A/N:

Azure129: Hi everyone! 8D So, we decided to write this cute story about Jack and Sally first meeting via the storyline of the prequel video game and we hope you like it :) You'll get to see their first meeting and then we'll jump to after the movie for some more cuteness ;) We hope you like it! Please read and review! Thank you!

NintendoGal55: Yes indeedy, since we passed the one-year anniversary since we wrote and posted Pumpkin Petals, we decided to do a little special. By doing the scenario of how they first met. :D And like with PP, part two will consist of the end of the movie. Enjoy!


"Oh dear..." With a worried sigh, Jack Skellington briskly paced through yet another dark, dank corridor, mumbling to himself with worry the entire time. "Where is she? That girl, he took her, I know he did...but where in the world did he put her? Oh I have to find her. The poor thing must be utterly terrified." Jack frowned and shook his head, walking a little more quickly. He tried calling out again, as he had done at intervals. "Excuse me?! Miss! Where are you? If you can hear me, please, call out or knock against your cell door-anything to let me know where you are. I promise, Oogie Boogie won't hurt you anymore." Oh yes, Oogie wouldn't be hurting anybody anymore-not with how Jack had just banished him underground...for good.

In the corner of a lone, dark cell, a rag doll woman raised her head from her knees as she could hear the distant calls of...someone. The door was hard metal, with a tiny mesh slot along the higher part toward the ceiling. All to prevent her from escaping using her detachable body parts. She wondered if whoever was out there would find her here.

Sally tried hard to call out, but could not muster the strength to formulate her voice. All that came out was a distressed whimper.

Jack Skellington paused in his walking. Something...Something soft met his ears. But it was so hard to tell from where...and also what had made it. He listened very closely and slowed down his pace. He called out again. "Miss? Is that you? Oh please don't be frightened-I promise this isn't a trick." Jack smiled, softening his voice. "I'm the Pumpkin King. I found out that you were kidnapped and of course I had to come and rescue you. Don't you worry, I taught that old Oogie Boogie a lesson and he's going away now for a very long time. He can't hurt you-you have my word." Jack glanced around the corridor. So many doors. "Oh...Oh please, miss..." he frowned a little, "Knock on your door or make a little sound or something to let me know you're here and you're okay...please." He looked

around in a touch of distress, trying to peer into a few nearby cells, though they were rather dark.

Sally tried to move, but her entire form was weakened from her despair, she could not find any strength to get up. Her lips quivered, her voice shook with whimpers, and her wide, frightened eyes were locked on the door before she looked down at the floor. She came across a rock, broken from the stone floor. Hesitating, she picked up, shakily, and tossed it toward the door.

CLANG!

The sound practically reverberated through Jack and it made him smile and his eye sockets quickly fell upon a certain door towards which he dashed immediately! "Oh! Oh Miss, is that you?" He reached the door, leaning up against it. He put his skull to it and sure enough...oh he could hear just...sounds of such despair. They made him feel so sad inside to hear. He took a step back and looked at the door. "Oh dear...Miss, don't worry, everything will be alright. I'm here now, you're safe. Just do me a favor and keep away from the door. I'm going to remove it now..." Jack paused, giving her a few moments to move if she had to.

That voice... To say that Sally was entranced by it would have been an understatement. It was oddly comforting to her, if not just because this was her rescuer. She huddled back further in the corner, thankfully out of range or path of the door, waiting to see what her saviour would do.

Jack heard some shuffling and then when it had stopped he got himself ready for what he had to do. He stretched his arms, cracking some of the bones in them, and then he got his hands into the grooves of the door frame...and he pulled. "O-O-O-Ohhhh!" he couldn't help but groan out at the first round of pulling. The door was heavy after all...yet the hinges snapped under the pressure of that one pull of his alone.

A gasp escaped the rag doll as she looked up in shock. Whoever this was, the Pumpkin King, it seemed...was pulling the door off? She couldn't believe it. He was strong enough to endure that? Her phantom heart was pounding by now, as she waited with silent anticipation.

Jack took a few deep breaths and then repositioned his hands on the door for the final pull. "S-Sorry, Miss..." he took a few more breaths, "Um..." he glanced to the side sheepishly, "I-I really must do a better job of getting in shape for next Halloween, mustn't I?" He swallowed and then added, bracing himself again. "It'll just take one more pull though, I assure you." And then suddenly Jack was at it again, the door getting ready to fully dislodge in his grasp.

Anxiety overtook her once more as Sally realized what was going on. She swallowed, burying her face in her upraised knees once more, trembling. Any moment now, the Pumpkin King himself was going to see her, save her. It was thrilling, yet terrified, especially with what had transpired today. On Halloween. What was supposed to be the town's embodiment and tradition was nothing but disaster at every turn. She whimpered, already nervous.

That frightened little sound from her gave Jack the last push of strength he needed and then suddenly the door was off and pushed half aside, leaving the cell open though still slightly obscured in darkness. Jack took a moment to rest, collapsed against the wall beside the cell door, catching his breath. "Y-You're...safe..." he managed to pant out. "You can come out...now..."

All too eager to do so, Sally tried to, but was unable to move yet again. What if it really was a trick? Why wasn't he showing himself? She whimpered, trying yet again to speak, but was unable to muster up the strength to do so. This was her chance to escape, but what then? Why couldn't she move?

Shakily, Sally tried, hard, to stand up.

Jack panted a few more times and then, his breathing finally normal, he straightened up. He adjusted his tie and brushed off his suit a little and then blinked and looked to the cell door. Why wasn't she coming out? He looked at the opening curiously. Then he blinked, worry coming to his features. 'Oh dear, what if she's injured...' He cautiously stepped toward the doorway opening. "Um...Miss? Are you alright? Are you injured? Do you need help? I can carry you if necessary...Please, Miss..." Jack stepped inside, holding out a hand to the darkness. "All I want to do is help you..." He spoke as gently and kindly as he could.

Upon seeing a skeletal hand appear from the darkness, Sally audibly squeaked with fright. But the kind, gentle, very...soothing voice just warmed her ears. Everything was going to be all right.

Hesitating, still trying to stand, Sally whimpered again and tried to straighten herself. She then reached for the hand, placing her tinier hand upon the skeletal hand she could see.

Jack's eye sockets went a little wide at the feel of a small, blue, soft cloth hand coming into his own. Oh and the poor dear...she was trembling...Jack gently squeezed her hand and placed his other hand atop it. "Shh...there now..." he whispered soothingly, "It's alright, my fair lady. I'm going to take you away from this horrible place and then we'll get you a hot bath and some fresh clothes and something yummy to eat and we'll tuck you into bed and you can sleep as long as you want...Anything to help with the awful ordeal you've been through. Oh I'm so sorry your first Halloween was so distressing...I promise all of the ones after this will just be full of frightful fun...Don't worry...Don't worry..."

A short gasp escaped Sally at his kind, soothing words. Her heart was racing, she could feel a blush coming to her cheeks...and the feel of his other hand placed atop of hers in comfort and security...she had never felt so safe, so appreciated in her life. Never had she heard such kind words, such a sweet offer in taking care of her wellbeing. Her knees were going weak, it was a wonder her legs weren't detached!

Slowly, she came into the light streaming into the cell, trembling a bit, but relaxing.

Jack blinked a few times as this new creature came into the light. And then he was just...stuck for a moment. He couldn't help just looking at her and feeling his look grow more and more curious. He wasn't sure why, all he knew was that...he felt like he needed to keep looking at her. It felt like he was trying to piece something together about her or like he was trying to find something about her or understand something about her...He didn't know. All he could do was swallow and still gently squeeze her hand in his own.

Much to Sally's unexpected surprise, this creature, the Pumpkin King, was taller than her. By quite a bit. She could see now that the top of her head came up to the neck. Sure enough, the Pumpkin King was a tall skeleton, dressed in a dapper black and white pinstripe suit. A stylish black bowtie in the shape of a bat added the touch of flare that she couldn't help but find neat. When she raised her head, she was met with empty eye sockets staring back at her with wonder and curiosity. Sally's breath caught in her throat.

She was looking into his eye sockets and it prompted Jack to swallow and the word "H-Hi..." to kind of squeak out of his throat. Then he looked down with a small pout. He felt silly...but couldn't figure out why.

Sally blinked and looked down, unsure. Oh, what could he possibly be thinking of her now? She was nothing special. Just a rag doll who possessed no real scaring talent. She was just Sally. That was all there was to it.

She was looking down now and it made Jack a step closer. "Um...are you alright? You're not...hurt or anything, are you?" He looked at her with concern.

Unable to answer, Sally squeaked and then shook her head, trembling.

Oh Jack's heart was utterly touched. This poor, sweet, dear girl, practically traumatized now. He moved closer to her and gently put an arm around her, patting her back. "Shh..." he whispered softly, "There, there now...You're safe. You have my word. And you have my word that nothing shall ever harm you again. I will be your protector. I give you my vow as King...Shh..." He smiled.

