Author's Note:

Welcome! Just a few things before we begin...

This is a prompt fill for Dreamwidth's RotG KINKmeme of the same name, and due credit goes to the brilliant Sumi-Sprite (also my Beta extraordinaire). As such, I think it goes without saying that this story is completely unrelated to my previous work, Return to the Shadows, for those of you who happen to be familiar with it. This takes place after the events of the movie with minor references to Guardians of Childhood series.

Genres: Friendship, adventure, humour, romance.

Rating: T (to be safe).

Characters: The Guardians (all), Pitch Black, Jamie, Sophie, OCs (minor).

Pairing: Cavity.

Disclaimer: Rise of the Guardians and The Guardians of Childhood are the intellectual property of William Joyce and Dreamworks. I do not, nor will I ever, own anything associated with these works, except for my own OCs.

I'm so excited to be starting this. As always, reviews are welcome. I hope you enjoy!


UPDATE: 5/5/18 So while no one was looking, I may have gone back and re-written/rearranged the first three chapters... Yes, you can hate me, but don't panic! Pretty much everything is as it was, I just changed the order of the scenes up a little for pacing. Hopefully for any new readers this is going to be more engaging. If you've already read everything published and are up to date, it's up to you if you want to go back. Nothing changes in terms of crucial information. This is mostly for entertainment value.


Summary: In which, a shocking discovery is made.


Chapter 1:

Metamorphosis

Pain.

That was the first thing to which Jack awoke. Pain, and a dizziness that had him convinced he could feel the earth spinning beneath him. His every muscle ached, his bones felt brittle as chalk, but worst of all was the relentless pounding in his head.

"What the…"

His vocal chords were shot. Coughing into the dirt (dirt…?) he pushed himself onto his side and flopped over onto his back. In protest, his stomach lurched, and for a split second its contents rose to the back of his throat. He swallowed it down.

It had to be a hangover. The worst hangover Jack's three hundred years had ever seen. And that was including the time North decided to play mix-master with a few bottles of vodka, plus other questionable substances from his 'Strictly Off Limits to Sanderson Mansnoozy' liquor cabinet. He may have woken up in the arms of a still-hammered Phil with a splitting headache, but at least that morning he could rest assured in the knowledge that he hadn't wandered from the North Pole.

As it was, even his location was a mystery that eluded him.

Jack frowned as a gentle but cold breeze whispered its way over him. Normally, he would either relish the late October chill, or simply fail to notice it entirely. However, the alien sensation of goosebumps peppering his skin alerted him to something startling: for the first time in his relatively short existence, he—Jack Frost, the Spirit of Winter—felt cold.

A disturbance of undergrowth a few feet away had him scrunch his face into a confused grimace. The noise grated at his eardrums, sounding more like nails scrabbling against wood. But it was only when he picked up on something (or someone) lurking nearby, and heard an unmistakable gasp, that he finally flashed his eyes open and sat bolt upright.

He was in a clearing. A woodland clearing of deciduous, bright trees on the cusp of Autumn's end…which seemed vaguely familiar. The air had a sharp chill typical of the season as he breathed it in, and on the wind, he could faintly smell the smoke of an open fireplace somewhere. Not too far from civilisation, then… Blinking bleary eyes, Jack scanned the perimeter of the clearing. There was nothing around that might have made that noise, but prickling hairs on the back of his neck gave him the vaguest suspicion he was being watched. With his sights still set on the thicket, Jack stretched out his legs to shake the pins and needles from them before investigating further. At least, he would have. If his foot hadn't brushed against something unexpectedly rough and grainy. With a gasp, he retracted them again on a reflex and tentatively glanced to the ground.

An almost offensively bright, golden figure with bedraggled hair lay directly in front of him, snoring softly and clutching the crumpled folds of a sari-like garment to their chest. Sand—dreamsand—clung to clothes, skin and hair. It could have been Sandy, lost to one of his typical deep slumbers, but there was just one problem.

Jack had never known Sandy to own a dress of any description.

"Aw man…"

At this point, Jack would have given his left arm in hopes that the little man had taken up a spontaneous interest in drag, perhaps amid some existential crisis. But as his foggy memories finally began to oblige, that possibility dwindled fast. Images flashed in his mind detailing a strange room, and within it even stranger words he couldn't comprehend. And he suspected they were why he had found not the sleeping form of a Sandman, but a Sand-woman. A sand-woman that looked a lot like…

"Tooth?"

Jack sucked in a sharp breath, and in approximately two seconds, bypassed the first four stages of grief entirely.

He was so dead.

