I still cannot believe the amount of attention this story is getting, nor the affect it seems to be having on everyone! To everyone who I have killed: I'm sorry. Say hi to Jamie Bennett for me (yeah I went there).
I find it rather concerning that I find it far easier to write crazy!Jack than to write the guardians interacting with him; my own whacked out mind perhaps? I have to say, I depressed myself writing this, so have fun!
They decided to leave him sleep for a few hours- MiM only knew, he looked like he could use it. They themselves also retired to their own bedrooms- for every guardian had their own room at the Pole- to try and rest and process what they had seen.
It had been traumatic to say the least, seeing the youngest immortal in existence in such a state. Tooth curled up on her bed and sobbed at the sight of the brightly grinning boy she'd once known, emaciated and terrified on the ground. North stared blankly at the ceiling, trying to get the image of those haunted eyes, so deeply set in those fretted sockets, out of his head, but every time he tried to sleep he saw them, imprinted on the back of his eyelids. Sandy sat cross legged on the floor, caught between desperation at the insurmountable challenge before them- what were they to do? They couldn't exactly take him to a doctor, now, could they?- and growing anger at both the other guardians and Pitch for what had happened to the child. Bunny...
Bunny sat hunched over in the corner, shivering violently as wave after wretched wave of guilt wracked his body and his soul. All he could hear were voices from the past, shouts and accusations and pleas of innocence that felt on deaf ears. The broken shell of the winter spirit they had all been presented with, that was all his fault. The tears of panic at the sight of them, the dried blood crusted all over his body, the mangled finger and the foot, everything lay on the Pooka. Was this how Jack had felt, curled up in the chasm after that ill-fated Easter? Fresh guilt swelled up in Bunny at the thought. He cursed himself, he cursed Pitch, he cursed Baby Tooth for forgetting and he cursed the Man in the Moon. Leaping to his feet, he threw the window open and let out an anger and despair filled shout that seemed to penetrate the night.
"You couldn't have told us?" he cried. "You couldn't have shown us where he was? You couldn't have spoken to him once? Not once, in three hundred years before and seventy years after? Did you take Baby Tooth's memories too? Was it you who told Pitch that snapping the staff would halt his powers?" The door behind him swung open, but he ignored it. "He's a kid, Manny! A child! Fourteen years old, and you left him out there!"
"Bunny?" said a voice as gently as possible.
"At least we looked! It may be my fault, but as least we looked!"
"Bunny?" said the voice again, louder this time.
"You know what they say? Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor! You were silent! You helped Pitch! Why? Why would you do that?" Bunny choked off, breathing raggedly as small arms wrapped around him and held him tight.
"I know," Tooth murmured as he clutched at her like a lifeline. "I know; it's awful. It's worse than awful. I keep expecting to wake up, and find it was just a nightmare, but that's not going to happen. We just have to try and make things right as best we can."
"I feel so guilty." Bunny's voice was broken, raspy from shouting and grief. He sank slowly to the floor, Tooth stroking his fur soothingly. "I feel so bloody guilty; it's my fault, it's all my fault."
"It's our fault as much as yours." Large orbs of glistening saltwater dripped slowly from Tooth's violet eyes. "We turned away from him; we didn't listen to what he had to say."
"Some guardians we are," Bunny muttered, struggling to keep tears back himself. "Tooth?"
"Will you stay here with me? Please? I don't think I can do this alone." Tooth nodded, wiping her face.
"Only if you stay with me too."
The guardians were woken from uneasy slumbers by the sound of a blood curdling scream.
"Jack!" yelled Tooth and Bunny simultaneously. They were still holding each other where they had fallen asleep on the floor, but there was no time for embarrassment as they sprinted out the room. They met North on the way to the infirmary, and a golden glow up behind him told Bunny that Sandy was on his way too. The Pooka pushed himself forward as the screaming continued, running faster than he had since... since...
"Is that a challenge, Cottontail?"
"Oh, you don't want to race a rabbit, mate."
He skidded into the room they'd left Jack in to find him huddled beneath the blankets, staring at the steadily ticking alarm clock in abject terror, still screaming. The guardian hesitated for a moment before snatching the offending item and smashing it on the floor. Immediately the screaming stopped, but now those cerulean eyes swivelled to stare at him instead.
"Uh... morning, mate; how are you feeling?" Jack was gasping great shuddering breaths, and the Pooka took a cautious step forward before tentatively placing his paw on the spirit's shoulder. Jack froze, before something that might have been the tiniest of smiled tugged at the corner of his mouth. Tooth and the other guardians stopped in the doorway, not wanting to startle Jack.
