Disclaimer: not mine

Chapter 5

Jack took a deep breath and then set his staff aside before lying down in the bed of pillows deep within Tooth's Palace. She fluttered over and smiled softly at him, stroking his cheek, and Jack smiled back shakily. He laughed slightly when she covered him in red fabric, surprised by the familiar scent of North coming from it, the feel of his magic.

"Just relax Sweet Tooth, this will be over before you know it," she promised.

"I trust you," he told her even as golden sand dusted over his face and he felt the sweet call of sleep.

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"I trust you," Jack answered even as Sandy put him to sleep.

Tooth gently stroked his hair and Jack sighed in his sleep, pressing into her touch, such a change from when he'd appeared two years ago. She looked up to find Sandy smiling at her and she smiled back. It had taken all that time for him to feel safe enough to agree to let them work on him to break whatever remained of their counterparts magic and for them to work out a method to do so.

He'd been doing so well, truly flourishing as he learned more and more about the modern world and his own powers. He hadn't really ventured out into the world, not alone anyway, though he'd go out with any of them. He no longer flinched from any of them and his nightmares were rare. He was healing well….all except for the lingering magic.

"He won't feel this will he?" Aster asked from where he was leaning against the wall, watching. Jack was staying in the Warren at the moment, so he'd come along.

North was flat out with Christmas preparations but had sent an elf with cookies and a good luck note for Jack. Most importantly, he had sent one of his massive coats which was gently draped over Jack's sleeping form, all of them smiling when Jack snuggled into it, dreams dancing over his head though they all politely ignored the images.

"He shouldn't feel a thing," she answered. They had done everything they could to ensure that Jack would remain unaware of what was happening and that there would be no pain, but no plan was foolproof.

It was delicate work and there were risks with any kind of magic used on another Spirit or human. It was why it had taken them so long to get to a point where they were willing to work on him. Although some of that time had been Jack learning to trust them enough to do it as well.

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Sandy was happy to see that Jack didn't try to fight the dream sand, that he trusted them enough to try this now. The longer they had waited the more worried they had all become because Jack was in danger so long as the magic remained within him.

He hadn't used the normal dream sand on Jack, this was different, placing him into a far deeper sleep than normal or what would be safe for a living human. And right on schedule, the dreams faded from Jack as he slept too deeply to dream. They had to access the deepest parts of his mind to remove the magic.

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Aster watched as Jack fell asleep, proud of how far he'd come since he'd been literally dropped into their world. He was nervous, all magic had risks, especially magic that affected the mind. Still, they'd worked hard at it and the fact that Jack wanted the magic gone should help. And there was a reason North had sent one of his coats, why Aster was there, beyond giving moral support. The magic of all four Guardians to help their fifth, even if Jack hadn't taken the Oath.

It sucked as younger Jack and the kids would have said, having to just stand back and watch, unable to do more to help. Jack had become such a part of all of their lives since he'd arrived. If they lost him…no! It would be fine, the kid was a fighter, strong, he'd be fine.

Seeing the dreams fade had him shifting in place but they'd said that would happen, that they needed him too deeply asleep to actually dream, closer to actual unconsciousness than actual sleep. He looked so small and helpless, North's massive coat helping that image.

Tooth suddenly yelped, rubbing her hand, before her expression hardened and she leant back in. It took all of the strength he had to stay where he was and not go over there to make sure they were all okay. It was too dangerous though; he could disrupt what they were doing or worse.

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She slumped back, feeling Aster steady her easily.

"Easy there Tooth," he murmured, carrying her through her home. "It's done?"

She nodded slowly, exhausted, and she could see even Sandy was drooping. "Let him sleep it off but he should be fine when he wakes."

"Get some sleep," Aster told her as he settled her into her bed, chinning her briefly before he was gone.

She smiled and curled up to sleep, exhausted but hopeful that they had gotten everything left within Jack.

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Aster walked over and carefully lifted Jack, leaving him wrapped in North's coat, carefully cradling the teen to his chest. "Okay mate?" he asked, and Sandy flashed a thumbs up before flying over to check on Jack, letting him know he'd probably sleep for at least twenty four hours and to take care of him. "I will," he promised before opening a tunnel.

