hey guys I'm back! Sorry for the exceptionally long wait on this chapter. Stuff happened and I temporarily lost my Angsty!Jack. Don't worry though. After writing pretty much ever other type of Jack out there, I've gotten him back. This chapter is primarily introspective and thus very little happens in the way of actual plot progression, but hopefully things will pick back up next chapter.

Oh Disclaimer, Oh Disclaimer! Wherefore art thou a Disclaimer? The Rise of the Guardians property by any other name still doesn't belong to me!

...Or In Which Pitch Continues To Make Everything Worse For Everyone. Damn You Pitch.

Jack knows something is wrong as soon as he wakes up. He feels constricted, warm. He's not supposed to be warm. He is cold, always cold. It's not the most comfortable feeling, but it comes with the touch of his snow and the comfort of his Wind, so he has become used to it over the years, now even coming to appreciate the almost-numbness in his fingers and a slight sting of the constant chill brushing his skin.

Now warmth is seeping into him, and it feels wrong, weird. It makes him drowsy. He can barely stir in the pressing heat, his energy seeping slowly from the various wounds across his body. He tries calling to the Wind to get him away from the hotness, but the Wind isn't here - wherever "here" is. Though Jack keeps his eyes closed, he can tell others are in the enclosed space by the scuffling of feet and the whisper of breaths. A low growl, a soft, snide laugh. A blissfully cold, wet rag sweeping across his brow.

Jack tightens his grip on his staff to keep from whimpering when the cold dampness is pulled away and the sting of his still-healing branch brings him to full awareness with a sharp gasp. Immediately, everything in the room simply stops. No more worried whispers. No more buzzing of wings. Jack isn't even sure if anyone is breathing as he opens his eyes and looks to see three Guardians and Pitch crowding around him.

Jack knows he's not breathing. They're too close. Too many. Too warm. They're looming over him, staring at him; He feels constricted, and it brings to mind unwanted memories of being tied up, ropes chafing, as he smiles at Jack. Almost instinctively, he tries to tear away his bandages covering him with his free hand, but he is stopped by a small feathery hand.

His breathing comes back tenfold, making up for the time he went without. He feels lightheaded as he tries to inhale and exhale almost at the same time.

"Jack, Jack. It's okay. Everything's going to be all right," Tooth murmurs in what Jack supposes is supposed to be a comforting tone, but he can't really focus on deciphering the meaning behind her voice's specific influxes when she's holding his hand with one of hers. he tries, weakly to escape - his strength still too lacking for him to do any more - and she gets the hint quickly, taking her hand back with a soft, sad smile on her face; her eyes, not looking directly at him, are simply sad.

She knows. Jack suddenly realizes. He wonders if his breathing will ever get back to normal as he looks around and sees similar faces on the other Guardians. St. North is looking at him as if he might break at the slightest touch (and isn't that ridiculous? He doesn't need to worry about Jack breaking. Jack is already broken - has been for so, so long). Bunny's jaw is clenched, anger and disbelief shining through his eyes. They're all paying attention to him, but they refuse to look at him for longer than a few seconds. Which, in the end, he supposes makes sense. Who would want to see him? He's the physical embodiment of everything that's wrong with the world. He's tragic, broken, filthy. A cracked puppet. Who would want him?

When Jack turns to Pitch, he expects - fears - the same thing. He will see anger, depression, pity, disbelief. He will get another side-long glance, an unsure aversion of eyes. It will all be too much.

Instead, the King of Nightmares has on a distasteful frown as if he ordered a meal and it came to him cold. It's not addressed toward Jack. He's not looking at Jack, not attempting to secretly peek at him, nor avoiding his gaze. He's simply directing his scowl completely and totally to the other three present.

Then he does turn to look at Jack, directly, straight at his eyes, and Jack finds himself to be the one looking away, "Jack," the man says, and in that one word is a greeting, an inquiry to his well-being, and a command to look at Pitch all at once. Jack never know someone could fit so many meanings into a single word.

