Disclaimer: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause and all its characters, creations, and such belong to Michael Lembeck, Ed Decker, John J. Strauss, and all others who helped create The Santa Clause trilogy. I own nothing except Clarabella Bloom, Bridgette Burns, Doyle Stark, and any other character not of Michael Lembeck, Ed Decker, and John J. Strauss's creation that are original characters of my own creation. My plot idea for this fanfiction comes from my imagination. Credit for the portrayal of the characters of The Santa Clause trilogy go completely to the actors and actresses behind them, especially Tim Allen and Martin Short, who portrayed Santa Claus/Scott Calvin and Jack Frost, respectively. I have not written this fanfiction to benefit me in any way, shape, or form; I am merely using my imagination in addition to Michael Lembeck's, Ed Decker's, and John J. Strauss's characters, creations, and such to produce this fanfiction for my entertainment and enjoyment, nothing more. The quotations from the chapter titles belong to William Shakespeare unless otherwise noted.

Author's Note: Finally! The long-awaited time jump chapter! Long-awaited to me, at least. LOL Anywho, I hope everyone had a great holiday. Happy New Year! :)

Question to the Characters: The winner is… Madame Jinxie! Thanks for the question! For the sake of time, I'm going to answer this chapter's question just in dialogue. It should be fun trying to figure out who's who out of the four sprites. :P The question is: What are human activities that you enjoy doing?

"Ooh, ooh, oooooooooh, I love this question! I already know what I want to say—"

"I… I don't, erm… really have any favorite human pastimes… humans are… eh…"

"…Right… So, anyway, as I was saying—"

"Please allow me to get this over with so I can continue practicing my craft. I—"

"Aw, Bridg, you're just being shy!"

"Yeah, Bridg, you're not used to all this fanmail like moi!"

"It's Bridgette. And this is irrelevant to my point. To answer your query, Madame Jinxie, I would say that my favorite human pastime is beach volleyball. On the rare occasion I am able to interact with humans, it is quite an invigorating activity."

"Oooh, that's a great one, Bridg!"

"It's Bridgette!"

"Jinxie, if I may, my favorite human activity, again, on the rare occasion I am able to interact with humans, as Frigid Bridgette once mentioned—"

"Blue boy."

"Hot head."

"Ice-for-brains."

"Redhead."

"Sapphire shrimp. …And did you just use my hair color as an insult?"

"To get to the point, I quite enjoy the art of creating snow and ice sculptures. Especially when I inevitably win contests against humans."

"Is there no low that you won't stoop to?"

"My turn! Alright, so I have this dream that when I get married…"

"Are you discussing our wedding? Please go on."

"…On second thought, you'll just have to keep reading to find out about that. Thanks for the question!"

Trivia Question Winners: The answer to the last trivia question was Gert! The winners are: TheSlytherinWolf (Thank you for your feedback. Please keep reading and reviewing! :) ), Mentalasylumpatient13 (Thank you for your support. Please keep reading and reviewing!), SuprSingr (Wow! Thanks so much for the amazing review! I really appreciate your support. I'm glad you like Jack and Clara so much; I quite like them, myself. :P I can't wait to read your review for this chapter! :) ), and ForeverACharmedOne (As usual, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the last chapter. I like the connections that you drew between the characters—thanks for mentioning that you noticed them in your review! I hope you like this chapter. I can't wait to read your review. :) ). Honorary Winner: Trekkie101 (Ok, ok, so you didn't technically answer the trivia question in your review, but all things considered, I'm sure you know the answer. ;) Thanks for all your support! And by the way, there's no excuse not to leave a nice, long review from now on—you're not around to read my chapters before I post them, now. :P LOL! Please keep reading and reviewing!)

Publish Date: Thursday, December 29, 2011.

Why it Snows in Spring

Chapter Nine: …Right, as Snow in Harvest

Jack dodged the flying plush reindeer as it whizzed past him, narrowly missing his now-white hair.

"Hey, watch it! That one has a diamond-encrusted collar—it was expensive! And watch the hair—I have a show soon." His hands rose to ensure his appearance's perfection.

"I don't care!" Clarabella growled in tears as she picked up her next bit of ammunition—a Santa plushie with sapphires for eyes and rubies embedded in its cheeks. "Why won't you marry me?" She catapulted the toy at Jack, who caught it firmly with a smug grin. Frustrated, she thrust herself at him and beat her fists into his chest, which had long since lost its firmness when he completed his transformation into the Christmas mascot.

