Sandy had realized long ago that looking to humans for ways to woo the Nightmare Queen wasn’t going to be any help at all. For one thing, too many human means of romantic pursuit seemed to make the relationship between a man and a woman as one of conqueror and conquered, or at the very least, antagonistic. Sandy wanted it to be clear that what he was doing was meant to be entirely different in all ways from the previous battles between him and Pitch.
But it was very difficult figuring out what he was supposed to do. If he rejected most of the ways that humans negotiated romance, then what seemed to be left was being himself, which he had always done, and it hadn’t resulted in any romantic interest from Pitch.
The dilemma was a strong one, and in absence of any clear path, Sandy had settled for waving at places he knew were entrances to Pitch’s lair every night as he passed them. This, at least, he thought, couldn’t hurt.
And then, one night, after he had been doing this for several months, Pitch had flowed out from under the bed of a child Sandy was crafting a personal dream for. “I get it!” she said angrily. “I know that you’re keeping an eye on me, with your all your cheery little waves at all the doors to my home! You could at least try to look more like a watchman, rather than some kid trying to get their friend’s attention.”
Sandy blinked up at her. It was clear there had been some miscommunication, and he would have to sort that out somehow, but it was nice to see Pitch up close again. She looked the same, with her short, spiky black hair, her long, sharp face, sans eyebrows and with its lovely aquiline nose, with her long neck above her high-collared black coat, and with what was always easiest for Sandy to see when they both were standing on level ground, her long, slender legs. He had had a lot of thoughts about those legs, even when they were actively fighting. But that wasn’t the place to start. The place to start was…where was it…oh, yes, that was it. Sandy asked Pitch why his waving to her was such a bad thing.
“Is this a serious question?” Pitch asked, and Sandy nodded. She sighed. “It’s because waving at someone is generally understood as a friendly gesture, and keeping me under surveillance isn’t a friendly thing to do.”
Sandy frowned thoughtfully. Well, then, his waves weren’t doing what he meant them to. Friendship was not his goal with Pitch.
“I know that!” Pitch shoved her hand into her hair in exasperation. “I wouldn’t have made that mistake. What irritates me is that you seem to be trying to add some sort of cheer to your assigned duties of making sure I don’t do anything at all to frighten the poor widdle childwen. It’s hypocritical. If you’re going to effectively be my jailer, the least you could do is be serious about it.”
Sandy summoned his sand cloud and sat down on it, letting it float him closer to Pitch’s eye level as he thought. He had to tease out all the assumptions in the last thing Pitch said. Okay. She knew he didn’t want to be her friend. She knew if she thought that it was a mistake. She thought that Sandy had been assigned to watch her, and she thought that Sandy was watching her in order to keep her from scaring kids. She thought he was mocking her by treating this serious restriction of her freedom so casually. Sandy rested his fist against his mouth. This was going much worse than he had thought it would. But at least he had avoided the appearance of a stereotypical romantic pursuit?
I haven’t been assigned to watch you, by the Guardians or anyone else, Sandy signed. And I haven’t been preventing you from frightening anyone, have I? Otherwise you wouldn’t look so well. You’ve recovered wonderfully from your last defeat.
Pitch blinked. “I…you were going easy on me for some unfathomable reason,” she said.
Sandy ducked his head. It’s not an unfathomable reason.
Pitch paused. “What else were you going to say?”
Sandy gathered his thoughts. It seems like you think that since my goal isn’t friendship, I’m hostile toward you. That’s not the case at all.
“Explain yourself,” Pitch said warily.
Well, at least this would circumvent all the confusing games that humans played. Sandy shaped his sand into a small, but distinct, heart, and floated it toward Pitch.
“Um. Sandy. I know you don’t understand communication the way other people do, but it’s very cruel to imply any sort of love toward me. As someone so universally hated, it is easy for me to want to believe it, and I know you can’t mean it, because you’re my greatest enemy.”
Sandy frowned and shaped a larger heart. He did mean it, and wasn’t it good that she wanted to believe him? Did that mean she loved him back? And they’d been enemies for so long, they really knew each other better than everyone else…
“Of course I love you! Everyone loves you! It’s part of your nature, like being a shiny little dreampuff! But that doesn’t change that we’re enemies and you can’t love me. If you loved me, you’d have to…I mean, you could…you could do something like…kiss me.” Pitch looked completely alarmed after finishing this statement, and edged back toward the bed, preparing to disappear underneath it.
Sandy nodded emphatically. That was it, exactly.
“Ah, but you’re not going to. See, you can’t back up what you said, so…um…” Pitch found herself looking into Sandy’s eyes from a very short distance indeed. And then he moved even closer and pressed his lips against hers. Pitch’s eyebrows shot up, expecting Sandy to dart away just as quickly as he had approached, but…oh, no, he wasn’t making this a quick kiss at all. His lips were very warm, and so was his tongue, Pitch discovered upon parting her lips.
After several more moments Sandy backed away slightly. He grinned widely at Pitch, knowing he was probably blushing brightly, but that was all right, because there was a considerable amount of violet tinting Pitch’s cheeks as well.
“Ah…so is that what kissing is supposed to be like?” she asked, her own blush growing deeper.
Sandy shrugged. He thought so, but he was mostly working from observation. Was it nice?
Pitch twisted her hands together. “Well, yes, but I think you could also…I mean…”
What could I also do? Sandy asked, and Pitch noticed that he was now lying on his stomach on his dream cloud and kicking his feet back and forth while he rested his chin in his hands. He looked cute. Someone as cute as Sandy had kissed her. Someone as cute as Sandy was asking her….
Pitch tossed her head imperiously. “If you dare, and are serious about your love, you should follow me elsewhere, maybe even to my lair.” That would have to call his bluff, even if the kiss didn’t.
Okay, signed Sandy. I do hope that’s not the only other thing you want me to do.
“Well,” Pitch said slowly, not meeting his eyes, and blushing yet darker, “don’t hope too hard. I’d rather not have the rabbit notice…um…anything.”
After you, Sandy signed. It looked like he had been wrong before. This evening was going much better than expected after all.