The Australian Giant


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Scene Title The Australian Giant
Synopsis After meeting Elizabeth, Jaiden takes a walk through the park only to meet up with a young family.
Date January 3, 1999

Central Park

Sunday afternoon in New York. January 3nd, 1999. It's a cold day with snow drifts half-melted from the intermittent rain the night before, coating a large portion of the city in a thing glaze of ice that makes walking hazardous on any sidewalk that's not very well traveled. But when one stays away from the sidewalks and has shoes built for walking on just about any surface, you do okay.

Jaiden is in central park, looking over the expanse of the Great Hill - peaceful, with very few tracks through the snow. Where he stands overlooks one of the playgrounds, the metal and black rubber padding heating faster than the surrounding land, making it an oasis of dry, slightly less cold fun to be found in the middle of the city. A cup of coffee is in his hand, the man sipping it idly, watching the world go by. Amazing city when it's not a crater.

There are the squeals of playing children all over. The few parents that have brought them out in the cold are sitting on benches and chatting with each other while they keep an eye on their progeny. Each and every one of the kids are bundled up in heavy winter clothing, making their play a little slower than it would in the summer. There are a few tykes sliding down part of the hill and running back up. Others are playing a slow motion game of tag. Some are building a snowman.

"Lulu! Where are you?!" The angry voice of a little girl errupts through the noise of the others. "Moooooooooooooommmmyyyyyyyy!! Lulu's not letting me play!!" A little redhead with spiral curls springing out from under a blue wool hat with a giant white pompom on the top trudges straight toward Jaiden. Stomp stomp stomp. She stops, staring at his legs for a few seconds and then tilts her head all the way back to look waaaayyy up at him.

Her jaw drops in surprise, giving her a comical little expression that only children can manage. "You're a GIANT!!"

Jaiden's not gigantic by any means, but he can see how, being six feet plus, he'd tower over a girl of not more than ten or eleven. His attention is drawn by the little girl at his feet, the man tipping forward slightly to regard her more closely, his left hand moving up to tilt his hat back. "G'day, little girl." He says with a soft smile as he looks her over.

The formerly pristine hillside is now marred by the little stomping footsteps from the girl who made her way up to where he stands. "Did'ja lose someone?"

"Uhm…uhm…uhm…. I… uhm… " Not actually expecting to answer her back, the little redhead is left stammering. Drawing in a long sniffle, she raises one blue matching mitten and wipes her nose with it. "My sister's playing hide and seek and she won't let me play."

The little girl's face scrunches into an angry little scowl and she twists her entire torso, raising her arm to point at a gaggle of children in the distance. "See? They're all playing but they won't let me!" Sure enough, there's a little brunette girl who is dressed to match the redhead, except she's got pink wool on. She's screaming as she runs away from two other children, racing them to reach 'home base'.

The man's smile is warm as he crouches, taking another sip of his coffee, his hat pushed back all the way to reveal his face, smiling broadly, like it's the natural configuration of his expression. He has a little stubble from not shaving for a day or so, but looks comfortable in his coat and boots. Comfortable enough to converse with a 10 year old.

"Why won't they let you play? It doesn't seem like it's very nice of them to leave you out. Is that girl in the pink your sister?"

"'Cause she's mean." The instant reply sounds like it's been voiced over a thousand times for a thousand different occasions. "She doesn't like me to play with her friends." The child's round face tilts to the side a little, the thick scarf around her neck hiding almost the entirety of her cheek. Then she leans forward enough to peek at what's inside the cup.

"Is that coffee? My grampa let me drink coffee once, it was dis-gus-ting. Then he put lots of milk and sugar into it and I dipped cake in. That was better." Her head bobs up and down as she nods, looking like a fairly convincing expert on everything caffeinated. Raising her hand again, she holds it out for him to shake (not the snotty mitten one). "My name is Lia, are you a policeman?"

Even if she held out the snotty mitten hand, Jaiden would have probably shook it anyway, as it was the polite thing to do. He reaches out with his gloved hand and shakes her hand lightly. "Lia, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Jaiden. And no, I'm not a police man. I travel around the world and write stories for a newspaper in Australia."

