So I saw Rise of the Guardians for the second time today. I've never seen a more perfect movie, honestly. The scene that affected me the most emotionally was the one where Jack saves his little sister from the cracking ice and ends up falling in himself. I don't remember that particular scene down to every detail, so I'm paraphrasing from memory. Bear with me.
Edit 11/23/12: Saw it again for the third time today (that's three viewings in three days... I'm so cool) and was able to correct some of my mistakes. Still not perfect, though; I'll have to go in again soon. Also, WHAT. This has gotten so much attention! I clearly did something right but WHAT DID I DO. So, so many favorites and follows (I feel kinda bad, keeping this a oneshot with all that, but there's really no way to continue) and reviews! It's in the top five most favorite stories in this archive! This all happened in one day! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO, MY WHOLE BRAIN IS CRYING. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH.
Right, you all probably don't want to listen to my prattle any longer. Please enjoy! I made myself sad whilst writing this and everything!
She couldn't help it if she was curious. It was just in her nature. Tooth loved seeing the memories of the little children whose teeth she collected. It wasn't like she went through every one; it was more like she picked up a container at random when she had a little free time, just to see what wonders the teeth inside held. Of course she hadn't been able to see the memories in every single tooth that was brought in.
So of course she hadn't ever seen Jack's before. He had just been one of many children who had their own, elaborately-carved box of teeth safely tucked away in her headquarters, and his had come in so long ago. She'd never thought anything about the boy with the messy brown hair and mischievous smirk. She didn't even know that boy was Jack Frost (looking back, his now snow-white hair and icy blue eyes probably had something to do with it.)
Jack Frost was a fascinating subject. Tooth had never heard of a folk figure, guardian or otherwise, not having the memories of their previous life. There had to have been a good reason why the Man on the Moon didn't let Jack remember anything, right? Thus, due to her curious nature, Tooth decided her mind couldn't rest until she found out what it was.
That was how she found herself sitting atop one of the spires in her domain, very early one morning, staring hesitantly at his memory box. Jack hadn't really wanted to relinquish the treasure, but was convinced when Tooth told him that they would be safest at her place. She could still remember the feeling of his frigidly cold hand when it brushed against hers, handing the box over.
Was this a total invasion of privacy? Probably. But seriously, Tooth knew the questions would torment her until she saw exactly what had happened in the boy's previous life. How had Jack Frost become, well, Jack Frost? Who was he?
It wasn't just because Tooth found herself oddly attracted to the ice spirit and wanted to know-slash-understand every single detail about him. Nope, not at all.
She glanced up overhead. The sun was rising, sending pale streaks of pink, orange, and lavender across the dimly starry sky. It was the end of a typically busy night, and this was the most peaceful time of day for the Tooth Fairy, thus she had decided to take advantage of it and look at Jack's memories at a place and time she wouldn't be bothered. She took a deep breath and ran her fingers over the gilded grooves of the box, which warmed to her touch and opened immediately. There they were, teeth so white and perfect they could have just been lost the previous day. They matched the ones in Jack's mouth now, albeit smaller.
Tooth placed her hand over the teeth, and the memories began.
She blinked and opened her eyes, taking in her surroundings. It was a village, a few centuries in the past. It was evidently springtime; snow was apparent, but melting, the ground covered in soggy mud and barely-blooming flowers. Tooth was standing in front of a log cottage, one of many in the clusters of homes in the area. Rose bushes were planted outside, adding a sense of warmth and cheeriness to the home. Tooth got an immediate feeling of ease and peace when she looked at it.
There was a shout from behind her, and Tooth turned to see a small, brown-clad shape hurtling in her direction. She beat her feathery wings to rise up a few feet and get out of the way, though she knew the kid approaching wouldn't affect her in the slightest, and vice versa. It was a little boy, she saw, with messy brown hair and wide, matching eyes.
