Warning: This chapter contains spoilers regarding the Rise of the Guardians movie!
You abruptly sit up in your bed, gasping for air.
Beads of cold sweat dot your forehead, dampening the roots and tips of your hair.
Your hand shaking vigorously, you switch on the light to chase away the dancing shadows of darkness. You take a quick survey of your room, searching for anything that is out of place.
All seems well.
You bring your knees up to your chest, hugging your legs as you attempt to stop trembling. You take long, deep breaths, closing your eyes in your effort to calm down.
It eventually works.
Your eyes half-open but not truly seeing anything, the images of your nightmare play back in your head, flashes of dismal memory slowly fading away with the on-come of your consciousness and the light.
There was you, and there was Jack. Once again, he was in his old clothes, his hair that chestnut color, his eyes brown and filled with fun and care, his skin a livelier tone, cheeks dotted with extremely light freckles, so light that they’re easily lost to his skin tone unless you really look. And you weren’t quite you. You didn’t feel like you, at least. As if you were stuck into someone else’s body, forced to live through events through their eyes. The two of you were on an iced-over lake…a familiar place. Jack’s “home?”
All you can remember is being thrown to the side, a curved branch hooked around your waist, pulling you in one direction as Jack was tossed in the other. He then stood in the place that you had once been. The two of you chuckled, his smile one of relief. He held out a hand to you.
Then, with a fateful crack, the thin ice gave way beneath him, his expression turning suddenly to one of surprise and fear as he fell, the lake claiming him for its own.
You shrieked his name in vain.
Off in the distance, a tall, slim, dark figure began to advance.
Come to think of it, it seemed out of place. As if it shouldn’t belong in that scene. A modification put in by the realm of nightmares.
It’s after you and Jack. You just felt it.
And is when you woke up, calling for Jack in a final attempt, the nightmare taking your sleep from you just as the lake had taken the life of your loved one.
The nightmare leaves your memory, as most dreams do after a period of time, leaving behind nothing but a feeling of intense loss, loneliness, and fear.
One image remains, though.
That of the dark figure in the distance, standing ominously off the shore of the lake, its pitch blackness deeply contrasting the pure white of the snow.
Your eyes widen as you realize something.
If Tooth combed through Jack’s memories, searching for every one containing you and removing them, seeing each one, she would have seen the ones concerning Pitch and his several attempts to lure Jack over to his side. She would have seen that he had returned, pieces of his evil plot.
But, if this is true…then why didn’t she say anything? Warn the other Guardians? Or, if she did in those few moments that she had in private with North, why did neither of them say anything to you? Also, they seemed so fine, so unaware, so oblivious of the return of the king of nightmares…North was off to go make more toys and Tooth returning to her work as if nothing was wrong…
It’s impossible that she forgot to wipe those memories. Jack doesn’t remember you in the least, you’re sure of that.
The questions continue to come, eating away at you, making your head throb as you try and continuously fail to reason through them.
You need answers.
You make your way through your house and to the back door, stepping out onto the porch and taking a seat, just as you did after you had found a couple of small, world-rattling letters scrawled through the frost on your bedroom window those many months ago…
You look up at the moon, subconsciously wondering if MiM will grant you peace of mind.
After a few minutes of silence, you see a familiar figure hovering in front of the moon’s bright face.
Your hear begins to race as you stand up. You wave at the Guardian in hopes of catching her attention.
“Tooth!” you call out into the night, one hand to the side of your mouth in hopes of amplifying the harsh whisper as you continue to wave your other.
You’re successful. She takes notice and quickly joins you, hovering at your side.
She has no Baby Teeth with her this time. Her bright, bubbly countenance is backed by a poorly-hidden worry.
“Hello,” she greets you. She’s packed full of pent-up energy, yet worn out at the same time.
“I’m sorry if I’m interrupting your work,” you say. You figure the only reason why she’d be in the area is to collect a few lost teeth. You remember that Jamie had lost one earlier. Maybe that’s where she was heading.
She shakes her head. “It can wait a few minutes. I have everyone helping me out. North, Bunny, Sandy, and…Jack…” she adds, as if the mention of his name will send you into some sort of frenzy.
“The Man in the Moon chose him to be a Guardian earlier,” she reveals, breaking the silence. “He hasn’t really accepted it, saying it’s really not his thing, but I think he just needs to figure out a few things and then he’ll accept.”
