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Title: Where Jack goes back into town and witnesses his family's reaction to his apparent disappearance and death.
Fandom: Rise of the Guardians
Characters: Jack Frost
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2279

Jack spent an inordinate amount of time skating around the river, for the first time reveling in the feeling of being cold but not needing (or even wanting) to be shielded from it. It felt natural, like the cold went down to his bones and sustained him. He scoffed at the idea that he had ever wanted to be warmer than this.

After a certain amount of playful frolicking to celebrate his being alive - and the powers! - Jack thought to go back into town. Mom and Dad had no idea where he was, and Miriam was probably worried sick. He couldn’t wait to show them what he could do with this staff he’d gotten.

So he started the trek back into town. It was usually a long and difficult walk, but Jack felt like a completely new person the more he breathed in the winter air. He tapped his staff to the trees as he passed them, watching the frost patterns swirl in different patterns every time. The snow around his feet tingled, and by the time he reached the outskirts of town, Jack was kicking entire drifts into waves and whorls of glittering ice. It coated the tree branches to look like they were made of glass, and what didn’t land on the trees shimmered like fire on its way back to the ground.

“Hah!” declared Jack, sweeping up a particularly grand wave of snow, fingers twitching as he made it silver before his eyes.

The farthest of the wave hit the side of the Hutchinson’s house, so Jack trotted down into the midst of town - a little disappointed that the fun was on hold, if he was going to be honest. The walk had seemed to take no time. It was past nightfall, so only a few people were out of the streets. They didn’t seem to notice him passing, but they knew him, after all.

Minutes later, Jack was waltzing into his house. “Mom! Dad!” He paused when nobody answered. “Miriam?” Their house wasn’t large; he peeked in all the rooms but found nobody home. “Strange...”

So if they weren’t home, where would they be? Well, Jack considered, if he’d truly been gone for the day, then maybe the town hall. So off he went, and true to his guess, the lights were all on, streaming warmly onto the streets.

Jack paused just outside the door for a moment, realizing that the majority of the townspeople would be here right now. “I’m going to be in so much trouble, aren’t I?” He took a breath to steady himself and went in.

It wasn’t exactly what he expected. There were only a few families, friends of theirs, and the mayor gathered in a small circle. The mayor was saying something, looking very somber, but it was too quiet for Jack to hear. He walked up to them, smiling sheepishly in preparation for the earful he was sure to get. “I’m sorry to worry everyone, I was just at the lake. You’re not going to believe what happened, I just...”

Jack trailed off when nobody looked up. His mother choked back a wail, and the mayor winced but kept speaking. “ - I know, missus Smythe, but it’s been more than a day during one of the coldest winters we’ve ever had here. I don’t want to be the one to take away hope, but... we must all prepare ourselves for the worst.”

“What are you saying?” exclaimed Jack. “I’m right here - ” And he reached for his mother’s arm, grabbing it, and to his eternal shock, was unable to move it in the slightest. He tried to shake it, and her arm did move, but it seemed to be only under her own power. She didn’t glance his direction even once.

“Mom.” He stared down at her, the assembled families, uncomprehending, when he was distracted by Miriam getting up and walking out. His father’s head ducked down, trembling, and Jack watched as his mother’s expression broke when Miriam was out of sight.

“What is going on?” Jack uttered, but it was more a curse than a true question. He had a sinking feeling that he understood exactly what was happening.

Without thinking much about it, he ran out after Miriam. She was sitting on the front steps of the town hall, head buried in her arms, shoulders shaking with sobs. Jack dropped his staff, and knelt down to wrap his arms around her. “Miriam, Miriam...” She didn’t react to either his words or touch, and it cut worse than anything he’d felt before. Worse than the pain of being drowned in the lake.

An idea struck him, and Jack excitedly picked up the staff and started freezing the sleeves of her down coat. She shivered and looked up - Jack’s heart skipped a beat - but she only frowned furiously at her arms and started rubbing them vigorously to regain heat.

So he touched the pebbles in front of her with the staff, freezing them solid until they resembled nothing so much as brilliant crystals refracting the lamplight.

She didn’t react at first, but Jack gently tossed handfuls of snow at her until she looked more closely at the ground. She mutely stared down the strange pebbles, and Jack knew she was contemplating how the pebbles could have changed into the strange glass-like orbs they were now.

She still didn’t seem to get it, so Jack started sweeping the waves of snow like he had practiced before. The drifts didn’t catch her eye one iota, so Jack froze the drift he was working on with a frustrated swipe of his staff. He walked over and kicked one of the pebbles towards the drift which looked like nothing else so much as a wave in the ocean frozen in time. She looked over and gaped.

She stared hard at the frozen wave. “...Jack? Is that you?” Jack threw a fist to the sky in victory - actually hanging in the air for a few seconds. (That was new, but this was hardly the time!) He quickly thawed the snow wave to water and froze it again.

Miriam sniffed, trying to quell her crying. “It is you, isn’t it?”

She stood up and walked over to the wave, studying the piles of ice intently. Jack laughed with delight, and swept the snow up so that it gently fell around her like her own personal snowfall.

Miriam giggled, and twirled around like she always did when Dad asked her for a dance. Jack would’ve loved nothing so much as to dance with her himself, but this was the closest he could get, right now. Still, watching her be so happy just to know he was still here made Jack grin. Things would be all right, then.

---

Of course, it couldn’t last.

