There was a crack in his tail from just below his crotch to the tip of his tailfins. It didn’t hurt quite as badly as it looked, but it itched like crazy.
Jack frowned and tried to make more ice to cover himself up and rehydrate his tail with what little water was left in the tide pool, but did little more than make a thin layer of ice that quickly melted. It healed part of split in his tail, but it was little more than a temporary measure.
He sighed and glanced over the sharp edges of the tide pool, debating slithering for it, even with the amount of cuts he’d get going over the rocks. It might be worth dealing with sharks if it meant not drying out.
Stupid New Moon. Stupid Pitch.
Stupid Moon in general, for making him and then dumping him in the water without a by your leave. What kind of name was ‘Jack Frost’ for a merman anyway?!
The water wasn’t safe during the darkness of the New Moons. Hanging out by the lights of docks and piers was. But even spirits needed to sleep sometimes and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d accidentally ended up beaching himself.
He sighed, running a hand through his hair. The tide would start rising in about 8 hours, he could stick it out until then. It wouldn’t be quite as high as the previous one, but Jack was an old hand at getting back in the water, regardless of circumstance. He’d just be a little uncomfortable until then.
Okay. A lot uncomfortable. But he’d get over it. It wasn’t as if he had anything pressing going on today anyway. Swim around in circles, maybe play with some dolphins a little, same thing he did every day.
At least there weren’t any of the bright red crabs the island was known for. Last thing he needed was to be eaten…
A shadow fell over him, and Jack froze. It wasn’t like anyone could see him, at least no humans that he’d ever run across, but he still didn’t like shadows. They rarely meant anything good.
“Crikey.” A soft voice whispered. He could hear something rattle, and then a couple of heavy thuds, as if something had just been set down. He could hear someone or something move on the rocks around him, then land on the riptide, seaweed and shells crunching under foot.
Jack held his breath, shifting his eyes slightly to the side, catching a outline of someone grey and large. “Ain’t seen a mer in yonks.” The aussie accent breathed, and Jack tried not to panic.
They could see him.
If he was in the water, that’d be one thing. He could fight in the water. But he was stuck on land, his tail was drying out, and he didn’t know what to do because no one ever saw him.
Whoever it was got a little closer, close enough that Jack could see they weren’t human. They looked like… What was that word? Not a rodent… not a mouse... A Hare? He’d seen a few, they didn’t usually live near the shore, with their big long ears, round dark eyes, and fluffy tails.
This one didn’t have dark eyes. This one’s eyes were green, bright, bright green, brighter than kelp with the sun shining through it. The creature was kind of oddly shaped too, nothing like Jack had ever seen before. Not quite animal, but not human either, covered from head to toe in white and mottled grey fur.
Same big hare ears though, curved like shells in his direction. The nose wiggled and twitched a bit, mouth open to show flat blunt teeth like that of sheephead fish.
Jack had no doubt that the creature could crack his bones like a sheephead crunched through shells.
“Oi.” The creature said, reaching one furry paw towards Jack’s tail, and he recoiled, tucking his tail in as closely as he could, curving into as much of a ball as he could, arms pressed against his chest. Harder to take a bite out of him this way.
“You’re still alive.” The creature breathed, sounding relieved. Jack wasn’t exactly sure what the creature had to be relieved about, and he turned his head to warily watch the creature straight on, now that he’d kind of lost the element of surprise.
“Alright.” The creature said, their voice low and soothing. “Easy there now. I ain’t gonna hurtcha. But it kinda looks like you’re in a spot o’trouble at the moment, yeah?”
Jack froze, not quite sure what to do. The creature didn’t seem to mind his silence, crooning softly as they slowly approached Jack, almost shuffling closer with a casualness that was almost alarming.
And then suddenly he was up in the air, one limb under his back, the other under his tail. “Crikey, you’re heavy.” The creature swore, moving rapidly across the tide pool. Jack debated squirming free, and then his tail was touching water, the creature lowering him into the shallows next to water.
Jack waited until his butt hit the water, then twisted, doing a bellyflop out of the creature's arms, and half crawling, half wiggling into the safety of the water. He dove down as soon as he could, his gills hydrating as he took big gulps of water, greedy for his natural substance.
