i am not looking for a beta. all work is worked on by myself. no applicants need apply. i'll edit later. for now, enjoy unnecessary amounts of angst and fluff.
p.s. it's almost been a year. life's funny that way. but enough people commented, and in the spirit of the season i thought it was only right to at least drop a few stories. nanowrimo does that to people.
so take this. because there might be more coming your way soon ;)
His name is Santa, and he's given up their first child.
"J'you have a deal," says the big man in red, shaking the smaller gentleman's smaller, smaller, smaller hand across the table. Both of their arms work up and down, and their faces are consigned to victory. "Conseeder yourself a Spirit."
The leprechaun chittered a happy giggle that pressed and shredded through his teeth. "Wonderful. And our contract-"
"A deal. From one jolly man to another!"
Her name is Tooth, and she' hesitant.
"I'm not sure. North, we're supposed to protect. We're supposed to protect children, and if we can't do that…"
(then what sort of Guardians are we, goes unsaid, but the table hisses with leftover words)
His name is Sandy, and he is silent. As always. Though his face betrays uncertainty.
"It'll be good for you." The leprechaun pockets the now signed contract, and a bit of ink stains his thumb. "You'll get your payments worth. Magic. More magic than you can touch. More than you can imagine. You'll be swimming in riches, mark my words-"
"We only need enough to last," North pats his belly. "Enough to keep workshop in repair. Enough to finance children."
"Except for one," says the sprite.
"Except for one."
His name is Bunnymund, and he's the only one who thinks it's a half decent idea.
"It's not like we can have one anyway," he tells the others, signing away at a document they've all failed to look over. His name looks good there. Looks like improvement. Like change. "It'll be good fer us. Ta have a little more fundin'."
"We don't need it," says Toothiana, wringing her hands. "We can get by fine, North. We really can. I can give a few quarters here and there. And I'm sure that Sandy has more than enough to give-"
"I am not looking for donation." The shop had been in disarray since its creation just a mere hundred years before. The belief of children was yet to be fully instilled. A darkness over the land had taken its hold. It had suffocated, and they were doing their best to pump the air back in. In the meantime, windows creaked, roofs leaked, the floors shuddered and groaned. The sort of things that were needed couldn't be promised with excess magic. That was stuff they didn't have. That the couldn't have. "I am looking for result."
They needed magic. Someone else's.
And that someone had stepped forward with a quill and a twinkle. "It'll be good for you," the Leprechaun parroted. "Besides, like Bunny said-"
"Bunnymund, to you."
"-when will you have time to have your own children?"
Tooth agrees silently, and leaves nibbling on her lip. Sandy barely glances the villains way, and sneaks out with a sign and a twist of his wrists.
His name is North, and he's unsure of a lot of things.
The contract sits in the back of a closet, and is unneeded. Magic is theirs. Magic has been theirs for years, and he has more than he knows what to do with it.
"We should think of finding way to rip up," he says to Bunny one night after a few beers and a shot or two to keep it all down. The room smelled like hard liquor and sweat, and the Rabbit across from him sits back in the familiarity.
"Why? It's not ours to rip up, mate."
"But is bad omen."
Bunny shrugged. "You bought it. You deal with it."
The end of the conversation will come with the snapping of another bottle being uncorked.
Her name is Tooth, and she is scared.
"There's no need for all of this," she titters to no one and everyone at once. She's always talking to everyone. She always assumes that everyone is listening. Tooth is like that. The world lives in her head. "There's no need to keep around vile contracts. We're protectors. We don't make deals like that. Ever."
Even if it did help, her brain soothes. Even if it kept you alive.
She flicks off a basket that had been balanced against the crook of her arm. It clattered down. Quarters rolled. "Even then."
His name is Sandy, and he's still silent. But it doesn't mean he goes unheard.
You'd done something bad, North. You've made your bed. You're going to have to lie in it.
"I do not'ing bad! I save us!"
You seem to save us an awful lot. Funny. I didn't see an issue.
"You make beeg deal of not'ing."
And you make problems where there are none.
