-Hey everyone! So, instead of posting one-shots as separate stories, I've decided to keep them within this story so that you guys would get the updates. I'm writing these because you guys asked, and I felt that a few little snippits of Aster and Astrid's past and her and Pitch's relationship past, present, and future couldn't hurt! Feel free to suggest any one-shots, and I'll be doing these strictly on an inspiration-basis, so not as regular as the actual series was. This will be around the time turned seven, and then jump into the present. Enjoy!-
"The boys said something odd today." I mentioned curiously, Aster's arms raised up high as he cinched the rough rope tightly to the tree, the other end snaking down somewhere amoungst the green leaves that creeped up its trunk, ending somewhere hidden under the foliage under our own feet.
"Oi, boys'll do that sheila. Don' suppose it get's any betta' with age, eitha'." He threw back, voice slightly strained as he reached up higher to make sure the rope would stay and whatever wild animal it found would not tear it from the tree easily. I shifted the empty basket in my arms, the coarse material rubbing my arms, a slight tone of boredom in the afternoon.
"But this time it was really odd. Very hushed, as if tha others weren't supposed to hear. They said something 'bout how I might never really learn how ta live my life correctly because I didn't have a father or a motha'." I mentioned airily, thinking back on the incident and the worried looks in my friends faces, their heads tilting as I scrunched up my face. I wasn't quite sure what they meant, and once the two youngests' mother walked over to see what all the fuss was about they dropped the subject quickly, and we went on playing in the grass.
But their words had started something in my mind. Something about me and the other village children, something that separated me from them. I knew I was a bit different, somehow, but it hadn't been until that moment, those boys' hushed whispers, that I'd truly realized what, exactly, it was.
I noticed an odd silence and looked up from my feet, seeing Aster suddenly tensed, the muscles in his back shifting under tanned skin, his hands straying down the tree as if descending in thought. He did not turn to look at me, but I could well place the tension in his voice as he asked finally,
"...What boys said that?" I tilted my head, confused at the slight angry tone in his voice, at the struggle it took to speak, and wondered if I'd said something wrong or offensive towards him. When I didn't answer immediatly, he turned, and when he did I saw a look on his face I'd never seen before, a look on the normally calm or serious face of my brother, skin normally smooth now taught and tense. I saw something in his jaw shift, as if switching into a different position to allow for the emotion to show.
His eyes were dark, and he'd forgotten all about the trap, and I was beginning to feel a bit bad, as if he were angry at me.
"Which ones said tha', Astrid." Oh yes, he only said my name if he were really, truly angry. I shrunk back a bit and pushed out my lip absentmindedly, not meaning to offend him or anger him, just wanting to ask a simple question that I myself saw no immediate harm in.
"Just boys! Aster, it's nothing horrible, honestly! Don't know why you're getting so upset, I just wanted to know why we don't have a motha and father like that other kids?" I asked defensively, grip tightening on the basket. In my own mind it was a simple question, an observation that I wondered if Aster knew the answer to. If it hadn't been brought up before, obviously it couldn't be that important for Aster to act like the boys had just told me something mean or nasty.
After I spoke I saw something shift in Aster's face, saw his eyes widen a bit and his jaw loosen, mouth opening a bit as if he were going to say something but his face was to relaxed to give the effort. He looked as if I'd just told him something sad, almost, with that look in his eyes. And again I felt bad, frowning and saying quickly,
"I didn't mean to make you sad, big brother! I was just wondering, but if it's that awful you don't have to." He took in a breath, eyes flickering over me as if just realizing I was there, and he tensed as if unsure what to say or do. And I waited, watching these emotions flicker across his face, until he finally closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, letting it out loudly through his nose. He was acting rather strange, which only made me crave my answer more and less.
His eyes flickered open to meet mine, and he had this finality in his eyes, a decision. His hands reached forwards and one rough palm found my cheek, the other the side of my head and pushing my hair from my face, a smile that was happy but sad on his face as he looked over my eyes. I waited rather impatiently for him to finally begin.
"...Astrid, we did have a motha' and fatha'. 'Course we did, 'else you wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be here. And they were just like all the otha' parents in the village, 'cept our fatha' was a bit of a troublemaka' and our motha' was calm and beautiful. Guess ya got a little bit more a' fatha' in ya. Those two weren't really the first two lovers you'd expect, but parents nonetheless."
"So what happened to them?" I asked, unaware of how brutal the question actually was. Aster winced quickly, but recovered before I could question him any further. He bit his lip a bit, took a steadying breath, and continued to look over my face as he spoke, as if the words were written there for him.
