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Of the Northmost Winds and Skies

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Jack built a castle once. Not a real castle, of course – even with his powers, he thought that might be impossible. No, he’d built a small model of a castle, complete with towers and a wall surrounding it, made from small pieces of wood and rusty nails he’d found by chance on the ground.

And with the image of the castle followed several more indistinct images, sounds and sensations. He could see his sister smiling at him from the other side of the miniature castle, awe in her big brown eyes. She’d helped building, but for the most part just enjoyed watching Jack’s handiwork, even if he wasn’t very experienced or anything like that. He could hear her voice, telling him stories about who lived in this castle and what happened in the kingdom it loomed over; her laugh, giggling whenever Jack accidentally hammered his thumbs; her yawns, because it was very early and most of the village was still fast asleep.

As for sensations, the most vivid thing he could feel was the wind against his face, caressing him softly from where they sat upon a hill in Hawthorne. From there, they could watch as life gradually sprang to life in their village, the sun rising above the trees and birds flying in and out of their nests. Jack held his aching fingers up in the air and imagined that the wind passing by healed the painful thumping. Definitely no handyman, that was for sure.

“Why do you do that?” Emily asked, raising her hands to copy Jack.

Jack, who knew Emily was just trying to make him admit that he’d hurt himself in the process of making the castle, just smiled lopsidedly, closing his eyes. “I like the wind,” he said. “We’re good friends, the wind and I.”

Emily snorted. “What are you talking about?” she laughed. “That wasn’t what you said last week, when the wind almost pulled the roof off our house.”

“It can’t always be this gentle,” Jack said matter-of-factly. “It has emotions just like we do.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Yeah.” It wasn’t really a lie; the wind having a mind of its own was an idea that Jack had had since he was a little kid. He didn’t know why, but the thought was always there and always had been. Part of him thought that it was a bit ridiculous, but the wind was as real as any gods he’d ever heard about, so why not? He opened his eyes and looked at Emily when she didn’t answer, before letting out a deep, content sigh. He stretched his arms out even more, as if waiting for an embrace. “Besides, it’s kinda nice when it’s not as gentle as well. Maybe one day it’ll whisk me away and teach me how to fly. Like a leaf.”

Emily frowned skeptically but copied his pose even so. “Isn’t that dangerous?” she asked.

“What’s life without a little danger?” Jack asked back.

“That does sound like something you would say,” Emily pointed out, and Jack laughed.

“I am starting to recognize that look.”

Jack blinked, lifting his gaze from the ice castle on North’s desk. North was looking back at him with a fond expression. He had a miniature hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other. His castle was a whole lot more impressive than what Jack had made back then. Watching him chop away on his various ice projects was something Jack had realized was more captivating than he had first given it credit for. He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there now, just watching, not speaking.

It took a few seconds before Jack realized he should probably answer, but by then, North had already turned in his seat and was giving Jack an inquisitive look.

“You remembered something?” he asked.

Jack felt a smile pull at his lips. “Not sure if I like how good you’re getting at reading me, North,” he told him, twirling his staff in his hand. He hopped down from the table he was sitting on. “But yeah. I remembered something.”

Since becoming a Guardian, Jack kept finding himself in the workshop. By now, he knew most of the melodies of North’s orchestral music by heart, and North’s enthusiastic singing almost wasn’t annoying anymore. Never mind the fact that Jack sometimes caught himself humming to the same melodies, much to North’s amusement. It had become a regular occurrence, these quiet sessions. North was good at what he did, obviously. He was Santa Claus after all; creating things was what he did… and seeing him at work with it was magical – both in the literal and figurative way.

“I think you overestimate your poker face,” North told him as he followed him with his eyes, almost in a wary manner. No, definitely in a wary manner. “What did you remember?”

Jack ignored the first part as he started walking around North’s desk, admiring the way the block of some indistinct figure had turned into what was definitely a castle now – some parts of it, at least. There were still a few more hours of work to go. He stopped, leaning closer to it as if to inspect something, just to see the way North’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

“I’m not gonna do anything,” Jack told him.

“That is what you say every time, and yet I keep finding swirly ice patterns or small snowflakes on all my sculptures.”

Jack cleared his throat, scratching his cheek. “Some embellishment never hurt anyone,” he mumbled, trying not to sound guilty, though the impish smile on his face told another story.

In the beginning, North had been surprised. Jack could sit there watching him for hours, barely saying a word, barely even moving – to the point where North evidently forgot that he was even there, judging by the few times he’d turned around and started at the sight of Jack. On one hand, Jack could understand his surprise; one wouldn’t have thought Jack Frost lacked energy, to say the least. He was always darting around, seeking action, seeking fun, causing trouble just for the sake of causing trouble. No, he didn’t seem like the type to be able to sit still for long periods of time.

On the other hand, Jack thought it was obvious. After spending 300 years alone, invisible to nearly everyone, it was only obvious that he’d grown accustomed to just observing. Not that he felt the need to explain that. And besides, with these embellishments he’d mentioned, it would’ve been a lie to say he was able to sit completely still for so many hours. But really, what did North expect would happen, letting the embodiment of winter sit around next to a giant sculpture made of ice?

North’s eyes twinkled with mirth, and he shook his head. “You did not answer my question,” he reminded him. “Is a private memory, maybe?”

Jack considered it for a moment, then shook his head. “This just got me thinking of another castle,” he told him, letting the memory play in his mind again. “Made of wood, not ice, and definitely not as fancy as this one.” Emily should’ve seen this, he thought, a soft smile creeping undetected onto his lips.

North was looking at him, he could tell. Jack didn’t mind, though it did make it a bit difficult to do exactly what North told him not to. But as with all things cold and icy, Jack found a way; those swirling patterns North had been talking about was starting to appear on the back of the castle, out of sight to either of them, but Jack knew they were there.

North didn’t notice it before Jack let out a small content huff he thought had been small enough to be unnoticeable, but North raised a bushy brow anyway. He glanced at the castle, and then looked back at Jack. “What did you do?” he asked, and though he sounded suspicious, there was no real annoyance in his voice.

“Nothing,” Jack lied, answering North’s look with another impish smile. “Just made sure the ice doesn’t melt. You know the temperature is still a bit too high in here?”

“Uh-huh,” North said, clearly not convinced. “Like those other times you ‘just’ re-froze ice?”

“Yeah, like those times.”

North just chuckled. “I take it your patience has finally run out, then,” he said, and looked up to the old grandfather clock by the wall.  “After… nearly four hours. Maybe is time to take break.” He got to his feet and stretched his back. Jack grimaced slightly at the sound of his spine popping.

“Sounds like a good idea,” he commented dryly. “Have you considered yoga?”

“Yoga!” North repeated with a bark of laughter. “I might be old, but my body is as strong as ever. Yoga…”  He chuckled to himself as he leaned over to blow some icy dust off the castle but stopped mid-motion. He turned back to Jack. “Speaking of… How about you, Jack?”

Jack raised a brow. “I’ve tried. It’s not for me.”

“Not yoga,” he said, sitting down in his chair again while still looking intently at Jack. “I am talking about your powers. It is nine months since we defeated Pitch. Nine months since you became a Guardian.” North leaned forward, and Jack almost took a step back. He never knew what to expect when North got that look in his eyes: Serious and intense, as if he was searching for something. “Nine months since Jamie Bennett and the other children in Burgess started believing in you. Your story must have been passed around a lot since then.”

“Oh,” was all Jack could think to say at first. He shifted his hold on his staff, looking into the air. “Uh… Am I supposed to feel any different?”

North shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not,” he said, then narrowed his eyes. “Do you?”

Jack narrowed his eyes too, brows furrowing. “No?”

“No?”

“No.”

North hummed, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms.

It was Jack’s turn to stare. When North didn’t continue, he gestured exasperatedly with the hand that wasn’t holding his staff. “What are you trying to say?”

North pursed his lips and shrugged. “Maybe nothing,” he replied unhelpfully. “Just remember that we are always here to help if you need it.”

It wasn’t the first time North had said something like that, or something similar to it. Jack had almost been starting to brush it off, because by now he already knew that the other Guardians had his back. He just couldn’t connect the dots as for why North felt the need to remind him every now and then.

“I know,” Jack said, raising a questioning brow.

“Good,” North said with a smile, then patted his belly. “The yetis are cooking today. I think Phil mentioned rassolnik. You want some?”

Jack had tasted that soup one time, and that was one time too many. He smiled stiffly. “Uh, no thanks, I… have some errands to run.”

North had that knowing look again. “In Burgess?”

Straight to the point, huh?

Jack raised his brows in mock surprise. “What? Why would I go to Burgess?” he asked, simultaneously making the window open with a flick of his wrist. He jumped onto the windowsill. “Duty calls, right? Responsibility, all that, you know the drill. Hey, wind!” He playfully saluted as he felt the wind rushing towards him. “Bye North!”

North let out a bark of a laugh as Jack jumped backwards out the window. The wind lifted him through the air and whisked him into the clouds, just like he had imagined when he’d been sitting on top of that hill with his sister.

 

 

 Jamie was close to dozing off, just because he had nothing else to do, when he thought he heard the slightest of creaks from the window. Thinking he’d imagined it, he kept his eyes closed, though it was a bit weird that he suddenly felt a cold gust of wind against his face. Maybe his fever was coming back or some-

Psst… Jamie, are you sleeping, because-“

Suddenly, Jamie wasn’t sleepy anymore. He jumped up into a sitting position. The words had been spoken so softly, he almost didn’t recognize his voice, but Jamie’s face broke into a grin when he saw the blue-clad figure of Jack crouched on the windowsill.

“Jack!” he exclaimed happily, but his throat didn’t agree with the sudden volume, and he was coughing into his arm the next second. Then he sniffled and looked back to see that Jack had moved into the room and was closing the window behind himself, a worried frown on his face.

“What’s up?” Jack asked. “Met your friends outside. They said you were sick.” He came a bit closer, tilting his head to the side. “They certainly weren’t lying.”

It wasn’t hard to spot the slight guilt passing over Jack’s face, no matter how fast it was gone. Jamie just giggled and waved dismissively.

“It’s my own fault,” he said, scooting back to give Jack space on the bed. “I forgot I’d left the front door open, then Abby spotted a cat and started chasing it, so I started chasing her, and I didn’t have the time to put my shoes on, and then… Well.” He sent Jack a sheepish smile. “But it’s whatever! I feel fine.”

Jack laughed. “You got Abby back, though,” he said as he sat down, glancing over at the sleeping dog at the edge of the bed. “So I’d say mission accomplished.”

“Yeah, but at what cost?” Jamie said with a deep sigh, falling dramatically back onto his pillow. “Mom’s been making me stay inside for days! I don’t even have a fever anymore!” He rolled his eyes, then pushed himself up in a sitting position again, looking at Jack. “But she did say I could go out tomorrow, if I feel well enough. Which I do. She just worries too much.”

“Sounds like you’ve had a very boring few days,” Jack said sympathetically, and Jamie nodded. Then there was a certain glint in Jack’s eyes, one which Jamie didn’t have any trouble interpreting. It was usually followed by something fun. “I guess I came a day too early, then. But maybe I should take a trip tomorrow as well. Make up for all the fun you’ve missed out on.”

“Yes!” Jamie clapped his hands together, but then immediately had to use them to cover his mouth. Jack patted his back as he coughed, and the coughs turned into giggles. He sighed and sat back against the wall, grinning at him. “It has been boring. I’ve been sick for over a week already, and every time I tried telling mom I wasn’t, she tried making me do my homework, which is even worse than just sitting here! But now that you’re here…” He trailed off, realizing something. “What have you been up to, actually? I haven’t seen you in ages, but it has been snowing, so you must’ve been around, right? Or don’t you actually have to be around to make it snow?”

He belatedly realized Jack had been opening and closing his mouth to reply, but Jamie hadn’t given him any opening to actually answer any questions. He gave a sheepish laugh, then closed his mouth, sending Jack an expectant look.

“I’ve been around,” Jack said. “Here, and everywhere else. January is a busy time for me, and now that I’m a Guardian, I suddenly have a bunch of other things to do too.”

“Is it fun?” Jamie asked, leaning forward to look intently at him. “Is it scary? Dangerous? You haven’t been here since, like, before Christmas!”

Jack waved his hand, similar to the way Jamie had waved earlier. “Nah, it’s not scary or dangerous,” he said with a playfully haughty smile. “Not for me anyway. But yeah, it’s fun.” He looked down for a moment before he looked back at Jamie again. “Sorry for not visiting earlier,” he then said, voice softening.

Jamie shook his head, smiling back at him. “I know you’re busy. It’s just that-“

There was a knock on the door, making him shut up. He and Jack shared a look, before Jack shrugged, nodding at the door.

“Come in!” Jamie called.

The door opened, revealing Jamie’s mother, Joyce. Joyce wore a slightly puzzled smile as she walked into the room, holding a steaming cup of what Jamie knew was some kind of herbal tea that was supposedly good for him, even though it tasted horrible.

“How are you feeling, Jamie?” she asked as she walked around the bed, putting the teacup on the nightstand. “Were you talking to someone?”

“Uh- I’m not hallucinating, mom,” Jamie said, and Jack halfheartedly tried to stifle a laugh. Jamie sent him a quick look, before turning back to his mother again.

“I’d be worried if you were,” Joyce said. “Who were you talking to then?”

Jack moved away when she came to sit where he was currently sitting, and Jamie tried not to grimace too much. Jack didn’t even seem to mind, as if it was a normal occurrence. It probably was, too. Jamie felt something in his chest sink, but when Joyce glanced in Jack’s direction, raising her brow, Jamie quickly turned his attention back to her.

Jamie hesitated. “Jack Frost,” he replied earnestly.

Joyce nodded in a way that made it clear she didn’t believe him a second. Jamie knew, because she’d clearly told him Jack Frost was just an expression, despite obvious evidence, but that didn’t matter. He’d make her believe someday.

“Jack Frost, huh?” Joyce said absentmindedly as she reached forward to feel Jamie’s forehead. “You talk about him a lot lately. What happened to Big Foot?”

“I got his autograph. His name is Phil.”

“Really?” Joyce laughed, letting her hand fall. “That must’ve been exciting. What did he look like?”

“Big and hairy,” Jamie said. “And he can talk! But not in English. I’m… not sure which language they speak.”

“They?” Joyce repeated.

Jamie shrugged. “There’s many of them. Did you know they work for Santa Claus?” He paused and glanced at Jack. “Should I be saying all of this?” he asked unthinkingly. He quickly realized his mistake when his mother once again frowned, glancing in Jack’s direction – but of course she saw nothing. “I- I mean-“ Jamie started, his voice rising in pitch.

“Well, it’s true,” Jack just said with a shrug. He just looked amused by it all, from where he had placed himself on Jamie’s desk. “I don’t see a reason why not.”

Joyce looked puzzled again, but smiled nevertheless. “Of course you should,” she said, tilting her head questioningly to the side. “As long as you’re having fun, right?”

Jamie was pretty sure she had no idea what she was talking about, but Jack nodded approvingly.

“Right…” Jamie said. He shifted restlessly, trying not to look at Jack too many times, but it felt awkward pretending he wasn’t there. “Uh- Well, I’m gonna drink my tea and… read.”

Joyce took the hint and got to her feet with a gentle laugh. “Alright,” she said, and ruffled Jamie’s hair. “Make sure to get enough rest, and then you can go out and play tomorrow, alright?”

Jamie just sent her a bright smile and nodded, and followed her with his eyes as she walked out of the room. The second she closed the door, he turned back to Jack, smiling a bit apologetically.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m sure she’ll see you one day.”

A strange look passed over Jack’s face, but it was gone before Jamie could catch what it was. Instead, he smiled lopsidedly, and came to sit on the bed again. “Maybe,” he said. “Or she’ll just think you’re seeing things. Or maybe that her house is haunted.”

Jamie snorted, but the action made him cough, and Jack patted his back again.

“This sucks,” Jamie groaned once the coughs subsided, and leaned heavily against the wall. He reached over for the tea Joyce had given him, sniffed it, then wrinkled his nose. “Mom’s been making me drink a bunch of this… I think it’s tea? It tastes horrible.”

Jack hummed, a thoughtful look on his face. “I’m sure she knows what she’s doing,” he said, his smile slightly softer than before. “But, hey. Maybe I should come visit you tomorrow instead, when you’re fully rested and-“

“No!” Jamie interrupted, grabbing Jack’s sleeve as fast as possible without spilling the tea. “Don’t go, please,” he begged. “I feel fine! It’s so boring to just sit here, Jack. Come ooon…” He dragged the word out in the most dramatic way he could muster.

“Jamie…” Jack started, and if he was trying to sound reprimanding, he wasn’t doing too well. Not with that amused grin on his face or the laughter in his voice. “You really think it’s a good idea to have a walking icepack inside your room right now?”

Jamie laughed at that. “I don’t know,” he said slowly, but still didn’t let go of Jack. He looked pleadingly up at him. “But whatever! I’ll even get back under the covers if you want to, just please don’t leave  yet. I’m so bored! Pleeaase, please, please-

He already knew he’d won when Jack’s shoulders sank.

“Alright, since you insist. I guess I can stay for a short while,” he said. “Probably won’t hurt.”

Jamie let go of Jack’s sleeve to fist pump the air, before doing what he’d promised by huddling back under the covers – but stopped mid-motion when he realized something: Maybe Jack wasn’t worried about Jamie – maybe he was worried about himself? He sent Jack a wide-eyed look, making Jack raise a brow.

“What?”

“What happens if you get a cold?” Jamie asked. “I don’t want you to catch my cold. Is that why you wanted to leave? Because you can if-“

He stopped talking when Jack laughed, before sending Jamie a fond look. “If I get a cold? Don’t you remember who I am? I don’t get colds.”

“Really?” Jamie asked. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I guess that makes sense. You’ve never been sick?”

It was Jack’s turn to look thoughtful. “Well…” he started, sounding slightly hesitant. “No… As a winter spirit, I don’t get sick.” He then grinned broadly in the same haughty way as earlier, straightening his back. “I’m too strong to be sick, you see. I’m immune to the cold, and few things are stronger than winter!”

Jamie laughed, as loud as his sore throat allowed him. “Really?” he asked, sending Jack a challenging look. “What about summer? I mean, why isn’t it winter all the time? Even if you’re immune to the cold, what happens when it gets warm? Do you melt?”

“That’s-“ Jack laughed. “I’m not a snowman, Jamie,” he said, shoving him playfully. “Trust me. I haven’t been sick for 300 years. Especially not because of a cold.”

300 years… Jamie had never actually asked how old Jack was. Thinking about it, he didn’t really know much about Jack at all. He didn’t even know he existed until a few months ago! And Jamie wasn’t stupid – he’d seen that there was a lot more than just happiness in Jack’s eyes, that night Jamie had finally been able to see him. He didn’t know what exactly it was, but it was bigger than just happiness… Maybe Jack would tell him one day.

Jamie peered up at Jack. “What happens if you drink this, then?” he asked, holding out his teacup to him.

Jack raised his brows. “You experimenting on me now?” he asked.

“I’m just curious,” Jamie defended, an impish smile creeping onto his face. “Or are you scared?” From Jamie’s experience, that question worked on just about everyone.

And Jack, with all his childish playfulness, seemed to be no exception.

“Oh, it’s like that, huh?” Jack laughed, mirroring Jamie’s smile.

A small staring competition ensued, before Jack held his hand out, and Jamie handed the cup over to him. Jack brought the cup to his face, and Jamie made a small surprised sound when a thin layer of frost spread across his cheeks. The steam, he realized, was freezing. Jack didn’t seem to notice, and just took a sip of the tea. Jamie watched his reaction closely, bringing his hands together in slight apprehension; there was a voice in the back of his head that still insisted the heat would actually cause Jack to melt.

Jack’s brows twitched. He took a pretty big sip too – probably just to show off, Jamie decided – before lowering the cup again. Jamie would’ve thought it hadn’t made a difference at all, hadn’t it been for the slight tightness to Jack’s expression, as if he’d just eaten something sour. Jamie laughed.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”  he asked teasingly, taking the cup back.

“You think this is funny?” Jack asked back, his grin working its way back onto his face.

Jamie was about to answer, but looked down on the cup just then. He held it up to his face, then showed it to Jack. “There’s frost on it,” he said with a giggle. “That’s so cool.” He gave it a closer look, before he took a tentative sip of the tea – then frowned, shaking his head with a laugh. “It’s cold now.”

“What? Really?” Jack asked, leaning over as if to look for frost stains or something. He rubbed his neck with a sheepish smile. “Whoops. Didn’t know that would happen.”

“Sounds like a defense mechanism to me,” Jamie said smartly, and put the teacup back on the nightstand. “But that’s okay, I didn’t want to drink it anyway.”

“Well, then, you’re welcome,” Jack said, curtsying playfully, before adding, “and it’s not a defense mechanism!”

“I’ll write down hot tea as one of your weaknesses.”

“It’s not my- What do you mean you’re writing down my weaknesses?”

Jamie gave his best evil chuckle. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and see,” he said, wiggling his brows.

Jack feigned offense. “Alright, then, no more snow days for you guys,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Wait, no!” Jamie gasped, throwing himself forward to catch Jack’s arm. “I was kidding, I was kidding!”

“Nope, it’s too late now-“

No, it’s never too late!” He shook Jack’s arm dramatically and headbutted it as if he was begging on his knees. “Don’t punish Pippa and the others for my crime- Wait.” He suddenly looked up at Jack, the thought of snow days making him remember something.

Jack, who’d just broken character because he couldn’t hold back his laugh, tilted his head questioningly to the side. “For what?”

“For- Uh…” Jamie swung his legs out of bed and got to his feet. The floor was cold without socks, and he quickly tiptoed across it, over to his desk. There was also a slight twinge of uncertainty that he tried to ignore as he started looking through his drawers. “I have- I mean, I hope I have, if I haven’t… lost it…”

“What are you looking for?” Jack asked, getting to his feet as well. He stopped at the other side of the desk.

Jamie laughed sheepishly. “Uh, well…” he started, making Jack quirk a curious brow. “I- I was hoping you’d visit sometime close to Christmas, or even… even on Christmas day or something, but I guess I knew you’d be busy.” He didn’t like the guilty look Jack got, and quickly waved his hands. “That’s okay, though. But I have a gift for you. Well, it’s- it’s not really a gift, but… I realized my first, um… portrayal of this incident was not completely how it happened, you know? So… Oh, here it is.” He pulled up a piece of folded paper and handed it to Jack.

Jack had an odd look on his face. Jamie thought Jack often had an odd look on his face, and sometimes, Jamie was able to discern it. This wasn’t one of those times, however. Jack gently took the paper from Jamie and unfolded it. His eyes widened a fraction.

Jamie walked around the desk to stand beside Jack. “After you told me what really happened, it felt wrong having that drawing on my wall,” he explained sheepishly, looking at the drawing he’d made after going sledding through town – and ultimately gotten run over by a couch – except now, Jack was flying above him, creating ice and snow for sharpie-Jamie to slide on. “So I decided to change it. It was more like this, wasn’t it? Since you were there?”

Jack didn’t immediately answer. He was looking down at the drawing, and though he was smiling, there was still that odd kind of look in his eyes. Then he looked at Jamie, and his smile widened. “That’s exactly how it happened,” he said. “Thank you so much, Jamie. I love it.”

Jamie felt his heart swell at Jack’s happy expression, and quickly reached forward to wrap his arms around him. Jack laughed softly and returned the hug.

“I don’t have anything to give you, though,” Jack then said as he pulled back.

Jamie shrugged. “The fact that you’re here is enough,” he said with a grin. Then he put a finger in the air. “But! If you really want to return the favor, you can come back tomorrow and play with us some more.”

Jack smiled lopsidedly. “That sounds like a deal.”

 

 

Among the Guardians, there were other supernatural beings, like spirits or sprites or even just forces of energy – uncontrolled magic in other words. And then there were things that could be something in between. Jack was a spirit: He was once a living, mortal being, and now he wasn’t. Tooth’s tooth fairies were sprites: They’d never been human, but they were living, magical beings, and had never been anything but that. An example of something in between would be poltergeists: a magical force, but with just enough sentience to be able to differentiate between good and evil.

Unfortunately, they were mostly evil, like poltergeists. Or… like heat sprites. Now, that was what they were called, but they didn’t do much else than float around in warm climates. Communication was fruitless, always had been, and they only seemed to gravitate towards one thing: making life miserable for those who found themselves wandering around in the warm summer heat. They were somewhere on the scale between sprite and energy, and there was no way to get rid of them permanently. They just kept reforming in the heat.

Jack hated them. Not much of a surprise; he was pretty sure they hated him as well, if they’d been able to hate. They were basically polar opposites, and Jack stayed away from them as much as possible. Jamie had been onto something when he guessed Jack was vulnerable to heat and summer: His magic was considerably weaker when the heat sprites were around, especially in large numbers. At this point, Jack couldn’t remember the last time he’d encountered one, because what would he be doing in warm climates anyway? No, Jack had no business in places with warm climates, but today made zero days since the last time Jack had encountered a heat sprite. Or several. Why, you might ask… Well, the thing was, they didn’t usually appear in the middle of winter in Iceland.

It happened every now and then, that the sprites wandered too far north – way too far north in this case – and in order to protect Jack’s territory, not to mention to keep some order among the people living there, someone had to fend them off. Unfortunately, that was Jack’s job. Being Jack Frost, the greatest, most powerful winter spirit and the bringer of winter and all that, there was no one who could chase away heat sprites as easily as he could.

That being said, it was just easier. It wasn’t easy. But he’d manage. Besides, it was his first real challenge since becoming a Guardian, so he wanted to make a good impression. Be a little responsible. Maybe Bunny would shut up then.

The job went quickly enough. Took him a day, but it went by in a flash – that’s what he’d like to say to the others at least, but it was hard to hide the way the thin layer of frost covering his skin had started to melt. He heard Jamie’s voice in his head, asking if he would melt if he got too warm. No, he wouldn’t, but it sure felt like it right now. And, wow, he really thought it would’ve stopped by now, but the gleam on his skin remained like a strange imitation of sweat.

Feeling too fatigued to do anything more winter spirit-y for the day, Jack headed back to the North Pole. He tried to ignore the fact that his condition didn’t seem to be improving, but it was getting hard when he started having trouble keeping himself airborne. He was very thankful of the wind helping him get all the way back without any emergency landings.

With a heavy sigh, Jack pushed the window to North’s workshop open, and hopped inside as usual. However, just when he hit the ground,  his legs decided they didn’t want to work, and he stumbled forward, meaning to catch himself on the table.

Instead, he caught himself on the ice castle, and it slid over the edge. With a small yelp, Jack held out his staff, a heap of soft snow appeared on the floor. The castle didn’t fall any more than a couple of centimeters, and all seemed to be intact. Jack had never been more grateful for his powers.

“That was close call, Jack. Bit too close.”

Jack winced, before following North’s voice with his eyes. North was standing in the doorway and had seemingly entered just in time to see Jack’s almost-accident. Jack sent him an innocent smile.

“Nothing happened,” he said, holding his palms out – well, palm, since one of his hands was holding the staff. Then he grimaced at the heap of snow, knowing that the elves would probably be assigned the task to get rid of it. “Well, almost nothing.”

“What happened to you?” North asked, frowning as his eyes went up and down Jack’s trembling body. He closed the door behind himself and walked into the room.

Jack automatically took a couple steps back. “Uh- Well, the- It’s normal, don’t worry,” he said with a sheepish smile. He couldn’t lie to himself, much less North; he knew this looked bad. “Heat sprites and all that. They were all over Iceland.”

“You are melting?” North asked, looking appropriately worried at the question.

“No!” Jack quickly said. “Why does everyone- No, I’m just… I- I guess you could call it sweating?” Judging by North’s disgusted expression, it wasn’t a good idea to call it that. “A reaction, then,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “It’s just water, and it’ll pass in a bit. Should’ve… passed on my way here, but…” The last part came out in a mumble. Partly because he didn’t want North to worry, partly because speaking coherently was becoming more challenging by the second.

Also, it seemed his wish not to make North worry was not granted. North’s bushy brows were furrowing over his bright eyes, creating worried creases on his forehead. He took a step forward, holding out a hand. “Jack… Are you sure you are alright? You look a bit…” He trailed off.

Jack tried clearing his throat, and made a valiant effort to straighten his back. He leaned more of his weight on his staff than usual. “Yeah, I just…” he started, walking around the table.

He was fine.

He was fine… right?

Jack frowned, feeling his grip slip around his staff. “I just… feel a bit tired, that’s all,” he finished weakly.

He shook his head and blinked, trying to get the exhaustion out his head that way. All it did was make the world spin faster, and he stumbled. North reached forward just in time, catching him before he crumbled to the ground.

He groaned weakly, using North as support as he pushed himself upright again – but his arms didn’t seem to respond to his will. He held onto North, but his vision was rapidly coming unclear. A part of him tried saying that this was definitely something to worry about, while the other was too tired to even think that.

Jack sagged forwards, and North’s voice became more and more distant, until he heard nothing at all.

Chapter Text

Jack was fairly sure this was the first time he’d been unconscious since that time Pitch had trapped him in Antarctica, if this could even count as being unconscious. He sure wasn’t conscious of the world around him, but he wasn’t quite asleep either. Nevertheless, as he was edging back towards consciousness, slowly as if crawling through mud, and he realized that he must have passed out.

The first thing he noticed was that he was lying on some soft surface. The second thing was that his head was pounding. The third thing was that wherever he was, it was way too warm. He gave a weak groan, blindly patting around for his staff without opening his eyes. He didn’t have the strength to open his eyes.

“Oh look, he lives.”

Jack froze. He knew that voice. With sluggish movements, he turned around. It took a great deal of willpower, but he eventually managed to open his eyes. A couple of overgrown bunnies were standing in front of him – but the more he focused, they eventually turned to one.

“Bunny?” Jack croaked.

“The one and only,” Bunny said, leaning forward a bit to peer down at him.

Jack realized he was lying on a couch, in a room somewhere in the workshop, judging by the ever-jolly, red and green decorations on the wall. He tried making the image of Bunny clearer by squinting at him but closed his eyes again when the pounding in his head intensified. “Just a moment ago, there were two of you,” he mumbled. His words were almost incoherent, but Bunny seemed to catch them anyway.

“You don’t say,” he said. “I think that might just be your fever, mate.”

Jack opened his eyes again. Bunny had come closer. “Fever?” he repeated.

“Fever,” Bunny repeated again.

Jack peered at him through eyes that were already stinging with the strain of keeping themselves open. “I don’t get fevers,” he told him.

Bunny looked like he was about to answer but seemed to forget about it when Jack started pushing himself up into a sitting position.

“Hey, hey, hold on!” he said, hopping forwards. He put two paws on Jack’s shoulders, keeping him in place. “You shouldn’t move around too much.”

Jack tried to struggle to break free, but it didn’t take too long before his body fell back against the cushions. He let out a weak groan. “Bunny-“ he started, looking around himself. “What the- Where’s my staff?”

“We had to confiscate it,” Bunny replied with a bemused expression.

Jack stared at him. “You what?”

Bunny just shrugged, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. It was clear he wasn’t used to dealing with this – whether this was dealing with a sick person in general or dealing with a sick Jack Frost specifically.

Not that Jack was sick. He couldn’t be. Right? Jack was rapidly becoming more unsure of that statement.

“You were icing over the entire workshop in your sleep,” Bunny explained. “The only thing that even remotely helped was taking the staff. It’s over there.” He nodded towards the other end of the room, where Jack’s staff stood leaned against the wall. “Everything’s dripping wet now.”

Jack didn’t know what else to do but continue to stare at him. “What? No, I can’t- We can’t…” He trailed off as his eyes started gliding across the room. Now that Bunny had mentioned it, he could see the blotches of water and even frost, everywhere from the floor to the ceiling, on the salon table in front of the couch, and the chairs beside it. Why hadn’t he noticed it before?

…Jack was starting to get an idea of why he hadn’t noticed it before. Not only that, when he looked down at himself, he saw that he was almost free of frost, but the couch he was lying on was completely covered in it. It gave Jack at least a slight sense of relief against the pressing heat of the room. He looked back to Bunny. “What’s going on?”

“I tell you what is going on!”

Both Jack and Bunny jumped at North’s sudden entrance. Bunny sighed, sending him an exasperated look.

“Always with the perfect timing, eh?” he asked dryly.

North ignored him as he walked up to them. “I am glad to see you awake, Jack,” he said, wearing a warm smile.

“Uh, yeah. Me too,” Jack said, without returning the smile this time. “Mind elaborating on what you said just now? And can someone please open a window or something?”

“It’s already freezing in here!” Bunny protested.

Jack wanted to argue, but North stepped in before they could start bantering again. “Jack,” he said, sitting down in a chair beside the couch. “I have good and bad news.”

Jack gave him a wary look. “Okay…” he said slowly. “What’s the good news?”

“In these past months, Jamie and the other children in Burgess have been telling your story,” North said. “You no longer have only seven believers. It is why I asked you if you felt any different, because as a Guardian, your power is connected with the children’s belief in you.”

It felt as if a stone had appeared in the pit of Jack’s stomach. “But I’m… sick?” Jack asked, thinking back to last Easter, and what had happened to the other Guardians’ powers. “Wouldn’t that mean they’re- that they don’t believe in me any-“

“No! No,” North quickly said, waving his hands. “You asked for good news, no? Thing is, more children are believing in you, and though that makes you more powerful, it… takes a toll on you in the beginning.”

Jack didn’t understand. He glanced at Bunny, who just shrugged.

“Happened to all of us at one point,” he said. “When we first became Guardians.”

North nodded. “You are closer to the world now than you were before,” he said. “People can see you and feel you. You are stronger, but you are also more vulnerable. You must learn to work with that.” He smiled in a mix between amusement and empathy. “Those heat sprites you speak of… they are probably the cause of all this. As winter spirit, is not strange that you would get sick from such temperatures.”

Jack’s eyes went up to the ceiling as realization dawned on him. “So you’re saying… I have a cold,” he concluded.

“In the most Jack Frost kind of way,” North said with a laugh. “But no worry, it will pass. We will look after you.”

Somehow, those words didn’t feel as soothing as they were probably meant to be – not with these two. Sure, they had big hearts and all that, but North was a bit intense, and Bunny looked like he was grumpy just being here, in a room that was supposedly freezing.

Jack let out a quiet sigh, and looked back at them. It was hard to stay focused, as if merely being awake these few minutes was already exhausting him. He closed his eyes.

“Then can you please open a window?” he asked again and didn’t even have the energy to care about how whiny he sounded. “I’m melting. Figuratively.”

“You sure about that?” Bunny asked, and Jack could all but see the smirk on his face.

Instead of coming up with something clever to say back to him, Jack just gave an annoyed grumble. He really wasn’t himself, was he?

 “I am afraid you will just have to suffer through this, Jack,” North said, and patted his shoulder sympathetically, and Jack gave a long, suffering sigh.

Then there was the sound of a door opening. Jack didn’t bother to see who came in, but he didn’t need to when he heard the garbled speak of a yeti. Phil, Jack noted. He didn’t know how he heard the difference, but he did.

“Ah, there it is,” North said. Jack heard him get up. “Thank you, Phil. Oh yes, Jack is fine. You can go now.”

Jack snorted weakly when Phil said something in an indignant tone, before the door shut again.

“He has a weak spot for you, Jack,” North said with a chuckle, before he made an uncertain sound. “Uh- Jack? Is he awake?”

“He’s awake, he’s just ignoring you,” Bunny replied, right before Jack felt a paw patting his face, not too gently. Jack groaned and pushed him away, opening his eyes to give him a glower. Bunny just looked amused by it all. “There we go,” he said, taking a step back from the couch.

“If I had my staff right now…” Jack grumbled.

Bunny just hummed dismissively. “Whatever you say, grumpy.”

“Here, Jack,” North said, and Jack turned to him to see that he was holding out a cup to him. “Drink this. It will make you feel better.”

Jack gave the cup a doubtful look. “What is it?” he asked, tentatively taking it.

“Is not important,” North said, waving his hand. He completely disregarded the look Jack sent him and just smiled. “Hopefully it will speed up your recovery and make it easier to control your ice.”

“Hopefully?” Jack repeated. North’s choice of words made his mind flash back to Jamie’s mom’s tea – except that tea hadn’t actually been too bad, aside from the heat and all. At least the smell had been nice. This thing, however… Jack sniffed it, and grimaced. “Uh, no thank you-“ he tried.

“Just drink it, Frostbite,” Bunny interrupted, rolling his eyes. “It won’t kill ya, and it’s getting colder here by the second.”

“And it will make you feel better too,” North reminded him, shooting Bunny a disapproving look.

Jack almost rolled his eyes again, but then sighed and brought the cup to his lips. Better to just get it over with, right? But as Jack tried to take a sip, all his lips came in contact with was a chunk of dark ice. Jack looked down at it for a couple of seconds, mouth hanging open. He’d frozen it?

Both North and Bunny were looking expectantly at him.

“Uh… It’s…” Jack started, lowering the cup. He pursed his lips sheepishly. “…ice.”

North took the cup from him, but quickly set it down on the table with a small, surprised yelp, followed by some Russian word. “Ah-“ he then started. “Is very cold. Okay…” He brought his hands together, humming thoughtfully. Then he got to his feet. “Alright, I will go make more. Stay right there, Jack.” He hurried out of the room.

“No problem,” Jack replied dryly, before sliding back down onto the couch. He sent Bunny a look through heavy eyelids. “Are you just gonna sit there? Thought it was more Tooth’s thing to watch people sleep. Or North. How does that song go again?”

“Someone has to make sure you don’t do anything stupid,” Bunny said.

“What could I possibly do in this state?” Jack mumbled, closing his eyes before covering them with his arm.

Bunny gave a quiet chuckle. “Yeah, I’ll take no chances, knowing you.”

Jack didn’t answer. He did peek back at Bunny from underneath his arm to see that he’d sat back in the chair North had previously occupied and was now holding a white egg and a pencil. At which point he’d gotten that, Jack didn’t know. He didn’t bother to ask, and just closed his eyes, letting sleep take him away again.

It felt like no time had passed at all when the sound of the door slamming open jolted Jack out of his dreamless sleep. His hand automatically went for his staff, only to find that it wasn’t there. By that time, he’d realized that the ruckus was just North and Phil coming into the room again, with Phil saying something in Yetish. North was holding a bowl this time.

Beside Jack, Bunny was still painting eggs, but now there was a small pile of intricately painted, colorful eggs on the table. Jack supposed he’d been out for longer than it felt. It didn’t make him feel any less grumpy.

“I have a solution, Jack,” North informed him, motioning for him to sit up. Jack didn’t at first, but when North came over to sit at the edge of the couch, Jack scooted away, shooting him a bewildered look. North just smiled confidently. “I will help you.”

“Help me?” Jack repeated, but quickly understood what he meant when North used a spoon to scoop up some of the liquid and held it out to him. Jack stared at him. “I’m not gonna be spoon fed, thank you very much,” he told him.

Beside him, Bunny snorted quietly. Jack sent him a murderous look.

“Do you have any other suggestions?” North asked, quirking a brow.

“Just let me sleep,” Jack grumbled, lying back down with his back to them.

“He really is a teenager,” Bunny mumbled.

Jack was about to imitate him in a weird voice, but then North grabbed him by the arm and pulled him upright.

“Come on, now,” he said merrily.

Jack gave a small yelp, followed by a weak moan when the world spun violently, and he slumped against the wall. “Why…?” he muttered miserably.

“Is for your own good,” North said, holding the spoon out.

There was a moment where no one spoke, in which Jack and North had a staring competition about who was going to relent first. And of course, with no energy to spare, that person was Jack.

“Fine,” he grumbled, pointedly ignoring Bunny’s amused smirks as North held the spoon in front of Jack’s mouth.

 

 

Halfway through the bowl, the medicine – or whatever it was – may or may not have frozen again, and it may or may not have been intentional. By that point, it wasn’t even because Jack was annoyed by the whole thing, because he certainly still was, but because the stuff tasted horrible. Maybe Jamie would’ve appreciated his mom’s tea more if he had a taste of this first. But no, Jack wouldn’t wish that upon anyone, much less Jamie.

Either way, he’d convinced North half of the bowl’s content was more than enough for Jack, lest he wanted it all to come back up again. After that threat, North relented and told Jack he’d be back with a cup of water. Meanwhile, Bunny was now lounged in the chair in a position which looked very bad for his back, even if he was a rabbit, with a huge woolen blanket draped over him. He was still painting eggs, with as much focus and dedication as earlier. Jack had upon several occasions tried to bother Bunny while he was working on his egg designs, but they were mostly fruitless attempts, which just led to Jack feeling moody from being ignored. This time, however, Jack was happy that Bunny’s attention was fully occupied. It was like he wasn’t even there.

And that made it much easier for Jack to relax. That, and it felt like the medicine was making him more tired as well, so when he finally got to lie back down, he barely remembered hitting the pillow before he was drawn back to the dream world.

Contrary to his last nap, this one actually had dreams – or dream, would be the right thing to say. Strange thing was, Jack was quick to notice that there was something about this dream; some kind of feeling that was hard to determine whether was good or bad, or any of the two. Maybe it was just because it had been a while since Jack had dreamed at all… or maybe because it wasn’t as much of a dream as it first seemed.

The first thing he knew was that it was winter. Not surprising, considering Jack was rarely anywhere it wasn’t winter, but still, this felt different. The winter felt hostile. It was dark, and it was cold, and unknown. The snow fell into Jack’s eyes, making it hard to see, and he could only use his arms as a shield against it. There was a kind of fear inside of him, but it wasn’t just any fear. It was familiar, but in the haze of his dream, he couldn’t tell what it reminded him off.

Through the falling snow, Jack started to discern something in the distance. He sped up, trudging through the snow on feet that ached from both cold and exhaustion. Somehow Jack knew what it was even before he got close enough to see it: A bundle of boulders in the crook of a small mountain. Jack felt himself getting dragged towards it, the image of the dream seeming hazy and unfocused as he did. As he crawled over the rocks, he spotted a small passageway; a cave in which he could take shelter from the snowstorm.

Jack got to his knees and crawled into the small cave – but when he got inside he realized it wasn’t small at all. He looked around, but even if he couldn’t see much in the darkness, the echo of his movements revealed that it was bigger than it seemed on the outside. He fumbled around until he found the cave wall and leaned on it as he tentatively got to his feet, minding his head. Standing a bit hunched over, he slowly inched further into the cave.

The sound of the howling winds outside got gradually dimmer as he went deeper, wondering just how big this cave was… and more importantly, whether or not something was already in there. If only he had some kind of light…

Just as the thought crossed his mind, he spotted something faint in the darkness. At first, he thought it was a trick of his mind, because it was so faint that he was only able to see it when he didn’t look directly at it… but the closer he came, he clearer he could see it.

A reflection. A blue reflection on the humid cave wall. But where was it coming from?

Jack looked around, and reached beyond the reflection, following the wall. And then, where it looked like the cave met a dead end, his hand slipped into a narrow opening. A part of him feared something dangerous was waiting for him on the other side, but he couldn’t help his curiosity. He crouched down and peeked.

The light was coming from something big and shiny, perched on some kind of pedestal made of stone in the middle of the cavern. A crystal, Jack realized. Its light cast dim reflections on the stone around it as if it was magic. Jack didn’t know much about magic; his mom has always told him to stay away from people who claimed they could control it. But then again, Jack didn’t always listen to his mother.

There was just something about the crystal. He wanted to go up to it. To study it. To touch it.

But just as he made to squeeze through the narrow opening, there was a sudden, ear-piercing crash, and the cave rumbled. Jack threw himself backwards just in time as rocks fell onto the spot he’d just been standing, and then he was on his feet again, sprinting out of the collapsing cave.

He stumbled back into the snowstorm and fell onto his knees, his heart pounding and his lungs gasping for air. The feeling of wanting to hold that crystal in his hands still lingered in the back of his mind, faint, yet as clear a as a lullaby.

He was so cold. Why was he so cold?

Jack!

Jack woke with a start, his empty hands grasping for his staff. Instead, his fist connected with something furry, and Bunny gave a surprised groan. Jack froze, bringing his hand to his own chest with just as much surprise.

“Oh- Sorry,” he quickly said.

Bunny gave him a slight glower, but it quickly melted away once he met Jack’s eyes. His thick brows furrowed. “Are you alright?” he asked.

Jack opened his mouth, ready to say that he was, but the words didn’t come out. It was just a dream. Right? So why did the feelings remain? Was that normal for dreams? Maybe feelings like fear or happiness, but it wasn’t just that. Jack took a shaky breath.

“I- I’m- It’s cold,” he stammered, and began getting to his feet.

Bunny seemed too shocked to stop him. “What?”

“I don’t know,” Jack muttered, his legs shaking slightly beneath his weight. For the first time in his immortal life, he wished he had socks or something. “It’s just- I- I think I remembered something.”

“Would flashbacks make you cold, though?” Bunny asked, standing as well.

“You think I know?” Jack asked, a tad snappier than he intended. He paused, then let out a shaky breath. “Maybe it’s the medicine or something, I don’t know. But it’s cold, and I… I have to check something. I have to get back there.”

“Get back where?” Bunny asked, following Jack as he started walking towards his staff. “What did you dream?”

“It wasn’t a dream!” Jack protested, letting the ‘I think’-part fall silent. “It was a memory, and there was something… something more. Something I was missing. I was doing something important, but I can’t remember what it was. Just the feeling. And then there was this…” Why did he feel the need to keep the crystal a secret?

Jack’s hesitation made Bunny raise a questioning brow. “What?” he asked.

Jack gestured weakly with a hand, before he went to grab his staff. He twirled it idly, without looking at Bunny. “I’m not sure,” he eventually replied. A small shudder went through his body, but the cold had subsided into something bearable by now. Maybe it really was the dream that had made him cold.

If so, it had to be more than a dream; he’d felt the phantom sensation of freezing, from when he was human. Jack looked up at Bunny. “I have to go there.”

“You can’t go anywhere in this state!” Bunny protested, going to grab Jack’s arm, but Jack jumped away from his hold.

“You could try to stop me,” Jack challenged with a crooked smile. He wasn’t really in the mood for one of their chases right now, but he had to do what he had to do. “Though I guess it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve forced me to be somewhere. Why don’t you and the yetis come get me when I’m done? You can bring a bag if you’d like.”

Bunny smiled sardonically. “You’re not still mad about that, are you?” he asked, and Jack let out a small laugh. He supposed he and Bunny would always have some kind of quarrel going on, whether it was from causing a blizzard or for kidnapping the other to the North Pole.

“I’ll forgive you if you let me go,” Jack offered.

“Jack…”

That sounds like a no,” Jack said, and before Bunny got to say anything more, he stomped his staff to the ground, and a wave of icy wind shot through the room.

Bunny gave a surprised shout as the sudden force pushed him backwards, but by the time he was back on his feet, Jack had bolted for the door. Jack didn’t know where in the workshop he was, but it probably wasn’t too hard to figure out. He slammed it open and found himself in a hallway.

“Jack!” Bunny barked. “You’re gonna hurt yourself!”

Jack didn’t listen. He ignored his exhaustion and bolted to the right, from where the ruckus of the workshop sounded. As he turned around to see if Bunny was following, he took to the air and sped up. Bunny didn’t take long to burst out of the room as well, looking more exasperated than anything. Jack let out a laugh as he rounded a corner, covering the floor with a layer of slippery ice.

He shot out into the vast room of the workshop, zigzagging between yetis and only bumping into a couple of them, which was pretty impressive, considering that the workshop was gradually beginning to spin around him.

“Sorry!” he shouted, tried to gain some altitude, and then almost flew straight into a wooden beam. He gave a hoarse shout, barely able to change direction at the very last moment, but the beam still collided with his shoulder. The impact sent him spinning through the air, and he felt like he blacked out for a second.

He hit the floor and rolled across it. With Bunny close behind, Jack was sure he’d just lost their game of tag, but when he opened his eyes and managed to focus his vision, he realized he’d landed right in front of a big window, with a view of the rest of the North Pole outside.

And beside it stood North, holding a hammer. If Jack hadn’t been so used it, the sight might’ve been startling. North looked down at him with a perplexed expression, as one would when someone came crashing down from the ceiling.

Jack staggered to his feet, leaning heavily on his staff as he did. “Hey, North,” he said nonchalantly, before he caught a glimpse of Bunny rapidly making his way through the workshop, in a much more elegant way than Jack’s example. Jack pointed his staff at the window, and the wind pushed it open. He spoke before North could answer: “Bye, North!” And then he leaped out into the open air.

“Wha- Jack!” North shouted after him, but the wind had already taken a hold of Jack, whisking him away.

And then he was in the clouds. Jack closed his eyes, knowing the wind would take him where he wanted to be. Because even if he didn’t know how, he knew where the dream- No, the memory had taken place.

Well… vaguely, at least. He knew it was somewhere near Burgess. Even through the snowstorm, even if he’d felt lost in the dream, he recognized the woods. The cave was near the hills, somewhere.

He hoped. A lot had changed in 300 years after all.

It didn’t take long before he let himself fall towards the ground, knowing he’d arrived even before he saw it. He fell through clouds dyed red in the light of a late sunset, and then Burgess came into view down below. He took a moment to admire the way his ice in the small town reflected the sunlight, and how his snow glittered magnificently on the rooftops. Then his eyes drifted over to where town faded into nature. He let himself fall.

And the closer he got to the ground, the heavier his body felt. He didn’t realize how fast he was descending until he hit the ground, and he went sprawling into the snow. He groaned quietly as he pushed himself up, then leaned against a tree as he waited for the dizziness to pass. North’s medicine had improved Jack’s health, that was for sure. At least he didn’t feel like he was melting anymore, or that he was about to pass out whenever, but that didn’t mean he felt completely healed either.

Whatever. He could rest after he’d found the cave.

Jack pushed away from the tree and looked around himself.

“Now, where to start...?” he muttered.

 

 

The sound of Pippa’s counting grew fainter and fainter as Jamie ran through the snow in the woods, looking for the perfect hiding spot. There was a quiet voice in the back of his head that told him they’d all ventured further into the forest than their parents liked, but they worried too much. The best hiding spots were out here after all.

He stopped for a moment, then spotted a huge root of a tree that he might just fit under. He ran over to it.

“Hey, find your own hiding spot!” Claude hissed.

“Oh- Sorry,” Jamie snickered, and ventured on.

It was getting dark now, and harder to see where he was going. Pippa still hadn’t stopped counting down. Jamie could see the light of her flashlight far away and knew that if he turned on his own flashlight, he’d be found immediately. But if he hurried, or ran far enough…

His body adhered to his thoughts before he’d actually made a decision, and sped towards the hills, glancing behind himself every now and then to see if he was still visible to Pippa. He let a small, panicked sound when he faintly heard her shout:

“Ready or not, here I come!”

Jamie hunched down as her light shone across the trees and waited for her to turn around before he set into a run again. After a couple of minutes or so – a couple of minutes consisting of a lot of slipping and tripping in tree roots and whatnot – Jamie decided it was safe to turn on his flashlight… but just as he fished it out of his pocket, he spotted movement among the trees.

He froze in place and stared ahead. Had he just imagined it? No, there it was again. Something white… something blue… Jamie frowned. He carefully made his way forward, trying not to make a sound in case he was mistaken.

And as he got closer, the figure turned out to be a person after all. Or rather, a spirit. Jack was walking among a rubble of stones, standing slightly hunched over with his eyes turned to the ground. Obviously, he hadn’t realized he wasn’t alone. Jamie clicked on the flashlight.

“Jack!” he said in a theatrical whisper.

Jack responded by jumping backwards, and tripping over his own feet. He landed on his butt, but still managed to point his staff defensively at Jamie. Jamie, who knew Jack would never have used his magic against him no matter what, just grinned at him, pointing the flashlight at his own face to identify himself.

Jack lowered his staff, his eyes widening. “Jamie,” he said, and Jamie immediately noticed that there was something off about his voice. Jack let out a small huff. “You scared me. I thought you were just some hiker or something.”

“You heard me?” Jamie asked, walking over to him to offer a hand. “I thought I was being quiet.”

Jack chuckled, and let Jamie help him up. Jamie watched as he got to his feet, taking note of how much he was leaning on his staff. Was he… quivering?

“Isn’t it a bit too late to be out in the woods right now?” Jack asked, looking around. “Are you alone?”

“No. Or- I guess, maybe… We’re playing hide and seek,” Jamie explained, but his attention was only halfway focused on what Jack was saying. He was more interested in how he was saying it, and also in the fact that he seemed… tired. Almost like Jamie had looked every time he’d looked himself in the mirror these past days. Jamie shifted nervously. “Where were you today?” he then asked.

Jack looked back at him, his expression blank before realization dawned on him. He brought a hand to his forehead. “Oh, I’m- I’m sorry, Jamie, I…” He seemed to struggle for a moment, before he let out a sigh. “I… forgot I said I would visit. But, hey- I’ll make it up to you! Tomorrow, I can-“

“Jack,” Jamie interrupted unthinkingly, before he stood up on his toes and reached out to touch Jack’s forehead. Jack jerked his head back in surprise, but Jamie didn’t need any more but half a second of contact to understand that something wasn’t quite right. He sent Jack a worried look. “You’re sick!” he said, louder than he’d intended.

Jack’s mouth opened and closed for a moment, his eyes darting around as if searching for an excuse. Jamie knew that look; he did the exact same thing whenever his mom accused him for doing something he shouldn’t. “Well… yes,” he started slowly. “But-“

“So that’s why you didn’t come!” Jamie said.

Jack seemed to consider that for a moment, before he sat down on one of the boulders he’d previously been walking over, heaving a sigh. “It’s apparently something that can happen after all,” he said, smiling tiredly at Jamie. “I’ve been sleeping off my… fever-“ He said the word as if he didn’t believe it existed. “-for the past hours. North gave me some medicine – which, by the way, is much worse than your mom’s tea – to lessen the symptoms, so I feel better now. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Jamie frowned. Jack always tried to put on a stronger face in front of him and the other children, like Jamie sometimes did in front of Sophie. He just didn’t want Jack to exhaust himself for… Well, he would say ‘for Jamie’s sake’, but Jack wasn’t here for them.

“Wait… What are you doing here, then?” Jamie asked.

Jack seemed confused too, for a moment. “Oh, right,” he then said, but before he got to say anything more, a light suddenly flashed past them, followed by Pippa’s way too close voice:

“Cupcake…” she said slowly. “Jamie?”

“Quick, hide!” Jamie hissed, looking frantically for a hiding place.

Jack reacted immediately, as if he’d been in on the game from the start. He got to his feet, eyes scanning the area. “Come on,” he whispered, now with a playful smile on his face despite his obvious tiredness.

The two of them ran up the hill, just as Pippa’s flashlight shone upon the spot they’d just been standing.

“I heard you!” Pippa said gleefully.

“Come on!” Jack repeated excitedly, and Jamie tried to keep his laugh down.

They hid behind a small boulder, waited, and then continued. Jamie caught a glimpse of Pippa, but she seemed to have lost their trail.

“There!” Jamie said, and set towards a collection of bigger boulders by the mountainside. Jack followed, and they crouched behind the rocks, peeking out to see if Pippa was still coming closer. Jamie snickered quietly to himself when Pippa seemed to give up, hesitantly turning back.

Jack gave a small, surprised sound just then, and Jamie turned towards him to see that he was looking around himself with huge eyes. It was a strange thing, but Jamie didn’t pretend he understood everything Jack did anyway.

“What is it?” he asked.

“It’s here,” Jack said, but the way he said it made it sound like he was speaking to himself more than Jamie. “Right?”

Jamie frowned. “What is?”

Jack didn’t reply, but got to his feet, eyes scanning the area. Then his eyes fixed on one specific boulder, and he walked over to it. Jamie didn’t do anything but watch as Jack put his hands on it, and pushed. His face scrunched up as he strained himself, frost spreading from his fingertips and across the stone. Based on Jack’s build, Jamie would never have imagined he’d be strong – at least not physically – but to his own amazement, the boulder slowly gave away to Jack’s insistent pushing.

Now, Jamie didn’t understand what was going on, but since Jack seemed so determined, it had to be important. He got to his feet, darting over to him.

“It’s moving!” he said encouragingly.

Jack seemed somehow paler than usual, which got Jamie thinking that maybe encouraging him wasn’t the smartest thing to do, with the state that Jack was in. But before Jamie got to make up his mind about that, the ground underneath the boulder gave away, and the boulder toppled over with a dull thud, rolling down the hill a few meters before it hit another boulder and stopped.

“Woah…” Jamie muttered, awestruck. He was about to say how cool that was, but Jack was leaning quite heavily on his staff now, with a slight gleam on his forehead. “Are- Are you okay, Jack?”

“Yeah,” Jack answered, offering Jamie a reassuring smile. “Brute strength is more North’s… Ah, whatever. Look.” He pointed at the ground where the boulder had just been.

“What’s…” Jamie started, but trailed off once he realized what he was looking at. His eyes widened. “Is that a cave?”

“Yeah,” Jack said. He was frowning now, as if deep in thought. Then he nodded. “I’m gonna see what’s inside.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?” Jamie asked. “What if there’s a bear in there or something?”

“The cave’s been closed off for a long time,” Jack said, crouching down. “And either way, there’s nothing in there that will be able to hurt me. I’ll be back in a second.”

Jamie grabbed Jack’s wrist. “I want to come with you.”

Jack’s expression already told Jamie what the answer was going to be, but Jamie interrupted him by shining his flashlight in Jack’s face.

“How are you gonna see anything without this?” he asked triumphantly. “You can’t see in the dark, can you?” Jamie realized he didn’t know whether or not Jack Frost could see in the dark. It would make sense if he could, maybe. “Can you?” he asked, more sincerely this time.

Jack seemed thoughtful, as if he wasn’t sure if he could see in the dark either, but Jamie suspected he was thinking about something else, since he didn’t answer his question in the end. “Alright,” he then said with a lopsided smile. “I’ll need an adventure partner.”

Jamie grinned, and followed Jack as he crouched and crawled into the small opening. As soon as he was inside, he noticed how muffled the sounds from outside seemed to become, as if they were a lot further into the cave than they actually were. He wrote it off as nothing and shone the flashlight around.

The beginning of the cave was cramped, but it went much deeper than Jamie had anticipated, and downwards as well. It wasn’t steep, but it was still steep enough to make it seem creepy. Jack looked around with a strange expression on his face.

“Watch your step,” he told Jamie, holding out his hand to him. “It’s slippery.”

Jamie nodded and took Jack’s hand, and they carefully inched down into the cave together.

“What did you mean by ‘it’s here’?” Jamie asked. “Have you been here before?”

Jack hesitated for just a moment. “I think so,” he said. “I had a dream about it earlier. I think it was a memory.”

“A memory?” Jamie repeated blankly.

“Yeah, it’s… a long story,” Jack said with a small chuckle. “There’s some things that I can’t remember that well, and sometimes those memories come back to me. And I remember this cave, and…” He trailed off.

Jamie was about to answer, but then he pointed his flashlight at whatever had made Jack stop talking.

“It’s collapsed,” Jamie said.

Jack sighed. “Sure has,” he said, like he’d expected it. He still sounded disappointed though. “I guess our adventure stops-“

“There you are.”

Both Jack and Jamie jumped at the sudden voice, Jack automatically pulling Jamie closer to himself. Jamie pointed the flashlight towards the voice, and then gasped.

“The Easter Bunny!” he exclaimed, jumping away from Jack to give him an excited smile, before looking back at the Easter Bunny – or just Bunny, as Jack called him.

“Jamie?” Bunny said, sounding confused. Then his eyes turned to Jack, brows furrowing.

“Bunny!” Jack said with a laugh. “How’d you find me?”

“Followed the scent of spirit-influenza,” Bunny said dryly. “What are you- Is this what you were talking about? And what’s he...” He trailed off for a moment, looking back at Jamie. He offered him a small smile. “Long time no see, Jamie.”

Jamie grinned widely at him. “I found Jack while we were playing hide and seek,” he explained, knowing how Bunny’s question would have ended if he hadn’t trailed off. “I mean, not because he was playing with us, I just found him by chance. And I wanted to help him.”

He was quick to explain, because Bunny was wearing the look of someone who was about to go on a lecture, and Jamie knew he wouldn’t be able to do so if Jack didn’t take the blame. At least while Jamie was present.

Jack seemed to understand what Jamie was doing, elbowing him slightly with an amused smile on his face. “And Bunny, the fact that you’re here now must only be a sign, don’t you think?” he asked.

Bunny narrowed his eyes. “What are you playing at?”

Jack turned and patted the stones blocking their path. “There’s something on the other side,” he said. “I know there is.”

Jamie was confused too now, and very intrigued. “What is?” he asked.

“Jack…” Bunny started exasperatedly.

“Come on, Bunny,” Jack pleaded. “Just let me see, and then I promise I’ll come back to the Pole to drink some more of that awful stuff North cooked up or whatever. I just need to see if it’s still there first.”

“If what is still there?” Bunny asked, and though he still sounded annoyed by this whole ordeal, Jamie caught a glimpse of curiosity in his eyes. That could come in handy.

Jack shrugged. “I’m not sure,” he said. “But it seemed important.”

Jamie looked from Jack to Bunny and back again. The two of them seemed to have some sort of staring contest. Could Guardians communicate with their minds? Jamie made a mental note to ask Jack about that later.

Bunny heaved a sigh. “Alright, fine,” he said, tapping his foot on the ground. “You are such a pain in the-“

Jamie didn’t get to hear the end of that sentence before the ground suddenly gave away beneath him, but before he’d even gotten to panic about falling into a magical hole in the ground, gravity seemed to reverse, and he fell upwards – and then he was sitting on the ground again, now in a different place. He looked around himself with wide eyes, and saw that Jack looked almost equally as confused as he did. Bunny appeared a moment later, hopping out of another hole.

“Woah!” Jamie exclaimed. “That’s how you travel around so quickly? That’s so cool! Can you travel anywhere in world like that?”

Bunny chuckled. “’Course. Didn’t your sister tell you about her little adventure?”

Jamie blinked. “Wait- Is that what she meant by-“

“There.”

Both Jamie and Bunny turned towards Jack, who’d walked further into the cave… though Jamie’s attention was soon redirected when he noticed a pile of stones in the middle of the cave. A faint, blue light was seeping through the cracks.

“What is that?” Jamie asked, his voice coming out as an awed whisper.

Jack removed one stone and threw it onto the ground. Then, as he went to move another, it created a domino effect that got a bunch of the other stones fall to the ground as well. Jack jumped away to avoid the small avalanche, but his attention was soon pulled towards what had hid underneath the rocks.

There was a heavy silence. Jamie stared at the crystal, and didn’t need to look around himself to see that Jack and Bunny were doing the same. It was about the size of an apple, oval shaped with pointy ends, and gave off a dim glow. That alone made it clear there was something magical about it, but the fact that it was propped on top of some kind of podium made it look like someone had put it there for a reason.

Jamie felt pressure on his shoulder, and he glanced down to see Bunny’s paw there. He looked up again and realized he’d been inching towards the crystal.

“Jack,” Bunny said softly. “How did you know this was here?”

Jack didn’t immediately answer, his eyes fixed on the crystal. “I told you. It was a memory,” he said, taking a step closer to it. “There was a storm, and I had to find shelter somewhere. I found this cave, but… just as I spotted the crystal, the cave collapsed. I barely made it out. I just…” He frowned. “…Someone must have been in here to bury it, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s been in here for… at least 300 years.”

Jamie walked up to Jack’s side, ignoring Bunny’s gentle attempt at keeping him back. “What does it do?” he asked, leaning slightly closer to the crystal. Something about it felt… No, he didn’t know what it felt like – and the fact that he didn’t was a bit scary in itself. He grabbed onto Jack’s sweater, looking up at him. “Jack?”

Jack’s eyes seemed even bluer in the light of the crystal, and glassier too, like he was far away. But as Jamie said his name, he looked down at him, the frown on his face fading just a little. “I don’t know,” he said. “But I feel like…” He looked up at the crystal again. “…like…”

“Jack,” Bunny said warily.

Jack let out a small breath, and Jamie turned his eyes to him just in time to see his expression go slack in shock. “Emily?” he whispered and reached out.

“Jack, don’t!” Bunny shouted, but it was too late.

Jack touched the crystal, and in the same second, Jamie saw the world turn to dust around them, darkness swallowing them whole.

 

 

Jack didn’t know what he was seeing. At first there was the glow of the crystal, enwrapping him and strangling him, yet elevating him at the same time. There was wind in his hair, but it never made it to his lungs. There were colors, yet it was dark, and there was sound yet excruciating silence. He wasn’t sure what he felt and what he didn’t feel except one thing: Jamie’s hand, clutching his hoodie.

Jack crouched down and pulled Jamie close to his chest. He needed to protect him- Protect him from what? Jack didn’t know. He couldn’t think, he could only do. There were voices, sounds, but he couldn’t make out any of it. There was nothing at all. He was flying. No- He was falling. Down, down, down…

He thought he saw stars in the same blue as the crystal, twinkling among the flickering images.

Something grabbed his hood and pulled him backwards. He landed harshly on the cold, hard ground, and he opened his eyes.

“Jack, come on!”

It was Bunny. Jack stared at him. He had the strange feeling that he hadn’t seen him in a very long time.

And then he looked back at the crystal, or rather what once was a crystal. The podium was further away now from him now. Jack didn’t know why he was suddenly in a far corner of the cave, watching as something grew from where the crystal had been. Something dark, flickering, never assuming any discernable form – and in the midst of it was a couple of ice blue lights.

“Jack…”

Jack tore his eyes away from the thing at the sound of Jamie’s weak voice. Jamie was staring at it as well, but he looked like he was struggling to stay awake.

“Let’s go,” Bunny said, and tapped twice on the ground with his foot.

This time, Jack was prepared. He held Jamie close to himself, clenching his eyes shut as Bunny transported them elsewhere.

Fresh, cold air was the next thing that met them, and Jack opened his eyes when he heard a faint rumble. They were back in the forest, but far away from the cave. The sky was filled with stars, but that wasn’t possible, was it? They’d only been in there for a few minutes!

“Look,” Bunny said, and pointed towards the source of the ruckus.

It was hard to spot against the night sky, but Jack was almost grateful for it. It was like a shadow snuffing out the light of the stars, stretching and growing and shifting. Jack didn’t understand what he was looking at, and he was running out of time to figure it out too. He saw it by the way darkness creeped into the corners of his eyes, and how his body seemed to become heavier. He tried calling Bunny’s name, but was unsure if he actually did. His body sagged sideways, and all he could focus on was keeping Jamie close, before his head hit the snow and darkness enveloped him once more.

 

Chapter Text

A voice was what brought Jamie out of his sleep. Multiple voices, actually. They sounded familiar, yet he instantly knew it wasn’t his mother or Sophie, or any of his friends. He couldn’t remember where he was. He couldn’t even remember going to sleep, but even so, he didn’t feel scared or anything, because although he couldn’t immediately place the voices, he knew them as kind voices. He didn’t want to open his eyes just yet.

“…someone must’ve been in there to cover it up. Some kind of fairy, maybe.”

“But why?”

“Well that’s obvious, isn’t it! You heard what happened when-“

“Bunny, keep your voice down.”

“We need to find it. The- whatever it was.”

“And do what? The thing looked like- like… Well, it didn’t look like anything, but catching it would be like trying to catch air with your hands!”

“And what about Jamie?”

Jamie held his breath. Suddenly, as the last voice spoke, all the other voices fell into place. That was Jack, and the other voices belonged to Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa. Were they in his room again? Jamie wanted to open his eyes now, but his curiosity made him keep them shut.

“Jamie will be fine, Jack,” Tooth said softly. “I- I’m not sure what happened, but he just passed out. He’ll wake up soon enough, no harm done. Right, Sandy?”

There was a moment of silence, followed by Jack’s shaky sigh.

“No harm done?” he asked with a joyless chuckle. “I could’ve… I should’ve…”

He trailed off, and then there was silence again. Jamie waited, then dared to quirk one eye open.

Jack was sitting in a chair in front of him, but his attention was directed to Sandy, whose dreamsand was flickering above his head to form rapidly changing images. Jamie couldn’t say he understood much of it, but the Guardians seemed to.

“I had a dream about it,” Jack then said. “It was a memory. The first time I saw it, the cave collapsed before I got close to it.”

Sandy frowned, before the picture of what might be a rainbow, followed by a question mark appeared over his head.

“Blue,” Bunny and Jack replied in unison.

“And-“ Jack started, but stopped himself as if he regretted saying anything. The Guardians gave him questioning looks, and Jamie saw his lower lip tremble a bit when he spoke again: “I saw something within it. Images. I saw someone in there that I… I used to know.” The last part came out flatly, and it was clear he didn’t want to elaborate on that.

Sandy scratched his chin, then nudged North. A golden book appeared over his head, and North nodded.

“You think you can find it in the library?” Tooth asked, her hands clasped anxiously together.

Sandy gave a determined nod. It was clear they were about to leave.

Jamie pushed himself up, and the movement caught Jack’s eye, as he quickly turned around.

“Jamie!” he breathed out in relief, sliding out of his chair to kneel beside the couch. The other Guardians stopped in their tracks as well, all their eyes fixed on Jamie with obvious worry. Jack too, but he tried for a smile, as if Jamie hadn’t just seen him absolutely dejected just seconds ago. “How do you feel?”

Jamie didn’t immediately answer, because he was distracted by something else. Now that he was sitting, and Jack wasn’t partly obscuring his vision anymore, Jamie could see most of the room. The room was all built in dark wood, and there was a big fireplace a few meters away, with some embers still glowing in the ashes. But there were Christmas decorations on the walls, even though Christmas was long over.

And all the Guardians were here.

Jamie felt his mouth fall open. Surely, this wasn’t…

“Where are we?” he asked, looking back at Jack, and then to the other Guardians, and then to Jack again.

Jack’s smile turned a little shaky then, as if he was holding back a laugh. “Where do you think we are?” he asked back.

Jamie started at him, before he threw off the heavy blankets he was covered with and got up.

“Oh, careful,” Jack said, moving out of the way.

“I feel fine,” Jamie replied distractedly, and looked around. He gave a shocked gasp as he took in the rest of the room, spotting some kind of… globe with glowing lights on it. Not only that, the globe was hovering in mid-air, in the center of a gigantic open space. Jamie darted over to the edge of the balcony they were on, standing on his toes to look over the railing.

He couldn’t believe his eyes. He even tried pinching himself, but he was definitely awake, and he really was here, in- in-

Jamie looked up at Jack as he came to stand beside him. “Santa’s workshop,” he said in an awed whisper.

Jack’s smile was bright with fond amusement. “A bit different than you imagined, maybe?” he asked.

Jamie knew his mouth was hanging open, but he couldn’t help it. “Are we at the North Pole?” he asked, now much louder than he’d intended. “For real?”

“For real,” Jack confirmed with a laugh.

No way,” Jamie said, bringing a hand to his head. “Am I dreaming? No, I already pinched myself. I’m not dreaming.” He turned around, and saw the other Guardians talking quietly among themselves while still keeping an eye on Jack and Jamie. Jamie’s face split into a grin and he ran back over to them. “You’re all here!” he exclaimed, unable to contain his excitement. Then he remembered something else. “Wait. Why am I here?”

“Uh-“ North started, looking to the other Guardians.

Tooth glanced at North too, before she flew closer to Jamie. “Don’t you remember, Jamie?” she asked gently. “What happened before you got here?”

Jamie looked back at her, his smile giving away to confusion. He faintly registered Jack coming up beside him again. He frowned. “Before…” he started, glancing at the others as if they knew the answer. When his eyes landed on Bunny, he realized that maybe they did. He, Bunny and Jack… Jamie had been playing hide and seek, and Jack… Jack was sick? He looked up at Jack.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

Jack just blinked, as if Jamie had spoken another language. “How do I feel?” he asked back.

“You’re sick,” Jamie said.

“Oh, that,” Jack said, smiling faintly. “I’m fine, Jamie. Don’t worry about that.”

“Are you sure?” Jamie probed. He didn’t want Jack to pretend just because Jamie was younger or anything like that. Even if he did look a little healthier now than he had earlier.

When Jack nodded reassuringly, Jamie pouted a little and looked down at the floor. “Wait…” he started. “There was the cave, and then…” His eyes widened, eyes snapping up to Jack and Bunny. “What about the crystal? What happened to it?”

North smiled. “See? He is completely fine,” he said, then winced a little as Bunny tried to subtly elbow him.

“Jack,” Tooth said, glancing once at Sandy. “Maybe you should update him, while we…” She trailed off.

“You mean I get to skip out on reading a bunch of boring old books?” Jack asked with a snort, before he elbowed Jamie. “If you’re sure you feel fine, why don’t I show you around, huh?”

The thought of seeing everything Jack had ever told Jamie about Santa’s workshop was more than enough to make him forget about his questions. “Yes!” he said, clapping his hands together. Jack grinned and led the way.

They had just rounded a corner to go down a set of stairs when a ball of blue and green sprang in front of Jack’s face, making him stop in his tracks.

“Oh, hello,” he laughed. “Want to come with us?”

There was a series of chittering, before a tooth fairy came to fly in front of Jamie as well. Jamie straightened his back a little. Back during Easter, he hadn’t had much of a chance to talk to the tooth fairies – or at least attempt to communicate with them. Jack had assured him they were nice, though.

“Hello, uh-“ he started.                                       

“Baby Tooth,” Jack said helpfully.

“Baby Tooth,” Jamie said, smiling at the fairy in a way he hoped wasn’t too uncertain.

Baby Tooth’s chirping sounded happy, at least, and Jamie let out a small, nervous laugh, his eyes darting between Jack and Baby Tooth.

“Uh- I don’t… understand you,” he said apologetically.

Baby Tooth gave out a soft chirping sound, smiled and shrugged, then flew over to sit on Jack’s shoulder. Jamie took it she didn’t mind.

“I didn’t at first either,” Jack said as they continued downstairs. “But they’ve been pretty adamant about making me understand their language.”

Seeing the way Baby Tooth smiled up at Jack somehow made it easy to guess why that was.

“Do you understand them now?” Jamie asked, looking curiously at the fairy.

Jack grimaced slightly. “Well… There’s been a few misunderstandings here and there, but… they’re pretty great at teaching languages. Not surprising, considering Tooth’s omnilingualism and all.”

“Omni-what?”

“She can communicate in every language,” Jack replied as they walked out of the corridor. “Not sure why the rest of us doesn’t have that- Hey, wait up!”

Jamie completely forgot about his manners as they walked out into the workshop, where yetis and elves were all working tirelessly. One would’ve thought they’d slow down now that Christmas was over, but it didn’t seem like it. Well, for all Jamie knew, this was nothing compared to how busy it would be right before Christmas.

“Do they really need to prepare all year?” Jamie asked, awestruck. “I thought you said the yetis did the work? But the elves-“ He stopped talking when he saw one of the elves jump from a tall shelf with an obviously faulty parachute, and promptly fell onto the floor with a quiet thump and a loud jingle. Jamie cringed. “Oh…”

Jack snorted and walked on. “They’re fine,” he assured him. “And yeah, it seems they do. Sounds exhausting to work all year round, but it looks like they all enjoy doing what they’re doing.”

Baby Tooth made an approving sound.

“Wow… Bunny must be really busy now then! It’s not that long until Easter!”

“I think he said something about perishables at one point, so all the work has to be done a few days before Easter.”

Jamie stared at him. “No way!”

Jack smiled lopsidedly, before he rolled his eyes a little. “But don’t bring that up around either of them. They bicker like little kids about it. No offense.”

Jamie elbowed him, and Jack laughed.

They walked around the workshop for a long time. Jamie didn’t know for how long, because neither he or Jack were wearing a watch, but either way Jamie didn’t feel the need to check the time. He didn’t want this to end; he was in Santa’s workshop! No matter how much time he spent here with Jack, trying out the toys, speaking to the elves and yetis – or trying to at least – and just taking it all in, it was hard to believe that he wasn’t just dreaming.

Baby Tooth flew around them, making happy-sounding noises whenever Jamie tried to speak to her. Jamie didn’t understand a word or sound, but Jack worked – somewhat – as a translator. Sometimes she would disappear, and upon asking why, Jack said the tooth fairies were always busy collecting teeth and Baby Tooth was probably checking in with Tooth every now and then in case she needed her help. Jamie was astonished that he even got to hear about this stuff. He felt like the luckiest kid in the entire world.

The only thing that brought him out of his euphoric state was the fact that every time Jack thought Jamie wasn’t looking, he stared into the air with tired, worried eyes. Jamie tried not to think too much of it, because it wasn’t the first time he’d caught Jack like that. He’d already concluded that Jack hid a bunch of thoughts and worries beneath bright laughs and mischievous grins. It just never seemed the right time to bring it up.

But this was different. Not only had Jack just been – or was he still? – sick, but Jamie still didn’t know what had happened after they’d found that crystal. Obviously it was something important, because otherwise they wouldn’t have brought Jamie to the North Pole. And it wouldn’t have made the other Guardians sound so grim while they thought Jamie was sleeping.

Tooth had told Jack to update Jamie on what had happened. And now that Baby Tooth had disappeared for a little while, and despite how much Jamie just wanted to explore the workshop, there was no better time than this one.

“Jack,” he said, putting down the mechanical dragon toy he’d been looking at, before turning around.

Jack was holding a Rubik’s Cube with a deep frown on his face, balancing his staff in the corner of his arm while he tried to solve it, but he looked up when he heard his name. “Jamie,” he said with an inquiring smile.

Always smiling.

Jamie pursed his lips. “What happened back there?” he asked before he could change his mind.

Jack’s smile melted a bit, and he averted his eyes. The same expression he got when he thought no one was watching creeped onto his face. Jamie wondered if he was aware. Then he looked back at Jamie and nodded for them to continue walking. “It’s a bit hard to explain,” he started.

Jamie walked up to his side, looking up at him expectantly.

Jack twirled his staff in his hand. “What do you remember of the cave, Jamie?” he then asked.

“I remember the crystal,” Jamie said. He frowned as he tried to recall what happened next, but the only image in his head was of the crystal, shimmering beautifully, almost hauntingly in the center of the cavern. “There was… something weird about it, right? When I looked at it, I think… I think I tried to walk closer to it, but I didn’t mean to. It just happened.” He looked up at Jack again, silently asking if that sounded right.

Jack’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed, and he nodded. “Yeah, I felt like that too,” he said quietly. They came to a stop by a table filled with half-finished toys that seemed to have been abandoned, and Jack sat down at the bench beside it, then scooted over to make space for Jamie. He seemed hesitant. “I think- No, I don’t think,” he started, shaking his head. “I owe you an apology.”

That wasn’t what Jamie had expected. “For what?” he asked.

“For not thinking of the consequences when I let you come with me into that cave,” he said, sending Jamie a sideways look, before he turned his eyes to the ceiling, looking up to the several floors of working elves and yetis. “I knew about the crystal, and I knew there was something strange about it. I should’ve known it might’ve been dangerous.”

“But I wanted to come with you,” Jamie argued. It felt wrong to see Jack this dejected. “That’s not your fault!”

Jack smiled faintly, but then shook his head a little. He took a deep breath and let it out in an equally as deep sigh. “When I touched the crystal, I- You were holding onto me,” he explained. “And after that… I honestly don’t know what happened. I don’t know what I saw. And when I came back to myself, you were unconscious.” Jack turned to Jamie at that, wearing an expression that was somewhat inquisitive, as if Jamie was hiding something. “So we brought you back here to make sure you weren’t hurt.”

Jamie frowned. He thought back to the conversation he’d overheard before the Guardians had known he was awake. Something about finding… something. Catching air with their hands. Was there something Jack wasn’t telling him?

“I feel fine,” Jamie said, his voice coming out a bit sharper than he’d intended. Jack seemed to notice, and Jamie raised his head and straightened his back. “I’m stronger than I look.”

Jack let out a slightly surprised chuckle at that. “I know you are,” he said. “We’ve all seen that.”

The certainty in his voice made Jamie’s cheeks feel warm, and he fought the smile trying to force itself onto his face. “Well… you shouldn’t look all sad about this then,” he mumbled, lowering his gaze again. “I’ve been… missing the adventure and all. Even though last Easter was scary… it was still fun in the end.”

Jack was quiet for a few seconds, and Jamie glanced up to see that he was smiling fondly at him. He reached over and ruffled Jamie’s hair.

“You have a warrior’s soul,” he told him. “That’s what North would say at least.”

Jamie felt his heart swell then. “Do you really think so?” he asked.

“Think so? I know so,” Jack said confidently. “You remind me a lot of…” He trailed off.

Jamie waited for him to continue, but he never did. “Of who?” he probed.

Jack had a strange smile on his face. He was quiet for a couple of seconds, but just as he opened his mouth to speak, someone else beat him to it:

“Jack!”

Both of them started at North’s sudden, booming voice echoing from somewhere above them. Jack got to his feet and walked over to the railing, Jamie close behind. They looked up to see North leaning over the railing five floors above them.

“North?” Jack yelled back.

North’s eyes snapped to them, an urgent look on his face.

“Did it see you?” he asked.

Jack frowned, glancing down at Jamie as if he held the answer. Jamie just shrugged, and Jack looked up again.

“What?”

“The shadow! Did you see its eyes?”

Jack still looked confused. “Uh… Hold on, Jamie,” he said, and kicked off the ground, evidently about to fly up to where North was.

But he never got that far.

Jamie registered the noise before anything else. Sudden, dangerous and so incredibly loud. Next thing he knew, the colorful workshop was flooded with debris and snow, and a shock of ice cold air. The force pushed Jack onto the floor, and Jamie stumbled backwards, before tripping over his own feet. His first coherent thought was that one of the elves must’ve really messed up this time; half the workshop was torn to pieces.

Yetis were shouting through the noise, running away from the gaping hole in the building. Jamie couldn’t tear his eyes away from it. He tried to understand what it was he was seeing, but the longer he tried, the more he wished he could just blame it on the elves – but even they couldn’t create this much destruction.

There was something clawing its way into the workshop, tearing down walls and floors and thousands of toys as if it was a playhouse. Something huge. Something dark. Something… Something…

And do what? The thing looked like- like… Well, it didn’t look like anything, but catching it would be like trying to catch air with your hands!

Suddenly, Jamie couldn’t see the thing anymore, and he belatedly realized it was because Jack had jumped in front of him. In the next second, Jack lifted him up and then they were flying. They landed on the other side of the workshop and hid behind a wall, Jack’s eyes wide as he glanced back at the thing.

“Jack,” Jamie croaked.

Jack’s gaze snapped back to him. He looked momentarily lost, before he reached out and put his hands on Jamie’s shoulders. “We’re gonna be fine,” he told him, and though the words seemed empty when paired with his panicked eyes, Jamie found himself believing in him.

Their attention was pulled away when they heard someone yelling: Bunny and Tooth, the former roaring out what sounded like a war cry. Jamie couldn’t see either of them.

“What do we do?” he hissed to Jack. “They’re in danger!”

Jack gritted his teeth, his brows furrowed as his brain evidently searched for the best plan of action – at least that’s what Jamie hoped. But before he got the time to figure it out, his eyes snapped up at the sound of the panicked tweeting of a tooth fairy.

Baby Tooth appeared in front of Jack’s face, and his eyes went wide as she spoke to him. Then he gave a weak nod. He got to his feet and helped Jamie up as well.

“North has a plan,” he told him, and despite it all, managed to give Jamie a reassuring smile. “Follow me.”

Jamie wasn’t able to return the smile. “What is that thing?” he asked, refusing to let go of Jack’s hand after he’d gotten to his feet. “It- It destroyed the-“

“I don’t know,” Jack said, before crouching down. “We’ll have to figure that out later. Come on, climb onto my back.”

Jamie didn’t need to be told twice. He hooked his arms around Jack’s neck and his legs around his waist. Jack used one arm to hold Jamie up and the other to hold his staff, his knuckles white from gripping it so tightly.

Baby Tooth flickered back and forth in front of them, urging them to follow. Jack peeked out from their hiding place, and Jamie decided he didn’t want to see whether or not the coast was clear; he clenched his eyes shut and pressed his face into Jack’s back.

Jamie knew they were flying when he felt the wind surging past them. The rumbling and crashing and the sound of the other Guardians fighting came slightly closer – as well as a chilling howl-like sound that Jamie hoped was just the harsh wind of the North Pole, and not the monster. Jamie clung tighter to Jack. His eyes snapped open in surprise when he felt a surge in his stomach and gave a choked yelp when he realized they were falling down the center of the workshop, the ground floor coming towards them at a terrifying speed. But just before hitting the ground, Jack slowed down, and landed with a slight stumble.

Was it his imagination, or did Jack’s breathing seem labored? Jamie had seen him perform more impressive, and more dangerous feats than this before. He’d seen him get shot down from the sky by Pitch. He’d seen him and the Guardians fight against Pitch and his Fearlings without breaking a sweat. Could they even break a sweat?

Jamie’s forehead pressed against Jack’s neck. It was burning hot.

But there was nothing he could do about that right now. Jack was already bolting through the room on foot, taking cover beneath the second floor of the workshop. He stopped momentarily.

“The entrance is blocked,” he said.

Baby Tooth answered with a series of frantic chirps.

Jack’s breaths came out in short huffs. He nodded once. “I see it,” he said, set into a bolt, but then had to fling himself to the side as the floor above them collapsed. Jack stumbled and then tripped over a fallen beam, falling onto his side. Jamie tried catching himself, but the impact sent a shock of pain up his arm.

“Jamie!” Jack scrambled up, coming to Jamie’s aid. “Are you okay?”

Jack wasn’t holding his staff, Jamie noted. He saw it lying a few meters away from them, in the wreckage of wood and broken toys. Then Jamie looked up, and saw that they were dangerously close to the thing. He could see the Guardians up there, fighting it the best they could, but how could they possibly win against something like that? Something that didn’t seem to have physical form? From second to second, its shape looked different than before, like flipping through a picture book. There was only one thing constant.

A couple of lights.

North’s voice played in the back of Jamie’s head: Did you see its eyes?

Before he knew what he was doing, Jamie bolted forward, ignoring Jack’s question and his followed protest. He threw himself forward and grabbed Jack’s staff, before running back to him. Jack’s eyes were wide with disbelief, but they didn’t have time to speak: The thing had seen them. Jamie was sure of it.

Jack grabbed Jamie’s hand and then ran through the rubble as fast as they could, just as an explosion sounded behind them, right where they’d just been standing. The force sent them tumbling forwards again, but Jack quickly scrambled to his feet and pulled Jamie up, making Jamie fly through the air for a second. They darted through the ruins of the workshop, half running, half floating, though Jack seemed to grow weaker by the second. Baby Tooth seemed to notice it as well, judging by the pleading tone of her chirping, sounding almost as if she was praying.

The thing continued to wreak havoc around them, and if it hadn’t been for his faith in Jack, Jamie would’ve though they were done for. He couldn’t even remember exactly how, but at one point they’d found a hallway and was now bolting towards a set of steep stars. Jack still held Jamie’s hand, and instead of running down them, he reached down and held Jamie around his chest with one arm, jumping to the base of the stairs.

Not once did they look back, even as another deafening crash resonated through the building, making the walls shake.

Jack pushed a door open and they burst into a chilly room. Jamie almost stopped moving upon seeing what was waiting for them inside.

“Hurry!” Santa – No, North – urgently called, from where he was sitting behind the reins of his huge, mighty sleigh. Of course Jamie remembered it from last Easter. Were they really going to ride it?

“What about the others?” Jack asked as they ran up to the sleigh. Jack hoisted Jamie into it but didn’t immediately follow. “Where’s Bunny? Why aren’t we using the Globe?”

North didn’t reply, but instead grabbed Jack and hoisted him into the sleigh as well, as if he weighed nothing. Jamie gave a yelp as North ordered his reindeer forward, and they lunged into some kind of ice tunnel. Despite it all, Jamie couldn’t help a slightly hysteric laugh as he clutched onto the side of the sleigh, his stomach surging as they dove downwards.

“It saw you use Bunny’s tunnels,” North shouted over the ruckus. “We cannot use that nor the Snow Globe until we are far enough away from the thing.”

“The thing?” Jack yelled back. “Do you even know what it is?”

“Sort of!” North replied.

Jack and Jamie got eye-contact then, Jamie looking confused and Jack looking both worried and slightly exasperated.

Just then, the tunnel ended, and they shot into the cold, open air. The North Pole shimmered beneath them, and would’ve looked grand and majestic, hadn’t it been for the thing looking like a huge storm of smoke or mist or shadows. It seemed to slip in and out of reality, like a mirage. Only the destruction it made was evidence that whatever it was, it was very, very real.

Jack jumped over to North and grabbed his shoulder. “What about the others?” he asked, and his voice was so hushed that Jamie almost didn’t hear the way it wavered with anxiety.

“They are holding it back,” North replied grimly. “We have to get Jamie to safety first. We think it might not find us in the Tooth Palace.”

Baby Tooth made a sound just then, and Jamie got a feeling she had just exclaimed what Jack hissed half a second later:

You think?

The sound of wreckage and fighting was quickly growing faint behind them, but Jamie didn’t dare look.

“It is a fragment, Jack,” North said. “Of something big. Bigger than any of us. Bigger than anything we know. It is not spirit or sprite, it is just a force that knows nothing but hunger.”

“A fragment of what?” Jack asked.

“Of time,” North said. “Ripped apart and imprisoned in crystals. Nobody has seen them in centuries. But it saw you, back then. It marked you.”

Jack’s mouth was hanging open, his eyes wide with fear and disbelief. “How do we defeat it?” he asked.

Somehow, Jamie already knew the answer.

“We cannot,” North said. “We can only trap it again.”

Jack stared at him, before his eyes turned to Jamie. In his state of panic, Jamie saw the guilt in his expression as clear as day. Jack had dragged Jamie into this, was what he was thinking. Jamie was sure of it, and he hated it.

But before he got to say anything, there was a vibration in the air, lasting only a quarter of a second before something crashed into the sleigh. Jamie’s head knocked against the wood, his vision going white as ringing filled his ears. He gasped for air, and fought through the haze that filled his head. He couldn’t pass out now!

And he got his wish. His hearing came back first, but none of what he heard made any sense. There was a kind of rushing, and shouting, and something else – something Jamie had never heard before and couldn’t compare with anything else. All he knew was that it was dangerous.

And then his vision came back. Blurry, but even so he realized what was going on. The white terrain of the North Pole was coming closer at an alarming speed. The rushing in his ears was the wind whipping at his face and through his hair as he fell. The shouting had been Jack calling his name, but Jamie couldn’t see him. And the otherworldly sound…

Jack!” he cried, turning around in the air. He didn’t want to look at it. He didn’t want to see how the thing was coming closer, even faster than the ground below. He didn’t want to see the two lights again – its eyes, watching him, staring at him, as if it was waiting for him. Instead he looked up, and saw Jack, wild determination in his eyes as he fell after Jamie, holding his hands out to grab him.

It was too late. Jamie knew it. He wondered if Jack did.

Jack came close enough to pull Jamie into a tight embrace, but the dark flickering was all around them now. Jamie could hear something more, something other than the unexplainable sound. It sounded almost like a room full of people, talking, yelling, laughing – somehow distant and near and the same time.

Jack gave a desperate shout, like a war-cry, and ice shot out from his staff. Jamie heard it crack and shatter, a gust of freezing air whipping against his neck. He closed his eyes, and they fell.

 

 

In moments like these, time seemed to pass in both slow-motion and twice the normal speed at the same time. It was the same when Jack had witnessed Pitch’s dark arrow pierce through Sandy. It was the same when his sister had reached out with her hand in desperation as the ice broke beneath Jack’s weight.

And now it was the same, as Jamie fell through the air, falling not only towards the ground, but also right into the grasps of the shadowy being – the time fragment, as North had called it. Jack didn’t have it in himself to think anything was too late. He just had to try.

And then he had Jamie in his arms, but as he tried riding the wind away from the time fragment, he found himself unable to do so. They weren’t just falling – they were being sucked into it, like a black hole. Jamie was clinging to Jack for dear life, and there was nothing Jack could do to save them.

With one last, desperate cry, Jack tried attacking it, but his ice shattered and turned to dust as soon as it had materialized.

And they fell.

And finally, as the howling winds of the North Pole was replaced with the same noisy silence Jack had heard when he’d touched the crystal, he could think nothing else but, “it’s too late.”

What too late meant, he didn’t know. He realized he’d closed his eyes, but light flickered around them, shining through his eyelids. He had a faint feeling that they were moving, but he didn’t know to where, nor how fast. Were they dead? Jack felt Jamie’s small form in his arms, and he decided that they weren’t. They couldn’t be, because he had to protect Jamie.

The noise came to a crescendo, and Jack tightened his hold around Jamie, because that was all he could do. A violent shudder shook his body, and even as he felt like it was burning up, he didn’t let go. Whatever happened to them now, he’d never let go.

And then there was cold.

Jack gave a rasping gasp, stumbling forward as his feet suddenly made contact with the ground. He fell sideways, landing in soft snow. The cold was welcoming, and yet there was something different about it. Jack’s eyes shot open.

“Jamie!” he croaked, leaning back to look at him.

Jamie didn’t answer. His eyes were closed, and his body was limp. Jack forced himself to keep calm. It helped that the same thing had happened the last time they’d encountered the time fragment. Still, Jack was quick to put his fingers against Jamie’s pulse. He held his breath.

…And let it out in relief.

Though Jamie was just unconscious, they had to find somewhere warm, and quick. The cold seemed biting, even for Jack’s standards. But when he looked around, he didn’t see the North Pole. He didn’t see any sign of the time fragment, nor of anything else. At all.

