For the first time, Jamie knew how it felt to be Jack. Not normal immortal winter-spirit Jack; the exhausted human Jack who was always sleeping yet was still tired all the time.
After the activity of the previous night they'd all gone home via one of the magic snowglobes, which had conveniently opened up in Jamie's bedroom. Jack had hurriedly changed his clothes and was back out the window with a hurried promise of being back as soon as possible, and then he was gone in a flurry of frigid wind and stray snowflakes. Oliver bid them all a weary goodnight and stumbled down the hall to his own room, and everyone else simply collapsed on the spot, too worn out to move. Brianna, Chris, and David were spread on the floor, while Amy, Jamie, and Sophie piled on the bed. It was an honestly uncomfortable situation, but the group was too tired to care.
It was almost noon when they began to stir, starting with Jamie himself. He gently pushed Sophie off of him and sat up rubbing his eyes, yawning and looking around bemusedly at the other bodies around him. As he watched, Brianna sat up as well, brushing strands of dark hair out of her face.
"Morning," she mumbled.
One by one the others woke up as well, until eventually they all sat in a slumped, bleary-eyed circle, not quite prepared to go downstairs just yet.
David spoke up first, "So...last night was real, right?"
Everyone nodded in unison, and Jamie gestured out the window to the blizzard raging outside. It was impossible to see through the curtain of white. "Check it out."
As if on cue, a strong wind shook the house and the lights flickered.
"Jeez," Amy said, releasing her breath in a long huff. "Jack's doing all that?"
Jamie and Sophie nodded again together.
"I don't suppose there's any way to tell him to, y'know, lighten up? It looks like the power's gonna go out if the storm keeps up like this."
Jamie shook his head this time. "He always tells us to make sure to stay inside whenever he's making big storms 'cause you never know what could happen. The bigger ones are harder to control."
"Isn't that his job, though?" Chris asked. "Controlling that stuff, I mean."
"Jack says the problem with winter is that it's unpredictable sometimes, and pretty dangerous too because it's all cold and you could die if you stay out too long," Sophie explained with a pretty decent imitation of Oliver's lecture voice. "He has to be careful a lot of the time too."
The rest fell silent, thinking about this information, then Brianna picked up, "So how did you meet this guy? I mean if he was invisible and all, and where'd he come from in the first place?"
"Oh. Well that's kind of a long story."
Jamie made a noise of agreement, "And Soph was only three, so it's not like she would remember much of it anyway."
"Hey! I do too!"
And they were off, tripping over each other in their hurry to describe to their cousins the events of four years ago, starting with Sophie describing the Warren in admirable detail and then both going into the final battle against Pitch Black, the Boogeyman. Jamie's face lit up when Jack finally came into his part of the story, and he smiled broadly at the memory of the frost rabbit coming to life and then exploding into hundreds of tiny snowflakes. The others seemed to get really into the story as well, reacting together when the two younger kids got graphic. Sure, a few things were embellished, but in the minds of the Bennett siblings, no good story was complete without that.
Jamie was just getting into the part where Jack was beginning to get sworn in as a Guardian when he was interrupted by a knock on his bedroom door. The group turned and Oliver walked in, looking grim and more than a little guilty.
"Oh good, you're all awake," he said with an unconvincing smile. "Bad news. Jig's up, kids."
Amy narrowed her eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Wellll," Oliver replied, stretching out the word and looking up at the ceiling, "It means that we don't really have to worry about covering for Jack anymore. Susan knows he's gone. Actually, everyone knows he's gone now."
"How did they figure it out so fast?" Chris asked.
"It was pretty straightforward, actually. They looked in this room, looked all over the house, and he wasn't here. Susan's downstairs panicking about the bad weather at the moment, so I'd not go down there if I were you. I told her Jack probably just went out for a walk or something and got caught up in the storm."
"And she believed you?" Brianna raised her eyebrows.
