"When's the last time you actually hung out with a kid?"
"We are very busy bringing joy to children, we have no time… for children."
Bunny jumped through the opening of his tunnel to the Bennett house. He realized the bloody show pony had been right. They all needed to spend more time with actual children. And who better than his favorite ankle-biters? The Bennetts were the favorite of all the Guardians, Jack especially. Made sense- Jaime was Jack's first believer. You never forgot your first believer. (Bunnymund's was a boy by the name of Harper.) But the show pony wasn't with the Bennetts, at least as far as Bunny could see. Must be taking a lazy day somewhere.
"Bunny hop, hop, hop." Sophie attacked him with as big of a hug as her tiny body could muster.
He returned it with vigor.
"Bunny! Are you Jack's surprise?" Jaime asked, coming in with a folded letter in his hand.
"Surprise?" Bunny asked, very confused.
"Yeah. Jack wrote me and said he'd be here by the 15th. And he said he had a surprise for us. I figured he was late due to the surprise. Are you the surprise?" Jaime explained, giving the letter to Bunny.
Bunny skimmed the letter before handing it back to the boy.
"Maybe. Snowflake doesn't tell me nothing. He's probably hiding somewhere around here to scare me. He likes doing that. I'll find him. But he might be working so I don't know when he can come visit but I'll make sure he does eventually." Bunny promised.
Jaime smiled and Bunny batted Sophie's nose playfully. She giggled and he jumped down his most recent tunnel. He popped back up at Jack's lake in Burgress. Well it wasn't really Jack's lake but it was where the Guardian was born and he called it as much of a home as he could so the name 'Jack's lake' just caught on. Jack had told them all that the lake was most likely where they could find him when he wasn't working so it seemed to be the best place to start. Although something about this bugged Bunny. He made the decision on his own to come, without telling anyone and Jack hadn't been around to try to convince him to come. And it wasn't snowing. Snow followed Jack like hope followed Easter. Jack loved bringing snow and it was November, snow season for Burgress. So why wasn't Jack doing his job?
"JACK! WHERE ARE YOU YA BLOODY SHOW PONY?" Bunny shouted.
He got no response.
"YOU AIN'T SCARING ME!" Bunny yelled.
Now Bunny was starting to worry. Usually he could catch Jack's footsteps as he ran from sight. But then a flash of brown caught his eyes. He hopped over to it and had to remind himself to breathe. It was Jack's staff, broken into two pieces and lifeless. Knowing Jack and the staff were connected, Jack had told them the unbelievable pain he'd felt when Pitch broke it two years ago, Bunny frantically looked for the teen with no answer until his sensitive ears picked up a low groan. Moving as quickly as he could towards the sound, his heart shattered into a thousand pieces when he found the broken and bloody mess that was supposed to be Jack Frost. Jack's eyes were closed, darting around underneath his eyelids. Sweat and blood mixed freely across his face and neck, leaving the boy trembling and panting. His left arm, his staff arm, was bent in at a horrible angle, clearly broken along with his nose and collar-bone. Bunny opened a tunnel to the Pole and dove into it. He needed to get to North. And fast.
Christmas was a month away yet still the yetis and elves were working as if it were Christmas Eve. North was giving orders like the general he was, approving and rejecting toys and making sure the nice children get exactly what they wanted how they wanted it, and jumped when Bunny suddenly appeared next to him, looking panicked.
"Bunny, what is wrong?" North's thick accent made itself clear when he saw his friend.
"It's Jack. I think he's dying." Bunny blurted out.
North's face turned dark. "Take me."
Bunny just jumped back down the tunnel he'd never closed, North glued to his heels. They slipped and slid down back to Jack's lake, where the teen hadn't even twitched. Immediately, North went to Jack and started to look over the boy.
"Who?" North growled harshly.
"I don't know. I found him like that. He told Jaime he'd been in town three days ago and you know how he'd never let the boy down willingly." Bunny said.
North slid his hands underneath Jack's small frame and gently lifted. Jack's grimace deepened and North carefully shifted the immortal as to not hurt the boy further. Jack made no move in protest, worrying the Pooka. Jack hated being picked up by anyone but the Wind. As it was the quickest way to go, Bunny opened another tunnel to the Pole and raced through it. As soon as they arrived, North gave orders to bring him medical supplies and he kicked open the door to Jack's room. North placed Jack on the bed which elicited a groan of pain from the immortal Guardian of Fun.
