Chapter 9: Turning Point
Jack dug his feet deep into the snow as he walked, watching the little tufts shoot up with each step he took. The cool wind felt good on his cold-receptive skin, but it didn't calm his pounding heart and jittery hands. Watching the fluffs of snow was much easier than looking at the fairy currently hovering along beside him. In fact, he was worried if he actually looked at her, he might have some sort of nervous breakdown. This was ridiculous. This was Tooth. He was supposed to feel his most comfortable with her. And, okay, yes, at times it could be quite uncomfortable as well, but this was a different tension. This was a tension where something was just on the very edge of happening but it hadn't quite happened yet.
And that was probably because neither of them had said a word after Jack had suggested they "take a walk".
He was still confused about Tooth's feelings because she hadn't actually said what the hell they even were, what she felt about him. But, of course, he hadn't either. They were both at a loss with each other, doing a strange sort of dance, not wanting to step on the other's toes out of fear. But Jack didn't want to be afraid anymore. He was going to do something about this, damn it. He was going to tell her what he felt.
But instead what came out was, "I always feel like a yeti is watching me."
Jack felt Tooth turn her eyes to him in surprise. He looked at her and then quickly looked away, furrowing his brow, not really registering what just came out of his mouth. Wasn't he going to finally admit his feelings?
"I mean, you know," he continued hastily, trying to backtrack while kicking the snow up higher into the air, "it feels like you can never have any privacy at the Pole, what with yetis going around gathering wood and stuff."
There was a silence, and then as if on cue, a yeti came marching out of the forest about twenty yards in front of them, carrying at least seven logs. After a beat, Tooth snorted, and then broke out laughing.
"I'm sorry," she said, shakily wiping away tears of mirth, "I just- all this nervous energy- what are we doing?"
Jack laughed a bit too, despite himself. "I don't know. I honestly don't." He felt the unease start to leave him, a familiar warmth replacing it. He grinned a little and looked over at Tooth again. She was staring at him wordlessly, her eyes soft, her smile gentle. Jack felt his heart swell in his chest; a tingling sensation spread to his fingertips, creating a buzz at the edge of his nerves.
"Let's go up to that cliff so we have a good view," Jack suggested suddenly. Then he added with mock annoyance, "to get away from the yetis. Can't get any privacy around here."
Tooth laughed again, shaking her head, and they flew up together to a high peak on the edge of a mountain, looking over the edge of the boreal forest that extended into the arctic, the ice glaciers that held North's workshop in the distance. Sunlight peaked through the billowing gray masses of clouds, causing some of the icy mountains to sparkle and gleam in the golden glow.
"Beautiful, isn't it," Tooth remarked nonchalantly. Jack knew she was probably stalling, but went along with it anyway.
"Mm," he agreed, surveying the landscape. There was a beat, and then simultaneously they spoke-
Jack stopped and Tooth shut her mouth, surprised. This was getting ridiculous.
"You go first-"
"No, you're the one that wanted to talk a walk, you go-"
Well, that was undeniably true. Jack sighed, pulling at the collar of his hoodie and running his fingers down its strings. He wanted to ask. He wanted to know why Tooth had been avoiding him, what it meant when she left him at that dance in the falling dusk with a flustered face and ruffled feathers, why she had called him "beautiful". There were so many things he didn't understand, things he could guess about but worry he was wrong. Jack just was not good at this. And he wasn't sure if he knew how to phrase anything without messing it up.
So instead of using words, he used touch instead.
He took her hands in his, and she was so startled that she stopped fluttering midair and her feet hit the snow abruptly. A soft "oh" escaped her lips, her perfect mouth parted as she stared at the innocent place of contact. Just less than an hour before, they had accidentally touched and she had jerked away, as if shocked. It was different this time. This time, it was as if she was frozen, save for the slow rhythm of her shoulders from her shaky breaths. Jack ran his thumbs over the tops of her hands, grazing over where feathers met skin, his own hands so big compared to hers that he felt he could engulf them completely.
And then like coming out of a trance, he brought his hands back, doubt overtaking him, suddenly worried he had just done something wrong and completely unnatural. Jack stood there, his heart pounding in his ears, head swimming, unable to look at Tooth directly in the face.
He heard an indignant huff; Tooth's tiny hands took his, grasping them with what seemed like exasperation. Looking up, Jack saw an expression on Tooth's face he couldn't quite decipher. She tightened her grip, and pulled him closer with a surprising amount of strength that Jack often forgot she possessed (she was the queen of tooth fairies after all).
