Take today, for example. Snotlout, who’s about my age, got into a fight with Gustav, who’s maybe five or six years younger. And I swear, sometimes I think they enjoy fighting. It’s not like anyone else will tolerate being around Gustav for more than a few minutes, and most people have given up arguing back to Snotlout. It’s not even as if they fight about reasonable things. Today, somehow, one of them managed to set a barrel of water on fire. How does one even do that!?! No wonder my dad used to soothe his headaches with giant blocks of ice after a hard day.
I returned to my house, half expecting Jack to be gone. But no, there he was, lounging by the hearth tossing tiny chips of ice at Toothless, who was trying to catch them in his mouth.
“Y’know, your dragon thing is basically just a giant cat.”
“Toothless is not a cat. He’s a Night Fury, the rarest and most powerful species of dragon known to vikings.” I tried to keep the frustration out of my voice, but Jack seemed to sense that I wasn’t feeling up for his games.
“You alright?” he asked, sitting up. Toothless hurried over to me, nuzzling my side as I sat down opposite Jack.
“Sorry, yeah. Rough day, y’know?” I rubbed my back, trying to get my sore muscles to loosen up. Dad used to carry his stress in his head, with headaches, bloodshot eyes, sinus problems, etc. For better or worse, I seem to carry mine in my lower back and hips. Having a mechanical foot doesn’t help much either.
“Huh, yeah. Hey, wanna massage?” I glared at Jack, but he seemed dead serious. “Looks like you need it. I used to give Sandy massages when he was sleep deprived. I think he liked it. Never complained, at least.” He chuckled, then glanced at me, his piercing eyes boring into mine.
“Fine! Fine, massage away.” Astrid used to give me massages, and I can’t say they ever helped much. Or even felt good at all.
“Mmm. Take off your shirt and lay on your stomach.”
“What!?!” I glared at Jack again, probably blushing madly.
“Well if you lay on your back I suppose I could massage your chest, but usually you have to buy me dinner first.” There’s that smirk again. He flexed his hands and cracked his knuckles.
I sighed and pulled off my vest and shirt. I hate being shirtless, particularly around other people. And for some reason being shirtless around Jack was that much more awkward.
“Nice. OK, lay down on your stomach.” I did as I was told, feeling ridiculous as I maneuvered myself onto the cushions on our long bench. Jack rubbed his hands together and began kneading my shoulders.
“Lower back, not shoulders.”
“Gotcha.” He moved down to the part of my back that was hurting, and began working on it. To say that his massage was different from Astrid’s would be an understatement. His fingers were unbelievably smooth and nimble, dancing across my back and seeking out sore or tense muscles, then carefully working the knots out. “Man, you’ve got a lot of tension, Buttercup.”
“It’s Hiccup! …Ahhh…” He silenced me by running his palms up my spine, all the way up to my shoulders then back down again. There was a slight chill to his fingers, which felt surprisingly soothing this close to the open fire. Before I knew it, he was straddling my legs, putting his full (although slight) body weight onto my back. “Mmmmm… Jack, that’s amazing.”
“Heh, I know,” he responded, and I swear I could hear the smirk in his voice.
“You control the weather! You can end this insane winter!”
I sighed. It’s a common misconception, really, but it can get tiring. “Sorry, Buttercup-“
“Right. Again, sorry to disappoint, but I don’t actually control the weather. I can make snow, frost, sleet, hail, and ice, but I can’t actually change the temperature.”
His face fell. “Of course. Right. OK. So, Mr. Storyteller, how does this one end? A chief must lead his people through the worst winter in recorded history! Hmm?” He didn’t look so much angry as just frustrated.
“Hey, calm down.” I patted his shoulder. “Why don’t we just have some fun instead?”
Hiccup looked like he was about to come back with something sarcastic, which seemed to be the boy’s go-to retort, when there was a knock on the door from downstairs. “Hiccup!” someone called. They had a funny accent, almost Scottish, but rougher. I suppose that must be a typical viking accent, although Hiccup sounded more American to me.
“Oh, great, it’s Gobber. As if my day wasn’t weird enough already. Coming!” He called down, before turning to face me. “Don’t go anywhere. Stay here. I’ll be right back.” He gave some sort of hand signal at his dragon before disappearing down the stairs. Yeah right, like I was gonna just sit here. I started to move toward the stairs, but in a flash the dragon was in front of me, blocking my path. It made a soft snarling noise, apparently set on keeping me in the room. A quick snowball to the face took care of that, though, and I quickly dashed down the stairs. Hiccup was talking to a massive man at the door.
“…But Gustav said Snotlout did it, and won' put out the fire without an apology first.”
