Alaia Skyhawk: Sorry for the delay guys, but I got invited to an interview for a job so my weekend has been me all in a tizzy waiting for that. Added to which, today I got asked to go in and "see if I like the job", so here's to hoping I get a job offer at the end of the session *crosses fingers*

Moving on, I was asked this in a review and figured I would answer it here. Someone asked why Father Time didn't tell the Pooka Brotherhood about the mistakes in the pre-training for Immortals candidates, and why he didn't teach the Constellations how to create immortals. Father Time, when he transformed himself into an immortal, set himself certain rules about interfering. Anything that would cause a huge change was out-of-bounds. He's made only two exceptions to that rule in all the years since he became Father Time.

The first was commanding fifty of the Pookas into hiding, to save the Brotherhood from being destroyed and so they could rebuild the Allegiance once Pitch stopped attacking. The second was the huge paradox involving Jack, which was to end the threat of Pitch and the Fearlings. As the Founder of the original Golden Age, he took those steps to save what he could, and to help bring about a new Golden Age.

Anything else he's done, like give advice or direction, has been relatively minor. Like him asking the Constellations to bring those candidates to Lumeris. It wasn't hugely significant, because it would only have meant about a month's delay in the choosing of the first new Guardians of Fun and Stewards of Natural Fear. It was just a small time-saver :)

Oh, and I plan a one-shot of Jack with the Guardian of Fun candidates, to cover the last few days on Lumeris. Those scenes were giving me trouble, so rather than keep delaying the update I'm summarising them. I guess I can tell you all now that I'm planning to do a collection-fic of one-shots and mini-arcs based on Secret of Frost and Moon, filling in gaps and such, although I won't be posting or updating that until this fic is done (And I'm not all that far from the end, just a couple more arcs or so)

You'll all have that to look forward to, although please don't put one-shot suggestions in reviews on this fic or send them in PMs to me yet, since I'd like to concentrate on this fic first. I will begin accepting requests/suggestions for "Moments of Frost and Moon" once that fic is posted, so save them until then. I can't post it now, because the opening two-chapter mini-arc is MAJOR MAJOR spoilers for the ending of Secret of Frost and Moon. And trust me, you guys are going to LOVE what I have planned for the ending :)

Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians, the Guardians of Childhood, or any related characters etc. This story is written purely for entertainment purposes.

~(-)~

Chapter 122: Homecoming

The remaining days on Lumeris were somewhat hectic, if by hectic you meant seeing Jack trailing a gradually dwindling number of frazzled Guardian of Fun candidates around various places in the city where children gathered. His seemingly boundless energy at odds with the 'hangover' he'd suffered when he stopped tapping into Lumeris' Spring. It had been something akin to the ultimate sugar-crash, in part due to how long he'd tapped into it for while unaccustomed to the powers of Spring. Short stints in future, be they for weather-monitoring or for pranks, were unlikely to cause more than mild discomfort so long as he kept things sensible.

Not that he was in a hurry to find out at present. He was too busy having fun selecting his final candidates. Taking them to see children and telling them to trust their instincts while interacting with them. Looking for those who were naturally inclined to direct children to deal with fear via games of sorts. Yet at the same time discounting the ones with the strong tendency to go over-the-top with that strategy. Because if it was done at the detriment to healthy common sense and caution, it was a big no no.

After the first day with them he'd whittled his fifty candidates down to thirty, with Tsar Gallus and co a bit baffled as to why those other twenty were no good. Jack didn't bother explaining, there was little point in it until he'd finished choosing the ones that made the grade. By the end of the third day the number was down to fifteen, and by the end of the fourth it was at ten.

Yet by the end of the fifth day, with just four candidates remaining, he was able to spare them any more relentless sprinting about from park-to-schools-to-play areas. Not that they were expecting that, when they arrived breathless from a mad-dash due to a late message to meet him near the Citadel's main gates.

