"It must be your fear they smell."
Pitch took off, skidding and sliding across slippery ice and down muddy banks to get away from the Nightmares. He was frightened, but it was worth it, if only to see Frost once more. He pushed the thought away as the Nightmares caught up to him, dragging him down, down, down. His last happy thought, he didn’t want them to take it from him, so maybe if he cast it away now, he could call upon it if he really needed it—if he really needed to feel Jack once more.
Jack watched longingly, a piece of his heart falling away into the darkness that Pitch was plunged into, followed closely by the creatures of haunted dreams. He knew Pitch would have to overcome his own fear before he would be seen again. For now, children’s dreams were safe and far from the reaches of the Boogeyman.
The Guardian’s cheered happily—their mission had been a success, they had gotten rid of Pitch Black, for now, regardless of the fact that some of the Nightmares had not been killed and had, in fact, been the downfall of Pitch himself.
The ceremony too, went on as expected. Jack become a Guardian, children would begin to believe in him, Jamie would continue to be his number one fan, and the world would continue to revolve as it always has. All was well.
Or, well, mostly.
North laughed loudly, his cheeks bright red and rosy, the reins of his sled slapping the backs of the reindeer as they took off into the sky. Bunnymund, Tooth and Sandy watched as the small lake disappeared into the distance, becoming nothing more than a small speck. They laughed, the portal to the North Pole opening up in the sky like a sideways tornado, sucking them into a winter wonderland. Jack craned his neck to the worn and shattered remains of a bed frame, scattered across a patch of barren land that was once a gapping hole to the Boogeyman’s lair.
But it was too late. Jack never caught a site of Pitch. His lips tingled with an invisible wanting, an invisible desire, hidden deep within his heart. The sleigh was swallowed up by the portal moments later and they were shot back to the North Pole, where the Yeti’s greeted them with smiles and howls and the Elves cheered silently.
Jack’s heart sank, even though he knew he should have been joyous, his thoughts lingered on the Boogeyman’s kiss while they were in the Artic. He jumped from the sleigh with everyone else, turning and admiring the globe with all the glowing dots—all the children who could and would continue believing in them. The Guardians just stood there for a moment longer, all in mutual admiration of the flickering lights; more flickering to life with every second they watched. Soon, much of Africa and Australia were lit up, followed by Europe, Asia, the America’s, and all the little islands in between.
Sandy watched the slow, sad smile that spread across Jack’s lips in a way that would have been doubtful of their current situation. Everyone was happy, why wasn’t Jack? Sandy thought, gripping hold of the boys’ worn sweater and tugging lightly.
Jack looked down, a smile that was sad suddenly plastered over with a fake, happy one. “What’s up, Sandy?” He asked. Though Jack was unhappy, he was, in fact, genuinely pleased with the present company and situation.
Sandy cocked a brow at him, and question marks appearing above his head. Jack shook his head in response. Bunnymund came up behind them and listened with his big ears, becoming aware of Sandy’s worried expressions. Sandy asked about the lake, and about Pitch, but Jack wasn’t sure if he was deciphering the markings above the Sandman’s head correct, as he was asking too many questions too fast. Jack just shook his head again, lifting his legs and crossing them as he floated weightlessly in the air with his staff laid across his legs.
“He means, you don’t seem exultant by our current predicament.” Bunnymund cracked a crooked smile at the kid he had grown so fond of, his wide buckteeth shining through rounded, grey, rabbit cheeks.
“I’m fine, guys. Really.” He protested, but even North noticed something was up with the boy before Tooth got a chance to speak up and protest.
Santa’s jolly laughter turned the Guardians attention towards him, realizing Jack honestly didn’t want to talk about the catastrophes going on inside his head right now. “Come,” North beckoned, pulling the Guardians aside and ushering them inside his office. He casted a soft glance over his shoulder to Jack as he shut the door just enough to not be considered rude to the current persons inside.
