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Not Quite a Total Eclipse of the Heart

Chapter Text

It was hard.

 

Hard for Sandy to watch as Pitch was weakened so much that he was dragged back to the shadows by the fearlings. 

They called him the Nightmare King, but he was no absolute ruler.  Fearlings were impossible to control.  They were a wild, feral pack.  You could try and tame them, but it was impossible.  Any semblance of control was tenuous.  Once weakness was sensed, once hunger set in, they'd look to their leader with hungry eyes in a flash.

The fearlings fed off Pitch's own fear until they were strong enough to venture out once more, with Pitch loosely at the reins.

The other guardians just didn't know what kind of relationship Sandy and the shadow-master had before any of them were even born; before the general of the golden army was possessed; before he tried to harpoon the man who was once a second father to his daughter and cause him to crash land his shooting starship on Earth. 

And now, Sandy had to watch as the others all enjoyed the defeat of a once proud general, terrified as he stumbled and was whisked away like a scrap of paper in the wind. 

 

If only Pitch could realize his full potential…

 

Sandy was solemn at the celebration the Guardians held at the North Pole.  Everyone was toasting Jack in his new Guardian status.  Tooth was cooing over his teeth, and Bunny was making himself comfortable with his big feet up on the table. 

They were victorious, but Sandy wasn’t happy

He sat quiet as usual, feet nowhere near the floor and head in hands, giving a forced smirk to Jack as he gloated about their victory.  The spirit happily dicussed about how awesome he was going to make next winter for the kids. 

Sandy’s mind was elsewhere.

When Pitch had shot him with that fear-infected arrow, it was the first time he’d tried to absorb him and not just convert his dream sands.  They’d danced around each other for hundreds of years since both were awoken there on Earth.  Their constant battle of light and dark had always been a balancing act more than a war or a fight for supremacy.  Their bickering was teasing rivalry, and sometimes it was downright flirting. 

But Pitch did not know how to properly express things of the heart.  Hard to do that when your heart is a hardened cinder of fearlings.  

Sandy sighed sadly at that thought.

 Sandy knew how lonely Pitch was, especially as the ages wore on into the current modern era and his influence lessened.  His loneliness increased as no one could see him anymore, and he felt outcast by the increasing number of guardians for human children.  It was like everything was working against him. 

 Sandy had tried to explain and reason, with both Pitch and the Guardians, but they just didn’t understand the positive niche Pitch filled - or his necessity to remain strong to keep the fearlings in check and prevent them from growing hungry to escape Earth and roam the galaxy.  Pitch’s loneliness turned to madness as the fearlings grew restless under his own weakness – their anxiety creating a feedback loop.  They took more and more of his rational mind like a cancer.  They manipulated him with whispers and doubts.

 

The empty cup of eggnog in Sandman's hands was refilled by a passing elf, not before he stole some sips for himself.  Sandy gave him a distant glance as his thoughts of Pitch continued amongst the boisterious party.

 

Pitch had been driven insane, leading to the overzealous takeover attempt and tides of nightmare sand that forced the Guardians to band together to take him down those past few nights. 

Sandy had been dispersed into the black sand, and everyone thought him dead. 

There amongst the dark grains, conshiousness still very much aware....Sandy had felt, for the first time in a long time, close to him.  He felt an echo of Kozmotis in there, numb and alone in the darkness.  Locked away without a key.

 

Sandy never lost hope.

That one day he could reach him.

 

When the joy of the children helped wish Sandy back together again, Sandy could sense even more that the time might finally be now.  He was sure he had a way...  

 

 

It was a few days later –

 

Sandy sensed the fearlings had quieted down, and most importantly, he’d all but lost sense of Pitch.  It meant he was weaker than ever, maybe the fearling hold on his mind was the same.

His stardust-fueled heart beat fast with excited trepidation as the little dream weaver approached the portal to Pitch’s lair.  The rustic old bed frame and intimidating hole in the ground appeared to Pitch when needed.  The portal could appear for Sandy as he knew Pitch's rhythms as well as his own.  The entrance had no specific place, in the same way that Bunnymund’s portals could appear in any ground and lead to his warren.

He alighted on the obsidian ground of Pitch’s rhelm in a fluff of golden sand, looking about with a furrowed brow for signs of fearlings trying anything funny.  He could hear them in the shadows, like coiled rattlesnakes.  They knew right now he was strong, and they were very weak. There would be no fights picked tonight.   

Sandy brandished a gold whip at a brave shadow that circled around him at a distance.  He scrunched up his face, speaking to the fearling in ancient symbols, asking like you might a dog,

< Where is your master? >


The dark animal growled and slunk back.  Hissing, the shadows spoke like a hive mind back at him.


WEAKLING, PATHETIC.

LEAVE THIS PLACE STAR, YOUR LIGHT OFFENDS US.

WE’RE HUNGRY.

 
They were no help.  Sandy puffed his cheeks in disgust and put away his weapons.  He’d find Pitch himself.

The dusty realm was like a maze.  It was once a gleaming cavern of onyx and black diamonds, curling wrought iron and stained glass.  But as Pitch sank into the depths of desperation, so too did his realm fall into disrepair - empty cages, disjointed stairways, a shell of the planet depicting his believers…


It didn’t have to be like this.

The Sandman floated silently, wandering the dark corridors.  He finally got an inkling of Pitch, then followed the trail to an open room with an arched stone ceiling.  Shadows scattered like cockroaches, and out of the inky parting sea Pitch appeared.  He was limp on a stone slab with a thin black pillow, his back facing Sandy.  While Sandy could sense he was alive, he still ran over to him like he might be dead.  His heart was heavy. ‘You deserve so much better than this, Kozmotis,’ He thought.

He opened his little hand and looked to his palm where there was a pile of black sand. 

He’d saved it when he came back from being merged.  It was no ordinary converted dreamsand - he’d infused it with powerful memories, and since it was made from sand that used to be a part of them both, it should - in theory - be able to penetrate the fearling defenses like a virus does to a cell.  At least, that was Sandy's plan.

Sandy closed his hand and floated around to Pitch’s front, rolling him over a bit so he could see his face.  Pitch did not react to being moved besides a mild whimper like he was exhausted mentally and physically.  He was basically catatonic.  His shadow cloak was ripped, his skin marred under the tears with dried dark blood.  The fearlings had really dug into him.

 

Concentrate.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Don’t get up too many hopes…

 

He smoothed his small hand over the Nightmare King’s face, the infused dream sand sinking into his eyes and skin. 

 

Sandy sat and waited.

 

There was a sudden jolt.  Pitch cried out, hands flying up to clutch at his face as he convulsed. 

 

 “AAGGHhhh Ahhhh!”  He curled up on himself.  He did not seem aware Sandy was even there yet. 

Sandy watched, patient and silent as ever, but his expression was pained.

 The terrible wailing continued, every screech causing a twinge of guilt and sadness to the Sandman. 

 

Please work, please do anything.

 

 When he couldn’t take it any more Sandy hugged his arms around the suffering man, lying down with him and snugging into his front.  He pressed an ear to his chest.  

 “STOP, NO, WHAT DID YOU DO OLD MAN?!”  Pitch snarled, now aware of the Sandman’s presence.  It was clear he was disoriented and had no strength to push him away, despite trying.  “Get out of here! GET OUT!”  He writhed.  His tone grew increasingly desperate and weak as his vigor was sapped with the display.  It was obvious he didn’t really want to be alone, but he was too prideful to be seen like this.  If there was anyone in the world he could call a friend, it would be Sandy.

 “What more do you want from me?  You won, dammit you WON!”  His tone rose briefly in frustrated anger and self pity, but he fell limp with nothing more to give.

 Fearlings started to creep back towards them from all sides like a rising tide.  Sandy hit them away with bursts of his brightest sand.  They eventually scattered, unable to take it. 

 He listened with an ear to Pitch's chest.

 

Kozmotis…Kozmotis…

 

There was a sound of buckling, like something old and in disrepair creaking under its own effort as it tried to move.

 

BA-DUM.

 

“AAHHggggnn!”  Pitch wailed with renewed pain, curling up and hugging around Sanderson.  He shivered and his fingers dug into the sand that comprised Sandy’s suit.  Had he not been in so much pain he’d be enjoying the close proximity of having someone actually touch him...but at the very least, Sandy’s warm presence was the only thing allowing him to bear what he was feeling.

 He didn’t understand, why - how did he hurt so much?  What had Sandy done to him?  His face was soon buried into the smaller man’s fluffy hair.  He could smell him, he smelled like the ocean and starlight.  In his pained delirium he got a sudden flash, like seeing something through his own eyes, but he couldn’t remember having seen it.

 

'You smell like fresh starlight,'

a voice said to a smiling Sandy, whose hair was longer, skin a little brighter; he was perhaps a little shorter…

 

No, that was his voice.

 

His voice?

 

“…S…Sanderson?”  Pitch whispered, his voice not sure, like it wasn’t coming from him.

 

Sandy felt his heart leap and he looked up at Pitch, their eyes meeting.  He’d not heard him call him that since…well since…

 

There was another sound, like glass creaking and straining.

 

BA-DUM.

 

'I love it when you smirk like that -  '

 

BA-DUM.

 

'Don’t be nervous, she’ll love you.  How could she not? '

 

BA-DUM.

 

'Sanderson – you are one of the most important people in my life –'

 

“AAHGgg ahhh ahh!” The Nightmare King convulsed violently and felt something inside him crack.  It wasn’t the shatter Sandy was listening for, but a distinct CHINK like a fissure through the thickest stone.

 

<Kozmotis…!>

 

Pitch heard a little voice in his head.  This one wasn’t a distant memory, it was here and now.  It was Sandy speaking to him directly, though it was like hearing a voice through hourglass sands and white noise. 

 

Pitch was breathing hard, grey skin damp with sweat.  It was weird for him to feel so...warm.  He wasn’t sure WHAT he was feeling. 

 

 Feeling?  No, that was the sensation - feeling.  Guilt, joy, hope.  Like breaking out of a fog.

 

“Sandman, what did you do?”  He rasped, trying to push him away.  Why was looking at him causing so much pain in his chest.  Bleary eyed, Pitch blinked at the symbols flying over the small man’s head.  Sandy was smiling and petting his little hands at his chest where it was exposed through his cloak’s neckline. 

“You know I can’t understand you when you stutter,” Pitch murmured wearily.

 

He closed his eyes in exhaustion and promptly passed out.

 

Chapter Text

“Oh so stars do not speak?  That must mean you have the most fascinating things to say.”

 

“Shooting stars do not like to slow down, should I find myself special to have you visit me so often on tour, Sanderson?”

 

“Wish I may, wish I might - ”

 

“Daddy…be home soon…!”

 

The dream world melted away.  When Pitch awoke, his eyes stung from the light all around him.  It was shimmering gold and iridescent rainbow like dragonfly wings.  Why was he on something so squishy?  Where was he?  This was most definitely not his own realm.    

Wait, this was the Sandman’s realm, wasn’t it? He’d never actually been there but he’d heard Sandy describe it to him on a few occasions.  He could smell saltwater and sweet warm breezes. 

 

 Why was his chest so heavy?

 

 Pitch looked about and discovered he was laying on the overly plush bed of the dreamweaver, and there sleeping on his chest was a cat-like loaf of Sandman.

 

 He hesitated, catching his bearings.  His dream had been vivid but also distant, like deja’vu; you are unsure if it is imagined or a real memory.  Whisps of dreamsand were floating in the air.  Yes the little man could work in his sleep - he was highly efficient.  Had Sandy given those dreams to him?  Now that he thought about it, Pitch did not remember the last time had truly dreamed.  He's not had a good night's sleep for almost a century. 

 As he watched the sleeping face of Sandy he felt his lips twitch into a smile, which brought about a twinge in his chest, an ache, like an open wound.        

 Sandy was awoken by his stirring.  He blinked the sleep out of his eyes, but was quickly awake and looking very excited.  He shifted and ended up kneeling, perched on the Nightmare King’s chest, as he pawed over him as if checking if anything was hurt.  Sand formed over his head with a question mark, and an image of Pitch himself.

 “Am I okay? ”  Pitch ‘repeated’ him, “I...I am not even sure how to answer that.  I think it is you who should be giving answers.  What did you do to me, and why have you kidnapped me?”  He looked down - it was then that he realized the wounds and tears his frustrated nightmares had given him were gone.

 “You healed me, as well?”  He sounded confused.  After what he did, he didn’t deserve that.  How could he have gone so far?  Everything seemed so clear at the time.  He looked over an extended arm where his cloak faded into his gaunt hands.  The cloak was made from the very shadows he used to travel with, and was basically an organic part of him.  When he healed, so did it.   

 Sandy gestured and made an image of pitch in a cage, with a ‘no’ sign over it as he shook his head.  He gave a smile to the last statement, nodding like ‘of course, you were hurt.’ 

 

“I…I don’t need,” …don’t deserve,  “ - your help, old man.”

 

Sandy scooted down, put his head to Pitch’s chest, and listened.

 

“Not your prisoner indeed,” Pitch muttered and felt radiating warmth as golden hair brushed against his gray skin. What was Sandy doing?  However, he made no move to get away.

 Sandy seemed excited as he sat up on Pitch’s chest, straddling him.  Did he have to be all over him like that?  (With his warm little thighs clutching him?)  Pitch felt strong and weak at the same time.  He could feel something was different but he couldn’t process it fully.

 Sandy flew through symbols, and Pitch tried to keep up.  When he flustered in confusion, Sandy grabbed his hands, where he formed a heart out of gold sand within Pitch’s grasp like it’d come out of his gray chest.  Pitch saw the heart turn to black sand in his own fingers, and he felt a pang of unexplainable pain at the sight. The display continued, showing a fracture of gold across the apparition.  Gold peeked through the shell of black like light breaking through a crack in the darkness.

 Pitch eyed Sandy, ‘you are not making sense…’ his expression read.  But Sandy’s face was twisted with ever increasing emotion, more then he’d ever seen on him.  Sandy kept his grasp on the dark man’s hands, and then took the cracked heart from him, holding it close.  While he never peeped a sound Sandman was doing a good job of showing how he was feeling.  His eyes were glassy, as he looked at Pitch, thumbs petting at the heart.

 

“Is that supposed to be…my heart?”  Pitch said softly, already knowing the answer. 

 

Sandy nodded, and touched over the gold crack.  He ‘spoke’ in more imagery trying to go slow so Pitch could catch it all.

“That is the ‘real’ me?”  He said, scooting to sit up on his thin elbows, “If I am not me, then who am I?”

He did not remember completely, thought Sandy.  But it was a start.  He could tell that Pitch was different.  Something about his expressions and body language was an echo of Koz. 

 Sandy took a breath, calming his mind.  He then simply answered with an image of pitch, body language showing what he wanted to say.

 

Pitch knew Sandy’s language better than anyone, “A good man…” He repeated, glancing down with a laugh like he didn’t believe that statement.  

 

OH how much Sandy wanted to just come out and tell him everything! He’d waited so long for even this much!   It was a lot to take in.  In the coming weeks more might sift through.  Best not to overload him or he might panic.  Sandy had already gotten a little zealous and sent him dreams of them, but Pitch's mind was so dense with fearlings it was hard to break through directly. What he sent might not have gotten though as intended...

He instead gave Pitch a playful smack and a finger waggle.  ‘Okay not ALL good.' His expression read.

 Meanwhile Pitch was just taking in how he was feeling. Sandy had always been a rival, but he never thought of him (in his sane moments) as an enemy.   Much as he wanted the world to fear and respect him, he knew deep down he could never rule with absolute fear.  People would become numb to it, there would be no surprises.  The dark is not frightening if there is no light to compare it to.

 He felt urges he’d forgotten he had.  A strong want to touch, to be touched, to simply lay with another being.

 He didn’t say it out loud, but Sandy must have sensed it, because he was soon flopped back down, their chests together, and petting fingers over Pitch's collar bones as he scrutinized his thin-gray-lipped expressions.  Sandy was elated to know he’d begun to reach him. He was trying his best to be patient, but it’d been centuries, centuries.  It was hard to be laying on him like that and not enjoy the feeling, and not want to touch over his silvery features...especially as that V-neck was a constant tease.

 “You’re so warm…this place is so warm.”  Pitch murmured, sinking into the mattress and feeling very relaxed.  “I feel like I slept for days,” He could not remember a time in recent memory when he felt so rested. “And vivid dreams too, though they are fleeting from my memory.  Did you leak some dream sand on me as you were working?”  He laughed in his throat.

 Sandy casually gestured and gave symbols of a calendar and marked off days. 

 “I HAVE been asleep for days?”  Pitch gawked.  He sat up quickly causing Sandman’s face to smush into the crook of his stomach unceremoniously, “My nightmares!”

Sandy righted himself and patted Pitch back into place, sand swirling over his head.

 “YOU kept them in check?”  The shadow-master could not believe what Sandy just told him, “You…you did that?”

 ‘You needed to rest’ said an image of Pitch curled up on a bed with butterflies over his head.  The fearlings were highly weakened by the battle anyway. Even without Pitch directing them for a few days, Sandy didn’t have too much trouble keeping them out of trouble other then causing a few bad dreams. 

 A slow, genuine smile crossed the Pitch’s face.  He sighed with relief and fell into the bed once more.  He’d need to get back to work…that itch to startle someone walking through a dark house at night, shift a shadow out of the corner of an eye, rustle some leaves outside the window, was starting to gnaw at him. 

 

But he could smell some fear right then…right in that very room. 

 

“You’re afraid Sandman, I taste it,"  Pitch said suddenly.   

 

Sandy looked up, yes he couldn’t hide that from the likes of him.  Oh no…

 

Through the fears Pitch could see a small narrative as he could with any being; he recited out loud, “Afraid…I’ll reject you if you go too fast.  Afraid I’ll go insane again if I remember too much, or worse, never …never love you, again?”  Pitch looked down at him, their eyes meeting.  He didn’t understand all that, but that is what he’d felt.  That was what at that moment Sandy was afraid of.

 

“You love me?  Even after what I did?”  He felt his throat getting thick.

 

 The dreamweaver grasped Pitch’s hand with his smaller one.  A sound of hissing sand falling over brass cymbals filled his ears.

 

<Always have.  And you, you loved me too once.  Before…>

 

It was hypnotic, that sound.  He looked right into the dreamweaver’s eyes, feeling like he should remember something, anything.  Why was his mind like a jumbled sock drawer?  Nothing matched up. 

 

Except, one thing felt right - that ancient smile on the fallen star’s face. 

That felt like…home.

 

<You were called Kozmotis Pitchiner then.  Though, I liked to call you Koz.>

 

Pitch couldn’t remember…try as he might.  He glanced down, at their hands.  Sandy’s were so small and glowing, his so lithe and dull.  How could they, the most yin and yang and of primal opposites, have been lovers?  He tried to dredge up a single happy memory, even simply remember that name, Kozmotis

 Flashes of his dreams from hit him like wind gusts.  A great pain welled in his chest, like to remember would destroy him.  He ripped his hands out of Sandy’s grasp and put them over his ears and shut his eyes.  He gasped in disorientation and frustration, “Dammit Sanderson, I don’t remember any of this you speak of!”

 He calmed down as the hissing subsided, and soon felt…guilty for his outburst, which was a strange emotion for him.  Sandy sat still, worried he’d made a grave mistake.  But he smiled, putting his hand to Pitch’s cheek; the speech came through again,

 

<You called me Sanderson.>

 

“Yes…that is your name.  That is your real name.”  Pitch replied, dazed.  He knew that - he knew that!  He was sure of something and that made him feel more grounded.

 Sandy nodded encouragingly, his smile cracking.

 “I…I can’t remember.  I wish I could remember.  But saying your name makes me feel…happy.”  And that was not something he recalled feeling in recent memory.

 Sandy would explain further, but that fear in him prevented him.  So many bad things to remember amongst the good.  Too much.  Perhaps he never could get it back.

 A small groan came from the taller man, and he raised a slender hand to the dreamweaver’s lips, “Old man, stop that…you’re making me hungry.”

 Sandy huffed and put his ear back to that gray chest.  He smiled listening to his restarted heart.  It was a lovely sound.

 

Pitch had a rising tide of questions brewing in his mind too, but he didn’t want to ruin that hopeful smile on Sandman’s face.  He lifted his hand higher, and stroked through his soft, golden hair.  He bit his lip and settled again, making himself comfortable.  This felt so…right.

 Of course they knew each other very well - for hundreds of years - but with how he felt right then Pitch felt like he’d awoken a different person, just ever so slightly.  A person who realized how important this other being was to him after all they’d shared and done over the years.  He wanted to right his wrongs the best he could.  He wanted to start a fresh chapter.

 

“Sanderson,” Pitch started, voice soft like a gentle wind through a dark forest, “If I cannot be this man you remember, could you settle for…me?” 

 

 Sandy rolled to the side and took Pitch with him so that they ended up lying on their sides facing one another.  He seemed to ponder – and Pitch began to worry with the hesitation.  But Sandy then nodded and pat a hand to Pitch’s chest, before clutching onto him tightly with enthusiasm.

 

“I suppose that is a yes?”  Pitch was helpless to the onslaught of nuzzling.

 

They would start anew.

 

Chapter Text

 As comfortable as it was at the dream palace, Pitch longed for the cool caverns of his home.  Everything was being turned on its head - he needed some feeling of control, and his own realm could provide that.  Not to mention, his nightmares needed wrangling.  They could not reach him there in Sandman’s world, but he could always feel them, and they were anxious and hungry. 

 

Even so, his heart was brimming with opportunity, his body was healed, and he felt light as a feather.

 

That is, only about as light as you can be with a Sandman hanging off you.

 

“Sanderson, I need to go home, and I can’t do it with you attached to my torso.”

 

 Pitch had to worm his way off the bed with Sandy hanging off him like a ragdoll.  He only got as far as half onto the floor, his long legs still on the bed.  This was what he missed…he remembered a little of it now.  They used to tease and annoy each other back during the middle ages, before he started to grow desperate and alone. 

 Sandy smirked innocently and put on a childlike face, which didn’t convince Pitch one bit.

 “You aren’t fooling anyone old man, now tell me how I can leave your realm, as I’ve never been here.”  He said cooly, “You can…come with me you know.”  Much as he wanted to be alone with his thoughts, at the same time, he worried for his thoughts.  If more of those memory flashes came back, could he handle them?  Would he understand them?  If Sandy really knew everything from his past, he might be able to help him through things.

 Sandy seemed to like this idea, so he let go, which dropped all of Pitch’s lithe form to the floor like a crumple of spaghetti.  After a dirty look, the Nightmare King righted himself and dusted off, his sleek cloak settling around his feet smoothly. 

 ‘Now this is more like it’, Sandy thought, wiggling with playful excitement.  He materialized a suitcase of golden sand and ‘packed’ it. Random things like manta ray plushies, whips, his hat and cane were thrown inside, before he closed it and dusting off his hands as it disappeared in a poof of gold glitter.

 It was strange to be inviting Sandy to his realm, that was his space, and Sandy scared his nightmares like a cat does to mice.  But Sandy had brought him to his home, healed him, and let him rest.  It was only polite to extend the same hospitality. 

 

“Alright, lead the way.”  Pitch clasped his hands together and grinned like ‘what now?’

 

Sandy lifted up the edge of his fluffy duvet, pointing to the space under the bed.

 

“You’re joking?” Pitch’s crooked teeth flashed in a disbelieving face.  But a nod and some images from Sandy confirmed it was indeed that simple, and he should be able to return through the same portal any time he liked.  The Nightmare King seemed surprised Sandy would leave the portal open for him, but…well, it was good to leave your door open for someone you are courting.  His heart smiled at the trust he was being given, how much he was being forgiven for.

 The bed cast quite a shadow because of the ambient lights in the room, Pitch easily melted into it and sure enough, same as he could travel to any shadow across the planet, he could get back to his own realm.  He slid off a granite wall back into physical form, and breathed in the cool air.  A pitter-patter of sand hitting the ground was heard behind him, and there was the Sandman himself, shaking off nightmare sand that had got on him in transit.   He ‘took out’ his suitcase and made a table for it, opening it up and tossing things aside, resulting in a few of his ‘belongs’ scattering about the dark ground.  A dinosaur plush squeaked as it hit a spiked stalagmite before it poofed back into a pile of gold dust. 

 

“Just make yourself at home,” Pitch said sarcastically with an eye roll like ‘GREAT are you going to leave gold sand everywhere?’  But Sandy seemed intent on finding something so he leaned over the dreamweaver like a perched vulture, curious as to what he was up to. 

 Sandy soon found it, his face in an expression of  ‘AH there it is!’.  He took out a gold collar, more so a simple, tapered, flat necklace. 

 

He motioned for Pitch to lean over.  Sure he could have just floated up, but he loved watching the tall man bend that lithe form around.  Pitch complied and Sandy clasped the decoration around his neck with loving care.

 “For me?”  Pitch stood and looked down at it.  It felt familiar.

 Sandy reached a hand into his cloak so he could place it on Pitch’s leg,

 

< You used to wear gold jewelry.  Many years ago. >

 

Oh, that was right…he did!  He recalled now.  He’d felt influential and powerful once, worthy of adornment.  But now, it was a gift.

 

“Thank you,” He said softly, feeling quite pleased with the embellishment.

 

It was then that a shuffling and skulking echoed through the halls.  Out of the dark nooks and crannies, fearlings crept towards them.  Pitch spoke to them without words - silent orders.  He apologized for being away, and gave reassurance, employing a dominant tone.  They hissed at him, like they didn’t like how he smelled.  Something about him now was…alien.  They couldn’t twist his mind like they could before, he was no longer fully theirs, because his heart was no longer cold.  At the same time, their bodies still were merged.  Pitch was still their vessel - and ringleader - but now he was holding his own reins.   

 

“Something feels different,” he said to Sandy seriously, who nodded, watching. 

 

A horse-shaped nightmare - the most common manifestation of the fearlings at that point in time - approached, cautious.  Pitch reached out for a familiar nuzzle, but instead the fearling stood confused, unsure.  Pitch was a man who knew a position of intimidation, and even while the nightmares half controlled him, he’d always somehow managed to keep that air of ‘master’. Perhaps it was the fearlings remembering how well the once great general was at killing and avoiding being killed by their kind.

 This is why the nightmare didn’t buck as Pitch pet over its muzzle, though it showed its trepidation.  As he pet the fearling, black sand materialized a bridal and reins into place.  The nightmare shook its head with surprise, chewing at the bit. 

 Yes, that seemed good, Pitch thought.  Fitting.  The fearling shook and snorted, stamping its hooves at Sandy. 

 

WHY IS THAT STAR HERE?         

The fearlings said.

 

“HE is welcome here, and none of you are to touch him,” Pitch said out loud for Sandy’s benefit, his voice slick and frightening.  He dominantly grabbed the reins and yanked them, emphasizing his point.

The fearlings seemed to shrink as a group, like they for the first time were actually scared of Pitch.  They didn’t quite know how to react now that his heart was cracked.  The light inside was too bright to try and seep back into.

Sandy, while startled by Pitch sounding just like he had the previous week during the war, had faith he was never going back to that.  He was surprised how cracking the fearlings’ defenses had been that jarring to them so quickly.  Not to mention, he got a jolt of attraction watching how Pitch’s teeth flashed and his neck muscles tensed… 

“Now then,” Pitch put up his hand and the fearling dissolved into black sand.  He used it to sculpt orders, and send the sand out to the rest of the herd.  Yes, he did his best work personally, but the world was vast and he had hungry fearlings to feed and time to make up.  He thought about how he was going about things though, when Sandy floated up next to him, placing a hand on his cheek.

 

Words echoed now like creek water over worn stones, < Remember back when the woods were dark with wolves and bears, there were no railings or fences, dangers at every corner, and men were scared of their own shadow?  >


 "That was long ago, Sandy.”  Pitch replied, giving the sand some flourish.  “No one can see me anymore.”  His tone was sad of course, why did Sandman have to remind him?  ‘There is no such thing as the boogeyman’ was a phrase he knew all too well.

< The world is less mysterious now…but there are other dangers people face, especially children.  The world is still very treacherous.  Fear is not always hated. >

“Go on,” Pitch replied, open for suggestions…because how he’d come to do things led to all this craziness and his own nightmares turning on him.  It wouldn’t hurt to try, as long as Sandy didn’t mess too much with his way of things.

 

Sandy conjured up some sand of his own, and sprinkled it into the sand in Pitch’s hands.  A few flecks of gold shown inside the black cloud.   He gestured for him to go on, and Pitch sent out the orders.  Fearlings hissed and protested, disliking the few flecks of gold, which stung like salt in a wound.  Pitch winced, feeling it too, but as his connection to them had been weakened, he no longer felt the same foreboding in his heart.  They dispersed and the halls were empty and quiet once more

< We shall see what fears they bring back, this time. > Sandy smiled, hopeful.

 Pitch was still getting used to how chatty Sandy was…“Why is it you don’t talk to the others this way?”

< Is a bit of effort…I was not meant to talk to others directly, only meant to hear wishes.  The others would be unable to hear me through the white noise.> He coiled that wide mouth of his into a smile, reaching to grasp Pitch’s hand and giving it a gentlemanly kiss.

“And you’ve known me so long, that I can,” Pitch confirmed, ‘hearing’ what he was going to say next.  He seemed under the dreamweaver’s spell, not refuting the affections.

 

 

Sandy nodded, < White noise of a thousand dreams and wishes, there are always dreamers on this world. >

 

Pitch could relate. There were always fears and shadows as well, and the nightmares had gotten used to a way of things.  Because the nightmares had a life of their own - Pitch didn’t do everything himself, unlike Sandy who was a single star. 

 

He glanced away from the brightness of the Sandman’s face, looking about his cavern.  He was momentarily distracted, was this really a reflection of himself?  The old and stagnant air smelled like bitterness and loathing; Dusty, unkempt, disorganized; Empty cages housing nothing.  There were rough cut stairways of granite, and Escher staircases confused and jumbled as his memories.  Yes it was disorienting to intruders, but…it even seemed so to himself.  No wonder how often he got lost in here, lost in himself. 

Pitch removed his hand from the grasp of the dreamweaver, which made the mental noise that came with their minds directly connecting subside.  The noise seemed to filter a little more each time…but right then Pitch needed to think.

“I have many questions about my past, Sanderson, but right now I must deal with the present,”  he began, turning away from him and walking with his hands behind his back. “However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want your help.”  He nodded, touching the new weight around his neck and looking at the fine, shimmering residue it left on his fingertips. 

 

“I think we have some organizing to do.”

 

Sandy was very pleased with this idea.  Out with the old, in with the new.  He wondered if Koz would add some light to the place, though Pitch Black would keep it dark and foreboding.  He wondered what would happen.

First, Pitch asked Sandy to sweep up all the mess he made.  Once the gold sand was out of the way, Pitch got to reimagining his world.  To take care and pride in this realm was to do so in himself.  Contrary to everything in his being, he asked Sandy to bring in a little light, so he could dust out the darkest corners and lengthen the shadows to reach deeper in to the caverns. 

Sandy couldn’t do anything simply, so soon there were golden chandeliers hanging from the ceilings and a few stray golden butterflies lighting up the big empty spaces.  Good thing the fearlings were out and about, they’d HATE this.

 

Pitch dove into the shadows and the world shifted under Sandy’s feet, so he got back to floating on one of his clouds. 

 

Smooth, glassy obsidian replaced the main floors first, spreading out like freezing river water over the ground.  Wrought iron staircases sprouted, and towering carved gargoyles loomed over the main foyer.   The cages rattled and shifted off their dust as the whole space opened up.  Coiling thorn bushes caressed over sprouting trees with sparse leaves, their roots breaking up dingy old stone and growing into the cracks between new shimmering black goldstone tiles.  A rustle of cool wind blew past Sandy, and an allusion to an old growth forest twisted up from the ground, with a dark thicket trailing off into one of the passageways away from the ballroom-like center.  A small cluster of the stray glowing butterflies fluttered about the gnarled trees, lighting up a grove through the branches, casting a beautiful but eerie scene. 

The shimmer of a moonless night sky painted across the ceiling, which faded into ornate crossbeams of African blackwood, looking as sensual as the oboes and bassoons so often carved from the same material.  Black sand oozed into Sandy’s chandeliers, turning them into curled tentacles.  Their flames relit with a bluish-black hue.  Sandy could catch flashes of Pitch as his distorted shadow danced over the walls, here, there, above, in the trees; the echo of laughter came down the hall, scary to most but to Sandy he knew that was laughter of pleasure.      

 

 Sandy looked all around, the realm went from claustrophobic to grandiose, it was still dark and eldritch, but it no longer seemed like the home of a confined man.  It was playful in its darkness, with shadows dancing off walls from flickering candlelight, faces hidden in the branches of trees, the smell of fog and crisp fall leaves.  You could say it felt like Halloween of old merged with Baroque and Victorian architecture.

 Pitch suddenly appeared in a twirling flourish, dancing past his globe with a sound of delight.  How good that felt!  He had not even noticed how he’d unconsciously changed his outfit. His robe was now scalloped with gold-gilded black lace at its trailing edges, a modest bit of ruffle formed at the collar with small gold beads at the tips of pin feathers.

 

“What do you think, old man?  Not bad at all,” He beamed.  That was one thing Pitch was that Koz was not: not quite as humble. 

Sandy couldn’t fault him at that moment, though. He was so happy that he was happy. He’d had nothing but disappointment and frustration for over a century.  This was a positive step forward.  He floated over nodding and gave a thumbs up, then pointed at his changed outfit. 

“OH well, to match the collar, of course,”  Pitch chuckled, gesturing down at himself.

 

Koz loved gold, Sandy thought, smiling.  His uniform was so lovely, back then…

 

His nightmares were out and about, but Pitch could conjure nightmare sand of his own.  He twirled his fingers and brought out some black sand.  A black deer formed and twitched to life, eyes glowing bright gold with flighty caution.  Ravens flew into the trees, and a black snake coiled up into the rafters.  Sandy swore he saw kraken-like tentacles peeking out of a black scrying pool. 

 

“That’s better, a little life!” Pitch put his hands on his hips, admiring his handiwork.  He didn't even realize he'd brought life to the sand without directly converting a dream of Sandy's, he'd grown so accostumed to the presense of the nightmares and mastering using the dream sands.  He just assumed he had mastered it more deftly....

 

Sandy noticed, but could not mention the feat without bringing up matters he wasn't ready to mention.  He looked enthusiastic though, enjoying the creatures.  Mimics of real animals, but each was a little fantastic in their design, things you would imagine and not really see.  The creativity and joy was like candy to him the same way fear was for Pitch.  He felt suddenly sensual and amiable.  He floated closer and turned Pitch’s face with a hand to his cheek. 

 

< It makes me happy to see you happy, > he crooned through those distant words.

 

“Is this anything like the man you remember?”  Pitch said softly, half in jest, but there was the hint of seriousness.

Sandy hesitated, then replied, < Yes and no. Doesn’t mean I do not like it. > He gestured to his gold lips and leaned in confidently, < A kiss might convince me more. >

Pitch flustered, his feathered collar fluffing like a shocked raven. Sandy was as forward as a freight train.  Why was this making him so warm? Sandy didn’t used to do that when he teased him.  His silver eyes darted about, but his face read that he very much wanted that kiss.  Sandy took it, hands to the slender man’s jaw line.

 

You smell like fresh starlight

 

You taste like a sweet dream

 

Pitch opened his eyes slowly as they drew apart, mind hazy with reminiscences.  The way he smelled and tasted sparked a memory: Them near a distant shore, not of Earth;  A golden ship sailing on the fabric of space; a feeling of joy and pleasure.  The air was cool but the sunlight was warm, their naked bodies soaking in the warmth on a soft furry blanket atop the deck of the vessel.

 

Don’t worry Sanderson, they won’t mind me borrowing the ship for a personal voyage. I’m on vacation, remember?    

 

The memory melted away but the feeling remained.  Sandy had felt the vision, and could see that look in Pitch’s eyes.  He nuzzled back into his face, nibbling at his lip.  It felt so good.  Pitch’s breath hitched and he seemed to melt in Sandy’s arms.

Just as Sanderson was about to stroke his hands into his tease of a plunging neckline, a chorus of fearlings flew down the passages.  Pitch startled ‘awake’ and looked about, sensing them.

“Ah? AH! Time passed quicker than I thought.” He composed himself.

Sandy slumped with annoyance.  Dammit all, he was about ready to explode!  But it was more important to deal with the fearlings at that moment.  It was just the first day, it would take who knew how long to re-train the fearlings, and also make Pitch realize…

Pitch easily moved through a shadow and greeted a group of nightmares in an archway.  They snorted with effort, the gold sand was not sitting at all well with them.  As they nuzzled their master they felt soothed, so they kept doing it.  Pitch was pleased when they were affectionate. 

 

“That’s a good girl.” He grinned, adjusting the reins on their noses.  “Now, show me what you’ve brought me.”     

Chapter Text

While the influx of information was great, it took only moments for Pitch to breathe in the fears his nightmares had returned with. 

Because of the recent battle, some fears involved worry over the safety of certain guardians, even though Sandy had sent out dreams of them all to bring back belief.  There would always be doubters.  There was the usual: children afraid of the dark, spiders, strangers, bugs, failing your math exam, missing the bus...then from the recesses of the third world some were still afraid of the unknown wilds.  Out there were animals creeping through the night that could eat you - a shadow could be a deadly adversary.  Those always were the most fulfilling, the most primal of fears.

Amongst these were also a sprinkling of less abstract fears, such as fear of mommy and daddy leaving one another, daddy drinking and coming home late, gangs with guns, war, being alone.  The world did still have a lot to fear, just none of it had to do with the likes of 'the boogeyman'.

