It's time to end it, guys.
Songs this chapter was written to: Wake Me Up and The Parting Glass by Ed Sheeran; Who Will Sing Me Lullabies by Kate Rusby; and Story of My Life by One Direction. But seriously. Wake Me Up. That song.
Also, for those who wanted it, here's the warning: There's an intimate scene in this chapter. Nothing graphic, but it's what the M rating on this story was for. If you want to skip it, it's the third part of the first 'present' section.
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, May 14, 1904
It took Jack's arm a few weeks to heal up, even with magical aid. Getting him to stay in bed had been impossible. Phil and Debbie had gotten used to the boy flitting around the place. They had also gotten used to talking him down from the rafters.
Baby Tooth stuck by his side for a few days before she had to get back to work. She spent five days apart from Jack before the sadness set in. She loved collecting teeth, really she did, but she couldn't do it with the kind of single-mindedness she'd done it with before. In the past she'd gone years between visits with Jack, always on the lookout for the next tooth. Back then she'd been Jack's best friend, but she'd been one of the tooth fairies foremost. But now…
She was different from her sisters. She had a name. She had a white feather at her crown. She didn't just have a best friend anymore, she…she had a brother. She was his sister now. Her work didn't come first anymore. Her family did. She didn't want to give up collecting teeth—she loved doing it too much!—but she couldn't, she couldn't be away from him for so long. She'd miss him.
She approached her mother with her dilemma, and Toothiana had listened with an understanding smile. "You really love him a lot, don't you?"
Baby Tooth nodded. Of course. He was her Jack. He'd always be her Jack. And she was his Baby Tooth.
Toothiana stroked a finger over Baby Tooth's white feather, and when she spoke it was with pride. "You've grown into yourself so much. If this is the path you want, I won't stop you. You can spend a week collecting teeth, and then a week with Jack. How does that sound?"
Baby Tooth nodded exuberantly. Yes! Yes, that was perfect. She chirped her gratefulness with watery eyes.
Toothiana kissed the top of her head. "Good. Now go on to the Pole. We'll just count this week finished up a bit early, okay?"
Baby Tooth whistled her glee and took off.
And Toothiana watched her go, wondering how her fairy had grown up while she wasn't looking. When she came back, Tooth would assign her to taking on the chillier areas. Since she'd been brought back, Baby Tooth seemed to have developed a greater resistance to cold temperatures. Tooth figured it was the influence of Jack's magic.
She went back to work, a small, proud ache in her heart for the way Baby Tooth had turned out.
Jack and Baby Tooth rolled down the hill the cottage stood on in the Warren. Jack kept her held carefully in his hands as they went, laughing the whole way down. At the bottom Jack flopped on his back, and opened his hands to see Baby Tooth panting with mirth. He grinned at her, joy making his heart light.
"Oi, be careful!" Aster stood at the top of the hill, hands on his hips. "You just fixed that arm, no need to go breakin' it again."
"It's just a bit of fun, fluffy-bottom." Jack rolled his eyes. He sat up, and set Baby Tooth on his shoulder. "Baby Tooth has to leave soon; I just wanted to send her off right."
"You can do it in a way that doesn't threaten to undo the work on an arm that's still healing even if it's out of a cast. You're likely to re-break it if you don't give it proper time to rest up."
"Fine, fine! No more rolling down hills for a while." Baby Tooth twittered in his ear. "You have to go?"
She nodded forlornly, and nudged his cheek with her head.
Jack sighed, but smiled gently. "Okay. I'll see you soon."
She cooed her goodbye, and took off.
He watched her go. In the past watching her go had been one of the hardest things he'd ever done, because he'd always had to tell himself that she would be back someday, without ever knowing how long it would be until he saw her again. But now he not only knew she would be back, but when, and that simple knowledge was more comforting than he could believe.
Jack climbed up the hill, and retrieved his staff from the ground when he reached the top. He smiled. "What's up, Aster?"
Bunny laughed quietly. "Come on Jackie, I've got lunch on the table for us."
"Really?" Jack skittered past him, setting his staff by the door as he entered the cottage. He made his way into the kitchen, following the scents of bread and butter and fruit. The table was laden with a large bowl of crisp salad, and a fresh loaf of baked bread was cut and placed on a long plate. The fruit smell came from a mixed berry cobbler in a square dish. It steamed faintly, and Jack licked his lips. "You have outdone yourself today, Aster."
Bunny snorted behind him. "Thanks for the compliment, mate, even if it's just your stomach talking."
Jack plopped into his chair as Aster sat across from him at the table. They dug into the meal with gusto. Jack enjoyed the crunch of the salad, and the bread was a warm weight in his stomach. When they ate the cobbler, Jack sighed at the sweet-tartness off the berries. When he finished, Jack sat back and licked the prongs of his fork clear of any remaining residue.
