Authors Note: This short drabble follows "The Violet Hour." Please read that story first in order to fully understand this one.
Ps. Thanks to ALL for such wonderful feedback! Your reviews and messages have been greatly appreciated, and I hope this story pleases you just as much. :D
Sleep wasn't something Jack Frost particularly needed. A nap every now and the then served him well, 30 minutes to an hour at most. He was more so fond of sleeping in trees than he was a bed due to 300 or so years of wandering the globe in solitude, but he found the large pained window seal in North's lobby equally as comfortable.
The winter spirit had started off in a seated position, his hooded head leaning back against the frame, letting the dull crackling of the nearby fire place lull him to sleep. In a matter of minutes Jack's body slumped and he slid forward, his right arm and leg dangling off the side ungracefully. North made mention that Jack resembled something on the lines of a "rag doll," while Tooth found the sleeping boy undeniably adorable. She voiced little chirps and coos of affection as she hovered nearby, watching the boy sleep, and she squealed in happy delight when his stretching caused his hand to hit the wood behind him, frost twirling and spreading up the bannister.
Tooth was silenced though by the word "Shhh!" forming over Sandy's head, and she mouthed a quiet "Sorry." The last thing she, or any of them wanted to do was wake Jack up. The poor child had had one hell of a day after all, and it was a day that none of them would likely ever forget, no matter how much that wanted to. No, Jack deserved sleep.
As the sun set behind the glaciers of the North Pole, Sandy motioned to the window and his dream sand morphed into a crescent moon. Despite everything that had happened, the day had gone by in a blur. North released a long, heavy sigh and pinched his nose, one hand resting in the pocket of his trousers.
"I suppose I need to go checkup on workshop," North voiced quietly, his Russian accent thick and low. "And Sandy," he paused, looking at the golden man. "Do not feel like you have to stay. You have a job to do, da? You too Toothy." Tooth's shoulders slumped and she pursed her lower lip out in a pout, obviously not wanting to leave Jack, even for a matter of hours. Only earlier that day had she thought that Jack's eyes would never open again, and as petty as it might have seemed, she wanted to be there when they opened a second time. She wanted Jack to wake up with someone near him, and Bunny seemed to sense that.
"Don't worry Tooth, I'll stay," He slurred from his place on a nearby couch, catching the fairy's attention. Tooth hesitated, but finally she nodded, offering Bunny a gentle smile. As much as she wanted to be there, Toothiana had a job to do. Jack was alive and well, and the fairy knew that Bunny wouldn't let any harm come over the frosted boy in her absence. Plus, the 'Pole was safe, and both thoughts settled her ruffled and frizzled feathers.
"It is settled then. Bunny will keep eye on Jack," North declared in his broken English. " I won't be to long. You will let me know if you or our young comrade need anything, da?" Bunny nodded, beckoning North with his paw to go. The large Russian grunted before he walked away, a yeti and a few elves in tow. Sandy followed shortly after, sprinkling a handful of dream sand over Jack's head in passing.
Naturally, Tooth was the last.
Ever since she had been introduced to Jack, Tooth had been oddly infatuated with the boy. Not just with his teeth, but with him. There was nothing about Jack that she didn't find ridiculously adorable and charming; however, her fellow guardians couldn't quite categorize her exact feelings for Jack. Was it love as in the motherly kind, or was it love? Even as Bunny watched her hover near the winter's spirit's side, he couldn't tell. Either way, Bunny knew that Tooth did love him in one way or the other (or both perhaps), and watching Jack's brief encounter with death that afternoon had brought all of her feelings to the surface. She would smoother Jack with them.
Floating closer, Tooth leaned forward and smoothed her hand over Jack's head, pushing a few stray bangs from his eyes. With a smile, she kissed his pale forehead, and she pulled away with a giggle when frost tickled her lips.
"Be good you," Tooth chirped affectionately, recoiling her hand and backing away from Jack, making eye contact with Bunny as she flitted past him. The rabbit offered her a smirk. He had everything under control, and the only danger Jack faced was the possibility of rolling off the window pane. Even then, the drop was at the most 3 feet - he'd be fine.
With one last glance over her shoulder, Tooth buzzed out the room, her shadow whizzing past the window as she began her nightly rounds.
That left Bunny with the kid.
Save for Jack's soft breathing and the pop and crackle of the fire place, the lobby was quiet. Bunny savored the silence; it gave him time to think. He leaned back against the arm of the couch, propping his legs up on the other and sighed, glancing every now and then at the boy opposite of him. The silence of the room and the shadows caused by the fire played tricks on his eyes though, and Bunny found that he couldn't watch Jack for long periods of time without having mini panic attacks.
