They were at Jack's lake and, surprisingly enough, it was by Jack's request that they were there. Tooth wasn't so sure what to think when he suggested that he learn to swim in the same pond that he died in, but hey, whatever floated the guy's boat.
It was early-May by the time they finally got the chance to get together. Burgess was still reluctantly turning from winter to spring (Tooth suspected that Jack's constant stays had something to do with that), but the pond was ice-free, albeit a bit chilly. A perfect place for a winter spirit to learn how to swim in.
The five of them stood on the shore line. Jack, barefoot as usual, shifted uneasily from foot to foot. Tooth had the urge to place a comforting hand on his shoulder, but she resisted it. Jack went through phases where he seemed to appreciate any type of physical contact and ones where even the slightest accidental brush of the hand could make him jump out of his skin. Today he seemed more inclined to be flighty, and the last thing Tooth wanted to do was to startle him.
They hadn't been by the lake long, only about five minutes, but the weak, spring sun was warming Tooth's feathers leaving her feeling so cozy that she was beginning to wonder if she'd even be able to force herself into a cold lake. Bunnymund must have felt the same way, because he was the first to step forward into the lake, going only until the water came up to his fury knees. Tooth pretended, for her own sake, not to notice when he flinched from the cold.
He faced them, trying to disguise a violent shiver as a beckoning wave. "Well? What are we waiting for? C'mon!"
North, being the second most habituated to the cold of the group, kicked off his boots with a laugh and waded in up to his waist. Sandy, being there only for emotional support, flashed Jack a thumbs up. Jack gave him a bleak smile and stuck his feet in. Despite Jack giving the Guardians an "A-Okay" on North's plan, he couldn't have appeared any less thrilled to be there than he already did.
He tromped out until the water-line hit his knees. Tooth noticed the near death-grip he had on his staff as he sat down in the water. Tooth waded out next to him and sat down much more rapidly than he had (Do it quick like a bandaid, Tooth!) sucking in her breath quickly and biting her cheek to hold back a word she normally deemed impolite.
"Is this so bad?" she asked him cheerfully. He waved his hand slowly under the water, his fingers catching small currents. A leaf lazily floated by.
"This, not so much." he murmured, snagging the leaf between his fingers. He began to absentmindedly pick it apart. "It's going under that I don't like."
"There are ways to swim without submerging your head." Tooth gently reminded him. "Let's start with those, hmm?" Bringing her legs up from underneath her, she moved gracefully into deeper water. Jack stubbornly remained where he was; he however kept his eyes on her and watched intently.
"Why don't we start with just floating instead?" North suggested, noticing Jack's reluctance.
"Yeah," Bunny chimed in. "Floating should be easy for a little ice cube like you." Jack snorted, but made no move to join them. Tooth flipped over onto her back.
"It's just like laying down. You could even try right where you are!"
Jack looked doubtfully at them and the water. "There's no way this is going to hold me up." He poked at it with his staff as if to prove his point.
"Oh yeah, and wind can hold you no problems, can't it?" Bunnymund commented somewhat snidely.
North sloshed over to Jack's side.
"Here," he offered, tentatively placing a hand on the younger's back. "I will hold you."
Breaking the glare he'd directed at Bunnymund, Jack gave North a shrug and reclined a little into the water, his feet still resting on the ground.
"That's it, good, good," North said, squeezing Jack's back reassuringly. "When you feel ready, take your feet off the ground, relax, and let the water support you."
Jack struggled to relax. He felt tense all over and couldn't seem to get his heart and breathing rates under control. He gripped his staff so tightly he was sure it might shatter. But never one to take his time, Jack clenched his eyes shut and pulled his feet off the ground in one sudden movement.
He went under.
Air, air, air, airairair, cantbreathe!
Not even a second after his head was completely covered, Jack exploded out of the lake and into the air with a huge gust of wind that caused the lake's tiny ripples to become ocean-worthy waves. North, having been the closest, found himself thrown violently to the shore, momentarily stunned.
High above them in a tree, Jack sat, perched on a branch, shaking much like the leaves attached to it. More furious with himself than anyone else, he attempted to force down unwanted memories of drowning and tried to still his trembling hands.
"This wasn't a good idea." he spat, hoping that angry words would hide any quaver his voice might have. "I am never, ever doing that again."
"Jack..." North began, but trailed off not knowing how to continue.
