Bunnymund sighed heavily. Weighed down by guilt, he sank to the ground, still in the same spot where he had punched Jack. He hadn't even given the kid a chance to explain himself.
He looked over at the other remaining Guardians. Tooth's hand was still raised from reaching out to Jack and North was looking at him, leaning heavily on his swords.
"I'm sorry," Bunnymund said.
Tooth turned in his direction and flitted closer, hands on her hips. "Don't say sorry to us! Jack's the one who you should apologize to."
Bunnymund didn't know what he could say to that. Everything seemed to be catching up to him: his actions against Jack, being walked through, losing Easter. He went back to staring at the ground, unable stand looking at Tooth and North.
"I know. I just . . ." he trailed off, not sure how to continue.
The hum of Tooth's wings was suddenly right next to his ear. "No, I'm sorry, Bunny," she said, placing her hand gently on his shoulder. "I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. Fighting amongst each other is the last thing we should do right now."
"Ha! Well, it's a bit too late for that, innit? I already went and screwed that up!"
Tooth's hand slipped from his shoulder as she moved back. "Sitting around and feeling guilty isn't going to help anyone. Not you. Not us. Not the children and certainly not Jack," she said in a hard tone.
Bunnymund looked up, startled. With her hands on her hips and that stern expression on her face, Tooth reminded him more of the Warrior Queen of centuries ago than the quirky, lighthearted Tooth Fairy of more recent times.
"And moping around isn't going to help either. But you know what will?" she continued.
"There is nothing," North said. "Easter was last hope. What can we do?"
Bunnymund slowly nodded his head in agreement. "With Sandy gone and now . . . Jack . . ."
"I can't believe you two!" Tooth cut him off, but immediately fell silent.
Bunnymund expected a lecture to follow her admonishment, so he was confused until her word choice caught up with him. Tooth's eyes were wide in horror, but he found himself chuckling. That definitely appealed to the darker side of his humor.
After a beat of staring at him, North and Tooth joined in. They were all a bit hysterical and strung out on nerves, so North's normal guffaw was subdued and Tooth hid her laugh behind her fingers, but it helped relieve some of the tension.
"Okay, maybe that wasn't the best choice of words," Tooth said, once she had calmed down, "but there are children who do believe! We just need to find them."
"Is too late, Toothie."
"North, when my fairies were stolen you told me there was no such thing as too late! We can't just not try. We owe the children that much."
Bunnymund couldn't help but think that they hadn't been doing the children much good lately. At the same time, Tooth was right. If he was going to go – and he was sure that was the case – he wanted it to be while helping the children.
"Tooth is right!" North said, some of his old energy returning. "When we took oath to become Guardian, we promised to protect children with our lives."
"Guys, I'm all for this, but there's just one problem. There aren't many kids left who believe anymore," Bunnymund pointed out. "I know that doesn't mean we won't protect them, but how exactly can we do that if we don't have any believers?"
"We get believers back! Globe on sleigh will tell us where we need to go."
"You mean visiting them?" Tooth asked nervously, clearly still not used to the idea.
"Is best way to get belief."
"North is right. We should get going." Bunnymund rose to his feet. Something felt off; something about his perception was strange. He was shorter, he realized. Not by much, but definitely more so than when he sat down. "The sooner the better."
The black sand cleared from his vision and Jack found himself on top of the giant globe in North's workshop. Most of the yeti were still hard at work, but there was a small group gathered in front of the console, chattering worriedly amongst themselves and staring up at them with apprehension.
Pitch stepped away from Jack, opening his arms and gesturing around the workshop. "You're all free to go! We won't be needing any Christmas toys this year, thank you."
Jack looked around while Pitch talked, trying to discern what was different and wrong about the workshop. Nothing seemed out of place, until the lights on the globe caught his attention. They were unsteady, flickering . . . going out.
"Nor ever again." Pitch looked back at him as he said those words, smirking as if they shared an inside joke. It made Jack feel like he belonged, so he smiled back and took a few steps forward toward the edge of the globe, toward Pitch.
"It's exactly as I planned, Jack! Just a couple of nights with teeth left under pillows and no good dreams and the children were already doubting their beloved Guardians. Easter absolutely destroyed them!" He sounded positively gleeful and Jack found himself getting caught up in it.
"And now there are only six left," Pitch mocked, "six precious children who still believe in the Guardians with all their hear–" He paused, looking down as if just realizing he was standing right next to one of the last lights. "Make that five."
"There's a light not far from here, near Manchester. And it's the only one on this side of the Atlantic Ocean," Tooth said, shouting a bit to be heard over the rushing wind and snorting reindeer.
