Hey guys. This is probably the longest chapter...ever. I'm real sorry about that, I tried to condense it some, but...
Anyways, sorry for the wait. Thanks for your guidance LovelyMissBeta, I saw your last review, and I now realize that many of you are trying to make me cry with these reviews. Not cool, haha!
Here it is, the final chapter. There is one last note at the bottom that I hope everyone will be able to see, because it holds all of my thanks and future notices for this stories and others. If not, that's cool, too.
Quick note: If you guys like listening to music while you read, for the 'dancing scene' (you'll soon see what I mean) the songs 'Barso Re Megha' and 'Mundian To Bach Ke' would be great background music! If you're cool with foreign music, that is.
Oh, and no worries. Jack will show his face soon enough.
Happy Fourth of July! Enjoy.
The days grew long and the nights shortened as the kids of Burgess lit up the summer skies in a blaze of fireworks and youth.
The adults were extremely happy, to say the least, when the summer finally melted back into a new school year.
The old high school seniors had moved on from Burgess High and dispersed everywhere around town, some having left far beyond its borders. Athena, Zues, Poseidon, and Ra were long gone.
Now, Tooth and her classmates reigned in Burgess High as the eldest students.
(ONE YEAR LATER)
She was dreaming again.
Her eyelashes fluttered, the skin of her closed eyelids twitched.
She was in a warm, sunny valley.
The tree before her gleamed in its natural perfection, the leaves a vibrant green. The bark was brown and the wind blew loudly, bringing along humidity and heat with it. Tooth smiled, approaching the tree in her bare feet, the blades of grass pushing up between her toes.
She let her fingers brush along the bark, feeling the life thrumming within. Out of the corner of her vision, she caught sight of something.
Webs and webs of ice patterned their way up the bark of the tree, towards her hand. It froze the leaves in their green glory instantly, and the grass underneath melted into piles of snow. She gasped at the feeling, raising her feet to step away. Her hand remained stuck to the tree, frozen.
The tree was soon rock solid, stiff and held in perfection by the freezing ice. Each leaf was in place and the ice gleamed beautifully.
Her breath came faster as the warm wind grew colder and colder. It died down suddenly, almost as if the tree was taking in a deep breath.
Icy gusts invaded her vision, and she could feel sharp snowflakes embedding themselves into her eyes. She was blinded by visions of frozen lakes and snowfall in her head, scenes of frost eating at the corners of windows and snowflakes melting on warm skin, warm lips, a kiss.
She inhaled deeply, waking up.
A nightmare? A dream?
Tooth rolled over, bringing up the bed covers to hide her face from the sunlight peeping through her small window curtains. She didn't want to get up, not yet.
Maybe if she tried falling asleep again, the dreams would return?
She sighed, sitting up and tugging at the curtains; she was too restless to fall asleep once more. Peeping outside, she saw that the sky was still a deep blue, the day being too early for the sun to come up just yet.
Tooth slipped out of bed in her t-shirt and pajama pants before padding softly out of the room.
Out in the hall, she could hear snoring coming from both of her parents the next door over. With lidded, tired eyes, Tooth walked out into her backyard.
The cool blades of grass felt good between her bare toes, even better than in the dream. She sat down by the large tree, gazing up at the sky.
It was endless.
A nearby buzzing noise alerted her, causing Tooth to turn and look.
"Hi there," she rasped, lifting up a finger for the hummingbird to settle on. Before long, a few more had decided to settle on her knees, enjoying the warmth she gave off in the cool morning air. She loved these birds dearly, watching them zip around and do what hummingbirds usually do. Not only were they colorfully gorgeous, but they gave the backyard a feeling of magic when things were quiet like this in the neighborhood. Early mornings in the backyard were the best.
Plus, they reminded her of good memories. Of fun, of birthday parties, of boys…..
"Tooth," a female voice called, drawing open the back door of her house.
Tooth's smile grew wider.
Rashmi strolled into the backyard, clad in her own pajamas, holding a cup of piping hot tea.
"Suprabhat. Here, Sweetie," Rashmi murmured sleepily, handing Tooth the mug of tea. She yawned heavily before stretching out the kinks in her back. "What are you doing up so early? I didn't take you for an early riser. I thought it took pliers and a crane to get you out of bed?"
"That's only on Saturdays, Mom." Tooth cracked a grin.
Rashmi plopped down beside her, scaring the hummingbirds away. Rashmi frowned.
"Hmph. Guess I'm not hummingbird-material," she joked.
Tooth shrugged. "It's alright! They're pretty shifty with everyone. How's your eye feeling?"
Rashmi's hand reached up to touch her left eye, stroking at the medical eye patch there. She sighed. "Fine. I'm just tired of looking like a pirate, is all."
Tooth giggled before sipping at her tea. "At least it's not injured too badly or anything. You just need to keep that one covered until the other eye strengthens itself."
Rashmi nodded. She would never admit it out loud, but she was glad she got injured during her service. It was an excuse to be discharged and return home to her family. "True, true… how is the tea?"
"Perfect," Tooth said truthfully, watching the teabag bob in the water.
Rashmi relaxed against the bark of the tree, her long hair falling out of the braid she had put it in the night before. "I forgot how peaceful it is here, at home. So quiet." When Tooth didn't answer, Rashmi looked over to see her daughter daydreaming. She pushed a few strands of Tooth's dyed hair back. "What are you thinking about? Did you have a bad dream?"
Tooth shook her head, leaning into Rashmi's touch. She couldn't explain how good it felt to have her mother back home.
"No. It was a good dream."
Rashmi smiled slyly. "About a boy?"
Tooth shrugged, deciding not to rise to her mother's baiting tone. "Something like that."
Rashmi pouted playfully, stretching once more. "I wish I had been able to meet him. You know, that one boy that you had befriended while I was away. No, not your other guy friends. I've seen them, and they're a rowdy bunch! The other boy. Haroom tried to make him sound cunning and mischievous, but he sounded very kind to me. Haroom said he took you out often, invited you to dances, played with you and your friends…"
Tooth was quiet as she watched another hummingbird land cautiously on her knees.
Rashmi peered over, looking for some sort of confirmation. When Tooth didn't reply, the woman decided to be direct. "Do you still talk to him?"
Tooth nodded vaguely, ignoring the pang in her chest.
They still spoke.
Rashmi sighed. "I'm sorry about your friend, Tooth. He must have liked you very much. You seem so sad when you think of him. I wish I could have had the chance to meet him, maybe to know him better."
Tooth sighed, watching the sun rise and chase the dark blue colors away.
"...Me too, Mom."
Walking to school wasn't as strenuous as it used to be, since Tooth had been spending a lot of time in motion lately. She hung out with friends, she cared for the hummingbirds… she danced. And she had a good reason, too.
Burgess was having its very first International Culture Festival this year.
Because of the large amount of diversity in Burgess's student population, the principal thought it would be a great idea to have a day where all the nationalities were celebrated. All classes would be cut for a day and different students would be allowed to preform different dances from different countries. Others would bring in traditional food and serve it throughout the day.
Many kids had stepped up to the plate to dance and represent a certain country around the world, some kids having absolutely no relation with the country, just a passion. Other kids preferred meshing in with the rest of the crowd and watching the school prepare for the festivities.
Tooth had volunteered to perform an Indian dance routine. She was already super pumped and excited, but when Tooth found out that a few other girls had volunteered to dance with her, she was ecstatic! Several of them were not at all Indian, and Tooth was extremely pleased to find out that they were just passionate about the culture and enjoyed Indian songs and dance.
Rapunzel had actually decided to dance alongside Tooth, instead of with the German dancers.
"I dig the colorful outfits," Rapunzel had explained happily. Tooth had a feeling that Rapunzel hadn't been lying, but there was something else to it. Tooth didn't want to seem conceited, but she had the suspicious feeling that Rapunzel had joined for her. They had become close friends.
Tooth chose to represent India because her father didn't know any Thai dances, but her mom knew tons of Indian dances, and it would be a great way to spend more time with her mother as well as stay in shape. Tooth had pounced on the opportunity.
Since she was the only one with any knowledge of actual Indian dances, Tooth was voted as leader of her dance group and head dancer.
She was a bit shy at first, feeling the pressure build up.
Why would they pick her? She hadn't really danced in ages, much less in front of an audience. Also, Tooth hadn't hung out closely with this many girls in… well, forever. As the weeks passed though, Tooth realized that she enjoyed spending time with her dancing group and grew close to all of them, Rapunzel moreso.
It was the week before the festival, and Tooth was at school, rushing between classes to gather her things.
She approached her locker, still thinking about the International Culture Festival.
North was performing a Russian dance while Bunnymund had planned on doing a display of Aboriginal hunting dances from Australia. Both were excited about it, making their own props and everything.
There were some issues when the principal wouldn't allow any spears during Bunny's performance, but Tooth persuaded the school official to allow in a fake spear, one with a plastic razorhead. That way, no one was injured, yet the dance could remain traditional.