Once Jack was sure that he was fine, his tail healing up as fast as it usually did once in the water, he hesitated, slowly drifting back up to the surface. It had been centuries since he’d meet anyone who could see him.
… Curiosity was his worst fault. He always had to know. And the creature had been so fuzzy...
… That didn’t mean he had to be stupid about it.
He peered out of the water, just his eyes and the top of his head peeking out. The creature had moved from the foot of the tide pools back up to the pier, collected their belongings and set up some sort of stand for a book to rest on, holding sticks of various colours.
Jack bobbed a little in the quiet water, then drifted over to the other side of the pier, trying to get a better look. He couldn’t see what the creature was creating, but he hasn’t seen anyone paint or create in way too long, and it was interesting to watch the creature work.
Now that he has a chance to really look at the creature, he could see that were faint splashes of colour on the grey limbs, like paint or dye. It was a little at odds with the very obvious armour the creature was wearing. Bracers, something leather on the legs. Some sort of pack on the back that probably held weapons.
Or paint brushes. Either or, Jack wasn’t going to judge. For all he knew, paint brushes could be used as weapons. Paint certainly was bad. He’d only made the mistake of trying to eat that once.
The creature looked like they were built like a fighter, broad shoulders and well muscled legs. Strong enough to pick up Jack, and he knew he was heavy. Dragging his tail through the sand was not an easy task.
And yet, the creature was painting.
It was kind of confusing, really.
“Thought you’d be gone.” The creature called. Jack ducked his head underwater, realising that he had stopped hiding and had up to his chest in air. He came back up to the surface quickly though, just a little embarrassed. The creature glanced down at him, then chuckled.
It was a pleasant kind of sound, not the like last time someone had chuckled around him.
“Brat.” The creature called, teasing. “Didn’t even say thank you.”
Jack flipped over on his back, flicking water into the air with the tips of his fins. “Was waiting to see if you’d try to eat me first.” He commented dryly, staring at the large patch of fin that had taken ages to grow back. Thankfully the bite pattern hadn’t stayed.
There’s the sound of something clattering against the wood of the pier, and then something fell into the water next to Jack. He twisted in the water, grabbing it, and coming up with one of those colour stick the creature had using. It was a light green and seemed like some sort of chalk, except it was kind of melting into a powdery mess in his hand.
He looked up to find the creature staring down at him, eyes wide and mouth agape.
Jack laughed, offering the smear of green on his hand up towards the creature. “Sorry.” He said between his giggles. “I don’t think you’re getting this one back.”
The creature’s name was Bunnymund, or ‘Bunny’ for short, and he was a ‘Pooka’, or whatever that was.
What Jack did know was that he had a sly sense of humour, grew plants around his feet when he got excited, and had a lovely laugh that Jack wanted to hear all the time.
He couldn’t, he knew, but that didn’t stop him from wishing it. Bunny was a creature of the earth and air, not of ice and water like Jack. Bunny couldn’t live in the water, and Jack couldn’t stay in the air.
They talked for hours. Bunny mostly, because Jack was hungry for stories. Bunny talked about other merpeople Bunny had met, an entire civilisation worth that the Pooka hadn’t seen in several hundred years. Of people and places that Jack had never heard or seen up on the surface.
It made Jack ache so bad. He wanted to walk up on the surface, to meet people, even if they couldn’t see him. To explore more than endless water. Sure, most of the planet was water, but he couldn’t visit most of it. Too dark, too deep. He’d be ripped to shreds and eaten.
And the surface was much more interesting.
The time flew by, as time did, and when darkness fell, Bunny had to return back where he came. But still, it was nice to talk to someone for a change, and he’d thought he’d maybe made a friend.
“BUNNEH!” Jack shouted, unable to contain his excitement. He leaped out of the water, doing a flip, before coming down with a ginormous splash.
“JACKIE!” Bunny’s voice echoed over the water and Jack laughed, swimming for the shore as fast as his fins could take him.
It had been years since he’d seen the Pooka. Honestly, he didn’t think they’d ever meet again, but Bunny’s silhouette was pretty distinctive.
