The Bare Bones

The first time Pitch struck back was the first time it happened. The first time the other Guardians realized just how used to being alone Jack was, and how independent he was. His independence wasn't necessarily a good thing. There are times when you need to let someone else take care of you. That was something Jack Frost hadn't realized yet. He'd always taken care of himself. He didn't know any differently.

It was a big city in Hong Kong where they fought Pitch and the battle took place mostly in the air. There were plenty of skyscrapers and other tall buildings to help keep the field level for Bunny, who couldn't fly. North had his sleigh to help battle the nightmares. Sandy, Tooth, and Jack could all fly of course. Pitch, despite having a large number of nightmares at his disposal, was clearly outmatched and was only able to drag the battle on by using evasion techniques. But when he saw an opportunity to take down Jack Frost, an opening in his guard, how could he resist? A clear shot at the one who'd ruined all his plans wasn't something he got every day.

He summoned his scythe of nightmare sand and swung it at the boy from behind as Jack iced a nightmare with his staff.

"Jack! Look out!" came the call from Tooth.

But Jack being Jack didn't look anywhere. He just moved, which turned out to be his saving grace. Pitch's swing missed him completely. Failing to cut Jack with the sharp blade of his scythe, he swung it the opposite way before Jack had time to change directions. The blunt end hit him hard and slammed him into the closest skyscraper.

Something cracked. Something other than glass. Lots of that cracked too, and most likely masked the sound to the other Guardians, but Pitch recognized the sound of bones breaking. Jack gave a cry of pain but didn't let go of his staff and sent a wave of blinding white ice right at Pitch, forcing Pitch away. He had to move quickly to dodge a boomerang that would have hit him in the head, and a sleigh that would have hit all of him. Another blast of ice from Frost made him pull back even further, and he had to admire the boy's stubbornness. Even with the pain of a broken bone, he still fought on and refused to let his friends completely take over for him. But he didn't follow when Pitch ducked around the side of another building, even though North and Bunny both gave chase.

Jack himself clenched his teeth and blasted away another nightmare that had come up behind North's sleigh before he allowed himself even a short moment of respite. When he could finally afford to, he dropped down onto the roof of a nearby building and landed on his good leg. The other hurt awfully and he immediately knew from experience that it was broken, even before he saw the sickening way his lower leg was bent where it wasn't supposed to be bent.

He propped his injured leg up on an AC vent as he was sitting, then tentatively felt the break, making sure that it was a clean break. Satisfied that it was, he braced himself for the pain then set the bone himself, pushing it back into place with his bare hands. He couldn't hold back a scream of pain but he managed to keep it short. Several frozen tears fell into his lap as he tossed his head trying to get the pain under control. Then once it was he touched the crook of his staff to his leg and encased it in a cast of ice.

He had a battle to finish.

They drove Pitch off quickly after that, got rid of all the nightmares, then climbed in the sleigh to rocket back to the North Pole for a victory celebration. It was only once they were back inside that anyone noticed anything was wrong with Jack, when he floated alongside them rather than walked like he usually did.

"Oy! What happened to you?" asked Bunny when he noticed Jack's leg was encased in ice.

"Pitch broke my leg," Jack answered.

"What?" Tooth gasped.

"Jack!" North was shocked. Sandy made distressed gestures are him.

"It's alright, I already fixed it," Jack told them.

"You don't just fix a broken leg, mate!" gaped Bunny.

Jack gave him a weird look. "Uh, yeah you do. People break bones and set them all the time, then they get healed. Fixed. Made whole."

"Yeah, but the people who break the bones usually aren't the ones who set the bloody things!" Bunny shouted.

"What are you talking about? Pitch didn't set it, I did."

"What? No, you're the one who broke it!"

"No, I just told you, Pitch broke it!"

"Bunny, enough! Jack, please, sit down." North pulled up a chair for him.

Jack hesitated. He tried to decide whether or not it would pay off to be defiant, but decided not to test it tonight. He was tired and his leg ached. So, he floated down onto the chair where North had put it.

"I'm sorry, but I just can't let this go. Seriously, Jack? Are you off your rocker? You set your own blood broken leg!" Bunny shouted.

"So what? What's the big deal?" demanded Jack.

Sandy made some quick hand motions to get their attention, then used his dream sand to make a hand reaching out to help, a first aid kit, a bandaid, and finally a boy being hugged by a lager person, an adult.

"You said it, Sandy," said Bunny.

"Jack, we would have helped you," Tooth said.

"We would have been here for you. Treated your wounds," North told him.

Jack gave them an offensive look and hopped up from his chair, floating just up out of reach of North's caring hands so the big man wouldn't be able to touch him.

"I didn't need any help. I don't need help. I can take care of myself," he said defiantly.

"We know you can. But now you don't have to," Tooth said, fluttering over to try and touch his arm.

Jack pulled back as though her hands would burn. "No, you don't get it. I take care of myself. That's what I do."

"Jack –"

"Leave it. Just accept that I can take care of myself and this teamwork thing will work out better for us all."

Jack flew toward one of the windows and let himself out before they could answer that. The remaining Guardians looked at each other, their expressions ranging from shocked to sad. No one needed to speak – they all shared the same thoughts. Just how much of a lone wolf did someone have to be to just go and set their own leg after they broke it? How many times had Jack done that himself to just be able to shrug it off so lightly now?

"I think he's missing the point of teamwork," Bunny said finally.

"Tell me that's not what you're worried about, Bunny!" Tooth said angrily.

"You know bloody well that I don't give a second care about that! I just . . . that kid . . . I don't even know what to say, this is just so wrong!" Bunny said, starting off angry but ending in a flustered tone.

Sandy waved to get their attention then created miniature figures of each of the Guardians over his head. He grouped the four sand versions of them together, and the sand version of Jack Frost far off to the side, his back to them. They watched as Sandy made Jack glance over his shoulder then quickly look away. Then look at them again and slowly turn. The sand version of Sandy waved to Jack. The sand version of North beckoned. Sand Bunny hunched his shoulders then relaxed them and beckoned as well. Sand Tooth held her arms open for a hug. Slowly the group of Sand Guardians and the lone Sand Jack began moving toward each other. Steadily on the part of the Sand Guardians. Hesitantly on Sand Jack's part, until he was right in front of them. Then somehow, and they weren't sure how because even though they were all watching, none of them saw who made the first move, but suddenly Jack was a part of their group, accepting a hug from Tooth, reaching out to give Bunny five and pat Sandy on the head, allowing North to sling an arm about his shoulders.

Slowly, the Guardians watching the sand show smiled.

"You're right."