Disclaimer: I do not own Rise of the Guardians. Dreamworks and William Joyce does.

Summary: They say he hasn't been right in the head since he fell through the ice. They say that the man who is enshrouded in shadows and lives under his bed isn't real. But Jack knows he's there, always watching, waiting to drag this one mortal who can see him into his realm of nightmares.

Ch. 5 Moonlight Covenant

Tailor Saunders was a thin, bow-legged, crotchety old man with a balding head of stringy, grey hair who was forever squinting until he stumbled across his spectacles that he had lost for the tenth time that day; upon which putting them on, magnified his beady eyes to the size of marbles and also allowed him to properly see the pitiful handiwork of Jack's that he had been working on for the past hour.

"Dagnabit, boy!" Tailor Saunders barked out rapping the measuring rod sharply over Jack's knuckles. "Eight years you've been my apprentice and your craftsmanship is still no better than a common table-monkey! Hold it out and tell me what you've done wrong!"

Rubbing the top of his hand and biting back a scowl, Jack picked up the waist-coat and held it out in front of him. One of the sleeves hung forlornly a good several inches longer than the other side. Also, Jack realized the buttons he had sewn on were glaring at him in an accusing, zig-zag manner instead of a neat row.

Jack opened his mouth to recite his mistakes, but Tailor Saunders cut him with a frustrated harrumph. "You lack focus and determination, that's your problem. Your head is always off in the clouds. You'll never be master tailor if you cannot devote yourself to the trade. This is your way of life, boy, understand? Abuse it, neglect it, and you'll find yourself without a roof over your head and living off another's welfare. Is that what you want?"

The words made perfect sense, but that did not stop Jack from resenting them. Too angry to speak, he shook his head.

"The Lord hates idle workers," Tailor Saunders sighed heavily. "My boy, there are so many opportunities you are letting pass by. Are you aware if you hone your skills, we could travel down to Williamsburg and I would introduce you to the city's inner circle of tailors?"

Jack looked up in surprise. Well, that lecture certainly hadn't gone the way he had expected.

"A good tailor never sticks to just one location," Tailor Saunders said. "He journeys abroad and learns from others. He meets people and forms a chain of acquaintances that will aid him later in life. Wouldn't you like that, boy? To travel and see new things?"

Jack could hardly believe what he was hearing. Burgess was all he knew, all he ever had known, and all he was probably ever going to know. It had never really bothered him. The village was nice enough even if it did have a few rough patches like Anthony Hawkins. He had been born here. He had assumed he was going to grow up and die here as well. If he had known he might be able to see the world with this dreadful, boring task of being a tailor, well, maybe he might have put in more of an effort years ago.

Tailor Saunders nodded at Jack's wide-eyed, stunned look. "You've got the itching foot, the restless urge to wander. That's the reason you have trouble paying attention to anything for too long. Got it from your mother and father."

Sidestepping the gibe about his parents, Jack questioned hesitantly, "If I visit Williamsburg for a time or settle down somewhere else, what would Burgess do for a lack of tailor?"

The measuring rod came down again—this time on Jack's head. "They still got me, boy!" Tailor Saunders wheezed indignantly. "I still have a decade or so left in these old bones! I'll take on another apprentice, one not so thick-headed and stubborn as you. And they also have your mother, a wonderfully skilled seamstress, for however long until she remarries."

And just like that the world came crashing down upon Jack's shoulders.

"What?" he said feeling something in his chest constrict.

"Your mother is too fine a woman to waste away being a widow forever," Tailor Saunders declared. "She's given eight years of her life to mourn your father's passing. I admire her devotion, however she still has an abundance of youth left remaining unto her still. I see no reason for her not to grasp at happiness when the opportunity presents itself."

Jack swallowed hard. "I don't… I don't understand." He didn't quite follow what Tailor Saunders was trying to say, but the feeling of dread had settled thick in his stomach like a stone.

"Thomas Grymes visited me the other day," Tailor Saunders explained. "Seems he came to seek my advice on how long it was proper to wait before seeking out a widow woman's hand in marriage."

There was a dull sort of pounding echoing in his ears. Jack realized it was the sound of his own heart that had begun to beat rapidly. Unconsciously, he gripped the ruined waist-coat in his hands tightly enough that the back of his knuckled turned white.