The beach was slick with sand and small pebbles, and it wasn’t a big deal to let the waves carrying him up to the shore. Jack took a deep breath, his gills closing as he breathed air instead of water. A thump shook the ground next to him, and he looked up to see the Pooka crouched next to him, a broad grin on Bunny’s face.
“Hey, fuzz-butt.” Jack grinned, as Bunny leaned forward, pressing his cheek against Jack’s. Jack preened, pressing into the contact. Oh, he’d forgotten how soft Bunny really was.
“Sandy said he’d seen a mermaid round here.” Bunny said, leaning back to look Jack over. “So hadta check it out. Hoped it was you.”
“Yup.” Jack nodded. Wasn’t like there were a lot of merfolk out there, which made the chances pretty good. “What are you doing in the Northern Hemisphere?! Figured you were an Aussie bloke.”
“I travel in my off season.” Bunny waved it off. “You?”
“I migrate.” Jack shrugged. “Yeah, I need cold water, but I need the light too.” So he travelled to each of the caps for their summer period, where he could sometimes have almost 24 hours of daylight and safety.
And travelling meant he was harder to track, and be caught.
Thankfully, the advent of large steamer ships had made his trips much shorter, even if it as uncomfortable to be dragged along by them. But whales didn’t often cross the equator, and they were the best ones for him to travel with.
“Fair ‘nough.” Bunny agreed with a fond look on his face. “I’m partial to it meself.”
“Since you’re here, you should join me for a swim!” Jack beamed at Bunny. “It’s fun! And I won’t let you drown.” He promised, waggling his eyebrows.
“Not like those other mer-people-?” Bunny quipped, even as he gave the sea a wary look.
“Yes.” Jack promised. He knew Bunny meant it as a joke, but the only other merperson Jack knew was Pitch, the reason why he needed to stay close to the light.
Pitch liked people’s screams and fear as the water began to pull them under. Pitch didn’t like killing them though, it was hard to get fear out of a corpse. But that didn’t mean he’d help them either. And there were only so many Jack could save at a time, even if he wasn’t fending Pitch off.
“I dunno, Jackie.” Bunny twisted to forward to suspiciously poke the now gently lapping waves with a foot, then shook the water off his toes. “Water and me don’t really mix. Can shake off a bit o’damp, but it takes yonks fer me to dry after gettin’ soaked. And I can only bunny paddle.”
“Don’t you mean ‘Doggy Paddle’-?” Jack grinned, amused by Bunny’s reluctance, even if he could understand it. The sea was not for Bunny, as the land was not meant for Jack.
Bunny gave him a sour look. “Do I look like a dog?!”
Jack laughed, reaching up and tugging on Bunny’s irresistibly long ears. “Nope.”
He looked adorable, but Jack wasn’t going to tell him that.
They agreed to meet again after the seasons had shifted, where they had met previously in Australia. Jack spent the next several months feeling light and giddy, because not only did he have a friend, he knew when they got to meet again.
His migration downunder was made easier by the appearance of golden glowing jellyfish at night. They never got quite close enough for him to touch or examine, but the glow kept the shadows away.
It was strange, but in a nice way. And he’d take it over being ambushed by Pitch any day.
Bunny saw him first this time, his long-earred figure waving from the pier. Jack sped up, leaping in and out of the water like a happy dolphin. “Oi! Jack!” Bunny greeted him as Jack slowed to a stop below the pier, looking up at the Pooka. “Got some questions for you.”
Jack tilted his head to the side. That was new. “Okay?”
“Right. So are you salt water only, or can ya handle fresh too?” Bunny said, his nose twitching mischievously.
“Fresh is fine, as long as it’s cold.” Jack shrugged. He’d played in polar runoff before. Fresh water felt differently, buoyancy was a bit weird, but he could breathe just fine in it.
He’d tried swimming upstream before, hiding in freshwater lakes and ponds, but it was hard finding ones that were cold enough for him to be comfortable in, and have a good light source nearby.
Cold water invigorated him, whereas anywhere icebergs couldn’t float made him kind of lethargic. Passing through the equator was always the worst, he usually just slept through that, tied to a passing ship.
“Perfect.” Bunny grinned. “Alright, reckon ya know I’m kind of earth based, yeah?”
“The plants were kind of a clue.” Jack agreed, wondering where this was going.
