Okay, I will be the first to admit that this is NOT the chapter I wanted to publish. It's been languishing in my laptop for a few months while I moved sections and rewrote and deleted paragraphs, but I think its about as good as its going to get. Haven't been in the ROTG fandom for a while so think a good chunk of the more charming spark is missing, but you've been waiting over 2 years so think you deserve something. Had hoped to get it up for Christmas but just missed it. Hope you enjoy.
Change of Scene
It was funny. Considering how long Jack had hidden himself away, one would have thought dropping the hood in front of actual people would have changed things.
But with the exception of the odd carrot joke, Jamie and Sophie barely batted an eye. Jack was still the cool (pun intended) adoptive big brother with minor space issues and a less-than-perfect sense of self preservation when it came to having fun. He just happened to have long fluffy ears and the best piggybacks in the world.
Honestly, he kind of felt cheated that it didn't. But a type of cheated that was infinitely better than being forever invisible.
Jamie even convinced him to pull down his hood in front of the other kids in the neighbourhood. Cupcake had done a giddy little dance and hugged him, while the others asked a dozen questions along the lines of 'No, I'm not related to Bunny,' 'Yes, I've always been a rabbit,' and 'no you really don't have to build a hutch outside the lake for me, please, please don't.'
As a sort of reward for the positive reaction, Jack had even stopped wearing his boots. The children had liked them about as much as Bunny, and their looks of joy when they played 'Bigfoot or Jack Frost Prints' was enough to drown any hesitancy. He still hadn't actually told Bunny though – he was planning on it being a Christmas present.
There was really only one negative to come out of the situation. With the whole 'children know I exist' aspect of his life, he was starting to have some…wardrobe malfunctions.
To be fair, his cloak had been in almost constant use for the better part of 300 years. Most of which had seen it more detailing of intricate ice patterns than actual physical contact. And now with genuine believers and some very tactile kids a brand new and welcome addition to his life…it wasn't holding up as well as he would like.
Or in more simple terms, it was falling apart.
It was only a little at first. Small rips and tears that he barely noticed, flicking the odd extra snowflake on his cloak to wedge it shut. But one particularly sunny day in the late August found him sitting by the side of his lake after Jamie and the others had gone home, looking at the damage in dismay. One of the kids had been just a little bit grabby and the fabric had ripped with a noticeable echo. This was more than his ice work could handle.
In one of the tree's surrounding Burgess Lake, there was a small opening high in the tree, created by Jack via ice and a knife a few hundred years ago. It acted like a makeshift cupboard for the handful of items he didn't want to carry around. A knife, a few gifts from kids, a few comb's courtesy of Bunny, and a tiny sewing kit. He grabbed the tiny needled and settled in the high branches, trying to figure out how to fix the damage without the fabric crumbling on contact.
Soon, he was going to have to face facts. That his cloak was more ice than fabric now, and would disintegrate sooner rather than later. He might be able to patch it with additional fabric - he probably could have gone to the Pole and filched some from North, but North might tell Bunny, and then the older Pooka would be mad that he hadn't gone to him.
Jack sighed, and tried to focus on the work at hand.
He hadn't actually seen the other Pooka for several months. Once the eggs were collected and the Bennet's back home, Bunny had tried to coax Jack back to the warren, but the younger Guardian had refused.
Honestly, Jack was only just starting to figure out who he was going to be in this world, and Bunny cast a heavy shadow on that task. Not through any fault of his own but…
He hated to give Pitch credit for anything, but the boogieman had a point. Jack might have been Pooka, but he wanted to decide what that meant for him on his own terms. He wanted space, and if Bunny really wanted to help, he'd step back and let Jack figure it out himself.
The Pooka hadn't taken that well, and only the raw nerves of the earlier bust up seemed to reign him in. It was obvious he wanted to squirrel the younger away in the warren, but had let Jack walk away after extracting the promise that Jack would come if he ever needed anything…and he'd only hold his distance until Christmas.
If he was being honest, that promise filled him with more warmth than anger. It was weird, knowing there was someone who actively worried about you and wanted you around, but a good kind of weird.
For once, Christmas was something he was almost looking forward to.
Despite what Tooth and Sandy might think, Bunny's job wasn't exactly a one day a year gig. Although his eggs weren't ready for harvesting, he had to weed the eggplant fields, plough the ground so he could scatter new seeds, and keep an eye on the older plants to they didn't bloom a few months too early. Keeping a plantation of this size functioning when your only help were giant eggs that had no hands, was a touch difficult.
Although on the plus side, being busy did keep him from thinking about the very empty spare room back home.
