Alaia Skyhawk: Well if I was going to have any particular chapter to put up today (Other than Part 2 of Kindness of Strangers in my Merlin fic, which I'll put up later on), it had to be this one. Cuteness, joy, and sibling fluffiness.
And if any of you have the soundtrack for the film, I wrote this while listening to "Jamie Believes". I highliy suggest you have it playing while you read this :)
Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians, the Guardians of Childhood, or any related characters etc. This story is written purely for entertainment purposes.
Chapter 5: To Believe, To See
It was several weeks later, in the dead of night, that Jack felt the pull of winter's impending arrival. He smiled as he rose up from the banks of the pond and into the winds, knowing that what will seem a short journey to him will in fact take him around the entire north of the world. Past China, Russia, Europe, and then home to America.
He wasn't going to linger in each region like the other Seasonal Spirits did, his plan was all about speed. He need only shepherd winter into place, then let it settle in each region at the pace suited to them. He could then spend the nights as Emily slept, flying to deal with whatever avalanches the winds told him he needed to go sort out. The rest of his time, would be his.
With a laugh he swept up into the sky, blasting westwards seeding the first snowclouds in his wake while winter trailed his passage like a great cloak of cool air which would lace the edges of everything with a thin layer of frost. The lands he passed were just a blur to his eyes, and he cared little if his fellow Spirits thought he was being reckless or foolish. He didn't care what they thought of him, not in the slightest in fact. He was himself, and no-one could say he had to have the same stuck-in-a-rut attitude as they did. Spring may have gossiped with Summer after discovering the trace of his power, Autumn may have been told by Summer, but Oisin's almost casual dismissal of clinging to any kind of human concern chilled Jack in a way that ice never would. Something in him refused to become like that, and he would never let that part of him be broken.
Jack grinned, revelling in the speed of the wind and the first snows he was leaving upon the higher slopes and plateaus as he passed over them. Soon he was catching up with the dawn, passed it, and then was racing ahead of it as he swept across the Atlantic Ocean... And then he was back where he belonged, drifting down to land upon a pond which became covered with it's first thin film of winter ice the moment he touched it. Around him, a trace of dusty snow lay scattered upon ground and tree, and his smile softened.
The time had come for him to approach his sister.
He flew to the village, and watched as Emily, a year older and bigger than that day on the ice, came out of his family's cabin to collect wood from the pile out back. He changed position on the roof so that he could watch her, wary of the closeness of other children and adults who were coming out of homes to start the new day.
Jack bided his time, knowing he had to wait until she'd finished her chores and would be allowed to go play. Luring her away from the village before then, would only get her into trouble. So he remained on the roof, patiently watching. But then, before he could make any move, one of Emily's friends, Claire, rushed up to the cabin shouting.
"Emily! Emily, can you come play yet? Me and Albert have finished our chores!"
Emily came to the door of the cabin, smiling.
"I just have to finish sweeping."
Jack felt like he'd been punched in the gut, as hope shattered into disappointment and frustration. He then watched as his sister came out of the cabin a few minutes later, and followed her friend to where several other children were taking turns to use the rope-swings hanging from one of the big trees at the village's edge.
He flew over to it and sat high in the branches, looking down at the children as they laughed and played oblivious to his presense. Overhead the clouds thickened without him noticing, until large snowflakes began to drift down much to his surprise. His emotions had started the snow falling, he was going to have to be careful about that in future.
But then, below him, the laugher became tinged with wonderment. He looked down, to see all the children looking up at the sky and reaching out hands to catch the falling snowflakes. A sudden impulse then filled him, and without thinking he conjured several more snowflakes to add unseen to the falling flakes. Each one he made then floated to a child, and one-by-one landed on noses and melted in a glitter of blue motes that only he could see.
Each child began to laugh, and the entire group surged into a spontaneous game of tag, which then led to hide and seek. Jack watched them with a kind of awe, for he knew that even in the wonder at the sight of falling snow, winter scared children deep inside. They feared the long cold, the longer nights, just as he had once done when he was small. And yet, just now, something in him had reached out. The fear of the impending hardships of winter, which he knew had lain in each of them, had been pushed back by laughter and joy... by a sense of fun.
He started to laugh, and dropped down to the ground to run among them. To join in their games even if they couldn't see him, hear him, and even though they often ran through him. Because when he was with them, when he gifted them with laughter and glee, he couldn't help but share in that.
But soon the light began to fade, parents and evening chores beckoned, and Jack watched Emily and the others return to their homes and parents. He slept on the roof of the cabin that night, with winter still too new for him to have duties anywhere else yet. And when the following day, and the one after it, continued as that first one did without Emily being alone so he could approach her, he didn't mind. The frustration didn't return, because even though she couldn't see him, he was making her and the others happy.
