Chapter 9: Could it be?
The first thing Jack noticed about the hallway was that it was colder than the room he had just been in, with a shake of his head he thought nothing of it but before he could continue a loud thump came from the room across the hall.
Curious Jack listened at the door only to be surprised when Annabeth came rushing out dressed in winter clothing. Jack smiled at the girl's enthusiasm before he was willingly dragged by the child down the hall.
Their exit was blocked however when Claire stood before them arms folded firmly across her chest a smile on her face, "Not without breakfast." She said pointing to the kitchen. Annabeth groaned before being ushered to move by her mother.
Already sitting at the table was Annabeth's father who was currently tampering with an arrow. Annabeth sighed before sitting in her usual seat on her father's left her mother across from her. The twelve year old motioned for Jack to sit down at the only remaining chair which unfortunately sat opposite her father.
Jack sat nervously in the chair he couldn't remember the last time he ate with other people, come to think of it Jack couldn't remember eating at all, sure he knew how to but it still confused him to think that he might never have eaten before.
His presence at the table hadn't went unnoticed as Albert looked up from his handy work before glaring at the teen. Jack smiled back shyly before quickly averting his gaze to the floor, Albert continued to glare.
Fortunately for the snowy teen breakfast ended quickly on an unfortunate note Annabeth had chores to attend to, she had quickly nominated Jack to assist her much to his displeasure.
Having left the house the two started up the hill leading away from the forest, on top of the hill was a barn. Annabeth opened the door with a struggle as hay gathered upon the other side stopping the door from opening further.
Inside the barn Jack watched as a handful of chickens littered the floor while peaking the ground in hopes of finding food, near the back was a cream coloured goat asleep on a pile of hay. Annabeth however had moved past all of these animals to the back a large where a large white and brown spotted shire horse stood.
Annabeth smiled as she watched Jack approach the creature, tentatively Jack stroked it's nose his smile widening. A soft neighing captured both Annabeth's and Jack's attention, Annabeth smiled when she saw the small white foal trotting happily towards it's mother, Jack looked at the tiny white creature in awe as it approached.
"Her name's Snowball." Annabeth laughed, Jack looked at her in doubt surely someone was not daft enough to name a horse Snowball. Annabeth's laughing increased, "It wasn't my idea." She laughed, "My brother named her, I named the chickens."
"What was your brother like?" Jack asked, Annabeth regained her compose quickly upon hearing the question, just as Jack was about apologise Annabeth spoke.
"He was a mischief maker," She sighed remember the tricks he would play for some reason he always caught people out no matter how hard they tried not to fall for such simple pranks, "He was kind to everyone despite how irritating he was," she laughed slightly at the fights they got into, they seemed so petty now there they were wasting their time arguing over something so simple when they could have been having fun. She laughed to herself again intriguing Jack, "But he always new how to have fun," she smiled, "There was never a dull moment with him around, someone would always end up laughing," she paused remembering, "I'll never forget how brave he was on the lake." Jack watched as his friend stared off into the unknown, it was easy to know that she was remembering what happened on the lake clearly, it would be the one thing she never forgot. "He saved me. My brother saved me." She sobbed, Jack was next to her in an instant the need to comfort the twelve year old greatly over whelming. "And in turn I killed him." Jack was horrified how could she think that, surely it was an accident after all if she really wanted to kill her brother in the first place then she wouldn't be crying about it after succeeding.
Jack sighed could this day get any worse first breakfast and now this, he held Annabeth close he would have tried to calm her but she needed to grieve properly after all the child had been so reluctant about the truth that it was doing more harm than good, for her and her family. Eventually Annabeth calmed enough for Jack to speak without raising his voice, "Annabeth." he said gaining her attention, "You are an amazing child, you're kind and caring, you're funny and stubborn," he smiled at seeing her face pout in protest, "But most of all you're strong. You've been in a horrible situation that no one should ever have to endure, and now you're blaming yourself for what happened when you know that no one is to blame. From what I know your brother was very brave in doing what he did, it was just unfortunate for him to meet such a cruel fate. But Annabeth that doesn't mean you have to blame yourself for what happened, he gladly give his life if it meant saving yours no matter the situation. He'd want you to the fun loving young girl he knew you to be." He moved her head so that they were looking at each other again before smiling, "So why don't we do him a favour and have fun." Annabeth looked away, Jack frowned he was sure that would work, sighing he was about to give up when an idea came to him.
Standing to his full height he watched his friend before smiling, "Fine I'll guess I'll just have to find some other way to have fun. After all who wouldn't want to go sledging and have snowball fights?" He picked up his staff from the floor, "After all I'm sure you're much to busy here. Oh well maybe next time." Jack said heading for the door.
Without warning he was tackled to the ground from behind, recovering fast Jack retaliated by tickling his attacker who squealed before dashing away, Jack followed as they began chasing each other around the barn.
Neither noticed as Claire stood in the doorway watching as they played, 'I knew you'd never leave.' She thought as she watched as Jack tickled Annabeth who struggled to contain her laughter.
