OMFG Guys I feel really fricking sorry for this late update. Unfortunately updates won't be super frequent for a while, at least until december but I hope to get the next one out around Thanksgiving. I'm really really sorry but between a large load of classwork and responsibilities that have seemed to become MUCH harder than they would have been before (because some people are dicks) I'll be having to deal with that until basically Spring which is when I'll be moving out of state. Luckily that shouldn't affect things too much when I get my work under me again.
In regards to this chapter, It's cut in two (still normal chapter length) because I wanted to get this to you.
Warnings: Sickness, Vomiting, Homelessness, Mentions of Dark Pasts, excessive tea drinking
Pairings: Jackrabbit, North/Tooth
Aster, having fallen asleep on the couch, was the first to hear the loud booming knock on the door and the jovial laugh behind it. At first he only just heard it in the back of his mind, and then he realized just who this was and that they'd easily break down the door if they wanted to get inside. Or by accident, the door was rather flimsy.
In a mad dash to answer the door, Aster fell off the couch sideways and scrambled past the pillows and blankets he'd nudged off in the middle of the night. He then glided across the floor, without much of any grace, and slid in front of the door.
North was standing there on the other side, smiling excitedly like there hadn't just been some crazy blizzard going on. The glass window could barely display all that was Nicholas St. North.
Aster made a facial expression of confusion and discomfort that luckily North didn't react to or didn't see and pulled open the door with some difficulty. What hour was it anyway? For what reason did the Russian have to be there?
"Aster!" He exclaimed the moment the barrier of a wooden door had been removed. North moved forward to hug him, catching the sleep drowsy painter by surprise. Aster probably would have been able to avoid it had he been awake for longer.
The bone crushing hug did help him crack his back though. Aster wondered why he didn't go into chiropractic.
"Crikey, North whattaya doing 'ere?" Aster said through the hug, his sleepy accent heavier in the morning. He couldn't quite adopt that semi-American talk that he'd mastered in the past few days. The man only laughed, finally releasing Aster from the crushing hug.
"Come to invite little Bunny to Thanksgiving!" He chuckled, patting Aster on the shoulder before pushing past him to enter the kitchen. Aster found himself kicking the door shut with his heel, both his hands running through the massive bedhead he'd adopted. If anything Aster looked a little nuts with the need to shave and the sleepy eyes paired with his bedhead.
North bounded right into the kitchen, his eyes set for the cabinets and fridge. It was a surprise he hadn't spotted Jack's clothing piled on one of the kitchen table chairs when he walked in but now they were behind him and out of direct view.
Instead North turned to the kitchen sink where the two plates from dinner last night sat ready to be cleaned. A confused look skirted across his face and he glanced back to Aster who was now standing just a few feet away from the doorway.
"You have guest?" North asked curiously, genuinely surprised and halted in his boisterous actions.
Aster only groaned and placed a hand on his face in frustration. Luckily he didn't have to answer because at the same time, Jack came walking down the stairs that were painfully easy to be seen through the doorway of the kitchen.
"North?" Jack's now sicklier said from the last few steps. He was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes but it seemed like he was more of a morning person even while coming down with something. He immediately picked up his pace, coming around the banister to enter the kitchen as well.
North stood sentinel by the sink and cupboards. He was obviously in shock, and Aster could see the anger he was trying to hide in his eyes. The man made no response, not quickly anyway. He just looked between Aster and Jack like they'd both stated they were the new kings of the Mycenaean Empire.
Aster refrained from doing anything. He instead watched as Jack, still riddled in bruises and sounding like he was coming down with the flu, walked over and lazily hugged the much taller and much bulkier Russian.
It was clumsy, it was aimless, but Jack did it anyway and North's tense shoulders relaxed slightly but he still looked over at Aster with an accusative look in his eyes. Aster only shrugged, rolling his eyes as he went to go make himself some coffee. He usually didn't drink it but he'd need it that morning.
Then, Jack wandered over to the kitchen table and picked up his clothes to move them so he could sit down. North watched him like he was a toddler in a room full of sharp objects, continuously giving glances to Aster that were both harsh and confused.
"So why'd you come by?" Jack eventually asked to break the silence. He seemed to find no wrong with the situation he was in and neither did Aster but at least Aster could sympathize with North. Jack didn't quite understand why North could be upset with the situation.
