Author's Note: This is a sequel to my story, For the Kids, go read that first!
Aster stepped back from the canvas and gave an appreciative grin before turning to look at the extremely boarded female sprawled across his bed and ask, "What'd ya think?"
Ana didn't even bother to look at the painting, choosing to reinterpret the question instead. "I think you should call Jack, since, you know, he actually likes watching you paint."
A crimson flush stole over tan skin and Aster looked away from his smirking companion before gruffly replying, "Jack's busy."
Ana sat up and crossed her arms, her smirk transforming into a frown. "Aster, what's going on? Did you two fight or something?"
"Nothing's going on! I… just drop it, okay?" Aster hunched his shoulders, pointedly ignoring the pitying gaze of his violet eyed companion, and returned to painting. With a sigh, Ana pushed herself off of the bed and came to stand behind him, then wrapped her thin arms around his torso and leaned her head against his back, feeling him reluctantly relaxing into her touch.
"Aster, come on, tell me what's wrong?"
The artist removed his brush from the canvas and struck it into a cup of water, gently swirling it around in the clear liquid and watching as the paint created swirls of frosty blue that turned his traitorous thoughts to the captivating eyes of a certain albino. Once the brush was clean, he removed it from the water and tenderly dried it on a rag before whispering, "Alright."
Ana let go of him and returned to her seat on the bed, patting the spaced beside her expectantly. Aster sunk down onto the spot and rested his head against his right hand, tilting it to the side so that he could look at her. After a moment's hesitation, he nervously began, "I thought I could control myself around him, but then New Year's happened and now… now I think he knows. I just can't… I don't … oh, you know!"
Ana had stopped listening at the words "New Year's," focusing instead on trying to figure out what event at the Wilder's New Year's party could have caused Aster to think Jack knew about his little crush. She couldn't think of anything he'd done in front of Jack other than, wait, "Oh you've got to be kidding me. That's what has you acting so weird?"
Aster's room, normally the picture of pristine neatness, was a mess of scattered clothing and he still didn't know what to wear. With a frustrated groan, the Australian teen slumped down amidst the chaos and slowly ran a hand down his face. This was not going well.
The banging of little hands pounding against his door drew his gaze away from the mess as a toddler's voice cried out, "Aster! Aster! Let Sophie in!"
The teen smiled, stood up, and pulled the door open before scooping up his baby sister as Sophie let out a happy squeal of delight and wrapped her chubby arms around his neck. Once he'd been properly hugged, Aster deposited the toddler back on the ground and said, "Sorry, Soph, I need to finish getting dressed before I can play."
Sophie tilted her head to the side, took in her brother's outfit, and then giggled. "Aster need pants."
"Yeah, I know ya lil' ankle-bitter. I need a shirt, too." He replied absentmindedly as he scanned the clothing warzone before him.
Before he could choose another outfit to reject, Sophie was rushing into the mess and grabbing a pair of jeans. She examined the garment for a moment and then held them out to her brother with a cry of "These!"
Aster looked at the jeans and shrugged. Why not, it wasn't like he was going to be able to pick an outfit by himself. Once the jeans had been pulled over his lanky form and properly buttoned, Aster crouching down to his baby sister's level and asked, "Okay, what else, Soph? It's gotta look really good on me."
The little girl nodded, clearly understanding the seriousness of her task, and began to dig through the piles of clothing. After rejecting several of the paint splattered t-shirts that dominated her brother's wardrobe, she finally held up a wrinkled, hunter green, button down shirt that was miraculously unaffected by his artistic pursuits. He took the shirt from her with mild amusement. It seemed like Sophie's latest obsession with dress-ups actually had its uses. Then he frowned. A two year old was doing a better job of dressing him in three minutes than he had in the last hour. How pathetic was that?
"Emerson Aster Wilder, what in the world happened in here?"
Aster whirled around at the loud exclamation, only to find that his mother was standing in the doorway, staring in shock at the state of his room.
"Just trying to look my best for the party, mom," he replied with a sheepish grin as Sophie made her way through the clutter to her mother's side.
Once there, she hugged the woman's leg and looking up at her with wide, green eyes as she said, "Sophie help!"
Mrs. Wilder picked up the child and nuzzled her nose. "I bet you did, sweetie. Now you're going to come with me and get all dressed up while your brother cleans up this rat's nest."