“Ugh. OK, I’ll see what I can do. Do you know who actually started it?”
“Not yet. I think- Oy, Hiccup, who’s that?” The giant man pointed at me with… was that a hook hand?
“You can see him?” asked Hiccup suspiciously.
“Hiccup, I’m missing me hand, not me eyes.”
“…Right. Of course. This is… uh…”
I piped up, stepping forward to shake the big guy’s hand. Or hook. “I’m Jack Fr-“
“Snow!” shouted Hiccup, quickly stepping between me and the other guy. “Snow… uh… face! Yes! Snowface! The uh… Cold! Snowface the Cold, he’s visiting from a tribe up north. Very far away, very cold, he’s really tired from traveling all day, so uh… Yeah. Snowface, Gobber the Belch. Gobber, Snowface! Great, we all know each other, time to move on. Gobber, I’ll be out in a moment. Ja- uh, Snowface, could I have a word?” Without giving me time to answer, he slammed the door shut.
“Seriously? Snowface the Cold?” I muttered.
“Well, you're… I can’t just go around telling people you’re Jack Frost! Look, I have to go deal with something. You, you said you're invisible to certain people, right?” I nodded. “Of course, that’s why Astrid couldn’t see you earlier. And- Oh, gods, I’m gonna have to deal with her too. OK. I need you to stay here. As in, really don’t leave the building. OK?”
I frowned and nodded, not super crazy about being holed up in this viking hut. Although, now that I thought about it, I needed Hiccup on my side if I was ever going to get back to my time. As I pulled my hoodie up over my hair, I wondered if there was something more. There was a sort of instinctive desire to… I dunno, get him to like me? I pondered this as I sat down on one of the long benches by the hearth, savoring the warmth I hadn’t felt for so long.
So you would understand my shock when I found out that here, in my house, on Berk, was a god. Jökul Frosti, the god of winter and snow.
“Oh, this explains so much…! This… this… This is completely ludicrous! A god. In my… my… Wait.” I brushed the hair out of my eyes, suddenly not so sure about this. “Why were you buried in the snow? Why couldn’t Astrid see you? Why… Why were you barefoot?”
“I dunno, I just never wear shoes. And as amazing as I am,” he smirked, a teasing, lopsided smirk that reminded me of Snotlout. “I’m sorry to say that I’m not a god.”
“Not a god? Then what’s with all this snow falling in my own living room!?!” I gestured at the sprinkling of snow still drifting down from the ceiling.
“I am Jack Frost, or Jokey Frosty, or whatever you called me. I’m just not a god. You guys had…” He closed his eyes, thinking hard. “That dude with the hammer? Zeus! No, Thor!”
“There are many gods, Thor among them,” I explained. “So if you’re not a god, what are you?”
“I’m a spirit!” His brilliant blue eyes lit up with excitement. “The winter spirit, guardian of Fun and Merriment.” He sat up and bowed slightly in introduction. Then he noticed that his weird tunic was gone. “Wait… Where’s my sweatshirt?” He lifted the blanket and peered down at his legs. “Where’re my pants!?!” He glared at me, his blue eyes flashing with irritation.
“Sorry, sorry! It's just that you were soaking wet and freezing cold!” I jumped up and grabbed his clothes from where they hung by the fire. “I’ll… uh… I’ll just go upstairs while you, uh, get dressed.”
“Good,” he said coldly, apparently upset that I had undressed him while he was unconscious.
Upstairs, I sat down in the chair near my bed, feeling a little faint. Toothless padded over to me, nudging my shoulder questioningly. “No, I don't think he's an enemy, so we’re good on that front,” I muttered, not really paying much attention to Toothless. I’d instructed him to wait up here until I knew that the strange boy from the woods wasn’t a spy from another tribe. We’d had our fair share of problems with that in the past. I looked at Toothless, completely at a loss for what to do. A god… no, a ‘spirit’, was in my house.
“Hey, so have you guys discovered indoor plumbing yet? ‘Cause until I figure out how to get back, I’d really like not to have to… what the heck is that!?!” Jack poked his head into the room, staring at Toothless.
“Jack, meet Toothless. Toothless, Jack Frost.” Now it was my turn to be smug. It’s not every day that you get to show off your Night Fury to a god. Jack cautiously climbed the rest of the way into the room, eyeing Toothless with the same look that everyone gets when they first meet him: a mixture of fear and curiosity; the instinctive voice of reason shouting at you to turn and run for your life, and the innocent curiosity begging to explore and meet this new creature. Apparently curiosity won, and Jack skipped across the room to Toothless, moving remarkably fast with very little apparent effort.
