A/N: Hey, lovely readers. Thank you so much for all the reviews and the faves and follows! I hope everyone's Christmas break/season is going well. Sorry about having this out so much later than planned. A friend of mine miscarried her daughter last Friday. She was about 8 months along. The funeral was a few days ago. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of having to give birth to your baby, knowing she was dead, feeling like your own body had betrayed her, and knowing there was nothing you could do to save her. I wrote a note for the little girl and put it near her casket. I hope God reads it to her from heaven. With that, and the suffering at Sandy Hook Elementary, and getting ready for Christmas, and graduate applications, I wasn't in a mood to write for the past week or so.
It was a beautiful clear day at the North Pole. The weather was a comfortable twenty below and the sky was a shocking pale blue. There wasn't a cloud in the sky to shadow the glory of North's mountain top fortress.
Jack gripped his staff in his hands as he stood on a south facing balcony and glared out over the edge. It was the same place he'd been for the last hour. Several feet above him Tooth hovered, out away from the railing, encouraging Jack to join her.
"You can do it, Jack! Come on!"
Jack glanced nervously back to where Bunnymund stood watching behind large glass doors. He'd tried to stand out with the kid but eventually the pooka lost feeling in his feet and had to go in. In the last week or so Christmas had come and gone and Jack had been coaxed to the pool nearly every day. He seemed more comfortable with water and was even spied playing cautiously when he thought no one was watching. Apparently Baby Tooth's trick had been the catalyst he needed.
And now it was time to fly.
Jack was not responding well.
He took a deep breath and with a body visibly trembling he lifted himself into the air. He rose slowly but steadily, and the watching hearts of his friends rose with him, until the first breeze ruffled his hair and he dropped solidly to the deck. Stumbling Jack righted himself and looked warily toward the sky. This was the fifth time he'd done the same thing.
"I…I can't do it." He'd been saying that a lot today, a lot lately. I can't, those are dangerous words.
Tooth sighed and tried to push down the frustration that was rising up in her.
"Sure you can," she said kindly, "You just have to get past that first little bit of wind."
If it was possible, Jack paled further.
"M-maybe we can do it w-without the wind."
Tooth raised an eyebrow. "Jack. It's the sky." She raised her arms and spun in a slow circle. "There's wind everywhere."
Jack nodded soberly, "Right. You know, I don't really need to fly. I can still be Jack Frost and just…just run everywhere."
"Jack!" Tooth shouted in exasperation. This back and forth was beginning to wear on her nerves.
Tooth took a deep and looked down at Jack.
"You can do it. I've seen you fly and flip like it was the most natural thing the world. You're like a leaf or snowflake. When we were gathering teeth you were amazing! Come on, just give it a try.
Looking hopeful Jack began to lift from the ground.
"And I'm sure the North Wind misses you."
Jack lowered himself back down.
"What?" Tooth wasn't quite sure where she went wrong.
"I can't do it. It's too dangerous."
Tooth threw her hands in the air, her wings beat furiously. "Jack! Since when do you care about danger?"
Jack's eyes narrowed.
Tooth screamed. She opened her mouth wide, clenched her fists, and screamed.
"Jack! If you do not get out here this minute, I swear-!"
Her words were cut off by North lumbering out onto the balcony.
"What is the problem we are having?" Asked the big Russian. "Jack flying like reindeer?"
"No," replied Jack, his head hanging.
"Just like getting back on sleigh," said North.
Jack looked back at him sadly. "Not like the sleigh, or even a bike. I can't do it. I just…can't."
Nodding, North walked up to stand behind Jack.
"Jack," he said, resting a big hand on the boy's shoulder, "Guardians must be having courage. Be good boy and fly."
And then he pushed Jack's light frame hard enough that he stumbled into and over the railing.
Bunnymund rushed out to stand beside North and Tooth as they watched a screaming Jack tumble down the snow padded slope toward the crest of the cliff face. Tooth was about to rush after him when North held up his hand.
"Still has staff," he murmured, "will be fine."
"What if he crashes!" Tooth cried.
North shrugged as he watched Jack continue to roll ever closer to the edge. "Then patch up and try again."
Bunny groaned at that but didn't disagree.
All three of them watched as Jack finally began the fall, thousands of feet down, toward the base of the mountain.
Like being on a too-long roller coaster Jack screamed at first but stopped when he adjusted to the sensation. He was still falling. The air rushed past him, roaring in his ears and for a terrible moment he thought he was going to die again, that his body would be dashed on the rocks far far below. And then that will to live, that preservative quality central to all living creatures, kicked in.
"Fly, fly, fly," Jack spoke frantically, rounding his arms and shaking his staff.
"You can do it!" He might have heard Tooth yell, but he couldn't be quite sure.
Air continued to rush past him, gravity pulling him faster and faster. "Do something. Do something," he told himself, eyes squeezed shut.
Call to me, whispered the North Wind. Jack clenched his eyes tighter and pretended he hadn't heard.
Several moments later, his staff still clenched in his hand, Jack took a deep terrified breath and spoke.
"Wind, catch me."
The Wind did, and Jack resumed his screaming, thrashing himself free of North Wind's hold before he began falling again.
"I take it back!" Jack screamed, "Catch me! Catch me!" The Wind did, and Jack resumed his screaming.
