Okay, read Icka M Chif (mischif)'s fill for this prompt, and though I loved it, I wanted to have a crack at the prompt. Once I found some Pooka!Jack fanart, this urge rose. Course, my plan was to do a short little thing - the next thing I know I'm looking at a 6,000 word monster, when only the last 2,000 words are necessary. But guess that's what happens when you write on the fly.
Warning, I play with canon quite a bit here (especially with Jack's backstory), trying to get things to add up. Hopefully it all makes sense.
Also, some minor bad language pops up here and there.
It's one of the coldest winters the village has ever seen, with the snow banks reaching several feet in height and getting higher by the day. At night families huddle together, desperate for the warmth that even the strongest fire can't fully provide. In the day adults look for work, any work, to keep themselves moving and the blood flowing in their veins. The children look to the snow that threatens their lives, and turn it into their plaything – the fluffy mouldable subject that can bring them a few hours of happiness for free. They throw snowballs and build snow men, skate on the lakes and sled down the hills.
It is at the bottom of one of these hills that the four year old Overland girl finds a special treasure. A snowy white rabbit, huddled in a ball and shivering furiously. When she crouches by its side it looks up with big trusting brown eyes, and she smiles and says hello.
It is the most incredible moment of her short life when the rabbit says hello back.
She takes the rabbit back home, with grand plans of hiding him from her parents. He will be her special friend and live under her bed and when she is older they can travel the colonies and have grand adventures.
The young overland girl does not even get through the front door before her father catches her. At first, he is delighted – the rabbit is large, overly so for the season. It will keep them fed for at least the rest of the week, and prides his daughter for her catch. He is less happy when she refuses to hand him over, and terrified when the rabbit screams with a far too human voice.
It is the girl's mother who ushers all three inside, and wraps the rabbit up in a scarf before setting him on the table.
It is clear this is no ordinary rabbit. He walks on two feet as much as four, and holds a spoon with surprisingly dexterity. His face has too much expression, and he talks with broken English, the voice of a child. He doesn't seem to know where he came from – in the back of his mind he remembers warmth and fur, and worried voices. All he knows for certain is the snow, and with the unshakeable belief that only children can have, that someone is coming back for him.
Whether he is a demon, or a shape shifter, or a god, or something in-between, the Overland's don't know. But he is a child, and he is lost, and they cannot just cast him out.
When they find he has no name, they christen him 'Jack'.
The winter stays harsh, and many of the village mock the Overland's for spoiling their daughter with a rabbit while they themselves go hungry. They ignore the remarks with the grace expected of any colonialist, but Jack does not. Each one stabs his gut with painful accuracy.
In the spring, his winter coat sheds, and although his little keeper bemoans the loss of the pretty fur, Jack uses it as a chance to pay the Overland's back for their kindness. He runs into the forest, and shows the overland girl where to find the early berries, where the migrating birds will first stop to rest on their flight back, the little nooks and knowledge that only someone in the forest could know.
The Overland's may have starved in winter, but Jack keeps them full for spring, summer and autumn.
A year passes, and both the overland girl and the rabbit grow. She grows a few inches, but Jack is ceasing to look like a rabbit altogether. His legs are growing gangly, and his front paws are developing fingers. And there is still no sign that anyone is coming for him.
By the time his new winter coat comes in, he can no longer pass as an ordinary rabbit, so the Overland's hide him inside. Their daughter is upset they can no longer play out in the forest, and the villagers assume the Overland's have finally done the smart thing.
Jack hates being cooped up. He is mostly leg and doesn't know how to stay still. He helps Mrs Overland cook, he cleans, he entertains the Overland girl, but it's never quite enough.
Eventually, Mr Overland takes him out in the dead of morning to the forest where he can run and play and tire himself out. It turns out to be a boon, when he discovers Jack's ears can pick up deer and the hibernating wildlife with almost casual ease.
For the first time in many years, the Overland's do not starve this winter.
Jack remembered Christmas from the year before. He remembered the excitement in the village, and the joy the children had at the presents they received. There had been colourful decorations and dances, and a communal scrounging to put together a feast for the town.
He had only been able to watch, and he didn't doubt this year would be the same.
Until he woke that morning, and found a present at the foot of his bed. It contained a heavy leather cloak that would shroud even his head from view, and was addressed to a 'Jack Overland'.
When he questioned it, Mr and Mrs Overland had laughed, while the Overland girl hugs him and tells him to stop being silly.
The cloak allows him to go outside and enjoy the festivities. It is a wonderful gift.
But not so wonderful as being able to say the words 'Mother', 'Father' and 'Sister'.
Sadly, not two weeks later, everything falls apart.
