A/N: Just so you know, I'm not sticking to the books in this. I have not read the books, although I did read up on their wiki to get a feel for the character backgrounds. I'm taking a few details and completely running with them, with no intention to dishonor the original text. I think RotG is a lot like HtTYD in the respect that, while the books are great and the movies are great, and are similar in their spirit and feel, they are, in the end, their own entities which share a lot, but differ a lot. So I've taken some license with the characters' backstories in this one.
That aside, the idea for this story came from a question I had about the movie from the get-go after I saw it: Why, exactly, is Jack the only one who can't remember his past life? Surely there's a reason. I'll let this fic answer my own question.
I also have to stick an apology in here to everyone who follows my Merlin fanfictions… I was not expecting this RotG detour of inspiration, but this movie really was just so good, and since I wasn't expecting it, I've been run over by the fandom like a herd of elephants, so bear with me while I let my unexpected fangirl loose. I'll return to our dear old warlock shortly.
He couldn't have put the blame on any one of them. After all, he'd been the one who'd asked in the first place. So when they all turned to him with a single question in their eyes and he realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wasn't ready for this on his own, much less in front of them all, he did the first thing that came to mind.
Perhaps it'd been a bad idea from the start, but it had seemed natural enough.
It was a few days after the last battle with Pitch. They had all crashed at North's lodge directly after, and stuck around for a celebratory feast the following day. North left his invitation and hospitality open, and none of them felt a pressing need to leave, so for the week or so that followed, they all made the North Pole their home, even Tooth, who'd turned the canopy of North's workshop into a temporary base of operations for her high-ranking faeries.
They ate dinner together every day, and Jack would never let them know how much it meant to him – both to eat, and to eat with other people. There were a lot of new things that Jack was getting used to – sitting down to dinner with friends was one. Having a proper job was another, right up there with being seen by people, being believed in, and (and this one, Jack wasn't sure if he was proud or disappointed with) losing his century-long streak topping off the Naughty List. He'd been given his first taste of what it felt like to belong, and now, he couldn't get enough. He'd never viewed himself as studious, or even overly inquisitive, but he'd surprised himself and everyone else (particularly Bunny) by turning into a mad question-generating machine, who spent his days learning and absorbing as much information related to his new life as he could manage.
It had actually begun to irritate the other guardians to an extent, so around the dinner table that night, when they all saw Jack's eyebrows twist up and his chest expand for a breath, his hands pausing in thought before he turned to them all, each of them braced themselves for whatever question came out of his mouth next.
"I've been thinking…" Jack began. Bunny rolled his eyes, but Tooth put on a smile for Jack's sake. The other guardians watched him patiently. "How did you guys become Guardians?"
"Man in Moon," North replied easily after a bite, "He chose us, like he chose you not long ago."
"Yeah, I know, I know," Jack said "what I mean is… how? How did it…" He shrugged again, like he was asking a sensitive or embarrassing question. "How did it… happen? Becoming a guardian, an immortal."
"Oh," North's eyebrows rose, and he leaned back. The group looked at each other, and North sent a small smile back at Jack
"Well, it is quite a story you ask for. Each of us have our own." He gestured to the others, who were looking somewhat less bothered by Jack's question as they considered it. "I'm sure we would all be happy to tell you, but it will take time," he said. When Jack didn't respond and continued to look expectantly at all of them, North smiled and said, "Well, then, story time it is." And as he said it, each of the guardians settled down a little further into their seats, ready to spin stories as familiar and as precious as their own faces.
And so, for hours later, long after they'd all had their fill of food, Jack sat quietly, listening to each of his fellow guardians in turn as they told the story of their past: who they'd been before they were chosen, how Manny had reached out to them, how they'd found themselves where they were today.
He heard about a young Nicolas St. North, an adventuring Russian who couldn't seem to find a world big enough for his massive tastes, with a thirst of adventure, love of everything amazing under the sun, and a deep-seated need to tell everyone he knew about it. He was a swordsman, adventurer, protector and joy-giver, in many ways similar to what Jack saw in him today. He heard of how Nicolas grew up and grew older, how he became a reputable father to the children in his community, a leader, and an inspirer. How he settled down, but never shrunk his horizons.
"I knew I was reaching an age where I would no longer be able to do what I loved," North said, a group of four enthralled guardians hanging on his words, "and that is when Manny spoke to me." He laughed. "It is strange, I had never heard of the Man in the Moon before then, but it did not seem too odd to me at the time that he would speak to me. He told me that I would not have to worry about losing the wonder I saw in the world, that it would be my job to protect it instead. So he let me say a goodbye to the town I loved, and let me choose a place to begin my work." He laughed. "I had never visited anywhere as beautiful as the North Pole, before, and when I came, I met a clan of yetis who were in need of help, and were willing to make allies for my assistance in building a home. Later, after we built the lodge, the elves came looking for shelter, and…" he shrugged. "Rest is history."
