Disclaimer: Don't own Rise of the Guardians.
So, I decided to try my hand at a non-crossover. I've read tons of fics for this over the last week so some of those stories have likely influenced this.
Hope you like it. pairing suggestions welcome.
"Jack! Be careful!"
The four-year-old ignored his Mother's voice as he scrambled through the trees, eyes peeled for any sign of eggs. He was going to find some this year, he was! He wasn't too little, no matter what the other kids said. He heard a rustle up ahead and crouched down, crawling forward, what was it? He stared through the bushes and brown eyes went wide in shock and awe. It was a bunny! But it was huge! He crawled through and watched as the bunny hid eggs. "Easter Bunny!" he squealed in delight, rushing forward as fast as a four-year-old could.
Aster could hear kids further away as he worked to hide the last of the eggs meant for this small village. He didn't have many believers in the colonies yet, but he was hoping for more as his story spread out from the German settlers.
"Easter Bunny!" a high voice squealed, and he spun in shock only to stumble back as a small body impacted with his.
He looked down to see a head off messy brown hair, its owner latched onto his leg. Well, it appeared he had at least one believer in this town. The kid lifted its head and grinned at him, so he grinned back. "Well, g'day there little ankle biter. Aren't ya a bit small to be out here alone?" he crouched down and the kid stroked the soft fur of his face, surprising him. There was no fear or nervousness at all in the kid, despite Aster's size.
Rabbits were small, cute, and fluffy…he might be considered fluffy with some of his winter coat still in but that was where the similarities ended. He was over six foot! Yet this kid was perfectly content in his presence. He reached down and picked the kid…boy up. "Where are ya parents?" he asked, and the kid pointed back to town…no just off of the town. "Come on then, let's get ya home." He chuckled when the kid pouted and dropped three eggs in his little basket, watching him light up. "Got a name?"
"Uh huh. Jack!"
Aster chuckled; he was one happy little ankle biter! He carried him closer to home and then set him down. "Go on now."
"Bye bye Easter Bunny!"
Aster watched until he was safely home before tapping the ground to open a tunnel, he'd have to come back next year it seemed.
Jack sat beside the lake, anxious, but he'd been kicked out of the house. He looked up as the wind tussled his hair, laughing. He liked the wind, it always seemed to cheer him up. When he went home he'd have a new baby brother or sister and he was very excited but also worried for his Mom. Mrs Harrison had a baby last year and she died, he didn't want that to happen.
"G'day Jackie," a voice called, and Jack whipped around.
"Bunny!" he managed a grin.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Bunny moved to sit beside him.
"Mother's having the baby…she was screaming."
Aster winced; he'd had siblings once, long ago. He knew what it was like to wait for them to be born. He wrapped an arm around the kid who burrowed into his side. "It's Easter today Jackie, a day of hope and new beginnings. One of the best days for this sort of thing. How 'bout we go back to your place and see what I can do to help?"
Wide brown eyes stared at him and he felt Jack's hope flare. "Really?"
"Really." They headed to the Overland home and he made sure Jack stayed outside and out of sight before entering himself, heading to the back where there was a bedroom. A woman lay in the bed, a midwife at her side to help. It had been a long time since he'd tried something like this, but he was the Guardian of Hope and Spring, represented new beginnings and new life. Well, this was definitely both of those. He stretched out a paw above the woman's stomach and carefully let out a little magic, to ease the birth and ensure good health.
He slipped back outside and sat with Jack to wait for the birth, the kid resting against his side. It was amazing and sad how quick he was growing up; he was nine now, how many years of belief did he have left? There was a reason he never got close to the them and yet he hadn't been able to stay away after Jack had been so excited and happy to meet him.
"Do you have a family?"
Aster sighed and wrapped his arm around Jack. "I did….a very long time ago but they're all gone now."
"Not your fault mate," he assured him gruffly, glancing down at him. "Aster, my name's Aster."
"Aster," Jack smiled. "I like it."
"Thanks. So which do you want, a brother or sister?"
Aster chuckled, figured. What little boy wanted a sister?
An hour later, Jack's Dad finally came out to get him and Aster whispered goodbye before slipping away. He was exhausted from the lead up and then hiding the eggs plus giving Jack's Mother some help. He was going to sleep for a week!
Jack smiled as he held his baby sister, he'd wanted a brother, but she would do. He even got to help name her! He'd picked Hope because that was what Aster stood for and she was born on his day. She was very small at the moment and didn't really do anything but eventually he'd be able to play with her. He was a big brother! He would protect her forever.
"Aster!" Jack called when he saw him in the clearing, grinning at him even as he helped Hope, the toddler clinging to his hands.