They were standing just a couple inches apart; it reminded Jack again of their dance months before.
"I'm not very good at this," Jack said, his voice accidentally coming out in a sort of strangled whisper. He was surprised he could even speak at all.
"You think I am?" Tooth asked, half smiling, her voice soft as well. "At least, if by this, you mean…" She trailed off and as if with a sudden surge of boldness, Tooth took her hands away from his and instead ran them up his arms, dragging his sleeves up halfway, sending shivers down his spine. He swallowed; his mouth was quickly becoming dry. She then brought her hands to his face, fingertips trailing over his icy skin. Her eyes were a bit wide as if she was rather shocked by her own actions, but she did not stop. Cupping his jaw, she pulled him closer until their mouths were nearly touching.
A few seconds passed but it felt like an hour before they leaned in forward at once, Jack wasn't even sure who kissed who first, but he found it hard to care when Tooth's lips were gently pulling at his, her breath so warm and contrasting perfectly with his own. Like clockwork Jack tugged her by the waist and her body melded into his naturally, the gesture blurring the line between innocence and pent up desire. But despite this undercurrent, the kiss was sweet, teeming with affection.
Finally they pulled away from each other (much to Jack's dismay). Tooth's complexion was significantly redder than before, and Jack was sure his own face very likely mirrored it. He felt the heat pulsing through his body; with Tooth was the only time any heat even coursed through him at all, despite the fact that while it felt warm to him, it probably wasn't very warm to the average person. But still, he felt as if the snow around him would start melting from radiation.
And while he felt this sensation based on exhilaration and embarrassment, he also felt it due to happiness and relief. He felt so relieved, relieved that Tooth felt the same way about him (or certainly seemed to, based on what had just occurred).
"That was, uh… that was really good," Jack said, his voice coming out breathless, and he blushed harder if possible because what kind of thing to say was that? He cursed himself inwardly, but Tooth just laughed, her wings fluttering out of nervous excitement.
"It was," she agreed happily, her voice warm. Then she took his hands again. "I… I like you, Jack. A lot."
Jack's heart swelled. "I like you, too," he said quietly, sincerely hoping this wasn't a dream or some messed up hallucination as a result of his flashback problem. "A lot."
Tooth squeezed his hands, her eyes brightening with delight. Then she blinked, sobering up when she admitted, "I was ignoring you because I was scared."
"Scared of what?" Jack asked, though he knew exactly what because it was probably everything he had been scared of.
"Scared of rejection," Tooth sighed, shrugging her shoulder. "Scared of my own feelings, what they meant, what it would mean to our friendship, even what it would mean to our relationships with all the Guardians. I wonder what they'll think, now…"
"Well, Bunnymund might be in for a shock," Jack said, laughing a bit. "Sandy already knows."
Tooth's head snapped up in surprise, letting go of his hands. "He does?"
"Yeah, he's certainly perceptive." Jack thought back to his conversation with the sandman on a roof and inwardly cringed- Sandy could read him like an open book. "As for North, well… he'll probably chide himself on not having figured it out." Of course, North knew that Jack was interested in someone, but Jack wasn't sure if North knew exactly who.
"Well, whatever their reactions will be, I'm a bit apprehensive, Jack. Not just that, but about everything. About what a relationship will be." Tooth rubbed at her arms nervously. "Not because it's with you, of course! You're... you're wonderful. It's only because I've never done anything like this before. Not really."
Jack breathed out slowly as he looked at Tooth, her feathers ruffled and cheeks still bright, her wings beating every so often as she switched from standing to hovering like she couldn't decide what she wanted to do. He placed his hands firmly on her shoulders, causing her to stay still. She blinked her eyes at him.
"It'll be fine, Tooth," he said earnestly; the tension drained away from Tooth's face. She nodded, smiling. And Jack really believed that, too. It would be fine. He finally had stopped running away. They both had.
He took her small hand in his, and together they walked back to the North Pole, Tooth letting her wings rest so she could be by his side, Jack completely and utterly happy to have her there.
A/N: I am SO sorry for leaving you guys hanging for so long. I'm terrible. But for some reason I couldn't find motivation to finish this chapter until now. I didn't have most of it written until yesterday. D: I just wasn't sure where I wanted to go and it was hard for me to start. But I hope you're all still with me, and this isn't the last chapter! I'm planning on having one more, at least.
I hope for the wait that this was satisfactory, and also the length wasn't too short. Reviews would be lovely to let me know you're still here and what you think of the update.