It was everywhere, consuming the flaky sanity that lay untouched and drowning the mind in a fear that seemed unending. He dropped down through layers of unbreathable nothingness; void of hope, of peace, and of air. He fell sharply and without a ledge to catch himself on; paralyzed by the disembodied force that had brought him to this awful place. He missed the light. Tendrils threaded beneath his clothing, caressing his flesh searingly and grabbing onto his limbs possessively. His insides swelled and his skin grew numb; this was all too familiar.
As a soft breath passed through his parted lips, a pressure resettled against his back, bringing him from his unearthly realm of shadows. The air was flowing, but not nearly thick enough, not when he had been deprived for hours in that gap in time. He hated that dark place; the clock refused to move and yet he never did the same, it was repetitive and ongoing, never ceasing, but never proceeding against the moments that he longed to forget. It was a ditch dug just for him that trapped his mind and froze his body. It was inescapable. The knowledge that the figure was near soothed a piece of his anxiety, but not even a hand could pull him out of this abyss.
It wasn't real, he told himself. He repeated it, desperately, hoping for a different outcome despite the chances posed at odds with him. The words were empty and did nothing to make him believe in their promise, how could he when he could see it so clearly. Those amber slits hazing through the blurs and ashen gemini appendages grabbing his shoulders to squeeze the very life from his veins; it was all so palpable, yet so impossible.
The only thing that really awakened his consciousness was the flourishing fire that blossomed down the length of his spine and settled at his tailbone. It brought tinges of new pain to his features, adding a cringe to an otherwise traumatized physique of stone. He refused to move. The foible felt too uncommon somehow, misplaced and undesired; moreover, he had learned that active motions only served to upset his injury further. He didn't have to move though, in order to feel the stiffness of his clothing. He yearned to keep them on, having grown rapidly attached directly after they had been ruthlessly torn away. They functioned as an obstruction that kept touches and invasive inspections away; concealing his secrets so they could remain. It came with an unfortunate downside however, this being that the material was damp and drying, and ergo brittle. It was constricting, which only aided the sensation of grime that he felt was caked atop his flesh.
Oh, how he longed to scrub it off until he had no skin left.
A lone hand settled over his stomach, but appeared to Jack as two different pairs, the image doubling past the point of clarity. One was slim and gloomy; lean fingers spread to catch as much space as they could, pressing down enough to hurt. That one brought memory, it brought fire and an ache that refused to leave. The other; however, was large and heavy, noticeably warmer in temperature as well as force, and proportioned abnormally to denote a separate anatomy. It hastily chased off the first that laid in the exact same spot, dusting the twin away to leave a single picture. Nevertheless, an intake hitched within his throat, disturbed by the innocent contact bestowed upon him. A hoarse, lingering, breath exuded his lowering abdomen as vague shards of cerulean flickered to their peripheral, searching for the black haired creature he thought to be the cause of every shift and creak. Stray disruptions jolted his world awake, filling him with a dreadful alertness that was nearly agonizing when all he wanted to do was sleep.
The thickly accented tone was low and palliative, drifting into Jack's ears just as a glimpse of blueish fur caught his attention. Instantly, he relaxed, exhaling inaudibly; awash with assuagement as he was reminded of a factor he had almost forgotten. Bunny. Bunny was here and had been here, guarding and keeping him safe from the person that he feared hid beneath this very bed.
The message was comforting; even if he was trapped, he was not alone.
This notion; however simple, gave Jack a sense of safety in which he attempted to bask in long enough to give into the allure of rest he was aching to receive. It was a jarring and altogether devastating thing when his eyes were forced back open and he was ripped from oblivion by the sound of that very same voice.
"Hey, don' fall asleep on me yet, mate."
He could cry just from hearing that, but because he lacked the stamina, a whine of disapproval was all that came out. He had been so close and now it was gone; it had to be the cruelest denial he had ever been subjected to in his lifetime. The weight over his torso moved to rub an indistinct circle, "I know ya wanna rest, Frosty, but I can' just leave ya like this." An enlightenment came.
His lashes fell against his cheeks and twisted distastefully, he had nearly forgotten that as well. A sore groan emitted his throat at the thought; Bunny still had to look at his injuries and bandage them. He had started earlier, but then...well, after that, it just seemed to go blank. No wonder he had repressed it, it was already causing heated droves of anticipation, charging his chest with an oddly chilled feeling as it were. His companion rustled behind him, no doubt gathering supplies for the unwelcome venture, preparing for what was to come about inevitably. The sprite's right hand twitched uncoordinatedly, dull shocks of electricity stimulating sensation back into the appendage as he urged it to stir. Shaking with a lack of energy, his palm crawled across his front, reaching to twist into the hem of the sweatshirt. It was pointless, but to his foggy reasoning, it assisted something when he tugged it lower, endeavoring to keep it there.
"It'll be okay," Aster murmured distantly, catching the discrete gesture with relative ease. The confidence held within the phrase was unmatched by a widespread indecision that clouded the rabbit's consideration though. He could be lying through his teeth for all he knew, it was uncertain; the status of their entire situation was simply one big gray area. Nothing was guaranteed. Honestly, given the circumstances, it was possible Jack would react the exact same way he had to North; there wasn't any way to predetermine the outcome. The boy was fragile, and his mind, even more so; his reasoning was nothing more than a guess. He was relying on the one thing he could, what he knew best...hope.
A dry wheeze exuded the youth's chest, "It hurts, Bunny." It was soft, most likely unable to be said any louder, considering the spirit's condition. Jack didn't expect a response; he didn't even really want one to begin with, he just felt the need to state the obvious. His brain was getting practically drunk off the pain and it was buffeting his thoughts down to a simplistic level, virtually disabling him from having any intelligent, well thought out, sentence come out of his mouth. Speaking allowed him to bridge the canyon sized gap that formed between them in the silence. It wasn't to satisfy the opposing presence, but rather his own; it let him know he hadn't been swept up in recessivity.