"Are you embarrassed of me? Don't you want people to know about us?" She screeched.

"Sweetheart, darling, baby—Princess!" Jack soothed the nymph sobbing in his arms. "How could you ever think that? I lavish you with gifts day in and day out, I buy you the clothes you want on a whim, and I shower you with jewelry. You know how I feel about you, gorgeous." His words were saccharine as honey to her and equally thick and sticky, molding her mind the way he wanted. He pressed his forehead against hers and tried to meet her gaze as he lulled her back into his spider web of soothing, sickeningly sweet lies—her only comfort for the past twelve years. But even false comfort was better than none at all.

"I want to show you off to the world, my dear, so all may know you're mine." That earned him an immediate lapse in weeping, and even a curious peek up at him from his chest.

"Besides," he began with the sly grin that always melted Clarabella's heart and sent jitters spiraling through her body, "Mrs. Clarabella Claus has a lovely ring to it, don't you agree?"

Clarabella pouted sternly. "My would-be name might have a lovely ring, but I certainly don't." She raised her left hand and wriggled her naked ring finger pointedly—a constant depressing reminder to her for the last decade.

"Besides, you always say that, but then you never follow through."

"Well, who knows? It's Christmas, a time of miracles—and I'm head cheese around here in that department." He slowly rubbed his chilly fingers up and down her arms, spreading goosebumps in their wake.

"Well, you may be the head cheese in delivering Christmas miracles to everyone else, but certainly not to me." She detached herself from him and kicked through all the scattered stuffed animals and jewelry and clothing she had thrown at him in the midst of one of her increasingly frequent tantrums. He had spoiled her, he knew, but it was the only way he could make her believe that he was as in love with her as she was with him… at least, the only way he could do so without actually returning the sentiment. Even though he was Santa Claus now, he was still Jack Frost, too, and his heart was as icy as ever.

He made sure of that.

She crossed her arms as she stood before her silver floor-length mirror. She was wearing the short blue dress he had presented to her the night before. He had given it to her because she screeched at him for refusing her a part in his show—again. He had soothed her by telling her that she was too gorgeous to be put on stage, and gave her the elaborate dress to prove it. What he'd told her had made no sense, but it was what she wanted to hear.

Jack walked smoothly to her so his plump front was pressing against her lean back. That was something that had changed once he had become Santa Claus—he gained plenty of weight. Not to mention the fact that his hair spiked out from his head in an array of white shoots. At first, the spring sprite was certain that his looks were not worthy of someone like her, but… in the end, he had charmed her quite easily into his pudgy arms—the very same arms which slid around her slim waist now. If ever he had been appreciative of anything, it was that she had not changed in the same expansive way he had.

"No. I'm still mad at you." Clarabella's mirror image pouted prominently at Jack, her crossed arms tightened against her chest.

"Aw, do I sense a pout?" Jack drawled silkily into her pointed ear. Clarabella did not dignify his question with a response; rather, she turned her head away from him. Jack took the opportunity to brush a feather-light kiss just beneath her ear. His chilled lips left the spot to tingling pleasantly, and she shivered at the sensation. Her tense body loosened in his arms. Perfect.

"Come now, precious, you know you're more important to me than all that." In a little while, you'll find out just how important you are, he thought to himself with a grin.

"Why won't you marry me? And why won't you put me in your show? Half the elves out there can't even dance, and none are nearly as beautiful as me, yet you put them out there night after night," she grumbled, still refusing to meet his blue gaze.

"Now, now, my little nymph, I've already told you—a man who has a girl as beautiful as you should keep her from the prying eyes of other men, lest he grow envious. You're not the kind of nymph who wants her own numero uno to get jealous over her, are you?"

Clarabella arched a perfectly shaped brow, interest piqued.

Jack grinned at her.

"Who's my elf?" He stroked her jaw line affectionately.

Clarabella rolled her eyes at their long-term game. "I am," she admitted after a brief hesitation.

"Who's the little sugarplum dancing in my head?" He grabbed her arm and swiftly twirled her once before dipping her low.

She squealed and giggled loudly as her blonde locks swept the floor. "I am."

