“Has anyone seen Jack lately?” Bunnymund asked from behind his hand of cards. He smirked up at his opponent, who sneered back deviously. The Easter Bunny throws down a royal flush, a cocky smile puffing up his bunny cheeks. Sandy gapes at the hand and slammed his head against the table in defeat. He throws his cards in the air and saunters off to pout by himself.
Bunnymund sputtered. “Awh come on, Sandy! Don’t be such a spoil-sport!” The Pooka calls after Sanderson, laughing despite his friend’s poor attitude.
Sandy waves his hand behind him, disregarding the rabbit’s taunts. He always sucked at poker anyways. Bunnymund clicks his tongue at the spirit, turning his attention to North and Tooth who were having an animated, jolly conversation.
No one answered his question, so he repeated it again; “Has anyone see Jack lately?”
North turns his attention to the six foot creature and thinks for a moment, biting the inside of his cheek before shaking his head. Tooth frowns, whispering; “good point. I hope he’s okay.”
They have their answer when a harsh wind slams open a window in North’s Kingdom. Snow builds and spills over onto the floor of the workshop, covering the toys closest to that window in a blanket of ice.
“What the—?!” Bunnymund cried, his table being blown away by a second wind—a sandy darkness flittering over the floorboards like a heavy layer of fog, creeping steadily to the shadows and dispersing.
The Yeti’s turn their attention towards the window, howling in anger as the dark figure waltzed into their home so fearlessly.
“Pitch!” North cried, his swords already drawn. Bunnymund jumped for his boomerangs, but Jack stood in front of him, as if he came out of thin air, with a smug smile plastered on his face.
“Heya rabbit.” Frost teased.
Sandy is above them in mere second, floating on a cloud of golden sand with his whips poised to take down Pitch at any second. He couldn’t believe Jack would bring the King of Nightmares anywhere near him, especially after he basically killed the Sandman.
But—Sandy sees—there is something different in the way Pitch carries himself. Sandy listens intently as the conversation unfolds.
“Well, well, well. The Guardians.” Pitch taunts, a hand resting on Jack’s shoulder; as if to say mine, all mine. His lips hang loosely in a cocky smile as the darkness crawls back to his side from the corners of Santa’s workshop.
The Elves scurried away behind the bulking Yeti, their bells frantic and screaming in fear.
Bunnymund glares at the hand resting on Jack, glares at the King of Nightmares, glares at Jack for his betrayal. “What have you done, Jack?” He asked pointedly, a snarl evident in his accented voice.
Tooth panicked at the sudden appearance of Pitch Black and Jack Frost, asking; “Jack, why did you bring him here?” But she doesn’t raise a finger to fight, though her fairies automatically stand guard; furious about the last time they came in contact with the Boogeyman.
All is silent until Jack raises his hand in surrender, bowing his head respectively to his friends—peace, he thinks, doesn’t anyone know anything about peace? “Pitch and I have come to a sort of—“ he searches for the words, finding them easily, “—mutual grounds?”
The Boogeyman grins.
Bunnymund slowly lowers his boomerangs and North brings his sword back to his side, interested in this story. “What kind of mutual grounds?” North asks.
The fairies still stand guard in front of Tooth, and above them, Sandy stays poised with his righteous whips of sand. Interesting, Sandy thinks, a smile tugging at his ever-silent mouth.
“Yeah, what kind of mutual grounds?” Bunnymund scrutinizes the Dark King, then eyed Jack cautiously—spotting something that would have never crossed him mind normally. “Does it have anything to do with those marks on your neck?” He points, looking harder, realizing the flowering bruises go all the way down his shoulder and mirror the other side of Jack Frost’s alabaster neck. The rabbit scoffs, a disbelieving smile on his puffy Pooka lips; “Fraternizing with the enemy, Jack, really?”
Jack blushes, his hand reaches up to touch the sore marks. He hisses, drawing his hand away and bowing his head. He seems lost for words and merely looks away from Bunnymund to North. The jolly man’s cheeks are bright red with mirth, and he smiles back at Jack, slightly dumbfounded—but relaxed.
Pitch laughs, loudly and without humor. “Oh rabbit,” he protests, “you are too rich.” He runs a slender finger across Jack’s blossoming red and purple marks before turning back towards the window they’d entered from. He had concluded his business—he was done here and it was time to leave.
A tall, multicolored Yeti approaches him, fists clenched and pounding against once another.
But Pitch jumped through a shadow and continues on past the surprised Yeti, saying; “I merely came as a peace offering.” His voice is harsh once more, and Jack Frost cringes. “Jack and I share a mutual relationship—“ he words his statement carefully, though everyone knows what that mutual relationship consists of, “—and I will leave the Guardians to their own demise.” He eyes Jack over his shoulder, adding; “so long as Jack remains beside me.”