Bunny held up a finger. “I think I figured a way fer us both ta be comfortable while chatting, if you don’t mind visiting me home.”
“... Your home?” Jack breathed, then choked as he forgot spoken language required lungs and not gills. He ducked underwater for a minute, sorting it out, then popping back up again. “Sorry.” He muttered, embarrassed.
“No worries.” Bunny waved it off. “I live underground, in the Warren. Part of that is being able ta move the earth around a bit, and I think I got the tunnels right. Coupla meters down, look fer a glow, it’ll be the entrance. Should stand out like a dog’s balls.”
“I have no idea what those look like.” Jack fought to keep a straight face. “It’s not like I go looking at dog’s butts.”
“Oh, belt up.” Bunny chuckled. “G’wan then, head through the tunnels, I’ll see ya on the other side.”
Jack laughed, then dove underwater, looking for the glow Bunny had been talking about. The Pooka had been right, it was easy to spot, a full ring of bluish light, about as wide as his hand. Jack peered at it, finding it to be some sort of algae-like plant growing on the rocks that glowed enough for Jack to see by.
He hesitantly floated in, spotting another ring less than a body length away. The entire tunnel seemed to be lined with rings, meaning there was no way for him to cast any lingering shadows.
Which meant any shades couldn’t follow him, they wouldn’t be able to pass through the light.
Jack swam quickly through the tunnels, laughing as they suddenly dipped, then went up, the saline content dropping in the water. Salt water was heavier than fresh water, this way the two only mixed for a short time.
He made slightly slower time in the fresh water, not quite as buoyant as he had been in the salt, but it didn’t seem like that much longer before he saw the glow of the sky. He swam upwards, head breaking the surface and looked around.
It was green. So very green, like the green of Bunny’s eyes. Plants grew everywhere on the rocky surfaces, around strange looking trees that grew upwards towards the sky that was high above. If it even was the sky.
The cavern was huge, and in the distance he could see more gigantic tunnels, the space stretching out and onwards, farther than Jack could see. He did a lap around the large pond he was in, finding it a good size, large enough not to be claustrophobic, but not so big that he couldn’t see the other side.
He dove back down, finding it lined in boulders easily as tall as he was, each one shaped like a giant round egg. There was a broken boulder lying in the middle, a chunk missing from it, leaving a smooth surface, like a pedestal. He stretched out on top of it, looking up at the light above with a silly grin on his face.
This was amazing. He felt wanted for the first time. Bunny had thought of him, taken the time to craft a space for Jack to be comfortable in, at his own home.
With giddy delight he shot back up to the surface, doing a flip in the air, before splashing back down with a laugh.
“Take it that it meets your standards?” Bunny drawled, hopping over to a boulder that stuck up out of the water a little, forming a dry spot for him to rest on. Jack looked around and realised that the edges were shallow, shallow enough that Jack could sit or lay comfortably and stay hydrated, while there were elevated dry spots for Bunny sit and talk.
“It’s amazing.” Jack beamed, wiggling up to the rock Bunny was on. He kind of wanted to hug Bunny.
Bunny looked pleased. “Been awhile since I got a chance to design somethin’ new and different. Pretty sure I can attach this to the rest of the waterways so you can go exploring, but it’s a bit warmer than this part of the caves. Sandy helped in crafting the tunnels too, it was his idea with the lights.”
“Sandy?” Jack questioned.
“Yeah. He’s the one who spotted ya last time, and sent the glowin’ jellyfish when you migrated.” The corners of Bunny’s eyes crinkled in a muted smile. “Sanderson Mansnoozie, otherwise known as the Sandman. The Guardian of Dreams.”
Jack felt the blood drain out of his face. “... Guardian-?”
“Yeah-?” Bunny’s amused expression fell, turning confused. “He’s a Guardian, same as me. I’m the Guardian of Hope.”
“You’re a Guardian.” Jack repeated, horror churning in his gut. This had been a mistake. He should have known it was too good to be true.
Guardian of Hope, of course. Jack laughed bitterly, pushing himself away, out of reach of the Pooka.
That was what Bunny had done, wasn’t it? Gotten Jack to hope. Hope that he had a friend, that someone might care about him. Hope that he was more than just some unwanted, forgotten thing.