"Not much else she could believe, is there?" Oliver just shrugged. "She's not in the best of moods of course; she's worried that he's out in the storm, freezing to death. And of course Linda isn't making anything better. She's going on about how she had Jack pinned from the start and was just waiting for the chance to take off again. She can't find anything that's been stolen though, so she can't make accusations like that, at least."
Quietly, so much so that they could barely hear him, Oliver muttered as an afterthought, "We should lock her outside and see how she likes it..."
Sophie blinked. "Are you sure you're an adult?"
"Anyway!" the man clapped his hands together, ignoring his niece's question, "Yeah, Susan'll be after you guys for potential answers when she sees you. Just keep it together so she doesn't catch onto us knowing anything and we'll be fine."
Being outside in the open air again felt more wonderful than Jack could ever describe. He hadn't known until then how much he had missed stirring up storms and swooping effortlessly about the skies with the wind, and generally just doing what he was supposed to do. He hadn't been aware of just how much being human had taken a toll on him, but now it all seemed to be falling away. The sleepless nights, the bad dreams, everything. He was himself again.
The first day hurt. Jack had underestimated how much power he was restraining, and now it exploded out of him as an unstoppable force of nature. Burgess was buried underneath at least two feet of snow by the end of the morning, and it didn't stop there. He could barely see the town through the flurry of thick storm clouds he had conjured up, and he could feel when the power went out across the area. Jack sent out a silent apology to the Bennetts. Whoops.
On the second day, the twenty-seventh, he managed to reign himself in enough to drop down on the North Pole and spend an hour or two with the other Guardians for their Christmas celebrations. He apologized for not being able to stay longer, but they understood. Apparently just a little bit of time was good enough for them, and Jack got to refuel a bit while he was there before he took off again, this time hovering around Canada to get it out. The need to let his powers began to die down around midnight of that same day, thankfully, so he began making his way back towards Burgess. Exhausted and worn down, he honestly was not all that excited about getting back to the Bennett house.
He frowned as he flew, deep in thought. Would Susan believe he existed? He doubted it. She was an adult, and a conversation from four years prior rang ominously through his mind.
"Who's Jack Frost?" Jamie had asked.
"No one sweetie, it's just an expression."
And therein lies the problem, Jack thought dryly to himself. She thought Jack Frost was just an expression. Not that he could blame her; after all, most people did. But he didn't want to worry her any more than he surely already had. He didn't know what kind of cover story the others had come up with to explain his absence but he honestly doubted it worked for too long. Which meant Susan might be pulling her hair out worrying about him, and he felt guilty about that. He didn't want to cause the woman any stress after everything she'd done for him.
He mused about this as he finally dropped into Burgess on the morning of the twenty-eighth. He couldn't tell if the power was back up or not, but he assumed so from seeing cars moving around the streets. The snowfall hadn't stopped completely, but it wasn't blizzarding anymore. Jack was tired and really wanted to get some sleep, but he needed to get this over with. He swooped down on the Bennett house, frowning when he didn't see anybody in Jamie's room. Susan's car was in the driveway, along with a couple others he could only assume belonged to the other adults, so they were definitely home but Jack didn't want to get a lot of attention by checking in the family room, where there would surely be a lot of people there. He crossed over to Sophie's room and peered through the window.
The only person he saw in there was Brianna, sprawled across the bed and apparently reading a book. That was odd, considering who it was. Well, Jack thought, she'll have to do. He rapped lightly on the glass and her head snapped up, swiveling in the direction of the window.
Brianna's eyes widened and she jumped off the bed, hurrying to the window and pulling it open. "You're back!" she exclaimed, stepping aside to let Jack into the room. "You sure took your time."
"Yeah, I know," he sighed, shaking snowflakes out of his hair. Brianna stepped back further. "Are you alone? Where's everyone else?"
"Everyone else is downstairs. Aunt Susan's been flipping out, just so you know. Aunt Linda too, but in a different way. It's good you're back."
Jack raised his eyebrows at her. It was strange to hear Brianna say anything positive about him, however mild it was. "Should we go get the others and decide our plan of action, then? We can't just charge around saying 'Hey, Jack's here!'" You'll have to do it."
