I own nothing except my ideas. Said every hippie ever, but seriously I only wish the Guardians were mine. This is a little one-short I thought up the other day while taking a break from another work.
Jack stared down at his blue hoodie and sighed. A long stripe of vibrant green paint ran from his shoulder to his hip in a continuous line interrupted only by a giant spot of red paint. To say the least he had been more than a little angry when he left the workshop. Several of the clumsy elves were frozen on his way out as revenge, but Jack still was extremely bitter. This was his hoodie after all; the first thing that ever belonged solely to him. It had been his very first Christmas present and now it was ruined. No amount of club soda or special cleaner could take out North's water proof paint and no amount of frozen elves would change that. Knowing this Jack let his anger grow with his breath and pulled the hoodie over his head.
The winter spirit tossed the garment into the corner of the room carelessly as he strode over to the wardrobe. North had been more than generous to Jack, giving him not only a room to stay during his off season but also a closet's worth of clothes in hopes he would wear something other than the forty year old sweatshirt. Just looking over the selection Jack felt a twinge of guilt. He would have to go back down and apologies, but he would put it off until he changed.
Inside the wooden wardrobe was a range of hoodies as well as long and short sleeve shirts. Jack had pushed all the short sleeve shirts to the far side of the wardrobe as he would never even consider putting one on without a hoodie. At first the spirit fingered the long sleeve shirts but then pushed them away as well. They were all either to big to look proper or just the right size, a small size that would still be a bit big and Jack dreaded putting one of those on. He looked to the only real option and sighed once more. Jack laid all the hoodies out on the bed and examined them.
Though Jack only wore blue, or perhaps it was because he only wore blue, North had given the boy a rainbow of new hoodies to choose from. There was green, orange, purple ,yellow, red…Jack put the red one with the T-shits immediately and then turned back to his choices. Not seeing much else Jack took up the two hoodies that he had deemed near expectable. The first was a navy blue, one only a half shade dark than his original hoodie, and the second was white. Both who have fit nicely and they wouldn't have been too different, but Jack eventually put the white one back with all the others. There was little doubt in his mind that if he put it on it would only signal the elves to launch more trays of paint at him.
Jack looked at the remaining hoodie and then turned towards the mirror on the inside of the wardrobe door. The winter spirit took a long moment to look at himself. Mirrors always made him feel so vain. Even when he was alive if Jack saw himself in the mirror he would take a moment to make sure his face was clean and there was nothing in his teeth. When he lost his memories Jack would spend hours looking into the lake. His own reflection had appeared to stare through him but at least he was always clean. Now he looked at himself and reflected on all those times. He was many things, but Jack cared about his appearance; more so than he probably should though he wasn't sure why. After all, what was there to look at?
Despite what the Tooth Fairies thought he was not hansom. If anything Jack had a boyish charm to his appearance and if anyone could look past that they would realize just how ugly he actually was. Underneath his hoodie Jack was terribly thin. His skin was pulled tightly over a small layer of muscle that kept him from looking like a sack of bones. The skin itself was extremely pale and heavily bruised. In the center of his chest was a round one the size of an apple and a larger one over his ribs, a few on his shoulder. Most of the fading lavender bruises were from Pitch, but there were others. Fresh marks covered him from where he had crashed into a tree only a few days ago. There were faded cuts from where Jack had flew to low and caught the edge of a razor wire fence many years ago. Jack examined the marks that made him appeared battered. The worst of his past was upon his back and Jack left behind him. He just wished that he could do the same with the scars on his front.
Jack held the hoodie up to himself trying to decide if it actually looked good. It was a little dark for his taste. When Jack lifted it up a bit he noticed something that caused him to hold it away. There was a giant snowflake on the back. Bunny would probably laugh, but Jack thought it was kind of fitting, like a football player's jersey. He wondered, did the others have that? Curious, Jack hung the hoodie on the door and looked through the others. Before he could actually look the door fell inward with the new weight causing it to turn. Jack stopped it before it shut. His eyes widen with shock as the mirror now reflected the bedroom door which was wide open and a little gold man hovered just beyond it. His face had the same look of horror as Jack's.
"Sandy." Jack gasped turning around.