"That was delicious, Aster," he complimented.
"Glad you liked it." Bunny started collecting plates, and cleaning them off in the sink.
Jack stared at Bunny's back as he held the fork in his mouth, chin in hand and elbow on the table. It had been like this since he'd gotten back to the Warren a few days ago with a clean bill of health. Bunny seemed content with every day, and when he looked at Jack it was with warmth, and vague sense of waiting for something patiently.
Jack pulled the fork from his mouth, and set it on the table with the quietest thunk. "Aster?"
"I'm healed now."
Bunny paused in scrubbing the cobbler plates, and looked over his shoulder. "Yes?" he said uncertainly.
"I also don't have to worry about Pitch Black anymore."
Bunny set the dishes in the sink, and wiped off his hands with a towel. It made the fur a little fluffy and damp, but not too bad. "That's true," he said slowly.
"And I really like my Den. It's small, but it's home, and I've lived there for a long time."
Bunny faced Jack with an unreadable look. "Where are you going with this, Jack?"
"I could move back into my Den at any time," he clarified. Bunny's mouth tightened, and Jack continued. "I'm safe, and I don't need to be here anymore. But that's just the thing." Jack could feel his cheek frost against the hand he was resting his face on. "I don't want to leave."
Bunny locked his eyes with Jack's. "You don't have to leave." And there it was; the warmth, the patience. "You could stay forever, if you wanted."
Jack's lips parted slightly. Oh. His heart picked up a steady, perfect rhythm in his chest. He huffed a laugh, smiling lopsidedly. So, that was it.
Jack closed his eyes, and when he opened them he hoped he was showing the same warmth; the same patience. When he spoke, the words were the easiest thing he'd ever said. He wondered why he'd ever been afraid of them. "I love you."
Bunny shuddered just a bit. Then he walked to the table, leaned down, and gave Jack a simple kiss. When he pulled away, Jack was aware that his eyes were wet. "I love you too," he said.
Jack stood up, and without speaking a word they took each other's hand. They walked like that in quiet understanding to the nest room, the warm clasp of fingers saying all the words they couldn't think to say.
Jack let out a shuddering breath against Aster's shoulder. Aster's cock filled him with heavy heat, moving slowly inside him so that Aster seemed to reach into the very core of his being. In the dim light from the glow flowers the only thing Jack could see clearly, that he even bothered trying to see clearly, were Aster's eyes. Bright-bright green.
He couldn't remember a time he'd been ever been so warm. Fur pressed into him from thighs to chest, soft and wonderful to his sensitive skin, until it was like every part of him was a place of arousal. From his position in Aster's lap Jack was able to wrap his arms around his back. He pulled Aster closer, so that they were chest-to-chest, and Jack could almost swear that for the moment he had two hearts. He kissed Aster's shoulder and bit gently, not minding the taste of fur in his mouth or the texture on his tongue.
He panted, Aster's claws biting just a bit too sharply in his grip on Jack's hips, but Jack couldn't bring himself to care. He relished each sensation, and no matter how much it would hurt later knew he'd never be able to consider this experience anything less than perfection. And it was terrible, how wonderful it was. With each brush of the underside of his chin to Jack's head, or quiet whisper of how amazing it felt and how precious Jack was Aster was ruining him forever of the person he'd once been. Now, more than ever, he could never go back to his previous way of living. He would never be able to survive solitude, or content himself with an empty cave of little treasures.
"I love you," he said. They were the most words he'd spoken since they'd gotten to the nest, and begun their awed exploration of one another.
"I love you too," Aster answered, quietly, easily. The most natural response in the world.
"Aster, I'm," he mumbled. He dug his fingers into Aster's shoulder blades, trying to pull him closer, closer.
"Go ahead, Snowdrop." Aster rolled his hips, thrusting deeper, but so very slowly into him. "Let it happen. Let me feel you, love."
Jack cried out, and came in a mess of quivering limbs and gyrating motions. His seed seeped from his cock in thick streams, matting in the fur of Aster's stomach. He leaned into Aster heavily, panting with trembling breaths.
"Jack…" Aster groaned, his hips pumping swiftly for a moment, and then there was new warmth inside of him. Aster hissed as he milked his orgasm, thrusting deep inside two, three more times until it died down.
Jack, tired and happy, reached out with his senses to feel for Aster's joy. He nearly sobbed when he found it, because he could finally tell what made it shine. But it wasn't just that he could do it now that made him feel so euphoric.
It was that the reason for Aster's joy matched Jack's own.
"I died, you know."