He admitted it. He missed Jack. He'd only lived in the Burrow for less than a month, but the meadows and hills seemed far too quiet without the snow spirit hanging around. Bunny had tried to convince him to stick around – he still had a lot to teach the kid, but Jack had been too reluctant. They'd eventually hashed out a compromise – though Jack had yet to show up in the warren once. Bunny still kept his room clean though, out of perpetual hope.
Keeping to his promise to hold his distance until Christmas was proving to be tougher than he'd thought, but it wasn't about him. It was about Jack, and building up the trust that he needed.
He'd lived over a millennium; he could wait a few more months.
It was November when Jack's cloak finally gave up the fight.
He'd arranged a slightly-earlier-than-normal snowfall in Burgess so Cupcake wouldn't have to go to school on her birthday, and found himself watching his favourite kids flying down the nearest hills on sledges. A few little bursts of ice and the group found themselves sledding down some far more interesting routes, before crashing in a giant snow pile in the centre park.
It had been a great day, and he'd finished it off by walking the kids home, leaving Jamie and Sophie till last. Sophie had been trying to get on his shoulders most of the way, and only been refused in case adults had seen. She'd made a running jump when they reached the garden, and he'd been distracted by considering it now they were in a private area, that he hadn't noticed Abby coming out the front door and bolting towards him.
The only warning he had was a yelp of "Abby no!" from Jamie before the greyhound lunged for him, grabbing a chunk of fabric between her teeth. Jack had shrieked, jumping into the air…while his cloak didn't.
Between his involuntary jolt and the dog's bite, his cloak had surrendered, falling into Abby's jaws. The hood was held on by threads, while the front began to shrivel, almost as if in shock from losing the back's support.
In seconds Jamie was by his dog, desperately trying to pull the cloth from the greyhound, who appeared to think the whole thing was some big game. The force did nothing to help, as it ripped apart again, Abby bolting with her spoils, and leaving Jamie with scraps.
He turned, his face a picture of horror before looking down at what was left in his hands.
"Jack…I'm so, so sorry."
The Guardian of Fun doubted his own face was any better, and he forced a smile onto his face.
"I-I know Jamie…don't worry about it okay?"
With shaking hands, he took what was left of the fabric and held it to his chest as he flew away, refusing to have a panic attack in front of the Bennet's. He needed to go somewhere safe.
And his mind could only think of one place right now.
Bunny felt rather than heard Jack's arrival, the icy wind blowing through the warren a noticeable tell to the snow Pooka's mood. Heart clenching, he bolted to the tunnels, praying the other Guardian was okay.
When he arrived, he found Jack curled up, physically fit but lacking his iconic cloak. In his arms, tattered remnants remained, held tightly to his chest.
Bunny paused, before slowly stepping towards the younger Pooka and gently placing a hand on his shoulder.
His head jerked up, and Bunny winced as he realised Jack's breathing was short and erratic. He knelt down, rubbing a hand along the other Pooka's back, while the other grabbed his wrist.
"Easy Jack, I'm here, take a deep breath…"
It took a few minutes, but eventually the snow Pooka's breathing become more regulated, while the vice grip he had on the fabric loosened. Bunny was no expert on clothing, but judging from the scraps, it was beyond salvation.
Jack however, didn't appear to notice, his head dropping down as he sighed.
"Thanks Bunny…I…I didn't know where else to go."
Bunny squeezed his shoulder and smiled. "Glad this was your first choice kit; do you want to tell me what happened?"
White ears drooped, and Jack almost seemed to curl into himself. Almost subconsciously, Bunny reached for the Pooka's hand, heart lifting as Jack squeezed it back in support.
He stayed silent as Jack explained the struggles with his cloak, and the events of that afternoon which had resulted in the loss of his strongest shield. Bunny, despite his own feelings regarding Jack's clothing, could at least understand how important they were to him.
When the younger Pooka was done, he coaxed him to his feet and guided him towards his home.
"All right, let's get you fed and rested. You'll feel better once you've managed to sleep on it."
The Guardian of Fun couldn't deny that sounded pretty good right about now. As they moved, Bunny noticed the other change, and smiled.
"No boots kit?"
Jack offered a shaky smile and shook his head.
"Thank the Moon. Now let's get you some rest."
The next day, Bunny had asked Jack to stay, as there was something he wanted to discuss. Apparently he'd wanted to bring it up after Easter, but events had ruined that. He promised it was important to Jack's future as a Guardian, and not Pooka related, so Jack had agreed.
However, he was rather thrown by Bunny's first request.
"I'm sorry, you want me to what?"
Bunny rolled his eyes. "Punch me. In the face."
