LATE CHAPTER IS LATE. I apologise for that- especially since you are all such awesome, wonderful readers! So here's an even longer chapter for you. XD

Warnings: Unfortunately, this thing called "plot" got in the way and had to make this chapter, once again, quite serious. This is the last one though- next chapter, things will be well and silly again. I promise.

And, well- join me at the end notes! Enjoy!

It was the sad truth that, if you wanted your work to be praised and appreciated, you shouldn't be a Yeti.

If there was ever a more underappreciated creature than a yeti, Phil would be absolutely thrilled to hear about it. Not because he was particularly fond of taking joy in the horrible things in other people's lives, but more so because whenever he thought of how bizarre and frustrating his everyday life had become, he liked to think that there must be someone out there who had it worse. Whenever Phil's own life seemed to be getting more and more ridiculous by the day, he liked to imagine these possible people, and it made him feel slightly better about himself.

Needless to say, the existence of those imaginary people was starting to seem more and more unlikely.

It was prejudice, plain and simple. A toymaker just wasn't the respectable occupation it used to be, in the eyes of the public. You can't go around telling people you're toymaker now-a-days and expect them to imagine anything short of a three foot tall elf, bells on shoes and all. People just didn't understand all of the working mechanics that had to be diligently applied to the art of toy making, and sometimes Phil was glad they didn't. All of the magic would be dragged out of their fluffy little imaginations with a rusty ice scraper if they understood.

Most people assumed their job was all lobbing hammers around and painting dolls. How far from the truth could they be! Did people even realize how many children around the world expected electronic toys under their fake trees for christmas? Did people even think about how difficult it is to assemble a single circuit board- let alone all of the conductive paths and wires that went into making a single movement possible? Do people even think about all of the engineeric designing and countless testing that goes into constructing a working, miniature helicopter?

No, of course they didn't.

Yetis were scientists, and proud ones at that. A doctorate in toy making mind as well equal elven PhDs in the assorted sciences of engineering, mathematics, and practical nursing. (Some workers were not as careful with the power tools as they would had liked) Yetis had to achieve all this, and still be able to bake cookies and paint neatly within the lines of an action figure.

And above all, they had to work for North.

Working for the Russian was no laughing matter! While the man was out being a guardian over children, his team of yetis were the guardians over him. Phil still wasn't entirely sure North knew how many elf-contaminated cookies they intercepted during the work week, or complete toy-catastrophes they had to prevent every hour. Oh, but that's not to say the man himself didn't do anything. On the contrary, North was the sole organizer of their big, furry chaos. Without North, the whole operation would be for mote. (After all, none of the Yetis wanted anything to do with the delivery division of Santoff Claussen. Did people really expect them to learn how to drive too?)

Yetis had no one to back them up if something went wrong- so if something happened to North, they were, frankly, screwed.

Today was one of those days Phil honestly didn't it was even possible for anyone to have a more hectic job than him. Or, at least, the mess in front of him pretending to be a job. (It was almost cute, how hard it was trying.)

Phil was a fluent understander in 15 major human languages, along with the dialects of 'Tooth mumbling', 'Sand sign language', and a particularly interesting flavor of modern teenage techno-lingo. He was a Yeti that could be plopped down on nearly any corner of the earth and be able to communicate with at least enough enthusiasm to get him somewhere with a working phone- and then promptly be able to yell at whoever in the world picked up on the other line.

That being said, Phil could not understand a single word being spoken in the infirmary- or more accurately, a word being snarked.

The little man of Sand seemed to be just as lost as he was, which was comforting. It let Phil know he had not been the only one to see the insanity of the situation. They stood by the doorway together, each holding a first aid kit, but neither making any move to step any closer to the verbal boxing ring in the center of the room.

The other guardians, and the little frost-thief, were huddled around the large, sweater wearing mass lying on the central bed. Various yetis and elves were trying to be of some medical assistance, but more often than not ended up restraining the big-eared guardian from hopping over North to pounce at the ice-bringer. Phil saw the guardian's huge, powerful feet, threatening to kick the three yetis holding him back, and winced.

Every once in awhile, Phil could make out the little white-haired burglar saying something about "too much eggnog" or "drug testing", but not much else was comprehendible. The large kangaroo- rabbit- Australian thing wasn't any better. He kept making obscure angry references that he wasn't entirely sure the Aussie himself understood.

Phil wondered if anyone was consciously aware of what was coming out of their mouths. It was unlikely, he reasoned. If anyone actually paid any attention to what exactly was being said, he had a feeling they would have stopped talking a long time ago- and then maybe hidden their heads under a few pillows in embarrassment. After all, exactly did, "I bet'ya made him as full as a goog- you whacker!" mean?

"We left you alone with him for a few hours! What in bloody Mary's name do you mean he just fainted?!"

"I don't know! It's like I said. He was talking about the power of friendship or what not and then he just... fainted."

Everyone in the room looked at the boy with varying degrees of disbelief. The Sand-man next to Phil coughed silently.

Jack looked around, fumbling with his staff. He quickly pointed to some cookie-snatchers beside him, "I blame the elves."

Said elves looked very offended. One began rolling up it's sleeves, before it was cut off by a yeti-ish groan from the cot.

Every eye was trained on North as he sat up, rubbing his head.

"What is this ruckus then?" The Russian mumbled, before memory seemed to return to him as he looked around frantically, "Why are you not out fighting Pitch?"

"Pitch? What do you mean Pitch?" Bunny started, leaning over to look the man in the eye,"Please don't tell me you saw him too, mate."

