Mark of Snow 3
by K. Stonham
first released 19th January 2013
The summer Jamie turned twenty, two weeks after his birthday, Jack took him to the one place all children wish to see: Santa's Workshop. It was a week-long visit. Jamie had told his mom that he would be on a hiking trip with his college friends.
Sophie, who despite being thirteen still believed, was incredibly jealous. To appease her teenage feminine wrath, Jack gave Sophie the promise of a trip to Bunny's Warren at a to-be-determined-later date. Jamie teased him about falling into the Guardian habit of bribing kids. Jack shoved Jamie, grinning all the while. Sophie, practical, simply pounced on the offer and wrote it out in red Sharpie on a piece of notebook paper. She made Jack sign and date it, then promptly hid the document away somewhere in her room. Jamie knew she wasn't going to forget about it, or let Jack forget either. He suspected his sister was going to be a lawyer someday.
Jack waited until Jamie's mom had gone to work that Monday, then arrived at Jamie's windowsill. Jamie was waiting, his backpack with a week's clothing and toiletries, together with his sketchbook and a plethora of pencils, all ready to go.
"So, flying or snow globe?" Jack asked.
Jamie never turned down the chance to fly with Jack if it was offered, but for once he'd thought ahead and googled the distance. If North's Workshop was anywhere near the Pole itself, it was nearly 3,400 miles from Burgess. "How long would it take to fly it?"
Jack shrugged. "A couple hours."
Jamie did quick math in his head, and manfully resisted the urge to gape. "You can do Mach 2?"
Jack looked blank. "No idea what that is. But I do loop-de-loops around commercial airplanes sometimes, if that helps?"
It was in Jamie's head to say that Jack was insane, but, really, what was the point? From a spirit's point of view, Jack was perfectly sane. He could pull off stunts like that without a second thought. "Flying," Jamie decided, and shrugged on his coat, and then his backpack.
Jack grinned. "Excellent choice."
"Do I get peanuts and a magazine?" Jamie quipped, stepping up onto his windowsill next to the winter spirit.
"No, but we do have a lovely in-flight movie, a panoramic documentary about the wilds of Canada." Jack's fingers laced with Jamie's. Jamie imagined Jack's magic field extending to include him. "Ready?"
"One, two," Jamie counted. On "Three!" they jumped together, and gravity stopped mattering.
"Whooo!" Jamie yelled in pure adrenaline appreciation as they soared upward. His shout mingled with Jack's delighted laughter.
Behind and below them, Sophie entered her brother's room, noted that he'd already left, and closed the window.
Jack's magic didn't make Jamie invisible, but it did cocoon him whenever he took Jamie for a flight. Which meant that the thousand-mile-per-hour-plus speeds didn't register, nor did the freezing cold. Jack was mindful of this effect and didn't let go of Jamie's hand when they arrived at the Workshop. Jamie's coat might've been okay for a Burgess winter, but the northern latitudes were something else. Jack rapped on the door with his staff, causing a frost pattern to bloom on the wood.
Phil opened the door, and lit up on seeing Jamie. He snatched the young man into a hug, leaving Jack to complain, "Hey, what about me? Am I chopped liver, here?"
Apparently Jack was. Rolling his eyes, he stepped inside and shut the door behind himself. Phil had put Jamie down and was now questioning him in Yetish, asking about his health and his schooling and how the trip went. Jamie was keeping up with the inquiries quite well, though his replies were in English. But that was okay; Phil was multilingual.
Phil walked as he talked, and in short order had led them into the globe room. Jamie actually stopped and stared, mouth dropping open. Jack leaned on his staff and smiled, enjoying watching his friend be caught flat-footed. Eventually a "Wow," came out of Jamie's mouth as he craned his neck, trying to take everything, on all the levels, in.
In a lot of ways, Jack thought, Jamie really never had grown up past age ten. There was always that spark of childhood in him, flaring brighter at times. It was probably part of the reason he was still able to see the Guardians at age twenty, when most others couldn't.
Jack was so glad Jamie had that gift.
"Everything you thought it'd be?" Jack asked softly.
Jamie nodded, still wide-eyed. "And more," he said.
Jack exchanged a pleased look with Phil. Phil gruffled, then moved off to his own business, leaving Jamie with Jack again. "Come on," Jack said, "I'll show you where you're staying, and you can drop off your stuff. You can gawk all you want later."
"I'm not gawking," Jamie protested as Jack led him to the elevators.
"You totally were."
"Oh, wow, this is nice." Jamie took in the cozy room, paneled in golden wood. A fire snapped in one corner, and there were huge windows showing the Arctic expanses outside. Colorful rag rugs warmed the floor, a quilt-covered bed nestled in one corner, and the huge bureau (yeti-carved; Jamie would put money on it) matched the bedstead. "I feel like I'm staying in a four-star hotel."
"North does things up right," Jack agreed.
Jamie turned to look at him. "Where's your room?"
Jack knocked on the wall the bed stood against. "Right next door. It's a little different than yours."
"Really?" Jamie dropped his backpack by the bed and shrugged his coat off. "Can I see?"
Jack shrugged. "Sure." He turned from where he stood in the doorway, hopped over an elf, and led the way. Jamie followed.
