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Ice Dwarves and Other Distant Celestial Bodies

Chapter Text

It was funny the way things worked out.

Pluto had always been into Charon. Ever since the moment they met in a violent impact, he'd been really into Charon.

Before he'd met Charon, it hadn't been a good time for Pluto.

He'd hung out with the wilder sets of comets and asteroids that came and went out of the solar system. His surface was cracked with craters and long fissures. Anyone that looked at him could see his history.

In those days, he'd welcomed the asteroid strikes. He'd reveled in the quick sharp pain of it. His atmosphere was rich in nothing but methane. He'd been high most of the time. He spent half his time with his surface in the tail of some comet or other. He often had a variable ring of debris. There were whole turns around the sun when he couldn't remember if his orbit was closer to the sun than Neptune or not.

Quite frankly, he'd woken up more than once not even knowing the name of the rock passed out on his southern pole.

Who knows how long that would have gone on.

But then Charon slammed into him. The resulting impact left a crack through Pluto's mantle that he never wanted to heal. The methane on his surface boiled away. He wanted, he wanted so badly to have been a better mass of ice and rock, but truth of the matter was even having someone as wonderful as Charon run into him wasn't enough to straighten him out.

He was still mostly nitrogen and methane ice mixed with his rock. While Charon, he was made of better things. He was up of ammonia hydrates and water crystals. He calmly helped Pluto through detox and the resulting quakes. He was there for him the time Pluto relapsed with that comet and had to go through it all again. Then there was the secret that he never wanted Charon to know. That Pluto was practically a comet himself.

Oh, he was in a heliocentric orbit, but if he were closer to the sun, he'd have a tail just like the rest.

Even after Charon helped him straighten himself out, Pluto never quite knew how to say how he felt. There was no way he could ever be worthy of a celestial body like Charon.

He tried to fly right, but his orbit was at an inclined plane from the rest of the solar system. He always kept the same face turned to Charon, but he longed with every rock in his composition to tell Charon what tidally locking meant for Pluto. He was afraid to say anything. Charon was in orbit around Pluto. He didn't want Charon to feel uncomfortable. He might even break orbit. If he did, Pluto just hoped he'd head farther out into the Kuiper belt and not orbit Neptune. Charon was worth so much more than Neptune. No, Pluto just had to be satisfied with having the orbit of such a solid friend. He wanted more, but if he lost Charon, he didn't know what he'd do.

He took on a few more satellites. They were all a mix of strays out here on the edge. First there was Nix, who had been homeless since the heat death of her sun. She'd thought she was too old and misshapen to ever be a satellite, the poor old dear. Then came Hydra, who'd been tumbling erratically after she split with another asteroid. Then the twins S2011-1 and S2012-1. They were a family.

If Pluto wished he was a closer family with Charon, well, he just had to find the right time and way to say something.

Millions of years of saying nothing, and then he got the call. He'd been declared a planet. He was the ninth planet. He didn't even really know what to say. He thought that maybe now might be the right time to see if Charon could maybe make room at his core for Pluto. Maybe now that he was a planet, maybe now he could be worthy of a such a wonderful and solid celestial body.

He decided to work his way up to it. He tried.

He said, "So, um, hey, I'm the ninth planet. I'm a planet, just like Earth or Jupiter or, you know, the planets."

Charon said, "Congratulations." But his orbit became a little more distant.

Pluto tried everything he could think of. When the Halle Orchestra wrote a movement for him, he said, "Do you want to go hear my symphony? It's called Pluto, the Renewer."

"No, I," Charon's orbit became a little erratic. "I'm not that into orchestra music."

"Oh, yeah, sure. I prefer the music of the spheres myself." Pluto almost sublimated all his ices into gasses as soon as he said something that moronic.

Later he talked about it with Nix, who was unsympathetic. Nix told Hydra and they told the twins, and by the time Haumea called to see how he was doing and if he had any good symphonies playing, he was ready to crack in half. Even Makemake called and said, "Hey, I hear you're going to go hang out with Venus, the bringer of peace and a slightly burning sensation in the atmosphere."

With friends like these, Pluto was doomed.

He was still trying to figure out what to do when Eris called him. She was her usually discordant self. "Hey, babe, just calling to let you know you've been demoted."

He hadn't been sleeping. He could call it anti greenhouse flu, but he was worried about Charon. He said, "What?"

"I said you've been demoted to a dwarf planet, you jumped up comet. Now everyone knows that I'm 27% larger than you. So, suck on that Mr. Ninth Planet Renewer."

He didn't even have the slightest idea how to tell Charon. He wasn't even sure what a dwarf planet was or what that meant. It was great that Sedna, Makemake and Haumea were whatever that was with him, but he was just sort of a planet.

But it had to be done. "So, you know how I, well, yeah, I guess I'm not a planet after all."

Charon said, "What? I didn't know they could do that. They shouldn't be allowed to do that."

"Yeah, I guess they can do that. At least they can if you're a jumped up lump of rock and ice." Pluto rotated. "I'm nothing more than a comet."

"Stop that. I hate it when you put yourself down like that. You're not like them. Those comets. They go in and out of the solar system. They never stick around. But you settled into an orbit and you, you're just so amazing." Charon's orbit tightened.

"But when I told you I was a planet..." Pluto was honestly confused at this point. He blamed too much methane as a young celestial body.

"I'm sorry. I freaked out. It was just one more way you're so much better than I am." Charon did a full orbit around Pluto. "I'm just some rock that ran into you and you let me into your life. You gave me an orbit. You've been through so much, but you pulled yourself together all on your own. I've never met anyone as strong and as compassionate as you. The way you took on those other satellites so they'd have a home. You've got your own orbital path and you own that path. I guess, I just, it intimidated me."

Pluto didn't so much decide to say something as much as he just blurted, "Be my dwarf planet. I mean be one with me." Pluto moved into a hill sphere rotation. "I want to orbit you while you orbit me. Let's just orbit each other."

Although, they had always faced each other, that was the moment that Pluto truely felt their tidal locking syncing along their barycentres.

They rotated around their common center of gravity. Gasses pooled on Pluto's surface facing Charon. A temperature inversion formed. He grew warmer. There was liquid on his surface. He felt liquid at his core. Ammonia hydrated and reached out to Charon.

Charon cried out, "Pluto, you're so wet. You make my surface temperature increase." Ammonia continued to hydrate off of Pluto's surface. His surface glistened.

Charon rumbled with a small quake. Pluto quaked with him. They were seismically active. So, very seismically active. Pluto'd never been seismically active. He hadn't even known he could have plate tectonics. He'd thought that was only for the real planets. Pluto felt a mountain on his southern hemisphere thrust up an inch. Six inches. He cried out, "Charon!" as another stronger quake ground his plates against each other.

Cryo-geysers on Charon's surface erupted. The spray flew through the void and onto Pluto's surface. A final quake shook Pluto.

The activity stilled and they orbited each other quietly.

"Wow." Pluto listened to the music of the celestial spheres. "Wow. That was. Wow."

"Yeah." Charon spun in their common orbit. Charon whispered, "You'll always be a planet to me."

"And you've always been my planet," Pluto said softly in return. It was true. Charon had always been the one for Pluto, and until the heat death of the sun and beyond, he always would be.

The music of the spheres played on.