She wasn't sure what the feeling she got was then, like all the breath rushing out of her body. This right here, this was proof that he actually had a life before becoming a Guardian, that he actually was someone! Sure, Tooth had known that already, but actually having the facts presented was something else entirely. She inhaled deeply. Wow, did he look different. It wasn't just that he was clearly years younger, around eight years old maybe, it was everything, from the dark hair and eyes to the tanned, not-strikingly-pale skin. The only thing she could match from this boy to the Jack Frost she knew was the expression: a wide, quirky, off-kilter grin and a trickster spark in his eyes.
The little boy opened the door to the cottage and dashed inside, face red with excitement. Tooth followed him through the door and watched the following scene. There was a bed set up in the center of the room, upon which lay a woman. Jack's mother, she assumed. He looked like her. A big, burly man she took to be his father stood next to the bed, both adults smiling fondly as Jack rushed up to them.
"We were worried you'd never show up," his father said, eyes crinkling with humor. Jack stuck his tongue out and turned to the woman.
"Let me see!" he insisted, "I wanna see!"
The woman chuckled and turned towards him. Tooth saw, for the first time, the bundle with a tiny little face poking out. How about that? Jack had a little sibling.
"Is it a boy or a girl?" he was asking, gaping at the baby with a wondrous expression. "It's a boy, right? 'Cause I wanted a brother. I can't do fun stuff with a girl."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Jackie, but you have a sister." His parents exchanged an amused glance while Jack's mien changed from thrilled to immensely disappointed.
Tooth snorted, despite herself. Jackie. She would have to use that on him sometime.
"I don't like her," the little boy announced, scowling. "We should give her back to wherever she came from and get a boy instead."
"Hear that, Lucille?" his father guffawed. "He wants you to give the baby back."
Lucille grimaced. "After all the work I put in to get her here? No way in the high heavens."
Jack groaned and faceplanted on the bed.
"Tell you what," Lucille said gently, rubbing his shoulder, "You can help name her. Try to think of something good, alright?"
"How do I do that?" Jack's voice was muffled by the quilted comforter.
"Why don't you look around outside?" his father suggested. "You can find inspiration in everything. Come to the window."
Jack grudgingly climbed off the bed and joined the large man by the window, where he was hoisted up to the sill. "Now look outside. What do you see?"
"Snow and ice," he replied flatly, and Tooth almost burst out laughing. That was so typical. "Also, mud. Lots of mud."
"We can't name your sister 'Mud,'" his father replied patiently. "Look a little harder."
Jack furrowed his eyebrows. "Trees. Sky. Roses."
"Rose isn't bad," his mother commented mildly. "I like it." She smiled down to the baby in her arms. "How's that? You like the name Rose?"
Amazingly, the baby smiled back.
The scene changed. They were still in the cottage, but the image was far less cheerful than before. Jack was around ten or eleven now, staring with wide eyes down at the little trundle bed mounted with blankets.
"Is she gonna be okay?" he asked, his voice a dead whisper. "Rosie's gonna be fine, right?"
Tooth followed his gaze and saw little three-year-old Rosie, buried under the quilts and blankets amassed on her bed. Her face was flushed with fever and she seemed to be having trouble breathing. Her mousy bangs were stuck to her forehead, slick with sweat. Jack was pale, fists clenched at his side. His father placed a large hand on his shoulder.
"She'll be fine," he replied, though he sounded uncertain himself. Lucille glanced towards him sharply at the shaky promise. "Listen Jack. She'll get better, but she probably will not be very strong. She won't be able to go out and play all the time. Rosie's going to need you to protect her. Do you understand?"
Jack swallowed, a muscle twitching in his jaw. Uncertainly, he reached down a hand and rested it by his little sister's face. Her own tiny hand rose out of the blankets and curled around his fingers.
Slowly but surely, he gave a firm nod.
