A/N: I'm bored.
"Jason Monier? Right, get on. Michael Drummond? Where's Mick? Oh there you are. Rabbit? Rabbit Warren? Luke Warren? Where the hell is Rabbit?"
Rabbit Warren pushed his way to the front of the crowd waiting to get on the bus. "Here, here. I'm here chill out Steven."
Steven Evans glared at Rabbit. "I've called your name at least three times."
"Sorry." Rabbit jerked his thumb backwards. "Dom was yelling at Aaron. I didn't hear."
"Yeah, yeah. Just get on the bus." Steven grumbled, going back to the list he held in his hands. Rabbit obeyed and climbed on. He paused as he got to the top step. "Hey Steven, where are we going again?"
The footballers crowded around the bus groaned in unison. "For Pete's sake Rabbit." Steven gritted his teeth. "How many times? Tyler house. It's a centre for kids recovering from drug addictions and alcohol abuse."
"Oh right." Rabbit paused. "Uh, why?"
"Can't we do something nice for the community?"
Rabbit stared at the teams PR consultant. "What?"
"Alright. It's for publicity ok?"
Rabbit shrugged and continued onto the bus. He shoved his bag under the seat and sat down heavily next to the window. He'd thought as much. The teams five-eighth plonked his stocky frame into the seat next to Rabbit. "You're a quick one aren't you Rabbit?"
Rabbit rolled his eyes. "Piss off Aaron."
Aaron jammed his feet against the seat in front of him. "Yeah, yeah orright. I don't get why we're going to visit a bunch of drugo kids anyway."
Rabbit shrugged. "Publicity."
Jason Monier leant over the back of the seat in front of Rabbit and Aaron. "How's it going kids?"
Rabbit and Aaron both rolled their eyes. Jason was the team captain, at 32 years old. Rabbit and Aaron were the kids of the team, at 18 and 19 years old respectively, but they still hated hearing it. "Why are we doing this Jas? What's the point?" Rabbit asked the captain. Jason shrugged. "Good publicity isn't it? The club seen doing something good for the community. Plus Dan reckons it'll bring the team closer together in the run up to the finals."
Aaron snorted. "A crock if ever I heard one."
"And you're the king of crock if ever there was one, aint you Johnson?" asked Mick Drummond, sauntering up the aisle. Aaron pulled a face at him and flipped him the finger. Jason and Mick both laughed heartily, before Jason ruffled Rabbit's hair and settled back into his seat. Rabbit made a rude gesture to the back of the seat and stared moodily out the window.
At 18 years old, Rabbit Warren was the youngest fullback the Logan Crocodiles had ever had. He was also the youngest fullback and one of the youngest players in the national rugby league. At 17, a passing scout had seen Rabbit play in the local competition and drafted him straight away. Rabbit's first team of choice would have been the Brisbane Broncos; what Queenslander didn't want to play for them? But the Croc's were doing well this season, and Rabbit was making a name for himself as a young player to watch.
Aaron whacked Rabbit on the arm, snapping him out of his stupor. "We're here man." He said, standing up and pulling his own bag out of the overhead storage compartment. Rabbit sighed and stood up as well, following Aaron off the bus. They joined the rest of the team assembled out side the Tyler Centre. Steven Evans stood in front of the footballers, along with the coach of the team Dan Cheney. "Right you lot. These kids are all recovering from drug addictions or problems with alcohol. Be sensitive towards them, be friendly, and encourage them to participate in the activities. And no one, NO ONE, say anything about drugs, or the drink." Steven raised his voice. "Did you hear that Johnson?"
The rest of the team laughed as Aaron turned scarlet. "Yeah, I heard." He lowered his voice so only Rabbit could hear. "You fucking wanka."
Rabbit laughed quietly as he and Aaron followed Jason into the centre.
The inside of the building reminded Rabbit of a hospital. It was cold and clinical. Rabbit couldn't see how an environment as sterile as the centre was supposed to help kids get better. If he'd been stuck in there, he would have been trying to get drunk to get away from the blandness of the place. A lady with greying hair done up tightly in a bun stood in front of the 17 men and waited for them all to stop talking. "Good afternoon gentlemen." She said crisply. "And welcome to Tyler house. My name is Caroline Jenkins. One behalf of the staff and children at the centre, I would like to thank you for making the trip out here."
