They slept in the same log they had the day they met, curled up in the darkness and away from the cold. If it was raining, Tatl thought, then it really would be a sense of deja-vu. She gazed up at the moon above through the opening to the sky. It was high away from them, and no longer bringing the looming threat of death. It was just a normal moon to light up the sky and it brought beauty instead of destruction.
Tatl turned over in the straw on Skullkid's hat. She brushed the scratchy stuff away from her skin, glaring. She hated sleeping in the kid's hat, but her brother loved it for whatever reason. And as she looked right now, he was snuggled into the rim of the imp's hat, like it was a little boat.
Nothing felt different before now but nothing felt the same either. It almost felt anti-climactic to her. As soon as they reunited with the Skulllkid and the land was saved from certain death, everyone just went back to their daily lives. It was as if nothing had happened. The carnival went on, and it was a joyous occasion for most, but for Tatl she just felt a pit of hollowness.
She missed Link—all lot more then she'd care to admit. She missed having someone to yell at that actually gave her a challenge back. Skullkid was so ridiculously submissive when it came to her-any sharp order from her and he'd stop what he was doing immediately. It made sense, she thought. She could be pretty scary. Honestly when it came to Skullkid she felt more like his mother then anything. Even if a large part of her hated him for everything he did, she was afraid to leave him alone. She was afraid of what he'd do to the town, to the people... and even himself.
...The truth was, she didn't know what Skullkid needed or how to keep him on the right track. She had a hard enough time handling her rambunctious little brother without worrying about the trouble the other boy found himself getting into.
She lifted from the boy's hat, careful not to wake either of the sleeping children as she fluttered into the air and through the log. She just needed to think, and the serenity of the silver moonlight helped to collect her thoughts. The fairy glanced behind her, over at the bundle of straw and glowing wings, wondering how someone so innocent looking and young could cause this destruction.
The spirit child was centuries old, having lived and died and watched so many other people die... Tatl sometimes wondered if that's what contributed to the boy's madness and made him so unstable. He watched everyone he had ever made any sort of connection with in his (now) immortal life die from age; it was no wonder he was so obsessed with the few friends he had left that were still alive.
"Tatl?" A voice from behind her startled the fairy as she spun around to see a pair of glowing orange eyes, like the face of a little jack-o-lantern.
"Skullkid!" She regained her composure and built her walls up again, glaring at the boy. "You should be asleep. It's late, and I'll not have you whining the next day about how tired you are!"
He tilted his head at her. "What are you doing up then?" he asked. "You should be asleep too."
The fairy looked the imp over and frowned when she realized her brother wasn't curled up in his hat. "Where is Tael?" She rang in distress and anger, looking over to the log where her brother was curled up. "Skullkid, there's wolfos prowling this time of night!" she scolded him. "He can't protect himself very well!" Without the mask, Skullkid couldn't either, but that was besides the point.
The imp stared up at her for a moment and then his head dropped sadly, quiet. Tatl felt a small twinge of guilt, even though she probably shouldn't. "Oh..." she huffed. "Stop that." Sensitive boy; he had always been that way though. Either he'd cry at the drop of a hat or he'd just ignore anything you said to him.
"Go back to the log, Skullkid. Remember, you promised to help fix the heaping piles of damages you made to the land while you were possessed." She tried not to let that part come out bitter and angry. It was in the past, and he was very sensitive about what had happened. Tael got angry with her every time she tried to bring it up anyway. "So you should sleep."
"I can't." He shook his head and the fairy tried to keep her temper under control. She didn't need to deal with his defiance right now. "Why not?" Tatl asked, her voice low.
"Because I'm worried about you." That snapped her out of it, and Tatl felt her wings lower slightly, her anger softening. When she turned to Skullkid she saw the concern in his glowing eyes. "You..." She sighed. "You don't have to be," she muttered.
He didn't say anything for a moment and Tatl was hopeful that he'd grow tired of the silence and wander back to the log, but he didn't. The straw shifted beside her, an indication he had sat down.
"Do you hate me now?" he finally said. Tatl froze, and she turned slowly to him. His eyes stared up at her, silently begging for her to confirm she didn't and forgiving her for if she did. She floated there, silent, bursting. Everything she had come to get away for spilled out at once.
