Chapter One

It had been three years since Pitch's defeat, and the Guardians had gathered at the North Pole for their annual celebration. Bunnymund was helping himself to a big plate of baby carrots on toothpicks, while Tooth Fairy hovered over his shoulder, reminding him to floss after eating.

"Get away, ya fluttery featherbrain!" the irritable rabbit growled, "Carrots make your teeth stronger, didn't you know that?"

"No," Tooth retorted, "carrots help your eyesight."

North came to stand beside his two friends, chuckling heartily, "If you want to make bones stronger, Bunny, then you should drink milk like me!" He held an oversized mug of milk in front of Bunnymund's nose, sloshing the drink around invitingly.

"Leave me alone, you jelly bellied old geezer!"

"Ha, your loss!" the large man laughed, taking swig from the mug.

"You know what's better than milk?" Jack Frost asked, gliding over to his friends with a mischievous look in his eye. "Ice cream!"

The silver haired Guardian reached out and touched North's mug, freezing the milk inside solid. North's eyes went wide, and he tried to pull the mug away, but his tongue had become stuck to the frozen milk!

"Oh, vewwy fuddy," he grumbled. A passing yeti saw North's predicament, and decided to help. Grabbing the old man's head with one massive hand, it took old of the mug in the other, and jerked both of them in opposite directions, wrenching North's tongue free in a most painful manner. Jack collapsed onto the floor in a fit of laughter.

"Id's dot fuddy!" North reprimanded them all, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, stinging from the cold.

Sandy drifted by lazily, a cloud of sand appearing over his head to spell the words "HA HA HA."

"Here, I think I've got something that should help that," Tooth offered, trying to hold back her own laughter. She conjured a small bottle of bright green liquid. Popping the cork, she fluttered over to pour it on North's tongue. Immediately, the redness went away, and North pulled it back into his mouth.

"Thank you, Tooth," he said, giving the others the evil eye. "It is good to know that I have ONE friend here."

"Oh lighten up," Bunnymund chuckled, slugging the big man's arm. "Frost got you good this time!"

Pushing the oversized rabbit away, North cleared his throat and quickly composed himself again, "Well, my friends, yet another year passes without Pitch to threaten the precious children of the world. We should all feel proud for this victory, for we all fought bravely that night! And furthermore…"

As North continued his speech, Tooth felt her mind begin to drift elsewhere. Across the room from her, Jack was perched on his ever present staff, obviously not enjoying North's words either. She sighed silently as she gazed at the young man. He was so handsome. If only he would think of her as more than a friend. Seeing that she was looking at him, Jack winked coyly and began to mimic North's exaggerated movements behind the old man's back.

"You have something you would like to add, Jack?" North asked, spinning around and catching Frost in a ridiculous pose.

"Nope, not a thing!" Jack answered with a sly grin.

"Good, then you will not mind if we proceed to what I want to show to you all, no?"

With that, the large man turned and walked down one of his lair's many hallways. The other four guardians exchanged confused glances with each other before following him. What on earth could he want to show them?

"This, my friends, will change everything!" North announced once the others had caught up with him. "I have solved our greatest dilemma!"

"And just what dilemma is that?" Bunnymund challenged him. "Your cookie addiction?"

"You all know what it is that makes children stop believing in us, yes?" North continued, ignoring Bunnymund. "It is that as they grow older, their inner child dies! They succumb to the mind numbingly boring life that adults are expected to lead. And that, my friends, is the problem my latest invention has fixed!"

Now North had everyone's attention. "You mean you can make them believe in us again?" Tooth asked, zipping over to hover next to him. "How?"

"With this!" North proclaimed, opening the closest door and ushering his friends inside. Before them stood a giant machine, towering high above them all. It was cone shaped, very large at the bottom and narrowing to a point at the top. A mechanical arm extended from the top, long and narrow, like a pipe.

"This, my friends," North said, as if introducing them to the machine, "is my Child Reviver Machine! All we have to do is direct the laser it shoots at someone, and their inner child will immediately be reawakened, as if it had never gone away at all!"

"Does it work?" Bunnymund asked, walking around the machine.

"It is still in the early stages of development," North admitted. "But progress is coming along nicely! Before long, my friends, every adult on earth will believe in us once more!"

The Sandman wasn't convinced, and he made it clear when he made the image of a person exploding appear in sand above his head.

"Not to worry, Sandy!" North laughed. "Laser is completely harmless! Watch!"

Walking to the control panel, North powered up the machine with a loud whir. The mechanical arm sprung to life and swiveled towards a nearby yeti. The yeti immediately put its hands up in surrender, but North only laughed and pushed a big red button. A blue streak of light shot from the gun, hitting the yeti square in the face. It obviously wasn't harmed, as it merely blinked a couple times before skipping away with a childish grin on its face.

"It has only been tested on yetis," North reported, "but soon we will be ready to test it on a human adult!"

Intrigued, Jack's feet left the floor, and he flew up to get a closer look at the gun. Tapping it with his staff, he asked, "what exactly is it that this thing shoots?"

"That is trade secret, my friend," North winked. "Don't want any of you to be stealing my idea, do we?"

"Well, it looks like it works fine to me," Bunnymund said. "What else are you waiting for?"

"It still has a couple of bugs to work out, nothing dangerous." Suddenly, the machine began to whir and hum on its own. "Speak of the devil, here it goes now."

Tooth flew backwards a few wing beats to distance herself from the malfunctioning machine. Looking up, though, she gasped! Jack was still hovering at the top of the machine, directly in front of the gun, completely unaware of what was happening.

"Jack, watch out!" she shouted, but she was too late. A second beam of bright blue light shot from the gun, striking Jack in the chest, propelling him backwards, straight into the wall. Apparently losing consciousness, Jack then fell to the floor with a loud thud.

"Jack!" all of the Guardians exclaimed at the same time (with the exception of Sandy), and hurried over to help their friend. When they arrived at the place where he had fallen, though, they all gasped in shock. Where Jack had hit the ground laid a pile of his clothes, completely empty.

"What happened?" Bunnymund demanded. "Where's Jack?"

"I- I don't know!" North replied, obviously at a complete loss. "Nothing like this has happened to anyone who my laser struck before!"

Tooth fluttered back and forth over the pile of clothes, frantically searching for any clue as to where her friend had gone. "You vaporized him!" she cried. "He's gone!"

But then there came a soft noise from within the pile of clothes. All of the guardians froze and leaned in closer. There it was again, a soft, barely audible cooing sound. Tentatively, North reached out and lifted Jack's shirt off the ground.

There, nestled inside Jack's clothes, was a little boy, no more than two, with a mop of silver hair on top of his head.