His father has fallen sick, and their food running short. There is still snow on the ground, and Jack's coat is beginning to moult, but he goes into the forest anyway. The cloak is heavy, and he needs to be fast, so he leaves it behind.
He is used to having his father here, not used to fearing human footsteps. So Jack is caught off guard at the scream, and turns to find hunters reading their weapons at the 'demon' in front of them.
Jack runs, flying into the woods, looping back and crashing through the door of the Overland house.
His parents yell at him. His sister cries, and the village is thrown into panic. They won't stop until the demon is found.
Jack is ready to leave. He knows it's all his fault. Huddled in a ball in his room, he looks out the window at the moon and not for the first time, wishes he wasn't what he was. When his father comes into his room, he just holds him close and tells him to pack his things and be ready to leave in three days.
Jack does leave the village. But when he does, it is with his family.
They settle in a colony further to the South, a small settlement called Burgess, whose family are strict but fair. Not wanting a repeat of the previous incident, they settle just on the outskirts next to a large pond. Jack will be free to wander around, and have plenty of time to get inside should anyone come visit.
The precautions turn out to be almost unnecessary. The previous incident has left Jack with a growing hatred of himself, and he refuses to go outside without his cloak. The screams and fear are all too new in his mind. But he is still growing, and his feet are beginning to poke out from underneath.
It is in this town that they first hear of the new holiday sweeping through the colonies. The rebirth of the Lord Jesus is soon, but another tradition is cropping up. When his sister hears of it, she rushes back to the cabin full of breathless wonder.
She tells her brother that there is a giant rabbit that comes every year, and hides colourful eggs in the village for children to hunt and find.
For the first time, Jack feels hope.
Easter Sunday comes, and Jack takes the chance and sheds his cloak. His sister comes with him, yawning all the way, so he lets her clamber on his back. He doesn't bother with his eyes, instead trusting his ears to pick up the trail.
In the distance, he hears steady footfalls. Too big to be a human, too light to be a bear, and too heavy to be a wolf.
He rushes towards them, heart pounding, and stumbles into bushes, watching the figure persuade colourful eggs underneath a tree root. Over six foot, covered in grey fur, with long fluffy ears.
Jack's heart soars, and he steps forward, just as his sister wakes, and gives a little squeak at what she sees.
The reaction is instantaneous. The Easter Bunny shoots up, ears twitching, and before Jack can call out, a hole has appeared in the ground and the other rabbit has vanished. The two rush towards the clearing, but the rabbit, and his hole, are gone.
Jack can't quite find it in him to enjoy Easter after that. He cuddles up in his bed, huddled in a ball while his sister goes hunting for eggs. He stays there until the evening, when he mother comes in with soup. She sits by his side and pulls him into her lap, stroking his ears and whispering promises and love.
He cries. Jack doesn't want to be a burden; he doesn't want to hurt the Overland's. He wants to fit in. Somewhere, anywhere. His mother just holds him tighter, and tells him she was scared this morning, fearing that Jack would not come back. And she wishes she could take away Jack's doubts with love, because as far as she's concerned, Jack is exactly where he belongs.
Jack just cries and hugs her back, and wonders how he could have ever not seen that. Wonders what made him think that just because the Easter Bunny has ears and a tail and fur that he would be happy with him.
He has a family. He is not a rabbit, but Jack Overland, and he is home.
The Overland's expect Jack to go to school, and he bundles up in a new cloak his mother made, accompanied by gloves and boots that never quite fit right and make it hard to walk right. His ears are tied back with thin robe that keeps them close to his neck no matter how much they want to jerk up. As for his face, it's hidden by his hood, and a knitted scarf that hides what the shadows don't, never letting so much of a hair come into view. He's grown so tall with his legs that they pass him off as his sister's teenage brother. When families ask the Overland's say Jack was born 'different' and leave the villagers to make their own conclusions. They are met with sympathy, and much kindness. This world is not kind, and the Overland's are truly exceptional to still love and support a child that is so cursed he cannot bear to show his face.
And Jack does have problems. He is slower than other boys his ages, walks with a strange gait, and has the strangest habits. He doesn't seem to understand personal boundaries, leaning in close to sniff or nuzzle before he catches himself. He twitches incessantly under his cloak, as if he has an itch he longs to scratch, tugs on his clothing looking for gaps almost obsessively, and oddly enough, will only eat vegetables, even stealing them off other children's plates (and do the other village children just love him for that).
And it is such a shame that it is Jack's cross to bear, because as the children, and indeed the adults of Burgess know, there are few children in the world who seem so...happy.
Jack knows every corner of the forest, and delights in making his sister smile every second of every day. As he comes to know the children of the school, he brushes off their snide remarks and cutting insults that attack his disguise, and turns those hisses and snarls into chuckles and laughter at his antics.
