The Guardians all lift their heads, curiously staring at you.
“Please, just give me…one more day with him,” you plea, looking at each of them in turn.
After a quick consultation with the others, North returns to you. “We shall have to see how he is doing first.”
You nod and stand as he does.
Jangle bids you farewell as he rejoins the other elves.
You follow North through the building, trekking down long curving hallways, up a decorated stairwell or two—at which a white yeti with green eyes and a fire truck in its hands has to stand aside to let the group pass—and even through a couple of other rooms that just lead to more paths. It’s like the place is just asking to be explored, an adventure in itself. As if it was designed so even North wouldn’t know what was behind every door, always maintaining a sense of wonder and mystery. Despite that illusion, though, North didn’t get you guys lost, seeming to know where he’s going. Maybe.
You think you’ve seen that door and walked this hallway couple of times already.
The entire time, it’s like the Guardians have taken on an unspoken formation around you, surrounding you with their magic and an air of comfort. Sandy is to your left, floating off the floor so he’s just about your height, always offering you a soft, warm smile when you glance over at him. Tooth is fluttering to your right, her little fairies following not far behind her. One of them has actually taken to you, flying close to your ear as she smiles and chirps on occasion, the small hum of her wings sounding like soothing music, bearing that effect on you. Bunny is switching between walking and hopping behind you, depending on the speed that North is going. When walking, you’ve noticed, he whips out an unfinished Easter egg and paints as he goes. Sometimes he’ll place a furry paw on your shoulder, smiling down on you, the hope in his eyes overflowing into your very own soul, boosting your moral without a single spoken word passing between the two of you.
North stops the troupe in front of a large wooden door, much like the one that your typical room has. There’s a large window with a ledge big enough to sit comfortably on just to the left. You’d love to sit there with Jack, wrapped in his arms as you stare out over the miles and miles of peaceful snowy hilltops…
Sandy interrupts your daydream by holding up a finger in front of your face as North turns the doorknob, Tooth and Bunny following his large figure into the room. Sand forms an image of a still clock above his head.
You nod in understanding.
You’ll wait there for the word.
Sandy goes in after the others, a soft click following him as the door shuts.
About a minute passes. Then five. Then ten.
You’ve grown very accustomed to the architecture of this hallway.
Your heart skips a beat as you hear the door creak back open.
North comes back out first, closely followed by Bunny, then Sandy, and then by Tooth.
“Well?” you ask them, your heart racing as you play nervously with your hands.
“It’s all right,” Tooth says as the four of them smile. She flies forward to you, placing a small hand on the back of your shoulder. “Whatever it was that Orl gave you to give him, it should keep him doing just fine for a day or so. He was just sleeping off a few final effects. He’s still a bit weak though. I can’t promise more than a day. Then…then…” she trails off, her eyes growing sad once again.
“That’s all I want,” you tell her reassuringly, grasping her other hand in your own. “Thank you. All of you,” you add on, beaming at all four of them.
They all smile back at you.
Bunny coughs. “Well, ah, I’d best be off then, mate. Easter’s only a few days away, and there’s still a lot of my googies to be paint’d and such, and I’m not really needed here.” He walks up to you, holding out his paw for a final farewell.
“I’ll miss you, Bunny,” you tell him. Not helping yourself, you run into him and give him a great big hug. After a moment’s hesitation, he returns it, slightly chuckling. You think you hear him mumble that he’ll miss you too.
After the embrace is broken, he steps back away from everyone, raising his large rabbit foot. He salutes you. “Happy Easter, bugger!”
And with a couple of stomps, he’s gone.
Sandy approaches you next. He doesn’t waver at all, whisking you into quite the bear hug for someone with such short arms. When he floats back, his expression is one of exaggerated crying, a little sand-made raincloud complete with droplets of rain appearing over his head. His little transportation cloud forms beneath him as he prepares to leave.
“There’s a lot of dreams to be delivered, the children will miss you if you don’t get back out there,” you encourage him, though you’re equally sad at his departure. “I’ll always thank you for a good dream. See you then?”
He smiles and nods, the raincloud turning into a happy sun as he floats off to his dreamy duties.
“Are you going too, Tooth?” you ask her.
She shakes her head. “As much as I have to do and need to get done, my fairies are excellent at relaying information and working efficiently. I can work from here, though not for too long.” The little mini-Tooth’s at her shoulder smile and nod in agreement. “I’m still needed here,” she adds with a sad smile.
Not quite understanding that last tidbit, you smile nevertheless. Even if you don’t quite comprehend, you’re still happy she’s here. She’s like a mother or sister figure for you, and you really appreciate the extra company. Especially for what is to come…
Your eyes trail to the slightly-open door.
Just beyond that door is the one person in the world that you truly want to see and be with. The person you have so many precious memories with, each one near and dear to your heart. The one you love more than anything—anyone—in the world.
Your hand reaches out for the doorknob as you look back to North and Tooth for a final go-ahead. Tooth puts a hand on North’s shoulder as they both shoo you inside.
Your heart threatening to beat out of your chest, you push open the door and walk inside.
You close the door behind you as you take in your surroundings. The room looks a lot like your usual room, right down to the large window on the farthest wall. The ice is thicker on the walls here, though. But you’re not sure if that’s the design or just the effect that he has on the room.
You notice that the bed is empty. The sheets are askew, though, as if someone just got out of bed.
Leaning just at its head is a familiar long, hooked stick.
You had wondered what had happened to it after you made your entrance to the Pole. You remember having dropped it in your moments of imbalance, the events afterwards never permitting you to recover it and pushing it to the back of your mind.
“Good to see ya, old friend,” a memory plays back in your mind, making you smile as you mentally greet the staff.
But where’s its owner?
You pace around the room, searching in every nook and cranny, even looking under the bed. All without success. When you reach the window, your awe and love for winter scenery takes over, and you find yourself looking out over the arctic land for a few brief moments. You turn back around to the task at hand.
From almost out of nowhere, a small, direct, extremely chilly winter wind blows right onto your nose, making even you flinch a little as the cold spreads from the tip of your nose down into your cheeks.
A wide smile spreads across your face.
An upside-down face with pale skin, bright blue eyes filled with lively mischievousness, snow-white hair still bound by gravity, and lips forming an “o” hovers just a few inches from your own.
Jack Frost is nipping at your nose.