This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice
— "Baby It's Cold Outside"
It's the start of December, and there's no better place to get away from his aggravation than Jamie's room.
"What's this, huh?" Jack says, tapping his staff lightly on the opened sill above his head, next to the freshly cut mistletoe taped there. Getting attention drawn there. It's hard to miss the feigned temperament in a bemused and growing smile playing across Jamie's lips.
"…Weeeird. How'd that get there?" he murmurs, skin crinkling around his brown eyes — gleeful. "They say you gotta be careful this time of year, y'know? People just coming in the chimney and windows, leaving stuff in your house. Like Christmas presents… mistletoe… a snow storm completely out of nowhere…"
The memory sparks up a laugh.
"Very funny," Jack says, climbing fully into the bedroom and cracking a humored, puckish smile, hood pulled over his head. He 'hmm's softly with lips closed over his teeth, fingers curling around the deceptively brittle, frozen wood as he tosses his shepherd's crook between his bare hands. "That was one time. You were begging for a snow day, buddy."
Jamie's eyebrows furrow. His posture doesn't interpret anger. Instead reluctant frustration. "I'm pretty sure that's not what I meant," he insists. Jack shrugs his frost-laced shoulders.
"Your mom only grounded you a few days. No big deal."
"Uh huh, for trying to—" Jamie holds up a finger at his companion in the recognizable, unspoken gesture of 'wait for it'. His teenage features scrunch up, head wagging. Jamie's age-deeper voice comes out resembling a high-pitched screech, "build an ice fort in this house, Jamie Allen Bennett! I thought I raised you better! Just look at this water damage!"
Ignoring the sarcasm, Jack carefully eyes the boy tossing a white and blue striped pullover from his laundry basket at his feet, into a wad in his open bureau drawer. "You gotta admit," the winter spirit recounts, staring off into space, "it looked good when we finished it, right? Managed to fit the pillars around the southern flank so it didn't hit the ceiling…"
He whistles low, as if Jack's impressed. Bright, icy eyes glossing over — and blinks, caught off-guard when something bounces off his forehead.
A pair of rolled up, red socks.
At the same time, Jamie flashes him a grin across his bedroom that oozes innocence; but he forgets that Jack is not only the unofficial king of pranks and tricks, but also the unofficial king of sensing bullshit, and finds himself being wrestled upright in a headlock, giggling and shoving his long, skinny arms at the solid weight of Jack's chest.
It's been too long; a month, no less.
Far too long. Especially for Jack.
Being a part of the Guardians was a serious business, no surprise there. Talking out the regulations and schedules and the damned rules, uuugh. Any reminder of it makes Jack's skin want to crawl right off his bones. Hardcore responsibility was never quite his flavor of preference.
Jack didn't mind taking care of the kids and ensuring their safety, working alone as he always had.
But trapped in North's workshop, forced to listen to Bunny and North himself as they go at it with some heated, philosophical debate about their respective holidays, and the other two of their group no help at all in stopping this: Sandman fast asleep (enviously from Jack's perspective, if only he could indulge) and floating on his little tiptoes over the carpet; Tooth tutting in outward concern, not blind to the routine, and scolding her "girls" as they flitted admiringly right near Jack's skull or in front of his face — he wanted out. Now.
And he did, eventually returning to Burgess a little before December begins, to the childhood home of his very first believer, to his Jamie.
He's still so young in his heart, excitable and hopeful, going out of his way to take care of his little sister and his friends. Things like bravery and kindness shone out from Jamie's penny-bright eyes. His bad case of acne from before Jack left starting to clear up. And in a way, it's tragic that the softest touch of his human-warm skin on Jack is enough to roil his insides, tighten up and loosen, rhythmic and fearful. He's still not used to being seen, to being held, to being believed or loved.
Jamie makes it all easier, somehow.
A breathy, hot puff of air right on the jut of Jack's chin. "You're the worst," Jamie tells him, still laughing, one of his arms tangled around the ice-crusted, blue sweater sleeve. His other hand fans pale fingers over the center of Jack's chest, fingertips digging in slightly. Whether or not he knows it.
"Highest on the naughty list," Jack says, feeling his smirk fading away for a gentler expression, pulling back his hood. He hesitantly reaches down and wraps his hand around Jamie's fingers on his sweater. Not sure what he wants. "Record-holder."
He does want; god, he does.
And Jamie, selfless, gives — winding those human digits into locks of silver hair, his pink mouth pressed rigid and dry enough to be chapped against Jack's, echoing the reverberant of a short, surprised groan from the winter spirit. It's like coming back to life all over again. Jack doesn't kid himself into thinking his nerves flare, that his heart can resume beating after so long, that new blood can pump through his limbs and veins and flush his cheeks so brilliantly. But Jamie's body heat, the length of his torso pushing against him, is very real.
