A/N: Oh, my gosh, you guys are incredible. "Cold Outside" has become one of my most successful fics, and I am ecstatic. You all have made it impossible for me to keep away, so if you ever get tired of frequent updates and new stories, like, every three days, you only have yourselves to blame. ^^ Cover art by ScriptorSapiens. Own nothing!
Chapter One: Finding I Can Fly
I'm holding very tight.
I'm riding on the midnight blue.
I'm finding I can fly
So high above with you.
– "Walking In The Air" Howard Blake
Once again, she found herself on the stone balcony outside North's impressive main hall. Like every year. She should stop being so surprised. She was shivering in the snow, her nose cold and wet, her feathers ruffled painfully with the constant wind, but she didn't want to go back inside. She couldn't. She needed the air.
You'd think that of all the legends and immortals Manny had brought into existence, the bubbly, giddy, sunny, chatty Tooth Fairy would be the life of a party. She'd relish in it. She'd make herself the center of attention, what with her beautiful feathers, her charming personality, her wit and her easy laughter. Her wings would carry her across the sea of guests as she bounced from group to group, catching up with old friends and introducing herself to new ones. You'd think she'd love it.
You'd be wrong.
It wasn't that Tooth didn't enjoy a good party. That wasn't it at all. And North's parties were always spectacular. Beginning the day after Christmas and often lasting all six days until New Year's Eve, the annual bashes North threw for every Immortal who wanted to come were legendary fun. Everyone attended, even skeletal Father Time who usually spent the evenings sleeping off a bit too much brandy in an armchair next to the fireplace, his scythe held loosely in a limp fist. Even moody Mother Nature, who, despite however much she groused about frittering away her time at inconsequential events like these, never failed to enjoy herself. No, Tooth always enjoyed North's parties.
Sometimes, however, it was a little overwhelming.
Sometimes, in a crowd, it was difficult for Tooth to control her powers, you see. Being the Guardian of Memory and all that had its perks, but with the title came some unbelievably tricky small print. It was well known that when the Tooth Fairy and her miniature helpers gathered children's teeth, they simultaneously locked away the memories in the palace. When the teeth's owner needed those happy memories most, the fairies would deliver them.
What was less known about the Tooth Fairy was that, just as she had a telepathic connection to her mini-fairies, she was also connected to the teeth. For a split fraction of a second, each and every tooth she or her fairies touched shot their corresponding memory into Tooth's head. Flashes of lives that weren't her own—and honestly weren't hers to see—scattered her thoughts like feathers on a wind, and it was maddening. After a long while, she'd managed to control the images by concentrating, quite hard, on keeping them contained inside the teeth. That's when it was easy.
With people, however, it was more challenging. Living, breathing people, many of whose memories Tooth had logged and stored away, tugged at the memories in her mind a little more insistently. If teeth could be compared to a refrigerator magnet, their owners could be likened to an industrial size one. It was much more difficult to block the images projected from a living soul.
Again, with practice, Tooth had wrestled this into submission also. However, in a loud, bustling, laughing crowd, it was difficult to maintain concentration. The headaches would start, the feeling of burning pain in her mind, like someone had set fire to the inside of her head, and the pressure of the memories would force her out into the open, onto the empty balcony where no one could see her and she could see no one except the stars.
Inside, she could hear a rather intoxicated Bunnymund regaling the considerably less-drunk partygoers with tales of his Easter adventures that she must have heard another three times before. All different with each telling. She smiled to herself as North's booming laughter rose high above the others at one of his friend's jokes, spilling out into the crystal clear night through the French door she'd left slightly ajar.
It was a beautiful party. But she was glad she was outside. If only it wasn't so blasted cold!
Tooth yelped and almost leapt over the railing. That infernal…!
Putting on her best amused scowl, she whirled to the source of the disruption, who was currently beaming from ear to ear, having snuck, undetected, to her side.
"I just needed the air. What are you doing out here, Jack? Shouldn't you be inside, laughing at—oh, I mean with—Bunny like the others?"
"I was," Jack Frost chuckled, twirling his staff expertly in one hand before propping it up on the railing. "But then he started in on the Blizzard of '68 ordeal, and I didn't need to hear that one again."
"Oh, I don't know." Tooth shared a secret grin with the youngest Guardian, and whispered conspiratorially, "It might be a version you've never heard before. With elephants. Or flying couches."
Jack stared at her for a minute, wide-eyed as though confronting the most disappointing news of his immortal life. "Oh, no! And here I was hoping that story about the Great Easter Fiasco of '44 was all true!"
"The one with the octopus?"
"Oh, you heard the good one! The sheep version is much more entertaining than the octopus one."