Every now and then, when the light of the fire danced a certain way across Jack's sleeping body, it looked as if he had stopped breathing. The first time Bunny noticed this, the rabbit's heart seized and he shot straight up, racing to the boy's side ready to take immediate action. Just as he was about to touch him though, Bunny noticed the steady rise and fall of Jack's chest, and he visibly relaxed.
No, Bunny wasn't going to stare at him. Instead, the Pooka's eyes watched the fire flicker and he fiddled mindlessly with a boomerang, keeping his mind occupied. Eventually he lost track of time.
Jack's child like whine and stretch caused Bunny to snap out of whatever daze he had fallen into, and he blinked as the boy stirred.
"Mornin' Snowflake," Bunny mused dryly, watching Jack as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. The frosted youth blinked heavily, trying to focus on the rabbit. Jack's hands ran through his white mop top of a hair style, ruffling it to add volume to its now flattened state.
"It ain't morning..." Jack replied hoarsely, his voice cracking from his nap and from his less than pleasant intake of water earlier that day. "Is it?" He continued, confused.
Bunny smiled and shook his head, stretching his limbs as well. "No, it's just now turing dark."
Jack's brow creased and he looked out the window, seeing nothing but darkness. The moon, currently halfway through it's cycle, was only half full, though it provided enough light to crystalize the snow. The sight comforted Jack, and the white haired teen's shoulders relaxed.
"How long have I been asleep?" Jack asked quietly, his eyes still focused on the view. Bunny's nose twitched and he shrugged, not caring to look up at the large coo-coo clock atop the mantle. The Easter Bunny had lived long enough to decipher time without using a clock as a crutch, though it seemed North's clock was more so a center piece than it was an actual clock.
"Oh," Bunny began leaning forwards, "I'd say about two hours or so mate."
Jack's eyes widened in shock and he turned around to stare at Bunny with his mouth agape. "Two hours?! Are you kidding me? Thats like...well..." the spirit fumbled, glancing downwards as he searched for the right words, "a long time!"
Bunny chuckled at the overall exasperated look on the youth's face. Jack looked as if he had missed out on a party, or better yet, like a kid that forgot to set his alarm clock. It reminded Bunny once more why he'd always consider the winter spirit to be a child no matter how old he truly was. Jack's expressions, his laughter, the way he moved, his thought process, those eyes... he was eternally youthful. Man in Moon had practically poured the fountain of youth down Jack throat during his creation, and now Bunny knew why no one could find it no matter the adventure or crusade. Jack was an immortal child.
With that thought still in mind, Bunny's head tilted and he raised an eyebrow as he watched Jack's eyes dart back and forth from North's clock to the window.
"Chill out Frosty, it's not like you missed anything. North's fumbling around here somewhere, and Tooth and Sandy are out and about doing their duties." He said, shoving the boomerang he had been fiddling with back in it's case. "You needed the sleep Jack, hell, it'd probably do you some good to sleep more."
Jack scowled and shook his head, curling his lanky arms across his chest. He wasn't at all pleased with that suggestion. "You should have woken me up." He insisted.
The rabbit let out an exasperated sigh and clinched his eyes shut momentarily. He reopened them seconds later to find Jack still in his tightly wound position, looking as pouty and bratty as ever. Perfect. Still, Bunny found Frost's slight temper tantrum amusing, and he reverted back to his usual smirk.
"And why would I have done that?" Bunny asked, ears erect.
"Because!" Jack exclaimed, stomping his foot, "I don't NEED that much sleep. I manage fine with 15 to 20 minutes worth of shut eye. You know that! You all think that just because I..." Jack stopped abruptly, cutting himself off before he finished. Bunny didn't need Jack to finish his sentence to get where the boy was getting at.
The atmosphere in the room audibly shifted as Bunny tensed, eyes squinting at the now cowering teen as Jack turned his back on Bunny, lightly drumming his fingers over the window. Jack was pretending that today didn't happen, that he hadn't nearly died. The winter spirit never wanted to show his vulnerability, his smile always being his mask, but his life had hung by a thin thread today, and his fellow guardians had seen him at his very worst. As much as he wanted to forget about that - to pretend it didn't happen, they had seen, and they weren't going to let him forget.
"Because you what, Jack?" Bunny mumbled, his jaw tight. Jack kept his back towards the rabbit and didn't answer, savoring the momentary silence. The Easter Bunny obviously didn't.
Gritting his teeth, Bunny hopped over the the teen's side, eyes glaring at the back Jack's head, daring the boy to turn around. "Answer me." He spat, arms folding across his broad chest. "Because you what? Hmmm?"