Rosie was six now, and Jack about fourteen. The boy was running around outside with a group of other children of various ages. Rosie was inside the cottage at the window, thin elbows propped up on the wide windowsill as she gazed wistfully outside, watching her brother run around, laughing and playing tag with the others. Tooth smiled. Just as energetic as always, she saw.
True to form, she watched as Jack, barefoot as always, scaled up a tree and swung upside down from one of the branches.
"Jeez, Jack, you can't have fun all the time," one of the other boys yelled up, though he was smiling as broadly as the rest.
"Sure I can," Jack replied. His face was quickly turning bright red as the blood rushed to his head. "I can prove it, too! Like, if I lived forever, I'm pretty sure I'd find a way to amuse myself."
"Whatever," the first boy scoffed.
"I think you should come down," Rosie called from the window. "Jack, you're going to fall and kill yourself, you know!"
"Come on, trust me a little!" The boy flashed an upside-down grin at his sister. "You're just worried I'm going to leave you all alone!"
Rosie spluttered indignantly. "Am not! I just don't want to see your brains splattered all over the ground! That would be disgusting!"
Tooth was impressed; the little girl had a way with words. Jack rolled his eyes but swung upright and carefully climbed down. "You happy?"
"Yes," Rosie huffed. Tooth heard her sigh quietly in relief, and felt a sudden rush of affection for the girl. In a way, she understood the nervous feelings towards Jack's antics. He seemed to put people on edge without even trying, even though now he was immortal and couldn't hurt himself if he tried. It was the thought that counted, and Tooth had a right to be worried about him! He was crazy!
Jack just smiled and walked over to the window. "Don't worry about it, little lady. I'm not going anywhere, not any time soon. Relax, okay?" He leaned on the sill and ruffled her hair.
Rosie frowned and didn't say anything for a long moment, before whispering, "Okay."
The scene changed again. They were back in the cottage, and it seemed that their father had just returned from some kind of hunting trip. He was proudly displaying a large, impressive pair of antlers to his family.
"Jackson, put the horns down before you take an eye out," Lucille scolded sternly. Jackson chuckled but obliged, sending a "Mother's that kind of mood," kind of look towards his children. Jack sat with his arms around Rosie, who was bundled up in a blanket as snow fell heavily outside. Tooth noticed that he was wearing the same pants he always did now, and he looked about the same age too—seventeen, give or take a year or two. The memories were drawing closer to his transformation into Jack Frost, or whatever had happened to make him Jack Frost. Tooth felt apprehension curling in her stomach, and she wondered if she really wanted to see what had happened after all.
No, she thought, I came this far. I need to keep going.
She smoothed a few of her feathers and turned her attention back to the family. Rosie made a comment about having never seen a deer before, and wanting to.
"I can't go outside to find one though," she sighed, forlorn with a distant look in her expression. Tooth recognized the spark of inspiration in Jack's eyes. Without missing a beat, he jumped up and grabbed the antlers from his father's hands, placing them upon his own dark head.
"Look, Rosie! A deer!" He did a little dance to further the effect.
"You're weird!" Rosie exclaimed, clutching her sides and shrieking with laughter. Her melancholy mood had completely vanished. Jackson and Lucille exchanged a glance and humorously shook their heads.
"Feeling better, Rosie?" Jack called out cheerfully.
"Stop, stop!" the little girl gasped, tears of mirth running down her cheeks. "Jack, I'm laughing too hard, stop!
"Only if you promise to keep smiling! No sad faces around me, little lady!"
"O-Okay, I promise! But stop dancing around, you look so silly!"
Jack slowed his antics and removed the antlers, grinning broadly. "You really promise?"
Rosie nodded adamantly, eyes swimming with so much adoration it made Tooth's heart ache.
"Really. I really promise."
"I don't know about this," Lucille frowned, studying her two children critically.
"It'll be fine, Mama!" Rosie bounced up and down, ice skates in hand. "I feel really good today, and Jack's going to be with me!"