“Jack-?” Bunny was starting to look alarmed. “What’s wrong?”
“Pitch warned me about you.” Jack backed into deeper water, where he could move more freely. “That the Guardians are the Moon’s lackies. That if the Guardians found me, they’d take me away, they’d trap me…”
Just like Bunny had done. Jack was away from the ocean, in a strange place. That only had one exit and entrance. Which Bunny controlled.
The pond, which had seemed so comfortable just minutes before, suddenly seemed too small, too claustrophobic compared to the vastness of the oceans. In his panic, the temperature dropped, little chunks of ice forming on the surface of the water.
“It’s not a trap!” Bunny said, holding a hand out, leaning forward as if to shrink the distance between them. “The tunnel is still open, you can leave any time you want, but we put an end ta Pitch ages ago! Please!”
The edge of desperation in Bunny’s voice made Jack hesitate from diving down and verifying that the tunnel was open.
“The Guardians… We fought Pitch Black, keep the children safe. It’s our purpose.” Bunny voice wavered slightly, looking at Jack with a pleading expression, as if begging Jack to believe him. “Over four hundred years ago, we cast a spell to trap him in the deepest, darkest reaches of the Planet and...”
Bunny froze in mid-gesture, his eyes going wide. His expression melted to dawning horror, and he sat down abruptly, his limbs slack like a puppet with the strings cut.
Jack waited, uncertain if this was part of a trick or not. He stayed in the middle of the pond though, ready to dive or attack if he needed to.
“Magic’s a funny thing.” Bunny said quietly, placing a trembling hand over his muzzle, then trailed down until the tips of his claws were resting on his lower lip. “Sometimes it’s got a bit of a mind of it’s own. We thought the spell would trap him in his lair, in the shadows. But that’s not the deepest, darkest part of the planet, is it?”
Jack tilted his head, frowning.
“The bottom of the ocean.” Bunny said, gesturing with one hand towards Jack. “Where the sunlight never reaches. Deeper and darker than anywhere on land. He’s been trapped down there, hasn’t he? That’s why ya follow the light, it keeps you safe from him.”
It was less of a question and more of a statement. Jack shrugged a shoulder, uncertain as to where this was going.
“Is there anyone else down there?” Bunny asked quietly, as if he was dreading the answer.
“Just me.” Jack said, a touch of bitterness in his tone. “It’s only ever been just me and him, ever since the Moon made me and dumped me in the ocean as his plaything.”
And that was his unspoken fear, right there. That he was nothing more than a pawn in this twisted game between Pitch and the Moon.
“But...” Confusion flickered across Bunny’s face. “The Moon is the one who made us Guardians-?”
“So Pitch was right.” The Guardians were working for the Moon. Bunny was just a new player.
It was all too convenient. Bunny finding him when he was dehydrated and out of water, meeting him on the beach in the Northern Hemisphere. Creating this place, pretending to be a friend.
He should have known it for the ploy it was.
“NO! Jack! Pitch LIES!” Bunny shouted, his voice high and panicked as Jack flipped into the water, the surface coating itself over with a thick layer of ice. He dove down as fast as he could, finding the tunnel and darting through it.
He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or not, but the tunnel seemed narrower than it had been before. Especially the closer he got to the end. He poured the speed on, bursting out of the exit, and just kept swimming as fast as he could, towards the deep water, where Bunny couldn’t follow.
Jack stayed away from any shore lines, sticking to the deeper waters he usually avoided, hanging out with a pod of whales for a while.
Even with the whales, the open sea felt lonelier than it had ever felt before. He’d thought he was used to it, but now the lack of someone to talk to cut like an invisible knife.
He saw the golden glow of the Sandman a few times, now that he knew he was looking for. The delicate tendrils of golden sand that arched out across the sky at sunset, but they were easy enough to avoid by diving down a few feet.
He still needed to sleep sometime though.
And when he did… He was caught.
“Jaaaaaackkkkk.....” The sickening sweet tones of PItch were the first thing he was aware of upon waking up. “Jaaaacccckkk…. Wake up, Jack. It’s no fun if you’re sleeping.”
This was quickly followed by the uncomfortable realisation that it was dark, and he couldn’t move.
Both of which were normal for when Pitch came out to play.