She nodded, but stayed still, looking uncertain. "Um...hey."
"Well, while you've been gone, I've been thinking..." Brianna bit her lip and shyly swept her long dark hair over her shoulder. "I just, uh..."
Jack frowned, concerned. She was usually so bad-tempered, what was this new attitude? "Are you alright?"
"Yes. It's just..." Her breath rushed out in a heavy sigh and she said very quickly, "IwantedtosayI'msorryforbefore."
"Wait, what?" Jack gaped incredulously. "You're apologizing? What for?"
Brianna's face, blushing before, now darkened into a furious shade of red. "For all the stuff I said to you on Christmas Eve. And for being a general bitch. I was wrong about you, and so's Aunt Linda. So I'm sorry." She crossed her arms and lowered her eyes to the floor, refusing to look at Jack.
Dumbstruck, the winter spirit blinked rapidly and said slowly, "That's...okay, I guess. I mean, I can't really blame you for thinking like that. My 'backstory' had a lot of holes, after all."
"Yeah, but...after everything that happened on Christmas, and that witch and stuff, I realized that everything I thought was wrong." Brianna rubbed her arms. "It was mean and unnecessary. I see that about Aunt Linda now, too. She's wrong about everything. I wish I could say something to her about it."
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Why are you so close to her, anyway? I mean, if that was all it took for you to see that, then how come you stuck with her for so long?" Jack saw the look on her face and hastily assured, "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
"...I dunno," Brianna mumbled after a beat of silence, shrugging. "Maybe it's 'cause my own parents don't give me the time of day. They're always so busy with Hunter and Addy and Gavin. Aunt Linda's the only one in this whole family who pays attention to me."
Jack, recalling all of Brianna's bickering with Amy and her general attitude towards everyone else, nodded. "That makes sense. And I totally get it."
She looked surprised. "You do?"
"What, doing things or hanging out with certain people that will get you attention? Just wanting attention in general? Yeah, I know the feeling."
He grinned at her, and after a moment, she hesitantly returned it, looking relieved.
"Right," Brianna coughed, her relieved look turning embarrassed. "Let's go get everyone else and figure something out before Aunt Susan's head explodes."
Susan was not having a good day. Granted, the past few days since Christmas hadn't been fantastic, so it was probably too much to expect that this one would be any better. Jack had suddenly gone missing the day after Christmas, a massive blizzard prevented her from looking for him and put the power out for at least two days, and Linda had been unbearable through all of it. The other woman had been going on for ages about how she knew Jack was just going to take off as soon as 'he got what he wanted' which made no sense to Susan because all Jack had really gotten out of his stay at her house was a jacket, and she highly doubted that was what he was after this whole time. The only thing to do was to just sigh and roll her eyes whenever Linda got started.
Susan, sitting in the study, leaned on her elbow and stared dully at her laptop. The power had finally come back on sometime in the middle of the night, so she was taking the opportunity to check her email. She hated that she hadn't been able to go into work for the past few days, but no much could be done about that now. With no power and the roads out of commission, the whole family had developed a decent case of cabin fever.
A knock sounded through the door and she called out "Come in," looking up as Oliver poked his head into the room.
"Are you busy?" he asked, sounding somewhat nervous. Susan could spot Amy's bright red hair and Jamie's small form in the hallway behind her brother.
"No," she answered, stretching. "Come on in, what's up?"
As it turned out, Oliver certainly wasn't alone. Practically all the kids, with the exception of the youngest ones, were now crowded into the study with apprehensive expressions of various intensity.
"Well," Oliver wet his lips, "Let's just cut to the chase. We know where Jack is."
Susan bolted upright, not noticing the sudden drop in the room temperature. "What?!"
"He's in this room."
"...Excuse me?" Susan sighed heavily and dropped down in this room, giving everyone present a weary glare. "Guys, this is serious. Please don't joke about things like that."
"It's true, Mom!" Jamie insisted. "He's here! You just can't see him!"
"This again, Jamie? You've told me things like this hundreds of times, and now is not the time for it. Be serious, what do you need?"
