Big thank you to everyone who took a look at the poll, and to those of you who offered suggestions for this chapter! I was actually really trying to incorporate them but somehow... this happened instead ^^;
Guarding Belief Part II
Things had decidedly not gone well. Jack had started off with a very basic plan: first he would alert Mrs Bennett to his presence, and then he would prompt her to connect him with the Jack Frost her kids often talked about. It certainly wasn't the best plan he'd ever come up with, and he'd expected a level of negative backlash, but this was far worse than he'd expected. As he sat on the kitchen counter and watched a tense Mrs Bennett whisper frantically into the phone, he was forced to acknowledge that while he'd definitely achieved part 1 of his plan, part 2 had, well, completely and utterly failed.
In hindsight, having objects seemingly move within reach of their own accord was less helpful and more terrifying. And because of his actions, poor Mrs Bennett was on the verge of a mental breakdown.
"Hunh," Jack muttered, "I really do make a mess of everything."
He felt like he should apologise at the very least, but even if he screamed it right in her ear she wouldn't hear him. With a sigh, he slid off the counter. Well, at least he'd tried.
He turned to leave, but paused when his gaze fell on the fridge. Or, more precisely, the magnets on the fridge. Alphabet magnets. Jack stood in contemplation for a long moment, trying to think of everything that could go wrong. He glanced back over his shoulder at Mrs Bennett. She was still on the phone, her back to him. She wouldn't see him do it.
Biting his lip and hoping he wasn't about to make everything worse, he quickly rearranged some of the letters until he'd spelled out a single word: sorry. There was no guarantee she would notice it at all, let alone realise what it meant, but it was better than nothing.
With one last look back at her, Jack left the room and headed upstairs to make his escape.
Over a week passed before Jack finally ventured back to Burgess. He'd been avoiding it, if he was honest – or rather avoiding the Bennetts, as much as it pained him to do so. But Jamie's sad face didn't leave him no matter how far he flew, and he would be lying if he said he wasn't curious to find out if his message had been received.
The familiar call made him pause, and he flipped around midair, easily spotting Jamie and Sophie on the sidewalk below. They both looked pleased to see him. He only hoped it stayed that way.
"Hey," he flew down to meet them. "On your way home from school?"
"Yeah," they replied together.
Jack fell into step beside them, walking along fences and whatever else he could find. Without needing to be prompted, the kids started filling him in on the things he'd missed over the last week, including the results of Sophie's test, which she'd aced.
"And you said you weren't ready for it," Jack smirked, nudging her.
"It was easy," she replied, radiating satisfaction.
"Or maybe you're just really smart."
Before they knew it, they were back at the house, and conversation petered away as they stepped inside.
"We're home!" Jamie called as he and Sophie started tugging off their boots.
Mrs Bennett stuck her head through the lounge room doorway. "Did you have a good day?"
Jack studied her closely as the kids began reciting the highlights. There wasn't a trace of fear on her face now; probably the week without any incidents had been enough to calm her down. Either that or she'd rationalised it away, as adults were prone to do. Whatever the case, he was glad she was doing better, though he was still disappointed that he'd failed Jamie.
"Is it okay if we go to the park?" Jamie asked, dragging Jack from his thoughts.
"I don't mind. Just be back in time for dinner."
"Do you want to take a snack with you?"
Jamie paused, foot poised half in his boot. The promise of food was enough to postpone his excitement, and he and Sophie rushed off towards the kitchen. Jack couldn't suppress a chuckle and followed after them.
By the time he caught up, Sophie had practically crawled into the pantry, and Jamie was staring into the fridge. Jack's eyes settled on the magnets on the fridge door. His apology was gone now – scattered by one of the Bennetts, no doubt. He wondered if Mrs Bennett had gotten the chance to see it or not.
Jamie pulled out a couple of juice boxes just as Sophie emerged triumphant with some snack-sized packets of chips. She tossed one to Jamie as he swung the door shut, and that was when Jack saw it. There, carefully concealed amongst a myriad of other letters and squished into near indecipherability, was: wat do u wnt.