“You have a giant salamander in your bedroom…” he muttered flatly, holding both hands out as if to fend off any potential attacks.
I huffed loudly. “Giant sala- He’s a Night Fury! Scourge of the skies! The unholy offspring of lightning and death itself!” Toothless puffed out his chest proudly.
“Oh, of course, how silly of me,” Jack said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“What, the gods aren’t familiar with their dragons?”
“It’s a dragon!?!” Jack stumbled backwards, his hands flailing a little. Toothless snorted at him and turned away, apparently no longer interested in getting to know Jack, and began grooming himself.
“He’s a dragon. Really? You really don’t know about this?”
“Well, I’m not exactly from this… area.” So. Jack was a magic being who claimed to not be a god, but could conjure snow and survive hypothermia, and he’d never seen a dragon before. I rubbed my temples, trying to wrap my head around this. He didn’t know what year it is, and had never heard of Berk. What if…? I shook my head, trying to find an alternative explanation, but only one seemed to fit.
“So where, exactly, are you from?”
“Uh… Burgess, I wouldn’t expect you to be familiar with it.”
“Uh-huh.” Time to test my theory. “And when, exactly, are you from?”
Jack’s eyes grew wide and he stammered, surprised. “Wha-what… how… How’d you…” Bingo. I felt a strange sense of satisfaction in rendering Jack speechless.
“I didn't know, until you just said ‘How’d you know’. It’s not that hard to figure out, though. You're obviously not from around here, and if you were from far away and traveling, you wouldn't have ended up in the cove where we found you. And you being from another time, maybe frozen in ice for decades… centuries, maybe! It’s really the only thing that would make sense.”
Jack whistled, impressed. “Well, Sherlock Holmes, you’re quite the deducer… deducerator… deductor? Figure-outer of things.”
“What’s a Sherlock home?”
“Never mind. OK. This is gonna sound weird, but I’m actually from the future.” I snorted. Being frozen in ice didn’t actually seem that much of a stretch for me, especially after finding that frozen Skrill in the iceberg, but from the future? Nope. Not possible.
“So, Mr. Future Boy, how’d you end up here?” Toothless’s ears perked up and he stopped grooming his wings, sensing a story. He padded over and sat by the bed, his head on my lap, ears perked up and an excited gleam in his eyes.
“Well, it’s a long story…”
“We’ve got time.”
“OK…” Jack proceeded to tell me the most incredible, ludicrous story I’d ever heard. Magic spirits being brought back to life by the moon, furry snow monsters making toys, flying sleighs pulled by reindeer, and a villain of black sand? Yeah, right. I have to admit though, despite the ridiculousness of his tale, Jack was a remarkably good storyteller. He jumped around the room, acting out different characters, creating wisps of ice to illustrate props and other characters (Toothless loved those parts, as he hopped through the frosty illusions, trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue). I even found myself laughing and cringing at different parts, feeling sad at the death of ‘Såndi’ the dream guardian, and happy at his return. Jack’s blue eyes sparkled as he narrated, and for a moment I felt a strange tightness in my chest. Almost as if… No, it was definitely not that. I was just feeling sympathetic for Jack’s character in the story (for the events that he talked about most certainly did not actually happen to him). “…And then, Pitch threw a black sand-bomb at me…” He made a light blue snowball and tossed it across the room, somehow moving to intercept it. “It hit the rim of the portal - kaboom! - and threw me backwards through it, presumably transporting me here,” He mimed falling backward, somersaulting in midair in an impressive display of acrobatics, and landed nimbly on his feet before dramatically collapsing on the ground, his arm across his eyes in the stereotypical I’m dead position. “And that's the last thing I remember before waking up here.”
“That’s quite the story,” I muttered as he finished, standing and bowing low as if he had just performed a bard’s tale (which, I suppose, he technically had). Toothless tapped on the floor excitedly with his front paws, which was his interpretation of clapping.
“Thank you, sir! And what’s your story?”
“My story?” I stammered. “W-what makes you think I have a story?”
Jack blinked. “Well, let’s see. You have a dragon in your bedroom, you’re missing a leg, you said you’re, what, chief of some tribe? C’mon, there’s a story in there somewhere.”
I sighed, standing. “I suppose I do have a story or two, but they’re not particularly happy.” I shrugged. “Losing a parent sort of puts a damper on ‘happily ever after’, doesn’t it? That kind of sums up my life. Losing, gaining, losing again. Lost my mother for nearly all of my childhood, temporarily lost the respect of my father, nearly lost my dragon, lost my leg and foot, lost my father, and now I’m totally lost as to what to do as Chief… Wait. You!” I rounded on Jack, pointing at him excitedly.