Sandy had planned on helping his friends practice before sitting back and enjoying the show – he was more keen on sleeping than dancing.
Tooth smiled, happyto be a senior in high school.
She hadn't changed much. She had let her hair grow longer. She had dyed it with neater, brighter streaks once again. She was using the colorful makeup techniques that Rapunzel had showed her and wearing less constrictive clothing to combat with the heat. Rapunzel had even leant her a bit of jewelry since Tooth didn't wear her mother's necklace 24/7 nowadays.
Why wear the memento, when she had the real thing?
Tooth bit her lower lip in anticipation and her eyes glowed brightly. She couldn't wait for the festival! She pulled a few books from her locker before shutting it closed.
Tooth yelped in surprise, reeling from the sudden appearance of Anansi. Her hand flew over her chest as she gasped for air, shooting Anansi a bewildered look. It was almost as if he had materialized out of thin air.
He raised his hands in surprise."Woah girly, chill out there, okay? Just stopping by to say hi, that's all."
Tooth breathed a little easier.
Anansi had been way kinder these past few months. He barely started trouble anymore! Well, for her and her friends, at least. She didn't have any problems with him these days… or at least, he hadn't started any. After months of kind words and small chit chat, Tooth decided it wouldn't hurt to give him a second chance.
She was still cautious around him.
She just couldn't forget about how he had near-attacked her in the library last year.
"Oh, okay! I'm sorry, you just – I didn't know you were… I hadn't heard you coming… Hi! Hi, Anansi, how are you?"
Anansi seemed to be greatly amused by her little display of confusion before smiling widely at her. Tooth couldn't sense any mischief in his attitude, but she felt like she was vaguely missing something.
"Good, I'm doing good. So, were you doing anything after school today?"
Tooth gave him a curious look. Did he want to do something with her after school? What for?
"Well, uh – I'm going to be practicing a dance with my team members for the festival-"
"And are you doing anything after that?"
"…No! No, I don't think so. Going home, I guess."
Anansi grinned. "How about we go get milkshakes? Just you and me?"
Tooth didn't know what to say. She didn't have a problem with getting milkshakes with Anansi or anyone else for that matter, but she felt as though he wanted something else. Was he flirting? Tooth didn't want to assume, but she had a feeling in her gut.
As Tooth mentally observed the entire situation, Anansi frowned at her sudden silence.
"Oh, c'mon, don't be like that. I know we started off rocky, but that's over and done with. New year, new beginnings, right?"
Tooth knew he was aiming for something by taking her out alone without any of their friends with them.
Anansi continued. "Don't be such a downer, babe. It's just milkshakes," he smirked, reaching out to grab her hand playfully. Tooth squirmed at the feeling of her hand in his. It didn't feel bad or anything, it's just… well, she felt bad. Like she was betraying something…
She slowly pulled away, smiling weakly at Anansi.
"I-I have a boyfriend."
Anansi chuckled. "Correction: you HAD a boyfriend. He's not around anymore, is he? I certainly don't see him." Anansi made a show of looking around.
Tooth frowned. He didn't have to say it like that.
"We still talk! We're still together."
"Long distance relationship?" Anansi snorted. "Those never last. That's why all the seniors break up before graduating and going to college. What's the point of holding onto someone who's hundreds of miles away? He's probably looking at other girls now anyways, not saying that you're nothing to look at…" Anansi paused, his eyes roving up and down Tooth's figure, "…because you are."
His wandering eyes didn't bother Tooth, but the words coming out of his mouth did.
What Anansi was saying was the same logic Tooth had used when she had last seen him. She didn't want to bind him to her since he would be so far away, but...
Still, as much as she trusted Jack, she couldn't be sure that he wasn't eyeing other girls in his hometown.
Was she wrong for thinking that? Jack wouldn't do something like that, would he? Was she just being paranoid and insecure?
She had already suspected this before, him being with other girls, back around their last video chat…
Tooth and Anansi turned to see Bunnymund walking up the hall and glaring at the spider-like kid. In less than two seconds flat, Anansi had turned on his heel and ditched.
Bunnymund watched the other boy stroll away before turning his attention back to Tooth.
"Was he bothering you?"
Tooth laughed. "No, he was just being flirty. As usual."
Bunnymund shook his head, leaning against her locker. "Brer Rab is rubbing off on him. He's been chasing after anything alive and breathing, lately." Bunnymund folded his arms, revealing the large, aboriginal tribal tattoos stretching around his biceps.
Tooth gazed at them absently. She remembered when Bunnymund and North had first gotten their tattoos near the end of the summer; they had wanted the tattoos to be ready for when they went back to school, fresh and blackened forever.
The shop they had all visited (the only tattoo shop in Burgess) had been pretty edgy and cool.
The owner was super nice to Tooth, admiring her bright, dyed streaks. He joked around, saying how she was the babysitter for the two big guys she had walked in with. Sandy took a little offense to that, considering that he was right there with them all, but he got over it easily.
North and Bunnymund had squirmed far more getting inked than they thought they would have, but nothing too embarrassing happened.
While Sandy recorded the funny faces that his friends were making on his phone, Tooth had wandered off to the other side of the shop, flipping through one of the tattoo artist's design books. Intricate designs of birds filled the pages. For a moment, Tooth felt a small urge to get a tattoo herself, but pushed it away. Though her mom might admire them, her dad would FREAK out.
After getting inked, North and Bunnymund had to wear protective coverings for the newly finished tattoos. For days on end, both boys complained about how itchy the tattoos were, and Tooth had to make sure that they didn't scratch at the marks. That might've messed up the designs.
Now, as Bunnymund spoke to her, Tooth admired the ink patterned up and down his skin.
"Earth to Tooth? We need you to come back down from space, asap!"
Tooth gave a sheepish smile as Bunnymund laughed heartily. "The tats look good, don't they, Toothie? I knew me and North got those tattoos at the right spot; that artist made them look ace."
Tooth nodded, smiling once again.
"Well, gotta run. I'm ditching next period and meeting up with Alice. We're seeing that new movie. I thought it looked insanely trippy, but Alice really wanted to see it, so, whatever. She might even want to make ou- Well, you don't want to hear that." Bunnymund clamped his lips and nervously tugged at the collar of his shirt, taking a sudden interest on the floor.
Despite the happy look on Bunnymund's face, Tooth couldn't ignore the pang of jealousy that sparked inside her.
He had Alice. He could walk a few blocks and see her face. He could plan to meet up with her and be at the meeting spot in five minutes. No hassles, no troubles!
Tooth shook her head at herself. She wouldn't hold onto unsavory feelings just because Bunnymund could really be with the person he wanted to be with, and she couldn't. She would be happy for them both!
Giving him a sly smile, she decided to tease him.
"Bunnymund, I think Alice had got her mind set on tasting movie popcorn, not your tongue, in her mouth."
Bunnymund choked, giving Tooth a bewildered look. She never made jokes like that often. A slow smile drew itself up on his face.
"Alright, alright, a bloke can catch a drift, Toothie. Don't ruin a guy's dream, yeah?" They both chuckled before Bunnymund playfully ruffled her hair and set off.
Tooth was still huffing and trying to flatten her hair back to her head when North rounded the corner, high-fiving Bunnymund before approaching her.
"Toothiana, how is day going?"
"Great, North! I'm just packing up some stuff before next period. How has practice been going for your dance team?" She was genuinely curious
North heaved a great sigh, running a large hand over his face.
"Dance team always whining! Always complaining about how 'oh, my legs hurt, North' and 'oh, I think my arms break now' and 'oh, I sweat like pig, why I sweat like pig, North?'. I tell over and over to grit teeth and take the pain, but no! Dancers whine, whine, whine. I push them even harder. Need strong legs for dance of Russian men."
Tooth bit her lip. She remembered watching North demonstrate a traditional Russian dance to the other boys on his dance team for the festival. All the boys looked awed, but also a little fearful. The dance looked like it called for a lot of leg strength and endurance, something that a lot of the boys who volunteered in the festival were lacking.
Tooth was glad that she and her team members didn't have to put in as much strength training into their dance.
"Sorry to hear that, bud," Tooth consoled, tugging on his sleeve. "Just don't go too hard on them, okay? You might scare a few dancers off if you do, and we'll need all the dancers we can get for the festival."
"True. I will be kind." He ran a frustrated hand through his dark beard, unknowingly giving Tooth a glimpse of his sleeve tattoos. Tooth smiled. They had looked much better on both of the boys than she had expected them to.
"Oh! I remember now," North exclaimed, eyes opening wide, "will Frost come to festival? You invite him, yes?"
Tooth's face fell as the memories overtook her. She HAD invited him, but he hadn't responded.
(ONE MONTH BEFORE)
It had been ages since they had planned this.
Now on the weekend, with time-consuming school and interrogative parents out of the way, Tooth and Jack could carry out their plan.
Tooth hadn't bothered making sure she looked acceptable. She was comfortable enough in front of him these days. In her pajamas, she raced onto her bed and opened up her laptop, excited to have the web chat with Jack that they had planned together over the phone ages ago.