Tailor Saunders continued speaking, either not noticing or ignoring his apprentice's distress. "I told him eight years was more than an adequate mourning period. He comes with a good offer. He's a skillful trapper and has accumulated quite a bit of wealth over the years. He'll see to it your mother and sister are well-provided for. You and your family will never have to worry about surviving another harsh winter or anything ever again."

The chair Jack was sitting in scooted back with force as he jumped up and slammed both hands angrily down onto the table. "My family is doing just fine on our own!" he shouted. "Tell Trapper Grymes to put an ad in the newspaper if he's that desperate for a wife!"

Tailor Saunders smacked the end of his cane on the floor sharply. "Don't take that disrespectful tone with me, you idle tablemonkey!" he yelled with a temper to rival Jack's. "Who are you to deny your mother a bit of comfort and happiness or do you expect her to die old and alone? What an ungrateful son!"

"She won't die alone! She has me and my sister!" The anger was churning inside Jack madly now, making his hands shake with the ferocity of it. "We'll take care of her! I am not ungrateful!"

"Ungrateful!" Tailor Saunders barked out. Smack, went his cane on the floor again. "Who do you think paid for the all doctor visits and the medicine while you were lying in bed completely useless these past weeks? You think your mother had the money for such extravagant expenses? Your mother, who had to pass off so many work projects onto me because she had to look after you. You who don't give a second thought about the future. Your sister is going to grow up and want to get married someday. What kind of dowry can she possibly offer her husband? And you, boy, your sewing skills are atrocious at best. Do you honestly believe the people of Burgess would support a tailor like that? Think before chewing your gums so arrogantly, boy!"

Jack simmered where he stood, hands balled into fists at his side as he trembled in a helpless rage, hating the cruel truth that was flung at him.

"Thomas Grymes is a good man," Tailor Saunders insisted, leveling a piercing gaze over the top of his spectacles. "So a man wants a reprieve of loneliness and a faithful companion to end out the remainder of his days. It's normal to wish for. Who is to say your mother doesn't feel the same way? Don't be so selfish, boy. Bah, go!" the old man motioned towards the door. "I've had all I can take of your hot-headedness today. Go cool off in the snow and put that mind of yours to work. Try to remember that the world doesn't revolve around you!"

oOo

The promise of snow falling later on hung heavy in the grey, overcast sky. A chilled wind whipped through his hair and tugged at his clothes. A bit further away in the field, the sound of children's laughter reached his ears. Turning his head, Jack looked to see Emma, Abigail and Caleb building a snowman, their cheeks flushed pink from the cold. His sister caught him watching and waved at him to join them, but Jack smiled faintly and shook his head. He wasn't in a playful mood at the moment.

Images kept flashing through his mind: Thomas Grymes moving into the Overland house, the house that his father had built with his own two hands. Thomas Grymes sitting at the head of their table in his father's chair. Thomas Grymes… with his mother…

Jack gritted his teeth and clenched his hand around his staff as anger swelled up within him anew.

The dark spaces between the trees at the edge of the snow-covered field seemed to thicken and blend together.

"Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaack," the wind whispered as it wound through the swaying branches.

Jack gave no indication that he had heard, nor any outward sign of panic or fear. He had no time to be the victim of such cheap tricks.

A shadow more pale than the others detached itself from the rest of the darkness and slid forward smoothly. "Are you ignoring me, Jack?" came the question with a sharp edge of warning.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Jack muttered, silently praising himself on not jumping at the spirit's abrupt arrival this time. On the other hand, it did disturb him at how familiar he was getting to be with the Boogeyman's presence.

Without warning, his staff was jerked to one side and he was pulled roughly off balance and toppled headfirst into a snowdrift. Gasping at the sudden bite of cold to his skin, Jack scrambled upright, clumps of snow falling off his shoulders and head in his haste. "What did you do that for?" he sputtered indignantly, trying to pinpoint which exact shadow was the culprit.

Narrowed golden eyes flashed briefly on the shadowed side of a tree's trunk. "You haven't kept your word…" the faintest hiss of words was uttered. Jack supposed their intention was to be threatening, but they came across as slightly sulky-sounding, like a child who hadn't gotten his way.

"It hasn't even been one full day yet!" Jack cried. "And I had work to attend to! I can't just cast everything aside to go bidding to your whim!"

A dry chuckled echoed throughout the branches of the trees. "Can't you?"