North is a fertile field, and issues grow in him faster than they can see them coming. Some days they're real. Others, he's just looking to sow the adrenaline. Sandy can't tell which one this could have been, the incident is so well nestled in the past. But it exists, and the Guardian can still remember feeling the clutch of a twisted chest. The glint of a small sprites eye when ink met paper.
Fix this, North, says Sandy, pointing just over the larger mans head. Fix it.
"There ees not'ing to fix."
And that's that.
His name is Bunnymund, and he's apparently against whatever side they've taken.
"You must see the issues with this," says Tooth. Bunnymund says he doesn't. He says she's overreacting about things that can't happen. He says that she's a tosser (and worse, though those things he'll apologize for later when she's left his home as red as a new tomato). He says that they, as a group, are without children for a reason.
She balls up her fists. "Some days, Aster," says the Fairy, "it surprises me how cruel you can be."
He will remember that brand, and no matter how hard he tries, he cannot brush it off.
His name is Aster Bunnymund, and he's angry at everyone.
Which isn't an event, to be sure. But now he's really angry at them. The way they push and pull him like he's nothing more than salt water taffy. The way that he's glared at across the table. The way that Sandy barely looks his directio . The way that Tooth hisses at him like a feral cat when she speaks.
It is a day of returns.
The Leprechaun visits every hundred years, to check on his bounty. They've given him as much power as he's given them, and their arrangement is sealed by nothing more than pen and magic, which isn't very much considering.
"My deal is set," he says, looking over half moon glasses. North nods.
"Still, of course." Tooth gives him a look. He coughs. "Though… we really aren't in need of it any more."
The Leprechaun looks up. His glasses flash. "You want to end our deal?"
"Hmm." It's a bad sound. An ancient sound. And they all know what it means.
When he finally does come around to saying no, to saying that they'd need to fight him, to twisting around like a possessed daemon and spitting fire across the table, Bunnymund will start to point fingers. "I told ye. I told ye it wasn' a good idea."
"It was a fine idea." Toothiana flicks away a bit of ash. "... it just needed better execution. And… and if we need to fight him, we'll-"
"Whoa whoa whoa- you wanna fight that!" He snorts. "Have fun, girlie. You're duin' that all on your lonesome!" Sandy raises a hand. "Fine. The two of ya then. Like hell if I'm wastin' my time battlin' a little sprite from Scottland."
"Ireland. And Bunny ees right." North pats his back, too hard, and Aster flinches. "We cannot waste time fighting small men with pockets feeled with gold. We fight monsters. We fight deamons. Pitch."
"That… that thing is a monster."
Bunny snorts again and collects his things, slinging them over his shoulder. "Show me some real monsters, Tooth. Then we'll talk."
He taps his foot twice. He's gone.
His name is Jack Frost, and Bunnymund hates him.
He enters their life in a flurry of red bags and trickles of a leftover blizzard and from the moment he cocks his smile and dusts his hair, the Rabbit knows they're going to have issues. Not like he doesn't know the kid. He knows him. Too well, if memory served. A little moment in 1968 was never far from his mind. The boy hadn't changed. Except for the always rotating blue clothing choices, he had stayed a stagnant creature that Bunny had done his best to forget. But not forgive.
None of them believe in you, do they.
It's like you don't even exist.
People believe in me.
Bunny makes his position clear.
"He leaves after this," he whispers to North while the boy looks around the workshop in awe. "We use 'im fer what he's good for, and then he leaves."
"Yes, yes, yes. But for now- JACK! My boy! Come to kitchens, yes? You look took skinny!"
His name is Aster Bunnymund, and he kind of, sort of, partially hates the creature known as Jack Frost. He just hates him a little less. Sandy is gone, and things are going to hell. But if one good thing has come out of it all, it's that he doesn't despise the newest member of their rag tag team.
Jack had been sitting alone. North had done his best to give his usual you're-important-buck-up speech and it'd done as much as it always had. But the boy needed more than just that. And after Tooth had assaulted him in hugs, he'd pushed through the doors to the little study, into the silence and the cold of a young child's depression, and took up his place.
"If you came here to tell me I screwed up, I already know."
