Jack shot out of the bunny hole at full speed, darting through the chilly air like one of Tooth's energetic mini-fairies. He spun, arms spread wide, embracing the falling snow. After a long time away from the Pole, it was always refreshing to relive the sudden chill. Better yet, cannonballing into a mound of soft snow felt a rebirth. It killed the revival the sudden drop in temperature gave Jack, but it was the ultimate high he could get. With a whoop Jack took off at steep dive. He cushioned his impact with help from the wind, and the ice parted for him as if it was liquid.
He relaxed in the snow, sighing contently as it melted into his clothes and tickled his toes. Bunny's grumbling brought him climbing out of his small crater. "Lighten up," Jack said, throwing a small snowball at Bunny's stomach. "You warm enough?" he asked of Jamie. The boy was chattering away his teeth, arms wrapped around his chest tightly, body shaking in short but quick trembles. He shook his head. "Guess I can fly you over." Jack took a massive leap and landed in front of Jamie, squatting with his back to the boy. "Climb on and we'll be up, up and away."
Bunny rubbed his arms, not as fazed by the cold as Jamie was, but nonetheless, freezing. "D-drop the kid, I'll k-kick you into a d-darkness darker than pitch black."
Jamie was so cold that he climbed on Jack's back instead of jumping on. His breath made cold clouds puff next to Jack's ear. Poor kid; his family couldn't afford a decent snow jacket. Jack made the trip to North's workshop quick. When the yetis opened the grand entrance doors Jack rushed inside, glided past with hardly a foot over the yetis' heads.
"Woah." Jamie's voice was a breathy whisper of amazement. "No. Way."
"Yes way," Jack laughed.
They landed in the empty Globe Room, Jamie's attention completely taken by the giant globe displayed in front of the railing. It was bright with yellow lights, new lights blinking on as quickly as lights blinked off.
Jamie dropped off Jack's back, stumbling over wobbly feet. He grabbed Jack's staff and steadied himself, still staring at the globe.
"You okay, kiddo?" Jack leaned down to look at Jamie's face. The boy nodded and pointed at the globe. "What is that?"
"Each light on that is a kid who believes in the Guardians." Jack smiled, pretending for just a moment that each light was someone who believed in him, not just the Big Four. Even pretending, he couldn't fake the complete feeling he was sure came with a ton of believers. Now, the hole in his heart felt bigger. "Cool? Right?"
"I can feel it," Jamie said, big eyes switching to Jack. The smallest smile graced the boy's lips. "I can feel it."
"You can feel it?"
Jamie nodded, smiling excitedly. "It feels like a giant fire – except it doesn't burn."
Jack looked from Jamie to the globe. The Guardians hadn't told him anything about the globe other than its purpose.
North pushed through the massive doors of his personal workroom. Big blue eyes fixed automatically on Jamie. "I had a feeling something was wrong."
Jamie spun around, startled – and then frightened. He jumped behind Jack's back, peeking out with a timid gaze.
"I come with peace!" North said, spreading his arms in a welcome. "Sam! Daisy! Bring cookies for guests!"
"Who are you?" Jamie asked in a tiny voice.
"I am the one, the only, Nicholas St. North!" He flung his head back, and confetti sprinkled from the ceiling. Across the ceiling ran a maze of small wooden paths, elves tossing rainbow confetti over the railing and cheering in their squeaky voices.
Sam and Daisy waddled in with a plate of cookies, Bunny hopping behind them.
"What's with the confetti?" he asked.
"My introduction!" North said. "Did you do one?"
"Uh… No. North, you've got to take this seriously."
"But why? This is first child in here for many decades." North smoothed his red coat of confetti and patted out his beard. "Of course we need celebration. So child," North clapped his giant hands together and sauntered up to Jamie, "what is your name?"
"Jamie." The boy stepped further away from Jack and nervously smiled. "It's an honor to meet you, sir."
"Oh! The manners!" North feigned a weak heart attack. "You are for sure on the Nice List."
"I try, sir."
"Oh, no need to call me sir. Call me North."
Bunny rolled his eyes and kicked through a small pile of confetti. North turned a curious eye to him. "Jack led Pitch to Jamie," Bunny said, and all the joviality in the Globe Room zapped into nothing.
