It was supposed to be simple.
It was supposed to be quick, just in and out, grab the crown and leave.
The winter court of the fae had started kidnaping children left and right, and to restore balance, the Guardians just had to steal their crown. Without it, they'd be unable to get onto the mortal plane for a good, long time. The world would be put to rights. The court was in complete disarray, so it should have been an easy steal.
They'd even taken precautions, only sending Jack and Bunny in. The fae seemed to think Jack was a lost winter faerie*, so they would hopefully not recognize him as a Guardian if they got caught before getting the crown. After, all bets were off.
But that was why Bunny was there: He was the fastest Guardian, and he'd be able to get the crown and get out quickly, if worst came to worst. Once the crown was stolen, the fae would feel it, and they'd immediately try to attack the thieves, so Bunny could outrun them and get to their exit portal before they came out in force. Jack would have to follow as quickly as he could, but he was fast, and would be faster in the court of winter, where his powers would presumably be at their height. He would be able to keep up.
It had gone well, at first. They'd opened a portal that would stay where it was and only let natives of the mortal plane through. It had taken Bunny and North weeks to create that, but it would hold for almost two hours before collapsing. If they didn't get out of the fae plane in that time...well, they just had to get out before the portal collapsed.
In the beginning, the plan had gone off without a hitch, Bunnymund remembers. They had said their goodbyes, promised to be careful, promised to look after each other, removed a few elves from their persons, promised to be careful again, gone over the plan for the nth time, promised to look after each other, and had finally gotten to leave after all but swearing an oath in blood that they'd both be fine. It wasn't like they'd never done anything more dangerous-it was simple thievery, and the fae were rather slow and bloated from the energy they were stealing from their kidnaped children. Even when the fae were chasing them, it would be child's play to escape.
Jack had given him a smirk and proposed a race through the portal, and they'd tumbled out panting behind a statue in the corner of a grand courtyard.
It had been beautiful, ice sculptures and cold iron** all over. Everything was silvery blue or dark gray, and there were gorgeous designs of snow and frost spreading from a fountain forever frozen in the center of the ice gardens. There were statues dotting the edge of the courtyard, and gardens of ice-made flowers and fern-like frost forming paths with icy iron accents and benches.
If Bunny hadn't been more keen on living things than death and cold, he imagined that this would be the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
As it was, the courtyard was lonely and abandoned and looked to Bunny like ruins of a great kingdom. He supposed that was what they were, since the winter fae had lost themselves in their lust for power. They had no time for their beautiful patterns in the ice anymore, and neither did Bunny.
"Hey, let's see if we can find the throne room," he'd murmured to Jack. He had been wary of breaking up the deathly stillness of the abandoned courtyard.
At first, he hadn't been sure if Jack had heard him. But then Jack had silently been blown forward, landing in the center of the gardens, right next to the fountain. He'd seemed vacant, utterly mesmerized by the designs in the ice.
"Oi! Jack! We don't have time for this! Come on, let's get moving!" He'd raised his voice to be heard, beginning to step forward to catch up.
Jack had not responded, dropping his staff and reaching forward with one hand to touch the fountain. Bunny remembers that he'd been slightly worried at this point, but not as much as he would be soon.
The instant Jack had touched the fountain, it had lit up the whole courtyard. The patterns in the frost had glowed, showing a completely new and breathtakingly beautiful sight. Every detail was sharper, more defined, more lovely than it had been a moment before. Bunny hadn't trusted a bit of it.
He'd sprinted forward as quickly as he could, tackling Jack to the ground. The only thing that had mattered in that moment was getting him away from that fountain.
Jack had looked up at him, startled, and blinked for a few seconds before comprehension had dawned. "Sorry," he'd mumbled, "I wanted to see if it would..."
H'd wanted to see if it would react with his magic. Even now, Bunnymund can only hypothesize, but his best guess is that the fountain had only registered that winter was touching it, not that a spirit instead of a faerie was, and since Jack was the literal manifestation of winter, it served as an amplifier and a connection to...well...to himself. The greater amalgamation of power that he represented. Whatever.
