btailweaver: Perfectly Harmless (harmless)
[personal profile] btailweaver
Sequel-ish thing for the previous thing I posted. It's not really going up anywhere else 'cause it's not really complete or anything.

AU-type continuation of the theme.


One Light: Glimmer

The next winter, Jamie Bennett was toddling rapidly around the house, curious as a kitten and energetic as a squirrel.

Jack Frost came and went as he normally did—well, not quite normally, he had to admit to himself. Even though he still flitted around the world, playing with children everywhere he could find them, he always came back to Burgess, Pennsylvania—perhaps more frequently than he once did—most often seeking one little house not far from his pond.

He knew it was out of character for him to spend so much time on a kid he couldn't even reach. He should have been devoting his Burgess playtime to the children out of doors in parks and yards. However, he couldn't help stopping by to peer in at a certain little boy, hoping to catch glimpses of those bright brown eyes. Even if a glance at them would grab at his heart in a way that was tight and warm and almost painful at times, it was a good sort of hurting that felt more like bursting with joy than crushed with disappointment.

It was hard for him to tell, at first, because he was so much more used to the latter.

Jack couldn't wait for little Jamie to grow big enough to be let out into the snow. He wanted to play, wanted to be up close when those golden brown eyes lit with happiness in the winter fun. He counted the months, days, hours, every time he stopped by to peek in, watching the toddler rambling about and playing with toys.

He adored hearing Jamie laugh even if it was through windows, and he made a point of leaving frost pictures and sending flurries across the glass if there was a chance the boy was looking his way. When the child cried, as babies tended to do, it twisted him up inside so much that he had to flee out of earshot because there was nothing he could do. He even found himself spending time perched at Jamie's bedroom window, watching the little boy sleep and thinking wistfully of wintery somedays.

That winter, Jamie's second year, Jack swooped down once again to check in at the little house near his pond, much like any other day he drifted through Burgess. He brought a gentle snow with him, something that would add to the thin cover on the ground and spruce it up to shining whiteness again. It was mid-morning, so he started with Jamie's window, and when he found the room empty, he shifted down to the kitchen, then around the house to the living room.

He had almost begun to think that the family had gone out for the day, to his disappointment, when he heard an unusual clatter from the back door. Alert, he hopped over the rooftop to perch on the porch roof, leaning over to see what was going on.

The Bennett house had a dog door leading into the back yard, and one would assume it was kept latched as the family had no dog. However, something on the inside was pushing at the flap, causing it to swing and rattle. Jack frowned, wondering if this household had finally gained a pet; he hoped not, because even if children couldn't see him, most animals could, and he'd rather not spend his visits to Jamie's window being barked at by the family dog.

Much to Jack's surprise, when the dog door finally swung open, it was to admit a round, tousled brown head. Within a few moments, the clumsy little body had finished shimmying its way through the opening to tumble onto the porch, fetching up on its bottom and blinking in surprise at the cloudy winter light.

"Ohhh boy," Jack muttered, gaping at the escaped toddler. "Not good. Very not good."

Little Jamie was wearing cute blue onesie pajamas—with soccer-playing kittens on them—and a pair of white socks. He also wasn't wearing anything else, not coat nor hat nor mittens, so Jack was pretty certain this excursion was not parent-sanctioned. He spent a moment or two peering around into what windows he could see, looking for the adults, but he saw and heard nothing. It wasn't safe for a baby to be outdoors in the cold unattended; he knew that far too well.

Concerned, Jack swung over the roof-edge by one hand and dropped to the porch steps, watching the toddler determinedly pick himself up to a standing position. "Hey there, kiddo," he spoke, nervous, habit despite knowing he would never be heard, "why don't you turn around and head back inside? At least until you're big enough for boots. Then we'll have lots of fun, I promise."