The elves started to sweep up the confetti with their tiny brooms and the scrit-scratch of the stiff grasses was the only thing heard. North's eyebrows came to rest over his eyes in flat strips, blue eyes solidly staring at Jack.
Jack laughed, and then after seeing the two unimpressed looks on him coughed. "I guess I should explain."
It didn't take long to bring North and Bunny up to the same page. They listened quietly, North stroking his beard and Bunny heating his paws at the fireplace. Jamie shifted from foot to foot, looking over the grandiose decorations of the Globe Room and obviously taken with its magnificence.
No one said anything after Jack finished. North continued to stroke his beard and Bunny continued to hold his paw up to the fireplace.
"I believe," North started, and Jack's bones vibrated from the severity of the old man's tone, "that you have placed Jamie in a dangerous place, Jack. There is no doubt."
Bunny pointed at Jack. "I told you so," his expression snarled.
"Because of Pitch?"
"Because Jamie is your believer. He is a very special child, and Pitch knows that. It seems he already has taken notice."
"That's what I said! Little goober puts a kid in danger. He's no Guardian." Bunny scoffed.
"How many times do I have to say 'I know' before you stop saying that? I swear that's all you say! 'Jack Frost isn't a Guardian. Blah blah blah.' I know I'd make a shitty Guardian – pardon my language, Jamie – so quit saying that." Jack dropped his gaze to Bunny's bottom paws and mumbled, "I don't even wanna be a Guardian."
No one said anything until Jamie spoke up. "What's Pitch gonna do to me?"
"If Pitch gets his hands on you - which we will make damned sure he doesn't - he will do unspeakable things," Bunny said.
Jamie whimpered and Jack instinctively butted in, "What Bunny means is that Pitch will give you nightmares. A lot of them."
"Not just nightmares. He will make you a nightmare."
Jack put a hand on Jamie's shoulder and pulled him to his side. The poor boy was trembling. "Are you trying to scare him?"
"I'm telling him the truth."
"You're scaring him."
"The truth isn't all snow days and pretty snowflakes. It's hardcore reality, and you don't understand that."
"You don't have to scare him. He looks up to you. He said he was a big fan. Don't you remember?" Jack wished he could freeze the jealousy that rushed into his veins. He foolishly had thought that Jamie would be starstruck with him and not as much with Bunny. The Guardians always stole away Jack's potential fame, and thinking of Bunny stealing away Jamie hurt.
"Jack is right. The truth is harsh as you say, but there is no need to frighten Jamie." North held a large hand out to Jamie. "Would you like to see my personal workshop?"
Jack paced in the Globe Room, idly tracing the spaces between the floor's tiles and coating them lightly with frost. A few elves hobbled over to watch the patterns of delicate curves and lines slide along the cracks.
Bunny was staring at him from the fireplace. His paws had to be warmed by now, but he still held them up to the fire.
"I know you're staring," Jack unemotionally said and swiped a graceful stretch of frost towards North's workroom. One of the elves slid down it, squeaking happily. The other elves looked at each other questionably before joining their friend. "Go ahead and say it. Whatever you want to say. I'm conditioned to handle the worst."
"I don't get you."
"I don't get you either."
"How can you get involved with a child without thinking of the consequences? Didn't you think at all?"
Jack made another stripe of frost. "I did think. I thought it was pretty freaking awesome that someone saw me for the first time in three hundred years." Jack raised his eyes to glare hotly at Bunny. "How would you feel if you went three centuries without a soul seeing you and suddenly, out of the blue, someone does?"
"You're not the only spirit out there."
"The other spirits don't want to talk to me. They treat me bad so why should I be anywhere around them?"
"You have us Guardians now. Talk to us. Don't go off running around Burgess singing your sad songs about being alone." Bunny had a point, and Jack felt stuck in his thoughts to form a defensive remark. His mouth formed silent and incomplete sentences.
As if he had won an argument, Bunny said, "And there you have it."
Jack always had the Guardians, he supposed, but they never spoke to him. They always ignored him and pushed him aside because he was a common spirit. Sandy gave Jack the most returned attention, but it was always for short amounts of time and very little dedicated attention; the little man was too busy crafting sweet dreams for millions of kids.
They ignored him until he was chosen. Then all of a sudden he was someone.
He hated it.
