*blows dust off fic* Whoa. This thing has been sitting around for awhile. And I kinda left you on a depressing note, huh? Well, I've been on a RotG binge lately, so you'll hopefully be seeing more updates on this fic and possibly some FairyFrost oneshots. This particular chapter holds a combination of lighthearted fluff and some comfort. Enjoy!
When Tooth, who had initially been planning to visit North, discovered Jack, he was kneeling in the snow a few miles away from the North Pole, peering into a frost-encrusted hole, and making clicking sounds with his tongue. She tilted her head and her wings fluttered curiously. "Jack?" She called.
Jack tried to stand immediately, resulting in a dull thud as he hit the top of the tiny cavern. "Ow!" Groaning, the Guardian of Fun withdrew his aching head, rubbing it irritably. "Hey, Tooth."
Tooth winced at the bump on her friend's head. "Sorry if I startled you."
"No problem." Jack shrugged, flashing a white grin. "I have a hard skull."
"I'm sure Bunny would agree with you." The Tooth Fairy chuckled, quickly forcing away the blush that appeared on her face at the sight of that beautiful smile. "What were you doing in there?"
"Looking for blue foxes. Springtime is when the cubs grow up and leave their dens. I wanna start gathering some helpers."
Tooth blinked. "Blue foxes? I've never heard of those. What do you mean, 'helpers'?"
Jack was scanning the snow, probably for another potential den. "Blue foxes are small ice elementals, kinda like nymphs, except they're foxes. I figured that you have your fairies, North has his Yetis and elves, Bunny has his weird egg things, and Sandy has his sand creations. I'll probably need some helpers, too. And a base. Still working on that part, though..."
"Yeah. Mother Nature made a ton of nature spirits, including animal-like elementals. They're usually pretty nice, except for the fire elementals..." Jack suddenly shuddered, as if suppressing an incredibly unpleasant memory. "Fire elementals are nasty."
Deciding not to ask about his experiences with fire elementals, Tooth instead asked: "So, how would the foxes help you?"
Jack was scratching the ground with his staff, making fern-like patterns on the snow. "They're smart, they love to have fun, they can probably learn how to make blue snowballs, and they can teleport."
"They teleport?" Tooth raised her eyebrows.
"Yep." Jack stuck the end of his staff into another hole that he found a few feet away. "Makes them really hard to find... If I don't have any luck, I may start with polar bears, but they can be really mean if you catch them on a bad day."
At that moment, Jack's staff started twitching, as if something inside the hole was tugging at it. Flashing a brilliant grin, he triumphantly pulled out the staff to look at the small, fluffy form dangling from the base.
The fox was nearly fully-grown, but still had some remnants of its soft cub fur. One of its blue-black ears flopped over on its ice-blue head. Its white-tipped tail wagged uncontrollably as it tried to hold onto its wooden prey.
"Oh!" Tooth gasped, fluttering closer. "How cute!" She watched as Jack carefully pried the creature's jaws open and set it down in the snow. From the icy den, four heads, two larger, two smaller, peeked out.
"Hey, little girl." Jack cooed, ruffling the little fox's ears. The cub responded by eagerly licking the Winter Spirit's hand with a dark blue tongue, tickling his palm. "I got something for you." He unfolded his hand, the one not being licked by the fox, and blew a blue snowflake onto the creature's forehead.
The flake left an identical white snowflake marking on the vixen's brow. She froze for a moment, tilting her head to the side, before letting out a joyful yip and spinning in a circle.
Mesmerized, Tooth knelt in the snow next to Jack. "That's incredible." She reached toward the little fox, who immediately pounced on her hand and began to nip harmlessly at her wrist. "Oh, look at you!" She giggled, stroking the fox's fur. "Don't you have the whitest little teeth?"
The rest of the fox family was leaving the den at this point to approach the two Guardians. Jack blew a pair of snowflakes toward the vixen's two brothers. One received a peppering of spots on his back while the other received a tiny crescent moon on his chest. The spotted fox bounded over to Jack's leg and began to scratch at it, as if he was trying to dig into a wall of ice. The moon-marked fox ran after his sister and started yipping fiercely at Tooth.
Tooth thought she would die of cuteness! "You are so ferocious." She said indulgently to the barking fox cub.
Jack was looking intently at the two larger foxes. After a moment of silent communication, he grinned and stood up. "Their parents are okay with these guys helping me. Wanna test out their teleportation skills, Tooth?"
Tooth also stood, picking up the vixen and the moon fox and cradling them in her arms. "Where to?"
Jack picked up the spotted fox and placed him on his shoulder before grabbing Tooth's hand. "To the South Pole!" He closed his eyes, projecting an image into the spotted fox's mind. When he opened them, they were standing in another snowy field. This one was empty except for a dark, jagged statue of ice a few feet away. Jack immediately sobered as he looked at it.
Tooth looked around, instinctively pulling the two foxes in her arms closer when she saw the strange structure. It was beautiful, but felt wrong. The tendrils of darkness woven through the beautiful ice made her very uneasy, even though it was eerily pretty to look at. "What is that?"
Jack sighed heavily. "That's what's left of a standoff I had with Pitch."
"What?" Tooth's wings fluttered in surprise. "You never mentioned another fight with Pitch."
"Didn't need to at the time." Jack started to walk forward before realizing that he was still holding Tooth's hand. He let go, his cheeks turning slightly blue, and approached the statue. He clicked his tongue reassuringly at the growling fox on his shoulder before placing a hand on the ice. He winced as leftover pulses of Pitch's evil went through his heart. "It happened right before we went to save Jamie."
