I do not own Rise of the Guardians, or its characters.
Jack was startled awake by the sounds of feet rushing past his door, and hoarse shouting from deeper in the Pole. He whipped around with enough force to knock his chair to the side, eyes shining in fear. What was going on? He turned, to look over his shoulder, whispering, "Hey, Bunny? I'm going to-"
His words were cut, his voice choking off at the sight of the empty bed.
He twisted around as more footsteps resounded out side the door - the door he hadn't heard open, after he hadn't felt the bed shift when Bunny had left. Was it Pitch? Did that freak find his way to the Pole? No. No, that couldn't be it.
Jack ran to the door and flung it open, before calling Wind and shooting down the corridor, towards all the yelling. He stopped mid-air, floating just inches above several yetis that had gathered in a semi-circle. There, pressing down on Bunny's chest with Phil using a portable oxygen machine, was North. His motions were sure and steady, but the panic that was making its way across his face tore at something in Jack.
"What the hell is going on?!" He demanded.
All heads snapped up, save for North's. Shock tinted the fear and gave way to determination. "Marx, get Jack back to room. Now."
"What?!" Jack knew his voice was rising like a scared child's, and he violently struggled as a Yeti he didn't know grabbed him with gentle but firm hands. "Lemme go! North, what's going on?!"
But North's focus was already back on Bunny's still form, fingers interlinked and pressing down on his friend's chest in a steady rhythm. He had complete faith that the Yeti would do as told, and the Yeti - Marx, a white one with sandy-blonde markings - was hauling the struggling boy away from the scene.
"North!" He flung an arm out, bracing his feet against the ground and pulling against the now tightening grip. "Tell me what's going on! What the hell happened?! Why is he...why is Bunny...?"
And then he himself was flung into a nearby guest room, landing ungraciously on the bed. The door slammed shut behind him. Growling, he bolted to the door and tried to open it, but it wouldn't budge. He started hammering the door with both of his fists, his own panic swelling and clogging fear clouding his mind. "LEMME OUT, GOD DAMN IT!"
As no one answered and the quiet grew, his attempts weakened, and he slid down to the ground, tears pricking his eyes. He put his hands on his head, eyes screwing shut and he began to rock slightly. His tears hit the ground near silently. He didn't need to be told what was happening. He needed to be told he was wrong.
He looked around with mild interest.
He was back where this all had started: in the vortex of unbearable heat and agony. Only, there was much more darkness, burning away bits of images, blurring the screams into distant cries. He walked around, passing bits of pieces of himself - though, how he knew they were as much a part of him as his own foot was beyond him - and looking at memories that he should know, but couldn't recall.
So much of it was filled with bloodshed.
Blood of those who looked like him, blood of a man with golden eyes, blood of North and Tooth, and more blood of those who looked like him. There had been a war, he realized dimly. A war that he himself had been a member in, a fighter for and a killer during. He had been unlike some of his other comrades. He only ever disarmed the opponent until it became a me-or-him situation.
But even that wasn't enough to erase even the slightest bit of guilt.
A distant thought entered his mind as a nightmare formed beside him, walking and talking in a familiar, yet not, voice, talking about the old days. Talking about taking out kids who wielded weapons too advanced even for adults, talking about how they themselves had only been kids when the war began, and were put on the battlefield when the able bodied were in need of support.
Will I remember this when I wake up?
He hoped not.
A distant scream echoed in the air, and his head snapped to it. The Other voice stopped talking, the shadows dimming and the life in the air seemed to still, before growing louder, more focused, and a lot more real. He put his head in his paws as everything rose up, the blood sloshing against his ankles.
"LEMME OUT, GOD DAMN IT!"
North stopped doing his medical administrations when Bunny's body locked tight before twisting onto his side. His body shuttered, and his eyes cracked open slightly, eyes glazed and unfocused - but open and alive, none the less. He pulled his friend closer, leaving the oxygen mask on, and shouted, "Get him to infirmary!"
