Jamie rose from his place on the bed, taking slow steps toward the Guardian in his doorway. He put on an expressionless face as he stood a few inches away from Jack. Jamie examined the winter spirit from the frosted spikes of his hair to his pale, calloused feet. Jack didn't make a sound and simply waited for Jamie to explode at him. There was another few beats of silence as Jamie crossed his arms and stared into Jack's piercing blue eyes. The Guardian allowed his shoulders to relax a bit; maybe Jamie wasn't so angry with-

The sickening SLAP of Jamie's palm connecting with Jack's frigid cheek echoed through the icy room.

He was taken aback by the timing, but not entirely surprised. "Ow," Jack flinched, ducking his head and rubbing the mark the brunette left. Jamie noticed it turning a sickly grey, instead of a red the rush of blood should have caused. It took that observation to remind Jamie that Jack really wasn't human at all. It was a small detail he had always kept in the back of his mind, but somehow it really hadn't occurred to him that the two of them were so different.

"Okay, wow. Okay..." Jack held up an index finger, signaling Jamie to wait in case he decided to take another swing. "I deserved that, yeah... Okay... Jamie."

The brunette didn't say anything yet. He continued seething, taking slight satisfaction in his attack.

"If... you wanna yell at me now... Go ahead." The Guardian had calmly stood up straight, spreading his palms open as if ready to soak in every scream the brunette intended to throw at him.

Jamie regarded the ancient teenager in front of him again. He really wanted to yell at him. To scream and hit and express just how betrayed he felt. Because he really didn't think Jack understood just how much trusting him meant. But Jamie was just... so tired. Tired of constantly getting his hopes up. Tired of the one-sided trust he had in the Guardian. Tired of practically adoring Jack, despite his constant screw-ups. He needed to be sure, this time, that if he really wanted to trust Jack again, it wouldn't end in another betrayal. Another... heartbreak...

Jamie found the word circling his thoughts, but wasn't quite sure why it fit so perfectly in the description of his feelings. He glanced up and down Jack's body again; searching for the possible explanation as to why he felt like his heart was shattering with Jack's every folly. Then he felt it again... The rapid increase of his heartbeat as he examined the Guardian's features. The flush to his face when he imagined those strong arms around him again. The chill that washed over him at the memory of Jack's icy breath enveloping Jamie's hot skin...

"I just..." The brunette managed out. "I don't know how to start..." His gaze wavered. "I can't..." He fumbled for the words. His voice felt weak. The adrenaline rush he'd felt as his hand collided with Jack's face had gone as soon as his mind touched on the intoxicating thought of his attraction for Jack. "...Why don't I hate you?"

The Guardian let out half a laugh mixed with a sigh. "Honestly I have no idea. I mean, if I were you, I definitely would. I'm the biggest idiot I know, after all." When Jamie's expression didn't soften at Jack's light joking, the Guardian got serious. "Look, Jamie, I really am sorry." He gave that light half-laugh again. "And I have no idea how many times I've apologized to you, but it isn't enough. I screwed up. I should have shown myself to you first thing. I'm an idiot and... I should have stopped you from hurting yourself..."

There was a very tense minute of silence as Jamie made no indication of forgiveness. "...Do you plan on explaining that, then?" The teenager asked to hold up the conversation. He didn't want Jack avoiding this subject. The question saved Jack from the continued awkward fumbling around in his hoodie pocket.

The Guardian made a stifled choking sound before clearing his throat. "Yeah... um. Okay." He ran a hand through his hair. "This, um, might seem really weak, or selfish, or... ugh. Just... just try to listen and wait to slap me again until I finish, okay?"

Jamie gave a small nod, taking a few steps back and sitting on his bed. Jack joined him, his fingers pulling at his sleeves as he began his explanation.

"You remember... when I said we left because the Man in the Moon made us?"

"Yeah," Jamie didn't take his eyes off Jack, but the Guardian avoided his gaze out of sheer guilt.

"And the reason for that was...he said you had something special inside you, and you needed time to grow?"