Lifting her back up, Jack continued in a singsong voice, "And who's gonna forgive me if I give you expensive things?"

Clarabella gasped and squealed again, bouncing on the balls of her feet. She catapulted herself at Jack and gripped him in a tight embrace. "Oh, Jack! Of course I forgive you! Now gimme!"

Jack smirked and held up one finger before dashing from the room to a secret closet where he kept a healthy stash of appeasement presents. He returned with a red piece of clothing draped over one arm and a blue velvet box in his hand.

Clarabella screeched with excitement and outstretched her arms to him.

"For you, my little elf." He flicked his wrist and allowed the long, elegant crimson cloak to unfold to the ground. It was made of luxurious silk and had fluffy white trimming at the collar, hem, and sleeves.

"Oh!" Clarabella gasped in anticipation, her fingers twitching with excitement as she approached the beautifully crafted cloak. She carefully took it from him, handling it as if it were made of tissue paper.

She turned and pressed it against herself as she gazed longingly into the mirror, picking up the skirt and pulling it wide in front of her.

"Well? What do you think? Can my little Jingle-Bella forgive me?" Clarabella slyly covered her mouth with the collar of the robe and gazed up at him mischievously. With a grin at her cue, he added knowingly, "May I remind you that you look dazzlingly breathtaking in red?"

Clarabella scoffed amusedly. "I know!" She pulled the long robe onto her form and tied it at the waist.

Jack gasped dramatically. "Well, look at you, gorgeous!"

She batted her eyelashes up at him, ego flattered. Catching sight of the box in his hand, she danced on her tiptoes. "Ooh, more diamonds?" He grinned at her, and she spread her arms out in response and proclaimed, "Frost me!"

Jack made her shut her eyes while he arranged the necklace around her throat. The gaudy diamond layers formed a triangle that pointed down and glittered obscenely in the light of the suite.

When she finally opened her eyes, Clarabella let forth a high-pitched squeal to rival that of an opera singer, and annoyed Jack's hypersensitive sprite ears just as much.

She turned in his arms and swallowed him in a massive hug. The spring sprite touched her necklace one more time before hopping onto him, his arms supporting her as her mouth found his in a long, passionate kiss.

Pulling away, she declared as she had so many times before in the throes of expensive-gift-receiving bliss, "I love you, Jack."

And, as he had done so many times before, Jack pulled her in for another fiery kiss, allowing the ambiguity of his actions to make her believe the words his lips denied her oh-so willing ears.

Jack backed the euphoric nymph up against the wall beside the bed they shared. Clarabella groaned at the feel of the cold wall and her cold boyfriend encasing her from all sides and snagged his lower lip with her teeth.

Jack growled and yanked on her hair, forcing her head back. "Biting, Miss Bloom? That will land you on the naughty list permanently."

Clarabella smirked wickedly at Jack, blue eyes glinting fiendishly. Her fingers ruffled affectionately through his spiky white hair as she purred languidly to him, "As long as I'm at the very top."

Jack crashed his lips against hers in a filthy, fast kiss that left Clarabella whimpering. Pulling back as suddenly as he attacked, he accused, "You've been a very bad girl, Clara, throwing fits like that at me, me, of all people: the love of your life."

Panting, Clarabella rose to the bait. "Very, very bad, Jack. I'm so sorry." Her knees tightened around his hips, gripping him in an even closer embrace. "Let me make it up to you?" Her hand slid up his pudgy torso and slipped beneath his blue scarf until she felt his piercing cold chest beneath her fingertips. "Please?"

Jack smirked in triumph; he had her begging to apologize. "I can think of a few ways you can—"

A knock on the door preceded Curtis popping his head into the room.

With a dangerous growl, Jack turned away from the nymph and roared at the intruding elf. "This had better be important! I'm in the middle of something here!" His fingers gripped so tightly into Clarabella's legs, Curtis could see indents in her skin.

Clarabella's eyebrow arched. Although she remained silent, she conveyed every mental image of torture imaginable to the disdainful creature that dared interrupt her moment with Jack. She had every intention of acting on said torture, too, if he didn't skedaddle in three, two…

Curtis drearily announced, "Sir, the line of children waiting to sit on your lap is already past the reindeer petting zoo." The elves were all—unfortunately—more than used to the daily tantrums Clarabella threw, the gifts Jack wielded to appease her, and their overly dramatic displays of affection when they made up.

