This update is waaaaay over due. Life just sneaks up on you guys, and then it pounces.
I do not own ROTG.
How to Make a Believer Believe
Best Time of the Year
"You'll have to have the essay done by the time we get back from break," Mr. White scribbled the homework for break on the board. "And numbers five through twenty on the response..."
"If I were to toss this," Mike leaned back in his chair, shutting one eye and aiming a pencil at Mr. White's behind. "Bet ten bucks I'll make it?"
I frowned, looking up from where I had been gazing dumbly out the window. I eyed the distance and scrunched up my nose. "Five bucks."
Mike's lips twisted in a grin and he raised a brow. "Twenty."
I looked at him in surprise, raising a brow at him. "You're going to lose that pretty easy, you know."
"Never know till you try." Mike smirked, and I rolled my eyes. It was terrible to bet like this, especially when there was a slim chance he might actually make it. Besides, money didn't come easy, and since Christmas was barely a week away, I had to save up for gifts.
Mike's grin widened and he chucked the pencil with deadly accuracy. But instead of hitting Mr. White's behind, it rammed into the back of his bald head.
I slapped a hand over my mouth, keeping back the snicker that wanted to escape as Mike sulked, sliding out his wallet and placing a twenty dollar bill on my desk. "Shoot, guess I lost."
A few snickers broke from the room, and Mr. White stood at the front of the room, deadly quiet. I nearly slammed my head against my desk, struggling not to laugh as the blackette beside me shook his head sadly. But the corners of his lips twitched upwards as he struggled to refrain from laughing as well.
"Who," Mr. White turned, face a blotchy red, and his eyes searched the room like a bird of prey, fingers twitching as he grasped the pencil tightly in his hand. "Threw that?"
"Idiot," I whispered, feeling my cheeks hurt from the strain of trying not to smile. "You're dead!"
"I bet I can out run him," Mike winked, a cheeky grin touching his lips. "Betcha fifty."
A frown suddenly pulled over my lips, and I eyed him quizzically. "Since when do you toss your money about, rich boy?"
Mike's eyes flashed, and something hit me. My good mood suddenly soured and I narrowed my eyes at the boy. "Mike?"
"Yes, my lovely Liam?"
"What did I say to you about stuff like this?" I handed the twenty back to him, but Mike drew away from it as if it were a live snake. "Mike! I can handle things on my own—I told you guys not to butt in."
"I wasn't trying to do anything!" Mike held his hands up innocently. "You made it clear last time I stole your bills—it was a fair bet, Liam."
"I have a job, I can make the money on my own." I murmured, touched by his kindness but annoyed at the same time. We were getting by alright, a little shy of struggling, but it was all hard work, and I refused to be that burden on my friends. "I'm fine."
The gray eyed boy frowned, and stubbornly put his wallet away, refusing to take the twenty back. I groaned in frustration, wanting to crumple the bill and toss it at him, but a voice suddenly spoke up from the front of the room.
"It was Liam, Mr. White." My eyes snapped to the head of curly caramel locks, and Jessica turned in her seat, looking at me almost in disappointment.
Mr. White's eyes landed on me and I gaped in disbelief—I'd been pinned for stuff before, but this was outright injustice! As funny as it was, I was mildly surprised Jessica would do something so spiteful, since she normally just let me be with the occasional snooty remark if we ever crossed paths.
But Mr. White had locked on his target, and he was furious, clearly remembering the firecracker incident long ago. "Jostin." He practically spat my last name, and I recoiled, feeling my eyes narrow.
My parents were great, respectable people, and their name wasn't one to be spat upon.
Mike was rigid beside me, eyes narrowed and dark, and he had that arrogant look on his face, one that I didn't like seeing. The boy was usually so light hearted, and seeing him like this left a bad taste in my mouth.
"It was Strider." I blinked, turning sharply as green eyes, like soft moss or emeralds met Mr. White's glare evenly, and I resisted the urge to gape again as Jason straightened his back, squaring his shoulders.
Jessica had turned around just as sharply, eyes on Jason like knives. The all-star kept his gaze even, and she had a look of disbelief on her face. Mike was gaping openly beside me, and Mr. White looked like he just wanted to give someone a detention.