There was one that stood out in particular, as a nightmare came forward snorting like something was stuck in its throat.  Pitch held its reins to steady it, and it was helpless to get away.  “Come now, what is the matter?”  He crooned, encouraging it like a master with a dog who wouldn’t give up a stick.

 The nightmare coughed again, and into Pitch’s hand fell (amongst dark ooze) a baseball-sized object of marbled gold and black.  Pitch was unfazed by the general grossness of that, and he looked at the object quizzically.  “Sandy, you’re giving my nightmares sandballs, you sure that gold was a good idea?”

 

Sandy’s eyes widened and he darted up to him, gesturing at the ball and flying through sand symbols.

 

“Slow down Sanderson,” He blinked, “What do you mean an ‘egg’?”

 

Sandy shook his head, and he went to pick up the ball - but he couldn’t.  There was such fear inside it repelled him like a magnet of opposite polarization.  He gestured with an image of cracking an egg into a bowl, but pointed to one of the hanging cages.

Pitch shook the black ooze off his hands and the object, which was textured with swirls and upon further inspection, and the image of a sleeping child’s face, not unlike Tooth’s vessels used to hold the teeth.  It exuded an air of deep fear, but also high potential energy of a strangely positive nature, which was an unusual association.  The Nightmare King floated up to one of his hanging cages on a cloud of black, followed by his smaller counterpart.  He opened the door and cracked the ball on the edge of the cage, just like an egg.

 

Out of the unassuming object poured a flurry of black sand, but it was iridescent like a rainbow amongst its grains.  Pitch shut the door of the cage quickly like he was worried if that thing got too near him.  It was powerful, too strong for him to absorb.

 

“What in the world is THAT?”  He gasped, slightly horrified.

 

However, the cloud congealed and glowed, then reached out to his mind.

 

Pitch saw a teenage girl, alone and mousey, sitting in the lunchroom at school.  The nightmares whispered to her, ‘No one likes you, you’re weird, no one wants to sit with you.’  Bullies sense her doubts and fears and teased her about various trivial things.  As the months passed, she still was not popular, did manage a friend or two, but the fearlings were always circling.  She drew in her drawing pad, and children now teased her for drawing girls, and called her a dyke.  She was strong inside and had a kind family, but her days at school were filled with trepidation. 

 Then came that day when the nightmares visited, the child was in 9th grade.  The child’s fear was great, they had switched schools.  However, even as Pitch watched his nightmares circling the child, something in their tone changed from earlier in the girl’s life.  As new children approached her, interested to get to know her, they whispered, ‘What if they heard rumors from the old school?  What if they don’t like you?’ but at the same time they were nudging her forward with their muzzles, and walked at her side as she began talking to the other kids.  She turned her head and looked right at the nightmare, and for a brief moment, she could see it.  She looked right into its glowing eyes. 

 

She faced her fear. 

 

And then she looked away, able to tune out their negative whispering as she showed her doodles to the other children.  The vision fazed out of sight, the girl making new friends.  But the nightmares were not starved or saddened, out of the child poured a cloud of that rainbow iridescent sand, which was promptly taken and devoured.

 Pitch was back in his lair now, blinking away the vision, which had really only taken a moment of real time.  He put his hands on the cage, and the sand swirled and shifted in response to his presence.  This sand was concentrated fear – potent.

 

It was a fear conquered.

 

“How, how did we bottle conquered fear?”  Pitch gasped at Sandy, now realizing what he had there.

 

Sandy was elated, smiling brightly, this was part of what he’d wanted to show him all these years.  Pitch could never bottle such a thing, but with Koz’s help, he could.  He brought out the sand-image of the cracked heart again, pointing at the gold fissure, and then showed himself adding his golden sand to his nightmares earlier.

 “Amazing,” Pitch swirled a small smount fear out from the cage, and tossed it to his fearlings like treats.  They gobbled it down happily, being quite filled by just the taste.

 Sandy took the rest of the evening explaining to Pitch about how he could bottle it on his own without his dreamsand, that he had that power within him too.  It was not the only new thing he should be able to do, but they had to take this like baby steps, and Pitch would have to realize things on his own at his own pace.  Thoguh, not even Sandy knew everything that might happen, this was all new territory...

They were unsure of how long they talked or wrangled his nightmares that evening, it could have been hours or days.  Time had little meaning to them.  Only 2 other nightmares came back that night with the ‘eggs’, but it was a start.  The fearlings very much disliked the taste of the gold...but they were entranced and sated by the results.  The conqured fear was caged and protected, and the nightmares nibbled at the fear inside like bees with honey in a honeycomb. 

 

So many empty cages though, should he fill them all?

 

Pitch would be going out to do work personally next time, armed with new knowledge.  But they were both weary, especially Pitch.  Rest would prove being fresh for fears tomorrow.

 Sandy was pleased to see the shadow master had remade his bed chambers as well.  Pitch was appreciating comfort again, a Koz like trait.  The king size bed had thick, black on black damask tied back drapes and bedposts like charcoal burnt tree trunks.  The mattress was not fluffy enough by Sandy’s standards, but it was big upgrade from his slab of choice before. 

 Pitch was about to bid Sandy goodnight, expecting him to go home, but the little man jumped on the bed and burrowed into the smooth black sheets.  He held them over his head like a hood and peeked his gold face out.

 Pitch just stood there watching him make a mess of his tidy bed.  He nodded like ‘alrighty then’… and smirked sitting on the side of the bed with fingertips pressed together, “My dear Sandman, would you like to stay for the night?”  He was being catty, helping cover his desperation, but truly he was aching for the company.  

 Sandy grinned back just as impishly, tossing the blanket onto Pitch and making a gold pillow to lounge himself onto saucily.   The shadow master bit his lip as he threw the blanket back at him; did he really have sleeping in mind? 

 

Pitch knelt on the side of the bed, and his shadow robe slipped from his shoulders as smooth as dripping ink.  Sandy couldn’t have averted his eyes for anything in the world.  He had to remind himself, this wasn’t a dream.

 

It was Sanderson’s turn to bite his lip, as underneath remained matte midnight black tights, with strategic lace-like mesh over Pitch’s upper thighs and side buckles holding them onto a low, laced back, male cut corset.  Of course the gold necklace remained as well, and over-the-elbow gauntlet style gloves that matched the rest of his attire.

 The Nightmare king slid over and lay facing his counterpart, his head on his hand, “You going to sleep in all that, old man?”

Sandy thought to himself ‘and do you usually sleep in all THAT?’…but if he was showing off for him it was damn well successful.  Sandy was….speechless for a moment.  But he finally slid up close, cuddling into the taller man’s front confidently.  His coat fell away grain by grain, leaving behind absolutely nothing but his own glowing skin.  He seemed perfectly comfortable with himself.

They cuddled under the dark sheet amongst Pitch groaning with pleased approval at the whole arrangement.  It had been so long, so long, and much as he didn’t remember their times before, except the brief flashes he got earlier when they kissed, he knew this felt wonderful in a way he couldn’t describe.  He could get used to this.

“Are we really going to sleep?”  Pitch whispered into the other’s face, as Sanderson nibbled on anything he could reach.  His long fingers dug into Sandy’s back where he was clutching him.  He was excited but also exhausted, between dealing differently with his nightmares and remaking his realm, sleeping for days before didn’t matter.

He was answered with a kiss, slow and warm.  Shots of electricity ran through the shadow master’s body, and not all of it was in his chest. 

 

When he opened his eyes again, he was greeted with a soft nod of Sandy’s head, sprinkling dream sand on them.  He had just enough time to mutter, “Dammit Sanderso-” before he crumpled asleep in his arms.

 

 

‘You’re a star - I’d heard of The Falling Wishes, but I’d never seen one of you before.

 

‘You certainly are a strange one, Sanderson Mansnoozie.’

 

There was a galleon ship with wide unfurled sails, crewed by many, all fleeing from a horde of fearlings raining down in a star shower.  A bright shooting star crashed into the ship, its single occupant escaping the wreckage to watch the ship’s Brigadier bravely facing the nightmares with moonbeam lit swords.  When he faced an especially formidable nightmare, towering over him like a dark tide threatening to crest, golden whips shot out to ensnare the beast, and tossed it like a toy.  The Brigadier gasped in admiring surprise. There was later a conversation over tea as they repaired his star ship, a meeting of eyes; a fluttering of hearts.

Soon they sent the star on his way, but unlike most wandering wishes, he kept straying near wherever it was that particular Brigadier sailed.  Strong feelings of admiration, entrancement, a want to protect,

 

Love. 

 

‘I’m glad you came to visit again, star.  Might I dare say I wished to see you again.’  A soft deep chuckle.      

 

 Mutual love.

 

‘Come with me on vacation, I have a week off before my new tour, I’m being promoted you know.  To where?  Why, I’ve been given the highest honors, even beyond being promoted to General of the Golden Armies...’

 

< D o n’ t   g o. . . ! >

 

Pitch’s eyes snapped open, a shock hitting his system.  That echo of a distant voice calling out in pained desperation ringing in his ears.  He was calmed quickly though, for in the crook of his body was curled up a golden haired star, looking up at him sleepily like he’d jolted awake when he had. 

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?”  He murmured sleepily, then more conscious thought welled up and he added, “Oh wait, you deserve it after what you pulled last night.”

Sandy firmly nuzzled him like a gentle attack, with puffed cheeks, and papped his hand to Pitch’s gaunt cheek,

< Exhausted, you needed to rest.  Needed to dream. >  The sands whispered across wind chimes.

“Can’t I determine when I sleep?”  He retorted with a yawn, smoothing his hands about the Sandman’s squishy form under his fingertips. 

 

< What did you dream of? >

 

It was already fading away, but in that Sandy asked and so soon after waking, he told what he could recall, “Star ships, literally, sailing ships in space, being attacked by nightmare-like creatures.   The captain fighting them, and…then it was like you were there, a small being attacked it with whip-like weapons.  Reminded me of you.”

Sandy hesitated, yes he did remember something.  It was a good memory though, so he elaborated,

 

<  That was me.  That was how we met. >

 

“That was all true?”  Pitch glanced about pondering, he really did not remember it, but it felt familiar.

< You were the ‘captain’, though more so you were a brigadier, even higher. > Sandy wiggled in his long armed grasp.

Pitch stared at the dreamweaver with an expression of ‘Are you still asleep?’

< I told you – you were a good man. >

Pitch still did not quite believe all that, but he went with it, curious, “So was it love at first sight?”

Sandy blushed lightly, something he didn’t do very often, < You could say that. >

 

Hazy images of Sandy’s face, younger, with that same expression, over gilded teacups and star shaped cookies and macrons. “I remember, I remember that face you are giving me right now.”  He felt a wash of happy warmth, his eyes lidding. 

 

Sandy was warm right back as he felt that happy memory rising in Pitch.  Bringing joy brought him joy.  Love and happiness was intoxicating and wonderful to him, as well as being what he fed and lived on, the same as how Pitch fed on fears of all sorts. 

So he was quite amiable as he gave Pitch an expression of ‘why don’t we begin where we left off last night?’ and pressed his gold lips into those gray ones.

The kissing eased trepidations, and increased Pitch’s confidence that yes; he could do what he wanted with Sandy. 

 

He wanted him, all of him.

 

Chapter Text

Pitch already forgave Sandy for knocking them out last night; having the extra energy was advantageous, because Sandy was being quite relentless.

The little dream guardian kissed Pitch with fervor while he pet over his jaw line and hair.  His plump body pressed into the lithe torso cupped around him.  The Nightmare King growled with arousal.  Hundreds of years of being alone is quite a long time to go without.  He’d not even realized how much he needed intimate contact like this, and it was only magnified now that the darkness in his heart was cracked.  The warmth escaping was small, but the fire inside was great. 

Pitch was allowed to come up for air, but he quickly busied his mouth by nibbling desperately into Sandy’s butter soft neck while grasping him close.  While affectionate, there was animalistic need in Pitch’s sounds and motions.  Sanderson was enjoying it immensely.  It wasn’t the old Kozmotis he knew, who was the heights of suave amenability…but over the years he’d found himself attracted to Pitch’s theatric, capricious nature.

Also, since he had become a less corporal being, it gave them deeper ways to interact physically and emotionally.

The unrestrained desires began a feedback loop between them.  The hint of fear that came from Sandy with Pitch’s dark nature was intoxicating to the boogeyman, which in turn fed back waves of pleasure to Sandy from his joy taken in such.

Had Sandy a voice, he’d be whimpering as Pitch rolled him and then loomed over on all fours.  Sandy may have been smaller, but he was not looking threatened one bit.  In fact, he was enjoying the view with a confident smirk, especially that obvious bulge in the Nightmare King’s tights. 

There was a pause as Pitch studied his lover smirking up at him.  He was positively glowing – literally.  Sandy always gave off some light but right then he seemed brighter than usual.  Though there was one detail that he had not remembered from before or noticed in current time until then – the absolute lack of anything between the rotund star’s legs.

 

His gaze paused as he pondered.  He wasn’t put off…or even all that surprised.  Sanderson was a totally different species.  Pitch was merely confused as to what was the best course of action to take next

‘Oh he forgot that too, of course’ Sandy thought as he bit his lip, wiggling with a silent laugh. 

 < I know what you are thinking of – >

The voice this time was crooning and sensual, like wind chimes in the summer.  

 

< Shooting stars – not biological as your kind.  We are born from stardust and light, no use for such parts.  Though I know all about how those things work, from what I see in dreams. >

Pitch tried not to look guilty; the last thing he wanted was Sandy to think he didn’t want him for some trivial reason.  He knew there was a lot more to intimacy then just the sexual organs between your legs.  To just touch and be touched was wonderful enough, but he wanted to make the dreamweaver writhe under his grasp…

 

“Just tell me what to do then.” His expression was so hungry, “Teach me how to make you scream.”

 

Sandy licked at his lips,

 

< I get most pleasure from giving it.  I feed off joy.  I want to make you happy, most of all. > 

 

Sanderson stroked his hands down to his groin, where a flutter of glittering dream sand slinked up his thighs, curling into a mimic of a phallus, with a feminine-like organ underneath.   It was humanoid enough in general shape, yet also alien in design, and obviously made out of dream sand, but nonetheless a connected part of the dream weaver.  It was to give Pitch something familiar to work from.  And of course, Pitch’s pleasure was his pleasure.

< While touching of any kind is delightful, I concentrated a lot of dream sand into these parts; they are extensions of me, same as shadows are of you. >

OH well, that indeed was just fine with Pitch.  The image alone of Sandy crafting that erection and flowered lips was sensual in and of itself.  He didn’t need to state his approval, his face said it all.  He dove right in, smooth as a shadow sinking over a wall as he nuzzled his way up Sanderson’s stomach.  He kissed and mouthed at his neck like he might devour all of him.  His hands greedily swept over his lover’s body. 

He experimentally stroked the phallus, watching Sanderson for reaction.  It was not rough like you might expect being made of dreamsand.  Sandy packed it so tightly and smoothly that it took on a similar texture to blown glass.  Pitch wet his fingers by making a show of licking them, then caressed them back to their former post.

Sand symbols fluttered loosely over Sandy’s head like curses, not making any sense.  The sand jumbled and fell, a mirror of his thoughts scattering.

 

Now that was more like it, thought Pitch. 

 

He nudged his finger lower, finding a warm opening that beckoned to swallow his digit.  It was soft inside, and ever so slightly damp.  Pitch wasn’t about to ask how he replicated THAT – with all the fantastical things they could both do, it was certainly not the most unusual mystery.

Sanderson wriggled under the touch, seeming to enjoy it immensely by his expression.  He breathed in deeply.  Pitch’s ever increasing confidence and arousal was like a sweet wine to him. The cool, lithe fingers inside his body, probing deeper and deeper...a second hand stroking over that tightly packed dreamsand cock…then a second finger joined inside, causing a silent gasp from the Sandman.  Yes more, please…pet me inside and out…

While the attentions he was getting were nice, Sandy wanted to feel Pitch delirious in pleasure more than anything.  That is what would stroke him towards a kind of release.  When he couldn’t take it anymore, he used dreamsand to lift and flip them, leaving the Sandman sitting pretty on top.  It happened so fast Pitch didn’t have a chance to fight back.  Not that he really wanted to.

“Did you not like how I was doing things, old man?”  Pitch playfully bared his teeth at him in an open jawed smile, alongside a cocky tilt of the head.  Playful, but dangerous.  Like toying with a predator.

 

 < My turn. > The voice was like a distant thunder, commanding and powerful.

 

While Pitch knew full well the power Sandy had, the sudden dominance in his tone shocked him.  Dark, commanding, sexy…when he hissed in a breath full of arousal the whole cavern seemed to echo alongside his desire. 

Time to get rid of these lovely undergarments, Sandy thought, looking at Pitch’s corset and tights.  He scooted down, sliding over the bulge in the dark tights.  Soon he was kneeling between Pitch’s legs, forcing them spread to accommodate him.  

Sandy started at the corset, his tongue the weapon of choice.  Using the power his dreamsand had over Pitch’s shadows, his tongue cut through the shadow-cloth like an acetylene torch. 

Pitch gasped at the sensation, Sandy’s tongue tingling as it hit his gray flesh along the way.  After the corset was cut through it melted away, but the Sandman was not done.  His tongue seared right over the middle ‘seam’ of the tights, all the way down the curve of that bulge.  As the tights split, Pitch’s erection was freed, causing a deep groan in response.  Sandy kept going, all the way down his long legs along the inner thigh.  When both were cut through completely they melted away as well, leaving Pitch in nothing but his gloves and the gold necklace.

Pitch glanced down at the golden star there between his legs, his gaunt chest heaving in shuddered breaths.  So cocky a moment ago, but it seemed now he was at the mercy of his counterpart.

Sandy quivered with arousal, Pitch was a buffet of pent up need and pleasure, and because he loved him…his joy was more potent than anyone else’s.  He wanted more of it. 

< You taste so good, > His words were distant and distracted, but Pitch could just make them out as Sandy aggressively nuzzled his needy cock.

“Ahhh, Sanderson!”  Pitch groaned desperately, rolling his hips into the smaller man’s actions. 

Sandy did his best to read what Pitch wanted, what he wished for…he wanted to fulfill his every desire. 

 

Ah, that …?  That he could do, gladly. 

 

Sandy crawled onto him, up far enough to get to his lips.  Pitch hugged around him at once, hands tracing over his soft back and all the way down to his ass.  As dark and lusty as the Nightmare King was, he was at the other’s mercy now.  His fingers dug into Sandy’s cushy flesh as he desperately kissed him.  Sanderson led the act, nipping at Pitch’s gray lips and exploring with his tongue.  He changed pace from slow and loving, to hard and fervent.  When he withdrew finally, Pitch was a writhing mess beneath him, and kissed at Sandy’s presented fingers with enervated moans.    

Sadly, as Sandy was so short, he needed to move down to fulfill Pitch’s other wish.  The taller man watched as his counterpart scooted down to settle his hips over his own, their erections brushing against one another.  Pitch could still grip onto his round butt cheeks though, due to his long arms and flexible torso.  What was the dreamweaver up to now, he thought.

Sandy smirked at him, plucking Pitch’s hands from his bottom so he could stand and position himself over him.  He then slowly lowered onto his erection. 

Pitch’s head flew back with a flurry of curses in a language long dead.  He curled inward, face burying into golden hair.  He was warm, so warm…he wanted to ravage and buck his hips mercilessly, startle him, shock him...but he was able to refrain.  He did not want to hurt Sandy by accident.

Sandy was hit with a wave of pleasure, feeling it surge with heavy strength out of his partner.  His expression was one of gasping, but no sound came out. 

Such was not the case for Pitch, whose breath hitched as he clenched his hands back onto Sandy’s buttocks to steady his motions.  He groaned deeply as Sandy ground against him, putting his weight into it.  Sandy had lost the ability to form coherent words to him, but Pitch could tell he wanted him to stop holding back.  He moved with him, rolling his hips.  God he felt so good…

A heat he couldn’t describe rose in him, a fire that had been blocked from his soul for so long by impenetrable darkness.  Sure, he’d pleasured himself on many a lonely night, but…nothing like this, not how he felt holding the fallen wish in his arms. 

Sanderson quickened his pace as he could feel Pitch tensing under him.  Against his conscious control, wisps of sand fluttered past in the air, caressing around both of them.  Pitch’s face, his noises…that unbelievable pleasure seething off of him from a yearning fulfilled.  He had wished to not be alone, he was living that dream right now.

 

Pitch’s grinding turned into short, quick thrusts of the hips as he arched his back.  His cry as he climaxed was as deep and longing as a moonless night.       

 

The sands coiled at the same time Pitch climaxed, then released in a soft explosion like fireworks.  Sandy twitched with every jerk of the other’s body, melting into a lovely warm feeling of absolute joy as both of them fell limp to the bed. 

After some moments Sandy crawled up so his head tucked into the crook of Pitch’s neck, body nicely nested just to one side of his chest.  His ‘additions’ melted away as if he didn’t have the concentration to retain them.

Pitch didn’t quite know what to do with himself, pleasure radiated from every corner of his being, and it had nothing to do with terrifying someone.  This was a different happiness, had he really ever experienced it before?  He felt he might have, but he couldn’t remember.  To him, this was a new moment, stupefying and overwhelming.  He was a gasping mess in the afterglow, breath hot against the dream guardian’s ear.

“Sanderson,” He breathed out, then lost the rest of the words he was meaning to say.

 

< I love you … > A softly blowing wind chime whispered.

 

Pitch opened his eyes, and stared at the black, ‘star’ specked ceiling.  He wondered, if the Sandman was thinking of their past times, times he couldn’t remember.  Past times they talked, held each other…was Sandy missing them?  Did he love that Brigadier, or him? 

 

Love.

 

That pain welled in his chest again, that word, never did this to him before.  Was he really so cold hearted all those years?  Numb, distant? 

He heard a shuffling in the darkness, scratching as fearlings slinked into the doorway to the bedroom.

No, not again! After his defeat, the nightmares sensed his weakness and turned on him.  He couldn’t let that happen, he told himself he’d never lose control again…

Sandy lifted his head, hearing the familiar sound of the fearlings.  Creeping in here?  He looked at Pitch’s face, he seemed conflicted.  Was he…afraid of something?  There was nothing to fear, they were together again.  Yes, Pitch had a way to go, but in that moment of the afterglow he felt like they could do anything; harsh reality had no hold on them.  He stroked a hand to his cheek and asked him in his old symbols if he was okay, then gave him a kiss and a nuzzle. 

Pitch looked to Sanderson, and his loving glow momentarily drowned out his insecurities.  Surely, that look was for him, least in part.  His loving cuddling was electric, soothing.  Doubts fell away and he was lulled back into the afterglow with his counterpart. 

The fearlings hissed softly, slinking away.   Their voices couldn’t reach them at that instant, but they echoed all the same,

 

FEAR

 

FEAR IN YOUR HEART.

Chapter Text

 The dreamers had to uproot from their cozy, dark bed eventually.  Sandy especially, as it took a lot of effort to work from down in Pitch’s realm.  His dreamsand orders did not reach well past its walls.

“What do you think?”  Pitch adjusted the lapels on yet another redesigned shadow cloak.  It was similar to the one he’d crafted the day before with the pinfeather collar, but he’d added just a few more touches of gold stitching along the V-neck and shoulders. 

Sandy approved with a thumbs up.  He too, seemed dressier than usual.  Sea shells acted like clasps along the front of his sand suit, and his ascot was more of a pinned cravat.  When you have someone to gussy up for, you are more self-conscious about your looks. 

 

The fearlings gave a less then enthused rattling hiss from the shadows, as if to say ‘MORE gold?’

 

Sandy liked that Pitch was being fancy with his clothes again; he used to have many feathery, frilly, flowing outfits.  He used to change them as often as the shifting shapes of shadows dancing on walls.  When he grew distant and his powers weak, so too had his clothing simplified.

“I’ve had a bit of a vacation, mmm?  All that time sleeping in your bed, then us down here training.  I’m itching to flex my shadows again.”  Pitch said as he turned around, checking himself in a mirror so dark it might as well be a scrying mirror.

Symbols of sleeping children and dancing unicorns appeared over Sandy’s hair, he nodded.  He too had many sweet dreams to send out.  It would be a night for amorous dreams though, for the adult minds on his roster…

“You and your unicorns,” Pitch chuckled, smoothly turning back around and beckoning to his nightmares.  One came over, smelling him suspiciously.  Pitch put reins on it and tugged it close in a dominant gesture.  It bucked but was reassured with a pet to the nose.  “Well, two can play that game.”  He twirled his fingers and a dark horn spiraled out of the nightmare’s head.  It neighed in surprise and shook.  It was a fearsome, but lovely, creature.

“Wouldn’t some strapping young lad want to ride this beauty in a dream?”  Pitch smiled at Sandy, who replied with a raised eyebrow.  Not to be outdone, Pitch added black, feathered wings, turning it into an alicorn.  The nightmare snorted, turning and nibbling at the additions.  It finally slouched and gave a defeated ‘hissss’ of unsure approval.

Sandy squinted and nodded.  ‘Not bad, alright…’ he seemed to say.  Pitch loved the dark beauty in everything.  He’d inspired so many with his eldritch terrors and beautiful monsters.  Not everyone hated things that went bump in the night.  He’d come to realize that once more…

“Why don’t we have a little fun?”  He cooed to the nightmare, who seemed to be warming up to all the changes slowly. 

 Sandy floated in the air as if lying on his stomach, head in hands.  He smiled watching Pitch interact with the nightmare, which was really a materialization of a fearling.  While this troubled Sandy, to see them with a physical form again, it was amazing how well Pitch could wrangle them.  Even while he was their slave of a vessel he’d had control over their manifestations.  Fearlings were dangerous, terrible creatures, but trapped there on Earth under Pitch’s care, they’d become just shadows and nightmares, unable to physically devour children and extinguish stars like they used to.  Thanks to Nightlight’s sacrifice...

However, Sandy liked to think it was Pitch’s inner good nature that helped kept them in check. And now, he was finally acting like he was a real tamer. 

 

Pitch mounted the altered nightmare and gave a tug to the reins.  The horse reared up and then took off in a flurry of dark sand.  Sandy was blown by and could hear Pitch calling after as he disappeared out the mouth of his realm’s entrance, “Don’t fall behind, old man!”   

 

Sandy chased after him, forming his cloud of dreamsand into a speedy looking hippocampus.  Swimming in the air was far more efficient, of course.  Pitch was gone soon as they got outside to the moonlit night; he had vanished into the shadows.  He may not see him but he could sense him. 

Like a game of tag he darted through the forest towards the nearest town, brief flashes of Pitch’s profile were caught in the corner of his eye.  A shadow surged up like a wave and Sandy lithely bounced under it.  He heard a playful laugh and swore he saw a shadow of Pitch grinning as he bounced up high over a bank of fog.  Sandy’s lips curled into a smile too.  The game with the shadows was dangerously exhilarating, but fun, as he knew Pitch was only playing.

Sandy floated through a sleeping town, sending out tendrils of dreamsand.  He felt renewed, emotionally revived.  Vivid dreams burst from his fingertips.

 

He cocked his head to the side as he worked, sensing the smell of a nightmare.

 

He peeked into a window and saw Pitch looming over a sleeping boy, a young teen, barely twelve.  His room was adorned with what you might call ‘gothic’ accoutrements.  There were posters of rock bands like Metallica and Nightwish, drawings of fearsome dragons and epic battles.  Pitch peeked up at his counterpart and smirked, sprinkling black sand into Sandy’s sweet dream over the boy’s head.  Among imparting fear of losing hearing from listening to music too loud, Pitch sent him fearsome images of a fire breathing demon.  A gold knight clashed with the creature, houses were felled and the mountains shook.  The dreams fought against one another, but the sleeping boy seemed pleased with the arrangement, wiggling with on edge excitement at the epic display.

Sandy smirked back to Pitch, lips pouting into a ‘not bad’ expression.  Yes, his dream had been turned into a nightmare, and Pitch beamed at the fear in the child, but the child was not unhappy about it.

Pitch vanished into a shadow and Sandy chuckled silently.  He patted his water horse in a command and it flew up high.  Pitch would have to come to HIM if he wanted to play more; he had lots of work to do.  He stood on the ornate saddle of the mount and started sending out wisps of dreamsand far and wide.  He’d done this millions of times…but tonight, he was light as a feather and ‘hummed’ to himself as he danced about the dreams of the sleeping men, women and children under him, his sand reaching for thousands of miles. 

After a little while, a wind gust blew past the engrossed Sandman.

 

“WOOAhhh hey Sandy!  There ya are!”  A young male voice exclaimed.

 

Sandy turned to see Jack with bare toes to his staff like it was a snowboard.  He came whipping back and Sandy caught him with a cloud of dreamsand.  Sure, Jack could fly, but this high up he had less control of his frozen winds.  Sandy gave symbols of greeting and a wave, but he knew Jack couldn’t understand him fully.  He was right back to work as Jack replied,

“Hello to you too, not seen you in over a week, maybe two…where have you been?  Not even seen much of your dreamsand flying about, taking a vacation?  After the party everyone thought you were kinda distant, we were worried if you were okay – being Pitch kinda, almost killed you and all…”  Jack trailed off a little but only because he looked guilty to be bringing it up.

Sandy turned and looked at Jack sideways, trying to say to him in his sand that he was alright.  He gave a cold shoulder at the comment about Pitch. He wished he could show him Pitch wasn’t really their enemy.  Meanwhile Jack went and prattled on.

“Hey, you change your outfit?”  Jack noticed now, pointing out the shells.  “What’s the occasion?”

Sandy bit his lip holding back a smirk; Jack was young, well, by guardian standards at least.

“What’s with that look?  Hey!”  Jack nudged Sandy with his staff, teasingly, “Are you hiding somethin’?” 

 

“Mind your own business, boy.”  A low voice crooned into his pale ear.

 

Jack startled forward like someone had dropped an ice cube down his shirt collar, and for Jack that is saying a lot.  He whirled around and saw Pitch there chuckling while sitting casually on his gussied nightmare.  He looked quite regal on it, especially in his new cloak.

 

“Pitch!”  He brandished his staff at him, expecting an attack. “What are you up to?”

 

Pitch circled around until he was right next to Sandy, who eyed him as if to say ‘Don’t scar OR scare the poor boy.’ 

 

Pitch couldn’t resist that fast heartbeat that came with a good scare – he could smell the fear on Jack.  Much as he meant him no harm, he just HAD to bask in that delicious feeling like a cat lazing in the sun.  His words rolled off smooth and coy, “Jack, Jack…must I be up to something?”

“Yeah, considerin’ the events of a fortnight ago.”  He narrowed his eyes.  Pitch sure looked very chipper for being so bitterly defeated not long ago.  How had he healed so fast?

“You all gave me quite the slap on the wrist, sent me packing, the works,” Pitch mocked their triumphs, the gold ball tips of his feathered collar giving a dark jingle against one another as he flicked his head.  “Now, scurry along and make some icy patches on door stoops. The adults have work to do.”  He was teasing, but his tone was not aggressive.

Much as he seethed at his bruised ego, after the events of the past few days he felt trickles of…what could that be…remorse?  Forgiveness perhaps?  Guilt?  A bit early to tell, but one thing was for certain, his heart was not filled with the malice it had before.  That didn’t mean he was about to roll over for the likes of Jack Frost or the other Guardians. 

Jack frowned at being talked down to. “I’m a Guardian now too you know, Pitch.  I took the oath to protect the children of the world. What did you do?  Oh right, your nightmares dragged you back into your hole in the ground.”

Okay, scratch that, good feelings gone.  Pitch hissed at Jack with the ferocity of a snake, his nightmare snorting menacingly with the surge of anger.  Sandy turned around from his work with a gasp.  Oh no, the playful banter had gotten totally out of control!  Sandy floated up between them with an angry pout, symbols of ‘stop it!’ and ‘no!’ flicking about his head.

 

“Sandy, why’re you defending this creep?!”  Jack glared at Pitch, who was glaring right back.

Sandy gave Pitch a dirty look too.  ‘That’s enough, please.,’ it read. ‘I know you’re better than this.’

“Sandy,” Jack whispered, as if saying, ‘what are you doing?’

 

There was no way Jack could understand.  Not without a lengthy explanation, and Jack was too young and didn’t know him well enough to communicate with him directly.  Instead, he floated up to Pitch and pet his cheek, attempting to placate him. They did NOT need a fight.  Pitch growled one last time, but then calmed as Sandy cozied up to him.  His eyes darted to Jack in-between the more pleasant sight of the dreamweaver there at his side.  He embraced Sandy with a touch of possessiveness, eyes piercing Jack with a want for him to simply go away.

 

Jack meanwhile felt like he was getting an eyeful.  Were those two…nuzzling?

 

Frost didn’t know what to say, was Sandy under some kind of spell?  Did Pitch do something to him?  He didn’t seem evil or controlled or anything.  He opened his mouth to speak but closed it again. 

Sandy wriggled from Pitch’s embrace enough to face Jack, his expression complicated.

Jack backed up like he was a little worried whatever Sandy had caught was contagious.  He put his hand out and raised his staff, “Sandy, is he blackmailing you?  Are you under a spell?”

 

If you can call love a spell, I’m most definitely beyond hope, Sandy joked in his mind. 

 

“Why is it so hard for your mind to wrap around that I’m not interested in hurting Sandy?” Pitch finally spoke up, feeling insulted.  Yes, he could understand Jack’s malice…What did he want, an apology?  He wasn’t sure if he even had the heart for that.  And he didn’t feel like he owed Jack, or any of the guardians, anything.  That pain in his chest returned.  Oh no, was that a conscienceGuilt

 

“Cause you basically killed him two weeks ago!”  Jack struck back.

 

“I absorbed him, not killed.  And if you knew anything about him, you’d know it wasn’t so simple.”  Pitch sighed, trying to calm down.  Sandy floated over to Jack with a look of understanding. 

“No, no. I need to talk to the others about this. Sandy, I-I’m sorry - ”  Jack fumbled away from them both, jumping off the cloud of dreamsand and soaring off like a shot into the clouds. 

Sandy fell in a slump.  He really didn’t believe me, he thinks I’m bewitched…wicked?

“Did you really expect more from the likes of Jack Frost?”  Pitch put a hand to Sandy’s shoulder, “I’d think he of all would…understand.”

 

< Won’t be easy > A sand dune’s grains shifted in the rolling wind.  < From all you’ve done, to trust again…to mend what is broken. >

 

Sandy was more than right.  From what Pitch could remember alone, he’d done many terrible things beyond even him.  Lost it completely, wallowed in sorrows and hatred and revenge. 

 

“I’m no good at apologies,” he whispered and clenched a willowy hand to his chest.

 

< You never were > Sandy smiled a little.

 

 

There was a drawn out kiss before the two opposites parted again.  The Nightmare King could get used to this, he thought.  It was like every time they touched his energy felt renewed again. 

 

Pitch dove right into the deep shadows of the forest like it was a murky pool.  He rode hard around the entire night-blanketed world.  Day and night blended together.  Days passed as the both of them spun their sands through the nights like grains slipping through an hourglass. 

Pitch loomed over child after child, petting fingers through their sweet dreams and adding touches of fear.  Peeking out from beds, twisting this and that shadow with his nightmares. 

 

The darkness holds dangers, stray closer to your parents

Fear the dark cold basement, monsters live there. 

Jump quick into your bed, or the shadows might GRAB YOU

 

A little girl squealed and ran all the way from her bedroom door, the crack of light from the hallway illuminating a protected pathway, diving into her bed just shy of Pitch’s shadowy grip.  She was under the covers now; her blankets were a shield from monsters.  Impervious!

He chuckled and slunk out from under the bed just long enough to watch the little girl’s mother come sit to kiss her good night, her body passing right through his.  He stared…momentarily locking eyes with the girl, his silver-gold eyes widening.  The mother whirled around seeing the look in her eyes, but of course there was nothing there. 

 

“There’s nothing there honey,” She pet her head.

“What about under the bed?”

The mother checked.

“Nothing honey…nothing but dust bunnies!”  She tickled her laughing like it was a dust bunny attack!

 

He felt an unexplainable new feeling, especially when looking at the young girls - a feeling of loss, like an unfulfilled promise.  Was this another relic of a past life he couldn’t remember?  The emotion remained, but the purpose behind it was lost.

 

Having a heart was proving heavier then imagined.

 

“Your nightlight will protect you,” The mother smiled, switching on a little star shaped light by an outlet.

 

Tch, nightlights, Pitch made a face.  That name alone made his skin crawl.  He skulked back under the bed and vanished.

 

Pitch threw off his human form and skulked out of the shadow of a baobab tree down on all fours, now a hungry, dark lioness.  He growled at a young brother and sister wearing nothing more than beaded bracelets and sandals –

 

Out too late…

You’re a tasty morsel,

for a hungry monster.

 

They screeched in terror and ran for the firelight of home.  Their screams rang like sweet music in Pitch’s ears, and the satisfaction of being seen in one of the few places he could was like a warm hearth.  Yes, run home to mommy and daddy.

 

Daddy…!

 

Pitch raised his ears, yellow eyes glowing and wide as he looked into the darkness.  The young sister had been yelling, for her father as she ran into home…

 

His shoulders rolled as he stalked back into the shadow.

 

He emerged in the dark waves of a coastline.  Being underwater had no suffocating effect, especially as his cloak drifted like seaweed, the kind that loves to nip at your ankles and make you think there is something there under your toes in the dark water.   A shark, a big fish, a monster?