"Yes!" Tatl snapped. "I hate you." He looked like his world had shattered but she still went on. "I hate you because you're a spoiled, selfish little brat that threw a tantrum that almost destroyed the entire world because he didn't get what he wanted. I hate that my brother is so obsessed with you and I hate what you did to him on the Clock Tower! I hate you because you hurt so many people, even the ones you were supposed to love and I hate that you never listen to me!"
She was snarling now, her fury spilling over as fast as his tears were. "And above all, I hate that I don't know how to help you!" She felt tears sting her eyes and she had to turn away from his heartbroken expression. Ugly self loathing took a hold of her heart.
"I don't know what you need!" she cried. "I don't know how to take care of you, okay?!" She held back a sob. "I'm not a guardian fairy, Skullkid! I was never meant to be one! I'm not even close! I'm not sweet! I'm not motherly! I'm not friendly! I have a hard enough time looking after my brother, and I'm not what you need! You need someone who actually knows how to be a guardian, Skullkid! This wasn't what I signed up for! This...this isn't IN my capabilities!" she cried. Finally, she broke into tears.
"Look, I have no idea what to do! I thought I was doing...good, as a friend...as a...guardian, but you just went berserk! And I couldn't stop you! I didn't even realize what that awful mask was doing to you because...it just seemed like normal you at first! You know, Skullkid causing mischief and being the pest he always is! And then..." Her breath hitched. "I don't know what to do! I don't know how to protect you!" The pitch was so shrill and heartbroken, it could have woken the entire land.
Skullkid watched her cry, shocked and having no idea how to react to this. He stared at her, wide eyed through his own tears, his wooden limbs shaking as much as her tiny form was. His beak trembled and he whimpered and pulled the fairy from the air. He clutched her and cried as much as she did. Tatl clung to his chest as tightly as she could, nuzzling the green straw. She gave in to her weakness and couldn't believe how much she missed her best friend's cuddles.
"I'm sorry you hate me," he sniffled, and she gave a choked and sobbing laugh.
"I don't hate you, you stupid kid," the fairy sniffled. "I...can't." She shook her head, tears squeezing out. He pulled her closer. "I missed you. I...I really did! Look, there was a huge part of me that wanted to give you the whooping you deserve!" she growled playfully, flapping her wings against his neck to make him laugh. "And I thought when all this was over I'd never want anything to do with you again, but I just..." She shook her head. "I can't...leave you. Not now...not after all of this." She shook her head.
"I can do better Tatl," he told her. Pranks and naughtiness was his essence, but he could at least tone it down. He didn't want her to leave him. "I can...be better behaved. Or try at least." That was enough for Tatl to melt and she laughed tearfully and let him hug her for another moment.
"Yeah, I guess that's a start then," she smirked and pulled away from the imp. The wooden boy smiled at her and turned back towards the log, starting to saunter back towards it. Tatl followed behind closely and after a moment of debating, she flew out in front of him, stopping him.
The two gazed at each other, twin souls, both searching for an answer. Tatl felt so much pain in her heart as she looked at the boy. He was still what he had been the moment he turned into a Skullkid...a lost child. The worst part was knowing that she couldn't help him. This wasn't going to change anything. He was still going to be a messed up kid that needed more guidance and she was still going to be the helpless guardian that had no idea what to do.
He'd been lost since he wandered into the forest...maybe even before that. And Tatl didn't know how to give him what he needed, but she'd never stop trying.
The Skullkid looked earnestly at her and Tatl did something she had never done before. She leaned in, and ever so softly pressed a gentle, lingering kiss to his wooden forehead. The child's eyes closed as he let out a hum, leaning into the affectionate gesture that he dimly remembered from centuries ago, during a time where he lived in a wooden cottage in the forest...
She pulled back after a moment, and the brief flash of maternal affection on her face was replaced by a threatening scowl. "You tell anyone about that and your wooden body becomes kindling, got it?"
His eyes widened and he nodded quickly. The fairy at his side smiled lightly and looked over to the log. "Come on...we better get some sleep." She nudged his hat affectionately and Skullkid fell into step at her side, the two making their way to their sleeping area, and hopefully towards a stronger bond.