After Jack had shaken himself free of his daze and reported no more inclinations to activate unknown and untrustworthy magic, they'd moved on, cautiously and quietly. They'd wandered the coldly beautiful halls of the winter palace, and they'd easily escaped the notice of those fae that they'd met. Jack simply had to tell them to use another hallway and they'd leave, and Bunny could easily hide behind one of the ornate decorations and pillars that littered the palace until then.
After what had seemed like forever of hurried, quiet wandering, they'd found a gand set of green glass doors. They hadn't been made of ice, which had been pretty much their only distinguishing feature from the rest of the castle.
"Huh, what lies beyond the Green Glass Door?" Jack had joked. Bunny hadn't gotten the joke, but the tone indicated that Jack was joking more to loosen a potentially tense situation than because he wanted Bunny to get it.
They'd slowly, gingerly opened the doors. The room had been huge and airy, with swooping arches made of teal glass and ice, and a single throne at the end of the room and a hallway of smaller thrones leading up to it. All of these were made of blues and teals, transparent and ornately carved, and there were icicles hanging from literally every surface.
Snowdrifts were built up in the corners, and Bunny had wondered whether they were the fae equivalent of cobwebs.
The walls had windows, large and tall, with beautiful winter vistas showing out of all of them. It looked like a place that was waiting for something.
Well, something had come.
"The crown's prolly near the throne over there," he'd whispered to Jack. They'd advanced through the center of the empty room quietly, past row upon row of small thrones that seemed to watch them as they passed. The entire world seemed to be holding its breath as they approached the grand, detailed throne.
"I think I see it," Jack had muttered under his breath, accounting for Bunny's superior hearing. Normally Bunny would have been able to see it before Jack, but they had realized nearly as soon as the fae had started to be a problem that Jack's power was similar to theirs. It was likely that just being in their realm was enhancing his abilities, including natural abilities like sight.
Soon, Bunny had been able to see the crown as well. It was deceptively small, a little white and blue thing accented in some places by the same iron that had been a constant since they'd entered the castle. It had spiky, thin designs like icicles sprouting out of its curved surface, and little metallic highlights in strategic places to make it look even whiter.
"Right, they might not notice if I touch it, but they'll know once it leaces the room, so we'll trade off at the door, alright?" Jack had murmured.
That had been the plan. Bunny nodded.
As Jack had ascended the steps up to the throne, the entire room went from watching and waiting to unbearably tense at this intruder daring to approach its center of power. Bunny could have sworn there was an electric magical buildup in the air, and it got more intense the nearer Jack got.
Finally, after ten seconds and a million years, Jack had reached the final step and stretched his hand out to the seat of the throne, where the crown lay nestled in a tiny pillow of snow.
He'd picked it up, and just as he did, a wind blew up in the room, centering on Jack, the crown, and the throne. Every corner of the room had lit up, just like in the courtyard when Jack had touched the fountain. It had created an eerie, otherworldly effect, exciting and terrifying, but more than anything it was awe-inspiringly, achingly beautiful.
The two of them had hurried to the door, and Bunny had the crown before the glow had faded. He'd begun running, and Jack had flown beside him.
It had taken roughly ten seconds for the first faerie to arrive.
It had shot ice at them, but it had been sloppy and uncontrolled, as it was unused to the new powers it had gotten when the fae had kidnaped so many children. It had missed both Guardians by a mile, and done no real damage to the wall behind them.
"Hey, Bunny, wanna play a game?" Jack had challenged.
Bunny had snorted, thinking that Jack was clearly insane, but had listened. How he wishes now that he hadn't.
"Farther you get before getting hit, the better! The person with the most distance at once when we get out wins!" Jack had said in a fake announcer's voice.
Bunny had been exasperated by the young Guardian, but couldn't resist the challenge within himself.
"Sure, mate. Don't come crying to me when you lose!" He'd yelled back, picking up his speed.
More and more fae had come out, in front of them, behind them, out of corners and nooks they hadn't seen before. They'd dodged behind decorations, between fae, through rooms and gardens, and Jack had announced each and every time one of them got hit with one of the wild, uncoordinated attacks.
"Ah! That might've hurt if it were a real attack! I'm winning now, Cottontail!"
"Whoops! Nice shot, maybe next time you can sharpen that icicle."
"Gah! Do they ever end?"
Finally, finally, they'd gotten to their courtyard. They had to hurry at that point-they were about to be locked in the fae world. Almost two hours had passed, and the portal would close soon.
