Soooo, that was a long wait. I have no excuse except that Real Life sucks and my muses were nowhere to be found.
Aster drained the tub with one hand while towelling off with the other, watching the water swirl down the drain with a frown. Post-coital bliss was pretty much a thing of the past ever since Jack-freaking-Frost had taken up residence in Aster's head full time. Usually he'd at least get a half-hour of naptime in after a good screaming orgasm like the one he'd just had, but now it was only a half-second reprieve from the thoughts tearing about his brain like a collection of moths around a candle. He'd hoped that soothing his physical urges would take the edge off, but he still felt gritty and raw, like sand under his skin just knowing that the boy was out there, likely pissed as hell for the scene in the kitchen and looking for a fight. Arguing with Jack had always gotten Aster's blood running, although never before in a sexual way, and he found himself groaning and rubbing at his temples at the very thought. The last thing he needed right now was another excuse for his body to yet again revolt against his better sense. Stupid penis; Aster was most definite no longer on speaking terms with that particular appendage. At least not until such a time that it decided to smarten up and knock that shit off. Seriously, Aster couldn't imagine a more ill-advised romance then himself and Jack; unless of course Pitch got involved somehow. And there was an erection-killer if ever there was one; the thought of Pitch Black was unsexy in the absolute. Aster filed the thought away in the back of his mind for the next time he found himself awkwardly and unavoidably aroused. Which knowing his luck would probably be in about ten seconds, when he walked out the bathroom door to find Jack and attempt to downplay the breakfast thing, or better yet ignore it outright, if Jack would let him get away with it. The less he had to discuss and dwell on his moments of lustful weakness, the better.
Scrubbing more furiously with the towel, Aster declared himself dry enough. While he thoroughly enjoyed the act of bathing; finding both the hot water and scented bath products calming and soothing, dealing with wet fur afterward definitely put a damper on some of the enjoyment. Aster allowed himself to shake once, mostly to help fluff his fur up for faster air-drying then to actually dislodge any remaining water droplets, but he was still pleased at the fine mist that filled the air regardless. It would be a bitch to clean up later, but he was kind of a large animal in a few small but notable ways and while he disliked admitting to it, it was just satisfying to give a good shake after a bath, so sue him. Aster carelessly tossed the towel onto the rack by the door; stepping out in a cloud of steam and leaving the door open a crack behind him to allow the rest of the steam to disperse. He stalked out past the kitchen, noting with a small amount of shock that Jack had actually taken the time to wash up after the aborted meal, and continued out to the garden. He half-heartedly yanked weeds for the next couple of hours, letting his hands work on autopilot as he turned this morning's encounter with Jack over and over in his mind like fifteen year old girl with a crush. Actually, more like a zillion year old alien bipedal lagomorph with a crush on a fifteen year old boy, which wasn't the least bit disconcerting at all, thank you brain and body for you marvelous contribution to Aster's declining sanity.
Aster sighed to himself, finally giving up on the weeding and deciding to break for lunch. Wherever the kid had gotten too, he was probably getting hungry too, and it was better to keep him fed then to let him get himself run down and sickly all over again. He stood slowly, suddenly feeling all of his countless years. He stretched carefully, enjoying the tug and pull of stiff muscles, and yawned widely. The sleeping on the couch thing had to end, for sure. He hadn't had a good night's rest in ages, and it was doing nothing for his mood or his behavior, admittedly. Jack was feeling better now; maybe he could talk the kid into a time-share for the nest? Scratching his ribs idly as he thought it over, Aster figured it couldn't' hurt to ask. They'd probably wind up fighting about it, but they fought about everything else, so why not? Aster ignored the traitorous little voice in the back of his head that suggested sharing the nest would work better if they were both in there at the same time. From a logical standpoint, the nest was far big enough for both of them to sleep without even touching, but Aster's sneaky libido kept whispering about how close all that pale, delicate flesh would be if Jack agreed, and Aster knew it would be a terrible idea in practise, if only for the hell it would play on his self-control. Secondly, Jack would never agree anyways, so what did it matter? Aster ignored the brief flare of disappointment at the thought. It was one thing to have a strange inexplicable attraction to his teammate, and another thing entirely to have those feelings start to run deeper.