He is the jester of the town, who has made it his job to make sure everyone is happy. So no one ever feels as alone as he sometimes does.
Jack has lived with the Overland's for four years when it happens. His fur is starting to tint white, and snow is beginning to set in. Every year at this time, the lake has been frozen over enough to skate upon, but the frost seems to be slow this year. It might mean Easter will be snowy for once. Jack would be fine by that – he has no desire to leave, but has tried to catch the Easter Bunny every year. Each time he has fled before Jack can reach him, and snow might just hold him back.
This morning, he and his sister had finished their writing lessons – letters to Santa. His sister had jokingly asked for a stuffed rabbit, because her brother wasn't as cuddly anymore. He had laughed and asked for a doll, because his sister talked too much.
Afterwards, his sister wants to skate. Jack has never been much of a skater, his build is all wrong, but Jack has never been able to refuse her anything. When he sees the ice cracking under her feet, he wishes just once, that he could.
She is terrified, so Jack makes it into a game. He plays hopscotch, a game she loves because he'll let her climb on his back and jump ridiculously high. The ice cracks under his weight but he ignores it, grabbing the stick he finds on the ice. When she steps close enough, he yanks her close and swaps positions. He allows himself a smile, only to hear his sister scream his name as he plunges into the ice.
Jack doesn't remember much after that. It was cold and dark, and he vaguely remembers a time that had been so similar, when he had been small and alone and oh so afraid. But then the moon was there, and he was floating out of the ice, staring into the sky.
'Your name, is Jack Frost' the moon whispered.
Jack wanted to correct him, to tell him that his name was Overland, not Frost, but couldn't find the words. Frost actually sounded...right?
And accurate. His cloak was tinted with a light sheen of frost. And when he'd gone into the ice, his fur had been brown, with a hint of white peeking at the edges. Now his winter coat had grown in.
Then he discovered the staff, and what he could do with it. His face lit up at the frost patterns – they were so beautiful, his sister could watch him decorate the pond and it make sure it was never too thin to skate. He flew across the pond, and then yelped as the wind plucked him up, pulling back his hood and dancing him on the breeze.
This was wonderful. It was incredible.
When he lands, he runs towards his home, pulling open the door and yelling for his parents, his sister. Both adults shiver as the door opens, and his father stands, storming towards it. Jack rubs his head sheepishly and apologises for worrying him-only to freeze as the man walks right through him.
He stands there in shock as his father closes the door, bolting it tightly and returning to his wife's side. It's clear now that both have been crying.
Jack moves towards them, listening to the conversation. How it wasn't fair, they had treated him well, thank god they still had one of their children, and may God watch over Jac-
He threw himself at his mother, not bothering to hold back on his leap and screaming her name. He flew right through her and crashed to the floor. The spirit, because that was clear what he was now, a spirit, curled up and clawed at his cape.
Part of him is desperate to stay. Stay and try and make them see him. See that he's not dead, not really. But another part of him can't bear to stay in this house and watch them cry.
And he doesn't think he can handle watching his sister walk through him as if he wasn't there.
In the end, he lets himself go, wraps himself up in his shrouded cloak and allows the wind to take the spirit wherever it wants. Every few weeks he returns to Burgess, to watch his family.
Christmas is hard. Easter is harder.
Christmas, he had to watch as Santa brought gifts for his sister, and none for him. That was not a surprise. But the tears on his sisters face, and the whispers of 'Jack would have loved this' were hot coals in his chest. She almost held herself together, when she unwrapped a stuffed rabbit, and broke. Jack swore he could hear the cries even as the begged the wind to fly him across the world.
By the time Easter rolls around, Jack's managed to figure some things out. He's not a ghost, but a winter spirit. According to the few seasonal creatures he's ran into, they're in charge of keeping the seasons in balance, although normally created by Mother Nature, not the Man in the Moon. It means Jack is a little more than just a seasonal spirit, but the Man in the Moon doesn't seem very forthcoming on what that little more is, and means the seasonal spirits don't trust him, and have a tendency to attack and/or run away from him.
He chooses Burgess, on the grounds that winter is already late there anyway, and it's a place he knows well. This is the best chance he has of catching the Easter Bunny – now technically a fellow spirit, perhaps the other rabbit will stop and talk to him now.
Jack isn't looking for much. At this point, he'll settle for simple acknowledgement.
The snow lands thick and heavy, and out of instinct and habitual fear, Jack checks his layers. The clothes are his one link to his former life, counting and pulling on every item soothes him, a procedure he has done every day for the past 3 years.
