucks bag. “I come bearing a peace offering.”
“What is it?”
“I think you know.”
Kaine narrowed his eyes. “Cheesecake brownie?”
“Two of them.”
“And the blackest, boldest coffee they had.”
Kaine sighed and opened the door the rest of the way. “Fine, come in.”
Nicholas grinned and stepped inside, and with him came the mingling scents of chocolate, coffee, and a light, woodsy aftershave. Kaine refused to notice these things, however, and likewise didn’t notice that Nicholas looked unusually tired and worn out, with dark pouches under his eyes and a weary slump to his shoulders.
But the more he struggled not to notice, the more he seemed to notice it. He frowned. “Are you all right?”
“More or less.” Nicholas gave a sheepish smile. “Mostly less.”
And that’s all there was, tragically. I kind of wish Past Me had kept going, but I’m sure she had a lot on her mind, what with being so young and carefree and full of hope~~~ I may have to come back to this version of the story at some point, anyway – preferably after I’ve edited and finished up the current, non-peanut-butter version of Chosen.
But at least while I’m working on my edits, I can think happy thoughts about Nicholas buying Kaine coffee and brownies at Starbucks, and Kaine grumping around the kitchen in his robe, searching blearily for peanut butter.
It ain’t much, but it gets you through the day.
And now back to editing. *fist pump*