Jack was playing in the snow.
Not that this was an unusual concept by any stretch of the imagination, but he usually had clothes on and carried his staff when he did. Aster was pretty sure he was the only one in the entire Workshop who could spot him among the drifts of frozen water, both because of his vantage point, and because he knew what he was looking for.
“I do not understand you.” North was grumbling. “Do you like the boy or do you not? You vatch over him, throw yourself between him and danger, yet you push Jack away as if you hate him. Make up your mind, Bunny! It has been ages now!”
It was an old rant, and one that Aster usually tuned out. He knew his behaviour didn’t make any sense to the other Guardians, but it didn’t have to.
He sighed, pressing his forehead against the glass as Jack did jubilant leaps into the air, twisting around. Not flying, just getting a little higher than most mortal creatures could jump, before crashing into in the snow, creating great big plumes of frost that rose into the air like sparkling confetti. Jack rolled in the snow, obviously delighting in the feel of it against his fur.
“It’s my greatest mistake.” He murmured, feeling the old ache in his chest.
Easter of ‘68, he’d been as mad as a cut snake when he’d found his holiday ruined, thigh deep in snow across a great deal of Europe and North America. Places that normally didn’t have snow were covered.
Aster had seen red. Literally, red. His holiday, ruined. All the children, disappointed. When he’d found the miscreant responsible, he’d lashed out without a thought, backhanding Frost into a tree.
He’d grabbed Frost and shaken him, slamming him up against the tree again as he verbally torn the Winter Sprite a new one. Right up to the point where Frost’s battered top hat had fallen off, revealing a pair furry white ears, too curved to be a fox’s, but too triangular to be a dog’s.
It had been enough to make him pause and take a deep breath, expecting some sort of shape-shifter’s trick. He hadn’t been expecting the almost forgotten scent of another Pooka, a young one at that, barely more than a kit, lacking the muskiness of a mature adult.
His shock had made him step back and actually see Jack Frost for the first time, the blood on his split lip, the dark mottling of a bruising against one too gaunt cheekbone. The wary look in Frost’s eyes, as if expecting another blow.
From him. Aster. The Easter Bunny.
Horror at himself had replaced the shock, and he’d traced the dark bruise with shaking fingertips. The first Pooka Aster had seen in millennia, and he’d hurt them.
He’d stumbled over his words, trying to get Jack back to the Warren, where he could patch him up, take care of him. The urge to wrap the lad up and never let go had been strong, relief at not being the last mixing with hope and joy.
Jack had lashed out, slapping Aster’s hand away with his staff, leaving behind a stinging bite of cold, baring his sharp teeth in fury.
The image of Jack’s furious blue eyes, colder than the ice he wielded as he told Aster to Fuck Off was one that haunted him still.
Jack had been alone for centuries, no hope, no kindness, and suddenly because he had fuzzy ears, now Aster wanted something to do with him?
Fuck that. Jack wanted nothing to do with Aster or his holiday.
And with that, the wind had grabbed Jack, throwing him high into the air and out of Aster’s sight before he could apologise.
So he’d done the only the thing he could do, gone back to the Warren and scavenged what he could of Easter.
And kept an ear out for any rumours about Jack Frost, greedy for any information he could get at all. Current or old, he didn’t care, he’d just wanted to know more about the other illusive Pooka.
Which was how he discovered a few months later that his error was greater than he’d realised. The reason for the massive amounts of snowfall was due to a three day battle between Jack Frost and a Ice Stoat, who had been preparing to eat Aster and feast on any children it could get its sharp pointy teeth into.
Jack Frost had barely finished defeating the Ice Stoat when Aster had appeared, and blamed him for ruining Easter. When in truth, Jack had probably saved Aster’s life. And his holiday. And the lives of many children.
Aster was the biggest fool ever.
He’d tracked down Jack’s favourite place to haunt to a small town in North America, a pond he seemed to spend more time at than any other. Aster hadn’t had the courage to approach Jack again, but the next Easter, he’d left some eggs in the middle of the pond, decorated with white snowflakes, so Jack would know they were for him. An apology, of sorts.