All he saw was a white winter landscape, mostly blocked out by thickly falling snow. The wind was strong too, making the snowflakes fly into Jack’s eyes. He shook his head, trying to will the snowflakes out of his way. They’d never bothered him before, so why now?

He tried getting to his feet, hoisting Jamie up before he picked up his staff – but he only managed to walk three steps before his body crumbled to the ground again, the world spinning around him.

You’re sick! Jamie’s voice echoed in Jack’s head.

“No…” he muttered, and pushed himself up again, bringing Jamie closer.

Just then, he heard the faintest chirping sound. He stopped moving, and looked sluggishly around. He wasn’t sure if his vision was blurry or if everything seemed hazy due to the storm. A blob of blues and greens appeared in front of him, and Jack decided it was definitely his vision.

“Baby Tooth…” he rasped, struggling to form any words, much less a full sentence. “Where… What…”

Baby Tooth flew forward and touched Jack’s cheek, and Jack closed his eyes. She chirped, but Jack couldn’t understand her in this state. She sounded far away.

And then her touch was gone.

Jack opened his eyes and realized he’d fallen again. Baby Tooth was gone. Had she ever been there? He pulled Jamie’s limp body closer, covering him as much as he could from the snow. He had to get up. He couldn’t fall asleep now. He had to find shelter.

It was so cold. A different cold than the one he’d felt in the dream, but close. This seemed… sharper. Uncontrollable. More dangerous, and if he felt like that, then Jamie was in grave danger. He had to get up. He had to, but his body wouldn’t move.

“Jamie,” he tried to say, but his voice came out as a soundless whisper. He tightened his arms around him...

…but he was gone.

Jack’s heart gave a terrified thump, and his eyes shot open, his body springing into action. “Jamie!” he yelled, but his voice was hoarse and weak.

And then he froze.

There was no snow. No biting cold. Cold, yes, but it didn’t feel life-threatening anymore. He was sitting in a bed, he realized. Confounded, he looked around, searching for a clue as to where he was. His first thought was that North’s yetis had kidnapped him again; maybe they’d brought him to this house, or… hut? to hide from the time fragment. What happened to the Tooth Palace, then?

His body ached, he realized. He hadn’t felt this weak since Pitch had snapped his staff in half, if not worse. But he ignored it for now; he had more important things to worry about. He looked around the room. He was lying on the floor on some type of fur, with a bunch of other fur skins thrown onto the floor beside him. In front of him was a fireplace, with the only traces of a fire being the faintly glowing embers in the ashes. And at other side, someone else was lying on the floor, huddled up in multiple blankets.

“Jamie,” he said with relief when he spotted Jamie’s face peeking out from the blankets. Jack crawled over to him, hesitated, but then carefully placed a hand on Jamie’s forehead. He was warm. A fever, perhaps, but at least he was alive.

The fact that there had even been another possibility made Jack’s stomach churn. He cursed under his breath, running a hand through his hair. What had he gotten them into?

What had he gotten them into?

He looked back to where he’d woken up and realized that the blankets on the floor beside the fur skin had probably been draped on top of him initially. He supposed he’d been trashing around in his sleep.

But that meant that… unless Jack had some type of amnesia, someone had put him there and draped those blankets over him. Yet he didn’t recognize this place, this… hut? He didn’t know what to call it. It was made of wood and looked old, yet not decrepit. There were objects like pots and cauldrons and woven baskets in one corner, as well as different kinds of flowers and herbs stored on the tables and in the multiple wooden shelves… Did a witch live here or something? A spirit of some sort?

Well it had to be a spirit, or else they wouldn’t have been able to see Jack.

Jack placed a hand on his forehead and let out a shaky breath. “Alright…” he whispered to himself. Thinking out loud was easier sometimes. “Weird hut. Someone I don’t know brought us here. Or do I know them? Maybe it’s one of North’s hiding places? He does have a thing for wooden houses, doesn’t he? But…”

But they’d been running from the time fragment. The sleigh had been knocked over, and Jamie had fallen. With a painful twinge in his gut, Jack realize d that he didn’t know what had happened with North after the impact. And then… What had happened then? There’d been snow, and there’d been… somehow, cold. Jack hadn’t been able to stand, much less fly. Had this all happened because Jack was sick? Would he have been able to fly away from the time fragment if he’d had all his strength?

And then he’d woken up here, covered in fur on a bed without a mattress, with no memory of getting there. Aside from the Guardians, Jack couldn’t remember any spirit who liked him enough to come to his aid. Jack couldn’t remember any spirit who liked him enough to do that, but maybe they’d done it for Jamie… though judging by the snow storm, it was most likely some kind of winter spirit, and those were never friendly.

And Jamie was unconscious. It was Jack’s fault.

As much as he’d liked to beat himself up for that, his train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a- a- What the hell was that? Jack jumped to his feet in alarm at what sounded like some kind of screech from outside. It sounded like a wild animal, but not anything Jack had ever encountered. He looked around, before spotting a door at the other end of the room. Ignoring the way his body protested and begged for him to lay back down, he walked over to the door, and pushed it open.

He’d expected to be met by a winter landscape, but that was not the case. Instead, the sun shone right into his eyes, momentarily blinding him. He covered his face with his hand and peeked out from underneath it.

The door led out to some kind of balcony with a magnificent view of the ocean. With more questions piling up in his head than answers – in fact, he didn’t seem to be getting any answers at all – he inched towards the edge of the balcony to see how far from the ground they were… but before he got that far, something huge rose up in front of him, rising in the air on huge, red, leathery wings. Jack only caught a glimpse of its huge, yellow eyes, before he was scrambling backwards in blind panic.

His foot caught onto something and he fell backwards, his head colliding with something solid. His vision went white for a moment. Even so, he kept crawling backwards, until his back was pressed against the wooden wall. When his vision unblurred, the dragon was gone.

Was he losing it? No. He wasn’t crazy. He didn’t see things that weren’t there, but how could there have been a dragon?

On the other hand, he’d seen things that were just as weird as a dragon, if not weirder. Hell, he was something just as weird as a dragon in most people’s eyes. People didn’t believe he existed either, yet here he was – were dragons the same?

No way. No way.

Jack jumped when there was a screeching sound again, but it was further away this time, coming from somewhere below him. He didn’t move. He took a few deep breaths, looking up into the sky.

If he crawled over to the edge of the balcony, would he look down and see that dragon again? And if he did, what would he do? He shook his head a little.

“Come on, Jack,” he muttered. “You’ve been through weirder things than this. Yetis, talking warrior rabbits, nightmare horses, the list just keeps on going. Dragons… No big deal.” He shakily pushed himself onto his knees and started crawling towards the edge. “No big deal… No big deal at all.”

He craned his neck once he got to the edge, peeking down.

There was a… village. A strange, colorful village, but Jack did not have the ability to focus on anything else except the fact that it wasn’t just one dragon. In fact, there were so many dragons that Jack found it weird that he hadn’t heard them earlier. To be fair, this hut was seemingly perched on top of a very tall mountain, but still… dragons.

What kind of spirit lived here? Not anyone that Jack had ever heard of, that was for sure.

“Dragons,” he muttered, nodding a little to himself. Then he let out an incredulous laugh, rolling away from the edge as his muscles gradually began giving out. The initial adrenaline was quickly subsiding, and after that whole ordeal, he felt almost worse than what he had earlier. But at least he’d seen dragons, so it was probably worth it.

…It took him a few long seconds before he realized that this answered none of his questions. With a small jolt, he forced his aching body into action, staggering to his feet. He needed to find his staff, and he needed to wake Jamie. He needed to find out that they were safe before he could marvel at the fact that dragons apparently existed in this strange place, whatever this place might be.

He walked back into the hut, hesitated, then closed the door behind himself. It had been a long time since he’d felt this paranoid, but as it was, Jack’s safety wasn’t the only thing at stake. Jamie was still sleeping soundly, and he didn’t seem like he had moved at all. The only thing that calmed Jack down was the faint rise and fall of his breathing, almost indiscernible with all the blankets covering him.

“Jamie,” he whispered as he sat down by Jamie’s side again. He placed a hand on Jamie’s shoulder and jostled him gently. “Jamie, wake up. Jamie!”

He got no reply, and it was terrifying. Jack swallowed down his fear, and glanced around himself, feeling as if someone would burst into the room at any moment. Or rather than someone, one of those beasts outside. He shook his head and took a few calming breaths.

“Jamie!” he hissed again, but the reply he got wasn’t one he expected. In fact, it wasn’t from Jamie at all: A familiar tweeting sounded behind him, and Jack whipped around to see Baby Tooth flying into the room.

Baby Tooth’s eyes were wide, and she quickly flew over to Jack, chirping so quickly Jack understood absolutely nothing.

“Baby Tooth!” Jack gasped, reaching out to cup her in his hands. A relieved laugh fell out of him. “You’re here. I thought-“

Baby Tooth interrupted him with her frantic tweeting, and Jack tried his best to follow. Something about snow and cold, flying beasts and the general idea that she had been worried sick. He pressed his lips together as a guilty knot started forming in his chest, however he didn’t get to say anything because then Baby Tooth was pointing at the door, chirping incessantly.

Jack understood what she meant a moment before it happened: Someone was coming. He got to his feet, hands twitching. “Where’s my staff?” he hissed.

There was a knock on the door, and Jack froze.

Gothi?” came a muffled voice from the other side. It was followed by something Jack didn’t catch; the voice was speaking in another language. A few seconds of silence followed, before there was another knock, harder this time. The voice said something more.

“What language is that?” Jack muttered to Baby Tooth.

Baby Tooth looked at Jack and tweeted anxiously. She glanced from Jack to the door several times, and just as the handle turned, she did something very weird: She flew in front of Jack’s face and poked his forehead. Immediately, Jack was struck with a wave of mild dizziness, and he stumbled back a step. If he hadn’t had more urgent things to think about, he would’ve hissed at her, but as it was, it would have to wait.

The door opened.

“Gothi?”

Jack stared. The voice belonged to a boy, who was peeking into the room as if he wasn’t supposed to be there. His hair was brown and a bit lengthy. He was taller than Jack, but almost as skinny – almost. Lanky, might be a better way to describe him. And his clothes were… strange. Jack didn’t know any other way to put it. A lot of it looked like it was made of leather, and were those armored shoulder pads? And as peculiar as that was, the most peculiar thing about him, Jack didn’t see until the boy took another step into the room: A metal prosthetic, in place of his left leg.

Jack wouldn’t have thought much about all of this hadn’t it been for one little detail – a detail that he’d previously just assumed would be true, but now it was clear that it wasn’t. Because while this boy’s strange appearance would’ve been completely ordinary for a spirit, Jack could immediately tell that this was a human. A completely ordinary human but dressed as if he was going to some kind of costume party.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Jack muttered to himself.

The boy turned around immediately after, eyes snapping in Jack’s direction. Jack stared back, unable to move a muscle. He almost thought the boy was looking directly at him…

“Oh-“ the boy started, taking a step back. “Uh, sorry, I didn’t mean to barge in, I- Uh, I can leave, I was just…” He trailed off, scratching his cheek. “I was looking for Gothi. Have you seen her?”

Jack couldn’t find his voice. The boy was still speaking the same language as before, but all of a sudden, Jack understood him, as if that had always been the case. However, that wasn’t what had stolen away Jack’s ability to speak.

The boy was looking at Jack. He was speaking to him. Right? Jack found himself glancing behind himself to check if Jamie had woken up without him noticing, but Jamie was still fast asleep.

Jack stared at the boy with wide eyes. “You can see me,” he whispered, and the boy’s brows furrowed at the sound of his voice.

“Uh… Sorry, I don’t…” the boy started, and Jack realized he’d spoken in English. It seemed the boy didn’t understand Jack, even if Jack could understand him.

Baby Tooth tweeted softly beside him, reminding him that the normal thing to do when being asked a question was to answer it. Weird thing was, when she made that sound, the boy didn’t seem to react at all. In fact, his eyes were focused on Jack, and Jack alone. Couldn’t he see her? But he could see Jack? That didn’t make any sense. Nothing made sense.

“I- I haven’t seen her,” Jack said, without even knowing who he was talking about. The words were foreign in his mouth, but still he knew exactly which words to use. Baby Tooth tweeted approvingly. Was this her doing? It had to be. He thought about Tooth’s ability to speak every existing language and realized her fairies must have the same ability. What he hadn’t known was that they were apparently able to share that ability with others. At least that seemed to be the case right now.

The boy tilted his head to the side, before smiling awkwardly. “I see,” he said. He hesitated. “…How do you feel?” he then asked. His eyes flickered to Jamie for a moment, before they went back to Jack.

Not good, Jack realized when he thought about it. Once again, the adrenaline in him was subsiding, but the euphoria of being seen still kept him upright, even if he didn’t understand why. This boy wasn’t even a child. Around eighteen years, Jack estimated. How did he believe in Jack Frost?

“Alright,” Jack eventually replied. He shifted his weight, testing his body. “Well… I guess I could be better,” he then added with a chuckle.

“You could also be worse,” the boy said, which earned him a questioning look. “Uh- I mean, I’m happy you feel alright,” he then quickly retracted, waving his hands apologetically. “It’s just, you, uh…” He then pursed his lips, clearly struggling to find the right words. In the end, he shook his head. “Actually, never mind. I’m glad you’ve recovered so quickly.”

Jack pursed his lips. “Recovered…” he repeated, glancing at Baby Tooth. She looked worried, her eyes flickering anxiously between the two of them. Jack frowned, looking back at the boy. “How did we get here?” he asked.

The boy’s expression became somber, and he folded his hands in front of himself. “We found you in the snowstorm. He-“ He nodded at Jamie, “was unconscious, and you were barely conscious. I don’t know if you remember, because you seemed pretty out of it… so we brought you back here.” He gestured around himself. “This is our healer’s hut, Gothi. She’s been nursing you back to health.”

As in both of them? As in, this Gothi was able to see Jack as well? And it wasn’t just this boy who had found them, it was someone else as well… which meant that at least three people in this strange place were able to see Jack. How?

Baby Tooth chirped softly, and Jack looked at her again. She looked at Jack, still with that anxious expression. But there was something else there too, a look which Jack had received upon several occasions by the other Guardians, whenever a child was unable to see him. It was pity.

Slowly, pieces began falling into place. The boy could see Jack, but he couldn’t see Baby Tooth. He wasn’t a child anymore, and yet he was talking to Jack as he would to any other person. Jack’s body felt weak and he was in pain, even if his body usually healed within minutes… and this boy hadn’t even reacted to Jack’s strange appearance, with his white hair and frosty clothes.

That is, if there was anything to react to.

“Are you alright?”

Jack looked up at the sound of the boy’s voice, and all of a sudden, their eye contact didn’t feel as welcome anymore. Something was wrong.

“Yeah,” Jack said, but his voice came out weak. He looked around, before walking over to the corner of the room filled with cauldrons and urns. The boy followed him with his gaze, but he barely registered it. Instead, his eyes searched the table and shelves, quickly spotting a knife next to a bowl of some sort of chopped herbs. He picked it up and looked down at it.

It was hard to see in the dim lighting, but Jack knew he would’ve been able to spot his snow-white locks in the metal’s rusty reflection. Instead, a boy with brown hair stared back at him, with eyes belonging to someone who had been dead for a long, long time.

Chapter Text

Berk was rarely an uneventful place.

Even on the most peaceful days, there was always tasks to take care of: Weapons to sharpen, crops to tend to, fish to fish. And then there were the dragons, of course, though they couldn’t blame them alone for the fact that Berk almost never had peace and quiet. No, that was definitely the Vikings’ inhabiting this little island’s fault, with their hot heads and inability to solve problems without screaming and fighting.

But it was the same old. The usual, the norm… it was home. The fact that it rarely was uneventful wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Even so, Hiccup thought it was a little bit over the top to only give him a week’s worth of rest after coming back from the Edge before something weird happened. Weird, even for Berk’s standards:

A snowstorm broke out over the island, completely out of the blue, with almost as much force as devastating winter had to offer. Sure, the climate on Berk wasn’t much of a paradise, but this was completely out of the ordinary. Hiccup only had one answer to what might’ve caused it.

“But the Snow Wraith doesn’t cause blizzards!” Astrid yelled over the wind.  “Besides, how could it have come to Berk without anyone noticing?”

“And why would it have come to Berk in the first place?” Hiccup asked back. “I don’t know! But it has to be some kind of dragon. What else could it be?”

“Maybe the gods are angry with us,” Astrid pondered, and sounded only half serious.

Hiccup didn’t answer, but the idea that they’d have to play another round of “which god did we piss off this time and what did we do?” was not particularly tempting. Instead, he tried scouting through the heavily falling snow. He knew they were somewhere on the other side of the island, but where exactly was impossible to tell.

“Do you see anything, bud?” he asked Toothless.

Toothless replied with a vague grumble, before he opened his mouth wide and let out a roar. His ears twitched and turned for a few seconds. Hiccup also tried listening, in case the might-be-dragon reacted to Toothless’ roar, but he heard nothing. They continued soaring forward.

“Weird…” Hiccup muttered to himself. “Maybe it’s just the weather after a- Woah, Toothless!”

Toothless suddenly halted in midair, making Hiccup crash into him. Hiccup pushed himself up and looked around for what had made Toothless stop like that, but couldn’t see anything. Beside him, Astrid seemed to have the same problem; Stormfly was tilting her head from side to side in that birdlike way of hers, as if she also had noticed whatever Toothless had.

“What is it, bud?” Hiccup asked.

Toothless sent him a look then, before his eyes stared ahead again. No, not ahead, Hiccup realized – he was following something with his eyes. Something that was moving through the air. Toothless gave a low rumble, before he suddenly jerked into action. Hiccup yelped as they dove downwards, and he faintly heard Astrid doing the same behind them.

“Toothless, what are you-“ he started, but was promptly ignored when he tried to take the reigns again. Instead, he just held on to the saddle and once again tried spotting whatever it was Toothless was seeing, but all he saw was snow. Still, Toothless flew purposefully through the biting wind, and Hiccup couldn’t do anything but let him lead the way.

They were close to the ground now. All he could see were trees, hanging low under the weight of the snow, and nothing else. No dragon, no animals, just-

Wait.

“Astrid!” he called, voice breaking in surprise as he spotted something blue lying in the snow down below. Toothless was flying straight towards it. “Down there!”

“Is that…“ Astrid started, voice barely audible in the wind.

“A person,” Hiccup finished, and got ready to jump off of Toothless once they landed. Even if it had barely been snowing for an hour or so, Hiccup still sank into it and had to struggle through it to get closer to the unmoving figure on the ground. There was a coldness in his gut, unlike the one around them. If this person had been lying here in the freezing cold like this… He shook his head, hurrying towards them.

Astrid was right behind him as he waded through the snow. Now that they were closer, he could see a head of brown hair, though it was almost covered by frost and snow. A boy, he realized, probably not much younger than himself. He was pale and wore only some kind of strange-looking tunic and ragged, brown pants that were cut short by his ankles. With a small jolt, Hiccup realized he wasn’t even wearing shoes.

“Hello?” he tried calling out, even if he highly doubted he would get any answer.

The boy didn’t move.

Hiccup glanced at Astrid, and she briefly met his gaze, her eyes filled with wary anxiety. Meanwhile, Toothless and Stormfly seemed content just watching from afar. If Hiccup didn’t know better, he’d think they looked almost… he didn’t know exactly what he could call it. Curious, definitely. But there was something slightly wary about the way they were watching them inch closer to the stranger.

Hiccup dropped down by the boy’s side and gently put his hands on him to turn him over. A voice in the back of his head kept saying the boy was already dead, but he tried his best to ignore it, instead focusing on getting the boy’s face out of the snow.

What he didn’t expect was for the boy to suddenly open his eyes, heaving a weak, raspy breath. Hiccup almost jerked backwards in alarm when a pale hand clamped around his wrist, and Hiccup’s gaze locked with the stranger’s.

The boy looked like he was barely lucid. His eyes were wide, and yet he seemed to struggle focusing on Hiccup. Even so, his hold was tight, and his gaze intense. His chapped lips parted, but no sound came out. It didn’t matter; Hiccup understood a plea for help when he saw it.

And then, Astrid gave a horrified gasp. “Hiccup!” she hissed. “Look!”

Hiccup followed her gaze, and there, partly covered in snow and the boy’s body, was another head of brown hair. His heart gave a jolt when he realized it was just a child, dressed only slightly better than the older boy, but it was far from enough to survive the cold out here. He looked back at the older boy. His brown eyes were struggling to remain open, and his trembling body was slowly sinking back into the snow. Hiccup decided they could ask questions later. “Come on. We have to help them,” he said.

“Of course we do,” Astrid said, almost indignantly, but Hiccup knew she was just worried out of her mind. She was already moving around the older boy to get to the kid.

Hiccup sent the older boy what he hoped was a reassuring look. “Don’t worry. You’ll be okay,” he told him.

The boy didn’t answer, but it seemed Hiccup’s promise was enough; his eyes closed, and his body went limp.

Without any time to lose, Hiccup shifted and carefully lifted the older boy into his arms, scanning his body for any wounds or fractures. The boy was skinny – even skinnier than Hiccup himself, and that was saying something – and as he lifted him up, his eyes darted to something else following the boy out of the snow: a long, wooden stick that was hooked at the end. There was nothing special about it, but somehow the boy was gripping it, even while unconscious. Hiccup could only assume it was important.

“Hiccup, come on!” Astrid yelled, and Hiccup quickly balanced the stick on the boy’s chest before calling for Toothless.

Despite the dragons’ previous reluctance to come close to the two boys, they still seemed eager to help now. It took a bit of work, but they eventually got to the skies, with the older boy in front of Hiccup on Toothless and the kid on Stormfly, tucked close to Astrid’s chest. If Hiccup had known they would find a couple of frozen strangers when they’d flown out today, he would’ve brought some extra clothes, or at the very least some shoes for this guy.

What kind of person walks around in the Barbaric Archipelago without shoes anyway?

As for the storm, it had already started to calm down, disappearing as fast as it had appeared. Hiccup couldn’t say he wasn’t grateful, but it still made this whole situation feel even weirder than it already was. Still, they better try to focus on one matter at a time, and having an ice cold, almost lifeless body leaning against him worked wonders to keep Hiccup focused.

The ride back to the village was much quicker than on the way out, partly because they were in a hurry and partly because the snowstorm was rapidly coming to an end. By the time the village was below them, it had subsided, with only some mild wind and gently falling snowflakes to spare.

“We should take them to Gothi,” Astrid said.

“And then go tell my dad what happened,” Hiccup muttered grimly, glancing down at the pale face of the boy. Even if he knew it was unwise to let these strangers into Berk without knowing who they were or where they came from, they’d have to deal with those consequences later. Whether or not his father agreed with their decision didn’t matter at the moment; Gothi was the boys’ best shot at recovery.

Stormfly let Astrid down on Gothi’s balcony first, before she took off again to make space for Toothless. Hiccup climbed off as carefully as possible, trying not to jostle the boy – or worse, drop him.

“Gothi!” Astrid yelled, knocking harshly on the door. Had the circumstances been different, Hiccup might’ve advised her to calm down, but as it was, her urgency was justified.

The door opened a few seconds later, revealing Gothi and a few of her many Terrible Terrors. Gothi’s face was pulled into an irritated frown, but it was quick to disappear when she saw the two unconscious bodies in their arms.

“They’re freezing cold,” Hiccup said.  “We found them in the storm.”

“Can you help them?” Astrid asked.

Gothi didn’t reply – of course she didn’t – but stepped aside to let them in. Astrid and Hiccup entered, and once Gothi had closed the door behind them, she wobbled over to a huge chest. From it, she pulled out fur skins and blankets, placing them next to the hearth, where fire was already burning. Gothi looked at the two boys and motioned for Astrid and Hiccup to lay them on the fur skins. She then walked over to the corner with all her herbs and equipment she used as the village elder, rummaging around for something.

Hiccup didn’t pretend to understand what she was doing, but as the village healer, she’d helped them multiple times before. So instead of asking questions, he and Astrid made sure the two boys were warm by the fire. Hiccup checked one last time if the boys had any injuries, but for now, it seemed like there was nothing more they could do to help.

When Gothi turned to them and raised a brow, then looked pointedly at the door, Hiccup supposed she had it under control. At least he hoped she did.

“It makes no sense,” Astrid said once they were back on their dragons, flying towards the Great Hall. She was staring straight ahead, brows furrowed and gaze distant. “A storm blows up from out of nowhere, nobody sees anyone fly into or off the island, and either way, how could anyone been able to get anywhere in the storm in the first place? And then those two…” She shook her head. “There’s something iffy about it all.”

“Maybe someone dropped them there,” Hiccup pondered grimly.

“But why?” Astrid asked as they landed on the stairs by the entrance to the Great Hall. “Could it be a trap?”

“Maybe,” Hiccup said, though he hated to consider it; one week was far from enough time to recover after the last clash with Johann and his accomplices. He put his hand on the door, but didn’t push it open just yet. “We never did find out where Krogan disappeared.”

Astrid’s expression became tight with contempt. “Even if it was Krogan, that doesn’t explain the storm,” she said. “And the fact that those boys were in the middle of it… It can’t be a coincidence, can it?”

“Are you saying someone created that storm?” Hiccup asked back.

“Don’t be stupid,” Astrid muttered, but looked up to the sky with a somber expression. “I just think it’s weird.”

Hiccup followed her gaze, feeling the gears turn in his brain as he tried making sense of this whole thing, a headache beginning to throb at the back of his head. He thought about the boy, and how he’d opened his eyes as Hiccup touched him, as if he’d forced himself to stay conscious just long enough to make sure they wouldn’t die in the cold. It hadn’t felt like someone with malicious intent… The boy had seemed helpless and terrified, and nothing short of desperate.

Hiccup only hoped that it wasn’t all for nothing.

He let out a deep sigh. “Yeah, you and me both,” he murmured as he finally pushed the doors open.

Stoick was in the midst of arguing with Spitelout, but they both shut up at the sight of Hiccup and Astrid entering.

“Ah, there you are,” Stoick said, getting to his feet. The bags under his eyes seemed heavier than normal, and there was a deep, tired frown on his face. Hiccup could tell he was still weakened after being bedridden. “I hope you have some good news to make up for the destruction that blizzard caused.”

Hiccup pressed his lips together, knowing very well that they had none, and braised himself for Stoick’s reaction to hearing his day might’ve just gone from bad to worse. Beside him, Astrid sent him a faint, sympathetic smile, as Hiccup took a deep breath.

“Uh- Well… Not exactly…”

 

 

It didn’t take long before the whole village was talking about their new, unconscious guests.

That would’ve been completely fine, hadn’t it been for the fact that each time Hiccup walked past someone muttering and gossiping together, he kept picking up new details about the story that he definitely didn’t remember happening, nor did he understand where they got this information.

(Though he had a sneaking suspicion the twins had something to do with it.)

Somewhere in between fixing up the mess the storm had left behind and dinnertime, Hiccup had heard every theory, ranging from Krogan’s return, to something about the wrath of the gods, to something even more absurd about human sacrifice, and everything in between. The adults were speaking in wary tones about spies and invaders, while children were scaring each other with stories of wicked fay and wraiths.

All in all, Hiccup doubted the two strangers would get an exceptionally warm welcome once they woke up. As it was, he was very grateful for Gothi’s silence; the only thing she informed them of was the fact that the boys were alive. Not awake, but alive, and that was at least better than the alternative.

“But you said one of them touched you when you found them, right?” asked Fishlegs while they were eating dinner.

“For the last time, we’re not discussing this until we know more about this situation,” Hiccup said, pointing his dinner knife at Fishlegs.

“But what if-“

“No ‘what if’s! We didn’t go around gossiping about Heather when we saved her, so why should we do so now?” Hiccup asked.

“Speak for yourself,” Ruffnut snorted.

“To be fair, Heather wasn’t exactly as innocent as we thought she was,” Snotlout countered, and ignored the look Hiccup sent him. “If anything, we try to figure out as much as possible about those guys before they wake up, so we have the upper hand.”

“But there’s nothing to find out,” Astrid said sternly. “We have no clues whatsoever of where they come from. Not even their clothes looked like anything we’ve ever seen before!”

“Suspicious indeed,” Tuffnut said seriously. “Didn’t you say they were barefoot too?”

Hiccup shrugged. “One of them, yeah. But how does that have to do with anything?” he asked, and when the twins shared knowing glances, Hiccup quickly waved his hands. “You know what, never mind! Forget I asked, we are not talking about this, alright? We’ll just wait until they wake up, and then we can start asking questions.”

The others didn’t look too happy about that and didn’t try the slightest to hide it.

Astrid scowled at them. “Guys. One of them was just a kid. He couldn’t have been older than, what, thirteen? Twelve?”

“It’s genius!” Tuffnut exclaimed. “No one would ever suspect a child!”

Hiccup rolled his eyes. “I said we aren’t talking about this,” he repeated.

He ignored the part of him that was paranoid enough to agree with Tuffnut’s theory, as crazy as it might sound.

 

 

When darkness draped itself over Berk, Hiccup was quick to realize that he wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight. Not because of any outwardly nuisances – though his dad’s snoring was particularly thunderous this evening – but because of the ever-rushing thoughts in his head.

It was pointless. Just a never-ending stream of ‘what’s and ‘why’s and ‘how’s that he knew he wasn’t able to answer at the moment anyway, but of course he had no idea how to turn his brain off. In the end, he didn’t think he got any more than a few hours of light sleep, before Toothless nudged him awake in the morning, pestering him about their usual morning flight.

Mh… Toothless, come on…” he grumbled, turning away from him. “I just closed my eyes.”

Toothless grumbled right back at him, and started headbutting Hiccup in the back instead, gradually pushing him towards the edge of the bed. Hiccup let out a long sigh, realizing this battle was already lost. It was time to get up anyway.

“Just five more minu- Alright, alright, I’m awake. Gods, you’re grumpy in the mornings…” Hiccup sluggishly pushed himself up and yawned, as Toothless burbled contently before he jumped out through the window to wait for Hiccup outside. As tempting as it was to just crawl back under his blanket, Hiccup rubbed the drowsiness out of his eyes instead, and picked up his prosthetic leg from where he’d dropped it on the floor last night.

“Somehow, it’s more comfortable up here than it was in my bed,” Hiccup commented once he and Toothless were in the air, rubbing Toothless’ head affectionately. “At least it seems one of us slept well.”

Toothless burbled contently.

Hiccup chuckled. “Let’s take a lap around the island first,” he told him. “And then we can have some fun.”

It seemed like a good deal, because Toothless sped up and set course for the coast, the village getting further and further away below them.

Hiccup kept his eyes strained on the ground and the ocean around them as they flew, looking for some kind of sign of life that didn’t belong on Berk. Stranger ships or signs of campfires or anything that could give him a clue to where those boys had come from. But he found nothing, nor did he find any dragon that might’ve caused the blizzard.

Never had he heard of a dragon able to cause a blizzard. Sure, there were dragons that thrived in them, like the Snow Wraith, but even that dragon couldn’t make the sky cloud over and the wind pick up. He thought of the Skrill, but the Skrill also just used the weather to harvest its power – it didn’t create the thunderstorm. So the possibility that there had been a dragon was slim, but it was the only thing Hiccup felt they didn’t know enough about to completely rule it out.

Though even if it had been a weather-controlling dragon somehow, it was evidently gone now. There were no signs of it, and the snow had already begun melting away.

“Weather-controlling dragon…” Hiccup muttered, shaking his head. “It is ridiculous, isn’t it, bud? Maybe the gods really are angry with us. If so, it looks like they forgave us already. I wonder what we did to…”

He trailed off. He thought back to the boys in the snow, their mysterious appearance and how Hiccup and Astrid hadn’t been able to identify their clothes. Especially the little boy’s clothing had been unlike anything Hiccup had ever seen, but the older boy bewildered him just as much, with his bare feet and everything.

Toothless gave a low growl, sending Hiccup a sideways look. It was as if he knew what Hiccup was thinking, or at least that he was thinking very hard about something.

“The blizzard…” Hiccup started, thinking out loud to check if it sounded crazy or not. “It came and went so quickly, but in the midst of it all, we find those boys. Then, soon after we decided to help them, the storm came to an end. Maybe…” Maybe the twins were starting to affect him. “…Maybe it wasn’t anything we did. Maybe those boys are…”

What? Gods? Demigods? Godsent? Hiccup closed his eyes and shook his head to get rid of the thought. Toothless cooed, as if asking a question.

“No, you’re right,” Hiccup said. “That sounds absolutely bonkers.”

He refused to let the gossip of the village get to him. Heather’s arrival had been strange as well, and there turned out to be a completely logical explanation for it. Not a good one exactly, but a logical one, and the truth would probably come out once the boys woke up. No weather-controlling dragons or demigods or anything like that.

They finished the lap around the island, and then went for a spin as he’d promised. Hiccup liked to tell the others that this was training and that he was responsible and that that was why he was often up here, alone with Toothless. Of course, everyone knew that was only half the truth; Hiccup wanted to go on their morning flights as much as Toothless did, mostly just so they could fool around and have fun and forget about their worries for a little while.

Even so, when Hiccup’s cheeks were flushed, his hair windswept and his body aching delightfully from clinging onto the saddle while Toothless made loops and barrel rolls, Hiccup found himself steering Toothless towards the place they’d found the boys yesterday. He searched the ground, looking for some kind of anomaly, but all he saw was blotches of melting snow. There was nothing special about the place. Just grass and trees and stones, looking exactly the same as the rest of the woods.

Hiccup was about to turn around when he spotted something in the corner of his eye: A light, of sort. He turned around and squinted, trying to spot it again. There, in the middle of the ground, something was shimmering in the snow, reflecting the morning sun.

“Down there, bud,” Hiccup said, and they dove towards it.

Once they were on the ground, Hiccup climbed off Toothless, and the two of them walked closer to the reflective object. Hiccup frowned.

“A gem?” he muttered, and gingerly picked it up. The gem was transparent, but Hiccup could spot a slight hue of blue in it. It was small and had several sharp ends, clearly uncut. It was very pretty. He smiled at Toothless, holding the gem out for him. “Pretty, right?”

Toothless just tilted his head to the side, following the gem with his huge, green eyes. Hiccup walked over to the saddle and pocketed the gem in the satchel hanging from it, along with the spare tailfins and legs.

“Alright, I guess we should get back,” Hiccup said, and climbed onto Toothless again.

He looked around one last time. The thoughts from before still lingered in his head, no matter how ridiculous they sounded. He would just have to wait until the boys woke up. And when he looked up into the sky and saw how high the sun had risen, realizing that they’d been out here for quite some time already, he supposed he should go check on them.

As the chief’s son, of course. Not because he wanted to satiate his own curiosity or anything.

 

 

The strange boy stood with his back to Hiccup by Gothi’s table. It looked like he was holding something, but Hiccup couldn’t see what it was. Clearly, something was wrong, even if the boy had told him he was alright. Which was weird, because he’d seemed alright just seconds ago, but right after Hiccup had explained what happened… his whole demeanor had changed.

Maybe the events of yesterday were just now coming back to him.

Hiccup didn’t know what to do. He thought back to the time they’d found Heather, but it had been easier with her. She wasn’t as… Well, Hiccup felt bad calling the boy weird, but that was what he was. From the very first moment Hiccup had seen him, he’d been weird, with all his staring and muttering, and the way he kept looking into thin air. Hiccup was starting to get a feeling this boy wasn’t quite… present. Mentally.

On the bright side, at least it didn’t seem like he had the same kind of crazy as Dagur did.

Hiccup inwardly shook his head. This wasn’t the time to think about stuff like that. Weird or not, Hiccup had brought this boy here; it was his responsibility to help him.

“Hey…” he said softly, taking a few steps towards him. “It’s alright. This must all be very confusing, but I’d be happy to help.”

“It’s confusing, alright,” the boy mumbled.

He had a strange accent, Hiccup had noted earlier. Even if he hadn’t heard him speak another language, it was easy to guess he wasn’t from the Archipelago.

Hiccup slowly walked up to him. “Do you need anything? …Water, maybe?” he asked.

The boy put down whatever he was holding and turned around. He seemed somehow even paler than before, and there was a kind of dread in his expression – though it quickly faded away, as the boy sent Hiccup a smile. It was strained, but a smile, nevertheless.

“Water would be good,” he replied. His voice was thin.

Hiccup nodded and headed for the door. “I think I saw Gothi had some water cooling outside,” he said, pulling the door open. “If not, I have some in my- Woah, Toothless!”

Toothless’ giant green eyes stared back at him, his body blocking the entrance. He tilted his head in a silent question, as if asking Hiccup what was taking him so long. Hiccup was about to gently shoo him outside, but the quiet gasp behind him made him stop. He turned around to see the boy staring at Toothless with wide eyes. He started saying something in his language, but then shook his head, eyes flickering rapidly between Hiccup and Toothless.

“It’s- Uh- You gave it a name?” he stammered.

Hiccup smiled then. “Toothless is a he, and yes,” he said, and gently put his hands on Toothless when he gave a curious growl. “It’s okay. He won’t hurt you.”

The boy’s lips quivered a bit. “Tooth… Toothless,” he repeated, sounding a bit out of breath. “Okay. Toothless. Toothless… Toothless the dragon.” Then he surprised Hiccup with a small laugh. “And you’re friends with him?”

“Uh, yeah. It’s a long story,” Hiccup said, though the boy’s reaction made him wonder. “You… have seen a dragon before, right?”

The boy’s eyes snapped to Hiccup, his eyebrows rising to his hairline. “Would it be weird if I hadn’t?” he asked back.

Just how far away from home was this guy?

Hiccup exchanged a glance with Toothless, before he looked back at the boy. “A little, maybe,” he replied earnestly. When the boy didn’t move, and kept his gaze trained uncertainly on Toothless, Hiccup sent him a smile. He motioned for Toothless to go back outside. Once he did, Hiccup looked back at the boy, nodding for him to follow.

The boy’s eyes widened, and for a moment it looked like he was going to refuse. But then he looked at Toothless again, and he straightened his back, walking over to Hiccup. “Is this a good idea?” he asked, a nervous smile growing on his lips.

“I’d say so. You’ll have a difficult time on Berk if you’re not used to dragons,” Hiccup said, leading the boy out onto the balcony.

“You don’t say…” the boy muttered, looking at Toothless with wonder in his hazel eyes.

Hiccup was happy to see that he didn’t cower in fear. In fact, the boy seemed fairly calm in the face of what the Berkians had once called the unholy offspring of lightning and death itself. Maybe the fact that the boy didn’t know about that lovely nickname was a good thing.

“Hold your hand out like this,” Hiccup said, demonstrating. He held his hand out towards Toothless. “But don’t look at him. Let him come to you.”

The boy sent him a look, a flash of skepticism passing over his face, but it quickly disappeared. He took a tentative step towards Toothless, and held his hand out like Hiccup had just shown him. Toothless looked calmly back at him. Hiccup knew that Toothless knew what was coming, but it was a good way to show the boy that no harm would come to him. The boy took a shaky breath, and then closed his eyes, turning his head away. He stood completely still. Toothless leaned forward, pressing his nose against the boy’s palm, and the boy’s eyes fluttered open. He looked back at Toothless, and though the word he whispered was unfamiliar to Hiccup, the awe in it was unmistakable.

“See?” Hiccup said contently. “Toothless won’t harm you. Right, bud?” He reached over, running his hand over Toothless’ scales, and Toothless crooned happily.

“Sounds like a yes,” the boy said, laughter in his voice. He let his hand fall, only to bring it up to his forehead.

Hiccup watched him with mild worry. He looked tired. Maybe being introduced to a dragon wasn’t the best way to recovery. And yet, the boy was smiling. It was a weary smile, but a genuine one. He looked back at Hiccup.

“Barely out of bed and I’ve already pet a dragon. What a day.” He laughed, though it sounded a bit feeble.

Hiccup smiled sympathetically, studying the boy for a moment. “My name is Hiccup,” he then said, realizing that he never got as far as introducing himself. The boy looked up, giving him a strange look. Hiccup sighed soundlessly. “Yes, you got it right. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock,” he said, leaving out the “the third” part. He gave the boy a smile, holding out his hand. “What’s your name?”

The boy looked down at Hiccup’s hand. He hesitated for so long, Hiccup started to worry he’d somehow grown a sixth finger or something, but then the boy reached out. Instead of grabbing Hiccup’s forearm like he’d expected, the boy took his hand. His hold was gentle, though it tightened after a couple of seconds.

“Jack-“ the boy started, but cut himself off. He hesitated, then looked up at Hiccup again. He sent him a lopsided smile and gave his hand a light shake. “Jackson Overland. But you can call me Jack.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock left Jack with a water urn and a question of whether or not he wanted to eat dinner with the rest of the village. Jack had told him that he wanted to stay by Jamie’s side until he woke up, so Hiccup proposed that he could stop by sometime before dinner and ask again, in case Jamie had woken up by then.

Jack had agreed, and Hiccup climbed onto Toothless the dragon, who jumped off the balcony and soared down to the village below. Jack remained standing at the edge of the balcony for a minute or two. Or five, or ten… until his arms started aching from holding the water urn, and a gentle tweeting made him turn around.

Baby Tooth was looking back at him, her eyes wide with worry. And pity. Jack sent her half a smile, then walked past her, back into the hut again. The wind had started to seem chilly, and his bare feet were ice cold; it was impossible to not notice, even if Jack tried very hard not to.

Baby Tooth followed him inside, and he closed the door, setting the water urn down on the floor. Jamie was still sleeping, and it didn’t seem like he would be waking up any time soon.

Jack felt his legs go out beneath him, and he slid against the wall down to the floor, bringing his knees up to his chest. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock and Toothless the dragon – whose lack of teeth was strange but at least it explained the name – had worked brilliantly as a distraction. Especially the latter, who made Jack feel like he was dreaming again. First he trips over his own feet at the sight of those terrifying beasts, and only a short hour later or less, he’s letting one of them press his giant snout against his hand.

Hiccup had been a nice distraction too, with his kind words and strange names… though mostly, Jack had been able to forget about everything because he felt he had to, while he was in his company. He had had to keep it together, shoving his inner panic aside and ignoring it for a while.

It was all very welcome. Jack had learned to hate thinking about his feelings.

But now he was alone, save for Baby Tooth and the unconscious Jamie. However, Baby Tooth couldn’t stop the thoughts inside of Jack’s head to climb to the surface; he’d already shown his less happy, less carefree, less Jack Frost side of him to her before.

And it seemed there wasn’t any Jack Frost left anyway. Only Jackson Overland, who Jack had thought was gone forever, and yet he was right here, staring back at him in the reflection of a rusty knife… in this old hut, in this strange, dragon-filled village, where people spoke a language Jack had never heard before and wore clothes like they were living in the past.

Jack let out a shaky breath, burrowing his head in his arms.

“Is this the past, Baby Tooth?” he asked quietly. “Is that what the time fragment did to us?”

She didn’t need to answer, because he already knew the truth. Maybe they’d also been flung into some kind of alternative dimension as well, where dragons did exist. Or they were just so far into the past, even before Jack’s time as human, he wouldn’t have known whether or not some corners of the world had been inhabited by dragons at some point. But that was crazy, right? He didn’t know. This was all so confusing…

Baby Tooth chirped softly, and Jack felt her put her tiny hand onto his own. Jack lifted his head to look back at her.

“But why am I like this?” he asked her then. “That’s the part I really don’t understand.”

Baby Tooth averted her eyes and shook her head; she didn’t know.

Jack sighed quietly and looked down at his hands. He turned them over, flexing his fingers, before running them through his brown hair. Dread was gradually building in his gut.

Because if he didn’t have his powers, how would he get them back? He hadn’t been Jackson Overland in 300 years. Did he even know how to be human anymore? Especially in a place that had fully fledged, real-life dragons roaming the sky… And the most important question, how would he be able to protect Jamie?

Was Jack even a Guardian anymore?

Baby Tooth tweeted gently, flying over to the water urn. Jack looked at her and let out a halfhearted chuckle.

“Thanks, Baby Tooth,” he whispered, picking up the water urn again. He brought it to his lips, taking a tentative sip… and then another one, and another two, until he was chugging. He then put the urn down with a perplexed expression. Had water ever tasted this good? Jack couldn’t remember. He couldn’t even remember what being thirsty felt like, but he supposed this was it.

There was a thud outside again, making Jack jolt back onto his feet. He almost knocked the water urn over, but picked it up and carried it out of the way. The door opened a few seconds later, and in came a short, hunchbacked old lady, wearing a brown leather tunic and a horned helmet. Her hair was long and gray and tied into a couple of braids, and she was holding a wooden staff with some kind of bones tied to it. So this was Gothi, huh?

Even if he knew it would happen, Jack still felt a jolt of surprise when her eyes locked with his.

“Uh… Hello,” Jack greeted tentatively, because this lady looked so old and grumpy, he really didn’t know what to expect. But if she’d been healing them, he guessed she would be of the kind and caring type?

Gothi didn’t reply, but even if she had, Jack wouldn’t have caught what she said, because just then he spotted what he assumed was a dragon, along with three other creatures he also just had to assume were dragons, even if none of them struck him as… well, dragons. The biggest one was round, with a huge head but small wings, and large pointy teeth. The others were tiny, at least by dragon standards, about the size of a big cat or a small dog. Two of them were green and one was red, and they were flocking around the big dragon like excited puppies, while the big dragon was eating… rocks?

And then Gothi closed the door, and Jack’s attention was forced back to her. She sent him a long look, eyes going up and down his body before they went over to Jamie. She brought a hand to her chin, scratching it thoughtfully, before she wobbled over to the table – the table which Jack found himself beginning to call the witch corner. Because honestly, that was what it looked like, with all its cauldrons and weird plants.

Jack shifted his weight, sending Baby Tooth a look. She just shrugged in reply, looking as bewildered as Jack felt.

“You’re… Gothi, right?” Jack asked, stumbling slightly over the name.

Gothi turned around and nodded, before she turned back to the table, where she had opened a pot and was pouring some kind of liquid into a bowl. Jack thought he could taste North’s medicine in his mouth at the sight of it.

“I was told you’ve been taking care of us,” Jack then continued, walking closer to Jamie, but didn’t sit down.

Gothi stopped moving for a moment, before she sent Jack a narrow look.

Jack look blankly back at her. “What?”

Gothi glanced at the door then, before she sighed and shook her head. She continued pouring the pot’s content into the bowl then picked it up and walked over to Jack. She held the bowl out to him.

Jack wasn’t sure if he wanted to accept it. “Am I… supposed to drink that?” he asked.

Gothi nodded. Jack was about to carefully decline, but the look Gothi sent him made it clear that he didn’t have a choice in the matter. Arguing with North had been one thing – at least Jack had had a little hope that he might be able to talk himself out of being spoon fed, even if he did end up losing the argument – but this old lady was quiet and slightly menacing in her own way. Jack cleared his throat and took the bowl.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, looking down at the brownish… soup? He didn’t know what it was.

Gothi smiled ever so slightly, and then motioned for Jack to sit down with her staff. Jack tentatively did as she said, and Gothi walked away. Jack could hear her walking across the room, the floorboards creaking quietly beneath her weight. Outside, the dragons were squawking and growling, but if Gothi didn’t react, Jack supposed it was normal.

“You’re not much of a talker,” Jack then said.

Gothi didn’t reply.

Jack tapped his fingers against the bowl, before he steeled himself and took a sip – and gagged. North’s medicine had nothing on this. Jack almost yearned for it, if it meant he didn’t have to drink this. Baby Tooth tweeted at him, flying in front of his face as he grimaced.

“It’s horrible,” he whispered to her in English.

Baby Tooth smiled sympathetically.

Then Gothi was coming back, and Jack looked up, desperate for a reason to not eat anymore of the soup. His heart skipped a beat.

“My staff!” he gasped. He set the bowl down to get to his feet. Gothi smiled that little smile of hers and held the staff out to him, and Jack reached out to take it… only to hesitate for a moment. In Gothi’s hand, the staff just looked like a normal wooden stick. No frost and no magical properties. If things were normal, frost would appear on the staff the minute Jack touched it, and he would be able to fly… but things weren’t normal, and Jack wasn’t sure if he was ready to face that truth. If he took the staff in his hands and it did nothing…

Gothi was giving him an inquisitive look. Jack pressed his lips together and grabbed the staff.

Nothing happened.

Jack had trouble finding his voice for a few seconds. He then glanced at Gothi and nodded. “Thank you,” he said, bringing his other hand to hold around the staff as well. There was no frost, and no feeling of weightlessness. There was nothing.

Gothi nodded, before she walked away, back to the front door. She opened the door, but turned around once more before walking out. She nodded at the bowl on the floor, sending Jack a stern look. And then she stepped back onto the balcony and closed the door behind herself.

Jack sank back onto the fur skin, holding his staff close to his chest. He let out a long, shaky breath, his eyes sliding shut.

“That settles it, I guess,” Jack mumbled, bringing a hand up to rub his face.

He could feel a headache rapidly coming his way, as well as another sensation in his stomach. Hunger, he realized. It had been a while. Jack sighed, looking up at Baby Tooth. He sent her a tired, joyless smile.

“I’m officially human again.”

 

 

Hiccup tried his best to hide that is mind was elsewhere while he and the others were out training with their dragons. He was doing a pretty good job, up until the point where Snotlout did something – something that apparently was reckless and very Snotlout-y, but Hiccup hadn’t been paying attention to see what it was – and Hiccup’s response had been, “Very good, Snotlout, you’ve improved so much,” earning disbelieving looks from all of them, including Snotlout.

“What? I mean- Yeah. Yeah! Did you hear that?” Snotlout then boasted, crossing his arms from where he sat atop a disgruntled Hookfang. “That was all a part of the plan.”

“Almost crashing into that rock was a part of the plan?” Fishlegs asked dryly.

“Shut up, Fishlegs. You wouldn’t understand.”

Astrid was sending Hiccup a long look, and Hiccup pressed his lips nervously together.

“Maybe… reduce the almost crashing into rocks part, yeah,” he then added. He looked up to the sky to see where the sun was. “Oh, look, it’s almost time for dinner. I should head back, there’s something I have to do before-“

“Hold on,” Astrid interrupted, and Hiccup already knew he’d been busted when he met her eyes. “What’s going on with you today? You’ve been distant ever since we got here!”

Hiccup wasn’t a very good liar. Especially not in front of Astrid.

“I… don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said averting his eyes.

Astrid crossed her arms. “Why do you have to leave early?” she challenged.

“To…” Hiccup started, but trailed off when he realized that even if he’d come up with a decent lie, he wouldn’t have been able to deliver it anyway. The others were staring expectantly at him too now, and he let out a sigh. “I visited Gothi earlier, and one of them was awake. The older one. I said I’d stop by before dinner in case he felt well enough to join us.”

“You talked to him?” Ruffnut asked, her eyes going as wide as her brother’s.

“What did he say?” Tuffnut asked.

“What was he like?” followed Fishlegs.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Snotlout demanded.

“Because the guy just woke up from surviving a blizzard,” Hiccup replied indignantly. “Do you think I’m going to let you bombard him with questions when he’s already tired enough as it is?”

Tuffnut huffed. “Harsh,” he muttered, but Hiccup ignored him.

“How is he?” Astrid then asked, losing her previous irritated demeanor.

Hiccup thought back to their meeting, frowning. “Better than I thought he would be,” he replied. “He looked exhausted and all, but he didn’t look like he had a fever or anything. He was actually pretty chipper, considering.” For the most part, anyway, he added inwardly.

Astrid hummed thoughtfully. “That’s very strange,” she said.

“Yeah… Everything about him is strange,” Hiccup muttered. Then he shook his head. “Well, I’m going to fly over there and check with him. And no, you’re not coming with me.”

The protests came immediately, but Hiccup ignored all of them.

“You’ll see him eventually anyway,” he said. “Right now, he probably needs to be alone to recover. Bringing the whole party might… scare him.”

Hiccup had trouble believing that, after he saw how Jack had reacted to Toothless. Shocked, but not exactly afraid. A few annoying Vikings were probably no problem, but even so, Hiccup knew he wouldn’t appreciate their company if he were in Jack’s shoes.

Or lack thereof. He should get himself some shoes.

“Scare him,” Snotlout repeated with a snort, rolling his eyes. Then he got an arrogant smile on his face, and he flexed. “Well, I guess I do seem imposing. I just can’t help it.”

Aaand that’s my queue to leave,” Hiccup said. “I’ll see you guys at dinner.” He didn’t give them anymore time to argue before Toothless took off, and they set course back to the village.

Before coming to Gothi’s hut, however, he made a small stop at home, and fetched a pair of his old boots, thrown away in a chest in his room. Sure, they were worn, but at least the quality was good, and one of the few shoes he had left that were in a pair… and it was definitely better than walking around barefoot. He only hoped they wouldn’t be too small. Not much of a welcome gift, really, but it would have to do.

Hiccup noted the half-eaten pile of rocks on Gothi’s balcony when he landed, along with some dried spots of lava. Gothi must’ve been home at one point, but right now she was probably in the Great Hall with everyone else. She really should be careful with that Gronckle-drool, though, lest she wanted to burn her house down. Hiccup shook his head, and jumped off Toothless, patting his head as he walked by.

His hand was inches from the door when he heard the distinct sound of wings flapping behind him. He turned around, giving the whole dragon rider gang a dirty look.

“What did I tell you?”

Snotlout gave a laugh. “Who put you in charge?” he asked back, making the twins snicker.

Hiccup ignored him and sent Astrid an exasperated look instead. “You too?” he asked.

Astrid shrugged. “They were going anyway,” she said. “Who was I to stop them?”

“Astrid!”

“Hey, I was there when we found them! I want to make sure they’re alright too!” Astrid argued.

“It’s only polite to introduce ourselves to our guests,” Fishlegs tried, but shut up once Hiccup sent him a glower.

And we want to settle whether or not he’s some kind of fay,” Ruffnut said.

“Or troll,” Tuffnut added.

Troll?” Hiccup repeated incredulously. “That’s crazy even for you two! How’d you even get that idea?”

“Hey, we all know you’re the one who went looking for trolls when you were younger,” Tuffnut shot back, holding up a finger as if he actually had an idea of what he was talking about. “And! You never found one, so who knows what they look like.”

“Trolls don’t wear shoes, Hiccup,” Ruffnut said matter-of-factly.

Hiccup stared at them. “Trolls aren’t real! And Jack is definitely not-“

“Trolls aren’t real?”

Hiccup spun around and almost tripped in his own legs as a result. The door was open, and Jack was leaning against its frame, an amused look on his tired face. In his right hand, he was holding the staff Hiccup had found him with. He didn’t look much better than he had before, aside from the slightest of color in his cheeks. Gothi must’ve served him her infamous soup.

“Jack,” Hiccup said. Warmth was creeping up his neck and he had to use all his willpower not to turn around and glower at the others. “Uh, no, they aren’t. Um… How much of that did you hear?”

Jack smiled. “The walls aren’t exactly soundproof,” he replied, his eyes going up to the others. The amusement faded a bit from his face, only to make way for awe. “You all ride dragons?” he asked.

The dragon riders exchanged glances, before they all broke into different variations of boisterous poses – save for Astrid, who was watching Jack curiously.

“Alright, well…Since you’re all here already, even if I specifically told you not to come…” Hiccup said and glanced at Jack, gesturing at the others. “These are Berk’s first dragon riders, and also my friends. Snotlout, Ruffnut and Tuffnut, Fishlegs and Astrid.”

Jack made a face like he was impressed. “Interesting names,” he commented, surprising Hiccup a bit. Brutally honest, huh? Even if it was delivered with sarcasm. Not that anyone on Berk were ashamed of their rather ugly names; it was said to fight off gnomes and trolls after all.

Clearly that didn’t work, if Jack was one.

“And the dragons?” Jack asked. “Do they have names?”

“Of course,” Snotlout said, patting his dragon proudly. “This is Hookfang. He’s a Monstrous Nightmare, as you can see, and just as his rider, he’s the strongest, fastest, most fearsome-“

“This is Stormfly,” Astrid interrupted, sending Jack a kind smile. “Don’t worry about Snotlout. He’s just like that.”

“Hey!”

“And this is Meatlug,” Fishlegs said, as Meatlug flew closer and dropped onto the balcony, wobbling over to the rocks Gothi’s dragon had left behind. “She’s a Gronckle, but don’t let that scare you; she’s the sweetest dragon you’ll ever meet.”

Ruffnut made a retching sound at that.

“And this is Belch,” Tuffnut said, then gestured at the dragon’s second head.

“And this is Barf,” Ruffnut said, crossing her arms proudly.

“The heads have different names, even if they are on the same dragon?” Jack asked.

“Well, they don’t share the same brain,” Tuffnut said.

“Unlike the twins,” Hiccup mumbled under his breath, quiet enough so the others wouldn’t hear. Jack heard, however, and he gave a laugh.

“Are you gonna tell us your name?” Astrid then asked.

Jack glanced at her, before sending Hiccup a curious look. “Not a gossiper, I see,” he commented. “I would’ve been telling everyone about the weird barefooted guy if I were you.” He smiled at him, before turning back to the others. “My name is Jackson Overland, but like I told Hiccup earlier, you can call me Jack.”

Tuffnut snorted. “And he says our names are weird,” he said, making Ruffnut snicker.

Jack raised a brow but didn’t retort.

“Don’t mind them,” Hiccup mumbled awkwardly, scratching his cheek.

“I don’t,” Jack replied with a chuckle, before taking a step out onto the balcony, closing the door behind himself. “I’ve never had such a grand welcome committee before. Maybe except-“ He cut himself off, shaking his head as if he regretted starting that sentence. “No, on second thought, dragons are cooler than North’s, uh, helpers.”

Hiccup had no idea what he was talking about, but he was glad that he was at least talking, seemingly relaxed and everything.

“Who’s North?” Snotlout asked, narrowing his eyes. “And what do you mean by helpers?”

“Also, technically this isn’t a welcome committee,” Fishlegs said.

“Is it true you were dropped in the forest as an offering to the forest spirits?” Tuffnut asked. “If so, who dropped you there?”

Hiccup facepalmed. “Oh, for Thor’s sake… I knew this was gonna happen.”

Jack looked a bit confused, but at least he didn’t look offended. He tilted his head to the side. “Forest spirits?” he repeated, then looked at Hiccup. “Did you just say ‘Thor’?”

Hiccup was about to answer, but then a horn sounded below them, and the dragons stirred. Jack did as well, alarm alight in his face.

“It’s dinnertime,” Hiccup said with a small chuckle. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Oh,” Jack said with a sheepish smile.

“Race you on the way down!” Snotlout yelled, already turning Hookfang around.

“Hey, no fair!” Ruffnut yelled back, she and Tuffnut quick to follow.

And in the blink of an eye, the dragon riders had disappeared, because dinner was apparently more exciting than their guest who might be a troll or an offer to the forest spirits. Most of them anyway; Astrid remained, and she landed Stormfly on the balcony, before hopping off.

“They can be a bit much sometimes,” she told Jack as she walked up to them.

“Really?” Jack asked with a grin. “Which one of them came up with the troll theory?”

Hiccup groaned quietly. “Sorry about that,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead. “You’re probably still tired – I told them not to come.”

Jack shrugged. “They seem fun,” he just said with a lopsided smile – though it fell a little a second later. “Jamie hasn’t woken up yet. I can’t take the risk of him waking up without me. Thanks for the offer, though – I’m sure your dinner is better than the soup Gothi gave me.”

Both Hiccup and Astrid cringed.

“Sorry you had to go through that,” Astrid said with a small chuckle. “Still, it’s not the worst Gothi could’ve done in order to heal you. You’re lucky.”

There was a hint of worry in Jack’s expression. “…She’s an interesting old lady,” he said, and sounded only half-sarcastic. “Do I want to know?”

“Oh, there’s many stories,” Hiccup said, shaking his head. “But I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. If- Uh…” What was his name again? “If your brother is in as good shape as you are, you’ll be out of here in no time.”

Jack was giving him a strange look. “Oh… Alright,” he then said, shifting his weight.

Hiccup felt like he’d taken a wrong turn. “Uh, I mean- You probably didn’t plan on staying here,” he said, and got a warning look from Astrid. Was he making it worse? “Right?” he added weakly.

“Not really, no,” Jack replied, twirling his staff in his hand. He opened his mouth as if to say something more but seemed to change his mind. Then he frowned and looked up at Hiccup and Astrid again. “I don’t really know how things work around here, but… We’re really far from home. I didn’t plan on… staying here, but I have a feeling I won’t have much of a choice.” The last part came out in a slightly dejected mumble.

Astrid’s hand twitched, as if she wanted to reach out to him, but she stopped herself. “Why did you come here in the first place?” she asked. Hiccup gave her an uncertain look then, but Astrid replied with a determined one of her own. She looked back at Jack. “I don’t mean to pry, but things have been tense lately. People are paranoid. And the way we found you wasn’t exactly normal.”

“So you helped us as well?” Jack asked.

Astrid narrowed her eyes a bit. “It was Hiccup and I,” she said. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”

Jack looked back at her, the last remnant of his smile fading away. He was quiet for a few seconds, before he shook his head. “I don’t remember,” he then replied.

Hiccup and Astrid stared at him.

“Nothing?” Hiccup asked.

Jack shook his head. “Nope,” he said, switching his hold on his staff to his other hand. “One moment I was out in the woods with Jamie, and next thing I know…” He gestured at Toothless and Stormfly, who both stirred at having Jack’s attention. “Dragons.”

Hiccup frowned. Jack sounded genuine, but he’d met his fair share of liars; he couldn’t just take his word for it. Memory loss was the easiest lie to tell too. Was he hiding something from them? He glanced at Astrid, and could tell that the same kind of thoughts were running through her head.

Evidently, it seemed Jack could tell as well, because his gaze had become watchful and his stance slightly tense.

“I understand if you don’t trust me,” he started, then seemed to struggle with his words. “…and I don’t really have any way of proving that I’m not up to no good. But I need-“ He cut himself off and looked down at the floorboards. “…I need to keep Jamie safe. He’s- He’s all that I have, and I’m all that he has right now.”

Hiccup glanced at Astrid again, but her determined gaze had faded a bit. They were both paranoid, and they both knew not to trust just anyone, especially not a mysterious stranger… but at the same time, it was hard to imagine that Jack’s words came from anywhere but from the heart. Hiccup might not have a younger brother, but he knew what Jack was feeling. Toothless might not be a person, but Hiccup felt closer to him than anyone; he’d do anything to protect him.

“You’ll have to talk to my father,” Hiccup said.

Jack frowned. “Your father?” he repeated.

Oh, right; Hiccup hadn’t told him about that yet. “The chief,” Hiccup said, awkwardly shifting his weight. “He’s called Stoick the Vast, and I don’t envy that talk, but… I really doubt you’ll find any way around it.”

“You’re the chief’s son?” Jack asked, a smile making its way onto his face again. It was lopsided, and Hiccup thought to himself that if Jack wanted to prove to them that he wasn’t up to no good, he should really lose that smile. “Why didn’t you say so earlier? Your Highness…” He curtsied.

Astrid snorted then, and Hiccup felt heat crawl up his neck. At least Jack hadn’t been intimidated, which was why Hiccup had left out this information in the first place, but this wasn’t much better.

“Because of reactions like that,” he replied dryly, and Jack laughed.

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, thought he didn’t at all act like he was sorry. He cleared his throat. “Well, that’s fine, I guess. As long as he doesn’t throw me in a dungeon or anything.” He paused, sending them both a look. “He won’t throw me in a dungeon, right?”

It was Hiccup and Astrid’s turn to laugh.

“Probably not,” Astrid said. “As long as you act at least slightly decent.”

Hiccup smiled fondly at her. “Us Berkians don’t have very high standards, so I wouldn’t worry about that,” he added.

“Oh, good,” Jack said. “I’ve heard I’m a menace.”

“You’ll fit right in, then,” Hiccup said. Then he remembered something. “Oh, but you’ll probably need something for that,” he said, and turned to Toothless. He walked around him and reached for the boots he’d left dangling from the saddle. He held them out to Jack. “You might’ve survived a blizzard, but if you keep going around barefoot, you’ll catch a cold eventually.”

Jack’s brows furrowed, his eyes flickering between Hiccup and the boots. “I don’t-“ he started, but cut himself off again. He sighed. “Alright… I guess that’s necessary.”

Astrid sent him a weird look, then glanced questioningly at Hiccup. Hiccup wanted to say, “I told you he was weird,” but saved it for later.

“Nice boots, though,” Jack then added, and took the boots from Hiccup. He sent them a slightly disgruntled look, before he suddenly looked up at Hiccup again. “Uh- Thank you, I mean,” he then quickly said. “That’s… It’s very nice of you.”

“They’re just my old boots,” Hiccup said, scratching his cheek.

“Why are you barefoot anyway?” Astrid asked, and didn’t try to hide the fact that she thought it was weird.

Jack shrugged. “They’re in the way,” he said.

Hiccup decided that there were just some things about this guy that he’d never understand. That notion was intensified when Jack suddenly blinked, his gaze going distant, before he turned around and carefully opened the door. He peeked inside, before letting out a relieved breath. Then he turned back to Hiccup and Astrid.

“Jamie is waking up,” he said quietly. “I’ll- I’ll catch up with you later. Talk to your dad and all that, yeah?” He was already inside the hut again, obviously in a hurry.

Hiccup just nodded. “Yes, right,” he said, trying to catch a glimpse of this Jamie, but Jack was blocking his view. “Um… Good luck?”

Jack’s smile was slightly strained. “Thanks,” he muttered.

“Come on, Hiccup,” Astrid said, and started dragging him back to their dragons. “See you, Jack.”

Jack nodded at them, before closing the door. Hiccup and Astrid climbed back onto their dragons, but before jumping off the balcony to join the others for dinner, they both shared a look, knowing what the other was thinking:

“Did you see that?” Astrid asked. “How did he know he was waking up?”

Hiccup shook his head. “I’m beginning to think asking questions will just lead to more questions with that guy,” he muttered.

 

 

Jamie’s head felt like it was filled with cotton. His entire body felt heavy, and it ached when he tried to move – especially the side of his head. His eyelids were hard to open.

He faintly heard a door opening and closing, and then the slightest sound of footsteps coming towards him. Whoever it was, was light and swift, and Jamie wondered for a moment if Sophie had snuck into his room again. His mom would berate her if she did; she didn’t want Sophie to catch Jamie’s cold as well.

“Jamie… It’s okay.”

That wasn’t Sophie. Jamie frowned, shifting in his bed. His eyelids were so heavy, but when he felt a hand on his shoulder, he forced himself to open them.

The room he was in was dark. The only light source, judging by how it was flickering, had to come from a candle or a fire, but it was far from enough. Jamie could barely see anything.

Fire… The gears in Jamie’s head turned as his memories started coming back to him. This reminded him of something; it was almost the same as when he’d woken up in Santa’s workshop. Was he back there? And that voice… He struggled to focus on the figure beside him, expecting to see the white hair of Jack.

He didn’t, and Jamie jerked away in alarm. It took a moment for him to find his voice.

“Who- Who are you?” he asked. He was surprised by the sound of his own voice; it was so hoarse and weak, he almost didn’t recognize himself.

The boy – who still looked kind of blurry to Jamie – was quiet for a couple of seconds. Jamie blinked, trying to clear the image of him. Brown eyes came into view, along with a pair of brown eyebrows, thin lips and faint freckles. There were also heavy bags under his eyes. The boy smiled faintly.

“It’s okay,” he said, holding his palms up. Jamie felt a small jolt in his chest; that voice didn’t belong to him. “I know this must seem scary, but you’re okay, Jamie. It’s… me, Jack. Jack Frost.”

Jack Frost? Jamie stared at him, and shook his head a little, though he was unsure. “You don’t look like Jack Frost,” he told him.

The boy who claimed to be Jack Frost pressed his lips together, his shoulders sinking. “I know,” he said. “But-“

Whatever he was going to say never came out, because he cut himself off when something small appeared in front of Jamie’s face, stealing away his attention. Jamie blinked.

“B- Baby Tooth?” he croaked.

Baby Tooth nodded vigorously, happily chirping at him. She flickered in front of his face, and though Jamie couldn’t understand anything she was saying, he got the general idea that she had been worried. Even if all he heard was tweeting, she sounded like a frantic mother.

But if Baby Tooth was here… Jamie looked back at the boy, whose face had softened as he looked at Baby Tooth. He could see Baby Tooth, and Baby Tooth seemed okay around him… and now that Jamie could see a bit better in the dim lighting, his face really was a mirror image of Jack’s; even his freckles were all in the right place.

“What’s going on?” Jamie asked tentatively.

Jack – if it really was him – averted his eyes, his smile fading. “I… don’t really know,” he admitted. His brows furrowed, and once again, Jamie could see how much he looked like Jack. Was it really him?

“…What happened to you?” he then asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Where are we?”

“I don’t- Well.” The boy looked around the hut, letting out a small huff of air. “This hut belongs to an old lady called Gothi. She’s been helping us recover. And we’re currently in a place called Berk.”

“Berk…” Jamie repeated. It sounded completely unfamiliar. He looked down on his hands, and then finally noticed what he was lying on. Not on a bed, but on some kind of fur. Judging by the smell, it was real. Beside him, there was an old-fashioned fireplace, where flames were crackling softly.

And all of a sudden, Jamie remembered. He let out a shaky breath, bringing a hand to his head. His heart was speeding up, and pressure was forming in his chest. He wanted to look to Jack for support, because he always seemed to know what to do, but he wasn’t even sure if the boy sitting beside him was Jack.

Baby Tooth tweeted softly, landing in front of him to put a hand on Jamie’s.

“I have this.”

Jamie looked up to see that the boy was holding out a piece of paper to him. It took a moment before Jamie recognized it, and he carefully accepted it.

“Found it in my pocket. I never did get the chance to hang it in North’s workshop, but… now I’m kinda happy I didn’t.” The boy chuckled softly, as Jamie unfolded the paper and looked down at the drawing he’d made for Jack. There were a few seconds of silence.

Jamie looked up, struggling to find his voice. “…You’re really him?” he asked, even if he thought he already believed it.

Jack smiled faintly and nodded, though the smile lacked any actual happiness. “There’s… a lot I need to tell you, Jamie,” he said softly. “Of where we are and what I think happened.”

“The… The thing…” Jamie started. “I fell from the sleigh. You caught me. I remember that.”

“Yes, but…” Jack seemed to struggle with his words. “…I wasn’t strong enough to change our course. The fragment pulled us in, and… transported us here, I guess. We were found in the middle of a blizzard, of all things…” Jack shook his head. “Not that I remember that. I just remember the snow, and then I was here. Looking like this.” He gestured to himself, clearly not happy with the fact.

It took a few seconds before Jamie registered what that implied.

“They can see you?” he asked in awe.

Jack became very quiet then, as opposed to the happiness Jamie had expected. Why wouldn’t Jack want to be seen?

Jack traced his hand over his staff, which was lying on the floor beside him.

“I don’t have my powers, Jamie,” he then said.

Jamie stared at him. “Why not?”

Jack pursed his lips and shrugged. “Dunno,” he said. “But I’m not invisible, so that’s good, I guess. Thing is, I’m not invisible because I’m not… I mean, I’m…” He let out a shaky breath, like a laugh that never quite made it out. “I’m human.”

Jamie frowned. That was… not good news, was it? That sounded like bad news. Judging by Jack’s dejected expression, it was definitely bad news. But surely, he knew what to do, right? He always did.

“So…” Jamie started, making Jack look back at him. “What… now?”

Jack opened his mouth to answer, but just then there was a sound coming from outside that made Jamie jolt up into a sitting position, heart thumping in his chest.

“What was that?” he whispered.

“Oh, that’s…” Jack chuckled then, and even if the sound – the shriek? The screech? The roar? – had been terrifying, if Jack could laugh about it, it probably wasn’t so bad. He sent Jamie a smile and offered him a hand. “Feel well enough to stand? I think you’re gonna like this.”

Jamie glanced at Baby Tooth, but she just smiled secretively and shrugged. So he took Jack’s hand, and shakily got to his feet.

“What is it?” Jamie asked as they walked towards the door.

“There’s a lot of strange things about this place, but it all gets outshined by the, uh…” Jack weighed his words before opening the door. “…pets?”

They walked out onto a wooden balcony without any railing. The wind was in Jamie’s hair immediately, and he could tell that they were far above the ground. In front of them was a beautiful view of the ocean. The sun had just disappeared behind the horizon, and the Moon and the stars were reflected in the water, brighter than any night sky Jamie had ever seen.

What really caught Jamie’s attention, however, was the flying silhouettes on the sky. He felt his face go slack.

Dragons?” His voice came out as a mere whisper.

Jack crouched down beside him, following the dragons with his eyes. “Dragons,” he confirmed.

“But…” Jamie started, and found himself pinching his own arm… but like with Santa’s workshop, this wasn’t a dream either. “…my teacher said dragons aren’t real!”

Jack hummed. “You’ve been told that about a lot of things,” he replied.

Jamie stared at him, then felt a grin spread on his face. He leaned on Jack’s shoulder as he sat down beside him, turning his gaze back to the dragons in the sky. “You never told me there were dragons,” he said.

“That’s because I didn’t know,” Jack said, smiling amusedly. “Trust me; I was as shocked as you were when I first saw them, if not more. I even tripped over my own feet.”

Jamie snorted, but it made him wonder. “Why didn’t you know?” he asked, looking back at him.

There was a kind of glint in Jack’s eyes that revealed before he even said anything that he was about to say something in that jokingly haughty way he sometimes did; it made Jamie all the more certain that this really was Jack. He cleared his throat.

“I know I come off as this wise, all-knowing type of person,” he started pompously, smiling at Jamie when he laughed. Jack then broke his character, letting out a small exhale as he looked back up at the sky. “…but I’ve never seen a dragon, nor have I heard they ever existed. If so, it was before my time.”

Before Jack’s time… Jamie didn’t even know for sure how far back that meant, but it didn’t matter. Jack had made him realize something… something that made his stomach tighten and his head spin a little. He looked over the edge of the balcony.

The village below them was nothing like Jamie had ever seen before. It was hard to see in the darkness, and the only light came from what looked like torches – not streetlamps or anything like that. Most of the buildings seemed to be made out of wood, with some exceptions like a huge stone staircase and statues of what looked like horned people from where Jamie and Jack were sitting – and everything was huddled together in a way that looked kind of ramshackle and chaotic. Still, it was pretty in its own way; the houses had tall, curved roofs and some were painted in bright colors. It all made the village look… old, like pictures Jamie had seen in his history book.

Jamie bit the inside of his cheek, sitting back. He looked up at Jack.

“We went back in time,” he said. It wasn’t a question.

Jack was quiet for a few seconds, before he nodded. “It seems we did,” he confirmed. He turned to look at Jamie with a questioning expression. “Is it scary?” he asked gently.

Yes. Jamie pressed his lips together, then shrugged. “Should I be scared?” he asked back, dodging the question.

And to his relief, Jack smiled. “Nah,” he said, leaning back on his arms to look up at the sky again. Jamie could see where his eyes lingered: The Moon. “After battling and defeating the Nightmare King, I’d say we’ve been through worse.”

Baby Tooth, who’d settled on Jack’s shoulder again, chirped in agreement.

Jamie nodded, following his gaze. “I did ask for an adventure,” he mumbled, mostly to himself. Between the aching in his body and Jack losing his powers, it wasn’t quite what he’d imagined, but… it would be fine. Wouldn’t it?

He felt Jack’s eyes on him and looked up to meet them. It was strange to see him with brown hair and brown eyes. Not bad, but it was something he’d have to get used to.

“I’ll get us home, Jamie,” Jack said seriously, placing a hand on Jamie’s shoulder and squeezing gently. “Powers or not, we’ll find a way. I promise.”

And Jamie believed him.

Chapter Text

As darkness fell, it got colder. Neither Jack or Jamie wore particularly warm clothing, and Jack was still barefoot, so sitting outside became more and more uncomfortable… and the fact that it was uncomfortable was strange to Jack. As Jack Frost, it wasn’t like he’d been unable to feel the cold – on the contrary, he’d been able to feel every change in the temperature, and it had felt good. Jack Frost loved the cold, whether it was just a mild winter breeze or a blizzard on the North Pole.

Jackson Overland did not like the cold.

Jack hated to admit it, and he wouldn’t yet; he kept sitting on Gothi’s balcony, with his freezing feet dangling over the edge. At least the starry night was clear and beautiful. Jack kept finding himself looking at the Moon, feeling like a serious talk was due between him and Manny. But that would have to wait, since Jamie and Baby Tooth were right beside him.

Jack’s silent lie was exposed when a gust of wind blew at them, and an involuntary shiver went through his body. Jamie’s eyes snapped up to him.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

Jack didn’t quite meet his eyes, but pulled the corners of his lips into a faint smile. “It’s a bit chilly,” he admitted.

“Huh… That’s weird,” Jamie said.

“Yeah… sure is,” Jack chuckled quietly, then brought his knees up to his chest. “We can go back inside if you’re cold,” he then suggested.

Jamie didn’t immediately answer, and Jack turned to him to see that he was looking out into the air with a frown on his face. Upon noticing Jack’s eyes on him, Jamie met his eyes, before shrugging. “I’m alright,” he said. He sounded distracted.

Jack raised a brow. “Jamie?”

Jamie pressed his lips together, folding his hands. He looked up at Jack again. “How does it feel?” he asked uncertainly. “You know… to be like this? To be… human.”

It was a question Jack was unsure if he was ready to answer. Not just because he wasn’t sure how to, but also because he didn’t quite want to accept it. Surely, there was a way to reverse it, so maybe he didn’t need to come to terms with it at all… It would be easier that way. Not that anything ever seemed to be easy with him.

Jack looked away thoughtfully, pursing his lips. He hummed. “I feel… heavier. Like I’ve put on weight,” he said with a lopsided smile. “But that might just be because I can’t fly anymore. Also, I have this really strange feeling in my stomach, like…” He patted his stomach like North would do. “…not exactly painful, but-“

Jack’s stomach rumbled. The sensation had been building up for a little while, and Jack knew an opportunity when he saw one. Or in this case, felt one.

Jamie laughed, his head falling back. “You’re hungry!” he then said, before giving Jack a weird look. “You’ve never felt hunger before? Don’t you need to eat?”

“I guess I do now,” Jack said, avoiding the first question; the fact that he’d been human before he was a spirit was definitely a conversation he wasn’t ready to share, especially since he still remembered so little about his past life. “Aren’t you hungry?”

Jamie’s eyes narrowed, and he nodded. “When you mention it…” he started, but trailed off when he spotted something below them. Jack followed his eyes.

“Oh,” he said with a small frown. He thought Hiccup would be bringing them dinner, but apparently not.

Gothi was flying on her small – well, smaller – dragon up towards them. It looked almost exactly like Fishlegs’ dragon… What had he called it again? A Gockle? Grongle? Gringle? He and Jamie got to their feet and backed away as Gothi flew up to the balcony, landing with a thud that shook the entire hut.  Jack got a belated nervous jolt in his stomach when he realized that he wouldn’t be able to fly if this hut fell apart.

Jack,” Jamie hissed from where he was standing slightly behind him, watching Gothi climb off her dragon.

“Hello, Gothi,” Jack greeted her in that other language. Though he’d never heard her reply to anything before, it was still fascinating that she actually responded to his voice. Jack supposed it would take him a few days to get used to being seen and heard by everyone. “How was dinner?”

As expected, Gothi didn’t say anything. She did, however, smile at him, before grabbing a woven basket hanging from the dragon’s saddle. She walked over to Jack and handed it to him, before sending Jamie a look. She nodded at him.

Jamie hesitated for a moment. “Uh… Hello,” he said in English, sending Jack a bewildered look.

Gothi looked between the two of them, before she gestured at her dragon, and the two of them wobbled inside the hut, still without saying a word. Jamie stared after the dragon, mouth hanging open. It was surprising he didn’t run after them.

Jack removed the rag covering the basket. It contained a bowl of some kind of muddy brown stew and some pieces of bread – though they looked more like rocks than bread. It wasn’t the prettiest food he’d seen, but Jack wouldn’t judge. No matter how disgusting it looked. Or smelled.

“What did you say?” Jamie asked with awe the second Gothi disappeared into the hut, looking up at Jack with wide eyes. “What language was that?”

“Oh, that… I don’t know,” Jack said, and grinned at Jamie’s confused expression. He looked around for Baby Tooth and found her in the basket, inspecting the food with a skeptical expression. “I’m not fully updated on what’s allowed or not among tooth fairies, but I have a feeling Jamie will need to be able to understand what people are saying around here too. Baby Tooth?”

Baby Tooth looked up at her name, and Jack sent her a smile.

“Could you do that thing you did?” he asked.

Jamie looked confused as Baby Tooth flew up in front of his face. His eyes went wide as she touched his forehead, and Jack quickly steadied him when his body started swaying dangerously.

“Yeah, it feels really weird,” Jack said with a chuckle as Jamie grabbed onto his arm to keep his balance.

Jamie’s brows were deeply furrowed, and he blinked a few times before looking back at Jack and Baby Tooth. “What… What did you-“

“How was dinner?” Jack repeated, echoing what he’d said earlier.

Jamie’s eyes lit up with wonder, a smile spreading on his face. He looked at Baby Tooth. “That’s amazing! How did you do that?”

Baby Tooth smiled shyly, tweeting something in reply that was still pretty much incomprehensible, but Jack got the idea she was being modest. He smiled fondly at her.

“Did you see that dragon?” Jamie then whispered, even though he was still speaking English and Gothi wouldn’t be able to understand anyway. “It was so… bulky and fat? I’ve never seen a dragon like- I mean, not that I’ve seen a real dragon before today, but…”

“I think it’s called a- a Gurgle or something,” Jack said, but then Baby Tooth tweeted at him. He frowned. “A Grogle? A Gronckle! Your memory is better than mine, Baby Tooth. It’s a Gronckle.” He opened the door and peeked inside. Gothi was standing in the witch corner, and Jack had a feeling he knew what she was making. He looked at Jamie. “How do you feel?”

Jamie shifted his weight. It took him a few seconds to answer, and judging by his pale complexion and the bags under his eyes, the answer wouldn’t be anything that could save him from Gothi’s infamous soup. “I… could’ve been better,” he eventually replied.

Jack nodded. “Well… remember what I told you about North’s medicine?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“I take it back. And I think you’re about to get a taste of what made me change my mind.” Jack glanced into the hut again, and then sent Jamie a smile. Jamie was looking at him with a worried, and still very confused, expression. “But it’ll make you feel better. I think.”

“You think?” Jamie repeated.

Jack couldn’t help but find Jamie’s distress a little bit funny, so his sympathetic smile was sprinkled with poorly masked amusement. Jamie almost glared at him, but still followed Jack into the hut – very tentatively.

They walked over to their spots by the hearth, and Jack sat down to take out the contents of the basket. He found a couple of wooden bowls and some rusty cutlery. He wrinkled his nose.

“Hope it tastes better than it smells,” he mumbled.

Baby Tooth chirped doubtfully.

Gothi came over, handing Jamie an almost identical bowl as the one she’d handed Jack earlier. Jamie looked at her, glanced at Jack, and then took it.

“Thank-“ he started in English, but stopped himself. He hesitated. “Uh… Thank you,” he tried again, and the Berkians’ language rolled off his tongue, as if he’d always been able to speak it.

Gothi smiled at him and nodded. She then walked back to the front door and opened it. She brought her fingers to her mouth and whistled. Jack and Jamie exchanged curious glances. A few seconds passed. The sound of rapidly beating wings made it to Jack’s ears, and in the next moment, a bunch of those small dragons from before came flying into the room, landing on the floor and furniture, and on top of Gothi.

“Woah…” Jamie whispered.

Gothi walked across the room, nodding at them as she passed, then disappeared into another room, all dragons in tow.

Jack clicked his tongue, looking back at Jamie. “Welcome to Berk,” he said.

“She has so many dragons,” Jamie said incredulously. “They’re so much smaller than I imagined.”

“They all come in varying shapes and sizes,” Jack said, thinking back to Hiccup and his friends. “I talked to some of the villagers earlier and… it looks like everyone has a dragon companion. This one guy – Snot-something… Snotlout? Snotlout – his dragon was really huge.”

If Jack remembered correctly, that was also the same type of dragon that had made him trip over his own feet.

Jamie’s expression was full of wonder, and Jack grinned. “This place doesn’t seem too bad,” he told him. Then he looked down at the bowl from Gothi, and he sent Jamie an expectant look. “Well… At least when you’ve finished eating this, you probably have nothing to worry about.”

Jamie sent the bowl a long look and sighed. “I guess it would be rude to… Ugh… Okay…” He visibly steeled himself, before bringing the bowl to his mouth.

A snort escaped Jack when Jamie made a disgusted grimace.

“It’s not funny!” Jamie hissed at him, which just made Jack laugh more. Baby Tooth also chirped, but Jack wasn’t sure if she was laughing or reprimanding him.

Jamie’s mom’s tea, North’s medicine and Gothi’s soup had been the last things Jack had tasted the past few days, so maybe that was why their dinner wasn’t completely horrible in Jack’s mouth when they finally started eating it. It wasn’t good, but it had been so long since Jack had eaten real food, he wasn’t sure if he just remembered food to be better than it actually was.

However, a glance in Jamie’s direction told him that this food wasn’t very impressive, to put it mildly. But they both forced it down, and by the time they finished eating, Jamie’s eyes were drooping with sleep. Jack was surprised he’d been able to be up for so long in the first place – maybe Gothi really was some kind of witch after all, with healing potions and everything – but Jamie was still in severe need of rest. Jack too, really… but there was something he had to see before he could let himself fall asleep.

“How do you feel?” Jack asked once Jamie had settled back under his fur blankets.

Jamie pursed his lips, then shrugged. “I’m not sure,” he mumbled. “It’s a bit… You know…”

He didn’t finish his sentence, but Jack knew. He tried for a smile and nodded.

“Yeah, I know,” he said.

Jamie was looking at him under heavy eyelids. His face was pale and the rings under his eyes were still dark; he looked way too tired for a little boy, and Jack’s chest ached at the sight of it… but then Jamie smiled, and the tiredness eased ever so slightly.

“At least we’re here together,” he said.

Jack couldn’t make himself feel all that happy about that. He’d gladly be here alone, if it meant Jamie and Baby Tooth were safe. Still, Jamie’s optimism brought a smile to his lips, a warm feeling momentarily replacing the guilt in the gut of his stomach.

“And we’ll get back together, too,” Jack said.

“I know,” Jamie said, and continued speaking even when a yawn garbled his speech. “We’ll just have some fun here in the meantime, right?”

Jack laughed. “That’s what I like to hear,” he said, and ruffled Jamie’s hair. “Sleep now, alright? Then we’ll go look at the dragons tomorrow.”

Jamie hummed happily and closed his eyes. “Good night, Jack,” he murmured.

“Sleep well, Jamie,” Jack replied softly.

Jamie let out a soft sigh and didn’t say anything more. Jack didn’t move as he waited for his breathing to even out. Baby Tooth sent him a questioning look but didn’t say anything, and after about ten minutes, Jack looked at her.

“Is he asleep?” he whispered.

Baby Tooth glanced at Jamie then nodded. Jack silently got to his feet. He grabbed his staff even if there was no reason for him to have it anymore… even so, he felt vulnerable without it. The floor creaked softly beneath his feet as he walked out onto the balcony again, closing the door quietly behind himself.

He sat down near the edge, bringing his knees up to his chest. Baby Tooth landed on his shoulder, chirping softly at him.

“I just have to check something,” Jack replied, looking up at the sky. “We don’t know where we are, or… or when we are, but surely not so far back that… I mean, the Guardians have only been the Guardians since the Dark Ages, but they were around before that, right? So…”

Baby Tooth tweeted softly. She wasn’t sure.

Jack looked back to the stars, looking for that flicker of gold he always looked forward to seeing every night. “Come on, Sandy,” he whispered, scouting the stars. The children of Berk were probably asleep by now – the Sandman would appear at any moment.

But he didn’t. Jack sat there until ten minutes became thirty, and then an hour, and more… and nothing shimmered in the stars except exactly that, stars. And the Moon. Jack’s eyes drifted back to it.

“So what now?” Jack asked. He felt Baby Tooth’s eyes on him, startled by the coldness of his voice. Jack clenched his fists. “Nine months as a Guardians, and now this? Still no help? Still no answers?” He waited, but of course all he got was silence. Jack let out a shaky sigh, looking away from the Moon’s bright shine. “…Are you even there?” he asked quietly.

He guessed he’d never know. Not in this time and place anyway.

Baby Tooth chirped quietly, and Jack felt her tiny hand on his cheek. Jack closed his eyes and counted to ten, forcing his frustration aside. He then looked at Baby Tooth and tried for a smile.

“Sorry. I’m just…” It was hard to put everything he was feeling onto one word, so he didn’t try. He got to his feet. “I should sleep. Since that’s something I have to do now and all. What a bother, right?” He chuckled, and Baby Tooth smiled even if the laugh sounded hollow.

Jack didn’t try to pretend the cold didn’t bother him and went back inside. He put his staff down by the side of his fur skin and huddled under the blankets, taking comfort in the warmth from the fireplace. It had been a while since Jack had been able to appreciate the warmth. While he sat there, staring into the fire, exhaustion was quick to creep up on him. Still, he remained awake.

Jack wondered if it was possible to be too tired to sleep. It didn’t make much sense, and it had been too long since Jack had actually been in need of sleep that wasn’t due to a sudden sickness he didn’t even think had been possible… he didn’t know enough about being human. It had been too long.

His eyelids were stinging, and his eyes were dry. His body was aching and begging him to lie down. Jack didn’t move a muscle. His mind was a mess. He was afraid to close his eyes. He was… just afraid, he realized. More afraid than he’d been the last few months. The fear he’d felt before that – before he became a Guardian – was different. It was a fear he’d grown used to; the fear he would always be alone.

Now he wasn’t alone, but he wished he was. All he wanted was for Jamie to be safe, but what could Jack do now that he was human? Everything in his power didn’t seem like enough. Though he supposed he should be grateful that they’d appeared in a place that was… seemingly friendly. He could never be too sure.

For someone who’d yearned to be seen for centuries, knowing that he was visible to all these people still made Jack’s stomach tighten. To say that he’d been nervous about talking to Hiccup and his friends was an understatement – and not only had he been talking with several human teenagers at the same time, they’d also been riding on dragons. Even if the dragons were supposedly tamed, it didn’t change the fact that Jack was powerless, and he didn’t know how these wild-looking, horn-wearing people defined the word “tamed.”

In the end, he’d had nothing to worry about. Jack had managed to keep his cool – at least he hoped he had – and he’d been quick to decide that Hiccup’s friends were a fun lot. They all seemed just the right amount of weird. Sure, they’d been gossiping about Jack and Jamie, but who could blame them for that? Jack had been gossiped about for 300 years already, sometimes with contempt, sometimes with admiration; sometimes about his irresponsibility, sometimes about his teeth that apparently sparkled like freshly fallen snow. At least the twins’ gossip was original, he’d give them that.

And through that whole conversation, there were a few things he’d picked up that seemed important:

One, dragon riding was normal on Berk. Hiccup had said he and his friends were the first dragon riders, keyword being first. It implied they probably weren’t the only ones. Even Gothi, a scrawny old lady, had flown up here on her Gronckle, and if she could ride a dragon, surely anyone could.

Two, he knew that Astrid and Hiccup were the ones who’d saved them from the blizzard. Jack didn’t want to imagine what might’ve happened if it weren’t for them.

And three, Hiccup was the son of the chief. If that was good or bad, Jack didn’t know; he’d never been the type to see eye to eye with higher authorities… whether they were spirits, humans, or a mysterious orb in the sky that pulled Jack out of a frozen lake, only to let him wander aimlessly around the world for three centuries without saying a word. Funny guy, that Man in the Moon.

But at least Hiccup seemed nice. Here, the keyword was seemed; Jack was as paranoid about them as he knew they were about Jack. In the end, even if the conversation had been mostly pleasant, Jack was relieved when Baby Tooth appeared in front of his face, alerting him that Jamie had started to rouse from his sleep. Mostly because he was glad Jamie was waking up, but also because Jack wanted a reason to excuse himself.

It was almost laughable. Speaking to children and spirits was one thing… but speaking to human teenagers that saw Jack as a normal human being? Well, almost normal, anyway… Jack let out a long sigh, and looked over at Jamie’s sleeping form.

Jamie had so much faith in Jack, it was almost terrifying. At the same time, it was just about the only thing that gave Jack faith in himself. Jack knew they would find a way back. He knew he would get them through this in one piece. He didn’t know how, but he knew that no matter what, he would keep Jamie safe and bring him home, because that was what a Guardian did.

Blind hope, but hope nonetheless. Maybe he’d find some more distinct hope tomorrow.

“Tomorrow,” Jack murmured.

Baby Tooth looked at him, tilting her head to the side.

Jack smiled at her, and with a deep breath, he settled down on the fur skin, making himself as comfortable as possible. “We’ll figure it out tomorrow. Good night, Baby Tooth.”

 

 

The sound of knuckles rapping against the door brought Jack out of his sleep, and he was halfway onto his feet in a second, hand wrapped around his staff. Then he sighed exasperatedly at his own skittish reaction and forced himself to relax as he straightened up. Jamie was still asleep, and Gothi didn’t seem to be coming out to open up, so Jack supposed he’d have to do it.

He tried not to think too much about how hard his heart was beating as he put his hand on the doorknob. He opened the door.

“Oh- Jackson,” Astrid said, her eyes widening slightly at the sight of him. “Good-“

“Jack,” Jack interrupted. Astrid blinked, and Jack sent her a tired smile. “Call me Jack. Jackson is such a mouthful. But good morning to you too, Astrid.”

