Universal Disclaimer: I do not own Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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'Innocence Is Fleeting'

The old skeleton's brow quirked in annoyance as he watched his son play with his tiny xylophone. The boy was supposed to be practicing scaring humans, not doting in fantastical hobbies that would get him nowhere in their world.

"Leave him be," a smooth, beautiful voice said as the skeleton man felt a similar pair of thin arms wrap around his almost equally thin waist. His wife laid her head on his shoulder, a bit of her long, thick black hair falling into her face before being blown back with a puff of air through her attractively thin lips. The female skeleton smiled fondly at his focused scowl before her gaze moved to watch her adorable son plink the tiny mallets against the keys made of bone. "It will be a few years before he really needs to learn how to scare."

"The sooner the better," the older man said, watching his oblivious son continue to tink away, a strangely scary smile of contentment crossing the tiny skeleton's full moon face. The little one's father snorted slightly. "At least he'll master a devious smile early on."

"Of course, he inherited my beauty and your talent. He'll become one of the best Halloween has ever seen in his own time. You can't force these things. A child must be a child while he can be."

Another snort. "Nonsense. I remember my father sending me out to scare when I was half his age!"

His wife rolled her eyes playfully as she giggled. "You can't even remember being that young, silly."

Her husband's scowl deepend, but he held a playful smile on his face all the same. "Maybe not that young, but..."

"What?" The woman had become intrigued at the the sound of the mischievous tone her significant other was projecting.

"I do remember a certain, younger age that was rather enjoyable." He turned and pulled her waist to his to illustrate his point.

"Do you now, Mr. Skellington?" she replied, giving a delighted shriek a moment later as he chased up the stairs and their bedroom door slammed shut.

Little Jack plinked on, still pretty damn oblivious to his parents' doings.

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'Stupid Halloween,' the little Pumpkin Prince thought as one of his large eye sockets twitched in annoyance. 'Stupid holiday meant for...dummy-heads who only like stupid scaring.'

The tiny skeleton tot trudged down a random street in the human realm on his first true scaring mission. Needless to say, he wasn't happy about it at all. He'd much rather be at home wandering the familiarly dim streets of Halloween and talking with its many grotesgue, but still intriguing citizens. Except the Mayor. The Mayor was stupid...and scary when he got distressed...which Jack somehow managed to make him quite often just by being his shy little self.

Jack felt much contempt for his father at the moment, even if he didn't know what the word meant at his very young age. All he wanted to do was play and maybe meet new people, but nooooooooooo. Every day was: growl at this, or pounce on this, or scream at that. It was rather confusing to the toddler, who was still pretty much scared of half the things he saw day-to-day...though he'd never let his father know that.

In fact, the street he was walking down, with its strange lights somewhat akin to his native town and little humans that seemed to be around his age or slightly older running around in strange clothing that made a lot of them look even scarier than some of the residents of Halloween. More than one attempt the little Skellington made to scare someone so he could go home had been thwarted by one of those scarier-than-life costumes, which drove him down the street screaming in fear as the end result of his exploits. So much for learning the tricks of the scaring trade.

'Maybe I can get someone in their house,' Jack thought as he trotted behind the cover of a row of very tall bushes, not liking the looks of the humans coming towards him. Maybe if they were a little shorter...they weren't as tall as father or mother, but they still looked like giants to little Jack. Big, scary giants.

The skelleton tot carefully poked his head out through the bushes, relieved to see the nearest humans far down the street darting between their many houses in the same trick-or-treat ritual his mother had introduced him to last year.

"BOO!" someone suddenly yelled behind Jack, making the toddler scream in pure terror before he took off down the street without even looking to see who had snuck up behind him.

"Honey, you really shouldn't scare the trick-or-treaters like that," and old woman said as she wrapped her robe tightly around herself, walking up behind her equally aged husband as he crouched in the bushes wearing a very scary vampire costume.

"Why not?" the old man replied, the glee of scaring eivdent in his voice. "Those little, candy-grubbing bastards are always asking fer it. Interrupt my poker night with their constant knocking, will they?"

The old woman sighed. She hoped that little tike dressed as a skeleton would be alright enough. Lord knows he ran down the street faster than anything she'd ever seen before.

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'I hate Halloween,' little Jack thought grumpily in all his childishness as he pouted in a small alley made between two houses sitting close together. 'I hate Halloween, and I hate scaring, and I hate daddy for liking them so much.'

But in all his childish anger, Jack still felt the need to make his old man proud. So instead of returning to his beloved home, with his cozy room nestled in the very tallest tower with a view of all of Halloween, he bravely decided to try one more time.

He stood, a determined scowl set on his adorable cherub face and little hands of bone balled in resolve. 'I'm gonna scare the pants off the people in this house!"

Jack Skellington marched quickly up towards the front door of the house that he'd been leaning against, reaching his hand out for the door's knob.

'I'm gonna do it!' His hand paused just before it began to turn the large knob it held. The little bag of bones quickly let it drop and crept back down the walk. 'Maybe in a few minutes...'

He wasn't a scaredy-cat. Not really.

'If I don't do it, daddy might punish me,' he thought glumly. 'He might even be mad enough to take my xylophone. GASP! Not my xylophone!'