"I don't want to talk about it..." Jack's voice was low and soft, but there was a sharp prickle to it that insisted on Bunny dropping it. His pale fingers tightened around the staff he carried, and his eyes closed. The small voice of reason in the back of his head kept telling him to keep calm and to not cry, but Jack wasn't good at taking advice from others, let alone himself.
Bunny seemed to notice Jack's inward struggle, but instead of backing off and dropping the subject, the rabbit thought it best he kept pushing. Tough love they called it. Teens seemed to respond better to it than coddling, at least, that was what Bunny had come to conclude after numerous years of observation.
Shifting his weight, Bunny tilted his head to one side and shrugged. "Well, I do," he replied, hoping for a reaction from the winter spirit. "It happened you know...today. I don't see what the big..." Jack snarled and turned around abruptly, cutting Bunny off with a tearful glare. Needless to say the rabbit was startled, and he stood up straight.
"Just leave it alone, will you!?" Jack snapped, every inch of his body tense. He breathed heavily, his shoulders slumped and his eyes were wild. "Forget it happened! All of you, tell them all to forget it!"
Bunny couldn't believe it. Either Jack was the most self centered, bratty child he had ever met in his entire being, or the most sensitive. There was no doubt in his mind that the boy was eaten up with denial - he could smell it on him, and Bunny was torn between shaking some sense into him, or hugging him one. He watched as cloudless snow slowly fell from the ceiling, an emotional trigger for Jack. It only happened when the teen was either ridiculously happy, or upset. Tonight the snowflakes served as Jack's un shed tears, and as the rabbit's green eyes met the spirit's blue ones, it was hard for him to not feel SOME guilt for pursuing the seemingly touchy subject.
It had to be done though. Jack needed to learn.
"No." Bunny concluded, watching Jack's expression morph from one feeling to the next. "I can't."
Jack's staff lowered slightly, and the boy sucked back a shaky breath, looking absolutely pitiful.
That simple question nearly broke Bunny's heart. The way Jack said it was enough to bring even the most head strong, tough hearted being to it's knees, and Bunny felt his quiver.
"Why?" Jack repeated more desperately, his voice hoarse. The boy's arms now hung limply by his side, and his head leaned back in slight defeat. Jack wanted an answer, and now he was being petty.
The Easter Bunny's facade remained strong, no matter how horrible he felt for the child. He wanted nothing more than to reach out and hold the distraught teen before him, but he couldn't break now. Not yet. This was the only way he was going to get Jack to accept today's events and embrace his emotions.
Blinking, Bunny huffed. "Because Jack," he paused, wetting his lips. " You can't make something like that disappear, I'm sorry. It is etched into history now; both yours, and mine, and everyone else's that was there. As painful as it was to witness it, we have to accept it, take it for what it is worth, and move on. If you ignore it, you'll be giving Pitch what he wants, and trust me mate, you don't want those nightmares."
Jack voiced a sound between and whine and a grunt, tears now flowing freely. Some managed to track their way down his cheeks and neck, while some froze on his face. His chest jerked from stifled sobs; the boy still refusing to let go and give in.
"But," he began, his voice barley above a whisper, eyes hazed over as if his mind was wandering elsewhere, " I am going to have nightmares regardless." Jack covered his eyes with a hand, teeth bared and clinched as he continued to deny himself the cry he so desperately needed. "You...you don't know what it's like Bunny...I...I thought I was immortal," he stammered, his mind racing in every which direction as he tried to explain himself.
"Everything burned. My eyes, my throat, my lungs, and no matter how hard I tried to get away, how many times I tried calling for you, all I...all I felt was...fear. I felt like giving up...and, and I did give up. I did." Jack didn't know if whether or not what he said made sense, but the more he spoke, the more he felt his body relax. As he crumbled into himself, a sob finally escaping the clutches of his ivory throat, and Jack felt a release.
"I felt bad for giving up though," Jack wailed, not giving Bunny a chance to offer him words of encouragement. The Easter Bunny desperately wanted to. Instead, Bunny waited, ears flattening against his skull as he watched the boy break down.
"I felt like I disappointed you...and the moon, he...he waisted his time on me. After 300 years of nothing, and then a short time of something, I had failed him, and I thought MiM was letting me die because he thought there was no point in my existence anymore..."