Jamie steadied himself on his sock-clad feet, looked up—Jack's heart lurched when it seemed the bright brown eyes focused on him, but it couldn't be. He stepped up onto the porch and crouched down to the child's level, worried even more when the tiny boy started to toddle forward—heading for the pretty snow, no doubt, and there was nothing Jack could do to stop him.

"Oh man, oh no—please go back, kiddo," Jack rambled, kicking himself for teaching the baby to glee at falling snow, because Jamie's little arms were up and waving the same way they did whenever he juggled snow flurries at the windows. "You're going to fall down the stairs or wander off and get lost or freeze to death in the yard and then—"

He never got to finish his thought. The waving little hands—which he'd been certain were reaching past him—flailed and caught at his arm, grabbing his hoodie sleeve as the child all but threw himself at Jack with a happy squeal.

All the breath went out of Jack's lungs, and it was a near thing that he didn't spill right back down the porch steps. His staff clattered to the wooden floor from nerveless hands, and he saved himself from falling over by dropping to his knees, barely able to stay upright from the shock of it all.

The tiny hands clutching into his garment seemed as heavy as mountains and as warm as embers, and for long moments the only real thing in his world was the firm weight of the small body pressed into his. He stared down, stunned motionless and gasping, realizing for the first time that Jamie's golden brown eyes were not looking through him at all—they were looking right back into his own, sparkling and delighted to have finally caught him.

"Jack!" the toddler burst out with a pleased baby-grin, bouncing a little and reaching further upward, pulling at him. "Jack! Snow!"

Jack finally remembered to breathe, but it came out a gasp and a sob and a hitching laugh. He almost felt numb, but he wasn't—every nerve tuned itself to warmth and motion and weight, every shift of the small child against him demanding to be held. The tiny fists locked into the fabric of his hoodie were the first human hands to ever touch him, and in that moment they became unspeakably more precious than ever before.

"He sees me!" he gasped out to everyone and no one, afraid that he would burst, crack wide open, shatter into pieces from the immensity of it. "He—he sees me…!"

When at last he could move, it was to bring trembling arms around the little boy, hardly able to believe this was real. Jamie was solid, and so warm it took him a moment to get used to it. He held the small form tight, while Jamie clung to his neck and giggled happily. Jack could feel the rapid little heartbeat, and found he didn't mind the warmth; it wasn't hot, didn't feel like pain—it felt like life and welcome and kindness.

This was what a hug felt like, he realized, and the knowledge balled up in his throat and burned at his eyes. It felt like being wanted; maybe it even felt like love.

Jamie wriggled, and Jack remembered to loosen his grip. He was cold, he knew, and it couldn't be good for a baby, but Jamie didn't seem to mind too much. Still in awe, he stared into the young face smiling blindingly up at him, and found himself framing that face with the gentlest touch he could.

"Jamie. You see me, don't you," he husked, at first unaware of the tears that didn't freeze on his cheeks as he spoke the boy's name—something he had promised long ago he would never do again. "Jack—Jack Frost, that's me. You said my name. You impossible little…miracle, Jamie, you—how long have you been looking at me, and I didn't even…?"

The child squeaked ticklishly at his cold fingers and clutched at his sleeve, wide eyes gazing up in adoring concern. "Jackses sad?"

"No, no, Jamie, not sad." He wanted to explode, do backflips in midair, dance madly on the wind, but the child was right there in his arms, so all he could do was tremble and let the tears drip from his chin. Somehow they weren't freezing on his face. "Maybe I'll never be sad again. You see me!"

"See you!" the toddler giggled, eager to report the truth. "Inna window!"

"Yeah, I was making a fool of myself in the windows." Jack's voice was a breathless thing. It felt so strange, and so good, to speak with another person—to be heard and to be answered—even if that person was still in diapers. "All along, you were…how did you even know…?"

"Jack Fwoss, dotcher nose!" Fearless, Jamie reached up with tiny, clumsy fingers and lightly squeezed Jack's nose.

