Three days two hours and thirty-two minutes since he had been 'born'. Three days and one and a half hours since realizing no one could touch or see him. The pain of this hit him hard. He was alone without even the hope of someone coming to find him, to comfort him. No one even knew he was there. Perhaps this is why the Moon took pity on him for the second time. Why it sent down a moonbeam as he sat on the frozen lake to his own thoughts. At fist Jack hadn't even notice the lights arrival, looking up only when he felt the edges of him mind begin to unfold. His eyes widened as, without any warning, images flooded his vision.
Jack jolted up from his sitting position suddenly, his cheat heaving as he struggled to breath around the waves of emotion that found him. He looked from the moon, to the lake and then to his own hands as he tried to comprehend all that had just gone though his mind. When the final image finally seeped into his mind his breath caught and he took off down the once familiar path by the lake with a single name whispered on his lips.
Just as the house enters his line of vision he stops and takes in the scene. His old modest home where he had lived with his family, mother, father and younger sister. The place of his childhood, was surrounded by candles, a few villagers still lingering as they leave a few more. His father stood in the doorway nodding at those who were giving their condolences. His face was set and grim in a way Jack had never seen before. Even in years where money and food had been lacking his father had never looked so...defeated. His mother and sister were nowhere to be seen though, at least, not from where he was standing.
As he moved towards the house the villagers pulled their coverings closer and hastily made their retreat. His father shivered slightly but made no move to go back into the house. Slipping past him Jack searched for the other two members of his family. He needed to see them again. It didn't take long to locate his mother who was bundled up in blankets in front of the fireplace. Her expression was painfully blank as she stared through the dying flames. Her eyes were rimmed with red showing she had been crying, her gaze empty. Her mouth drawn into a firm line as she rocked slowly in the chair, he only signs of life.
Jack had to wipe tears from his own eyes at this point. His mother had always tried to be cheerful, he had rarely ever seen her without a smile. Even when scolding him for one of his pranks. Never did he ever seen a more hopeless expression on her before, he hadn't thought it possible. Looking between his parents Jack choked back a sob at seeing them so hurt.
"Mom?" Jack rasped weakly, "Dad?"
Neither one responded.
A hiccup and shuddered breath floated through the room then stirring the bit of life left in his mother. She leaned forward and tightened her grip on something in her lap. The blanket fell away enough to reveal the curled up little girl in her arms. Her eyes were red and puffy and her face screamed of loss. Jack fell to his knees and shakily scrambled over to her.
"Pippa." He breathed painfully, which caused a chill to sweep through the room.
The fire flickered and both more and daughter shivered and held tighter to one other. His father closed the door in an effort to stop the draft and finally made his way somberly over to his wife and remaining child. The young girl wept into her mother lap in such a way that said she would have been sobbing had she not been so tired, presumably from tears already shed. His mother hugged and pet her head in comfort, though it did little good. When Jack reached out to try and help sooth her he only succeeded in making her shiver harder.
Getting shakily to his feet Jack looked at each member of his family. At the grief he had caused them, that pulled their faces to tight with pain. The tightness in his chest grew and he could feel the temperature of the room dropping. The floor creaked and the fire flickered rapidly. Turning abruptly Jack whipped the door to the cabin open and fled. At first he didn't know where to, he just knew he had to get away. To get away before something happened.
Days passed since Jack had first returned home. No one could see nor hear him, which he was kind of expecting, though it still hurt. His mother lived in a daze for the most part. She would go though her work without a word nor even a glance at those around her. Only when her daughter was around did she show any connection to the world. Fawning over her, albeit a bit somberly, but never wasting a moment that could be a hug or a kiss on the forehead or words of love and praise. These things she never gave to her husband, if she were ever even aware of his presence.
His father went heavily into his own work. Tending to the few animals the family owned and gathering things needed for the rest winter such as wood and preservable food. He would stop on occasion to pat Pippa on the head and look at her in a pained, but loving expression. If he ever acknowledged his wife it was in a way Jack couldn't see. It hurt him to see his parents acting so distant. Every time he tried to get them to look at one other or interact he only seemed to make it worse. The icy chill that followed him only serving to be negative reinforcement. A touch on the hand could and often would send his mother into tears.