Aster had left eggs for Jack there every year after that. He’d also kept an ear out for any other fledgling spirits, leaving eggs for them as well.
He’d hurt one Pooka kit by being oblivious, he wasn’t going to gamble with any other potential ones out there.
But knowing that there was one Pooka out there, was enough to bolster his hope, let him know he was not alone.
And then Pitch had returned. And Manny had chosen Jack as the next Guardian.
Aster lost his cool, spouting a bunch of nonsense, trying to get them to change their minds about having the kit join them in their ongoing battle against Pitch. That Jack was lazy, (Lies), that he didn’t care about the children (Lies), he was only interested in himself (Lies, Lies, LIES!).
And North had cut through it all, going with his feeling in his belly. And Aster had been the one sent to collect Jack.
He hadn’t wanted to. Really hadn’t wanted to. But Jack had chased him, responding to a potential threat like a true Guardian.
It had been hard to look at Jack, seeing his grin, the way his flat rounded ears looked human now, no sign of the Pooka that he really was. He’d tried to give the kit a chance to escape, Jack probably could have handled the Yeti with a minimum of fuss, but Jack had been expecting Aster to be a threat, not anyone else.
And then things went downhill from there.
Insulting backfired, Punjam Hy Loo was attacked, Sandy being killed, Easter ruined, and Aster being shrunk to the size of a kit…
Jack, who ended up saving them all, with laughter and snowballs. Jack, who Pitch had targeted in Toothiana’s home, who Aster connected with, taunting each other while collecting teeth, bonding with in the Warren. How right it had felt to have Jack's presence beside Aster in his home, holding a small sleeping child in his arms.
Jack, reeking of Pitch and Shadows, who Aster nearly physically struck again, pulling back when Jack flinched, and Aster he could smell how scared the kit was.
Scared of Aster.
Aster kept his distance after that.
And then Jack was a Guardian.
Which meant that Jack was suddenly everywhere.
He was there when the Guardians gathered, which was a great deal more frequently, and the others were constantly talking about him. There was no way for Aster to escape from Jack Frost.
Jack was constantly around, quick with a quip, easy with a smile, and oh so cheerful, and almost painfully eager to spend time with any of them.
The day that Jack remembered his past, still made Aster’s heart pang. Finding Jack in North’s Workshop, curled around his staff with a hollow look to his face. Aster had meant to continue on, tell North, but somehow he’d found himself just standing next to Jack, not saying anything.
Eventually Jack began to speak, his voice low and rough. About how he’d tracked down his memories for Aster, to see if he could find out what happened to the rest of the Pooka. He apologised for his first memories being of his family, his human family, the ones who had raised him.
They were the reason for the habit of Jack trying so hard look human, even after he died. He couldn’t pass for a domesticated dog, too large and strangely built to pass for canine, so he’d tried to use his abilities to look more like them to protect both him and them. What he couldn’t change, they hid with clothing.
His fur, Jack confessed his voice low, had been tan and black then. Kind of like a German Shepherd's.
There was only one clan who preferred canines shape, with that colouring. The last Pooka Aster had seen had been one. They’d died in front of his eyes as he’d fled Pitch’s Nightmare Pirates and Fear Men, guarding Aster’s flight to hide the First Light.
The urge to wrap the kit up and cart him back to Aster’s Warren was always strong, but Aster had to dig his fingers into the wood to physically restraining himself from reaching out and touching Jack, the memory of Jack’s words and angry eyes during their first encounter staying his hand.
And because he didn’t think he could let go, once he actually made contact.
The problem was that Aster didn’t know if it was because Jack was a Pooka, or because Jack was… Jack.
And it wasn’t right for him to make any sort of gesture until he had his own brain figured out.
So they gravitated around each other, like planets, without ever touching.
Jack flew through the air before diving into the snow bank, burrowing himself underground as he hunted invisible mice, completely invisible to the eye, his white fur seamlessly blending in.
“Bunny?” North’s voice so close to Aster’s ear made him startle slightly, not having noticed the former Bandit King’s approach while being lost in his own thoughts.
