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FIC: TBC: Eyes and Ears, Chapter Two

Summary: Carl the janitor: more than meets the eye? A run in with our favorite nerd changes everything. Takes place the Thursday before detention.
Rating: T/PG-13 for mild language and adult themes.

Chapter One


Chapter Two: Everybody’s Got Something to Hide


After throwing the garbage bag into the dumpster, Carl reentered the building through the side door that led to the south hallway. He made a quick stop at his supply closet for more trash bags, then continued down the hall to the cafeteria. When he turned down the next corridor, he noticed a boy standing in front of one of the lockers, spinning the dial over and over again as though he couldn’t remember the combination. Carl recognized him as the blonde boy from the Physics table. 

“You forget the combination?” 

The boy jumped back as though he’d been electrocuted. When he looked up, Carl noticed that he had tears running down his cheeks. “You okay?” 

The boy nodded, brushing them away. “I was just, you know… trying to get a book.” 

Carl nodded, though he could tell that the boy was lying, or at least hiding something. “You need some help with that?” 

The boy shook his head a little too quickly. “No, it’s okay. I just… I can get it.” He turned back to the locker and started spinning the dial again, around and around and around. He pushed up on the handle, but the door didn’t move. The boy paused for a moment, then slammed the palm of his hand against the locker door in frustration. 

“Hey, listen, kid. I got a bolt cutter in my closet that’ll cut that lock right off. I can get you a new one, too.” 

The boy stared at his locker for a moment and didn’t answer. Finally, he looked over at Carl and nodded mutely. Carl smiled and started leading him down the hall. “So, what’s your name?” 

The boy wiped his nose with his sleeve. “Brian.” 

“Hello, Brian. I’m Carl.” He stuck out his hand and the boy shook it uncertainly. “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” 

Brian shrugged. “I guess.” 

Carl unlocked the door to the supply closet and pulled it open. The closet was actually about half the size of a classroom with shelves lining the back wall and stacks of chairs along the sides. Carl grabbed a three chairs from the stack and placed them on the ground. “Go ahead. Have a seat.” 

Brian furrowed his brow in confusion. “What about the lock?” 

Carl ignored him and sat down, using the one of the other chairs for a footrest. “You like ham and Swiss?” He grabbed a rumpled brown bag from one of the shelves behind him and peeked inside. “I’ve also got some crackers, a banana and some Tootsie Rolls. Take your pick.” 

Brian narrowed his eyes as he took a seat in the remaining chair. “Is that your lunch?” 

“Of course.” He lifted an eyebrow. “What, you think us janitors don’t eat?” 

Brian’s eyes widened. “No, I didn’t… I mean, I don’t-” 

Carl laughed. “Here. You look like a Ham and Swiss kind of guy.” He handed him half of the sandwich before taking a large bite of his own piece. Brian held the offering tentatively, as if worried that it might be poisoned or something. Finally, he took a small bite. 

“So, what grade are you in?” 

Brian swallowed. “Um, I’m a sophomore.” 

“You’re in the Physics Club?” 

“Yeah. How did you know?” 

“I’ve seen you before.” Carl took another bite of his sandwich and swallowed it down. Both of them chewed silently for a few minutes until Brian finished off his half of the sandwich. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and glanced up at Carl nervously. 

“Um, thanks for the, you know, the sandwich, but I should really be-” 

“You like music?” 

Brian, who was half out of his seat by then, hesitated, then sat back down. “Um, yeah, of course.” 

Carl stood and walked over to one of the shelves lining the wall. He pulled forward an old tape deck covered in paint splatters. “You a Beatles fan?” 

“Um, I don’t know. I’ve never really-” 

“Listen to this one. It’s genius.” 

Carl pushed the play button and turned up the volume a notch. Brian glanced nervously at the half-open door as the sounds of an orchestra burst through the tiny speakers. “Um, are we allowed to do that?” 

Carl shrugged and took his seat again. “No one’s around. Besides, most of us old fogies grew up on this stuff.” He motioned towards the stereo. “So, what do you think?” 

“Um, what are they saying?” 

Carl started humming along and chimed in when they got to the chorus. “I am the walrus…” 

Brian narrowed his eyes. “It’s about walruses?” 

“No.” 

“But he said...” 

Carl picked up his banana and started peeling it. “It’s not about anything. It’s just gibberish.” 

“Gibberish?” 

“Yeah, it’s not supposed to make sense.” 

Brian glanced over at the tape player in bewilderment. “Why isn’t it supposed to make sense? That doesn’t…” 

“Make sense?” Carl smirked. “There are a lot of things in life that don’t make sense. This is just one of them.” 

Brian shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the song carried on around him. “I am the walrus…” Carl dug into his lunch sack and offered Brian a Tootsie roll. “Here.” 

