Chapter 1: In Which Bunnymund Schools Jack in Easter Egg Painting and Guardian Math
- This story originated as an RP between myself and just-another-jack on tumblr. Because the RP has been going to well, I am converting it into story form, so chapters will come fairly fast for a while. Be warned, though, that the pace will eventually slow down when I catch up with the RP posts.
- Also, this story will have M/M adult content later on, BUT it will be written in such a way that it can be skipped without hurting the overall plot. I will post a warning on said chapter/s in case anyone does not want to read them or is too young for them.
- This chapter doesn't really have anything offensive in it, unless of course you campaign for egg golem rights...
Thank you and please enjoy.
Bunny doesn't like it when someone disables his sentinels. He likes it even less when said someone turns out to be Jack Frost. Though his method of entry leaves much to be desired. Jack has come with good reason. His powers are failing him and he doesn't know why. Perhaps Bunny can shed a little light on the subject?
It wasn't exactly easy to get into the Warren without permission. In fact, it was almost impossible. Jack Frost had always challenged the impossible, however, and he found himself stuffing his hands into the pocket of his hoodie while he strolled through the beautiful scenery. He was sure he would be discovered soon enough, and when he was, he would likely have a not-so-thrilled Pooka on his hands… especially because he had frozen over some of the giant sentinel eggs again… Oops.
Elsewhere within the warren, the warm sun which filtered through the magically enchanted ceiling soothed Bunnymund's tired… well, everything. Easter was coming in only six days and he had been flat out for over two weeks already. He was presently taking a short rest to recharge before his final push to finish up before the big day. He languidly lay on the ground, letting the prevalent peace of the Warren seep into his being. In an instant of blissful abandon, he rolled and twisted his body in the cool grass, just enjoying the moment. His face was serene, ears flopping this way and that as he flattened the vegetation beneath him. He knew anyone who saw him now would think him silly, behaving in such a rabbit-like manner, but he was alone, so he didn't care.
At least, he thought he was alone.
Bunnymund suddenly froze mid-roll and sat bolt upright. Something waswrong. He had felt a brief flash of alarm from his sentinels, and then nothing. That shouldn't happen. He was linked to the sentinel golems… he could always feel them… but now he couldn't. He could, however, feel something else. He felt the air around him getting colder. Without needing any other clues, the Pooka knew exactly what had happened to his stone egg golems… Jack Frost. A slow dread seeped into his mind as he wondered how long Jack had been there… Had he seen?
Covering his embarrassment with an angry facade, Bunny spun around to confront the encroaching Frost Sprite. "Jack! What'd ya do ta my sentinels?!"
"What makes you think I did anything?" he asked, chuckling under his breath, facing away from Bunny as though he'd been attempting to sneak away without being seen. Jack shrugged his shoulders and turned to face the Pooka only after he'd answered. He tilted his eyes upwards and in the direction of the bright green he knew he would find staring down at him. "For all you know it was some other winter spirit."
Bunnymund stood chest to chest with Jack, or as close to it as he could when Jack's face was only slightly above chest level on him. His nostrils flared in anger. "The only winter spirit drongo enough ta come inta my Warren 'an muck around with my sentinels this close ta Easter is you!" he snapped.
Jack pulled his hands out of his pockets, and reaffirmed his grip on his staff instead. Just in case - although he doubted that he would be fighting Bunnymund today. In fact, he was sure that the Herald of Spring was far too busy painting eggs to pick fights. It was for that exact reason that Jack came to torment the other Guardian. What better time of year to poke fun at him than the time of year that he was most busy? He was probably already on edge, Jack just had to nudge him lightly to get him shouting Aussie profanities. And heck, if he wasn't going to shout profanities, at least he'd have the chance to hang out with him. Maybe get Bunnymund to tell him an interesting story or two. When he was done poking fun at him, that is. "Why don't you go back to playing in the grass?" Jack teased, hoping to get more of a rise out of his fellow Guardian.
So he had seen. It took all Bunny's reserves of patience to not fly off the handle at Jack's comment. Playing! Him? Did the larrikin seriously think he was playing? Relaxing a bit, maybe. Butplaying? The only 'playing' here was Jack. He knew Jack was trying to pick a fight and he was not in the mood. "Wha' d'ya want, Frost?" he growled menacingly.
Jack shook his head at what he thought was an overreaction to a minor prank. "What do you need those big old statues for anyway? Easter? Don't worry, they'll befine by then." That being said, Jack was a little bit intimidated by the way the Pooka seemed so furious. It had been uncalled for, for the winter sprite to freeze those eggs but… It also had been playful. He hadn't meant it to be this infuriating.
