Title: Imaginary Friends
Fandom: Rise of the Guardians
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Jamie's Mom, Jack, (Jamie, Sophie)
Summary: Jamie's mother can't help thinking the best explanation is that Jack isn't imaginary - she just can't see him (yet).
Notes: I couldn't find a canon first name for Mrs. Bennett, so I picked 'Emily' after her voice actress.
Emily Bennett hung up the phone and glanced upward before sighing.
"Jamie," she called as she made her way to the stairs. "Jamie! That was the library. You have, and I quote 'a whole pile of books in'!"
There was a stampede of footsteps that sounded sort of like a dozen children and then Jamie appeared at the landing.
"Can we go get them?" he asked breathlessly before grinning a wide, excited grin. "It's only five, my homework is already done and--"
"Take your sister with you," Emily said. "And be home by six."
There was a pause as seemingly Jamie mulled over a four-block hike with Sophie.
Emily sighed as Jamie vanished back out of sight. She already knew what the 'whole pile of books' would be about - monsters and myths and all sorts of imaginary things. She knew, because she'd had the same interests at his age. She'd driven her own parents half-crazy trying to figure out how to sacrifice things to gods of long gone cultures because she was fairly sure they'd want leftover pizza crusts and mushy bananas. She didn't want them, after all. Gods probably weren't as picky.
Jamie was twelve now, halfway through a growth spurt and probably going to need all new winter things this year. There had already been a frost, beautiful and yet annoying as she'd gone to leave for work in the morning.
Emily paced through the kitchen and glanced at the checklist on the freezer. She and Jamie and Sophie had decided to split up the chores and her side was done and she'd already helped along a few of Sophie's, which included making sure all the rooms were picked up and that the porch was swept. The frost had brought down a good layer of brown and red leaves and Emily had carefully swept them all off the porch in the same direction so they might be harvested for a jumping pile.
She hadn't entirely forgotten how to be young, after all, even if she didn't admit it to anyone.
Dinner was going to come out of a box and she didn't feel terribly guilty for it. The grocery store could sell her frozen lasagna for half the price and certainly a fraction of the time of what it would take her to make it from scratch.
"Mom, we're leaving!"
"Look both ways!" Emily called almost as an unconscious reaction. Well, she'd certainly turned into her own mother.
"We will," Sophie called back. "Can I get books too?"
"No more than four."
The last four had taken an extra week to find and cost an extra ten cents per day each, which Jamie had politely offered to pay for out of his meager allowance. Emily had replaced the money in his piggy bank when he wasn't looking, but the point was that Sophie could have four books and they needed to be on her dresser every night.
The front door banged shut and Emily flopped into a kitchen chair. She wasn't tired. She just needed to sit for a moment and think about how best to use the hour she now had. Dinner would take about two minutes to debox and toss in the oven. Jamie was in charge of setting the table. Dishes were otherwise caught up.
With a little smile, Emily stood and slipped upstairs. Her own room was relatively spartan and clean. Weekends were for dusting and vacuuming, after all. And for helping Jamie unstick his fingers and suggesting he be a little more careful with his model glue, not that she hadn't done similar and probably worse.
Sophie's room was surprisingly neat, but then again she took her portion of the chore list very seriously. Because apparently the Easter Bunny had told her to and for some reason, his word was as good as Emily's.
While she'd never had an imaginary friend, Emily wasn't concerned that Sophie had somehow acquired the Easter Bunny as hers. She'd done a little reading and imaginary friends weren't anything to worry about as long as they weren't flat out disturbing daily routines.
She wasn't entirely sure about Jamie, though. Jamie had Jack, who was less like an imaginary friend and more like a friend that she just happened to not be able to see. At times, a pair of popsicles would vanish from the freezer or two game controllers would be out on the floor.
Sometimes, Emily wanted to believe that Jack was real because it'd be a far better explanation than anything else she could come up with.
She walked clear past the 'Keep Out!' sign on Jamie's door - honestly, she wasn't going to leave his underwear in a neat pile outside and she knew Jamie knew that - and took a look around. Jamie had books piled on every flat surface and every book pile had other things piled on top of it. The walls were covered in drawings done on poster board and printer paper and were of a variety of topics, all fantastic even when they were obviously also supposed to be in Burgess.