"...They got...sick. Yeah, real sick, right afta' ya were born. And they...they passed to somewhere else, somewhere they wouldn't be sick no more. Don' know where exactly, they neva' said. It was fast, their sickness, but they wanted ta make sure we were well taken-care of by the otha's. That's why the otha parents help out with ya when I'm gone, keep ya outta trouble.
"...But before they left, they gave me somethin'. Somethin' I'll neva ferget." He said, this time his smile almost entirely happy, me silent and listening, curiosity being both ebbed and ignited as he spoke. When he finally spoke again, he was sighing and voice steady, "They gave me you, anklebita'."
"Me?" I asked, "Well that's an odd gift." He laughed and now his smile was much happier, nose crinkling a bit as he said, hands never leaving my face,
"Yeah, odd!...But fer good reason. They knew they couldn' be here ta teach ya anythin' when ya grew up, none of tha' important basic stuff at least. They knew the cookin' and weavin' could be taught by otha' women, and huntin' and history came from me an' the elders, but they wanted ta make sure ya were safe. That's me. That's what they wanted me ta do, protect ya...
"But what those boys said was wrong. There's a level of things otha's can teach ya that yer parents don't have ta. Even without, ya got more love an' affection and learnin' than even those with parents ever could. What they were talkin' 'bout...that can't be taught. Yer life is made up of more than what otha's can teach ya, it's 'bout yer own decisions and what ya can teach yerself.
"Our mum said somethin' 'bout ya right when she first laid eyes on ya: 'This child of mine is special. She will not be like the rest. Her life will be great.'. An' ya know what? I think she's right. I think yer gonna have one wild ride, Astrid. Don't you let anyone eva' tell ya anythin' differently. Yer special, and ya do special, wonderful things."
"What will you do with your life?" He laughed and leaned forward, kissing my forehead and pulling me to him, the basket all that was separating us.
"Keepin' ya outta trouble, I figure." He teased, and though I laughed I shook my head.
"No, I think you'll do something much easier. Like painting. I think you'll be very good at painting, and you and Bunnymund can paint things for children to make them happy when they feel they need to be happy." I reasoned, and he huffed in amusement.
"Bunnymund's a bunny, anklebita'. Bunnies can't paint." He teased, tapping the back of my head. I shrugged, looking into the basket and seeing the small bunny sleeping soundly, quick breaths and a happy little face.
"You never know. Maybe they can."
-Centuries Later, In A Clearing In The Forest-
"So basically I died like, what, three times? Well, technically maybe only two, but I figure if you get to die more than once in your life you must have had one hell of a life, right? I mean it beat death, and not just that, but that whole thing that I told you about with Aster and the others, and that Hal guy, and MiM... I mean that wasn't easy, definitly not easy, but the funny thing is...it was worth it.
"I mean I had all these pretty cool adventures, and I got to see the world grow into all these awesome things, and I'll get to see the rest of it maybe if I can keep myself out of trouble. I mean Aster tries, but let's be serious, he wasn't that good at it before anyways. Speaking of Aster, him and I have kind of...I don't know, mended fences? It's not like it was before, not all the time. There are still things we have to remember, things we have to learn again, and some things will never come easily again...but it's okay.
"Because we still have each other, right? That's what you guys wanted. In the end, you got it...and I hope you got that other thing you wanted, too. I mean...I tried really hard to give it to you. Sometimes it was hard, real hard, but I think I did pretty okay for the circumstances I was given. Over all those years...for awhile I thought I wasn't exactly doing as good as I thought I could.
"A lot of times I thought back and I wondered...well, I mean my company wasn't always what you'd probably approve of, and my actions weren't always innocent, and I'm not that sweet girl you might have envisioned me becoming, but when you chalk it all up in the end I did some good! I've got these great friends now, I think you'd have liked them, and Aster and I are getting better, and now there are these two little kids, Jamie and Sophie, their great and they can see me and they kind of remind me of Aster and me when we were little. I think you'd have liked them, too.
"And I guess I kind of have a pet now, with that nightmare and the butterfly not exactly wanting to dissipate and just kind of being with each other all the time. And I help out with holidays, I make kids happy, and I'm learning how to sew from Tooth, who's this really pretty woman with wings that kind of talks a lot, but I like her, and I go on all these cool trips with everyone, and I live in this super cool castle-thingy underground, and I found out a way to use that gift I got for good, and I'm a lot happier now than I used to be, and MiM and I are starting to almost get along, and I learned how to cook from North who's this big, loveable guy, and then there's Pitch and, well...I think you guys would have liked him, too, once you got to know him...
