Warm, furry, feathery, and sandy.
You embrace each of the Guardians in turn, bidding them farewell.
You can see the worry behind each of their eyes, especially Tooth’s.
Jangle hugs the bottom of your leg, his stout arms almost too short to reach all the way around. You laugh and crouch down and pat his head, fearing that you’d squish the little guy if you were to actually return the hug.
You give a final wave as you follow Jack—your hand in his—outside into the arctic weather.
Just as you’re about to lift off, North runs out behind the two of you, yelling, “Wait wait wait!”
The two of you turn to face him.
After he recovers his breath, he holds out another snow globe in the palm of his hand.
“I hhhave better idea,” he says.
Jack holds up his hand, shaking his head. “Thanks, but no thanks. Fun as magic portals are, we don’t need that. Nothing’s going to happen to us on the way back, so you can stop worrying.”
But North ignores Jack.
He shakes the globe, stirring up the snow within it, making it flutter around chaotically. He holds it up to his lips and whispers the name of your town into it.
You briefly see the snow take color and form as it fuzzily depicts what appears to be your street. You can just see your house sitting on its perch.
He then throws the globe over your and Jack’s heads. The same vision that was once in the globe takes form in midair, but clearer. It stays for a split second before collapsing on itself, turning into a swirling and sparkling vortex, streaks of light blue and pink spinning alongside the glittering white arms as it spins counterclockwise of its own accord.
Jack sighs. Nevertheless, a mischievous smile makes its way onto his face.
North stands with his fists on his hips and winks down at the two of you.
“Get going, then!” he commands, turning the two of you around and shoving you—still hand-in-hand—into the portal.
“W-whooaaaa!” you exclaim.
Your feet are immediately taken out from underneath you. You’re being dragged feet-first by some unknown force, twisting as you go. You feel like you’re being elongated and squished, forced down a tube that is far too small for you to go through. Your exclamation becomes very high-pitched, as if you’re a squeaky toy being squeezed.
Your only sense of something real and stable is Jack’s cold hand gripping onto your own, your fingers entwined in his, though you can’t turn your head to focus on him.
It’s over almost as soon as it started.
You’re sent stumbling onto the snow-covered sidewalk, your body feeling normal again but your head and vision still spinning. Unable to fully recover your balance, you land face-first into the snow.
Well, not quite the snow.
Blinking, you prop yourself up a bit, a few clumps of snow falling from your face.
Your nose is less than an inch from Jack’s, his amazing blue eyes staring wide-eyed into your own.
You managed to land right on top of him.
A massive blush claims his face just as one takes your own, the two of you frozen in your shocked states.
You hurriedly get up, nearly falling over again in your flustered rush, voicing a long stream of stuttered apologies.
He gets up as well, dusting the snow from him and awkwardly coughing.
“Well, uh,” he manages to begin, the blush leaving him. He looks over at your house. “I guess we’re back.”
You nod, unable to find proper words.
He smirks and jerks his head towards the house.
“C’mon then, klutz.”
You smile and walk along with him, appreciating the decision to keep your feet on the ground for the sake of your stomach.
It gives you the chance to finally enjoy a stroll in the snow, too.
Jack pauses and looks up into the sky, closing his eyes. The usual ice on his staff around his hand begins to extend, wrapping around the length of the staff as it subtly glows a light blue. Some clouds roll in from seemingly out of nowhere.
He looks back down at you, smiling wide.
It begins to snow.
The two of you continue to walk, you turning your face upwards a couple of times, letting the fresh snowflakes fall lightly onto your nose, cheeks, and hair.
“Hey, (your name)!” you hear a small boy’s voice call to your left.
“Where’ve you been?” Jamie asks, running up to you.
You crouch down to his level. “Oh, nowhere. Just the North Pole,” you say as if it were nothing.
Jamie’s eyebrows shoot up in disbelief. “No way!”
You laugh. “You better believe it!”
Jamie begins to fire a million questions at you, asking what it looks like, what Santa is like, how you got there, etc. etc. etc.
Jack gives you a cautioning look.
You get the message.
“Slow down there, trooper. I have to go, I’ve been away for a little bit too long and need to get home.”
“Awwww, all right,” he sighs.
“Never stop believing, Jamie,” you say as you ruffle his unkempt brown hair, winking.
He smiles and runs back to his own house to complete the snowman that he had been in the middle of constructing.
The hours pass.
“Well, I guess I should get going,” Jack says as the moon rises into the night sky. He stands up from his place on the floor of your living room.
The two of you had spent the rest of the day reading, laughing, and just being together, providing each other with company to get your minds off of recent events.
You follow him out to the porch.
“Listen, I…I’m really sorry about what happened…” he trails off, his free hand behind his head, looking to the side in embarrassment.
You shake your head. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” You place your hand on his shoulder and meet his eyes with your own, smiling. “We’re both safe and here now, and that’s all that matters. I have a feeling Pitch won’t be going after us since you agreed to remain neutral. We should just put it all behind us.”
Even though you say that, you can’t shake the fear biting at the back of your brain.
He pulls you into a tight hug, which you return. “Thank you,” he whispers past your head.
You shrug. “It’s no big de—”
But you’re cut off by his lips meeting yours.
You close your eyes and let yourself get lost in the kiss, wrapping your arms around his neck as he holds you close to him.
He breaks the kiss and lets you go, grinning from ear to ear.
“Catch you later, then!” He says as he turns away from you, giving you a small wave goodbye.
You begin to panic, that small fear within you growing.
You don’t want him to leave.
“Jack, wait!” You grab onto the back of his hoodie just before he takes to the air.
“Hmmm?” He pauses, looking back and down at your hand.
You can just feel how red your face must look.
“S-stay,” you manage to mutter. “Please, stay. I…I’m scared. Nightmares and…and stuff…and…”
He seems to understand, tenderly smiling at you.
“All right, I’ll stay.”
Your heart flutters out of happiness. The two of you walk back into the house.
After your nighttime routine—during which Jack fiddles around with the television, taking an interest in it and flipping through the channels—you crawl into bed.
Just as you shimmy under the covers, Jack walks into the room, leaning on the door frame.
Seeming to read your mind, he walks over and lays down beside you on top of the covers, forming his body to your own, placing a comforting arm over you.
He places a soft kiss on your cheek, leaving a small tingling sensation.
He clears his throat as he makes himself comfortable. “G’night, then.”
“Good night, Jack,” you respond, lightly blushing but smiling all the same.
And you drift off into sleep, a feeling of complete safety enveloping you in the form of his familiar and odd cold warmth.