EDIT: I noticed while looking over this chapter that my Line Breaks were deleted when I posted this, so I've gone back and put them back in. Also a bit of editing in terms of spelling and grammar. Nothing new, really, just that the Line Breaks make it a bit more understandable...to me, anyway.
Disclaimer: I don't own "Rise of the Guardians" nor The Guardians of Childhood series. If I did own them, things would have been…darker. Most definitely not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone who ever wants to sleep peacefully for a very long time.
A/N: I'll be the first to admit that I am a sadist. When I watched RotG for the first time, the idea for this fic popped into my head during Jack and Pitch's confrontation in Antarctica, after the Easter debacle. Because I'm an evil person who likes to imagine the horrible scenarios that could have happened. Enjoy.
You Had Your Chance
Toothiana had begged. Sobbed, really. Wept and pleaded and tried oh so hard to appeal to the sweet young child she had seen at The Warren. Tears pooled in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks, whether from an emotional pain or from the agony of both her legs and wings being frozen, he didn't know.
Nor did he care.
He stood over her kneeling form and smiled. Then he swung his staff…and shattered her wings. Her screams were music to his ears. He allowed himself a few moments to enjoy it before tossing something to the ground before her. The screams were replaced with hitching gasps for breath followed by a keening moan that was almost high-pitched enough to hurt his ears. He watched, grinning in satisfaction, as Guardian of Memories gathered the twisted remains of Baby Tooth into her hands and cupped the sprite to her chest.
"Why?" the word was choked out past her tears.
His smile widened, flashing those white-as-snow teeth she was so fond of, as he squatted so they were eye to eye. He lifted a piece of ice and brought it between them. The iridescent fragment of wing encased within winked at them. "Why?" he parroted, a scathing undertone almost eclipsing the amusement in his voice, "Why not? You chose to turn your backs on me. You didn't even give me a chance to explain, to tell you what happened. You just assumed it was all my fault. Easter was ruined, Jack was with Pitch; must be his fault. He messed up. He always messes up. He's irresponsible, he's selfish, he can't be trusted. So," he flicked the shard at her face, scoring a gash across her cheek that immediately welled with blood, "I left. You could have come after me, you know?" Her eyes widened in shock, "Oh yes, you could have flown after me, Tooth. Could have caught up and stopped me, could have stopped all of this from happening. But you didn't. You had your chance. This is just as much your fault, Guardian," The rage he imbued into that one word made her flinch back, but her frozen legs kept her from getting away from the icy cold hatred in his eyes, "as it is mine. I hope that thought warms you."
He stood and turned his back on her. Moments later, her screams filled the night air as again as Pitch's Nightmares tore into her bird-like body.
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It was easy for Pitch to keep North busy while he dealt with the Tooth Fairy. When he found the Nightmare King and the (once) Jolly Man, he had sat on a rooftop and merely watched as Pitch toyed with the toymaker.
His smile only grew as North, the powerful Cossack Nicholas St. North, was knocked about by weak blasts of black sand, unable to even lift his swords in defense. Pitch's laughter teased him until he couldn't help but join in.
The sound prompted both men to look up. North's eyes lit up with joy at the sight of him before the bearded man turn to Pitch and, with renewed vigor, pointed one blade at the boogeyman.
"Ha! Now you shall see the full might of the Guar – Ugh!"
He wished he could have seen the big man's face, but that was impossible. Instead, he focused on the blood blooming around the massive spike of ice he had just thrust into North's back and out through his jolly belly. The red of the man's coat became stained a darker shade as the ice was twisted. North choked, the sound wet with what the boy suspected was more blood bubbling up the large man's throat. The Winter Spirit gave one more sharp twist then released the spike and moved around to stand between North and Pitch.