The screen whirred to life, and soon enough, the program announced that 'JackOfTrades' was online. Her username popped up alongside his,'MadameMolar'.
She had originally thought the name to be quirky and funny, but now she slightly regretted it.
This was the first time they would actually 'see' each other.
Before, it was just phone calls and letters. Tooth was excited with the new branch of communication. It gave her an entire different feeling from a letter, even though she couldn't deny that she liked trying to decode Jack's scrawled handwriting.
A small window popped open in the upper right hand corner of the screen, displaying her own face first.
Tooth thought that she looked slightly groggy with her hair in a messy ponytail and her camisole strap falling over a shoulder, but she was relatively happy and she could see the glow on her face. The entire screen buffered before showing a new visual. Soon enough, the buffering completed and the screen's darkness broke.
White hair and blue eyes shined back at her.
Tooth felt like her face was breaking from how widely she was grinning.
He smiled at her, giving her that old, sly show of teeth that used to make her swoon in the halls at school. Even though he wasn't right there with her, she could tell that he was watching her, looking at her. His eyes were just as intense as they always had been.
Tooth never felt so good about feeling so nervous.
"Hi-ya, Tooth. Miss me yet?"
She could feel her eyes growing glossy but she answered him in a light and steady voice.
"Do you really have to ask? You know I do."
He chuckled, looking away from the screen for a moment. Tooth could see the background of his room – his old snowflakes were still hanging from his ceiling and his band posters littered the walls. She couldn't spot his bookshelf, but she did see a few stacks of books piling up on the floor.
Jack himself looked a little different from when she had last seen him. His hair was still as snowy white as ever, but it was slightly longer now. He wasn't wearing his normal sweater, but a dark blue t-shirt instead. The dark circles under his eyes were non-existent. His posture wasn't tense or tight. He looked relaxed and happy as ever, slouched in his chair and gazing at her through the screen.
He looked even better than he had in Burgess.
She was pulled out of her observations as she noticed him staring back at her as intently as she had been staring at him.
She smiled shyly.
"See something you like, Jack?"
He gave her a slightly shocked look before laughing. "Well gee, I guess I've been caught red-handed. As a matter of fact, yeah, I do."
She felt her cheeks warming a bit as his eyes pierced into her. She wasn't surprised that he had played along. Jack liked games. Tooth looked away nervously, eager to think of something to talk about.
"Sorry about this," she said gesturing to herself vaguely, and not feeling very sorry, "I know we planned this, but I'm too tired to throw anything presentable on."
Jack waved his hand playfully, silencing her. "No worries. I'm not exactly dressed up either. Besides, I think I like pajama-clad Tooth."
She swallowed hard as the butterflies started kicking up in her stomach again. It had been way too long since they had seen each other.
Something shined by his head, causing a quick flash of light on the camera. Tooth peered closer.
"Jack… is that a… is that an ear piercing?"
Jack's eyes went wide, wondering what Tooth was talking about, before recognition sparked in the blue pools. He grinned brightly.
Now that Tooth looked closer, she could easily see the singular black studded gem gleaming on Jack's pale ear. When did he get that? Why did he get that?
"Oh, yeah. It's new," he commented, vaguely touching at his earlobe where the stud was placed. "You don't like it?"
Tooth froze, unsure of what to say. It seemed so sudden to her, Jack getting a piercing. Sure, she had went with her other guy friends to get body modifications of their own – tattoos – but she had known about it beforehand. She had talked with them about it. They had all planned it. This was too sudden, and it made Tooth vaguely wonder what else Jack might have changed about his life.
"No, I… it's pretty cool," Tooth found herself saying slowly as she gawked at the gem. She actually did kind of like it. The jet black color of the gem really set off with Jack's pale skin and blue eyes. "It's just… why did you decide to get a piercing?"
Jack sighed. "You promise you won't laugh?"
Tooth nodded. "Of course not! I swear."
Jack nodded himself before continuing. "Well, Emma wanted to go and get her ears pierced a while ago, right? So our Mom was alright with it and we all went to this little shop specifically for piercing little girl ears, I guess, but when we got there, Emma started freaking out."
Tooth quirked her head. "Why? Was she scared?"
"Yeah! I guess needles bug her ever since her extended stay at the hospital. The weird thing is, she didn't want to leave, either. It was like she was arguing with herself. She was nervous about getting them pierced, but she really, really wanted them pierced. Something about butterfly earrings, or some silly stuff like that."
Tooth sat back, intrigued. "Well, what happened?"
Jack nearly laughed. "I started teasing her by saying that there was nothing to be scared of, that even I could get my ears pierced without any trouble. I convinced her that if she got over her fear and got her ears pierced, then I would get one of my own piercings with her. Great idea, huh? You should've seen how fast she jumped into the piercer's chair. She took it like a pro just to see her older brother get his ears pierced. I stopped them after the first one, though. Emma was a little mad over that, saying that 'it had to be fair and square, pierce both ears', but I blew her off. She was still happy that I did it for her."
A slow smile drew itself on Tooth's face. So he had gotten it while spending time with his sister, using some sort of weird mind psychology on Emma so that she could overcome her fear of needles? He was so sweet!
"Jack… that's...really cute in a really weird way."
Jack shrugged again. "I guess. The guys gave me hell for it back at school. Some friends they are!"
Tooth paused. Wait. Friends? New ones? In his hometown? At his new school? How often did they hang out? Were they more fun than… than the old friends that Jack had in Burgess? No way. Not a chance… right…?
Jack went on, pulling at his ear. "It's an onyx stone. Studded. Only one that the jeweler had that wasn't rainbow or unicorn styled."
"Your mother was okay with it?"
"Pfft, ha! No way, of course she didn't like it. The only reason she let me do it was because she knew it was for Emma. You should've seen her face, Tooth. It's like she thought I would turn into some sort of hoodlum the moment they pierced my ear," he chuckled.
Tooth giggled a bit at that. "So Emma likes her new earrings, then? Have you been spending a lot of time with her?"
Jack threw his hands up in the air in exaggeration. "Now that she's a preteen with an older brother, she thinks she's some sort of hotshot! Always having sleepovers and bringing her little friends over to the house. They're loud and always try to come in my room, despite the warning signs I plastered all over the door. I think it just makes them want to come in even more."
Tooth really did laugh this time. "Oh, I get it! She's just having fun showing you off to her friends. I'll bet that some of them have crushes on you. Maybe that's why they all try to invade your room?"
Jack made a face. "I don't like nine-year olds."
"Oh…?" Tooth teased "Then who do you like?"
Jack smirked mischievously. "I think you know who I like-"
"JACK, BRO WHERE ARE YOU?"
The moment was lost. Tooth's vision was alerted to the background as Jack's bedroom door slammed open. A group of teenagers trickled in, Emma following them close behind. The teens consisted of two boys and two girls. The one who had called out, a boy, stepped close to the screen of Jack's laptop, pushing Jack out of the way.
"Woah... guys, check this out! Look who Jack's been hiding from us!" The boy peered into the webcam camera at Tooth, and she couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. Maybe she shouldn't have stuck with pajamas.
…Who were these guys?
Jack laughed, pushing the boy out of the screen's view and standing from his chair. "How did you guys even get in my house?" Tooth heard Jack vaguely say. The farther he got from the webcam, the softer his voice became.
"Man, we rang the doorbell. Your mom answered, said we could come in!" One of the boys responded, sitting down on Jack's carpeted floor. The other boy sat with him as Emma danced around them all, chanting, "Yeah, Mom let them in, Mom let them in!"
Tooth felt a small pang. Emma seemed familiar with these people, almost as if she had already met them several times before. Maybe they all went to school together? They were around the same age. Jack was laughing and smiling with them, too. Tooth could feel the envy rising up inside of her.
She felt distant.
Jack sat on the rug with them, gesturing to the laptop happily. "Lo' and behold, guys, this is Toothiana."
The boys waved eagerly at Tooth through the webcam. She smiled a bit before waving back, her shyness fading. They seemed friendly enough!
"Oh, is that your old friend? From that one town… what was it called? Oh yeah… Bogess."
Tooth looked to see the comment came from one of the girls.
Both of them were sitting on Jack's bed.
Tooth felt the envy being replaced by anger. She hadn't missed that snippy tone in the girl's voice, or her purposeful mispronunciation of 'Burgess'. And who did these girls think they were anyways, glaring at Tooth through the webcam of her boyfriend's laptop while sitting on her boyfriend's bed?!
He was still her boyfriend, right? Ex-boyfriend? She didn't really know anymore at this point.
She could tell already that these girls had a problem with her.
And what had one of them called Tooth? An 'old friend'? Yeah, right. Tooth could already see the two girls judging her through the webcam by the uppity looks on their faces. Both of them were fully decked out in blouses, skirts, and makeup. Tooth had a feeling that they were trying to be a little more than 'friends' with Jack and the other boys. Maybe they saw Tooth as competition? Petty.
Tooth felt a snarl in her throat, surprising herself. Those girls were lucky that they were only seeing her through a webcam.
