At the equator, the seasons weren't the same as they were elsewhere in the world. Winter, spring, summer, fall – to a lot of the people that lived in such regions, these words were meaningless. On the points of the Earth farthest from its core the days didn't vary in length throughout the year, the temperature didn't fluctuate as much as the months went by. Soggy or arid, wet seasons or dry ones, monsoons and tropical storms – that was what mattered at the equator.
It was winter going on spring in the northern hemisphere, summer going on fall in the southern, but the equator didn't care about that. Currently it was hot, and wet, and the sun was high in the sky – behind clouds or not, its heat could still be felt.
The rain was a bit colder that day than normal, perhaps, cold enough to be noticed, but even Jack's powers couldn't overwhelm the local weather patterns that much. At least, not without some serious effort on his part. It had never snowed here and Jack wasn't so careless as to change that.
"We should do this more often," the spirit of spring said lightly. Her brown hair was plastered to her face, her dress to her body, but she didn't seem to take notice of that. Instead she stood in the rain, small shoots growing around her feet, green and vibrant, from where her toes dug into the fertile soil beneath her.
The spirit of winter and Guardian of Fun snorted. "You know," he pointed out, "there aren't really any seasons in the arctic either." He'd taken as much shelter as he could in the branches of a nearby tree but moisture still sparkled from his snow-white hair, not quite frozen.
Beneath the tree, also taking shelter, the spirit of autumn – of the harvest – reached toward one of the lower hanging branches. The young fruit that had hung there doubled in size in his hand until ripe and he plucked it off the tree, offering it to his companion. "Not really anything else in the arctic either," he countered, though his tone suggested he wouldn't have minded travelling there.
The less a location's weather changed on its own, the less chance the four spirits of the seasons had of affecting it. It was harder to bring snow to a place that was always hot, harder to grow flowers in a place where the ice never melted, harder to end the growing season in a place that grew crops year-round.
Jack shook his head, shrugging off the offer of the fruit, and Hiccup tossed it to Merida instead, who promptly took a bite.
"I think you're actually sweating, Jack," the spirit of summer said, amusement in her tone as she finished chewing. She stood in the rain next to Rapunzel, hair slicked back for once, but somehow she didn't look as wet as her fellow companion. She certainly didn't mind the heat.
Jack scowled at her.
"I'm serious," Rapunzel cut in, smiling at her friend's antics. "This has been fun."
It was hard to argue with such a bright and cheerful being such as the spirit of new beginnings, of growth and rebirth.
Jack formed a weak snowball from the moisture in the air anyway, lobbing it toward his friend. It fell apart before it even reached her and there was no trace of ice or snow on the ground when it landed, just a barely noticeable puddle that quickly got absorbed into the rest of the water on the ground. Everyone laughed, even Jack.
"Yeah, alright," he admitted, grinning as he exaggerated a weary tone. "I guess I had some fun."
The group laughed again. They all knew, regardless of the weather, that Jack could find fun anywhere. And the fact that all four of them were together for once, had managed to spend hours talking and catching up with only the slightest disturbances to the local pressure systems… Well, that was a treat, equatorial heat or not.
"And to think," Hiccup said, "all we needed to make this happen was an alien invasion."
"And a superhero team to fight them off," Rapunzel agreed. "We couldn't have done it without them." There were advantages to being seen, and they all knew that too; however much the Chitauri had been able to see them, most of the people of New York had not. The Avengers, on the other hand, lived in the world the spirits only watched over.
"So, Jack," Merida said after a moment of silence, forcibly brightening the mood with a change in topic. "How's life with the Guardians?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "It's not like I see them all the time now," he said easily. "You guys see them as much as I do these days."
"We're not the only ones being included too," Hiccup pointed out. "Symbols of the smaller holidays – Groundhog Day, Saint Patrick's Day – they really seem to be making an effort."
"As terrible as Pitch was, I…" Rapunzel shook her head.
"You don't regret his attack," Merida finished for her, not as reluctant to say the words.
"Is that bad?" Rapunzel asked. "I know people were hurt, I know Sandy…" She shook her head again, trailing off with a wince.
"In the same way the Chitauri – and the Avengers – were the catalyst that brought us closer, Pitch was the catalyst the woke the Guardians up," Hiccup said wisely. "There's nothing wrong with knowing that a catalyst was needed and being grateful that one was found. Just…" He smiled softly. "We all wish for gentler catalysts."
