Where there is a Flame

Rating: T

Summary: Jack is badly injured while performing his duty as a Guardian. It is up to the others to help the spirit recover and also teach him that just because he was alone before doesn't mean he is now.

Author Note: I am HOME! I was hoping to finish this and get it up earlier today, but my Mother has me finishing up knitted gifts she couldn't get too and washing the dogs for Christmas. Went shopping with my dad and helped him out today. Busy, Busy.

Chapter 9

"So you're off?" North questions from the doorway, startling the winter spirit from his thoughts. Turning to look at the tall human sheepishly and struggles to come up with a plausible response beyond a cheeky 'see ya' before launching himself out the window and into the arms of the waiting wind. No, several months ago that would have been acceptable, but now after all North, Bunny and the others have done for him simply launching himself out the window seems cruel.

"Ah.. yeah. I, I have to be getting to work. Snow is already past due and I know the kids will be expecting some snow days.." he stumbles, suddenly unsure of how to convey the need to do his job. With several more rolls in the snow the teen was more in control of his abilities.

"Are you feeling well enough to go?" North questions, scrutinizing the youngster who had just went through a very painful recovery process.

"Yeah… I mean, Bunny said I would be sore, but it's nothing I can't handle." He flashes what he hopes is a reassuring smile.

"As long as you are sure Jack, you can always come back here if you need a place to come back too or someone to talk too." North stresses, knowing he can't demand the child return to the Pole once he's finished spreading wintery fun. Jack will forever be a free spirit, going wherever the wind will take him and stay gone till he decides to come back.

"I'll keep that in mind." He reassures, moving towards the window but stops and plants his staff on the ground before turning fully to face the master craftsman, his fingers picking at the sleeve hem of his new hooded sweatshirt.

"I-I really appreciate everything you-you guys have done. If you didn't find me I-uh.. I probably wouldn't have lived…" he finally produces and North gives a firm shake of his head before stepping closer and placing his large hands on Jack's narrow shoulders.

"You are important to us Jack, not just because you are a guardian but because we like you." He stresses, the meaning behind the words the same every time Jack attempts to thank one of the others. Jack gives a bob of his chin and gently picks at his new pants in a display of nervousness. Janis had presented the new clothes to the spirit not long after Jack had healed his staff, her side project ending with a beautifully hand knitted thick hooded sweater with small frost patterns moving up from the cuffs and neck. The wool was a thick but soft blend that wouldn't tear up or lose its shape during continual trips along the wind. The young man's new pants were a deep brown tightly woven fabric akin to canvas with pockets along the leg, brass rivets stamped with a snow flake accents the pockets and waist. Overall Janis has provided the teen with a new wardrobe similar to his old one but more suitable for the rough and tumble life of a wayward elemental spirit—and made him look a little more modern.

"I'll be back. Promise." He whispers and steps out from beneath North's large hands and is leaping out the window before the older guardian can verbalize another thought. He moves to the window and stares out, crossing his thick arm over his chest and watches as the lithe teen spins and dips along with the breeze, his laughter echoing back.

Jamie and Sophie were out playing in their Nana's backyard when the chilly breeze blew through the barren trees, causing both kids to shiver in response. Jamie scowls up at the grey clouded sky before kicking the mini soccer ball to Sophie who chases after it happily. It didn't feel like the beginning of December at all, the weather fairly mild for the time of year reserved for thick blankets of snow and icy storms. Jamie hoped the lack of true winter weather wasn't because Jack was badly injured and unable to do his work.

"Snow!" Sophie suddenly squeals, staring up at the sky with her small tongue sticking out and small hands clenching and unclenching happily. Jamie glances upward, his nose crinkling as another blast of cold air ruffles his brown hair. The small flakes lazily float along the breeze, carried around almost as if they were dancing.

"Did you miss me?" a voice suddenly calls from the far end of the yard, causing both kids to spin around. Standing atop the wooden fence was Jack, his staff cocked over his shoulder as he lazily waves at the two children. Jamie's face lights up as and Sophie run towards the guardian who laughs and jumps from the fence to come rest on the ground.

"Jack!" Jamie shouts, launching himself at the spirit who expertly catches his mortal friend even as Sophie grabs onto his sweater shouting his name as she bounces around.

"Hey, how are you guys doing?" Jack asks once Sophie had been hugged and Jamie rough housed with, the greeting leaving all three panting and splayed out on the ground in the yard. Jack props himself up on his elbows and crosses his bare feet in a relaxed manor as he conjures up a small frost butterfly and sends it towards Sophie, mesmerizing the young child.

"We're doing alright. The house is gone though; we have to find a new place to live." Jamie explains sadly, pulling up some of the dead grass around him.

"Yeah, I flew over the house. I'm so sorry Jamie." He states, knowing full well the anguish of watching your home burn down. Although the memory was hazy at best Jack remembers watching his own family home burn down, the thatched roof going up quickly in the heat of a summer hundreds of years before. The family had managed to get out but their house, the place both Jackson and his sister Hannah had been born in burnt to the ground as the family struggled to put out the flames.

It was a chilling memory that causes the winter spirit to twitch and shudder

"It's alright. Mom says 'it's just a house' and that we'll survive." Jamie remarks bravely and shoots his invisible friend a sad smile.

"Thank you for saving Sophie." Jamie states, his voice brimming with emotion as the two watch the small blond race across the yard still chasing the fading frost creature. Jack watches as the little girl manages to wrap her small fingers around the butterfly only to have the minimal magic that made it move finally give out. Sophie stares down at her hands and then back over at her brother, a pout twisting her young face. Jamie is about to get up and go to his little sister who couldn't quite understand why the pretty thing had disappeared when Jack creates another frost animal, this one much larger and familiar in shape.