There was no lack of letters, so that left Jack with two conclusions: either this was one freaky coincidence, or Mrs Bennett was going to great lengths to keep her reply to his apology as subtle as she possibly could.
Jack's gaze darted over to Jamie and Sophie, who had at some point moved over to the doorway. "Hm?"
"Yeah." He spared the fridge a final glance before heading back with them to the front door. The message probably wasn't going to go anywhere. He could reply to it later.
It wasn't till much later that Jack got the chance to respond. He'd spent the afternoon having a snowball war with the Burgess kids, and then he'd followed Jamie and Sophie back home again. He'd joined them at the table (or rather on the table, as sitting in a chair would have been obvious to Mrs Bennett) while they ate dinner, and then watched TV with them until finally Mrs Bennett had called for them to go get ready for bed. While they reluctantly headed upstairs, Jack snuck back into the kitchen.
He'd been pondering over what to say all afternoon, so it took only a matter of seconds to replace Mrs Bennett's 'wat do u wnt' with 'to help'. Because, really, that was the crux of it. All he wanted to do was help; not just Jamie, but her too. She was worried about Jamie, and she was probably worried about Sophie, too, who had never bothered to hide the fact that she was conversing with someone seemingly no one else could see.
Nodding in satisfaction, he headed upstairs to say goodnight to his favourite kids.
R u ghst?
Jack stared at the latest message on the fridge door, conflicted. In a sense, he supposed, he probably was a ghost, but at the same time he was very, very different. It was probably more accurate to define himself as a…
Spirit, he corrected. As a non-believer, the distinction between a ghost and a spirit would probably be lost on Mrs Bennett, but it wasn't exactly something he could explain with alphabet magnets, if not least because it would be a little hard to conceal that. Not that Jamie and Sophie were around to see it right now – they'd already headed off to school.
He waited around the house after that. Mrs Bennett was folding laundry upstairs, but he figured she would come in for lunch or a drink or something eventually. After ten minutes of staring at the ceiling, though, Jack quickly grew bored and decided to wait in Jamie's room. At least there he would have something to do.
When the sound of footsteps passed by the door an hour or two later, Jack quickly plopped the book he'd been reading down on Jamie's bed and hurried after her. As he'd hoped, Mrs Bennett only made one detour before heading into the kitchen. He loitered in the doorway, watching her.
At first she ignored the fridge completely, instead pulling a cup down from one of the cupboards and filling it with tap water. Jack fidgeted, willing her to turn around. Finally, finally, she did. And very nearly dropped her glass when she realised he'd replied again. With deliberately slow movements, she placed her cup down on the sink and carefully scanned the room. Her gaze brushed over Jack like he wasn't even there. For all intents and purposes he wasn't. Then, unable to see him, she made her way over to the fridge and started shifting the letters.
Jack edged a little closer, positioning himself so he could see what she was doing.
Wat dffrnc? he read.
How the heck was he supposed to explain it? Writing 'Jack Frost' would definitely be stretching 'subtle' if she didn't see it before the kids got home…
…but maybe there was another way.
Leaving the kitchen, Jack hurried back upstairs to Jamie's room. He stood just in from the doorway, eyes roving the space as he tried to think where Jamie would keep his old drawings, assuming he kept them at all. He supposed he could just take one from the wall, but there were only a few of them displayed these days, and Jamie was sure to notice the loss.
Feeling a little like a thief, Jack moved over to the desk and opened the bottom drawer; he was sure he'd seen Jamie stash some sketchbooks in there. As he'd hoped, there were several books and a stack of loose papers sitting in the drawer. He left the sketchbooks alone – he wasn't about to tear anything out of them, and it felt like too much of a breach of privacy to go through them without permission anyway. Instead, he focused on the loose sheets. Magical creatures, portraits of his friends, fan art, but none of that was what he was looking for. He was on the verge of giving up when he spotted a folded square wedged in the bottom of the drawer, poking out from under one of the sketchbooks. Putting the stack down, Jack carefully pried it free and unfolded it.