“Jack,” Astrid repeated, and returned his smile. “You look like you just woke up.”

Jack raised a brow.

“No offense – Your health seems to have improved a lot since yesterday,” Astrid said. “How do you feel?”

Jack shifted his weight. His body still felt heavy, but most of the pain had subsided. Mostly, he just felt stiff, and he doubted his energy levels were as stocked as they usually were… though that might just be because he was human. Right now, however, he felt alright.

“Good,” Jack replied. “Gothi’s healing is, uh… like magic.”

Astrid chuckled. “Yeah, sure is. Don’t worry, you’ll probably get out of here soon,” she said, and Jack wasn’t sure if she was serious or not about Gothi using magic. It was a difficult answer to fish out of someone without revealing the fact that Jack was serious about the question. Astrid hesitated for a moment, eyes darting to the side of Jack’s head. “…And your little brother?”

Jack’s chest tightened. Jamie being his little brother had seemed like a good cover at the time – at least since Hiccup had just assumed that he was – but he’d forgotten to tell Jamie that part. Jack glanced behind himself and saw that Jamie was still sleeping, with Baby Tooth sitting on top of him.

“He’s… alright,” Jack said, lowering his voice as he turned back to Astrid. “A bit scared, even if he wouldn’t outright admit it, I think.”

Astrid’s expression softened. “Is he awake?”

“No,” Jack said, before realizing that Astrid probably had a reason to be here. He tilted his head curiously to the side. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, you know…” Astrid started and let out a sigh. “If it were up to me, I’d give you some more time to come around, but Stoick wants to talk to you as soon as possible. We let it slip that you were both awake during dinner yesterday, so now he demands to see you.” She sent Jack an apologetic look. “Like, now.”

Now Jack’s chest definitely felt tight. Out of all the strange names he’d heard since coming here, Stoick the Vast seemed to have made an impression on him. He couldn’t say the name sounded like it belonged to some jovial old dad who just wanted to have a nice little chat over a cup of tea. If all the people in this village looked like Gothi and Hiccup’s friends, he could just imagine what their chief would look like. That, and the fact that Hiccup had seemed nervous about this meeting, did not help.

But it would probably be fine, right? Stoick the Vast wouldn’t throw them in a dungeon. Jack had been through scarier stuff than a chief with a weird name. Besides, Hiccup was far from imposing… maybe he’d taken after his dad.

Astrid was giving him an expectant look. “Earth to Jack?”

Jack realized he’d been quiet for too long. “Oh,” he said, straightening his back. “Okay, well… I guess we’ll just get that over with. I’ll go wake Jamie.” He turned around and came face to face with Baby Tooth, making him jump and let out a small yelp. “Baby Tooth, come on,” he muttered, then continued over to Jamie’s sleeping form. Baby Tooth remained by Astrid, sizing her up and down protectively.

Jack kneeled by Jamie’s side, and hesitantly put his hand on his upper arm. It was strange, because even after nine months, he almost expected to pass through him. He didn’t, and Jamie stirred slightly when Jack touched him.

“Jamie… It’s time to wake up,” Jack said. He snorted when Jamie mumbled something incomprehensible, but it was definitely a protest. “Aren’t you excited to see the dragons?”

Jamie’s eyes opened and fixed on Jack. He looked momentarily confused, and then his eyes widened. He used Jack as support as he sat up and looked around. “Jack,” he said. “Oh… It wasn’t a dream.”

Jack almost grimaced. “No, afraid not,” he said. “How do you feel?”

Jamie considered it for a moment, before smiling tiredly. “Better,” he said, looking back at Jack. He then noticed something behind him, and Jack turned around to see Astrid peeking into the room.

“Oh- Sorry,” Astrid said when she realized she’d been caught, but she didn’t go back outside. She had an inquisitive expression on her face, and Jack had a feeling the interrogation had already begun. Baby Tooth was still flying around her, a watchful expression on her little face.

Jack got to his feet and gestured at Astrid. “Jamie, this is Astrid,” he said. “Astrid, Jamie. She’s come to, uh…”

“To show you down the mountain,” she answered. “It’s a steep walk and you don’t have dragons, so you’ll probably have to get used to it.”

“Where are we going?” Jamie asked, his gaze shifting between Astrid and Jack.

“We have to speak with the chief,” Jack said. He tried to sound casual about it. “Just so he knows we’re not a threat or anything.”

“The chief…” Jamie repeated in an awed mutter. “Cool.”

Jack smiled at him and offered him a hand. Jamie took it and got to his feet, and picked up the clothes he’d dropped beside his fur skin. Jack was about to walk onto the balcony, but stopped when Astrid sent him a weird look. She raised a brow, looking at his bare feet.

“It’s cold, you know,” she said.

“What? Oh…” Jack had placed Hiccup’s boots beside the front door, and he gave them a long look. “Okay.”

He put on the shoes. They were just a little too small for him, but still they were heavy and bulky. All shoes, in Jack’s opinion, were in the way, but these were especially in the way. And he also couldn’t help but wonder at which point Hiccup had stopped needing both of his shoes, since these were a pair… He looked bemusedly down at them, before looking up at Jamie. Jamie was looking at him with an amused expression, his lips pressed tightly together in an obvious attempt to hide his laugh.

“How do I look?” Jack asked with a lopsided smile.

Jamie giggled, which made Astrid look between the two of them with a perplexed expression. Jack just smiled at her and motioned for them to go outside.

“You’re a strange duo, you know that,” Astrid said as they followed her down a staircase by the side of the balcony, leading down to a patch of green grass. The sun was barely over the horizon and the wind was cold and crisp. Morning dew made the grass shimmer slightly in the sunlight. “Careful, it’s steep and slippery down here,” she added.

At least she was honest about what she thought about them.

“I guess we are a bit strange,” Jack agreed in English, which made Jamie elbow him playfully.

“What language was that?” Astrid asked, and though her tone was casual, Jack had a feeling this conversation was more crucial than she tried to make it seem. He didn’t want to get on the bad side of this girl, or anyone in the village, and he knew they already seemed suspicious enough.

“English,” Jack replied honestly.

Astrid frowned. “And where is that language from?”

“America.”

“America…” Astrid repeated, then shook her head. “That sounds… far away. Is it?”

Jack hesitated. “Uh, well… I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I’ve never heard of Berk either.”

“Right… And you don’t know how you got here, because of your memory loss,” she said. Jack nodded stiffly, ignoring the confused look Jamie sent him. But then Astrid looked at Jamie. Her expression was kind, but Jack still felt a bit annoyed by the fact that she was trying to interrogate him as well. “Do you remember anything?”

Jamie hesitated, and Baby Tooth quickly flew in front of him, vigorously shaking her head. “…No,” he replied tentatively. “It’s… It’s blurry.”

Astrid hummed, and turned ahead again. “Down here,” she said, showing them down a steep path that looked like it hadn’t been used in a while, between the mountainside and a huge boulder.

Astrid went first, then Jamie, then Jack. The path then broadened into another patch of grass, with walls of the mountain surrounding it except for where the path continued. It looked like the kind of place Jack would’ve made his temporary home, had he still been a spirit.

“But you still speak Norse,” Astrid said.

Jack nodded. “Our village were often visited by traders who spoke it,” he said. “It’s been a while, so it’s a bit rusty, but… seems it has come in handy again after all.”

“Oh, like trader Johann?” Astrid asked.

Jack hesitated. “It’s been too long… I can’t remember their names,” he said.

“I suppose that makes sense,” Astrid mumbled.

Jack glanced at Jamie, who was looking both confused and increasingly more worried. Jack looked back at Astrid. “You know,” he said. “I thought Stoick the Vast was the one who was going to speak to us.”

Astrid grimaced a little. It took her a couple of seconds, and Jack got a feeling she was contemplating whether or not to act innocent. Then she sent him an apologetic smile. “The last time we let our guard down, it led to disaster,” she said. “I can’t help but be cautious.”

Jack looked back at her without breaking his poker face, but he nodded. “I understand,” he said. “But then you can’t blame me for being just a cautious as well. We just woke up in this unfamiliar place, and we don’t know how we got here. For all we know, you aren’t as nice as you’re making it seem.”

Astrid studied him for several seconds before she let out a sigh an averted her gaze. “If you’re telling the truth, then yes,” she said. “I understand. And trust me, I want to believe you. You don’t seem like bad people.” She paused, then sent them both a smile. “Even if you’re weird. Come on, it’s down this way.”

The ground was getting closer and closer, and yet there was still a considerable distance left. Jack belatedly realized he’d have to walk all the way back up, and almost let out a loud groan. They walked the rest of the way in mostly silence, aside from a few directions from Astrid, and one incident where Jack forgot that he couldn’t fly and fell on his ass instead – Jamie was still laughing about it by the time they made it to the base of the mountain.

“The Great Hall is just around there,” Astrid said, then gestured upwards. “And Gothi’s hut is up there.”

“Woah… Why does she live up there?  Isn’t it dangerous?” Jamie asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” Astrid said casually. “But I think it has something to do with being closer to the gods.”

“The- Closer to the gods?” Jack asked, remembering Hiccup’s funny way of swearing yesterday. “Which gods are those?”

Astrid gave him a strange look. “All of them,” she said. “But I think Gothi prays mostly to Odin, since he’s the god of wisdom. She’s the village elder after all.”

Jack and Jamie exchanged bewildered looks.

“Right,” Jack said. “Of course.”

Astrid looked at them for a few more seconds, before she turned ahead and pointed at the stone staircase Jack had seen from Gothi’s hut. “Right up here,” she said. “We use the Great Hall for just about everything. Meetings, eating, shelter during devastating winter-“

Jack stirred. “Huh? Devastating winter?”

Jamie pursed his lips.

“Devastating winter,” Astrid confirmed with a nod. They started climbing the stairs. “Here on Berk it snows nine months a year. We have winter, and then we have devastating winter. It’s harsh to live here during those months, but we power through it.”

Jack frowned. “That bad, huh?” he asked bemusedly.

Astrid chuckled lightly. “Yep. Hopefully you won’t be here by then. There are still a few months until winter truly sets in.” They stopped in front of the entrance, and she turned to Jack and Jamie. “I mean, aside from the blizzard we found you two in, but that was… Well, anyway.” She put her hand on the door and took a deep breath. “Stoick and the others will be waiting inside. I…” She hesitated, biting her lip. “Stoick is imposing, but he’s just. You can trust him.”

Then why did she sound so nervous? Jack decided not to ask.

Astrid sent them both a reassuring smile and pushed the door open. “Good luck,” she murmured.

“Thanks,” Jack said.

They walked inside. Jack tightened his hold around his staff, and Jamie walked closely behind him. They entered into a huge cave that had been built into a hall. There were long tables and a hearth where fire was burning. Huge columns rose from the floor to the stone ceiling, and torches bathed the room in a dim and slightly menacing light.

There was talking, but it momentarily subsided when Jack and Jamie entered. Jack’s eyes landed on a small group of people sitting around one of the tables. They were all big and ragged, with horned helmets and bushy beards. However, one of them was quick to steal all of Jack’s attention. The biggest and hairiest of them all, wearing the helmet with the longest horns. His beard was long and red, tied into several braids. His brows were bushy and his gaze was bright blue and intense as they met Jack’s own. Jack felt himself stop breathing for a moment.

“And I thought North was huge,” he muttered in a whisper, and Baby Tooth tweeted in quiet agreement. There was no doubting it; this was Stoick the Vast.

And with all three brutish men’s attention on him, Jack almost missed the skinny figure standing off a little bit to the side: Hiccup. Saying Jack was relieved to see him was an understatement. Toothless was there as well, his green eyes watchful.

“Ah,” Stoick said, getting to his feet. “So these are the boys. Come, sit.” He had a strange accent, Jack noted. He gestured at a couple of seats beside one of the other men, to his right. He had blond hair, a lopsided mustache and a prominent underhung jaw. He smiled at them.

Jack cleared his throat, and carefully put a hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Jamie,” he murmured. He led them up to the table. Hiccup nodded at them as they passed, and as Jack and Jamie sat down beside the blond guy, Hiccup sat down at the opposite side, next to a guy with short black hair and a familiar face. The resemblance was uncanny; could this be Snotlout’s father?

Jack tried to fool himself into thinking he wasn’t nervous. He looked at Stoick the Vast and sent him an easygoing smile.

“You must be the chief,” he said. “It’s, uh- Thank you for… for letting us stay.”

“We’ll see about that,” the man that looked like Snotlout’s father mumbled.

“Quiet, Spitelout,” Stoick chided. He then got to his feet, and Jack tried not to let his poker face crack when he saw Stoick’s full height. The guy was, well, vast. He watched Jack and Jamie, and Jack got the feeling he wasn’t even trying to look menacing; his face was just like that. “What are your names?”

“My name is Jackson Overland,” Jack said, then turned to Jamie, who watched him with a slightly perplexed expression. Right – Jamie didn’t know Jack had introduced himself with his old human name. He sent him a reassuring smile, and put a tentative hand on his shoulder. “And this is my brother, Jamie.”

Jamie’s eyes widened a fraction, and Jack gently squeezed his shoulder before turning back to Stoick.

Stoick nodded. “And why are you here?”

Jack glanced at Hiccup. He was sitting quietly in his seat, his lips pressed together. When he met Jack’s eyes, he nodded at him.

“There’s… no reason,” Jack replied. He tried to sound relaxed, but when Stoick narrowed his eyes at him, he found himself straightening his back. “I mean- I can’t remember why- I don’t know why we’re here. I don’t even know how we ended up here.”

Stoick put his hands on the table, leaning forward. “Then why should we trust you?”

“Dad…” Hiccup said, but was promptly ignored.

“Less than two weeks ago, Berk was under attack,” Stoick said. He began to pace slowly back and forth, always keeping his eyes on Jack. However, Jack noticed he never looked at Jamie. Maybe he didn’t want to frighten him. “And now, two strange boys show up out of nowhere. What should I do with that?”

Jack gritted his teeth. Frustration was beginning to simmer in his chest. “I don’t know,” he said. “What should you do with that?”

Stoick stopped pacing. Jack was afraid he’d said something wrong.

“We are not in any position to let strangers take refuge in our tribe,” he said.

“Dad,” Hiccup said again, louder this time.

“They are just boys, Stoick,” the blond man then said. Jack was surprised he was defending them.

Stoick sent him a sharp look, and the man called Spitelout made a disgruntled sound.

“They can’t do anything while they’re inside the village,” Spitelout said. “But if they run away… Now that is another story. As long as we don’t let them leave.”

Jack didn’t like the sound of that. He felt Jamie’s hand hook nervously onto his hoodie.

“Spitelout is right,” Stoick said.

“What?” Jack said without thinking. “No- Spitelout is not right, we’re not-“

“Until we know your intentions, we can’t let you leave,” Stoick interrupted, sending Jack a dark look. Jack pressed his lips together. “Until we know we can trust you, someone will have to make sure you don’t sneak around in places you’re not supposed to go. And if you try anything…”

Stoick didn’t finish the sentence, but Jack got the message. On the other side of the table, Hiccup was staring at his hands.

“Aha,” Spitelout said. “Snotlout can do that.”

“No!” Stoick and Hiccup said at the same time.

“No,” Hiccup repeated, getting to his feet as well. He gestured exasperatedly with his hands. “Don’t you think you’re being a little too paranoid about this? Whatever damage they may cause, it’s nothing we can’t deal with, and either way, I don’t think they even will-“

“What you think they will doesn’t matter,” Spitelout interrupted. “It’s too risky.”

“Eh. I’m with Hiccup on this one,” the blond man said. “One of them is a child, the other one is even more of a fishbone than Hiccup.”

Jack sent him a look, and Hiccup deadpanned.

“Thank you, Gobber.”

“Your welcome!” Gobber said with a jovial smile.

Stoick sat back down. “Hiccup,” he said. “You found them. I’ll leave them to you.”

Hiccup looked from Stoick to Jack and briefly at Jamie. He sent them a halfhearted smile, but he seemed a bit exasperated about this entire thing. “Got it,” he said. “And where are they supposed to stay?”

Stoick let out a quiet sigh, rubbing his face. Jack wondered if he was always this tired; it must be exhausting to be chief. Two mysterious strangers appearing out of nowhere probably didn’t help on his headache.

“Figure it out,” he told Hiccup. “Now, go. We have other things to discuss that these two shouldn’t hear.”

Spitelout rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything. Jack jumped when there was a sudden huge, heavy hand patting his shoulder, and he turned to meet Gobber’s toothy smile.

“Welcome to Berk, lads,” he told them.

Jack quickly came over the small shock of being addressed by a human adult. “Oh- Thanks, uh… Gobber,” he said. He got to his feet after Hiccup did, and Jamie followed his lead. He backed away from the table and met Stoick’s eyes. He didn’t know about the customs on Berk, but he supposed he should show some kind of respect towards the chief of the tribe.

And then there was the part of him that didn’t want to. He settled for a nod. “Thank you,” he said.

Stoick nodded back, and Hiccup came over to them, Toothless in tow.

“Sorry about that,” Hiccup said once he’d closed the door behind them, heaving a great sigh. “My dad likes to appear threatening towards strangers, but he’s… Ugh.”

Jack let out a sigh he didn’t know he was holding, which quickly turned into an airy chuckle. “No, that’s… It’s fine,” he said distractedly.

Jamie looked just a little bit paler than he had earlier. Jack crouched in front of him.

“Hey,” he said. “It’s fine, right? We’re okay.”

Jamie nodded weakly and let out shaky breath. “Yeah,” he said. He then glanced up at Hiccup, who was shifting his weight awkwardly. Then his gaze drifted to Toothless, who was waiting patiently behind him. “Is… Is that your dragon?” he asked Hiccup.

Hiccup’s posture was a bit stiff. Jack supposed he wasn’t all that used to speaking to children. But he smiled at Jamie and stepped aside to put a hand on Toothless’ head.

“This is Toothless,” he said.

Toothless perked up once the attention was on him, and he padded over to Jack. Jack straightened up and took half a step backwards when Toothless gave a growl he hoped was friendly.

“Uh- Oh, hi again,” Jack said with a nervous laugh. He glanced at Hiccup, who smiled approvingly, and Jack carefully put a hand on Toothless’ nose, petting him gently. Somehow it was just as incredible as the first time. He grinned and looked at Jamie, whose eyes were huge.

Hiccup stepped forward. “It’s okay,” he told Jamie, then crouched beside him the way Jack had done moment before. “Just… hold your hand out like this.”

Jack stepped to the side as Hiccup led Jamie through the same procedure he’d made Jack do the day before. Even if Toothless had never shown any signs of violence, Jack still found himself tightening his hold around his staff nervously as Jamie averted his eyes, letting Toothless come to him. But Hiccup was right beside him, and Baby Tooth had settled on top of Jamie’s head; if they were calm, Jack probably had nothing to worry about.

Jamie gasped when Toothless’ snout came in contact with his hand, but he didn’t move. Hiccup chuckled.

“You can look now,” he said.

Jamie looked back, and his face broke into a smile. He laughed, and Toothless opened his eyes again, letting out a funny burble. Jack grinned, looked at the way the dragon somehow smiled back at them – and then noticed something else. Toothless’ eyes were shifting between Jack and Jamie… and then up at Jamie’s head.

Jack frowned, glancing at Baby Tooth. “He can see you?” he asked her.

Baby Tooth looked back at Jack. She smiled.

He noticed Hiccup was watching, and Jack met his eyes. He realized he’d just been speaking to thin air from Hiccup’s point of view, and he sent him a sheepish smile.

“So,” he said, gesturing towards the village below them. “How about a tour of Berk? Since you have to keep an eye on us and all.”

Hiccup was definitely giving Jack a curious look, but he seemed to let it go for now. He smiled lightly. “Sure,” he said, but then hesitated. “But, uh… Just so you know, people have been talking. You can’t expect them all to be friendly.”

“As long as they’re not all like that Spitelout-guy, I think we’ll manage,” Jack said.

Hiccup shrugged. “Can’t promise you anything. We Vikings aren’t exactly known for our big hearts and warm welcomes. But don’t worry, they’ll get over… Uh, are you okay?”

Jack and Jamie were both staring at Hiccup.

“Vikings?” Jamie echoed.

Hiccup looked sheepish. “Uh, yeah. Bad reputation, I know,” he muttered.

Jack grabbed that explanation as it was presented to him. “Uh- Well, I’m… You all seem friendly enough,” he said, as if that was the reason for their surprise. He looked up at the sky, but the Moon was nowhere to be seen. He sighed. “Oh man… We’re really far from home, aren’t we?”

Chapter Text

Hiccup was very aware that Berk was an unusual place, even without the dragons – especially if you weren’t from the Archipelago, which was the case for Jack and Jamie. However, Hiccup still thought it was a bit weird that Jack and Jamie reacted with awe and surprise towards things Hiccup himself took for granted. Like, how were they alive when it seemed none of them had even held a weapon before? At least Jack seemed less shocked than Jamie, but judging by Jamie’s reaction, Hiccup would’ve thought he’d never even seen a weapon up close. He didn’t miss the way Jamie’s eyes widened in wary awe when they passed Mrs. Ack sharpening her battle axe, and Hiccup didn’t have the heart to tell him that the number of weapons they carried now was nothing compared to what it was like four years ago.

But then again, Hiccup already knew these guys were weird. The way they kept making small comments in their native language to each other and giggling didn’t help. Hiccup wasn’t about to stop them, even if there was a part of him that was convinced they were talking about him behind his back – but that might just be his insecurities talking.

And as Hiccup showed them around the village, he was quick to notice that while Jamie was surprised by things Hiccup could sort of understand, Jack was a complete other story. There was just something very off about him, from the way he carried himself, to the way he looked at Hiccup or any other person in the village. There was a kind of jump in his step, but sometimes with a slight awkwardness to it, like… Hiccup didn’t know exactly how to describe it. Like the ground was shifting beneath him, or like his shoes were made of lead.

And then there was his stare. As with his posture, he seemed relaxed and playful when he looked at Jamie. However, when he looked at Hiccup or any other person in the village, he seemed watchful and calculating, his gaze intense – until Hiccup would meet his eyes, and slight surprise passed over his expression, like he wasn’t aware of his own staring. There was something about him that screamed “I have no self-awareness” in a way that was awkward in a way even Hiccup could never be. Hiccup didn’t know if it was funny or concerning.

He managed to shove his curiosity away until a particularly bad stumble from Jack, and he sent him a look. “How are your shoes?” he asked.

Jack’s expression was disgruntled, but his eyebrows quickly rose into a mimic of obliviousness upon meeting Hiccup’s eyes. “Huh? Oh… They’re alright,” he said, looking down at said shoes. “A bit too small, maybe, but…”

They were on their way to the dragon arena, away from the village so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the stares from the other villagers. Like Hiccup had predicted, they weren’t all willing to trust Jack and Jamie right away, but at least no one had decided to tell them directly. Yet.

Hiccup grimaced a little. “Yeah, I guess they would be… I had these when I was fifteen,” he said, sending him an apologetic smile. “Would’ve borrowed you some other shoes, but I usually don’t make them in pairs, for obvious reasons.”

Jack was only slightly better than Jamie at keeping his poker face, both of their eyes flicking down to Hiccup’s prosthetic.

“Seems a lot of people are missing limbs around here,” Jack then said.

Hiccup nodded. “That’s Berk for you.”

Jamie frowned, glancing upwards, but Hiccup didn’t catch what he was looking at. He did that a lot; both of them did.

Jack frowned, shifting his hold on his staff. “Is this really a safe place to be then?” he asked.

“Actually, not counting the last few months, Berk has had the most peaceful three years it’s had in… well, since ever, I think,” Hiccup said. There was a guilty lump forming in his chest the more he spoke, but he ignored it. “But, uh… The last few months, me and the other guys were out exploring the Archipelago, and then we found trouble. Or… I found trouble, I guess.”

He already knew there was no point in thinking about what if’s, but maybe they wouldn’t have lost so much, had Hiccup never found the Dragon Eye in the first place. But then again, maybe Krogan would’ve found it and then they would’ve had no way to fight back.

No, it was over now. There truly was no reason to think about what could have been.

“What kind of trouble?” Jamie asked.

Hiccup hesitated. He could hear Astrid and Stoick in the back of his mind, telling him to be careful about revealing too much information to these strangers. But that war was over, and the Dragon Eyes were gone for good. He doubted there was anything Jack and Jamie could do with that information.

“We… found something. A kind of treasure,” he said, and couldn’t help but smile at Jamie’s expression. He looked as if he was listening to an epic fairytale – and Hiccup guessed it sort of was, for someone who’d never seen a dragon before. “A map actually,” he corrected himself.

Jamie’s mouth was just an ‘O’ at this point. “A treasure map?” he wondered.

“N- well, sort of,” Hiccup said, and but a hand on Toothless’ head, stroking him absentmindedly. “A map to find the king of the dragons.”

“Woah,” Jamie gasped, looking up at Jack as if to ask, “can you believe this?” and then back at Hiccup. “What happened? Did you find it?”

“Uh… No,” Hiccup said. It wasn’t a complete lie; he’d never actually seen the dragon, but the fact that it had been there was very obvious. However, it was sensitive information; Hiccup had destroyed the Dragon Eyes for a reason. Nobody should know about it. Still, Jamie’s disappointed expression – and Jack’s, for that matter – made him want to give him a satisfying end to the story anyway. “It’s a complicated story,” he said, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. “The map fell into the wrong hands, but I managed to replicate it. It was a race. A… game.” He frowned at his own choice of words. It hadn’t been long enough; Hiccup still felt exhausted even thinking about Maces and Talons, with or without life-threatening messages from Viggo.

“Is that how you lost your- I mean…” Jamie grimaced. “If it’s okay to ask…?”

Hiccup chuckled and shook his head. “No, I lost my leg before that,” he said.

Jack was looking thoughtfully at him, before his eyes went down the shoes he was wearing. Hiccup got the feeling he was already doing the math, but he didn’t say anything, which was relieving; he didn’t like reciting that story.

“When did this happen?” Jack asked instead.

“The race? Oh, like… couple of weeks ago, more or less,” Hiccup muttered.

Jack and Jamie had the same shocked expression on their faces, and Hiccup blushed.

“It’s fine, though,” he quickly added on. “It’s over now. At least… that’s what I hope. The maps are gone for good, and the location of the dragon is hidden. Somewhere safe, where the wrong people won’t find it. Somewhere nobody will find it.”

“Who is the wrong people?” Jack asked. “What did they want?”

Hiccup smiled grimly. “Not everyone realizes what amazing, loyal creatures dragons are,” he said. He looked over at Toothless, and his smile softened when he met his eyes. “We only realized that recently, too. Not everyone agrees with that notion. Speaking of…”

They came to a stop in front of the arena, and Hiccup gestured at it.

“This is the former dragon fighting arena,” he said, not quite meeting Jack and Jamie’s eyes as he said it; Berk’s past relationship with dragons wasn’t something Hiccup was proud of. “Obviously it’s not used for that anymore. We used it as our Dragon Training Academy for a while, and though we still use it for dragon training sometimes, these days it’s usually-“

His voice got stuck in his throat when fire suddenly shot out over the top of the arena, followed by the distinct cry of a Monstrous Nightmare. Hiccup deadpanned, letting his hand fall.

“…empty,” he finished dryly, then picked up his pace towards the arena’s entrance. “I swear to the gods, if Snotlout and the twins are training unsupervised again…”

He hurried into the arena, Toothless at his side, and Jack and Jamie at his heel. He groaned exasperatedly at the sight that awaited them: Gustav, and a bunch of kids crowding around his dragon, Fanghook. Fanghook was stomping around, with Gustav on his back, grinning triumphantly at the kids.

“So as you can see, Monstrous Nightmares might be extremely dangerous and difficult to train,” Gustav was saying, “ – quite possibly the most difficult, if you ask me or any other qualified dragon trainer in-“

“Gustav!” Hiccup interrupted, stomping over to them. “How many times have I told you-“

Toothless!” Fishlegs’ niece, Brenda, exclaimed excitedly, and in the next second, all the kids had left Fanghook in favor of petting Toothless. Toothless had a miserable expression on his face as the kids surrounded him, but didn’t do anything to stop them. Hiccup tried to count them: Brenda, Brant, Shrug, Undis, Hrafnhildur, Skade- He gave up and left Toothless to deal with them, while he reprimanded Gustav.

Gustav was smiling guiltily, climbing down from Fanghook. “What? I was just showing the youngsters how to train a Monstrous Nightmare. How is that wrong? Isn’t that what we do?”

“Youngsters?” Hiccup repeated, almost laughing at his choice of words, before shaking his head. “Gustav, you can’t just go and do this by yourself. Someone could get hurt!”

Gustav huffed. “Well, sorry, Hiccup, need I remind you that I have done much more difficult and dangerous things than showing a few kids how to-“ He cut himself off, his eyes landing on something at Hiccup’s side. “Hey… I don’t know you. You’re one of those blizzard boys!”

Hiccup looked down to see that Jamie was standing slightly behind him. He looked a bit wary, but once Gustav’s attention was on him, he tried feigning confidence by straightening his back, frowning at Gustav.

“Blizzard boys?” Jamie asked. “Sounds like a boyband or something.”

Hiccup didn’t know what he was talking about, but didn’t get the chance to ask. Jamie’s voice had made the other kids turn around bewilderedly.

“It’s him,” Undis said, pointing at Jamie.

And soon enough, the kids were flocking around Jamie instead, talking over each other. Somehow, Hiccup was pushed out of the circle, and Jamie remained standing there alone with a slightly overwhelmed look on his face.

“What’s your name?” Skade asked.

“How old are you?” followed Hrafnhildur.

“Is it true they found you in the snowstorm?” Undis demanded.

Jamie didn’t get to answer anything, because questions just kept coming:

“Where are you from?” Brenda asked.

“Where’s the other boy?” Brant said at the same time.

“My mom said that you angered the gods and that’s why that blizzard hit us.”

“Yeah, what did you do to-“

“Alright, that’s enough!” Hiccup cut in, trying to intervene, but the kids completely ignored him. So much for being the son of the chief; kids never listened to anybody. “Be nice to him- Hey! Undis, that’s-“

He let out a frustrated sigh, and looked around for Jack to ask if he wasn’t going to do anything about this. Then he belatedly registered what Brant had said and ended up turning in a circle without spotting Jack anywhere inside the arena.

“What the-“ he started, but then spotted something else: The tail of a Hideous Zippleback, just outside the entrance of the arena. Hiccup facepalmed, knowing exactly what was going on out there. “Oh, gods…” he muttered.

He looked at Gustav and pointed at the kids. “Make sure they behave,” he said. “I have to stop a disaster from happening.”

Gustav gave him a thumbs up, and with his obnoxious voice and personality, he easily distracted the kids from bombarding Jamie with any more questions. “Alright, kiddos, over here-“

Hiccup didn’t wait to listen. “Come on, Toothless,” he said, and they hurried out of the arena.

“…and after talking to our wise cousin Agnut, we’ve come to the conclusion that you’re probably not a troll, but that possibility isn’t completely ruled out-“ Tuffnut was saying, with Ruffnut nodding approvingly beside him.

Somehow, Jack looked neither offended or intimidated, even with Barf and Belch looking over Ruff and Tuff’s shoulders, their four eyes trained curiously on Jack. In fact, he looked mostly amused about it all, looking at the twins as if he was genuinely interested in what they were saying.

“What are you doing?” Hiccup interrupted.

“Not now, Hiccup, this is important,” Ruffnut replied dismissively.

“This is crucial!” Tuffnut agreed.

Jack sent Hiccup a smile, leaning casually on his staff. “Yeah, you should listen to them, Hiccup,” he said. “They’re making some very good points. How would you know I’m not a troll? Even if I’m not barefoot anymore.”

Ruffnut pointed at him. “But you wish you were barefoot!” she said.

Jack nodded. “You’re right.”

“But then… what about the kid…” Tuffnut muttered thoughtfully, scratching his chin. “He must be a troll too, and yet sources tell us he’s always worn shoes. Unless…” He gasped. “Unless you were cursed! I was cursed once! By a Lycanwing – it bit me, and-“

“Alright, Tuffnut, we already figured out that wasn’t a Lycanwing bite and you’re not cursed,” Hiccup said.

“You say that, but I know I’ll never be the same…” Tuffnut said grimly.

Hiccup walked up to stand between the twins and Jack. “And Jack isn’t cursed either, so-“

“Bold of you to say that, Hiccup,” Jack interrupted, now wearing that mischievous smile on his face. “You don’t know me.”

Hiccup sent him a long look. “Not helping,” he said, but Jack’s eyes just glinted with mirth.

“Let me ask you this, Jackson Overland,” Tuffnut said, leaning in very close.

“Jack is fine,” Jack said. He took a step back to regain some personal space, but Tuffnut didn’t pay that any mind.

“Are you trying to confuse us? Because that, my good friend, will take some work. We Thorstons are not easily tricked!”

“You sure about that?” Hiccup mumbled.

“We will figure you out, Jack,” Tuffnut promised, pointing at his own eyes, and then at Jack’s. “Mark my words.”

Jack’s gaze didn’t waver. “I’ll be impressed if you can,” he told them, and if Hiccup didn’t already know he was just messing with them, he would’ve been fooled too. It took a lot of willpower not to roll his eyes, because while Jack was riling the twins up for his own strange amusement, he didn’t know what he was getting into! And Hiccup was about to tell him that, but just then, Fanghook’s roar split the air, followed by a series of frightened shouts and screams from the kids inside the arena.

Jack somehow stumbled again, even if he was just standing there normally, before he slipped past Ruff and Tuff and bolted into the arena. Hiccup barely heard him hiss out something that sounded like a curse or something. They all quickly followed him.

Inside the arena, Gustav was sprawled on the ground, pressing a hand against his forehead. Fanghook was on fire, standing on his hindlegs, and between him and the wall of the arena, stood Jamie. From the looks of it, Hiccup could guess that Gustav had been trying to show off, and it had all gone horribly wrong, because of course it had; it was Gustav.

Jack was far ahead of them, running to Jamie’s side. Hiccup didn’t know what Jack thought would happen, but he knew that he wouldn’t last long in front of the riled up Monstrous Nightmare if he didn’t know how to handle him. But he was already too far away, so all Hiccup could do was shout:

“Jack, don’t!”

Jack didn’t stop. Instead, he jumped in front of Jamie and pointed his staff at Hookfang, as if a piece of wood would help him against a fire-breathing dragon who was on fire.

Toothless bolted forward, but came to a sudden stop when something completely bewildering happened: The flames on Fanghook’s body melted away, and the dragon backed off. His head was tilting from side to side, as if he was hearing a distant sound or something.

Jack lowered his staff and let out a relieved, airy laugh. He said something in his native tongue – a word Hiccup though he’d heard him say several times during their tour of Berk.

Jamie tentatively looked up, and though his face was pale, fear quickly faded from his expression as Fanghook backed away. Hiccup exchanged a look with the twins. They looked as confused as he felt. What had just happened?

After a few seconds of stunned silence, Hiccup walked up to Jack and Jamie.

“Are… Are you okay?” he asked.

Jamie looked up. “Uh- Y- Yeah,” he said, and even if his voice quivered, he did actually look completely unharmed.

The other children had begun to inch closer again now. Gustav was back on his feet, standing by Fanghook’s side with a perplexed expression. Jack looked at Fanghook, chuckled softly, before turning his gaze to Hiccup.

“No harm done,” he said, and if Hiccup didn’t imagine it, he though Jack’s smile looked a little too innocent.

Behind Hiccup, the twins were muttering quietly, trying to make sense of what they’d just seen. He couldn’t blame them.

 

 

After chasing Gustav and the kids out of the arena, they all ended up walking back to the village together. Hiccup had been a bit miffed about it at first, because he wasn’t very good with kids, and especially not a bunch of kids that were already worked up because of what had just happened. But he was quick to realize that he had nothing to worry about. On the way back to the village, he barely got to speak to any of the kids at all – or anyone at all, because of one simple reason:

Jack was amazing with kids. Hiccup didn’t know how or why, but no matter what those rowdy kids said or did, Jack knew how to respond. Even if there were seven kids surrounding him, all asking questions, all clamoring for his attention – maybe aside from Jamie, who was in the spotlight together with Jack – he managed to include everyone. And if one of the kids did something bad – like asking an inappropriate question or fighting with each other – Jack knew exactly what to do to distract the kids and make them laugh again.

It was some kind of miracle. Hiccup couldn’t help but stare, and so did Gustav and the twins; none of them had seen anyone who’d been able to control so many Berkian kids at once, and with such ease too.

By the time they made it back to the village, Jack had somehow dodged all their questions about their mysterious arrival and about their background, while still keeping the kids entertained and content. Much to Hiccup’s disappointed, who’d hoped the kids would manage to open Jack and Jamie up a bit. But to no avail; the kids were all wrapped around Jack’s little finger, and the weirdest part was that Jack seemed to be having as much fun as the kids were.

They were well into the village when Toothless began nudging Hiccup’s hand, growling incessantly. He was impatient, Hiccup realized. He wanted to go flying, but Hiccup didn’t know what to do with Jack and Jamie in the meantime. He definitely couldn’t take them with him on Toothless; their flights were too wild and dangerous, and Hiccup also didn’t want to teach them anything about dragon riding before he was sure he could trust them.

“I hear ya, bud,” he mumbled, petting Toothless as he looked back at Jack and Jamie. They were still chatting with the kids. Jack seemed more energized than ever. Hiccup shook his head, and looked back at Toothless. “I’ll just finish showing them around, and then we’ll go, alright?”

Toothless grumbled, clearly not satisfied, but he let the matter go for now.

“Oh, there’s more to see?” Jack asked, clearly having overheard their conversation. If he thought it was weird that Hiccup was talking to Toothless, he didn’t mention it.

Hiccup shrugged. “If you’re interested,” he said. “I also need to go up to the forge. Gobber should be back by now.”

“Gobber, huh?” Jack said thoughtfully. “The forge sounds cool. Right, Jamie?”

“Yeah!” Jamie replied, with even more enthusiasm than Jack.

Hiccup had never seen anyone so excited about the forge before.

“Do you have to leave?” Brenda asked, looking crestfallen.

Jack smiled and ruffled her hair. “We’ll be around,” he said. “There’s always another day.”

The children all moaned in disappointment, but Jack said that he could play with them again soon, and that they could play with Gustav and the twins in the meantime – much to Gustav and the twins’ protests. Hiccup didn’t really trust them with the kids either, but the words were already out, and soon enough they’d all run off to do Odin knows what, but only if Jack promised to play with them another day. Jack didn’t look like he thought that was a bad deal at all.

And then they were headed towards the forge. Hiccup found it hard to speak now, compared to how easy the conversation had flowed on their way to the arena. But what had happened in the arena had just been so strange, Hiccup couldn’t look at Jack and Jamie without thinking about it. It didn’t take long for him to crack.

“What happened back there?” he asked.

Jack, who’d been saying something to Jamie in his native tongue, looked up. “What do you mean?” he asked back.

Hiccup raised a brow, because it was obvious, wasn’t it? “In the arena,” he said. “You- How did you stop Fanghook from attacking? Did you even know what you were doing?”

Jack hesitated, his eyes darting off somewhere, before going back to Hiccup. “…No, not really,” he said. “I usually don’t, but things tend to work out anyway. Usually.” He frowned, like he was considering that. “Yeah, usually,” he concluded.

Hiccup had no idea what he meant, and it didn’t do anything to help quench his curiosity about this strange duo. He pointed at Jack’s staff. “What kind of wood is that?” he asked. Maybe it was made of something dragons didn’t like – possibly Monstrous Nightmares in particular, since it didn’t seem to have any effect on Toothless.

Jack blinked, then looked at his staff. He opened his mouth as if to answer, but then closed it again, his gaze going distant. “I’m… actually not sure,” he said. “I’ve never thought about it.”

Hiccup frowned. “It must be something about the staff… But Fanghook looked like… I don’t know,” he muttered. “Was he just surprised? Maybe he thought you were holding a weapon… But that would just agitate him more. No, it doesn’t make sense…”

“Uh… Maybe we were just lucky,” Jamie suggested.

Hiccup opened his mouth to argue, but then remember he was talking to a child. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, maybe,” he said.

“Is that the forge?” Jack asked.

Hiccup looked up, momentarily distracted from his musings. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “This is where we make all our weapons and saddles and all, but Gobber is also very good at fixing the dragons’ teeth. A dragon with a toothache isn’t pleasant.” He spotted Gobber and waved at him as they approached. “I also work here a lot, though not as much as I used to.”

Jack hummed. “Didn’t expect the son of the chief to like getting his hands dirty,” he said, and though he sounded casual, it wasn’t hard to hear the teasing undertone in his voice.

Hiccup snorted. “I’m the son of the chief, not a prince,” he said. Then his face fell a little. “Though I guess you have a point. Manning the forge is less of a dirty job than what the alternative was back then. Even when Berk was fighting against the dragons, I was never any good at it. So, the forge it was.”

“You know how to make a sword?” Jamie asked.

Hiccup smiled at that. “Of course,” he said. “Swords are easy. I’ll show you how, if you want to.”

Jamie definitely looked like he wanted to, and if Jamie’s excitement wasn’t rewarding enough, the look Jack sent Hiccup made it better. Jack smiled most of the time, but there was almost always a kind of elfishness about it that made Hiccup wary. This smile, however, was kind and approving. Hiccup only saw it for a second, before Jack grinned at Jamie, ruffling his hair playfully.

So now another thing was clear: Jack was strange, mysterious and often off-putting – but his love for children was genuine and pure. Hiccup found it hard to mistrust someone like that, even with all his other bewildering characteristics.

“How’s it going, lads?” Gobber asked as they finally walked into the forge. He was hammering on some kind of weapon but turned around to face them as he spoke. “I trust Hiccup’s been treating you well?”

Jack was quiet for a second, before he blinked, like he was surprised. “Oh- Yes, Hiccup’s been treating us well,” he replied, sounding a little stiff at first. Hiccup didn’t bother to react to it – he’d just accepted Jack’s weirdness at this point. “Berk is very nice too. You seem like, uh… characteristic people.”

Jamie was staring at Gobber’s hook, and then at his wooden leg. He kept his mouth shut, but Hiccup knew what he wanted to ask.

Gobber laughed. “Characteristic, eh? Yes, that’s one way to put it,” he said.

“Oh, it’s you guys.”

They all turned around at the voice, just as Snotlout stepped into view, holding a crossbow. He wore his usual, arrogant smile and looked pleased with the fact that he was holding a weapon to show off to Jack and Jamie. He eyed them curiously.

“Oh, it’s the Snot-boy,” Jack said, before blinking. “Did I say that in Norse?”

Jamie cleared his throat in a poor attempt to hide a giggle.

“It’s Snotlout,” Snotlout said indignantly. “Snotlout Jorgensson. It’s not that hard.”

“Is that a crossbow?” Jamie asked, and headed over to him. Hiccup wondered briefly if that was a good idea, but Jack was quick to follow, so Hiccup supposed he was in good hands. Jack could manage Snotlout on his own. Probably.

In the meantime, Hiccup could do what he’d actually come here for. He turned to Gobber.

“I found something,” he said. “Near the place we found Jack and Jamie.”

Gobber raised his brow, and Hiccup walked around Toothless – who was really beginning to look impatient now – to rummage through the satchel at the side of the saddle. He fished out the crystal he’d found in the snow and held it out to Gobber.

“I’m not sure if it’s theirs or not, but I thought it might reveal where they come from,” he said. “I don’t recognize the rock; it’s not something I’ve ever seen on Berk or anywhere in the Archipelago.”

Gobber held the stone up to his eyes and studied it for a long time. The stone glistened coldly, even in the warm light from the forge, casting dim blue reflections on Gobber’s face. He hummed.

“I have no idea,” he said, and held the crystal back out to Hiccup. Then he lowered his voice, glancing at Jack and Jamie, who were still busy talking to Snotlout. “But it looks like its worth a fortune. If I were you, I wouldn’t bother asking them about it. Maybe it’s not even theirs!” He grinned.

Behind them, Snotlout’s loud voice carried across the room:

“Well, you won’t be able to fight with just that stick of yours. You’ll need a real weapon, like this.”

Hiccup didn’t like to steal, but then again, he wasn’t actually sure if this belonged to Jack or Jamie. Just because he’d found it where he’d found them didn’t mean it was definitely theirs… right? He supposed he could ask them about it, but…

“I think I’m good with only this stick, actually,” Jack responded, his voice just a little chillier than usual.

Hiccup decided to take Gobber’s advice and put the crystal back in the satchel. There was just something about it – something he couldn’t quite put his finger on – that made him want to keep it. Or maybe he was just greedy, but it wasn’t like he was planning on selling it or anything. It just felt… special, in a strange way.

He was brought out of his thoughts when a loud clatter sounded behind him, and he whirled around to see Snotlout on the floor with a bunch of different tools and metal pieces scattered around him. A table had been tipped over, probably in Snotlout’s attempt to steady himself on it, by the looks of it. He was looking up at Jack, eyes wide with surprise. Jack straightened up from the defensive pose he’d been standing in, shifting his hold on his staff casually.

Had he knocked Snotlout over? That swiftly? With only a wooden staff?

Snotlout looked like he was asking himself the exact same questions. Jamie was standing by Jack’s side, his mouth an almost comically round “O.”

“Told you,” Jack said, proceeding to offer a hand to Snotlout. Snotlout didn’t take it.

“How did you-“ he started, but caught himself. He got to his feet without Jack’s help and stared at him. “You tripped me – I wasn’t ready!”

“Don’t take my staff,” Jack defended with a shrug.

“It’s just a piece of wood!” Snotlout yapped.

Like with the smile Jack had given Hiccup earlier, the elfishness in Jack’s expression disappeared – but this time his face became cold and serious, as if Snotlout had said something deeply offensive.

Gobber stepped in just then. “That was an impressive move,” he told Jack, wobbling over to him. “Didn’t take you for a fighter. You sure don’t look the type!”

Jack looked away from Snotlout and his expression relaxed again. He laughed, clearly not too offended by Gobber’s brutal honesty. “I guess not,” he said.

“Who trained you?” Gobber then continued to ask.

Jack hesitated. “No one,” he replied. “I’m self-taught.”

It obviously wasn’t the answer Gobber was expecting. Hiccup, who hadn’t even seen what Jack had done, could only wonder why. He wished he hadn’t had his back turned, because Gobber and Snotlout both looked stunned – only Jamie didn’t seem surprised, though his eyes were flickering nervously between Gobber and Jack, and sometimes to Snotlout. For all Hiccup knew, Jack could just have caught Snotlout off-guard – like Snotlout claimed – because as obnoxious and as boastful Snotlout was, he was still a good fighter and not easy to be swept off his feet. Especially not by someone who looked like Jack.

But then again, Hiccup shouldn’t talk too loudly about calling someone too skinny to be a good fighter.

“Whatever! I just wasn’t ready!” Snotlout protested, his face bright pink. “I’ll show you. Meet me in the-“

“Alright, I think it’s time we see the, uh… docks!” Hiccup cut in, putting a hand on Jack’s shoulder. Maybe he imagined it, but he thought Jack flinched ever so slightly under his touch… but if anyone else noticed, they didn’t mention it. “Battles of honors can wait until everyone’s completely settled in, Snotlout.”

Snotlout didn’t look happy about it, but Hiccup knew he was probably relieved to have a reason not to duel with Jack. He was all bark, no bite, usually.

On their way out of the forge, Gobber called after them:

“Oh, by the way,” he said. “If the two of you are staying for a while, I could need a couple extra pair of hands in here. Just mentioning it.”

Jamie looked like Snoggletog had come early. He looked at Jack with bright eyes, practically begging for his permission. Jack laughed and nodded at Gobber.

“We’ll keep it in mind,” he told him.

“What? Are you kidding me?” Snotlout yapped, but Gobber ignored him, and so did the rest of them as they continued heading towards the docks.

They were a couple of minutes away from the forge when Hiccup spoke up again: “Don’t worry about Snotlout,” he said. “He likes to act tough, but he’s mostly just talk.”

Jack snorted. “He’s alright,” he replied, making Hiccup raise a brow at him.

“You can say he’s annoying, you know,” he said. “Nobody ever likes Snotlout at first. He’s… someone you have to get used to, and then someday you might see his good sides. Buried deep, deep inside of him… under layers upon layers of not-so-good sides.”

It was Jack’s turn to raise a brow. “Isn’t he your friend?” he asked.

Hiccup shrugged. “Yeah, but we don’t always see eye to eye,” he replied. “We’ve grown closer in the recent years, but we didn’t start out as friends.” To be fair, he could say the same thing about Astrid and the others, but Jack and Jamie didn’t need to know that.

“Well, I think he’s fun,” Jack said. “At least… interesting.”

Hiccup wanted to say it didn’t look like he thought the same thing when Snotlout had insulted his staff, but decided not to mention it.

“But worry about the twins,” he said instead, curious of what Jack had made of them.

Jamie frowned. “The ones back at arena?” he asked, glancing at Jack for confirmation. “Why should we worry about them?”

“I wonder too,” Jack said, an amused smile on his face. “So far they haven’t done anything harmful, except calling me a troll, but I can take that.”

“Look, they’re a couple of muttonheads, but you can never expect what they’ll do next,” Hiccup explained, tapping his temple. “Their logic isn’t the same as ours, and if there’s one thing they never think about, it’s consequences.”

“I know someone like that too,” Jamie quipped, so quickly it sounded like he’d been waiting for it.

Looking at the way Jack was grinning, it wasn’t hard to guess who that person was. Hiccup raised his brows.

“I wonder who that is,” he said dryly.

“The twins seem fun as well,” Jack concluded. “Just the right amount of crazy. At least you’ll never be bored around them.”

Hiccup shook his head, letting out an exasperated chuckle. “For better or worse,” he said. “I won’t say I told you so.”

Toothless chose that moment to grumble indignantly, shoving his head against Hiccup’s side. Hiccup stumbled but caught himself before he could fall on his ass in front of Jack and Jamie.

“Hey,” he yapped at Toothless, but Toothless just replied with a glower, huffing loudly. “I told you, I’ll fly with you later!”

Toothless made a weird noise, like he was trying to imitate Hiccup’s voice. Hiccup rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, real mature.”

“You understand him so easily,” Jack said, looking at Toothless curiously. “You speak dragon?”

“He makes himself understood,” Hiccup said, and shook his head when Toothless shot him another nasty look.  “He’s grumpy because he wants to go flying. We usually do, around this time.”

“But you’re here because of us?” Jamie asked, a guilty look on his face.

Hiccup hesitated. “I mean- Sometimes duty comes first,” he said. “It’s alright. He’s just spoiled. Ouch!”

Toothless had hit him with one of his wings, and then proceeded to pointedly act as if nothing happened. Hiccup rubbed the side of his face and looked back at Jack and Jamie when the former spoke again:

“Why don’t he just fly on his own?” he asked.

There was a beat that probably lasted a bit too long.

“Uh… Well, you see-“

“Hiccup!”

Hiccup was glad to be saved from that explanation, and turned around to see Fishlegs and Meatlug, waving at them from where they’d found a nice patch of grass to sit, overlooking the ocean. Meatlug was munching on a pile of rocks, and Fishlegs on what looked like yak leftovers from yesterday.

“Oh- It’s like Gothi’s dragon!” Jamie said excitedly. “A Gronckle, right? What’s his name?”

Hiccup nodded for them to follow him over to Fishlegs. “Her name is Meatlug, and she is a girl,” he said, waving back at Fishlegs. “I’m sure Fishlegs will love to tell you all about her.”

“Meatlug,” Jamie said, grinning. “Why do all of you- uh, your dragons have such weird names?”

Jack laughed. “It wards of gnomes and trolls, apparently,” he said. “The twins told me when they accused me of being the latter.”

“Good morning!” Fishlegs said when they approached. He’d gotten to his feet, and looked a bit tense, like he was anxious to make a good impression. He smiled nervously at Jack. “Hello, again. And nice to meet you – you must be Jack’s little brother,” he then said to Jamie.

“Oh- Uh, yes,” Jamie said, sounding nervous too, all of a sudden. Weird – Fishlegs wasn’t exactly the most intimidating Viking on Berk, nor was Meatlug the most imposing dragon. Jamie didn’t strike Hiccup as they shy type either, even if he did have his moments of discretely hiding behind Jack, or even Hiccup himself. Hiccup didn’t understand why he would be nervous now.

“My name is Jamie,” Jamie then continued, holding his hand out to Fishlegs.

Fishlegs smiled brightly. He’d always been the best with kids out of Hiccup and his friends. They shook hands – a bit awkwardly at first, since Jamie went for Fishlegs’ hand and Fishlegs for Jamie’s forearm, but in the end settled for the way they usually did it on Berk: A firm grip around each other’s forearms.

“And I’m Fishlegs. This is Meatlug,” Fishlegs said, gesturing to his dragon. Meatlug perked up at the sound of her name.

“She’s so cool,” Jamie said, inching towards her, hesitantly holding his hand out. “Can I…?”

“Of course!”

Hiccup watched them and realized he hadn’t even said a word to introduce them; it seemed Jamie and Fishlegs got along swimmingly without help. Jamie was probably the reason Fishlegs had called them over in the first place, because he wanted to get to know him, so it wasn’t that surprising. Hiccup was glad he had at least one friend who knew how to deal with kids.

Beside Hiccup, Jack was watching them as well, wearing a slightly awed expression as Jamie pet Meatlug’s scaly nose. Jamie’s childish excitement shone so bright, Hiccup almost forgot that Jack didn’t know anymore about dragons than his brother. Jack caught his eyes, and there was a slight, now almost invisible, hint of surprise in his expression, like he was shocked Hiccup was paying him any attention. It made Hiccup wonder what kind of life he’d been living up until now.

And then it was gone, and Jack was smiling again. He took a step closer to Hiccup, and said in a soft voice so that the other two wouldn’t hear:

“I like Fishlegs too. Your friends are cool.”

“I’m not surprised you like Fishlegs,” Hiccup replied, returning Jack’s smile. “You already have one thing in common: You’re good with kids. Although, from what I’ve seen, you’re even better at dealing with them than Fishlegs. Honestly, not even the parents of those kids you met at the arena can handle them as well as you did. How?

Jack chuckled softly, bringing his staff closer to his chest as he looked at Jamie. “I just like kids,” he said. He looked like he was going to say something more, but then his smile faltered a little, a shadow passing over his face as if he’d just remembered something sad.

Hiccup was about to ask him what was wrong, but was interrupted by a sound: Jack’s stomach rumbling.

Jack looked down, eyes wide. “Oh, right,” he muttered, scratching his head.

“Haven’t you had breakfast?” Hiccup asked.

Jack shook his head. “Astrid came to get us early in the morning,” he said. There was a slight pinkish hue on his pale cheeks. He frowned, looking at Jamie again. “So that’s why my stomach hurts. I forgot that…” He trailed off, then cleared his throat. He looked at Hiccup. “Um… When- Or… How do you eat? Where? When?”

“You’re hungry?” Fishlegs then asked. He held up his bowl of yak leftovers. “There’s more than enough to share!”

Hiccup gave him an impressed look. Fishlegs didn’t often share his food; he really wanted to make friends with Jack and Jamie, didn’t he?

Toothless chose that time to shove his head against Hiccup’s backside, making him stumble into Jack. Jack made a small, surprised noise, but thankfully didn’t fall.

“Toothless!” Hiccup complained once they’d both regained their balance.

Toothless growled at him, and Jack gave a laugh that sounded slightly nervous.

“Why don’t you go fly with him. Jamie and I can stay here and eat with Fishlegs in the meantime,” he suggested, and nodded at Toothless. “Like, before he eats us.”

Hiccup let out a surprised laugh at that. “He won’t eat you,” he reassured him. “Most dragons just eat fish, Toothless included. But…” He looked at Toothless, who, upon hearing Jack’s suggestion, was now giving him puppy dog eyes. Hiccup sighed soundlessly, patting his big head. “A small ride won’t hurt. We have to stay nearby, though. Hear that, bud?”

Toothless immediately perked up. He hopped around like an excited dog, then stopped, waiting for Hiccup to climb onto the saddle. Hiccup smiled fondly and did as he wanted. He fastened the security and looked at Jack.

“I’ll be back in a- Woah, Toothless!”

Toothless did apparently have no patience left to spare, and they were in the air before Hiccup would finish his sentence. The ground rapidly shrank beneath them, and Jack and the others became miniature figures. Hiccup leaned forward and let out a breathy laugh when Toothless growled happily.

“You said it, bud,” he told him.

They flew in a wide circle over the ocean, higher and higher until they reached the clouds. Hiccup glanced down to the ground. It was hard to see, but he thought the others were watching them. Hiccup felt a smirk grow on his lips.

“What do you say we give them a little show, bud?” he asked.

Toothless growled in agreement. Hiccup steadied himself and turned the gear.

Toothless dived. It was so sudden, Hiccup almost lost his grip on the saddle. The wind made his hair stand straight back, and it was hard to breathe. His stomach made barrel rolls and his heart felt like it was going to beat out of his chest. He loved every second of it.

Just before they hit the water, Toothless changed course, speeding across the waves. He put one paw in the water, making it splash out to each side of him, leaving a white path in their wake. They zipped past statues in the water, and then they were ascending again, spinning in the air.

Hiccup whooped as they split the cloud layer, and in the next second, they were bathing in sunlight. Hiccup let go of the saddle to feel the wind passing them by and closed his eyes, sighing deeply. Up here, it was so easy to forget about his troubles. Especially with the clouds beneath them, it felt as if he was shut away from the real world below them. A part of him – a huge part – wished he could stay up here forever, just him, Toothless and the wind.

But Toothless had other ideas. He gave a burble, almost like a laugh, and Hiccup opened his eyes suspiciously. He felt the wind slow down around them, and saw that Toothless had stopped beating his wings. Hiccup’s hair went from being swept backwards, to floating loosely around his head, and then straight up. It wasn’t abnormal that Toothless let them fall like this, but as they broke through the clouds and plummeted towards the water, rapidly gaining speed, Hiccup started to get worried.

“Uh- Toothless?” he tried.

Toothless ignored him. The water was rushing towards them.

“Toothless! Now would be a good time to change course!”

Even if he could barely hear himself over the wind in his ears, he knew Toothless could hear him easily – and he still wasn’t responding. Hiccup tried shouting some more at him, but his voice soon turned into a panicked holler. And then, just before they hit the water, Toothless made a sharp turn, almost flattening Hiccup against his back. Hiccup wheezed, feeling lightheaded.

“Very- Very funny, you overgrown lizard,” he panted. “Was that your revenge, huh? Are you happy now?”

Toothless huffed, and Hiccup shook his head with an exasperated chuckle. How a dragon could be such a drama queen was truly something to ponder about.

They flew around for a little while longer, with better cooperation now that Toothless felt like Hiccup had learned his lesson about postponing their flights, and the consequences that followed. Though as much as Hiccup wanted to stay in the air, he knew he had to get back to Jack and Jamie. Not that he thought they were going to cause any kind of trouble, especially not while Fishlegs could keep an eye on them, but his father wouldn’t be happy if he found out Hiccup was up here instead of down there with them. He managed to convince Toothless to land, with a promise that they could take a longer flight the following evening.

Jack, Jamie, Fishlegs and Meatlug were sitting in a circle on the grass when Hiccup and Toothless returned. Jack was the first one to spot them, a piece of yak meat halfway to his mouth, because he was already looking at the sky.

It was hard to see from a distance, but there was something off about Jack’s expression. He looked kind of distant, and he lacked his usual cheerfulness. Other than that, his expression was hard to decipher, and the moment Jack met Hiccup’s eyes, the expression disappeared.

“Thought you lost control for a moment there,” Jack said as Toothless padded over to them. He was grinning from ear to ear. “Your voice is louder than I thought.”

Hiccup dismounted Toothless and huffed. “Ha-ha,” he said dryly, sending Toothless a pointed look. “Are you satisfied? You enjoy making me look like a dork in front of our guests?”

Toothless’ head bobbed up and down, and he made a guttural noise. In other words, he was laughing. Jack let out a surprised laugh in response, eyes wide with wonder at the fact that a dragon could laugh.

“Hiccup, that was awesome!” Jamie exclaimed, getting up to bounce on the balls of his feet. His eyes were so round with excitement, it looked like they were going to pop right out of his skull. “The way you spun, and diced, and like, how you just shot through the clouds like- Did you fall on purpose?”

Hiccup was sure he was blushing. “Toothless sure fell on purpose,” he replied sheepishly. “But, uh… Thanks, Jamie.”

Toothless crooned, pushing his head against Jamie’s side, though in a more gentle way than he usually did with Hiccup. Jamie gasped, but once he realized Toothless was just asking for attention, he started giggling and gave him what he wanted.

“He’s like a big cat,” Jack murmured incredulously. “Where’s the bloodthirsty beasts from all the stories?”

Hiccup wondered again how Jack and Jamie had never encountered a dragon before. Even if they weren’t from the Archipelago, how had they come this far without seeing one?

“Oh, they’re around too,” Hiccup said, studying Toothless and Jamie. Fishlegs had joined in on petting Toothless too, and they’d already started chatting about dragons and dragon riding. Hiccup just hoped Fishlegs wouldn’t spill anything vital. “You just got to know which ones will kill you and which ones will not.”

“And how do you know that?” Jack asked.

Hiccup hummed thoughtfully. “If you really are going to stay here for a while…” he started, slightly hesitant.

His wariness wasn’t unreasonable, but at the same time, Jack and Jamie had yet to show any signs that they would trick them or cause any trouble in any way. The possibility that they were spies was far from ruled out, but then there was also another possibility – the one where Jack and Jamie were truly just a couple of lost brothers, who were probably more wary and scared than Hiccup could ever be. If they turned out to be innocent, and Hiccup had neglected them the safety they needed and deserved…

“…you should learn about this stuff,” he continued, nodding to himself. “Both about dragons and fighting. Berk and the Archipelago is, uh… harsh. You’ve got lots to learn.”

Jack frowned. “Fighting? Jamie is just eleven,” he said.

“And how old are you?” Hiccup asked.

Jack’s lips were slightly parted, staring at Hiccup as if that question was offensive or shocking somehow. Maybe it was, where Jack and Jamie came from. When Jack spoke again, his tone sounded slightly off.

“Seventeen,” he replied. “And some more.”

It was a weird way to put it, but Hiccup didn’t question it.

“And you knocked Snotlout to the ground earlier,” Hiccup said. “I didn’t see exactly what happened, but both Gobber and Snotlout seemed impressed – well, more like offended, in Snotlout’s case. Gobber isn’t easily impressed, yet you impressed him with your fighting-“

“I feel like it was more self-defense,” Jack cut in, though he was twirling his staff with a self-satisfied smile on his face.

“-and you don’t get good like that overnight, obviously. You must’ve been young when you started fighting.”

Jack was sending him a long look. His hazel eyes suddenly felt piercing, calculating, like he was reading Hiccup’s thoughts. Hiccup shifted self-consciously.

“Or am I wrong?” he added lamely.

Jack held his gaze for a few more seconds, before he took a deep breath and looked at his staff instead. “My circumstances were different,” he said. “If anyone is gonna learn to fight, it’s gonna be me. Not Jamie.”

Hiccup knew Berk, and better than anyone, the rest of the Archipelago. It was a pretty merciless place if you found yourself in a difficult situation – and sooner or later, most people did. Hiccup was unsure how long Jack would be able to think the way he did, and for his and Jamie’s sake, he hoped it was a long time… but he doubted it. On Berk they learned from early on how to defend themselves. Most of the kids on Berk knew the basics of sword fighting and archery, and Jamie was already the odd one out; being defenseless would do more harm than good.

But Hiccup decided not to argue with Jack about that. At least not yet.

“Alright,” he said. “It’s nothing you have to worry about yet anyway. My father doesn’t trust you, and teaching a potential enemy all our fighting secrets isn’t a very strategic move.”

A faint smile passed over Jack’s lips, but he seemed distant as he watched Jamie. “Hopefully we won’t stay long enough to worry about it at all,” he said quietly.

“Where will you go?” Hiccup asked.

The remnants of Jack’s smile faded, replaced by a worried, yet determined frown.

“Home,” he replied, and if Hiccup didn’t imagine it, his hold on his staff tightened. “I just have to find out how.”

Hiccup didn’t know what to make of the expression Jack was wearing, nor the words he said. Still, there was a kind of sadness about him that Hiccup knew all too well. Maybe that was why he was able to see it, even if Jack was good at hiding it. Hiccup studied him for a few seconds. His hand twitched, wanting to touch Jack’s shoulder reassuringly, but he remembered the way Jack had tensed earlier.

“Well…” he started, and Jack met his eyes again. Hiccup sent him a kind smile. “You don’t seem like bad people to me. You’ll get to go home in the end. Just know you’re not alone. Alright?”

Jack was quiet, but he held Hiccup’s gaze. Again, he had that look in his eyes… steady, observant and mindful, making him seem older than he really was. It didn’t match the image of him Hiccup had been starting to form: The weird, possibly slightly insane young man with a bad case of amnesia. Hiccup knew what crazy looked like – it lit up the eyes of people like Dagur and Alvin, and countless other Vikings he’d encountered. Jack had nothing of that.

Jack nodded at him, smiling gratefully. “Thank you, Hiccup,” he said softly.

Chapter Text

«I’m sure Stoick didn’t mean you have to watch over them literally at all times. What are they gonna do, burn the village down?”

“Funny coming from you. You’re more suspicious than any of us. Except maybe my dad…”

It was hard to see in the late sunset, but Astrid definitely rolled her eyes. Hiccup might’ve missed it, hadn’t her hair been pushed back by the wind.

They were out on their evening flight, like Hiccup had promised Toothless. Astrid had seen him getting ready and had decided to join. Hiccup had no reason to refuse; he had a lot on his mind, and he knew Astrid did as well. That, and he also enjoyed her company, obviously.

“It’s true,” Hiccup said defensively. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just-“

“I’m not more suspicious than you. You’re just too polite to be open about it,” Astrid argued. “And no, you’re right: It’s not a bad thing. We should be careful. Maybe even more careful than we already are.”

“You just said they wouldn’t do any harm while I’m gone.”

“I said they wouldn’t burn the village down. I didn’t say they wouldn’t do something else.”

“They’re just kids, Astrid.”

“Kids that we know nothing about!”

“I know that! But…” Hiccup sighed, shaking his head. There really was no point in arguing. Not because Astrid was stubborn – or that they both were stubborn – but because Hiccup did actually agree with her. He understood her point of view, but still… “I know. I don’t trust them either, but there’s just nothing about them that screams ‘distrustful.’”

Astrid fell silent then. She was frowning, gazing downwards. Then she pointed.

“There,” she said, and Hiccup followed her gaze to a small island, halfway hidden beneath the cloud layer. “There’s no dragons on that one, right?”

Hiccup shook his head, and they flew down there. The island was so small, it barely counted as an island at all, and therefore it didn’t have a name either. It was more like a big rock in the middle of the ocean, with just enough width to grow a charming little forest.

Astrid dismounted Stormfly, petting her gratefully. Hiccup did the same, and as he and Astrid went to sit down at the root of a huge pine, Toothless and Stormfly trotted off together. Astrid pulled out a bundle from her bag, containing today’s dinner: muttonchops, just like two days before, and then the day before that again. Hiccup didn’t complain out loud, and took a chop when Astrid handed it to him.

“I’m guessing Jack and Jamie still didn’t join the rest of the village for dinner, since we’re here,” Astrid said, taking a bite out of her muttonchop. She frowned. “It tastes a little less like earth this time.”

Hiccup wasn’t sure if he agreed, but he hummed as if he thought it was delicious. “Nope,” he said between chews. “After our tour they seemed pretty exhausted. Can’t really blame them… They probably weren’t prepared for any dragon trouble. Or Snotlout-trouble.”

“Dragon trouble?”

“Yeah… Gustav and the other kids. It was weird, though.” Hiccup lowered the muttonchop, looking over at Toothless and Stormfly, who were having a lighthearted playfight. “Fanghook acted strange when Jack intervened. I can’t explain how he did it, but he made Fanghook back off.”

Astrid’s eyebrows were knitted tightly together. “From the boy who’s never seen a dragon before?” she asked.

Hiccup knew what she was thinking. He’d had the idea as well.

“You think he’s lying?” he asked.

Astrid shrugged. “Maybe,” she said. “Probably.”

Hiccup bit the inside of his cheek. The muttonchop – which wasn’t very appetizing the first place – didn’t seem so tempting anymore. “What about the kid?” he asked. “He’s just eleven. How can he be a threat to us?”

“Maybe that’s what they want you to think.”

“Who are ‘they’?”

Astrid sighed, leaning heavily against the tree trunk. “I don’t know, Hiccup,” she said, and brought a hand up to rub her forehead. “I’m not saying they’re definitely dangerous. I want to believe they aren’t. No, I want to know they aren’t. Anything else is too risky.”

“And if they aren’t?” Hiccup asked.

Astrid sent him a questioning look, waiting for him to continue.

“We have to help them get home,” he said. “I don’t think they can do it alone. If they truly don’t know anything about dragons, they can’t be from the Archipelago. They’ll get themselves killed.”

Astrid averted her eyes. “You’re probably right,” she said. “But let’s focus on one thing at a time. Keep them close by, until we know we can trust them.”

Hiccup held back a tired sigh. He knew she was right. “When will that be, though?” he mumbled. It was a rhetorical question, but Astrid answered it anyway:

“When we know them.” She tapped her finger restlessly against her knee, looking intently at the muttonchop, as if that was the key to unlocking all of Jack and Jamie’s secrets. “So what do we know?” she then asked. She looked at Hiccup again. “Assuming everything they’ve told us is true.”

“We know that neither of them has any memories of how they got to Berk,” Hiccup said.

“Which is very convenient for them, but go on.”

Hiccup sent her a look, before continuing: “Jack is seventeen and Jamie is eleven. None of them have seen dragons before. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even know they existed, judging by their reactions. Jack knows how to fight, but I don’t know to what extent. He knocked Snotlout to the floor, apparently.” He hummed thoughtfully. “He also thinks Snotlout is fun, which is weird in itself. But then again, at least we know for sure that Jack is a bit funny himself.”

Astrid snorted. “You can definitely say that,” she said. “When I came to wake him earlier today, he completely spaced out on me. Like, the completely forgot that I was there, kind of spacing out. And then, when he turned around… I don’t know. Something scared him? It was weird.” She shook her head, before she continued speaking with a more serious tone. “They told me they come from a place called America. No, they told me… the language they speak is called English, and America is where that language is from. If they’re from that place, I don’t know for sure.”

“Observant,” Hiccup commented.

“Jack told me they learned Norse from traders visiting their village,” she continued. “But that it had been a while. They didn’t seem to know Trader Johann, but who knows? I think it’s a bit strange that they speak so fluently, if that was the way they learned it. They sound… almost native, hadn’t it been for their accents.”

“You think they fake the accents?” Hiccup asked.

Astrid pursed her lips, then shook her head. “It seems consistent. Even Jamie’s. So unless he’s a very talented actor for a little kid, it seems real to me.”

“So you’re suggesting they learned it another way,” Hiccup concluded. “There’s something they aren’t telling us?”

“There’s definitely something they aren’t telling us. If it’s their story of how they learned Norse, I don’t know. But… yes. I think Jack lied about that.”

That was definitely a huge warning sign.

“Something else too,” Astrid murmured. She was looking at the darkening sky now. “They didn’t know about the gods. In the moment, I thought they just asked which god Gothi prayed to specifically, but I’m starting to think maybe they didn’t know about them at all. They’d have to be living under a rock, right?”

“If their goal is to trick us and blend in, then that’s definitely a weird detail to add to their false personas,” Hiccup said.

“And then there’s the thing about shoes… what’s so funny about shoes? I don’t understand,” Astrid muttered. It sounded like she was talking mostly to herself now. “And how did he just know Jamie was waking up last night? He didn’t even check first, but he knew, somehow… Doesn’t make any sense. And the staff… why does he carry the staff? It looks like it can break any moment, so how can he use it to knock Snotlout, who’s considerably heavy, to the ground? What-“

“Hold on,” Hiccup said, holding up a hand. Astrid looked a bit annoyed at being interrupted, but Hiccup just sent her an inquisitive look. “I never said Jack used his staff specifically.”

Astrid blinked. Hiccup couldn’t see in the darkness, but he imagined color spreading on her cheeks. “You- You didn’t? I must’ve… assumed-“

“Astrid…”

“Oh, alright,” Astrid grumbled. “I was following you.”

Hiccup stared at her. “The whole day?”

Astrid opened her mouth as if to argue, but then just shrugged in defeat. “I just want to figure them out,” she said.

Hiccup sighed, but decided he wasn’t in the mood to argue about that. He took another bite of his muttonchop. “So how much did you see?” he asked.

“All of it,” Astrid said. “Well- Almost. I didn’t get very close when you were sitting with Fishlegs, but I did see the whole ordeal with Fanghook, and then what Jack did to Snotlout in the forge.” Then she sent Hiccup a look. “I also saw you speak to Gobber. What was that thing you were showing to him?”

It was Hiccup’s turn to look guilty. “Oh, that- that’s nothing, I… think,” he replied vaguely. Astrid raised a brow, and that was all it took for him to relent. He got up and called for Toothless. After retrieving the stone from the satchel, he sat back down with Astrid, holding the stone up to her. “It’s some kind of crystal, but I’ve never seen anything like it. Gobber didn’t know either. I found it nearby the spot we found Jack and Jamie.”

Astrid’s eyes went big with wonder when she looked at it. She touched it carefully. “It’s beautiful,” she muttered. Her brows furrowed. “Do you think it’s theirs?”

Hiccup shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Why didn’t you give it to them, then?”

“Er- I just… felt like it was-“

There was a faint sound behind them, so faint Hiccup almost thought he imagined it. Still, it was enough to make him stop talking and strain his ears. Astrid sent him a confused look, before she also went quiet to listen.

“What is it?” she whispered.

Hiccup didn’t immediately answer. “…I’m not s-“ he started, but cut himself off once again. It sounded almost like movement. A few meters away, Toothless and Stormfly were still busy with their playfighting, and they hadn’t seemed to hear anything. Maybe the darkness was just playing tricks on him, but Hiccup carefully got to his feet anyway. Astrid followed his lead.

Carefully, Hiccup walked around the pine tree, peering into the darkness of the small forest. He held his hand on his sword hilt, inching forward.

“Hiccup, what is it?” Astrid asked again.

There it was again. Was it… footsteps?

“Anybody there?” Hiccup called out. “I can hear you.”

Astrid’s eyes darted from Hiccup to the darkness and back. She looked lost.

“I don’t hear anything,” she whispered. “What are you-“

Hiccup held a finger to his lips, and she went quiet. They stood in silence for several seconds, not moving a muscle. Even Toothless and Stormfly seemed to have gone quiet out in the clearing. He didn’t hear any more footsteps, but he had the distinct feeling that someone was watching them in the shadows, waiting. A wind blew through the trees, making the leaves stir. A chill went down his spine when Hiccup thought he heard something in the breeze – a whisper, almost.

At that moment, he was keenly aware of two things: The weight of the crystal in his hand, and that there was something on this island after all. Hiccup didn’t know what, but it didn’t feel friendly.

He looked at Astrid, and she seemed to read his thoughts. She nodded, and they headed back to Toothless and Stormfly. They could eat the rest of their dinner back on Berk.

As Hiccup mounted Toothless, he felt those eyes on him again. He looked behind himself, sure that he would see someone lurking between the trees, but saw nothing but darkness. Maybe it just was the darkness that scared him after all. If not, and there truly was something hiding in there, he could go back tomorrow and check it out, when the sun was shining. Yeah, that sounded like a much better plan.

 

 

“I mean… it’s definitely the worst thing I’ve ever tasted, but at least it seems to work its magic,” Jack was saying, eyeing Gothi’s soup with a halfhearted smile on his face. “Or what do you think? Do you feel better?”

Jamie nodded, but he was also giving his own bowl of soup a glower. “Is it worth it, though…” he mumbled miserably.

Jack chuckled, but it was quickly followed by a deep sigh. Obviously, he wasn’t any more hopeful than Jamie.

After departing with Hiccup and Toothless sometime before dinner, Jamie and Jack had made their trip back to Gothi’s hut. If they hadn’t already been tired from their tour, they definitely were when they got to the top of the mountain. Jack had been cracking jokes the whole way up, complaining that he was old and not accustomed to using his legs.

It was funny, but Jamie did his best to pretend he didn’t notice the slightly defeated look that was making its way onto Jack’s face. It was impossible to imagine how weird this must be for him, and it seemed he didn’t want to talk about it either. That was fine; Jamie wasn’t going to push him. Even if he was curious.

Meanwhile, Jamie’s own body wasn’t doing much better. He was used to being active and playing outside, but to be fair, he was still recovering from that cold. The fact that they had traveled through time apparently didn’t do anything to change that. And the path to Gothi’s hut was the most challenging hill he’d ever climbed.

He’d almost convinced himself he’d completely recovered, but when they finally collapsed on Gothi’s balcony, he took it back; he definitely needed a few more days of rest.

When they’d gone inside the hut, they’d found a nice little surprise from Gothi. Well, the surprise in itself didn’t make Jamie super happy, but the way it had been given definitely did. Gothi had left them a note. None of them understood her writing, but she was apparently aware of that, because beside the note was a small doodle of two stick figures: One tall stickman, holding a crooked staff, and a shorter one standing beside him. The two stick figures were both holding the two bowls that were waiting for them.

Jack had liked the drawing so much he’d put it in his pocket, along with Jamie’s drawing.

And now they were here, several hours later, still gathering the courage to actually drink the soup.

Baby Tooth tooted at them.

“Easy for you to say. You’re not the one who has to drink it,” Jack replied in a mumble.

Jamie smiled amusedly. Then he straightened his back and took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said dramatically. “See you on the flipside.”

He drank the soup. Jack raised his brows, but now that Jamie had taken the first step, he seemed to find the courage to do the same. That was a win for himself, Jamie thought smugly, and used that as motivation to finish the soup first.

A few minutes later, they put the empty bowls on the table, and huddled back under their furs beside the hearth. It was late, and Jamie’s body felt heavy with drowsiness. Jack didn’t look much better: the rings under his eyes seemed darker than usual, and he wasn’t as talkative as usual either. Still, when Jamie lay down, Jack remained sitting upright.

“Aren’t you gonna sleep?” Jamie asked.

“Soon,” Jack said with a tired smile.

Jamie studied him for a few seconds. “You don’t have to wait for me to fall asleep, you know,” he said.

It seemed he’d hit bullseye, because Jack’s smile faltered just a little. Then he chuckled quietly.

“I know,” he said. “But… it feels better. Makes me sleep easier.”

Jamie frowned, but then shrugged. He made himself as comfortable as possible on the fur skin. Sleep was already pulling him to unconsciousness, but he forced himself to keep his eyes open, just for a little bit longer.

“It was fun today,” he murmured.

“It sure was eventful,” Jack agreed.

“Even if I got attacked by a dragon. I’m glad Baby Tooth was there to distract him.”

Jack fell silent then. Jamie got a feeling he’d said something wrong, and he looked up to see Jack studying his staff, as if he’d just noticed a stain or something.

“Jack?”

Jack met his eyes. He tried for a smile, but it was stiff. “Hiccup and the others seemed confused. Maybe we should be more careful,” he said. He sounded off, somehow.

Jamie bit the inside of his cheek. “Is something wrong?” he asked tentatively.

Something was wrong. Jamie could already tell, from the way Jack didn’t immediately answer, and something about the way his eyes were directed at Jamie – like they were begging to be averted. Or maybe Jamie was just so used to seeing Jack happy and confident, everything else felt like doomsday. It hurt to admit, but Jamie didn’t know Jack enough to be certain.

Jack sighed, almost soundless. “It was a close call,” he said softly. “I should’ve been there.”

“But you were,” Jamie said. “You were right in front of me.”

Jack opened his mouth but then closed it again. He seemed to be weighing his words.

“…I have to figure out the dragons,” he said. “Things like that can’t happen. I’m sorry, Jamie.”

Jamie sat up again, sending Jack an exasperated look. “It’s not your fault,” he said, almost indignantly. “It was that other kid’s fault! Gustav, or whatever- He was showing off!”

“Yeah, but-“

“And then I tried to touch Fanghook’s nose like I’d done with Toothless, but he wasn’t having it, I guess. You couldn’t have known that would happen.”

“No, but-“

And Hiccup was there! He knows how to handle dragons, so-“

“It’s not Hiccup’s job to protect you, it’s mine.”

Jamie’s voice caught in his throat at Jack’s voice. He didn’t sound angry, exactly. Not irritated or annoyed. But there was something else. Something stern and serious. It reminded Jamie of running through the streets of Burgess with Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, while Jack was in the sky fighting Pitch.

Get Jamie out of here, Jack had said, in the same way he’d spoken just now.

Jack expression softened just a second later. He opened his mouth to speak, but Jamie beat him to it:

“I know,” he said. “But you- I mean… You don’t have your powers. You can’t blame yourself for not being able to control a dragon. I mean- It’s a dragon!

Jack’s expression was hard to read. Jamie glanced at Baby Tooth. She looked worried, but when she caught Jamie’s eyes, she tweeted in agreement at Jack. There was a few more seconds of silence, before Jack nodded faintly.

“You’re right,” he said. “But I’m still a Guardian, and I promised I’d get you home.”

“And you will,” Jamie said, and smiled. “Don’t worry so much, Jack. It doesn’t suit you.”

Jack laughed at that. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll try not to. Let’s go to sleep, alright? It’s very late.”

Jamie didn’t feel like protesting. He lay back down with a weary sigh. “You sleep too,” he mumbled to Jack.

“I will,” Jack said. “Good night, Jamie.”

“Good night, Jack. And Baby Tooth.”

Baby tooth chirped. It almost sounded like a laugh.

 

 

Jamie couldn’t remember dreaming anything before he woke up again. He wasn’t sure what exactly what woken him up, but all of a sudden, his eyes shot open.

It was dark and quiet. The fire in the hearth had died, and the candles had been blown out. He couldn’t hear anything except for the faint snoring of Gothi’s Gronckle in the other room. Or maybe that was Gothi. He wasn’t sure.

Carefully, he pushed himself up and looked around. Across from him, Jack was curled up on his fur skin, unmoving. Jamie could barely see his blankets rising and falling. It took him a few seconds to realize why the sight weirded him out: He’d never seen Jack asleep before. He couldn’t see his face, and with only his brown hair in sight, the only thing suggesting that it was Jack lying there was his staff. Which Jack still held, even in his sleep.

Jamie quietly pushed the covers off himself and got to his feet. The floorboards barely creaked under his weight, and it was easy to sneak around Jack without waking him up. Jamie crouched in front of him. He didn’t know why, but he wanted to look at his face, like he needed to reassure himself that it truly was Jack.

Jack’s sleeping expression reminded Jamie of those nights he’d stayed up with Sophie, trying to catch the Tooth Fairy in action, or even Santa Claus on Christmas morning. Obviously, they’d never succeeded, but Sophie had always been the first to fall asleep. Jamie usually followed about half an hour later; it was boring waiting without her.

Despite all her overflowing energy, Sophie always looked relaxed and peaceful when she slept. Almost no sign of life at all, as if all the day’s activity had left her completely exhausted. Jamie supposed it was always all or nothing with Sophie, even sleeping: When first unconscious, she was really unconscious, and almost impossible to wake up.

Maybe Jack was the same. Jamie wondered if he had even needed sleep, back when he was a spirit. If not, he wondered if it was weird for him to get tired, or if it was scary to close his eyes. Jamie had sometimes had that fear: What if he went to sleep, and then just never woke up again.

A soft chirp made Jamie look away from Jack’s face and over to his shoulder, where Baby Tooth had appeared. Jamie realized he’d never given it any thought what Baby Tooth did while he and Jack were asleep. Did tooth fairies need sleep? If so, it made more sense that they were nocturnal, since they needed the night to collect teeth. But since she always seemed to be awake, no matter what the time of day, Jamie supposed she didn’t need any sleep.

She was looking at Jamie questioningly, tilting her head to the side.

“I just woke up,” Jamie replied in a soft whisper, not wanting to wake Jack. “I’ll go back to sleep-“

He cut himself off when he heard a soft shuffle outside, making both him and Baby Tooth freeze. He thought he heard something – a whisper. Was someone outside? Jamie exchanged a look with Baby Tooth, and slowly got to his feet. Baby Tooth chirped warily. Jamie contemplated waking Jack after all, but then he heard something else: A giggle, followed by urgent shushing.

Jamie’s heart was beating with anxiety, so he didn’t know what compelled him to walk towards the door. Baby Tooth followed, tweeting quiet protests, but Jamie didn’t listen. He crept towards the door and put his ear against it.

He heard muffled voices. Multiple voices. They were whispering to each other, but Jamie couldn’t make out what they were saying. He could, however, make out that these voices didn’t belong to any grownups.

He opened the door.

“ –better night to do it than-“ a girl’s voice was saying, but she cut herself off when she spotted Jamie.

There were three people standing on Gothi’s balcony, all three of them children Jamie had seen in the dragon arena yesterday. He didn’t know their names, because he’d never really gotten the chance to speak while they were with them; they’d been asking too many questions, and Jamie got no opening to answer any of them, much less ask questions himself. There was a blond boy, a heavy-built girl that reminded Jamie of Cupcake, and another kid with short black hair that Jamie couldn’t determine whether was a girl or a boy.

Jamie swallowed down his nervousness. “Hello,” he said quietly. Jack hadn’t made any sound behind him, so he assumed he was still dreaming.

The big girl exchanged looks with her friends. The boy didn’t react much, but the third kid smiled lopsidedly. The big girl spoke first:

“You’re awake,” she said.

Jamie raised his brows. “Yeah…?” was all he could think to answer.

The girl nodded to her right. “Wanna come with us?” she asked, offering no explanation for why they were creeping outside Gothi’s hut.

“It’s the middle of the night,” Jamie said. “What are you doing?”

“It’s almost daybreak, actually,” the boy said. “We agreed to sneak out to meet you. Properly, I mean.”

Definitely dubious. Jamie didn’t know what to answer.

The third kid raised their brows, smirking at him. “Scared?” they asked.

Jamie felt his self-preservation all but crumble. No matter the time period, humans had apparently always been the same, and the “scared?”-challenge wasn’t any less impossible to turn down when coming from a group of Viking kids. He scowled at them. “Of some kids randomly creeping outside my door in the middle of the night?” he asked back, and continued before the other boy could correct him again: “In your dreams.”

Baby Tooth tweeted in protest beside him, and Jamie sent her a look.

“Come with me then,” he said.

It took him a second to realize why he shouldn’t talk to the invisible fairy in front of the other kids.

The kids were all giving him strange looks. The boy sent the big girl a confused glance, while the third kid snorted.

“He’s crazy,” they said.

“I’m not crazy!” Jamie protested, and then winced when he realized he’d raised his voice. He glanced behind himself. Jack shifted in his sleep. His staff scraped slightly against the floor.

They were all dead quiet for a few seconds. Jamie turned back to the kids, to see them trying to look over his shoulder.

“Is he sleeping?” the boy asked.

Jamie grabbed his shoes by the door and stepped outside, closing the door behind him. “Yes,” he said. “Normal people usually do at this time.”

“Wouldn’t exactly call him normal,” the big girl said, earning a giggle from the third kid.

Jamie scowled. He wanted to defend Jack, but found that he didn’t actually have the courage to stand up to these kids. The sarcasm just now had come as a surprise; his mother wouldn’t have liked that kind of talk.

“Whatever,” the boy said. “Let’s go, before he realizes you’re gone.”

Jamie stepped into his shoes. He was already wearing his jacket; he’d barely taken it off since they’d gotten here, and slept with it during the night because of the cold. Baby Tooth protested again, but Jamie ignored her as he followed the other kids down the stairs. He did manage to send her a slightly apologetic look, though.

“Where are you going?” Jamie asked.

“The woods,” the big girl said.

Jamie almost stopped walking. “The woods? Why are you going there?”

The big girl grinned at him. “Because we can. Don’t worry, nobody will know.”

Jamie wasn’t sure if that was good news for him or not.

They continued down the hill. The grass was wet and slippery, and Jamie almost fell on his butt on multiple occasions. That would’ve been embarrassing.

As they passed a boulder, the big girl suddenly stopped and crouched. She picked something up, hidden behind the stone. It was hard to see what it was in the darkness. Jamie squinted at it, before a small gasp escaped him, making the other kids look at him.

“What? Never seen a bow before?” the big girl asked with a sly smirk. She picked something else up – a small quiver of arrows – and hoisted it over her shoulder.

Jamie stared incredulously at her. “How did you get that?” he asked.

“It’s my dad’s.”

“He gave that to you?”

The big girl laughed. “Gave it to me? Of course not. I’ll put it back where I found it before he knows it was even gone.” She waved at them to continue walking. “He won’t notice a few arrows missing either.”

Jamie didn’t want to ask, both because he was afraid of the answer and because he didn’t want to seem clueless, but he had to: “Why would you need a weapon?”

The others gave him strange looks.

“Wherever it is you’re from, you’re not telling me you can just walk around without any way to defend yourself,” the boy said. “Are you?”

“Uh…” Jamie glanced at Baby Tooth unthinkingly, but she was of no help. Even if she’d answered, Jamie wouldn’t have been able to understand her. He looked back at the boy, who was raising his brows at him. “…Normally, yeah…” he replied vaguely.

The androgynous kid wrinkled their nose. “Sounds like a horribly boring place.”

“It’s not!” Jamie protested. He almost couldn’t believe what he was hearing; these people were crazy. “It’s not boring just because we don’t have to defend ourselves against, like, dragons or whatever.” He paused. “Even if I do wish we had dragons…” he then added.

“There aren’t many wild dragons left on Berk, I think,” the boy said, but his voice was partially drowned out when the androgynous kid said:

“You really don’t have dragons?”

Jamie shook his head. “I’ve heard of them,” he then said, wondering if this was actually something he should tell them. Maybe he’d mess up the timeline, or something… like The Butterfly Effect, which he’d seen even though his mom told him not to. He still had nightmares about it sometimes. “I just didn’t think they existed.”

The kids all laughed, as if that was absolutely ridiculous. Jamie pretended his cheeks didn’t feel hot. And he still wanted to discuss the bow and arrows, and what they were going to use them for, but decided to let the matter go for now. They were probably just going to practice shooting. On inanimate targets, hopefully.

“Jack never told us where you were from,” the big girl said.

“Yes, he did,” the boy argued. “They’re from Buh- They’re from Burshess. Right?”

“Burgess,” Jamie corrected, holding back a laugh at the way he said it.

Still, there was a small twinge of pain in his chest: It had only been a couple of days, but it felt like weeks since anybody had mentioned his home. The fact that these Vikings now knew about the name of that city, even though Burgess didn’t even exist yet… Jamie swallowed, deciding not to think too hard about it. It made his head spin.

Burgess,” the boy said again. It still sounded weird, but better this time.

Jamie decided to take a small leap.

“I don’t actually know any of your names,” he said, a bit sheepishly. “Sorry if you said it earlier. A lot was happening at once.”

The boy and the big girl both seemed thoughtful, but the androgynous kid was harder to read.

“I’m Brant,” the boy then said. He didn’t offer his hand, and Jamie stuffed his own hand in his pocket to mask the fact that he’d been expecting him to. He then gestured to the big girl. “This is Undis, and that’s Hrafnhildur.”

Jamie blinked. “Undies?”

“Undis,” Undis said with a nod. “Why is that funny?”

“Uh… No- No reason,” Jamie said. “And… uh… Ra- Raf… What was it?”

“Hrafnhildur,” Hrafnhildur said.

That didn’t really answer the question if they were a girl or a boy; the name sounded like some kind of ancient wizard spell.

“Hildur for short,” Hrafnhildur then added, and Jamie was relieved to see them smile. It seemed they didn’t take offense at Jamie’s inability to pronounce their name.

“Hildur,” Jamie repeated. That was a bit easier. “Undis… and Brant.”

“Sounds about right,” Brant said with an amused smile.

“Alright, guys,” Undis said, lowering her voice. “We’re getting close. We’ll have to sneak through the village.”

“Who’s on patrol tonight?” Brant asked.

“I only know Astrid is,” Hildur said. “But she’s about the only one who matters. You know Astrid, Jamie?”

Jamie hesitated. “Uh- The tall blonde one, right?”

“You gotta be more specific than that,” Brant said. “She kind of looks like she could kill you by just glaring at you.”

Jamie slowly nodded. “Yeah, that’s the one,” he said. “What will she do if she catches us?”

Their silence scared him more than any answer would. Hildur was the first to speak:

“Let’s not worry about that,” they said. “Nothing will happen, as long as we don’t get caught.”

“That’s… reassuring,” Jamie said, while Baby Tooth gave a mournful chirp.

Undis held up a hand. “Shut up,” she whispered. “From now on, don’t speak. Follow me.”

Baby Tooth tried one last time to convince Jamie to go back, but Jamie just sent her a helpless look, as if he had no choice – because he didn’t! He didn’t know for how long they were going to stay in the past, but either way, Jamie was the new kid: He’d have to prove himself to the others in order to fit in. And he’d explain that to Baby Tooth, but if the goal was to fit in, then talking to her wasn’t a very good idea. It felt wrong, but he had to ignore her for now.

Jamie followed Undis and the other kids. Hildur was close behind Undis, their eyes flickering watchfully around as they silently ran into the village. Brant was behind Jamie, and Jamie got the uncomfortable feeling that he was blocking an easy escape, should Jamie change his mind about sneaking into the forest in the middle of the night.