Then their was Pippa. She stayed home almost constantly. No one expected her to go to the small school so soon after...but that's not all that she stopped doing. She stopped smiling, stopped taking walks in the woods which she had loved so much. She didn't laugh either. When kids from the village came to cheer her up and play she never joined them. She would cry often and lay in her mothers arms as the woman cooed gently to her. But what hurt Jack most was that she had stopped dreaming.
In the past when he had still been alive he had been woken up more then once by his sister. Her giggling in her sleep as she slept beside him in the small bed they shared. The smile on her face telling of happy dreams. But now, whenever she made a noise in her sleep is was either a sob or an apology. He would sit and try to talk her out of it, try to comfort her sleeping mind. Nothing worked. His voice could never reach her. Only the cold seeped through. A cold that would make the house moan loudly, thus waking the child who would then cry herself back to sleep. Even when Jack tried to sooth these tears he couldn't help. His hands always just went right through her.
He could see that nothing he did was working. Could see that his new constant chill was less then wanted as it served as a constant reminder to them of the season that stole their son from them. But they were so broken without him. He couldn't leave. Not until he fixed something. Not until he had helped. If not his parents then his sister, who was becoming alarmingly thin and frail. He would follow her around the house tying to coax some kind of reaction from her. He would knock stuff over to try and get her to giggle or at least smile in amusement. Instead he would startle her and thus go to her side to sooth her nerves, which usually ended in her shaking from the cold.
The child's once alert eyes were dulling with fatigue and her appetite was waning as time passed. It was effecting her ability to do simply chores as her strength slipped away. Jack would scream at night in frustration as nothing he did seemed to work. He couldn't even give her a hug without going through her and giving her a bad case of shivers. It wasn't until Pippa had collapsed in the doorway with a fever that either parent seemed to really notice the deteriorated stat of their surviving child.
Both flew to her side calling her name with alarm. Jack could only stand there and watch with concern as both his mother and father moved her into the once shared room. Jack followed and watched whispering for her to be okay. His mother felt the child's head and moved off the quickly gather what was needed. A bowl of water and a damp cloth. His father stubbornly looked about the room once his wife had returned.
"Its these damn drafts. Been bad this year." He muttered, though if it was to his wife or himself it wasn't clear.
Jack felt another pang of guilt at that. Drafts. Cold drafts. Like the ones that followed him. The ones he sweeps over everyone he tries to touch. He was making his sister sick, literally. But, he could still stay nearby right? Just so long as he kept his distance. He couldn't just leave, not when his sister was so ill. He needed to see her get better. Needed her to smile at least one last time.
The boy jumped at this. The small voice of his ailing sister drifted up again with his name, only a sob resting in the word. He hesitated. He couldn't get too close, not when she already had a fever. His mother wiped her forehead with the cloth but Pippa turned her head away from the touch. Tears streamed down her cheeks and her body shook.
"I'm s-sorry, Jack." Pippa choked out through her tears.
Jack was by her side in an instant.
"I-I'm so sorry."
"No." Jack rasped out desperately, "No, no, no. Pippa, don't."
"Shh." His mother added to comfort her daughter.
"It's my fault-" She was cut off by a sob.
"No, it wasn't-"
"It wasn't anyones fault" His mother spoke softly, unintentionally cutting off the voice no one could hear.
"See?" Jack said with a weak smile, "Mom knows what she's talking about. So just listen to her okay?"
"I J-just-" She started again.
Jack looked over at his father as he started to speak now, his eyes softer then they had been in a while. He moved to kneel beside her, Jack had to move fast to keep from being passed through.
"It was an accident. You both wanted to skate. No one could have known." He said with as much warmth as he could muster, "No one thinks it was your fault. I know Jack wouldn't"
Jack could do nothing but nod in agreement and his own throat tightened.