It was an old drawing, and Jack recognised it immediately. A wave of nostalgia washed over him. It was the one Jamie had done of the sled ride Jack had inflicted on him. Jamie had been so proud of it and so excited by the event that he'd kept it up by his bed for months, only taking it down once just after Pitch had been defeated to add one detail. Jack smiled at the pencil version of himself flying above Jamie on his sled. It was perfect. He quickly refolded it and slipped it in his pocket (it wouldn't do for Mrs Bennett to see a flying piece of paper, after all) before hurrying back downstairs.
When he reached the kitchen, it was to find Mrs Bennett had already gone off somewhere, but that was probably for the best. He checked briefly to make sure she wasn't about to reappear, before taking the drawing, still folded, and sticking it to the fridge with two magnets: J and F.
His combined anticipation and anxiety kept Jack away for another week. More than once he would start towards Burgess before abruptly changing his mind again. What if she didn't understand? What if she thought the 'Jack Frost' Jamie had been so enthralled with over the last few years was actually some kind of evil spirit? What if she did understand? The uncertainty was unbearable, but the thought of actually physically going to find out for himself was somehow worse.
The anticipation won out in the end, and he finally caved and headed home. And if his pace was a little slower than usual, well, there was no one there to call him out on it.
It was early evening by the time he arrived at the Bennett house. Jamie's window opened at his nudge, but the boy himself was nowhere to be seen. Probably, he and Sophie had gone out to the park with their friends. He made a mental note to stop by if they hadn't already come home by the time he left.
Mrs Bennett was in the middle of cooking dinner when Jack found her. With her back to him, he couldn't see what she was making, but he could hear the sizzling of something frying and water bubbling. He crept a little closer and peered over her shoulder, but it did very little to answer his questions. There was a pot of pasta boiling away on one of the back burners, and the pan she was twirling her wooden spoon through was filled with some kind of tomato-y vegetable and meat sauce. Spaghetti, maybe?
"I have no idea what you're making but damn it smells good," he said lightly.
Mrs Bennett tensed dramatically. Before Jack even had the chance to process the change, she swung around with a shriek and smacked the sauce-covered spoon right into his eye.
Jack staggered backwards, clutching his eye. God, what did she put in that stuff? It was burning! And not least because it was ridiculously hot. Was he going to go blind because of this? How would he ever explain it to the others? How would he ever live it down?! He could see it now. Bunny would ask why his depth perception had been shot to hell and he'd have to say "Oh, I complimented Mrs B's cooking and she shoved molten pasta sauce in my eye".
Mrs Bennett was still screaming. Jack joined her, though for different reasons.
"Do you treat all your uncles like this or am I getting special treatment?!" he cried, frantically trying to wipe the sauce out of his eye with his sleeve.
"Who are you?!" she screeched, holding her spoon defensively like she was preparing to whack him again. "How did you get in here?!"
Jack took a large step backwards, trying to get out of range of the deadly weapon. He warily lifted his sleeve from his face and looked at it. There were sauce stains on it now, but from the way his eye still stung and watered there was more where that came from.
Jack froze comically, his one still-functioning eye locking onto the very angry and very panicked woman standing before him. Slowly, the pieces started clicking into place. She could see him. She was looking at him. She'd attacked him with a spoon but she could see him! She also seemed to have no idea who he was.
"…Which one do you want me to answer first?" he found his voice.
"How did you get in here?!"
Jack really wished she'd gone with 'who are you'; she really wasn't going to like the answer to this one. "…Through Jamie's window," he confessed.
Mrs Bennett took another swing at him. Seeing it coming, Jack quickly dove out of the way, putting as much distance between them as he possibly could without leaving the room. Was she actually trying to kill him?
"Okay," he said gently, "why don't you just put the spoon down, and we'll talk about this like civilised… people."