 

The waves will swallow you whole, he whispered to a boy who strayed out too far and was looking a little worried.   You’re not strong enough. 

 

The tendrils of his cloak curled like tentacles and one coiled at the boy’s ankle.  His fear was delicious as he panicked and darted back towards shore.  But he was too panicked, he was floundering, he struggled to keep himself aloft.  Pitch didn’t think he’d have minded the result before…but now, he gasped, no that - that wasn’t what he wanted.

 

What was it he wanted again?

 

The delicious dreams of children, their musical screams, their fast beating hearts, their thrill of fear in the unknown and the macabre –

Is that what he wanted though, to hurt?  To scare them into harm’s way?

No that…that wasn’t it, was it?  He’d not stopped to think about the why in so long. 

To be seen, to be believed in.  To be believed in children must fear you.

 

To fear him.

 

To what end?

 

Pitch frantically looked to the boy’s parents.  Not attentive, not paying attention.  He skulked up into the surf, but the sun was bright on the beach, it burned his shadowy skin.  He grit his teeth and jumped into the shadow of the lifeguard’s chair.  He leaned down, invisible and silent, but he could still instill unease even in adults if he concentrated and there was reason for fear.

 

What if there is an undertoe? 

When was the last time you saw your boy?

He could surely die.

 

Even Pitch was surprised how clearly his whispers got through to her as the mother jolted up with a start from her sunbathing.  A pang of dread was strong in her.  She looked up; the lifeguard was busy blowing his whistle at some kids roughhousing.  She looked out to the waves and scanned the many faces for her son –

Some screaming, pointing, and hubbub later…the lifeguard had darted out and dragged the small boy in on his floater.  He was alive.      

Pitch watched from the cool sands under the lifeguard tower.  He was tired from that expenditure of energy, but he felt a strange wash of happiness seeing the mother embrace her child, vowing to never let that happen again.  Her heart beast fast with fear, but it was a protective fear.  Something that would instill caution.

Pitch listened to the boy’s heart.  Yes, this would make him afraid of the ocean…but…

Nightmare sand trickled off the boy like melting ice, it slithered along the ground and up Pitch’s legs and cloak.  He held out his hands, where it congealed and formed a dark orb, with the image of the boy on it.  As Pitch ran his fingers over it, his touch affected the shell as scratching a wrapper off a chocolate candy.  The black was like foil, underneath was a golden egg. 

He peeled off the rest of the coating and held up the object.  It felt...empty.  Not full of energy like the one's the fearlings brought him in his lair the other night.  Then he knew, just from a feeling, one day this egg would be full.   A vessel, for this particular deathly fear the child had of the ocean.  One day, it would be conquered, and could be cracked open and eaten by his nightmares.  Rich, fermented, aged to perfection.

 

He smirked and put the egg into the shadows of his cloak, where it vanished for future use.

Chapter Text

“Jack, Jack, slow down.” The Cossack rubbed the bridge of his nose, “…You saw Sandy and Pitch, nuzzling?”

 

“I WASN’T hallucinating!”

 

“Sure he didn’t get into your eggnog?”  Bunnymund chuckled.

“Saw it with my own two eyes!”  Jack confirmed, gesturing to his two eyes which were obviously in perfect working order.  He then used them to glare at Bunny for his comment.    

“Pitch out again so soon, is not usual,” North pondered, petting his chin, “In the past, he would be gone from the forefront for many months at a time.   This time, I thought perhaps years.”

“Well I think he got some help - from Sandy.  No other way I could explain it.”  Jack shrugged.

 

“Why would Sandy help Pitch?”  The tall rabbit leaned over Jack with a cock of the head and a paw to his hip.

 

“Hell if I know!  Why would they be snuggling either?” 

 

“Sandy works in mysterious ways, Jack.  He is older than all of us, even the Man in Moon.”

 

“And that’s sayin’ a lot mate, I was alive for the ‘creation’ of this rock, been a very long time.”  Bunny twitched his nose thoughtfully at Jack.

“Yeah, I’m the new kid on the block, I got it.”  Jack leaned on his staff, “Either way…maybe you ought to talk to Sandy then, seeing as you guys go way back.”

“Talk is a relative term, with that fallen star,” Bunnymund chuckled.

“Fallen star?”  Jack raised an eyebrow.

“Much you don’t know about us all, Jack.  Sandy for example: I was told he was a shooting star, who crash-landed here many centuries ago, even before Pitch did, as it was Pitch who caused him to crash.”

“That’s right mate, I remember it, brightest flash’a light you ever saw, wizzin’ down in the sky.”

 

Jack’s eyes widened, “You mean he’s an alien?”

 

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”  Bunny raised an eyebrow at him.

 

“Well considering everything, guess it’s not too far-fetched.”

 

“He slept for many hundreds of years before Man in Moon called on him.  My old mentor told me there used to be many people flying about the Galaxy.  Called it the Golden Age.  Pitch brought an end to it all.”  North said, folding his arms.

“Geeze, what’s that guy’s problem?” Jack couldn’t quite believe it, hearing Pitch was responsible not only for all this chaos on Earth but across a whole Galaxy?  That was a whole other kind of evil.

 

However, Bunny and North’s faces fell a bit.  As they were about to answer a buzzing of wings flew into the workshop.

 

“Hey!  Sorry I’m late…”  Toothiana fluffed her feathers as she came to a halt.

 

“Tooth!  Busy day?”  Jack laughed, since she looked a bit harried.

“Indeed!  Teeth falling like rain, simply wonderful, but I lost track of time!  What did I miss?” She looked eager to be filled in; she could sense something was afoot.   Three of her mini fairies buzzed about her like satellites.

 

She quieted down and listened intently as the others filled her in…

 

 

Somewhere over the outskirts of Tokyo sat the short Dream Guardian and the King of Nightmares.  The sun had dipped below the horizon and the lights of the city and surrounding suburbs were lighting up like fireflies.  The city center beamed like a Christmas tree, bright and tall as night fell over Japan. 

Sandy would have been sighing contentedly had he a voice.  But he made his mood apparent in how he cozied up and leaned his head against Pitch’s arm.  Pitch picked up his arm with an unsure expression, but found it was more comfortable to settle it gently around the smaller man’s shoulders.  This earned him an extra nuzzle. 

He was still getting used to all this, not that he didn’t like it, it liked Sandy very much...it was just so new to him.  His entire world was changing at a rapid pace.  They were such different beings, yet when they were together something felt so right.  Could it really be that this happiness was something he could have?  He expected any moment he could wake up, like this was all just one of Sandy’s dreams.   

 

“Sanderson,” Pitch said softly, still gazing out over the scene, “If we once sailed the galaxy, tell me, is this even half as spectacular?”

 

Sandy stared at the twinkling lights, a memory surfacing that he’d dreamed about many times… 

 

 

“Don’t tell me you’re nervous, little star!”  Kozmotis chuckled, adjusting the sail on the small sailed star-cutter ship they were circling a ringed planet in.  It was small compared to the large warship he was Brigadier of.  It navigated easily through the minefield of rocks that made up the rings.

 

Sanderson puffed his cheeks a bit and shook his head.  But as the ship caught on a space rock and shook the boat, he clung close to the officer, gripping around his torso.  Thankfully they were sitting down or he might have stumbled over.

 

“Never stray this close, eh Sanderson?” He was joyous in his confidence with the little craft.  He knew how to maneuver it like it was a part of his own body.  “To rings that is, on your far travels?”

 

Sand symbols confirmed this as they dove hard for the dark side of the planet. 

 

“Ahahaa!”  Koz laughed with delight as they dove like a roller coaster drop, then into a tight banking curve to avoid the last of the ring debris. 

 

Sandy closed his eyes, clinging firm to that golden uniform.  He wasn’t scared, not really.  But he never piloted his star this recklessly!  Sure he liked to go fast but –

 

As the ride smoothed out he opened his eyes, catching his bearings.  They’d cleared the rings and now could see the planet clearly.  It was marbled blue, yellow and green; a gas giant.  Quite beautiful where the nearest star’s light illuminated the colors on the bright side of the planet.  On the dark side was a large, slow comet passing by close to the planet.  Its tail was catching rays of light as it curved past the planet.  They lit up like golden fireflies as the solar winds blew past. 

 

Sandy stood and perched at the edge of the cutter, face lighting up at the beautiful scene.  They strayed close to the comet’s tail, the light it was catching intense as the star was just blocked from their vision by the planet now.  Sandy reached out and drew his hand through the golden dust.  It sounded like sand on chimes as they sailed through it.

 

Koz kept the boat steady as he watched his love enjoying himself…time seemed to slow down.  That moment seemed to last forever.  Sanderson laughing silently; the magical sound of the solar wind and sand passing over their keel; the light illuminating Sandy’s curled golden hair...

 

“Might want to hold on again, Sanderson,” Koz said softly, smirking. 

 

Sandy almost didn’t catch it, but as he looked back to the Brigadier he was shifting the rudder and the sail.

 

The cutter dove sharply with the downward curve of the comet’s trajectory, and Sanderson fell backwards into the officer’s lap.  His eyes were open this time, and his mouth wide with joy as he put up his arms.  The golden dust caught them, buffering their dive and splashing over the keel like waves.  They slid over it at great speed, all the way to the head of the comet which shot them off like a ramp. 

 

Kozmotis leveled out the ship as they cleared the planet, heading back for home more smoothly.

 

“I think someone enjoyed that,” He crooned, hugging a free arm around Sanderson, who was curled up happily in his lap. 

 

 

Sandy reached down and slipped his hand into Pitch’s larger one, resettling himself against him,

 

< I’d be lying if I said yes, but that doesn’t mean it is not beautiful. >

    

 

It was a few days later, and Sandy was awoken with a jolt.  

                                                                                                              

Pitch was covered in a cold sweat, shivering and gasping.  He clutched tightly to the dreamweaver where he was curled as the little spoon of their cuddling arrangement.  They had been sharing the same bed every night.  Last night they had slept at the dream palace, but tonight they were in Pitch’s bed chambers.

Sandy turned around in Pitch’s arms and looked up at him, face worried and questioning.  However, he could tell by all his years of experience Pitch must have had a nightmare.  Funny to think - the King of Nightmares having one of his own.  It was actually a common occurance sadly...

 

“I’m okay,” he reassured Sandy with a sigh.  His heart was beating so fast, Sandy could feel it through his chest.

 

< Your dream, what was it? > Sandy’s voice hissed through seashells rolling in surf.

 

Pitch winced like he couldn’t much handle the extra white noise in his head right then.  “I…to be honest I can barely remember now, but it was vivid, and I was scared - which for me is not a usual feeling.”  He glanced around like he expected his nightmares to be slinking in at any moment. 

Sandy saw him wince, so he instead formed his usual sand sign language for Pitch. 

“What was I scared of?  I…like I said I can’t remember.  Dammit, you know I can’t remember much of anything; dreams or otherwise!” Frustration laced his words, turning into mild anger as he raised his voice.

Sandy pressed his lips together as if apologizing and understanding he knew it was hard.  He cuddled into him reassuringly. 

Pitch returned the gesture, hugging him closer like he was the only thing keeping him sane anymore.  “I’m sorry,” He whispered, closing his eyes, “I just…it’s difficult to know who I even am anymore when I can’t remember all of who I was.  Be it good or bad…”  He groaned, “And I don’t even know how or why I can’t remember past a certain point.”

 

An image of one of Pitch’s nightmares appeared in sand over Sanderson’s head, it was shown eating Pitch himself.

 

“My nightmares ate them?”  Pitch understood his signing perfectly, but he was still confused by what Sandy said.  He winced a little at the image as well, remembering back just a few weeks ago to when he’d hit rock bottom and his own nightmares turned on him…

 

Sandy knew Pitch’s head hurt but he had to say concretely,

 

<The fearlings, they ate your memories, yes.> The tide drew out.

 

It was complex to explain…Sandy wasn’t even sure if he should elaborate, but it wasn’t fair to hide things from him anymore - not after he’d cracked his heart and he could feel all of his humanity again.  Sanderson used images of them talking to say he’d explain it later, if he wanted him to.  His expression was one of ‘are you sure?’

 

“Yes…I would like to know.  After my head clears,” Pitch agreed firmly, sighing and clutching Sandy close.  He felt soothed as they re-settled under the dark sheets.

 

They fell back asleep, and this time, Pitch dreamt of butterflies.

 

Chapter Text

 On black and gold sand chairs, Pitch and Sandy sat at a gnarled tree stump sipping tea in a firefly-filled thicket.  Sandy very much enjoyed the replica forest Pitch had constructed.  It would be scary to a child - or even an adult afraid of the dark - but to him it was ancient, calming, and beautifully lit by the light of his dreamsand.

 

“Now that my mind is clear,” Pitch began, sighing contentedly at the warm, unsweetened black tea in his cup. “Might you…continue with what you were saying earlier? About my memories?”  He seemed a little apprehensive, but his eyes showed he HAD to know.  He realized he was the same as Jack, who had also been seeking his memories.  Neither of them had realized what they had lost until someone told them. He had the same right to know. 

Sandy stared into his honey chamomile tea while gathering his thoughts.  He sipped it then put his cup down like it was now or never.  This would mean explaining things that everyone else had agreed were best to leave forgotten.  Sandy had hated to leave Pitch ‘in the dark’.  He had never liked the decision.   However, he himself was guilty of being happy with how Pitch had been ‘re-wired’ and never wanted the insane pirate that was the Nightmare King to return.  That was a different matter then being robbed of your entire past though.

Right or wrong, it had let them start over.  They bantered through the middle ages, fought over dreams, even hung out as they were right now.  Pitch was personable and creative, enjoyed the company of others, and took pride in his work.  Unlike how he’d been commanding the Nightmare Galleon, this Pitch would never harm a child.  Scare, yes, but not kill, or turn into a fearling (something he was incapable of anymore).

He was able to channel the fearlings beyond just tools of revenge and anger, and had even unconsciously begun to use fear as a tool for protection during those dark times.  Yes he ruled with great power in the middle ages, but at the same time, many children would have died without a healthy dose of fear to keep them in check. 

Sandy had almost thought he was reaching what Tsar Lunanoff predicted, but as the other guardians helped usher in a new age, the light proved too strong for Pitch.  Madness out of confused desperation took him over once more.

 

But before it did, Sandy got to know Pitch, and not just see him as Kozmotis possessed by fearlings.  Pitch had become a person of his own.  A person he found he loved as well.    

 

Now with Koz’s heart allowing him to really feel again, it was time to test if the star general was as strong as the Man in the Moon’s father had believed him to be… 

 

Sandy put out his hands and Pitch clasped his fingers in them. 

 

A slow, gentle tide came in; seashells like wind chimes on the rhythmic waves.  

 

< First, let me ask, do you have any feeling connected to the name Nightlight?>

 

Pitch contemplated deeply. “Nightlights besides the annoying ones in children’s bedrooms? Anything other than that, no.”

 

< You will not remember what I am about to say, but you have the right to hear.  Know this - you were better for it, your actions were not really yours before.  Fearlings had a strong grip on you.  You were nothing but anger, fear, and revenge.  A madman.  I do not even consider that ‘Pitch’, who you are, even as I refer to ‘him’ as such, in the story. > 

Pitch stroked his fingers over Sandy’s thoughtfully.  He was thirsty like a dying man, parched for knowledge.  Even if it meant hearing the most terrible of things, there was no turning back now. 

 

“Fearlings, my nightmares, yes?”  He had to confirm.  He kept hearing that term used but Sandy seemed to say it with a different meaning.

 

< Fearlings are the nightmares now, yes.  I forget you do not see them they same way.  They were once a terrible force that ran about the galaxy...they devoured children, whole worlds, some were space pirates.  They were the Golden Age equivalent of criminals. >

< Now let me keep my train of thought, you must let me tell the story in order if you want the answers you seek. >  Sandy gave his counterpart a chiding look as the sounds of the surf rattled over piles of small shells. 

Pitch smiled in a manner of ‘can you blame me?’ as he fell obediently silent, ears at the ready to keep to the story at hand.

 

Sandy continued,

< Let’s begin with Nightlight.  Nightlight was a sprite like boy made of mist and moon beams.  He was the guardian of the Lunanoffs - the last living of the last royal family of the Golden Age.  Their son is who you call ‘The Man in the Moon’ ...or ‘MiM’ as I and others all him.>

Sandy pointed up out of habit even though in Pitch’s realm there the fake night sky was no moon.  He was conflicted in talking of MiM, for while he had no problem with the orphaned son, he was not too fond of the boy’s father...

< I was asleep during the first battle you had with Nightlight…but I saw what happened in dreams MiM sent me. Nightlight ran you through the heart with a moon lance to stop you when you came after the Lunanoffs.  Only the young Tsar survived.  You fell to earth with Nightlight and slept for centuries in a cave, in a stasis of sorts, alongside the hordes of fearlings.>

< While you were asleep...the fearlings must have fed off your fears while you were trapped.  When those ran out, they started chipping away at some of your memories, which were full of fears caused across the Galaxy.  You were eventually released, and I was awoken not long after. >

Pitch had a bit of a distant look on his face, listening to the words like they were walking down that deserted beach he kept hearing in the background noise of Sandy’s voice.  His voice was actually quite clear and determined that day; in fact, with each passing day it was getting more and more clear. 

 

Pitch had to interject – “Sanderson – you were asleep on Earth then, as well?  I know now we’re not even from here; that alone was a lot to take in.”

Sandy nodded.

< I had fallen to Earth before you and slept to regain energy. The wishes of children kept me safe as I fell. >

 

It was a half truth.  ‘Please don’t ask me HOW I ended up losing control of my ship,’ Sandy thought.  He also did not want to say how he’d slept so long because he too wanted to forget…he’d already lost Kozmotis but then to be attacked by the possessed shell of him only to crash land had been too much.  He had just wanted to sleep forever, and never wake up... 

However, as with such things, time heals.  Eventually, you had to move on.  Sandy buried himself in his dreams, taking joy in creating again, and dreaming of a better future, infusing his entire sandy island with happy dreams and memories...until one day the Tsar called on him and woke him up to be the guardian of good dreams for the whole planet.

Thankfully, Pitch just assumed he must have simply fallen, as shooting stars do.  So he nodded and looked like he wanted Sandy to continue.

< I eventually joined the other guardians, chosen by MiM.  I had known you were on Earth soon as I woke.  I could sense the Fearlings, sense you.  I avoided you, I was afraid you were as insane as you’d been hundreds of years before.  However, when I was dragged into things, circumstances were not as I imagined.>

 

< Nightlight had burned you with his light; it broke through and allowed your humanity to leak out.  However, it wasn’t Kozmotis; it was raw, uncontrolled emotion.  You could feel, but your heart was still cold.  You were confused and lost. You didn’t want anything to do with it.  A young girl named Katherine reached out to you when no one else would.  Because of her, your humanity continued to grow enough that it weakened you to be open to attack.  She defended you when you were down and reminded the guardians you were once a person too.>

Pitch simply had no recollection of any of this.  It indeed felt like he was listening to a fantastical story, not a retelling about himself.  Still, it was comforting to hear it.  This was him, this was his past.  He didn’t like the idea that he’d been so out of control.  What had led to the total change?  Did the change really mean what it should if he couldn’t remember changing himself?  He’d have to hear the whole story to make that conclusion...

As for Sandy, he was reluctant to bring up…her.  THOSE were memories he should have echos of and could be triggered by.  No doubt he’d dreamed of it in some form.  Would the pain remembered be stronger than the good?

 

< Katherine had felt connected to you, because she’d lost her family, same as you.  You had lost your daughter.>

 

“Daughter?”  Pitch’s eyes widened like the weight of the world fell on him with that word. “Are you saying, I was a father?”

 

< Yes. >

 

Pitch darted his eyes down, at their clasped hands.  A family?  He’d had a family?  “What happened to them?”  He leaned forward insistently and looked right into Sandy’s face.

It was Sandy’s turn to have a fast beating heart.  He hesitated then continued,

< You loved your daughter more than all the stars in the sky. You had told me your wife died not long after she was born; it was part of why she was so precious to you.  And your daughter...she was 10 when the fearlings overtook you.  She, I, were heartbroken …but she was such a strong girl.  She was taken in by friends of the family; I couldn’t stay of course, being what I am.  I was a second father to her, visiting often as I could.  I saw her reach adulthood - she had enlisted to help others in the war and quickly reached a high rank in the moon healer corps. You would have been so proud. >

 

Pitch fell back down into his chair, dazed.    

 

He stared blankly past Sandy and into the woods. 

 

 

…Daddy, help me!

 

 

If Pitch could go any paler then he already was, he did it right then. 

 

It’s dark, I’m scared…

 

 

That voice pieced into him like knives.

 

It was the fearlings, imitating her voice.  They’d forgotten about their original deception, the weakness they saw in his heart centuries ago, but now that Koz’s memories were released, they could read them anew…

 

Pitch whirled around, his eyes wide with fear.  Sandy kept a firm grip on his hands and yanked him back to face him.

 

< Pitch, listen to me - >

 

 

Daddy I’m scared!

 

 

...

 

NOT STRONG ENOUGH

 

AFRAID YOU WILL FAIL

 

FEAR

 

FEAR IN YOUR HEART

 

“STOP IT!”  Pitch screeched to the voices, ripping out of Sandy’s hands as he pressed them over his ears. 

 

When he let go, the gentle tide roared into a static of hissing and whispering.  All ambient light beyond Sandy seemed to be absorbed.  Fearlings crept out of the woods, closing in on them from all sides, threatening to swallow the thicket whole. 

Sandy jumped up on the table, their teacups scattering to the floor.  He forced Pitch to look at him, grabbing his wrists firmly.

 

< PITCH, LISTEN TO ME. > Distant rain and thunder boomed over the whispers.

 

 Pitch fought him but Sandy kept a strong hold.  He opened his eyes and stared forward blankly; Sandy filled his view.  He was glowing brightly.  It was keeping the nightmares at bay; keeping them from overtaking the thicket.  Pitch’s eyes flicked up, finally making eye contact.  The static and murmurs lessened.

 

< You still have a family. > Sandy was able to take Pitch’s hands again, petting his thumbs over the larger fingers in his grasp. 

 

< You still have me. >

 

Pitch swallowed thickly, body racked with emotion.  He remembered fragments as they flooded back to him.  Feelings of happiness, love, feeling of longing.  Laughter, tears, a last bedtime story.  A photograph in a locket.  Afraid, so afraid.  A girl with black hair running through a bright field of flowers and butterflies.

 

Pitch did something he couldn’t remember doing in recent memory.

 

He cried.

 

Sandy choked back his own tears as Pitch crumpled into his arms, outright sobbing.  He felt so thin and fragile in his grasp.  Sandy squeezed him reassuringly, and nuzzled his face into his hair.  He tried to hold it back, but silent gold tears fell from his cheeks too.

As much as Pitch had broken down, it wasn’t fear anymore.  It was sorrow, tears for happiness, loss and pain long, long bottled away and forgotten.  The fearlings sank back into the shadows, unable to touch such a strong feeling of love.  Sandy and Pitch were left alone with the fireflies in the clearing, the ambient light returning.

Sanderson wasn’t sure how long he kneeled there on the table holding the broken man, but eventually Pitch wore himself out and ended up with his head in his lap, half awake with Sandy petting his hair.  Sandy was a very cushy pillow thankfully.

 

< Seraphina was like the daughter I never had. > A sweet summer breeze whispered, < She was my family, too. >

 

“Seraphina,” Pitch echoed softly, staring into the woods,. “I remember that name now.  Vaguely...”  He wished he could remember more of her, more then dream-faded fragments.  The feeling and emotions though, were very strong.  And that is what made him know for sure it was real.

 

There was a pause, then Pitch said shakily, “What happened to her?”

 

Sandy froze, no, don’t ask me that...

 

“You said I lost her.”  His eyes were still glassy from his outburst before.

 

Sandy pulled Pitch’s hands close and kissed them, looking up at him dolefully. 

 

A cool breeze howled over sand dunes.

 

< Was a war. People die, in wars. >

 

“Did I - ?!”  He had felt it coming, and yet the horror hit him all the same.  He almost ripped his hands out but he mustered nothing more then a slight recoiling.

< A causality, there were Fearlings everywhere.  I was no where near when it happened.  I was telegraphed word from an outpost.  She was there to help.  She died a hero. >

“A hero in a war where I was the enemy!” He cried, face a mixture of anger and remorse. 

Sandy pulled him back once more, determined.  The surf rolled up especially high like the tide was coming in.

 

< You were used by the enemy.  And you gave your whole life to that war. >

 

Pitch turn his face away, expression so conflicted.

 

< I don’t blame you.  I never blamed you. >

 

Pitch had no more tears to give or he might have broken down once more.  He glanced warily into the thicket as if expecting the fearlings to return.  He heard Sandy’s voice flicker as he was racked with emotion, his words becoming less clear as the tide rolled in higher.

< So much, too much pressure.  Expectation. Doubt. Your heart, so full of fear...never saw it earlier.  Unfair, how could he – no one could have alone...I....I perhaps could....done more, if I’d only... >

“Sanderson,” Pitch whispered, suddenly his own sadness and anger paled in comparison to seeing the bright star’s face fall with sorrow.  He growled as pain welled up in his chest.  As yes, THAT.  Feeling.  He knew now what it was.  It was caring, caring for someone else’s happiness more then your own. 

 

 

Love.

 

 

“Sanderson please, I can’t take it...”  He squeezed his glowing hands, this time bringing them close to kiss them shakily. “NEVER, never put this on yourself.”

< Put so much on yourself...I can take...just a little... >

Sandy remembered then, his own burden, the prophecy Tsar Lunar had foretold.

 

‘He will only join you if he regains his conscience and accepts his burden...’

‘He is your counterpart...’

‘He could become your greatest ally or your greatest foe...’

 

As Koz sat alone at that outpost, waiting long weeks, months, years...how long could a man be expected to be separated from his loved ones?  When did the want to protect crack under the pressure of expectation?  Had his love not been strong enough for the Star General?  Perhaps, it was too strong...?

 

The distant silence in Sanderson’s eyes was brought back as Pitch leaned over the small table to kiss him.

 

Pitch withdrew. “Could you…continue your story?”  His voice was shaky, but somehow he still managed to sound like black velvet.  He had been told the changes that happened had been for the better, and led to him being like this, and eventually, to where they were now.  Maybe, it was happier memories....if there was any such thing connected to the likes of him.

 

Sandy was not expecting that, and oh the kiss did distract him as intended, bring him back from the distant past.  He smiled weakly and it took him a moment to remember where he HAD been in the story. 

He mustered up more of his voice. This was the most he’d used it since he and Koz used to talk...Koz always could understand him when everyone else just heard white noise. 

He wished he could tell Pitch all this through a dream, but the fearlings were still making it difficult to do that, and it might just be too vivid, too much, if he saw it like that.

Sandy continued, and the sounds of the long empty beach with the gentle tide returned. 

< I was not present for all these events - it is by dream echos and second hand I tell them to you.  The girl, Katherine, showed you a locket with your daughter’s image.  The hand Nightlight burned, the one with your raw humanity, reached for it.  The next time you would face the guardians, Katherine recognized that you still had the locket, and defended you from Nightlight ending you completely. >

 

< It was then that Mother Nature stepped in. >  The waves crashed a little more strongly that time.

 

“Mother Nature?  She actually has a form?”  Pitch looked surprised.

 

< Back then, she did.  Always there watching, usually benevolent, taking no sides except that of the Earth itself.  They say she appeared and whisked you both away.  She took on the form of your daughter – everyone believed it WAS your daughter at first, as they all had seen her image in the locket. >

< This is where I came in. I knew eventually I must see you. I wasn’t sure I wanted to…but I had no choice when the Tsar led the other Guardians to me.  They were told I could help them find Mother Nature, and therefore Katherine.  I didn’t want much to do with another war, but I also of course wanted to help you both.  Cannot evade the past forever...>

< When I called out for audience with Mother Nature she responded.  She was upset with you; you had been digging deep into the earth mining for special minerals for your fearling armies.  She had to do something to stop you from harming Gaia.  She wanted to just dispose of you, but you - like I - are not of this planet.  Your fearling infested body was impervious to her powers.  When she saw how Katherine’s compassion for a ‘being like you’ weakened you so, it intrigued her.  Her assuming Seraphina’s form was part of her tying to understand and tap into that, as well as an attempt to weaken you further.>

 

Pitch wanted to speak up and ask what happened to Katherine, but he kept his gray lips sealed shut and let Sanderson continue...

 

< Mother Nature would not hand you or Katherine over – she wanted an exchange of information.  I am a foreign star that fell to earth, she was unable to touch my island same as she cold not touch your nightmares.  However, I was left to my own devices as I had no negative impact on things...but you, she wanted you nullified.  I, of course...did not want you or the girl harmed.  >

 

< And I was furious with her for using your daughter’s image, how DARE she. > 

 

 

A large wave crashed onto the sands, its surf rolling in seafoam. 

 

< So I fought with her. >

 

“You fought Mother Nature?”  Pitch blurted out, impressed but also horrified and in awe that he would do such a thing...for him.

Sandy could see that in his eyes, and he could not hold back a light flush.

 

He remembered it vividly now...the first time he had seen Pitch again after all those years.  He was bound in a magic tree infused with fallen moon rocks and meteorites, just enough to hold him.  While he was weak it was never enough for Mother Nature to absorb him completely.  Katherine was bound there too for good measure.  Pitch had looked thinner then before, eyes full of confusion and that one eerie, flesh toned arm.  Sandy at first had thought he was finally breaking free. 

Sanderson played it over his memory, how Pitch looked at him.  Pitch of course did not remember him beyond being a star he missed devouring, but something in his gaze - in that raw emotion and humanity that was clawing for his daughter - remembered them, as well.  He faltered with emotion, Mother Nature there in the form of Seraphina not helping things one bit.

 

Sandy continued,

< When the Guardians saw us fighting, they came to my aid.  Katherine cried out for us to stop.  Nightlight flew to her.  He cared for her so much...he loved her but was too childlike to realize it.  He knew that she - that they all - could never be safe with you alive.  At the same time, he knew how she wished for you to not be killed, because she loved you in a way Nightlight could never understand.  So he wished so selflessly for something that would fulfill both needs in the heat of the battle. >  

 

< I’d not been wished on since I fell, but being Nightlight from the age he was, he knew how even if he wasn’t doing it consciously. >

 

< It all happened so fast...there was a blinding light as Nightlight streaked past us all and ran you through with his own body.  When we all could see again, he was gone, and you were a human sized crumple on the ground.  Your flesh sizzled then was quick-cooled like metal as shadows crept onto your form in black robes.  >

 

< I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened, but best I can explain...Nightlight fused his light into your being, burning off the physical form of all the fearlings using you as a conduit.  He used the goodness left sleeping inside you, amplifying it like a prism. For after that point they had no physical presence in the world, same as how you became a sprit of the shadows; one that can only be seen if you are believed in, as how the guardians are to children today. His love for Katherine, and my love for you in the wish...burned it all away...as well as your previous malice with it. >

< Mother Nature saw you were no longer a threat to her and relinquished you and Katherine. You and the remnants of the fearlings went into stasis again; the light had been so intense.  I wondered if you would ever wake up. >

< It was little over a decade later when you awoke...and when you did, you’d forgotten all about the Man in the Moon’s parents; forgotten about revenge; forgotten the Golden Age. The raw emotion fighting within you was stilled, and the Fearlings no longer ruled your mind.  You were a new spirit.  A weaver of fears.  You felt like you’d always been since the dawn of time. >

 

Pitch lifted their hands and leaned his face into them.  His expression was heavy as lead.  So much, so much had happened.

“What happened to Katherine?” Pitch whispered.

< A guardian herself, she grew into a storyteller.  Children referred to her affectionately as ‘Mother Goose’. >

 

Pitch’s eyes widened.  HER...?!

 

“Why didn’t you tell me?!”  Pitch jumped up.

 

< Everyone agreed – best to leave the past forgotten.  I did not always agree quite as strongly as the others though.>

 

Pitch released Sandy’s hands so he could retrieve their teacups and beckon over a fresh pot of water. He could tell it was a displacement activity. 

Sandy watched with a sigh.  The other guardians never did approve of Katherine’s liking to Pitch.  They even made her never tell him her true name, as part of the pact to make the past forgotten.  Would he have remembered her had he known her name?  Sandy didn’t think so, but it was proper he knew now, how much they’d meant to each other.  Sandy had become close with Katherine, he was so thankful for what she did for Pitch...

Pitch breathed in sharply and almost chuckled as he exhaled, “That storyteller, always messing with my shadows.  The stories parents told their children before bedtime, warding away nightmares and fears.  I remember listening to them so many times through the words of parents.  Simple little tales, but so powerful.”  He seemed pleased he could remember it with such clarity.  Well, it was from more recent times, back to where he could begin to remember.

 

 He stared at the steeping leaves rolling about in a golden tea ball in his cup.

 

Sandy smoothed his fingers over Pitch’s hand, < Not every memory about fear.  Fearlings can’t feed on them all. >

 

Pitch nodded, feeling a little better, despite everything.

< Katherine was sad for a long time, about Nightlight...She even tried to blame you, but in the end, she knew he was doing it to protect all the children.  I do not think anyone else could have done what he did. >

“I never did understand why she smiled at me like that one minute then the next had her damn goose biting me.  I...I do now, I suppose.”  What a strong mixture of happiness and sadness he had right then.

< By the time you awoke, the age of magic was already dying.  As you know, in time most magical beings of the earth were relinquished to folklore and fairy tales.  In fact, we believe without Nightlight on the earth, MiM was unable to focus his moonbeams as clearly, which helped lead to the Dark Ages. >     

“Ah yes the Dark Ages,” Pitch bit his lip, “Such happy times for me...children and adults alike could see me, so many shadows in the forests and candle light.  Though, looking back now with a clearer head, I did become too drunk with power.  I went too far...everything went too far...”

 

< You remember the battle we eventually had, of course. > Sandy looked down.

 

“I was afraid of change.” His voice was soft.  He put a hand up to the gold collar on his neck. “The one I used to wear.  Had you...given me that one as well?”

 

< I did not, but, you modeled it using some of my dreamsand infused with shadows as glue. You could not fashion gold back then. Now, > Sandy put out a finger to flick at one of the gold beads on his collar, < You can do it yourself. >

 

“Where was Mother G- ...I mean Katherine...in that battle?  I do not remember her there.”

 

< Unable to fight you.  Couldn’t bear it.  Her powers were already weakening.  She was one of many spirits to fade away to folklore not long after.  Her stories lived on, and she was able to seal her soul into them before we lost her completely.  She still guards, coming through in children’s stories. > Sandy sighed, and so did the sound of the ocean tide.

There was a pause. Then Pitch reassuringly, apologetically, pet Sanderson’s wrist.

“I wish I could go back and change so much.  But if it means anything, I miss her too.  I...I feel like I’ve lost two daughters.”  His silver-gold eyes glossed over again as his face contorted in frustrated anguish. 

 

“I never knew...just what she did for me...I wish I could thank her.”

 

The words came through clear and sweet as a sunny, calm day.

 

< Love needs no thanks. >

 

Chapter Text

It had been quite an emotional ‘morning’. 

Pitch felt too weak to venture out. While he was uplifted by the hazy memories of a loving daughter and the story of a young girl who risked herself to help him...there was also the realization he’d caused so much pain.  Out of his right mind and desperate or possessed as he was, it was he who did it, and Pitch knew inside that he still liked to instill fear, the taste of fear...was he to be at war with himself the rest of his life?  What was to happen to him now?  Would he become more and more like this man he used to be, or drift back to the darkness? 

The drain of it all was too much.   

So Sandy stayed and helped him into bed.  He assisted Pitch out of his robes, hands brushing over his arms and gently burning his shadows away into a mist of gold vapor.  Pitch smiled softly, watching the display while Sandy sensually kissed his chrome shoulders.  Pitch put out his own hands and consciously ‘infected’ Sandy’s dreamsand outerwear.  Sandy normally would have baulked but fair was fair.  The dreamsand melted away into the black sheets, and not long after the two were cuddled up face to face. 

“You should go soon, I know.” Pitch’s voice was soft as velvet.

Sandy nodded.  He could not transmit dreams as well from down in Pitch’s lair, he knew he should go topside least for a little while that night. 

Pitch clutched his hands a little tighter around Sandy’s smaller ones.

Sandy could tell he was apprehensive and...scared. 

“My nightmares, they might attack me again like this,” he whispered like he was ashamed he was even bringing it up.  It was admitting weakness.  He huddled his thin frame close to his counterpart like Sandy’s very presence was the only thing keeping him grounded.  His brow furrowed with hatred at his own self-pity.  What a pathetic creature he was...

“You know you...never really told me what happened to Kozmotis.”  He said suddenly, not meaning for the question to be as heavy as it was and it only hit him after he’d said it.

Sandy looked right at him, expression indeed showing the serious nature of what he’d casually brought up.  

“I’m sorry,” Pitch darted his large, silver eyes away.  “I didn’t – never mind.  I was just trying to think of something else.”

< No.  It’s alright. > Sandy’s voice was wind through a bamboo grove.  < But been through enough for one night, haven’t you?  You should rest - >

“Oh so hearing about how I came to be is just more...suffering and things best left forgotten, is that it?” He retorted, sarcasm creeping into his voice.

Pitch’s sudden defensive, negative tone surprised him, and he fumbled his words like an acorn falling down tree branches haphazardly, < No, didn’t mean it like that - >

“That’s all I’ve ever been to anyone - pain, suffering, and best left forgotten!”  He was just raising his own guilt and anger higher with every externalized insecurity and centuries’ old frustration.   Sandy tried to console him by hugging him closer, but Pitch pushed and turned away from him, curling up on himself. 

