Last chapter. (Of the first part of this series.)
It's been a blast, guys.
Seriously. I love you all.
See you at the end of the chapter.
Songs chapter was written to: Beam Me Up by P!nk, Bang the Doldrums by Fall Out Boy, Animal by Neon Trees, and I Will Go the Distance from Hercules (the Disney movie, of course).
Sweet is pleasure after pain.
-John Dryden, Alexander's Feast, 1697
Jack woke up slowly and very sore. His dark lashes fluttered on his cheeks, bleary blue eyes blinking their way to clarity. He became aware of something breathing gently next to his head. Jack groaned as he awoke entirely, turning his head to look left.
Baby Tooth slept next to him on the pillow. Her tiny chest rose and fell with her breaths, feathers twitching with her small movements. Jack smiled, relieved and happy. He squirmed, and finally realized that he was not in his bed.
He sat up, looking around the room curiously. It was big and red, a fire crackling merrily in the fire place. The furniture was all dark stained wood and deep green upholstery. He was in a four-poster bed. The cushions were big enough on their own to cradle half of his body. Someone had removed the majority of the covers however, and Jack had been left covered by a thin white sheet.
Jack ran a hand through his hair. How had he…? Had Baby Tooth somehow…?
A soft hum made him look back at Baby Tooth, who blinked slowly as she came out of her slumber.
Jack smiled softly. "Hey Baby Tooth," he whispered.
Baby Tooth bolted up at the sound of his voice, and seeing him awake she flew into his chest. He held her for a moment before she darted up to his face. Her twitters were scolding and quick, but her eyes were shiny with relief. Guilt clenched his throat.
Jack sighed. "I know I broke my promise." He looked at her earnestly. "I'm sorry, but it was all I could think to do."
Her lips quivered before she firmed them and nodded. I know, her expression said. But her eyes added, please, please never again.
Jack smiled, but pointedly didn't offer reassurance. If the time came that he needed to use it again, he would. He didn't want to make another promise that he might break.
To distract the knowing in her gaze, he drew his eyes around the room. "Baby Tooth, are we at the pole?"
"I thought so." Jack got out of bed, and looked around quickly. "Where's my staff?" He felt his pockets. "Where's my angel? My horse?" He panicked for a moment, but then he saw them on the bedside table. Relieved, he retrieved them and stuffed them in his pocket. Baby Tooth must have also gotten them from Jamie somehow…
Something niggled that this whole situation was off, but he was tired and wanted to be home in his little nest of blankets and pillows. If that meant accepting things as they were for now, he would.
He cast his eyes about for his staff, but didn't see it anywhere nearby. "Where's my staff?" he repeated.
Baby Tooth grabbed his hood and tugged, an indication to follow. He did. She led them from the bedroom and into a sitting room just down the hall. The Guardians sat in armchairs around the fireplace. Jack's staff leaned on the far wall by a large window that overlooked miles and miles of bright snow.
Jack breathed slowly, relief flooding through him. At least they were alright. He'd been aware enough to know his super smiley flakes had worked on Pitch's nightmares, but he hadn't been conscious for very long once his magic started coming together.
His heart soared when he saw Sandy sleeping soundly in an armchair. Thank goodness. Thank goodness.
And Sandy believed, he remembered. He…he had more believers now, didn't he? Three. Baby Tooth, Sandy, and Jamie. How amazing was that?
But he'd deal with that later. When he wasn't tired and sore. When he'd had time to cuddle into his blanket-bed-nest and hug his stuffed tiger and actually sleep comfortably. Sandy was sleeping anyway. He was probably just as tired as Jack was, after being trapped by Pitch like that.
Jack's feet pattered on the wood as he walked across the room and passed the Guardians, focusing on his staff. He didn't notice Bunny's ears perk, or North turning around to look over at him, or Tooth nudging Sandy awake.
Jack took his staff in hand, and smiled. Baby Tooth hovered in front of him, a gentle grin on her lips. She made a soft coo.
"I've been meaning to ask," Jack said curiously. "How did you get me here anyway, Baby Tooth? I was expecting to wake up in that alley."
