The Best Moves
Title: The Best Moves
Series: The Best Moves
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Rating: MA overall.
Summary: A young man named Matthew spends a month searching for himself in Toronto and finds an entirely new direction...
Notes: 2003's NaNoWriMo fic, now expanded and edited.
Matthew headed south, towards where the map claimed Chinatown to be. It was late, but not too late for him to get a good meal, he hoped.
The streets were quieter than he expected them to be. There were people out and music came from many of the houses, but it was nowhere as populated and congested as he had expected.
So far, the city wasn't very scary.
He walked through the University of Toronto's campus on his way. He was heading southwest now, cutting over when he could to get closer to Spadina, the street Chinatown was on.
As he walked, his mind started wandering again. So far he just felt as though he was on an overnight vacation or something. It didn't even really feel as though he'd been transplanted to Toronto.
It all reminded him of a story that Emily had written for him a few months back. She was a fan of the sort of story where the protagonist fell into a new world and had to learn all about it in order to survive. Yet she wanted the opposite - she wanted a story where an unsuspecting faerie ended up on Earth, lost and scared of all the things he wasn't familiar with.
Emily had made the faerie male, since she had been afraid that a female faerie might not be able to survive all the rigors of humanity. Her faeries were fragile no matter the gender and best suited to the world she'd created for them, which was full of lush green hills and endless meadows of flowers.
Jorin, that's what the faerie was named, was dropped into a nameless large city and forced to survive by his own devices. His magical powers were considerably weakened and for several days, even as he slept on the streets and had to beg for food, he was oblivious to his situation. He was in a daze of sorts. His whole world had changed and it was too much of a shock for him to even see it.
Jorin, Matthew decided, had it much easier than he did. Jorin wasn't questioning his entire belief structure, sexuality, choices in life, and direction. Perhaps Jorin would, though, when Emily was older though, and could write more complex tales for him.
Matthew suspected that Emily had a bit of a crush on her fictional character. She wrote about him often and drew his picture again and again. Because he was a faerie, Jorin was willowy and somewhat ethereal looking. His hair was a mixture of blues and greens, showing just how in touch with the land he was.
That's what had cut off his power in the city, Matthew remembered. Jorin hadn't been able to commune with the land until he found a small park. It had saved his life.
With a bit of a smile, Matthew recalled that he'd passed a park right as he left Quaker House. Perhaps he could look for faeries on his way home.
What would he do with a faerie, he questioned as he passed a handful of signs definitely not in English. If it was Jorin, he'd have Jorin stay with him until he could take him home to Emily. If it wasn't Jorin, perhaps he'd take the faerie home anyway. Or just watch it for a while.
According to Emily's stories, the faeries had complex dances they did each night in order to pay homage to the moon. The clouds were obscuring the moon though, so Matthew didn't know which dance they'd be doing. For full moons, all the faeries came out to dance for the entire night. It was then they would let their wings out too, for the world to see.
Jorin had black and grey wings, rare for a faerie. Most faeries had silvery wings with colored edges, but Jorin was different. Emily said it made him more interesting that way.
"Boring," Matthew muttered under his breath in reference to himself. Maybe with black and grey wings, he could fly away.
Those thoughts vanished though as Matthew looked up at the part of the University of Toronto that was currently spread out before him. He found himself walking around a traffic circle and staring at the vines that hung on most every building.
Emily would love it. She'd have faeries dancing on each leaf and sprites on every rooftop. Perhaps she would agree with Matthew's current thought - that perhaps Jorin could survive in the city after all.
At that point, Matthew started wondering what Emily had sent along for him to read. He hadn't more than been handed the sealed package then Emily had vanished back into her room. After a moment of thought, Matthew suddenly wondered if perhaps Emily was finally starting to become more aware of herself. Not necessarily in terms of raw sexuality, just in terms of self-consciousness and boys and puberty.
That or she'd just had another idea she wanted to get to paper.
Matthew stopped in the first Chinese restaurant he had a good feeling about. This one was filled with people and had the brightest lights he'd seen so far.
Sitting alone at a small table, Matthew couldn't help but feel a little self-conscious. But as he glanced around the room, he realized that no one was even looking his way. It didn't matter. They weren't thinking about him, so why should he worry about their reactions?
That aside, Matthew ordered a standard sweet and sour dish. His waitress barely spoke enough English to take his order and he couldn't help wondering if she had just memorized the phonetic syllables and nothing else.
A few moments later, after staring a hole through the slightly stained tablecloth, Matthew was rewarded with a bowl of hot wonton soup.