"He loved you Pippa." His mother put in, "He wouldn't want you to carry on this way."
The words seemed to calm Pippa down and her uneven breaths slowed some as she drifted. Her parents stayed be her side while she slept. He father's hands crept over until it was holding tightly onto his wife's. Jack smiled at that, despite the streaks of frozen tears that shone on his cheeks.
In the days that followed Pippa was never left alone. Either her mother or father was always by her side. Jack was another constant, though no one knew. He would talk too, to his sister about all he expected her to do once she was better. She was to go and play with the other kids. She was to throw the first snowball always. She was to dip her fingers into their mothers cooling pies, no matter the scolding that would come later. He also had a list of things she was not to do. She was not to frown, nor have nightmares, nor blame herself for anything. Though these, like everything else he said, fell on deaf ears.
Despite that his sister was still recovering. She was still woken up by the unintentional noises Jack's cold would create in the house. She still cried, though not as often now. Even her nightmares lessened. Her parents started to smile again as their daughter appeared to be finally coming to terms with her grief. Some form of light had returned to her eyes, it wasn't particularly bright, but is was something. Something somewhere had touched her heart and given her a small hope.
By the time Pippa was back on her feet the first thaws of spring had begun. Her father had gone into town to fetch some materials too fix up the house now that the ice had gone enough for repairs to be made. Her mother was busy at work preparing a meal for his return. Now, with her new glint of hope in her eyes Pippa, on steady feet, began her walk towards the lake with a soft smile. She hadn't been there since that day. Jack, ever by her side, followed her with a concern he couldn't explain. He had wanted to see her smile again, but there was something...off about this one. He didn't like it.
With dread weighing on him he trailed his younger sister as she traveled, humming, all the way to the waters edge. She stared into the newly melted lake, waters still holding onto the winters frigid cold. She just smiles sweetly at the icy waves the wind makes on the otherwise flat surface.
"I remember that one year." She starts talking suddenly which startles Jack for a second, "You threw my shoes in the lake by accident trying to get them stuck in the tree. Mom made you swim out to get them again."
She smiles a bit sadder at this, but more in remembrance it seemed.
"I remember you trying to climb to the top of the tree once too. The branch snapped and you would have fallen all the way to the ground, but you were over the water and fell in. You didn't pop back up at first and Abigail panicked."
Jack chuckled at that, remembering too well that day. His mother had been less them pleased by his muddy return home, shirt ripped up one of the sleeves and Pippa wiping away some stray tears of her own worry at the time.
"You promised that once I was old enough you'd teach me to climb too. And to swim, and to...skate." Her voice lowered.
Jack looked at her as she fell into a silent reverie. A tear escaped and before he could reach out she was wiping it away.
"But don't worry Jack. You can still teach me." She stated suddenly, surprising and confusing him.
She stood up and looked up into the sky as the wind blew gently. The soft disturbing smile was back on her face and Jack could feel his heart ache with a dread he didn't understand.
"You don't have to worry." She said again, "I'll see you again real soon."
She looked down at the lake and then it hit him. Jack realized with a powerful blow to the gut what she meant. Why she had come to the lake again. Why she came alone. She came to join him. To die.
She started taking off her coat and other layers as Jack started to panic. The winds whipped u around him as he screamed at her to stop. He ran to pull her coat back over her shoulders only to pass through her. He yelled, scolded and begged, the wind crying out when his own words were lost to her. The cold air and wind made her shiver, but did not serve to deter her. There was nothing he could do, she couldn't see, hear, or feel him. He couldn't just sit there and, and watch.
He needed help.
As much as he hated to he forced himself away from the lake and his sister. He flew as fast as the wind could carry him back to the house. His mother was still in the kitchen as his winds howled against the walls of the cabin.
"MOM!" He bellowed bursting through the door startling her, but she could see and hear him no better then Pippa could, "You Have To Come NOW. It's Pippa! She's At The Lake! She's-! Y-You HAVE To Stop Her!"
