.summary.: In which Rapunzel tells the kingdom the story of Jack Frost, a girl in a tower, and an evil witch who may or may not have existed. Even if no one can hear him, Jack adds his own footnotes.
.characters.: Jack Frost / Rapunzel
.a/n.: Written for day 2 of Jackunzel Week! (My day 1 entry fell through, but it might secretly show up on here later.) Check out entries or participate on this tumblr: jackunzel-mericcup-week
Also this was written completely on WordPad which is pretty much the bane of my existence. Excuse dumb spelling errors that are usually caught.
As Princess, it was Rapunzel's duty to mingle with the villagers - keep up to date on political qualms, rumors, the best inside jokes and the hardships that as a member of the castle, she originally would not have seen. However, as Rapunzel, her duty was to make the most of it.
Jack was happy as always to note her significant zest in meeting people, something he'd been scared she wouldn't have after living in an isolated tower for so long. But here she was, sitting in the middle of the town square in her gentle pink dress, acting like she was the audience of the dozens of children rapturously watching her. She regarded them all and spoke in her usual luminous tones, Jack noticing with a smirk how ruined her dress was getting in the dust but how little she cared. They were listening to her, she was a part of them, and that was all she cared.
He lowered himself beside her just as she finished: "And she married that prince by a beautiful pond, where the rest of his animal friends could watch and celebrate him turning back human and finding such a perfect princess. They lived happily ever after."
She seemed surprised and overjoyed by their smattering of enthused childish applause, and even more so when a trio of redheads chorused, "Another! Another story!"
Rapunzel laughed, tucking her short brown locks behind her ear with a newly habitual movement that had long replaced the exaggerated throwing back of that blonde hair. She said, "What story do you guys want to hear?"
What followed was a flurry of titles, princess names, magic powers, until Jack thought they were just making them up. He nudged Rapunzel and she brought her slightly struck expression onto him, where it turned into a gentle smile of greeting.
"Well, come on. Don't leave your court waiting."
With that, an idea seemed to visually hit her. She lifted her hands dramatically from her lap and turned back to the kids. "Okay, okay!" she announced patiently, "I've got one!"
Instantly the children went quiet at the voice of their amiable new princess. Wide eyes and open ears focused completely on her while she slipped an excited grin Jack's way. He was invisible to everyone here but she wasn't afraid of possibly making a fool of herself - even though it had been explained to her by Eugene (who could, after much convincing and snow down his trousers, see Jack too) that she might want to turn down the conversing with the incorporeal best friend, she still couldn't just let Jack stay in solitude when she was engaging with a room full of people. She was good at the including thing, as she demonstrated right then with an announcement of, "And it's as true as all your stories are. This is the story of Jack Frost."
"Who's that?" asked a kid from somewhere in the crowd.
"That's not a princess story! That's a boy name," came another.
Rapunzel giggled. "He still found his princess."
The girls immediately seemed re-engaged, and Jack laughed aloud, seating himself more comfortably on the cobblestone. "You better make me sound good," he whispered to her despite it all, and she responded with a minute squeeze to his fingers.
"Once upon a time, there was a lake deep, deep in the forest. No one ever went there because it was always frozen, even during the summer, and the people said it must be cursed," Rapunzel commenced. Even with such little setting, already her hands set to work animating the spines of trees surrounding it, the depth of the black lake, the hush of thick ice; the things her words lacked. "But one night, a full moon rose, big and bright like the sun. It shone down to the lake and the man in the moon saw it was still frozen and no one was there. So he gave a big sigh," she proceeded to do just that, "and said, loud like thunder: 'Jack Frost, wake up right now!'"
And Jack himself couldn't help but chuckle while he leaned his elbows on the staff along his knees and turned to her, listening intently. When she told her stories she seemed to become alight.
"And then a little voice came from under the ice. The moon had to listen really hard to hear what it was saying." She leaned forwards, a hand cupping her ear as if trying to catch someone's whisper in the group. The kids angled towards her too for a chance to hear whatever it was. "The voice said…" Her voice dropped in pitch and then she emitted a dramatic yawn, stretching up her arms, "'Five more minutes, Manny?'"
Jack snorted, nudging her in the side and getting enough of a surprise out of her that she jolted from her drama. She casually swatted him back while she spoke, "But the man in the moon didn't want to wait for him. So he called again - "
Before she could speak, a child in the group yelled out in a high voice, "Jack Frost wake up now!"
She giggled, nodding. "And then Jack listened."
He couldn't help recalling that his telling of the tale had been a lot more melancholy, but she still made it fit. That was the magic of Rapunzel, illuminating the shadows in everything.