The boy floated aimlessly, a weight heavy on his shoulders. “You know, Jack,” North declared, sauntering over the Frost with a smile bigger than his face, “you do not need to stay here. You can go wherever you like!” He extended his arms out wide, signaling freedom. Jack merely nodded. North’s smile slowly became a frown, “you’re not a prisoner here, Jack. Go; create snowstorms if you must. Come back when you can.” He paused, adding; “there will always be a room here for you, should you need it, Jack Frost.”
And with that, Jack vanished in a flurry of snowflakes. And Santa thought; how lovely, the snow is when it falls.
Jack found an entrance in a cave, in a forest off some barren wasteland of a mining town after searching for days. It was dark and desolate, and had been abandoned for many, many years by the time Jack had stumbled into it. He could hear the steady canter of hooves somewhere deep within, and the soft, ever so soft, whimpers of something that was once a man.
“No, please, no.” They cried gently, “I can’t take anymore.” A few Nightmares whinnied, causing a stamped of hooves in the darkness, but they must have been circling the man, because the stamped did not come for Jack down the tunnel of the cave like he had feared.
“I can’t take it anymore!” Pitch bellowed loudly, angrily, and the cave shook with an unseen force, but Jack could feel the darkness seeping down the tunnel with a ferocious energy that knocked him back against the sides of the cave where he clung for dear life. Jack closed his eyes tightly and turned his head away, trying to avoid the soot, ash, dirt and rocks that went flying by. The tunnel groaned and creaked and shook with the unseen force as a group of desperate, terrified whinny’s echoed down the tunnel in secession, then nothing—then silence; trembling, stunned silence.
Jack peeled himself from the side of the cave and raced to the entrance of the Boogeyman’s realm; a realm of endless shadows and endless staircases and hallways that went nowhere at all, but seemed to continue on forever and ever. Pitch was nowhere to be found, at least not within sight of where Jack stood at the moment.
Jack’s throat tightened as his stomach flipped backwards several times. His feet seemed to move on their own, pulling him forward towards a globe that was dully lit, covered in a fine layer of grime. He ran his hand against it slowly, rubbing the filth between his fingers as he looked around; searching for the Boogeyman. Pitch was still nowhere in sight, even from the center of the madness. Not a shadow or a shade of the man remained.
“Pitch?” Jack called, involuntary. The layer of dust was everywhere, from the center of the floor to the highest stair case, which seemed unbelievably high compared to the entrance of the cave in which he found the realm in.
But it didn’t matter, because no one answered back. Maybe the Nightmares had devoured him, Jack thought, his mind slipping briefly to the thought of how beautifully snow clings to darkness. He slid down the wall behind him and folded his legs together, placing the staff on top of his thighs.
Jack tried to brush away the filth that he realized was covering his clothes, but it just left what looked like oily black stains. He sighed, looking around. “Pitch if you’re here, just know that I’m not leaving till we talk.”
No one answered back, even as he searched every shadow endlessly. Hours passed, but maybe it had been days since he’d seen the sunshine. Jack didn’t care, because oddly enough, he felt right at home in the darkness. He thought of the way Pitch had kissed him, how intense he had tasted, how cold he had felt afterwards. And just how at peace he suddenly felt, here in the darkness that reminded him much more of ice than anything else.
Day slipped into night, without a trace of Pitch Black anywhere. The dully-lit globe shone brightly in the darkness. It seemed to be the only light to hold Jack’s fading hopes together. Perhaps, Pitch had just gone off to regain his strength, Jack hoped.
But Pitch had not gone anywhere. He stood far away from Jack, plastered in the shadows of one of the staircases that never ended. Why had the boy come? Why had be abandoned his friends to trap himself in Pitch’s domain for days on end? The boy never left. He thought of the Artic, of the soft, peach colored lips and disgruntled face of Jack Frost and the way he had felt so alive, pressed against the cold, hard body of winter. Pitch peered down from one of the middle levels, realizing too soon, that Jack had vanished; leaving wisps of snow in his wake that had hardly had the chance to settle.
“How long were you planning to hide from me?”