His screams falling useless against her. He was running out of time. The wind outside grew more furious as he tried to get her attention. Banging the door open again on his way out he just managed to catch sight of his father's wagon coming back from the town. Wasting no time Jack launched himself at his father and started yelling at him to hurry. He even tried steering the horse towards the lake. His father hearing nothing but an angry wind kept the wagon trained towards home.
"NO! Dad, You HAVE To HELP HER!" Jack screeched, his throat going raw from the strain of trying to be heard.
His father kept his pace and destination firm despite Jack and the winds howling. In pained frustration Jack slammed his staff onto the ground, which instantly iced over. His breath caught suddenly as for the first time since he started to panic did he remember the abilities he now had.
'Stupid.' Jack thought to himself harshly as he took off back towards the lake like a bullet, 'I'm such an idiot!'
His hasty flight though the woods earned him all sorts of scrapes and cuts as he didn't even bother avoiding branches. His only thought was to get back in time. He hoped he hadn't taken too long already. He hoped with all he had that she hadn't gotten in the water. His worry clouded his mind and senses so much that he didn't see the particularly low branch that tagged him in the side and sent him tumbling from the winds embrace. He landed hard and rolled to an aching stop. Not giving himself time to fell what ever pain he might be in he jolted from the ground and proceeded to dart through the trees on foot towards the lake. He was a good distance away before he realized his staff was missing. It was gone.
His power, his way to save his sister was gone. He needed it to save her, but he didn't have time. He had already been away for too long, if he went back he could be too late. But even if he got there in time without the staff what could he do? Scream and watch her sink under the water helplessly?
His feet were moving before his mind even caught up with him. His breathing was ragged as he finally reached the lake. His sister was still on the shore, but she was down to nothing but her blouse. Her other articles of clothing abandoned higher on the shore. She was just at the edge of the lake now, staring into it with that sickeningly soft gaze. Jack's heart throbbed at how close it all was. He forced his tired body to move forward. Staff-less and powerless he had to try something.
"Pippa." He said, his voice now raspy and hardly a whisper, "Pippa, please."
His sister dipped a toe into the water and Jacks heart practically stopped. The wind feeling the boys distress pushed against her, forcing her back a step. Her small body couldn't match the winds strength and the biting cold that came with it caused her to stop and shudder, holding herself in her arms. Jack took this time to put himself between her and the lake. Even though he knew she couldn't see him it was instinctive. He looked at his shaking sister, his sweet hurting little sister, and then to the merciless waters of the lake. He glared with a firm hatred for the water which was drawing in his dear sibling with a promise he knew it wouldn't keep.
"No." He growled in what little voice he had left, "You're not getting her too."
In his anger the ground he stood on began to harden, then slowly, frosted over. Jack looked down at the familiar crinkling sound of the frost and his eyes widened. Ice. His sister didn't seem to notice the sudden appearance of it. Her gaze was already on the water again. Jack, jaw set and eyes narrowed, leaned down and placed his hands at the waters edge. He breathed in deep and focused everything he could on it. Forcing himself not to notice the small footsteps getting closer, of the huffed breaths leaving her mouth from anticipation. No, he needed to think only about the water, the cold harsh water, and ice.
As Pippa's foot came down one last time he heard her gasp. His eyes opened to find her looking down, mouth agape. Her foot, instead of slipping into the water, had been met with ice. The lake water around them had frozen in a perfect semi circle. It wasn't particularly thick, but it was enough to hold her weight, for a time. Pippa, could only look around her, she had only closed her eyes for a moment only to open them at the freezing touch of not water, but something more solid. She didn't know what to think. The ice had just, appeared.
The wind, though gentler this time, pushed the girl back once more from the waters edge. Not having the strength to argue any further Pippa did as the wind directed and stepped back. Only when she had backed up to her coat did the breeze cease it's pulling. Looking down the girl seemed in a daze as she picked up her abandoned jacket, though she didn't put it on.