Jack immediately dropped the nymph in his arms onto their bed. "My public!" He swept his arm broadly and Curtis immediately left the room, closing the door behind him.

Clarabella glared up at him unappreciatively and was about to grumble a protest at being forgotten so readily when she remembered the disgustingly expensive presents she had just received and contented herself with ogling them.

"My public awaits, my little elf." Jack patted the nymph on the cheek before approaching his vanity and plopping heavily into the seat, pointedly looking at her to be pampered.

Clarabella rose to help Jack with his appearance, which he had grown increasingly picky about. Since he had to perform his musical number after listening to what presents the children wanted for Christmas, she pancaked his face to eliminate any shiny spots. Then, she carefully took his red coat from a nearby hook and eased it onto him tenderly, buckling the belt from her place behind him.

When she was finished, Clarabella wrapped her arms around Jack's shoulders and planted a peck to his cheek, humming an all-too-familiar tune. "...Santa, baby, and hurry down my chimney tonight." She nipped the tip of his ear and he jerked suddenly in her arms, feeling goosebumps stampede down his body at the thought.

"I love you, Jack," she whispered tenderly into his ear.

Jack cleared his throat loudly and, patting her hand, told her, "My people are waiting for me, Clara. But be sure to watch my show from backstage tonight." The right side of his mouth turned up in a crooked grin as her eyebrows arched curiously at his request. "I have something for you: the surprise to end all surprises."

.x:X:x.

"Move it, lady," Clarabella growled as she shoved aside a woman wolfing down one of the North Pole's famous gingerbread cookies. The woman squawked around the sugary treat and the nymph halted. Turning haughtily in place, she blinked hard at the woman and snapped, "Think about trying the fat-free cookies next time. Seriously. It's no wonder you were in my way; you take up half the workshop!"

With a satisfied smirk at the woman's look of equal parts hurt and horror, she twirled and, with a ripple of her cloak, strode away toward the reindeer petting zoo, where parents were paying to allow their children to shave the animals.

"Ooh, Vixen." Clarabella sucked air in through her teeth in mock sympathy as the reindeer bleated in despair at her ruined fur coat. Vixen turned to glare at the nymph with hot tears in her eyes.

"You know, that really is too bad." She leaned against the metal bars restricting the reindeer into a small corner of the workshop and checked her nails flippantly. "Jack's making sure it's in the low, low, low negatives tonight, and you're all sleeping outside. Hope you can find some way of staying warm."

Grabbing a matted ball of fur from the ground, she rubbed it against her cheek and grinned. "Oh, yeah, that would've done the trick." On the last word, she threw it at the reindeer's face and walked off, leaving Vixen at the mercy of the increasing number of children who were buying their time with shavers.

As she continued on her way to the far side of the workshop, she encountered a young child spilling crocodile tears down his cheeks, straining to reach the last of the teddy bears wearing a Santa hat. The toy sat tantalizingly just beyond his reach.

"Oh, you poor thing!" Clarabella cooed, dropping to her knees before the child, who was sniffling back a sob. "Would you like that bear?"

Wiping his nose, he gave a watery smile and nodded shyly. "Yes, pwease, missus."

Clarabella scrunched her nose sweetly at the boy and reached up, easily plucking the stuffed animal from the shelf and extending her arm to him. The boy clapped his hands in excitement and reached out to retrieve the present.

Clarabella's fingers strangled the bear's neck as her free hand ripped the head off. Stuffing poured from the gaping hole in its neck while the head rolled on the floor.

The boy's eyes widened in horror and his sobbing began anew. Rubbing his eyes as new tears sprang forth, he wailed and clamored away from Clarabella, escaping into the knot of people bickering with each other over their places in line.

"Aw. I thought you wanted it. Oh well."

She tossed the toy at the nearest elf, growling, "That stitching is weak and very poor quality. Fix it or I'll have you fired."

The elf scrambled to catch the toy and explain himself. "B-But I make scooters, not teddy—"

"Don't you dare talk back to me!" She rounded on him, yanking on his ear and speaking through gritted teeth. "Fix it or don't bother coming back."

Tossing the elf aside, she finished her journey to the far end of the workshop.

