Something like a prologue to the movie. In which Bunnymund throws a tantrum, Jack throws a tantrum, and North tries to be a respectable parental figure but is clueless and fails. Also, minor spoilers and hints for the movie!
The Blizzard of '68
He hadn't answered the summons, so North and Bunnymund had to go find "that flipping Frost kid!" in his own territory in Burgess.
And Jack hadn't wanted to discuss it in a civilized conversation, so North was forced to stage a mock trial with himself as the judge. It wasn't how he had wanted to put himself across, but the fact was that the words "Naughty" or "Nice" were inscribed on his arms. He was the closest thing to justice the Guardians-and all other entities-had upon which to rely.
And, yes, it was cold; ice encased the trees like layers of shrink-wrap, and there were warnings going out into Burgess against walking on the sidewalk for fear of slipping violently and breaking every bone in your body. Not that there was any reason to go outside anyway, because it was just way too cold. But after all, that was the point of this meeting, and it was a matter between the three of them, so they might as well stand outside and suffer the situation...
...even if it seemed that the cold had no effect on Jack, so technically North and Bunnymund were the only ones suffering. North ground his teeth together to keep them from chattering, and wondered if this made him look even older and angrier to Jack, who glared stubbornly at the frozen pond beneath them and rolled his eyes occasionally.
"It's Easter," Bunnymund said for the fiftieth time. "We only get one shot, you and me, you know? All that work all year long, leading up to one day. And now look at it."
North turned to Jack. "And what do you have to say for yourself?"
Jack glared up at him beneath dark eyebrows-I've never understood that, thought North, White hair and dark eyebrows-and shrugged. "Nobody ever said it couldn't snow on Easter. I didn't know there were any rules."
"It's not about rules!" Bunnymund snapped. "It's about respect! If you had a day, I wouldn't go throwing eggs at it!"
The boy shifted his feet. "Well, I don't have a day, so I guess we'll never know for sure."
"That's right, we won't!"
North held up a placating hand in an attempt to silence the rabbit. "Bunnymund, it's Jack's turn to talk."
Bunnymund huffed and tapped his foot so hard on the frozen pond that for a second North wondered if the ice would crack and they would all fall to their deaths. But the ice was thick-with a blizzard to thank for that-and showed no signs of giving under their weight.
Jack shrugged. "Anyway, the Groundhog said I could-"
"THE GROUNDHOG?" Bunnymund drew himself up to his full height. "THE GROUNDHOG."
North wrinkled his brows. "I think that's a bit beside the point-"
"THE GROUNDHOG. I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN." Bunnymund was already stomping away. At the edge of the clearing, he whipped round and pointed a paw at Jack. "YOU ARE NOT OFF THE HOOK. I JUST HAVE BIGGER RODENTS TO DEAL WITH."
"Rodent?" Jack muttered as Bunnymund disappeared into the silent, frozen landscape.
North snorted. "Well, that was well done."
Jack smiled up at him. He seemed genuinely pleased with North's comment. "The blizzard? Thanks. I worked hard."
"No, I meant your diversion tactics."
Jack smile slipped by a fraction. "Big words there. No idea what you're-"
"Distracting Bunnymund with the Groundhog to get him off your case." North raised an eyebrow. "Very clever."
Jack shrugged again and hunched his shoulders. "I'm not lying. The Groundhog said I had six more weeks, so I took 'em."
North rubbed his forehead and sighed. Now that it was just the two of them, he felt less like a judge and more like a very put-upon step-father. "I have every respect for the authority of the Groundhog…but you should have known better."
"Known better than to what? Make a storm? That's what I do!"
"Do you really think that's all you do? What about ice skating and snow men and sledding?"
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and frowned. "Oh, that stuff."
"I thought you liked that stuff?"
"It gets boring," Jack said flatly. "I'm just gonna stick to weather. Whatever."
North frowned. "Maybe it's become boring for you, but children look forward to those things all year long. They can't go sledding in a blizzard. You need to have a balance, Jack."
Jack rolled his eyes. "They used to look forward to those things. They made-they've got-have you heard about indoor skating rinks?"
North thought for a second. "Yes. In some parts of North America-"
"They make a fake pond and freeze it and then everybody pays money to go skating. Inside. Whenever they want! It's not even the real thing!"
"Why did they start doing that?"
"Oh," Jack sniffed irritably. " 'Cause kids kept falling through the ice and drowning. Or something dumb like that. I don't know."
"Jack!" North barked sternly. "Drowning is not dumb."
Jack glanced up at him, eyes startled but jaw locked. Then he pulled his hood up over his head so North couldn't see his face, and sat down cross-legged in the middle of the frozen pond. He buried his face in his arms and muttered, "I mess up one stupid lake one time, and they all freak out and start building fake ones…"
Jack didn't answer him. North gulped and tried not to look down at the pond they were standing on.