A gasp escaped the frightened rag doll as she felt the compulsion to turn away from his touch. Yet, as he did so, it only managed to soothe her. Sally exhaled and then relaxed a bit, hesitating as she leaned her head against his thin shoulder. She couldn't believe she was so easily seeking comfort after all this, but it was hard to turn away from the first person to ever have shown her such kindness and compassion.

As she relaxed against him, Jack let out a soft sigh, still patting her back. He continued to whisper soothingly. "It'll be okay. Everything's fine now. Don't worry, I'm here. You're not alone anymore, sweet Miss..."

Nodding a bit, Sally trembled slightly, but was relaxing more and more against her saviour. She wasn't sure what it was, his comforting words, his soothing voice, warmth, compassion, or his physical gestures...but she felt so safe around him. As well as that, something more that she couldn't even place. Intrigue, maybe. That was a likely possibility.

Jack let her just rest against him a little longer. Then he asked softly, "Are you alright now to try...stepping out of the cell? I'll help you, don't worry."

A little whimper escaped her but she nodded. For whatever reason, she just didn't want this moment to end. It was by far the most sincere, sweet and soothing moment she had ever experienced in her life. How could she not want to remain within its warm shell? But she knew he was right. They had to get out of here.

Jack smiled. "Alright then. Come on, you can hold my hand..." He gently eased out of her embrace and squeezed her hand in one of his own. "I'll take a step and then you take a step..." Jack took a step toward the door.

Sally exhaled, still unable to respond in words, but managed to take an imbalanced step forward. So far so good.

Jack's smile brightened. "Oh that's splendid! Okay now, one more step and then we'll be in the doorway..." He took a step forward into the doorway and waited for her to follow.

The rag doll did so, taking another step, then another. At least now her legs were working and doing more than just keeping her standing upright. Taking another breath, she stepped toward him in the doorway, shakily, due to her natural imbalance, but was managing just fine.

Jack looked at her like he was the proudest king in the world. "Very very good! Okay then now we have our first step out into the corridor...Do you think you have it in you to take it together with me at the same time?" he asked sweetly.

Heart racing, cheeks heating up, Sally managed a little nod, squeezing his hand.

"Okay then..." Jack nodded. "On the count of three then...One...two...three!" He went forward.

Sally did too, albeit a bit mis-stepped, but still went forward.

Jack moved closer to her to help her balance. "Very brave. I'm very proud of you, Miss. Now then...are you alright to keep walking along with me to get out of here or do you need me to carry you? I don't want to overwhelm you."

A squeak escaped her, but Sally tripped on a crack in the floor, falling up against him.

Jack blinked and on instinct caught her in his arms. "Oh! Um..." breathing rather quickly from the surprise, Jack swallowed and smiled and managed, "D-Dear, if you really do feel that unsteady then I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist on carrying you to freedom." He smiled down at her again.

Sally blushed, but she nodded in agreement. While she didn't want to slow him down or impose on him, she could see that getting out of here faster was a better idea in the big picture.

Jack smiled. "Thank you." He gave a small bow. Then he straightened up. "Now, this might feel funny for a second, but trust me, I've got you..." He winked at her and then put an arm around her waist and lifted her and then got his other arm under her knees and sure enough now Jack was standing there holding this sweet girl in his arms. "Do you feel alright?" he asked with a sweet smile.

Blushing, Sally hid her face in his chest, but nodded. She clasped her hands around his neck, securing herself, as she trembled slightly. Being upraised like this, especially with the feeling of falling, was almost scary to her. But he was strong in holding her...she felt she had nothing to worry about.

Jack swallowed and cleared his throat as he felt her hold him more closely, watched her blush, felt her face nuzzle in his chest. He wasn't exactly used to...girls...women...being close to him like that. He did his best to put his inhibitions aside for now though and to take a breath and smile down at her. "Good, I'm glad you feel safe. Now, I'm going to take you out to the graveyard. I bet you could use a bit of fresh dead air and some moonlight, hmm? It's alright...you'll never have to come down here ever ever again. I promise." He hugged her a little more closely and then walked off with her (trying to keep his pace gentle.)

Sally nodded against him, keeping her face buried in his chest as she sought comfort from it. Everything hidden from her view was all she could do to try to reassure herself of what he was saying. While traumatized, especially at being locked away like this...she was slowly feeling better at every moment spent with him...her saviour. The Pumpkin King.~

Jack could tell she was nervous. He decided to talk to her a little, to do anything to soothe her. Who knew...maybe he could even make her smile soon. "You know...you're very brave to have gone through what you've been through. I mean, obviously Oogie wanted...something from you that you refused him a-and that's why he put you in the dungeon..." Jack cleared his throat, trying to move along to his point, "You had the courage to stand up to him. Few people besides myself can boast of that." He smiled again.

Biting her lip, Sally wasn't quite sure how to explain the fact that she had been kidnapped by mistake. That they were trying to kidnap he himself, and had (for some strange reason) mistook her for him in the dark. Then just kept her anyway, as a hostage, locked away in something of a dungeon. She whimpered, clinging to him tighter. How was she going to tell him that she didn't do anything?

Jack frowned. "Aww...shh, shh, don't be sad...Um..." he thought and then smiled, "...oh but the bravest thing by far is how much of a stiff upper lip you've kept...You've been rather quiet, yes, but you haven't been hysterically wailing for help or anything like that. You've been poised and confident and patient...all admirable qualities. Why, I almost have to wonder if you don't have something of royalty in you." He smiled more, hoping that would help.

More of a blush overcame her. Why was he saying such nice things to her? To make her feel better? But he sounded so sincere and kind. It was hard not to believe it. How would he react to knowing she had spent hours screaming, wailing and crying in traumatic hysteria before she gave up and just slumped over in defeat, completely quiet?

Jack felt her face warming up against his chest. He swallowed and then tried, still trying to smile, "Oh and look how well you've held up: dress still neat, hair still straight. How nice." He winked down at her.

Sally wasn't sure how to respond to that, either. Especially since, aside from verbally tormenting her, Oogie Boogie and his child minions didn't do a thing to her physically. She was also a rag doll, not much about her would change in this amount of time. Regardless, her cheeks warmed up as she avoided his gaze once more.

Though she didn't seem entirely comforted by his words, at the very least this dear creature's shaking and whimpering seemed to be dissipating, and that gave Jack some comfort and some hope. He smiled at how she buried herself against him for comfort and he rocked her a little as he held her. "There, there, that's better...And if you keep feeling so much better, maybe I'll tell you a secret...maybe even two secrets..." He winked down at her with a smile.

A shiver coursed through her, this time Sally looked up to meet his gaze. She almost tried to voice a response, but found she still couldn't. Instead, she bit her lip and looked at him with curiosity.

Oh her eyes, yes, he had her eyes meeting his. Jack practically beamed! 'Excellent progress!' His smile grew. "Well, you're looking up at me...you must feel much much better. Alright, secret number one..." he looked around humorously as though checking to make sure they were alone, and then leaned in close and whispered happily, "Well, as a start to this secret...I hear from Dr. Finkelstein that you are an excellent, excellent seamstress..." His grin picked up on one side as he awaited some confirmation from her.

Blushing again, Sally smiled shyly as she nodded ever so slightly and looked away again. She then realized something, that her creator was likely very worried about her. She had been missing the entire day, after all. Did he ever know what had happened to her? Did anyone know what had happened? She just hoped he was all right, though.

Feeling the magnetic pull, Sally glanced up at him again, still with the shy smile.

Oh she was even smiling now! Looking shy and not saying a word...but smiling and blushing! Oh what a dear she was...He was so happy he had rescued her before any mischief had come to her. A tug of worry pulled at his heart-after all, Oogie wasn't exactly... a 'gentleman'...and he was just so grateful that she seemed unharmed, though frightened. He still smiled down at her and went on. "Well, then, Madame seamstress, here's secret number one..." he lowered his voice just a little, and looked to her warmly yet seriously, "Oogie Boogie is just a big stuffed burlap sack of bugs...and I think that one good pull of a thread at one of his seams would stop him dead in his tracks. So if you ever get frightened over him again you just remember-he's just like a big, ugly sewing project, and

you are a brilliant seamstress who could destroy him with one good tug."

Processing this information, Sally considered it. She had seen, from her glimpse of Oogie Boogie, that he had stitches all over his form, and seemed to be something of a sack. He was stuffed with something, that much she knew. But bugs? It made sense, considering all the bugs that were overrunning the entire town during his hostile takeover. He must've housed and created bugs of all kinds, no wonder.

Sally then nodded, keeping this in mind for the future. She relaxed

a bit more, laying her head against his shoulder.