It was on the ninth day of winter when it came, the moment when she finished her chores first and told her mother she was going for a walk. Jack followed her into the woods, drifting through the air ahead of her and making sure no wolves or bears were near.
When she came to a stop, she was near the pond. Able to see it through the trees, where it glisttered with swirls of frost across the thin layer of ice that covered it. Her lip then began to tremble, tears welled up in her eyes, and Jack knew. Winter had returned, and with it the pain of memories, the pain of having watched him plunge beneath the ice and disappear.
Jack landed near her, his expression full of sorrow. He'd watched the villagers search the pond when spring had melted the ice enough to look, but they'd found nothing but his ice-skates and had assumed some predator in the woods had found his body before them and dragged it away. He'd watched his family dig his grave, and lower into it a coffin which was empty but for those skates. And by the tears now flowing down his sister's face, he knew she was remembering that... Now, more than any other time, he knew it was his best chance to kindle her belief in him.
He stepped over to the tree nearest her, and tapped it with his staff, the sudden spread of fern-like frost upon it startling her. He then trailed a thin line of frost over the ground towards the next tree, and wove it up that trunk too.
Emily stared, remaining utterly still for what seemed an eternity before she walked towards the second tree, reaching out to touch the frost. She then jumped a little in surprise as a weaving line of frost then darted across the snow-dusted ground and leaves to wrap around the next tree along the trail.
It was the innate wonderment of a child, the desire to discover all that was magical in the world, which had her follow the dancing trail of frost from tree-to-tree. But then she found herself on the shore of the pond, and she shivered in fear as she took a step backwards away from the icy water. But then the mysterious trail of frost ran down from the final tree, past her feet, before it spread and flowed out to draw a pattern of squares upon the dirt beside the water.
Jack watched her, his heart thumping in his chest with nerves and hope and fear that she wouldn't belief. He then stooped down to pick up a stone, throwing it lightly to land in one of the squares, and hopped along the pattern to pick it up while leaving a little blot of frost wherever he landed.
Emily watched with wide, tearful eyes, and then flinched back with a small yelp when the stone seemed to float up from its square on its own, and was tossed in her direction. It landed at her feet, and as she looked between it and the hopscotch pattern, more frost swirled on the ground between it and her as if inviting her to play.
She reached down, hesitating a moment before cautiously picking up the stone. And then she threw it to land in a square at the far end of the pattern.
Unseen, Jack hopped along the grid, leaving blots of frost again. He stopped at the square with the stone, having drawn the frost to invite her to play, but when he turned she was already hopping along the pattern humming the tune the two of them had always sung while playing hopscotch. He didn't even have the chance to react, he'd expected her to still be stood unmoving outside the pattern, and so he didn't step aside when she reached the square with the stone and stepped right through him.
Jack quickly leapt out of the way, landing in the square behind her. His heart in turmoil at that evidence she didn't believe in him. But then he frowned, noticing that she hadn't picked up the stone. Instead she stood there, silent and motionless, until she spoke with a glimmer of fearful hope in a voice barely louder than a whisper.
Jack remained where he was, too afraid to move, before he found the courage to answer.
"I'm here, Emily. I'm home."
She let out a sharp gasp, she'd heard him! But like him, she didn't move. She too was afraid that this was some cruel figment of imagination.
"Are you really here, Jack?"
Jack lifted his hand to touch her shoulder, she sounded like she was about to start crying, but stopped. He couldn't bring himself to, lest he pass right through her again and his heart shatter into a thousand pieces. Instead he spoke again, soft and urging.
"I'm here... You're going to be all right. You have to believe in me... Would I trick you?"
She bit back a sob, but still didn't turn.
"Yes. You always play tricks."
Jack stepped closer, so that he was right behind her.
"Not this time... I promise."
Emily took a deep, shuddering breath, and bowed her head. She then began to turn, eyes closed and her arms held tightly at her sides. When she faced him, she pushed her hands forward as if expecting to find empty air, and caused Jack to stagger when her palms connected with his gut and did not pass through... She could touch him, and that meant...
His heart continuned to pound, he could barely breathe, as she opened her eyes and saw familiar bare feet and leggings bound to calves, even if the clothing was coated with a fine pattern of frost. Her gaze then travelled higher, to hands, shirt, waistcoat, and familiar woolen cloak which were also graced with frost.
She then stared at where her hands had grabbed fistfulls of cold cloth, with tears of joy running down her face because she knew that this figure before her was her brother... And then, at last, she looked up at his face.
