This takes place just after the last chapter of Dark Guardian. You may cheer those of you who wanted more of that fic. ;)
He hurt. Oh boy, did he hurt. The only thing Jack was aware of as he lazily surfaced back into consciousness was the intense pain coursing throughout his entire body. What the hell happened? His ribs were killing him; his face was throbbing just as bad. It felt liked he'd been pummeled by a semi-truck – a feeling he knew very well from an experience just after the invention of cars in which he learned that he was not completely intangible to the human world. Did he fall out of a tree again? He couldn't remember….
And then he did.
He remembered being cornered by a group of summer sprites. It had been the first time in over fifty years anyone attacked him, but apparently his elevation to guardianship had been enough to provoke them into action. He remember being scared, terrified of what they were going to do to him. Then he remembered the anger, the rage that bubbled in his chest. He'd been beaten to a pulp last time they'd tried something like this. Wasn't that enough? Why couldn't they just leave him alone?! He'd fought, and fought hard. But there were too many and they'd gotten his staff away from him and knocked him to the ground and they were hitting him, kicking him, he couldn't stop them he was helpless…. Jack gave a whimper and curled in on himself. It caused a painful twinge in his aching ribs but he couldn't bring himself to care. It was comforting, and he needed to protect himself: they might still be there, waiting for him to wake up so—
"Shhh." A comforting hand ran through his hair. "It's alright, they're gone." Jack leaned into the touch, relaxing at the reassurance. He recognized the voice, it was familiar, comforting, but who…
"North?" He murmured, fighting to open his eyes as he was levered up, resting against a warm chest, ear against a steady heart-beat. The figure stiffened; Jack could hear the heart-beat stutter in shock.
No, no it wasn't North. The figure was too slim to be North. And it was defiantly a male voice, so Tooth was out. The material pressed against his cheek wasn't fur, so not Bunny and it couldn't be Sandy. So who was with him? He felt safe, like it was someone he knew, but he couldn't put his finger on exactly who.
He finally forced his eyes open and glanced around. It was dark where ever he was, it looked like a cave. Odd. He was by his lake when he was attacked, nowhere near a cave. He slowly turned his head glancing up at the face above him. His gaze met a pair of golden eyes.
He gave a harp inhale and scrambled back, pressing against the head board of the large bed he lay on. The jolted movements aggravated his tender ribs but he kept moving, never taking his eyes off Pitch, tensed for any violence from the dark spirit. The shade looked just as shocked as he was, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. The man steeled his expression after a moment, rolling his eyes and giving an annoyed huff.
"Honestly, Frost. If I wanted to hurt you I would have had ample opportunity to do so. No lie back down before you undo all my hard work," he snapped, moving to the side and rummaging through a pile of medical supplies. Jack stared in shock at the pile, and then down at his own body.
His hoodie was gone; his bare chest was tightly wrapped in bandages. He looked questioningly at Pitch, brows furrowed in confusion. The older spirit only stared back, motioning for him to lie back down. Jack complied, still confused and a little wary. Pitch sat back on the bed, re-wrapping the loose bandages around Jack's ribs, working quickly and silently.
"Why are you doing this?" The winter boy finally asked.
"I find it rather insulting that anyone would think they could do this right on my own doorstep. And I refuse to let such things transpire without action," Pitch growled in answer, not taking his eyes off his work.
"But why would you help me?"
"Could you be any more ungrateful, Frost?!" He snapped, throwing the boy an irritated scowl.
"We're enemies, why would you help me?" Jack shot back, crossing his arms and matching the glare. Pitch's expression seemed to twist in on itself, looking almost devastated as the man turned away. Jack watched as the dark spirit cleared bits of discarded bandages off the bed, confused at the reaction. At the entire situation, really. "Whatever, just give my staff and I'll be out of here," Jack huffed.
"You're not going anywhere until I clean those cuts," Pitch declared softly, back still turned to the younger spirit. Jack checked himself over once more, hesitantly feeling his aching face and confirming that there were indeed cuts littering his face. He balled his fists as he fought against the angry tears that threatened to spill. They were minor injuries compared to the beatings of previous years, but…. he'd thought they'd learned after… And on top of it all, he was so weak and helpless that the Boogeyman had to save him.