Jack spelled disaster for both of them by biting his lip, trying to restrain a grin that proved contagious. Instantly, as if his motion pulled an unseen trigger, both Guardians burst into laughter, ringing loud and clear over the Arctic plains, and they didn't stop laughing for what might have been years. Vaguely, Tooth realized that none of what either of them had said had been especially funny. Maybe it was the situation. A sloshed and rosy Bunnymund was undoubtedly something Jack had never seen before, and he was most likely still stunned at the farcical nature of the image.
He hadn't pressed her for reasons why she'd abandoned the party, and she liked that about Jack. Perhaps he didn't care. Perhaps he did, and just decided not to ask. Perhaps he was waiting until she was in a better mood before launching the attack. Whatever the reasons, Tooth appreciated it, more than she probably should have.
Recovering first, she allowed her remaining giggles to periodically burst from her throat like bubbles, and watched her companion slowly join her. He wasn't looking at her. He was clutching his staff for support, a hand on his ribs, and only the top of his head was visible as he gasped for air. Snowflake chuckles tumbled from his lips to the tile, and Tooth suddenly found she couldn't stop smiling. Each of his laughs made something inside her chest jump as though electrified, and her stomach had wings, and a clear, golden liquid bubbled up in her heart and, uncontained, forced its way out through a stupid, giddy smile.
He was beautiful. From the wayward tuft of the Moon-kissed hair adorning his head to the tips of his bare, white toes, he was beautiful. Toothiana had never met a more beautiful person in her entire immortal life.
And, if she was totally honest with herself, it frightened her.
As though feeling her gaze on him like a physical pressure, Jack's eyes rose, met hers, and— noting her blatant stare—glimmered that secret glimmer that had haunted her dreams since the first time she saw him. She had always found his eyes fascinating, as clear and blue as a December sky, and able to speak volumes with barely a glance. His eyes alone would take anyone's breath away, but when paired with a few scattered freckles across a nose that wrinkled when he was angry, and a lopsided grin that made her fairies squeal with an undiscovered frequency, and his dazzling white teeth…
Which he bared now. Since she was still staring. Dazedly.
It was then that the Queen of the Fairies experienced something that hadn't happened to her in almost a thousand years.
Her face warmed spectacularly, alarmingly, with all the speed of a flying fairy, and she blushed—blushed—a magnificent scarlet that could've rivaled North's coat in color. Tooth was stunned. Blushing was such a human thing to do. She hadn't been human for almost…well, too long anyway. She'd almost begun to believe she'd lost the ability.
And not only did she blush, oh no! It got worse. She actually turned her eyes away, ripping them from his as though physically burned, and suddenly found a snowflake on the stone railing the most interesting thing she'd ever seen. She was acting shy. She! The Tooth Fairy! A Queen! The Guardian of Memories! Shy because a young winter sprite, a human boy hundreds of years her junior, smiled at her.
She cleared her throat and shifted under his gaze that could have bored holes through her shoulder. Her wings fluttered nervously, and she desperately searched for a topic of conversation that she could latch onto, that she could babble on and on about until he left, until he stopped staring at her with his crystal blue eyes, amused yet bemused by her constant stream of chatter. This silence was uncomfortable, and yet not uncomfortable. Out of her peripheral vision, she could tell he was still smiling, slow, deliberate, and slightly bashful. Talking was her rescue. It filled the silence. Took up the empty spaces in conversation that weren't really that empty at all.
But for only the second time in her life, Tooth was at a loss for words. The first time had been when she'd hugged him.
Ironically, it was the wind that saved her. With a terrific howl, a gust of arctic air swept down the mountain housing North's Workshop, bringing with it a few stinging pellets of ice and snow that made her shiver, her teeth chattering, and brought her arms involuntarily around her middle. Feathers only kept her so warm for so long, and now she found that she was freezing. How long had she been standing out here? Her nose was numb, and so were her fingers.
"Oh, I don't like the cold," she hissed suddenly, violently, spontaneously, as she breathed on her clasped hands in vain attempts to warm them. "I don't like it at all. Snow? Yes. Ice? Sure. Wind, even, I'm okay with, but cold?"
A beat of silence in which she stood, shivering, before she realized how desperately she shouldn't have said that.
"What's wrong with cold?"
Everything inside of Tooth froze to a block of ice at Jack Frost's voice. Stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. Brilliant, Toothiana, complain about cold to a winter spirit. Whom you may or may not have feelings for. You're a genius.
Jack didn't look angry when her eyes snapped to his, stunned and horrified at the words that had just left her mouth. He leaned against his staff, his head cocked to the side like a curious bird, his lips twitching up at the corners into what might have been a slightly-amused smile, but she was too afraid to look closer. It might have also been a grimace of pain.