Already having a gurney ready, they lifted him up and strapped him in, before wheeling him down the hall at a dangerous pace. They by-passed Marx, who was holding onto a door handle with a crushing grip - if the bending metal was anything to go by - and up another flight of stairs.
In a fleeting thought, North wondered how Jack was doing.
They needed to get Bunny stabilized. His fever had spiked, and without his IV filled with specialized antibiotics made specifically for him, the dehydration fighting solvent and the warmth of a bed and fire, Bunny's condition would only get worse until he had been taken care of.
Sandy and Tooth made their way to the Pole. Yes, it was late. Yes, they were tired. But they said they'd be back, and they always kept their word. North would insist they spend the night, they would agree and they could talk with Bunny in the morning before heading out again. Both she and he had re-arranged their schedules to fit a little more Guardian time in, in hopes of putting their heads together and figuring out a way to retrieve Bunny's memories.
When North had asked Tooth about just giving Bunny his box of teeth, in hopes of sparking more than a handful of memories, Tooth had shaken her head sadly. "I can't do that, North. I don't have any of his teeth."
"Not a single tooth?" North had gasped. "We lose teeth all da time, da? They grow back quickly. Even Bunny - I have seen him lose canine once!"
"Not a single tooth." She sighed. "When I take teeth, I also see what the teeth have inside them. The memories. Its not something I can ignore or will away. I need to be able to so that I can take the good memories and put them in the proper place - the box. Bad memories are stored in another area, away from the good. And you never know which tooth has what memories attached to it. Bunny knew this, and because of it he never let me have a single look at his teeth."
"Stubborn Pooka," North had cursed, putting his head in his hands. After a long moment, he lifted his head with a wide smile. "No worries, Tooth! We find other way, da?"
Still, that hadn't inspired any confidence and had made her feel even worse about not having enough trust from Bunny to hold onto a single tooth, good or bad. Did he really believe he couldn't trust them? Did he ever second guess their cause, their commitment, their word? Did he ever question their oath, their loyalties, their motives? Did he even really trust them to have his back in the field, fighting against Pitch or anyone else who harmed children?
More than once, she had seen him glace to make sure someone was behind him in a fight but she had just assumed that he was looking out for each member as well as he could. Now, she wasn't so sure. What if the Bunny they knew wasn't entirely real? What if he had decided to lead them on, just to have more shots at Pitch and others who harmed innocents? What if half of what they knew wasn't actually real, that he was lying? What if it was all a lie?
He had been to their own little lairs many of times. North held every meeting at the Pole, which in and of itself was his home. Tooth had hosted an anniversary every year at the Tooth palace, and had forced him to come. Sandy was always showing them new additions to his Dreamland. Sure, they had been to the Warren - but he had never actually taken them to where he lived within the Warren. Or, did he not actually live there? Did he live somewhere above ground, on another continent?
So many questions left unanswered. She looked to her right, where Sandy himself had a thoughtful look on his face.
Sandy wanted to give Bunny good dreams tonight. Hopefully, it would drag out a fond memory and Aster would remember it. He wasn't the only one who was hopeful about it; it had been North's idea and Tooth was silently willing it to work.
That made her smile a little. Hope. By this point, it was all they had for Bunny. And, he was the Guardian of Hope.
Jack stared at the door handle for what seemed like years, on his knees. He couldn't get the image of Bunny, on the ground and unresponsive, out of his head. Every time he blinked, every single time his eyes closed, he saw North giving up and declaring his friend's death. He heard rushing feet barreling down the hall, and by the sounds of the echoes, they had gone up the steps.
But that could have meant anything.
Thanks for all the wonderful reviews!
I know, this chapter's a little short, but I've been busy today...Sorry!
And, in case you didn't look at my summary, I've decided against making this a JackRabbit fic.
Why I'm even doing this Aussie-plain words translation down here is beyond me. Bunny explains half of it up in the text! :)