Hello ladies and gentleman, yes, I have finally finished my editing and fixing up of this story. It took a long time, but I managed to get it done and now I'm fairly happy with the result. OK, so here's how it's gonna work: I'm going to delete every chapter bar the first one, so you guys get a fresh start. I changed a bunch of stuff around, added some stuff, subtracted the crap, yeah I'm a real mathlete.
I'm kidding. To all those who reviewed this story, thank you an- for those who want to re-review, you can either use a guest username that is yours so I know who you are and it'll show up, or send me a review via PM. I enjoy hearing from you all and hope that this version is better than the last.
Finally, to the Guest reviewer who sent me this amazing review: Love this story, your imagination and depth of detail make it more believable than the movie. I can see your characters as I read. Please finish it. Thank you so much. This review was what really inspired me to start this up again. I will be updating this story- and this story only -every week on Saturdays, so look for me then.
I hope you enjoy the new and improved SEASON'S GREETINGS, JACK FROST!
A Christmas party at the North Pole is certainly something to see.
Yetis dancing, North challenging Bunnymund to a eggnog-drinking competition, elves getting tangled up in just about everything, (including themselves,) and Jack Frost doing what Jack Frost does best; playing tricks.
Said tricks included breaking into Bunnymund's room before the party and wrapped him in shiny pink Christmas wrapping-paper, tying it with a bow that said Do Not Open Before Easter and stuffed him under the Christmas tree where he'd woken up several hours later and tore his way out of the package in a raging fury, only to come face to face with a grinning Jack Frost. That had royally ticked him off and Jack had had to hide behind Phil to avoid the rabbit's fury.
Then, while North was out on business, he'd tricked the Yetis into thinking that North wanted everything themed in blue-
"Instead of the usual red and green. Red and green is sooo passe, don't you think?"
They hadn't believed him at first, then he's said some more jargon about color patterns and it being sheik, whatever that meant. He'd heard the phrases from Jamie and Sophie's mother, Mrs. Bennett, who was an interior decorator. North had screamed so shrilly when he'd gotten back from whatever business he'd been on that Jack swore he saw the windows crack. It had been hilarious.
Finally, his greatest feat- this month, was in the middle of the party when he'd dropped a string which was attached to a sprig of mistletoe over the heads of two unfortunate elves. North's elves always obeyed the traditions of Christmas or risk their boss's wrath. Always. Every single tradition from hanging holly branches over windows and doorways to wrapping red silk scarves on all the doorknobs. And that included the tradition of kissing under mistletoe.
Jack laughed when the unfortunate and extremely reluctant elves planted a kiss on each others cheeks and then they scurried away from each other as quickly as possible, blushing redder than North's sleigh. Word quickly spread and for the rest of the party the elves stayed far far away from Jack.
Currently Jack was perched on the mantlepiece above the fire, watching all the Elves and Yetis and his five fellow Guardians mill around and talk, drink and laugh. As he watched the Elves begin a game of marbles and then end it just as quickly when a marble was hit too hard and ended up smacking an especially squat elf in the eye, creating an instant elf-brawl, he thought about how good it was to have a family again. True, no one would ever be able to replace his human mother and father and little sister. No, they would live in his heart forever, but the Guardians were the closest thing he had and he knew they loved him like a son or brother.
One of his adopted brothers, namely Bunny, caught his attention when he threw up his paws in defeat and said, "I give up! North old man, you can sure down 'em!"
Jack smiled. During the beginning of the party, Bunny had made the mistake of challenging North to an eggnog-drinking competition. This turned out to be a very bad idea after they'd been at it for half an hour and Bunny was nearly falling down after his sixtieth cup of eggnog. North, who was Russian and liked his Eggnog mixed with Vodka and Rum, had been drinking since his sixteenth birthday and had been in more drinking competitions then Marion Ravenwood. Bunny had never had anything stronger than some Mike's Hard Lemonade mixed with carrot juice. He didn't stand a chance.
North smacked his bulbous belly and said, "Da! I am not even topsy!"
"The word is tipsy, North." Tooth said, hiccuping slightly. That rum-punch was making her a bit tipsy herself.
"Bah! Tipsy, topsy, turvey, vhatever." North said, shrugging and trying to down another carton of eggnog spiked with vodka in one go.
Jack slid off the mantelpiece and dropped behind a particularly big Yeti, chuckling. Then he sent a line of ice that twisted and wove through the crowd until it got to North where it shifted it's form into a glass-like cup and North, mistaking it for a real cup, filled it with eggnog and drank deeply. About two-third of the way done he froze, staring at the cup intently with his bushy eyebrows scrunched together in the middle like a pair of black caterpillars He let out a laugh and shouted, "Good vun, Jack. You're getting better." the cup, as North had figured out, was made of ice and it chilled the eggnog, making it into a kind of alcoholic vanilla ice cream.
Jack bent down to take a leap and sprang up, flying over the crowd and dusting them all with powdery snow.
