Disclaimer: The rights for Rise of the Guardians and The Guardians of Childhood belong to DreamWorks Animation and William Joyce.
AN: I haven't planned ahead with this story, so I'm open to ideas.
"All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and someone who believes in them." – Magie Johnson
Jack liked to visit Jamie late at night. He had made a habit of it not long after Pitch's attack on the Guardians, just in case the Boogeyman returned to give the boy Nightmares – even during the summer when he was off season. It soon became some kind of midnight play date for the two, and even when he was supposed to be working somewhere else in the world Jack couldn't stay away.
North had said it was natural. Jamie was Jack's first believer, and even though the number was growing, Jamie would always be special to the new Guardian. He was like the younger brother he never had; a boy who reminded him of his sister in so many ways.
On such a night Jack arrived outside Jamie's open window, and didn't have to wait long; the boy was out of bed immediately, practically jumping up and down with excitement. "Jack! You're here! I didn't think you'd come."
"Why would I miss this?" asked Jack. He climbed in through the window, and he kept a smile on his face despite how humid the air was.
"Because of the heat wave," Jamie replied. "I don't want you to overheat, or anything. I know it bothers you a lot more than it bothers me."
Jack chuckled. The boy was right about that; Jack couldn't stand the heat, for obvious reasons. "I know, but it'll take more than a heat wave to keep me away." He sat himself down on the box at the end of the boy's bed, where he usually sat during his visits. "So, what's going on with you?"
"Well, apart from baking to death in the classroom, I got an A on my creative writing assignment!" Jamie held up the paper to show Jack.
"Is that the one about us?" Jack asked, and the boy nodded. The week before, Jamie had asked him permission to write about the Guardians and the adventure defeating Pitch. Jack in turn had asked North, who had said it was fine so long as it didn't raise suspicions among the adults. "Did your teacher say anything about it?"
"Just said it was really imaginative," said Jamie. "She didn't suspect anything; don't worry."
Jack sighed with relief. "Good. So what else happened?"
At this, Jamie averted his gaze to the floor with a sad expression. "Claude and Caleb stopped believing."
The Guardian mirrored his expression. It was sad when a child stopped believing, but it was a way of life, and something that had to happen. Any child who kept on believing into adulthood usually had a good reason for it, like having an encounter with one of the Guardians. But even then, a child could easily stop believing.
Jamie and his friends were at an age where children began to act more mature, and childhood fantasies began to fade. Jack feared the same thing would happen to Jamie, but as time went on, it was almost as if his belief grew stronger. "What did they write off their experience as?"
"A dream," said Jamie. He sighed. "Like Pippa and Cupcake did." The girls were the first to stop believing, but as girls usually matured faster than boys, this was understandable. "It's just Monty left, now. And it probably won't be long for him, either. He...tends to give into peer pressure easily."
Seeing the sadness in the boy's eyes, Jack laid a comforting hand upon the boy's shoulder. "It's sad when a child stops believing. But it's inevitable." Jamie nodded, and noticing him shiver slightly, Jack removed his hand. "Sorry."
"No, it's OK," said Jamie. "It's cooling me down. It's really hot in here."
Before more could be said, the two boys heard a squeal of laughter coming from Sophie's room, followed by a sudden 'shush'. They both knew what this meant.
"Looks like Bunny decided to pay a visit to Sophie," Jack observed. Bunny didn't visit as often as Jack did, but sometimes he found time to visit the little girl who had wandered into his warren that Easter and had showed him just what he'd been missing out on. "Let's just hope your mum doesn't wake up."
"She wouldn't be able to see you guys even if she did," said Jamie. "And she won't tonight; she's usually a light sleeper, but she has an important meeting with her boss early tomorrow morning, and she wanted to get a good night's sleep. So she took these sleeping pills to stop her from waking up in the night; I don't think even a fire engine could wake her up now."
Jack smirked. "More fun for us, then." He flew out Jamie's bedroom door and down the hall; Jamie grabbed the stuffed rabbit from his bed before following along behind him. Jack opened Sophie's door and found Bunny hopping around the room with the little girl on his back, both laughing.
The Pooka froze, expecting to see Sophie's mother standing in the door, but relaxed when he saw it was only Jack. "Shouldn't you be on the other side of the Earth spreading your mischief down south?"
"You know I don't miss these visits." Jamie hurried in behind Jack and shut the door behind him, just in case his mother did wake up.