They ran from hiding place to hiding place, behind houses, water troughs and wagons, and everything else that was big enough to hide four children whenever a guard came walking past. Jamie already knew that Berk had been through some difficult times, and seeing these guards walk around on night patrol made him even more curious about what exactly had happened.

It wasn’t until they’d almost made it through the entire village that Jamie had another thought: If Jamie really had been some kind of bad guy, whose mission was to infiltrate Berk, then these kids weren’t being very smart by trusting him, just like that. Unless…

Jamie came to a sudden stop. Brant almost walked into him, and he sent Jamie an urgent look.

“Come on,” he said.

“Uh- Yeah, sorry,” Jamie said, and tentatively started walking again.

…Unless these kids actually didn’t trust him, and they were leading him into the woods in the middle of the night, without anybody knowing he was even gone.

“Maybe… Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” Jamie tried.

Undis sent him an unimpressed look. “Thought you said you weren’t scared,” she said.

“I’m not, it’s just… What’s the point of going into the woods? Aren’t there, like… bears or other animals in there?”

“Well, duh.” Undis held up her bow. “What do you think this is for? Target practice?”

Jamie didn’t answer. He exchanged looks with Baby Tooth, but kept his mouth shut. Maybe he could get to talk to her, once Brant wasn’t walking so closely behind him. But it seemed Brant was determined to not give Jamie any opening to do anything suspicious. Jamie swallowed. This was a bad idea. He’d known it was a bad idea from the start, but only now did he actually register how bad this idea was.

The forest was dark. Jamie didn’t know if it was darker than any other forest he’d been in, like the woods outside Burgess, but it certainly felt like it was right now. As they walked further into it, Jamie came to the chilling realization that the woods had been the last he’d seen of Burgess. Hopefully this trip into the forest would be a little more peaceful than the last one.

It was quiet. The loudest sound was their footsteps, but that didn’t hide the faint creaks in the darkness. Jamie blamed it on the wind, making the leaves rustle and the branches groan… even if the wind didn’t seem very strong today. He was almost too tense to speak, but eventually, he couldn’t help it:

“So do you know where you’re going, or are you just walking?”

“Far enough away from the village so they won’t hear us,” Hildur replied, sending Jamie a grin.

Jamie swallowed. “O… kay,” he said slowly.

Brant came up to walk beside him. “Hey,” he said, and smiled in a way that was a lot more inviting than the elfish look Hildur was sending him. “You must’ve gone through a lot to get here. Scarier things than walking through a dark forest, right?”

“I’m not scared,” Jamie immediately replied.

Undis and Hildur laughed.

“Alright,” Brant said, but it was clear he wasn’t convinced. “But still, tell us. Why are you here?”

Jamie hesitated. He was about to give a vague answer, like Jack had been doing this whole time, but then realized something else. He frowned at Brant.

“That’s why you brought me out here,” he said. “To question me?”

Brant shrugged. “Everyone’s wondering, but nobody’s doing anything about it,” he said. “Never got an answer out of either of you yesterday.”

“You’re good talkers,” Hildur said, walking backwards to look at Jamie while they spoke. “It’s a very suspicious skill to have, in your situation. But if you gave us a proper answer, then maybe we don’t have to go around forging stories and spreading rumors.”

“You could just… not do that,” Jamie suggested.

“Didn’t even notice we hadn’t gotten any answers by the time you and Jack ran off with Hiccup,” Brant said with a shake of his head. “Why? Do you have something to hide?”

Jamie’s heart was beating faster. He shoved his hands in his pocket to stop himself from fidgeting.

“Not really,” he said. “I don’t remember how we came here. None of us do.”

“Sure you don’t,” Undis muttered.

“It’s true!” Jamie insisted.

“Ruffnut and Tuffnut said you were cursed,” Brant said. “That’s why you appeared in that blizzard.”

That made Jamie’s chest twinge uncomfortably. Of course he already knew that winter in itself wasn’t necessarily good or evil. Jack had told him once, that he wasn’t in control of all of winter, but that his duty was to bring fun and happiness into the season of cold and darkness.

Astrid had called Berk’s winters harsh. Devastating winter, she’d said. Obviously, winter wasn’t a beloved season here on Berk. The thought seemed almost absurd to Jamie at this point. To think that these kids thought they were cursed just because they’d appeared in a snowstorm.

“That’s stupid,” Jamie concluded. “Cursed how?”

“Dunno. By the Snow Queen, I guess,” Brant said. “Don’t ask me, it was Ruff and Tuff who said it.”

“The Snow Queen?” Jamie repeated. He glanced at Baby Tooth, but she just shrugged.

“The spirit who brings Devastating winter,” Hildur said, still with that elfish look in their eyes. Jamie got the feeling they were intentionally trying to scare him. “They say she tries every year to chase us Berkians off this island, but we’re too stubborn.”

“Besides, the dragons were always a greater problem that the climate,” Brant added.

“But she’s eventually accepted that we’re not going anywhere,” Hildur continued. “She doesn’t like outsiders, though.”

Jamie swallowed. “That’s not true,” he said, but even as the words left him, he felt bad. Not because he was scared, but because he didn’t want this to be another “who’s Jack Frost?”-incident. “Maybe the winters are so harsh, she’s trying to protect you.”

Undis snorted. “It’s just a story,” she said. “Nobody actually believes it.”

“But you believe in gods?” Jamie challenged.

All three kids sent him strange looks.

“Obviously that’s not the same,” Brant said. “You shouldn’t compare the gods to old stories made to scare little kids.”

He sounded genuinely alarmed, as if he was afraid Thor would strike him down any moment. Jamie decided not to argue; who was he to say that the gods weren’t real? Still, he wouldn’t just stand around letting the Snow Queen, or whichever spirits lived around here, get framed as a villain.

“How do you know the Snow Queen doesn’t exist?” Jamie asked. “If you believe in curses and trolls, what makes her any different?”

“Well, to start off, nobody’s ever seen any Snow Queen,” Undis said.

Jamie took a deep breath. This was his forte, he felt. “Sometimes you have to believe it before you can see it,” he said matter-of-factly. “Trust me.”

Baby Tooth chirped, but Jamie didn’t catch the tone of her voice. She was either moved or sad or wary, or maybe something else. He couldn’t look at her to check.

Hildur squinted at him. “You believe in the Snow Queen,” they said.

Jamie shrugged. “I haven’t heard of her before.”

“Then why do you sound so sure?”

“Because I-“ Jamie stopped himself. Was this something these kids should know about? Or would it mess up the future, like in the movies? Then again, what would the words of a little boy mean to these kids? And also, if they so happened to believe him, they’d believe in things – in people – that deserved to be believed in. What was so bad about that?

The kids were staring at him, waiting for him to continue.

“I… Where I’m from, there’s a… a legend about someone called…” He hesitated again. A name popped up in his head – a little different from what he had intended to say. Because it seemed safer, in case he truly would mess up the timeline like in The Butterfly Effect. “Jokul Frosti. The spirit of winter.”

“Jokul Frosti?” Brant repeated. “That’s Norse. I thought you said you weren’t from here.”

Jamie hesitated, then shrugged. “Maybe he’s from here originally,” he said. “And traders brought his story to us.”

“Well I’ve never heard that story,” Undis said. “What’s so special about Jokul Frosti?”

Jamie straightened his back. “I’ve seen him,” he said.

Undis and Hildur laughed.

“Yeah, right,” Brant said.

Blood rushed to Jamie’s face. “It’s true!” he said and was surprised to hear anger in his voice. Then he realized he was angry. These guys couldn’t really be blamed for not believing a story like that – Jamie hadn’t believed in Jack Frost at first either – but still, he didn’t want to go through all of this again. He’d already done that last Easter. Or he was going to do it, in like a century, or- whatever. Point was, he was angry anyway.

“Uh-huh,” said Undis, crossing her arms. “What did Jokul Frosti look like then?” She said the name with such mockery in her voice, Jamie balled his hands into fists inside his pockets.

“He has white hair and blue eyes,” he said, no hesitation this time, “and clothes that are covered in frost. He looks like a teenager, but he’s much older than that, I think. I’m not sure how much older, but he’s immortal.”

All three kids were giving him dubious looks. Hildur scoffed quietly.

“You really are a good talker,” they said. “Or maybe you actually do believe in this.”

Jamie gritted his teeth. “And you believe in a lightning god and that the Earth is-“

“Shut up,” Hildur interrupted. Their voice was so sharp, Jamie immediately understood this had nothing to do with their argument.

He did as she said and watched her as she stared into the darkness, unmoving. Immediately, all his previous worries about what might be living in these woods came flooding back, momentarily forgotten in his desperation to convince the other kids of Jack Frost’s existence.

Undis and Brant were also completely quiet. Baby Tooth had flown closer to Jamie and landed on his shoulder; Jamie didn’t know if she was trying to hide or to protect him.

Several long seconds passed. All Jamie could hear were their breathing, the sound of his own heartbeat, the trees creaking, and the faintest rushing of what might be the ocean in the distance. Nothing happened for so long, Jamie was about to ask what they were all listening for – and then he also heard it:

Quiet, creeping footsteps, twigs snapping and bushes rustling. Something was coming towards them. Then followed a sound Jamie knew he would be having nightmares about several months from now on: A thin sort of… growl. No, not a growl – A prolonged, terrifying grunting.

“Pig?” Jamie whispered unthinkingly.

The snorting stopped.

Undis sent him a sharp look, silently telling him to shut up. Slowly, she reached behind herself and pulled out an arrow. As quietly as she possibly could, she nocked the arrow and aimed. Jamie held is breath. The footsteps were coming closer. Undis waited.

There was a blood-curdling squeal. Jamie staggered, stumbling backwards into a tree as he heard the pig galloping towards them. He couldn’t see where it was coming from in the darkness, and unless these Vikings had some kind of night vision that the history books had failed to mention, he seriously doubted Undis aiming would do any good; she was literally taking a shot in the dark.

The arrow shot into the bushes. The furious squealing did not stop.

Run!” Undis bellowed.

Jamie didn’t need to be told twice. All four of them shot off in different directions, just as the pig emerged from the bushes. Jamie dived away from the tree without sparing any time to see who the pig decided to go after, and was glad that he did; the pig slammed into the tree a second later. If Jamie had still been standing there…

All Jamie got to see of the pig was a huge, dark, bulging mass of fur. This pig wasn’t like those lazy farm pigs that Jamie thought of when he heard the word ‘pig’ – in fact, he was starting to realize this wasn’t a pig at all.

It was a wild boar.

Baby Tooth was tweeting at him in panic, desperately tugging at his hair. Jamie scrambled to his feet while the pig was dazed and set off into a wild sprint. The path back to the village was all but forgotten. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t following any path – all that mattered was that he was putting distance between himself and that beast.

The boar squealed behind him, sounding angrier than ever. If it didn’t have a reason to kill Jamie before, it definitely did now. Jamie tried to be quiet so as not to alert the boar, but he couldn’t make his running any quieter, and when he tripped over a tree root, landing face first in the mud, he couldn’t help but cry out.

The boar’s hooves were trampling towards Jamie at a tremendous speed. It was only one boar, yet it sounded like a stampede. Jamie pushed himself up and jumped behind a tree just in time: The boar freight-trained past him, quickly pushing its hindlegs into the earth to change course.

Jamie ran. There was nothing else he could do. He could climb a tree, but he didn’t have the time. He could call for help, but Hildur had clearly told him they were outside the hearing range of the village. The sun had yet to rise. He was alone.

And then he saw it. An opening between the trees, with the faintest of light filtering through: The dim sky of an early, early morning. Jamie’s breath almost left him, but he shouted at the top of his lungs:

Help!

The boar was closing in on him.

Help!”

The village was so close. Someone had to hear him. Jack, Astrid, anyone-

And then he realized he wasn’t running towards the village, but he realized it too late. There were no houses, no dragon arena. There was nothing – literally nothing.

A cliff.

Jamie tried to stop, but it was too late; he stumbled in his own feet and toppled over the edge. For a split second, Jamie stared down at the ocean below, dark and unforgiving.

He shut his eyes, and once again, he fell.

Chapter Text

Jack couldn’t remember what he’d been dreaming about, but suddenly whatever it was turned into a memory from last Easter: Pitch and his Nightmares taking the tooth fairies. Their screams were so clear in Jack’s head, it was almost like hearing it all over again. And then he realized, he was hearing it all over again.

He woke with a yelp, because someone was pulling his hair. He looked around bewilderedly, and then he spotted Baby Tooth, flickering in front of his face. She was chirping a mile a minute, way too fast for Jack to understand anything. But one thing was sure: Something was horribly wrong.

Immediately, Jack’s eyes snapped to Jamie – but Jamie wasn’t there.

He didn’t remember getting to his feet, but in the next moment, he’d grabbed his staff and ploughed through the door. He almost jumped straight off the balcony but caught himself at the last moment when Baby Tooth screeched at him to stop. He cursed and jumped down the stairs instead.

“What happened?” he yelled at Baby Tooth as he sprinted down the mountain, trying not to slip on the cold, dewy grass.

Baby Tooth tried to answer, but she was too panicked to make any sense to Jack. She kept flying ahead, yelling at him to follow and hurry up. Jack cursed the Moon, and the time fragment, and even himself – whoever was at fault for making him lose his powers. He was too slow.

He slipped several times on the way down, scratching up his knees and bare feet, but he ignored the pain and was quickly back up and running. Soon, he was sprinting through the quiet, dim lit village.

Baby Tooth was still chirping loudly at him, fast and incomprehensible.

“You have to speak slower, Baby Tooth, I’m not fluent in tooth- Argh!

Out of nowhere, a person came running from around the corner of a hut, and Jack didn’t have the time to dodge. He collided straight into the person, hard enough to send them both to the ground. Jack lost his grip on his staff to catch himself with his hands. Pain shot up his left arm.

“What the-“ the other person started indignantly. It was a girl’s voice, and it took a few seconds before Jack realized who it belonged to.

He rolled away, scrambling for his staff. Once he had it in his hand again, he looked over to see Astrid getting to her feet, wearing an incredulous and quite furious expression.

“Jack?” she hissed, clearly blaming him for running into her. “What are you-“

“Jamie,” Jack said. He got to his feet, ignoring the pain in his wrist. “Jamie is gone.”

Baby Tooth tweeted at him to hurry, and Jack followed her without waiting for Astrid’s reaction.

“What? Jack!” Astrid yelled. She quickly caught up to him, grabbing his arm to make him stop. “What are you talking about? None of the patrollers have seen-“

“He’s gone!” Jack interrupted impatiently, and Astrid raised her brows at his angry reaction. He tried listening to Baby Tooth’s chirping, shaking his head to clear his mind. “He’s- He’s this way. He was with- Wait.” He sent Baby Tooth a wide-eyed look. “Chased by a what?

Baby Tooth chirped helplessly.

Astrid was looking at him like he was crazy. “What are you saying?” she hissed.

Being visible really had its downsides, Jack thought, but didn’t dwell on it.

“I have to find him,” he told Astrid, already moving away from her. “He’s in the forest somewhere. He- He has to be.”

Astrid couldn’t do anything but follow when Jack set into a run again, ignoring her when she tried to stop him. She groaned and sped up to catch up with him.

“Alright,” she said. “But only if you promise me a good reason not to report this straight to Stoick later!”

Jack didn’t bother answering. He ran after Baby Tooth, out of the village and towards the forest. Baby Tooth was still trying to explain what happened, and Jack’s panic grew by every new piece of information he understood.

“In the middle of the night! Why didn’t you wake me up?” he yelled at Baby Tooth.

Baby Tooth squealed apologetically.

“Jack, I can’t understand you,” Astrid snapped. “Would you speak-“

She didn’t get any further when she spotted three figures coming running out of the forest. Three kids. Jack’s eyes widened, but he quickly saw that Jamie was not one of them.

“Hey!” Astrid yelled. “You three!”

The children came to a stop in front of them, all speaking over one another. Jack picked up something about Jamie, and the fact that they split up, and a wild boar- a wild boar? Jack didn’t wait to ask them any questions. He ran into the forest.

“Jack!” Astrid yelled behind him. Jack faintly heard her groan and tell the kids they were in big trouble, before she came running after him. “Where are you going?”

“To find Jamie!”

“Yeah, I got that, but how do you know where you are- Look out!” Astrid suddenly grabbed Jack and pulled him out of the way of a thick pine tree he hadn’t spotted.

Jack winced. He couldn’t come up with a believable lie, so he decided to ignore her.

“Over here,” he ordered, setting into a run again. “Baby Tooth, wait up! This way, Astrid!”

They bolted through the woods. Jack was grateful that even if he didn’t have his powers, his agility was still pretty much the same – aside from the almost-colliding-with-a-pine-tree-part. As long as he paid attention, he dodged most trees, stones and boughs, boulders and roots and everything else Astrid seemed to have trouble dodging. In fact, she seemed to struggle with keeping up.

However, since Jack also kept his eyes on Baby Tooth, it didn’t take too long before he tripped and went face-first to the ground. He groaned and staggered to his feet as Astrid ran up to help him.

“Are you alright?” she and Baby Tooth asked simultaneously.

“Yes, just-“ Jack started, but just then, Baby Tooth flew in front of Jack’s face, before she flickered away, chirping incessantly. Jack didn’t say anything more and bolted after her. Astrid sighed and followed.

“Jamie!” Jack yelled.

There was no response.

“Where is he?”

Baby Tooth didn’t have a clear answer.

“Jamie!” Jack called again, louder this time. “Jamie!”

“Jamie!” Astrid chimed in.

Jack strained his ears, trying to hear anything other than their footsteps trampling on the ground. “Come on, Astrid! Slow down, Baby Tooth, I can’t see you in the darkness when you-“

Then he heard it. Faint, but unmistakable: Jamie’s voice. They both came to a sudden stop. Astrid’s eyes went wide. And then they were running again.

“Jamie!” Jack bellowed. “Where are you?”

He heard Jamie’s voice again; he was calling for help. Jack sped up, following the sound of Jamie’s voice now rather than Baby Tooth.

All of sudden, Astrid grabbed Jack’s arm again. Jack almost pulled away in both surprise and anger – couldn’t she hear that Jamie was in trouble? – but Astrid’s grip was too tight.

“Cliff,” she said before Jack could snap at her.

Jack looked back, and his eyes went wide. He hadn’t seen because it was so dark and he’d been so focused on following Jamie’s voice, but she was right: Just a few meters ahead, a strong wind was blowing into the forest. Jack could hear the sound of the ocean far, far below them.

“Jack!”

Jack’s heart skipped a beat. Jamie’s voice. But it was coming- it was coming from-

He bolted forward and kneeled by the edge of the cliff. He squinted, trying to see through the darkness. And then…

“Jamie!” he gasped.

Miraculously, Jamie was sitting on a narrow, very fragile-looking ledge sticking out of the mountain. Jack couldn’t see well in the dark, but when Jamie looked up at the sound of his voice, it looked like he was seriously hurt. There were stains on his face. Was it blood? Jack couldn’t tell.

“Jack!” Jamie cried. He sounded panicked. Something was seriously wrong. “Hurry!”

Jack crawled as close as he could get, and tried reaching for him, even though he knew it was hopeless. He was way out of reach. Astrid came up beside him and gasped.

“I’ll call for Stormfly,” she said. “Just hold on, Jamie-“

“No!” Jamie protested. “It’s breaking. The ledge- Ah!

There was a horrible cracking sound, and pebbles fell from the ledge. Jack didn’t even hear them hit the water. He was sure his heart had stopped once again, but he forced the panic away. He had to figure out what to do. He could see a crack in the ledge – they only had a few seconds by the looks of it. No wonder why Baby Tooth had been in a hurry.

“It’s okay,” Jack said. Jamie stared up at him, completely rigid in panic. Jack’s mind was racing. “Just- Just try to stand up and reach for my hand.”

“I- I can’t,” Jamie stammered. “It’s going to fall!”

“You won’t fall,” Jack said calmly. He tried for a smile. The crack beneath Jamie was growing larger by the second. “Just… stand up very carefully. Take my hand.”

“I won’t reach!” Jamie protested. His voice cracked with fear, and at once, another scene played in the back of Jack’s head; a scene very similar to this one, but there wouldn’t be any hopscotch this time. And they were running out of time.

And then, Jack remembered what he’d done last time. He grabbed his staff, and lowered it to Jamie, the crooked end down.

“Hold onto this,” he said.

Jamie looked at it doubtfully, but then there was another loud crack, and he yelped, latching onto the staff. Jack gritted his teeth and shifted to have a better grip. Astrid sat right beside him, her hands hovering like she wanted to help, somehow. And she might have to, too; Jack wasn’t sure if he’d be able to carry Jamie’s weight now that he didn’t have his powers.

“Hold on tight, okay?” Jack said. He wanted to give Jamie a few more seconds to adjust, but in the next moment, the ledge started to crumble. “Jamie!” Jack cried.

Jamie didn’t make a sound. Maybe he was too scared to even do that. But he hadn’t fallen. He was holding onto the staff, his feet dangling in the air, hopelessly searching for something to stand on. His breath came in sharp, hollow huffs.

“Hold on!” Jack said, as if that wasn’t obvious. He began pulling the staff up. Astrid went behind him, grabbing on as well. And they pulled.

“Hurry!” Jamie pleaded, his voice strained. He was shaking with the effort of holding his own weight.

They pulled him further up, and Jack soundlessly cursed at how much heavier Jamie was now. Even then, Astrid seemed to be doing fine.

“Can you hold it on your own?” Jack asked her.

Astrid nodded, her face tight. Jack carefully let go of the staff. He crouched, holding out his hand again. Jamie was almost close enough. Just a little bit closer…

“You’re almost there, Jamie. Just hold on, you’re gonna be fine,” he said.

Jamie didn’t answer. He had his eyes clenched shut, his arms shaking. Jack inched forward, trying to reach Jamie’s wrist. Just a little more… A little more…

Jack gritted his teeth and scooted forward. Jamie gave a weak groan, his voice breaking – and his arms gave out. The staff slipped out his grip. Astrid yelped as the staff flew off somewhere, but her voice was drowned out by Jamie’s scream.

But he didn’t fall. Jack was holding him up.

Jack wasn’t sure where the strength came from, but in the next moment, he almost effortlessly pulled Jamie up on solid ground. Only later did he realize Astrid had grabbed his leg to keep them both from falling to their deaths. She had singlehandedly pulled them both up.

Jack had trouble catching his breath. He hadn’t been this scared since… Well, since he’d literally died. He met Jamie’s eyes, and Jamie looked too shocked to even cry. He collapsed against Jack, and Jack put his arms around him, burrowing his face in Jamie’s hair.

“It’s okay,” he breathed. “You’re okay.”

He glanced up to see Astrid watching them with a worried expression. Jack mouthed a thank you to her, and she nodded.

Baby Tooth came to land on Jack’s shoulder. She chirped softly, and Jamie looked up.

“Thank you,” he murmured. Then he looked at Jack, and pressed his lips together. Tears were welling up in his eyes. “I… I’m sorry-“

Jack just shook his head with a weak, gentle chuckle. “It’s okay. We can talk later, alright? Just relax.”

Jamie sniffled, but he nodded.

They sat there for a long time. Jamie was shaking so much, Jack doubted he’d be able to stand. Not that Jack himself was doing any better: For a moment there, his heart had been beating so fast, he really thought it was going to stop. He’d experienced many horrifying things, and this wasn’t the first time Jamie’s life had been threatened. However, it felt different now. Maybe it was just a part of being human.

Jamie started to say something but stopped himself. Jack glanced down.

“What is it?” he asked gently.

Jamie didn’t meet his eyes at first, but he briefly glanced up at him with a hesitant expression, and then at Astrid. Astrid was just standing there, shifting her weight. She looked a bit awkward, but apparently didn’t mind waiting for Jamie to calm down.

Jack thought he knew what Jamie was thinking.

“The other kids?” he asked. Jamie looked back at him, and hesitantly nodded. Jack couldn’t help but smile. Despite everything, Jamie didn’t want to get the other kids in trouble. He was loyal like that… maybe a little too loyal. “They’re safe. We met them on our way here. They said…” He hesitated, because the story almost seemed too dangerous to be true – but then again, the kids had been really freaked out. There was, of course, a chance that they’d been lying, because they’d done something horrible. Maybe by accident, and maybe not. But Jack didn’t want to think about that option yet. “They said you were attacked by a wild boar.”

Jamie pressed his lips together and nodded.

“A wild boar,” Astrid repeated then. She sounded doubtful. “Do you realize how dangerous those are?”

Jamie sent her a look. “I’m not lying,” he said. He sounded slightly annoyed. Jack guessed nobody liked being accused of lying when that wasn’t the case, but Jamie had even more reason than most people, after the events of last Easter. He took a shaky breath. “There was a pig. A… A wild boar, I mean. U- Undis tried to shoot it with an arrow, but she missed. So we ran, a- and…” His voice faltered. His hand tightened where it was gripping onto Jack’s hoodie. “…It followed me, so I just ran. I didn’t see the- the cliff before it was too late, so I fell over. I landed on that ledge, but the pig… Uh, the pig wasn’t so lucky.”

He mumbled the last part, like he felt sorry for it.

Jack’s eyes widened. He glanced at Astrid, who looked just as surprised.

“You killed a wild boar,” she said.

Jamie’s eyes flickered between her and Jack, like he’d done something wrong. “It was an accident,” he protested.

Jack couldn’t help but laugh, but he stopped himself when Jamie gave him a confused look. “You really are full of surprises,” he told him, and gently ruffled his hair. Jamie still looked unsure, and Jack smiled reassuringly. “I’m just glad you’re alright,” he told him.

Jamie’s lips quirked up into a small smile too. Then he looked down at his hands, which were covered in mud and blood. “…Mostly,” he mumbled.

Astrid took a few steps away from the edge and picked up something: Jack’s staff. She walked back to them and handed it to Jack. “We should go back to the village and clean your wounds,” she said. “Are you hurt anywhere else, Jamie? Any broken bones?”

Jamie hesitated but shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said.

“And you, Jack?”

“I’m alright,” Jack said, and began shifting to get to his feet. “But we should still- Ouch!

Astrid had grabbed his left arm. Her touch was gentle, but it still sent of jolt of pain through his wrist. She raised an eyebrow at him, and carefully turned his arm over. Jack stared at it; it looked almost… blue. Was it blue?

“Can you move it?” she asked.

Jack tried, and his hand moved weakly up and down. It hurt, but it was possible. Astrid hummed.

“Doesn’t seem to be broken, but you should definitely bandage it,” she said, then glanced down at Jack’s feet. “And those too. Hiccup gave you those shoes for a reason, Jack.” She sent him a disapproving look.

Jack followed her gaze, and his breath hitched in his throat. Like Jamie’s hands, Jack’s feet were covered in mud and blood. He hadn’t even noticed that he’d cut himself, but there was a gash at the side of his left foot, and only now did he notice that both of them actually really hurt. He guessed it wasn’t such a good idea to sprint through the woods with bare feet anymore.

Jack felt unwell. His head felt like it was filled with cotton. It took him a long while to look away from the red on his skin, and he did it only because Astrid was trying to get his attention:

“Are you okay?” she asked, frowning at him. “Don’t tell me you’re a fainter. It’s just a bit of blood.”

Jack had trouble finding his voice. “What? No. No, I just…” He trailed off, not knowing how to explain the feeling he was having. Jamie might’ve understood, at least somewhat. Baby Tooth, maybe even more. Astrid was more problematic. The thing was, Jack hadn’t seen his own blood in 300 years, and seeing it now was… jarring. Like he just now realized that he really was mortal again. But how could he explain that? He gave a breathy, halfhearted laugh. “I mean… I’m not a fainter, but…”

Astrid shook her head and got to her feet. “Come on,” she said, holding out her hand. “Get used to it. You’ll see a lot of it here on Berk.”

“That’s not exactly reassuring,” Jack mumbled, but took her hand anyway, before helping Jamie to his feet. He was giving Jack a strange look, but he didn’t say anything.

“Let’s go to my place,” Astrid said with a kind smile.  “I’ll save you the trip back up to Gothi’s hut.”

It wasn’t an offer; it was an order.

Jack shared a look with Jamie, who just shrugged.

“Not going up that hill would be nice,” he admitted.

Jack smiled and nodded to Astrid. “Thank you.”

Astrid smiled back and gestured for them to follow.

They were quiet on their way back. Astrid walked slightly ahead, her gaze fixed determinedly forward, like she was thinking hard about something. Sometimes she would glance at Jamie, and her eyes would soften. Jack got a feeling she was weighing her options: She had to report back to her chief, but she also wanted to make sure Jamie was alright. He’d already been through enough for a little while.

Jamie was holding onto Jack’s left arm, careful not to touch his wrist, but his grip was tight, as if he was still afraid of falling. He was sniffling, but the few tears he’d shed earlier had stopped long ago. Jack suspected he was trying to seem strong in front of him and Astrid.

Jack would’ve been a hypocrite for blaming him, because he was doing the exact same thing. The memories of Jack’s last moments as a human were still playing relentlessly in the back of his mind. A conversation might drown it out, but he had trouble coming up with anything to say. The world around him seemed somehow… distant. The only thing that felt truly real was Jamie’s grip on his arm.

Astrid’s house was pretty homey, if you didn’t notice the weapons decorating the wall. Her family was fond of axes, it seemed. Still, it was more inviting than Gothi’s hut, with the hearth in the middle of the room, fur covered benches and the lack of a witch corner, which was definitely a huge plus.

Astrid made Jack and Jamie sit by the hearth, which was already lit. She explained that her mom was on patrol duty, and her father was out to sea for the time being. Apparently, not everyone had taken to dragon riding, and some Berkians still preferred to do things the traditional way.

While Astrid was out getting water, Jack grabbed a woolen blanket from one of the beds. He draped it over Jamie’s shoulders and sat down beside him. Jamie stirred, but didn’t look up.

And then there was silence. Jack felt… unsure. More unsure than he had in a long time, at least when it came to Jamie. And he felt like a fraud, because it was kind of his job to be able to figure out kids and how to cheer them up. How to have fun.

But this wasn’t fun. All of this had somehow been even more jarring than the fight with Pitch. Without his powers, he’d truly almost lost Jamie, and that thought was paralyzing. It had happened so quickly, and Jack had only been lucky. His body felt like it was filled with lead. It felt like he’d already failed, after just three days.

Baby Tooth landed on Jack’s knee, looking up at him worriedly. Jack tried to smile at her, but he knew it was empty.

It was almost too scary to wonder what Jamie might be thinking. He wasn’t Jack Frost anymore, the hero that Jamie had put his faith in. He was just a normal, powerless teenager.

“Are you angry?”

Jack blinked, looking up. He hadn’t realized he’d been frowning. Jamie’s gaze was wary, and his posture stiff. It was a strange look, especially when directed at Jack. His lower lip was also quivering ever so slightly, and his voice was hoarse and quiet.

Jack raised his brows. “What?” was his encouraging answer.

Jamie pouted, averting his eyes. He looked like he was struggling to find the right words, but Jack spared him the trouble:

“Jamie,” he said, a light chuckle in his voice. It made Jamie look up again. There was a slight shimmer in his eyes. Jack shook his head. “Why would I be angry?”

Jamie swallowed and looked down once again. “Because I…” he started. His voice was thin. “…My mom always yells at me when I stay out too late. Especially in the woods. I… I shouldn’t have snuck out, but I did anyway, a- and I almost… I almost die-“

“Hey, hey, it’s alright,” Jack interrupted as Jamie’s voice rose, quavering with emotion. He shifted so that his legs were on either side of the bench, so he was facing Jamie. He ignored the pain in his left wrist to cup Jamie’s hand in both of his own. “Listen… You’re right. Your mother is also right. What you did was very dangerous, and you shouldn’t do that, ever again.”

Jamie pressed his quivering lips together. A tear rolled down his cheek.

Jack swallowed. “…But sometimes we do reckless things,” he continued. “And sometimes those things have awful consequences. I mean, you already know I’ve made some bad choices.”

Jamie looked up then, a frown on his face. “The time fragment wasn’t your fault,” he argued softly.

That was debatable, but Jack still smiled at Jamie’s unrelenting faith… even if it felt undeserved.

“Even so, there’s been other… events,” Jack said quietly, looking down. The sound of ice skates was still clear in his mind, and he shook his head, meeting Jamie’s eyes again. “What I’m saying is that everyone finds themselves in trouble like this sometimes. It’s not something you can avoid that easily. Unless you wanna live a boring life in fear of ever encountering it.”

Jamie frowned, but a smile was creeping onto his face. “Are you saying getting into trouble is okay?” he asked.

Jack laughed. “Well… Sort of, I guess.”

“My mom wouldn’t have liked that message.”

“She probably wouldn’t,” Jack agreed, squeezing Jamie’s hand. “And she’s probably right to disagree. You should try to listen to both of us. Find a nice balance, you know?”

Jamie nodded. His smile faltered a little. “You’re not going to yell at me?” he asked.

“I think that pig already taught you a lesson,” Jack replied.

Jamie shuddered a little. He looked over at Baby Tooth then. “If it hadn’t been for you…” he started shakily. His hand twitched, like he wasn’t sure what to do with her. He couldn’t exactly hug someone who was the size of his own hand. But Baby Tooth seemed to understand, because she flew over and landed on Jamie’s shoulder, chirping gently at him. Jamie sent Jack a questioning look.

Jack chuckled lightly. “She says it’s fine.”

Baby Tooth chirped again.

“But don’t do it again.”

Jamie laughed, and just then, Astrid came back. She was carrying a couple of buckets of water.

“Here,” she said, putting the buckets down in front of them, along with a couple of rags. She then walked over to a chest and rummaged around it, before pulling up what looked like bandages and something else – a splint. She came back and sat down beside Jack, gesturing for him to hold out his hand. He let her work silently on bandaging his wrist. He winced a few times but tried not to show it too much. “There,” she said when she finished. “Wash your legs while I clean Jamie’s wounds.”

Jack just nodded. Astrid clearly knew what she was doing, which made him wonder how many times she’d fixed herself up, and possibly other people as well. He took one of the rags and dipped it in the water.

“That’s straight from the well, so it’s pretty cold,” Astrid warned.

Jack glanced at Jamie, and a laughing smile spread on Jamie’s lips. Jack chuckled and nodded. “Noted,” he said.

Astrid frowned. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. Just an inside joke.”

She didn’t seem satisfied with the answer, but just shook her head and dipped her rag in the water.

Cleaning their wounds was slow and painful work, and for each time he winced, Jack wished he hadn’t taken his fast healing for granted all those years. Of course, it would’ve helped if he’d remembered that he hadn’t always had that ability, but the fact that he hadn’t was old news and he wouldn’t dwell on it. Not right now, anyway. He had loads of time to glower at the Moon.

“Astrid?” Jack said.

“Hm?”

“How long does it take for this to heal?”

“Dunno. Maybe a few weeks, a couple of months. Depends on the person, and the damage.”

Jack blinked. “Weeks?” he repeated incredulously.

Astrid stopped dabbing at Jamie’s forehead to give him a weird look. “Something tells me you don’t have much experience with injury,” she said.

It wasn’t exactly true.

“Well… Not exactly the kind you-“

Jamie elbowed him slightly, and Jack stopped talking. He was smiling amusedly.

“Normal people don’t have super-healing abilities,” Jamie said in English.

Jack huffed. “They sure don’t,” he agreed in a disgruntled mumble.

Astrid was looking at them both, her eyes slightly narrowed, as if she was trying to will her brain to understand the foreign language. Jamie bit his lip.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “It’s probably rude to keep you out of the conversation.”

Jamie had more common decency than Jack, at least. Thankfully, because Astrid’s expression softened immediately.

“Just a little tip,” she said. “If you wanna seem unsuspicious, not speaking in foreign tongues in front of our faces will probably help. You’re plotting to overthrow Stoick for all I know. If you’ve got nothing to hide, then…” She shrugged.

Jack kept his face even. To be fair, they did have something to hide, it just wasn’t anywhere near what Astrid feared.

“Point taken,” Jack said. “Norse it is.”

Astrid smiled approvingly, then continued dabbing at Jamie’s face. “Are you hurting anywhere else?” she asked. “That was quite a fall you had.”

“I’ve had worse,” Jamie replied with a small smile. “Maybe not quite as scary, but one time I went flying through the air on a sledge.” He moved his hand through the air to visualize. “Then I got run over by a sofa, but it was, like, a really long leap.”

Jack hummed. “It was pretty impressive,” he agreed.

Astrid laughed softly. “Sounds like you two have been through a lot together,” she said absentmindedly as she studied Jamie’s face and hands. She hummed thoughtfully. “You’ll be bruised up for a few days, but your cuts aren’t that deep. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll still get a scar out of it.” She winked at him, before getting to her feet, throwing the rag back in the bucket.

Jamie sent Jack a confused look and Jack shrugged. These Vikings really were something.

“How’s your wrist?” Astrid asked.

Jack turned his hand over. It ached, and he was sure it would just ache more in the days to come. He tried moving it, and he sucked in some air through his teeth – and suddenly, he was gone. Not physically, but his mind was far away, in a different place and a different time. It hadn’t been his wrist back then, but his ankle – which was much worse than his wrist. He remembered. He couldn’t have been more than thirteen at the time. He’d been entertaining the other kids, climbing a branch, and then – snap!

It hadn’t been the first time Jack had injured himself, nor would it be the last, but this injury had forced him to use crutches for a while, and even stay in bed the first few days. It had been a miserably boring few months.

“Huh…” he muttered. He looked up to see that both Astrid and Jamie were giving him strange looks. He smiled. “Doesn’t hurt as much anymore. I realized I’ve had worse.”

“You realized?” Astrid asked, before giving a small chuckle. “Okay, then.”

Jamie didn’t say anything, but he was giving Jack that same look as before. A strange, kind of thoughtful look. Jack found it hard to read, and so he pretended not to notice.

“Well, you’re both doing better than I expected. Especially Jamie,” Astrid said, smiling at then. “Maybe there is a bit of Viking in you after all.”

Jamie beamed.

Then she turned to Jack and frowned.

“You’re cold,” she said.

Jack blinked. “What? No.”

“You’re shivering,” Astrid insisted.

And Jack realized only then that she was right. He’d been feeling a bit uncomfortable for a while, but he’d been too focused on cleaning his wounds to actually think about what it was. Turns out, it was just because it was slightly chilly, even with the hearth warming them up. Being human was more of a hazzle than he remember.

Astrid was frowning now. “I wonder…” she mumbled. “Hold on.”

And then she turned and disappeared out the front door. Jack and Jamie shared confused looks, and Jack just shrugged. It didn’t take too long before Astrid came back, now carrying a heap of… clothes? She threw the pile on the bench, then placed her hands self-satisfied on her hips.

“Where’d you get those?” Jack asked.

“Storage shed,” she explained. “Extra clothes in case someone is in need. And since you’ll be staying for a while, it’s time you dressed more appropriately, don’t you think?” She surveyed them both. “No offense, but your clothes are super weird. What even is that fabric?” She pointed at Jamie’s vest.

Jamie’s mouth opened and closed. “Uh… I don’t know,” he said. “My mom got it for me.”

“Well, you should try these on, and I can get your shoes from Gothi’s, Jack,” Astrid said. “That you somehow forgot about on your way out.”

“I was in a hurry,” Jack defended.

“Yeah, that explains it,” Astrid said dryly, before she headed for the door again. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

It didn’t take that long to get to Gothi’s hut if you had a dragon, so Jack supposed she was giving them extra time to get dressed. He was at a slight loss of words. Astrid had really committed to the kind and caring part. It stood in sharp contrast with the hard and calculating behavior she’d had before – and Jack wasn’t really used to being taken care of. It was coming to the point where it was almost uncomfortable, like North and Bunny’s behavior after the heat sprite incident.

“She’s nicer than I thought,” he mumbled once she was out.

“Yeah,” Jamie agreed with a small laugh. He was already looking through the pile of clothes with enthusiasm, though he was careful not to move his bandaged hands too much. He picked out some garments then grinned at Jack. “You should wear this. It’s blue.”

Jack frowned. “What is it?”

“Dunno. A sash or something? Oh, look at this – it looks like something from Pirates of the Caribbean!”

Jack didn’t know what Jamie was talking about, but he nodded as if he did. He looked through the pile as well, and soon enough, they’d found some clothes that hopefully fit them. Before ten minutes had passed, they were both all dressed up in old, dusty Viking clothes. Jack had wound up in a baggy, white blouse that was a bit too big, so he rolled it up to his elbows. He’d also found some fingerless gloves, which helped with keeping warm, but like with his feet, Jack didn’t like covering his hands. Then he’d found some brown pants that were tied with wraps around his ankles, a bit like the ones he was already wearing. The faded blue sash Jamie had found wrapped nicely around his waist, both to keep warm and to stop his new blouse from riding up his stomach.

However, his favorite garment was a long brown cloak. It was wrapped around his shoulders, fastened at the side of his chest so that the frayed cape hung lopsidedly down his back, ending somewhere behind his thighs.  It reminded him vaguely of the cloak he’d worn during his first years as Jack Frost; it made him feel a little bit more at home.

Then he turned around to see what clothes Jamie had ended up in, and his heart almost leaped up to his throat.

Jamie was wearing a brown tunic and a sash like Jack, only it was a soft red instead of a faded blue.  He’d also found himself gray pants, and was still wearing his own shoes. It was a very unassuming look, nothing special about it. Jack had seen very similar outfits on several villagers already. And yet when he saw Jamie in those clothes, he was struck with a feeling he couldn’t decide whether was elevating or devastating.

Jamie looked almost like a mirror image of Jack’s sister, Emily. His outfit looked like the dress Emily had been wearing that faithful day. It was the last thing Jack had seen before going through the ice.

Slowly, he realized that Jamie was trying to say something to him, and he blinked himself back to the present – or past, or whatever this was for them right now.

“Huh?”

Jamie tilted his head questioningly to the side. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he said.

Jack almost said that he felt like he had, but remained silent. Jamie glanced behind himself, and then at Jack again, like he was afraid there really was a ghost behind him.

“Is something wrong?”

Alright, collect yourself, Jack.

Jack took a slightly shaky breath. “…Yeah,” he said after a moment. “I just… thought of something.” He smiled reassuringly, and came over to sit on the bench again, beside Jamie. “How do you feel?” he asked, before Jamie could ask any more questions about Jack’s weird tendency to space out.

Jamie looked like he wanted to ask more questions but seemed to let it go for now. He smiled back at Jack.

“Like a Viking,” he replied with a grin.

 

 

“Didn’t I ask them to be careful? Maybe I didn’t directly ask it but I’m sure it was clearly implied. They’re already mistrusted by the entire village, and what do they do? Sneak out to the woods and kill a boar?” Hiccup groaned, falling backwards on Toothless for a moment before sitting up again.

Toothless grumbled in agreement. At least Hiccup liked to pretend he was agreeing.

“And why do I have to hear it from Astrid? When were they so friendly?” he mumbled.

Toothless huffed. Hiccup did too.

“Well… I’m sure they have a perfectly good explanation,” he then said. “Right?”

Toothless made a sound that sounded slightly doubtful. Hiccup sighed.

“No, you’re probably right. There’s never an explanation with those guys.”

They landed outside the forge, where Astrid had told him Jack and Jamie might be. It was already the middle of the day, and Hiccup had been too busy training, or goofing around as Astrid liked to call it, to check on Jack and Jamie. Time really flew by when you were up the air, and suddenly it was time to gather the guys to prepare for the next dragon race. It had all been a fun time until Astrid dropped the bomb that Jamie had almost died last night?

Hiccup jumped off Toothless and headed for the forge, but came to a stop when he spotted Jack. He was leaning against a pillar with his back to Hiccup and clearly hadn’t noticed him coming. The thing that initially made Hiccup stop was the fact that Jack had had a wardrobe change; he almost looked like a normal Berkian now. But the thing that kept Hiccup from walking up to him, was the fact that he seemed to be standing there, muttering to himself with his palm out in front of him. He made weird hand motions, like he was moving his fingers through water. His other hand was bandaged, holding around his staff.

Hiccup glanced at Toothless, before he quietly walked up to Jack. As he got closer, he saw that Jack’s brows were furrowed and he was looking intently at his hand, like it had developed its own will and was disobeying. And then suddenly, that intense gaze flickered to Hiccup.

Hiccup stopped in his tracks. Jack’s expression immediately turned to surprise at the sight of him.

“Uh…” Hiccup started. “Hand cramp?”

Jack shook his hand then lowered it. “Yep,” he said, and an innocent smile spread on his face. “What’s up?”

“What’s up?” Hiccup repeated exasperatedly. “What do you-“ He stopped himself at the sound of someone whispering slightly too his left. He looked, but saw only a small carriage filled with potatoes. But he also caught a glimpse of black hair, just behind the carriage. He sighed and walked over to it. “Are you guys spying on Jack?” he asked.

“Go!” someone hissed, and three children ran for it. They would’ve gotten away hadn’t it been for Toothless, who blocked their path. The children shrieked, halfway scared and halfway delighted to see Toothless, but seemed to admit defeat because at least they didn’t try to run in the other direction.

Hiccup recognized them as the kids Astrid had told him about earlier: Brant, Undis and Hildur. He crossed his arms, raising his brow in a silent question.

“Er- We were just… playing hide and seek,” Brant said.

Hiccup sent him a doubtful look. “And who’s seeking?” he challenged.

“You guys were there the entire time?” Jack asked behind Hiccup, like they actually had been playing hide and seek. “I didn’t notice you at all.”

Hiccup ignored him.

“I heard four kids snuck out to the woods last night,” Hiccup said, shooting the kids a pointed look.

The children shared glances, before they came closer, all wearing different degrees of nervous expressions. Hiccup was about to chastise them, but the loud voice of Gobber spoke up before he had the chance:

“Oh, I heard that too,” he said with a laugh as he came out of the forge, unsuccessfully wiping soot off his forehead. “And that little Jamie fought his first wild boar.”

For some reason, Brant looked close to tears. He suddenly ran up to Jack and grabbed his new clothes, looking up at him with a devastated look. “It wasn’t our fault, Jack,” he pleaded miserably. Tears were streaming down his face now. “We- We didn’t think there would be any wild b- b- boars that close to the village. I s- swear, we didn’t mean to-“

Jack looked completely bewildered, and he interrupted him before he could get any further.

“Hey,” he said, a slightly worried chuckle in his voice. He kneeled in front of Brant. “Calm down, it’s okay. Breathe…” He glanced up at Hiccup, asking a silent question.

Hiccup just shrugged and looked at the other kids. They looked pale and wouldn’t meet anyone’s eyes.

Once Brant had calmed down a little bit, Jack sent him a kind smile, putting a hand on his shoulder. “There you go. Now what’s wrong?”

Brant sniffled. “We- We left Jamie,” he said quietly. “The wild boar chased him. We should’ve followed and helped him, b- but-“

“Oh, it’s you guys.”

Brant’s eyes went wide. Undis and Hildur looked up with horrified expressions as Jamie emerged from the forge, his cheeks red from the heat and his forehead sweaty. Hildur grabbed a hold of Undis, so hard she yelped.

“You’re alive!” Hildur shrieked.

You’re alive?” Brant asked at the same time.

Undis didn’t say anything, but her mouth was hanging open.

Jamie looked almost just as surprised as the other kids. His eyes flickered to Jack, and then to Brant, whose eyes were still teary. “Uh… yeah?” he said uncertainly.

Undis stepped forward. “But the boar,” she said. “You killed the boar?”

Jamie’s cheeks seemed to be growing redder, but this time it wasn’t because of the heat. “Uh, well actually-“ he started, but Gobber interrupted:

“Ah, your first boar,” he said, looking up at the sky wistfully. “I remembered when I killed my first boar. I think I was thirteen at the time! Not a bad age, but it seemed my record has been broken. Well, I’m sure Stoick killed his first boar when he was a newborn, but that’s Stoick-“

“Wait,” Jack said with a frown. He looked at Brant again. “You thought Jamie…” He trailed off. “And you came here to apologize?”

Suddenly, Brant looked extremely uncomfortable.

“Uh… I gotta go,” he said, then turned on his heel and ran.

Undis and Hildur looked like they still wanted to question Jamie, but one of their teammates had left the mission. Apparently, it was time to abort.

“We’ll talk later,” Undis told Jamie, before they both scampered off.

Hiccup looked after them and sighed deeply. “I wish I could run away from my problems like that,” he muttered.

Jamie was looking after them too, and then at Jack. He laughed, slightly nervous, before just as quickly stopping himself. He looked up at Gobber. “You don’t really believe I killed that boar, do you?” he asked.

Gobber winked at him. “What do I know? I wasn’t there,” he said, then nodded for Jamie to follow him back inside. “Come on, little boar slayer – we have a sword to forge. You too, Jack.”

Jack seemed a bit bewildered still, but he looked up when Gobber said his name. He followed absentmindedly, and Hiccup had no choice but to do so too, if he wanted to have a word with them. He signalized to Toothless that he would be right back.

Gobber pulled a long piece of iron out of the kiln and placed in on the anvil. “Alright, lad,” he said to a wide-eyed Jamie. “Now it’s time to hammer the edges. Hold it like this, and then you should be fine. No, not there! Not there, unless you want to burn your fingers off.”

Jamie swallowed. He was wearing gloves, but they weren’t much protection against glowing hot iron. Jack was watching, his expression only halfway neutral. It was clear he thought this was fascinating too, but he was, understandably, worried for Jamie. Hiccup was worried too; he remembered what it was like, being a beginner apprentice with Gobber.

But he’d turned out fine, so Jamie probably would too. He turned to Jack.

“Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in?” he asked quietly, so that Gobber and Jamie wouldn’t hear over their hammering.

Jack didn’t meet his eyes at first, but the smile growing on his lips told Hiccup he’d heard him. He sent him an impish look.

“Do tell,” he said.

“This isn’t funny, Jack,” Hiccup said. “You could’ve gotten hurt. You could’ve died.

Jack snorted. “We wouldn’t want that, would we.”

Hiccup stared at him. “What’s the matter with you?” he demanded.

Jack looked ready to come with some snarky reply, but then seemed to stop himself last moment. He closed his mouth and visibly exhaled. “Sorry,” he mumbled, bringing both his hands around his staff. “It’s been a long day. And night, before that.”

Hiccup took a step closer, then gently turned Jack around so they could have a bit more privacy. They walked over to a spot in the forge that didn’t have sparks flying through the air.

“What happened?” Hiccup asked. “My dad will find out sooner or later, and he is not as forgiving as Astrid.”

“Astrid is really nice,” Jack said, like that helped him in the slightest. He sent Hiccup an apologetic smile when Hiccup stared at him, then sighed. “There’s no good explanation. Brant, Undis and Hildur came to Gothi’s hut in the middle of the night and convinced Jamie to sneak out with them. I was asleep, so…” The last part came out in a mumble. He sounded ashamed, like, how dare he sleep during the night like everyone else?

“And Jamie killed a boar,” Hiccup said, just for confirmation.

Jack looked like he was trying to suppress a smile but didn’t do a very good job at it. “I kinda want them to believe that,” he said, his reluctant smile turning into a laughing grin. “It’s more fun that way, isn’t it?”

Hiccup raised his brows. Jack was acting so aloof, it felt like he was dealing with Snotlout, or even Ruff or Tuff – and that was not compliment. But the weird thing was, Hiccup found himself fighting a smile too, despite how much he tried to seem like the serious chief-y type. Jack’s attitude was annoyingly infectious.

“They can believe whatever they want,” Hiccup said, forcing himself to stay serious. “But I want to know what really happened.”

Jack’s smile melted, and Hiccup was a bit sad to see it go. Once the playful twinkle in his eyes was gone, he suddenly seemed older and weary. He let out a another, deeper sigh, looking over at Jamie and Gobber. “The boar chased Jamie off a cliff. None of them saw the cliff in time. Jamie… miraculously landed on a ledge. Astrid and I barely managed to save him.”

A cold feeling spread in Hiccup’s chest. To think the call had been so close…

“And the boar?” he asked. His voice came out smaller than he’d intended.

Jack shrugged. “Took a swim, I guess.”

Hiccup let out a shaky breath. “Gods…” he muttered. “You’ve been here for three days, and you’ve already had a near death experience.”

“Tell me about it,” Jack mumbled, bringing a hand to his temple. “I can’t remember the last time I had a headache this bad. At least Gobber is distracting enough, though…” He peered over at them, his brows furrowing. “…not sure if it’ll end well for Jamie.”

Hiccup followed his gaze. Jamie looked extremely awkward, standing beside the huge anvil and holding a hammer that was much to heavy for him, and Hiccup couldn’t help but smile. The sight was almost nostalgic.

“He’ll be fine,” he told Jack. But Jack wasn’t paying attention; his eyes were still on Jamie, though it didn’t seem like he was truly looking at him either. His mind was elsewhere.

“…Yeah,” he then eventually replied, blinking as he looked back at Hiccup. He smiled faintly. “He’ll be fine.”

Hiccup decided there and then that Jack wasn’t much of an actor. They didn’t know each other, and Hiccup knew he could be unobservant sometimes – but he’d always been pretty good at reading others’ emotions. After all, it was that ability that had made him spare Toothless’ life, when he’d found him downed in the woods.

However, Toothless was a dragon. They were somewhat easier to communicate with than people, a whole lot of the time.

“Er… Jack,” Hiccup started. Jack looked at him, and suddenly he realized that he didn’t actually know any way to help – he just wanted to help somehow. “Uh, well. I’ll talk to my dad, and… figure something out. And I just want to say that-“

“Jack! Come over here, lad.”

Gobber’s voice made them both jump. Jack laughed about it, while Hiccup sent Gobber a slight glower, bringing a hand to his startled heart.

But he guessed it was for the best; he hadn’t actually known what he was going to say to Jack just then.

Gobber went on to show Jack how to make a blade from scratch, while Jamie continued struggling with the sword he was currently working on. Hiccup could already tell it wouldn’t turn out very good, but Jamie’s enthusiasm was something to admire. Then Hiccup noticed the bandages on his hands, and he realized why he was holding the hammer so awkwardly. Was he actually in pain?

Hiccup found himself walking over to him before thinking anymore about it. Jamie was wearing an adorably focused expression, nose wrinkled and brows furrowed, but he stopped hammering once he noticed Hiccup looking at him.

“Am I doing it wrong?” Jamie asked, his expression morphing into self-consciousness.

Hiccup hesitated. “Uh… Not really,” he said, leaning over to study Jamie’s handiwork. “It’s a bit…” It wasn’t very good, but still a good first try. Probably. “…wobbly. You’ll get the hang of it in no time, I’m sure.”

Jamie hummed. He started to scratch his cheek in contemplation, but then winced, and Hiccup realized it wasn’t just his hands that were injured – his face had a few cuts and bruises, partly hidden underneath the soot that smeared his face after working in the forge all day. Jack had told Hiccup it had been a long day and night – he could only wonder what Jamie must be feeling, and yet he was here making swords? He really was a trouper.

Even if he didn’t have to make this sword.

“You know… Gobber is a bit, uh… much sometimes, but you can take a break if you’re tired,” Hiccup told him.

Jamie glanced up at him and then at the sword. He shrugged. “I want to have a sword,” he said. “It’s cool. Well… maybe not this one, but…” He sounded pretty dejected.

Hiccup glanced over at Gobber and Jack. They weren’t paying attention. Not that Gobber would chastise Jamie if he saw Hiccup helping him, but he’d never been a very gentle teacher; Hiccup wanted to show Jamie the way he liked to work.

“Want me to help you a little?” he asked Jamie

Jamie’s eyes widened. “You would?” he asked, looking down at the sword again. “Just to… at least make it look like a sword?”

Hiccup chuckled. “Sure. Hold on, we need to reheat this.” He grabbed the wobbly piece of iron. As he moved it back to the kiln, he glanced over at Jack and Gobber again to make sure they still weren’t paying attention, but instead met eyes with Jack. Jack only looked at him for a moment, an amused smile spreading on his face, before Gobber took away his attention again.

“When did you start working in the forge?” Jamie asked as Hiccup shoved the blade into the kiln.

Hiccup hummed thoughtfully. “I think I was a little younger than you,” he said. “At least that’s when I made my first weapons.”

Jamie made an ‘O’ with his mouth. “Wasn’t it hard?” he then asked.

“Oh, yeah, I wasn’t any good at first,” Hiccup said, smiling at the memory. “Gobber started to teach me because he looked at my designs. Thought I might have a talent for forging and crafting, since… Well.” Since he hadn’t really had a talent for anything else. “Dragon fighting wasn’t exactly my forte.”

Jamie looked thoughtfully over at Toothless, who was waiting outside. Hiccup knew he would probably get grumpy, since they had to cut their dragon racing preparations short. But they could continue doing that later.

“Why did you stop fighting them?” Jamie asked.

Hiccup looked at Toothless as well, wondering how much of that story he had the energy to retell. He sent Jamie a light smile. “We just had to learn their side of the story first,” he said. “And once we saw the whole picture, we learned that we didn’t have to be enemies. We could help each other and be friends.”

Jamie was fidgeting with his hands. Clearly, he had something on his mind. He opened his mouth, closed it, and then opened it again:

“Could I ride a dragon?” he asked.

Hiccup hesitated. Jamie sounded so hopeful, but Hiccup knew he had to disappoint him. Not just because Stoick wouldn’t want to teach Jack and Jamie anything about dragons before he knew he could trust them, but also because Jamie was so young. The last truth seemed less harsh, so Hiccup went with that.

“I was fifteen when I first learned how to ride a dragon,” he said. “You’re still a bit young.”

Jamie pouted, and Hiccup smiled apologetically.

“Maybe when you’re older,” he tried.

“That’s four years,” Jamie said. If Hiccup didn’t imagine it, slight distress passed over his expression. “We’re not gonna stay here that long.”

Oh. Hiccup glanced at Jack again, but this time, Jack was busy listening to Gobber explain the difference between normal iron and Gronckle iron. Hiccup had never been very good with kids. He wasn’t horrible, but they had a tendency to walk all over him, like everyone else had done before he defeated the Red Death. It was a long time ago now, but still he’d never quite figured out how kids work. They were too unpredictable.

Still, Jamie seemed like a nice kid… and since Jack was busy, Hiccup couldn’t very well leave him to deal with his inner turmoil alone.

He glanced at the kiln and decided the blade could sit a bit longer. He kneeled in front of Jamie, trying to seem less uncertain than he really was.

“…You miss home?” he asked him.

Jamie looked up, before he too glanced at Jack, as if he was worried he’d hear. He shrugged uneasily. “I guess,” he said. “It hasn’t been that long, though… It’s okay.”

“How long exactly?”

Jamie was about to answer, but then he frowned. He hesitated. “Time is… complicated,” he mumbled, scratching his cheek again – careful not to touch a cut this time. “I mean, if you think about it…” His brows furrowed even more, like whatever he was thinking about was extremely confusing. Hiccup supposed amnesia would do that to you.

“Well, either way,” Hiccup said with a small chuckle. “It’s okay to miss home even if it hasn’t been that long. But I’m sure we’ll find a way to get you back soon.”

Jamie’s confused expression turned to doubt as he looked back at Hiccup again. “Your dad won’t let us go,” he said.

Hiccup pressed his lips together. That was a very good point.

“Yeah, well…” he muttered, nervously pushing some hair out his face. “He’ll probably come around, when he realizes you don’t mean any harm.”

“Do you think we mean harm?” Jamie then asked, looking Hiccup directly in the eyes.

Hiccup hesitated again. This kid didn’t beat around the bush. As the son of the chief, the answer should be that he wouldn’t take any chances until he was sure. But as just Hiccup…

He chuckled softly, shaking his head. “No, I can’t say I do,” he said.

Jamie nodded. “Good,” he said seriously, and leaned closer. “Because if you think Jack is going to hurt you in any way, you’re not a very good judge of character.”

Hiccup couldn’t help but smile at Jamie’s mature choice of words. He shrugged. “Doesn’t hurt to be careful, don’t you think?” he asked. “I don’t know him, after all.”

It was Jamie’s turn to smile, and he did it in a way that made it seem like he knew something Hiccup didn’t. “No. You don’t,” he said.

It was hard to say what that smile meant, but Hiccup decided it was just Jamie trying to seem cool or something like that, the way kids did. So instead of reacting to it, he straightened back up and turned to the kiln.

“Right,” he said. “Let’s forge this blade.”

He let Jamie hammer some of it, but took over sometimes just to fix the worst of the damage, but only when he was sure Gobber had his back turned. Jack had seemed to catch onto Hiccup’s little game, because he was doing a very good job at keeping Gobber attention. By the time Gobber finally came back to check on Jamie’s work, his eyebrow raised in surprise, and then furrowed in suspicion.

“That’s a lot better than I expected,” he said, sending Hiccup a long look.

Hiccup shrugged. “He must be a natural,” he said.

Jamie’s smile was slightly nervous, but still wide and very amused. Hiccup counted that as a victory; maybe he was better with kids than he thought.

Gobber’s eyes narrowed. He looked between the two of them for a few seconds, before he grinned a toothy grin. “Alright then, lad,” he said, patting Jamie on the back so hard he stumbled forward, but Jamie just laughed delightedly. “While this cools down, I’ll show you how we make the hilt. Meanwhile, you lads can wait outside.” He sent Hiccup a pointed look.

Hiccup held back a laugh and sent a knowing smile to Jamie. Jamie beamed back at him.

And so Hiccup and Jack padded out of the forge at Gobber’s orders. Toothless perked up hopefully when they came outside, burbling something that sounded like some kind of question.

“Soon, bud,” Hiccup answered, before turning to look at Jack. He wasn’t sure what he had intended to say to him, but either way he forgot all about it when he noticed that Jack was sending him an inquisitive look. Hiccup suddenly felt self-conscious. “Do I have something on my face?” he asked, only half-joking.

Jack’s eyes twinkled with mirth. “Yes, but that’s not what I was thinking about,” he said. Before Hiccup could ask him where on his face, Jack continued: “I thought you didn’t trust us.”

Hiccup raised his brows. “You heard that?”

“My hearing is pretty good,” Jack said. “What do you think these big ears are for?”

Hiccup gave a surprised laugh. “They’re- They’re not that big,” Hiccup protested.

Jack grinned, taking a couple of steps closer. “Thank you,” he said.

“For… saying your ears aren’t big?”

“No, not-“ Jack laughed again, his head falling to the side for a moment. “For that too, I guess. But I meant for talking to Jamie.” His smile melted a little. He shifted his hold on his staff, something he seemed to do a lot when he was nervous or uncomfortable. “He tries hard to put up a brave front, but…” He glanced into the forge, but they couldn’t see Jamie from where they were standing. Jack seemed to be struggling to find the right words. “…To be honest, I’m not sure how to cheer him up after what happened,” he then admitted quietly.

Hiccup nodded slowly. “That’s okay,” he said, a bit uncertainly. “Right? Even if he is your brother, you can’t always know.”

Jack glanced at him, before he looked down at the ground. “It’s a bit more complicated than that,” he muttered, but didn’t offer any further explanation.

“How so?” Hiccup asked gently.

“The way he smiled when you worked with him, though,” Jack said, smoothly ignoring Hiccup’s question. “That was genuine. So thank you for that.”

Hiccup tried not to feel too bothered about being ignored. He shrugged as if to say “no problem” before fixing Jack with a look.  “Jamie’s not the only one who tries to put up a brave front,” he said.

Jack met his eyes. He didn’t say or do anything for a few seconds but studied Hiccup like he was reading his thoughts. Then he shrugged as well. “It’s what big brothers do,” he said. His eyes drifted over to his staff, and he twirled it absentmindedly in his hand. “I just wish I wasn’t so…” He trailed off, but Hiccup was pretty sure the end of that sentence wouldn’t end with something particularly narcissistic.

Hiccup tried not to fidget. He didn’t know what to say or do to make Jack feel any better. The fact was just that Berk could be a dangerous place, and he still didn’t know when they’d be able help Jack and Jamie get back home. Up until this point, Jack had acted cheerful – if not a little aloof and strange sometimes – and positive. Now, Hiccup was starting to wonder if that was all an act.

“I’m… I’m sure you’re doing your best, Jack,” he said, trying to sound encouraging. “What happened to Jamie wasn’t your fault.”

It took a few seconds before Jack answered. Hiccup’s words only seemed to darken his mood further.

“I can’t stay like this,” he then said, his voice just a whisper.

Hiccup wasn’t sure what he meant, but Jack sounded so desperately lost, he scrambled for something to say. Just a few encouraging words would be nice, but nothing seemed to come to mind – except for a question from a long time ago. At least it had helped Hiccup back then. It was the best he had:

“What are you going to do about it?” he asked.

Jack looked up at him, and Hiccup was afraid he’d offended him. But then Jack’s lips parted, as if he just had an epiphany. His brows furrowed into a determined expression.

“Believe,” he said.

Hiccup was confused. “…In yourself?”

Jack’s laugh surprised him. It came out of nowhere, like Hiccup had just told a clever joke.

“Yeah,” he said, grinning. “That’s exactly what I’ll do.”

Hiccup supposed it was a nice sentiment, and probably useful to some degree, but it probably wouldn’t solve all of Jack’s problems. Still, Jack’s mood seemed elevated, and Hiccup didn’t have the heart to point out the holes in his plan.

And even then, as odd as Jack’s epiphany had been, something in his expression had struck Hiccup. Long after he’d left the forge to continue preparing for the next dragon race, the conviction in Jack’s voice rang in the back of Hiccup’s mind, as if something as simple as belief was the solution to all of this.

Chapter Text

Belief was the solution to all of this.

If it was anything Jack had learned, it was that he just had to believe things would be alright in the end. He had to believe he would find out who he was; he had to believe that he wouldn’t be invisible forever – and even when he was at his absolute lowest, he had to believe that he could fix his staff and regain his powers.

And that’s exactly what he was going to do. He had to believe, once again.

So while Jamie was busy in the forge, Jack allowed himself to take a stroll. Back into the woods, because the woods always made him feel at home. It didn’t exactly look like home, but if he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine he was back in Burgess – or even Hawthorne… or whatever that place was called at this point in time.

Jack had asked Baby Tooth to stay with Jamie, because while Gobber seemed trustworthy – if not a little bit eccentric – he was too paranoid to leave him alone without supervision he knew he could trust. Baby Tooth would find him and alert him if something happened.

Villagers had seen him head towards the woods, so he didn’t know how long it would take before someone came looking for him. Even if he understood their caution, it was still annoying. He’d already gone through this with the Guardians. Was he bound to be mistrusted by every new group of people he met? At least the Guardians’ wariness had been partially Jack’s fault – he was a bit reckless and a bit irresponsible and maybe even a bit rude sometimes, especially towards Bunny before they became friends – but it wasn’t Jack’s fault that he and Jamie had appeared here under mysterious circumstances.

…Well, at least he hadn’t meant for it to happen.

He sighed, pushing those thoughts away for now. This wasn’t the time to blame himself.

For the first time in three days, Jack was completely alone. No people, dragons or tooth fairies to watch over him. True, Baby Tooth had been there the last time Jack had regained his powers by mending his staff in Antarctica, but it wasn’t like he had performance anxiety. No, the problem was that Baby Tooth would probably try to stop him from doing what he was about to do.

He retraced his steps back to the cliff Jamie had fallen off. Tentatively, he inched closer to the edge and looked down. The ocean looked peaceful from here. The sun shone through the dim cloud layer, making the water look somewhere just between beautiful and merciless.

Even if Jamie was a good swimmer, he wouldn’t have survived the fall form this height.

Jack swallowed thickly and decided to move further away from the village, and further away from this place that already harbored bad feelings. That was the last thing he needed right now.

He continued walking until the ground started sloping downwards. He didn’t know how far away he was from the village now, but far enough away to give him room to think. He faced the cliff, looking up at the sky. To his right, the hill winded down towards the water before beginning to slope upwards again. If he wanted to be on the safe side, he could go down there. The fall wasn’t lethal, but then there was still the question of what would happen if he went underwater.

But that didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to fall, and he wasn’t going to take another unplanned swim.

North had told him about a man he used to know before he became a Guardian. How long ago that was, Jack wasn’t sure, but the way North talked about it both made it seem like a thousand years ago, and just yesterday at the same time. Jack also didn’t know what had become of that man, but according to North, he hadn’t been just any ordinary person.

He had the power of belief. If he believed in something, it would become real. He would believe it into reality. And so, one day, he went out into a field, closed his eyes and imagined that his feet left the ground. He imagined that the wind carried him up into the sky, and he believed that it was possible.

For all Jack knew, it might just have been a story that North made up, but that didn’t seem like North. Besides, all the Guardians knew about the power of belief. If Jack believed he could get his powers back, he could. If he believed he could fly, he could.

He just needed to kick himself back into action. Last time, the Guardians and the children had been in danger and Jack was their only hope, and he’d just remembered why the Moon had chosen him to be a Guardian. That surge of euphoria and the sense of duty had been enough to mend his staff.

Now, there was no immediate danger, but Jack had done this once before. He could do it again.

He took a deep breath. He kicked off his shoes, giving his bandaged feet a disgruntled look. He looked down to the ocean and slowly exhaled. His heart was speeding up, but he willed himself to stay calm by pacing back and forth, reminding himself that he would be fine. Soon, he’d call back his powers and he and Jamie would be on their way back to the present.

After a couple of minutes, he came to a stop.

He looked up to the sky instead of the ocean. That’s where he was going. That’s where he belonged.

He closed his eyes.

“Wind,” he said. The wind didn’t reply, but Jack didn’t expect it to. “…You probably don’t know me. Not yet, anyway. But I know you… and I trust you.”

The last part came out a bit shakily, and Jack gritted his teeth. He nodded to himself. He did trust the wind. And he trusted himself. He believed in himself; he believed in Jack Frost.

The wind picked up then. It surged around Jack, almost curiously, and Jack felt a smile spread on his lips. His new cloak swayed, the wind pulling it towards the cliff. This was familiar territory – all he had to do was take the leap.

Jack stepped forward, his arms spread out to his sides. He jumped.

And just then, he was home. He was in the wind, and he was going up. He felt the euphoric tug in his gut that he always got whenever he traveled across the world, bringing with him the cold breeze of winter. He was grinning. A laugh was growing in his chest. He did it!

But then the wind slowed down around him, and Jack opened his eyes. For a quarter of a second, his momentum kept him almost completely still in the air – and then he plummeted straight down. Jack gave a surprised yelp.

“Up!” he yelled. “Wind! Wind? Hello?

And then he lost the ability to form words. Panic overtook him, and he flailed, turning around in the air. For a second, he saw the sky – huge and gray above him. He stretched out his hand, as if it would reach down and grab him, but then he flipped around again, and all he could see was the cold, dark water.

Jack clenched his eyes shut and curled into a ball. He was going to die – again.

In the next second, he slammed into something, and everything went dark. Weird thing was, Jack knew what death felt like – and this wasn’t it. Confusion mangled with his fear, but he didn’t get the time to ask himself what was going on. The darkness shook and Jack felt his brain rattling inside his skull. And then, silence.

Jack kept his eyes shut. He wasn’t sure if he was breathing or not, but he knew he was still alive, somehow. He groaned in pain. His cheek rubbed against some strange surface. Hard, warm and… scaly. He opened his eyes, but it didn’t do much – everything was black.

But then the cocoon opened up, and Jack realized he was looking straight at a big, scaly dragon stomach. He rolled away in surprise but didn’t try to stand – the world was still spinning. Toothless grumbled, getting to his feet. He shook his body, before his huge green eyes turned to Jack. He crooned softly, and Jack swore he sounded worried.

Then Jack realized there was a saddle on his back, but no rider.

Jack!

Jack flinched at the sudden voice and turned to see Hiccup half-running towards him. His face was muddy, and his hair was filled with pine needles, but otherwise he looked unharmed. Weird thing was, he was wearing some kind of cape- No, not a cape. Fabric stretching from his arms to his sides, down to his legs, like a flying squirrel.

Hiccup came to kneel in front of Jack, his eyes wide with shock.

“Are you hurt?” he asked.

Jack couldn’t find his voice. It felt like Baby Tooth’s magic had worn off, because Norse seemed like an impossible language, even if he still understood what Hiccup had said. He looked around, and realized they’d landed at the base of the hill, where the water was closest. Judging by Toothless’ less than elegant landing, it had been a close call. Hadn’t the hill sloped down like it did, they would’ve hit the mountain wall. And judging by the trail in the grass from the crash landing, they almost had.

His eyes traveled up to the cliff he’d jumped from, and then down towards the water.

Jack felt his chest constrict painfully, and he looked away. His hands were shaking, he noticed. No, his whole body was.

Finally, he shook his head. He wasn’t planning on meeting Hiccup’s eyes, but when Hiccup placed his hands on his shoulders, he looked up in surprise. Hiccup’s grip was tight, and his gaze hard.

“What were you thinking?” he asked, and Jack almost recoiled at his tone. He sounded beyond shocked – he sounded almost hurt, like he was the disappointed one here.

“I…” Jack started, but how could he explain? A part of him didn’t care; Hiccup already thought he was crazy, so he could just tell him the truth. Crazy was a good cover story, at the very least. Why should he care about what some Viking that, to Jack, had been dead for several hundred years thought?

However, something about the way Hiccup looked at him made Jack keep his mouth shut. Bright green eyes, wide with shock, and a tight grip on Jack’s shoulders… Hiccup was genuinely worried. It felt like being shaken from a dream, and Jack realized that he didn’t want Hiccup to think he was crazy. But that did the opposite of solving his problem. Jack had no normal explanation for what he’d just done.

He was about to shrug in reply, but a realization made his heart leap into his throat. His hands went to the ground beside him, and he looked around frantically.

“My staff- Where’s my staff?”

Hiccup released Jack’s shoulder at his sudden distress. “You- Why do you care about your staff now?” he asked.

Jack ignored him. He pushed himself to his feet and looked around, but the staff was nowhere to be seen. But he’d been holding it when he jumped, so then…

His gaze came to a stop on the water where he would’ve landed if Toothless hadn’t caught him. There, floating out to sea, was the thin silhouette of his staff. Jack walked forward as if to jump into the water, but his body became rigid before he could. He brought a shaky hand to his head.

“Is that it over there?”

In the midst of his own silent despair, he’d almost forgotten about Hiccup and Toothless. His eyes snapped to Hiccup and then back to his staff in the water. He tried his best to hide his inner panic. He nodded stiffly.

Hiccup looked confused, and Jack couldn’t really blame him; it was unusual to react so badly to the loss of what looked like a normal, old stick. But Hiccup just nodded, then jogged over to Toothless. He unhooked the squirrel wings from his arms and legs, rolled them up and attached them to his back, before climbing onto Toothless’ back.

“Come on, bud,” Hiccup said, and they took off.

Jack felt like the world was lifted off his shoulders when he realized what Hiccup was doing. Of course – dragons. You didn’t need to be a spirit to fly around here. Toothless dived and plucked the staff out of the water with his mouth, took a U-turn and landed beside Jack again. Jack automatically held out his hands as Toothless opened his mouth, dropping the staff.

Jack sent Toothless a wide-eyed look. “Thank you,” he said with a slightly shaky smile, first to Toothless, then to Hiccup.

Toothless looked like he was smiling in his own gummy, dragon-y way.

Hiccup dismounted. He didn’t say anything, but walked up to the side of Toothless’ head, sending Jack an inquisitive look that made Jack shift his weight uncomfortably. He avoided Hiccup’s eyes by tentatively patting Toothless’ snout.

There was a very heavy silence.

“…Do you want to talk?” Hiccup then asked.

Jack bit his tongue. “How did you find me?” he asked back.

“By chance,” Hiccup replied, still with that gravely serious expression. Now that Jack had calmed down a little, he could also see that Hiccup looked paler than usual. “I was flying with Toothless and I saw you pacing on that cliff. I almost turned around to pretend I hadn’t seen you, because I figured you- Maybe you just needed some time alone to think! But then…” His voice rose slightly in pitch before it suddenly dropped again, and he shook his head. He looked almost accusing at this point.

“I did need some time alone to think,” Jack said, tightening his hold on his staff.

“How could you do that?”

Jack took a step back. “What?”

Hiccup definitely looked accusing, and a type of frantic Jack didn’t understand. “What about Jamie? You’d just leave him behind?” he demanded, throwing his arms out.

Jack stared at him. “What are you talking about?” he asked back.

Toothless burbled restlessly.

There was a moment of doubt in Hiccup’s eyes, before his frown deepened. Jack realized he actually did look somewhat like his father. “Don’t lie to me, Jack,” he said. “Just earlier you told me you were going to- to believe in yourself, and now this?”

Jack found himself gritting his teeth. For a moment, he forgot that he and Hiccup wasn’t talking about the same kind of “believing in yourself.” It was his turn to get angry.

“Well, it didn’t work out, did it?” he snapped. “Nothing ever does!”

“That doesn’t mean you can just give up!” Hiccup protested. He was almost yelling now. “I told you I wanted to help, Jack! Maybe I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but if you’d just told me you’re- you’re hurting so much, then…” He trailed off, like he lost his courage in the middle of the sentence. But it didn’t matter; Jack suddenly understood.

“Oh,” was all he thought to say. When Hiccup sent him a confused look, Jack just shook his head. “That’s not it, Hiccup,” he said softly, feeling the previous anger seep out of him like a leaky balloon. “I didn’t- I don’t want to… I’d never do that.”

Hiccup didn’t look convinced, but his expression softened slightly. “Then what were you doing?” he asked. When Jack didn’t answer, he gestured vaguely with his hands. “Because if you’re… if you’re in trouble, you’re not alone, you know? I mean, the way you answered me earlier, when I said you could’ve died, you just…” Again, he gestured. He did that a lot, Jack thought. “What did you mean by that?”

Jack glanced away. He couldn’t very well tell him he’d died once before. It’s hard not to develop somewhat of a dark type of humor after something like that.

“It doesn’t matter,” he mumbled.

“It does!” Hiccup protested.

Jack sighed, looking back at him exasperatedly. His eyes went to the pine needles in Hiccup’s hair. He frowned.

“Wait… How did you land when…” he said, looking back to where the squirrel wings had been earlier.

Hiccup obviously didn’t take the bait, but he humored Jack anyway. “Flight suit,” he said, grimacing slightly. “I predicted that Toothless wouldn’t be able to land on his feet if he was going to catch you first, and that wouldn’t have ended well for me. Not the safest solution, but I didn’t have much time to come up with another plan. Uh… the landing isn’t perfect, but… it’s a work in progress.”

Jack nodded slowly. He stepped forward and plucked a pine needle out of Hiccup’s hair. “Flight suit, huh…” he muttered quietly.

“Jack,” Hiccup said, and placed a gentle hand on Jack’s arm as he lowered it from Hiccup’s hair. Jack stiffened. “I’m worried about you. Please talk to me.”

Those words shouldn’t be hard to process, and yet they were. Jack’s mouth felt dry. Several seconds passed before he managed to look up at Hiccup’s eyes again. He pulled his arm away.

“I told you,” he said. “You have nothing to worry about. I’m fine.”

“Even before this I could tell that you’re not fine,” Hiccup argued.

“Could you?” Jack snorted. “I’m pretty sure you think I’m crazy. Not very hard to tell.”

It looked like he’d hit a spot. Hiccup’s steady gaze faltered.

“That’s not true,” he said, but he hesitated first.

Jack smiled lopsidedly. “I don’t blame you,” he said. Maybe it was better that way, too.

“I don’t think you’re crazy.” Hiccup sounded more determined now. Then he hesitated again. “I’ll… admit I had my suspicions, but believe me, I know what crazy looks like. Ever heard of Dagur the Deranged?”

Jack raised his brows. “No?” he laughed. “How do you get a title like that?”

Hiccup’s expression revealed there was a long story behind that answer. “Believe me, you don’t want to know,” he muttered. “But my point is – you’re nothing like him, or any other less-than-sane person I’ve met. You’re… I don’t know, you’re just…”

“Weird?” Jack offered.

Hiccup’s mouth was open, but no words came out for the first few seconds. “You said it, not I,” he then said.

Jack laughed. An awkward smile was growing on Hiccup’s lips as well. Then there was another beat of silence, but it was less heavy this time. Awkward, definitely, but at least Jack didn’t feel as much like running away anymore.

“Thanks for not calling me crazy, then,” Jack said dryly.

Hiccup didn’t look pale anymore. Instead, his cheeks were turning a bit pink. “Yeah… sorry about that,” he said, brushing some hair out of his face. He shifted his weight, obviously trying to come up with the right words.

Jack pressed his lips together. He really was being a pain in the ass, wasn’t he? Here was Hiccup, who’d apparently just gone through hell for his village, who just wanted to help Jack and Jamie despite the risks, and then he gets the impression Jack wanted to end his own life? Even if that was far from the case, it was hard to explain why he’d jumped from that cliff in any other way that wasn’t the truth.

And the truth… Jack swallowed down the painful lump in his throat. Hiccup had distracted him for a few minutes, but the heavy, hopeless feeling in Jack’s gut was still there. It felt almost claustrophobic. The more he thought about it, the more he felt like he was drowning.

“Jack…” Hiccup started.

Jack realized he’d lowered his gaze, but he didn’t trust himself to meet Hiccup’s eyes at the moment. He looked at Hiccup’s hands instead. They were twitching, clenching and unclenching, and Hiccup kept shifting his weight.

“I- I know things are hard for you and Jamie. But while you’re here, would it hurt to… you know, make some friends and… stuff?”

Friends would be nice. Jack knew that. So why was the concept so terrifying?

“I mean, one friend, at least?” Hiccup then said, voice soft. “Plus a Night Fury. Isn’t that a good deal?”

There was still a part of Jack that wanted to run away. Hiccup was kind. Focusing on his attempt at figuring Jack out was less terrifying than everything else at the moment. Still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Hiccup just wasn’t quite real. Jack was lost in time; to him, Hiccup and everyone on Berk were just like… ghosts or memories.

And then there was another feeling, which was a lot more familiar: Jack’s goal was to travel back to the present with Jamie, and he wouldn’t accept any other outcome. In the end, he’d leave Berk and this time era, and he’d never see anyone here ever again. He’d already lost so much… was there any point in gaining something he knew he’d have to leave behind eventually?

But even with those uncertainties, there was still one desire that always, without fail, towered over the others.

Jack didn’t want to be alone.

“…It wouldn’t hurt, no,” he eventually replied.

Hiccup seemed surprised. “Really?”

Jack tried for a smile and looked up to meet his eyes again. “Of course not,” he said. “I’m just not very, uh… good with people, is all.”

You’re not good with people?” Hiccup asked doubtfully. “Are you sure about that?”

“Kids are different,” Jack said. “But that’s not what I mean.”

“What do you mean then?”

Jack pursed his lips. He looked over at the ocean, weighing his words. “It’s… complicated,” was what he settled on. “I’m more used to being alone.”

Hiccup was quiet for a few seconds.

“Do you like being alone, though?” he asked. He was looking at Jack, inquisitive yet empathetic, like he knew what Jack would answer.

Jack ignored the uneasy feeling in his chest. He shook his head. “Nobody does.”

Hiccup’s expression softened. “Then don’t be,” he said. “Talk to me. You don’t have to say much if you don’t want to, but you shouldn’t carry all of this alone.”

Strange. Jack had wished for company for so long, and now that it was offered to him, he found it hard to accept it. Why did it feel like this just wasn’t meant for him? Jack Frost wasn’t supposed to have human friends at his own age. Well, physical age, at least.

But maybe this time around, Jackson Overland could be different.

He glanced up at the sky. The Moon was nowhere to be seen, and yet Jack could feel him watching. He didn’t know what made him walk over to the edge of the small cliff and sit down, putting his staff down beside himself. He knew the Moon had never actually meant any harm, but that didn’t mean Jack had completely forgiven him. Especially not now. A part of Jack felt like the Man in the Moon was playing some kind of game. He didn’t trust what would happen if he accepted Hiccup’s offer.

But by accepting, it also felt like an act of defiance. Whether it was towards the Moon, or the time fragment, or the voice in Jack’s head that was still convinced he was destined to be alone, he didn’t know. Just a little “fuck you” to whoever or whatever deserved it.

Hiccup sat down beside him a few seconds later, and Toothless came to lay down on Jack’s other side.

“I’m not gonna try to jump again, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Jack said.

Toothless grumbled.

Hiccup intertwined his fingers. His prosthetic leg hung off the edge of the cliff, swinging slightly, like he was nervous. “I guess you don’t want to tell me what you were going to do if you weren’t trying to, uh… take a prolonged swim.”

Jack wrinkled his nose. “You wouldn’t believe me if I did,” he said.

“I don’t know,” Hiccup said uncertainly. “You could give it a try?”

Jack smiled faintly but shook his head. “Maybe some other day,” he said. “It was stupid anyway. I’m already in a bad mood.”

Hiccup was quiet for a little bit, but he nodded slowly.

“Astrid seems to like you a lot more,” he then said, sending Jack a trying smile.

“Dunno why. I crashed into her last night. She didn’t like me very much then,” he said. “But if it hadn’t been for her help, I don’t think I would’ve been able to save Jamie.”

“Near death experiences tend to bring people together,” Hiccup said.

“You’ve had many of those?” Jack asked curiously.

“Oh, they’re piling up,” Hiccup said. He didn’t sound too happy about it. “I guess the friendships are worth it, though.”

Jack chuckled softly. “And you and Astrid,” he said, but hesitated when Hiccup sent him a questioning look. “I mean, aren’t you two…”

“Oh- Oh, no,” Hiccup said, waving his hands a little. “We’re just friends. I mean, we’re close, but… yeah.”

Jack nodded slowly. “She’s cool,” he said.

“She is,” Hiccup agreed. “Way out of my league. It’s a little intimidating sometimes.”

Jack laughed.

Hiccup looked pleased with himself. He gestured at Jack. “And what about you?” he asked. “Is your life always this confusing or is this a special case?”

“Oh, that…” Jack started darkly. He ran a hand through his hair, wondering how much he could say – or rather, how much he felt like saying. He wouldn’t call himself an open person. Solitude did that to you. But still, Hiccup had already proven he valued Jack’s comfort and safety; opening up to him, even just a little bit, was probably worth the risk.

“That doesn’t sound good,” Hiccup said, and Jack gave a dry chuckle.

“No, I guess not,” he said, picking up the end of his staff. He traced the patterns in the wood with his fingertips.

He tried going through everything he’d told Hiccup about himself: He and Jamie were brothers. He’d learned to fight by himself. They lived in a village that was visited by traders who had taught them Norse. Jack didn’t like to lie, and even if he knew there was no way around it, he’d like to stay as close to the truth as he could.

It turned out to be harder than he initially thought.

Hiccup seemed to understand. “It’s alright. You don’t have to push yourself,” he said. “Let’s not talk about the hard stuff. Talk about the good stuff.”

Jack sent him a grateful smile. He took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. “Well… Lately, I’ve actually had it very good,” he said. “Things were hard for… for a long while. I was mostly alone.” He hesitated. “People didn’t see me. I was no one.”

Hiccup’s lips had parted a little bit. “I know what you mean,” he said.

“You do?” Jack asked, raising a brow. It probably wasn’t true, but Jack would like to hear what Hiccup meant anyway. “The son of the chief? Somehow, I find that hard to believe.”

“Oh, man,” Hiccup said, rolling his eyes. “You already heard Gobber call me – well, both of us, actually – a fishbone. Do you think this-“ He gestured to himself. “-fared well on an island with barbaric, dragon-killing Vikings?”

Jack glanced at Toothless, but he’d closed his eyes and didn’t seem to be paying attention. When he looked back, he saw that Hiccup was looking at Toothless as well, wearing a gloomy expression.

“I mean, Stoick the Vast is my dad. You can guess it was pretty embarrassing for him to have a son like me,” Hiccup continued, trying for a small smile. “Wasn’t good at anything except drawing and reading. I wanted to be one of them, but every time I tried, I messed up. Everyone thought I was a bother, so nobody bothered to stick around.”

“You felt invisible,” Jack concluded.

Hiccup nodded, before he gave a guilty laugh. “So much for talking about the good stuff,” he muttered. “Sorry. Please continue.”

Jack almost ignored him in order to ask more about Hiccup’s background, but he didn’t let his curiosity get the best of him. Instead, he bounced off this new information, despite Hiccup asking for the good stuff.

“I… I thought I never was important enough… or something,” Jack replied slowly. “Never one of the big guys. I tried to make the best of it, but…” He trailed off, biting his tongue. Things were better now, but it seemed it was still hard to talk about.

Feelings. Not fun.

“Can I ask you something?”

Jack looked up. “Go ahead,” he said.

Hiccup was frowning now. “Maybe I was imagining it, but… you seem a bit uncomfortable with people, uh, touching you… Is there a reason for that?”

“Uh, well it’s…” Jack started. “I’m just not used to it, is all. It’s not like I have a problem with it.” He smiled faintly. “It’s nice. Still takes me by surprise sometimes, though.”

Hiccup looked a little puzzled but didn’t try to push the subject. “What happened, though? You said you’d had it good lately.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, his smile widening. “I found people who needed me. Well, they found me, more like… It’s a funny story, actually. I mean, it wasn’t funny at the moment – I was actually kinda pissed, because who throws people into bags and throws them through- I mean…” He cut himself off, glancing at Hiccup.

Hiccup’s mouth hung open. “They threw you in a bag?” he asked.

Jack raised his hands. “Listen, it was sort of a kidnapping, but it’s all good now,” he said. Hiccup didn’t seem convinced, and Jack couldn’t blame him. He shook his head with a warm smile. “Let’s just say I was hard to get a hold of. I wouldn’t have come with them if they’d just asked nicely.”

“Sounds like some, uh, friendly people,” Hiccup said dryly.

“Like I said, I was pissed at the time, but trust me... They all have good intentions,” Jack said, his voice going quiet at the end. There was a heaviness in his chest, growing the more he thought about the other Guardians.

“Who are ‘they’?” Hiccup asked, his voice soft.

“A bunch of morons,” Jack replied, before laughing. “They’re my friends, and I love them, but-“ He faltered a little when he realized he’d used the word ‘love’. He collected himself before Hiccup could react. “…but they’re still morons,” he finished fondly.

Hiccup was smiling too. “I can relate to that,” he said. “Uh- Having friends who are morons, I mean, not that I’m… Anyway.” He brushed his hair distractedly out of his face, and Jack decided not to comment on the dust of pink in his cheeks. “Tell me about them.”

Jack looked at the ocean, conjuring up pictures of the Guardians in his mind. “Well, first there’s the brain behind the kidnapping idea,” he said. “He’s… an eccentric person. Very big and loud, though his size seems less impressive now that I’ve seen your dad.” He paused, glancing at Hiccup. “No offence,” he added with an impish smile.

“None taken,” Hiccup said amusedly. “Go on.”

“He’s jolly and enthusiastic,” Jack said. “Maybe a bit too enthusiastic for some people, but we get along plenty. Most of the time, anyway. Can’t say I’m not unable to annoy him too, but that’s just for fun.”

“You annoy people for fun?”

“Oh, come on. A little mischief never hurt anyone.”

Hiccup narrowed his eyes, clearly not completely on board. “No wonder why you get along with the twins,” he muttered, pretending to be exasperated, but there was a smile on his lips. “What’s his name?”

Jack hesitated. “I call him North,” he said, then smiled softly. “Jamie calls him Santa. Lots of kids do.”

“He’s good with children too, then?” Hiccup asked.

“I sort of met them because we all, uh… work with children,” Jack said vaguely. “So, yeah. Kids love him.”

“And the others?”

“There’s Tooth,” Jack said. “She’s also very enthusiastic. About teeth, particularly.”

Predictably, Hiccup’s brows knitted. “Teeth?”

“Teeth,” Jack confirmed. “She’s… a bit strange, but then again, all of them are. Checked out my teeth the first time I met her. It was weird. But, anyway – she’s very kind and understanding. Then there’s Sandy, who’s- uh… He’s silent. I mean, he never says anything. He uses his sand to speak.”

“Like Gothi?” Hiccup asked.

“Hm… Sort of. It’s funny, because he looks so mellow and harmless, but he’s seriously ruthless if you get on his bad side. You should see him fight… It’s pretty terrifying.” He laughed. “But still, he’s a good friend, and he’s just as kind as the rest of them. And then…”

Hiccup tilted his head to the side when Jack got quiet. “And then…?” he prompted gently.

“You know how you said nobody gets along with Snotlout in the beginning?” Jack asked, and Hiccup nodded. “Well, that was me with Bunny. Thing is, our… jobs sort of cross paths sometimes, and it tends to create some bad feelings. Mostly on Bunny’s side.”

Hiccup sent him a long look. “So… Bunny didn’t like you at first, you mean?” he asked. He said Bunny’s name with a bit of an accent, and Jack couldn’t help but smile at it.

“Yeah,” he admitted, but then frowned. “It’s not like it’s my fault, though? I’m just doing my job. But he’s gotta be all like, ‘ooh, Jack is so irresponsible,’ blah, blah, blah- He’s so full of himself, you know?” Jack rolled his eyes and fell silent. It took him a moment to realize Hiccup looked like he was holding back a laugh. “What?”

Hiccup grinned. “Nothing. Go on,” he said, though laughter was filtering through his words.

Jack stared at him for a few seconds, feeling a slight heat flow to his cheeks. But Hiccup’s amusement was infectious, and Jack couldn’t fight the smile growing on his face.

“It’s true,” he laughed, elbowing Hiccup softly. “He gets annoyed easily, which is fun for me. Sometimes he gets so caught up in his work, and if somebody tries to interrupt – which is usually me – well… let’s just say it’s not a pretty scene. But it’s alright, because he’s such a workaholic sometimes. He doesn’t realize he needs to have fun sometimes.”

“And you think annoying him is the way to make him have fun?” Hiccup asked, raising a doubtful brow.