Jack spoke up for her. "No, Tracy. It's 'Burgess'," he said in cold annoyance, causing the girl sitting on his bed to look downcast. Tooth found herself a little glad that Jack could still be as cold as ice for some things. "And she's not just an 'old friend'."
Jack's friends jostled him around, 'ooh-ing' and 'ah-ing', but the girls on Jack's bed seemed to be shooting Tooth even harsher looks than before. They didn't like this new development.
"Well," one of the girls spoke up while staring Tooth straight in the eye through the webcam, "does that mean you're not dating anymore then? Since she's all the way over there and you live here now?" The girl sounded hopeful and Tooth wanted to punch her in the face.
Jack glanced at Tooth with the same uncertainty that she felt. They held each other's gaze for a moment, unsure of what to say about their dating status. The more seconds of silence that passed, the more that Tooth felt her insides breaking.
Why wasn't he saying anything? Her mind began to race.
Why was she upset? She deserved his uncertainty, his hesitation! When they wrote letters and called each other, never had Tooth mentioned that she still considered Jack a boyfriend.
Deep inside, yeah, she still wanted to be with him that way. That didn't change the fact that he was hundreds of miles away from her.
She thought that she was helping him out hinting that he didn't have to stay with her, that he could meet other people. Now, as she watched those two girls making themselves comfortable in Jack's room among his friends, Tooth felt utterly stupid.
She didn't want to be noble anymore and she didn't care if it was selfish.
She really wanted Jack Frost.
"Actually," Tooth went on to say, grabbing everyone's attention. "We never really broke up. I figured we were in a long-distance relationship. Y'know, swearing off other people until we saw each other again."
Jack gave Tooth a curious look, hanging on every word coming out of her mouth.
Tooth wasn't too sure about the words coming out of her mouth. What if Jack rejected her idea of a long distance relationship? And in front of all his friends, his sister even?
Tooth didn't think she could handle it.
"Oh. Well, that must suck for Jack. And you. Not to be mean, or anything," one of the girls commented off-handedly, not really sounding like she cared if what she said was mean. "Why are you doing the long-distance thing? Aren't there other guys you could date instead of making Jack sit around, waiting for you to show up? I'm sure there are other girls that he might want to spend time with. Girls within a fifty mile radius, maybe?"
'Girls like them, is what she means,' Tooth thought.
The boys on the rug gave the other girl's words a brief pondering, but Jack's eyes stayed locked on Tooth's.
She had to say something.
"I… uh..." Tooth froze for a terrible second.
Was she being cruel? Making Jack wait around for her? But he didn't seem upset by the idea. And Tooth really wanted this. More than anything.
Maybe what everyone else thought didn't matter.
"I think," Tooth began, "that I don't have to explain myself to you."
Jack's guy friends on the carpet all gave out 'ooh-ing' sounds, high fiving one another and mocking the girl on the bed.
"Damn, Tracy," he cat-called. "She sure told you!"
"Hey, watch the language," Jack scolded. "My baby sister's still here."
"Whatever, Jack, I've heard the word 'dam' before! Beavers build bridges with them!" Emma hollered, before stepping in front of everyone to gaze at Tooth through the webcam.
"Toothiana," she called, eagerly trying to get the older girl's attention. "I already knew about you before the others did! Jack told me about you," the girl explained.
Tooth smiled, feeling a light emotion suddenly blossoming in her chest. Jack and Emma spoke about her?
"Toothiana," Emma went on, "aren't you sad? With Jack being so far away and all? What if he dates someone else?" The question was laced with childish curiosity and the room grew quiet.
Tooth wouldn't explain herself for those other girls, but for Emma…?
"Yes, it makes me sad," Tooth answered honestly, "that he's so far away. Yes, Emma, he has the chance to date other girls. But honestly, when he was with me, I was really happy. I thought he was, too. I would like to hold onto that. I don't think there's any reason to break up. I would love to see him again. I still consider him my…" Tooth paused, embarrassment reddening her cheeks, "…my boyfriend."
Jack gave Tooth the most genuine of smiles, and Tooth felt all her worries melt away.
"Yeah," he managed past the grin, "I thought so, too."
"So no other girls for Jacky-boy, then?" One of the boys teased, nudging Jack.
"Nope!" Jack declared boldly. "Only Tooth for me. What can I say, guys? I'm hooked."
Deep down, Tooth felt like crying tears of pure relief, but instead, she shot a sly grin at the two girls looking distraught on Jack's bed.
"So yeah, to answer your first question? We're still dating." Tooth gave a smug smile, feeling on top of the world right then – in her pajamas in front of a crowd of teenagers.
Emma beamed at her brother and Tooth before chanting, "Jack's still got a girlfriend, Jack's still got a girlfriend, wait 'til I tell Mo-om, wait 'til I tell Mo-om!"
"Ugh, Emma, get out," Jack groaned, pushing the small girl towards the door. "The rest of you guys can go to the living room and hang out there until I finish up here. There are movies and a Gamestation 7."
"A GAMESTATION 7?!" The boys shouted simultaneously before bolting out the room, tripping over one another. The girls slinked out after them, giving Tooth one final sour look.
Jack shut the door behind them all before returning to his desk.
"Sorry about that," he mumbled nervously. "I honestly didn't know that they were coming over."
"It's fine. They're pretty loud, but they seem nice! Most of them."
Jack laughed. "Yeah, they are. They're friends from school."
"...How is school going for you, anyways? Is everything okay?" Tooth's voice was edged with worry.
A twinkle lit in Jack's eye. "Still pretty tough. People still bring up the crash, the accusations. But things are way better. School's okay, I guess." Jack gazed at her. "And what about you?"
"School. Y'know, Burgess High. How are you holding up? What are North and the guys up to these days?"
Tooth smiled brightly. "Oh! Things are fantastic! Actually, North and Bunnymund got those tattoos that they've been wanting for ages. Sandy and I watched while they got them. What else? The old seniors graduated, the freshmen are kind of dorky, and… Oh! I-I, uhm…" she looked down embarrassed, "…I lost the spot of valedictorian."
Jack choked. "What? You? No way. To who?"
"Hiccup," Tooth mumbled. "He's pretty smart. But in a different way, y'know? He actually knows how to apply what he knows. His science fair project this year was killer, you should've seen it Jack. He made a fully-functioning prosthetic leg. The judges were telling him to buy his rights on the design, it was that good."
Jack hesitated. "...Are you okay with not being valedictorian?"
Tooth laughed. "Oh, I guess. I mean, I'm pretty sure I disappointed Athena – you remember her – and I was kind of bummed myself. I really thought I had it in the bag… but I guess all I'm good at is studying and memorizing useless facts." Tooth gave a sad laugh.
Jack leaned forward. "That's not true. What about all those languages you know? Isn't that 'applying what you know'? I'm sure it wasn't easy to learn them all, and languages take more than memorizing."
In all honesty, Jack couldn't have cared any less about valedictorians or class rankings, but those things were important to Tooth. Anything important to her somehow became equally important to him.
Tooth thought. Languages, huh? She was pretty good at those. And if Jack thought so, then maybe… Hm…
"Oh, yeah!" Tooth remembered suddenly. "Jack, Burgess High is having an International Culture Festival this year!"
Jack's eyebrow perked up."Oh, yeah? Sounds cool."
Tooth nodded eagerly."It is! There are going to be so many different types of cultures displayed in the arts and the students will be making food dishes from all over the world. There's dancing! I-I'll be dancing, too. For the Indian team."
Jack gave her his best grin. "Tooth, that's awesome. Didn't you dance when you were little? Sounds like you'll have fun."
Tooth was getting really excited, now that she could see Jack's excitement as well. "North and Bunnymund are in the festival too! Bunnymund is doing an aboriginal hunting dance and North is preforming with the Russian team."
Beep. Tooth could hear something beeping, but Jack didn't seem to notice.
A long laugh erupted from Jack as he clutched his stomach, struggling to keep a straight face. "Man, that sounds crazy! North DANCING? I wish I could see it."
Tooth looked around for the source of the noise again before ignoring it and leaning forward. "That's the thing, though! I WANT you to see it. Can you come to Burgess on the day of the Festival? To see us preform and all? It'll be so much fun if you came, and I-"
Beep, beep, beep, please recharge laptop battery-
Tooth's eyes widened as her laptop shut down, the screen fizzing out and going dark.
"Woah, woah, what?" she questioned, pressing the power button. No response. The battery was dead.
She sighed loudly, slumping back into her seat before looking around for her laptop charging cord. By the time she charged the battery and turned the computer back on, Jack was offline.
She grabbed her cellphone and texted him, but received no texts back. Tooth sighed again.
He must have had something to do, and so he logged off. Tooth decided to text him the date for the Festival before sitting back and pondering.
Would he even come to the Festival? She didn't know yet. She really wanted to see if she could reach him again, but refused to look any clingier than she already had.
Tooth put it aside for later.
Only a day had passed before Tooth gave into her urge to try and reach him again.