Jack felt her un-tense a little in his arms, and her doing so let her soft skin press against his bones more. It processed with him then fully-she really was...a rag doll. Soft and stitched and gently stuffed with he-wasn't-sure-what...yarn hair...and a patchwork dress...Such a dear, gentle girl. He liked her very much. "I...I hope that made you feel better..." he whispered gently back to her...and then he gently let himself stroke her soft hair once...to comfort her further.

A soft sigh escaped Sally at the tender gesture, which then made her smile. She could get used to this... This wise, kind, just ruler, the Pumpkin King... Oh, she liked him! How he saved her, comforted her, helped her, spoke to her, he was nothing short of a kind and caring person who considered the wellbeing of others. What a gentleman he was, no less. She could not believe her luck! Why had she not met him before? He was amazing!

Her sigh made Jack slow in his walking. He looked down at her, observing carefully. No, that hadn't been a further sign of distress from her. Actually, she looked...happy. Oh Jack just felt overjoyed inside! She was happy again! Oh she deserved to be happy. "Would...Would you like to know that second secret I mentioned...my new, little friend?" he asked softly of her.

Friend?

Sally looked at him, angling her head ever so slightly, but not so much to remove it from where she rested it. If anything, she was quite comfortable and didn't want this sweet closeness to end...

She met his gaze, smiling curiously.

Jack chuckled warmly. "I'll take that as a yes. Well then..." he glanced to the side bashfully, and then paused at the end of the corridor, just before entering the main chamber of this place... "First...do you promise not to laugh...and also to keep this just between us?" He looked at her hopefully.

'Who would I tell?' Sally thought. She nodded and smiled in assurance.

Jack smiled back at her and nodded gratefully. "Thank you." Then he smiled a little sheepishly and admitted, "The second secret is that...even if you were terrified of Oogie, wailing and crying, and utterly lost all composure, even that would be alright because...everyone else is very scared of Oogie Boogie...and even I get a little bit scared of him sometimes too." He looked into her eyes tenderly yet seriously.

Her gaze was questioning at this point, as if to asking why.

He could see the curiosity in her eye. He added to explain, "I'm...I'm not scared of what he could do to me...but I am scared of him hurting my friends and loved ones and being too late to stop him...and I was terrified when I found out he took you." Jack sat down upon a single step leading into the main corridor. "You are a brand new person, my little friend-so innocent, pure and good...Oh I was so scared he would try to corrupt you and make you as bad as he is, so scared that he at least would scar you for the rest of your days..." Jack looked down at her with a sincere frown, "I'm so sorry that one of your first experiences ever had to be being kidnapped by him. Really, sweet miss, I promise you, I promise, life...er, death...er... 'living'..." he smiled, "...is a wonderful, beautiful, splendid thing, and even though there can be bad events in it, that doesn't change the fact that there is so much good to be had in it. You'll have lovely experiences too, I promise you. And I just hope you can forgive me and the rest of the town for letting you slip into the hands of someone who would want to give you one of the worst experiences ever to start things out with."

Touched, Sally smiled and then lay her head back onto his shoulder and nuzzled him gently. She couldn't believe he was actually saying such things to her! Especially, even, taking responsibility for what happened? It wasn't even his fault that she was captured, even if they had intended to capture him and mistook her for him. Somehow. But she didn't blame him or the rest of the town at all. She sighed, dreamily, in a way to let him know there were no hard feelings whatsoever.

"Oh..." softly left Jack...his eye sockets wide... He had never really done well with...girls. Well, strictly speaking he had the capacity to do very well with girls indeed-he could have wallpapered his manor a few hundred...thousand...times over with the number of Halloween cards he got each year from the ladies in town all swooning over him and sending him pictures of dead hearts and whatnot...so he tended to stay away from girls. They made him uncomfortable. Besides, he had his best friend Zero, and then the Mayor, and even Dr. Finkelstein...all such pleasing and predictable gentlemen... Yet somehow now he was gently holding this fair little creature here...and, he suddenly realized, referring to hear as a dear friend. The idea was...unknown to him before; having a girl as

a friend. He...wondered if he could really do that...and with this sweet miss, no less. "Sally...I'm...so happy you feel better." He swallowed...and then gently stroked her hair again. "I hope we can be friends for a very very long time..."

Sally blushed, sighing yet again in contentment. It was sweet that he expressed such a sentiment, and oh! He was stroking her hair! Never had anyone been so...tender and sweet with her. Sure, Dr. Finkelstein was never physically rough with her nor did he ever strike her, he was careful and mindful of her. But this...oh, she didn't want this to end! She closed her eyes, smiling in bliss as she relaxed ever more.

Jack gazed down at her like she was just about the most precious thing in the world...his smile soft and sweet. She seemed so content, so peaceful...he felt so happy inside. She would be alright, despite her harrowing experience. "Miss..." he whispered very softly... "...we don't have to go outside just yet...Would you like to relax here with me for a moment...? I...I could sing to you..." He gulped at having made the suggestion.

Sing? First he had such a soothing, charming voice...and he could sing? Oh, what had she done to deserve this? She loved the idea of someone singing to her! A smile came to her face as she blushed more, nodding in agreement to his suggestion.

Jack had to chuckle just a little at her cute enthusiasm. He nodded. "Alright...I'll...sing to you a little bit about Halloween, alright? Just very softly and gently...That's our holiday here, you know. I'm sure you'll like it. It's very fun. A little scary...oh but I promise, it's all in good fun and never harmful." He winked at her. "Would you like me to sing to you a little about Halloween?"

"Yes..." Escaped her very softly.

Jack utterly locked up. He didn't breathe or blink or move. She...had spoken...A charming bell of a single word had left her and the sound just...just about sent him over the moon with happiness. "I-I..." he didn't want to startle her too much, or to make her nervous about speaking, "I...v-very well..." He just about beamed and then cleared his throat and then...very very softly and gently sang to her with a smile... "Boys and girls of every age...Would you like to see something strange?...Come with us and you will see...this our town of Halloween..." He tapped her nose playfully.

Unable to help it, Sally swooned. She rested her head upon his shoulder again, soothed by his singing. It was amazing! His speaking voice was charming and very pleasing to the ear, but his singing voice! It was wonderful! She loved it already!

"O-Oh..." Jack trembled a little. She was getting that...look...the one the other girls got whenever he was near...He tried to focus though. He really wanted this to work out with his dear little friend. And he tried to just be glad that she was so very happy...and he let his ego be a little flattered by the fact that she seemed to like his singing. "Um...This is Halloween, This is Halloween...Pumpkins scream in the dead of night...This is Halloween, everybody make a scene...Trick or Treat til the neighbors come and die of fright..." He leaned in close and then whispered with a smile, "It's okay, don't be scared-we're all already technically 'dead' so of course that line's not meant to mean anything threatening."

Now Sally giggled, smiling at him more. Oh, she liked him so much right now. She hoped they would be able to see each other again!

Jack just about lit up all over at that...that giggle! Oh he had made her laugh! Oh! He grinned ear to ear and then leaned extra close and finished quietly but happily, "It's our town, everybody scream...in this town of Halloween...In this town, we call home...everyone hail to the Pumpkin song. La la la...Halloween...la la la...hee..." He chuckled and then leaned in so close that their noses actually touched.

Sally's cheeks heated up, and normally, contact this close from someone else scared her and forced her into shy hiding. But...strangely, she liked this... Her heart was racing, her breathing accelerated... They were so close. What was this? She managed to smile, and giggled again.

"H-Hmm..." Jack all but gurgled...and he was still so close. Oh if she kept lighting up like that, he...he hadn't realized how happy he was all of a sudden. "Did you l-like the song...?" he whispered...grin still ear to ear and gaze still soft and tender.

Nodding a bit, she looked down a little with shyness.

"A-And...do you think you'll like Halloween...and like living in this town?" he also asked gently, and with a touch of hopefulness.

"...Yes..." Was all she could manage in a soft voice, looking at him a bit more. Sally swallowed, but managed to relax all over again.

"I'm glad..." left Jack soothingly...and then he allowed himself one more moment of looking deeply into her wide, trusting, beautiful eyes...and then he slowly pulled away from her, sitting up straight. "Um..." he cleared his throat shyly, "I know you'll make an excellent new addition to our holiday and our town. Thank you for being created, Sally." He gave her a humble nod.

Blushing again, Sally giggled and then returned her head to her new favourite resting place. It wouldn't be long before they were going to emerge from here, and she knew that it would mean he'd be putting her down on the ground, and she'd be going home... She didn't even want to go home now.

Jack tightened his hold on her and stood up but he didn't go forward just yet. He just smiled down at the lovely new friend in his arms. "Miss? Um...I'm guessing that after all of this is over...you might still be scared sometimes. Please know that if you ever are and need me, I'm always here for you. I live in that big, tall house just on the other side of the town from Dr. Finkelstein's...I think you could even see it from your window if you look. Just know that if anything overwhelms you, I'm always there or my little dog Zero is there and one way or another I'll find my way to you to help you...okay?" He smiled down at her hopefully.

