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There Was A Boy, Once

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Nicholas St. North, also known as the one and only Santa Clause, Guardian of Wonder and protector of children, knew how to throw the best, acceptably wild (but not overly so), perfect, let’s-forget-our-troubles-and-differences-and-get-along peacemaking parties in the world. Jack had heard about North’s parties long before he had actually, met the man himself. Though he had never gone to one- and wouldn’t have even if he had been invited, as much as a loner he had been before the whole Pitch debacle- he had found it difficult to believe that said parties didn’t end in complete disaster. After all, you couldn’t gather this many different spirits in one place and expect there not to be old arguments standing in the way. A fight was all but guaranteed to break out.

But not this time.

This gathering was full, enveloped by a thrumming sense of unity unlike Jack had ever felt before. Where all other occasions when more than two or three spirits were in one place together had quickly fallen apart due to elemental, philosophical, or any number of other reasons, now there were spirits side by side, sharing old stories and new discoveries. Plenty of food and drink was passed around, and while flirtations were handed out with the greatest of ease, there was a notable lack of altercations.

Even stranger still, everyone was noticing Jack. Those who would have ignored him before, or scoffed because of some past trick he had played, were now stopping to chat. Jack’s throat was getting sore, unused to speaking so much in such a short amount of time. He had never even talked to himself this much, and he tended to talk to himself a lot more than was probably normal.

It was overwhelming.

Jack found himself fleeing to the top of the room, settling in a small alcove near the ceiling when no one was looking. He watched the partygoers, tucked securely in his perch. While mid-February temperatures in the arctic were harsh, the inside of North’s workshop, converted to an open party floor for the occasion, was warm and well-lit. Rather than working, the yeti were enjoying the party themselves, though they were less likely to drink as they watched that the guests didn’t wander off from the main floor and into one of the many other rooms of the massive complex. It was strange, to Jack, that all of those people were not working on this night, throwing themselves into the celebration instead.

‘This connection or whatever they called it must be pretty special,’ Jack thought to himself. In all the preparations, he had had little time to find out the exact details of what was going on.

In between Tooth flitting about, Jack had managed to get her to fill him in a little bit. Apparently, some group of spirits that had hidden themselves away long ago had made contact again at the coaxing of their new leader. They had supposedly been hidden away for a long, long time, according to Tooth. But finally, after all this time, the spirits had contacted the outside world under the direction of that newest leader- starting with the Guardians. Their messenger had stated their leader’s desire to come and meet with the Guardians personally. North had set his celebration for the night before the meeting, and things were going off without a hitch.

Jack looked back down at the revelers below, watching them mingle and laugh. More than a few cheeks were flushed- with both good will and most likely plenty of North’s homemade vodka (the man was a Russian through and through). Jack steered clear of the stuff; it burned like fire sliding down your throat. He was glad to see the others enjoying it, though. It was nice, seeing everyone together and having a good time.

A small chirp drew Jack out of his musings. Baby Tooth flitted in front of his face, and he held out a hand for her to settle on with a grin.

“Hey, Baby Tooth. Did Tooth let you take off work for a while?”

Baby Tooth nodded, patting his thumb with a tiny hand. She pointed below, and Jack peered down. North was directing everyone out, helping spirits out the door and opening a window for those with wings. They filed out, still talking and smiling as they went. Some of the older and more powerful spirits would return the next day for the meeting, but chose to go back to their own homes for the night where they would be comfortable. Jack tucked Baby Tooth on his shoulder and dropped down, descending to the main floor when the last few stragglers left. The yeti milled about, but North shook his head.

“Cleanup can wait,” he dismissed. “The mess won’t go anywhere tonight.”

The yeti rumbled in agreement and trudged towards the hall that led to their section of the complex. Jack watched them go, waving at Phil when the light gray yeti made the universal ‘I’m watching you’ movement with his fingers, pointing straight at Jack.

Now that it was just the Guardians, Jack landed, tucking his staff behind his back and padding across the floor to the others.

“Get too much for ya, mate?” Bunny asked, grinning at him. Jack pulled a face and nodded, making him laugh. “North’s parties can be rowdy, but it’s all in good fun.”

“Still, it’s nice to have some quiet,” Tooth said with a smile at Jack. Baby Tooth twittered in agreement.

“Yes, is nice. Come, let us retire in a nicer room.” North led them down a series of winding halls and into a small living room of sorts. The fireplace was blazing, casting light and warmth over plush couches and armchairs. North plopped in the chair closest to the fire, pulling a glass from seemingly out of nowhere and taking a sip. If Jack had to guess, he’d say it was probably scotch. Perhaps whiskey.

Jack settled cross-legged on the plush rug in front of the fire. It was comfortable enough, especially considering he hadn’t really had anything besides rocks and fences to perch on in years.

It was quiet for a while as the others got settled- Tooth in another armchair, Sandy on a cloud of golden sand he whipped up for himself, and Bunny sprawled on the couch, bandolier unhooked and resting on the floor by his feet. North took a gulp of his drink and Bunny sighed.

“The party was good and all… I just hope tomorrow goes just as well.”