"The man in the moon watched as he climbed out of the ice - he had been sleeping under the lake the whole time! He was a boy only as old as me, with hair white like snow and holding a wooden staff. The man in the moon told him, 'It's time for you to watch over the season of winter and make all the children of the world happy with your snow and fun times.' Because," Rapunzel grinned for long enough to spool their attention even tighter to her words, and then lifted her hands and pantomimed waving what Jack guessed was the shepherd's crook. "Because Jack could control the snow. He could make a snowstorm or snowmen whenever he wanted! It could be the hottest day of the year and he could make freezing flakes sprinkle over you. He could make the most beautiful frost paintings on walls and in the sky, and he loved what he did. Where there was snow, there was Jack Frost flying through the sky, and there was also kids so happy with all he gave them. But…Jack was also sad, sometimes."
"Why?" asked one of the redheads.
Rapunzel tilted her head, bringing her hands to her lap and sighing with a melodrama that he knew wasn't completely faked when he was aware of where it came from. "The man in the moon forgot to tell the world about Jack Frost, so nobody believed in him. And because nobody believed in him, nobody could see him. They could play in the snow he brought and he could make their days happier, but they could never thank him or let him join their snowball fights. He couldn't even say hello."
The mood of the children, which he had long ago learned was easily altered with the emotions of those around them since kids were sensitive in such a way, dropped consistently. Their mouths were still open in enraptured 'o's, but no longer did an awed smile grace their cheeks. Rapunzel wriggled in her skirt and took a breath, hands once again at the ready to illustrate her adventure. He knew where it was heading.
"But one day, Jack was flying through the forest, covering it all with snow, when he heard a girl singing. He wondered where it came from so he followed it into a secret valley… And there was a tower. A big, tall tower, with only one room at the top and one little window. Jack was very curious and never asked for permission, so he glided right into the tower and then he saw - " A pause for dramatic effect, which Jack promptly decided to pounce on.
"The weirdest girl he'd ever seen, and boy had he seen a lot. She had hair all the way to the floor and even further, so much that he thought she must have stolen it." He wasn't being watched, but he still presented himself as if he was a performer - taking a page from her book he pantomimed the length of her hair until his hands could not reach. "But you know what else? She was also pretty enough to make him freeze and stare. And to his surprise, she stared back."
Rapunzel grinned at him, elbowing him in reply to his words but he didn't miss the hitches of giggles in her chest as she tried to continue speaking. "He saw a girl. She had golden hair that was so long it draped all over the floor in circles, and some of it was hanging on the rafters like sparkling ribbons. But the most surprising of all was that she could see him."
A collective gasp burst from the group. Rapunzel noticed that a few adults had moved in and began listening tentatively, their abandoned shopping in their arms.
"Now, the girl had never seen a boy in her whole life. She'd never even seen another person! She thought he was so interesting, and when he told her he was Jack Frost, she was even more curious."
Jack edged in: "She also threatened him with a candle, as if he would melt like a snowman."
"She told him she lived up here in this tower and had never left. Jack was shocked - he could see the whole world and she never stepped foot on the grass? He thought that wasn't fair. So he took her hand and he offered to take her from her tower if she'd let him."
"That was after he tried to explain that he wasn't going to steal her hair, all while she waved the candle at him, even when the fire went out. She was feisty and he thought for a few seconds that he might be stuck with someone crazy, but he was just too good of a person to let her stay there with her crazy mom, so he offered to be her guide."
"But she could not agree." Rapunzel smiled timidly. "The girl's hair was actually magical - it could heal people's injuries and reverse the effects of time. She was scared that people would try and take her hair, or that she would become the prize of the kingdom."
"Did he ask more? Sometimes if you really beg - "
Jack pointed at the kid. "I did beg, believe me - "
"He did ask, all the time. He didn't understand how he had found this girl who was so - scared to live, when that was all he had ever wanted. But he liked her too much to leave or to force her to do anything, so he stayed with her in the tower."
Rapunzel found herself grinning at the memory as it once again surfaced like the reflections of stars in the sea she could now see out her window; she recalled Jack's mannerisms from the start, how he tried so hard to impress her, but he didn't even need to dazzle her with magic to make her like him. He was too charming for his own good even back then. He was a safe place that she didn't even know she needed.
In reality, she hadn't wanted to leave for the sake of her mother of the time - what a story she would have to tell Gothel, and how unconvincing it would be. Even if later on it was her spontaneity that got her out of the tower, it was when she first Jack that he began to bring it out of her.
Jack noticed the softness to her face and recognised it. He took a breath and continued the tale: "They stayed together for days, and then weeks, and then months, and they became the strangest pair of best friends."