Jack can feel the man's gaze burning into him, and he can't tell if it's better or not than the avoidance of the others' gazes, but deep down, a small piece of him appreciates it. Perhaps, that part of him thinks, Jack isn't the worst thing in the world. Perhaps, being the King of Fears and Nightmares, Pitch has managed to find something even more decrepit and pitiful than Jack. He isn't sure what to think about that. A part of him recoils from the thought that such a being exists; another takes a sick relief from it.

A deeply buried part cries out in a desire to find that being and let it know it's not alone.

Jack can feel as the atmosphere in the room gets more tense as silence lingers after Pitch's one-word statement. The air here is nothing like the Wind's caressing touch. It's stifling, and Jack wants out. Out from the stares and glares and aversions. He want to get away, but he can't, and maybe some small piece of him doesn't want to after all. Secretly, Jack revels in the attention, and the thought horrifies him because he shouldn't want that. This is his problem, something he should work out for himself by himself, but he's just so tired of trying to. He wishes the choices could be taken out of his hands, the responsibility passed onto someone else.

That was why he sought out death. In death, there are no choices. Everything is final, and everything is simple.

But, back then, death hadn't been an option. It was an impossibility, another thing Jack craved but couldn't get. He'd desired it because it was foreign and mysterious and unattainable. Then death became an option, and suddenly it wasn't so simple anymore. At first he'd been elated. Finally! He'd found a way out! But now...he isn't sure. Now, he wonders if dying is the right way. Well, right now, falling asleep and never waking back up again sounds like a great idea, but is it for the best? He isn't invisible anymore, people are here, and Sophie can see him (hear him, touch him!). What if, just maybe, someday far away from now, his life has a possibility of being better? Death would strip him of that future. On the other hand, everything could stay the same, and he could exist on for eternity, waiting and hoping and having his hopes crushed, for the day something changes for the better. That is infinitely more terrifying than death could ever be, and so death seems like the better option.

But then the 'what if' flashes through his mind again.

Suddenly, death isn't an impossible dream; it's a forbidden fruit, placed in his hands.

And he has to make the choice whether or not to enjoy its bittersweet flavor.

Jack doesn't want to choose.

Why is this all so complicated?

"Jack," Pitch repeats, "Look at me,"

Jack finds, much to his surprise, that he'd curled himself into a ball, head tucked into his knees, arms wrapped around himself like a shield. When had that happened? He loosens his grip enough to glance at the King of Nightmares from the corner of his eyes. From this angle, Jack can't see the spirit clearly, and that's just fine. He doesn't want to look at faces right now.

"At least he's not completely catatonic," Pitch says flatly. "He responds to commands well enough," Jack flinches. He doesn't need to be reminded of commands followed. Like a lost poppy, like a small child, he'll blindly follow instructions given. It's horrific and disgusting. Jack hates himself for it (for being a broken puppet), but he understands, now, why he does it. If someone tells him to do something, his actions are taken out of his hands. Jack doesn't have to choose anymore. Someone tells him to do something and he obeys.

So it's their responsibility. Their fault.

Jack immediately feels bad for thinking that. He shouldn't be blaming others. No, his actions are his alone. They're his fault, and how dare he throw responsibility on someone else's shoulders. It only proves that he's too selfish to accept it, that he's too weak to bear it.

He closes his eyes and buries his head into his knees, trying to curl into himself further. This is all horrible and getting him nowhere. If only he could make that decision. If only he could be his own person again. But no, Jack very much doubted that would happen. The possibility of better? Hardly. This is life. It won't change; nothing ever changes. Not really, he's in a room full of people, but he's still alone, and he'll always be alone. He has his voice, apparently, but he can't talk anyway. He won't allow himself to, and it's not as though talking has ever solved any of his problems. Sophie can see him now, but she'll stop one day. He doesn't know why she can see him, but she'll stop. At the very least, she's sure to die, tomorrow or a century from now, and that just makes it worse than before because Jack knows now. He knows what being seen, what not being walked through, feels like, and once he's invisible to everyone again, everything will just be that much more terrible.

