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Heavy Snowfall

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Present day: 5 January 2033
Location: Burgess (Pennsylvania), United States

The ground underneath Jack's feet felt unstable. It felt like it was tilting in every direction, as if it had yet to find its balance point. He was standing in a dimly lit room. His body felt warm, but it didn't bother him. 

His eyes widened when he saw straight brown hair, reaching between the elbows and shoulders of a girl. Her brown dress, Jack could recognise between thousands. 

Anna

Jack’s sister was within arm reach, just a couple feet away from him. She turned around, facing him. Her expression was frightened. She reached out to him.

“Jack!”

The floor disappeared. Jack was sucked into darkness.

Water. That was all he felt. Cold water, pressing against his skin, far too cold for his body temperature. He wanted to swim back up to the surface, but the salty sea water stung in his eyes, forcing him to close them, thus making him unable to see what was happening.

He felt like he was being dragged down. He did not know what was doing so, but tried to get himself free. The longer he struggled, the more his body screamed for air. Unwillingly, he took a breath, but instead of air, his lungs filled with water. His eyes shot open, the burning that bugged him earlier just a side-effect now. He was too unsettled to even notice. He knew he couldn’t cough the water back up, but his body tried to nonetheless. His coughing only worsened the situation. The cold was starting to make him feel numb. He couldn't hold on much longer. His body was giving up. He was losing consciousness. He kicked and wiggled, in a doomed to fail last attempt at freeing himself, but he failed. A sharp pain in his chest made him stop resisting. He let go.

The water dragged him down, deeper and deeper. It pushed against his skin. His eyes burned. The cold, numb yet painful. His throat stung. The hurt in his chest worsened. There was a bright circle he could see through the turbid waters.

Then there was darkness. 

Jack woke up. 

His heart was beating rapidly. His body felt much colder than it had just then, even colder than it had felt in the water. In the shock of waking up, he’d let go of his staff, that he had been holding. He grabbed it before it could fall off the tree he was sitting in. The familiarity of his staff comforted him. 

He looked around, quickly realising it was just a nightmare. He was still outside, he was fine, he was safe. There was no water, no ocean. Only big green trees, like the one he was in. He was fine. He was safe. No water. No pain. No Anna. He was safe. Just a nightmare.

He looked to his side, and saw the sandy black hair of a Nightmare Horse in the moonlight. It didn’t startle him, on the contrary, it was almost as comforting as holding his staff. The Nightmare Horses they fought against decades ago were evil. This one wasn’t. This one was Jack’s friend. 

Their friendship started about two years ago. Jack was used to having nightmares, he had been having them for over three hundred years. It didn’t alarm him. When he woke up, he just sat in the tree for some time. Sunken away in his thoughts, he didn’t even hear her approaching. Nightmare Horses cause fear just by being near someone, but Jack was already scared because of his nightmare, which is why he only noticed her when she neighed. The Nightmare was standing just about ten feet away. Later he realised she could’ve hurt him if she wanted to, but instead she announced her presence and waited at a safe distance.

Nonetheless, in that moment Jack had flown up into the sky, taking his staff in two hands. His initial thought was that Pitch had returned. He flew around, searched for him, called for him. He stopped when he heard the horse whicker in amusement. He didn’t let his guard down either way. Jack looked at her, took in her appearance. Shifting black sand, golden eyes. She looked... graceful , in a way, which was quite ironic, given that she was a Nightmare Horse . The name alone should say enough. And yet, Jack had always found the Nightmare Horses somewhat interesting. They were beautiful, he thought, though he would never confess that to anyone. 

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and the Nightmare didn’t leave. Jack accepted she wanted to stay. The Nightmare became a very good friend. Jack had fun with her. She was a prankster, she liked to have fun. They often raced on the winds, using the environment around them to block each other’s paths, or take shortcuts. 

Yes, she brought nightmares on the rare occasion that Jack let himself doze off, lying in another tree, but Jack didn’t mind. The nightmares were often about the time he had been human, often about his sister. More often than not, there was water involved in some way. Still, the dreams were bittersweet. Anna was most vivid in his nightmares, and Jack cherished seeing her again. It was painful, but it was also good, in a way. Also, Jack knew he’d have nightmares either way, with Nightmare Horse or without. The only difference was, the dreams were more vivid, and someone nourished herself with it. 

And so, Jack spent most of his time with her. He even gave her a name, about four months after their first encounter. Now, two years later, he couldn’t imagine living without her again. She made being alone so much more bearable.

Mora looked at him with golden eyes that Jack had grown to associate with his best friend. She nodded to him, as if asking him if he was okay. She looked like she was apologizing. She always did after giving him a nightmare. 

Jack took a few deep breaths, before swinging his legs to one side of the branch he had been lying on, reaching down to gently stroke the side of her head.

“It's okay. It was good. Seeing Anna, I mean.”

Mora flew up closer to Jack. Jack smiled at her. He replayed the dream in his head, going over every detail. He always did that. He wondered how Mora managed to always make a completely different nightmare. Before her, he always had the same one. It was nice to dream of something else; as far as nightmares can be nice. The only thing consistent in his dreams were Anna and his fear of water and drowning.

“Wanna go somewhere?” Jack asked. He didn’t really feel like going anywhere, but he knew it would make Mora happy. He would do anything to make Mora happy. Mora made a noise that sounded like a huff. “Let’s go.”

They got up and flew on the winds. It didn’t matter where they’d end up, they only cared about racing around. They chased each other, stopped, had a few snowball fights and simply enjoyed a few days. 

“Ah, look at that!” Jack said, while the two were flying over a small town in the west of America. He flew towards a tall but skinny snowman. It was taller than Jack himself. Mora swirled above Jack’s head, making some happy sounds. Small treads of black sand fell behind her, but they disappeared into the air almost as soon as they came. 

Jack looked up upon hearing the laughter of children. A small smile emerged on his face. It had been some time since he last played with kids. Let’s have some fun .

Jack let fresh snow fall over their heads, a small bundle of warmth flowing through his otherwise cold body. He loved seeing children have fun in snow. He created a snowball and blew on it, feeling a rush of excitement moving from his chest all the way to his mouth, leaving his body and sealing the snowball with a spell. Jack then threw his enchanted snowball at one of the kids, quickly creating more to throw at the others as well. 

He got lost in the fun. Jack raced after Mora, not noticing how close they got to the children until he heard a shriek. Jack stopped mid air. He saw a small girl from about five or six years old starting to cry. 

Children didn’t respond well to Mora. To them, she was just a Nightmare Horse. 

“No no no, it’s alright, don’t be scared. She doesn’t hurt anyone, that was my fault,” Jack held his palms up and got closer to the girl. She had closed her eyes and cried soundly. She seemed pretty young. “It’s nothing to worry about, really. Don’t cry, let’s just play with some more snow-” Jack was cut off when the girl decided she’d heard enough and ran, right through him, to her mother who was sitting on a bench nearby.

The sudden and unexpected cold that remained, stole the air from his lungs, leaving Jack gasping. It had been a long time since anyone ran through him. He tried his best to avoid touch, and he hadn’t been out that much either. He had forgotten how much it hurt. She hadn’t even heard what he had said. She didn’t believe in Jack Frost.

How can you forget you’re invisible, when that’s all you’ve been for three hundred and twenty years? You’re really damn stupid.

Jack angrily blinked away the tears that welled up in his eyes. He remembered how on that night, after they had defeated Pitch, he had thought that this would stop. That he would finally feel the comfort of touch again, that this coldness would be nothing more than a bad memory. How foolish he’d been. The amount of children who believed in Jack Frost peaked after about seven years, but then they decreased again. Now, there were little groups of children who still believed, spreaded over mostly America and, to Jack’s surprise, Australia. Jack was grateful for every single one of them, but couldn’t help but laugh at ever thinking he’d have the number of believers the Guardians had. 

How foolish .

Jack shook his head, grabbed his staff and flew away. 

*

Jack wanted to feel warmer. He wanted to forget the holling cold that immobilized him. He decided to pay a visit to Jamie Bennett.

The now 30-year old man was happily married to Claude, one of Jamie’s old childhood friends. They had adopted two daughters, Sarah and Anne. Jack remembered first meeting them. They were quite smart for their age, but Jack remembered Sarah flinching away when he came too close, and Anne protectively reaching out for her. Jamie told him about their biological mother being abusive. After his visit, Jack decided to visit some university he’d once heard some people talk about. He sat in on a hearing about traumas, which he found surprisingly interesting. He tried sitting in on another hearing, but he left halfway through. It was too much sitting and listening. He needed to move, he couldn’t just sit. Well he could, but not in a closed room. Only outside, under the stars or the big bright sky. 

Jack jumped on a wind and called for Mora to follow him. The wind brought him to the back of Jamie’s house in Pennsylvania. He landed on the roof and heard Mora shimmer behind him. 

“Shh, keep it down, Mora,” he said, but couldn’t help but laugh at the face she made. “What? Don’t give me that look, I want to surprise him!”

Mora simply shook her head before giving Jack a push with her head. She had always been one to just go for it, instead of planning things. “Alright alright, I’m going! Calm down!” Jack lowered himself onto the balcony on the first floor, and peeked into the living room on the ground floor. Jamie and Claude were sitting on the dark blue carpet, their backs against the sofa. They were playing some card game with Sarah and Anne, who were sitting opposite them. They laughed, and Jamie rested his head on Claude’s shoulder. 

Jack smiled at how happy they looked. Already, he’d forgotten the cold from earlier. Jack focussed hard, and managed to create an ice butterfly. The small thing pressed itself through the tight space between the door and its frame, somehow finding its way into the house. It touched down onto the table, and Jamie shot up upon seeing it. He smiled and got up. He opened the back door and Jack jumped down in front of him.

“Jack!” Jamie exclaimed and opened his arms to embrace him.

“Jamie,” Jack gasped. His chest tightened. The sudden heat around him made him dizzy. He was so not used to anyone besides Mora hugging him.

“How have you been?” Jamie said, letting go of him. Jack wanted it to last longer, but let go anyway. “Good. I’ve been good,” Jack said, looking past Jamie into the living room. Sarah and Anne had noticed the frost spirit too, and were currently running to him.

“Jack Frost!” Sarah ran and wrapped her hands around Jack’s leg. “Hey girls! Wanna go have some fun?” Jack leaned down to properly see them, and they happily obligated. 

“Daddy, Papa! Can we go outside and play with Jack Frost?” Anne asked sweetly. “Yeah of course, go fetch your coats and scarves first though.” Claude pointed at the door to the hall. The girls ran off to get their clothing. In the meantime, Jamie waved Jack to come in. Once inside, Jack looked around. 

“I like the change,” Jack said, looking around. There was a new dinner table, new family photos on the wall, and a new television. Jack didn’t like those. He once tried to use one in some apartment in Germany. He’d seen people talk to their devices, and tried to tell it what to do, but it didn’t listen. He then tried to use the remote control, but the thing just didn’t listen to him. He decided he just wasn’t meant for modern technology. 

“Thank you.” Jamie smiled.

"I don't suppose you have a house, somewhere we can visit you? 'Cause obviously you won't come to us anymore. I haven't seen you in forever!" Claude said jokingly. Jack laughed.

"I don't have a house, and I'm sorry for not visiting, but you know...Work," Jack said, smiling, already knowing what Claude would say.

"No," he said, stretching the 'o', "Those are excuses! Flying around and throwing snowballs with kids is not work, Jackie."

"Alright alright, I promise I'll visit more." Jack didn't know why he didn't visit more often. He felt so warm, so welcome, when he was here.

Their little chat came to an end when the girls came back, all ready to go out. “Oh, I should leave too. We need some groceries, right?” Jamie said, turning to his husband. Claude nodded, “Yeah but don’t worry, I can get them.” 

“Nah, it’s fine. I can spend some time with Jack too, like this, can’t I? We’ll be back in an hour,” Jamie reached out  to the coat rack and put on his own coat.

“Alright then. Stay safe you guys,” Claude got up and pressed a kiss to Jamie’s cheek. Jack was busy with Sarah and Anne, already standing outside. 

“Daddy!” Anne shouted, laughing. “We’re waiting out here!”

“Coming, just a second darling!” 

Once Jamie finally exited the house, he walked on the sidewalk whileas Sarah, Anne and Jack were running, laughing and throwing snowballs at each other. Jack couldn’t deny that he loved that they could see him. It made him feel so good. 

“Watch it!” Jack jokingly warned, before freezing the ground under the sisters feet. They shrieked and laughed, and Jack swung his staff, freezing more ground on their way. 

“Don’t freeze the road Jack, that’s dangerous!” Jack heard Jamie from somewhere further back. Jack turned around and shouted back: “Don’t worry about it!” He then turned back to the girls and created some snowballs. He threw them, making them run off the road to the sidewalk on the other side of the road. Jack flew up into the air and prepared more snowballs to throw. Anne turned around to look at him, but then she stopped walking and turned more.

“DAD!”

Jack turned around, just in time to see Jamie’s tall body being pushed by a car, pushed aside like he was made of clay. Just in time to see the unnatural way his body bent. Just in time to see Jamie fall onto the hard roadway.

A stinging ache in Jack’s sternum, a cramp in his abdomen, as if someone was squeezing his heart while pushing against his stomach. Nausea built inside him, he wanted to vomit. Maybe vomiting would take the feeling away?  He didn't actually want to find out, but he found himself bending over anyway, retching, without anything coming up. He didn't need to eat, so there was nothing in him to be puked out. 

Nonetheless, his throat hurt, and he felt no less nauseous or hurt. He was able to look up, though. He saw someone use their mobile phone, but was too dizzy to make out anything said. Sarah. Anne . Jack vaguely remembered. Only then he realised they were crying, falling down by Jamie’s side. Only then he realised he was standing on the ground again. 

He didn’t know how much time passed, but an ambulance came. Jamie was carried onto a brancard. Sarah and Anne were taken inside the vehicle. Jack felt, ironically , frozen. Jack felt as if there was a part of him being driven away. He started regaining his common sense, and went to follow the wagen, but then decided against it. He had to tell Claude. 

Claude. Jamie’s husband. 

Jamie jumped on a wind to Jamie’s house. He was disorientated, stopped in front of two different houses before finding his way back to the right building. He landed on the wooden porch, and Claude opened the door without him having to knock. 

“Jamie forgot his wallet again, didn’t he? That guy, I swear to- What is it?” Claude had already turned around, but turned back when he caught the expression on Jack’s face. “Jamie…” Jack started. How was he supposed to say something like this? 

“Jamie what? Is he hurt? What happened?” Claude’s eyebrows furrowed. 

“Jamie… We… The girls and I… We were fooling around, we played with snow, and I freezed the ground, and… Jamie told me not to… To freeze the road. I said ‘don’t worry’, but then I turned around and a car came and it slipped on my ice, and Jamie… Jamie-”

“Jamie got hit by a car?! What are you doing, standing here? Call a damn ambulance!” Claude quickly ran inside, but Jack stopped him with the crook of his staff. 

“Someone else already called. They got him into the ambulance, Sarah and Anne were taken with him because, well,” Jack said. It was obviously because they had thought there was no one else there. They couldn’t see Jack. And they’re not to blame, really. Adults were not supposed to be able to see him. Jack was very grateful Jamie and Claude could, but that was only because they had been there when they fought Pitch. 

Claude sighed. “What hospital did they bring him to?”

Jack frowned. What hospital did they bring him to? He should’ve followed the car first, before coming back to tell Claude. They would’ve called him anyway, and Jack would have known in what condition Jamie was in. 

Jack looked up when Claude simply walked back into the house. Apparently the things Jack had said were enough. Or rather, the lack of them. Jack didn’t know whether to follow him back inside or stay on the porch. He wanted to go inside, and get rid of that nasty aching in his chest, but he was scared Claude wouldn’t want him there. After all, the car had slipped on Jack’s ice. If he had just listened to Jamie, he would’ve been fine. 

After worrying about it for another few minutes, Jack decided to sit down on the porch, and wait for news. He jumped onto the small wooden fence, and leaned on his staff. He looked at the street in front of him. 

Visuals of brown hair, spread over the frozen concrete, appeared before Jack’s eyes. He pressed his eyes shut. Don’t think about it. He’s going to be alright. He’s going to be fine. To reassure himself, Jack started creating small objects of ice, only to make them turn back to snow and start all over again. He created some animals, some trees, some objects people use. He created a swarm of fish that resembled the ones that flew around Jamie, after Pitch was defeated. Jamie looked very happy. Jamie always looks happy. Jack wondered if he’d ever get the memory of Jamie being hit by a car out of his mind. He doubted it.