Touched yet again, Sally smiled and gave a nod against his shoulder as she relaxed all over again. For whatever reason at all, she felt so safe with him. So happy, so content, so comforted...so warm. She really liked this feeling, she liked being around him, and hoped that they still could be in the future.

*gave a nod

Jack grinned. "Thank you, my lady..." Then he gave her a little bow with her in his arms. Then he asked sweetly, yet with concern if it really would upset her at all, "Are you ready to go outside yet? I don't want to overwhelm you..."

Sally nodded, despite that deep down, she still wanted to keep close to this wonderful skeleton man...

She nodded, yet Jack could see...it lacked the enthusiasm of the nods he had gotten about asking if he wanted him to sing to her or asking her if she would be happy here in Halloween Town. He spoke to her sweetly. "If you're still upset at all, I promise I'll visit you later at Dr. Finkelstein's, once you've had a chance to rest."

All at once, Sally brightened and nodded a few times. She wanted to tell him that she loved the idea, but once more, she found herself unable to find her voice. She opted for smiling and giggling with contentment at the idea.

Jack smiled more and chuckled. There now, that was a happy, affirmative response from her. "Okay, then. The Pumpkin King shall call on you this evening...and perhaps, if you really promise to rest and relax as much as you can, he'll bring you a little present to celebrate your grand escape..." He winked at her playfully.

Sally blushed and looked away, giggling with sheepishness. As if she were saying "Oh come on, you don't have to do that!"

Jack only chuckled more, leaning down further to her again. "Oh, now, don't be so shy. You deserve something after today and also to welcome you to our town, on top of which what kind of gentleman would show up at a lady's doorstep without a gift to honor her?" Now he looked away with sheepishness, yet a chuckle.

Oh, why did he have to be so nice? Why did he have to be so wonderful? Sally just sighed dreamily, closing her eyes as she rested against him again.

Jack looked back to her reposing form and smiled more. "Very well, it's all settled then. I'll look forward to seeing you later then, my dear friend...and once again I'm so happy you're alright." He proceeded forward, heading toward the exit. Light from the moon could already be seen shining in.

They were finally outside, to which Sally felt relieved for. She was finally free! After being locked away, even more worse this time, for who-knows-how-long now...she was so happy.

Voices rang out, Sally could see the townsfolk gathering further up in the town square beyond the graveyard.

Jack noticed the direction of her gaze and smiled reassuringly down at her. "That's all the citizens. They're very happy you're safe and that I beat Oogie Boogie. They'll all love you and want to be your friend, Sally, just like I do. I promise. If it's too much though to see too many of them right now that's alright. You can meet them all gradually whenever you're ready." He gave her a little encouraging nod.

Sally frowned slightly, but it wasn't directed at him. It was thoughtful, really. Why would anyone care about a rag doll they never met? No, they were waiting to see their hero, their ruler, never mind her. Sure, he saved her and he would be a hero for that, but beyond that, no one would care.

Her little frown struck Jack through to the heart. He bit his lower lip and considered for a moment. Then he spoke to her very caringly. "Oh yes, you really must be overwhelmed at the idea of so many people so suddenly. It's perfectly alright, I promise. Listen, how about this: you'll go back home and rest, I'll tell the townsfolk you're alright but that you need some time alone after such a frightful experience, and then I'll see you later of course to check on you, and then in a few days or a couple of weeks after you feel fully recovered I'll come by and we'll go on a nice, relaxing tour of the town. You'll see everyone and if things get to be too much I can always take you straight back home. Does that sound alright?" He looked to her hopefully.

Not sure how to even tell him that it wasn't what she was thinking, Sally merely nodded and nestled even more against him. Now she really didn't want this moment to end...

Jack smiled at her little nod but then frowned at how she clung to him. He patted her shoulder gently. "It's okay...we can wait a very very long time before doing anything like that. As long as you need, everyone will understand. And until then, I'll just...visit you as often as I can...try to make you smile and feel happy and better. I'll do my best to show you the good things of living. Alright?" He smiled.

Liking the prospect of that, Sally gave him a toothy grin.

Jack smiled more. "You certainly have a lot of smiles in you for me, don't you?" He did his best not to chuckle, and then added playfully, "I feel a lot like smiling when I'm around you too." Jack then returned her toothy grin with one of his own.

Her eyes went wide for a moment, but her mild surprise only melted into flattered happiness. Sally never would have thought that she could make someone smile. Especially not like this. But it was such a wonderful feeling!

Watching her light up as his simple admission made Jack get that lovely, warm, happy, satisfied feeling inside yet again during this rescue. He supposed it might seem strange that his happiness appeared so connected with hers but...as long as they were both happy, what did it matter? "You really are sweet, little miss." Then he sighed and couldn't help but add with the slightest tinge of melancholy, "Now...let us go then. At the very least I suppose...the doctor is expecting us and we shouldn't keep him waiting too long. Jack was very happy to have his charge and to carry her there of course but...he would also miss their time alone, any comfort he could have given her and she him, not to mention the chance to keep slowly digging her out from her shell, like a little pearl waiting

to shine.

A look of melancholy crossed Sally's features before she lay her head back against his shoulder. She tried to savour every ounce of their time together while she could, at least until later...if he still wanted to come see her.

Still, she felt glad for the time they had...

Jack nuzzled his skull near Sally's head. He could feel that something was troubling her again. "I...I'll miss you...until I get to see you next..." left him softly, without even thinking.

Quietly gasping, especially at his nuzzle, Sally sighed dreamily and felt herself smile all over again. Oh, she was just putty in his arms now! She would do anything he asked! A soft giggle escaped her, saying all she needed to.

That giggle made Jack almost gasp and then he realized what he had just said to her. Instantly he felt so...embarrassed! He never ever talked about...his emotions with others. Nobody ever wanted to hear that stuff anyway. They all wanted to just hear about scaring and listen to him croon about Halloween. Sometimes he occasionally got asked if he was having a good day...but he never did talk about his private feelings and emotions. But he had just admitted to her that he would miss her. He gulped...yet from her response he couldn't write off his slip of the tongue as a completely bad thing. He adored the response his admission had gotten from her at least. He smiled more. "I know you don't wish to speak much now...but I hope sometime later, when you want to and we're together...you'll

say my name..." he blinked and looked away and quickly added, "I-I mean, that you'll call me by my first name. Y-You know, 'Jack'...I don't like being called Pumpkin King much, in private or in public.

"JACK!" Came a crying yell of relief.

Further ahead, past the gates, were some of the townsfolk, all of them looking excited and relieved to see Jack approaching. The Mayor especially looked excited and relieved as they now made their way into town.

"Jack's back!" Everyone chorused in cheers, singing to a happy tune.

Sally's eyes widened before she buried her face in his chest again, trembling.

Jack felt her trembling and instantly held her closer, looking down at her. "Shh, shh, don't worry..." he whispered softly, "They're all just really happy that you and I are safe. They won't hurt you. They'll love you as part of their Halloween family, just like I do. Don't be scared..." he gently stroked her hair again and then added with a small swallow... "...as long as you're in my arms nothing can ever harm you...alright?"

The measures of safety crossed Sally's mind once more at his final words. Indeed, she felt safe as could be, safer than she ever felt in her life. Even safer than being locked in her bedroom in the tower of the laboratory.

The rag doll let out a soft, contended sigh as she nodded, nestling against him once more.

A few whispers and murmurs sounded from the townsfolk as they approached them all, soon to be surrounded by them in the Town Square.

Jack gave her a little squeeze and then looked to the townsfolk. "Erm...everyone?" He did his best to project and yet still keep the tone of his voice soft. "I appreciate your enthusiasm and I know our dear, newest citizen does as well. Thank you all so much. Though I'm afraid the poor thing's been quite shaken up by this whole ordeal so she might need a little time before she can start 'celebrating'." He smiled out to all of them. "I think it would be best if I just took her home now so that she can rest. And in the meantime of course all of you please feel free to sing and dance, and rest assured Oogie Boogie will no longer be causing any mischief around here!" He gave them a nod of assurance.

The townsfolk all broke into cheers and hoots all around, clapping and dancing around. All of the relief and joy they felt at the worst being over was overwhelming, but certainly understood and welcomed. Especially since the Mayor looked happier than he did all day!

Sally was placed down on the ground, gently, and now stood before her saviour. She blushed, holding her hands to her chest as she looked up at him with shy admiration.

"Thank you for rescuing me, Mr. Pumpkin King." She managed softly.

That was the most she had said to him since their meeting. It made him blink and look closely at her, a touch fascinated. But then of course he just smiled and sighed softly. "Please, call me Jack..." he reminded her. Then he held out a hand to her. "It's a pleasure to meet you..." He was about to call her Miss again...and then it suddenly dawned on him, especially considering his insistence on her using his name...He had never found out her name yet. He looked to her blankly and curiously, hoping to prompt her to tell him her name.

