This is a new "short" fic written for one of my followers over on tumblr. I post a series of prompts and people come back to me with characters/ships and the prompt of their choice. I guess that means I take (some) requests now?
Genres: Hurt/comfort, family, horror, supernatural.
Characters: Jack, Sandy, Bunny, North, Tooth, Pitch.
Prompt: "Why is there blood on your/my hands?"
Warnings: Blood, violence, coarse language, gas-lighting.
Disclaimer: Rise of the Guardians and The Guardians of Childhood are the intellectual property of William Joyce, Dreamworks and associates. I do not own anything associated with these works, except the original characters.
Cover Artist: Taylor Denna
Flight of the Frost Sprite
"So, let me get this straight… We have to stay holed up in this joint for three hours a fortnight while Frosty the Snowman pulls a Harry? Tell me how that adds up."
North looked up from his clipboard as he finished scrawling his last few notes—the minutes of the meeting, as it were—to the Pooka in front of him. "You mean you would like to be excused also?" he queried.
"No, I mean he's a Guardian now. If he wants to be involved, he should bloody act like it. That means showing up for these shindigs," Bunny argued, and then muttered under his breath, "no matter how much they bore you to tears." He loped away across the Globe Room towards the generous table of refreshments, making a point to avoid the carrot sticks that (North would admit) were set out as a joke at his expense.
"Bunny, you may leave whenever you wish, nobody is forcing you to be here. This is new initiative, and anyone who is free to come, comes. Jack, though he is young of heart, has many responsibilities—"
"One of which is keeping up with current affairs."
"Which I tell him. He will know everything we discuss here today. He has been very scarce these last…" North counted off on his fingers, "…I will say two months. But it is not so bad that he is away; I have messenger Yeti to find him. And besides, from what we know, everything is well. Pitch is still trapped underground, and the leftover Nightmares are being destroyed. There is no reason to call him away from his duties."
"It not just that. It's about rapport, it's about filling in the cracks so our foundations as a team don't…" Bunny faltered when he saw North's impassive expression. "Whatever. What's he doing that's so important, then?"
North shrugged. "He is seasonal sprite. He brings the winter. That is big job, especially in the north. It is taking up much of his time."
Bunny glanced at Sandy and Tooth, hoping they might be just as outraged to hear of Jack shirking the more mundane responsibilities of Guardianship. Neither seemed to mind. Tooth nodded, not sure what she was agreeing with since she was otherwise engaged in sending off her fairies, but certain that if North had said it, it was probably right. Sandy was more preoccupied with the free booze on offer.
"I just think he should be putting in more of an effort," said Bunny with a small sigh.
"And I think you should trust that he already is. Jack has a good heart, and that goodness is what makes him a Guard—"
A loud crash came from down the dark corridor leading to the South wing. Startled, the Guardians looked up as several hefty figures making up North's Yeti army rushed onto the scene. The Guardians themselves were quick to follow. The source of the commotion, they found, was a tall lampshade which had toppled to the ground, its bulb flickering a feeble light and bouncing restless shadows across the walls. Several objects were scattered on the floor around it; bottles of ointment, something that may have been a thermometer, and sticking plasters were just a few of the bizarre items. They had fallen out of a simple tin box. And in the middle of the crime scene, having failed to steal back out into the opaque, frozen tundra, stood a hoodie-clad boy, with a wooden shepherd's crook at his feet.
Tooth pushed her way through the small crowd to meet him, but lurched to a halt when he threw out an arm to ward her away.
"Jack, what are you doing here?" asked North.
Jack's eyes darted between them. The uncertainty in his face wrenched North back to a time long ago, when he had been the formidable leader of a group of bold and impetuous Cossack bandits, the most audacious of whom attempted (and failed) to pilfer extra rations or shares of plundered loot. But Jack was no thief, and unlike North's men from the old days, he did not usually give the impression that he moonlighted as an underground fighter. This made the resemblance all the more uncanny. His snow-white hair was a disheveled mess. Bruises purpled his ankles (and moon knew how many more were being concealed by his clothing). Bags under his eyes told of many a sleepless night. Then there was the look in his eyes themselves. North had only seen Jack this unnerved one other time: the night Sandy had lost his battle with the Nightmare King.
"Jack…" Tooth gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth. Her eyes widened in horror. Smeared over Jack's palms and caked under his fingernails was a matted, dark red substance. Bunny stood rigid with his nose in the air as the tinny, musty smell of raw iron hit his nostrils in a nauseating wave.
"Why've you got blood on your hands?"
Jack glanced down and started, as though he had only just realised his porcelain skin was stained crimson. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, a tardy attempt to hide them from their disturbed eyes.
"It's not what it—I didn't mean for it to happen."
"Didn't mean for what to happen?" Tooth asked. She hovered over Jack, trying to pry his hands free until he ducked down and slipped by her.