The paw adjusted to pat his covered side assuringly, "I know, Frosty. I know. I'll take care a' it in a sec," he hushed quietly, collecting the last of what he needed. Jack wasn't positive wether this acknowledgment of time relaxed or unnerved him. He was definitely hurting and wanted it to stop, but on the other hand, it was the process of how to make it stop that he was trying to stall in the first place. The dread that consumed him when Bunny ceased his actions of preparation though seemed to convince him that he was leaning more towards suffering through the pain than facing his problems. At least that option had a foreseeable end to it.
Bunnymund straightened his posture, foolishly venturing to get comfortable in readiness for the oncoming twister they were about to embark into. "A'right Jackie," he addressed the teen evenly. "I'm gonna havta take off ya hood, okay?" he prompted with care. He wasn't patronizing Jack, in any normal position the boy would have thrown a fit if he had, he merely wanted to keep the winter bringer informed. Since he couldn't indicate what North had done wrong, he had to choose his motions carefully to assure the same instance wasn't repeated. The last thing Bunny wanted was to have that same type of fear invade Jack's mind; that ghastly suspicion about what was going on and what his intentions really were. If he had to tell Jack what was happening scene by scene to prevent that, then so be it.
A wince drifted across pale features, contorting the tired expression uneasily while a mewl of despondence vocalized. He didn't want Bunny to see what had been done. He didn't want to see it. His bare flesh had been hidden from him since the moment after and he still couldn't bear to inspect the damage for himself. He felt hideous nonetheless; used, filthy, and-...and he didn't want Bunny to remember him that way.
Why did he have to know? Couldn't he just remain blissfully unaware of the splotch of red on the white canvas? Was it really that necessary?
Why, on top of everything else, did Bunny have to witness his shame?
Hadn't he suffered enough yet?
He shuddered at the thought of exposure; he didn't want to be touched. He didn't think his friend would hurt him, he trusted Bunnymund, but trust didn't matter when he was afraid of reminiscing. His memories were traitorous with a mind of their own and MiM knows what they would project, should he allow a similar happening. They had already betrayed him with North; the second his shirt lifted, Pitch had flooded his senses. Everything went black and all he could feel werethose hands, groping, scratching, plundering...destroying. A silky, misleading, timbre whispering mocking phrases into his ears; rough particles chaining him and ice sliding heatedly against his spine.
It was misery and he didn't want to go through it again.
A downy caress prodded the side of his temple, as if his skin was made out of glass. So, this was what he'd been reduced to? A thin pathetic sheet of clear, see thru, material incapable of supporting itself? What a pitiful transformation he had undergone. In just a few short hours, he went from a powerful winter spirit into a stupid pane of glass, how satirical. It was cruel for Pitch to have left him like this...cracked, but not broken. The heartless bastard wanted to watch him fall apart on his own, slowly; he wanted to savor it.
All that was left to figure out was how much more force it would take to brake him then.
...He wondered how small the pieces would be and how impossible they would be to put back together.
"I know it's hard, but I can' do anathin' with it on," his companion whispered sadly. He didn't know why Bunny insisted on doing this, drawing this horrid experience out longer than he needed to. Everyone knew that waiting for something to happen was worse than the actual happening, coaxing him like this was only making it more difficult. Jack frowned and leaned heavily into the gesture, relishing fleetingly in the warmth that radiated from the figure wrapped around him. He never wanted to leave. If he had the choice, he'd stay in this spot until the world stopped spinning. A gentle sigh brushed his cheek, "I don' wanna do this to ya," Aster admitted in a dismal octave. "This isn't easy fa' me either, mate. I hate seein' ya like this," he whispered huskily. Sensing the warrior's distress, silver locks slid blindly against the other's jaw, seeking to console what he did not understand. Bunny had to know that what he felt was mutual. The faint quirk to Aster's complexion justified the fading smirk that his act had elicited. Of course he did, he wouldn't look so terrible if he didn't. The reciprocal was how Jack knew why the smile disappeared; it was incapable of surviving. The poor outward sign of past normalcy would have been eaten alive once revealed to the harsh conditions of real life. "I'm not gonna hurt ya..." he stated quietly. The assurance seemed far more vehement than was necessary, but Jack understood; understood the need to distance from certain..people. He understood more than he should.
"I promise I'll be as quick as I can."
He whimpered. He didn't want this to happen, but he didn't want Bunnymund to share in this pain as he was rather clearly already doing; no one should have to experience even a fraction of this. The promise was spoken desperately, pleadingly, like something awful would happen if the rabbit didn't receive consent. He couldn't bring himself to say no... so he nodded. The saliva did little to dampen his throat as the Pooka nudged the side of his face appreciatively.
It felt like he had just signed his soul away.
Section by section, the air hit his bare flesh, making him squirm as consciousness refused to release him from it's grasp. Bunny was slow and cautious, unequivocally endeavoring to keep the teenager calm by doing so, but in actuality, only making it worse. It was accomplishing the exact opposite effect; it was torture. The tauntingly drawn way his nakedness was exposed and his discomfort prolonged..it was too similar to something he dared not recall. He tried not to focus on the silent scratch of cloth against skin and the shallow breaths beside his ear, but he just couldn't.
He was scared...and he hated it.
The panic gripped him swiftly as Bunny pulled the shirt over his head; he felt sick. He resisted the darkness; he flailed, reaching for a ledge to stop himself from falling any further. He tried not to succumb to memory..but it overtook anyways. This was too much like Pitch, there were too many unpleasant parallels to draw between the two. Sitting there, stiff to the invasive treatment made it feel like he was letting Pitch do this all over again. He gritted his teeth and clenched his eyelids tightly, shuddering as he strove to breathe.
