A/N: Wow! I was not expecting this kind of response. Thanks everyone for your feedback! It's been a pleasant surprise. So, without further ado, here's part numero dos:
"What does he mean, 'still alive'?!" Bunny demanded. They'd all sat there, slack-jawed for a moment after Jack rushed off, but of course Bunnymund was the first to recover his mouth. "Tooth?" He looked at the faery demandingly, eyebrows low as he waited for an answer.
Toothiana had her delicate hands over her mouth, and for a moment she couldn't answer. "He… couldn't remember his past life," she said. "I never thought that it'd be because he… oh, Jack," She rose from her seat and flew to the door.
"What is she on about?" Bunny turned to North with an exasperated tone. Sandy looked to the other guardian, as well.
"The only reason Jack would ask if we had been alive," North said, voice quiet and grave, "is if he had not."
Bunny stared. "You're… you're not saying that you think he's dead, are you?"
"Not anymore," North said.
Bunny stared, and couldn't help it when he felt something cold grab his stomach and twist it. Not anymore. It put him off ease, and he couldn't help it when his eyes darted up to where Jack had fled a few moments ago.
Sandy's sand hissed from behind them both, and they turned to see him form an image of Jack flying off, and Tooth, and finally an arrow pointed to the door. He nodded expectantly.
"Sandy is right," North rose from his seat, "if we are to learn anything, we must find Jack first."
She'd expected him to have gone outside to the cold and snow, but when she finally found him, he was still in the lodge. Up high in one of the rafters right where the ceiling met the top of a tall window, Jack had folded his legs up tight against his chest so he could rest his face into his knees and hug his arms around his thighs. He'd never seemed small, with his active, mischievous personality, but Jack was a physically small person, and the only reason she'd spotted him at all, hidden against a massive wooden perch, was because of the swinging shadow cast by his staff, where he'd hung it off one end of the rafter.
She approached him carefully, not sure exactly what to say. She knew he had to have heard her, because her wings hummed loudly in the quiet of the room, but he didn't look over at her, or even react, instead staring blankly out the window to where the wind whistled and played with the snow.
"Jack?" She asked quietly, but her voice sounded loud. His head turned a fraction of an inch as if to face her, but he sighed and tilted it back. "Jack, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"
"Don't," he said without turning around, "you don't have to apologize."
"We shouldn't have brought it up at all," She said anyway,
"I'm the one who asked. And it… It was good to hear from you. All of you. I just…" He broke off and, after a moment of silence, sighed and hugged his legs closer. "I thought that what happened to me must have happened to all of you, too. I was wrong."
Tooth hovered there wordlessly for a moment, and then slowly flew closer until she could swing her legs over the wooden beam and rest there, wings falling silent. She put a hand on Jack's shoulder, grateful when he didn't flinch or look away, and surprised when he leaned into the touch instead. "Jack, I didn't know about your memory, and I didn't know about this, either." She gave his shoulder a light squeeze. "And I'm sorry for that." She let her hand slide off his sleeve.
He let out an airy chuckle. "I didn't know either, until a few weeks ago." She looked at him. Baby Tooth had told her about Jack rediscovering his memories, but neither of them knew what they contained, and neither wanted to pry about something so personal.
"Your memories," She said. He nodded.
"I… what I saw wasn't much. But part of it was about how I… the day I…" he stopped, stealing a glance at Tooth.
"The day you died?" her voice was quiet and gentle. Blue eyes flicked over to her.
She scooted closer to him and took his hand. Even as he looked the other way and curled in closer to himself, he held her hand tightly back. "Whatever happened, you must've done something special for Manny to notice," She said. He let out a huff, and from the tops of his cheeks, she thought he might be smiling.
"I gave it my best shot."
"Always the performer, Jack Frost." Now, he was definitely smiling, and blushing a light pink under white skin.
"Overland," he said unexpectedly.
Tooth tilted her head. "What?"