Tooth scrambled to rectify the situation. "Oh! Oh, Jack, no! Nothing's wrong with cold! That's not what I meant at all, I-I was j-just…you see, I live in the rainforest, yes? Well, it's never cold in the rainforest! Everything's humid and warm and beautiful and there's flowers and trees and frogs and water everywhere, and I guess I'm not used to the cold. I've never had to be used to it. I complain less than Bunny does, but only because I'm the Tooth Fairy, I'm not supposed to complain. Also, the snow! Oh, yes, the snow is beautiful, I adore snow. Well, I guess not when there's too much snow. Because then it gets a little annoying, all that snow, and it's hard to walk through and it makes my wings and my fairies' wings freeze a little on the edges, and it's extremely hard to fly."
Babbling. Babbling like a moron. She wanted to stop, honestly she did, but she found she simply couldn't. Her brain had disconnected from her mouth, and it was now spewing forth an uncontrollable mass of words and thoughts that had nothing to do with each other, and she could cry from what she'd said about not liking cold earlier, she hadn't meant it! Anything Jack did was perfect, beautiful, and if cold was Jack, then she adored cold. Truly.
Slowly and steadily widening with every sentence she uttered, the subtle twitch at the corner of his lips had broadened again into that spectacular grin. A fist clenched and unclenched gently around the knot on the curve of his staff, and somehow the fingers must have been attached invisibly to her heart because every move they made tugged the muscle into silly, irregular, somersault beats that weakened her knees and forced her to look everywhere again except his eyes.
"I suppose I do like the cold, Jack! I do! I love the cold! But only on winter days, not winter nights. Winter nights are so lonely and dark, and if it's cloudy sometimes even the stars don't show, and then nothing keeps my fairies company while they collect teeth, oh, Jack, it's awful. Sunshine melts the frost that gathers on their feathers, but since we don't collect teeth during the day, they have to make their trips especially short so they don't freeze at night! No, Jack, I think winter nights, like this one even, winter nights are never any—"
Her heart stopped beating, and suddenly, she lost the ability to breathe. Faster than the blink of an eye, Jack Frost had crossed the five feet between them in one stride, placed a finger to her lips, and spared her the most mischievous, marvelous, wonderous smile she'd ever seen.
"You'd be surprised, princess," he whispered as though letting slip the grandest secret of the universe, "at how beautiful a winter night can be."
She could have been carved from stone. A stray breath would have knocked her over. As such, all she could do when Jack finally removed his finger was stand there, staring, mouth slightly agape, and try to remember her name. Toothiana, right? Her name was Tooth. The Tooth Fairy. Right, Queen of the—
"In fact!" His face lighting like a thousand-watt Christmas tree, Jack suddenly sprang to the railing, balancing perfectly on one bare foot, and peering over the edge with the most reckless grin on his face. Tooth's stomach leapt into her throat. Her previously paralyzed body finally decided to kick into action, and she lunged forward to snatch the teenager from certain doom. He could fall! He could kill himself! Well, then again, they were immortal, but still! He could—
Paralysis relapsed when a white hand suddenly appeared in front of her nose, stretched, extended, all five fingers upturned and welcoming her own. Blinking owlishly, once more stunned speechless, Tooth helplessly traced her gaze upwards, finally landing in the region of Jack's face. Again, it felt like someone had punched her square in the chest. His eyes sparkled, his cheeks were flushed a pale blue, and his hair stirred lightly in a winter breeze only he could feel.
"I'll show you," he said.
Oh, his voice! His palm opened wider, wide enough to swallow her miniscule hand easily. Her stare shot from it to his eyes, and back again. He grinned.
"Come with me."
Suddenly, those three words spoken in Jack Frost's voice became the most beautiful sounds she had ever heard. How could she resist?
Valiantly, apparently. Her heart screaming yes! with all the power it held was still slightly outgunned by the Tooth Fairy's head, a much less rusty organ, well-oiled with hundreds of years of use. She glanced back once through the glass at North's party, and swallowed. Bunny had almost finished his story. She could hear the last carefully practiced lines winding down, and the guests' laughter was fading.
With a single glance, Jack read her thoughts. "They won't miss us," he assured her.
She knew they would, later, when everyone was retiring to their rooms for the evening and North managed to shake himself from his vodka-induced stupor long enough to realize two Guardians were missing. But she looked back into Jack's eyes and knew her answer immediately. For once in her life, she would take a page out of his book. She would forget the world. For one sparkling moment, she would forget the world and everything in it and place her heart in Jack Frost's care.
Gingerly, she laid a small pink hand in his. "Where are we going?"
He enclosed her fingers tightly, firmly, inciting a shiver up her spine that had nothing to do with his frosty skin.
"Wherever the wind takes us," he said softly, and without another word, before she had time to reconsider, he tugged her into the air.
A/N: Just to clarify, I wrote this as unrelated to "Cold Outside." But maybe it could be seen as a sort-of prequel? Up to you. More to follow! For the first time, I find myself finishing chapter fics even before I post them. 8( Weird.