*

A week passed. Jamie was in a coma. He had broken two ribs, his arm, and the back of his head was damaged. It was likely his nerves were damaged. It was possible for him to have lost his hearing. They had to run more tests to make things sure. 

Jack only knew this because he flew outside the window when Jamie’s doctor talked to Claude, and not because Claude deliberately told him. Claude had to take the girls back home. He sent Jack away. He had done it quietly, but they both knew he only did that because no one else could actually see or hear Jack. If Jack was a normal human, Claude would have probably expressed his unsubtle anger. Jack understood. It was his ice. Claude had every right to be mad at Jack. Jack felt like he was scolded by a parent, which was a weird thought, considering he was way past three hundred years old. Maybe he was a little childish, but that didn’t make it feel any less weird. And frankly, it was pretty much his job to be childish. 

Still, he understood the danger of fun. It was easy to slip on ice, he knew that. This wasn’t the first time someone had been hurt because of him, and it wouldn’t be the last time either, but this was the first time he experienced the danger so close. Jamie meant a lot to Jack, and hurting him left a cold and empty space in Jack’s gut. He didn’t like it.

After being sent away, Jack first spent some time in town. It had been some time since he had last been in the area. Snow started falling before Jack could even think about it. His powers match his mood. Jack didn’t like it. He had seen more than enough of snow and frost for at least a couple of weeks, but him being upset about it only made it snow harder.

Mora found him at some point. Jack had no idea how she always found him, he assumed she, too, could get the wind to simply bring her to him, like he could. He was thankful she came though. 

“Hey girl,” Jack said. Mora huffed, and held her head to the side. “I was stupid. I hurt Jamie with my ice. Well, not directly. I made ice, a car slipped over it and hit Jamie. He’s in coma.” Mora came closer, familiar and a small bubble of fear appeared in Jack’s chest. He ran it out, knowing there was nothing fearful anywhere near. Instead he reached out to her and dragged her even closer.

Jack held the left side of his own face against the left side of Mora’s. Meanwhile he stroked her mane. 

“Oh Mora, I don’t even know if this comforts you as much as it does me. I just hope it does,” Jack whispered. He longed for the warm contact of someone who could hold him, who he could talk to, who didn't make him scared - even if Mora didn't mean to - but at the same time the thought of warm contact made him think of Jamie. And thinking of Jamie hurt, because he felt very responsible for what happened. If he had just listened to Jamie, he wouldn’t have been hurt. If he had just dealt with his problems alone, he wouldn’t have been hurt. If he would have waited for Jamie to catch up, he wouldn’t have been hurt. 

But Jamie had gotten hurt. And now there was nothing Jack could do to help. 

There was a chance Jamie wouldn’t even remember Jack. Jack knew he didn’t deserve Jamie’s believe in him, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. Jack had thought he’d get to enjoy Jamie for several more years. A lot of years. But now it felt like it was all over. 

“I think I'm gonna go up again,” Jack finally said, not looking at anything in particular. ‘Up’, either meant the North Pole or Antarctica. He hardly remembered first referring to them as ‘up’, and didn’t think about it now. In this case, it was going to be Antarctica, he already knew. He didn’t want to draw North’s attention to himself. 

He had been holding Mora for at least ten minutes now. She just let him. They did that more often than one might think, even though Jack's heart raced so hard in his chest that it hurt. No matter how much he trusted and loved her, neither of them could stop her from inspiring fear.

“You'll manage yourself?” Jack just said. Mora huffed and nodded. “Thanks girl.” He jumped on a wind that would take him south. Snow followed him.

Chapter Text

Present day: 18 January 2033
Location: Russian mountains

Jack shouted as he ran towards a cliff and jumped off it.

He had spent three days in Antarctica. He didn’t want to get close to the scientists on one side, or to the tourists on the other side. Somehow he spent more time focussing on that than on letting go for a second, which was the only reason he’d even gone there. He flew away, and thought about places not many people would go, and so, he ended up in the Russian mountains, rest assured that there were no people to watch out for. He didn’t know exactly where he was, but he knew he didn’t need to worry about someone seeing him. No sane person would go into the mountains with the weather he brought along.

Those first three days in Antarctica were filled with sadness. He couldn’t think of anything but Jamie. His chest was constantly hurting. He didn’t have any energy. When he arrived at Antarctica, he flew somewhere he couldn’t see anyone, and laid down in the snow. He had to close his eyes, as it was snowing around him. He slept, once. He swore to himself not to do so again, for some time at least. The nightmare he got wasn’t made by Mora, who was God-knows-where. It wasn’t bittersweet, it was downright cruel. He drowned, was forgotten, saw Jamie die, and when he woke up he was confronted with the fact that two out of the three of those had happened already. What was preventing the third one from happening as well?

The rest of the time he’d been on Antarctica, he was sitting in the snow, thinking, while desperately trying not to but not knowing what else to do with himself.

After leaving Antarctica he was filled with anger. Towards himself, and the world. But mainly himself. It felt unfair. Jamie didn’t deserve being hurt. Jamie was the most wonderful human being, and Jack did not deserve his belief or his friendship. His feelings resulted in snowstorms and blizzards, replacing the wet snow that had been falling when he was sad. 

He jumped off the cliff. He couldn’t see the ground, didn’t care how far down it was. He let go of his staff and let himself fall. It wasn’t the first time he’d done something like this. Before he became a Guardian, he had often felt like he did now. He didn’t like the phrase, ‘I’m used to it’, because it sounded way too melodramatic, but he really was used to it.

One moment he was still falling from up high, the sound of wind and the feeling of snow around him, and the next he was surrounded by white. He didn’t move until he started running out of air, completely fine with laying so far in the snow that he couldn’t see anything. He began making his way back to the surface, pushing away the snow. He hardly remembered how cold it must be for others. It felt refreshing to him. 

He didn’t actually need air to stay alive, he was a spirit, but he was used to the movement and the feeling of breathing, and panicked when he couldn’t do so anymore. 

Once back on the surface, he felt somewhat calmer. The storm had slowed down, and all that was left were a few harsh winds. Jack sighed, and started looking around for his staff. He found it a little further away from his own landing spot, and took it. 

Now that the snow had slowed down, he saw something large. It looked like it wasn’t put there by nature itself, it seemed too unnatural for that. He flew closer to it to inspect it.

He landed in front of the thing, and placed a hand on it. It was huge. He didn’t know what it was. It was tall, and when touching it, it felt like it was made of snow. How did it stand? How come it wasn’t pushed aside in the winds? He didn’t know, but it reminded him of the result of his fight with Pitch, all that time ago. He had sent frost Pitch’s way, who had countered it with shadows. Their powers mixed, and created something he had never seen before. It was taller than what was in front of him right now, and much darker and pointier. Pitch started talking about longing for a family, and how they were both alone. They could be alone together. He seemed genuine. Jack had let his guard down. And then Pitch had threatened Baby Tooth and snapped his staff.

He flew away from whatever that thing was. He didn’t want to waste his time by thinking about someone like Pitch. As much as he wanted to think about something that wasn’t related to Jamie, he wasn’t desperate enough to start thinking about Pitch.

He ended up back in the woods behind Burgess. He did not have an actual home with four walls and a roof, his lifestyle was way too nomadic for that. Nonetheless, the woods behind Burgess were the closest thing he had to a home, especially after getting some of his memories back. Before that, he really slept wherever he was at the moment. There was no place that resembled anything like a home. He kept mostly to America, Australia and Europe, finding it something like comfort in understanding the language the people spoke, even though they couldn’t see him. It reminded him that he was somewhat sane. He was still somewhat like them, even though he couldn’t interact with them. 

He sunk onto the thick branch he slept in most of the times, and sighed deeply. He wondered how Jamie was doing. He’d visit him again later. He just wanted to have a moment of rest before that. He wasn’t going to sleep, he just wanted some rest. 

His little break from reality got better when he saw Mora fly towards him. Lately she’s been away much more than she used to. He smiled and sat up straight. Once she got close enough Jack reached out to her and stroked her mane. His heart raced with the fear she made, but he ignored it

“Hey baby girl, how’re you doing? Jamie’s still-”

Before he was able to say much more, Mora shrieked and started flying away. Jack was confused, wanted to go after her, but then understood one of the Guardians was coming. Just a second later, he heard it too. He could hear the sleigh. North was closeby. Was he coming to visit? It surprised Jack. The Guardians didn’t visit that often, and North tended to be busy so shortly after Christmas. Jack rose to his feet once North was within eyesight.

“Jack! Where have you been?” North said loudly, landing his sleigh on the ice. “I have been coming here every day for three days now!”

“Nah, I was just flying around, you know how it goes,” Jack said, casually leaning on his staff. 

North didn’t get out of his sleigh. Jack didn’t expect him to. The length and frequency of his visits shortened over time. This was actually the first time he had seen North in almost two years. The others didn’t visit much either. They were all busy. Usually Jack was the one who’d visit them. He didn’t really have to be at one specific place to do his job. It was easier for him to visit them, than it was for them to visit him. 

“I am hearing about snowstorms in Russia, mhm! So I thought, I could spare a minute to check on you,” North said, occasionally tugging on the ropes to silence the stubborn and wild reindeer. 

“Well I’m fine, if you’re concerned about me,” Jack said, jumping down from the tree he was standing in. He caught himself before he hit the ground, and hovered closer to North.

“I’m not concerned, not at all! I am just thinking I haven’t seen you in a while. How about you come visit me at the workshop? I can always use some help with the toys!” North said. Jack ignored the odd feeling in his chest that North’s quick dismiss caused, and smiled instead, even if he didn’t feel like it at all. He was the Guardian of Fun. He was supposed to smile.

“Yes! Haven’t seen you in a while... I’ll… I’ll come visit,” he said. 

“Great! I will see you then!” North exclaimed, and flew up again before Jack could react.

“Yeah, see you… See you then!” Jack replied, but his voice softened towards the end of his sentence. North hadn’t heard him.

*

“Ah, Jack!” North said upon seeing the frost spirit. He opened his arms wide and trapped Jack into a hug, before he had even landed on the ground. Jack gasped in a breath. His immediate thought was to push him away. North was warm. And big. And currently squeezing him. His arms were trapped. It was very uncomfortable. But the big man let him go before he could even push him back.

“I was just about to be feeding the reindeer. Are you coming?” Without asking anything else North turned left and started walking into some direction. Jack took another breath, and, in some twisted way he didn’t understand, he wanted North’s arms around him again. Didn’t he just not want that? He couldn’t begin to understand his feelings, instead waved it away and quickly followed North. He had to take bigger steps than he normally would have.

“So, Jack. Those storms in Russia; are they having anything to do with you?” North asked.

“Uh, no, not that I know. Haven’t been in Russia lately,” Jack lied. He didn’t really know why he lied, it just happened. North made a sound in acknowledgement. It was quiet for a minute. 

“You hardly visit me anymore,” North then said.

“Well, I have been thinking about visiting you again, but I thought I’d rather not disturb you around Christmas,” Jack said. 

North laughed loudly. “Yes! I must say, I can be stressed around Christmas. But with good reason! Christmas is very important!” He waved his hands around as he spoke. They arrived at the reindeer stables. 

Jack had been there before, and what he saw didn’t surprise him. The deer walked around with just a single fence keeping from flying away. The fence was very tall, though, and it did it job perfectly well. There was a roof, probably to shield the deer from snow and to keep them from flying away. Christmas lights - of course - were hanging everywhere. 

North immediately walked to somewhere where the reindeer food was stored, and Jack was left behind for a second.

“North?” Jack said, after a while in which they fed the animals. There were big food baskets in which they could just put the food in, but North liked to feed the reindeer personally, when he had the time.

“Yes, Jack. What is it?”

“Jamie is in a coma.” It was hard for Jack, saying it. It hurt him to even think about it, but he couldn’t think about anything else.

“Jamie who?” North asked, not stopping in his pace, continuing to feed and pet the deer. Jack did stop. North stopped as well once he realised Jack did. He gave him a questionable look.

“Jamie who? Jamie Bennett of course.” Jack was shocked when North still had no idea who he was. Had he forgotten everything Jamie did? 

“Jamie Bennett? The child that was the key to keeping Pitch from, basically killing you and the others? From destroying every child’s hopes and dreams?”

“Oh Jamie! Of course! I am sorry, yes, Jamie. He’s in coma, you were saying?” North then said. Jack nodded. He didn’t say anything else. He was a little mad at North for forgetting Jamie. North seemed to expect more, but Jack didn’t know what to tell him. What else was there to tell? He was in coma. That’s all there was to tell. North seemed to realise he wouldn’t elaborate.

“He was very important to us when Pitch came back, very. I’m sorry I forgot about him, but he grew up. We have to focus on the new children, yes?”

“What?” Jack’s voice sounded sadder than he had intended it to. The little amount of anger increased. 

“So you're saying you don't care about him anymore because he, because he grew up? That's really hypocrite,” he said. He didn’t understand. They had to focus on new children, so the ones that grow up don't matter anymore? No wonder adults can't believe in them. He didn’t notice the snow that was beginning to fall outside, visible from through the fence in the stables.

“Now now, Jack, calm down. Don't say such things. You see, wonder, hopes and dreams? In a child, they are most pure. The imagination of a child is immense, and much wider and freer than that of an adult. Besides, even if that was not true, we cannot focus on everyone. Adults have responsibilities, you see. They know what they have to do when something happens. Children don't. Children need help, need our help. They need to wonder. They need to have hopes, they need to have dreams. Jack, do you understand?” 

“Yeah. Yeah I do,” Jack said. He didn't look at North, looked away and noticed the snow. He frowned. He didn’t want it to snow, he didn’t want it to be so obvious that he was upset. He understood, yes, but he didn't want to understand. He wanted to get angry at North for forgetting about Jamie. Somehow he couldn’t bring the anger he had just been feeling up. The only thing that came was sadness. 

“Have you seen Sandy lately?” North asked, after a few minutes of silence.

“No. I haven’t seen anyone as of late,” Jack said absently. He froze a mud puddle on the ground, and created some frost patterns on it.

“Mhm. I was wondering if he had found any Nightmares. There was one in the village, you see,” North said, taking the now empty sack that had been filled with food, and already turning around to leave the stables. Jack quickly followed him.

The village. In the past, before Jack became a Guardian, he tried to bust into the workshop for years. The first time he came to the North Pole, though, was just for fun. He used to love flying around the world, just seeing different kinds of people. At first he was actually looking for people that could see him, but he had given up on that a long time ago. When he flew over the North Pole, he saw something that looked like a village. It was only when he came closer, that he noticed the habitants of the village were not people wearing thick coats. They were actual, real yeti. 

The yeti lived around the workshop. There were a few that actually lived in the workshop, just like North, but those were only the ones that worked there every day. Not all of them did. There were children yeti, and older yeti, that stayed in their homes. As far as Jack knew, the yeti did not get paid for their work. They enjoyed it. There was no such thing as money in their small community. Jack liked it. 

“What did you do with it? Did you catch it?” Jack then asked, remembering what North had said. Even after the fight with Pitch, not all Nightmares were gone. They were all around the world. Sandy still worked to get to every one of them. There was no way to find them, you had to stumble acorss them. 

North laughed loudly. 

“I slayed it! It is gone. But it is better when Sandy turns them back into good dreams, mhm?” Jack nodded, but couldn’t help feeling a little sad. Conversations like these made him remember he would never be able to tell the Guardians about Mora. They would ‘slay’ her. Jack couldn’t handle his life without Mora. She had to stay secret. 

“Are they all so bad?” Jack dared to ask. North stopped walking, and turned to Jack.

“They are not just ‘bad’, Jack, they are evil! They are shadows. They use your fear against you.” 

“But is it impossible for one to be good? Don’t they have a personality? Can’t they choose whether they’re good or bad?” He was ranting, but he didn’t notice nor care. He was driven by the thought that maybe, maybe , there was a chance he could make him understand? North could see the wonder in everything, surely he could see the wonder in Nightmare Horses?

“What are you saying Jack? Do you know a good Nightmare?” The look North gave him made Jack realise he did not see the wonder in them. He couldn’t make him understand. He shook his head, and looked away. 

“They used to be good dreams, yes, but Pitch used to fight against the shadows. Now he is their King,” North said nonchalantly, putting his coat away before walking further. 