"It's true," Jack chipped in, leaning casually against the door frame. "Do you really think I'll let anything happen to her? Come on."
"That's not what I think at all, and don't think it is," Lucille replied sternly. She knew all too well how much Jack watched out for his sister. She folded her arms, considering the matter. Rosie was cooped up far too often, and didn't get the opportunity to go out and play with the other children. It was warm that day too, so there was less of a chance of her catching a cold. It didn't even cross her mind to be worried about Jack. He was hyperactive and energetic, but he knew how to stay on the safe side of things. She trusted him.
After another long stare, Lucille sighed in defeat. "Alright. You can go."
Rosie jumped up and cheered, slapping hands with Jack. The two turned and hurried out the door, the little girl skipping through the knee-deep snow.
"Be careful!" their mother called after them.
Jack turned around and waved, laughing a bit with his sister.
The first thing Tooth noticed when the scene shifted was Jack's feet. It shouldn't have been anything unusual—she had seen him barefoot on ice more times than she could count—but Tooth just couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. His skates were off to the side, lying limply on the solid pond, and Tooth noticed with a jolt that it was the same pond where Pitch had met his end not too long ago. Jack was crouched down, arms held out for balance.
"Jack, I'm scared!"
Tooth whirled around at the sound of Rosie's voice, and gasped with horror when she saw the ice cracking under the little girl's skates. Rosie's amber eyes were widened with fear and her breath came in short, desperate pants.
"Don't look down!" Jack told her hurriedly in a falsely soothing and confident voice. "Don't look down, just look at me. You're going to be fine. You're not going to fall in. In fact...we're going to have a little fun instead."
Tooth's breath caught in her throat, remembering clearly when he'd repeated the words to comfort Jamie verbatim. This was it, she realized. This is the end.
"No we're not!" Rosie cried, tears welling up in her eyes.
"Would I trick you?" Jack's lips curled up in a pathetic imitation of his quirky grin and Tooth saw that despite his best efforts to hide his fear, his hands were visibly trembling.
"Yes! You always play tricks!"
"Well, not this time. I promise, I promise. You're going to be fine. You just..." Jack's breath rushed out. He stretched out his hand, reaching for his sister, and the next sentence he uttered broke Tooth's heart.
"You just have to believe in me."
Rosie didn't reply, and whimpered in terror when a few fine, spindly cracks spun webs under her feet.
"You wanna play a game? Let's play hopscotch, like we do every day," he continued. "It's as simple as one..." He extended one leg and placed it down, wincing as cracks appeared. He took another hasty step, flailing comically to catch his balance. "Two..." Rosie giggled, and Jack sent her a genuine smile then. "Three!" One final leap and he was safe on thick, solid ice.
"Okay, your turn," he instructed. Rosie took a hesitant step forward, and bit back a scream when the ice threatened to give way. She gasped sharply.
"It's okay, you're doing great! Keep going!"
Rosie made three tiny steps progress, her brother coaxing her forward. As soon as she was near enough, Jack bent and scooped up a long, thin stick. His staff. He reached out towards his sister slowly, and few agonizing moments later he had her hooked into the curved end of the staff and was pulling her towards safety. With one final wrench, he flung the little girl onto the solid ice. The momentum sent him flying and sliding to where Rosie had been standing, splayed on the unstable surface. Rosie blinked a few times, surprised at the sudden change of position. She looked at Jack, smiling happily. He easily returned the expression, laughing disbelievingly at his victory, and moved to stand up.
A sound like a gunshot echoed over the pond, and the ice collapsed, taking Jack with it.
Rosie and Tooth unanimously screamed in horror.
Suddenly, everything was dark and freezing cold. Tooth wrestled against the crushing blackness, eyes opened wide, twisting in the void. Where was Jack?!
She saw him. He was still and motionless, and Tooth tried to scream again, but no sound came out. His eyes were closed, and he looked as though he could be sleeping.
