Hello and thank you for reading. I just want to get a quick author's note out of the way before we start.

This is a re-post of chapters from Ao3. I'm putting it here, because there is like...one blackbelief fic on this site? What? How? Smallest ship ever? Anyway, "Lost in the Dark" is angst heavy M/M with a fair amount of dark imagery, violence, and explicit language. I'm leaving Jamie's age up to you guys, but he is still in school, so a warning about that, too. No M stuff yet, but it's probably coming in ch 6 or 7. If any of that doesn't float your boat, please hit the back button and read something else.

Also, let me know in reviews if you think I should edit out the sex in this posting. (It's technically not allowed, but I know people post it.)


CHAPTER ONE
Dark Portents

Jamie's head hit the wall and the world swam in a haze of distorted light and color. It didn't feel like a concussion—not yet—but it was a near thing. He could barely focus on the three taller boys. A fist twisted in his second-hand jacket, holding him pinned to the outer wall of the gym. The stitching had torn and fluffs of down floated in the air. His mother would be so angry. He'd have to find a way to patch it, or—

"I told you to stay away, freak." The words were barely audible as they echoed in the space between Jamie's ears. "You've got no business with my girl."

"Just f-friends…" Jamie choked, his eyes blinking as he tried to bring his attacker into focus.

"Don't give me that shit, you little prick. I warned you." The words were followed with a sharp jab to the stomach and Jamie coughed, rendered breathless as he tried to recoil. "You remember? Pretty sure I said I'd pound you into the pavement if I caught you talking to her again. And I keep my promises."

Jamie's mouth curled in a reckless smile, his eyes finally focusing on his attacker. "Funny how Pippa seems to think she's your chemistry tutor."

The second punch caught him low in the gut, forcing acid up his throat. Jamie swallowed and gasped, his breath whistling in the cold air.

"You think I'm joking?" Mike's fist pulled away from his abdomen, leaving a throbbing pain in its wake, deep and low, almost cold. "You want fucking meatloaf for a face?"

Jamie felt two hands grip his jacket and toss him sideways. His landed hard, skidding several inches on the asphalt. Before he could move, a brand-name trainer connected with his ribcage and he heard something crack. Not again. Jamie curled in on himself, wondering if he was going to die, and if not, how he was going to hide the blood from his mother. Again. She'd know something was wrong if his clothes kept disappearing. It wasn't like he had much left to choose from. Eventually, she'd know, and what could she do about it…? Mike Shepherd was a star athlete. His father owned half the business in town, not to mention the police chief. They didn't have a prayer. Mrs. Bennett would go to the school. The school would talk to Mike. Mike's fists would talk to Jamie. That's how things worked. If they were lucky, his mother would get a check from Mr. Shepherd—hush money to keep the incident off school records. And that wouldn't be so bad, except Pippa would know.

That was the real problem. He wasn't really interested in dating Pippa, not that he'd have a chance if he was. His childhood friend might not be prom queen material, but she was smart and popular in her own way—tall, slim, and classically feminine with shoulder length hair and shy eyes that seemed to draw assholes like flies to honey. She had a lot of friends. Mostly people who didn't know Jamie existed. Even so, she talked to him, smiled at him, acknowledged him now and then. That was enough. It had to be. But he would rather bleed out on this patch of blacktop than watch her eyes darken with pity and guilt. He didn't want to see her look at him like that: like a victim, or another charity case.

Another kick. Mike was talking, swearing mostly, but Jamie couldn't hear. He was swimming in the back of his mind, an impassive third party watching the white blur connect with his abdomen. Fingers twisted in his hair, pulling his head off the ground as hot breath hissed in his ear—insults, threats, he couldn't tell. Still, Jamie felt a bizarre sense of calm detachment.

Eyes closed, he felt his mind drift, landing firmly at the edge of his subconscious. He was standing in his old school playground. Cold fingers curled around his as Jamie watched his friends step forward, one by one. Cupcake was ten, lip quivering as she held her father's hand, refusing to wave goodbye as he closed her in the airport taxi. Monty was hugging him tightly at sixth grade graduation, cursing his parents for sending him to private school. Caleb and Claude sat apart from him at orientation, talking hoops with a couple kids from East City, and promising to play after school. They waved, motioning for him to follow, and he swallowed, looking up at the figure beside him. The frozen boy stared down at him, blue eyes soft with understanding and near familial affection. With a conciliatory half-smile, he made an encouraging jerk of his chin at the retreating boys. The cold fingers went slack, ready to let go. Jamie panicked. He shook his head.

No. Not yet. Not ever.

