Summary: The Guardians fight to keep Jack alive after a deadly attack from Pitch.
"My soul is full of whispered song;
My blindness is my sight;
The shadows that I feared so long
Are all alive with light."
- Cary, Dying Hymn
"Death is a debt we all must pay, Jack," Pitch said. "And yours is long overdue."
"Is that supposed to scare me?" Jack challenged. Yet in the corner of his mind, he knew he was in trouble.
Below them, water seethed. They were standing in a shallow river. Icy and treacherous, Jack could already feel it's paralyzing sting swirl wildly around his ankles. At this late hour, the darkness nearly blinded him. There was the moon at least, shining dimly overhead and for that, Jack was grateful.
The Guardians had all believed Pitch had been consumed by his own fear that night they had united against him. He had been extinguished by shadows and darkness. None of them expected for Pitch to return as soon as he had and it caught Jack completely off guard.
"It should." Pitch told him, a grin twisting the corners of his mouth.
Jack met his leer with an equally confident smile. "Sorry to disappoint you then."
It had been the wrong words to say. Pitch lashed out at him, crushing his hands over his shoulders. He whispered softly in his ear, "Obviously, you don't know the true meaning of fear. You were never meant to be involved in that fight. And then you had to meddle in plans that were never meant to involve you. Well now, I'm doing what I should have done long ago," Pitch said, closing the distance between them.
Jack grit his teeth and clamped his own hands over the ones Pitch had latched on him. "Get off me," he warned.
"I said GET OFF!" Jack shouted. He swung his staff, sending waves of ice to come crashing at him but Pitch vanished.
A sharp burst of wind swept behind him, causing him to turn his back. The winter spirit was standing in the center of a semi-frozen river. It was January. The Easter Bunny had no reason to be here on Jack's turf unless he had been alerted to come to this specific area, yet there Bunnymund was, standing on a metal bridge constructed far overhead. He sniffed the air, taking in his new surroundings. His boomerangs were already in his grasp. Jack could barely see him between the bridge rails, fused with fresh ice. He must have known Jack was near. He just couldn't see where.
Unfortunately, turning his back would be the last mistake Jack would ever make.
"You shouldn't have dropped your guard."
Before Jack could turn around, his staff was sent flying from his hand. He had been completely disarmed by an unforeseen attack from Pitch, who now held his staff secure in his own grasp.
Jack's wrist was still stinging from having his staff wrested out of his grip. But that pain didn't even compare to what happened next. He was about to call out to Bunnymund — to at least turn his attention toward them — when his voice caught deep inside his throat. Then he took a breath, staggered forward and spit from his mouth a very unfamiliar taste.
Jack stopped moving for a second and bowed his head, watching the substance drip from the corner of his mouth and splatter against his jean and into the river where he still stood.
It was blood.
The icy water and chunks of floating ice licked his ankles. His blood was forming ice crystals on his jeans. He raised his head. All he could see was snow, ice, and winter-stripped trees that reached their brittle arms skyward as if screaming for someone to save them. Behind the ice-fused railings of the metal bridge remained Bunnymund, unaware of the conflict happening so close below him.
Pitch stealthily approached Jack then. "And here I was thinking this battle of ours would have been difficult," he said. "You made it too easy. I'd say you'd be feeling the affects of my poison anytime now."
It was after Pitch spoke that Bunnymund must have overhead the conversation because he immediately drew his attention toward the river. "JACK!"
The first boomerang flew in Pitch's direction with startling accuracy. Nevertheless it missed its target. Pitch had already disappeared.
"I got here as fast as I could once I heard you were here with Pitch. You aren't hurt, are you?" Bunnymund rushed toward Jack then who was still standing in the center of the river, not expecting the scene that awaited him. His gaze dropped.
Jack breathed a sharp, ragged breath. Unable to give a vocal reply, he gave Bunnymund a look as if to say, "What the hell do you think?" before stumbling forward.
He was not okay. They both knew that.
Impaled through his stomach was a black arrow. Terror crossed Bunnymund's typical steely countenance at the sight of the wound. There was something different about this attack from others he had seen. This arrow reeked of darkness. It didn't disintegrate on impact like it had on the Sand Man. It remained there, pierced through the young winter spirit's blood-soaked abdomen. Bunnymund was aware of the type of power that Pitch possessed, but never did he think such a destructive power would be used against a Guardian ever again like this.
The arrow was flooding poison into Jack's body. He had to get it removed. The only question was how much additional harm that might do if he did.
Revealing the fear that Bunnymund felt would only terrify Jack more, and Bunnymund could not afford for him to fear. It would have been what Pitch wanted. More fear to feast upon like a parasite with an unquenchable thirst.
"Jack," Bunnymund told him, holding him upright now. He mentally kicked himself, angry that he hadn't been able to control the quavering in his voice. Angry that he had been too late to stop this from happening. "You'll be fine, alright? I'm taking you to North. Don't worry."
"...wait," Jack told him. The first words he had spoken since he had seen him. His face tightened suddenly. Hearing his voice was chilling. Never had Bunnymund heard Jack sound so young.
"I have to," was all Bunnymund replied. He put his arms around him then and when Jack gave no further sign of protest, he lifted him out of the river.
Jack Frost was writing in pain.
He was on the floor of North's fortress. The once blue hoodie now stained dark red and the patches of crimson were growing larger by the second. There was a moment when North could not even grasp what he was seeing, because Guardians and Spirits were not supposed to bleed like this. They shouldn't bleed at all.
Jack's breath hitched in this throat. At the young winter spirit's pained gasp, Tooth hovered over him and placed her hand on the side of his neck. In response, Jack's glazed-over blue ices rolled up to meet hers.
The decision came to North quickly. "I'm going to pull it out," he said.
Jack's mouth opened and he struggled to breathe for a moment before rasping out one word that was so quiet, it could have been easily missed. Yet Bunnymund heard and his heart lurched into this throat.
The Guardian was up and by the boy's side in an instant.
"It's going to okay, Jack. Just hang in there." However, he knew what all the other Guardians knew. It was far from okay and by the way Jack was looking at him, he already knew it too.
North gripped the black arrow with his gloved hand. He regarded the young Guardian for a moment. There was frost on his eyelashes, giving him a soft look that made his calm, pale face look almost angelic. North swallowed hard. "Hold him," he ordered the others. He could not risk Jack thrashing.
Then his fist took hold of the impaled arrow just above the creased, blood-soaked sweatshirt where it entered him.
Tooth pinned Jack's left arm to the floor, leaving Bunnymund to secure his other arm and Sandy to hold his legs. "Be careful," she said.
North's face relaxed a little and he nodded, turning back to his task. He took a deep breath, then another. Then he gritted his teeth and pulled.
A/N: Like it? Hate it? Let me know in your review. I'd love to hear from you either way!