Instead he grinned at them, in a manner they'd learnt somewhat to dread for the mischief it entailed. Trying to keep up with someone who could fly, when you can't, was exhausting. Which could be supposed was why they looked so stunned at the words that greeted them.

"Congratulations. You four will be coming back to Earth with me, where I will teach you everything you need to know about being a Guardian of Fun."

All four gaped at him. Diskel, Iseb, Eissi, and Serara all staring in silence before they burst out laughing. It was the exact reaction he'd wanted, and it gave him one final bit of reassurance that he'd made the right choices. If they took themselves so seriously, that they couldn't laugh at themselves being pranked after being run ragged beforehand, then they'd never have the patience to lark around with children for centuries on end.

He left all four to go start packing for the trip, although truthfully they wouldn't need to bring much. Immortals didn't generally go for having heaps of possessions, although all of them would collect a few over the years once they were settled in their roles. None of the four would be changed into immortals before leaving for Earth, because there would be no believers waiting ready to greet them.

As for the six candidates for Steward of Natural Fear, they still had to meet the grade of Kosmotis' tests before any final decision could be made for them. All they knew was that they were going to be tested further, and only then would they find out if or not they'd become Stewards themselves.

The final two days for Jack, consisted or making curios out of some of the local stones that Tsar Gallus had procured for him with some confusion as to why they were wanted. Jack then took a small bag of them out into the city, openly as a Guardian this time, and traded more than a dozen of them to various enthusiastic shopkeepers in exchange for souvenirs to take home with him.

It still only amounted to a small suitcase of items by the time he was done, which was placed in the keeping of Jamie to be loaded onto their transport back. They wouldn't be travelling on the Evenglade Start this time, since Jakub had responsibilities on Lumeris and Wyatt was going to go around the Pre-Fall Pooka Brotherhood members with the footage from the Moon Clipper archives.

No, this time they were going back on a Corvette, a small and lightly-armed ship from Constellation Fleet Lunanoff. It had been converted in purpose to serve as Tsar Lunar's flagship, for when he eventually needed to travel to other worlds, and had been renamed as the Moonstar. The Moon Clipper had been firmly stated as belonging to Tsar Solus now, and would remain as the Earth's moon and Jamie's base-of-operations, for when Tsar Lunar eventually left the Earth in his full care.

However a team would be coming soon to repair its lesser propulsion systems, so that the yearly increase in its orbit could be corrected and prevented. While 'losing' the Moon Clipper from orbit would never happen at any time in any sense of near future, the Earth had already lost its original moon, so making the new one unable to drift was just being practical.

The Moonstar gleamed white and gold in the sunlight, in the centre of the Citadel's landing-plaza on the day of the departure. With thousands of well-wishers gathered around the edges for this suitably huge and flamboyant send-off from Lumeris.

Jack lingered on the ramp to the hatch only long enough for a polite amount of waving to the crowds, before hastening almost eagerly inside to get in his sleep capsule. That he wanted no repeat of what happened on the outbound trip was clear to see for those who had witnessed it.

Enough so that Jamie grinned to himself, still waving to the crowd, before murmuring to Tsar Lunar beside him.

"Looks like we won't have to convince him this time."

Also noting the quick boarding by Jack, Tsar Lunar also chuckled.

"Indeed. I believe the beginning of this trip will be far quieter than the previous one." He turned his attention now to the newcomer heading up the ramp, who carried only a single modest bag with him. "Seyd, is that all you have brought with you? Your stay on the Moon Clipper is going to be a lengthy one."

Seyd, who had been selected to serve as Tsar Lunar's aide and messenger to the Allegiance, executed a half-bow of respect. With his plain clothing, and sandy-brown hair and eyes a few shades darker, his appearance was as modest as his manner.