It's… just as good.
It's only a few minutes. Jack's arms still awkwardly at his sides, his magical staff forgotten and discarded on the bedroom floor. He's silent then, but savoring the combination of sensations. Jamie's low, content noises escaping into him, ones that rumble up deliriously from his throat. Their lips roaming in a slow, slow measure and nudging apart. The heavy presence of Jamie's freckle-dotted fingers caught in his hair and rubbing absently against Jack's scalp.
It's only a few minutes, and just as Jamie is the first to start, he's the one to step away. Penny eyes, and cheeks colored dark with new blood, and Jamie holding his lips to his own wrist.
Before they're hidden from him, Jack notices how swollen they appear.
A quiet, wincing chuckle. "Should be used to this by now," Jamie says, offhandedly. "But can't break the mistletoe tradition, right?" There's a crowning smartass comment waiting to be spoken about not being at the windowsill, lying on the tip of Jack's tongue, but all that goes through his head is Jamie's spit-shined lips.
The reddened, inflamed skin.
"M'fine," Jamie cuts him off with a small frown, muttering this time to his palm. "Stop looking at me like that, Jack. It's a little numb. It'll be fine."
He winces again as he speaks, and it's subtler than before — and Jack isn't going to take fine.
He drags Jamie by an elbow towards his closed bedroom door, yanks the knob, and points to the darkened hallway with only a stern glance. An eye-roll is what returns to him, and the teenager disappears for the bathroom. By the time Jack crosses the way to snatch up his staff, the honey-glow of the bathroom peeks under one of the doors on the upstairs level. Jack follows it. More instinct, more unuttered concern than any impersonal curiosity.
Steam rises up from the gush of hot sink water pooling and draining from view, fogging the vanity mirror. Jamie has his bottom lip puckered out. It looks worse — maybe he accidentally scrubbed it, or the washcloth was too stiff even while damp. Hs lip visibly bleeds. Dread overcomes him, tingling phantom-like at the base of Jack's spine.
"Frost bite… isn't it?"
Jamie avoids his eyes.
The curve-end of Jack's ice-flecked staff budges under his chin, lifting Jamie's head as Jack's thumb tenderly dabs a spot of blood from existence.
"Jamie," he says, darkly.
"It stings, that's it." Jamie pushes his cold thumb and hand away, jerking his chin away and eyes narrowing up at him. "This is my fault, too. Don't just blame yourself, I know you're going to. It's like you still want to treat me like a little kid. I'm not anymore. I liked kissing you; I didn't care what would happen."
There it is — beneath the exchange of angered glances and raised voices, Jamie's feelings for him. Laid out right before them, naked and writhing. Physical repercussions be damned.
No way Jack would be held responsible for letting them come to pass.
Something in blue eyes must have given away his thoughts, because Jamie shakes his head, corner of his mouth quirking.
"No," he says, simply. "I just full-on confessed to you, Jack. We'll figure it out."
It slips out, and shamefully, Jack cringes from the inside. Jamie's hands pause from turning off the sink faucets. He feels relief when the boy regards him, smiling.
"How long for you?"
"I asked first."
"I asked second," Jamie counters, playfully, not even missing a beat. One of Jack's favorite comebacks to any interrogation.
Back when Jamie had still been a little kid, one of his front teeth missing curtsey of him, shrimpy enough for Jack to lift up on his shoulders and carry around as they played competitive ice-hockey in the neighborhood streets with everyone, Jamie's winter coat-padded arms gripping for dear life and a very shrill, amazed cry sounding in Jack's ear.
It's then Jack has the stark and hilarious realization of how fantastically bad of an influence he's been on this child, probably since day one. Child no longer, edging right along before the plunge into adulthood. Pearly teeth expose as Jack laugh-snorts, coming forward when Jamie does, accepting the mutual embrace back. A face affectionately pressing into the cold, plush sweater. Jamie sighing and relaxing into him, arms hooked loosely to Jack's back. This trust… it could never be duplicated or replaced.
"You were my first hug too, know that?"
Jack's large hand cups the back of Jamie's head, holding him there. A musing noise, interrupting the swaying hush.
"Is there a way to heat you up?"
Jamie's question widens Jack's eyes a split second — flash-bulbing some dream-quality, and definitely not so innocent prospects.
He shoves them down, collecting his levelheadedness.
"I, uh. I kinda doubt it. Jack Frost, remember?"
