Huge, ornately carved oaken doors burst open with a crash, allowing a bitterly cold wind to swirl in, along with several snowflakes and a skinny teenage boy. Ice-blue eyes glinting with mischief beneath a shaggy mop of white hair, he skids to a stop on the wooden floor, bare feet slipping slightly. He plants the end of his staff firmly on the ground, and spiraling, feathery patterns of frost swirl away from it, matching that on his blue hoodie and slightly torn brown pants.
"North?" He calls into the depths of the workshop. Seconds later, a booming voice tinged with a heavy Russian accent answers him.
"Jack!" A huge man comes into view, dodging out of the way of several yetis carrying various toys. "How are you?" Grabbing the teen in a bone-crushing hug, he lets out a hearty laugh. "You came!" Jack looks rather uncomfortable.
"Um, North, I kind of need to be able to breathe…" Immediately, the bearded man lets go.
"Oops, sorry. You must be wondering why you're here, no?" Relieved now that he's no longer in danger of being suffocated, Jack leaps lightly up onto a nearby table.
"Yeah. All you told me was that you needed me for something. What's up?" North grows serious for a moment, gazing at the boy.
"Come, follow me. I need to talk to you." Confused, Jack jumps down and follows, staring at the chaotic activity going on all around him. Yetis and elves are running all over the place, in a hurry to finish everything in time for Christmas, which is only a few weeks away. All kinds of things are flying through the air around him, toys, paper airplanes, even elves; he tries not to wonder why. The elves are just… elves. Things like that happen a lot. Toys are piled everywhere, haphazardly on top of one another, strewn about on the tables and the ground, and in just about every nook and cranny you can think of. Following North to the very back of the shop, Jack steps through a large doorway after him. The door closes with a very final-sounding thump. Leaning forward on his staff, Jack looks at North.
"So? What's so important?" North watches him silently for a moment before answering, an uncharacteristically sad look in his eyes.
"Jack, I called you here because the other Guardians, myself included, are worried about you." Jack tips his head to one side, seemingly confused.
"Whoa, wait. Worried? Why? People can finally see me! They finally believe! If anything, I'm better than ever!" However, even to his own ears his voice sounds a little too cheery, a hollow note ringing behind it. North sighs heavily.
"We both know that isn't true, Jack Frost. We've all noticed you acting differently as of late." The pale teen opens his mouth to protest, but clearly thinks better of it. His shoulders slump in defeat, and he averts his gaze before mumbling,
"Yeah. Fine, you're right." Heaving another sigh, North stands from his seat among piles of blueprints and prototypes for toys and places a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"What's wrong? We want to help you; you just have to let us." When Jack looks up, his blue eyes are full of misery mixed with a defiant fire.
"That's just it. I don't know! I should be happy, I was for a while, but now… it's not enough. I don't get it! All these kids can see me now, it should be a dream come true! But…." He trails off, looking absolutely miserable.
"But?" North prompts him gently.
"But I still feel really lonely. I-I know I shouldn't, but I do. I'm not completely sure why, but I think it might have something to do with…. Well, with the fact that none of them are my age. They're all younger kids, no teenagers. Don't get me wrong, I love kids, but I wish that there was at least someone I could talk to that was my age." Understanding and compassion dawns on the older guardian's face. The poor boy had been frozen in a time that was usually difficult at best for most people. By now, if were still a normal human, he would have dozens of friends his age, maybe a girlfriend. He needs someone to be himself around, someone to be a friend to him.
"You know, Jack," He begins softly, "That's not entirely true." The winter spirit looks up at him, confusion clouding his icy gaze. "There are people, teenagers, who still believe. They are few, but they are there. Some barely believe, not quite enough to think that we exist, but, enough to know that someone has to be behind what we do. Jack, I know who these people are. I know most children, all around the world; the ones that believe, anyway. If you would like, I can give you a name or two." Shock has erased the sorrow in Jack's eyes, and he stares at the legendary toy-maker, mouth hanging slightly open.
"R-really?" In answer, North tears a scrap of paper off of an abandoned blueprint, scribbles something down briefly, and hands it to Jack, who takes it like it's as delicate as glass. On it are the words:
Emmeline Barlow, 8584 Broad Mill Lane, Warrenton, Virginia
"She's sixteen, and believes solidly in you. I think you'll find, however, that it will take quite a bit of convincing to get her to believe that it's really you." His last few words fall on empty air; the spirit of snow is already gone, leaving nothing but a faint breeze as he chases down a dream, a possibility. A chance that maybe, just maybe, he'll find someone to talk to. A chance, no matter how slight, for a friend.