Beneath the Skin

by : Maven Alysse

'Rise of the Guardian' fanfiction

Summary: Three hundred years of solitude means we've got a much different Jack Frost.

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Beneath the Skin

Jaime Bennett raced through the woods, laughing breathlessly as he broke through the fresh fallen snow. "Come on, Sophie! Don't be such a slow poke!"

The little girl struggled through the snow floundering a bit until she found her brother's tracks and walked in them. "Slow down, Jaime."

The twelve year old grinned but paused at the base of a tree, hopping impatiently from foot to foot. "C'mon. If we don't hurry we might miss him."

The eight year old huffed but hurried her steps. "Don't you think he'll be there?"

He gave a graceless shrug. "Jack's been there every day for a week and I don't see why he wouldn't be today, but I don't want to chance it."

Several minutes later, they approached the pond that lay nestled in the woods a few miles from town.

Quietly, stifling their giggles of delight, they peered out from around a tree, hoping not to scare off their friend.

There, a slender figure made of snow and ice glided across the pond. Snow white hair shone in the sun, silvered blue eyes the same color as the ice he danced across glinted with silent laughter. The staff he held drew elaborate patterns of frost where ever it touched, decorating the pond in delicate designs.

Though wearing sturdy trousers and a warm blue hoodie, the pale feet were bare as they slid over the ice. Gusts of wind periodically lifted the boy into the air in a twirl before gently landing him back on the ice.

The child of frost glided to a halt at the pond's closest edge as if sensing their presence. A brilliant smile lit his countenance and he beckoned for the children to join him on the ice.

Exchanging pleased grins, the two dashed out onto the frozen surface sliding along on their shoes.

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A week ago, after an argument with their parents, the two siblings hid in the woods, nursing their resentments.

Neither adult even tried to see things from their point of view and it had led to harsh words and hurt feelings.

After walking around for what felt like hours, they stumbled across a pond they'd never seen before. In fact, they'd never heard anyone mention it at all.

Jaws agape in silent amazement, they spotted a lithe figure dancing upon the ice.

The pale child never seemed to notice them as he skated across the ice, frost trailing off his staff behind him. No words were spoken, but his bright grin and cheerful laugh as he played was infectious and soothed the hurts they felt.

The first day, they only watched, mesmerized and entranced as the sprite danced upon the wind and slid across the ice in careless, joyous abandon.

Heading home later that evening, the two siblings decided to keep their experience to themselves. Their parents would never believe them and might forbid them from playing in the woods again.

"Did we really see him, Jaime?"

"Guess we'll have to come back to make sure."

This time, the boy sat perched in a tree, juggling snowballs. With a gasp they saw him float from the branch down to the pond's frozen surface, slowly skating around, a bright smile upon his face. Jaime and Sophie continued to silently watch the boy, but got the feeling the frost child knew they hid nearby; his movements seemed flashier, as if he was showing off for them.

An hour later, with eyes wide in breathless anticipation, they saw the boy stop on the ice, crooked staff slung over one arm, and look in their direction. A smile brightened his expression and he came up to them. Bending down, he scooped up some snow in his pale hands, and with a mischievous grin, lobbed the snowball at them, managing to catch them both. The epic battle between the three of them lasted most of the day.

They spent most of their Christmas vacation at the pond. Jaime and Sophie dubbed him Jack Frost. "'Cause of the song, you know?" and though he never spoke, they could tell he was pleased by the name.

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Magical.

Beautiful.

Theirs alone.

They told no one about their games in the woods, taking a secret delight in having Jack all to themselves.

He made it snow for them;

Sent frost to coat the bark and leaves in fantastical designs;

Had the wind toss them into the air to land softly on the ground.

Days were filled with joy, and farewells were filled with promises to return the next day.

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"Think we can ice skate again tomorrow?" Sophie asked. "I can borrow Sam's skates."

Jaime shook his head, pinwheeling his arms to stay on his feet. "We're going to visit grandma tomorrow remember?"

"Oh, yeah. So it'll be a few days before we'll be back." Her expression dropped, then brightened once again. "But we'll have a lot of fun. She promised we could stay up all night watching movies and eating popcorn."

"Yeah, but school starts when we get back so who knows when we'll be allowed to come back out to play."

A strange look crossed Jack's face, but with a smile he offered one end of his staff to Jaime.

With a grin, the twelve year old grabbed hold and quickly found himself pulled across the ice by the frost child. Sophie clung to his other hand and her shrieks of glee made him grin in response.

The frost child looked over his shoulder at them. His wide smile full of teeth sent a jolt of sudden unease down Jaime's side.

"Slow down!" he called, the treeline whizzed by as they moved in ever quicker circles around the pond. "I'm getting dizzy."

A bright laugh and Jack twisted his staff out of Jaime's hand, sending the two children to spill and slide across the ice, coming to a halt near the center of the pond.

Giggling, Jaime rose unsteadily to his feet, one hand on Sophie's shoulder to help her stand as well. "Oh, that was fun." Glancing at the sky, he winced to see how late it had become. "Jeez. We gotta go, Soph. Mom'll flip if we're late for dinner."

Sophie pouted, but nodded. She grinned up at the boy who had stopped a few feet away, not noticing the look on his face. "Bye, Jack. We'll see you again in a week or so, okay?"

The shard of unease in Jaime's gut stabbed again as instead of the cheerful farewell wave they usually got, Jack's expression seemed closed off and distant.

Jaime pushed the feeling away and started to clumsily walk toward shore, tugging his sister with him.

Fear curled in his belly as ice cracked beneath his feet. A spider's web developed and cold water seeped, soaking his shoes.

"Jaime!" Sophie's gasp echoed his, her own footing just as precarious.

He took another step, panic raising in his chest as the ice groaned and popped, the cracks widening. He kept a good grip on his sister, making sure she didn't fall to the ice. He shuffled forward, wincing as more cracks developed.

"Jack! Help!" He turned a frantic gaze toward their playmate and felt his breath freeze.

The frost child watched with avid eyes that gleamed with a child's cruelty. Lips had drawn back in a smile, revealing bright white teeth that were a hair too long for comfort. Long, thin fingers wrapped around the crooked staff tightened as he raised the piece of wood.

For a single heartbeat, Jaime thought they were safe, that Jack would extend his staff and tug them to safety that they'd go home and think of their close call with relief, but return later to play.

The smile sharpening, the frost child tapped the end of his staff upon the ice and Jaime cried out in denial as he and Sophie plunged into the pond.

The children screamed and thrashed about, quickly finding themselves pulled beneath the surface as their sodden clothing weighed them down. The cold sank deep into their bones and stole their breath.

Jaime looked for his sister; some of his air escaping in a scream. Sophie had stopped moving at all, her eyes wide and unseeing as her long hair floated about her head in a golden halo.

Darkness crept along the edges of his vision. He tried to move leaden limbs, fingers reaching for the surface.

Jaime's last sight was of a gentle smile from a pleased frost child; he could hear a chime of happy laughter as the ice reformed over his head.

Begun and typed: 4/22/2013

Beta/edited: 4/23/2013 Thank you Aislinn and M. Decker for being wonderful beta readers.

word count: 1441

End notes: Jack Frost is a lonely child who is determined to keep his playmates.

This story was inspired by the first two stanzas of the song "Snow Beast" by Mercedes Lackey.

Children playing in the snow,

Further out then they should go,

Saw a stranger walking near;

Never thought to think or fear.

Hair like snow, eyes that gleam.

Things aren't always what they seem.

Teeth too long, hands too thin.

Always look beneath the skin.