There was a moment of silence. Hiccup was right, and he knew about change. Sometimes you could be grateful for terrible things that brought about necessary change, even if you wished it had been something else that changed the world, or just your life.
"Of course," he continued, even softer, "sometimes terrible events are just terrible events." The look in his eyes said that his mind was far away, back in the distant past of almost a thousand years ago. Toothless warbled softly at his side – whether in agreement or comfort the other spirits couldn't say, but Hiccup smiled slightly, pulled from his melancholy.
There was another silence, more poignant than the last.
"They asked about our deaths," Merida said gently. Her gaze was distant too, but her body was relaxed. Her own death didn't trouble her so much anymore but it was still a painful memory – not so much the dying, but leaving her old life behind. Leaving those she loved behind. "I hadn't thought about that in…" she shook her head.
"It's different for you and Hiccup," Rapunzel said, echoing the soft tones of her friends. "You two are so much older than us." A few hundred years had passed but her death was still relatively fresh in her mind. And Jack – he'd only found out recently and wasn't likely to forget anytime soon.
"I didn't mind telling them," Merida continued with a smile. "I… I'm proud of the way I died, it was a good death, but…"
"Your brothers?" Jack asked.
Merida nodded. "They've got so many descendants now. I can't…"
"There's no family left for you to look for," Hiccup said plainly. They could all tell he was speaking from experience.
"I found my sister's family," Jack chimed in, after a moment. "Tony helped me track them down. Records from back then weren't great, but it seems like she lived a long life."
Rapunzel gave him a soft, melancholy smile. "That's great, Jack," she said, sincerity filling the air around her.
He smiled softly back at her. "There's a lot of them now, but…" his eyes moved to the side, his smile widening. "I don't even care. She lived and I found my family again."
"It's not just family though," Hiccup said, gazing up at the cloudy sky. "When I lived, there were dragons."
He'd told them all before about the Changewings that could blend into their surroundings and the Windstrikers that heated air instead of producing flames and the Skrill that could call lightning along its very wings. When Hiccup spoke of dragons, people listened, his words pulling them in and crafting stories they would remember for some time to come, painting beautiful pictures of a time long passed. There was always passion in his tone when he spoke about dragons, and an all-consuming joy that was impossible to miss.
"When I lived, there was magic," Merida said fondly.
Rapunzel ran her fingers through her hair, pushing water out of the fibers in the process. "There still is," she said softly, with a sad smile, "if you know where to look for it."
Concentrating, Jack created a pure snowflake from the rain, about the size of a baseball, if flat. "It's right here," he said, blowing his creation into Hiccup's face.
The spirit of fall let out a bark of laughter, grinning widely. "Yeah," he agreed, "and there are still dragons. Or, at least, one of them."
Toothless rumbled agreement at his side.
"Everything changes," Rapunzel said, "but so much stays the same."
Still grinning, Hiccup gave a light chuckle, shaking his head. "It's amazing, what the world has turned into. How much of it I've seen! I mean, dragons might not fly the skies anymore, but have you ever seen an elephant? A crocodile? A falcon diving on the hunt?"
His enthusiasm and joy brought a smile to Rapunzel's face but Merida rolled her eyes, blowing a wave of hot air toward Jack that almost unseated the spirit of winter from his perch.
"What?" he asked, faux-affronted and grinning. "That's all Hiccup!"
"Next time maybe don't hit him so hard with the happy juice?"
Jack only smirked as Hiccup chuckled again.
"I really don't mind," he said. "The world could use more joy."
"Yeah, but if you ever lose your joy of discovery and invention than I don't think even Happy over here would be able to bring it back," Merida countered. But she was grinning too.
Among such good friends, happiness was an infectious disease, easily passing from person to person. Among such old friends, no matter what they might have suffered through in the past, happiness wasn't hard to find. They laughed and joked, told stories old and new. They enjoyed each other's company, knowing that they'd separate again for months at a time, but that they would find their ways back to each other in the end.
The four seasons sat beneath the trees, beneath the wind and the rain and the sun, until the light of the being who'd given them life shown from above. It was a full moon that night, and the Man in the Moon seemed to be smiling down at them. With kisses and hugs and laughter and smiles – and promises of the future – they said goodbye.
The spirits of winter and spring went north, one prepared to hand over the reins to the other as the seasons shifted. The spirits of summer and fall went south, prepared to do the same.
But they would all see each other again, in the coming days, no matter how the seasons shifted.
AN: Just a short interlude with the four seasons together to tide you over until I figure out what I'm doing next. Thanks for everyone who's still reading this!