North gave Aster a concerned look and leaned over his shoulder, peering out the window with a frown. “I do not see vhat you find so interesting about snow.” He grumbled, patting Aster’s shoulder before turning to stomp back over to his work table.
Bunny watched him go, then gazed out the window again.
Below, ignorant of his frequent watcher, Jack popped his white head out of the snow bank and looked around before bounding playfully into the snow once more.
Chapter 2: Shall Receive in Time
Jack's side of what happened during the Blizzard of '68.
Posting for January Jackrabbit Week: 'Confessions / Blood'
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“How’s he doing?” Jack asked roughly as he stepped into the Workshop’s infirmary.
Tooth looked up from her seat next to Bunny’s side, her usually vibrant eyes shadowed. “Not good.” She said, the corner of her lips stretching into a what was supposed to be a smile, but looked closer to a grimace. “He lost a lot of blood. We’re keeping a close eye on his heart, hoping he’s got enough left to keep everything circulating.”
Jack nodded, his grip tightening around his staff. Bunny looked pale, even under his fur. Sort of hollowed out.
The mass of white bandages around his torso didn’t help. There were a couple of darker spots under white top layer.
-They’d have to be careful where they disposed of the bandages, plants tended to grow to insane sizes after contact with Bunny’s blood. Avatar of Spring and all that.
Jack didn’t want to know what would happen if Bunny died.
They lapsed into silence, both of them watching Bunny breathe, the nagging worry that each one would be his last.
“This has to stop, Jack!” Tooth suddenly burst out, her wings vibrating as her hands clenched into fists. “He can’t… He can’t keep doing this! Why?!”
Jack pressed his lips together, his throat tight in the face of Tooth’s frustration.
They’d been fighting Pitch, not even a big grand plan like how Jack had joined them, but a tiny skirmish. The lights had gone out, Pitch’s voice echoing all around them, taunting.
And then something heavy had slammed into him, sending him flying. Pitch’s laughter had echoed out, highlighted by jagged breathing.
He didn’t think the others could hear, but Jack could, Pitch’s rolling tones as he whispered into Bunny’s ear, mocked the Pooka for his fear… His fear that something would hurt Jack, either by Pitch’s hand or Bunny’s own.
Pitch always knew what everyone was most afraid of.
Then North got his lights to work again, illuminating Pitch holding Bunny aloft… By two long spikes through his torso. One just barely missing his heart, the other a hand span lower.
Pitch had laughed at their horror and disappeared, dropping Bunny to the ground and sending blood flying everywhere. Plants sprouted where Bunny’s blood splattered, wrapping him in a cocoon of green that they’d had to fight through the plants to get to Bunny in the hopes of patching him up.
Tooth was right. This had to stop.
“Check to see if my blood is compatible.” He said quietly.
Tooth shook her head, giving him a pitying glance. “It’s a nice thought, Jack. But Bunny’s not from Earth. Our blood doesn’t work…”
Her voice trailed off as he changed his ears to their natural shape, pale fur covered triangles on the tops of his head. “Check.” He insisted, holding his arm out.
Tooth hissed, her wings buzzing as she glanced around, fingers grasping at nothing. Jack almost wanted to laugh at her distraction. “Blood test first.” He offered her a small grin. “Answers after.”
“Right.” She nodded, focus restored. Tooth dashed around, grabbing a pair of gloves, a needle and a glowing ball thing before hovering in front of him.
“North made this a while back when one of us got, to see if we could do transfusions, just incase.” She handed him the globe as she put her gloves on, chatting as she got ready. “North’s a universal donor for blood, he can give it to anyone, and I can receive blood from just about anyone, but I can’t give North blood. A few of the yeti can though, they’re close enough. We tried mixing Bunny’s blood with ours, to see if he could donate, and it grew this weird carnivorous plant, so he can’t donate to anyone either.”
“I’d probably just freeze it.” Jack muttered as she took his hand and pricked his left middle finger with the needle. She took his hand and pressed the blood spot to the globe.
“Maybe.” She agreed. “This is set up for Bunny already and, oh!”
The globe changed from a steady white pulse to a minty green one. “Good, I hope?” Jack ventured.