"That—your mom taught you that, didn't she, she says it all the time…!" Jack started to laugh—or at least, he tried to. As he pulled the little boy into the tightest hug he dared, the sound that came from him was too breathless and raspy to be true laughter; the gulps dragged themselves hard out of his lungs with every hitching gasp.

That stupid song, was the only clear thought in his head. Thank God, thank Christmas, thank everything for that stupid, stupid song.

How many minutes he was like that, Jack wasn't sure; it felt too short to him. It couldn't have been terribly long anyway, because little boys seldom had patience for sitting still, especially for hugs, and Jack was finally drawn out by the sounds of frantic searching coming from the house. Jamie's mother could not have failed to notice her child missing, even if she'd only turned her back for a moment.

Suddenly guilty, Jack looked down at the increasingly-wriggly child he was clutching like Jamie was the last life preserver in a sinking boat. Here he was, causing an uproar again—letting a mother worry for her son, and keeping the toddler out in the cold without so much as a hat.

He'd seen people get the lung fever and die from less.

"Hey, Jamie," he said softly, making sure the child was steady on his feet, "I think it's time you go back inside. Your mom's looking for you."

"Mama?" Jamie's head cranked around curiously, but he didn't seem concerned.

"Yeah, that's right. Mama." Jack tried for a kind, cajoling tone; not having spoken with anyone in so long—though he talked at people fairly regularly—he wasn't sure what kind of an effect he was having. "She's inside, where it's warm and a lot safer for you… Aren't you getting cold?"

"Snow!" Jamie trilled, bouncing on his little toes as Jack shakily stood up. "Jack, pway snow!"

"I know, I know, snow. I love it too." Jack couldn't help laughing at the enthusiasm, gently and clumsily trying to herd the toddler back toward the door. "But you need boots and stuff first. Okay?"

"Boos?" Jamie didn't resist his attempts, but kept wiggling around trying to keep hold of Jack's hand.

Jack couldn't blame him. He didn't want to let go either. The thought of ending this real human contact made him feel cold inside in a way that had nothing to do with his chilly body temperature. "Boots, kiddo. And gloves, and hat…and a coat. You need those to play outside. You should ask your mom for boots."

"Mama, boos!"

Kneeling before the dog flap, Jack nudged it and found it to swing easily. "Okay, Jamie. In you go."

Jamie ignored the pet door and continued smiling happily up at Jack, more interested in pulling him in the opposite direction, toward the snow.

"No, no, no, come on, it's cold out here. Just…crawl back in, like you came out. Come on, Jamie, Mama's waiting." The sounds from within the house were certainly becoming more frantic.

As Jack awkwardly pushed him toward the door, Jamie finally realized what he was trying to do. "Nooo! Don't wanna," the little voice wheedled as the toddler's chin started to crumple. "No nap!"

"…oh…oh no, alright, okay…" Helpless against those bright brown eyes filling with tears, Jack pulled the little boy into another hug. In that moment, he felt the last clinging icicles of his resolve melt into slush-water, and cast about for some way of getting the mother's attention instead. He knew, from long experience, that even if he knocked hard enough to shake the door on its hinges, she simply wouldn't hear it. But there was one thing he'd always been able to affect. "Hey, Jamie, how about we play a little game? A snow game."

"Pway! Snow!" Impending tears vanished like a puff of spring raincloud.

"That's right." With one more squeeze, as if to imprint the warmth in his memory, Jack made himself let go and step back, enjoying the anticipatory glow to the little boy's face. "Now, you wait right there—no no, stay there, kiddo…I'm just gonna hop back down here—" Scooping up his staff, he hopped lightly down the stairs and into the soft, fresh snow. "—and we're gonna play 'Make a big noise with snow!'"

"Pway snow, big!" Jamie bounced and clapped, clearly happy with anything to do with playing in snow.

"That's right, buddy." Managing a grin now, Jack hefted a perfect handful of snow for a good, solid not-quite-iceball. "I'm gonna throw this, and it'll be a big noise! Are you ready?"