"Bunny! Hop, hop, hop." Sophie cheers and takes off after the ghostly animal as it hops about the yard, this one's magic fresh and strong enough to pick up speed when the toddler gets too close while mimicking the hopping motion.

"You weren't able to do that before were you?" Jamie asks suspiciously, eyeing the silver haired immortal. Jack shoots the believer a mischievous smile before nimbly getting to his feet, staff slung across his shoulders.

"There are a lot of things I can do now that I wasn't able to do before." He replies cryptically and without a word leaps back up onto the fence, his blue eyes locking onto Jamie's large brown ones.

"Like what?" Jamie presses, wondering what new tricks the immortal had up his sleeves.

"Oh you're going to have to wait and see." Jack teases in a sing-song tone and walks along the fence while Jamie cranes his neck around to watch his immortal friend. It wasn't easy to spot but there was something different about the silver haired teenager beyond his new clothes but Jamie can't exactly put his finger on what it is. The smile and teasing glint in his blue eyes is still the same but there is something.

"I'm glad your back." Jamie states with a small smile and Jack simply smiles, watching as Sophie continues to chase after the frost rabbit.

"I'm glad to see you and your sister are safe." He replies softly, eyes growing distant for a moment.

"Thank you again." Jamie tries but the teen just makes a dismissive motion with his hand and shake his head.

"No. It is my job. Besides, I couldn't stand by and let someone burn to death." He states stonily before glancing up at the sky and then back towards the woods, his eyes narrowing slightly. Jamie watches as the guardian squares his shoulders and turns fully in the direction of the forest beyond the fence. The wind whips by violently. Behind him Sophie gives a whimper as the frost rabbit dissipates into the breeze, her sad eyes tracking upward to where Jack is standing, his staff extended outward and back tense.

"What's the matter Jack?" Jamie calls as the wind blows steadily. The temperature drops several degrees as leaves whip by and the barren tree limbs sway. Jack takes a measured step to the left, his neck craning to look at something, his staff extended further.

The suddenly everything stops.

The wind and leaves stop swirling around the small yard and the trees stop creaking ominously.

The world falls silent while Jamie waits anxiously to see what Jack is looking at, Sophie picking up and throwing leaves behind him.

"Don't go into the woods." Jack orders suddenly, turning to look at the two children. Jamie takes a step back at the sight of Jack's blue eyes, the iris almost midnight blue in color and narrowed dangerously.

"W-what's wrong Jack?" Jamie questions softly, alarmed by the change in the carefree and fun loving spirit. Jack gives himself a shake as his eyes slowly return to their normal ice blue and he gives a shaky smile, a cover for whatever is bothering him.

"Just… Just don't go into the woods alright? Don't go to lake or into the field either." He orders less sternly but Jamie can hear the warning behind the immortal's words.

"A-alright… why?" Jamie agrees but presses for more information. Jack glances back towards the forest and gives a shake of his head.

"Darkness is moving through the forest. It's not Pitch but it is just as dangerous. Just stay out of those places alright? Promise me?" Jack explains cryptically while locking eyes with the older of the two children. Jamie can feel his stomach coiling at the silent warning and agrees with a single nod of his head. Jack seems relieved with this and gives a small smile.

"It could be nothing, but just to be safe alright?" he tries to sooth but Jamie's face tells him the damage has already been done, the warning has been laid but also the curiosity. Jack shoots the mortal a look before giving a wave and takes to the air, intent on tracking the shadow that had been lurking just beyond the forest.

North was sitting in his desk chair working to decipher a paragraph in the black book. He wasn't entirely sure what language it was but the scrolling words comprised of the Cyrillic alphabet, Latin and some early Turkish letters. Unlike the rest of the book which was written in neat, bulleted scientific notes this section seemed to be the ramblings one would find in a journal, a private memoir. The words he can decipher simply make no sense and he leans back in his chair to rub at tired eyes.

"It is trying to tell something." The Russian muses out loud, staring at the bits he'd been able to translate.







Words that lead the master toy maker to believe that the author of the book was describing something particularly heinous, something dangerous and deadly enough to warrant a description to be written in a trembling hand unlike the one that wrote the calculating notes previously found. With a growl of frustration the former adventurer flips through the book looking for anything that could help him decipher the words or even point him in the right direction. The aged pages flip quickly and just as the guardian is about to chuck the item aside a narrow slip of paper slips out to slide across the table top.

"Hmm… this book holds many surprises." He mutters and tosses the book aside and unfolds the narrow page carefully. The inked drawing is hastily drawn, thick lines scratched along with thinner and spotted with dark blotches. The shape is vaguely human, tall and narrow but featureless, dark and although it's a quick character there is something decidedly sinister about it. The words scattered around the page are written in thick scrawling Cyrillic and North's eyes widen as he reads them.

His fingers tremble

The page falls from his fingers to hit the floor soundlessly, the warning delivered without words

END- For now.

Author Note: OH DAMN! What did I do now? Looks like you're going to have to wait for the sequel to see what Jack felt in the woods and what North discovered in the book. Thank you all for reading this story, I am simply amazed by the amount of attention this got—and that response helped produce ideas for the sequel. You guys rock, I appreciate those who hung on throughout the ride. The (not yet named or written) sequel will be sporadically updated since I am returning to work for the month I am home. Due to my job being over an hour away I'll be staying up there for 4 days then coming home for 3. I hope you all will look for the new story and have a Merry Christmas/ Holiday of your choosing. THANK YOU!