"Haha! Almost there, think you can beat me, Peter Rabbit?" Jack had gloated. He'd been behind, just a little, at that point. Bunny wonders if he knew, even then. But regardless of Jack's possible clairvoyance, he'd just smirked. He'd picked up the pace. He dove through the portal. He'd heard the crackle of ice magic. He'd turned around, gloatingly, to tell Jack that he'd won...
Jack wasn't there.
He saw Jack's surprised face from through the portal as ice appeared in front of him. He had seen Jack oon the wrong side of the portal. He'd seen the surprise melt off his face as Jack glanced behind himself to see the faerie who'd iced over the portal so he couldn't get to it. He'd seen Jack accept what was happening. He saw Jack turn back to the portal and grin cockily, just like he always did. Just like he had when he'd asked if Bunny wanted to play a game.
He wishes, he wishes he'd said no. He wishes he had said that there was no competition, that they were both getting out of there just fine and it didn't matter the order, in fact, Jack could go first. He wishes he hadn't had to watch as Jack blew frost over the glass-clear ice-the only thing he could do, as Jack wasn't capable of destroying the ice that he was supposed to create. He doesn't want to think about the last thing he'd seen before the portal closed forever.
Jack had written in the frost the very same words Bunny could see his lips forming.
"You win! Good Ga-"
Jack toppled forward as ice hit him in the back.
The portal snapped shut.
"Jack, no, Jack, please, this is a game, a prank, like you always do, please..."
He threw the damned crown to the ground.
Bunny was the Guardian of Hope. He was supposed to be hopeful. He was supposed to do anything but give in to despair like he was right now.
Then again, the Guardian of Fun wasn't supposed to play games with his life. Not like that. He wasn't supposed to be killed by the very thing he brought to the world.
This is so wrong.
Bunny felt a sob tear through him.
That's how the Guardians had found him, no more than a half hour later. He remembered vaguely that he'd been supposed to meet them in North's place. Instead, they had to seek him out outside the workshop somewhere in the cold. In the same position he'd been for a half hour. Kneeling next to where the portal had been, crown tossed carelessly to the side. He didn't care about the stupid thing. The stupid thing Jack had died for.
It wasn't worth it. It wasn't fair.
They'd taken one look at the scene and stopped their celebratory greetings.
Bunny was kneeling on the ground, ignoring the cold.
He absently noted that he didn't even feel it. Not now.
The crown tossed into a snowbank like it didn't matter.
It didn't matter. Not as much as Jack. A thousand children could die as long as his little Jack was safe at home.
The closed portal.
The stupid portal on which Jack had written 'You win! Good Ga-'
Jack not being there, lighting up the whole world with his bright smiles, his cheerful laughs in the darkest of times.
Jack not being there because he'd written his last words on the frost, such a small, thin, barrier that anyone but Jack would have been able to break. It's almost cruel, that Jack could have lived if he'd been anything but the herald of winter.
A winter spirit, dead in the palace of winer.
Bunny started laughing, a little hysterically. Jack always laughed. He didn't like tears, he always looked so ridiculous fluttering around with his hands flapping, begging people to stop leaking because he didn't know what to do! Please, I can't handle crying people, ew, this is wet, what do I do with it?
Bunny laughed at that image, too. It was a wet laugh. It sounded like a sob. If he didn't know that he was laughing, he would definitely think he was crying.
Jack wouldn't have wanted that.
Finally, Tooth asked the question everyone was wondering.
"Bunny, where is Jack? Did he go back home?"
He can hear the begging behind her question. Please say yes, please lie, please tell me he's safe.
"He wanted to play a game. That stupid idiot wanted to have a race. And then they iced over the portal, and he wrote it, Tooth, he wrote it. That stupid little-! Why?! You could have said anything, WHY THAT?!"
He knows he's getting hysterical...but why? Why did Jack waste his last words congratulating him? Why did he smile at him, when Bunny should have made Jack go first? Should have made him go, and then Bunny could have smashed the ice, and Tooth wouldn't be looking like he'd ripped her heart out, and Sandy wouldn't be looking down and landing on the snow next to the accursed crown, and North wouldn't be looking so confused and angry, and, and...
And there wouldn't be an empty space between Sandy and Bunny.