The cup is given a glance, lowered a little to keep Lia from balancing on her tiptoes to look into it. "It is coffee, and it's something that you have to grow to like. When you're small, like you, sweet things are the nicest, but when you get older, like me, sometimes you want something like coffee." Jaiden lets out a steaming breath, watching the kids play hide and seek for a moment. "May I ask you a question, Lia? Have you asked her if you can play with her, or have you just tried to join in without being invited. And if you do play, do you know the rules that they're playing by? Her being mean is a possibility, but I'm hoping it's something else."

"I write stories too. I wrote a story for school and it had a princess and a unicorn in it." Lia announces quite proudly as she gazes unflinchingly into Jaden's eyes. Her arms swing at her sides as she twists her torso to and fro as she speaks to him. She's rather obviously unable to keep still. "I got a shiny red star. Red stars are the best ones because they're the prettiest ones. The princess' name was Mary Sunshine and the unicorn's name was Mister Benjamin Featherbottom."

His explanation of the coffee and sweets has the little girl's lips pursing into a tight little knot and raising her chin in defiance. "I'm not little! I'm almost nine. That's almost ten! Do you know what I'm going to get when I'm ten? I'm going to get a horse! And I'm going to ride him far far far away so Lulu can't ride him and I'm going to make up all my own games that she can't play."

Ah, to be young with unlimited energy again. Jaiden chuckles and takes another sip of his coffee, the cup empty now, and stands. "Come on, let's go throw this away by the playground, and you can tell me all about your story. Did the princess live happily ever after?" He starts to walk toward the playground where all the kids play, pausing to make sure she's keeping up.

"I'm sorry, Lia. I didn't mean to make you angry. Let me ask you a question….are you the oldest, or is your sister?"

Delia's knees raise up in a militaristic march as she stomps back toward the playground. Unbeknown to the little girl, a rather statuesque middle aged woman has been watching her carefully the whole time. The little girl has a bit of trouble keeping up to the tall man but as she passes by her mother she gives a bright wave. "Hi Mommy!" Her bubbly little voice sounds a bit squeaky as she greets the woman eying the pair. "This is my new boyfriend Jaiden the Giant!!"

The redheaded woman simply raises her eyebrows and gives the man a considerably studious gaze until her eyes flit toward the child. Two steps and she begins to run toward the child. "Be careful Lia! Stop running near the merr— " But it's too late, the little girl has already fallen… and a long squeal begins the screaming cries as she runs to her mother. Her bloody nose drips down to her scarf, staining it.

He assumed that the child's mother wouldn't have spent the time dressing them both up in matching outfits and then decided that not watching them would be the best thing to do. "Hello Ma'am." Jaiden says with a respectful nod, tipping his hat even, before pulling it back on his head smartly. "I don't normally chat up ten year olds in snowy parks, but she just wandered up and started chatting so…" He trails off as Lia goes running and winces as she hits the ground. "Blimey….Here.." Jaiden reaches into the inside pocket of his coat for a white handkerchief which is offered to Delia's mother.

So far, he hasn't made the connection of exactly who this is.

"Thank you…" Mary says as she takes the handkerchief and stoops down to the level of the little girl. Her eyebrows are furrowed a little in worry as she gently wipes the blood and snot away from the screaming child's face. "Lia, Lia, sshhh shhh, it's okay. You're fine." A quick glance is shot over to the little group of children and she furrows her eyebrows as she spies the little brunette turning around and hitting another girl.

"Lucille Amelia Ryans! You tell her you're sorry, right now!" This causes the little redhead to stop crying immediately and turn to watch as her sister gets into trouble. The woman stands and takes a step toward the other girl who immediately turns to the other one and mutters something unintelligible. "Lucille!" Hunching her shoulders, the other little girl turns and actually hugs the other child quickly before letting go and running away.

"Mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom.." The curly haired redhead is tugging on her mother's coat, trying to garner her attention. Her tear stained face is now clear of forgotten tears as the little girl insistently pulls on the woman. "Mooooooooom! Can I go play with the Giant now?!"

Connection made. Jaiden's eyes widen slightly, but he manages not to cough, choke, or do anything that might give away the fact that, holy crap, he knows this girl! They slept on a couch together and watched horrible movies! He stands, though, and looks around for a bench or something to sit on, to watch the dichotomy between two sisters and Mary, a woman he knows in the future is now very much deceased.

