Where there is a Flame

Rating: T

Summary: Jack is badly injured while performing his duty as a Guardian. It is up to the others to help the spirit recover and also teach him that just because he was alone before doesn't mean he is now.

Author Note: This was written post late night/early morning (3am) study session for an 8am final in Equine Health. I'm pretty content at the moment… 1 fail worthy final down, Criminal Justice final complete and I got a freaking Happy Meal for dinner – complete with the North snow globe toy, which I am not ashamed to admit at 25 I was pretty stoked about (even though I wanted Jack)—but yeah.

It wasn't the first time Jack had heard the shrill mechanical scream from the small town beyond the forest. Throughout the years he'd lingered around the developing settlement- now bustling town- that continually sprung up around his birthplace he'd become familiar with the wailing sirens and flashing lights of vehicles that responded to the residents calls for help. Three hundred years of walking unseen amongst the townsfolk and listening at their meetings Jack was able to understand what the newest inventions were when they arrived in the town. Of course, when he was living in the settlement as a mortal teen they had the fire brigade, town magistrate and a proper English doctor but nothing as efficient as people in this era.

Policemen replaced the Magistrate and his thugs

Firemen with large red trucks replaced the seven men and wooden pails

EMT's and medical facilities replaced the drunkard that served as the town doctor

Several years of listening to the wailing has caused the Guardian of Fun to become almost immune to it, his focus solely on convincing the ground to start cooling off so snow would stick and not melt in the coming weeks. The winds dance and whirl around him, bringing with them the stink of charred wood and the rancid stench of the modern plastic. Jack scrunches his nose at the scent, shaking his head and snorting loudly in an attempt to rid the offending stench from his nostrils. Jack steps back to look at his work and purses his lips as the winds whip faster around him, tugging at his sleeves and hood with urgency.

"I can tell a building is burning down, I maybe dead but I still have senses." He grouses at the offending gusts of air but allow his longtime companion to carry him away to the scene. As he surfs along the air streams Jack's stomach begins to curl dangerously as he orients himself with where the smoke is rising from. With a curse that would make North blush the embodiment of winter asks the wind whipping around him for speed. The wind happily obliges, sending the spirit careening toward the two story house currently ablaze.

Jamie's home.

He lands atop the fence on the side of the house, watching for a moment as the young believer's home is torn apart by the roaring flames, black smoke billowing out of the top floor windows and roof at an alarming rate. Jack instantly sets to scanning the crowd of town folk, looking for any sign of his young friend and his family amongst the horrified faces. Jack's attention zeros in immediately on the hysteric woman who is throwing her weight against the policeman holding her away from the burning property, her sobbing cries cutting through the noise.

"SOPHIA! NO, No My baby girl!" Jack's body is in motion before his brain catches up with what he's doing. Riding the wind upward the silver haired spirit scans the burning building for a moment before making his decision. He glances at the crowd once more, seeing Jamie's lime green winter coat in the crowd. The young believer's tear stained face is looking upward, brown eyes pleading as he tries one more time to duck by the officer keeping him from entering.

His decision is made.

With a single movement the immortal plunges downward feet first, using the wind to cut through the billowing black smoke while simultaneously throwing a golden sphere up into the waiting winds, knowing that the small item would be carried directly to Sandman, wherever in the world he is. The speed of which he plummets allows the spirit to break through the already weakened roof of the building and throwing the spirit across the charred floor of the buildings attic. Frantically Jack moves, ignoring the sting as the heat licks at his cold skin. The trap door to the attic is seared away, allowing the nimble guardian to slip through easily to the second floor. He pauses a moment, coughing harshly on the black smoke filling his lungs and blinks rapidly tearing eyes as he gets his bearings.

"SOPHIA!" he shouts, hoping his voice can be heard over the roaring flames. Coughing as the thick air tries to choke him the lithe teen moves through the house towards where the toddler's room is located, staff held out.

Jack tries to call the wind but only succeeds in angering the heat, which leaps at his skin with renewed anger. As he moves he can feel the wood beneath his feet groaning in agony as the flames consume and chew away at the structure. His hooked staff bangs into the once decorated door now grotesquely warped as the plastic motifs melt from the heat, the colors running and burning into a hideous mosaic.

"SOPHIA!" he calls again, bringing his arm up to cover his mouth and nose in an attempt to make breathing easier. Tears stream freely down the ice spirits face, tears that once froze on contact now drip freely off the teen's chin as he searches. He crouches low, holding the hooked staff out before him as a way to gauge the proximity of where things are in the room. The closet is ahead of him and he makes for that, remembering past reports of children hiding in the small closets to escape the flames leaving fire fighters unable to get to them. He's about to step away when he is stopped by an out of place noise.

