The Guardians were in North's study, together for a fun night. "To relax", North had insisted, forcing them to take a break from their respective duties. Easter had come and gone, so Aster had no excuse, it was too early for snow of any kind, Tooth had delegated her work to her fairies, and Sandy had finished for the night.
So there they were, gathered with all kinds of refreshments, and even some video games and movies North had prepared. It was pretty much a way for all of them to kick back and take a well-earned break. And Jack was enjoying it. It was fun to learn about the others, and hear stories from before he had met them.
At one point, Tooth had started staring at Jack. He couldn't figure out why, and she didn't say anything, but it was still unsettling. It seemed like wherever he went, whoever he talked to, her eyes followed him. And there weren't even that many people in there! Just the five Guardians and a few elves. The yetis had mostly retired for the night, but the elves had stuck around, waiting for any and all crumbs to drop.
Finally, after almost an hour, Tooth decided to voice what was on her mind, much to Jack's relief. Anything was better then her incessant staring.
"So, Jack," her tone was nonchalant, but curiosity burned in her eyes. "How do you fly?"
He tilted his head, puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I have wings, and Sandy has his sand, but you just kind of seem to fly without anything to assist you. I know a lot of spirits fly like that, but I've never met a previously-human spirit that can fly without wings or some other type of aid." She elaborated, her words quick and rapid-fire, even though she was technically rambling.
"Oh, well usually it's the wind. She carries me, and keeps me steady while I'm in the air." The other Guardians nodded in understanding, curiosity mostly sated, before Bunny's brow furrowed, and he fixed his gaze on the floorboards, his speech slow and thoughtful.
"Wait... usually?" He looked to Jack for confirmation, and the winter spirit lifted his hand to rub the back of his neck.
"Oh, well, I mean, I do have wings, but-" He was interrupted by a chorus of surprised exclamations.
"Since when?!" Tooth started to hover, her wings moving fast, as she moved closer to him. "What do they look like? Are they white? Or silver? Are they under your sweatshirt? Do they retract? Can you hover? Are they like mine?" Jack leaned away as she got closer, a little overwhelmed by all her questions.
"Tooth! Personal space, remember?" He joked, running a hand through his hair. Once she had sat back down (though she was still at the edge of her seat, leaning towards him), he shifted forward, lifting his sweatshirt to carefully remove it. Even as he was doing this, he started rambling.
"I don't know how I got them, but I mean, sometimes they just get in the way. And I thought, how funky it would look if my first believers saw me for the first time, and were uncomfortable by my wings? Because they're big and, well, noticeable, and I look human otherwise, so it would be confusing?" He found that he couldn't stop talking, as they stared at his bare torso, as his wings unfurled naturally from where they were previously curled around his body and across his chest.
He ended up having to stand, as they were big- especially on his lithe frame. His wings were indeed silver, with hints of blue spiraling outwards. He didn't know his full wingspan, he had never measured, but he knew that they definitely dwarfed him. He lifted a hand to rub the back of his neck again, as he looked away, stealing glances back at the others through the corner of his eye.
"Since I'm a winter spirit, I don't really feel cold, but I figured I needed to stay clothed and stuff, decency and all, but they looked funny under a t-shirt, so I found that sweatshirt and they were hardly noticeable." None of them were saying anything, just staring at him. "Um, so yeah." He cleared his throat, and that seemed to snap them out of their reverie.
"Wow," Tooth breathed, reaching a tentative hand towards him, before catching herself and pulling back, looking up at him. "May I touch them?" He nodded, and she moved forward, reaching a gentle hand to pet over the top of his left wing, in the same way you'd pet a cat. He shivered, and his eyes fluttered closed as she continued, examining them carefully. North was next, his touch fleeting, with the gentle touch of a craftsman.
Jack sighed contentedly, it felt good. His wings got cramped when they were tucked away for long periods of time, and they were really difficult to groom, when he had trouble reaching the ends without bending in weird angles. He realized Tooth was even grooming them a little; she probably had similar issues with her own.
He forced his eyes to focus, and he looked at the other two Guardians. Sandy seemed content to watch, but he noticed Bunny kept shifting in his seat, looking like he really wanted to join Tooth and North. Jack couldn't keep the smile off his face; Bunny was stubborn as always. He waited until Tooth flitted off, discussing something with North as the two settled back down on one of the couches together.