Realizing she hadn't introduced herself, Sally took a breath, looking up at him again. It still amazed her at how he was actually taller than she was.

"...Sally."

'Sally...' He remembered now...Hadn't the mayor mentioned her name? He supposed he had been so caught up with everything and...also with finally meeting her...that it had slipped his mind. He smiled softly at her and gently took her hand and gave a small bow. "It's very nice to meet you, Sally. It's always nice to make a new friend." He straightened up with a little chuckle, releasing her hand.

Sally blushed a bit, feeling compelled to look away again, but found herself unable to do so. A new friend...he really seemed to think of her as a friend? It was astounding to believe!

She gazed up to the very skeleton man who saved her life. The Pumpkin King... Jack...now she had a name to attach to it! She liked it, it had such a lovely ring to it.

If one thing was for certain in her mind, she was smitten.

"Jack, please, there's no time to waste! We've got to start Halloween!" The Mayor cried, trying to get the stricken ruler's attention.

Jack heard the Mayor, he knew it was time for Halloween...yet all he could do was just...smile a little more and try not to chuckle...and look at sally, almost feeling shy that she was suddenly being around him when he was being called upon as the Pumpkin King.

"Sally!" Suddenly a yelling, gruff voice cut through everything, and the sound of a familiar wheelchair approaching entered the scene as well. Dr. Finkelstein was coming out of the crowd and up to them, sounding both surprised and relieved. "Sally, my girl, you're safe. I was so worried about you!...Sally?" He was calling to his creation, the creation for whom he had rallied an entire town to save her. "Ahem!" he cleared his throat, expecting to be paid attention to! "Sally! Woman, are you even listening to me?" He tugged at the hem of her dress.

For some time, Sally could barely even hear her creator. She was just so caught up in admiring her saviour...the Pumpkin King, the ever-handsome skeleton man she was just utterly smitten with!

But the tug on her dress did it, bringing her back to reality. Sally felt a sense of dread, knowing what this meant, and yet, was relieved to know that Dr. Finkelstein was all right.

"Oh, Doctor..." She said softly, turning around to face him. "You're all right...! That's good...I had heard that Oogie sent a monster after you...I'm...I'm so sorry, I'm glad you made it..."

Dr. Finkelstein cleared his throat and lifted his head up proudly. Yes, this was more like it. She ought to be always attentive and alert to his needs. "Yes, yes, I'm quite alright. That old burlap sack isn't nearly as smart as he thinks he is, at least not compared with me." Then the doctor swallowed and looked at her, and asked, trying not to betray the concern that one couldn't help but detect underlying the question, "And...you are alright as well, Sally? No harm has come to you...?"

"Oh, I'm all right..." Sally managed, not willing to delve into the trauma about the situation. She didn't have to, anyway. It was all over, and the last thing she wanted was to worry her creator even more. "No harm done."

"She was very very brave, doctor...I've never seen anybody so poised and so confident and so resilient in the face of such terror. You've never created anything better, doctor. And I'm just so very happy that I could help both of you be safe again." Jack smiled tenderly at both of them.

Dr. Finkelstein beamed. He cleared his throat. "Oh, why, thank you, Jack! Yes, yes, I did do a rather impressive job on her if I do say so myself! I'm glad she's to your liking." He seemed quite pleased with himself.

*himself

A shred of guilt overcame Sally, compelling her to tell them that she was only as poised and quiet as she had been because at the time, she felt she had nothing left. She had given up. She was driven to the edge with the fear, trauma and sorrows by that point, she hadn't cared about anything. The rag doll could no longer scream, wail, cry, or even smile. It had all been hopeless.

Oh well, they didn't need to know, anyway.

In regards to the topic at hand, Sally blushed and looked down at the ground, bringing her hands behind her back.

Jack noticed her sweet little response and his smile picked up on one side. "And she's very modest and polite and good natured too. A true lady." Jack gave another little bow in Sally's direction.

Once more, Sally blushed and looked away. A lady? Well, if anything, Jack did treat her like one, and made her feel as though she were one. Worthy enough to be a lady in his eyes.

No one had ever made her feel like a lady before...

"Um..." Was all she could say.

"Yes, yes, she's been coming along nicely... A little restless at times but still not at all bad for my first creation of something living." Dr. Finkelstein smiled a little more to himself and then turned his wheelchair half way around. He spoke to Sally over his shoulder. "Come along now, Sally. I'm certain you're very tired from all of this-I know I am. We'll have something to eat and then off to bed for us both. The Halloween celebration would be too much excitement for either one of us this year."

Jack couldn't help but frown at little though he did his best to resume his smile. "Good evening then, Dr. Finkelstein..." And then he turned to Sally, "And...you have a pleasant rest, Sally. I'll...I'll stop by later, after the celebration. Or in the morning if you would prefer?"

Sally nearly protested to her creator, but upon hearing Jack's words, she softened once more. Her smile became love-struck as she gazed at her saviour, her legs going weak. Oh, how she strangely felt compelled to be within his arms again...

"Later is fine, Jack..." She managed, her voice dreamy.

A little goofy chuckle escaped him, though he had no idea where it had come from or even that he could laugh like that at all. "O-Okay then..." he replied shyly. "Have pleasant nightmares then..." He raised a hand and gave her a charming little wave.

"Thank you..." Sally managed, her heart racing all over again. Even when Dr. Finkelstein was now holding her wrist and dragging her along, she still continued looking back toward Jack with that same sweet, adoring smile.

And as she was pulled away, Jack just kept watching her with this soft gaze and bashful little smile. She was...a very extra nice little new dear female friend. She really was. "You're welcome..." he replied softly, just liking watching her smiling and speaking and being happy, even if she did have to go now.

Though the two parted ways for some time, it remained that they now could think upon one another fondly. One thing remained as well, which was that this was the start of a beautiful friendship.


Knock Knock

"The door is open!" came Dr. Finkelstein's gruff voice from the other side of the door.

In response, the front door to his manor house slowly creaked open and in stepped none other than a hesitant Jack Skellington. He blinked a few times, looking around, and then smiled at the doctor. "Hello, doctor. I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Happy Halloween, by the way." He gave a friendly bow.

"Ah, Jack my boy!" The doctor wheeled over toward him, a gleeful smile upon his features. "And a very horrible Halloween to you as well. I trust everything went accordingly?"

Jack nodded and shrugged. "Oh yes, same old, same old, heh..." He smiled, and then smiled a little more and asked, "And is everything alright around here with you? And with Sally? I trust you both have been taking some time to relax from all of the insanity lately...?"

"Why yes we have, Jack..." Dr. Finkelstein was heading for the ramp, motioning for Jack to follow. "I had Sally rest in her room after we partook in much-needed sustenance. I assume she may have gone to sleep, but it could be likely she is still awake. After all of that, even I'm not sure how she would be sleeping."

Jack frowned, not having thought about that until now. Sally, having nightmares and all over this...' Oh dear'... Jack followed after Dr. Finkelstein. "I do hope she's doing alright. May I see her, Dr. Finkelstein? She was so...sad when I found her. I promised her that I'd check on her tonight. I really do hope she's well. The poor thing, so young and put through such trauma." Jack frowned deeply.

"Well, I suppose-" Dr. Finkelstein cut himself off in midsentence, as well as stopping his wheelchair. He had looked up and could see Sally peering down at them from a higher point on the ramp.

When the rag doll was spotted, she gasped and disappeared from view.

"...I suppose that answers our question, my boy."

Jack blinked, having caught sight of her as well, and gulped. He felt himself take an instinctive step further up towards her. But when she was gone he looked down shyly and unsurely, and then glanced over to the doctor. "May I go see her now, Dr. Finkelstein?" he asked humbly. "I promise I won't keep her long..." he added with a polite nod.

"I suppose it should be all right. You did save her, after all..." Dr. Finkelstein said thoughtfully. "Very well, my boy. I'll just be in the lab. ...And do try not to stress her out, or give her any ideas."

With that he wheeled off up the ramp again, while Sally re-appeared again.

At Dr. Finkelstein's finishing request, Jack couldn't help but swallow and his eye sockets went a little wide. Stress her out, give her any ideas... He couldn't place his finger on it but he felt like there was some sort of implication there and it was an implication he didn't want to think too much about. Or perhaps he was just being overly sensitive, maybe he was just tired. Whatever the case though he shook his skull, putting it out of his mind, and then slowly proceeded the rest of the way up the ramp, finally heading around the corner behind which Sally had ducked.

Sure enough, the said rag doll was near a doorway along the ramp. Which, upon a closer look, happened to be a bedroom, likely her own.

When she could see Jack coming near her, she almost wanted to duck away out of fear and shyness. But then again, she had said it was fine that they see each other earlier, she had even wanted to! So much!