"As my position is one newly created, your fellow Constellations wished to confer with each other in order to decide upon a formal title and uniform for me. Thus my formal clothing will follow, along with the few possessions I've asked to be packed and sent from my homeworld." He smiled faintly. "This is an unusual situation, to have a Constellation need an ambassador of sorts to attend meetings on other worlds in his stead. Normally all would come together at Lumeris for a joint council every few years, yet you have made clear you will be unable to do that for some time."

Tsar Lunar nodded, inclining his head to indicate Jamie.

"Tsar Solus' training is of far greater importance at present, than any contribution I could make at one of those meetings. He is, after all, the one who will eventually take my place as the primary 'jailer' for the Fearlings. He will need a messenger of his own when that time comes, and he will no longer be able to leave his vigil over Planet Earth."

The three of them turned after a final wave to the crowds, and proceeded through the hatch onto the ship. Jamie brought up the rear, nodding to the crew-member that closed it. Only then did he answer Seyd's remark.

"I plan to travel at least a few of the worlds, once the Earth is fully stable and has joined the Golden Allegiance, but that's a a decade away at the very least. Tsar Lunar has also graciously offered to return to the Earth now and then, after I take over from him there, so I can still attend the occasional meetings. But that won't be very often. To most intents and purposes, I will be bound to the Earth for the rest of my life."

Seyd's expression became solemn.

"Do you regret that, Tsar Solus?"

Jamie blinked, surprised.

"Regret it? Why would I regret it? When I was a child, the idea of travelling to other worlds was an impossible dream. Never to be done in my lifetime. I grew up believing that the Earth was all I'd ever know or see. That I would live out my life, grow old and die, without ever going anywhere else. That I've been to another world, even if it were only this once, and that I'm now a Constellation... Both go so far beyond what I dreamt of as a child, that I'll never regret dedicating my life to my homeworld."

He smiled. "Besides, with my Belief I helped defeat the Nightmare King when I was just eight years old. I'm one of just a handful of people who truly know in their deepest heart, how to keep the Fearlings powerless and trapped on Earth forever. By doing that I won't just be protecting my world, but all the worlds in the Allegiance. That's why I chose the name 'Solus' for my Constellation. Solus, as in solar; all things relating to the Sun. Or in my case, light. A warm and bright light to hold back darkness."

It was Seyd's turn to blink.

"Might I ask how old you are? I am aware that, as a Constellation, you do not look your true age. Still, I am curious."

Jamie's eyes glittered with mischief.

"Thirty-seven. I've been a Constellation for just over ten years."

The aide looked startled.

"But you look no older than early twenties, if standards on your world are similar to they are on mine."

Tsar Lunar rescued him.

"James became a self-sustained immortal by the time he was eighteen, and was an exceptionally accomplished and talented wizard by that time. I was one of his tutors, after I offered him lessons as soon as my situation allowed it. He chose to stop ageing at twenty-four, and ascended a few years later."

They were nearing the bridge of the ship now, as Seyd mulled that over.

"At only thirty-seven, to show such forethought and wisdom. Tsar Solus, you speak as I would expect from a Constellation of over a century of age, and with decades of tutelage behind them."

Jamie shrugged.

"I've grown up with immortals as a known part of my life since I was six years old, and interacted with them on an almost weekly basis early on. Later, once I was helping to introduce the Immortals to the people of my world, I was dealing with a lot of very serious situations. I was consulting with and learning from immortals all the time... And then I ascended, and started the World Council. I have a large team made up of many of the oldest immortals on my world. Consulting with them, with most of them a thousand years old or older, you learn to see things in a similar way. Age has nothing to do with experience or wisdom. I know several immortals, each more than three-hundred years old, that are complete idiots. Sure they do their jobs, and do them well, but they're still idiots."

He now nudged Seyd on the arm. "Also, don't call me Tsar Solus unless it's for a formal meeting or something. I was born James Bennett, and have been called 'Jamie' by my friends ever since. My title is like a uniform; I only wear it when I have to."

