Ch. 1

"So Pitch- I need a favor."

It had been almost eight years since his defeat and as strange as it sounded, he and I had an understanding about this weird, almost tense friendship. He would try slinking out from under the bed, and before he could do any real damage I would put him back in his place and then we would have nice long confrontational chats a few days after his failure. He was like that stoic uncle you weren't supposed to mess with but it was too much fun not to, with the creepy house that smells funny.

"Why on earth would I grace you with a favor, Jack? Don't you have someone, anyone, else to bother?" Pitch sighed, flicking his wrist in a dismissive manner.

"Not currently. Besides, you're the only one that can help me with this." I say as I twirl my staff around behind me and bounce on the balls of me feet. Pitch only scoffs, but casts a sideways glance at me to continue. "So anyway, North told me some stories about you being a general and said you stayed on Bunny's home planet for a while."

"He is not incorrect, why do you want to know?"

"I'd like to learn about the Pooka. North doesn't know much, and it would be too annoying to try and interpret Sandy. So then I tried North's library but there's nothing there either."

"Why not ask Bunnymund? He is one after all. I'm sure he could answer all of your annoying questions."

"He doesn't like to talk about it. Besides, the subject matter I'm looking for is definitely not something I want to be talking to him about just yet." I say with a huffed laugh.

"Ah yes, your little crush. I should have known. Let me guess, courting rituals then?" He says as he shakes his head. I hadn't told him about having feelings for Bunny that were more than platonic, but he picked up on the fear I had about being found out. Pitch is a stinker like that.

"All I'm looking for is a list, and a bit of backstory. Can you help or not?"

He laughs and shifts in the direction of a large table and jerks his head for me to follow. We get settled in the two chairs, and I pull out a spiral notebook and pen from the pocket of my hoodie. Flipping it open to first blank page I ready my pen and look expectantly at him.

"First off you have to realize that some of these will not be normal for humans, and while I do know a significant amount more than North, I am by no means fluent in Pookan culture. My time spent with the Bunnymunds was comparatively short. I was only with them for little more than a year."

"Wait. Back up. You stayed with Bunny and his family while you were on his planet?" I ask, wide eyed. Holy crap could this get any better? Not only is Pitch actually agreeing to help me, but I might even get to squeeze out some stories out about a younger Bunny to boot. Color me excited.

"Yes. Aster was the oldest son of Eamon and Forsythia Bunnymund. For the time I was there he took it upon himself to be my guide. With ears and all he was maybe a hair shorter than you are now, Jack." His eyes softened somewhat as he talked.

I laughed good-naturedly, not being able to picture Bunny any way other than the grumpy, handsome, 6'1 anthromorphic rabbit that I've always known him to be. Quick to anger and just as quick to fizzle out after, full of secret smiles and laughs that I know are just waiting to be released. I don't know if Pitch regrets what he did. North had told me that the fearlings took over his consciousness and made him do horrible things, but I'd like to think there's still bits and pieces of General Pitchiner in there, and with what I just saw- I think I'm right.

Two and a half hours later I have my list, and was also able to jot down quite a few interesting facts about Bunny. For example: Bunny was the eldest of six. No wonder he's such a good organizer, I mean, he does Easter all by himself! His favorite snack on his home world was something close to granny smith apples on this planet. Pitch also warned me about chocolate; he said that tiny amounts were alright for Pooka, but anything more than the tiniest taste would make Bunny grow and extra four arms. That led to a multitude of adult thoughts on my part and an exaggerated sigh from Pitch when he noticed my frosted cheeks.

While the stories were great, but now I needed a more in depth explanation of the courting behaviors. There was circling, nose bumping, gifting, and then, for lack of a better term, the proposal. Circling and nose bumps were pretty self-explanatory, with the exception of the former's exceptions: not only circling the intended, but also watching them and their patterns from a distance without being seen. It was how the doe (or me in this case) would assess how capable a buck would be in taking care of its family. The latter's specifications: a single touch of noses and then retreating a few feet away to show respect.

The gifting was apparently pretty wide open. It included everything from cleaning your intended's burrow to show you could take care of them, to fixing something with their favorite food, or making their favorite meal. Even handmade goodies fell into this category, be it for looks or practicality.

"Now, as per their culture, the proposal was something that was deeply personal to one you'd be pursuing. More often than not it was something to remember a deceased family member that was special to them." Pitch told me.

"And how do I find out something that personal about Bunny? Assuming he doesn't spontaneously combust when I start all of this?" I let my head fall to the hard stone of the table with a thunk. I was pretty confident I could pull this most of this off until this last tid bit of information rang out, bringing with it uncharacteristic insecurity. Then a thought occurred to me.

When the date for Easter was close I would worm my way into the Warren and help with the eggs. Bunny wouldn't let me help paint yet, but I was great at herding the eggs to the right places. I remembered one time he didn't notice me come up behind him, and he was muttering in this language I had never heard before. It was melodic and lilting, the syllables flowing together rhythmically even though he was probably cursing.

"What was that?" I had asked, genuinely curious. He jumped and smeared the egg with a bedraggled line of bright orange.

"Make some noise next time, mate. Can't have all my googies lookin' like this one." He huffed. Swirling the paint across the other side of the egg he deemed it good enough and set it down to wander and dry. "As for the question, it's a new color I mixed up. Callin' it Dayglow." Bunny seemed proud, his shoulders were squared, and a haughty look in his eyes.

"No, what were you saying? What language was that?"

"Ah, ya heard that. It's my native tongue. S'what I grew up speakin'."

"What were you saying?" I asked even though I could guess. Bunny could make a sailor blush if he wanted to. Especially if I pissed him off.

"Nothin' that a sprog like you needs to hear. Now go herd the googies to the dye river, we've a yakka1day ahead of us."

"-st. Frost." I lifted my head at the sound of my name. Pitch was looking unamused, his nostrils flared in annoyance. "If you want information, at least feign being mildly interested."

"I am interested. And very thankful for all you've offered." I said, trying to sound as sincere as I felt as I flipped through my pages of notes, and extras to a blank page. "You said you were with the Pooka for over a year, right"? Pitch nodded, "Did you learn any of their language2?"

The question was not one he expected, I don't think. He furrowed his brows and nodded an affirmative. "Yes. I had to learn it enough to be understood. I was injured when the Bunnymunds offered me sanctuary in their home, and as they didn't know my language, but harbored me anyway, I learned theirs."

"I want you to teach me." I said it with conviction, but I was nervous. Even if Bunny was receptive to the circling, bumps, and gifts I didn't have any clue how he would react if I spouted something off in his native language. I'd go ask Tooth later. She seems to have a better understanding of how he would react than I do.

"Pookan is a complicated language, Jack. I will not waste my time or knowledge if all you want to learn is a few words or sentences." Pitch offered in a snide tone.

"I want to do this. I want to be as fluent as you are. I'm not going to half ass something as important as this!" I told him. Pitch needed to know I was serious. I wanted to be able to talk to Bunny in him original language to show him how much I wanted him, and hopefully it would (if all of this went well) be our own secret little code. Just for us.

The Nightmare King eyed me, as if he was gaging my statement's authenticity. As much as I hated to admit it, I needed him. He was the only one that had the knowledge I needed, and when he smiled and revealed those sharpened teeth smugly, he knew exactly what I had silently admitted.

That tawdry, British, bitch.

"Very well. I'll teach you. I expect you here every morning, and if you miss one single day I reserve the right to feed on your nightmares. I know you still have them."

I grimaced, but agreed. It was no secret I still had bad dreams. Three hundred years alone would do that to anyone, but I had no intention of missing anything and I was going to prove it.