Sally blushed, arms behind her back, and looking down at the floor.

The moment Jack turned the corner he could see her, standing there shyly in the frame of a doorway, looking down. "Oh...Sally. Hello..." he greeted softly, slowly approaching her, hand held out, "Thank you for seeing me, my friend." He gave a polite little bow.

Seeing his hand held out, Sally stared at it, as if she didn't know what it was. Eventually, she held out her own hand. "Um...hello Jack..."

Jack couldn't help the slight puzzled look that came to his face. She was just holding out her hand as well, not taking his. He decided that maybe she was shy or unsure for some reason. And so he went forward and took her hand gently in his own, giving it a small squeeze. "I...trust you had a nice rest, Sally?" he asked softly.

"Oh, I did, thank you..." Sally looked down at their hands, realizing what he was intending now. She looked sheepish, looking away again.

Jack smiled more. He released her hand and then took another step towards her. "I'm glad to hear that. I've been thinking about you during the entire Halloween celebration..." Jack had barely realized that that last sentence had left his mouth.

"...What?" Sally's eyes went wide. "...Oh...you can't possibly...you're just saying that..."

Jack's eye sockets now went wide. And he looked up at her and then looked down and then up again. "I..." he was thinking about it...and suddenly realizing that it was indeed the truth, "No, I...I do mean it. Of course, Halloween takes up a lot of my attention but...ever since we've parted I've been worrying about you getting a proper amount of rest to recover from your ordeal. And I've been hoping to see you." He gave her a small smile, wishing her to believe it was indeed all the truth.

"...Oh..." Sally looked sheepish as she rubbed her arm nervously. She managed to smile, meeting his gaze again. "Thank you, Jack...that's...that's sweet of you."

Wide eye sockets...Sweet? No one had ever called him sweet before or used that word to describe anything he did. "Um...you're welcome...A-And thanks, I...just worry about you, i-is all..." He shuffled his feet, glancing to the side.

"...I know...getting myself kidnapped and all. No wonder," the rag doll mumbled irritably.

Jack glanced at her again, his look sincere and serious. "Getting kidnapped wasn't your fault, Sally," he stated simply and truthfully.

Sally bit her lip, not even meeting his gaze. "I was kidnapped because they somehow mistook me for you. In the dark, according to them. They...grabbed me in a bag and carted me off in something that could move without their help. ...It was dark, I didn't see them coming, I couldn't defend myself..."

Jack frowned even more and moved closer to her. "Oh Sally...that must have been just...awful for you..." he could practically feel tears in his eye sockets, though he held them back and added, "But see, none of it was your doing...You didn't 'let yourself' be kidnapped...Someone snuck up on you and snatched you away. It couldn't be predicted." Still frowning, he added quietly, "I'm just so very glad that you were okay from it all by the time I found you."

Still not quite meeting his gaze, Sally relaxed a bit more, composing herself. It was almost surreal, actually responding to him in words and not just her actions, being able to actually communicate with him. Her blush returned, to which she tried to hide.

Hesitating, she came closer to him again, then lay her head on his shoulder.

"Thank you..."

"Ah..." a small, quick breath entered Jack, his eye sockets wide, all of his bones unmoving. "It...quite...y-you're quite welcome..." left him in a strange sounding whisper. It was that thing again-he really wasn't used to girls...touching him. He hoped he wouldn't do anything to offend her. He tried to reach out and hug her, though his arms barely touched her body, and only his fingertips gently patted somewhere on her upper back. "It'll be alright, don't fret, my dear friend..."

If it bothered Sally, she didn't show it nor make any kind of indication to it. She instead stood there, barely a few inches away, resting her head on his shoulder just as she had done much earlier. For whatever reason, she felt compelled to seek comfort this way, even feeling comfortable with it.

"I know it will...everything is fine now...now that our Pumpkin King has stopped this madness..."

Jack trembled a little and bit his lower lip. "S-Sally...? J-Just...Jack...please? Just Jack..." His fingers found their way to brushing through her hair once more.

"..Of course, Jack..." Sally felt herself smile again. She sighed dreamily at the comforting gesture, her eyes closing.

Jack let out a small, shuddery sigh and nodded. "Thank you..." For a moment the two of them were quiet together. And then Jack spoke up again. "Sally...? I was wondering something...but it might be silly and too much and I don't want to upset you..." He swallowed timidly.

"...What is it?" Sally queried, her voice soft and curious.

Jack quirked his mouth to the side. Then he pulled back and looked down at her. "We're friends, right?" he started gently.

"Yes...of course..." Sally managed, shy all over again. Friends...they really were friends, weren't they?

Her shyness only made Jack smile more. And then he asked, barley knowing why he was asking or what was so important about it to him... "Well, I...I was wondering if we could be very close friends...Y-You know, not just acquaintances. A-And perhaps, since you don't know anyone else very well, for now I could even be your d-dearest friend...What do you think?" He felt so nervous and had no idea why. He was just stumbling over his words, trying to express something that felt simple enough to him but was much more complicated apparently when one tried to say it out loud.

Sally considered it, blushing a little as she looked up at him again. "I...well...I never had a friend before...so I'm very new to this," she admitted softly. "But...I'd like that... But...you're my only friend."

Jack gulped and looked down, wringing his hands slightly. "I-I know, but...c-certainly a lady as kind and accomplished and good natured as yourself will soon have many new friends all eager for your attention, a-and I just...wanted our relationship to be special. I-I'm sorry, I suppose that seems strange. I don't mean to impose..." He looked down humbly.

"I want it to be special, too!" Sally blurted, and then blushed as she reared back sheepishly. "You saved me, after all..."

Jack blinked and then looked up right to her eyes. "Y-You do! I...I mean..." he cleared his throat and quieted his voice, "You do? I...w-well, that's splendid then." He smiled, a touch nervously and yet also eagerly. "I'm glad..."

"...Wonderful..." Sally twiddled her fingers, looking down again.

"So then...dearest friends?" Jack held out his hand to her.

"Yes...dearest friends," Sally beamed with happiness, now understanding the whole hand thing. She placed her smaller hand in his.

Jack beamed at her understanding his gesture and then squeezed her hand. "Splendid! I mean, um...thank you, sweet Miss." He gave her a sweeping little bow.

"You don't have to call me that...just Sally is fine..." Sally giggled.

Jack's eye socket went wide and he blanched just a tiny bit and pulled away. "I...sorry, it's just. Heh..." he laughed with a touch of nervousness, "I've never had a lady friend before." He bit his lip and looked away. 'WHY do I keep saying things like that?' He felt so funny and it was frustrating and he couldn't figure it out.

"...You haven't?" Sally looked a little perplexed.

Jack looked down, carefully entwining and un-entwining his long bony fingers together. "Is...Is that...surprising?" He really didn't know what to say to her question and this question of his own was the first thing that had popped into his mind.

"Erm! Never mind, I didn't want to assume," Sally mumbled, now embarrassed.

Jack looked back up to her, "N-No, no, I...it's just...I was just wondering...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable." He frowned a little.

"Not at all! I'm fine, I didn't want to assume and make you uncomfortable," Sally said sheepishly, bringing her arms behind her back again.

"It doesn't..." Jack said, a touch of something wistful in his tone. He looked to the side, seeming somewhere else for a moment. He spoke quietly. "I never tried having a...close lady friend before...and you're not like the other women...so I just...thought..." A small sigh left him.

"I see..." Sally twiddled her fingers, managing to smile none the less. "Well, aside from never having had a friend...at all...you're also the first...erm...male friend I ever had..."

Jack remained in his thoughts for another moment and then slowly looked to her. A little smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. "I'm certain I won't be the last..."

"Oh, don't be silly," Sally giggled, looking away as she hid a smile behind her hands.

"Aw, come on, you know it's true." Jack smiled suavely and took a step toward her, barely realizing his actions.

"O-Ooh...!" Sally was taken aback, finding herself charmed by his suave tone. Instinct took over as she smiled fondly, her voice a bit flirty, almost a coo. "Well...even if I do make other male friends...you'll still be my...dearest friend..."

Jack beamed a little, though he swallowed nervously, looking down in smiling shyness. He really liked this: 'dearest friends'. And being dearest friends with a woman. He could get used to it. "That's all I want, I think...to be special to you...and for you to know that if you ever have fears or doubts or just need to talk, you can always come to me...my dearest friend..." He looked up at her with a smile.

"Okay..." Sally beamed with admiration, holding her hands to her chest. Oh, he had her under his spell more than ever!

Jack chuckled, gazing at her a little. He...liked how she was. Now that she was talking and smiling he could see such life, such fire, such wonder in her every move and word. He was so happy to know her, so happy to have saved her. "Thank you..." He glanced toward her room. "Um...may I escort you back to your room so that you can rest some more, Sally?" Jack held out his arm politely for her to take.

"Oh, um...certainly..." Sally blushed, taking it.

