Thank you anon for correcting my misspell of Les Miserables. I'm sorry I'm not French. And I'm sorry my Microsoft Word isn't French either. And I'm sorry the last chapter was meh for you. Your life must be so exciting that even the day you move into a new apartment is filled with events of epic proportions. How exciting!
If you're having trouble imagining Jack's apartment or just want to see how I imagine it, I made a floor plan! Link on my profile, or just mess around with this awkward web address: floorplanner (dot it) com / projects / 26071257-jf-apartment / edit # assets
Congrats to who got all the references last chapter! Here are the answers:
Easy A – "Judy Blume didn't prepare me for this."
The books: The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in our Stars
There's a movie quote, mention of a specific movie, and two extra characters in this one. GUESS.
A weird whirring sound wakes me up. I'm still clutching the pillow and curled up in a ball in the middle of my bed, and I'm just so comfy that I don't want to greet the whirring thing.
I use the Jaws of Life to wrench back my eyelids. A pair of big blue-green eyes blink back at me.
I stare at Snowflake for a moment, still in a state of sleepy confusion, then reach out and pet her. She purrs, rubbing her head against my hand, and snuggles up next to me.
With her soft, warm body next to mine, I'm so close to slipping back to sleep, but voices are rising in the hall. Curious, I roll over, making Snowflake meow in protest with the loss of her cuddle buddy. Jack is leaning into Emma's doorway.
"No, I did not–! Just because – don't pin it on me, it wasn't me! And don't say that word, young lady! Lunch in five!" He slams her door. He turns around with a strange expression on his face; it's somewhere between angry and embarrassed.
When he sees me watching, he stops. I sit up and adjust my hair and clip, hoping I don't have bed head, and he smiles. It's amazing how quickly he changed moods. I smile back, mostly because of his ridiculous pink apron that's covered in printed kiss marks.
"Hey! Lunch will be ready soon. I'm glad you and Snowflake are getting along." He nods to the cat that slinks around my side into my lap, demanding attention.
"Yeah, it's kind of hard not to love her. She's adorable." I look at the digital clock on my bedside table and am surprised at how long I slept. Almost more than an hour! I decide against waiting until after lunch to call Aster. He must be worrying his head off. "I'll be out soon, kay? I just have to make a call. And thanks, for making lunch I mean." I give him a small smile in appreciation. The thank you isn't really just for the lunch though. It's only my first day in this apartment and he hasn't done anything at all to make me feel out of place. In fact, he treats me like we're already friends.
"Sure! I'm just finishing up the pancakes now."
He disappears from my doorway. I pet Snowflake for a little longer, then set her gingerly on the bed. I pull my phone out from my suitcase that I deposited next to the bookcase earlier. I feel really bad that I didn't call Aster when I first got here, and even worse that I forgot because I wanted my books on the shelves as soon as possible. Oh well. At least the wide, empty space of the large bookshelf was full now. It didn't feel like my room until that was done.
I punch in the number four on speed dial and listen through the dial tone for his answer. I run my hand along the middle shelf, picking up wood grain on the way while waiting for him.
A thick Australian accent greets me at the other end of the line. "Hi, Sweetness. How was your flight?"
I smile brightly, my heart warming at his pet name. "Good. Nothing like racing towards the sun on a four hour flight to rattle the bones. I got here a while ago, but I fell asleep. Sorry I didn't call you sooner."
"It's alright, Toothy. So... You're settled in already?"
"Oh, yeah! This apartment is amazing, Bunny!" I squeal, using his nick name I came up with. "It's freakin huge, and I haven't even been in every room yet! And I have my own bathroom! And the closet is inside the bathroom, and it is ginormous! The whole apartment is so simply designed, but fits together well. Whoever decorated it knew what they were doing, too. Mr. Frost must have hired a personal decorator. Everything goes together perfectly, all the furniture pieces and contrasting colors, oh, and the stained glass window is to die for–"
"Tooth, Tooth! Slow it down!" he laughs. "It sounds nice. And how are your... roommates?" He sounds a little hesitant on the word roommates, though I'm not exactly sure why.
Up until then I was walking around the room, so I sit down on the bed where Snowflake is curled up. "They're great, Bunny. Jack is so welcoming, though he's really not what I expected. I didn't know what I expected, really, but he's just lovely. Honestly, it's as if I'm an old friend to him."
"Okay, well just be careful around him."
I idly pet Snowflake while talking to him. "What do you mean?"
"Well, it's just that... I mean... This is just a really weird situation, ya know? It almost seems kind of... shady to me."
"I suppose it is a little strange, but it's not unreasonable." I furrow my brows, suspicious. Did he...?
"I just don't get it, Sweetness! This guy hasn't held a job for longer than six months in his entire life! His dad has basically paid for everything he's ever owned and left him with a younger child to care for. Who even does that?!"