Bunny's eyes narrowed at Jack. The question annoyed him, as the answer should have been obvious and he didn't have time to waste on pointless questions.
"They're supposed to keep out unwanted guests! Now..." he growled, leaning in so close that their noses were nearly touching. "What. D'ya. Want. Frost?!"
Maybe Jack was a littletoo fond of bickering with the Pooka. He did his best not to flinch back when the other Guardian snapped at him. In fact, he stood tall, and he answered the question he was presented. "I just came to say 'hi', Cottontail! Why else would I visit you this close to Easter? Do you think I'm here toruin it or something?" He leaned against his staff then with a confident smile. "No blizzards this year! I promise."
Just when Jack thought Bunnymund may snap at him, when he could feel the breath coming from the Easter Bunny against his face, an idea suddenly occurred to the rabbit-man. He knew how to keep the mischievous sprite busy for a bit. His expression softening ever-so-slightly, which surprised Jack, he stalked back over to where he'd been laying and gathered up his paintbrush and a half-finished egg he had left there. Jack leaned into a more upright position, letting the staff fall into the crook of his elbow, and watched carefully while Bunny plucked a powder blue egg from the throngs wandering the Warren grounds.
Bunny removed another paintbrush from his bandolier and, with one last wistful look at the tamped down grass, sauntered back over to Jack, grabbed him by the wrist and slapped the paint brush into his hand. With a self-satisfied smirk, he held the light blue egg out to him. "If ya insist on droppin' in on me when Ah'm this busy, ya can at least make yerself useful," he decreed. He then settled himself down in the grass and gave the Guardian of Fun an expectant look. Jack curled his boney fingers around the brush and looked down at the way the stem glistened. "Useful?" He accepted the egg into his hand and smirked. He had a feeling this was more to keep him out of trouble than to make him 'useful'.
Jack met the expectant look by taking a few strides closer. He crossed his ankles and then sat down criss-cross style beside him in one swift motion. Looking at the brush, he wrinkled his nose. He didn't even see paint anywhere… what was he supposed todo with it? He turned the light blue egg over in his hand and tilted his gaze closer to Bunny, to see what he was painting. Even as he did, however, he was met with the mystery of how it could be done without paint. There were no jars and the brush appeared clean, and yet Bunny's strokes were indeed forming the image of a sunset wrapping around the shell.
Maybe it was just something along the lines of magic? He shot a glance up at Bunny again, and then down to the egg and brush in his hand. Well if he was going to try to make a mark on the egg even without the 'paint', he needed to do so when the Pooka wasn't looking. After all, if it didn't work Jack didn't want to look like an idiot. He waited until he thought Bunny had looked away, before he flicked the brush over the egg. To his great relief, it did leave behind a thin white trail of paint. A little, almost childlike smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
Secretly, Bunnymund watched Jack out of the corner of his eye. He seemed a bit confused, which Bunny had expected and also found rather amusing, but he had also expected him to ask for some paint. So, when he'd glanced away for a moment to switch to a thinner brush, he was surprised to find that Jack had managed to add a streak of white without any instruction. The ancient rabbit made a surprised 'Hmph' and smirked, still not looking directly at Jack.
"I've never done this before," Jack admitted, trying to decide what to paint. To be fair, he didn't think this egg would be used in Easter. He was fairly confident it would be painted over or tossed aside. That was the logic he used when he began to trail a white, slender curl along the shell, which led down the center of the egg.
Until, that is, he mentioned that he'd never done this before. Of course he'd never done this before. It's not every day you get to paint eggs with magic brushes while sitting next to the Easter Bunny in his own hidden Warren. Unless he meant…
"Jack, are ya sayin' ya've never painted before?" he asked, incredulous. Painting was such a central part of his own life that he found the idea that someone who had been around as long as Jack had never actually picked up a brush, "Ridiculous! Did yer parent's honestly never teach ya ta do this?"
Jack could almost hear the upset in Bunny's voice when he asked if Jack had never painted before. He couldn't remember painting at any point in his life… but that wasn't to say he hadn't. He knew with certainty that he had never painted an egg before. "Why would they have? I grew up in a place where we drew in the dirt, and played with sticks. When would we have had money for paint?"