Bunny helped Sophie off his back, and the little girl began to jump up and down with excitement. "Bunny home! Bunny home!"
"Not tonight, you little ankle biter," said Bunny with a chuckle. "It's late. Look at the time, it's..." He looked at the small fairy clock on her bedside table, and his expression changed, "...midnight. Oops."
"I haven't seen your warren before," Jamie spoke up. The boy had always wanted to see it, after hearing descriptions from Jack and watching Sophie draw pictures of the place. It looked amazing. "And it'll probably be cooler than here. Even if you guys did leave now we won't sleep much."
Jack shrugged in agreement. "We could let them sleep there and bring them back here before morning?" he suggested.
Bunny thought about this, and upon seeing the pleading eyes of both Jamie and Sophie, he sighed. "Fine, I guess it won't hurt." The two children cheered in hush voices as Bunny opened up a tunnel in the floor; the kids hopped in first, and then Bunny looked over at Jack. "You coming?"
"Better than this oven." Jack hopped in, and Bunny followed before the tunnel closed behind them.
At the other end Jamie and Sophie landed on the soft grass of the warren, the stuffed rabbit falling from Jamie's arms. But the boy barely noticed; he was too in awe of the sights around him, and gasped as he got to his feet and turned in circles.
"Wow, this is even more amazing than I imagined!" Beside him, Sophie just giggled as she hurried over to a small group of eggs. They scattered and hid in a small hole, and she tried to stick her head inside to follow.
The large stone eggs came to life around them as Jack and Bunny arrived. "Easy, mates," Bunny told the stone eggs. "They're with us." The eggs acknowledged and stepped back, but remained standing in order to keep an eye on things. Bunny hopped over to where Jamie was in awe and where Sophie was trying to catch the eggs. "Oh, and Frost? No blizzards."
"Darn." Jack smirked, and when Bunny sent him an un-amused look, the boy raised his hands innocently. "I kid."
Bunny made a 'I'm keeping my eye on you' sign before turning his attention to Sophie. "Come on, you little nipper. You wanna help paint some eggs?"
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Sophie jumped up and down.
"Me too!" Jamie spoke up.
Bunny chuckled. "Of course, mate. There's millions to go around."
As Bunny led the siblings over to where the new eggs were coming from, Jack hung back to watch with a smile on his face. Sometimes he wondered what would have happened if he didn't die; he missed his old family, especially his sister, and didn't like to think about how much they must have suffered after his death. But watching the Bennett children, and thinking about the other Guardians, he realized that he had a new family.
And he wouldn't change them for anything.
Hours passed, and soon both Jamie and Sophie were asleep. Running around the warren and helping Bunny paint eggs had left them worn out; the two slept against a moss-covered rock, the stuffed rabbit under Jamie's arm, and the two Guardians watched them with smiles on their faces.
"Good call on bringing them here," said Bunny to Jack. He leaned in and brushed a hair away from Sophie's face.
Jack – who was crouched on top of his staff – leapt down. "Burgess was hot, even for them. But we better take them back now."
Bunny nodded in agreement before taking Sophie into his arms and picking her up. Jack did the same with Jamie, but struggled under the boy's weight. "Why do I have to get the heavy one?"
"Because he's your friend, mate." The Pooka chuckled before tapping his foot on the ground, calling upon a tunnel to take them back to the Bennett home.
Bunny frowned, before tapping his foot again. Still nothing happened.
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Technical difficulties?"
"No." Bunny placed Sophie down again, and motioned for Jack to do the same with Jamie. He did. "My tunnels have a fail-safe on them. It's no good if I open one, not knowing what's happening the other side, and I end up in the middle of an earthquake. So they don't open if there's any sort of danger at the other end."
"But Burgess doesn't get earthquakes," said Jack.
The Pooka rolled his eyes. "I know that, mate. But something else might be up. Stay here with the kids; I'm gonna take a look." He tapped his foot to summon another tunnel, leading to outside the Bennett home; this one opened, and he leapt through.
I hope nothing bad has happened, he thought as he sprinted through the tunnel, trying desperately not to fear the worst for the sake of the children. He was the Guardian of Hope; he had to hold onto that.
The tunnel opened up above him and his ears appeared first, checking that the coast was clear; certain it was he hopped out. He was behind a bush by the nearby pond, but this barely registered. His attention had been caught by the flashing lights, the panicked yells and the roaring sound he knew didn't come from any kind of animal.
So Bunny peered through the gap in the leaves...and froze.
The Bennett home was engulfed in flames.