Jack enjoyed Spring a little more than he enjoyed Winter. It mostly had to do with him being able to mess up Aster Bunnymunds Easter Egg hunts – that was always a good laugh. But with several full weeks before the Guardian of Fun could actually do anything to the enormous Australian rabbit, Jack had very little to do.
He had recently found himself circling a small town just outside the capitol of Minnesota. Frosty, cold and in genuine need of perking up, Jack had decided to stay and help the kids get out of their slump.
Staff balanced on his shoulders as he walked over the cable wires near the centre of town, freezing them as he did so, Jack noticed someone staring at the sun going down. A young woman, no older than 18, sitting on the roof of one of the terrace houses, her knees curled up around her as she wrapped a red blanket around her.
One word to describe her would be striking; dark spiky short brunette hair framed her very soft heart-shaped face. Her eyes were as large saucers, with green orbs piercing out and staring. She had freckles but not a lot. He was certain he had seen her somewhere before, but he had absolutely no idea. That and it was completely impossible given that the person she looked like should have died nearly 300 years ago.
Jack floated beside her as she hummed a soft tune to herself, pulling out a huge leather bound book that looked older than her. Pages that were browning were falling out and had been literally stitched into the binding. Overflowing with notes, paintings, scraps of things that she had found and pasted in there for luck or she had memories of it. Jack was certain that he could see several coins from different eras stuck in the pages.
The woman sighed and opened the book, flicking through the pages.
"Wow," Jack murmured, looking over her shoulder completely impressed. "I always wanted a book like that… Passed down over the centuries by some ancestor with stories and art and stuff," He gave a soft chuckle and sat down beside her.
"I'm not listening to you," She whispered, not looking anywhere but the book that was in her hands.
Jack almost let the comment fly away from him, smirking off as the sunset peaked. He stopped smiling abruptly and looked back at her. "What?"
"I'm not listening." She said a little louder, looking up and around to a rough approximation of where Jack was sitting beside her. "Who are you meant to be this time? Hiccup? Eugene?" She paused, narrowing her eyes. "I hope to God that's not what my brain thinks Merida sounds like after all these years."
Jack was blinking at her, completely confused by the situation. He couldn't even speak.
"No!" He finally got out at last. "No! I… I sound like a girl?" He paused.
The woman took no heed of his confusion, slamming her book shut and stuffing it into her satchel. "I will have no part in this," She said. "I'm not listening to my silly imagination."
"Wait – I'm not your imagination!" Jack cried. "I'm Jack Frost!"
The girl snorted, rolling up her blanket under her arm and stuffing her thermos into her satchel and swinging it over her shoulder. "Jack Frost, that's a new one. I would have forgiven myself it was Flynn or Hiccup, but making up a completely bogus name is just cruel." She gazed up at the sky as the stars began to descend. "YOU HEAR ME?!" She shouted, small tears falling from her eyes. "JUST CRUEL!"
"WAIT!" Jack cried as she stormed off towards the fire-escape. Sliding down it with impressive skill, the woman reached into her pocket before ducking into the house. Jack followed her, watching her as she did so and was never so confused.
He floated outside her window, watching her, trying to get a measure of who she was and why she could hear him but not see him. But it was no use. The girl had switched off all the lights and had walked up the stairs to her room and had fallen asleep. Jack breathed heavily on the glass and it began to freeze over leaving him with nothing to see.
He pressed his face against the front room glass and saw a collection of things, ranging in age and curiosity. Well, she was a collector that was something. Things from different eras, cultures, countries and religions were paved around the entire room. She had no TV, but had in fact an old record player with a gramophone. At this moment it was playing a tune from Fink – Jack only knowing this because North continuously hummed the tune when making model airplanes.
She painted. That was clear. She had many canvases dotted around the room, each varying in style and completion, ranging from techniques practised by Monet, to Van Gogh, to Picasso. Paint brushes and pots were scattered everywhere, but there was one defining thing about her paintings that was consistent. On the bottom left hand corner of each piece of work was a yellow sun. It was like a calling card or a signature.
