A/N: So I decided to put up my own collection of one-shots (sort of inspired by MugetsuPipefox's amazing collection, titled Miles to Go Before I Sleep), and I do accept requests. Just tell me what you want to hear, and I'll do my best to write it up and post it ASAP!
Now, enjoy! :3
Put On a Show
Chapter Summary: Bunny had never realized what sort of feelings Jack hid behind his mask of smiles.
Bunny never liked seeing Jack like this.
When the winter spirit would show up to the monthly Guardian meetings, he would smile and laugh and joke with Sandy as usual, but Bunny could see the sadness in Jack's ice-blue eyes. It was always there, though sometimes it faded when he was having fun with the others.
True, Bunny wasn't the kid's best friend, but even he could tell that something was bothering Jack. Whenever Bunny asked, though, Jack would wave it off with a flippant "I'm fine, Cottontail! I'm not a kid, sheesh!"
It had been a few months since Pitch was sent back crawling to where he had come from, and Jack had easily slipped in with the other Guardians. It had come to the point that it was customary to feel a chillier-than-usual breeze blowing through the Warren, adoring chirps and a garbled voice, an exuberant laugh soon followed by a loud crash . . . the list went on and on.
Bunny couldn't really remember what it had been like before Jack became a Guardian. He wondered whether that was a good or bad thing, if the impish winter spirit was what the four Guardians of Childhood needed all along.
Like North had responded when Sophie Bennett had accidentally invaded the Warren, they were admittedly much too busy bringing happiness to the children. They never had time for the lights they were trying to protect.
Jack had changed that.
The newly dubbed "Guardian of Fun" brought smiles onto all of their faces, unknowingly burrowing himself into each of their hearts, and letting them act like the Guardians they really were . . . for Jack was still a child, no matter how many times he tried to deny it.
Tooth gently reminded the boy to brush his teeth and floss, as always, but Bunny had spotted her coming in to Jack's room when he actually decided to stay at the Pole to wish him a goodnight, even when he was already sleeping.
Sandy went out of his way to bring Jack good dreams the few times Jack would actually be asleep. And Bunny suspected that the two worked together to throw him in his purple dye river about a month ago. Since then, Tooth and North knew to avoid the duo at all costs when they got that identical evil look in their eyes.
As for North, he always let one of the windows open at the Pole, an open invitation for Jack to walk (or more accurately, fly) in. The winter spirit's input of all the things that the children of the world liked was a great help, since Christmas was due to roll around in about two months.
Bunny noticed that Jack was always smiling and playing pranks. It annoyed the Pooka to no end when Jack's gleeful intentions were usually for him, but Bunny always managed to Jack back sooner or later.
It usually took a while to plan out, but they always hit their intended target. And ended up with Jack sulking for a week or two before retaliating.
Jack's attendance record to Guardian meetings was a little spotty, as he arrived early to some and appallingly late to others, but he had never failed to make one yet. It was clear to everyone that Jack wanted to prove that he could handle the responsibility, even with the other job as the Spirit of Winter that he was saddled with.
But one day, Jack failed to show up for a Guardian meeting at all.
"Where's Jack, anyways?" Bunny grumbled, annoyedly flicking a paintbrush back and forth.
"He's probably still coming," Tooth reasoned, before speaking another order to one of the mini-fairies that perpetually surrounded her. "You know that he can get really busy sometimes."
Bunny thought about that for a moment. It was true that Jack Frost was a mischievous spirit, but it was also true that he was the most determined person to do his job (well, jobs, now) right. Bunny could tell that balancing his duty as the Spirit of Winter and the newest Guardian of Childhood really put a huge strain on the kid.
Though immortals didn't need to sleep as much as humans did, it didn't mean that they didn't want or need to. Jack had admitted to Bunny in a drowsy haze one day that he hadn't gone to sleep for a week, to which the Pooka had immediately commanded the boy to lie down at the Pole.
Jack had protested, saying that there were still a few more areas that needed snowstorms, but Bunny put his foot down. "You might lose control of the blizzard if you're not at 100%," he had said.
