Disclaimer: I don't own this series or these characters and I do not want to make any profit from writing this story.
Chill In My Bones
Jack made sure to keep the tray steady as he climbed the stairs. The last thing he wanted to tell his mother was that he split both the soup and tea after she had finally convinced Mary to take her bath.
He reached the top with success, all he had to do was to give the tray to his dad and his job would be done. Jack grinned to himself and saw the door to his parents' room was slightly ajar.
Jack peeked in to see if his father was sleeping. This flu had struck his dad so hard that his mom had clearly told Jack to just leave the food if he was sleeping.
"I know it's going to happen soon, Manny."
Jack froze. So, his dad was awake, but who was he talking to? Jack wondered if it was another one of his editors, but he thought he knew the names of all of them. He'd never heard of a Manny.
Jack drew closer and peeked inside.
His father wasn't in bed, oh his mother was going to give him an earful over that. He was sitting in his chair and staring out the window. His journal, which Jack was never allowed to read, sat opened in his lap with a pen held in his hand. His father then gave a sigh and fingered his small white beard.
Despite his white hair and beard, Jack had never thought his father was old. He was always bursting with energy to wrestle with Jack when he was younger. Not to mention he always told the best stories. Right now, though, his father looked exhausted and he hadn't been himself lately. He'd been so quiet instead of trying to convince Mary that gnomes lived in the backyard like he used to. His father never got sick. It was unsettling. The sooner he got over this flu the better.
His father then chose to sigh. "Just, keep an eye on them for me, will you? It's probably not going to happen, but if it does-"
"Dad?" Jack asked pushing the door open. "Who are you talking to?"
His father was taken aback. "Jack, I didn't hear you come up." He smirked and sat up. "That's my supper, I take it?"
"Yeah," Jack replied, still suspicious as he placed the tray on the side table. "But, who were you talking to?"
His father frowned and closed the journal. "Just talking to the moon, son."
Jack gave a half smile. "Sure, Dad. Do you play cards with him too?"
"No, but I can tell you the sandman cheats at them."
"Right." This was normal. His father was back to making up stories like he used to. Everything was going to be back to normal soon. "What are you doing out of bed?"
His father frowned and drummed his fingers on his desk. "I'm writing an entry in my journal."
"Can't it wait until you're better?" Jack asked as he sat on the edge of his bed. "Mom will flip if she sees you out of bed."
His father gave a small smile as he rose from his chair and stretched the kinks from his back. "Jack, how do you feel like a bedtime story?"
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Dad, I'm 12. I'm too old for bedtime stories."
"Humour me," his father asked as he sat next to Jack and ruffled his hair. "It's a story I've been meaning to tell you for a long time."
Jack couldn't explain why, but there was an odd seriousness in his father's tone. "Sure, I guess."
His father wrapped an arm around Jack and drew close. "Long ago, there was a sorcerer who held great power over snow and ice. He would cast frost over windows, cold winds to nip at people's necks and create snow days for the children to play in. He was a good man and was respected far and wide. Eventually, many believed him to be the embodiment of winter himself and belief is a powerful tool. As stories and legends grew, the sorcerer was no longer a sorcerer. Soon he was given the title Old Man Winter and made the season his own."
Jack leaned his head against his father's shoulder. His dad always had the best voice for stories. "Many centuries passed, and Old Man Winter was content in his role, but as winters and springs came, he began to ponder. Was there something missing in his life?"
His father took in a deep breath. "But then, one day, on a snowy winter morning, he saw a woman. She had the kindest eyes he had ever seen and the gentlest touch he'd ever felt." He flexed his fingers like he was reliving the story as his own memory. "Before he knew better, Old Man Winter had fallen in love, but the woman was a mortal human and he had become the embodiment of winter itself, so he decided a trade was in order."
"Please tell me he didn't trade his voice," Jack teased with a smirk.
"No, and don't interrupt, you," his father laughed as he poked Jack's nose. "He had the moon assist him in giving up his magic and he became human like he had been long ago. He found the woman and the two wed."
Jack raised a finger in the air. "Let me guess, and they lived happily ever after."
His father scoffed. "Not quite, there's more to happen, but I don't know what yet."
Jack raised his head. "So, how does it end then?"
His father looked tired again. "I don't know, son, and I have a feeling it's you and Mary that will be finding out the ending for me."
Now he felt confused. It wasn't like his dad to struggle with a story. He lived and breathed the stuff. "What do you mean? Is this story giving you that much trouble to write?"
His father sighed and pulled Jack into a tight hug. "I can't see the future Jack and all of what I said tonight might never make sense." He ran his fingers into Jack's hair. "But if one day, you do understand and find out the ending, know that I do and have always loved you, Mary and your mother. Remember that."
Jack wrapped his arms around his dad, suddenly afraid he was going to disappear. "Dad, you're scaring me a little."
His father gave him one more squeeze like he was savoring every second and released Jack. "Let's change the subject then." He pointed to the cabinet. "Grab the chessboard and let's play a game."
Jack relaxed and went to fetch the board, deciding to put his father's story out of his mind. If only he knew that within two months, he would mentally be replaying the story over and over again at his father's funeral. However he tried, Jack could never truly understand what his father was trying to tell him.