“Listen, I know what I’m doing, alright,” Jack said. “Sure, he gets a little miffed, but there’s no better way to distract him. It’s not like I’m making him mad for real, just a little bit to make him focus on wanting to murder me instead of painting his stupid eggs, you know?”

“Hold on- Did you say eggs?”

Jack faltered. “Oh- Yeah. He paints eggs,” he said nonchalantly. “He’s an… artist.”

Hiccup nodded slowly. “…Okay,” he said. “And trying to murder you is fun times for him?”

“Oh, sure. He pretends to be angry, but that’s just because he’s stubborn,” Jack said, rolling his eyes.

“How do you know that?” Hiccup asked.

Jack sent him a meaningful smile. “I know when people are having fun,” he said.

Hiccup looked back at him, an intrigued smile on his face. He was quiet for a few seconds, and Jack got the feeling he was being studied. What Hiccup was looking for exactly, he couldn’t tell, and he didn’t get the time to find out either, because Hiccup seemed to catch his own staring. His green eyes shifted, landing on the ocean instead.

“So that’s… North, Tooth, Sandy and Bunny,” Hiccup said, and Jack snickered a little at his pronunciation. “And Jamie, of course. What about the rest of your family?”

Jack blinked. “Uh, well…” he started.

Hiccup immediately understood he’d touched upon something painful. He opened his mouth as if to apologize, but then closed it, like he lost his courage again. But it was fine; he hadn’t said anything wrong. Jack just wasn’t used to talk about his family with just anyone yet, since he still remembered so little about his past life. Also, he didn’t know how to tell this story to someone who didn’t know he’d been a spirit for 300 years.

“I…” Jack started tentatively. “I had a mother and a sister. Never had a father… I don’t think.” He frowned. If he did have a father once, he didn’t remember him.

Hiccup was quiet. “…Had?” he repeated softly.

Jack didn’t know what to say, so he just smiled faintly and shrugged.

“I’m sorry,” Hiccup said.

“It’s fine. It was a long time ago.”

“Still…” Hiccup laced his fingers, looking down. “I never knew my mom,” he then said. “I… haven’t lost anyone before, but… I know what not knowing one of your parents is like.”

It didn’t feel like it was the same. If Jack had ever grieved over not having a dad, he couldn’t recall the feeling. Hiccup, however, clearly did.

“What happened?” Jack asked.

Hiccup grimaced. “They say she was eaten by dragons.”

Jack felt like his chest had just been filled with cold water. Unfortunately, he did know what that felt like. But he looked at Hiccup with awe. “You lost your mom to dragons, and yet you befriended one of them,” he said, glancing at Toothless, who was snoring softly. “That’s…. courageous.”

Hiccup snorted. “Quite the opposite, to be honest,” he said. “I just wasn’t brave enough to kill them.”

“You were brave enough to befriend one. That’s more courageous, if you ask me,” Jack insisted. Then he realized something. He looked curiously at Hiccup. “Were you the first to do it?”

Hiccup’s mouth became a thin line before it formed into a sheepish smile. “Uh, yeah.”

“Why?” Jack prompted. “What made you do it?”

Hiccup’s eyes drifted to Toothless’ sleeping face, and he shrugged. “I had the chance to kill him, but I couldn’t. He… His eyes didn’t belong to the vicious beasts I’d always thought they were. So, I cut his ropes, and he attacked me, and…” He trailed off, giving an airy laugh. “Thought he was going to kill me, but he spared me. And after that…” He nodded, and Jack could imagine the rest of the story.

Something else seemed to be falling into place too. Jack turned around to look at Toothless’ red tailfin. In the beginning, he’d just thought it was Hiccup’s way to show that Toothless was his, by painting his tailfin red. Then he’d realized the tailfin was a prosthetic, and he’d also noticed that Hiccup didn’t at all act like Toothless was his property. They were friends, equals, even if they weren’t the same species.

Jack looked back with a frown and locked eyes with Hiccup again. “How did he lose his tailfin?”

Hiccup’s expression revealed the answer before he even said anything. “I shot him down from the sky,” he said, averting his eyes. “It was supposed to be my big moment. I was going to prove that I was a Viking by being the first to kill a Night Fury.”

“But you couldn’t.”

“We wouldn’t be here if I could,” Hiccup said with a sigh. “Thank the gods.”

Jack realized he really liked Hiccup.

“And now you live with them,” Jack said. “Fly with them. Must be pretty amazing.”

Hiccup’s face brightened. “It really is,” he agreed.

“And you found a way to get Toothless to the skies again,” Jack said.

Toothless’ eyes opened at the sound of his name, and he lifted his head in a silent question. Jack just smiled at him and held out his hand. Toothless tilted his head to the side, but let Jack pet his snout. To think that he and Hiccup had started out as enemies… Jack almost couldn’t imagine.

“It was the least I could do,” Hiccup said. “A downed dragon is a dead dragon.”

Jack’s hand faltered. He let out a silent sigh and let his arm fall. “What’s it like to fly?” he asked, as if he didn’t know. That wasn’t the reason for the question. Jack couldn’t fly anymore, but at least he could somewhat relive it if Hiccup told him how he experienced it.

Hiccup was quiet beside him for a few seconds. Jack almost turned around to see what the matter was, but then he said, “Do you want to find out?”

Jack frowned, and then he did turn around.

Hiccup was looking at him, a hopeful look in his green eyes, if not a little bit nervous.

“What happened to not trusting me?” Jack asked, smirking slowly.

 “You heard what I said to Jamie,” Hiccup said.

Jack stared at him. His heart was beating faster. “…You’ll get in trouble,” he said.

“Only if we get caught,” Hiccup countered.

Jack’s smirk was turning into a grin. “I like the way you’re thinking,” he said. “Never took you for a rebel.”

Hiccup got a smug look on his face. “You clearly don’t know me,” he replied.

“I’m starting to feel like I want to,” Jack said.

There was a small pause. This time, the silence was filled with anticipation. There was nothing awkward about it. Then Hiccup got to his feet.

“Toothless,” he said. “You rested up yet, buddy?”

Jack didn’t get how Toothless understood, but he got up immediately with an expectant expression, like Abby did when Jamie asked if she wanted to go for a walk. Hiccup held out his hand to Jack, and Jack took it, letting himself get hoisted to his feet.

“Um, Jack?” Hiccup said. “Where are your shoes?”

“Oh, those,” Jack said, looking down at his bandaged feet, and then up to the cliff he’d jumped off earlier. “Up there.”

Hiccup followed his gaze and looked uncomfortable for just a moment, before he just shook his head and walked over to Toothless. Toothless let Hiccup climb onto his back, and then Hiccup held out his hand to Jack again. Jack glanced at Toothless, like asking for his permission, but Toothless was just smiling that gummy smile of his. Jack took Hiccup’s hand and climbed up behind him.

“Ready?” Hiccup asked.

Jack was surprised to feel a tinge of nervousness in his chest. He guessed it was different to take to the skies now that he wouldn’t be able to save himself if he fell. This must be how Bunny felt when they boarded North’s sleigh.

“Yeah,” he said. He didn’t know where to put his hands, and awkwardly put one on Hiccup’s shoulders. The other was holding the staff, which seemed a bit problematic, but no way Jack was leaving it behind. Thankfully, Hiccup didn’t question it.

“Alright, bud, you heard him,” Hiccup said.

Toothless burbled happily. His wings spread out, and Jack’s heart sped up. Then he took a leap off the edge and beat his wings. Jack almost expected them to fall, but immediately they shot towards the sky. He gasped as the wind whipped against them. A feeling like electricity ran through his body. It had only been three days, and yet it felt like a lifetime since he had sped towards the clouds like this.

Hiccup was heading for the cliff to get Jack’s shoes, but Jack tightened his grip on Hiccup’s shoulder.

“No!” he said. “Forget them. We’ll get the shoes later!”

“What? Why? They’re right there!”

“I don’t want them,” Jack said with a laugh. He straightened his legs, closing his eyes. “It’s better like this.”

“It’s cold, you know?”

Jack laughed again. “I can deal with cold,” he said. “Just go higher! Come on!”

Toothless seemed to make the choice before Hiccup did, because Hiccup gave a small yelp when their course changed, becoming steeper and faster as they soared towards the clouds. Jack gave a surprised shout too, his arms instinctively moving to cling around Hiccup’s chest instead. Hiccup barely avoided getting hit in the face with Jack’s staff. Yeah, flying was definitely scarier when Jack wasn’t in control himself. He almost felt bad for messing with Bunny back then – almost.

“Careful, Toothless,” Hiccup said, glancing back at Jack.

“It’s okay!” Jack promised, looking over his side. The ground was getting further and further away, and Toothless was heading out towards the ocean. The clouds were getting closer too. He felt every beat of Toothless’ wings like a jolt through his body, every movement of his muscles made Jack keenly aware that he was sitting atop of a living creature that could choose to drop him at any moment. It was a whole new kind of flying, and Jack loved every second of it; his cheeks hurt from grinning so much. “Higher!” he ordered happily.

Hiccup let out a surprised laugh. “You know, most people tend to be a little more nervous the first time they ride a dragon,” he said.

“I’m not most people,” Jack replied easily. “You should know that by now.”

“Yet you keep surprising.”

“You better get used to it!”

The temperature kept dropping as they got closer to the cloud layer, and then the world turned white. Jack leaned his head back, breathing in the crisp, cold air. He was still holding onto Hiccup, because if he didn’t, they were still flying so steeply he’d fall backwards. That still didn’t mean Jack didn’t have to use all his willpower not to let go and spread his arms out to the wind. In the moment, he couldn’t even remember the feeling of falling after jumping from the cliff. In the moment, he was still Jack Frost; all he had to do was let go, and he would be himself again.

They broke through the clouds, and sunshine washed over them. Toothless evened out, and they soared serenely through a kingdom of fluffy, towering mountains and spires, painted orange and pink in the afternoon sun.

Jack let out a shaky breath. A painful jolt of yearning mixed with his euphoria. His hands quivered as he let go of Hiccup and raised his arms to the sky. If his sight became a little blurry, he blamed it on the wind.

“You okay?” Hiccup asked. It was easier to hear him now that Toothless was just gliding and the wind was no longer thundering in their ears.

Jack didn’t answer immediately. “…Yeah,” he then said softly.

“What’s your verdict, then?”

“What?”

Hiccup turned around, looking at him sideways. His expression was kind, if not a little worried. “Flying,” he said. “How does it feel?”

Jack looked back at him and couldn’t stop the laughter. It was a little bit shaky. He let his arms fall. “Like…” he started, but it was hard to decide. It felt like home. It felt like freedom. In some ways, it felt like safety, even if this certainly wasn’t the safest hobby you could have. Jack smiled and closed his eyes. “…I’m where I belong.”

Hiccup’s smile widened, and Jack grinned back at him.

And then the clouds disappeared under them, and they were flying over the glittering ocean. Berk was far behind them, and Jack could see smaller islands scattered in the blue, weirdly shaped sea stacks rising out of the water and, just for a moment, something slithering in the waves and then disappearing into the deep again. Jack shivered. What kind of world was this?

“Toothless,” Jack said. “How fast can you go?”

He swore Toothless side-eyed him, like that was a dangerous question.

“You should hold on,” Hiccup said.

Jack didn’t ask. He hooked is arms around Hiccup again, careful with his staff this time. Hiccup leaned forward, gripping onto the saddle, and then did something with his foot. There was the sound of metal against metal, and Toothless dived.

Jack thought he heard someone screech – it might’ve been himself. His voice caught in his throat as they plummeted towards the ocean and he tightened his grip on Hiccup, feeling himself get lifted off the saddle. And then Toothless made a sharp turn. Water exploded around them, and they shot forward. They were approaching the towering sea stacks, and Jack almost closed his eyes, halfway convinced they were going to crash. But Toothless zigzagged between them like it was nothing, and then they were heading upwards again. Jack yelped as Toothless spun in the air. They were upside down for a second, and then soaring downwards. Jack had snuck onto a rollercoaster once or twice in his life, but that was nothing compared to this.

All too soon, Toothless slowed down again, and they were high in the sky. Jack only realized he was giggling like a crazy person when Hiccup sent him an amused grin.

“Fast?” he asked smugly.

Jack dried his eyes. “Fast,” he agreed.

Toothless made a strange sound from deep in his chest, like he was laughing.

“Oh, man…” Jack muttered airily. “Have you ever fallen off?”

“Oh, loads of times,” Hiccup said casually.

Jack raised a brow. “And…? You use your flight suit to save yourself?”

Toothless grumbled.

“The flight suit is a fairly new invention,” Hiccup said. “There’s been many close calls. But as you now know, Toothless is fast. And I guess the gods must be looking out for us, because luck has saved us more times than I can count.”

Jack had an idea.

“So Toothless can catch you if you fall?” he asked.

“Er- Well, there’s the problem with flying on his own, so some falls are more dangerous than others.”

“So if I were to fall…”

“Toothless would’ve been able to catch you. But don’t worry, you won’t fall,” Hiccup said, turning halfway around with a reassuring smile. “We know what we’re doing.”

Jack grinned impishly. “In that case,” he said, and let go of Hiccup. “Catch me!

He slid off Toothless with a whoop.

“Wha- Jack!” was all he heard Hiccup shriek before the wind thundered in his ears again.

Jack spread his arms and legs, holding his staff tightly in his hand. His new cloak fluttered wildly around him. He flailed and turned around in the air to look up, moving with the composure of one who had done this a thousand times before. Toothless and Hiccup were diving towards him, but once they’d caught up, Jack wasn’t yanked out of his free fall like he expected. Toothless just fell alongside him and smiled with his tongue flapping in the wind. Jack cackled in delight.

“This is awesome!” he roared.

Toothless roared too, before he turned and grabbed Jack by his legs. He changed course just in time; Jack’s fingertips almost touched the water before they soared upwards again.

Hiccup leaned to the side to give Jack a look that was as impressed as it was exasperated. “I take it back,” he said. “You really are crazy.”

Jack laughed again, and then yelped in surprise as Toothless did a sudden flip. He didn’t register how, but in the next moment he was in the air, and then he landed on his stomach on top of Toothless’ head. Hiccup burst out laughing and grabbed onto Jack before he could slide off again.

With their course steady, Jack held onto Hiccup and carefully crawled onto Toothless’ saddle, crouching right in front of Hiccup with a wide grin.

“That was fun,” he said.

“Get behind me, you lunatic,” Hiccup laughed.

It was a bit difficult, but he managed to climb around Hiccup and sit back down behind him. As much as he wanted fly on his own again – or rather fall on his own – he let himself enjoy the rest of the ride without giving Hiccup and Toothless any more heart attacks.

By the time they were heading back to the cliff to get Jack’s shoes, the sun had begun to set. The closer they got to the ground, the heavier Jack’s chest felt. He didn’t want to stop flying. They’d probably been up there for at least an hour, maybe more, but it felt like the blink of an eye. Maybe it was because Jack was having so much fun, or maybe it was because an hour was a second for someone who’d lived as long as Jack had. Either way, the heavy feeling spread to his throat when they landed on the cliff and became painful.

It was dumb; he felt like a child throwing a fit because he didn’t get it his way.

Hiccup dismounted Toothless, and Jack followed.

“Oh, I am hungry,” Hiccup muttered, patting his stomach. “What about you, Jack?”

Jack ignored him in favor of walking up to Toothless. Toothless perked up when Jack stopped in front of him.

“Thank you,” he told him softly.

Toothless tilted his head to the side, then headbutted Jack playfully. Jack giggled lightly, before looking at Hiccup again.

Hiccup was frowning at him.

“Are- Are you okay?” he asked worriedly.

Jack blinked. “Huh? Oh.” He wiped a tear off his cheek. “Yeah. Just the wind,” he lied, and smiled at him. “That was incredible, Hiccup. Thanks for breaking the rules for me.”

Hiccup didn’t look convinced, but he chuckled softly and nodded. “No problem,” he said, then hesitated. “It’s not the first time I’ve done it. And it doesn’t have to be the last. And… And by that I mean… What my dad doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?”

Jack almost laughed at how sheepish Hiccup sounded.

Hiccup pressed his lips together. “I mean, I’m saying if you want to fly again-“

“I know what you mean,” Jack chuckled and beamed at him. “Of course I want to fly again. Just try not to get caught.”

Hiccup shrugged. “I’ll keep my mouth shut if you do.”

“Good. I’m great at keeping secrets,” Jack said.

Hiccup’s lips parted, his eyes narrowing in a silent question. Jack winked, then turned around to slip his feet into his boots, letting Hiccup ponder over that statement.

“Jack?”

“Hm?”

“Do you want to join us for dinner?”

Jack blinked and turned around. Hiccup had moved over to Toothless’ side and was absentmindedly stroking the dragon’s neck, tracing the black scales with his fingertips.

“Dinner with Vikings,” Jack mused, tapping his fingers against his staff. “Now that sounds interesting.”

Hiccup smiled. “I’ll try to keep them civilized,” he promised.

Jack laughed. “I’ll take your word for it,” he said. “What’s for dinner?”

It was answer enough. Hiccup’s face visibly brightened, even if he tried to act subtle about it. He nodded for them to start walking back the way Jack had come from, towards the village.

“Probably something tasteless, but who knows? Maybe we’re lucky today.”

“Oh, good. I can’t wait,” Jack said with another laugh, and they headed back to the village together.

Chapter Text

“I wonder what Jack is doing,” Jamie mumbled.

Gobber stopped his hammering, looking up. “Did you say something?” he asked. His face was covered in soot, making him look even wilder than he did normally. It would’ve been scary, hadn’t Jamie gotten so used to him already.

Jamie gazed in the direction Jack had disappeared to earlier, towards the forest. There was a tight feeling in his chest, but he didn’t know why exactly. Maybe just because remembering what had happened last night made Jamie’s heart speed up. What if there were more boars in the forest?

Jack had told Jamie there was something he had to do, but Jamie couldn’t figure out what that “something” was. And now that he’d been gone for so long, Jamie was starting to feel uneasy.

But Jack knew what he was doing, right? There was nothing to worry about.

So he just shook his head. “No,” he said, looking down at his hands.

He was sitting atop a table with iron and leather scraps scattered across it. His hands, arms and legs were aching from working in the forge all day, but it was a good kind of aching. Gobber had asked him to take a break, which was fine; Jamie had already finished forging his first sword, and it was just as interesting to watch Gobber work anyway.

“He’ll be back soon enough,” Gobber said.

Jamie looked up at him, and Gobber sent him a knowing smile.

“Can’t imagine he’d leave you unsupervised for more than three hours at best. A bit untrusty, that brother of yours.” Gobber held up the axe he was working on, examining it. “…Not that anyone blames him,” he mumbled, “but relaxing a little would be good for him. Maybe he went out to the forest to scream. It works, you know?”

Jamie frowned, exchanging a look with Baby Tooth. She shrugged.

“You do that?” he asked Gobber.

“When the situation calls for it,” Gobber replied with a shudder, before he started hammering again.

Jamie exchanged another look with Baby Tooth. “What kind of situation could that be?” he asked her quietly.

Baby Tooth chirped in reply with an amused smile, and of course, Jamie didn’t understand no matter how hard he tried. How Jack did it, he had no idea.

“If you can make us understand Norse,” he asked her. “Can’t you just make us understand, uh… tooth fairy-speak too?”

Baby Tooth tilted her head to the side. She replied, but it was incomprehensible. All Jamie got out of it was the way she shrugged a little. Maybe she didn’t know, or maybe there was some kind of… tooth fairy law or something that stopped her. He could get Jack to translate later.

Just then, the faint sound of a familiar laugh made both Jamie and Baby Tooth perk up. Jack had appeared around the corner, and he wasn’t alone. Hiccup and Toothless walked beside him, and they all seemed to be in a pretty good mood. Earlier, Jamie had noticed Jack’s gloomy mood, no matter how hard Jack tried to hide it, but now his whole demeanor seemed to have changed.

Maybe screaming in the woods really was therapeutic.

Jamie grinned and jumped down from the table. He grabbed his new sword – it wasn’t perfect, but Jamie was happy with it anyway – and ran out of the forge.

“Jack!” he yelled. “Look!”

All three of them looked up at Jamie’s voice, and Jack’s face broke into a wide smile.

“Woah!” he laughed as Jamie stopped in front of him. “You made that?”

Jamie smiled smugly, and showed it to Hiccup as well. “What do you think?” he asked.

Hiccup hesitated for a moment, before he made an impressed face. “That’s… better than I expected,” he said, holding out his hand. Jamie gave the blade to him and watched as Hiccup turned it over. He nodded approvingly, then handed it back to Jamie. “Good job.”

Jamie grinned. “Can you teach me how to use it?” he asked.

Hiccup blinked. He glanced at Jack, whose smile had faded just a tad. “Uh, well…” he started.

“I’m sure he can,” Jack said, elbowing Hiccup lightly, before sending Jamie a smile. “You already look like a Viking, so might as well go all the way, right?”

“Yeah, it’s just… my dad…” Hiccup started, hesitating. Then he met Jamie’s eyes and he let out a small sigh. “I could try to talk to him. Don’t get your hopes up, though.”

That was good enough for Jamie. He gripped the sword expectantly, looking between the two of them. “Where were you?” he asked.

It only happened for a split second, but Jack hesitated.  “I just needed some time to think,” he then said, his voice getting a bit quiet. “I feel better now. How about you?”

Jamie got the feeling there was something Jack wasn’t telling him, but he wasn’t going to push. It was torture for Jamie’s curiosity, but his mom had always told him that if something was hard to talk about, he shouldn’t push, but rather wait for the person to open up about it on their own. If they ever wanted to.

He hoped Jack would, someday.

“I’m a bit hungry,” he admitted, and just when he said it, his stomach rumbled.

Jack snorted, and looked at Hiccup.

“Good,” Hiccup said, then pointed towards the Great Hall. “If we go now, we’ll get a good seat.”

Jamie hadn’t noticed before, but the people walking past the forge all seemed to be heading in the same direction now: The Great Hall.

Jamie blinked, sending Jack a questioning look. “We’re gonna eat with the others?” he asked with a frown. “…Are we allowed to? Won’t the chief…” He trailed off and looked uneasily at Hiccup, afraid he’d said something rude.

Hiccup just smiled and shook his head. “He won’t mind,” he said. “As long as you’re with me, it should be fine.”

That should-part wasn’t very reassuring, but it was good enough for Jamie.

“I’ll just put this back then,” Jamie said. He ran back into the forge to put his sword back on the table. As he passed Gobber, he asked if he wasn’t going to come. Gobber just told them to go ahead; it looked like he was struggling with a particularly stubborn piece of iron that needed to be hammered out.

The higher up they got on the stairs to the Great Hall, the more Jamie’s stomach rumbled. He guessed he’d been hungrier than he realized. Toothless walked beside him, and since nobody questioned it, it had to mean dragons were also allowed in the Great Hall during dinner. Of course, Jamie didn’t mind; it was thrilling just walking beside the dragon, even when he wasn’t doing anything special.

Turns out, there were more people inside the Great Hall than it had looked like from the forge. Most of them had already found their seats, and then there was a line towards the hearth, where people scooped what looked like soup into wooden bowls. Dragons were also padding around, or standing in flocks eating from huge baskets of fish. All the voices of the people inside the hall echoed off the walls, making it sound even more crowded than it actually was. If this wasn’t even the whole village, then Jamie was excited to find out what it looked like when they all arrived for dinner.

They dodged the crowd the best they could as they made for the line. Hiccup did it expertly. Jamie had it easy, because he just walked close to Toothless, and the dragon parted the crowd for him. Meanwhile…

Jamie frowned. Jack’s expression was hard to read, but his brows were knitted, and he was clutching his staff. The hall was crowded, so it was impossible to dodge everyone. Jack seemed to be having trouble with this fact.

“Woah- Uh, sorry,” he said the first time he bumped into someone, almost jumping backwards. “Oh- My bad,” he said the second time, giving an awkward laugh. The third time he didn’t say anything, but he looked slightly disoriented.

“Hey, you alright?” Hiccup asked as they got in line.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m… alright,” Jack muttered, but he sounded distracted.

Baby Tooth chirped an uncertain tune, landing on Jack’s shoulder.

Hiccup sent Jamie a questioning look, but Jamie didn’t have an answer for him.

“We can take the food outside, if you’d like?” Hiccup offered.

Jack seemed to realize that he was frowning, because the frown disappeared very suddenly as he turned to Hiccup. He shook his head with a faint smile. “I’m alright,” he repeated, more certainly this time. “I promise.”

“Just imagine it’s Santa’s workshop,” Jamie said in English.

Jack sent him a surprised look, and Jamie almost rolled his eyes. He wasn’t blind; he could see that Jack was uncomfortable. He just didn’t understand why. Then Jack smiled, a humored look in his eyes.

“These people are almost the size of yetis, so…” he replied, and Jamie laughed.

Hiccup frowned at them, but didn’t say anything. However, the person standing in front of them – a Viking just as big and hairy as the rest of them – turned around with a frown. He looked between Jamie and Jack, then sent Hiccup a long look.

“What are they doing here?” he asked.

Hiccup’s expression darkened. He opened his mouth to answer, but Toothless beat him to it, growling at the man.

“Same as you,” Hiccup replied. “But it also isn’t any of your business.”

“You sure Stoick is okay with this?”

“Why don’t you go ask him,” Jack said, surprising both Jamie and Hiccup. He didn’t look very angry or anything, but there was definitely something defiant about his expression. The nervousness from earlier seemed to have vanished. “Shorter line for us.”

The man’s brows furrowed. “You talk a lot for someone in your position,” he rumbled.

“Alright,” Hiccup said, stepping in front of him. “If you have a problem, then take it up with Stoick later. We’re just here to eat.”

You might just be here to eat,” the man said, shooting Jamie and Jack a suspicious look, “But you of all people should know that they might be here for other- Ugh!”

“Oh! Sorry, my bad!” Astrid appeared from behind the man, holding a bowl of soup in her hand. Or, it used to be a bowl of soup, but the soup had been relocated onto the man’s neck. With their height differences, there was no way Astrid could’ve accidentally spilled it there, but she smiled apologetically like she had anyway. “I tripped.”

The man grumbled indignantly, and wobbled away through the crowd, muttering angrily to himself.

Astrid shook her head, then turned back to them. “Five minutes with the other Berkians, and you’re already pissing someone off,” she said.

“I think that was you pissing him off,” Hiccup argued. “You poured hot soup on him?”

“I tripped, Hiccup, didn’t you see?” Astrid replied with a smile. “Hey, Jack, Jamie,” she then said, nodding at them. “See you finally decided to join us. What happened?”

Jack’s mood seemed to have brightened considerably. “It was Hiccup’s idea,” he said.

“Uh-huh. Doesn’t seem to be going so well so far,” she observed. “I told you things might get bad if you spoke in your language.”

Jamie shifted his weight. “Sorry… We’ll be more careful,” he said, because he wanted to be on Astrid’s good side.

Or people can just learn to be a little bit friendlier,” Hiccup suggested.

Astrid snorted. “You’re forgetting where we live,” she said, but then smiled at Jamie and Jack. “Don’t worry – you learn to deal with them after a while.”

“Oh, what have we here?” a scratchy voice said right beside Jamie’s head.

Jamie yelped, instinctively jumping away, but then he just crashed into someone else on his other side. He turned around and backed away to see the twins grinning at him elfishly.

“Well… some are harder to get used to than others,” Astrid muttered.

“I’m surprised to see you here, Jack and Jamie,” one of the twins – Jamie wasn’t sure who was who yet – said dramatically. He had a darker voice, so that had to be the boy. He might be the one called Tuffnut, but Jamie wasn’t completely clear on that. “One might start to wonder why that is.”

The one that was possibly Ruffnut threw her brother a look, before she grinned at Jamie. “We heard you killed a boar last night,” she said. “So… how did you do it?”

Jamie swallowed. “Uh…”

“Was it a boar pit?” Tuffnut asked. “That’s a classic. Ruff and I can tell you all about it!”

“Later, maybe,” Hiccup suggested. “Come on, guys. You’re scaring him.”

Jamie wanted to object that he wasn’t scared, but looking into the twins’ expectant eyes, he wasn’t sure if that was true.

“Scaring him?” Ruffnut snorted. “Hiccup, Hiccup, Hiccup… A little boy who manages to kill a boar at the fragile age of eleven is no little boy to underestimate.”

“That’s not- I don’t underestimate him!” Hiccup protested. “Just- At least wait with this until after dinner.”

Tuffnut sent Jamie a long look. “We have our eyes on you, Jamie Overland,” he said.

Jack had been watching in silent amusement up until this point, but that last part made him interject. “Alright, let’s just eat now,” he said, placing a hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “And we can talk about this later.” He sent the twins a pointed look, making it clear that he didn’t want Jamie to be harassed by the twins’ crazy theories.

Jamie frowned, glancing up at Jack. Jamie Overland, he thought. He also remembered what Gobber had said earlier: “A bit untrusty, that brother of yours.” The fact that this entire village thought he and Jack were brothers… It wasn’t a bad feeling, but it was still weird.

His musings were interrupted when the line moved ahead and they got to the soup. They got their portions, and he, Jack, Hiccup, Toothless and the twins, as well as Baby Tooth of course, headed towards a mostly empty table. Toothless disappeared into the crowd on the way, probably towards one of those huge fish baskets.

“So, how did training go today?” Hiccup asked as they sat down around the table

Jamie sat with Jack to his left, and just when Ruffnut made to sit on his other side, Astrid took that seat just in time, as nonchalant about it as she had been when she “spilled” soup on that other guy. Ruffnut was forced to sit on the other side of the table, but not before sending Astrid a scowl, which was smoothly ignored by the latter.

Tuffnut sat down on Hiccup’s other side, leaving Hiccup wedged between the twins.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Tuffnut said, leaning against Hiccup with a toothy grin. “Ruffnut and I have figured out exactly what we need to do to win.”

“You won’t even see us coming,” Ruffnut promised.

Hiccup tried leaning away, but it was a bit hard when the twins were in either direction of him. “That’s good to hear,” he said flatly. He put a hand on either of the twins’ shoulders and pushed them away. “I’m excited to see. Or… not see, I guess.”

“Where did you fly off today anyway?” Astrid asked. “You didn’t show up where we agreed to meet.”

“Like that’s unusual,” a new voice said – one which Jamie dimly recognized. Snotlout appeared from behind Tuffnut and sat down beside him, holding a bowl that was almost spilling over with soup. “If I had a silver piece every time Hiccup disappeared to- Wait. What are you doing here?”

Jamie faltered with his spoon halfway to his mouth. Snotlout’s eyes were switching between him and Jack, but eventually, to Jamie’s relief, they settled on Jack.

“Hey, I didn’t see you at the forge today,” Jack said casually, and Jamie wondered if he was the only one to notice the elfish glint in Jack’s eyes as he smiled at Snotlout.

“Uh, no, I was busy,” Snotlout said, then gestured at the others. “We have more important dragon stuff to do than to just stay cooped up in that forge all day.”

Hiccup sent him a sideways look but didn’t say anything.

“Really? And what dragon stuff is that?” Jack asked.

Snotlout snorted like Jack had just asked an incredibly stupid question. “What dragon stuff is that, he says… Wait- Hey, you didn’t answer my question!” He turned to Hiccup instead. “Are they allowed to be here?”

“Nobody ever said they weren’t,” Hiccup said irritably. “The only reason they ate at Gothi’s place was to rest up.”

“And they’ve rested up, alright,” Tuffnut said gravely.

Jamie sent Jack a questioning look, but Jack just shrugged. Better not to question what was going through either of the twins’ heads.

“Don’t worry, Snotlout, I promise we won’t try anything,” Jack said, casually twirling his staff in his hand. Snotlout sent it a scowl.

“Yeah, you better not,” he said, pointing a finger at Jack. “Because if you do, I’ll-“

Whatever he was about to say, it was drowned out by yet another voice – or several, actually.

“Oh, nice to see you two here!” Fishlegs said delightedly, coming up to Jack’s other side. “We were looking for you.”

“Who’s-“ Jack started, but then he turned around and saw the little legion of kids following Fishlegs. “…we,” he finished, his face lighting up.

“Oh, come on, this table is reserved for grown-ups,” Snotlout complained. “Find your own table, you brats.”

“Then why are you sitting here, Snotlout?” Astrid drawled.

“Shut up, Astrid!”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Be nice, Snotlout,” he said, his tone making Snotlout raise his brows in indignation. Jack turned back to the kids. “Ignore him. Why were you looking for us?” he asked instead.

It was probably an obvious question. All the kids’ eyes turned to Jamie, and Jamie awkwardly swallowed the soup in his mouth.

“Um… hi,” he said.

Strangely enough, no one said anything. The kids just exchanged glances, as if agreeing on something. Everyone except one kid seemed to be in on it – a little redhead around Sophie’s age, who was staring unabashedly at Jack.

“You said we were gonna play,” was what she said.

Jack faltered. “Oh… I did, didn’t I?” he said with an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Skade, something came up. But how about tomorrow morning, alright?”

“But I wanna play now,” Skade moaned miserably.

“Aren’t you hungry?” Jack asked. “Where’s your soup?”

She held out her empty hands, then pointed towards the hearth.

“Then we should get you some,” Jack said, and got to his feet. “I’ll come with you, alright?”

That seemed to be satisfying enough for Skade, because she grinned, bouncing on her feet.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” Jack told Jamie, then disappeared into the crowd with Skade.

Jamie just nodded, unsurprised. A few minutes without Jack – no problem, right? He still had Astrid beside him, so…

“Jamie.” It was Undis. She was wearing a frown, but Jamie couldn’t decide if she looked angry or confused. She nodded towards the other end of the table, where a couple of people had been sitting earlier, but Jamie suspected Hiccup’s friends’ chattering had chased them away. “Sit with us.”

Jamie swallowed. “Um… I’m good, actually,” he said weakly.

Fishlegs sat down at the table, leaving room where Jack had sat earlier. The rest of the kids except for Brant and Undis followed his lead. Undis sent Jamie a long look, but Brant just elbowed her and nodded to the other side of the table, beside Snotlout. They went around and sat down there, much to Snotlout’s dismay.

Jamie didn’t really know why he was nervous. It wasn’t like he’d done anything wrong – at least nothing that Brant, Undis and Hildur weren’t also guilty of.

Hiccup and the others were chatting together, and Fishlegs was reprimanding Snotlout for how he acted towards children, which left Jamie virtually alone with the other kids. Undis was staring daggers at him, but Jamie pretended not to notice. His soup was exceptionally exciting to play with right now.

“Is it true?” Undis asked.

Jamie almost wanted to pretend he didn’t hear her over the noise, but something told him that wouldn’t end well. “Is what true?” he asked innocently.

He didn’t dare look up, but somehow, he knew that Undis was scowling.

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said.

“It can’t be, right?” Hildur said doubtfully. Jamie looked up to see them leaning their head on their palm, studying Jamie lazily. “I mean, look at him.”

Jamie scowled. He hoped the dim lighting hid the blood rushing to his face. “Maybe we shouldn’t talk about that here,” he said quietly, leaning in closer to be heard over the noise.

Fishlegs got the wrong idea. “Oh, sorry Jamie – we can switch places,” he said, and got up from his seat. In the next moment, Jamie was sitting uncomfortably close to a way too smug-looking Hildur.

Another girl leaned forward to look past Hildur at Jamie. “We heard what happened,” she said. “Brant said you-“

Brant shushed her. “Quiet, Brenda!” he hissed.

As Jamie looked between the two of them, he realized they shared a lot of similarities in appearance. Those two, and a third kid, with hair covering his eyes. To be fair, a lot of people on Berk had blonde hair, but these three definitely looked like siblings.

“You have to tell us what happened,” Brenda continued. “And how you did it.”

“He didn’t do anything,” Hildur mumbled, before taking a spoonful of soup in their mouth.

They were right, but Jamie felt a twinge of annoyance anyway.

“How would you know?” he asked. “You ran away.”

Hildur raised a brow. “You ran away too,” they said. “It’s not our fault the boar decided you looked the most delicious. Or the weakest.”

“Hildur,” Brant said exasperatedly.

Hildur shrugged. “I’m just saying.”

Brant glanced at Jamie, before averting his eyes again. He nudged Undis. He mumbled something to her, but Jamie didn’t catch what it was. In response, Undis’ eyebrows knitted together, and she shook her head.

“No, you,” she whispered.

“I already did it!” Brant hissed.

They had a short staring contest, before Brant groaned. He pressed his lips together and looked back at Jamie.

“Um… Sorry for… leaving you,” he mumbled, fidgeting with his spoon. “And for thinking you were dead and not telling anyone about it.”

Jamie didn’t really know what to say to that. He hesitated, looking between the three of them, and then at the other kids who were both paying close attention to their conversation.

“That’s… fine,” he eventually managed. He did feel a little bit resentful, because even if it wasn’t their fault the boar had gone after Jamie, Jamie wouldn’t have been in the woods in the first place if it hadn’t been for them. The reasonable part of his brain wanted to say that they didn’t mean any harm, so there was no point in blaming anyone… but the emotional part of him, the part that was still jumpy and rattled after what had happened last night, wasn’t so quick to forgive. But he tried his best to ignore that part. “I’m alright, so…” he mumbled, and shrugged.

“So,” Hildur said, looking up from their soup. “What happened?”

Jamie really didn’t want to retell it, and especially not to Hildur. He could never tell what they were thinking. Thankfully, they were distracted when Jack came back with Skade.

“Here you go,” he said, putting the soup down before hoisting Skade onto the bench.

Skade giggled happily, sending Jack a look like he was the coolest person alive – which Jamie agreed with, but it made him wonder if he also looked at Jack with stars in his eyes and everything. That was a little embarrassing.

Jack walked around the table and sat back down beside Jamie. The topic of what happened to the boar went quiet, and Jamie busied himself with eating. The other kids easily found something else to talk about, but nothing to which Jamie had anything to add. Beside him, Jack was quiet at first, but Snotlout was quick to get his attention. Not by being friendly, exactly, but Jack obviously just found him amusing.

So far, so good. There hadn’t been any more incidents like that guy in the line, except for a few looks every now and then. Hiccup and his friends had an interesting dynamic. It was clear they were close, but for what reason, exactly, Jamie couldn’t help but wonder. Within half an hour, there had been at least five disagreements, two almost fights between Fishlegs and Snotlout and between the twins, and then what Jamie had thought was a fight, but apparently the twins just liked to bang their heads together so hard they almost passed out, for fun.

Still, to weigh up for all of that, there were a lot of laughs and good feelings. Sure, this gang was used to getting on each other’s nerves, but that just showed how close they were. They were like a family, even if they weren’t related by blood.

At one point, the conversation had traveled over to the topic of fighting, and Hiccup gestured at Jamie.

“Jamie here forged his first sword today,” he said.

Jamie felt his face go red. “It’s- It’s not that good, though…” he mumbled bashfully, trying to fight the smile on his face.

Hiccup snorted. “Pfft, that’s not true. Right, Jack?”

“All I know about swords I know from North, but I’m sure he would’ve been impressed,” Jack said, smiling at Jamie.

“That’s North, though,” Jamie said, then frowned a little, because he wasn’t used to calling Santa North. “He’s impressed by everything.”

Jack laughed. “Not exactly false, but… Really.” He elbowed him, and Jamie met his eyes with an amused smile. “You did a good job.”

“Are you really trying to tell us that you don’t know anything about sword fighting, but you know how to fight with that thing,” Snotlout said, raising a doubtful eyebrow. “Give me a break.”

“Turns out it’s slightly cheaper to find a staff in the woods than to acquire a sword, so yeah, that’s what I’m trying tell you,” Jack replied, then smirked. “Besides, it’s done its job. You would know, Snotlout.”

Snotlout’s face went red with either anger or embarrassment, or both. He pointed his spoon at Jack. “I told you, I wasn’t ready!” he barked. “If you’re so full of yourself you think you can defeat this-“ He flexed. “-then bring it on!”

“Alright, you two,” Hiccup interrupted. It looked like he was trying to hide his amusement for the sake of peace around the table. “Challenging people to duels can wait till after dinner.”

“Besides, Jack’s arm is wounded,” Astrid pointed out. “Dueling will have to wait.”

Snotlout snorted. “That’s just a dumb excuse,” he muttered gruffly.

“You broke you arm?” Skade then asked from the other end of the table.

Jack smiled warmly at her. “No, don’t worry. It’s not broken,” he said, holding up his bandaged arm. “Just a bit battered.”

“What-“ Brant started, but caught himself. Jack sent him a questioning look, and Brant bit his lip. “…What happened?” he managed to ask, but he looked like he knew the answer and regretted opening his mouth.

Jack chuckled. “I’m pretty sure it happened when I crashed into Astrid,” he said, and turned to the latter. “Sorry about that, by the way.”

Astrid just shook her head. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, then got a thoughtful look in her eyes. “Though after surviving that blizzard, I’m surprised you managed to injure yourself by just falling.”

Jamie put a mouthful of soup in his mouth to avoid talking.

“Uh, yeah… weird,” Jack said, looking at his wrist. His brows knitted together. “Maybe someone was looking after us in the blizzard.”

Jamie almost dropped his spoon. He looked up at Jack. “The Snow Queen,” he whispered.

Jack’s face was blank when he looked back at Jamie, but then, just for a moment, something flickered across his expression. “What did you-“ he started, but was interrupted by laughter from the other kids – and from Snotlout.

“Yeah, Jamie, what about the Snow Queen?” Hildur asked, earning another fit of giggles from the other kids.

Jamie felt himself getting red again. “Yeah? You’re the ones who told me about her!” he shot back.

“It’s just a story,” Brant said, looking like Jamie was causing him a lot of secondhand embarrassment.

“You don’t know that!” Jamie insisted, closing his fist around his spoon.

“Like you know about Jokul Frosti?” Undis asked with a smirk.

Jamie felt Jack’s gaze on him, and his face became even hotter. “Yeah,” he said defiantly. “I meant what I said.”

“Kids today.” Tuffnut’s voice was so sudden, Jamie almost jumped off the bench. He was shaking his head solemnly. “They speak of the one who brings devastating winter like she’s some kind of fairytale. Don’t you know anything?”

Ruffnut rolled her eyes. “I told you, you didn’t see the Snow Queen back there, it was just a weirdly shaped tree,” she said, bonking her brother on the head.

Tuffnut yelped. “Hey!” he barked, and then the twins really were fighting.

The others didn’t do anything to stop it. In fact, Hiccup just ducked and moved out of harms way, switching places with Tuffnut to give him more space to pull his sister’s hair. That stole away the kids’ attention, which was both good and bad. Jamie didn’t want to be in the spotlight anymore, but he also hated leaving that conversation on that note.

He glanced at Jack. He was looking at his soup with a frown on his face, but when Jamie turned to him, he met his eyes. A soft smile spread on his lips, and he ruffled Jamie’s hair.

“Thanks,” he said quietly, which was enough to brighten Jamie’s mood again.

“Do you know about her?” Jamie asked, speaking in English just to be sure. Their voices were probably drowned in the twins’ shouting either way. “The Snow Queen?”

Jack looked thoughtfully into the air. “I-“ he started.

“Okay, knock it off!” Astrid’s voice interrupted, and her axe buried itself in the table right in the middle of the twins. She had splatters of soup on her face, and Ruffnut’s bowl was rolling on its side, disappearing off the edge of the table. It seemed the twins’ fight had caused a casualty.

The twins both froze mid-motion, with Ruffnut’s palm pressed against Tuffnut’s jaw, and Tuffnut’s fist pulling on Ruffnut’s braid with his other arm pulled back, ready to punch.

“What?” Ruffnut said. “It’s after dinner now.”

“Then take it outside!” Astrid said irritably, wiping her face.

Hiccup was grimacing a little, then sent Jack and Jamie an apologetic look. “Did I say I was going to keep them civilized?” he asked.

“You said you were gonna try,” Jack said with an amused smile. “I guess there was an attempt.”

The twins continued fighting, and Hiccup nodded. “I guess dinner is over, then,” he said and got to his feet.

Jamie was glad. It wasn’t that he was annoyed or scared by the way Hiccup’s friends – specifically the twins – acted, but the other kids, however… He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to make any friends in the nearest future.

On their way out of the Great Hall, the kids scattered. Skade said goodbye to Jack one extra time just to make sure he was going to play with her tomorrow, and Jamie decided he liked at least one of the kids. Skade reminded him too much of Sophie not to like her.

Fishlegs, Snotlout and the twins went ahead, and only Fishlegs spared them a goodbye before doing so. That left Hiccup and Astrid, and Toothless who caught up with them as they exited the hall.

“So,” Hiccup said on their way down the stairs. “How’d you like the food?”

Neither Jack or Jamie answered immediately, which made both Hiccup and Astrid crack up.

“Um… it was alright,” Jamie tried, but judging by Hiccup’s and Astrid’s expressions, he didn’t sound very convincing.

“Yeah… it’s usually like that,” Astrid said. She yawned, and then seemed to think of something. “Oh, that reminds me,” she said, coming to a stop. She seemed a bit hesitant, but she tried for a smile. “I was just thinking… You can’t stay with Gothi’s forever. My family doesn’t mind guests, so if you want a place to stay a little closer to the ground, you’re welcome to stay at my place.”

She obviously hadn’t discussed this with Hiccup, because he looked as surprised as Jamie felt. But then he smiled gratefully at her and nodded. “I think you’d go crazy if you stayed with Gothi for too long,” he said to Jack and Jamie. “She has that kind of aura.”

Jack looked surprised as well. “Uh… I think it’s the path up to her hut that would make me go crazy first,” he said with a laugh.

Jamie looked between Astrid and Jack. He wanted to beg for him to accept, but didn’t want to sound too desperate. It wasn’t like he was scared of Gothi, but she was definitely not someone he’d usually like to hang out with. Not Astrid either, for that matter, but she was a little closer to Jamie’s type of person.

Jack caught Jamie’s eyes for a moment, before he turned to Astrid and nodded. “We’d like that, I think,” he said with an amused smile.

 

 

Moving to a new place was easy when you didn’t have any belongings. Astrid flew up to Gothi’s hut with Stormfly just to tell her, and then landed back down by her hut.

When Jamie and Jack had been there earlier that day, Astrid’s mother had been on patrol. This time she was home, but only briefly, because she was going out hunting. The concept of a mom going hunting was kind of funny to Jamie, until he saw Astrid’s mom and changed his mind: She looked just as much like a Viking as almost every other person in this village.

In many ways, he saw the family likeness. Astrid’s mom’s hair was a slightly darker shade of blonde than her daughter’s, and she was taller and burlier. Her favorite weapon, like Astrid, was also an axe, but when Jamie saw her, she was wielding a crossbow.

When she was gone, Jamie frowned. “You still hunt for your food?” he asked, before realizing that that might be a weird question from someone who supposedly wasn’t from the future.

“We’re a bit low on yaks,” Astrid said. She was standing in front of Stormfly, smiling warmly at her. “I’ll be right back, girl,” she cooed, before turning to face Jamie and Jack again. “There’s no hurry yet, but it’s better to stock up on animals before the first snow falls.”

“When does the first snow fall?” Jack asked.

“Technically, it already did, but that was a fluke,” she said. “Winter usually arrives between Haustmánuður and Gormánuður.”

Jamie wasn’t sure how, but he knew that she meant somewhere between the end of September to November.

Astrid patted Stormfly one more time, before they went into the hut. Inside, a couple of beds were prepared. Well, not beds exactly, but furs were draped over the benches around the hearth. The blankets they’d been sleeping under at Gothi’s place were also there.

“It’s not much, but…” Astrid said, brushing some hair behind her ear. “Probably a little better than Gothi’s hut, I hope.”

“Definitely,” Jamie said without thinking.

Astrid smiled at him. “Good. Maybe you’ll even get your own place to stay after a while,” she said. “But in the meantime, make yourself at home. I’m gonna take one last ride with Stormfly before I go to bed. Mom will probably be back in a few hours.”

“You trust us to be alone in your home?” Jack asked.

“Ha-ha,” Astrid said. “That’s a very good point, Jack. If something happens, I know who to blame.”

Jack laughed. “Alright,” he said. “Then we won’t try anything.”

Astrid shook her head amusedly, before she walked out the door. A few moments later, they heard the muffled sound of a dragon taking to the sky.

Jamie sat down on one of the beds. The minute he was no longer putting weight on his feet, he realized how tired he was, and he let out a deep sigh.

“Tough day?” Jack asked.

Jamie looked up at him. Baby Tooth was sitting on his shoulder, and he realized he hadn’t seen her at all during dinner. Maybe she’d just been hiding in Jack’s cloak or something. After all, there had been a slight hazard of being doused in hot soup.

“No… I’m just tired,” Jamie replied quietly. It sounded unconvincing even to himself.

Jack’s expression softened, and he came over to sit beside him.

“Kids can be pretty ruthless, huh?” he asked gently.

Jamie looked down at his hands. “Undis reminded me of Cupcake at first, but not anymore,” he mumbled. “Cupcake is nicer.”

“You all were a bit wary of her at first too, though,” Jack said, and a small part of Jamie’s brain wondered how he knew that. How long at Jack been hanging around them, invisible? “Maybe Undis will be the same.”

Jamie didn’t answer. He kicked off his shoes and brought his knees up to his chest.

Jack was quiet for a few seconds. For some reason, Jamie found it hard to look at him. Which was weird, because just earlier when Astrid had asked if they wanted to stay with her, he’d had no problem with it. But now that they were alone – save for Baby Tooth – things felt different.

But why? Jamie didn’t know. The fact that he was feeling like this was scary all by itself.

“Jamie…” Jack then said. “If there’s something on your mind, you know you can talk to me, right?”

Jamie swallowed. “It’s nothing,” he said.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

There was another few seconds of silence. Jack propped his staff against the wall, then leaned back, also kicking off his shoes. He placed his hands on his knees and started tapping a finger restlessly. Jamie could tell he wanted to talk, but he probably didn’t want to push… which just made Jamie feel even worse.

“What was it that Undis said?” Jack said after a little while. “Jokul Frosti?”

Jamie ducked his head. “I- I wasn’t sure if it was safe to tell them,” he said. “Like, we shouldn’t even exist at this point in time, right? I mean…” He trailed off. At last, he did glance up at Jack. “I think so?”

Jack blinked. Then he understood. “Oh,” he said. “No, you’re right. I’m not that old.”

And just like that, Jamie realized why he was feeling the way he did. It wasn’t like he hadn’t realized this before – the fact that he actually didn’t know Jack very well – but he was beginning to realize that it bothered him more than he liked to admit. Especially now, after what had happened with the other kids, it was difficult not to feel alone. He missed home, and the closest thing he had was Jack… He just couldn’t help but wonder how close to home that actually was.

“How old are you exactly?” Jamie asked.

Jack’s gaze faltered a little. “Uh, that would be… 317, 318 years, give or take.”

A light tingle went down Jamie’s spine. He’d known that Jack was old but hearing him talk about it was something else. But 318 years… Jack’s undercover persona – Jackson Overland – was seventeen. Physically, Jack looked around that age. Could that be a coincidence?

“You said you hadn’t been sick in 300 years,” Jamie said.

Jack nodded. “Probably a little more, but I… can’t remember very well.”

Jamie remembered something Jack had said, right before they found the crystal that started all of this: “There’s some things that I can’t remember that well, and sometimes those memories come back to me.” It was a weird thing to say, but Jamie hadn’t thought much about it at the time. Now, he couldn’t help his curiosity.

“Why not?” he asked. “Did something happen?”

Jack looked away. “It’s a-“

“Long story,” Jamie said, before pressing his lips together when he realized he’d interrupted him. That was rude. “I mean… That’s what you said the other day.”

Jack smiled softly and shrugged. “It is,” he said. He opened his mouth as if to say something more, but all that came out was a sigh. “Can’t blame you for being curious about that,” he mumbled.

Jamie wasn’t sure what to make out of that sentence. Just a moment ago, Jack had been joking with Astrid and being his usual self. Now, he looked tired and old.

“…Is that bad?” Jamie asked hesitantly.

Jack shook his head. “No,” he said, and then remained quiet for a few more seconds. His mouth opened and closed, before he finally sent Jamie a weary smile. “It’s just that… If I tell that story, there’s a lot of other things I also have to tell. They’re not all bad things, but…” He trailed off and seemed to struggle with his words again.

Jamie’s chest felt heavy. He didn’t like seeing Jack like this. And it wasn’t the first time either. There were those moments in Santa’s workshop, where Jack had looked solemn and worried whenever he’d thought Jamie wasn’t looking. And then there were all those moments today, before Jack had disappeared into the woods, to do whatever it was he had to do. And then, of course, the first time he’d seen Jack… There hadn’t just been happiness. There’d been something more. Something… Jamie didn’t know how to explain it. Or maybe he was just scared to try.

“When I…” Jamie started, but hesitated. He folded his hands. “I mean… Maybe I remember it wrong, but…”

Jack raised a questioning brow but nodded encouragingly. “It’s alright. You can say whatever you want,” he assured him.

Jamie glanced up at him, before looking back down at his hands again. “I… have been wondering for a while,” he said slowly. “Last Easter, back when I first saw you… I mean, you were happy. But…” He wasn’t sure how to ask this question. He glanced up at Jack again, just to make sure he wasn’t wandering out onto forbidden territory.

Jack wasn’t looking at him anymore. His eyes were fixed on some point on the opposite wall, but he didn’t seem to be really looking at it. He was far away, lost in thought, but the miniscule smile on his face made Jamie suspect Jack was replaying the scene from last Easter in his head.

“You were sad as well,” Jamie tried, even if sad didn’t really describe it that well either, recalling the way Jack’s eyes had reflected the dim glow of the streetlights outside.

Jack pursed his lips before shrugging. “I wasn’t sad exactly,” he said. “I was… ironically, in disbelief. I wasn’t sure if… if it was really happening.”

“But why?” Jamie asked, getting worked up now. “And when we met the other Guardians afterwards- I didn’t think about it at the time, but… they were like- they acted like, surprised? …When I talked to you. Like you’d never…”

Jack nodded. He met Jamie’s eyes briefly, and to Jamie’s horror, there was that slight glint in his eyes again. The corners of Jack’s lips quirked into a smile, but it was bittersweet. “Yeah,” he said softly.

Jamie stared at him. The silence was suffocating.

Never?” he asked in a whisper.

“Uh, well… Not exactly,” Jack said, his brows furrowing. “It’s…” He trailed off again and pressed his lips together.

Baby Tooth chirped softly, putting a hand on his neck.

“Don’t worry,” Jack then said. It took Jamie a moment before he realized he was replying to Baby Tooth. Despite the wetness in the corners of his eyes, his voice was steady and calm. “He should know. It’s not like it’s a secret, right?”

Jamie frowned. “What isn’t a secret?”

Jack shifted so he was facing Jamie. “Well, it’s a long story, so you might want to grab your blankets. You’ll probably be asleep by the end of it.”

Jamie raised a brow. Yeah right, he wanted to say. There was no way he was going to miss any of this. He’d been waiting for this moment ever since Easter. But he grabbed the blankets anyway, because the fire in the hearth was beginning to dim and it was getting cold.

Once he settled down again and looked expectantly at Jack, he saw that the tears in Jack’s eyes had disappeared. Jack grabbed a couple of blankets as well, even if he was more or less always cocooned in his new cloak.

“Where should I start?” he asked, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

Jamie didn’t know if the question was rhetorical or not, but he answered it anyway:

“What happened last Easter?”

Jack’s thoughtful expression turned to mirth. “Last Easter, as you know, was a special one. I realized it was going to be… eventful the moment a couple of yetis shoved me in a bag and tossed me through a magic portal.” He spoke as if reciting a fairytale, and Jamie almost believed it could be, until Jack said the next thing: “Earlier that day, I’d just been having a bit of fun with some kids. You, sleighing through traffic and such – the usual.”

Jamie laughed in surprise. “It was the same day?” he asked.

Jack grinned. “Yeah. Took me by surprise too,” he said. “Bunny was there, but of course it was North who planned it. They didn’t know me at the time. Or- They knew of me, apparently, but-“

“They didn’t know you?” Jamie asked confusedly.

“Nope,” Jack said, his gaze falling for a moment. “Uh, we… kind of didn’t get along before. It’s… I mean, North and the others, they were the Big Four and all, so...”

“The Big Four?”

Jack hesitated, then gave a chuckle. “Oh, man, there’s a lot to explain,” he muttered.

Baby Tooth chirped from where she sat on Jack’s shoulder, her brows furrowed.

“Oh, come on,” Jack said, waving his hand. “It’s Jamie, and we’re in the freaking Viking era. Who cares?”

Jamie wasn’t sure what they’d just argued about, but Baby Tooth seemed to relent. She gave a small shrug, before nestling against the crook of Jack’s neck. She didn’t look completely convinced, but she sent Jamie a smile nevertheless, as if to reassure him that everything was okay. It made Jamie wonder if what he was about to hear wasn’t as not-secret as Jack had thought.

“You remember,” Jack said, “after we defeated Pitch, when we were standing on the lake?”

Jamie nodded. “You became a Guardian,” he said, smiling at him.

Jack smiled back. “Yeah. And before that…” He trailed off, and his smile faded. “Well… I was just me: Jack Frost. Before Pitch started making trouble, I’d barely spoken to the Guardians before. Except Bunny.” He smirked, but shook his head, like that was a story for another time. “I… didn’t really want anything to do with them. They all seemed so busy and responsible – it just wasn’t for me.”

“Doesn’t really sound like you, no,” Jamie agreed, then laughed when Jack elbowed him.

“Anyway,” Jack continued. “Since they knew I’d never come with them willingly, they, uh, kidnapped me. Not sure if that was the best solution, but I guess North will be North. And they told me that the Man in the Moon and chosen me to become a Guardian, in order to defeat Pitch.”

“And you said no?” Jamie asked.

Jack gestured as if that was obvious. “Of course I said no. I was far from what they needed, and being a Guardian was just… not the answer I was looking for.” He frowned. “And I was… angry. The Moon hadn’t talked to me in 300 years. Why couldn’t he just tell me that himself, and not through the Guardians?”

There it was again, Jamie thought. “What did he say?” he asked. “300 years ago, I mean.”

Jack’s expression stiffened. He sighed soundlessly. “That I was Jack Frost,” he said.

Jamie waited for him to elaborate, but he seemed lost in thought again. “You didn’t know?” he asked.

Jack shook his head. “This is where the story gets a bit…” He pressed his lips together. “…heavy.”

It wasn’t hard to figure Jack was finding this difficult to talk about, so Jamie didn’t press on when he got quiet again. He waited patiently until Jack continued.

“The thing is…” he started, voice softer now than before. “I wasn’t always Jack Frost.”

Jamie didn’t really know what he’d expected him to say, but it wasn’t that. Still, once the words were out, Jamie got a weird sense of… something akin to relief. He looked up at Jack – at his brown hair and brown eyes – and started to feel like he understood.

“Jackson Overland,” he said. “That isn’t just some random name, is it?”

Jack smiled. “I already knew this, but you’re really observant, Jamie,” he said fondly. “But yeah… It’s not just some random name. Which brings me back to the not exactly never been seen before-thing…” He took a deep breath before he continued. “…When I first became Jack Frost, 300 years ago, I… didn’t know what was going on. Suddenly, I was just there, existing. The Moon told me who I was, and I was quick to find out what I was able to do.”

He smiled softly, but it was brief.

“It was fun at first. I mean, I could create snow and ice and I could fly – it was incredible. But when I found the village, and I tried to… speak to people…” He looked like he wanted to say more, but no sound came out.

Jamie swallowed thickly. “They couldn’t see you?” he asked. The heavy feeling in his chest doubled when Jack shook his head. Even if Jack tried to seem casual about it, he was about as good at hiding his true feelings as Jamie was. Which wasn’t great. Jamie frowned. “Not even the kids?” he asked.

“Nobody had ever heard of Jack Frost,” Jack said. “There was nothing to believe in.”

For 300 years?

Jack nodded. “300 years,” he repeated blandly, gazing into the air.

Jamie guessed that he had to be wearing some kind of weird expression, because Jack’s features softened when their eyes met.

“Is it strange?” he asked.

“Is what strange?”

Jack shrugged. “To learn about this,” he said. “It sure is strange to talk about it.”

It was a bit strange. Jamie could admit that. But it wasn’t a bad strange, exactly. Somehow, Jamie felt both relieved and anxious at the same time. For months he’d been looking forward to each of Jack’s visits, but he’d never truly thought about who Jack was… and now that he was finding out, even after wallowing in curiosity, why did he almost feel like this was information he’d rather not know?

No, it wasn’t that. He’d like to know Jack. Sitting together like this, alone in a strange, faraway place, just talking… It was nice.

“I just didn’t think… being Jack Frost was so lonely,” Jamie replied after a few seconds of contemplation.

Jack held his gaze for a few seconds, as if searching for something. For what, Jamie didn’t know, and he didn’t know if he found it either, before Jack looked away, letting out a slightly shaky sigh.

“It’s okay,” he said softly, but he wasn’t looking at Jamie; it looked like he was trying to convince himself. “My memories are coming back and I’m not… That time is in the past.” He sent Jamie another one of those reassuring smiles. “It’s nothing to be sad about anymore.”

There were still things Jamie wanted to ask about. He wanted to know what Jack meant about his memories, and he wanted to ask him more questions about what being a Guardian was like, or what being Jack Frost was like, or even who Jackson Overland was – but Jamie’s chest felt weirdly heavy, and he realized that he was satisfied with what he’d learned so far.

That, and it seemed it weighed Jack even more down to talk about it.

So Jamie nodded. “Okay,” he said quietly. It felt stupid not to say anything more, but he didn’t know what. Instead, he reached forward and wrapped his arms around Jack’s chest, pressing his face against his cloak.

Jack stiffened a little, the way he always did when Jamie hugged him, and for the first time Jamie felt like he truly understood why. But then he relaxed again and returned the hug.

Jamie swallowed down the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry I didn’t believe in you sooner,” he mumbled.

Jack’s laugh was short-lived, but it was the first laugh in the past minutes that seemed real. He hugged Jamie tighter. “You believed in me sooner than I thought anyone ever would,” he said. “And that moment was invaluable. I’d have it no other way, Jamie.”

It offered at least a bit of relief, but not enough to make Jamie let go. He didn’t trust his voice either – not that he had any sort of words that would make things better – so he kept quiet. Jack seemed to realize that Jamie wasn’t planning on moving for a little while, because one of his hands started going in slow circles on Jamie’s back.

Without noticing it, Jamie’s eyelids slid shut.

Chapter Text

It had been long since the last time Jack had a backache, but since the cause of it was Jamie falling asleep in his arms, he didn’t really mind. After Jamie’s breath evened out, Jack didn’t have the heart to try to move him. It didn’t take long before Jack dozed off too, with his back leaning against the wall.

The next time he’d woken up, he found that someone had managed to maneuver them down to the bench while he was asleep. Another blanket was draped over the both of them. After the trip down memory lane with Jamie, it felt weird knowing that someone had actually touched him and moved him, and not just passed through him. But he was too tired to dwell on it, and so he drifted back to sleep.

The next few days passed relatively peacefully.

Neither Jack nor Jamie had said outright that they’d like to work in the forge with Gobber, but that’s where they kept ending up anyway. Mostly for Jamie’s sake, because 300 years still hadn’t made Jack into a handyman. Still, he didn’t get away from Gobber’s teachings; at the end of each day, both Jack and Jamie were feeling the aftermaths of manning the forge.

Astrid’s mother, Leikny, turned out to be lovely, despite her slightly terrifying looks. She was brash and loud, but she had a big heart, and despite the rest of the village’s wariness – her own daughter included – she immediately took a liking to both Jack and Jamie. Jack really only saw her in the mornings and in the evenings, but it still didn’t take more than a couple of days before Jack felt mostly at ease around her. There was just something warm and trustworthy about her that made Jack want to lower his guard.

It took him another couple of days to realize that it was because she reminded him of North. A less broad and airheaded version, but still.

Astrid’s offer to let them stay with her family was nice, and Jack liked to pretend he didn’t know she had ulterior motives. What better way to watch over Jack and Jamie if they slept under the same roof as her every night? Especially after what happened with Jamie, it wasn’t weird that she was wary of them sneaking out at night again.

But nothing more dramatic like that happened, and after about a week, she seemed to be coming to terms with the notion that Jack and Jamie actually wasn’t out to get anyone. Keyword being seemed. Jack wasn’t going to lie and say that he didn’t find her suspicion a little annoying, but he guessed he couldn’t blame her or anyone else, and tried to focus on the fact that Astrid was actually really cool and fun to spend time with – even if Hiccup was completely right to say that she was a bit intimidating sometimes.

Hiccup tried to follow up on his dad’s orders by looking after Jack, but he didn’t fool anybody: There was no way he was going to be tied to the ground just for that, especially not now that Hiccup had already decided that he trusted Jack and Jamie.

That was not to say that Hiccup didn’t hang out with them, though. He just did it because he wanted to, and not because he had to – he made that pretty clear when Jack had jokingly accused him for the latter. Hiccup was a very sarcastic person, but apparently he didn’t expect it from anyone but himself, Jack noted.

When Hiccup wasn’t spending time with them, Jack was incredibly curious to know what he and his friends were doing. Flying with their dragons, that much was obvious. Hiccup had mentioned training a couple of times, but Jack couldn’t know what that entailed. And then there was something else that really peaked his interest, but he hadn’t gotten the chance to ask about it: What the hell was dragon racing?

Most importantly there was, of course, Jamie.

Jamie’s mood had changed ever since Jack told him about his past. Not in a bad way, but there was definitely something that felt different between them now. Lighter or easier, somehow. Closer.

At the same time, Jack could tell that Jamie was a bit rattled about it all, because he kept catching him gazing at Jack with a deep frown on his face, like his brain was still trying to process all that had been said. Truth was, Jack had expected to reveal even more than he had. If it meant improving Jamie’s mood and making him feel even just a little safer, he would’ve told him everything. But it seemed Jamie was satisfied for the time being, despite those long looks he’d send Jack every once in a while.

And maybe it was for the best. Jack didn’t know if he was ready to tell him about Jackson Overland, and how his story ended.

Of course, life on Berk was not just a bed of roses. While Jack was glad that Jamie felt more comfortable around him now, it also meant that he’d much rather spend time with Jack than any of the other kids. Jack couldn’t really blame him; these were the kids of history’s most infamous barbarians, of course they wouldn’t all have mild and welcoming personalities. It was alright as long as Jack was nearby – which he was a whole lot of the time, since the kids had taken a liking to him – but the moment Jack had to leave, Jamie left with him, leaving no chance for the kids to get to know just Jamie, instead of Jack and Jamie.

Though after that first dinner in the Great Hall, there was one thing that hadn’t been mentioned again, but Jack kept thinking about it – or rather, her: The Snow Queen.

From what he’d heard from the kids during dinner, Jamie had heard about her from them. According to the kids – and Tuffnut – the Snow Queen was the one who brought devastating winter to the island. Nobody – except for Tuffnut, apparently – really believed that she was anything other than a fairytale, but of course Jamie, being the way he was, had jumped to her defense.

It was heartwarming in a way only Jack could understand. Some people also regarded Jack Frost as the fiend who draped the dark, icy cold blanket of winter over the world. Jamie Bennett knew that wasn’t true, and refused to let any winter spirit slander pass, and Jack loved him for it.

But it was weird, because Jack had the faintest feeling that he’d heard that name before. Sometime in his life, someone had told him about the Snow Queen, but either he’d heard it before he died and the memory was just barely coming back to him, or he had only heard it in passing or something. Either way, it was a long time ago, and chances were that she really was just a fairytale.

And simultaneously, chances were that she was more than that. Maybe Jack had just been looking for the wrong people. The Guardians might not exist yet, but who knew what other kinds of spirits roamed these islands?

Could that be their ticket home?

“You’re going to get wrinkles if you keep frowning like that.”

Jack looked up only after Jamie nudged him. He’d been too deep in thought both to hear Hiccup approaching, and to remember that people actually spoke to him now.

They were sitting on the same little cliff where they’d spoken to Fishlegs during their tour of Berk. It was a nice and slightly secluded little place, and the view of the ocean was beautiful and calming. It was a nice place to sit and cool down after being cooped up in the forge.

Jack raised a brow at Hiccup. “I don’t want to hear that from you,” he said.

Hiccup grinned and sat down beside Jack. “I keep finding you two here,” he observed.

“It’s nice,” Jack said. “I like the view. That’s one thing I miss from living with Gothi.”

“Life is more boring down on the ground,” Jamie said, sending Hiccup a long look.

Jack laughed at Hiccup’s guilty expression. Jamie wasn’t much of a pesterer, but he’d pestered Hiccup in his own way, by making innocent comments about how wonderful it would be to ride a dragon, and that chances were he’d never get the chance to do so before he and Jack went home, and, oh, how happy he’d be if he’d get to try it at least just once!

It probably seemed a whole lot subtler in Jamie’s mind.

Hiccup scratched his cheek. “Uh, I guess so,” he replied awkwardly.

Jamie pursed his lips and looked around. “Where’s Toothless?” he asked.

“Playing with Stormfly, last I saw him,” Hiccup said with a shrug. “He’s grumpy because I couldn’t fly with him today. Like I want to deal with this mess any more than he does.” He rolled his eyes.

Jack frowned. “What mess?”

“Oh, I don’t even know,” Hiccup said, sounding horribly tired. “Probably nothing. Every, like, third full moon or whatever, the village grows bored and finds something to panic about. Usually it’s the twins’ fault. Don’t ask me how they do it. Either way, it takes a lot of time to convince them all that not everything is a bad omen and they’re not in any danger.” He shook his head exasperatedly.

“Weird,” Jack said. “I haven’t heard anything about it.”

Hiccup smiled grimly. “Yeah… That’s probably because they think you two have something to do with it.”

Jamie gave a quiet groan, and Jack wholeheartedly agreed.

“Why am I not surprised?” Jack said flatly.

“I wouldn’t think too much about it,” Hiccup said, smiling apologetically. “Episodes like this usually pass on its own eventually. Probably won’t be like the time the village blamed Toothless for bringing down the wrath of Thor. If I hadn’t figured out metal attracts lightning in time…” He trailed off and shuddered.

Jamie was giving Hiccup a weird look. “You… figured out that yourself?” he asked.

“By accident,” Hiccup confirmed. “And apparently, that ordeal ended with me sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Not that I remember any of it, because I was unconscious by that point.”

Jack’s heart did a jump. “And you survived?” he asked.

“Well, obviously. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

“Oh. Yeah. Obviously.” Jack scratched his head. “Well, what’s the panic this time?”

Hiccup rubbed his temples. “Something about teeth?” he said. “Not sure how that connects with the two of you, but I guess you’ve brought with you some curse or whatever.”

Jack met Jamie’s eyes, and Jack knew they were both thinking the same.

“Teeth?” Jack repeated.

“Teeth,” Hiccup confirmed with a smile. “I don’t suppose you’ve invited your tooth-enthusiast friend over?”

Baby Tooth chirped hopefully.

“Uh… no,” Jack said with a chuckle that came out just a little bit forced. “What exactly are the villagers saying?”

Hiccup raised a brow, but as he often did, seemed to decide not to ask. “Some people have reported their kids’ baby teeth missing,” he said. “Some like to wear them as lucky charms, and now that a bunch of them has apparently disappeared, they think it’s some kind of bad omen for… I don’t even know. Misfortune, maybe? Either way, most people here aren’t exactly organized, so chances are… Uh, Jack?”

Jack had been sending a certain tooth fairy a long look, but he turned back to Hiccup. “Hm?”

It was Hiccup’s turn to give Jack and Jamie a weird look. “Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Jack replied with a snort. “Why wouldn’t I be? So weird that the teeth are missing. I wonder why that might be.”

Hiccup stared him. “Yeah… I wonder too,” he said slowly. “But like I was about to say, this is probably just some idea the twins have planted in the villagers’ heads. They’ve probably just lost the teeth in battle or something.”

Baby Tooth hovered in the air beside Hiccup’s head, her hands clasped together. Compared to her acting abilities, Jack was freaking Shakespearean; her innocent smile fooled nobody.

Jack sighed. “Yeah, that’s probably it,” he said dryly.

 

 

The mass paranoia caused by the missing baby teeth was worse than Jack had hoped. Now that he knew about it, he heard about it everywhere. From Astrid and her mom, or from Gobber, and especially from the twins, who hadn’t done anything wrong for once. And of course, from random villagers who thought Jack and Jamie somehow had something to do with it.

It was especially annoying, because they weren’t exactly wrong.

Jack had no idea that Vikings liked to keep their children’s baby teeth for good luck. Wearing a charm of teeth into battle seemed a bit morbid to him, but the Vikings thought it brought good fortune. And now that they were gone, it had to mean something horrible was coming, right?

And how Baby Tooth had managed to hide them all somewhere out of sight – first in Gothi’s hut and now in Astrid’s – Jack really had no idea. Maybe she could make them invisible or something, because even when she presented to him a little bundle filled with tiny teeth, he still didn’t understand where she’d been keeping them. And Jack felt like Baby Tooth was always at their side, so how had she gotten the time to go around collecting teeth anyway? During night, he guessed. Now that he thought about it, she usually wasn’t around during dinner either. How long had this been going on?

Both Astrid and her mom were out for the time being. Jack sat with the bundle of teeth in his hand, a little at a loss of what to do.

Baby Tooth chirped, and Jack made a sound somewhere between a sigh and a chuckle.

“You and Tooth, honestly…” he mumbled. “We’re not home right now, Baby Tooth. You can’t just steal people’s teeth!”

Baby Tooth chirped indignantly.

Jack frowned. “Do you even have any gifts to leave?” he asked, then raised a brow at her answer. “Pretty stones and berries, huh.”

Jamie was holding back a laugh, even if he also looked worried about this whole thing. “Can’t she just put them back?” he asked.

Jack had thought about that, but he shook his head. “People already know they’re gone,” he said. “Putting them back like nothing happened might not solve their panic. If they really think someone has stolen them, then… I guess we have to give them back with some sort of explanation…. somehow…”

Baby Tooth did not look happy about this plan. Jack deadpanned.

“Baby Tooth, what were you planning on doing anyway? There’s no Tooth Palace here! And you couldn’t have brought them back to the present anyway. There’s no way to give the memories back to the kids then, is it?”

Baby Tooth chirped something that sounded like “I don’t know,” along with a pout. Jack studied her for a few moments, before he sighed softly and held out his hand. Baby Tooth landed on it, looking up at Jack with a mix between stubbornness and sadness.

“I know it’s hard,” he said. “But we’ll get back home, alright? You just have to hold on for now.”

She held his gaze for a few seconds, and only seemed to relent when Jack’s lips quirked up in a reassuring smile. Then she looked away shyly and nodded.

And then, the door opened. Jack jumped and hid the teeth pouch under the blankets, and Baby Tooth jumped onto his shoulder instead of his hand. Astrid poked her head inside and frowned at them.

“Why are you cooped up in here?” she asked. “It’s almost dinner. You coming?”

Jack exchanged a brief look with Jamie.

“Uh, yeah. I’m starving,” he said, getting to his feet, leaving the tooth pouch hidden beneath the blankets.

As they walked up the stairs to the Great Hall, the gears in Jack’s head turned to figure out the best way they could solve this tooth problem. Handing them back out like some reverse tooth collection would do no good. But revealing that he had the teeth would just create more problems. There had to be something else he could do.

 

 

Jack’s plan was not complicated, and definitely not bulletproof, but it was the only plan he could think of.

He waited until everyone was asleep. Astrid was out on patrol again, and Astrid’s mom was snoring softly in her bed. Jamie was balled up in a bundle of blankets, sometimes muttering in his sleep. Jack never caught what he was saying, but it was adorable nonetheless.

Only he and Baby Tooth were awake. Jack had seen Baby Tooth asleep before – back in Jamie’s bedroom when Jamie had caught all the Guardians in action. Jack had felt bitter about being the only one Jamie couldn’t see, so when Abby began growling at Bunny, of course Jack had to set off the alarm. It was simply the right thing to do.

But back then, Baby Tooth had been hit in the face with Sandy’s dreamsand. If she was ever asleep otherwise, Jack didn’t know – and she was definitely not asleep now, but instead staring pointedly at Jack as he silently got out of bed and grabbed the tooth pouch, hiding it in the folds of his cloak.

He sent Baby Tooth an exasperated look. He went to grab his staff, but then hesitated. Leaving it would be safer. He clenched and unclenched his fist for a few moments, before he steeled himself and left the staff behind. He tiptoed across the floor and opened the door as carefully as he could.

Jack didn’t pretend he was good at being stealthy. It didn’t matter that he’d been relentlessly bullied by North singing Jack be nimble, when most of his nimbleness had disappeared along with his ability to fly. Also, previously he’d never needed to hide, because people couldn’t see him anyway. Maybe that was why he never got past the yetis whenever he’d tried to bust into North’s workshop.

He tried creeping along the edges of the huts. Stormfly perked up when Jack passed her, but Jack recoiled, holding up his palms.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. “Just… passing by. Nothing suspicious going on here.”

Stormfly tilted her head to the side, before she seemed to accept Jack’s lie, and Jack moved ahead.

Not having his staff made Jack jumpier than he’d like to admit. It’s not like he could really use it to defend himself anymore, except by whacking people on the head, but still – not having it felt wrong and dangerous.

The stairs to the Great Hall lay in mostly darkness. The braziers by the entrance didn’t provide that much light, so as long as Jack crouched and kept close to the side of the stairs, he should be fine.

He stopped when a patrol guard walked past, flattening himself against a wall. He refused to wish that he was invisible again, but he couldn’t deny that this job would’ve been a whole lot easier if he was.

He peeked around the corner and decided that the coast was clear. With his heart hammering in his chest – which was still a strange sensation after not having a heartbeat the past centuries – he sped across the ground towards the stairs, and then crouched by the banister. He waited until his pulse stopped being so loud, and then began climbing the steps.

Once at the top, he hid behind the statues. He let out a quiet laugh.

“I’d say mission accomplished,” he whispered to Baby Tooth.

He crept forward and put the tooth pouch by the entrance doors.  That way, someone was bound to find them, and they’d have no idea who put them there. Hopefully, they would come to the conclusion that whoever had taken them had just done so as a prank, and hopefully they wouldn’t think that those people had been Jack and Jamie. Hopefully. As mentioned, this plan wasn’t bulletproof, but if things went as well as they had on their way up here, maybe Lady Luck was on Jack’s side for once.

But of course, the world would’ve been upside down if Jack Frost – or Jackson Overland, for that matter – was on good terms with Lady Luck. As he turned around to head back down the stairs, he came face to face with the bright yellow eyes of a Hideous Zippleback. Jack yelped, then slapped a hand over his mouth to shut himself up.

Someone laughed darkly. “Finally. It was only a matter of time.”

Ruffnut and Tuffnut appeared from behind the heads of the Hideous Zippleback, grinning devilishly down at Jack. They jumped off at the same time and clanked their helmets together in smug triumph.

“Uh… hi,” Jack said after the twins had stopped staggering dizzily. “Didn’t expect to see you two here.”

“I’m sure you didn’t,” Ruffnut said, smirking at Jack. “What’cha got there, Jackson?”

Jack tried stepping in front of the tooth pouch, but Belch’s head snapped forward and yanked Jack away by his cloak. Jack gave a choked yell, dangling in the air while the twins collected their prize.

“Put me down!” Jack hissed, wriggling desperately, but Belch didn’t let go.

“I knew it,” Tuffnut said, sharing a grin with his sister. They both turned to Jack, Tuffnut pouring the pouch’s content into his hand for Jack to see. “What kind of nefarious plan did you need these for, Jackson?”

“It’s Jack,” he said irritably. “And- Nefarious? Really? Tell your dragon to put me down!”

Ruffnut snorted. “After you framed us for stealing everyone’s teeth?” she asked. “Tuff and I might be insufferable, but we’re insufferable on our own terms. We don’t like to be blamed for pranks we didn’t commit. We don’t take credit for other people’s work.”

“And your work is… remarkable,” Tuffnut said, holding up the little pile of teeth like they were a precious diamond.

“I didn’t steal the teeth!” Jack protested. He wriggled some more, and suddenly gravity took a hold of him. He fell to the ground, now without his cloak, which was still dangling from Belch’s mouth. He got to his feet. “Put the teeth back,” he ordered.

The twins raised their brows.

“And then what?” Tuffnut asked, pouring the teeth back into the pouch. “You’ll plant a curse in our midst? What did you do to these teeth?”

“Nothing!” Jack hissed, but he was beginning to realize that there was no convincing way to explain this. And contrary to Hiccup, he didn’t think the twins would relent that easily.

Baby Tooth chirped nervously, and Jack sent her a mildly murderous look – but then he had an idea.

“Nothing,” Jack repeated, calmer now. He looked at the twins, pressed his lips together and then sighed deeply. “Fine. You got me.”

The twins looked confused.

“We did?” Ruffnut asked.

Jack shrugged. “Yeah. But it’s not what you think,” he said. “I never meant any harm. I’m not here to hurt anyone. And I didn’t steal the teeth, but I can tell you what happened.” He hesitated for a moment. The part of his brain that was still sane screamed at him to shut up, but now he’d already opened his big mouth. “I’ll tell you everything.”

The twins exchanged a look.

“But-“ Jack said, getting their attention again. “You have to promise not to tell anyone.”

Ruffnut narrowed her eyes. “And why should we do that?”

That was a good question. Jack shrugged nonchalantly. “I know you’re both going around spreading rumors about who I am,” he said. “I know you’re both very anxious to figure it out. I mean, what kind of people appears in a blizzard out of nowhere, with amnesia and everything?” He made a dramatic pause then leaned a bit closer to them. “…But I’ll tell you, as long as you keep it to yourself.”

“So you do remember!” Tuffnut said.

Jack just looked at him silently, because the twins hadn’t promised anything yet. They shared another look, before they both grabbed Jack and hauled him back behind one of the statues. Barf and Belch followed, crouching behind the statue as well, which left very little room for the rest of them. Jack was wedged between the wall and the twins.

“Alright,” Tuffnut said. “We promise not to tell on you, if you promise to tell us the truth. Are you a troll?”

Jack snorted. “No.”

Tuffnut frowned. “What?”

“You both have to promise first,” Jack said. He didn’t even know if the twins would keep their word, but it was worth a try.

“We promise,” they said in unison.

Jack smiled. “Good,” he said. “Let’s see. First of all, I didn’t take the teeth, but I know who did.”

Baby Tooth protested.

“But it was just a misunderstanding. She had good intentions and never meant to cause any harm,” Jack quickly said. “But since it’s my fault that we appeared on Berk in the first place, I’ll gladly take the blame. I just don’t want to get into any more trouble.”

The twins looked confused.

“Your fault?” Ruffnut repeated. “How?”

Jack took a deep breath. Here goes nothing, he thought.

“My name hasn’t been Jackson Overland for a very long time. For 300 years I’ve been called Jack Frost. I was a winter spirit, but I got into trouble with a magical creature that sent me, Jamie and Baby Tooth back in time and we landed here on Berk. I lost my powers in the process and became human again, and now we’re stuck here until I figure out how to travel back to the future.”

Baby Tooth’s mouth hung open and she was staring daggers at him.

The twins were quiet for a long time. Jack didn’t expect them to believe him right away, but Tuffnut nodded slowly.

“That explains so much,” he said. “I knew there was something weird about you.”

Being called weird was one thing coming from Hiccup, but it was something else when it came from the twins. But Jack sent him a lopsided smile anyway.

“You were right,” he said.

“And what about that blizzard?” Ruffnut asked. She didn’t look completely convinced. “Was that you, then?”

Jack hesitated. “I… don’t know,” he said. “Maybe. Right before we were thrown through time, I tried attacking the time creature. I think it saw my powers and somehow eliminated them. It did the same to one of my friends, Bunny, but… maybe some of my powers still went through and created that blizzard. If so… uh, sorry. It was self-defense.”

“What did you do to Fanghook?” Tuffnut asked.

It took a moment before Jack remembered what he was talking about.

“Oh, that wasn’t me,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking back then and just jumped in front of Jamie. It was Baby Tooth who distracted him.”

“Baby… Tooth?” Ruffnut repeated slowly.

Jack nodded. “She’s a tooth fairy. She collects children’s baby teeth in exchange for gifts,” he explained. “Obviously, that tradition isn’t the same here, so… I mean, a little cultural confusion was inevitable, right?”

“And why should we believe you?” Ruffnut asked.

Jack shrugged. “It’s the truth,” he said. “And, if you do believe me, you should be able to see her right now.” Jack looked over at Baby Tooth, and the twins followed his gaze.

What followed passed in a bit of a flurry, because in the next moment, the twins had both given shocked shrieks, tried to reach for Baby Tooth, but Jack jumped in front of them to stop them. Baby Tooth flew behind Jack, tweeting indignantly at him. Jack made a mental note to apologize to her later.

“Stop it!” he ordered, and to his surprise, both of them froze midmovement. “Huh. Okay, so… there’s that,” he said, slowly stepping away from the twins. “Do you believe me?”

The twins’ eyes were fixed on Baby Tooth, both their mouths hanging open.

“Fairies are evil, you know,” Tuffnut said.

Jack raised his brows. “Not this one,” he said, waving his hand in front of their faces. “And you didn’t answer my question.”

They tentatively looked back at him.

“You’re a winter spirit?” Ruffnut asked.

Jack averted his eyes. “Was,” he corrected.

“And you’re from the future?” Tuffnut asked.

Jack nodded.

“How far in the future?”

“I’m not sure. About a thousand years, maybe?”

“Woah. What’s it like?”

Jack sent them both a serious look. “This is why I need you to keep quiet about this,” he said. “I can’t tell you about the future. What if it changes things? And if people find out about my identity… It’s just too risky. I don’t know what would happen, so I’m trying to keep a low profile, though… it’s not always easy, as you can see.”

The twins nodded, and Ruffnut frowned.

“Why are you telling us this?” she asked.

That was also a good question. Jack looked intently at both of them.

“I thought that… if anyone would believe me, it would be you two,” he said. “I need some allies. Someone that can help me out if I get into another mess like this. Navigating this time era isn’t easy while keeping a low profile. No one can know about this.”

“Did you say you were 300 years old?” Ruffnut asked.

Jack swallowed down his impatience. “And eighteen,” he said with a smile. “Do you understand why you can’t tell anyone?”

“Do all winter spirits like to be barefoot?” Tuffnut asked.

“Focus!” Jack snapped, and the twins jerked back a little. He frowned, gesturing exasperatedly. “What? I don’t have any powers now, I’m not gonna zap your or anything.”

Ruffnut looked a bit doubtful. “Would you if you had them?” she asked.

Jack stared at her, before he gave a laugh, because that notion was ridiculous. “No,” he said. “Look, I’m not a bad guy. Like I said, I’m not here to cause any harm. We came here on accident, and all we want to do is go home.” When the twins didn’t answer, Jack sighed, giving them a pleading look. “Please. I’m asking for your help.”

That seemed to ground them a little. They looked at each other one more time, before they nodded.

“We won’t tell anyone,” Tuffnut said, and Ruffnut nodded in agreement.

Jack smiled gratefully. “Thank you,” he said. “Now, please put the teeth back.”

“Eh, we’ll just tell them we did it,” Ruffnut said. “That’s what most of them think anyway.”

“Really?” Jack asked, his smile widening. “Thanks. I owe you one.”

Maybe that was unwise to say, because the twins’ got a devilish glint in their eyes, and Jack got a feeling like he’d just made a deal with the Devil. But then their attention was dragged over to Jack’s shoulder, and Jack glanced down to see Baby Tooth sitting there, a wary look on her face.

Jack sent the twins a pointed look. “And try not to stare at her too much,” he said. “Because people will think it’s weird, and also, it’s rude. Can you tell Belch to give me my cloak back? I’m freezing.”

Ruffnut laughed. “You’re freezing?” she said.

“Oh, good, we can joke about it,” Jack said with a halfhearted smile. He held out his hand, and Belch dropped the cloak. It was a little wet with drool. Jack wrinkled his nose but put it back on anyway. “Alright,” he then said. “I’ll go to bed now. Jamie might be wondering where I am.”

“Is Jamie a winter spirit too?” Tuffnut asked.

Jack sent him a long look. “Jamie is my brother. That’s all you need to know,” he said.

The twins seemed to understand that Jack wasn’t going to budge on this matter, because they both nodded.  Despite Jack’s reassurance, he got the feeling they were a little bit afraid of him. Jack didn’t like it, but he also guessed it could come in handy.

Jack said his goodbyes to the twins and snuck back down the stairs. Ruffnut and Tuffnut flew away on Barf and Belch, and Jack could only hope that they kept their word.

When Jack came back into the hut a few minutes later, Jamie almost made him jump out of his skin:

“Where were you?” he hissed.

Jack put a hand on his chest. “Jamie,” he breathed. “You’re awake.”

Jamie frowned at him, silently demanding an answer. Jack swallowed.

“I… may or may not have just done something very stupid.”

 

 

Hiccup thought it was a little bit strange that the twins suddenly decided to come clean. Stealing teeth wasn’t exactly their style, and he was sure that they had to have some kind of ulterior motive for admitting it. Giving the teeth back didn’t help much, because the teeth were all mixed together so nobody could know which belonged to who, but at least the village wasn’t on the brink of mass panic anymore.

The next few days passed in a breeze. Hiccup got to focus on his usual activities, and after everything that had happened the past days, everything felt so normal it was almost weird.

Jack and Jamie seemed to be finding their place in the village, slowly but surely. There were still a few suspicious villagers, but after almost two weeks, they seemed to understand that there was no point in being wary around them. Even Stoick had begun to relax, though Hiccup suspected he would be the last person to trust any outsiders a hundred percent. After what had happened with Heather and Johann – especially the latter – Hiccup couldn’t really blame him.

The next dragon race was approaching rapidly, and Hiccup found himself looking forward to it. It felt like the first time since before the battle against Krogan that the village had done something fun just for the sake of having fun. They’d all been preparing diligently, but Hiccup still thought that his and Toothless’ odds were the greatest.

However, this day was reserved for another type of training: Close combat. It had been a while since they’d trained together like this as well – Hiccup was pretty sure they hadn’t done it since leaving the Edge – and he was feeling a little rusty. He wouldn’t bet on his chances against Astrid, who trained with her axe almost daily.

And besides, they were just training anyway. Just sparring. It wasn’t a competition.

Hiccup and Toothless were flying towards the arena. He was probably a little late, because he’d dragged out his time flying with Toothless again, but being on schedule had never really been one of his strengths. So he wasn’t surprised when he saw that the others were already inside the arena. He was, however, surprised when he saw a couple more figures than usual.

Toothless flew in through the entrance and landed smoothly.

“Oh, so you decided to show up,” Snotlout immediately drawled, crossing his arms.

“Good morning to you too, Snotlout,” Hiccup said dryly and dismounted Toothless. Snotlout started to argue that it wasn’t morning anymore, but Hiccup ignored him when his eyes fell on Jack and Jamie, who were talking to Ruffnut and Tuffnut. If that wasn’t strange enough by itself, they also seemed to be having a nice, non-threatening conversation.

Jack spotted Hiccup and sent him a cheerful smile.

“What are you doing here?” Hiccup asked as he walked over to them.

Jack shrugged. “Was bored,” he said. “Tuff said you were going to spar, so I figured it would be cool to watch.”

“Watch,” Hiccup repeated, raising a brow. “You know my dad won’t be happy about this?”

“Won’t be happy about what?” Ruffnut said in mock confusion. “I don’t see anyone but us in here. Or what, Tuffnut?”

“Definitely not a Jack in sight,” Tuffnut agreed.

Jack’s eyebrows twitched, like Ruffnut and Tuffnut were being slightly distasteful, but his expression smoothed out the following second. “See?” he said contentedly to Hiccup. “As far as your dad knows, we were never here.”

Hiccup huffed a laugh. “If you say so,” he said. He glanced over at Snotlout, who was bragging about something or other to Astrid and Fishlegs. “Sure you don’t want to do more than just watch?” he then asked, looking back at Jack again.

Jamie seemed to like this idea, grinning broadly at Jack, but Jack hesitated.

“Uh, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m a little rusty.”

“So am I,” Hiccup said. Truth was, he was very curious to see what Jack could do in a fight, as he had been ever since Jack had decked Snotlout in the forge. “We’re just sparring for fun. It’s not a competition or anything.”

“That’s what he says, but just you wait,” Astrid said, coming up to stand beside Hiccup. She sent him a smirk. “I know you’ve been neglecting your training, Hiccup. You’ll regret that.”

Hiccup felt his previous conviction fall out the window; this was officially a competition.

Astrid looked at Jack, and her brows furrowed. “Your hand,” she said. “Did you take the splint off?”

Jack looked down at his hand, and Hiccup realized only then that it wasn’t bandaged anymore. Jack flexed his wrist and then shrugged.

“It didn’t hurt anymore,” he said. “I guess the injury wasn’t so bad after all.”

Astrid stepped forward and carefully took his arm, turning it over. “Doesn’t hurt at all?” she asked, then hummed thoughtfully when Jack shook his head. “Weird. Eir must be looking out for you.”

“Eir?”

“The goddess of healing,” Astrid said, letting go of his arm. “Though I guess, after surviving that blizzard, that isn’t very surprising.”

“So who’s gonna go first?” Tuffnut asked then, looking around expectantly. Before anyone got to answer, he raised his hand. “Alright, I’ll go. Who will challenge me?”

“I will,” Snotlout immediately said, wearing a cocky grin.

While Tuffnut and Snotlout readied their weapons – Tuffnut with his new mace and Snotlout with a battle axe – the others sat down to watch. Astrid counted down, and Snotlout started half a second too early, but everyone already expected him to do that, so nobody tried to stop him. And the sparring begun.

