It was like watching a film in fast forward, but despite the speed, they somehow managed to grasp the plot of the story. The boy with brown hair and brown eyes… there was no mistaking it. It was the Guardian of Fun himself. When he was still a mortal.
And he was no different from his current self right now.
They watched as he played with children and told them stories with exaggerating actions that made them laugh. They watched as he led them to every Easter egg hunts and swung on trees for entertainment. They watched as he showed a little girl (his sister, they presumed) how important it was to put her tooth under her pillow by explaining to her that she would be receiving a "gift" just by doing this. They watched as he cuddled with her in front of a fire one Christmas eve, looking content and happy (while tickling her once in a while).
They watched the entire childhood of Jack Overland with pure awe and respect.
And then… finally…
…they sensed a near-end of the memory.
A chuckle. "We will."
Then everything just went horribly wrong right after that moment. They watched the scene with breaths held as Jack tried to calm his scared sister, despite being scared himself. It was like they were standing on breaking ice as well. They were in a pinch and the guardians couldn't help but wish they could've at least been there to save the kids. To protect them, like how they were supposed to.
But they knew, they couldn't do anything more but just watch everything unfold before them.
"Jack…" Came the quivering voice of his sister. Her look of terror was enough to send the guardians at the edge, "I'm scared."
"I-I know, I know…" Jack took a step forward, desperate to get to her, but the cracks that formed beneath his feet made him halt. He looked back up, "But you're gonna be alright." He said with a smile as he shook his head, "You're not gonna fall in."
The guardians' hearts were being torn apart as they watch the guardian of fun's attempt to save his sibling. The stress and pressure of trying to save his sister should've been too much for the child, and yet…
"We're gonna have a little fun instead."
"No we're not!"
"Would I trick you?"
"Yes! You always play tricks!"
…he still managed to smile and laugh at his sister's comment.
"Well, n-not this time, I promise," His panic was making him stutter, "I promise…" He repeated a little slower, "You're gonna be…" He let out a shaky breath but kept his smile intact, "You're gonna be fine." His sister looked up at him as she seemed to have calmed down as well. Seeing this, Jack's smile became more sincere and less strained as his eyes softened,
"You have to believe in me."
His sister let out a breath, looking less scared now. Suddenly, Jack spoke up, "Hey, you wanna play a game?"
The guardians were a bit surprised at the sudden suggestion but made no comment for no words would form from the itching anticipation they kept feeling.
"We're gonna play hopscotch! Like we play everyday!" Jack stood a little straighter as if trying to pretend they were back at home preparing to play the usual games they would play and currently not in the icy grip of death. It seemed to have fooled the girl as the fear slowly left her face and a smile was starting to form, "It's as easy as one-"
Jack flinched at the cracks that grew under the foot he put forward, but he quickly masked this with a silly grin and did the most risky thing ever by pretending to fall while pushing all his weight on the foot with the cracks. Luckily, the ice did not collapse beneath him. His sister just laughed at his silly gestures which kept the brunette going—
"Two…" He took another step, "Three!" And then he was safe! Slowly he crouched down, "Alright," He grabbed a familiar shepherd's crook beside him, "Now it's your turn."
Her sister smiled with a bit of determination flashing on her face and the guardians couldn't help but feel proud at the girl's bravery. However, the smile vanished as the cracks beneath her grew once she tried moving when Jack started counting. Though, Jack did not look worried at all nor did the determination leave from his sister's face.
She gasped as she almost lost balance and looked back up at Jack for assurance.
"Three!" Using the staff, Jack throws her sister away from the cracking ice and into safety. And the guardians let out the breath they didn't know they were holding. They would've cheered and laughed in relief, but the victory was short lived because as soon as they turned back to where Jack was supposed to be…
…he was gone.
And what was left in his wake was a gaping hole.
They were numb to their core as they tried to process what just happened. Though it didn't take them long to find out what it was as the girl screamed her brother's name. And everything around them slowly darkened, signifying the end of the memory. And none of them bothered moving as they let the situation sink in.
