Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A.N: Written to post-rock ambience, such as the bands The Calm Blue Sea, This Will Destroy You, and "Moya" from Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

A.N#2: This is a Jack-Pitch centric story. No slash.

A.N#3: Edited a bit 03.31.19. Need to spruce this fic up.


"The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness."
—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness



No Words Left


"Jack, watch out!"

The young Guardian crouched in midair to avoid a blast of black dreamsand. It sailed close enough to shave the tips of his bangs. Despite narrowly avoiding decapitation Jack laughed. Rain slapped his face and soaked his hoodie, but neither discomfort diminished his maniacal grin.

Jack shouted, "Thanks, Tooth!" Then, louder, he said, "Hear that, Pitch? You missed!"

The storm winds stole the Nightmare King's snarled response. Another attack rushed at him, but Jack evaded it with a careless somersault. Without looking he shot a blast of snow, pulverizing the Nightmare galloping towards him. Jack watched the frozen chunks pound the unsuspecting fearlings below.

"Snowflake! Quit showboatin!" Bunnymund hollered, but the wind robbed him of his power. His complaints were tiny in the storm, and Jack ignored them. Having Pitch pressed against the metaphorical wall filled him with a thrill he'd seldom experienced, and he wasn't about to let the giant kangaroo ruin it.

Though nowhere as powerful as he'd been a year ago, Pitch had gathered strength, regaining control of his Nightmares by twisting children's dreams into hellscapes. When the Guardians learned Pitch had been lurking around Jamie and his friends on a revenge quest, it was clear he had to be stopped. Again. Perhaps more permanently than last time. Wrangling a greased snake would've been easier than pinning the shadow down, but there were only so many places Pitch could run.

Like a wolf sensing the farmer's gun Pitch fought like a demon, his newborn Nightmares squealing their master's rage. Sheets of jagged lightening lashed over their heads, deafening CRRAAACKKs roaring across the sky. Shadows were thrown into sharp relief. The downpour was torrential, but did little to stem Pitch's violence. He was fighting to kill, and like a cornered dog, had nothing left to lose.

Slingshotting off the back of North's reindeer, Jack launched an attack at the Nightmare King, hurling bolt after bolt of ice. Pitch flickered like a mirage, re-materializing with a magician's slight of hand. Not even Sandy's whips could landed a blow. Pitch seemed mocking as he directed the brunt of his fury at Jack, sending a cascade of sand so thick North had to bank the sleigh suddenly to avoid being riven in two. Bunnymund was nearly sent flying. The resounding argument between the two—"You did that on purpose!" "I did not! I am good driver!" "Like my left foot you are!"—was loud enough to rival the thunder.

He dodges everything I throw, the immortal teenager thought. I need to get closer.

The sky transformed into incandescent purple as lightening cracked again, reeking of ozone. Bunnymund looked like a pincushion when he and North flew past, fur standing on end. Jack laughed again. The lightening boomed again, banishing every shadow like a camera's flash. For a split instant Pitch stood as clear as ink on bright paper, gaunt and sleek, hands balled into fists. He appeared as he did the night he killed Sandy, murder and elegance rolled into one. He was a monster of the old world, a relic of an ancient age, and an odd shiver of forgotten trepidation lanced through the young Guardian, one he wouldn't admit to anyone for a million years. For all their strength, the Guardians would never possess the same allure and violence the Nightmare King exuded.

The darkness returned and Pitch was hidden again. Jack quickly shoved the old awe aside. He'd come a long way since Antarctica, and Pitch was fighting a losing battle. There was nothing left the dark spirit could do to him.

"You're going down, Pitch!" Jack shouted. Though the Boogeyman didn't reply, he appeared to gloat anyway, egging the immortal teenager with his unflappable demeanor. Let's see you try, he seemed to say, seemed to sneer, and for a moment Jack saw red. Every hurt, every assault—from the breaking of his staff in Antarctica, to the Easter debacle, to the recent attacks on Jamie's dreams—rose in his mind like a clamor, refusing to be ignored.

He could hear Bunnymund was shouting something, North too, but lightening cracked again and the rain drowned them out. He was alone. Don't worry guys, I got this, Jack thought as he shot forward to Pitch's makeshift cloud. Pitch appeared to steel himself for the clash, eyes narrowing into slits as he crouched. The tumultuous darkness, heavy as lead and soaking, made it difficult to pinpoint the dark spirit's exact location, but Jack widened his grip on the staff in preparation for a wide-scaled attack.

