Summary: Bunnymund spends most of the year gardening and taking care of the "egg plant" fields. But when the buds start dying, it's time to turn to an expert. Even if said expert is a mortal human. BunnymundXOC
Disclaimer: To assume that I own any of these characters is also to assume that I actually know what I'm doing with them. –laughs weakly- Right. Wish me luck.
Chapter 7: Responsibilities
"You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn't true. I know a lot about love. I've seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate... It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves... You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful."
The flooded towns were only just starting to drain, the contents of the sky having poured themselves down streets, swiping with them all cars and humans which barred their path. And the newly wind-ravaged homes had been lost all over again, water damage sinking through ceilings and attics previously ripped open by a ruthless hand.
Mother Nature could curse as well as bless, and he was doing his best to provide damage control.
Of course, Bunnymund had sworn off helping humans after the fall of Atlantis, but it seemed that all it had taken for him to throw away his vow had been the tantalizing promise of friendship and a glimpse at the egg from which 'Mother Goose's steed had been born.
The Easter Bunny shook his head wryly as he waded through muddy rainwater. It only reached his calves now rather than his thighs, for which he was grateful, allowing him the stability and reach to snag up a frantically struggling pug and set it on dry ground. A few minutes later he had to smile as the Guardian heard the joyful reunion of child and pet, then continued on to do his work.
He'd sold himself for far less than he was worth, he knew now. Like a dwarf who was easily bought over by a handful of plastic gemstones. But he wouldn't take it back for anything.
Not after all those years of solitude; the melancholy echo of empty halls and faded voices. The adventure North and Katherine had presented had seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape his sepulcher. Of course, then he'd gotten tangled in his promise to the Man in the Moon and suddenly it became more than just a simple adventure. Now it was his life, and he was just as tied to his responsibilities as North had ever been, crazy ex-bandit that he was.
For all that Pitch was filled with half-truths and lies, what he'd said to Jack months before had been accurate. Before becoming a Guardian he'd been the last Pooka in existence, just biding his time until the end. But his work as the Easter Bunny had changed him. After becoming a Guardian his already extended lifecycle had become connected to the position.
At his age he should be more than 'just' graying, he knew. Aster's limbs should be turning frail and memories dimming much like his father's had and his father before him. Struth, he'd been around long enough to round out the Earth in order to fix its orbit (its former egg shape aesthetically pleasing but unstable in relation to its rotation around the sun), using the extra dirt to create Australia (his favorite continent). He had seen cultures rise and fall.
But MiM's blessing was extending his years even further.
Bunnymund probably would have passed away in the 1830's, had nature followed its course. Instead he was in the prime of his life. When he'd taken up the position as Guardian of Hope he hadn't known that it would mean that the last of the Pookas would remain the last. Provided, of course, that children kept believing.
It was why he'd had a more extreme 'reaction,' to Pitch Black's onslaught, the tug of lost hope pulling directly from his life force. Leaving him nothing more than an archaic reflection of his people's genetic ancestry.
It was sobering, to have his entire being stripped down to its barest form. Humbling even. For all that Tooth had lost her powers and flight, the Goddess side of her had remained physically present. And time had fallen upon North with a heavy hand, physically aging him, but the man's breadth and pride had remained.
Only Aster had been physically altered.
The thought weighed heavily on the Pooka as he passed crumbling buildings and wind-torn streets. The environment he treaded reflected the torn, sodden state of his emotions as he subconsciously spread hope merely by his presence, lost in the confines of his own mind. He'd been feeling vulnerable ever since he'd lost Easter, a kind of steady worry buzzing at the back of his mind. And even after the defeat of their enemy it still lingered, like a chocolatey stomachache.
Bunnymund didn't dare speak of it to his fellow Guardians, either. Nor the heavy feeling which came when waiting for the other shoe to drop.