The winter sprite lifted a hand to his throat and let out a small, gaspy noise similar to a whine. The twitch at the corner of his mouth was back, and yep- that was definitely a smile. Bunny smiled back encouragingly, and Jack made the noise again.
"That's very nice, Jackie," said the Pooka softly, not moving his hand from the child's shoulder. Jack changed the noise to a hum, his shoulders shaking in silent joy and delight. From the doorway Tooth wondered how long it had been since the spirit was able to speak. "Would you like some food?"
It was the wrong thing to say; Jack began to tremble as he frantically shook his head, before nodding. Tears started to slide down his face, freezing when they reached halfway down his cheeks and tumbling to the ground like tiny crystals; a high pitched keening nose tore from his lips. It was too much for Tooth to bear- suddenly she was next to Bunny, gently stroking Jack's hair as she knelt down next to him, putting her eyes on his lever.
"Hey... Hey, Sweet Tooth... don't worry, it's okay." She pinched the back of Bunny's leg and raised an eyebrow at him as though to say 'go get the broth,' which was still in the corner from the day before. "It's okay... can you make that nice noise again? The one you made for Bunny?" He paused, looking straight at her, and for a moment it was as though the veil over his mind had lifted and he was back, the real Jack, the one they had known seventy years ago. He raised an eyebrow and her heart leapt, but next second his eyes dimmed again and he softly hummed.
"Here we go, Jackie," said Bunny, slowly holding up a spoon full of the nutritious liquid. "I just need you to open up." Jack hesitated, before opening his mouth a fraction of an inch. Bunny tipped the broth in as best he could, a little stream dribbling down his chin. "Now swallow." The winter spirit complied and they held their breaths (North and Sandy still peering in the doorway) waiting for his reaction.
What happened next happened too quickly for any of them to stop it. Jack's eyes widened, and then there was a blur of movement and Jack suddenly wasn't in the bed anymore. He was hunched over in the corner, gulping at the broth as fast as he could. By the time any of them registered what was going on, it was half gone.
"Jack!" gasped Tooth, "Don't! You'll make yourself-" she cut off as Bunny pushed open the window and the winter spirit leaned out just in time to throw up the entire contents of his stomach. "... sick." She turned to North and Sandy, eyes wide and scared, voice determinedly composed as her hands clenched into shaking fists; "Sandy, could you put him back to sleep please? I think we need to do some psychology research."
All he could do was focus on facts.
He wasn't dead maybe he was maybe this is purgatory for screw up for failure for immortals who make a mess wherever they go for those who should never have been trusted
The guardians were alive or maybe they're dead with him maybe heaven for them is torturing him for all eternity because he ruined Easter it was all gone because of him
There were colours they blinded him burned him too many colours too many faces so much stuff all of it swimming behind a wall of tears
There were sounds and he could make them and people speaking saying the words that he spoke in his head and if he could make sounds perhaps he could speak as well perhaps he could move his lips and talk to the alive undead guardians of hell
There was food but it was all a trick because it felt so good but then it felt so bad and his throat burned and his stomach churned and it hurt so much why did it hurt
Why did it hurt? He knew once.
Everything repeats. He can know again.
And with that thought, the veil over Jack lifts and for a second he sees Santoff Clausen as he saw it before, and he can see the wonder in everything around him, just like a tiny wooden doll with wide eyes that are sneaky and frightening and
And he's lost again, lost on the wrong side of the wall, the wall that bars him from the land of the sane, wandering forever with flesh slowly fading, bones rising to greet him like an old friend, nothing but a skeleton with skin, a skinny skeleton, and he thinks that might be funny so he laughs a little, just to hear his voice.
