The light snowfall became a more common occurrence at the Pole as Jack Frost dropped by for visits more and more. A slight gust of wind would whirl through the halls as the immortal boy sprinted from room to room, leaving chaos in his wake. Loud crashes and excited yells followed him everywhere he went; only encouraging his wild antics. Now that he had finally 'broken into' the Pole, there was no end to what could be done. Everything was explored, everything was examined, everything was questioned, and everything was tinkered with. No room was left unsearched and no yeti was left sane.
Even as a noble Guardian Jack was still a mischievous little boy.
North did, however, enjoy the winter spirit's company- even when he found frost lingering on his freshly made toys, even when he slipped on the thin layer of ice covering the floor, or even when he saw the halls filled with elf, ice statues. He was exceptionally happy when the boy stopped by in his workshop and watched him sculpt the prototypes for each toy design. Seeing those blue eyes of his grow big out of wonder when they were finally finished and moving on their own accord, begging to be played with, made it all worth wild.
Yet, occasionally North would catch him staring at the toys with a strange expression on his face, fingers twitching as if he wanted to grab them and run. When North would ask about it Jack would inch his way toward the exit, laughing nervously and tell him that he had places to be, snow days to make, other children to see. North expressed his concern to his fellow guardians. He thought, maybe, Jack was still accustomed to his loner ways and his old life. Tooth was quick to assure him that all Jack needed was time for the change to rub off on him, for him to relax around the rest of them. She went on saying that they should all respect his actions and the boy would gradually open up, but they shouldn't pester him. North grudgingly agreed.
But it was still odd. Tooth, Bunny, and Sandy had also recounted multiple times that their newest member had acted strangely around them. All had graciously and openly invited Jack to come by their home whenever he wanted, and he did take that to heart. He visited, but it became clear something was wrong.
He would come by and watch them, just as he did with North. Whenever at Tooth's Palace Jack would begin well off, and then Tooth would catch him crouched in an isolated corner, ignoring the hectic beats of wings that whizzed by him as teeth were collected and stored, stroking Baby Tooth's feathery head as he stared, unfocused in the distance. When confronted he would become nervous and quickly ride his winds off, leaving countless sad mini fairies sighing longingly at his retreating back. Sandy's ship was a thing to behold, made out of the beautiful gold sand, but Jack had apparently flown off when Sandy inquired why the winter spirit was staring intently at the sand's movement. Bunny often complained how the boy would pick up his eggs and disrupt its progress down the flowery assembly line. Not only that, but Bunny often caught sight of Jack sneaking and trying to take a snatch at his own personally decorated eggs.
It seemed that the boy was more interested than ever in what the Guardians did, but more distant as well.
This was confusing to all of them. But to North, as Christmas was fast approaching, he didn't have time to dwell on it. Preparations had to be made, toys had to be checked and wrapped, and the elves had to be looked after. He had a busy schedule, the others knew. He couldn't deal with the worry that was Jack Frost, but he found his thoughts often dwelling on the problem and wondering what might he do to make the boy feel more welcomed. He decided that as soon as he had made his rounds Christmas day, he would confront this Jack problem.
Because of this constant worry, Tooth had proposed that they all assemble for Christmas, as it was the first Christmas Jack had as an official Guardian. Sandy, as cheerful and positive as ever, agreed. Bunny was reluctant, as he didn't understand what made Christmas an important first. He never could grasp the importance of Christmas, only seeing Easter as the top holiday. It was still funny that he even thought the two holidays could rival each other. It was clear which day children were more excited for.
Eventually Tooth managed to sway their outback friend and get a promise that he would indeed show. They all would.
All too soon, Christmas Eve was nigh and he was dressed and ready to be off on his night run. The others were there, earlier than they had stated previously. Bunny had defended that his check-up for the eggs went quicker and thus he had left earlier than planned. When North questioned Sandy how his night had ended so quickly, the stumpy man had just shrugged his shoulders as images appeared above his head: a snowflake, the letter G, a wrapped present, hot chocolate, and a delicious-looking cookie. Tooth was the only one who openly admitted that she was there for Jack; the more time with the winter spirit, the better.
Jack Frost himself was currently absent from the room, but North had a gut feeling that the boy was sneaking around his workshop. It didn't bother him much, as he was sure Jack wouldn't do anything too damaging. Hesitating a moment, deciding whether to retrieve the boy before he left, he was prompted by Phil that he had to leave or else time would be wasted. Inwardly sighing, he bid the others a farewell and left with after a quick, "He's in the workshop."
The next instant he was in the sleigh, riding down the loop-de-loop, and then in the air.
It was amazing that he had broken all previous records and delivered every gift faster and more efficient than any other night. It wasn't long until the gift-bringer was back at the Pole and the yetis exclaiming what a miracle it was, overly dramatic and over whelmed at it all. Even the elves were impressed.
North walked into the globe room, throwing aside his coat, frowning at the strange sounds emitting from the room. He had a moment of surprise when he fully grasped what he had walked into and what he was actually hearing.