Rapunzel quickly jumped back on her story. "They painted together and baked and he made it snow for her, because she had never touched snow, and she loved it. They told each other tales and Jack had many adventures to share with her, but she had too few, and so she made some up to keep him interested. Because sometimes, she was still scared that he would just leave if he didn't like her. He had so much and she thought she was just a small piece of it, but he was all of her life. Still, he made her so happy, and he told her that he liked her so, so much, all the time. They were best friends and they didn't ever want the other to leave."
And a girl peered around the child in front of her and asked brightly, "Did they love each other?"
Rapunzel paused, and Jack intruded, "Anyone who laid eyes on him loved him. Your prince Eugene is included in that, by the way."
Rapunzel giggled shyly, touching her fingers to her chin while two dozen pairs of eyes stared at her in eager anticipation. Surely some of the children had already pieced together that they did - that in the end, it was Jack Frost who the girl with the magic hair would end up with and there would be a happily ever after. But truly, there wasn't even an 'ever after', because they were still living the tale. "Oh, she didn't know. She was usually very loud about her feelings, but with this, all the words she had to say about it were just as confusing as ever! She'd only heard of the love in storybooks with princes, but she wasn't quite sure if that was exactly what she felt. Love isn't black and white, and no hues are any worse than each other, but as he stayed with her even if he had the whole world to himself, she wondered if he loved her in a different way than she loved him."
Jack edged in beside her, but she cleverly avoided looking at him. She guessed he was looking smug, as he often did when those years were brought up - being a mischievous jerk about it was better than dwelling on what didn't happen, now that she had fallen for Eugene and now they were married and everything. He didn't need to guilt her.
Rapunzel regained her storytelling skill, though, and threaded her fingers together in a crafty steeple. "However, the tale wasn't all so happy."
"Because, every love story has a downside. And this one was," he swept his hand across the crowd like a ominous shadow, and the children shivered under the strange force of his icy breeze, "her mother."
"There was a witch," Rapunzel corrected him lightly. "A scary witch who, one day, came to the tower, and wanted the girl's hair for her own evil wishes. She wanted to take it and use it to live forever, and steal the kingdom from the queen and king. She would rule over it forever, she said! But Jack and the girl couldn't let her do that. The witch pleaded, begged, and she gave the girl gifts at the floor of the tower. One day she gave the girl a little chameleon who turned the colours of her paints, but she didn't give the boy anything. She could see him, even though she never referred to him by name, she knew he was keeping the girl with the magic hair away from her. She was threatened by him, because she knew he could control elements that were more powerful than her." She put a hand to the side of her mouth as if sharing a secret. "Once, he built an army of snowmen to keep her back and for him and the girl to laugh as the witch tried to get past them and their stick swords."
The kids erupted into giggles, and Jack glowed.
"One day, she tried to convince them with tears. She said that the boy was magic and could never die and he wouldn't know how to treat a little flower like her. He wouldn't be gentle and he would one day leave her, but the witch would always protect her from the things that would scare her. If she only sang and let her use her magic, the witch would act as caring as a mother. The girl heard this and wanted to give in - she didn't distrust Jack, but she wanted a mother and a real family so badly. She wanted to help the woman and the woman to help her, but knew she couldn't because she was being lied to.
"However….after a week, the witch lost her patience. She stomped her foot - " she brought a tiny fist to the cobblestone - "and screamed, 'I'll have your hair no matter what! You can't run away from me, you are too weak, little girl! If you won't come to me on your own, then I'll have to steal you from your tower.' She screamed a spell and with a crackle and fireworks, she transformed - " Rapunzel splayed her hands out wide in the air, "into a dark, vicious dragon."
Gasps punctuated the group, and little bodies shifted closer to her. Jack nudged in tighter to her side to avoid touching any of the kids.
Jack squeezed her shoulder. "They were ready to fight back. Jack couldn't let his princess get hurt, even if she felt so bad for letting this woman rot away. He couldn't let her threaten her own happiness for someone else."
"The girl wielded her frying pan, and Jack had his magic staff. The girl was still too scared to leave because she didn't want to not have a way to get back in, but she - "
"She could do a lot more than she thought she could with just words." Jack stood up, and held out his hand to her. Green eyes glimpsing up to him in mid-sentence, Rapunzel breezily sighed at the grin he shot her, and climbed to her feet. She could see all the faces staring at her now, and felt a new performing energy permeate her.
"But she let him take her hand and fly her out of the tower to the roof like he wanted to for so long. The dragon gave a horrible cry," Rapunzel emitted a growling roar, something he laughed at to be coming from her, "and attacked the ice boy and his best friend with its menacing claws and eyes as bright as flames."
"Of course Jack wasn't fazed," Jack drawled, "because when you have wind on your side, a flying monster can't really do much."