In a flash Bunny is next to him, and Jack flinches back and starts to get out of bed because he has to go and we never should have trusted you a fist half raised, ready to strike him where he stood, and Jack becomes aware of the fact that he is whimpering as the Pooka gently pushes him back into the bed with the warbled nothing of
'it's okay, Jackie boy, you're safe, I'm with ya," and that doesn't sound like safeness to him but what does he know he's Jack Frost he doesn't know anything doesn't remember anything but you want them so badly, don't you your memories teeth hold the best memories of childhood teeth tooth it's okay I got you little baby tooth
Baby Tooth! The veil lifted again as he tried to think about the little creature he'd only glimpsed once since coming back. He'd seen her and then she'd disappeared, and the next day he'd found the clock so that was where she'd gone to fix time because Jack broke time for her to stop Pitch's teeth from killing guardians and when time broke Easter was ruined so his teeth took the staff and he hasn't seen it since if he finds the teeth he finds the staff but they're in the Out There, in the snow and the ice and he hates himself the useless winter child who fears time
Because time can never run out for him. Either he's dead and this is his eternity or he's alive and this is his eternity. The thought scares him more than he thought possible, and when it comes he does the hum he hums for Sandy and Sandy dusts him and for a while all is gone he doesn't know where it's gone because the sun is in the Out There and he doesn't know if it's moved so he doesn't count rocks he counts elves but they move and they confuse him and there's something on his chest and it's on his arms and he realises he is dead because they've been sewing him like a puppet he's nothing more than a ragdoll useless winter spirit making a mess why you're bleeding all over the floor it's okay though your blood is invisible just like the rest of you
Two weeks after he arrived, Jack escaped the room he was staying in, managed to make it to the other side of the workshop and ripped his stitches out in a hysterical frenzy.
When he awoke, Bunny and Tooth were in his room, whisper arguing about how best to take care of him.
"Tooth, ah don't like it any more than you do, but sometimes straitjackets are necessa-" The Pooka cut himself off when he realised the child was awake. "Hey, Jackie; how are yeh feeling?" The boy was silent for a moment, and Tooth saw his eyes clear, become darker, taking in reality and not whatever warped visions were normally presented to his ruined mind.
"How long?" If not for Bunny's highly advanced hearing the question would have been missed altogether. It was the first words the boy had spoken since his return, but the Pooka had no idea what he meant.
"How long what, Jackie?"
"Was I out there?"
"Do you mean asleep? About six hours."
"No! OUT THERE!" It's screamed at them before the winter spirit collapses in on himself, crying softly. Tooth gently wraps her arms around him and he weeps onto her shoulder.
"Oh, Sweet Tooth." Her eyelashes are spiky with tears. "Seventy years."
The broth starts to come with other things- they call it apple and they call it bread, and because they call it that he calls it that too. Every time he says a word they smile, like it's the best thing in the world, and sometimes when his mind is clear he wants to punch something because he is not a baby and he doesn't need to be coddled he just needs to
They call it physio and so he calls it physio, this slowly walking around, muscles aching from disuse and malnourishment. It has a longer name, but he can't remember it all. It doesn't matter, anyway; they call it physio and he does too.
They call them scars, and he does too. He's not the only one who has them- Tooth and Bunny do too. North might too, but they must be covered up. Sandy can't because he's all gold, so he can't have scars. But when Jack calls them scars, Bunny pats the fur on his shoulders and asks 'my markings?' so Jack calls them that too. Jack has markings, and it turns out North does too, ones that say something in words on his arms. Jack wonders if his markings say something.
They call them clocks, and he just screams. Screams and screams because time marks time, and what's the point of time if you're going to be there forever. North and Bunny smash every clock around, and then Jack is happy.
They give him paper and colours, so he can draw out his hopes and dreams and other guardian stuff that he doesn't know about because I'm not a guardian you don't want me thats not for me you got that right mate
He can't think what to draw, and ends up settling on a picture of the guardians. He uses the red crayon to draw North, and the grey crayon to draw Bunny, the yellow crayon for Sandy and lots of crayons for Tooth, who he can't get right so he scrunches the sheet up and decides to draw something he can draw. He takes the white crayon and does snowflakes, hundreds and hundreds of snowflakes, over a dozen sheets of paper, each one unique, each one perfect, because he hates the snow but snowflakes are beautiful and when North comes in and asks him why he hasn't drawn anything he starts to cry.
Theere are so many things he still doesn't understand. Things he half sees and half hears, words that don't make sense, sounds that make no noise, shadows so dark they blind him. Once he wakes up and a great big thingum is staring at him, and the it points to fingers at its eyes, and then the same two fingers at Jack before walking out, tears dripping from the fur that covers it. He doesn't understand, and he doesn't know how to ask.
They call it tragic, so he calls it tragic too. They call it awful, and he calls it awful too. They call it horrifying, and he calls it horrifying too. He never knows what a tragic is, or an awful or a horrifying, until he sees his reflection in the glass of the window and wonders if they should be calling it Jack Frost.
So, I don't know if I managed to get this across, but I was going for 'Jack is better in the second bit.' Yeah, I'm not overly thrilled about this chapter or last chapter, but next chapter, which will be the last chapter, will hopefully be brilliant (if it turns out like I've planned). This one was kind of choppy, but just pretend it's a literary representation of Jack's fluctuating moods and sanity levels to an audience who has never known such troubles (or whatever it is my English teacher would say!)