It was slightly worrisome to watch, but Hiccup knew Tuffnut and Snotlout never went over the line. Most of the time, anyway. They all knew each other well enough to predict what the other’s next move was going to be, so the chances of anyone seriously hurting anyone were slim.

Jamie’s eyes were wide as he watched Tuffnut and Snotlout spar, even if they danced around each other most of the time. He kept making awestruck noises, which probably did nothing to shrink Snotlout’s ego.

Jack sat between Jamie and Hiccup, his brows furrowed as he watched.

“Why is it only two at a time?” he asked. “Can’t you just split up in pairs and spar at the same time?”

“To point out what they can do better,” Hiccup said. “Can’t really see that if I’m busy fighting someone else. Besides, someone has to make sure they don’t accidentally murder each other.”

Jamie sent him a wide-eyed look. “Has that happened?” he asked.

“Not to us, but-“ Hiccup started, but Jack sent him a look. “I mean… No. Don’t worry.” He smiled stiffly.

Just then, Tuffnut hit the ground, and Snotlout triumphantly put a foot on his chest with a haughty laugh. Hiccup had been busy talking to Jack and Jamie, so Astrid was the first to tell Snotlout everything he’d done wrong, just to make him stop gloating.

Next was Astrid versus Ruffnut, which was a fight that lasted about ten seconds. Hiccup grinned, and looked over at Jack and Jamie to see their reactions. Jamie looked like he’d just fallen from the sky, and Jack was wearing a stunned grin.

Astrid helped Ruffnut up, then sent Hiccup a meaningful look. Hiccup could already feel the bruises blooming.

Next was Hiccup against Fishlegs, which wasn’t much of a fight because Fishlegs had never liked sparring and let himself be defeated even faster than Ruffnut had. Hiccup stared at him exasperatedly.

“What?” Fishlegs asked, already retreating to where he’d been sitting earlier. “You beat me, fair and square.”

Hiccup decided not to argue and sat back down with Jack.

“Tough fight,” Jack said amusedly, then looked at Hiccup’s sword. “I’ve never seen a blade like that one. Why is it shaped like that?”

“Oh, you’ll see,” Hiccup said, smiling secretively at him.

Nobody said it, but everyone was waiting to see Hiccup and Astrid spar, so nobody questioned why they waited for them to duel last. The pairs kept rotating, and they all became more and more exhausted for each battle. In the end, Snotlout’s boasting came to a stop when Astrid whacked him on the head with the butt of her axe then sent him sprawling.

“I went easy on you,” Snotlout tried to say, even if he knew nobody would buy it.

Astrid sat down with Hiccup, and they discussed the various ways she could’ve taken down Snotlout faster, but it was mostly just to give Astrid a breather before her last duel with Hiccup. Astrid’s fighting was nearly impeccable; Hiccup didn’t really have anything to add that she didn’t already know.

“That was awesome,” Jamie rejoiced, halfway to his feet in excitement. He stared at all of them, though his attention was mostly on Astrid. It was obvious his admiration for her was growing more and more every day, and Hiccup couldn’t blame him. “The way you just rolled, and then dodged that swing by grabbing his wrist, like, how do you bend someone’s arm like that? You looked like you knew exactly what he was going to do!”

Snotlout rolled his eyes in the background.

“I did,” Astrid said smugly. “Snotlout is pretty predictable.”

“Shut up, Astrid,” Snotlout grumbled.

Jack had been watching them in mostly silence, save for a few laughs and gasps here and there. His fingers were tapping restlessly against his staff, so Hiccup put his hand on top of his to make him aware of it. Jack’s fingers stopped tapping, his eyes snapping up to Hiccup’s.

“Sure you don’t want to give it a try?” Hiccup said amusedly. “You seem pretty restless.”

Jack looked at him for a few seconds, and his hand coiled around his staff. “Why?” he asked, raising a brow.

It wasn’t what Hiccup expected him to say. He frowned.

“Uh… Because it’s fun?” he tried.

Something glinted in Jack’s eyes and he grinned. “Can’t argue with that,” he said. “But you have someone else to fight, I think.”

Hiccup turned to Astrid. They didn’t have to say anything, but Astrid looked at Hiccup like she was going to pulverize him, and Hiccup looked at Astrid like there was no way he was going to let that happen. Astrid got to her feet and held out a hand to Hiccup, helping him up.

After that, there were no friendly gestures.

There was no need for a countdown: Astrid raised her axe and charged Hiccup with her best battle cry, and Hiccup ignited his sword. Even when he jumped out of the way of Astrid’s first strike, he didn’t miss Jamie’s gasp.

“No way!” he hissed, and Hiccup got a glimpse of him and Jack staring at Hiccup’s sword with matching awestruck expressions.

And then his focus was forced back to Astrid, who didn’t wait long to try and strike again. Hiccup met the hilt of her axe with his sword and pushed her away. He dodged a high kick then tried to strike, but Astrid rolled out of the way, and was just as quickly on her feet again, without a scratch.

It continued like this for a little while. They were both tired, but now that they were fighting against each other, Hiccup’s energy was renewed, and it looked like Astrid felt the same. Her eyes were focused, but there was a small smile on her face, breaking the illusion that she was out to kill him.

The battle came to its climax when Astrid managed to kick the legs out from under Hiccup, sending him sprawling to the ground. For a second, Astrid had the upper hand, but Hiccup rolled out of the way just in time. He got up and parried her next blow, his sword sliding up to the axe. He pushed sideways, and the axe went flying out of Astrid’s hand. In the next second, Hiccup’s flaming blade was inches away from Astrid’s throat.

Astrid breathed heavily, and sent Hiccup a grudging smile. “Not bad,” she said.

Hiccup lowered the sword. “Not bad yourself,” he replied, and didn’t try to hide how satisfied he felt.

In the corner of his eye, he saw Tuffnut handing Ruffnut a silver piece, like he’d just lost a bet.

“Alright,” Hiccup then said, turning to the others. “Now we can split up in pairs. Remember what you were told earlier. Fishlegs, try to make an effort. Snotlout, spend less time thinking about your appearance and you might stand a chance. That goes for you too, Ruffnut.”

“You don’t need to try, Ruffnut, you’re already beautiful,” Fishlegs said. Ruffnut just groaned and trudged over to her brother.

Hiccup killed the flames on his sword and retracted it. The others split into pairs again, spreading across the arena, which left only Jack, Jamie and Toothless sitting on the ground. Hiccup and Astrid walked over to them and sat down to rest up for a bit.

“What is that?” Jamie yelled as Hiccup came over, pointing at the hilt of Hiccup’s sword. “It looks light a lightsaber! I mean- Uh…” His gaze faltered before he shook his head. “Did you make that yourself?”

Astrid smiled warmly at Jamie, then raised a brow at Hiccup, whose cheeks were getting a bit pink.

“Yeah,” he said, holding it up for him. “It’s called Inferno. The hilt contains Monstrous Nightmare saliva and Hideous Zippleback gas. It’s retractable so that it can soak in the saliva inside the hilt, and then…” The blade slid out from the hilt, and Hiccup ignited it again.

Jack jerked back a little before giving a laugh that sounded both impressed and nervous. “That’s incredible,” he said. “But won’t it set fire to, like… everything?”

Hiccup shook his head, retracting the sword. “Only if I intend to set something on fire,” he said. “But like you saw earlier, it doesn’t set fire to any of the wooden hilts of the weapons. It has singed my hair a couple of times, though.”

“There’s been a few accidents,” Astrid said. “A few eyebrows lost.”

“Accidents which have all been prevented now,” Hiccup said, flipping the hilt in his hand. “It’s completely harmless. Well, as harmless as a weapon can be.”

“Can I try?” Jamie asked.

Hiccup hesitated and glanced at Jack. Jack just shrugged.

“Yeah, just… hold it like this and- Woah!” He jumped out of the way when the sword almost impaled him. “Try not to, uh, stab anyone.”

Jamie grimaced. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“No worries. Now, hold it away from your face and click this thing.”

Jack subtly inched away from Jamie before Jamie ignited the sword, even if the blade wasn’t even near him. Jamie gave a triumphant laugh, holding the sword as far away from his face as he possibly could. His arms were shaking a little from the strain.

“That’s… so cool,” he gawked. He looked at Hiccup. “Can I learn how to use a sword like this?”

“Er- You can at least learn how to use a sword, I think,” Hiccup said, glancing at Jack again. He tilted his head to the side. “I mean, you do have an older brother who apparently knows how to fight.”

Jack blinked. “Not with a sword,” he said.

“I’m just saying, maybe fighting with sticks is less dangerous than fighting with swords when you’re a beginner,” Hiccup pointed out.

“It’s not a stick,” Jack mumbled, bringing his staff closer.

Jamie retracted Inferno, then turned to Jack. He had a hopeful look in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything. Hiccup held back a laugh; this was textbook puppy dog eyes.

Jack faltered. “I don’t… I don’t even know if I can still fight,” he said.

“Why not?” Jamie asked, but then immediately followed the question with a dejected “Oh… But you don’t know for sure… right?”

Hiccup didn’t know what they were talking about, but it was clear it was a sensitive subject. Jack looked contemplatively down at his staff. He was pouting slightly.

“I don’t-“

“Then try,” Astrid said, making Jack look up at her. She raised her brows challengingly.

There were a few seconds of tense silence.

“I’m just saying that when we get back home,” Jamie said, “you wouldn’t want to be out of practice, right? Imagine what Bunny would say.” He smiled elfishly.

Jack stared at him. A smile began growing on his face. “You sure know which buttons to push, Jamie,” he commented, and Jamie grinned. Jack looked at Astrid, then at Hiccup. He nodded. “Fine,” he then said, getting to his feet. He held out a hand to Hiccup, and his smile was filled with anticipation. “For fun, right?”

Hiccup mirrored his smile and accepted his hand. “For fun,” he agreed.

Jamie handed Inferno back to Hiccup with a thrilled look on his face. Hiccup and Jack walked out onto the arena.

“Sure you don’t want any other weapon than that one?” Hiccup asked, because the last thing he wanted was to accidentally break something that was obviously so dear to Jack as that staff.

Jack flipped the staff in the air, and Hiccup was surprised to see how easy and graceful he made it look. He grabbed the staff in both hands and frowned at Hiccup’s sword. “It’s not a weapon,” he mumbled. “But no, I’m alright.”

Hiccup ignited Inferno and didn’t miss the way Jack set his jaw. Was he nervous?

“Astrid, would you do the honors?” Hiccup asked, without taking his eyes off Jack.

Astrid held up three fingers. “Are you ready?” she said. “Three, two, one – fight!”

Hiccup charged at Jack, but consciously slowed down his approach just a little. He didn’t want to go too hard on him in the beginning – at least until he knew Jack’s skill. Jack’s eyes were still on Hiccup’s sword and they widened a little before he jumped out of the way, swirling around to dodge the blade. Hiccup instantly felt bad, but his guilt was short-lived: Jack’s staff swung in the air so quickly and smoothly, Hiccup didn’t register where it was going before the end had hit him in the ribs.

“Ouch!” he yelped, jumping back.

Jack winced a little too, like he was sorry, but it was impossible not to notice the amusement in his expression. He got over it and then it was his turn to charge, but Hiccup easily deflected his blow with his sword, the fiery blade coming scarily close to Jack’s face. Jack gritted his teeth and jumped back again. He looked a little pale.

Was he afraid of fire? Or was he just afraid of swords? Hiccup supposed any reasonable person would be afraid of either of those things. If Jack truly had a problem with it, then he would tell them that, right?

“Are you-“ Hiccup started, but cut himself off with a surprised yelp when Jack suddenly surged forward and swung at him. Hiccup went to dodge it, but it was a feint, and he barely managed to roll away in time. He felt Jack’s staff swing through the air right above his head.

He rolled onto his feet again and advanced while Jack was still recovering from his attack, managing to hit his shoulder. Jack stumbled in his attempt to jump away, but it was a failed attempt. Hiccup hit him with the flat end, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Jack groaned and stumbled back. Behind Hiccup, Jamie gave a choked yelp.

Was this a bad idea? Hiccup started to lower his sword.

“Jack, do you want to-“

“No,” Jack said, looking up again. To Hiccup’s surprise, he was smiling, though his expression was still a little tight. He fixed Hiccup with a determined look. “I’m fine. Just a little rusty.”

Hiccup couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment Jack’s demeanor changed, but all he knew was that from that point on, Jack was done warming up. Hiccup raised his sword to deflect Jack’s blow, but Jack spun around and avoided the blade. Jack’s staff spun quickly through the air, moving from his right hand to his left and back again, and Hiccup barely managed to collect himself to dodge it.

Their pace changed. They exchanged blows faster and whirled around each other, each of them landing a few hits every now and then, but never enough to push the other to the ground. Still, Hiccup found himself holding back; there was just something about Jack that seemed off:

Jack moved in a way Hiccup had never seen anyone move before. He didn’t recognize his fighting style from anywhere, and because of that, Hiccup could almost believe he’d been telling the truth when he said he was self-taught. But that couldn’t be true, right? Nobody got so good at fighting on their own, at such a young age. Jack managed to seem both graceful and clumsy at the same time, like he knew exactly what he could do, but he also wasn’t afraid to test out maneuvers that were risky. There was a bounce in his step that made it look like he was playing, but his gaze was focused and dark, his brows furrowed like he was thinking of something unpleasant.

And Hiccup thought he knew why that was. Because despite all of Jack’s nimbleness and skill, there was something odd in the way he moved. It looked almost like he was overcome by a sudden dizziness, which sent him stumbling even without Hiccup advancing on him. Like the ground was moving beneath his feet. Hiccup had seen it before, back when Jack and Jamie had first appeared. He hadn’t thought about it in a while, because that weird kind of stumbling had since disappeared, but now that they were fighting, it seemed to be making a return.

That was what caused the frown on Jack’s face. He was annoyed, for some reason.

Their fight continued for a minute or so before Hiccup managed to land a hit on Jack, which he only did because Jack had lost his balance again. Jack jumped backwards and stumbled like he was surprised the ground was beneath him, before falling on his ass. Hiccup almost laughed, but that would’ve been mean. Jack gave a frustrated growl and quickly pushed himself to his feet again. He went to attack, but had to change it to a block to avoid Inferno hitting him in the chest. Hiccup kept advancing on him, pushing Jack to the other end of the arena. Jack was struggling now; a few more seconds, and Hiccup would win.

Jack’s expression was a tight frown. He gritted his teeth, and suddenly jumped away from Hiccup. Then he did something very weird, but very Jack-like: He jumped on one foot and pulled off his boot.

“Stupid, heavy-“ he muttered heatedly to himself, tossing both shoes away. Then he grinned wickedly at Hiccup and ran at him.

Hiccup, who’d been momentarily dumbfounded by Jack’s random impulses, gave a surprised yelp at the other’s newfound gusto. Jack jumped sideways to avoid Inferno, but then jumped back in course just as quickly, and Hiccup stumbled back to avoid getting whacked in the face. He slashed, but Jack avoided the blade by crouching down and disappearing behind Hiccup. Hiccup acted quickly by turning with a sideway kick, but Jack jumped over his foot like it was the easiest thing in the world.

There was no way getting rid of his shoes helped Jack this much. When he’d told Hiccup he thought the shoes were in the way, Hiccup hadn’t realized he meant they were that much of an inconvenience – and yet here he was, and here Hiccup was, losing the upper hand to a Jack that was now grinning triumphantly and even laughing.

In the next moments, nobody managed to land a single hit. Hiccup’s instinct took over. He didn’t hold back; he couldn’t hold back. The gasps and comments from their onlookers became distant background noise.

They kept whirling around each other, jabbing, dodging, rolling, slashing, both of them giving their all. Hiccup was surprised that he wasn’t more exhausted. The longer the fight continued, the more he even caught himself grinning and laughing too – which wasn’t entirely unusual, but there was something very different from fighting with the others to fighting with Jack. It wasn’t just because of Jack’s fighting style… it was something else, but Hiccup couldn’t tell what it was.

Hiccup had thought Jack was elegant before this, but that was nothing in comparison to the way he moved now. Hiccup almost wanted to give up, because he felt like he already knew where this fight was going, but at the same time he never wanted this to end. Maybe it was just because Jack’s fighting fascinated him, but he knew it was also because Jack’s frown had turned into a sunny smile, and his groans and growls into laughs and playful battle cries.

Hiccup struck low, and Jack dodged by doing something so completely out of the ordinary, Hiccup almost dropped his blade. In a flurry of movement, Jack jumped off the ground – not away from Hiccup, but towards him. One hand pressed down on Hiccup’s shoulder and Jack pushed off him, bounded through the air like he was flying, then landed on his feet behind him. In the next second, Jack’s staff smacked against Hiccup’s hand, making Inferno clatter to the ground. Hiccup tried whirling around again, but when he did, Jack’s foot collided with his torso, and he went sprawling.

When the world stopped spinning, he looked up at Jack standing above him with the staff pointed at his face like a spear. Hiccup’s breath had already left him when getting kicked to the ground, but if he’d still had it, it definitely would’ve been knocked out of him at the sight of Jack’s expression.

He looked… warrior-like, was the first thing Hiccup could think of. But at the same time, not at all, because of the childlike glee playing in his hazel eyes. Jack laughed, his expression relaxing as he lowered his staff. Only then did Hiccup notice how out of breath they both were.

Jack offered Hiccup his hand yet again. “Happy now?” he asked.

Hiccup was probably smiling like an idiot. He grabbed Jack’s hand and staggered to his feet. “Very,” he replied laughingly.

Jack beamed at him. Then he suddenly stumbled forward, like his legs couldn’t hold his weight, and Hiccup caught him in surprise.

“Woah- Uh, sorry,” Jack said breathlessly, leaning on both his staff and Hiccup to remain standing.

“Are you okay?” Hiccup asked, trying to meet Jack’s drooping eyes.

Jack laughed airily and nodded. “Yeah. Think I overexerted myself or something,” he said, sounding exasperated. “My shape isn’t what it used to be.”

Hiccup helped him regain his balance. “You sound like an old man,” he snorted.

Their eyes met then, and Jack’s eyes twinkled with mirth. “I guess I do,” he agreed. Then his eyes landed on something behind Hiccup, and his smile faltered a little. Hiccup followed his gaze.

The rest of the gang were all watching, with various looks of astonishment on their faces. Jamie was grinning, Astrid looked almost angry in the way she did when she was surprised, and the twins seemed strangely pale. Even Toothless looked taken aback.

Jack cleared his throat and bowed jokingly. “Ta-da. Shows over,” he said with a slightly sheepish laugh.

That set the gang into action. In the next moment, they’d all flocked around Jack with words of bewilderment and questions and compliments. Hiccup was reminded of the time when he’d just been starting to figure out dragons, and for the first time got attention and admiration from the others. That’s why he didn’t feel too bad when he was forgotten in the background while Jack got all the praise.

Jack looked a bit overwhelmed at first, but he was quick to smile again. Hiccup left him to it, retrieved Inferno then walked over to where Jamie was still sitting, and still wearing that proud smile on his face. Hiccup sat down beside him with a heavy sigh.

“That was harsh,” he muttered.

Jamie giggled. “You looked like you were having fun, though,” he said.

Hiccup gazed over at the others. Jack was laughing, and as if he noticed Hiccup’s eyes on him, he looked back and met his gaze. He quirked a brow, and his smile turned into something more private – and slightly teasing.

Hiccup chuckled softly. “Yeah. It was fun,” he agreed.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s curiosity was absolutely eating him up from the inside.

There was that, and then there was the ever-growing longing for home, and he didn’t know which of them were worst. It fluctuated from day to day, and whether or not Jamie had some way to distract himself.

At least distractions came in plenty here on Berk.

The distractions came in the form of things like working in the forge, looking at and studying dragons, or watching brawls breaking out between the villagers – but most of the time it was just Jack. He barely left Jamie’s side – partially because Jamie never let him go far before following. And Jack knew that Jamie missed home. They hadn’t talked about it, but Jamie knew that Jack knew, and thus, Jack spent most of his time keeping Jamie busy, through exploration of the island, hammering swords and axes, or just messing around.

Guardian or not, Jack knew how to make Jamie smile. This day was not an exception.

“One more time,” Jack was saying. He held his staff out in front of him, and Jamie did the same with a stick they’d found in the forest. He flipped the staff with one hand, his fingers easily readjusting their grip as the hooked end of the staff ended up behind him. Jamie tried to do the same and smacked himself in the face.

Jack winced, but just as soon started to laugh. Jamie glowered at him, but Jack’s laugh was so infectious, it was hard to stay mad for long.

“I can’t do it,” Jamie mumbled, his face red with embarrassment.

Baby Tooth flittered around him, checking his face for injuries while chirping worriedly. It didn’t make Jamie’s cheeks any cooler.

Jack tried stifling his laugh and shook his head. “That’s not true,” he said. “You just have to practice. You think I learned how to do that in one day?” He raised a brow at Jamie, and Jamie couldn’t stop his lips from quirking up in a smile. Jack winked. “300 years of practice.”

“It won’t take 300 years, will it?” Jamie asked.

Jack laughed again. “Nah, buddy. You’ll get there. Hey, try to hit me.”

Jamie blinked. “What?”

“Hit me,” Jack repeated, a playful smirk on his face. “As hard as you can.”

Baby Tooth met Jamie’s eyes for a moment, and she shrugged. He turned back to Jack. He tentatively raised his own staff. Jack didn’t move. Jamie closed his eyes and swung the stick, and only opened his eyes again when the stick connected with something solid.

Jack had dodged the swing – of course he had. Jamie didn’t know why he’d expected anything else.

“Again,” Jack said. “And faster this time.”

“But what if I hit you?” Jamie protested.

Jack raised his brows. “You really think you can hit me?” he asked haughtily.

Jamie stared at him.

Oh. He understood what was going on. He was a big brother; he knew how this game worked. Jack was trying to rile him up. But even while being aware of this, there was just something about Jack’s mischievous smirk that actually made Jamie want to hit him. Was this how Sophie felt? Was this how it was to be a younger sibling? …A much younger sibling in Jamie’s case.

Jamie swung the stick again, once more closing his eyes. Jack deflected his blow and snorted.

“You have to look where you’re hitting, Jamie,” he laughed.

He tried again, this time forcing himself to look at Jack. Jack barely moved, like he knew exactly what Jamie was going to do. He had no problem deflecting Jamie’s stick. Alright… if it was that easy… Jamie struck again, and when Jack blocked him, didn’t wait before retrying. Jack’s smirk grew into a grin. He deflected the next blow just as easily but took a step backwards. In Jamie’s head, that was at least a small victory.

He kept swinging the stick at Jack, and Jack kept blocking him, until he suddenly jumped out of the way, and Jamie stumbled forwards.

“No fair!” Jamie said.

Jack shrugged, clearly struggling to hold back his laughter. “Uh-huh? What are you gonna do about it?”

Jamie tried hitting him again, but Jack just dodged him, giggling.

“Come on, Jamie, that was close!”

“Shut up!” Jamie tried to yell, but it came out as a laugh. He tried hitting him again, and Jack blocked him with his staff, absolutely beaming.

“That’s more like it,” he said while dodging Jamie’s strikes. “Aren’t I annoying? Absolutely insufferable?”

“Jack!”

Utterly unbearable!”

Jamie cracked up, which didn’t make it any easier to hit right. “You’re starting to be,” he said.

Jack gasped. “What? Jamie, how could you- Ah, what the-!

Baby Tooth interrupted him in the form of flying straight into his face. The distraction gave Jamie enough time to hit his shoulder, and Jack yelped.

“Two against one!” he protested, then immediately lost his balance. His arms flailed in the air before he fell right on his butt.

Jamie keeled over laughing. Baby Tooth made a sound that almost sounded like a laugh, spiraling delightedly around Jamie before landing on his shoulder. Jack fixed them both with an exasperated smile, which Jamie easily returned with a smirk of his own.

“No fair?” he asked.

Jack’s eyes twinkled, before he pushed himself onto his feet again. It was his turn to attack, but he didn’t use his staff. Instead he lunged for Jamie and grabbed him around his waist, tickling him. Jamie shrieked, but Jack mercilessly ignored it.

“This isn’t my job to say, but you’re definitely on the naughty list,” he told him.

Jamie cackled, struggling uselessly to push Jack away. “So are you!”

Jack barked a laugh. “You have no idea.”

“Stop! Stop tickling-“

“What’s the magic word?”

Jack!

“Aw, that’s flattering, but no – another word.”

Jamie’s knees buckled and they both crashed to the ground. Jamie managed to squint his eyes open, trying to push Jack away by his shoulder, but then his heart leaped into his throat. Jamie didn’t immediately register what it was, but there was something behind Jack – something big, looming over them-

Jack understood that something was wrong in a millisecond, and then he was on his feet, his staff pointed instinctively at…

“Barf and Belch?” Jack croaked.

“What are you two doing out here?”

Jamie let out a sigh, his head falling back onto the ground. He recognized Ruffnut’s voice before he saw any of them. He really thought they’d been done for, for a second there.

“Uh, nothing,” Jack said, holding out a hand to Jamie to help him up. “How did you know we were here?”

Ruffnut and Tuffnut jumped down from their dragon, and Baby Tooth made a small, slightly disdainful noise.

“Saw you from the sky, of course,” Ruffnut said, looking awfully smug. “We were wondering why you were fighting that little kid.”

“She thought you had turned,” Tuffnut said.

Ruffnut punched him. “You thought he’d turned!”

Tuffnut grabbed Ruffnut, ready to fight.

“Hey, stop,” Jack interrupted, taking a step forward. The twins froze, giving Jack a wary look, which Jack answered with an exasperated glower. “I’m not- How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not gonna ‘turn’ or become evil, or snap, or- What would I do, anyway? Hit you with my staff?”

The twins exchanged a look, before they let go of each other. They studied Jack.

“Zap us?” Ruffnut offered.

Jamie rolled his eyes.

“Again, no. Why, do you want me to?”

Ruffnut grinned, and Jack shook his head.

“I don’t have my powers,” he said exasperatedly. “Did you come here for another reason, or have I satisfied your worries?”

The twins both hesitated, and they both looked over to Jamie – or rather, Baby Tooth. Then Jack raised a brow at them and they both acted completely innocent.

“What? Can’t we just say hi to some friends?” Tuffnut asked, crossing his arms. “We’ve been really busy, lately. Shame you can’t join us up there.” He nodded towards the sky.

Jamie wished he was better at hitting people with sticks already.

“Shame,” Jack agreed flatly. “How’s the preparation for the race going?”

Ruffnut groaned. “Good, but it would’ve been better if Hiccup didn’t insist on taking a few days off,” she said. “Just because Astrid suggested it… It’s not like the last time didn’t end in disaster.”

“The war with the Berserkers,” Tuffnut nodded.

Jack met Jamie’s eyes for a moment, a confused look on his face. He turned back to the twins. “What happened?” he asked. “How does taking a few days off start a war?”

The twins laughed, like that was a stupid question.

“It’s a training drill,” Ruffnut explained. “The first time was on Dragon Island. For some reason, Dagur and the entire Berserker armada was there. They declared war on us for lying to them about killing dragons or whatever.”

“Dagur?” Jack repeated. “Dagur the Deranged?”

Ruff and Tuff gave him weird looks.

“You know him?” Tuffnut asked.

Jack shook his head. “Hiccup mentioned him,” he said. “He told me his story was dark. Didn’t know it was that dark, though.”

Ruffnut shrugged. “Hopefully we won’t meet another crazy chief in the middle of the woods this time,” she said. “Nobody lives that far north.”

Jack perked up. “North?” he repeated. “How far north?”

Tuffnut scratched his head, and Ruffnut shrugged.

“North enough to freeze to death,” Ruffnut grumbled.

Jack frowned, his eyes going to his staff. Jamie tried reading what he was thinking through his expression, but got nothing. He took a leap.

“Do you think going up north will get your powers back?” he asked, in English, because he still wasn’t sure about the twins. Even if they did know everything at this point, thanks to Jack’s impulsiveness.

Jack was dragged out of his thoughts with that question, his eyes blinking at Jamie. He hesitated, but never got to answer, because just then, a series of fast shadows passed over them.

“What are you muttonheads doing?” Snotlout’s voice sounded from above, and they all looked up to see the whole gang flying overhead – well, almost all of them. Hiccup was missing.

“That would be our cue,” Tuffnut said, like that wasn’t obvious. “We have a race to prepare for.”

“See ya,” Ruffnut purred, before they both jumped onto their respective dragonhead and took to the sky.

Then there was the unmistakable whizzing sound of an approaching Night Fury. Toothless shot over the mountaintop and through the clouds, turning in a loop in the air. They swooped down, just far enough for Jack and Jamie to feel the rush in the air as they passed them.

Jack snorted. “Show-off,” he muttered, following Hiccup with his eyes. Despite his words, his expression was clearly admirative.

Hiccup grinned and waved at them, and Toothless growled happily, before the whole gang disappeared into the clouds.

Jamie sighed, looking at the spot they’d gone. “I wanna fly too,” he mumbled.

When Jack didn’t answer, Jamie looked up to see that he was looking at the clouds too. His admiring look had turned wistful, but the moment he noticed he was being watched, he looked back at Jamie. His smile quickly returned.

“Tell you what,” he said, crouching down to get on Jamie’s eyelevel. “When I get my powers back, we’ll go flying again, like last Easter.”

Jamie had almost forgotten about his curiosity, but now it all came rushing back. He returned Jack’s smile, though his grip around his stick tightened. “Can you visit more often then?” he asked.

Jack’s eyes softened and he nodded. “As long as people don’t see a random flying boy in the sky, it should be fine, right?” he said with a grin.

Jamie giggled, but his laugh died when that question reminded him of the fact that Jack was invisible. Or, used to be… Would it be the same when he got his powers back? He looked at Jack and saw that he was studying him, a questioning frown on his face.

“I don’t want you to be invisible,” Jamie blurted.

He regretted saying anything when Jack’s face turned to mild surprise, and then faint sadness, and then to that stupid, soft smile he always got when he tried to hide that sadness. By now he should know that Jamie could see right through it. But the corners of his eyes crinkled too, indicating that there was at least something in Jamie’s words that actually made him genuinely happy.

“I know,” he said, “but I’m fine. I have my believers, don’t I? Thanks to you.” He gently poked Jamie’s chest.

“But my mom doesn’t see you,” Jamie said, like that was Jack’s biggest problem. Maybe it wasn’t, but it was a reoccurring thing that Jack had to move away whenever Joyce was in the room, and… Jamie took a shaky breath. Thinking about his mom wasn’t a good idea. He folded his hands and looked down at them. “She should see you. I don’t wanna pretend you’re not there. It’s wrong.”

Jack gently ruffled Jamie’s hair. “Maybe she’ll see me one day,” he said. “When we get back home.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better,” Jamie said.

Jack’s smile faded a little. “Jamie-“ he started.

“But I mean it,” Jamie said, looking up at him again. “She’ll see you.”

They held each other’s gaze for a few seconds until Jack nodded. He let out a soft chuckle.

“Alright,” he said. “I have no reason not to believe in you, after all you’ve accomplished.”

Jamie smiled brightly at that. Then he sat down beside Jack, and Jack followed his lead. Baby Tooth landed on top of Jack’s head, giving them both a curious look.

“What were you thinking about earlier?” Jamie asked.

Jack didn’t need to ask for him to specify. His eyes narrowed a little as he stared up at the sky.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said during dinner the other day,” he said thoughtfully. “Maybe the Guardians don’t exist yet, but spirits have been around forever. So maybe-“

“The Snow Queen!” Jamie gasped, sitting up to stare at him. “You think she’s real?”

Jack looked back at him, his lips pursed, and his brows furrowed. “I’m not sure,” he said. “But I just feel like I’ve heard about her before. And then the twins say they’re heading north… It has to be fate, right?”

“Are you gonna join them?” Jamie asked. “How? You can’t…” He trailed off, not wanting to rub it in.

Jack hesitated. “Uh… No, but I could ask Hiccup to let me join them,” he said.

“But Hiccup’s father won’t let us ride dragons.”

Jack didn’t answer.

Jamie stared at him.

“You…” he started slowly. He tried going through the days in his head, but he and Jack had been virtually inseparable ever since they got here. With the only exception being when Jamie snuck out in the middle of the night, and then…

Jack smiled guiltily. “It was supposed to be a secret,” he mumbled, scratching his cheek.

Jamie got to his feet. “You rode a dragon?” he exclaimed.

“Shh!” Jack hissed, looking around as if Stoick himself might be lurking behind one of the few trees that were nearby. Only then did Jamie realize that he’d asked the question in Norse. In fact, a lot of conversations he had with Jack these days were in Norse, and he didn’t even think about it. According to Baby Tooth, it was normal to mix the languages up, due the magical way they’d learned Norse. Not that there had been many humans at all blessed with a gift like that, so the consequences were unclear to all of them.

“Who was it?” Jamie whispered, defeating the purpose of whispering by doing it English. He frowned. “Not Barf and Belch?”

Jack laughed. “No,” he said. “Toothless. Hiccup was feeling a little rebellious. Am I bad influence?”

Jamie laughed right back. “Was it fun?” he asked. He decided to leave Jack’s question unanswered.

“It was amazing,” Jack confirmed, bouncing a little where he sat. “That dragon is as fast as a storm. And, yeah, I do wish I could still fly, but there was something especially thrilling about flying and knowing that if I fell off, I would… well, fall.” He paused. “So, I had to try.”

Jamie blinked. “What?”

Jack waved his hand. “Hiccup said Toothless would be able to catch me if I fell,” he said. “So, I fell.”

“That’s insane!” Jamie shouted, and Jack leaned his head back with a loud laugh.

“I know! That’s what Hiccup said too!”

Jamie grinned. But then he remembered what they were talking about. “Wait,” he said. “That still doesn’t mean Hiccup will want to take you with them. It’s a secret, right? If they take you with them, the chief will know.”

“That’s true…” Jack said. He hummed thoughtfully. “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I mean, we’d get into trouble, but this is important. If she’s real, I have to try to find her, and where else would she be than a place with snow?” His words came out faster at the end, like he was getting excited about this idea. He tapped his fingers against his staff. “If the Snow Queen is out there… She might be able to help us.”

“It’s the only lead we have,” Jamie agreed. “We have to try.”

Jack’s expression changed. He looked up at Jamie then slowly started shaking his head. “You can’t come with me,” he said.

Jamie stared at him, his heart sinking in his chest. “What? Yeah, I can!” he protested. “I want to come with you.”

“Jamie, you heard what Ruff and Tuff said.” Jack looked sympathetic but determined. “This is a training drill. It’s gonna be dangerous.”

“But you don’t know anything about dragons either!” Jamie argued. “It’ll be just as dangerous for you! What if something happens and- and…“

Jack placed his hands on Jamie’s shoulders, making him meet his eyes. Despite Jack’s eyes and hair being brown now, it still reminded Jamie of their conversation on the frozen lake last Easter. The colors were different, but the reassuring gaze was the same.

“Nothing will happen,” he said. “I’ll just… stay close to the others. Look around. Maybe I don’t know anything about dragons, but Hiccup does. He’ll… uh, protect me. Yeah?”

Jamie wasn’t entirely convinced. There was a tightness in his throat, and he didn’t completely trust his own voice. It was dumb, crying because of something like this. He was beginning to realize that he was probably more dependent on having Jack beside him than he thought. After all, he was all he had from home.

Jack’s eyes softened. “You’ll still have Baby Tooth,” he said gently.

Jamie shook his head. “She should come with you,” he said, looking up at where Baby Tooth was still perched on Jack’s head. “Right?”

Baby Tooth looked uncertain. She thought about it for a moment, then chirped something. Jack smiled faintly.

“Her job is to protect kids too, you know,” he said.

Jamie sent them both disapproving looks. “You’re on vacation right now,” he said. “And if- if something happens… Baby Tooth can alert the others. Ruff and Tuff, and all the dragons. You need her more than I do.”

Jack looked like he wanted to argue. Baby Tooth tweeted again, and Jack sighed. “Yeah, he does,” he muttered to her. “You’re right, Jamie.”

Jamie wasn’t sure if he wanted to be. He bit the inside of his cheek, looking down. He noticed Jack’s hand twitching. He was hesitating, like he often did when it came to physical touch, but then wrapped his arms around Jamie.

“Hey,” he murmured. “It’ll be fine. It’ll only be a few days, and Gobber will look out for you. And if we’re lucky, I’ll find what we’re looking for.”

“And we’ll go home,” Jamie mumbled against Jack’s cloak.

Jack was smiling softly when he leaned back. “And we’ll go home,” he agreed. Then he frowned. “I only have to convince Hiccup to let me come with them first.”

 

 

“Absolutely not.”

Jack frowned like this answer was surprising to him. “What? Why?” he demanded, following Hiccup towards the arena.

“What do you mean ‘why’?” Hiccup asked back. “There are several reasons. One, you can’t ride a dragon. Two, my dad would kill me, and three, it’s way too dangerous for you! You know nothing about dragons.”

“But you do,” Jack said. “I’ll stick to you-“

“The whole point of the drill is to survive on your own.”

Survive?” Jack said, horrified. “I’m all for risk-taking and stuff, but why would you put yourself in that much danger willingly?”

Hiccup gestured exasperatedly, “The Archipelago can be a dangerous place and we need to be prepared for that,” he said. “And the fact that you’re shocked is just another reason for why you’re not fit to come with us. You can’t just jump into a life-threatening situation if you’re not used to that kind of stuff.”

Jack didn’t look happy about that. “You’ve seen that I can defend myself,” he said, his voice just a tad colder than before.

“With a stick,” Hiccup said.

“It’s not a stick!” Jack snapped.

“A staff, then! It doesn’t matter. Dragons breathe fire, remember?” Hiccup had wanted to point out that Jack’s staff would turn to ashes in a second, but the question reminded him of something else. He sent Jack a look. “Aren’t you afraid of fire?”

Jack faltered. “Wh… No?” he said, but he wasn’t a great liar. When Hiccup raised a brow, Jack sent him a glower. “Any reasonable person would be.”

“Jack,” Hiccup said, putting a hand on Jack’s arm to stop them as they came to the entrance of the arena. He didn’t often see Jack in a bad mood, and he didn’t want to part ways on such a note. “I’d love for you to come with us, but I don’t want to put you in danger. Even if my dad allowed you to join, it’s just too risky. You need more training.”

Jack’s jaw was clenching and unclenching, like there was something he wanted to say, but he was holding it back. He took a deep breath. “Hiccup,” he said. “I have to come.”

They stared at each other.

“No,” Hiccup said. Jack started to protest, but Hiccup walked into the arena.

The others were there already, getting ready to fly.

“Hey!” Jack said, following Hiccup into the arena. “Hiccup, come on. How dangerous can it be? If I just tag along with you guys- Stop ignoring me!”

Hiccup faltered and turned back. Jack opened and closed his mouth, bringing his other hand up to hold around his staff as well. He didn’t say anything, but there was something in his expression that made him look like a kicked puppy. And Hiccup had kicked him.

“Jack,” he sighed. “I’m sorry, but you can’t.”

Astrid and the others were all watching them now. Hiccup shifted uncomfortably, and Jack’s eyes were also flickering around in unease. But then they stopped somewhere, and his brows furrowed. “I… guess you’re right,” he said, looking back at Hiccup. “I mean, if you did something like this, you’d get in serious trouble. The son of the chief, I mean…” He trailed off and gave a laugh. “That’s way too risky. Bringing someone like me to a snowy island. A horrible, absolutely chaotic idea.”

Hiccup stared at him. “What?”

Jack shrugged. “You’re no fun,” he said. Then he turned on his heel and stalked out of the arena.

Astrid looked both worried and amused when Hiccup finally turned to them. “What was that about?” she asked.

Hiccup shook his head, walking over to Toothless. “I’m not sure,” he said. “He never explains anything. But it doesn’t matter. Is everyone packed and ready?”

The group muttered their confirmations, not overly enthusiastic about where they were about to travel. Hiccup climbed onto Toothless’ back, glancing towards the exit of the arena where Jack had disappeared. There was a heavy feeling in his chest, but he shoved it aside. No point in thinking about that now.

“Hey, chin up,” he said, trying to sound cheerful despite his own bad mood. “We have to make a pitstop before we reach our destination. In a few hours…” He patted Toothless’ head, and Toothless crooned contentedly. “…we’ll be back on Dragon’s Edge.”

 

 

To say Hiccup was excited was an understatement. He tried not to fly too far ahead of the others, and he also didn’t want to exhaust Toothless – though Toothless seemed to share his excitement – but it became more and more difficult the closer they got to the Edge. Sure, the trip was long, but they’d flown this distance many times before. Hiccup could enjoy the ride, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t anxious to arrive. He’d missed the Edge.

That’s why his voice cracked a little when he finally spotted the silhouette of the Edge against the afternoon sky. “There!”

Astrid laughed. “Come guys, last stretch!” she called. “Last one to the Edge has to fix dinner!”

That got the party going. Toothless growled and Hiccup changed the gear on his tailfin. They shot forward, quickly leaving the others in the dust.

They landed in the clubhouse to rest up before heading to their huts to unpack. Once Hiccup set foot on the floorboards, he realized that even if it hadn’t been that long since they left this place, it still felt like an eternity. It was weird being here again. He walked to the edge of the floor and looked out over the island and the ocean.

It was as if time had been frozen. Everything looked exactly as they’d left it.

“Strange, huh?” Astrid said, coming to stand beside him.

“Oh yeah,” Hiccup chuckled. “It’s good to be back. Shame it’s only for one day.”

Astrid smiled at him, then yawned and stretched. “I’m starving,” she said. “Who came in last again?”

“Technically it was me,” Jack said.

Wait- what?

Both Hiccup and Astrid whirled around. “Jack?” they exclaimed in chorus.

Jack beamed at them. “Surprise!” he said. “Hey, this place is awesome. Did you guys really live here-“

“Jack, how are you here?” Hiccup demanded. “What is going on?”

“I’m a special boy,” Jack said, twirling his staff in his hand with an elfish smirk on his face.

Hiccup stared at him. “My dad is going to kill me,” he muttered. “Please don’t tell me Jamie is here too.”

“Oh, no, he’s back on Berk,” Jack said. “He knows I’m here.”

“But how are you here?” Astrid asked. “Seriously?”

Jack frowned. “I’m not a snitch.”

Hiccup gritted his teeth, sending Ruffnut and Tuffnut a pointed look. The twins were listening to their conversation, but they suddenly got really interested in checking on Barf and Belch when Hiccup turned to them. He sighed deeply, rubbing his forehead.

“Jack… What are you- I don’t understand why you have to-“

“Don’t think too hard about it,” Jack said dismissively. “Just pretend I’m not even here.”

His pointed gaze lingered a Hiccup a second too long, before he turned and looked at the others, who was just beginning to notice his presence too. Snotlout’s mouth fell open.

“What in Thor’s name are you doing here?”

“Aren’t you getting tired of asking that question?” Jack asked back.

Fishlegs looked perplexed. “Did nobody see him?”

“Ruff, Tuff, you had something to do with this, didn’t you?” Snotlout barked.

The twins hesitated, before they both feigned surprise.

“Woah, Jack? How are you here?” Ruffnut asked dramatically. “What a confounding turn of events!”

“Truly mystifying!” Tuffnut agreed. “He must’ve flown here by himself!”

Hiccup groaned weakly. The twins were definitely going to drive him nuts one day, and the fact that they were getting along so well with Jack was a terrifying thought. He had a feeling this was only the beginning.

Jack sent the twins a smile, before turning back to Hiccup and Astrid. Seeing him in such a good, self-satisfied mood both loosened the knot in Hiccup’s stomach and annoyed him at the same time. Then Jack’s stomach rumbled, and his smile faltered a little.

“Alright,” Hiccup said. “Ruff, Tuff, you came in last, so-“

“Jack came in last,” Ruffnut argued. “Didn’t you hear him?”

Jack shrugged. “It’s true,” he said. “I was on Barf and Belch’s back.”

Hiccup wanted to argue that that didn’t matter, but he knew there was probably no point. Everyone else made themselves look really busy, so it was obvious nobody felt a particularly strong urge to go hunting after flying for a full day. He held back a sigh and turned to Astrid and Jack.

“Alright,” he said, sending Jack an exasperated look. “Consider this your first training session. Do you know how to use a bow?”

 

 

Taking Jack hunting was a bad idea, but Hiccup refused to let him out of his sight. Apparently, Astrid felt the same, because she was glowering at Jack like he’d just slapped her. And it wasn’t because he was bad with a bow.

“Seriously, what kind of life have you been living if the only weapon you learned to fight with was a stick?” Hiccup asked when another arrow disappeared into the woods, completely missing their target: a considerably thick tree trunk that was very hard to miss.

“It’s not a weapon, and it’s not a stick,” Jack said, lowering the bow with a sheepish expression.

“Give me that,” Astrid said, grabbing the bow from him.

Hiccup sent her a look, but knew he’d just have to wait for her temper to sink again. When Jack had refused to give her a proper explanation for why he’d made the twins smuggle him with them, she went almost the entire way back to square one. Until Jack made any sense, he was officially untrustworthy again.

Her feelings weren’t irrational; Hiccup wondered too. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Jack – even if he had good reason to, he just couldn’t make himself consider that the strange boy was anything but good-natured – but his curiosity was beginning to feel like Monstrous Nightmare gel on his skin, threatening to burst into flame at any moment.

“What, you’ve never hunted your own food?” Hiccup asked.

“Uh… I don’t think so,” Jack said slowly. “At least I can’t remember it. I mean, I’ve herded a few sheep, but…”

Astrid snorted. “Convenient how much you can or can’t remember,” she commented.

“Sure is,” Jack replied easily, though his nonchalance seemed forced. Either he was annoyed, or he found Astrid frightening. Maybe a mix of both.

Astrid rolled her eyes and silence settled between them. Hiccup held back a sigh as they ventured deeper into the forest. Astrid’s attention gradually moved away from Jack as she focused on finding their dinner, but Jack’s mind was definitely somewhere far away from here. Hiccup tried listening for the sound of wildlife too – wildlife that preferably weren’t dragons – but it was hard. He couldn’t shift his attention as easily as Astrid could; he was still trying to figure out what kind of motives Jack could possibly have by coming here.

Sabotaging them? He felt bad for considering that possibility so quickly, which said something about how little Jack felt like a threat. He was almost completely convinced Jack was harmless, but it was just so nonsensical for him to defy Hiccup in order to come here, despite being aware of the consequences. He’d said it was important too. What could be so important on an island he’d never even been before?

Unless he had been there before… but that was impossible. No people lived there. There was nothing but snow and wild dragons.

Jack caught Hiccup’s eyes, and Hiccup realized he’d been staring. For a moment, Jack’s expression was blank. Then his brows knitted, and he averted his eyes, like he had trouble keeping his poker face up.

“I, uh…” he started. “I’m sorry if you get into trouble because of this.”

Hiccup tried for a smile. “I think I won’t be the only one,” he said. “You should worry about yourself.”

Jack shrugged. “I get into trouble all the time,” he said.

“That’s not a good thing,” Astrid mumbled.

“I know that,” Jack said. “But I have to be here. I have to find out… I have to find a way home.”

“And you think you’ll find that here?” Astrid asked doubtfully. “Sure. That makes sense.”

“Astrid…” Hiccup murmured, but Astrid ignored him, turning to Jack with a pointed look.

“You’re aware how badly this incriminates you?” she asked.

Jack’s jaw clenched, but he nodded. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “You can distrust me all you want. Keep an eye on me. Whatever you need to do to make yourself feel safe. But staying on Berk doesn’t help me the least. If I travel around… maybe something will make me remember. Because I don’t know what else to do.”

“And you just expect us to believe that?” Astrid demanded.

“No,” Jack said. “And as annoying as that is, your wariness has probably done you good before, but…” He hesitated, then shrugged helplessly. “If my word holds any value, I promise I’d never put you or anyone on Berk in danger. I just wanna go home.”

The tension was palpable. Astrid stared daggers at Jack, and Jack refused to look away – and Hiccup almost didn’t dare look away from them, slightly afraid Astrid would suddenly return to her fifteen year old self’s violent habits of getting her way, but then he noticed something behind Jack: A rustling in some bushes a few meters away.

“There,” he breathed, nodding towards the bushes.

Astrid understood immediately. Without a sound, she aimed an arrow at the bush.

Jack turned around just as the animal emerged from the leaves, revealing a furry face with long, pointy ears. Hiccup wasn’t sure if the rabbit was aware of their presence, but it definitely became aware when Jack suddenly tackled Astrid with a panicked “No!

The arrow went to Thor knows where, and the rabbit sped away in fear. Astrid gave a furious growl.

“What’s wrong with you?” she exploded at Jack. “I had it!”

Jack seemed as surprised by his own actions as Hiccup was. His mouth opened and closed like a fish. “U- Uh- I was just-“ he stammered, quickly backing away when Astrid went up in his face. They were about the same height, but right now, Astrid seemed a lot taller.

“Do you want us to starve tonight, huh? Is that your plan?” Astrid shouted, too angry to consider the holes in that hypothetical scheme.

“No!” Jack protested, holding his hands up in surrender. “I just- It was just a little bunny – you can’t shoot that?”

Astrid shook her head incredulously. “We need to eat, Jackson!”

Jack’s eyebrows twitched, but he didn’t try to correct her. He pressed his lips together. “Not the… I mean- Because, uh… Bunnies…” His accent was a lot more pronounced now that he was struggling with his words – and having Astrid stare at him like she wanted to shoot him instead probably wasn’t helping. “…Bunnies are sacred where I’m from,” he finished in a small voice.

Hiccup and Astrid stared at him.

“What?” Hiccup said. “You never told us that.”

Jack’s stressed expression turned into annoyance for a moment, his brows furrowing, but his gaze wasn’t directed at either of them. It was fixed on some point behind Hiccup, but when Hiccup turned to look, there was nothing there. When he turned back, Jack looked sheepish again.

“It never came up,” he said weakly. “How about we just try to catch some fish instead?”

It was hard to see in the darkness, but his cheeks were definitely red.

Astrid scoffed. She shouldered her bow and trampled back the way they’d come without saying anything. At least she seemed to respect Jack’s wishes not to hunt any rabbits, but Hiccup predicted it would take her a while to forgive him for pushing her.

Jack seemed to think the same, because his face fell a little as he looked after her. He glanced at Hiccup, but quickly averted his eyes. “Sorry… again,” he mumbled. “I swear I don’t mean to cause trouble.”

Maybe it would be wise to be a little sterner with him, but Hiccup found it very hard when Jack looked so dejected. So he sent him a soft smile and shook his head.

“Try not to push people over,” he advised. “That usually makes people appreciate you.”

Jack scoffed quietly but returned his smile. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he murmured.

There was a small pause. Hiccup nodded for them to start walking.

“I was in the mood for fish anyway,” he said. “Rabbit meat is not my favorite.”

Jack shuddered. “Let’s not talk about that,” he said.

Hiccup decided not to ask.

 

The night was dark by the time they finally gathered in the clubhouse to eat their dinner. Jack’s eyes were wide with wonder as he looked at all the structures of the Edge, which made Hiccup’s chest swell with pride, but he tried to not let it show.

Astrid was still miffed, but not as furious as earlier. The twins still pretended they were surprised Jack was here, and nobody bothered to try to tell them that their efforts were in vain. Fishlegs was at least very happy to see Jack, and the two of them struck up a conversation once they got to the clubhouse. Snotlout… Well. His respect for Jack had grown a little bit since that sparring session, but his pride was still wounded.

Jack being there was definitely not planned – maybe except by the twins, and of course, Jack himself – but it didn’t take too long before they got over their surprise and things seemed almost normal. When they’d finished eating, nobody moved from the table, despite the fact that they should get some sleep before the long day tomorrow. Being back on the Edge just felt so good, Hiccup didn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

Some of the dragons were lounged around the room – Meatlug and Barf and Belch – while Stormfly and Hookfang were out flying. Last Hiccup checked, Toothless was lying by his feet and snoring ever so softly, but when he looked down to check on him, he’d disappeared. He found him sitting by the edge of the clubhouse, looking up at the sky were Hookfang was flying past the moon. And beside him, even if he’d just been sitting between the twins, was Jack.

Jack sat crouched down, leaning his weight on his staff. Hiccup couldn’t hear over the others’ chatting, but he saw Jack’s jaw moving, like he was talking to Toothless. Toothless’ head was tilting from side to side, like he was listening closely to what Jack was saying.

A part of Hiccup didn’t want to interrupt. A bigger part of him was curious. And even bigger was the part of him that simply missed Toothless and Jack’s company, even though they’d just been talking together. He definitely wasn’t going to give Jack the satisfaction of admitting that he was excited about him being here with them, but there was no point in lying to himself about it. He stood up and quietly walked over to them.

Jack wasn’t speaking Norse. Which was weird, because Toothless barely understood Norse. At least it always seemed like he did, but maybe he was just good at reading human emotion. The latter suddenly seemed more plausible, because even if Jack was speaking in his native tongue, Toothless seemed to be following.

“You seem to be getting along swimmingly,” Hiccup said, softly as to not startle them.

Somehow, Jack was startled anyway, because his eyes snapped up to Hiccup like he’d forgotten they weren’t alone. But his eyes quickly softened, cheerfulness pouring back into his expression.

“Toothless and I have a lot in common,” he replied as Hiccup sat down.

Hiccup frowned. “Toothless is a dragon,” he said.

“No? You’re kidding.”

Hiccup rolled his eyes and elbowed him, earning a laugh from Jack. “How’d you figure?”

Jack hesitated. He looked back at Toothless, and carefully let his fingers brush over his scales. Toothless made a soft sound, looking at Jack like he was reading his thoughts. “I mean… Toothless is the only Night Fury, right?” he asked.

Hiccup’s smile faded. “Uh, yeah… as far as we know,” he said.

Jack didn’t need to explain how he related to that. Maybe Hiccup didn’t know the details, but he knew Jack had been lonely before. Despite his own curiosity, this wasn’t the place and time, so he didn’t ask.

“But still, he’s not alone,” Jack then said.

“Far from,” Hiccup said with a soft chuckle.

Jack was smiling when he turned back to him. “It’s good that he has you,” he said. “I mean, it’s good that you have each other.”

Hiccup didn’t really know where all of this was coming from, but Jack seemed earnest. He pretended he didn’t notice the bags under Jack’s eyes, nor the heaviness hidden in his cheerful expression. Nodding slowly, he met Toothless’ eyes. They were calm and watchful, and he looked from Hiccup and down to Jack’s hand, which was resting on his knee with the palm up like he was holding something.

He frowned, meeting Jack’s eyes again. “Something on your mind?”

“A whole bunch,” Jack confirmed. He didn’t elaborate. It could be because he didn’t want to, but it was probably because they were interrupted:

Stormfly suddenly dove towards them, with the intention of landing inside the clubhouse. Hiccup was used to this, ducking out of the way out of pure habit. Toothless jumped away too. Jack was obviously not used to it, and Hiccup had to grab his arm and pull him out of the way last second.

Jack gave a yelp as he fell against Hiccup, just as Stormfly soared over them. His staff slipped out of his grip and over the edge.

In retrospect, Hiccup had to congratulate himself on his fast thinking. He hadn’t known Jack for long, but he still instantly knew that if the staff went over the edge, Jack would follow. In the moment, however, Hiccup cursed and grabbed onto Jack as he flung himself way too far over the edge.

“Jack!” Hiccup shouted, in a mix between panic and exasperation.

“I got it!” Jack informed, in a mix between panic and delight.

“Gods, you’re…” He didn’t bother to finish the sentence and hauled Jack back onto the floorboards.

“Are you okay?” came Fishlegs. Hiccup turned to see that they were all watching with stunned expressions.

Right. Hiccup was the only one who knew the extent of Jack’s illogical thinking.

Jack gave them a thumbs up, then laughed as Stormfly came to check on him as well. “I’m okay,” he told her.

Hiccup shared a look with Toothless, who somehow managed to look as exasperated as Hiccup was. Astrid’s brows were knitted tightly together, though she seemed more confused than angry at this point. Hiccup couldn’t blame her.

“I think it’s bedtime,” she announced, getting to her feet. “Anyone else feel like diving to their deaths?” She waited then smiled. It was a slightly vexed smile, but Hiccup was happy to see it nevertheless. “Hiccup, look after him, please.”

“I’m not a kid,” Jack muttered with mock annoyance.

“You’re the youngest here,” Astrid retorted.

Jack opened his mouth but closed it again. For some reason, this was very funny to the twins, who snorted and shared a knowing look, like this was some inside joke. Which it probably was, considering it was the twins.

“I guess it’s your job anyway,” Jack mumbled, sending Hiccup a smirk. “An order which you can now still carry out because I so kindly decided to come with you. Well, halfway – Jamie isn’t here.”

“Hah,” Hiccup said dryly. “You’re funny.”

The others must’ve been discussing going to bed for a little while, because when Astrid climbed onto Stormfly and headed for her old hut, the others were quick to file out as well. Fishlegs buzzed away on Meatlug and the twins said goodnight to Jack before flying off on Barf and Belch. Snotlout had some trouble calling for Hookfang but eventually got his attention by insulting him. Let’s just say Jack had a good laugh at the way Hookfang finally decided to carry Snotlout away.

Jack dried his eyes when his laughter finally faded. The bags under his eyes were nearly invisible when he was grinning like that. He turned back to Hiccup, his eyes still a little watery. One of his brows quirked upwards, and Hiccup became conscious of his own staring. And also, that he was smiling like an idiot, if only because Jack’s laughter was infectious like always.

He averted his eyes and cleared his throat awkwardly. “He’s- Uh… That happens a lot,” he said.

Jack snorted. “Somehow, I’m not surprised,” he said. He tilted his head to the side, attempting to meet Hiccup’s eyes. “Aren’t you going to bed too?”

“I’m babysitting you, aren’t I?”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Right.”

“How about you?” Hiccup asked. “I have no idea how you managed to get here without being seen, but I can’t imagine it was relaxing.”

“It’s been a while since I felt this stiff, yeah,” Jack agreed. “I hid between Ruff and Tuff’s baggage, but I asked them to stay in the back. This-“ He held up his cloak. “-works very well as camouflage. The staff was harder to hide, but I managed.”

Hiccup didn’t want to be impressed, but he was. “So you sat like that for twelve hours?” he asked. “Without being prepared for how long the flight was? I would’ve gone mad, I think.”

“Oh, I’m good at waiting,” Jack said with a slightly dismayed expression. He looked up at the moon. “I mean, even I have my limits, but twelve hours is nothing.”

“Another mysterious answer,” Hiccup commented.

Jack met his eyes. There was a moment, just a fraction of second, where his cheerfulness seemed to falter. Like he wanted to argue, or maybe even like he wanted to explain. But then he smiled again, letting mystery remain a mystery.

Still, the bags under his eyes seemed darker.

“At least I got to fly again,” he mumbled, before sending Toothless a grin. “Though I gotta say I prefer the Night Fury over the Hideous Zippleback.”

Toothless grinned right back, with his teeth retracted as usual, like he knew exactly what Jack had just said. Hiccup had no doubt that he actually did understand.

Hiccup smiled softly. “There’s always tomorrow.”

Jack snapped his eyes back to him hopefully, then smiled cheekily. “You’re not gonna leave me here while you guys head to the training drill?” he asked.

“Maybe I should,” Hiccup retorted.

Jack’s smile was lopsided. It often was, and most often it was filled with mischievous mirth. Right now, it was still definitely amused, but it was softer, calmer. A little like the smile he’d sent Hiccup after he’d defeated him in their sparring match. Hiccup couldn’t put his finger on exactly what made it different, but the difference was there.

The moment was broken when Jack’s brows furrowed, like he’d just realized something.

“Uh, about what you asked earlier,” he said. “If I was going to bed. Thing is, I… don’t really have a bed, do I?”

Oh. Hiccup hadn’t even considered that.

Jack scratched his head. “Astrid probably won’t appreciate my company right now either,” he mumbled. “She’s pretty pissed.”

“She’s not… Well, for a moment she was, maybe,” Hiccup said sheepishly “But that’s alright. In this gang, we get on each other’s nerves all the time.”

“But I’m not exactly a part of your gang, am I?”

Hiccup hesitated. “Uh- Yeah, you are-“ He stopped when Jack raised a brow at him. Hiccup gestured vaguely. “Why not? You’ve been with us for almost a month now.”

Jack didn’t answer. He was clenching and unclenching his hand around his staff, like he was nervous. His silence made Hiccup wonder just how long Jack had been alone. Because if it was one thing Hiccup was familiar with, it was the feeling that he didn’t belong, and looking at Jack was almost like seeing a mirror image of himself back then.

“I’ll just sleep on Toothless,” Hiccup said, earning a grunt from the aforementioned. “You can have my bed.”

“Sleep on Toothless?” Jack laughed.

“Oh, he’s used to it,” Hiccup said, waving his hand.

Toothless huffed and got to his feet. He padded around the two of them and nudged his head against Hiccup’s shoulder, before nodding towards the sky with a low growl. Hiccup raised a brow at him.

“Haven’t you flown enough today?”

Toothless made a disagreeing noise, and Hiccup chuckled.

“I guess not,” he said. He got to his feet and held his hand out to Jack. “If you’re not too tired, how’d you like a tour of Outpost Island?”

“I’ve been sleep deprived for literal ages; a little sleepiness won’t ever stop me,” Jack replied confidently, taking Hiccup’s hand and letting himself get hoisted to his feet. His mood had brightened in a matter of seconds. Good to know.

They put out the torches in the clubhouse, then climbed onto Toothless. Hiccup caught Jack sending his shoes a disgruntled look, but he didn’t take them off this time. He settled down behind Hiccup, and was careful not to hit him in the face with his staff again as he put his arms around his waist.

Jack probably didn’t even think about it, but of course Hiccup couldn’t help thinking about how intimate this was. Once upon a time, back when he’d been crushing on Astrid, having her seated behind him like Jack was now had filled his stomach with butterflies. He’d be lying if he said there weren’t any butterflies this time too. Slightly different butterflies, but butterflies, nonetheless.

Since it was late, Hiccup tried not dragging the time out too much; who knew how long they had until the sun rose? But he swore he could literally feel Jack’s joy radiating off him as soon as they took to the skies, and it seemed to affect both Hiccup and Toothless. Hiccup had trouble forcing himself down to the ground under normal circumstances. With Jack in the picture, it was near impossible.

They flew across the island, and Hiccup pointed to certain places every now and then, telling Jack about the things they’d done while they lived here. He explained how they’d designed the buildings, and what kind of dragons they’d encountered, and how the snowy mountain was actually a volcano that almost destroyed the Edge one time.

They flew over the mountain top. Jack shifted, and for a moment, Hiccup was afraid he was going to jump off again. But he just slipped slightly sideways, grabbing onto Hiccup’s arm to stretch down. Hiccup understood what he was trying to do, and nudged Toothless to fly lower. They sailed just over the top, and Jack barely managed to scoop up a handful of snow.

He didn’t say anything, but he stared at the snow as it melted in his hand with a peculiar expression.

“Do you have snow where you’re from?” Hiccup asked.

Jack huffed. “Yeah,” he said softly. “You could say that.”

Figures. Jack looked at the snow with such a wistful expression, Hiccup could only image how much he missed home.

“There’ll be lots of it tomorrow,” he tried. “If that makes you feel better?”

The snow was mostly just water now, and Jack sighed, letting his hand fall. But there was a soft, though weary, smile on his face. “That does make me feel better,” he said. Then he peered at Hiccup. “You don’t look too thrilled about it, though.”

Hiccup shrugged. “We get enough winter on Berk,” he said. “Don’t particularly feel like chasing after it, but a training drill isn’t supposed to be comfortable.”

“Uh-huh. I take it you don’t like snow, then.”

“I don’t know… I guess it’s alright sometimes. Snoggletog wouldn’t be the same without it.”

Jack gave a laugh. “Snoggletog? What’s that?”

“You don’t know about Snoggletog?” Hiccup turned around to look at him the best he could. “Don’t tell Astrid that. She’s crazy about that holiday.”

Jack blinked. “Holiday?” he repeated. “What do you do?”

“Lots of things,” Hiccup said, looking ahead again. “We build a tree out of planks and decorate it with colorful shields. And then we give each other gifts. Astrid tried to make yaknog a tradition, but it didn’t really… stick.” He paused. “Also, the dragons lay eggs around that time, so after they started living with us, that has also become tradition.”

Jack gave a loud laugh then, which startled Hiccup a little.

“What?” he asked, laughter finding its way into his voice too. He turned to look at Jack again.

It took a few seconds before Jack stopped giggling. “No, it’s just… We have a similar holiday,” he said. “Though eggs are reserved for a different one.”

Hiccup didn’t really understand how that earned such a reaction from Jack, but he just snorted and turned ahead again. “How do you celebrate, then?”

“Oh, you know… Gifts, fancy trees, annoying songs about some guy biting your nose-“

“What?”

“-and lots of food and colors and a guy coming down your, uh… chimney.” Jack’s voice got very quiet at the end, like all the energy suddenly drained out of him. He let out another sigh, bumping his head against Hiccup’s back. It made Hiccup forget all about the worrisome information about some guy coming down people’s chimneys. “My friend North could’ve told you all about it,” Jack mumbled.

Hiccup’s heart sank. “…You miss home?” he asked softly.

Jack didn’t answer. He was quiet for several seconds, and the next sound that came out of him was a shudder, followed by a quiet, annoyed groan. “It’s cold,” he murmured.

The joyous atmosphere from earlier was gone. Jack’s mood tended to waver a little, but this time, Hiccup didn’t think it would brighten again. Maybe it was time to go to sleep.

“Let’s head back, Toothless,” he said.

And then, they flew in silence. It took a couple of minutes, but Jack eventually lifted his head from Hiccup’s back, and loosened his hold around his waist. Creating distance, Hiccup noticed. He didn’t comment on it.

They landed on the platform surrounding Hiccup’s hut. Hiccup was glad to see that nothing had changed. It seemed the Edge had been completely untouched ever since they left. His bed stood in the exact same spot, a little dusted over, but otherwise exactly the same.

“It’s nice here,” Jack commented. “You built all of this yourself?”

“I had help,” Hiccup said. “The six of us. And the dragons, of course.”

Toothless padded over to his own bed, heating the metal slab up like he usually did, which was a little problematic for Hiccup, who wasn’t heat resistant. He guessed he’d just have to wait a bit first. It was cold – colder than when they’d left the Edge a few weeks ago – but lying on glowing hot metal was a little over the top.

Jack was standing stiffly. His lower lip was quivering, but he didn’t put his arms around himself like any other person would do when freezing. Hiccup was cold too, but he’d brought his best blanket. It was thick and furry, warm and huge and- …and the only blanket.

Clearly, this realization must’ve shown on his face, because Jack raised a brow at him.

“Did you bring your own stuff?” Hiccup asked.

Jack looked up at his staff. “I brought all my stuff,” he admitted.

Hiccup pressed his lips together. “Okay…” he said slowly. “Uh, well. You should take this, then.” He pulled the blanket out of his bag, holding it out to Jack.

Realization dawned on Jack’s face too. “Oh. No, you take it,” he said with an easy smile. “I’m fine.”

“Your teeth are clattering.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Uh, they clearly are.”

“I’m not cold.”

“Jack.” Hiccup gestured at his shivering form. “You’re a horrible liar.”

Jack looked uncomfortable. “You’re cold too,” he argued.

“Well, I’m used to the cold,” Hiccup said.

“So am-“ Jack started, but stopped himself. He shook his head. “It’s your blanket. I decided to come here even after you said no, so- Hey!”

Hiccup threw the blanket at him, and Jack had fast enough reflexes to catch it. Hiccup did not have fast enough reflexes to catch it when Jack threw it back at him. The blanket draped itself heavily over his head.

“Jack…” he grumbled, his voice muffled by the blanket.

Jack laughed. Which was good to hear but didn’t help his cause. Hiccup pulled the blanket off himself.

“Take the blanket, Jack,” he said, unable to keep himself from smiling.

“You can’t force me,” Jack replied.

There was a tense pause. Then Hiccup attempted to drape the blanket over Jack, but Jack just jumped out of the way, laughing harder. Toothless briefly looked up, huffed exasperatedly then closed his eyes again. Hiccup tried again. Jack dodged him just like he’d done while they were sparring, and kept backing away, making Hiccup chase after him like an idiot. It felt extremely silly, but though Hiccup’s face was burning with embarrassment, he couldn’t help but laugh too.

“Would you stop?” he finally pleaded.

“Absolutely no- Wah!

Jack did stop, but only because he tripped over a stool. He almost managed to catch himself by simply sitting down on it, but he had too much momentum, and the stool toppled over. Once Hiccup saw that he was okay, he smiled triumphantly and dropped the blanket on him. Jack’s form shook with silent laughter underneath it.

“You’re the most stubborn person I’ve ever met,” Hiccup told him. “Sure you’re not from Berk?”

Jack pulled the blanket off and sat up. “Pretty sure,” he said. He didn’t get up immediately, and just smiled at Hiccup. His cheeks were slightly flushed; if he’d been cold before, he definitely wasn’t anymore.

This was a much better look for him. Not the “falling on the floor”-part, but the “smiling like he could barely contain his laughter”-part. Especially when that smile was there because of Hiccup.

Hiccup offered him a hand and helped him up. He almost thought their playfight was over, but then Jack pressed the blanket against his chest. Hiccup sent him an exasperated look.

“I’m not gonna steal your blanket,” Jack said, in a way that made it very clear he wasn’t going to budge.

“You’re not stealing it, I’m giving it to you,” Hiccup said. “It’s called hospitality.”

Jack narrowed his eyes. “Fine,” he said, and Hiccup thought he’d won, but then: “We’ll share.”

Hiccup couldn’t say he hadn’t considered that option, but he’d been too shy to propose it. Jack had told him before he didn’t mind being close to others, but it was a little hard to believe when Jack would jump and flinch and look generally surprised when Hiccup even put a hand on his shoulder.

“Are you sure you’re okay with that?” Hiccup asked slowly.

Jack shrugged. “Jamie likes to sleep next to me sometimes,” he said. “And Astrid’s benches are even narrower than that bed.” He paused, then sent Hiccup a crooked smile. “Are you okay with that?”

What was up with that smile?

“Of course,” Hiccup said, only hesitating for a little too long. “I mean… sure. Makes sense.” He nodded.

Jack nodded back. “Alright,” he said, then walked past him, completely nonchalant. He kicked off his shoes, and Hiccup didn’t even bother telling him that he usually slept with his shoes on to keep warm.

He wasn’t sure if he imagined it or if it really was awkward. Hiccup sealed the entrance then headed back to bed, where Jack was sitting, twirling his staff in his hand. When Hiccup came over, Jack tried leaning the staff against the bed, but it almost fell over. Jack pursed his lips, then put it on the ground with dismay.

Hiccup couldn’t help himself.

“What is that staff?” he asked.

Jack sent him half a look, but quickly turned his eyes back to the staff. “I already told you I don’t know what kind of wood it is,” he said, but it sounded more like a question than an answer, like he already knew that wasn’t what Hiccup meant.

Hiccup sat down on the bed and started draping the blanket over himself. If he kept the conversation going, maybe it wouldn’t be so awkward.

“Yes, but… why is it so important?” he tried again. “I mean, I know you don’t like it when people call it ‘useless’ or ‘just a stick’…” He frowned. “Or even a weapon, even if you do use it as such, if you have to.”

Jack had a thoughtful look on his face. At least he didn’t look offended by Hiccup’s questions.

“If I have to,” he repeated, slowly shifting to lay down as well. “It’s… It has a long history.”

A long history behind a staff that looked like it could break any moment? Hiccup found it hard to believe, even if he’d seen how surprisingly sturdy it was. The way Jack spoke about it made it seem like it was a precious sword, like a family heirloom.

Hiccup lay down and draped the blanket over the both of them, trying to seem casual about it. It was easy until he met Jack’s eyes. A sheepish smile forced itself onto his face, and Jack let out a soft chuckle. So it wasn’t just Hiccup; Jack found this at least a little awkward too. Or maybe Hiccup was making it awkward. Why was he such an awkward person?

“What kind of history?” Hiccup prompted.

Jack’s eyes shifted for a moment. “It saved, uh… s- someone I cared about.”

The stutter didn’t pass by unnoticed. It didn’t sound like Jack was nervous. More like whoever that someone was, Jack wasn’t sure how to refer to them. But thinking about it obviously made him sad, so Hiccup decided he didn’t want to pry. There was just one thing…

“Cared?” he repeated. Again with the past tense.

Jack nodded. “She’s gone now,” he said, his brows furrowing, almost like he was confused. “But I saved her, back then. It was a long time ago, but the staff is all I have left of her.” His voice got so quiet it was almost a whisper by the end of his sentence.

Hiccup swallowed. How many people had Jack lost?

“I’m sorry,” Hiccup said, and tentatively put a hand over Jack’s, since it was already so close.

Jack’s hand twitched slightly at the touch, but Hiccup had expected it. He was starting to realize that Jack usually only reacted like that when he was lost in thought. But he didn’t move his hand away, and a faint smile appeared on his lips as his eyes shifted to where he’d see their hands if they hadn’t been covered by the blanket.

“It’s okay,” he said, and though his voice was heavy, he sounded genuine. “Life isn’t fair and sometimes you just gotta make the most out of it. Everything I’ve done has led me where I am right now, and…” He seemed to struggle with his words, then let out a slightly shaky breath. “…good things come out of even the direst moments, I guess.”

Hiccup studied him. His expressive brows, and the dark circles under his eyes. Now that they were close, he could see faint freckles on his cheeks, and even hints of wrinkles around his eyes. Crow’s feet, but also worry lines. Jack smiled a lot – that much was obvious – but it was clear there was a lot more hiding under that cheerfulness. It was less obvious, but Hiccup had been aware of it for a while now. He just didn’t know how to approach it. He didn’t even know if there was any way he could help, especially when Jack kept being so secretive.

But Jack was an orphan. Maybe his dad was alive somewhere, but he’d never known him, and his mother had passed… which left Jack in charge of Jamie. Maybe it wasn’t so weird that he had worry lines at such a young age. And now it seemed like their mom wasn’t the only person they’d lost.

If everything Jack had told him was true, it wasn’t really that weird that he’d do something as reckless as coming with them on this trip. After almost a month, one would start to get desperate.

“Do you think your friends are looking for you and Jamie?” Hiccup asked. “Maybe they’ll find you, instead of the other way around?”

Jack’s jaw clenched nervously. “Maybe,” he murmured, but didn’t sound at all convinced. His brows furrowed, and he closed his eyes. His words came out hastier. “Either- Either way, I have to find a way, and fast… I… I have to get him home. I have to-” He stopped talking when Hiccup squeezed his hand.

Hiccup hadn’t really meant to squeeze it. He’d just done it automatically when Jack started working himself up.

Jack opened his eyes and stared blankly, like he hadn’t noticed how frantic he’d been beginning to sound. Then he nodded weakly and let out a shaky breath, closing his eyes again. He was quiet for a few seconds, but his jaw kept clenching, like he wanted to say something more. Nothing made it out.

He lay still for so long, Hiccup almost thought he’d fallen asleep when he softly murmured:

“I’m scared I messed up for good this time.”

Jack didn’t open his eyes, and Hiccup thought he could guess why when he saw the way Jack’s lips were pressed tightly together. Hiccup held back a shaky sigh. He decided to take a risk by scooting forward and wrapping an arm around Jack, squeezing him in a way he hoped was reassuring. Jack let out a surprised breath. It was almost soundless, but Hiccup still heard it as clear as day in the silent hut.

Was this too much? Hiccup was about to apologize and pull away again, but then Jack relaxed and let out a shaky breath.

“We’ll find a way,” Hiccup murmured. “I promise. For now, just try to get some rest.”

Maybe the words were empty. Hiccup knew they had no clues whatsoever on how to get Jack and Jamie home. But it didn’t matter… They’d faced impossible challenges before, and they’d conquered them all. They could conquer this.

Hiccup had thought Jack was shivering because he was overwhelmed, but he realized it was probably because he was cold. So when Jack shifted a bit closer, and his hair tickled Hiccup’s jaw, none of them said anything. And if Jack noticed Hiccup’s nervous heartbeat, he didn’t mention that either.

Chapter Text

Jamie had had a long day.

It started with Jack and Baby Tooth saying goodbye early in the morning. Jamie understood why he couldn’t come with them – both for his own safety and because Hiccup would definitely refuse to let Jamie tag along – but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel bitter and nervous about being left behind.

Jack knew that. He was visibly upset, even though he tried to act optimistic. Not only did he feel bad because Jamie was unhappy, he was also worried about leaving him alone in the first place, especially since Baby Tooth was joining Jack on this little quest instead of watching over Jamie. But he promised they wouldn’t be long, and that Jamie would be just fine on his own – as long as he didn’t take any more night walks in the woods.

And Jamie put on a brave face too, because Jack had a mission ahead of him that needed all his focus. Jamie had been the center of his attention long enough. So he hugged Jack goodbye and let Baby Tooth gently press her cheek against his forehead, before they both hurried out of the hut to catch up with Hiccup and the others before they left.

And then Jamie was alone.

Gobber had asked him where Jack was when he got to the forge, and Jamie had replied stiffly that he didn’t know. He got the feeling Gobber knew he was lying, but he didn’t press the subject. Instead, he’d offered Jamie a piece of his breakfast – bread as hard as rocks and some dry meat – which Jamie had learned to accept gratefully, because there was no such thing as gourmet on Berk.

He got to work, and the day slowly went by. Gobber took care of the customers, and Jamie even got to watch him fix some Deadly Nadder’s tooth. He also studied some of Hiccup’s old designs, but it was hard to understand since he couldn’t read runes. Baby Tooth’s magic didn’t cover written language, apparently.

As the day went on, Gobber got too busy to pay Jamie any attention, and Jamie got too tired to do any proper work. Instead, he found a nearly empty table, some coal and a piece of paper, and started doodling.

While the day sagged on painfully slow, dinner somehow still approached at an alarming speed. Without Jack or Astrid or any of the others, Jamie didn’t know if he had the guts to go in there. Any other time, he’d just stick with Jack and his friends, and if the other kids came by, he could just pretend to be in deep conversation with Jack.

Jack, of course, saw right through Jamie and knew exactly what he was doing, but he always entertained him anyway. If the same had happened with Jamie’s mom, she would’ve forced him to go play with the other kids, so he was really grateful that Jack didn’t.  But now…

“Stupid,” he mumbled to himself, absently sketching out the outline of the Easter Bunny. “We defeat the Nightmare King but this is too scary? Though I guess Vikings were supposedly pretty terrifying. But not these Vikings.  Or…” He scratched his cheek. The wounds from his fall were almost completely faded now. He shook his head. “No. Dinner versus Pitch? No contest. Right, Baby…”

He looked up, only to remember that his nearly ever-present company was no longer present. His heart sank.

“Right,” he mumbled, looking back down at the drawing. “I’m talking to myself.”

“You do that a lot.”

Jamie broke the coal piece in half. He whipped around to find Brant standing beside him, and when their eyes met, Brant took a surprised step back.

“Sorry,” he quickly said. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”

Jamie’s heart was pounding – he hadn’t noticed he’d spoken in Norse – but he forced his expression into a neutral one. “You didn’t. I mean, it’s alright,” he said with a slightly nervous laugh. He rolled one half of the coal piece idly back and forth on the table. “What’s… up?”

“I thought I saw Jack flying on the back of Ruffnut and Tuffnut’s dragon this morning,” he said. “I’m not sure, but who else could it have been? It didn’t look very safe, so I figured you weren’t with him.”

Jamie wasn’t sure if he should act surprised or not. He decided he wasn’t a good liar anyway and dropped the act. “Oh… Yeah. Jack wanted to go with Hiccup and the others. I guess…” He frowned but then smiled laughingly. “Hiccup refused, so he snuck with them anyway?”

Brant looked confused but he still laughed. “Why?”

“Uh… Dunno. Dragons?” Jamie offered stiffly.

“Okay…” Brant said slowly. “That’s definitely suspicious. You’re not a very good liar.”

Jamie wanted to say that he already knew that, but he kept his mouth shut.

“But whatever,” Brant continued. “I don’t really understand you guys, but you seem okay. I won’t, um… try to make you talk again.” He fidgeted with the hem of his tunic, a slight frown on his face.

“…Thanks,” Jamie said after a moment.

“So will you stop avoiding us already?”

Oh no. Jamie averted his eyes. “I’m not… avoiding you,” he tried weakly.

“Uh-huh,” Brant said dryly. He studied Jamie for a few seconds before he let out a soft sigh. “Uh… Undis and Hildur can be a pretty… overbearing duo.”

Jamie didn’t confirm nor deny the claim. At least not out loud.

“Also, I guess we’ve all been kinda…” Brant continued slowly, like it pained him. “…difficult?”

“Are you trying to apologize?” Jamie asked, finally looking back at him again.

Brant shrugged. “Have been for a while. But you were always conveniently busy with Jack. I had to take this chance while I had it.”

Jamie chewed the inside of his cheek. “He’s not gonna be gone for long,” he said.

“Is that, like, a threat or something?” Brant asked with a slightly amused smile. “He doesn’t need to protect you from us.” There was laughter in his voice, but when Jamie’s cheeks got warm, he seemed to regret that. He faltered. “I mean… Look. Hildur is scary. She thinks she’s this super mysterious, all-knowing trickster or whatever, but she’s not out to get you.”

“She?” Jamie said.

Brant blinked. “…Yeah?” he said, smiling slowly. “Hildur is a girl. Didn’t you know?”

Jamie didn’t answer. He started sketching again just have something to do with his hands. It didn’t help; the air just felt more awkward.

Brant came closer to the table after a few very long seconds.

“What’s that? A rabbit?”

Jamie wanted to slap himself. Was this supposed to be classified or something? Maybe not… Hiccup had mentioned something about Jack’s friend Sandy at one point, so obviously Jack had talked about the other Guardians to him. What he’d said exactly, Jamie didn’t know. Probably not that one of his friends was a six-foot-tall talking rabbit with an affinity for colorful eggs.

“Um… Yeah.”

“Why is it so big?”

“I don’t know. I was surprised too.”

Brant smiled uncertainly. “Surprised?”

Jamie looked up for help, but then realized again that Baby Tooth wasn’t there. He glanced briefly at Brant and then stared down at the drawing as the gears in his head turned to come up with some sensible story.

“I mean… He’s the biggest bunny I ever saw,” he mumbled weakly.

“He- You’ve seen it in real life?” Brant asked. “That’s a real rabbit?”

Jamie had to smile a little at that. “Yeah, he’s real.”

“Do you have many rabbits like that where you come from?”

“He’s the only one, as far as I know.”

“Wow… You don’t have dragons, but you have giant rabbits,” Brant muttered, before pointing to another doodle. “What’s that?”

“My dog, Abbey,” Jamie replied with a small laugh.

Brant knitted his brows. “Weird dog,” he commented. “And who’s that?”

“Santa- Uh… North. Jack’s friend. That’s a reindeer. And that’s…” He hesitated. It was a doodle of Jack, but it showed him hovering in the air, shooting ice out of his staff. “…Jokul Frosti.”

That’s Jokul Frosti?” Brant asked. “Isn’t that Jack?”

Jamie smiled uncertainly. “What?”

“That’s Jack staff, isn’t it?”

“Oh… It’s similar, I guess.”

Brant seemed to be weighing his words. “Jamie… “ he started slowly. “Jack wasn’t the one who told you about Jokul Frosti, was he?”

Jamie put down the coal piece and turned fully to Brant. “If you’re going to suggest Jack came up with the story, you can spare yourself the trouble,” he told him. “That’s not true.”

“But it even looks like Jack,” Brant argued.

“Yeah, well…” Jamie gestured vaguely. “It doesn’t matter. I know what I’ve seen, and I’ve seen Jokul Frosti.”

“Maybe Jack dressed up.”

“Dressing up won’t give you magic powers, Brant.” Jamie crossed his arms. “Jack isn’t Jokul- I mean…” He shook his head, and Brant raised a brow. Jamie wasn’t sure how much he should tell him, but he also didn’t want to lie. Jack was Jokul Frosti, but not in the way Brant suspected. “Listen,” he said, looking intently into Brant’s eyes. “You haven’t seen what I’ve seen, and I don’t have any way to prove it, but magic is real, Brant. That’s why Jack went with the others. He’s trying to find the Snow Queen.”

Maybe that was too much. Brant looked at him like he’d just revealed he was from the future.

“We never should’ve told you about that,” he mumbled.

Jamie held back a groan. “Brant, I’m telling you!” he insisted, his voice rising in pitch. “I don’t know if the Snow Queen is real, but if you’d seen what I’ve seen, you’d know it’s not as impossible as it sounds!”

“What you’ve seen?” Brant repeated warily. “You know, a whole bunch of people still thinks you’re crazy, so you might’ve seen a lot of things that-“

Jamie ran a hand over his face. “I’m not hallucinating,” he said starkly. “I’m not crazy. Neither is Jack.”

“Even if the Snow Queen was real, why would Jack want to find her?” Brant asked.

“Because she might-“ Jamie started, but cut himself off. He hesitated. “There’s- There’s some weird stuff going on, right? I mean, how did we get here? Maybe it really was a- a curse or something. Maybe she knows something about it. We did appear in a blizzard after all.”

Brant looked at him for a long time. He still looked dubious, but the fact that he was even letting Jamie speak about this was at least a small step forward. Also, there was a kind of curiousness in his eyes that hadn’t been there before, like he was letting himself believe that maybe Jamie wasn’t as crazy as a bunch of the villagers seemed to think. At least that’s what Jamie hoped.

“What about Pitch?”

Jamie’s heart skipped a beat. “What?” he said, his voice breaking a little.

“You said something about Pitch,” he said. “Dinner versus Pitch, no contest. What’s a Pitch?”

It took a few seconds before Jamie found his voice again, and then he let out a relieved laugh. “Oh, right,” he muttered. He’d been speaking Norse and Brant had overheard him, of course. Pitch wasn’t a known legend on Berk. Hopefully, he didn’t even exist yet. “Uh… no one, really. Just a bad dream.”

Brant was giving him a long look again, and Jamie was afraid he was going to press the subject. Not that Pitch deserved any pity, but Jamie didn’t want to be forced to lie and say that he wasn’t real. Pitch – whatever had happened to him after Easter – was very real, and as a principle, Jamie didn’t want to deny that.

Instead, Brant came up with an almost equally as scary question:

“Do you wanna sit with me during dinner today?”

Jamie guessed his poker face wasn’t doing him any favors, because Brant smiled apologetically.

“Like I said, Hildur isn’t as scary as she seems. Neither is Undis,” he said. “They’re just brash and really, uh… curious. But really, you’re cool, Jamie. I can try to, um… rein them in for you.”

Jamie didn’t know what to say to that.

“And Undis hopes you’re not angry because we- I mean, because of the boar-incident.” Brant scratched his cheek awkwardly.

“Angry?” Jamie repeated with a frown. Was he angry? He thought about it for a few seconds before shaking his head. “A little exasperated, maybe, but…”

Brant looked amused again. “You’re not angry about that, but you’re angry when I try to tell you the Snow Queen isn’t real?”

Jamie did roll his eyes this time. “What happened in the woods sucked, but it was an accident,” he said. “But you won’t believe me when I’m telling the truth, and that’s annoying. I’ve seen things. I mean it! Like, he made it snow in my room!”

“Maybe you were asleep,” Brant suggested.

“No!” Jamie protested fiercely. “Brant. I am not lying. I’m not seeing things, I’m not crazy. You have to believe me!”

Brant pressed his lips together. He glanced out of the workshop, where people were heading for dinner. “Say… you are telling the truth,” he said slowly. “What exactly have you seen?”

Jamie felt a smile spread on his lips. He grabbed Brant’s arm and tugged him along. “I’ll sit with you at dinner,” he said. “And I’ll tell you all about it.”

 

 

If Hiccup thought Jack was quick to fall asleep, he was sorely mistaken.

That’s what it seemed, at least. Hiccup’s heart was beating fiercely in comparison to his otherwise calm attitude. Judging by how easily he’d decided to put his arm around Jack, Jack almost thought it was second nature to him. But Jack’s arms were pinned between his own chest and Hiccup’s, and he could feel Hiccup’s heart pound wildly against them. Hiccup was more nervous about this than he let on.

Which, in turn, made Jack nervous. It was stupid, because Jack was the one who’d suggested sharing the bed in the first place. Hiccup had seemed shy about it, which had almost made Jack take the suggestion back, but then he agreed after all – so Jack was in no way prepared for this.

Still, that wasn’t reason enough for Jack’s inability to relax right now. It had been almost a month since he became visible again, and though people touching him still sometimes surprised him – a few weeks couldn’t erase 300 years that easily after all – he’d grown relatively used to it. This shouldn’t be any different, because like he’d said to Hiccup earlier, he did sometimes share his bed with Jamie. Just like this.

Well… almost like this. Jack always held Jamie, whenever Jamie needed that extra comfort. Jack was used to care for him, but he guessed he wasn’t used to being cared for by someone else? Even if he had been cared for by North and Bunny when he was sick, but that was North and Bunny, and neither of them had offered to do something like this.

Jack probably would’ve frozen them both if they tried.

He wanted to shake his head to rid himself of that image, but he didn’t dare move a muscle. He forced his breathing to even out, like he was asleep. Hiccup’s heart was still beating fast, but not as fast as before. Minutes went by, and gradually, the beat became slow and steady, and Hiccup’s breathing became soft and almost soundless.

Jack opened his eyes. It didn’t do much: The room was almost pitch black – he’d never be able to use that phrase the same way again, would he? – aside from a few moonbeams shining through the entry. All Jack could see was the faint picture of Hiccup’s Adam’s apple.

Close. Too close. Which was Jack’s own fault – he’d scooted closer. Why had he done that?

He’d been cold.

No, it wasn’t that. Alright, he had been cold, even if he liked to deny it, but if he was to be completely honest with himself, that wasn’t the only reason.

Hiccup had put his arm around Jack. It had surprised him, both because he didn’t expect such a gesture from Hiccup, and because of his usual amazement over the fact that Hiccup wasn’t passing through him.

In the midst of his dark thoughts, that gesture had stopped his mind from spiraling – it made it seem a little less like the world was ending around him – and suddenly he understood a lot better why Jamie sometimes asked if he could sleep beside Jack. It didn’t solve any problems, but it still relieved the pain a little bit, to just…

To just be close to another person. In all of his 300 years as Jack Frost, Jack had never truly come to terms with the fact that he was invisible. He was always lonely. Always looking for answers, because he was too afraid to wonder if being invisible was what he was meant to be forever. All that time, he thought he knew exactly what the thing he yearned for felt like. Even if he didn’t remember anything from his past life, one didn’t just forget the feeling of hugging someone.

So why did this feel so different?

And what did it feel like, exactly?

First off, he wasn’t cold anymore. The blanket was as warm as it looked, and Hiccup radiated heat as well. It was different with Jamie, because Jamie was so small. Now, Jack was the smaller one, and he felt almost too warm.

There was the faint sensation of Hiccup’s breath against Jack’s hair. It was barely there, but Jack noticed it anyway, like his senses were sharpened. Maybe since he couldn’t see very well in the dark, he had to rely on his other senses.

Which was why he also was keenly aware of the weight of Hiccup’s arm around him, his heartbeat and… Jack guessed he’d never really had the occasion to notice before, but Hiccup had a distinct smell too. Right now, he smelled like leather and faintly like fish – Jack didn’t doubt he also smelled like fish, thanks to their dinner – as well as a smell that reminded Jack of the forge. And he smelled like dragons. Maybe even Toothless in particular, but Jack couldn’t be sure. He just knew that dragons had a distinct smell, different from any other animal he’d ever encountered.

Hiccup twitched slightly in his sleep, his breathing catching for a moment. Jack wondered if he was dreaming, and if so, what he was dreaming about. Hopefully something good.

He was afraid too move, but his curiosity got the best of him. As carefully as he could, he tilted his head back, just enough to see Hiccup’s face. Again, it was hard to see much, but the dim moonlight was just enough.

Hiccup’s head rested on his left arm, squishing his cheek. His freckles and moles were hard to see in the dark, but Jack knew they were there. The scar on his chin too. Hiccup’s brows were furrowed, even in his sleep, and they seemed bushier up close. His lips were parted slightly, yet he only breathed through his nose. Jack hadn’t given it much thought before, but Hiccup’s nose was really… round. Slightly big in comparison to his other features. Jack wondered if that was something Hiccup was self-conscious about. He shouldn’t be; it was a good nose.

Hiccup’s brows furrowed again, and Jack remembered that if Hiccup woke up right now, Jack would be a hundred percent visible, and staring at people was generally frowned upon. Visibility did have its downsides.

Carefully, he lowered his head again, back to the way he’d been lying before. He allowed himself to shift a little, just so he could lean his head into the crook of Hiccup’s neck. It felt almost unlawful, but it was hard to think about consequences in the dead of night. The feeling was just so unfamiliar, and Jack had never prided himself on being able to resist temptations.

Besides, maybe it wasn’t so bad… Hiccup had put his arm around him in the first place. Jack might be an unparalleled case of touch-starved, but that didn’t mean Hiccup didn’t also like the intimacy.

It was close. Too close, but not close enough. A good kind of too close. Unfamiliar, warm, fuzzy… safe. A kind of close that Jack realized he thought he’d never get the chance to know.

He also realized he was smiling. Despite everything, being Jackson Overland again wasn’t all bad.

 

 

It started to rain, and the sound finally lulled Jack to sleep. Despite how much he felt he’d calmed down thanks to Hiccup, his unconscious mind was apparently not ready to let go of that evening’s reminiscing.