The Sandman cringed as more damage was revealed to him. Seeing the disgust in his eye Jack grabbed the hoodie and covered himself with it like a blanket. The look didn't go away. Sandy started to back away slowly, so shocked he had no idea what to say. Jack was able to read the thought in his eye. North would know what to do. Even if Sandy was technically the oldest North always had a plan for everything; surely he would have something for…this. Jack held the hoodie with one hand and tried to make soothing gestures with the others.
"Sandy, just relax. Take a breath. There's no need-"
Sandy turned and bolted like a deer when Jack took a step towards him.
"Sandy!" Jack yelled.
Jack jumped over the bed and struggled to pull on the hoodie as he grabbed his staff. Falling out the bedroom door Jack tripped and nearly flew into a wall as he stumbled into flight. Once he could see and had his balance Jack followed the thin trail of glittering sand Sandy left behind him. It was wasn't long before he was right behind the Sandman.
"Sandy stop!" Jack screamed. "We need to talk about this!"
Sandy didn't stop no matter what Jack screamed at him. Instead he raced through the maze of hallways dodging Jack at every turn. When they hit the workshop this task only became harder as Sandy had to stop and swoop around Yetis, flying toys and other hazards. A trio of yetis turned and yelled at the two as their aerobatics destroyed a display of red dinosaurs. Sandy charged ahead as Jack turned to give a quick apology.
The chase was relentless, but Sandy was in the home stretch. North's office was just on the other side of the workshop. As Sandy felt a bit of relief Jack felt a bit of panic. As he flew faster to try and catch the Sandman he didn't notice the elf controlled plane heading straight for him. By the time he saw the plane Jack was too late to dodge it. The elf pulled up and side swiped the winter spirit. Thrown off balance Jack's staff slipped from his fingers and the barrel roll Jack sent him into the railing of a lower level and then smashing into the table beyond it.
Everything was dark for a few moments but Jack was soon coaxed out of it by a furry paw patting on his cheek. Jack groaned weakly as he opened his eyes. The dark fell away to reveal a grayish-green blur.
"Ya crazy dingo wake up!" Bunny shouted trying to get Jack to stay conscious.
"Sweet Tooth how many fingers am I holding up?" Tooth asked shoving Bunny out of the way.
"I don't know, stop moving." Jack said deliriously.
"Good enough." Bunny said pulling Jack out of the mess of ice, wood chips and broken toys.
Jack wobbled on his feet and leaned on the broken table until he regained his sight. He looked about for his staff. Tooth handed it to him and brushed the remnants of the mess off his new hoodie.
"Jack what were you thinking? You could have been really hurt."
"Huh?" Jack asked, his memory still clouded from the fall.
"Chasing Sandy through the workshop." Bunny reminded. "Are ya both crazy?"
Jack snapped up as everything came rushing back. He gasped and looked about.
"Where's Sandy?" He said looking about feverishly.
Sandy appeared, unfortunately floating right behind North as he shoved his way through the crowd of yetis that had formed around Jack. He grabbed Jack by the arm. He seemed extremely angry and yelled at the others as he dragged Jack away.
"Guardian meeting now!"
Jack tried to convince himself that North was not angry at him, just worried. However his grip was so tight it made the fact hard to believe. Jack stumbled as North pulled him into the meeting room. He tried to tell North he was hurting him but he was cut short when he threw the boy into the room. Jack stumbled and now released from North's grip he moved away from the angered giant. The Guardians all rushed in and North slammed the door behind them. Just like North's office the heavy door closed and bolted its self shut.
"Mate it was just a few dolls." Bunny said as North stormed around the room locking the windows. "Calm Down."
"I'm sure Jack didn't mean it. Right Sweet Tooth?"
Jack cringed every time North past him, like a child awaiting punishment. Tooth tried to stand by him as they began to defend him but Jack staggered away from her as well. North ignored all of them. He stared down Jack, rage flaming in his blue eyes. Jack had never been so afraid of the man in his life.
"Are you going to tell them?" He barked. "Or do they have to find out from Sandy as well?"
"Find out what?" Tooth asked looking around at the three of them.
Jack stepped back.
"Please just leave it alone. I don't want to talk about it." Jack said attempting to retreat into his hood.
North pulled the hood back down refusing to let Jack run away from this. He held Jack by the shoulders.
"No, we ARE to talk about this now!"
Bunny pulled North away from the boy.
"North knock it off!" Bunny snapped. "You're scaring him."