Music echoed through the restaurant just under the volume of the voices around him. Despite its high pitch, Matthew found it soothing and his entire meal flew by almost under a veil of bliss. For the duration of his stay in the restaurant, all was right with the world.
As he left, Matthew grabbed one of the free papers that sat in the entranceway to the restaurant. He had realized as he paid the check that he wasn't sure what the expected tip rate was in Canada, so he'd just left the standard American rate.
Walking down the street, he hoped that was correct or close enough. The free paper he was holding was thick, but he wasn't sure how much of his interest any given part of it would grab. At a loss for anything else to do besides his shopping, Matthew walked back towards Quaker House. He grabbed one each of another whole bank of free papers as he passed them, not as concerned with their content as he supposed he should be. They'd be something to read, at least, that wouldn't require too much brain power.
At the first English-looking convenience store he found, Matthew went inside and grabbed a basket from a stack beside the door. That was when he cursed himself out for not making an actual list of what he wanted to get.
List... Paper! Matthew quickly grabbed a pair of notebooks and a package of multi-color ink pens. He smiled as he thought back on Tyler with blue hands. They'd still been lightly tinted in spots when he'd left Tyler the other day, though hopefully the ink had faded totally away by now.
And shampoo. Matthew remembered the shampoo as he turned down the aisle it was in. He grabbed the cheapest bottles of shampoo and conditioner he could find before mentally checking off all the other toiletries he'd actually remembered. He was good for all of them. It had just been the shampoo he was lacking.
Thankfully the cheapest bottles hadn't had any scent in particular. The last thing Matthew really wanted to do was smell like roses.
After purchasing his goods, he kept walking back towards Quaker House. He was getting rather thirsty and mentally cursed himself for not picking up a soda or even a bottle of water at the convenience store.
It was already getting quite late and any place that closed for the evening was already turning off its lights. Still walking, Matthew kept his eyes open. He had to angle a bit to get back to Quaker House and when it was time to cut to his right, he chose a different street than the one he'd come down.
That was when he saw it, 24 Hour Coffee. It looked like a chain coffee shop, but Matthew couldn't tell for sure. Still, it was lit up and there was a table of people inside. The neon sign proclaiming the place to be open was a pink color and it flickered ever so slightly as Matthew approached the door. The pink didn't register in his mind though. It wasn't red and therefore it wasn't foreboding at all. If anything, it briefly made him think of faerie wings.
The only occupied table inside consisted of five girls all dressed to the nines in various arrays of black clothing. Only a couple of them still had anything in front of them. Mainly their garbage was piled in the center of the table. One girl looked at her watch as Matthew came in before looking up at Matthew out of curiosity.
"We need to get going," she said audibly as she turned back to the group. Two others nodded consent.
Before Matthew went up to the counter, he walked over to a small table by the window and set down his bags. He'd gotten an extra at the convenience store in which to carry the free papers he'd picked up, since they'd gotten awkward to carry under his arm.
The girls were all hollering things to the store's clerk as they left, but Matthew had his eyes on the chalk-written menu that was high on the back wall. He didn't feel like coffee - instead he really wanted water and perhaps something warm to chase of the chill that was falling over the night.
They had hot chocolate, which sounded perfect.
"I thought they'd never leave."
Matthew was startled for a second. The clerk had appeared just on the other side of the counter and was leaning with his arms folded on top of a glass case of doughnuts and wrapped sandwiches. Matthew didn't reply.
"Sorry, what can I get for you?"
"A hot chocolate," Matthew said, trying not to meet the clerk's eyes. There was something about the clerk's immediate famliarity that made him feel far more self-conscious than he'd anticipated. "And a bottle of water."
"Just a moment, man," the clerk replied before turning to grab a cup and head to the hot chocolate machine.
Matthew couldn't help but stare after the clerk. The clerk had long blond hair that was bound in three places as it poured down his back. The roots were hidden underneath the clerk's store hat, but even without confirmation, Matthew was sure it was a natural color. And for the split second that Matthew had met the clerk's eyes, he'd seen they were a vibrant green-blue color.
It was then that Matthew got the rather funny feeling he often got when he saw someone attractive. Only this time it was much stronger. He had never thought he'd ever see a man outside of a video game who could be classified as gorgeous, but with one last stolen glance as the clerk turned, Matthew was sure.
It felt a little silly, actually, to refer to the clerk as gorgeous. After all, this was a one-time chance encounter. And when the clerk... Billy, according to his nametag, asked for the three dollars he was owed, Matthew paid slowly and hoped the red he knew had spread across his cheeks wasn't too obvious.