"It was Overland. Jackson Overland. At least, I think so. But everyone called me Jack. It was only Jackson when I was in trouble."
"Must have been often," she said with a smirk. She was rewarded when he laughed against the knees of his trousers.
"Maybe. I can't remember enough to tell you. Although…" He smiled to himself. "There was definitely a time or two." They both fell into silence, but she was willing to wait there and hold his hand, because none of this was really about her.
"I had a sister," He told her at length, and after a split second of surprise, Tooth's face melted into a smile.
"You did? Oh, Jack, I'm sure she was wonderful."
"She was definitely that, for sure." He closed his eyes, smiling into his knees where she couldn't see, but hear the adoration in his voice. "Little lady," he said quietly, and Tooth realized after a moment that he wasn't saying it for her benefit. Tooth squeezed his hand.
"I bet you were a great brother," She said.
His eyes opened. He didn't reply for a moment until he said, "I gave it my best shot." She frowned at the change in his tone, which had dipped back down to a grave timbre. Slowly, Jack turned towards her, but didn't look up at her. "That's how it all happened, you know."
Tooth frowned, but didn't know what to say. Eventually, Jack turned back around, but didn't let his hand fall out of hers. Carefully, Tooth shifted so she could see him a bit better, and nestled their hands between them. "Will you tell me?" She asked gently. He didn't answer right away. When he did, he couldn't look up at her.
"Well," He sighed, "it was winter." He touched a finger to the wood by his feet, and frost spread out around it. "I suppose that explains a thing or two."
Bunny's ears had caught their conversation first, and he stopped mid-stride to look into the massive hall. He could see shadows flickering down from a point far up near the ceiling, and he reached out to smack North on his shoulder and gain his attention. The larger man looked over, saw the same thing Bunny had, and stepped quietly into the room. As boisterous as the two might have normally been, both Bunny and North were quiet as the approached. Sandy, of course, floated beside them, noiseless as always.
"…until a few weeks ago,"
Sandy tried to float up to get a better look. North reached up and grabbed onto a small foot. Sandy whirled back at him with a glare, but North shook his head seriously. As he let go, Sandy pursed his lips and floated back down.
"I… what I saw wasn't much. But part of it was about how I… the day I…"
They all walked until they were at a point not quite below where Tooth and Jack were talking. North lowered himself onto a bench that was there, and just as Bunny was following suit,
"The day that you died?"
Tooth's voice froze them in their places. Bunny and North exchanged a look. Sandy looked upwards, worriedly. A tense silence settled on the room, and then Jack's answer broke through:
Bunny's tail end fell down onto the bench with a thud that he instantly hoped the two conversers would not hear. He looked over at North, a whispered question on his lips, but North put a massive hand against Bunny's nose and put a finger to his own lips for silence. Annoyed, Bunny looked at Sandy, but the Sandman only shook his head and pointed up. So, for the moment, Bunnymund swallowed his questions, crossed his arms, tried to pretend he wasn't as shaken about all this as he really was, and settled down to listen with his fellow guardians.
When Tooth teased Jack for 'performing' and getting in trouble, North had begun to smile somewhat. Of all the guardians, he seemed the most in-tune with Jack's fun-loving nature. Bunny in particular had softened quite a bit when he learned that Jack had had a sister. He'd noticed before how good Jack was with children hands-on. He wondered if she had anything to do with that.
When they all realized that Jack was getting to the story itself, there was something of a lull in their thoughts, and Jack's voice took center stage as he fumbled his way through the story of how he was chosen.
It took longer than any of their stories had, understandably. Jack was uncomfortable, and he obviously didn't remember all of the fine details of who he'd been. However, it would seem that he remembered quite a bit of detail from the fateful day that – as far as Jack could calculate, had taken place some three hundred winters ago.
"She'd gotten a new pair of ice skates for Christmas. I'd had a pair since I was a kid, and had promised to teach her to skate when she was big enough, so after all the Christmas celebrations were over, I took her out on Boxing Day to teach her to skate. It'd been a really cold winter that year, and the pond had been frozen solid for weeks… we all thought it would be perfectly safe."
