Here it is. The final chapter. It's a bit short, but I didn't want to end things too fast with the previous chapter. I have ironed out a few wrinkles in the last two chapters. Again, thanks for the encouraging feedback. I'm so glad to have entertained everyone who reviewed, favorited, and added to their alerts!
Noelle peeked into every window she could find as she flew through the streets of Burgess, her breath and touch frosting over the glass and obstructing her view of the people inside. So far she had seen adults raptly watching their televisions and getting up to cheer, kiss, and embrace sleepy children. Her mother had explained that it was New Year's Eve, the day when the year began again. Noelle thought it similar to Christmas until she saw that there were no presents under some of the trees that were still up and decorated. To her surprise and pleasure the snow fairy could see that the smaller children were still holding on to Bunny's painted stones.
"Don't get too far, Noelle," Toothiana called from hers and Jack's perch on one of the roofs. Noelle could see that her parents' thoughts were elsewhere, but they would not keep their eyes off of her for too long. It was a good thing Noelle didn't really fancy straying too far again. She didn't fully realize what she'd done to Pitch Black, but she knew it was safer to stay beside the Guardians and with the fairy flock.
On the roof, the two Guardians had been discussing Jack's most recent encounter with the Boogeyman, Baby Tooth floating by Toothiana's head with a concerned frown. She glanced at her sister, still amazed that she had dared approach Pitch after everything he'd done to her.
Toothiana sighed and shook her head, disbelief crossing her features. "…Pitch has been our enemy for so long, Jack. He was always cunning, and knows just what buttons to push. Memories are a powerful thing, but…trusting him just goes against the grain."
Jack stared up at the moon, deep in thought. He somewhat agreed with Toothiana. It would be hard to trust Pitch, if he really did change. He had talked about the possibility with North and Toothiana after the encounter, knowing the old man would be more open-minded about the new development. Indeed North was intrigued by the idea of Pitch being a changed man. Having a child changed everything, as Jack knew. Who knew what remembering one had done to the Fear-Spirit?
"Well, nothing's going to change right away," he said. "I didn't exactly tell him we were taking it easy on him just because he says he's changed." His fury over Noelle's abduction was still too raw for him to ever fully forgive Pitch.
But tonight wasn't the night to linger over their fears. Snowflakes began to fall slowly, ensuring a fresh blanket the following morning. He squeezed Toothiana's hand, watching Noelle fly back towards them. The Fairy held out a hand for her, bringing her close to her cheek for a quick hug. "Happy New Year, sweetie."
Baby Tooth swiftly flew over to wrap her arms around her sister, chirping happily and spinning in a circle. Noelle hugged her back, snow flying from her rapidly beating wings.
Toothiana leaned over to give Jack's cheek a quick peck, but he quickly turned around and pressed his lips to hers. The Fairy giggled in surprised pleasure, and kissed him back, her wings buzzing as heat rose to her face.
Jack broke away, smiling triumphantly. Toothiana couldn't bring herself to be the tiniest bit annoyed. His brilliant eyes kept drawing her in and taking her breath away. Jack gazed at her too, wanting nothing more than to fly beside her forever, and be able to hear her melodic voice as she spoke, sung, or laughed.
He watched as her eyes suddenly lit up and she sat up straighter. She tore her gaze away from his and exclaimed, "Lateral incisor! A few miles away from here!"
Sensing her excitement, Jack chuckled mischievously and flew off the roof, staring back at her over his shoulder. "Race you ladies to it!"
Toothiana smirked, taking him up on the challenge. "You don't want to race a rabbit or a fairy, Jack!" She zoomed past him, Noelle and Baby Tooth noisily speeding after her.
Jack quickly flew after them, easily catching up to the smaller fairies and getting neck-and-neck to Toothiana. "Think you're slick?!"
"The slickest, Jack Frost!"
Their laughter echoed in the snowy night, punctuated by faint jingling bells and chirps.
"Let's see that egg, Noelle!"
The fairy carefully added one final detail to the egg she was painting before proudly backing away to let Bunnymund see it. The rabbit nodded as he picked up the egg, painted light pink and dotted with small stars. "Hmm…Mmm-hmm…"
Noelle crossed her small arms, jingling impatiently as Bunnymund continued to make appraising noises. He certainly loved drawing out the drama, especially when it came to others doing his job.
At long last Bunnymund smiled approvingly and said, "Well done, nipper! You're already better at this than your old man!"
Jack called over, "Very funny, Kangaroo!" He sat on one of the stone eggs, biting his lip as he painted not-so-neat snowflakes on his blue egg. He had an entire row of them sitting on the grass below, all of them somewhat messy.
Toothiana, sitting on the adjacent egg, laughed softly and said, "Well I think they're lovely! The kids are going to adore them!" Her egg-pile was filled with green eggs, dotted with silver diamonds.
"Not more than mine," North boomed from his perch on one of the grassy cliffs. He'd already constructed a pyramid of eggs painted entirely red, green, and white. "If it weren't for Bunny's ridiculous obsession with mobility, I'd tie bows around these beauties!"
"Hey, hey! How do you expect these eggs to get up there if they're tied up," Bunnymund asked.
"Oh where in Man in Moon's name is your creativity, Bunny!?"
Sandman rolled his eyes, smiling as he gently placed an exquisitely painted golden egg with the completed ones.
Soon enough the eggs sprouted legs and sprinted to join the rest of the painted treasures, and milled towards the tunnels that led to the different continents. Noelle spotted her five eggs among them, and hoped the kids would notice the effort she put in them.
She flew to her perch on Jack's head, watching the eggs walk into the tunnels. Her father clapped Bunnymund's shoulder and said, "No worries this year?"
The Guardian of Hope chuckled softly and replied, "Not really." He tapped his foot on the grass beneath them twice, a new tunnel appearing. "Ready to head up there?"
North peered down at the tunnel uncertainly. "I have no idea how you can jump into these things, Bunny! Not as exciting as sleigh or snowglobe!"
"My holiday. My rules. Now let's go!" Bunnymund leapt into the hole, disappearing into the darkness that would eventually lead to the surface.
Noelle jingled excitedly and followed after him, eager to experience her first Easter with Bunnymund, the children, and the other Guardians. Let's see how fast they find those eggs!
Still on the edge, Jack and Tooth took each other's hands and smiled in anticipation. Jack stepped into thin air and let himself fall, pulling Toothiana down with him. They laughed as they felt the rush of cold air meet them, knowing Noelle was ahead of them.
A year as a Guardian, Jack thought. I hope they're all as fun as this one was. He smiled, feeling Toothiana's hand in his and looking at Noelle's blue plumage, knowing life would never fail to surprise him or fill him with joy.
The Snow Fairy. I may continue Jack and Tooth's story, along with Noelle's, with a few one-shots in the future. Pitch's future could go in any direction at this point, so I might follow that thread and see where it leads.
I want to thank my best friend PickeBicke for making me laugh and giving me so many ideas. Please check her out! SHE'S GREAT!
Thanks for putting up with me and giving this crazy idea a fighting chance. Peace, everybody! AND DON'T STOP BELIEVING.