From the balcony his friends watched. Jack had nearly disappeared into the depths before he was swept up by North Wind, and then dropped, and then swept up again, and then dropped. From a distance the Guardians gauged that Jack was having difficulty deciding whether or not he actually wanted North Wind to keep him from a very unpleasant meeting with the ground.
And, as they continued to watch Bunny glanced up at North.
"Mate, he's going to hate you for this."
North shrugged. "It worked. Jack will forgive."
Bunny raised an eyebrow. When you had eternity you could forgive anyone, didn't mean it would come quickly.
In the distance the North Wind whispered to Jack as he rushed him past sloped and valleys. Missed you, friend.
Jack felt tears sting his eyes. "Yeah." He answered.
My brother harmed you.
"Yeah." Jack choked. Beginning to tremble again he pried himself from North Wind's care and fell into a deep snow bank.
When he resurfaced the air was calm but Sandy was reclining in a golden sand sled several feet away. Jack trudged his way over, finally pulling himself to the surface of the snow.
"Hey, Sandy, what are you doing here?"
Sandy shrugged. He made an exaggerated stretch and tucked his hands behind his head. Over his eyes appeared sand shaded.
"You're relaxing?" Jack looked around at the barren waste land, "Here?"
Sandy shrugged and then gestured to Jack.
"What am I doing here? Oh…nothing."
Sandy removed his shades and raised an eyebrow at Jack. In sand he showed Jack falling from the sky like a broken kite to land in the snow bank.
"You saw that, huh?" Jack said, abashed.
Sandy just nodded.
"Well, North just pushed me off...off a cliff!"
Sandy's eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline before he began to grin.
"It's not funny!" Jack pouted. He stomped the snow, and promptly found himself engulfed in the white stuff again. From below Sandy could hear Jack scream in frustration.
Feeling for the boy, Sandy sent a sand shovel to dig him out. Jack kicked and flailed angrily.
"I hate this!" he said when he was finally standing on the snow again.
Sandy nodded sagely.
"Why do I need to fly anyway?"
A sandy snowflake with Jack's face floated past.
"So what?" said Jack, glowering.
Frowning, Sandy showed him the Guardian's oath book, and children running through the snow, skating on a pond, drawing pictures in the frost on the window.
Jack sighed and deflated.
"I know," he said. "I know. But every time I get up there I remember and I'm just so scared. I can't breathe, or think. I just remember…everything." He didn't elaborate on what everything was. The others knew both what had happened to him recently and long ago.
Sandy showed a sand-Jack, muscles bulging with a cocky smile on his face.
Jack chuckled. "Thanks."
Sandy showed Jack watching on as Pitch was suck into the earth by his own fearlings. He showed Jack fighting fiercely with his staff. He showed Jack floating carefree through the air. He showed Jack, hugging a cute caricature of the wind.
Jack felt his heart lift a little within him. "Really?" He asked.
Sandy nodded and pointed up. North wind swept down to brush lightly at Jack's moppy head of hair.
I will not harm you. And North Wind wrapped Jack in a gentle wispy embrace.
Jack couldn't respond. He felt the words strongly but faith, once lost, is difficult to restore.
Instead, Jack swallowed the knot in his throat and took several deep fortifying breaths.
He looked at Sandy and the other Guardian met his eye with a silent challenge.
"Right," he said, "Wind, take me home."
Tooth had settled on the roof to wait when Jack finally came flying up, though perhaps if his path was far more patchy and awkward than it had been a few weeks ago no one noticed.
"Jack!" she cried happily.
The men below also shouted fondly at him.
Jack, for his part, grabbed the end of his staff and began to beat North over the head with it as soon as he came within striking distance.
North covered his head and attempted to dodge the blows.
"Oi!" he cried, "What's this! What problem?"
"You!" Jack shouted at him, hitting him with the staff to punctuate his words, "Threw me over a cliff! When I couldn't fly!"
He settled on the balcony and hit North several more times before two yetis stepped out the doors protectively. Bunny knew that North could have easily disarmed the wintry spirit, but he doubted Jack knew. A quick look of guilty crossed the young man's face before it was replaced again with anger.
"Don't ever do that again!" he finished, before withdrawing his staff.
Slowly, North lowered his arms. Jack's chest was heaving and he held his staff firmly in his hand. The wind ruffled his hair, and he hardly seemed to notice. It was quite a welcome sight compared to how he'd been most recently.
"Right!" Declared North after looking the boy over, "back to workshop!" and he turned and headed in with his yetis.
Jack stared after him, breath still fast, for several moments before turning to the others.
"What was that?" he asked.
Bunnymund shrugged. "Don't know, but good on you, mate! You flew like a pro."
"Yay!" Tooth chirped, and clapped happily. A few fairies fluttering around her cheered too.
Jack's smile was lopsided as he glanced back over the edge of the balcony. "Yeah. Some way to go, though."
Bunny clapped Jack on the back. "Now that's done," he said, "let's go back inside. I can't feel my paws."
Tooth laughed and fluttered over to hold the door for the other two.
A/N: Please review; it's a nice thing to do and it lets everyone know that this story is worth taking a look at. Thanks!
P.S. I have a couple of other short pieces coming down the pipes. Also, the next chapter is going to be very very angsty. And, if people still want to see the fanart, I'll post a link to my deviantart account at the end of the next chapter, so let me know if you're interested.