A Case of Frost
Chapter 11: The Other Kind of Guardian
Where was he?
It was too dark.
His head was pounding. His body ached.
And yet, despite the pain, there was a vague sense of comfort. He shifted slightly, and realised that he was lying on his back on something soft. A bed? The darkness came from his tightly closed eyes, but he couldn't quite remember how to open them. He listened instead.
There was movement. The creaking of a chair. His own even breathing, mixed with the slightly more erratic breathing of another. Then the sound of a door opening, and the jingling of metal and the rustling of paper and something heavy being put down.
Then, a voice.
He knew that voice. Sam.
"Do you think he'll be okay?"
"Well, I don't know much about snowflake biology, but I'm pretty sure he'll be fine. He's supposedly immortal, remember?"
"I know. I just… He hasn't moved since last night. And he looked pretty sick when we got him away from the fire."
Fire, he thought. Was that why he felt so awful? He tried to remember, and the uncomfortable feeling of intense heat came to mind.
"Sammy, he'll be fine," Dean repeated firmly, "Look at him. He's looking better already. He just needs to sleep it off."
A sigh. "I saw Jamie in town. He asked about Jack."
Jamie. His heart warmed. Jamie was okay.
"How was he?"
"Pretty cheerful, considering everything that happened."
"He's a weird kid."
"Yeah. I can see why this one likes him."
"He said that they've moved in with his grandparents until their house is habitable again. His mom's already talking to the builders."
"That was fast."
The voices stopped, and were replaced by the sound of cracking plastic. The warm smell of spiced food filled his nostrils.
He struggled against the lethargy that bound him down. It was difficult, and only served to make him more exhausted. But he continued to fight himself awake. He was almost surprised when his eyes snapped open and he shot upright, as though a spring holding him down had been released. He squinted against the sudden brightness, and gasped.
Sam made a surprised noise, and Dean choked on his food. They were standing at the foot of Jack's bed immediately and watching him with worried expressions.
"Jack, calm down," said Sam, "Take deep breaths. You're in our hotel room. You're okay."
They were misunderstanding the reason behind Jack's rapid breathing. He knew he was okay, and he had already figured out where he was. He just needed to catch his breath. He reached to his side automatically, but his fingers grasped only air.
Something was missing.
He felt around the bed frantically, trying to find it.
"My staff," he said. He needed it with him. It hadn't left his side in over three hundred years. He felt so vulnerable without it, especially when he wasn't at full strength as it was.
The brothers exchanged glances. Jack's heart sank. The fire hadn't..?
"Uh, Jack, about that," said Sam, "Don't you remember? The Monster snapped it in half. It's broken."
How could he forget? The memory of pain, like he was being ripped apart from his belly through to his spine, jumped at him. He winced.
"I know," he said, "Where is it?"
Dean went back to the small table and picked the two halves of ancient wood off it. Jack reached out eagerly. He felt better as soon as they were in his hands.
"Thank you." He would fix it as soon as he had the strength. As it was then, however, he thought that just an attempt would have him passed out again.
"So, uh," began Sam, watching him sink back against the headboard, "how are you feeling?"
"Terrible," Jack replied honestly, "Whose bright idea was it to light the fire?"
"Mine," said Dean, "And that bright idea saved all our lives, Snowflake."
"Speak for yourself." But Jack grinned at him to let him know that he wasn't really angry. Dean, with the stupid nicknames and cynical nature, had grown on him. "I'll forgive you for almost killing me. But can you at least open a window? How am I supposed to get better when it's so hot in here?"
Sam did so quickly, and Jack sighed in relief when the cool air hit him. He really did feel much better already, although his head still felt as though it had been split open with a blunt chisel.
He let the memories of the previous night return to him in silence. They'd gotten Mrs Bennett to safety, and she and the kids were safe. The Monster had come out. They'd fought. Then Jack, stupid and careless, had gotten himself caught by a second Monster. He was definitely rethinking his hoodie now. Then the pain had come, and the fire, and everything else was fuzzy. But they had won. And now Jack was in the brothers' hotel room, and they were still watching him in concern.
"To be honest, I thought you guys would've taken off by now," he said, "I didn't get the impression that you're the types to stick around."
Sam smiled ruefully. "We aren't, normally. But being the only adults who can see you, we thought we'd better make sure you were okay."
Jack wasn't used to being looked after like that. He had no doubt that the other Guardians would, if needed, but the chance had never come up. He wasn't sure how he should feel about it.
"Thanks," he told the brothers, "I guess."
Sam smiled, bright and honest. Jack thought he should do it more often. "Don't mention it."
Jack left sometime through the night, while Sam and Dean were sleeping.
When they woke early the next morning, there was a snowflake, unmelted and shining like crystal, resting on his pillow. A silent goodbye. The window was shut.
The brothers packed up their stuff in silence.