Slim fingers held his waist and jaw, tightening and squeezing as hot puffs ghosted against his neck. The voice snickered at his shivers while dark lips traced his pulse, imagining what it would feel like should it stop unexpectedly. Nails dug in, piercing his hip and relishing sadistically in the blood that followed, dribbling into the snow. He heard his hissing tone as a hand pressed down on his chest, testing his lungs like this was all some sick game. He made out every last acidic word as the pressure increased, forcing him to struggle to inhale.
He needed air, it was scarce...
Jack's features were tense and his jaw was so tight that it looked close to snapping. His abdomen rose and fell faintly, far too faintly; as if he was unable to move anymore. A soothing paw rested above his jutting hip bone, blotting out the rough simulations that the black sand dwelling within subconscious conjured. Harsh whispers died piecemeal while the touch continued to burn until he was swiftly yanked from his daze. Blue tints snapped open. His pupils dilated, shrinking fearfully from the light as it enveloped him; taking him far from the darkness that choked his being. The weight lifted rapidly, allowing oxygen to flow back into his body with a frenetic gasp.
"You okay, mate?" Bunny inquired lowly, pausing to consider the child.
Momentary relief flooded the spirit as he began to breathe again. It was okay. He was okay; he nodded. A wet rag dabbed the incision below his ribcage, causing his head to fall back against the Australian's shoulder as a loud hiss resounded through his teeth. It hurt more than he had thought; the pain didn't compare to the initial blow, but that mattered little at a time like this. He grunted breathily, rolling his neck so that his ear was, coincidentally, in a perfect position to hear Aster's heart beat. It was steady and unceasing; a rock in an otherwise enraged sea. He adored it only because it was the most grounding thing present that couldn't be seen. It was the polar of Pitch's haunting existence and fought with it head to head at each pulse. Jack groped, without vision, seeking a form of comfort that words were unqualified to compete with. He needed something to hold, something tangible, something that would remind him that he wasn't really in the place he saw himself in.
His small hand clung to the arm around his waist, savoring the dissimilar sensation of soft fur in comparison to skin.
"Sh," Bunny murmured.
A hitched noise answered the utterance, appearing scared and caught off guard. Jack's fingers curled deeper into the thick gray hair, using such a ferocity that Bunnymund's forearm began to ache. The sprite was horrified, he had allowed the light back into his world, longing for reprieve, but it had only opened him up to a new realm of despair. He wanted to shut his eyes; shut them and pry himself from all of this. The day no longer gave solace, the events that coincided with it were foul and deceitful; he hated it. He hated how it felt, hated the glance, hated what it made him remember. He wanted to destroy his perception and never get it back...but he couldn't. When he closed his eyes, all he could see was Pitch. The shadow would invade his senses, drowning and overpowering him with all too accurate illusions that danced frightfully behind his lids; violating every last fragile barrier he had left.
When his eyes were closed..the scenery went bleak and an uncommon chill crept into his blood.
He systematically shut, opened, and re-shut them; hoping each time that he would find some sort of in-between. Nothing but the extremes revealed though, the balance slipping far too quickly in the midst of just as and right before. Now, icy irises were wide and small, pulsating dangerously and strained forward although they were stripped of sight. Too confused to flicker, they remained immobile; becoming a blinding shade of sapphire as the corneas grew pink. A violent tremor shook his being, eliciting a frantic whimper that pleaded hysterically for guidance. In his paralysis, it was Jack's method of screaming. Calling out to anyone who could hear him that could ensure he wasn't as alone as he seemed to be in this awful nightmare.
One hand smoothed the newly placed bandages on his side while the opposing appendage stroked his cheek tenderly. His unearthly gaze flared and his body jerked from the touch. He whined lengthily when the fur returned, undaunted by his rejection, "Hush now." A deep stolid voice ordered lullingly from above. "Ya doin' great, mate." It praised him warmly while a disembodied force persistently tended to his injuries. It hurt, dully now, but only because Jack had gone abnormally numb for some reason. With digits he felt weren't his own, he squeezed the elder's arm; communicating, without words, his panic.
"Shhh, I'm almost done. Ease up, kay?...Just a li'l more." The voice assured lightly. His brow twitched as his teeth began to tremble against each other; chattering vaguely and unevenly. He couldn't be at ease, he couldn't even move. He clutched even tighter- afraid that he was slipping away. "Hey hey, calm down love. I'm right here," It quieted emphatically, growing hushed and low as it went on, "I'm right here... I gotcha n' I'm not lettin' anyone take you away," The whisper vowed protectively.
The intonation registered this time around, conveying familiarity and recognition. Somewhere in the demolished depths of Jack's psyche, the presence expressed safety and trust, and that alone was enough to help the vice grip about the Pooka's limb to loosen. The compromise to the winter entity's dilemma was still invisible, but the anxiety lessened with the cognizance that he was being watched over. Dark feathered lashes dipped hesitantly, flickering to shade the cooling crescents as their intensity dwindled.
The incapacity had faded mostly, but the mental blur had not yet cleared from his foggy brain. The inability to think refused to lift, leaving him dazed and still too reluctant to fully banish his visual awareness. He exhaled unstably and rolled his head drunkenly against the man's furry shoulder, hoping to stimulate..something back into his nerves.
"This'll all be ova' soon. Just gotta tuff it out a bit longa'." Bunnymund murmured, concentrating on cleaning off the remainder of blood from the spirit's skin; it was everywhere, terrifyingly enough. The fluid was caked onto nearly every inch of ivory, darkening the pure pallor a grimy shade of russet. What he despised most was the fact that, although the stains were being washed, it still felt like the marks would never leave, like they'd hide forever so no one could heal them.
