... um. Hi? Heh. Long time no see, right? Well, it took soooo long for me to figure out where the hell I wanted to go with this, then my computer decided to act up and not allow me to post anything, which was on my profile; anyway, I finally get my computer to work then I'm hit with massive writer's block.
Yeah, but guess what happened yesterday? It freaking hailed. In June. It freaking hailed! What the hell? I was not impressed, though I did take it as a sign that I should finish this freaking chapter already. So here you go.
Disclaimer: I own nada that pertains to ROTG. Though I do own a collapsed shed. Damn snow.
The sunlight's only just beginning to stream through the windows of Santa's Workshop, chasing away the lingering shadows of night when the wooden flooring in the kitchen gapes open and sinks into one of Bunny's signature tunnels, paving the way for said Guardian's entrance. This early in the morning, only the three culinary Yetis are in the room, and none of them bat so much as an eye at the unannounced appearance, far too used to the occurrence by now, though the female Yeti waves and quietly fawns over the sleeping bundle in the Pooka's arms.
Bunny trudges into the closest seating room, finding the comfiest looking couch and depositing his cargo onto the velvet cushions, spinning around to collapse in a nearby armchair, content to wait until North wakes up; and depending whether or not they stayed the night, Sandy and Tooth, too. It doesn't take long, maybe twenty or so minutes, just long enough for Bunny to get comfortable in his chair and whip out a blank googie and brush, but he doesn't so much as get two strokes of paint on the egg before North bursts into the room with a big grin on his face, still in garishly red pyjamas, which Bunny takes to mean the Guardian had ordered the Yetis to wake him when Jack was returned.
North's grin fades somewhat, however, when, after a cursory glance around the room, he realizes that the boy is still happily sleeping on his furniture, and Santa visibly slumps, almost pouting in his disappointment, which makes Bunny chuckle.
"Steady, mate," he teases, swinging himself up out of his seat, tucking his googie away for later. "Little ankle-biter's still conked out. Think he exhausted 'imself running about the Warren."
The other Guardian musters a weak glare in response, though it only succeeds in amusing Bunny further.
"Ah, but Jack will be glad to be at Workshop," North says confidently, straightening his stance and regaining his usual enthusiasm. "He will have missed the toys, and the elves! I know the elves have missed him, they were moping about all night, not even stealing cookies! It was quite sad," he adds, absently pushing back a stray elf with his foot as he moves forward to nab Bunny's abandoned chair. "Toothy even felt bad for them."
"Speaking of which," Bunny intercepts, cautiously watching the same elf wander closer and closer to him. "Where's Tooth and Sandy? Didn't they stay the night?"
North waves a hand in the air, patting his belly and calling for food. "Nah. They had work to get to. But they will be back – soon, I think, if Sandy has not strayed from his usual path."
They're both distracted by a sleeping noise from the couch, where they see Jack shuffle and roll onto his side, curling into a tight ball and hugging something to his chest, his hair adorably falling into his face. North peers closer, trying to get a clear look at whatever it is Jack is clinging to, and Bunny suddenly looks very smug, folding his arms across his chest.
"Is that …," Santa trails off, eyes going wide as his mouth falls open in indignation and possible betrayal, "… egg?"
Bunny makes a sound of triumph, relishing in his friend's shocked look. "Yup," he confirms. "Jackie here used it as a teddy bear all night – well," he tacks on as an after-thought, "only after he was done using me as one." Bunny frowns, though he doesn't appear as annoyed as he probably wants to pretend.
North opens his mouth, most likely to insult the Easter personification, but before a word passes his lips (and it's probably for the best, as whatever he wanted to say might not have been the best thing to voice in front of a child; a sleeping child, but a child nonetheless … especially if that child happened to be a Jack) a serene golden cloud floats through one of the perpetually open windows, Sandy casually steering it to land and dissolve in the centre of the room. He waves to Bunny and North, clearly ignoring the obvious bad feelings being transmitted between them – well, more like the feelings of annoyance and hurt from North, and smug satisfaction from Bunny – and turning to Jack, tilting his head to the side as he contemplates the dozing boy, maybe trying to decide whether it'll be worth it giving dreams to him, when he'll most likely wake soon anyway.
Sandy turns away without giving Jack new dreams, though he does pat the boy on his snowy-haired head before bobbing over to North and giving him similar treatment, only instead of patting the man's head he pats his arm.
"Good morning, Sandy!" North declares, suddenly cheerful again. "Where are elves with cookies and eggnog?"