“You can donate!” Tooth’s wings gave an extra flutter in glee. She turned the globe over and it faded to white for a moment before turning red. “You can’t receive blood from Bunny, but you can donate to him!”
Jack snorted in amusement. “Winter goes into Spring, not the other way around.”
“Right!” Tooth gave a little bounce. “Let me just get North and-”
“NO!” Jack cut her off, grabbing her arm in a panic. Tooth stared at him in shock. “Don’t.” He begged. “I can’t… I’m not ready to tell them yet.”
Keeping what he was hidden was second nature to him. He knew it probably wouldn’t matter to them, but he couldn’t… It didn’t feel right to tell the others.
It didn’t feel right to tell Tooth, but this was Bunny at stake.
“Alright.” Tooth slowly agreed, drifting down to the floor. “But in exchange, you tell me what’s going on with the two of you while you donate.”
Jack swallowed, fighting back the old wave of terror at actually voluntarily revealing what he was, one that reached back even before he remembered his parents. It took a moment to realise she’d asked to explain his and Bunny’s strange relationship, not what he was.
Which was kind of tied together, but it wasn’t so bad, talking about Bunny instead of himself. “Agreed.”
Tooth nodded. “Okay. Grab a seat, you may want to put your staff down, don’t to freeze any of the machines by accident and-”
Jack tuned her out as he pulled off his hoodie, and unbuckled his belt, loosening his trousers and shimming them a little farther down his hips before he sat down in the chair that she’s just left. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves. Partly because he’d never given blood before and he had no idea if it would help or hinder, and partly because he’d never spoken about this before.
Tooth tied a stretchy band around his bicep, chattering soothingly at him as she set up the tubing, her fingers light as they found a vein and slipped the needle into it. He made a fist as instructed, watching his red blood flow from his arm, down the length of plastic, into Bunny.
It felt kind of weird. A little draining too, as if some of his magic flowing away along with the blood.
“Should take about 10 - 15 minutes.” Tooth said cheerfully, patting his shoulder.
Jack nodded. “Right. I’m just gonna…” He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and let it out, letting the magic he used to retain human shape fade away. He shifted slightly, moving his tail out of the way. Rogue limbs aside, he always felt more relaxed when he was furry, if a little exposed, expecting villagers with pitch forks chasing after him as soon as his guise slipped.
“Oh!” Tooth squeaked. Jack opened his eyes to find her floating above him, her hands pressed to her mouth as if he was the cutest thing ever. “Lemme see your teeth!”
Jack fell back in the chair as Tooth pried open his mouth, cooing with delight at his bright white, sharp teeth. He sighed, resigning himself to letting her poke.
After what seemed like a few minutes, Tooth caught hold of herself, removing her hands. “Sorry.” She whispered, looking embarrassed. “They really are pretty though.”
“Thanks?” Jack ventured, licking the inside of his mouth to get the taste of latex and antiseptic from her fingers out. Blech. “Should I ever lose one, you get first dibs.”
Tooth made a happy squeal. “It would be shame, but I’d totally take it!” She gleefully assured him. She made another happy sound and floated over to Bunny’s other side, plopping down in the chair there. “Now. Talk.”
Jack sighed. It was too much to hope his teeth had distracted her. He leaned his head back against the chair, turning his head to look at Bunny’s sleeping face. Stupid old rabbit.
“It all started when I messed up on Easter of ‘68.” He said slowly.
“The blizzard?” Tooth questioned, then squeaked and covered her mouth with her hand. “Sorry.”
He shrugged, letting her know it was alright. “Not that. Ever hear of a ‘Stoat’?”
Tooth got a thoughtful look on her face, then shook her head. Jack smiled. “Not surprised. Also known as an ‘Ermine’ when they have their winter coat.”
“Ah!” Tooth brightened. “I’ve heard of those! Aren’t they related to ferrets?”
“And weasels.” Jack agreed. “They’re usually mid-size for the weasel family. They eat a lot of rabbits.”
Tooth’s cheerful demeanor faded as she looked at Bunny.
