...Hello! Kay first off, holy crap on a stick you guys. This story has 248 reviews for 9 chapters. Like, can we all just stop and think about that? That's, on average, 27 reviews PER CHAPTER.
...I LOVE YOU ALL. Please, keep those reviews coming, they make my day!
So sorry for the long update, you guys. I've been swamped by college stuff, but I can now say that starting Monday, I'M DONE FOR 3 WEEKS. Then I go to be a counselor at summer camp, which will kind of hamper my ability to update regularly.
Some cool stuff happens this chapter, and I hope that you guys like it as much as I do!
*note: And yes, I totally stole a certain line/scene from The Dark Knight movie. Sue me.
Enjoy, and if you have any questions/want more...
Chapter 10: Payback
Easter soon came, and Bunnymund was beside himself with excitement, hopping around in a very un-Bunnymund sort of way, his green eyes alight with pride. He touched the eggs, murmuring to them as if they were beloved children. In a way, Sophie supposed that they were.
It was a while before dawn, the sky still dim and alight with stars. Bunnymund had woken Sophie half an hour ago, and the two of them began herding the masses of eggs toward the tunnels that were marked with each of Earth's continents. Bunnymund had a small bag over his shoulder that held Jack's Guardian shoes, and Sophie patted it fondly, a smirk on her face. Bunnymund, after shepherding a few straying eggs, grinned.
"I can't wait to see Frost's smug little face when you get him with this one," he exclaimed, his ears twitching and his paws clenching in anticipation.
Sophie nodded, and gestured to the eggs around her. "Alright. So how does this work, exactly? Do you hide them all by hand?"
Bunnymund chuckled. "Not exactly. You remember a few weeks ago, when we traveled all over the world with my paint?"
Sophie remembered; it had been a particularly busy couple of days. Bunnymund gave Sophie a small pot of bright green paint and a paintbrush, and sent her down what seemed like an endless number of tunnels, all of which led to different places in the world. She had gone to at least a few thousand places, but the only ones she could remember by name were Derby, England; Malibu, California, St. Louis, Illinois; Buena Vista, Colorado; Adari, India and Munich, Germany.
Once she reached the surface, she would determine which places would be good to hide eggs for children, and once she did, she would paint a small circle on the ground. Each place she went required different numbers of circles, seeing as each city had different amounts of children. Sophie had asked him over and over what the paint circles were for, but Bunnymund refused to tell her, wanting it to be a surprise.
"Well, Ankle-biter, all of those circles you painted were painted with my special paint. It's made of my magic, which was also used to make all of my googies."
"Googies," Sophie repeated, her tone bordering on exasperation because c'mon, googies? Was that even a word? Even if it was, it sounded disgustingly sugary coming from Bunnymund.
"All we have to do is help the eggs into their right continent tunnels, and they'll split off to find the places we marked. Once they reach the spots, their legs disappear, and they become regular hard-boiled eggs."
"They die?" Sophie asked, shocked.
"Ya can't kill things that're never alive. They're only able to move around because of my magic, and once they reach the marked spots the magic wears off for good."
"So why do you even need to go up to the surface, if the magic does it for you? What's there to manage?"
"It's not what I have to deal with, it's who. Can ya guess?"
Sophie grinned. "Jack Frost."
"Bingo. That little bugger always tries to mess up my egg hunts by throwin' in a bit of snow. That's why I have to be there; I make sure everything goes according to plan. Some Easters I never catch him, but I'm always stuck cleaning up his messes. This year might be the first time that I'm actually hoping we run into him…I must be out of my bloody mind."
"Speaking of Jack…I'm….I'm not one-hundred percent sure I can do my part. I mean, I've only been able to do it for a week or so," Sophie admitted, fiddling with her hands.
It had been an accident, discovering her ability to channel her temperature adaptation. She had been talking to Bunnymund about the glaciers in the North Pole, and her hand had been on his head – she liked to brush through his fur with her fingers, and luckily for her he seemed to enjoy it as well. She had been so focused on describing how cold and beautiful they were that she didn't notice Bunnymund start to shiver. It wasn't until Bunnymund violently jerked away that Sophie noticed the flux of magic swirling under the skin of her hands. It was tangible to her senses for the very first time. She had been thinking about how cold the ice and snow was, and in her mind she had desperately wanted Bunnymund to experience what she had experienced, so…she changed his body temperature.