When the Easter Rabbit does arrive, he is irritated that the snow has fallen so late, but continues to hide his eggs despite it. Jack uses the wind to fly him close, and lands not six foot from the other rabbit.
This time, the reaction is different, and Jack barely has time to bring his staff forward before the a boomerang hits what would have been his chest. The other flies behind him and quickly drops when encased in ice. The Easter Bunny quickly retrieves the working weapon and watches him warily.
"Damn winter spirits, this is the spring season, get out of here."
Jack Frost's gloves clenched his staff. "I wanted to talk to you."
Bunnymund raised an eyebrow. "Look mate. I'm spring, you're winter. The only thing we have to say to each other is 'goodbye'. Now get out of here."
Jack tensed. "Look, I just need to talk to you."
He took one hand off his staff, getting ready to pull off his hood. But the rabbit quickly saw his opportunity and sent the boomerang flying again, knocking the staff from Jack and grabbing it between his own two paws. One foot patted the ground, and Jack could only watch in horror as the Easter Rabbit sent his one possession into the abyss.
"That will show up about 20 miles in that direction" Bunny laughed, pointing east. "I advise you start running. You should get it back by nightfall."
Jack could only stare in disbelief. Yes, he was a winter spirit, yes snow would make Easter hunts harder...but really?
The Easter Bunny shrugged, tapping the ground again. "There are no rules when it comes to protecting Easter mate. Later."
The rabbit vanished, and Jack cursed, jumping into the air and cursing again when the wind didn't pluck him up. He'd have to do it the old fashioned way.
He pulled back the hood, and stripped off the cloak and boots, along with the scarf and gloves, stretching and relaxing at the weight loss before beginning to run through the trees in the direction Bunny had pointed.
By the time he found his staff, he'd run through two villages unseen and when flew back to his clothing, he'd made his mind up about two things.
One, if people couldn't see him, then there was no reason to wear such restricting clothing anymore. He could run around completely free.
Two. The Easter Bunny, was an ass.
The second thing, he embraced with complete devotion, and began avoiding the rabbit as much as possible.
The first thing, lasted about ten years. Until he found his first believer.
Her name was Mary, and she reminded him of his sister, except she was blonde, and just a little bit taller. Mary loved Easter, and though her parents kept rabbits for their meat and fur, she named and loved every single one of them.
She, like all the other children in her village, loved playing in winter. And after ten years of being alone, Jack Frost was desperate for someone to see him. If anyone would, it would be this little girl, right?
So he followed her around, listened to her thoughts and dreams. Whenever she looked up at the stars and wished for snow, it would snow. He'd create pictures in the snow, start snowball fights wherever she walked. Winter followed her.
Jack was so desperate, he didn't noticed her smiles start to fade, replaced by the cold nervous intensity of fear.
After two weeks of stalking, she was out on the road, walking to school, when the mild blizzard brushed in.
"Why don't you take the day off? Have a snow day?" Jack had laughed, crouched by her side.
The girl had frozen, and slowly turned her head, looking Jack straight in the eye. The rabbit's face had lit up.
"Can you see-"
Mary screamed, and fled past him, running back into her home. Jack, desperate to know what he'd done wrong, could only follow.
Her parents tried pleading, they tried bribing, even threatening, but Mary would not leave the house. When Jack got closer, he could hear her tortured sobs.
There was a monster out in the snow, stalking her. It wanted to take her away, or eat her, or make her his bride. And he always came with the snow.
Jack felt sick.
He ran from the village, flying into the sky and landing back near a pond in Burgess. The settlement had grown much in the last ten years. His sister had married, his mother passed on, and his father courting another woman. But both had left the cabin by the pond, and it was here Jack had left his clothes.
The rabbit pulled on his armour for the world with a desperate fevor, and only when every piece was in place did he allow himself to drop, crashing to the ground and curling up again.
Why? Why was everything he did wrong? All he wanted, all he ever wanted, was a place to belong.
He'd had it with the Overland's. Why, oh why couldn't the moon have just let him die?
The thaw came frighteningly quickly in Mary's village, and as years passed, it became known as the village that winter seemed to fear, as it came late and left early, never more than a touch of frost no matter what the temperature. Jack left it to any other winter spirit, and most never noticed, but he couldn't bring himself to set foot there again – he owed Mary that much.
He only removed his clothing twice after that. Both times at funerals, that of his father and that of his sister. They wouldn't have wanted him to hide.
The rest of the time, the frost curled into beautiful patterns on the fabric, turning his outfit into a shining decoration, that shone in moon and sunlight. When someone saw him, it would be a thing of beauty, not a monster.
No more stalking kids. He'd flit around the world, offering random snow days and answering the odd request. But he'd never let them get too much.
He'd rather be invisible forever, than spend one day feared.