Jamie lets him go, prompting the same reaction from the winter spirit, finally switching off the running water. "Worth trying," he points out, going for the over-sized bathtub. "Call this a scientific experiment." As he busies himself, Jack lets his staff drop onto his shoulder and looks away, smirking.
Typical. The boy who believed Bigfoot walked among them, that the Tooth Fairy had summoned a couch to knock out his tooth, that you could communicate with ghosts through a tape recorder and became thrilled at the mention of science fairs and mysteries and alien abductions in Kentucky — of course he would want to continue talking to an elemental, and not blow off the idea that Jack had been an "imaginary" friend from his early years (like Cupcake and the others), and then talk about science to said supposed-to-be "imaginary" friend.
When he looks back, Jamie rummages a tiny closet full of racks of colorful, soft towels and hand towels, bending down to grab two items. Two swim trunks, to be exact.
"This for me?" Jack asks, smirk deepening, and cradling a gray, horizontal-striped one in his free hand.
A sly look. "Promise I won't peek."
Jack feels off-kilter at first.
It must be the extreme contrast to the range of his temperature, to his inherent magical abilities. He's not meant to control heat, to bask in it or go against his Moon-given power.
The scorch of rising heat dizzies him, surrounded in sloshing bathwater, the addition of Jamie's weight situated in his lap and his warmth, pleasantly close. They're forced skin-to-skin with so little space to accommodate them. Misjudged as an over-sized enough bathtub. Neither complains.
A trickle of moisture gathers above Jamie's brow line. The clean, white porcelain to Jack's unclothed back is the only cool sensation and reprieve given to him. Swim trunks clinging together, gray and mint holiday green. Jamie's heart thudding away a comforting, invisible hymn. His tongue tentatively sweeps the pliant rim of Jack's mouth. Like he's politely asking permission to continue further. Jamie. He won't deny him, not now, not ever — and Jack's tongue seeks refuge, slick and purposeful and lazily drawing across his.
Tasteless bathwater and the mildest hint of sweat on Jamie's jaw, and the boy squirms, whines when Jack's lips suck a line along it, hands grasping Jamie's hips to steady him from slipping. He's warm. So is Jack. So, so warm. Jack's entire frame radiating tiny shudders.
It's far too late to try and prevent it, and the world gives a sickening roll. Jack follows its path, jerking forward and leaning out of the bathtub to retch loudly. Doesn't register that Jamie scrambles out, calling for him in a panicked voice, and then unplugging the bathwater and flipping on the shower. A spray of frigid cold water hits Jack on his slight, bony shoulders and his head, plastering his hair down. A garbled, thankful moan erupts from Jack's slack mouth, as he coughs and dry-heaves nothing up, gasping between the fits.
He senses, fuzzily, a hand soothingly circling between his shoulder blades.
"Guess we're even," Jack mumbles to the ugly, patterned tiles, finally able to lower his internal temperature to anything desirably sustainable.
Jamie's hand flexes, muscles and tendons, new blood.
"That's not funny," he mumbles back, flat of emotion.
The next week, Jamie spikes a fever.
It could have been any little thing. Seems more likely that the flu season caught up in their household; after all, Jamie's dad and Sophie had been previous victims.
Yet… a twinge of guilt pierces through Jack. He and Jamie's experiments… they've been unsuccessful. Jamie's vulnerable to serious frostbite and the risk of a weakened immune system; Jack can't handle too much heat at once and needs to be able to control how much he's exposed to.
The few hours of evening, right before Jamie nods off and the tendrils of Sandman's gold, glimmering creations hover in, Jack imagined abandoning his customary disappearing act — burrowing down, chest to Jamie's broadened, faintly muscular back, and throwing the quilts over them. Tucking Jamie's elbows to the insides of Jack's arms. Closing his tired, old eyes and burying his forehead into a soft, fleshy nape of neck. Jack could pretend he could dream as sweetly as the person in front of him.
It's an empty impulse. And there's no point in putting Jamie's body under more strain from the temperature difference now. As the bed-ridden teenager slips in and out of consciousness, gritting his teeth and clutching at his pillow weakly, Jack keeps an eye on him. No mid-season ice storm for upper Europe. The frost-paintings Jack drew thoughtlessly on the window pane summon blue to life. A cotton-tailed bunny and a dog that familiarly resembles a miniaturized Abby circle above Jamie's bed, wordless and anxious.
Jack's spindly fingers, white as the fallen snow, brush aside Jamie's dark brown, perspiration-sticky bangs. Cold as they always were, Jamie trembles, shrinking away unconsciously.
His own name carries across the Northern Wind.