There, he had said it. It was out. Despite everything he had gone through with the Guardians, Jack still felt unworthy. He thought that MiM had regretted his choice in making him a Guardian, and regardless of how hard he tried, Jack felt as if he'd never amount to the worth of his four companions. They had songs written about them, and they were the subject of fables and fairytales. Jack was a simple winter spirit, with nothing truly to offer the children of the world. he had come to the conclusion that they'd have fun regardless of whether or not he existed.
If only Jack knew how wrong he was.
Bunny managed to catch the white haired teen as he crumbled to the floor in a sorrowful mess, and Jack openly bawled against the rabbit's chest, hot tears drenching Bunnymund's fur. Nevertheless, Bunny held Jack close. He propped his chin against Jack's unruly hair, one paw stroking the back of the boy's head while the other rubbed the winter spirit's back. He shushed him quietly, rocking back and forth against his haunches, humming incoherent words every now and then to sooth the distraught youth.
It broke his heart to see Jack like this; vulnerable, unsure, and self conscious. Bunnymund never wanted to see Jack in pain period, mentally or physically, but he most definitely preferred a crying, breathing Jack to a seemingly dead one. At least Jack was letting go, and as Bunny cradled the lanky child, he only hoped that he had done the right thing in making Jack acknowledge his emotions.
"Come come now mate," He cooed, stroking the boy's cheeks with his thumbs, "It's okay now. Shhhh, it's okay. Everything's alright." He mused back the boy's bangs as Jack attempted a nod, and Bunny smiled, pulling Jack back against his chest once more.
After a few minutes of continuous sobs and sniffles, Bunny managed to calm Jack to the point of coaxing him off the floor. The rabbit slowly led Jack over to the window pane where the boy had napped earlier that evening, and had him face the moon, hoping the snowy scene would help calm his nerves. Bunny then scurried across the room to fetch two glasses, filling them half way full with a smooth, clear substance that North had stashed away behind a cupboard. Bunnymund had discovered North's liquor stockpile years ago in his attempt to familiarize himself with the workshop, and North seemed to not notice, or not care when his vodka went missing. Bunny took that as an open invitation.
Crossing back over to Jack, Bunny handed him a glass and moved to sit behind the silent, albeit teary eyed boy.
"Here," he said, making sure Jack had a firm grasp on the glass before he let go, "drink this. It'll make ya' feel better."
Jack lazily looked down at the cup and took a sip, the warm liquid burning his throat as he swallowed. The teen made a face and shook his head, not use to the taste of hard alcohol. Instead of shoving the glass away, he took another sip, relaxing against his larger, furry comrade. Acting as a pillow or back rest, Bunny instinctively wrapped his free arm around Jack's chest, holding him against him as his eyes stared out the window. Bunny had made it a point of his to hide his affection for the boy as much as remotely possible, however, for this particular evening, he didn't care. The Easter Bunny was finished with "tough love" for the time being, and now reverted to offering Jack the parental love and support the spritely boy needed. Now Jack needed to be cuddled, and Bunny absent mindedly rubbed his paw back and forth against Jack's frail chest as the youth finished his glass.
"You feelin' better?" Bunny asked, breaking the silence, watching Jack set the empty glass down. Jack nodded slowly, head lulling back against the rabbit's shoulder.
"Yea...," He whispered, releasing a sigh. "Thanks."
Bunnymund smirked, stopping his strokes long enough to pat Jack's chest. "No worries mate. Anytime." Bunny hesitated, biting the inside of his jaw as he chose his next words carefully. "If you ever want to, you know...talk, and you don't want to be smothered by Tooth or play guessing games with Sandy, you know you can always come to me, right?" The rabbit's ears perked, glancing down at Jack. This earned a smile from the now relaxed spirit, and Jack chuckled.
"Yes cottontail, I know."
The Easter Bunny shook his head in response to Jack's newest nick name, and coughed. "Good."
It didn't take long for Jack's eyes to slowly close, his tears finally subsided and his body loosening up as the alcohol took affect. Bunny needed not to say anything more. Rather, he discovered the silence to be comforting, and with his friend safely curled up against him, Bunny let his own eyelids droop. Jack's steady breathing substituted for a lullaby, and the rabbit found himself once more thankful that Jack's life had been spared. Granted, the boy was a thorn in his side at times, and he had to fight back the urge to strangle Jack when his cockiness became a tad bit overbearing, but there was nothing in the world Bunny wouldn't do for the kid. He'd protect him at all costs.
With emotions now settled and sleep taking hold of both guardians sitting on the window seal, everything was right in the world. Bunny would deal with North's playful jabs and Tooth's jealous chirps come due time, but for now, he wouldn't worry. Jack was alive, Jack was safe, and Jack was his to take care of.
That was all Bunny needed to know, and cared to know.