"Not here for that." He sits in front of him and pretends like he doesn't have to shiver. There's only so much his heavy coat does for him, and the entire place has turned into an ice bar. "But if ye mand me to, I can."
Bunny nods. Jack looks down. There's more silence. Then: "You're a real drongo," says Aster to him, while they sit back, in front of one another. Jack is cold and he's warm, and they clash as much as they complement. "A real stick up my arse."
"I thought you said-"
"And yet, here you go."
"Oy, you lookin' ta get clocked?"
Jack snorts. Bunny chooses then to clock him anyway, and lets him rub the pain from his sore head while he adjusts himself. "You're a real drongo," he says again. "An idjiot."
"I know. I let Pitch-"
"That is not why." Jack does look up, then. Looks up and waits. Bunny has never been good at affection, and neither has Jack, it would seem. But he still reaches out to at least touch the boy's knee. "Ya can't keep blaming yerself. It's not good fer ya. Soon, you'll start ta balieve it."
"Because it's true."
Aster gets up and shrugs. "Fine. Believe what you want. You ruined everything. You're a failure. You can't do anything right." Jack flushes frost. "But I don't believe that, even if you choose to. But what can I do." Another shrug. "S' not my life."
Jack will join them again a few hours later with a newfound resolve. He'll touch Bunnymund's elbow and mutter a thanks under his breath. And Bunny will threaten him with another clock on the head which is reciprocated by a well earned pinch.
His name is Jack, and he's a hero.
But more importantly, he's got a family.
It comes to him in a spare bedroom at North's home, in a free pass to the Tooth palace, in midnight greetings from the Sandman. Things between him and Bunny are… better. And that's enough for them. Enough for the both of them.
"Good on ya, mate," says Bunnymind, grabbing his paw and giving it a firm shake.
(His name is Bunnymund)
(He wishes he were better at emotions)
(His name is Jack)
(He wishes Bunny would like him more)
(But he's alright with this. Alright with that. Alright with everything)
Things smooth out. And at some point, North embraces him before they arrange an official ceremony to celebrate his new title and
the world seems warmer than it ever has.
His name is Bunnymund, and he suddenly has a partner at cards.
Jack and him team up at everything. Go fish is suddenly made for more than one per team. There's a great night of chess where he'd stood behind the rabbit and cheered him on. Dinners that used to be shared by oneself, huddled away and devoured quick, quick, quick between tasks doing this and that, were suddenly around a small table, too small to hold them all (but they made it work), and the seat to his left was never left without white and blue.
There's ruffled hair and jabbed elbows. Reminders to eat more, stay warm, and Jack-did-you-remember-to is a new phrase he's quickly adopted into his vocabulary.
"Jack, did ya remember ta drink somethin'-"
"Jack, did ya remember ta change yer sheets this week-"
"Jack, didn't I tell ya not ta-"
"Jack, ya need ta take your vitamins, I don't care if yer dead and brought back, ya gotta do it anyway-"
His warren has open borders now, and he's happy with it. Even if he sometimes gets the accidental unmentionable, it's worth it. Always worth it.
You're worth it, he doesn't say. Wishes he could.
Things get better. Then, as they tend to, they got worse.
His name is Bunnymund, and he has just royally fucked up.
He didn't mean to scent the boy. It had merely been a product of his environment. A hiccup in a long stream of events. But the boy, on his way out the window, had stuck out his hand again. A game of cards, a family dinner, a cup of cocoa and a good book in front of the fire had gotten to Bunny's head.
Yeah. That must have been it.
That must have been the reason he'd grabbed Jack up and dragged his chin along the top of his head. Why Jack had floated against him, allowing weight to press him comfortably against a broad chest.
He'd pushed the boy away when he'd realized- "Sorry," he coughed. "You be careful out there, y'hear?"
"And stay out'a trouble."
The boys smile said anything but. Bunny let it pass.
His name is Jack Frost, and the golden threads he's weaving are beginning to feel like bridges.
His name is North, and he remembers a contract.
Telling a young boy that he can no longer have a family is something he never thought he'd have to do. But there he is. Doing just that. And from outside the door, Tooth buries her face in her hands and wails. "I knew it," she screams at Bunny, who is busying himself cleaning boomerangs with an oiled rag. "I told you. I told you we should have dealt with this before something happened!"