Yet everything will remain the same.

And if nothing ever changes, and Jack always remains a useless, broken thing, then he should just die. The world would be better for it, later.

...But what if...

Jack hears a pained gasp and reflexively searches out what is wrong. It isn't that hard to find; everyone's gaze is focussed on Bunny, who is doubled-over in harsh pants escaping from him. The rabbit clutches at his chest, trying to breathe, and Tooth immediately flutters over to him.

"Bunny, what's wrong?" She pats his back, trying to soothe him. It doesn't seem to work, but after a minute he manages to pick himself up again.

"I-I dunno. I think something's wrong with my googies. I need to go check. I'll be right quick. I just need-need ta make sure their makin' it to the kids," Something in his expression tells Jack that Bunny suspects they actually aren't, "You can keep an eye on Frostbite while I'm gone, yeah?" He asks the other two Guardians, but the way he pointedly side-eyes Pitch makes Jack think he's actually telling them to watch on the Nightmare King.

After a short nod on St. North and Tooth's part, Bunny taps the ground twice, summoning up a tunnel that he immediately jumps down. It closes after him, a tulip impossibly growing up from the hardwood ground of St. North's workshop.

A beat of silence later, Pitch snaps his fingers exclaiming, "Oh, I didn't tell my Nightmares to abort the attack. I can't believe I forgot," Despite his words, Pitch's malicious tone indicates that he didn't 'forget' anything at all.

alright, that's it! If the chapter title doesn't quite make sense right now, it definitely should next chapter. This is kind of sad, but I realized somewhere between last chapter and this one that this story actually has a plot. Why? This story wasn't supposed to have a plot! It was supposed to be Jack being all depressed and the Guardians trying to fix his issues! When did Pitch and Set and the Sophie and the World become involved in this? I really need to think before I write...

Also, it's come to my attention that people don't actually like long author's note, so tell me, dear readers, would you rather I stopped replying to your reviews? Would you rather I pm'ed replies to those who I can? Would you rather I didn't reply at all? Or do you not mind having my replies in story?

Thanks to all those who favorited/followed this work.

AyameKitsune: Ah, Pitch. Well, Pitch through circumstances, had taken quite a liking to Jack Frost (in a very nonsexual way because Pitch is essentially a sentient shadow/fearling thing.). He sort of touched on during his point of view. But I'll delve into it later. And the Wind...in a bizarre way it already has hurt Set. Don't worry if that makes no sense. It'll be explained later.

Dinogeek: Bunny was so sure that everything was over when he trapped his friend beneath the Nile. But yeah, he needs to finnish this job before anyone else gets hurt.

Alaia Skyhawk: Things will. Next chapter. hopefully. I'm glad you like his backstory. It was fun to write. Jack's life sucks, but Bunny's life sucks too. He's just had more years and friends to help him get over his traumas.

Eternal She-Wolf: I will admit that I've never heard that phrase before but I can guess approximately what it means. And Jack's wake-up was a bit anti-climatic in the end. Sorry. I had originally meant for a shit-hits-the-fan-Jack-freaks-the-fuck-out moment, but it wouldn't work. So instead we get this. I guess Jack's jus gone beyond the realm of freaking out into something else entirely. Something more dangerous. He's gone to Emo Teenager Mode.

LuvFiction Xxxx: Aaawwww, thanks. I hope the two-week wait didn't dishearten you too much.