“What? Pitch used to fight against them? Pitch Black? Are we talking about the same person?” Jack said, shocked. 

“Did you not know?” North said in surprise, before sighing. “Well, it did happen long before your time.”

“What happened long before my time?” 

“Ah, I believe, we must sit down for this story. It is good story, though. I will tell you.” North waved Jack towards a sofa, close to North’s workroom. Jack placed his staff against the wall, although still within armsreach, and sank down onto the sofa. North told the elves to bring cookies, before sitting down on the coffee table in front of Jack.

“Pitch Black, was not always, Pitch Black,” North started. The look on Jack’s face must have been amusing, as North laughed. 

“He was born as Kozmotis Pitchiner, on a world far, far away from this one. It was the time of the Golden Age. During the Golden Age, the universe was ruled by the Constellations. Groups of stars and planets, led by great families. The most beloved family, was the House of Lunanoff. The heads of the House of Lunanoff, were being Tsar Lunar XI and his wife Tsarina Lunar. They had a son. He is called, Tsar Lunar XII, but you know him as Man in Moon, mhm?”

Jack’s eyes widened. The Moon - The Man in the Moon, he had parents? Jack didn’t know what to think. 

“The Golden Age was very peaceful, at least until the evil came, and it came in the form of Fearlings, Nightmare Men, Dream Pirates! They threatened the peace! The House of Lunanoff vowed to get rid of the evil. Together with the other Constellations, they built a prison out of lead. They built it to hold the Fearlings and their sorts. Do you know who led the war against them?” North leaned closer to Jack. He had just opened his mouth to answer, when North continued:

“Kozmotis Pitchiner!” he shouted. Jack’s ear hurt from it, but he didn’t say anything, he was genuinely interested in the story. 

“Ha! Before he was Pitch Black, he was War General , mhm! And you know what? He succeeded! Kozmotis was the hero of the Golden Age! Then, he volunteered to guard the prison planet. And he kept guard for years. No one really knows what happened then. They say the shadows talked to him, convinced him to open the gates. Some say it was his plan all along. Anyway, he opened the gates. That is when Kozmotis Pitchiner, the War General, turned into Pitch Black, the Nightmare King.”

Jack couldn’t believe it. Pitch used to be good? He thought of a time in the Antarctic.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be cast out?! To not be believed in?! To long for, a family?” 

The words might have been more honest than he had thought. 

“But can’t- can’t anyone turn him back? He used to be good! You said he was a hero! Maybe, if we tried to talk to him we could convince him to-”  Jack said, flying up from the sofa without realising it.

“Jack we cannot turn him back. It took an army of Golden Warriors, the first time. We can’t get the shadows out of him anymore Jack. Kozmotis Pitchiner is who he once was, yes, but he is no longer that person. He is the Nightmare King now. He destroyed worlds, stars, stole every dream he came across, he turned children into Fearlings, Jack! He is not Kozmotis anymore!” North interrupted him, anger obviously taking over towards the end of his sentence.

Jack’s face fell. 

“Yeah you’re probably right,” he then said, even though he still felt doubt. North gave him a sad smile, before he stood up. 

“I made a new toy, do you want to look at it with me?” North said, already sounding much happier. Jack didn’t understand how he could sound like that. He himself felt awful. He treated Pitch like a criminal, which he was , of course, but maybe he was more than just that. They shouldn’t have judged him so quickly. Jack shouldn’t have.

He shook his head. North was right. Pitch used to be good, but he wasn’t anymore. Jack pushed the story away, out of his mind. Pitch hadn’t earned his pity, and he had more important matters to spend his thoughts on.

Jack spent the rest of his day in the workshop. He froze some elves, helped North a little and looked around to see the things the yeti had made. He was grateful for finally finding something to do with his time. It got his mind off Jamie. And yet, every second he wasn’t doing something , the image of Jamie on the frozen concrete appeared before his eyes. And if not that, it would be the image of Jamie in a hospital bed, or Claude’s judgemental eyes. He thought about Sarah and Anne. He wondered how they were holding up.

He also thought about Mora. Lately, she went away more and more. Had she grown tired of him? He couldn’t live without her. She was his rock, his best friend, his companion. She could cheer him up without even trying to. Her sheer presence made him feel like he wasn’t alone. But what if she didn’t think the same way about him? What if she felt like she had enough of him, and decided that she wouldn’t waste her time with someone like Jack?

Jack was suddenly shocked about his own thoughts. Since when did he have such pessimistic thoughts? He had always been one to be a little gloomy, but Mora wasn’t about to leave him. Mora would be fine. Jamie would be fine. Jack would be fine. There was no need for any of his concerns. He could try to pull some pranks with her later. She loved those just as much as Jack did, probably even more so.

He was flying through halls, trying to find something to occupy himself with, and almost flew past a room when something caught his eye. He flew back a little, and entered the room. The room was dimly lit by what seemed to be thousands of little yellow lights on the ceiling and on the walls. There were lots of them, but they didn’t provide much light. The ceiling was very high, and there were stairs that led to it. The stairs were against the walls, circling around the middle of the circular room. How come he had never seen this room? Jack jumped onto the wind to get to the top of the stairs. 

“Sandy stays here when he is visiting.”

Jack was caught by surprise when he heard North's voice. He lowered himself again but stayed in the air. 

“The ceiling opens. Sandy likes to sleep under the stars,” North said. Jack nodded. “That explains the lights. Sandy likes those kinds of things,” he laughed. He flew up again and landed on top of the stairs, without interruption this time. 

“Jack?” North called from the ground. 

“Yeah?”

“The elves made cookies! Do you want some?” North’s question came just a second too late to sound natural. Jack didn’t pay much attention. He was looking at the golden coloured patterns on the wall.

“No I’m alright,” he absently answered. 

North made a sound in acknowledgment. “Jack, I am going to go now. I have promised the yeti I would be coming to help them. You will call if you need anything, yes?” North said. 

“Yeah sure. Thanks North,” Jack said. North waved before he left, closing the door. Jack stared at the lights on the wall and sighed. He flew all further up, until he reached a plateau. He assumed Sandy sat there while working. He imagined Sandy’s dreamsand covering the room - it was more of a tower - whilst glowing bright. He sat down, and put his hands on his knees.

He still felt strange. He wasn't feeling like himself lately. The cold gap he had felt immediately after Jamie’s accident was still very present. But it was only temporary, right? Soon, Jamie would be better, and he would feel that familiar warmth again. Soon. 

What if Jamie really wouldn’t wake up again? What if once he would, he wouldn’t remember Jack? Would he ever feel that constant warmth inside him again? He hung on to ‘soon’ more than he realised. He wanted the feeling back, and only a week or two had passed. He had grown pretty used to it, over the years. But what if Jamie would walk through him? He could almost feel the cruel cold already. He didn’t even want to think about what he would have felt if Jamie had died . Not that he expected him to live forever. Jamie wasn't immortal. Some day, he was going to die. Jack knew this. But it was too soon. Jamie wasn't supposed to die without seeing Sarah and Anne grow up, without visiting the places he still wanted to visit, without retiring, without having spent at least thirty more years with Claude. He was supposed to live his life to its fullest. Until he was old and wrinkly. 

So much time thinking about Jamie left Jack wondering if any of the guardians used to have someone like Jamie. Their first believer. By the time he was Jack Frost, they already had an incredible amount of believers. He hadn’t been there when they gained their first. He wondered how they coped with them dying. Had they also gotten so attached to their believers? Do they still? As far as he knew, they didn't have such strong bands with their believers as he did. But then again, its got to be harder when you have so many. Of course they can't build strong bonds with every one of them. That would take ages. 

So, was it wrong to have a bond like he and Jamie did? Was he not supposed to? Maybe that was what was wrong. Maybe the moon tried to warn him, that he shouldn't get so close to believers. But then again, the moon hadn't spoken to him in almost three hundred and twenty years. He wouldn’t say something about Jamie, if he would talk to Jack again, would he? After all those years, wouldn’t he try to answer one of Jack’s questions.

“Would you?” Jack asked the closed ceiling.

The Man in the Moon. Tsar Lunar XII.

He looked up and wondered if he would respond if Jack would call him by that name. He didn't say anything for a few seconds. He didn’t want to try, he realised. He also realised how sad he was being and laughed. But it was a bitter laugh. It sounded a little forced. He sighed and closed his eyes for a second.

Something felt wrong. He felt heavy, somehow. Weak. His constant mood swings were tiring. He hated to admit to himself that he needed to sleep again. The image of Mora flashed through his mind, but he waved it off. He wouldn't sleep for long. Just a few hours, not long. Just a few. 

*

When Jack woke up panicked and scared, he was surrounded by frost. 

“Oh,” he sighed, breathing fast. It wasn't the first time he had accidentally frozen things in his sleep. It was because of his nightmares. He couldn't control his powers when his emotions were all over the place like that. 

He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath. He replayed the nightmare in his head, going over details. He expected a certain horse to make a sound and push her head against him, but nothing came. Belatedly he realised he was still in the workshop. Mora wasn't here. Of course she wasn’t. She avoided the Guardians like the plague. Jack didn't mind as long as she was happy. Also, he understood why she didn’t want them to know about her. They weren’t exactly welcoming to her kind. And besides, he didn't see the guys that often anyways. 

There were no windows in the room. He didn’t know how to open the ceiling. He would have to go somewhere else to see how long he'd slept for. He got up from his sitting position, grabbed his staff and flew down, back to the ground. Once there, he took another deep breath to calm himself down before actually leaving the room. He didn’t spare another look or thought on the ice that still covered at least half of the tall tower.

The door led to a hall. There was no one else, except for two yeti. They looked up when they heard him, raising their furry eyebrow at him. Jack gave them an innocent smile, before flying up and over their heads. The yeti still didn’t completely trust him. Before becoming a Guardian, he had tried to break into the Workshop many times. He did not have a good reputation with them. They were starting to like him more and more though.

While flying towards the front door, he noticed the dusk outside. He remembered how it would be dark for quite some time now, here on the North Pole. Sandy explained it to him once. It would be dark from… November until January? It was about the end of January, as far as Jack knew. He didn’t keep a close look on time or date. The point was that he couldn’t read the time like this. He always knew what time of day it was by just looking around himself.

He got outside. The only ones he encountered on his way there were yeti and elves. He had no idea where North was and actually found himself not caring. Mora, her whereabouts he cared more about. But as always, she would have to be the one coming to him. He could ask the wind to bring him to her, but it was some sort of unspoken rule that she would come to him. It was because Mora sometimes simply needed to be alone. She would run off to wherever it was she would run off to, and return once she felt like it. 

Jack then decided to visit Toothiana. She had to be busy, she always was, but maybe she could make some time for her. He hoped so. Like Mora, her very presence would cheer him up. Maybe he could help her collect some teeth, like they had when the mini fairies were captured. Only now it would be more relaxed, he imagined, because now it wouldn’t matter how many they would collect, since the fairies were not captured. He called the wind to him and started his way to Southeast Asia.

On his way there he may or may not have thrown snowballs at animals. No one would ever know.

*

The squeaking sounds Baby Tooth made when she saw Jack flying towards her made his heart ache. She raced to him and pushed herself into his shoulder, in what should probably be seen as a hug. He laughed and placed his hands on the tiny creature. As little as she was, her body temperature was significantly higher than his. Jack had hugged North a few days back - if that could even be seen as hug - and Jamie before that, but couldn’t remember the last time he held something as warm as Baby Tooth. Toothiana and her fairies were quite warm.

“Baby Tooth!” Jack laughed, “I missed you too, little one. How are you?”

Baby Tooth laughed at him, and nodded her head to the side, almost as if shrugging, but not quite that. He understood she was fine. “I’m fine too,” he smiled.

“Is Tooth home?” Baby Tooth shook her head. “Where is she? Is she out for teeth?” Baby Tooth nodded. Since their adventure against Pitch, Tooth was out in the field much more often. Jack remembered how she had told him that it was her favourite part of being the Tooth Fairy. “I see… I guess I’ll come back some other time, yeah?” he decided. There wasn’t really much to do without Tooth there. She lived in something that could be described as a palace, and it was enormous, yes, but every time he had visited they went somewhere else. He considered exploring the place. He didn’t have the slightest problem around the ethics of looking around without Tooth being there, but he didn’t want to be alone right now. He wanted to spend some time with Mora at some place familiar. Tooth would visit him when she found time. 

And so, Jack left again. 

He flew further away from Tooth’s Palace, knowing Mora wouldn’t come to him otherwise. He understood that he was being clingy for wanting her to be with him all the time, and it probably wasn’t very healthy to be so dependent on someone, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to spend time with her. She understood him, in a way that no one else ever had, and, in all likelihood, no one else was ever going to. He did not care if he was being over affectionate, clingy, or dependent on Mora. She didn’t mind. He always suspected she liked it.

He flew through a few big cities, letting it snow every now and then. One time it was an actual accident. He hadn’t meant to, but his emotions influenced the weather. He kept thinking about Jamie. Mora didn’t come. 

“In that case… I suppose could pay Sandy and Bunny a visit? Since I’ve already visited North and Tooth, I mean, it would be a little rude to leave them out, right?” he said, to no one in particular. He had been flying further to the southwest, and was currently somewhere between Thailand and India, that much he knew. Bunny’s Warren was in Australia. That was much closer than Sandy’s Island.

“To the kangaroo we go,” Jack said, the tiniest smile appearing on his face at the memories of all the times he had called Bunny that. He changed his course, flying to the southeast. He stopped to have a snowball fight in Malaysia, but he felt odd. His chest felt heavy, as if something was pushing it down. No matter how many snowballs he threw, how many kids laughed, or how high he flew; it all felt hollow. He left while the children were still full on having fun. That wasn’t something he’d normally do. It made him think about how ‘fine’ he really was. 

Bunny and Jack got a little closer after he became a guardian. He still felt a little weird - alright, a lot weird, when they were together, but that didn’t matter, right? They were friends now. That’s what mattered. Sometimes they’d argue about something, yes, but there weren’t really personal things said, not like they used to do. Bunny did get physical once, when Jack accidentally made one of his giant walking eggs slip on some ice he’d made. Bunny wasn’t very happy about that. But they were friends. 

Tooth once said the Guardians were his family. If that were the case, Jack thought, North would be the father, Tooth would be the older sister, Sandy, his favourite cousin, and Bunny would be his brother - annoying yet dear. But in all honesty, the Guardians didn’t truly feel like family. They felt close, yes, but ‘family’ was a name preserved for Anna and Mora. Jamie wasn’t family, Jamie was… Something else.

When Jack arrived at the warren, he felt sick. His thoughts had been running around all the way there, and he couldn’t deny being somewhat nervous. What for? That he didn’t know. 

“It’s just Bunny. Sometimes I don’t understand myself,” he sighed, trying and failing to calm himself down. He entered the oasis, and was a little shocked to not see an oversized rabbit painting eggs. Instead, there was grass, rocks, trees. Nature everywhere, simply said. Jack liked it. He loved nature. He remembered Jamie being surprised when he told him. Jamie said he had naturally assumed he’d like white landscapes, tall mountains, ‘cold stuff’, and not green grass and pretty little flowers. Jack just shrugged it off. Just because he was a frost spirit doesn’t mean he hated nature. Au contraire , obviously.

“Anyone home? Kangaroo?” he called, starting to search for the guy. “Are you ignoring me because I said kangaroo?” he said when he didn't get a response. 

After half an hour of searching throughout every inch of the Warren, even finding a room he hadn’t known to be there before, and managing to piss off the giant eggs, he gave up and admitted to himself that Bunny wasn't home. 

Jack huffed. He left the Warren as well. He couldn’t find the energy to visit Sandy anymore. He felt like a dead battery. He didn’t know why. He'd flown a lot that day. More than he usually would have. Maybe that’s why. The thought of sleep was appealing, but yet he shook his head at the very thought. He didn't need to sleep every night. The other Guardians slept about once every month. He had always needed a little more sleep than the others, he usually slept two or three times a month. Sleeping so soon after waking up? No, Jack didn’t need that. He dreaded the thought of another nightmare. No matter how many times he had the very same dream, he’d wake up shaking, scared to death. 

He took a shaky breath. He would just take it slow for a day or so. 

He thought about what to do, where to go next. He thought about making some snow days in Australia, but dismissed the thought again. He was still feeling a little weird about leaving those children in Malaysia. He didn’t want to somehow repeat what happened there. “See Mora?” he then said. Yeah, that was probably the best thing to do right now. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the way she and Jack normally did things. He really wanted to see her. He really didn’t want to be alone. He called on the wind again, and asked it to bring him to Mora. 