Tooth backed Jack away and allow him to throw up his hood. It was his only he security had in this world, but it could not hide away his frightened tears. She wrapped him in a gentle hug and shushed him as tears fell from his eyes and frozen as they fell to the floor. She glared at North as he stroked Jack's hair in effort to comfort him.
"It okay, shush, just calm down." She cooed.
"Somebody want to tell me what in the world is goin' on?" Bunny snapped at Sandy and North.
The two looked at each other and North turned away. His distanced himself from the group before his rage got the better of him again. Standing alone beneath the hot light Sandy moved over to Jack, who was slowly regaining himself. Despite Tooth's protective grip on the boy he shooed her away and moved Jack back to the center of the group. He lifted Jack's chin so he could look him in the eyes. Jack was so afraid and Sandy had to admit this was not the easiest way to get through to him but there was no way to break down a stone wall that was pleasant. He lowered Jack's hood. Using his hands rather than his symbols Sandy 'spoke' to the boy so the young Guardian could easily understand him. They others watch intently as the two had a silent conversation, Sandy speaking through ASL and Jack through twitches of his head and the emotions reflected in his shifting eyes. None of them could understand, but it went something like this.
We just want to help you.
I don't need help. I'm fine.
No you're not.
I just want them to stop staring.
We're you're family. We stare because we care.
I'm scared. What if they freak out?
He glanced at the others and recognized the worried looks in their eyes. Sandy pulled him back to face him.
It has to happen for you to move past it. I'm sorry for bringing you to this, but I was scared to. We all need to deal with these fears. Together.
Jack brushed away the last of his tears and nodded. He spoke in a soft voice that barely rose above a whisper.
"I just didn't want anyone to worry."
"Worry about what?" Tooth asked. "Jack please tell us what's going on."
Jack sighed and looked her and then at all of them as he spoke.
"I may have gotten some cuts, scrapes…bruises, over the years." Jack said nervously rubbing his arms. "Because I'm technically frozen they don't always fade completely…Sandy saw me while I was changing and…" Jack voice trialed off as he tried to find the words to explain it.
"You got some scars?" Bunny guessed trying to fill in the blank Jack left. "That's nothin' to be ashamed of."
"Not just some." North growled.
North could not describe how upset he was that Jack was hiding something so important from him. He was extremely disappointed that after so long the boy still didn't trust him. However trying to see it from Jack's point of view this wasn't exactly easy. He took a breath and looked at Jack with much gentler eyes.
"Perhaps if you let us see." North offered.
Jack clutched the arms of the hoodie. He forced a smile on his face.
"Most of them aren't that bad. How I got them are kind of funny in fact."
"Then let us see." Bunny demanded growing impatient.
Jack was still uneasy. He looked specifically at North.
"Promise you won't get mad?"
"I promise." He said with a nod.
Jack looked to Sandy, almost as if he was looking for permission to run away which would not come. Sandy patted him on the shoulder to reassure him. Jack turned his attention to the floor and took in a deep breath. Slowly his raised his arms and pulled off the hoodie. Tooth gasped and shock came over the other Guardians faces. Sandy could hold back his own surprise as he could now see the marks more closely.
"What is that hatching?" Bunny asked confused as he hopped over to Jack.
He referred to the thin 'X' pattern on Jack's side. Jack looked down solemnly, though he tried to smile.
"Oh, electric fence."
"And these?" Tooth asked pointing to the cuts on his arm.
"Razor wire." Jack replied.
"You have issues with fences don't cha mate?" Bunny laughed.
"I don't believe in private property." Jack laughed back.
"And the bruises?" North asked.
Jack's smile fell away as he remembered those. Of his scars those weren't very laughable.
"On Easter Sunday, I was attacked by Pitch after I ran away." Jack said looking away.
Bunny's ears dropped with shame. He remembered how he'd yelled at Jack. He had been angry then and felt awful about it now. Not only had Bunny nearly broken his spirit, the Boogeyman had tried to break his bones. Jack still came back and made Jamie believe in him, in all of them.
"I'm sorry… If you had said something… I could have patched ya' up." Bunny offered despite being six months too late.
"No it's really not." Bunny argued. "I was against you from da start. I should've trusted ya. I should've-"
"Bunny, it's in the past. I just didn't want to bring it up again." Jack assured. "You guys are important and you have important things to do. Way more important than worrying about me."
