Chapter Eight: Orion
"So you're feeling better, that's good" Toothiana smiled gently. Rubbing Jack's left shoulder as the healthier looking young man returned to kind expression. It had been a few days and Jack had only just started going back on stage. Only with short, simple dances though.
"Has Rumple blown a fuse yet?"
"He was pretty mad but he is determined to make you play tonight so he is getting on with things"
"Shame, hoping he may have exploded by now" Jack sighed and Toothiana chuckled.
"Well you better freshen up, sorry about forcing you back onto the stage so soon hun" she darted over to the door with a flurry of the light material of her skirt.
"You want a glass of water?"
"That'd be lovely, thanks Tooth"
"Aww Jack, you're so sweet, I'm surprised you haven't got yourself someone yet" she giggled.
Toothiana naturally found the younger man attractive and kind but knew of his desire to be free and that desire being the only love of his life. Yet like the mother she was she loved to tease about silly things like affairs of the heart. Jack spluttered a little into his sheet with a dark blue shading over his pale face.
"Hey Frost!" a familiar voice yelled and both show-members glanced up in surprise at the Aussie nearly ran past the door with the speed he was going. "Rumple let you have the day off if you dance real well tonight, make up for that time off or some shit like that, anyway wanna go down to the town?" he grinned, his meadow green eyes shimmering in the light of the early morning clouds.
Jack blinked twice, raising an eyebrow at the news his stubborn boss had allowed him a set of hours away from the show-house.
"Really? Wow..." he smiled coyly to himself. Bunnymund paused just to watch his charming face in such a darling expression and nearly missed Toothiana's wry look.
"I'll get that drink, Jack" she told him, eyes never leaving the Aussie's whose ears twitched uncomfortably.
Disappearing in a dainty flurry down the corridor, Bunnymund entered with Jack's permission and sat on the end of the bed.
"How ya feelin' then?"
"Alright to be honest, better now that I know I get a break today, how did you convince him?" his marble blue eyes shone with disbelief.
"A little bit of money and a whole lot of ear wagging, he was freakin mesmerised by em" to state his point the older man swayed his long, elegant ears. Jack chuckled.
"So what are our plans?"
"Thinkin about givin Sandy a visit then jus...lookin round, ya know?" Bunnymund scratched the back of his head and got off the bed to step outside.
"I'll leave you to get dressed then-"
"Sure you don't wanna help him" a high-pitched voice cooed and Bunnymund near jumped out of his skin as Twist appeared behind him.
"No I don't you little devil, come ere'!" the Aussie sighed dramatically and picked the girl up under her arms and took her away as she squealed with surprise and delight. Jack smiled as they went and Tooth entered with a cool glass of aqua.
"What was Twist doing?"
"Oh?" Tooth smiled, handing the water over to the dancer.
Jack slipped his still sore body into a clean white, long sleeved shirt and fastened a too-small deep blue waistcoat on, frowning at the uncomfortable material in the scratchy mirror in his room. Accompanied with black trousers and shoes; though he enthusiastically preferred being barefoot, he looked considerably better than he had been the last few days. Leaving his room, he headed down the corridor, finding Bunnymund waiting at the end, at the top of the stairs.
"Ah, how you feeling?"
"I'm alright, thanks, are we going now?" Jack couldn't keep the excitement from his expression and tone and Bunnymund smiled before realising he was probably supposed to answer.
"Yeah...yeah! Of course" he jogged downstairs and through the show-room where several employees were clearing up tables and shooting envious but pleased looks over to the two who wandered out the front door.
Jack blinked groggily in the harsh sunlight, being so used to the confined darkness of his room during his sickness, he was both refreshed by the warm rays and irritated. Bunnymund glanced over at him, knowing he was less used to outside work and it was strange seeing his pale, porcelain skin braced against the gold of sunlight. Jack looked over at Bunnymund with a weak smile under the hand he used to shield said sunlight from his eyes, secretly admiring of the deep tan the older man had, brazen against his muscular skin. Three quarter length cream shirt and a loose green jacket and dark brown trousers with boots. His appearance didn't need to be so impressive in public unlike the infamous Jack Winter.
"Hey Frost, we'll head to Sandy's first" Jack nodded and followed him across the quiet road, gaining looks and head turns where he went. Some of friendly acknowledgement and others of unrestrained interest and hinted desire. The Aussie noticed this with irritation but stopped himself from actually gripping the younger man around the waist. Several young women passed in front of Sandy's shop just as they came up to the main door and giggled behind gloved hands. Jack good-naturedly smiled at them but tried to keep his head down, he already got enough attention, he didn't want more during the daytime.
Wandering in with the charming twinkle of the little bell overhead, Sandy was around the corner in an instant. Jack suddenly became very self-conscious, he knew people only knew him as the main attraction at a building meant only for nightly gatherings and he was unmistakably coy even when the golden haired man gave him a gregarious smile. Stepping closer to Bunnymund, the Aussie was a little surprised at his shyness but smiled gently anyway.
"Jack, this is a close and old mate of mine, Sandy, a man of few words but definitely one of the best guys I know"
Sandy spun his suitable, short black hat off with a small bow. Jack nodded and stepped forward, bowing a little himself.
"Nice to meet you"
When he looked up, he watched the shop owner give Bunnymund a long and wry gaze and Jack turned to the suddenly flustered and blushing gardener who scrambled for an explanation for the bemused young dancer.
