A/N: Oh yeah. Last time I forgot about That Thing.
That Thing where you claim a disclaimer. That Thing.
So here it is:
I'm just a fanfiction writer, and that's good.
I will never legally own any segment of Rise of the Guardians, and that's not bad.
There's no one I'd rather be than me.
I'm crouched over on a tree branch, eagerly scouting out for the familiar brown mess of hair from the mass of teenagers.
I mean, I know Jamie's in high school now, but I don't think I'll ever think of him as one of… those guys. Those guys in that awkward phase where they've stopped blowing bubbles and making snow angels, but aren't quite at that point where they should be wearing those penguin business suits and grumbling about adult stuff – Like taxes. I never understood taxes. I think Jamie tried to explain it to me once, but I started zoning out and it just went through one ear and out the other. I wonder when he found the time to learn about all that kind of stuff –
Snapped out of my thoughts, I almost fall from my perch but I manage to hook my knees around it at the last second.
"Wh-oooaa. You got me there," I grin, shaking off the weird gnawing sensation I felt.
After a couple swings, I use my momentum to backflip in his direction. I'm awarded with wide eyes and an awestruck smile. It always seems like he never gets tired of my Guardian agility and all the acrobatic tricks I could do with it. And it seems that I never get tired of his reactions.
"Yeah, that's a first," Jamie says with a tinge of pride. It was pretty hard to catch me off-guard. "You looked like you were thinking pretty hard about something, though. Did I bother you?" he added, biting his lower lip after a moment of thought. I smile. He was such a thoughtful kid.
"'Course not. I was waiting for you, wasn't I?"
"Oh, good," he says, letting out a short sigh of relief. I watch the fog from his breath cloud the screen on his cell phone. He always had to pretend to use it when we hung out. When he was younger, he could get away with chatting to his "imaginary friends", but by the time he finished middle school it started to worry his mom. I suppose I can't really blame her. After Sophie was diagnosed with autism, the lady has probably been under a lot of stress. Cupcake was the one who came up with the cell phone idea. She could be surprisingly resourceful at times.
Anyways, it wasn't just the cell phone thing that was different. After finding out what made Sophie different from all the other kids, he had… changed.
It wasn't anything huge– just the tilt of his head as he studied people, the way he focused his attention on Sophie and the children around her, always watching, always listening. We both saw the discouraged looks on her face when she saw all her friends were growing up without her.
He'd also found a knack for psychology, too. For the last couple years I can say I've spent more time than I'd like to admit pulling him away from his laptop to build a snowman while he was researching schizophrenia or Huntington's disease, or some other cheerful neurologically degenerative illness. He even managed to get into the advanced psychology class at school – the only freshman who was accepted.
I should feel… What, proud?
Yeah. I probably should.
I just shrug it off and use my staff to freeze a nearby rock.
It takes me another few seconds – and a snowball down the back of my hoodie – to realize that Jamie's trying to get my attention.
He tried to slap on a playful grin, but I can't help but wince when it clumsily slips off. My fault, definitely.
"What's wrong, Jack? You're acting weird."
"I just…" I sigh, scratching my head. "Sorry, kid. Just… thinking about things."
"Oh," he says flatly before looking disappointed. "You're probably bored of me talking about my school stuff. I mean, you do so many cool things. The things I do probably seem really lame in comparison."
"No," I blurt out, maybe a bit too loudly. He looks up, surprised, so I readjust my tone. "Of course it isn't boring. I think the rumors about your evil algebra teacher are pretty… entertaining." I waggle my eyebrows. "Hey, I'll even freeze her desk for you sometime."
This time I'm rewarded with a small chuckle.
"That would definitely be a lot of fun. She'd probably give us all extra homework, though. But seriously," he says, looking worried, "What's bugging you?"
Jamie was smart. If I waved it off as nothing, he wouldn't believe me and would probably get his feelings hurt. Then he'd be less in a mood to have a snowball fight and just go home and do his homework. And that would suck. So I decided to go with a half truth.
"Bunny darling and I just had another verbal tango a little while ago."
"Oh." He looks away guiltily, as if it was somehow his fault. "You know he really does like you, right? Somewhere deep, deep, deep, deep – "
"Well of course he does. No one can resist this," I smirk, at gesturing to my [insert wildly attractive adjective] face.
Jamie grins, and the atmosphere is back to its usually comfortable comfortable-ness.