Jack, though he wished to go to her sister's side, didn't even have the ability to stand any longer. He couldn't even get out of the crouched position he was in. He watched her though, as the wheels turned in her head mulling the situation over.
"Jack." She whispered embracing herself, "I miss you so much, Jack."
"I miss you too, Pippa." Jack replied just as quietly.
The wind wrapped around both children then, embracing them both with the comfort they both needed. Pippa shuddered once more before pulling the coat over her shoulders. As she leaned down to gather her other layers Jack let out a sigh of relief. At that The girl jumped and her eye darted to the lake, to where he was still crouched. Jack's own breath caught. She was looking towards him, but through him too.
"Jack?" She questioned looking around as if he had run off somewhere.
She could have sworn, just a moment ago. But, that was impossible. Then again, that lake had just frozen under her feet. Could it have been?
Jack waited and watched his sister scan the area with her eyes before she quickly began pulling on her layers under her coat. Before she even got her other boot back on she was off towards the house calling for her mother. Jack forced himself onto shaky feet as he tried to follow her. The wind however, held him back.
"Wind? What are you doing? I need to see what she's up to!" Jack gasped, his lungs and throat still tired from the strain of prior events.
His body was slowing down as the adrenaline left him. Even though spirits needed only minimal sleep, events like this could really wipe them out. The wind pressed him to sleep, though he fought it.
"What? No!" Jack tried to push his way through the wind to no avail, "I-I need to see! Pippa! Pippa!"
With an apology the Wind picked him up and carried him away. Up and up it took him despite his protests and away from his beloved home until the wind found who it was looking for. With hardly a breeze of words between them the Sandman understood and soon a trail of gold connected to the young spirit sending him into much needed sleep. Once out the Wind carried the boy back to his lake and laid him down to sleep. Once he was settled the Wind left his side to seek out yet another. It had been watching the frost child this whole time and could see only once solution to this problem.
When Jack awoke he was slightly confused. He didn't remember falling asleep here. He also didn't recall what had woken him up. It had been to abrupt to have been him just waking up on his own. These musings were put to rest as a voice drifted over to him.
"But, he was here, I swear I saw him!" A young girls voice sounded from a little bit away.
Looking across his lake he could spot a young girl and two adults.
"I was standing just there and I saw him, but only for a moment." She was explaining to them.
Picking up his staff, which he didn't remember leaving by the tree, he lept over to the three. The girl had brown hair and long brown hair. She looked like she had been sick recently from her pale skin. Her parents, for that's all he could assume they were, looked from one other with both concern and hurt. It was the mother who spoke first.
"What, you saw Pippa, it was a memory." She said softly, "When people are sad they sometimes see them to ease the pain."
"But!" The girl looked to be in some distress as not being believed in, which bothered Jack greatly.
He wanted to do something to help, but what was he supposed to do? He didn't even know what they were talking about. Luckily, he didn't have to try and come up with something.
"Maybe you saw a sprite." The father suggested, catching his wife's eye for a moment, "Sometimes, if we're lucky, there are sprites about to help us. You said you came here to see your brother. There may have been a sprite here to help you do that, for just that moment."
The girl thought this over, though from the lenght of time she though suggested there were more thoughts going on then just a sighting. Whatever they were though it didn't seem to matter as a small smile crept on her face. He parents both seemed to relax as it did. Looking up she nodded at them.
"Maybe you're right." She replied looking over the lake with bright eyes.
Jack stood and smiled a bit himself. This girl, she much better when smiling. The wind swept up just then laying a gentle breeze over Jack and the family at his lakeside. Huddling up against it the family turned and headed what was probably towards home. The Wind settled around Jack how put a hand up as if to welcome it back. When it whispered an apology Jack cocked his head to the side.
"What are you sorry about?" He asked, when it replied with 'nothing' he grinned, "Oh I get it. You moved my staff didn't you?"
The wind didn't reply.
"Can't just play the silent game Wind, I know I didn't leave it there." Jack's grin grew as he was swept up suddenly, whatever game the Wind thought it was playing Jack was going to win it.