"That was a pretty simple gag, North." he said, floating several feet above the Guardians. He was trying not to laugh at Bunny, who was almost passed-out on the floor with a carrot in his hand. Jack turned until he was laying on his back and he lazily floated in mid-air, spreading another layer of dusting ice with his staff. "Maybe I should crank it up a notch."
Jack sat up slowly and revolved until he was floating horizontally in the air, then he closed his eyes and began to unleash the full power of his staff. First it was a thicker dusting of snow. Then, as Jack felt the power of his element return after so long a time of not being used to it's full potential, he took off flying around the edges of the round room, spreading his frosty fun. His ice spread all over the party decorations, turning the rich green and the blazing red utterly snow white.
He turned the stone walls of the party-room blanket-white with dazzling blue hair-line indentations that made lovely patterns and pictures. He transformed the ceiling into a blanket of white clouds and even brightened the white in North's salt-and-pepper beard. It was so... much... fun!
Jack opened his eyes and slowed his circling around the room, flying until he was twenty-feet up and standing on a cushion of cold air in the center of the room where he began to twist and whirl on the spot high above them, like a child with a toy, summoning white sparks and sending them shooting out of his fingertips. His eyes blazed with white light and when he was done and all the swirling of snow above him stopped, Jack just stood there floating in mid-air high above them, gazing in wonder at what he'd created.
It was beautiful.
"Vell done, Jack. You're learning fast." North said, clapping his enormous hands together. "Dis is de most amazing spectacle that I have ever seen." The rest of the Yetis broke out with applause and Sandy and Tooth clapped as well.
"Jack, this is amazing!" Tooth said, staring with wide eyes at the beauty around her.
Sandy nodded enthusiastically and gave Jack the thumbs up.
But the loudest applauder of all, the one who clapped and whistled and cheered like a whole stadium of sports fans all on his own, was Bunny.
Jack felt his heart swell with pride as Bunny, who had roused himself from the drunken stupor he'd been stuck in, stopped clapping and cheering to stare in wonder at the winter wonderland that Jack Frost had created.
"Wow mate," Bunny said, staring with wide eyes at the white world around him. Then he lowered his head and looked at Jack with something akin to pride. "I don't usually like winter, but in this case I've got to admit. . . this is the most lovely thing I've ever seen."
Jack's smile stretched from ear to ear and he let out a whoop of joy, leaping into the air and laughing with what could only be called utter happiness. He leaned in and coasted around the room, hugging the edges of the wall once more, just to savor the feeling of flying. Tooth had said it was amazing! North had called an amazing spectacle, and most importantly, Bunny said that is was beautiful.
North watched him all the time and sighed happily. There was so much wonder, happiness, beauty and love in the room that it almost made him want to cry, but he didn't. Instead he folded his arms and looked around the room with dreamy look in his eyes.
Yes, dis is definitely vhat de 'appy endings are all about.
Several hours later, after midnight was past by at least an hour and all but Sandy and Jack were feeling really really sleepy, North invited them all to stay at the North Pole for the night.
"I even have jammies!" he said, waving a pair of blue Christmas present-patterned boxer shorts.
Jack politely refused the pajamas, one because they were at least three sizes to big and they didn't have a drawstring and two because they looked suspiciously like they matched those horrid shoes the elves had tried to get him to wear on his first meeting with all the Guardians at the North Pole, and had opted to sleep in his hoodie on the roof. Bunny had also refused, saying that he had his fur and he didn't need any extra warmth but Jack had a sneaking feeling that he just was too embarrassed to wear them.
Sandy however took the pajamas with great enthusiasm and disappeared into one of the North Pole's many bathrooms. He'd reappeared ten minutes later, wearing the shorts so low to the ground that they looked like old-fashioned bell-bottoms. Jack laughed.
"Very stylish Sandman." he said, surveying the baggy golden pajama shirt made entirely out of dreamsand. It had a picture of a kid laying with his face flat into a pillow and snoring with exaggerated Z's. The caption read, in big bold letters,
I'm gonna knock you out!
Tooth thought this immensely funny and asked if humans made a shirt like that. Sandy didn't know.
"I want to have one that says the same thing as Sandy," Tooth told Bunny with one long, excited breath. "But with one of my girls on it raising her fist and a boy's head with tooth flying out!"
Bunny wasn't paying attention, his head hurt too much and he wanted to go to bed, but Jack raised his hand and said hesitantly, "Buuuuut, wouldn't that make the kids scared of you?"
Tooth shrugged. "I would wear it at home," she offered. "Of course I'd have to get wing-slits made in the back and it has to be brightly colored and-"
Bunny moaned and stumbled away from Tooth with his paws clasped over his ears. "Ohhhh man, I gotta hit the sack." He muttered just loud enough for Jack to hear. "That sheila has too bloody squeaky normally! This is like 'ell!"
Tooth heard that part and she cut off right in the middle of her rant about pink or neon orange. "HEY!" she shouted, zipping over to Bunny and glaring at him. "WHADDA YA MEAN TOO BLOODY SQUEAKY?!"
Bunny yelped and took off faster that a roadrunner and Tooth followed him, repeating her question and going a few decimals louder with each time. Jack shook his head and smiled. They were a pretty dysfunctional family, to be sure, but they were his dysfunctional family.
