Bunnymund blinked, belatedly closing his tunnel entrance behind him, and looked down at the pink stuffed rabbit being shoved at him by tiny blonde girl before him. Sophie raised her toy higher, shaking it a bit to demonstrate its need.
"Fix it," she repeated. The Easter Bunny gradually bent down to inspect the well-loved creature, taking in its dirty, faded fur and mismatched button eyes. He then noticed the stuffing poking out of its back.
"Oh," he said, and carefully pulled the toy from Sophie's hands. Its ears flopped in opposite directions, and he became conscious of the child's pleading look. "Well… I'm sorry, Soph," he began, rubbing the back of his head with a paw. "But I'm no good with a needle and thread..." Alarmed, he saw that Sophie's eyes had begun to water. "But, but hey, can't your mum fix this?"
"No!" she cried, grumpily folding her arms over her chest and kept her tears at bay. "Mommy took Jamie to the d-dentist. An' I want you to fix it!"
Bunnymund balked. "Listen, Soph, I told you, I can't—," the Easter Bunny immediately cut himself off when he noticed the little girl's trembling bottom lip and light green eyes threatening to overflow with tears again. "Okay, okay!" he said quickly, holding up both paws in a calming fashion in attempt to reassure her. "I'll your bunny fixed, Sophie."
In an instant the tears were gone and replaced with wide eyes and a bright smile. Sophie wrapped her arms around Bunnymund's waist, nearly bouncing in her giddiness. "Thank you!" she said sweetly, and Bunnymund felt something in his chest warm pleasantly despite just having been tricked. He returned the embrace, minding the distressed rabbit in his paw.
"You're welcome, you little ankle-biter." He pulled away from the hug, paws on the girl's small shoulders. "Now, I'm gonna find someone to fix your bunny, all right? Just sit tight until then."
Sophie smiled and nodded obligingly, climbing onto her bed pulling out her book of fairytales to browse through until Bunnymund's return. "Okay!" she chirped, and he chuckled, opening a tunnel by his feet.
"I'll be back soon. Stay outta trouble 'till I get back."
The little girl's only response was a big, all-too-innocent grin, and Bunnymund snorted before hopping into his tunnel, dreading what he was about to do.
"Come on, North! It's just a quick patch job, I'm sure you could do it in less than a minute!"
Nicholas St. North waved his friend's pleas away as if they pesky flies flitting around his head, not pausing in his stride through the bustling workshop. "Bah, I do not have time, Bunny. Christmas is week away—did you not say something how you would not do something like this before my holiday?"
Bunnymund rolled his eyes, weaving around the present-bearing yetis and running elves while keeping North in sight. "You called us here for Pitch! I just need you to fix this bloody rabbit!" Bunnymund shook the bedraggled toy in his paw as if to prove his point.
North finally stopped just before the Guardians of Childhood plaque in the floor below the massive globe, where not even a year ago they had gathered and the Man in the Moon had chosen a new Guardian, and where they had later met to mourn the loss of another. He gave brief orders to his yetis before whirling around to face the Easter Bunny, interrupting his strain of grievances.
"Why do you even need me to fix rabbit? Who is it for?"
Bunnymund lost some of his edge at the question, deflating slightly as he searched for a proper answer that was as far from the truth as possible. He stumbled over his words for a bit, before a voice coming from above the pair drew their attention.
"Yeah, 'Roo—I mean, I knew you had a big ego but a stuffed animal of yourself? That's taking it a little far, don't you think?"
"Stay out of this, Frost," Bunnymund growled, glaring daggers at the pale boy casually sitting on the edge of an alcove above them, Sandman, floating beside him on a cloud of sand, looking on in silent (as always) amusement.
Jack seemed to only be encouraged by Bunnymund's crass demeanor and Sandman's splayed palms and raised hands, as if saying "touchy".
"Come off it, Bunny," he said with a grin, leaning dangerously out of his alcove. "What's so important about that stuffed rabbit, anyway…" his impish smile faded, and his squinted, narrowing his gaze on the offending creature. "Hey, is that…"
"No! It's not!" Bunnymund swiftly denied, knowing what Jack was hinting toward, and hid the rabbit behind his back despite the odd looks he received from North and Sandman. Jack's grin returned in full force, however.
"It is! That's Jamie's stuffed rabbit!" Once more, the teen's expression morphed, this time into one of confusion. "Why do you have it?"