Each completed canvas had this small symbol. Save one. Above her gramophone was a large portrait of herself, standing next to a man with a goatee with a smile on his face. Only it couldn't be her. The painting was old. At least 200 years old, by Jack's reckoning. But he wasn't sure. The fashion looked recognizable. Like he had seen it before…
Jack frowned and soared off to find North. The Oldest of the Guardians would help answer his questions. Or at least, he hoped he would
North laughed it off, holding his belly as he moved around the workshop as Jack explained to him the girl that he had seen.
"This isn't funny North," Jack said as he passed a yeti.
"Yes it is." North chuckled.
"I'm serious!" Jack said. "I swear I've seen her before! I know her voice! She's so similar to the girl I-"
"Okay, Jack, one thing you have got to learn," North said. "Sometimes humanity repeats itself. Not often, but sometimes. It is not impossible that this girl is a relative of the girl from your past. I can assure you though, that unless she is a Guardian, which we would know about, or is blessed by the moon and awaiting Guardian ship, she is not immortal."
Jack frowned. "Okay then, how come she can hear but not see me?"
"Easy," North said as he wandered over to his office, opening the door with a little force, startling the elves on the other side; who were currently trying to open a packet of cookies.
Jack propped his staff against the door and flew over to North's side, giving the guardian a little bit of a fright when he looked around.
"You were saying?" Jack asked raising an eyebrow.
"When a child no longer becomes a child, they can still retain some of the magic that makes them see you."
"I don't understand," Jack replied settling down on the desk.
North sighed, looking distraught. "Okay." He said calmly. "Don't you ever wonder why children can see you but adults can't? Despite the fact that they know you exist?"
"It had crossed my mind," Jack shrugged honestly. "But never really occurred to me that there was something behind it,"
"Magic." North cried. "The children are magic! But once they hit adulthood, they start to lose their magic. Some quicker than others, some slowly, and some never lose it at all." He leaned back satisfied. "This girl… How old you say she was?"
"She looked about eighteen," Jack replied sheepishly.
North let out a bellow. "My point. She perhaps still slightly believes. She has not lost her magic completely."
"No," Jack shook his head. "She didn't even believe me when I told her my name. Like she was distraught at it…" He pursed his lips. "I don't think she even recognized my name."
North rolled in his chair, pressing a massive hand on Jack's shoulder. "This girl, is just a girl." He said. "I presume she is very important to her family and friends. And she is important to us. But she is and will someday lose her magic."
Jack was shaking his head. "I don't think she had family."
North stroked his beard for a moment, lowering his thick black eyebrows into a frown as he watched the youngest Guardian fly up from the desk and land precariously on the stone ground before grabbing his staff. He leaned back in his chair. "I do believe that you are going to see her." He said.
"I'm just… I just want to make sure." Jack replied turning away.
North shrugged before getting up, knocking over an elf as he did so. "Jack," He said with a patient voice. "Who was this girl from your past?"
"She was…" Jack frowned and shook his head. "I don't know. She was this incredible person and I'm not sure…"
North sighed. "I trust your judgement, but I do warn you that she is not the answer."
Jack made no attempt to argue. North had provided a lot more questions than he did answering them. He shook his head. "Thanks North,"
The older man nodded curtly and Jack moved over to the window, tilting it open and sliding it open. With a lithe step, he was out into the snow storm and flew off.
She was on the roof again.
Jack had spent the last week trying to get her off his mind, but he couldn't help it. She was so similar it actually hurt him. So he tried to learn about her see if she bore any resemblance to the girl he knew in the tower.
On the whole, the girl seemed pretty normal. She worked as an artist, that was her main profession, and from the look of it, she earned quite a bit of money from the trade. Well, Jack could hardly see why not. Her paintings were incredible and the local art community were desperate for commissions of different styles and techniques. As far as Jack could tell, she was also designing the new school mural but hadn't come up with something inspiring. She also volunteered at a human and dog's homeless shelter and worked part time as a waitress at the local café.
She also, apparently wrote books. Hundreds of them scattered around her home, though she would never publish them. The only time she let her stories be heard was when she decided she wanted to read to children at the local library reading club.