North felt an odd tremble in his spine. We all thought it would be perfectly safe.
"She was so excited, she dragged me out on the lake before I could even put my skates on. I'd only just taken off my shoes when I heard the ice crack."
Bunny's ears flattened against his head as he slowly realized what would inevitably come next. He heard Jack heave a sigh. Up in the rafters, Tooth continued to grasp Jack's hand in comfort.
"The ice should've been safe, and it was – well, one half of it, anyway. But part of it was too thin… she'd wandered off on to it before I even thought to check for weak spots. She couldn't move. She just looked up at me and told me she was scared. I tried to step closer, but then the ice started cracking under me, too." He sighed again. "I didn't know what to do. Dad hadn't come with us, and mom could never stand the cold for long. We were alone, and a good walk away from the town, so I just… did what I could. I promised her a game."
Of course he would, they all thought, or he wouldn't be Jack Frost.
"I told her we'd play hopscotch. It was the first thing that came to mind. I hopped back to the thick ice first, and was getting ready to grab her back, too. There was this… this stick lying on the lake. Like a branch that must've snapped off one of the trees in a storm,"
The shadow of Jack's staff danced on the ground as he handled it in thought. North lifted his eyebrows in understanding.
"It had a hooked end. I held it out for her to grab onto when she got close enough, but as she was moving toward me, I realized she would fall through before she could grab it. So, I hooked it around her and pulled her back toward the thicker ice. But… Well, of course ice is slippery. When I pulled her back, I slipped forward onto the spot where she'd been. I remember she turned around and looked at me, this huge smile on her face."Jack stopped talking. It took a moment for him to continue.
"I don't think I'd ever felt that happy, about anything. I stood up to go back to her, and there was this huge noise…" He stopped talking again, and where only Tooth could see him, hugged himself tighter. "It's… it seems weird, now, trying to remember how cold it felt then. It was dark, too. …I don't really know how long it took."
Bunny had to swallow thickly. How long it took. He felt something drain from his face as he realized what, exactly, Jack was talking about. He had drowned. And he remembered it.
"It was scary, waking up after that, no idea what was going on. That was the last time I can remember being cold, and not liking it. But then… Well, then I saw the moon. He told me that my name was Jack Frost. I found my staff – the branch from the day before – and the wind tried to teach me how to fly. I saw my town that night, too, though I didn't know where I was. That was where I found out that no one could see me."
North closed his eyes. He and the others had all come into their guardianships with at least a good handful of people who believed in them, who could see them. Some of them had had even more. But Jack had been alone from the beginning. Sure that no one was there to comment about it, Bunny let the hurt and emotion shine through on his face. Bunny had only just recently experienced what it felt like to be invisible. It physically hurt. Beyond that, there was that psychological toll, of seeing someone who you just know you should be able to communicate with, and knowing that they will never, ever hear you, no matter what you could do.
Easter the week before had been hell. And that, lonely and horrible as it was, had to remind himself, had been Jack's world for three hundred long years. E. Aster Bunnymund couldn't find the right thing to think about that.
Up in the rafters, Jack had fallen silent. Tooth squeezed his hand one last time, and brought it back up to his shoulder.
"It's no wonder he chose you, then," She said, and he finally looked over at her. His eyes were misty, but he hadn't shed any tears. "Thank you for telling me, Jack." She said. He shrugged.
"I just wish he would have told me sooner."
She smiled somewhat sadly. "Even Manny isn't all-knowing, you know. He probably didn't know about your memory, any more than I did. He might not have known what do to. Even so, I am sorry you had to wait so long.
Jack shook his head. "I know now. There's nothing to be sorry for, Tooth."
"There certainly won't be, no. You're here with us to stay, Jack."
He looked down to where he'd drawn his staff into his lap. "Even after I died. Hardly a guardian-like thing to do, is it?"