~Yes~ agreed a skin-crawling, shudder-inducing whisper. If he hadn't already been winter incarnate, Jack's blood would have turned to ice.

"Who said that?" he rasped. The answer he received did not answer his question. ~But…maybe you can fix your latest screw up...before they wake up~

It was as though the sneering voice had crawled into his brain and was niggling in his ear. With his heart sinking at how spiteful and malicious it sounded, Jack realised the voice may have spoken too soon. Something stirred out of the corner of his eye and he almost gave himself whiplash in discovering a mound of fluff and fuzz at his side.

A Pooka.

~Too late…~

Black ears and paws contrasted sharply against snow-white fur, giving the Pooka a decidedly ermine appearance. He grunted and yawned, wriggling his nose as he dragged himself up to a seated position. Bright blue eyes blinked through an evident haze of confusion, and Jack held his breath until they roved around to lock on his own.

"Augh!"

The Pooka's scream of pure, unadulterated surprise had Jack cry out in turn, and the commotion caused those Jack had yet to account for to jerk awake. A dazed and stunted individual lurched up from the ground wearing the distinct expression of a slapped fish. Garbed in cherry red, he looked to all the world like a dwarf who'd jammed his fingers into an electrical socket, what with the frazzled shock of silvery-white hair he was sporting. Not to mention, he had an impressive beard to match.

"JACK…"

Jack jumped to attention at the Pooka's growl and immediately recognised his heavy Russian brogue.

"…North?" He rubbed at his forehead, and his hand slid down his cheek as he tried to make sense of the monstrosity before him. What had happened here?

"I gave one instruction," North started lowly, "it was simple instruction, even elves could follow. But… What are you staring at?"

"…Huh?" Jack blinked and jolted out of his stupor. "Nothing! I'm not staring," he assured North in an unusually strained voice. He most certainly was not staring at the apparent Pooka-North's ridiculous ears that swivelled and twitched at the slightest noise, or his overwhelmingly hairy face that still seemed to have retained the lingering remains of his beard. Nor his baggy attire now several sizes too big for him.

North narrowed his eyes. Peering down, he assessed his appearance. He screamed again when he saw how every square inch of himself was covered in fur.

"What is this…?" He lifted his arms, torn between fascination and outrage. At first Jack thought he might rupture a vein. There were tendons bulging in his neck, his eye began to twitch, and though he opened his mouth, no words were coming out. "I am not happy, Jack," he eventually managed. "Not happy."

"Keep it down...trying to sleep here…"

They both whipped around at the voice, and Jack was granted a reprieve from being mercilessly chewed out thanks to the grumblings of Tooth—or, who he was assuming to be Tooth. She gave a loud yawn and nestled her chin to her chest without opening her eyes. Whit his stare narrowing even further, North rose and marched over to where she was curled, but he didn't quite make it that far. With a startled yelp, he was floored mid-stride by a hole spontaneously opening beneath him. It brought him crashing down only to be half-wedged and comically contorted in the ground's gaping maw. Jack doubled over with a snort.

"Tooth," North rasped, "Toothie, please be waking up."

She began snoring again.

"Wake up!"

Tooth's eyes cracked open to find him only a few steps away. Taken aback by his peculiar stance on (or in) the ground, she squinted long and hard at the disgrace of a Pooka who could get himself stuck in his own tunnel.

"Bunny, shove a boomerang up your tail," she mumbled groggily.

North shook his head, looking slightly deranged. "No. Not Bunny."

Tooth sat up almost instantly, wide awake now with an utterly bewildered expression plastered on her face. She looked once. She looked again. She pressed her fingers into her eyes and rubbed them just to be sure.

"…North? Wha—I don't understand, you're…" She made a frantic gesture to all of him, spluttering her disbelief. It was then that she caught sight of her own faintly glowing hand. "My feath—! What happened to my…WHAT HAPPENED?!" North hissed and winced, tugging down his hypersensitive ears.

"Please. Don't screech like that again." Jack begged, resisting the urge to crawl into the foetal position and cover his own ears. Having snagged her attention, Tooth's face visibly paled when she turned to face him, though he did not think to ask why that was.

"J—Jack? No. No, this has to be a dream," she assured herself shakily as she stood. Sand particles shaken free drifted to the ground around her. "A really weird…" She gasped suddenly and clenched her fists. "Ooh! If Sandy decided to have a nightcap again, I'm going to strangle him!"

"I don't think that's a good idea. Poor bloke's already lookin' like a stunned mullet."

Had Tooth's scream been pitched any higher, she might have caused North to pass out. Jack startled to find arms wrapped around his head, suffocating and blinding him to the outside world.