Apparently triggered by his impatient yell, three new elves toddle into the room, a silver tray laden with an assortment of treats that would make Tooth cry balanced between them. They place the tray on the small table between the non-childified Guardians, then wander off to different ends of the room, two of them disappearing god-knows-where while the third teams up with the one original elf, the pair huddling together, looking suspiciously as if they're scheming something.
Santa reaches for a blue tree shaped cookie, munching on it in contentment as they await Tooth's arrival and Jack's eventual return from dreamland, whichever comes first.
They wait for a bit, Sandy depicting parts of various interesting dreams he handed out the night before, amusing the others with some of the things the kids came up with, and after he's done, North decides to share some of the antics the elves got up to in Jack's absence. Before Bunny can attempt to aggravate North's jealousy with tales of his times with Jack, however, the three of them are interrupted by the entrance of Tooth, who is led into the room by a drowsy looking Yeti, and who immediately heads to coo over Jack.
"How was he, Bunny?" she asks, playing with the boy's snowy hair, which for some reason is an irresistible pastime for many these days, though the Guardians have a vague suspicion that his friends have probably tried it in his normal state, too. "Did he have fun? Oh, of course he had fun, I don't even know why I asked. How long has he been sleeping? Did you get him to brush his teeth? After all that chocolate I'm sure you let him eat, you have to make sure he fights the cavities straight away! Even missing one day could have the potential to ruin his perfect teeth, and we wouldn't want – wait!"
The other three, who have been, for the most part, tuning their friend out as she rambles, snap their attention back to her in alarm, only to see Tooth curiously tugging at Jack's clothes – the same as yesterday; white shirt, though it isn't quite so white anymore, more like a multitude of colours, practically a rainbow warped into a shirt, and blue jeans. His socks, however, are completely absent, and the little feet are splattered with colour as well. Bunny looks slightly bashful at the odd looks North and Sandy give him, but Tooth doesn't give him a double look.
She hums, flying off to the side to give the others a clear path of view to a still sleeping Jack, and she holds up one of his legs in a somewhat humorous fashion. "Does Jack look bigger to you?"
Her question is met with blank stares and blinking, and Tooth sighs, pointing out the hem of Jack's trousers, which fell a few inches up his ankle. "Remember yesterday? Jack almost tripped over the bottom of his jeans, but now they're almost the same height up his leg as his usual brown ones are when he's normal sized. And look at his sleeves – at first I thought maybe they'd hiked up in his sleep, but look: they go past his wrists."
Sandy and North peer closer, while Bunny furrows his brow in confusion. "Toothy is right!" North announces, bending down close to Jack to glance at his face (Bunny's pretty sure that if Jack wakes at this very moment, finding a huge hairy face in front of him, might give the kid a heart attack) and poke his arm. "Jack is getting bigger … So he will return to normal!"
Sandy claps silently, beaming happily, and Bunny snorts derisively. "'Bout time," he grumbles, though his gaze lingers on the small form on the couch for a second longer than necessary. "Wonder how long it'll take him to stop being fun-sized?"
Tooth shrugs, reluctantly letting go of the boy's leg and fluttering over to North's vacated chair, close to where Sandy hovers, looking speculative. "Manny couldn't tell us, but I'm guessing it'll be soon. Nature obviously needs balance, and winter is going to be due to arrive in a few months, not to mention the places that already expect snow; with Jack's absence, and now his … peculiar situation, something will need to be done to keep the seasons stabilized, so Jack won't be able to stay little for much longer."
"Which is a good thing, right?" Bunny tries cautiously, not noticing as Sandy gets a sudden surprised expression and starts waving his arms frantically. "We want Jackie back to his annoyin' self, yeah?"
He gets a bad feeling when it takes a second for Tooth to answer; he had known this was going to happen! He'd known they'd get too attached to itty-bitty Jack, that they wouldn't want him to grow up so soon. Not that they don't miss their Jack, because they do, dearly, and Bunny, for one, is relieved that he'll be back soon, as he's kind of missed the usual irritating, frustrating, blood boiling, stupid, pointless, amusing banter they share.
"Of course we do!" North declares confidently, his loud voice making Jack squirm in his sleep, though he still doesn't wake up yet. "Ah, oops," Santa says in a stage whisper, wincing in apology.
Bunny rolls his eyes, and as he does he finally catches sight of Sandy's now exasperated attention-seeking. "What's up, mate?"