Jack tilted his head to the side to look at the Pooka. “Who exactly are these people coming tomorrow anyway?” he asked. “What’s so important about them?”

“Jack, do you know much about magical creatures?” Tooth asked softly. Jack turned away from the fire to face her.

“Magical creatures?”

Tooth nodded. “There was a time that magical creatures of all kinds roamed the earth. They did so without fear of being found.”

“It was a different time then,” Bunny added. “There were a lot less humans around. They hadn’t expanded yet, and most of the land was untamed.”

“As their numbers began to grow, there was less and less space for magical creatures to be free. It became a problem,” Tooth said sadly. “The patron spirits of each species met to make a decision. If things kept on like they were, it would be dangerous- for both the humans and the magical creatures. It was decided that the magical creatures and their patron spirits, their caretakers, would create a new place where they would be free.”

“A new place?” Jack asked in confusion. “What does that mean?”

“A place they made that’s here on earth, but also not. Like Tooth Palace.”

“Or the Warren,” Bunny supplied. “Both are technically a place on earth, but only the entrance is actually connected. Past that, the areas split off into a completely different world, separated from earth so no humans can enter. Unless they have a certain someone’s snow globes, that is.” He shot North a look and North shrugged.

“Was accident.”

Jack chuckled as Bunny’s ears went back, thinking of how much Sophie had loved the Warren. Before Bunny and North could start their usual banter, Tooth cut in. “But they place they made is kept hidden, the location a secret to all but those who live there.”

“But why?” Jack asked. “Why keep it hidden away from other spirits?”

“To protect the magical creatures. They take the responsibility very seriously. The fact that they’re even willing to meet with us shows that we’ve earned their trust.” Tooth sighed. “What I wouldn’t give to meet a unicorn.”

Jack grinned, imagining Cupcake’s reaction if she could have heard what Tooth just said. She’d flip if she knew. “Unicorns?”

Tooth nodded. “Almost all the myths have some basis of truth. Unicorns, kitsunes, trolls…” she ticked off on her fingers. As she listed them, Sandy eagerly formed pictures of the creatures in his sand.

“Dragons,” Bunny cut in. Jack stiffened slightly.

“Dragons?”

Sandy nodded, creating a golden dragon and sending it flying around their heads.

“Bloody fire lizards,” Bunny grumbled. “Had a run in with a few before they left. Took nearly a year for the fur on my tail to grow back.”

“I thought the dragons all died out,” Jack said with a frown, clenching his fists in his lap.

“Nah, mate. They just moved on with the rest of the magical creatures. Took them a bit longer, though. Stubborn things. I think they all finally moved out about, oh, three hundred years ago.”

Tooth looked at Jack curiously. “Do you know about dragons, Jack? I was already so busy with the teeth at the time, I never got to meet one. Are they-?”

“Tooth,” North said firmly, looking at Jack’s shaking hands. “You can ask one of them tomorrow.”

Tooth looked at Jack wide-eyed. He tried to give her a smile, but he was sure that it came out wrong. Sandy’s eyes darted back and forth before he tapped North on the arm and conjured up an image in his sand.

“Cupid?” North asked, stroking his chin. “Yes, Cupid was present at the party.”

Tooth latched onto the change of subject and Jack relaxed slightly. “I saw him trying to shoot the Leprechaun and the Groundhog.” Bunny shuddered.

“What did the Leprechaun ever do to him?” he asked, making Jack halfway smile. Bunny’s distaste for the Groundhog was well-known.

“I don’t think Cupid works on revenge,” Tooth chastised. She blinked. “Not that I’ve ever been hit by him. I guess I wouldn’t know.” She looked at Sandy, who was grinning mischievously at Jack. “What about you, Jack?” He looked up at her. “Has anyone special ever caught your eye before?”

Bunny grinned and sat up straight. “Yeah, Jackie. You ever had a Sheila?”

They loved teasing their youngest member about anything and everything they could think of, making frost blossom on his cheeks in a blue echo of a blush. But this time, there was no blush. It was a given that they would arrived at this question sooner or later, and Jack had always planned on lying and brushing it off. But the sudden ache that had grown heavy in his chest wouldn’t let him. Jack glanced at the dream-sand dragon, still prowling around the room, before looking down and fiddling with the ends of his sleeves.

“Never was a girl,” he said softly. “But… there was a boy, once.” He plucked idly at the cloth of his sweatshirt and looked up. His blue eyes were no longer wide in excitement or shining with mirth. A hidden depth opened in the icy blue, eyes looking but not seeing as Jack was lost, far away in the past. He shook his head and looked back up at the others. He had never told that to a single soul. “Jamie wasn’t my first believer, just my first believer in… a long time. It’s a long story though.”

He stood, turning to the door, but North’s large hand on his shoulder stopped him. North was looking at him in understanding. “We have time.”

Jack swallowed. Memories that he had buried far down in the deep recesses of his mind came pouring out, flashing in front of his eyes like he was still there, experiencing it all again. “I met him about a year after I first woke up as Jack Frost.” Jack crossed the room and retook his seat on the rug, looking at the other Guardians. “His name was Hiccup…”