Why would he... I shook my head, putting a grin on my lips. "My bad, Mr. White—"
"I just wanted to see if pencils had good projectile." Mike cut in swiftly, and I stared at him, wide eyed. "Guess they do."
The class snickered at this, and Mr. White's red face turned bloody as he stomped over to his desk, scribbling out a detention. "You musty think you're so funny, Strider. Well, we'll see what your parents have to say about it."
"If they're even around," Mike muttered under his breath, and I felt a surge of affection for my friend. These guys were too good for me sometimes. I would've taken the blame without problem, but stupid Mike had to be the knight he depicted himself as and shoulder it.
My fingers brushed his, and he flashed me a cocky grin. I flashed him a warm smile in return, and I flicked my gaze back to Jason, startled to find that it was on me.
Our eyes met for a moment and then he glanced away, his brows furrowed slightly as he seemed to scribble down notes.
Puzzled at his actions, I made a mental note to confront him about it later when I had the chance. Though it seemed he was trying to do something nice, pinning it on my friend wasn't the best way to do it.
Besides...I turned forward, ignoring the fact that Jessica was glaring daggers into my head as Mike folded his detention into a paper plane beside me. I have other things to worry about.
What should I get William? I frowned, gazing at the toys in the display window and scratching the side of my beanie. I don't think he wants toys... I could always get him something from the store... But I could always just get him some books on discount...
I sighed, watching my breath materialize before me as I turned from the store and trudged down the icy streets of Burgess, clutching the bag in my hand as I passed by people out shopping for the holiday season as well. I should buy some flour for cookies...
I reached my free hand into my pocket, shuffling around till I grabbed the crumpled paper and stared at the contents. I didn't like making lists, since it seemed a bit lame, but I was always forgetting something, and the saint Lily was, she could only put up with it for so long.
I'm getting Leo the cookbook... I checked my bags, marking off what I had. I got Mike the CD... And I can't pick up Rey's gift till later...
Lily wouldn't be that hard to shop for, since her sweater had ripped the other day, Liam knew she saw one that would fit the old woman in a boutique down the street. Jenny would be easy, since she was a coffee addict, but Willie...
Oddly enough, even though he was the closest person to her, Liam was at a lost as to what to get him. Willie was like any kid who loved toys, but he saw better use of his time by reading or helping Lily, and what made it harder was how mature and gentle the boy was.
Gotta top Mike's tickets to the zoo. I blew out a sigh, looking up at the clouded sky as a cold breeze dusted my face. But what?
"Liam?" I froze, turning around curiously and blinking at the head of blonde hair and emerald eyes, a surprised look on their face. "What're you doing here?"
"Uh," I glanced to the bags in my hands. "Shopping?"
Jason blushed, laughing slightly as he walked forward, falling into place beside me. "Well, yeah. I guess I meant something like 'nice seeing you here' or..."
"Nice seeing you too." I replied simply, curious as to why he was here as well. "What're you doing here?"
"Christmas shopping," Jason grinned, holding up a bright pink bag with lighter pink tissue paper inside. I stared at it for a moment when his face flushed once more. "F-For my sister!"
"Oh," I nodded, grinning slightly as he let out a sigh of relief. "Hey, why'd you do that earlier?"
"Stop Tinkers and pin it on Mike."
Jason paused for a moment, looking at me in almost faint amusement. "You don't beat around the bush do you?"
I stared at him curiously, unmoving, and Jason sighed, stuffing his free hand into his pocket as he gazed down on the floor. "It wasn't right of Jessica to blame it on you."
"I wouldn't have minded," I murmured, and Jason looked at me sharply, green eyes wide with disbelief.
"But she can't—"
"I would've been doing it for Mike." I clarified, meeting his gaze evenly. "Not for her."
Jason's mouth twisted downwards and he looked displeased, but then a small smile pulled at his lips in a soft kind of way. "You're pretty cool, Liam."
I opened my mouth to protest, but Jason shook his head. "You don't let Jessica walk over you like the other girls would, and here I am, thinking I could be the cool one, you go and one up me by trying to defend your friend."
I stared at Jason in surprise, and he looked at the snow covered ground. There was a strange expression on his face, and his eyes were almost...sad looking. I blinked in confusion and the forlorn look was gone, and he was simply smiling at the floor now.
