Title: The Thought Counts
Summary: Though saving a random kid from drowning proves to be unnecessary, it is, in hindsight, a good idea. Jack's not one to turn down a new friend.
Notes: You can blame persassabeth on Tumblr for this. I fused the two universes together rather vaguely, as it didn't take me long to write this, so if I ever do revisit this crossover, my headcanon for it is liable to change. And for the sake of coherency, let's pretend I did the math and appropriate canon fiddling that would make ROTG's timeline and PJO's timeline match up, to put this in between PJO and HOO, mm'kay?
Autumn was approaching the east coast of the United States, and Jack Frost was riding the earliest of the fall storms.
His particular skill set did not apply to this weather - not yet, anyway - but long ago, he'd made a habit of monitoring some of more dangerous autumn and winter storms that plagued the globe. People had a tendency to be stupid and go out into such weather, and since they weren't immortal like him, he figured it was part of his duty to look out for them.
Learning that, apparently, he'd always been meant for that kind of work had only increased his determination to shield humanity as best he could from the planet's natural elements.
And so, when he saw a boy in an orange shirt dive beneath the waves off a beach somewhere in New York, Jack immediately dove himself, from a few hundred feet up.
What was the kid thinking, way out in the water like that? The area was in the midst of a storm! Even Jack himself, so in tune with the Wind that their movements were coordinated past thought, had to fight not to be buffeted by the storm's power. He came to a shaky halt some fifty feet above the waves and scanned the dark water below him anxiously, his hands curling tightly around his staff.
The kid still wasn't surfacing, and Jack wasn't waiting much longer. He knew just how fast one could succumb to water, and though the ocean had not had a chance to truly cool down, the water did not need to be ice cold to claim its victims. Jack hesitated only a moment before descending, bracing himself, and he almost laughed. Almost.
He, Jack Frost, was scared.
Taking a deep breath, he called silently to the Wind, and it answered, swirling around him protectively. He'd need a little boost to get himself firmly beneath the waves; he wasn't the best of swimmers, and it'd be hard enough to orient himself and see, with how dark the ocean was guaranteed to be. He wouldn't have Wind to assist him once he was underwater, but if he could just get a little push...
"Alright," he muttered. "Wind, take me under."
He could feel Wind's hesitation, but his own resolve was firm. And so Jack dove straight down towards the sea, propelled by an unnatural gust of Wind that also swirled beneath him and created a funnel to enter the water.
Jack made himself as straight as an arrow and slid smoothly beneath the roiling waves. Luckily, everything about his immortal body was significantly stronger than a human's, and so his lungs and eyes were now more than equipped for staying under a while. As the water closed about him, however, he had to fight back uneasiness and concentrate on seeking out the human, wherever the stupid kid was. The remnants of Jack's momentum carried him deeper, and he cast his head frantically about, willing his eyes to adjust more quickly to the eerie depths.
As it turned out, he needn't have bothered.
Directly ahead of him, there was an unusual glow that almost caused him to pull up short. Because, illuminated by the unnatural light, the human boy floated as calmly as if he stood on land, beside an unusual sea creature that Jack knew to be a remnant of some long out-of-practice religion - he wasn't sure which one. The creature started at Jack's approach, rearing back in alarm, and the boy in the orange shirt spun around, assisted by the water as much as Jack was assisted by the Wind when he was in the air.
Jack's mind hardly had time to comprehend the logistics of the situation - the kid could see him being the primary one behind he's just floating there like it's nothing! - before he saw the boy, equally alarmed, make a startled gesture. And then there was a great mass of water rushing directly at Jack, and he hardly had time to backpedal before it hit him full force, blasting him directly out of the sea; it stung, but the attack clearly wasn't meant to injure too badly. As he emerged from the ocean, flying up a few feet, the Wind caught him anxiously and lifted him high out of danger.
Jack, coughing and wiping water from his eyes, still clinging to his staff, could barely even utter a thank you. For a moment, he fought to bring himself under control, as the sensation of ice cold water closing over his head resurfaced ever so briefly. But he'd long since come to terms with his own death, with the help of the other Guardians, and he was able to master himself.
He took a deep breath and peered down once more, intrigued despite himself. Now that he'd tasted the boy's power, quite literally, he knew that the kid wasn't human - or rather, he was half-human. Demigod, Jack thought. He vaguely knew of all of the immortals of his kind, at least, and he knew that the kid wasn't one of them. That left the creatures of other human beliefs and mythologies, and since the kid clearly wasn't a god or a spirit, that left only one other option.
