Frost only saw Amber in passing that Monday. He opted not to risk another scene. The school, if not himself, needed to move on and forget about the whole thing. She did not acknowledge his presence, but Frost was starting to wonder if the jump in his heart rhythm was as much hers as his.
Did she hope for him to say something to her? That he’d ask her on a second date? What might she do to him, or have him do to himself if he did, publicly? Less than certain of the answers to these questions would go well for him, Frost bid his time. The rest of that school week progressed as it had started. He saw Amber in passing a few times a day. Frost didn’t know if that was unusual, that she was perhaps making an effort to be visible. The effect on him, often before he noticed her was immediate and clear. By that Friday he wouldn’t even look for her when he felt it. Didn’t have to.
The following weekend passed uneventfully, save the searching looks Frost still got from his mom. The doctor had found nothing wrong with him, even said if he wasn’t told otherwise he would have guessed the brand was a year old at least. Rather than less, the results had made mom more anxious for her son’s welfare. She watched him carefully whenever in sight and he often felt her eyes on him, sometimes when she shouldn’t be anywhere nearby. He was consequently particular about where and what he might do. Staying home was easier than reporting in regularly and Frost saw little reason to do much else outside of school and track. Amber must have chosen a similar course, as he felt no urges to be anywhere specific.
The following week started crisp and cool. Early October and the fall transition was rolling in. No snow yet. Reaching for the front door of the school, tension knotted in Frost’s gut. Where… He searched, nothing to see outside. Inside the building he broke into a run, hoping the feeling would guide him better than his eyes. Overshot the right turn twice before coming to a back hall near the drama room. Amber stood with her back to the wall, faced by three other juniors, male. She had her arms crossed over her chest, looking casually arrogant as always. The three were hunched forward menacingly.
“Who did this to you?”
No response as the three closed their circle around her. Inside Frost felt a thread of fear. He checked behind but everyone else was passing the hall as if nothing was there. That didn’t make any sense at all. He turned back to the scene, deciding how best to step in. What were the boys even trying to-
One growled and jumped, hands extended like claws. Amber side-stepped, had to duck a second attack from one of the others. The third boy didn’t get his chance as Frost closed arms around his chest and hauled him backward off his feet. He Threw him towards the stairs with a kick in the backside. He turned around and caught the wrist of one of the others, noting they still hadn’t touched Amber. Muscles remembering lessons parents made him and his siblings take years ago, he collapsed the arm and bent the hand back. The boy cried out, dropping to his knees. Eyes turned on Frost, tears streaming from the corners.
“Frost!? What- I didn’t do anything! What’s going on?”
“Get out of here,” he released the tension as the boy wide-eyed saw the last, still trying to hit Amber. He nodded and stumbling ran up the stairs to the main hall.
So. Looked like a shock to the system was all they needed to knock it off. Frost walked over near Amber, smacked the remaining attacker upside the head. He wheeled on Frost, then started blinking.
“I- why’d you hit me?”
“Convenient you forget why I needed to.” Frost used his full height and best upper class-man voice. “I’d be more careful who you spend time around. Go and get to class.”
The boy glared, but said nothing as he turned and left. Frost did not make any friends today. Maybe one at least would be a little more cautious what he got up to in the future. But what had gotten into them in the first place? You couldn’t be as popular as Amber without enemies, but that would not look like what he just witnessed. They had all seemed surprised once a little pain was applied.
“I did not ask for your help.”
“Nor,” Frost made himself take a long breath, “did I assume you needed it. I helped anyway, and will continue to do so.”
There was a little shot of warmth, buried under a cold bath as Amber glared at him. Frost met her gaze.
“You’re all right.” It was a statement.
“Yes,” her glare did not soften.
“Glad to hear it.” Again, she was clearly uninterested giving him anything to work with. Fine, he could play that way too. “Sorry to bother you, Amber. Have a good day.”
He felt her reaction without having to look. There was pain making him want to turn right back around and apologize on bended knee. Anger was still the stronger. Frost started to suspect it was as much at herself as him. He would have to keep that in mind.
Nothing else out of the ordinary happened that day, or the next. Which did little to ease Frost’s mind. He had known there was a lot more than teen drama to Amber. But to be attacked by classmates, out of the blue? And they didn’t remember. In fact when Frost deliberately bumped into one of them later that day the look he got held no trace of recognition. He thought back to his own fog about that night with Amber, about the dance. Could she have…? No, that didn’t track. She would have had a purpose to it. What she’d gotten had not been welcome. But that pointed to someone else being as persuasive as she. More so. And not liking her.
It kept circling back to the same questions in need of answers. Fast. Whatever was going on was far from over, and Frost could do little about it not knowing what that was. He’d have to ask Amber today. What if she said no? Would he even be able to go talk to her father, against her express wishes? Frost shook his head. He’d just have to risk it.