“Yeah.” Jack nodded, shifting to pull his tail to a more comfortable position. Thankfully the chairs had been designed with Tooth’s tail feathers in mind. “I didn’t know a lot of Spirits before the Guardians, and most weren’t friendly, so I tended to avoid them. But I heard there was a Stoat who’d turned into an ice monster. One who was hungry, and targeting children. And a very large rabbit.”
“Bunny.” Tooth whispered.
“Yeah. I didn’t know or care about the Easter Bunny at the time, but I wasn’t going to let it target kids.” Jack shrugged. “So I tracked it down and fought it. Winter Elemental versus Ice Monster. It brought killer ice and snow, and I had my staff and my teeth. It took three extremely long days before it stopped getting up again.”
He closed his eyes, leaning his head back in the chair. It hadn’t been an easy fight, one of the hardest he’d ever faced, and he’d nearly been eaten several times.
“So I finally limp away victorious, with barely enough energy to change mostly back to human, when this giant Rabbit comes out of no where, slams me into a tree and starts chewing me out for ruining Easter.”
“Bunny.” Tooth muttered, covered her eyes with a hand.
“Yeah.” Jack smirked fatalistically. “So my hat falls off, he sees my ears, and suddenly starts to backpedal. Calls me a ‘Pooka’ and tries to get me back to his place.”
Tooth made a small whimpering noise.
“-Which is when I blew it.” Jack sighed. “Told him to fuck off.”
“You-” Tooth made an odd sound. Jack opened an eye to find her rubbing her head.
“I’d been alone for a long time, no one had ever cared before, and suddenly because I couldn’t control my shift, someone wanted me?” Jack barked a laugh. “Told him I wanted nothing to do with him and left.”
“Oh, Jack.” Tooth groaned. “You didn’t.”
“I did.” Jack nodded. “Found out later he’s a Pooka. And that he was the last of his kind. Except me, and I’d told him off.”
The only other person who might have answers, to understand, to care, and Jack had chased him away.
“So. Yeah. Blizzard of 68. Worst mistake ever.” Jack turned his head to look at Bunny. It might have just been wishful thinking on his part, but he thought that Bunny looked a little better, closer to sleeping than unconscious due to blood loss.
Winter was the period that plants slept, when they gathered strength to grow in the spring time. He didn’t know how much of his attributes would help or hinder Bunny’s healing process. He hoped it would help, allowing Bunny to rest better for a while and heal himself.
“Is that why he avoids you?” Tooth asked quietly. “Because you told him to?”
“I think so.” Jack said roughly, looking up at Tooth, hoping that it was the cause and not because Jack was a giant fuck up. “I’ve only been able to corner him once for a conversation, when you first started helping me to get my memories back after becoming a Guardian. I wanted to see if there was anything about how I survived, if there might be any other hidden Pooka out there.”
Tooth nodded, clearly remembering that. “And?” She said hopefully.
He shook his head. “At the time, the farthest back I could remember was just before my sister was born, Mom being pregnant and me swearing to watch over her and the baby.” Which he had.
Tooth made an apologetic face. It was a good memory for Jack, but not helpful for Bunny. “What happened?”
“North called me away.” Jack shrugged. “When I came back a few minutes later, Bunny was gone, and there were huge gouge marks in the wood. Claws.”
She stared at him with her mouth open for a second, eyelashes fluttering. “I… I’m not sure how to interpret that, honestly.”
Jack gave her a half smile. “Me either.”
They sat in silence for a moment, Jack stretching his hand out until he could just brush the back of Bunny’s paw with his finger tips. He remembered how warm Bunny had been the only time they’d touched, the Blizzard of ‘68, but he wasn’t currently and it worried Jack.
“You’ve gotten more memories since then, haven't you?” Tooth asked quietly.
“Yeah.” Jack nodded, debating actually taking Bunny’s hand. “Baby Tooth’s helped some. I’ve been around for longer than I thought, but nothing about more Pooka.”
Jack remembered running and playing in the forests for seasons and seasons, unseen by most, except for a few of the native humans that lived there. He remembered a plague wiping them out, unable to do anything. Then the pale skinned colonists arriving.