Jason looked at me in surprise and I breathed out a puff of air, looking away and then back at him. "Most people don't really do things like that, but that was pretty cool of you."
I flashed him an impish grin, eyes crinkling softly at the action. "Even if it was my friend you happened to get in trouble."
Jason stared at me for a long moment, and I shifted, feeling slightly uncomfortable. "Was that too cliché?"
"Nah," Jason's bright, minty white grin adorned his face, and his emerald eyes shone brightly. "That sounded pretty cool too."
I shrugged, glancing to the lamppost beside us and gazing at the clock on one of the store windows. I sighed at the time, and turned to say goodbye, but Jason was suddenly before me, and I blinked in surprise as he looked at me almost fiercely.
"Liam," Jason started, and I was silent, waiting for him to continue as he swallowed a lump in his throat. "I—can we...Can we hang out sometime?"
Hang out...? I stared at him, carefully trying to register the words. In my dictionary, hang out was normally playing with William or sitting with Lily. Hanging out was making a mess with the guys and causing trouble, and as of late, hanging out was hanging around with Jack.
Hearing the words leave Jason's lips, I was a bit confused, not sure how to let it compute. "Uh...what?"
"We could go to the movies or the park," Jason explained, rubbing the back of his head furiously. "Uh—the arcade, a stroll—whatever you'd like."
I continued to stare at him quizzically and his cheeks suddenly flushed. "I mean, it doesn't have to be a date or anything...unless—"
"You want to hang out with me?" I faintly recalled him saying something like this before, but it still surprised me, seeing that we've only talked a few times as of late. "Um... are you sure?"
"I said I wanted to get to know you better, remember?" Jason cracked a small smile and his eyes softened. I blinked once more at him, and not knowing what else to do, I offered him a shrug.
"When do you get off work?" Jason questioned, looking excited and I stared at him in bewilderment.
"...I'm free Sunday?"
"Perfect! I'll pick you up after practice—you still live by Mr. Walters right?"
"One o'clock, don't forget!" Jason flashed me a wink and walked forward. Grinning boyishly and waving as he disappeared down the street.
I stared at where he had just stood, a breath of air leaving my lips as I blinked blandly, trying to register what just happened. My brow twitched and I frowned heavily in confusion.
"...what just happened?"
"You just made a date." Jack answered coolly and I flinched, nearly screaming in surprise at the sudden appearance. He flashed me an impish grin and I heaved, panting as he watched Jason's figure disappear. "Thought you didn't really know the guy?"
"I don't." I patted my chest, making sure my heart rate was alright when I turned to him with a slight glower. "What do you mean by date?"
"Isn't that what they call it?" Jack questioned, swirling his staff along the floor and watching the flurry of snow follow. "Seems to me that's what it was."
"He just asked to hang out," I answered, feeling slightly deterred by this news. "And how long have you been here?"
"Well, I couldn't just leave you out here by yourself now, could I?" Jack grinned, slinging and arm over my shoulders. I shivered at the action and he paused, lifting his arm up so that it looked as if it was slung over my shoulder, but not touching.
I paused for a moment, baffled at the action. A flutter of warmth filled me despite his cold presence and I rolled my eyes, nudging his slightly as I continued to walk forward. "You mean you were snooping."
"I was making sure you got home safe!" Jack protested, and I snorted, stuffing my hand into my pocket as the cool air swirled around us. "Are you sure you want to hang around with—"
"He gets straight A's and is captain of a ton of our teams." I drawled, reciting the ongoing lists girls added to Jason's name. "All star of the school, actually voted 'most wanted boyfriend', and if anything, he's one of those kids people die to have around them."
I gave Jack a dull stare, challenging him slightly. "Would you want that, or my good ol' detention buddies?"
Jack pouted, letting his bare feet touch the ground. "Could you not call them that?"
I felt a grin twist up on my lips, and I glanced up at the darkening sky, and then to the rows of shops, sparkling lights making the fallen snow nearly twinkle under their light. Jack was walking beside me, and I paused, looking at him curiously. "What do you do for Christmas?"
"Me?" He looked surprised for a moment, and then a small smile touched his lips. "Well, North is usually going pretty wild making sure things are all in order. But the day after, he likes us to get together for a dinner—"
"That's after," I blinked at him curiously. "What do you do on?"