"Who are you?! What do you want?!" She did not put the spoon down. And from the looks of things, she wasn't about to calm down enough to listen to him.
Jack shot a quick glance at the fridge. The drawing he'd left there was gone, but there was no message to replace it. Cautiously, keeping his eyes on Mrs Bennett, he side-stepped over to it and slowly formed two words: to help.
Mrs Bennett stared with wide eyes, her gaze darting from the magnets to Jack and back again. Her spoon-wielding arm lowered until it hung limply at her side. Pasta sauce dripped onto the floor but she paid it no heed.
"Jack Frost," she whispered.
"For the record," Jack said, "I do not nip people's noses."
"I… you…" she floundered, unable to form a coherent sentence. Finally, she managed a rather strangled sounding, "How?"
"It's… a long story. Maybe you should sit down."
He told her everything. He started with an abridged and highly selective retelling of how he'd become what he was, then briefly mentioned his life during those three hundred years, defeating Pitch, becoming a Guardian, gaining his first believers…
Throughout it all, Mrs Bennett was mostly quiet. Every now and then she would interrupt to ask a question, and at one point she had to check on her cooking (Jack kept well away), but it was hard to judge how she was taking it. She'd calmed down a lot from when he'd first spooked her, and she commented a few times when he mentioned something or other that had been part of her slowly putting two and two together.
"I don't think I would have believed it if not for all the unexplained occurrences over the last few weeks," she finally confessed, carrying the pot of pasta over to the sink to strain it. "I was starting to think the house was haunted!"
"I really didn't mean to freak you out like that," Jack grimaced.
"Do it again and you'll regret it," she shook the wooden spoon at him.
Jack leaned back as far as he could without falling off the stool he was sitting on. "Yes, ma'am!"
She softened then, placing the spoon back in the pot and sitting it on the edge of the sink. "How's your eye?"
Jack rubbed it with his hand. "Well, I'm not blind." Just as well.
She smiled apologetically. "So you're really Jack Frost, huh?"
"It's a lot to take in."
"Yeah," he repeated. But even as confused and shaken as she was, he at least had the comfort of knowing that she did genuinely believe he existed. She could see him, after all.
"And all those other ones – Santa and the Tooth Fairy are really real, too."
Mrs Bennett sighed. "Part of me thinks that there's no way any of this can be true, but you're sitting right there and you know all these things that there's no way you could know second-hand. Not to mention you froze the stool."
Jack's gaze shot downwards. Yes, he confirmed, he had indeed at some point covered the stool with frost. "Uh, it'll melt?" he said meekly. "Sorry."
Mrs Bennett waved flippantly and turned back to her pot. "I think it's going to take some time to really process everything," she told him after a moment.
Jack had expected as much. It was a lot to come to terms with, especially for an adult. Her entire belief about what was real and what wasn't had been upheaved. "I understand." He slid off the stool and back to his feet. "I'll give you some time to think."
Mrs Bennett turned around, surprised. "You're not staying for dinner?"
Jack stared at her. "You want me to stay for dinner?" It was such an absurdly normal thing to do that it somehow felt like the weirdest thing he'd ever heard.
"Well from what I can make out you're a good friend of Jamie and Sophie's." She looked him up and down. "And from the looks of things you could use a good meal. Do you have anywhere to spend the night?"
Jack knew he should say something, but he suddenly found himself speechless. In less than half an hour she'd done a complete reversal: from mama bear to mother hen. "You do realise that we met properly like half an hour ago, right?"
"What kind of mother would I be if I let a kid go out in the cold like that?"
"I am the cold," Jack couldn't help but point out. "And I'm also older than you."
"Not physically you're not."
"There's no way I'm going to win, is there?"
"I'm glad we agree on that."
Despite himself, Jack couldn't help but laugh. What had he gotten himself into? As if one Tooth wasn't bad enough.
At the other end of the house, the front door clicked open.