During one of these readings, Jack sat quietly at the back as the toddlers watched Rapunzel, along with the librarian and a few other adults, act out these stories. Ones of princesses fighting bears and boys training dragons. Steeped in mythology and care but with some bits obviously exaggerated for comic effect; Jack had no doubt that this girl was talented beyond years.
Saturday nights were spent doing laundry. She would go to the local grocery store on a Thursday night after volunteering and always hover in front of the desserts, never sure if she wanted custard cream and tart, or if she wanted chocolate cake. In the end she usually settled for ice cream and apple pie.
She'd stop at the art store now every few days, keeping her paint stock up to date. She would have lengthy discussions about the shop owner before getting her usual discount when getting her commissions framed.
But every Wednesday night, as far as Jack could tell, this girl would sit on her rooftop and watch the sun go down with her notebook in her lap.
Tonight was no different.
Jack didn't say a word as he sat down beside her, placing his staff to one side. He watched her patiently as she flicked open her notebook and began scratching away at a sketch. On the opposite page was an inscription. The sun and the moon loved each other so much, that every day they died, so that the other might live. Even if it was for a few minutes.
Jack looked back at her. She was working on a sketch of the man with the goatee from her painting in her front room. He could see pages of other drawings too. A woman with flaming curly red hair and a man with freckles wearing heavy set black leather armour.
"I know you're there," She said, tilting her head into her shoulder.
Jack paused, not daring to say a word.
The girl looked up and in his general direction, smiling slightly. "It got colder as soon as you got here." She sighed. "I do believe in you, I suppose. I asked around, turns out you weren't a piece of my imagination."
Jack was opening and shutting his mouth unable to speak.
"You remind me of my first home," She smiled. "Cold spots everywhere. Never really sure what was wrong with the place." She paused. "Jack?"
"You believe in me?" He whispered, his voice hoarse.
"I thought we established that," She replied frowning slightly. "Somewhat," She shrugged answering his question. "I can't see you but, I know that you're not a part of my imagination."
"What's your name?" Jack asked.
"You've been following me for a week and you never thought to check the address on my mail or my commissions address?" She frowned.
"How do you-"
"Pfft," She gave a snort. "It was obvious after the first few days. I clicked when I realized that Mudd never has his air conditioning on."
Jack frowned before remembering that Mudd was the art shop owner. He shut his mouth and gulped. "You're not… Annoyed that I stalked you?"
"Stalked is an ugly word," She replied with a shrug. "And I'm not happy with it," She admitted. "Just don't do it anymore,"
"I'm sorry, I just didn't know how to handle the situation," Jack said hastily. If he had a pulse he'd be blushing furiously.
"It's okay," She said looking back at the sun.
"Why did you think that I was your friends?" Jack asked. "Eugene, Hiccup and Merida?"
She looked sad for a moment. "They're not my friends." She said. "Well, they were… But they're… They're gone now."
"Where have they gone?"
She was shaking her head. "Who knows," She said softly. "I just hope they're all right."
It took Jack a moment to click. He sighed and looked away. Her friends were dead. She was truly alone. No family. No friends. No ties. She was just like Jack in that respect. He felt an overwhelming sense of empathy and pity for the girl sitting next to him.
"And technically," She said. "Eugene was my husband."
Jack frowned. She was far too young to have been married and to have been widowed. He wasn't sure what the legal age of marriage was in Minnesota, but he was pretty sure that she wasn't old enough.
"You've seen him," She said. "The picture in the front room? The man with the goatee?"
"That was Eugene?" Jack asked. "No, wait, that picture is well over 200 years old. Are you telling me that you're 200 years old?"
"300 actually," She shrugged.
"What?" Jack asked.
She sighed. "Is it really that unbelievable? I mean, you are Jack Frost. It's not like I'm admitting I am the Tooth Fairy or something like that…"
Jack tilted his head, still confused. "What's your name?"
"Rapunzel," She replied. "People call me Punzie for short."
Jack's jaw hit the floor. He jumped up and pointed at her. "I knew it was you!" He shouted. "I knew it! I KNEW IT! I KNEW I KNEW YOU!"
Rapunzel was frowning in his general direction. "What?" She asked.