"Well..." Jack swallowed and bit his lip. "I think... that he wants you to become an Essence."

Jamie blinked. "A what?"

"An Essence... It's like... What I was before I became a Guardian." Jack searched for the words. He'd gone over the explanation a few times before on his own. "Like, Bunny's the Essence of hope. Tooth is memories. Sandy's dreams. North is wonder. And I'm joy. It's our 'center'. It's what we protect in children. It was only after the Moon chose us to become Guardians did we change into the Guardians of what we represent. Kinda like a promotion. And, like, Pitch is only the Essence of fear, since he's not a Guardian. Understand?"

"Yeah, I guess..." Jamie responded. "You guys are, like, immortal, right?"

"Seems that way."

"And you have powers that represent your center?"

"More or less."

"But why would the Moon choose me for that?"

Jack faltered. "I really don't know. Only the Man in the Moon does, and he's not really what you'd call 'communicative'..." Jack's eyelids fluttered and he got back on topic. "But, Jamie, I don't want you to become one."

Jamie knit his eyebrows. "What? Why? It sounds like a pretty sweet deal."

"Ugh," Jack tugged at his hair again. "Well, ah, that's... It's just... something bad has to happen to become an Essence, and, uh, I just... I don't want you to, okay?"

"What?" Jamie repeated, slightly pissed. "That's not really up for you to decide, Jack."

"But, Jamie, I'm just trying to protect you." He tried to explain calmly, but his tone was hinting on desperate.

The teenager let out an exasperated laugh. "Oh my god. Jack, if you haven't noticed, you kinda suck at that."

Jack looked hurt. "The only reason I didn't show myself that time was because I was protecting you!"


"If I avoided you, you'd eventually stop believing in me! Then maybe you'd lose that thing inside you the Man in the Moon wants to use. Then you wouldn't have to become an Essence!"

Jamie stared at Jack, offering an expression of indignation. "Are you... fucking kidding me?!" Jack flinched, expecting Jamie to hit him again. "You saw me cut my fucking wrists and you think that's better than becoming immortal?"

"No, ugh," He ran a hand over his face. "Jamie, you know that's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?" It was becoming exceedingly difficult to continue listening to any excuse the Guardian offered.

"Becoming an Essence is so much worse than it sounds!" His speech was rapid. "It's lonely and too much work and you basically do the same thing for all eternity! Not only that, but if—IF—you became one, that would mean you'd have to do something terrible and it would be so painful, more painful that just cutting your wrists, Jamie."

The brunette just shook his head, muttering under his breath. "'Just cutting your wrists', he says. You're right. Because cutting myself isn't that big a deal." He gave his voice a darkly sarcastic whip.

"Damn it, Jamie, I didn't say that!" Jack rubbed the space between his eyebrows. He wanted to slap himself, create a mark that matched the one Jamie made. If only he could stop screwing up. His words came out sounding harsher than he ever intended, and he hated himself for not being able to get Jamie to understand why this was such a big issue for Jack. He took a deep breath, finally taking a moment to think through his next response and the best way to keep Jamie from getting angry with him again.

"Okay, listen. I didn't stop you because I'm an idiot. But also because I thought that, if I didn't, you'd lose faith in me, in the Guardians, in anything that made you the kid the Moon saw back then. If you were so unlike how you were seven years ago, then maybe that 'special' part of you would go away and the Moon wouldn't want to make you an Essence anymore.

"That's the reason why I stayed away for so many years. I could have gone to see you at anytime. It didn't matter that I'd be disobeying North. Honestly I'd have rushed to see you the second I had the chance, but I decided against it because I was trying to protect you from your fate. You think that this destiny is all fun and games, but really, it's so far from it... Becoming an Essence was the most painful and emotional experience of my life. In no way would I want you go through what I did."