Bunny was next, and maybe because he was a bit prickly about his own past that he kept things short. Jack found out that Bunny was actually short for Bunnymund, and that he was, strictly speaking, a pooka, not a bunny. He'd been something of a leader in his colony, keeping up their spirits even when the going got tough, even when they found themselves homeless and driven out by enemies. Bunny looked a bit embarrassed about the touchy-feely bits of his story, but Jack felt no reason to laugh as the pooka explained.
"None of them would even look for a new warren," he shrugged, looking down at the table. "They thought it was a hopeless endeavor to even try, but I knew there had to be one out there. So I went looking. I didn't stop until I found it, and when I did, I got them all together, let them know that there's no such thing as hopelessness. It wasn't too long before Manny came looking for me, said he had a job for me." Bunny smirked. "Didn't know what I was getting into at the time, but it's been worth it," He said.
Sandy was next, and while he tried for a bit to tell his story by himself, eventually, after a table full of odd looks, gestured kindly to North, who nodded and turned to Jack.
"Sandy is the oldest of us all," the big Russian elaborated, "in his past life, he was a dreamer – a man of music, if I recall you telling me?" North asked, and Sandy nodded. "He was chosen by Man in Moon after a long time capturing peoples' imaginations with sound. But dreams are not dictated by only one thing over another, and now his sand works without sound. Although, it is no less impressive for the loss." North smiled at the floating man, who smiled bashfully and tipped a hat of gold.
As the others smiled and Tooth began her story, nobody noticed that Jack had slowly, confusedly, begun to frown.
Tooth was an energetic storyteller, who spun the adventuresome romance of her parents with gusto, telling of a magical palace in the skies and an evil sheikh who sought to steal its majesty for himself. She spoke of her father, a humble man, and her mother, a brave faerie. She told them of how she was captured, separated from her parents, and put into the most dire straits as young, winged child, different from all in the world around her, and how the magic of the teeth, taught to her by her mother, saved her from despair in the most desperate struggles of her life.
"I wanted to keep the powers safe for everyone, even those who didn't know," she told them all, holding her small hands to her chest dearly, "I had already begun to collect teeth to keep them safe when Manny came to me and chose me." She smiled. "He said he'd never met anyone who'd had such grand visions for collecting the teeth, for protecting them. Most people didn't know anything of their magic, but I didn't want to let that magic wither. So he said he would help me in my quest, that it would be my job to guard them from then on." She paused, looked up, and smiled. "And it's grown from there, and I couldn't be more proud of all the teeth – and especially my faeries!"
It was quiet for a moment after she finished, as all the guardians smiled at each other, still not noticing how Jack was frowning deeply to himself. "Now you know," North told Jack, "Manny has picked us all, each on our own terms, to be the people we have always been." He smiled widely, and reached for a cookie off a tray. "But that is only us! You are Guardian too, you know. What is your story, Jack Frost?" North looked at Jack again with an encouraging expression, but the boy didn't seem to notice. He was looking down at the table, paying no mind and listening to no one in particular. North paused and slowly frowned as he took stock of Jack's lost expression. "Jack?" He asked, the twinge of concern in his voice causing the others to frown as well, peering over at their youngest member with worry.
"I don't understand…" Jack said after a moment, looking up so they could see the bare confusion on his face, "when he chose all of you…. You were…" He scrunched up his face and looked around at them all for the answer that he was sure he must have missed. "…you were still alive?"
The silence around them was suddenly as cold as ice.
Bunny's nervous laughter broke it first. "Alive?" He asked incredulously with another chuckle, "A'course we were alive - we couldn't very well be anything else, mate." He stopped laughing when Jack turned to look at him. The confusion in his expression had been joined by hurt, and now fear.
"Why would you ask that, Jack?" North said, his voice curious but as gentle as Jack had ever heard it." North and Bunny were both watching him, expressions serious.
"That's why you couldn't remember," Tooth breathed, and her voice was so quiet that she normally wouldn't have been heard, but the cold stillness in the room amplified it so that all of the guardians looked first at her, and then back at Jack, who looked suddenly very small, very lost, and very, very afraid. He was looking right at Tooth, because he knew that she had figured out what the others had not.
"Jack?" North prodded again, but Jack was staring at Tooth, watching as her features morphed into the pity that made him feel invisible again. He'd asked the question thinking that he would find camaraderie with this new family of his, not differences. Not these blank stares, these hidden questions. His own question was turned on him, now, and it pointed to answers that, after hearing from all of them, he did not want to bring to light. Tooth saw it anyway, and perhaps the fear from that revelation was all it took.
After it all, still, he was different. Unknown. Alone.
Jack grabbed his staff, and before anyone could stop him, was gone.
A/N: Have no fear, this will be a two shot, at least. I'll update soon, but for now: sleep!