He noticed he moved slower on the wind. His limbs felt heavier. The wind was bringing him to the northwest. Normally, he would pay attention to the countries he flew over, but now his head hurt. He almost fell off the wind at some point. Not that that would've been a problem, seeing as he wouldn’t die from the fall, but it was getting obvious that he was tired. He should probably sleep after all. But that could wait until he’s back with Mora. 

Jack’s eyes closed for a second while he was still in the air. He opened them quickly once he felt how he was falling, but it scared him. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so tired. What was with him? Couldn’t he even deal with some time flying anymore? And what was this constant nagging, this, this... aching , in his chest? It had been there since Jamie’s accident. Jack thought it would pass, but it seemed to not. It was off putting and irritating.

Europe? He didn’t really understand why Mora would be in Europe. He had expected her to stay in America. But then, the second he thought about it, it made sense she’d go somewhere else. She liked to travel.

He got closer to mountains. Mountains? Mora didn’t seem to like mountains. Did she? She never dragged him to mountains. Mora was quite clear on the things she wanted. If she wanted something, she was going to get it. If she had wanted to tell him she liked mountains, she would’ve done so. Maybe not in actual words, she obviously couldn’t speak, but she would probably somehow drag him to mountains if she liked them. Instead, she always dragged him to forests. Not that it bugged Jack in any way. He loved forests. It just made him wonder why she was in the mountains now.

The wind slowed down, and Jack made a very crash-like landing on a tree branch. He grabbed the tree trunk, and took a few seconds to stop himself from falling over right then and there before looking up. Mora was in eyesight, not so far away from him on the ground. She was standing in the shadows, with her back towards Jack. 

Something in Jack felt a little better once having seen her. At least she was there. At least he’d always have her.

“Mora,” Jack called out, and jumped down from the tree he was standing in. He landed off balance, causing him to fall to his knees. He saw Mora turn around to him, and in no time she was coming closer to him. 

“Mhm,” Jack said, closing his eyes when the small bubble of fear that Mora created appeared. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling, but it eased his mind nonetheless. It was so familiar, Jack thought this was what people might think of ‘coming home’. He reached out to the horse and dragged her closer to him. 

“I’m exhausted. We’ll have fun tomorrow, yeah. Just let me sleep a little, okay girl?” Jack said, almost falling asleep while saying it. Mora made a sound that Jack saw as a ‘yes’, and sat down on the grass on the ground. 

“Thank you,” Jack said, before leaning down so his head would rest on Mora before letting himself slip away into familiar darkness.

Jack couldn’t move. Darkness. Floating. Pressure. He tried to move his head to look around, but his head wouldn’t move. He tried to move his hand, his arm, but it didn’t move. Tried to move his legs, but they didn’t move. There was only, complete, utter, darkness. He felt like something in his body was cold. Not the cold that was normal. Too cold. The cold spread in his body, and the air in his lungs changed into something else. The new thing put pressure on his lungs. There was pressure on his whole body, like something was pushing him. Not just in one direction; it felt like he was being pushed everywhere. It didn’t have any result. He didn’t move. Couldn’t

Scared. 

Jack was forced upright by something he couldn’t see nor feel. It was as if he had moved himself, only he hadn’t . He had been curled into a ball first. Now his arms and legs were stretched out, and he could move his head. Jack opened his eyes, closed them again upon seeing a bright, white light in front of him. 

Where am I? 

He felt panicked. So scared . Was he dead? Was that it? Was he now going to spend eternity in this place? 

Suddenly, he felt like he was moving. As if the space around him moved. He opened his eyes in panic and was then dropped. He could finally move. He looked around. Where was his staff? Where is Mora? 

He saw the Guardians. He felt relieved. “Guys I’m here, I’m alright!” he said whilst running towards them. They must have been looking for him. But once he got closer, it was obvious they weren’t searching at all. They were just talking to each other, relaxed, playing a game of cards. 

He stopped running and looked at them. “I’m here, guys,” he said again. His face fell when no one reacted. No. “Guys?” No reaction. No no no no . Jack reached out to touch Bunny, but his hand went right through him. The cold that went through his body earlier came back, his hand was aching. 

Tooth said something about being cold. North said he’d make a fire in the fireplace. He stood up and took Jack’s staff . He broke it in pieces. Each time he broke it, Jack felt like he was being punched in his gut. He bent into himself.

It hurts. Make it stop . Jack fell down to his knees. He couldn’t move again, but this time because of the pain. He burned my staff. It’s gone. They’re gone. The Guardians got up from their places around a wooden table, and started walking towards him. 

“Disappointment.” “Child.” “Stupid frost spirit, can’t even get some kids to believe in him.” Jack heard them say it, but their mouths didn’t move. Even Sandy pictures insults above his head. It didn’t stop. The insults kept coming. They kept coming closer. Jack wanted to run away, but couldn’t move because the pain of his staff and touching Bunny were still very much present. 

Then they walked through him. The cold they created inside Jack was mixed with cruel pain. He couldn’t breathe properly. Insults were still coming. The fire made by his staff was still burning. The cold the Guardians left was still there. The hurt of them forgetting Jack was still there. 

Too much . Jack couldn’t handle it all. Please make it stop . Jack couldn’t think properly. Just do it. The pain was eating him up from the inside. It appeared to him that he was screaming, but he didn’t hear his own screams. Pain. Pain. Pain. It was all he could think about. 

The ground under his feet disappeared and he fell into water.

Anna? He saw a little girl, in the water, next to him. Her hair was spread everywhere because they were underwater. Bubbles of water left her mouth and her eyes were opened, but she didn’t move. She didn’t move . Jack couldn’t move. She was dead. Jack fell into darkness once again. He felt like his heart was ripped out. He felt sick. She was dead.

He heard a laugh. He recognized it, but couldn’t place it in that moment. Then he heard a horse neigh. 

Jack’s eyes shot open. He gasped before he started to retch. He turned to his side and dry retched. He turned back to a sitting position and took a few deep breaths. He then reached out for his staff, but instead he heard a horse sound.

“Mora,” Jack sighed, before coughing. His throat felt sore. Had he been screaming? Mora stepped closer to him. With her, a familiar bubble of fear was added to the fears he still felt from the nightmare, but he breathed into it. He reached out for Mora and dragged her closer once he could. 

“I’m fine, I’m fine. That was... intense, I have to admit. That’s not how my nightmares normally are, mhm?” Jack petted Mora’s hair and rested his head on her. “But I’m fine now. I’m alright.”

“You’re very entertaining, I must say.” 

Jack jumped up. That voice, that’s…  

Pitch ,” Jack said, getting up from the ground and looking at the tall creature that was now standing in front of him. The trees around them cast shadows in which he had probably hid. 

“What are you doing here?”

“Yes, as I was saying, very entertaining. To see you go through so much fear, just to wake up and say ‘I’m fine’,” Pitch said. He was leaning over him, it made Jack nervous. 

“How are you here? How did you escape?” Jack asked. He wanted to point his staff at him, but then realised he wasn’t holding it. Where was his staff? 

“Looking for this?” Pitch said. Jack’s head shot up. Pitch was holding his staff. The ice that normally covered it was gone. It looked like normal dark wood. Jack was about to run to him to get it, when Pitch held up the palm of his hand.

“Tch tch tch, you stay right there. You wouldn’t want to experience losing it again, now, would you? How did you feel, when dear old Santa burned it?” Jack wanted to punch him, but he felt sick at the fresh memory of his nightmare.

“Mhm, Jack Frost, your fear is delicious ,” Pitch inhaled deeply through his nose. Shivers went down Jack’s spine at the sight.

“What do you want?” Jack then asked.

“Good, now you’re asking the questions. You see, Mora here, as you like to call her, is a Nightmare Horse. I’m sure you’ve noticed that already. Every Nightmare was created by me, and so, every Nightmare, has to tell me people’s fears. They have no choice, you know. Once they know, I know. And you, Frost, have spent a rather long time in the company of a Nightmare Horse I particularly like,” he laughed. Jack realised what he meant, and felt trapped. He forced himself to calm down, focus. But he knew he couldn’t defend himself without his staff. Pitch was in advance. He took a step back and placed a hand on Mora’s back. He didn’t look away from Pitch, though. No matter how scared he was, he could still face Pitch.

“And that’s interesting too. She inspires fear just by coming close. Yet, you reach out to her. That’s interesting. You have nightmares. With or without her. Maybe that’s why she likes you, she doesn’t even have to work for her food here!” Pitch laughed.

“But that’s quite funny. I have thought about you a lot, you see. And at first, I didn’t know what to do with you. It was your fault those pathetic Guardians were able to stop me. I spent weeks thinking about new ways to hurt you. But I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally decided what to do with you.” Pitch stopped walking and looked at Jack. Jack felt threatened and small under Pitch’s gaze, but didn’t break eye contact; somehow it made it him feel stronger.

“You remember my offer in Antarctica? I want you to reconsider.”

The memories of the gigantic ice sculpture they accidentally created flashed before his eyes. After Pitch was defeated, Jack went to look at it again. He didn’t know what to think about it, besides that it gave him chills. The thing made him feel a foreign cold. Jack wasn’t used to feeling cold, as ironic as it sounds. His own cold was actually not affecting him, it wasn’t cold . But that ice on Antarctica made him feel cold. He didn’t visit it again.

“I thought I made it clear that I won’t,” he said, pushing the memory away. 

“Let me rephrase: Come with me, or your staff will be no longer. I can make Mora disappear. I can make your life a living nightmare. One that will not end with you waking up and saying ‘I’m fine’. I can make you tremble in your boots just by looking at you,” Pitch said. As if to prove his point, his gaze intensified. Jack felt fear creeping up on him, but wasn’t able to look away. Pitch didn’t stop. Jack quickly panicked. His breathing got loud and fast, his heart felt like it was beating at 100 decibels. 

What?

“Come on, Jack. Do you want me to demonstrate further?” Pitch said. He broke eye contact, and Jack was left to deal with the newly added fear. Pitch reached out to Mora, and started elegantly moving his fingers, in a way children might have moved their fingers whilst pretending to be wizards. Mora shrieked. Jack wasn’t really paying attention as he was trying to calm himself down again. Breath in, breath out, he told himself. When he was able to focus on the scene again, his eyes widened again. The sand Mora always left behind was floating into Pitch’s hand. Jack realised she was being dissolved. 

No. 

“Stop! Don’t hurt her!” he shouted. He got up despite still being very panicked from Pitch’s gaze, and got in between Mora and Pitch. He placed his hands on Mora, but it was no use. The black sand simply flew through his fingers, around him. She continued dissolving, continued making scared sounds. She tried to get away, but her legs were slowly turning into black sand grains, floating into Pitch. Jack couldn’t lose her. Not her. He couldn’t really follow what was happening, it felt like he was in a nightmare. Although, the pain that pushed against his chest whilst watching Mora felt very real. He had to stop Pitch. 

“Stop it! I accept! Stop this! Heal her!” he cried in despair. 

“Wise choice, Jack,” Pitch said. The black sand slowly started coming back and Mora healed. Jack sighed in defeat once he realised what he had done. But he didn’t turn back around to Pitch, instead just held Mora until she was fully normal again. He didn’t know whether he did it to comfort her or himself, but he held on.

“Turn around.” Pitch’s voice sent shivers down Jack’s spine. He didn’t have time to recover from his nightmare, didn’t have time to recover from the fear Pitch inspired, and didn’t have to think about what to do. The only thing he had time to process was the fact that he was so scared.

“Do I need to repeat myself? Or I can just demonstrate further, if that's what you want.”

Jack then turned. He looked Pitch into the eyes, forced his fears down. 

“Interesting… “ Pitch said. Jack started to hate that word. 

“What makes you believe I won't backstab you?” Jack asked, trying very hard to channel his panic into anger. He couldn't honestly think Jack was going to help him. 

“I have my methods.”

“What methods?”

“Well, since you asked so nicely,” Pitch said, before he stretched his right arm out. Black things flew out of him, in a straight line to Jack. He couldn't comprehend what was happening before they pierced their way into his body. The black pushed into him, Jack hardly had time to be afraid when they filled his insides. One moment he was looking at Pitch, the next he felt things wrap around his body and he was being dragged into darkness. He screamed in pain and horror and squeezed his eyes shut. 

Pitch watched Jack’s snow white hair turn to black, starting from the roots and evening out to the unruly ends. His flawless and pale skin turned into a much darker, more grey-ish tone, as if clouds blocked the sun from shining on him. The frost on his blue sweater turned dark. The leather straps around his calves turned black. Once he reopened his eyes, they turned out to have changed into the golden colour Pitch’s eyes were, the golden Mora’s eyes were too. 

Jack tilted his head to the side and smirked sinister. Pitch eyed him from head to toe, which made Jack raise his eyebrows.

“Do I look suitable?” he asked.

“Oh yes. You look just fine,” Pitch said.

Chapter Text

Present day: 14 February 2033
Location: North’s Workshop

“Does anyone want cookies? They’re fresh out of oven!” North said, “There’s also milk?”

The Guardians were standing in the main area of the workshop. It was an enormous circular space, that had view on most of the place. There was a cosy fireplace and two comfortable chairs, although the chairs were often put away because the yeti and elves always stumbled over them. 

North had summoned them here with the help of the Northern lights. Toothiana was the first to arrive. Then Bunnymund came. Sandy was always the last to arrive and the first to leave, but he had just arrived as well. It was an understatement to say that there was tension in the air. Nobody had expected to see the Northern lights again so soon.

“North, did something happen?” Tooth said, tilting a little to the left in the air, ignoring his offer. The mini fairies around her nodded. 

“Yeah, the last time you called us like that Pitch was back. What’s it this time? Don’t tell me he’s come back,” Bunny said, swinging the paint brush he was using to paint the egg in his hand.

“No, that is luckily not the case. But something else is. You see, the people around the world?” North pointed at the gigantic globe, “Something is not going right there. There are more nightmares, people are more afraid. Not just children, adults also! And the children… A lot have stopped believing,” North said. 

“Why’s that?” Bunny said, stepping closer. A question mark appeared above Sandy’s head. 

“I do not know yet. I was hoping you could help. Sandy, Tooth, you are out in the world every night. Do you know what is happening?” North said, his eyebrows raising. 

Sandy started creating a series of symbols. He said he did notice more children needing good dreams lately, but he didn’t know the reason why.

“Now that you mention it, there has also been more need for the teeth lately. But maybe it’s because of the environment, or society? Maybe it makes people sad? We all know what kind of cruel people live out there nowadays,” Tooth added. 

“If that’s the case, how the bloody hell are we supposed to change something? We can’t go out there and just make the world less cruel! We’re flat out like a lizard drinking as it is!” Bunny said. 

“You are right, Bunny. But there must be something we can do?”

“Totally. There’s gotta be something. Jack, maybe you could- Wait, where’s Jack?” Tooth said. The Guardians looked at each other. 

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the fella in ages,” Bunny said. Sandy shrugged. 

“He was here about a month ago, I think. He was telling me about… Jamie! He was telling me about Jamie being in a coma. He seemed very shaken by it. He had even left without saying goodbye! A bit rude. He had fallen asleep, and disappeared the day after,” North said, stroking his beard in a very Santa-like way.

“Jamie? Jamie who?” Bunny said.

“Haha! Exactly what I said! It is Jamie Bennett,” North answered. 

“Jamie Bennett? As in, his first believer? Of course he’d be shaken by it. Why didn’t he tell us?” Tooth said, frowning. 

“I do not know, Tooth. It seemed hard for him to tell me, now that I am thinking about it… Maybe I was a little too harsh on him?” North said. Sandy asked what North had said to him. 

“I told him the children were more important than adults, because their wonder is most pure. He got a little angry at me, I think. I don’t remember clearly, I wasn’t paying much attention,” North said, scratching the back of his head, clearly embarrassed. 

“You think? You basically told him to get over it, mate. I would be cranky too. Jack was close to Jamie, eh?” Bunny said. Sandy nodded, but then shrugged.

“Baby Tooth told me he had come to visit me the other day. It must be, about a month ago, yes. She told me he left after she told him I was out. I hadn’t found the time to look for him yet, though,” Tooth said “But that doesn’t explain why he didn’t answer the call. Should we look for him?”

“Maybe he’s just asleep somewhere,” Bunny said.