"His skin is very hot. Has fever. High fever." North muttered.
"How? Who could've done this? Did Pitch do it? I'll kill him myself." Bunny growled.
"Get the others. I need their help for this." North said and Bunny quickly followed.
He pulled the lever, lighting the northern lights, calling the Guardians to the Pole with an aurora. It wasn't long before Tooth and Sandy had joined them.
"What's happened?" Tooth asked.
"Jack's been attacked. We don't know by who but North needs your help." Bunny relayed and they ran to Jack's room.
North had given Jack an IV and had splinted the broken arm and collar-bone as best he could. Tooth wailed before going into 'medical momma bear mode' and set Jack's nose with a sickening scraping noise.
"The fever is what worries me most. Is very high, even for human." North said.
"Bunny, get me a bucket of ice water and a cloth." Tooth ordered.
Bunny hopped to the kitchen of the workshop and did as asked. After getting it from Phil, he made sure not to spill a potentially life-saving drop of for his Jack. He may not always get along with Jack, the teen annoyed him to no end, but he wouldn't want to live without him. Jack had become a little brother to him in the years after Pitch and he would protect the kid with his last breath. And now he was helpless to save the boy.
Manny, you better not take him. Not now.
North took the bucket and dipped the cloth into the water. He then mopped Jack's brow, cleaning off the sweat and blood. Jack's eyes fluttered open but the usually vibrant blue orbs were dull and glazed over.
"Jack?" Tooth squeaked.
"Momma?" He croaked out.
Tooth just squeezed his hand.
"Who did this to ya? I'll tear 'em to pieces!" Bunny exclaimed.
"Don't. Happens every year." Jack muttered, more mentally here than before as North kept the ice water in direct contact with Jack's face.
"Jack, sweetie, who did this to you?" Tooth asked her voice low and soft.
"Fall and his spirits. He does it most years. Tries to delay winter. Sometimes he ignores me though." Jack slurred sleepily.
Then golden sand dolphins started to swim around the boy and he gingerly raised his right arm to touch them with a small smile on his face. The sand gently burst into Jack's face and he instantly fell asleep, the dolphins dancing around his head.
"Fall is dead for this." Bunny growled.
Suddenly Tooth burst into tears. "He said it happened just about every year. How could we not notice?"
There was silence. They felt unbearable guilt about not protecting their newest member. He had been a Guardian for almost three years now and this is the first they'd ever heard of Jack being treated like this? No wonder Jack never trusted anyone and never let anyone in. Most spirits hated winter, fall ones especially. He must've felt hated all his life as a spirit, and then as a Guardian.
"We will fix this, Tooth. But now he must recover. We tend to him, make absolute sure he's okay. We will bring fever down." North reassured her.
"And I'll bring Fall down. He'll wish he'd never lifted a finger against our Jack Frost." Bunny growled.
Sandy pulled on Bunny's leg and gave him a nod.
"Good. I don't know where Fall's place is. Do you?" Bunny asked.
Sandy nodded and a dream sand plane outside the workshop.
"Transports on you, huh? Let's go." Bunny joked.
As Sandy flew the plane, Bunny's mind wandered. How could Fall do something so cruel to someone as innocent as Jack? Granted, Jack's powers were strong and a bit uncontrollable but Jack was still more of a child than any other spirit. And every year no less. Sometimes he wished Easter was twice a year but he would never hurt Summer to let spring last longer. Fall was going to pay for what he did to Jack. And Bunny was going to make sure of it.
When they arrived, Bunny saw that it wasn't a palace. It was a garden. There were trees with leaves of gold, red and brown, flowers of all shapes and colors and there were sprites floating all around causing the leaves to change colors from green to whatever color the sprites hair was.
"Ah, my friends. It has been long since I have seen you. How are you?" Fall asked.
Fall was most likely thirty-five when he was changed into a spirit, with curly red hair and golden brown eyes. He was tall, maybe five ten, but Bunny still managed to tower over to him. When Fall gave his hand out to shake Bunny's hand, Bunny decked him across the face, sending him to the floor.
"Hey! What was that for?" Fall demanded.