He made his way home and then carefully settled Jack down, not in his own room, but in Aster's. Until he woke up and Aster could see that he really was fine, he wasn't letting him out of his sight. It was disconcerting to see Jack so still, body utterly limp, if it wasn't for his chest moving with breath, Aster would think he was dead, his natural paleness not helping with that. He watched him for a moment and then leant down to remove the blue vest he wore as well as his belt so that he'd be more comfortable, covering him with North's coat again.

Hopefully now, Jack would be confident enough to begin exploring the world more. They'd worked hard to get the story of Jack Frost out there, hopefully there were kids who believed and would be able to see him. Jack had started taking up winter duties late last winter but only when one of them was with him. This year he would probably have the confidence to go out alone.

Then again, trading off escort duty, helping Jack learn…all of it had brought them even closer together again. They had drifted so much over the centuries and young Jack had helped them see how bad things had become, then their grief for him had both separated them and drawn them even closer at times. He didn't need them the same way his alternate had, it was odd but their Jack'd had centuries of memories despite physically being younger and yet this Jack was older, more mature.

Had being so young when he died stunted his emotional growth? The Man in the Moon had brought both Jack's back from the dead and neither had aged or physically changed since, except for hair length anyway. It had become easy to differentiate between the two Jacks over time and he knew that made Jack happy, that they didn't see the first when they looked at him. It was more…like he was the older brother of the one they had known first, related but not the same.

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North took the missive and slumped back in his chair; it was good to have news. Jack was asleep and would be for a while, but the procedure had been finished. They wouldn't know how well it had worked until he woke and apparently that wouldn't be for a while, but for now it was good news.

He had hated not being able to be there, but he had sent his coat, one he had worn for years, so that it was saturated with the magic of Wonder. He hoped that it had helped or at least comforted Jack some before he went to sleep. He would find the time to visit the Warren if only for a few minutes once Bunny sent word that he was awake.

For now though, he had work that had to be done.

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Aster grimaced and then looked at Jack again, he'd have to call Sandy if he didn't show some sign of waking soon. It had been twenty seven hours, and he was still out cold, but his breathing was steady, he just wasn't waking up. He'd tried to wake him an hour ago, but he'd been completely unresponsive, even when he'd pinched him hard.

"Come on Jackie, wake up," he called, sitting on the bed and carefully lifting the limp body up, holding him to his chest. "Ya're scaring me." He rubbed briskly at a cool chest, trying a more prolonged discomfort to get him to react. "Ya gotta wake up, can't let the ankle-biters down for Christmas, there's meant to be lots of snow."

Jack's body moved with the action, his head flopping to the side against Aster's chest. He refused to give up, standing with Jack in his arms and moving out to where he had a hot spring. He hesitated but then stripped Jack and got in the water with him, supporting him. Jack could handle the heat to a point but not the kind of hot of a hot spring, it should cause a reaction.

"Please," he whispered, holding him up.

He waited and he was just about to give up when Jack jerked slightly, coughing, hands weakly scrabbling at the arm Aster was holding him up with.

"Easy, I've got you," he stood from the water, crouching beside it to lay Jack in the grass. "Open your eyes mate."

Jack shivered from the heat, head shifting restlessly on the grass, but gradually bright blue eyes fluttered open. His gaze wandered, unfocused, and Aster forced himself to stay calm, he'd basically been unconscious for over a day after all. "As…'r?" his voice was hoarse and slurred, barely audible, but he heard him.

"It's me, you're safe." He held Jack's hand firmly to make sure he knew he was there.

Slowly, his eyes focused, Jack seeming to become more alert. "Aster?" he asked, looking confused. "What?" he tried to sit up, so Aster helped him. He pressed his hand to his head, grimacing.

"Pain?" he asked, keeping his voice steady.

"Headache," Jack admitted. He glanced down and blushed. "Why am I naked?" he asked in alarm.