Wind was swirling around him, concerned, and Jack silently offered it reassurance as a head broke the water beneath him. A normal person would have been buffeted back and forth by the waves, so different from the mostly still water beneath, but not this boy - the water seemed to conform to his will, and the boy looked around at the surrounding ocean, obviously searching. That was when Jack swooped low, close enough to register the surprise on the boy's face when the kid looked up.
Jack waved cheekily, keeping just far enough out of range in case the boy decided he was still a threat. That did not seem to be the case, however, as the kid only shook his head and began to move with unnatural speed towards land. Jack followed lazily and did not descend entirely once the boy had clambered onto the sand, hovering close but maintaining appropriate wariness
He was surprised to note that the boy was entirely dry and seemed just as unaffected by the storm as Jack was. Up close, Jack could tell that the kid was, in reality, not so much of a kid; he seemed only a year or so younger than Jack physically was, at least. Dressed in an orange t-shirt and jeans, he seemed remarkably normal… except for the fact that the sea seemed to obey his commands.
Son of a sea god, then. But there were lots of those, depending on what part of the world you were from. Greek or Roman, Jack estimated, knowing that those particular gods had migrated west. Not that he'd ever had much contact with either; his kind and the immortals of ancient religions ran in different spheres - different aspects of the world, you could say - and contact between any side was rarely friendly.
"What are you?" the other boy asked, pitching his voice to be heard over the winds, voicing the exact question Jack was contemplating.
Jack hesitated only a moment. He figured that the two of them could cause a helluva lot of damage if it came down to a fight, which wouldn't be good, but he didn't think demigods were generally hostile. Besides, he had been the one who'd startled the boy, no matter his good intentions. And he could always run for it rather than start a fight, if it came down to that.
And so he landed and extended a cautious hand, applying his best winning smile. "Jack Frost," he offered. "I think I may have scared you a bit down there, demigod. Sorry 'bout that."
The boy's eyes narrowed slightly, in a look that was both questioning and dubious. However, after a moment, he shook Jack's hand, and to Jack's delight, he himself felt instantly dry, as if the water had all evaporated from him in the space of a blink.
"Percy Jackson," the boy said, still eyeing Jack as if he wasn't quite sure whether to believe him or not. "And when you say Jack Frost..."
"Winter spirit, ice crafter, professional snowball athlete, yep," Jack said. "That's me."
Percy shook his head. "No way, dude."
It might have been strange, to have such a casual conversation in the midst of a storm, but by now the rain had slacked off, and besides, neither of them were getting wet. Even the winds seemed calm around them, though Jack figured it was Wind's doing.
Jack merely grinned and took a step back, gripping his staff decisively. He raised it and brought it firmly back down on the sand in one breath, and a brilliant frost pattern erupted in a perfect circle around him… perhaps a little more elaborate than he usually crafted, but no one ever said that he didn't like showing off. The frost didn't remain for long, since he wasn't maintaining it and the weather was not yet cold enough to sustain it on its own, but Jack was gratified to see that Percy looked suitably impressed as the frost melted.
"Okay. I can believe that," Percy said, with the air of someone who had long been used to things surprising him. He grinned, then, a crooked smile. "What were you doing in the ocean?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Jack said casually, leaning on his staff.
Percy shook his head. "My dad's Poseidon. My territory, you answer first."
Greek, then. Jack sighed. "Fine. I- uh… thought you were drowning." He practically mumbled this last bit, more embarrassed than the situation warranted. He couldn't have known that Percy had Poseidon's blood, of course, but still… it seemed a bit ridiculous, in hindsight, trying to save the son of a sea god from drowning.
Percy began to laugh and finally seemed to relax entirely; Jack felt himself doing the same. "Nah," Percy said, looking genuinely amused. "Sometimes the sea creatures need my help or advice, and a little storm's not going to stop me from keeping an appointment." He glanced back at the expanse of the bay, which had grown only a little calmer. "I still need to finish things up, so uh-" He looked back at Jack, a question in his tone.
"I'll wait around a bit," Jack said, to Percy's obvious surprise. "I've never actually met a demigod before."
Percy grinned. "To be honest, I've got a few questions myself," he said. "Later."
It was a bit bizarre, watching a fully-clothed person dive back into the ocean as if it was nothing. Jack shook his head and drifted casually into the air, letting Wind carry him where it willed but remaining over the edge of the beach. All at once, Jack could feel the rain soaking him again; Percy's influence must have been fading.