Jack let loose a drawn out moan, he didn't want to tuff it out; he was sick of being good. A tremulous sigh left his lips while a tear slipped from his perception to his chin; he didn't want to be brave anymore. He was hurt, exhausted, distraught, and confused.. and he didn't want to control himself. He wanted to struggle and end this at once, but the choice wasn't his; he was powerless and he couldn't do a thing about it...It was scary.
An overwhelming pressure built at the bridge of his nose, creating veils of distorting moisture that broke and fell down his face; expressing his swelling distress.
His lip began to quiver uncontrollably as everything unfocused, blending sights, sounds, thoughts and emotions into one huge smudge. Threads unraveled from their tightly coiled positioning and fell freely towards the awaiting oblivion, content that nothing mattered. A weak sob escaped Jack's throat and a pattern quickly formed in it's likeness.
"Come on now," Bunny chided upon hearing the hushed cry. "You'll be a'right," he told the child sincerely. If only the Frost's sentiments weren't so comprehensible. If he wasn't capable of reading every extent of the youth's internal struggle, then it wouldn't hurt so badly.
A string of upset breaths left the white haired being's chest, trying to cope with his predicament. He wished this wasn't happening. He wished Pitch hadn't come to Burgess to find him. He wished he didn't have to deal with this. Have to..that was hard to swallow; he had no choice. Then again, he never had a choice. The ability had been stolen long before now and he was beginning to doubt that that factor of his life would ever change. It would always be unfair..because that was how the universe functioned effectively. If everything was fair... there wouldn't be much point, would there?
It just...wouldn't be real. It would be a dream and nothing more, slipping into nothing as the first light of dawn peeked over the horizon.
...God he wanted to sleep...
His face felt slick and warm...the numbness was ebbing, working it's way out of his system right when he wanted it to stay. Stirring stings awaited his physical recognition while shocks of hatred and misery showered his subconscious. He had almost slipped, almost been at peace...and now it was gone. Feeling was gradually restored to his entire body, revitalizing each section at an agonizing pace, forcing him to assess every damage that had been done, physically and mentally.
It was unwelcome.
God, he didn't want to feel anymore! He wanted to be dead! As dead as he had been under the ice! He shouldn't even be alive to be experiencing this kind of torment! What was he being punished for! Why couldn't anything be fair, why did the damn sun ever have to rise!
He rejoined the hellish atmosphere in his mind, choking on the tears with a lack of care for the lifelike silhouettes surrounding him. Through it all, the contact of cloth caressing his skin subsided, and with it, left the resounding heart beating against his eardrums. Instantaneously, it vanished...all of it. His ghost-like figure rested against the wooden headboard, taking in it's hard unforgiving exterior in correlation to his weakness. The warmth had been there no more than seconds ago, why had it gone missing? He attempted to move, but it only evoked a sharp grunt and his unwilling compliance to remain limp. He called out his comrade's name, cried out for someone to help, he nearly screamed it. He was scared and he wanted Bunny, but he wouldn't come. To Jack, seconds were hours, and a slim minute was a day spent in uncooperative loneliness. The whispers of shadows encouraged his thoughts, assuring venomously that he had been abandoned; that it was only a matter of time before he was stolen in the real world as well..soon Pitch would come in the flesh and he wouldn't be stopped. A despondent wail echoed, frantic to reject the logic, urgent to wake up and discover it wasn't true. The utterance of dissent merely reverberated and faded, forgotten in the distance. He wanted to collapse and curl into a ball; to suffer while he waited for his inescapable demise at the hands of his tormentor. He had no chance, his future was a bleak as his past.
He was a single snowflake plummeting down into the darkest depths of hell...he would melt for sure.
"Jack!" The vocalization rang like a shrill bell, doing little to startle the wayward child. "Jack! Jack I'm right here. Jack!" Aster continued to call the boy insistently, grasping his shoulders tightly and shaking the immortal in a desperate attempt to get his attention. He had felt it sharply in his chest, the tearing sensation to his stomach, like a golden flicker had just burnt out. No, he thought frantically; he should have more time. How could it have been so rapid? Not on his watch, it couldn't happen now! Jack was stronger than this, no matter how battered, he had to hold on! His volume heightened as he forced every last ounce of his ability into transferring the dwindling burn within his abdomen into Jack..it had to work..it just had to.
He could die if it didn't. And there was no bringing him back past that point.
Glowing eyes and ebony particles swooping in, diving deeper, to nibble at his soul.
It was exposed and unprotected, and deliciously surrendered; the boy was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Slivers of blue watched, detached from the event, but conscious of the scenery. He dropped, cradled in the uninfluential arms of dust that sucked him dry, uncaring and empty. It was over and it didn't even matter. South was the only possible direction, so he went with it unthinkingly. Why fight back? What chance did he have and what could he hope to gain? Everything was coming to a close, feeling, memory, awareness; life. It would end wether or not he was ready.
Blue drifted shut. Soon he'd be nothing; undistinguishable from the various apparitions encasing him...
A jolt ran up the white haired Guardian's spine, instantaneously rousing his sentience from it's place amongst the fearlings. Small rays gleamed, penetrating the lifeless pit and practically burning the black beings to the point where they hissed and released Jack from their clawed clutches. For a brief moment, Jack fell, stunned by the actions and frozen in the glitch, but then, the luminescence brightened..and the descent halted. He squinted, unfamiliar with the radiance that felt achingly obvious. For some reason, the foreign entity didn't cause him the same type of pain it did to the creatures still moaning below him; instead, it created a strange fluttering, reviving something that had been dead and renewing it's strength so that he could recognize.
Without warning, a breath was sucked in through his mouth, despite his inability to inhale, and his eyes flew open.
Murky hues blanched and smeared, running to reveal blinding shades of the images he saw as hauntingly palpable. His irises pulsed wildly with a gasp that rejuvenated his world and added names to the objects that brought him reassurance. Before any further syllables could escape the elder's lips, Jack threw his arms around the rabbit's neck, "Bunny!"
