Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from either "Rise of the Guardians" or William Joyce's Guardians of Childhood series. All mythological characters are public domain, unless otherwise stated, such as the Guardians (their unique designs and names make them William Joyce's.) I own the OC Snowdrop, and any other OCs I may or may not come up with for this story. I also own a dog who's borderline narcoleptic and is fond of dropping all ~100lbs of herself on my legs and sleeping there, resulting in numb legs, or else flopping down on my chest when I'm propped up against the arm of the sofa, reclined, relaxed, and more often than not thinking, resulting in the sudden inability to breathe properly until I'm able to leverage her off (not an easy task when your hands are usually pinned down as well); I own a kitten, who's a tuxedo in coloring and really makes me wish I had named her Mr. Mistofelees, but she's A) a girl and B) far too loud and clumsy to perform magical disappearing acts at any point in the day…you can't have my dog or kitten.

I don't know why I told you all of that. I'm in a weird mood right now. You can stop reading this anytime and go on to the chapter. I know that's what you're all here for, anyway. In fact, I think I'll stop and get on with the chapter.

Ch. 11 – The Color of Happiness

Jack stumbled into the cavern, tripping over his own feet in his rush to locate Snowdrop. A quick glance around showed she wasn't in the entrance cavern, so he hopped right back on the Wind. Together they shot down tunnels and through the rooms of their home, searching for the tell-tale blue glow of her snowflake heart in the darker areas, watching for her glowing form in the caverns that bore holes through which light from the outside filtered through. The gleam of power from Jack's staff lit the way for them in the tunnels and rooms Jack hadn't yet placed his blue-glowing snowballs in, a trick he had learned not long after coming to the frozen wasteland over five years ago. The glowing spheres had always lifted his spirit when he was especially depressed or frustrated.

Although whether that was from the glow itself or the fact that they reminded him of Snowdrop's own glow, he neither knew nor cared.

The vastness of the tunnels meant it took almost an hour to locate Snowdrop. She was deep in the catacombs that ran below ground-level, in a cavern. It wasn't as large as some of the ones they had explored together, but it was still vast. Shadowy forms darted beyond the thick layer of ice that made up the walls, the barely visible sea life that swam in the icy cold waters beyond the cavern's mostly opaque barricade. Jack found it to be far more breathtaking than anything they had discovered thus far.

Snowdrop was leaning against one of the curved walls, the green of her satchel a dark splotch against the bluish-white ice. She had set up several of Jack's glowing orbs around her, creating a bubble of light within which she was practicing with her new tools on a spire of ice growing from the ground. The mounds of shavings surrounding the base showed that, once, it had been a fairly thick structure, but under Snowdrops inexperienced hands it had been whittled down to a very different shape.

The base had been largely left alone until about three inches from the ground, where it was cut into to create a flat space, almost a foot in diameter, from which a thinner rod of ice had been carved at the center. This rod was a much smaller four inches thick and five inches high, before the shape changed yet again into one that was rather familiar to them both: an egg. It was, much like the baby animal she had carved for him for Christmas, roughly hewn, looking less like an oval and more like a lopsided ball, but it was definitely supposed to be an egg. An Easter Egg, if the little patterns she was etching into the surface were any indication.

Jack hovered in the air above her, watching as she worked. She was so deeply focused that she didn't even notice he was there, not even when the Wind teasingly ruffled her hair. She just brushed the strands out of her face and continued to etch careful lines and shapes into the egg.

Jack brought his face right next to hers. "What are you doing?"

The small chisel gouged the ice as Snowdrop started. Her shocked squeaked quickly led to an annoyed growl as she shoved Jack's floating form away. "Jaaaaack! Look what you made me do!" One frozen digit poked and prodded the gouge. "Look at that. It cuts right through those letters. What was that for, Frostie Toes? I worked really hard on that one. It was almost perfect."

He laughed as he planted his staff next to her and balanced on the crook. "If that one was 'almost perfect,' I'd hate to see what the ones before it looked like."

She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest, one bare foot taping the ground impatiently. "They looked bad. And that one looked bad, too, but it was a better bad than the others. Now why'd you go and scare me like that?" The blue snowballs made her glow the same shade as her Snowflake Heart, making the usually visible pulse of it vanish. The thin wires that held her limbs together stood out in stark relief against the light, making her form look eerie and skeletal as opposed to the soft white of the Moon's light. Shadows danced across her face, blotting out her eyes and making line of her mouth deep, ugly, more like a twisted slash than the delicate lips he had carved for her. The shadows sharpened everything about her. She didn't even look like his Snowdrop anymore. She looked more like something Pitch Black or Tommy Rawhead would have created. A dark, vengeful creature who –

"Frostie Toes?" A thin hand of ice touched his foot. Jack blinked several times, dispelling the horrific image his mind had created, and slid from his staff and into Snowdrop's arms. He buried his face into her shoulder and, as her arms held him close, whispered "I think I broke Winter."

Silence was his answer for several long moments. Finally, she nudged his head with her own until they stood with their foreheads pressed together, eyes locked. "Then we'll just have to fix it, won't we?" She slipped her hand into his and together, the Wind leading the way and Jack's staff held tightly in his other hand, they made their way back up to the entrance cave.

Snowdrop sat on their bed and pulled him down so he lay with his head in her lap. Solid fingers returned to his hair as she urged him to tell her what had happened.