North bristled slightly but steeled himself to answer the question. "I come to invite Aster to Thanksgiving dinner." North answered. His was tone rough as he tried to hide his discomfort. Jack shot him a look, probably seeing through the fake attitude that North had put on but he didn't outwardly acknowledge it.
Jack raised an eyebrow at the notion but something in his eyes said he was upset and it wasn't his general disdain for Thanksgiving. North wondered if Jack actually liked staying with Aster, even if Aster could be hard to spend extended periods of time with.
"I'll have to decline that offer too." Aster stated, pouring himself some coffee from the K-cup coffee machine. It was one of those, insert the little plastic cup and water and then bam you've got yourself a cup of joe.
Jack twisted around in his chair to look at Aster, a frown on his face. "Why?" He asked, sounding a lot more congested than what was allowed in Aster's book.
Aster didn't answer right away. He hadn't thought anyone would have asked him why. Generally people understood he didn't like getting together with large crowds of overly friendly people for occasions he didn't celebrate on his own. Jack seemed to be the one person who would do otherwise.
"Come on, Bun-bun it'll be fun." Jack urged, waving a hand at his temporary housemate. Aster blinked, watching the homeless kid from behind his coffee cup as he took a sip. Aster was more than bothered by the new nickname.
Meanwhile, North stood there silently trying to figure out what to do in that situation. It seemed Jack was inviting himself, which North never would have figured to happen. Jack often declined any offers to eat Thanksgiving dinner with people, even if it meant he'd get to stuff his face with food and probably blow a hole in his stomach from too much consumption.
Was Jack offering to go only if Aster went?
Aster frowned after having taken a sip of his coffee and set his cup back down on the counter. "You're gonna be blowing chunks in a few hours. Why the bloody hell should I listen to you, frostbite?" Aster said, his tone much less offensive than his language came across. It was almost like they had engaged in some sort of playful banter. Plus, where did the nicknames come from?
"I'm not that sick and have you even had some of Tooth's honey smoked ham?" Jack replied back, shifting even more in his seat to look at Aster.
Aster scowled. "Not that sick? Let me go find a thermometer, then ya can tell me to bugger off." He countered.
"Oh shut up, I'm fine!" Jack protested angrily and North thought he might have to step in while he still could. He didn't need a 90 pound homeless kid getting in a brawl with an Australian that was almost half a foot taller than him.
North quickly stepped forward, waving his hands. "Not important! Jack, you will come to dinner?" North asked, receiving a nod from the white haired teen. North then looked towards Aster. "You come too?" He prompted, though slightly hesitant. Aster nodded anyway.
At least if Aster would come, then Jack would come and get food. That was all North really cared about at that point. He could discuss the situation of Aster and Jack being temporary housemates with Tooth and Sandy later.
"Good. Will come by tomorrow to pick you up by four." North stated before giving both males an equally scolding look, and leaving out the front door. Aster and Jack followed him to the doorway, watching as the man wearing his big red coat walked straight off into the white blizzard that seemed to still be snowing.
Jack stared after him amused while Aster had a very confused look on his face. "How in the hell…" The Australian muttered, watching as after a few good yards the man disappeared from sight. How he'd even gotten across town in that weather was unbelievable. Both jack and Aster were pretty sure the roads were closed.
Jack was the first to turn from the window, walking back towards the kitchen. "So! What's for breakfast?" He asked, his enthusiasm only barely masking his sickly voice.
Aster turned around and shot him a look. "Both rude and insensitive, that's just dandy. Why did I let you in?" He berated as he followed the white haired teen back into his kitchen.
Jack shrugged. "If I remember correctly, it was a kidnapping." He stated, and technically, it was. Aster had just picked the sickly homeless kid up and taken him home against permission. Though, he hadn't really had the chance to ask for it anyway.
Aster grumbled something unintelligible under his breath that was probably something like an insult or a discomforted complaint. Jack smiled slightly at the look on Aster's face and coughed into his elbow.
Soon, Aster had set him up with something simple. Scrambled eggs and buttered toast because both would be pretty easy on his stomach. While Jack ate, Aster went to go put Jack's clothing in the wash to be cleaned and he came back with a few blankets for Jack.