Of course. The fatal plunge followed by his impossible rescue, it could only have been Bunny. The scarce sensation thumping softly in his chest, the thing that had been lost and returned..what didn't belong, but existed in spite of everything..
It was hope.
Furry limbs wrapped around his pale physique securely as the Pooka breathed heavily in relief and nuzzled his head, "I thought I'd lost ya.." Jack relished in the solace of oxygen and buried his face further into the man's shoulder, shakily tightening his grasp as he tried to cease the inane noises coming from his mouth that had originally been words. It was gibberish. It was a mix of apologies and pleas, confessions to vulnerabilities that Jack would never have said aloud, had their situation not been what it was. It was impossible to understand, but for the few minutes that it existed, a quiet murmur prevailed along side it; conciliating ramblings and pacifying paralyzed drops. He knew the force was a gift; the optimism he possessed had been taken from an overflowing source to a location where none resided. Bunny had given him that hope because, unwittingly, Jack had lost all of his own in a swift show of insecurity.
Shallow huffs lulled the shaken mood of the room as white strands ruffled, "Neva' do that again." Aster closed his eyes, swallowing harshly, "Neva' just..lose hope like that, Snowflake. Ya don' understand what a thing like that could do to you." The rabbit's heart was humming in his ears, slowing ever so slightly as he lectured him at a pace that Jack was unable to help but find incredibly soothing. The emotion, however diluted, gave the winter spirit a taste of the regularity that his life would lack for the time being, and that helped ease the calamity. It no longer mattered what was being said, only that it was said. Bunny was here, period, and that's all Jack cared about. "It'll hurt ya more than ya think," Aster informed the youth silently. Spring shades rejoined, "Promise me you'll neva' do that again, Jack." he instructed, managing somewhat of a stern expression. Bunnymund distinguished, what he considered, to be a nod against his coat and chose to accept the gesture in lieu of a verbal contract. Shoulders slackened, "Really think I'd leave that quick?" he spoke up with a meek teasing nature to his tone. "Just couldn' deal with ya back from where I was, mate." he explained with a breathless quality.
Jack didn't respond to this, he was too ashamed to speak. How could he have doubted Bunny so quickly like that when the other had only been trying to help? He had only left for two seconds and Jack had jumped to the worst possible conclusion he could reach. The icy tears were soundless and possessed a feverish sentiment to their silence; simply existing to exist as their owner weakly whined in reaction to the Pooka's efforts to heal.
No words, no thoughts, no disruptions dared to pervade the process this time, it was mute and perfunctory, lacking the very same elements that both corrupted and spurred it forward. Porcelain limbs simply laid stationary, previously troubled ponders at last able to rest without fear of intrusion by the dark haired male. Tendrils traced the curve of his back, racing to join together and form intricate canals atop his skin. The coolness was welcome to a degree; the earth was burning and the sky, stiff, but the familiar cold did nothing to ease his cuts. Droplets escaping into the lacerations stung immensely, seeming a great deal more like lemon juice than water upon exposure. Pale extremities hid within the field of gray, concealing themselves to the nail at the roots where they became inanimate again. No sound, though.. The inner column was arid and raw as it contracted to add a non existent moisture to it's walls. The coating of air was unpleasant, making the factor far too apparent when it brushed against the windpipe and caused the inhalations to wheeze.
Lengthy ears swiveled at the slightest when the cloth would graze a wound, the rasp becoming vaguely louder than before. The linen's pallor was tinged pink and the wetness prompted the blood to spill into the blushing rivulets flowing down the complexion. Their graceful and unthinking movements appeared so peaceful that it was hard to believe they were actually causing a great deal of pain for another.
It was the misplaced shift, intended to bring relief, that brought about the great need, which swelled within the youth's throat. "B..Bunny.." Jack called weakly, distantly, slipping between the cracks of two realities that mirrored similar peaks of an obscurity he was becoming rapidly acquainted with. The hazel material was irritating, inflaming his injury and chaffing sensitive skin with a majority of his own lost blood that had dried to mold a crusty veneer.
"I'll get ta it soon, Snowflake." Aster responded composedly, aware of the obvious dilemma they were both facing. An eagerness to return to the taciturnity prevailed through the phrase, and resumed the task to it's prior quality; it was better this way. This short window was the last mile before the hurdle, the stalemate before the war, the final hour of tranquility before the climax. It would be Bunny's..and Jack's last opportunity to escape and prolong, to take comfort in knowing that the time had not yet come to beckon and the requirement was not yet dire. The last stretch was not upon them and could still be avoided...for a few more minutes at the very least. However, the understanding that it would soon be at hand resulted in the necessity to savor the diminutive duration of remission...Because once it was over, the real challenge would present itself and there would be absolutely nowhere else to run.
So, the steps were taken unhurriedly, almost unrealistically so, in order to preserve the span. Every swipe of the rag, every dab of salve, and every stitch was carefully and purposely extended. There was no explanation of why, nor was there any complaint concerning a lack of one.
...Then the nudge came, that dismaying, disastrous, disruption that was to commence the entire loathsome operation he was to undergo. MiM, how Jack dreaded it.
"Jack.." Bunnymund was quiet and reluctant, clearly harboring just as many qualms over the subject as the younger. "It's...It's time ta take care a' that last part, mate" he informed the blue eyed child heavily. There was a weight the size of space on his shoulders right now and the last thing he could manage was a straight face. Jack squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth, mewling unstably and shaking his head against Bunny's shoulder.
Bunny wished that he wasn't so capable of compassion, "M' sorry, kid," he bit out difficulty. "It's gotta be done," he continued apologetically. Now, more than anything, Jack wanted to prevent the tears from building on his lower lashes, but it was too strong to control; they flooded his face like a broken dam. He sensed the Pooka's chin lowering and perching on his shuddering shoulder blade with a thick, guilt ridden, respiration. "Come on Frosty," the elder encouraged sadly. Jack could practically see the furrow in his brow from his tone of voice alone. "I promise I'll do it real quick... like a band-aid," he persuaded imploringly, recognizing that the quicker they got it done, the sooner it would be over.