It seemed logical and simple, looking back on it, but in the moment Sophie had freaked out. Her mind had immediately jumped to an image of accidentally setting Bunnymund on fire when she was upset, or accidentally sucking all of the warmth out of plants.
Fortunately, Sophie's newfound ability was nothing like that. When Bunnymund finally calmed her down and convinced her to experiment, she discovered the finer details of her power. She needed direct contact in order to transfer temperature, as well as a great deal of focus. Cold was easier to transfer than heat, and the easiest temperature to transfer was that lukewarm temperature Sophie felt on a daily basis. Extreme heat or cold – enough to do any real harm– were still out of her reach, but with practice Sophie was sure she could get to that stage.
Bunnymund surprised Sophie by placing a hand on her head, effectively bringing her back to the present. She looked up at him, and his piercing green eyes were stern, but still managed to express kindness.
"None of that, Ankle-biter. The thing about magic is that in order for it to work, ya have to believe in it. That's the hardest part, to be honest. So don't think of it as controlling magic, think of it as controlling your own thought. If you believe in y'self, the magic will be there."
"Thanks, Bunnymund," Sophie said, reaching forward to hug the pooka. His warmth radiated into her very bones, and Sophie felt the slight tug of her magic as her body responded. Soon, there was no difference in their temperatures, and Sophie was exuding that same degree of heat.
After a few seconds, they both pulled away, and silently continued their task of herding the little eggs toward their tunnels. Sophie giggled at the way the eggs trotted along, and wished that she could keep one as a pet. But then again, while the magic would last as long as Bunnymund allowed it, the egg itself would not. Rotten egg was not a smell Sophie wanted to deal with.
Finally, a few hours later, all of the eggs were in the tunnels, and Bunnymund motioned for Sophie to follow him.
"Where are we going?" Sophie asked, taking Bunnymund's hand and allowing him to tug her along behind him as he took off down one of the tunnels – the action was too fast for Sophie to get a glimpse of which continent tunnel they entered.
"Dublin, Ireland. It hardly ever snows there, and so of course Frost will try his hardest to make sure that there's snow. It's where he's focused on for the past ten years or so, so I'm assumin' he'll strike there first."
Sophie laughed. "Hey Bunnymund, do you know what happens when you assu–"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah an ass outa you and me. I've heard humans crack that one for the past fifty years…I dunno why they find it so bloody funny, but they do," Bunnymund grumbled as they made their way through the mossy tunnel, and Sophie rolled her eyes.
"It's not supposed to be actually funny, it's more of a pity laugh sort of thing," Sophie explained. Bunnymund let out a forced chuckle, turning to give her a cheeky smirk. Sophie scowled, and chose to bend her knees and keep her balance rather than retort. Bunnymund was still pulling her, and since Sophie couldn't hope to keep up with him by running, she chose to slide along behind him. It made her feel like Tarzan, and she grimaced at the image of herself clad only in a loincloth.
Bunnymund stopped a short time later, and boosted Sophie up onto solid ground. The morning light was unexpectedly intense after the compared darkness of the tunnel, and so it took Sophie a few seconds to adjust. She was in a small thicket, in which she could hear people milling around and children laughing. She crouched down, peering through the bush and watching as little children brandished their egg-collecting baskets. Their little voices filled the air, thicky accented, and Sophie couldn't help but smile at the sight of such happy children.
But while the children made her smile and put a warm feeling inside of her chest, her focus was much more centered on the small group of young teenagers, all huddled up together away from the children. It was an unconscious thing, her inability to turn away from this particular group, and Sophie was about to step out into the clearing to better examine them when a familiar voice sounded above her head.
"Now, Bunny, you know I'm just trying to lighten things up a bit! We both want the same thing; for the kids to have a good time…"
"You!" Bunnymund growled, and Sophie tilted her head up to see Jack Frost lounging in one of the trees, so out of place in the sea of green that was the forest. His blue eyes were bright and playful, and when Sophie looked at him he grinned widely.