He gives a look to Mary and shrugs. "I don't mind if you don't."

An uncertain glance is passed between the little redhead and the large man offering to be a playmate. As trusting as children can be, their parents are a lot more careful. "Stay near the merry-go-round and the bench. Do not wander away from there." There are no threats made as so what might happen if the child disobeys, simply 'the mom look'.

"Okay!" The tiny squeal of delight is let off from the springy haired child and she starts running toward the bench. "C'mon Jaiden the Giant!" While it normally wouldn't be a trial to get up on the bench, Lia's winter gear makes it almost impossible. She's forced to lay down on the bench and then crawl to a seated position.

The absolute last thing Jaiden wants to do is get in between a mother and her daughter, and the last thing he'd think about is hurting a child - moreso since it's Delia. Jaiden the Giant stands and follows the little girl over, taking a seat on the end of the bench in perfect view of just about everything - nothing to hide here.

"Do you think your sister will be envious of you because you've got a boyfriend before she does?" Jaiden teases after tossing his coffee cup into the trash.

Delia sits, legs out and bent at a slight angle, due to the padding of her snow pants. Her blue mittened hands are pressed together and tucked between her knees as she watches the other children silently. At Jaiden's question, she twists her head to the side to look at him and studies him for a long time before breaking out in a tight lipped grin.

"No~, I don't think so~," the little girl sings quietly (and rather off key), raising one hand to point out at the group. "See that boy out there with the red and blue on? That's Ian O'Connell, he lives on our block and I saw Lulu kiss him."

Jaiden watches the kids chase and boil around the playground, sitting quietly with the nine-year-old Delia, his hands clasped in his lap, his breath coming slowly. He's relaxed. Comfortable, even, sitting here in the cold.

He nods slightly at the tale of Lulu kissing a boy already, at age nine, chuckling a little. "Well, just because she kissed a boy doesn't mean you need to unless you want to. You have to like someone very much to give them a kiss. They're very special things, you see, that you don't just give away to the first boy you meet."

"I don't want to kiss a boy anyway," Delia emphasizes with a liberal roll of her blue eyes. "I told Lulu that if she kissed boys it would all be wasted but she says it's fun. I don't think that they think it's really fun. Ian hit her after and ran away." The little girl tilts her head as she watches the little group run around the slide and monkey bars.

As her cornflower blue eyes follow the group, she pastes a grim yet brave smile on her face before turning back to Jaiden and raising her eyebrows high on her forehead. "Why do you talk funny? Are you from Texas?"

The way she's acting, it's like she was afraid of the answer, or that he'd get mad at her for asking the question. "Texas? No. I'm from Australia. It's a country on the other side of the world. It's where Steve Irwin comes from, you know." No, he hasn't met Steve Irwin, please don't ask.

"Well, I can't speak for how fun kissing boys is, but when you care about someone, sometimes it's a good idea to kiss them. It shows that you care about them."

The little girl's head twists along with the top half of her body as she turns around to wave a mitten at her ever watchful mother. "Do you kiss girls?" Lia asks with only a little bit of a wrinkled nose. Her eyes crinkle a little at the corners as she peers curiously at him, inching a little forward as if to try to see the invisible cooties.

"Do you kiss Steve Irwin?" The child obviously has no idea who Steve Irwin is, not that she asked if he knew the man… just if he kissed him.

"Sometimes." Jaiden answers truthfully, looking over to Mary, still watching casually while Lulu scampers around being a pain in the rear, his attention going back to Mini-Delia. "But not Steve Irwin, the Crocodile hunter. I don't know him well enough, and I don't want to kiss boys anyway."

Delia giggles, covering her mouth with her hands as though she's sharing a conspiracy or a secret with the large man next to her. When she sobers enough to chatter at him again, she looks up into his eyes, hers the exact same as he's always known them, only a little smaller. "I don't want to talk about kissing anymore, it's gross. Do you have unicorns in Australia? I read a book where a beaver had a duck beak and it lived in Australia."

"When I grow up? I'm going to go to Australia but only after I climb the Empire State Building and then I'm going to buy a zebra to be friends with my horse. I'm going to name the horse Mary and the zebra will be Benjamin."