Guest/Synoel: Jack just has this... thing that draws even the most hard-hearted people to him. He's irresistible, even depressed as he is. Okay, so warning: major wall of text full of unnecessary info coming your way. Fifty years is a long time for us humans and even for Jack, but you have to remember, Jack is actually really young in terms of spirits. Set comes from ancient Egypt so that's about five-thousand years ago, and most of the Guardians were born long before he was. Holiday spirits often spend their time encouraging and developing their respective holidays obsessively, and seasonal spirits tend to stick to their own seasons. Those things combined means that fifty years isn't freakishly long to not see one particular spirit, especially if said spirit is someone like Jack Frost. He's flighty and hard to find on the best of days. Also, it probably didn't help that the Wind was indeed searching for Jack. It went on a rampage, searching the world bit by bit, and spirits, knowing that Jack Frost is one of the few people who can control the wind, probably thought it was just him being annoying. Mim and Mother Nature I perceive as fairly ambivalent spirits. They won't or can't step in unless the world is actually in danger. (Like say, if Pitch tries to take it over, or if Set goes around creating international chaos.) Besides, they both watch things from a distance, and if one only very distantly observed Jack's habits over the fifty years between his release from captivity and when he got involved with the Guardians, they wouldn't see the whole: I-wanna-die-I-am-nothing-but-a-broken-toy thing going on in his head because he (at behest of the Wind) still interacted with people and played games. Even if spirits did notice and try to go searching for Jack, while he was confined, he was in Set's magical cave/home thingie. Nobody would have thought to search another spirit's home, especially a home that hadn't been occupied in thousands of years. And after he got out, as Pitch reflected in "A Different Perspective" the boy was always flighty, always moving, and quite purposefully avoiding contact with other spirits. Whew. Sorry for that wall right there. I didn't mean to throw all that at you, but I felt I should answer your questions as thoroughly as I could.

karasu99: No, it's okay. All children are secretly messed up in the head. People are allowed love Pitch. He has a sexy voice. Jude Law, dude, Jude. Law. Plus, he didn't tear his brother into shreds. But yeah, I suppose, even ridiculously crazy guys like Set need the occasional good word. And Pitch being good just doesn't fit in my head. No matter what I do. or try. He's an ass even at the best of times. I tried Pitch! I tried to get you to the light side! Why did you insist on pulling out this move? Why?

Tello: excellent. *steeples fingers* you too are falling into the trap of Shattered. Bwa ha ha ha! Honestly, though, I'm flattered you like this story so much. I'm not sure what makes it special either, but I won't question it if my readers say they like it.

Final Syai Lunar Generation: Yeah. I figured giving his backstory a little bit of a tragic twist would make him just seem... I dunno, more evil? That... and I couldn't resist adding another tragedy to Bunny's growing list of them. Plot? What plot? Ohmygod! Plot! Eep!

Sleepery: *Accepts cupcake with grin-of-thousand-suns* Yay! love love love cupcakes. That's all Jack really needs. A cupcake and suddenly the world will seem infinitely better. Seriously. I doubt Jack's ever eaten a cupcake. Oh. My. God. JACK! JACK GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW! I HAVE A CUPCAKE AND YOU NEED TO EAT IT!

I.F.T.S: Noooo! Don't die! Here! have this chapter! and the next and the next (when I get them out)! I won't disappear for a year. Two weeks maybe, but not a year. I hope. God, I can't stand waiting 365 days for a story I love to update and I really don't want to put my readers through that.

Utasaki N: Oh I hope you didn't hit your elbow too hard. It's a little late, but here's a band-aid. Yes, Jack is young. Young young young. Especially for spirits. Poor child. I mean, he dies and then life just continues to suck.

DragonsFlame117: Pitch... really can't decide what team he's on. I don't see him ever really becoming friends with the Guardians. I don't think he can even manage to keep himself tolerable. Like, he wants to help Jack, but he's also got this whole vendetta against the Guardians that I can't see him setting aside, even as they face a threat that could potentially destroy them all. He has too much pride for that.

Night-Fury1: Yes, we do need fun Jack. Or at least a Jack who talks occasionally. Or, i don't know, plays pranks on people. Jackrabbit brotherly fluff FTW! If I write a story that doesn't manage to fit that in, feel free to alert the authorities that aliens have abducted me and replaced me with somebody else.

