None of the other Guardians knew it, but Pitch could see them when he wanted to. Oh, yes. He could see them all too well. And he didn’t like what he saw.
He saw the silly grin on Jack’s face after Sandy hugged him, and the heaps of pillowy snow that Jack made for his next several snowfalls.
He saw Tooth’s faint blush after an embrace from Sandy, and the way she sent a few fairies to accompany him for a while, buzzing around him and playing in the dreamsand.
He had almost thought Sandy was safe with North, but after a farewell bear hug, he heard North humming tunes that were more like lullabies, and saw that he was paying more attention than usual to the design of plush toys.
And even Bunny! Pitch supposed that he should be happy that it was only after the hug, and after Sandy left, that Bunny had flopped down on his side on the grass of the Warren, but he wasn’t. He knew what that meant.
Of course, the real problem was that Sandy had hugged Pitch at one point. So he knew how wonderful it was, wonderful enough that he wanted it to mean something special, something particular. But that was ridiculous, first because Pitch was well aware that he and Sandy remained enemies, and second because hugs were just hugs, even if Sandy was a true expert at them.
This didn’t stop Pitch from sulking. He knew that Sandy, to all appearances, had never had any intention of making those he hugged infatuated with him, and that Sandy did not appear to be infatuated with anyone in return, but it didn’t help. Pitch wanted all of Sandy’s hugs, no matter how impractical that might be.
And this was not how a relationship between enemies should work. Pitch sighed, stood up from his sulk, and brushed down his robes. As he usually did when his feelings about Sanderson Mansnoozie grew too conflicted, he was going to go pick a fight.
Sandy was easy to find, but once Pitch was looking at him, he couldn’t decide how to proceed. Usually, a weapon suggested itself to him immediately, but as he watched the tendrils of dreamsand stream from Sandy’s outstretched hands, the only attack he could think of was a tackle.
He decided to go for it.
It wasn’t his best tackle, though it was initially successful. The problem was that he didn’t follow through with anything else that would make it clearly an attack, and so Sandy had let go of his dreamsand, and wrapped his arms around Pitch in a hug. And Pitch simply couldn’t pass up such an opportunity, so he had hugged Sandy back. Now he was lying on top of Sandy on his dreamsand cloud, holding him quite tightly. It was a dangerous position for Pitch to be in and he knew it, but he really just wanted to fall asleep like this.
Hello, Sandy signed. I didn’t expect you to do this the next time we met.
“I’m picking a fight with you,” Pitch said. He pressed his face against Sandy’s shoulder because it was the most convenient way to hide his embarrassed expression. His embarrassment at failing so spectacularly in his initial attack. He pointedly did not nuzzle, not at all, though such words often came to mind in the presence of Sanderson Mansnoozie.
When he looked up, Sandy nodded thoughtfully.
All right. What about? The fact that we’re opposing cosmic forces, or… Sandy tilted his head and rubbed Pitch’s back a little. His hands were very warm against the cold night air and the contrast completely unsettled Pitch’s mind.
“You hug everyone and they’re all in love with you and you should have been aware of that power of your hugs because you did the foolish thing of hugging me and now how am I supposed to be a proper boogeyman with this affliction? And I don’t think everyone else realizes how lucky they are that you hug them so regularly or maybe they do and that’s worse, because I want you to hug only me.” At this point, Pitch realized what he was saying and tried to stop, but since he was speaking so quickly he still ended up saying, “I know I would appreciate how lucky I was,” before his mouth shut with a click of teeth. He then held on to Sandy even tighter because if he was going to get thrown off the cloud, he didn’t want to make it easy.
Instead, he felt two warm little hands trailing up and down his back. He swallowed nervously. When he looked at Sandy, the little smile on his face was much more mischievous than Pitch could feel entirely comfortable with.
I’m not going to stop hugging other people, Sandy signed. I like hugs and I like that people like when I hug them. He winked at Pitch. And I do like the effect I have on the others.
Pitch made some noise of frustration or despair. “Well then at least come and hug me more often,” he said before he could stop himself, then groaned. “I’m pathetic. Asking my mortal enemy for hugs. So since I’m so pathetic the least you could do is pity me and—”
Sandy shushed him. What if you weren’t my mortal enemy? What if you were just my opposite? We could relate to each other in…other ways.
Pitch sighed. “I don’t even know what that would look like. But if it involves more hugs I’d probably be willing to try it. But then how would you distinguish me from the others? I want to be special. I suppose quantity of hugs would do. Do you have any ideas?”
Sandy laughed, and Pitch realized he had never felt a laugh before. It made him…nervous. Yes, that must be it.
I actually have a lot of ideas, but don’t worry, they all include hugs. They’re just a little more…extensive. There was a grin growing on Sandy’s face and Pitch was now very certain he had wandered into territory entirely unknown to him. And apparently quite familiar to Sandy.
Wait. Did Sandy mean—“Do you mean,” Pitch began, again setting up a direct line between his thoughts and his words despite how little that had ever worked for him.
Perhaps Sandy understood this, or simply wasn’t going to allow Pitch to get in his own way, for at that moment he craned his neck up to kiss Pitch. He was able to do so quite thoroughly, too, as Pitch’s mouth had opened in surprise as soon as Sandy’s intent had become undeniable. After a few seconds, Pitch had started kissing back, too, and, wow, who would have thought he was such a quick learner? Sandy relaxed back into the cloud, but for some frustrating reason Pitch thought this showed intent to break the kiss and he pulled away. At least he remained speechless for a little while, though.
“Sandy,” he finally said, “I, um, think this is a very good idea, the kissing, perhaps too good of an idea, that is—” He broke off as Sandy’s hands wandered lower than before, to rest just at his hips.
Are you trying to tell me that you’re reacting in a more human way than you thought you would? By which I mean: He proceeded to use signs that were far more representational than usual to explain what he meant.
Pitch stared at Sandy with his mouth open. “Well, uh, yes, but given those symbols now I’m worried that I’m going to disappoint you!”
It was Sandy’s turn to be embarrassed, finally. I was just trying to be clear, not properly proportional. And we can slow down if you want.
Pitch’s shoulders slumped in relief. “I still want to stay on this cloud though. Because of you. I enjoy spending time around you. But I don’t know…it’s just very different from all the other time we’ve spent together. I’m still very much at sea. All I know between us is a few hugs…andthatkissjustnow…and fighting.”
Would it make you feel more comfortable if I got my whips again? Sandy asked, with a falsely innocent look.
Pitch pressed his face to Sandy’s shoulder now because he felt like he could and Sandy’s shoulder was nice. “It might make me more something,” he muttered, “but probably not more comfortable.”
Pitch felt another’s laugh for the second time in his existence, and considered that perhaps the light sensation in his chest wasn’t nervousness, but was perhaps happiness. He was very much looking forward to having enough opportunities for comparison to be sure.