The ice was biting cold against his bare feet. His skates lay beside him, removed in hopes that he might be able to balance his weight – hope thinner than the ice creating spiderwebs beneath him.  There was a sort of thumping, like the air itself was pulsating, each beat bringing him closer to the end Jack already knew was coming.

But he kept calm, his eyes trained on his sister with a gentle smile, like there was still a chance for him too this time. And even if it wasn’t, he could still save her, once again.

He knew the scene. She calls his name. She’s scared. But she’s going to be alright. They play hopscotch, like they do every day.

But something was different this time. Jack noticed even before his hand went to grab the unassuming staff waiting for him on the ice. His fingers grazed the ice, searching for something that wasn’t there.

He looked down. The staff was gone. He looked up again.

Jamie was standing in Emily’s place, like he’d been there the entire time. He shared Emily’s desperate look, but there was something else there too.

Accusation.

“You have to use your powers, Jack,” he said, his voice thin and wavering. “It’s gonna break if you don’t freeze it.”

Jack felt as if he’d already fallen through the ice, cold spreading through his body, seeping into his flesh and bones like a thousand knives. The pounding got louder.

“My staff is gone,” he managed to reply, but his voice was weak. “I don’t have my powers. I can’t freeze it. But- But we’re gonna be fine. We’re-“

The ice made a rumbling sound as the spiderwebs grew. The sound was deafening.

“You have to try!” Jamie insisted. “We’ll die, Jack!”

Jack shook his head. “No- No,” he stammered. He carefully stepped forward and extended his arm. “I’m not Jack Frost anymore. Just reach for my hand.”

Jamie – or was it Emily now? – tried moving forward. The ice groaned and rumbled. It sounded more like a nightmarish monster than fractures in the ice. Emily gasped, her eyes flickering between the cracks and Jack. Her hand was trembling.

Just a little bit further. Their hands were almost touching. He’d switch their positions again. It wouldn’t end well for him, but that was fine. He could no longer tell whether it was Jamie or Emily staring back at him, but it didn’t matter: He’d save them. He had to.

But without his staff, he was too late. The ice couldn’t hold their weight. The last thing he saw were those brown eyes, staring at him like they still didn’t understand what was happening, like Jack would still find a way to save them.

The ice tremored, and the cold and dark enveloped them both.

Jack opened his mouth to yell, but water flowed into his lungs. It was too dark to see. He tried to flail blindly through the dark, but he couldn’t move. The water held him in place like chains. All he could hear were those drums, reverberating through his bones.

And then, a voice.

“Jack! It’s okay! It’s okay, it’s-“

Jack thought he gasped. His eyes shot open and he stopped struggling, coming face to face with a very distressed Hiccup. Then he realized why his dream-self had been paralyzed: Hiccup was pinning him to the bed.

“What- What are you doing?” Jack demanded, snappier than he’d intended.

Hiccup quickly let go, like Jack had burned him, and Jack immediately regretted opening his mouth.

“You were thrashing around,” he explained weakly, holding his hands up like he was surrendering.  “I tried to wake you, but-“

He was cut off when thunder boomed piercingly outside the hut. Jack jumped up into a sitting position as if to protect himself, but only succeeded in knocking his head painfully against Hiccup’s. They both groaned.

The thunder continued for several seconds, and Jack realized why the ice cracking in his dream had been so loud. And the thumping… He brought a hand to his chest. A shudder went through his body. Right… It was beating. It had been for a month now, and still it felt unfamiliar. At least right now, with his mind halfway convinced he had died again.

He looked down at the floor. His staff was where he’d left it. Then his eyes drifted over to Toothless, who was looking at him curiously. Baby Tooth sat on his head, and she chirped softly when Jack met her eyes, wondering if he was okay.

Hiccup was rubbing his forehead when Jack turned back to him, but his eyes were still on Jack, looking like he wanted to ask the same question.

Did he really look that shaken? If he looked the same as he felt, maybe he shouldn’t be so surprised.

“Sorry,” he said belatedly, bringing a hand up to his own forehead.

Hiccup tried for a smile. “It’s okay,” he said, before his expression softened again. “Nightmare?”

Jack nodded. He shuddered again and he realized the blanket was missing. Hiccup seemed to read his expression, because he turned away and reached over the edge of the bed, picking the blanket off the floor. He gave it to Jack. This time, Jack took it without complaint.

“I didn’t know this about myself, but I’m, apparently, a blanket hoarder,” Hiccup said, slightly apologetic. “Guess there’s always new things to learn about yourself.”

A quiet laugh made it out of Jack. His voice was hoarse with sleep. He didn’t sound like himself.

Hiccup smiled awkwardly. “Sorry.”

It was hard to tell in the dark, but he seemed slightly embarrassed. For what, Jack wasn’t sure. It wasn’t Hiccup who’d been flailing around in his sleep.

“It’s okay,” Jack mumbled. He pulled the blanket tighter around himself as another shudder went through his body. At least his heart had started to calm down again, but his breath was still shaky. “Sorry to wake you.”

“Thunderstorm woke me first,” Hiccup said. He glanced at the entrance, which was shuddering from the force of the wind, and let out a weary sigh. “Something tells me we’re not going to take to the sky for a while. At least until the thundering stops… and hopefully the wind won’t be as strong…”

Jack thought about Emily and Jamie in his dream. How they’d been interchanging seamlessly. What did that mean? Jack already had a theory, but he didn’t like to think about it… It would’ve been unfair to both Jamie and Emily. Emily, who could never be replaced, no matter how much Jack loved Jamie. And Jamie, who was his own person, who’d done unbelievable things for Jack and the Guardians – and all the children of the world, for that matter – and was so much more than just a lookalike of Jack’s sister.

But they really did look alike, didn’t they? Like when Jack had seen Jamie in his new Berkian outfit for the first time… It felt as if he was seeing her again. Not just in a dream, but right in front of his face. But Jamie wasn’t Emily. He knew that.

At least he hoped he knew that.

A hand placed itself on Jack’s arm. The touch was gentle, but it pulled Jack out of his thoughts. He looked up to see Hiccup’s green eyes on him again. He raised his brows as if he was waiting for an answer.

Jack blinked. “What?”

“Um… I asked if you were really okay,” Hiccup said.

Jack had been toning Hiccup out. Not on purpose, but he wasn’t used to being held accountable for spacing out.

“Was just thinking about something,” Jack mumbled with a faint, apologetic smile. “But yeah. I’m alright. What will you do while you wait for the storm to pass?”

Hiccup didn’t look like he believed him, but he answered Jack’s question anyway.

“I don’t know. Probably lounge in the club house or something,” he said. “I think it’s still pretty early, if you need some more sleep.”

Jack sniffed. “I’m good,” he mumbled dryly. “I don’t mind if you do, though.”

Hiccup pursed his lips. “Maybe…” he said quietly, but he sounded distant, like his mind was elsewhere. His hands were folded, fidgeting slightly.

“Are you okay?” Jack asked. “I didn’t hit you in my sleep, did I?”

Hiccup gave a soft laugh. “No, but it was a close call,” he said, making Jack laugh. Then he got quiet again, his smile fading. “Can I ask what you dreamed?”

Jack’s heart immediately sped up again. “Drowning,” he replied, hoping he didn’t sound stiff. “It’s nothing to worry about, though. I dream about it a lot.”

Maybe not exactly like this dream had unfolded, but at least it wasn’t a lie.

Hiccup looked like there was no way he wouldn’t worry about it. His concern was heartwarming, but also very uncalled for. Jack didn’t know what to do with it. In some ways, he really wished he was invisible right now, but he was still eternally grateful that he wasn’t.

“You act like you’ve never had a nightmare before,” Jack said.

“It’s not that,” Hiccup said hesitantly. “You just- You talk in your sleep.”

It took a moment before Jack realized how that might be a problem for him. He steeled himself not to turn to Baby Tooth and kept his eyes on Hiccup.

“In… Norse?” he asked slowly.

Hiccup nodded.

They looked at each other for a few seconds. Hiccup’s silence was more terrifying than Jack expected it to be. He thought about the twins’ theory that Jack would “turn” one day – whatever that meant – and how the Snow Queen was a legend that people feared, and the superstition on Berk.

The feeling came out of nowhere. Jack hadn’t even realized this was something he feared. If Hiccup found out what Jack was – or what he used to be…

“What did I say?” he asked, trying to sound casual.

Hiccup opened his mouth, then closed it again and cleared his throat. “It was… a little hard to make sense of, but…” He looked down at the floor – at Jack’s staff. “You said your staff was gone, and…”

Jack’s mouth felt dry.

“…something about ice,” Hiccup continued, scratching his chin, like he was nervous. “You mentioned Jamie, and then… Emily. I think it was Emily, at least?” His eyes flickered uncertainly to Jack.

Jack realized he was holding his breath only when he let it out in a relieved, soundless sigh. He nodded. “Emily,” he repeated with a soft smile. It felt weird saying her name to Hiccup, but a good weird. It made her seem a little closer. “Makes sense.”

“Is Emily…” Hiccup started.

“My sister,” Jack finished.

Hiccup looked confused, like he didn’t expect that answer. “Oh,” he said. “Is- I mean, is she the one you talked about last night?”

Jack nodded.

“Your sister,” Hiccup repeated, and his frown softened. “I thought she was your girlfriend or something.”

Jack gave a surprised laugh. “What? You thought I had a girlfriend?”

Hiccup sent Jack a weird look, but his lips quirked up in a smile. “Well, yeah,” he said, slightly sheepish again. “You’re a- Uh…” He gestured vaguely. “A… fun guy. I’m sure you’ve had loads of girls fawning over you.”

Jack did glance at Baby Tooth this time, but Baby Tooth was very busy studying Toothless’ scales. Contrary to her sisters, she’d been a little less open about her affections for Jack the past months. Maybe after actually spending some time with Jack she realized there was more to him than just his teeth.

He chuckled softly. “Um… Maybe. But a girlfriend? Come on.”

Hiccup raised his brows. “How is that weird?” he asked.

Jack was about to give him an answer, but then realized he didn’t have one. Truth was, before he was Jack Frost, all his time and attention had been reserved for his family. There weren’t many kids his age in the village, and he wasn’t particularly close to those who were. Aside from all the little ones following him around, he hadn’t really had friends, much less a girlfriend.

And then he’d been Jack Frost, and… well, that was self-explanatory.

“Uh… Just is,” was the best answer he could come up with. He sent Hiccup a lopsided smile. “So, no. Emily is…” He hesitated. “I mean… She was my sister.”

Hiccup nodded, his expression gentle. “I’m surprised Jamie never mentioned her,” he said, and Jack almost swore, realizing his mistake too late. Thankfully, Hiccup didn’t say it like he was suspicious of Jack. “How old was she? Uh, if you’re okay with talking about it. We don’t have to.”

“It was before Jamie was born,” Jack said, trying to do the math. If this had been true, and Jamie was eleven, then Jack would’ve been… six when he lost his sister? Oh man, this was getting way too far away from the truth – why didn’t he think before he spoke? He cleared his throat. “He never knew her. It’s, uh… complicated.”

Hiccup nodded again. “How was she?” he then asked.

Jack relaxed slightly when Hiccup accepted his half-assed explanation. Jack supposed he’d gotten used to them.

“Emily… She was a lot of things,” Jack started slowly, looking out into the air as he thought back on her. “Very energetic. Positive, happy… a little reckless maybe, but I was never a good influence on that part.”

Hiccup hummed. “Can’t imagine why,” he said.

Jack smiled at him before turning back to his thoughts. “She was very curious about everything. Asked a lot of questions, which I usually tried to answer, even if I didn’t actually know the answer.” His smile widened. “And she always believed me, even the most bizarre stories. Well, some of them took a little more convincing, but…”

“What kind of stories?” Hiccup asked.

Jack shrugged. “Legends, fairytales, or just something completely out of the blue,” he said. “One time I told her I was friends with the wind.” He frowned, looking down at his hands. “Thing is… I feel like she believed me because the stories I told never really felt like stories. There was truth to them, you know?”

Hiccup looked doubtful. “Even the being friends with the wind-part?” he asked.

“Especially that part,” Jack said amusedly. Then he smirked at Hiccup. “Am I being weird again?”

“A little,” Hiccup admitted with a shrug. “But that’s alright. I like hearing you talk.”

Jack knitted his brows.

Hiccup’s lips parted.

“I mean… It’s interesting,” he explained hastily. “Your- How your mind works. Your musings and all. It’s, uh… cool.”

“Cool?”

Hiccup pressed his lips together and nodded slowly, like he regretted saying anything. “Cool,” he confirmed anyway.

Jack was probably grinning. “Cool. I’ll be sure to remind you of that when you start telling me to shut up,” he promised.

“That’s not going to happen,” Hiccup said with a soft scoff.

“Oh, trust me, it will,” Jack said. “I have a reputation to maintain. I’m a menace.”

Hiccup opened his mouth as if to argue, but then closed it again like he was reconsidering. “Alright, you are,” he agreed, and Jack laughed. His green eyes twinkled with mirth. “But maybe it’s not such a bad thing in your case. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Jack didn’t know why those last words felt like a drumroll in the pit of his stomach.

“I guess we will,” he agreed.

 

 

Jack wasn’t sure how many hours passed before the last lightning flashed and the storm settled. It was hard to tell without a watch and the sky clouded over. Not that Jack had ever used a watch, and as Jack Frost he’d always just known what time of day it was, so he’d sort of lost the ability to judge the time based on the position of the sun anyway.

This made waiting a whole lot more difficult.

Hiccup had disappeared to Astrid’s hut. He wouldn’t explain in detail, but he said Astrid had had an awful experience with lightning and would probably want some company. Jack wondered if it was somehow worse than being struck by lightning, which Hiccup had, and came to the conclusion that Hiccup probably needed the support just as much as Astrid did. He did seem a bit jumpy.

Jack waited with the others in the clubhouse, and did his best at making the time it took for the storm to pass as little boring as possible. Thankfully, his ability to have fun was what made him into Jack Frost, and not the other way around – however, that didn’t mean he wasn’t bored out of  his mind by the very end when Hiccup and Astrid finally came up and announced that it was time to go.

And not only that: The twins were being weird. Not in a very obvious way – to Snotlout and Fishlegs it probably just seemed like they were as weird as they always were – but Jack swore there was something about their behavior that seemed off. Something about the way they looked at him, like they were trying to read his thoughts, or how they never came within two meters of him. Maybe it was just Jack’s imagination, but then again, the twins did have a theory that he’d suddenly turn evil or something.

He got his answer as everyone got ready to take off.

“So, are you afraid of thunder too, or something?” he asked them casually as they mounted Barf and Belch. “I mean, I guess you would be. Vikings are famous for that, aren’t they?” He glanced at Baby Tooth, who shrugged in reply.

Tuffnut’s mouth became a thin line, glancing at Ruffnut for support.

“You saying we’re famous in the future?” Ruffnut asked.

Jack winced and shushed her. “Not so loud,” he hissed, glancing nervously at Hiccup and the others. Thankfully, they weren’t paying attention. “Also, you can’t know that. You know you can’t know that.”

“But you said-“

“Well, I don’t know! I’ve never read a history book,” Jack said. “But, uh… I guess I can say that people do know about you. I mean, not you specifically. Vikings. Bad reputation, mostly, but very badass.”

Tuffnut smiled triumphantly. “Naturally. I’ve always known the Hairy Hooligan tribe will leave its mark in history.”

Jack decided not to correct him. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“Ruff and I aren’t afraid of a little lightning,” Tuffnut boasted, before his bravado faltered and he gave Jack a meaningful look. “However, considering our…. company, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say that this might not be just a normal thunderstorm.”

Jack couldn’t say he was surprised.

“You think I did this?” he asked flatly.

The twins shrugged noncommittally.

“Even if I still had my powers, I’ve never been able to create lightning, muttonheads.” The insult hadn’t been a part of his vocabulary before, but right now it rolled effortlessly off his tongue. It was just something about the twins, he guessed. Textbook muttonheads.

“What do we know?” Ruffnut asked. “Fays are famous liars.”

Fay?” Jack spluttered, but didn’t get the time to argue before Barf and Belch took off, the twins laughing scathingly. Jack gripped is staff tightly and huffed. “Fays? Do I look like a fairy?”

Baby Tooth looked like she considered that, and the bashful laugh that followed didn’t help.

“I’d say fairy is an improvement from troll,” came Hiccup, and Jack turned around to face him. He looked amused, so Jack guessed he’d only heard the last part of that conversation. “I thought they’d gotten past that. Did you do something to scare them?”

“Not on purpose,” Jack mumbled. “But whatever. They can think what they want.”

To Hiccup, it sounded like Jack meant the twins could believe he was a troll, or a fairy and he didn’t care. What he actually meant was that they could believe he was secretly evil, and he didn’t care. Both were incorrect; he didn’t want them to think he was secretly evil. But saying I’m not evil sounded exactly like something an evil person would say, so what could he do?

“Alright,” Hiccup said, though judging by his expression, Jack still wasn’t a gifted liar. “Well, it’s just the twins. Don’t worry about them.” He was about to say something more, but got distracted when Toothless came up and bumped into his side with a low burble.

“Time to go?” Jack asked.

“Yes,” Hiccup said, but then turned around and reached for something draped over Toothless’ back. “Here.”

It was the blanket. Jack didn’t argue this time, and climbed onto Toothless’ back behind Hiccup and draped the blanket around himself. Baby Tooth settled in the folds of Jack’s cloak. Toothless took to the air, and Jack tightened his grip around Hiccup, attempting to give Hiccup a bit of blanket as well.

He could already tell this part of the trip was going to be a lot more comfortable. Which was because he now had a proper seat and a warm blanket around himself, and not at all because of that other kind of warmth – the one that had filled him last night, and which now came rushing back as he allowed his head to rest on Hiccup’s shoulder.

 

 

The lack of sleep caught up with him about an hour into the flight, and he fell into a halfhearted slumber with his head lolling limply against Hiccup’s back. Probably drooling a little bit on him, but what Hiccup didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.

It was impossible to say how long he dozed off. He was never unconscious long enough to have a dream that made any sort of sense, but not conscious enough to keep track of whether the blanket was falling off, or more importantly, whether he himself was falling off. Hiccup awkwardly tried to shift him sometimes, bringing Jack’s arms tighter around himself like a seatbelt whenever he felt him starting doze off again. Jack woke up every time, but he always pretended he didn’t. He wasn’t sure why, but it was more fun that way.

He didn’t fully wake up until something small and biting began hitting his face. Blearily, he blinked his eyes open.

Snowflakes.

Jack sat up, looking at the clouds. Huge, beautiful snowflakes were falling softly from the sky. Jack blinked when they flew into his eyes, and a shiver went through his drowsy body, but there was a soft smile tugging at his lips. It was snowing, and he was flying. If he kept his gaze upwards, he could almost imagine he was weightless again.

Baby Tooth made a soft sound to his right, and Jack glanced down to see her smiling meaningfully at him. He laughed softly, reveling in the sudden sense of calm the snowfall provided. Maybe it was his imagination, but it felt like he was on the right track; he was getting closer to whatever it was he needed to get his powers back, or at least to find a way home.

Then his gaze fell on the twins flying into his field of vision. They were both giving him wary looks. Jack deadpanned, and the twins quickly turned ahead like nothing had happened.

“That’s it there,” Hiccup then muttered, his voice so soft Jack barely caught it. “Isn’t it?”

Jack leaned over his shoulder, squinting through the snowfall. He thought he could see the outline of something on the horizon. Something huge, like an iceberg in the middle of the ocean, or a mountain. He took a deep breath, waiting for… something. A feeling or a sensation. A thought coming into his mind on its own. A glimmer of aura surrounding the looming island.

There was nothing. For all Jack knew, it was just a normal, cold and dark place – because the sun had all but settled at this point – empty of any snow queens or other magical entities.

Once the island’s landscape was passing below them, they flew a few rounds above it, scouting for anything hinting at what might be immediate danger that would make the island unfit for the training drill, but it was impossible to see. It was too dark, there was too much snow, and all Jack could see were steep, icy mountains, thick, white-clad trees and frozen lakes. It really was cold; Jack didn’t completely want to admit it still, but he was thankful for the blanket and found himself clinging for Hiccup’s body heat like a koala.

In the end, they landed by the base of a mountain where they were a little bit sheltered from the wind and snow. Jack jumped off of Toothless and was pleased by the feeling of soft snow under his boots. He walked a little bit away from the others while they got ready, mapping out his surroundings. The woods spread out all around them, but he could see the ocean in the distance.  Mountains loomed over them in the north, extending around the valley below them in a sort of crescent moon.

“So, what’s the plan?” Jack asked, walking back to the others again. “Are we going to go around the island somehow, or…?”

There was a moment of hesitation in Hiccup’s face, before resolution took its place. “Uh, well,” he started. “The plan is that we split up and meet up at the base of that mountain. I was thinking that frozen river over there-“ He pointed and Jack tried following his gaze. He could barely make out a thin, reflected line in the distance, by the base of the opposing mountain. “-would be a good meeting point.”

“That’s quite a hike,” Jack commented.

“Yes,” Hiccup said, and didn’t look too happy about it. “Luckily for you, you won’t have to worry about that.”

Jack turned back to him.

“What?”

Hiccup’s lips were a thin, almost nervous line. “Usually, one of us stays behind to watch over the dragons,” he explained, and Jack swore he sounded cautious. Still, he gave Jack no time to react. “But now that you’re here, even though you’re not supposed to, I thought it’s just fitting that you stay behind.”

“You thought that, did you?” Jack asked, crossing his arms.

“Jack,” Hiccup said exasperatedly. “It’s too dangerous. I already told you. At least you have the dragons to protect you if something happens.”

“But I-“

“I’ve already made the decision.” Hiccup had the grace to look a little apologetic, but it didn’t do anything to stop the anger rising in Jack’s chest. He gestured at a chest that had previously been tied to Toothless’ back, but which was now lying already half buried in freshly fallen snow. “There’s food and some extra blankets. I expect it’ll take us a few hours before we reach the river, so you might as well get some more sleep. We’ll call for the dragons when we’ve arrived.”

Jack forced his expression into a neutral one, but he couldn’t help rolling his eyes. “…Fine,” he managed to say without sounding sarcastic. Hiccup was just trying to keep him safe, and it wasn’t his fault Jack had complexes about that right now. It was supposed to be the other way around, after all, and Jack didn’t like feeling helpless. He forced a smile onto his face, with just the right balance of acceptance and bitterness in it. “Hope you have a safe-ish trip then, without your dragons. Crazy Vikings...”

The last part came out in a gruff mumble, but Hiccup looked like he caught it anyway. He smiled faintly.

“Thanks,” he said, and turned to the others.

Jack let them have their briefing without really paying attention to it. It didn’t take long before each dragon rider trudged into the dark forest one by one. Naturally, Hiccup stayed behind last, after bidding Astrid a safe but reasonably challenging training drill.

Once she was out of earshot, Hiccup turned back to Jack.

“Don’t look so grumpy,” he said, almost pleadingly.

Weird. Jack had thought he’d been hiding his grumpiness quite expertly.

“All I wanted was a little adventure,” Jack said melodramatically, because the cat was out of the bag anyway. He leaned on his staff and heaved a great sigh. “What if I wait here, and… something happens. I mean, I know you’re used to snow, but it’s dark and you’ve never been to this island specially, have you?”

“I’d love to have some company, but that wouldn’t be very fair to the others,” Hiccup said.

Jack raised a brow. “It’s a competition?”

Hiccup’s resolution faltered. “Uh- Not… officially,” he replied. “But it doesn’t matter. At least we’re used to these drills, and hopefully some of the dragons residing here. If there even are any dragons…” He frowned.

Jack didn’t like the sound of that. Even without dragons, there were still a thousand other ways to reach an untimely end in a deep, cold forest. If he and Hiccup went together, he could… what? Hiccup wasn’t talking nonsense; Jack was less equipped to this kind of thing, whether he liked to admit it or not. All he could do to help right now was giving cryptic advice about staying off frozen ponds.

Besides, he had other things to do. Things it was better he did alone. General annoyance aside, this was one of the most convenient situations he could’ve ended up in.

“Just… don’t take any unnecessary risks,” Jack muttered. He didn’t notice that he was walking towards Hiccup until he stopped in front of him to run a hand idly over Toothless’ scales.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear that from you,” Hiccup replied.

Jack smiled faintly, but it didn’t quite quench the anxiety in his chest. He fixed Hiccup with a serious look. “Just promise to be careful,” he said. “And don’t try to cross the river. It’s freezing here, but you never know.”

Hiccup’s gaze seemed piercing in the dim lighting. It looked like he was searching for something in Jack’s expression, but his face softened before Jack could deduce if he’d found it or not. Maybe he’d just imagined it.

“I promise,” Hiccup said. His lips quirked up in a reassuring smile, and something inside Jack’s ribcage did a somersault. Then he looked at Toothless and patted his snout lovingly. “Well, better get this over with, then. I’ll see you in a few hours. And…” He hesitated, glancing back at Jack. “I’ll make this up for you later, alright?”

Oh, Jack definitely didn’t deserve that. He was the one who snuck onto this trip in the first place. He didn’t answer, but instead sent Hiccup a noncommittal, lopsided smile.

Hiccup held his gaze for a few seconds longer, like he wanted to say something more, but then just gave a soft chuckle and turned around. “See you,” he said, before heading into the darkness of the forest.

“See you,” Jack echoed quietly, continuing to brush over Toothless’ scales to distract himself from the urge to run after him.

Those kids were crazy. His hair would turn gray from stress if they kept doing stuff like this while Jack couldn’t protect them. At least he assumed he was stressed, because his heart was doing some ridiculous Dance Dance Revolution performance right now.

Dance Dance Revolution,” he muttered, earning a curious chirp from Baby Tooth. “Amazing what people get for Christmas these days. Or, well… in the future, I guess. I hope whoever received it doesn’t mind a present lightly used by a winter spirit.”

Baby Tooth looked like a question mark, and Jack decided to stop talking about Dance Dance Revolution. Instead, he let his hand fall from Toothless and down to his side. He looked around himself once again.

He should give it at least an hour or two before he went to look for the Snow Queen. He didn’t want to accidentally bump into one of the others. Hopefully she was real and hopefully he’d find her and get her help, and then return here before the drill was over. Hiccup and the others wouldn’t even know that he’d gone.

“Do you feel anything?” he asked Baby Tooth.

Baby Tooth closed her eyes, and aside from her wings, stood completely still in the air for a few seconds. Then she shrugged helplessly. Jack sighed.

“No, me neither…” he muttered.

The dragons had all settled down, apparently used to being left alone. Well, almost alone. Jack was happy that they’d accepted him, but it also made it harder knowing that he’d have to defy Hiccup’s orders. Toothless had curled into a what looked like a scaly donut, and Jack eyed the little space in the middle, just big enough for him to curl up in. It was probably warm there. It really was freezing. He hoped the others would be okay.

Baby Tooth gave a sudden squeak, and Jack realized a second later it had been a sneeze. He smiled apologetically, out of habit, even though the cold wasn’t his fault this time. He held out his hands, and Baby Tooth settled in them, letting Jack cradle her to his chest.

“At least I can keep you warm now,” he mumbled as he walked up to Toothless. He sent the dragon a light smile. “Mind if I join you?”

He didn’t know how Toothless understood, but he did. He shifted one of his wings as Jack settled down beside him, then draped it over him a lot like Jack had just wrapped his hands around Baby Tooth. Jack had never felt more like a matryoshka doll.

He pulled out an extra blanket from the basket Hiccup had given him and leaned against Toothless’ ribcage. A satchel hanging from the saddle dug into Jack’s chest, so he moved Baby Tooth to his neck and removed the satchel, cradling it in his lap instead.

It was almost warm like this. Toothless’ skin was coarse and hard, but his slow breathing and the comfort of having a dragon wrapped around himself like this was enough to make Jack’s eyelids feel heavy again. He yawned.

“Wake me up in a couple of hours, alright?” he mumbled to Baby Tooth. “Might as well catch some Z’s before we find the Snow Queen. Don’t wanna make a bad impression, right?”

Baby Tooth tweeted, but Jack was already too out of it to understand her.

 

 

When Jack woke up again, he wasn’t cold. He wasn’t warm either. And, to his surprise, he wasn’t lying curled up on the ground anymore. With a jolt, he realized he was standing upright.

He opened his eyes, and felt his breath leave him. Immediately, he decided he had to be dreaming – but nothing like this felt like a dream. The sound of faint activity through wooden walls and the howling wind outside was as clear as a bell. The smell of firewood, cinnamon and baked goods was just as Jack remembered it. Everything around him was solid and real – but it just couldn’t be. It had to be a dream.

There was no other way he could be back in North’s workshop.

The more he listened, the more he could hear of the muffled sounds of the rest of the workshop outside: The ringing of bells, yetis yelling, indistinct music and the clatter of a thousand toys being made. North’s personal study looked exactly the same at first glance, but Jack could feel his heart sinking the more he looked. The room had always been cluttered, but now things – objects, toys, tools – were scattered on the floor. Most of the candles were unlit. No classical music played. And on the table, the ice castle stood, completely untouched since the last time Jack had seen it.

Behind the desk, leaning his head in his palm, sat North. He looked nothing like himself – almost as bad as he had at Pitch’s peak of power last Easter. Old and tired and gray, his brows furrowed in way that suggested he had a bad headache. His eyes looked puffy, suggesting…

Jack swallowed and took a step forward. He realized he wasn’t holding his staff, but pushed that thought to the back of his head for the time being.

“North?” he tried, his voice weak.

North stirred but didn’t open his eyes. Instead, he ran a hand over his face, muttering something in Russian.

“North!” Jack repeated loudly.

North jumped to his feet in alarm then, his eyes flashing wildly. Then they settled on Jack, and his face went slack. “Jack?” he whispered incredulously.

Jack was a bit stunned himself, to say the least. “What-“ he started, but didn’t get any further before North almost stumbled towards him. Jack expected a bone-crushing hug but was instead met by the chilling and familiar feeling of being passed through.

They both staggered back. Jack looked down on his hands, his breath getting caught in his throat. No- No, no, this wasn’t happening- This couldn’t be happening-

“Jack,” North said, making Jack’s eyes snap up to him again. He was holding up his hands, like he was trying to calm down a cornered animal. “Is okay, is okay – calm down.”

Easy for you to say, Jack wanted to spit, but he couldn’t find his voice. Instead, he held North’s gaze. And North held his. North could see him. At least he could see him.

“What- What’s going on?” Jack managed after about a minute of heavy breathing.

“I should ask you that,” North said, and to Jack’s horror, his voice quavered. His hands hovered in the air, like he wanted to reach out. Jack’s chest constricted painfully. “Jack, we- we thought- Where are you? What happened?”

“Is this real?” Jack asked weakly.

“Yes! It is real!” North said, happiness lighting up his face for a moment, but it faded all too quickly. He struggled with his words for a moment, before sinking to his knees to get on Jack’s eyelevel. “You and Jamie, you… you disappeared. And now, you… Jack.” His eyes flickered upwards for a moment. “You are human.”

Jack glanced up as well, spotting the brown locks of his bangs. He let out a shaky breath and nodded. “I don’t know why,” he muttered. “The time fragment sent us back in time. What happened to it? Is everyone okay?”

North’s brows furrowed deeply, but he nodded. Jack wanted him to elaborate, but he seemed more focused on Jack’s wellbeing to think about the others. “But how are you here?” he murmured. Then his eyes widened in horror. “You are not- Are you-“

“No!” Jack hissed. “No, I’m- I’m alive, I just- I lost my powers. And I don’t know how I’m here. I don’t know why I… why you pass through me, either.” He frowned, looked around himself again, and recalled what North had beginning to say earlier. “North… How long have we been gone?”

“One month,” North said softly. “You, Jamie and Baby Tooth.”

“They’re okay,” Jack said, managing to smile even as his chest felt like it was being filled with cold water. They’d been gone from the future for as long as they’d been in the past. “We… We landed on some place called Berk. Have you heard of it?”

“Berk?”

“It’s, uh… in the Viking era. Don’t suppose you were alive yet then, were you?”

North’s eyebrows went up to his hairline. “That is impossible,” he muttered, scratching his chin.

Jack couldn’t let him get lost in thought just yet; his heart was still threatening to break his ribs.

“I don’t know what to do.”

He hadn’t meant for his voice to come out so small and desperate. He hadn’t meant for those words to come out at all. He just needed North to listen to him. And North’s eyes went back to Jack’s, his expression softening in a horrible mix between sympathy and sadness, like he’d already given up. Jack knew he hadn’t – he was Santa Claus, of course he’d never give up – but he was almost too paranoid to think otherwise.

“I- I’ve been trying to regain my powers, but I think the time fragment took them from me when we were tossed through it,” he continued, trying to make his voice stop quivering. “But nothing works. I tried flying, but- North…” His face suddenly broke into a slightly hysteric smile. “There are dragons there! How are there dragons there?”

North stared at him for a few seconds, before quickly getting to his feet. “Come on,” he said. “We need to call the others.” He stepped carefully around Jack as not to pass through him, before heading to the door. Jack followed.

The workshop looked exactly like it should. There was no trace at all of the attack, even if it had, apparently, only been a month since then. Either the yetis were extremely efficient workers – and they were, of courseor there had been magic involved in rebuilding. The vast room buzzed with activity as always.

Jack was glad; even if something horrible had happened, the Guardians couldn’t stop doing their jobs. It had been the same when Sandy had disappeared last Easter. It was tough, but they had no choice but to pick themselves up again.

Still, North’s office was a different story. Jack couldn’t quite bring the sight of it out of his mind. The idea that his own disappearance could affect someone like North in such a way… Jack had never felt like he was taking up this much space. The feeling was so unfamiliar, he didn’t know what to do with it. So he filed it away, hopefully never to be felt again.

“What happened after we disappeared?” Jack asked. “The time fragment, it didn’t- it didn’t follow us, did it?” he asked.

North’s face was grim. “Sandy knows most about it,” he said. “He managed to trap it before it could wreck anymore havoc, but… is only a matter of time before it breaks out again. Without crystal, it can not be held down forever.”

“The crystal,” Jack murmured, running a hand through his hair. “But the crystal broke. It exploded when I touched it. Isn’t there some way to- to find another crystal, or make a new one, or something? Maybe shards of it are still in the cave?”

“No, we checked,” North said as they walked up to the globe. He put his hand on the lever that would alert the Guardians, but hesitated. The look he sent Jack was so wrenched in worry and unhappiness, he almost looked like a different person. Jack hated it; it wasn’t right. “All that is left is one single shard. Everything else disappeared without a trace. And making new one is too dangerous. That kind of power is too much, even for us. It would kill us.”

Jack felt the unpleasant, nauseating type of cold. “Then what do we do?” he asked softly.

North turned the lever, and the globe lit up with an array of colors – the northern lights – and expelled them across the world. Jack forgot about his worries for one blissful moment, his eyes going wide at the sight. He’d never seen this is person before.

Then North turned back to him and leaned heavily on the control table. “Time fragment,” he started. “Or… time creature itself. It is a living proof of the horrible things that will happen if you try to meddle with time. That kind of power is not for people like us, or people at all, but… of course, people are still people. They never stop until it is too late.

“Long time ago, there was a brotherhood of warlocks. They wanted to achieve power to bend time to their will, as many before them, and many after. It should have been impossible, but somehow, they found a way… or so they thought.”

There was a theatric pause. Even in the grimmest of times, North still had an affinity for the dramatics. Then he took a weary breath.

“Inner circle of the brotherhood met their untimely end the very moment they thought they had achieved their goal. They tried making spirit of time take residence in the body of one of the warlocks, and to trap it there, but that kind of power is too much. It broke out of the body, but not before adopting the warlocks’ thirst for power. The result was almost catastrophic beyond repair.

“Sandy remembers. He was not there himself, but there are still few old texts about it. Complete disaster was scarcely avoided, but many lives were lost… warlocks, wizards, spirits… innocent humans… The brotherhood realized their own foolishness and decided in last moments that they had to face the consequences of what they had created. But how could they destroy something so unspeakably powerful?”

Jack thought about the time fragment. How he hadn’t been able to understand what he saw when he looked at it. How small he’d felt in the face of its glowing eyes. It was alive, but it was far beyond anything they understood, and their only choice in the face of its power was to run away. Or at least attempt to.

And that was just a fragment of its complete form. The brotherhood had attempted to control time but had instead created a monster: The offspring of immense power and humankind’s hungry selfishness.

“They didn’t destroy it,” Jack said hollowly. “They trapped it.”

North nodded. “The creation of crystals was devastating,” he said. “One person was not enough; whole brotherhood and many more paid the price of creating something strong enough to hold time itself. Countless lives were lost, but in the end, they managed to cut monster into pieces. Each crystal was hidden away in places people would never find them.”

Jack began leaning on the control table as well, but ended up just sinking to his knees instead. “It’s my fault,” he muttered weakly. “I… I didn’t think… I just wanted to remember…”

“Jack,” North said gently, getting down on his knees as well. He reached out as if to take Jack’s hand but stopped himself. “You could not have known. You can not blame yourself.”

“But Jamie is there with me,” Jack snapped, looking up into North’s agonizingly exhausted eyes. Jack had done that to him; Jack had done this to everyone. “And Baby Tooth. And I don’t have my powers. We’ve been there for a month already, and I’m no closer to figuring out what to do. I have to get him home, North. Jamie-“ He stopped himself when a chilling realization hit him. “His… His family. Sophie and Joyce, they…”

He trailed off when North averted his eyes.

“As far as they know, Jamie disappeared in woods while playing with his friends,” he said softly. “They are still searching for him, but…”

It was the last straw. Jack’s eyes stung. “But you have to tell them,” he said, his voice just a weak whisper. “That he’s alive. In another time, but still, he’s- I’ll get him home. I will get him home. They have to know.”

He didn’t even sound convincing to himself.

“You know we cannot do that, Jack,” North said gently.

“Then what can I do?” Jack asked. “I don’t have my powers, but there has to be something.”

“We are trying to figure it out,” North said, his eyes drifting over to the fireplace on the other end of the room. A golden chest was placed on the shelf. “Sandy managed to trap the time fragment for the time being, but we do not have long until it breaks free. Our only clue is the shard we found in the cave.”

The golden chest glinted in the light of the globe. He frowned. Shakily, he got to his feet and walked across the room. North looked puzzled but followed him.

When Jack reached for the box, his hand passed through it. He felt a stab of anger. “Not just people this time, huh,” he mumbled. He looked at North. “Open it for me.”

North did, and put the chest down on the salon table. Inside the chest, placed gingerly on a red pillow, was the shard. Jack’s stomach twisted. He’d like to say the shard looked completely ordinary, but that would’ve been a lie. Even such a small piece radiated power, like traces of the time fragment still lingered inside it. Or maybe what Jack was feeling was the traces of the lives that were lost in order to create the crystal.

All that sacrifice, only for Jack to let his curiosity get the best of him and shatter it. With this crystal and his memory box last Easter, Jack was starting to see a pattern.

Jack stared at it as he tried getting his next words out.

“Maybe… Maybe I can recreate it,” he said. “A new crystal. I was the one who created this mess to being with, so-“

“Out of the question,” North interrupted sternly. “Jack, it would kill you.”

Jack looked up at him. “If it gets Jamie home, I don’t care,” he said. It was a lie: He didn’t want to die. But if it meant Jamie would be safe and happy, he couldn’t care.

North’s brilliant blue eyes flashed with something that looked almost like anger. “No,” he said. “We will find other way.”

What way?” Jack yelled. “I don’t have my powers and I don’t even know why! I’m trying to find the Snow Queen, but I don’t even know if she’s real, and even if she is-“

“The Snow Queen?” North asked, his brows furrowing.

Jack’s growing anger subsided just a little. “Yeah,” he said. “Some children were talking about her. They think she’s a fairytale, but… Have you heard of her?”

“Not in a long time,” North said. “And only in stories. But maybe-“

He was interrupted by a broken gasp. “Jack!

Jack heart leapt into his throat at the sight of Tooth, but he still quickly backed away when she tried to hug him. “Don’t,” he said. He felt a stab of guilt at her hurt expression. Jack tried for a smile, then carefully reached for her hand, only to let it pass through. “It’s not very pleasant,” he explained quietly.

“Jack,” Tooth said, her eyes shimmering with tears. “Oh, I thought… I thought I’d never-“

Jack didn’t really want to hear what she’d though, because he was afraid she was still partially right, but thankfully, she was in turn interrupted by a shrill series of tweeting, and Baby Tooth suddenly flew into Jack’s face – and she didn’t pass through him.

“Baby Tooth?” he yelped.

Baby Tooth chirped incessantly at him, and Jack tried his best to follow. Something about appearing here by herself and heading straight to the Tooth Palace. Of course she would. She’d explained everything to Tooth already, which was probably why she wasn’t surprised to see Jack they way he was right now.

“But how are we both here?” Jack said, throwing a glance at North and Tooth. “I was… partially convinced this was just a dream.”

“Is not a dream, Jack,” North said. “I do not know how, but somehow, you are here. Both of you are.”

Jack eyes gravitated towards the crystal without even thinking about it. Somehow, he knew it had something to do with that.

But why? Why was he here? Was the time fragment trying to show him something? Not likely. Maybe it was taunting him. If it had been anything more than a chaotic force of power, that might’ve been it. But that didn’t make any sense either. Still, this dream – or whatever it was – had made a few things a little clearer.

“You said we’ve been gone for about a month,” Jack said, looking up at North. “And we’ve been on Berk for just as long. How? I mean, we did travel back in time, didn’t we? Wouldn’t it make more sense if we arrived back here just in the next second after we disappeared? Unless…” He got a dreadful feeling. “Unless we didn’t travel back in time. How else can you explain the dragons? Maybe we traveled to… a whole other dimension?”

“The time fragment doesn’t have the power to do that.”

Jack almost jumped at the sound of Bunny’s voice. He turned around just in time to see the floor close up behind him, leaving no trace of any rabbit hole. His face was grim, but his eyes widened when he saw Jack.

“Bunny,” Jack said, hating how unstable his own voice sounded. He shifted awkwardly, gesturing with his arms. “Uh, yeah… Human again. I can’t explain it either.”

Bunny’s mouth opened and closed for a few moments, before he slowly walked closer. “I’ve heard about dragons roaming this world before,” he said, and though his voice sounded steady enough, he was staring at Jack like he was convinced he was just a figment of his imagination. “I thought it was just a legend, but… if what you say is true, then it is true.”

Tooth nodded. “Baby Tooth said the same thing. And not only that. They’ve tamed them,” she said. “Right, Jack?”

Jack smiled softly and nodded. “Yes, they’ve befriended them. But it wasn’t always like that,” he said. “Hiccup told me-“ He stopped himself, realizing this wasn’t the time to talk about Hiccup or dragons.

Sandy appeared then, floating down from the window in the ceiling. His face lit up, and dreamsand flashed excitedly over his head. Jack couldn’t help but smile, even if he didn’t quite catch what he was trying to say.

“Hello, Sandy,” he said.

They were all there. Jack didn’t know how he felt about seeing them, if he couldn’t even touch them. It was like he was there, but not really; a feeling he knew all too well. At least he had Baby Tooth, who had settled on his shoulder, probably just as relieved to find someone who didn’t pass through her as he was.

He recounted to them all what he’d already told North, in as short sentences as possible. On more than one occasion, his voice quavered, and he had to stop. Crying in front of the Guardians – or crying in front of anyone – was out of the question.  He’d already shed a few tears in front of North, and that was already more than enough.

“It’s like when I couldn’t use my tunnels while the time fragment was here,” Bunny said. “Like it sucked out that power once it saw it, somehow.”

“Maybe it perceived it as a taunt,” Tooth pondered. “Using the tunnels instead of traveling like the rest of us… it’s kind of like cheating time, isn’t it?”

Jack frowned. “Cheating… time?” he repeated, before running a hand over his face. “Cheating time. You don’t think- I mean, we’re immortal. If there’s anyone cheating time, it’s us. Did it- Is that why I’m-“

“But my powers came back,” Bunny interrupted before Jack could spiral into another almost-panic attack. “After Sandy managed to subdue the fragment, the ability came back. It took a little while, but then again, I wasn’t swallowed whole by it like you were.”

“You think my powers will come back?” Jack asked. The feeling of hope was almost painful – he didn’t want to be disappointed again – but he supposed if anyone would be able to give him hope, it was Bunny.

Bunny’s brows were furrowed as he gazed at Jack. “Maybe,” he said. “Just don’t think that all is lost yet. We still have a chance.”

Sand flashed over Sandy’s head, and Jack swallowed thickly.

“Sandy is right,” North said. “Whatever we have to do, we have to do it quickly. Time is running out. Or- Time is breaking out. You know what I mean.”

Bunny nodded. “If you think you know a way to get back, you have to do it quickly too, Jack,” he said. “You haven’t been thrown into another dimension, but it can’t be a coincidence that the time passed here in the present is the same as in the past. Maybe you’re still connected here, to your present. Whatever the reason, we have less than a year, and that’s thinking positively. We have to hurry.”

“Bunny…” Tooth started, throwing nervous glances at Jack. Jack could only guess his panic was beginning to show on his face.

“The Snow Queen,” North said, making Jack look up at him again. He looked stern, and Jack knew he was thinking about Jack’s proposal earlier, about creating a new crystal. “You’re on the right track by looking for her. Maybe she can help.”

Sandy frowned. The sand over his head formed the figure of a woman in a huge dress and a crown, holding a scepter with a snowflake on top. And then the image disappeared, replaced by a question mark.

“She’s real?” Jack asked. “You’ve heard of her?”

A ticking clock appeared in the sand, followed by an X, and another question mark. Jack frowned.

“She disappeared?” he asked.

Sandy nodded, his expression grim.

Jack looked down on his hands. A spirit disappearing wasn’t anything new. If not only the believers, but also the spirit’s story faded into obscurity, as would the spirit. It made another possibility slither uninvited into Jack’s mind… The reason for why he’d never heard of Berk or the Barbaric Archipelago, or why dragons were no more than a legend.

A spirit would fade for good if there were no more people to remember its story.

The Archipelago is a dangerous place, Hiccup had told him.

Jack swallowed down the lump in his throat. He looked at the shard in the chest and walked over to it. He didn’t know why he thought he could pick it up when everything else passed through him, but somehow, he knew he could.

“Jack,” Bunny said warily, but Jack ignored him. The crystal couldn’t hurt him anymore than it already had.

He picked it up, and the Guardians’ eyes widened. Jack looked down at it and he felt a sudden tug in his gut. His hands – they were fading.

He looked up. “I’ll find her,” he said hastily, knowing what was about to happen. He closed his fist around the stone. “And I’ll find a way. I’ll get Jamie home, and-“

He didn’t get any further. The world blurred, and then went dark.

Chapter Text

Jackson Overland was a pain in the ass.

It was a thought – an undeniable truth – that rung in Hiccup’s head as he trudged through the ankle-deep snow, further and further into the woods. It was dark and it was cold. Hiccup was considering igniting Inferno just to keep his hands warm, but he was afraid it would attract unwanted attention. If there actually was anything alive to attract on this island. The deeper he ventured into the dark, the more he doubted that. He envied Jack for getting to stay behind, even if Jack hadn’t seemed happy about it.

Hiccup rolled his eyes.

It shouldn’t be much of a problem – not to someone like Hiccup, whose entire circle of friends was made up by a quite varied array of the different flavors of idiot. He wasn’t going to start ranking them from most idiotic to least idiotic, but one thing was certain, and that was that none of them were excluded. Not even Hiccup himself. Definitely not Hiccup himself.

Thing was, Jack was an entirely new type of idiot that Hiccup had yet to get accustomed to. Sure, it had been a month and Hiccup had learned quite a lot about Jack in that time. He still did things that made Hiccup wonder what in Odin’s name was going on inside that head of his, but for the most part he’d stopped getting surprised by Jack’s behavior. Or so he’d thought.

He glanced behind himself, but the hilltop he’d left Jack and the dragons on was long gone. He turned back ahead and started inching his way down a small slope, careful not to slip on his prosthetic.

Just when Hiccup had started to feel like he was getting used to that particular flavor of idiot, Jack had proven, once again, that he was never going to stop surprising Hiccup.

It wasn’t entirely Jack’s fault. He’d been unconscious after all, and Hiccup was the one who’d agreed to sharing a bed with him anyway… and also put an arm around him, like some kind of smooth, confident bastard, which Hiccup absolutely wasn’t, and they both knew it. But he’d done it anyway. Maybe if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have woken up when Jack started writhing in his sleep.

So he’d lied; the thunderstorm wasn’t what had woken Hiccup up. Stormy weather wasn’t unusual, and Hiccup had slept through worse. What he hadn’t slept through before, was a bedmate thrashing around and making the comfort of Hiccup’s bed a safety hazard. Still, that wasn’t what had rattled Hiccup the most. It was frightening seeing Jack twist and turn so violently in his sleep, but worse the way he’d been pleading. Some of it had been hard to catch, or impossible to understand without context, but… there were certain things he’d said. Things Hiccup couldn’t stop thinking about.

His metal leg got stuck on a root under the snow. Hiccup yelped, and tumbled down the slope face first. He rolled to a stop at the bottom with the wonderful sensation of getting snow inside his shirt. He heaved a great sigh, but quickly got to his feet. It was too cold to stay in the snow, no matter how much Hiccup wanted to wallow dramatically in self-pity.

He just had to get to the meeting point. Which was, what… three hours away? Four? He guessed he’d been walking for about two hours at this point, but it was hard to say. He wondered how far the others were. If this island really was void of life as Hiccup suspected it was, he expected to be the last one to the river.

Try not to cross the river.

Hiccup shuddered, but this time it wasn’t because of the cold. Jack’s nightmare had been about drowning. He’d also said that the staff had saved his sister, Emily, which was the name he’d spoken in his sleep. Hiccup couldn’t help but wonder what that meant. Had his sister drowned? Was that how he’d lost her?

It would’ve been a breach of privacy, but Hiccup wished he could dive into Jack’s mind and see exactly what it was he’d dreamed about. At the same time, he didn’t know why he cared so much. Everyone had nightmares. Jack had obviously been through a lot and he had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders; Hiccup would’ve been worried if he didn’t have nightmares.

But Jackson Overland was a pain in the ass, because Hiccup had never felt so drawn to a person before and he was pretty sure it was slowly driving him insane.

It was different from how he’d been drawn to Astrid. That had started with admiration and grown into a crush, and then to brief infatuation after Astrid had kissed him in front of the village. But they’d been young, and they’d both gradually come to the realization that those feelings weren’t what you’d call romantic love. It was love, alright, but more in a platonic and deeply admirative way. There were few people he trusted as much as he trusted Astrid; she was one of the most important people in his life. They’d known each other for so long, Hiccup was sure he wouldn’t be the person he was today if it weren’t for her.

Jack was different because he’d appeared out of nowhere, acted like a complete fruitcake, and despite everything managed to make Hiccup like him instead of distrusting him, like any other reasonable son of a chief would’ve done. Hiccup found it hard to think about anything else but him these days, and it wasn’t gradual, like it had been with Astrid. It was almost obsessive. It was obsessive. Hiccup really was going crazy. In the month Jack and Jamie had been on Berk, Hiccup found himself drawn towards him in a way he’d yet to find a way to explain, and there was no stopping it. Especially not after last night.

He comforted himself by saying that he was only this curious about Jack because he was so mysterious – to the point where it often felt like he did it on purpose – and the nightmare made even more questions flood to Hiccup mind, and it didn’t have anything to do with how close they’d been, or how Jack had snuggled up to him, or how relieved his expression had been when he woke from his nightmare and met Hiccup’s eyes.

Hiccup took a deep breath. He brought out Inferno and ignited it in an attempt to drag his thoughts back to the present.

Not knowing was chewing him up from the inside. It was infuriating. And now Hiccup was supposed to be focusing on this absolutely freezing training drill, but all he could think about was Jack gradually relaxing under his touch, wondering why he was so jumpy about being touched in the first place.

“Jackson Overland,” he murmured, pronouncing the name like an incantation. “Who are you?”

He didn’t expect an answer, but a cold wind made the trees around him shudder. Hiccup chewed on the inside of his cheek, wondering for the millionth time what it was that made Jack tick. All the things that he’d done and said had to make sense in some way or another? Fruitcake or not, he knew the boy wasn’t actually crazy.

Hiccup wondered what had happened to Emily. To him, it sounded like she’d drowned, judging by Jack’s nightmare and how he’d made Hiccup promise not to try to cross the river. No wonder why he was so protective of Jamie; he’d already lost his little sister. Hiccup had watched Jack as he talked about her, and it wasn’t hard to see how much he’d loved her.

Hiccup had to help them get home. But then there was the mystery of how they’d gotten to Berk in the first place. How did one get so far into the Archipelago without anyone noticing? How had Jack never even heard of the place? It didn’t make any sense and Hiccup’s insides were squirming from not knowing. This whole situation was so ridiculously mysterious, he almost wanted to laugh.

And now Jack was back there with the dragons. Hiccup shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but he did.

It was annoying.

And there was another thing he felt guilty about. A thing he didn’t really want to admit, but it would’ve been stupid to pretend that the thought hadn’t been there, and didn’t still linger: The faint pang of relief he’d felt when Jack informed him that Emily was his sister and not… well, an old flame or anything like that. How could Hiccup be so selfish and think about that when Jack was telling him he’d lost his sister? And why did this information matter to Hiccup in the first place?

The most obvious answer to that question didn’t make any sense either. Not in Hiccup’s case; he didn’t feel that way about him. Jack was just… fascinating. And a good person. Of course Hiccup would be drawn to him. The relief he’d felt was probably… just… simply…

He shook his head again, frustrated. He’d figure it out later. He was on a training drill, for Thor’s sake.

There was another cold gust of wind, much stronger than before. It howled through the forest and Hiccup shielded his face with his arm. His teeth clattered. This wasn’t the beginning of another storm, was it?

The wind stilled. A creeping feeling went up Hiccup’s spine.

He looked around. Inferno provided a little light, but all of a sudden, the shadows around him seemed so dark it was almost suffocating. Was he being watched?

He stood still for a few long moments, waiting for something to happen. He didn’t know what he was waiting for. He didn’t even know why he felt like… like he wasn’t alone. Not like he was in danger exactly, but his hand still clenched around the hilt of Inferno.

With a chill, he realized where he’d felt this before: On the little island he’d flown to with Astrid. The one where they’d both decided to bolt, without really knowing why. None of them had ever brought the subject up again; it had seemed pretty ridiculous in retrospect. But now…

“Hello?” Hiccup called. He felt stupid; as if whatever was watching him in the shadows would reply.

The crystal he’d found popped up in his mind. He’d been holding it the last time he’d had this feeling. He patted his hip, searching for the satchel. His stomach twisted when he realized he’d left it behind at the hilltop on Toothless’ saddle.

If the others were to ask him why he’d suddenly turned on his heel in the middle of the training drill, Hiccup knew he’d have no way to explain it. He couldn’t even explain it to himself. Why on earth did the realization that he’d forgotten the satchel fill him with so much dread?

The wind picked up again, and to Hiccup’s horror, the flames on Inferno went out like a match. That wasn’t supposed to happen. With the Monstrous Nightmare gel, the flames couldn’t be extinguished by just wind alone.

The shadows enveloped Hiccup like the hand of a giant.

He set into a run.

 

 

Jack’s body shuddered as he woke up. For a moment, he didn’t remember where he was. He was pleasantly warm, and he was wrapped in a dark cocoon – Toothless.

Toothless’ breath was slow and even, and Jack thought he heard the faintest sound of snoring. He shifted carefully, lifting his head from the dragon’s scales. Never tickle a sleeping dragon – where had he heard that again?

His head felt fuzzy. He’d dreamt about the Guardians. At least… he thought it was a dream. Even if it felt painfully real. And North in his dream had insisted that it wasn’t a dream, but that was impossible. Wasn’t it?

Jack pressed his lips together. His cheeks felt grimy, like he’d been crying. Maybe he had. He could still hear the Guardians’ voice in his head. And all the information about the time fragment and its origins… It just didn’t seem like something Jack usually came up with in his dreams. North had shown him a shard from the broken crystal. Despite passing through everything, the shard had been solid in Jack’s hand. He’d picked it up and…

He stopped breathing. Electricity coursed through his body, starting from his right hand, where something jagged poked against his palm. He opened his fist.

His body jolted. Toothless grunted, and his wing moved off of Jack, letting the moonlight shine down on him.

The crystal from his dream lay in the middle of Jack’s palm, glistening a pale blue. Jack’s mouth hung open.

“B- Baby Tooth,” he breathed. He didn’t dare move. He stared at the shard like it would turn into the time fragment any second.

Baby Tooth didn’t answer. Carefully, Jack brought his free hand to his shoulders, but Baby Tooth wasn’t there anymore. His gut twisted.

“Baby Tooth?” he tried again.

Toothless was watching him silently. The other dragons were still asleep.

Maybe she’d gone to look for the Snow Queen already. Or worse, maybe something had happened while Jack was asleep… maybe there really was something magical about this island. How else could he explain this?

It hadn’t been a dream.

Jack didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. His mind was spinning. Bells rung in his head, like an echo from North’s workshop. He really had been there. He’d seen the Guardians again. Bunny, North, everyone- and Baby Tooth had been there.

But where was she now?

He tried calling for her again, getting to his feet. The other dragons stirred awake at his voice, but still there was no sign of any tooth fairy. Jack tried to even out his breathing, begging himself not to start jumping to conclusions. He couldn’t panic here. It would do no good. She was probably just exploring the island while Jack slept. Or maybe…

Maybe she was still back there. With the Guardians. It was Jack who had touched the crystal after all, which had ended the dream- vision- whatever it was. His chest wrung at the idea that Baby Tooth might still be there without him, and maybe… maybe she wouldn’t have a way to come back to the past. Not when Jack had the crystal.

He swallowed heavily. He called for Baby Tooth one last time and waited. No answer.

“Okay,” he breathed, running a hand over his face. “She’s alright. She’s probably alright. I just have to…” He stared at the crystal. He’d have to put it somewhere safe, but somewhere the others wouldn’t find it. It was too dangerous; he didn’t know what it could do. If he ended up hurting Hiccup or any of the others the same way he’d hurt Jamie… No. He looked down at himself, then crouched and gingerly pushed the crystal into his boot, folding his pants over it. Without any pockets, it was his best shot.

He grabbed his staff and took a few moments to calm his heart. Then he looked around himself and saw that the dragons had gone back to sleep, apparently not interested in watching Jack battle an incoming breaking point. Toothless was the only one still awake, his green eyes half lidded as he peered at Jack.

“Toothless,” Jack whispered. “I’m gonna need a favor. You have to watch over the rest of the dragons for me, do you understand? I’m just… going for a walk. I have to find someone. I won’t be long.”

At least he hoped he wouldn’t. He didn’t know how long he could last in this cold.

He didn’t know if Toothless understood, but at least he didn’t follow Jack when he started trudging his way through the snow down the hill. Jack wrapped his cloak around himself the best he could and tried not to think about the feeling of the crystal against his shin.

He ventured into the forest and immediately wished he’d brought a torch or something. At least the sky had cleared, so the Moon and the stars offered him at least a little bit of relief against the ominously dark shadows of the woods. He had a bad feeling, but that didn’t stop him from wading on. It was just natural to be afraid of the dark. Especially a dark forest, and especially for someone like Jack, who’d had enough unfortunate experiences in those.

Besides, North had told him he was on the right track, looking for the Snow Queen. He’d heard of her too. Jack knew it was partially because North would rather want him doing that than atempt to create another crystal or something dangerous like that – not that Jack would’ve had any idea how to do it – but Jack felt just a tiny bit more motivated to do this that he previously had.

He just hoped Baby Tooth was okay… This task would’ve been a little less daunting with her by his side.

Sandy had said something about the Snow Queen too, but Jack didn’t want to think about that. For now, he’d focus on trying to find her. Hopefully, she really was more than just a legend.

Jack thought about the Guardians – how weary North had looked, and how relived Sandy and Tooth had been to see him. He thought about Bunny’s carefully controlled behavior, as if he’d struggled to keep his emotions in check just as much as Jack had. He thought about Baby Tooth reuniting with the other tooth fairies, and how overjoyed Tooth must’ve been to see her again.

And he thought about what North had told him about Jamie’s family. Jack couldn’t stop imagining how Sophie had reacted upon hearing of Jamie’s disappearance. So often she looked up to Jamie like he was the sun. Her big brother couldn’t just vanish like that. Not for good. Jack would make sure of that. She wouldn’t lose her brother like Emily had lost hers.

So Jack walked deeper into the forest. He didn’t know where he was going, and he hoped he’d be able to find his way back. He didn’t even know what he was looking for. Some kind of feeling, surely? A hint of magic that would lead him closer to the Snow Queen. Even if he wasn’t a spirit anymore, humans did have the ability to sense things like that. At least he hoped so.

Minutes passed. Long, freezing minutes, seeping painfully into his bones. His fingers were stiff, and the wind stung on his face. His teeth clattered. He looked behind himself, and saw his own footsteps in the snow. As long as it didn’t start snowing again, he should be able to retrace his steps back to the dragons. He had nothing to be afraid of.

He told himself that, even as the forest around him echoed with noises he couldn’t – wouldn’t – try to identify. He just had to keep a cool head. Instead, it felt like everything but his head was cool.

A while longer, and Jack spotted a light in the distance. A clearing, he realized. Still, there was no feeling or something like it that would suggest that there was anything special about the clearing, but Jack headed towards it anyway. The darkness was beginning to feel claustrophobic.

The powdery snow faded into a glasslike reflection on the ground as Jack stepped out into the clearing. A pond, he noted. He wasn’t surprised; that was just his luck, wasn’t it? He treaded carefully, moving around the edge of the ice. The Moon shone down on him, bathing the clearing in a silvery light. Jack brought both his hands around his staff, looking around himself.

He took a deep breath.

“Is there anyone here?” he asked. He didn’t yell, afraid the echo would carry his voice all the way to the others. If there really was anyone else nearby, he hoped she was close enough to hear him. “I’m- I’m standing by a pond. I…”

He felt ridiculous.

“My name is…” He hesitated. “…My name is Jack Frost. I came here looking for… Well. Just anyone who might be able to help me. I’ve heard stories about someone called the Snow Queen. Are… Are you here?”

He waited. All he heard was the wind in the trees and the creepy sounds of the forest.

Jack was tempted to go back. He was cold and Toothless might start looking for him if he was away any longer. Hiccup or one of the others might call for the dragons soon. The forest seemed so empty, he couldn’t imagine anyone, even a spirit, wanting to hang around this place. If he’d just been a spirit himself, this would’ve been a whole lot easier. Now he felt like he was speaking to a wall – a wall that he would’ve had the power to climb over if he’d still had his powers. Or better yet, fly over. The thought made him grit his teeth in frustration.

“Alright, listen,” he started, straightening his back. “Snow Queen, or… whatever kind of spirit that might be lurking around here. I’m not an ordinary person. And I don’t mean that in a boastful way, I mean it in a… an ‘I’m not entirely human’ kind of way. The people around here might think you’re just a legend, but that isn’t true, is it? I should know. I’m a… Or at least I’m supposed to be a spirit as well.” He paused, twirling his staff restlessly in his hands. “Something happened, and… I need your help. Whoever you are. Please?”

He grimaced. He sounded like a little kid.

The silence around him seemed even quieter than earlier, like it was taunting him. Jack felt his heart sink. He started to turn back around, but then something touched his face. He looked up.

A snowflake. With a jolt of alarm, he made to go back so that the snow wouldn’t cover up his footsteps, but then something else caught his attention. The snowflakes… They weren’t moving like snowflakes were supposed to move.

He watched as they floated across the pond, whirling around each other. They came from every direction – the woods, the ground, the sky – and met in a tiny whirlwind in the middle of the ice. Jack’s body felt paralyzed as he watched the whirlwind close in on itself, until the snowflakes formed a figure. Then they dispersed, and Jack took a step backwards.

She was breathtaking. Jack had never been the one to take much notice of anyone’s beauty, and now he wondered if it was because nobody was truly worth taking notice of, compared to the face looking back at him. Her gaze, though soft and wary, was so piercingly bright, Jack wanted to look away. At the same time, he couldn’t bring himself to look at anything else, afraid that if he even blinked, the woman would dissolve into snowflakes again.

Her hair, like Jack’s had used to be, was a silvery white. It tumbled over her shoulders and down her chest in slightly unruly, yet elegant waves. Some of it was woven into braids, and tiny shards of ice glittered in the intertwined locks like precious stones. A gown of what looked like woven snowflakes gleamed faintly in the moonlight, falling in winding layers from a low neckline, which seemed to seep seamlessly into her pale skin. From her shoulders hung a cape of white fur, though judging by the exposed skin around her collarbones, her neck and her lower arms, it didn’t look like she needed the extra warmth.

And if the woman didn’t look regal enough, she also wore a crown. It was made of ice crystals, decorated with red winter berries, and from the crown sprouted a couple of white antlers. Thin strings like spiderwebs hung from them, glistening with tiny beads of ice.

Her whole body was covered in a thin layer of frost, decorating her skin with that familiar fern-like pattern Jack had always liked leaving in his wake. In the dim light, she looked like a ghost, but that didn’t strike Jack as a bad omen; he’d been mistaken for a ghost before too. Maybe it just came with the whole winter spirit package.

Jack realized his mouth was hanging open. He tried finding his voice, but now that he actually had a face to speak to, he forgot how to use either of the languages he knew. The Snow Queen’s pale blue eyes bore into his, and though they were sharp, Jack didn’t feel like he was in danger. There was something guarded about her expression, something soft and wary and…

Oh.

Jack closed his mouth and carefully lowered his staff, looking back at the Snow Queen in a way he hoped wasn’t reminiscent of a googly-eyed Chihuahua. He just couldn’t seem to stop staring. A part of him refused to believe that this spirit could bring something the Berkians had dubbed “devastating winter”, while another part of him didn’t doubt it a second. Behind those slightly parted, mystified lips, the might of a blizzard lay in wait; Jack knew firsthand that winter wasn’t just beautiful, no matter how breathtaking it looked, glimmering in the moonlight.

He wondered how long she’d been alone.

“You’re… the Snow Queen?” he asked, his voice so soft it was almost a whisper.

The Queen tilted her head ever so slightly to the side, as if she was still trying to discern whether or not Jack was actually talking to her. If Jack had been in her shoes, he probably would’ve checked behind himself just to be sure. But the night was quiet, and the only living beings – if the Snow Queen could be counted as such – in the clearing were the two of them.

“You can see me,” she said.

A tingle went down Jack’s spine. Her voice felt like the first fall of snow; soft, but with a silent reminder of the biting winter nights that were to come.

Jack nodded. “Yes,” he said, taking a tentative step forward. He smiled. “I can see you.”

The Queen looked puzzled. Her brows furrowed ever so slightly as her eyes went up and down Jack’s body. She raised her chin. “You stand before the queen of winter,” she said, and there was a slight change to her tone. Sharper, authoritative – a tone that Jack normally would’ve detested and disobeyed out of pure spite, had the circumstances been normal.

But he understood what she hinted at, and just to wipe that guarded expression off her face, he didn’t mind humoring her. He bowed – but probably not as deeply as he should have. It seemed to be enough for the Queen, though; there was a new glint in her eyes when he straightened again. Not exactly a smile, but maybe a small step towards it.

“You say you’re not an ordinary person,” she said, folding her hands in front of her. “I suppose that must be true, since you’re here, talking to me… but you seem very human.”

Jack tried not to wince. “Uh, yeah… It’s a long story,” he said. “And that’s sort of the problem.”

The Snow Queen studied him. Her expression hadn’t quite lost its guardedness, but after looking at Jack for a few seconds, she raised one hand, beckoning him forward.

“Walk with me, then,” she said. “I don’t know if I have any power to help you with your… problem, but…” The corners of her lips twitched upwards, like she had known how to smile once but had forgotten it with time. “…you must be cold. There are more comfortable places to speak than this.”

Jack was cold. He’d completely forgotten about it when he’d spotted the Queen, along with his ability to speak, breathe and blink. Now it was all coming back, and a shudder went through his body. He gritted his teeth to stop them from clattering and sent the Queen a grateful smile. He took a step forward, and felt the ground turn hard.

He froze – not in the literal sense – and looked down. Following the Queen had seemed like the easiest thing to do a second ago, but feeling the ice beneath his feet hurdled him back to reality. In this cold, the ice should be more than thick enough, but… there was no way to know for certain.

“It’s okay.”

Jack looked up at the Queen again. Her face had softened, just a fraction.

“The ice won’t break. Not while I’m here.”

“Are you sure?” Jack asked without thinking, then silently cursed himself. It probably wasn’t smart to question royalty.

The Snow Queen didn’t look like she thought it was smart either, but at least she didn’t look angry. Just a little exasperated.

“I am the Snow Queen,” she said. “Winter bends to my will. Come along, Jack Frost.”

Jack Frost. Jack felt a smile spread on his face. He hesitated for just a moment longer, before he tentatively took a step forward. The ice felt like solid stone. It won’t break, he told himself. He didn’t need to be a winter spirit to see how unlikely that was. Besides, here was the queen of winter – Jack would be lying if he said he didn’t feel a twinge of envy at those words – telling him it was safe. If he could trust anyone, it was her.

His steps grew more confident as he went further across the ice, until the only apprehension left was there because he didn’t want to slip and fall on his ass in front of the Snow Queen. He kept his eyes on the ground, and only looked up when he came close to her.

And he continued to look up; she was taller that he’d thought. Her blue eyes – so pale and brilliant they were almost white – looked down at him in a way that made Jack feel like she could see right through his skin, to his bones and veins and guts.

He slipped anyway, and to his surprise, the Snow Queen automatically grabbed his arm and steadied him.

“Oh,” she said, the caution in her eyes momentarily making way for surprise. “Don’t hurt yourself.”

Jack’s face felt unbearably warm against the cold. He gave an awkward laugh and took a small step away from the Queen. “Sorry,” he managed, brushing his hair out of his eyes. Since becoming human again, he’d slipped and fallen so much it almost didn’t bother him anymore, but right now it made Jack wish for the ice to break after all.

But then the Queen’s face softened into what looked like a genuine, just slightly reluctant smile, and Jack decided his clumsiness was worth it. She nodded towards the forest and started walking. Jack followed a couple of steps behind.

The Snow Queen led him deeper into the forest, towards a mountain. She didn’t look around herself while walking, except when she glanced briefly at Jack, the only thing betraying her emotions being the slight furrow in her brows. Jack marveled at the way her hair fell down her back, reaching her hips. Among the locks were several tiny braids, like she spent her time idly doing and undoing them. Jack supposed there weren’t that many fun things to do in a place like this.

“Is this your home?” he asked.

The Queen turned to him with a blank look.

“This island, I mean.”

She hummed softly. “I suppose,” she said. “Among other islands. Wherever winter goes, my kingdom does as well.”

Jack frowned. “But you heard me,” he said. “When I called for you.”

“Yes,” the Queen said. “But I wasn’t here then. I merely heard your voice and followed it here. Before that, I was further north. Someplace without plants or animals – only ice and snow.”

“The North Pole?” Jack asked, but was only answered by another blank look. He gave a sheepish smile. “Ah, I guess you don’t call it that.”

The Queen peered down at him for a few more seconds, without stopping in her tracks. She stepped easily around trees and shrubs, like she knew the forest like the back of her hand.

“Jack Frost,” she said. Hearing his name in her voice made goosebumps run down Jack’s arms. “What a peculiar name. You’re not from here, are you?”

“I’m not,” Jack confirmed. “Putting it mildly.”

“And you came here for my help,” the Queen continued. “You say… you’re supposed to be a spirit. What do you mean by that?”

Jack tried not to let the hesitation show on his face. He weighed his words carefully.

“Up until one month ago,” he started. “I was a winter spirit, like you.” The Queen raised an eyebrow at that, but Jack continued before she could say anything. “We were attacked by a powerful sprite, and… in our attempt to escape it, we ended up here. Well, not here-here, but in the Archipelago. But I didn’t escape unharmed, so to say. I think it took away my powers, and now we have no way to return home.”

He left out the part about the time travel, in fear that she might ask about the future. Especially after what Sandy had told him about the Snow Queen’s mysterious disappearance. Surely, she would understand what that information might mean for her.

The Snow Queen’s eyes went misty. “The blizzard…” she murmured.

Jack’s heart skipped a beat. “The blizzard?” he repeated. “The one that appeared when we arrived? Was that you?”

“No,” the Snow Queen said. “It wasn’t me.”

She didn’t elaborate. Turning her gaze ahead again, she continued walking without a word.

Jack struggled a little to trudge through the snow, but the Queen didn’t seem to have any problem with it. She had no footprints either. It almost looked like she waded through the snow like water.

After a while, the darkness of the forest almost seemed to… fade away. Like fog, it retreated away from them, letting Jack see more of the nature around them. There was something about this place that felt different from before. The trees were all covered in frost. Icicles hung from their branches. Frozen bushes with red berries dotted the otherwise silvery scenery.

Another couple of minutes passed before Jack realized that it wasn’t just the beauty of the place that set it apart from the rest of the island.

Everything had gone completely silent. All Jack could hear was the sound of his own footsteps.

“You said ‘we’.” The Snow Queen still didn’t meet his eyes. Her face was set into a blank mask. “Are there… other people like you?”

“I’m the only one who used to be a spirit,” Jack said.

“That’s not what I mean,” the Queen said, and her gaze flickered downwards. “I meant if there are more people who would be able to see me.”

“Oh.” Jack felt his heart sink a little bit. He tried his best to sound upbeat when he answered her. “I heard about you from… my brother, who heard about you from the other kids. I think a lot of people on Berk know of you. I know my brother believes in you. If he were here, I’m certain he would’ve been able to see you.”

“Knowing my name is not enough to make them see me in most people’s cases,” the Snow Queen said, sending Jack a curious look. “You… are the first exception.”

Jack tried reading her expression, but it was as impossible as reading runes. “How… How long?” he asked softly.

The Queen held his gaze for a few more moments, before she looked ahead again. “Long,” was her short reply.

They continued in silence.

“Do you have a name?” Jack asked, before adding jokingly, “or do I just call you the Snow Queen?”

“I don’t,” the Queen said, which made Jack search her face for any sign that she was joking. But she didn’t seem like the type.  “You can call me your Majesty.

No, no sign of a joke. Jack bit the inside of his cheek, forcing himself not to laugh. Honestly, she was called the Snow Queen, but it wasn’t like she had an actual kingdom to rule, was it? Maybe she’d used to have that, Jack pondered. If she was a spirit, and not a sprite, she’d used to be someone else before becoming the Snow Queen.

It felt awkward in Jack’s mouth, but he abided. Mostly just to be nice.

“Your… Majesty,” he said stiffly. “Alright, then. You really don’t have a name?”

The Queen didn’t answer. Maybe she didn’t feel the need to, since she’d already told him. Jack decided silently just to call her Snow. Maybe not out loud. Yet.

“And you are Jack Frost,” the Queen then said.

“Just Jack is fine,” Jack said with what he hoped was an easygoing smile. Looking at her still made him feel tingly and nervous, which was both exciting and annoying at the same time. Exciting, because Jack could feel he was in the presence of someone powerful – someone who might be able to help him. Annoying, because Jack didn’t like feeling like he was inferior. It reminded him of all those years he’d spent watching the Guardians – the Big Four – from a distance, with a mixture of admiration and envy. This was even worse, now that he was human, and Snow was the one with the winter magic.

But he wouldn’t let those feelings show. It’s not like it was Snow’s fault. And maybe she’d even be able to help him get his powers back.

“Jack,” Snow said, and she smiled in that stiff way again. At least she tried. “Your story is fascinating. I… don’t know if I’ll be able to help you, but you seem like an honest person. If there’s anything I can do, I will.”

Jack tightened his grip around his staff. “Thank you,” he said. His voice was a bit shaky. He was so relieved.

Snow nodded, then looked ahead again. “There it is,” she said.

Jack followed her gaze. There, a stone’s throw away, Jack saw another clearing. As they got closer, the trees got scarcer and the snow gradually turned to ice under their feet. Jack could tell there was no water underneath it; this ice was magic, created to resemble a road. It wasn’t slippery either, and it made a pleasant tapping sound as Jack walked. Snow’s footsteps still didn’t make a sound, and Jack started to wonder if she was barefoot under that dress. Maybe it was just a winter spirit thing.

As they walked into the clearing, Jack’s eyes quickly went to the giant chair in the middle of it. No, not a chair; a throne. It stood against the mountain side, ice stretching out from it in spiky shards that didn’t make Jack particularly anxious to get close to it.

Then Jack noticed the ice sculptures. Sculptures of animals, dragons – even a few people. Their likeness to reality was so impressive it was almost creepy. Jack felt another twinge of envy; he’d never been able to create something with that level of detail.

Then again, Snow made it seem like she was more dependent on her season than the other way around. She couldn’t go anywhere winter wasn’t; she was forced to stay here, on a cold dark island not even dragons inhabited, as far as Jack had seen. Or any animals at all, really. Maybe the ice sculptures were there to keep her company. The thought made Jack’s stomach twist.

The Snow Queen walked up the steps to her throne and sat. She fixed Jack with a look. “Is this better?” she asked.

It took a moment before Jack understood. He wasn’t shivering anymore. It was cold, yes, but inside the clearing the cold seemed bearable. It reminded Jack of how he felt about cold as a spirit: He felt everything, but without the discomfort. The cold just was.

“Yes,” he answered with a grateful smile.

Snow almost smiled back. She folded her hands in her lap. “How can I help you, Jack?” she asked softly.

Jack opened his mouth, but realized he didn’t know what to answer. He’d focused so much on finding the Snow Queen, he hadn’t thought about what he would do if he actually did find her. He’d never heard about any spirit losing his powers the way he had. But if it really was the same thing that happened to Bunny when the time fragment attacked, his powers should come back gradually… unless they were taken away for good in his case, since they were swallowed by it.

“I… I don’t know,” he admitted. “I was hoping that, somehow, you could help me get my powers back.”

“Powers which you lost,” Snow said, “in the battle against a sprite. What kind of sprite was that?”

“Er- well, it wasn’t exactly a sprite.” Jack shifted his feet, bringing his other hand up to hold around his staff as well. “I’m not sure what to call it. It was… created by humans, drawn from time itself. Only it didn’t go well, and they had to split it into fragments, and…” He trailed off when he realized Snow was giving him a questioning, slightly doubtful look. Jack shrugged. “Look, I don’t really understand it either.”

“Time?” the Queen repeated. “Drawn from time itself? What do you mean?”

Jack’s mouth felt dry. He couldn’t keep information from her – not if she was going to help him.

“I mean it’s an entity that can bend time,” Jack said. “I’m not from here. This time, I mean. I’m from… probably around a thousand years into the future, but I’m not sure. The time fragment threw my brother and I back in time, and I think it took my powers. It made me human again.”

The Queen stared at him. Her brows had furrowed more and more as Jack spoke.

“Impossible,” she said.

“That’s what I though too,” Jack said with a helpless smile.

Snow’s hands were clasped tighter together. “And you were a winter spirit like me?” she asked, her voice growing soft. “I thought… I thought I was the only one.”

Jack nodded. “There are a few minor winter spirits and sprites, but… I get what you mean,” he said. He looked down at his feet. “I’m useless without my powers. There’s a chance that they might come back, but I haven’t heard of anyone having this problem before. And I kind of don’t want to get them back the same way I got the powers in the first place.”

Snow’s lips parted and closed a few times. “…Death,” she said, but it sounded almost like a question.

Jack nodded stiffly.

The Queen quietly stood from her throne. She stepped down the icy stairs before walking over to one of the sculptures: A stark white, shimmering deer. She ran a hand over its back. Her expression was tight, her brows furrowed in what looked like concern.

“The Berkians,” she said, her voice sounding slightly distant. “They tell stories about me, I know. Not all of them takes them seriously. Some of them do. Their winters are long, and they’ve even named the harshest time like it’s its own season.”

“Devastating winter,” Jack confirmed. “They say it’s your doing.”

He didn’t ask if it was true, but the question hung in the air. The Queen smiled.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s quite a compliment.”

Jack frowned. “But they fear you,” he said.

“Winter should be feared.” Snow moved on to another statue: A fox. She crouched down, her flowing dress falling elegantly around her, and stroked the statue’s head. “It’s a dangerous season. Cold and treacherous.”

“It’s more than that,” Jack said, sterner than he intended. The Queen looked up, raising a brow at him, and Jack bit his tongue. “I mean… It’s more than just dangerous, S- …Your Majesty. I think I know more about the, uh, treacherousness of winter than the average person, but I also know that it can bring just as much happiness.”

Snow straightened. “Happiness?” she repeated, like she didn’t know the word.

Jack shifted awkwardly. “Yes?”

She gave a small huff. Almost a laugh. “You’re just a boy after all,” she said. She ignored Jack’s slightly indignant look and walked across the icy pathway, over to the human statue. “The Berkians fear me because that’s how I want it to be. Their fear is what makes them believe in me. It’s what makes me strong. Still, none of them see me. Do you know why that is?”

“Because…” Jack started, but hesitated. Why did he feel like he was being tested? “They know your story. Your legend. But they think it’s just that – a legend. With… With a few exceptions, I think.” Tuffnut definitely seemed to believe in the Snow Queen.

“No,” Snow said, looking over at Jack again. Her fingers were lightly tracing the cheek of the human statue. “Even if they do believe in me, they wouldn’t be able to see me.”

Jack frowned. “How do you know?” he asked.

“Because that’s how I want it to be.” She let her hand fall, and walked slowly over to Jack. The corners of her mouth quirked upwards. “You look so surprised, Jack. It’s all a matter of survival. If they can’t see me, they never know what they are up against. Keeps them on their toes. It fuels me.”

“But aren’t you lonely?” Jack asked. His brain was having trouble registering what he was hearing. It was almost like talking to Pitch again. “There are other ways to be powerful. I never used winter as a weapon, and I’m- I mean, I was… powerful.”

Snow stopped in front of him, looking down at him. Her expression was indiscernible. Gently, she reached for Jack’s face, and Jack couldn’t bring himself to step back. Her fingertips grazed his cheekbone like she’d done to the statue. “Such sadness in you,” she said softly. It was Jack’s turn to look guarded, but the Queen didn’t seem to pay it any mind. “Quiet and fragile. And yet I do sense there’s something special about you… something deep inside.”

The swell of hope in Jack’s chest was almost painful. “Magic?” he breathed.

The Queen let her hand fall. She began circling Jack with an inquisitive look on her face. “Perhaps,” she said. “It does feel familiar, but also… slightly different. I’ve felt it before. The day of that blizzard. Wild and strong, but pointless.”

“Pointless?” Jack repeated confusedly.

“Nothing to fear, no,” Snow said, and Jack wasn’t sure if she was answering his question, or if she’d heard him at all. Her voice had gone distant again. “You can see me. You want my… help. You… Jack Frost.” She paused. Jack wanted to turn around, but felt it would be rude, somehow. Like he didn’t trust her to be behind him. “Yes… You are something special. I’m sorry, Jack. It’s all a matter of survival.”

Jack’s heart skipped a beat. “What are you-“ he started, attempting to turn around, but his feet were firmly planted into the ground. He looked down and saw that they were covered in ice. His breath left him, and he turned his head.

The Snow Queen had her hand raised. It was glowing white.

Then there was a bright light. Jack clenched his eyes shut as he was hit with a wave – not of cold, but of heat. The shrill sound made his ears ring, and he was faintly aware of getting tossed through the air and then hitting the snow. He gasped for air and blinked his eyes open.

A huge, dark figured loomed over him, emitting a low, furious growl.

“Toothless,” Jack croaked.

The dragon looked down at him briefly, his pupils narrow slits. Something green flew down from his head, flickering rapidly in front of Jack eyes. Baby Tooth?

 Toothless looked back, and Jack followed his gaze.

The Snow Queen was pushing herself up on her arms, looking awestruck. Her expression darkened with fury when she saw Toothless. She looked nothing like the woman Jack had first seen on that pond, the contrast so stark it made Jack wonder how he could’ve been so naïve as to trust her, just like that. She’d seemed so tentative and lonely – but now Jack realized that he had just seen what he’d wanted to see. A winter spirit, in which he wanted to see a companion; someone he could look at and see himself.

She dispersed into snowflakes, and Jack staggered to his feet. Toothless bared his teeth, looking around wildly, but the Snow Queen was nowhere to be seen.

Until she was. Both Toothless and Jack spotted her too late. Something collided with the side of Jack’s face, right where Snow had touched him earlier. The force was strong enough to send him sprawling again. For a moment, his vision was completely white. When he came to his senses, the world was blurry, and there was silence. Jack shakily pushed himself up. It felt as if he was moving through mud as he turned around and saw Toothless lounging at the Snow Queen, dodging her magic while attempting to hit her with a plasma blast.

The world went dark for a second before coming back again. Jack was losing consciousness. His staff… Where was his staff?

He spotted it in the snow a few meters away. The world spun too much; Jack couldn’t get to his feet. He started clawing himself towards it, crawling through the snow. His vision was fuzzy, and Jack came to the slow realization that it was because it had started to snow. The Snow Queen’s magic made the air pulsate with energy, but Jack couldn’t turn around to look. He needed his staff.

The cold was unbearable. Worse than it had been ever since they’d landed on this island. It spread from Jack’s head and through his entire body, making him feel like he was slowly turning to ice. And maybe that was it, he thought faintly.

Through the ringing in his head, he began hearing a voice, and the world shimmered in and out of focus. In one second, he was dragging himself towards his staff, and in the next he was someplace else. Somewhere, in the middle of a snowstorm.

I’m cold, the voice said, scared and weak. Where are we?

Jack caught a glimpse of a cave and became suddenly highly aware of the pressure against his shin, where he’d hidden the time crystal.

We’ll wait out the storm here, alright? It’s gonna be okay, Emily.

Jack grabbed his staff and turned around. He couldn’t see the Snow Queen, but Toothless was bounding towards him. He could hear a faint, but frantic chirping, and Jack somehow got the message. He started reaching for Toothless, and Toothless managed to scoop him up with his head, making Jack slide onto his back. The wind’s roaring had replaced the ringing in Jack’s ears now, and he grasped onto Toothless’ saddle as the dragon ran from the clearing.

Wind made snowflakes slash Jack’s face and hands like a whip, and with it came another voice that sounded like the blizzard itself:

You will regret coming here, Jack Frost, it said. Wherever the snow falls, I will be there. This is my kingdom, as it has been for thousands of years. I am the Snow Queen; winter belongs to me.

The voice faded, as did the last of the world. He jolted back awake when Toothless gave an earsplitting roar. Jack responded with a weak groan. He tried to open his eyes, but his body felt paralyzed. Baby Tooth tweeted from somewhere beside him, but Jack didn’t understand her.

Toothless?

The new voice sounded vaguely familiar in Jack’s delirious state. All he could think of was to convey one urgent message. He spent the rest of his strength to push himself up on his arms.

Go,“ he managed to wheeze.

“Oh, gods.” Hands were cupping Jack’s face, then running down his shoulders. When Jack managed to open his eyes, they met Hiccup’s green ones, wide and filled with horror. “Jack, what happened? What’s wrong?”

Jack tried grasping Hiccup’s hand. “Run, H- Hiccup, you have to run,” he whispered, his voice quavering violently from the cold. “F- Find the others. Leave the- i- island. Quickly.

The darkness at the edges of Jack’s vision was quickly closing in on Hiccup’s face. Hiccup’s mouth moved, his face coming closer, but his words sounded nonsensical. Jack tried warning him one more time, but he didn’t know if he made any sense either. He didn’t have the strength to keep his eyes open, and his body went limp on Toothless’ back.

Chapter Text

Toothless was gone when Hiccup finally reached the hilltop. And Jack as well, but that part somehow didn’t come as much of a shock. The other dragons were still there, though they were all restless and jumpy. The ground around Hookfang was free of snow, like he’d set himself on fire. Meatlug had found herself a pile of rocks that she was anxiously munching through. Barf and Belch were snapping at each other, which wouldn’t have been anything out of the ordinary if they didn’t also shoot sharp glances towards the woods, as if they were waiting for an attack.

Stormfly trotted up to Hiccup, her head tilting from side to side like an agitated bird.

“Where’d they go, girl?” Hiccup asked, softly brushing over her scales in an attempt to calm her.

Stormfly squawked. Hiccup didn’t understand her as well as he understood Toothless, but it didn’t matter; he already knew the answer.

The woods seemed to stare back at him. The darkness seemed almost magnetic, like it was a living entity, luring him inside. Or maybe that was just the mix of fear and desperation to reach Toothless and Jack before something bad happened.

Still, now that he’d caught his breath, his previous alarm felt just as ridiculous as it had felt on that little island with Astrid. However, that didn’t change the fact that it had happened twice, and Hiccup was starting to worry if there actually was something weird going on, or if he was just finally losing it. He didn’t know what was worse.

Why was it so bad that Jack found the crystal anyway? The worst that could happen was that it turned out to be his stone after all, and maybe he’d get mad or something – which wasn’t great, but not bad enough to go absolutely ballistic over it like Hiccup had just now.

Also, he was growing considerably tired of contemplating who was crazy or not.

A sudden gust of wind made his body shudder violently. He better go find Jack before the boy got himself killed. He patted Stormfly goodbye, tried to write off the dragons’ apprehension as nothing, and limped back into the forest.

He’d gotten about ten feet when the wind picked up again, so suddenly it sounded like thunder. He yelped, arms flying up to cover his face from snowflakes that felt just a little bit too sharp against his skin to be normal. In the distance, Toothless’ plasma blast echoed, followed by a guttural roar.

Hiccup set into a run.

“Toothless!” he yelled. The ruckus didn’t stop. Whatever Toothless was firing at, it wasn’t backing down. Hiccup couldn’t think of any other reason why Toothless would be out in the forest if not to follow Jack, which meant that if Toothless was in danger, so was he. But that was not counting the possibility that Jack had already stumbled upon whatever it was Toothless was currently fighting, and without any way to protect himself…

He halted the course of thought before it could get any further. Questions could come later.

 The ruckus came to a sudden stop, and Hiccup tried calling out for them again. He kept running, but without any sound to go after, he was afraid he’d never find them. Just when he’d begun to ask himself if he was too late, Toothless roared again, closer this time.

The dragon bounded out of the darkness, wobbling from side to side as if he was dizzy and… shivering, like he was cold. But that was ridiculous – dragons didn’t get cold.

“Toothless?” Hiccup called, worry making his voice crack slightly. Then he noticed Jack, and his heart sank even further.

For a moment, he thought the worst. His body turned cold in a way that not even this sinister snowstorm could make him. Then, Jack stirred, shakily pushing himself up. In his right hand, his staff was locked in a weak fist. He tried to say something, but his voice was too broken to discern. Hiccup almost sobbed with relief. He stumbled forward, scanning Jack’s body for any wounds that needed immediate attention. Slashes, stabs, burn marks – who knew what kind of beast they’d encountered.

What Hiccup found instead confused him as much as it unsettled him.

“Oh gods,” he muttered. He cupped Jack’s face, but carefully avoided touching his left cheekbone when he gave a pained whimper. His skin was as cold as ice. Hiccup ran his hands down Jack’s shoulders instead, attempting to help him sit up.

Jack’s eyes fluttered open, but his gaze was unfocused. His breath was ragged and shaky, and he shuddered like he had a bad fever. It reminded Hiccup of the time he’d almost lost Astrid to the Scourge of Odin, which did not do anything to ease his panic.

“Jack, what happened? What’s wrong?”

Jack’s voice was so weak, Hiccup had to lean in closer to hear him. His words made pins and needles run down Hiccup’s spine. “Run, H- Hiccup, you have to run,” he wheezed. “F- Find the others. Leave the- i- island. Quickly.”

Why? What happened to you?” Hiccup asked, but Jack already seemed to be losing consciousness. He tried calling his name, to no avail. Whatever it was Jack tried to say right before his eyes rolled back into his head came out in his native language, and Hiccup was left with nothing but an ominous warning but an unmistakable order.

He didn’t want to waste any time. He climbed onto Toothless, whose shaking had thankfully subsided, and gathered Jack into his arms the best he could.

“Let’s go, bud,” he told Toothless. No more was needed; Toothless shot into the sky with as much frantic desperation as Jack had just presented, like whatever they’d met in the forest was right on the tip of his tail.

Finding the others proved harder than Hiccup thought it would be. He could barely see anything through the snowfall, and the wind kept throwing them off course. If he hadn’t known better, he would’ve thought the weather was deliberately trying to shoot them out of the sky. The only thing they lacked now was some good old lightning.

He gathered the dragons and sent them to find their riders. After what felt like an eternity – an eternity in which Jack showed no signs of waking up, and the only thing reassuring Hiccup that he was still alive was the faint pulsing under his jaw – he spotted Stormfly flying towards them, carrying Astrid on her back.

Astrid got the job of gathering the others and canceling the drill. At first, she was angry about it, but then she took one look at Jack, and her expression turned pale. Nausea rose in Hiccup’s chest at that; somehow, he’d hoped that Astrid would be able to tell him that this wasn’t as bad as it looked. She was always the one to push through pain and injuries, hoping for scars and bragging rights. But there was none of that bravado now. She assured Hiccup she would get the others back to the Edge, then ushered Hiccup to fly ahead.

It was a long flight, but they both wordlessly agreed that it was best for them to head straight for Berk. Gothi was the only one Hiccup could think of that might have an idea of what had attacked Jack in the woods, and more importantly, how to heal him.

And then there was the possibility that healing was beyond her power, in which case Jack should be as close to home as he possibly could right now: With Jamie. It was a grim thought, pestering Hiccup no matter how hard he tried not to think it. For now, he kept a hand on Jack’s neck, taking consolation in the faint beat of his heart.