I gasp. "Bunny! You did not! Did you background check Jack?!"
"I was worried!" he says quickly. "You knew nothing about this guy, so how was I – you s'posed to know what he's capable of when the most work he's ever done in life is pick up a silver spoon?"
"Just because you are a cop's kid and have the resources to check someone doesn't mean that you can! That is an invasion of privacy!"
"I'm sorry, Tooth. I just didn't want you getting the short end of the stick if this Jack Frost bloke turned out to be a total wanker."
"You're not sorry about checking Jack, you're just sorry you made me mad."
"True. But I wanted to make sure you were safe. Because I love you."
I huff, trying to stay mad at him. It's hard when he says stuff like that. I sigh. "Yeah, I know. But really, he's a good guy. From what I've seen, he's very responsible in the household. He's making me and his sister lunch right now."
"Yeah, but making lunch isn't going to pay the bills that daddy covers."
"If my memory serves me correct, I'm here because of a lack of responsibility too." I glance at the mountain of boxes in the corner of my room. At least half of them are marked clothes. "I'm very grateful Mr. Frost gave me this opportunity."
"I know. It's just... I miss you already, Tooth. I can't be a good judge of this Jack bloke until I meet him, so all I have to go by is information. I wish I could have come with you."
"I wish you were here too, Bunny." Which is true, just not for the fiasco that happened this morning. He would have flipped out and gotten us the first flight back. "But you've got to finish your degree. You know I'd kick you if you put your masters on hold to be my personal body guard for a year. Ecology isn't going to teach itself."
"Yeah, I know you would. And I'd let you, too." He laughs, and I match the sound with my memory of his smile. I grin into the phone just thinking of it. "But like I said, be careful. And not just around Jack, I mean everywhere. New York is a whole different world than back home."
"Honestly, it doesn't feel that different. It's like I can just walk around the corner and meet you at Sprinkles for ice cream right now," I say, standing and gazing out the window. It looks over the side parking lot that leads into a grassy area, then to the parking lot of a small independent diner. "It looks like home away from home, but not."
"But not. Yeah." He sounds sad, and I didn't realize that comparing this place with home would upset him.
"Oh, I'm sorry Bunny, I didn't mean it like that! I just meant that–" A door slams loudly then. Emma stomps out of her room and down the hall determinedly.
"What was that?" Bunny asks.
"Jack's little sister, Emma. She just slammed her door and marched down the hall." I walk to my door and lean out, listening to her heavy little steps nearing the kitchen. "I think she's about to go rip Jack a new one. They were arguing earlier about something. She's really feisty, from what I've seen. She basically gave me the third degree when I got here." I rest against the door jam and listen to their faint, far away squabbling.
"That's interesting. So I guess she wears the pants?"
"Bunny!" I try not to laugh. "No, I think they both have a leg in. He – oh, she's coming back!"
I sprint back to my place at the window in case she saw me earlier and watch as she walks to her door, balancing a plate of food on one hand and a red drink in the other, opens it, then slams it again with no consequence at all.
"Uh oh, I think something's up."
"Man, first day there and that place already sounds like a mad house. I have to go anyway. I promised mom I'd meet her for breakfast. I got to get over there soon or she'll go ballistic."
I laugh. "Yeah, I know how she is. Tell her I said hi!"
"I will. Bye, Tooth. Love you. Miss you."
"Love you too, bye!"
I hang up and set the phone on the windowsill. I run my hand down Snowflake's back on my way out of the room. She's still curled up in a ball, sleeping. I guess she's gotten used to doors slamming in the Frost home.
I follow the smell of food down the hall. Whatever Jack made – he said banana pancakes, right? – smells absolutely fantastic. Before turning the corner, I notice another door. It's the only door in the small hall, the only other thing there a side table pressed against the end wall under an oval mirror. Curious, I walk towards it, but the grumbling from my stomach stops me. Maybe I'll explore the great mysteries of the unknown room after lunch.
I walk towards the kitchen and see him flipping another pancake onto an already filled plate. He turns to place it on the table and sees me.
"Hey, Toothiana! I was just about to come get you. Lunch is ready, as you can see." He spreads his arms out to the food on the table. There's the pancakes I smelled, along with bacon, scrambled eggs, bowls of fruit, and orange juice. "Emma won't be joining us, unfortunately. Even though I made this for her." He huffs.
"I saw her in the hall. She looked very... irritated."
Jack laughs. "Yeah, that might be the best word to describe my sister." He stands with his hands on his hips looking down at the food for a moment in what might be his thinking face, then reaches back to untie his apron. He tries to pull it over his head, but moves too fast and gets tangled in it.
I try to hide my giggle as I walk around the table. "Here, let me help."
