The Meeting of Winter and Dark


Today was Jack's last day in the town of Thaddeus Burgess. It wasn't as large as the other places he took the liberty of decorating with snow and ice, so he focused his efforts on covering as much of the streets and houses. That's what he told himself when he asked why he spent most of his time in that small town than others. He didn't necessarily rush through everywhere else; he didn't spend longer than needed.

Sometimes he allowed himself to think of his answer. He knew the true answer was that after three hundred years, he couldn't cut his ties to his home. His final home.

"One loop, two loops, three loops." Clouds of breath as small as Jack's enthusiasm evaporated in the air.

On his worst days, Jack found his breath bothersome and he wondered why he had to breathe those darned clouds if he was immortal. It was a habit to breathe, like when he'd drowned in the lake not too far from where he was frosting the mailbox of a forest house. He hadn't stopped breathing until he was cold dead.

He had sucked in air as he struggled to break the surface. His parents had told him not to play on the lake. The ice was thin, but he hadn't listened. Now he was dead – or undead – and his immediate family was dead. All he had for blood was the chain of relatives branching from his sister. The youngest was twelve year old Jamie.

Jack finished up the patterns of swirls on the mail box. People rarely noticed the intricate designs he decorated the town with. It hurt on some level. If they knew the designs were the touch of one of the first residents, what would they think? The past was always present, maybe. Jack snorted. He stood up and stretched out his cramped leg muscles. He had covered the forest with more snow than usual, to mess around with the weathercasters and feed their beliefs on global warming, so the mailbox was buried in a large bank of snow. For an hour Jack had squatted, tracing what was exposed of the mailbox with his finger.

"Just gonna be another waste," he grumbled as a tree branch gave way to the snow packed on it. The snow heaped on the mailbox. Jack wiped the snow off. The frost patterns were distinguishable, but there were light scratches on it. "Whatever."

Jack hiked up the hill, and more snow fell on the mailbox.

This winter was going to suck, what with the rising of Pitch and his army of hellhounds and hell stallions and hell soldiers and surprise! Fearlings, something that wasn't named with the word hell.

Yesterday Jack had gotten a smack down by a small group of hellhounds. There hadn't been much a fight. Jack froze them as best he could while running backwards. He spun around, whacked his head on a low branch, the stallions broke free of their ice restraints, Jack blindly flew for the sky, slammed into a few branches before reaching open air – only to discover that the stallions could fly.

He got bit several times, trampled on many more. What was the point of immortality if you could get injured? Jack didn't know what would happen if he got torn apart, and no way did he want to find out.

Fortunately he was saved by Santa and the other three guardians, the three guardians who were more known than he was. The first time all five of them met was when Jack was stuffed in a sack. They tried to recruit him on their stupid good guy team. Jack turned the offer down.

Then they saved him from Pitch's minions, hence the second meeting.

Join the guardians. Help us defeat Pitch. We must protect the children.

Jack cut Santa off halfway through his second recruitment speech. "I'll do it. Just this once," he had said.

"As long as you leave me along with it's all done. I don't do teams."

He was given one more day of doing whatever he usually did at this time of year. Jack wanted to spend several more days in Thaddeus Burgess, but with the mission to battle Pitch's mission to engulf the world with darkness, everything had to be put aside.

Jack would have to rush through the rest of the cities touched by snow in the U.S. tonight. It was getting late, not that he had trouble navigating in the dark. It was that Pitch was targeting him and night was when darkness was at its strongest. Jack had one encounter with darkness. One was enough.

It was time to get going. Jack flew to the monument in the town square, the one of his family. He kissed the boot of his father before leaving.

He breezed through the rest of cities and towns, leaving a trail of frost that would spread throughout the night. He left gray clouds that would snow in the early morning, just like weathercast predicted. It was important to stay somewhat close to the cast.

It was three or four in the morning when he finished. Jack perched on top of a church steeple as he watched his frost spread on the pavement and trees like creeping spider-webs. A quick trail of frost climbed up the trunk of a pine tree, and then shot up to the tip.

Jack jumped to his feet. There was a figure on the top of the tree.

"Jack, my dear boy, it took you a while to find me. I was beginning to worry you wouldn't spot me."