Sandman was the one to interrupt this time, shaking his head as he corrected Jack with the assistance of his dreamsand. Above his head a little girl was formed, bearing a striking resemblance to Sophie, and showed her playing with the rabbit in Bunnymund's paw. Understanding dawned on Jack's face, though North appeared hopelessly lost.
"It's Sophie's rabbit?" Jack asked, though it was more of a statement than a question, and Bunnymund winced as the confusion gradually abandoned North's features. "She asked you to sew it back up?"
Bunnymund exhaled heavily, sending the three Guardians weary glowers—Sandman was the only one able to completely contain his laughter, which was rather pitiful considering he was mute.
"Yes, it's for Sophie," he ground out, seething at North's entertained expression. "Can. You. Bloody. Fix. It."
North dropped a beefy arm onto Bunnymund's thin shoulders, pulling him into an unnervingly strong one-armed hug. "But of course!" he boomed, steering Bunnymund toward his private workshop. "Anything for little Sophie! But why were you not saying it was for our young friend in first place?"
Bunnymund shrugged awkwardly, looking over his shoulder as Jack beamed, bearing a striking resemblance to Sophie with the picture of innocence he presented, and Sandman bid him farewell courtesy of an enormous cartoony hand he had formed out of sand to wave goodbye properly.
"Looks like someone's going soft!" Jack abruptly called after them in an annoying singsong lilt, and North had to physically restrain Bunnymund so he would not lob his boomerang at the teenager's head.
Soft, Bunnymund scoffed, bounding through his tunnel. Me?
He would need to remember to pay his fellow Guardian back for that comment. And he was not "going soft". Did six-foot tall master of tai chi mean nothing anymore?
Bunnymund huffed exasperatedly, but was comforted by the knowledge that Sophie's stuffed rabbit was strapped to his back, and that he would be seeing the girl's bright, smiling face very soon.
Blast it. I am going soft.
Bunnymund hopped out of his tunnel and into Sophie's bedroom, freeing the stuffed animal from his back in the same movement.
"Guess who's back, Soph—," Bunnymund fell silent at the sight of the little girl sleeping snugly beneath her blankets. The exuberance drained from his features and posture until he stood in a half-slouch, and Bunnymund exhaled heavily.
"Some lucky rabbit's foot," he muttered, taking a step closer to the bed and carefully laying the stuffed rabbit—its side stitched up, button eyes matching, and light pink fur newly washed—beside her.
Sophie released a happy sigh at that same moment, turning in her sleep to lay an arm over her stuffed rabbit, but grabbed hold of Bunnymund's wrist as well.
The Easter Bunny startled at the sudden contact, staring down at the little girl in utter bewilderment for several seconds. He tried to gently pull his arm free, but Sophie's grip was like a vice and he did not want to risk waking her.
Sophie, oblivious to Bunnymund's inner battle between allowing her to continue sleeping and breaking her hold and scurrying back to the Warren where things made sense and he did not have four-year-olds to dote on, slept on with a look of pure bliss across her otherwise placid features.
Above her head, her dreams began to take shape in the form of glittering golden sand. At first all that could be seen was Sophie herself, playing with her rabbit—as Sandy had shown him earlier. But then, Bunnymund himself appeared, taking the girl's hand in his own, and before he knew it he was viewing a stream of memories form over Sophie's cranium.
He saw their first, near-catastrophic meeting in the Warren, Bunnymund taking her tiny hand in his and showing her every corner of his underground home, watching his eggs being painted in time for Easter…
In some treacherous corner of his mind, Bunnymund knew the Sandman was partly to blame, and was cursing the being's existence presently. The rest of him, however, grudgingly praised his friend, and was ridiculously warmed by the fact that his kid's dreams were consisted of memories of them together. There must have certainly been a stupid grin on his face as well, but Bunnymund truly could not bring himself to care as he leaned forward and gently pressed his nose to the girl's forehead, a sign of affection between the two that had become so commonplace, yet soothing at the same time.
Sophie's grip loosened on Bunnymund's wrist, lulled by the familiar gesture, and he was able to smoothly pull his paw free.
Bunnymund opened a tunnel by the foot of the bed, but as the child cuddled with her toy, Bunnymund reached over and ruffled her hair.
"Sweet dreams, you little ankle-biter," he said with a smile, before stepping into his tunnel, and hoping that Jack Frost had not been lurking around to mock his ruined reputation.