“There you are.” Pitch happily crooned. “What have you been up to lately, Jack?”
“Nothing much.” Jack tested the shadowy bonds. They stretched with him, allowing him a limited range of movement, but only so much.
“Oh, come now Jack.” Pitch swam around him, the edges of his tailfin just brushing Jack’s sales. “It’s not like you to be sloppy like this. You didn’t even wake up , much less put up a fight when I carried you off.”
Well, okay. Couldn’t argue with that.
“Between you and the Bunny-Rabbit, well, this is just my lucky day.” Pitch continued blithely on with a dancing swirl and a nasty little chuckle. “That fluffy tail has been in a panic for weeks searching for someone. It’s even gotten him out of that Warren of his. His fear is delightful.”
Jack felt his heart beat hard in his chest as he tried to keep the shock off his face. Bunny? Was looking for him?
He shoved that thought aside. “Anyone ever mention how creepy that is?” Jack snapped, turning his attention back at the situation at hand.
Pitch was in a playful mood, which meant that it was witty banter time. And the longer Jack could draw out witty banter time, the longer he had before the pain and fear time.
Pitch did love the scent of blood on the water, just like the sharks he resembled.
“Aww, but it’s so much fun.” Pitch purred, running a hand along Jack’s jaw, his face looming entirely too close for someone with that many sharp, pointy teeth. “And your fears are ever changing and so delicious.”
Jack snarled and tugged at the shadowy tentacles, but they just stretched and pulled him back. Jack hated the tentacles. Worse than the ever silent Moon, he hated Pitch’s tentacles.
“First you were afraid you’d never be seen by anyone.” Pitch drawled, amused as he floated in a circle around Jack. “Which is when you met me.”
And then found an entirely new reason to fear.
Jack sighed to himself as Pitch started to monologue. The asshole loved the sound of his own voice. He mostly tuned Pitch out, looking for a way to flee or escape, this could take a while.
-Mostly tuned him out because Pitch got inventive when he thought his audience wasn’t paying enough attention to his ramblings.
“-And now you’re afraid to dry your tail into legs and join this paramour of yours on the surface in case they don’t love you back.” Pitch sneered and Jack stopped struggling.
“Wait.” He stared at Pitch. “What?”
“I would hope you knew you were dating.” Pitch deadpanned and Jack rolled his eyes. It wasn’t worth the water trying to correct him.
“Not that. The other thing. Drying my tail?”
“Yes, dry them out enough and they turn into legs.” Pitch made a little ‘walking’ motion with his fingers. “You seriously didn’t know that?” He scoffed.
“No!” It wasn’t like being turned into a merman or a spirit came with an instruction manual.
“Oh.” They stared at each other for a moment. “Well.” Pitch drawled, cupping his chin thoughtfully. “Well, that certainly explains a few things.”
Jack rolled his eyes and kicked his tail forward, up above his head, then rolled forward, breaking out of the tentacle’s grip. The momentum put him right into Pitch’s face. “Thanks!” He chirped, then planted a messy kiss on Pitch’s cheek, and took off swimming for the surface as fast as he could.
It took longer than he thought for Pitch to shake off his surprise and start shouting. It was a trick that would probably only work once.
Which was fine, he really didn’t want to be kissing Pitch anyway.
He made it up to the surface so fast he nearly made himself sick, hovering just below the water as he took big gulping breaths of water, trying to calm his stomach.
Pitch lied. Jack knew this, really he did. But he’d only ever had Pitch to talk to. He’d never had someone else with more information.
Bunny knew a lot, but Bunny worked for the Moon. The Moon who had created Jack, and put him in the water to be killed by Pitch.
Except that wasn’t Pitch the one who had told Jack that the Moon was the one who had put him in the water for Pitch to begin with?
Jack sighed, blowing bubbles out of his mouth. He wasn’t even sure anymore, it’d been centuries since Pitch had first discovered him.
He contemplated what to do with the knowledge he’d just gained. If Pitch was right, and that was a big if, then he could walk on the surface. See lands, maybe find other beings to talk to.
And he’d be out of Pitch’s claws.
If Pitch was lying, he’d need some way of getting back into the water.
Or he could do nothing at all.