There were fresh sheets of snow on the grounds and rooftops, but the streets were quieter. There weren't any kids running around or playing. Sam supposed it was still too early for that. Or perhaps the schools had reopened after a few days of snow.
Although the parking lot looked liked a blizzard had hit it overnight, the car was untouched except for a thin layer of ice on the windows and doors. Sam used his sleeve to wipe it off enough to physically get the door open, and saw the reflection of icy blue eyes in the glass.
"Leaving already?" asked the accompanying voice from right behind him.
Sam spun around and found Jack Frost's face just inches away. The blue eyes danced with laughter and mischief, and thin lips were twisted into a satisfied grin at his startled reaction. Jack was once again sitting on top of his staff, as he had been when Sam had first seen him. It raised him up to Sam's level, so that they were almost nose-to-nose. He was looking far healthier than he had the previous night, and the happiness on his face served as proof that he was back to his usual self.
"We thought you'd run off," said Dean, coming around the car to stand at Sam's side, "Good to see you back on your feet, Bo Peep."
Jack smirked. "Call me that again, Winchester, and I'll strand you in Antarctica for a week."
"Well, at least you're back to normal."
"You fixed your staff," Sam noted, nodding at it. He'd made good work of it, too. Where the wood had been snapped clean in half, it was now smooth and free of even the faintest cracks.
"It was nothing," said Jack with a wave of his hand, "Piece of cake as soon as I had my strength back. I guess I went a little overboard in testing it out." He glanced around the snow-covered parking lot sheepishly, his eyes falling briefly on the car, and then returned his gaze to the brothers. "So. Where are you going from here?"
Sam shrugged. "We don't exactly plan ahead."
"We go wherever our baby takes us," added Dean, patting the top of the car, "What about you?"
"I'll hang around here for a bit," Jack replied, "Make sure the kids are alright after everything. And then I'll move on with the winter."
He was like them, Sam understood. Always moving, rarely staying still. Without a home. Alone.
"Will we see you again?" he asked, trying to keep the slight hope out of his voice.
Jack grinned at him. "Maybe. As long as-"
"Why do I feel like you're about to quote Journey at us?" interrupted Dean, looking annoyed.
Jack's pearly teeth shone in the sunlight as he threw his head back and laughed. "As long as you don't stop believing," he finished, "Keep an eye out for me when it snows, and I'll keep an eye out for you when there's trouble."
"Trouble?" asked Sam. That was their signature? He couldn't bring himself to feel offended, though. There was truth in Jack's assumption.
"I figured out where I know your names from," said Jack, his eyes bright, "Last year I snuck into North's office. Sam and Dean Winchester, numbers two and three on the Naughty List."
"The Naughty List?" exclaimed Dean, while Sam gaped at Jack in silence, "As in Santa Claus's Naughty List? We're on it?"
"Right below yours truly. So don't go trying to knock me off the top. I worked hard for that spot."
Sam laughed, still trying to wrap his head around it. Santa Claus. No, Jack had called him North. Another Guardian.
"I don't think you need to worry about us," Sam said, "Just… Look after yourself." He knew that Jack was lifetimes older than them, but he couldn't help but think of him as the eighteen-year-old kid whose face he wore. And he was lonely, and Sam worried about him. "And if you need anything, give us a call. Jamie still has our number."
Jack looked surprised at the offer. He stared at Sam for a moment with his mouth slightly open, before he broke into a grin. "Same here. I'll let the other Guardians know. If you run into trouble, find us. The others might be busy, but I'll always help. It's the least I can do."
Sam recognised that it was time to say goodbye. He held out his hand. Jack reached out cautiously with his own. When they shook, his skin was as icy cold as ever.
"It was great to meet you," Sam said. He smiled. "It's been fun."
Jack chuckled as he leaned down from his perch to shake Dean's hand. "Likewise."
As the brothers climbed into the car, he jumped to the ground. "And guys?" They looked back at him expectantly. "Thanks. For protecting the kids. Really, thank you."
Sam grinned. "Don't mention it. It's what we do."
"It's our job," said Dean.
"The Winchester Guardians," Jack said quietly, his smile widening. The wind swept him up, and he floated a few feet in the air looking down at them. "See you around."
And with one final wave, he was gone, and Dean had started the car.
Sam found an old tape at the bottom of the collection and laughed. Dean complained when he put it on, but made no move to turn it off.
The brothers drove out of town with Journey blasting through the speakers. A frosted silhouette of a snowflake shone in the corner of the window.
A/N: The end... Sorry I'm a little bit late in updating. The last week has been insane for me, plus I haven't had much internet access this weekend.
Sorry I'm a little bit late in updating. The last week has been insane for me, plus I haven't had much internet access this weekend.
Thank you so much to everyone who has ever reviewed or favourited or followed this. You have all been so amazing and I don't know whether I would have finished this without your support. So thank you thank you thank you!