For a time Aster thought that he was just letting the paranoia of his hermit lifestyle seep in until what he'd been fearing actually had come in the form of his dying plants. The worst part being that no one took the damage seriously. No one except for hisself, anxiety clawing up his throat the longer it took to figure out what was wrong.
Time crept perilously on, never mind the fact that he had almost half a year to go before next Easter. None of it would matter if he didn't have any plants left for the egg-based holiday. But how could he heal his googies when he couldn't even heal himself?
The Easter Bunny paused to rest his paw on the shoulder of a man passing by, the mortal's arms heavy with dripping wreckage. Aster's touch went through the individual, of course, but despite this reality the sufferer visibly straightened as hope for a better future suffused his being. The rabbit even caught a glimpse of brilliant emotion from the human, a deceased father's voice creaking like old leather in a determined whisper of memory.
"Bad things sometimes happen to good people. Which is why good people get up and try again. The Good Lord didn't raise you up to be pessimistic, and neither did I."
The tone was stern but affectionate, reminding Aster of his own father, lost among the stars. Nearby a small child gaped at the vision of a man-sized rabbit meandering through the crowd, the boy's clothes bedraggled as he stood thigh-deep in water by what remained of a downed cement mailbox.
Aster had to smile, a minutiae of happiness found in the situation. For all North's bluster about serving the children of the world he holed himself up in that Pole of his more often than not, and Tooth was busy being the head of a militant organization of worker fairies. Sandy interacted with the people of the world in his own way, but only the Easter Bunny personally walked among men in an effort at spreading hope. His was a different role, but he took to it as surely as he had once taken to being a scientific recluse.
He'd been in Syria as of late, trying to bolster people where he could despite the threat of living there. And then recently there'd been several major bombings, tornados, floods, fires, massive forest fires and floods again, settling shaky foundations and helping people pick up the pieces. It was only the end of the summer season, too—who knew what might come next?
The fact that he was giving of himself, in a sense, had once made him wonder if hope physically was draining from him in order to pass to those in need. The battle of Pitch had confirmed it to a point, even if Sanderson's regenerative properties told him otherwise, but the concept fit the mood he was in. The Easter Bunny remaining a solemn, lonely figure in the middle of a crowd, almost a metaphor for his entire life.
Bunnymund clasped his paws behind his back as he deliberately grazed people as he passed, thoughts half on the world he was standing in and half elsewhere. Seeing a family being reunited with one another made him happy in one sense while emphasized what he'd lost in another. The Pookan species would never fully die out, thanks to the last Tsar Lunar's aid, but it sure made for a lonely existence.
The Easter Bunny sighed at the thought, a tiny unrecognized part of him still yearning for family, a home that was more than just workshop and solitude, maybe even the pitter-patter of tiny rabbit feet. But it really wasn't to be. Honestly, the closest thing he would ever have to his "own" child was Sophie, and that was a vicarious parenting experience.
Kind of like a bachelor uncle with too much time on his hands.
He of course also had his responsibilities to fill his time. Work similar to what he was doing now, brushing shoulders with folk on their way to shelters or back to their homes to find out what could be salvaged. Jack had once asked what he did the rest of the year and why he always seemed so rushed come Easter, and this was it.
Mortal humans were always in need of hope.
Satisfied with the cheer he saw blossoming in starts, and himself heavy with exhaustion both physical and emotional, Bunnymund pounded the ground twice and headed out, a pink aster flower growing in the midst of the underwater sidewalk as he dropped into a damp tunnel, water pouring inside in the few seconds it took to close the portal.
The inventor and artist had taken a power nap after having met the Ihimaera girl, falling immediately into a heavy slumber uninfluenced by dreams. Then he'd made his rounds through the Warren, the verdict unchanged, before heading out to help the world.
A day and a half (give or take) his 'shift' of hope-giving was done with…for now.
Time worked differently in the Warren. Eternal springtime might seem like a sea of boredom for people like Frostbite, but E. Aster Bunnymund was accustomed to it, and used the environment to his advantage. The sun, untainted by pollution, streamed through the canopy of leaves. But what was more, it slipped and slid through openings in the portholes above.