Sophie giggled and nodded as their mother gave Aster a pointed look and left the room.
Once they were gone, Aster sighed and began to pick up the mess.
"Don't you look nice," Ana commented as she entered Aster's freshly cleaned room. "One might even think you're trying to impress someone."
Aster blushed, refusing to look at her as he stared at his reflection, trying to simultaneously ignore her and decide if his hair was neat enough. Maybe it was a bad idea to go without one of his bandanas; Jack might notice something was up. That thought made him sigh in annoyance. Bloody hell, when had he started acting like a love struck puppy? He'd thought he had this crush thing under control. Apparently not.
Ana smiled at his obvious nervousness and she moved to stand by her friend's side before taking his hand in hers and dragging him away from the mirror saying, "Come on, stop worrying, silly. I'm sure your Romeo will be here and looking for you soon enough. Now let's head out there so you can be there to greet him, unless you were hoping for some alone time and wanted to wait for him back here?"
Aster's blush deepened at the suggestive tone of his friend's words and he let out a whine of, "Ana, you promised."
"I promised not to tell anyone, but I made no such promise about making you blush."
"Promise not tell anyone what? Aster, have you been keeping secrets?" The bickering pair stopped their feud and look towards the source of the familiar voice. Leaning against the wall of the hallway they'd just entered was Jack Frost, Aster's crush. The white haired teen had obviously dressed up for the event, trading his normal outfit of ratty jeans and a hoodie for formal black pants, a dark-blue button-down shirt, and a formal, black jacket.
Aster thought he looked incredible.
"Only the secret that he's a total let down at parties!" Ana replied quickly, glaring mockingly at the teen whose hand was clasped in her own. "Look at this, even I have to drag him out of his room!"
Jack laughed and pushed off the wall, grabbing Aster's free hand in his pale one, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "Well then, allow me to offer a helping hand."
Ana grinned at the albino as Aster's blush deepened and, together, they pulled the Australian down the hall towards the sound of voices and music.
The three teen's plan to sit around and gorge themselves on cookies in the kitchen was quickly sidetracked by the appearance of Sophie and Baby, Ana's little sister, both of whom begged Jack and the others to come and play with them. A demand the trio found hard to resist due to the irresistible powers of wide eyes and pouting lips.
So it was that Aster found himself following after Jack into his family's playroom where the snowy-haired teen immediately bent down and asked the little girls, "So, what are we playing?"
"House!" Baby decided and Sophie readily agreed as Jack nodded sagely, treating the decree with the upmost respect.
"An excellent choice, Baby. What are our roles?"
After a moment's consideration, Baby pointed at Jack and proclaimed "You get to be the daddy!" just as Sophie pointed at Aster and cried, "Aster daddy!"
An argument immediately began.
"Jack should be the daddy, I said it first and playing house was my idea!"
"No, Aster daddy!"
Before things could get ugly, Jack moved over to Aster's side and wrapped his arms around the Australian's neck, leaning his head against the taller teen's shoulder as he said, "That's okay girls, we can both be the daddy."
Shocked, Aster immediately shook Jack off and stepped back, staring at him with a growing blush as the little girls giggled.
Jack laughed along with them and didn't comment on the action, but he didn't try to touch Aster again all night and had given his friend several odd glances throughout the evening.
"Aster," Ana said in a comforting voice that made Aster feel like a child, "I doubt Jack even remembers that you shrugged him off like that."
"You do, though!"
"First off, I'm a girl and we pay attention to tiny details. Secondly, even if he does remember, he's a boy and that means he's at least somewhat emotionally stunted and has no clue how to pick up on subtle cues. Thirdly, on the off chance he both remembers and actually realizes what's going on, you can always make it all better and just ask him out."
Aster shook his head and crossed his arms. "No, no way. I am not degrading myself like that."
The motherly Ana was suddenly replaced by a fierce one. "Degrading yourself? Seriously?"
She abruptly stood up and stalked to the door, but stopped with her hand on the knob. "Aster, you're my best friends and I'll listen to you, but you need to bring that ego down a few pegs if you ever want Jack. And next time you want someone to watch you paint for three hours, ask the one person who both we know actually likes doing it."
Then she was gone and Aster was falling back onto his bed as he let out a groan. Ask Jack out? Not bloody likely.