“I’m just the shadow of the man you loved!  I...I’m....HE deserved you, not me....I’m unwanted by everyone.” 

Sandy felt his heart breaking at his tone.  So much sadness and frustration.  It wasn’t fair, not when he’d come so far and Sandy thought he was really coming around.  He pawed his hands desperately at the taller man’s back.  <Pitch, I DO want yo- >

Sandy was pushed away by a small burst of nightmare sand, cutting his ‘verbal’ link, and leaving him on the other side of the king size bed.  He couldn’t see it but he could hear how obviously Pitch was sobbing again. 

“I stabbed you in the back Sandy, stole your powers to aid my feverish, desperate takeover!  Blackened every last grain of dreamsand.  Wished all of you dead and gone.  Couldn’t I see how mad it all was?   How could I have been so terrible to you...”    

Hissing like a horde of insects, the snorting of angry stallions rose through the hallways as Pitch’s defenses were lowered.  Fearlings crept in from dark, dusty corners. 

 

WEAK

FEARFUL

CORNERED

 

For everything Pitch was doing right then, the goodness inside him wished nothing but the opposite.  He just wanted the Dreamweaver to kiss him and hold him. He wanted to tell Sandy how much he loved him, how sorry he was (even though ‘sorry’ would never be good enough), and that he wanted him to be happy.  But it was these things making Pitch push him away.  After hearing all those stories about what he’d done, he thought Sandy deserved so much better.  He was darkness and the other light; he figured all he would do was bring Sandy down.  How could he make someone like HIM happy? What if he just went crazy hurt him again?

Then there were the even deeper insecurities.  What if Sandy really didn’t love him?  Despite what he said, that he did just see the Star General when he looked at him?  Whatever happened, it was he who took away Seraphina’s father, and Sandy’s lover.  He’d messed up everything

 

FAILURE

ALONE

PATHETIC

 

The fearlings scattered quickly from a momentary burst of strong light.  Suddenly, Pitch found a glowing, warm body there in the crook of his chest, holding him tight.  He gasped and drew back just enough so their eyes could meet as Sandy dimmed back to normal.  The shock of how he just appeared there in a burst of gold glitter brought Pitch out of his despairing spiral. 

Then Sandy kissed him.

Pitch melted into the feelings, emotion welling up in his chest.  It was just what the needed right then.  When he was able to pull out of it he stared at Sandman wide-eyed, but Sandy seemed quite serene, as usual.

 

< You wished. >  Sandy’s voice was a sweet wind chime.

 

“I did?”  Pitch replied out of instinct. He sniffed and gasped, wiping his glossy face trying in vain to hide the fact he’d broken down enough to cry.

< You seem to forget, I’m a shooting star.  Fallen wishes. >

Pitch stared at him a little while longer, dumfounded.  God he was such a handsome, bright, smug, sassy little man...his expression melted into disbelief at how all this smiling there up at him was for him. 

< I love you too.  And yes, I’m happy.  Happy to be with you like this. >

Pitch fluffed like a startled raven.  OH right he...‘heard’ all that.  If he indeed wished; ah, yes he had, now that he thought about it.  Sandy could hear the truest heartfelt wish same as Pitch could hear the deepest, darkest fears of others.

“I’m sorry,” Pitch sighed, figuring his shuddering tone was telling enough for Sandy to know what he meant.  “For everything.”

Sandy put out his petite hand and patted the other’s face as if saying ‘YES you’ve been bad, and I won’t forget it’ while he wiped away the remaining tears.  Tears were powerful; you could forge weapons from them even.  It was a forgotten magic.  He sighed and hoped Pitch would take to heart his words.

< For what it’s worth, I forgive you.  Far in the past now...no use to always look back and wish what could have been.  Wishes and dreams can only change the future. >

Dammit, for a dreamer the Sandman sure made a lot of sense.  Pitch couldn’t refute that statement.  He nodded, anger quelled somewhat. He settled in taking pleasure how happy it made him to be there running his hands through Sandy’s gold hair and over his broad back.  So warm and comforting; Sandy did want him, he wasn’t alone.  He had to make sure he didn’t let his fear out of doubt tarnish that. 

Sandy really did smell like starlight, Pitch thought as his nostrils were filled with it.   He could remember fragments of the first time he smelled that, back when they were so much younger in a different age. 

His heart was a mosaic of black and gold.  A love of the macabre and surprising, eldritch, dark and a little dangerous, but it did not mean he was evil.  In times of weakness he’d let the dark overtake him, rule his thoughts and actions. 

 

He had to accept the worst of what he’d done was a part of who he is....but it did not mean it had to forever define him.

 

Sandy could see a twinge of deep thought on his gray face; he twitched his lips into a smile and pawed at Pitch, images of pennies coming up over his head.

Pitch chuckled at that, and indulged him. “I was...thinking how I am trying to not let one part of who I am define me for eternity.  Thanks to you, I have more pieces that were taken from me.  It’s easier to move forward when I know where I have been.”

 

Sandy nodded, holding his love close and giving a deep sigh.  Yes, yes please...he thought.   For everyone of the Golden Age knew, that sorrow and fear triumphed over made the most powerful of weapons.

Sandy wondered, what would happen if the King of Fears...conquered his own?

 

“Sanderson,” Pitch began with an inquiring tone. “I know you see me as a different person, but I also AM Kozmotis, aren’t I?  If I still have his heart?”  His voice was calmer now, in asking.  “But from how it sounds, we’re very different. What could have happened to change him into me?”

< You know, not really so different... >  Sandy chuckled silently.

“Oh?  How am I similar?”  Pitch looked like he did not believe he could be like some radiant hero of a golden age who destroyed fearlings and everyone respected.

< Look the same, for starters. >  Sandy traced his finger over the boogeyman’s distinctive, sloped nose bridge, and the gentle breeze swaying over a shady meadow continued,

< Except your skin is ash and you are far older now then he had been, with graying hair and a thinner frame.  His hair was dark auburn and yours is black.  Koz’s eyes would flash brighter gold when he was fighting, just like yours do.  Though his were a little more cerulean then silver at rest.  You smell about the same, you are far more musky though...colder. You both favor a scythe in battle, and a spear second.  He loved horses, and liked his tea same as you.  You both love to dance, though you are far better at it.  You pet my hair, kiss me, and whimper the same way.  You are both are obsessed with gold adornments and the approval of children, and also being teasing tricksters.  Though Koz was only ever silly in private.  You too, put up blockers, hide your insecurities and put on a tough exterior for the world. But you are far more outgoing then he was. >

Pitch had always pictured Kozmotis so much different then he.  He contemplated all this information, trying to imagine himself a younger, more human looking,  man.

< Not the only one who has changed over the eons, you know. > The breeze whipped through the trees.

“Oh?”  Pitch said playfully, seeing a familiar, lusty smirk on Sandy’s face.

< No longer a young star pilot.  I have come to love many things my younger self would never have dreamed of.  I’ve gained a little darkness of my own. >

“I’m a terrible influence.”  Pitch said, between slow, strong kisses to the Dreamweaver’s forehead and jaw, his eyes closed.

Sandy bent his head back, nodding and swallowing like waves of arousal were definitely crashing over him, < Quite terrible. >

Pitch groaned deeply...he could just about taste Sandy’s desire.  A darkness was in it.  If Sandy brought out the good in him, he must bring out the bad in Sandy. 

Surging with that incoming wave Pitch rolled and straddled up over his shorter lover.  Sanderson’s peachy legs wrapped around his waist as they aggressively kissed.

Sandy put his arms up eventually, freeing them from tangling in Pitch’s hair.  Gold snaked up his arms and around his wrists, then coiled around the metal bed frame.

“Rope?” Pitch took notice, pausing.  He quirked an eyebrow.

Sandy nodded, head lolling to the side as he wiggled.

< I trust you...you know. >

“You could get out of that any time,” Pitch chuckled, putting out a long finger to give the rope a touch.  It blackened like a virus had infected it.  “Even if I do that, you still could.”

< Thought that counts. > Sandy replied, giving another wiggle

Pitch slowly stroked his deft fingers down over Sanderson’s soft form, from bound wrists to his thighs. His lithe body hunched over him like a crooked tree.  While Sandy was often the aggressor to him, it seemed Sandy was in the mood to feel a little out of control tonight. 

 

“Don’t you have work to do?”  Pitch murmured between nibbling on his exposed neck and grinding his hips into Sanderson’s spread legs.    

 

< So do you... > A rumbling of soft thunder replied.

 

“Touché,” Pitch groaned.

 

...      

...

 

 The guardians had discussed at length about the situation, and while it only seemed like perhaps a day, far more had passed.  They agreed to approach Sandy before seeking Pitch.  However, finding him had proved difficult.  His dream sand still swirled about, just not in as much abundance as usual.  This was typical of him working from afar.  As he had many minds to reach he did this every night, but finding the source was generally easy for the guardians.  However, Sandy was not at his usual perch on the clouds of the amber fading sunlight.  

Bunnymund checked Dreamland itself as he sometimes stayed home and transmitted from there, but when Bunny returned popping out of his tunnel to the faces of the other Guardians, he shook his head.  Sandy was not there either.  Where was the source of the dreamsand?

Was Sandy hiding or...was he perhaps trapped?

"Look I see it!"  Jack pointed at the streams of dreamsand.  They were lower to the ground then usual, and not coming from up high.

North narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

The Guardians had gathered together after multiple nights of being unable to locate Sandman, and went out in the sleigh determined to follow the dreamsand to its source.  They'd finally found the brightest stream of sand from which all the others branched from. 

"I'll scout ahead, I can go far faster then this thing can fly!"  Tooth jumped up, giving North a 'sorry but true' expression.

North sighed back, knowing she was right.  She was off like a shot and soon nothing more then a glint of green and blue in the distance.  North gave a hearty snap to the reins on his reindeer who bucked and picked up speed.

Bunny gripped tighter to the sleigh's railing as they dove to follow the tendrils of gold. "OI mate, you gotta dive so FAST?"

Jack perched on the wings of the sleigh nimbly, hanging over to eye the sand closer, "Bunny I thought you were used to the sleigh by now?"  He teased.  His hand reached out and ran through it as they sped along.  From its grains swirled hearts and stars.  He was tugged back around, missing a vision of two lovers kissing out of the sand. 

"Would'cha stop foolin' around, go scout ahead with Tooth, flyboy!"  Bunny grumbled at him.

"I wasn't fooling!"  Jack jumped up on the edge of the sleigh, the cool night air whipping hard into his face. "Hate to say it she is faster and more nimble at flying then I'll ever be,"  Jack chuckled at the rabbit, tapping the wooden seat by him with his staff.

 

"Yea, show ponies aren't meant for speed," Bunny kicked his staff away and smirked with friendly teasing.

 

Jack was about to retort but North called out that Tooth was approaching already. In the distance they saw that streak of iridescent green and purple coming closer. 

She flew up quick as a shot, by passing them then coming back to catch up.  "Hey, I don't have good news..."  She fluffed her feathers, settling into the fast moving sleigh easily.

"Tell us Tooth." North glanced around briefly but kept his eyes on the 'road'.      

"It's Pitch's lair, its open again.  The sand is coming from down there."  She seemed very uneasy at the very mention of his lair.  Her 'children' had been held down there in cages...and all the teeth as well. She didn't want to go anywhere near that place.  "It must be why we were unable to find him.  That is a realm beyond our power's reach."

"Then Sandy really is helping him?"  Jack frowned, " 'Works in mysterious ways' eh North?  It'd be nice if he kept us informed."

"He of all people should know how dangerous Pitch can be,"  Bunny said darkly.  "I think he's captured him, lured him in somehow.  Way Jack was talkin' about him and Sandy sounds like maybe he is controlling him."

"All of you, keep a clear head.  We might be in for another fight."  North shushed them, and brought his reindeer down to land.

It was Pitch's lair all right...the bed was reconstructed, though it showed obvious signs of its previous destruction about a month ago.  Dreamsand slithered around the bed boards as it came up from the hole, branching out like a tree as it reached out to all corners of the sleeping world.  Even the brightness of the dreamsand only just barely lit the deep hole.

Tooth unsheathed her talwar sword that had been sitting at her hip. "I came prepared this time."

"Jack, light the way."  North nodded to him.

Jack's staff glowed brilliant blue like a nightlight, and after a pause to allow his heart to settle into its quick pace, he jumped down the hole ahead of them.

...

 

"Woah..." Jack stalked cautiously just to the front of the group. "Pitch did some redecorating."

 

"None of us have been down here in a very long time, Jack, so we might not necessarily know that..." North whispered, about walking backwards as he pointed his two swords around warily. 

Tooth shuddered looking at the cages hanging about, a few of them seemed to have something swirling inside...but there was darkness obscuring her view.  She squinted as she saw pairs of glowing eyes turn towards them.  She gasped as she realized there were nightmares clustered around them like bees.  They were exactly that even, more insect like in form not like the horses they saw Pitch using on the surface.  They scattered just as similarly, like a rustling of beetles skittering away into the darkness.

Jack felt his heart beating faster.  Ug, that was damn creepy.  He turned to bump into a smaller, dark creature.  It bounced up, eyes bright and wide.  A deer like nightmare, with curled antlers beaded with gold, and feathery fetlocks.  It made a small screech like sound and bounced away into the dark forest.

"Whole place gives me the willies," Bunny shivered, paws gripping tight to his boomerangs, "Come'on," He bounced ahead following the light of the dreamsand.

It was good the dreamsand was like a trail of breadcrumbs, as they weren't sure if they could have navigated the dark, maze like dwelling otherwise.  The sand finally vanished behind an ornate door, the sand slipping around its hinges and from underneath.

Jack was about to call out for Sandy but everyone stopped him.  "Best to just be ready for whatever is in there," Bunny whispered.

"We should use surprise while we can," Tooth nodded, taking stance.

 

They readied, and then North barged down the door, which hit the floor in a echoing THUD.  The guardians all jumped in over the door amid black sandy dust and battle cries. 

 

In the confusion no one noticed the room was obviously a bedroom. All they saw was Pitch craned over Sandy, whose hands were tied up with black sand rope. 

The boogeyman's head was up like a shot from his position where he'd been kissing the dreamweaver, though to a critical eye it might have looked more sinister with the play marks on Sandy’s neck and shoulders.  Both men froze like deer in the headlights, staring with disbelief at the scene before them as all the armed guardians stopped just a foot from the side of the bed, battle cries trailing off to silence.

"Let'em go Pitch!"  Jack growled seriously, staff glowing brightly as he brandished it just inches from the boogeyman's face.  He was so passionate in his worry for his friend he didn't notice the other guardians lowering their weapons, flushing, and generally not looking so much on guard anymore.

Pitch darted his eyes between the guardians, then to the staff being shoved in his face.  He shied away from it like he was a nuisance, but made no aggressive move.   He looked again to Bunny, Tooth, and North...who one by one seemed to realize what HAD been going on, before they interrupted.

Sandy bit his lip and wiggled, bringing his arms down and turning the blacksand gold to melt it from his wrists.  He seemed to accept the situation rather gracefully, sighing and blinking as if saying ‘ah well, there it is.’  

North was just glad there was a black sheet covering BOTH their lower half's.

"That's it Sandy, don't worry we're here to save you," Jack growled, giving Pitch a nudge with his staff, causing a small burst of frost on Pitch's bare shoulder. "Now up Pitch, nice and slow."

 

Pitch's face outright fell to 'are you really this dense?'

 

Bunny face-palmed.

 

"Jack - " North grimaced and put his hand out to Jack's shoulder, while glancing at Sandy silently asking him with his expression 'are you really alright?  This IS what it looks like?'

Sandy nodded to North, rolling his eyes and nudging Pitch to get off him.

Pitch flopped onto his side, hiding behind his smaller lover with his hands to his peachy shoulders.  This was quickly becoming amusing before it got worse.  "OH Frost, please...don't hurt me..." He said sarcastically with a face to match.

Jack was coming down off the high of adrenaline from the whole trip down there, mind clearing in that he seemed to be the only one still on guard. He glanced around to the other guardians for back up, their faces confirming.  When he looked back to Pitch and Sandy his face flushed about as much as his pale skin could.  It was really true? 

 

"Sandy, you...Pitch...really?"  He still seemed disbelieving.

 

"I tried to tell you last time." Pitch propped himself up on an elbow, not seeming one bit shy about his barely covered nudity.  He'd be angry about the guardians invading his privacy and realm shortly, but for now, the look on their faces was priceless.

Sandy was not shy about his body either but he had a little more modesty in terms of keeping appearances.  He summoned dreamsand to himself, his clothes forming swiftly.  He sat up and gestured, speaking with his sand like he always did with the others.  He tried to explain Pitch meant him no harm, that he'd gone crazy and lost himself before, and that he was no longer as cold hearted because Kozmotis was 'set free' (least much as he figured he could be). 

It was complex though, and mostly looked like a jumble as Sandy was 'speaking' so fast.  Even at normal speed the others could never understand his complex sentences when he spoke like that, except for Bunny who was about as ancient as he was.

"Slow down mate," Bunny gestured, glancing back at Pitch wishing he'd put some clothes on too. He swore he'd seen Sandy use the royal symbols of the Lunanoff armies, things he'd not seen for eons. 

"Sandy," Tooth, who thought quickly, was catching it better than the others, but unlike Bunny she was not of the Golden Age and did not recognize all the symbols, "I got the part about Pitch not meaning you harm but I don't understand the rest.  How can you mean that?  Just a month ago...all that he did!  How could he have had such a change of heart?  We can't trust him," Tooth eyed Pitch with a less then friendly look, feathers fluffing.

Pitch eyed her right back, swallowing and feeling a hand to his jaw, remembering that tooth she knocked out when he was already on the retreat.  Thankfully when Sandy helped him it had healed as well.  As much as he wanted to apologize for going out of control, his pride simply wouldn't let him, not when the others had burst in there, invading his home and privacy in a very intimate moment, and then talking about him like he wasn't even there. 

He sat up, sheets falling into his lap just shy of his gaunt hips, causing Bunnymund to audibly grunt.   'Be thankful your intrusion killed my erection fairly quickly.' Pitch thought.

 

"Alright, show's over,"  Pitch sneered at the guardians. "Next time, try knocking. It's polite."  His words dripped with cynicism.

 

Sandy sighed and turned to glance back at his disgruntled lover and place a placating hand to his arm.  He too was exasperated at this whole affair but, <Embarrassing as this is, they were just concerned about me... I should have told them more outright - >

"Concerned because they look at me and just see some malicious beast to be disposed of!"  He replied defensively, knowing full well no one else had heard Sandy's words. He looked to the guardians then.  “Sandy tells you I mean him no harm, yet you still don't believe it!  I may have no place in your perfect, enlightened world, but I, we, don't need YOUR approval!" 

“Well your track record kind of proceeds you!”  Tooth struck back, "Sorry If I'm a little skeptical!"

North nodded to Tooth's statement.  His hands still at the ready to his swords even though he'd sheathed them.

Bunny narrowed his eyes, thinking in the back of his mind that was so true it hurt.  He couldn’t even bring up the worst of it; it was in the past that had been burned from Pitch’s memory. Whole planets, whole races, eclipsed and blackened...his own race, their light being snuffed out as they fled from the fearlings overtaking the Golden age...

Bunnymund snarled, "So what, you suddenly had a change of heart after we sent you packin'?  Can’t change a heart black as yours, Pitch.” 

Pitch shrank away feeling cornered again.  He was a little shadow feeling the strength of the lights bearing down on him. 

Pitch wanted to add more overtly about how much he loved Sandy, but it was indeed none of their business!  His – their - little slice of happiness didn't need their consent.  He had so little and they had so much, couldn't he be allowed this one thing in peace? He was so desperate to protect what he had now that it clouded his rational thinking - they had taken enough away!  

With his inner turmoil the fearlings hissed and gathered towards the fear like moths to a flame.  Dark shapes with glowing eyes crept in the open doorway and up along the ceiling.

Sandy wondered if they had forgotten about what Katherine and Nightlight had done...<Pitch, tell them how you don’t really want to harm the children, tell them about your heart, tell them - >

The boogeyman clutched his arms around Sandy possessively, forehead hunched into the crook of the other’s neck as he pulled him towards himself and away from the other Guardians.  He shuddered and his fingers tensed.

The hackles on the back of Jack’s neck rose as he heard that creeping of the darkness coming into the room, and he felt a pang of dread as Pitch clutched his long arms around Sandy like a spider. 

 

However, at the same time, there on Pitch’s bowed face he saw…himself. 

 

Himself before he knew his place with the guardians.  Desperation, loneliness, uncertainty. 

 

But the last time Pitch seemed vulnerable like this, he struck back at him the very next minute, outright lied when he said he’d give Baby Tooth to him for his staff.  Perhaps he was doing it again?  Was Sandy being deceived? 

 

However, there was the other possibility.  Maybe…Pitch really had changed?

 

Jack loosened and looked around with indecision.  The nightmares kept their distance, and seemed more focused on Pitch then them.

If it was him wouldn’t he have liked to be given a chance?  The other guardians gave him a chance even when there was doubt, and even after he betrayed them and lost what little faith they had in him.  

Jack now wondered, would things have gone differently if he’d talked to Pitch instead of outright rejecting him, when they were fighting in the Arctic?   REALLY talked to him?   

Sandy felt his heart breaking; he could feel Pitch’s breath shuddering against his neck.  It was hard having a heart again, and equally a challenge to settle into having love when you’d gone so long without.  He knew the other guardians would not be quick to trust and he did not blame them.  But you had to start somewhere.

Sandy gripped his hands to Pitch's arms that were clinging to him and curled into him reassuringly.  If it had been him just a month ago, Pitch would have lashed out violently, but now, he simply shut himself down.  Sandy was grateful he had come back to rationality.

Of course the nightmares caused everyone to go back on guard.  But Sandy had remained calm and unworried, and that made the others pause.  Something was off.

North had been silent a long while, but he sighed deeply at Sandy who was nothing but serious when he looked up at him.  His golden eyes burned like suns, full of resolve. 

"Call off your nightmares if you want us to even consider believin' you!"  Bunny growled. Tooth fluffed and darted in a small circle, feeling like a cornered falcon. The air was full of tension and whispers.

"They are not here for us..."  North murmured knowingly, still staring at Sandy.

"Pitch?"  Jack swallowed, wishing the boogeyman would look up, but his eyes were squeezed shut and he wouldn't let go of Sandy.  Afraid, that is how he looked.  The king of fear, afraid.

So the guardian of fun knelt on the bed. North seemed to understand, but Bunny and Tooth had expressions of 'what are you doing?!' 

Sandy could read Jack's expression, and he smiled at him, then nudged Pitch like encouraging him to relax and open his eyes. 

 

Jack breathed in, "Pitch...I'm sorry." 

 

Silver-gold eyes flicked up towards Jack.  Pitch loosened his posture and stared.

The guardian put a hand to the older man's shoulder. "I believe you, okay?" 

Sandy smiled wide at Jack, showing how approving he was.

"Frost," Pitch gasped, disbelieving. It would have been very hard for the boogeyman to have said the words before, to swallow his pride and make himself vulnerable before an enemy.  But...if what Sandy said was true, he didn't have to see the guardians as enemies.  There could be balance.  Jack had taken the first step, now he could too.

 

So Pitch choked in reply, "I'm...so sorry."

 

The other guardians could not quite believe what they were seeing or hearing.

"I had let things get out of hand.  I...it all seemed so clear at the time."  His eyes were glassy as he looked to each of the other guardians, knowing exactly what he had done to each and every one of them weeks before.  "Can you...ever begin forgive me?"

The others seemed confused that Pitch could even utter such words with any kind of true meaning, but they were perceptive enough to see, it wasn’t a deception.  He meant it with a true heart.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I should have just let the blanket slip,” Pitch muttered as he stood fixing his shadow robe and fluffing his feathered collar in a body mirror.  “I’m sure it was already more then those three ever wanted to see of you or me. Serves them right.”

Sandy came up next to him hands on his hips, shaking his head and smirking.

“Don’t give me that look, old man.  THEY are the ones who burst in unannounced!”  Pitch mirrored his body posture.  “I hope they all have nightmares tomorrow,”  he added with a sneer as he turned back to the mirror, adjusting his gold necklace. 

The guardians couldn’t give an answer so easily to Pitch’s apology, especially in the awkward circumstances.  So they had made their leave to allow all to collect both thoughts...and clothes.  The two spirits were left alone in Pitch’s realm. 

Pitch felt a hand on his leg, and a gust of wind through a rock valley hissed, < I know you are angry.  I am too, but turned out for the best.  No more secrets...and we will be forced to discuss things. > 

“By ‘discuss’ you mean how much they feel I’m a bad influence on you, I’m sure.” Pitch turned to leave in a flurry of shadows that trailed off the bottom hem of his cloak.

Sandy bounced after the disgruntled boogeyman, floating up to stop him before he walked out of his room.  He placed his hands on his cheekbones and gave him a kiss.

< I’m so happy, that you apologized to the others. > The breeze whispered.

Pitch’s tension seemed to flow right out of him every time Sandy kissed him, and it was especially apparent that particular time.  He knew the seriousness of what he’d done, and what Jack had done for him. He was still unsure of how to react to it. 

His voice was soft and uncharacteristically wavering, the jest gone from it. “I just don’t know what it is they expect of me now, because I don’t even know what to expect of myself...”

< You will find your path.  Your heart is good, remember? > Sandy put a hand to Pitch’s gray chest, where Nightlight had once slept for a thousand years. < You will know what is right. >

 

“You always speak in riddles.” Pitch took that smaller hand and stroked it. “And have more faith in me then I do of myself.”

 

< Katherine had faith in you too. >

 

Pitch paused, swallowing. “Well I mustn’t let down her expectations...now should I?”

 

...

 

Sandy felt it was a good idea to stay with Pitch so they could head out together.  His nightmares, no, the fearlings, were getting bolder and bolder.  Sandy had learned about Pitch playing with his dreamsand in secret before Pitch knew he had, but Sandy could not have imagined how much he’d accumulated over the past few decades.  Also, he didn’t know he’d crafted it into living nightmares, which smelled very much like fearlings, creatures who had not had concrete, physical form on the planet since Nightlight’s sacrifice.

 

Sandy discovered without a doubt during the guardian’s battle with Pitch, that they were indeed new forms of fearlings.  Unbeknownst to Pitch, every one of his dreams he’d converted into a nightmare as he built his army, he was breathing a fearling into it...giving the fearling physical form once more. That is what gave the nightmares life.

 

Now, the fearlings couldn’t control his heart anymore, but they were increasingly unhappy with the way Pitch’s behavior was changing.  Sandy thought they had been adapting positively, but he was getting increasingly foreboding feelings.

At least the new little nightmares Pitch created seemed to be free of the fearling presence.  For example, the shadow animals that bounded about his personal forest, none of them smelled like a fearling.  Sandy had wondered at first about this, and he’d been personally deep in thought about it since the night Pitch remade his realm.

Pitch called over a nightmare and gave a firm grip to some fabricated reins.  The nightmare bucked, snarling and snorting around the bit.  Pitch pulled it in close and hopped up onto its back forcefully.  “Woah!”  Pitch asserted, “Easy...easy!”  He shot a look at Sandy, who floated over.  The nightmare hissed as Sandy drew close to it, shying away from his gold light. 

“They are quite restless...” He tugged on the reins as the nightmare reluctantly gave in to Pitch’s dominance over it. “I thought they were warming up to me, how I am now.”  Pitch scowled as he pet his hands over the spiked mane.  The nightmare was emitting an idle, growling purr like an unhappy tiger. 

Pitch remembered how there had always been their whispers in his head, their presence when he manifested visions for humans in shadows and their minds.  They would rise and fall like the tide with his state of being.  When he was strong they had filled him with a feeling of dark joyous power, but when he was weak they would tear into him.  When he learned how to manipulate then create nightmare sand, their voices became more and more vocal.

Sandy’s hand reached out to Pitch’s shoulder. < Why not make a new one, if you want a mount? > Sandy suggested, his voice rattling through a bamboo grove.

Pitch for some reason hadn’t considered that.  Yes, he could craft nightmare sand on his own, and it was not hard to mix it with shadows to make weapons like harpoons or scythes, but he’d found it hard to give the sand he generated ‘life’ as it had with the nightmare horses.  When he made the nightmares off of Sandy’s corrupted dreams they had that life to them, which is why he kept gathering the nightmares even after he learned to control black sand on his own. 

He gave a glance to his fabricated creatures bounding about. Ravens, deer, snakes, water monsters...when he remade his realm he’d made them so easily.  He’d not even noticed, he was so happy in that moment of rebirth.  He realized, since Sandy had cracked his heart, he’d been able to generate that life on his own.

His sharp grin was alight with opportunity as he realized this. “You’re right…I could.”

He jumped off the nightmare, and gave a pet to its muzzle like still trying to console it.  It seemed to be fond of it momentarily...but it soon hissed and skulked away. 

“Maybe they are hungry,” Pitch scoffed.

‘He still treats them so well, despite all they do to him’, Sandy thought. ‘They’ve been a part of him so long, and were his only real company for so many years, that even the most negative of companions is accepted when you feel it is all you have.’

 

Pitch meanwhile was flourishing his fingers deftly, billowing up a nice pile of black sand like sculptor gathering clay to begin a new project.  He coiled it up into the same size as the nightmare horses, but it came out lither, like a large stag, as the legs and cloven hooves formed.  That became more apparent as antlers sprouted off the head of the creature; impossibly intricate to be any real deer, especially as little black candles bloomed on the prongs, tips alight with golden flames.  Dark tendrils trailed off its body and fetlocks, and a light dappling of gold markings sparked along its flanks.  It shook its head and reared back as it became fully realized.

 

Sandy simply loved his creativity, and artistic eye!  He clapped his hands happily, checking out the creature by walking around it. Dark but elegant, and beautiful as a moonlit night. 

It stamped its hooves warily and glanced about.  Pitch put reins on it, and gave a pet to its muzzle like the experienced tamer he was.  The nightmare stag flared its nostrils but was quickly happy, trusting Pitch’s cooing voice and touch. 

Sand hopped up and offered it a dreamsand carrot.  It sniffed then took it from Sandy’s hand with a nibble.  The dreamsand had no negative effect on it.

“Oh, now you are going to fatten them up, are you?  Are you feeding my other creatures behind my back too?”  Pitch laughed.

Sandy giggled innocently and pet the stag.  It didn’t feel like a fearling, just as he suspected.  The gold on its body reinforced that, instead of just his dreamsand peeking through on the nightmares’ eyes like crusted over, cooled lava.  This one had actual integrated gold material, and did not shy away from Sandy’s light.

“Alright, enough play old man. I sense un-mitigated fear in the hearts of children.” Pitch had a slightly hungry look in his eyes.  Like he was ready to stop wallowing down there in his realm and do what he knew best. 

Sandy gathered up sand and was quickly dashing off on a manta ray with a ‘catch me if you can’ facial expression.

Pitch jumped up onto the nightmare stag and chased after him to catch up.

...

...

A fog rolled over a moor in Scotland, thick and cold.  The moon was but a lidded blink in the sky, blocked partially by clouds.  The night was not a bright one by any means.  A man and his seven year old son were on their way to a hotel along a lightly paved, barely two-lane road when their car ran out of gas.  What was normally a scenic route for tourists was now an eerie pathway of whispers and nighttime shadows.

The son rife with fear of all the ghost stories you hear about the moors.  Ghosts, rabid dogs, kelpie beasts...

“Son, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” his father consoled, holding up their flashlight higher to make sure they were still on the road. “I knew I should have filled the tank in Blair Atoll...”

“And charged the cell phone?” His son reminded him, clinging tighter to his hand. 

“Right...”  He nodded.  Then the flashlight began to flicker.

“AND gotten new batteries?”  The child gasped, dread spreading through him like wildfire.

The son caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of his eye.  A shape in the shadows of the fog over the hills. 

 

Just then the flashlight died.

 

The boy screeched and sweet music rang in Pitch’s ears.  His fear was so pure and piercing.  But it was a somber melody...the boy didn’t have to be afraid, he was the only monster out tonight.  He was lucky the robbers to murderers that used to live in those hills hundreds of years ago were no longer about, and neither were the wolves; humans had made them quite safe.

Still, the boy panicked as a damp leafy bush smacked him in the face while they tried to let their eyes adjust to the dark.  He tripped and fell down a small embankment.   His father called out for him but the child had already stumbled far enough out of range he couldn’t see his father at all in the thick fog, and the sound seemed to echo as he whirled in circles, unable to see the road or the moon. 

Just as he was about to sink into a panic attack, he saw a glow, dim and flicking like candle light, and heard the clip clop of hooves.

Out of the darkness and murk of the fog a stag so big it must be an elk appeared, a rider on its back.  Gentle light was cast from its candle-adored antlers.  The boy was scared, thinking at first it was one of the highway men who were supposed to haunt these moors…but it was definitely not a soldier on a horse, though the posture of the figure was indeed of military reverence.

 

The glowing eyes of the elk and rider looked right at him, he was unable to see the details on the faces for they were in shadow.  While his fear was strong, there was something beautifully powerful about the shadow in the fog.  He felt like that power was not there to harm him, and he was distracted from his fear like it was being drawn from his body by the cold vacuum of space.  His heart beat hard in his ears but the sound was hypnotic like the deep ticking of a grandfather clock.  

 

The elk closed its eyes as it leaned its head back in a foggy-breathed bellow that was so low and other-worldly it surely couldn’t be a real animal.  The boy went towards the strange apparition, but as he came through to fog where he could have seen it more clearly, the man and his mount vanished as if it was never there. 

The boy’s father came out of the fog, gripping the boy’s hand. “Son, don’t scare me like that!  You could have broken your ankle or fell into a sink hole!”

The boy looked up at him, a bit dazed.

“I swear I saw a light over here, I thought there was someone else walking with a lantern or something...” The father said, hugging him close and glancing around.  The light was gone though.  It had helped him find his son if anything.

“There was an elk.”

“Don’t be silly son, there aren’t any elks out here, only at the zoo.”  He then as he saw more concrete lights through the fog in the distance.  It was the hotel they were staying at in Rannoch for vacation.

“I think I see the hotel lights…come on not far off now, then we can get a ride with a gas can to get the car.”

His father led the way, their hands held tight.  But the boy kept looking at the shadows in the fog, his senses sharp and eyes still wide with the rush of adrenaline. 

Pitch sat thoughtfully in an old burned down high school.  Three levels of spooky, haunted, unstable brick and concrete. 

 

 

The old walls dated back to the 1850’s.  Its charred beams and rubble-littered stairwells were soothing in the energy the place harbored.  A frequent spot for ghost hunting and late night thrills.

 



He sat calm as ever, head bowed, on his chosen pile of debris as he heard the familiar sound of high schoolers with flashlights creaking up the stairs. 

Flashlights turned and there was a shadowy figure, eyes darkly shrouded in the recesses of his smooth, angular face.

“Boo.”

There was screeches and stumbling, going right back down the stairs from whence they came.  Nightmares coiled out of the shadows, chasing after then and gobbling up their fears as they scampered off.  The kids could feel the darkness nipping at their ankles, causing them to run faster to their car.

Pitch smirked softly, that never got old.  How he loved a good surprise…and it was for the better.  Past level two of that building and it was very unsafe.  They’d best be afraid of the dark in a place like that.  He watched his nightmares hiss and pace as the kids drove off, out of their range. 

He wondered, had he become so wrapped up in amassing an army to crush the Guardians, that he’d lost sight of everything?  He was still weak, but Pitch knew he was being heard and even seen again, and not in the guise of an animal or a shadow.  It was strange, but exciting of course.  He’d not been seen since…well, since the dark ages.  He felt validated and like he was doing something right

He pulled a gold sphere from his cloak, it’s gold, textured skin gleamed even in the dull moonlight coming in the broken windows.  On it was the sleeping face of a little girl.  It contained an old fear but his favorite; fear of the dark.  He wondered how long it would take her to conquer it?  Would she cease to feel his influence if she did?  Was this his purpose, to scare children until they conquered his nightmares?  Or was he supposed to be preventing them in the first place?



Would his own daughter have been scared of him, to see him like this?

 

He sighed and felt that ache in his chest as he pet over the etched image.  That ancient part of him never wanted children to be scared or have a nightmare, but he himself knew how dangerous the world was, fear was a part of the human race.  Children had nightmares even without his influence (and in his opinion they often were worse when he didn't weave them...) and some things were frightening but fun. Wasn’t being afraid better then getting hurt, or worse? 

He relished the fast beat of a young heart, the gasps, the trembling eyes.  He took pleasure in it and a part of him felt ashamed by that.  

He darted his glowing eyes upward as the nightmares gathered around him as they came up the stairwells.  Like dogs back to their master, but they were not as amiable to him as before.  They’d been such a blessing to him when he was alone and weak.  Companions in the darkness.  How he’d loved their nuzzling and scampering about in the caves of his realm.  He’d been so proud of his efforts converting all that dreamsand…

A clip clop of delicate hooves came up behind; his nightmare stag, it gave him a nudge to his back with its muzzle.  The light that gently glowed from the gold points on its body made the nightmares hiss and back away. 

Pitch was torn, those were his beloved nightmares, but they were also ‘fearlings’.  They were creatures that had caused him to go crazy and tear across the galaxy destroying the Golden Age…in a war where his daughter was lost. 

