Warning: This chapter contains spoilers regarding the Rise of the Guardians movie!
He laughs lightly and plops down from his place on the windowsill.
“That’s right, ‘Jack,’” he says as he walks up to you, stopping less than a foot away from you. His eyes never leave you.
You look at him searchingly, still not entirely convinced that he’s standing before you, seeming to have somehow remembered you…
“Jack…” you finally manage to say in a small, quiet voice.
His mischievous smirk turns into a soft smile. He nods gently.
The next thing you know, his arms are wrapped around you in a tight embrace, his head bowed and past your own as he envelops you in himself.
“You idiot,” he sighs. His voice is trembling slightly as he fights back emotion. “Letting them do that to me. To us. Never again.”
You close your eyes and return the hug, giving into it…into him…with a wide smile breaking out across your face.
Time stands still as the two of you hold one another, the world gone completely silent.
Jack is the one to loosen the hug, time beginning to flow once more, the sounds of the universe resuming.
Still holding onto you, he rests his forehead on yours, grinning. “Didja miss me?” he playfully asks.
What kind of question is that? Of course I did!
But you don’t say that.
Instead, you nod, dumbstruck and still smiling stupidly.
He chuckles. Oh, how you’ve missed his laugh. His voice, his smell, his touch…
You finally manage to regain your capability for language.
“But, how did you…?”
“Ah, easy one,” he responds, releasing his hold on you. Still standing close to you, though, he reaches into his hoodie pocket and withdraws something from it. He holds it up in the small space between the two of you.
A golden, cylindrical box. Its flat top is decorated with a design of interlocking diamonds, the ends of thicker, evenly-spaced detail ribbing peeking out over the opposite sides of the container. It glints faintly in the moonlight.
His lost baby teeth.
Before you can speak, he shoots off into a story about how he had wandered into Pitch’s lair in pursuit of a small girl’s voice, one that seemed oddly familiar to him, though at the time he couldn’t quite say why. Pitch had tempted him there, keeping him in the lair with his teeth as bait, filling his mind with doubts and fears. Eventually, Pitch had thrown him the container without any bribing. By the time he had returned to the Guardians, the Nightmares had ruined Easter, making children across the globe lose faith and stop believing in the Big Four. The Guardians felt betrayed (and, admittedly, he also felt he had betrayed them because he went to Pitch’s lair in the first place and then didn’t leave), and he parted with them. He had gone to Antarctica, where—after not being able to bring himself to dispose of the teeth—Pitch had met him once again. He had, once again, asked Jack to join him.
In his miserable and rickety state, he had almost done it.
But he didn’t want the children to fear him, so he refused.
One event led to another, and he soon found himself at the bottom of a deep, icy ditch, with no way out since his staff was snapped in two.
“So, there I was,” he continues, “just about to give up on everything, wanting to just curl up and, well, die, when, whaddaya know, I hear the girl’s voice again! It really caught me off guard. I pulled the box out of my pocket, touched it after Baby Tooth’s go-ahead (she had apparently activated it so I could open it or something), and the memories came reeling in. There were so many—flying by in brief flashes—but the main one…My sister (I had a sister!!) and I were skating on this lake, the same one I call home now, when she skated onto thin ice. Long story short, I used this”—he holds out his staff—“to trade places with her, using my own momentum to pull her towards me and back onto thick ice. There was a moment of relief but, when I started to stand—”
“You fell through and drowned,” you finish for him, recalling a few dreams. The dreams that you had about a brown-haired, brown-eyes version of Jack, the same one depicted on the side of the box of teeth that he’s still holding in his hand.
He raises his eyebrow.
“How did you know?”
You shrug. “Know how I had those other dreams and stuff, and asked you if they were about your past? I had another one recently…I think I was taking the view of your sister.”
“Oh yeah…” he says as he, too, remembers those past conversations.
“So, how did you come around to remembering me?” you persist, bringing him back to the task at hand.
“Same way I remembered everything else about my past,” he says matter-of-factly. “The memories came flowing in, one after the other, after I remembered saving my sister. It was much faster, though, as if the memories were all piled up, just waiting to be brought back.”