Taking Jack's arm in both hands, Jamie held on tight, ignoring the pull forward. He watched the twins frown slightly and wave goodbye, fading into a crowd of smiling faces. Pippa still stood next to him, her timid little smile almost as bittersweet as Jack's. Her hair lengthened as she grew taller, prettier, the fragile lines of childhood softening with subtle curves. Pippa still looked slightly younger than Jack when she leaned down, offering her hand. Jamie hesitated a moment and took it, if only to keep here from leaving, but as the seconds ticked by she started pulling him forward, straining against his grip. Other girls appeared behind her, giggling and cooing as they added their strength to the task. Jamie felt panic rise again and tried to pull away, but Pippa held on. She sat next to him on the bus, talked to him, introduced him to her friends. She wouldn't let him go.

He took a step forward. Another. And another. But no matter how far he moved, Jack stayed, rooted to the spot, constant and unyielding. The Guardian's acquiescent smile wavered, but his icy fingers remained slack in Jamie's grip. Jack wouldn't push him away, but he wouldn't hold on, either.

Jamie didn't want to go, but Pippa was tugging, pulling, and he was stretched between them, his fingers shaking and strained. People began to crowd around them. Empty faces laughed and pulled at Pippa's shoulders. Jamie's fingers slid and Pippa reached out to hold his wrist. Jamie's heart jumped and he turned, because Jack wasn't fighting. The smile was still there, but it was softer around the edges, his eyes sad and resigned. He could see the end coming.

A distant pain stabbed his stomach, wrenching his fingers from Jack's hand. His insides churned with bitter anger as the playground lurched and swam out of focus. He was on the blacktop, ears ringing as he watched a blurry trainer arch back for a fresh kick.

"Hey, Mike? Man…he doesn't look so good. Don't you think—"

The voice cut abruptly with a muffled whump. Cold powder fell on Jamie's cheeks. He blinked and smiled through the pain, a line of warmth dripping from the corner of his mouth. Ice crept under his fingertips, crawling across the blacktop until he was lying on a thick sheet of blissful cold.

Finally.

"Who the fuck threw that?!" Mike spun around as a second snowball nailed him in the back of the head. Caught unawares by the ice, he swore as his ass hit the pavement. "Fuck! I don't care who you are. You're dead!"

"Mike, we should go…Someone might've told the—SHIT!"

Another, larger snowball hit the taller of the two lackeys. Mike dragged himself up, eyes scanning the open space between the gym and the school building.

"Fuck this, man. I'm not dealing with this poltergeist shit." The shorter guy—Kevin? Calvin?

A metal door shrieked and Jamie heard shoes scrape on the ice as one or more of the thugs darted into a back stairwell. Mike swore and followed, slipping across the ground as he followed his friends.

"You're dead, Bennett. This isn't over." The door closed with a rusty screech, and Jamie was alone.

"Jack…?" Jamie shivered and pushed himself off the ice. "Jack, come out. They're gone."

No one answered. A chill wind slid through his jacket and raced up his back. Jamie stood, clutching his stomach and trying not to slip on the ice. He frowned, brows furrowed. "Jack? Where are you?"

A chime rang across the schoolyard, signaling the end of extracurricular time. Well, that answered one question. He'd definitely missed the bus. Jamie swept a thumb over his chin, and examined the fluid he'd felt earlier. Blood. His heart sank. Damn it all to hell. Mike hadn't hit him in the face, so it must be something internal, and that meant hospital bills. He sank back to his knees and took a deep breath, wincing as he tried to think.

Where was his backpack? He vaguely remembered someone pulling it off his shoulders and tossing it…somewhere. Mike had caught him right after the bell, so it had to be near the physics lab. It was close, but if he went back now, he was pretty much guaranteed to meet a teacher, and they would call his mother. Or he'd meet Mike and they'd have to scrape him off the hallway floor. Jamie coughed. More blood on his palm.

And where the hell was Jack? With all the ice and snowballs, it had to be him. "Jack! Jack Frost!" Jamie looked up at the empty sky, his mouth set in a stubborn line. A chill ran down his neck and he shivered. "Come on, please! I need you!"

Silence, cold and unyielding. Jamie's head spun, his stomach lurched. Coppery acid stung his throat. It was obvious. Jack would never leave him like this—not ever.

Mike fucking Shepherd. He wanted to scream. The damage was so much more than physical. Jack had warned him so many times, given him time to deal with growing up, but the wound still felt like someone had cut, or rather kicked, a jagged hole straight through his sternum. It was worse, he thought, because he would remember. He would always remember, but that's all it was: a memory. The Guardians of Childhood took an oath to protect the world's children and Jamie's childhood was officially over. Well, this was just the perfect icing on a perfect fucking day. Jamie tried to laugh, but his breath hitched and it sounded more like a sob.

"I can't see you." Tears stung his eyes and he swallowed, tilting his face back to feel the snow on his skin. "Jack…I can't see you."


The ER was bright, sterile, and completely utilitarian—not that he'd expect or demand anything better. He could live without the grainy TV, but he wished he'd just kept his head down and let Mike live his stupid fantasy. If he had, he wouldn't be wasting his mother's money on an overpriced cot and cheap curtains…and he might still have Jack.