Jack laughed. He’d never been one not to do anything, so that was off the table.
He wasn’t sure who to trust. But Bunny had one big point in his favor, he wasn’t interested in eating Jack.
And… He really wanted to talk to Bunny again. Maybe get some answers.
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea, but it was what he really wanted to. And if Bunny was looking for him, maybe that was what Bunny wanted too.
So Jack turned and started swimming, back to the island, and hoping that the tunnel to the the Warren was still open.
There was a deep split in what remained of his tail from just below his crotch to the tip of his newly formed feet. It didn’t hurt quite as badly as it looked, but it itched like crazy in an ‘ants under the skin’ sort of way. He knew with gut-deep certainty that if he got back in the water the itching would stop, but that would defeat the whole reason he’d come out of the water.
With a bit of wiggling, he separated his tail into legs, then sat there and stared at the appendages he’d had all his life and never known it. He had feet. And toes. They were ridiculous looking things.
Not as ridiculous as the dangly bits between his legs though. Who the heck put reproductive organs on the outside?! This was just plain awkward. Not streamlined at all.
… Actually, this explained a few things about humans.
He’d slept through most of the drying process on top of one of the weird egg shaped rocks around the pond, exhausted from getting back to Christmas Island, and searching for the tunnel into the Warren. He’d had some brief moments of panic that it had been closed, but discovered that some plants had grown over the entrance, hiding it from view.
Jack kind of wished that he could keep sleeping through the process, but he had places to go, things to do, people to see.
It took a few painful attempts to get to his knees, and then feet. Staying upright was not really happening, until he found a long stick by a tree, long enough to use as a staff. It was a little awkward and slow going, but it got him upright and moving.
The Warren was amazing. The plants and flowers were unlike anything Jack had ever seen before, and he was severely tempted to stop and stare, but he pushed on.
The pounding of footsteps heralded Bunny finding Jack before Jack found Bunny, The Pooka’s paws slid across the green grass, claws tearing up chunks of rich soil as Bunny came to an abrupt halt in front of Jack. “Jack! You’re alright!” He exclaimed with obvious relief, before wrapping Jack up in a tight hug.
Jack laughed, his throat thick as he hugged Bunny back. His fur was even softer without Jack soaking it with salt water. Bunny looked rougher around the edges than Jack remembered, not as smooth, like he’d been running himself ragged, and Jack told himself that he wasn’t tearing up over someone worrying about him.
And then Bunny was holding him out at arm’s length, paws firmly grasping his shoulders, looking Jack over with obvious surprise. “Crikey! And ya got legs!”
Jack laughed quietly to himself. Yeah, they probably needed to talk about that too. But there was a more pressing issue to discuss first.
“Hey Bunny.” Jack rustled up a smile. “Got any pants?”
Chapter 2: Meeting the Guardians
Happy Valentine's Day! Have some FrostBunny. Written for inchoatewaffle.
“Guys.” Bunny took a deep breath, joy and pride mingling in his chest as he got to say the words he’d been hoping to say for yonks. “Meet my mate, Jack Frost.”
Jack smiled nervously, giving them a small wave, holding on to his staff for balance. It’d only been a few weeks since he’d appeared in the Warren in the nuddy and he was still getting used to standing on two legs, much less walking.
Although they still hadn’t been able to rustle up some dags for Jack just yet, but a short kilt worked well enough in the meantime.
Jack was mobile enough that Bunny had been able to talk him into meeting with the rest of the Guardians at North’s Workshop. It was with a bit of apprehension on both of their parts, Jack was still picking apart Pitch’s truths and lies, especially about the Guardians. And Bunny because, well, he wanted this to go well. If for nothing else then to put Jack’s panic to rest.
“‘Mate’, huh?” Tooth gave Bunny a wide smile as floated by. “About time.”
“Wot?” He had just enough time to blink before she had her fingers in Jack’s mouth, North moving to intersect. What was that supposed to mean? Sure, he didn’t have a lot of close friends, mostly just the three other Guardians, but he was perfecting capable of making friends on his own.
He glanced up to see Sandy hovering above, holding a glass of something festive, a happy smile on Sandy’s face. Out of all the Guardians, he figured Jack would find Sandy the most comforting, as he’d already seen what Sandy could do.