Bunnymund supposed it was a good thing he was still tall enough to see the British Isles on the northern curve of the globe. North definitely seemed taller than he normally did, though, and that was troubling.
"Well, then let's hurry up and get there!" he shouted.
Beside him, North tightened his grip on the reins, attempting to steady the rocking sleigh. There was much more turbulence than normal, and Bunnymund suspected it had more to do with the lack of belief than poor flying conditions.
"We are almost there," North said, though his grim look wasn't so reassuring.
Bunnymund looked back at the globe to estimate their position relative to the light, but it wasn't there anymore.
"The light! It's gone out!" he cried.
"Oh, no," Tooth gasped, crowding closer to see for herself. "All the other lights are in the United States. We're so far away . . ."
"I have enough magic left for one use of snow globe," North said, pulling one out from inside his coat.
Tooth spun the globe so the Americas were at the front. "There's a group of lights in the South. Tennessee is our best bet."
As Pitch danced across the Atlantic Ocean, Jack couldn't help but laugh. From their previous encounters, he had gathered that Pitch was a pretty dramatic and expressive guy, but his theatrics were much more entertaining up close. Jack could tell Pitch was feeding off his energy, putting on more of show for his sake.
"Four!" Pitch proclaimed proudly as his last step placed his foot directly on a light.
The snow globe spit them out right in the middle of the cluster of four lights. The easternmost one immediately went out, so North pulled the sleigh to the northwest, where two lights were relatively close together.
"Tooth, what's going on! I can't see it anymore!" Bunnymund could hear the panic in his suddenly higher voice.
"One of the lights we're headed towards just went out, but the other one – Bunny!" Tooth exclaimed as she looked over at him. "You're getting smaller . . ."
"Yeah, I noticed, but we just need to get to the lights. Everything will be fine once we get to the children." He wasn't quite so sure he believed that, but he knew it made Tooth – as well as himself – feel slightly better.
"Two!" Pitch's jump brought both feet down on lights at the same time. "And one."
Pitch turned to stare down at the last light and Jack could clearly see the eagerness on his face, the promise of triumph in his eyes.
"There's only one left."
Tooth's whisper was full of despair. Bunnymund touched her knee, the highest point he could reach.
Their solemn moment was disrupted when the sleigh dropped in the sky. North shouted words of encouragement to the reindeer and their plummet evened out, but there seemed to be a downward tilt to their flight.
"We will make it," North said. "No such thing as too late."
Bunnymund would have felt more reassured if he hadn't heard the resignation in North's tone.
The pause Pitch took to savor the moment gave Jack just enough time to ask the question that had been burning at the back of his mind since Pitch had started.
"Wait! Before you put out the last one – um, we want believers, right? So, I mean, how-how exactly is this going to help us?"
"It'll be much easier to get the children to believe in us if we extinguish their belief in the Guardians first. And, this way, we won't have to worry about them coming after us."
Jack nodded; that made sense.
"But, Jack, why don't you take the last one? It's your victory just as much as it is mine." Pitch swept his hand in the direction of the light, offering it to him. His expression was no less eager than before.
Jack blinked and looked down at the weak, wavering light, sputtering like a candle at the end of its wick. It wouldn't take much to put it out. Still . . .
He wasn't sure how he felt about the Guardians. It wasn't entirely friendly, but that didn't mean he wanted to cause their demise, which seemed to be what would happen if he put that last light out.
The sleigh kept dropping, but was somehow still moving toward that last light.
"It's our victory, Jack."
Our. Not just his; not just Pitch's. Both of theirs. He belonged to something. Really, truly belonged to something and Pitch wasn't saying he owed him anything or needed to prove himself. He was even offering what was, essentially, the killing blow. By all rights, it was Pitch's. He had done all the work, he had suffered longer, but here he was, telling Jack to take it.
"Is it still there?"
"Yes, it's still here," Tooth said calmly. She placed her hands on the globe and Bunnymund could see the light illuminate her palms as she cupped them around it. "Still here."
And the sleigh was still losing height.
There was really nothing Jack could do to help the Guardians at this point. Even if he didn't put the light out, Pitch would. And then he would probably abandon Jack for refusing to put it out.
Jack couldn't allow that to happen. He didn't have anyone to go to besides Pitch and he couldn't stand being alone again.
He took a step forward
raised his staff
and slammed it down on the light.
Aaaaaand that's it.
I put a poll on my page about some BlackIce fics, so it would be a big help if you checked that out and voted. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think!
Edit: To the Guest who simply reviewed "MORE NOW," I'm sorry but no, especially not after you demanded in such a manner. The fic is marked as complete and I even stated above that that's all there is. I'm clearly not planning on writing more and you shouldn't demand more of something you're getting for free.