"Cause you're wet," he smirked slightly to hide his concern. "Let's get you up, dry, and back to the Burrow." He stood up and helped Jack to his feet, Jack stumbling so he steadied him. He scooped his clothes up as well before beginning the trek back home. Once inside he got Jack into the shower to cool off and dress while he put some soup on since Jack had to be starving.

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Jack stood under the water, relaxing as he cooled down. Why had Aster had him in the hot spring? His head was foggy, and he felt…weak, hungry… had he been hurt? He'd think sick but he didn't get sick. He got out, dried off, and then carefully made his way to the kitchen, collapsing into his chair.

Soon a bowl of lukewarm soup was put in front of him and he began to eat, making himself go slow since to be that hungry he had to have not eaten for a bit. Aster joined him after another few minutes, his bowl steaming. They ate quietly and then Jack looked at him. "What's going on?"

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Pitch sat and stared at his version of the globe, lost in thought. It had taken far longer than he wished but he finally had solid whispers of what was going on with the Guardians, it just didn't make sense. Jack Frost was dead, he should know since he had killed the brat himself.

How could there be rumours of the boy being seen with the Guardians last winter? Although the description he had gotten from that river spirit had not matched exactly with the boy he had killed. Had the Man in the Moon chosen a new Winter Spirit to take his place? Well then, he just have to kill this one too…or perhaps worse?

He had killed the brat in battle, face to face as a warrior, though he had left him to die alone. This one though, he would take his time with, ensure the entire Spirit World knew of the horrors he would visit upon him. When he was done, there would be no one wishing to take the brats place. He had…respected the boy for standing firm, for fighting to the death for what he believed in. If only Jack had agreed to come to his side, he could have been spared.

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Tooth gently checked Jack over, worried by how long he'd slept but she couldn't find anything wrong, thankfully. She glanced at Sandy who flashed thumbs up. They were in agreement; it had worked and there was no trace of the magic in him. He was free from the 'Guardians' of his original world.

"Tooth?" Jack asked nervously and she smiled at him.

"It worked."

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Santa looked at the ruined book they had found in Pitch's lair. He had obviously destroyed it to keep them from finding out just what he had done with Frost. With Manny on them to find the brat, they had eventually turned to the book to try and reconstruct it. Even after two years, the work was ongoing and very slow. The fact it was handwritten made it even more difficult. Still, he thought they had enough to get the general idea of what he had done.

Jack Frost had been sent to another version of Earth; it was the only option that made sense with what little Manny had been able to tell them. Finding which version was not easy.

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North was distracted from his work by a tap at the window, he looked up, and then hurried over to open it. "Jack!" he greeted the younger Spirit happily as he slipped in the window. He looked him over and then pulled him into a hug, laughing. "You look well!"

He really did, there was something…lighter, brighter, about him than he had ever seen. Jack's cheeks coloured slightly but he was grinning, a real, happy grin. Jack would smile, even laugh, but North had never seen him grin. Aster had sent news when he had woken, though it had taken longer than expected and he'd been rather confused but that had obviously passed.

"You feel well, yes?" he asked just to be sure.

"I'm great," Jack let North lead him to the couch. "Better than I've felt since waking up at Pitch's," he admitted. "Guess that magic was affecting me more than we realised." He fidgeted with his staff.

North reached out and covered one of his hands with his own. "Are worried? That we will not like the fully real Jack?" he asked, and Jack looked away. "So long as you are happy and healthy, that is all that matters. You are still Jack Frost." He was sure Bunny would have assured him of that but maybe he needed to hear it from all of them. "Just glad that you are healed. Now, time for cookies!"

Jack laughed but followed him to the kitchen.

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Jack sat on a cloud, watching the landscape pass below, resting. It was strange being out alone, but he couldn't stay glued to the Guardians sides for the rest of their lives, it wasn't fair to anyone. Still, it would take time to feel comfortable without someone watching his back. The moonlight fell over him and he looked up at it, smiling and waving briefly before dropping off the cloud, plummeting towards the ground, the wind catching him before he could hit the ground. A snow storm was due in Pennsylvania which meant he had work to do.

TBC…