Around twelve, Jack's stomach didn't seem to settle well with him and he got sick. Afterwards he curled up on the couch to sleep and/or watch television. He didn't make it far into an episode of Spongebob Squarepants before he passed out. Aster made sure to leave a waste bin by the edge of the couch and checked on him every hour.
At night, much to Jack's displeasure, Aster forced him to eat some crackers and a soup broth. Jack was able to keep the food down that night and slept on the couch much to Aster's displeasure. Aster had wanted him upstairs but Jack protested. A short disagreement led to Aster sleeping upstairs in his own bed, purely discontent.
The next morning Aster woke up to Jack vomiting again. The white haired teen was sitting on the bathroom floor, looking absolutely miserable. "Are you sure you want to go?" Aster asked from the doorway, his eyes reading pure concern but his facial expression reading as indifference.
Jack nodded his head, having gotten control of his stomach before Aster had gotten to the bathroom. If anything would make him feel better, it would be Tooth and Sandy and North's company. Sitting on a couch watching Thanksgiving specials he used to watch with his sister wouldn't do him any good emotionally.
Aster nodded his head back, taking in a deep inhale and exhaling it slowly as he moved to go downstairs. Jack stayed put staring at the painter as he went. While Jack had only really known the guy for forty-eight hours, he didn't feel odd staying in the Australian's home. Aster was abrasive and overall unfriendly and antisocial but Jack felt more comfortable in his home than he did Tooth's or North's homes.
It was probably some weird working of the universe that Jack didn't like it where people were super kind to him. He'd most likely gotten accustomed to the rudeness of the Burgess dwellers. Or maybe it was the way Aster didn't pity him and attempt to make things seem like they're absolutely dandy and perfect because they weren't and there's no escaping that. Aster was a realist, Tooth and North weren't.
Aster returned with a cup of some sort of steaming liquid after a little while. It was probably fifteen minutes, Jack wasn't sure. He just took the cup and stared down into it for a while, unsure.
"Peppermint tea. Ya drink it." Aster stated, surprised that Jack couldn't smell the peppermint but if the sniffling had anything say about it, Aster should have expected it. Jack nodded his head, sipping on the tea for a while. "Is that honey too?" Jack asked in a congested voice and Aster nodded with a grunt-like response, helping the boy up from his spot on the ground.
It took some effort to keep Jack balanced as Aster led him down the stairs, both hands hooked on Jack's elbows as he walked beside him. All the while, Aster and Jack both kept their eyes trained on the semi-full cup of tea.
Jack was relatively wobbly on the way down but had steadied himself when Aster settled him down on the couch in front of the television again. "Don't eat anything until later. The tea'll settle yer stomach." Aster commented as he patted Jack lightly on the shoulder.
The obviously sick teen nodded his head and watched as Aster retreated to the kitchen to grab a small bite to eat himself. He would have felt bad about eating in the presence of someone who couldn't but Aster didn't feel that close to Jack yet. He could tease the teen a little bit anyway. The white haired homeless kid was already eating tons of his food and taking up space.
Which, thinking about that fact, it did beg the question. When was Aster going to finally kick Jack out and tell him to go back to living on the streets?
Something about answering that question was unsettling and it put an odd feeling in Aster's stomach. He honestly didn't know what he was planning when he turned back and picked Jack up off the floor in that alley and he honestly didn't know when Jack's welcome would be completely used up.
It felt wrong contemplating putting him out on the streets again even if he did have plenty of friends in the town. That same thought included the number of enemies Jack having in Burgess being larger than the number of friends. That then leads to the memories of Jack's bruises which were still plainly evident even now.
Everyway Aster thought about it, it felt wrong to put Jack out there. Maybe if it were mid-spring and the weather was warm and unlikely to cause frostbite, but there really wasn't any situation in which Aster would really want to let Jack go back to his normal life.
The morning was spent rather bleakly. Aster accompanied Jack by sitting with him next to the couch. The teen took up more than enough space on the furniture and to avoid making the sick teen movie, Aster just sat down on the floor.
So far, Thanksgiving seemed like any other day minus the fact that there was an Australian painter and a homeless kid sharing it.
