Jack sleepily blinked open his eyes. Sunlight was streaming in through the open window, lighting up the winter room. Six days had passed, and still no nightmares. He smiled to himself: they probably wouldn't be coming back.
He pulled on his clothes slowly, careful not to jostle his broken ribs. He healed faster than humans, but it would still be a while before they were completely okay. Apart from that, though, he was fine; the bruises were mostly faded and he hadn't sustained any other injuries.
Once he was dressed, Jack opened the door and hurried through the hallways. Elves kept running out of nowhere and hugging his ankles, smiling up at him apologetically. It didn't matter how many times he told everyone he forgave them: he knew they would keep apologising for a long time. If Jack had been someone like Pitch, he could have used it to his advantage. He wasn't, though, and he just felt awkward.
"Morning Phil," he grinned, striding in. The yeti smiled at him sheepishly, trying to stifle a yawn. Morning indeed! It was quarter to six! Normally the yetis got a month off after Christmas in which they could rest and recuperate, but Phil was determined to make things up to the winter spirit in any way possible. "Are we ready to start?"
New Years Eve was generally a quiet get together for the guardians, where they could catch up, plan for the year ahead, and basically just relax before Easter got underway. However, this year they'd decided to make it a late gift giving, since Christmas day had been such a terrible disaster.
Now, as the old clock chimed eight and there was still no sign of Jack, they were starting to get anxious.
"What if he doesn't come?" fretted Tooth. "What if he decides he is still mad at us? What if-"
"Calm down," growled Bunny, "you're making me nervous. The kid's probably still asleep." Sandy shook his head. "Okay then, he's probably gone for an early morning fly, to send some snow to Alaska or wherever. He'll be here soon enough." As he said this the door swung open. In strode Phil, followed by Jack. The guardians could immediately tell he was worried, and they did their best to smile reassuringly.
"Jack!" boomed North. "Come in, sit down! Elves have just brought hot chocolate!" Jack shot a jet of frost at one of the mugs before picking it up, sipping at the now icy liquid. He sat down in the last free armchair and looked around nervously.
A large Christmas tree twinkled in the corner. Underneath it was a pile of brightly wrapped gifts of all different shapes and sizes. In the hearth a fire blazed merrily, and a group of elves scampered in bearing a platter of cookies. On catching sight of Jack they dropped the cookies and leaped onto him for a snuggle. The winter spirit patted them awkwardly as Tooth sighed adoringly and Bunny tried to keep from sniggering.
"Should we begin with the presents?" asked North, and everyone nodded.
"Me first!" squealed Tooth, diving into the pile and pulling out her gift from Bunny. Inside was a googie, painted with the teeth of different animals. Tooth smiled happily, and gave Bunny a hug.
Sandy got Bunny magic seeds for the warren that would grow into ever-blooming flowers. North gave Sandy an art book and a fedora. Tooth gave North a new set of carving tools. Phil and the entire security team were given walkie-talkies.
"By the way, mate, we decided to give the elves a little something this year as well," said Bunny with a grin. Tooth, Jack and Sandy were sniggering while North froze.
"It is not sugar, is it?"
"Oh no," said Bunny innocently as Tooth fell out of her armchair. "It's just something small that we whipped up." The door once again swung open, revealing every elf in Santoff Clausen. They were all grinning broadly, and each one clutched a maraca in one hand and a cowbell in the other.
"Oh, no," groaned North as they darted off, the sounds of their new toys filling the workshop. "I will have revenge for this one, I can promise it. Actually, Tooth, we may have given fairies Christmas gift as well." Tooth paused mid-chuckle, eyeing her friends suspiciously.
"If there is candy involved, it had better be sugar free," she warned them. They just shrugged, doing their best to look innocent. Before any more could be said, though, Baby Tooth floated in, yawning sleepily. Jack grinned and leapt to his feet when he saw her, and she flew up and snuggled against his cheek
"I know I already got you something," said Jack, walking over to a domed dish that they realised Phil had been carrying when he came in. "But I wanted to say thanks. If it wasn't for you, who knows how long we'd have been down there!" He pulled the lid off the dish, and Baby Tooth gasped.
On the platter was a large cake that had taken Jack and Phil the better part of two hours to make. It was cut out in the shape of her head and iced so it looked like her face was grinning up at them. Sweets dotted the edge in decoration, and Jack laughed as she started chattering excitedly. Tooth opened her mouth to ask about the sugar, but decided against it: what harm could one cake do?
"You can share it with your sisters," he smiled, "Because they all helped as well. Except for the ones that were bullying you; they don't get any."