Later, Jack was sitting on the three blankets that served as his bed cross-legged, still thinking of the incredible feeling he'd gotten while using his powers. He'd never attempted anything like that before and it had felt amazing. Like all of the snow and ice in the world had been shrunk down and pushed through his very veins! He sighed and flopped back onto his bed, staring up at the moon.
Bunnymund was curled up in the room two floors below and a door to the left. Tooth had opted for sleeping in the kitchen, which was the warmest place in North's castle. Jack, who didn't care about the cold, was relaxing on the roof where he'd made a small bed for himself out of a few blankets and a thin pillow. He'd slept in trees, he reasoned, so why should a roof be any worse? North had insisted on the blankets and pillow, however.
Jack smiled as he marveled at the vast expanse before him. The entire North Pole, complete with Aurora Borealis, glittering icecaps, and moonlit sky. He even saw a golden flicker in the distance that he assumed was Sandy, helping the children of the world get to sleep. He leaned back, with his arms folded behind his head and sighed with utter contentment. This was the happiest time he'd ever had on this world, and he was determined to make it last! There would be no Boogeyman uprising, no disbelief in him or the Guardians, and no more Bunny drinking. Jack had found he got extremely irritable when he was in a drunken state, believe it or not.
Jack stayed like that for sometime, just leaning back with his eyes closed, neither asleep nor awake. Just relaxing in the blissful calm of the night. He considered going down and seeing if there were anything interesting in the snow tonight, but he dismissed this idea quickly, preferring to just lay there and soak up the happiness which still hung about the North Pole.
Several hours later Jack was rudely woken up by a strange, sharp cry that rang through his ears and caused him to topple over in shock. The sound was like the cry of a young child and it sent a shiver down the back of Jack's neck, but he didn't dwell on that for long because when he toppled over his shoulder hit the roof and a shock of ice escaped from his fingertips, shooting out into the thick, snowy fog and disappearing, sucked up by the masses of snow.
He blinked, slowly realizing that no one was trying to hurt him and he sat up, gazing around. Just when had he fallen asleep? An hour ago, or maybe more? It didn't surprise him that much. The snow was sooo comfortable and soooo soft!
Jack looked around and frowned. What was it that had woken him again? Some strange arctic beast, possibly, or maybe it as a Yeti having an accident with one of the chainsaws in North's workshop. He waited and listened. Nothing, for the longest time. Jack leaned back and closed his eyes again, slowly falling back asleep.
He was shaken out of his slumber, for the second time, half an hour later by the strange sound again. This time when he woke up he leaped to his feet, holding his staff in a defensive pose. Nothing attacked. Nothing even made itself known. All Jack saw was the whirling wind and the snow and all he heard as the strange sound, growing fainter and fainter, as if the person or persons making the noise was running away from the Pole.
He frowned, wondering if he were dreaming.
"If so, why the heck would Sanderson be giving me such a weird dream?" Jack wondered aloud, scanning the foggy expanse before him. It certainly looked like a dream, with all the fog and the weird noises. "If I am dreaming, then the only way to make sure is to go back to sleep!" and saying so, he laid back down, snuggling down in the snow like it was a fine bed, which to him it was. He was woken yet again by the sound not a minute later, and this time it sounded closer, rather than farther.
This time, before he had any time to think, Jack jumped to his feet and rolled off the tower roof and used the cold air currents and his now glowing staff to rise to the middle level of the tower. When he reached the proper height he turned his staff and began to zoom around the tower like he was on a surf board or a sled, circling the tower slowly and carefully, trying to locate the sound.
Again he saw nothing.
Well, that was not strictly true. He did see something. Just not the something he wanted to see. The fog was lifting slightly and now Jack could see the blurry outline of the moon shining high above him.
"Well, hello." Jack said, choosing not to refer to the man in the moon by any of his given aliases. He just didn't feel comfortable calling him MiM or Manny. That was a thing for a more experienced Guardian.
The Moon was hidden by a passing cloud for a few seconds and then his light shone down on the brilliant white snow. To a normal person, it might've blinded them. To Jack, it just made his eyes dry.
"Care to shed some light on that weird noise?" he asked, raising an eyebrow and looking sardonically at the Moon.
Suddenly, as if in answer, a small ray of light shone down from the moon and illuminated the snowy ground below him. Jack's eyes widened as he took in the glistening blanket of icy diamonds that covered the ground as far as he could see. It was an amazing sight and he wished he had enough light for him and a few children to had a snow-ball war. The snow would be perfect. Not sticky or dusty, nor anything but perfect.
Jack gazed back and forth, searching for something. Anything. Anything that might've made that noise. A fox, a seal, even a polar bear! But he saw nothing.
Jack began to turn away in disgust and he was intent on going back to bed and forgetting all about the strange sound, it was too much trouble for him to be bothered with, when he saw a shape shoot across the snow blindingly fast. Instantly he was alert, scanning the snow for the shadow, wondering if it was the cause of the crying he'd heard.