Which meant getting Jack away from the other two first. “Oi, North.” Bunny called, interrupting before North could sweep a twitchy looking Jack into a bear hug. “Don’t crowd him.”
“Bah!” North waved a hand in the air, hitting Sandy, who startled at the sudden contact, dropping his drink.
Which spilled all over Jack.
Jack immediately screamed as if he was scorched in acid, and Bunny dove to grab him as Jack buckled. He could see splotches of blue forming on Jack’s legs, shimmering in the light.
Scales. Jack only had legs when he was dry. Bunny didn’t know what would happen if Jack was only partially wet, but it didn’t look comfortable, and his nose was picking up the sharp metallic bite of blood. “Wotcha need?” He asked as Jack twined his fingers in Bunny’s fur, holding on painfully tight.
“Water." Jack gasped, clearly in pain. "Get me to water.”
Bunny nodded, then started running, Jack in his arms, yeti and elves scattering as they passed them. The other Guardians followed, North bellowing questions that Bunny didn’t have time answer.
Jack curled up into a ball, as small as possible in Bunny’s arms, and he started hoping that he didn’t lose Jack over this. Sure, they’d maybe only met a fingerful of times, but he’d gotten right attached to the bloke. He’d spent weeks after the merman had found out he was a Guardian afraid that Jack was dead, that he’d never see or speak to Jack again, and he never wanted that to happen ever again.
Bunny opened a tunnel, dropping down several levels in one smooth hop, then turned a corner on one foot, leaving claw marks behind. But the door he was looking for was right there, and he hit it with shoulder, bursting into the swimming pools. Several yeti howled in surprise as Bunny all but tossed Jack into the pool, barely avoiding following him in.
He perched at the edge, leaning over to watch as Jack writhed under the rippling surface, the tail growing out in flashes of colour. Then Jack calmed, laying there breathing, looking like he was taking a minute to collect himself. After a moment, Jack started to move, swimming around the edge of the pool, the yeti screaming as his fins became visible on the surface before disappearing again.
Bunny let out a small breath of relief himself as Jack waved to him, from under water then started to slowly exploring the pool. It was freshwater, probably a bit warmer than Jack preferred, but Jack didn’t seem to mind.
He noticed that Jack still has the kilt on, the wrap not interfering with his transformation between legs and scales, and apparently not with his swimming either, so maybe it was a good thing they hadn’t found trousers for him just yet.
Jack swam over to where Bunny was crouched, moving in sinuous curves that made Bunny want to paint him. He reached a paw towards the water, just getting the tips of his claws wet, and Jack returned the gesture, touching his fingertips to Bunny’s, giving him a small smile.
The doors slamming open behind him made Bunny jump, and he looked behind him to find the other Guardians charging into the room. Several yeti grizzled at North, gesturing wildly at the water.
“Vhat do you mean he hasn’t come up for air?!” North yelped, striding forward. “Bunny! Are you trying to kill him?!”
“He’s apples.” Bunny rolled his eyes, holding an arm out to keep North from diving in after Jack. Seriously. And North said that Bunny over-reacted to everything.
As if to prove Bunny right, Jack leaped out of the water, blue scales and fins flashing in the light before falling back into the water with a loud splash. North’s jaw dropped.
“He’s a mermaid?” Tooth gasped in shock.
“Mer, anyway.” Bunny corrected. Not much of a ‘maid’ to Jack, Bunny could attest to that. He didn’t know why it was such a big deal, Sandy’d told them he’d seen Jack months ago.
Well, seen a mer at least. Now that he thought about it, the others probably hadn’t known it was Jack.
Jack broke to the surface, just out of arm’s reach. “See? Pitch was right after all.” He jabbed a finger in Bunny’s direction. There was a lot of bravado and amusement in Jack’s expression, but a little bit of panic too. “If the Guardians found me, they’d-”
“-Take ya away and trap ya.” Bunny finished, covering his face with a paw. "Sorry, mate."
Jack blew a raspberry back, giving Bunny a wink to know he was mostly playing with him, before ducking back underwater for another lap around the pool, well out of reach of the gathering crowd.
Bunny just sighed and shook his head. Why had he thought this would be easy in the first place?