"Bunny! Hop! Hop!" she called, and Jack laughed.
"Hello there little Sheila," Aster greeted, crouching down for Hope who giggled and buried her hands in his soft fur. "Wanna find some eggs?" he asked, and she clapped her hands.
Jack was happy to help find eggs for Hope, her happiness and fun came first. There hadn't been much to be happy about lately.
"Everything fair dinkum?" Aster asked while Hope put some eggs in her basket.
Sometimes Aster used very strange words, but he was pretty sure he knew what he meant. He shook his head and sat down on the grass in one of the clear sections since there was still a scattering of snow. "Father…he…he didn't…"
"Oh Jackie," Aster tugged him into a hug and Jack broke down, crying the tears he couldn't let his Mother see. He was the man of the house now…but he was only twelve!
Jack slipped out of bed to dress, creepy down from the loft to gather the parcel of food set out for him. He put his cloak on and picked up his Father's crook, now his, before heading out to lead the flock away from town to pasture. He glanced up as he spotted golden streams of sand and smiled. He saw a small golden figure and lifted a hand in greeting even as he nimbly leapt up to a rock.
Sandy looked down in shock at having been greeted, and the figure down there had definitely waved at him. He moved closer to see a young boy leading a flock of sheep away from town. It was surprising to see someone already old enough to do an adults work who believed enough to see him. He smiled and zoomed passed him, hearing the boy laugh so he turned and waved before continuing on. He wasn't normally in this area so late…or early in the morning, but there'd been an increase in children with nightmares, so he had come back to check if he was missing something when he came through early at night.
"Hurry up Jack!" Hope called and he laughed.
"I'm coming Hope! Slow down, there'll be plenty of eggs to find. Has he ever let us down?" Jack asked as they made their way to where Aster always met them. It was hard to believe she'd turned six today, three years since Father had died. She barely remembered him, but Jack did, and he still missed him.
They walked into the clearing and she began looking around, laughing as she found the first egg. Jack frowned; he was usually waiting for them. "Aster?" he called out for his only friend.
"Where is he Jack?" Hope asked as they gathered the eggs.
"I don't know…something must have happened. I'm sure he's okay though." He ruffled her hair. "You know how crazy Easter is for him." He sent her on her way and looked around, clutching his crook as his heart sank. Was….was it his fault Aster wasn't there? Did he think Jack didn't believe anymore? No one his age believed in the Guardians anymore, but they didn't know one personally. "Aster?" he called again, hoping his friend would answer but there was nothing but the wind whistling through the trees, curling about him and ruffling his hair.
It hurt but he pushed that aside to make sure Hope had a wonderful birthday. Maybe it was like he said, Aster had gotten caught up elsewhere or called for a meeting. Once they were home he spent the day telling stories and fooling around with Hope, enjoying a day free from work, a rarity.
Jack turned to their Mother, an arm around Hope, smiling for her as he waved his other hand with the skates in it. Hope's ice skates were her Christmas present from Santa…North as Aster called him. "We will!" he promised as they laughed. Hope ran ahead, excited. "Wait for me!" he took off after her.
"Hurry up Jack!" she sat down on a log and tried to get her skates on.
"Here," Jack knelt in the snow and helped her put them on, showing her how to lace them.
"Jack?" she asked quietly.
"Are you really going to leave and marry Mary?"
Jack blinked in surprise. "Who told you that?"
"She did but I don't want you to leave!"
"Hey, don't cry," he brushed her tears aside. "You are my baby sister and I will never leave you, know why?" he asked, and she shook her head. "Because no matter what happens, I'll always be here," he tapped the centre of her chest. "Just like you'll always be in my heart," he smiled, and she slowly smiled back.
Personally, he didn't want to marry Mary, but he would if their Mother and Mary's parents agreed to it because it would help give his family more stability. He didn't love Mary, but love could grow in time. He would build a house for them and tend the flocks and one day he would have children of his own to introduce to Aster, out of everyone else's sight.
No one knew he still believed in the Easter Bunny or Santa or any of the others because he knew what would happen if he said he did. How could he not believe in someone he saw every year…except the last two. Did Aster think he would have stopped believing? Was he staying away because he didn't want proof? He'd have to try even harder this year to find him because his absence was also upsetting Hope and he didn't want her to stop believing because of it.
He stood up and then went to sit to take off his shoes and put on his own skates. "Wait for me!" he called but Hope was already making for the ice and he grimaced, ripping his boots off. He was about to put his first skate on when he heard a sharp crack and Hope screamed. Shepherds crook and skates in hand, he ran for the lake. He dropped them on the ice and began making his way towards Hope, checking the ice as he went. He froze as it began cracking under his foot, drawing back.