The stonework of the Warren had once been part of a great ship, fashioned into an escape pod after Pitch's destruction of his home planet. Bunnymund had landed it when he'd only been a young adult in his lifespan, but time had worn down the stone. He'd kept up the place at first, disguising it as a mountain as he began to fashion tunnels through the lower layers, but it had quickly grown over as the emptiness of it all sometimes caused him to loathe being in the Warren itself.
The space had been made for so much more than a single occupant, the tunnels and archways reverberating hollowly. But moss and naturally forming plant-life, an extension of a hydroponics section left to tend to itself, had taken over all but the areas he used for experimentation. Bunnymund had found that he didn't mind—it made the place echo less.
It was part of why he'd dug out his burrow the way he had. Everything below the main Warren was his own creation—the chocolate rooms, now largely devoted to mass production rather than the delicate work he'd dabbled in. The great "Easter Bunny" had once created exquisite sweets with attributes that extended beyond simple flavor and texture into bits and bubbles of magic. Things which changed one's size, strength, appearance and increased one's health.
Of course, he didn't have time for that sort of pleasure now. So the tubs and simmering vessels were attended to by mechanical eggs, somewhere between the Warren's monolith guards and his capering googies in both size and strength. They cooked, set, and sorted chocolate in store for the coming holiday in mass amounts and familiar forms.
It was an area separate from his personal burrow, the quarters simple and quiet in comparison with only the tiniest of workrooms. He was ready to escape to such solitude, had something not set his senses off. It was the faint buzz of movement, a hum that could have been anything from the army of bees and butterflies which pollinated the googie flowers to that of ghosts converging at the back of his mind. But something was…off. And current events had certainly made him more wary.
Tensing, Aster turned slowly, drawing forth his twin boomerangs and trying to ignore the way his legs shook, weighed down by pervasive damp and the effort of traversing through flood waters. Then there was the lack of sleep, the anxiety of the past few days of travel, and the all-encompassing worry eating at his ears and toes. He stilled himself, backing against the rock ledge which provided a cover for his drop-down "doorway," eyes alert.
A flash of fluttering turquoise, magenta and brilliant azure sent that unease out in a solid whoosh, however, and Bunnymund took a step back to lean against the stone outcropping, waiting for his heart to stop racing. Tooth took that as a sign that she was welcome, and with a nervous flutter his coworker moved in carefully.
"Bunny! I'm so sorry for interrupting you. I-I know how busy you can be, and, well, I've been somewhat busy, too, so…um…"
The tooth boxes. He nodded, sharply, then felt a slight rush of regret as he thought he saw her take the movement personally, the woman wincing. In times of exhaustion he defaulted back to the way he had once been, standoffish and many times proud.
To counter the effect, as well as maintain some stability, the rabbit-man gulped a breath and stooped to the ground to snatch up a handful of fresh grass and mint. His energy was draining as he stood, so he'd have to snack till he had the chance to eat something real and solid.
"…and I was going to respond, but then one of the mini-fairies went missing. And it turned out that one of the leaf men thought that she was a hummingbird and tried to make her a steed, so of course I had to deal with that…"
He hardly noticed the narrative she was rambling, the immortal female flitting and fluttering anxiously. Lighting first upon the rock outcropping, then the closest tree. It was her "tell," an almost ADHD-like characteristic reminiscent of her avian look-alike.
She didn't used to be so…scattered. Certainly she still had the sharp mind needed for her military-like organization of helper fairies to run smoothly. But when they'd met, that first night with Katherine's tooth under her pillow and everything at stake, she'd been strong, brazen, but determined. Cool, even. Definitely more of a warrior than he'd been.
Of course, she'd only had a handful of fairy attendants then, utilizing her "multiplying" abilities only in emergencies. It seemed as though the more she'd split herself the less "concentrated" she became. She couldn't focus because she was involved in literally a million other things—including the intuitive awareness of teeth all over the world.