The next day, Tooth tried calling Jack's cellphone, but a female voice answered the other line. TWO female voices.
"Hello?" the voice called out, seemingly past a wad of chewing gum.
"…Hello?" Tooth responded in shock, wondering about who the hell she was speaking to. This obviously wasn't Jack.
Could it be his mother?
No, the voices sounded too young.
Maybe it was his sister?
No, the voices were both too old.
"Who… is this?" Tooth asked slowly.
The voices giggled lengthily on the other. Tooth was thoroughly confused.
"Oh, we've met. You're the one from 'Bogess', right?"
Those girls. From the webchat! The ones that went to Jack's school and came to his house with those other guys. Why did THEY have his phone?
"This isn't your phone," Tooth scolded, "give it back to Jack. NOW."
The girls laughed even harder at Tooth's reprimanding tone, and for the first time in a long while, Tooth felt a little helpless.
She didn't want to deal with any drama. She just wanted to hear Jack's voice.
"Oooh, we're SO scared," the girls teased. "Are you gonna get us? All the way from Bogess?"
"BURGESS," Tooth grit out. "Why do you guys even have his phone?"
The girls on the other line sighed. "He's too busy playing Gamestation with the other guys. Boring, right? Well, we figured we'd explore the house."
Tooth's brows knit together. "...You're in his room, aren't you?"
"What's it to you? Is that a problem?"
Tooth felt her throat tighten up.
Yeah, it was a problem. She was so angry, but she didn't know how to relieve herself of it! They couldn't just- They were so- And in HIS room…!
The girls went on. "Yeah, so nothing in here is really out of the ordinary, but whatever. Books, posters, desk..." Tooth could hear them ruffling through Jack's things over the phone, and it made her fingers twitch in annoyance. Seriously? They were invading his personal space?
"Ooh," one of the girls exclaimed, "what are these? Snowflakes?" Tooth could hear a snap, and something falling to the floor, shattering. "Uh oh," the voice commented.
"Stop it!" Tooth demanded over the phone. They were breaking his carvings! "Don't touch his stuff without his permission! Don't you guys realize how rude that is?"
The girls over the line gave that annoying giggle, and Tooth felt like she had about enough until she heard someone else over the line. Someone smaller and younger.
"Hey," Emma cried out. "Get out of my brother's room! I'm going to tell Jack if you don't get out," Tooth could hear her every word as the small girl shrieked.
Tooth could then hear the phone being dropped and feet shuffling away. Smaller feet padded towards the phone before picking it up.
"Hello…?" Emma answered.
Tooth smiled. "Oh, thank goodness! Emma, I'm so glad you came. Those girls, they were-"
"Being creeps? Yeah, I know," Emma responded curtly. "So are you, like, obsessed with teeth?"
Tooth paused. She forgot that Emma was still a nine year old with a short attention span. "Oh! It's… um- yeah, I'm just a little obsessed. They're just so cool! For example, incisors are fascinating because they actually hint at our omnivorous diets by-wait, wait, nevermind...! Emma, I need you to do me a big favor."
"Can you give the phone to Jack?"
"Um, he's kind of busy. His other friends left, but Jack forgot about those girls being here. That's why I came to find them, so I could tell them to leave too! He just left with Dad to go to the supply store. They're going camping tomorrow!"
Tooth slumped. "Oh… um, okay. Well, thanks anyways. When he gets back from the store, could you just tell him to check his text messages, then?"
"And uhm, Emma?"
"Those girls were going through his room without him knowing. You might want to tell him not to invite them over again."
"Ha! He didn't even invite them the first time! Those other guys did. I'll tell him to stop letting all of his weirdo classmates come over."
"Alright then… thanks, Emma."
"No, thank you!"
Tooth paused. "...For what?"
Emma giggled. "For the teddy bear! Jack told me it was from you after I got out of the hospital. He's so cute! I even named him and everything. Will I get to meet you soon?"
"I sure hope so, Emma."
"Yeah, me too." Tooth could hear the smile in Emma's voice. Emma went on. "Well I gotta go. Mom's calling me down for lunch."
"Oh, okay! Have a good evening, Emma," Tooth wished sweetly before hanging up. She went over the events that just occurred in her mind. Emma scared off two older girls when Tooth couldn't, and thanked her for the hand-me-down teddy bear.
Tooth beamed, feeling lighter than before.
(BACK TO THE PRESENT)
He never responded.
Whether or not he was coming to the Festival, he never answered. And so for weeks, the curiosity sat at the back of Tooth's mind while she worked, while she studied, while she danced. She deeply wanted him to give her a call, a letter, anything, but nothing came.
Tooth moved on with life as usual. She danced vigorously as the Festival neared closer and closer. Her mother helped her practice often.
Jack's silence didn't fully bother Tooth until Rashmi brought him up.
"Tooth," Rashmi called once while they were practicing one fine day, "bend your fingers like THIS. Force them back and stretch the skin over your palm. Make sure the girls at school do the same. Not any more and not any less, or else you girls won't look synchronized when you all dance together."
Tooth obediently bent her palm the way Rashmi showed her before going through the steps of the dance move over again. Her mother smiled approvingly.
"Perfect, Tooth! Ooh, just wait until your father sees you dance during the Festival. He'll cry!"
Tooth groaned. That was the last thing she needed, her father crying amongst a crowd of her classmates. "Mom, I really hope not. Not around my friends, at least."
Rashmi laughed. "Oh! Speaking of friends, is the 'Jack' boy coming to the Festival as well? It will be a big event and a good chance for you two to see each other again." Rashmi didn't feel bad for prodding. She knew how happy Jack made Tooth, but as she watched her daughter's expression fall, she was sure that trouble was ahead.
Tooth continued dancing, but shrugged her shoulders slightly. "I don't know, Mom."
Rashmi frowned. "You don't know? Didn't you invite him to come?"
Tooth withheld a sigh. She didn't want to appear disrespectful. "I did. He just didn't answer."
"And why not?" Rashmi's voice grew slightly annoyed. "Maybe he's busy?"
"I don't know, Mom."
"Have you called him?"
"Texting? Did you text?"
"Mom," Tooth said exasperatedly, stopping her dance motions. "It doesn't matter. I can't force him to come to the Festival. If he doesn't want to visit me, then I'm not going to keep prying. He can do whatever he wants, it's his life. But while he's at it, I'm going to live my own, so-"
Tooth continued dancing, her movements harsher and stiffer than before. The frustration that she was feeling was tensing up her muscles.
If Jack hadn't wanted to come, he could have just said no.
"-it's not a big deal if he doesn't show up-"
He could've at least called.
"-because it's not like I need him there. I don't need him in the crowd to dance well-"
Tooth spun into the next dance move awkwardly, causing her to lose balance and tumble to the ground. She frowned as she stared up into the sky from the earthy floor.
So much for 'dancing well'.
Rashmi walked over casually before standing over her distracted teenage daughter.
"Tsk, tsk. Nataraj frowns upon you today. Tooth, don't be so bitter. He's probably just busy. I don't think he's ignoring you. There's no shame in wanting him there at the Festival. There's no shame in missing him."
Tooth's eyes glossed over again but she pushed the feeling away. Standing up from the ground, she wiped off her clothes.
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Sorry. I was a little upset about it..."
Rashmi smirked. "I could tell." She stepped closer to Tooth, positioning her arms for the next dance move. "Don't you worry, Tooth," she soothed, forcing the younger girl to make her stance wider, "you just focus on the dancing. The boys will come soon enough."
It was the day of Burgess's International Culture Festival.
Her legs were aching, but not enough to keep from shaking onstage.
"Tooth, are you ready for this?"
Tooth released the curtain from her shaking hand, and turned away from the crowds and crowds of people in the Burgess auditorium. She looked over her shoulder at Rapunzel and the other girls on her team. They all looked slightly nervous, all of them capable of hearing the roar of the crowd behind the stage curtains.
Tooth gave her team a confident grin.
"Of course I am. Relax, everybody! We've all practiced this, remember? Now it's time we show them what we're made of!"
Some of the girls' worries melted away at the spirited words. If Tooth believed, then they could too!
"You're not nervous, are you, Rapunzel?" Tooth teased.
Rapunzel tried to look shocked. "Me? Nervous? Nope! Never in a million years!"
A stage crew kid ran behind the stage. They alerted Tooth and her team, "The curtain opens in fifteen seconds, guys!"
Tooth turned to everyone else, feeling the leadership skills that she learned over the year beginning to kick in. "Alright, ladies, you heard what they said! Everybody get into position!"
The girls quickly scrambled to their predetermined spots before kneeling into place. Tooth gazed on, watching them organize themselves.
All of the girls wore fitted gold tunics. The short sleeves of the tunics were embroidered with bright threads and embellished with pretty beads. Underneath the identical tunics, each girl wore different colored gypsy pants, for individuality among the conforming costume style.
Tooth's pants were a bright blue. Rapunzel sported pink pants under her gold tunic. Other girls had green, yellow, and various other colors. It was like an Indian rainbow, yet the same gold tunics brought it all together.