Not the best thing to say in the aftermath of their first time, but Jack felt it was important to say.
Aster's eyes shot wide, and he pulled his chin away from the top of Jack's head to look down at him. "What are you on about?"
"I thought you knew," Jack said. "I thought that was why you stopped the others from saying something when I told you I didn't remember my life before being Jack Frost."
"No, mate." Aster clutched Jack a little tighter, tangling their legs further beneath the blankets in the nest. "The only other cases of someone in our world not havin' their memories when they were brought into it were because of great personal tragedies. A mother dying, or losing their child. I had no idea that you'd died."
"Oh." Jack took a deep breath of Aster's scent, and it comforted him. "Then why didn't you want the others to say anything?"
"Because I didn't want you reliving your memories constantly on the lookout and dreading what might happen in them. It happened to General Winter. He knew something tragic had happened to him in his life, but once he started getting his memories back he drove himself mad trying to anticipate what it was. By the time he found out he'd gone so far off the deep end we had to lock him away for a few decades with healers until the madness faded. I didn't want something like that happening to you."
"I see," Jack said, and he did. "Sandy reassured me when I went to him about it."
"He would," Aster mused. "He was one of those healers I mentioned that helped fix up General Winter."
"Really?" Jack blinked languidly up at him. "I didn't know Sandy was a healer."
"You'd be amazed what help a few good dreams can be." He was quiet for a moment. "Do you regret dying?"
"Never," he said strongly. "I saved her."
Aster didn't ask what he meant. He seemed thoughtful when he muttered, "We should consider Soul Bonding in the future."
"Soul Bonding?" Jack asked.
"Think magical marriage, but much, much more permanent, and taken very seriously. It would involve mixing magics."
"Oh." Jack closed his eyes. "You want to marry me?"
"In a few decades, when we're both certain and we can convince everyone we mean it. Like I said, it's taken very seriously in our world." When Jack yawned, Aster tucked his chin back atop his head. "Go to sleep Jack."
"Don't want to. Want to stay like this. Warm."
Aster chuckled. "I'll be here when you wake up."
"Okay." Jack hummed contently, burying his face in Aster's neck. "Aster?"
"I love you."
"I love you too, Jack."
He was writing letters to Santa, and with each one he whispered a quiet someday to himself. Someday they'd be read. Someday he'd get his Christmas. Someday he'd reach out for someone and they would reach back.
He stood on his lake, broken and so very, very tired. He was tired of not being seen. He was tired of trying. He was tired of loneliness, of dreaming and wishing and someday.
So he lifted himself up, and in a moment of weakness nearly destroyed himself.
"At least people actually believe in me."
"People do believe in me. Baby Tooth—Baby Tooth believes in me." Jack was staring into green eyes that looked right through him, and it all felt so familiar, like he'd done this before. "My existence may be a joke to you," he said, "but it's not. I'm real, and someday," the words were so desperate and hopeful, and it hurt him to say them, "someday you'll believe in me."
When Jack woke up it was without rush. He breathed deeply against Aster's chest, and the other rumbled a quiet hum in his sleep. Jack turned his head, so that his ear pressed to Aster's heart. He listened to it beat, and mused that it was his. Aster's heart was his, just as his heart was Aster's. So in a way, he wasn't just listening to Aster's heart beat, but his own as well.
He made a single low chuckle. Since when had he become such a sap? But just because it was silly didn't mean it wasn't true.
For over three hundred years, he'd been surviving on the promise of somedays. But he didn't need that promise anymore. His someday had come. And if that meant spending the rest of his life here, warm and loved and happier than he'd ever hoped to imagine he could be; if it meant having moments like this…
Aster squirmed a bit, and blinked at Jack with eyes still hazy from sleep. "Good morning," he said, voice raspy, and smiled.
Jack gulped, and grinned back. "Good morning," he sighed.
It had been well worth the wait.
Okay, so, I am legitimately sad to see this end. The unicorn story and the eggies and all the others have some sort of idea still left, places to explore in their verses. But this Jack, Nobby Jack, is done. I've told his story. And while Hidden Jack is an AU spin-off of this AU, they aren't the same Jack. They're too different; like dizygotic twins. Born of the same place, but never identical. It's just a little sad to say goodbye after so long. I almost cried when I finished the last sentence, and just stared at the word document for a bit like, "Oh! I'm done." I feel like I kept making excuses to go back and add more lines. This story and its prequel consisted of over 60,000 words, and each one carried a piece of my heart with it.
Thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for being a part of this with me. I hope you will continue to join me in my future writing.
No chapter next week guys. I'll be back in two with the first chapter of Hidden's story. I want to get a head start before I start posting.