Nightmares were coalescing all around him, peeling their eerie violin cries, baleful orange eyes flaring. None of it mattered. He could feel Pitch reaching for him, dreamsand arrow pulled back to his gray cheek, just as lighteni—




jack! jack! guys, i think he moved! come quick! c'mon snowflake, open your eyes.

White hot pain sizzled through Jack like bacon grease, skittering from eyelid to toe. His limbs were sandbags, impossible to move. The pain went deep, almost as deep as when Pitch snapped his staff in two. Something had changed inside him, broken. When he tried to lift a hand to scrub his face, the voices above him exploded.

"Gosh, about time! C'mon girls, alright, give him room."

"Ah-ha! Did I not say he make it?"

"Gerroff, geroff—m'fine." His tongue was swollen in his mouth, three times bigger and ten times as clumsy. A herd of Nightmares was racing around in his head, their hooves pounding a vicious tempo. Ugh.

"What was that?" Laughter and tangible relief distorted Bunnymund's the words. "Couldn't understand you, mate."

"Bunny, don't tease him," North said, but the cheer in his voice removed the bite.

Jack opened his eyes. Shapes were foggy, as if seen from underwater, but he could make out North's red cloak and Sandy's golden glow. They were all huddled around him, and when he grunted, eager hands helped him into a sitting position.

"How long wazzi out?" His head was stuffed with nails. Even blinking hurt.

"A good while," Tooth said, her bell-like voice the only balm in his aching world. Her girls chirruped in agreement. "Even Sandy couldn't wake you."

"Huh! No surprise there. He's supposed to make people sleep," Bunnymund said under his breath.

"Wha'ppened?" His head wouldn't stop ringing. Details were returning to their proper places. His friends were peering at him, squatting at his height without being patronizing. Only Sandy stood tall, beaming at Jack.

"You don't remember?" Tooth asked. She rested a small hand on his shoulder. "Jack, you were struck by lightening."

"Lit up like a Christmas tree," Bunnymund said, examining his claws with studied nonchalance.

"Never seen anything like it!" North said, throwing his arms wide, almost smacking Bunnymund in the face. "For good second, too. You fall to ground before we catch you."

"Whoa—lightening? Really?" Jack asked. If he were mortal he'd be fried toast. A little shiver ran down his spine. "Can lightening do that? Hit a spirit?"

"We are part of physical world too. No reason it couldn't happen," North said, rubbing under his lower lip.

"That's not all," Tooth said, wings whirring. Her nose wrinkled. "Pitch was hit as well."

"Pitch?" It was getting easier to talk. Even the pins-and-needles were ebbing to a dull discomfort. The world had lost its underwater fog and now he could pick out strand of fur on Bunnymund's coat. Jack looked around. It was morning, early enough for the sky to be a pale green. The meadow they'd landed in was still soaked from last night's deluge.

Despite the hour a balmy breeze came in, promising to deliver the heat wave the weatherman had been warning of. It smelled of pine resin and damp grass. There was nothing to indicate anything amiss, and Jack would've missed it, had it not been for the dark stain amidst all the blue. It looked like a sodden log, unmoving.

Jack snapped his head at the others, wincing at the sloshing pain the whiplash movement brought. "No way."

"Yep. Just like you. Completely knocked out," Bunnymund said, whiskers bristling. "Don't know bout you lot, but I'd like to keep it that way."

"He out like light. But to be honest, you were priority," North said, gracing Jack with one of his signature beams.

Jack in turn couldn't help but smile back. An inexplicable boom of warmth spread across his chest, one that had nothing to do with the lightening. He was once again reminded this wasn't a dream. This was real. He was part of a family now, part of friends who cared what happened to him. Trusted. Cherished. It was strange to think how a year ago he was nothing but an outsider looking in, friendless and isolated.

His grin fell away and at last made to his feet. He was handed his staff and he gripped it tight, using it as a crutch as he wobbled in place. He tested out his magic, an unknown weight plunging off his chest as he created a snowball. Well, it came out mostly ice, too dangerous to throw, but he chalked it up as a success anyway. He let it drop to the ground.

"Alright, let's check the creep out."