“I don’t know. I’m having a bad feeling about this,” Tooth reacted. Sandy agreed.

“I can get my fairies to look for him,” Tooth offered, and North nodded.  

“We have to search too. Let’s get to the sleigh,” he said smiling. 

“No no no, I’m not setting a paw into that hellish vehicle again , thank you,” Bunny protested, taking a step back.

“Come on, we do not have time for this!” North yelled, smiling. 

Little time later they were all seated in the sleigh. Bunny was holding the side as if his life depended on it, whileas Sandy, Tooth and North seemed to be perfectly fine. But then again, to them it didn’t matter whether they would be high up in the sky or on the steady ground. They were used to highs, they could fly. Bunny was used to tunnels that went under the ground. 

North threw a ball into the air that opened a portal, or a ‘shortcut’, as he liked to call it. They flew right through it, and ended up flying over tall mountains, covered in snow up high and trees on lower parts. 

“The Alps? Jack is in Switzerland?” North said, confused. 

“Makes sense, given the snow and stuff,” Bunny commented. 

They landed in an open space. Tooth immediately flew out of the sleigh and started looking for the lost frost spirit. The others quickly followed, and not long after they had split up and were all looking for him. 

An hour long, they searched all sides of the mountains, but without success. They didn’t understand, didn’t know what to do. North’s shortcuts usually worked. Tooth had sent her fairies out as well, but they hadn’t found him yet. Sandy had started to look in other places they knew Jack hung out a lot. Bunny had gone to see Jamie Bennett, hoping he would have information about Jack’s whereabouts. They agreed on meeting each other back at the pole in an hour, and so, an hour later, they came back together.

“Please tell me you guys had more luck than we did,” Tooth said as soon as she approached. North and Sandy shook their heads, and said they didn’t, but Bunny took a step closer.

“I did. I went to see Jamie Bennett. I talked to his kids and husband. Turns out he died, about a week ago. He had already woken up from the coma, and the doctors had released him from the hospital. The husband then said… That Jack killed Jamie.” Bunny’s expression was hard, but it was obvious he wasn’t really accepting the thought of Jack killing people, especially his first believer.

“What?! That is complete nonsense!” North exclaimed, swinging his swords, dangerously close to Toothiana.

“Jack wouldn’t do that, he doesn’t kill people,” Tooth said in confusion. 

“I know, that’s what I told the fella. He said he died because he got a heart attack. He saw Jack leaving the room when he got there. If he wasn’t guilty, he wouldn’t have fled, he said,” Bunny said. 

“Maybe he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time?” Tooth said, looking at her fairies. 

“Then where is he now? Why didn’t he go back to explain it?” Bunny said, his ears moving up and down.

“Let’s get back inside the workshop. We will work out what to do from there,” North sighed.

The closer they got to the entrance, the more North got the feeling something was wrong. He led the reindeer back into their stable, but took his swords in his hands once he had finished. 

“Something is wrong,” he said, looking around cautiously, “It is too quiet.” The others followed the tall man silently. There was definitely something wrong. No yeti or elf was in sight. Where were they?

The Guardians stepped into the ground floor of the workshop and were shocked. 

Everything was covered in frost. It was misleadingly beautiful. There were knocked out yeti and elves lying around. Toys were all around the place, and were frozen or broken. Sandy jumped up when he saw something. He went to get it, and brought it to Tooth.

“Baby Tooth!” she said. The little fairy was frozen into an ice block. She couldn’t have survived the cold. “It’s too cold for her!” Tooth yelled. What could she do? Everything around them was frozen. She couldn’t warm her up. She suspected it was too late. Tooth dropped to her knees, and hugged Baby Tooth, while North put a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. 

“What about the yeti and the elves?” she asked after not looking up for some time. North looked around, even though he had already done that. Tooth decided to fly up to see the damage properly, when she noticed a card on the globe. She rushed to the others to show them.

“Hope you enjoy our presents
Let’s have some fun”

That was Jack’s catchphrase.

“I will murder him! I don’t care what happened to him! No one hurts my fairies for fun and gets away with it!” Tooth said angrily, throwing the card away, her feathers flaring up. The boys looked at her as she looked around for a trace of Jack, other than the ice that was everywhere. She looked and looked, but ended unsuccessful once again. She sank to the ground next to North in defeat once she had calmed down into a more peaceful state of mind. 

“Where could he be?” North sighed.

“Ahh, Santa… You sound so desperate,” Pitch’s low voice rang through the area. “I love it.”

“Pitch! How did you escape?!” Bunny said, jumping up and taking his boomerangs into his hands. North also came to his feet, and took his swords. As did Tooth. Sandy got into fight-mode too, two long whips made out of dreamsand appearing in his tiny hands. The Guardians looked around trying to find Pitch, but there was nothing.

“I really hope you enjoy our presents. You must know, it was his idea. He’s a natural,” Pitch said, moving in the shadows so the Guardians wouldn’t catch him. 

“What did you do to him?” North said, much louder than the tone of voice Pitch used. Pitch laughed. 

“Do to him? The boy willingly agreed! He wanted it more than I did,” Pitch said, teleporting to another corner of the workshop.

“You should have seen him. All alone, no one to go to. Mhm, poor Jack. He fell asleep outside. Did you know he doesn’t have a home? I mean, he lives like an animal!” Pitch laughed. The Guardians turned around to face him, and North swung his sword towards him. It didn’t touch Pitch, for he teleported away again. 

“Goodbye. For now.” And with ominous laughter, he disappeared again. 

“He’s gone,” Tooth whispered after another few seconds. She fell back to her knees. “Baby Tooth…”

“We will hold a funeral for her,” North said, placing a hand on Tooth’s shoulder as he had done before.

“And we will find out what happened to Jack,” Bunny nodded, after Sandy’s symbolised it. They looked at each other in silence, until Tooth sighed and dropped her head.

“How did this happen? We’re exactly where we were when Pitch returned last time, and now he even has Jack? What happened?” Much to her displeasure, she sounded desperate, just like Pitch said.

“We’ll find out, Tooth. We have to,” Bunny responded, putting his weapons away.

*

Present day: 3 February 2033
Location: Pitch’s Lair

For the past ten days Pitch had been trying to teach Jack how to use shadows conveniently, but it turned out to be a lot harder than he had initially thought it would be. Which says a lot, because he had already expected it to be a hard task. 

Jack couldn’t listen. He couldn’t just sit and listen for two hours. He was constantly moving, constantly reacting on things Pitch said and it was tiring . He was like a child! And Pitch didn’t like children. 

“This is boring. I agreed to help you take over the world, not in school ,” Jack spat. Pitch sighed. Apparently they were going to have this conversation again. He started to regret ever getting Jack to help him. He is definitely not much help right now. When would the boy finally get it? Was he ever going to?

“You need to know how to use shadows in your advantage, otherwise I have no use for-”

“I know how to create stuff with ice, I know how to fly, I know how to fight, and I know how to talk to Nightmares. What else do you need me to know?!” You unneeded, inefficient and childish pain in the ass. I am this close to punching him in the face.  

Take a deep breath, Pitch. 

“You need to know how to inspire fear with eye contact, and you need to know how to create nightmares.”

“Why?! I don’t need to be a Pitch Black 2.0, I don’t need to be you! And besides, I can use your stupid horses just fine, I don’t need my own.”

“Fine! But you still have to know how to create a nightmare.”

“Then tell me! I don’t need to know all the boring details, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!”

“What do you think I’ve been trying to do for ten days?” Except for trying not to kill you, obviously.

“Have you forgotten what my centre is? It’s fun, you moron. I can’t sit in on lectures. I can’t just sit and listen. I have to move, I have to have fun, I have to like what I’m doing! It’s not rocket science!”

Pitch wanted to yell back, but then he thought about Jack’s words. He knew Jack had a point. He couldn’t do it. His very soul was against boring. That bloody centre of his was making him physically unable to listen, at this point. If he wasn’t interested, and he clearly wasn’t, then he couldn’t listen. But how do you make this more interesting? 

What’s the most interesting thing to himself? Actually seeing the nightmares. The real work.

“Alright. Let’s go,” Pitch then said calmly, reaching his arm out. Jack looked at Pitch without saying anything.

“Come on now, we don’t have all day. I need to have physical contact to be able to teleport together without you throwing up.” 

“Where are we going?” Jack asked, not making a move to get closer to Pitch, eyeing him cautiously. “There is no way I’m coming with you until you tell me where we’re going.” 

Pitch sighed, rolled his eyes and walked to Jack himself, teleporting them away before he even had the chance to protest.

“Wow!” Jack said, once they arrived. “That was awesome! Can I learn how to do that?” 

“No and shut up,” Pitch said. 

Jack huffed, and looked around. Pitch had teleported them into a house, into a child’s room to be exact. The room was lit up by Sandman’s dreamsand, but otherwise it was dark, and there weren’t many stars in the sky outside. It was obviously nighttime. 

“There. You wanted to not just sit and listen, alright. We’re gonna do this another way. Not theory, but practice. But you have to listen to me, is that clear?” Pitch said.

“Absolutely,” Jack agreed. Pitch was surprised to see the eagerness on Jack’s face, but decided not to comment about it.

“The shadows allow you to know other people’s fears. Not just their greatest fears, but also the fear they feel at the moment. Now, a child is asleep. The Sandman does his hocus-pocus. They start dreaming and hoping. The best nightmares are created when you take that dream, that hope of theirs, and turn it into the opposite. Create sharks in swimming dreams, storms in flying dreams, betrayal in loving dreams. So far everything clear?”

“Mhm, yeah. Opposites. Go on,” Jack nodded, staring at the little girl that had been sound asleep in her pink princess bed. There was a tiny airplane, made of sand, floating over her head. She was dreaming about being a pilot.

“Turning the sand is the hardest part, but once you get it it’s quite easy. See, even something as small as touching the sand creates a ‘good’ feeling. That feeling? You must take it, and let shadows flow into it, without releasing the shadow into the wild,” Pitch explained. Jack walked to the bedside of the child and reached out to touch the sand. Pitch almost wanted to laugh.

“That takes practice, you won’t succeed in just one or two attempts. I just wanted to show you. It took me decades-” Pitch was cut off when something that looked like black fluid left Jack’s fingers, and turned the golden, warm sand-made airplane, to black and blue. Dark clouds appeared, and the plane had a rough time flying through it. The warmth it had been producing changed into cold, and the nightmare wasn’t just black as Pitch’s nightmares had always been. It had blue in it too. 

“Fascinating,” Pitch said, forgetting what he was going to say, stepping closer to examine the nightmare. “So their appearances change depending on who their creator is? That’s very fascinating indeed.” 

“See? Really, you should have more faith in me,” Jack smirked .

“You’re a natural,” Pitch complimented, looking up as if remembering who had made the nightmare and now looking at Jack. Jack grinned and licked the underside of his teeth, as they both felt the fear in the room increase. The now dark plane started spiralling downwards, after being hit by a thunderstrike, or so it seemed. 

“Never knew fear tasted so good ,” Jack said, closing his eyes and inhaling the scent. 

Somehow that turned Pitch on. It wasn’t the first time he had thought about Jack in that kind of way. But then again, Jack was definitely not a bad sight, and Pitch hadn’t had anyone as close as Jack was to him right now, in… ever. And that's saying something, because they’re really not close, they just have the same powers and work together. 

“Let’s do more. I like this, creating nightmares,” Jack said, smiling. Pitch had never seen someone so happy to do evil. Never seen such an innocent expression when talking about making others fear. It was good. Really good.

“Alright then,” he said, reaching out with his arm again. Jack flew over the bed and placed a hand on Pitch’s arm, before they teleported again. They spent hours like that, going from place to place, turning dreams into nightmares. Jack loved it. Pitch liked seeing Jack love it, he realised at the fourth house. 

They were in a house in the southwest of America, standing next to sleeping twins, watching as their expressions changed and they hugged their teddies tighter, when Jack noticed something. 

“Hey, where are we?” Jack asked, walking to the window to see the outside. 

“We’re in Nuevo, southwest America. Why do you ask?”

“I might just have an idea,” Jack said, smirking. “But I’m pretty sure you haven’t been there before. Do you need to have visited a place to teleport there, or is the address enough?”

“No, just the address is sufficient. Where do you want to go?” Pitch asked, raising an eyebrow. Jack gave him an address. Pitch laughed once he’d heard it.

“Sarah and Anne Erba-Bennett? That’s who you want to scare? Why? Because they’re the children of your first believer?” he laughed.

“No,” Jack denied. 

“No? What do you mean, ‘no’? I know those are the only two kids in that house. There’s a gay couple with two adopted daughters. No one else,” Pitch said.

“Jamie Bennett,” Jack said, grinning.

“Jamie Bennett?” Pitch repeated slowly. “That’s an adult,” he stated.

“I know.” 

Pitch looked at him in disbelief.

“Wait, let me get this straight: you want to give an adult a nightmare, mere hours after you learnt how to do so with children? Not even talking about the fact that you’re emotionally attached to him.”

“I’m not emotionally attached to him,” Jack said with wide eyes, offended.

“Of course you are. Don’t act stupid, I can read your fears.”

“I’m not emotionally attached to Jamie Bennett. Can you get us in there?” Jack asked, looking away. Pitch didn’t react, instead grabbed on to Jack’s arm and teleported them once again. He could care less whether or not Jack was attached to Jamie. He just didn’t want to deal with the foolish reaction that would come if it turned out that Jack was attached, and yet hurt Jamie.

They landed in the living room of the house. Pitch knew Jamie wasn’t in his bedroom. In the last few moments before teleporting somewhere, he could sense the people and objects in the room. That way, he can make last-minute adjustments to the location. That’s how he never teleports into an object, or another person. It’s also the reason he knew Jamie wasn’t in his bedroom, and instead teleported them into the living room. It’s the most common place to sleep after the bedroom.

“Can I even make a nightmare when Sandy isn’t in the game?” Jack asked, looking at the sofa, on which Jamie laid. 

“It’s possible, yes, but it’s harder. Sandy doesn’t send his precious sand to adults, so there’s no sand to turn into a nightmare. But, I suppose, since that was so easy for you, perhaps this is just the kind of challenge you need,” Pitch said. “But, I must warn you. Grown-up fears have deeper roots. It’s harder to find them, but easier to get lost in them.”

“What do I do?” Jack just asked.

“Place one finger on his forehead, and two other fingers a little more to the center of his face than the cheekbones- a little to the- Yes, like that,” Pitch said, standing behind Jack, guiding him. He noticed Jack’s low body temperature again, but didn’t comment. “Now you have to feel the connection between you and him. Feel the connection, and once you do, look for his fears. Awaken them. Touch them. It’s just the smallest push they need.”

Pitch stopped talking when Jack gasped, his eyes almost glowing. Pitch could feel the fear in the room rise, he could smell it. It stopped on a steady level for a nightmare for a few seconds, but then it rose further. 

“Jack?” Pitch said. What was he doing? He contemplated saying his name again, but then thought better of it. This was far more interesting and amusing than trying to stop him.

Jamie started to whimper and cry. His whole body shook with his sobs.

If he dies you have to deal with an emotional frost spirit.

“Jack I believe you’ve had your fill,” Pitch said. He placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder. That immediately brought him back. Jack flinched away from the touch, and gasped. He then looked around as if having forgotten where he was. He looked back at Jamie when the man’s whole body shook again.

Suddenly Pitch realised Jamie wasn’t sobbing. 

“He’s having a heart attack,” Pitch said.

“He’s what?! We have to help him!” Jack said, breathing fast. There was very little lighting, but Pitch had incredible night vision. The roots of Jack’s hair turned back to white.

“I don’t have to do anything and I’m not planning on. If you want to perform CPR, go ahead. If so, I recommend you do it fast. You’re losing him,” Pitch said, folding his arms over each other, watching Jack. Did his hair turning back mean he needed more shadows in order to stay in line?

“CPR? I don’t know how to do CPR!”

Jack was obviously panicking. The amount of fear Pitch got from both Jack and Jamie felt like it was enough to sate him for another week, but that didn’t make him intervene any sooner. In fact, it only made him feel the need to comment on the situation.

“Come on now Jack. He’s dying. Tic toc, tic toc.” 

“What do I do?” Jack said. He looked at Jamie, looked back at Pitch, and back at Jamie. It didn’t look like he was going to do anything.

“Ah well, I believe I’ve seen enough. This isn’t hardly as entertaining as I hoped it would be. You’ll find your way back, I suppose,” Pitch said. He stood straighter and got ready to teleport back, when Jack interrupted him.