Jack blinked. So he had heard correctly. "Okay…why?"
The older Pooka sighed. "Oh come on ya gumby. I'm giving you an out and out invitation to pound me into the ground. Take it."
Clearly the rabbit had lost his mind, but hey, Jack wasn't the type to look a gift horse in the mouth. He gave a half-heartedly shrug, and swung his fist towards Bunny's cheek.
…Which suddenly wasn't where it was supposed to be.
He barely had time to realise Bunnymund had moved before his feet were kicked out from under him and he crashed to the ground, hand pinning his neck.
"Sorry about that" Bunny replied, not sounding the least little bit. "But thought a visual aid might help prove my point."
"Beating me up? What point does that prove?" Jack snapped back.
Bunnymund grinned. "It proves that without your 'stick of destiny,' you can't defend yourself worth an inch."
Jack flinched. "So?"
Bunny rolled his eyes. "So…you're a guardian now kit, and that means you need to know how to defend yourself."
Jack opened his mouth to argue, only to find Bunny's other hand snapping it shut.
"And I mean without your staff Jack. Pitch has disarmed you, I've disarmed you, heard from North that the Yeti's have done it a few times, and I don't doubt for a second that Tooth, Sandy and North could all do it if they really put their minds to it. What if someone figures out you need that staff when the world's in danger? How are you going to protect the children if you can't even protect yourself?"
The snow spirit wilted under him, and the Pooka released his hold, stepping back to give Jack his space.
"So, if you think you're up to it, I think it's time you and I looked into some self-defence."
Jack was on his feet now, and his fur was slightly bristling. "You mean you want me to give you an excuse to beat me up?"
"Oh for- will you please stop taking everything I'm saying as an insult?" Bunny snapped. "I'm on-"
The sentence remained finished as Jack suddenly leapt towards him, grinning like a loon and yelling like a banshee. Bunny was immediately thrown backwards, rolling down the hill with the young Pooka's weight keeping momentum. When they hit the bottom he felt Jack's hands on his shoulders, clearly trying to pin him down. Bunny couldn't help the grin as he spun round, throwing Jack's weight to the ground, taking in the high pitched yelp in satisfaction.
"Nice try mate, but you're a hundred years too young to be taking me on."
Once he was certain Jack wasn't going to repeat the incident, he pulled him back to his feet.
"As I was saying – you need to learn how to fight. I know long distance is your thing, but I know everyone would sleep better at night knowing to you could handle close quarters. Besides, I think you might actually have a secret talent for it."
Jack frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Remember what you said to me about your powers when you were painting the eggs? You don't need the staff so long as you don't need to cover a city?"
Jack nodded, still not following, and Bunny made a fist.
"Ever considered using that in fight? Know your snow's more about fun, but a fist full of ice is one heck of a trick."
The snow spirits eyes widened, and he glanced down at his hands. To be honest, the idea had never really occurred to him. Outside of little details on windows or his 'fun-flakes', he'd never really focused on what he could do without his staff…
Bunny patted him on the back. "Well, that's still a little more advanced. Right now, let's see if I can't teach you how to throw and block a punch to begin with, then we'll work on specialisation…
It wasn't intentional, but by the time Jack had managed to complete the necessary patterns to Bunnymund's satisfaction, Christmas had almost been upon them.
Jack was a little bit horrified – he'd pretty much shirked his responsibility during the December months, Moon only knew what his believers thought. Bunny had tried to assure him that the other winter spirits were aware and would have picked up the slack, but it hadn't really gotten rid of the guilt.
The worst bit was he wasn't even entirely sorry.
Being around Bunny without Easter on their back, with the added opportunity of beating up trees and the odd Pooka when he'd been particularly progressive, had been glorious. Bunny had taken him to the Canadian wilderness to practice his techniques on trees, and there was something very therapeutic about using one's fists. Once he'd started visualising Pitch's face on tree trunks, the ice had almost come naturally. The next time someone threatened the children of Earth, Jack was going to provide a very cold surprise to said threat's face.
However, it didn't change the fact that his cloak was still in tatters. There weren't exactly a lot of children in the snow covered hills, but he was eventually going to have to go back out. Bunny had sent the pieces to North in hopes that he'd have some ideas, but what had been returned was little more than patchwork.
'Tell Jack that I will have another cloak ready for him here at Christmas' said the note that came attached, which brought a smile to Jack's face.
"Do you know he gave me this one nearly 300 years ago?" he told Bunny, pulling on what was left and brushing it with frosting to hide most of the stitching. It still looked ridiculously awkward compared to its usual elaboration. "It'll be weird, having to say goodbye to it, even if I get a replacement."