He drops his arms with an enormous sigh that makes the apron balloon out from his face. I untangle his arms from the straps and unveil his head. The apron pulls his brown hair up with static, making it even messier. He smiles. "Thanks! It's embarrassing how many times that happens."
"Of course. I like your apron by the way. It's funny."
He hangs it up on a hook near the fridge. "It's a silly thing, I know. My friend Zel gave it to me as a joke. You may have met her? She works downstairs as the receptionist." He comes back to my side and pulls out my chair for me.
"Oh yes! She was very nice. And thank you." I sit down and he takes the one across from me. He pushes the plate of pancakes towards me and I stare curiously at them. They're just regular pancakes with banana slices in them, but when I take a few, Jack holds out a small bowl of thick amber liquid in it.
"Here, put this on top. It's a family recipe. The Frost Family's Famous Caramel Sauce. Try it!"
He has that adorable exuberance that you can't say no to, so I take it and poor some on the pancakes. I cut off a piece, but hesitate before eating it.
I look at Jack and see his eyebrows raised eagerly. I'm sure it'll taste fine, but I want to tease him for a second. The fork ever so slowly approaches my mouth. His eyes never train away from the bit of pancake on the end, and he starts bouncing a little the closer it gets.
Finally, I eat it. The taste isn't just fine though, it's phenomenal! It's like a caramel mushroom cloud just exploded in my mouth!
"Oh my gosh, Jack! This is amazing! No wonder this is Emma's favorite, it's delicious!" I cut off another piece and eat it, not even waiting to tease him this time. "Mmmm!"
"You really like it?" he asks with a hopeful expression and I nod. "Yes! I knew you would." He grabs a couple pancakes for himself and pours the sauce over them, then reaches for the juice. He pours us both a glass.
"Thank you," I say. "So why didn't Emma want to eat with us? Was it because of the... argument you had earlier? Or something I did...?"
"Oh, no no no! It was nothing you did! I promise! No, it was something I did. Or something I didn't do. That's why we were fighting earlier."
"Do you mind if I ask what it was?"
He rubs his ear, which I now assume is what he does when he's nervous. "I'm not sure if I should tell you. I'm still trying to make up for my first-first impression." He looks up at me through his bangs apologetically.
"Oh, I understand..." I wonder what it could have been.
I munch on a piece of bacon as I look around the kitchen. It's just as warm as the living room, decorated in browns and golds and reds. Off to the right is a large fish tank where four big fish swim carelessly through the fake plants.
Jack notices my staring. "Like my fish?"
I nod. "Yes. I've never seen pet fish so huge before!"
"Yeah, but they're just big harmless babies. The brown one is Blinky, the grayish one is Pinky, the blue-gray one is Inky, and the orange stripe one is Clyde."
"After the ghosts in Pac Man, right?" He nods, a proud grin on his face. "How clever! I had a bird once named Speed Racer. Which was terribly ironic because he didn't fly very fast."
"I assume you like birds a lot."
I sit back in my chair, surprised. "Why, yes. How did you guess that?"
"Well, you said you had a bird, for one, but also that you're wearing feathered earrings, a bird hair clip, and have a feather tattooed on your foot."
I glance down. The tattoo was designed to look like a pencil drawing of a feather on the top of my foot.
"Oh yeah. I guess you caught me. I got that on my eighteenth birthday." I look back up at him, uninhibited curiosity in his eyes. "It's kind of a terrible place to have put a tattoo, even though it looks cool were it is. I always had to hide it from my mom and my work place. Especially my mom; she'd go ballistic. It's too bad, though, since hiding it defeated the whole meaning of the tattoo."
"What's it mean?"
I stare down at my half eaten pancakes. "The tattoo guy told me feathers mean many things, like bravery or weightlessness or truth. A lot of people like them because of their tribal origins, but he said people who get feathers usually have their own meaning for that certain tattoo. So to me, mine meant a start in a new chapter of my life, being able to fly towards new horizons and being my own person." I look back up at him and blush. "It sounds kind of cheesy, I know."
"No, not at all. It sounds... liberating."
I give him a small smile at that. "I've never told anyone that before, not even my boyfriend. He just thought it was nice and didn't question it."
His eyes go wide. "Wow, it feels weird to know I'm one of the only two people in the whole world that knows that secret."
"No one ever asked before. So… now it's your turn."
"To tell me a secret. Something nobody else knows."
He shifts in his chair, looking at everything but me. "Uh, okay... Lemme think, um... Okay, well this is really embarrassing, but when I was little, Emma had just gotten a Bedazzler for her birthday and she would use it on everything, and I mean everything. It was nuts. And one day, I noticed she left it in my room, so I picked it up and started bedazzling myself. I covered my arms and legs and face. I was like a freaking disco ball of bedazzle."