The winter spirit had effectively caught Bunny's full attention. He felt this was a special moment for Jack. A person learning to paint, to an artist like Bunnymund, was a most momentous occasion. He watched closely every stroke and line the young man added to his work, committing each to his very, very long memory. He had to admit, for his very first time, Jack was doing an amazing job. Must be all that time makin' frost designs on windows, he mused to himself, The little boofhead has an artist's soul.
As Jack worked, he frowned. "There's actually a reason why I came here," he began, "I had a question about this whole 'Guardian' thing." The more he focused on the egg, the slower his words came out, and he had to pause in a moment to chuckle at himself. "Well, you know, if you've got time in your busy schedule to answer a question or two. Having all this fun with eggs must be very tiring." To prove his point, Jack extended the egg out to Bunny. Upon it he had painted a sloppy snowflake, and a few dabs of paint made it complete. What could he say? Once a winter spirit, always a winter spirit. He wasn't making a blizzard this year, so he had to do his part to bring snow to Easter somehow, right?
Aster had been so surprised by Jack's admission that he'd almost missed the rest of what he'd said. He shook his head to clear it, still aghast that someone as old as Jack had never painted and told him, "It can be tirin', yeah. That's why I was tryin' ta relax a bit when ya dropped in." He carefully took hold of Jack's egg. Rotating it this way and that to inspect every little detail, he couldn't help but chuckle at the oddly oblong snowflake at the center of the design. Leave it ta Jack, he thought. Remembering that there had been a 'sort of' question in what Jack had been saying, he asked, "Wha'd ya wanna know about the Guardians?"
Jack watched as his work was inspected. He felt like it was he who was being judged, not the egg. He nodded his head. "Yeah… I've been thinking a lot lately about something Pitch said," he began. He turned his attention away from that egg, and instead was spinning the paintbrush in his hands. "Back at Tooth Palace… he said something about how if children don't believe in you, you get weaker." He looked away from the brush then, and back at Bunnymund. "And I saw that for myself, when you and Tooth lost your believers. She couldn't fly—you turned 'cute'—Even North got weaker…" Jack frowned. "Kids… no one ever believed in me. My powers never changed, but… now…"
"Ye're worried ya don't have enough believers?" he asked, although the question was rhetorical. Looking up from the egg, Bunny could see the worry in Jack's expression. Jack wanted to take comfort in the green eyes that he was now looking at. Eyes full of hope, eyes that reflected second chances and rebirth. He figured if any of the Guardians could help him figure out what to do, it would be this one. Bunnymund was a figure of perseverance, even in the darkness. Wasn't he?
The Pooka gently placed the wintry decorated oval in the grass along with the one he'd just finished and scooped up two more eggs, handing one off to Jack. "Ya can change the color ye're brush paints just by thinkin'a the color ya want," he informed Jack off-handedly as the completed eggs tottered off to rejoin the others milling about near the tunnels. Bunnymund bent to his work, tracing a fine lace-like pattern across the pink and gold egg he held as he considered how to approach the complicated topic. "As for yer question…Ya've been a Guardian for almost a year now. Ah can't believe no one's told ya this yet…" he sighed in annoyance. "Ya don't have a lot of believers yet, which makes the one's ya do have very important." He continued to paint as he spoke, finishing that egg quickly and snagging another that was wandering past.
Biting down on his lip, Jack continued, "Are my powers supposedto get weaker? Now that I'm a Guardian? Because I think they might be." There were things he used to be able to do effortlessly, that now he could not. One such task was bringing snow everywhere, and keeping it there. For some reason, lately, he was having trouble accomplishing that task in some places. Places where it shouldn't have been an issue. The only explanation he could come up with was that, as a Guardian, his powers now relied upon his believers. If that was the case, Jack only had a few. He didn't have nearly as many as the other Guardians.
"Depends. When ye're a Guardian an' ya lose believers, the amount ye're powers are depleted relates directly ta how many believers ya had before ya lost one. Meanin' if ya have a hundred believers an' ya lose one, ya lose about one percent'a yer power, but if ya only have ten believers, then losin' one loses ya ten percent'a yer power instead." Again he switched to another egg. Years of practice gracing him with precision and speed, he finished each in less than thirty seconds' time. This also meant he could easily both paint and talk without the quality of his work suffering for it.
"Here's where it gets complicated," Aster continued. "See, once ya've had one hundred believers, ya need that many ta be at full strength. The more believers ya get, the more ya need ta keep, but the trade off is that losin' one is less damagin' the more ya have." He finally looked up at Jack then and asked, "Are ya followin' me?"
