Sandy smiled to himself as he rested next to his horse, the white beast getting a well deserved drink from the cold mountain stream. The Prince had sprung back from the traumatizing injuries inflicted by Pitch (He chuckled; sealing away that power had been hard, but nobody could remove those gauntlets but himself or their late teacher), and could now walk with only a slight limp; the snowflakes in his torso healing nicely and no longer needing a bandage. It would scar, sadly, but would be easily covered with tattoo ink if desired. He felt a bubble of happiness as he heard Jack squeak, the horse eating some oats from his hand while Aster held his small hands flat. It was now the middle of winter, nearly a month and a half since they left on their quest. The cold weather had delayed them, putting them a week behind schedule, but now that the milder winter of the valley was their obstacle, they should reach the palace by Christmas in three days time.
Three days left for them to admit it. Sandy sighed. He heard Jack that first night three weeks ago, and he knew that he had been trying over and over. While his conscience was a little heavy being their saboteur, his mind still raged at Aster's cowardice, or perhaps ignorance. At this point he wasn't sure which. Silently he brushed the small rainbow feather in his pocket, the aged feather well preserved from the wild days.
Don't worry Tooth. He's a good man. Jack will be happy with him.
"Oi Sandy!" Sandy looked up, seeing Aster place Jack on the back of the horse. "We're burning day light! You ready?" Sandy nodded, hoping up and climbing aboard his horse. He didn't miss Jack's smile as Aster wrapped an arm around his waist, helping him stay on while he grabbed the reins.
He had to admit; a cute couple they did make.
"He'll be back." Pippa sighed, looking at Sophie's smiling face as she hung up garland around the small house, Jamie having gone out for a tree. "Aster is tough. Just you wait; any day now he'll be marching through that door with something pretty on his arm."
"Sophie, he's on a rescue." Sighed Pippa. "For almost two months now…Please let them be safe. And he's protecting the Prince! No time for romance!" Sophie sighed.
"And who do you think will be hanging on his arm?" she said smugly, grinning. "Why else would he go gallivanting off in the middle of winter? He goes into hibernation when it gets cold. A man's got to do what a man's got to do, namely when it comes to his Snowflake."
"If he catches you saying that, he'll kill you." Said Pippa with a small laugh, giving Sophie a half-hearted stern glare.
"Doesn't change the fact it's true~" Pippa sighed as Sophie snickered to herself, picking up her knitting once again. Pippa carefully climbed off the ladder, smoothing her skirt before lugging the contraption away. After wrestling the thing back into the cluttered closet, she took a moment to admire her handiwork as Jamie came in, lugging a small but sturdy looking evergreen by the trunk. A bit of snow hit the ground as Jamie fastened it into it's holder, Pippa picking up the water bucket for the tree.
"Are you sure you're alright?" asked Pippa. "Your back can't take much strain. PLEASE tell me you got help."
"Just took it a bit slower." Sighed Jamie, sitting down next to his sister. Sophie smiled, leaning against her older brother while she knitted. "I don't know…things have been bothering me since Aster left…Maybe we should hire one of the village boys to help out on the farm, maybe sell…"
"You love the farm." Said Pippa. "Why on Earth do you want to sell it?!"
"We just can't take care of it." sighed Jamie. "Not without Aster…We're holding him down, Pippa. He may love it here too, but you know he gave up painting to help us and withdrew from everyone else. You know he's never wanted to be a farmer, and he has the talent to get higher in life. We had a damn good run, but we just can't keep it running."
"You worry to much." Laughed Sophie. "I have a feeling things are about to get better for all of us. Now-Huh. The Church bells are ringing. No funeral or marriage today…" Jamie and Pippa poked their heads out the door, seeing a few villagers running up the street.
"Hey! Monty!" the thin blond child stopped as Jamie called, panting. "What's the fuss?"
"Aster's back!" he said breathlessly before breaking into a run. Jamie had his coat back on in a flash, Pippa and Sophie yelling something about a big stew, and raced as fast as his aging bones could carry him to town. As he finally reached the square, two white horses had stopped for the small crowd. Sandy was still on top of the horse bringing up the rear, but the blue clad rider of the first was slipping down the saddle towards gloved hands. He wove through the people until finally he came through in time to see Aster settle the rider on his feet.
"Your majesty!" Shocked whispers and murmurs spread like ripples through the townsfolk, people dropping to their knees throughout the crowd until the only upright beings were the horses, Sandy, the prince, Aster and Jamie. Before his mind could comprehend his actions, Jamie had his arms wrapped around his only son, half dragging the Prince into the bear hug.
"You know your Mother is going to kill you for getting so thin." Snorted Jamie, earning a barking laugh from Aster and a shy giggle from the Prince. It seemed the stupor over the crowd had been lifted, and loud hoots and cheers filled the air. The mayor climbed up on the town hall podium, yelling for all to hear.
"In honor of his majesty, tonight we feast!" declared the mayor, cheers going up through the crowd.
"What's a feast?" asked Jack quietly. Aster laughed.
"Trust me Snowflake, it'll be right up yer alley." Nobody noticed a scrappy looking boy run into the alley, tugging on a well dressed man's tunic.
"The prince arrived." He said, smiling. The man nodded, dark blue eyes narrowing.
"Well done." He tossed a bag of coins at the boy and watched him run off before turning his attention back to the Prince and company. The man stared at the slim prince being led down the road to the Bunnymund Farm. He stopped as Sandy glared at him, silently telling him to remain silent.
"Bah." Huffed the man. "Whatever you say, boss."