The spirit in his lap began to shiver forcefully, "B-But I don't wanna," he protested pitifully, pressing his countenance firmly against the rabbit's chest as sobs gushed in his throat.
Spring shaded emeralds fell defeatedly, and with a closing sigh, Bunny breathed out his last reply, "I know, Jackie. I know.."
North paced the perimeter surrounding the globe anxiously with his hands wringing themselves behind his back and his concentration pointed at the floor. He was uncommonly dour in appearance and humorless in demeanor, far too worried over their youngest Guardian's situation to behave with his textbook jolliness. His blue gaze would flicker up every so often, checking the skylight for any sign of fairies or golden sand to alert him of the pair's arrival; however, there had been a distinct absence of both so far.
Some of the yetis and elves observed cautiously from the sidelines, never daring to approach the man or get close enough to disturb his constant back and forth. His aura was off, disturbing the functional working environment that the Pole usually held throughout most of the year. The staff was disconcerted and therefore unable to focus on their jobs. The workshop had slowed, just faintly, realizing in shock-waves that there was a problem with something somewhere that affected all of them. The garbled whisper of gossip had somewhat briefed the population of the potential cause for this happening, but no one was dumb enough to bring it up around the russian or ask about it further.
After awhile, a glimmer of gold caught North's attention and sure enough, tiny tendrils of sand stretched through the arial opening of the room as a large cloud of dream sand wandered in. Resting atop the mass was Sandy, looking perplexed and tired. "Sandy, I am glad you made it," North greeted far more calmly than he normally did; there was simply no time for such pleasantries. The small spirit pointed to the image of a bed with Z's floating over it above his head, earning a knowing nod from his larger friend, "Yes yes I know you are busy. Is very important." he assured. Before Sandy could ask for further elaboration, a faint humming drifted into the area, followed by a fast feminine voice and a barrage of high squeaks.
"A lateral incisor in Richmond, Indiana- 2019 E. Main St!"
"Oh! Oh! Two cuspids and a molar in Phoenix, Arizona; 1052 West-"
Lively spheres halted to downcast, the endless fluttering slowing just barely as the woman's concentration was drawn away from a frantic pace. The tiny beings scattered about her head grew uncommonly still, bringing a sense of dread to the recipient of the stare. It wouldn't be long until their peaceful ignorance was blown sky high and never recovered in it's descent. The room had gone quiet and attentive, and he was now painfully aware of the confused gazes clinging to him. Perhaps the commotion had been better, when they had been too caught up in their own worlds to listen to his every word, instead of revolving solely around his explanation. A distinct ache undulated across his lungs, making the air undesirable and bitter to the tip of his tongue when he breathed it in. Who would want such awful oxygen when it was going to be used for a purpose like this? North yearned for the ability to uplift his own study, to muster up the courage he was famed for to look them in the eye, but the natural movement just short-circuited each time he called on it.
The two levitating Guardians exchanged wary glances before Sandy hovered low to level his height with the swordsman's. The sparkling particles shimmered as they shifted into vague pictures above the small spirit's head. An 'x' materialized first, proceeded by an equal sign and then a curly question mark; an equation, in other words. The bearded man released a long worn out sigh and rubbed the bridge of his nose gently, "I have bad news, my friends." He revealed mournfully. The melancholy mood drifting through the other's tone offset the lithe fairy queen enough to bring her feet to the extent of touching the wooden boards. Delicate hands wrapped around each other, grasping mildly and holding securely to her feathered chest, shielding the most fragile part of herself in preparation for the impact.
The atmosphere dampened uncomfortably, growing unbearably dry for only one occupant to the point where it was impossible to utilize once he opened his mouth to attempt speech. "Wait!" Tooth interrupted. Her brow creased inward while amethyst flecks skimmed the workshop in their midst, although it was Sandy who pointed out the grim factor that Tooth had noticed. Immediately, the image of an egg and a snowflake appeared over his concerned expression.
Tooth looked at the golden man and then back at North, "Where are Bunny and Jack?" she inquired aloud. The silence was less comforting than ever in regards to the question that had been voiced when the reaction time desired was so inhumanly swift. The pause could have been easily overlooked; however, had North not buckled beneath the weight of dependence. It was impossible to keep her stare though; it was too honest, too desperate...too forced into denial. The inkling remained, like a splotch on her retinas, even as pointless faith tried to blot it back out. It begged him, and him alone, to confirm her hopes and disprove her fears...and that was simply something he could not do.
Unable to avoid and incapable of deception, he yielded and met the scuffed surface of his boot.
It was the worst way to answer an interrogation, it was the worst possible way that he could have let the girl down; he had practically dropped her. An emptiness swelled within the hummingbird's chest, it was void and yet held so much pressure against the rest of her organs that it hurt; it drove fury and fright and a shield that was shattering. Her svelte frame shuddered, tender sorrow giving way to blind helpless rage that beat against her breast with an animalistic brutality she was unfamiliar with. Fingers tensed, nails puncturing the velvet flesh of her palm as pink lips pursed with the flutter of defiance in her stomach. Each breath was like a palpitation, pulsating with the same vigor as her heart and shaking when she exhaled. Her abdomen shivered, sending sharp ripples over her veins and speeding the harsh flow of blood even more. She approached her comrade, with a tenseness she rarely displayed, and placed her hands on his broad shoulders. The gesture shocked the blue eyed man once he perceived the quality of uncharacteristic roughness that was expressed by her fingertips. They dug in through the layers of his thick coat, almost enough to prick at his bare flesh and draw blood. Violet flames roared ferociously within gemlike irises, boring into his own recessive azure with a scorching sentiment that threatened to burn through every last mental barrier he had until nothing was left standing when the untamable wildfire unleashed itself.