Looking relieved, Sandy drops his arms and forms rapid pictures above his head in excitement, and Tooth calls them out as he does so the others can process whatever he's trying to get across as well. "Ooh, snowflake, so Jack … baby … hmm, little Jack? Okay, little Jack … flower, su – oh, seasons! You mean Jack's season friends? Alright, little Jack and season friends. Um. Help?"
"You think we oughta tell his season friends he's little," Bunny summarises, and Sandy bobs his head enthusiastically. The Pooka suddenly winces. "Ah. We prob'ly shoulda told them he was alive as soon as we found out … whoops. I call being as far away as possible when they're told."
The colour drains from Tooth's face in an instant, and her hands fly up to cover her mouth, eyes wide. "Oh! I can't believe we forgot! Why didn't we think to them? They think Jack's dead! Oh no, I can't believe we didn't tell them the minute we found out -"
"Now hang on," Bunny interrupts hastily. "We weren't exactly in the state of mind to tell them, were we? 'Sides, it's only been couple o' days …"
Tooth gives him a hard look. "How would you feel, Bunny, if they had been the ones to find him as he is now and didn't tell us? Plus there's the fact that they've been a part of his life for far longer than us. They already weren't our biggest fans to start with, and now …"
"Look, calm down, alright?" Bunny tries to soothe, waving his paws in front of him. "We'll tell 'em Jackie's alive, and we'll explain it all very patiently; after they've rampaged a bit and let of some anger, they can come and see him, yeah? Jack'll love it."
Still appearing unsure, Tooth chews on her lip and nods hesitantly. "Who's going to be the one to tell them?" she asks suddenly. "At least two of us should probably go, just to make sure they understand, and someone will need to stay behind with Jack, which of course I'll be glad -"
"Nah, I'll babysit," Bunny interjects hurriedly. "What can I say, the bugger's grown on me. Not so annoying when he's knee high. Ya go ahead Tooth, take time off from lookin' after Jack; I'm sure his friends will appreciate you being there."
He gets a smoldering glare aimed at him for his troubles, but he simply grins and shrugs it off – maybe Jack's rubbed off on him. "Fine," Tooth huffs, crossing her arms. "I'll go. North, you're coming with me. No, no arguments! I need back up, and no offense Sandy, but your pictures can be hard to understand."
Sandy nods in understanding, not at all offended; Jack's the only one who had known he sometimes likes to purposely be abstract in his pictures, just to mess with the others when he's bored, though he discovered early on that it doesn't have quite the same effect on Jack. For the sake of keeping things simple, and also because Jack no longer gets the joke, Sandy makes sure to keep his pictures easy to decipher as he mimics the likeness of offering to help Bunny babysit while North and Tooth are gone.
Tooth smiles at him gratefully, shooting a vaguely distrusting look at Bunny; he hands out chocolate to kids every year, and she's leaving him in Santa's Workshop with a little boy who doesn't need to beg much to get each of them to do his bidding. If not for Sandy, she's fairly certain she'll come back to find the boy in the middle of candy wrappers, possibly literally jumping off the walls, definitely chatting their ears off. Although, she reconsiders, seeing Sandy's secretive smile, maybe Sandy isn't the best person to trust with being responsible …
Nonetheless, she doesn't have much of a choice, and the decision's already made.
"We'll go later," she sighs, trying to plan out in her head what exactly they have to say to the other season spirits, preferably something that won't leave them with unnecessary injuries. "Before dinner. Hopefully we'll be back before Jack goes to bed, but I suppose we'll see. Oh! Maybe you can take Jack to Burgess!"
At this suggestion, the three male Guardians' mouths fall open, as if they haven't even considered this possibility, and are now mentally kicking themselves. It's actually very funny.
"How do we explain Jack's, ah, condition ta them?" Bunny asks tentatively, scratching the back of his head. "I mean, Sophie at least is a bit young ta understand, still, and while Jamie and the others are old enough by now – I think – it's still difficult. Hell, you and North are gonna have problems explaining it to century old spirits, how are me an' Sandy supposed ta tell a bunch of kids?"
"Ah, but Bunny, you forget," North feels the need to point out, "Burgess children are no longer so little! They are older than they were when we fought Pitch and Jack became Guardian. 'Tis only matter of time until they cannot see us anymore." Santa suddenly gains a pained look, and Bunny mentally berates him for ruining things.
Before he can voice those arguments, however, the boy on the couch finally decides to wake up, yawning and wriggling around as he stretches. At one point he sticks his behind in the air and half rolls his head under himself, and the others can't help but think that must be a world of uncomfortable, and Tooth winces at the thought of him somehow breaking his neck, but before anything happens Jack flops back down and blinks up at them, curling the egg in his hand close to him.