“Wait! Pitch! Help me! Please, otherwise he’ll die!” Jack’s big eyes, that were filled with fear, were delightful. But he had enough.

“I don’t care,” he reacted, already fading into the shadows.

“I’ll do anything! Please, Pitch!” Jack pleaded. This amused him so much, he laughed loudly.

“I hardly think you have anything to offer me that I couldn’t get myself,” he scoffed. Despite his words, Pitch stopped teleporting, deciding to hear Jack out.

“I’ll- I’ll destroy the Guardians! I have their trust, I can hurt them deeper than you can!”

“For future reference, you don’t get someone to agree with you by telling them you’re better than them. Also, I can destroy those wankers just fine, thank you for your concern.”

Jack was about to say something, but he got cut off.

“Jamie? Are you up?”

Jack’s already wide eyes widened considerably further when another man entered the living space. Pitch sighed, but moved forward and grabbed Jack’s arm. The man had seen Jack either way. Pitch didn’t care. He teleported them through the shadows, into his lair. Just a second, they both just stood there. Pitch took a deep breath, licked his lips and left the main area, where they had appeared. 

Jack was shocked, Pitch could tell. But it was his own fault. He had wanted to go there. Pitch gave him a fair and square warning. Jack wasn’t ready to take on adults, and he absolutely wasn’t ready to take on Jamie, to whom he really was emotionally attached, after all. This was just what he had dreaded. Pitch groaned. He had a headache. He was actually having a nice evening, for once. Of bloody course Jack had to go and ruin it, with that stupid idea of his. 

Pitch walked through the passageway to what could be called a kitchen. There were several cupboards against the wall, but no furniture furthermore. There used to be, but over the years he had needed to let out his anger every now and then. His furniture was often the one that had to bear the brunt. Furniture wasn’t that important to him, so he never got himself new stuff or even tried repairing the old ones. They were beyond repairing.

He opened an old wooden cupboard door, creaking as it went. He took a see-through bottle and poured himself a drink. As he drank, he let himself think about Jack. Jack was incredibly lonely. It was part of why he had thought it would be a good idea to recruit him. He didn’t have to deal with any relatives or friends, and it would be easy to get Jack to join. The boy had been quite desperate for an accomplice or a friend. 

But that wasn’t the only reason Pitch wanted Jack to work with him. Of course it wasn’t. Jack also had much power. Very much power. Although he didn’t know how to use all of it yet. The problem was that Jack still cared too much, but he could help with that. He would do so later.

He finished his drink and waited until Jack went to sleep. Jack didn’t sleep often, Pitch knew that, but he also knew what people did when they were in shock. Or at least people like Jack. They try to escape it. The most obvious way of doing so is sleeping. And so, as expected, Jack slept.

Pitch entered the room Jack had occupied during his stay in the lair. It wasn’t the first time he had been in the room, and he could see in the dark, so it was easy to see Jack lying on the bed in the corner of the room. Pitch wanted to laugh at how pathetic he looked. The frost spirit couldn’t actually sleep under a blanket, it was too warm for him. He was too used to sleeping in the open air. But he could hold the soft thing. His hands were balled into fists around the material, pulled as close to his body as he could without it being too warm for him. His face wasn’t relaxed, he was squeezing his eyes shut as if hiding from the outside. Pitch walked over to the bedside and turned his head to the side, still looking at Jack. 

Pathetic, indeed.

“The things I could do to you,” he whispered into the night. He let his thoughts run wild for a second, imagining a panting Jack, covered in sweat that would hurt him. It would be too warm. Pitch closed his eyes and sighed after reopening them. He could follow those thoughts later. Now wasn’t the time, and maybe the time would never come. But if the boy ever initiated something himself, Pitch would definitely agree. 

But, once again, now wasn’t the time.

Pitch raised his arm and pointed at Jack. Shadows flew out of him, making their way through Jack’s flesh. Jack woke up, gasping through pain he most definitely felt. He was scared, and disoriented. He clutched at his chest, but the shadows pushed through. He made strangled sounds, but soon the room was once again filled with silence, Jack’s breathing evening out again. Pitch observed the way the golden in Jack’s eyes shone as he looked up. 

Maybe that was a little too much? Pitch dismissed the thought, thinking it would only benefit them. 

Jack started to laugh out loud, throwing his head back.

“You should’ve done that before. That felt good !” he said. Pitch frowned. It wasn’t supposed to feel good. The shadows were supposed to hurt if one hadn’t been prepared for them. He had purposely done this while Jack had been sleeping, knowing it’d hurt. Apparently Jack had a high stamina for pain. 

“Fuck, that felt good,” Jack repeated. He flew out of his bed, into the air. He grabbed his staff, and the frost patterns that even Pitch found comely, turned black.

Pitch felt weirdly uncomfortable. He left the room. Jack laughed again.

Present day: 12 February 2033
Location: Pitch’s Lair

Jack was lying on the globe in the middle of the room while shooting thin icicles forward when Pitch entered. He could hear Jack flying up but continued walking nonetheless. Since Pitch had given him more shadows, he had become incredibly annoying. It took hours to try and teach him something, and he had given up on teaching him how to inspire fear by eye contact. He was close to giving up on teaching him how to create better nightmares as well. 

“When are we gonna fight someone? Scare someone? Hurt people? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Cruel stuff?” Jack said, flying in front of Pitch so they were on the same height. Pitch wanted to say that they would soon enough, that Jack should have some more patience because patience is the key to success, even as villains, as seemed to be the hundredth time in the last week, but there was something in Jack’s expression that made him stop walking and look at him. Jack’s eyes glowed in bright golden. He was bored, that much was quite obvious, but that wasn’t all. Perhaps the waiting really got too much for the boy.

“You need more, don’t you?”

“Huh?”

Pitch found Jack’s expression incredibly amusing. “I have a room, designed for all sorts of torture, if you’re interested,” Pitch said, smirking slightly. 

“You do?” 

Pitch knew Jack was excited. He looked rather innocent, for someone who was talking about torture. He was interested in how Jack was planning on doing this. He was way too soft to be able to actually torture someone, Pitch thought. Even with the shadows. But this could be interesting.

“Follow me.”

He led Jack down the hallway, and opened a door. It used to be a red door, he remembered vaguely. The halls weren’t lit well, and the colour wore off with time. Now it was black. Or at least, it looked like black. Jack’s eyes grew wide upon seeing what was in the room. Then he started laughing.

“I thought you meant actual torture! This- This is just kinky!” he laughed. 

Pitch looked at Jack, who looked around. The room had red walls. There were shelves with several sorts of floggers, cuffs, belts, whips, clamps, gags and even, mittens. A large red cross hung on the right wall, too. 

Pitch stopped watching the frost spirit that was still looking at the room, and walked in. He hadn’t been in there for a long time, and he hadn’t really thought about the room as of late. He walked to the left side of the room, not waiting for Jack to follow, and opened another door.

“That’s more like what I imagined,” Jack said, once he came and saw the attached room. “What are all these things?” he asked.

“This is an actual torture room, Frost. Not for pleasure. Although, sometimes I do take pleasure in tormenting others. Let’s see. That is a pillory. I think you can think of enough things to do with that. That - over there - is, one of my personal favourites, a rack. That thing there is just called iron chair, quite boring actually. You can use other things too, if you like. We have an electric cattle prod, which is basically an electric stick, rope, whips, knives-”

“Yes I get it, thank you for explaining,” Jack interrupted him. “I think I’m a little horrified with how passionate you sound over this. But then again, I might want to try these. On someone else, I’ll add, before you suggest something stupid. I’ll see,” he said.

Pitch just nodded. There was no way Jack would ever actually use any of these any way. But, it was fun showing him, he thought. The reaction was amusing, if anything. 

“But just to be clear. I have no idea what your dirty kinks are, but you’re never going to tie me up on something, alright? I’m not into BDSM,” Jack added, looking back at the red room with a much more disgusted look than the curious way he had been looking around so far.

“Your loss,” Pitch shrugged, smirking. Jack rolled his eyes, before he flew back out of the room. Pitch followed, closing the doors. 

He felt weird. Normally, he would have gotten aroused just from being in those two rooms. But this time, he felt odd. He didn’t feel like using any of the equipment. Except for the blindfolds. Those , were always fun.

He decided not to overthink it. He was just not in the mood, it wasn’t a big deal.

*

A couple of hours later, Pitch returned to his lair once again. His lair had various entrances, like the one in Burgess. Although, the other ones were much more hidden, as they were more of side entrances. The one in Burgess was the main entrance, really. Some scientist accidentally ended up finding one in Venice. He took care of the man, and spent some more time in Italy before returning. He had been in no rush. Jack’s impatience and annoyance could wait. Also, the smell of the rain that hung in the city calmed him, even if he didn’t really know what he needed to calm down from. When he teleported back into the part of the lair Jack was in, he immediately heard screams.

“What in the world?” he said. He quickly realised the ripped sounds came from the room he had shown Jack earlier. He can’t actually have started torturing people, right? Pitch opened the first door. The door leading to the other room was still open. He took wide steps and was at the other side of the room in no time. 

“What are you doing ?” he said, looking around the room. Jack was holding a branding iron in flames that burnt in the fireplace. A person that had been strapped into the iron chair had his head fallen to the side, onto his shoulder. He wasn’t moving. Pitch wasn’t sure the guy was even alive anymore.

“What you told me to do,” Jack responded, taking the stick out of the fire and pushing it into skin once more, earning a loud scream.

Ah, alive, then.

“Although, I have to say, I hadn’t expected it to be so satisfying to watch someone else’s skin burn,” Jack said. “I don’t have much experience with heat, you see.”

“Well I’m glad you like it so much, nonetheless, don’t you think the poor chap has had enough?” Pitch took a step forward. The man groaned and sobbed. Jack inhaled dramatically through his nose and smiled.

“It tastes so good!” he said, flying a little higher into the air as he said it.

“You will kill him, you know, if you continue.”

Jack turned to him slowly. Pitch felt threatened under the golden of his eyes, which was ridiculous; he never felt threatened, and certainly not by some frost spirit.

“So what if he dies? I didn’t know him. Did you know him? He’s an adult. He can’t even see me. It’s like we’re not even here, right?” Jack laughed, but it wasn’t out of fun. Pitch actually thought it sounded a little pathetic, if he would have to be honest. Why do I even care, indeed?

“Yeah alright, I’ll leave you to it.”

Pitch left, ignoring the screams that were awakening behind him again. He returned mere hours later, and was baffled. He was standing in his once favourite room, the torture room, and didn’t know what to think. The smell that hang in the air was undeniable the smell of death. There was a man, not the one from before, lying on a cross, still tied up by his hands and feet. 

Pitch sighed.

He got rid of the corpse and cleaned up the room. He hated the smell in there, had always despised the mess torturing brought, and wanted it clean. He then searched out Jack to confront him with his new discovery. Lately, Jack was spending most of his time in the main area of the lair, with the Nightmare Horses. Pitch had seen him throw icicles at the horses, had heard him laugh as the horses tried to get away from the cruel creature that hurt them. Again, he didn’t know what to think. Jack also spent a lot of time outside, doing God-knows-what. Pitch didn’t even want to know, although he could think of things he would be doing there.

“Frost!” he called, while walking towards the wall Jack was sitting on. 

“That name,” Jack growled silently, his face hardening for a second. Pitch hadn’t heard him.

“You see, I don’t mind you torturing people, not at all, but if you do so, the very least you could do is clean up afterwards! I mean, I’ve been cleaning for an hour, like some bloody housewife!” Pitch said, throwing his hand around to show his desperation. Jack grinned.

“As bloody as the other guy?” he said, licking the underside of his front teeth from left to right. It wasn’t the first time he had done that but it disturbed Pitch immensely, and even more so given the circumstances in that moment.

“I am serious right now Jack. This is not a joke. What did the guy do to deserve that anyway?” Pitch asked.

“Does is matter? We were just having some fun, and then suddenly he drops dead. They’re fragile, these humans, aren’t they?” Jack said, creating another icicle and throwing it at a horse. Another one of those things he did that Pitch didn’t like. He had doubted whether he liked it or not at first, seeing as he used to like callousness, brutal torture. But then he decided he didn’t like it. He liked the horses. He didn’t want to throw things at them. He didn’t want to hurt them.

“Will you stop throwing those at them?”

Jack had just made another icicle and was ready to throw it, but instead turned it in his hand before turning his head to Pitch, a surprised expression on his face. 

“I thought you liked cruelty?” he said, tilting his head a little to the right.

“Why did you think that? I like fear , I like to scare people, not torture my horses. I am not a monster,” Pitch said, annoyed by the expectation of liking to hurt others, even though practically, he did like that. He had tortured people in the past, and it could very much be fun, but he didn’t torture his own Nightmares. They were absolutely harmless!

Jack got up from his sitting position, and started walking towards Pitch. Pitch raised his eyebrows at him as Jack didn’t stop coming closer; closer than the two of them normally came to each other, but didn’t take a step back. 

“So, you’re telling me, you don’t like to hurt?” Jack said, having to look up to see Pitch’s face, as he was much taller than him. 

“From the way you’re acting I’m thinking you mean another sort of pain,” Pitch said. 

“Maybe,” Jack said. He averted his eyes from Pitch, instead looking at his chest. Pitch was wearing his black robe, as he always did. It’s cut low, exposing a part of his thorax. Jack raised the icicle he was still holding, pointing the sharp end to Pitch. Pitch couldn’t help the thoughts that ran through his head as the small spirit placed the icicle on his collarbone and started tracing his skin with it, slowly moving downwards.

Oh , Pitch thought, what an interesting turn of events

Jack pushed the cold thing harder onto Pitch skin, until it stung a little. Pitch breathed normally despite it. The tip of the icicle started melting due to Pitch’s high body heat, and a drop of water seeped down over his body. Jack took another step closer and locked his eyes with Pitch's, before he leant forward and pressed the tip of his tongue on the droplet. Pitch made a small sound in agreement as Jack licked.

“Oh, the fun I’m gonna have with you,” Jack said darkly. Pitch licked his lips and Jack placed his hands on his waist, providing him a handhold. 

“If you don’t want your precious horses to witness more, you should teleport us to your bedroom,” Jack smirked. Fuck, he’s right . Pitch had almost forgotten there were others too. It's been a long time since he had it away with someone. He was positively turned on by Jack. There was a large age gap between them, but that didn’t matter much to spirits. They mostly just wanted their fun.

They teleported into Pitch’s bedroom without a second thought.

Chapter Text

Present day: 21 February 2033
Location: Pitch’s Lair

The past week had been filled with pure chaos. Eight days prior, Pitch had carefully explained the plan. First, the events at the workshop would take place, which had gone fine. Then, they’d start making children stop believing, as Pitch had done the first time. Once no one believed in the Guardians, they would be of no use, and he and Jack would be feared by everyone. 

It was an easy plan, plain and simple. But of course, Jack had to disagree, as he always did. 

He said it was far from evil, just scaring little kids. He wanted to torment the Guardians directly, hurt them until they no longer believed in themselves. He was fine with scaring kids, but he wanted to scare adults too. 

Pitch felt very weird. Jack wasn’t supposed to be more evil than he was. He was the Nightmare King. For centuries, people feared him. And now, Jack Frost came along, and became better at it than he was? He had recruited Jack himself! The stupid spirit was supposed to not want any of it, to not understand any of it. Pitch was supposed to be above him. Jack was supposed to be a sidekick. Instead, he behaved like he was Pitch’s equal. They argued. They developed a pattern; stumble across each other in the halls of the lair, argue, get into the other’s personal space, teleport into Pitch’s bedroom and have their way with each other until one of them was too tired to continue. The other would leave the room, and the cycle would start again.

That was, until Jack broke the cycle. They were arguing, as usual, but instead of coming closer to Pitch he flew up into the air, further away from him. 

“If you’re not going to do anything about them, than I will,” he said, before flying off through the exit. Pitch suspected where he might be going and teleported there directly. 

The Workshop was cleaned up. There was no trace of the carnage that he and Jack had left, and yeti were working, as they always did. The only real difference was the unmissable tension in the air, which was high. Pitch appreciated it. He saw North, but none of the other Guardians. Had they split up? That would be a smart move. Better than they did last time, when they did exactly what he had expected them to, which was sticking together. The only thing he hadn’t contemplated last time was Jack’s input. In the end, the only reason his plan hadn’t worked out was Jack. But this time was different. Jack was now on his own side. There is no way this could go wrong.

