Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians
The idea hadn't come to him at first. What had started as a simple visit to Tooth Palace had quickly turned into an emotional breakthrough for the guardian of fun. He wasn't entirely sure how it happened, however he didn't regret the experience. Not in the least.
Earlier that day, Jack flew to Tooth Palace in order to return his memories to Tooth for safe keeping. He hadn't told the other guardians what he witnessed when he looked inside his memories, deciding that the affair was entirely too personal, and the others accepted this without complaint. It was expected, really. After all, they rarely spoke of their own pasts. The only piece of information regarding Jack's past that the guardians knew of was the simple fact that he had died in order to become an immortal, a trait he did not have in common with the others.
When Tooth first saw him, she immediately brought her work to a halt, delighted to see the winter spirit. She greeted him warmly, but quickly became confused when he pulled out the small, golden box from the front pocket of his hoodie.
"I just wanted to return this," Jack said simply. Tooth gently took the memory box from his hands.
"Are you sure, Jack? They are yours. You can hang on to them if you want," she explained. He immediately declined.
"No, no. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that I got to see them – got to remember – but it's better not to dwell on that. I saw them once, and that's all I need for now. Besides, it's not exactly like I have anywhere to store it, now do I?" He smiled at her, content with his decision. She smiled back and handed Jack's memory box to a nearby Baby Tooth. After instructing her to store Jack's memories with those of the others guardians, Baby Tooth nodded in understanding and promptly flew off with the box. Jack watched the fairy fly away into the vast storage system.
"Are you alright, Jack?" Tooth prompted carefully. Jack jumped slightly but was quick to flash her a grin.
"Of course I am," he said. Tooth raised an eyebrow at him, but didn't press the issue further. The two stood in a comfortable silence for a moment.
"Did you know that I had a sister, Tooth?" Jack asked suddenly. The fairy shook her head, studying Jack as his eyes glazed over slightly and he stared into nothing.
"I didn't know that," she said.
"I wonder what happened to her," he continued. "I wish that I had remembered her when I woke up. I could have watched her grow up." He chuckled humorlessly, before snapping out of his haze. He grinned at Tooth. "Thank you for helping me remember her."
Tooth returned Jack's smile with one of her own and placed a delicate hand on his shoulder. With that, Jack beckoned the wind, gracefully jumping into the air. A heavy gust of air lifted him into the sky.
He wasn't entirely sure where he was going, however he soon found himself above the small town of Burgess. He supposed the wind simply wanted to take him home, not having a specific location to take its old companion. Jack's feet gently met the ground. The crisp snow crunched beneath his bare feet, failing in its mission to chill the naked skin. Jack's shoulders slumped as he collapsed onto his back in the soft substance. He nestled into the snow bank.
Jack raised his head slightly, wondering whom the voice belonged to. His eyes scanned the surrounding forest and pond, but after further inspection he deemed the sound to be part of his tired imagination. He relaxed his head back into the snow bank.
Jack's eyes snapped open – he hadn't remembered closing them – and he pushed himself up into a sitting position. He raised an eyebrow at his surroundings.
"Jack? Where are you?"
Curiosity burned him, and he quickly jumped to his feet, staff in hand, and pushed his way past the trees and bushes that blocked his way. He walked several feet into the forest, wondering where the voice came from. After several silent minutes, he almost gave up and returned to his pond. However, the voice quickly returned, beckoning him forward.
Jack ran towards the voice as it began to grow more frantic. At one point he was aware that he was all but sprinting past the iced foliage, desperate to reach the voice. Just as he reached a clearing, he felt his body jerk to a halt.
A small girl with mousy, brown hair stood staring at him with large, innocent eyes. His breath hitched as he felt his throat constrict with emotions. He swallowed heavily and dared to push his luck.
The girl gave him a toothy grin, giggling as she ran up to him.
"Jack! You found me!" she cheered. She gave him a tight hug, throwing her small arms around his narrow body. Jack gave a raspy laugh, unable to believe what was happening.
"Rosie!" He returned her hug, too caught in the moment to think the situation through. His sister was with him again, and he refused to believe that it was an impossible scenario. "I missed you, Rosie." Rose released their hug, giving him a questioning look.
"What do you mean? Where have you been?" she asked. Jack looked at her in disbelief.
"I haven't seen you in centuries, Rosie!" he exclaimed. She stared at him, confusion evident on her face, before breaking out into giggles.
"You're funny, Jack," she said, deciding that her brother's strange behavior was simply one of his usual jokes. She turned to walk into the forest. "Come on, Jack! You said that you would take me ice skating today!" She grabbed his hand, pulling him forward. Jack looked at her in alarm.
"What…?" he asked dumbly. Rose pouted at him.
"You can't back out now. I've been waiting all week for this. You promised!" she demanded. Jack shook his head.
"No, Rosie. I'm not going to take you ice skating," he said. Her smile fell as she studied her brother.
"But you promised," she whined. Jack bit his lip, completely uncomfortable with the sudden turn of events.