Bunny had just stared at him, chewing on a lip before replying.
"Jack…do you really think you need a replacement?"
The other Pooka frowned.
"You think this one will last a bit longer?"
"That's not what I meant…"
It took a few moments to sink in, and Jack just sighed.
"Bunny, I appreciate what you've done, I really do. But I'm just not…ready, okay? I still need this."
It clearly wasn't the answer the Pooka wanted to hear, but he bit his tongue regardless.
"Okay, but are you sure you won't stay a little longer? Just another day and we could have headed to North's place together."
Jack just shook his head. "No…I need to go see Jamie and Sophie. They haven't seen me since Abby attacked me…I need to make sure they're okay. Don't want my favourite kids to think I'm mad at them."
Bunny nodded in reluctant approval.
"Fine, but you'd better be there kit, or I'll just kidnap the Bennet's and let them have your share of the cake, got it?"
Jack laughed. "Got it."
The Bennet household was Jack's first stop, but he'd spent years coming in and out of Burgess, and as such he had a pretty set route, in which his lake was always the first stop. This was the only reason he spotted something shiny next to a tree, rather out of the way of the paths. It was a parcel, tucked under the tree he often watched the children from.
At first he assumed someone had dropped it on their way, and looked for the tag for a clue as to where he should try and drop it off. A plan immediately forgone when he spotted the painstakingly written 'Jack Frost' in the card.
The signatures of the Burgess children covered the rest of the small piece of cardboard, written in brightly covered pen. He plucked it from the packaging with intricate care, before reaching for the present itself, decorated in bright blue paper with silver snowmen. He removed the tape with slow precision – it seemed almost sacrilegious to tear the paper – before unwrapping the several sheets to reveal his gift.
The first thing he saw was a soft blue material, and his hand froze momentarily, before sliding a hand into soft jersey fabric, and pulling out the garment.
It wasn't perfect – there were a few stitches along the side that were fraying, and the collar line had been abused to destruction, but it was clearly a hooded sweatshirt, handmade and designed for someone with a wide neck.
Slowly, and with an almost ceremonial delicacy, Jack stripped the remnants of his cloak from his body, before hesitantly pulling the hoodie on. It was a little too long, hiding his tail behind loose blue, and the hood was an awkward shape – the kids had clearly tried to compensate for his ears and overestimated, but it still flopped comfortably over his head without wrecking his vision. The only real issues were the wrists and collar – too tight while wearing a scarf and gloves.
He looked over at the cloak on the ground, then back at the unwrapped paper. His hands clenched into fists before he sighed, and grabbed the cloak, folding it with care and placing it in the centre of the wrapping paper. After that, he took his scarf and unwound it from his neck, folding it just as carefully, and finally, dropped his gloves on top.
The paper wasn't wide enough to fully cover the new contents, but he carried it with care regardless towards the tree that held his few precious items. It fit into the crevice rather snugly, and he stroked the old, worn cloth with fondness before jumping into the air and catching the wind.
He had to go thank Jamie and the others for the gift.
And then he had a party to go to.
Bunny had never been the dancing type. But when Jack walked into North's workshop donning nothing but his Christmas gift, he could have done an entire musical number.
He couldn't help but grin as he took in the scene. The scarf and gloves were gone, and at long, long last, the cloak had vanished.
In its place? Soft blue fabric. A warm and somewhat bulky hoody with a front pocket, and a neckline low enough for Jack's chest fur to breathe and not choke his neck.
Not a heavy and restrictive garment designed to hide and shield, but soft comfort which did nothing to hide the Pooka within.
The Pooka in question pulled down the hood and let his ears perk up before rubbing the back of his head in nervous embarrassment.
"It was a gift" he explained. "What do you think?"
Bunny cocked his head, and grinned. "You know what, it suits you. Bout time you got with the times."
Jack smiled, and let the older Pooka swing an arm around his shoulders to guide him into the dining room, only pausing as they reached the door.
"You know how North said he'd get me a new cloak?"
"Think he kept the receipt?"
Bunny just laughed, and more out of habit than actual need, ruffled Jack's fur to perk up his ears.
"I think he'll understand."
Okay, anyone who read this at Christmas will remember that I was going to do one more chapter and then complete it. However, it's been 3 months and I've only gotten about a paragraph written. I re-read this and decided that honestly, it's pretty much at a good place to stop right now. Apologies to anyone who was hoping for one more chapter, but hope you enjoyed the ride regardless.
FYI, if you wanted to know, the final chapter would have mostly been about Jamie getting too old to see Jack, and Manny finally getting round to giving Jack a place of his own.