A lot of the girls thought the pants were stylish and enjoyed how they allowed room to move and groove. The pants flared out before clasping tight around the wearer's ankle, giving the girls plenty of space to dance.
Tooth had also advised the girls to wear bangles, and was not surprised to see several types of bracelets adorning her dancers' wrists. They all had sashes that wrapped across their torsos, paralleling the colors of their pants.
Tooth knew that her entire team had done a lot of work (not to mention fundraising) for these costumes, but in the end, it was definitely worth it! Tooth felt pumped as she looked at her team's gorgeous outfits.
Now, if only they could make their dancing look as good as the costumes.
The stage crew kid whispered out harshly across the stage. "Curtains raise in five-!"
Tooth checked once more, to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.
After a successful inspection, she dashed to her own spot, kneeling with the rest of her team.
Rapunzel leaned over, whispering in Tooth's ear. "Okay, now I'm nervous!"A chorus of "yeah"'s and "me too!"'s arose from the group of girls.
Tooth squared her shoulders. "Keep it together, ladies! We've practiced this dance a thousand times."
The curtains rose.
The spotlights turned on, beaming down hard on the girls and illuminating them onstage in the dark auditorium, but no one flinched. Tooth's eyes were closed, along with the rest of her team.
They could hear people moving around in the auditorium. People were talking, eating, whispering, and laughing. They could hear their classmates holler and shout in glee at the sight of them, the audience soon breaking into a tremendous greeting applause.
The girls held steady, but up close, you could see nearly all of them trembling.
Slowly but surely, their music began to play over the loudspeakers, soft and soothing. The girls' hands all rose in a perfect synchronization. Tooth could feel her team moving alongside her trustingly, all of them remembering the steps.
They moved like a heartbeat, slow and steady.
Music pumped through Tooth's fingers and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end, her nerves sparking all over her body.
The soft sound of a santoor's strings being plucked, a few tunes on a far away flute, a sitar spicing things up – all of these traditional Indian sounds led the girls to rise to their feet together. The girls all moved their hands accordingly.
And so the dance begun, visually telling the story of an ancient Hindu myth.
In the story, a female demigod of nature and storms rose to great power. In the dance, the girls stretched their palms to the sky before stepping behind one another and creating a fluttering wave from their lined up hands. Tooth stood in the front, looking weightless and powerful.
As the story went on, the female demigod fell in battle, and she became a storm, watering the crops of nearby starving villagers and bringing them into a new golden age. The dance team lowered their hands and fell to the floor, preparing for the 'new age'.
There! Tooth breathed silently, but heavily. She and her girls were kneeling once more, catching their breath.
The intro was already over, but the crowd still looked fascinated. Tooth couldn't help but smile. Things were going great!
Now for the main event.
As much as she liked the classics and all, Tooth couldn't deny the newer sounds of India.
Almost immediately, the music morphed from slow and traditional Hindi sounds to something more modern and hip. A fast paced Panjabi beat took over the loudspeakers, throwing the girls into action. They all jumped up together in a flurry of color.
The sound of drums vibrated across the stage floor, tickling the bottom of the girls' feet. They all strode across the stage, twirling their hips and sashaying their arms. Tooth almost laughed as she felt in total control of herself, of the massive energy of the other girls around her. She began to strut a little harder, smile a little brighter.
The girls could hear the crowd cheering now, almost in a fury.
There were people screaming and shouting their approval of the girls' dancing. Some of the audience members were dancing to the music themselves in their seats. Tooth blushed furiously, but didn't stop. The crowd was eating it up!
The beat got swifter and the girls moved faster, never falling out of step, never losing their glow. Tooth had never felt such a deep connection with a group of people like this before. They were moving the same, hell, they were breathing the same. All of their energy was peaking, all of their muscles were straining, and Tooth wanted to cry out at the beauty of it.
She made this. She helped these girls dance as one.
Sweat rolled as the crowd began clapping to the beat, following Tooth and her dancers with their eyes to the very end.
On the final beat, Tooth's girls turned away as Tooth locked eyes with the crowd, their feet stopping.
The dance had ended.
There wasn't even a moment of silence left to fill because the crowd was going absolutely nuts.
Their classmates whooped, parents videotaping eagerly and teachers smiling their approval. Indian Club had been a hit! Tooth had only heard such an applause for a few of the other clubs…this raucous, deafening applause. People were actually calling out for encores!
Tooth resisted the urge to dance anymore, even though her legs were still thrumming with energy. She was sure that the other girls' legs hurt more than hers did.
She smiled, motioning for her teammates to join hands before they all gave a big group bow. They left the stage, cheers and applause still at their backs.
Backstage, Tooth was engulfed by the hugs of all her teammates. They squealed and laughed, praising one another.
"Oh, that was fantastic!" one cried.
"I-I was so sure that we would mess up that third spin, but we all- we all actually did it!" another said.
"Did you hear the way they clapped for us?"
"Did you hear the way they screamed for us?"
Rapunzel laughed, quieting everyone down. She turned to Tooth, still flushed from the dance. Blonde strands stuck to her forehead and she breathed hard, but Tooth had honestly never seen her happier. "...So, our dear leader," Rapunzel teased, "how do you think we did?"
Tooth blew a piece of hair out of her face, smiling sheepishly at her team.
"Honestly? I think we nailed it."
The girls quickly left the backstage area, making way for the next team that was preparing to dance.
They all walked through the auditorium aisle, clearing out for the other clubs to come in. As they walked out, people whispered more congratulations and compliments, quite literally showering the girls with affection. Some were reaching out to give them high fives, or pulling on their sleeves to get their attention. All of the girls had hot cheeks as they left the auditorium.
Tooth was behind them all, lagging because her dad, Haroom, had practically screamed out her name in front of EVERYONE.
"That's MY daughter," he exclaimed loudly. "See, see?! That one, right there! In the blue! She was the captain of the team, you know. My little girl! Ah, Toothie! Over here! Daddy loves y-!"
Tooth looked just in time to see Rashmi silencing her husband with a forceful hand. Tooth vaguely caught the words "always do this" and "embarrassing her" from her irritated mom. Tooth continued on quickly, trying to cover her heated face now.
A small hand reached out from the side of the aisle, someone sitting down. Tooth looked over to see an unforgettable smiling brunette. Even in the dim auditorium, Tooth could tell who it was.
She'd recognize those baby teeth anywhere.
"Emma!" Tooth grinned, leaning over to hug the small girl, who returned the hug eagerly. "What a surprise! What are you doing here?"
Emma beamed at Tooth, giggling and turning pink. "I'm here with my family! We came to see you! Uncle Moon's here too, see?" Emma pointed to the seats beside her. "You look super pretty, Tooth."
Tooth smiled in thanks before her purple eyes flicked up, first landing on Uncle Moon. He grinned, adjusting his spectacles.
"That was quite a show you and your friends put on, Toothiana! You shone like the sun."
Tooth reached over, hugging the old man as well. When was the last time she had seen him? Sure, she stopped by a few times after Jack moved, helping Moon with manual labor that he was too old to do all by himself. Mowing lawns, taming the surrounding nature, and lifting heavy things were all things that she had done. North and the others had visited the man several times as well, but that had been quite a long time ago.
Moon laughed in surprise as the young teenager leaned over Emma and wrapped her arms around his neck. They had never embraced before. He patted her back, but Tooth felt another pat from someone else on her head. She looked again.
Helena. The older woman sat back in an elegant, form-fitting dress and pearls. She smiled at Tooth approvingly. "You danced well up there, Toothiana. I wish I could still move like that."
Tooth scoffed playfully. "You're thirty eight, of course you can still dance! No excuses."
Helena wrinkled her nose, grabbing Tooth's ear playfully. Tooth squealed as Helena scolded her. "You're getting far too bold, young lady! I'm going to have to remind you who's the boss around here. Tell me, how is your mother now? Is she well?"
A deeper voice grunted, and Helena released Tooth. Tooth looked to her savior, Helena's husband. The bearded man gave a 'tsk' sound at his wife before nodding silently at Tooth, congratulating her.
Tooth nodded back absently. "Is, uhm… is it just you guys who came…?"
For once, Helena's husband smiled. He shook his head before pointing outside of the auditorium.
Tooth nodded before racing away and out of the auditorium.
She burst through the doors and they slammed open far too hard, but didn't really care at this point as her eyes roved the hall.
Her eyes passed over her teammates conversing with other teams in the hall and further down, to a lone figure. A tall boy, who was tapping his foot nervously and looking at the clock on the wall with an anxious look.
Tooth shouldered past everyone, making her way towards the boy.
Sure enough, the boy's image defined and the signature white hair was visible. Lightning blue eyes turned from the clock to land on Tooth, and a bright smile of perfect, pearly white teeth showed.
A pang struck her chest.
For a moment, Tooth felt like her heart had jumped into her throat. She wanted to scream from joy.
