E. Aster Bunnymund hurtled upward through the tunnels. His Warren welcomed Zephyr, the west breeze. All winds carried little snippets of news, and the pooka had an ear for spring's voice. And southern Africa was having a serious hot-cold identity crisis.
He burst out of the tunnel, going several feet into the air and landing on his hind legs. There was the city, snow melting unnervingly fast as the sun approached noon. "Auster, mate," Bunnymund said, "this is supposed to be Boreas' play date." But the Guardian of Hope had little affinity with the wind, and the southern breeze ignored him.
His ears flickered, catching Zephyr's quiet voice. Turning around, "Oh, hello, Boreas," a small section of sky was nearly black with clouds trying to force snowflakes through Auster.
Excited shouts came from behind Bunnymund as a few kids spotted him. Then the pooka was back on all fours and tearing towards the Kalahari Desert. Sorry, ankle biters.
Underneath the clouds, now. Aster scanned the ground for blue. Heat radiated from the sand, fur trying to stand on end in alarm. Nothing. He stood and flicked his ears again, trying to catch some of the mild west wind through the angry confrontation between north and south. A little blue snowflake fell into Summer. Right. South winds blow north. The pooka took off.
He searched in a zigzag pattern; Eurus, the east wind, might have blown Frostbite somewhere unexpected. A golden thread appeared before his eyes. Bunnymund looked up to see Sandy diving towards the ground. Aster raced after him.
"Ya called North, mate?" Sandman nodded vigorously, eyes wide with worry. Jack Frost lay curled at his feet.
The pooka crouched down, casting his shadow over the winter spirit's face. Unconscious, ragged breathing, skin normal – that counted as flushed for the pale teen, and damp – some of it even seemed to be sweat. The kid spasmed slightly, breath hitching and mouth moving like he was trying to throw up. Good thing he was lying on his side, or he might have started to choke.
Bunnymund shifted the younger spirit's position, straightening his spine and neck, then arranging thin arms and legs to make the position stable. Jack muttered vaguely, eyelids fluttering. Aster kept his head positioned to offer shade. It wasn't much, but the desert didn't present many options. His foot was tapping at a rapid pace. If North didn't get here soon, the Warren would be more hospitable to the winter spirit than Africa.
Finally, a portal. Nicholas leapt out of the warped space. "Tooth waiting at Workshop," he declared, wrapping Jack in his arms. Bunnymund hastily turned the teen's head back to the side. Then he stopped.
"Wait, where's the staff?" Aster swung around, hoping to see it nearby. North glanced over too, then turned back.
"I think we not find it easily. Jack didn't attack himself," the Russian said. Bunnymund snorted, knowing the truth of that statement. He gave the desert a final glare, not really looking at it, then leapt through the portal after North and Sandman.
They came out on a white hill, and Nicholas threw Jack into the snow. The teen started to choke at the impact, and Aster hastily turned him on his side again. Did the man not know basic care?
Wings buzzed over as Jack threw up. Mostly water, it looked like. "He's throwing up. That's not good. Why is he throwing up? Is he alright? What happened?"
"Tooth, Tooth, it alright. Jack is with us, and look, Bunny know what he is doing," North said, greeting the spirit with a grin and arms wide in conviction.
Toothiana took in North's posture, chewing at her fingernails. Probably because of Aster's tight face. "Is this a good idea? I take care of my faeries, when they're hurt. I wouldn't just leave them outside, and hope they got better. Maybe we should take him inside." Her faeries chirped in agreement.
North frowned, stroking his beard. "Jack is winter spirit." Bunnymund scowled.
"Look, mate. You can't just go straight from desert to glacier to cure heat stroke!"
"Guys? Guys? He's shivering." Toothiana was flitting around Jack.
Frowning, North knelt down, brushing his hand against Jack's forehead and dislodging little frozen droplets. He looked at them critically. "Maybe is too big a change, especially without staff." The big man scooped Jack up again, Bunnymund fixing the head position, and started off for the Workshop.
There was a brief holdup as they neared the doors; Boreas seemed to disagree with their decision. But they made a magical barrier and pushed through its protests, the yetis closing the doors behind them.
North lead then to a guest bedroom. The Workshop did have an infirmary, but it was customized to deal with multitudes of injured elves. Sandy swept the toys off of the bed and hugged them to his chest, eyes on Jack. They laid the teen on top of the blankets, Bunnymund carefully giving him a glass of water. The winter spirit's shivering had stopped, though his skin was still rosy. A small breath of dream sand later, and the youngest guardian settled back into the pillows, breathing deeply.
Silence settled upon the room. Uncomfortably glancing away from Jack, Toothiana looked around the room from where she was hovering by the silent fireplace. Her flickering gaze settled on North and Bunnymund. "So, what happened?"
Aster snorted from where he stood beside the bed. "What happened? Pitch dropped in for a grudge match is what happened." Arms crossed, North nodded grimly from his chair at the other end of the bed.
"And, Jack's staff?" Toothiana's hands were clasped before her.
"If it in desert, Jack will be able to find once recovered," North asserted.
"But to be honest, it's more likely Pitch walked off with it to jerk our chains. And he'll probably enjoy doing it until he gets an egg bomb to the face."
The hum of wings grew louder. "But, it could be a trap!" Her gaze twitched over to North.
"Hmm." The Russian leaned back in his chair. "Pitch most certainly has tricks. But a trap? I don't think so. My belly doesn't feel it."
Bunnymund's ear twitched as Nicholas patted said region. He could never quite trust decisions based on bowel movements. "Look, we beat Pitch just a bit over a year ago. He'd need a nuclear attack to get enough fear to take us on again."
North nodded. "And then there is method he used in this attack. Pitch doesn't have wind leaning. He was using bottles, most likely. If he needed bottle to attack Jack alone, he has not recovered."
Appreciating the logic, Aster nodded as well. "Pitch just saw a chance to snap back after we stomped him."
"But he could still be dangerous! He could have a weapon! He used wind, and maybe, maybe he's got-"
"Tooth." North was smiling kindly at her. "Calm down."
Toothiana blinked, her wings slowing. A particular shine appeared in her eyes, and her fellow guardians took a sudden interest in the decorations. The Tooth Fairy smiled, brushing at her eyes, and settled closer to the floor. "Alright," she said, and they looked back at her. "Pitch isn't careless. He'll have something planned."
"Now that is good point," North said. "Pitch will be hiding in his lair, home field advantage. Best to approach with caution."
"Cheers to that," Aster agreed. "Though I don't think he's stumbled on any more magical items. Those things were rare two hundred years ago."
"And even if he had something like more bottles," North waved his hands dismissively, "mere annoyances if no power to back them up."
Hand tucked under her chin, Toothiana considered this for a moment. "Okay, but first we have to find him. My faeries can-" she was interrupted by the sharp squeak of a rubber duck. The three looked over at Sandy, who pointed at the bed. They looked at Jack, faces blank. Then the Tooth Fairy gasped. Hand clasped over her mouth, she flitted over, staring at Jack's hair. There, at the base of the strands, white was giving way to brown.
I am returning to university. Expect updates to be less frequent.
The Workshop dialogue gave me a bit of trouble. Any particular feelings on it?
What do you think of using 'Nicholas' instead of 'Santa'?
(My vision of Santa has such a strong un-North vibe that it feels weird using it.)