However, Jack's thoughts were elsewhere - fully interested in the chance encounter, now. It had come as something of a shock to find that Percy could see him; belief in Jack Frost was still tenuous, at best, and Percy was by no means a young child. Though, Jack supposed that demigod minds weren't as closed to such things as a normal human's might be. And thinking about it was giving Jack a headache, so instead he concentrated on remembering what he knew about the Greek gods.
Not much. In the three hundred years Jack had existed in this state, he'd taken various levels of interest in many things, and though he had a passing knowledge of the world's other immortal inhabitants, he hadn't had much association with them… at least, not until now. He recalled a conversation he'd overheard between North and Bunny, not too long ago, actually - something about a war the gods on the North American continent had very recently been embroiled in, that had been so bad that it had threatened to disrupt the spheres of the world's other immortals. Luckily, that level of disaster had been averted, though Jack couldn't remember how - he'd been more focused on his game with Sandy and Tooth, some board game Tooth had introduced him to.
Slightly frustrated by his lack of knowledge, Jack vented by rising and falling haphazardly with the Wind, making a game of freefalling to occupy his time. He and Wind had been together for so long that it no longer required active thought; Jack fell and Wind caught him at just the right time and it was an activity that never failed to send the blood rushing.
Jack was still engaged in this when Percy reemerged. By this time, the storm had almost blown itself out in this area, and Jack's falling height had been increasing in steady increments for some time. Percy was just an orange blur when he came onto the beach, and Jack let himself drop; Wind caught him in the last fifty feet and eased him gently to the ground.
Percy looked faintly green at the sight. "You okay?" Jack asked him.
"Heights," Percy said with a shudder. He took a breath and fixed Jack with a curious look. "So. Jack Frost. Are we talking, like, from the Christmas song Jack Frost?"
"You could say that," Jack said dubiously. Being called 'just an expression' still kind of rankled. "I'm not surprised you didn't know of me. My kind doesn't really run in the same circles as yours."
"Uh… legends, I guess." Jack twirled his staff in thought. "Your gods, that type, are from religions. My kind is from folklore. At least, Guardians and lesser spirits are. I think. It's kind of confusing."
"You know, like Santa Claus and stuff? The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman. And I'm one too, now." Jack smiled at the thought; it felt good, to refer to himself as part of a group.
Now Percy seemed well and truly doubtful. "All of those?" he asked, eyebrows raised, a disbelieving smile on his face. "Now you're joking."
Jack grinned. "Nope. It's all real. And I'll bet it's a little different from what you were told."
Percy was laughing. "Santa, though?"
"Yeah, and I wouldn't mess with him. He's a really nice guy, but he's got some wicked swords." Jack grinned at the look on Percy's face; he couldn't blame the kid, really. It was hard to wrap your head around childhood things, once you outgrew them. "Anyway, our job is to protect children."
"I see," Percy said, though Jack suspected that was only half-true. "Well, I'm not gonna question a guy who can fly and create ice and come barreling at me underwater." He laughed again, then grew thoughtful, regarding Jack with a look that told the winter spirit that Percy still wasn't convinced. "It's weird that no one's ever mentioned anything about that, though."
"Yeah, well, like I said… there's not much interaction between our two sides," Jack said with a shrug. "Some bad blood and all that. Not that I care." He leaned back on his staff, which would have been a precarious angle for anyone else. "They can take their arguments and shove it, as far as I'm concerned."
"That, I can understand," Percy said in agreement. His curiosity, it seemed, had not faded, because he gave Jack another questioning look. "Thought it would explain how you ended up inside the camp's boundaries. Most people wouldn't make it even to the beach, unless they were allowed in."
Jack's head tilted. "Camp?" And then he turned his head and, lo and behold, he saw it in the distance, Greek-style buildings almost a blur from here - apparently not even touched by the storm. Weird - he hadn't noticed it before; his gaze had never wandered in that direction, not once while he'd been playing around in the air. But if it was protected by magic, that probably explained it - as a force of nature, he could go wherever he willed in the world, but even Greek magic was bound to affect him in some way. "Like, a demigod camp?"
"Yeah," Percy said. "Pretty much the only safe place for us." It seemed to Jack that the other boy's expression darkened, for a moment.
"Rough time of it, huh?" Jack asked sympathetically. Couldn't be easy, being only half-human in a human-saturated world.