I throw my head back and laugh. "No way! That's hilarious! No one ever found out?!"
"No!" he laughs. "I tore them all off before my mom came home. She did wonder why my skin was so red though."
"That's perfect!" I giggle.
"Okay, now it's your turn again."
I stop laughing immediately. "What, no! I already told you a secret."
"Let's make a game out of it! Whoever has the best secrets wins." He scoots forward on his arms eagerly, eyes bright with the sun through the kitchen window.
"I never agreed to this, but okay..." I think for a moment, but draw up a blank. "I can't think of anything all of a sudden."
"Then I win."
"No! Just hold on... Okay, I keep every valentine I've ever gotten since kindergarten in a heart shaped box back home."
His reply is quicker than mine. "A dolphin once hit me in the face with his tail."
"How did that happen?"
He squints his eyes and stares off into the distance. "Sea World is a dangerous place."
"Ha! Understandable. My favorite books as a kid were Junie B. Jones."
He smiles. "Mine were Captain Underpants."
"Is that your secret?"
"No, just a fact. My secret is that I used to pretend to be Captain Underpants."
I snort, thinking of a baby Jack running around in underpants and a cape.
"For my eighth birthday, my parents threw me a SpongeBob party, but I never told them that I hated it. That was before I liked SpongeBob."
"That's a pretty good secret, but is it as good as your parents originally thinking you're going to be a girl?"
I gasp and hide my smile with my hands. "No! Really?!"
"Yes! I was to be Jacqueline Frost. I guess it was a good choice since they easily just changed it to Jackson." He leans in close then, eyes shifting back and forth as if looking for any sneaks hiding in the corners of the room, and smirks conspiratorially at me. "I have never told a living soul that. It is my deepest, darkest secret."
His joking nature makes it obvious that that isn't really his deepest, darkest secret, but I place my hand over my heart in promise anyway and the other in the air. "I swear, I will take your secret to the grave."
He narrows his eyes at me, the playful smirk still on his face. "Good. I didn't want to have to deal with you if you didn't. But in all seriousness, I really haven't told anyone before, especially not Emma. I'd never hear the end of it."
"Really? Then why did you tell me?" Him saying that honestly makes me wonder what really is his deepest, darkest secret?
"Because! It's Secret Time! And I wouldn't have told you if I didn't think I could trust you! Just like you couldn't tell me your deepest secret if you didn't trust me."
"But I haven't told you."
"Ah," he says, tilting his head toward me. "But you're about to."
I wasn't sure what he was doing; playing mind tricks to spill secrets? The way he looked at me, fake blue eyes shining and silly smile brighter than the light fragments cast from the glass wind chime in the window, made me want to tell him everything. It's not like I had anything to hide, but I don't go around telling my life story to people I've just met either, even if I'd be living with them. It's been a long time since I've offered up anything about my life without being asked first, but it was like this boy just expected me to, and that made me want to. I really wanted him to know me. Which was weird.
"Well... I'm not sure if I have a deep secret... I've never thought about it. I don't think my life has been exciting enough to have a really big secret in it."
"Everyone's life is exciting. Life in itself is exciting. There's gotta be something."
I squirm in my chair a bit, hands clasped tightly on the table. "I suppose... This isn't really a secret, but I've never told anyone before, so maybe it is?" I look up at Jack uncertainly, only to find him leaning in even more, completely enraptured in my words. His stare is intense and I look down. I'm not blushing, am I? "I don't know, but... I've always wanted to go on a big adventure, you know? Like the ones you see in movies, just with less death and explosions, of course. I want the feel of doing something greater than my ordinary life. Being a part of something big..." I shrug and look back up at him. He has a soft expression on his face. Thoughtful, even. "I don't really even care what it is, just that it happens to me... Is that, like, super weird?"
He stares at me in silence a little longer, the air poised with pause. I really do wonder what his eyes look like under those fancy blue contacts.
"No, that's not weird at all. It's wonderful," he whispers. I'm not sure why he whispered, because it's just me, him, and the fish here, but it fit the scene. It helped the quiet excitement from sharing secrets continue.
He leans back in his chair and so do I, not realizing that I was leaning forward too until now. "In fact, I'd love to go on one too. Though, I think knowing you is the start of a pretty big adventure." He smiles at me and I don't stop myself from smiling back. There's something rewarding in having someone like Jack smile at you.
I'm interrupted by Emma streaking into the room. She places her dirty dishes in the sink, then runs back to the door. "Jamie texted saying to come downstairs to hang out I'll be back later bye!"
She's out the door before Jack can even think of a coherent response. He rises from his seat and leans around the table to better see her retreating form through the doorway. "Don't—Uh, okay! Don't talk to strangers! Stay in the building area! Have fun! LOVE YOU!"
