A petite girl, blonde hair curling around her face, was sitting just outside the cabin, knees drawn up to her chest and head resting against them. Even from the top of the roof, he could hear her crying. She was trying to be quiet, and mostly failing and that was what made him hop down to crouch beside her.
"Hey, don't cry," Jack soothed. He moved a hand toward her, angling toward her forehead in a comforting gesture that he choked off before he could go straight through her. Even an inch away, he could feel the heat radiating off her skin and suddenly understood why she was out here even though winter was just threatening to break over the horizon.
She was sick, attempting to starve off the fever, make herself better. He pushed himself up to peer through the window and found two other small heads, equally blonde, huddled close over their schoolbooks and added protecting her siblings to the list of reasons she was huddled in the cold.
"Who are you?" Jack jerked back to find her looking straight at him. Not through him, like so many have, but actually at him, eyes fixed firmly on his face. The words were slurred and her eyes were bright and her cheeks flushed, but she was looking at him.
"Jack Frost," the words tore themselves loose too fast, as though it would hurt less to break this spell of almost-belief that she had all-unknowingly cast over him if he did it quick. Besides, he'd been longing to tell someone his name for years and years, since the Moon lifted him out of the dark and left him there.
"I'm Elisa," she muttered, "Tommy started seeing things before he died." She tilted her head, eyelids drooping and Jack reached forward before he could stop himself.
Her skin was burning hot under his touch, but he forced himself not to jerk back. The girl sighed and leaned into his palm contently.
He wasn't too sure about human illnesses, but he was pretty sure she wasn't supposed to go to sleep under these conditions. Jack freed his other hand from around his staff and shook her shoulder gently. "Hey, don't fall asleep on me," he told her, "you have to stay awake. Listen, I'll-" he cast around for something he could do. "I'll tell you a story."
He settled down next to her, leaning against the wall of the cabin and managing not to flinch when she snuggled her fiery burning self into his side, horrific heat against every inch she touched and found a story he'd heard told once.
"Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess..."
He kept talking, telling her stories, as many as he knew, shaking her whenever she threatened to fall asleep and sending little jolts of his power through her. He frosted the tip of her nose once to keep her awake and laughed at the adorably irritated way she swiped at it, like one of the kittens he had glimpsed through windows.
The heat coming from her dimmed through the day and by the time the sun was brushing against the horizon line, she was back to normal human temperature. It was slightly less painful than her previous temperature, but he was still going to find himself a snowbank and sleep for the night until his body returned to normal.
He ran out of stories, and began to tell her one he knew rather than he had heard. Resting a hand against her forehead as he spoke, he was satisfied she was at a lesser, more acceptable level of burning hot, closer to normal human body temperature.
Jack stopped the story and eased himself free, leaving her leaning against the wall of the cabin, drifting off to sleep. He plucked up his staff from where it was leaning against the cabin.
Elisa's voice, sleepy rather than feverish now, held him to the ground. "How'd it end?" she asked.
He turned back, didn't dare touch her. Already she was fading fast, another warm body heading this way to find and wake her, and he would be just a dream.
"What makes you think it's ended?" the spirit said. And it was sort of an answer, and sort of a promise.
Elisa never forgot the boy she saw when was sick out of her mind with fever. She eagerly told all her siblings and her friends about him, and they enjoyed teasing her about it later.
She never saw him again, but that didn't stop her from imagining something more in the stray breezes that swirled up snowflakes and the beautiful patterns frosted against her window. Sometimes, she had dreams of white hair and blue eyes that faded away as she woke. She whispered secrets to him in the dead of night, and treasured this friend, however imaginary.
Only once, when she was standing outside the chapel with Sir Raveneau's arm wound through hers, standing for the first time as husband and wife, she thought she felt Jack Frost again. There was a cool breeze against her cheek, and the very tips of her flowers' petals coated in sparkling ice.
She lifted a hand and waved, hoping he could see her, and told her children about him.
"Hey, Jack," Claud, one of Jamie's friends, asked, "how come we know your name?"
"Because I told you," Jack replied instantly, popping over the edge of the fort to taunt Paige with a target before ducking back down.
"No," Claud shook his head. "Before that. We knew of you, knew your name and kinda what you looked like before we knew you. How's that?"
Jack's smile faltered for the barest hint of an instant, and he leaned down to scoop up a snowball- dark nights with whispered secrets and blonde hair over a merry smile, a laughed, protesting "Jack!" when the winter wind tugged away her scarf, an "I love you" for her fever-dream boy, but never unconditionally true belief -took his time making it, getting the boy on the edge of his seat, then looked back up with his smile firmly back in place. "I guess sometimes things are just coincidences."
I've been sitting on the idea for this chapter for a while, and it all just came together today. Happy Valentine's Day, or Single's Awareness Day, whichever you celebrate.
Elisa and Sir Raveneau come from the Jack Frost television special released in 1979, but this take on her is mine.
Catflower Queen: Both Jack and I claim to the fifth about that. I'm leaving it up to your imagination.
I'd like to thank DELTORAQUEST1, FrostFan1, Catflower Queen, and snowflake1814 for reviewing.