Upon entering his home, Aster was immediately titillated by a strange, quiet noise coming from the kitchen. It sounded like a voice, only more melodic with words and a tune and hey, there was singing in his kitchen. Singing. In Aster's kitchen. And only one person who could be the culprit, unless North had suddenly lost his accent and taken up country music karaoke as a hobby. Summoned almost against his will by the unexpected noise, Bunny came down the hall and around the corner, only to confirm that Jack was indeed singing, albeit quietly to himself as he cooked. Bunny blinked, taking in Jack's presence at the stove with no small amount of surprise. The cooking was beyond strange, in and of itself, but the soft yet passionate vocals were even more fascinating. Aster found himself staring for several long moments, transfixed in a way he couldn't rightly explain. He'd never heard Jack sing before, obviously, and it appeared the boy was no slouch; his timbre was deep and pleasant, with a gentle cowboy twang that worked well with the song. Aster wondered briefly if Jack always sounded a little bit country when he sang, or if it was affected just for this particular song. The tune came to an end after a minute, and Jack's voice tapered off into a more tuneless humming. Aster shuffled his feet, attempting to pan and entrance that wouldn't' declare that he'd been hovering in the doorway eavesdropping, but the scuff of dirt floor beneath his feet was glaring loud in the silence and Jack whipped around, startled. Their eyes met for a moment; Jack looking about as guilty as Aster felt, and for a second he worried that he's actually interrupted some kind of poisoning attempt, which was absurd as there were no toxic plants or substances allowed in the Warren on general principle, and Aster's nose was strong enough to detect most forms of tampering regardless. He sniffed once delicately, just in case, but all he could smell was some kind of soup-type thing, with what must have been a tomato base. Vegetarian chili maybe? Whatever it was, his mouth was already watering. Realising suddenly that Jack was still staring at him, like maybe he was about to bring the burrow crashing down onto the Frost spirit via the power of his rage at catching him in the kitchen, Aster found himself leaning as casually as he could against the door jamb, arms crossing even though his dirty hands were smearing mud against his chest and forearms. He'd be rising off before eating anyways, and right now he was more focused on stopping the kid from bolting.
"You have a halfway decent singing voice." It was somewhere halfway between a statement and a question, the words surprising himself considering Aster didn't recall having giving his mouth permission to say them. Jack for his part looked just as surprised that he'd been overheard, and Aster cursed at himself internally for admitting as much, even indirectly.
'Um, thanks?" Jack said quizzically, sounding for the entire world like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It was also worth noting, Aster thought, that Jack's usual knee-jerk sass seemed to be conspicuously absent. Narrowing his eyes briefly in the direction of the pot Jack was still stirring, Aster vowed to be extra cautious before eating. If Jack had indeed cooked with the intention of sharing, Aster would be double-checking his portion for any additives, as he had no intention of getting caught in some stupid prank that would have him in the john with the runs for the next week. Realizing that Jack was waiting for him to speak, Aster found himself hastily blurting his reply.
"Only when you aren't deliberately being and arsehole at the top of your lungs, like you were before, I mean." Bunny clarified a little awkwardly, in case there was any confusion on Jack's end as to his absolute meaning. Jack raised one eyebrow in response, a slow smirk settling onto his lips.
"Well shucks Bun-Bun! You sure do know how to sweep a boy off his feet, saying such pretty things like that!" Jack had adopted a perfect hillbilly drawl for his reply; clasping his hands girlishly beneath his chin and blinking his eyes coquettishly at the Pooka. The sight was so ridiculous it was all Bunny could do to keep a straight face, the corner of his lip twitching a bit as he was torn between annoyance and laughter. Jack must have noticed, because something about the edges of his expression softened just a little. Well look at that, Aster thought absently, he's almost handsome when he's not being diabolical little shit-disturber. Aster shrugged off the thought like water, unwilling to let it take root when right in front of the object of his turmoil. Nothing good could come of letting his confusion and certain attraction be known, after all.
"Gotta ask though mate, why country? Woulda pegged you for one of those ridiculous pop music fans." Aster walked into the room as he spoke, passing Jack as casually as if they did this every day, ignoring the wary tautness of the other, and the prickling of his own skin at the frost spirit's nearness. He crossed the room to the sink, washing the worst of the mud off himself quickly, and then reached for the upper cabinet to his right, collecting a hand-carved wood bowl for each of them and setting them on the table. He was partway through filling a pitcher of water and grabbing two glasses when Jack finally spoke; voice soft and careful.