If he hadn't been chosen, he would have been worth the dust under their feet.
Jack didn't bring it up. He wasn't one for showing defeat so publically, but the salty tears in his eyes were threatening to overcome his control, so he ducked his head and walked away.
"Cool! Everything here is ice!" Jamie waved his hands excitedly in front of the half carved ice sculpture on the worktable. He wanted to touch the protruding steeple of the building, wanted to feel the slick ice and see if it melted onto his fingers when he touched it.
North watched proudly behind him. "Everything here is cool, and very hip, no?"
Jamie never would have imagined a tattooed man like North saying "hip". "Super hip! Does it melt?"
"Of course! But much slower than regular ice. Is magical." North wiggled his fingers in a pseudo magician style.
"Is this a prototype?"
North nodded and pulled the light sheet of tan cloth from the table's edge over it. "That will hold off the melting." Then he clapped his hands and held them together, and Jamie got the feeling that all students did when a teacher told a class that a serious issue was the next discussion topic. North had the same look on his face that Jamie's teacher did when she told them about the upcoming lockdown drill. "I brought you here to talk about your importance in private. Your last name is Bennett, correct? I thought so. I have heard about you. Your light is the brightest on the globe. Have you been told of it?"
"Each light is a kid who believes."
"Not just kids, adults as well, though there are very few."
"And I'm the brightest?"
North nodded. "You've always been the brightest. The yetis and elves call you the Brightest Light."
"Why'm I so bright?" Jamie tried not to let the pleasure of being the brightest of all the believers in the world get to his head.
"Your belief in us is outstanding. Not only do you believe in the Guardians, you believe in many other spirits, and many others beyond our realm. And at such a young age. How old are you?"
"You've been shining for years."
"I've always believed. It was always truth for me." Jamie picked at dried skin on a finger. "I don't think I'll ever stop believing now that I've seen you."
"Even if you never met us, you would still believe. You see, Jamie, you are a very special child. There will always be one child who stands out the most on the Globe. Before you there was a girl. Before her there was another girl. You are the first boy to be the Brightest Light for generations. The last boy was in the 1800s. But that is not main point. Main point is that you are the Brightest Light now, and it is important that you understand who you are."
North walked to a plush red sofa along the room's only window. "Sit with me."
The sofa was rock hard. It reminded Jamie of the cushion on the examining bench in his doctor's office.
"Normally I speak to the Brightest Lights when they reach their teens. That is when their sight interferes with what they know as normalcy. A fourteen year old would freak out if they saw a winter spirit, no?"
"I speak with you earlier than your teen years because of Pitch's rising power. There was no need to worry about this with the ones before you. Pitch was weak and in no position to threaten them."
"But now he's stronger." Jamie thought of last night and the invisible intruder. He didn't fear Pitch before, but now he could feel the fear start as a small disturbance in his body. It was like an ant was crawling through his bone marrow. If Pitch was here now, would Jamie see him? "He gave me nightmares. Really bad ones."
"You won't be getting any more. Jack is now your guardian."
"Really!" Jamie bounced on the sofa. "Does that mean he can sleepover with me?"
North laughed. It was the classic Santa Claus "ho ho ho". Russian accent or not, it sounded like Jamie always imagined it to be, just like in the movies, but with the joyfulness that he could also feel.
"If you want."
Jamie wanted to shout his joy, but a question popped in his head and its dark implications made the crawling fear in Jamie's body tingle more. "What did Bunny mean when he said that Pitch would make me a…nightmare?"
"A fearling. It is best that you do not know what they are. They are…terrible things. Do not worry. You have Jack as guardian. He will protect you."
Last night's encounter with Pitch didn't give Jamie any confidence in that, but maybe it would be different now. Maybe last night was just a bad time. Maybe Jack was just out of shape. After all, Jamie was the first one to see Jack. He just needed practice, and Jamie could help him.
"There are more things to talk about, but this is enough for now. I do not wish to overfill your brain." North chuckled and ruffled Jamie's hair. "Now, do you want to see the rest of the workshop?"
A/N: GASP. What is this? An update? WOAH. Just WOAH.
Question: If I made a Ray Lou fanpage on facebook, would you "like" it? I swear I'm not a creeper. I'm just your regular tumblr-fanfic-underage author.