"Good morning, ma'am, what a pleasure to see you again," Jack greeted pompously, hopping up and tipping an imaginary hat. Bunnymund scowled at Jack's antics, but Sophie merely smiled, because she was already imagining Jack wearing those awful fur-lined shoes.
"I never did get to thank you for tossing me off that bridge," Sophie commented casually, her hands going to her hips. Jack laughed, and shrugged.
"What can I say, I'm full of good ideas!" he called, and jumped down, hovering a few feet above the ground, subtly putting Sophie between himself and Bunnymund. A bad move on his part, but of course Sophie couldn't say that out loud. She had to take him by surprise if this was going to work.
"Are you ready?" Sophie asked Bunnymund, turning to look at the pooka. He nodded, and turned as if to move away. Sophie waited until Jack's gaze focused on Bunnymund, and then she struck, jumping towards him and colliding with his upper body. Jack's breath left him a loud oof when he hit the ground, Sophie straddling his waist. She placed her hands on his face and closed her eyes, focusing on one single thing.
Cold. Numbing cold, so cold that it made ice seem like a warm fire. Cold so deep that one could barely move. Jack gasped, and Sophie felt the weak struggles of his body against her, but his reaction only bolstered her resolve. She could do this, she was strong enough.
Bunnymund was behind her, and she heard the sound of the leather bag opening, and the jingle of the Guardian shoes.
"Now," Bunnymund declared, shoving the shoes onto Jack's feet. "we're even for the Blizzard of '68, ya bloody show pony."
Sophie waited a few seconds more, and then released Jack, rolling off of him and grinning so widely that her cheeks hurt.
"Wha…?" Jack groaned, shaking his head and sitting up. Bunnymund was cackling – cackling – behind Sophie, his shoulders shaking. Jack's eyes found his feet, and his expression shifted to one of complete and utter horror.
Letting out a horrified cry, he pulled and tugged at them, only to find that they were glued very firmly onto his feet. The little bells chimed gaily when he moved, and it was that sound that finally did it.
Sophie broke down and laughed until she cried, and Bunnymund had to bite his paw to keep from joining her – while Jack and Sophie were invisible to the children, Bunnymund was not. Even so, little snorts escaped his nose, and the sound made Sophie laugh even harder. Jack was furious, using his staff to try and yank his shoes off, attempting to freeze them and learning that they were impervious to cold – Sophie would have to thank North for that the next time she saw him.
"You planned this!" Jack seethed, and Sophie wiped her eyes, smirking.
"Duh. You tossed me over the side of a bridge, what did you expect me to do? Give you a medal?"
"Gah!" Jack fell back onto the grass, panting from his efforts to remove the shoes. He sat up, glaring fiercely at Bunnymund and Sophie. "Enjoy it now, Bunnymund, because if you thought the Blizzard of '68 was bad, wait until I–"
Sophie cleared her throat. "Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I'm the only one who can get those shoes off of you – you can thank North for that little side affect. So unless you want those things on for the next century, you won't be creating any blizzards that could ruin Easter. You won't bother Bunnymund at all, in fact."
Bunnymund looked like a child on Christmas Day, his face hopeful and triumphant. Jack was flabbergasted for a good minute, and then his face stretched into a positively gleeful smile. It reeked of mischief, but then again, mischief was Jack's middle name, so Sophie didn't think too much of it.
"Alright, deal. I won't mess with Easter or Bunnymund. Happy?"
"Very," Sophie said smugly, and made to turn away from Jack, but then he spoke.
"You forgot one little thing though. I can't mess with Easter or Bunny, but I can mess with you!"
Jack's arm was around Sophie in an instant, and before Sophie could do so much as shriek, the winter spirit took to the sky.
"Frost!" Bunnymund yelled angrily, but the pooka was soon a small dot in a large mass of green. Sophie's head spun, and she buried her head into Jack's shoulder and locked her arms around his neck, struggling to contain the feelings of nausea. Jack's arm was a solid weight around her waist, and she melded herself to him.