Sandy still had not told him exactly what happened, but he assumed they must have led to what he was now, so different from that fair-skinned general he had in his memories.  He should hate them, yes?  But he couldn’t, not fully.  They were a part of him.  He could hear them in his head, feel them in his body.  To ignore them would be pointless, even dangerous.  It would mean rejecting a part of himself.


We collected all the f e a r s of the galaxy,

all our d a r k e s t desires and most terrible feelings. 

Our criminals, our mistakes, regrets and our doubts.  Our d e m o n s. 

 

Pitch stood and whirled around.  A voice was suddenly echoing in his head with a bitter hissing tone, but it wasn't the fearlings.



But we didn't deal with them,

we thought we were b e t t e r than that. 

We were so a r r o g a n t,

we thought we could just rid ourselves completely of them

without getting our –

t  h  e  i  r

hands d i r t y.
 

 

Pitch’s hair stood on end.  The nightmares there with him snarled and circled.  He felt a rising inside him, like water coming to a boil.  He stumbled down the dark stairs grabbing his torso with an arm as the world began to spin.

 

They hunted them,

shoved them into a corner,

swept them under a lead rug.   

Left them to fester and R O T.  


His voice.  That was HIS voice.           

 

...

Somewhere in the world, Sandy raised his head.  He felt a sharp pang of dread.

He remembers. 

No...it might be too soon!

He formed his sand cloud into a swift plane and darted off fast as lightning.

...

 

Pitch fell down the second flight of stairs and instead of hitting the bottom he splashed into the shadows. He sank through the darkness, but he seemed to emit his own light, allowing him to see himself as he sank into the void. 


They thought –

I  t h o u g h t

One man could guard them all.

One man was s t r o n g enough.

How could I be so f o o l i s h.


He tumbled onto solid ground when gravity finally kicked in.  Outer space danced above, unfamiliar constellation patterns swirling about space dust and planets.  Stars, so many stars.  Was there really ever that much light in the sky?  The air was heavy and stagnant.  There were the tallest, darkest doors you could imagine, made out of pure lead. 

A figure sat outside a guard station, head bowed over something in his hands.  He paid no mind to the beautiful galaxy above.  His expression was filled with solace looking at the object.  It was a silver locket, ornate and hung preciously on his neck.  It was soon tucked away in his tunic pocket.  His face weakened and darkened as he put his face in his hands. 


I want to be strong for you.  Both of you.

Strong for all the children.  I want to keep all the fear and dangers from them...



But what they have done here.

It’s i m p o s s i b l e.

 

I said I would stay here as long as it took until they could secure the prison.

Make sure it was safe forever.

But we can’t.

But the days blend into months blend into years.

And there has been no supply ship in so long...they usually bring letters from you...

 

The fearlings chip away at the walls –

Chip away at me

A little more every day.

I miss you.  I know you can’t visit here.  It’s too dangerous.

Dearest daughter...

Sanderson...

 

I  f e a r –

 

They have shoved me away under a rug.

Just like the fearlings.

 

I am a f r a i d -

 

That I am not as strong and perfect as people think I am.

 

Him.  That was him. 

The lead doors festered and boiled, inside he could sense nightmares, fearlings, everything he knew so well, what was inside him.  They were locked away in that prison. 

 

“Please, Daddy....”

 

The general looked up, eyes flashing with momentary brightness. 

Pitch’s eyes were wide watching.  This...this again?  No this was when he’d first heard it.  The fearlings had done this before. 

 

“Please, please, please open the door.”

 

No...no it was just a fearling trick, thought the general.  They could sense how much he was alone, how much he missed his family.  But to hear her voice again, even if it was fake...it wore heavy on his mind.  He took out the locket and looked at the image inside, his daughter as he’d last seen her.  Inside the lid of the locket sat a smaller, but nonetheless precious, photo of a smiling star pilot. 

 

“Daddy,”

“I’m trapped in here with these shadows.”

“It’s dark, I’m scared…”

”Daddy help, Daddy, please.  Please open the door.”

 

The general’s eyes were weary.  He was tired.  He was alone.  He missed his daughter and his lover, and in a corner of his mind he hated the Lunanoffs for keeping him from them.  His mind was twisted from thousands of hours of whispers; week upon month listening to those dark thoughts behind the doors.  Revenge, hatred, they wanted to destroy the Golden Age, snuff out the constellations who rejected and imprisoned them.

And that same deep, dark part of Kozmotis that lives within us all, wanted that too.

His cerulean-silver eyes dulled, like he was going into a trace, hypnotized by the voices.  He then suddenly jumped up, like he believed them.  That his daughter was really somehow in there with them, that she might be converted into a fearling...!

Pitch tried to call out to the general, dread filling him.  But this was his memories.  He couldn’t change them, only watch them like a terrible shadow play.

The general opened the doors, 

 

No!  Take me instead!

 

- the general screamed in his head, but before the words left his mouth the shadows poured from the doors like an inky tide, crashing over him, into him.  The shadows hissed like lava hitting water as they enveloped his golden armor.

The whispering and biting voices, filling you with fear and doubt, were over whelming even to Pitch who knew them all too well.  He clasped his hands over his ears and fell to the ground.  Fearlings flew past like cold drafts, picking up density and speed.  He squeezed his eyes shut, screaming for it to stop.  He found his voice overtaken by a louder one. 

Pitch opened his eyes and turned around just enough to look up and see...himself.  But he could barely recognize it as himself; stories high, dark, cruel and twisted, head throwing back in maniacal laugher of a thousand fearlings. 

 

Piittttttch! 

 

He heard a voice through the wind.

He stood up, letting the voice rise above the howling of the fearlings.

 

P i t c h !

 

He saw a golden light in the distance, and he looked back just once more at the memory, and then ran for it, squinting as he hit its brightness.  It stung, but anything was better then where he was at that moment. 

He tumbled out of the shadows, and right into Sandy’s lap.  They both went spilling across the floor, though Pitch ended up on his stomach on top of the smaller man, which was good as Sandy was a living pillow. 

He was back in the old, decrepit high school. 

His nightmare stag walked out of the shadows and sniffed at the tangled black and gold beings.  Pitch consoled it with a shaky hand to its muzzle as it kept nudging at him.    

“Sanderson...?”  Pitch was still catching his bearings, blinking and making sure this was really real.

Sandy nodded, his sands conveying symbols of reassurance.  <I was worried you would get lost in there... > 

“Where is ‘there?”  Pitch sat up and got off the Dream Guardian, but both men remained seated on the dark floor.  The stag backed off as it saw they were both alright, giving them their space.

< Memories, a waking dream. Reality merging with the subconscious. >  The sands crooned.

Pitch’s skin was tense, a cold sweat beaded on it. He rubbed his face, and then stared at his worried lover.  His gray hands trembled, and that terrible sound was still echoing in his ears, alongside all the words his past self had said.  

 

< You remembered...didn’t you? > Sandy grasped Pitch’s hand to steady it. 

“Yes,” Pitch’s eyes momentarily closed, “The fearlings, a prison planet at the edge of space, lead doors containing darkness and fear.  A lone guard...”

 

Sandy’s eyes teared up like the memory was fresh to him as well.  How he’d begged, wished Koz not to go.  But he was so stubborn and protective, and loyal to the Lunanoffs.  Pitchiner had believed so strongly in their plight to rid the galaxy of all the fearlings that he’d led the armies in the endeavor, then felt it his obligation to guard them, thought he could do it all on his own.  It was also pretty much expected of him, and he’d never failed before, so no one had second thoughts about the intensity of such a duty.  

Sandy still could remember the last time he saw him, when he bid him goodbye at the star port.  His skin light and glowing, his armor shining and golden, his eyes silver and blue. 

< I love you Koz.... >  A memory of a whisper caressed Pitch’s ears from the hissing of the sands.  < Please, don’t go! >

Pitch shuddered and grasped Sandy’s hands tight, “Why didn’t I listen to you...”

< No one else could have even lasted half as long.  The Tsar....I don’t think he ever had a way to really contain the Fearlings.  They tried...but I believe they knew it was a losing battle. You had always been the only one to be able to fight them so well. >

“I failed....I failed so terribly...”

< No...no. >  Sandy shook his head, and bit his lip.  < If not you, another.  We were arrogant, thought we were so perfect, that we could do anything without consequence… >

Pitch let that sink in.  He then rubbed a hand to his temples, the memories slowly subsiding. “The more I remember the more I can see why you all just wanted me to forget.”

It was then a soft glow of green came through the broken window, like a beacon.  Sandy got up and helped Pitch.  Outside, the sky was a dazzle with the wavering shapes of the aurora borealis.  Both knew what that meant.

< I would think, that is a sign they want to talk. >  The sands shifted softly.

Chapter Text

North stared thoughtfully at his large, spinning globe as he waited for Sandy and Pitch to arrive.  They had left them twenty-four hours to recompose.  Seemed reasonable enough.

 

When he'd first met Pitch, North thought he was nothing but pure evil.  But as more information came through the woodwork, the black and white nature of things began to gray.  His old mentor went back in time to try and find information on the Man in the Moon's relics, and ended up coming back with a locket instead.  A locket with a picture of Pitch’s daughter in it.  Then, as he and Bunnymund battled Pitch at the Earth's core, Katherine showed him that locket.  North would never forget the haunting cry he made before he and his fearling army vanished.

 

The old Cossack rubbed at his abdomen remembering that battle, feeling where Pitch had stabbed him.  Everyone had thought him done for, but thanks to the quick action of his friends and the magic of his mentor he was saved.  It was so long ago now, but the memories were more and more clear as he recalled them like pages in a forgotten book.

 

"Books," He sighed, echoing his thoughts.  He looked up at the scores of books lining the walls of his atrium.  They had been re-written by him and Ombric before the old man finally took his leave of the earth.  A bookworm had to eat the whole library to save it from Pitch's clutches, which prompted the re-writing.  While Mr. Qwerty could retell any book because he ate them all, it just wasn't the same as holding them. 

 

Besides, the bookworm ended up belonging to Katherine, staying with her always as she grew up and recorded all her tales for the children.  He always did love the nickname they gave her - 'Mother Goose' after her Snow Goose companion.  It was a shame Mr. Qwerty vanished when Katherine did.  He missed that old worm.   

 

While North stood with his thoughts, Jack couldn't stop talking about the 'ambush' with Bunnymund.  

 

"I dunno why you're so shocked, mate. Pitch isn't wearing all that much in the way of clothes skulking about on a day to day basis, case you haven't noticed."

 

"It's different Bunny, you know that," Jack rolled his eyes.

 

"Me and Tooth are basically 'naked' all the time you know."  The rabbit chuckled, gesturing to Toothiana as she flitted about. "You humans and your 'modesty'.  It's just a body."  Even so it didn't mean he WANTED to see someone he hated in bed with a lover.

 

"HEY Speak for yourself," Tooth fluffed as she flew past Bunny. "I was raised as a human girl."

 

"Now that I think about it...I really don't know about your past lives. You weren't ever human, yea?"  Jack pointed at Bunny with his staff. "And Tooth...you were?" Funny how he's casually known them for 300 years and never actually talked to them in depth before.  Now that he was a guardian and they were all friends, they could talk more intimately.

 

Tooth's expression fell at the mention of 'past things'.  She bit her lip and flitted down to sit on a railing. "It's a long time ago now, I'd really rather not talk about it.  But...if you must know, I'm only half human, but was raised as one, yes."

 

Jack remembered Tooth telling him when they were in her palace, 'we were all someone before we were chosen'.  That was when he learned about him having a past life, that he wasn't always Jack Frost.

 

"So if we were all someone before we were chosen...who was Pitch?"

 

Bunny's ears twitched up hard like you'd pinched him.  Tooth looked up but her eyes were not as knowing as Bunny's.

 

"If you want ancient history, that there mate, is ancient history," he said in a low tone. 

 

"You said he pretty much crashed the whole party, like some 'Golden Age' you had going back then?" Jack asked.

 

Bunny was about to answer when a gold glow shimmered into the windows.  A golden sand airship zoomed into the workshop, circling around the globe like coming in for a landing.  Sandy floated out and down to the others, his ship 'crashing' into a wall in a poof of glitter.

 

"Sandy!"  Jack greeted him, his smile attempting to be as un-awkward as possible. 

 

Sandy smiled and waved at Jack, who he'd always considered a friend.  Jack had more interaction with him before then between any of the other guardians, even Bunny.  Sandy was out in the field often, he and Jack working up close with kids nightly.

 

"Where's Pitch?" North looked around in a confused manner.  The confusion quickly turned to a mild anxiousness - you never knew where he might pop up.  Even with the magic North had protecting his workshop from Pitch's shadows, he'd made it apparent he could break through that from the last battle they had.

 

Sandy knew Pitch was there in the shadows somewhere, traveling in his own preferred medium.  He didn't know where he'd appear, but he knew Pitch could never resist an entrance. 

 

Even expecting it, when a low voice whispered 'boo' in Jack's ear he gasped and jumped.

 

The others tensed as Pitch fully materialized out of a shadow, the trailing edge  of his cloak forming last in billowing wisps of darkness like a rolling fog.  It settled in misty vapor as he stood still while the guardians all gave him breathing room, and it wasn’t out of courtesy.   

 

Pitch chuckled playfully and waved his hand in a 'calm down' gesture. "After what you all pulled, that was tame." He smoothly glided on his always-careful footsteps to stand next to Sandy.  "Only fair."

 

Sandy raised an eyebrow at him, his face reading obviously - ‘show off’. 

 

Jack huffed and shook off the chill with a nervous laugh, but while the act had been harmless, and even light-spirited, Pitch couldn't hide the seriousness of whatever he was thinking of beneath the surface of his angular face.  Jack could tell he was shaken by something. 

 

Everyone settled into a quiet circle.  A few swirls appeared over Sandy's head and he bowed, eager to get on with the meeting.

 

"Yes, I am sure you all have much more important matters to discuss then my naked body."  Pitch eyed Bunny and Jack knowingly, like he'd been present in the shadows long enough to hear their conversation. 

 

"Pitch, this is serious," Bunny struck back.

 

"I concur.  Let's remember that, shall we?"  He was quick as a whip.  "How about we start with what you all have been keeping from me for the past few hundred years?"

 

Sandy glanced between everyone, awaiting the panic.

 

North's eyes widened, "Sandy!"  He looked right to him, "You didn't - ?!"

 

Sandy floated up and into North's face, sand gesturing wildly and expression full of conflict.  'It was wrong,' his face read. 'I never approved of the decision!'

 

Bunny felt a dread rising in him.  No, no, they couldn't let the old Nightmare King come back.   He'd made a home on this planet, grew to love the race there.  Pitch could never be allowed to remember the power to destroy worlds he once had!  The more he remembered the more he might -

 

"Sandy, how much does he know?!" Bunny put a firm paw to the Dreamweaver's shoulder.

 

Sandy answered sternly in symbols only Bunny, and perhaps North, could read.

 

"Everything..." Bunny staggered, glancing warily at Pitch, who was eying him with an eerie calm.

 

Tooth and Jack huddled closer together like they were a bit on the outskirts of this situation.  Jack thought Pitch was coming around, hadn’t they all seen that with their exchange the night before?  They watched vigilantly as Sandy floated closer to Bunny, reasoning with him through whirling sand symbols. 

 

Bunny struck a paw through his sand speech, interrupting him. "Kozmotis is DEAD Sandy!  DEAD!"  He growled, his voice cracking as he pointed and continued, "And that THING over there using his image won't bring him back!  He'll only manipulate you, use your good nature to help bring himself back to power!"

 

Pitch's brow furrowed up in disbelief at what he was hearing being said right in front of him.  So much for wanting to talk and giving him a chance -

"Don't you give me that look!"  Bunny turned to Pitch, "Your apology earlier...?  I don't buy it!   You simply ca- "

 

*SLAP*

 

Bunny was stopped mid sentence by a small hand smacking him across the face.  A gasp was elicited from Tooth and Jack.  Bunnymund was stunned, and then turned slowly, regaining eye contact with the Dreamweaver who had silenced him with the smack.    

 

Sandy floated close to Pitch and smoothed a hand over his shadow-clad arm like a brush catching paint, and when the sand trailing off his fingers began to form a shape it was already turning black.  There in his grasp he materialized a black heart, which he held out to show them - the same thing he showed Pitch when explaining to him weeks ago.  Same too was a bright gold crack that shot across it like a lightning bolt.  He looked firmly at Bunny, then to everyone else.

 

“No, that’s not possible.”  Bunny whispered in disbelief.

 

Sandy looked back at Pitch as if asking 'please help me elaborate here’.

 

“I am not this ‘Kozmotis’, you’re correct about that Bunnymund.” Pitch took smooth strides towards Bunny as he spoke, “But…I remember now - I remember what it feels like to be him.  To trust, to love, to protect.  More each day I feel less like a shadow and more…more like something recognizable.” 

 

He pointed at Jack, his eyes softening. “Jack, you didn’t know your path either, until you found your memories, yes?  Don’t you remember what it was like to feel lost, uncertain, alone…?”

 

Jack gripped onto his staff more tightly and glanced at the floor, nodding.

 

“And you were lucky enough to have a heart, amongst that.” Pitch’s velvet voice added.  He twirled his fingers and called over Sandy’s apparition to hold for himself.  He scanned over its black form with the glowing gold peeking through its shell.  It was a simple representation for something so complicated.

 

No one had noticed but the light from the moon peeking in the window above had begun to shine a little brighter.  Sandy was the first to look up, and before he could alert the others, the moonbeam suddenly intensified against Pitch’s back, the shafts of light spilling over and around his silhouette.  Pitch’s head snapped up with wide eyes, and slowly turned his head over his shoulder to see the moon there looming in the window.  The sand heart melted through his fingers.

 

The intense light sizzled against his back and Pitch quickly darted out of the reach of the lighted circle of the skylight.  He clenched his teeth together looking up at the moon with a ‘that was un-called for!’ expression as he brushed off the singed shadows. 

 

North knew it was unusual for Manny to talk to them directly.  It was harder for him to focus his moonbeams to earth than a few centuries ago.  However, the crystal they had in North’s workshop that Ombric had helped forge was made from a special type of moonstone.  Everyone gasped as the compartment housing it opened and the crystal came up for the moonbeam to shine through.

 

Particles of the moonbeam rose shimmering and blue.  Everyone drew closer, curious as to what the moon was there to tell them.  No doubt it had to do with Pitch, yes? 

 

Pitch blinked and stood behind the others, curious but also full of trepidation.  The man in the moon, son of the greatest Tsar of the Golden Age HE destroyed.  According to what Sandy said, and the fragments of his memories, he had killed his parents.  That feeling of guilt was still something he was getting used to.

 

North gasped as he recognized first the image forming. “Katherine?!”

 

There in the moon dust was an image of Katherine as her older self, large brimmed hat upon her head and a living book in her hands.  The wings of her snow goose mount outstretched and were beautiful in the moonlight. 

The statuesque figure of her face shifted slightly, turning, her unblinking gaze staring right to Pitch.

 

Pitch stepped forward like in a trance.  Sandy reached out to grab him but stopped himself.  Yes moonlight of that focused intensity would burn him, but perhaps there was something important the moon wanted to tell him. 

 

Pitch’s body ached as he stepped in the light of the moonbeam.  His hair singed as he came within inches of the apparition.  He couldn’t even look up to see the moon directly, but his eyes were focused on the pupil-less stare of Mother Goose.

 

As he stared at the statue of Katherine he got flashes of memories, but they weren’t his own.  Memories of being a child, with two worried, loving parents.  A feeling of loss as they had to leave her on the doorstep of a little village in the woods.   They were memories he stole from a child’s tooth many, many years ago. 

 

‘Katherine, I’m so sorry’, he thought. ‘I’d give anything to see you one last time, tell you thank you for believing in me…that I was worth saving…’

 

The moon statue reached out a hand, but just as it was about to touch Pitch’s face, it scattered. 

 

The glowing particles quickly re-congealed together and their light created a moonbeam, a living messenger of the Man in the Moon.  North had not seen one concrete like that since Nightlight had vanished!  It’s swirling, glowing shape bounced off the moon crystal then zapped past the guardians, up into the bookcases lining North’s workshop.  Everyone’s heads craned to follow. 

 

Pitch staggered out of the moon rays and into a floating Sandy for support. 

 

“Woah!” Jack cracked a smile out of the serious feeling in the room.  The fun, bouncing nature of the moonbeam had released everyone’s tensions a bit as it zapped about the library.

 

The moonbeam crashed into a particular book way up in a dusty, high corner.  It absorbed into it and the book tumbled from the shelf.  However, it didn’t fall.  Its pages flapped and unfurled like wings.  The book was flying, like it was alive!

 

“Why I’ll be.” It was Bunnymund’s turn to smile.     

 

A face and multiple arms uncurled from the book’s spine.  By the time the book settled graceful as a butterfly onto North’s center dash in front of the globe everyone had gathered around.

 

“Mr. Qwerty!  I thought…you were gone forever!”  North came up to him with a hearty laugh.

 

Sandy had a hand around Pitch’s shoulder, touching him reassuringly.  “I’m alright,” He whispered to him.  However, inside he felt an unhappy stirring of singed fearlings. 

 

“I had to take a nap…” The bookworm yawned and stretched, “I was so tired.”

 

‘You mean out of magic and believers,’ Bunnymund thought.  He couldn’t help but be smiling though to see the bookworm alive again!

 

“It’s good to see you alive and well!”  Tooth flitted over.  She had not known the bookworm as intimately but she had remembered the stories of Mother Goose he’d tell with fondness.

 

“So now we got talkin’ books?”  Jack leaned on his staff and drew nearer.

 

“Mr. Qwerty, this is Jack Frost, you have not met.”  North introduced him.

 

“Pleasure,” The sleepy bookworm smiled, but his expression was serious. “I was awoken by the energy from a moonbeam.  Seems he has a message for you.”

 

“Well what is it?” Tooth urged him on.

 

Pitch raised his head and nudged in closer. “Where is Katherine might I ask…?  You two were inseparable.”

 

The worm didn’t answer but instead turned and opened the leaves of his pages.  Blank pages flew past until the book settled open.  A flicker of moving ink like an old TV image came to life on the page.

 

“Friends!”  A distant, static like echo of a voice came through the book.  Katherine’s face was just barely recognizable.  The image slowly came in clearer and clearer like tuning a radio station. “Oh, it has been a very long time…”

 

“You’re alive….!”  Pitch gasped, falling in closer.  Everyone made way for him; they somehow knew this message was meant for him.  Still, they crowded in behind his hunched frame eager to get a glimpse of their old friend.

 

The image wavered but she lifted her hands to the ‘surface’ of the page, “Pitch, you’ve changed!”

 

To the un-discerning eye Pitch looked the same with perhaps some added touches of gold to his clothes…but to someone who could look into your heart, there was indeed a considerable difference there to see.

 

“I have, yes…” Pitch echoed, still in shock.

 

“I could feel it, when Jack became a guardian, when Mr. Sandy was struck down…We all have a connection and can sense each other’s instincts and feelings.  It’s why I knew something had happened…when I suddenly felt what you, Pitch, were feeling too.  A sudden light like a crack of dawn on the horizon.”  She glanced over Pitch’s shoulder to where Sandy was hovering, her expression knowing.

 

Sandy cracked a teary smile.

 

“Katherine,” Pitch felt a choking of emotion in the back of his throat.

 

“I don’t have much time; the moonbeam gave Mr. Qwerty gave just enough energy to have me send you this message.  Here, take this, before it’s too late!”  Katherine reached down into a pocket and then a moment later she was holding out a dangling object.  The paper sizzled then glowed, and her hand came out through the pages. 

 

In her hand was a silver locket.  “It belongs to you.”

 

Pitch was speechless as he let the locket settle into his palm.  Katherine’s hand vanished back into the book. 

 

“I believe in you all.” Katherine’s voice was fading as her image went out of focus.  “I Believe, I Be-”

 

The book closed and Mr. Qwerty turned to face them all. “I’m sorry, she’s gone again.”  The worm yawned, seeming sleepy.  "Oh dear seems I might be in for another nap..." He laid down and curled up, limbs retracting.

There on North's dash it seemed was just another anchient, closed book.

Everyone was silent as they realized he was gone once more.  But as they came to terms with that, Sandy and Pitch were far too distracted with the locket.

 

Sandy craned over Pitch’s shoulder, reaching down to open the lid of the jewel-encrusted locket.   Pitch’s breath hitched and he staggered.  Inside was the faded, but still recognizable, image of his daughter, and in the lid the serene smile of a star pilot as a younger man could be seen.  Sandy gripped Pitch’s shoulders tight and closed his eyes as he nudged his head against his cheek.  <So Katherine had it all these years…>

 

“Could someone please explain to me what the hell is going on?” Jack broke the heavy silence in the room. 

 

Bunnymund - who had been the most defensive and skeptical – found his views on the whole situation shifting after hearing Katherine’s words.  He trusted her judgment in character just about more than anyone’s.  If she said she had felt a change in Pitch, he believed it.  Somehow, Kozmotis really was still alive in there.  Maybe his heart wasn’t pure black.

 

“As I said mate, ancient history.  History I thought was long gone.  But seems the past is catchin’ up with us.”

 

Jack came in closer to Sandy and Pitch, looking inquisitively at the locket in Pitch’s hand.  “Sandy, is that you?”  Jack pointed at the image in the lid. 

 

Sandy nodded somberly. 

 

“Who is the girl?”  Jack asked, his words trailing off as everyone else seemed to be so solemn. 

 

“That was my daughter,”  Pitch answered softly, not glancing away from the locket. 

 

“Daughter?”  Jack’s icy eyes went wide.  The gears in his head seemed to turn and his lips echoed in a murmur like he was thinking to himself. “We were all someone before we were chosen.”

 

Jack glanced around at the others, his expression darkening and voice raising like he didn’t like being in the dark on all this. “You said Pitch was some kind of space pirate mass murder, you never said anything about being a father!  And who or what in the world is ‘Kozmotis’?  I’d like to know a little more about this ‘ancient history’ as you call it, Bunny, cause I don’t like to blindly fight and have you all make my decisions for me!”

 

“We never lied to you Jack.” North seemed hurt but tried his best consoling tone.

 

“No, you didn’t, but you also didn’t let me make my own decisions.” 

 

Pitch didn’t seem to care much about the yelling between Jack and the others.  It all seemed to tune out.  Here he was, holding something he’d only seen in faded memories and nightmarish dreams.  It was real, something that his hands had once touched before they’d been corrupted by the darkness.  In it was represented what he felt worth protecting, what was worth dying for in times of war. 

 

These had been the faces that consoled him when he needed strength from the fearlings as he sat there at that lonely outpost.

 

Love – these were the people he loved, and loved him.

 

“Kozmotis,” Bunny spoke up, voice gentle. “You…really in there?”

 

Pitch didn’t respond or look up right away.  He had seen the face of his lost daughter in his dreams but to see her image there in the flesh, faded as it was, was a whole different story. 

 

“You said it yourself…Kozmotis is dead,” Pitch stated after a pause.

 

“You said you remembered what it was like to be him though.  That means a part of him lives in you.”  Bunny said, glancing at the locket.

 

“So now you believe me?”  He made eye contact with the Pooka.

 

Bunnymund swallowed, Jack eyeing him closely.  He replied, “I do, now.  I believe.”

 

Sandy smiled at the old warrior. 

 

Pitch looked down at the locket, but while his heart was lifted, a sudden dread came upon him from the pit of his stomach; from the core of his being.

 

Sandy felt it too, a shifting of darkness like the rolling out of waves before a tidal wave hits.  A deep, rumbling in the distance among uneasy silence.

 

Fearlings.

 

The world seemed to fall beneath Pitch as the locket sizzled in his grasp like it was burning his flesh.

 

Pins and needles crept up everyone’s spines.  Tooth’s feathers fluffed and Jack’s neck hairs prickled.  Bunnymund turned his ears attentively as North narrowed his eyes.    

 

Light was sucked out of the room by a dark draft.  The workshop around them sank like it was sinking into the deepest ocean in all directions.  Pitch, at the center of it all and only lit by the light that seemed to come from the Guardians, staggered and lost grip on the locket.  It fell to the floor, and melted through it. 

 

Pitch gasped and dashed after it, but it was too late, the darkness had devoured it.

 

 

D a d d y

 

DADDY  I’M  S C A  R  E   D.

 

 

The voice echoed through the room, everyone could hear it. 

 

Sandy swallowed as a shiver shuddered through him.

 

“Stop it!  Stop using her voice!”  Pitch grasped his hands over his ears.

 

 

FAILURE

 

DADDY  YOU  F A I L  E   D.

 

YOU CAN    N E V E R    BRING ME BACK.

 

YOU TOLD MOMMY YOU’D      PROTECT    ME.

 

 

The guardians all whirled around, searching for the source of the voice or the location of the nightmares they knew where there hiding in the shadows.  North drew his swords, and so did Tooth. 

 

“Why don’t you come out and fight you cowards?” Jack called out to the darkness, expecting to see the familiar nightmare horses they fought before.  Eyes lit up in the darkness like hungry predators, all manner of forms of fearlings seeping in and out of the shadows like eels amongst a black reef.     

 

 

JACK

 

JACK FROST.

 

 

Jack paled more than he already was.  Now the voice was of an entirely different little girl.

 

 

JACK, I’M SCARED.

 

WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME.

 

 

“You’re not…you’re not my sister!”

 

< The Fearlings, > Sandy spoke up in a rustle of a dark forest, keeping close to Pitch, who was strained with sweat forming on his brow.  < They are fighting against you. >

 

“Yes, they…I can feel it, like an animal clawing at me from the inside out.”

 

< Even after you breathed fearlings into all those nightmares…countless thousands still are inside you.>

 

Pitch cried out as the pain intensified, the darkness creeping closer to them all.

 

< Pitch, the light in your heart, they can’t stand it.  That is why they are fighting back so hard.  They know you are stronger than them!  You’ve been able to contain them inside you this long because of your strength! >

 

Pitch stared at the floor where the locket had vanished.  A light beamed through the hole.  He stepped toward it.  Suddenly, a tendril shot out from the shadows and grabbed his ankle, tripping him to the floor.  His hand and knees melted the floor same as how the locket did, and as the tentacle reeled him towards the blackness he sank into it like quicksand.

 

His eyes were wide as the dark swallowed him, the last thing he saw was Sandy lunging for him. 

 

< P i i i i t c h h h! >

 

 

Pitch Black.

 

The dark was where he lived.  It was element. 

 

Yet, in the darkness he couldn’t see a thing, except himself.

 

 

THAT LIGHT

 

 

Pitch whirled around, his platinum eyes glowing against the black veil around him.

 

 

THAT LIGHT INSIDE YOU

 

WHY CAN’T WE PUT IT OUT

 

 

Pitch snarled against the echoing voices, staggering backwards and running towards anywhere but there.  He couldn’t see where he was or where he was going but -   

 

“AAhhhh!”  He gasped as he fell – careening off a cliff of nothingness.

 

Pin points of light flew past him like stars, giving reference for the speed that he was falling with. 

 

The same as when he fell into the shadows at the burned down school, that ancient voice welled up.  Kozmotis’s voice…

 

 

We looked upon the Fearlings and Nightmare Men as e v i l. 

Yes, they did evil things, but only because we didn't deal with them when they were small and manageable. 

We let them f e s t e r and  g  r  o   w –

They combined into increasingly horrible beings as we continued to fight them

We fought them, and locked them away.

Until one day the balance of the scales tipped so far they upended.

The nightmares we created crashed down upon us like a dam bursting forth to smother the town that built it.  Their dark waters a cleansing force of destruction in a world out of balance. 

And they used me as their figurehead, leading the flood. 

I smashed planets into stars

I tossed battle cruisers into black holes

I speared every shooting star that went past my bow. 

N o  l i g h t

w a s  s a f e

from the force of  d a r k n e s s  cascading under me. 

They took that  f e a r  in my heart, the fears I didn't know how to face, and twisted it sharply like a dagger in my chest. 

I was helpless, possessed, d r i v e  n   m a   d. 

I eventually gave up fighting it when I couldn't take what I'd become,

and that dark part of me enveloped my light snug as a security blanket. 

If I was  n u m b  I couldn't feel anything at all. 

I couldn't miss my family, my lover, my friends.  I wouldn't have to feel the g u i l t of what I'd done to them. 

My heart was forever b l a c k e n e d, and all sense of my true self was locked away.

 

Pitch hit solid ground on his back HARD.  He gasped and tried to catch his breath.   But he couldn’t move.  He was paralyzed.  Ah yes…he knew this nightmare all too well; it was a common human fear.  His limbs were heavy as if they were made of lead.

 

The fearlings snarled like hungry wolves, circling him.

 

They lashed out at him, tearing into any part they could reach.  They ripped off the gold adorning his clothes.  They tore off every piece of the offending gold, but when they clenched around his neck to destroy the collar Sandy gave him, he fought back even harder.

 

Pitch cried out, and tried with all his strength to move, to fight back.  Anything!

 

“You’re not real, you’re only a nightmare!”

 

The fearlings laughed at him as they scraped their teeth into the gold collar.  The sound sinister and unsettling.

 

 

YOU OF ALL

 

SHOULD KNOW

 

HOW REAL WE ARE.

 

 

“Sandy,” Pitch wearily said to himself, trying hard to picture his glowing face; his words to him, about how that the light inside him was stronger than it seemed.  He tried to call on them to give him strength.

 

But still the nightmares advanced on the weakened Boogeyman.  They were just as relentless as that fateful night when they washed over him in a tidal wave of fear.  They used that fear to keep him paralyzed.  The collar was finally disintegrated under their acid words.

 

ALONE

 

FAILURE

 

NO ONE CAN HELP YOU HERE

 

SAME AS BEFORE

 

All of a sudden, a glowing blade sliced through the black curtain.  It wasn’t any blade, it was a royal sword, made of brilliant moon steel.  North was wielding the moon relic again, the Tsar’s former weapon, same as he did over 300 years ago.

 

“Pitch!”  North bellowed, behind him the other guardians ran through the lighted slit.  Sandy bounced in front of them, going right to Pitch.  The sea of fearlings scattered with a sound of beetle carapaces and claws scraping against rock.  They were repelled by Sandy same as that night he came to him weeks prior.  Lights wielded by North, Bunny and Tooth pushed the darkness away even further.

 

“Back you demons!” Bunny snarled, brandishing a blinding light on the tip of a thin staff against the hissing nightmares.

 

“UUggnnn,” Pitch moaned, trying to sit up with Sandy’s help.  He winced against the strong lights but Sandy’s soft glow never caused him pain.  He used him like a little shield as he caught his bearings. 

 

“You okay?” Jack kneeled down next to the black and gold spirits.  His staff’s soft blue glow cast light of its own, however, he felt a little left out as the other Guardians all seemed to have a special weapon that was far more effective against the darkness.

Pitch held close to Sandy, and opened his eyes enough to see the winter spirit.  He nodded to Jack. “You…you all came for me?” 

Sandy smiled at Jack, appreciative of his open mind and acceptance.

“Had to bring out my most special egg,” Bunnymund smirked, twirling the staff. “You seem to forget we Pooka are the guards of the light of creation.  Fearlings can’t stand it.  However, this horde of them is able to fight against it strongest I’ve ever seen...”

 

“I did not forget,” North huffed back to the Pooka. “And yes, with this many fearlings we brought out the big guns.  I was worried it wouldn’t work but…but seems the relics have their powers same as before.” North said proudly, slashing his glowing sword at the always advancing shadows. “The Lunar Llamas told us there were five relics…It was said if they were brought together they would become the most formidable weapon against Pitch.  Never thought we’d be using them to defend you!” 

 

 “You know, we never DID find the other two relics,” Toothiana fluffed, holding her ruby box close.  It was carved from a huge, special ruby.  It was a gift from her parents, and inside alongside a note of love from them, was a very important tooth, the Man in the Moon’s baby tooth.

 

“AH yes, true,” North grimaced and glanced about. “Nightlight defeated the old Pitch though, and after that, the Fearlings were not everywhere as before, and then the relics lost their magical properties anyway.  But this…it seems to have reawakened them.”

 

< Not meant to hurt, meant to help > Sandy’s voice swelled over the whispering of the fearlings ringing shrill in Pitch’s ears. He pet at Pitch’s scratched neck where his collar had been torn away.


That terrible whispering was rising and growing in strength.  Pitch already felt weak from being physically attacked, and now they were going after his mind again.  “They know. S-Sandy you were right…T-they are like wild animals, clawing to stay alive…”  He lost his grip on Sandy’s lapels and a hand fell to the floor.  The ground immediately turned to dark quicksand and black tendrils coiled up trying to pull him in.

 

Sandy practically growled with resolve, keeps his hands gripped tight to Pitch’s robe as he pressed his forehead to Pitch’s.

 

Daddy…I’ll miss you.

 

Daddy read me a bedtime story!

 

Will you and Mr. Sandy bring me to the gardens again…?

 

I love you!


“AGGhhnnnn!”  Pitch cried out, the happy memories burning the darkness like acid.  However, since the fearlings were still so deeply rooted into Pitch himself, the pain coursed through him as well. 

 

Pitch felt something in his hand that eased the pain, so he closed his fingers around it.  The blackness slithered from him so he was able to escape the quicksand, hand pulling up with an object in tow.

 

“The locket!  You found it!”  Jack grinned, leaning on his staff excitedly. 

 

The shadows hissed with displeasure, the darkness undulating around them.

 

“The locket.” Pitch looked up from his hands with wide eyes of realization. “The locket is a relic.”

 

North turned, unbelieving as that locket had been in their possession for some time and they never knew…?  It made sense though, Katherine had been the one to wield it, and she was a Guardian same as the rest of them.

