*bows before you all* You guys. You have no idea how much I appreciate you and the reviews, PMs, and art you have given me.

My apologies that this is so late. Went on vacay, got flooded out of the place we stayed at, then got trapped by the flooding and couldn't come home. My girls were miserable. It completely wrecked my muse to hell and back.


Chapter 14

Toothania fluttered out the door, still giving out the directions to her fairies, and was now dressed in her best accessories. A golden gauze sarong was around her waist folded over her torso, pinned with jeweled clip of amethysts and gold at her shoulder. Light silver bangles with tiny bells chimed on her arms, and a small silver circlet framed her face. Her fairy lieutenants came out behind her, each wearing a tiny silver cuff on their wrists. She flew over to a chair and sat, her fairies sitting on the upper half of the chair even as she kept to her hurried commands.

At Baby Tooth's excited chirping and waving, Tooth looked up and saw Jack, immediately flying over to hug him. Hard. "Jack! Oh, thank goodness you're awake, we've missed you so much! How are you feeling? Do you need anything? Did you brush your teeth?!" She leaned in, her fingers getting his jaw open to examine them. The Tooth Fairy grinned and sighed happily at the sight of the beautiful teeth, then hugged Jack again. "We missed you so much!"

Jack staggered a bit at the rather firm hold she had him in, then found himself laughing a bit as he hugged her back. Missed you too, Toothy. His cheeks began to flush a bit at her not letting go. "Tooth? Need air. Need air! Tooth!"

"Oh! Sorry, Jack!"

Sandy drifted over to one of the chairs as he ran a sand comb though his hair. North bustled his way in a few seconds later. His black boots were shined, a new red coat with thick white fur trim was on his shoulders, and a very bright white shirt with pressed trousers completed his look. North gave Jack a joyous greeting, hugging him warmly. "Jack, my boy! So good to see you! How are you feeling? You alright?"

"Uh, y-yeah, I'm good, I'm fine," Jack said with a smile as he was held in the air by the older man's arms, hugging the jolly man back. "Good to see you too, big guy. think you can put me down, now?"

"Ah! Yes, down, here you go. She will be here any minute, you look best now, very good. Now, you like your presents? You look good, yes?"

The teen grinned, leaning back to show off the clothing. "Love it."

North smiled happily, despite his air of mild fluster. "Good to know. You should find seat, Mother Nature will be here soon!" He went over to his chair, which the elves had festooned with holly.

Jack was surprised by the Guardians going to such lengths to look good for Mother Nature. Wasn't She kind of outside of their jurisdiction? As far as Jack knew, the Guardians were only concerned with children. What had them so shook up about Her?

He'd met her only twice, and he hadn't known that She was a formal occasion. Granted, he thought She was the scariest thing he'd ever seen, but he was biased by necessity. All nature spirits had a healthy respect and a whopping dose of fear for the Guardian of Nature, and obeyed Her without question. Well, mostly. (Jack was rather notorious for his disrespect for authority. His sass to Mother Nature had been the actual cause of the infamous Blizzard of '68. Since he had been the one to anger Her, Jack did hold himself responsible for it, and never corrected Bunny's insults about the incident.)

Jack felt his heart skip a beat as the door opened again, and Bunnymund stepped through. Jack could barely control his body's urge to bolt. So many thoughts, memories, and emotions shot through him right then that he could hardly think. Anger and something like rage; embarrassment and shame; even pity for Bunnymund swept through him.

Jack, to his utter shock, found himself grateful for his proficiency in his emotional mask of a joker. It was all the was holding him together right now.

The winter spirit sighed quietly as he saw the Pooka in good health. Despite everything that had happened, he was still glad that Aster was ok. He was relieved to see that Bunny looked no worse for wear after his experience with the summer spirits. He had lost that haunted, mad look and put back on his lost weight. But Jack could see that tension radiated off the Pooka, despite his outwardly relaxed appearance. His fur had been combed and brushed until it shone glossy in the light. HIs bracers and holsters were off gold-stamped green leather, set with small, polished gold studs. This was the first time Jack had ever seen Bunny wear anything like clothes, with a long vest of fine green leather that was cinched to his chest with brown leather laces. Their eyes met-

-a crashing wave of emotion, too complex to even begin to name, it washed over him like a tidal wave-

Jack gasped, nearly stumbling to catch himself as the emotions ended as abruptly as they'd begun. All the Guardians started, sending him worried looks, (Jack somehow missing the quickly shot glare Sandy gave to a chagrined Aster.) The Winter spirit forced himself to smile and shrugged it off. "I'm fine, just...finding my feet, I guess. Hibernation messes up your system for a few days after you wake up."

He walked over to the last chair: a Victorian high-backed throne with dark blue plush velvet cushions. "Really? This thing? I thought they killed all of these when they invented Laz-E-Boys. He raised puppy eyes to North. What does a guy gotta do to get a bean-bag chair?"

North shot him a look. "No."





Jack frowned. "Don't make me pull out the big guns."

North raised an eyebrow. "What big guns?"