It sounded like a child, Jack thought. But...why would a child be here? There can't be a house or village around here for miles!
Jack looked and looked until he finally caught sight of the shape as it ran through the snow. He leaped to his feet and instantly took off for it, reasoning that he should be able to get a closer look of he were careful. As he flew Jack noticed that whoever it was was leaving tracks behind them.
"Excellent." Jack whispered to himself. "That means I'll be able to follow them easier!"
And follow them he did, keeping several yards behind the shadowy figure which moved with the fluid movements of an experienced runner. As he got closer, and it was not easy to do as the shape moved faster than he could, Jack could make out a brown hooded cloak and small bootprints. A child, he thought, frowning. But why would a child be here?
He was a few feet away from the cloaked child now, and they hadn't noticed him at all.
"Hey," he called, trying to grab hold of the cloak. If he could catch them, maybe he could help them back to wherever they came from because they was obviously lost. Why else would a little kid be in such a place like this?
The shape turned around and, for just a second, Jack saw a flash of brown hair and very wide eyes. It was a girl.
"Hey, kid, I'm not going to hurt you. Just wait a minute!" Jack said, flying even faster now, trying to keep up. His staff was vibrating beneath his feet and the wind whipped past him and bit at his face like needles. The snow began to get thinner and thinner, partly because of Jack and partly because of the moonlight that was shining down on them, chasing away the darkness and lighting up the whole area. The moonlight also sent white sparkles dancing across the ground and the Jack wished that the child would just stop for a minute to enjoy the beautiful scene around her. Or at least stop running for a few seconds so that he could rest and regain a bit of energy.
As if she could hear his thoughts and wanted to do just the opposite just to spite him, the girl began to run even faster now. Faster than humanly possible, Jack thought as he finally got close enough to touch her again and he closed his free hand around the hood of her cloak. "Please, stop!"
The girl thrashed and twisted as she ran, trying to shake Jack off but he held on grimly, shouting "Stop!" over and over again. She ran faster and faster. Jack felt like he was a little kid being pulled by a sled-dog, only this sled-dog was supersonic.
Then, before Jack could even blink, the girl tripped over what Jack assumed was protruding piece of ice or maybe a rock and it sent her sprawling head over heels. Jack had just enough sense to let go of her hood before went rolling away, screaming and yelling in a language he had never heard. Or maybe several languages.
"Dumm gestrahlt Eis! Allt gick perfekt! Pochemu ya ne smotret', kuda ya sobiralsya?!"
Translated from German: Stupid blasted ice! Translated from Swedish: Everything was going perfectly! Translate from Russian: WHY DIDN'T I WATCH WHERE I WAS GOING?!
Jack raised his eyebrows and watched in amazement as the girl fell over and over, screaming and cursing. That was... two- no, three languages. Three different languages the girl had screamed in and she still kept rolling over and over again in the snow. Eventually, after a lot of cursing and screaming and snow being kicked everywhere she began to slow and then finally halted, coming to rest on her back with the hood twisted over her face, breathing hard.
Jack, who had been following her as fast as he could, came up short beside her and hopped off his staff like you would a skateboard, holding it loosely in his left hand as he walked slowly towards the shivering girl.
"Hey, you OK?" Jack asked, moving slowly towards her. If he came too fast she might get scared and try to run again, but he doubted that she'd be able to run on that ankle.
Jack heard a moan and then saw the girl reached up with a dark hand towards her face. The effort obviously hurt the girl and he leaned forward and stretched out his own hand to help her.
"Here," he said, taking hold of the cloth with thumb and forefinger and pulling the brown cloth away from her face, revealing her dark skin, red nose and half-open brown eyes. Those brown eyes stared into Jack's face and Jack stared into those brown eyes. They were soft and gentle, but there was a slight hint of fear in them. That made him feel more that a little uncomfortable.
"Hey, listen, you don't have to be afraid of me." he said gently, sitting down soundlessly beside her. "I'm a spirit. A winter spirit. My name is Jack Frost."
The girl's eyes widened at the word spirit and Jack said hurriedly, "No no, I'm not a bad spirit!"
Up in the mountains there were many cultures that believed in spirits, like him, but referring to them as demons and monsters which plagued them and caused them grief and terror, and this girl's village was obviously one of those cultures. The idea that spirits hurt humans on purpose was actually ridiculous, most of these so-called spirits being just natural disasters which the humans decided to blame on their ghouls and deities, and most spirits preferred to help the humans out whenever they could.
Jack bent down until he was at her level and he cupped his hand beneath her chin. Now that he saw her face, he realized that she wasn't as young as he'd thought she was. Here he'd been trying to comfort what he'd thought was a young girl, but she was really about his age. Fifteen or thereabouts. She was pretty.
"I'm Jack Frost, the spirit of winter." he said gently. "I take care of child- people, like you in wintertime." Alright, not strictly true. His department was fun, not safety. That duty fell on other spirits. "Tell me where you live," he added. "And I'll take you home."
The girl lowered her head, forcing him to let go of her chin and mumbled something.
