Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians, and I do not make money off of borrowing characters and using them to entertain myself. Nor do I own La Luna.
Summary: No one ever told Jack Frost about the downside of being a Guardian.
Frost covers the glass as ice forms intricate little figures on it, and I smile at the little kid who was reading a picture book out loud. I knock on the glass and almost immediately she bolts up from her bed and runs to her bedroom window, pushing it open with her small arms. I help her.
"Jack!" she says, over and over again, clapping her hands and jumping up and down in her nightgown. I put a finger to my lips in an effort to get her quiet, and she covers her mouth, blue eyes wide.
"Hey, Min," I greet, bending over to ruffle her messy blonde hair. "How are you?"
"I'm doing ay-oh-kay, Jack!" she says enthusiastically, covering her mouth again when she realizes she said it too loud. "Oops," she whispers loudly, "Sorry." I just chuckle.
"You want me to read to you tonight?" Minnie bobs her head up and down so fast I think it's gonna break off, and runs off to get another book. I sit on her fluffy pink bed, moving some of her stuffed toys aside so I don't end up sitting on them.
"Mommy keeps reading me that book," she points at the book she was flipping through earlier, "But I like this one better." She thrusts a book at me.
"La Luna," I read for her and she climbs on to bed, moving next to me and burying herself under the covers.
"Yeah! La Luna means the moon, right, Jack?" she asks, words muffled by her blanket. I smile at her and open the book.
"Sure does." I ruffle her hair again and she giggles. "Aren't you just a brilliant little six-year-old?"
The doctors are back.
Bunnymund passes by to let me know that I should be doing my job, but I shrug him off. The doctors are here again today.
I only listen to the important parts. The ones that have something to do with Minnie.
I hear the news and then Minnie's mom starts to cry and I think I shot up a thousand feet in the air and made it hail somewhere in New York.
Minnie has less than a month to live.
I've been reading to Minnie every day since I heard doctors come into a kid's room in Burgess one night, about three months ago. She was so small, hardly even a properly functioning first-grader, and I instantly found her adorable.
And then I heard the doctors.
I told Tooth, of course. I told her about Minnie and about the doctors and about the news. She placed a hand on my shoulder and told me, "Jack, we can never win against Truth. We can protect the children from anything that can harm them, but we can't protect them against Truth."
"Truth is out to harm her!" I remember yelling. Tooth just looked at me kindly, understandingly.
"Truth is never out to harm anyone, Jack," she said, "Truth happens to everyone. That's why we have to accept Truth, because no matter what we do… we're powerless." She paused, and sighed. "You're not the only one that's had to go through this. All of us—all of us, we all had to deal with Truth."
I stormed away after that and took out my fury on the Himalayas.
Whenever Minnie's being a brat to her mom, I knock on her window.
"Minnie, you should apologize," I say gently, and Minnie's crying.
"No!" she yells, throwing things around. I dodge them all and pick them up when they land. I let her have her tantrum. I don't even lecture her anymore. I just let her tire herself out and fall asleep.
I'm sitting on her window sill for who-knows-how-long, and the familiar glow of slumber sand creeps its way through Minnie's window. I touch it, and golden sandy Minnie is dreaming about me, a golden sandy Jack Frost, carrying her around on my back.
And I remember what Tooth said. "All of us, we all had to deal with Truth."
She told me the stories. Every year, North has to deliver gifts to children with no families, with no roofs over their heads; to children who have terminal illnesses. Bunnymund discovers that every year there are children who can't come out to hunt for Easter eggs because of various reasons. Tooth finds stolen teeth under people's pillows, from bullies and cheaters.
But I personally think that the worst story is Sandy's.
Every night—every night—Sandy has a fear that he's going to send a child to his last sleep with his dreamsand. Once the sand touches the child's eyes, they go to sleep and never wake.
No, not a fear. A possibility.
It happened before.
The two weeks with Minnie were all a blur to me. I felt like I was floating; halfway through joy and depression. It didn't make sense. And then when it came, if felt like I'd been run over with Santa's sleigh.
Watching Minnie being unable to run around and jump like she used to was the biggest wake up call in my life.
I watched over her for a week. She was connected to what the doctors called an 'IV drip.' She was just in bed.
She… she didn't look like Minnie anymore.
She was getting weaker by the day, I could tell, but every night—every night—she would open her eyes and look for me, and I would be there, waiting for her to find me, La Luna in my hands. I'd read before she'd ask me to, and wait until she falls asleep, touching her sandy dreams as they differed each night.
My time was limited. The bad part was I didn't know how much time I had left.
Truth came in the form of a mother. Truth smiles at me, face dull yet vibrant at the same time. Truth is faceless, yet I know where each feature is, how each feature looks like. Truth probably looks different to everyone else.
"Jack Frost." I nod in recognition. Truth was beautiful but not, a paradox of things good and bad. "You have done a wonderful job."
"Not wonderful enough," I mutter under my breath, feeling snowflakes fall to the floor in my huff. Truth is sympathetic.
"No one could have done a good as job as you, Jack." Truth moves the caress Minnie's cheek. I want to stop her, but I'm on the other side of the bed. And even if I did want to stop her, Truth will always find a way to be revealed. "The other Guardians know the pain of the children, Jack. I think it's what made them stay away in the first place."
"Away?" I question. Truth nods.
"The Guardians… they don't stay with the children as much as you do, Jack Frost. They know the pain of loss. You are… unfamiliar." I glare at the floor.
"I don't want her to leave."
"No one ever wants to leave, Jack," Truth says kindly, "And no one wants anyone to leave them. But we have to. Or we suffer more than we should." Truth makes sense, I think as I watch Minnie's peaceful face, tiredness evident in her expression. She's fighting a losing battle.
"She's a fighter, Jack Frost. You made that in her." I look Truth dead in the eye, and Truth stares back, eyes smiling. "I could have never been more honoured to meet a more capable Guardian."
I didn't believe I could see what Truth could do—maybe I wasn't ready, or maybe I was scared. All I know is that when I looked back, Truth was gone, and somehow, so was Minnie.
I'm floating above the funeral service, watching them bury Minnie's casket as her older brother and parents cry their hearts out. It's a great day, with the sun out and the sky blue.
Jack holds in the sorrow of snow that threatens to fall from his fingers, gripping his staff tighter. Minnie deserves a good day.
I drift away and somehow end up in the Sandman's Sand Castle. He's panicking, symbols hovering over his head as his fingers shake, pacing the giant golden ballroom. He illustrates that he lost a strand of sand last night, and he's scared that it might have been a kid who—
"It wasn't your dreamsand," I tell him, and he seems to calm down. "I… She was gone before she managed to dream."
I don't realize it but I'm on my knees, snowflakes falling from my eyes. I can't believe I'm crying, really, because Tooth said everyone goes through this. I should've realized that it doesn't make it any easier.
Sandy tries to hug me as I cry on his castle floor.
Well, it wouldn't go away, so I might as well write it.
Edit! Apparently, it's called dreamsand. Also, the Sandman's Sand Castle is part of Sandman's Island, but I decided to take a few artistic liberties with it. You'll see more of that in my other fic, Not As Legendary As You Thought.