"We're not lying," Amy crossed her arms, her mouth set in a tight line.
"You have to believe in him," Chris nodded.
"Susan, please... If you could just momentarily go back to being a child for just a minute, you won't regret it." Oliver couldn't help but curse himself for sounding like he was begging in desperation.
Susan frowned. "Oliver, are you ok-"
"Mom, please listen to him. Jack's here in this room, but you won't be able to see him unless if you truly believe he's here," Jamie begged.
"Yeah!" Sophie piped up, and the others nodded.
Susan blinked. Her children too? Well, Jamie and Sophie always adamantly believed in these mythical creatures, so she wasn't too surprised they were siding with their uncle Oliver. But the others - Amy, Chris, David, even Brianna - suddenly seemed to have been on some crazy ride overnight and were yearning for her to see something that was obviously not there. Or...was there? She narrowed her eyes at the empty space her son was desperately motioning to, but to no avail.
"Mom, please..." The desperation became obvious in Jamie's voice. "It's okay if it's only for a second, but PLEASE, just...believe?"
At that moment, something flickered before Susan's eyes. She would've disregarded it if it wasn't for her children insisting that there was indeed something that was invisible to her. Starting to consider that her children weren't as crazy in the head as she thought, she focused more and she could finally see a shape materializing in front of her.
But...how was that possible? She was an adult, for crying out loud, she'd stopped believing in things like this a long time ago. It was childish. And yet...
Susan, observed by her anxious family members, squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again. Well then. There definitely was something there, no denying it. Was she going crazy? That was a plausible explanation, not taking into account that the rest of her family could see it too.
The shape became almost completely solid now. She held back an audible gasp. She could tell what the shape was making out to be now. It was Jack–yes, the Jack that she had been convinced was missing–although his hair, which undoubtedly was supposed to be brown, was now white. Not to mention his skin appeared unhealthily pale like he had stayed out in the cold for too long. And...she blinked rapidly. He was wearing the same tattered brown trousers she had found him in, and he was wearing the jacket she got him for Christmas.
Susan's breath rushed out. "Wh-What in the name of..."
Jamie's face lit up with a bright, ecstatic smile. "You see him?!"
Unable to speak, his mother swallowed and nodded wordlessly. What was going on?
Completely solid now, the strange Jack smiled awkwardly and gave a little wave. "Uh...hi."
Susan rubbed her suddenly sore temples. "I would think I'm hallucinating out of tiredness if it weren't for my family assuring me that what I'm seeing is real..."
Jack grinned sheepishly. "Right, um... I'm real, so...don't worry?" He was actually handling this much better than he predicted he would.
Susan glanced at him wearily. "Explain..."
"I'm glad this worked," Jack continued, seemingly ignoring her, "I wasn't really expecting it to, I had to be convinced by everyone else." He gestured half-heartedly towards the others in the room.
Suddenly aware of all the pairs of eyes fixated on her and the white-haired boy, Susan realized she wanted to talk to Jack alone.
"Can everyone please clear out for a moment?" she addressed her family, "I...want to talk to him alone for a bit."
A few, like Oliver, Jamie, and Sophie, looked like the wanted to argue, but a sharp look from the woman sent them filing out of the room with the others, leaving Jack alone with Susan. He was looking nervous now.
Once they were alone, Susan crossed her arms.
Explain," she said again.
Jack bit his lip, refusing to look at her. "Well...it's a long story."
"You disappeared without warning for days on end, causing me all kinds of stress, and suddenly reappear literally out of thin air! I think you can spare a few minutes of your time."
Jack flinched, but Susan spoke more with the air of a mother scolding her child for running off, so he relaxed after a moment.
"Well," he finally began tentatively. "Clearly I'm not who you think I am."
"I think that was established."
"Okay, remember when Oliver was talking about how there was a boy some 300 years ago who drowned in the nearby lake?"