Jack looked thoughtful, scratching his head with the hook of his staff. "I guess I just go around making sure there's snow where there should be—what's better than a white Christmas, right?"
"That's all?" Somehow, I had thought that Jack himself would be at home with his own family, opening up his own set of presents. But when I wiped away that obvious daydream, it was clear that this was as realistic as it could be.
Did he even have a family?
"Burgess is my actual home, I guess."
"What do you do?" Jack inquired, and I breathed in the cold air, even crispier besides Jack.
"We spend Christmas Eve watching Christmas movies," I pictured the warm moments, falling asleep on the couch and getting firsthand access to the presents in the morning, the pleasant smell of Lily's cooking. "Sometimes we'd fall asleep on the couch too, and in the morning, we'd open presents. The guys are usually over, and we either go hang out in town or just chill at home."
A feeling of warmth enveloped me and I smiled, eyes softening at the past years. "That's about it."
I felt eyes on me, and when I glanced up, Jack was staring at me with a strange expression on his face. There was a look of faint longing and the traces of wistfulness as he cracked a grin, beautiful blue eyes soft. "That sounds nice."
"Jack," I suddenly felt wary, worried that I was treading on thin ice. "Don't you have a family?"
The Guardian paused, looking surprised. Jack's eyes lowered and I opened my mouth to take the question back when he glanced up, looking at the moon shining overhead. "I used to, before I became Jack Frost. I had a little sister, too, but I guess they grew old and passed on while I stayed, you know? All of the Guardians were someone else before they became who they are."
My heart twisted at the nostalgic look on his face, but Jack's grin brightened. "But that's all old news."
"I guess we're kind of alike." I murmured, and Jack blinked at me in surprise when I offered him a small smile. "The first year after mom and dad left, it was hard to go through Christmas, but when we moved in with Grams, things got a lot better."
"Don't you have..." Jack trailed off, his nose scrunching up as he tried to find the right words. "More family? Like aunts or uncles and stuff?"
"I guess we do." I frowned, trying to recall. "I've met a few of them before, most of them I'd first met at the funeral. But my family didn't really approve of my parent's marriage, so they kept their distance and we kept ours. Grams is the only one we know best."
"Didn't approve?" Jack echoed, looking confused, and I cracked a grin.
"My dad was six years older than my mom," I remembered the story by heart now. "He worked at her college as a teacher, and the two fell in love, the family thought it was wrong, stuff like that."
"Six years?" Jack repeated, arching a brow. "They were worked up over that?"
"Not everyone is over three hundred."
My mom had me her third year, and she dropped out to take care of me. So dad kept teaching, but he took on side jobs to meet odds and ends." I shrugged, watching in faint amusement as Jack caused a trail of ice to follow him wherever he walked. "Not much else to the Jostin line."
"They sound like good people."
Jack was silent for a moment, and I found it peaceful, used to bouts of silence like this with Rey. But the snow haired devil suddenly stopped, and I turned, looking at him curiously. "You're not going to get sentimental on me now, are you?"
"Why don't you come with me?" Jack proposed suddenly, looking thoughtful, but his face was slowly morphing into one of determination. "To that dinner I was talking about—Tooth's been dying to meet you after Bunny... Why not?"
I blinked at him in surprise. "Wait, what?"
"They'll love you," Jack grinned, and I knew then that his mind was set. "You probably don't have much to do, right? It's the day after Christmas so it should be fine!"
"But, wait—" I started, but Jack was practically frosting over in excitement. "I mean, these are all Guardians, right? I shouldn't—"
"It'll be fine!"
"Who said I wanted to go?"
"You get to meet the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman! Who wouldn't want to go?"
"I'm not that childish."
"Says the one who wanted to go to the North Pole."
I felt my cheeks flush and Jack grinned triumphantly, ruffling my head. "Don't worry, I won't tell—"
"S-Shut up! I don't want to hear that from you old man!"
"O-Old? I look perfectly young!"
"Over three hundred with white hair? You're real young."
A couple walked by, casting me a worried glance and I blinked, remembering only kids could see Jack. "Ah, I need to get this stuff home and wrap them up..."
"We can fly." Jack floated beside me, a wild grin on his lips as his eyes lit up mischievously. "It'll save time."
"Fat chance." I shuddered at the thought, turning down the corner and passing the alleyways that would lead into the familiar neighborhood. "I'm never getting up into the air with you again."