"Don't you have anyone else you can go and haunt?" Jack snapped.

A shadow wound itself about his wrist and squeezed ruthlessly. "Be careful, Jack. Your scent is not nearly as invigorating as last night. I do not find your uncouth human manners as amusing as before."

"Are you saying I'm the one who's being rude?" Jack said, finding it quite incredulous at being told this by his very own nightly stalker and blackmailer.

"I have dragged others into madness for far less insolence. You are ungrateful to my good graces."

Ungrateful.

The word pricked him like an irritable bee sting, igniting the anger within him to rise to the surface again.

"The world doesn't revolve around you!" Jack shouted, feeling vindictive satisfaction at being able to toss those words at someone else for a change.

The air around him noticeably thickened. It felt difficult to breathe, like the time his family's chimney had stopped up and the soot had nearly suffocated them. The hairs on Jack's arm tingled like they always did when lightning struck right before a storm broke out. An invisible cord of panic tightened around his chest. Perhaps it had not been the best idea to lash out his personal frustrations at an immortal spirit who easily took offense.

Just what Pitch's retaliation would have been, Jack never found out. He was interrupted by three unlikely saviors, if you even could call them that.

"Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness they always say," Anthony Hawkins' voice rang out behind him.

Inwardly groaning, Jack turned around to see the butcher's son in tow with Nathaniel and Henry. Well, it was mid-afternoon. He supposed they were all free a couple of hours until their evening chores.

"What do you want?" Jack said, not bothering to hide his exasperation.

"Four yards of satin. Navy blue," Anthony declared, folding his arms over his chest curtly. "The price of silence for our not telling the entire town you really are loony in the head."

"What?"

"I know the governor's wife is having your mother make her new dress. I even know what color the fabric is. My mother's been chatting with Mrs. Hamilton's maid, you see," Anthony explained. "And Father is taking us to visit our relatives in Philadelphia. They're city folks, much better off in their way of living and I don't want to look like a poor country bumpkin while I'm there. I'm thinking nothing looks more fashionable than a nice blue satin cape."

Jack was quiet for a moment, trying to make sense of this bizarre request. "You know I can't sew worth a damn," he said. "You'll just be wasting your money."

"Yes, you were a half-wit before you broke through the ice and now you're a full nitwit," Anthony proclaimed with a hint of annoyance that he wasn't being understood. "I'm not paying you, Overland. And you're not going to sew anything. All you're going to do is give me four yards of that satin fabric before I leave. I'll give it to a more talented tailor in Philadelphia. Maybe I won't even have a cape made. Maybe I'll just sell the material."

"You want me to steal for you?" Jack couldn't keep the shock out of his voice.

He couldn't believe what Anthony was asking. It didn't matter that there would be a full abundance of that navy blue satin fabric left over after the governor's wife's dress was done. It wasn't his family's to keep. Every yard had already been estimated for the length and size of the dress. All that would be added to the finished cost were the hours it took Lydia to sew it. Every remaining yard of fabric would be carefully counted by the governor's servants to make sure none had been pilfered away. If four yards were to turn up missing, his mother would be the first one to be blamed.

"You're good at making up stories," Anthony grinned at him. "I'm sure you'll think of some excuse."

"I'm not going to do it," Jack refused flatly.

"So you're alright with everyone thinking you're crazy then?"

"It's not the first time in history that someone was delirious with fever for a short while. Go on and tell them," Jack dared. "They'll laugh it off as nothing more than a pack of schoolboy-ish name-calling."

"You know, it's not so much as us telling folks we think you're crazy," Anthony drawled out. "It's more the question of 'are you sane and yet still talking to things unseen'?"

"What—"

"I wonder what Father Goodall will say if we mention that Jack told us all about his conversation with the devil?" Anthony wondered off hand to Nathaniel.

"Oh! Do you think he'll get in trouble?" Nathaniel asked with false-worry in his tone.

"Possibly, but it's for the good of the community as well his," Anthony played along. "His soul is in jeopardy! This might be our only chance to save our friend from the Evil One's clutches!"

"Hey, hey," Henry butted in with a hopeful, excited gleam in his eyes. "Do you think this will be big enough to warrant a witch trial?"

Jack's breath hitched in his chest. He was aware that his right hand had begun shaking and he tightened the grip on his staff so it wouldn't be so noticeable.