"I didn't catch that," Jack teased, cupping a hand around his ear.
She kept her head down for the longest time, then-
"I got lost." she said in a voice that was barely above a whisper. Luckily she said it in English and Jack had excellent hearing, so he understood it clearly. He felt a smile crinkle across his mouth.
"Really? In this place?" he said, looking around at the winter Tundra around them. "Huh. That's surprising."
The girl's head shot up and she gave him a hard glare, to which Jack responded with a cheeky grin.
Her glare was fixed on him for a while but as she spoke her face began to relax and gradually a small smile crept onto her lips. "I vas on my vay to my mother's." she said in a slightly stronger tone. Jack noticed the Russian accent tinting her tone. Huh. North might like this girl too. "Avalanche killed my father and brother and half our village a few veeks ago and I vas sent to find my mother's village so that I could stay vith her."
Something in the pit of Jack's stomach hardened as he listened to her story. An avalanche. The raw power of snow and ice. That was what had killed people this girl had loved. It made him physically ill to think that something he had control over had taken lives, though it happened every years. Avalanches, ice on the roads, black-ice and even the occasional death in a hailstorm. It horrified him to think that the element which made fun and joy, his snow, could take lives and send a poor girl like this out into the winter tundra with nothing but a thin hooded cloak.
"I'm...sorry about your family." he said honestly. How long had it been since he'd seen a child orphaned by an avalanche? Ten years? Less?
"It eez no matter." she said shortly. "Dey died. I lived. Dat is de vay of things."
Jack leaned back on his haunches uncomfortably, unsure why she was so indifferent to her family's deaths. Shouldn't she be crying her eyes out right about now?
As if she had read his mind once more, the girl looked him in the face and said darkly, "It doesn't matter. Dey are dead and I am alive. My father taught to not pity or mourn de dead, but to rejoice in being alive."
Jack nodded. That didn't sound like a northerner's idea, but he wasn't in a place to judge. He and his sister had stoically kept their eyes plain and fresh from tears in front of others and hadn't shown how sad they'd been. Then, in their private moments, they had let the flooding tears loose and mourned their parent's deaths truly.
"How long have you been traveling?" he asked, half to change the subject and half because he wanted to know the answer. He looked at her frosty brown boots and her patched brown cloak, thinking that it looked like she'd been walking for at least a day and a half.
The girl shrugged. "A veek, maybe more.
Jack's eyes widened. "A week?" he said in disbelief. "Where's your food? Your water? How did you keep warm?"
The girl smiled grimly. "I lost my food in a snowstorm, not sure vhen. Vater I get from snow." she picked up the hem of her cloak and offered it to him. "Lined with yak and polar bear fur. Very varm."
Jack reached out and felt the lining of the cloak. Instead of the usual frost that covered everything he touched he was surprised to feel warmth on the tips of his fingers. "Wow. That's interesting." he said, rubbing the cloth between his thumb and forefinger. Not a single drab bit of frost coated the inside of her cloak.
She nodded and he released the cloak. "Very varm." she repeated. "Keeps me alive."
Jack nodded. "Do you know how far your mother's village is from here?" he asked, wanting to gain as much information he could so that he would be able to get her to the right place in the morning.
The girl shrugged. "A day's valk from here, maybe more."
Jack raised his eyebrows again. "A day?" he repeated. He didn't believe this. There was no way she planned on going all that way without food. And alone? Forget it! "You plan on walking all the way there?"
"I valked this far." she said defensively, folding her arms sullenly. "And anyvay, I saw a big house a while ago. Really big, like castle. The moon showed me."
Jack nodded. She must mean Santoff Clausen. "Listen," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder once again. "I have some friends who live close to here, in that castle. They have food and water, a place for you to sleep, and we'll help you to your mother's village in the morning."
The girl looked up sharply. "Why should you vant to help me?" she asked suspiciously.
Jack smiled. "I'm a spirit. I help people." he said, by way of an explanation.
The girl's gaze hardened. "Yes, you are a spirit." she said slowly. "A spirit whom I have never heard of."
Jack sighed. Of course she wouldn't have heard of Jack Frost. That was his American name.
"What about Jokul Frosti?" he asked, watching her face carefully for a sign of- There! He saw her eyes widened visibly and Jack smiled at the look of awe on her face. That was obviously a name she recognized, and why wouldn't she? She was Russian, after all. Jokul Frosti had been the name given to him by the Northmen in the seven-hundreds. They believed him to be what they called a Jotun or Frost Giant and the Russians, being descendents of the Northmen, believed in the same types of spirits.
"J- Jokul Frosti?" she repeated, stammering his northern name. Jack's smile shrunk by a couple millimeters. Was she scared of him?
"Yes, but I'm not like the spirit you've been told about." he said as gently as he could, patting her shoulder. "I don't lull humans to sleep in the snow and then leave them to die. I don't play tricks on humans- well," he amended, giving the girl a wink. "No tricks that hurt anyone or cause more than a few sore rear ends."
The girl laughed, then she blinked and her face became a bit more somber. "How far is this place you speak of?" she asked cautiously.