Lady dream-chan: Yes, Bunny needs hugs too. Jack's not the only one with a traumatizing past. I'm glad you're happy. What can I say? It's true, and if you're happy... well I just finished writing almost two thousand words dissecting Jack's mind... I'm not entirely sure I can be happy until the Jackness wears off. But as Jack would say: You're smiling so I must be doing a good thing. Right?... *Flails and Angsts.*

Jackiefrost: Oh, um. Sorry about your heart? Uh, I hear they're overrate anyway. Feel free to replace it with this chapter, though. Yeah, I actually can't either. I usually try to stay away from rape, both writing and reading about it, but there are always exceptions, and this is one of them.

Fumus000: Yes! Yes, the most evil people are the people who do evil simply because they can! You can't reason with them; you can't find a chink in their justification. They don't care! They just go for it and ruin lives because it's interesting (ironically, I'm actually writing a story where Jack is like that right now...) The Big Four-Turned-Three are seriously having a hard time being in the same room with Pitch, but they tolerate it because he seems to actually care about Jack and he has way more experience in dealing with dark, depressing stuff than they do. Of course, they might not be able to tolerate him much longer...

EpicDetour9: Thanks! A lot of people use Pitch as the break-Jack-by-raping-him bad guy, and while that's great, my own personal head canon is that Pitch isn't a sexual entity. He has a myriad of ways of digging his fingers into people's minds and emotionally shattering them without going for their asses... and I personally like working with myths already created because, well one, I don't have to put in the effort of creating the personality/origin of my original creation, and two... well, I don't know how to word reason two. I guess I just find it fun to work with whats there and see if I can bend it to the needs of my story. Plus, I get an interesting look into various cultures every time I have to search for a new spirit.

Beanatrix LeString: It has? Do you mean in terms of plot progression or updates? Well, either way, I can't make any promises. My writing takes me to the most unexpected places without my realizing it. This chapter was really slow, but, if I can steer my story the way I want to, the next few chapters will have action and plot twists and all the lovely stuff a story should have... Plot twists? What? I'm still freaking out over the fact that there IS a plot at all...

KitsuneMagic48: What drove him crazy was a betrayal from the person closest to his heart. Of course, that may have just been the straw on the camel's back. He may have had many things going on, but it definitely broke the dam when he figured out about that betrayal.

jinx777: Thanks!

hypercell: Sorry, it's not that soon, but here it is. I hope it was worth the wait.

Twisted Skys: Sorry 'bout the grammar. The technical side of english was never my strong point, and I know I have this odd obsession with using a ridiculous amount of commas. And incomplete sentences. I dunno, but if the story's legible and likable despite that, then I'm glad. I'll try not to take as long for the next update.

Taranodongirl77: I love Bunny, but I always make him an ass in my stories. Especially this one. Part of the reason I wrote the last chapter was because I wanted to show a side of Bunny that wasn't him just being an ignorant jerk to Jack. And yes, Bunny is very important. He's the perfect tool for writers in hurt/comfort stories precisely because of his annoying, brash, straightforward attitude. He doesn't take things gently, and he forces people to spit out what's on their mind. Still, despite that, his annoying attitude can be quite annoying sometimes.

clockworkangel77: I'm glad you find it interesting considering the multitude of Jack!angst fics out there.

Honey Badger 1: Let me defeat that itch with this chapter right here. Yeah, taking actual myths and using them is half the fun of writing in this fandom. To me anyway.

. .ice: Woah. Caps. Lots and lots of Caps. well, THANK YOU READER FOR LIKING MY STORY SO MUCH!

Guest: Well, in my opinion, Pitch isn't just an evil ball of rage and hate. He's got feeling buried deep down inside him somewhere, and Jack is really good at drawing those emotions out. I mean, ninety percent of this fandom focuses around Jack in one form or another. Honestly, everything about him just draws people to him.

jordylilly777, NinjaDino721, TheSpiritDancer: Sorry, don't usually combine responses to reviews, but I would have essentially just repeated the same phrase three times if I kept them separate. Here's the update! Hope you like it!

Whew. That has to be some kinda record or something in Review Section length. Seriously guys, tell me if you want me to keep doing this or not. Lovs, see ya next chapter!