"The full might of the Guardians? Looks pretty weak to me, North," He raised one dark eyebrow, so like the older spirit's, mockingly, "Or did you mean to include my power with yours? Because I'm sorry, North, but I'm not. I'm with Pitch, remember. I was with him, laughing as the eggs were destroyed and Easter, your last Hope, was ruined, right? That's obviously what happened, isn't it? It must be, because even though you, none of you, were there, you all knew I had betrayed you. I had my memories, and that's all I cared about, right? Answer me!" He grabbed the blood-soaked ice protruding from the man's stomach and gave it a vicious jerk to the side. Flesh and fabric ripped, felt more than heard, as North howled in pain and fell to his knees. He lowered himself so they remained eye to eye. "You told me you put Wonder into the world. So tell me, before you condemned me for a crime I didn't commit, did you use some of your center to wonder if maybe I was tricked? If perhaps I was deceived and tormented, just long enough, to stop me from getting back to you in time to save Easter? Did you?"
Those eyes, those eyes that had been so full of Wonder, dimmed as the horror of what they had done, as the full impact of what they, the Guardians of Children, had done to a child spirit, finally became obvious.
"J – Hragh!" The boy shoved another spike into the Guardian, jamming it deep into the man's throat.
Snowflake blue eyes bore into the man's gaze. "I thought, maybe, I had found a family with you guys. A brother, a mother, a father…but no. You had your chance, North. You all did. For 300 years you blamed and hated me, who was I to think that had changed in just a few days?"
The fat man toppled as he drowned in his own blood. Pitch laughed.
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Once you got used to it, Pitch's lair wasn't that bad. It was deep underground, so it was already cold. It was large, so there was plenty of places for him to hide or otherwise avoid Pitch Black when he wanted. And there was no shortage of rooms and caverns, so he had been welcome to choose a section and make it his own. He had chosen the deepest cavern he could find and immediately coated it top to bottom in ice and snow.
Torches set in the walls cast flickering shadows around the cavern, catching and bouncing off the ice. In the flickering light, he could see the rainbow of colors trapped beneath the frozen surface. Really, it had been nice of Pitch to let him keep the mini-tooth fairies. Their multi-colored feathers and jewel-esque eyes gave the cavern a homey touch, making the cavern less dark and dreary.
Smiling softly, he slid a carrot between the bars of a small cage made of ice and stone. "Got a nice treat for you, if you'll be good." Slowly, from the shadows at the back of the cage, a half-starved bunny rabbit inched towards him, nose twitching as it sniffed out the offered food. Just before the pitiful creature could take a bite, the orange delicacy was pulled back. Almost too quiet to hear, a whimper slipped from the grey and white rabbit.
White fingers slipped through the bars. "Come here. You know I won't hurt you. Come here. If you promise to be good, I'll let you out, and feed you. And if you're really good, maybe I'll take you outside. Would you like that?"
Once-spring green eyes, now paled after all Hope had been lost, widened at the offer of outside. Still, though, the rabbit was hesitant.
The corpse-pale fingers wiggled, beckoning. "Come on, Aster. It's spring outside. There's sunshine, flowers, warmth…" He knew he had the feeble creature at the promise of warmth.
The formerly proud Pooka warrior drug his small, thin body to the front of the cage he had been imprisoned in a year ago. He knew what was expected of him. It was the same thing he had denied the child spirit since he had learned he was being kept as a pet. It was the same thing, if he was honest with himself, that he had always denied the boy. It was the one thing the boy had always craved, and the one thing he demanded of E. Aster Bunnymund over and over again for the past year.
Pride gone, survival instincts the only thing left to him, Bunny pressed his head beneath those cold fingers and nuzzled the hand as affectionately as he could manage.
The smile presented to him reminded him of everything he had lost: of Sandy, Tooth, and North. Of the Children, and of the Man in the Moon. Of his Warren, and his People. Everything good and decent, everything that had made life worth living. Gone.
Except for Jack Frost.
Jack Frost, who he had hated since the Easter of 1768, who he had seen as an irresponsible, selfish brat, who he had almost punched for what had happened that last Easter, and who he had declared as untrustworthy. Jack Frost, the eternal child that the Guardians had always failed, was a constant reminder of everything that had once been good in Bunny's life…
…and as a reminder of who had torn it all down.