"Is that why you didn't tell me? Because you think you are not important?" North asked. "Jack you are Guardian but more importantly you are family. You are most important thing in the world."
"It's true." Tooth said hugging on Jack again. "You're important to all of us."
"But that's just it." Jack said pushing away from them. "I don't want to be. You have holidays to bring, dreams to protect, memories to keep… And I'm clumsy. I get hurt, a little more than a lot." Jack dropped his gaze and held himself unconsciously. "You can't just drop everything because I'm here now. I've been fine on my own for three hundred years…I don't need you, but the children do."
Tooth ignored Jack's clear need for space and latched on to his neck again.
"That doesn't mean we don't need you."
"She's right Frostbite," Bunny said joining the hug. "The children are important ta me but so are you. I can't speak for the others but I'm not goin' to mother hen ya' unless you really need it."
Sandy joined the hug as well. North was reluctant, but he eventually laugh and picked up the group in his bear like arms.
"I will not worry as long as there are no more secrets." He looked at Jack. "Or at least none that I don't know."
"Sure…" Jack said weakly. "But air is nice."
"I second that…" Bunny said gasping.
North released him and the bundle fell apart. They all started to laugh. As Tooth looked up she saw Sandy frantically dancing behind the group trying to get someone's attention. She cocked an eyebrow at him. Sandy made a swirling motion with his finger and created a snowflake above his head. She looked at Jack was causally exchanging remarks with Bunny about his fence scars again.
"Fences just aren't-"
Tooth took Jack by the shoulders and forced him to turn around. She released him and gasped again.
"What Tooth?" Jack asked just as surprised as she was.
"Frostbite what happened to your back?!" Bunny asked seeing the large amount of scars on Jack's back.
This had been what had most disturbed Sandy. Jack thought he had just thought he had seen the bruises through the mirror or maybe there were bruises on his back from where he had hit the ravine wall in Antarctica or the dumpster in Burgess. In the center of his back though there was a slur of old scars that stretched across his back and ran in ever direction and overlapped each other. Honestly Jack wasn't really sure how he felt about those. At one point they had confused him, but after taking back his memories Jack saw them as just normal wear and tear. He didn't like showing them, but he wasn't ashamed of them like he had been the others.
"Oh you mean the lashings? Yeah, I grew up in colonial times so school wasn't great and a lot of people didn't tolerate the class clown." Jack said rather passively.
"So they whipped you!" Tooth shouted.
"No, lashed. There's a difference. Mr. Darren (my teacher) always made that clear." Jack corrected. "Five times every time I was trouble, sometimes ten and he used a green branch not a whip. If you're whipped that usually it starts at forty with a whip or cat o' nine tails. He wasn't all that smart because when you whip someone you still call it a lash."
"Ya do understand that was wrong, right?" Bunny asked as Tooth was shocked into horrified silence.
"Nah it's right, trust me I got punished enough to know the difference." Jack said missing the point.
Sandy faced palmed as it looked as if Tooth might faint trying to wrap her head around the idea. North laughed at her. Clearly her human life had been sheltered compared to theirs.
"Was different time Toothiana." North assured. "Is wrong now, but when I was a boy there were worse punishments."
"Like what?" Jack asked pulling his hoodie back on.
"No!" Tooth shouted panicked. "No they were bad punishments even for the time and we're not going into anymore detail!"
"Hey Snowflake, I just noticed you got a snowflake on your back now." Bunny chuckled.
"You're just jealous of its awesomeness."
"What happened to red hood by the way? I thought you would like that one."
"Not everyone shares you're sense of fashion." Bunny answered for him.
"Maybe near… Christmas." Jack said seeing Sandy with a dream sand Christmas tree over North's shoulder.
North turned around and the image disappeared as Sand tucked his arms behind his back.
"I will hold you to it, and SANDY should find the sweater I made him last year." North huffed.
Sandy smiled at Jack as he laughed. That wasn't so…bad. Just like ripping off a band-aid, a thorny band-aid that was coated in lemon juice. Jack had to admit it was good to get the feeling off his chest even if the scars wouldn't go away. He was almost glad. He certainly didn't want more moments like this, however something about the term 'family' told him this was going to happen a couple more times. They could handle it though. After all they were family.