Jack had come here looking for answers to his questions about Guardianship. He hadn't realized the answer was going to be so obvious. He tried to piece the parts of logic together. The more believers you have, the stronger you are… that made sense of course. The less you have the more important it was to keep them, that also made sense… What didn't make sense was the concept that his powers growing weaker had something to do with one of those children forgetting him. He could count his believers on his fingers, and it made him bite his lip.
And then it hit Bunny what Jack had been implying by his question. Face showing both concern and comprehension, the rabbit cocked his head a bit. "Ya said ye're powers are gettin' weaker… Ya haven't lost any believers, have ya?"
"I don't think so…" Jack began, "I mean, I don't think you could get Jamie to quit believing if you begged him… and the others…"
Jamie's friends had been there. As far as he knew, they were the only believers he had. Jamie and his little sister, Sophie. The twins, Caleb and Claude; The brunette girl Pippa; her neighbor, Monty, and then Cupcake… Jack would have to learn what her real name was sometime.
That was it. Seven children. To lose one of them would, according to Bunny's logic, affect like fifteen percent of his powers… and that made him cringe. What made him more upset was the ultimate truth of it. "…You think one of them stopped believing in me?" Was that really the only explanation? He looked down at the egg in his hand, and at the brush, but for the moment he was only motivated to draw a frowny face.
He took a deep breath and tried not to draw sad faces all over the egg, though. It probably wouldn't help Easter much. Instead he drew what he knew to be a fairly common pattern on the pale green egg. A pink wavy line, a row of light yellow dots, and alternated that pattern down it. It was mindless, to an extent, because his thoughts were on those children.
It broke his heart to think one of them had forgotten him so fast. He liked to think he was an impact on him - heck he'd even visited them this last winter! "Maybe I should go see them again…" he murmured, and then nodded his head. "Yeah, my magic is getting weaker, sort of. I mean, that or we're just having an absurdly warm Spring this year."
Jack was sort of amazed by the paintbrush. "Did you make these?" he asked, hoping to an extent to distract himself momentarily from the unhappy tightness in his chest. "Brushes, I mean. They're pretty… neat."
Feeling suddenly prideful, Bunny straightened up a bit and grinned in a smug way. "They're mah own invention. The bristles are mah own fur an' Ah enchanted 'em ta paint whatever color ya…" he paused for a moment, catching on that Jack was trying to change the subject. He waved a paw dismissively and said, "Never mind the brushes! Ah'm not sayin' ya lost a believer, Jack. Ah'm askin' if ya did."
Jack cracked a smile when Bunny began to go off about the brush. He was easy to distract, it seemed. Jack would likely commit that to memory. He didn't know why he'd asked if Bunnymund had made the brush… who else would have? He tilted the end up to admire the bristles just a little bit when he said it was made from his own fur. How strange… was his fur enchanted or something? Of course the distraction only lasted a moment. He supposed it didn't matter how he distracted the Pooka, he would eventually figure out he had been distracted in the end.
Bunnymund released yet another completed egg, set down his brush and turned to Jack. "Are ya sure yer powers are weaker?" he asked, "Have ya looked inta other reasons ya can't get the snow ta stay? Ah mean, consider what ya just said yerself. It's been unseasonably warm this last month. Ah'm really not convinced it has anythin' ta do with you."
Jack took the words to heart. Maybe it wasn't his magic? Maybe it really was just the weather. But in spite of this news, the teen still looked so crestfallen that Bunny's heart went out to him. He sighed, casting a resigned look at the thousands of still unpainted eggs carpeting the warren. He was going to have to pull an all-nighter to finish on time, but this was important. He wanted to help Jack and, to be honest, he wanted to know what was going on as well. His gaze drifted to the plant life in his warren. The vegetation was looking rather limp in the eighty degree heat filtering down from the surface. It was wearing Bunny out, making it harder to paint. If it was this hot below ground, how hot was it up there? They had to do something about this.
The rabbit laid a reassuring hand on Jack's shoulder, locked eyes with the winter sprite and asked, "Ya wanna go talk ta the kids, Jack? See if we can figure this out?"
"Really?" He asked, a little surprised that the Easter Bunny was willing to take a break from his work this close to his given holiday. It was a little suspicious, even. Jack raised both of his brows at him, absolutely floored by the offer. He could hardly look away from the brilliant green eyes that were looking at him—maybe through him—but his heart flipped over in his chest with a burst of newfound hope. Maybe, he hoped, Maybe Bunny can help me figure this out.