The woman was different and terrifying in this ray of light, a force to be reckoned with that demanded the answers he had foolishly refused to give her. Rainbow feathers, usually smooth and glossy, were ruffled violently about her entire figure, creating a frightening image to replace the formerly sweet and fragile persona she endowed. Her wings were a blur, moving somehow faster than usual and emitting a virtually angry wasp-like drone.
An uneven breath ghosted against his paled cheek as the Guardian of Memories unclenched her jaw to whisper a grave and urgent command.
"What.happened. to them?"
It looked like a weblike crack forming in a pane of glass; large, long, noticeable, and growing.
It showed as vibrantly in her eyes as it had in Jack's. North didn't know where the fearsome creature he had been faced with seconds ago had gone, all he knew was that he was the one who had caused it to run and hide. He wallowed in that knowledge, wishing that the burden hadn't been brought upon him. Tears built rapidly in her eyes, refusing to fall as the touch fell sharply from him; not bothering to linger, but just dropping as if his words had evaporated every single bone in the poor girl's body. She trembled before him, countenance drenched with dismay and disbelief. She shook her head suddenly, plumage flattening and raising simultaneously as she did so, "No. No no," she stammered in a watery tone. It was a plea, a wish that should have been uttered sooner, reflecting a nightmare that had just been realized.
The warrior reached out, wanting to comfort her, only to have her jerk away savagely. The fire in her eyes was unbearable, freezing him to the spot while still burning him the longer she held to the look of franticness. Fear was prominent in the wide regard, like a deer caught in the bright flash of oncoming headlights with no escape and no way to undo what had already been done. "No!" she screamed, refusing to harbor the comprehension. She shot into the air and raced out of the room in the direction of Jack's, leaving behind her a small scatter of blue and green feathers.
They ran after her, and she flew faster, far too fast for either of them to catch up. North begged her to stop. He warned her, warned her not to make this mistake, that she wouldn't be able to handle it. He wished he had time to alert Bunny so that he could help to prevent her from seeing, but there was no way to predict the woman's reactions...or her timing. Tooth didn't listen, she couldn't; she had gone deaf to their tonalities. The fairy couldn't bring herself to accept, to stop, or to listen any longer.
It was a lie. It must be.
There was no other explanation for something so dreadful.
Slim fingers threw the portal open, the door slamming against the wall before the duo at her tail could round the last corner. Feathers swished as her shadow flitted over the floorboards, eyes searching and heart pounding in her chest. It was the gasp, which her hands couldn't stifle fast enough though that notified the approaching party of her discovery. Within minutes, a sound that had been smothered was released from the contained space. Free of the walls encasing it, it drifted into the corridors, starting out mute. At first, the places it reached were unable to figure out the cause for it; it was too weak to identify, too gentle to grasp, too familiar to acknowledge. The creatures who's ears could catch it though seemed to stall, filled with a foreboding sense that worsened the longer they were exposed to it. Then the utterance became louder and suddenly it was far too clear what the cause was. The cries were deafening, laced with trauma and filled with a pain that could only be expressed at a fraction, but it wasn't Tooth's voice...
Jack laid curled up to the best of his ability on Bunny's chest, clutching handfuls of white and pulling them close to his face. Most of his features were concealed against the large Pooka, using the other as a living shield to hide from something unreal. The spirit's, anxiety driven, cling was wholly accepted by the man, his touch bearing an understanding that bordered on recognition. The rabbit sat propped up against the youth's headboard, strong arms draped protectively over the small frame while large paws managed an obscure gentleness towards the distraught teenager.
The sight was foreign and the intensity of the emotion, uncommon, for the particular individual displaying it. The interaction between the two had been limited to her eyes, and this wasn't playful teasing or somewhat friendly fighting; it was far more personal than she had ever seen them behave. Claws remained dormant, stroking the sprite's unkept hair and back, lenient and exceptionally mindful of the delicacy Jack currently embodied. Green spheres were soft, unrecognizably so, but focused vigilantly on the boy, watching him with an unplaceable tenderness. It was a hawk-like attentiveness that spoke through the kind demeanor being displayed, allowing onlookers the knowledge that a primal being still lurked below the loving gaze. The swirling solicitude that proved powerful muscles and sharp nails could still be utilized at any minute to successfully guard the child held in those arms. It could be seen so easily, the slight threat in emeralds that forewarned potential harm-bringers of what the elder was capable of doing. The manner was saved for a single person and that person alone, it was reserved and anyone who thought otherwise would be fatally corrected for thinking themselves included. The danger was predominant, but subdued only for the slim second in which the youngling was near.
As the duo interacted, Tooth found it strange to see something so capable of combat and carnage acting with this amount of care and restraint... Or perhaps it was simply stranger to see that creature exhibiting it to such a degree, when knowing all the while that the motions were reserved for this happening specifically.
The desire to forbid wandering was denied, permitting the female visual perception of what she dared not examine up close. Jack's upper body was bare with the exception of parts that were now riddled with freshly lain bandages, while his lower half was hidden, partially by sheets and also a pair of grey sweatpants that flooded around his ankles. His regular attire was discarded beside the bed amongst gruesomely scarlet-remnant paw prints that littered the floorboards; the hood was snared and the pants were bloody..
Silhouettes lingered in the doorway, too afraid to break past the threshold and interrupt the bitter immobility with footsteps of their own.