Rabbit looked at the women scornfully. She looked anything but grateful to see them. In fat, she looked like they were nothing but a big pain in the ass. He shifted from one foot to the other nervously. "Please come through." Ms Jenkins instructed. "All the residents and staff are waiting your arrival out the back." She turned and led them through the house. Rabbit looked around in wonder. The centre was just like a normal house beyond the foyer, albeit a little bit larger. He wondered how many kids lived there.
Caroline pushed her way through the doors and led the team out into the huge backyard. Rabbit looked it over in awe. It was massive; he had dreamed about a backyard like that when he was a kid. His attention then turned to the group of kids standing in front of him. Their eyes were wandering over the team, sparking when they recognised someone they knew from the telly and from the papers. One boy who looked to be around 15 pointed at Rabbit and whispered something to the girl beside him. Rabbit shifted uncomfortably. He was used to being picked out of a line up. His reputation in the football world exceeded him, and sometimes he wanted to be picked out as just Rabbit, not Rabbit the star fullback. Caroline ran her eyes over the group assembled and frowned. She hissed something to another staff member, who then ran his eyes over the kids and shrugged. Caroline squared her shoulders and turned back to the team. "Please feel free to wander around the house. Talk to the kids, most of them don't bite,"
Rabbit's easy smile had turned into one of alarm. Most of them??
"Lunch will be served in about an hour. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask any of the staff." Caroline Jenkins words were warm, but her tone was flat and her expression suggested that she would rather be doing anything else than entertaining seventeen footballers. Jason Monier stepped up and shook her hand, giving her the usual spiel about how glad they were to be involved, bla bla bla. Rabbit looked around, lost in his own world until Aaron elbowed him sharply in the side. "Rabbit. I think these kids want to talk to you." He said with a dumb smirk.
"Oh." Rabbit said blankly, before pasting a bland smile on his face. "Sure." It was the boy and the girl he had seen whispering together before. The boy looked at him in awe. "Are you really Rabbit Warren?" he asked.
Rabbit gave him a crooked smile. "So they tell me."
"And can you really run from try line to try line in 12 seconds flat?"
Rabbit nodded and the boy's eyes widened even further. "Wow. That's fucking fast." The girl next to him elbowed him. "Sorry." He said hastily. "Freaking fast."
Rabbit allowed himself a tiny grin. "Don't worry about it. I do it all the time."
"Are you going to take over from Darren Lockyer in the state team while he's injured?" the boy asked. Rabbit faltered. "Uh, I doubt it. There's a lot better players than me out there mate."
The boy shook his head fervently. "No way. You're good man. Really good. If you weren't you wouldn't be playing at all right?"
"Well I guess there's some truth in that." Rabbit mused with a small smile. He liked this kid. "Hey," he said, looking over to where Jason had a heard of kids surrounding him. "I think we're about to start a game of touch footy. You can be on my team."
The kids' eyebrows almost disappeared into his hair. "The same team as Rabbit Warren? I'm so in!"
Rabbit laughed. "Ok. I'll…" he trailed off when he felt a cool hand being placed on his arm. "Mr Warren. I'm sorry to interrupt, but could I have a word?"
Rabbit turned and met the expressionless grey eyes of Caroline Jenkins. He swallowed. "Sure." There was something about the centre's director that made him nervous.
Caroline led him into the house and turned around to face him. She gestured to a girl sitting in a chair in the corner, her nose buried in a book. "That, is Savannah Mitchell." Caroline sighed. "One of the centres more difficult cases. I was wondering…if it would be possible for you to have a word with her. Savannah doesn't often socialise with the other children. I had hoped that today might bring her out of her shell, but she doesn't seem to be moving."
"You want me to encourage her to participate." Rabbit supplied, thinking back to Steven Evans earlier words. "Well yes." Caroline smiled. Rabbit thought he knew now why a woman like her was in charge. She might appear rock hard on the surface, but she cared for these kids. "You are close to Savannah in age. If you could just…"
"Sure, I'll have a go." Rabbit said doubtfully, looking over to where the girl sat curled up in her chair. "Thank you." Caroline said, with genuine graciousness this time. She turned around and left Rabbit alone, to try and talk to this mystery girl.
Rabbit cautiously approached the chair where the girl sat, spinning a football that he'd picked up in his hands. "Hi." He ventured. The girl didn't respond. "Uh…what are you reading?"