With a small nod from Susan, he continued, "Just to make it straightforward, I'm that boy. I died in that lake and I was resurrected by the moon. The Man in the Moon, I mean. He made me the Spirit of Winter, Jack Frost. I've been spending the past few centuries spreading snow around the globe, but a few days ago, I...got attacked by the Spirit of Autumn and turned human. Then you found me."
Susan stared at him. "You're kidding me."
Jack gave a tight-lipped smile. "I am not."
"How am I supposed to believe that?!"
"Well clearly you do!" He spread his arms with a hopeless expression. "I mean, considering you can see me, and all."
Susan stepped forward. "What does that mean?"
"You have to believe in me to see me. You see me, so clearly you believe in magic to some extent."
There it was. The word magic, the one she'd been putting off thinking, let alone actually saying out loud. It was real.
Susan inhaled deeply through her nose. "Alright. Why don't we just take this slowly? Like...twenty questions or something. No offense, but your explanation just now didn't really do much for me."
Jack shrugged and grinned. "Sure, have at it."
"First off, how did my family know about this before me?"
Jack looked like he'd rather not answer that question. "Let's just say that some stuff happened the other night night... I think you'd take it better if you heard the full story from the others."
Susan nodded. That was acceptable. "Why were you resurrected? Surely you had to have done something, right?"
Jack tried to smile, but it turned out to seem more like a grimace. "That's another long story. I think it's better if I answer that another day."
"Are there any others that are like you?"
Jack was relieved to finally hear a question that didn't make him uncomfortable. "Yeah. All those legends your son believes in—Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, even the Sandman—they're all real too. In fact, the five of us are all Guardians of Childhood, meaning we preside over the children of the world and protect them until they reach adulthood."
"So...you. What are you, specifically."
"Jack Frost. Spirit of Winter. Nice to meet you," he added dryly with a mock little bow.
"...Jack Frost. Right. One last question about that. Do you really nip at people's noses?"
Susan had not expected Jack's cheeks to turn purple (she assumed that was his version of a blush) and mutter quietly, "I honestly don't know where that expression came up..."
She laughed despite herself. "Next topic. How old are you?"
"Uh...over three hundred."
Susan stared some more, laughter gone. "Really."
"You don't seem three hundred."
"All of us are eternally young, to an extent," Jack explained. "I'm stuck in my teenage years until the end of time. Besides, three hundred years isn't a long time compared to everyone else."
They fell into an awkward silence for a long moment, then Susan cleared her throat.
"Speaking in more recent terms, what's been going on this past week? Why do you look so different, and why did you suddenly disappear?" Susan fixed Jack with a stern look. "I was very worried about you, you know. You may be older than me, but that's no excuse."
He sighed. "Yeah, you're right. I'm sorry. Here's what happened..."
He gave her a brief summation of the events leading up to his turning up, and what had happened Christmas night. She interjected with questions every so often but for the most part, the story went uninterrupted.
"...and then Mother Nature showed up, believe it or not, and explained a bunch of stuff about Eve then left. Once she was gone, I brought everyone else back here and took off to go make storms, and here we are." Jack shrugged. "Like I said, the others could explain it better."
Susan's eyes were practically popping out of her head.
"Not exactly a story you hear someone tell you everyday, isn't it," Jack added.
Susan shook her head. "This is quite a lot to take in..."
"Isn't there something else you want to tell her?" Oliver quipped, appearing in the doorway.
"What?" Jack frowned, not knowing what the professor was talking about.
Chris appeared from behind Oliver. "You know...about our apparent relation to you."
Jack's eyes widened. "Guys!" he snapped. "I told you, I don't want everyone to know about that!"
"Yet you told her everything else. Seems legit." Oliver shrugged.
"Can't you do it?"
"No," the two newcomers replied in unison.
"You're the adult here," Chris smirked. "Technically speaking, of course."
Susan looked curious. "What are you on about?"
Jack looked like he wanted to be invisible again. "Uh... I had a sister back when I was human, and..." Oh, he really wasn't enjoying this. "She got married and had kids and generations later, you were born and then Jamie was born and then Sophie was born—oh man, I just can't find the right words for it," he groaned, covering his face with his hands. "What I'm trying to say is, my sister is your great-great-great-how-many-greats grandmother, making me your great-great-great-how-many-greats uncle."