Tooth felt her heart sink. "You mean after we...sent you away?" She glanced shamefully at the ground. Though it had been Bunny who had driven Jack off, she and North had done nothing to stop it. She keenly remembered those few hours of doubt she had felt toward Jack, that moment when she had considered the possibility that he had traded Baby Tooth for his memories. She hated herself for even having those thoughts, even for such a short period of time. What had happened to Jack during that ugly stretch of doubt?
Jack nodded. "Yeah. I was feeling low, lower than I've ever felt. I almost threw my teeth into that ravine, but couldn't bring myself to. Pitch found me here. We fought. That's how this thing was made." He patted the dark tower. "He tried to get me to join him, said that we'd both be believed in if we worked together."
"What stopped you?" Tooth asked, still staring at the spire. "After the way we treated you, I wouldn't have blamed you if you thought Pitch was a better option."
"He almost had me." Jack admitted, glancing shamefully to the side. "In a way, I felt that we were alike. Both of us wanted to be seen, to be more than just a dream or a gust of wind. But, I looked at this thing and saw an image in my mind. I saw a kid waking up from a nightmare and shivering under the covers, unable to get warm and go back to sleep, just cowering in a freezing room, watching shadows move across the walls." He shivered at the memory. "That's what Pitch and I would have created together. There was no way I'd become like that. I couldn't."
"And then what? Pitch just left you alone and you were able to see your memories?" Tooth knew this much of the story, that he had somehow accessed his memories. Afterward, she assumed that he had gone back to Pitch's lair and found Baby Tooth.
"No." Jack clutched his staff as he thought back. "First, he pulled Baby Tooth out of his pocket and told me to give him my staff in exchange for her. I gave it to him and he snapped it in half." He winced, subconsciously putting a hand on his abdomen as he remembered the jolt of pain that had gone through him. The spotted fox licked his cheek comfortingly.
"After Baby Tooth showed me the memories, I had the strength to mend it, but..." He shook his head. "At the moment, crawling into a crevice and waiting for Grim to come for me seemed like my best option."
"Jack..." Tooth approached, putting the foxes on the ground before placing a gentle hand on her fellow Guardian's arm. "I'm so sorry."
Jack shook his head. "I already told you I don't blame you guys for rejecting me back there. I was stupid. I endangered everyone. Things looked pretty bad, I know that!"
"No, Jack." Tooth replied firmly. "There was no excuse for what we did. We've been battling Pitch since the Dark Ages. We've known him for centuries. We know what he's capable of and how he can worm his way into your mind and use your fears against you. We should have known that he had manipulated you somehow."
"Yeah, well." Jack shrugged a shoulder. "It's over, now. No hard feelings." He turned toward Tooth and smiled.
"Alright." Tooth smiled back, though she knew that part of her would always feel a measure of guilt.
Looking resolutely away from the statue, Jack pointed toward a large, snowy clearing in the distance. "I think I'll build my base over there. I want this thing to be within sight, just as a reminder of what I don't want to become. Also, that crevice over there is where I saw my memories and realized I'm a Guardian, so I figure I should be close to that as well."
"I don't think you need to worry about becoming like this." Tooth indicated the spire before moving her hand to his shoulder. "You're too good of a person to ever become like Pitch. Also, I doubt that anyone could ever be afraid of you. You aren't exactly scary." She added, glancing at his soft-looking hair and snow-covered hoodie.
Jack glanced at her hand and nodded, smiling as his cheeks became strangely cold. "Thanks, Tooth."
As the two walked toward the clearing and away from the spire, the foxes at their heels, Jack became more animated, talking eagerly about his plans. "I want it to be like a huge ice amusement park! I'll have a Ferris wheel over there and a carousel over there. Do you think I should make one of those really fast spinny things that stick you to the walls?"
Tooth raised an eyebrow. "That sounds unpleasant. Do kids really like rides like that?"
"Oh yeah!" Jack grinned mischievously. "The faster, the better!"
Tooth's stomach churned at the thought. "I think I'll stick with the Ferris Wheel..."
"Fair enou- Ow!" Jack looked down and picked up the spotted fox, who had started clawing at his foot. "I think I'll call you Scratch."
"They're so cute!" Tooth couldn't resist reaching over to pet Scratch. "Are you going to get more?"
"Probably." Jack handed Scratch to Tooth and picked up the moon-marked cub. "I'll see about an elemental polar bear or two from the North Pole. Maybe some of the natives here will help: penguins, leopard seals, stuff like that."
"I look forward to seeing what you come up with." Hugging Scratch to her chest, Tooth looked around the snowy clearing. It definitely seemed to be the ideal location for a new base. The mental image of a towering Ferris Wheel of clear ice made her smile. "Will you have games?"
"Definitely! Imagine a snowball fight arena over there." Jack pointed toward a patch of particularly thick snow. "And a skating rink there." He pointed at a flat expanse of hard-packed ice.
"Sounds wonderful." Tooth said before the sound of snuffling caused her to look down. Her eyes lit up. "Jack, look!"
Jack followed her gaze and his grin widened. The little vixen was rolling a snowball across the ground. It was bright blue.
I just can't help associating Jack with foxes. If he were to have a totem animal, the fox would definitely be it. Oh! I finally got around to reading all of the Guardians of Childhood books and have come to the conclusion that book and movie resemble each other even less than the book and movie versions of How to Train your Dragon do. Since the two are so different, I'll probably inject book-verse canon only when it fits. Otherwise, I'll be coming up with my own stuff. As a sidenote: I was promised in the third book that Jack would appear in the fourth book. He appeared nowhere. I was disappointed. I guess we'll have to wait for the last book to see what book-verse Jack is like... Anyway, I'll hopefully post more soon. Peace out!