With his drinks in his hands, Matthew walked back across the shop to sit. He stared out the window for a moment, watching the people still on the streets. His hot chocolate was much too hot to drink so he set it aside and started flipping through one of the free papers. Hopefully, since the shop was empty, the clerk wouldn't throw him out for loitering. He had even bought something, after all.
Matthew didn't notice the clerk slipping out from behind the counter to wipe off and straighten up a few of the other tables in the place. Another man came in and got a cup of coffee to go, just before Matthew deemed his own drink cool enough to try.
The first free paper hadn't been too interesting. It was mainly about radical politics that Matthew really didn't understand nor want to. The second one was just 'alternative news' and had a lot of comics and articles that seemed interesting but Matthew didn't really feel like reading it. Maybe in the morning. The third one, however, was thin but promised to be interesting at least. It claimed to be an 'independent source for anime, manga, game info and more'. Tyler was the one who kept bringing home anime DVDs, which Matthew did end up watching with him, so maybe reading up on the subject would be worthwhile. That and the promised game information section. Hopefully that included video games. For once, maybe he could know something Tyler hadn't already known for three months.
On the cover of the small magazine was a black and white drawing of two characters he didn't recognize, however the largest headline claimed them to be from something called 'Twin Signal'. Matthew wasn't sure just what sort of media it was, only that he wasn't sure if the characters were even male or female.
The entire magazine couldn't have been more than forty pages, but each page was literally jammed with information. The letters page in the front was in a font so tiny Matthew could barely read it and the margins were jammed with little doodles and factoids. If nothing else, Matthew made a mental note to take this thing home to Tyler.
After skimming the cover feature, Matthew discovered that the feminine characters on the front were actually quite male and they were fighters. Matthew thought on that for a moment before deciding it went along with his theory about who always had the best moves.
It was the clerk again. He seemed to have a knack for heart attacks.
"Huh?" Matthew mentally kicked himself. It was not a good opening line.
"'RT' - what you're reading. I know the people who put that out," the clerk continued as he grabbed an empty chair for himself and sat down. "Is that the new one?"
"I don't know," Matthew replied before he handed the magazine over to the clerk.
"Oh, you don't have to... sorry, I should introduce myself. I'm Billy Thompson," the clerk said as he took the magazine. "I sometimes write articles for in here, so I wanted to see if they printed my new one."
"You write?" Matthew asked. The clerk, Billy, didn't look like a writer.
"I write for a couple of small publications, mainly online for free. I work here, and sometimes for extra cash I work for a friend's flyering company. Haven't done the latter for awhile, though."
"I was right, you're an American tourist, aren't you?"
Matthew was struck silent. Hopefully that wasn't a malice-filled question.
"I'm visiting," Matthew replied a moment later once he'd managed to unlock his gaze from hypnotizing green-blue.
"Well, Mr. Tourist..."
"Matthew," Matthew interjected.
"Well, Matthew, I'm not sure how long you've been here, but have you seen all the boxes, walls and light poles covered in flyers for just about everything?"
"Most of the time, whoever is putting on an event or whatever will put them up, but it's a chore. So after doing it once or twice, they'll pay crazy people like my friend to put them just about everywhere around the city," Billy explained. "Sometimes when I need a few extra dollars, I'll help with that."
Billy had been flipping pages as he explained and suddenly he smiled.
"They printed it! Except it looks as though one of them got a little edit-happy on me," Billy said before thrusting the paper back over to Matthew, pointing. "There."
"This is really all new to me," Matthew said as he squinted to read the text shoved into a half-page article complete with blurry graphics of two indeterminate characters kissing.
"You picked up a copy though," Billy said, leaning back and looking Matthew over.
"A friend of mine likes anime and games," Matthew replied. "I thought I'd try to learn more."
"This may be a bit above your head then. And I'm not sure you want to read my article then, if you aren't familiar with the concepts."
"It's part of a series, about yaoi and yuri in anime, manga, and video games," Billy said, seemingly holding in an infectious grin.
"What?" Matthew asked. He wasn't even going to try to repeat the Japanese-sounding terms that had rolled effortlessly off of Billy's tongue.
" Yaoi and yuri are fantasy versions of homosexuality. They're both poignant and downright hilarious at the same time," Billy said, his grin wide. "There are tons of different series featuring same sex relationships, and since it's growing past a niche market, I've been writing about them in most every issue."