She gasped, letting go of his shirt and stumbling backwards away from him, and Jack's expression softened with regret at her reaction to his hair and eyes.
"Yeah, I've changed a bit, but I'm still me... I'm still the brother you played hopscotch with every day."
Emily was still staring, and then new tears spilled over and she threw herself forward to cry into the front of his shirt.
Jack crouched down to hold her, tears of his own welling up and freezing into glittering pebbles of ice that fell away.
"I'm here, Emily."
After a few more moments she let go, and moved back again to be able to see him fully. She was trembling with emotion, but instead of joy and happiness, a new one bubbled to the surface. Anger.
"Where have you been? Why didn't you come home? We were so worried about you! We thought you were dead!"
Jack flinched at that, and forced himself to reply truthfully as he stood up.
"That's because... I did die that day. I fell through the ice, I sank, and I drowned... and then the Moon decided to ask Mother Nature to bring me back." He reached out to hold her by the shoulders. "Mother and Father won't be able to touch me, or even see me. No one else in the village will be able to either. You only can because you truly believe I'm here, that I exist. Only children can learn to believe in things like this, that adults would say are impossible. Only those who can look at the world through the eyes of a child, can see that which is unseen... I'm still your Jack, but I'm also Jack Frost, now. I'm the Spirit of Winter, which is why when spring came, I had to leave and wait before I could come back. But I'm here now."
Emily looked at him, anger fading as she breathed in wonder.
"You're the Spirit of Winter?"
Jack grinned, and nodded. His eyes glistening with tears of joy.
"Yep, and I'm the one who brought winter here this year. But don't worry, I'll keep the worst storms away, and when Mother Nature tells me which storms have to happen, I'll make sure to let you know. That way you can make sure everyone in the village knows to stay inside." He touched her nose, nipping it playfully with cold fingers. "And if they ask how you know, you can tell them that your friend, Jack Frost, told you so."
Emily frowed, confused.
"I can't tell them it's you?"
Jack shook his head firmly.
"No. Adults can't learn to believe in the way that children can, not if they've lost the ability to look at the world through the eyes of a child. If you say you have an unseen special friend that told you, they'll think it's a game. But then, after a while, they may start to believe that the village is watched over. And I'll always watch over you when winter brings me home, always." He picked his staff up from where he'd dropped it on the ground, and he grinned again, filled to briming with elation at this moment. "But enough of that... How about you and me have a little fun?"
Emily started to laugh, and nodded eagerly.
Jack laughed too, and in a graceful flip he leapt into the air and soared out towards the pond. He then danced over its surface, whooping in exhilleration as he thickened the ice and spread out a carpet of glistening frost up the banks of the pond.
Emily laughed and clapped in joy and wonderment at it, before he landed in front of her and held out his hand. She trustingly placed her warm hand in his cold one, and let him lead her onto the ice that minutes before now she was terrified of. He then began to tow her around it, her boots sliding even if they weren't proper skates, in loops and spins that sent her laughter echoing into the air. The darkness of grief and fear had been lifted from her, and in turn his own burden had been lifted. But all too soon he heard their mother calling, and he urged Emily to go back to the village with a mischevous smile.
"Remember, don't tell her or Father."
She returned that grin, and giggled.
She hurried back towards the village, if a little reluctantly, and Jack remained at the pond to revell in the tremendous swell of emotion that presently filled him. Emily believed in him, his sister could see him.
He was alone as night fell, but he didn't mind. He was too happy, too full of joy, as he smiled up at the Moon. He then spoke to that distant figure, his voice soft.
"This... This feels right, and not just because I wanted her to see me. Seeing her smile, making her fear and pain become laughter, it makes me feel complete. Like this is meant to be. Like this is what I'm meant to do."
The Man in the Moon didn't answer, and Jack sighed.
"Then I guess I should assume your silence means that either I'm right, or you don't care what I choose to do... I'll be the Spirit of Winter that Mother Nature needs me to be, but I'm also going to be 'Jack Frost'. The Spirit of Ice and Snow that protects this village, and who will bring fun and laughter to all the children who live here. And maybe, in time, they'll come to see me as Emily does. The people of the village fear winter, but I want to teach the children that winter isn't to be frightened of. That it's a time for the land to rest... and a time for children to play."
Jack laughed and spun around the pond once, before soaring up into the skies to obey the first call of his winter duties to a distant mountain. Unaware of the Moon's unseen smile, which lasted all night until the sun rose over the village once more... and Jack returned to watch over his sister.
Alaia Skyhawk: This chapter makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Happy Christmas, everyone! I hope you all have a lovely day!