"Morning, sunshine," Bunny greets cheerfully, coaxing a moan from the boy. "What's the matter? Not a morning person?"
"Mm," Jack groans, shielding his eyes with his arm.
Tooth shoves Bunny's arm when the Pooka moves to tease the kid again, moving forward to smile at the drowsy boy. "Are you hungry, Jack? Want some breakfast?"
Jack's incapable of speech apparently, because all she gets in answer is, "Mhm."
Tooth, though, is seemingly well versed in the language of morning grumps, because she has no reservations in scooping up Jack and flying through the halls to the kitchen, plopping him down in a seat before he can really blink. Tooth is just about to politely ask the Yetis for some food when a tray laden with every breakfast food imaginable, from bacon and hash browns to toast and eggs, is placed in front of Jack, who blearily studies the assortment in front of him without taking it in.
The others trail in and take their seats, even though they've already eaten, and North snags a piece of toast and starts to munch on it while they wait for Jack to wake up enough to eat some of it himself. It takes a few minutes, but Jack eventually smells the food and his stomach rumbles, snapping him out of his first-thing-in-the-morning haze. He immediately reaches for the bacon, though as he happily chews, Tooth piles some of the healthier options onto his plate, making him frown.
They finish breakfast relatively quickly, North and Bunny ending up having two in one morning, and leave the Yetis to clear up the plates as they take Jack into the main room to tell him about the plans for the day.
"… and while you're playing with the kids in Burgess, North and I will be off talking to … some friends," Tooth explains, trying to avoid giving out too much information that Jack won't understand. "But Bunny and Sandy will help keep you company, and you'll have lots of fun anyway," she assures.
Jack nods seriously, still looking half asleep.
"Why don't'cha go an' get dressed?" Bunny suggests. "We can play a game after, whatever you want."
Jack grins and sprints off down the hall eagerly with his egg, which he hasn't leg of all morning, skidding out of sight as he rounds a corner.
Bunny and the others watch him go, and Bunny hesitantly says, "… I'm going to regret letting him choose a game, right?"
Tooth pats him comfortingly on the shoulder.
Several hours later, after many grueling games of tag, checkers, paintball, snowball fights, and tie-the-ribbon-on-the-rabbit, Bunny all but collapses onto one of the many sofas in the Workshop, hoping for a few minutes peace before having to dive head first into keeping Jack occupied again. Honestly, where does the kid get all his energy?
He groans, burying his head deep into the cushions, knowing he doesn't have a hope of evading Tooth.
"Bunny, there you are! North and I are leaving now. Sandy's getting Jack to eat dinner, and afterwards you can take him to Burgess, and hopefully when you get back he'll be tired enough to go straight to sleep. Bunny?"
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Bunny grumbles, pushing himself reluctantly to his feet. "So the kid's in the kitchen?"
Tooth nods, impatiently motioning for him to go meet Sandy and Jack, probably trying to tell him to eat something, too. "I have no idea how long North and I will be gone," she admits, for the first time showing a hint of nerves, wringing her hands together. "And I don't know if we'll bring Jack's friends with us. But we should be back by the morning, most likely before Jack wakes up."
Bunny nods. "Don't worry, it'll be fine," he tries to reassure her. "Sandy and I'll make sure Jackie has fun at Burgess, don't worry. I'm sure the other spirits will understand … eventually. I don't know 'em that well, but I don't think they'd be mad enough to stay away from Jack."
Tooth still looks worried and distracted, but doesn't say anything more on the matter. "Well, we have to go," she sighs, moving to the opposite door then the one leading to the kitchens. "See you when we get back. Don't let the children give Jack candy!"
Bunny snorts. As if he'll be able to stop them from doing anything, he thinks as he makes his way to the kitchen to eat with Sandy and Jack. As if to prove his ineptness with disciplining children, Jack has to change clothes by the end of the meal because of a food fight, and he and Sandy have to struggle to get themselves presentable in time.
Up next: Jack goes to Burgess, Jamie and the others find out what happened to Jack, and the Burgess kids show the winter spirit the best thing ever … video games.
Okay, I hate to say this, really, I do, but it's that time of the years again ... The Dreaded Exams. This will most likely be the last update for a while, though when I'm back into the summer holiday boredom you'll probably get those daily updates again (jeez, isn't it weird to think this story's been going on for almost a year? It's kind of freaking me out.) So just hold out 'til then, 'kay?
Don't forget, you guys are amazing, especially since you've stuck with me through my insanely long update waits! Love you all!