A whimper

He listens for a moment, barely breathing

There is was again, to his left this time. Jack changes course immediately, crying out as red hot agony laces up his leg. He strikes out at the pile of flaming debris from the collapsing ceiling but his powers refuse to come to his aid.

"Crap." He mutters in alarm suddenly realizing how hot and dry it was but as another section of the roof collapses a wailing scream draws his focus back to the trapped child. With a grimace the spirit presses on, his body quaking as his breathing become more ragged and the outstretched staff quivers.

"Sophia!" he croaks, coughing painfully as his staff strikes the smoldering surface of the little girls bed. Jack gives a breathless whoop of triumph and practically collapses onto the floor, his narrowed and dry eyes peering into the darkness beneath the bed.

Red ringed eyes stare back as the little girl wails, her small body wracked with coughs.

Without hesitation the silver haired youth snatches the little child's quaking arms and bodily hauls her out before surging to his feet once more. The quick movement causes his head to spin and sight to narrow dangerously as black swims at the edge.

"t's kay… getn out—t." he tries but his mouth feel like rubber and he coughs once more, belatedly aware of another section of the roof coming down, flaming shingles raining down onto the spirit as he instinctively hunches his shoulders and presses the wailing child to his chest. Jack screams as flames singe through the sweatshirts material and into his skin but the pain propels the teen forward towards the only exit he can see through burning eyes. With his staff outstretched the spirit runs, ignoring the pain as the flames lick at his bare feet and more debris fall.

He launches out the window

And prays to anyone listening that the wind would catch them

As they plummet to the ground

Jack tucks himself into a ball clutching onto the little girl and prepares for impact, hoping his meager frame would be able to protect the precious cargo in his arms.

The abrupt impact steals away his breath and becomes a cacophony of sounds as Jack's body comes to rest on the lawn, uncurling from its protective ball. Sophia tumbles out, the momentum bouncing her tiny body a few feet away to stop with a wailing sob punctuated with ragged coughs. Jack's chest heaves, propelling his aching back upward as he tries to draw air. Distantly he can hear shouting and the vibrations of approaching people and focuses gritty eyes over to where medical personal are kneeling beside Sophia, their movements blurred and voices warped. Jack's chest continues to heave and spasm as his body manages to draw small puffs of air into his starving body.

"Let's get her to the hospital." One of the medics shouts as two more arrive with a bright yellow board and begin strapping the tiny body to it. Jack watches as the team works, completely unnoticed by the adult mortals working only a couple of paces away. The team moves quickly and within minutes Sophia is whisked away, the screaming wail of the medical vehicle replacing those of her hysterical mother.

Jack remains on the ground until he is able to draw a ragged breath, coughing harshly before curling into himself on the lawn, pain racing through his body at the motion. The wind teases his silver hair and moves through the holes in his sweatshirt causing the youngster to cry out and plead for it to stop. His trembling fingers brush the gritty wood of his staff and Jack takes a small comfort in knowing the three hundred year old relic made it through the flames.

"Get up Jack." He gasps and coughs at himself. The spray from the fire hoses is carried on the wind and Jack relishes the icy sensation of the mist hitting his dry skin.

"Get up…" he urges himself and slowly the guardian moves, using his staff to propel his upper half into a seated position. He sits for a moment, swallowing thickly and wincing at the rancid taste at the back of his throat. His vision is cloudy, eyes gritty and sore but with a jaw set in determination he maneuvers himself upward, letting out a sob as his feet protest. The pain of standing causes the teen to sob harder as the wind dances around him, ready for his command.

"Take me to the lake." He croaks and coughs harshly as the wind delicately maneuvers him along, away from the burning wreckage to the safety of the forest and familiarity of the pond. Dulled by the pain and exhaustion Jack barely notices the jingle of bells in the distance, his focus only on getting back to his lake. The wind places him delicately but Jack collapses to the chilled ground with a scream of pain, his body twitching as he coughs and gags. He lays in the mud beside the lake, gritty eyes producing tears that refuse to freeze as the young spirit focuses on breathing.

Just breathe.

It will be fine as long as I keep breathing.

The urgency of which Sandman busted through the doors of Santoff Claussen would later be added to the record of firsts. The diminutive spirit flew past the working Yetis and presented himself before the tinkering toy maker, his signs spinning rapidly above his head.