"You need to trust me, Rosie. Ice skating isn't a good idea," he said.
"And why not?"
"It just isn't. I don't think that the ice is thick enough."
"You checked it yesterday and said that with the temperature drop it would be fine!"
"Well, I changed my mind. I'm sorry," Jack pleaded. Rosie frowned at her brother. Without warning, she turned and sprinted into the forest, shouting at Jack in her wake.
"Fine! I'll just go by myself!"
Jack immediately took off after her, however she was quickly lost to him in the tangle of trees.
"Rosie! Come back!" he shouted into the trees. He received no response. "Rosemary!"
He panicked, chest heaving as he struggled not to hyperventilate.
"Jack? Jack, are you alright? You need to wake up, Jack."
Jack's eyes snapped opened. It was considerably darker than it was before he fell asleep, however this was duly noted as he found Tooth and Sandy standing over him, concern evident in their eyes. He blinked at them.
"Are you alright?" Tooth repeated as Jack pushed himself up into a sitting position.
"I'm fine," he said. He heard a snort behind him and he turned to see Bunnymund standing a few feet away. North stood next to the rabbit. Had Jack not been fighting off the remnants of sleep, he most likely would have smirked at the sight of the intimidating, tattooed Russian standing next to the massive rabbit. However, considering his self-awareness, he was only able to stare blankly at the duo.
"That was an awful lie," Bunny stated.
"Why are you all here?" Jack asked, ignoring Bunny's words.
"Tooth called. She said you seemed troubled. So, we are here," North explained simply enough. Jack quickly turned to look at Tooth who shrugged at the statement. North frowned at the winter spirit. "What troubles you, Jack?"
Jack stared at the ground. His chest felt hallow and tight all at the same time. His words escaped him. He knew that he was upset, however what was upsetting him was hard to say. Memories flashed and danced in front of his eyes. A small girl with brown hair and eyes spoke enthusiastically, gesturing animatedly for him to follow her. A woman that held a striking resemblance to the girl smiled lovingly at him, trying her best to suppress the giggles that threatened to take over. A man placed a strong hand on Jack's shoulder as Jack aimed a gun carefully at an unsuspecting fox. With a resounding bang, the man clapped him on the shoulder, offering words of praise.
"Are you crying?"
He wasn't sure who made the statement, but suddenly Jack was aware of the wetness in his eyes. He carefully brought a shaky hand to his cheek, feeling a faint trail of tears. It wasn't much, just a subtle trickle, but it was there nonetheless. He took a deep breath in an attempt to regain control of himself, but he found it too difficult to care enough. He simply let the salty water roll slowly down his face. He found that he was finally able to find the words that he was looking for.
"I miss them," he whispered. He didn't choke or stutter on his words, merely stating them as fact.
He felt exhausted, not wanting to move from his position in the comforting snow, but he wasn't in the mood to talk to his fellow guardians. He shrugged North's hand from his shoulder – when had North put his hand there? – and promptly stood up, swaying slightly as the blood rushed quickly to his head. He shook the sudden blindness from his eyes and stumbled towards the forest.
He shoved his way through the trees. His usual grace left him completely as he stumbled about, struggling to keep himself upright. When he finally reached a clearing, his heart plummeted.
A small, aged cemetery stood quietly in the middle of the clearing. For centuries each name in the cemetery was unfamiliar. Every single name was simply that: a name. He hadn't known the people, but now he knew. He remembered. Jack blinked heavily at the sight in front of him before continuing his way towards the graveyard.
The cemetery was not gated. It was a small gathering of centuries old tombstones that managed to stay standing throughout the years. Jack stared at each tombstone, his mind drawing to a blank as he read the name of each occupant. He came to a halt, eyes growing wide as he caught sight of three familiar names etched into crumbling tombstones. His family – father, mother, and sister – all lay still underneath the ground.
Jack stared at the names, body growing rigid. However, a fourth name was his complete undoing.
Loving brother and son
Jack was numbly aware of falling to his knees and cradling his head in his hands. Fresh tears leaked furiously from his eyes, but he still found himself unable to make any sound. His body shook occasionally, the sudden release of emotion too much to contain.
A comforting hand gently met his shoulder and he found himself unable to shrug off the sudden embrace. It was warm and familiar, but he refused to meet the caring gaze of the man who offered the comfort. It was not his father, but he could force ignorance in order to pretend, if only for a little while.
The remaining four guardians stood around their youngest member in silence. They followed the winter spirit as he stumbled almost drunkenly through the forest that was his typical abode. They were alarmed to say the least and were quick to follow. When they were met with the sight of their youngest collapsed on the ground in front of not only the graves of his family members but his own, they quietly gathered around him, hoping to give him some sort of support. North cautiously reached out and placed his hand on Jack's shoulder. The boy didn't look at him, but he didn't shy away either.
While they didn't know what exactly occurred in Jack's human life, they would offer him support where they could. And perhaps, in some way, this event would lay the foundation that was necessary in order for Jack's trust to grow.