HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Even though this was depressing... And I'm sorry it took this long to update! But this is the last chapter, I think. Hopefully.
Trigger warning for: eating disorder, mentions of past self harm, bullying and probably a few other things.
Jack remembered hearing a song playing on a radio and had dismissed it as just another break up song. And anything sad didn't really help him to stay strong as he continued struggling to stop cutting. Especially sad love songs, which were mostly about heartbreak and being alone.
But the next time he heard the song playing, a young girl was listening to it play on her radio with her window wide open as Jack was passing through a small town. The song caught the winter spirit's attention, and he stopped to listen as the song played over and over.
The song started off sad and slow, but it gradually became more reassuring as it went on. It was less of a love song than he'd thought, but he guessed that it could be taken that way.
Jack memorized the words and left the girl a gift to say thank you - what he was thanking her for, he didn't know, but he knew he wouldn't regret it.
Winter wasn't due for a few more weeks, but he let it snow. It wasn't much, but he hoped it was enough to last until the girl could see it in the morning. Then he moved on.
At first, Jack didn't know what to do with the song. He had learned it on a whim, but he had a feeling that he needed to do something with it. So for a while, he sang it whenever he was alone, making sure not to forget it.
Then Tooth caught him singing under his breath while helping the fairies one night.
"Can you teach that song to me?" she asked him kindly.
"Sure," he replied with a smile and sang it for her until she could sing along without missing a single word.
Beaming, she said gratefully, "Thanks, Jack." She clasped her hands together, adding hopefully, "Maybe singing will help!"
"Help what?" Jack asked curiously, leaning on his staff. Am I missing something here?
The Guardian of Memories blushed and tried to continue working, saying, "Oh, it's nothing."
Jack flew ahead of her, stopping her. "No, no, you have to tell me now," he said teasingly. "C'mon, Tooth, tell me." When she hesitated, he added, "I'll just keeping bugging you if you don't."
Tooth smiled slightly, but there was a hint of sadness in it. "Well," she began carefully, "whenever I can, I sit and talk with teenagers when they're...upset." She didn't know how else to say what she really meant without bringing back certain memories for the winter spirit.
"Upset?" Jack echoed her with a slight frown.
Tooth grimaced and gestured vaguely to his arms, where the scars had faded but wouldn't go away, hidden by his sleeves.
He caught on instantly. "Oh!" He was quiet for a long moment before asking, "Can I go with you? The next time you go to talk to them?"
Tooth bit her lip. "Jack, sometimes I can't help them," she said softly, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. "And they give up on trying to quit. I don't want that to trigger you if anything happens."
"I'm fine," he reassured her. "I wouldn't offer to go if I couldn't handle it." They both knew that was a lie, and Tooth didn't think it would be a good idea even if Jack could handle it. He sighed. "Tooth, you could show me any of my memories. I know Sandy checks on some kids, but if anything happened, he can only give me a dream, which Pitch could turn into a nightmare. And I'll just go on my own if you and Sandy don't take me."
No wonder Manny made him a Guardian, Tooth thought with a small smile. But even though she didn't want to take the risk at all, she knew Jack was right. She nodded reluctantly. "Okay, but only this one time, Jack."
Once was enough for him. He would just have to memorize the houses as they went along.
The next night, Tooth took Jack to several houses, carrying a bag filled with different canisters and stopped to check on the younger children first before going to see the teens.
The first teenager they visited was a seventeen year old girl who had a baby sister and a disabled parent to take care of along with the stress of going to school and work. She was lying down on a couch in the living room with an arm thrown over her eyes, mumbling off a list of things she still needed to do before going to sleep.
Tooth sat on the armrest near the teen's head, singing softly the song Jack had taught her. In the tooth fairy's hands was a golden canister - the teen's baby teeth and her memories in them.
After a moment, the girl uncovered her eyes and smiled to herself. When her baby sister started to cry, she stood up reluctantly, but the smile didn't fade from her lips.
Jack carefully searched the apartment until he found a small razor in the girl's room. He threw it away with a wince, and Tooth bit her lip to keep from asking.
Jack had wanted to stay and learn the girl's name, but Tooth told him gently, "We have to go."
"Do you know her name?" Jack asked as they flew to a new house. "She has a name, and I want to know what it is. I want to remember her."
Tooth shook her head sadly. "No one is that strong, Jack. When these kids die...it will be harder to let go."
It took a moment for him to understand that, but he didn't ask anymore after he'd figured it out. He knew he wasn't that strong, but he thought Tooth would be. Now he knew why the Guardians "had no time for children," and why Tooth hadn't been on the field for than four hundred years. She was risking heartbreak just by seeing them, and she couldn't let herself get even more close to them.