"We're home!" Sophie's voice drifted down the hall.
Mrs Bennett gave Jack a long look, as if daring him to try and escape, before calling out to her children, "Dinner's almost ready! Go wash your hands and come set the table please!"
"Got it!" Jamie replied. The sound of thumping feed up the stairs was proof enough that they were doing as they were told.
Less than five minutes later they were barging into the kitchen, just as Mrs Bennett was starting to serve dinner.
Jamie and Sophie spotted Jack immediately, both staring at him with questioning expressions. It was clear they wanted to say something, but with their mom right there they restrained themselves. Jack offered them a wave.
"Hey," he grinned. "Molten spaghetti for dinner. Smells great, though."
Mrs Bennett looked over her shoulder at the three of them. "We're going to need cutlery," she prompted.
Jamie and Sophie broke out of their stupor and hurried to do as they were told – Jamie getting the cutlery and Sophie finding the placemats and cups. With them distracted, Mrs Bennett gave Jack a mock glare for his comment. Jack grinned back without a hint of remorse.
As soon as the table was set, Mrs Bennett passed the kids their bowls, before moving over to join them at the table with two more. She stared at the three set places.
"We're missing a place setting," she said.
Jamie and Sophie frowned at her. "No we're not."
"Yes we are." She put one bowl down on the third placemat and went to retrieve another one, which she placed alongside the bowl of pasta beside Jamie. "Sit," she then ordered, pointing at it as she went back for more cutlery and another cup.
Jamie and Sophie stared at her like she was mad before glancing helplessly at Jack, who had yet to move.
"Who's the fourth person?" Jamie asked carefully.
Mrs Bennett raised a brow at him as she finished setting the last place. "Who do you think?" She turned to Jack. "Well?"
Jack rolled his eyes and plonked himself down in the chair. "As long as it stays out of my eye this time," he huffed.
"You're never going to let that go, are you?"
"Nope." Jack scooped up a forkful of pasta and blew on it. It tasted even better than it smelled. "This is really good," he said, looking up. Only to realise that Jamie and Sophie seemed to have malfunctioned.
The both of them were openly gaping at him and their mom, who was either oblivious or completely ignoring their reaction. He couldn't help the grin that split his face. If only he had a camera on him.
Mrs Bennett finally looked up, perhaps noticing that her children weren't eating. She stared at them for a long moment before, "What?"
"Um," Sophie worked her jaw. It was plain as day to Jack that she wanted to ask if she could see him, but without outright asking. Jamie looked like he was going to die.
"I think they're dying," Jack said. "Their brains have overheated. I told you the spaghetti was molten."
"I don't see what the problem is," Mrs Bennett replied. "It's not like they haven't known you for years. How am I the one handling this well and they're the ones freaking out?"
"To be fair you did freak out too."
"Jack," Jamie whispered. His face was so pale his complexion almost matched Jack's. "She can see you."
"Um, yep, I did notice that," Jack grinned. He took another bite of pasta.
Jack exchanged a glance with Mrs Bennett. "It's a long story," they said.
Guest Review Responses:
Crazy Fan: Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. But I will definitely still be writing for this fandom, and who knows? Maybe some of the OCs will turn up elsewhere too :) Requests are still closed at the moment, but if you hold that thought I should be opening them again very soon, so you can resubmit it then if you like :) My goodness that's some serious dedication! I know FFN doesn't let you copy and paste on the computer, so if you'd like I can reply to any future reviews in your native language (through Google Translate) to make it easier on you. Thank you!
Guest: I really love the idea too! I've seen it done a few times, but I hope my version isn't too bad ^^;
Guest: Oh my lordy are you alright? That is... a lot to read in one hit XD I'm impressed hahaha Thank you! I would like to write a novel but I just don't have the motivation for it like I do for fanfic ^^; one day maybe
Guest: I hope you like it!
Painapple: Well I mean if you think about it would be a terrifying thing to have a name appear out of nowhere in front of you without explanation