You remember him telling you something similar when you once asked him if he was a Guardian.
You’re happy that your predictions turned out to be right, too.
Something hits you. You find it odd that she’s getting help from the guys. “What about your fairies? Why aren’t they helping? Where are they?”
She grows sad, her bright feathers seeming to lose their vibrancy, further enhancing the expression of this emotion. “Pitch took them. And all of the teeth. They’re helping me collect them since I don’t have any of my fairies…Well, I have one. Jack saved her. But they’re helping me so children keep on believing in me. That’s the thing with being a Guardian. The children have to believe in you, or not only will the world lose what you stand for, but you’ll also slowly begin to disappear.”
“I’m so sorry,” you softly say. You feel extremely guilty for stopping her so you can get your questions answered, which are miniscule in comparison to the vital task she has before her.
She shakes her head. “Don’t worry, everything is going really well. What was it you needed?”
“Well,” you begin. You don’t want to outright reveal the dealings with Pitch, just in case she doesn’t know about those events already. You know that they should be kept secret for your and Jack’s sakes, just as they have been all along. “When you were going through Jack’s memories, taking me out of them…did you see every single one? The details?”
“No,” she reveals bluntly. She blushes a little. She probably thinks your main concern is over her seeing all of the intimate moments between you and the spirit of winter, not that that isn't another, lesser anxiety of yours. “It would have taken me ages to see every memory and remove you, far less efficient. To put things simply, I collectively called the memory ‘you’ out, going through every one and yet none at the same time.
“The mind can heal itself, after wounds are made. Self-stitching, you could say. That is what Jack’s was doing as he slept. It re-created every memory, now lacking you, so it made sense to him. This could be anything from just doing an activity alone to entirely recreating a memory. For example…if the two of you had met someone together as a result of you first coming into contact with that person. His memory would have to entirely recreate how he met that person. The basis would probably stay similar, but it’d be almost a completely different memory. He couldn’t simply forget that person or anything similar to such a situation because I didn’t go that far. I wanted to maintain his timeline as much as possible, only carrying out the necessary. But don’t worry, his mind has healed itself, his memories seamless to him, recreated to the degrees they needed to be. He…won’t remember you…” she finishes quietly.
You sigh. It’s more of one of relief than sadness.
She didn’t see the encounters with Pitch, after all. Which means she wasn’t prepared for his invading and stealing her Baby Teeth…
You feel a small twang of guilt.
“Something was odd about his memory, though,” she remarks, interrupting your mental conflict. “It seemed incomplete. I didn’t pay attention to it and just carried out what I had to, but now I wish I would have. It makes so much sense, now…”
“What are you talking about?” you ask. What could be wrong with Jack’s memory, other than the fact that the Guardian tampered with it for his own sake?
“First, a small explanation. You see, each of us Guardians, each of us spirits was someone before the Man in the Moon chose us. We had lives and then were chosen. And then…We—the other Guardians and I—discovered something back at my palace after Pitch had ravaged the place. I was explaining to Jack how my fairies and I collect the teeth of children for the memories. And how we had his from when he was a child.” Her purple eyes sparkle in the moonlight as they meet yours.
“From before he became Jack Frost.”
You feel yourself inhale sharply.
You remember Jack indignantly stating that that night was the first night he remembers, nothing but cold, darkness, and the moon. He just popped into existence. Nothing before that. And yet, Tooth is telling you otherwise.
But wait, that means…
Her gaze grows more intense as she speaks once more.
“He seemed so shocked once I told him. He didn’t believe me at first. (Your name), He doesn’t remember a single moment of his past, from before the Man in the Moon chose him 300 years ago. He’s completely forgotten it. I don’t know how, but—”
Your eyes widen, Tooth’s voice fading into a distant background as you get lost in your own thoughts, the nightmares with that brown-haired vision beginning to make sense. What if they were clues into memories he had long forgotten…?
He was someone before he became the spirit of winter. With a home, a family most likely, a place he belonged and probably felt a purpose for his existence. A place where he wasn’t so alone and with so many unanswered questions, a place with so much less internal conflict…
Jack Frost had a past life.
You smile to yourself. If he can just remember, maybe all of his questions will be answered, and he’ll become the amazing Guardian that you and MiM know that he can be…
Perhaps there's hope yet.