"There isn' nothing we can do now, Tooth…"
"What, and you're just gonna sit here and let this happen!?"
"No." He puts away the rag. Looks down. "I'm gonna be a guardian."
"He's your child."
"He's a child." Tooth looks like she's been shot. Bunny's ears flatten, and he does his best to feign an anger that's brought them there. Banishes sadness somewhere deep and dark, but never gone. "He's a child, Tooth. That's all."
"Some days, Aster, it surprises me how cruel you can be."
Bunny leaves when the words begin to drown him.
His name is Jack, and he shouldn't have come to Bunny.
"I d-don't wanna go!" He's crying. Bunny has never seen him cry, and he's already decided that he never wants to see it again. Jack knows better than to touch him, so he sits on a stump not far from the Pookah's front door and wipes at tears and snot with the back of his sleeve. He wants Jack to scream, How could you. How could you do this to me. But he doesn't. Because he's better than Bunnymund. He'll always be better.
"I don' wanna go!" Another sniff that turns into a vicous snort. "I wanna stay! With y-you an'-an' Tooth and Sandy and-"
"There ain't nothin' I can do for you, kid." He pulls at a few weeds in his garden. "There was a contract. North made it."
"Because we needed help."
"B-but what ab-about-"
"We didn't predict you." Goes without saying: we didn't think you'd actually stick around long enough to become-
Jack goes quiet. As if he's waiting to hear something else. But nothing else comes. So: "When do I have to leave?"
"Depends on what the bastard decides."
"And… and I have to go away?"
"Probably. For a while. You'd be on his team like you were on ours."
"Oh." Silence. "And… and what about you?"
Aster turns down to the weeds again, plucking at a few stubborn ones and hoping the kid doesn't notice the way his fingers are shaking. "I'll live. I always live."
Jack nods. His voice breaks, "okay…" and he moves to fly away. Then, "do you want help?"
He doesn't. He's done this a million times. But Aster nods his head anyway. The two of them work side by side and pick at weeds (and the occasional flower) until the place looks a little less run down. He'd let it get that way. Ever since North had pulled Jack into his office, the Bunny had neglected all the basic things, and it showed. It always would show.
"Goodbye," says Jack, at the lip of his warren.
"Goodbye," says Bunny, standing just beyond it.
Jack sticks out his hand. Aster shakes it. The sprite turns around and flies, and the Rabbit let's the world swallow him whole just so he can pretends he can't hear the sounds of a heart breaking.
His name is Aster Bunnymund, and he can't sleep. Because whenever he closes his eyes, he can still see the way the world tore in half.
It's guilt. He doesn't do guilt. But here it is, fresh and ready and crafted just for him. Guilt and..
and something else.
Bunnymund knows what it is.
Bunnymund wont say because he's Bunnymund. But Jack is Jack, and Jack needs him. Jack needs him to be something other than himself. Jack needs...
Bunny turns on his side, and sleeps to the sound of a rip.
His name is Aster Bunnymund, and he's decided to fight.
The Leprechaun came for his bounty, his contract. And as Jack moves to go with him, ignoring Tooth's cries, Sandy's wobbling lip, North's own quiet admissions of guilt, he can only really notice when his arm is grabbed and he's torn backwards. Thrown behind the furry creature and blocked from sight.
"Oy. Tiny. You gotta problem here?"
Jack peers around the Rabbit at his jailor, who's gone red in the face. "Aster! What is the meaning of this."
"Our deal. It's done."
"I haven't gotten my prize-"
"And you won't. Not out of him, anyway."
"You made a deal."
"A long time ago."
"Deals still stand."
"So do trades."
"I don't trade, Rabbit." He moves to grab Jack, but Bunnymund moves again, sidestepping enough to block him. His boomerangs are out when the hands jolt again, and the littlest in the room jumps away. "How dare you!" The boomerangs twist. "You… you would fight me."
"I'd do a lot more than that, mate." Jack holds onto Bunny, his fingers gripping fur. Bunny reaches around and pinches his elbow, gently. Breathe. "Ye wanna make a deal? Make another deal. With me-"
"I want him."