Jack turned towards Tooth.

North flinched. "Oh no."

Jack began to slowly pout. The little fairies looked on in fascination as the Winter spirit, for the first time, turned on every last bit of his considerable charisma as he raised soulful, pleading blue eyes to the Tooth Fairy and her helpers. Toothania looked distinctly stunned and a bit breathless. (To her credit, the woman hadn't had close contact with an attractive, sweet bad-boy in millenia. Her tolerance for 'naughty yet charming' had greatly diminished over the years due to lack of exposure. Jack pulling this stunt was the equivalent of dropping a sugar-starved kid into a candy store on Free-Sample Friday.)

North had no idea of any of this, but he knew caving when he saw it. The Russian grew alarmed. "No, Tooth! Don't give in!"

Jack threw in a small hiccup and tiny sniffle, as if he was tearing up. "He won't let me have my bean-bag chair. You'll let me use my bean-bag chair, won't you, Tooth?"

Bunny and Sandy were staring in silent amazement at the sight, exchanging looks of mild confusion. What the hell was a bean-bag chair?

"Mother of the Moon," Toothania breathed, dazzled by the sight of Jack's perfect teeth framed in a light pout. "Absolutely, Sweet Tooth, you can have your bean-bab whatever."

Jack instantly lost the pout, smiled brightly, (several mini-fairies fainted), and grinned at North. "Tooth said I could. I'll go get it." He walked out of the room.

A bewildered North turned to Aster and Sanderson. "What just happened?"

Sandy moved to sign, then stopped himself, shaking his head.

Bunny found himself smiling, sensing Jack's emotions over the bond. "That little scamp. He did tha' on purpose."

"What?" North blinked in shock.

Aster couldnt' help his small grin. "Jackie's breakin' the tension. He doesn't wanna see us scared o' Her."

Sandy silently laughed as a flustered Tooth came to her senses. She blushed, found a chuckle, and relaxed back into her chair. Nicolas St. North smiled, then sank back into his chair, the air of tension and anxiety in the room broken by Jack's shenanigans.

Jack came back through the doors dragging his red bean-bag chair. He used his foot to push the throne back a bit, and happily plopped the bag down onto his chair, using it instead of the chair's cushion. He leaned his staff against the chair in easy reach and sat tailor style on his seat. "Ooh, eggnog. Hey North, is this your recipe?"

"Ah? Nyet, is from Sandy's stock. He had own way of doing it," the older man said.

"Sweet. So," Jack said with a mischievous grin as he pulled a cup of eggnog to himself from the tray on the table, "what's up with you guys and Mother Nature? You all act-" Jack took a small sip, and paused. "...um, Sandy my man, is this eggnog spiked?"

The cheesy grin on the Sandman's face made the other Guardians glanced down with some concern at their own cups.

Jack shook his head with a laugh. "Sandy," he mock-admonished. "Not in front of the ladies. But seriously, what's up with you guys acting so jittery around Her? I know why I am, but I don't get why you guys are."

"She's not a bad person! Just...forceful. Very forceful," Tooth said with a small grimace. "Nature isn't good or bad, its neutral; so She has to be neutral. Of course, it also doesn't pay to tick off the most powerful spirit in existence. Some people can't handle dealing with her."

"Not to mention, she's Pitch's daughter," Bunny said with a deliberate shrug.

Jack did a rather fantastic spit take. "*Cough, cough* Sh-she, She's what?! No way!" Jack said in shock, nearly falling off his bean bag. "Pitch had a baby? Like, someone actually had a baby with Mr. Creepy McScarypants? Really? When did this happen?!"

A new voice, a female base that rang with ancient magic, spoke from the now open main doors of Santoff Clausen. "I was conceived long before my father was warped into the creature he has become."

Mist seeped into the room, creeping across the floor. Jack could feel the Earth magic crackling and singing in the air. The holly on North's chair was now growing into the chair's wood. Vines were twining themselves around the throne North had provided for the ancient spirit. The few elves that had stayed in the room were now cowering in terror under the table.

A tall, regal, pale woman walked through the doors. She was easily 8 feet tall, with long, flowing black hair. Rich brown eyes took in the room, framed by an aristocratic face. She wore a dress of deep green that touched the floor; the dress itself seemed to be alive, as if grown and made from a single living leaf. She walked over to her chair, slowly sitting down.

"Thank you for this meeting, Guardians," she gave a royal nod to the Sandman, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Clause. "And I am pleased to see you well, Jack Frost," she said with a small nod to the winter spirit.

He cleared his throat a bit nervously. "Nice to see you too, ma'am."

"I see congratulations are in order," Seraphina Pitchiner* said with a small smile. "You have made a fine choice in bonding with the Pooka. He will treat you well." She glanced at rapidly paling Aster. "Or he will answer to me."

Jack blinked. "What?"


Bookverse again. *Seraphina Pitchiner (god, I hope I spelled that right) is indeed the daughter of Kosmotis Pitchiner, now known as Pitch Black the Nightmare King.