Without even realizing it, her walk turned into a jog, which became a run. Within seconds, Tooth was sprinting down the hall, her bracelets jangling and her hair thumping against her back. When she saw his arms stretched out wide to catch her, Tooth's feet kissed the ground goodbye.
She didn't mind one bit when Jack's breath was knocked out of him as she flew into him. He raced to catch her before she fell, tipping over a bit. They both laughed out loud, struggling to keep balance while holding each other tightly. She held him, burying her face into the cool crook of his neck. It felt like fireworks were going off inside her as his cold skin met her heated skin.
He curled into her, holding her just as tight.
Pulling away, she playfully smacked his shoulder, trying to hide the shaking in her voice. "Why didn't you answer your phone? Your e-mails? Why didn't you send a letter or call me?
Jack smirked. "I wanted to surprise you for the Festival. It's more fun that way, y'know."
Tooth shook her head, unable to hide her grin even though she bit her lip desperately. "Well, I'm certainly surprised."
Jack stepped close, watching vaguely as Tooth's teammates watched and cooed over them from down the hall.
"I think you surprised me more than I surprised you tonight. Whenever I thought of you dancing, I thought of ballet or something like that, but now, after seeing you, man… you were amazing, Tooth. You're pretty amazing."
Tooth dug deeper into the soft spot of Jack's neck. She loved the words coming out of his mouth, loved the genuine look of adoration on his face.
He thought she was amazing.
"Speaking of which," Jack went on, pulling away from her. "I had this other surprise, but I don't think you saw me holding it. We kind of squished it."
Tooth looked between them to see a bundle of colorful flowers, squashed beyond recognition. Those were for her?
"Oh… sorry!" she exclaimed in worry, peeling a flattened flower petal off of her tunic. "I hadn't realized-!"
Jack's lips caught hers, forcing all the worries away. He could hear the squeals of her teammates echoing from down the hall the moment he kissed her. The thought of being watched made him nervous and he slowly pulled away, glancing at them.
"Oh, don't mind them. They're just teasing. They're all sweethearts!"
Jack's attention dove down to the sound of Tooth's light voice.
Tooth's eyes had glazed over and she was smiling, all tired out and stuck with flower petals. Jack wondered for a moment whether or not she was doing this on purpose. Trying to look pretty and appear enthralled with him.
But no, it didn't seem she was trying to do anything. She was just being happy. She was just herself.
Jack brows furrowed as he wondered when she became so alluring to him. When he bumped into her that fateful day in the school hall, all he noticed were the too-bright dyed streaks, her shiftiness, her shyness.
None of that had been attractive then, only slightly annoying. Now, everything seemed different.
"Alright then," Jack said simply, hooking a calloused finger under her soft chin and tilting her face back up so he could get another go at her. Her lips still tasted like mints and toothpaste, but Jack wasn't complaining. He had missed tasting it on her.
He had never missed someone the way he missed Tooth. When Emma was gone, he had missed her laughing and her antics. He had missed holding her and reading to her. But when Tooth was gone, he had missed her smell, her taste. He had missed the way she ranted about Teeth and the way he could make her tremble, make her blush. He had ached for her.
Damn. Now he didn't want to leave.
Tooth pulled back from the simple kiss, a look of urgency on her face. "Jack, we're going to miss North and Bunnymund's performances if we don't hurry! C'mon." She pulled at his hand.
Jack nodded vaguely before following after her, letting the smaller girl lead the way. He skillfully kept his cheeks from heating up as he passed by the knowing eyes and smirks of the other teams.
They sat together in an empty back row of the auditorium. Jack fumbled with the snowflake charm in his pocket as he watched North's dancers enter the stage. He was kind of excited now. It had been forever since he had really spoken with North, Sandy, or Bunnymund. Tooth's voice broke his train of thought.
"How was I?" Tooth ventured shyly as the spotlights hit the stage once more.
"Huh?" Jack asked, wonderingly. "…At kissing? Fantastic."
"No, not that!" Tooth yelped, looking a little embarrassed to uncover Jack's thoughts on her kissing skills. "My dance routine. Did you like it?"
"Oh," Jack remembered, "that. No, you guys sucked."
He earned a punch in the shoulder and a giggle. "I'm serious, Jack. How were we?"
Jack laughed alongside her, causing the man in front of them to turn around and "sshhh" them. Once the man had turned back around, Jack leaned over.
"C'mon, Tooth, you're smart. The crowd wasn't cheering for nothing."
Tooth blushed, her shoulders slumping. "Yeah. But I wasn't asking what the crowd thought. I want to know what you thought." She cautiously glanced over, afraid to hold his gaze or see his expression.
Jack felt something in his chest tighten. He leaned over and pecked her cheek before saying, "You were a knockout up there, Tooth."
Emma stretched her legs and arms as she walked alongside her family and Tooth's family.
They were all chatting it up big time – Tooth's dad rambled to Jack's silent, attentive dad. Both moms were gossiping over various things.
Emma watched with vague interest as Jack and Tooth walked side by side with some other kids, all of them talking loudly and having a good time. There were two large boys, both of them tattooed. One had a dark beard and mustache, and wore a dark outfit for his dance. The other boy had some sort of tribal marking all across his face and body, along with a red wrap and dry grass around his hips. Then there was a smaller guy who was quiet, but socializing just as well with the others. Sometimes he moved his hands, sometimes he wrote on a notepad.
Emma figured that they were all mega-cool and she preferred Jack's Burgess friends over his other ones.
She was glad to meet them all and watch their shows. She didn't recall seeing the smaller blonde teen onstage, but she had seen the big one called 'North' doing some hardcore Russian dance with a group of male dancers. She remembered the tribal kid onstage showing off some flashy moves and spears.
Emma sighed, happy to see her brother happy. She was glad he was around again. He spent lots of time with her.
He still wondered over the missing letters, though.
Emma knew about them now, though she wouldn't say anything to him.
She had been upset at first, when she had found out what happened to them.
Before being moved to another room, she had shared a long-term room with another girl. They were both stuck in the hospital for a while. The girl had extensive burns on the backs of her legs and arms, but she had never told Emma how she got them. They spoke little.
Emma rarely saw anyone visiting her roommate, even though she recalled her own family visit often.
As the days went on and the nights grew longer, not a moment went by where Emma wasn't thinking of Jack or how he was doing. That was when she was awake, that is. She was put under a lot back then. Something about keeping the brain's activity low during recovery…?
Sometimes Emma woke up briefly, late in the night, the hospital dead quiet.
Sometimes she thought she saw the sight of a paper, or an envelope in her roommate's hands, but would fall asleep again. She dismissed the foggy sleep visions as dreams.
Whenever her roommate collected letters from the nurses, Emma would ask if she had received anything.
Every single time.
When Jack finally visited after Emma had changed rooms and mentioned the letters, Emma had a sneaking suspicion. The day she was discharged from the hospital, she snuck off back to her old hospital room while her parents and the nurses weren't looking.
She confronted her old roommate who was still there, hands disfigured beyond recognition. She wouldn't be leaving until her skin grafting operation pulled through.
Emma had been angry at first. Hurt. How dare this girl keep those letters from her?! Emma was even angrier when she saw the girl struggle to hide the bundle of letters from her, trying desperately to keep them.
"Please," the girl had begged. "I'm sorry I stole them, but don't take them back. I don't- I never had any brothers or sisters. And my parents don't visit me like yours do. I don't like talking to the other kids, and I was so sad, but…these letters, they make me feel better. I like reading them."
"They're from my brother, you sneak," Emma reiterated. She hadn't cared about anyone's feelings at the moment. She was hurt that her roommate never told her about this.
"I know, I know. I… I like to pretend that he's my brother… when I read the letters."
Emma had been shouting then, feeling threatened. "But he's not your brother! He's MY brother. And he loves me!"
The girl began sobbing. "Please. Please don't take them away from me, I'll do anything. Please don't tell the nurses. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Emma had bitten back her words, a little shocked.
Jeez. If the girl wanted the letters so bad…
Emma sighed. "Alright, fine… you can keep them. Just don't do this to anyone else, it's mean. Those letters were just as important to me as they were to you."
The girl nodded vigorously, clutching the bundles of letters addressed to Emma to her small chest. "Thank you," she breathed. "Thank you, thank you."
Emma realized how lucky she was, then. To have a brother like Jack, someone who would always try their best to be there for her.
This girl, clutching her letters, this girl envied her.
Emma started to feel a little bad for her roommate. She seemed like she needed a friend but was too shy to make any, and so instead, she confided in letters that were meant for someone else.
Emma shrugged. Yeah, Jack wrote those for her, but Emma didn't need them anymore. Just knowing that Jack had sent so many made her feel better, and now, Emma had the real thing.
She bid her roommate a quiet farewell before leaving the hospital for good.
Since then, Emma had sent her roommate several letters. The girl needed a friend. Emma was delighted when her old hospital roommate began answering her letters. Even past the scrawled, hard-to-read handwriting, Emma could tell that her new friend was happy to have a pen pal.
Emma stepped between Tooth and Jack, reaching for both of their hands. She smiled when both teens squeezed her palms.