"It makes you more of a guardian than all of us, Jack," And when he looked up at her with pure surprise in his eyes, she felt her expression melt. "You saved your sister's life – at the cost of your own. And you had fun doing it." She shook her head. "I don't want you ever thinking you aren't one of us, Jack. Because if you weren't, you'd be above us."
She actually hadn't known his skin (which had always been unnaturally pale) could manage to turn that pink, and the sight made her smile.
"Thanks, Tooth," He said, and brought a hand up to where hers was still on his shoulder. She didn't mind, but then he made eye contact, and she realized just how close they were. It was her turn to blush. Still, she managed to be graceful as she retracted her hand, and he didn't seem to notice as she rubbed the tingly spot where he'd touched. She smiled brightly at him. He smiled back, and those wonderful whites made her all giddy inside.
North came to her rescue.
"Tooth is right," He called from below, and both Fairy and Frost jumped at the booming voice, dodging around the huge rafter to look down. North was looking up at them both, hands on his hips. They could also see Bunny and Sandy.
"What?! How long have you been there?!" Jack demanded. Tooth looked between North and Jack. She didn't think Jack was that upset… only… surprised.
North shrugged honestly. "What can I say? We were curious. But now we know. And I could not agree more with Tooth. You, Jack Frost, are perhaps more a guardian than we shall ever be." He tipped his white haired head, and Jack was blushing again. Perhaps Bunny saw his discomfort and wanted to help ease the boy's feelings – because of course, the words that came out next would have nothing to do with Bunny's ego.
"Of course he's right, but don't you dare let it get to your head, Jackson."
Jack's eyes snapped over to Bunny in a glare of indignance. "What did you call me?" Sandy stifled his mouth in a silent giggle.
"You heard me, Frostbite."
Instead of snapping back right away, Jack bit his tongue. His glare changed into a mischievous glint, and then, Jack flipped the mood of the entire room in an instant.
"Whatever you say, Kangaroo."
"What, what?" Bunny straightened, and Jack smiled wickedly. "You come back and say that to my face, you drongo!" Jack gave a loud laugh, and darted off, where bunny followed closely.
"Come and make me, Cottontail!"
Sandy made a quick image above his head with a sparkling giggle, and whatever it was, it must have been at Bunny's expense, because the Pooka flattened his ears and charged, and Sandy joined Jack in a flying retreat away from a rabbit yelling with increasingly colorful language.
Tooth floated down from her perch to hover next to North.
"The greatest guardian of us all, hmm?" She asked, watching the boys fly around like five year olds with wings.
North shrugged. "Of course. But he is the guardian of fun, after all." Tooth smiled at him and flew (much more calmly) after the runaway gang, ready to break up another Jack v. Bunny fight.
North stayed slightly behind, and looked out the window. Against a snowy backdrop, the glass looked almost like ice, but it was unmarred by cracks, pristine and kissed with Frost. He remembered for a moment the sound of Sophie Bennett's laughter, but this time the memory came with brown eyes, a sister's trust, and a new pair of iceskates. He looked back over to where Jack was dodging boomerangs and laughing a laugh that sounded just the same. North smiled.
"Something very special, indeed."
A/N: I really wasn't sure how to end this. I don't feel like this is quite adequate, but hopefully it flowed well with the rest. I may or may not add on an epilogue sort of chapter after this one, depending on if I think of anything else this story ought to touch on.
I kind of wanted to delve into more angsty territory with this (because seriously, Jack's story has plenty of room for angst) but I had to stick to a certain sense of flow and congruity with the themes I was aiming for. Hopefully no one is disappointed.
Also, yes, there are hints of the Tooth/Jack ship in here. I don't have any ships for this fandom, but if you didn't see at least a hint of that one in the movie itself, you were watching the whole thing blindfolded with earplugs in. So I decided to keep hints of it for continuity's sake.
At any rate, I hope everyone liked it!