"But you had fun didn't you—"
"Let's get out of here!" I blinked, a scraggly looking teen running past me. Another two followed, looking college aged as they shot past, looks of fear on their faces.
One bumped into me, sending me stumbling back a few steps and I grimaced, glancing at my scraped hands and back to their retreating figures. "What the hell?"
Jack flicked his staff and a sheen of ice coated the floor, sending the one that had bumped into me tumbling to the ground. The snowy haired boy flashed me a charming smile and I rolled my eyes. "They looked ready to piss their pants."
There was a groan of pain and a thud down the alleyway before us and I narrowed my eyes at the sound. Jack's head followed and he frowned, putting a cold hand on my shoulder. "We should go the other way—"
"They looked like punks from the neighborhood over," I remembered getting into a few scrapes with them before. "Someone's hurt."
"Is this what you normally do?" Jack questioned incredulously. "It's dark, those guys just ran out clearly beaten, and you go investigate?"
"Wouldn't you do the same?"
"They can't see me! Plus, I have powers."
"I've got a knife, good enough." I waved my pocketknife at him, blinking curiously. "The longer we wait, the worse they could be."
Jack blinked, jaw dropping at the sharp object. "H-Hold on, what are you doing with that?"
"It's just a pocketknife. I mean, Mike's even got a baseball bat."
"That's terrible! Those things are bad!"
"But they're useful."
"What would Willie say?"
"It was a present from my dad."
"Guardian of Fun, huh?" I rolled my eyes once more at the teen, edging around the corner with the knife in my hand, eyes narrowed. "Now shush."
"Liam, this isn't—"
I turned the corner, baring my knife, and found myself nearly tripping over someone's arm. Jack quickly caught me, helping me stand, and I gazed around curiously, surveying the clear beat down that had ensued here.
"Someone let off some steam." I mused, glancing from unconscious body to unconscious body. "Damn..."
Jack grumbled behind me, annoyingly close as he pressed into my side, sending shivers running up and down my spine like mad. "I don't like this, Liam—"
Jack broke off when he nearly ran into my back. He cast me a curious look, but I was frozen, eyes wide as my bag slipped from my fingers, hitting the floor with a thud. My breath left me at the sight of dirty blonde hair, matted and stained, and eyes gently shut as they leaned against the wall.
Jack looked up in surprise and I ran forward, getting on my knees and instantly pressing an ear to his chest. There was the steady rhythm of his heart and I let out a breath of relief, shaking his shoulders. "Rey!"
"What happened?" Jack was at my side, ready to help. "Did they do this to him?"
"Wake up!" I shook his shoulders and gray eyes met mine, blinking dazedly before they hardened. "Shit, Rey, what were you doing?"
"Blowing of steam..." He muttered, blinking slowly before he cracked his neck, rising and using the wall as a prop. "More than I expected... I'm fine."
"Like Hell!" I helped the blonde stand, Jack supporting me from behind. "You should've called Mike or Leo—not go alone! You could've called me—"
Rey glanced at me at that, giving me a long look, and I cursed in annoyance. "I can fight to, remember?"
"You don't like too," Rey mumbled, and he reached a hand up to rub his neck, letting out a low groan. "Bastard took a dirty swing."
"There were more than five!" I felt myself ranting at this point, and Rey was just silently taking it all. "Letting off steam—you must've been pretty pissed."
Rey was a wild card. You couldn't control him no matter what you did; he would always do as he pleased. But he wasn't stupid, and he'd have to have been furious if he went and took on so many by himself.
I nearly stopped, blinking as I turned my gaze to Rey. But the teen had his eyes set on the ground, emotion flickering like lights beneath shutters. "What'd he say?"
A dry smirk touched his lips, and Rey scoffed. "Told me to get my ass together and get back home and he'd forgive me. Wants me to go to some school over in England."
"That's pretty far." That might've been one of Rey's longest sentences. I made a mental note of that and added. "Why all of a sudden?"
"Beats me." Rey let out a dark chuckle at his own joke, and I shoved him slightly. "Don't worry about it though."
"How can I not?" I sighed, shaking my head at my friend. "What're you going to do if I wasn't here today?"
"Sleep on the ground."
"You could freeze to death!"