If she moved anything, she knew Jamie would know and she'd get a complaint that would instantly be countered with 'keep your room a little neater and I won't have to straighten things'. Emily didn't exactly think Jamie was hiding anything. Though there were two soda cans on the desk that caught her eye after a moment. They weren't even the sort of soda she liked, which meant they came from elsewhere.
She picked them up before thinking that maybe it might be better to let Jamie take them down to the recycling bin. Recycling was Jamie's chore, after all. Though she was curious where they came from--
"Don't worry, he didn't drink them both."
Emily wheeled around, nearly dropping the cans. But there was no one there. Obviously she'd just imagined it. But...
Shaking just a bit, she set the cans down and looked through the house, in closets and under beds and even in the basement even though she wasn't the biggest fan of the basement.
The back door was still locked and the front was undisturbed. If someone had come and gone, she would have heard it bang, anyway.
So she'd definitely imagined it. But why had she imagined her son out of a loving lecture on sugar and his teeth. Not to mention that caffeine would stunt his growth. Or was that just coffee? Emily didn't actually know and she wasn't about to admit to that.
She glanced at the clock in the kitchen and decided to put on the lasagna. That, at least, wouldn't talk back. The instructions never changed, but Emily looked them over anyway. The stove was about fifty degrees too cool, so she needed to compensate for that. And--
There was a chill in the air and Emily reached to push the freezer door closed. But it was closed. And the windows were closed and the back door was closed. Old house.
"Serves four," she said out loud. Sophie never ate quite that much. Jamie would probably be eating the whole thing on his own in another growth spurt or two. Normally she kept the leftovers to take to work for her lunch.
Once the lasagna was in the oven, Emily glanced around the kitchen again. No voices, no chills, no imaginary--
No imaginary friends?
"Jack?" she asked softly. "Didn't you go with Jamie to the library?"
"Is that where he is?"
Emily spun around, expecting to see-- well, she had no idea what Jack looked like.
She took a deep breath and nodded.
"He apparently borrowed the entire cryptozoology section from the university library," Emily said as evenly as she could. "I'm just glad he's reading and has hobbies... You hear stories, you know?"
"Got busy in Detroit and ended up running late." There was a playful tone in the voice but Emily still couldn't place it. But she was exceptionally sure that she wasn't imagining it which meant that Jamie hadn't been imagining Jack.
And then it hit her - she did know what Jack looked like. He was in quite a few of Jamie's drawings. Young - maybe Jamie's age though a bit taller - with a blue hoodie and hair that had required a silver sharpie. That had to be Jack. Everyone else she knew - Cupcake and Pippa and the twins...
"He'll be back soon," Emily managed as she turned again. "You can stay for dinner. Box says it serves four, though I might put on some lima beans just in case."
"I think Sophie is the only one who likes lima beans," Jack replied. He was leaning on a staff, Emily realized, and had bare feet. His pants needed some serious mending, too, and while she wasn't exactly great with a needle and thread, she was certainly going to offer.
Apparently her expression had changed and the playful little smile on Jack's lips changed to one of astonishment. Maybe it matched her own, Emily thought.
"And you can see me, can't you?" Jack questioned.
"Yeah--" Emily reached out to give him a little poke in the shoulder. Solid. Cold, but solid. "I might need to sit down in a second, but I can definitely see you and hear you and feel you."
"I don't think that's supposed to be possible--" But Jack shrugged. "I'm not going to worry about it."
"And I'm not going to think too much about it," Emily replied as she flopped onto one of the kitchen chairs. "My name is Emily, by the way. Or 'Mom', I suppose."
"I think 'Mom' might be a little easier." There was something almost sheepish about Jack's tone. "I'm Jack. Jack Frost."
Emily blinked. "The 'nipping at noses' sort?"
Jack nodded. "Something like that, yeah."
Emily nodded, feeling a little numb. She glanced over at the red light on the stove and up at the clock on the wall still softly ticking out the seconds. And then a thought hit her--
"The Easter Bunny really told Sophie to make sure her chores are done?"
"He's all into rules," Jack commented with a little eyeroll. "I mean, he's relaxed a bit these last couple years, but still pretty big into rules."
"Were you serious about dinner?"
"I'll have Jamie set the table for four."
Emily smiled at Jack's smile. Though she wasn't quite ready to ask about all the creatures in Jamie's books. Or the gods in her own.
Hopefully they'd liked pizza.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!