At least, there used to be no way, until Jack decided to cross his plans even though they were on the same side. It was as if it made no difference on whose side he was on. He was always a neutral party. Maybe he was just his own party. 

A wave of snow entered the place. Snow and ice spread quickly, and Jack flew above it all, looking around to see North. They spotted each other at the same time, and Jack’s mouth curled into a sinister smile. 

“Jack! What happened? What are you doing?” North said. He looked down at the mess Jack was making.

“I did what everyone expected me to! Don’t play innocent, North. You guys never accepted me as a Guardian. Not really.”“That is not true, Jack, you know it,” North just said, turning his head. Pitch followed his line of sight, over to his left, where North’s swords and coat were. Jack saw it too, and sent ice towards all of it, freezing the items.

“Did you like our little present?” Jack said, turning back to North. 

“Jack this is not you. You can fight the shadows! I know you can.” North looked at Jack, hope glistering in his eyes.

“But why should I? This is the first time in years, that you actually listen to me! People see me! I can touch them! I am powerful . Why would I give it up to become sad little Jack Frost again?” Jack said. “I will never be alone again. But before I enjoy myself, I’ll make sure you know exactly how I felt when you abandoned me. When the Man in the Moon abandoned me!”

“I didn’t aban-” North’s sentence was cut off when ice was sent to him, freezing him against a pillar he was standing close to. Jack created a storm in the workplace, freezing considerably more than he had the last time they’d come here. The yeti and elves were also frozen onto the ground, only their heads left unfrozen. Just enough to keep them breathing. The walls, floors and windows around them were frozen too. The only exit left was the one that Jack was hovering above. The ice had also quickly come close to Pitch’s feet, but surprisingly, it didn’t touch him. That was impressive. He didn’t know Jack had so much control over his powers.

Jack moved his right hand, his left hand holding his staff. The big ice block a closeby yeti was in was moved to him, and it made distressed sounds. Jack didn’t pay attention to the pleads, and glided down to his feet, eyeing the yeti. 

“Watch closely now, Santa,” he just said, before touching the yeti’s forehead. The yeti shrieked as shadows flew around him, consuming him until a dark, shadowy creature was all that was left. Pitch couldn’t really believe it. Jack was actually creating Nightmare Yeti. He watched in awe. This is so much better than he had expected. He thought Jack was going to do something like throwing snowballs at North from an open window. 

North’s mouth was held shut by ice that reached his chin, preventing him from making possible sounds he might have made, but Pitch could feel his distress. Jack didn’t even look at North as he jumped to the next yeti. He went on like that for some time, until there were at least fifteen Nightmare Yeti, meanwhile saying:

“Do you feel that, old man? The tightening in your chest? The aching in your throat?” Jack flew closer to North. Pitch couldn’t properly see North’s expression, which was a real pity because he knew just how scared North was in that moment. The Nightmare Yeti inspire fear, just like the horses do. North’s fear was heightened, but it was satisfying nonetheless. 

“That’s exactly how I felt! And I’ll continue making you feel like that until I am satisfied.”

Pitch watched a little longer, as Jack turned more yeti and elves into Nightmare Minions, and found a position in which he could see North’s face too. Apparently, he was crying. Pitch was actually a little starstruck. The act was truly cruel. If they disposed of Sandy quickly, there would be no way of getting the yeti back. He thought about finding the Sandman right then, but decided against it. He teleported back into the lair, and waited for Jack.

Jack came back about an hour later. He let himself fall through the entrance in the ceiling, catching himself in the last second before he would have touched the ground and broken some bones. He made a looping in the air, before landing in front of Pitch, who was sitting in a chair with a drink in his hand. The see-through bottle was standing on the wooden table in front of him. 

“Happy?” Pitch smirked, taking a sip.

“More than happy. I thought burning others was fun, but it turns out freezing them is even more fun!” Jack said enthusiastic.

“You froze some too?” 

“Yeah. The first was truly unintentional, but the way North looked was absolutely priceless! I had to do it again!”

“I think I’m a little horrified with how passionate you sound over this,” Pitch said, mimicking Jack.

“Ha ha, very funny,” he just answered. “Anyway, back to business. We need to find Sandy. He can turn the Nightmare Yeti back to normal and I want to enjoy North’s pain longer than that.” 

“You sound like a child,” Pitch said, the corner of his mouth curling up nonetheless. 

“I’m just having fun . I can’t do much about the fact that you’re such an old man,” Jack scoffed, whilst creating an ice cube in his hands and dissolving it again. Pitch just rolled his eyes.

“We can look for Sandman tomorrow, I’m tired,” he said, getting up from his chair.

“Old man,” Jack whispered, loud enough for Pitch to hear it. 

“Are you implying you like to lay with older men?” Pitch said, but didn’t turn around to hear whatever Jack might have said. Jack didn’t react, instead looked at Pitch in surprise for a few seconds before laughing quietly.

Present day: 22 February 2033
Location: Pitch’s Lair

“Good morning old man!” Jack exclaimed when Pitch walked into the main area the next day.

“Since when are you so joyful?” he asked. He had a headache and was really not in the mood for Jack’s happiness. 

“Well, if you insist on knowing; I took the liberty of handling Sandy while you were asleep,” Jack said, smiling, “You’re welcome.” 

Pitch stopped walking. “What do you mean, ‘handle Sandy while I was asleep’? There is no way you took on the Sandman alone !” he said, turning back to Jack.

“Oh but I did. It was surprisingly easy, to be honest,” Jack said, nonchalantly balancing his staff on his shoulders. Jack defeated the Sandman, Sanderson Mansnoozie , alone? Without a plan? Without him? 

“How?”

“Does it matter? He’s gone now,” Jack said, shrugging. 

“Don’t you think you’re going a bit overboard?” he then said. He couldn’t help the anger that flew through him. For so many years, he couldn’t do anything about Sandy. He studied his dreamsand for days on end, and he trained to turn it into nightmares. And even then, he had to wait before being able to raise a hand against him. He would never admit it to anyone, but he feared the Sandman. And now, Jack Frost comes, and defeats him while Pitch was asleep? He would not tolerate it. He would not.

“Overboard? What do you mean? I made your job a lot easier. You should be thanking me,” Jack said. He wanted to be angry, but he also knew Jack was right. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Sandy had to be out of the picture for the plan to work. And now he was.

He couldn’t help but feel a little more threatened by Jack. He said it was easy. He managed to create nightmares at his first try. He liked the feeling of shadows entering his body. He liked torturing more than Pitch did at the moment. 

This is all wrong . I’m supposed to be better than him.

“What’s the matter with you?” Jack said, watching Pitch’s expression, tightening his grip on his staff. “You know what? I think we both know I’m better at this than you are, and I’m a little sick of you. You’re too weak.” 

“Beg your pardon?” Pitch dared him, clenching his teeth. Jack jumped into the air. He was flying a little over the ground, and hovered closer to Pitch. 

“I said: You’re too weak,” he said, his eyes glowing dangerously.

Pitch fired at Jack. Jack flew back and cast ice from his staff, blocking Pitch’s attack. Jack then fired at Pitch, who ducked before firing back. Jack shot ice against the black. He didn’t waste any time, and sent several icicles to Pitch. Pitch could only block two of them, and the other three pinned his arm against the wall. He reached out with his other arm to free himself, but Jack already shot more and pinned his other arm too. 

The icicles could only hold for so long. Pitch jerked his arm free. He ducked and attacked. He couldn’t let Jack beat him. He wouldn’t. He was stronger than Jack.

Jack stumbled backwards, but the black shadows that he had sent to hold him down were sliding into his body. What was happening?

Jack laughed and charged a new attack. He created a wall of ice and made it move forward, pushing Pitch back until his back hit the wall. The ice disappeared and Pitch wanted to make a counter move, but Jack froze his arms to the wall, and his feet to the floor. He flew closer, raised his hand and wrapped it around Pitch’s neck, blocking his airways. The golden in his eyes shone with madness, and somehow the room seemed to have darkened. Jack applied more pressure, squeezing harder. Pitch couldn’t breathe.

Suddenly Jack let go. His hand moved down, to the left of Pitch’s chest, above his heart. Pitch’s eyes went wide when he realised what Jack was trying to do. He hadn’t taught him this. He had never even spoken of this. How did he know about this? He tried to move his hands, knowing this was going wrong , when he felt a foreign cold in his body. He opened his mouth to gasp. Luckily, the painful cold only lasted one second, before it turned warmer. Sadly, the comfortable warmth got warmer, and very quickly this newly found heat turned just as painful as the cold had been.

From his heart, the feeling spread through his veins. Pitch couldn’t move. He saw and felt shadows exit his body, flowing into Jack’s without hesitation. He wasn’t even aware of the sounds he made.

He would not go down without a fight. Pitch’s body temperature had always been very high. It was high enough that the ice melted on his limbs melted away a little. He managed to break the ice completely by moving his wrists. Nothing withheld him from moving anymore, but the heat in veins worsened, reached his wrists too, and left him immobilized. He felt like he was on fire. Shadows were still leaving his body, and he was gradually feeling weaker and weaker. His arms dropped.

He looked at Jack. Jack’s eyes weren’t focused on anything. It was as if he was staring right through Pitch, eyes wide, shadows surrounding him.

He was trying hard to fight against the paralisis that had overcome his body. He managed to move his arms moved from the side of his body to Jack’s shoulders. The movement seemed like it was someone else’s. It didn’t feel like he was the one doing it. He could hardly feel his arms. Trying to concentrate on them was painful. He tried to push Jack back nonetheless, but wasn’t able to. 

His mind raced to find some sort of solution, when he saw the skin tone on his arms change from dull grey into the light skin tone he forgot he used to have. He felt like his insides were shifting.

Jack’s skin tone turned darker. His aura changed drastically. Pitch saw shadows around him, surrounding them with darkness. He knew those shadows came out of his own body. Jack was taking his shadows.

He couldn’t see anything except the golden of Jack’s eyes. His mind was everywhere. Why couldn’t he see? He had an exceptional night vision. He was almost better at seeing in the dark than in light. He heard a loud noise. His ears rang. He suddenly realised Jack was laughing hysterically. He tried to ignore it. Even though he didn’t feel so warm anymore, he still felt pain all over his body. He felt weak. He couldn’t stand this any longer. 

“Let go,” he managed to push through his damaged airways. He hadn’t realised how much it hurt to talk. 

Jack stopped laughing. His face darkened even further. His gaze focused. The brightness of his eyes hurt in the back of Pitch’s head. He felt so weak. He wasn’t supposed to feel weak. He was supposed to be better than Jack. 

His knees were shaking. The part of him that wasn’t filled with pain was filled with shame. This wasn’t supposed to happen. 

Jack flew closer, until the already little space between their bodies was gone and his chest bumped against Pitch’s. He used his body weight to push, squeezing Pitch between him and the wall behind him. Pitch didn’t hear the sound Jack’s staff made when he dropped it. Jack harshly took a handful of Pitch’s hair in his, now free, hand, and forced his head against the wall. Pitch already felt so weak he didn’t notice how much it hurt.

“Let go? You want me to let go?” Never before had Jack’s voice sounded like that. It sent shivers down Pitch’s spine. He could feel Jack’s cold breath.

“Oh no. I’m just beginning.”

Pitch’s eyes started to roll back, his vision clouded even more, but then he felt like he was lit on fire again. The shadows, he realised, Jack was sending them back into him. Pitch didn’t want them. He wanted to scream, but even doing that was taxing. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t even raise his voice. 

“Tch tch tch, stay awake now. Don’t ruin it. We’re just having some fun, right? I am, at least.”

The burning feeling faded away, but Pitch still felt as though his whole body was bruised from it. He couldn’t properly comprehend what Jack was saying. He felt pain. Everywhere, pain. 

“Stop it.”

“Didn’t you hear me? I’m not stopping.”

Please .”

“Are you actually begging ? Dear me, I must be a very scary little frost spirit!”

Jack flew back a little, and Pitch’s body almost collapsed, when he felt things around his wrists and ankles. He didn’t have enough energy to look at what they were. Trying to calm himself, he took deep breaths. He turned his head to the side once he felt more awake and aware of the pain throughout his body. The things that held him upright were shadows, he realised. He tried to free himself of them, for it felt like they were piercing through his skin, but wasn’t able to. 

“Look at me,” Jack said. Pitch tried to, he did , but his body wouldn’t listen to him. Jack sighed, and moved closer, but before he had even reached him, Pitch was out cold.

*

When Pitch reopened his eyes, he was still tied to a wall, though, in another room. The room he had shown Jack only two weeks ago, to be exact. Jack must have moved him whilst he was unconscious. 

“Good morning,” a voice sang from the corner of the room.

Speak of the devil.

“I wonder what would hurt you more; the electric cattle prod, or one of your supposed ‘personal favourites’, the rack,” Jack said, looking at a shelf. Pitch could only see his back. His head hurt. He felt nauseous at the thought of the torture Jack was going to inflict on him, of what he had already inflicted on him. He bent over as much as he could and threw up. 

“Oh come on! Who’s gonna clean that up, huh? Ugh, and yet you call me a kid,” Jack complained. “I’m not even doing anything to you that you haven’t done to me!”

“I didn’t torture you,” Pitch said, noticing talking hurt more than the last time he had tried to.

“Yeah, well, I am evil ─ you can’t expect me to tell the truth, now, can you? That would be stupid.” Jack’s tone of voice changed drastically, dramatically. He talked as if this was a normal situation. It was anything but normal. Pitch couldn’t remember ever feeling like this before. He had been alive for several millennia now. That he couldn’t remember feeling like this was saying something.

“I think I’ll go for the cattle prod,” Jack said. 

*

Pitch had no idea of how long he had been hanging there, on the wall. Jack’s torture was extensive, and it was painful. Sometimes, he let Pitch rest for a while. He would regain some small amount of energy. Then Jack would start again. The newly regained energy would only make him more aware of the pain. After some time he would pass out. When he’d wake again, Jack would be ready for another round, though, he’d use a new way to hurt Pitch.

“It’s a shame you don’t scar. I would love to see the result of my work,” Jack said, putting away the branding iron he was holding. 

Pitch couldn’t react, as he was spitting out blood.

Over the past few days, as he guessed had passed, he was remembering more and more things from his past. Things he had forgotten. Jack was torturing his physique, the memories were torturing his mind. He preferred the physical pain.

He heard Jack sigh, before the curve of his staff was placed on his chin. Pitch flinched, but Jack moved his head up with a gentleness he hadn’t expected. Jack tilted his own head a little, and just looked at Pitch. The longer he stared, the more panicked Pitch began to feel. 

“You need to know how to inspire fear with eye contact...”

Pitch hadn’t even taught him how to do that, he had only mentioned it.

He was growing more scared by the second. He started sweating. Shaking. He didn’t even know what he was afraid of, but he was. He felt his heartbeat everywhere in his body. He vaguely remembered training for this. He tried to hold on to that memory, tried to remember what to do, but he was too scared. He couldn’t think. 

“It’s so refreshing to see your expression when something shocks you,” Jack said, laughing, finally breaking the penetrating eye contact, taking back his staff. Pitch let out a breath he didn’t realise he had been holding. Still, he tried to concentrate, tried to recall things that happened so many years ago. The memory was so close, yet so far away.

“You know, I really believed you were smart,” Jack said, ruffling his hair, looking at Pitch. “And yet, you still haven’t teleported away. I thought you’d do that the first chance you got. Yet, you didn’t.”

“Oh well, what can I say? I guess you’re simply hopeless. Anyway, I just told you your ultimate escape plan so I’m gonna wrap this up. Firstly, if you ever address me as Jack Frost again, I will kill you. You can address me as the Shadow King. Secondly, if you’re gonna come in my way, I will kill you. I don’t care what you are gonna do, but it better not become a problem to me.” 

Pitch could hardly believe how frightening Jack was to him. He regretted ever giving him any shadows at all. He was much easier to deal with when he was just Jack Frost, the lonely frost spirit. He may sound childish, but over the past couple of days Pitch learnt that the immaturity was more like a facade. Maybe it was the little that was left of Jack? Like the way Pitch talked when he was still possessed by the shadows. That was how he had always spoken. Maybe this childish way of speaking was the way Jack always spoke? Pitch didn’t know. He had looked into Jack whilst planning his ‘evil masterplan’, but he did not know about the ways Jack spoke.

Pitch’s train of thought was interrupted when Jack continued talking.