Jamie couldn't hold up his angered expression. This was a new side of Jack. A darker side that intrigued the brunette and made him wonder if Jack looked this broken when he wasn't keeping up appearances for Jamie's sake. Jack's salt-and-pepper eyebrows were knit and there was a shine in Jack's blue eyes that echoed with the beginning of tears. Seeing such raw emotion in Jack's expression was shocking, and Jamie found his eyes locked on the Guardian's face and a sudden impulse driving his desire to embrace him again. Jamie had always imagined Jack as some strong, all-powerful being incapable of feeling hurt or regret. But he saw it now; the desperate need to protect Jamie present on Jack's features. Jamie couldn't believe he'd been so stupid; Jack really was telling the truth. He really wanted to keep him safe. Jamie could feel his mistrust melt away, the only thing on his mind being the Guardian he adored.

Jamie swallowed, speaking up when Jack didn't continue. "...What was it like? …Turning into an Essence…" Jamie asked the question cautiously and in a voice so unexpectedly soft it made Jack form eye contact with the teenager again. He stared for a moment, inhaling when the look of Jamie's concern made his heart beat faster. After a while he broke the contact and preceded the retelling of his transformation into an Essence three hundred years ago.

"It was so dark and I was completely disoriented; I thought I had gone blind." Jack had a lot of time to think about what happened under the ice. Because along with the memories of a lost family Jack had regained seven years ago, he was also reminded of what exactly occurred before his moment of death.

"I felt my body freezing over so intensely I could have mistaken it for burning. If I could scream, I would have. But I was suffocating... drowning. My arms and legs couldn't move and it felt like I would be crushed by the pressure that was dragging me down. My brain was unresponsive because the cold sent it into shock and I could do nothing but remain still; the only thing registering was pain. I wanted more than anything to end the torture. To just die already…" The words were very broken. Jack didn't feel like crying, but the memory of pain was so intense that he could almost feel the suffocation overcoming him again.

"...The next thing I remember was a bright light, but it wasn't Heaven. I emerged from ice, and I was still experiencing that deathly cold. But after a moment it just numbed my entire body. I looked up, and saw that the light was actually the moon. I had no memories of my past life. I didn't know about the family I'd left behind. I didn't realize the sister I had would die without even knowing where I was..." Jack rubbed his stinging, dry eyes and muttered an incoherent finish.

Jamie was silenced. How could he react to something like that?

"So..." Jack looked to the brunette. "Do you understand now?"

The teenager stared back at the white-haired Guardian and let out his question. "Not... really... I mean, if anything, if I became an Essence, it would be...my problem..." Jack's expression was replaced by shock as Jamie continued. "Yeah, all of that is terrible and it really sucks that you had to go through it... But it's not like you would have to experience it again. I would. I just don't understand why you're so caught up on the idea that this is your problem..."

There was a minute of silence as Jamie waited for Jack to react. For the moment, Jack held the surprised face but it soon melted away as his eyebrows knit.

"You seriously... don't get it?" Jack asked, tilting his head closer to Jamie's.

"No...?" The teenager responded.

The Guardian let out a small laugh before positioning his body to face Jamie properly.

"It is my problem, Jamie." Jack said in a certain voice that made Jamie's stomach twist and his body temperature rise. "Because, no matter what threatens you, I want to protect you. I don't want you to have to go through something alone ever again. I know I'm being hypocritical, and maybe it's just my idiocy getting in the way again. And I know nothing I do really makes sense most of the time... But I hope this does: I will never let you go through what I did. I don't ever want you experiencing the pain I felt. And I might be acting selfish, or intruding, but I don't care. All I care about is your safety and happiness and that you're always with me. I don't want the Moon to take you away. I don't want to risk you losing any memory of me. I don't want you to forget about how much I care about you. I want you to stay with me for the rest of your mortal life…" Jack held a pleading expression behind his smile. "Do you get it now?"

Jamie didn't say anything. He didn't even nod. He just stared at the Guardian in front of him with an expressionless face. Jamie looked over Jack's features again and then once more. There was a beat, and then he gave the only sensible response he could think of.

The teenager grasped Jack's face. He moved in quickly, not allowing him a millisecond to react as Jamie kissed his Guardian with full force.

/so many grammar mistakes i want to cry./