As Annabeth recovered her breath from the tickling Jack helped out with her chores, the chickens were happy to be fed along with the goat and horse all that was left was Snowball. Annabeth had began attempting to feed the foal but it would always hide behind her mother, sighing Annabeth was about to give up when Jack began to try. "It's pointless." She sighed "She's never allowed anyone near her."
Jack wasn't listening instead he was too busy trying to approach the young filly without startling her, if no one could go near Snowball how would they be able to get her to eat solid food. Surely someone must have been able to as Snowball looked perfectly healthy, making no sudden movements Jack was able to sit before Snowball before offering out the slice of apple.
To Annabeth's surprise the filly ate the treat, but how was that possible no one could get near the shy pony without it fleeing. Her question was answered when she remembered that her brother was the only one to ever get close to the timid creature, in fact the more she thought about it the more her happiness grew.
She had been thinking of the possibility ever since she met him, she had gone over and over it in her mind and the truth was only a few things stopped her from making a full connection. Not anymore Snowball had proven her theory to which Annabeth could barely contain her joy, 'After all this time he never left.' Annabeth thought as she watched Jack stroke Snowball.
It really did make sense now, they weren't separate people they were the same, after all they looked almost identical, they acted the same, they even sounded the same, but his hair was the most obvious difference, if only it were brown along with his ice blue eyes. Annabeth had also noticed another difference between her brother Jack and her friend the Jack before her had snow pale skin, her brother's was the same pinkish cream as hers.
Annabeth sighed she'd admitted it to herself she feared that she would overreact but her she was unable to move, sure she was filled with joy but there was also a pain, a pain that came with the fact that her brother of which she was now certain was sitting not too far from her had completely forgotten her, and it hurt, the one person she trusted and cherished the most didn't recognise her.
A thought came to mind then would her parents ever make this connection, well her mother mostly, it was obvious that her father wanted nothing more than to kill her friend she had seen the glares he gave Jack at breakfast about an hour ago. So that only left her mother, if she knew how would she react to learn her son didn't remember them, would she try to make him remember, or would she leave him be.
Annabeth was startled from her thoughts as Jack placed his hand on her shoulder, "You okay?" he asked his blue eyes filled with concern. The pain in her chest ached more as she imagined her brother's familiar brown eyes instead, without realising it she was shaking her head. "What's wrong?" Jack asked sitting next to her.
She couldn't think her mind was pulling itself in so many directions she couldn't keep up but thankfully one was finally chosen and she found herself clutching to Jack tightly as her emotions followed from her eyes.
Jack said nothing instead he just sat next to his friend holding her tightly as she cried, in time she would tell him but for now it would most likely be better to just hold and comfort her.
Annabeth's tears quickly settled before she looked away, this confused Jack as he watched his friend battle her inner emotions. Annabeth sighed making her final decision on the matter, without another thought she hugged Jack tighter burying her head against his chest. "You're a great friend Jack." She spoke weakly, "Please don't ever leave." Not again, she silently added.
"I'll always be here for you." Jack said smiling slightly, "I promise." And he meant it, he wasn't about to leave Annabeth any time soon but as the words started to sink in he began to wonder about what would happen when warmer weather came. It was clear from the house that the warmth had some effect on him, how much he didn't want to know but it had been enough to make him sick, otherwise he probably would have slept peacefully.
Annabeth seemed to be thinking the same thing as she soon asked, "What about Spring and Summer?"
Jack thought for a moment, "Why don't we cross that bridge when we come to it? After all we still have the rest of Winter."
"But you're a winter spirit Jack, that means you won't be able to stay here during warmer weathers which means that you can't always be here for me." Annabeth finished quietly.
Jack sighed she had a point but decide ding he didn't like it he pushed it away, "Forget the warm weather Annabeth, if you need me, I'll be right here. Even if it's the hottest day of the year I'll come for you." He smiled liking that idea as stupid as it probably sounded.
Annabeth sighed giving up there was no arguing with Jack once he had made up his mind, it was why he always pulled pranks, and according to her mother it was why he never wore shoes, with the exception of ice skates.
Jack was about to speak when the sound of approaching footsteps reached his ears, someone was coming and by the sounds of it he was guessing it was Annabeth's father. Jack had little time to react as he threw himself into the mountain of hay nearby as the bran door swung open past it's once jammed position.
Annabeth jumped slightly as she saw her father standing in the doorway surveying the bran, it had explained why Jack had suddenly began acting weird, but he had the right idea her dad didn't seem all the happy.
Albert moved passed his daughter towards a cabinet, Annabeth guessed that her father was out of arrows, it was the only reason he ever went in that cabinet, it was where he kept stuff for making them. Having gathered what he needed Albert left without another word, Annabeth sighed with relief as she approached the haystack that Jack vanished into.
"He's gone." She said, a few seconds later hay began to fall away as Jack climbed out of his hiding spot. Jack sighed with relief as he watched the barn door for a moment before turning his full attention to Annabeth.
"Now what?" He asked picking up his staff as he paced around his friend. Annabeth laughed slightly, her chores were done for today which meant that she could now have fun in the snow. Her smile widen as the possibilities began to list themselves in her mind.