In an almost frantic run, Jack beelined back towards the door that his victims-to-be lay behind. After tripping in uncharacteristc clumsyness, he finally reached it and grasped the knob. He turned it, relieved to see that it hadn't been locked.

The door gave an eerie creak as it opened slowly, Jack carefully poking his head past it to see nothing but a dark front hall. No movement whatsoever.

'Why can't they be waiting right there so I can yell at them and run?' he whined silently as he carefully stepped into the house as shut the door with nary a sound. He looked around, already able to see his surroundings despite the complete lack of light. Growing up in Halloween did have good advantages after all. Still, though he could see everything perfectly, there was no living being to be found as he dared to walk further into the house. 'Where are they?'

Thump.

Little Jack looked up at the sound of something hitting the floor above him.

Thump. Thump.

'What is that?'

Thump. Thump. Thump...THUMP!

Any fear Jack may have felt from walking into the pitch-black house was replaced by curiosity, and he quietly crept towards the stairs to investigate the source of the strange thunks.

The hall at the top of the stairs was as dark as the one at the bottom of them, but that hardly hindered Jack as he quietly hugged one wall, making no sound as he slowly but surely made his way towards the sound of the thunks that were growing louder and faster in occurrence.

"Ooh..."

Jack stopped upon hearing that small moan reach his ears. What had made it? Whatever had didn't sound like it was scared or hurt, but the little Skellington couldn't quite place what the sound really sounded like.

"Oh yes! Yes! Mm..."

Jack smiled, not realizing what was really going on in a room not even five feet in front of the spot he currently stood. All he thought about was the fact that there was actually some live, moving prey to be found in the otherwise still house. He slowly crept towards the door, the lessons his father had been giving him taking effect as he crouched into a stalking walk and a devious smile spread across his face. Even at the age of five there was no denying his uncanny talent for scaring...even if he wasn't particularly fond of it.

"Oh God! Oh GOD! GODGODGOD!"

Jack stood directly outside the closed door, his mind more on the prospect of finally scaring someone than the strange thunks and moans issuing from the other side of it.

"God! FUCK!..Nnnnn!"

Gathering what courage he needed to, little Jack quickly turned the doorknob and kicked the door open, scary face still in place until...

"OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! AUGH!"

He couldn't believe what he was seeing!

...What was he seeing?

Thoroughly confused and surprised, Jack forgot completely about scaring and ran instead. The two humans in the room together had been too caught up in whatever strange ritual they were taking part in to realize he had even been there before. Both lay there panting as the bewildered little Skellington beelined out of the house and down the street, only the prospect of getting back to Halloween in his head right now.

"...Was it good for you?"

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"He hasn't come down since last night, and he refuses to eat anything," Jack's mother said as she tugged at a bit of her long tresses distractedly, looking with worry towards the stairs that led to her precious devil's room. "And he won't tell me what's got him like this."

His father sighed, a slight scowl on his face. He thought parenting got this confusing later in life. "Perhaps I should try talking to him. Maybe he came across something while he was out last night that...spooked him."

His wife ignored the tone in the last bit of his statement, knowing that there was no convincing him that it was okay for even a Skellington (and a young one at that) to be frightened every once in awhile. "I think you should. He could use his daddy right now."

Jack was currently sitting quietly on his bed with legs crossed and a blanket over his head so only his face could be seen, a blank look etched into his simple features. He didn't even blink as his father climbed the stairs that were the only separation of his room from the rest of the house.

"Jack?" his father asked of him softly as he approached the boy's bed. "Son? Are you all right?"

The miniature Skellington remained silent as he stared blankly ahead, not even acknowledging his father's presence.

The older Skellington was stumped. For the most part, Jack had always been what most parents would call 'the easy child'. It was always particularly easy to know what was on the tyke's mind and how to carry out the best courses of action with him in most situations...even if the little thing could be so mortifyingly stubborn sometimes.

"Are you all right son?" the older skeleton asked, sitting on the edge of the small bed as his child remained unmoving. His father sighed. "Is this because you didn't scare anyone last night, Jack? It's quite alright if you didn't. Many monsters in our town didn't get it on the first try. Why I remember the mother of that little Swamp Girl that you play with sometimes--"

"--Father?" Jack interrupted quietly, finally moving ever-so-slightly so he could lock eyes with his fraternal figure.

"Yes Jack?" the other asked, relived that his boy at least hadn't become catatonic.

Jack merely looked at him with no expression before..."When a boy puts his ----- in a girl's ------, what are they doing?"

Needless to say, Jack's father was more than a slight bit taken aback. Not only had his son just named two parts of anatomy that he shouldn't know anything about yet, but he had put his question so bluntly that it would catch even the newly appointed, bumbling Mayor by surprise. Lord knew the man let most things go in one ear and out the other.

Jack's father made a mental note to talk to his wife about exactly what parts of anatomy she was teaching their son at a young age before taking a deep breath to prepare for a long, long, LONG explanation.

Children really didn't stay all that innocent for long did they? Now the father wished the child could stay a true child while he could be.

Damn coincidences.

THE END