It wasn't that Jack wanted to torment Bunny. Really! But just because he didn't make it blizzard, that didn't mean he didn't have work to do. He more to the world than just snow. Even Spring was supposed to be a little chilly. Not to mention the heat was spreading to places that were meant to have cold weather. There was a reason for each season. They came together in a balance. Even someone who was a Herald of Spring, even Bunnymund, would know that Jack Frost was more than just a trickster. He was part of the balance that made the world operate. Maybe that was what made it important enough for Bunny to put painting on the back-burner?
He set down the egg he'd been painting on its little spindly legs and watched it scamper off. They didn't seem to like operating as individuals… He then pushed himself up into a standing position, sort of springing as he did onto one foot. He used that momentum to sway, as he considered it. "Yeah," he decided, and he even went so far as to extend his hand downwards, offering Bunny a hand up. "I'd like that a lot."
"Alright, Mate," Aster concluded, "We need ta find out why the weather's gone all wonky. Ah don' like this one bit." He collected his brushes, including the one Jack had been using and tucked them safely away in his bandolier. He then made to stand, but paused upon seeing a hand hovering near his face.
Cocking an eyebrow at Jack in surprise, Bunnymund considered for a moment before gripping his hand. Not that he actually needed the help but, to him, accepting the proffered hand was akin to telling Jack that he was appreciated and trusted. Why was it so important to him that Jack know that? Perhaps because he was still so new to being a Guardian? That was what the Pooka told himself at any rate. In truth, he had been taking every opportunity he could to show Jack he was trusted, when he wasn't trying to resist throttling him, that is. He wasn't even fully aware he was doing it.
It had been going on since last Easter, when Bunnymund had basically thrown Jack's trust in, and allegiance to, the Guardians back in his face and told him to nick off. He had jumped to the conclusion that Jack had made a deal with Pitch to get his teeth. He knew now that no betrayal had ever been intended and he deeply regretted what he'd said. If he were honest with himself, he would admit that the repeated gestures of trust were less to show Jack that he trusted him and more to show him that he could trust the foolish old rabbit.
Jack was thankful when Bunny took his hand. Perhaps it was because he had spent so long trying to earn his friendship. Of all the Guardians, Bunnymund was the hardest to get to know, it seemed. He was able to hold grudges for what seemed to be forever. Even that day he had given Jack a hard time about the blizzard of '68, and was concerned he had come to ruin Easter again… And he truly had no intention to. Bunny, in Jack's opinion, was his friend. He wanted to be trusted. He wanted to make him feel comfortable around him, because he wasn't a bad person. Jack Frost was a trickster, and a prankster… but mean? That just wasn't him.
He knew it would be a long process. He'd broken Bunnymund's trust when he'd let Easter fail last year, when he'd lost Baby Tooth and come out with just the golden vial of his memories… but he wanted to make that up to him. He simply did not know how. That was why when he offered him his hand, he liked the paw that wrapped around it. It made him feel like he was just one step closer to being trusted again, to having the Guardian of Hope believe in him again.
Once on his feet, Bunny brushed bits of grass from his coat and frowned as clumps of fur dropped with it. He suddenly found himself wanting a brush as he was certain he looked a mess with multiple lengths of fur and patches hanging loose. Manually removing one such patch, he snorted in disgust and dropped it on the ground. "Gonna have ta clean that up later," he sighed. With a nod of his head toward the tunnel which led to Burgess, Bunnymund huffed, "C'mon. Let's go find yer believers and have ourselves a chinwag."
When he saw a tuft or two of fur fall, Jack raised an eyebrow. It was kind of… weird, to say the least. He hadn't really considered that Bunnymund had a winter and summer coat. Of course, any other animal would, so why wouldn't he? He looked down at it once more, before a tiny smirk came to his lips. "I don't know, I mean, are you gonna shed all over me, Cottontail?" he teased, although the Pooka just rolled his eyes and took off towards the tunnels without commenting on it and at a speed far less than usual. The heat taking its' toll on one who still sported a heavy, if rapidly shedding, winter coat.
Jack gripped the staff in his hand and zipped behind him, easily keeping up if only because Bunnymund was moving slowly, for him anyway. Jack thought he was likely doing so because he didn't want to 'lose' him, unaware of the fatigue the Pooka was feeling.
Thinking back on what Bunny had said before leaving, Jack asked, "What is a chinwag?" He'd come to accept a lot of the slang that came from the Pooka's mouth. It wasn't always hard to figure out, but that didn't change the fact that he had no idea what a chinwag was.