"You." She pressed through the pitiful number of children lined up to watch Easter Bunny paint candy canes. Glancing at his half-full basket of the treats, she planted her hands on her hips and spoke dangerously low.

"I thought Jack and I told you when we bought you out that if we didn't see you meeting your quota, we'd turn you out. You're the one who came to us, remember?" Easter Bunny, pretending to be too focused on his work, still didn't meet her eyes. She yanked him by the bow until his nose, twitching nervously at his boss's girlfriend's close proximity, was touching hers.

"Remember? We became so popular," she faked a sob, batting her eyes for show, "that you ran out of business. You ran out of work. We were generous enough to give you work. Now why aren't you working faster?"She screeched directly into his sensitive ears, and he howled in pain, wincing.

"If you don't start giving me numbers, Easter Bunny, I'll cut off your paws myself and wear them for good luck." He whimpered and gazed up at her in stunned silence, eyes wide in fright. "Your ears I'll make into a headpiece for Halloween." She scoffed. "Like anyone celebrates that anymore; Christmas isthe only holiday of importance, after all. And your cotton tail I'll use to apply my foundation with. Am I clear?"

Easter Bunny nodded his head feverishly, desperate to return to painting candy canes. "Yes, Miss Bloom."

"Grab your tickets! The show is about to begin."

Clarabella tilted her head at the elf's voice over the loud speaker. Shoving the large rabbit onto the ground, she muttered, "I'll check on your numbers after the show." Pushing her way through the stunned children, she made her way to the stage to watch Jack's show.

.x:X:x.

Clarabella had been proudly watching from offstage as Jack performed and musing how much the audience loved him when suddenly a man swung onto the stage on a rope a la Tarzan and knocked Jack into a pile of presents.

The elves near her snickered and muttered that, finally, someone was giving Jack what was coming to him.

Clarabella immediately snapped to attention. How dare that man interrupt her Saint Knick-Knacks's phenomenal show? And right when the audience was applauding for him, too!

She furiously spun to the elves in fury and, catching two of them by their ears, tossed them out onto the stage and hissed, "Do something! Stop that man! He's ruining Jack's show!"

The stage manager, an elf girl with a headset on, asked, "Why don't you go help Santa?"

The spring sprite scoffed at the notion, running her hands arrogantly down the furry collar of her new robe. "Who was talking to you, bite-sized?" After a pause, she replied, "Pfft, please, and be humiliated out there in front of all those people? I don't think so!"

She laughed when the man climbed on top of the prop gingerbread house and fell through the roof. "Idiot," she purred wickedly into her collar as she drew it up around her jaw. After a moment, she added to herself, "Ah, good, security's handling him."

She watched as the security guards subdued the man so that he was merely talking with Jack. How did Jack know him when she did not?

From the corner of her eye, she spotted a red-headed girl throwing something to Jack. She screeched when she realized with a jolt of horror that it was his snow globe, and slumped onto the nearest elf for support, suddenly feeling lightheaded. As the snow globe tumbled through the air, she watched her life flash before her eyes: the snow globe crashing onto the ground; Jack not being Santa anymore; Jack forevermore unable to spoil her; the jewelry, clothes, and other expensive presents all flying out the window; and worst of all—her Criss-Cross Kringle would no longer be in power.

"Jack, catch it!" Clarabella whimpered, one hand flying up to her mouth while the other clutched her chest, as if trying to still her hammering heart.

The snow globe landed perfectly in Jack's hands, and Clarabella sank to the floor from the flood of relief washing over her.

"I think I'm gonna faint," she panted as her eyes fluttered shut, relieved that their power had been secured.

The elves' hearts fell in disappointment and frustration; their freedom had been so near, but had fallen out of their grasp as soon as the snow globe had slid into Jack's.

Clarabella watched as the man pulled from his jacket one of the recording candy pens and clicked it.

"I wish I'd never been—" It sounded out before Jack ripped the toy from the man and snapped it in half with a triumphant laugh.

"Oh, Scott," Jack sighed dramatically and leered cruelly down at him. He repeated the words he had heard from the ex-Claus so many times before: "Why don't you let it go?"