The front door slams so hard that the pans hanging on the wall rattle. Jack stares at the door and sighs, then drops his shoulders and begins clearing the table. I get up to help when he starts balancing stuff against his chin.
"Here, let me help. Your arms are already full."
"It's okay, I'm used to it," he says, but lets me gather up the remaining dishes and silverware. There were many more dishes on the table than a lunch for two usually calls for. If this is what the table looks like after an ordinary meal, I couldn't wait to see it at Thanksgiving. Jack must go full on fancy.
We deposit our dishes next to the sink and he plugs the drain, starting the water. I grab a towel, alerting him to my wanting to help with the wash as well, and he smiles gratefully at me.
"I wash you dry, kay?"
He dunks the dishes at the top of the high stack in the soapy water and scrubs, using enough elbow grease to punch a hole in the plate. I guess that caramel stuff really sticks.
A few minutes pass of the menial chore, no sounds but the rhythmic sloshing of water. So when we're almost done and he speaks, I'm surprised.
"Do you mind if I be frank?" he asks, still staring intently at the cup he's washing.
I place the fork I just dried on a towel with the others and look up at him. He still faces the cup, but his eyes flash between me and it, causing him to give me a weird side eye. He looks wary, and I suppose he's usually too nice to be frank.
"No, go ahead," I say, reaching my hand out for the cup that is now thoroughly clean. He gives it to me and braces his soapy hands on the sink edge. Now it's my turn to give side eye, because his intent stare on me is a little nerve wracking.
"I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you're not how I expected. And I guess I'm not real sure what I expected, but you seem much more... serious... than I thought you'd be. Than my father described you. And that's not a bad thing, but I get the feeling you weren't always as serious."
"Wow... Well you are much more perceptive than I expected." My fingers are cold from the water and I rub them together, staring down at them as a way not to have to look him in the eye. "Yeah. Being an assistant, I suppose I was a little perkier. Getting to arrange everything was fun sometimes, but I also think the job grounded me." I decide to look up at him again, but his steely gaze makes me want to back off and tell him everything at the same time. I sigh and lean my hip against the counter. Even though he's gotten me to spill so many secrets already today, I just couldn't tell him this one. Now that I think about it, this may be my deepest secret, and it isn't something I'd like to share with anyone. The real reason why some people my age think my limit on how to have fun is equal to a hard working middle aged American is because of Aster.
I met him two years ago half way through my first year as an assistant to Mr. Frost. He was charming and determined and adoring, and he was my first serious boyfriend. It didn't take long for me to fall for him. It wasn't until recently, when I visited an old friend of mine during the summer, did I realize that I changed since meeting him. Since then, I've noticed small things that I do and think differently. I hate to think that meeting him made me more austere. There's nothing wrong with being serious. But I'm also young, and there's only certain things you can do when you're young that you can't when you're older, and it's quite disconcerting and confusing when I find myself wanting to do them and not wanting to at the same time. I love Aster and the way he thinks and influences the people around him, but I also don't want to end up resenting him.
I could never tell Jack this, no matter how many secrets he got out of me.
"Earning everything in my life made me more responsible, but I think the inner teenage rebel in me finally caught up too late and that's why my earnings are mostly all gone now. I was too excited for my future in dentistry, so I bought every kind of book on it. And also I really like clothes." I laugh, looking up at him. "Real girly and irresponsible, but that's why I'm here. To regain what my irresponsibility lost."
He nods slightly, staring at something over my head. "Well, sometimes a little irresponsibility is good. Sometimes it's just fun in disguise." He flashes me a smile, then points at my head. "I like your clip."
My hand shoots up to touch the hummingbird pin I always have in my hair. "Oh. Thank you, it was my grandmother's. She had a hobby of being a hummingbird keeper."
"I didn't know that was even considered a hobby. How unique."
"Yeah," I say, fondly stroking the jeweled clip. "People in her town call her the crazy bird lady, like the stereotypical cat lady, because her country home is always crowded in a cloud of hummingbirds, but she doesn't care. She does what she loves, and she's my inspiration because of that."
"How lucky she is to be doing something that makes her happy. Not a lot of people can say the same for themselves." He turns back to the sink and unplugs the drain. "So do I have to share a story too, now?"
I smile. "No, that was just because I felt like sharing. You are surprisingly easy to talk to, Jack."
He grabs the stack of dried plates, smiling widely at them. "What a good thing to be. And the same goes for you, Toothiana."
He's right. I've never been described as "easy to talk to" before, and knowing that someone is at ease with me made a light feeling swell in my chest.
Once we've stacked everything away, he walks to a cabinet and pulls out a green bottle.
"Wanna' help me feed the fish?" He shakes it, the little flakes rattling around inside.