One colonist, in particular. A girl, barely into her teens, who found him when he got stuck in a fur trap, the iron refusing to free him. She’d let him go, and he’d stayed by her side, a silent guardian, unseen to almost everyone around.
Aside from the man she’d eventually married. Jack had been fond of him as well.
Jack hadn’t known he could shapeshift, not until that day when his sister was born. He’d looked into her eyes and known that she was his, his family, as sure as if he’d birthed her.
He’d wanted hands, not claws, to hold his baby sister, and so he’d shifted, changed into a human child, much to everyone’s surprise, even his own.
And when he was human shaped, he was visible to everyone. Thankfully his sister had been born during a storm, and when spring had come, the Overlands claimed that they had found him orphaned in the forest and taken him in.
The only thing that saved his life, and potentially theirs, for harbouring a monstrous creature as their child, was his ability to make and keep a human shape. He could be a canine, or he could be a human, but not a mixture of the both.
If he’d been caught, they could have all been killed.
That paranoia may have saved their lives before the Man in the Moon brought him back, but it was hurting him now.
But Jack didn’t know how to stop hiding who he was. Or what a ‘Pooka’ was, really. And the one person who may have been able to help was avoiding him like the plague.
He was surprised by the gentle feel of Tooth’s hand on his, trapping his fingers against Bunny’s, the grey fur soft against the pads of his fingers, finer than his own fur. “It’s okay.” She smiled kindly at him.
He dredged up a smile back, a curve at the corner of his lips, thankful for her gentle presence even as he shook his head. “Thanks, but it’s really not.” He motioned towards Bunny, lying so still in a hospital bed.
Tooth bit her lip, forehead wrinkling as she nodded in return, withdrawing her hand. “So what are you thinking of?” She asked, her voice kind of rough. There was no question that Jack wanted to fix this, repair the bridges between himself and Bunny.
Jack shrugged, turning ideas over in his head. He swallowed, curling his fingers around Bunny’s, holding on.
He was tired of watching from a distance, never getting close enough to talk. He’d become good friends with the other Guardians, but he didn’t know anything about Bunny aside from snippets the others dropped. And he wanted to know. Not just about Pooka in general, but about Bunny, how he came to Earth, why he did what he did, what made him smile.
He wanted to actually have a chance to converse, listen to that rolling voice in more than stollen snippets. Maybe even coax a rare laugh or two.
To do that, Bunny needed to wake up.
“He needs to heal.” He said slowly, rubbing his fingers against Bunny’s hand, subtly mixing their scents together there. “Which means he needs to take it easy for a while.”
“He may need some help.” Tooth tilted her head to the side, eyes glimmering mischievously. “Someone to keep an eye on him, keep him from over taxing himself.”
Jack could cook and clean. He hadn’t done it since he’d become Frost, but he retained the knowledge how. “And you have a full time job.” Jack said, trying to keep his lips from twitching into a smile. “As does Sandy.”
“North’s holiday is coming up oh so quickly.” Tooth clucked her tongue, shaking her head in false regret. Which was a total lie, because Christmas wasn’t for about another six months. But North’s idea of helping someone heal usually involved shots in uncomfortable places that made you sleep. Phil’s idea of ‘taking it easy’ generally included bondage.
-Jack made a point of it to recuperate elsewhere.
“I guess that just leaves you.” Tooth sighed dramatically.
“Not much for me to do in the Summertime.” Jack agreed, attempting schooling his features into a bland expression. He lost it when Tooth started giggling, the two of them chortling together.
It was a good thing that this had happened after Easter. Didn’t matter how hurt Bunny was, there’d be no way to keep him from his holiday.
“It’ll be okay, Jack.” Tooth smiled at him. She didn’t promise it, which made it all the more reassuring.
He just needed to have a little hope.
Type O-negative blood is a ‘Universal Donor’, it can be given to anyone. Type AB-positive blood is a ‘Universal Recipient’, they can take any type of blood.
-There’s still antigens and other factors to consider of course. But North is Santa, who gives everyone gifts and Toothiana is a hybrid, and the Tooth Fairy, who takes everyone’s teeth (with blood and gums), it just seemed to fit.