"Weddy, set, go!" the little boy crowed.

"You got it!" After an exaggerated windup, Jack let the snowball fly at the back door.

It struck with the accuracy of three centuries of practice. Instead of paffing lightly, the firm snowball splattered into the wood with a thunk, echoing across the porch. It was loud enough that Jamie jumped and giggled, cheering.

Laughing himself, Jack swept up more snow for a second round, caught up in the sudden thrill of having a child laughing with him, for him, at him, finally recognizing him for his part in the "game." He threw the second snowball even harder, rattling the door and earning more squeals of mirth. He was already raising a third when the door swung open and Jamie's near-hysterical mother stumbled out.

Jamie had his mother's eyes, and seeing those same brown eyes red and puffy and wracked with fear stabbed Jack through. His curious brown-eyed girl running from bullies was still hiding in the woman's face. The third snowball fell from nerveless fingers. "I'm sorry…!" he blurted unthinkingly, before he remembered that the only thing she saw was her baby standing alone on the porch in front of her.

In the next moment, the woman had swept her child up and embraced him desperately, weeping on him. She murmured maternal love and scolding into Jamie's fleecy pajamas, and Jack found himself sidling closer to hear them, so warm and true they sounded. Jamie was all smiles, no idea anything was wrong, and he was still happily reaching for Jack over his mother's shoulder when she turned to hurry him into the house.

Instinctively, Jack reached back, and there was a brush of chilly little fingertips over even colder ones. Jamie only began to understand what was happening when Jack did not follow them inside, and the door started to close behind them. The dismayed wail was muffled quickly as Jack was shut out, but as always the walls and windows were too thin to dim the cries entirely.

Jack was left standing on the edge of the porch, leaning heavily on his staff and staring at the closed portal. He felt cold enough inside for an uncharacteristic shiver, and for a moment so alone it was like his very first few months of existence again—locked out, ignored, passed through, unseen and unheard, frightened and crying into the wind for anyone to answer. It didn't help, either, that the one person who could see him was crying for him in return.

The moment snapped like lake-ice; Jack whirled, took one long step, and launched himself into the air. Once again, he was fleeing the house where Jamie cried because he couldn't bear the sound of it, throat tight with bittersweetness. He hadn't wanted it to end, any of it—being able to touch someone, to simply have someone look at him, to laugh with someone…he felt real for the first time in his long, lonely life. He was somebody. Even if only to a little boy in diapers just learning speech, he was a real person to someone. Jamie had said his name, and not just as a joke or a figure of speech or a stupid song—Jamie had looked him in the eyes and called to him.

The feeling he couldn't name that kept swelling in his chest until he felt near to bursting was sweeter than anything he'd ever felt. It was better than dumping a blizzard on a town of jerks, better than playing icy tricks on unsuspecting adults, better than riding the wind high under a starry sky—because all those things, while fun, he did alone. No one pranked with him, laughed with him, flew with him.

Even the Wind, while fun, was a mercurial companion, and not much of a conversationalist.

But now he had someone. Just one, but someone. It couldn't be a dream, because no dream he'd ever had contained the human warmth and touch he'd never experienced. And it didn't have to end—it didn't have to be over. He could go back—he would go back—and visit the Bennett house like always, only now he would wave and play in the windows and Jamie would look at him, smile at him, and he would know the little boy could see him.

And that…that alone meant everything in the world.

"He sees me!" Jack whooped, spinning upward through the clouds, setting them roiling and dancing with the maelstrom of emotion he contained. Burgess would be getting quite a bit of extra snow today, but it would be gentle, fluffy snow full of happiness.

Jack whirled through the sky in a tumbling dance of elation. He had a whole mess of accumulated backflips of joy to catch up on.

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Well I'm not really sure where this is going... I suppose it could make a very cute and WAFFy (or is that Cold And Fuzzy Feelings?) AU series, featuring "What if Jamie was always Jack's First Believer?"

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Becky Tailweaver

June 2017

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