He'd waited on the frozen pavement for almost an hour, but in the end, a janitor found him on the way to dump some trash. Jamie felt pretty much at home with that trash right about now. Mike's talent for violence had left him with three cracked ribs, a pulmonary contusion, internal hemorrhaging, and a ruptured spleen. If the school hadn't called an ambulance, he'd probably be dead. Part of him still thought things would be better that way.

Ms. Bennett was screaming out in the hallway, and he could sort of follow the chain of phone calls—first his principal, then the police, then Mr. Shepherd, who was apparently suggesting she talk to his lawyer. They'd be getting that money, then. Good. He got to walk away breathing, and Mike got to pretend he wasn't an overbearing dick. Brilliant.

A cough ripped through Jamie's throat, piercing his lungs with stabbing pain. Wincing, he reached for the call button. And after what seemed like an extraordinarily long time, a nurse arrived, mercifully providing a fresh dose of pain meds.

When he slept, he found himself walking through unfamiliar dreams. They were dark, muted—missing the comforting warmth of dream sand. With the added confusion of heavy medication, it was like being locked in someone else's head. He was sitting on top of the playground slide, watching the world burn. Jack was standing motionless in the flames, his figure wavering, distorting—melting. Jamie pulled his knees to his chest and hid his face. Smoke stung his lungs and he coughed, shoulders shaking.

A crack split the air and Jamie looked up in time to see the blackened play-set collapse in a cloud of sparks. His breath quickened, his lungs straining against rusty knives. He was burning from the inside out and his friends were gone; the Guardians were gone. He was trapped, neither man nor boy, afraid to go forward, but unable to go back. He had nothing left to hold onto.

The dream shifted, the crackling fire smothered as darkness flooded every corner of his mind. He groped blindly, searching for the slide's metal handle. The tips of his fingers moved through the air, but the rail wasn't there. The slide wasn't there. He was sitting on smooth, featureless stone. Something rustled—wings, maybe cloth—then a clatter of hooves echoed in the dark void. Jamie rose to his knees, turning to face the sound, his eyes wide against the impenetrable blackness.

"Jamie Bennett…"

The sound of his name tickled the back of his neck, each syllable soft as brushed velvet. He turned, heart smashing against his lungs.

"I'm glad to see you." The rich baritone slithered to his ear, whispering in a refined British lilt that held traces of something older, wilder—dragons and druids, the tricks and trials of Sophie's fairy-tales. "I've been waiting such a long time…but I'm nothing, if not patient."

Fingertips brushed his spine, tracing the line of his vertebra in a slow, deliberate caress. Jamie flinched, retreating back along the smooth floor, but the fingers followed, threading lightly through his hair in a manner that recalled the creeping legs of a spider.

"Stop it!" Jamie shouted, reaching up to smack the intruder away, but something snatched his wrist and pulled him off the ground. He screamed, waving wildly with his free hand, until that, too, was caught and held. Pain stabbed with every shallow breath as his chest rose and fell. He couldn't feel the floor, but he could feel the shadows moving around him, thick and almost solid—alive. As he breathed, he could taste pine and cedar and the unmistakable musk of decaying undergrowth. It was the dark space between trees, the unknown hiding in impenetrable wilderness. Pitch Black. The name sprung to mind without a moment's thought, though he hadn't heard it since that night, so long ago.

"Yes." Pitch answered the boy's unspoken thought. "I hoped you would remember." Something curled around Jamie's ankle and he went completely still, a whimper rising in his throat as whatever it was slid up his leg. "Broken little boy, lost in the dark with a shattered torch. The Guardians won't come for you; they can barely see you. But you needn't worry. I won't let you finish growing up."

"I'm not afraid of you." Jamie said and wished his voice wouldn't waver like that. They were in his dream, his head. If he could just pinch himself…maybe knock himself out? He struggled again, all thoughts of venom and snakebites forgotten.

"That hardly matters." Pitch laughed. "The rules have changed—you've changed. Can't you see, Jamie?"

A host of eerie yellow eyes lit the dark and, finally, he saw them: shadows, monsters, curling and twisting around each other so it was impossible to tell if they were solid, liquid, or gas. Slitted glowing orbs melted along their distorted bodies, stretching and shifting with every curve. He couldn't scream. He couldn't move. One of the monsters was still crawling inside his pajamas and suddenly that really didn't matter, because Pitch was there, pressing forward until they were scarcely a hairsbreadth apart.

"I own you."

The nightmare king gave a terrifying smile and set his palm over the boy's heart. Jamie felt a jolt of horror as something crawled through him, sliding right through his skin and wriggling behind his sternum. He choked on a scream, back arching as he tried to pull away. Pitch laughed, cold, colorless eyes drinking in every flicker of fear. A weight settled somewhere between Jamie's lungs, throbbing and pulsing like a second heartbeat. His body went slack. The pain in his lungs dulled and faded. Finally, Pitch pulled away, brushing his fingers down Jamie's arm as he disappeared back into the shadows. The creatures followed, leaving Jamie alone in the fading darkness.