Jamie strode off ahead of them to enter the bridge first, whistling to himself as he settled into one of the spare seats either side of the Captain's chair. It was clear at this point that the more serious immortals weren't the only ones he'd picked things up from. A certain amount from his uncle had rubbed off on him as well.

~(-)~

When Jack opened his eyes, at the sound of soft knocking on the lid of his capsule, the first thing he noticed was how 'light' he felt. As though something warm and familiar were holding him close and lifting him high above the dragging sense of powerlessness he'd woken up to last time. It took him several bleary moments to recognise it as the power from believers, and several more before he recognised the familiarity as being his believers... His wonderful children of Planet Earth! They'd docked at the Moon Clipper! He was home!

Jack slammed the lid of his capsule open, so fast he almost got Seyd in the face with it. The aide had accompanied Jamie to wake up the two immortal passengers, and the young Constellation had wisely kept a safe distance. Bunny was already up and fidgeting with the same eager energy to get going, but was waiting patiently to go down via the mirror to Solaris with everyone else.

Of course Jack didn't need to wait. He was the one who made the mirrors.

A single unsurprised laugh from Jamie was all Jack heard before he careened through a quickly conjured mirror into the upper atmosphere. The winds, his winds that he'd worked with ever since becoming an immortal, were with him immediately. Carolling out in ecstatic welcome to their Spirit of Winter. They tossed him about like a leaf, making him whoop with laughter at their game. And then they were carrying him to his home, his Sanctuary. He didn't need to ask it of them, because they sensed his wish to go there even before he consciously thought it.

The instant that snow began to fall inside the Sanctuary of Winter, signalling the return of its owner, a chorus of happy gasps rang out from all within it. Two weeks without Jack on Earth, even if he didn't really spend all that much time at the Sanctuary, had left the place with a feeling of dullness. Like part of its light had vanished. But now it was back and everyone rushed towards the central plaza in front of the Ice Palace.

There in the centre of the plaza's snowflake symbol, was a very large fury mound of ecstatically squealing Winter Sprites. A young man's laughter clearly audible from among their midst. They reluctantly backed off at Yuki's commanding whistle to them, allowing her and the other Senior Lieutenants to reach their Spirit of Winter.

Yuki frowned at him in mock disapproval, hands on her hips.

"And what did you think you were doing? Heading off to another world without coming here to say goodbye first."

Jack grinned at her and the others unrepentantly.

"Does that mean you missed me?"

Her answer was to envelope him in a hug, one that was quickly followed by Dig latching furry limbs onto his ankle. Marzanna and Kiyiya came forward to clap him on the shoulders in welcome, while Zuě Hu circled them purring loudly although he'd deny it later. Cernunnos stood slightly to the side, towering over them all in a fatherly sort of way.

He grumbled with as much mock intent as Yuki's disapproval.

"So much excessive exuberance... And here I was getting used to the quiet."

Jack got him on the nose with a snowball.

"Wet blanket."

The white stag snorted the snow out of his nostrils, before darting forward to scoop Jack onto the saddle of his ornate harness. Yuki wound up there with him, while Marzanna and Kiyiya ended up perched on an antler each. He then charged about the cavern and among the icy pillars, Zuě Hu and a horde of Winter Sprites following in his wake while his passengers cheered him on. None of them cared how silly they may have looked, they were just happy to have their Jack back home.

In fact by the time they were done, with there being only a small pause midway through the afternoon while Jack did a frostdust distribution, they'd all fare worn themselves out with the excitement. But none so much as Jack, who had dozed off among a pile of sprites not long after that.

That was where his fellow Guardians found him, when they too arrived with Bunny, Jamie, Sophie, and all the people from Santoff Claussen and the Moon Clipper for a Welcome Home party. Their smiles at the sight all said the same silent thing, 'typical Jack'.

And as glad as he was to be home, it was probably not as much as they were.

~(-)~

Alaia Skyhawk: Cuteness! I love reunions ^_^