 

“There is still a piece missing though, even if Kozmotis’s locket is the 4th piece.”  Bunny replied, getting increasingly antsy as the shadows grew bolder.  Their wide, toothy maws opened and claws extended - their glowing expressions that of salivating predators as they circled. 

 

Sandy licked his lips in thought.  Did they really need the fifth relic to fully banish the fearlings?  That was just an old prophecy right?

 

But, he too had been chasing a prophecy all these years.  The one the Tsar also made, about he and Kozmotis.  That hope he’d clung to so long.

 

‘He will only join you if he regains his conscience and accepts his burden...’

‘He is your counterpart…He could become your greatest ally or your greatest foe...’

 

 

“The Lunar relics, are all objects of life, light and love.  They counteract fear and sadness.”  Tooth said; face brightening like she finally understood something she never saw before. “The relics are not meant to hurt, they are meant to heal.” 

 

 

Jack stood up, getting that same excitement Tooth had in her voice.  He watched as Sandy gestured wildly with his sand, getting the same idea,

 

 

“They weren’t meant to be a weapon against Pitch.  They were meant to help him!”

 

 

The fearlings roared so deep and strong the floor shook with the reverberation.   It felt like they were inside the belly of a massive monster, a monster who was not pleased.

 

“STOP STOP STOPPPP!”  Pitch screamed, holding his hands over his head.  Even with his wounds, he struggled fiercely, so much that Sandy lost his grip on him.  Pitch was on his feet stumbling away, and he couldn’t form a single rational thought as the fearlings filled his mind with pain, fear and despair.

 

He snarled, his eyes flashing gold, and formed his nightmare scythe in his hands desperately, the only weapons he still possessed, and tried to fight off the fearlings with it.  The locket slipped from his grasp.

 

FOOL

 

YOU CAN’T FIGHT FEAR WITH FEAR.

 

“That’s right mate, you don’t!” Bunnymund crashed through the closing darkness, his staff like a lighted lance.

 

“A-ha!” North bellowed, running alongside Bunnymund in a warrior charge. 

 

Tooth got the air over them, her ruby box gleaming as she twirled through the shadows.

 

Sandy bounced ahead of the others and caught the locket with his sand whips to prevent the fearlings from devouring it again.  His body was captured by inky vines, which sizzled against him, but held firm. 

 

< Pitch, stop, you must stay rational!  Fear feeds on confusion and ignorance! You have to remember! > 

 

The sand wrapped around and dropped the locket onto Pitch’s neck, and then formed a new gold collar where the old one had been destroyed.  < You’re not alone! >

 

Like a cracked door opening to a stale sealed room, clarity rushed in as the chain settled onto him like a breath of fresh air.

 

An egg with the light of creation, the core of light we all have inside from birth. 

 

A sword once wielded by a father to protect his family

 

A ruby box containing memories in a baby tooth of a child just like Toothiana herself, a child whose parents sacrificed everything to save them. 

 

A locket that belonged to a father, to remind him the ones he loves to give him strength

 

 

The darkness couldn’t keep its hold on Sandy.  He broke free and rushed forward, hands clasping to his jaw as he kissed Pitch.

 

 

A counterpart –

 

to share your joys and face your sorrows with,

 

the other half of your heart.

 

 

 

Pitch’s weapon disintegrated from his hands as he kissed him back.

 

 

 

Sandy, you-

 

You’re the fifth relic.

 

 

 

Light exploded out in all directions.

 

The darkness was replaced by a void of white.

 

..

.

..

 

Breathe.

 

 

He could breathe.

 

 

Quiet.

 

 

He could actually hear his own thoughts.

 

 

Clarity, absolute clarity.

 

 

When Pitch opened his eyes he was alone in the bright void. 

But he knew, he wasn’t really alone

 

His friends, his lover, had given their light to allow him this time.

 

The gift of the Lunar relics, a chance to find yourself.

 

And even with so much support from loved ones, that is something you must do for yourself.

 

Pitch took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.  It was like a weight was lifted off his chest.  The pressure and whispering of thousands of fearlings was momentarily gone.

 

He looked down at himself.  His wounds and clothes were healed.  He touched the gold collar around his neck, then brought up the locket, gleaming silver.  He opened it and gazed upon the images inside once more.

 

Like remembering and realizing at the same time, that ancient voice of Kozmotis combined with his own…

 

……

…I was the last one, the only one, who had not externalized my fears. 

 

I kept them inside, like we had before the Golden Age. 

 

Part of it was because I didn't want to burden the universe with my demons; there were already so many Fearlings to be had.  The other half, was because it seemed wrong to fight something without knowing it.  I didn't just want to blindly rid the galaxy of this darkness holding back the Golden Age, I wanted to understand it. 

I alone, could truly understand fear.

I never wanted what happened to the Golden Age to happen again. 

 

I didn't want these people on the uncharted, little green and blue planet to befall the same fate as my people.

 

You can't push fear aside.  You can't ignore it, same as you can't ignore a fire.  You let it get out of control by not dealing with it; it will consume and destroy you. 

 

It took my entire life stumbling blindly in the dark, and then finally reawakening as a ray of light shined through a cracked door, to face my fears.  By then the flames had already engulfed me. My heart was a charred cinder.  Yet, even in the most burned forest new life can grow. 

 

Everyone was so sure there was nothing left of me.  Only two souls believed I had seeds of light sleeping inside me.  A sliver of goodness. 

 

What looked like a dead star, was really a supernova lying dormant.  

 

Cracks along an impossibly thick, impossibly dark shell. 

 

A bright light shining though, screaming to escape. 

 

 

- c h i n k -

 

 

A pool of ever growing shadows seeped out around Pitch’s feet.  The Fearlings breaking through - primal, unstoppable.  The fearlings cried out,

 

 

FEAR, FEAR IN YOUR HEART

 

YOU WILL ALWAYS BE AFRAID

 

WEAK

 


No.

It is my fear that makes me strong. 

I understand fear.

I know how to shape it, weave it, twist it.

I know how to conquer it.

 

 

- c h i n k -

YOU CAN’T DESTROY FEAR

 

NOT FOREVER

 

YOU CAN'T IGNORE US

 

HUMANS CREATE US IN THEIR HEARTS EVERY DAY


I don't intend to ignore you.

I intend to deal with you.

I will make sure no one ignores their fear.

I will make sure no one forgets fear.

You will never overtake this planet. 

Because I will make sure people are ready for fearlings when they create them.

 


- c  h  i  n  k -


YOU FAILED


YOU'LL FAIL AGAIN

 

 

- c h  i  n  k,   c h   i  n   k -

 

 

No. 

 

I'm not meant to be the creator of fear,

the bringer of darkness.

 

I am meant to be its Guardian.



- c  r a  c  k,  c  h  i n  k ,  c r  a  c    k -

 

 

I



- chinkchinkchinkchink -

 

 

will usher in

 

 

- crackchinkcrackcrackcrackchinkchink -

 

a NEW GOLDEN AGE.

 

 


A supernova went off.

 

 

The thick surface of Pitch’s dark entombed heart fractured into countless pieces, the light able to shine through them with full intensity.

 

The blast tore through the hordes of fearlings, repelling them like a magnet of opposite polarization.  They poured out of Pitch just as they originally streamed in, an inky mass of screeching darkness, only this time, they were engulfed by light – torn to shreds - truly conquered.

 

 

Conquered fear makes the most powerful of weapons.

 

 

The exchange that happened inside Pitch took mere seconds in real time.  The Guardians were but a moment watching as Sandy kissed Pitch before the supernova went off. 

 

They staggered and cried out, blinded as they were knocked off their feet.  They were aware of the screams of fearlings, and the warmth of the light replacing the darkness around them.  When they could see again, they were back in North’s workshop, their relics no longer gleaming; their light dormant once more.  North groaned and used his sword to help him to his feet.  Tooth fluttered her wings gently and smooth back her head crest.  As they caught their bearings and got back to their feet, Sandy was already looking up with unbelieving wonder.  Everyone else followed his gaze.

 

Pitch’s feet were just floating back down on the floor, his robes settling after them.  His head lolled forward and his platinum gold eyes opened.

 

Sandy scanned him over, once again his robes reflected a change in his heart.  Sandy was reminded of the Golden age as his cloak had a sleek military air to it. The blackness of it felt like deep outer space, twinkles like stars over its velvety surface, congregating most heavily at the trailing edges.  Every edge was gilded with the gleam of gold.  The scalloped collar was high but snug against his lithe neck, and an aiguillette tassel attached with a glinting chain to a single epaulet.

 

“Pitch?” Jack blinked, not sure if this was real.  The fearlings had just been overtaking them like a black hole.  But now, it was like a calm in the aftermath of a hurricane.  Despite the battle that just been taking place, Pitch had an air of calm and joy in him as Frost locked eyes.

 

The platinum features, the crooked teeth, the dark hair is the same, but when Pitch smiled at the winter spirit, he really smiled. It had a warmth behind it like when you look at the smile of a father.  “Frost?  Yes it’s me, heh.  What is with that face?”

 

His expression softened further when he looked down at the Dreamweaver there at his feet.  He did not say anything, but his face told it all.  ‘I understand, I finally understand.  It’s going to be okay, from this moment onward.’

 

Sandy hopped up into his arms and the two whirled around in what seemed like a completely out of character display for Pitch to the eyes of the other Guardians.  “…I love you.  More than all the stars in the sky,” Pitch whispered to Sandy amongst throaty, happy laughter.  

 

North’s jaw dropped, but Tooth couldn’t help but fluff to see how much they cared for each other.  She was such a sucker for romance.  The laughing and happy display helped ease the tension in the room from the battle that just took place.

 

Bunnymund could feel the joy of the moment as well, but he was also unsure of where the fearlings went. “The fearlings, did we defeat them?”  He sounded like he was the only one worried about this.  “What bloody-well happened?!”

 

Sandy signed to Bunnymund as he jumped out of Pitch’s arms, images of fearlings and golden era runes.

 

“Conquered?” Bunny twitched his nose.  Pitch Black, the vessel of fear, conquered his own fears?  Bunny had not thought about that – that such an old spell would work on such a strong, dense pack of fearlings.  Heck, the fearlings of an entire galaxy!  But if that was the case, then they really would be gone.

 

“They’re gone…?  For good?”  Tooth seemed disbelieving.

 

North looked up at the moon in the window, it shone brightly, the beams hitting Pitch in the back as they did earlier.  Only this time they didn’t singe him in the slightest.  Pitch did not notice though, he was too busy replying to Tooth -

 

“Ah Toothiana, while I dispelled those fearlings of the Golden Age I carried all these centuries…you can never completely banish fear.”  He tapped a hand to his chest, speaking with an ancient wisdom. “I still carry my own fearlings; you all do.  And humans of this planet create them daily – it is a natural thing, to fear.”

 

North eyed Pitch. “In a perfect world, no child would have to be afraid.”  

 

“But the universe will never BE perfect, to feign perfection is to begin your downfall.  Look at the age I came from.  Your mentor looked upon it as a symbol of perfection.  Look what my ‘perfect’ age did to itself.” Pitch strode towards North. “And I am here to remind you of that.  I… am not your enemy.”

 

“North, he’s right.” Jack glanced up seriously. “Heck, I could have used a little more fear when I went out on that lake…all those years ago.  Kids need…boundaries yea?”  Jack looked ot Pitch like as if to clarify if he was getting what he meant.  A smile and nod from Pitch seemed to reinforce that yes, he was indeed getting it.  “So you going to help kids now then?  Not a bad guy anymore?”  Jack put his staff up to his shoulder as he rocked back and forth on his feet, grinning in a knowing way. 

Pitch chuckled in his throat.  “The world isn’t quite that black and white Frost.  But yes, you can say that, that I most certainly do not want to hurt anyone.” Pitch looked between the guardians, who seemed open but still of course wary.  He didn’t intend that they would understand right away.  He himself just felt like he was light as a feather, that clarity never went away even when the relics went dark.

 

“I want to help people face their fears.  Doesn’t mean everyone will like everything I do.  Shepherding fears is a thankless job, mmm?”  He clasped his hands behind his back.

 

“Guess we’ll still have to worry about you after all?” Bunnymund smirked.

 

“If you come after me with those boomerangs again I won’t hesitate to throw black sand in your furry little face, rabbit.” Pitch retorted.

 

Sandy laughed, and so did everyone else. 

 

Now, they would truly start anew.

 

 

Chapter Text

 < Are you alright? > Shifting sand dunes asked.

 

Pitch sat at the edge of his bed with his back to the Dreamweaver, new garments giving a soft glow to the black silken sheets.   Sandy scooted over to him.  He had been lying down with the expectation that Pitch was to join him.  A reassuring hand stroked over the gold detailing along his spine. 

 

They had come home to Pitch’s realm after the events at the North Pole.  Much had happened in the hours after.  Pitch was reflecting over them at that moment…

That moonbeam shining down against Pitch’s back was finally noticed.  It was the first time he could stand in a moonbeam like that without the light burning him.   He looked up to the moon and could feel the uncertainty in the light. 

 

Down on one knee, like a subject addressing their king, he apologized from the bottom of his heart. 

 

While it would never be true consolation, while it could never be undone, he really did want the Tsar’s son to know that he was deeply sorry for what he had done to him and his parents. 

 

Although he was very far away, The Man in the Moon had seen the battle that took place, and the darkness that was dispelled.  While he didn’t make Pitch an official one of ‘his Guardians’, it was pretty obvious, that his plea for forgiveness was answered. 

 

A twinkling of moonbeam particles flurried down like snow.  Pitch gazed up from where his head had been bowed.  The other Guardians watched as a semblance of a figure formed as if floating down in the beam.  It was the short, rotund form of the Man in the Moon, Manny himself.  He wasn’t much taller than Sandy.  Pitch wasn’t sure what to do, so he stayed put as the figure’s arms outstretched and embraced him in a hug.  The emotion rising in him was almost too much, but he refrained from crying outright.  That didn’t stop a tear from escaping though as he attempted to hug the figure back.  However, it melted away into white glitter again just when the apparition’s feet would have touched the floor.       

 

Pitch then asked a favor of the Guardians, something to help give completion to his grief about a time he lost and had not even remembered until recently. 

 

It was nighttime on an outcropping of cliff off the coast of New Zealand. The full moon shone bright on the summer flowers all in bloom, compared to the chill winter of North America.  Pitch used his shadows to get there but everyone else took one of North’s portals.  They brought with them some of the elves’ candles as well as star-shaped paper lanterns they had made.  In fact they were more like little hot air balloons, with a basket underneath to hold the candle inside the lacework-cut paper stars.      

 

Pitch wanted most to give a proper goodbye to his daughter, who died during the war in a time he wasn’t even aware.  He never got to bury her, or see her grow up.  However, for all the souls that were lost, it was proper to say goodbye to all of them. 

 

Bunnymund was a little uneasy at first when Pitch suggested the vigil.  All this dredging up the past which he’d put so far behind him.  But after a short consideration, he agreed.  He too, could say a remembrance of his brethren, and Kozmotis…err…Pitch, deserved the same for his daughter.

 

Pitch looked at his locket.  His voice was so quiet it was only heard by himself, and perhaps Sandy who was closest to him.

 

“I love you, sleep well….my dear...”

 

He released the star lantern in his hands over the cliff, setting it free.

 

As all the others were sent off by the Guardians, the odd man out was Bunnymund’s lantern:  it was egg-shaped, of course.

 

The golden flickering lights eventually were as small as the twinkling stars in the night sky, like they had joined them.

 

 

< I thought the vigil was lovely > Sandy kissed at his neck, through his coat’s high collar. 

 

“Thank you.  It…it really helped,” Pitch whispered back, placing a hand over Sandy’s where it rested on his shoulder.

 

< Come to bed you must be tired > A dark forest breeze beckoned.

 

Pitch stood and undid the clasps on the front of his jacket like it was part of some old routine, as the clasps were unnecessary to undo in reality.  He shrugged the jacket off and it melted into shadows – his black tights went with it. 

 

< Oh! > A gasp came over Pitch’s ears.  He turned to face Sandy with an inquiring expression. 

 

Sandy pointed at his body.  There on Pitch visible from the front and the back, were scars that were not there before.  They were right over his heart, as if he had been ran through by a weapon in the past.  Sandy knew right away, it was in the same place where Nightlight had stabbed him all those years ago with his moon lance.

 

“Oh, that’s new…” Pitch blinked, touching a hand over the scar on his chest.   He drifted to the bed so Sandy could see closer, curling up sitting there next to his counterpart.  “This is from…who I think it is?”

 

< Nightlight > Sandy nodded, reaching out to touch.  The scar was about the size of a human fist, and star shaped, in the sense it was obvious something had torn through the flesh there in a puncturing fashion a long time ago.  The scar on the back was smaller of course, where just the tip of the lance had come through.  It had been hidden by Pitch’s current robe all day as the front was not open as wide as his old one. 

 

“Why weren’t they there before?”  Pitch seemed worried.

 

< I don’t know.  Perhaps, the fearlings kept the hole sealed, and when they were dispelled it ripped open again?  > That was his best theory at least.  He shrugged like he was not sure either.

 

“That is as good an idea as any.” Pitch was disquieted by the sudden discovery of such large marks on his body, and that they would remind him of past battles painful to remember.   While he was not body conscious in the same way as a human, he also felt a pang of unhappiness that this was yet another ugly mar to his being; the other was his dark complexion of course.  His heart was forever blackened.  That black shell would never go away even with the light seeping out of every crack now. 

 

< It’s alright > Sandy nuzzled and kissed him, his voice soothing. < Still handsome as ever >

 

Pitch couldn’t help but crack a light smile at his little Dreamweaver there showering him in love.

 

They soon were curled up face to face, petting idly at each other’s necks and hair, drifting between kissing and resting looking at one another. 

 

< I always did love how your eyes are like a solar eclipse > Sandy swooned over the rustles of a dark forest breeze, < The light never able to be snuffed out, despite being overshadowed. >

 

Pitch had noticed his eyes looked like that, but he never thought of the meaning behind it, how Sandy put it.   “You have such a way with words, for someone who never utters a single one out loud.” Pitch smirked, petting the other spirit’s jaw with gentle fingers.

 

Sandy simply ‘laughed’ settled into him, sighing happily. 

 

Happiness.

 

His greatest ally, his counterpart…it had come to pass.  A prophecy fulfilled, thought Sandy. 

 

Where would they go now?   

 

His thoughts scattered as Pitch began kissing him quite adamantly.  He kissed right back, just as eager as he got pulled into Pitch’s pleasure.

 

They had made love multiple times, in both their realms, since that night Sandy cracked his heart.  It was a gradual process, becoming comfortable with one another body and mind.  Each time they were a little more open.  Tonight, it was like the curtain was fully drawn to let in the light; the weight of the world lifted from their souls.

 

Sandy felt a bit overwhelmed, falling under Pitch’s onslaught of oral affections.  Pitch soon was straddled over him and tenderly licking and kissing his way down his neck.  A kiss to each collarbone, nibbles down his chest, stroking fingertips over his sides.  The love he could feel in his touch was intoxicating.  Sandy threw his head back amidst silent gasping breaths as Pitch spread his legs and nuzzled into the space between them.  He may not be of a biological nature, but it didn’t mean the sensations didn’t feel absolutely lovely.  Not to mention, the jolts of arousal he felt right from Pitch at how HE took satisfaction in his every curve.

 

Pitch gave a hearty lick to the soft skin in front of him, lifting up Sandy’s legs easily so he could nibble at his perfectly peachy buttocks.  Sandy shivered in delight, looking quite lost in pleasure. 

 

He was so lost, more than usual, that Pitch was shocked when he had enough concentration to call up dreamsand to form that glass-sculpted like penis for him.  “Oh Sandy you don’t have to…”  He said under his breath with a bite to his lip, but ohh…ohh it did cause quite a burn of arousal in him to see the hard, twitching appendage before him.  

 

And Sandy knew that.  The reward of Pitch’s joys was his own.  The concentrated dreamsand tingled and ached to be caressed.  < Worth it…just for that look, eheheh > The sands giggled.  < Please … > He whimpered.

 

It was just the penis this time, no feminine additions.  It even had testicles added, Pitch noted, which Sandy didn’t do before.  He dove right back in, staringat his lover as he gave a long lick to the stout dreamsand cock in his grasp.  Pitch was ravenous, breathing in gasps against Sandy’s skin as he licked his inner thighs and then back to his glassy erection.  It felt so good.  He just wanted to melt into the warm little star’s body.  Sandy rolled his hips with him, mouth falling agape and head digging into the black pillow under him.

 

Suddenly he felt Sandy’s body tense and quiver under him, his golden glow momentarily intensifying.  He twitched and finally fell limp to the bed, still quivering. 

 

Pitch soaked in the sight, brow furrowed up.   He crawled up to kiss him, groaning, “You liked that?”  He nuzzled him.

 

All he got was unintelligible happy moans whispering past his ears as Sandy grabbed his cheeks and took the reins on the kissing.

 

It was Pitch’s turn to melt, as Sandy was relentless in his affections.  And Pitch had started to get a particular thought in his mind as he was sucking on his lover’s cock…something that made him feel needy and vulnerable.  But it wasn’t the kind of vulnerable that made you feel threatened, it was the kind that came with love and trust, and made you burn with arousal.

 

The counterparts rolled so Sandy was the one on top.  That look Pitch was giving him - Sandy had to pause.  < I know that face…what is it you need, my love? > Sandy crooned.

 

Pitch flushed, which is not something he did often.  His blushing was a bit violet more than it was red.  “I…I want you.  I want you to make love to me.”    

 

They had made love in all manner of ways the past month…but never yet had Pitch asked him to make love to HIM in that fashion. 

 

Sandy smiled and kissed him. < Want me inside you, do you? > His tongue explored the gray mouth under him.

 

“Yes…” Pitch gasped.  Trust, he trusted him and loved him so much more than words could ever say.

 

He didn’t have to say it because the joy Sandy felt in him was so great, it was like a cup overflowing and it was drowning him in loving bliss.  Sandy moaned and shimmied lower, not breaking eye contact with the lusty eyes staring him down.

 

Before he could even ask, a black sand tendril had dropped a dark glass bottle in front of him.  They had used the vial a few times before, Sandy very much enjoyed intercrural sex as much as anything, which the human invention of lube helped a lot with.

 

He said nothing but smirked at Pitch for his eagerness.  Sandy was in no rush though.  He wanted his lover to feel his passions just as much as he did for him.

 

Pitch was already hard as he could get, throbbing painfully so.  Sandy gave his cock light touches as he slicked him up nicely.  Pitch gasped and arched his back, legs falling open.  With some coaxing Sandy got him to curl his long legs up and expose more of his ass.  Luckily Pitch was flexible, and Sandy pressed his thighs to his gray chest as he spread him wide.

 

“Sanderson!” His chest heaved deeply as he felt two little fingers probing him. 

 

Sandy practically purred with how deliciously needy Pitch looked.  But his heart brimmed with joy at the meaning behind it.  The admiration and gratitude that he never stopping believing in him, for loving him despite his flaws and past mistakes, for loving him for who he is and not just who he once was.

 

“Aahhhh ahhh…” Pitch moaned as he felt Sandy position himself.  “Please…fuck…” He threw his head back a moment but soon was right back to eye contact.

 

Sandy pressed in slowly, but Pitch was quite relaxed and prepared.  He was rewarded with Pitch’s eyes rolling back into his head and some of the most lovely, deep groaning noises imaginable when he fully sheathed himself.  With another test of flexibility, when Sandy leaned forward Pitch was able to meet him just enough for a kiss, but Pitch’s back was against the black bed sheets once more within moments. 

 

So warm, so lovely.  Sandy relished everything about it as he carefully began moving his hips.  Slow, long strokes.  He used Pitch’s legs as handles to help steady his motions. 

 

Pitch tried to move with him but he soon gave up, giving in completely to the golden star.

 

He continued randomly gasping Sandy’s name as he was fucked with increasing intensity.  Sandy leaned over and nuzzled into his chest, tweaking at his nipples and kissing his collar bones.  He even ghosted his lips over the scar.  Pitch grasped his hands around him, fingers digging into his golden hair.

 

While the physical act felt incredible, it was that love between them that escalated most intensely.  The light shining out of long dormant and alone hearts. 

 

“Sandy…Sandy…” Pitch gasped tilting his head into Sandy’s hair where it was brushing against him.  His eyes were closed so he didn’t notice the intense light that both of them were giving off.  A bright shining of silver and gold. 

 

They convulsed and stiffened with both audible and internal cries, as they climaxed with the intensity of a mini supernova.  And like a supernova, light exploded out of them filling the dark bed chambers. 

 

As Sandy fell limp on top of his lover, who was equally spent and sated, the light fell all around them in a glowing vapor.  They cuddled into one another falling asleep almost instantly amidst murmured ‘I love you’s’.  Meanwhile, the vapor cloud was starting to orbit them, and like space dust, started to congeal. 

 

Light clumped together, in bigger and bigger orbs, the speed slowing with each rotation, until only one remained, and it seemed like the sleeping lovers had gained an orbiting moon.

 

 

Sandy’s eyes blinked open sleepily some hours later.

 

Bright, why was the room lit by –

 

He flinched as the light source moved and soon came within his vision.  A glowing orb trailing firefly like particles drifted past.  Soft sounds like the sparkle of sunlight through springtime trees and the lazy jingle of wind chimes emitted from it in distant echoes as its light flickered and shifted.

 

Sandy was instantly fully awake. 

 

He was grasped in Pitch’s arms as the little spoon of their sleeping arrangement.  He stealthily wriggled from his grasp, leaving behind a dreamsand replica of himself as he did so.   Pitch, he was still deep asleep, only twitching slightly as Sandy made the switch.  He was smiling softly in his slumber.  Sandy loved that look on him so much, the face of a pleasant dream. 

 

Sandman sprinkled more dreamsand on him, to ensure he kept that way, for now…

 

Sandy carefully approached the orb as it came around again.  It seemed to be attracted to him like gravity as it drew closer and soon orbited him alone.  He put out his hands and the orb settled there in his arms.  It was about the size of a basketball, and hot!  Like molten glass.  It would burn the likes of anyone else, but Sandy was a star…and this…

 

This was a starchild.

 

Sandy was never a father himself but of course he knew how his people procreated, and soon as he saw the orb he knew what it was, although he had to touch it to believe it!  He’d heard stories of his people able to create enough light with other beings besides stars to have children.  He’d never seen a crossbreed himself, but it was apparently possible…

 

The light of the orb shifted and flickered again, giving a distant giggle.  Sandy’s face crinkled in a smile of held back emotion. 

 

While he was unbelievably happy, he was worried, dread rising in him.  The light of the new star wasn’t stable yet.  It sputtered like a wet candle flame.   The biggest obstacle was it being a crossbreed, and Sandy himself was what you could call ‘past their prime’ for a star.  Not old, but, ‘middle aged’ as it were.  He could see how his own gold glow was dulled temporarily; the light given off to form a new star was intense.

 

It would devastate Pitch, if he knew he’d gotten Sandy ‘pregnant’ and the baby didn’t make it…

 

Sandy panicked and silently left the bedchambers, the orb in tow.  He opened a portal to his own realm, the golden rift closing behind him in a fluff of glitter.

 

His seashell guards all turned with worry as he bounced past them.  His sand robes formed seamlessly around him as he ran. He shifted his castle and made a secret side room, a sand-carved and star-bejeweled bassinet was waiting inside.   

 

With the utmost care the orb was laid down inside.  Sandy pet at its surface lovingly.  It reacted to him with more echoing giggles and a sputter of light. 

 

Sandy knew star children took days to cool and coalesce into their final form…if this star was to survive, he’d know for sure in the coming days. 

 

< There is much love for you here little one > He cooed to it, < Please, stay and be a new light in our sky… >

 

The orb gave off a jumble of what sounded like speech but none of it was coherent, merely an echoing mess of language.

 

Sandy fell to his knees on a hastily formed dreamsand pillow.

 

Oh what was he thinking…how could he keep this from Pitch for any amount of time?

 

Tears formed in his eyes as he fought with himself.  He didn’t want to hurt Pitch; that was the last thing he wanted to do.  And not telling him would hurt him more than letting him know, even if the worst happened.  Did he not trust him enough to be able to handle this if the baby’s light went out?  No, Pitch was strong enough.  He’d proved how strong he was. 

          

Sandy shakily got up, and kissed the orb, his lips tingling from the heat as he withdrew.

 

He consulted his guards who he stationed at the doors, telling him to send word if anything changed.  He then opened a portal back to Pitch’s realm and was gone.

Chapter Text

Sandy bounced back into the realm of obsidian shadows, portal closing behind him.  A heavy weight hung on his heart, despite the happiness brimming in him. 

 

There was no longer the hungry presence of fearlings through those dark hallways.  Instead, there was a feeling of energy that came with a clear moonless night with a sky full of stars, and all the sounds that accompanied it.   Whispers of wind along branches through a starlit forest, with the occasional flicker of fireflies like sparks escaping a campfire.  A tingle of presence through long, ornate hallways lit only by candlelight, and the hummm of the darkness as you searched for life in its unknown recesses. 

 

Sandy flinched as one of Pitch’s small nightmare deer bounced past when the Dreamweaver went for the doors to the bedchamber.  It was part of a small herd.  A fawn stopped to sniff at him, its smattering of spots softly glowing gold.  Sandy couldn’t help but hear his heart calm, and reached out to pet it.  It licked his hand, and then bounded after the others.

 

 With a deep breath, Sandy walked through the door.  

 

He stopped dead though when he saw Pitch was not in bed as he left him.

 

“Ahhh good morning, my love.” Pitch’s voice came from behind.

 

Sandy stiffened like someone caught with their hand in the cookie jar. 

 

Pitch materialized out of the shadows, hugging Sandy from behind smooth and thick as fog rolling over a moor.  He lovingly kissed his hair, smile beaming.  If there was ever someone as obviously buzzing with afterglow, it was Pitch at that moment.

 

Sandy turned to face him but Pitch’s arms were quite encompassing so he remained in his grasp.  Before Sandy could form words he was deeply kissed.  ‘How did he wake up?’ Sandy thought.  He swore he sprinkled dreamsand on him to keep him out for hours.  He softened a bit as he was overwhelmed with Pitch’s affections.  Still, he trembled thinking about the ball of light back at his castle.

 

“Sneak off to important business?  I awoke to a pile of your dreamsand all over the bed.  Heh, you can’t really think you can out sneak the boogeyman?”

 

The temporary ‘decoy’….of course.  It lost form as soon as he left, and the falling sensation would have woke Pitch up even with the extra dreamsand knocking him out.  He forgot in his haste and panic his sand creations only kept form long as he was around, or for things created in his own realm.

 

< Pitch… > Sandy smiled with conflicted joy.  Oh, look at him, he was so happy, silver features and eyes aglow.  Absolutely brimming with it.  Sandy couldn’t wait to show him, but at the same time he did not look forward to the hard truth of what could happen that he would then have to tell, and how it would darken that blissful glow.

 

“Sanderson…”  Pitch blinked, finally noticing the fear he smelled on the Dreamweaver.  His tone turned serious, “What’s wrong?”

 

< There is something I must show you. >


 

 

“MOOOOM MOMM!  DADD!  DADDDD!“

 

A father came running into a child’s bedroom.  Lightning crashed softly outside, followed by rolling thunder.  A little girl was huddled under her covers whimpering. 

 

 “Hey…hey it’s okay, baby.” The father yawned and sat on the bedside.  He’d been awoken but he was not angry.  The storm wasn’t even all that bad or especially loud, but he figured to a child it was terrifying.  The little girl clung onto him.

 

“The storm is blowing away slowly, don’t worry.” He tried to console her.

 

It wasn’t the lightning that scared the child.  But she replied, “It’s scary!  Can I sleep with you and mom?”

 

“Honey you’re not a little girl anymore, you won’t fit.”  The father said.  Of course she would fit, but the father thought since she was 7, she ought to be in her own room.  She’d never get over her fears running to them all the time.  

 

“Daddy, would you tell me a story?”  The little girl asked, huddled in her covers. “So I can fall asleep again?”

 

“Alright,” The father smiled even though he was tired.  He brought up the pile of books next to the bed.

 

“Mother goose!”  The girl pointed to her favorite bedtime book.  The short poem tales and rhymes soothed her somehow in their simplicity.

 

He opened to some he knew she liked,

“There was an old woman tossed in a basket.
       Seventeen times as high as the moon;
But where she was going no mortal could tell,
       For under her arm she carried a broom.

"Old woman, old woman, old woman," said I,
       "Whither, oh whither, oh whither so high?"
"To sweep the cobwebs from the sky;
         And I'll be with you by-and-by.”

 

The girl seemed calmed by her daddy’s voice.  Not asleep, but her eyelids were drooping.

 

The father bade her goodnight and gave her a kiss.

 

The girl closed her eyes tight as he turned off the light. Fear and dread ran through her.  She dared not open them, lest she see things that made her heart race even more!  It wasn’t the lightning or the distant thunder that scared it; it was the shapes in the dark.  Movement by her desk, a shape in her clothes strewn over her chair, a face in the shadows cast by her pitcher of peacock feathers as the lightning flickered. 

 

From under her bed Pitch Black watched the whole exchange. 

 

Her parents did not know of her real fear.  Pitch took a golden sphere from his jacket, petting over its textured surface.  It brimmed with potential energy…perhaps she would conquer that fear soon.  When that day came, the collected fears inside the shell would feed her own fearlings for the rest of her life, easing their hunger and allowing her to live alongside them and not be ruled by them.

 

He was still new to this role, this state of being with a mind not haunted by whispers and the hunger of thousands of fearlings.  The actual act of shepherding fears came naturally as breathing.  Still, even breathing needed training when you were doing it for something so specialized.  And like a professional diver training their lungs, Pitch too had not learned to dive so deeply into the seas of fear as concentrated as these. 

 

This was not the only thing weighing heavily on the mind of the boogeyman though… 

 

Pitch momentarily rose up from the shadows, a pillar of blackness dappled in gold.  He gazed longingly down at the little girl who had her eyes shut tight as she drifted off to sleep.  As she did, a stream of gold came through the windows, sprinkling a sweet dream over her.

 

Pitch smiled at the gold and ran his fingers through it.  It sparkled like wind chimes, echoing and ancient.  He left a few grains of black in his wake.  Just a touch of fear… he was able to add it to Sandy’s dreams now without turning the whole thing black.  Courage was good, but carelessness would land her in trouble with all that tree climbing.

 

Pitch melted back into the darkness to visit other souls across the planet, but there was one being he was most wanting to get back to at the end of the night...

 

‘take care, little one…’

 

 

Pitch rose up from the shadows under Sandy’s bed.  The dream guardian was already waiting for him.

 

“Well, what is it?”  Pitch looked to him. 

 

Sandy’s joy overtook his worry and he seemed to brighten as he knew the moment was drawing near.  He couldn’t wait to reveal the good news! 

 

Yes, this was good news, no matter what could happen.  He tried to look on the bright side.

 

Pitch followed smoothly after the Sandman, who motioned to stationed shell guards.  They let the two men pass and a door opened in the sandcastle wall. 

 

< This morning when I awoke, I discovered something.  Wanted to make sure it was safe before telling you.  Also…you were so nicely dreaming I hated to wake you. > Sandy whispered over a twinkle of wind chimes.  It was a mostly true statement.  No reason to say how he panicked.

 

“What could you possibly have discovered in my realm that you needed to bring here in such a hurry?”  He cocked a brow as he trailed Sandy into the room.

 

Pitch watched Sandy bounce over to what looked like…a bassinet?  He took place on the opposite side as if beckoning his dark counterpart to look in.  Pitch felt a rising of energy tingle across his hair, like static electricity, as he came up and leaned over the bassinet. 

 

There inside was a ball of light, but it was no hard, glassy orb, it had a definite organic look to it.  The surface flickered and shifted with a rainbow of colors.  Pitch was drawn to it, and put out a hand, curious, but he stopped far short.  The heat the ball gave off was like…a star.  As if sensing his presence, an echoing voice came from the ball, a jumble of language like the sounds of children playing and laughing. 

 

His platinum eyes were wide as he locked gaze with Sandy. 

 

“Sandy, what is this?”

 

Sandy smiled knowingly, brow furrowing up in emotion.

 

< A young star is born from light and love of two parent stars.  When…we made love last night, the light in your heart was strong enough that you might as well have been a star, for a brief moment.  >

 

Shock took over Pitch’s expression.  He felt his legs weaken.

 

< It takes days for the energy to cool enough to stabilize and take on final form. > Sandy continued lovingly explaining, petting a hand over the bright orb like the heat did not affect him. 

 

Pitch meanwhile fell to his knees, words failing him.

 

< Always a very long wait I’ve been told…to see what your baby will look like.  I…I of course have never been a father, so I do not know from experience. > He bit his lip, eyes glassy.

 

Pitch spoke with his eyes at Sandy, ‘Sandy, is this…?’  Sandy smiled with crinkled eyes as he nodded fervently.  A stuttered exhale of breath that only comes with happy shock laughed out of Pitch, his composure cracking as both of them rang out in unbelieving joy. 

 

He smoothed his hair back and gasped, “Sandy!  This…we?!”  He was still laughing and couldn’t form a coherent sentence.  He was the most ecstatic you could imagine the Boogeyman being.

 

“Oh my stars…” He kept gasping.  He put his hands to the side of the bassinet and craned close as he dared to the hot ball of energy.  He wanted to touch it so badly.

 

< Still too hot, for you to touch. > Sandy chuckled like he knew what he was thinking. He was like a child staring longingly at something out of reach.