Jack jerked his head behind him. "Not far that way. I can take you there right now," he added, smiling.
The girl's eyes widened still further. "H- how?" she asked faintly. Jack detected a slight strain in her voice, like she was barely conscious.
"Are you alright?" he asked, peering at her face closely.
"I'm f- fine." she stammered, trying to smile but ending up grimacing. "It's just a bit...chilly here."
Jack blinked, then he realized that it was at least three degrees, maybe less, and that humans died in weather like that.
"I'm fine, honestly." she said, grinning widely, revealing her white teeth. Tooth would like her, Jack thought. She looked perfectly happy and even a little giddy. He didn't believe in it for a second.
"You're fine." he snorted. "Right. You've probably got frostbite already and here I am, talking to you like we're in a nice cozy igloo!" Jack's voice had gradually grown quiet and angry, though he was angry more as himself that at the girl. She'd done nothing, of course. "I've got to get you out of here!" And so saying he reached forward and tried to slip his hands underneath her armpits to pick her up.
"No no, really!" she said quickly, raising her own hands to try and ward off Jack's hands as he tried to hold on to her. "I just have to r-r-r-rest for a bit."
"Not here!" Jack moaned, taking hold of the neck of her cloak and pulling. "We need to-"
Jack's futile efforts were interrupted by a loud, eerie howl that sounded from the top of a snow drift. Wolves.
Jack's eyes widened. He'd never met a wolf face-to-face before, but he'd heard tales of children taking short-cuts through woods that had a reputation for wolves and never being seen again. It was a daunting prospect, being eaten by wolves. Of course, nothing like that happened nowadays, The closest thing you got to wolves in the general populated area was starved pittbulls.
These wolves were probably starved too, Jack thought flatly. It's winter, yeah, but it's always winter here. The caribou migrate past here every few months and that keeps the wolves alive, but this was the middle of winter and the caribou would be huddled in packs to keep warm.
Jack and the girl both kept still and silent, listening to the howl rise and fall. The voice of the arctic wolf was captivating and they stayed motionless until the voice fell. Jack tore his eyes away from the hill and looked back at the girl. She was still looking at the hill and he saw the cold fear in her chocolatey eyes.
"OK, I take it back." she whispered, her stare unwavering from that snowy hill. "I'd like to get out of here, please. Now."
Jack nodded. "Can you walk?" he asked.
She shook her head, finally breaking her gaze away from the hill to look at him. "No. Ankle." she gestured to her left leg.
Jack glanced down at the leg, which was laying on the snow at an acute angle, and saw that there was an indefinable lump underneath the material in her boot.
"Swollen?" he asked.
"I don't know." she said, shifting her leg a fraction. This obviously hurt her quite a lot because she grimaced and added, "Maybe broken."
"No." Jack said decisively. "If it were broken, you'd be screaming."
"Thanks for that." she muttered, bracing herself against the ground with her hands and breathing hard, trying to get up the energy to push herself up.
"Here, let me-" Jack said, reaching with his other arm to try to pick her up and carry her. It would be so much easier, he thought. And it would cause her less pain! But she stubbornly leaned away from him and said,
"No! I can do it!"
"Alright, alright," Jack said, holding his hands up and letting go of her for all but her left arm to keep her steady. Then he smiled and added slyly, "If you want to get eaten by wolves just because you're stubborn about accepting help, then be my guest. I'm not alive, technically, so I can't get eaten by the creatures that are coming right over the hill."
The girl's eyes widened. Her head snapped up to stare at the snowy hill and her eyes widened again. "They're coming!" she gulped, staring at the wolves. Jack was about to put a hand around her shoulder to comfort her again. Even thought she wasn't a kid, she was still practically scared to death, not to mention half-frozen, then he caught sight of her deep brown eyes and he stopped with his hand hovering just over her back.
She was staring with undisguised fear, that was something he expected, but there was something else in her eyes, deep beneath the fear. A strange, bright blaze. Jack could see power and order and intensity in those eyes. Her gaze was intense and though her eyes were bright and forceful, her face never wavered from it's frozen expression of fear.
Jack blinked, staring at her. The look of intensity she was giving those wolves was so cold. And yet. . . and yet it also looked commanding and fierce. It was almost like she was speaking to the wolves through it's eyes, ordering it to wait a few seconds. All these expressions were so disconcerting. It almost scared him. Then the look faded and she was back to staring with fear at them. This quick change unnerved him and he resolved to ask her about it later, but he had more pressing things to worry about. He needed to get her out of here!
"Yes, and they're going to hunt you down and killyou if you don't let me help you!" Jack hissed in her ear.
The girl gulped again and slowly nodded. "OK." she whispered. "OK. Do whatever you want, just get me out of here, please!"
"I can't do it alone." Jack said simply. He could see the wolves standing in a straight line of six on the snowy hill, their white pelts shining in the moonlight. They stared down at him and the girl with drool hanging from their jaws and the occasional howl escaping from their mouths. If Jack hadn't been a winter spirit and therefore quite impervious to them, he assumed he would have goosebumps.