Percy shrugged. "Monsters smell us and go nuts. Sometimes it's lucky if we make it to adulthood." And Jack wondered, briefly, if part of the Guardians' job constituted protecting demigod children. He'd have to ask North. Before he could comment, Percy continued with another shrug. "But, that's what this camp is for. Keeps a lot of us safe." He smiled at Jack. "What about you? What are you around doing here?"
"I was following the storm," Jack explained. "Once the autumn storms start, they can get pretty bad, but I have some control of the weather. Sometimes I can help people who get stuck in the dangerous parts - you know, like the ocean," he added ruefully. Now that he thought about it, he wondered just how he'd been planning to drag Percy out of the sea, had Percy not been able to see him in the first place. He would've had to have waited until Percy was unconscious, to be able to touch him… and North keeps telling you to think things through. Hah.
Percy nodded, and it seemed that his earlier half-amused disbelief had been subdued. "That's a good thing," he said seriously. "My dad's the god of storms… not just the sea. I guess that kind of makes us related, huh?" He grinned.
Jack laughed. "Maybe. If you're talking snowstorms. Storms like that, I mostly rely on Wind. We've got a kind of partnership."
As if in response to this, the Wind surged around him and then darted around Percy, startling the demigod. But Percy seemed delighted by it, reaching out to feel the unnatural stirring of the air. "Is that how you fly?"
Jack nodded. "Wind's been with me since the beginning." He grew a little melancholy at this, before he could stop himself, and Percy noticed.
"How old are you?" the demigod asked.
"Eh, three hundred years or so, give or take eighteen. Not as old as the Greeks. Older than this country, though."
"Damn," Percy said. "You seem downright normal compared to the other immortals I've met."
Jack smiled and gave a small mock bow. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Yeah, well, don't let it go to your head."
"Everything goes to this head, I'll have you know." Jack couldn't help grinning. Yes, he hadn't talked to many humans (or half-humans) in a long, long time, but... talking to this guy was so natural. It felt good, and he found that he didn't want to stop. That lack of regular companionship was telling on him again, but he didn't care. So he wanted to make a new friend. Big deal.
He only hoped that Percy wouldn't mind the fact that he lingered, always drawing it out a little further, and indeed, the demigod almost encouraged it. He seemed just as fascinated, an odd combination of hesitance of outright belief with the eagerness of the unknown, but Jack didn't mind. Belief was a hard thing, sometimes. Percy could believe what he wanted; he was obviously open-minded enough to see Jack, which was a nice change.
So they talked and asked questions and even bantered as if they'd known each other longer than an evening, and Jack thought that he could really get used to this friendship thing.
They were only interrupted by encroaching nighttime; it had been early evening when Jack had first latched on to the storm, and now it was almost nightfall. Percy looked up at the darkened sky and sighed. "I'd better be getting back to camp, before they send a search party out after me." His eyes lit up with an idea as he climbed to his feet from where he'd sprawled out in the sand. "Hey, why don't you come stay the night? I know a couple of people who'd love to meet you."
The thought was tempting, but Jack hesitated nonetheless. He didn't know if he was quite ready to face a camp full of half-gods and who knew what other Greek beings. Look at how things had almost turned out between him and Percy, back in the ocean. He wasn't kidding when he said his knowledge of other immortals was only passing, and he wasn't too sure if the Greek gods would appreciate him going any farther into their territory, either. He'd have to consult with the other Guardians, first; North would be proud of him for thinking ahead, for once. But he'd definitely like to come back...
"Uh, I have some of my own duties to attend to," he said apologetically, grabbing his staff and jumping up with ease. "But maybe another time?"
"Any time," Percy said with a firm nod. "Preferably on a holiday, when I'm not in school. And you have to meet Annabeth. She's great." Such a happy look came into his eyes when he said this that Jack smiled. "And Chiron could probably explain more about the difference between the gods and... your people." He didn't sound so skeptical, now, though Jack couldn't tell if he'd come to accept it or just put it out of mind.
"Sounds like fun." Jack bounced up a little, small pockets of air keeping his feet from fully touching the ground. "Winter's coming soon, so I'll have more reason to hang around here. I might stop by." He reached forward once more, and this time Percy took his hand without hesitation and shook it... and it was still weird having someone who was not an immortal be able to touch him. "Thanks."
Jack winced. Wrong choice of words. "Oh, you know," he said casually. "Interesting talk and all. Hard to come by those, nowadays."