“You know, I think I’ll make an exception on the first rule for you. You may call me Tsar Umbrae , if you like. I’ll be the third Tsar you fight against, mhm? Remember them, the House of Lunanoff?” Jack smiled, but it was unkind, and his eyes shone brighter when he said it.

Pitch froze. Jack couldn’t know about that. That happened long before he was born. He couldn’t possibly know that. 

He felt sick. Memories he’d tried to escape and memories he’d tried to reach for both flooded his mind. He remembered the times of his past, remembered Tsar Lunar . He remembered meetings, rooms that were filled with other generals like he was, like he used to be . He remembered Tsar Lunar talking to him personally, remembered receiving the honour of being the gatekeeper, after finally defeating the shadows. And then, the memories of her started coming back. 

NO.

Pitch didn’t want to remember any of that. He felt like someone was crushing his heart. He didn’t want to think about her. He couldn’t. 

“Hey, c’mon now, are you truly so sentimental you’re gonna cry over things that happened such a long time ago? I expected a little better from the War General Kozmotis Pitchiner , to be honest.” Pitch didn’t reply, but he screamed in pain when he felt the same burning again. 

That had also happened repeatedly. Jack would put shadows into his body, against his will, and then he would take them away again, against his will. It was a very painful, brutal and taxing act. 

Pitch couldn’t think, he couldn’t say anything, he couldn’t do anything. He suffered another few seconds, before he was surrounded with darkness. It felt like a relief. Pitch had never been afraid of the dark, and he would prefer sitting in the dark forever, than the pain Jack put him through. His break didn’t last very long. Before he knew it he was sucked back into the light.

He still felt way too warm when Jack sent snow over his body. The sudden temperature drop made him dizzy, and not long after the dizziness started, Pitch passed out again.

*

When Pitch woke up this time, the first thing he noticed was that he was alone in the room. 

He sighed out delight. He expected Jack to come back as soon as he felt better, but he found himself not caring. He just wanted to rest a little. 

While resting, Pitch’s mind cleared up a little. He thought about the things Jack had said. War General Kozmotis Pitchiner . That is who he used to be. He used to be a War General. He had led armies into battle. He had defeated the shadows. They had been locked away. Surely he remembered something helpful from his training? 

Instead of something helpful from his training, his mind provided something helpful that Jack had said.

You’ll teleport away the first chance you’ll get

He cursed himself for not thinking about it earlier, or frankly, for not thinking about it at all. Teleportation was such an easy, yet so very useful. He felt stupid for forgetting about it. 

Nevermind that , he thought, just get out of here. Before he’ll come back .

His own thoughts panicked him. He needed to go, now. He could almost hear Jack laughing while his surroundings turned into shadows. Except, they didn’t. His surroundings did not turn into shadows, as they had always done when he teleported. They turned into light.

Light.

Pitch teleported through light

“What?” he brought out, once he landed. He didn’t even know where he teleported to. He fell onto his knees and threw up on a wooden floor. He didn’t know what came up, but his throat burned because of it. He scrunched his nose at the taste it left in his mouth. He felt miserable. His throat hurt. His chest hurt. His head hurt. He squeezed his eyes shut to clear his vision of the light he had just seen. Where had he teleported to? He didn’t know. The answer didn’t matter. All that mattered in that moment was that Jack was no longer there. There would be no more burning, no more memories. No more Jack.

Something dragged him backwards, onto his feet, but he was disorientated, his vision was blurred and he still felt sick. His clothes were shredded. It covered the essential parts, but he was uncomfortable in them. He felt naked and felt too light. Dizzy. Light. The faintest idea of voices closeby, before the flashing light turned into darkness and his eyes rolled into their sockets.

*

When Pitch woke up, for what felt like the thousandth time, he felt sick. His throat felt sore. He could still feel a burning ache of shadows making their way into his body. He could hear Jack’s laughter. He groaned and raised his hands to rub his eyes ─ but couldn’t. His left wrist was chained to something. For a second, he froze. The first thing that ran through his head was that Jack had come back for him. Then he realised that Jack would not have cuffed him. 

He stared at his hands. His skin tone ─ it wasn’t grey anymore. It hadn’t been since Jack took his shadows, but he didn’t have a great deal of time to think about it. His skin was pale, and memories from long ago flashed through his mind. He had gotten used to the grey. This pale skin made him uncomfortable.

Then he realised, once again, he was chained. If Jack had not cuffed him, then who had? 

He sat up straight so fast his vision turned black for a second, but he paid no attention to it. The first person he saw was Nicholas St. North ─ otherwise known as just North ─ sitting on a dark wooden coffee table close to him. Standing further away, one of his boomerangs in his paw, stood Bunnymund. He stared at Pitch intensely, his ears upright, obviously expecting some sort of attack. Toothiana was flying more to his right, her wings hardly making a sound.

“Why am I here? Who chained me to this ─ sofa ?” he asked, his eyes going over all of them. Talking hurt. He coughed, even though it only made the pain worse. It made him realise how hard he had screamed during his time with Jack. He also realised the Guardians were surrounding him, but couldn’t quite remember how that ended up happening.

“Excuse me? You came here, and North somehow convinced me not to throw you into some bloody cell, donkey’s years away from here!” Bunnymund said, taking a step closer. North held his arm out in front of him, blocking him from coming closer.

“You might not remember. You teleported into the workshop this morning, but collapsed without saying anything. I put you on the sofa and called the other Guardians. The chain is just safety measurement,” North said calmly, but his expression hard. “Tooth and Bunny came. Then we waited. Are you alright?”

Pitch was shocked, to say the least. He scoffed softly, minding his throat.

“Are you daft?”, he said, voice cracking at the last syllable. He coughed before he continued talking. “What if I had an ulterior move? You’re comforting your enemy.” 

“Ah, ‘what if’ you had an ulterior move? So, you are saying, you have no ulterior move?” North said.

“I don’t,” he said, after a second.

“You expect us to believe you? Pull the other one, would ya,” Bunnymund said.

“Now you know what happened from when you came here. But what happened before that? Why did you come here, Pitch?” North said, voice darkening. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back a little. It wasn’t very intimidating, Pitch thought. Not after spending time in Jack’s company.

The events of the past couple of days, as he kept thinking of them, came back to him. It still affected him very much, he knew. The golden of Jack’s eyes was printed into his mind. He felt Jack’s cold fingers wrap around his throat again, felt the pain of other torture devices that Jack had used, even if he knew Jack wasn’t there. He was scared. He tried to remind himself, Jack wasn’t there. Jack wasn’t there. It wasn’t real. He had used other people’s traumas against them long enough to know this was just his mind playing tricks on him.

“You’re just weak.”

Pitch’s eyes widened when he heard Jack’s voice in his ear. He went to cover his ears and succeeded in covering his right ear with his hand, but couldn’t cover his other one as the chain wasn’t long enough. He tugged on it aggressively, but immediately regretted doing so, as his wrist hurt. He squeezed his eyes shut, and tried to calm himself down. He kept telling himself there was no danger, but somehow his fear didn’t sink.

Pitch wanted to jump up when someone touched his arm, but couldn’t because of the bloody chain

The Guardians. Somehow he had forgotten their presence. He took a deep breath and pushed whatever it was he was feeling down. He was good at hiding emotions from others. It was harder to do so when he was alone. He couldn’t fool himself. He didn’t want to fool himself. It’s stupid to ignore one’s feelings, that much even Pitch knew.

“Jack stripped me of the shadows,” he said, ignoring the looks they gave him. He almost said my shadows , but caught himself in time. 

“What do you mean?” Toothiana said in confusion, looking at North and Bunny before looking back at Pitch.

“I mean it like I said it. We were fighting, he was saying things, and from one moment to another he was sucking them out of me.”

“Oh so then you just accidentally ended up teleporting to North’s Workshop?” Bunnymund said. He was still holding his boomerang, ready to fight. It was rather funny, given Pitch hardly felt strong enough to hold himself upright. It was strangely good to see that at least someone still expected him to be strong.

“Apparently. I wasn’t really paying attention to where. It was more about getting away, then getting to,” he said. He didn’t want to stay here, but he wasn’t well enough to teleport right now so he might as well try to not provoke the giant rabbit.

“Getting away from Jack, mhm?” North said. He looked at Pitch with an expression that made him look old. His eyes sunk away almost completely behind his beard and eyebrows. “What did you do to him?”

Pitch huffed. What did I do to him? More like, what did he do to me ?

North must have thought Pitch was mocking him. “If you don’t give me an answer, I will get very angry.”

“He’s no longer Jack Frost,” Pitch said, looking away from North. He tried to convince himself that he was not afraid of some tall Russian who spends his life making toys for kids, but in truth, he was.

He didn’t notice how the Guardians gave each other sad looks. “He took them willingly?” North then asked, tone of voice much gentler than the one before.

“Not completely.” Pitch pushed his fear further down, and looked up to North, who was obviously angry.

“So now what? Jack is possessed by shadows and sucked yours out of you, so now you’re back to your old self?” Toothiana said. Two mini fairies made a sound from her side. He glared at her. He didn’t like how lighthearted she mentioned it. The shadows, his old self ─ there wasn’t anything light about them. But he pushed those emotions down as well.

“Maybe,” he said. I teleported through light. My skin changed back. He didn’t know what to think of it all. “I don’t feel the way I did back then. But I don’t feel like the Nightmare King either. I can tell that they’re gone,” he admitted. 

“How do you feel about the things you have done?” North asked. He was back to looking a little less angry, but his voice hadn’t changed tone. It was still a hard tone, like businessmen use.

“I don’t remember everything. It’s mostly fragments, short moments, but the things I do remember…” Pitch fell quiet. He felt regret. Guilt. He had done horrible things. But he also knew it wasn’t exactly him. It were the shadows. They only looked like him, possessed his body. 

“What ‘bout Sandy? What did you do to him?” Bunnymund said.

“Well, if you insist on knowing; I took the liberty of handling Sandy while you were asleep,” Jack said, smiling, “You’re welcome.” 

“Jack said he ‘handled’ him, but I wasn’t with him. I don’t know what he’s done to him. Nothing good, I fear. Jack has…no limits, or so it seems. His appetite for cruelty never sated. It is one of the reasons we fought.” 

The shocked looks the Guardians made at him were almost amusing.  

“Why are you telling us this? How do we know this is not just some kind of plan? Your appearance isn’t proof you’ve changed,” Toothiana said, flying a little higher into the sky. 

“Is there any way to prove I’m not out to hurt you?” Pitch said. It was a rhetorical question, but the Guardians did look like they were thinking about an answer. Pitch looked down.

“I am not sure how long it will take me to recharge. As far as I know, there are no records of others who lived with the shadows for as long as I did. I kindly ask you if I may stay here until I feel better,” he said. He absolutely loathed being here, with all the toys, elves, yeti and whatsoever, but he also knew it was safest for him to stay. As far as anywhere was safe anymore, with Jack around.

“I want to keep a close eye on you, Pitch. It is better having you here under my watch than having you out there. You can stay,” North nodded, before adding: “Chained.”

Pitch didn’t even try to tell North he was still able to teleport just fine, even when chained. The sofa would just teleport along with him.

“Whatever you wish. It’s not like I can move much right now anyway. I just need to rest for a day, I hope. If my powers aren’t back by then, then I will fear the worst.”

There was the possibility of his energy not coming back at all. He knew that. He wouldn’t be the first spirit to have no powers. A lot didn’t. Still, he would very much like to have them back. He felt vulnerable as it was. Like anyone could hurt him without him being able to properly protect himself. 

Anyone, or Jack?

Sometimes Pitch really loathed his inner voice.

“I don’t trust him, but I trust you to keep an eye on him,” Bunnymund said, to North. “What do we do now? What’s the plan?”

“Do you know what Jack’s plan is?” Toothiana asked.

“He wants to hurt you until you no longer believe in yourself. He wants more than just children, he wants adults too,” Pitch said.

“You said he was saying things, when you were fighting. What did he say?” North asked.

“He said he wanted to be called the Shadow King . He knew I would teleport away. He used me as a messenger.” Pitch had only just realised it, but said it like he knew it all along.

“That is all?” North pushed.

“The rest is not of importance, and none of your business.” Pitch wasn’t planning on telling them anything about the things that happened after Jack took the shadows. 

“I think we decide whether it’s our business or not. What else did he say?” Toothiana didn’t look angry as she said it. The look she wore was more like stubbornness. 

“Things about me. As I said, not of importance,” he repeated. North gave him a long calculating gaze, before his face cleared a little.

“Do you know how he is going to do his plan?” he then asked. Pitch shook his head. 

“I do not. He didn’t tell me. Though, I daresay something personal and horrifying.”

“Do you know how to get the shadows out of Jack?” Pitch just shook his head. Back when he was a war general, fighting against the shadows, they had not possessed anyone. He was, he believed, the first one ever to be possessed by them. Jack was the second. 

North nodded. The room fell quiet, only the sounds the yeti made while making their toys remained. Pitch watched Bunnymund finally put his boomerang away. He gave Pitch another glare while he did so. North took a deep breath and stood up.

“We are still having weeks before Easter. Last time, it did not go well. But this time, we will save Easter, and keep bringing hope to the children. Until then, we will try to secure ourselves and our homes. We must be ready for Jack, for we do not know when he is coming. As much as it pains me to say this, we will have to lock Jack away. We will have to think of a strategy. When we have strategy, I want him to be locked away in here, in my Workshop,” he said. 

“North, are you sure? If we lock him in here, the shadows may affect the Workshop,” Toothiana said, placing a hand on North’s shoulder.

“So be it. I do not care,” North said sternly. 

“North, wherever we lock him, it’s not Jack. He may look like Jack, but he’s not him, alright? You need to remember,” Bunnymund said, his ears moving up and down, giving North a concerned look. North just sighed, and nodded. 

“I am knowing.”

There was another silence. Pitch didn’t find it awkward, as he was used to silence and was hardly ever uncomfortable, but he was sure from the way the others looked at each other they weren’t used to it. Also, silence was appreciated after Jack. Even while torturing him, he never shut up.

“I will ask Matt the yeti to escort you into a room. If you need anything you can ask him, he will stay at your door,” North said. Pitch didn’t comment at hearing he’d be having a babysitter. “I will try to think of something that will help keep the Nightmares away. Do you, perchance, have an idea?”

“The ones that were initially good dreams cannot be turned back without the Sandman. If Jack knows how to, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does, he could dissolve them whenever he likes to. It’s no use to lock them away. The other shadows, the ones that are inside of Jack, can be locked away. We locked them into a prison made of lead. I doubt it’ll have the same effect though. Lead can’t contain a frost spirit. So, we need a prison that can contain Jack and is surrounded with lead,” Pitch said. 

“Christ…” Bunnymund said, leaning down and rubbing the back of his ear with his foot. It reminded Pitch of a dog. 

“And, how do we do that?” Toothiana asked.

“We wait for Jack to come to us,” North then said, “But not unprepared. I will try to make clothing that is ice-resistant. Bunny, when you see him, try to teleport him into the room the yeti will prepare. Tooth, I give you one of my teleportballs too. He is, strong, and he is… bad. He cannot be reasoned with. The things he did to the yeti, to me… He is not our Jack anymore. Try not to think about Jack when you see him.”

Not much more was said. North handed Toothiana a ball of some kind, and got some yeti to escort Pitch. The yeti said something in their own gibberish whilst walking towards Pitch. He got the chain off of the sofa, and looked at Pitch as if saying ‘don’t even try to get away’ . Pitch stood up carefully. He felt heavy and sore, his head hurt, but ignored it all. They walked side by side through halls whose walls were filled with books and toys. The walk wasn’t long. Soon, the yeti opened a door and walked into a room. Pitch silently looked around.

There was a bed with red sheets and white pillows in the corner of the room. The bed was definitely big for one person, but on the small side for two. Furthermore, there was a wooden desk with chair, and a more comfortable looking chair in the other corner. 

Pitch liked it. It was simple. He liked simplicity. The only change he’d have made would be more detailed furniture, but he could live with these. He thought about asking for a book and reading, but decided he was far too tired for that. He would sleep first. Maybe he could read something when he woke up. The yeti walked with him to the bed, and chained him to the bedpost. He waited patiently as if asking if he needed anything else, but Pitch had just closed his eyes and didn’t pay any more attention to him. The yeti left, and Pitch could hear the door locking. He sighed, and got under the sheet. Even though he still didn’t feel remotely safe, he sank into a well-needed sleep within seconds.