"Jack Frost. He's a Guardian and he's under our protection." Bunny growled.
"Jack Frost doesn't deserve to be a Guardian! All he does it hurt all my unprepared, defenseless, innocent spirits when winter comes." Fall implored, scrambling to his feet.
"Unprepared? Defenseless? Innocent? The only unprepared, defenseless, innocent spirit getting hurt in this is Jack! Get me the spirits you used this year. Now!" Bunny commanded and six sprites flew forward with chests out.
"You attacked Jack?" Bunny asked.
"He shouldn't be a Guardian. He doesn't even deserve to be one of us." One spat.
Bunny looked at Sandy who nodded towards him. He let his boomerangs fly, and Sandy his whips and he attacked the sprites as they had attacked Jack, with vicious brutality. It wasn't long before the sprites were defeated and Fall had joined the fray. But the minor spirit stood no chance against two Guardians. Once Fall had fallen, Bunny turned to glare over him.
"If I hear that you so much as breathe down Jack's neck wrong, I'm gonna come back and wring yours. Understand?" Bunny threatened darkly.
"I never touched him!" Fall protested weakly.
"No. You just sent your minions so that you didn't get his blood on your hands. Well, his blood is on your hands whether you touched him or not. And it will always be there. Nothing will change that." Bunny spat.
Fall said nothing.
Bunny took that as an acceptance and opened a tunnel to the Pole.
"I'm going back. See you there, mate?" Bunny asked.
Sandy nodded and formed a cloud of dream sand. Bunny dove and found himself in the globe room of the Pole. He saw two things: a lit globe where he could see thousands of lights and an exhausted Jack trying to sneak out of the Pole. Jack looked terrible, though his staff was now in one piece, and he was holding his left arm close to his chest.
"Going somewhere, Frostbite?" Bunny asked, accidentally scaring the young teen. He slowly put away his boomerangs to show he meant no harm. Jack was panting, the scare obviously exhausting what reserves of energy he had left.
"Home. Promised Jaime I'd be there days ago." Jack croaked out, his voice still rough and jagged. And a little nasally.
"I took care of that. I also took care of Fall. He won't be bothering you anymore." Bunny said.
"No! Why did you do that? I was perfectly fine on my own." Jack insisted, starting to sway.
"Snowflake, I never said you weren't. But I won't have you getting beat up every year. That's my job." Bunny put a paw to Jack's forehead and Jack moaned at the coolness, still feverish.
Instead of saying anything, Bunny slung Jack over his shoulder. The immortal teen protested but it fell on finely tuned deaf ears. He brought Jack back to his room where Tooth and North were searching high and low for Jack. Bunny set Jack down on the bed where Jack had the smarts to look ashamed.
"You could've hurt yourself. Never do that again." Tooth scolded before attacking him with a hug,
"Sorry, Tooth." Jack muttered.
"You'd better be. And you. What happened to you?" Tooth asked, ever the mother.
"Took care of Fall. He won't be hurting Jack any longer." Bunny assured her.
"I have half a mind to go over there and give him a piece of my mind. Give him some quarters." Tooth growled.
"Speaking of, who's running the Tooth Palace? I don't want to impede on your duties." Jack said.
"You aren't. Baby Tooth has gotten to be quite the manager." Tooth replied softly.
Jack smiled tiredly.
"And if he, or anyone else gives you trouble, you come to us and we'll take care of it." Bunny said.
"Why?" Jack asked, still a little unsure.
"You're one of us now. Now we should've gotten Fall off your back long ago but he's off now and that's what matters." Bunny explained.
"We're family Jack. And family takes care of each other." Tooth smiled.
Jack nodded, blinking slowly, the conversation obviously exhausting him.
Suddenly golden dolphins appeared before Jack, blowing dream sand into Jack's face through its blowhole, sending the immortal teen to sleep. Jack tilted backwards, fully asleep, and Bunny caught him, laying him down gently, tucking him under the blanket as he did so. Sandy came in and made a snowflake, a caduceus, and a question mark.
"He'll be okay." North said. "I've set the bones but the fever hasn't broken yet but it soon will. Is only a matter of time."
Bunny nodded and pulled up a chair from the other room, sitting in it quietly. "You rest up, snowflake. We'll be here. We'll always be here."
And they always were.