Phase V - New Blossoms

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Jack didn’t know what was more terrifying, that the other pixies knew he needed space or that they actually gave it to him. The ice palace he’d spent thousands of years carefully crafting felt like nothing but empty space, and he couldn’t tolerate being there. He did the equivalent of what humans did when they came home from college: he moved back into the sprawling complex of the workshop. Most of the other winter pixies – including Leanna and Matthias – stayed there, too.

They gave him the same room and it hadn’t changed in the few thousand years he hadn’t been there.

He sat on his side of the bed, propped against the headboard, and did his best not to think of the warm weight missing against his thigh. He used to sit and draw in his sketchbook in the early morning before Mari was awake. There were countless pictures of her in there – her face softened in sleep, her working on her novel at the dining room table with a mug of tea, her and Drew and Benedict on the couch watching Labyrinth, and many, many others.

The sketchbook lay on the floor under his side of their bed.

A section of wall popped open on his left and Leanna stuck her head in, followed by the rest of her. She shut the secret door behind her and crawled up next to him, resting her shoulder against his.

They let out twin sighs.

“You’ve been quiet, Jokul,” she said softly. “Matthias and I are beginning to worry.”

His head dropped back with a thunk.

“We miss her, too. She’s very good for you.” She played with the end of her long braid where it lay over her shoulder. “You have not been happy like this in many years and it makes me happy to see you so.”

“Is it time for me to pester the summer sprites to leave yet?” Jack asked.

“No,” she said sternly, wrapping her fingers around his wrist and squeezing. “It is only May. You have at least five months left.” She gestured to the blank, white walls. “You could count the days, if you feel so inclined.”

His eyebrows crawled up his forehead. “Your sense of humor was better when you couldn’t speak.”

“That’s your opinion,” Leanna said coolly. “Not fact.”

“It’s true,” he protested, fighting a smile.

“Only because you believe it to be. Therefore you can say it.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “I know the rules.”

Jack gave in to the smile fighting its way free. “Some were made to be broken.”

“If anyone could get away with bringing a human to the Midwinter Ball it would be the Winter Prince himself,” she sing-songed.

He looked at her, head cocked to the side.

“She looked good in the dress, didn’t she?”

“No,” he said quietly. “She looked absolutely beautiful.” He took a deep breath and got to his feet. “I will be back.”

She flopped forward, chin resting on the backs of her hands. “Will you come cut snowflakes with me? Like we used to do when we were younger?”

“Yes.” Jack smiled wickedly. “I’m going to play with everfrost.”

“Zekiel wants to learn,” she said. “Take him with you?”

“Next time. This – this is for me.”

He shut the door; she rolled onto her back and looked at the ornately carved ceiling. Welcome back, my little brother.

Mari snuggled further into the sheets and blanket. The days were getting steadily warmer though the temperature still dipped uncomfortably low at night. She tucked her hand under what used to be Jack’s pillow – it had stopped smelling like him long ago -  and curled the other one protectively around her belly.

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