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Cabin Pressure Fanfic: You're Always Playing... - CaffieneKittySpace
('i' before 'e' if you're looking for me)
Cabin Pressure Fanfic: You're Always Playing...
Title: You're Always Playing...
Fandom: Cabin Pressure (Radio Plays)
Rating/Warnings: Gen, PG13, Contains polyglot!Douglas, paranoid!Martin, dodgy meta and some words in languages other than English. All my linguistics and regional knowledge is from Google or Wikipedia, so I apologize if I've messed up. Humour.
Word Count: 2300-ish
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or the world of Cabin Pressure.
A/N: I had this idea, based on that thing and, uh. Here it is. [LJ-only]
Summary: Travelling all over the world as they do, they were bound to notice sometime.

You're Always Playing...
by CaffieneKitty

When it first happened, they were all riding in a taxi in Reykjanesbaer. Martin was reviewing the return flight plan, Douglas was staring out the window valiantly ignoring Martin, and Arthur was asleep between them, head resting on Martin's shoulder, snoring softly.

"...so if we get runway 20 for take-off," nattered Martin, "there may be a stiff cross-wind, thirty percent chance of eight knots, gusting up to fifteen. If that happens, they could shift us to runway 11 and if that's..."

Douglas tuned him out. They weren't leaving for 24 hours, plenty of time to worry about the actual cross-wind on the day rather than the hypothetical cross-wind the day before.

A yellow car waited at the upcoming intersection.

It's a good thing Arthur's asleep, or we'd-

"Gulur bíll!" said the cabbie, grinning in the mirror.

Douglas reviewed his rusty Icelandic and stiffened. He can't have said...

"What was that about our bill?" asked Martin, looking up.

"Nothing, that's not what he said. It's nothing to do with us, he just- saw something." Douglas stared at the back of the cabbie's head like it might explode any second, while the cabbie continued grinning and nodding in the mirror.

"Oh. Well. That's fine then." Martin went back to his printouts. Douglas shook his head and wrote the incident off as a bizarre coincidence.

How unlikely was it that they'd meet someone who was probably the only other person in the world aside from Arthur who played 'Yellow Car'?

Astronomical. Once in a lifetime chance.


Douglas had asked about it once, on a surpassingly boring solo flight ferrying a load of very hungover and mostly sleeping students back to Cambridge.

"Arthur, that game you play, with the car-spotting-"

"Yellow Car?"

"Yes, that. Why?"

Arthur's face scrunched up and then he shrugged. "Why not?"

"Fair enough. But why yellow and not a different color? You could change it every day, add a bit of challenge."

"It has to be a yellow car, Douglas," Arthur said, with a tone of blatant obviousness. "Otherwise it wouldn't be Yellow Car."

"Yes, I do realize that Arthur, but why not Red Car or Black Car?"

"Well that's because... uh... Well it's because...." Arthur's face scrunched up again and remained scrunched. "Hunh. I'll have to think about that."



When Douglas and Martin were walking from the airport to their hotel in Kastoria, Greece, it happened again. A yellow Citroen rounded the corner and whizzed past.

"Not playing Arthur's game today, Martin?"


"We were just passed by a particularly-"

"Κίτρινο αυτοκίνητο!"

Douglas and Martin stopped in their tracks. The middle-aged man who had spoken walked past the two stalled pilots with a bag of shopping and a briefcase, smiling to himself.

"Douglas..." Martin said, "my Greek isn't terribly good but did he-"

"Yellow Car. He said 'yellow car'."

"That's what I... but... that's just Arthur's little game, it's not something other people do...." He looked over at Douglas. "Is it?"

"Aside from you, I didn't think so, but I'm starting to wonder."


Douglas was 'doing his logbooks' in the portacabin one afternoon (by using them as a coaster for his tea to get Martin in just the right state of huff to take them away and do them himself) when Arthur bounced in. "I've got it!"

"Well, whatever you do, don't let it escape."

"No! Yellow Car, you asked me about it a while ago. I might be able to answer you now."

Douglas sat up straighter and removed his tea from the pile of official CAA documentation. Since he'd idly asked Arthur about it over a month ago, they had had no less than five 'Yellow Car Incidents' in different cities around the world, including the first in Iceland. None of which Arthur had been around to witness. "Please, do."