"There hasn't been a witch trial in twenty years," he said, wincing as he heard his voice croak in half.

It was something the children overheard the adults talking about in hushed voices now and then. How more than two decades ago, there had been a mass panic of witchcraft throughout the colonies and accusations flying rampant. All it took was one odd little thing, one unusual circumstance out of the ordinary, one unfortunate event that if mistaken the wrong way that with the right number of people voicing their concerns, could be blown up to be something evil that must be destroyed. So many people had been hanged…

But all that was in the past. The courts had declared the trials unlawful and banned them. They had even given the families of the victims compensation for the injustice and loss they had suffered. In fact, the adults in Burgess often commented the whole witchcraft scare had been nothing more than people misunderstanding those who were mentally ill or physically sick with an unknown disease. In fact, some of the rougher, more rowdy crowd in the tavern often joked they wished the trials were still legal so they could blame someone they disliked for practicing witchcraft.

No one actually believed in witchcraft anymore. Anthony was bluffing, trying to blackmail him into stealing. Jack had nothing to fear.

Anthony curled his lips upward to reveal the gap between his two front teeth—it was his tell-tale sign of victory.

Jack could his own heartbeat pounding rapidly in his ears…

"Jack! Let's go home, Jack!" Emma was beside him suddenly, tugging at his arm. "It's supper time. Mama will be worried."

Henry and Nathaniel broke out into ugly peals of laughter. Anthony only smiled more broadly. "Yes, Jack, run home to Mama now and think about your answer. I leave next Friday."

"I don't need until then," Jack swallowed hard. His throat was dry. "The answer is no."

Anthony's smirk had transformed into a scowl.

"Let's go, Emma," Jack said, grabbing his sister's hand and leading her away. A few feet further he could see Abigail and Caleb waiting for them so they could walk home together.

Jack heard footsteps crunching in the snow behind them as the three boys followed.

Nathaniel's low, husky voice began belting out a well-known nursery rhyme in a taunting manner: "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water…"

The high, reedy vocalisms of Henry soon joined in: "Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after!"

Emma's face looked crest-fallen. She hated that nursery rhyme. It wasn't the first time they both had heard it sung to make fun of them either.

"Ignore them," Jack whispered to her. Over his shoulder he called out, "The church will never accept you into their choir! You sound horrible! You need to work on your lung exercises!"

"You should be careful with the company you keep, Jack," Anthony's voice warned. "The craziness might be catching. You wouldn't it to affect the people you care about."

Jack would have kept on walking, except that Anthony wasn't talking to him anymore.

"Be careful, Emma, or you'll be your brother's next sacrifice to the devil!"

Emma stopped in her tracks. Jack looked down to see her face as pale as the color of snow.

"Have you seen him do it yet, Emma?" Anthony asked. "Talking to the darkness like something was there?"

Emma's hand was trembling. Jack knew she was remembering that first feverish night with him pulling at her hair and screaming at the shadows.

Anthony's rage at Jack's refusal was obvious when he stabbed the final blade in. "The devil spared his soul when he fell through the ice, but his body still died. Now he's a living, walking corpse: a plague set loose on earth to curse anyone who comes across his path!"

Jack's own anger that Anthony would spout such terrible lies was halted when Emma ripped away her hold on his hand. Any brief flash of fear he might have had that his sister believed them was put to rest when she flung herself at the older boy yowling like an upset kitten.

"LIAR, LIAR! YOU'RE A LIAR!" she shrieked, stretching her short arms as far up the front of Anthony's shirt as she could like she wanted to reach up and claw his eyes out.

Anthony seemed just as startled as Jack was. Snatching her by the wrists, he pushed her away where she fell sideways into the snow.

A painful cry split the air and Jack rushed over to her. Helping her sit upright, he noticed the large rock that had been partially uncovered from the snow by her fall. Emma's eyes were glistening with tears and she was holding one hand over her mouth. Cupping her jaw, Jack pulled her hand gently away. All it took was one glance of her bleeding gums and the empty space where one of her front teeth had been to cause him to snap.

He fell on the three boys with an angry roar, swinging his staff wildly about not particularly aiming anywhere, just blindly lashing out. He managed to score a few solid hits if their wounded grunts were anything to go by, then his legs were knocked out underneath him and his staff was kicked out of his hands. He found himself sprawled out flat on his back in the snow with Henry sitting on his chest. The boy raised his fist and Jack braced himself for the punch that never came. Caleb came crashing into Henry's back shouting a steady stream of swear words that would have made his mother wash his mouth out with soap if she had heard him.