"Anyway, it doesn't matter," Jack finally mumbled. "They don't need me for that stuff anymore."
North took a deep breath. "Well, things happen."
Jack raised his head a little, which North took to be a good sign. He continued, "I've had to take back toys that I gave out for Christmas because they were misused. Children got hurt. And Bunnymund…well, there is such a thing as too much chocolate. Don't tell him I said that."
Jack smirked at that.
"But no one has ever tried to cancel one of our holidays. Do you know why?" North sat down next to the boy on the pond. "Because we have built a trust. When trust is strong enough, people will forgive you for your mistakes. They measure your good work and your good intentions next to your mistakes, and see how they balance."
Jack sat up a little straighter, but his gaze was still fixed on the ice beneath them. "I work a lot. I work all the time."
"It takes a lot of work to build trust. And sometimes, even when that trust is established, it doesn't take much to ruin it."
Jack shrank even smaller on the ground. His voice pitched higher, quivering. "Then what's the point? I'll just make storms. They can decide what to do by themselves."
"Well, if that's all it means to you, then I agree. What's the point?"
Jack's head snapped up and he gaped up at North, shocked. North stared impassively back.
"If you don't care, then you shouldn't bother." North smiled gently. "But I think you do care. Otherwise you wouldn't be throwing tantrums."
Jack gulped. "I'm not throwing a tantrum -"
"Then what do you call this?" North gestured to the ice-encased trees. "You got upset, and you threw your feelings around. I've seen you do this before. Don't think I haven't noticed some of the storms in my part of the world. Usually you're able to at least get somewhere secluded so it doesn't affect anyone else. But today…"
Jack glanced around at the trees. Then he looked down. "I couldn't help it," He admitted.
North sighed. "I understand-"
"No you don't," Jack said quietly. "You have a day. It's different."
"Christmas isn't just a day," said North. "It's a time you and I share, in fact. Winter and Christmas go hand in hand. Snow features in just about every Christmas decoration. Every song, most of the food-"
"Yeah, a nice helping of sides to the main meal. You."
North drew back in surprise from Jack's glare. "Well, yes. It's part of the anticipation. I'm a symbol. But it's not about me. It's about what I bring. It's the work I do. It only becomes about me because everyone trusts me to bring that work to the table, every year. And they look forward to it. You're part of that."
"They don't spend all year looking forward to things," Jack muttered petulantly. "They do other stuff too."
"The promise of things to come keeps them going. That's what we do," said North. "We give them something to look forward to." Together they stood, and North clapped Jack awkwardly on the shoulder. The small boy nearly buckled under the weight of North's hand, so he withdrew it quickly. "It's something to think about. Don't…don't give up on them yet."
"It's weird," Jack said as he dusted his pants off. "In a way, it always felt right when they drowned. Like it was supposed to happen. It was…familiar." He looked up at North shyly. "Does that make any sense at all?"
North hesitated, and, for the second time, fought the urge to look down at the pond they were standing on. "Everything requires sacrifice in some form," He said slowly, avoiding Jack's eyes.
But Jack was watching him carefully, and simply replied, "Huh."
"It's your territory, so I can't really comment," North added hopelessly.
Jack's face fell into the usual petulant expression he wore around North, and for a moment the old man genuinely wished he could give the kid something more. But the feeling passed quickly, with Jack's sour response, "Yeah. Right."
As North walked away, Jack called after him, "Sorry, by the way!"
North glanced over his shoulder. "Bunnymund is the one who is upset, not me."
Jack shook his head. "The part of the roof at your place that got kind of messed up. I just, I didn't mean, but I was trying to…" Jack trailed off as he watched North's expression. "You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you. You didn't…notice? With the storms and everything?"
North shook his head, puzzled.
Jack made a strange expression, something between a scowl and a sniff. "Right! Never mind, then!" With a stomp of his feet, the wind swept through the clearing and carried him off, leaving North staring at the pond in growing suspicion.
When he returned to his fortress, North asked the Yetis if they knew what Jack had been referring to.
In growls and gestures, they told him that yes, the Frost kid had been trying to sneak through the landing zone. He had been caught, the Yetis assured North, but the ice blast he used to get away had done some damage to the roof. All of it had been fixed quickly, before North had had time to notice. The Yetis seemed pleased with themselves, and were disappointed when North did not congratulate them on a job well done in his usual fashion.
As he sat in his workshop that night, chipping away at the ice, North tried to figure out why on earth Jack would want to sneak into the fortress, seeing as he seemed to hate North so much. He tried not to think about frozen ponds, or Jack's wistful expression as he stared down at the ice.