And he resents the inability to close his unbeating heart to it.
He perches, knees bent, on a ridge of snow-capped mountain. The Antarctica skies endless and gray before the sun comes.
"What am I doing?" Jack whispers, salt-and-pepper eyebrows lowering.
He tilts his face towards the Moon, grayer and duller in this portion of the world.
A cloudy, white breath out.
"Jamie's only a human, okay." Jack yells up, the chilling, high wind deafening around him, fists thrusting down, "I didn't ask for this! You hear me!"
As each time before, the Moon does not offer him guidance or reassurance.
Or the right answers.
"The Guardians are supposed to protect the kids. We've always done that, but…" Jack scowls. "He still believes! Doesn't that count as something—?" When the last word falls from his lips, the wind goes still, no longer picking up volume. He glances from side-to-side at the permanently wintery landscape, before staring up wonderstruck at the Moon glowing a bright-white, thin clouds surrounding it dissolving into nothing.
"…This your way of telling me you approve, Manny?" Jack whispers again, a sliver of him terrified to even get a glimpse of what truth may lie ahead for him. "Or… what?"
He leaps off the mountain ridge come dayrise, flying towards the ocean and hollering joyously along the way.
The students of the local high school rejoice at four more inches of powdery snow, though it doesn't stick enough to allow them a cancellation. It's tradition for the seniors to cut study hall hours, so Jamie enjoys his free hour with pals, nabbing some peanuts from a friend's lunch bag to chew on and reviewing the dirt from their class' gossip brigade.
He's almost blindsided by a fast approaching snowball aiming for the side of his head. A snowball that's… giving off a blue shimmer he's guessing no one else is seeing.
"Where the hell did that come from?" yelled out, indignant from one of his friends as Jamie ducks it in time, mitten-hand covering the top of his head.
The crooked shape of a wooden staff poking around the corner of a tree.
"One second, guys," Jamie calls back, hearing the mixed protests and cheers for revenge, but thinking nothing of them. He jogs in the direction of the tree, stopping just short of it. Walks around it, to see Jack waiting, ice-blue eyes on him, one hand poised on the frost-covered trunk as he leans to one side.
"Anyone ever tell you a snowball to the ear isn't the best way to apologize for ignoring someone's calls?" Jamie huffs, missing the heedful, rueful glint in those eyes, and he adds, stonily, "I'm sure it was important Guardian stuff…"
Jack slowly nods. "Some of it."
A crunching shuffle in the fresh snow. Jamie fractures the brief silence, muttering as the winter spirit locks his hands into his front pocket, "You cried once." Jack's mouth hangs open. "When you realized I could see you. Just that one time. It didn't really mean anything to me then." Jamie's brown eyes lose their hardness, but not their exasperation. "But it should have, because you weren't just a spirit. You were human. And you had been lonely for hundreds of years."
"I… died human," Jack explains, willing back a quiver from his voice. "I didn't come back that way, but I remembered when I got my baby teeth again. What it was like to be an older brother, how important it was to me to protect my sister. I still remember everything about that."
The teenager asks, "Do you know what this is, cause I'm…"
"No," Jack says, honestly, nervously. "Jamie, I've never… you're the first person I've…"
Touched, tasted, needed.
"I've never loved anyone either." Jamie's front teeth worry over his bottom lip. Jack remembers a warm, runny spot of blood on his thumb. "Not like this."
"I'm not stupid. I know it can't be forever. I'm going to get old and…" The word to anticipate will be unbearable, and there's an urge to flee before it can surface. Jamie tells him, determined, "…be gone. You're still gonna be around. That's why I wanna keep trying. Because if it doesn't work now, it's not going to."
Warmth, creeping over him, imaginary or not — Jack grins brazenly, hugging Jamie around the neck with one arm.
"You're right," he murmurs into the boy's ear canal, earning a full-body shiver and blush.
Jamie's weather-sore lips mimic the beginnings of a familiar smile. "I've got, uh, study hall ending right now." He asks, beaming, "See you at home?"
"…I'll be there."
It's a promise.
However long it takes.
It's worth trying for.
I do not own ROTG or any quotes above. Whooooo. It's done! Been working on this diddy for a bit. This is my early/on-time holiday gift to the fandom and to my readers who are the naughty list. ;D I'll gladly take any comments/thoughts on this fic. I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading! Stay safe this month! [There may be a sequel. I'm still planning it out.]
"Physical intimacy with someone who is literally the personification of being really goddamn cold has got to require some creative solutions.
Like, the first time they try and kiss, what if Jamie gets frostbite, and after that they have to be really careful (and inventive)?"