“Thanks.” Brian accepted the candy and unwrapped it very slowly, still absorbed in his thoughts. Carl watched him closely, wondering what was going on in his head. He seemed so preoccupied, like there was something he just couldn’t stop thinking about no matter how hard he tried. Something big. 

“So, what do you do in your spare time?” 

Brian blinked. “Um, well, I’m in the physics…” He counted off on his fingers. “…Physics Club and the, uh, the Latin Club and the Math Club.” 

“That’s a lot of clubs.” 

Brian nodded solemnly. “They look good on college applications.” 

Carl let out a little chuckle. “Yeah, I know.” 

Brian didn’t catch the ironic tone to his voice. “I’m the president of the Latin Club, so that’s especially going to look good to colleges because it shows that I can, like, be a good leader and stuff.” 

Carl smiled wanly, wondering if being president of the student body had anything to do with getting his own acceptance letters. “So, what else do you do?” 

Brian looked confused. “What do you mean?” 

“I mean, do you play sports or music or what?” 

Brian paused. “Well, I’m not allowed to play sports because my mom was always worried that I would get hurt.” 

“What about hobbies then?” 

Brian blushed. “Actually, I’m a philatelist. That means that I-” 

“You collect stamps. How many you got?” 

“127.” 

Carl whistled. “Any of ‘em worth anything?” 

He nodded. “A couple of them were my grandfather’s, so they’re really old. Most of the others belonged to my dad.” 

“You and your dad do that stuff together?” 

Brian nodded. “Yeah, he loves it. And for me, you know, it’s the only time that we really get to…” He shifted his jaw uncomfortably. “…that we get to hang out.” 

Carl watched him closely. “Does he work a lot?” 

“Yeah.” 

“What does he do?” 

“He’s an accountant.” 

Carl felt his breath catch in his throat. “Oh.” He paused. “That’s… that’s hard work.” 

Brian nodded distractedly. Carl pushed his own feelings aside and focused on the boy sitting in front of him. “Is that what you want to do?” 

Brian shrugged. “I don’t know.” 

“What are you good at?” 

“Science, I guess.” 

“Do you like school?” 

“Um, yeah. Of course, I…” He paused. “I like learning new things.” 

“You make good grades?” 

At this, Brian froze and Carl knew that he’d hit the nail on the head. He watched Brian’s eyes flicker down to his shoes. “Um… most of the time.” 

“Yeah?” Carl paused. “You on the honor roll?” 

“Um, yeah.” 

“I’ll bet your parents are proud of you.” 

Brian took a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess so,” he said quietly. 

Carl nodded slowly. “That’s…” He clenched his jaw, remembering the proud look on his father’s face the day he graduated from Northwestern University. He swallowed the memory and looked back up at Brian. “That’s good.” 

Brian nodded, though he seemed about a million miles away from the conversation. Carl leaned back in his chair and he ate his way through a handful of crackers as The Magical Mystery Tour carried on in the background. After a few minutes, he stood up and turned the tape off. Brian jumped slightly, the silence jerking him out of his thoughts. His eyes flickered around the room nervously. “Um, I need to go.” 

Carl nodded. “Sure.” 

Brian took a deep breath. “Can you still cut my lock off?” He paused. “’Cause there’s something I need to get out of it.” 

“Sure.” Carl grabbed the bolt cutters from his tool kit and an extra lock from a box on the shelf. “It’ll just take a minute and-” 

The bell rang, cutting him off. Brian’s mouth dropped open as he glanced out into the hallway. “Oh, God. I…” 

“Hey, it’s alright. Did you need something from it right away?” 

Brian sighed. “No. There was just…” His voice became very hollow. “… there was just something I needed to do.” 

Carl nodded slowly. “Well, you probably don’t have time now, but I can replace the lock for you during class and leave the combination stuck to the back.” 

Brian glanced up. “Really?” 

“Sure.” 

“So, I can use my locker after this period?” 

“That’s generally how it works.” 

Brian nodded. “Okay.” He grabbed his backpack from the floor slung it over one shoulder. “Um, thanks, you know… for the sandwich and the music and all.” 

Carl grinned. “No problem.” He followed Brian into the hallway and watched him walk down the hallway. When he turned into a classroom, Carl shook his head and leaned against the wall. A few students said hello as they walked by and he returned the greetings, though his brain was somewhere else entirely. There was something bothering him, but he couldn’t really put his finger on exactly what it was. 

After a while, Carl remembered that he’d left his trash bin sitting all by itself outside of the cafeteria, which hadn’t been cleaned yet. Whistling ‘I Am the Walrus’, he locked the closet door and walked back to the cafeteria, where he had about fourteen hundred shitheads to clean up after.


A/N: I quoted some lyrics from ‘I Am the Walrus’ by the Beatles.

Chapter Three
Tags: character: carl, fic: eyes and ears, fic: tbc
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