Jack's increased presence had a least aided with some of her distraction, giving the Tooth Fairy (and her 'ladies') something and someone to really focus on.
For all that he gave a little of 'himself' away when he bestowed hope upon the world, he found it far better than Tooth's alternative. He was able to rest after each endeavor, for one. For another...
…after Pitch had gotten a hold of her miniature selves…
What was it like, he wondered, to know that one part of yourself was free while another part was under lock and key? They were more than members of her 'family'—they were her very essence. It was enough to shake anyone up.
"Tooth," he murmured as her chattering increased his headache, bringing her to task and attention.
"But anyway, Incisor said you left a note with her stating that you wanted to see me?"
And he did. Although in coming upon the required conversation, he found himself reluctant to admit to actions that in the light of his own Warren seemed insane and out of character.
"Right. Um, Tooth, that message was left for ya several days ago."
"I just told you why I couldn't come. Molar accidentally ended up wandering into the kingdom of the leaf men and-."
"What I mean ta say is…it's taken care of."
He spoke sharply, wanting more than anything to lie down and get some sleep. Perhaps eat a few carrots or radishes. But his tone set something off in Toothiana.
She stilled, feet touching the ground for the first time.
He mentally swore in ancient Pookanese. Then Atlantian. With maybe some Aborigine and Maori thrown in for variety.
"You… took care of it?" she repeated, carefully. Her feet had fallen into either a fighter's stance or a dancer's. He wasn't sure which. But she didn't have her dual swords, so that was a good sign.
Aster coughed awkwardly, straightening despite the strain and trying to look nonchalant all the while, "ya see, ma googies are sick-," dying, "so I found meself an expert."
The warrior crossed her arms carefully, "Mother Nature?"
As if he'd ask her for help. That was a snare if there ever was one.
He tried to maintain his confidence, yet still managed to stumble over his words, "s-some'on else."
"Ōnamuji ? Sorry, Ōkuninushi?"
"Dian Cecht?" Actually, why hadn't he thought of asking him?
"Please don't tell me it was Oberon or Titania. Or that fluffy-haired, glitter-centric, goblin-kicking son of theirs," the last one came out sharper than she probably had intended, given that they'd had to save a child or two from his mischief.
"It's a mortal, awright," he burst out, unable to remain silent any longer, "Sandy 'n I found a shiela that could grow things an' heal things an' I went ta her fer help."
There was a moment of complete silence in which Toothiana said nothing at all, merely letting him stew in his anxiety as her expression firmed and grew cold.
One brow ridge lifted in the most pointed look he'd ever seen, in all his thousands of years of living. Well, he took that back—he'd seen his mother wear such an expression, a long, long time ago.
"Bunny, I know you probably are just as lonely as I am, but you really shouldn-."
Not expecting that kind of response, he blanched, "what? No! Why did…ugh, no. Tooth, look, I've asked fer her help, nothin' more 'n that. I'm…I'm better off on my own, ya know that."
The 'look' she sent him this time was a mix of knowing and exasperated, "be that as it may, you went to a mortal? Seriously? As in an adult mortal?"
"Unlikely I'd find a child wi' the right stuff about 'im."
"Unless you're dealing with someone like that Fowl kid," she muttered and he felt as though he'd missed something. But she picked the conversation up again too quickly for him to ask.
"Aster, do you really think that it's wise for us to trust someone like…this person?" she was hovering from place to place again. He'd thought that the stillness was unnerving but all her movement was just worsening his exhaustion.
"Her name is Ahu," he stated more sharply than he had intended, forcibly softening the second half of his sentence, "and she won't betray us."
Tooth's magenta eyes darkened with worry.
"Look, Tooth, I know that you've had a fair spot o' trouble with adult humans in the past-," he began.
Tooth was quick to interrupt, "all my life, practically."
"—But that was several hundred years ago."