"Tooth…can't brea—"

"Who are you?!" he heard her cry.

"Bloody hell, Tooth, it's me!"

"Bunny? Why in the name of Manny's dangling rocks are you—?!" Tooth let out yet another scream, flailing to keep her balance when Jack escaped from her vice grip. Although, to say he disappeared would be more accurate. He found himself in the shade on the opposite side of the clearing, gasping for air, with no clear idea of how he got there.

"I thought you were going to strangle Sandy, not—" Jack almost choked on his own spit. He had seen. He had seen exactly what Tooth had tried to shield his impressionable eyes from, and it reduced him to a shaking ball of repressed, hysterical laugher.

"The hell is going on here?" Bunny asked, ignoring Jack's antics as per the norm. "Crikey, you guys look shocking."

"Speak for yourself," Jack wheezed from the ground.

"Bunny," Tooth hissed, "I…can you…ugh, do you mind?" She had her hands cupped into blinders around her eyes, her face flushed ten shades of red. Ever oblivious, Bunny merely stared back.

"Do I mind 'what'?"

"It seems you have not assessed…ahem…entire situation, my friend," North interjected from the hole.

"What're you galahs yakking on…" Bunny broke off into a garbled, unintelligible cry when he found the Pooka. The Pooka who was wearing his pelt, who was stuck down one of his tunnels, and who had singlehandedly induced in him something akin to an out of body experience. Bunny chanced a reluctant look at himself. Much to Jack's eternal amusement, his reaction did not disappoint.

"Bleedin' MOONROCKS, what the-?!" Beneath a mop of frosty white hair, Bunny gawked at his own unfamiliar form, flexing fingers he'd never possessed and trying to make sense of them. "I'm…I'm…"

"Naked," Jack blurted before succumbing to another round of howling laugher.

"I was gonna say human, you snow-loving arse-wipe," Bunny snapped before he groaned into his hands. "This isn't happening."

"If only!" Tooth said, looking to the sky for a divine intervention that might see Bunny acquire some modesty. Sandy, having recovered from his slight disorientation, chose that moment to join the congregation. He immediately turned on his heel to walk away again, mildly traumatised. Understandably, the little man had seen far too much. North only just managed to snag the neck of his robe as he passed.

"But…but why?" Bunny asked the group.

The now Russian Pooka—a strange and scary notion despite his new fuzzy exterior—panned his narrowed gaze back to Jack.

"Yes, Jack. I would also like to be knowing why," North said in mock cheerfulness as he struggled to hoist himself out of the ground. Tooth shuffled over to assist Sandy in pulling him up

"Frostbite? You gotta be joking," Bunny said.

"You had one job…" North grunted as he clambered to freedom, "ONE JOB. Not to touch books! Yet there you go! Why go and touch books and when I say NO?"

Jack really wasn't too sure of how to reply. Quite frankly, he barely had any idea of what North was referring to. The book part made sense. Sort of. Otherwise, he knew only of strange words found in an even stranger room. But aside from that…

~You do know, Jack. You know why you did this and you know what you wanted. Is this everything you thought it would be?~

"Shut up," he muttered.

"What did you say?"

Jack looked up to find North regarding him with the sternness of a parent whose child had the nerve to talk back.

"I didn't…not you, uh…" He tripped over his own tongue, trying to invent the explanation of a century. However, his defence was interrupted by the moving of a very odd-looking bush a few feet away from them.

"What is that?" Tooth asked more to herself than the others, though they were all wondering the same. They exchanged dubious glances before Sandy armed himself with a stick for good measure, and drew slowly, cautiously nearer to it. When it moved again they froze in place, stalk-still. They could now see that this thing, which appeared rather soft as it ruffled and rippled in the breeze, was made up of something lustrous; a swirling mix of greenish-blue and black, adorned with a hundred iridescent eyes that stared at them, unblinking.

"Sandy. Poke it."

This earned Jack an eye roll from the little man, as well as a decent thump upside the head from an obliging Bunnymund. Tooth hushed them both.

"Wait a second. It's breathing," she said. Curiosity got the better of them, and they moved closer yet again. But as they did, the downy pile tossed and turned fitfully, revealing itself to be a someone they knew.

Someone who caused them to gasp in varying degrees of alarm when they saw his face.

"Toothie," croaked North, "I think we have found what happened to missing feathers."

Jack stumbled back in shock, knocking squarely into Bunny.

"Watch it, mate."

"No… No, no, no. How did he get here?!" Tooth half-whispered, her wrung hands drawn to her chest as she recoiled from the scene. The same question reverberated around Jack's head as he stared at that ashen face, now framed by feathers and dead to the world.