Summary: The day Rupert was born Clara made a promise to look after her little brother. Over the years she took many opportunities to make good on that promise.
Word Count: ~2400
A/N: This is a prequel to my Misadventures of Ru and Clara series. The Misadventures series is a prequel to my Chronicles of Ripper series.
A/N: Thanks to Littleotter73 for the Beta and for all her help and guidance as I try to get this series off the ground.
Clara sat outside her parents room while her father paced the hall in front of her. At first the screams had been distressing, but she had grown used to it over the eight hours since her mum went into labor. Her mum would be quiet for a few minutes, then she would scream, her dad would pause his pacing. Then they'd repeat. At only ten-years-old she wasn't quite sure of the specifics of childbirth but judging by all the screams coming from the other room it didn't sound at all pleasant.
She heard another scream, louder than before. She watched as her father paused and waited.
She had always wanted a sibling, and her parents told her last summer that she'd finally be a big sister. She watched over the next few months as her mother's stomach swelled, she would place her ear against the bump, hoping to hear her brother or sister moving around. Then one day she placed her ear in its usual place and she felt the baby's foot kick her head. She had been so shocked she had to ask her mum what happened.
The screaming ended and her father started to pace once again, only to stop again at the sound of a baby crying. She shot up to her feet excitedly. "Daddy! Daddy! Baby is here. I want to meet baby."
He gave her a warm smile. "Give your mum a few minutes with baby first, Clara."
She didn't want to wait. She had been waiting, what felt like, forever already.
The doctor came out of the room a few minutes later and Clara stepped up and took her father's hand as the doctor told them about her baby brother. She looked up at her father's face and saw a look she'd only ever seen on his face a few times, when he'd look at her..
"You have a healthy baby boy, Mr. Giles. The midwife is in there now with Mrs. Giles, but you can go in if you'd like." The doctor told her father.
Clara couldn't wait any longer. "Mummy!" She squeezed past the doctor into the room, and hopped onto the bed next to her mum. Her little brother was in her mother's arms, looking up at them.
"Clara, what did I say?" Her father asked, walking into the room. She looked up at him as he froze. He had that look on his face again, and she could see he was looking at her new brother.
"Isn't he adorable, Daddy?" She asked before looking at her brother again. She was curled against her mother's side, her cheek resting on her shoulder. "I can be the one to look after him and protect him. Right, Mummy?" She asked, lifting her head slightly to meet her mother's gaze.
Clara sat on the floor reading when her little brother waddled over to her, his favorite Rupert Bear book clutched in his tiny hands. She could see him out of the corner of her eye and looked up as he plopped down in her lap, forcing her to put her book down.
"You want me to read that to you, Ru?" She asked.
"Yes." The eighteen-month old said, nodding vigorously.
The New Rupert, was well worn from months of use. She had long lost track of how many times she'd gone through it with him. She held the book out so they could both see it as she started on the rhyming couplets of "Rupert and the Friendly Sea Lion", while his little hand explored the page, sometimes covering up the words as she tried to read them, but she didn't pause as she had long remembered every word.
As she finished the last words of "Rupert and the Dragon Pills" she realized that Rupert had fallen asleep at some point. She smiled and set the book aside before picking up her previously abandoned one, being careful not to wake her sleeping brother as he napped against her. He had turned slightly so he was sideways and his cheek was against her chest while his tiny fist clutched her dress.
"Remember, I need you both to be on your best behavior tonight. Quentin Travers is my boss's son and it's imperative that you make a good impression." Her father instructed as they walked out to the car. Her mum had her weekly book club, no children allowed, so Rupert was going to the Council with them, it would be his first visit.
"Yes, Father." Clara replied, rolling her eyes when he turned back toward the car. Every year she had to go into the Council's office for the skill assessment to make sure her training was being administered correctly by her Watcher.
It probably wouldn't be so bad if it were anybody else overseeing the test. Quentin Travers seemed to revel in his authority over the Potentials. There were three others living around London she often spoke to, and they all held a similar view of the younger Travers.
She felt her three-year-old brother's hand slip out of hers as he ran out into the middle of the street. "Rupert!"
She looked to her right and saw a car heading straight for her brother. She heard her father calling her name, but she paid him no mind, her only thought to get Rupert out of the road. She ran over and scooped him up into her arms and hopped back out of the street, just as the car swerved to avoid them.
Her heart was pounding in her chest and Rupert had started crying. She placed a kiss in his hair as she started crying as well, the last minute had been the most frightening in her young life. Their father was there in an instant, fussing over them to make sure they were alright. Rupert's arms were wrapped tightly around her neck as he cried into her shoulder. Even as their father tried to pry Rupert away, he wouldn't let go and only screamed louder, and she was just as hesitant to release him from her grasp. In her arms she knew he was safe.
"Don't worry about it, Ru." Clara assured her brother as he cried. She looked at the book, trying to think of some way to repair it. He told her that he took the book from their dad's office, because he wanted to try and read it. It was far above his reading level, but he liked to get his hands on new books and try anyway. He had an unequaled passion for reading, even at four.
However, he accidentally spilled his juice on it, to make matters worse it was bright red raspberry juice, leaving the pages stained pink. The pages were still wet and stuck together but she knew once they dried they would be crinkled.