Jack smiled a little more and gently started strolling with her back over to her doorway. "I hope you really are getting to rest well, Sally...No, um...bad dreams or anything like that, right?" He frowned a little.

"I haven't been to sleep, but I certainly hope not," Sally admitted, biting her lip as she looked away. It hadn't quite occurred to her that she might very well end up having nightmares upon going to sleep tonight. While nightmares were only just dreams you eventually would wake up from and forget, it was still an unsettling feeling, knowing that she would be going to sleep and then would face an onslaught of nightmares.

Jack blinked, and then looked away in a touch of guilt. "Oh I...I'm sorry, I didn't mean to put any ideas into your head, I was just worried." He moved a little closer to her. "I'm sure you won't, and if you do, you just...just look out of your window..." They had just entered Sally's room and Jack gestured with his head over to Sally's large window. "See, that's my house right across the way. So if you get frightened you just look out there and remember how close I am and remember what I said about how you're always safe when I'm with you, alright?" He smiled at her.

Heart aflutter, Sally couldn't help but sigh dreamily at the sweet sentiment. She looked out to where he had pointed, seeing his home there, especially the adjacent tower jutting up so prominently. She smiled fondly, and before she knew it, hugged him. "Thank you, Jack. That makes me feel so much better...I'll never forget that," she said softly, savouring his unique way of warming her.

And speaking of a 'unique way of warming'...was it getting hotter in here? Jack thought so. In fact he had never felt so warm in his entire life. And he had never gotten many hugs...and none were as nice as this one. So...soft and..."I'm happy. I'll be here for you...Sally..."

Looking up at him, her cheeks flushed as she smiled in such pure joy. She had never felt this way in her entire life, she had never felt so...happy. Not to mention safer than ever. "That means so much to me...thank you..."

"I-I just...I'm just Jack, Sally...I'm so happy everything I want for you means so much to you but...I'm just Jack..." He was so shy, so humble, and his words gurgled out of him.

"And I'm just Sally..." Sally giggled, her voice a bit flirty yet again. "Um...well, and I like you...you make me feel...safer than I'd ever been in my life."

Jack's grin was getting all goofy and he chuckled in sort of a bubbly way. "A-As...as your King I am h-honored to serve you..." was all that could leave him in sort of a dazed voice.

Giggling again, Sally couldn't help but relax and snuggle into him. She liked hugs, they were nice to share, especially with someone you liked.

Jack felt very very very...special right now. He wasn't sure if that was the most accurate word to describe it but it was close at least...and he liked it, feeling 'special.' And...he was starting to really like girls...Perhaps...Perhaps women weren't so 'frightening' after all...At least, this one (the one who had never cornered him after a Halloween celebration to outrageously begged to be his) wasn't frightening. She was...sort of splendid. His grin trembled in happiness. "I...I'm happy to...see you have so much enthusiasm now, Sally...Much better than in the dungeon..."

"I'm forever grateful to you, Jack...you saved me and brought me out of there when I...well, couldn't. ...I owe you my life," Sally confessed, squeezing gently, afraid to let him go.

Jack trembled a little at her hold, swallowing in a flicker of nervousness at first but then just melting into soft smiles again. "Y-You don't...It was my duty and my honor to rescue such a lovely damsel in distress...I just wanted you to be safe."

Giggling, feeling grateful, Sally shook her head lightly and remained as she was, savouring the embrace. "I know, and I certainly appreciate that. But I do still hope to make it up to you...to at least show you that your efforts for saving the entire town...and me...were greatly appreciated."

Something deep and fluttery inside of Jack was pulsing away and (having never felt it before) Jack had no idea what it was. "I...you can...just, um...be happy and that'll be enough for me...my dearest friend..." It was almost exhilarating to be this close with a lady. He liked it very much.

"Please? Can't I do something for you?" Sally looked up at him pleadingly. Her lower lip even jutted slightly in a little pout.

Oh dear...If there was one thing Jack couldn't resist it was the request of a lady. He gulped. "W-Well, I...d-did you have something in mind?" left him softly as he felt his resolve about her not doing anything in return of his saving of her slowly breaking away.

"Well...um...I could bake something for you...I could make or mend your clothes, no charge...I could make an herb mix for you..." Sally said with a little shrug, off the top of her head. She lay her head against his shoulder once more, nuzzling his neck.

"O-Oh, those all sound splendid..." Jack's eye sockets were starting to close. "I...I don't know which one..." His hands hesitated and then lifted up to gently touch her and hold her in return.

A soft, dreamy sigh escaped the smitten rag doll as she looked up at him with a lovesick gaze. "You can take all of them, if you want..." She cooed flirtatiously.

Was it also getting harder to breathe in here? Perhaps...from some fumes from the lad or that heat Jack had been feeling before. "Oh, I...well..."...He let out a shuddery sigh. "I'd like you to go for a walk with me one day...that' all," he finished firmly.

Lighting up at the idea, not only to actually get out of the lab for once, but to also share a walk with her new friend? Oh, Sally was just beaming! "Yes! Yes! I'd love to!"

Jack's grin went from ear to ear in happiness. "Oh perfect! I'm looking forward to it then! Thank you so much, Sally, you've been such a good dearest friend, thank you ." And then he wrapped his arms around her fully and hugged her so tightly that he was able to pick her up a little as he spun her once around the floor.

"Oh!" Sally squealed in surprise. But she smiled widely and hugged him tighter as well, just laughing in pure joy! "Oh, Jack!"

A chuckling Jack just put her down and smiled at her. "We could have a lovely time and I could show you the sights and teach you about the town, Would you like that?" Jack touched a lock of her hair and gently curled it around one of his fingers.

"Yes! I would, that would be wonderful...!" A very smitten Sally gazed up at him with adoration and wonderful. "It sounds amazing!"

Jack smiled bashfully and shrugged. "It's just a walk with an old skeleton...but thank you. I'm very happy you're looking forward to it. So am I..."

"No it isn't. It's a walk with my dear friend..." Sally said sweetly, smiling more.

Jack's eyes went wide with tenderness. "Oh...thank you..." he could only manage to reply softly.

Giggling with delight, Sally smiled brightly and gave his reed-thin form a gentle squeeze. Oh, this was just too perfect! She could not believe her luck! "No. I should be thanking you for such an opportunity."

Jack blanched and shook his skull. "N-No, no, it's nothing, really..." He looked down shyly. "Just two people spending time together. Really, nothing more..."

"Still, I thank you dearly." Sally said sweetly, still smiling.

Jack's mouth quirked a little and then broke back into a full grin he couldn't help. His eye sockets went to her eyes. "You're very affectionate, aren't you?" His smile grew and he was actually doing his best not to chuckle now.

Sally blushed and looked down a bit, trying to hide it. "Well, I suppose it's nice to...have it appreciated..."

"I'm just happy you're sharing this much of who you are with me. You were so distraught when I saved you that I was afraid I'd never even hear your name from your lips or something..." He patted her back gently, much like he had done for her back in the dungeon

.

Eyes wide, Sally looked down again, trembling. "I...well I...um...I..."

Jack felt her shaking and a little frown came to his features. He made his voice very quiet and soothing. "Sally...? Are you alright? Shh, it's okay, Sally...If something's bothering you, I would like to know so that maybe I can help to make it better..."

"No! No...it's just...well...It feels...easier...with you..." Sally blushed, looking up once more.

Jack blinked, not understanding what he meant at first. But then he realized. "Oh...I...well, I'm glad I can make you feel at ease, Sally. That's all I've ever wanted with us." He smiled at her again.

"Me too..." Sally smiled in return, relieved that the tension was cleared.

Jack's smile softened and so did his gaze. "Well then I assure you...I feel very at ease around you as well." He winked at her and chuckled a little.

"...Really?" Sally beamed, glad at this prospect.

Jack nodded. "Certainly. Actually I..." he looked down a little, still smiling though, "L-Like I said before I-I've never tried having a lady friend before...and that's mostly because the other women here make me feel very...uncomfortable." He swallowed, but then added, wanting to be polite, "Oh but of course they're all very nice, they just...make me uncomfortable is all..." He shrugged.

"Oh...I'm sorry..." Sally murmured with sympathy. "Um...well, if I ever make you uncomfortable...I'm so sorry. It isn't my intention."

Jack's eye sockets went wide and he instantly shook his head. "Oh no no! You don't make me uncomfortable, I...I like being close to you." He smiled happily. "They all just make me uncomfortable because they...um...tend to...well...it..." he bit his lip, trying to figure out how to put it.

"If you want to talk about it..." Sally prompted gently, but still giving him the option of not delving into it if he chose not to.

