There is a girl who calls to him in his sleep. She calls his name over and over, sometimes scared, sometimes playful. The sound of her voice is as painful as it is beautiful. When he awakes, he forgets her, the memories slipping away from him like sand through his fingers.
Sandman's sand never slips without a purpose. The first time Jack sees the golden specks sparkling high above the villages, he is struck dumb by their radiance. When he touches them, they resolve into detailed sculptures of antlers and trees and the faces of young boys and girls. They look almost familiar for a second, and then the sand scatters, taking with it the unsettling feeling of emptiness.
Jack doesn't see Sandman in person until almost a century later, though he gazes at the Guardian's work every night without fail. He remembers that night in Vancouver with perfect clarity, free from the numbing blurriness he sees the rest of his life with. It was a night of silence, and it was a night so full of light it could barely be called a night at all.
He had spied Sandman from atop a child's house and ridden a river of sand to the makeshift cloud which served as Sandman's control room. Held aloft by the wind, he had circled Sandman, hovering upside-down and then spinning around.
Sandman had put a tiny hand to his mouth and chuckled silently, eyes bright and full of affection.
Sandman was the first person to interact with Jack Frost, and Jack will never forget that.
They form an alliance, of sorts. Sometimes, when Jack is scheming with Cupid, Sandman will tap one of them on the shoulder and spin his sand into a hundred intricate hearts, setting them free to wander with the wind. Cupid will pierce the creations with his arrows, and they will split into an infinite number of smaller, more simple hearts, causing infatuation so slight and transient it barely lasts a minute.
Jack loves those fragile moments. At precisely the right moment, he sends couples into a cloud of invisible hearts with a gust of cold wind and blows magic into the path of cats chasing mice. He leads snowflakes into the eyes of arguing friends and made them blush, then laugh until they forgot their disagreements. Then, of course, he freezes their shoelaces together.
It's a game they never grow out of. They don't cause enough of a disturbance for their antics to warrant another holiday, but they still delight in coming together regularly. Sometimes, they don't even do anything; they only talk, in whatever way they can, and Jack wonders if he can call this strange thing friendship.
If so, then Sandman and Cupid are his first friends. Jack doesn't see other immortals much, and these simple games reassure him that he isn't completely invisible. That he isn't completely alone.
Jack is in Palermo one night when he sees Sandman whirl into town. He rises up on the wind and rides the currents to the shimmering cloud.
"Nice job," he says, tipping his staff in an imitation of an elegant bow. Sandman winks.
Hat, moon, a fountain of sand.
Jack isn't what that means. He has always had trouble deciphering Sandman's exuberant sand sideshows.
"The moon, huh?"
Jack sits down at the edge of the cloud, feet dangling freely over the shifting sand. He tips his head back to look at the sky, then glances back at Sandman.
Moon, a smile, wisps of smoke, a trail of zig-zags that Sandman tells Jack represent sleep. Jack will learn to read, someday. He has all the time in the world now.
"Sandman," he asks, "can you see my dreams?"
An unusual expression flickers over Sandman's face. He raises his hands and conjures up the face of a girl. She looks familiar, even as a sand sculpture.
He has never seen her face before.
Jack feels a tiny grain of unease settle in his heart.
"Is she in my dreams? How do I know her?"
Sandman shakes his head, gazing up at the moon. Jack follows his line of sight and sighs.
"All of the answers, and he won't say a word."
Sandy looks at him sadly. A golden coil wraps around Jack's waist and carries him high above the clouds, closer to the moon. It is huge and bright, ancient beyond measure, and silent. Always silent.
Jack doesn't find answers that night either, but somehow when he remembers it he feels, for one single instant, perfectly content.
Of all the Guardians, Sandman is closest to the Man in the Moon, not least, Jack thinks with a touch of bitterness, because they both speak in riddles.
In the nights following his encounter with Sandman in Palermo, Jack can't shake the feeling that he's missing something important. He can't forget his unease, but he can't remember anything, either. Sometimes, he thinks of a girl, and then he thinks of a boy, and then he doesn't think of anyone at all. When he touches Sandman's golden streams, he sees faces of all kinds, and animals he has never seen before.
He begins to lose track of what is real.
He brings up half-human wolves with Cupid, who only snickers and tries to prick him with an arrow again. In his dreams, Jack sees the faces of children he's played with that day and children he knows he's never seen. He begins to wonder if there's a separate entity inside of him, a second Jack who fills up the blank memories and doesn't forget important things.
Maybe it is Jack Frost who is the dream. Maybe he is nothing more than a figment of a boy's imagination. He and Sandman and Cupid and everyone in his world who can actually see him.
"Having fun?" he calls to the Man in the Moon. "Maybe this is all for no other purpose than your sick enjoyment."
The moon doesn't even bother to defend itself. Jack screams at it, arms outstretched, and in a testament to its twisted sense of humor, the moon decides to initiate him as a Guardian.
Now that Jack has his most precious memories back, he finds himself missing the memories dubbed less important. He knows that he used to be human, with a family, and that he lost his life saving his sister. He knows that he used to make the other children in the village laugh, and that sometimes, he went too far with his tricks and made them cry. He doesn't know what he usually ate for lunch, or what color his sister liked best, or whether his brother ever grew out of his love for chewing on blocks of ice.
He wants to know everything.
Sandy sends him sweet dreams, mostly implausible adventures with a sea of faceless friends. Within the dreams, Jack finds parts from his past he wants to believe are true.
He shapes his own past, discarding flying brothers and ice queen mothers in favor of telling stories around the fireplace and chasing butterflies through the forest in spring. He chooses to believe in the dreams because they are real to him and no-one cares enough to argue with him about it.
Sandy sends him beautiful dreams, dreams with people Jack almost doesn't recognize, and within those dreams, Jack finds parts from a future he could have lived.
He shapes his family's past, watching his sister fall in love and seeing his brother grow up with a mischievous streak that almost rivals Jack's own. Once, he sees his mother and father mourning by the lake, and yet that too is a beautiful dream, because now at least he knows they missed him.
Near Christmas one year, Sandy sends him a dream so wondrous Jack wakes up breathless. Sandy hovers over him, hopeful and anxious.
"I remember you," Jack says in wonder. "You spread stars across the sky after the storms. You made everything sparkle like gold when it was Winter."
Sandy inclines his head graciously. Jack kneels and puts a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"You've been with me my whole life," he says quietly. "Throughout my past life and my present life, and the life I could have had, whenever I needed someone, you were there."
Sandy taps his nose and spells out a series of complex images above his head. Somehow, Jack understands perfectly.
It is a Guardian's duty to protect the children in their care, even after they grow up.