Henry rolled off him, taking the heavy weight off his chest and Jack scrambled in the snow for his staff as saw Nathaniel bearing down on him. Feeling his fingers brush against the wood, he curled his hand around it. Jack's arm as well as his staff whipped around to smack Nathaniel soundly between the eyes. Looking quite dazed, the boy toppled over backwards cross-eyed.

Panting for breath, he looked around until he caught sight of Anthony. The boy was just standing there, hands in pockets, head cocked to one side, eyebrows furrowed, and staring at him with a half curious and half calculating gaze.

"Caleb!" Jack called out. He hoped the kid was alright. He was ten years younger the rest of the older boys.

Caleb trotted over to his side a few seconds later sporting a magnificent beauty of a black eye. The boy was absolutely beaming despite this, satisfaction oozing out of the huge grin he wore.

"Good job," Jack said. He could see Henry in the distance doubled over, clutching his stomach. The kid must have packed a few good wallops. "Go take Emma and your sister home."

Caleb didn't argue. Walking over to where Abigail kneeled beside Emma, he pulled both girls to their feet and threw his arms over their shoulders protectively. They left the snow-covered field in the same way, though poor Caleb's gait was bit lop-sided since his sister was a good foot taller than him. Jack watched them from the corner of his eyes until they were out of sight.

"Don't you ever lay a hand on my sister again!" Jack said, leveling the crook of his staff at Anthony in warning. "Whatever filthy lies you come up with you say them to my face and not behind my back! You want to tell the whole town I'm crazy and have conversations with the devil, you go ahead! I'll tell everyone you're only saying that now because you asked me to steal fabric from the governor's wife and I refused! Let's see which side believes who!"

Anthony was silent. Jack could practically hear the gears in his head turning as the boy weighed his options. Rebekah Hamilton was sure to take the Overlands' side. She was a long time admirer of his mother's designs and he was no stranger to her either. When he was younger, he often had gone with his mother to trips to the governor's house to pick up and drop off materials. He remembered stuffing his face with macaroons and drinking honeyed-tea until he fell asleep. The governor's wife held no love for the butcher also, probably because his work consisted of slaughtering animals. Jack had once seen Mrs. Hamilton weep openly over a bird she had found in her garden with a broken wing. Yes, if he was in favor with the people in high positions, Anthony would hold his tongue in cheek… wouldn't he?

"An-tho-dyyyy," Nathaniel whined, staggering into appearance on the boy's right. "I thung by dose is broggin." The boy's nose was indeed swollen and purple-black in color, courtesy of Jack's staff.

Henry shuffled over, one hand pressed to his side. Jack hoped Caleb had managed to crack a few ribs.

"I don't have to say anything to anyone, Overland," Anthony finally declared. "Because you'll slip up one day. Someone will catch you talking to nothing and you won't be able to stop even though you know you should. Everything has a price and trading your soul for whatever you did is going to cost you an eternity of damnation."

Jack realized the boy was serious, wasn't merely spouting words when he touched his forehead, stomach, and left and right shoulders with his forefinger and thumb: the sign of the Holy Cross to ward off evil.

oOo

His sister had already been tucked into their mother's bed by the time he got back home, though she was still awake by the sound of her crying.

Jack watched his mother wrap her shawl around her shoulders and put on her boots before she headed for the door. "Where are you going?" he asked. It was late. The sun had almost set.

"To get pain medicine for your sister from Doctor Brown," Lydia said, tucking her hair back into her knitted wool cap. "And also to give those three boys' mothers a piece of my mind. Picking on children smaller than them! When Caleb dropped off Emma, his right eye was swollen shut. Next time you boys decide to fight, you leave the younger ones out of it."

Jack opened his mouth. What he was going to say, he didn't know. Perhaps, "I'll fetch the medicine from Doctor Brown, don't go" or "don't bother talking to their families please because they might convince you I've made a pact with a devil". Yet what came out instead was, "Mother, are you going to marry Thomas Grymes?"

Lydia Overland's hand froze on the door latch. "What on earth on you talking about, Jack?" she asked, forcing a laugh.