"Oh." Matthew was both confused and amazed. It was fascinating, really, to hear something like that. All the anime he'd seen so far had been general action shows, nothing to do with anything remotely sexual though Tyler had mentioned that stuff like that existed.
"Sorry, am I making you uncomfortable... Matthew?" Billy winced and looked like he was about to bolt away.
Matthew shook his head. "This is just all new to me."
"Well," Billy said with a smile, "you're welcome to stay here as long as you'd like to read that. I need to make sandwiches and clean behind the counter, but... if you have questions, just ask me."
Matthew nodded, watching as Billy departed for the back room of the shop.
With his mind a little more open and excited, Matthew flipped back to the front of the magazine and started reading again. After a couple of minutes, he dug into his other bag and pulled a red pen free from the package he'd purchased.
His notes and underlines soon marked page after page. He had so many questions that he didn't want to yell out every single one. But the vocabulary used often confused him and some of the references, no, most of the references flew straight over his head.
'Twin Signal' sounded quite interesting, as did 'Eat-man' and just about every other series mentioned. Matthew skipped over Billy's article, credited to Billy V. Thompson, in order to check out the video game reviews. But instead of the sort of reviews he expected to find, he was faced with long, detailed articles with tips and tricks interjected periodically. There was a part of a continuing series on game-makers Squaresoft and also some other wacky commentary on bad, bad video games. Some of the content had Matthew close to laughing out loud, such as a review explaining how the writer had spent more time trying to mix a Spice Girls song than they had spent trying to beat a final boss in an RPG.
At the very back was an odd comic that Matthew found it nearly impossible to not like despite not understanding most of it. However the art was bold and angular - it called to him.
Matthew looked up to see Billy standing beside the table holding a tray of food.
"I have a few things marked. I didnít want to bother you," Matthew replied curiously.
"Oh, well ask away. Youíre the only one in here and everything I can think to do has been done."
Billy sat down and grabbed a piece of sandwich from his tray.
"You hungry at all? Itís day old and since it didnít sell I either have to throw it away or eat it. I have two to take home already, so all this is extra."
"I can pay," Matthew replied.
"You rich?" Billy questioned back.
"No, butÖ I canít just take it. Wonít your boss get mad?"
Billy sighed. "Do you see him here, kid?"
"Iím not a kid, Iím nineteen," Matthew replied angrily.
Billy was taken aback. It was not the reaction he'd expected, apparently.
"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that."
"It's... okay," Matthew said slowly as he flipped to the first part of the magazine. "So what's an otaku?"
"It's a Japanese term," Billy said, winking. "In Japanese, it's a socially-shunned anime fan, but here and in the States, it just means someone who's really into anime."
"Are you one?" Matthew asked. It didn't sound like a nice term, but in the context of the magazine, it seemed to be.
"I'd say so," Billy replied after a few seconds of thought and a bite of sandwich. "Are you sure, it's really good tuna."
Returning Billy's smile, Matthew slowly took a slice of sandwich. It really was quite good.
"So you really don't know much about anime?" Billy asked. "That's cool. If you ever want to learn a whole ton of things in about two days, I could introduce you to the people who make that magazine. They stop through every Thursday night for a strategy meeting."
"Maybe," Matthew replied. He wasn't sure, really. He'd have to think on it. But either way, he'd also found a few things he was sure Emily would love, including shows with elves, faeries, and more.
"That's the spirit. So what's your next question?"
Billy held up a finger to signify that he needed a minute to finish chewing his sandwich before he even began to attempt an answer.
Matthew left the coffee shop at the same time Billy did. It was already five in the morning and amazingly enough, Billy lived in the same direction as Quaker House. However, Billy never asked where Matthew was staying.
They were standing on a street corner, not saying anything for a moment.
"I have to go that way," Billy said, pointing with the hand not clutching a carryout bag with more sandwiches in it.
"I'm that way," Matthew replied, pointing another way.
"Then I'll see you around, Matthew Tourist. Visit me again," Billy said before waving and going on his way.
Matthew just stood there a moment, watching Billy go. The traffic light behind him cast a red glow over the street and sidewalk and the second it changed to green, Matthew turned and headed to Quaker House. He wasn't tired yet though. Instead he wanted to write a few things in his notebook, drop off his purchases, and maybe find an internet cafe so he could e-mail Tyler, Audra, his mother, and Emily.
He wanted to look up a few things too, such as many of the terms Billy had explained. He wanted to know volumes more on the subjects, and truthfully, he had all the time in the world at the moment.
One last look back proved one thing - Billy was looking back too, and each was bathed in the last remnants of green light.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!