"Sandy, calm down. I do not understand." Nicholas St. North exclaims as the small dream master yanks and pulls on the larger guardian's arms and eventually his beard. With a frustrated sigh the golden spirit clasps the sides of North's face, focusing on the blue eyes and relaying his message in a way he can given the urgency of the situation. The dream sand usually reserved for presenting happy thoughts to the slumbering children now delivers a message that makes the Russian's stomach curl and his body to go numb.

Jack is in trouble. Fire at Jamie's home, the littlest child trapped. Jack went in to get her out.

"To the sleigh!" North shouts and quickly moves to head in the direction of the ramp. Luckily the team was in the process of being fitted for new harnesses so the Reindeer were all assembled.

"Send out the alarm to Bunny and Tooth; tell them to meet us in Burgees." North orders one of the Yetis helping with the fitting as he climbs into the trademark flyer, Sandy securing himself beside the larger guardian.

"We fly quickly, we fly fast my friends. Jack Frost is in need of our help, let that give speed to your hooves!" North shouts to the majestic animals and with a snort Vixen is charging off, the others falling into step with him as the eight powerful animals launch themselves down the tunnel and into the air with a speed and coordination unseen in common animals. With a harsh command the Russian throws the snow globe to the right, already primed to bring them to the lake and within seconds the sleigh disappears through the time scar, leaving a crackle of blue lightning in its wake.

It was seconds after that word reached the Warren and Tooth palace, the news brought by long legged messenger eggs and large winged messenger fairies. Bunnymund was already moving before the message was finished flying through his tunnels on all fours, pushing his muscles to the limit as he runs.

Tooth shot up out of her palace with a brief command to her fairies, wings beating frantically as she moved between the large obstacles in the forest, tears leaking from her wide eyes. Baby Tooth refusing to obey her mistress flies just as fast, the two resembling a shimmering missile as they soar.

Upon leaving the time rift Sandy launches himself from the sleigh and rides to the ground on a conjured cloud while North maneuvers the team to a safe area to land. Sandy reaches the ground just as Bunnymund's tunnel opens up nearly colliding with the golden spirit in his haste to the surface. Sandy makes signs to spread out with his small arms and Bunny nod, chest heaving as he moves off.

"Jack!" he shouts breathlessly, moving closer to the lake as Sandy scours the tree line. North arrives moments later to join in their search, his bellowing voice cutting through the silence. Bunny rounds the bend in the lake and pushes aside a patch of browning pussy willows, his large feet sinking into the muck as he moves.

He stops and sniffs the wind, moving cautiously forward.

The stench of blood and soot stands out from the other scents of nature; he scans the bank ahead and leaps off quickly, raising the alarm as he does.

"He's here!"

"Jack! Jack, answer me mate." He shouts, slipping in the muck as he moves to the youngster's side. From across the pond he can hear North and Sandy scrambling to join him.

"Hey, hey look at me." Bunny demands, grasping the winter spirits face with both paws, alarmed at how warm the usually freezing skin is. In the past any time the Pooka touched the spirit frost would accumulate and cling to the hair on his paws.

"Damn kid, what did you do?" he exclaims, working through the horror of what he's witnessing. Jack whimpers in pain at the handling his eyes unable to function properly as he draws in ragged breathes. He knows its Bunnymund, the roughness of his paws like sandpaper against his already aching flesh. A soundless sob escapes the youth as North and Sandy approach, eyes wide at the sight.

"Hell fires take me." North breathes the curse from his former life slipping as he plunks down in the muck and helps support the wounded spirit. Jack cringes away from his touch, sobbing openly now as his body trembles.

"He's in bad shape." Bunny states firmly, his tone callous and unforgiving. To anyone else it would seem like the warrior Pooka doesn't care but North understands. Now is not the time to be in hysterics, now was a time for clear headedness.

There will be time for break downs later.

"Sandy, we can't move him until we figure out how bad this is." Bunnymund argues, his green eyes narrowed dangerously as he sets to examining the youngling in North's embrace. Sandy moves to where he can clearly see Jack's face, watching as the tears of pain slip past through eyes swollen nearly shut from the heat. Thin slivers of silvery blue surrounded by a bright red break the dream weaver's heart, although the slivers is all he can see Sandy can make out the distress and pain. He takes the usually icy cold hand and holds onto it tightly as Bunny works, watching the eyes as they plead and beg for release.

"Alright... Jack, this is going to hurt and I'm sorry." Bunny breathes and nods to North who lifts the lithe body off the ground, shuddering as the youth lets out an animalistic howl, bucking weakly against North's strong arms.