"He's an arse. A young arse. Yee're not gonna get an ounce'a magic out'a this one."
"I saw him battle Pitch."
"You saw him use things he can't control."
Jack peeped, "He's right! I can't!" and Bunny clocked him.
"I'm stable. My magic is old. You wanna get yer bounty. Make it with me."
"Bunny…" Jack whispers against his spine. "No." Another pinch.
The Leprechaun thinks. Thinks. Thinks harder. Then nods. "Fine. A deal, then. Make me something I can't refuse. Then we'll talk."
Aster and him go off into the kitchen and shut the doors. The yeti's move past and press their ears to it at the bequest of a nervous North, but come back with nothing. Too quiet. Too little. Nothing, sir. Nothing at all.
"What if he can't do it?" Jack asks, holding his staff tight like a security blanket. "What if… what if he can't-"
"Bunny can do anyt'ing, Jack," says North. "Learn that now. Remember it forever. The question isn't if he can't. It's what if he can."
He can, of course. His name is Bunny and he has a kit to protect. And a rabbit always protects their young.
His name is Bunnymund, and he's given up two years of Easter.
"I might get small," he said, grumbling it from his place at the doorway. The Lebrechaun had sprung out the moment the oak doors had opened, and no one had even cared to go after him. "I might get tired, and old. But non'a ya are 'llowed to make fun."
"Never," promises North, grabbing his shoulder. "We do not make hero small."
Tooth titters "you did a good thing" in his ear, and kisses his cheek. He nods, smiles. Holds her hand for a moment too long, but she doesn't mind.
Sandy promises he'll help anyway he can, and Bunny is grateful.
He gives Jack the contract before the Sprite can say anything. His name is still on it, still signed with a confidence that Bunny can remember feeling. Can see from the loops and the spurs, and his insides tighten. "Tear it up. Burn it. I dun' care. It's yers now. Your life is yours. That's a right precious thing to know, Frostbite. So use it right."
"Bunny, you can't do this. I'm not-"
"Don't. Jack, don't."
So Jack doesn't.
Two stomps of his feet, and the Rabbit disappears.
His name is E. Aster Bunnymund, and he has no choice but to confront the child when said child is suddenly in his nest.
"Thank you…" says Jack, nestling himself at Bunny's side. The boy is shy, and quiet, and not at all like he usually is when they're out and about, fueled with attention and winter cheer and whatever else keeps his stupid motor going. Bunny looks up.
"S'fine. Anyone would'a done it."
"No they wouldn't have." Jack presses his brow against Asters side, and the motion is so uniquely Lapine that he has to wonder just how many times he's done it to the boy for it to catch on. "Thank you. I didn't want to leave."
"I wanna stay. With North and Tooth and Sandy."
Aster let himself drag the boy a little closer, hooking his arm around cool shoulders and thinning the space. "You weren't goin' anywhere, Frostbite. Yer with me, y'hear?"
"... you gave up Easter."
"I gave up two Easters. Thas'all. Bloody bastard wanted one, but if I'd say yes to that, you'd'of been his three months out of the year." Jack's breath hitches in. "You weren' goin' nowhere, Jack. Still not. Yer stuck."
(You're worth it, he doesn't say.
But hopes Jack can hear it all the same.)
Jack might. Jack does. And his voice is muffled under fur. "Promise?"
There isn't a hand to shake when thin arms whine around his middle. No one to tease or hark when the gruff creature of Spring reciprocates with an easy chinning across winters head. Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, everything translates.
"You're stayin' here," (mine). "You'll stay with us," (mine). "If ye'd like, I'll even let ya have one of the guest rooms," (mine). "We'll paint it this weekend. Hows that sound?" (mine mine mine).
Jack nods, and Bunnymund can feel it, sweeping his side. "... Perfect."
He's our child, said Tooth, spitting and angry. He's your child. And it had been so easy to flip his head and laugh. He chins Jack again.
"Perfect," says the Rabbit,
His name is E. Aster Bunnymund, and he's accidentally claimed his first, and only, child.