"It's okay, it's okay! Don't look down, just look at me," he called to her, seeing her eyes wide in terror as she shook and tried to stay still.
Neither child noticed the black cloaked figure watching them in silence from the shore, leaning on a long scythe.
"Jack, I'm scared," she called, the ice continuing to crack. Normally he'd tell her to take the skates off so that her weight would be spread out over a larger surface, but the ice was too fragile for her to shift around that much.
"I- I know, I know, but you're gonna be alright - you're not gonna fall in," he promised as he looked around, mind racing. They were out of shouting distance of their home let alone town and by the time anyone could reach them… he saw his crook and judged the distances, maybe? "Uh... We're gonna have a little fun instead!" he grinned at her.
"No we're not!" she wailed.
"Would I trick you?" he asked with a forced laugh.
"Yes! You always play tricks!"
Okay, she had him there. "Well, alright, well not- not- not this time. I promise, I promise you're gonna be- you're gonna be fine," he swore as he straightened up. "Ya haft to believe in me," he pleaded, and she gulped, keeping her eyes on him.
There was no other choice, even if it meant…he could lay out on the ice, spread his weight over as big a section as possible and then pull himself to the shore or thicker ice but she couldn't. It was the only way. "You wanna play a game? We're gonna play hopscotch! Like we play every day! I- It's as easy as, uh, one –" he took a big step towards his crook, flinching as the ice cracked a little. He pinwheeled his arms and laughed. "Woah!" He almost fell over, but didn't, and she laughed, just like he wanted. She didn't need to know how thin the ice under him was. "Two!" he took another big step and she laughed again. "Three!" he practically leapt, landing on thick ice.
He took a deep breath, mentally bracing for the next part as he reached for his crook, glad his Father had told him to always take it with him. "Alright, now it's your turn. One-" she shifted forward a little, gasping as the ice cracked. "That's it, that's it." he held the crook out as far as he could as she moved again, gasping in fear as the ice kept cracking. "Three!"
Jack grabbed her by the knees using the crook and slid her around so that she was on the thicker ice, but just as he had feared, the momentum sent him sliding across the ice, almost to where she'd been standing. For a second, he could have sworn he saw someone on the shore as he slid across the ice. He sat up carefully and smiled, making sure to spread his weight as evenly as possible. She leant up on her arms, smiling too. He shifted carefully to lay on his stomach but then he heard a massive crack beneath him, saw Hope's eyes go wide in terror.
He gasped in shock as he hit the icy water, breathing some in before he shut his mouth. He moved his arms, kicking his feet, trying to get back to the surface but it was so cold… he struggled as his lungs burned and he gasped, inhaling more water. He choked, he couldn't breathe, he couldn't…his body went limp, sinking, as he lost consciousness, heart struggling for another minute before it fell silent, a last air bubble slipping from his nose.
On the shore stood the figure in black glanced from the lake to where the moon could barely be made out in the overcast sky, and then back again before nodding. It reappeared under the surface, scythe slashing through the sinking child before the figure vanished from the lake, without the soul it had come to collect. Then again, it had originally been there for the girl.
"JACK!" Hope screamed but there was no movement in the water, and she sobbed as she scrambled off the ice, ripping the skates off to run bare foot through the snow to home. Mommy could fix this, she could! Jack was just playing tricks again.
Martha ran for the door as she heard Hope screaming, heart in her throat as her daughter ran into sight, bare foot and alone…. Hope grabbed her hand, sobbing, pulling her to the lake. "Hope? Where's Jack?" she asked as they ran.
"He…he fell in!"
No…not her son! They made it to the shore, and she could see the hole, the cracked ice around it, her sons abandoned skates on a solid section. His crook lay on the cracked ice near the hole. Of her beloved son, there was no other sign.
He floated down to the bottom of the lake, laying there for hours until the sun set, and the moon rose. Weak moonlight reached the limp body but could do nothing, the full moon was not for another week.
The lake iced back over, keeping the people from retrieving the body within, flowers left along the shore for the brave young man who died to save his sister.
Every night the moonlight grew stronger and the body began to change, colour bleaching from hair and skin.
Finally, the full moon shone above the lake, all of the light focused on the boy beneath the surface, and slowly his body began to rise from the depths towards the light, the ice above him cracking.
It was dark and he was cold, so cold. He was scared. What was happening? Bright blue eyes slowly opened and stared up at the moonlight even as he was pulled from the ice to land on the lake, still staring up at the moon.
'Jack Frost,' a voice whispered to him and he knew it was the Man in the Moon, and that he was Jack Frost.