You finally exhale, the breath that had been trapped within you escaping past your lips to a long-awaited freedom.
At first, you’re not sure on what to say.
After months of knowing you, Jack just told you he loves you.
Jack Frost. A spirit. Immortal. The stuff of legends. In love. With you.
Your head is swimming.
But then something arises within you. A small, soft warmth. Like a single candle’s flame flickering brightly in a dark room filled with uncertainty.
Slowly, it grows, filling you and steadying your beating heart and racing mind. All other thoughts, all other feelings, are forgotten.
Just one remains.
You’ve never been surer of something in your life.
You smile warmly at Jack, who is staring at you, mouth slightly agape as he waits for you to say something, body stuck in the moment just after his confession.
“I love you too.”
He relaxes, unfurling the anxious fist that his staff-less hand had been in. A look of sheer relief and happiness spreads across his face. He presses his lips together for a brief moment, his bottom lip quivering.
His mouth opens again with a quick exhale, like a person who just had a huge burden lifted off their shoulders.
His breaths turn into small outbursts of happy laughter. You’re reminded of that day long ago, when you first brought an unconscious Jack into your home. When he had awoken.
And discovered that you could see and hear him.
He whisks you up into his arms, lifting you up and quite literally sweeping you off your feet. You wrap your arms around his neck as he twirls the two of you. You feel yourself elevate off of the roof as the wind joins in on the joyful moment, setting you back down as the twirl ends. The two of you are laughing together, in complete unison. Just two people. Together in an extraordinary moment, on an ordinary night, in an ordinary town, on an ordinary rooftop.
Two people in love.
You can just see the moon over Jack’s shoulder.
It seems to be smiling down upon the two of you.
But it’s a sad smile.
Before you can think anything more of it, Jack leans his forehead against yours. You don’t think you’ve ever seen him smiling this wide.
Nor tears so close to falling from his breathtaking blue eyes.
“Thank you for believing in me,” he whispers softly to you.
Your necklace glows a little brighter. And it’s not from the moonlight.
“I always will,” you whisper back.
And he pulls you into a deep, wintery kiss, one filled with love and pure bliss.
There’s joy a few houses away, as well.
But a different kind of joy.
A shadow begins to elongate and solidify, mounding up on top of itself as it takes form. Black wisps dance along the edge of the more solidified center as it rises, growing a head, a torso, arms…
Standing in the shadow of the house, invisible to you and Jack, Pitch stares up at the two of you, patiently holding his hands behind his back.
The house blocks him from the moon’s ever-alert eyes.
His lips are curled into an evil smirk, partially revealing his crooked teeth.
A Nightmare silently joins him, taking to his side.
It looks questioningly at its master.
“Soon, girl,” he tells it. He rests a slender hand on its back, toying with a few grains of sand. “And Jack will be ours. It’s about to begin. The first kiss in”—he says this next word as if it were something dirty and disgusting— “love has been shared.”
And he laughs a low, wicked laugh as he fades once again into the shadows, the Nightmare following after him loyally.
The two of you break the kiss, smiling like complete idiots at one another.
Then, out of nowhere, a look of complete panic spreads across Jack’s face.
He begins to cough uncontrollably, releasing his hold on you as he covers his mouth with his hand, doubling over in pain.
“Jack?!” you exclaim, worry taking over you.
His cough grows worse, becoming raspier each time, taking his vital breath from him. He’s soon on his hands and knees, minus the hand that he’s using to cover his mouth.
He’s pale. Much paler than usual. His healthy bluish tints have given way to a sickly white. His expression is one of unfathomable pain, his eyes shut tight as the coughs shake through his entire body.
You kneel down in front of him, calling his name as if that will make it all stop.
What’s going on? Why?? Please, not now! Not today, not ever!
You see a bead of sweat trail down his face from his temple.
The coughs fading, his staff rolls out of his hand as he collapses onto his side, his arms and legs limp, face still contorted in agony.
“JACK!” you scream, rushing to his side. You turn him over onto his back, putting your head to his chest, desperately searching for signs of life.
He’s still breathing. His breaths are shuddered and weak, granted, but he’s breathing nonetheless.
“Oh, Jack, what’s happening?” you think aloud.
His lips are parted as he takes each breath, the corners turned down into a pain-inspired frown.
Wait, what’s that?
A small dot of bright red. Just on the edge of his bottom lip.
Shaking with fear, not really wanting to look but some unknown force making you, you look down at the hand that he was covering his mouth with.
You cover your own as you gasp, a new wave of worry and fear overcoming you.
His snowy white palm is splattered with vibrant red blood.
As if coming from miles away, the hollow clatter of the lifeless wooden staff meeting the floor of your porch rings throughout the cold night air.