"Stop, Tooth. It's fine. Just…don't worry about it," he said, collecting his staff and two rolls of bandaging gauze. By Jack's stance, he was poised to run. But to where, North had not a clue.
"Mate, you've got Buckley's if you think we're just gonna drop whatever the hell's going on here," said Bunny, drawing himself up off his haunches to his full, towering height.
"It's not your problem."
"Any problem of yours is a problem of the Guardians. So, unless you got something to hide, you better start talking."
"I can't," said Jack, desperately this time. "If I do, he'll…" Jack clamped his mouth shut. The Guardians looked to one another in alarm.
"Shostakovich…" North whispered, "what have you done?"
Jack met North with dim and weary eyes. A storm had dulled their bright, icy blue to a grim, cloudy grey. He dropped his head, and his shoulders rose and fell with a sigh. It was the only sign of remorse he showed before he regarded North with one last glance, and bolted.
Twirling his staff in a deft blur, Jack shoved the throng aside, and left an icy sheen across the floor in his wake. Two Yetis attempted to grab him. They slipped and toppled to the cold, hard ground. Tooth raced after him, and Bunny followed on foot, but Jack was nimble and Jack was quick. He leaped from the mezzanine banister, then sprinted up the side of the Globe of Belief to its northern hemisphere, where he launched himself into the air. With the crowd watching in a stunned stupor below, Jack flew through the open skylight, out into the unforgiving arctic wind, and vanished from sight. Bunny only allowed himself a moment to hang his head in defeat before he rounded on North.
"You're telling me the reason he hasn't been here is 'cause he's too busy getting himself kicked in the guts?!"
"This is news to me also."
"I thought you were keeping tabs on him!"
North made an indignant growl, raising his fists as Bunny did the same. "I only know what he tells me!"
"You've gotta be kidding. Oh, you dopey wingnut."
"Bunny! Uncalled for," Tooth interjected, making her descent while Sandy stepped between them to prevent the outbreak of a brawl. "And you aren't making any sense, North. You said you sent a messenger to find Jack each time you wanted to correspond. Wouldn't they have told you if he looked like someone had used him as a punching bag? —Oh no, what if he's chipped a tooth?"
North rubbed his brow, trying to dispel the beginnings of a headache as he shot a disgruntled look Bunny's way. "They never mention anything like this. They say they always meet Jack in person." He paused, thinking carefully over the detailed reports his Yetis relayed to him. How there had been nothing out of the ordinary… "Until two weeks ago."
North summoned the messenger tasked with finding Jack up to the Globe Room posthaste. The Yeti in question, who went by the name Dan, recounted in garbled grunts how Jack had not been the one to meet him at their last pre-determined rendezvous point—the northern border of Germany's Black Forrest. Instead, Dan had been met by a small army.
"What, like ten…soldiers? Who are these guys?" asked Bunny.
Dan shook his head and reiterated 'small' by setting his thumb and forefinger about three inches apart.
"They were fairies," Tooth inferred, "not mine, obviously; Leaf Riders. Forest dwellers. I had heard they've taken a liking to Jack, but with bicuspids like that, what's not to like?"
Bunny rolled his eyes in Tooth's direction. "Did they say anything about why they were subbing in?"
Dan grunted and shrugged.
"Whatever the reason is, something…or somebody did this to him." Tooth looked to North. "You don't think-?"
"No way," Bunny cut in. He was certain, and would have retained his conviction, had it not been for the paw that closed around one of his boomerangs. "He's gone. And there ain't no way he's coming back."
"He's done it before," Tooth reminded him.
"And we made sure he wouldn't do it again."
"If you don't think he wouldn't find a way, you don't know him at all."
Bunny's eyes flashed, "Trust me," he said, "I know exactly what he's capable of. Or did you forget that yours isn't the only mob he's ever screwed over?"
Tooth's hard gaze softened as she glimpsed, for a flash of a second, the unimaginable anguish and horror Bunny had known in the loss of not just his family, but his people. They shared that pain. Just as they had shared the bittersweet, painstaking hardship of rebuilding their families somewhere new, piece by broken piece. She bit her lip in remorse. "Bunny, I didn't mean…"
"It's fine," Bunny muttered stiffly and waved a dismissive hand. "It's not important. What we need to worry about is finding Jack. Right now."
"Da, but he could be anywhere and we must move quickly," said North. "We will take the sleigh!"
"No, we're gonna split up. Tooth, you stake out the Bennetts' house, see he's not hiding out there like a wounded dingo. North, you're gonna zip down to Antarctica. I'll check back where he and Dan were supposed to meet up. Might also check the Warren and grab a few ointments while I'm there. Sandy…"
Sandy held up a finger and proceeded to show them where he would be taking his search. A little lake surrounded by pines formed out of his dreamsand.
"And if we don't find him…" Tooth wrung her hands.
"Then we meet at the lake and go from there," said North.
The Guardians agreed and split no less than a minute later.