Jack bit his lower lip. He never shared with anyone about his discomfort in this area except of course Zero...and yet, though he had only known the sweet girl standing in front of him for a few hours, he...felt this strange compulsion to talk to her about just...anything he was feeling. It was scary but it just felt right... He swallowed, and then said back, quietly, not looking up at her, "All the women here treat me more like an...'eligible bachelor' than as a friend. They follow me around, especially after Halloween, and tell me how 'charming' and 'handsome' and 'frightful' I am, and then try to grab me and get me alone...That's been happening for a few centuries now. But I don't like feeling trapped and ogled, like a piece of rancid meat on a platter, so I try not to keep

many close lady friends." He was rubbing his arm by now in nervousness, hoping that hadn't sounded too stupid or unbelievable to her.

"Oh..." Sally managed, looking thoughtful. She couldn't imagine how that must have felt .To have everyone around you treat you as if you were some kind of a big trophy. "I'm so sorry. I suppose I see what you're getting at. You may not know who you can truly trust and who would...appreciate you for who you are."

Jack blinked and for a moment just stood there, his eye sockets wide and looking to the floor. Then he blinked once. Then he looked up to her. "You...understand?" he asked hesitantly.

"Well, I may not know what it is like..." Sally admitted. "But...I can see where you're coming from," she said, looking up at him with a shy, but sweet smile. "To be in such a position must be very uncomfortable. I can understand you would be a little wary of women."

Jack bit his lip again and then looked down once more. It might have seemed silly, really silly but...it touched him so much to have someone understand or even at least trying to understand. No one had ever done that for him (except Zero...but it was hard to have a real, full conversation about things with him for obvious reasons). And not to mention there was just something about this girl that he liked so much. "Thank you..." left him softly... "Um..." He swallowed and reached up and brushed a touch of moisture from one of his eye sockets and tried to smile, "S-Sorry, I don't mean to get so emotional, really. I-I suppose it's just the stress of the day between Halloween and Oogie Boogie. I'm sorry..."

"No, don't apologize. You've done so much today..." Sally's smitten gaze returned, much to her dismay. She had to control herself, confound it!

Her sweet remark made Jack's eye sockets return to her eyes...yet, despite any fears she might have had, he only smiled more at that special gaze of hers. He couldn't help it-he liked how she looked at him and especially how she looked whenever she was happy. He was so happy she could feel happy again after all she had been through. "Thank you...and thank you for listening, Sally. I...really like you, Sally..." He chuckled warmly to himself.

Blushing, Sally looked down at her shoes with flattered embarrassment. "You're welcome. ...I like you, too..."

Jack blanched, his mouth quirking to the side in a pleased shyness, eye sockets half lidded. "Well...dearest friends are supposed to like each other, I guess..." And then he didn't know why and afterwards he was rather startled at himself for his actions but suddenly he reached out, took her hand, lifted it up, and gave a gentle kiss to the back of it.

"Oh!" Sally squeaked, her eyes wide. She blushed, looking down with a shy, smitten smile.

Jack turned all pale white and let her hand go. He still managed to smile though. "S-Sorry, I...um...I'll admit, part of my lack of luck with female friends stems from the fact that something inside of me wants to do silly things like that in front of ladies..." He shrugged sheepishly.

"Why is that silly? Um...isn't that...courteous? Sweet?" Sally blushed, looking at him with a shy smile.

Jack swallowed, gazing into her eyes. "I...that's how I would like it to be...yet I feel I make such a spectacle of myself...I feel so odd sometimes, Sally..." He smiled softly.

"Oh, well...I didn't think you were making a spectacle of yourself." Sally said softly. "I thought you were being sweet..."

Jack just grinned from ear to ear, looking all goofy and humble. "Thanks. I'm glad I'm not losing my touch or anything." He shuffled his feet and just felt...really really happy inside. This was fun! He liked talking to Sally. He hoped he would get to talk to her more and more as their friendship went on.

"I...don't think so..." Sally brought her arms behind her back again. She giggled, turning her gaze back to him.

Jack just looked at her sweetly. "You're so very nice, Sally. I'm...very glad to have met you today."

Sally blushed, rubbing her arm. "I'm very glad I met you, too..."

For a moment there was awkward silence. Then Jack suggested softly, "Sally, if...if you're feeling up for it later, there's the Halloween awards ceremony later after the procession and they'll have food and music. If you'd like to go, I'm sure everyone in town would like to see you. Of course if you'd rather sleep though that's perfectly alright too." Jack smiled understandingly.

"I...wouldn't mind going for a little while, if nothing else," Sally admitted, looking away shyly.

Jack's eye sockets lit up. "Great! We'll all be looking forward to your arrival, I'm sure." He gave her a nod. "And I can introduce you to everyone properly if you do stop by."

"Okay..." She didn't think that first bit was true, but decided not to comment on it this time. "Sounds wonderful..."

Jack gave her another nod then took a polite step back towards the ramp. "Well then, um...I suppose I should get going now. I don't want to interrupt your rest anymore. Thank you for your time though, Sally. I'm happy we got to talk." He smiled at her.

"Thank you for coming to see me," Sally said softly, still blushing. "It was so sweet of you."

Jack just shook his skull, still smiling. "Not at all. It was the least I could do. And thank you for not letting the 'incident' today ruin your perspective on Halloween town." He looked into her eyes. "This really is a wonderful place and I'm sure you'll have a splendid life here with us."

"Oh, I never thought anything otherwise," Sally assured, shaking her head.

Jack just about beamed at hearing this! "Splendid!" He clapped his hands together happily. "Oh you'll really really love it here, I just know it, and I'll help you out with anything you need or want to know." He winked at her.

"I've always wanted to see everything beyond these walls..." Realizing what she was saying, Sally retracted. "Um...especially on Halloween."

Jack just about beamed at hearing this! "Splendid!" He clapped his hands together happily. "Oh you'll really really love it here, I just know it, and I'll help you out with anything you need or want to know." He winked at her.

Jack smiled at her sincerely and nodded. "Yes, of course, you'll get to see Halloween and...everywhere around here. I'll show you any place you like."

Glad he hadn't caught on, Sally smiled with relief and nodded. "That sounds wonderful..."

"Alright then, we'll make plans. And even if you just happen to be walking through town and find yourself with some time, please feel free to stop by my home. I'd like for you to see it. Um...I've never had a lady's opinion on it..." He smiled sheepishly and shyly.

"Oh, really? I'd love to..." Sally blushed, nodding.

"Thank you. I'd love to too." Jack blanched, nodding as well.

"Well, I look forward to it, then..." Sally admitted sheepishly.

Jack smiled more, unable to help it. "Me too..." He knew he needed to leave but it was so hard...He liked her, he really did. And he was so happy that now she was safe and sound...Still though he took a breath and swallowed and took a few more steps toward the ramp. He raised his bony hand, giving her a little wave with a grin. "Well...bye then, Sally...Pleasant nightmares."

Last message received on 17/08 at 12:48 AM

"Goodbye, Jack...same to you..." Sally managed softly, waving as well. She exhaled dreamily, feeling her legs growing weak once more. He was leaving...she was almost ready to run to him and beg for him to stay.

Jack smiled more, pausing for a moment in his retreat. He smiled softly at her. "Now, how in the world could I help having pleasant nightmares after spending the day with you?" A little chuckle left him.

Sally blushed, giggling cutely. "Well...I...certainly won't be having bad nightmares tonight..."

Jack felt a touch of relief come over his heart. After all, the idea of her waking up in the dead of night screaming all from a bad dream about Oogie Boogie was just heartbreaking. He nodded to her and smiled more. "I'm glad, Sally. And...even if you do...no matter what scares you, you just think of me. I'm always at your service to protect you, and very happy for the honor." He gave a graceful bow to her.

"Thank you, Jack..." Sally held her hands to her racing heart, absolutely smitten all over again.

When she smiled, it...it just about put a spring in Jack's step! He felt utterly chipper at the sight of her so happy. He straightened up and waved once more, commencing his descent. "You're welcome. Farewell for now, Sally. I'm so happy to see you in such good spirits. Goodbye, sweet miss!"

"Goodnight..." Sally wobbled a bit, sighing dreamily. She managed to steady herself so she wouldn't fall, trying hard not to look even sillier than she already did.

As Jack lost sight of her he couldn't help but feel so very splendid inside. He felt...he couldn't put a pin in it but it made him smile, made him feel confident, made him even feel...sort of appealing in a certain sense. He liked it...and he liked her. 'She's...certainly something special. I'm happy she said she would be my first real lady friend. Oh she's wonderful!' And something inside of Jack's chest brimmed over with happiness at having been her rescuer, her savior, at having helped such a perfect, kind, sincere creature. He sighed softly to himself.

Sally too, felt that her life was changing all the more by this point. To actually have a true, real friend! Especially the very man who rescued her, treated her kindly and like a lady. She sat on her bed, laying back as she felt herself smitten all over again.

'He's wonderful, amazing, even! I'm so happy...I haven't felt this way my entire life...' Sally thought, sighing dreamily as she closed her eyes.