If Jack hadn't known better, he would've thought Pitch asleep. They all circled around. The young Guardian shifted his weight and scratched the back of his neck. He almost didn't recognize Pitch without the cruel sneer. The dark gray face was slack with unconsciousness, almost peaceful as he lay in the dewy grass. His chest never rose or fell, but that meant nothing for a spirit. He was bigger up close than Jack remembered, stretched out like a deranged cat soaking up sunshine. Jack shifted again. He cleared his throat.

"Is he . . .?"

"Dead? Nope." Bunnymund leaned over Pitch. "Just waaaaaay out of it." He cocked his paw back and walloped the Boogeyman a slap. Instead of sputtering awake, as Jack fully expected, the gaunt shadow never stirred. Neither did he reposition his head to get comfortable, but kept it twisted in the grass. The angle of the neck looked uncomfortable, and Jack fought the urge to reposition Pitch's head.

It was one thing fighting an able enemy, but taking a five-on-one advantage on an unconscious one was unfair. Too unfair. To his relief Bunnymund stepped away from Pitch and made a show of wiping his paw on North's shoulder. North grimaced and almost shoved him into Sandy, who stuck his tongue out and floated out of range.

"But how could we tell? If he was, uh, you know." Jack didn't know how to finish. Even after everything that had happened, Jack didn't hate Pitch. Unlike the others, he hadn't fought him since the Dark Ages. Sure, he was a jerk. Yeah, he'd almost destroyed the Guardians a year ago, and would again given half the chance. But Jack had seen Pitch's vulnerability in Antarctica, and the abject horror when he'd failed to make the kids see him. He and Pitch had suffered under the same lash, and though Jack stood with the others over the prone body, he felt no joy.

"He'd fade and disappear completely," Tooth said. Her feathers caught the sunrise and gleamed like tiny green fires. There was no pity in her voice. "If he was really dying."

Bunnymund snorted. "Not not gonna happen, of course. Our luck isn't that good."

Question marks cropped with increasing speed over Sandy's head. The giant rabbit caught sight of them and harumphed. "Sandy's right. The real question is what should we do with him now."

"I say we leave him there. That should be fine," Jack said with studied ease.

"And let him get away? You've all seen him fight. He's getting strong again," Bunnymund said. "There's no telling what this oily bird's cooking next."

"You afraid of a little shadow? C'mon, it'll be fine. If he tries anything we stop him," Jack said, rubbing his forehead. Out of all the pains the lightening caused him, the headache had yet to dissipate. The Nightmares were no longer galloping inside his brain but were pressing against his skull. It felt his head had expanded three times its size. All he wanted to do was shove his whole head in a snowbank and leave it there. "We've done it before and we can do it again."

"Jack's right," North said, and everyone heard the note of finality. "We are Guardians, not bullies. We leave him alone for now, but if he show his face again—ha! We clock him out proper!"

They'd come to it, then. The threat had been neutralized, and as if by unspoken agreement, they prepared to split ways. Jack disliked this part the most. Three hundred years of being psychologically adrift had ignited an insatiable urge for family. He couldn't get enough. His favorite moments were when they were all together, bantering and playing, each helping the other overcome whatever threat. But those moments were rare. Over the year they'd occasionally run into each other, typically two at a time, rarely three, and never all five at once. Jack mostly saw Sandy. The friendly dream-caster would wave hello, more than happy to allow the winter spirit to tag along on his dream runs. As it was, the young Guardian realized now the Big Four only came together when absolutely necessary. Each had their separate duties in their separate realms, and as much as they enjoyed each other, their collaborations were ephemeral.

The tiny shiver, the one he could never fully shake off, the treacherous thought of This is it, this is where the fantasy ends, slid down his spine. Which was ridiculous. They would always be there for each other. Jack was safe. Nothing could change his Guardian status now. And so he, too, prepared to move away, albeit reluctantly, until—

Jack spun around, raising his staff. "Whoa! You guys hear that?"

"Hear what?" Bunnymund said, ears cupping. Nothing but cricket song rose in the sleepy air.

"What was it?" North asked.

Tooth flew close to the immortal teenager. "You feeling okay?"

Jack blinked, then straightened. He'd been so sure he'd heard a voice. "No, I . . . it must've been—"

His headache exploded. He had the dim memory of falling to his knees, clutching his head. He may've screamed as a horror not his own rippled through him. The voice, when it spoke, was undeniably Pitch's.

"What have you done to me?"