Indeed, there were ten elf statues set up on one end of the room; while next to the giant decorated tree on the other end were the players of the game. The ramps of the "alley" was lined with toy railroad tracks, clear borders that he had to admit were very efficient. He took only a second to notice the gratuitous amount of frost and slush that made the lane for the bowling game.
The players seemed to be quite enjoying themselves. It was Bunny's turn and he threw the ice bowling ball he was holding skillfully down the lane. Both Tooth and Jack had flown along with it, watching it eagerly as it rang smack into the middle-front elf statues. All the other statues fell down as well. There was a collective yell as laughs were made and bells were rung. High above the air, the sand scoring board marked an X on the current play. Bunny was the lead.
"How's that, 'ya little ringer?" Bunny rubbed in the face of another elf, who could only shake a fist and kick its teammate in a fit.
"I gotta say, nice shot, cotton tail." Jack chuckled, setting up the statues once more with the use of his winds. He flew to a perch right on the fireplace and nibbled at a cookie from the plate already placed there. "Didn't think you could be this good? I thought you only spent your days painting eggs."
"'Ya better believe it, Frost." It was strange that the two were even joking around, and North wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't just witnessed it with his own eyes at that very instant. Even as he watched, Bunny hopped over to where the boy was sitting and nudged at his ankle. "Let's have a go and see if 'ya can beat me, eh mate? All the others have tried and lost. Let's see if 'ya got what it takes." It was a clear challenge.
North didn't know he was just standing there at the doorway until Tooth had noticed him and smiled widely. "Oh! North! You're back! Look at the game Jack invented! Doesn't it look fun?" She fluttered over to him and then back to the others, her minifairies following her wake, adding chirps and tweets of agreement.
North couldn't help but smile as Jack and Bunny froze, and gazed at him what could be described as a mixture of surprise and guilt. Being caught freezing and knocking down elves was not something they had planned.
"Ah… North I can explain-" North cut Bunny off, laughing, partly at his expression and partly at the idea of elf bowling.
"It is alright, my friend, there is nothing you have done wrong." Again he laughed. "In fact, it looks quite enjoyable!" He walked to where the lane was, examining it. The frost looked like it made the ball roll much better and he wanted to try it out. His hand reached out for a ball. Wordlessly, one was given.
North had to admit, his throwing style was top notch; the ball hadn't even touched the ground. All the elves were launched backwards with such force that they slammed against the wall behind them. Strangely enough they were all giggling and screaming for North to perform his well-executed throw once more. And North, since it was Christmas, couldn't deny them that gift. They played a few more rounds.
"I win, yes?" The Guardian of Wonder's laughter boomed through the halls, accompanied by the excited jingles of his elves. It didn't even matter if he was playing the game wrong. Tooth was about to tell him that Bunny had, in fact, won, but the giant pooka shook his head slightly. "Ah, this victory causes for celebration! Hot chocolate for everybody!"
Immediately, yetis emerged from their dwellings carrying trays of steaming cups of hot chocolate. The giant beasts grumbled when some of the elves snatched a few cups and started taking shots.
The Guardians ignored the screams of delight as the elves started fighting for more of the beverage and took their seats around the fireplace. North sunk into his chair with a sigh of content, watching his friends over the rim of his mug. Bunny had decline the offer for a chair and instead settled himself on the floor in front of the fire, rear end closest to the warmth and mumbling about how 'the trip here always gives me a bad case of frostbite'. Tooth had her legs tucked underneath her on the floor across from Bunny, wings fluttering every once in a while as she attempted to remain still. Her mini fairies were shushed into silence when they started chattering to one another about their annoyance in sitting still. Sandy had opted to make his very own chair out of sand, its size rivaling the recliner North sat on. Jack made his seat a little away from the others, causing North to frown, perching on one of the tall cabinets with his legs swinging.
There was a comfortable silence between them, only being disrupted by thrumming of Jack's fingers on his staff rather nervously. Bunny's ears twitched in annoyance. Yet, before Bunny could open his mouth and an argument could start Jack had leaped off his ledge, announcing that he had a surprise. Before any of them could make a comment, he zoomed off in a gust of wind, knocking down some unfrozen elves in his hurry.
North raised his eyebrows when Jack appeared once more, this time carrying a red bag that was easily the size of the young spirit- a bag that North certainly knew was his. Jack noticed this and waved it off, "Phil's the one who lent it to me." Carefully, he set the bag down in the middle of the group, clearly trying to avoid the curious glances aimed at him. When the man in red targeted the said yeti, all he was met with was a few grumbles, a shrug, and a nervous glance in the opposite direction.
"I, uh, well… I, uh, thought that, uh…" From the looks of it, the boy didn't know how to continue on, awkwardly gripping his staff, ducking his head all the while. Just like a child about to do something suddenly, but not sure how to go on or how it was going to be perceived. Eventually he took a deep breath, rushing out, "IthoughtthatIshoulddosomethi ngforyousinceyouguyshavebeen reallynicetome!" He added a small nervous laugh at the end of the barely comprehensible sentence.