"Tailor Saunders says that Thomas Grymes is going to ask you to be his wife," the word spilled out of Jack's mouth and as much as he wanted to shut up, he couldn't. "He said he helped out a lot around the house when I was ill. He said I was ungrateful and wrong to come between the happiness of two people. Mother… do you want to marry Thomas Grymes?"

"Jack," his mother closed her eyes briefly before opening them again in an irritated manner. "I don't have time for this right now. Go see to your sister. There's soup in the pot over the fire if you're hungry. I'll be back in an hour."

The door opened to the cold and his mother latched it behind her… but not before Jack caught the faintest whisper that fell from her lips, "Though… it was rather nice to not have to worry about so many things by myself…"

Jack stood alone in the log-cabin, a thousand emotions bottled up tight inside him, and the only thing he could do to distract himself from examining them too closely was to check on his sister.

Emma was sobbing quietly into her pillow, the blanket twisted around her and clenched between two tiny fists.

"Does it hurt?" he asked, brushing her cheek softly.

"My t-tooth…" Emma gulped back tears. "I l-lost it… in the s-sno-o-ow . Now the T-tooth Fairy wo-on't c-come…"

Jack placed a hand on her forehead. It felt a bit warmer than usual. "I'll go find it for you, Emma," he whispered.

His sister's crying had stopped. "R-really?" she asked, her voice sounding tired.

"Go to sleep now," Jack smiled, petting the top of her head. "The Sandman will bring you good dreams."

Emma nodded, letting her eyelids droop shut. Jack stayed with her until her breathing was slow and even, then let himself out into the night.

oOo

Jack stepped onto the snow-covered field where he had fought earlier. The moon shone down brightly from the clear-night sky, illuminating the whiteness of the snow. The rock which had knocked out Emma's tooth stood out visibly in the pale light, but Jack did go over to search near it.

"Pitch… Pitch Black…" he cried out hoarsely.

The shadows crept out from the edges of the woods, over the vast, empty field, up the side of hill to where Jack stood and solidified into the tall, imposing figure of the Nightmare King.

"To seek me out yourself… this is a rare treat," Pitch said, the dark chuckle that followed sounding like the rumbling purr of cat.

"Do you… do you only need to frighten children?" Jack asked, struggling to find the right words. "I mean… can you scare adults too?"

The intensity of which Pitch's narrow golden-eyed gaze bored down upon him made Jack's skin crawl.

"What are you asking, Jack?"

"You said you dragged others into madness before… can you really do that? Strike so much fear into someone… that they… they lose their mind?"

The laughter started low in Pitch's throat then exploded into a full-fledged maniacal cackle as the spirit's form nearly bent over backwards unnaturally.

A thin black tendril separated from the body of shadows and wound itself around Jack's legs and up his chest where it flicked out its tongue almost lovingly against the boy's cheek.

"Oh, Jack," Pitch crowed in delight. "You are a selfish soul, aren't you?"

Jack wished he could deny it, but he couldn't. He didn't liked things being taken from him, he never had. He didn't have much in this world, but the little that he did have, he cherished sincerely. He had learned years ago material possessions paled in comparison a living, breathing person. Those things could be easily broken, easily replaced, but to have someone's existence near to his heart cut short, torn away, never to return—those wounds cut deep.

He wasn't asking for much. He just wanted to live out the rest of his life with his mother and sister at his side and not worry about any interloper coming to whisk them away or shove him out of the picture. He wanted to walk throughout Burgess without someone trying to turn his family against him. He just wanted some semblance of control to make the tide turn in his favor for once and Pitch was right there in front of him with the solution to all his problems.

"I'll do what you want," Jack said, trying hard not to think too much about what he was agreeing to. He might feel ashamed, might feel revulsion at how easily such a plan had taken shape in his mind. Right now he was angry, angry and frustrated at being helpless all at the same time and he focused on those feelings instead. "I'll tell people about you. I'll spread such stories about the Boogey Man that the world has never heard of before. I know that's why you're so happy to have found me. I'm a contagion, a disease."

Anthony's words echoed in his mind: a plague set loose on earth to curse anyone who comes across his path.

Jack finally looked up. Pitch's face was filled with something akin to adoration as he stared down at him.

"You can't scare the children though," Jack laid down his own terms firmly. "They're innocent." It wasn't their fault they lived in such a world where they were corrupted by harsh reality. "Just the adults, the ones who deserve to have some fear struck in them."