"I'm sure Jack Frost isn't that cruel." Rey muttered, and I nearly tripped at the name.
Jack looked faintly amused, brow arching at the comment. "A bit tempting though."
Rey let out a sigh, and I glanced at the swelling on his cheek and the cuts along his hands and arms. "Thanks."
"Shut up." I grumbled, and I flashed Jack a look of thanks when he held his hand closer to Rey's swelling cheek, an invisible ice bag. I wanted to laugh at the sight, but I shook my head, surprised he was so civil around Rey. "You can crash at my place."
Jack nearly slipped on his own ice and I snorted. Rey glanced at me curiously and I waved him off, a small smile, though exasperated, a smile nonetheless, on my lips.
The shower hummed from down the hall, and I let out a tired sigh, rubbing my eyes as I leaned back on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.
Willie had been excited to see both Rey and Jack, though Lily had nearly fainted at the sight, she shook her head and tossed Rey a blanket. I frowned at a random part of the wall, thoughtful.
Rey's dad, huh? I yawned, rolling over and grabbing the pile of mail Lily had left on my desk for me. I sifted through some of the bills and ads and let my mind wander.
But a thick pamphlet caught my eye and I paused, eyes skimming over the title.
Carrington's Foster Home.
A surge of anger filled me and I felt a scowl touch my lips as I quickly ripped the pamphlet in two without a second thought, tossing it into the trash. As long as Lily was with us, we'd be fine, and I turned eighteen next year anyway, so they'd have even more trouble trying to take Willie away from me.
I'd never let that happen.
The final piece of mail was a letter, and as my anger was cooling down, it was replaced by a feeling of coldness as I stared at the letter in disbelief.
My eyes reread the sender five times, and I felt my breath leave me.
My fingers shook and parts of my body ached, the memory still fresh in my mind. I swallowed the lump in my throat and silently, I crumpled the paper in my hand, dropping it into the trash can as if any second, it would pop out and come at me. My body refused to stop shaking and I cursed, taking in a deep breath as I shook my head.
Today wasn't a good day it seemed.
"Why so tense?" I nearly jumped when Jack peered over my shoulder, looking curiously into the trashcan. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"And been beaten by it." I rolled over, casting all thoughts of the letter into the back of my mind. "You're still here?"
"You make it sound like I should leave." Jack pouted, and his gaze strayed to my door, where I knew he was thinking about the person at the end of the hall. "Is it really alright to let him stay here?"
"Rey would do the same."
Jack said nothing more, and for that, I was grateful. I peered up at him curiously, wanting nothing more than to take my mind off the letter.
"You really care for them, don't you?"
I looked up at him in surprise. He can't read minds, right? "Who?"
"Your friends." Jack looked slightly put off for a moment, and he idly watched a mini blizzard appear on my floor.
I blinked at him, wondering what he was trying to get at. But there was this childish look of envy on his face, that I nearly laughed, feeling my brows furrow as a smile turned up my lips. "They are my friends."
"I guess..." He really was pouting now, and I rolled my eyes, sitting up and setting a pillow in my lap.
"I'd do that same for you."
Jack froze, nearly falling off the staff he'd been sitting on. I laughed, feeling my bad mood lift as he looked at me, clearly startled. "Wait, what?"
"I didn't hear anything." I mused, grinning impishly as Jack came closer, blue eyes wide as he searched my face.
"But earlier you said something!"
"Liam! You did—what was it?"
"Huh, I'm not sure. I'm really forgetful you know."
"You're terrible! I'm telling North to put you on the naughty list."
"I'm so scared."
"I'm going to follow you to work and freeze the store."
"As if—you jerk! Don't even think about it!"
"Sorry, couldn't hear you~"
"Jack! You wouldn't dare!"
"I wonder what Willie's doing..."
"Don't change the subject, you devil!"
Ah, it feels great to finally update for this story again. Thankfully, it wasn't quite three months this time.
Christmas is finally coming up! :D And with that, we also see that there's clearly more to Liam than we thought. Hopefully the bonding between Liam and Jack turns away the fact that it took me so long to update...heh.
And I'm thinking that after Christmas, I can get the initial plot for this story actually moving. You can't have it be Rise of the Guardians with just your everyday drama now, can you? :D
Hope you all enjoyed!