 

“Not fair you can touch...”  Pitch grumbled through smiling.  There was only a brief pause before he said, “Is it a girl or a boy?  Still too early to tell?” 

 

< Will be like a star, I assume.  You contributed love and light, not like having a biological humanoid child.  We pick a gender identity as we mature.  Some stay neutral though even into adulthood.  The way we refer to such is not something I can express in language to you, but ‘they’ and ‘it’ would be fine to use.  > Sandy beamed from his perch on the other side of the bassinet.

 

“What do you feed star children?”  Pitch was so eager and excited, eyes wide and full of wonder as he kept barraging Sandy with questions. 

 

< You are getting ahead of yourself … > Beach waves rolled in with a rumble of exasperation, but Sandy couldn’t help but continue smiling.

 

Pitch took a deep breath and tried to calm himself, but there was only so much you could calm a man so happy to hear he was to be a father…again!  

 

He stood and dashed over to Sandy, scooping him up in his hands like he barely weighed anything at all. “OH Sanderson come now, we’re going to be PARENTS!  Just think!   And it will be your first time!  I mean, you helped raise my Sera but not as a baby!”  While Pitch had many memories now of his daughter in the Golden Age…it still was thousands of years ago, and quite distant as old memories tend to be.  He wasn’t the golden general anymore, his ideals and emotions were part of him, but he was Pitch Black, and this was to be his first child. 

 

Sandy floated out of his grasp.  He bit his lip.

 

It was then that the gentle flicker of the light of the orb became more apparent.  It sputtered like water was being poured over it, and then stabilized again, before phasing once more.

 

Pitch blinked, he noticed it that time.  “Is that normal?”

 

Sandy pouted, and pet a hand to Pitch’s leg, < That is why I say…do not get ahead of things.  The star still needs to stabilize. >

 

“Stabilize?”  Pitch cocked his head at the Dreamweaver.

 

< ...is a crossbreed, remember?  Light from you is not the same as a star.  I have been told it can work…but know, it is highly unusual the relationship between us.  Also, I am not in my prime anymore either. > He told him truthfully, expression solemn.

 

Pitch could smell that fear on him again.  His tone was serious as he assumed the worst, “Are you saying the light could go out?” 

 

Sandy nodded sadly.

 

“No…” Pitch trailed off, turning towards the orb. “That, I simply refuse that that could happen.  Isn’t there anything we can do?”  He asked, voice raised.

 

Sandy shook his head again with a small shrug. < I wish there was.  I do not know of anything though except to be supportive. >

 

Pitch sighed and hovered over the bassinet, gazing at the baby star with love and concern. “If I have to stand here day and night…if that will help, I’ll do it.  I don’t have to feed hordes of fearlings anymore, yes?” 

 

The posture and look Pitch was giving reminded Sandy very much of Kozmotis, which was a conflicting feeling but he knew that was the protective, caring father in him.  If stars fed off joy and love, to have someone there giving it such might indeed help stabilize the young star. 

 

Sandy smiled hopefully, and a brisk autumn wind blew crisp leaves past Pitch’s ears.  < Yes I think that is a good plan!  We will take shifts.  Neither of us can be in here day in and day out. > Sandy pat his leg, and got a sad remembrance to long ago when Pitch did do just that.  Guard day after day with no regard for his own well being…

 

There was no way he’d ever let Pitch do anything like that again.

 

“Baa, baa, black sheep,
   Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
   Three bags full;

 

One for my master,
   One for my dame,
And one for the little boy
   That lives in our lane.”

 

The mother of the little girl read a bedtime lullaby for her daughter.

 

“Sleep well, I love you.” The mother kissed her goodnight.

 

The girl was uneasy though, the night was dark, the moon a sliver in the sky.

 

“Mom?”  She called out as her mother was about to close the door to a dark room.

 

“Yes?”  The mother could hear trepidation in her daughter’s voice.  She came back in and sat on the bed, turning on the bedside lamp.

 

The girl did something she never did before.  She admitted…that she was afraid of the dark.

“Afraid?  There’s nothing to be afraid of dear.  There is nothing here that can hurt you.”  The mother pet her head.

 

This answer didn’t seem to console the girl, “I…I know it can’t HURT me.  I’m not scared of that.  It just…it’s creepy.  I see things.  It - it’s just really scary sometimes!”  She was frustrated to make her mom understand.

 

“Well,” The mom bit her lip, seeing this was a problem of a different kind, “Why is it scary?  What do you see?” 

This made the girl think.  “Shapes…like monsters, or a face.   Or I think sometimes it is like something is there…”

“Well if the monsters are not there to hurt you, which of course we know already,” The mother smiled, “Maybe, you ought to ask the dark what it wants.”

“Ask it?”  The girl looked confused. “It’s just…the dark.  It can’t talk back.”  And after saying that, the girl thought about how that actually made it even scarier.

“Sure it can.”  The mother knew her child liked fantastical stories, maybe if she made the dark personified it would help her relate to it, “I think…the dark is just lonely and wants a friend.  And a smart, imaginative girl like yourself, you are fun to pester I bet.”

 

The girl finally smiled. “You think the dark knows I can bake really good cookies?”

 

“I am sure of it!  Hey…let’s leave it some, then I’m sure it will like you.” The mother laughed.

“Yea yea!”  The girl jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen.

 

It was past her bedtime by the time the cookies were baked, but the mother knew sometimes comforts didn’t follow bedtimes.  It was a weekend anyway.

 

A plate of cookies was placed on the girl’s writing desk. “You see them over here, yea?”

“A lot…yea.” The girl was eating one of the cookies, to test it of course.

“Alright, now get to sleep, past your bedtime.” The mother saw she was getting sleepy too. “I love you.”

“I love you too mom, night night…”

 

The girl looked out about the dark room.  It did seem a lot less scary than it did before.  She closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep…

 

From under the bed a pool of shadows rose.  It twinkled softly like the night sky as it formed Pitch’s familiar lithe shape, the pinpoints settling into place like amber crystals.

 

Pitch smiled, looking upon the sleeping child.  Her mother’s speech had been something of an unusual one.  Usually parents tried to simply tell their children not to fear, that the monsters were not real, that they were safe.  While that was nice, Pitch of course knew, the only way to truly ease a fear is to understand it and face it.

 

Pitch smoothly strode over to the shadowy corners in question, rustling her hanging dragon toys and petting over the vase of peacock feathers.   This would normally terrify her, but the girl still had her eyes closed and didn’t seem to be filled with utter dread.  He smiled at this like he was proud.

 

He glanced at the cookies.

 

These really were for him?  They seemed to be snickerdoodles, the fresh cinnamon and sugar on them warm.  He bit his lip.  North got cookies EVERY year, but this was the first time he had any given to him.  No one believed in the boogeyman anymore, and surely no one would give him cookies if they did.  Even if the girl didn’t believe in him, her mom did weave a nice tale of befriending the dark, and he was the pitch black of night, wasn’t he?

 

He casually picked up a cookie and took a bite.  Ohhh it was so soft and delicious!  He didn’t used to like such things (understandably) but with all the sweets Sandy foisted upon him, he was realizing many new taste sensations.  He-

 

“Hello?” 

 

Pitch froze. 

 

He turned and saw the girl sitting up in bed, eyes right on him.  In the dim light he was quite in shadow, especially his gaunt face, but the soft glow of the gold on his jacket shone in the dark. 

 

The girl felt a jolt of fear; the dark moved and looked right at her!  However, she remembered her mom’s words.  And she saw her room’s shadows move before but…this time one was eating her cookies so - “I…umm…you like snickerdoodles?” 

 

‘She...she can see me!’ He thought.  ‘Really see me.’

 

Pitch hesitated, glancing about, but then he came over, and sat on the bed carefully.  He was still holding the cookie.

 

 

As he did, the girl watched with a fast beating heart, but something about the figure was calming despite how he was an intimidating and tall shadowy figure.  The glow from his jacket’s edging and adornments was like firefly light, and fireflies were something she loved.   Her eyes finally adjusted to the dark, and she was able to make out his face as more than one of those shadows that scared her so much.  He was…smiling!  It reminded her of her father’s smile.   

 

“You can see me?” Pitch said, voice a whisper of velvet, but wavering with excitement.

 

“I see you almost every night.  It…you looked scary.  But I guess I didn’t see you smiling before!”  She nervously laughed with trepidation.

 

“The unknown is indeed frightening,” Pitch replied, taking another bite of the cookie.  “A keen eye in the dark is not a bad thing.  A long time ago, it might have helped you see a wolf sneaking through the woods.”  He tip toed his fingers of his free hand over the blanket.  The girl watched him intently.

 

He smirked then and said after a pause, “And your cookies are very good.”

 

She smiled as if very proud of the compliment.

 

He finished the cookie. “I know your name is Alexis, but we’ve not been introduced.” Pitch dusted the sugar off his fingers, and then laid his hands loosely in his lap. “I’m Pitch Black.”

 

“I know you are.” The girl giggled like he was silly.  Of course he was ‘Pitch Black’, being he was the darkness she saw. “So you want me to call you that though, as a name?”

 

He nodded, giving an expression like she was the silly one.  “Most just go by ‘Pitch’.” Looking about absently his eyes fell on the Mother Goose book by the girl’s bed. “You have a great taste in bedtime stories, by the way.” He picked it up, petting over the cover.

 

“You like Mother Goose?”  She looked at him funny as if she didn’t believe him.

 

“I know her actually...”  His voice was wistful.  He wished he could see her, really see her, again.  He wondered if she’d ever come back, from her storybooks. “Her name is Katherine.  She was - is a lovely woman, one of the kindest I know.”

 

“You KNOW THE Mother Goose?”  The girl looked at him like he knew a rock star.

 

The way her eyes lit up made him chuckle. “Yes, I do.  In fact, here let me read you my favorite…”  He put down the book.  He knew them all by heart of course.  His voice was rhythmic and ancient; no one could read such a thing better,

 

“Sing a song of sixpence,
       A pocket full of rye;
Four-and-twenty blackbirds
      Baked in a pie!

When the pie was opened
      The birds began to sing;
Was not that a dainty dish
      To set before the king?

The king was in his counting-house,
      Counting out his money;
The queen was in the parlor,
      Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,
      Hanging out the clothes;
When down came a blackbird
      And snapped off her nose!”

 

His voice rose as he got to the end of the poem.  At the last line his teeth flashed in a playful grin as he snapped his middle and index fingers at her nose as if it was a blackbird trying to bite it clean off!

 

She squealed in delight and fought off the ‘attack’, protecting her nose.  “No no ehehee!”

 

Pitch laughed deeply in pleasure at that, oh what fun! “No you are far too vigilant to be had by a mere blackbird.  At least a raven, to surprise the likes of you.” 

 

The girl quieted down and gave a yawn.  Her eyes drooped but she was fighting off sleep well.

 

“Someone looks sleepy,” Pitch said quietly.

 

“I…I’m not sleepy.”  She yawned once more.

 

Pitch got up and walked over to the particularly scary corner of her room that used to frighten her so.  She didn’t seem scared to stare right at it that moment as her eyes followed him.  “Thank you again for the cookies.” 

 

“Will I see you again?”

 

“Perhaps….but if you talk to the dark I’ll always hear it.  The shadows where you sleep are your friends now, remember?” He put up his hands, and his shadow he cast on the wall from the moonlight showed a butterfly made with his fingers – an easy shadow play.  However, the shadows morphed, a more realistic butterfly taking shape no human could ever do with their hands. 

 

The black butterfly flew off the wall, and the girl gasped, trying to catch it as it fluttered around her, shimmering iridescent purple and blue.  She caught it and it scattered into a mess of black glitter, which exploded upward and fell slowly, beginning to burn with a twinkling golden hue.  It was like a little universe there in her room full of constellations.

 

When she looked up, Pitch was gone, and so were more of the cookies…

 

She fell asleep quite soundly after that.

 

 

“Sandy?”  Pitch nudged the sleeping Sandman from where he was perched at the edge of the bassinet.

 

The little man blinked awake and smiled at his counterpart.  He pointed happily to the orb, it was still glowing bright, but like a candle in the wind, it flickered occasionally.

 

Pitch seemed energized despite the modest sleep he’d been getting that week.  They were taking turns watching over the young star.  Sandy tended to rest through a lot of his shifts, but that was just how he was, he needed the sleep. 

 

While not guarding they went out and did their rounds.  Sandy needed to keep his believers and watch over the dreams of children.  Meanwhile, Pitch was adapting to his new state of being: instilling generally healthy fears, helping people understand them, and bottling conquered fear to satiate the fearlings in their hearts.  And after the events of that night, being seen, really seen, perhaps he too could have believers like he did in the dark ages, but now for a far more focused, more constructive, reason. 

 

< You look chipper…be sure to get some rest though, yes? > Sandy said with worry and a yawn.

 

“Oh Sanderson, the most wonderful thing happened tonight!   I mean, second most wonderful,” He cocked his head to the miracle laying there in the bassinet, “I was seen tonight.  A little girl, I have a true believer, in me!

 

Sandy grinned wide, jumping up like he wanted to hear all the details.  Seashells rolled excitedly over beach surf, <OH!  How wonderful! >

 

“She left me cookies, her mother is a smart woman.”  Pitch reached into his cloak and pulled out a snickerdoodle. 

 

Sandy gasped, puffing his cheeks, < People don’t leave ME cookies! >

 

“Hahaha, don’t get too testy old man, I earned this.  But I did save this one for you.”  He handed it over.

 

Sandy gave him a kiss and happily took the morsel.

 

The orb flickered and ‘giggled’, reacting to their banter and affection for one another.

 

Pitch made himself a blacksand chair and leaned his elbows on the bassinet as he sat down. “Sanderson,” His eyes were hazy, “I wish there was more we could do.  I’ll admit, I feel helpless.”  And that was not something he liked to divulge.

 

Sandy smoothed a hand on his shadowy back reassuringly, < Is not what you want to hear, but…perhaps we can ask Man in Moon? >

 

Pitch indeed buried his chin into his folded arms with a grumble.   “I do not deserve to ask for his help.”

 

< He seemed to accept your apology, at least for starters. >

 

Pitch slouched more, but smiled ever so gingerly. 

Sandy floated back around to face Pitch, giving him a ‘don’t know until you try?’ expression.

Pitch chuckled softly as if complimenting his optimism.

Sandy then gestured with his sand forming images of the other Guardians.

 

“Stop, I know what you are going to say.” Pitch sighed and huffed, gazing upon the ball there in the bassinet with a conflicted expression of joy and worry, “What could they possibly do?”

 

< Not sure…but…I just don’t know what else to do, same as you. > The breeze whispered tenderly.

 

Pitch considered, then swallowed. “If nothing changes in the next few days, we will seek help, yes?”  He proposed.

 

Sandy nodded like this was something he would be okay with.

 

...

 

“Mom, can I get these?”  The girl held up a package of plastic glow in the dark stars.

 

“I didn’t think you were into that kind of thing?”

 

“A friend made me appreciate it more.”  The girl grinned.

 

Later that night, the girl was admiring her handiwork.  Her ceiling was now nicely spotted with glow stars. 

 

When it came time for sleep and teeth were brushed and parents put her to bed, she realized she was very thirsty.  If she wanted a fresh glass of water before bed to help her get to sleep, she would need to make a trip back downstairs to get to the Brita pitcher in the fridge. 

 

It was dark downstairs.  Her parents were in bed.  And the light switch for the living room was at the base of the stairs.  She had to walk towards the dark to get to it.     

 

While the very idea before would have made her go to bed thirsty… tonight, she felt a little less apprehensive. 

 

In her purple-teal jammies, she stood at the top of the stairwell.  She swallowed and stared at the dark down there.  She imagined that face she saw in her dreams the other night.  Was it really a dream?  Of course it must have been, right?  But she swore she had still been awake.  AND cookies were missing from the plate she’d put out.  That was real.

 

She took a deep breath and creaked down the stairs, the dark slowly enveloping her like a shroud.  Just when she felt it was too much she finally reached the light and flicked the switch on. 

 

She got a glimpse of the dark of the downstairs living room just before it was lit up.  She swore she saw something. 

 

The glass of water was gotten and she was back on the base of the stairs.

 

She flicked the light switch off.

 

She could feel the dark nipping at her ankles, at her back, like the tide washing over a beach. 

 

But she didn’t run.

 

She stood there and let it billow against her back.  Her heart beat fast. ‘There isn’t anything there that will hurt you,’ she kept telling herself, ‘The dark is not your enemy…it’s not a monster.’

 

She glanced to her side and there sitting on the last few steps facing the dark was the robed figure from her dream.  She gasped, but the figure didn’t flinch.  He turned to face her and seemed lost in thought.  There was a pause in which the girl calmed down, and turned to sit alongside the boogeyman, so both of them were facing the darkness.

 

There was a pause of silence while they both just stared into the blackness.

 

“Facing your fears…it’s not always easy,” Pitch said softly, a smile twitching onto his thin lips like he was proud of her.   His gaze drifted back to the darkness, while his hands smoothed over one another like he was worried about something.

 

The little girl smiled as she felt more at ease with the approving look she was briefly given.  She studied the boogeyman’s body language.  “You seem scared?” She was perceptive. “What could you possibly be afraid of?”

 

Pitch straightened his back, and if he was a raven you could have seen his feathers ruffle right about then.  “I….I am worried about something, well, someone, I care for.”

 

“A friend?”  The girl tilted her head like she wondered what kind of unusual friends someone like him would have. 

 

“A…child, younger than you.  They are sick.  They might die.”  Pitch’s face was in shadow as the girl looked at him, all she could see was the faint glow of his eyes and gold edging on his cloak. 

 

“Oh no…” The girl forgot all about how scared she was with the dark all around her and the otherworldly appearance of the being before her.  She was quite worried to hear such a thing, especially that the boogeyman cared about someone like that.  If SHE got sick she knew her parents would be so sad, and to imagine someone so young dying…  “I hope they get better!”

 

Pitch turned to face her, smiling kindly through the sadness like her well wishes meant a lot.  “Thank you.  I hope so too.”

 

The girl glanced down just a moment as she took a sip of her water.  When she looked up there was nothing there on the steps next to her but a whisper of shadows.  

 

She felt suddenly alone, senses on edge, the silence of the subtle noises of a house in the dark prickling across her ears.  But she wasn’t afraid, even as she looked back to the dark room before her.  Still, she scampered up the stairs and jumped into bed, like the dark was playing tag with her.      

 

Chapter Text

 

It had been about a week since the black and gold spirits had begun taking shifts watching over the ball of light in Sanderson’s sand castle, and a certain someone had taken notice.   

 

A someone who kept watch on everything from high above the Earth.

 

They had noticed first how the past month or so Pitch and Sandy had become almost inseparable.   Soon it became quite obvious how involved they were (he could only imagine what they did in private).  However, for the past week they were never seen together in the nighttime skies.  

 

It had been a strange time in the lone Tsar’s life. 

 

The Man in the Moon, or MiM as his subjects liked to call him, didn’t believe how…different Pitch seemed after he reappeared from the Guardians defeating his fearling nightmare army.  The differences grew and grew as weeks passed.  The Tsar had not known the man Pitch used to be so well.  He was but an infant when General Kozmotis would come to see his father and mother.  Long ago as it was, he still has inklings of that man that his father put so much faith in, and pressure on, during the great war that eventually led to where he was now watching over Earth.  

 

Whatever being Pitch Black was now, gave the Tsar those nostalgic feelings from long long ago.  Instead of the hatred and malice he’d always known from that gaunt, gray face, there was now humanity.  Something in his heart had changed.    

 

It wasn’t just a feeling, MiM knew, as he realized he could focus his moonbeams to Earth a tad stronger, like a little more light was cracking through the dark veil that shrouded the planet.  Ever since his old friend and protector Nightlight sacrificed himself to try and banish the fearlings, the world never quite glowed as brightly. 

And he’d been angry…for Nightlight was gone, and the fearlings still remained jailed within Pitch’s twisted cage of flesh and bone, and from their vessel they lashed out and fed on children’s sweet dreams and darkest fears.  Their physical forms were gone, but their darkness still clung to the planet.  As much as Nightlight had weakened the Nightmare King, it had seemed a sacrifice for naught.

 

Manny was not a being of hatred, but Pitch, he’d taken everything from him. 

 

He’d be lying if he said he never thought dark thoughts in conjunction with the name Pitch Black. 

 

Because he could focus his moonbeams to Earth better, MiM had sent a special moonbeam down with a message for an old friend and Guardian, one who was lost in the pages of her stories.  He knew she held something dear to the old General; something he’d known had an effect on him in a previous battle at the Earth’s core. Perhaps it could do so again.

 

And wonder of wonders, it did!  MiM had watched in amazement as the most brilliant light engulfed the north pole; a glow he’d not seen since the last great battle of the Golden Age when his parents were killed and Nightlight fell to Earth with Pitch.  A shaft of light shot out into space and spread across the entire planet.  It was like he could see the magnetic field that shielded the solar winds light up.  The old magic that tore through the horde of fearlings was like nothing he’d seen before. 

 

With that, the ancient darkness that had always been there was gone.

 

 The fearlings from the Golden Age, conquered.    

 

It was after this event the strange distance occurred between Pitch Black and Sanderson Mansnoozie. 

 

MiM was watching through his telescope, and tonight he saw Pitch alone sitting atop a curled spire of sand on the very tip of the Sandman’s island, his long legs dangling off the edge.          

 

It was still hard to forgive, but he couldn’t deny what had come to pass.  Sanderson was a dear friend, and one of his beloved guardians.  He’d woke him up before he spoke to the others, and he trusted his judgment completely.  If Sanderson trusted, even loved, Pitch, then MiM could accept his heart was not evil.  He’d shown his compassion in the moonbeam image he presented to Pitch at the North pole.  Shown Pitch that he could begin to trust and forgive.

 

And so it was on this night that MiM especially wondered what it was that was troubling Pitch so much …

 

 

Pitch sat alone racked with worry. 

 

The moon above was a waning gibbous that night, a lovely crescent in the sky, but he could always see the silhouette of the half not illuminated.     

 

The little star had still not stabilized. 

 

He knew the next step was to ask the Guardians for help.  That was pretty much the last thing he wanted to do.  Between feeling terrible, his own pride, to thinking how he could ask for such a thing from them. He didn’t even know what they could do anyway…but this was about an innocent child, surely his past sins were of no consequence to their well being.  Yes, he had to remember that, this wasn’t really him asking for assistance, it was a plea of help for a child in need.  

 

He stoically held back tears but couldn’t help his voice cracking as he whispered, “Stars, I can’t lose another one…I can’t…” Pitch flexed a hand over his face with a closing of eyes, his throat thick.  “I can’t I can’t…” His long back hunched over as his elbows hit his thighs, hands threading into hair as he continued talking to himself.

 

“Please, I wish, if there was a way to save them, I’ll do it.  I’ll do anything.  If it takes all the light I have left in my heart I’d give it if it meant they could survive.”  He whispered brokenly.

 

A cold ocean breeze blew past; all Pitch could hear was the whisper of the waves on the shore.  He was so used to this sound but it was always laced with Sandy’s voice.  But right then, he only heard silence, which just made him feel the piercing desolation he remembered from the past hundreds of years when he’d sit atop cliffs at night, with only the moon for company, as he pondered his increasingly forlorn existence. 

 

“I…it wouldn’t be fair!  It’s not fair for something so full of love to go out before it ever got to live, when a being like me persisted for so many centuries!”  He suddenly yelled out to the dark ocean, frustration overcoming his sorrow. 

 

The twisted anger on his face, crooked teeth bared and eyes aglow, melted back into what he really was -a concerned father, feeling helpless to save their child. 

 

< Pitch, > a voice drifted over the dark waves. 

 

He almost did not hear it at first, he was so lost in himself, but when Sandy came and sat next to him, of course he took notice, especially as there in Sandy’s hands was a seashell encrusted basket, with a bright orb inside it.

 

Pitch startled, instantly worried about even moving the star infant - was that okay?! 

 

Sandy knew exactly what he was thinking before he could speak.  < Calm down, they are same as before…and moving has no effect on the light. >

 

Pitch breathed and settled down. “I’m sorry…I am a bit on edge.”

 

< I heard a yelling over the water, you talking to yourself out here? > The waves inquired.  Sandy would not say he unconsciously heard Pitch’s selfless wish.  Pitch was such a devoted father, back then and now once more.

 

There was a look of ignominy on Pitch’s face.  Ah, Sandy had heard?  He’d gotten so worked up.  His hands were shivering slightly. 

 

As if he was a line backer handed delicate, priceless pottery, Pitch momentarily tensed as Sandy placed the basket in his lap.  His gray hands gripped it securely, but also gingerly.  The light orb shifted and sounded like it ‘giggled’ in an amalgam of sound.   Pitch cracked a smile.  So little, so helpless…

 

< I was thinking, might be time to see if the other Guardians can help in some way.  It’s why I bundled up the little one. > Sandy, who had somehow remained far more stoic about this whole situation then Pitch, looked up at him hopefully.

 

“Ah...” Pitch nodded solemnly. 

 

He stood with basket in hands, cloak following smoothly and pooling about his feet.  He and Sandy were about to start off but before they could move the crescent of the moon gave a bright shimmer, almost like winking at them. 

 

Sandy perked up.  He knew that glow.  Manny was signaling them!

 

Pitch stared up at the moon, unsure, as yes the Man in the Moon talked to the Guardians over the years but he, like Jack, never got a word.  “What is it Sanderson?  Is the Tsar trying to say something?”

 

Sandy floated up to eye level with Pitch as if trying to get closer to the moon.

 

“You can talk to him directly…?” Pitch whispered.

 

< No…not quite talking, but in some way, yes. >

 

Sandy was still trying to figure out what Manny was signaling them about when the moon’s glowing intensified.  A bright object drew towards them, becoming clearer and clearer, then the speed at which it was moving became apparent as it zoomed into view.  It was a moonbeam!  It was just like what they saw at the pole in North’s workshop, another messenger. 

 

The moonbeam flew past and circled them.  Sandy blinked and time slowed down for a moment. 

 

He saw the moonbeam’s trailing light tail in detail, the glittering trail like dust glowing in the path of a comet. 

 

Voices whispered past Sandy’s ears, and reached out to his mind. 

 

When time caught up to normal speed Sandy had to shake his head.  He’d not communicated with a moonbeam directly in a long time.  That, and it seemed as if there was a lot of energy was in this one. 

 

“Sanderson?” Pitch was following the circling moonbeam with his head. “What is it?”

 

Sandy looked up with a wide smile, < Tsar Lunar is offering help to us, for the star child! >

 

Sandy wasn’t even sure what exactly the Tsar could do but perhaps there was a spell or the energy in the moonbeam he didn’t know of.  The celestial royal families were royal for a reason, they harbored great powers .  However, the Man in the Moon was raised by moon mice and lunar moths, even with the library of his parents at his disposal he wasn’t taught the same way as Lunanoffs before him. 

 

Pitch glanced at the basket, then up at the moon, his face showing exactly what he was thinking.  ‘Thank you...even if it doesn’t work, thank you for trying, for us…’

 

The moonbeam circled around one more time, drawing close to the basket and inspecting the child.  It brushed past Pitch’s chest, and then suddenly was drawn into the shadows of his cloak as if being sucked in by a black hole.

 

Pitch gasped in shock.  What happened?!

 

He had only a moment to contemplate the occurrence, for a pain tore through his chest.  Sandy jumped forward and snatched the basket from him as he staggered backward, thankfully not towards the cliff edge. 

 

“AAHHHhhggg ahhh!!” Pitch grasped at his chest like he was having a heart attack.  In the process he splayed open the front of his cloak, exposing the scar on the left side of his chest.  It was glowing the color of the moonbeam, lit from the inside.

 

Sandy didn’t know what was happening.  He looked around frantically, was that supposed to happen?  What was happening to Pitch?  He was screeching in pain and he didn’t know how to help him!

 

Pitch threw his head back and the glowing intensified.  An echoing giggle danced past their ears, the laugh of a young boy.   They both knew that laugh.

 

“Nightlight?” Pitch rasped, unsure.

 

The pain in his chest was making his heart hurt so much.   He felt like he was being torn open.  His eyes snapped wide and a bright flash whited out his vision.

 

 

Pitch fell through brightness, falling, and hit a sea of darkness.

 

He sank, deeper and deeper…until his feet touched solid ground.

 

He couldn’t see a thing except for himself.  He took blind steps forward, and under his footsteps the dark cracked, and the lighted fractures of gold spread out further and further like tree branches.

 

Pitch look around in confusion.  “Hello?” He tried calling out.

 

That giggle came past his ears again.  He winced.  It was like a memory taunting him.  Didn’t Nightlight sacrifice himself all those years ago, making Katherine so sad?  Why must he be reminded of it?  Was this a vision the moonbeam was giving him…The Tsar reminding him of what he took from him as well? 

 

“I’m sorry!”  He called out, whirling as he continued stumbling across the cracking blackness.  “He made the choice, not I!  And I can see now, what he did!  I am grateful!  Because of him…the fearlings hold on me was weakened.  I was able to start over.  He…he gave me a new life!”

 

The laughing echoed.  A surge of moon energy flew past him like fireflies and dove into the gold cracks all around, igniting part of them brilliant white and electric blue.   It coalesced as it seeped out of the fractures, more and more until there was a glowing pool of it.

 

Like a lily blooming out of a pond, a boy rose out of the collected white light. 

 

Pitch was not quite sure what was occurring, but there before him, was indeed, the spectral boy; the very same one that pinned him to a rock for a thousand years and then sacrificed his own life to try and wipe out the fearlings within him.

 

He was dead though. 

 

He was, wasn’t he?  

 

Pitch went to say something, but the boy opened his eyes, and smiled. 

 

<Pitch!> Sandy’s voice rang in his ears like bells, and suddenly he was back on the cliff edge on Sanderson’s island.  The pain in his chest had not gone away.  He cried out sharply as it intensified.

 

Sandy watched as the moonbeam emerged from Pitch’s chest, only now it dragged with it a larger mass of glowing energy.  Pitch clutched at himself, breathing hard as the burning pain subsided. 

 

The energy formed before them into the familiar shape of Nightlight.

 

Pitch’s eyes went wide with disbelief. 

 

Nightlight yawned and stretched, small feet settling to the ground.  He flicked his hand and his familiar moon lance formed.  The thin weapon was very organic and taller then it’s owner.  Nightlight leaned on it and smiled knowingly at them both. 

 

Sandy was still holding the basket, so he bounced gently with excitement and grinned like seeing an old friend.   

 

“How can this be?  Weren’t you destroyed when you…all those years ago?”  Pitch was disbelieving.

 

Nightlight gave Pitch a sideways glance, but he did not have hatred in his expression.  He was more interested in the ball of light in the basket.  Nightlight did not speak often; his voice was that of a young boy, but soft and alien, and similar to how Sandy sounded in Pitch’s head in otherworldly tone.   

 

“I thought I would be, ‘destroyed’ as you put it.  I was not afraid though.”  Nightlight considered and then continued, “But it seems a part of me was able to hide in that sliver of goodness in your heart, like I did before, when I trapped you on the stone.”

 

Nightlight smiled brightly when Sandy tipped the basket to allow him a better look at the young star.  He’d seen many back in the Golden Age, but the memory was dusty and faint. “When you cracked through the fearlings completely, I awoke.  But I was not able to escape until the Tsar sent that moonbeam – though it was not intended for me, was it?”  He glanced up at the moon and then back to the basket.

 

Pitch had mixed feelings seeing Nightlight again.  However, the boy seemed to know things had changed, and that Pitch didn’t have the same malice towards him anymore.  It didn’t mean he was going to grovel at his feet, or break out apologies, or suddenly even see him as a comrade.  But they were no longer mortal enemies, that much was established.

 

Pitch strode up next to the spectral boy with hands behind him, long back craning over to be at eye level.  “Can you…help us?  The star child I mean…”

 

“I can try.” Nightlight replied, like he had been informed of the original mission of the moonbeam that awakened him.  His voice trailed off back to his usual silence.

 

The spectral boy looked at his moon lance.  In its diamond tip was the familiar old moonbeam that had been trapped in it all those years ago…but now it housed the new moonbeam as well that had been sent that night by MiM.  He squinted as if studying it.

 

Sandy could hear a whisper but could make out no words.  Nightlight was talking to the moonbeams directly.   When it seemed the conversation was decided, he then lowered the lance over the ball of light, both parents watched closely with trepidation and hope. 

 

A bright light beamed out of the lance.  A tingle of energy pulsed through the air, cool and crisp like a winter morning.

 

When Pitch and Sandy looked again, the lance now contained only one moonbeam, the other had merged with the star.  The orb glowed brightly, flickering, and wavering.  You could see the moonbeam’s substance melting about on the surface like oil and water.  Suddenly, the moonbeam was spit out, like it was rejected.  Like the energies were not compatible.

 

 

The orb dimmed and sputtered, then went out.

 

 

Sandy and Pitch both felt their hearts fall into their stomachs.

 

 

Sandy reached out and grabbed the orb frantically, as if his own energy might rekindle it.

 

 Nightlight was so shocked he didn’t know what to do or say.  The Tsar had made a mistake?! 

 

“No…”  Pitch seemed disbelieving.  First he was angry, angry at MiM and Nightlight and –

 

No they were only trying to help…they didn’t know.  They tried they –

 

< Pitch I don’t know what to do! >

 

Sandy looked at him with helplessness and a frenetic nature.  He was so old, strong and wise and yet this was new territory.  It pained him to be powerless to help.

 

Sandy’s eyes welled up.  Pitch realized the tears he had been holding back earlier finally came to the surface.  “No…no it…”  He growled and cried out in a horrible mixture of anger, sadness, and love.  “Please please, take me instead please…!!”  He sobbed under his breath, hoping somehow it would work, that he could give his life for his child’s.

 

Sandy was wishing similar.  Wishing he could do more, that he’d die to save the new little star so it could grow up and give sweet dreams to children and know the joy that came with that.  The joys of laughing, flying through the night air, sweets, and…

 

Sandy cuddled the orb close and Pitch hunched over him.

 

Nightlight was watching carefully, and saw – saw as tears fell off both of them.  The tears of loving parents – surely that would hold great power?

 

He reached out and caught them – in his hands they turned into tear-shaped crystals. 

 

Sandy and Pitch looked to him in surprise as he did so, and especially so as he tapped his moon lance into his hand –  it absorbed the tears!  It glowed, shimmering like a rainbow reflecting in its prism structure.

 

The lance was touched to the orb.

 

There was a total whiteout FLASH.

 

The air, this time –

 

THIS time -

 

Was like soft and warm – like a blanket fresh from the dryer, wrapped around you with giggles and cuddling.   Like a parent handing you a cup of hot chocolate on a morning with freshly fallen snow outside.  Comforting like a band-aid placed over a wound and sealed with a kiss.  Safe like the arms of a parent as you run to them for comfort. 

 

When the light dissipated, a clear little giggle could be heard.

 

Everyone blinked in awe at the Sandman, whose arms were occupied by a small infant, whose face was peeking out of a blanket of stardusty dreamsand.

 

“Oh – oh my stars…” Pitch gasped, face rife with emotion.

 

As the surprise and relief passed, Sandy was in absolute love and it showed on his face as he pet back the ruff of blackish, but gold sheened, hair of the star baby. 

 

Nightlight smiled, planting his lance back to the ground.  He leaned on it to observe the parents.  Such…nostalgic feelings this was.  It was odd though, to see a man who was once his mortal enemy, now a loving father.  He used to think things were so black and white.  How much his world had changed.

 

“I’ll leave you two alone…” Nightlight’s otherworldly voice chimed.

 

“Thank you....”  Pitch’s voice was still shaky with shock, but he made concrete eye contact with the spectral boy.  “Thank you.”

 

 

“It was your magic – I just helped shape it.”  He replied quietly.

 

 

He flew off into the moonlit sky, to who knows where.  He had a lot of catching up to do…

 

Chapter Text

 

The unusual family stumbled into Sandy’s home after the events with Nightlight and, feeling like they could finally rest knowing their child would survive, promptly fell asleep.  They were exhausted physically and emotionally. The star baby slept safely in its bundle at the head of the bed, just above the pillows, smiling like it was content just to feel the happiness of its parents nearby.

 

It was night out when the nocturnal spirits awoke.

 

“Stars, I didn’t realize how tired I was,” Pitch muttered as he sat up.  He attempted to smooth his dark hair, which was somewhat mussed. The moon outside was now waxing; they must have been asleep for days. While they slept in their regenerative rest, Pitch’s duties had been carried out temporarily by his nightmare creatures. Sandy could work in his sleep, and now that he had renewed vigor it seemed easier for him to reach out far across the land from his stationary slumber.

 

< You barely slept last week… were so busy watching over the baby, > Sandy replied, petting his back, including the obvious moon lance scar. 

 

Pitch turned to check on the child. It was very different from a human baby in that it seemed quite content to just sleep and sleep. 

 

“Are they alright…?”  He whispered. He leaned over and studied their features. They HAD features now, not just being a ball of light anymore. The baby had light peachy skin and a more rounded face like Sandy, but Pitch saw an obvious bit of himself in the beginnings of a distinctive Pitchiner nose bridge.  He hoped it wouldn’t be as harsh as his own, but only time would tell. The dark hair was un-star like, but even though it was dark, it had a sparkly golden sheen like goldstone, glittering in every movement.  The hair seemed to have grown a bit while they all slept, and now the ends curled in untamed ways like Sandy’s when he was younger.