“Amber!” He caught her on her way to lunch. Stepped close before she could brush him off and pitched his voice low. “Stopping by this afternoon, if that’s okay.”
She sucked a breath to deny. Looking him in the eye, her breath let out and she let her gaze slide to the side. “Yeah, fine.”
Frost wanted very much to kiss her cheek, but that would be noticed. And completely out of character, for him and for the situation. He contented himself with a quick smile as he stepped back. It had gone better than he expected. Best not to spoil it so he got out quick.
“Yes,” the door cracked. “Oh, hello Frost. Amber mentioned you might stop by.”
Muttered in frustration on her way past if he had a guess. Frost smiled at her father. He had questions, not about feelings. He held on to hope he’d get more out of this conversation than last time.
“Sorry to bother you, might I-“
“Please, come in and have a seat.”
Frost nodded gratefully as he passed Mr. Dawn into the house, straight for the living room couch. Amber was home, Frost felt almost certain. She would not appreciate being sought out, so he sat on the couch without looking for her.
“So,” Mr. Dawn sat down across from him, “what can I help you with?”
“Mister Dawn,” Frost leaned forward, “there’s more to this than just your daughter. To be frank,” he winced. Frost still hadn’t found a better way to ask this, “what is she?”
“Half-fairy, something like. Her mother, before you ask.”
Frost blinked. He hadn’t really expected Mr. Dawn to be so direct. Nor had he anticipated the answer. Fairy? Folk tales of nymphs and pixies surfaced from his memory and he started nodding. That could explain, well everything. Only in the most general sense, as fairies and magic tended to be vague flexible ideas. Still good to have a name to attach to it. He searched his brain a moment, looking for - that was the word.
“Y-“ Mr. Dawn cocked his head at him, with a slow half-smile. “Yes, actually.”
“I read a lot of Fantasy novels,” Frost explained. His siblings who were into D&D helped more.
“You’re taking this very calmly.”
“When you wake up na-“ He caught himself with a grimace. Doubted Mr. Dawn wanted reminding of that. “With a magic tattoo on your chest, a lot becomes plausible.”
“Others like her?” Really, there had to be. Best to start at the beginning anyway.
“I’m sure there are. Around here, I don’t know. At a guess,” Mr. Dawn’s smile disappeared, “I’d bet whoever sent those boys wasn’t half-human.”
“Some hate half-breeds, and us. Others, hate her not leaving our world ‘like she’s supposed to’ and would prove she can’t belong by force.”
And he thought normal high school drama was bad enough. Especially when she did feel like she didn’t fit in. Frost worked on picking his next question.
“So what happened,” he ran a hand over the spot where the mark lay on his chest, “with Amber. Something like this happened to you? With her mom.”
“Ah,” Mr. Dawn flushed and glanced down before lifting his gaze back with a wane smile. “Sort of. Her mother… Would never be so domestic.”
Emotion crossed his face. Jealousy?
“She,” he continued, “was wonderful. Just walked out of the woods one day and asked me to spend some time with her. As you might guess, I never thought of saying no. This went on I don’t know how long,” now he was blushing, face full red, “until she stopped showing up. Some months later, Amber appeared on my doorstep.”
“Make the normal parent do all the hard work, and then take them back as teens?” Frost grinned, “sounds very Grimm.”
“Oh so funny Frost.”
“Sorry,” he lifted hands in surrender. “Could you tell me,” he took a steadying breath, “why that thing happened, in the park? I don’t think she expected me.”
“That was her mother at work. Trying in her own way to force the issue.”
“You mean,” Frost coughed delicately. He wanted to be sure he was hearing right, “she made her daughter have sex with the next passerby, to make a point?”
Mr. Dawn winced. Anger briefly crossed his face before he dropped it into his palm. His voice was tired. “In a word, yes.”
Frost whistled. That was low. Inhuman. Ha.
“And it should have worked, shouldn’t it?”
Mr. Dawn nodded, “You know so. Amber is well known. Anyone else would have told someone. Who would tell others. Popularity turns to infamy very easily. No way to stay in school then. She would have left.”
“Except for you, yeah?”
“Don’t kid yourself Frost. She puts up with her dad better than some teens, but I was never what kept her before, certainly not after something like that.”
“What does, then?”
Mr. Dawn responded by staring straight through him. Frost impulsively checked his watch, startled by how long they’d been talking. He stood up, mind churning.
“I should get going. Thank you so much for talking with me Mister Dawn.”
“Of course. You should,” something unreadable crossed his face, “say something. On your way out at least.”
Frost nodded, hoping he understood. Extended a hand, which Mr. Dawn shook, before turning to leave. He paused at the base of the stairs.
“Amber?” No audible response, but the tingle that ran up his spine suggested to Frost that she heard. “Have a good night. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Again, no response. He turned and headed for the door. “Thanks again, Mr. Dawn.”
“Take care Frost.”