Suddenly, all the fire leaves Bunny.
"They iced over the portal. It was such a thin layer of ice, anyone else could have just run through it, but Jack...Jack could just look through it. He knew, strewth, he knew he wasn't getting through. He frosted it over, he wrote his last words on it. He wrote them on the thing that killed him, and he smiled at me. He wrote about that stupid game we were playing, he said 'You win! Good-' but then he stopped, Tooth, he stopped because they shot him, he fell onto the ice and it got thick and foggy and I couldn't see if he got up or not, and the portal closed, and he's not coming home, Tooth. Just because we played that stupid game, we're never going to see Jack again. He never got to finish saying good game, and he never will."
Tooth made a noise of distress, and Baby Tooth cried out like he'd stabbed her in the gut. Both fell to the ground, and Bunny felt terrible. North's face shut down in grief, and Sandy just stared at the crown at his feet. Bunny wanted to destroy it.
"Come," North rumbled to them. "We must be preparing funeral. Jack died well, we must honor that."
There's really nothing else to do.
Sandy picked the crown up, and they all walked inside. Baby Tooth, for a heartbreaking moment, tried to fly up to Jack's shoulder for comfort, before realizing that she can never do that again. She buzzed around confusedly for a second before flying in by herself, making little grieving coos as she went.
The Wind screamed and raged, and Bunny could almost hear the voice begging and demanding and needing its child back. But they couldn't help it. They couldn't bring Jack back, and that hurt.
The yeti and the elves fell silent as they entered. There was a feast set out, ready for a celebration that would never come. But their demeanor, Jack not being here, Tooth's quiet sobs and Baby Tooth's heartbreaking chirping spelled it all out. One of the yeti made a pained bellow, and Bunny remembered that Jack had been close to some of them, in his own way.
The funeral is a grand thing, with a coffin painstakingly carved by North from ice, and they put the crown in it.
No one wanted to see it again, and it's all they have of Jack that they were willing to give up.
They buried it deep, deep beneath North's workshop, where it will never risk melting. Where none of them have to see it again if they don't want to.
Where they can all go, if they do want to.
To save time, Bunny connected his warren to it. He knew he'd be there every day anyway.
His gravestone reads simply:
*Faerie is an offensive term. The fae don't like it, but the Guardians don't know that.
**Bunny is wrong. The fae are hurt when they touch iron, and what he's seeing is actually Yttrium, which is a pretty cool metal itself. If it's exposed to heat, its outer layer turns into white powder, which for the purposes of the story looks like snow. It looks kind of like iron, in that it's shiny and gray, but it's actually a very rare earth element. It's used for lasers. Why Bunny does not automatically jump to this conclusion is beyond me-I mean, everyone knows Yttrium, right?
Okay, so I wrote this at 3:00 AM. It's not edited, I have no beta, I'll deal with it later. I...tried, at least?
Yeah, we'll go with that...
This for a long-abandoned prompt on the Kink meme:
The jellyfish scene from Finding Nemo, except with Jack and Bunnymund. "The setting can be whatever you want it to be, as an actual field of jellyfish wouldn't quite work for this. Could be a forest of dangerous plants, could be some other realm with poisonous or deadly creatures or things of some sort. Jack and Bunny find themselves stuck right in the middle of this deadly place, and Jack of course decides to make a game out of escaping, just another one of their races. "And Bunnymund wins. He makes it to the end, to where it's safe. "Give me drama anons, and if this so inspires you, feel free to add more deadly games Jack has had to play with the other characters to go along with this one."
So they take off, and the further they get without being harmed, the more Bunny actually gets into the 'game.'
"But when he looks behind himself, Jack's not there with him.
"The setting can be whatever you want it to be, as an actual field of jellyfish wouldn't quite work for this. Could be a forest of dangerous plants, could be some other realm with poisonous or deadly creatures or things of some sort. Jack and Bunny find themselves stuck right in the middle of this deadly place, and Jack of course decides to make a game out of escaping, just another one of their races.
"And Bunnymund wins. He makes it to the end, to where it's safe.
"Give me drama anons, and if this so inspires you, feel free to add more deadly games Jack has had to play with the other characters to go along with this one."
If desired, I can add a couple more chapters and make it so that a Plot happens. I can't stand unhappy endings.
Thanks for the read!