Around three in the afternoon, Aster began fumbling around for clothing that seemed at least halfway decent. He knew they'd be staying at North's place or something along those lines but he didn't want to look like a grungy mess. Thanksgiving had meaning to Tooth, Sandy, and North and if anyone it had meaning to Jack. He wasn't going to disrespect that.
In the process of finding clothes for himself, Jack begged for his clothes back. Aster complied accordingly, slightly confused why the kid refused to go to dinner in different clothes. He figured they had meaning.
"Ya know, mate. At some point I'm going to find a pair of shoes and just strap 'em to ya." Aster commented as he overlooked Jack's appearance. The white haired teen made a face in response and shook his head, sniffling as he looked at Aster's outfit with a calculating gaze.
The Australian was wearing a pair of black slacks as he had before when he went to The Frozen Lake and instead of a grey shirt he wore a red one that contrasted with his eyes in a Christmas-like manner. His previously clean-shaven face had some growing stubble, causing Jack to wonder what the man would look like with a long white beard like North's. The image wasn't pretty so Jack resumed his process of sniffling every few moments and warning off a headache with the tea Aster kept leaving next to the couch for him.
North showed up earlier than he'd said by a few minutes, arriving at the ripe time of 3:49. Aster and Jack heard his giant red truck coming down the driveway pretty quickly and they made their way to the door to greet North before he could break down the door.
Aster made it a point to grab a jacket of his and put it around Jack's shoulders before North could steal them away for Thanksgiving dinner.
"Merry Thanksgiving!" North said, confusing the general phrases of the holiday season as Aster let him inside. Jack laughed at the statement for a few moments before his laughing inevitably descended into coughing. North seemed concerned but Aster gave him a look that said the kid was adamant.
Understanding, North smiled all the same and ushered Jack towards his large red truck. The snow was piled high and Aster never bothered to shovel the front pathway, not with Jack being sick. It seemed that against all likeliness, someone had plowed his driveway anyway. Maybe they were still accustomed to people coming to look at the house. Aster didn't know.
North lifted Jack up off the ground before they left the porch, keeping his bare feet out of the snow. Aster had wondered how the kid survived in the winter without getting frost bite in his toes and hands but maybe he found places to curl up that were warmer than others.
Once they reached the truck, Aster opened the passenger's side door for Jack to be placed in and watched as they scooted him to the middle seat. North then made his way around to the driver's side, and Aster bid his house farewell for the rest of the day.
Who knew officially when they'd be getting back?
The drive over was quiet aside from small talk Jack attempted through his coughing, wheezing, sneezing, and sniffling. He seemed to be getting progressively worse even with the effort Aster made to keep him at least at a constant condition.
When they arrived, North was greeted with the sight of Tooth in the doorway wearing seasonal clothing as always and waving excitedly. Sandy was able to be seen waving from the window his golden smile radiating a welcoming aura.
Aster helped Jack out of the truck after they parked, making sure to set the homeless teen down on the shoveled pathway that lead to the house. Tooth practically fluttered over, a concerned look on her face when she saw just how plainly evident Jack's sickness was. "Jack! I'll go make you some tea." She welcomed him, placing a hand on his shoulder and smiling at him warmly.
North and Aster both followed behind, watching as Tooth led Jack into the house where it was much warmer and the smell of foods was wafting through the different rooms. Sandy met them all at the door, holding what looked to be some eggnog made early in the year just for the occasion. Everyone knew North's eggnog was probably one of Sandy's favorite drinks.
Jack stopped to give Sandy a hug at the doorway before being led off towards the kitchen by Tooth. North filed into the doorway and waited as Aster stepped in before he shut the cold out and turned to the Australian in his home.
"You are aware of severity of this situation, correct?" North asked in a low voice so that the two in the kitchen wouldn't hear them.
Aster stared at his Russian friend and then Sandy, whom while he was always quiet had a calculating gaze in his eyes. "Didn't think takin' a homeless kid in would earn this sorta response." Aster muttered before nodding slightly.
"Taking care of Jack will change things." North reminded him and Aster shrugged. Aster knew what he was doing when he took the poor boy in. "What will you do when people dislike you for his presence? Will you cave, or keep head up? Jack is different from homeless who lose money. Jack has dark past." North interrogated, his tone very serious and his gaze piercing.
Aster frowned. "Well so do I, so maybe we're a perfect match." Aster responded bitterly. "I thought ya wanted me here for company so I wouldn't be alone anymore."