The girl lifted the book slightly so he could read the jacket. "Ah. Great Expectations. Never heard of it." he said cheerfully. The girl dropped the book down in shock, revealing her face for the first time. Rabbit let out an involuntary gasp and stared at her. The girl had long, straight, bright red hair that stood out clearly against her fair skin, skin that was so pale it almost glowed. Her features were pretty, but not really anything to write home about. She had high cheekbones and a narrow chin, but what drew Rabbit's attention most were her eyes. They were a vivid green, the colour of emeralds. Not once in his 18 years had Rabbit seen anyone with eyes the colour of hers. It was her eyes that made her so extraordinarily beautiful. "Uh…" he stuttered. The girl seemed completely oblivious to his staring.
"You've never heard of Great Expectations? Charles Dickens?"
Rabbit pulled himself together and thought back to his year 12 English class. He shrugged. "I might have. Who's really to say?"
The girl, Savannah, looked at him as if he were a complete idiot. "Well as exciting as that book sounds, why don't you come and play footy with us?" Rabbit grinned. "I'll even let you be on my team."
Savannah hitched her book up again and surveyed him coolly through her brilliant green eyes. "No thank you." She disappeared again. "I'm not really one for sports."
Rabbit was a little bit stunned. He had thought that everyone loved sports. "Well, I could show you?" he suggested. "It's not all that hard…"
"You're wasting your time Mr Warren." She said flatly.
"Huh? How did you…how did you know my name?"
The eyes appeared again. "It says on the back of your shirt."
"Oh right." Rabbit said dumbly. He'd forgotten he was wearing his team shirt that had his name and number printed on it. "Just call me Rabbit." He said easily, forgetting his humiliation from before. "Everyone does."
"Rabbit. That's an interesting name." Savannah remarked, not sounding the slightest bit fascinated. "Oh yeah. They gave it to me when I joined the team. Cause I can run fast. You know that song, run rabbit run?"
"Yes, I know it. I thought it might have been because of your name."
"Uh, no." Rabbit said uneasily. "Rabbit IS my name."
The girl lowered her book and smirked at him. "No, I mean because of your last name. Warren."
"Why would it be because of that?"
"A Rabbit's home is called a warren."
"You're kidding? And I always thought it was a burrow."
Savannah stared at the boy standing in front of her in complete disbelief. In the five minutes he'd been standing there, he'd not once picked up on the fact that she didn't want to talk to him. He was either incredibly thick or incredibly easygoing. She couldn't decide which. Rabbit. She hid a snort. What kind of name was that? It obviously suited him though. Even she'd heard of him, and she didn't follow football at all. Savannah had to admit, for a rugby player he was very good-looking. For starters, he had a neck, which many rugby players seemed to be lacking. He had dark hair and warm brown eyes, matched with a light tan and a fantastic build. She could see the muscles in his back flex under his shirt as he moved. Grabbing onto her inner self and giving it a hard shake, Savannah reminded herself that soon he'd be gone. He wouldn't come back, just like every other visitor to the centre. He'd get back to his own life. Not once would he think about the kids at that centre and wonder how they were going. And why should he? He wasn't the one that was fucked up.
"What's your real name?" she asked blankly. Rabbit thought for a moment. It had been so long since he'd used his real name. "Luke." He said finally. "But call be Rabbit."
"Why should I?" Savannah asked. "Nicknames give a sense of familiarity, and I don't know you from Adam."
Rabbit shrugged good-naturedly. "Fair enough." Savannah lost her patience.
"Look, Luke. You don't want to be here, and I don't want you to be here. So why don't you just go back and tell the old cow that I was a bitch and you couldn't get me to move, and we can both just forget this ever happened."
"Why would I do that?" Rabbit asked.
"Why would you not? What's in this for you?"
"Nothing." Rabbit replied.
"Bullshit. There's something in it for you. Otherwise you wouldn't be here."
"Did it ever occur to you, Savannah, that I am here on my own free will?" Rabbit asked with a small smirk. "That's crap. You're not. And after this is done, you'll go back to your perfect life, and never once think of this centre. And you sure as hell won't be back, so go now, before I do something we'll bot regret." Savannah hid behind her book once again, feeling that she had said too much. Rabbit stared a moment longer, before turning lightly on his heel. "Sure you won't play?"
Silence. "Ok. Have it your way then." Rabbit left her sitting in the chair and joined his teammates in the backyard. But as hard as he tried, he couldn't get those eyes out of his head. They burned away in the back of his mind, making it impossible to forget Savannah the ice queen. He thought about her parting words. "And you sure as hell won't be back…" Rabbit smiled to himself. He'd see about that.