To the casual observer, that would appear to be Jack, but Bunny knew the truth. It was him. Him, and as much as it pained him to think it, North, Tooth, Sandy, and MiM who had destroyed the world and allowed it to plummet into another Dark Ages.
And, of course, Pitch Black. The Nightmare King was fond of sneaking into Jack's cavern when the Winter Spirit was gone, creating Winters so bitterly harsh that death was a greater threat than ever and playing practical jokes so dangerous that more than a few humans had died or else been injured. When the child-spirit was away, Pitch would sit next to Aster's cage and regal the former-Guardian with horrific tales of the world above. In less than a year, he had so fully corrupted Jack that the boy didn't see the pain he was causing anymore. Together, they had created a world where everything was, as the grey-skinned maniac was fond of saying "Pitch Black." Bunnymund had been forced to endure the stories, listening as Pitch went on about the nightmares, then death, he and Jack caused together. And every time, the former general would tell Bunny "I really must thank you, Aster. You had your chance, Guardian. You could have prevented this, and all you had to do was accept Jack Frost into your little family of do-gooders. But you didn't! If it hadn't been you the four of you, for the brutality of your rejection of the boy, I never would have been able to persuade him to join me that final Easter. You did more to destroy him with just a few short words and a near strike than I could have if I had had years with him. So, thank you, E. Aster Bunnymund, for helping me take over the world."
Now, as he was treated to a brilliant smile, full of joy at the affection Bunny had shown him, the Pooka wished he still had the strength to travel through time and stop himself from driving the boy away.
Jack's hand twisted and curved over Bunny's head. Icy fingers scratched behind his ears, causing one foot to thump sluggishly against the floor, too weak to strike rapidly. Bunny tilted his head and nuzzled Jack's palm. Snowflake blue eyes softened as tears sprang to Jack's eyes.
His other hand gripped the icicle bars and, one by one, broke them until there was enough room to reach in and pull Bunnymund out. The Pooka was settled in Jack's lap as the Winter Spirit sat cross-legged on the floor. The carrot was brought back and pressed to Bunny's lips. Aster wasted no time and slowly started crunching into the orange bit of food, careful to not upset his stomach. He took frequent breaks, no matter how much his stomach begged for food, and instead allowed his body and mind to soak up the feelings of physical contact and affection Jack was so willing to bestow on him, drifting in and out of a light doze.
Jack didn't take him outside that day, but promised to do so the next morning if Aster was good. That night, as the child-spirit curled his form around Aster's smaller form and slept, the former Guardian of Hope promised himself that he was not going to fail, again. If he could be a Guardian for all the children of the Earth, he could at least be one to Jack. It was all that was left for him.
And with Pitch Black as a father-figure, Jack was going to need all the protection he could get.
Vow made, Aster nuzzled into Jack's embrace and fell asleep, his dreams haunted by images of Toothiana being torn apart and her minis sealed away in a wall of ice, Nicholas St. North impaled on spears of ice, the Sandman's golden body vanishing in a cloud of darkness, and his own Pookan tribe slaughtered, all on the whim of Pitch Black.
*************And the final line break**********
A/N: There you have it. North, Tooth and her mini-fairies, and Sandy are all dead. Aster is stuck as Jack's pet, Jack is, for all intents and purposes, Pitch's pet, and Aster and Jack cling desperately to the last bit of love and/or affection left for them. I'm an evil, evil person.
Easter of 1768: It's my belief that that is the Easter of '68 they refer to. Because I like the idea of Bunnymund holding a grudge for that long.
And Aster got to live because I really, REALLY want a freaking bunny rabbit. A Flemish Giant, to be specific. I'm living vicariously through Jack Frost in this incident…um…in regards to having a bunny. Not in regards to being a poor, lonely child who's so starved for affection he's out of his mind…
Okay, I love you, buh-bye!