"Rapunzel!" He dropped down beside her. "RAPUNZEL! The girl with the golden hair, kept in the tower just outside the Kingdom of Corona!"
Rapunzel looked shocked. "You know me?" She cried.
"Yes!" Jack cried. "The cold spots in your tower!"
"That was you?"
Jack let out a breath of excitement. "Look," He said. "When I first became… Well Jack Frost… I couldn't quite get the grasp of flying and I ended up in Germany. Specifically Corona. That snow storm when you were…" He clicked his fingers.
"That was you?"
"I almost froze to death!"
"But you didn't!" Jack said.
Rapunzel pulled a face.
"Anyway, I heard you singing from the tower and I was curious. You were singing to your mother and your hair was glowing… And…" He shrugged. "I don't know. You looked as lonely and as upset with life as I did and I thought we could keep each other company in our loneliness."
She looked unimpressed.
"I never intended to find you or hunt you down or whatever!" He said. "I appeared at the tower just before you turned eighteen and you just had an argument with your mom so I thought against being there. So I left and then I came back a week later and saw the place had been destroyed and I panicked and I couldn't find you. I thought you were dead. I honestly did." He paused. "Which um, begs the question, how are you still alive?"
Rapunzel's eyes widened and her hands went to her hair. She looked down at her book before lowering her hands and flicking the pages.
"Okay if you were there for so many years, you would have realized that when my haired glowed, it healed whoever was around," She said. "It came from a magic flower that my mother ingested before I was born. The flower was said to heal everything so long as you sang a song… Fell from the sun and I'm still not sure why…"
"Okay," Jack observed narrowing his eyes.
"Well," Rapunzel took a shaky breath. "Eugene speculated that when he cut my hair, the magic went from it, back into me. Meaning, after I turned eighteen, all the regenerative properties kept me young."
"You married a guy named Eugene." Jack said.
Jack glanced across her as she tugged her red blanket over her shoulders. "Well where is he? I would have thought he and you would have stayed together."
"We did," Rapunzel said, finding herself distracted by the skyline again. "We were together for the longest time." She sighed and flicked a few pages to a bunch of letters that were tied together with string and held in the book with a tack. She glanced down at them. "But then the wars came. And Eugene had to fight. I couldn't not let him go… But I wasn't there when he was hurt. I couldn't save him."
Jack's mouth formed a soft 'O' as he looked at her. Tenderly he reached out and grasped her hand. She felt the cold and smiled.
"I've made peace with it," She assured him.
Jack couldn't help but think that was a lie.
"What about this… Hiccup and Merida?"
Rapunzel chuckled, letting go of Jack's hand. She flicked open to the page where Jack had seen the picture of the leather clad man with freckles. She pointed. "Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third. A Viking and the Dragon King,"
"Viking?" Jack frowned.
"Well, Viking settler." Rapunzel sighed. "There were a few of them left during my time, don't disbelieve it."
Jack shook his head. "I'm not. Also… Dragons?"
"No they don't,"
Rapunzel glanced over her shoulder. "Then neither do we." She said with a sad smile. She flicked the page to reveal a scribble of a black dragon with a long slender body and huge wings. Around the drawing was some writing that looked more like a chicken had walked over some ink and onto the page.
"This," Rapunzel said. "Is Hiccups documentation of the Dragon known as the Night Fury. I can never remember what it says… But Toothless was one of the best friends Hiccup had." She paused.
"How did you meet him?"
Rapunzel pursed her lips. "Before I became queen-"
"Wait you were Queen?" Jack cried.
"Turns out Gothel had stolen me," Rapunzel shrugged. "I was the lost princess. My mother and father were King and Queen."
"Immortality from a magic flower," Jack said running down the list in his head. "Lost princess, stolen by Gothel, reunited, married Eugene and did what before you were queen?"
"Eugene and I," Rapunzel said with a smile. "Went on a sort of road trip, stopping at every Kingdom we could find."
"And you met Hiccup in his settlement?"
Rapunzel shook her head. "Not quite." She replied.
"OH COME ON!" Jack said.
Rapunzel giggled before tossing open her book and pointing at the picture of the red haired woman. "I met Hiccup through Merida." She said.