He handed the remains of the broken pen to the nearest elf, ordering her to dispose of it. Stepping up to Scott, whose face crumpled and fell, he hissed, "Why don't you just let all of this go?" he gestured broadly, indicating the North Pole. "Because you'll never see any of it again. Security," he raised his voice to speak to instruct the guards standing behind Scott, "see to it that this man never steps foot in the North Pole Resort again." Scott staggered back in horror—he had failed all the children of the world. Christmas would never be the same again.

The security guards seized Scott by the arms and were pulling him away when Jack added, "Wait!" They halted, and Scott could scarcely raise his eyes to meet Jack's triumphant gaze—what more could he possibly do to him? His life was already ruined. There was nothing left for Jack to take away.

"You still have to watch the grand finale." Jack discreetly glanced at the clock—almost midnight. Good. "It's a real show-stopping number."

Turning to face the nymph offstage—who had been sending elves every which way to fetch her cool water, fans, and shiny jewelry from her suite to make her feel better after the snow globe scare—he extended his arms and called out, "Clara, won't you join me on stage for your moment of fame?"

This declaration was an immediate remedy to her ailment and, after taking a moment to ensure that her hair and clothes were arranged just so, she strutted on stage with a wide, graceful sweep of her arms to the audience, who applauded her entrance.

After stopping halfway to Jack to dip in an embellished curtsey, she turned and hopped jovially the rest of the way to her beloved, and catapulted herself into his arms, giggling in excitement.

"Oh, darling, I knew you'd put me in your show!" She breathed enthusiastically into his ear. He couldn't remember any other time she had hugged him so tightly.

"Oh, I'm going to do more than that, Clara." He turned to show her off to Scott, whose eyes narrowed as he barely recognized the spring sprite.

"Clarabella?" He asked in shock, realizing that Jack had certainly left his mark on her: except for the robe, everything about her was blue—her dress, her eye shadow, and even her eyes, nails, and the streaks of color in her hair had shed their warm tones in favor of arctic ones. Her usually twinkling eyes were now as cold and empty as Jack's, and her complexion just as pale. "What… What happened to you?"

Clarabella shoved an elf standing between her and the man out of the way to get a closer look at him. "How do you know me?" She frowned in disapproval and pointed out to Jack, "Do you realize that this man got to be in your show before me? And he isn't even that nice to look at. At all." She scowled in disgust and returned to Jack's side, running a hand down her diamonds for comfort.

Scott's eyes roamed over the accessories adorning the sprite, noticing the obviously expensive jewelry and clothing she wore. He stood still with his mouth agape, startled by the change in the spring nymph's usually warm nature.

"I see you've noticed my fantabulous gifts." Clarabella indicated the presents nonchalantly before encircling Jack's neck with her arms. "I got them from my wonderful Jack-in-the-Box." She made a show of kissing him on passionately on the lips and continued, "He buys me whatever I want."

"Frost, what have you done to her? This isn't Clarabella, this is a spoiled sprite! A narcissistic nymph!" Scott exclaimed. The security guards shook him once to silence him.

Her eyes flared dangerously. "'Spoiled'? 'Narcissistic'? How dare you!" She unwound herself from Jack to close the gap between herself and the stranger who insulted her so, but Jack caught her around the waist and held her fast.

"Clara," he whispered urgently in her ear, eyeing the clock, "remember before how I told you I had a surprise for you that would end all surprises?" Clarabella stopped struggling and turned to look at him over her shoulder, listening intently. He grinned down at her. "Prepare yourself for the best Christmas ever."

"Ooh!" She squealed and turned to face him expectantly, instantly losing all interest in retaliating against the rude human.

Jack leaned down to murmur to Scott while Clarabella primped, ecstatic and eager for her surprise, "I believe you may recall the Mrs. Clause?" He chuckled deviously, a lion's rumble that stirred from low in his throat.

As Jack turned toward Clarabella, Scott saw his chance and cried out desperately, "Clarabella, no! Don't—"

Jack snapped his fingers and one of the security guards clamped an iron hand over Scott's mouth, effectively muffling him. Nothing would ruin this moment for Jack.

He took Clarabella's hand and led her downstage, closer to the audience. The spotlight followed them as they made their way to center stage.

"Clarabella Bloom." Her name fell from his lips as if it were silk. He kissed her hands once and slid down onto one knee, reaching into his pocket.