"What can I do?!" the girl cried, almost hysterically.
"Put your arms around me." Jack replied. "Put them around my neck and hold on tight!"
The girl broke her gaze with the wolves and let out a short laugh. "Ha!"
Jack blinked. "I fail to see anything funny in that."
"I say again, ha!"
Jack stared at her. She was sitting in the snow beside him, without food or water, wolves were surrounding them and her leg was splayed at an odd angle. Yet here she was, laughing.
"I think the frostbite's getting to your head." he said derisively. "I'd better get you out of here." here he tried to pick her up again by wrapping his thin arms around her and she let out a gasp of pain.
"That's what I've been trying to say!" the girl wheezed, squeezing her ankle in an attempt to stem the pain. It didn't work. She gasped again and closed her eyes against the pain. "I- ah! Can't stand up!"
Jack would've bit his lip if he could. "Oh, right." he thought for a few seconds. The wolves were descending down the hill now and the girl kept looking over her shoulder at them. Her face got whiter and whiter each time she looked. "Well, I think you're going to have to grin and bear it. I'm not leaving you here to die."
Jack tried to lift her, but she groaned in pain and he set her down once more. "I can't!" she gasped. "I can't!"
"You can," Jack insisted. "Just grin and bear it, stay awake and hold on tight to me when I left you up."
"When you lift me-" the girl said quizzically, then recognition dawned on her face and her eyes widened to saucer-size. "No, no no no no NO!"
"Yes." Jack said. Then he raised his staff, which he'd propped up against his thigh and wrapped his hands around her torso. Power coursed through his staff and he heard the familiar sound of dogs barking and the sound of crunching snow. "It's time to go." and with that he rocketed upwards, towards the sky and the moon. The wolves howled in fury and they lunged towards the rising boy and girl.
Jack flew up and up, rising high past the clouds and farther. He could see the stars and they winked at him as he flew past. He planned on going high, then staying above the cloud line until he could see the North Pole. He rose up and up until the moon became clear behind filmy clouds. The closer they got, the bigger and brighter the moon got. It's glow shone against the snow and by it's light he could see the pack of dark shapes streaking along below them.
The wolves, he thought. They must still be trying to get us. Well, I'm not going to make it easy for them. Jack rose higher and higher until the moon was directly above girl's eyes widened as she looked up and Jack tightened his hold around her middle.
"It's OK." he said. "Just hold-"
"The moon!" The girl gasped. "It's smiling at me!"
Jack looked up and sure enough, the craters and shadows on the moon made it look exactly like the moon was smiling down on them. The moon was reflected in the girl's eyes, making them shine.
Then, suddenly, Jack felt the girl go limp in his arms. He looked down and saw that she had fainted. Her hands were still draped around his neck but the only thing that was keeping them there were her fingers laced together.
"Hey," Jack said, shaking her. He was floating in mid air, using the air currents to keep himself stationary and tried to wake her up by wiggling the arm that was holding her and bouncing her up and down, but she didn't stir.
"Hey, wake up!" he said, louder this time. She didn't move an inch. Jack sighed. So the girl had fainted on him. Great. Now he would have to get her back to North's doubly fast.
When human bodies slowed their movement in the cold, the cold took advantage of this and infected the appendages of the body that were farthest from the heart. Namely, the toes and fingers. Her other body parts would freeze slowly in these temperatures unless he got her to some warmth quickly, so Jack shifted his grip until her head was leaning against his shoulder and her body was pressed close to his, raised his staff to gather the air currents and used his staff to propel him and the girl off towards Santoff Clausen.
Ten minutes later they made it to a balcony that was on the top floor. Jack was tired and he'd used quite a lot of energy to fly that far that fast, so the landing was a little rough. Namely, Jack dropped in through the open window and then practically fell over with exhaustion. He hit the cold stone but it didn't hurt and the girl flopped down next to him. Jack heard a crack and he winced. The girl had probably cracked her head. Great. Just what he needed.
Jack groaned and grudgingly got to his feet. He needed to help the girl first. Help the girl and then he could lay down in a nice bed of snow for a week to hibernate. Jack bent down and lifted her head up slightly, pulling her hood away from her face with his other hand. Her eyes were closed and she showed no signs of life. Jack felt around on the top of her head. Nothing. He saw no blood, so she hadn't cracked her head. It had just rattled her.
Jack bent down farther and jimmied his hands under her body, careful not to touch anything he shouldn't, and slowly picked her up. She was like baby in his arms and Jack felt completely responsible if she froze to death. He couldn't let that happen. She needed to get to her family and he promised himself as he walked over to the nearest table that she would live to see them.
Jack laid her on the table and, after making sure that she was peaceful, turned and ran to the door.
"North!" he bellowed, clutching his staff. He had to lean on it and hobble like an old man. "Tooth! Bunny! HELP!"
All Guardians were awake in an instant and running up the corridor that led to the balcony. North burst through the door first, carrying his giant twin swords and looking every inch like the fearsome Russian warrior he was. Every inch, except all the inches covered by the green present and candy-cane patterned pajamas and fuzzy Rudolf slippers he wore on his feet.