"Queen of DunBroch in Scotland." Rapunzel clarified. "She and Hiccup's Kingdoms came to a truce over land. They didn't get along at first. Elinor, Merida's mother and Stoick forced them into a cupboard and didn't let them out until they played nice." She smiled and looked down at the pictures. "Hiccup was visiting with Toothless when Eugene and I arrived. We remained close friends for years."
Jack stared at the pictures. "What happened?" He asked, clearing his throat. "To them, what happened to them?"
Rapunzel bit her lip. "Eugene and I went back home and stayed in contact with them," She said. "But… When Hiccup turned 29, he was attacked by a clan in Scotland that were determined to wipe out Viking settlers. Toothless fell first, with Hiccup on top. He was crushed by the weight of Toothless."
"And you couldn't bring him back?" Jack asked.
"When I got there," Rapunzel said lost in memories. "It was too late. He was far too gone. Without their trainer, dragons became monsters again and were soon wiped out. Hiccups death not only meant the last of the Vikings died, but also the last of dragons,"
Jack stared down at the man with freckles and wiped his eye. Not that he was feeling distraught having never met Hiccup. But he couldn't imagine the pain that it put Rapunzel and Merida through.
"And Merida?" He asked.
"We lost touch," She said, gazing at the stars. "After Hiccup died. I suppose it was too painful for us. We tried to stay close, but I think Merida blamed me for not being able to save him. I think they were in love. I really do. She died of a fever when she was 44."
"I didn't know. I didn't know until months after and her remaining brother, Harris, wrote to me." Rapunzel sighed. "She never married, so the throne went to him. He was one of triplets, but Hubert and Hamish died fighting in wars against the English."
"And you?" Jack asked.
"I had one son," Rapunzel replied. "And three grandchildren. But when people go suspicious over why I was still so young, my son, then King, got us away from the Kingdom."
"I'm so sorry," Jack said.
"Don't be," Rapunzel smiled. "I have led a full and wonderful life."
Jack smiled at her softly. "So," He said. "Immortality must suck, eh?"
She clapped her hand around her mouth to stop herself from bursting out laughing.
"So… How come you can hear me?"
Rapunzel shrugged. "Maybe I'm just more in tune with the spirits because of my age." She said. "Maybe I'm becoming a spirit myself,"
"The spirit of Spring!" Jack said with a smirk, nudging her playfully.
"Now, Jack," She said. "Don't be silly, we all know that's the Easter Bunny."
"He's the spirit of Easter and hope," Jack replied. "Not spring,"
"Okay, the Easter Bunny is real too?"
Jack nodded, forgetting that she couldn't see him. "And the Tooth Fairy. And Santa Claus, but I know him as North,"
"Punzie," Jack said affectionately. "Why did you think I was a piece of your imagination?"
Rapunzel sighed. "After… After Eugene died, I came to the realization that I had lost everyone. I didn't know what happened. I know there's nothing shameful about having a breakdown, especially after such loss, but I have to admit, I'm ashamed. I started imagining people and friends and family. I was put in a hospital before I got myself together and left."
"Rapunzel- I'm so sorry,"
She was staring at Jack. "Okay, um. I need to know or not. But do wear a blue hoodie? And brown trousers?"
Jack's jaw dropped. He held out his hand and lifted three fingers. "How many do you see?" He asked.
"3," Rapunzel said.
Jack jumped up. "Do you see me?" He cried.
"Aren't your feet cold?" Rapunzel asked.
Jack wasn't sure what happened next, but one minute he had gone from resting on the roof, to flying around it. Rapunzel was laughing as she stood up, her blanket falling from her shoulders. "YOU CAN SEE ME, YOU CAN SEE ME, YOU CAN SEE ME!" He landed in front of her with the biggest grin on his face. "You can see me," He said softly.
Rapunzel nodded. Jack stepped forward and lifted his palm. She saw what he was doing and pressed her hand against his.
"You're cold," She whispered smiling.
"You're warm," Jack muttered. He blinked up at her. Rapunzel bounced on her feet and pulled him into the tightest warmest hug he had had for 300 years.