"The ones you deem to deserve it, Jack?" Pitch murmured, a smile hovering lightly over his lips. "Just the children in this town then… I can spare them."

Jack nodded and didn't argue. Once he could have fooled himself into believing he cared about the world as a whole, but not anymore. He tried to have a positive attitude in general but it was only a façade. Growing up left you cynical about a lot of things, and there was only room in his heart for so many.

"You said once before that the world doesn't revolve around you, Jack," Pitch stated, laying a hand on his shoulder. It was oddly warm to the touch. "That's where you're wrong," Slender fingers reached under his chin to tilt his head upwards and Jack found himself ensnared and held fast by the man's golden eyes. They seemed to shine brighter and more fiercely than the moon in the sky itself. "That's when you simply make it so that it does."

To Be Continued…

A/N: I did it again, didn't I? Five months between updates. I knew what I wanted to happen in this story; I just felt no motivation to write. It's been terrifying. 23rd is my birthday so this kind of my gift to myself and you all!^^

Tablemonkey: lowest level of the tailor trade. Basically, all they did was sew. Tailors in larger cities generally a number of people working in their shop and they did different tasks: cutters cut patterns, finishers did intricate, elaborate details on the finishing touches of the final design. The head tailor usually climbed up to his position of power by being a master in all three areas. Anyone can sew though. That's why they were called tablemonkeys: it was no skill to brag about. The fact that Jack still has trouble getting his stitches even after all these years and can't piece together an outfit, it really is an insult to the master who taught him, especially when you realize Tailor Saunders had to teach Lydia to fold and fit and add finishing touches to the "sewn materials" and she does it just fine.

About the witch trials, you can look them up in you're interested. Far too much information to put here, but I did give a brief summary about them in chapter. They started in 1692 and were over around 1697, when the courts finally called them "unjust" and banned them due to most cases presented with circumstantial evidence and "she said-he said" testimony. The year is 1712 in this story. Witch trials would be illegal, but there's no telling what a small town community would do if they all found themselves scared out of their wits without any logical reason. They'd start searching for anything to blame and god help anyone they found fault with. (I should just put here, no this Abigail Williams in the story is not the same one from the witch trials. People were asking about her. I just wanted a Puritan name for her and Abigail was very common. That's not to say she hasn't been told that her name is cursed because of her predecessor bearing it, poor thing).

Anyway, ooh, bit of a shocker at the end, isn't it? Jack has never seemed like a purely "good" person to me. He refused to join the Guardians at first quite frankly because he thought the job was boring. He wanted to recover his memories in the tooth box so he stayed alongside the Guardians, (and I bet he was more than a little happy at all the company after so long in solitude). Yes he does have a conscience and good morals which is why he teamed up with them against Pitch, but you can't convince me that if Pitch has showed up a bit earlier (like that scene on the roof with Jack asking the moon why no one could see him), he could have won him over to his side for at least a trial run or even just for a bit of companionship. Jack refused to join Pitch in Antartica because by that time Pitch had killed Sandy and didn't word things very well. Pitch did a good job using empathy to sway Jack's feelings despite all he had done so far, it almost worked, but he slipped up when his ego got in the way. I tried to show how Jack would still willingly work alongside Pitch even if he hates/doesn't agree with all his methods. You have to twist things a bit in his favor, agree to some his own terms, not make it all about you. And agreeing not to harm those Jack cares about is probably a very good starting point. Jack meanwhile, actually believes he is beating Pitch in a way by doing what he wants but bending his rules. You're wondering why Pitch agreed so easily to it? Because he knows Jack is going to fall one day. One day after thinking so long in the manner he has, people won't matter so much to him. The children of Burgess are going to grow up into the same types of adults that Jack despises.

This chapter is too long so I had to cut scenes out and put them in the next chapter. If you're wondering about Anthony's odd behavior towards Jack, let's just say something came to his attention. I will also say Pitch knows something about Jack that he's not telling him either. Right now, he's just more than pleased that Jack isn't fighting him anymore, is working alongside him. (Plus he's lonely and likes his company. Shut up, Pitch you do. XP ).

P.S. I haven't forgotten about Emma's tooth and neither has Pitch. Muwahahahaha.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this! Please review and share your thoughts. I love hearing what you liked best and it's the only reward a fanfic author gets. Thank you!^^