Jack died. He died protecting his sister. And he died… from falling into the cracked ice. And beneath the crack ice was…
"Guys!" Then, the winter sprite appeared before them, "Are you alright?" Baby Tooth chirped on his shoulder as she tilted her head questioningly as well.
It took them a few second to snap out of their daze and realize they were back in the pole. They all stared at Jack with gaping mouths, unsure of what to say, unsure of where to begin.
Jack looked uncomfortable at their stares. He opened his mouth to speak, but was suddenly squashed into a hug by Tooth and Sandy, "U-um…?" he choked.
"That did not just happen…" Tooth sobbed and held him tighter with shaky arms before repeating softly, "That did not just happen…" Baby Tooth immediately flew towards her mother worriedly as she tried to cheer her up with a couple of squeaks.
North let out a shaky breath and shook his head, unable to form the words he probably wanted to say. Bunny just shut his eyes tightly before putting a paw over them and Sandy just buried his face against the fabric of Jack's shirt.
Their Jack was now here, but why do they feel this huge loss?
"Hey, it's fine now. I'm actually glad I was able to save my sister." Jack spoke up as he chuckled, "And uhm well… I guess, now you know why I hate water."
"I feel so horrible right now." Tooth choked. The tiny tooth fairy beside her wiped a tear from her cheek, "From –from seeing you die just to save your sister and-and drowning…!"
"Jack… we… we don't know what to say." North rubbed his face, "I… we never knew."
"Well I did suggest on telling you guys. But since you didn't want to, I just thought showing it to you—"
Suddenly Jack was ripped away from Tooth's and Sandy's hold, "You are the biggest idiot I have EVER met!" Bunny exploded.
"Hey! What's that supposed to mean—oof!" Furry arms wrapped themselves around him tightly and Jack was left stunned when the other pulled away looking furious and yet guilty at the same time, "A total idiot. More stupid than any spirits I had ever met.."
The teen was snapped out of his stunned state and settled with a smirk that for once, looked a little less playful and a little more gentler, "I never knew you cared, Kangaroo."
A tug made Jack looked down and he saw Sandy looking like he was close to tears with his lower lip trembling, but he managed to put up a thumbs-up which almost made Jack laugh. But he didn't out of respect.
"Look, I'm sorry for probably scarring you guys for all eternity with my memories." Jack shouldered his staff and puts his other hand in his pocket, "It wasn't really my intention and I wasn't expecting you guys to react… so much."
"You were so young! So young…"
"But as I was saying… I did that because… I wanted you guys to know at least why I… don't like water. And…" Jack hesitated, "…and we're family now, right? So I thought I should at least share everything to you guys. Even about my death… of how I became a guardian. When I was under that hot spring, I realized how important you guys were to me… and… you are always so open… and I'm… you know, not."
"Oh Jack…" Tooth sniffled and tried to wipe a tear away.
"I trust you." Jack firmly said, "And you trust me. You… do trust me, right?"
"Of course we do you gumby." Surprisingly, it was Bunny who spoke this first.
"We will never doubt you." North assured.
Baby Tooth chirped happily and flew around the snow haired spirit. Sandy nodded firmly and gave him a salute making him laugh. He could never ask for a better family. He was really grateful for what Manny had given him and honestly, he never regretted the day he died. He really didn't see the loss of dying in such an early age, and he really didn't mind. He saved his sister and that's what it all mattered.
"Thanks a lot everyone."
Death made him freezing to touch. But as the guardians gathered to hug the teen, he was pretty sure he was now as warm as the sun could ever be.
Never had he regretted what he had done, and never will he ever find himself regretting over it at all. If it weren't for that ending, he wouldn't have made this new beginning with his new family.
"So, Jack…" North suddenly spoke up, "How does swimming lessons sound, hm?"
And that's the end! Sorry for the lame ending ^^"