Baby Tooth shook her head, and looked over his shoulder, grin growing.
"Baby Tooth that doesn't make any sense—what are you looking at?" Before he could move to see, a warm, furred hand rested on his shoulder.
Jack stiffened. Slowly, he turned his head to look at his shoulder.
It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. He was going to blink and—
"Afraid that'd be us, mate."
Was he shaking? He was pretty sure he was shaking. Jack turned around, and came face to face with Bunnymund. North, Tooth, and Sandy hovered behind him. And they were all four looking at him. At Jack.
Jack's mind rebelled against his heart and the words it wanted to say. Words he'd already said too many times.
Just once more, his heart, his fresh, hesitant hope whispered. Just one more time.
So Jack, in a shaking, quiet voice said, "Can you see me?"
Bunny could have had a hundred children walk through him right now, and it still wouldn't make up for the guilt he felt staring into Jack Frost's wide, pleading eyes.
And that hope. New and quiet though it was, it seemed to have slotted itself so deep into Jack it was like hope had fused with his very being. Bunny considered this with what he knew of the previous hope (the one that had died, that he had helped kill), and its aged, strong, ragged quality.
Jack Frost, myth among myths. Invisible to them all.
But always, constantly hoping.
Bunny swallowed the lump in his throat. "Yeah," he rasped. "We can see you."
The hope saturated the air, thick and sweet to Bunny's senses. "You can see me?" Jack repeated. A huge, ecstatic laugh spread his lips into a wide, pearly smile. Beside him, Bunny heard Tooth sigh. "You can see me!"
To Bunny's surprise, Jack jumped into the air with a whoop, doing a flip and floating for a second before landing crouched on the window's wide ledge. Jack's hands came up, staff set aside, and covered his smile. He watched them over his hands with big bright eyes that began to tear at the edges. His shoulders trembled.
"You can see me," Jack said, muffled by his hands, and by his tone you'd have thought he'd just been given the world.
The little fairy—Baby Tooth, he reminded himself again—landed on Jack's knee. She pat him softly, and Jack's eyes scrunched with a hidden smile.
(It was almost cute.)
"Jack Frost," North said.
Jack lowered his hands, breathing deeply to call back his tears. He could do that later, when he was home and there weren't people around that could see him. (And he was in that bed he kept telling himself about.) "Yes?"
North seemed quieter than usual, uncertain how to speak. "We would like to make you an offer."
"The Man in the Moon," Toothiana continued, "told us at the beginning of all this that there was a fifth Guardian."
"Oh yeah," Jack muttered. "I'd forgotten about that."
"You—," Tooth blinked. "You knew?"
"I…might have, um, been hanging around not long after," he admitted.
Tooth's wings drooped for a second before she continued. "Well Jack, we would like—"
"—for you to become Guardian!" North finished, arms wide. Tooth shot North an exasperated look, but nodded gently at Jack. Sandy gave a double thumbs up. Bunny nodded when Jack glanced at him.
Jack bit the inside of his lip, looking at the floor as he thought. On one hand, he wanted nothing more than to work with them and protect he kids (like Sophie, like Jamie), but…
"I'm sorry," he said, looking up as he resolved his decision, "but I can't. I'm snowballs and fun times and joy, and I'm finally just figuring that out for myself. I'm not a Guardian. At least, not right now. Besides," Jack smirked playfully, "we barely know each other!"
There was a moment of silence as the serious undertone of those words sank in, were acknowledged, and accepted. They didn't know each other. But there was hope for a yet.
North chuckled and nodded. "I understand. If you should ever change your mind…?"
Jack tilted his head to the side, glancing down and back up. "I'll let you know." Jack stood, hopping from the ledge and opening the window in preparation to leave. He suddenly felt overwhelmed. He suspected it would be like this for a while until he got used to people. (What a strange thought. He'd never had people to get used to before. It was nice.) "I'm gonna go. Gotta make sure the Den's clean and hasn't been invaded by stray cats again. Nothing like wildlife gnawing on your furniture to give you a bad day, right?" Oh goodness he was rambling. But what did you say to people who could respond?