Jack knew the teenagers didn't believe in the Guardians, and he wondered how that affected them. Then, he realized it didn't, not in the way that truly mattered. Sure, losing a believer had happened so often that they were probably used to the feeling, and the Guardians had learned to move on. But in the end, the Guardians kept doing their jobs and kept watching over believers who had stopped believing.
And wasn't that a sign of strength? Choosing to help people who no longer believed in you?
Jack thought so.
"Ready?" Tooth asked, snapping the younger Guardian out of his thoughts.
He nodded. "Yeah."
The next house had a fifteen year old boy checking his weight in a bathroom and glaring at his reflection with tears in his eyes.
"A girl he had a crush on made a bet with her friends," Tooth told Jack softly, "that she would go out with the fattest kid in school for a week. She chose him, and a lot of people had bullied him for his weight. It was a few years ago, but I don't think he ever got over it. He's still being bullied, but for a different reason now, I think."
The boy muttered something harshly under his breath in a foreign language, and Tooth's heart broke for him.
Jack didn't understand the words, but he knew the boy's tone all too well. He stepped up to the mirror as the boy was turning to walk away, and the winter spirit tapped the mirror lightly, where it frosted up.
The boy noticed the frost from the corner of his eye and turned back around to gape at it.
Tooth reached forward at Jack's request and wrote Stay strong in the boy's language.
The boy stared in shock at the mirror before he smiled warily and nodded. Then he started to leave and glanced over his shoulder.
But the frost and the words were gone. And so were the Guardians who had put them there.
Each house they went to held its own story. Jack wasn't too surprised to see Sandy stopping at some houses, but when he noticed a flower in a thirteen year old girl's room, he automatically started looking around for Bunny.
"Does North come out too?"
Tooth nodded. "Now he does. Him and Bunny only come out whenever they have time. They didn't before, but..." She trailed off, glancing at Jack, then looked away quickly.
Jack raised an eyebrow. "What did I do?"
"You opened our eyes." She smiled ruefully. "I just wish we had known all of this sooner."
Jack knew what she really meant, but he shrugged it off. "I'm sure they appreciate it." I know I do.
They stopped at a house where the parents were fighting, and a fourteen year old girl was talking to her twelve year old sister to drown out the parents' argument.
"It's going to be okay," Jack told them reassuringly. He tried to put his hand on the younger sister's shoulder, but it went straight through her. He sighed but forced a smile.
And for a second, she looked up at him, and Jack could've sworn she'd seen him. But then her gaze passed over him as she turned to her older sister, saying softly, "I hate them."
Tooth knelt beside the girls, holding a new canister in her hands. "It makes you wonder how blind people can be,"she murmured, mostly to herself, "that they don't realize their children are suffering."
Jack made a soft noise of agreement. "Most people only see what's in front of them."
Tooth grimaced. I'm so sorry, Jack, she wanted to say, but Jack wasn't one to think about the past.
There was a loud slam from the front door.
"I think Dad's gone," the older sister mumbled, but the sister stayed where they were.
"Do you think," Jack said suddenly, "that maybe this time it isn't the kids who need their memories?"
Tooth smiled and held up the canister. On the side was the face of the girls' mother. "I just wanted to check on them," the fairy admitted.
They left to the sound of the mother telling her daughters about their childhood through her eyes, and how happy their family had been before.
Jack wondered if their family would mend itself.
As the sun started to rise, Tooth returned to her palace while Jack went back to Burgess.
Pitch's words had been bothering him for some time, and he couldn't help checking on Jamie whenever he had a chance to. Since the younger boy's father was gone for the next couple of weeks, Jack decided to stop by their house for a second. Although it would be a while until Jamie would wake up, Jack wanted to check on him.
Jamie's window was unlocked when Jack got there, and the moon was starting to disappear in the early morning sky. Jack smiled when he saw his friend sleeping peacefully. He'll be fine, he reassured himself with a nod. He's a good kid, and he won't make the same mistakes I have.
But after seeing so many other teens throughout the night, he hesitated to believe that.
The Guardian sighed and left to wait at the lake; the Burgess kids would know he was there once they saw the snow falling softly outside their windows. We'll have so much fun there that they won't even think about cutting.
Thanks for everyone who favorited/followed this story! :)
To Caithlinn13 - Yeah, I didn't see it coming either... Thanks! :)
To SilverDragon00 - Thanks? :)
To pottercouples121 - Sorry... And, yeah, it was sad.
To FrostFan - I'm glad you liked it...even though this whole story was depressing. :) Thanks!
To a - During their argument? I have no idea. :) I was kind of lazy and left it up to everyone's imagination. It could've been anything.