As they flew away from the island, the weather gradually cleared up. The wind stopped throwing them around like a paper plane, the temperature rose just a tad, and the snowflakes stopped feeling like tiny whips against Hiccup’s face. Toothless’ course was fast and steady. Hiccup wondered if he hurried because he knew Jack could be in danger, or if he was fleeing from the island.

Hiccup let out a shaky breath, glancing down at Jack’s lifeless expression. On the horizon, they sky had started to fade into purple, and Hiccup found himself praying for the sun to rise faster. Maybe it would do something about the cold that seemed to have seeped permanently into Jack’s body. Not for the first time, Hiccup wished he’d inherited more of his dad’s stature; sharing his body heat with Jack wasn’t easy when there was so little body to take from.

With shaky fingers, he traced Jack’s cheekbone, but quickly retracted his hand when a tingling went through his fingers.

In the same moment, there was a sudden flash of color before him. Nothing big, but still big enough for Hiccup to sit up suddenly in alarm. He looked around, but the night had gone back to dark and gray. He could’ve sworn something… green had just appeared at the side of Jack’s face, just by his cheekbone.

It had been a long night. That’s what he told himself. First paranoia, and now he was beginning to hallucinate. Fantastic.

Toothless gave a low grumble, and Hiccup surprised himself with a quiet, slightly hysteric chuckle.

“He’ll be fine,” he muttered, to soothe Toothless’ nerves as well as his own. He exhaled shakily and brought Jack close again, wrapping the blanket tighter around him. “This isn’t the first blizzard he’s survived.”

A voice in his head told him this blizzard was something very different.

He ignored it.

 

 

“When I read about dragons, none of the pictures look like these guys.”

“Don’t you come from a place where you don’t actually have dragons, though, Jamie?”

Jamie pursed his lips. He could go without being reminded of that. “Yeah, but… the only thing differentiating a Terrible Terror from a tiny, like, Chichuahua is just the wings. Maybe the scales…”

The Terrible Terror, who up until that point had been busy munching on a half-eaten salmon, turned to give Jamie a narrow look.

“What’s a Chihuahua?” Brant asked, seemingly more clueless about the topic than the dragon, somehow.

“Er- Sorry,” Jamie quickly told the Terror. “It’s a type of dog. They’re small with big eyes and they act tougher than they look. My neighbor has one. Abby loves her, but the feeling isn’t mutual I think.”

“Terrible Terrors can actually be pretty cuddly, once you earn their trust,” Undis said, from where she was sitting opposite of Jamie. To her left, Hrafnhildur was sharpening a dagger, seemingly without paying attention to the tetchy dragon in the middle of them.

“Oh, I know. We stayed at Gothi at first, remember?” Jamie carefully handed the Terror another fish, and quickly retracted his hand when the dragon snatched it. So far so good, but they were quickly running out of salmon. Whose idea was this again? “Her Terrible Terrors were a lot more docile.”

Brant chewed on the inside of his cheek, watching the half full basket of fish behind Jamie apprehensively. “Which was why you thought a Terrible Terror would be a good starting point for training dragons,” he said.

Oh, right. It was Jamie’s idea.

“You are aware that the Terrible Terror was a part of the dragon killing training program before we made peace with the dragons, right?” Hildur then said helpfully.

Jamie swallowed. “You don’t say,” he replied, attempting to sound unaffected. Hildur didn’t scare him. That’s what he told himself, at least.

“They’re small, but deadly,” Undis added.

“Their singing, especially,” Hildur muttered.

Undis sent her a look. “Don’t pretend you don’t sleep like a dead person,” she argued, before smiling sardonically. “You’re only mimicking your dad. I’ve heard him say that exact same thing, you daddy’s girl.”

Hildur sent Undis a sharp look. Jamie wasn’t entirely sure about the idea of riling Hildur up while she held a newly sharpened dagger, but Undis didn’t seem to share the same concerns.

Brant interrupted before a fight could break out. “They’re not that dangerous alone, so we don’t really have anything to worry about,” he said, shooting the soon-to-be-empty basket of fish a very much worried glance ever so often. “Just, um… do whatever you were planning to do before we run out of food.”

Jamie picked up another fish and threw it to the Terror. “Um… I was kinda hoping it would eat until it got stuffed and then…”

“Like dads get after a big feast and they fall asleep by the hearth?” Hildur asked.

Jamie didn’t know much about dads, but he shrugged.

“Well… Maybe you should think of a new plan,” Hildur said.

It seemed to be breaking the laws of physics, the fact that this dragon could eat the entire basket of fish, which was bigger than he was. Jamie started to regret doing this on the edge of the pier, so far away from anyone who could help if something went wrong. The idea was to jump into the water if anyone of them got set on fire, and the smell of fish had been luring the Terrible Terror down there anyway.

“Maybe see if there’s some more fish lying around here?” Jamie suggested with a nervous smile.

“Jamie…” Brant warned.

The Terrible Terror gave a loud squawk, and Jamie pushed the entire basket over to it.

“Nice dragon,” he muttered. “You look lovely, by the way. Not at all like a Chihuahua.”

The dragon growled, as if it were saying that’s right – save yourself while you still can.

This thing was really nothing like Gothi’s Terrible Terrors. Jamie supposed every dragon had its own personality. This one happened to mirror the personality of a hangry badger.

They watched the dragon emptying the basket like a pipe bomb.

“Um. Run?” Brant suggested.

“Sounds good,” Undis said, pulling Hildur to her feet when she didn’t immediately follow.

They started backing away from the dragon, Jamie inching around it as he was the one sitting at the far end of the pier. He was about to set into a run with the others when something in the sky caught his eye, immediately distracting him. He looked up to see a black dot against the blue.

“Toothless!” he gasped. “They’re back! They-“

“Jamie, what are you doing?” Brant yelled. How did they get that far away so fast?

Jamie’s eyes snapped down to the dragon when it gave a low growl. The basket was empty, and the Terror was now eyeing Jamie as if the difference between salmon and human didn’t seem so important at the moment. Jamie quickly backed up, but behind him was only ocean.

“Uh…” he started, shakily holding up his hands. “No more fish, I- I’m afraid. And you don’t want me.” To his surprise, the dragon stopped momentarily, tilting its head as if considering this. “Eleven-year-olds are, um… not good for your stomach. Probably I will give you indigestion.” He tried for a smile.

The Terror made a sound almost like a purr. Jamie took that as a good sign. Several meters behind it, Brant and the others were watching in a mix between horror and fascination.

“What’s your name?” Jamie asked, like he expected the Terror to answer.

The dragon squawked.

“Squawk, yeah- Good name.” Jamie slowly crouched, still holding his hand out. “Okay, Squawk… My hand may smell of fish, but I promise it’s a hundred percent human flesh and bones, so please don’t try to take a bite.”

In the background, Brant shook his head violently. Hildur was watching with wide eyes. Undis was gone – hopefully to get help, or Jamie would we pretty cranky with her later.

Jamie inched forward. Squawk blinked his huge yellow eyes. So far so good…

With a shaky inhale, Jamie looked away the way Hiccup had shown him and waited in tense expectation. A huge part of him expected to live the rest of his life with a few missing fingers. Another part of him hoped to feel Squawk’s scales under his palm.

In the end, none of that happened. Squawk… well, squawked and took to the skies. He flew up beyond the pier, over the hill and disappeared.

Jamie tried not to show his disappointment.

Then he remembered what he’d seen in the sky, and he grinned at his friends. He ran up to them. “Come on!” he yelled, sprinting up the wooden ramp.

They dashed through the village, Jamie in the lead. His chest was tingling with excitement. He wondered what Jack had found, if he had found anything. To be honest, Jamie didn’t really care at the moment; he’d just missed him, because the almost four days he’d been gone seemed a whole lot longer than usual.

He expected them to land in the arena where they’d left, but then some villager pointed upwards and said: “It’s Hiccup and Toothless!” and Jamie looked up to see them soaring, not towards the dragon arena but towards the chief’s house. In other words, Hiccup’s house.

And they were alone. Where were the other dragon riders?

Already then, an uncomfortable feeling started replacing the tingling in Jamie’s chest.

A crowd quickly formed in front of the Haddock House, excited to hear what kind of adventures Hiccup had brought back to tell them this time. Jamie sped up and ran through it, forgetting about his friends for the moment. Just as he was about to emerge from the crowd, somebody grabbed his wrist.

“Jamie.” It was Undis. Her expression was something very different from the one she usually wore. She seemed pale. Her eyes were wide. Jamie pulled his hand back, and continued forward, deciding he didn’t want to know what that expression meant.

Hiccup was in the middle of explaining something to a dark-haired man when Jamie got to the front. Snotlout’s father, Spitelout, he remembered. Hiccup was standing by Toothless’ side, one hand over a bundle on the saddle. A tuft of brown hair emerged from it.

“…on their own. It was an emergency, so I had to leave before them,” Hiccup was saying, sounding agitated. “Astrid is in charge. They’ll be fine. Right now, I have to get Jack somewhere warm. He’s-“

That’s when he spotted Jamie, and his expression went slack for a moment. Then his brows furrowed, and his mouth became a thin, worried line. It was almost like he was afraid of him, but Jamie knew better; it was the same type of expression that Jack had worn when he told Jamie he’d lost his powers and they’d been thrown back in time.

“Jamie…” he started.

Jamie wanted to ask where Jack was, but he couldn’t find his voice. He walked up to Hiccup, dimly aware that the crowd was parting around him to give him space. He looked at the bundle on Toothless’ back, and then at Hiccup again.

Hiccup stepped away from Spitelout to go crouch in front of Jamie instead. “He’s fine,” he said softly, placing an unsure hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “Just a bit hurt. We’ll fix him up again.”

“Hurt?” Jamie repeated, his voice even more quiet than Hiccup’s. “What happened?”

Hiccup’s expression was pained, but he quickly covered it up. “I’m not sure,” he admitted, and got to his feet again. He addressed the crowd. “Give us some space, maybe?” he suggested, though the question was obviously just an order in disguise. The crowd muttered restlessly, but to Jamie’s surprise, started to disperse. He only understood why when he saw who was coming towards them, with a gaze so piercing he didn’t need to utter an order for the crowd to understand that it was time to leave, if they knew what was best for them.

“Hiccup,” Stoick said, his voice a low grumble. “What is the meaning of this?”

“Hi, dad,” Hiccup said absently, unaffected by his menacing presence.

Jamie, however, was not, and shuffled closer to Hiccup as he carefully lifted the bundle off Toothless. The blanket fell away, revealing a very unconscious Jack. His limbs hung heavily by his sides and his head lolled against Hiccup’s shoulder. His skin was so pale, it was almost blue.

The folds of Jack’s cloak by his neck shifted, and Baby Tooth crawled out, looking groggy in a way Jamie had never seen a tooth fairy before. She tweeted softly at Jamie, her expression soft and diminished.

“What happened?” Jamie asked again.

Hiccup and Stoick had been quietly talking – Jamie was vaguely aware of their conversation turning to an argument, but he was too distracted to listen – but when he heard Jamie’s voice, Hiccup looked down at him, his expression sad.

“Come inside, Jamie,” he said gently.

Jamie glanced over at Stoick, whose gaze was trained on Jack in a way that suggested he wished he was more than just unconscious, but once he felt Jamie’s eyes on him, he met them, and the hard expression faded. He sighed and nodded once.

“You go inside,” he said. “I’ll get Gothi.”

“Come on, Toothless,” Hiccup said, and headed for the door.

Jamie hesitantly followed. He glanced back, to see that Brant was watching from afar. Undis and Hildur seemed to have departed with the rest of the crowd. Jamie tried for a reassuring smile, but he wasn’t sure if he managed it.

The Haddock House was bigger than any other hut Jamie had been in, but just as warm and welcoming – aside from the assortment of weapons lying around, but after being on Berk for so long, it didn’t really faze him anymore. The only source of light came from candles and the hearth, in which fire crackled softly.

Hiccup walked across the room, and carefully lay Jack down on a fur skin draped on the floor by the fire. Toothless quietly followed, curling up at Jack’s feet. Jamie walked closer, watching with a strange detachedness as Hiccup wrapped Jack in his cloak and then the blanket. Hiccup brows were furrowed in a way that almost made him look angry. It made him look a lot like his dad, and it made Jamie wonder if Stoick really was as angry as he looked all the time, or if he only had a lot on his mind.

Baby Tooth settled on Jamie’s shoulder, her hand touching his neck. She didn’t say anything, but her presence was comforting.

Once Jack was as warm and comfortable as he possibly could be, Hiccup sat back on his knees and sighed.

“There,” he whispered. His gaze was hesitant as he looked over at Jamie. He looked like he wanted to say something, but in the end he remained quiet. Instead, he nodded at the floor next to him, soundlessly inviting Jamie to sit down.

Jamie did, though he didn’t quite meet Hiccup’s eyes. He studied Jack’s pale, expressionless face, halfway covered by the blanket. He wondered when the fear would kick in. It definitely would, he knew that. He’d learned a lot about fear lately. But right now, all he felt was… He wasn’t sure what it was.

Guilt was definitely a part of it. Guilt, because he didn’t feel as much as he should.

“He doesn’t look like himself,” Jamie then said, putting it into words before he even realized he’d figured it out. Jack looked nothing like he should. Not like Jack Frost, not even like Jackson Overland. He just looked like… well. He just looked like a person. A kid, even. Vulnerable and just as lost as Jamie.

“No, he doesn’t,” Hiccup agreed. He turned to Jamie again and smiled sadly. “But he will.”

Jamie swallowed thickly. He forced himself to look up at Hiccup. “What happened?” he asked for the third time.

Hiccup’s gaze wavered. “I… I really don’t know, Jamie,” he said. “Jack wandered off into the woods on his own. We asked him to stay behind, watch over the dragons… I don’t know what compelled him to do it.” Jamie noted a tinge of annoyance in his voice, but he didn’t think much about it. He just sounded like Jamie’s mom sometimes did when Jamie came home past his bedtime. Hiccup was just worried. “Either way, Toothless was with him when I found them again. Or, when they found me… Jack was… He was unconscious by that point.”

Hiccup was definitely avoiding Jamie’s gaze now. Baby Tooth chirped then, and Jamie frowned.

“Was he?” he asked.

Hiccup glanced briefly at him, before his eyes fluttered back to Jack. “Well… Not far off, at least. He was delirious. I mean, he must’ve been.” He shook his head, and when he spoke again, his voice wavered a little. “H- He… He just told us to run. I don’t know what he encountered. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Like what?” Jamie prompted, though his chest tightened with apprehension.

Hiccup shook his head again. “I don’t know,” he muttered. “Must be some kind of dragon, native to that island. He has these, um…” He hesitated, glancing at Jamie again. Then he set his jaw, like he was preparing himself for something. He reached over to Jack, and gently moved away the blanket covering his face.

Jamie let out a shaky breath. He brought a hand up to his shoulder, where Baby Tooth was sitting.

“It was her,” he whispered in English. “Wasn’t it?”

Baby Tooth placed a hand on one of Jamie’s fingers. Her answering chirp didn’t tell him much, but Jamie was already convinced.

“But then…” he started, feeling his lower lip beginning to quiver.

“Jamie,” Hiccup said, readjusting the blanket again before turning to him. He gave him a serious look. “Jack will be fine. We’ll figure out what this dragon was, and Gothi will fix him up. He’ll be fine.”

Jamie’s throat ached when he swallowed. He nodded, though that didn’t quench all his worries. “Okay,” he said weakly.

The front door opened. Stoick and Gothi entered, and Hiccup got to his feet. He started recounting the story to Gothi, and Jamie halfway zoned him out as he turned his attention back to Jack. He scooted a little bit closer. He didn’t know how long he stayed there.

 

 

Jack’s dreams were filled with soft voices and cold fingertips tracing his face. Not once did the images stop flickering long enough for Jack to make any sense out of them, but somehow he knew that it was probably better that way. It felt as if his mind was purposefully scrambling itself, in and attempt to give itself something that was at least akin to rest.

It wasn’t until Jack was at the brink of wakefulness that he was brought back to those last moments, clinging to Toothless’ back with a searing pain on the side of his face. Then, Hiccup trying to speak to him. In the dream, Jack couldn’t make anything out. All he saw was his expression, his lips moving, his green eyes alight with horror.

Go, go, go. He had to go. He had to get away, before it was too late.

And then, gravity shifted, and something was touching his face again. Jack jolted into action, grabbing whatever it was brushing against his forehead. A strangled shriek followed.

“Jack-“

Jack’s back connected with the wall, and the world came into focus. His hand was closed tightly around someone’s wrist. No, not just someone.

Hiccup stared back at him, his eyes almost as wide as they had been the last time he’d seen him.

Jack’s heart pounded. Jack’s head was beginning to hammer in protest of moving so quickly. He let go off Hiccup’s wrist in favor of bringing his hand to his temple.

“H- Hiccup,” he managed. His voice was so hoarse, all that came out was a whisper.

Hiccup’s expression softened. He stared at Jack for a couple of seconds before he stirred into action, reaching for something on the floor beside the bed Jack was resting on.

“Here,” he said, bringing up a wooden cup. “Water.”

Jack couldn’t bring himself to move. His eyes fluttered around the room as quickly as his heart pounded, before they settled on Hiccup again.

“What… Where are we?”

“At my place,” Hiccup said. He gestured, a little awkwardly, around himself. “This is my room.”

Jack’s eyes did another sweep of the place, taking in his surroundings in the light of this new information.  His staff was leaning on the opposite wall, he noted. He blinked a few times, trying to gather his thoughts, but it was hard with the sound of his heart beating in the background. Still, he gingerly took the cup from Hiccup. It was surprisingly heavy between his shaky fingers. He took a small sip – and then a bigger one, until he was chugging the glass. He hadn’t realized how much his mouth had felt like all of those hot, dry places he’d never even tried to visit while he was still Jack Frost. They were way too far off his territory.

By the time the cup was empty, his head pounded just a little less. Hiccup took the cup from him, still with that careful expression.

“How do you feel?” he asked softly.

Jack considered it for a moment. “Not… great,” he admitted, but didn’t find the strength to elaborate. He could talk about how his body felt like he’d been herding sheep on Antarctica for three days straight, or how Hiccup’s bedroom was spinning ever so gently around him, or how his heart seemed to be having a boxing match with his headache… but that would require taking up a losing battle against the desert that was his throat, and he just didn’t feel like it.

Hiccup’s mouth was a thin line, but he managed a small smile anyway.

“You should probably eat something,” he suggested. “You must be hungry.”

Jack frowned. “I’m not…” he started, but as he said it realized that his stomach did feel a bit too empty. It didn’t feel like he was hungry, but it felt as if he probably should be. However, that just presented a more pressing matter. Jack looked down at his hands, as if they held the answer, then around himself again. “How… did I get here?” he asked slowly.

Hiccup shifted. His eyes were having trouble choosing between giving Jack a deep, inquisitive look or avoiding any eye contact at all. “I carried you,” he replied, suspiciously cautious. Jack prepared himself for bad news. “Do you… remember anything at all?”

Jack mouthed the words remember, nausea welling in his chest. When he didn’t say anything, Hiccup carefully sat down at the edge of the bed, his brows furrowed. Jack tried searching his expression for answers, but found only that Hiccup wasn’t meeting his eyes at all. He was looking at something slightly below his eyes – at a spot where Jack swore he could still feel cold seeping into his skin. He brought a hand up to it.

“You were attacked,” Hiccup said then. “I mean… I think you were. I wasn’t there, but Toothless-“

“Mirror,” Jack muttered. “Do you have a mirror?”

Hiccup’s hesitance only made Jack more desperate to see what was wrong with his face. It didn’t feel like a scratch or a scar, but it was cold, and Jack was starting to suspect how it had happened. Hiccup got to his feet and picked up an iron shield from his workbench. As he sat down again, he seemed reluctant to hand it over.

Jack took it from him. He peered into its reflection. The image of himself was blurry, but not blurry enough to hide the mark spreading from his right temple and down his cheek. He felt his breath escape him, leaving only something hollow and dark and wrong as he realized what the mark was: A fern-like pattern, like the ones he used to leave on windows and trees and ponds. Ice etched into his skin like he’d been branded.

And then everything came rushing back. Searching the forest, seeing her for the first time… How beautiful she’d been, how happy Jack had been to find her, to know that she was real and maybe he’d finally found a way to go home. Jack wanted to hit himself. How had he been so naïve? He’d been so ready to trust her, because the idea that a winter spirit could be so malevolent just seemed so foreign, it just didn’t occur to him that… And now…

Everyone had warned him. They said that the Snow Queen was an evil entity that wished to chase the Berkians off their island, bringing the season they’d named devastating winter. She hadn’t even denied the fact, and Jack had still followed her, still hadn’t seen her ulterior motives. If it hadn’t been for Toothless, he’d never have gotten away, and he still didn’t get away unscathed. And then there was the question of whether he’d really gotten away at all. Because he couldn’t forget the voice drifting through the snowstorm, as Jack rode away on Toothless’ back:

You will regret coming here, Jack Frost. Wherever the snow falls, I will be there.

He’d told her too much. He recalled the way she’d been muttering to herself, as if contemplating her chances. She was paranoid and territorial. She was the ruler of winter, and she intended to have it stay that way. She’d acknowledged that Jack was special, whatever that meant. She’d tried to kill him. Jack had been so close to dying a second time, and if the Queen spoke the truth, he wasn’t safe yet.

None of them were. As winter came to Berk, so would she, and she knew he was there, because he’d told her. Just like that, he’d… he’d put the whole village in danger. Jamie, Hiccup, Astrid, everyone – just because Jack had been too busy projecting on a stranger winter spirit to see the danger that was right in front of him.

“Jack.”

Jack snapped his eyes away from the shield as Hiccup gently moved it away. He realized his breath had started to come in short, hollow huffs. Hiccup was watching him warily, his movements slow and gentle as he put the shield down on the floor.

“What happened back there?” he asked. “What did that to you?”

Jack couldn’t answer. He didn’t trust his voice, and Hiccup couldn’t know the truth anyway. Not just because he wouldn’t possibly believe him, but because Jack was ashamed. And he was scared and he was lost, and there was nobody he could reach out to for help. He was alone with Jamie, whom he’d already brought enough misery to. So much for being the Guardian of fun.

He started shaking his head. “I…” he started, but immediately choked up. He didn’t have enough strength to fight it, and used all that he had to keep the waterworks at bay. Still, he was pretty sure the world hadn’t been so blurry earlier. He took a shaky breath and closed his eyes, bringing his knees up to his chest. “…I’m sorry,” he managed. “It’s my fault, it’s… I shouldn’t have gone. I shouldn’t h- have…”

“Okay, it’s- ssh, it’s fine,” Hiccup interrupted, and Jack felt his hand cover his own. “You don’t have to tell me.”

He said it as if he hadn’t planned for the sentence to stop there. The right now or yet hung in the air.

Jack bit his tongue and forced himself to calm down. It didn’t quite work, but he managed to open his eyes at least. The last thing he wanted was Hiccup pity, even if it seemed he’d already got it. Hiccup didn’t know, but it wasn’t something Jack deserved. Not after disobeying his orders. Not after sneaking onto their trip. Not after lying to him, over and over and over.

It took a few more seconds until Jack had calmed his breath again, and trusted himself to speak without choking up. In the meantime, Hiccup hesitantly retracted his hand, and Jack pretended his own hand didn’t feel awfully cold without it.

“What happened after I…” Jack gestured vaguely, tilting his head. “…passed out.”

Hiccup wrung his hands. “You, uh… you told us to run,” he recounted quietly. “I thought you…” He stopped himself, as if he regretted speaking. He shook his head. “I found Astrid and put her in charge while I flew ahead to get you back here as fast as possible.”

“And they all got here?” Jack asked. “Safely?”

“Yes,” Hiccup said, eyeing him inquisitively. “They’re all fine. They arrived about a day after us.”

Jack blinked. “A day… How long was I out?”

Hiccup’s gaze flickered again. “Four days,” he replied stiffly.

“Four-“ Jack started, his voice breaking. He started scrambling out of bed, uttering a series of words that North would’ve put him on the Naughty list for. “Where’s Jamie?” he demanded.

Then the world tilted violently, and he staggered sideways. Hiccup caught him clumsily, and Jack’s head collided with his chin.

“Ow! He’s fine. Jack, he’s- Calm down, please.”

Jack stopped struggling, if only because whatever was left in his stomach was threatening to come out. Hiccup managed to guide him back to bed, and Jack shakily sat down on its edge. Hiccup smiled, and for the first time since Jack woke up, it had an ounce of real cheerfulness in it.

“He’s been bunking over ever since we got back,” he said. “Been actively winning my dad over the whole time. He’s probably asleep now, though.”

Jack stared at him. Then he let out a relieved laugh. He ran a hand across his face and nodded. “Of course he would,” he murmured. “He’s irresistible that way.”

Hiccup was smiling at him when Jack dropped his hands to his lap. “Yeah, he’s… hard not to like,” he agreed. “I doubt he’s even aware how much he’s been aiding your case just by pestering dad with all his questions. I get a feeling Stoick’s missed having someone look at him with such wide, awestruck eyes when he tells stories about his adventures.”

As someone who’d been on the receiving end of that awestruck look multiple times, Jack could only sympathize. He smiled a wobbly smile.

“So he’s been fine then,” he said, “without me.”

The gleam in Hiccup’s eyes faltered a little. “Well, he’s… I mean, he’s…” He pressed his lips together, then sent Jack a serious look. “He’s strong, is what he is. He’s been doing fine, but… he’s spent a lot of time just sitting here, waiting for you to wake up.”

Jack lowered his gaze. Barely fine, he decided. He’d been sleeping for four days while Jamie was on his own, not knowing if Jack would ever wake up at all.

“You should rest some more,” Hiccup said. Jack glanced briefly at him, but only shrugged in reply. “It’s the middle of the night, and you look…” He trailed off, and Jack’s mouth quirked upwards at the awkward break. It was charming. “There’s some leftovers from todays stew if you want,” he offered instead.

“That’s alright,” Jack quickly said. “Don’t think I could stomach that right now.”

“Fair enough,” Hiccup mumbled, scratching his cheek.

They sat in silence for a few seconds until Hiccup got to his feet.

“I’ll leave you to rest, then,” he said, sending Jack a faint smile. “Gothi said she’d stop by with soup tomorrow morning, so I’ll wake you then.”

“Hiccup.”

Hiccup paused with his leg on step down the stairs. “Yeah?”

Jack opened and closed his mouth for a few moments. Whatever had made him say his name, he couldn’t remember what it was anymore. “Um… thanks,” he said, “for…” He gestured vaguely, hoping that Hiccup would understand even if Jack didn’t even completely understand himself.

Hiccup looked at him for a few moments, probably waiting for an elaboration. When it didn’t come, he just smiled. “Sleep well, Jack,” he said, and turned to take another couple of steps down.

“Hiccup?” Jack said, again making Hiccup pause. He turned around with an arched brow.

“Jack?”

“I… Don’t leave yet. Please.” Jack fidgeted with the fur on the blanket, wishing he had his staff. He didn’t know what to do with his hands without it. “I don’t wanna be alone.”

It felt stupid. Not to mentioned selfish, and entirely undeserved. But the words were out, and quite easily too, because Jack was well-trained in those exact words, and any iteration of it. It wasn’t something he could bring himself to feel too ashamed of.

Hiccup’s expression did something weird where it seemed to soften and stiffen at the same time. “Of- Of course,” he said, coming up the stairs again. He stopped awkwardly in the middle of the room, shifting his weight from side to side a few times. “Do you… want me to wait until you fall asleep?”

Jack thought he might be smiling again. “Sure,” he said, shifting to make space. Hiccup sat down on the edge and Jack lay back down on the fur

They remained like that for a bit. It wasn’t entirely comfortable.

“I’ve stolen your bed again,” Jack then noted.

Hiccup’s lips twitched. “Pretty sure an unconscious person can’t steal anything,” he countered.

Jack chuckled softly. “Still. Doesn’t seem fair. It’s not like you asked for some strange might-be-a-troll-or-a-fairy boy to occupy your bed space.” His smile only widened when he thought he saw Hiccup rolling his eyes. “Or what?”

“You’re gonna murder your voice again,” Hiccup said. “Go to sleep.”

“It can’t possibly get any worse than this,” Jack mumbled.

“If you don’t shut up, it will,” Hiccup promised. Then he narrowed his eyes. “What are you grinning for?”

Jack shrugged. “Thought you said you’d never tell me to shut up,” he said innocently. “I told you it would happen.”

Hiccup turned to him. “That doesn’t count,” he protested.

Jack hummed noncommittally. “Don’t know about that.”

“It doesn’t!”

“It’s not like we established any clear-cut rules on the matter.”

“I just said you should preserve your voice!”

“And I say that’s just a polite, Hiccup-y way to tell me to shut up.”

Hiccup laughed then, and shook his head. “You’re impossible. Go to sleep.”

Jack probably would’ve continued annoying him if he’d had the energy to. Sadly, he didn’t, and just settled for smiling impishly at him. And for once, it felt as if he was going to follow Hiccup’s order, whether Jack liked it or not. His lids were already beginning to feel heavy again. Thing was, he knew that if he fell asleep, Hiccup would leave the room, and even if he’d be unconscious by that point, the thought didn’t sit well.

And besides, Jack was still cold. He could admit as much, if he could use it as an excuse to keep Hiccup there. That was the only reason, of course – it had nothing to do with Jack’s slightly depressing amazement at being able to touch and not pass through people.

“There’s room for two,” he said, quirking a brow when Hiccup didn’t seem to understand him. It was quite straightforward, Jack thought. “I mean, if I didn’t scare you off last time.”

Hiccup’s mouth was slightly ajar. Then he started to nod. “Uh, yeah. I mean, no- no you didn’t… scare me off.” He laughed sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. “What if I hog the blanket again, though?”

Jack shrugged. “Colder to sleep alone anyway.” He moved away the blanket so Hiccup could lie down.

“Ah… good point,” Hiccup mumbled. He started moving his hand down towards his metal leg but caught himself. Instead, he started laying down, and Jack realized something he hadn’t even considered before.

“You usually take it off,” he said.

Hiccup stopped midmotion. He looked at Jack, and then his leg, pressing his lips together. “Well, yeah. I mean, sometimes… I guess.”

He wasn’t a great actor. Jack nudged him.

“Take it off, then,” he said. “I won’t kick you out of bed or anything. Promise.”

That earned him a look that was a mix between annoyance, amusement and doubt. “Really?”

“Not on purpose, anyway.”

“That’s reassuring.”

Jack closed his eyes. He didn’t need to be a people expert to realize that Hiccup felt vulnerable without his prosthetic, so he’d give him whatever privacy he needed. Not like Jack actually minded, but that didn’t really matter. However, as he heard Hiccup place the leg on the floor beside the bed before lying down next to him, he silently vowed to reach the point where Hiccup didn’t feel that way around him anymore. How he would do that, Jack didn’t know, but it seemed important.

Jack opened his eyes again. Hiccup was lying halfway on his back, looking up at the ceiling with his lips pressed tightly shut.

“You look like a sunset.”

Hiccup gave him a disturbed look. “What?”

“Bright red.”

He gave a quiet groan, accompanied by a roll of his eyes. “Alright,” he said, turning over so he was facing Jack. “I can’t believe you’ve been out for four days and then wake up to immediately make fun of me.”

Jack yawned. “I make fun of everything. Haven’t you noticed?”

“Of course I’ve noticed. You know I’ve noticed.” He yawned as well. Jack felt a quiet but powerful pang of affection at the sight, though he didn’t know what to do with it, so he just lay there smiling like a doofus. Thankfully, Hiccup didn’t open his eyes again to see it. “Sleep now?” he asked.

Jack shifted, attempting to scoot closer unnoticed. “Yeah,” he murmured.

It didn’t take long before he began drifting off to sleep, but still long enough to notice when Hiccup closed the rest of the distance between them to put his arm around him again.

Chapter Text

Like his sister, Jamie had always been quite a heavy sleeper. Not as heavy as his sister, but still heavy enough to sleep through his alarm every now and then. Probably a lot more often than his mom would like, but Jamie couldn’t help that his dreams were exciting, and he just needed to know how they ended sometimes!

So why, he wondered, did Stoick’s snoring feel more like an earthquake than something that could possibly come out of a human being’s nose? Jamie woke with a start, looking around bewilderedly. He was lying on the fur by the hearth like Jack had four days earlier, except instead of being covered by multiple layers of blankets, Jamie was halfway covered in Hiccup’s old notes on dragons. Not that he could understand much – he’d only learned a few runes so far – but at least the drawings were nice.

It was hard to say how early it was, but Jamie didn’t doubt Stoick would wake up soon. He always woke up early to do whatever chiefs did. Jamie had tried asking him about it, but hearing about that wasn’t nearly as exciting as hearing about his Viking adventures. But right now, Stoick was snoring like a storm in the other room, and Jamie knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep anymore with that going on. So he got up.

Baby Tooth chirped softly, appearing from somewhere underneath the papers. She’d been sleeping a lot more after she and Jack came back, which was concerning to say the least. Jamie was pretty sure he’d never even seen her sleep before, and now… Well. At least she was awake during the day, and otherwise seemed to be acting the same… unlike Jack.

Jamie straightened his hair the best he could, flattening it at the back and brushing it out of his eyes. He waited to see if Baby Tooth would wake up, before quietly heading for the stairs to Hiccup’s bedroom. Where was Hiccup anyway? He wasn’t watching over Jack still, was he? It had been hours since Hiccup sent Jamie to bed.

Jamie stopped in his tracks at the top of the stairs. At first, he noticed Toothless, curled up on his slab by the window. And then… Oh… that’s where Hiccup was. Made sense… but also not at all. Hiccup had offered his bed to Jack, he wouldn’t have just climbed into it together with him like that. Not if Jack was still unconscious.

Which meant that Jack woken up sometime last night. That had to be it, right? Still, he was asleep again now, and Jamie wasn’t planning on waking either of them. Had it been only Jack, maybe, but the two of them together? No way. Jamie felt like this was probably not something he was even supposed to see.

So with light footsteps, he climbed down the stairs again, holding in his laughter until he was sitting by the heart again. He was so relieved, he felt like he might cry.

A moment too late, he realized the snoring had stopped.

“Ah, Jamie,” Stoick rumbled as he wobbled out of his bedroom, thankfully not noticing Jamie’s barely contained yelp. “Morning. Did you…” He trailed off, looking around. “Where’s Hiccup?”

“Uh. Watching… Watching Jack,” Jamie replied.

“Still?” Stoick looked up the stairs, as if he could see through the floorboards. “He’s not gonna wake up any faster by staring at him. I’ll tell him to get some-“

“I did, already,” Jamie said before he could stop himself. “He, um… he said he would be down soon. He’s slept a little bit also.”

That was a long lie, but Stoick seemed to buy it. He nodded and headed for the door.

“Right. I’ll go, then. And Jamie-“ Stoick turned around, and the wrinkles around his eyes loosened up a little. “I’m sure he’ll wake up soon. If nothing else, he is resilient.”

Jamie smiled brightly. “I know,” he said, making Stoick raise a brow at his sudden optimism. Not that Jamie hadn’t been optimistic the entire time, but probably not in such a spirited way.

Stoick held his gaze a few seconds more, before he chuckled quietly and exited the house. Jamie waited for a few seconds, before he let his gaze wander up to the second floor again. He shook his head. No, he’d let them sleep. In fact, he probably wouldn’t mention this to them at all.

Now he’d just have to wait. He started looking over Hiccup’s notes again, sure that he couldn’t possibly fall back asleep now. But as the song of early birds filtered into the house and Baby Tooth tweeted softly in her sleep along with them, Jamie felt his eyelids become heavy again. He fell back asleep, drooling a little on an early design sheet of Toothless’ saddle.

He woke because someone was brushing their fingers through his hair. Jamie grunted softly.

“’S not even a school day, mom,” he mumbled.

The following chuckle did not belong to Joyce. “I guess that’s at least one thing to be happy about.”

Jamie whirled up into a sitting position. “Jack!” he cried, before throwing his arms around him.

Jack laughed, even as he fell backwards, his staff clattering to the floor. Behind him, Hiccup beamed tiredly, leaning on Toothless. Baby Tooth chirped to life from beneath the papers and flew a few happy laps around Jack’s head.

“Hey, Jamie,” Jack said, then nodded and smiled discreetly at Baby Tooth as a greeting, due to Hiccup watching them. His voice was all scratchy, and when Jamie leaned back, he saw that the mark on his face was still there. The bags under his eyes were much darker than usual, and his cheeks seemed hollower. He still didn’t look like himself, Jamie thought. But he smiled like himself, and his eyes still gleamed when he met Jamie’s eyes. “Sorry for worrying you.”

Jamie opened his mouth to say that it was okay, but he wasn’t sure if he could. Not until Jack explained what had happened. Jack seemed to understand that before Jamie had even tried to explain it, because his smile faltered a little and he let out a shaky sigh.

“I’ll tell you,” he said softly in English. He hesitated. “But… I… It’s not good news, Jamie.”

Jamie felt his own smile fade. He looked down at the fern marks on Jack’s cheek. “She… She’s real,” he said.

Jack nodded, expression grim.

“Brant and the others were right,” he continued. “A- And Tuffnut.”

Hiccup furrowed his brows in the background. “Tuffnut what?”

Jack pursed his lips, then turned around to face Hiccup. “Can I speak to Jamie alone?” he asked.

Hiccup looked a bit surprised at this, but he was quick to comply. “Of course. Um, if you go upstairs I can prepare some breakfast for us,” he said. He started to turn around, but stopped halfway, giving Jack an apologetic look. “Also, Gothi’s been leaving soup for you in case you woke up. I didn’t want to bother you with it last n- I mean…” He glanced briefly at Jamie, and Jamie pretended to be completely oblivious.

“I’m sure I’ll survive it,” Jack said with a hoarse laugh. “Thanks, Hiccup.”

Hiccup sent him one last smile before Jack turned back to Jamie and they got to their feet.

Up in Hiccup’s bedroom, Jack sat down on the bed with a heavy sigh. Still, he smiled lightly at Jamie and patted the spot next to him. Jamie sat down, while Baby Tooth settled on Jamie’s shoulder.

“She hurt you,” Jamie said before Jack could start.

Jack looked like he’d just swallowed a mouthful of Gothi’s soup. His eyes flickered away and he nodded. “Yeah.”

It was harder to hear the confirmation than Jamie thought it would be. He struggled finding his voice again. “Why?”

“She’s not…” Jack started, but it was clear he was struggling to keep track of his own voice as well. “She’s not what we hoped she was, Jamie. She’s more like… like you said. The Berkians, the stories they tell about her, they’re all true. I was hoping it would be more like- well, like me.” The bags under his eyes seemed to grow heavier. “Not every story about Jack Frost is a nice one. I wanted…” He trailed off, letting out a quiet sigh.

“Anyway, she… tricked me,” he continued, saying it as if it hurt to admit. Coming from an infamous trickster, it probably did. “I followed her into the woods where she revealed that being believed in, and being seen and… and all that, it’s not something she’s interested in. She’s like Pitch, but even more apathetic.” He raised a hand and brushed his fingers lightly over the fern pattern on his face. “She felt threatened. That’s why.”

“Threatened?” Jamie repeated with a frown. “What did you say to her?”

Jack swallowed. “Probably too much.”

Jamie was tempted to say it wouldn’t be the first time, but he doubted Jack would take that well right now.

With a shaky exhale, Jack leaned past Jamie and propped his staff against the wall, before pulling back and folding his hands. His lips were tightly shut and his brows were pointing upwards, deepening the lines around his eyes. Jamie guessed he was glad that Jack wasn’t attempting to hide away his worry for once, but couldn’t deny that it made his own chest feel awfully tight.

“I told her my name. Um, Jack Frost, that is. And I told her that I used to be a winter spirit… like her.” The last part came out softly, almost just a whisper. “And I told her about the time fragment, and that we’re from future. And I… sort of implied that she’s not around in… in the future.” He grimaced. “I didn’t think about it at the time, but she said she thought she was the only one. The only winter spirit, that is. And I said there are a few minor others, and obviously I’d never heard of the Snow Queen before…” He trailed off and closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I’m an idiot.”

“But you’re not a spirit anymore,” Jamie said. “Why would she feel threatened?”

“That’s where it gets really interesting,” Jack said, attempting a smile. “She said she felt something special about me. She mention the blizzard that we appeared in. It wasn’t her doing. We’ve been suspecting that it might’ve been my powers, so…” He inclined his head.

Jamie closed his hands into fists. “You might still have some powers left?” he asked.

Jack’s eyes glinted. “Maybe,” he said. His voice was soft, as if he was afraid that saying it out loud would undo it. He turned to Baby Tooth. “It wasn’t a dream, right?” he asked suddenly, before reaching into his boot. He rummaged around in there for a bit, ignoring Jamie’s confused expression, then brought out something – a pale blue crystal.

Baby Tooth’s eyes were wide. She chirped rapidly, fluttering in front of Jack’s face. Jack grinned slowly.

“What?” Jamie demanded. “What wasn’t a dream? What’s-“ And then he realized where he’d seen the crystal before. Suddenly, he got the urge to recoil, but he kept still. “Is that… th- the…” he stammered, trailing off when Jack nodded solemnly.

“While I waited to go look for the Snow Queen, I fell asleep for a bit,” Jack explained. “And I had a dream. At least, I thought it had to be a dream, even if it didn’t feel like one. I was at the North Pole and I talked with North. I picked up this-“ He held up the stone. “-and when I woke up, I had it in my hand. Baby Tooth was there too. Right, Baby Tooth?”

Baby Tooth nodded vigorously.

“But…” Jamie stared at the two of them. “You traveled back in time? Or… forward in time?”

“Yes! Or… I’m not sure what happened,” Jack said. He eyed the crystal with a puzzled frown. “While I was there, I… I was still human, but I was like a ghost. The Guardians could see me, but they couldn’t touch me. And I couldn’t touch anything, except this crystal.”

Baby Tooth chirped in agreement.

Jack turned to her. “When I woke up, you were gone,” he said. “I thought you’d gone looking for the Snow Queen or something. But when the Snow Queen…” His voice faltered and he shook his head. “What happened with you?”

When Baby Tooth replied, Jamie couldn’t do anything but watch. Jack’s eyes furrowed in concentration as he tried understanding her, only asking her to repeat herself a couple of times. Jamie still didn’t get how it was possible to understand her, but whatever it was she told him, it left Jack looking even more puzzled.

“Hiccup had…” he started softly, incredulously. He glanced at the stairs, before it looked like he had to force himself to turn his attention back to Jamie again. “Uh… Hiccup had a crystal like this one in his satchel hanging from Toothless’ saddle. That’s where I fell asleep. Baby Tooth went into the satchel for shelter, and when she spotted the crystal, felt pulled towards it…”

Jamie thought he knew what she meant. He’d felt the same the first time he’d seen the crystal in that cave.

“…and when she touched it, she blacked out. She appeared in the workshop like I had, but not at the same time. She flew to the Tooth Palace to talk to Tooth, before they were summoned back to the workshop by North, after I had appeared there.” He looked at Baby Tooth for confirmation before continuing. “She’s been… weaker after touching the crystal. It’s why she didn’t wake up when I tried calling for her, I think. When she woke up, I was already gone.” His frown deepened. “Do you think it sapped your powers?” he asked Baby Tooth.

Baby Tooth shrugged helplessly.

“That’s why you’ve been sleeping so much?” Jamie asked.

Baby Tooth looked a bit embarrassed. Maybe it wasn’t that normal for tooth fairies to sleep after all.

“Then you alerted Toothless,” Jack muttered. He looked down at his hands with a dark expression. “If you hadn’t…” The sentence faded into a shaky whisper and went quiet. He shook his head and put on a smile again. “Well, in the end… things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but at least I got to talk to the Guardians.”

Something about his smile seemed off, like talking to the Guardians hadn’t been as fun as it usually was. Jamie’s heart felt heavy, but he didn’t mention it and waited for him to continue.

“They said,” Jack said, slightly theatrically, “that Bunny’s power of the tunnels disappeared after the fight with the time fragment, but they came back. Which means that my powers might gradually come back. They haven’t yet, but we were… obviously a little closer to the thing than Bunny was. Maybe that’s what the Snow Queen felt.”

A smile was growing on Jamie’s face, yet he felt scared to be too hopeful. “What else did they say?” he asked. “Did they know a way to go back?”

Jack’s smile faded. “No,” he said softly. He hesitated. “They… they didn’t say much else. But, Jamie-“ He held up the crystal. “Baby Tooth found one piece in Hiccup’s satchel. She touched it, and it… triggered something. I think that’s what sent us to the future. And then I managed to bring this piece back to the past… It might be a lead.”

Baby Tooth flew closer to the stone. She looked warily at it, then up at Jack. Her chirp sounded like a question.

“Maybe magic activates its power or something,” Jack deduced. “Maybe if you touch it again, we go to the future, and… I don’t know. We could talk to them again.”

Jamie looked down at his hands at Jack’s hopeful voice. Sometimes it was too easy to forget that it wasn’t just Jamie who had someone he missed, but now the reminder felt like a knife, and the guilt of having forgotten about it even worse. A lump formed in his throat.

“But don’t touch it now,” Jack said, oblivious to Jamie’s internal struggle. He started moving the crystal away from Baby Tooth. “You’re still weak. If you- Baby Tooth!”

Too late. Baby Tooth had already dived for it, clamping her tiny hands around the crystal’s chipped edges.

Nothing happened.

“What?” Jack muttered. He looked worriedly at Baby Tooth. “Is it your powers? Are they gone?”

Baby Tooth shook her head.

“No, you’re right… You wouldn’t have been able to fly, then.” Jack held the stone up to his eye, as if he was expecting to find instructions etched into it somewhere. “Then what?”

“Maybe you need the other crystal,” Jamie suggested.

“Hiccup must still have it… for some reason,” Jack said, sending the stairs another long look. “But why would he have it? Where did he get it?”

Jamie bit the inside of his cheek nervously. “You don’t think… he knows something, right?” he asked hesitantly. Not only did the possibility seem absurd, but Jamie had a feeling a revelation like that would hurt Jack, somehow.

“No,” Jack said, a little too quickly. “I mean, he can’t know… That’s impossible. He probably just found it by chance. Maybe he intends to give it away as a gift or something.” He pursed his lips. “Which he can’t. We have to steal it.”

Jamie raised a brow. “Steal it?”

Jack looked back at him, looking like he’d just realized that’s not something you should encourage an eleven-year-old to do. “Because it could be dangerous,” he said with a small laugh. “It’s for his own good. And for our own good. Hopefully.”

Jamie couldn’t help but think that it all sounded a bit dangerous, going searching for the crystal that had caused them all this trouble in the first place. He still had nightmares about seeing it in that cave for the first time.

“Just seeing them again…” Jack murmured. He was smiling softly, opening and closing his fist around the crystal. “It made me realize we’re never completely lost. Maybe that’s just the effect the Guardians have on people, but… despite everything that happened after, I feel hopeful.” He turned his gaze to Jamie, his smile brightening. “We’ll see them again, Jamie. I know we will.”

The lump in Jamie’s throat made a violent return. He should feel happy. This was good news. This was hope. But instead of returning Jack’s smile, Jamie felt his eyes begin to sting.

Jack’s smile faltered. “Hey,” he said, quickly putting the crystal away to reach out to him. He put a hand on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

It didn’t help at all. Tears started spilling down Jamie’s cheeks and a sob fought itself out of him.

“I…” he started, but his throat closed up. He bowed his head and leaned into Jack’s chest to hide his face. When Jack brought his arms around him, it only pulled more sobs out of him. It took a long time before he managed to get any words out, and when he did, it was with valiant effort. “I- I’m sorry,” he choked out.

Jack stroked his back. “Jamie, what’s wrong?” he asked again, voice softer now. He tried pulling back, probably to look at Jamie’s face, but Jamie only held onto him tighter. He felt so stupid, crying like a little kid. It didn’t matter that he was one; he didn’t want to cry in front of Jack.

“I m- miss them too,” he whispered, his breath shallow and uneven. “But you’re a Guardian. You’re Jack- You’re Jack Frost, and you- should be there with- with them, but you’re here instead, and you’re-“ He stopped talking in an attempt to choke back a sob – with little success.

Jack was quiet for a moment, like he was at a loss of words. “We’ll get back,” he soothed, bringing a hand up to Jamie’s hair. “This is good news, Jamie, we-“

“But it’s my fault,” Jamie cried, finally finding the courage to pull away and actually look at Jack. “And now we’re here, because I-“

“What?” Jack interrupted. His face was pale with worry, and even if it didn’t sound or look like he found this funny in any way, there was still a hint of incredulous laughter in his voice.

Jamie wasn’t surprised; of course he wouldn’t even think to blame Jamie. That was just how self-sacrificing Jack was. But Jamie knew it was wrong, and now it was all coming out, with sobs and tears and everything.

Jack just shook his head, a silent question in his gentle smile. “None of this is your fault, Jamie,” he said, and if Jamie didn’t imagine it, he sounded just a bit frantic. “How could it be your fault?”

“Because you…” Jamie started, but had to take a shaky breath first. It was hard to get it out. He’d hoped he’d never have to bring it up, even if it felt like lying to Jack – using his kindness to avoid admitting the role Jamie played in this whole mess. He swallowed heavily and averted his eyes. “…If you’d been okay when- when the time fragment attacked the workshop, maybe we could’ve gotten away. But you were sick. You s- said you were okay, but I saw that you weren’t. All because I a- asked you to stay and dared you to… to drink from the cup that I’d already-“

Jack’s hand covered Jamie’s hand, squeezing gently.

“I see,” he said. And then he did laugh; a soft, sad chuckle, as he brought his other hand to Jamie’s cheek, gingerly encouraging him to look up at him. Jamie let him, even if it was hard to meet his eyes. Jack looked intently back at him. “Jamie. That wasn’t you,” he told him.

Jamie didn’t believe him, which made him feel even more guilty when a part of him was relieved to even hear the words. When he didn’t say anything in reply, Jack let out a shaky breath and brought Jamie into another hug.

“Please don’t cry,” he said, again with that feeble chuckle. “I know how it looked, but you’ve misunderstood. It had nothing with you, or the teacup. It was something else.”

Somehow, this just roused more sobs from Jamie. He tried to come with an articulate reply but couldn’t think of anything. This reminded him of one of the very few times he’d seen his mom cry. She’d told him that sometimes, if you hold your feelings in for too long, they’ll eventually break out and then there will be no controlling it. Not that he ever doubted his mom’s wisdom, but he didn’t think he’d truly understood it, until this moment.

Hearing the way Jack’s voice turned hoarse and strained didn’t help. He continued stroking Jamie’s back, rocking them gently back and forth.

“It was… it was something called heat sprites,” Jack explained carefully. “Most of the time, they’re supposed to be in more tropical climates. It had been a while since I’d encountered them, because… well, I don’t usually have any business in tropical climates, do I? I mean, you saw how I reacted to the tea.”

The memory made a halfhearted laugh mix with Jamie’s sniffles, and he nodded. “Heat sprites?” he repeated weakly.

Jack hummed. “They’d somehow gotten lost and ended up in Iceland,” he said. “Don’t ask me how. Either way, it was my job to get rid of them. I overextended myself, and got… something like a cold, but more like the exact opposite.” He leaned back and looked seriously at Jamie. His expression was worried in a whole different way than Jamie had ever seen before, which only made Jamie’s lip quiver all over again. “How long have you thought this was your fault?”

“Since… Santa’s workshop,” Jamie mumbled. “You kept trying to seem fine when you weren’t.”

Jack let out a shaky breath, his eyes sliding shut for a moment. When he opened them again, he put on another smile. “It had nothing to do with you, dummy,” he said. “Honestly. You… You should’ve told me that you’ve been feeling this way for so long.”

Jamie looked away shamefully. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Jack said. He hugged him again and even kissed his forehead. “You’ve been so brave, Jamie. But it’s okay to feel sad and scared.”

“I just wish we could go home,” Jamie whispered.

Jack went a bit quiet, but he squeezed him softly. “I know,” he replied, his voice barely audible. “And we will, soon.”

He leaned back, and Jamie reluctantly let go of his cloak. Things seemed a little less overwhelming when Jack held him like that.

Jack sent him a lopsided smile, and though it lacked any real happiness, it still seemed genuine somehow. “I promised, and I’ll keep that promise.”

Jamie tried to smile back. He nodded.

“And…” Jack hesitated before giving Jamie a serious look. “You don’t have to be scared to talk to me, okay? If you ever feel bad, for any reason…” He smiled again and gently wiped Jamie’s cheek. “You’re a big brother too, so you’re protective by nature. I get that. But… keeping it all in isn’t good.”

Jamie frowned, taking a moment to register what Jack had just said. You’re a big brother too, like Jack had a younger sibling. Maybe he meant Jamie, but something told him that wasn’t the case.

But that conversation could wait. Instead, Jamie mirrored Jack’s serious look and took a deep, determined breath.

“You shouldn’t hold stuff in either,” he told him. “If… If I’m not gonna hold stuff in, then you can’t either.”

Guilt passed over Jack’s expression. “Sounds fair,” he said with a halfhearted chuckle. Then he tousled Jamie’s hair, still with less vigor than usual, but it made Jamie feel better anyway. “Now. We have a lead, and we have breakfast waiting for us downstairs. Once we’ve eaten, we can try to get the other crystal, and then find a way to make it work again. Maybe if I-“

“Jack,” Jamie interrupted. He tried not thinking about how tearstained his face was, or that his eyes were probably bloodshot and watery; he furrowed his brows seriously. “I’m sorry, but you look like a corpse. I mean, it’s been a month already… we can wait for a few days before doing anything. You need to rest.”

Jack raised a brow. “Alright, doctor Bennett,” he said, poking Jamie’s side playfully. “Brutally honest, I hear. That’s good.”

Jamie laughed, pushing his hand away. “Shut up,” he said. “It’s just… You’ve been asleep for four days. I thought…” He hesitated, finding the words hard to get out. “I thought you might not ever wake up. I’m just glad that, you know… you did wake up.” He fidgeted with his hands. “You scared me. So at least wait until you’ve recovered before we do something that might be dangerous again.” He frowned, looking down at Baby Tooth, who had been watching them silently. “That goes for you too,” he told her.

Jack nodded. His brows were slightly furrowed, but he smiled when he met Jamie’s eyes again. “You’re right,” he said. “I’m sorry, Jamie.”

Jamie bit the inside of his cheek, because he still felt tears lurking just beneath the surface. It was embarrassing to cry like that. He only ever did that in front of his mom. But at the same time, he felt a little bit lighter now. He got to his feet and hugged Jack again, tightly around his shoulders.

“I love you, Jack,” he said decisively. “So be more careful from now on.”

Jack’s voice broke when he laughed, like he was surprised. And he probably was. Jamie was a little surprised by himself too. “I will,” he said, patting Jamie’s shoulder. He was smiling fondly when Jamie pulled back. His voice was soft when he replied, “…and I love you too.”

Jamie smiled but couldn’t help shifting his weight restlessly. It was a bit embarrassing, but whatever. It felt good to say. And good to hear – hopefully for the both of them. And hopefully it would stop Jack from doing dangerous things all the time.

“And- And you too, Baby Tooth,” he added quickly, because he didn’t want to exclude her. Baby Tooth replied with the noise that sounded kind of like a laugh.

And now he was really feeling the need to forget about this whole thing for a little bit, and just enjoy the fact that Jack was okay – at least almost okay. Like he’d just suggested, they didn’t need to think about difficult things for the next few days. Especially not the part about the Snow Queen.

In fact, even if Jack had just explained that his sickness had had nothing to do with Jamie, now he had a new thing to feel guilty about: Jack had gone to find the Snow Queen because Jamie had suggested it.

“Wanna go downstairs?” Jack asked, but Jamie understood that what he was actually asking was are you alright?

Jamie nodded, wiping the tears off his face. “Yeah. I’m starving.”

 

 

Jack was sitting like a blanket burrito by the hearth, recovering from Gothi’s wonder soup, when the whole dragon rider gang began appearing at the door. First came Astrid, who seemed grudgingly happy to see Jack awake. She assured him that she was still angry that he stuck onto their training drill, and that he was a nonsensical muttonhead for wandering into the woods by himself, and that he better recover quickly because she’d have him take a hundred pushups as punishment for it all.

Behind her, Hiccup smiled fondly, so Jack assumed this was just Astrid’s way of showing that she cared.

After that came Snotlout and Fishlegs, who had two very different ways of fretting over him. Of course, Snotlout only came for the gruesome details – that’s what he said, at least, but when Jack started explaining how spooky it had been back in the woods, he promptly stated he didn’t care. His complexion seemed considerably paler on his way out.

Fishlegs seemed more like a fretful mother. In fact, his form of caring was a bit overwhelming, and though Jack was flattered, his energy levels were betraying him. His head felt fuzzy and heavy, and he could never seem to get warm enough. Focusing became harder by the second. Thankfully, Hiccup seemed to notice what Fishlegs didn’t, because he promptly took on the role of a stern babysitter and told Jack to go to bed. Once Fishlegs was out, Hiccup sent Jack an amused smile.

“For someone who refers to himself as a menace, you’re not good at showing people out,” he commented.

“I consider myself… mischievous,” Jack said as he got to his feet, holding back a groan. “Not rude. What time is it?”

Hiccup shrugged. “About midday, I think. Or a little later.”

“That’s nothing,” Jack said miserably, but he was already making his way to the stairs, still with his blanket tightly wrapped around his shoulders. “I’ve been on my way to fall asleep since Snotlout left.”

“You’ve been comatose for four days,” Hiccup said, taking a few steps closer to him like he was afraid he’d suddenly collapse. “Do you know how many hours I spent in bed after we fought the Red Death?”

“The Red Death?” Jack repeated, sending him a curious look.

Hiccup blinked. “Oh, uh… I never told about that?”

Jack shook his head. “Pretty sure you didn’t,” he said, tilting his head thoughtfully to the side. “Probably something about… not trusting me with the information or something.”

“Ah, well,” Hiccup said, a smile making its way onto his face again. “What do you say to a bedtime story?”

Jack laughed softly. “How kind. Yes, I’d love that,” he said, and though he sounded sarcastic, the offer seemed a lot more appealing than it probably should. Thankfully, Jamie and Baby Tooth wasn’t here to witness this.

Jack sat down on the bed and propped himself against the wall, beside his staff. “You think your dad will approve of you telling me this?”

“My dad’s been bragging about all his great battles to Jamie for five days now,” Hiccup said. “He probably even told him about this one. Probably with a few… artistic alterations here and there, but still.”

“Where is Jamie?” Jack asked.

“Oh, he and his friends are playing with Toothless,” Hiccup said, smiling wryly. “That’ll exhaust him. Toothless, I mean – not Jamie. I wish I was as energetic as him.”

Jack raised a brow. “You’re not neglecting flying with Toothless again, are you?”

Hiccup sent Jack a slightly exasperated look. “I worry about you,” he said plainly, “and Toothless does as well. He knows why we’re not up there as much as usual right now. And besides, he’s…” He looked down, shaking his head. “He’s been acting a bit weird lately.”

A chill settled in Jack’s neck. His mind flashed the picture of Toothless standing between him and the Snow Queen. “Why?” he asked, bringing the blanket tighter around himself.

“Don’t know,” Hiccup said with a helpless shrug. “When Toothless… brought you to me on that island, it looked like… But I’m sure it was nothing.”

“Hiccup,” Jack said. “I can’t read your thoughts.”

“Sorry.” Hiccup folded his hands, sitting down at the edge of the bed. “I thought he seemed cold. But that’s impossible. Dragons don’t get cold. I mean, they breathe fire – how could they?”

Jack looked down at his hands, struggling to find an appropriate way to answer. He was about to ask Hiccup why he hadn’t said anything, but he thought he already knew. Because why would Hiccup bring it up, when Jack had reacted the way he did when asked about what happened on the island? And now, even if Jack did know that Toothless might’ve been hurt by the Snow Queen, what could he do about it? It wasn’t like he could talk to the dragon, ask what happened and expect an answer.

His heart felt heavy. Toothless had gotten hurt trying to protect him.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Hiccup said, putting a hand on Jack’s knee. His expression was soft and knowing when Jack looked up at him. “If I had punished myself for every time Toothless has put himself in danger for my sake, there wouldn’t be much of me left.”

Jack managed a faint smile. “Was the Red Death one of those times?”

Hiccup held his gaze for a moment longer, before he let his hand fall and his eyes wander into the air. His prosthetic knocked gently against the floorboards. “I think I’ll have to start from the beginning,” he said. “The reason why the dragons attacked Berk in the first place.”

It sounded like the beginning of a long story, so Jack shifted and made himself more comfortable. “That’s… three, four years ago?” he guessed.

Hiccup raised a brow. “Yeah. Lots have happened since then, as you can see.”

“You lost a limb.”

“I’m getting to that part.”

Jack smiled fondly at him. “I’ll shut up.”

And Hiccup started from the beginning, from when he was a small, two-legged fifteen-year-old never-do-well, and Berk was at war with the dragons. He explained his plan of taking down a Night Fury which had actually worked, despite everything, but which had then gone in a very different direction than anyone had thought. He described what it had felt like, finding Toothless and realizing that he just couldn’t kill him. Then later, seeing the dragon was missing his tailfin, and coming to the decision that he was going to go against everything he’d been taught to get the dragon back to the skies.

Jack had sunk down into a horizontal position while Hiccup talked, his body begging for rest. Still, his head hadn’t gotten any more tired. In fact, he felt more energized than he had the entire day, watching Hiccup’s expressions and gestures as he reminisced about every feeling and sensation that had gone through his mind and body as he and Toothless found a friend in each other.

The story was coming to its climax as Hiccup recounted how he’d attempted to save a chained Toothless underwater, but that Stoick had been the one to actually free him. Jack knew the point he should be focusing on was the fact that Stoick had realized Hiccup had been right all along and that Toothless and the dragons weren’t the enemy, but he still couldn’t help but shift uncomfortably.

“You would’ve drowned trying to save him, hadn’t it been for Stoick,” Jack said, his voice just a whisper.

Hiccup nodded, looking down at his lap. “I think so,” he agreed. “I was already blacking out, when…” He trailed off, glancing at Jack. “Any- Anyway, the good part is what follows. Well, at least as a story to impress your friends with, it’s good. Can’t say it was that enjoyable in the moment.

“To be honest, I can only remember things in… parts. And they’re all pretty blurry. I just remember the energy, the- the rush… cold wind mixing with scorching heat. We got the Red Death into the air – it was a miracle that gigantic thing could fly – and it followed us into the clouds. Things almost seemed to go well, but then… Toothless’ tailfin burned away. We just needed a little more time, but at that point I felt…”

Hiccup trailed off for a moment, his gaze horribly distant.

“…I just hoped we’d be able to take it down before it was over for us. Maybe Toothless would survive the fall, but me…” He shook his head, giving a flat laugh. “No way. But just at the right moment, Toothless turned around and blasted the Red Death straight down its throat. And then… then…” Hiccup frowned, before giving Jack a slightly sheepish smile. “It gets very blurry after that.”

Jack looked back at him. A part of him wanted to come up with something lighthearted to say – something to ease that troubled look in Hiccup’s eyes – but he was too busy trying to imagine what it must’ve felt like. It was hard when his brain seemed to gradually be turning to goo.

“You must’ve been scared,” he said, then immediately felt stupid for saying it. Of course he had been scared; he’d been falling to his end after battling an enormous dragon called the Red Death.

Hiccup shrugged. “Must have,” he agreed. “Kinda hard to feel much of anything when so much is at stake. All you can feel is… the drive to see it through. Whatever it might be… Saving my family, saving the dragons… Nothing else mattered, in that moment.”

Jack knew exactly what Hiccup meant, but he kept quiet.

“Anyway…” Hiccup said, letting out a slightly shaky breath. “Next thing I knew, I was waking up at home. Toothless was there. Very unusual, but not unwelcome. I removed the covers, and…” He gestured at his prosthetic, smiling wryly. “Peg-leg.”

Out of everything, this was the only part where Hiccup didn’t seem to feel the need to dwell on the details. No descriptions of feelings or trains of thought. Clearly, Hiccup had found peace with the fact that he’d lost his leg, but now, after delving into the past, there was a wistful look in his expression.

Jack shakily sat up, feeling the need to be closer to Hiccup for some reason, despite his body protesting for him to remain still. “You were just a kid,” he said quietly.

“We all were. But we did it anyway, didn’t we?” He let his leg fall back onto the floor and smiled lopsidedly at Jack. “Just a bunch of barely-dragon riders, taking down the biggest threat Berk had ever seen. And now we live the way we do. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Their eyes remained interlocked for a few soundless seconds. Jack spent them wondering how Hiccup had turned out the way he was; how someone like him could come to exist in those circumstances. Often awkward and unassuming, a bit of a worrywart in Jack’s opinion, and yet he had stories like that to tell about his life. Jack had been around for more than 300 years; he’d observed many wonderful humans during that time. Somehow, they all seemed kind of so-so as he imagined little Hiccup risking the loss of all he knew in order to do the right thing, and he’d survived and grown into this responsible, selfless, brave chief-to-be.

Out of all the years in history, Jack had been lucky enough to end up in the years where Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III could sit by his bedside and tell him stories. Jack couldn’t help but smile at this fact.

Hiccup was the one to break eye contact when his irises flickered downwards, to the ice patterns on his cheek, Jack assumed. He was about to turn his head to block the view, but just then, Toothless jumped in through the window and gave a miserable yowl. Hiccup jumped at the sudden noise and got to his feet.

“Oh, gods- Toothless,” he muttered, bringing a hand to his heart. “A warning would be nice.”

Toothless grumbled and craned his neck towards the sky outside.

“He’s being quite clear,” Jack noted with an amused smile. “You should go.”

“Oh- Right. Jamie might be on his way back, then,” Hiccup said, shifting his weight restlessly. He hesitated, then pointed at Jack. “Why are you still awake? Go to sleep!”

Jack laughed and diligently lay down. “Will do, Your Highness,” he said. “Thanks for the bedtime story.”

Hiccup paused in the middle of climbing onto Toothless and smiled in an almost bashful way. “It was my pleasure,” he replied theatrically. “And don’t call me that.”

Jack hummed noncommittally, already closing his eyes. He heard Hiccup chuckle softly, followed by the sound of Toothless gracefully exiting the room and taking to the sky.

Jack’s smile faded slowly along with the sound of beating wings. He waited for the front door to open, wondering if he should try to stay awake until Jamie came back. He’d convinced him to go play with his friends and get his mind off everything. Jack would never say it out loud, but he couldn’t imagine that seeing Jack in the state that he was would do Jamie any good. And after that conversation…

Truth was, Jack had had to use every ounce of his will to not start crying as well. That wouldn’t have been very responsible of him; Jack had to be the emotionally stable one. The anchor, the shelter in the storm, whatever kind of metaphors you could use. At least make it seem like it. But he’d never seen Jamie like that before. Sure, he’d been on the brink of tears before, but nothing like that. Seeing it hurt more than whatever the Snow Queen had done to him. Thinking about it made his stomach tighten to the point he felt like he couldn’t breathe.

Jamie had felt guilty for something he hadn’t even done, and Jack had been none the wiser. It made him wonder what other things occupied Jamie’s mind that he didn’t speak about – and for what reason? Because he didn’t want to put more pressure on Jack? Because he didn’t want to seem weak?

Or because Jack wasn’t making a good example by hiding things as well?

Probably a mix between the three… and a bunch of other things that Jack couldn’t tell because he didn’t know Jamie as much as he should.

His depressing musings were rudely interrupted when something dropped onto the floorboards. He sat bolt upright, grabbing his staff and pointing it at-

“Woah, hey!” Tuffnut said, holding up his hands. “Don’t shoot, o mighty- Agh, my foot!” Ruffnut dropped in through the window as well, landing on Tuffnut’s, well, foot.

“Sorry,” Ruffnut said with a grin and without an ounce of guilt.

Jack lowered the staff. “You’re breaking in?” he asked incredulously. “Couldn’t you have just used the door?”

“We didn’t want to seem suspicious,” Ruffnut reasoned.

“Right,” Jack said. “Of course. So what brings you here, then? Something suspicious, I’d guess?”

“Rich, coming from you,” Tuffnut said, shooing Belch away when he tried coming in through the window as well. Once the dragon took off, he turned to Jack and put his hands on his hips. “I believe you owe us an explanation.”

“Do I?” Jack asked, putting his staff away as an excuse to avert his eyes. “It’s not something you need to-“

“I seem to recall,” Ruffnut interrupted importantly as she came to stand by the foot of the bed, “that you said you owed us one for helping you get out of that, uh, tooth spectacle.” She looked around. “Where is the criminal, anyway?”

Jack pressed his lips together. “Baby Tooth isn’t here,” he said, “and she was only doing what she thought was right, so don’t call her that. Anyway, why do you think something like that happened? You said you didn’t know what kind of dragons inhabited that island – maybe I just...”

He trailed off when the twins both raised a brow, sending the mark on Jack’s face pointed looks. Jack turned his head away, but not before giving them a glower.

“If something out of the ordinary happened, you have to share with the class,” Tuffnut said. “And by class, I mean Ruff and I. And by out of the ordinary, I mean magi-“

“Yes, I know what you mean,” Jack interrupted in a hiss, sending a nervous glance towards the staircase. “Lower your voices, at least. I…” He opened and closed his fists, slowly looking back to the twins. “…Something did happen.”

The twins looked surprised despite their previous show of confidence. They came to sit by the edge of the bed, looking at Jack expectantly, like it was his turn to tell a bedtime story. Jack held back the urge to roll his eyes. He wondered when he’d become so irritable but realized quickly that that was a part of him the twins just excelled at bringing out.

At the same time, he didn’t regret telling them the truth. They hadn’t been anything but helpful, if not just a little annoying, until now, and it was nice to have someone other than Jamie and Baby Tooth who knew everything.

“She’s real,” Jack said, looking down at his hands.

The twins exchanged wary looks. “Who is?” Ruffnut asked.

Jack wondered for a moment if it was wise to tell them. Belief would probably only make her stronger, and from what Jack saw, she was already quite strong enough. But the twins wouldn’t stop hounding him if he didn’t, so he steeled himself and met their quizzical gazes.

“The Snow Queen.”

Tuffnut straightened. “I knew it!” he started loudly, before Jack gestured at him to keep it down, and he froze. Not literally, but he might as well. He stared at Jack’s hands warily, as if he’d zapped him.

Jack sighed, letting his hands fall. “And you’re all right about her,” he mumbled. “I hoped… I hoped she was just misunderstood. But she’s not. She’s apathic and evil. And powerful.”

“She did that to you?” Ruffnut asked, nodding at Jack’s face.

Jack nodded, bringing a hand up to trace the patterns. He could barely feel it anymore, but where the fern patterns were, his skin was still considerably cold. “I told her everything,” he said, “and she didn’t take it well. She doesn’t… exist in the future. At least I’ve never heard of her. I think that insinuation scared her, so she tried to kill me. Get rid of the threat and all.”

“Threat?” Ruffnut repeated, catching on as easily as Jamie had. But instead of looking hopeful, her expression turned guarded. “How are you a threat?”

Jack looked between the two of them. If he didn’t know it already, this would’ve been definite proof that he and Pitch never could have worked together. He didn’t want to be feared, but it seemed Ruffnut and Tuffnut had already decided what they thought of winter spirits. And after meeting their only experience with winter spirits, Jack couldn’t blame them.

“I’m not sure,” he mumbled, looking down.

The twins were awfully quiet, so Jack tried brightening up.

“Anyway,” he said. “It’s not all bad. I might be one step closer to finding a way to go home. Something strange happened while I slept at that hilltop…”

He explained to them the dream that wasn’t a dream, how he’d woken up with the crystal, and how they’d tried to make it work, without success.

“Strange thing is,” he said. “Baby Tooth said the other crystal was in Hiccup’s satchel, but when I looked for it earlier, it was gone.”

“You were snooping in Hiccup’s satchel?” Ruffnut asked with a raised brow.

“It’s not something I would’ve done for no reason,” Jack argued. “But that crystal might be dangerous. And it might also be the key to getting us out of here. I’m scared that Hiccup…” He trailed off, looking away again. “…I don’t want Hiccup to get involved in this. I need that crystal.”

“Got it,” Tuffnut said, getting to his feet along with his sister.

Jack blinked. “What?”

“You want us to keep an eye on Hiccup,” Ruffnut said. “Get the crystal back.”

“I didn’t-“ Jack stared at them. “You’d do that for me?”

The twins shared smug looks, before turning to Jack again. “You scratch our backs, we scratch yours,” Ruffnut said. “We want to know what kind of spooky stuff you’re getting up to, so…”

“If you think it’s so spooky, why do you want to know?” Jack grumbled.

“Consider us a blessing, Jackson Overland,” Tuffnut said, beginning to climb out the window.

“Just use the door,” Jack pleaded. “Nobody’s here anyway.” He watched the twins as they disappeared down the stairs, biting his tongue. Then he got out of bed and followed them. “Just try to seem normal,” he called after them. They turned around halfway to the door.

“Du-uh,” Ruffnut said.

“Hiccup can’t know,” Jack said. “Anything. Don’t ask him about the crystal, just… keep an eye out for it.”

This time, the look the twins shared was somewhat wary.

“Okay…” Tuffnut said slowly. “Don’t worry. We always act weird. Nothing will seem out of the ordinary.”

Jack hoped that was more reassuring than it sounded. He bit his lip as he watched the twins exit the hut, pretending his chest didn’t feel so heavy at the thought of sneaking behind Hiccup’s back.

 

 

That night, Jack’s dreams were filled with all kinds of nightmare scenarios. They shifted into each other seamlessly, but this time his brain didn’t do such a good job at scrambling them enough. They were nonsensical still, but not nonsensical enough for Jack to just drift along with them. No, tonight they were in a horrible dreamlike kind of high definition.

He was by the lake with Emily, but instead of going through the ice himself, he was the one who remained. He watched Pitch shoot an arrow into Sandy’s back, but this time, his dream-self just knew there was no way to bring him back. He saw the waves of Pitch’s nightmare sand rush towards them from every direction, and as Jamie stepped forward and held out his hand, he already knew how the nightmare would deviate from reality.

He sat on the bed with Jamie and told him what he hadn’t told him earlier. How their time on Berk paralleled the time in their present, how Jamie had disappeared in the woods and his family had been looking for him for a month. Jamie’s eyes were wide with panic, tears welling up in his eyes. It wasn’t the first time Jack had dreamed about Jamie looking at him with this expression: Disappointment, fear and betrayal, like he was realizing that Jack couldn’t help him anymore, and that perhaps he had caused more damage than his help could make up for.

And then Jack was in a white forest. The Snow Queen stood over him, her hand on Jack’s cheek. Pain spread from where her fingers brushed against his skin, spreading and stabbing through his body like ice stalactites. The feeling grew until snow filled his vision, until everything went white, until all that was left was empty and frozen.

Jack woke up shivering. His breath was shallow, and his throat ached whenever he inhaled. Had he been screaming in his sleep or something? If so, it seemed the house was either empty or the others were ignoring him. He tried taking deep breaths, tried getting his body to stop shaking, and listened for any signs of life downstairs.

A faint snoring caught his ears. Jack pushed himself up and looked around. Sunlight was no longer shining in through the window. Instead, there was another kind of light. Paler, and frankly not very welcome at the moment.

Jack looked up at the Moon, perfectly framed in the window, almost like it had waited for him to wake up and see it. Strange how so many people would find the sight beautiful, when Jack – especially after waking up from a dream like that – only felt contempt. He let out a shuddering sigh and buried his face in his hands, blocking the moonlight from view.

Minutes passed as he waited for his heart to calm down. The fire must’ve died downstairs, because the house was freezing, and Jack’s body wouldn’t stop shaking no matter how tightly he wrapped the blanket around himself. His head was pounding too. It didn’t take long before he came to the conclusion he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep anytime soon.

He swung his legs out of bed. Sitting still in the moonlight wouldn’t do him any good either. Besides, he’d obviously slept for many hours already, and that after sleeping for four days straight too. There was no way a human could stay unconscious for that long. Maybe moving a little would make his body heat up too.

Making as little noise as possible, he ventured down the stairs. Toothless was lying by the hearth, in which embers still glowed faintly. Hiccup lay sprawled halfway on top of him, and beside them was Jamie, curled up in a ball underneath a furry blanket. Stoick’s snoring from the other room was enough to drown out Jack’s footsteps as he silently walked over to them.

He crouched down beside Jamie, squinting to see if he really was asleep. On Jamie’s head, halfway covered by the blanket, was Baby Tooth, also sleeping. It was worrisome, the fact that she needed to sleep at all, but at least she was alive, and she still had her powers. He could only hope her strength would eventually return.

Proof that Jamie was asleep came in the form of an indistinct mumble. Jack didn’t quite catch what he’d said, but it sounded a little like Sophie fell again. Jack held back a chuckle, resisting the urge to reach out and brush some hairs away from Jamie’s face. He needed a haircut. Which probably meant Jack needed one as well.

The thought made a surprising wave of nausea well up in his chest. He hadn’t had a haircut in 300 years. Not that he couldn’t remember any especially traumatic haircutting experiences, but just the fact that his hair was growing again made his skin crawl.

He got to his feet, swallowing heavily. Some air would be good, probably.

A floorboard creaked as he got to the door, making him cringe. The snoring didn’t stop, thankfully – waking Stoick would be a worst-case scenario in this situation – but he remained frozen for a few seconds just to be sure. When nothing happened, he carefully slipped out the door.

It was even chillier outside, much to Jack’s frustration. He was even wearing his heavy, inconvenient boots, seemingly for no reason since he was still freezing. He wrapped his cloak around himself and headed towards the village. He wasn’t too worried about being spotted by anyone this time. Mostly because he didn’t have any stolen teeth on his person anymore, but also because the villagers had gotten a bit more used to seeing him around now.

Surprisingly, his trek led him down to the docks. Someone was undoubtably keeping watch over the area, but the docks themselves were dark and empty. Waves lapped gently against the ships, the wood creaking ever so slightly as they rocked back and forth. Moonlight glittered on the ocean, and Jack found himself glowering at it as he walked to the end of a pier.

“Making yourself look really pretty tonight, aren’t you?” he grumbled. His voice was hoarser than he expected it to be. He sighed. “Doesn’t get any better than this…”

He stopped at the edge of the pier, looking up at the sky. A wry smile spread on his face.

“Don’t know why I’m talking to you, to be honest,” he continued. His hand twitched restlessly; he hadn’t brought his staff with him, in an attempt to seem more anonymous to the other villagers, but now he was starting to regret it. “I mean, it’s not like I’m invisible anymore. I’ve got people to talk to. Which should be a good thing, but…”

He trailed off, looking down at his feet. His head was spinning slightly.

“…It is a good thing,” Jack muttered. “Some of it, at least. But-“ He looked up at the Moon again. “-that is of no thanks to you, of course. You’re just… hanging up there. Watching. Picking and choosing, as you do… every now and then.” He huffed softly, shaking his head. “Is it fun? Is that why you do it? I guess I of all people should understand then, but somehow I am not finding it easy.”

The Moon remained silent. Nothing new there, but Jack let out a hoarse laugh.

“What am I doing?” he mumbled, dragging a hand over his face. “You’re not gonna answer. You never answer. Maybe you’re not even listening.” He looked up again. “Maybe you’re not even a thing yet. You could just be a big, lifeless orb in the sky, and I’d be none the wiser! Nothing would be different.” He scoffed. “And maybe I’m just used to living with this… this uncertainty and hopelessness and fear that I can’t shake the feeling that you’re still up there, just… observing like I’m some kind of…”

He gritted his teeth, attempting to swallow down the frustration building in his gut. So much for thinking some fresh air would help him relax. He wasn’t entirely sure where this anger was coming from either. Or rather, he knew why he was angry – it was the same reason he had always been angry, and now with the whole getting thrown back in time and losing his powers-thing to top it all off –  he just didn’t know why it was coming out now.

Waking up from those terrible dreams with the Moon shining so obnoxiously through the window was probably a factor. It was almost like it had deliberately roused Jack from his sleep, only to silently nudge him like, oh hey, you’d almost forgotten about me, hadn’t you? Don’t forget that no matter how miserable you are right now, it’ll never be worse than the life I made you live for 300 years!

Jack had tried to speak to the Moon almost immediately after arriving in Berk. He’d got no answer then, and he’d get no answer now. The Moon probably had nothing to do with this at all, anyway. It was all the time fragment’s doing, which wouldn’t have happened if Jack had just kept his curiosity in check… or at the very least asked Jamie to wait outside the cave when Jack went to look for the crystal.

Thinking about Jamie only made the conversation from earlier replay in his head, which gave Jack’s nausea a new burst of inspiration. He pressed a hand to his mouth, crouching down as the spinning of his head increased. Something was building up in his stomach. Jack hadn’t vomited in over three centuries; he wasn’t going to start again now.

He sat still for a full minute before he trusted his body enough to let his hand fall. All that came out of him was a shaky breath.

“…All I’m asking is,” he muttered wretchedly, “is that if you’re there, and if you have any power whatsoever to help… You’ve ignored me all this time, but Jamie has no part in this. He shouldn’t be here. He… He deserves to go back. He was the one who helped you in the end, last Easter. The least you could do is…”

He trailed off again, realizing his choice of words only echoed the same one-sided conversation he’d led for 300 years. The least you could do is send a sign. The least you could do is give me a companion. The least you could do is tell me why.

He lifted his gaze to the Moon, glowering through the haziness in his vision. He was about to suggest the Moon do something a glowing orb in the sky couldn’t possibly physically do, but he never got that far.

“What are you doing here?”

Jack jumped to his feet so suddenly he almost toppled into the water. He managed to steady himself, but his heart still beat frantically in his chest at the thought of falling in.

Hiccup stood a few meters away, with the face of someone who’d just witnessed a person getting loudmouthed at seemingly thin air. Jack tried getting himself to relax, with little success; he’d spooked himself too much by loosing his balance near the water, and then there was the fact that he was shivering so much his shoulders were up to his ears.

“You scared me,” Jack said, avoiding the question.

“Sorry,” Hiccup said, taking a few tentative steps closer. “Jack, you’re freezing. You can’t just go out in the middle of the night.”

Jack plastered a smile on his face to battle the buzzing in his chest. “It’s not that cold,” he lied. “I just… needed some air.”

Hiccup didn’t seem convinced, even if that was truthfully the initial reason Jack had gone down here. He seemed hesitant to come closer, like he was afraid Jack would attack him, or maybe jump into the water. Both scenarios were almost ridiculous enough to make Jack laugh.

“Who were you talking to?”

“No one,” Jack said, sending the Moon a glower. “Obviously.”

“Didn’t sound like no one,” Hiccup said, trying for a smile but it looked too strained to be real. “Jack, if you… if there’s something on your mind, you don’t have to go down here and yell at the stars.”

“The stars,” Jack repeated with a short chuckle. Then he pressed his lips together and looked away, feeling guilty for rejecting Hiccup’s kindness just like that. “It’s… something that I can’t… I can’t talk to anyone about it.”

Hiccup’s face fell. “You… You mentioned Jamie,” he said, taking a few steps closer. In return, Jack felt the need to take a few steps away, only he couldn’t, lest he wanted to try walking on water.

“How much did you hear?” Jack asked uneasily. He couldn’t even recall if he’d been speaking in English or Norse.

“Uh… Not much, considering I don’t speak your language,” Hiccup said, making Jack breathe a sigh of relief. “But I heard Jamie, and… anger isn’t a difficult emotion to recognize. Or…” He didn’t finish the sentence, like he was afraid to voice the name of the other emotion Jack had been showing. Thankfully, he decided not to. “Are you sure you can’t try to explain? Maybe I can help?”

Jack pursed his lips, shaking his head a little. “Sure you don’t want to eavesdrop a little more to really get the message?” he asked, and then immediately regretted it at the sight of Hiccup’s dejected expression.

“Jack…”

“I’m sorry.” Jack looked down at his shoes again. He wished he had his staff. He felt awfully vulnerable without it. “I’m sorry, but you can’t help. And I can’t explain. And you’re probably tired of this… of having to deal with my…” He gestured vaguely at himself. “Believe me, I don’t like it any more than you do.”

Hiccup came closer. Jack took half a step back.

“Why can’t you explain, then?” Hiccup asked, and though his voice was still gentle, as if he was talking to a cornered animal, frustration started sneaking into his words.

“Just- because!” Jack said, throwing up his hands. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“I understood you last time,” Hiccup argued. “When we talked by the cliff.”

Jack smiled faintly. “Did you?” he said quietly.

Hiccup huffed. “Didn’t I?”

“I don’t…” Jack shook his head, finding it harder and harder to look up as Hiccup came closer. He wrapped his arms around himself and tried fruitlessly to hold back a shudder. “It doesn’t matter. I’m- I- I just needed some air, that’s all. And to yell at something consistently unresponsive.” He smiled stiffly, managing to glance briefly at Hiccup. It was a mistake; his expression was so kind and searching and everything it shouldn’t be. It made rejecting his offer to help a million times harder. Jack looked away again. “It’s better like that, sometimes… isn’t it?”

It didn’t sound convincing, even to himself.

“It’s not,” Hiccup said. “Why are you saying that?”

Jack opened his mouth to answer but couldn’t make a sound. He shook his head.

Hiccup came ever so slightly closer.

“I heard you… e- earlier,” he said, his nervous tone making Jack look up at him again. “When you were talking to Jamie. I swear, I didn’t mean to listen, but the… the walls aren’t very thick.” He hesitated. “Jamie…”

Jack closed his eyes. He felt the need to press his hand against his mouth again but forced his arms to stay at his sides. “He was…” he started, but his voice didn’t quite come out the way he wanted it to. He cleared his throat. “There was a- a misunderstanding. I didn’t realize he was… he was h- hurting. Or, I knew he was hurting, but not…” He let out a bitter laugh. “I should’ve noticed. I should’ve… but I didn’t.”

“Is that what this is about?” Hiccup asked gently.

“That’s just a part of it, Hiccup,” Jack said, his words coming out harsher than he’d intended. “But everything else… I can’t just say a few kind words to make it better. I can’t make… any… anything better.”

“Jack…”

“And I can’t explain why. It’s like-“ He looked up at the Moon, shaking his head incredulously. “It’s like even if I have all these people surrounding me, they’re just there, just out of reach. And that’s just a whole new kind of torment, isn’t it?”

“What are you talking about?” Hiccup asked, making Jack’s eyes snap back to him. His brows were furrowed, which would’ve made him look angry if he hadn’t looked so awfully concerned as well. “Jack, we’re not out of your reach. Everyone’s been reaching out to you all day, haven’t they?”

Jack wanted to argue but knew he couldn’t explain it to Hiccup anyway. He nodded. “Yeah… sorry.”

“Jack.” Hiccup definitely sounded exasperated now. He took another step closer. There was no more than a meter between them. “Okay, if- if you really feel like you can’t tell me what’s the matter, for whatever reason that is, you- you don’t have to, but… I want to- we want to help you.” He gestured helplessly, looking around as if searching for the right words hanging in the air. “Because I can’t just stand around and watch you be in this much pain.”

Jack stared incredulously at him. “I’m not in pain,” he said weakly.

Hiccup sent him a look that was almost a glower. “Jack,” he said. “You’re crying.”

“I’m not-“ He was, and the realization made him take a step back in surprise. Gravity took a hold of him as he tipped over the edge of the pier. But he didn’t fall in; Hiccup grabbed him and pulled him back before he even got close to the water, and Jack stumbled, grabbing onto his shoulders to steady himself.

And then he couldn’t move. Now that Hiccup had brought it to light, he felt the chilliness on his cheeks. Maybe the tears would freeze there, as they had had a tendency to do when he was still Jack Frost. Not many people knew that. Mostly because not many people knew Jack Frost at all. The only person he’d cried in front of as Jack Frost was North, after Sandy’s memorial.

Hiccup’s hold loosened slightly around Jack’s arms, but Jack couldn’t make himself move away. He brought a hand to his face, pressing it tightly against his mouth. Something was growing in his gut again, but it wasn’t nausea. It was a sob, and the hand clamped over his mouth did nothing to stop it.

Hiccup sighed and pulled Jack into a tight embrace. “Gods,” he muttered. “You’re burning up, Jack.”

He got another sob in reply. And then another one, and another, until Hiccup carefully maneuvered them down to their knees. Jack couldn’t make himself look up at him, and just leaned into the embrace like his life depended on it. It took a long time before he regained the ability to use words, and by then his throat felt like razorblades and his voice was reminiscent of an old, sick cat.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, and couldn’t help but realize that he was echoing Jamie. He tried for a laugh, but it came out so hoarse it sounded more like a wheeze. “This doesn’t usually happen.”

Hiccup chuckled softly. His hand rubbed circles on Jack’s back. “I’m sure it doesn’t,” he said, “knowing you.”

Jack sniffled. “Knowing me?” he repeated. “You don’t.”

“I know part of you,” Hiccup countered. “That’s gotta count for something, don’t you think?”

Jack supposed he did. He smiled faintly. “Do you still think I’m crazy?”

“I already said I didn’t,” Hiccup said, patting the back of Jack’s head in a weak imitation of a smack. “I know that, at least. And… I know you’re reckless and… a little foolhardy, but neither of those are traits I – as a member of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe – can judge you for. And I know you’re good with children. I know you have a borderline magical ability to cheer people up… even the grumpiest of Vikings, like my dad. Must run in the family.”

Jack held back a laugh, if only to spare himself the pain in his throat.

“I know you’re full of secrets and mysteries,” Hiccup continued. “Not what they are, but… that doesn’t matter right now.” He ran a hand through Jack’s hair. His breath seemed to quiver ever so slightly when he sighed. “And… I know you have a big heart. Good intentions. And a tendency to relegate your own feelings.”

“Jamie and I are here because of me.”

Hiccup’s hand faltered. “What?”

Jack held his breath for a few seconds before he slowly pulled away from Hiccup’s embrace. Immediately, he felt colder, but he did his best to hide it. “I… It’s my fault,” he admitted in a whisper. “That’s what’s wrong. And Jamie… He looks at me like I’m invincible. But now he’s… slowly realizing that that’s not true.” He wiped away the tears on his cheek, but it was a losing battle.

“What do you mean, it’s your fault?” Hiccup asked. “You said-“

“I lied,” Jack said, meeting his eyes. “Or… not entirely, but… I don’t have amnesia. But what I said about not knowing this place, and not knowing our way back home – that part is true. I just can’t tell you the whole truth.”

“Jack-“

“I don’t enjoy lying,” Jack said. “But I needed to stay on the safe side.”

Hiccup looked more confused than ever. “You mean… you remember everything?” he asked. “How you got here?”

Jack nodded.

“How… How is it your fault?”

“Hiccup.” Jack forced himself to hold his gaze. The colors in Hiccup’s face seemed slightly different in the moonlight. Less saturated. But his freckles were still easy to see, and his eyes were still undeniably green. Jack found himself moving his hand up, but stopped himself when he realized what he was doing; his fingers hovered beside Hiccup’s cheek.

If he touched him now, his hand wouldn’t pass through. Jack had known that for a while now, but at this moment, it was as if he realized it for the first time again.

He let his hand fall.

“Do you trust me?” he asked.

Hiccup’s lips had parted a little in surprise, but he closed them again at the question. He answered it with a small nod. Jack smiled, almost apologetically.

“Then trust that I have a reason for not telling you everything,” he said. “Please.”

Hiccup’s lips seemed to change their mind, parting again as if he was going to answer, but no words came out the first few seconds. Then he nodded again.

“Okay,” he said. “I trust you.”

It felt unfair for both parties. Jack swallowed heavily and nodded back. He wanted to say something more, but his throat was beginning to tighten again. He’d already cried enough for one night. Or year. Or century.

“But seriously,” Hiccup said. “You have a fever. We really shouldn’t be sitting here by the ocean.”

Jack managed a smile. “Not sure what pulled me out here,” he said. “Perfect yelling-at-the-Moon spot, I guess.”

Hiccup helped them both to their feet. “Yelling at the moon?” he repeated. “And that’s something that works out for you usually?”

“Never,” Jack snorted, then winced. “My head feels like it’s going to explode.”

Hiccup studied him. Whatever he was thinking about, his expression wasn’t revealing anything. However, he shifted his weight awkwardly, and Jack couldn’t help being reminded of all the times he, Jack, had been hesitant to bring his arms around Jamie whenever he was in need of comfort. “Let’s hurry back. You’re shaking,” he said.

“I’m aware,” Jack muttered, trying to stop his teeth from clattering. “Don’t suppose you can get Toothless to efficiently reignite the hearth when we get back?”

Hiccup hesitated. “If we want to wake the whole house, then yes,” he said.

Jack grimaced. “Point taken.” He glanced at him, before looking ahead again as they started climbing the ramp. “Do you want to… I mean, could you sleep beside me again?” Even if he’d asked for that before, it somehow felt awkward now, after the moment they’d just shared. A part of Jack wondered if Hiccup would even feel comfortable with that now that he’d seen this other side of him… and now that he knew Jack had been lying to them.

But Hiccup just smiled at him and nodded. “It’s almost tradition now, isn’t it?” he asked with a sheepish laugh.

Jack’s lips were chapped. He thought they might crack if he smiled to broadly, but it wasn’t something he could control. He nodded. “Not a bad tradition, in my opinion,” he said.

“Good,” Hiccup said. If it hadn’t been so dark, Jack thought he might’ve seen that pinkish hue in his cheeks again. “That makes two of us.”

They walked back to the Haddock House together, and at least for the little time being, Jack could let himself forget about the moonlight shining at them from behind.