"Put me down, Jack Frost, or so help me I will never take those shoes off!" she bellowed into his ear, keeping her eyes firmly closed.
Jack laughed, and Sophie could feel the sound vibrating throughout his chest.
"But I'm having way too much fun!" he laughed, the wind catching his voice and sweeping it away before it got too loud.
"Please, Jack, please, please put me down," Sophie pleaded, tightening her hold around Jack's neck and praying for him to stop. The speed at which they were flying was making her stomach churn.
"Are you going to take these shoes off of me?" Jack asked, pausing in his flight. Sophie opened her eyes to glare at him, pointedly not looking down.
"Not until you let me go!"
Jack leaned closer, so close that Sophie could feel the icy nip of his breath against her face, so close that she could count the faint freckles on his nose. His lips parted to reveal perfectly white, pearly teeth, glittering in the sunlight.
"Ooh, poor choice of words," he murmured, and Sophie realized what he was going to do a second before he did it. She only had a moment to panic and to regret ever trying to get even with Jack Frost, the trickster of all tricksters.
And then Jack let her go.
There were no words to describe the absolute fear that filled Sophie as she fell towards the earth, an earth that she couldn't even see because of all the clouds. Her eyes were wide, her hair streamed behind her, and her arms were spread as wide as they could go. She wasn't screaming; the time for that was past.
She was afraid. So very afraid. It was a dark sort of fear, clinging to her chest and stripping everything else away–
"The thing about magic is that in order for it to work, ya have to believe in it."
Suddenly, as suddenly as Jack had dropped her, a strange feeling of weightlessness surrounded her entire body. In an instant, the fear was gone, and Sophie's mind recalled that feeling of restlessness back in the Warren, that desire to fly and touch the clouds.
"If you believe in y'self, the magic will be there."
Sophie closed her eyes. She could feel the magic inside of her, swirling around and waiting to be tapped into. It wasn't human; it was completely foreign and alive. Sophie wanted to recoil from it, but was that what she really wanted, or was that the human Sophie Bennett talking?
Sophie wasn't human. She had stopped being a human on New Years Day, when she awoke in one of Bunnymund's tunnels. Sophie wasn't human, so why should she be limited like one? She wanted to fly, so…what was stopping her?
The wind stopped moving, and Sophie felt the magic supporting her entire body, keeping her aloft. She slowly opened her eyes, and smiled at the white mist that was the clouds. She reached out, and let her fingers sink through the clouds, feeling the cold moisture and reveling in it.
"Well that was unexpected," Jack declared. Sophie glanced over to where he was hovering, his eyes locked on her. He seemed to come to himself a moment later, and grinned.
"You really should be thanking me, you know. Two times I've dragged you away from the furry grump-monster down there, and both times you discovered a new part of your magic. Admit it, I'm one heck of an influence."
Sophie laughed, and tensed up as she faltered; it was harder to maintain the balance of magic holding her up than she thought it would be. She wobbled slightly, and would have fallen if not for Jack grabbing her hands. He wasn't cold at all, that pleasant neutral temperature Sophie was beginning to associate with Jack Frost.
"It takes a bit of getting used to, the whole balancing thing. After a while, it'll be easier than breathing."
"Somehow I doubt that," Sophie muttered under her breath, and Jack rolled his eyes.
"Sure, that seems smart, doubt the three-hundred and thirty year old guy whose been flying for all three-hundred and thirty of those years. How about I just let you figure it out, and you let me know how that works for you?" Jack suggested. Sophie noticed that even though he said that, his grip remained firm and steady.
Sophie hummed in thought. "That is an option. But another option is that you teach me how to fly properly, and I'll cut down your time in those shoes to a month."
"A month?! I threw you over one teeny, tiny bridge!"
"You knew I was afraid of heights!"
"I was trying to help you get over your fear, where's the harm in that?"
"You were laughing the entire time!"
"…You get three days, tops."
"Didn't you hear me? I said three days."
"A week and a half. That's my final offer."
"Ugh, fine. A week and a half it is."