"We have a lot of things in Australia. The beaver with the duck bill is called the duck-billed platypus. It lives in water, like a beaver, but lays eggs like a duck. They're also poisonous, so if you see one when you go down there, don't touch. As far as unicorns?" Jaiden puts on a show of thinking. "Well, I've never seen one, but some of the aborigines have legends of mystical creatures like that, so you never know…there might still be one prancing around down there."

She changes subject on a whim and talks. It's still Delia, but it's not. So strange.

Her mouth form's a little 'O' when the large man talks about the legend and the fact that there just might be a unicorn down where he's from. "Really?!" Lia's expression is absolutely full of amazement, her wide eyes and large smile are bright and cheerful, more than he's ever really seen. She leans way over to the side opposite him and rests her head on the bench, blinking as she stares out into the playground. To look at her face, one can practically see the imagination whirling around, turning the snowscape into a lush forest filled with Australian unicorns.

"I'm going to run away to Australia tomorrow…" she whispers quietly.

"You might want to wait until you're a little bit older and have a little more experience with living. Australia can be dangerous if you're not careful, and the aborigines don't really take well to trespassers." Jaiden laughs. "But is is a nice place to visit sometime."

Snapped out of her daydream, Lia sits up and stares at Jaiden for a second before shaking her head in protest, "Nuh uh! I'm almost nine and that's almost ten! They'll just make me their abberjininal queen and I'll be the queen over all the unicorns!!" She turns around on the bench and takes a deep breath before hollaring out toward Mary, "Moooooooooom!! Can I run away to Australia tomorrow to be the abberjininal queen of all the unicorns?"

Lulu, finally taking notice of what her sister is doing runs over to the pair on the bench and pushes on the redhead's leg. "I'm going to be the queen, you have to be the princess." Then she turns a sweet, smiling face to Jaiden, fluttering her eyelashes up at him. "Hiii~ I'm Lucille~" Her body twists from side to side as she introduces herself to the giant next to her sister, obviously it's a child sized version of flirtation.

Jaiden's attention is pretty much on Delia, (there is a bit of a facepalm when she asks for permission to run away to Australia) but when Lulu comes over and bonks her leg, trying to hog what little spotlight Delia gets, he turns to regard her, giving a small smile. "Good afternoon, Lucille. Your sister and I were having a nice conversation about unicorns and where I come from, Australia. I think she came up with the idea first."

Mary is walking over to the trio just as Delia gives off a shrill scream at being touched by Lucille and lunges at her. The little redhead tackles the brunette and they wrestling around in the snow, rolling and hitting each other. Both of them have such high pitched voices that it's almost impossible to discern one from the other. "I WANTED TO BE THE QUEEN!!" which is answered by "YOU'RE TOO UGLY!!" which gets the reply of "I SAID IT FIRST!!" which in turn gets "NO ME!!" Of course, all of this has their mother running.

"Girls!! Stop this now!" Mary's voice snaps Delia to attention and she stops immediately, clambering up to a stand. Lucille gets up a little slower than the redhead and when she thinks no one is looking, she pushes Lia over. Delia falls, bouncing off of Jaiden's leg and then falling to the ground. She sits there for a moment, hanging her head before that little squeal starts up again.

The Australian witnessed it all. "Now that wasn't very nice, Lucille, pushing your sister over like that when the fight was done. Not very fair." He helps Delia to her feet, brushing off snow. "And you should not have tackled your sister like that…."

The words die on his lips as Mary speaks up, the man sitting back, helping Delia to the bench next to him, letting out a sigh. "I don't have any brothers or sisters, so I don't understand why you both fight so much."

"I can't take them out anywhere…" Mary says in an exasperated tone as she gives Jaiden a weary sort of smile, "They didn't used to be so aggressive." It's obvious the red headed woman is embarrassed at the behavior of her children. Lucille is gripped by one arm and walked not more than ten paces away where she's quietly scolded.

Sniffling, Delia wipes her nose with her mitten again and looks down at her feet. "I'm sorry…" she murmurs, apologizing to Jaiden for her fighting as she sneaks peaks at her sister and mother out of the corner of her eye. More sniffles and the little girl's shoulders sink, her head tips downward and the most hangdog expression ever to grace the earth is plastered on the child. "She always takes everything… She took my Mister Peacock and tore his ear right off."

