A/N: Long time, no see, huh? I've had a massive writing block for like everything and seem to have a bit of a creative breakdown but I did finally see Rise of the Guardians last month and ohmygOD GREATEST MOVIE EVER?! So yeah I came up with a little AU I thought would be fun to write, and I've actually got the whole core story plotted out in my head this time :O This chapter is quite boring to start with, just setting the scene… It'll get interesting I promise D; As ever, enjoy lovely readers!
Sadly, I don't own RotG.
The door of 13 Bentham Street, Burgess, burst open, and a pair of children spilled out. The tall skinny boy with messy brown hair ran down the street, a backpack slung carelessly over one shoulder and a little girl tucked under the other. A slice of burnt toast hung out of his mouth; his free hand shoved another slice into the little girl's face, which she tried to eat with little success. Wedged under his other arm were a pair of paper bags, one of them dangerously close to ripping.
They were Jack and Emma Overland, and they were going to be late for school.
"Eat! Eat!" Jack's voice broke with panic as the bus reached the corner of their street.
"But I need to brush my teeth!" Emma wailed. As Jack ran and stumbled, the corner of the toast jabbed her squarely on the nose.
"You can miss it this one time," Jack gasped. "The Tooth Fairy won't kill you, I promise- oh, crap…"
Jack's toast tumbled to the sidewalk, one corner soggy from its brief stay in his mouth. Automatically, he slowed to go and get it; his legs did an awkward dance as his stomach told them to go one way and his brain told them to go the other. Emma clung on for dear life and her eyes popped out of her head when a chunk of burnt toast constricted her windpipe as Jack managed to swing himself back around and continue towards the bus.
"Ah! It's slowing!" The bus drew to the slow, lumbering stop that buses usually do when they come to an intersection. At that moment the bus driver turned and happened to catch sight of them- the tall boy, his face bright red, and the little girl carelessly slung under one arm, gagging and choking to little avail.
Whether it was compassion or alarm that fuelled the driver's next actions, Jack would never know: but for the moment he contented himself with the knowledge that for whatever reason the driver slammed the brakes on and brought the bus to a lurching stop, opening the doors with a pneumatic hiss to let the Overland siblings tumble in.
The bus driver regarded them questioningly. "Somebody sleep in?"
"Jack did," Emma replied hoarsely, as the Jack in question pat her back gently until the toast was dislodged. "I got up and made my own bed and got dressed by myself and-"
"I made breakfast," Jack reminded her grudgingly, leading her to a seat. The bus driver really didn't care whether or not they'd slept in.
"Yeah, and I nearly died," Emma pointed out. "You make terrible toast."
"Excuse you!" Jack cried in mock offence. "What's wrong with my toast?"
Emma numbered them off on her fingers. "You burnt it, you didn't butter it, you shoved it in my face-"
"He-ey, Jamie." Jack clapped a hand over his sister's motormouth as they threw themselves down on the seat in front of Jamie and Sophie Bennet, the only friends they'd managed to make in their first three months of living in Burgess.
"That was some entrance," Jamie grinned. "It's not like you to be late, Jack."
This wasn't specifically true. It was more like Jack to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted- if it were up to him he wouldn't go to school at all. But because he had Emma to look after, and because their mother was trying hard for them, he got up religiously early and made sure his little sister was ready for the day. That was all there was to it, really: looking after Emma.
Even if she was ungrateful when it came to Jack's breakfasts.
Something wet and squishy ran across Jack's palm and he cried out, pulling his slobbery hand away from Emma's mouth. Jamie snorted and Sophie clapped her hands in amusement; she didn't tend to talk much.
"Aw, Emma!" Jack wiped his hand off on the seat. "That's disgusting."
"Jack slept in," Emma informed the two grinning Bennets, ignoring her brother as she bounced eagerly up and down on her seat. "And I had to get up by myself and make my bed and get dressed-"
"How many people are you going to tell that to before it gets old?" Jack grumbled, still annoyed that she had licked his hand (even though he'd done the same thousands of times before).
"Just Sophie," she shrugged. "No-one else to tell."
Sometimes Jack felt bad that Emma didn't have many friends- she was a perfectly likeable kid, and she used to make friends wherever she went, but they moved around so often that Jack guessed she just got sick of goodbyes. She seemed content with Jack, anyway- all she really needed to keep her company was her family and the Bennets.
Speaking of which.
"What's the book today, dork?" Jack asked, craning his neck over the back of the seat to look onto Jamie's lap. As per usual, some fat novel or book about the great unknown was open, and as per usual Jamie's eyes lit up when he talked about it.
"Oh, man, it's awesome," he gushed, leafing through the pages eagerly. "It's about ghosts and all these haunted buildings and stuff- some of these places are messed up, I'm telling you…"
Jack smirked and shook his head as Jamie rambled on. Jamie was two years Jack's senior, but Jack couldn't help feeling that he hadn't grown up much since he was ten. Jamie was the biggest fantasy nut Jack had ever met, and what was even funnier was that he took the entire thing as gospel. Jack couldn't remember meeting anyone being so obsessed with bedtime stories before.
Emma elbowed him in the ribs, and he looked down to see her holding up the remnants of her charred toast, eyes big and serious.
"You dropped yours," was all she said.
Jack accepted gratefully- his stomach was growling like a dying whale- and crunched down. Emma was right: his toast was terrible, but she didn't need to know that. He forced himself to swallow and, miraculously, managed not to choke.
"Maybe you can tell me if our place is haunted," Jack interrupted Jamie mid-rant; the younger boy looked up eagerly. "Weird stuff, you know."
"Like what?" Jamie asked, shuffling forward in his seat.
Jack shook his head, regretting having said anything in the first place. He'd never get Jamie to shut up now. "Weird stuff," he repeated vaguely. "Shadows where they shouldn't be. It's always freezing at night. And…" He stopped himself. There wasn't any point in telling Jamie why he had slept in. It was nothing to worry about, and it wasn't like it hadn't happened before.
Everyone got nightmares, right?
"And what?" Jamie prompted.
Jack shrugged and looked away. He was just kidding, anyway. There was nothing wrong with the house. "And nothing. There's probably just something wrong with the heating."
Jamie studied his friend's face carefully, suspiciously. It was there, Jack knew it was. Right on the tip of his tongue. A theory, a myth, an impossibility. He reached over and cuffed Jamie's shoulder playfully.
"Come on, man. Don't take these things so seriously."
"Jack!" Emma, tugging on the sleeve of Jack's hoodie. "Jack, I'm getting off now."
Why eight year olds felt the need to inform everyone of their every single move Jack would never know, but he would comment on it to Jamie later. "Don't die," he advised her as she and Sophie trotted off down the aisle.
"Without your toast?" Emma laughed. "Not a chance."
Jack poked his tongue out at her but waited until the doors hissed shut behind Emma before turning to Jamie.
"Want some toast?"