"Dunno really, I just like it? It isn't that weird." There was a hint of defensiveness in his tone; like a man expecting to get kicked in the ribs while he was down, and Aster couldn't blame him. Most of their few personal confessions had in the past usually been exalted as signs of weakness and capitalized on in the endless mockery that was their standard interactions. Aster tucked the knowledge away, for either weapon or something else he did not yet know, but he'd hold on to that nugget the way he had all other tiny, nearly insignificant details he'd learned over the years about the younger male before him. If there was one thing he knew about their interactions and the unspoken rules of engagement therein, it was that anything they learned could and would be used against the other, but would never become public knowledge. Their griefs with each other were old, but they were their own and no interference from outside parties would be permitted or tolerated. It was the world's ugliest version of 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,' except replace Vegas with 'Aster and Jack's epic hatefest.' Essentially, they had declared monopoly on treating each other like shit, and no one else on Earth was allowed the privilege. Even just remembering Pitch's casual dismissal of Jack in Tooth's Palace a few months back was enough to set Aster's blood to boiling. Never mind that he'd said far worse on a more frequent basis, and taken just as horrible right back, it was the principle of the thing. Jack as Aster's to torment alone, and if the boy tormented him in return, well that was just the status quo.
Only now, the torment had become something Jack didn't even have an active part in; Aster realized as he watched the boy serve their meal wordlessly. He admired the thin, fine bones of Jack's wrists as the deftly ladled the thick soup into the bowls and returned to pot to the stove. He took the same chair as he had that morning, eying Aster almost warily as he settled into his own seat. He took initiative to fill both water glasses, inclining his head slightly to Jack when the boy mumbled a thank you. The first bite was almost heavenly. Vegetarian chili indeed! Aster counted peas and corn and beans of several different kinds, the tomato base sharp and just spicy enough to tease. He made a pleased humming noise in the back of his throat and began to tuck in with vigour. He noticed however that Jack, while no less enthusiastic had at least made an attempt at remembering basic table manners. It was almost nice, Aster mused, eating together like this. Sure they weren't yet comfortable enough to manage actual conversation, but Jack had at least recalled that sleeves were not napkins and that slurping away was only attractive in some parts of Asia. The meal passed quickly in such a fashion, as they were both obviously famished and made short work of the delicious meal. Aster found himself muttering a compliment in Jack's general direction as he headed to the sink to clean up, but instead found himself shooed back out the door to work with Jack's insistence that he'd do it himself.
Gaping stupidly at the door that had just been shut in his face, Aster found himself standing perplexed on his own doorstep for long enough that the singing started up again, if more distant and muffled than before. Snapping back to himself, Aster turned and headed back to the garden, digging furiously for weeds with renewed energy. He was baffled as to what had caused the unexplainable turnabout in Jack's behavior. The kid had been downright helpful, and not even grudgingly so. Aster pondered the change for a while longer, switching between the beds as needed almost mindlessly. What could have possibly encouraged the boy to not only make himself useful, but to do so in an almost polite, if hesitant way? Aster turned a few ideas over in his head, but discarded each one as more and more ludicrous. No, there was no trick here, at least not one that was immediately obvious. The food had been safe to eat, and in fact delicious, and Jack's offer to tidy up after was genuine, if overbearing. The boy was up to something, there was no doubt of it at all, but Aster couldn't figure out as to what. After all, it wasn't like the kid to just up and decide to kill him with kindness or something; there history was far too long and colourful for that, after all. Well, whatever it was, Aster would get to the bottom of it in no time flat. He'd been around for far too long to have the wool pulled over his eyes by some chump little upstart, even if it was clever little Frost.
Aster switched beds again, brushing aside the niggling at the back of his head that was encouraging him to think about Jack puttering about his burrow, cleaning and cooking and just generally caring for his space, and therefore himself in ways that were usually more romantic than not, in Pooka-culture. Jack had no way of knowing what he was doing and the weird kink he was currently hitting, and Aster had no intention of letting him know, ever. The resulting fallout didn't even merit contemplating, to be honest. The idea percolated momentarily that maybe that was what had happened; that somehow Jack had caught on to Aster's silly little crush on his fellow Guardian, but he dismissed it straight off. For all his uncharacteristic behavior, he'd still managed to be discrete. No, Jack wouldn't have caught on, at least not yet. The mental image of Jack as he'd been in Aster's nest the morning he'd caught him fresh out of his erotic dream filtered into his psyche in bright, lurid detail. Huffing, Aster pushed it aside, returning his focus to the weeds dying beneath his fingertips. No, Jack was a normal, horny teenager, no secret about it. The boy couldn't possible have some secret seduction tucked away in his back pocket, just waiting for an unsuspecting victim like Aster himself. No, whatever the boy's hidden agenda Aster would find out, and come out on top if it was the last thing he did. It was hard to ignore the gnawing feeling in his belly that maybe; just maybe, this would be a game that somehow Aster was going to lose.