Next came Tooth, wearing a big green shirt loaned to her by one of the smaller female Yetis with slits for her wings. She had her hands raised in a comical Chinese fighting style position and a fierce- but sleepy -look on her face.
Then Sandy, wearing his baggy dreamsand shorts and golden knock you out shirt. He was completely awake and held his golden dream-sand whips at the ready, looking around the room for the reason of Jack's distress.
Lastly came Bunnymund, also displaying a eastern style fighting stance with his boomerangs held in each paw and raised above his head. He also had three egg bomb grenades strapped to a loop around his waist. He had no sleepy-time attire that Jack could see.
They all rushed in, yelling battle-cries and flailing their weapons around. Then they realized that there were no visible adversaries and they dropped their weapons.
"Jack?" North asked, being the first to notice the winter spirit. He was hobbling over to the table and as he turned around to face the Guardians they saw his face was paler than usual.
"Jack, vhat are you doing?" North asked, looking at Jack with furrowed eyebrows.
"Yeah. It's hard enough to sleep around here without you wakin' us up in the middle of the night." Bunnymund said, sheathing his boomerangs and scratching behind one ear.
Jack rolled his eyes and said, "Listen, when I was up on the roof I heard a voice crying, so I went to check it out."
North sighed and sheathed his swords. "It vas your imagination playing tricks on you, Jack. Go back to sleep." They all turned to go but Jack sent a quick blast of cold air to close the doors.
"Listen, please!" he said, jumping over them and landing in front of the door with his arm outstretched, blocking it. "There was a girl in a brown cloak out there! She saw Santoff Clausen and, thinking it was a castle, made for it." he stopped talking and a wave of pain came over him. He leaned against the staff heavily. His stomach felt like two snakes were going at it inside.
North glanced at Tooth and Bunnymund. "Jack, that's not possible." Tooth said, looking sideways at North. "This place, and all our homes, are shielded from normal human's eyes."
"Well, you magic must be defective or something, because the girl swore she saw it." Jack said. "Anyway, that doesn't mater. She said that she has family near here and that her mother's village is a week's walk from here."
North looked at the others and then put a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Jack, it must've been all dream. Though I'm not sure why Sandy gave you one like that," North paused and frowned, turning to look at the little man who had put away his dream-sand whips and was staring at Jack.
When he heard his name Sandy looked up and raised his hands like Hey, it wasn't me.
Jack groaned and said, "Look, I don't have time to argue. She's here, and she needs help!"
North, Bunnymund, Sandy and Tooth's faces all blanched.
"What? There's a human, here?" Bunnymund asked, looking around.
"Over here," Jack said, grabbing hold of North's arm and pulling him to the table. The other two followed and their jaws dropped when they saw the girl, wrapped in her brown cloak laying on the table.
"Did you get a name?" North asked seriously. Obviously he didn't think Jack as dreaming anymore.
"No," Jack said. "I told her I'd take her here and then she fainted when she saw the Moon smiling at her."
The other Guardians looked up sharply. "Manny?" North asked. "Smiled at her?"
"We were far up," Jack explained. "The shadows and craters made it look like the moon was smiling."
"Ah." North said. "Happens to the best of us. But why did she faint?"
Jack shrugged. "I don't know. Shock? Exhaustion? Which, for the record I'm very close to doing."
The Guardians looked at him and for the first time seemed to notice Jack leaning on his staff.
"Oh, Sweet Tooth are you alright?" Tooth asked, flitting around to Jack and looking him up and down. Then she checked his teeth. "You didn't get hurt?"
"No." Jack said, brushing her away. "A couple wolves chased us but they didn't get her or me. I'm just tired." Jack leaned against the wall. "Anyway, I'm not the primary issue here. You guys have got to help the girl first."
North nodded. "Aster, can you go tell Phil to get warm blankets and pillow?"
Bunnymund nodded and headed off.
"And a bowl of warm water." Jack called to the retreating rabbit's back. Bunny turned and nodded. "I had to hold her to get her here and it might have given her frostbite." he explained when he saw Tooth and North's puzzled looks. "I didn't mean to," he said quickly, raising the hand that wasn't clutching the staff.
"No no, of course not Sweet Tooth." Tooth said, rubbing his shoulder gently.
"No one will blame you, Jack. It's your nature." North said absentmindedly. He bent down until his beard was almost brushing her face and scrutinized her carefully. "Hmm. She doesn't look familiar, but she does have the same skin tone as locals of this area. Though I don't know of any village a veek's valk from here." North turned to the others. "Tooth, can you help?"
Tooth flew closer and looked the girl up and down. She put her hand over the girl's mouth and said, "She's still breathing." then she put her hand to the girl's heart. "But her heart rate is faint. I don't know if she'll make it, North."
Jack leaned on his staff and bowed his head. If the girl died, it would be because of him and him alone. Because he hadn't gotten there in time or he hadn't held her right, allowing frost to creep into her bones. He stared down at the dark-skinned girl and wondered. . . who was she?