Jack looked at Bunny, jittery. "Yes?"
Bunny smiled, at him, and Jack was reminded of his admiring thoughts from the Warren before Easter. He repressed a frosty blush as Bunny said, "Don't be a stranger. Come visit. I'm sure we'd all," he gestured, "like to get to know you better."
Jack's eyes scanned their nodding heads and smiles, and his jitters abated. He looked at Bunny contemplatively, and summoned his courage. "I will."
Then he jerked forward and wrapped his arms around Bunny clumsily. (His fur really was as soft as he'd imagined, and he was so warm in comparison to Jack.) "Thank you. For believing in me."
Bunny's arms hovered in surprise, then came to wrap around Jack (and oh, that was different). "You're welcome."
Jack buried his face in the fur of Bunny's shoulder, a few reluctant tears slipping form his eyes.
So, this was a hug.
Jack decided he really liked it.
A boy drew in the frost on the outside of his living room window. Right glove clutched in his left, his slim fingers numbed with cold as he carefully wrote.
"What are you doing?"
The boy yelped and spun to his father, who poked his head out of the front door. "Dad!"
Jamie Bennett laughed at his son, and came fully from the house. He rubbed his hands over his arms, red turtle-neck sweater scrunching as he hunched his shoulders against the cold. "Sorry, sorry." He tried to look at the window past his son's head. "What are you doing?" he repeated.
The boy blushed faintly and shuffled his feet. "Writing a letter."
Jamie's smile was slow and pleased. "To Jack Frost?"
He nodded, then drew his shoulders back and firmed his face. "He gets letters you write on windows." He stared at Jamie seriously. "He is real, you know."
Jamie nodded solemnly. "He does. He is."
His son looked at him wondrously. "You believe me?"
"Of course." Jamie nodded at the front door. "Come on. I think Cupcake's making cocoa, and I've got a story to tell. I think you'll like it."
"Mom's making cocoa?" The boy reached up and took Jamie's hand. "What's the story about?"
"Jack Frost, of course," Jamie answered. "And the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, and Santa Clause."
"Boys!" The call came faintly from inside the house. "Cocoa!"
Jamie opened the front door. "What'd I tell ya? Let's go, I think your Mom would want to hear the story. She knows it too."
The door closed behind them.
A moment later Jack Frost hovered in front of the frosted window, reading. A small smile tilted his lips.
"Oi, Frostbite." Jack turned to the vaguely grumpy looking Bunny that stood behind him. An open tunnel at his side showed how he'd gotten there. "There you are. I was looking all over the Warren for you, mate. I thought you said you wanted to paint eggs?"
Jack laughed, touched and pleased that Bunny would take time away from work so close to Easter just to come get him. Bunny would never know just how much that meant to him.
"I do, Aster," Jack replied. "I just had to take care of something first." He gestured to the window.
Bunny looked at it, rolling his eyes good-naturedly. "Another one? Ankle-biters are getting creative with 'em, aren't they?"
Jack's soft eyes and smile lit with joy, and Bunny shifted a little as his heart beat picked up. "They are," Jack acknowledged.
Jack hopped into the air, smile turning mischievous as he began to circle Bunny, slowly, holding Bunny's darkening eyes as the Pooka watched him heatedly. At the right time in his circling Jack darted forward and ran a finger down Bunny's spine to the base of his tail. "Race you home, Aster!" He dived into the tunnel.
Bunny looked after him, muscles flexing as his lips pulled into a lascivious grin. "Oh," he said in a husky purr, "you don't want to race a rabbit, mate." He pounced after Jack, tunnel closing.
The letter written in frost, having been received, began to fade.
Dear Jack Frost,
Can't we have just one more snow day before Easter?
So. We did it! :D
Finished my first multi-chapter story for this fandom!
Be on the lookout for the sequel later next week! (Pssst, that's the one where the Jackrabbit bits really start to kick into high gear. I admit that this was a slow burn.)
I promise, your questions shall be answered in the sequel.
*Looks at the outline of the sequel that took about four hours to make.*
...I've got some shit planned, okay?