Wow. So, you guys have been great. Seriously. It was a blast writing this, and I'm so glad you all liked it so much. Here's the last chapter. Maybe I'll revisit this 'verse someday and write more. (This story is just DYING to have a 'seven times the unicorns cockblocked Aster and the one time they didn't' type thing.)
I'm a bit sad to see it end, honestly.
Songs this chapter was written to: Nicotine by Panic! at the Disco; Just Give Me A Reason by P!nk; Cups from Pitch Perfect, as sang by Anna Kendrick; and Here's To Us by Halestorm.
I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, Aug. 1, 1816
"Jack Frost is a virgin?"
"But his scent was always…"
"Well look at the unicorns; they certainly seem to think he's pure."
"If the unicorns think so…"
"He gave them markings."
"It must be true."
"Jack?" Bunny whispered.
Jack clenched his staff. "I...I"m a virgin."
It felt good to admit out loud. It felt like he was saying it to himself as much as he was them.
North pushed his way through the crowd, stopping when he reached the front and the unicorn nearest him raised its horn threateningly. He raised his hands to show he meant no harm. "We thought you were…ah," North halted himself, and coughed.
Jack's grin was bitter. "Potion."
"Why?" Bunny hadn't taken his eyes off of Jack.
Jack, hundreds of years of repressed fear and anxiety returning in a single moment of stress from a single word, felt his expression warp itself to match. "Because they kept touching me and I was scared!"
A unicorn nudged its face against his neck from behind, and Jack's head curved into the comfort. The baby pressed its face into his side. The remaining unicorns firmed their positions around him, curling in a bit tighter. Tooth hadn't been kidding when she said unicorns were loyal, but seemed to have forgotten to mention the degree of their protectiveness.
He took a deep breath, and when he looked Bunny's hand was out, like he wanted to step forward, but the lead unicorn was being stalwart in its effort to keep everyone at bay.
"Oi!" The crowd was pushed aside as an angry leprechaun forced his way through. "Stop blockin' the path!"
"Kith." Jack smiled.
"I told you this would happen!" Kith crossed his arms, disgruntled.
"You did," Jack acknowledged. "Sorry I didn't listen."
Kith clicked his tongue. "It's no matter now." He scanned Jack's face, since with his short height and the unicorns that was all he could see of him anyway. "Are you alright?"
"I…," Jack took a deep breath. "I don't know."
Bunny glanced between them, eyes narrowed with suspicion. "You two…"
"But all those rumors…" Toothiana hovered above the crowd just behind North. Sandy had moved to where the summer sprite still lay on the floor, trembling, and seemed to enjoy holding him down with his sand. Huh. Jack hadn't known that Sandy had a smile that threatening.
"Some people don't take rejection very well," Jack explained.
"So they were all lying? Everyone who ever said they'd lain with you?" Bunny scanned the crowd, and scowled when a handful looked away.
"Yeah." Jack swallowed heavily, and wanted nothing more than to get out of there. "North, can we go? Please."
It was times like this that Jack was grateful for North's bull-headedness. He cleared a path to the front door for Jack (and his unicorns, because they weren't letting him get away that easy). Jack, surrounded by unicorns, the big-horned one at the head and the baby trotting happily at his side, made his way from the hall, doing his level best to ignore the suddenly admiring looks he was getting from more than one person in the crowd. Behind him he heard a very apologetic centaur (one of those old, respected god of the forest types) retrieve the summer sprite from Sandy. From the sound of things, the sprite was going to be in very big trouble for a very long time…and would be punished very severely if he came near Jack again, if the sudden whips Sandy was holding were anything to go by.
There was a rush of murmuring and shouted accusations from inside the moment the doors closed behind them. Jack gave it a wary glance. North and the others piled into the sleigh. Jack went to step forward, but the unicorns blocked his path. He huffed. "How am I supposed to get back to the workshop like this?"
The lead unicorn crouched down, and gave him a look. Jack stared at it. "…you know, I could just fly." A unicorn nudged him from behind, and he groaned. "Fine, fine." He climbed on the unicorn's back, making a little nervous noise when it stood up.
North took up his reigns, casting tiny amazed looks at the unicorns every few seconds. "You will explain more at workshop, da?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah."
"And I'll be there to help." Kith climbed into the sleigh, taking Jack's original seat.
"Oi!" Aster exclaimed.
"Kith!" Jack smiled at the leprechaun. "What are you doing?"
"Someone's gotta back up your story," he said. "I'm the only other one who knows it, so might as well be me."
"How do you know it?" Bunny asked.
Kith smirked. "Who do you think made the potions for him?"
"Right," Jack cut in before the conversation could continue. He gave North an apologetic look. "I guess he's coming with, if that's okay?"
North waved a hand dismissively. "Bah, this is nothing!"
"Thanks." He stared at the sleigh, then his unicorns. "Question. How are the unicorns supposed to get back to the workshop?"