He leads me over to the tank and lifts up the huge hatch on the top. "Just sprinkle a little in there. You've fed fish before, right?"
"I think once when I was little at my cousin's house, but I never had my own." I tap the bottle and the fish come rushing up before the flakes even reach the water.
"So they're all boys, right?" I ask, handing him back the bottle. "Since they're named after the boy ghosts."
"I'm not really sure. I just assumed they were and named them. For all I know, Clyde could be a Sue. Do fish even have genders? Finding Nemo never specified that for me."
"I think clownfish males become female if their mate dies. Imagine if that was in the movie."
He shakes his head in mock shame. "Those parents would have some 'splainin to do."
Glancing up at him for a moment, I catch something out of the corner of my eye that I didn't notice before.
"Whoa, Jack, what's that? Is that a dishwasher?"
He looks at me, eyebrows raised in question, then to where I'm pointing.
"Oh, uh yeah... Yeah, that's a dishwasher." He rubs his ear again.
"If you have a dishwasher, why did we just wash all those dishes by hand?"
He clicks his tongue, sucking in a breath through his teeth. "Okay, you caught me. I washed them by hand because I figured you'd help me, and I'd get to talk to you more while washing." His hand drops to the back of his neck, hooking around it. "I liked talking to you. And also I like the bubbles."
I take a deep breath and laugh it out. "Well, I guess we can talk some more in the living room." I jab a thumb over my shoulder, directing to the doorway. "Watch a movie with me?"
He drops his hand and smiles, all tension leaving his body immediately. "Yeah! You go pick a movie from one of the cabinets. I'll be right there." He rattles the bottle, indicating that he has to put it away.
I walk into the living room onto the large plush green rug. On either side of the huge TV are glass door wooden cabinets filled with movies and video games. I head to the one on the left, inspecting for any familiar titles. Jack walks in then.
"Jack, there are so many movies here! How do I pick just one?!"
"There are a lot, I know. I just really like movies." He gives a little laugh.
I pick out three movies I like and hand them to him. "Here, pick your favorite."
"Oh man, but these are all so good! You have great choice in cinema, Ms. Hy Loo."
His use of my last name makes me laugh because it sounds just like his dad. I grab the remote off the arm of the love seat and turn on the TV. It's the same model my friend Nick Summers owns back in LA, so I know how to use it. I'm about to change it over to the setting for the DVD player when something interesting catches my eye.
Something very interesting.
"Uuuh... Jack... What is that?! What–!"
The screen is situated on the On Demand channel, but that's not what concerns me. It's in the... um, adult entertainment section, specifically highlighting a half-way watched movie called Busty Asian Beauties: Dawn of the Bronze.
Jack looks up from the movies. Mouth open in shock at the screen, he drops the movies and runs to snatch the remote from me. He quickly deletes it and changes to the DVD setting.
We both stand with our mouths gaping, mine in appall and his in embarrassment.
"Th-That was–!" he stutters. "That wasn't mine! I mean, I d-didn't order that! My friend—my friend Dean crashed here last night, a-and—I told him not to do this! He has an unhealthy obsession. I-I–!" He sighs and scrunches his shoulders up to his burning red ears. "I'm sorry. I forgot to delete it. He was just... excited that they make full length movies now and wanted to watch one. That's why Emma was freaking out at me earlier. She doesn't believe me that I didn't order it because she was asleep when he came in. But I think she was mostly mad at me because she didn't get to see him." He gave me a ghost of a smile. "I'm pretty sure she has a crush on him."
The initial shock has worn off now, but all I can do is nod. "Well, I bet he'd be quite the character to meet," I say, faintly smiling at the idea of little Emma crushing on a grown up. A grown up who orders porn on someone else's TV.
Jack's blush resides and he shows me the movie he picked, earning my smile and thumbs up because it's one of my favorite comedy movies. I like it not only because it has two of my favorite actors, but because it's insanely funny and has spies. Spies make everything awesomer.
I sit down as Jack puts the movie in. He flops onto the couch on his back, propping his head with a pillow and the arm rest to face the screen. I lift my feet up and lean into the corner of the love seat, trying to get comfortable.
We're twenty-something minutes into the movie when I ask him what I've been wondering since lunch. "So... Do you think you could teach me how to make those banana pancakes sometime?"
He angles his head around to look at me. "Yeah, sure! They're not that hard once you know how."
"Thanks," I say, smiling. "They kind of taste like these banana foster pancakes I once had at Denny's."
He shot up and twisted around at that. "What! Nuh-uh! The Frost Family's Famous Banana Pancakes and Caramel Sauce is a trademark recipe! No big corporate diner could ever replicate something anywhere near its deliciousness, no matter how long its name!"
I raise my hands in mock surrender. "Okay! I'm sorry I brought it up! Though really, I'd love for you to teach me."