Arthur took a position in front of the desk as though he was about to deliver the cabin safety announcement. This didn't bode well.

"It only counts if it's a yellow car, because, well. Remember when you and Martin pointed out that yellow cabs really shouldn't count when we went on that trip to New York?"

"Yes." Between Martin and himself being deafened and Arthur shouting himself hoarse at the fleets of yellow taxis in New York City, desperate measures had to be taken.

"That got me thinking."

"Oh dear."

"No, it's all right. See, cabs don't count because if they're yellow, they have to be yellow! Like trucks. Yellow trucks don't count because they have to be yellow so people get out of their way. And they aren't cars. Yellow cabs don't count because they're yellow so people see them and can catch one." Arthur squinted up at the portacabin ceiling for a moment. "Not sure how that works, yellow means go away and come here at the same time-"

"That's all right, Arthur." They might be here all day if they went up that alley. "Go on."

"Right! So those kinds of cars and such being yellow, there's a reason for it. Same with red and black cars. People choose those colours because everyone knows red and black cars go faster."

Douglas refrained from disputing the effect of paint colour on vehicular momentum in favour of letting Arthur continue his ramble to wherever he was getting to, hopefully some insight into the apparent sudden upsurge of the mindless car game worldwide.

"White and brown and metally-gray and blue and the rest," Arthur ticked colours off on his fingers one by one, "they're mostly that colour because those are the colours the cars usually come in and no one cared enough to make them be something different. They're all brilliant colours, but they're all just colours the car makers picked. Whereas yellow cars, yellow cars don't have any reason for being yellow! Someone's chosen to make their car yellow just because they can! It's like smiling for no reason other than you've got nothing more important to do with your face than smile!" Arthur threw his arms wide with enthusiasm.

Douglas wasn't sure what expression was on his own face; likely the one he usually had when presented with a heaping dose of Arthurian philosophy in one sitting. A cross between 'aghast' and 'bemused' perhaps. Apple-juggling suddenly seemed much more reasonable.

Arthur grinned at Douglas, arms still held wide. "Did that help?"

"...yes... and no."

"Oh." Arthur's arms dropped. "Can I help fix the 'no' bit?"

"...I'm not sure. I'll get back to you on that."

"Righty-oh!" Arthur bounded back out of the portacabin.

It still doesn't explain in the slightest why people are suddenly playing it in Iceland or Hong Kong or anywhere else though.


In three separate areas of Barcelona, while Carolyn and Arthur had been off at the beach and Douglas and Martin roved the town, there had been a chipper "Coche amarillo!" at the sight of cars of a certain hue. Each time, Martin had jumped as though hit with an electric prod. After the third occurrence, the pilots had returned to their room across the hall from Carolyn and Arthur's for the night and locked the door.

There's a reasonable explanation for this. Douglas thought, staring up at the darkened ceiling. Of course there is. Martin's heard them saying it too, so at least I'm not going mad.

"Douglas?" Martin's voice came hesitantly across the room in the dark.


"These 'Yellow Car' incidents. What if..."

"What if what, Martin?"

"What if it's all code!" Martin said in a burst.


"What if- Now I know this sounds- well- but what if Arthur is actually a secret agent, and all the yellow car business is some secret coded method of passing information?"

I may need to rethink using Martin as a barometer for my own sanity. Douglas propped himself up on an elbow and looked over at Martin's bed. "Martin, firstly, I'm not sure how much information you expect can be passed by the words 'Yellow Car' in any language, and secondly, it's Arthur."

Martin's hands waved shadows in front of the faint light from the curtains. "Maybe it's all a sham, the, the Arthurness. I mean, really, he's the last person anyone would suspect of being a spy, so that might mean that.... he's obviously the most likely person... to be a spy?"

"How does your mind work Martin?"

Martin's hands dropped from view. "It's just a thought."

"That it is. So is training a herd of wildebeest to tap-dance, an undertaking which is just as likely to come to pass as our Arthur being a spy for anyone, ever."

"Never mind! Forget I said anything!" Martin rolled over in a gust of blankets.

Still, more of an idea than I've managed to come up with. Douglas thought, returning to staring at the ceiling until he fell into uneasy sleep.