Tooth sighed with a dreamy little grin, giving the unicorns a glance of admiration. "You'll see, Jack."
The sleigh took off, and Jack stared after it as it rose into the sky. "Alright." He leaned forward to look into the unicorn he rode's eyes. "How do we follow?"
He swore it made an amused noise. Then it took a running leap and soared into the sky, the others following its lead. "Whoa!" Jack scrabbled to firm his grip. They caught up with the sleigh as Jack whooped. "You didn't tell me unicorns could fly!" he yelled.
"You never asked!" Tooth replied.
Jack laughed, and it was probably the most care free he'd sounded in a very long time.
Jack later found himself sitting on the floor in one of North's sitting rooms by the fireplace. He leaned back against the unicorn with the long horn (he really needed to figure out names for them, they were so hard to tell apart as it was) as the other six curled up around him. The baby snuggled into his side, and he pet its mane as he and Kith filled the Guardians in on Jack's long-kept secret.
"I was tired of being treated like I was a means to an end…like I wasn't a person." Jack looked away into the fire, bitterness tightening his features. "So when Kith offered his potion I accepted. Unfortunately this meant that people thought I was a slut, because I always smelled like sex. There were some people that tried to take advantage of this, but I always denied them. They usually went off claiming they'd bedded me anyway, like it was some sort of bragging right."
"You didn't say anything?" Tooth hovered next to North's chair. "You didn't deny their claims?"
"Who would have believed me? I'm a slut, remember?" Jack shrugged. "Besides, it was easier to let people believe what they wanted than try to come up with a story to explain the smell."
"Why would you offer to help Jack?" North asked Kith, who sat on the couch next to Bunny. "Not that I am not grateful you did, but why?"
"Virgin blood is a fantastic potion ingredient," he answered.
"That's it? Just for his blood?" North squinted his eyes, like he didn't approve of the answer.
Kith glanced at Jack, who was looking at him curiously, and sighed. "I maybe felt a bit sorry for him too." Jack frowned, and Kith glowered. "The first time I met you you were trying to rub your skin raw with snow after someone had attacked you. Yes, I felt sorry for you. But I stand by what I said; it was mostly for the blood back then."
"Thank you, Kith." Jack smiled softly.
Kith snorted and looked away.
"Well," North said jovially, humor in his tone, "there will be some spirits looking to take back their claims once word gets out that Jack Frost is actually a virgin."
Jack laughed, and it only came out a little bitter. "Too true." He pet the baby unicorn, running his hand along the stubby horn. "Where am I going to keep seven unicorns? I don't have any home to keep them, and I don't know the first thing about taking care of them."
"Unicorns will care for themselves," Tooth instructed. "They're very smart creatures, remember? They just need a place to run and settle down sometimes. They'd probably be more than happy to travel around with you, but that might get in the way of your work, so it might be a good idea to try and find someplace to settle down more permanently."
"Back on the island they had a huge forest to roam around in." Jack frowned. "Where am I going to find a place big enough for them to run about freely like that? I don't want to close them in entirely."
"You can stay with me."
Aster hadn't been sure what to feel.
Jack was a virgin? Guilt wormed through him. He'd been insulted to have been rejected by Jack, but under this new light…he'd been such a blowhard. He'd been the one coming on strongly to a virgin. A virgin working very hard to conceal himself (because he'd been scared, and that made every protective instinct in him stand at attention and growl), and who had apparently rejected others for less.
But in that case, why had Jack ever let Aster kiss him? Jack should have shoved him away from the get go! It should have never gotten so far as that, or the places it nearly went. But Jack hadn't, and it had. Hope perked its head. Did that mean that Aster was…special?
Guilt was momentarily stifled in favor of elation.
He was special to Jack? Jack had let him, E. Aster Bunnymund, kiss him after all. He hadn't let anyone else get close. Did that mean that, despite his previous screw up when they'd first met, that he might have a chance?
He listened to Jack's concerns for the unicorns, and knew instantly what he had to do.
(And besides, his mind whispered, even if Jack hadn't been a virgin; even if none of this had happened, would it have changed his feelings in the slightest? Would he have still felt this way if Jack had proven to be the 'slut' he was known as? It wouldn't have mattered, he realized, because Jack was Jack, and that was what he wanted. And that made all the difference.)
"You can stay with me," he offered.
Jack blinked, and when he looked at Aster it was with a blush that sent warmth to Aster's toes. "I-I can't possibly do that!"
"Why not?" Bunny drummed his fingers on his knee. "There's plenty of room in the Warren for your unicorns to feel free to play around, so long as they don't mess with the googies. And it's not like you take up much space as it is, you slip of wind."
Jack frowned in a way that was more of a pout. "I am not. And this is seven unicorns we're talking about Bunny. That would be a huge addition to your home."