The reference to the past only seemed to close her off more, the fairy attempting a fairly neutral response. Which in fact came off as cool and brittle, "I don't know what you're talking about. I get along fine with lots of adults. There's North-."
"Who's no more'n a big child at heart."
"—and Mother Goose—."
"Ya met Katherine when she was an ankle-biter, remember? She lost her 'tooth of destiny.'"
"Katherine's pesky boyfriend only just grew up, same rate as her. An' don' think I didn't notice that Jack is just barely this side o' being legal, Tooth."
Her shrug was half embarrassment and half deliberately icy, "I don't know what you're talk about, Bunny-."
"Ya already said that."
"—he's three hundred and eighteen years old. And besides," she muttered quickly, under her breath, "lots of colonists married young back then."
He chose to ignore that detail, "an' yer older 'n the mountains but younger than the wind."
"Yeah, well," she began, folding her arms over her chest and searching frantically for a response, "you created Australia, and…and you were around when the Earth was formed, you old Hare."
"That I was."
There was truth in the fact that while he was certainly not the oldest Guardian, he most definitely wasn't the youngest. But Tooth was right on one matter—they'd both been alone for a very long time.
The two immortals remained tense for a moment before breaking into soft chuckles. Anger couldn't last for too long when they'd been friends for as long as they had. But ultimately the female Guardian sobered, and as her arms remained locked over her torso they shifted from a defiant clasp into a desperate clutch round her ribs, "look, I'm just saying…be careful. Okay, Aster? I mean, I was betrayed by people I grew up with, so…"
She trailed off before finishing lamely, "just…be careful."
He nodded in all seriousness, recognizing the admission for what it was. Pitch's recent attempt at domination and destruction had shaken all of them, and perhaps he wasn't alone in his feelings of upset. Especially if the Boogeyman's actions brought to light other memories supposedly forgotten.
Then again, as the Guardian of Memories, maybe the truth of the matter was that those fears and thoughts were never too far below the surface.
"I will. I'll do ma best. But…I really think that this is the right thing ta do. Even Qwerty agrees."
Tooth's feathers fluttered in surprise, "Mr. Qwerty? But I thought he'd disappeared when—."
"Me too. But he was with Sandy and led me right ta her, which means that I must be doin' somethin' right," he allowed a smirk to grace his features, "I feel that she can help ma googies—she's got the magic."
The Tooth Fairy was back to her frantic hovering, "but…what if she tells someone—."
"She won't, Tooth," he stated quietly, then swallowed as though revealing a secret that wasn't really his to share, "she can't even see me. Tooth, Ahu's…she's…the girl's blind, 'Iana."
The revelation froze her midair before the woman's expression blanched and her jaw dropped, "wait, what? What did you say?"
"Yeah," he awkwardly rubbed at the back of his furred neck, "um, yeah. She can't see me so…ya don't have ta worry about that."
"And yet…she believes in you enough to communicate with you?" her confusion turned to a calm sort of interrogation and Bunnymund abruptly found his vision full of a fiercely frowning fairy.
"Bunny, belief extends itself to all the senses. So she should have lost the ability to communicate with you when she became an adult, regardless of a lack of sight. Yet a part of her must still believe," her mind was working as furiously as her workers, fingers tapping rapidly against her cheek.
He blinked carefully, "which is…good?"
"Which is…curious," Tooth corrected thoughtfully, mind abuzz with the puzzle, "Don't you see? There is something profoundly different about this…young woman. It seems almost too good to be true, that she has the ability to hear you and possibly heal your plants."
"You bet your nelly she can fix 'em."
"Sure, sure," she murmured, waving the thought of his googies' plight away. He thought about being irritated for a moment or two, but ultimately decided that they had had enough arguing for one evening, "but don't you see the curious nature of the matter, as though someone planned it just so? You say even Mr. Qwerty suggested her—but couldn't there have been any other number of people with similar abilities?"