"...That's it," Susan announced, plopping down on the floor with a distinct childlike air and crossing her legs. "Final straw. I'm broken, good job."
Oliver sent Jack a mildly interested glance. "You broke my sister."
Jack, who still had his face buried in his hands, just mumbled, "Sorry..."
"So what now?" Oliver picked up, turning his back on the winter spirit and redirecting his gaze towards Susan. He nodded towards Jack, "Kid's still invisible, and I doubt Shannon, Danny, Jim, and the Lindronaut are gonna be all 'Magic! Yes, totally real!'"
"Especially not Linda," Susan added. "With the attitude she's always had towards you, I doubt she would think highly of you even if she ends up seeing you."
Jack peeked an eye out. "I was kind of hoping you guys would make up a cover story for me, actually..."
"Like what?" Brianna asked snidely, appearing at Chris's elbow. "'Hey, we know where Jack is. He ran away and totally ditched all of us'?" I doubt any of them would like that answer."
Jack looked at her, along with everyone else who had all appeared in the doorway. "In my opinion, at least that's better than having to explain my backstory for the third time in one day." A thin trail of frost crept down his staff and wove itself into the carpet at his agitation. He hastily covered it with his foot.
"That's true," Oliver conceded.
"What about Child Services?" Amy asked, poking her head through the door. "He got picked up by Child Services."
"What's up with all of you popping in one by one?" Jack questioned. "Anyway, don't you think it's a little, I dunno, sudden to be picked up by Child Services?" He scanned the room, looking for any better ideas. "Especially considering we've just had a blizzard that put the power out for a while. Thanks to me," he added as an afterthought.
"How about you went out into the blizzard and...froze to death?" David suggested, also coming into view. The room was getting pretty cramped again at this point.
"...No," Jack deadpanned. "Just...no. That's going to make everyone worry more."
Besides, I already did that once.
"Hm..." Susan frowned thoughtfully. "This is complicated."
"Yep," Jack agreed stretching. He could feel his power building up again and grimaced. Apparently he didn't do as thorough a job getting rid of it as he thought. "We do need to think of something," he pushed with an urgent edge.
"Can I just point out that whatever we say will make you seem like a little jerk since you never really said goodbye to anyone?" Amy inquired, straightening her glasses.
Jack halfheartedly glared at her. "Well I don't think we can really do anything about that, can we?"
"Our cover story has to indicate that you left before the blizzard started, which is true," Oliver mused. "Or else, like David said, it'll make it seem like you froze to death."
Jack frowned, deep in thought, then snapped his fingers. "Got it," he grinned, catching the attention of the others. "We'll say I got picked up by some long-lost relatives before the storm hit, then wasn't able to phone in until the lines got their power back. It's not perfect, but it should work."
"Well we don't have anything better, so we might as well say that," Oliver shrugged nonchalantly. "Maybe we could add in that you had called in and told them that you were here. Just so nobody's going to ask how they knew where to pick you up."
"That'll work if the people we're telling the story to are about as intelligent as a can of spray cheese," Amy chipped in brightly. "And let's face it, they are."
"Be nice," Susan scolded, then sighed. "Well, if it's the best we got..."
"Um..." Everyone looked to Jack as he raised his hand. "I, uh, need to go out again. Do I have to stick around for this? I mean, it's not like they can see me anyway."
"You're leaving again?" Susan blinked.
"Well, yeah..." Jack looked rather ashamed of himself. "I didn't get all the storms out of me I could have, and since I've been out of commission for a while there are still a ton of places all over the world I need to cover. I'll come back though!" he added hastily.
Jamie and Sophie finally entered the room again for themselves. "We heard you were leaving, Jack?"
"Yeah," the winter spirit confirmed with a small, sincere smile. Jamie looked disappointed and opened his mouth to say something, but Jack cut him off with "Again, I'll be back as soon as I can make it. Just let me know what everyone says, alright?"