"Bullying?" asked Tooth. "Is that why you've been staying with Jack?" Baby Tooth nodded sadly, and Tooth's lips set in an angry line. "We'll talk about this later." For a moment, silence reigned.
"Hey, Jack! You gonna open any presents or am I just gonna sit here getting old?" Jack laughed, and the moment was gone.
"You're already old, you kangaroo! All your fur has gone grey!" He had to duck to avoid being hit in the head by a flying present. "Hey!"
"Open it, you big lump!" Inside was a pair of tie-dye pyjamas and a matching nightcap. Jack laughed again, pulling the cap onto his head.
"How does it look?" he grinned, and they grinned back.
"It suits you!" beamed Tooth.
"Open mine now!" demanded North, and Jack pulled the gift towards him. Inside was a blue Matryoshka doll. The winter spirit looked at it for a second, before realising it was him.
"Okay, so to start with I'm..."
"Annoying?" suggest Bunny, dodging the elf that Jack threw at him.
"Mischievous," corrected North. "Then annoying."
"Then kind, and caring, gentle, independent, brave and finally..."
"Fun," whispered Jack, looking at the little doll cupped in his hand. He leapt to his feet and gave North a massive hug, ignoring the twinges of pain in his ribs. North hugged him back, smiling down with genuine care for the child.
"My turn!" Grinned Tooth. She handed Jack an emerald present with a golden bow. "Well, our turn: Sandy and I worked together on it." Sandy beamed and nodded happily as Jack unwrapped it carefully. Inside were five small teeth, made out of glowing dream sand.
"Uh, thanks," he said, looking bemused. Tooth laughed.
"They've got our memories in them," she explained. "If Pitch ever tries anything like this again, we can activate the memories. Baby Tooth is going to hide them somewhere we won't find them, and she'll be in charge of them. It's to stop anything like this ever happening again." Jack blinked back tears, managing a watery smile. Tooth and Sandy flew forward and gently hugged him before everyone settled back into their armchairs.
"Thank you," Jack told them, and they smiled back.
"And thank you," said North. "Your gifts were beautiful, and we should have had a chance to tell you at the time."
"We're so sorry," murmured Tooth. Jack shifted uncomfortably.
"Guys, I've already told you. It's fine. Don't worry about it." Bunny snorted.
"After what we did to you, do you really think we could do anything but worry about it?" Jack grinned at the Pooka.
"Aw. You do care." They were saved an argument by Sandy, who snatched a cowbell from one of the elves and shook it hard. They all looked at him and he pointed urgently at the clock.
"Oh, yes!" cried North, leaping to his feet. "Everyone, follow me!" Bunny, Tooth and Sandy knew what was coming, but Jack was left to follow behind and wonder what was going on. His curiosity was piqued as they emerged from a trapdoor onto the roof.
"Five," muttered North, eyeing his watch. "Four, three, two, ONE!"
"HAPPY NEW YEAR!" screamed the guardians as fireworks shot into the air. Jack laughed and beamed up as explosion after explosion lit up the sky. Tooth hugged him again, North wrapped an arm around his shoulder, Sand hugged his knees and even Bunny ruffled his hair. They watched the fireworks in silence, and Jack didn't think he'd ever felt that happy.
After New Years, things slowly returned to normal.
Phil was nervous and on edge most of the time, until he discovered an 'omni-antidote' in an old alchemy book he'd borrowed from North's personal library. Once a month he insisted everyone line up, be them guardian, elf, yeti or fairy, while he used a squeegee bottle to douse them.
Tooth had insisted that the fairies who had bullied Baby Tooth clean the entirety of the Tooth Palace before they were allowed back in her good books. Jack found out about this, and snuck down with some elves the night before, coating almost every surface with large amounts of dye from Bunny's personal river. Tooth turned a blind eye while the offending fairies were left to scrub it off.
Pitch awoke one morning to find ice and frost covering every surface, alarm clocks set to go off at random intervals in every corner, precariously balanced buckets of water on nearly every door, egg bombs under every rug and his nightmares dressed in princess costumes. He had no doubts as to who he should blame.
Jack was still broken in many ways, and he accepted this. He still hurt from three hundred years of isolation, and the most recent events. But he knew he would heal, and he knew that the others would help get him through.
That's what family is for.
It's over! :'(
Thank you so much to everyone who has read this and to all of you who have reviewed! It means a lot to me, and I really enjoyed doing this. I figured that after what I put you through you deserved a fluffy ending; sorry if it was too cheesy!
I think I will do a short drabbles thing, though with school coming up it will be updated far less frequently. If anyone has any requests, message me or tell me in a review.
I love you all! Thanks again for reading!