Douglas stayed behind aboard Gerti when they returned home from Barcelona, leaning against the galley doorway and watching Arthur tidying the plane.

"Did you hear about this Yellow Car thing somewhere, Arthur?" Douglas raised his voice to be heard. "Who taught you about it?"

Arthur paused in his hoovering. "I don't think anyone did. It's just something I've always done."

"It's not an Australian game?"

"No, no, you can play yellow car everywhere!"

So we're discovering. "Have you explained the game to many people?"

Arthur turned the vacuum off. "Well, I've told people about it of course. Fliss and Pobs at the pony club, the other stewards I meet, taxi drivers, passengers who ride with me and Mum in Mum's car, though Mum's asked me not to play it around passengers anymore."

I can see why.

"I've explained it to anyone that asks, really. But then Mum started getting questions on the office phone about it and wasn't happy, so I made a video on how to play it and put it on the Internet." Arthur's face fell. "But it got sick."

"Got sick? How do you mean it got-" Douglas's eyes widened. "Do you mean it went viral?"

"Yeah, that. It's sad, really. I mean only a few people ever watched it, of course, but then the counter-thing went bananas, going up by thousands and thousands, and people kept telling me it had gone viral, and I kept apologising and saying I didn't know how to make it get well again." Arthur sighed and turned the vacuum back on to resume hoovering. "As it turns out, you can't give a video Lemsip. I tried!"

Douglas opened his mouth and then closed it again, deciding it was better not to ask.


A little girl with ribbons in her hair near the Villa Communale Aquarium in Naples: "Auto gialla!"

An elderly man on a bench outside the smallest airport in Shanghai: "Huángsè qìchē!"

A mother with a child in tow on Rua Dias Ferreira in Rio de Janeiro: "Carro amarelo!"

Dozens and dozens of people all over the world. Douglas became more curious. Martin became more twitchy.


Douglas finally had a chance to track Arthur's video down on YouTube while at an Internet cafe in Abbotsford. 'How to play Yellow Car, by Arthur Shappey.'

Twelve million hits.

"Good Lord."


The final time it happened that Douglas bothered keeping track of was in Hungary. Arthur was, for the first time since they had started noticing the 'Yellow Car Incidents', present and awake.

The three of them were eating a late pre-flight breakfast in a small cafe near their hotel in Gyula. Arthur was staunchly working his way through a plate of bundáskenyér while wittering cheerfully about being hungry in Hungary as he did every time they flew there. He had his back to the rainy window on the other side of the cafe, when a flash of yellow passed by. Douglas tensed.

"Sárga autó!" said a girl sitting by the window.

Martin nearly choked on his véres hurka on toast.

"Ó, hvar?" said the other girl at the table, twisting around to see where her friend pointed.

"Ooo, almost missed it!" said Arthur, twisting around to look too. "We need to sit closer to the windows when we go out!"

Douglas and Martin blinked beneath very raised eyebrows.

"Missed what, Arthur?" Douglas asked cautiously.

"The yellow car!" Arthur pointed toward the window. "If we sit closer to the window next time then-"

"But!" Martin spluttered. "Buh- how- that-"

"Arthur," Douglas drawled casually, interrupting Martin's splutter. "I didn't know you knew Hungarian that well."

"Well I don't, really, except the standard things like 'Where's the bathroom?' 'Where's the airport?' and 'No, thank you, but I'm flattered for the offer.' Though I don't know that I've got those right. I've gotten some awfully funny looks."

"So... How do you know what the girl at the window said?"

"Well, they're playing Yellow Car," said Arthur with a shrug. "Lots of people do, funny I didn't notice before. Really though, Yellow Car doesn't need translating, does it?"

Martin resumed choking on his breakfast.

Douglas tilted his head and watched the two Hungarian girls giggling into their bottles of Márka.

"No, I suppose it doesn't."

- - -
(that's all)

Post A/N: No, John Finnemore's Yellow Car vid didn't go viral, and it doesn't actually have twelve million hits. Also, since I was looking up so many versions anyway, here is a list of what "Yellow Car!" is in lots of other languages in case such a list doesn't already exist.

Tags: , , , , ,
Current Mood: nervous nervous
Current Music: Ottery St. Mary

32 comments or Leave a comment
inamac From: inamac Date: August 23rd, 2012 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
That was wonderful - like having a special episode for my unbirthday!