"You know, 'Roo, you can feel them too if you want." He stepped closer, and he watched Bunny's ears perk towards him, listening as he shifted his gaze to meet the sprite's eyes.
"Oh whatever ya bloody show pony." Bunny's eyes had a look he couldn't put a finger on, some mixture between longing, sadness, and wistfulness.
It wasn't until a week later that the topic of his wings was brought up again. Jack and Bunny were in the Warren, sitting in the grass and looking out over the quiet forest. There were a few eggs running around here and there, but, seeing as Easter was months away, it wasn't quite time for eggs yet.
Jack had played a prank on Bunny, that had ended with a few slippery patches of ice and an unhappy rabbit. After chasing the sprite all through the Warren, Aster deemed him suitably punished, and they settled into the grass to catch their breath.
After a few minutes, Jack started to shift uncomfortably. He was trying to get comfortable, but for some reason he just couldn't settle down. It didn't take long for Aster to notice as well, as Jack caught his eye in the middle of adjusting his position.
"Ya alright, mate?" The Pooka asked, sitting up a little.
"Yeah, I just, I... can I take my sweatshirt off? My... it's getting cramped." Jack stumbled through his words, embarrassed, and feeling a distant touch of shame. He looked down at his hands, but he didn't have to wait long for a response; Bunny's reply was almost instant.
"Of course, go ahead," Jack nodded, and winced as he pulled his sweatshirt over his head. It had been a few days since he'd stretched his wings- which probably wasn't healthy, but he hadn't really thought about it.
He was careful not to smack Bunny as his wings unfurled and straightened, and he let out a sigh of relief. It always felt good to let his wings out. That was their purpose, after all.
He almost immediately started preening, his instincts kicking in as he noticed how disheveled they looked. And his pride wouldn't allow him to just leave them ungroomed. He didn't realize Bunny was watching him for a few minutes, totally engrossed in his task. When he did though, he couldn't hide the blush. He paused in his movements, and he almost missed the soft words coming from his companion.
"Can I help?" The question was tentative, as if he thought he would be rejected, as if it was a big deal. However, Jack was grateful for the offer, and quickly nodded.
"Will you work on the back? It's always hard to reach, and it bugs me," The giant rabbit was quick to move, shuffling to sit behind Jack, methodically running his paws through the soft plumage. Jack instantly relaxed into his touch, and Aster marveled at the sprite's subtle reactions to his every caress.
They spent over an hour like that, gently smoothing feathers, though there reached a point where the grooming had fading into just gentle petting. Jack had practically fallen asleep, only partially lucid, when he realized he was practically in Bunny's lap, purring and running his own fingers through Bunny's ridiculously soft fur. They must have figured this out at the same time, as they both froze.
"U-uh," Jack hesitated, at a loss for words, for once.
The taller male just gripped him tight, pulling him closer into a hug.
"I remember when I was just a kit," Bunny's voice was barely a whisper, but Jack heard him clear as day. "My mum and my brothers and sisters would all sit and just spend hours grooming each other." Jack swallowed hard, realizing how important this was to his fellow Guardian.
"In my culture, grooming is-was a very important social aspect. It was a big deal, and uh, only done with those you were close to... you groomed with your family, close friends, and, ah, your mate." If the Pooka had been human, Jack was positive he would've been blushing. Aster cleared his throat before continuing. "It's been so long since I've groomed with someone, Jack, you don't know how much this means to me. I- what I'm trying to say is, thank you. For this. It means a lot."
Jack's eyes widened, as he stared up at Bunny, before carefully reaching his hands up to wrap around the other's neck. "Of course, 'Roo, any time. Actually, can we make this a regular thing? 'Cuz, my wings get awfully mussed, and there are so many hard to reach places..." Jack's tone was teasing, but Aster saw the hopeful look in his eyes.
He knew the winter sprite was trying to lighten the solemn mood, and he knew that a 300 year old teenage boy would have trouble with serious feelings and such, but he also knew that that didn't mean Jack didn't understand what he was saying. Because 300 years alone probably wasn't easy for Jack. Just like years of living with only the memories of your species was difficult for Aster.
The two were lonely, and were just starting to recover from the heartache of everything that they had struggled through. But it was a pain that they were both familiar with, and Bunny couldn't help hoping that they could heal together. And who knows, maybe one day Jack would agree to being his mate. As he looked down at the bright blue eyes looking up at him expectantly, he could only smile.