Everyone nodded, said goodbye, and began to exit the room to face the music. The 'music' being the reactions of the rest of the family, especially Linda. Jack was somewhat relieved he wouldn't be around to see it.
Susan caught Jack's elbow as he turned to leave and gently pulled him aside. "Jack..."
"Yeah?" he replied, confused. "What's up?"
"Do you..." She hesitated. "Do you have anywhere to stay, on a regular basis?"
Jack paused, wondering why she was asking that, then decided to just be honest. "Not particularly," he said at last. "I usually just find someplace cold and bury myself in a snowbank. Either that or I find a tree branch to sleep on. Sometimes I crash at the North Pole, but I'm not typically in that area very often. Why?"
"If you're okay with this, you could always come here to sleep for a night or too," Susan said. "I'm sure my kids would like that as well." She could see that Jamie and Sophie had a strong bond with Jack even without knowing the whole story, and it explained a lot of things about their actions when Jack had first started staying with them.
Jack was silent for a minute, then asked what he had asked her on Christmas morning. "Why do you care? I mean, I've just dropped a whole ton of unbelievable information on you, and you're taking it really well."
Susan gave a tiny hint of a knowing smile. "Why indeed," she repeated. "I suppose it's because you're a part of the family now. Both literally and metaphorically. There's still a lot I don't understand, but I'll find it all out eventually. We have time. Until then, stop by and stay as often as you can."
"...Thank you," Jack replied, really meaning it. He fingered the sleeve of his jacket. "This is really nice, by the way. Thanks."
They smiled at each other, then Susan surprised him by pulling him in for a hug. He was very cold, which she thought was strange and yet made sense at the same time. There were a lot of things she didn't yet understand and a lot of stories that needed to be told, but it could wait. If he had to leave, all she had to do was be patient until he came back. And he would. He wasn't one to just disappear on his family.
They broke apart and Jack gave her a small wave before walking over to the window, opening it, and taking off into the open air. Susan looked after him for a moment, then turned and left the room, shutting the door with a note of finality.
It had been almost a year since he'd risen from the pond. During that time he'd been trying to get a hang of his powers, and now knew enough to do his job properly, at least. He was going back to the town the pond had been near to bring the first snowfall of the winter season. Jack didn't know why he felt so attached to that place, but he felt like he needed to be there. As if the place was important to him in some way he didn't know.
He swooped down on the village, not worrying about being seen but not too happy about being invisible, either. He was starting to get used to it, but that didn't mean it still didn't hurt. Either way, it didn't mean he didn't like doing his job as the Spirit of Winter. He liked seeing the looks on the children's faces as they looked out their windows at the snowfall, and he liked it when they stumbled outside pulling on warm clothes as they went to play. He joined in sometimes, pretending he was a part of the group. It made him feel less alone.
On this particular day, Jack consented to just sitting and watching, occasionally tossing a snowball into the cluster of children to keep the activity going. He was drifting off, about to space out, when his thoughts were interrupted by a little girl's call of "Rosie, come on outside! It's snowing! Come play with us!"
Jack turned and looked and saw the girl who had spoken standing at the door of a small cottage tugging on the hand of what he assumed to be her friend. The other girl, Rosie, looking uncertain and glanced around the area. She was only around eight or nine years old, and looked a bit lost even though she hadn't even stepped outside yet. Like she was waiting for someone who wasn't there to give her the push she needed.
He grinned. That girl needed to loosen up. Jack scooped up a handful of snow and quickly formed it into a ball, then sent it flying over the heads of the playing children and straight into Rosie's face. She stumbled back, exclaiming in shock and blinking snow out of her eyes. Her friend laughed and Rosie looked like she wanted to be angry, glaring around to see who had thrown it, but Jack could see his magic working as she did so. Eventually her face broke into a small, hesitant smile, and she laughed and followed her friend outside.
Jack leaned back and crossed his arms, satisfied. He didn't know that Rosie girl in particular, but he was glad to see her play with the others after she looked so sad before. She was happy, so he was as well.