The boy blinked up at him for a few moments, then reluctantly conceded, making his unsteady way to his room, with a reminder to Bunny to wake him up in a few hours.
Bunny agreed, then left the boy to sleep for a few days.
Though Bunny didn't like to admit it, Jack could be considered the busiest out of all the Guardians, with two equally stressful jobs to balance.
And so the four Guardians sat in the room in front of the fireplace, waiting patiently for their youngest to join them.
A week had passed since the busted meeting. Jack hadn't shown up, which obviously irritated the short-tempered Guardian of Hope. Tooth, Sandy, and North had been worried, but they each went back to doing their own work.
Easter wasn't for another few months, so Bunny was saddled with locating the elusive winter spirit.
Finding the boy huddled in a ball under a pile of leaves in the woods of Burgess wasn't what he was expecting, though.
"Jack?" Bunny said, alarmed, reaching down to clear the pile of leaves off the unmoving Guardian of Fun. "C'mon, mate, what's wrong?"
Broken blue eyes seemed to glow when closed eyelids fluttered open. "Bunny?" Jack rasped, slowly sitting up. Dead brown leaves and a light dusting of snowflakes were clinging to his blue cotton hoodie and the hood that covered his head.
The sadness in Jack's eyes had never been more pronounced than they were now. It worried him.
"Where were you?" Bunny demanded, his worry for the other making him slip into accusation mode. "You missed the last meeting!"
"I did?" Jack mumbled, leaning on the tree trunk behind him. "Sorry," he said, sounding like he didn't really care at all.
Bunny watched in horror as he realized the boy's normally cheerful face was completely devoid of emotion. If he didn't know better, he would have thought that Jack was . . . was dead. His eyes were hollow and empty-looking as he gazed past Bunny and at something only he could see.
"Jack?" Bunny asked again, softer this time. "What's wrong?"
Jack hiccuped, and buried his face into his hands. "I killed them," he whispered, beginning to tremble. "They're dead because of me."
"The people in that city," Jack said, somehow getting even smaller. "They couldn't see me, and I couldn't help them. Children are dead because of me."
Bunny frowned. "Was this the storm you spread over—"
"Yeah." Jack lifted his head up and placed it on his knees, much like a child would. "I would understand if you hate me now."
Bunny had never felt worse for the boy sitting in front of him now. He was so young, saddled with a job that brought death to those who couldn't afford to keep warm in Jack's season. And a terrible thought then ran through Bunny's mind: How many deaths has Jack seen in three hundred years? How many times has he sat, alone, crying because of the guilt he felt?
"Jack . . ." Bunny said, reaching out a paw to place on the winter spirit's thin shoulder. "Hey, it's not your fault."
Tears began to well in the boy's eyes. Before Bunny had gotten to really know Jack, this might have caused the Pooka some vindictive satisfaction, but now it only made sorrow pulse in his heart.
"It isn't your fault," Bunny repeated firmly. "Those people could have been hurt a lot worse than what you put them through. Letting them pass peacefully through sleep was the best thing you could've done."
". . . I guess," Jack whispered feebly. Then he laughed quietly, though there was no humor to it. "Sorry that you have to see me like this. I can usually get through this on my own."
"You don't have to be alone, Jack," Bunny said, standing up and pulling Jack to his feet as well. "We're always with you. North, Tooth, Sandy, and me . . . you can always come to us when you need help."
And Jack's responding, hesitant smile lit up his blue eyes and made the sadness in them disappear.
Because Bunny knew (and he knew that Jack knew this as well) that that obstacle had been overcome; the shield over his heart had finally been cracked.
There was no need to pretend anymore.
No need to put on another show.
"Now, let's get back to the Pole," Bunny said, tapping his foot on the snowy ground. "I'm freezin'!"
"But it's cold there, too," Jack pointed out with an impish grin, leaning down to pick up his staff.
"Oi! Shut up!"
And the two Guardians jumped in the burrow, one laughing happily as the other let a reluctant smile slip onto his face.