 

< Star babies sleep a LOT. Though I've been told when they are NOT asleep they make up for it with boundless energy. > Sandy’s voice giggled through Pitch’s mind. It was one thing to see other star children and hear about them second hand, and quite another to be the parent, Sandy thought, hoping he could raise their baby as a star ought to be. He picked up the child and cradled it in his lap. 

 

Pitch watched Sandy intently as he unfolded the dreamsand bundle to check on the child. He smirked and cocked a brow at the Dreamweaver, “Well remember, the child is half me. I have no doubts they’ll be a little terror. Or I’ll be sorely disappointed.” 

 

Sandy grinned right back at this statement. < Half your spirit and heart, but physically they are a star.  Which is to say, not like human children who need to eat, and have their diapers changed. > 

 

“I guess I should be thankful for that.”  Pitch snarked softly. He couldn’t help but beam with pride and happiness that the child was alright, and beautiful. The most beautiful baby he’d ever seen. Though every parent thought that, didn’t they?

 

While no larger than an average human newborn, the baby seemed more developed - like a miniature two year old.  However, their legs and torso were not quite as long as one would expect, but still not as short as Sandy's. Pitch wondered what height they would end up at. The baby curled up in Sandy’s lap, and started sucking their thumb in their sleep, briefly showing off a few small teeth. Sandy loosely wrapped them in the dreamsand blanket once more.

 

“They need a name,” Pitch’s velvet voice said. 

 

< OH actually, I dreamed up one I thought sounded fitting. I do my best thinking while asleep. >

 

“Of course you do,” Pitch laughed. “So tell me.”

 

< Umbra. >

 

The way Sandy’s voice said that was like a trickle of a moonlit creek across smooth rocks in a dark, foggy forest. Resonating, mysterious, striking.

 

Pitch liked it.

 

“Umbra,” His own dark tongue tried it as he stroked the dark hair of the sleeping baby. The baby made a small sound and nudged their head into his hand. Their eyes opened. It was the first time Pitch or Sandy had got to see the baby’s eye color. It was shimmering gold. Both parents melted at the sight.

 

“I think they like it?” Pitch looked at Sandy.

 

Sandy nodded fervently.      

 

 

Sandy was glowing like you would expect of a proud father as he tickled the star baby where they laid in their bassinet. Umbra giggled and flailed their little arms around. Sandy had dressed them in dreamsand footed pajamas, not that it was any surprise, and Pitch had casually added a black vest when Sandy wasn’t looking.  Sandy gave him a look like ‘oh, is this a contest?’ when he saw it, but didn’t take it off, but Pitch missed the long look Sandy gave Umbra as if checking the black sand closely. 

 

Pitch asked about leaving Umbra alone as they traveled the Earth.  He knew nothing of star children and wanted to learn fast as he could so he could best take care of and protect his child.  Sandy told Pitch his seashell soldiers could make sure Umbra didn’t escape from the nursery if the child awoke. 

 

<But really, the baby will sleep most of the time, and is fine to leave while we roam the earth.  They are stable now and won’t go out any time soon. > Sandy reassured him.  This seemed to alleviate the Boogeyman’s worries. 

 

They spent some time fixing up the room to look more like a nursery.  Pitch kept adding black additions which Sandy was at first amused by but then began to look a little uneasy.

 

Pitch then asked if it would be okay if Umbra came to spend time in his realm too. Sandy thought a moment and said he thought his island was a ‘safer’ place for now. Pitch scoffed at that and said something along the lines of ‘what, you think my nightmares would be bad babysitters?’

 

Sandy hesitated, and then explained what had been bothering him…

 

While the nightmare creatures Pitch made now were good at their core, and would never harm the child outright, they still were nightmares, and therefore were polar opposite in nature to dreams.  Nightmare men could burn away at the hulls of stars with just a touch back in the Golden Age, same as how they did to each other sometimes playfully.  But the star child was young and therefore more fragile.  

 

< I just am being paranoid perhaps…but it’s best to play it safe, for now, yes? >

 

Pitch stiffened, feeling a pang of dread.  The very idea that he could inadvertently harm his child hurt him to his core.  He certainly was not the fearling infested creature he had been before with a closed off heart.  He was a shepherd, a guardian of fears now... wasn’t he?

 

< Pitch, > Sandy said, seeing the look on Pitch’s face, < I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to say it like that... >

 

Pitch looked to the wiggling child in the bassinet. Umbra’s gold eyes looked at him. The black vest he’d put on his child didn’t seem to hurt them, why would a nightmare creature or his shadows? 

 

“Let’s have a little test then… to put my mind at ease.” Pitch conjured up a small nightmare in his palm.  It was a fox-like creature, but no larger than a squirrel. It looked alert and intelligent, with shining gold eyes and glowing tail tip, as well as flecks of gold in the fur of its back like spots.        

 

Sandy wavered, but the baby would be around Pitch’s nightmares and shadows much as his own dreamsand.  Better to find out under controlled circumstances then by surprise later.

 

Umbra seemed to perk up at the display, making grabby hands at their dark father. Pitch gave Sandy a look as if saying ‘See?  They like it already.’

 

Pitch let the nightmare slink into the bassinet. It sniffed Umbra, and both parents watched carefully. 

 

The nightmare was suddenly snatched and pulled into a bear hug by little arms, as if Umbra saw the dark creature like nothing more than a cuddly teddy bear.  The nightmare struggled as it was helpless to the onslaught. It eventually gave into its fate as Umbra started chewing on its tail, and gave a dejected little whimper.

 

Pitch laughed heartily as the tension in the room faded away.

 

“Chip off the old block!” Pitch beamed, “Adorable little terror aren’t you,” He cooed and scritched Umbra’s hair.

 

< I was a great fearling warrior too you know!  They have it from both sides, > Sandy puffed up with a smile.

 

“So what was all that talk about you being worried my nightmares might hurt them?” Pitch scoffed with more deep laughter.

 

Sandy pressed his lips together and rolled his eyes to the side.  He was the one behaving like an overprotective father now.  The baby was a hybrid so he was being extra careful, especially after all they had been through before the star had stabilized.

 

Pitch smiled knowingly in return.  He could clearly sense the fears Sandy had.  He gave him a kiss on the forehead.  “We both want to protect them best we can.  I understand your fears old man.”

 

Sandy’s lips curled up, feeling better knowing Pitch’s nightmare creatures wouldn’t hurt the star child.  He pointed as the Boogeyman was cuddling onto him, trying to bring his attention to Umbra.  They had fallen asleep again and seemed content to use the nightmare as a pillow.  The fox-like nightmare settled in as the choke hold on it loosened, and purred as they too dozed off. 

 

 

 

A fortnight passed as the new parents got used to their life as – well, parents. 

 

Umbra didn’t have the same needs as a human baby, but they did need things all the same.

 

Sandy and Pitch were sure to feed Umbra plenty of love, which Sandy said a young star required to grow big and strong until their own light was inextinguishable with self confidence, wisdom, and joy. 

 

Umbra got regular doses of it; gentle rocking, petting, singing, and sleeping at the head of the bed near their cuddled up parents. They would wake up and cry if alone too long, and Sandy’s dreamsand or Pitch’s nightmares would alert them, so at least one could return. Umbra would quiet down and be happy soon as they got the affection required, and Sandy and Pitch got better over time at coming back at the right intervals, to avoid making Umbra cry. 

 

When Umbra was awake they were played with, tickled, taken outside to see the stars and point out the constellations. Like a human baby they still needed to learn everything. 

 

However, unlike a human, Umbra had no vocal language.  Pitch would hear Umbra reach out to his mind in giggles and coos, or crying when they tripped over rocks down on the beach. So funny to see their little eyes well up and mouth agape, but no sound except ringing in his mind.

 

While Sandy’s voice was most ‘native’ to them, Umbra seemed always put at ease by their dark father’s voice, even just him saying ‘there, there, little one’ was like a little lullaby on its own.

 

 

“Sandy,” Pitch asked one evening, looking at Umbra’s smile as they crawled around after the nightmare fox in a game of tag.  He’s noticed Umbra had been born with a small set of front teeth, and already they nearly had a whole baby set.  “Will Umbra lose their baby teeth?”

 

< Tooth would be disappointed to learn that no, we do not.  We also can’t get cavities, which she would be fascinated by I am sure. > Sandy chuckled like a gentle roll of beach surf.

 

“Ah, I am sure Toothiana would be indeed.”  Pitch smirked, scooping up Umbra in his arms to give them a playful attacking face nuzzle.  Scary as his face and jagged-tooth grin was, Umbra seemed to just squeal in silent delight at their dark father.

 

< Oh!> Sandy gasped through Pitch’s mind, <The other Guardians, they do not know yet… > He thought about how when he bumped into Jack out in the world none of them mentioned it.  Nightlight must not have told them, assuming Nightlight spoke to them at all for they never mentioned him either.  He was not the chatty sort to begin with.

 

Pitch paused, taking in Sandy’s words.  They would have to find out eventually.  What would they think?  The Boogeyman and The Sandman, fathers.  The Guardians already knew they were an item, and that Pitch was not trying to destroy them anymore.

 

Umbra paused too, sensing their father’s worry.  Their face wrinkled up like they were going to cry.

 

Pitch saw this and snarled playfully at them with another face nuzzle.  This distracted Umbra, who laughed and squealed again.

 

Sandy smiled sagely, < We’ll tell them when the time is right. I do not think we need to fear. >

 

“I’m not afraid.” Pitch eyed him just as wisely.

 

 

Pitch was able to put another mind at ease - that of the little believer who had given him cookies.

 

The orb that housed her fears was completely full, and he went by her home to deliver it…

 

He’d thought her sleeping, but she was not in her bed when he emerged out from under it. He heard her door creak open, and brown eyes locked with gold ones as she entered the room with a glass of water.  There was no light on in the hallway, and she didn't rush to flick on the light in her room, staring instead at the dark figure before her.  Only the gold in his cloak and eyes was visible. She closed the door behind her, not taking her eyes off the Boogeyman.

 

He could sense them, the fearlings in her heart, the ones that whispered fears of the dark and fed on them in a never ending cycle - only now they were crying out sharply, trying with one last ditch effort to make her afraid.  But she had not been afraid since that night she and Pitch had spoken on the step. 

 

Pitch took the gold orb from his cloak and it cracked open.  He vanished as the rainbow-iridescent black sand inside swirled outward like a whirlwind.  The fearlings would be fed now forever by the stored and cultivated fear, which Pitch now returned to her in the form of conquered fear.

 

When the girl blinked, it had disappeared as fleetingly as déjà vu.  She jumped into bed, gave the darkness one last look, and flicked on her bed lamp; she was in no big hurry to do so. She wasn’t afraid anymore.  She took out her Mother Goose book and idly flipped through it for a story to read before bed.

 

“They are alright, you know.”  A smooth voice came over her ears.

 

She looked up, seeing that familiar dark shape sitting on her desk in the corner of her room, drawn out by the shadows cast from her lamp. “Your friend?”  She whispered.

 

Pitch’s gold eyes turned to her with a smile. “Yes.”  

 

He was about to leave when she jumped out of bed and came over holding the Mother Goose book.

 

“Could you… give them this? You think they would like it? It helped me when I was scared but I don’t think I really need it anymore.” She handed it up to him.

 

He took it like it was an honor to be given such a book. “Thank you. Yes, I think they would like it.”

 

She tugged on his shadowy cloak and he leaned over with an odd look as if thinking, ‘what else?’.  She whispered in his ear, “And tell Mother Goose I said hi, would you?”  She said bashfully. 

 

He smiled warmly at this, nodding in reply.

 

He melted into the shadows and was gone.

 

 

 

< A child gave you this? > Sandy looked through the book.

 

“Yes, my little believer.” Pitch smoothly replied from where he sat cross legged on the floor. He didn’t look up from the wiggling baby in his lap. He was teasing Umbra with a miniature pony nightmare. The fox nightmare was glad to have a rest from babysitting, and was licking its paws proudly like it had dignity left to save. Eventually Umbra grabbed the mini nightmare pony, who neighed in protest at being nuzzled firmly and then chewed on. 

 

Sandy sighed through Pitch’s mind wistfully, < Katherine… I wish she could be here in person. >

 

“I do as well.” Pitch replied solemnly. Umbra quieted down as they felt the somber mood of their parents. Umbra looked between them with worry and confusion.

 

“Umbra,” Pitch cooed, scooting over to be next to Sandy and sitting Umbra up in his lap, “A friend gave you this.” He took the book from Sandy and put it in front of them.

 

Umbra, still clutching the nightmare pony with one arm, reached out to touch the open pages and the pretty illustration of a woman riding a goose there. 

 

Pitch and Sandy took turns reading rhymes from the book until Umbra fell asleep. 

 

Pitch closed the book, feeling over its surface. He thought about how that girl believed in him, but also in Mother Goose, in Katherine, right?

 

“Sandy, could Katherine come back for real? Would she if she had believers?”

 

< I… suppose so.  She lost her will after Nightlight vanished. Over the years it eventually ate away at her.  They loved each other, you know - very strongly, despite Katherine having been so young. It would be like if you lost me… > 

 

Pitch’s silver face lit up, and Sandy seemed to think the exact same thing as he locked eyes with him.

 

Sleeping Umbra cuddled onto their nightmare and smiled.

 

 

“Sandy, are you sure we should have brought Umbra?”

 

< I’d rather take them than leave them, who knows how long this might take.  Besides, far past time to tell the other Guardians I’m a papa now, yes? > Sandy winked at Pitch. 

 

They were flying in a dreamsand airplane through the chill of snowy air, though Sandy was keeping to a lower speed than usual because of the precious cargo. Pitch held Umbra in his arms, wrapped warmly in a black and gold blanket.  They were almost at the North pole.  

 

“It’s time - yes,” He sighed with a grumble.  “I can only imagine the chaos this will cause. The barrage of questions... the baby talk... the crowding and ogling - ” Pitch made a face.

 

Sandy only chuckled.

 

The dreamsand airplane flew into the large window of the workshop and docked at the main floor. Yetis scampered about to go tell North it was Sandman – and Pitch. While they had been told he wasn’t an ‘enemy’ per se anymore, and knew how he had changed his tune the last time he was there, it would take time to trust it was a permanent change.  He was still the King of Nightmares after all.

 

Pitch glanced about warily as he set a shadow-clad foot on the beautifully inlaid wood floor of the workshop. Umbra was fast asleep in his arms despite all the hubbub. Just like their golden father, they could sleep anywhere.  He cradled them a little closer so their face tucked into his chest.

 

North appeared within moments, and came up to the Dream Guardian, “Sandy! What brings you here?  Have not seen you since… well, you were here last time.”  He eyed Pitch seriously, gauging him carefully.  “Is all well?” He asked both of them.

 

“You do not need to look at me like that, Cossack.”  Pitch stated with the smallest twinge of his disdain.  His tone was calm though as he continued, “I mean you no harm. I am still as I was the last you saw me.”

 

“Habit,” North put his big hands up, showing he was unarmed, and therefore not on guard. “I am sorry.  Not easy habit to break, you know, despite how we fought for you last battle. Glad that you are well.”

 

Pitch replied with a faint smile and a nod of respect.

 

Sandy jumped up in front, gesturing to North with symbols to try and convey he had big news! 

 

“Big news?” North seemed to actually get that.

 

Sandy floated over to Pitch and motioned to the bundle in his arms. North had noticed but not really had time to think about what Pitch was holding a bundle of dreamsand for. He inched closer and Pitch turned it towards him, revealing the little sleeping face there.

North’s blue eyes went wide. What was this? He swore the baby’s face resembled Pitch’s, and the hair was a lot like Sandy’s only darker…  “Sandy, what is this?”

 

Sandy beamed, his smile telling, and gave Pitch a kiss on the cheek. Pitch, while not one for PDAs in front of the Guardians, smiled with a defeated sigh.

 

North had a double take moment looking between the two faces there, the golden one smiling serenely and the gray one giving him a look of 'yes, yes it's exactly what you think.'

 

The old Cossack ran a hand through his white hair.  “I think I need to call other Guardians."

 

....

 

It didn’t take long for the Guardians to respond to the northern lights signal.  As each arrived and saw Pitch there they had a few seconds of worry that he had relapsed somehow, but all worries were dashed as soon as they saw the adorable baby in his arms and were told whose baby it was.

 

North seemed to accept the fact Pitch and Sandy had a baby rather gracefully, and was already beaming like a proud uncle when Bunny was the first to arrive.

 

“This old star a papa?” Bunny grinned with a raised eyebrow at Sandy, playfully ruffling his hair. Sandy attempted to fend him off. “Holly Dooly, still got some spunk left in ya, huh? And you,” Bunny pointed a paw at Pitch, “Mate, that’s some feat.  Though, knowing old Kozmotis, I’d say his heart would have that kinda light any day. Congrats… truly.”

 

Pitch seemed uneasy at the mention of his old name, but he knew Bunny meant it as a compliment.  Being from the Golden Age he knew about stars, his people, all those things. “Thank you,” he managed in return.

 

"You give 'em a name yet?"  Bunny's whiskers twitched.

"Umbra!"  North blurted it out before Pitch could respond, "Isn't it so fitting?" 

 

"A beaut!" Bunny inched close with a palmed chocolate egg, and whispered at the sleeping baby while North continued to go on about their name, "You like chocolate eh mate?  You will grow up to loveee chocol- "

 

"Bunnymund!" Pitch shied away.

 

"Aw come on, all kids love chocolate, and mine's the best!"  He rolled the chocolate egg in his paw.

 

Sandy dashed symbols of foods over his head with a big 'no' sign, then smacked the rabbit's paw smoothly, knocking the egg from it.

 

"Aw Sandy, what'ya mean no food at all yet?"  He caught the egg easily with a foot then juggled it back up to his paw.

 

"No sweets or anything for that matter till they are 3 years old." Pitch eyed the rabbit. "Sandy's orders."

 

Bunny looked dejectedly at the chocolate then tucked it away. "Guess they'll just have to wait to enjoy the finest sweets in all the galaxy."

 

As gracefully as North took the news, the same could not be said of Jack Frost when he arrived moments later.

 

“Wait – you two –had a kid?”  Jack pointed his staff playfully between them, and then leaned on it. “Who’s the MOM?” He raised an eyebrow and stifled a laugh looking right at Pitch like he was picturing him being pregnant. Oh god, the IMAGE.

 

Jack’s tone was cheeky and playful, not to mention he had no idea about the biology of stars, but this didn’t stop Pitch from bristling with the awkwardness of the situation.  He gave him such a look of infuriated derision to the winter spirit he could have bored holes through his head.

 

 “Sandy is not human, Jack. Remember? And technically neither is Pitch – but anyway, point is, Sandy’s people don’t have kids like we do.” North said.

 

“So you’re the mom?” Jack pointed at Sandy.

 

It was Sandy’s turn to give Jack a look. 

 

“Jack, we are both fathers.” Pitch rolled his eyes, “But if you must get technical, yes, but Sandy is not biological like you and I, their people don’t have gender.  So he is not technically physically ‘male’ despite identifying as such, but he is not ‘female’ either.”

 

Sandy nodded like this was an acceptable explanation. 

 

Jack still seemed confused. “So who had the kid?”

 

“JACK!” Pitch bristled; he would NOT give Jack a biology lesson and would NOT elaborate any further on this discussion as now he was obviously doing it on purpose.

 

“Woah woah, calm down!” Jack laughed, putting his hands up in a surrendering gesture, “I’m sorry, I getcha, I getcha, mostly.”  He still was unsure about how the kid came to be exactly, but maybe they’d elaborate more for him later.  “I just never knew that about you Sandy, you’re full of surprises aren’t you?”  He grinned at his friend.

 

Sandy gestured with a hand in reply, his expression saying ‘I suppose I am!’

 

It was just then that Tooth flew in, disappointed she was last, but soon as she saw what the reason for the meeting was and heard about the circumstances she was nothing but smiles.

 

“Oh my god – oh – OH my god! Umbra is such a perfect name!” Tooth’s feathers fluffed multiple times, “OH she, he? They are so PRECIOUS!” Tooth fawned over the baby.

 

Pitch attempted to gently lean away from her overzealous, personal-space-invading ogling, but Tooth was impossible to avoid.  He gave up and stood there like a dark pillar as Tooth tried to coax the baby’s mouth open. “They have no gender really… so ‘they’ would be fine.” He stated.

 

Sandy was so terribly amused watching Pitch. He was not used to all this social interaction, nor was he used to being around the other Guardians yet. 

 

Umbra opened their eyes a crack and yawned, finally awoken by all the commotion and noise, though Tooth trying to stick her fingers into the baby's mouth hadn't helped.

 

Tooth melted, and cooed like a mama hen. “OH they have eyes like you Sandy! Though more gold even, so pretty!” 

 

Umbra stared at Tooth, fascinated by her bright colors and fast movements.  They opened their mouth like to babble something but nothing came out.  Their smiling face got across the message though.  Everyone crowded in to see the baby actually awake.  Pitch felt claustrophobic all of a sudden and wondered why HE was the one holding the baby through all this. 

 

Tooth blushed, “I love themmm…”

 

“Tooth, you love all little kids,” Jack smirked, laughing.

 

“But they are all so precious,” She cooed.

 

Pitch stepped out of the circle of Guardians to breathe. “Personal space, know of it?”

 

Everyone chuckled as Pitch handed Umbra to their other father, and Sandy floated up to be at eye level with everyone. Pitch sighed with relief now that Sandy was the center of attention.  Sandy pointed to each of the Guardians to remind Umbra of their names, speaking silently of course, though sandy symbols appeared over his head representing each of the guardians as he did so. Umbra couldn't say them yet, but Sandy knew it would sink in eventually.

 

Jack asked, voice careful, “May I… hold them?”

 

Pitch’s gut reaction as a protective father was an automatic NO, but he didn’t blurt that out. Jack had reached out to him, forgiven and believed him when the others did not, even after all he'd done. He considered him a true friend, that he could trust him. Surely Jack could hold a baby, yes?

 

Sandy glanced at Pitch like he wanted his confirmation, and Pitch nodded.

 

 

Everyone made their way into North’s meeting hall and were seated at the table. Jack was still carrying the baby. He bounced Umbra in his arms – they were happily waving their arms around in response to his silly faces, and looking very amused. “You love winter don’t you, don’t you? I bet you’ll love snowball fights and – “

 

“Frost, that will be quite enough.”Pitch smoothly chimed in from his seat.  Stoic as he was trying to be though, it was obvious he was pleased with how Jack was handling the child.

 

Sandy made a pillow on the table for Jack to place Umbra upon. Umbra settled in as Sandy re-bundled them up, their little eyes drooping.

 

“Now everyone, besides the news that Sandy and Pitch are fathers, there is something else Sandy said he wants to tell you all.” North said seriously. That was all Sandy had told him, but now they would hear the other big news.

 

Pitch waited until everyone was quiet. He took out an object from the bottomless shadows of his cloak. A story book was placed onto the table. Mother Goose.

 

He spoke for both he and Sandy, “I take it Nightlight has reunited with you all?”

 

Everyone fell into stunned silence. 

 

Bunny was the first to speak up, “What?”

 

“You mean he has not talked to any of you yet?” Pitch was just as shocked now.

 

Sandy flew symbols of nightlight, the moon, and question marks over his head showing his own shock.

 

“Nightlight… is gone.” Tooth spoke carefully.

 

“No he… he had been sleeping, in me.” Pitch placed a hand over the scar hidden by his cloak, “He was released by a moonbeam a fortnight ago. I assumed when he flew off he would find all of you.”

 

Suddenly there was noise and a flash of light in the workshop. North raced from his seat as the Yetis all went ballistic. “What is going on out there?!”  He barged out of the room, and stopped dead as there hovering right outside the door was –

 

“Nightlight!” He gasped. Moments later the boy was pulled into a bear hug.

 

Everyone was about to jump up to follow but North brought him into the room and closed the door.

 

“Are you a sight for sore eyes!” Bunny was stunned.

 

Nightlight gestured to the aurora borealis outside, like that was how he found them.

 

“That’s right, this workshop wasn’t built when he was alive.” Bunny twitched his nose.

 

“I am sorry I did not find you sooner friends, but I was talking to MiM, we had a lot to catch up on. Time passed like a blink on the moon. When I saw the signal over Earth, I came flying.” Nightlight’s voice chimed otherworldly.

 

“So glad to see you,” Tooth flew over and hugged him.

 

"You were on the MOON?" North gasped.

 

Nightlight chuckled like it wasn't a big deal, but everyone was impressed and shocked.

 

Jack of course had never met Nightlight. He was stunned. This boy looked even younger than him, not by much though, but still.  He was so used to being the ‘baby’ of the group, and here was someone that was similar to him in appearance and youth.

 

Sandy gave a respectful bow to Nightlight, like thanking him all over again for helping to save Umbra. 

 

Nightlight bowed back, "MiM told me you've been a great ally against the fearlings Sanderson Mansnoozie, he wanted me to thank you personally." 

 

Sandy took the honors gracefully, and then gestured for Nightlight to come over to Jack.

 

"Someone you want me to meet?" Nightlight whispered. 

 

North nodded, "Meet our newest Guardian, Jack Frost!"

 

"Hey," Jack was a bit star struck, and fumbled with what to do as he stood from his seat. Should he offer a hand to shake, bow, or give a hug?  He decided on a little bow as that was what Sandy had done, "Nice to meet you." 

 

Nightlight giggled and embraced him in a hug.

 

Jack loosened immediately, and hugged back. He was laughing too as he withdrew, "I like that laugh - it sounds like the laugh of someone who knows how to have fun!"

 

"Oh goodie, two Jack Frosts, that's all I need," Pitch rolled his eyes.

 

Everyone laughed that time.

 

....

 

North relayed a brief history of what Nightlight had missed, though the others all chimed in from time to time. Pitch huffed then felt guilty hearing about all his squabbles with the Guardians, and the one last big battle. He spoke for himself to explain what had occurred to him personally, though Nightlight seemed to have known the changes ever since Sandy cracked his heart open. They explained about Ombric growing old - older - and handing his magic over to his apprentice, North. There was just one person missing though in the story -

 

Nightlight was somber when they finished. “And… what of Katherine? Why is she not here with you?”

 

There was an uneasy silence. Pitch took the reins to answer the query - “She vanished... into her stories,” Pitch said softly, picking up the book. His gold eyes were full of resolve when he darted them up at Nightlight, “But I think we can call her back. With your help.”

 

Sandy bounced on the table and nodded, darting symbols over his head of books, moons, hearts and Nightlight.

 

Nightlight stared at Pitch, face slowly brightening with hope. It said ‘you think so?’ Pitch handed the book to him.  He only meant it as a gesture but then something unexpected happened.

 

The book began to glow in the boy’s hands!

 

Nightlight gasped, the book jittering like energy was coming out from inside the pages, like it was trying to force itself open. Nightlight opened it quickly –

 

From the pages burst a glowing mass of energy that plowed right into Nightlight, knocking him backwards and resulting in him dropping the book. 

 

Everyone jumped to attention, worried it was attacking him, but the cheerful laughing that rang out showed there was no need to worry. The mass of energy formed a young woman, her arms wrapped around the spectral boy in a tackling hug.

 

“Katherine!” Practically everyone yelped at once. 

 

The joy in the room was palpable as the two swung each other around, laughing. Her large sun hat went flying and hit Bunnymund in the face.

 

When Katherine started crying, Nightlight didn't understand - wasn't she happy? He was SO happy to see her! He had so many feelings, things welling up he didn't understand; but while Nightlight had been sleeping, Katherine had spent decades living with the sadness of Nightlight being gone, for what she had thought would be forever. He didn't have much time to think about it before she pulled him into -

 

- a kiss.

 

Nightlight didn't quite know what to do, and everyone fell silent watching.

 

No one had ever kissed him before! He'd seen other people do it, like MiM's parents kissing the young Tsar goodnight or other parents kissing each other. Kisses were powerful, he knew that. But this kiss, this one was for him. It was only a brief kiss, but to Nightlight it seemed to last forever.

 

Katherine withdrew and blushed deeply after she realized what she had done in the heat of the moment. Her heart was beating so fast. She gave Nightlight a little breathing room and caught her own breath. "I... I thought you were gone forever…"  Her eyes scanned the room looking to see all her Guardian friends there. Pitch was there too - smiling.

 

"Goodness, you all look so different!"  She laughed, "I didn't get a clear look at you before, from that moonbeam..." She realized she and Nightlight were still holding hands and he too was looking bashful.

 

"Oh Nightlight, I'm sorry, I got so carried away -" She bit her lip, embarrassed. 

 

"You've grown." He said, like it had finally sunk in. She was taller than him, by a foot. 

 

"Kids grow up," She nodded wistfully. "I wish we could have done it together."

 

One of her tears fell from her face, and Nightlight caught it. Just like when he saw her nightmare in her dream tears so long ago, this time he saw her memories. All the time she spent while he was gone.  While there were joys with her stories and her travels, there were also the sorrows, the longing to see him again. The sadness that she never got to tell him how much -

 

- she loved him. 

 

Nightlight felt something in him change at that very moment. He'd never wanted anything to do with adults, or 'tall ones' as he used to call them... he was an eternal youth, guardian to the children of the Tsars, a being created only to protect, to defend.

 

But when Katherine said that, the immediate response in his mind was, 'I wish that too - that we could have grown older together'.  

 

He actually wanted to grow up.

 

Because he realized what he felt about her, too, was more than their close friendship. 

 

Pitch felt a strange sensation, like he could sense that change in Nightlight. He was beginning to notice it more all the time, as if he was the last doorkeeper to childhood. Growing up was a fear a lot of children had. It was a fear he too was helping them conquer. While he'd not been there for Nightlight like the human children, he could still feel that tingle of energy.

 

Energy? Pitch gasped as he realized there was also a physical tingle, like static, across his skin. Right next to him Sandy was glowing. He remembered then - wishes. Last time Nightlight made a heartfelt wish it resulted in the fearlings' physical forms being burned away.

 

Everyone thought it was impossible to be any more shocked that evening than they already had been, but they were proven wrong.

 

Nightlight leaned in and kissed Katherine back. In the process, his body glowed even brighter, and shimmered, like water rippling against glass. As suddenly as if the light had shifted, he was all at once equal height with Katherine.

 

"Nightlight!" She gasped, seeing him when they withdrew. 

 

He looked human. Though still ghostly pale like Jack, he now seemed a lot more tangible, and most of all, a lot more grown up.

 

"Shostakovich," North whispered.

 

Bunny reached out a paw and closed his jaw for him.

 

...

....

.....

.......

 

"Having dreams now you say?" Pitch called to Sandy. He was outfitting his elk mount with a baby seat and saddle, standing in the middle of his realm's main atrium. Sandy was jumping about checking on the golden orbs hanging all around and growing off the dark trees. Each one had a child's sleeping face, not unlike Tooth's boxes. Inside the hanging cages were ethereal balls of fire, some black, some gold.

 

< Yes, the fact he is sleeping is quite amazing. To never sleep for thousands of years, I cannot fathom it! >

 

"Well if you want to get technical Nightlight slept in ME a long time. Twice," Pitch replied. Umbra was crawling about on the floor, amusing themselves with trying to catch black and gold butterflies.

 

< I don't think that counts as sleeping as he did not dream. >  Sandy's voice rustled like leaves.

 

Pitch shrugged before picking up Umbra and strapping them into the dark baby seat, which looked similar to what you'd expect to see on the back of a bicycle. "Coming out tonight with daddy to scare some children hummm?" He grinned.

 

Umbra babbled through his mind like wind chimes. They seemed to love this idea.

 

< Don't forget, Katherine wanted to meet us at dawn over the midwest. Has something for you. >

 

Pitch nodded, "I won't forget."

 

...

 

It had been a few weeks since the fateful night Katherine reappeared. The Guardian of Stories was back, and now had Nightlight at her side to help ease children's fears at bedtime. 

 

While technically Pitch was at odds with her, they knew he was part of a necessary balance... and that he had the children's best interests in mind. As it was late summer in the Northern Hemisphere, they had already shared a few evenings around campfires where kids were telling scary stories to each other in the dark. It was a situation where their 'powers' met in perfect harmony, and they found they enjoyed it immensely.

 

Pitch rode through the night, following the dark across the globe. He and Sandy crossed paths multiple times, weaving their respective dreams and nightmares, stealing a kiss here and there, and handing off Umbra so she could see both of them at work. Umbra watched intently, seeing their golden father weave beautiful dreams. Some were just for the fun of it, with dolphins and flying and unicorns, fanciful joys meant to bring happiness and imagination. Other dreams were meant to inspire heartfelt wishes that might carry over into waking if the wish was true, dreams of new creations to draw or write, projects to build, goals to meet, things to aspire to. 

 

Their dark father prowled through every corner of the world, spreading fears of all sorts. Don't enter the dark forest alone, monsters lurk there. Don't swim too far from shore, a sea monster will eat you. Don't climb so high up that tree, lest you fall into a bottomless pit. Cling tight to your father's hand when crossing a dangerous street, it will protect you from the monsters. Keeping children safe and in line, running back to their parents, and giving them respect for the dangers. In time children overcame and understood these fears, giving strength to their confidence and courage to do things alone... as they grew into young adults. 

 

Pitch also wove darkness into some of their golden father's dreams, a pinch here and a sprinkle there. Pitch occasionally found outright nightmares tearing into children, the fearlings inside them strong and lashing out like a wild stallion. He did not agree with having Sandy merely send in dreamsand to try and convert them right away. How could a child face the horrors of the real world if they didn't begin to face the imaginary ones? Also, some nightmares were too strong for dreamsand to defeat easily. Instead, Pitch sent his own nightmare sand into these wild nightmares to guide these children, trying to show them ways to take control and face their fears in the dream world. When they succeeded, they'd awake shaken, but empowered, the dreams leaving lasting impressions.

 

Umbra understood their golden father's ways easily, as it was part of their nature as a star, but Pitch's work was harder to grasp. Umbra knew they loved their nightmare friends, so they couldn't understand why others they saw fought them. Though that said, the wild nightmares they saw out in the world were not exactly like their dark father's... they didn't have the same gold eyes or markings. 

 

The night wore on, and before they knew it, dawn was just about to rise on the horizon over mid-western America.

 

Pitch appeared in a flurry of shadows from the darkness of an old forest, riding on his favorite nightmare creature, the gold spotted elk. Sandy floated over from the top of the sky, riding a seahorse-like mount.  Pitch handed him Umbra, and Sandy put the child in his lap. They were fast asleep; they couldn't stay up all night no matter how much excitement there was. Sandy bundled them up warmly and set them into the baby seat at the back of his seahorse's saddle. 

 

"There you all are," Katherine called out. She was perched on a high tree atop her Snow Goose's back. Kailash, as the Snow Goose was called, had reappeared not long after Katherine had from the pages of Mr. Qwerty once they reunited her with the old bookworm. Nightlight hovered nearby. Despite gaining physical age and a more human nature, he still retained his powers of flight. He looked like a soldier worthy of the war of the Golden Age.

 

The elk galloped over, and then up through the air until they were at eye level with the tree tops. Sandy followed suit, and rushed up to embrace Katherine in a hug. After a pause she waved Pitch over, and they too shared a loving, albeit more reserved, hug. The black and gold spirits gave respectful nods to Nightlight as Katherine smiled at the sleeping child on the back of Sandy's dreamsand mount.  She was still getting used to the fact they had a child. After the initial shock had worn off, she settled into an utmost happiness for them both. With how Pitch acted around her now, she swore she was first in line to be the child's godparent. Not that she'd have a problem with that. 

 

"Not late, are we?" Pitch asked.

 

"Not late no, I just am extra punctual." She opened up a small notebook and flipped to a page, "I wrote you both something, I wanted to deliver it in person as I scribed it into Mr. Qwerty."

 

Sandy spoke with symbols depicting a pen scribbling in a book, and images of him and Pitch.

 

"Yes, about you two! I was quite inspired seeing how you two interact now. Think of it as a nursery rhyme." She motioned to the bookworm who opened a blank page for her.

 

She began scribing down the poem, and recited it out loud with an impeccable reading voice as she did so,

 

Light and dark brush lips at dusk.
The nighttime tastes of mirth and musk.
Fading sunlight on clouds of gold.
Dreams swirling through the dark take hold.

Pitch black of night will shepherd you,
on golden galleons fierce and true.
Face your fears and greet your dreams,
for in the darkness gold still gleams.

Black and gold brush lips at dawn.
A day as sweet as candied pecans.
The sandman rests as you get set,
but he’s not alone so don’t you fret.

 

 

 

Sandy and Pitch were stunned. It was lovely. Both flushed ever so slightly.

 

"You're going to read that to children?" Pitch asked, obviously jesting at the kissing allusions.

 

"OH so that's too much but all the blackbirds pecking out eyes is perfectly acceptable?" Katherine smirked.

 

A small throaty laugh then, "... It's lovely Katherine.  Thank you." Pitch's voice was like velvet once more.

 

Sandy nodded and a gold heart appeared over his head.

 

Katherine smiled warm as the sun.

 

...

 

It was strange to think that just half a year ago Pitch was at the heights of desperation, plotting the demise of the Guardians. Now he was flying alongside three of them, two of whom he had helped bring back to the world. 

 

How, how could he have spent so long in the dark...

 

But the more he thought about it, the more he realized it had not been total darkness all along, merely an eclipse.  His heart always retained a sliver of goodness, hiding inside the umbra of his soul.   It just took a crack to let it out, and a little faith and guidance to nurture it. 

 

 

The past didn't define him anymore.

 

 

He defined his future.

 

 

And thanks to a shining star who never gave up on him, he had a future.

 

 

And what he could see in that future now -

 

 

was gold.

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