Sandy placed a hand on Aster's arm lightly, as if to apologize. North looked more conflicted than anything but he didn't add anything to his statement. He looked upset, but more so because of what he said. The bulky Russian stepped back, letting Aster go reluctantly.
Aster gave North a pinning gaze before walking off to find Jack. He could hear the kid coughing in the other room, worse than before, and if anything that was a bad sign.
As they watched the Australian go, Sandy gave North a look that said many things all at once. But the words that came through his eyes first were defining. Maybe this is for the better.
Jack was sitting on one of the stools in North's kitchen, sipping the tea to numb his throat as best he could. Aster walked in at just about the time he'd stopped coughing and Tooth was flittering about the cabinets nervously looking for medicine. Unfortunately, North was one of the people to treat diseases the normal way, and just tough it out.
Aster stopped to sit down in the empty stool beside Jack, facing in the younger's direction. Jack gave him a confused look but Aster ignored it as he placed his hand on the white haired teen's forehead. Jack was running a fever but nothing intense.
"How bad is it?" Tooth asked as she looked at the two of them, something soft in her eyes showing. She was mid reach into one of the cabinets, unable to grab whatever it was that she was after. "Ninety-nine or so." Aster replied as he got up to walk over and help her.
Maybe if anything, Aster would have help getting Jack into a more suitable state of health.
Once he reached Tooth's side, he noticed she was reaching for a box of tea materials that looked like they might have only been there since Tooth visited North so much. "I'll get it." Aster stated as he gently urged her aside and pulled the box off the shelf.
Tooth grinned thankfully once he handed the box to her. "What have you been giving him?" She questioned, knowing better than to think Aster wasn't treating Jack. Aster might be an abrasive and hard to get along with person but he'd take care of anyone in need of help.
"Peppermint and honey." Aster responded as he began continuing the search for something like Dayquil or another sickness medication. Damn North for never having any medication lying around.
North and Sandy both arrived in the kitchen at that point, watching with Jack as the two fumbled around for things to treat Jack with. Sandy seemed happy to see the sight but North still had a sour mood about him.
"I can run to pharmacy." North said after a minute, obviously proving that they didn't have anything in the house. Tooth gave him a scolding look before sighing. "It's probably the best idea, Nick." She replied tiredly.
Everyone else in the room instantly lifted at the sound of the nickname. "Nick! That one's new!" Jack laughed excitedly between coughs. Aster shook his head at the boy's enthusiasm. Maybe he wasn't as good at picking up on budding relationships as the rest of the adults in the room.
"Yeah, invite me to yer weddin'. The weddin' present'll be a boomerang." Aster grumbled as he rolled his eyes, taking some of the tea materials from Tooth. He noticed that Jack was drinking what was probably just on the stove at the time, maybe something like a mint tea or pumpkin spice.
Tooth waved the two of them off and walked over to give North a list of what would be appropriate. In minutes the large Russian was gone, probably to hunt down the closest CVS Pharmacy. Jack continued to laugh slightly, fueled by Aster's comment.
The boy seemed a little delirious and it seemed his filter went right out the window with his health.
"So, why aren't there any pictures on your walls at home, Bunny?" Jack asked out of the blue, giving Aster an expectant look.
Tooth and Sandy both bristled when the question came out, looking to see Aster's reaction. That was two times in a row the male was reminded of what a dismal past he had and usually Aster didn't react well to it. To their surprise, Aster only chuckled lightly and shook his head.
"Who'd want to see baby pictures of a tosser like me?" Aster said in good nature.
Something was very ominous about that statement, though. Tooth and Sandy both understood the real reason, but Jack couldn't help but feel like something happened that was darker than he originally thought when Aster responded that his reason for moving to Burgess was personal.
"Who knows, maybe you were a cute little bunny." Jack responded smoothly but he gave Aster a look of calculation. Internally he vowed to hunt down the reason why Aster was such an uncomfortable and antisocial person and he would bet money it had to do with whatever reason was keeping him from putting up family photos.
SOOOOO, any and all reviews are very very welcome. Feedback is really great you guys. Any and all errors please point out to me, I'll fix them at some point in the future. I really hope there aren't any but I haven't exactly been able to proofread this at all today.