"Put him down here." Bunny indicates to a plush area of mostly green grass away from the muck and water of the lake. Jack spasms as he's placed on the ground, keening loudly as his body protests the continual abuse, chest heaving harshly. Sandy returns to holding the nimble fingers as North and Bunny moves a few paces away, his smile directed down at the spirit as he trembles and shakes, whimpers produced without permission. Sandy runs a hand through Jack's silvery hair, comforting the hurting child as he listens to the two other guardians.

"He's got severe burns along his back and shoulders, his legs and feet are a mess. He's obviously inhaled smoke, breathing is bad Nick." Sandy's grip increases fractionally as Bunny calls North by his first name, a testament to how dire the situation is.

"We get him back to the Pole. I have medicines. He can recover there." North proposes and Bunny must have nodded and affirmative to that suggestion because the two are coming back over. With a look North gestures towards the boy and Sandy nods.

"Jack, we are going to move you. It will be painful so Sandy is going to give you dream, something nice. You will feel better when you wake back up." North explains his usually booming voice soft. Jack's chest heaves as he coughs harshly, the attack stealing his breath away and leaving him wheezing painfully as his swollen eyes slip fully closed. Bunny shakes his head, ears plastered to his skull with worry. Sandy is about to begin setting his sands to work as a blur zips past them, causing Jack to flinch and whimper in North's embrace. Bunny's whiskers twitch as his eyes track the rapidly moving colorful blur and his powerful legs tense in anticipation, with a soft grunt the six foot Pooka leaps upward and snatches the ballistic Tooth out of the sky, bringing her back to the ground in his arms.

"Easy, easy. Don't startle him." Bunny soothes as Tooth takes one look at the injured spirit and begins to openly sob, dropping to her knees beside the injured boy and taking his other hand in hers tenderly.

"Oh Jack…. You're going to be fine." She assures even though her eyes flick around widely at the other guardians, seeking reassurance herself. North nods solemnly and Sandy sets back to work and within minutes the dream sand is at work easing the tension out of the thin frame of the immortal teen, the pained creases easing away slightly.

"Let's get him back to the pole." Bunny states and without a word North whistles for the team to come closer, the sleigh fitting between the narrow birch trees easily enough. The reindeer are still panting from the exertion of the trip to the lake and North briefly touches each animal in condolence for having to drive them at such a pace once again. Vixen, the lead bull snorts and shakes his impressive rack before stomping one cloven foot with the others doing similar acts of response. North smiles at the animals and speaks softly

"He treats you all kindly whenever he is at pole. Thank you my friends for moving with such haste." He awards Vixen with another stroke to his neck before taking back up the reins and maneuvering the sleigh around so the animals could have a clear shot to take off.

"Will you travel with me Bunny?" He questions, no hint of joke or mirth in his words and his eyes have gone steely. Bunnymund, notoriously afraid to the sleigh simply nods and pushes down his dislike and fear knowing it was more important he be with Jack when they arrived at the Pole.

"Count on it mate." He nods and with Sandy's dream sand still whirling around Jack's head the guardians begin the process of moving the scrawny body.

"He will be in pain…" Tooth trails off; having gained back some composure once the teen had been put to sleep. She dries her tears and suddenly she is no longer the bubbly, absent minded Tooth Fairy they all are familiar with.

"It will be lessened since he's out. Bloke's in rough shape but the sooner we get him to where we can help him the better off he will be." Bunny points out and the four guardians begin the slow process of moving the newest member of their ranks. North and Bunny support the narrow shoulders and back, worry about broken bones or internal injuries hampering their movements, while Tooth supports Jack's blistered legs. Sandy supports the younglings head, monitoring his dreams and adding more sand as needed to keep him from feeling too much pain.

Careful as they were however the winter spirit whimpers and coughs against the pain, his swollen face tense as his body tries to instinctively move away from the contact.

"Can you put him out further?" Bunny asks quietly once they are settled in the sleigh and Sandy purses his lips, a warning sign flashing about his head in response.

"Alright, I understand. Let's try and keep him still as possible alright mates?" Bunny instructs as North takes up the reins and the large antlered mammals begin to pick up speed. The lift off jolts everyone onboard and causes Jack to give a sobbing cry but within minutes the ride settles to just a light swaying.

For the first time in too many years Bunny isn't afraid of the ride.

He's too concerned about his young friend.

Author Note: so, I hope this intrigued you all enough to come back for the next chapter… which will be posted when I get around to writing it. Probably this weekend, maybe work on it tomorrow when I get back from my photography adventure hike –get off this damn campus!—but for now I am running off of 2 hours sleep and feel like death warmed over so I'm heading for my bed. Drop me a review, PM whatever, lemme know what you think. Also- woooo for Jack whump!