I am particularly fond of Douglas I may need to rethink using Martin as a barometer for my own sanity.

Wanders of to give the video another hit. Because now it has to go viral.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy Unbirthday! Glad you liked it and thank you for the rec!
shiv5468 From: shiv5468 Date: August 23rd, 2012 07:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Snerfle Inamac sent me, and it was a delight.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
dreamy_dragon73 From: dreamy_dragon73 Date: August 23rd, 2012 10:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Here via inamac.
I love this! It's delightful.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad you liked it!
daasgrrl From: daasgrrl Date: August 23rd, 2012 10:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Because I don't think I've actually used the expression for a CP fic yet, and because it needs to be said - this is brilliant! Apart from the sheer joy of international yellow car, and the meta regarding Arthur's video, Martin's convoluted spy theory was hysterical. Loved it XD
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whee! Thank you so much! I'm honoured!
aelfgyfu_mead From: aelfgyfu_mead Date: August 23rd, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Just . . . wow.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
ladyiapetus From: ladyiapetus Date: August 23rd, 2012 01:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Martin's hands dropped from view. "It's just a thought."

"That it is. So is training a herd of wildebeest to tap-dance, an undertaking which is just as likely to come to pass as our Arthur being a spy for anyone, ever."

I've never been more tempted to icon anything in my life than I have by this piece of dialogue right there. Awesome fic.

Edited at 2012-08-23 01:02 pm (UTC)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you can get it all to fit legibly, or find an image of tap-dancing wildebeest, go for it. :-D
hurry_sundown From: hurry_sundown Date: August 23rd, 2012 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cannot. Stop. Laughing.

(And planning to play Yellow Car with my kid this weekend.)
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
A sign of a good parent, truly. :-)
innie_darling From: innie_darling Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is terribly cute.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad you liked it!
chthonya From: chthonya Date: August 23rd, 2012 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also here via inamac, and like her loved the line I may need to rethink using Martin as a barometer for my own sanity.

I'm not too familiar with the source material but even so it made me smile.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 23rd, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I thought the story might be a bit too deep in Cabin Pressure for people who don't know the series well to enjoy, so I'm really glad you liked it regardless!
earlgreytea68 From: earlgreytea68 Date: August 24th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC) (Link)
This was brilliant. I loved it. I especially loved Martin's theory that Arthur might be a spy. That whole scene with Douglas was just perfect.

"I've got it!"

"Well, whatever you do, don't let it escape."

Also, perfect? Your Douglas.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 24th, 2012 05:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you very much!
lizvogel From: lizvogel Date: August 24th, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I may need to rethink using Martin as a barometer for my own sanity.

Indeed. And poor Arthur, with his "viral" video. (And poor Arthur's computer -- I don't know what Lemsip is, but I can't imagine introducing it via either screen or port is an IT-approved idea.)

Brilliant job on everyone's voices. I'm still snickering!

Here via the cabin_pressure comm, incidentally.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 25th, 2012 09:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know which country you're in to frame a reference, but Lemsip is usually a hot medicated drink (like NeoCitran), and it would certainly not agree with computer equipment. :-)
From: mildly_neurotic Date: August 25th, 2012 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
This is sort of brilliant. LOL
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 25th, 2012 09:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, I think?
ciaranbochna From: ciaranbochna Date: August 29th, 2012 08:06 am (UTC) (Link)
This is...there needs to be a more perfect word than brilliant. Stupendous!!! That will do for now. I haven't hugged your lovely brain in a while so...*hugs brain* All the voices, spot on, just fantastic.
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: August 29th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aw, thanks, my brain needed a hug especially after yesterday.

What do you think of the Cabin Pressure series so far?
impulsereader From: impulsereader Date: September 9th, 2012 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
This story is, quite appropriately, absolutely brilliant!

You've really got the voices of all three characters spot on.

I smiled every time there was a Yellow Car incident!

Martin's spy theory made me giggle since I'm about to set him, Douglas and Arthur loose into a Sherlock story which involves spies of all shapes and sizes.

I loved this, great work! Thanks for sharing!
caffienekitty From: caffienekitty Date: September 11th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
32 comments or Leave a comment