“I…I still don’t understand though. I mean, Tooth made sure. She did such a great jo—”
But you cut yourself off.
You had even mentioned the possibility to Pitch the last time the two of you had been in contact.
The possibility of Jack’s teeth allowing him to not only remember his past, but also you. Pitch had taken the side that Jack would never even want to utilize the teeth, therefore there wasn’t a risk. You, on the other hand, had assumed that the teeth would only reveal Jack’s past and nothing else, since they’re just baby teeth.
Then again, they showed him memories of his death…and it’s guaranteed that he didn’t have baby teeth at the age he died. The age that he eternally appears to be…
They hold the most important memories, no matter how long ago or most recent, you resolve. And so they held memories of me…and then his heart remembered too, so it was almost twofold, which is why the memories came so quickly and readily, the teeth acting as the key to the gate that was put up around the mind, letting them flow from his heart to his mind…
He takes your hand up in both of his, his staff leaning against his body.
“And I’ve been chosen as a Guardian now,” he begins, his voice soft. Gentle. Loving.
You don’t want to say, “I know,” since you still don’t want to reveal your private conversation with the Man in the Moon. Some things are best kept secret. Plus, you don’t want to disrupt him. You really want to hear where he’s going with this, even though you have a pretty good idea.
“S-so,” he begins, gulping. “I won’t disappear or anything. (Your name), we can be together…”
His cheeks grow flushed, his ears turning a deep shade of red.
Your heart completely skips a beat.
His blush gets even worse. “I-I mean, if you want, of course! North explained it all to me—about the difference between the love lives of smaller spirits and the Guardians and stuff—just before my memories got, well, y’know…I-I didn’t remember until I got my teeth back, so I guess Tooth took all those memories away (not like I really remembered in the first place, I was so out of it) cuz they were so closely tied to you. But, I mean, yeah, and—”
You squeeze his hand and offer him a comforting look, cutting him off.
You would love to be with him forever. The idea is so extremely appealing, especially since now he won’t turn into a mindless entity.
But you also remember North saying that a relationship has effects even on a Guardian, negatively affecting them should anything happen to their loved one, especially when that mortal loved one passes away…
And you can’t put the children of the world in that kind of jeopardy, to take their Guardian from them when something bad happens to you. But you’re thinking mostly of the devastation and the intense consequences that your eventual death will have on Jack. It could wrench the children’s important protector away from them for far too long.
Besides, Jack was brought back by MiM for the sake of the children. He was theirs, first, though he may not have known it.
“Jack…I…we can’t,” you say. You take your hand back and divert your gaze, unable to look at him. With each word, a sharp pain sears through your heart. “The children. They…they need you. Can’t abandon them. I can’t do that.”
“But we won’t be!” he says, voice strained and pleading. “I’ll still be here for them, I won’t, I—”
You shake your head. “Please understand, Jack.”
His arms drop down to his sides as he bows his head. He holds onto his staff tightly, his knuckles a vibrant white with the firm grip.
“I’ll tell you what,” he says, his tone one of compromise. “I’m going to think about it more.” His blue eyes lock onto yours once more, flashing you a toothy grin. “So long as you do, too.”
You can’t help but smile back. “All right,” you agree. “If you don’t come back, then I’ll assume…”
He kisses your forehead, not letting you finish off the thought. “I’d best be off then,” he tells you. “After the episode in Antarctica, I went back to release the tooth fairies and found that no children believed…except one.”
Your eyes widen. “Jamie?”
He nods yet again, his smile not fading in the least. “Jamie.”
It seems that your talk with the small boy worked at least a little.
“You’d best be off then,” you tell Jack. “He said he was going to ask for proof. He needs that sign, needs a Guardian.”
Jack laughs and turns around, leaping up and onto the windowsill.
He looks back at you briefly. You see a million emotions pop into existence in his eyes.
But, behind all of them, is one, eternal sentiment.
“I love you,” he says. It sounds almost as if he thinks this is the last time he’s ever going to be able to say that, to speak to you… Treating this moment as the last time he’s ever going to see you.
You don’t even have the time to reply.
With a flurry of wind, he leaps off and out of the window, flying down the street to his destination.
I love you too, Jack. Good luck.
The room grows cold and empty.