When Miriam tried to explain that Jack was around, just invisible and in control of certain winter elements, their parents reacted with stiff reluctance at first, moving onto visible distress, and eventually frustration and anger.

“Miriam!” Mom said sharply, two weeks after the encounter at town hall. “You must stop this fantasy. Jack is gone.”

“But - ” Miriam tried to interrupt.

Their mother carried on as if she had said nothing, heaving breaths and clearly trying to contain her emotions. “He is dead and - and we must move on. Your father and I need you, Miriam. We need you to live in reality. We cannot do with you.”

“You’re wrong,” said Miriam, eyes bright with tears. “He’s here, he’s around with us, why won’t you even let us prove it?”

Unable to join the conversation, Jack just watched, frown deepening with each response.

“Miriam!” Mom’s voice rose shrilly. “Stop this!” There was finality in her tone; a warning.

Miriam’s mouth snapped close, and she turned on the spot to leave the house. The door slammed shut after her departure, and Jack watched as Mom crumpled into a chair in the kitchen.

He had never felt like such a bad person until he watched his own mother cry with no way to comfort her.

Eventually, her head lifted, and there was new strength in the lift of her chin. “Jack,” she said quietly. “If you are indeed here, and not some spirit of Miriam’s imagination... We need you to leave. Miriam will never be able to live a life as long as you are here. She can never move on from this. Your father and I - ” She hiccoughed. “I need you to leave. I - just can’t - having you on the threshold between here and there is worse than if you were dead. Please...”

Jack quickly caught her around the shoulders in a hug, desperately wishing her to know for real. She shivered and Jack knew she felt it, even if she wouldn’t truly believe it. “I love you, Mom.”

He left.

---

His entrance made the snow dance over Miriam’s shoes, and she looked up with a smile.

“Why did you never want to dance with me?” she asked, her tone too deliberately offended to be real.

Jack stirred the snow around him into a small twist; an answer to her question, even if he could never explain it to her in words.

“That’s what I thought,” she sniffed. “Too proud to dance with your own sister. Bet you would’ve loved to spin around with Susanna Williams.”

“Right.” Jack snorted, and swiped a handful of snow towards her.

She batted it away, laughing. “I knew you liked her.”

“Shut up,” Jack muttered.

Miriam hummed the waltz they played every time the town put on a dance in the square. Jack scowled, but Miriam just started laughing part-way into the song. “Ah, don’t be sour, brother.”

“Who’re you talking to?”

Miriam and Jack both turned to see Frederick Bentley standing on the corner, looking over curiously. Jack was surprised to see Miriam frown at the boy.

“Nobody. Go away, Fred.”

Fred seemed undeterred by her coldness. “I don’t think it’s too strange to pretend that your brother is alive. I talk to our dog when I’m alone, sometimes.”

Miriam sneered. “It’s not the same thing at all, so leave me alone.”

“Hmm, well, I was coming over to ask a question, actually.” Fred took a single step forward. “Our family wanted to invite yours over for the New Year. Can I come in?”

Miriam clearly wanted to say no, but it also wasn’t her decision to make. “Fine.” Jack was struck, more than a little, because the last they talked about Fred, he thought Miriam was a bit smitten. She stood and walked to lead him into the house, but right as she turned to go up the steps, her foot caught a patch of ice and slipped right into Fred. He caught her and held her steady, so no harm done, but he missed the look of betrayal Miriam shot in Jack’s general direction.

Hoping she could see, Jack stirred the snow in a path away from the house. He tried not to hear Miriam’s gasp, and blocked out her stammering some excuse to poor Frederick. He resisted the urge to go back and see whether their family would join the Bentleys for the New Year, and whether Miriam and Mom would fight again before the sun set. He had to.

A mere mile away from the house, he dropped to the ground and cried.

---

That probably should have been the end of it. It wasn’t.

Jack didn’t end up with the willpower to resist going to the house, at least once a week. Seeing his mother, father, and Miriam was enough, and he contented himself with watching from the outside. He watched Miriam be utterly angry and hurt for a long time, taking it out on people who didn’t deserve it. Sometimes she kicked a snowdrift; Jack hoped it made her feel better.

But the winter eventually left, and with it, the snow. No physical reminder of Jack was left for Miriam. The springtime wrought a change over the family, and on one of his visits, Jack caught the three of them laughing uproariously over a joke at dinner. (He remembered being angry at this, but in later years, couldn’t fathom why.)

Much of the stress left his mother’s shoulders, but her new frown lines never went away. His father didn’t smile as easily as before, but Jack thought he seemed to try extra hard when around Miriam. Miriam herself stayed angry for a long time, but it slowly ebbed away with the months. It grew fresh with the new snow of the next year, and Jack had to force himself to flee in misery when she began to curse at a snowman.

(For her part, Miriam slowly began to wonder if she hadn’t made the entire thing up. By the time she was married to Fred, she had convinced herself it was a fabrication of her grief.)

Jack’s visits slowed to once a month, once every three months, once a year. One year he even forgot to see how they were doing, and his visit missed the winter season entirely.

The year after that, he wondered why he kept going. The next, he decided he wouldn’t; he ended up there mid-summer with not much to see. (Miriam had children now. That was exciting: he was an uncle.) He never did manage to give them up, in the end. Not before they did.

Eventually Jack’s visits were always on the first snowfall of the year, just a few minutes before cold stone. He never did come back once Miriam was gone.

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August 2012

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