"Hmmm, now I'm rethinking my offer." He squints his eyes and rubs his chin thoughtfully. "It is a secret family recipe, and only members of the Frost family know it... but I suppose I could teach you it. I'd probably be known as the traitor of the family and shunned for eons to come if I was found out, but you've proven yourself trustworthy."
I shake my head, laughing. "Thank you for trusting me with such dangerous knowledge as the Frost Family's Famous Banana Pancakes and Caramel Sauce recipe, no matter how long the name."
He smiles his biggest silly smile, a smile like we were in on some sort of important secret much larger than a pancake recipe. I returned the smile full force.
Emma comes in then, accompanied by a boy of her same height and hair color. They're both smiling excitedly, and his shows off a missing tooth.
Emma runs around the couch. "Jack! Jack! Guess what we found!"
He's still looking up at me with a small smile in place, so she shakes his arm to get his attention. His eyes slowly slide to her. "What'd you find?"
The boy sidles up next to Emma. "We found an old tricycle! It was sitting by a dumpster down the st—ow! In the parking lot." He rubs his arm where Emma punched him, one eye squinted. He glances at me, then double takes, his mouth opening in a small circle.
"Oh! Hi! ... Are you the girl living here?" he asks me, but looks at Emma, eyes wide.
"Yeah, Jamie. That's her," Emma says, coming up next to me. She gestures between the two of us. "Toothiana, meet Jamie. Jamie, meet Toothiana." She faces me, one eyebrow raised. "You know, you're name's kind of a mouth full. Like my full name is Emmaline, but I only let my family and Mr. North call me that, really only 'cause Mr. North is crazy and my dad and grandpa think it's funny when I get mad." She mutters 'pricks' under her breath, but I'm the only one close enough to hear. "Anyway, can I just call you Tooth? I'm going to call you Tooth."
"That's okay, everyone calls me that anyway."
"I like your name, Tooth. It's pretty!" Jamie pipes. He clutches the bottom hem of his shirt and his face is all pink. I bite my lip, trying to hide my smile. He's so adorable. "And your hair too! My sister puts colors like that in her hair, but it's that Barbie color hair stuff and it looks funny, but yours is pretty! And your eyes are super pretty, too!"
"See, Jamie! I told you they were cool!" She turns back to Jack. "Come see the tricycle, Jack! It's so awesome possum!"
She grabs his arm and wrenches him off the couch using all the power she has in her little body.
"Okay, okay! Quit pulling meeee!" he wines.
He pauses the movie, then turns to me. "You coming, Toothiana?"
We both walk down the hall to get our shoes. Before turning into his room, he faces back to me.
"Oh, by the way, you win."
I stop before my hall and take a few steps back towards him. "What?"
"The secret game, you won. You had the best secrets." He places one hand on the doorway, half way in the room, and smiles. "Thanks for sharing them with me."
I feel heat on my face and train my eyes down at his bare feet. "You're welcome. And thanks to you too." I look up through a yellow strand of hair at him and smile.
The moment is interrupted by Emma. She has impeccable timing. "HURRY THE BUTTS UP, YOU GUYS!"
Jack's smile drops and he dashes into his room. I laugh and follow suit.
When I emerge wearing my most comfortable pair of magenta flip flops that I dug out of my suitcase, Jack's waiting for me.
"You didn't have to wait for me. I know my way around pretty well by now," I say and wink.
He laughs. "I'm sure you do. I just thought I'd be nice and wait. Plus, I wouldn't put it past Emma to pull me all the way downstairs as soon as I got up front without waiting for you. I'm sure you've figured out that she's very persistent and... head strong."
"Oh definitely, but a little stubbornness isn't so bad." I nudge him and smile, turning the corner.
"Yeah, but with my sister, it's a whole lot of stubbornness."
"Eh." I shrug. "Hey, what's in that room in the other hall? I didn't get a chance to look in there."
"Oh, just the room where I keep the bodies of all my victims." I widen my eyes at him, smiling in a I'm-sure-you're-joking-but-I-better-not-be-wrong way. He laughs at my expression and waves his hand around. "No, no, I'm just kidding, ha! It's where I keep all my snowboarding stuff and awards and my wood working stuff."
"Wood working? Like carving statues?"
"JEEZ, CAN YOU GUYS GO ANY FREAKIN SLOWER? WE'RE BURNING DAYLIGHT HERE, PEOPLE!"
"God, Emma, pipe down! I don't want the neighbors to complain about the noise again!" Jack shouts.
"You pipe down, turd!" She grabs his arm again and pulls him out the door, but lets him go as soon as he's through and races Jamie to the elevator.
Jamie glances back at me with his big brown eyes, then whispers loudly in Emma's ear. "You didn't tell me she was so pretty!"