Rapunzel skipped forwards a step, her hand taking on a crooked shape and soaring through the air around her. "The dragon raced through the air, grinning its huge fangs at Jack as it swooped for him. But he waved his staff and - " Jack did just that, a gust of ice whipping everyone's hair and upturning the objects the adults held - "the dragon wheeled away, only a toy when it was faced with Jack's power. Every time the dragon tried to get at them, he blew it away with winds as strong as a hurricane."
"But when the dragon realised he was only on the defense - "
"It had enough of him and his magic, so it took a big breath and blew out a tornado of fire at them!" She threw forwards her hands suddenly, causing a few kids to jump. Jack relished her energy in the storytelling, feeling his own nerves sizzling - no one could see him but he felt just as much a part of this as she was.
"Jack hadn't seen anything like it before, but he couldn't let her get hurt, so he flew out into the air to meet it - "
"And there was a clash of ice and fire so loud that people in cities away heard it in their dreams."
As he mimed the uproarious meeting of swords, flashes of sparks erupted from Jack's staff over the crowd, leaving a trail of kids staring the sky and adults blinking in confusion over if they had just imagined it. Rapunzel crouched a bit, holding her hands out flat, her voice shushing. "The dragon wheeled back through the air, and crashed into the trees. It was hurt, but it wouldn't let its precious flower girl get away because of the boy that she believed in so much. He was just a flea to her."
"Even if he'd proven otherwise so far."
"So with fury, it caught the always-so-fabulous Jack off guard and knocked him from the roof - the dragon swept up the girl in its claws and started to carry her off into the trees!"
Jack snickered, poking her in the back as he added knowingly, "Of course him falling was just a fluke, and he caught himself fast enough to try and follow them."
"'You'll be mine,' the witch told the girl in her evil growls, 'and I'll live forever with your power. You'll only be mine and never have Jack again.'" Rapunzel lifted her hand to her brow. "But the girl could see Jack still flying after them, and she knew something very important in that moment. The winter spirit Jack Frost would always be there to follow her no matter who stole her away, or how lost she was."
A soft look dawned over the children, even though their fingers were taut in their friends' hands as they were tied up fast in the suspense of the fight. Jack didn't notice, stepping up close to the border of the audience, his voice rising excitedly.
"Jack flew the fastest he'd ever flew in his very, very long but well-preserved life for the retrieval of his princess, and with a cry he gathered up all his power and - " Jack enthusiastically swung his staff in a batter's arc, filling the town square with the thundercloud of lightning-strung ice - "froze the dragon to a sculpture. It sunk fast through the air and he saw the gold of her hair flashing as she fell from the grip of the monster. He considered himself really heroic for catching her just in the nick of time, sweeping her into his arms - " Jack chose that moment to wrap his arm around the small of her back to which she surprisingly supported his tale by falling back into it - "and luckily not dropping her like he had a habit of doing, as she might tell you one day."
She grinned up at him, the moment falling silent between them before she put her hands together and began clapping. He realised belatedly that, to the eyes of crowd, she was currently very awkwardly leaning backwards with no support, but then the celebratory clapping spread, and another fact reached him - she hadn't filled in the end of the story for him.
He glanced up to see the crowd of kids speckled with the remnants of snow from his enthused storytelling, and their eyes wide and fixed on him. His chest suddenly felt uncomfortably full, and Rapunzel giggled as she brought herself to her feet and tugged on his hand.
She swung forwards in a bow. He stared with pure elated shock at the kids before she nudged him and he fell forwards too at the waist, his breath in his throat.
They stood back up and Jack could only explain a breathless, shaking, "Uh, hey," at the dozens of eyes staring at him with so much admiration.
"Did you really save her?" a voice piped up - such an innocent question as if Jack hadn't just cropped out of nowhere.
He nervously chuckled, but then it fell into a loud, disbelieving laugh. Rapunzel squeezed his hand, her sideways smile a comfort to him as his heart was beating crazily in his chest. He had always thought that she had the ability to brighten him with magic far more earth-bound and real than the power she received from the sun, and here she was proving it once again.
And then he was asked with the starstruck voice of a child, "Did you kiss her?"
He let his laugh dwindle into a snicker, gesturing to the asker. "No, I didn't. Yeah, yeah, you can boo me," he said to the fallen faces. "I just never knew if she wanted to, and do you know how awkward that is? You go meet some perfect girl and you tell me how long you wait to kiss her."
"Perfect?" Rapunzel sing-songed, lightly swinging their connected hands. He glanced down at her and she lifted an eyebrow at him.
"Not to mention clever, sneaky, and intimidating beyond what any person should be able to be," he shrugged. "Quite a princess."
Her smile turned a fraction bashful. She announced to the crowd in grand finale, "And they're still living happily ever after."