Spirits of any sort hated feeling powerless.
Jack Frost stood a couple steps away from his sister, letting Sandy work his magic to try and bring her back. But there didn't seem to be any change, even as dreamsand swirled around Red.
That too familiar sense of un-feeling, the one that spoke of accepted hopelessness from centuries of being invisible, gnawed at him. It would be easy to let that feeling take away the wrenching ache in his heart like he used to, but he wasn't the same person he used to be. He wasn't going to look away, no matter the frozen tears in his eyes. He wasn't going to run, no matter what might come from the cloaked figure in front of him.
The Sandman was floating just above the ground, the girl's infected wrist clasped between his two hands, the picture of patience and help except for the furrowed brow on his face and the ropes of sand the waved and snapped with each failed attempt to restore what had once been. He'd known there was the chance that she wouldn't choose to come back, or that she was simply too far gone to do so. Unfortunately, it wouldn't have been the first time it happened.
He felt the forces inside the Hood shift, and his brow furrowed a little deeper. But that never changed how hard I try, the little man thought as he silently manipulated the dreams again to break through the sunken darkness coiling inside the girl.
The whips suddenly shrank back and away from the form in front of them, so entangled in magic there was almost nothing else, before quickly fading away.
Frost stared at the newly emptied space. He felt chilled to the bone, more so then he had been before or after he became the embodiment of winter. He glanced at the Sandman, a look stillness etched unto his face while shock and dread filled his eyes...
...and then confusion when he saw a slow smile crossing Sandy's face. At least until he realized where the sand was going.
Red's wrist was slowly becoming lighter as the dreamsand started easing in to chase the shadows out. It continued to spread up her arm, across her face, and filtering through her hair, efficiently pooling into every space the darkness once had hold over her before lingering there.
The light was soft, and Red had been so still that both Guardians were caught off guard when she screamed.
Some other force sent a ripple through the air as her back suddenly arced like it'd been shot with electricity. An unearthly, mutilated shriek ripped out of her. Then she lurched forward, coughing and retching as black sand poured and rolled off her in waves before burning away into smoke.
Jack was there in an instant, but he stopped himself just short and reaching her. Was there even a way for him to help right now?
After some time Red finally stopped, seeming to slump back into herself. When she looked up, it was still sooner then Jack was ready for.
Both of them went stiff at the sight of the other before looking away, both unsure how to act, unsure about what the other might or might not know, or what to say without showing how much more they knew than they used to.
Sandy hovered in the background, watching the pair. Jack had mentioned the Red-Riding-Hood was his sister, and now ,as they both wore twin looks (even if they were of uncertainty) he could see the resemblance. He'd been around enough to realize that a situation like this was something he should not interfere with. The shadowed wolf seemed to realize this too, as he stayed behind some of the tree cover. Sandy had come to respect the creature over time, as it helped kids get out of nightmares when he couldn't get there. He gave a nod of appreciation (for both he and Jack Frost he felt) to the wolf, and got a small toss of its head in acknowledgement.
Does he know? Thought Red. Who he is, who I am? I mean, I'd think that what made me remember would do the same for him...and why else would he be here? Could it have just been coincidence and he doesn't know?
What am I supposed to do? I'm not just her friend Frosty anymore, I'm her brother and she's my sister. Jack thought furiously. But she doesn't know that and I don't want to scare her, not with everything she must have been through...
What do I do?
Maybe it was because she had more reason to think he already knew, or maybe it was because she felt she'd been through the worst she ever could be, Red went first.
Hesitantly, she brought her eyes up to see Frost. He seemed just as out-of-place as she did. Finally, she made herself talk before she could loss her nerve, fingers fidgeting with her cloak. "Jack?..."
His eyes snapped to hers, unreadable expect for how intense they were. Red's breath hitched, her fingers worrying the fabric more. Was she wrong?
His mind raced. Did I hear that right? The way she said that word was familiar, and in more ways than one. Yes, it was the same voice he first heard from his memories, but the way she said it made it sound like the name was more familiar to her then before. He looked at Red, surprised, then guilty as she shrunk slightly away, nervous.
Jack knew he was grasping at straws, he knew that he could be taking too much out of a single word, he knew that Red might not even know the power behind that word and how she'd said it, but something told him that it wasn't the case.
He decided to show his little sis that he did know, and to see if she remembered too. So tossing cation aside, he said the name that he hadn't said aloud for three-hundred years. "Roux."
Red blinked, like she'd been expecting him to say something else. But the look was wiped away as a relieved and dumbstruck grin spread on her face . "Jack! Wait, what? So- you remember?" She tried to say more, but the words caught in her throat. Finally she just settled for laughing as she wiped tears from her eyes. This is ridiculous! she thought. I really am happy, so why am I crying?
"Oh, of course not, I just felt like saying a random french girl name for kicks." Jack deadpanned. "Of course I remember you knucklehead!" He'd tried to be nonchalant, but he broke out in a shaky laugh. He could finally feel his own tears coming out, and he hurriedly wiped them away; not realizing they just turned to frost over his face.
His sister did though, and she just laughed all the harder, Jack joining in once she managed to gasp out why.
Then they were in each other's arms, still laughing and crying, two souls finally reunited after far too long.
The near-forgotten Sandman joined in, having abandoned his sentry-like position in favor of witnessing the crazy predicament Frost had put his face into, Tar not far behind with a bark-type sound that sounded decidedly like he was snickering. There was a quick round of surprise at the wolf and explanation about him that quickly turned into a sharing of everyone's stories from the start of the whole adventure not even a day before.
And far above in the sky, and moon seemed to wink at the group below.
Epilogue: Months later...
The first snow of the winter was always an exciting day, one that children over the world looked forward to, hardly able to wait long enough to get home from school to go diving into the first biting snow of the cooler seasons. Through it all, two spirits in particular joined in.
"Ready to make their day Frosty?" said a red-cloaked girl, ember eyes glancing up at her companion in the tree above her.
The boy scoffed, shoving the hood of a blue hoodie of his head to show spiky white hair, to look the girl in the face. "I think I already did, but I don't see any harm in making it even more."
They looked up as kids hastily bundled in coats and gloves came running out of houses and to the perfect-packing white outside.
The boy heaved a mock sigh. "'Ya think we're too old to play kid games Roux?"
She laughed, pushing her own hood away from her face to see him better. "Has it ever stopped you before?"
A smirk. "Of course not!"
"Then let's get going!"
The two them jumped into the crowd, running among the kids. Some gasped in shock as the two ageless teens joined in, while others didn't seem to notice as the duo wound through the throng.
In the thick of it, Jack magically made countless snowballs for the kids (and himself) to use, laughing as the girl shouted "no fair!" and called him a cheater.
Red got back at him by sucker-punching him with hand-made snowballs, and by helping kids red-faced with snow-to-the-face and excitement to get back up.
Over everyone, winds would suddenly send snowballs of course with a cross breeze or snow gear away or into faces, providing perfect opportunities for ambush.
Any kids that tried to get close to the nearby forest or the road would come back swearing up and down that a wolf had told them not to got here, and then challenge them to a race back to the other kids.
All around the spirits ran, helped, and played until it was time for the children to get to bed for the Sandman. And among the others, the brother and sister pair worked together.
Jack Frost and Red Riding Hood.
Cold and Warmth.
Fun and Comfort.
And that's a wrap for Little Red's Guardian! Again, thanks to all the readers who waited for this story to its end through infrequent updates. Happy (upcoming) holidays! ~TalaAzar