"I thought...I thought you were supposed to catch me!" Jack spluttered pointing an accusatory finger in North's direction. "Is this some kind of a joke to you guys? Are you trying to get me back for all of the pranks I've pulled?" Sandy, Tooth, North, and Bunnymund all simultaneously opened their mouths to explain, but Jack wasn't having any of it.
"Well, ha ha, guys, you got me good." He scrubbed furiously at his cheek. "Go on home, then. Great job, everyone. Guess you'll be the hit at parties now!"
"Jack!" Tooth interjected pleadingly. "You know we want nothing but to help you!"
Deep down, Jack knew she was telling the truth, but he was too hurt, too scared, too mad at himself for messing up such a simple task that he wanted only to be left alone. He stepped off the branch and hovered in midair for a split second saying, "See you guys around." before he flew off, swallowed by the sky. Bunnymund irritably smacked the water with an oversized paw.
"Last time I try and help the little sucker again."
Jack spent the rest of the afternoon engrossing himself in his work. Autumn was really beginning to fall in the southern hemisphere, and there were quite a few places that needed a good frosting. He didn't think about swimming or drowning, and he most certainly did not think about the apologizing he would have to do later.
He hadn't wanted to say those things, he'd only wanted to be alone like he had been for so long before. Jack still wasn't sure how he was supposed to talk with people at times - three hundred years was a long time without proper conversation - and carrying on talks when he felt so weak was downright impossible for him.
But a day eventually passed in all of the timezones he had been covering, and Jack couldn't keep memories from the previous day out of his head anymore.
Fuming, he kicked a chunk of ice as hard as he could off of some Argentinian glacier. He could fly, control winter, and harass the Easter Bunny, but he couldn't even get in another form of his element without a full blown panic attack. Another piece of glacier sailed off into the night.
He couldn't keep this up forever. He was Jack Frost. He defeated fear. He couldn't let some stupid melted snow control him. Suddenly struck with an idea, he threw himself off the glacier and let the winds pick him up and take him home.
The lake was deserted. Landing roughly on its' sandy banks, Jack tossed his staff aside with an irate huff and clawed at his sweatshirt until he slammed it to the ground too. Without giving himself a chance to think, he stormed into the dark water with the full intention of making himself dive in before he realized what he was doing. He only made it to his waist.
Breathing heavily, Jack looked straight down into the water. He could see his feet, bare and pale, at the lake's bottom, their forms distorted by the waters' currents. He could see small rocks and even smaller pieces of seaweed (pondweed?) clinging to them. But if he looked closer and farther away all at once, he could see the stars shining, reflected in the water. Brightest of all, he could see the moon.
He spun around, lifting his gaze to the being that had resurrected him all those years ago. Keeping his eyes trained on it, Jack gradually let his back sink into the water, bit by bit, until only his head was left above the surface.
He felt panicked and scared, but the moon was there. The moon had saved him from this lake once before, why shouldn't it be able to do it again? Jack made himself relax. He trusted the moon.
Jack slowly picked his feet up. His left one. Pause. His right one. He floated.
He stayed like that for hours, just lying on his back and looking at the moon. Tiny gusts of wind pushed him back and forth. He traversed the lake again and again, until finally the wind died down and he was left right in the center. He felt at peace.
Jack let his eyes fall shut and he allowed himself to fall beneath the surface. The sounds of the forest became muffled, and then non-existent, until the only thing Jack heard was the sound of tiny bubbles escaping him as he gradually exhaled.
The water was dark and it was cold, but he no longer felt threatened by it. He opened his eyes. There the moon was, just as it had been on the day he had been reborn, glowing omnipresently in the sky. The water wasn't dark anymore but it was still cold, but that was okay, because who was more used to the cold than Jack Frost?
Jack's feet hit the bottom, and he stayed there for a moment, admiring the dancing ripples of the water's surface. He watched them move until his lungs began to burn in a familiar sort of way, but this time he didn't panic. He was in control. Kicking off gently from the floor, Jack resurfaced and floated his way to the shore.
Jack shrugged his hoodie over his head and kicked his staff into his hands before leaping upwards into the night. The pond sparkled serenely beneath him, and everything felt so right that Jack had to take a moment to remind himself that he still had some apologizing to do. Dipping down, Jack reached his hand forward to touch the sparkling water one last time before asking the wind to take him Northward.
Thank you so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, favorited, or followed this story. Your support means more to me than you could ever know. Honestly, this is the first fanfiction I've ever finished (ever!) and it's thanks to you that I did. I have plans on making a JackxJamie one next, so maybe I'll see you around! Be safe, and have a great holiday season!