"Anyways, what was that thing you were talking about again?"
"Oh," he says again, except this time there's barely restrained excitement lacing his voice. "In psychology–"
"– we were checking out this new thing and – and we'll be doing a really cool project. It'll be awesome." He's practically skipping at this point, his forgotten cell phone bobbing clumsily by his elbow. "And, it'll be, like, super important because one of my teacher's friends is dropping by town on a business trip and he'll stop by and – and this guy is like – this guy who teaches at this school I really wanna go to and he'll be there next week on Friday and that's when I'm presenting my project and maybe if he likes it it'll look really good on applications because firstimpressionsarereallyimp ortant."
"I know, right? I'm kind of jittery. But I really hope I do well."
"Well, to get your brain juices flowing," I say, tapping my staff against my nose thoughtfully. "We might need to channel all your energy into something fun."
I slam my staff against the frosted ground with a satisfying crunch, summoning a hefty snow fort along with quality ammunition. But instead of the usual laugh of approval, Jamie fidgets.
"I, uh, sort of really want to get started. You know. On the project."
"I'm sorry!" he blurts out. "I know we planned for today and all last week, but I had no idea this would pop up."
The snow fort crumbles.
"Wait," he says, grabbing at my sleeve as if he was afraid that I would fly off. "Maybe you can help me."
To be completely honest, I'm not sure how Jack could help. The suggestion just sort of popped out because he had looked like I had punched him in the stomach. That made me feel like the biggest jerk in the world.
Anyways, if he stayed in my room for too long, it'd get way too cold to do any work. And I couldn't turn on the heater too high because then Jack would get sick from the warmth. Plus, the last time he used my laptop he had ended up frosting all the keys together.
But like my mom says: If there's a will there's a way.
After digging around some drawers, I managed to find some fuzzy red mittens and some fat blankets.
I admit, Jack looked like a sushi roll with all those blankets wrapped around him, but it stopped most of the chill that radiated from him like an AC. And although I didn't trust him around electronics anymore, the Elmo mittens kept his hands from freezing the pages in my textbook together. It was a pretty awkward position he was in, sprawled out on the floor with his arms held rigidly in front of him as he gripped the book. Maybe that's what Superman would like flying though through the sky – while weighing and extra three hundred pounds. The thought had me mentally rolling on the floor for a minute or two.
At first he would keep up a steady stream of commentary ("Is that a real human brain? Cool."), but after a while he quieted down. Whenever I peeked at him to check how he was doing, he was intently staring at the pages, eyes rapidly moving back and forth as he quickly processed the information. For some time there was no noise except for the rattle of pages being turned, the clacking of my laptop, and the occasional question he had that grew less frequent as time progressed.
When I looked out the window again it was dark and I could make out my tired reflection.
"Mm…" I murmured, rubbing my eyes. "Jack?"
At first I was surprised to see he looked just as animated as he did – (I glance at the clock) …six and a half hours ago. But then I remembered that technically he wasn't a human so he didn't have the same requirements that regular people needed. Like sleep. He seemed so… human and people-ish that I usually forgot about it, though.
He looks up, surprised to see me so tired already. Time flies when you're immortal, I guess.
"Jamie?" He asks, blinking. "…Oh, right. Bedtime."
I nod blearily.
He wriggles out of the makeshift cocoon, and I could see the glassy trails of ice he left behind as he slithered out. I made a mental note to toss those in the dryer later.
"I'll see you later then, kid," he smiles, tousling my hair. As he was on his way out, he paused hesitantly with one foot on the window ledge, a perturbed look settling on his face. He looked like he was struggling to say something.
Suddenly my tiredness seemed to evaporate. I've never seen him look so unsure about anything, so I sat quietly, encouraging him with my stare. No noise. No sudden movement – The way you act when you try not to scare away a nervous deer, poised to flee at the slightest inclination.
Finally, after a few heavy seconds, he mumbles something so quietly I have to strain to hear it.
"…I read about something."
I blink, surprised, but he takes it as an indication to keep going.
"…ment disorders," he murmurs.
I lean closer. "What?"
He lets out an impatient huff, as if repeating it was physically painful. "…Attachment disorders."
"Um," I cough, mentally slapping myself for something better to say. Something encouraging. "…Interesting stuff. What about them?"
"Nothing," he grinned uneasily. "Just thought it would be a good subject for your project."
And then he slipped out the window.