And oh, is that his ruptured heart screaming now, at the sound of the ancient boys voice? Pitch scurried backwards, further into shadows, but Jack was faster and reached into the darkness and clutched fabric too rich for his fingertips, and yanked the Boogeyman forward; freeing him of shadows. The Boogeyman cursed, growling wildly as the Guardian looked at him expectantly, a brow cocked at the grey skinned man with interest. “I—uh, I wasn’t hiding, least of all from you.” Pitch seethed, venomously. He ran a hand through his hair roughly, crossly.
He glanced around nervously, then straightened up and focused his attention on Jack. He starred straight down his nose at the boy with white hair, who starred back just as defiantly. “Why have you come here, Jack Frost?” Pitch demanded, his brow furrowed together in agitation, “was it to see my destruction, hmm?” He asked maliciously, pressing on; “was it to humiliate me?”
“No.” Jack answered simply, flabbergasted. His fingers still wrapped around the rich fabric at the Boogeyman’s wrist. Their eyes drifted to that spot for a moment, and the Boogeyman panicked.
He pulled his wrist away forcefully, drifting back into the shadows behind him and vanishing. “You shouldn’t have come here, Jack Frost!” His voice echoed on every wall, every stair, every shade of doubt Jack had about himself. “You shouldn’t have come here.” The echo sang.
A ghost of a shiver ran up Jack’s back, causing his neck muscles to twitch ever so slightly. Jack sighed and scratched his head. “You can’t hide from me forever, Pitch. I’ll just sit here and wait till morning.” He plopped down once more, tucking his legs under him and laying his staff beside him in an attempt to prove himself.
An echoed sigh reverberated throughout the cavern. “Fine, Frost. Have it your way.” And Jack noted the sadness tugging at the voice.
But the Boogeyman did not reappear, nor did the Nightmares, and soon, Jack was fast asleep; dreaming of snow clinging to darkness when there is nothing left.
Pitch watched Jack from a shadow closest to the boy. He felt a small pang of want, of desire, riddled with soft restraint. Pitch remembered the way the boy’s lips felt against his, how soft and cold and memorable they had been, and how he had simply released his hate onto the boy, unintentionally. His regret built up guilt, and Pitch was riddled with it.
But Jack was different from any other being Pitch had even met. Jack didn’t care about light or dark, good or bad; he was free and gentle, like freshly lain snow. Pitch chuckled to himself at the reference, watching the boy’s chest rise and fall rhythmically. He clutch his staff in his sleep in a relaxed position, his mouth parted slightly, breathing softly with a hint of drool in the back of his throat. His right leg was pulled towards his chest while his left was extended out and his head fell slightly to the side, covered by a ratty, dirty, blue hood. Pitch marveled in Jack’s beauty, the soft curve of his nose and chin and the plump outline of his peach colored lips.
Pitch moved forward, starring down at the vulnerable Jack Frost. He felt like he should destroy the ancient and eternal strappings of the child; obliterate him with tormented nightmares, but all he could think about was the way darkness clung to snow in an Artic wasteland, and the way blue eyes fluttered open up at him.
“I knew you couldn’t stay away.”
Pitch backed into the shadows hastily, realizing he’d begun walking far to close towards the pale boy unconsciously, admiring his beauty and feeling his own desires peek.
Jack’s eyes fluttered open slowly again, taking in the lack of light and realizing just how much more darker it was now that the sun was no longer present outside. He stood slowly, pushing himself up off of the cold ground and into the same shadow Pitch had disappeared into, only realizing too late that he would end up face to face with the man.
“Jack Frost.” Pitch cringed as he spoke the name, but Jack merely smiled.
“Glad to see you haven’t run away this time.” He tightened his grip on the staff lightly, leaning against it, leaning closer to Pitch as though he might fall into him if he lost his balance.
“I figured I might as well find out why you’re here so I can get you to leave me alone.”
Jack chuckled, “you don’t want me to leave, or else you wouldn’t have kissed me before.” A cocky smile radiated in the shadows.
Pitch hissed an unintelligible reply and starred down his narrow nose at the boy indignantly, then sighed and his demeanor crumbled before Jack. He didn’t speak, merely closed his eyes and gave up control. He grabbed the boys’ collar and kissing him without remorse, remembered the way darkness clings to snow when it has nothing left to hold onto.