Jack chuckles. "I think you have an admirer."
"Heh, yeah." I smirk, watching Emma beat Jamie to the button and making sure he knows it. "He's adorable."
"Just wait 'til you meet his sister. She is the absolute sweetest thing ever. Jamie's sister IS DEFINITELY NICER THAN MY DUMB SISTER," he yells, cupping his hands around his mouth to make sure Emma hears. She glares at him and sticks her tongue out.
When we reach them, the elevator arrives and we all gather inside. Jamie stands on my right pretending to listen to Emma's chatter while peeking up at me. I smile down at him and his cheeks flush.
Once we reach ground floor, they run down the hall toward reception. We follow at a normal pace, though I see now that Jack's itching to run along with them. He's just staying back for me. I pick up the pace to ease him a little.
We pass a room on the left that smells faintly of chlorine. I peer in, but the glass door is faceted and opaque.
"Is that a pool?" I ask Jack, pointing to the room that's behind us now.
"Oh, yeah! It's great. There's a slide and everything, and it has colored lights at night. It's only open 'til nine, but I know a way around that." He shrugs, a smug grin on his face.
We reach the front. The mid-afternoon light shines through the crystal vases, scattering rainbows all across the floor.
"Ah, this is my favorite time to be down here," Jack says happily, trying his best to step on every rainbow in our path.
The pretty brunette receptionist waves at us. Zel, I think Jack said her name was? "Hey guys! Having a good day?"
"As always, Puny!"
"Aw, Jack, you now I hate when you call me that!"
"Yeah, well I hate when you call me Robert, Miss Literature Major!"
She giggles. "Fair enough, Robert."
"Noooo," he grumbles, walking through the revolving door. He goes around for a second spin like I did earlier, which makes me smile. He grab me on the second time around and pulls me in. "Come on, the little Duchess is waiting. We know how Duchess isn't very patient!" He leans his head in my direction, looking up at me through those floppy bangs.
"Oh yes! We must tend to her majesty right away!" I laugh, playing along.
We find Jamie on the other side of the door riding around on the tricycle. It's just big enough for him, but Jack freaks out when he sees it and runs ahead. Emma's about to get on when Jack picks her up and sets her on the other side, taking her place on the seat. She stamps her foot and pouts. "Jackson Pine Frost, no fair!"
"Hahahaaa!" he chortles, squeaking away on the tiny metal toy. He rides past me, clicking his tongue and winking while making a finger gun.
"Hey pretty lady," he says, honking the rubber horn, "how do you like my wheels?"
I shake my head, trying not to burst into laughter, but it doesn't work and I double over when he tips the trike over a pot hole right into a patch of grass.
Jack Frost is almost an adult, and my job is to get him more focused on his future, but I'm not so sure how good I'm going to be at that. When I see him like this, silly and laughing and at home with himself, I can't help but want to encourage it. I've never met someone filled with so much happiness, and to try to pull that back felt like the worst of crimes.
I agree with what he said earlier. Knowing him may be the start of a very big, very interesting adventure.
Jesus Christ, this is almost as long as all previous chapters combined. CRY. That's why it took 2 months. Don't judge.
So in a review, guess the movie quote, the movie Jack and Tooth watched (hint: Chris Pine~!), and where Dean is from (not too hard), and you'll get a preview of the next chapter! :D Sounds fair, right?
Nick Summers isn't part of the game because I have to credit him. He's SilverEyeShinobi's OC from her fic Summer of Frost. I just love Nick, and she was so nice to let me borrow him for a milli-sec.
I also didn't make this part of the guess, but the ice cream shop Sprinkles is from the novel This Is What Happy Looks Like. I read it recently. It's a lovely book. c:
ALSO OMG YOU GUYS, you all read Project GUARDIAN right? The author and I share an online friendship based purely on our awesomeness and fabulous gorgeousness, so she PUT ME IN HER STORY. SQUEEEEEEEEE! Agent Sparks, here, reporting for duty! 8"DDDDD Like I started crying when I read that. Thanks, boo.
Point of No Return by NewLightRiini: Space!Tooth and Alien!Jack get into mischief in the deepest of SPACE. This Jack is literally the most shittiest of little shit Jacks, but Tooth doesn't take shit from nobody!
(If you like Warm Bodies) The Tale of Two Hoodies by TheIronSea: Sweet Jesus, I freaking love R, and his and Jack's strange friendship is so cute. And also HOODIE BROS~!
(If you like Supernatural) Winchesters in Burgess by thescienceofabdustion: ASDFGESWHG OH GOB. Even if you don't like SPN, this story is freaking great.
Kay, that's it! Thanks for reading! Love you guys, bye! Playlist and apartment design on my profile.
~Reviews are better than banana pancakes.~