To say that North didn't catch most of it was an understatement. "Jack, what are you-?"
He cut himself off as Jack quickly reached into the bag, which almost swallowed him up, and brought out a giant package. Using the winds to help him, he flew the package straight to Sandy, who immediately smiled. A question mark appeared above his head as he leaped off his sand chair and circled the package.
Jack managed a small smile, "You'll have to open it and find out, Sandy."
The short Guardian jumped up excitedly and quickly, but quietly opened the package. He held the ice statue in his hands carefully, eyes big with awe and joy. It was of all the dreams Sandy bestowed upon the children of the world; dinosaurs, sting rays, unicorns, fairies, airplanes, and dolphins. All of the figures were frozen mid action, gracefully flowing in the crystalized sand. The Guardian of Dreams let out a silent cry of joy, the illustrations appearing above his head at such a pace that the others could barely catch anything he was saying.
Jack apprehensively presented Bunnymund to his present next; a miniature, red bag with lingering frost etched into its seams. When the bag was opened a mist of cool air slunk out and down its sides, almost hiding the horde of crystal eggs inside. The giant pooka was completely silent when he examined the crystal eggs, one at a time. They looked tiny in his giant paws as he turned each one, a critical eye toward the design and detail. The craftsmanship was brilliant, shown by the miniscule detail that Jack had obviously put into the eggs. One even read, comically, 'Blizzard of 68'. North couldn't help but let out a small chuckle, knowing the history between the two Guardians.
"I, uh… I didn't think-er- know what you might… like so… I made a few." He drawled out the word 'so', looking away from Bunny's intense stare that had trained on him when he had started talking. "I know they aren't as… nice as the ones you make, being the Easter Kangaroo and all, but I tried my best. I thought, since you know, you give are always giving eggs that you hardly- if ever, get any in retur-"
Jack stopped talking and looked at the bunny who he now noticed was admiring the eggs he had made. The boy's face erupted into a smile, his hand automatically reaching into the sack once more. When it surfaced again it was holding a rainbow colored present that was obviously meant for the only female in the group.
When Jack turned his attention to Tooth, the girl's wings instantly started buzzing into action. His charming smile and teeth, along with the present that he offered her, made her blush. She started fanning her face, which was mimicked by the mini fairies twirling all around her. Some of them even swooned.
Delicate fingers unwrapped the gift. They paused when the actual present inside was revealed.
"Oh… Jack. It's so beautiful."
She held it up for her mini fairies to see. An exact replica of one of the little helpers, sculpted in such a way that it had caught the tiny creature mid laugh, eyes closed in complete content. The detail made was awe inspiring, as it was clear that each feather was looked to have been given so much care and time spent. In its petite hands was a tooth, shining in the light, almost as if it was aware of the glorious memories it held inside. The wings attached to its back looked so fragile, as they were exceptionally thin. Jack had somehow found a way to make it look like the wings were actually beating (it was impossible for North to describe), exactly like the ones keeping Baby Tooth afloat, who was inspecting the present with large eyes. Baby stroked the present while chirping constantly and rapidly in Tooth's direction.
The girl giggled, smiling just like the small statue in her hand. "Of course, you look just as pretty." Tooth looked up at Jack with that same smile, "Thank you Jack."
Baby Tooth on the other hand had her own way of saying thanks. The little thing attached herself to Jack's nose in its own form of a hug, nuzzling him affectionately. She didn't loosen her hold even when Jack reached into the bag for a final time for the last present.
It wasn't wrapped like the others. Rather Jack held it in his hands for a moment and then gently threw it in North's direction. "Phil helped me with the whole magic thing."
The miniature train chugged its own way toward the man the world knew as Santa Claus. It seemed to be on some imaginary tracks in the air, which trailed around the Guardian of Wonder, before depositing itself on his belly. Just as it had come to a complete stop, the toy was moving again. Up and down it went with North's belly as it moved with the resounding laughter that was erupting from the man's mouth.
"Oh! I knew there was a reason behind your shenanigans and sneaking around!" The giant man pushed himself out of his chair, resulting in the train launching itself into the air once more, and walked over to clap the boy on the back. He didn't even notice the slight tumble Jack went through because of the strength behind the intentional pat of support. "It is worth it, yes? You see why we do what we do. To bring this."
He gesture to the awed expressions and joy filled eyes of the other Guardians, even to the small fairy that had hardly loosened her hold on his nose. North looked down to see the small smile on the Guardian of Fun's face. He gently detached Baby from him and started stroking her gently on the head. "Yeah… yeah, I do."
"But, enough of this." North's eyes sparkled with interest. "Now! You must tell me how you sculpted this train! The design is splendid, sleek yet sturdy. And the detail… Oh, the detail! Just beautiful, Jack!" He watched with joy as the train made rounds around some of the unfrozen elves, all of whom tried relentlessly to catch it, but failing as it slipped through their grasps.
North was happy to say that the rest of the night was filled with friendly banter and laughter.
This time, when they all sat around the fire, Jack made his place among his friends, right in the center.