"Ya, I've told him a bit about you so he's just messin around" he chuckled nervously and Sandy chuckled himself, a silent sound but his expression beamed.
"I see" Jack nodded with a faint giggle. Then he started having a good look around the shop, only a small area but every inch of the wall was covered in framed images of all scenes and textures. Jack was particularly fond of a natural ice rink formed by winter in a forest, pure, untouched snow surrounded trees thick with white and yet the sun shined down on it all, so bright. Sandy watched him stare deep into the lines and curves of the acrylic paint brush artwork with a flattered smile. Communicating with Bunnymund shortly afterwards that he understood the attraction, Jack didn't know how charming he could be to complete strangers.
Bunnymund agreed and refrained from completely staring at the white haired man for the sake of potential humiliation from the artist but the gentleman was too busy passing him a few golden coins.
"Sandy, you know I can't..."
Sandy managed to tell him he had been sending all the money he had been earning to his family and Bunnymund momentarily regretted conversing his finances with the filthy rich blonde but eventually Sandy coaxed the three single coins to him if just for the sake of treating his companion. Judging by the dreamy look Bunnymund displayed when thinking of what he could do to cheer up the young dancer Sandy knew he had done the right thing and wandered over to Jack with such grace it was almost as though he was floating.
He inquired if the cerulean eyed man liked the picture and Jack grinned.
"It's beautiful, and you did all of this? It's amazing!"
When Sandy offered it to him, free of charge, Jack went quiet.
"I couldn't possibly, this deserves a price tag and a fine home, not a run down bedroom"
Nevertheless Jack was amused and laughed at the shorter man's claim that surely a run down bedroom would benefit from some artwork and he managed to hand it over to Jack who claimed he would collect it after their town trip, so not to damage it in the streets.
Leaving with infinite gratitude and smiles, Bunnymund and Jack waved as they left and stood out in the sunlight of the public.
"He was terribly kind" Jack commented with a content smile, excited about retrieving his gift later.
"He's an amazing mate, good to know as many people as ya can in a small place like this" he gestured and Jack felt a slight pang of jealousy knowing his only allies lay in the Rose of the Garden. But this negativity was overcome with joy as the day continued.
Spending time with Bunnymund was wonderful, the man was talkative and amusing in his slight actions, the way he frowned at the sun or his eyes widened at something in a shop window or even when; lone behold, they suffered the same incident as before in which a car 'was not looking where it was going' and Bunnymund yelled at the driver in such a thick accent Jack was both confused and totally enraptured by his voice.
Bunnymund requested he wait outside a moment whilst he darted into a busy shop to collect an awaiting parcel and Jack felt terribly isolated and exposed on his own but his innards glowed with the knowledge he was outside and he could taste freedom along with the occasional gasp of smoke from a car pipe or the sweet perfume of nearby flower pots, full bloomed and patterned with droplets of water. Bunnymund left with a huff at the crowd but Jack was more curious at the unusual shaped package he held.
"Err...yeah, mate this is actually for ya" he passed it over, purposefully grazing hands so he could experience that cool warmth and Jack could suppress a nervous smile. That smile vanished into a perfect 'o' of his lips in surprise and then a gleaming grin when he realised.
"I wondered where my staff had gone"
"I sure as hell didn't break it"
"Hmm...that's good" Jack rolled his eyes sarcastically as he tore away deep brown wrapping to reveal a beautiful, wooden carved staff, looped somewhat at the end and spun with the finest threads of gold, with a fading of pale wood and silver near the top where it spiralled in.
"How much-" was the first thing that came out and Bunnymund pushed his shoulder amiably.
"As if it matters, it'll last longer than your last one, the last one would bloody snap if you looked at it hard enough...or you know if you were trying to do some moves with it and you dropped it..." Bunnymund coughed and Jack looked up at him incredulously before bursting out melodic laughter.
"Oh god, that's precious, thanks" he grinned as they wandered further down, passing more and more ogling strangers but the two noticed them just about as much as they noticed pebbles in the path, so not at all. Bunnymund had suggested they at least get a drink before heading back and he assured they wouldn't be so smashed as to not find their way down the street.
Finding a cosy table for two next to the window, Bunnymund had ordered for mild fear Jack would be kept too long chatting to the low-collared barmaid who was already struggling to keep her hands away from the Aussie as she took the cash. They drank, laughed and conversed until the sun began to set and the oak based clock across the way above the fireplace crawled closer to the dreaded time of six.
Jack practically skipped with the energy of his drink and his excitement to receive the precious artwork, he reckoned he could collect it quickly enough to still be in time to go back and get ready, it was almost opposite the Rose of the Garden anyway.
But just as they were heading down, Bunnymund consumed with his wandering thoughts, a lithe arm threaded through his own, he had stuffed his left arm in his pocket and now a pale shirt and paler arm rested against his bulkier one as Jack linked arms.
"Thanks so much, this has been so much fun and I really feel much better now" Jack was gazing at the ground, as though a sheepish damsel. In comparison to his previous dynamic antics darting down the street, he was quiet and shy now.
Bunnymund grinned and hauled his arm closer to his body so Jack was also pulled closer.
At Sandy's door, they headed in, Jack simply beaming but his enlightened mood was downtrodden by the look of paranoia and apology on Sandy's expression.
"Ay, you alright? What's wrong?" Bunnymund inquired, immediately sensing his friend's negativity.
"I'm so sorry" Sandy signalled.