"Well," the Easter Bunny reluctantly admitted, leaning against the stone entryway to his burrow, "Qwerty did say that something was blocking him at one point."
"Really? How very interesting," he could see her mind trying to analyze the situation, but her expression told him that she was missing more than a few pieces to the puzzle, "I'll have to go and visit my vaults to do a little cross referencing. Then I'll let you know if I come up with anything."
His shoulders dropped a bit as the slightest amount of tension left him. Because if Tooth was busy researching something out then she would leave him to his own devices. Then maybe he could get some sleep.
"Oh! Before ya go. She thinks I'm a businessman an' that she's 'working on commission.' But I've gotta pay the Shiela. Do ya think you could convert some of ma gemstones into common currency?"
Toothiana nodded absently, "yes, that shouldn't be a problem. Just how much will you need?"
He repeated the amount Ahu had spouted at him and quickly became the proud owner of a stunned, gaping Tooth Fairy.
AN:Looooooong chapter. :S Sorry about that.
This was originally started after the Boston Bombings occurred…and then the events in Oklahoma followed. Plus the flooding in Canada. And fires in Colorado. And recently Canada was hit again with another disaster in the form of a horrific oil explosion. And certain towns in China are dealing with flooding and mudslides right now. I had aimed to tie recent events into what Bunnymund does—literally bringing hope—but then more and more kept coming. D:
I couldn't keep referencing to specifics, so I decided to keep the actual events he attends to vague. That being said, to anyone who is dealing with trials in their life (natural disasters or otherwise), this chapter is for you. I hope that the Easter Bunny can bring you some hope.
The stuff about Bunnymund interacting with the people of Atlantis and shaping the Earth and making Australia…totally from the books. As are the tunnels full of inventions and chocolate devices.
The info about the Warren's stonework as being leftovers of a ship created by an 'ancient race', however, is made up by me (prompted by something I read recently: "…With the Warren's giant stone carvings and Japanese-garden touches, it's apparent that it was once an orderly place, perhaps the site of a lost civilization. Without a population to maintain them, though, these structures have been overtaken by wild plants and trees.")
But it's also based on the idea of the Lunar Lama's building-turned-airship and Sandy's ship-island from the books. :)
Tooth's issues with adults, specifically, stems from the fact that 1. Her mother was a 'goddess' and her father a human, but 2. she was born human and raised in a human village (long story). 3. When she hit puberty (okay, 12) she gained her wings…literally. 4. Then the parents of the children who were her friends tried to capture her and sell her. 5. Plus other terrible things happened later…
The conversation about Tooth's hummingbird-riding friends is from the movie Epic. After all…
Rise of the Guardians is a William Joyce creation. epic is a William Joyce creation. Meet the Robinsons is a William Joyce creation. All are based off of books he's published.
Mary Katherine in Epic is based off of the real Mary Katherine, William Joyce's daughter, who passed away at the age of eighteen. Katherine is also the main character of the Guardians of Childhood bookseries, upon which the Rise of the Guardians is based (she also becomes Mother Goose…eventually).
William Joyce's son is named Jack.
There are no coincidences.
Ōnamuji /Ōkuninushi: A Japanese "seventh-son" (although he's the 81st son…that's a lot of kids) style story, in which he helps a hare and marries a princess…or two? en. wikipedia wiki/ Hare_ of_ Inaba (remove spaces).
Lono: Hawa'iian god offertility, agriculture, rainfall, and music. "Lono brings on the rains and dispenses fertility, and as such was sometimes referred to as Lono-makua (Lono the Provider)." en. wikipedia wiki/ Lono
Dian Cecht: Irish god of healing. He even saved Ireland once! en. Wikipedia wiki/ Dian_ Cecht
Oberon/Titania: King and Queen of the fairies/elves.
Their Son: "you remind me of the babe," "what babe?" "the babe with the power."
Fowl: Artemis Fowl. Always causing a boatload of trouble for fairies in general.