When he stepped into Jack's room, he saw what the winter spirit had meant. This room was cold, its non-adjoining walls carved from snow. And it didn't have windows to the cold world outside; it had French doors. There was still a fireplace, though it was unlit, but where Jamie's room had rugs and quilts in shades of green and red and brown, Jack's decor was all blue-silver-white. There were snowflakes carved into all the furniture, and Jamie glimpsed a row of blue hoodies hanging in the wardrobe. "Did North go a little overboard?"
Jack shrugged. "Maybe. It works for me. When I'm here, anyway. I always liked blue, even before I was Jack Frost." He turned back to Jamie. "Anyhow, want to go see the Big Man?"
North's workroom made Jamie's inner ten-year-old squeal in glee again. There were ice models of racecars, and swords, and robots, and bicycles, and and and!
"Jamie!" boomed North, his arms open wide. "So good to see you! Tell me, how is college?"
Jamie grinned. "So far, so good. Passed all my classes."
"Passing is not good enough," North mock-scolded. "You, we expect to excel!"
"Three As and one B, this term," Jack, toying with a model jet, tattled.
"Well," said North, crossing his arms, "will have to do." But he was grinning, so Jamie didn't think he'd been displeased about the B any more than Jamie's mom had been. North's expression sobered, though, as he looked at Jamie. "So. You know why you are here?"
Jamie nodded. "Jack wants you to take a look at my snow mark."
"Soonest began, soonest finished." North tilted his head to one side. "Are you ready now?"
Jamie blinked. "Um, sure."
In short order, the worktable was cleared, some of the ice sculptures handed out the door to yetis, others put on shelves for presumed later refinements. "Up!" said North. "And removing shirt."
"I feel like I'm in a doctor's office," Jamie said, obeying.
"Is that what happens in those?" asked Jack.
"Usually." North had gone into an adjoining room and there were thumps and crashes going on. "Do I want to know what he's looking for?"
"Your guess," said Jack, "is as good as mine."
"Haha!" North reappeared a second later, brandishing something that looked like a silver spider with too many legs. "Hold still," he told Jamie, and put it on his head.
Jamie froze, eyes widening, as the machine came to life. It massaged his head with its pinprick legs.
("Phrenology? Seriously?" Jack asked North.
"Shh, it works," North replied.)
Then the spider crept forward. It probed Jamie's ears and nostrils. It pried open his mouth and took soundings there. Forcing his eyelids wide, it shone light into each pupil. It measured his ears, neck, and shoulders. It poked two or three times at the snowflake mark. Then it jumped down into his lap, measured his waist, whirred for a moment, and broke.
A thin column of black smoke poured from the top of its tiny head. Jamie stared, mouth open.
"Bah, cheap southern work!" North stepped closer, snatching the spider-bot up. He flicked a finger at the side of its head. The machine's blue eyes came back to life. It chittered once at North, spat forth a stream of ticker tape, jumped from his hand, and scuttled back to the storage room.
Jamie raised an eyebrow at Jack, who just shrugged, looking as clueless as Jamie felt.
North, meanwhile, was reading the ticker tape. "Hmm, good, good," he muttered. "Oh, very curious, that..." His blue eyes considered Jamie for a second, then dropped back to the tape. After he came to the end of it, he was silent for a long moment.
"Well?" Jack asked eventually.
"Is strange news. Not entirely unexpected, though, now that I think on it."
"What news?" asked Jamie.
North leaned close. "This mark," he said, finger just touching the snowflake, "you got it day Jack became Guardian, yes?"
"Is curious mix of magic. Is little bit snow magic, little bit Guardian magic." He looked at Jack. "You told Jamie he was sort of Guardian too, right?"
"Yeah." Jack's forehead furrowed. "So what?"
North smiled. "You should be more careful, when telling children truths." He looked back at Jamie. "At that minute, maybe, Jack could have pulled magic back out of you. Now?" He shook his head. "Is not his anymore. Or, I should say, not wholly his."
"What's the rest of it?" Jamie asked.
"That, you will have to find out."
"That's not very helpful, North."
"Is not meant to be helpful, Jack. What Jamie has done to your bit of magic is all his own. Is dependent on his center."
"My center?" asked Jamie.
"His center?" asked Jack.
"Of course!" North boomed. "Surely you do not think Guardians, or spirits, are only beings with centers? No, Jamie has center. And it has shaped this magic into something new. Something little bit cold, little bit Guardian, little bit him. Is unique," North said, with an affectionate look, "just like everyone else's."
Ignoring the contradiction in North's statement, Jamie swallowed. Thought about the way, for half his life, he'd stood up for weaker, smaller kids without a blink. "Did this... make me the way I am?" He looked up at North. "Is this why I stepped into the middle of all those fights?"
North looked taken aback. "No! Remember, you stood up for us, before you ever had this! You defied Pitch!" He touched the mark again, gently. "If you did not already have Guardian traits in you, Jamie Bennett, this would have withered. It did not change who you are. Gifted magic never does. It only enhances what is important to you."
That... was a relief. Jamie breathed out slowly.
"So the question is, what is your center?" Jack asked quietly. "That's the other part to that. The part we don't know."
"I... don't know," Jamie said.
"Is something only you can find out," North told him. "But is very important. It may take time."
Jamie nodded, and reached for his shirt.
He'd come to the North Pole for answers, and though he hadn't left yet, he was coming away with more questions.