"It's not like there's anyone living in it but me, anyway." A flash of long ago pain struck his heart, and was gone as quickly as it came. "I've been thinking the place needed livening up, and you might as well be the one to do it."
"Well…" Jack bit his lip. "If you're sure."
Jack's smile spread like the petals of a flower on his lips, soft and sweet. "Thank you."
Oh hell, Aster realized. He was falling faster than he'd thought.
It didn't take long to get the unicorns to the Warren. As it turns out, they took to the tunnels just as easily as they'd taken to the air. They'd been reluctant to leave Jack's side at first, but he eventually managed to coax them into exploring their new home.
"So I guess I'll find a tree to sleep in," Jack said, making to head down the hill they stood on towards some trees he spotted at the bottom.
"Oh, no you don't." Bunny blocked his path bodily. "There's no need for you to go sleepin' in trees when there's a perfectly good nest we can share."
Jack blushed, rearing back. "That's—that's not necessary! I'm fine sleeping in a tree!"
Bunny's eyes scanned his face, lingering on Jack's frosted cheeks. He sighed. "I suppose, if it makes you that uncomfortable."
"It's not that…" Jack ran a hand over his face frustratingly.
"Then what is it?" Aster looked Jack in the eye, and seemed to come to a decision. "Jack, why did you let me kiss you?"
Oh, if he'd been human Jack's face would have been flaming red by now. "What?!"
"In 68'," Bunny clarified. "You let me kiss you. You should have pushed me away." He took a step forward. "Why didn't you?"
"Because, because," he sputtered, "you…were the only one who'd ever tried."
Bunny blinked. "Really?"
Jack nodded. "All the others, before and after I started taking the potion, always went straight for the main event. They tried to take what they wanted, assuming I'd go along with it. They never tried to kiss me—they never wanted to kiss me. But you…" Jack looked at Bunny with a steady gaze. "You wanted to kiss me. You made it seem like an experience to be shared rather than stolen, and that was all I'd ever been used to."
Jack looked away, his voice becoming quiet. "I didn't know it could feel like that."
"But you did push me away," Bunny pointed out.
"Only because you brought up my, ah, 'reputation.'"
Aster looked appropriately chagrined. "I'm sorry, Jack. 'Reputation' or not, I still shouldn't have been so forward."
"Don't be." Jack looked down at his feet, and hid his eyes with one hand as he curled his staff close with the other. He was afraid to look at Bunny anymore. "Truth is," he took a deep, calming breath to gather his courage, "I've admired you for a long time. I've liked you for a long time. I've wanted you to…to kiss me, again, for a long time."
There was a sound of footsteps, and Jack felt Bunny's warmth come to a stop in front of him. "Then why don't I get on that?"
Jack peeked up through his fingers. "You mean it?"
Aster ran a hand through Jack's hair. "Always."
Jack let his hand drop, and lifted his head up. As Aster leaned forward, he whispered nervously, "Just a kiss?"
"Just a kiss," Aster murmured.
And it was. Just as it had been back then, Aster's mouth was different against his, but good different. Fun different. And perhaps, Jack felt as those thin lips slid gently along his in the most glorious of frictions, in time, they might even be joyful different.
Aster pulled away with a small sigh, and buried his head in Jack's shoulder. Jack stood on tiptoe and wrapped his arms around Aster's shoulders, dropping his staff for the moment. He wondered if his face was as dreamy looking as his heart felt.
Jack could get used to 'just a kiss.' Eventually he'd get used to more than that, but until then, he'd have fun exploring it, sharing it, with Aster.
"I was so jealous," Aster mumbled against his shoulder. "Didn't know why at first. But I've always wanted to hold you like this, Jack. To be allowed to touch you."
The sentiment in those words shook him to the core, and Jack's lip trembled until he bit down on it. "Always wanted that too," he murmured back.
Bunny chuckled, and held Jack closer. For a moment they were quiet. "Does this mean you're sleepin' in the nest after all?"
He laughed. "Maybe. As long as it's just sleeping."
"Of course." Bunny nuzzled his face into Jack's hair behind his ear. "I can work with that."
Jack smiled, enjoying the warmth. He looked over Bunny's shoulder, and blinked.
"I think the unicorns want to gore you."
Aster froze as something sharp poked at the base of his spine. He slowly let Jack go, and the sharpness retreated. He turned around, and seven unicorns, the baby at the front, stared him down.
"Well," he said, more than a little intimidated, "looks like you won't be wantin' for protectors anytime soon."
Jack laughed heartily, and then gasped in realization. "Oh my gosh!"
"What?" Bunny glanced over at him.
"I can't wait to introduce them to Cupcake!"
OH HELL THAT'S RIGHT. If I do write a sequel someday, I'll have to include Cupcake meeting the unicorns. Because Jack would so let her meet them, and she would be so damn happy. But that's the end. I hope no one's too disappointed. It just felt like a good place to end it (for now, maybe...that sequel is niggling and might happen *shrug*)