She knew he wasn't.
The memory faded to black, just as his hair color began to change.
Tooth's amethyst eyes flew open and she gasped for breath, nearly toppling off her spire. Her heart was beating far too quickly, and adrenaline coursed through her veins. The tooth box was clenched in her viselike grip, burning hot. Tooth took a few heavy breaths, trying to get ahold of herself. She didn't need to see the rest of the memories; it was easy to guess what had happened after that.
There was another perspective she needed to see.
She jumped off the spire, beating her wings furiously as she sped towards the tooth vault. Every child's memories were categorized alphabetically, and it was lucky for the Tooth Fairy that she remembered every name. Finding the box she was looking for wasn't difficult.
A sweet, innocent smile, straight mousy hair, and large amber eyes. Rose Overland looked very much like Jack's sister. Tooth stared at the small image for a moment, heart wrenching in her chest, before taking a deep breath and cracking the box open.
Teeth showed the most poignant memories in a childhood. It was no coincidence that all of Jack's memories involved his sister. That said, it was also no coincidence that the first thing Tooth saw upon entering Rosie's memories was Jack disappearing into murky water, that the first thing she heard was the little girl's panicked screaming.
"JACK! JACK!" Rosie stumbled forward as closely to the edge of the stable ice as she could, calling her brother's name all the while. "Jack, come on! This isn't funny, Jack! Come up!"
Tears flowed freely down her face now, and her desperate pleas became more hysterical until she broke down sobbing. "Jack! Jack! You're just playing a joke, right?! Hurry up and come back!" Her terrified expression sent daggers into Tooth's heart. "Jack...come on! You promised! You said you'd never leave me alone, ever! Hurry up and come back so we can...so we can go home...!" Her voice cracked on the last few words, and the sentence ended with a heartbreaking sob.
He was just tricking her, like he always did. He was going to pop out of the water, shivering but laughing, any second now. He was going to come back. He had to.
Rosie was stumbling clumsily through snow now, tripping in her skates as she desperately tried to make it back home. She needed to get help, she needed to get Jack out of the ice so he could go home too, and make her laugh with the antlers again. He couldn't be gone! He wasn't the one who was supposed to need help! Jack was the one constant in her life, the one who was always there when she needed him to help her up when she fell, who played funny tricks and jokes when she was sad about being inside, and who spoiled her rotten every time she got sick.
There was no way all that could be over, right?!
Finally, finally, the little girl made it to her family's home. With one final lunge forward, she pushed the door open, crying out desperately for her father to hurry and come, hurry and go save her brother. Jackson jumped up immediately, his face paling in shock, and bolted out the door the instant Rosie was able to spill what had happened.
Rosie waited and waited with her mother, crying and sneezing while the woman tried to comfort her, until finally Jackson returned defeated, sopping wet and alone.
Jack was gone.
-three hundred years later-
"Hey, you know, you're staring at me."
Tooth jolted, blinking in surprise. Jack frowned at her quizzically. "You alright there?"
"Y-Yeah..." Tooth sighed. "Don't worry about me.
Jack snorted and leaned back on his staff, brushing his snowy bangs out of his eyes. "Sheesh. I come all this way to visit and you're twelve different kinds of moody. What gives?"
"It's nothing." The Tooth Fairy sighed again. "Just tired, I guess."
Jack narrowed his eyes at the obvious lie (because since when was Tooth ever tired?) but let her hold the benefit of the doubt. "Whatever you say."
They sat without speaking for a few long minutes.
"Hey Jack?" Tooth said suddenly.
"Hm? What is it?"
"You're really amazing, you know that?"
The ice spirit's crystal eyes widened in blatant surprise. "Uh, okay? Thanks, I guess."
"Yeah." Tooth smiled softly and leaned on his shoulder, ignoring the frost on his hoodie and the wintery cold radiating off his pale skin. "You're really amazing, Jackie."
There was a beat of silence.