Yeah. Jack didn't need to know what happened to those old letters. Emma figured it was an act of charity. She gave them to someone who needed them more than she did.
She had the real Jack now.
Emma nuzzled his hand, smiling happily. "Jack, why are you always so cold? You should lotion your hands more often. They feel like ROCKS, they're so hard. Tooth wouldn't want to hold them!"
Jack pulled his hand away, self-consciously looking them over. "…Hard…?" he wondered.
"Emma, shoo!" Her mother, Helena, urged. The older woman grabbed Emma's hand, leading her away from the two teens. "Leave them be."
Once Emma was gone, Tooth stepped closer to Jack.
"Don't worry, she's just teasing you. I don't mind them."
Jack gave her a small smile as she enveloped his fingers in her soft ones. He had a feeling that if he had literal boulders for hands, Tooth wouldn't even care.
They went to sit on a bench, resting and watching the others merge with the rest of the crowds, talking and laughing. Their families enjoyed one another's company as they all went around, trying out different food from the cultural food stands. Their friends were doing the same, but eating way more than socially acceptable.
Tooth relaxed back into the bench, her hand still entwined with Jack's.
"You're going back home after this?" She wondered.
Tooth was quiet for a moment. Out of nowhere, she blurted, "North's going back to Russia."
Jack's eyebrows shot up. "What?" He couldn't imagine the big guy gone.
"It's true," Tooth insisted. "The exchange only lasts one more year. He'll have to go back after we graduate in a few months."
Jack watched as she went on, her face growing more worried.
"Bunnymund is going to college out of the country. Alice, too. Rapunzel is attending Flynn's school and all of my dancers are doing different things." She sat back. "Everyone's...leaving."
Jack paused, wondering why she was bringing all this up. Was she sad that all of her friends were leaving soon? "What about Sandy?"
Tooth smiled a bit. "He's going to the same place that I plan on going for college! Mythos University in the town of Fables. I'm happy that he'll still be around."
Jack stared off into space. "…Yeah. College."
Tooth glanced over at him. "And what are your plans for college?"
Jack shrugged, scratching the back of his head. Tooth's mouth fell open.
"Jack! You… you don't know where you want to go? B-but it's senior year! You need to kn-"
"Well, I don't," he cut in, irritated. He knew that he should already know where he wanted to go, but... "I don't know where I'm going or what I'm doing. I'm clueless."
Tooth's eyes glanced around as she sensed his irritation. "But… do you know what kind of career you want?"
Jack shrugged again. "I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. A doctor that specialize with kids, y'know? After what happened to Emma and Jamie, I figured I could make a change and help kids like them. But I don't know now. Then I thought maybe carpentry, like my dad. Woodworking. I just… I can't decide. I don't know what I want to do."
Tooth looked on as Jack sighed. He couldn't figure it out? Well, that wasn't new. Lots of kids didn't know what they wanted to do for a career. Many seniors still didn't know where they wanted to go for college.
She didn't want to push him, oh no, not that. Still. This was her chance. Maybe if she just…
"Jack," she tried. He looked up into her hopeful violet eyes, wondering what she was thinking.
"Um… Mythos University… they have classes for people that want to be doctors. And you could go to a community college for woodworking, but Mythos... th- they have woodworking classes too. They have majors, even a branch for people that need independent schooling for things like plumbers or carpentry. They-" Tooth struggled to speak now, her voice shaking ever so slightly, "-they have undecided majors for people that can't decide either. If… maybe you could… I don't know."
Tooth fisted the fabric of her pants, unsure what to do with her hands. She began to ramble.
"I mean, Sandy is going there and they have language classes for people like me. I thought I would be a linguist maybe, since… Sandy would be there too, so we wouldn't – you wouldn't be alone, but it's not… I'm not trying to force you into anything."
Tooth sat back, afraid to look at Jack's expression. He was so quiet now.
"It was just a thought. You could go wherever you want, I was just hoping… maybe…" her voice died again.
"Tooth," his voice came out low and urging. Tooth kept her gaze to the ground, wondering what he was going to say.
Her bottom lip was trembling again and her insides tightened. She looked so desperate right now, she just knew it! Lame. Clinginess wasn't attractive, Jack would think that she was crazy for even asking and say no, she could just feel it-
"Tooth, look at me."
She shut her eyes tight before forcing herself to look up, afraid. Jack had a strange look on his face as he observed Tooth, edging closer to her.
"Do you want me to go to Mythos University with you? Is that what you're asking me?"
Tooth was about to deny this for fear of looking clingy, but she stopped herself. As much as she stammered and stumbled, she had been honest with him this far. Why change that? He had told her his secrets, his hopes. She could surely tell him hers.
"Yes," she whispered, staring at him. "God, yes. Would you- is that something you would want?"
He smiled, and Tooth had never felt happier to see such a sight. He liked the idea? Really? Out of all the other schools around the world...he would attend Mythos University with her?
"Sounds like a good plan to me," he smirked.
Tooth looked away, fighting to hide her smile as she bit her lip, eyes glossy. She could hardly believe this. Jack chuckled before pulling her into a tight embrace, pulling her up from the bench.
"What are you looking away for? I thought you liked seeing me smile!" he teased, pulling back slightly to pout at her.
"You are so cocky!" she laughed. "At least I don't obsess over wintertime the way you do!"
He reached for her sides, making her squeal. "What do you mean, 'I obsess over wintertime'?"
Tooth fought past her laughter to speak, slapping Jack's wandering hands away from her ticklish sides. "You love freezing air conditioning, you love snowball fights, you love hot chocolate for some strange reason, you love snowflakes…!"
"No, I don't," Jack argued, pulling her back to him and ignoring the way she playfully pushed at his shoulders. "I love you more than any of that stuff."
Tooth froze, her arms stopping midair. Jack paused too, just noticing his words.
What did he say?
"What?" Tooth questioned, looking at him as the words she thought came to life and hit the air.
Jack looked unsure for the slightest moment, wondering over his own words. Slowly, certainty shone through his expression.
"I love you," Jack stated, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. It almost sounded as if he were just now realizing this himself.
Tooth's lungs forgot how to breathe. He wasn't… this wasn't… no WAY. Boys like Jack…gorgeous boys like Jack Frost only said that kind of stuff in books and stories, and only to other gorgeous girls. Girls that were warriors or princesses, never in real life, never to girls like Tooth.
And yet here he was. Saying that kind of stuff.
Wait, what was she doing? Was she really standing here in his arms- pondering- when she could be saying it back?
Say it back!
"Me, too," Tooth said breathlessly, trying to get a grasp back on reality. "I… I think I love you, too."
Jack really laughed this time. "You 'think'?" He tried to sound hurt, even though his grip on the girl before him grew impossibly tighter. He couldn't let her go now. Never.
Tooth rubbed at her eyes before giving him a determined look. "What? Wait, no… let me try that again! I know I love you, Jack."
Jack smiled at the honesty in her voice before the adrenaline pumping through him caused him to spin them around before lifting her into the air. "Now that – that's what I wanted to hear."
She was in the sky now, with Jack was holding her up. They spun in wide circles before she was lowered, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. Even when they were still, he held her so that her toes didn't touch the ground.
"What's the special occasion, you two?" Tooth heard Helena, Jack's mother, asking them.
"Hey… get your HANDS off my daugh-" Haroom began to say before Rashmi's hand slapped over his mouth, silencing him.
"Nothing much," Jack assured playfully. "I just know where I'm going to college now. And who I'm going with."
Tooth held in a squeal as their friends all began to catcall and tease. As she buried her face into Jack's neck, the noises began to melt away into a steady thrumming. She could only hear Jack's pulse now. It was going at a calm and steady rate, even though Jack had been holding up twice his weight for some time, now.
The ground felt so far away. Tooth almost forgot what it felt like. She was impressed by his willingness to bear her weight, to last this long. Then again, she had held the weight of his secrets, his troubles.
They were even, now.
And Tooth had a feeling that with Jack Frost around, she would never have to touch the ground again.
She was sure of it.
Thanks for sticking around this long, guys. 1000 reviews? Thanks everybody! *face falls off*
I hadn't realized that this story actually began in winter and ended in summer. Coincidence? Kinda' weird, though, I honestly didn't plan it at all.
This story received so much love, that I kind of fell hard for this pairing now, haha. There will be a sequel, but I can't promise when it'll begin. Next year, most likely. I'm giving Rise of the Guardians a break for now.
In the meantime, for all you KINGDOM HEARTS and PERCY JACKSON fans, there will be a TON of stories for those two fandoms from me, so you're welcome to follow and keep an eye out for any new ones that you may like. Mostly Percy Jackson stories, so far.
Thanks for bringing Tooth and Jack this far everybody. You guys really brought this story to life. I wouldn't have gotten this far without you guys' help and advice. I made mistakes, but everyone was really nice about pointing them out and helping make the story better. I hope to get better at writing by the time the sequel rolls around.
It was fun! :)
Have awesome summers, everyone!