It took a while. Jack didn't skip a single detail. He told her about the parents who locked their children away in their homes as soon as they saw his snowflakes. The children who ran for safety instead of playing in freshly fallen snow. The empty streets and over-filled graveyards. He told her how fear and despair had taken over Winter, and he didn't know how, or even if, he could fix it.

Through it all she listened, massaging his scalp and occasionally clicking her fingers in thought. When his words ran dry, still she remained silent, the gentle carding of her fingers through his hair the only movement that disrupted her statue-still form. Silence reigned so completely that Jack could hear the delicate tha-thump of her Snowflake heart, the beat slow and steady, lulling him, forcing him to acknowledge how weary the last several days had left him.

Jack gave in to the inevitable. Sleep claimed him seconds after he closed his eyes.

************The Color of Happiness is…**************

He woke up alone on the bed. Snowdrop was crouched a few feet away, balanced on the balls of her feet. She had changed her usual tunic for one of the ones Jack had modeled after the Japanese cheongsam, made of real linen in a dark maroon color, sky blue clasps running from the high color down under her right arm. In front of her was a small collection of Jack's blue snowballs. He watched her prod and poke them, rolling them around the floor and catching them before any could knock into another.

"What are you doing?"

Her answering smile encouraged him to crawl off the bed and sit across from her. "I think I know how we can fix Winter. Here," she tossed a ball at him. Snow white hands caught it and cradled the orb. His heart felt lighter holding it. "Tell me about them." He frowned in confusion and she giggled. "Tell me why you make them."

"They…they light up the rooms."

"Chase away the darkness?"

"Yeah," Jack responded, not understanding what she was getting at. They were balls of light. Of course they got rid of the darkness.

She shifted and sat down, knees tucked up to her chest and arms wrapped loosely around them. "And?"

Again Jack frowned. "And what? They…they light up the rooms. There's nothing else to them."

More giggling answered him as Snowdrop reached up and started undoing the clasps of her top. "Yes, these pretty little balls light up a room. But…" The last clasp came undone and she parted the fabric enough that Jack could see the pulsing light of her Snowflake heart, "what else? What do you feel when you hold them? Make them? How do you feel when you're listening to my snowflake beat, Father Friend?"

Feel? What did he feel when he handled those little glowing orbs? "I…happy? Calm? I feel like…like having fun, like everything is okay and I want to make everyone around me happy, too. I – Oh!"

Snowdrop was grinning at him, tossing one of the balls back and forth in her hands. "Mm hm. Pretty little glowing balls that you make out of snow and ice, that make you feel happy. How could these pretty glowing balls of happy feelings possibly help us fix Winter?"

Jack thought. "Well, they're snowballs." He paused.

"Yes, snowballs of happy blue sparkly power. Snowballs. Of happiness. Snow. Balls."

Suddenly, it clicked. Winter wasn't fun anymore. Jack's blue glowing snowballs made him happy. He looked down at the orb in his hands. Jack could use them to make Winter fun again! "Do you think it would work? Do you really think, if I…if I started snowball fights with these, that I could make people like Winter again?"

He looked up, a tentative hope in his eyes, just in time to get hit in the face with the snowball she had been playing with. Just like that, joy seemed to infuse Jack's entire being and he started laughing, tossing his own ball at Snowdrop and just managing to hit her shoulder as she ducked.

"I think you ought to go out there and find out, you silly boy!" She retaliated by throwing another snowball at him that he dodged. They laughed as they scooped up the glowing orbs and hurled them back and forth, showering themselves and the cavern with sparkling blue that the Wind picked up and swirled out the entrance.

When, at last, all of the snowballs had been used up, they collapsed in a pool of moonlight, giggling breathlessly. Jack twisted onto his side and draped himself over Snowdrop's chest. "Why didn't I think about that?"

A frozen index finger tapped his nose, "Because, Little Brother, you were too sad to realize it. Sad doesn't suit you, Jack. You look better when your eyes are sparkly and you're smiling big and toothy."

Jack smiled brightly and placed his ear right over her heart, listening to the faster-than-normal tha-thump contentedly. "Tomorrow, I'll go out and start snowball fights all over the world. I'll make Winter fun again. I'll make the children smile. Snow should make you happy."

Snowdrop hummed her agreement.

***************…blue, if you're a Winter Child***********


So sorry for the delay in this chapter, my dearlings! I feel absolutely horrible for it. It's my final year of college for my BA in History, I've got a job as an editor, and have had several family emergencies since the summer. But, I'm on Winter Break now, so I'm hoping to get at least a few chapters banged out for "Snowdrop" during the break!

This chapter was just awful. It took far longer to get it hashed out, and then it didn't go the way I originally intended (some of you may remember that I had promised something about Tooth and her Mini-Fairies, which obviously didn't happen…Might happen in the next chapter!) The end product was very, very different than my original plans (there were two or three revisions before this one happened.) I'd like to thank my dear Kaylessa for the push away from the first plan. That version was much darker. Definitely would be more at home in "You Had Your Chance" than in "Snowdrop."

Sadly, since it's been so long, I've absolutely no idea who my new followers/favs are, nor do I recall new responses. I'm very bad at this…Anyone with questions is more than welcome to PM me or write them in a response, and I will answer them!

Just know that I adore you all and feast upon your follows and favs! They're like a nice hot cuppa on a cold night!

Oh! Before I forget: nique17 (who wasn't logged in, but put that name up as a nickname), the winner for my challenge a few chapters ago and won a drabble, I've not yet received your request, dearling. If you see this, please let me know what you'd like written!

Until next time!

*waves enthusiastically*