"Who are you?"

The man was crouched on the tip. He stood to his full height, the full moon silhouetting a head of spiked hair.

"I'm a bit worried you don't recognize me."

"I can't see you," Jack said. "Are you another guardian?"

"Phah! One of those pathetic guardians? Of course not. I am my own." The man stepped off the tree. He dropped to the ground as a plume of smoke which expanded into his body. He gestured for Jack to come down from the steeple.

"Are you following me?"

"Not exactly."

The man was partially in the radius of the church's outdoor light. Jack could see a dark coat that swept the ground.

"Who are you?"

The man stepped further into the light. He looked harmless. Like a vagabond. Jack jumped down. He landed in front of the man, ready to use his staff.

"Try anything and I'll make you all sorts of black and blue."

"Frostbite I suppose."

Jack tried a threatening face. The man smiled. His teeth were pointed.

"Tell me who you are," Jack demanded. The man had yellow eyes; it didn't make Jack feel any friendly towards the stranger.

"North hasn't told you about me?"

"North?" Jack blinked. "Oh. You mean Santa."

"You're not very familiar with them. I can tell."

Jack's neck felt trapped, like something was squeezing down on it. He raised a hand to his throat.

"Don't move your head too fast. You might snap your neck."

"What are you doing?" Jack dropped his staff. He could feel fingers wrapped around his neck, but when he searched them out with his hands all he could feel was a thick band. He couldn't get his fingers between it and his neck. It was tightening. "Stop," he choked.

He couldn't lean down to pick his staff up. Freezing the band off was impossible without it. He tried to step on the staff, but the man snatched it.

"You're powerless without this," the man observed. He watched Jack struggle as he gripped the staff in both hands. "What a pity."

"Don't!"

"Break it? Why would I do that?" The man held it out to Jack. "Take it."

Jack reached a hand out. The loss one of hand had no effect on the chokehold around his neck. He let go with his other hand. He was powerless.

Both hands reached for the staff. The man pulled it back.

"Please."

"Doesn't this remind you of long ago? When you drowned in that lake? Dreadful death. Choking on water doesn't sound very fun."

"It ain't."

A boomerang whacked Pitch in the ear. He dropped the staff and disappeared in a puff of smoke. He reappeared yards away, rubbing his head.

Jack was freed of the grip on his neck. He dropped to his knees and grasped his staff. "Easter Bunny?"

"That's right, mate."

He smiled gratefully at the bunny stepping away from the trunk of a tree. "How long were you here?"

"Not long." He helped Jack to his feet. "Get up. Chances are we'll have ta fight our way out."

"That's Pitch?" Jack asked.

"You can beat on 'at."

Pitch laughed. "Oh, Bunny. You've certainly got an aim. I can't see straight." He shook his head.

"Give North my regards. I'll be back." He vanished.

"...Okay. Looks like there's no fight. Good. Your neck looks bloody red."

"I'm fine." Jack ran his hands where Pitch had gripped it. The frost there was tainted black like ink. With Jack's touch it faded back to icy blue. "I don't know what was worse. Getting mauled by his stallions or getting choked by darkness." He looked at the Easter Bunny who was on low alert, scoping the area out. "So Bunny is your real name?"

"I prefer to be called that. Easter Bunny… Not so much."

"I agree. Kangaroo's one thing, bunny's another."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Bunny doesn't sound so intimidating."

Bunny scowled.

"Come on, mate. It's kind of hard to picture a bunny with grenade eggs and boomerangs."

"You're not much yourself. A kid with a branch. And without that branch you're nothing."

Jack looked at his staff thoughtfully. "Think I could get it surgically attached?"

"Don't get your hopes up. We should get to North's workshop and report this. And isn't your vacation over?"

"Yeah, okay. Think we can get another ride on that sleigh."

"You can. I won't touch that thing until North gets those seatbelts put in."


A/N: I can't believe I forgot to upload this one. I've had this uploaded on my dA for weeks. I wrote this before I knew anything about the movie (I think) so if anything here doesn't match up with the movie, please don't get bothered.

Also, all my one-shots are separate from each other unless otherwise stated. :)