Percy grinned. "Wait until you meet Annabeth."
Jack smiled in return. From what Percy had said about her, she was an interesting person indeed. "Yeah. And, uh... sorry for startling you back in the water. That was pretty stupid of me."
"You couldn't have know," Percy said, waving it away. "Besides, it's the thought that counts, right? If I had been drowning, I'd be alive right now because of it."
That was true and mildly comforting, Jack reflected, as they bid goodbyes, and he leapt into the night sky, propelled by the Wind. Maybe the thought really did count, in some cases.
He'd definitely be thinking hard about going back.
"Annabeth," Percy said, much later, in the light of another setting sun; the two of them sat under a tree, watching the sunset, and Annabeth leaned against him, with Percy's arms wrapped around her. "You're gonna think I'm an idiot, but-"
"Already do, Seaweed Brain," she said contentedly.
"Haha. I need to ask you a question."
Annabeth shifted a little; Percy could almost sense her curiosity at his serious tone. "Ask away."
"Um, well... you know how parents tell their kids about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost, that kind of thing, when they're little? Uh... where do those... legends come from?" The wording had been a bit tricky to come up with. It wouldn't do for Percy to run around saying 'I met Jack Frost!' as if that were perfectly normal. Then again, this was Camp Half-Blood.
To his surprise, Annabeth did not laugh or immediately demand to know why he was asking such a thing. Instead, he felt her stiffen, just a little, and though he couldn't see her face, he could almost imagine the thoughtful look taking up residence there. "Those stories come from old folklore," she said... exactly the word Jack had used. "Why?"
Sensing that this territory was rather safe - that he would not be dismissed for something even he himself didn't quite believe - Percy ventured a little farther in. "Uh, I met a guy, back during the storm yesterday. A pretty unusual guy. Told me a few things."
He would bet money that Annabeth was already formulating several possibilities as to who such a guy might be. She didn't comment on that, however; after several long moments of silence, she continued in the tone she used when imparting information. "Several years ago... before you got here... a kid came here, around Christmas, one of the youngest we've ever had. It was a wonder he'd managed to survive, with the monsters he was attracting." Annabeth paused a few seconds before going on. "He said Santa Claus had protected him, had gotten him to safety. He believed in those sorts of things. And, well… I thought it was stupid." She chuckled, but it wasn't a derisive sound - it was soft and reminiscent. "But... later, Chiron told me not to dismiss such things so easily. He reminded me that the gods were very much alive and among us, even though most people considered them to be old stories, nothing more. He said it wasn't very logical that they, and only they, would be the only living stories. He was right, of course. Who knows what else is out there?"
Percy realized he'd been holding his breath as Annabeth related this, and now he released it all at once, feeling his world tilt a little. It didn't seem like such a big thing, after learning of the existence of the Greek gods and all their weirdness, but there it was. Surprise. Even though he'd met a pale, flying, white-haired boy with a magical frosty staff, who was friends with the Wind. It seemed as if one could be endlessly surprised. "Wow," he said. "Really changes your perspective on life, doesn't it?"
"It does," Annabeth agreed. "Who did you meet?"
"Jack Frost," Percy answered, snuggling in a little closer and burrowing his head in her blonde hair; it had gotten darker already, and the sun's rays were not as numerous. "He was pretty cool." And he chuckled at his unintentional pun.
"Hmm," Annabeth said, and she didn't sound surprised. Curse her for being more well-adjusted than him. "You'll have to introduce me, one day."
"Maybe I will," Percy said. That is, if Jack ever showed up again... and Percy got the feeling that he would. The winter spirit had seemed like a decent guy, all around, and it didn't take Annabeth's brain to see that Jack had seemed just a little bit lonely. "You'd like him."
"I'm sure I would," Annabeth said; her tone was once again becoming contented, drowsy. It truly was a beautiful day, the first one that felt like autumn was actually coming, and Percy could feel himself responding in kind, his happiness giving him a pleasant buzz. "Maybe I should have gone down to the beach with you."
"You shouldn't be out in storms like that," Percy responded, which was what he'd said before, even though she'd been busy with her own stuff at the time and had gladly waved him off.
"Don't tell me what to do, Seaweed Brain."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Wise Girl."
They didn't really talk after that, which was perfectly fine by Percy, who cuddled closer and sighed happily and eventually dozed off, his dreams an odd mix of warm yellow softness and cold blue frost.