Tears broke free, falling in large heated droplets that were far too capable of keeping up with a demand for more. The hand over her mouth tightened, vainly endeavoring to stifle the sharp intake of breath she emitted as heavy lashes squinted past the onslaught of moisture. She fled from the scene faster than she had to it, lacking placement and control. The cobalt flicker that solicited when she passed was ignored, violets too heavy to find familiarity or seek consolation. A feathered shoulder collided with solid red, but the contact lingered scarcely as she went by. It was unnoticed, forgotten because it had never been recorded. She was detached from the sights and unconnected with the sounds; the world was slipping through her trembling fingers. It was a cruel trick of the mind that insisted on playing with her in her clamber. The hallway grew alarmingly in length, it's size increasing to a threatening level; easily overpowering the fairy's scrambled perception with it's meager illusion. Breaths shortened two feet from the scene, just out of the entryway's general view, preventing occupants from witnessing and onlookers from intruding.
Trapped in her own vulnerability, Tooth stalled in her coveted escape, hovering momentarily before colorful wings stopped.
They halted unexpectedly and without warning whilst the mini-fairies ceased their twitter. Neither North nor Sandy had enough time to intercept the girl's collapse, but even if they had- they doubted she would have wanted them to. The descent was abrupt and inelegant, lacking elements the female held unthinkingly in her daily life. She landed tactlessly on the ground to join the stray feathers that had fallen in the seconds prior to her, dropping to unstable knees. They wobbled and tilted, uncertain wether or not they could manage the weight of the crumbling Guardian for very long. It was a violent shudder followed by a pitiful, jerk-like, spasm of her muscles that brought her to her side where she braced her palm roughly against the floor to stop her plunge. Her slender legs folded beside her with a nearly graceful haphazardness to their arrangement as amethyst orbs peered into nothing, reflecting a despair that felt endless. The hybrid leaned heavily on her rigid shoulder, faltering whenever she tried not to do so, her dignity draining to allow the personification of her disintegrating maternity. Earth was decaying below and sky was gravity stricken to the point where flight was a far off dream of fantasy. Naivety hid, but was cast out of her eyes before it could attempt an escape; it had nowhere to flee. It was the same way any other mother would react to finding out that her child would never be the same again.
The thought was unimaginable, and yet it was a reality...she just couldn't cope.
The hummingbird lowered her head to her hand and began to sob, mourning the loss of both her baby and her sanity. Tooth's back arched, showing off the abnormally inanimate folded wings settled against her spine as the tiny copies above her mimicked, falling to the wooden panels and her shoulders to share in the desperation.
As the pair, still standing on the line separating two different but unduly identical worlds of anguish, stood, they found that they couldn't depart from their position; powerless to decide which realm to invade and which to abandon. No matter what they chose it would lead to disaster, neither situation needed nor wanted their immediate attention. Bunny was already providing Jack with everything he required, and Jack would never let anyone besides Bunny try to give it to him anyways.
Tooth would not accept comfort if they offered it either, this wasn't agony that could be healed by their support of shared emotion. The woman was strong even in sorrow and remarkably stubborn when she wanted to be isolated, to interrupt would catastrophic. Tooth required a lack of reprieve from the affair, a period that was devoid of distraction, a place of focus. She would come to the others in time, but for now, she needed solitude and would want nothing to do with them, or anyone else for that matter.
An inaudible sigh passed Sandy's lips, his amber spheres down-casted in despondency while he vainly strove to float higher to feign uniformity. It was an obvious lie, but no one bothered to distract with the peculiar tinge of the Sandman's golden complexion, rendering the attempt null. With his lip drawn and his hooded regard shadowed in an ironic exhaustion, the small spirit tugged on North's pant leg to get his attention. Up until the moment the man met his stare, he hadn't noticed the formation of dark rings beneath the others eyes that seemed to blacken when a number of symbols popped up above his head. That was unsettling... The sand wouldn't sparkle, it was visibly slower and the color was now dull and lifeless looking.
North only nodded sadly in agreement and stepped back so that he could shut the door leading to Jack's room. Hand clasped tightly about the knob, he listened to the soft click of the lock, feeling even more disinclined to follow through now that he was able to hear the harmony of both voices. Even through the thickness of the walls he could overhear him. More troubled than impaired, he let go and motioned for Sandy to follow as he pivoted to reluctantly withdraw.
Sandy was right, there wasn't anything either of them could do right now. Although the rift was growing large between their divided teammates, the swordsman was confident that it would only remain so for a short time. The detachment would only be temporary...
But for now, there was clearly no place for them here.
Yay! Happy Easter! Since I didn't post a christmas chapter on time this year I decided why not give you guys an Easter gift? Quite literally, this time Easter is more important than Christmas. Lol! Okay well this chapter has taken me sooooo long to right and I'm not all that happy with how it came out. I used a lot of words over and over and at this point I've just decided to screw it it's not getting any better. So please don't comment on that. I went through like five not being able to write stages during this chapter so sorry and I rewrote and corrected more than any human being on the planet should for just one chapter. Personally I liked making Tooth a badass in the first part and I loved having her describe Bunny and Jack. And also my fucking crowning achievement in this entire chapter is that i found the perfect fracking place to add this and do it as a whole...Bunny referred to jack...as love...
-Pause for epic fangirl screams-
I was so pleased with myself at that part it's not even funny. Okay well I'm definitely rambling at this point, but I really hope all of you guys like it. I've gotten so much awesome feedback and there are even people on the Tumblr JackRabbit page who are like advertising this which is like the most flattering thing for me. I'm advertised...I literally squealed. Oh and because i just remembered I found a video that is for Jack and Bunny and it's to the song 'Safe and Sound' -a guys singing it though- and I think I have found the entire soundtrack for Tainted Snow lol! Honestly I never ever looked at the song before this...and it's just perfect. Oh and the weird part where jack's eyes get like really really bright and shit..defintely borrowed the imagery from the first Lord of the rings movie where Frodo is like dying. And last fun tidbit is that the adresses Tooth lists off...those are real. I looked them up cause i wanted to be accurate! lol. Sorry sorry rambling again. Thankx for the support and make sure to review..I love reviews!