...Well. The end sure was a long time coming, wasn't it? I got myself obsessed with BBC's Sherlock and I have an ACT test coming up tomorrow, and because of that my temper has been boiling very close to the surface these days and the only way to keep it down was to throw myself into a fandom that wasn't this one. Anyway, a TON of thanks are in order to BobaAddict without whom this chapter would not have been possible. I am a lazy fuck and she helped me write quite a bit of it, so thanks so much to you, Boba! Everyone, make sure you thank her. And check out her stories, they're fabulous.
Some people have been wondering about a sequel for this story. There won't be one, sorry, and here's the reason: I think sequels ruin everything that isn't Kung Fu Panda and A Very Potter Musical. I've done a sequel for another story before and, just...nope. It doesn't work for me.
So now you're probably wondering what else I'm going to do, if not a sequel. Weeeell, I'm still busy with Snowflakes, of course, and Winter Nights, and hopefully my genderbend story Alone in the World. I'm starting a story called Corruption soon, and my ParaNorman one. AAAND after all that, I'm going to do something big. If you've been on my Facebook page for a while you know what it is, and it's spelled out in the poll on my profile too. So I'm not even getting a break after finishing this. I'd really like it if some of you could, like...gravitate over to those stories, because I love all the people who've read this story and I don't want this chapter to be the last time I see you.
And now I shall reply to reviews for the last time.
GhostGirl58: My inspiration for this story...hm. God, I don't even remember. You know when you're trying to fall asleep or you're in the shower or something, and a random idea just flies into your head? I think that's what happened. Humanity by Rand0m Smil3z and Powerless Guardian by BobaAddict might have also had something to do with it.
readandwrite4evernever20: Did you know I love you? Because I do. Thank you for everything.
Aurum Le Greyhound: I really hope I get you attracted to some of my other stories in the future. Your narrative skills, I love them...
Danny Hellcat: Shame? No, I'm afraid that's something I'm unfamiliar with, sorry.
daughterofthehunt: Sometimes I forget David exists too. He literally serves no purpose, he's only really there because I needed/wanted a bigger cast to work with. But he IS there. He's a cousin. My OCs are really only there for plot conveniece, my mind deemed developing them unnecessary.
Thanks to the Guests, xxDarkHuntress23xx, xKireyy, Dude, islay12, Alaia Skyhawk, RandomKrazyPerson, Dragowolf, Lovepuppy316, KaiFudo16, bug349, Nika Nicolette, Frost and Winter Chills, Silver-09, CrystalxRose, Lokithenightfury, feathered moon wings, GuestFan, Sora Tayuya, CelticGirl7, Dark Inu Fan, Q-A the Authoress, poptropican, InsaneKuroNeko, WitchScale212, random person, .latchem, OtakuAme, Luna Awesomesauce 1012, StarStreakedSky, LegendOfZeldaFreak, Moonstar Daughter of Hades, TeddyBear98, Stormgirl415, Scriptor Sapiens, Arielle Claire, I am the HERO AMERICA, Dream Theme, Crimson Zephyr, winter's-lion, CGryffindorGrimm, KarToon12, Soshoryu, khoathkeeper13, Usachan, xheartkruezx, Aerrow4Ever, MagicGold34, MechaBunny, otaco, Arkie, Nicole Worley, Camelot Emrys, Scriptor Sapiens, SpaceCaseWriter, tsSwitzerlish, Phoebe Sophia, Googs04, A Neverending Dream of Flight, Matsukaze Tenma, Galaya, Lolxxx, Kaylee, NerdyWriterGirl, Uniquely X, Cool Cat, sing, ShiverTwitch, and Arkie.
Thanks to EVERYONE, really. Look how far you've gotten me. This is the furthest I've ever gotten on a story, the first one I've ever completed, and it's all thanks to you guys. I could never have done it without all that support, and you guys have no idea the scope of what you've done for me. Really. You give me feels. Thank you so much for putting up with my occasional angry rants, underdeveloped and boring OCs, wonky updating schedule...really. You're the best followers anyone could have.
Hopefully I'll see you all soon!