Clarabella gasped, and her hands flew to her mouth as her heart began pounding in her chest again. Could this really be happening after all these years? A low murmur of excitement rose from the audience, and the sprite turned to them to show a rapturous smile, illuminating and affectionate as the man before her opened a blue velvet box with a silver bow to present her with a solid gold ring with an extravagant diamond the size of a bell from a reindeer's collar.

The clock tolled. One.

Better hurry up and get this over with, Jack thought. He smiled out to the audience, who hushed immediately to hear the words he'd speak on this historical occasion—Santa was proposing to the future Mrs. Claus!

"You have waited twelve years for this. Twelve long years." His features shifted to accommodate an expression of sympathy. Clarabella danced in her spot.

Two.

"You shouldn't have to wait a moment longer—and so you shan't. As soon as you say 'yes,' you will also say, 'I do.'" He gestured with his hand, and an elf led a very disapproving Mother Nature on stage.

Three.

"Marry me, Clarabella. Tonight. On Christmas Eve, the most magical night of all. Marry me, become my wife—Mrs. Clarabella Claus—and we shall live in glory, in fame, and in power…" He watched the breath catch in her throat, "forever."

Scott fruitlessly struggled against the security guards.

Four.

"Marry me, and all this," he swept a hand broadly around the resort, "will be ours. Forever."

Five.

"Marry me," he leaned in close to breathe his final bribe, "and you will never want for anything—jewelry, clothing, gifts, houses, money—nothing will ever be denied you."

Six.

"All I need to hear is just one tiny word." He squeezed her hand. "Clarabella Bloom, will you become Clarabella Claus?"

Seven.

Clarabella waited. Surely he would say it soon… Right? As the moments passed, her joyous features slackened, and her hand lowered from her mouth. He had said everything she wanted to hear, except one deal-breaking declaration…

Eight.

Nine.

Jack's adam's apple bobbed nervously. They needed to wrap this up immediately, or he could lose everything. Turning to the audience in desperation for support, he prodded them, "What do you all say? Wouldn't she make a beautiful Mrs. Claus?" The audience burst out in applause and cries of 'Say yes!'

Ten. Still Clarabella stared at him, waiting for him to tell her what she wanted to hear.

"Come now, darling, how hard can it be to say one word? You're not that blonde, are you?" He teased with a fox-like grin. The audience erupted in uproarious laughter.

Clarabella's face grew red as she looked out at the audience and saw everyone pointing and laughing. At her. She was just another show, another act, like the elves. Like the North Pole. Like Jack.

Her eyes fluttered as a small spark of realization ignited in her mind, and she turned to watch the elves' reactions. They all looked hopeless and helpless. Was this what it felt like every day for them—to be constantly laughed at and pointed at because they were just another act? Another experience for the wealthy to brag about when they returned home?

Eleven.

Clarabella picked up Jack's snow globe and studied it. In the center of it was him, arms outstretched, as the resort sat below him. That was all he cared about: himself. He was destroying the holiday—destroying them all.

All because of his frozen heart.

"Never." Jack recoiled and the audience gasped.

"What? What did you say to me?"

"Never!" She tipped her chin up at him rebelliously and glared. "I will never marry you! You don't love me." Tears prickled her eyes, but she continued through her heartbreak, "You never have. All you care about is fame and fortune for yourself!" Nose-to-nose with him now, she hissed, "I could never marry someone who didn't love me. Not now, not ever."

Jack grabbed hold of her shoulders, growling in furious distress. "Say yes, you spoiled brat! Say yes!"

Clarabella threw the snow globe to the floor, sending shards of glass everywhere. "No. Your reign will end. Tonight."

Jack's lip twitched, and Clarabella lunged at the chance. "Aw," she drawled, her low voice dripping in sarcasm, "do I sense a pout?"

Twelve.

Jack's face contorted as the twelfth toll resonated throughout the resort. Scott finally broke free from the security guards as golden magic entwined the couple, still locked in a loathing glare.

Scott grabbed hold of Jack just as the stage fell from beneath them. The North Pole faded around them, and the three were whisked back in time twelve years to the night Scott Calvin became Santa Claus.

And Clarabella was right: Jack's reign did end.

Author's Note: Phew! Another long chapter! Well? What does everyone think of this time jump scene? Where do Clara and Jack go from here? Please leave a review! :)

Trivia Question: Why doesn't Clarabella accept Jack's proposal?