"They'll pay," Pitch promised as he dabbed on the cuts on Jack's face, seeming unaware that he'd spoken. Jack studied him. He didn't feel the usual malevolent air he felt around the man; he'd felt oddly comfortable since he'd woken up. He couldn't understand it, why would he feel safe with the shade?
Pitch's eyes swept over his face, golden eyes shining with…. concern? Yeah that was concern, especially when the gaze landed on a good size gash on his forehead. But that couldn't be right. Why would Pitch Black be concerned over him? They were enemies, right?
Something clicked in his mind with that look. Glimpses of face offering comfort during a horrible time flashed through his mind, something that he'd written off as a dream. A sad, pathetic dream. It was coming back in vivid detail; everything that Karma had done – that had Jack whimpering again and those concerned eyes snapping to meet his—and the whispers and gentle touches of someone tending to him, caring for him…..
"It was you," he realized, eyes clearing of the fog of the past and fully meeting Pitch's. The man looked confused, panicked even. "When I got hurt after….. after New Zealand. You…. you help me. Brought me here, patched me up. Why…..?"
"Again with the ungrateful," Pitch murmured rolling his eyes in somewhat forced aggravation. He took a breath, looked back at Jack. "I found you… a mangled, bloody on the floor of that cave. I'll admit to being evil, I'm proud of it even," that got a snort and an eye roll from the boy, "but I'm not heartless. And I refused to just leave you there."
"Pity party, huh?" Pitch refused to respond to the snide comment, fully turning from the boy. Okay, so he knew. It wasn't that bad. The shade's heart was not on the verge of stopping, and if it was, it was from humiliation, not hope that maybe, maybe the boy would stay with him. Nope. "Wait… everything after that: the clothes, the food, the….." A blush crept over the boy's cheeks.
"Toys?" Pitch supplied, latching onto anything to humiliate Jack off this train of thought. Because that was not hope sending his heart flying, it was not! He did not care about this infuriating boy like that.
"Why wouldn't you just… tell me that it was you? That you were there?"
"Would you have still wanted them?" His voice was not thick, it was angry. He was not getting emotional.
"Yes!" Pitch lifted an eyebrow at the over-confident assurance. "Maybe," the boy amended, looking away. "I don't know." The shade nodded, summoning the boy's staff and placing it next to him as he moved away.
"I suggest you stick closer to your friends," he sneered the last bit, disgusted with both himself and the child's supposed 'Guardians'. "I won't always be around to save you, Frost."
Jack stayed perched on the edge of the bed, confused, shocked, angry, wary and… touched. No, happy. It hadn't been a dream. Someone had cared for him when he was hurt, he hadn't been alone! The cocktail of emotions left him close to tears.
"Pitch—"he stubbornly swallowed back the lump lodged in his throat because he was not going to cry in front of the Boogeyman, no matter the circumstances. "Thank you," he almost laughed when the man's steady stroll came to a shocked, grinding stop. "It made things easier, knowing someone was there, even when I didn't know who. And for this," he motioned to his bandaged chest, even if Pitch couldn't see it. "I know you didn't have to, really shouldn't have considering… yeah. Well, that's enough sap for me, so I'm gonna, go…now," he rambled, climbing to his feet. He walked around Pitch, giving the man a wide berth.
"Jack." Hesitant blues met conflicted gold. "Should you ever come to your senses," Jack rolled his eyes, "or if things don't out with the Guardians….. my door's always open." Jack gaped at him, wide eyed, searching for any kind of trick or deception. Nothing. Just that shin of concern and….. a deeply buried sign of hope. Jack gave a shaky smile and nodded.
"Yeah. I ah…. I might drop by. I mean, we're neighbors so…. I'll bring sugar, or something." Pitch chuckled and Jack gave a matching laugh as he flew off.
He landed on the shore of lake and peeked back at the entrance of Pitch's lair. That was bizarre. That was beyond bizarre. Pitch had… offered him a place to stay. Huh. If he thought that offer was weird from his fellow Guardians, well, this just rocketed to a whole new level of weird. And even crazier: he almost wanted to stay. The place was unnerving beyond all belief, but…. It felt safe. Like a home.
Funny, he'd gone without a real home for three hundred years, the closest thing being the lake. Now he was being offered three, within a year of each other. He rather liked it.
Jack smiled and set off for the Pole.