She heard him sniffling from the hall and came in to check on him and found him on his bedroom floor with the ruined book open in front of him and he confessed everything. If all that wasn't bad enough she recognized the book from her father's collection, it was one of a kind. And while it was an accident Rupert knew better than to take books from their father's office.
If his parents found out what he'd done he wouldn't be able to go to the London Zoo with his friend Joey, one of the other kids whose parents work for the Council. Rupert had been to the zoo a couple times before, since it was very close to their home in Marylebone, but apparently Joey's parents knew some of the staff and they were going to get the boys into a couple of the exhibits that were closed to the public. He hadn't stopped talking about it all week, so she knew how badly he wanted to go.
"I'll take care of it." She promised. She closed the book and stood up. She gave her brother a reassuring smile before slipping out of his room. She marched to her dad's office, knocked, and waited for his answer.
When she went in she set the book on his desk and explained to him that she had taken the book out of curiosity, and had it in the kitchen and accidentally spilled while she was pouring Rupert some juice. He had been furious, and she would be experiencing the outside world only through the view from her bedroom window for the foreseeable future. As she passed Rupert's open doorway she looked at him and held one finger up to her lips.
She couldn't be more excited to be home. She had been traveling around continental Europe with her parents for almost two months on a Council expedition. There were ten other Potentials with their Watchers on the trip. She was already friendly with three of the other Potentials since they lived in London, but it was nice getting to know some of the others as well.
As nice as everyone was, she missed her brother. She'd never been away from him for more than a few days. Despite their ten year age difference she considered him to be her best friend. So when the trip concluded, her Watcher escorted her back to England, while her parents took a long weekend in Paris.
She was surprised when the taxi pulled up to her maternal grandparents house and her brother was nowhere in sight. She brought her luggage in the house and greeted her grandmum and granddad, then asked them where Rupert was. She found him in his room, sitting on the window bench and staring out at the street.
"I've been gone for two months, don't I get a hug?" She asked, stepping inside. She was taken aback when he looked at her with a glare, his arms crossed over his chest. He was obviously cross with her. "What's wrong?" She asked, moving his feet so she could sit next to him.
He didn't reply, he just kept staring out the window.
"Is this about not being able to come with us on the trip?" She asked, he glanced at her before looking back outside. Her guess was obviously part of it. "I told you, I wanted you there, but it would've been too dangerous. And Grandmum and Granddad wanted to spend some time with you. Didn't you have fun with them?" She had been allowed to call once a week and he had seemed happy enough over the phone, though the last two times she called he had refused to speak to her.
She reached out to push a stray curl back from his forehead, but he pulled away and she sighed. "I'm sorry, Ru." She said before standing up. She made her way to the door then looked back at her brother. "I missed you."
"Clara, I don't want to move." Rupert whined, sitting on the edge of his sister's bed as she packed her belongings.
"I know, Ru, but we don't really get a choice, it's up to Mum and Dad." She explained to her five-year-old brother. Their grandparents had both passed away recently, her grandfather first, then their grandmother two months later and their mum had inherited the family home in Highgate. She understood the appeal, it was a gorgeous home, and it was a safer neighborhood, and it was the house her mum grew up in, but she wasn't looking forward to a new neighborhood when most of her friends lived in this one.
"What if I don't want to?" He asked, looking up at her.
"They're going to do what they think is best for us. That's what makes them parents." She told him. "Remember a few months back you wanted to eat a second slice of cake? They told you no, and when they weren't looking you had another piece anyway, and it made you sick. It's like that. We may want to stay here, but Mum and Dad know what's best for us, even if we don't like it at the time."
She looked up and found her father standing in the doorway. He mouthed a quick "thank you" before moving along.
She might not agree with her parents decision, but their mum hadn't taken her parents deaths, especially so close together, very well. Clara didn't want to cause her more grief, and maybe she could convince Rupert not to be so hard on her either. Not that he meant to, but at five years old this was his first experience with death, and he was still trying to navigate his own feelings about it.
She walked over and picked a book up off her desk and handed it to her little brother. "If you're really good, and you don't bother Mum and Dad too much I'll read you a chapter of this every night. It's one of my favorite books, I wasn't going to read it to you yet, but if you show me you're mature enough I can read it to you now."
She watched as Rupert took the offered book and read the cover. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. She had always read him stories, ever since he was an infant, though up until now it had always been a short stories or picture books they could finish in a single sitting. And now that he was able to read many of those books on his own she hadn't spent as much time reading to him lately.
"As you can see it's not a book of short stories, and there aren't any pictures. It's a real chapter book." She told him. "Do you think you're up for it?"
Rupert hugged the book to his chest and smiled up at her. "I am." He assured her.
"But remember, you have to stop complaining about the move."
"I will." He said quickly.
"Good." She closed the box she had been packing and picked it up and stacked it on another box next to her door.
As she started on another box Rupert was still sitting there, now thumbing through the book.
"You want to start now, don't you?"
"Please?" He begged, looking up at her with wide pleading eyes.
She laughed and took a seat next to him. She was almost done packing, the rest could wait until morning. She took the book and opened to the first page, he was leaning against her with his cheek resting on her shoulder, like he had done so many times before.
"Marley was dead, to begin with..."
I hope you liked the story. If you did, make sure to leave me a review.