"...And I just hope you guys are proud of the choices I made. I mean I made them for me, but you guys too...and I miss you. A lot."
They were silent, but then again had they answered I'd have probably been more concerned. Anthrapamorphic bunnies I could handle, but talking trees was pushing it a bit. Instead, they just towered over me, not too tall but not as short as the two on the hill. Dark pink and indigo blue leaves fell from them as the wind stirred through the forest, the filtered sunlight peeking over trees to watch me talk to inanimate objects.
But it was long overdue, and with everything going on, I felt like maybe they'd appreciate me filling them in on a few things. And strangely, though inside I knew they probably couldn't hear and that I was just talking to trees, I felt...almost better, lighter, as if I'd made that connection and they did hear me, and maybe, for the first time, I'd told them something to be proud about.
"So, this is Mr. and Mrs. Mund."
I jumped at the voice, turning my head as I sat on the grass, seeing Pitch standing there as if he'd been there the whole time, looking up at the trees with a leveled and indifferent frown and his hands folded behind his back. I felt a feeling of embarrasement, of humiliation that made me tense up a bit and want to crawl away somewhere, wondering how much he'd heard, what he thought about me talking to treese. I mean he'd seen weirder things...but not really from me.
This was something I'd always done in private, something I didn't exactly do a whole lot, just when I needed...I don't know, when I needed to talk to someone. A parent. It was a very private, very...open moment of vunerability, and some part of me was angry with myself for probably staying out later than normal, causing Pitch to come look for me...and the other part was terrified of what he'd think, of his reaction to something a bit personal for me...
He stood silent for a moment, looking up at them, and I waited in fear and embarrasement, neither saying a word. He watched the trees, I watched him. My heart pounded in my chest, but he looked just as calm as ever, emotions unreadable, shadows on the hem of his robe missing, calm. And I waited for what felt like an eternity.
And then he sat down next to me and greeted politely,
"It's lovely to finally meet both of you. Your daughter has failed to introduce us, I'm afraid. I am Kozmotis Pitchiner, but you may know me as Pitch. I have had the distict pleasure of caring for your daughter for these past few centuries, and I feel glad to inform you that she had formed into a lovely young woman, and I would very much enjoy having permission to continue courting her. I'm afraid it is much too late to ask permission to love her, but in light of recent acquaintance, I hope you accept what I can offer."
I had embarrased myself enough to be able to tell myself that, under no circumstances what-so-ever, I would not tear up. I swallowed the lump in my throat, blinked several times until I could see clearly, and thanked Pitch silently for being entirely focused on the two trees before us, the two that stuck out the most in the forest. I looked at him for a few moments, seeing an easy, gentlemanly smirk across his face, as if charming the parents before taking the girl out on a date.
And shit he was beautiful, and I didn't just mean his outward appearance. And it was a tad bit embarrasing. Not having him walk in on the conversation, not that. It was how I was feeling that unique something, how I was falling into this whatever-it-was, all over again, all in front of my parents.
A breeze blew past, and suddenly more petals began falling from the trees, raining gently over the both of us, twirrling and dancing in the abrupt and gentle breeze. Almost as if in response. Pitch's smirk quirked up a bit and he looked back at me, eyebrows raised slightly, hands folded respectfully in his lap.
"I think they approve." He mused airily, and finally I was able to smile back. We both turned back to the trees, our hands folded in our laps, sitting a good enough space apart to still be close, but not too close. And this time Pitch spoke, and filled them in about the man their daughter was with, and how he promised to be a gentleman and have me home before it got too late(which didn't really matter, considering we both lived together in a freaking cave/castle), and all sorts of other things.
Spoke as if there were nothing odd about talking to trees. Spoke as if he were talking to my mother and father themselves, and it was his job to charm and please them. And I just kind of sat there and listened to him speak, the whole time this indescribable feeling settling around me. And the whole time, I couldn't wipe that stupid smile off my face. Because of all the choices I'd made, this may have been the most important one. The one they'd have wanted to know the most, because the man beside me was quite literally the only reason I was alive, both in the past, the present, and most likely the future of whatever it was between us that was so precious.
And my parents approved of him. Which seemed like poor judgement, approving of the Nightmare King for their one and only daughter for pretty much the rest of all of eternity. But then I thought about what Aster said, about my parents and what they were like. How they were the most unlikely of lovers.
Maybe what Pitch and I had wasn't love. Maybe it was something else, something not yet discovered. But it was good enough for us.
And it was good enough for them.