And with that, Pitch is swept away in shadows, grabbing Jack Frost’s hood in a last ditch effort to save the boy from the astonished Guardians and their relentless questions that were sure to come should he stay.
“Remember, dear Guardians, All Hallows Eve is not so far off.” A disembodied voice calls, hints of mischief and malice line the statement.
Tooth is stunned and disappointed, but the Sandman merely shakes his head with a hint of a glee playing on his silent lips. His sandy whips disintegrated as he comes back down to the level of the other Guardians. The Easter Bunny and North were still trying to process the information but they all begin to laugh and reveal in the idea of peace.
As expected, Halloween rides in on Autumn wings. It’s colder than normal this time of year, oddly enough. But only Pitch knows why.
The Guardians are prepared for any sort of mischief from Jack, or nightmare-ish anything from Pitch. But everyone’s got to survive, and this is the only time of year they give Pitch Black his peace of mind for one whole day.
Children emerge from their respective houses, clad in monstrous costumes—fangs, masks, the sort—and their parents following close behind with other adults in their wake.
The small ones stay in groups, giggling, laughing, buzzing with excitement. Some stop and stare at a tree containing two spirits for just a moment. Some scare easily, running or walking quickly away, their heads down to the ground as if willing themselves not to look at the Boogeyman. But then others assume them participants and then they’re off again, running towards houses and crying; “trick-or-treat!”
Jack sits on the thick branch of a low hanging, twisted tree with his legs hanging over and a smile plastered to his lips. He loves the laugh of children—he loves being seen by them. Pitch leaned against the trees trunk, never too far away from Winter’s child—he seemed uninterested as he stared up at the crescent moon.
“Samhain smiles down on this night, Jack Frost.” Pitch muttered softly. Jack looks at the man, expecting him to be excited about tonight—after all, All Hallows Eve was Pitch’s favorite day.
But he’s not looking at the moon anymore. Jack follows his gaze, which is focused on a lone child dressed as a princess, tiara and all. Darkness swirls around Pitch’s palm and then a Fearling appears beside him. It’s broad shoulders are squared and it neighs, head bobbing with excited, yellow eyes.
Pitch nods towards the princess, and the Fearling is running full speed towards her. Jack hisses as the dark horse reaches the child and she screams—terrified. Children are so easily frightened of the Boogeyman and his shadow creatures.
Jack raises his staff defiantly, despite the heated glare of the Nightmare King, and a beam of ice sparks and crushes the Fearling into a million pieces—but it simply crawls off into shadow and slips back into the Nightmare realm.
“You know I hate when you do that while I’m around.” Jack says, trying to hide his disgust as the child’s scream echoes in his mind over and over and over again.
Her mother comes to pick her up and cradles her. The girl is quiet of terror once more, trying to convince her mother of the two men standing by the tree and the giant horses with yellow eyes. Her own eyes remain wide and horrified, but with her mother so close, she feels safer—as if the nightmares cannot reach her now.
Jack hops down from his branch and saunters away from Pitch, trying to clear his mind. The first step away from Pitch is painful, but the next is easier, and the next three are easier still.
“Jack.” Pitch calls in a deep, lusty voice, pushing himself off the tree. “Jack, I will not apologize for simply surviving. You know this night is—“
“I know, Pitch.” Jack says airily, looking over his shoulder. He sighs and stops walking. The grey skinned man in on him in seconds, a stern expression hardening his features. To the Boogeyman’s surprise, Jack takes his hand and kisses his knuckles lovingly. “I know you’re just surviving and this is what you have to do.”
Pitch’s features soften, but not by much—it’s too unlike him to be completely happy. But Jack is okay with that, even as Pitch’s expression changes to a form of sadness, and Jack can only tell by the way he avoids the Winter’s eyes and his forehead wrinkles slightly. Jack cradles Pitch’s cheek in the palm of his hand, and the frost from his skin bites Pitch, ever so lightly.
“Forgive me, Jack. I must continue.” And he kisses Jack softly, deeply, then slipped off into a shadow until morning.
And then, snow moves into town, slowly consuming roof tops and sidewalks. The children return home with their splendors and spoils of the night, where darkness plagues their dreams. But come sunrise, their nightmares will be over, and the darkness will crawl back under their beds and into their closets, where it will hide.
And come sunrise, the King of Nightmares that is Pitch Black will crawl back to the Ice Prince that is Jack Frost.
But great love demands great sacrifice, and so, the nightmares continue until sunrise, and the snow will fall until the King returns.