Jaiden is quiet for a while, watching Delia, watching Lulu. Just watching. And then, after a moment he rests a hand on Delia's shoulder, giving it a light squeeze, a grip of iron that is anything but right now, leaning down to whisper. "I'm going to tell you a secret, Delia, one that is only for you and you mustn't tell to anyone for the longest, longest time."

Jaiden glances up, seeing that Mary is still scolding, which gives him a scant few seconds to talk. "I know you think that life's unfair right now. I know that when you see Lulu do something, you want to do it too or you want to have exactly what she has too. But she's your sister and you're hers. She doesn't hate you. She doesn't loathe you. She just doesn't know how to express her feelings for you. You're popular in school, right, while Lulu likes to do gymnastics and read?" He throws this out there to get her attention….how could he know that?

Delia's attention is turned from her mother and sister as she stares wide eyed at Jaiden. "Uh huh… I have lots of friends at school! A bazillion friends. More friends than anybody even the president!" The topic brightens the little girl's outlook and she actually smiles again. How he knew? Well it doesn't seem to matter to the child as much as the fact that he does know. The little girl graces him with a bright smile, her little eyes sparkling with the remains of threatening tears that have been blinked away.

Leaning a little closer, she cups her little hand to her ear to hear the secret. "What's the secret?" She whispers in a little rush, the conspiratorial grin making her excited enough to squirm in her seat.

"The secret?" Jaiden's eyes twinkle as he leans back, then down again to whisper in her ear. "The secret is that friends come and go, but family is forever. Lulu and you may not get along, but through it all, she is your sister and you're hers. She's envious of you and all of your friends, you know? She wants to be where you are which is why she tries to push you down. Be nice to her. Forgive her when she does things to you. Forgiveness, after all, does not change the past but it does enlarge the future." Jaiden leans back with a smile. "It's hard to be the better person, but I know you have it in you."

It's all the same things she's heard from both her mother and father over and over again, every time they fight. They seem to get along fine at home, alone, but as soon as they're out in public the competitive streak in both of them glows bright red and they set off a little too easily. Nonetheless, she looks up at him wide eyed as if it's the first time she's ever been given the talk. "Really? You think she wants my friends too?" There's a little hint of worry in her voice as the little girl twists the earnest lesson into her own version of the truth. The light slowly comes on though, and the redhead is left looking up at Jaiden, studying him closely.

By this time, Mary and Lulu are well into their way back and Mary only has to give Delia a stern look before the younger child breaks. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I won't do it again!" She slides off the bench, only to try to prove her words by giving Lucille a hug.

The display doesn't seem to placate Mary very well, though the hug is returned by the little brunette. For now, they're best friends again. "C'mon Lia! Let's go slide down the hill!"

The brunette is already tugging the younger one to follow, though Lia drags to stare at Jaiden for another moment before running off. "Are you going to watch us Jaiden the Giant?"

This question is answered by Mary, who is eying both of the girls like a hawk. "Ten minutes and then we have to go. We don't want to be late for Daddy's plane." This announcement elicits excited squeals from both girls who tear off running toward the hill. Leaving Mary with her arms folded over her chest, standing a few feet away from Jaiden.

"I know she does, Lia. It's lonely being outside." Jaiden straightens and nods. "I'll watch if your mommy says it's okay." The man deferring to the woman who's staring down the two girls as if expecting destruction and terror to break out at any moment.

"Thank you," Mary says with a long sigh, preferring to keep an eye on the girls rather than look at Jaiden. Her mannerisms are familiar to him, inherited by a redhead that he knows in the future. "They can be quite a handful." The two girls in question are holding hands as they slide down the hill on their ski pants, one pink, the other blue. When she finally casts her brown eyes on Jaiden, she's giving him a brief smile before turning back to supervise her children again.

"They're good girls. I can tell that much from this short meeting. I just hope that they work out whatever differences they have before high school." Jaiden looks up to Mary with a smile, just in time for her to look down at him. "Take care of them both. They'll do wonderful things in the future."

Jaiden stands and stretches, pushing his hands back into his pockets, giving Mary a nod. "If they ask, tell them the Giant went back to Australia to play with the unicorns."

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