"He was here- at the pole!" North tried to jump out of bed, reaching for his missing double swords, but Tooth pushed him back down, "He came through the window and- Jack! Great Stravinsky! Jack- you-"

"Wait, wait," Jack leaned over, pushing Bunny out of the way, much to the pooka's chagrin, "Did you see Pitch in your office?"

North's eyes widened as he nodded, quite vigorously.

"Did you see Pitch outside the window, looking all high mighty and making his big, 'Oh, I'm bad!' speech, and then just left?"

North looked like he wanted to jump out of bed again, but a sharp glance from Tooth keeps him planted. Phil takes this as his chance to creep closer to the bed, subtly trying to see if there's any bumps or bruises on the Russian's head.

He's just about to put an ice pack on North's head when the man lets out a triumphant yell, raising his arms, and knocking back everyone in what the yetis have learned to call 'the expressive danger zone' (essentially, his arm's length, or, when needed, his swords' length)

"Yes Jack! Was exactly like that!" North boomed, somehow ignoring the fact that at least two yetis, Tooth, and 'leetle Jack' were currently picking themselves off the floor.

Jack rubbed his lower back, crinkling his nose in discomfort, "Yeah... Um... None of that happened. Totally didn't happen."

If those in the room had looked disbelieving before, they look absolutely flabbergasted then. (Phil decided that one needed to use an awfully silly sounding adjective in this situation. No other word would probably convey the sheer, almost painful speechlessness on the guardian's faces, and considering the almost comical circumstance. Plus, it wasn't often he got to use silly adjectives in such a justifying way. )

Phil decided, at that inner monologue, that perhaps it wasn't North's head that he should be checking- but his own.

"It didn't happen?" Bunny rose up, walking over very, very slowly to where Jack stood, "It. Didn't. Happen? How, then, did you describe all of that?"

"Yeah Jack..." Toothiana fluttered forward, eyes tentative, "How did you know that?"

The makeshift infirmary grew silent as Jack fidgeted about, searching for answers behind his eyes. He smiled slightly, a crooked little grin that didn't quite match up with the nervous chuckle that sputtered out of him. The back of his neck was suddenly quite itchy, as he kept rubbing it, shifting back and forth on his feet.

The Man of Sand's eyes picked up on this movement, focusing in on it rather quizzically. Phil thought this was all quite excessive, considering that their gazes seemed to be burning a hole through the poor lad.

"Yeah... Funny story about that... you see, um," Jack fumbled. He quickly scrambled for a recovery, "I didn't want to out anyone like this but- North talks in his sleep."

A chorus of 'What's echoed around the room- or, in Sandy's case, a scrutinizing glare- like a choir. It was actually quite beautiful. Phil wondered if the guardians had ever tried caroling before- but one wayward look to the very unamused Sandman told him otherwise.

"It's true!" The boy threw his arms in the air, an 'I'm Innocent!' look coming about him, "Seriously, I don't know if it was some eggs got tainted with just a bit too much paint-dye or something but he just kept talking and talking-"

North blinked, "I didn't know I talk to my sleep-"

"Well," Tooth brought up, "North, you have been staying up for rather long amounts of time-"

"Alright- am I seriously the only one who find this a little hard to believe?" Bunnymund shook his head, annoyance creeping back into his voice. He scoffed "Not only did North just 'faint', now you're saying that he 'talks' in his sleep about Pitch appearing in his bedroom?"

"Well, when you put it that way," Jack laughed, cutting off Bunny's angry stuttering, "He did say some, interesting things about you. Would you like to hear about them?"

Just as quickly as it had left, the cacophony of snarking was back, now plus the booming voice of North. Phil sighed. He took this as a sign to leave, before he somehow got sucked into all of this.

He didn't even bother trying to sneak out. No one noticed the six foot tall abominable snowman walking out of the room in exasperation, anyway. Not even the Sandman, who still looked at the frost child, suspicion beginning to cloud his eyes.

Jack doesn't know how long they spent in the infirmary. They argued about everything- about the appearance of Pitch, the validity of everyone's claims, whether or not they should waste their arguing time to question the elves- and it never amounted to anything useful. They could have been fighting for hours, for all he knew.

Tooth had ushered him out, after what was somehow designated as an "end of session." Though, Jack was sure Tooth had just slammed a book onto a nearby desk and called out "Order!". She had smiled, when he questioned her about the whole, strange experience. She patted his head, reassuring him that it wasn't his fault. The fairy seemed very animate in insisting that every council meeting ended up like that, eventually.

And the guardians wondered why Jack wasn't exactly gung hoabout joining them.

The winter spirit yawned. He was walking leisurely down the halls of the workshop, exploring some of the more private looking corridors before anybody could realize it probably wasn't a good idea to leave the frost boy on his own. To his credit, Jack hadn't done much. He only froze one or two elves that passed him, and he hadn't interrupted the work floor in any way beyond staring in awe at the colors and sounds around him.

They must have been looking for him by now. Jack was surprised they had let him slip away at all, considering he was still technically a neutral party. Maybe he was better at the whole 'distracting' thing than he thought.

The hallway he was walking down was quiet, barely any doors on either side. It wasn't lit properly either, which Jack thought was a bit odd, for the usually bright and jolly North Pole. The red and green carpet was still soft beneath his feet, though, so it put him at ease.

He supposed he should have realized that was a mistake sooner.

"I didn't appreciate that."

Jack spun around, staff raised. The voice echoed throughout the hallway in a bored drawl, but Jack knew better. He knew who would materialize out of the darkness, but he still kept his staff raised, just in case.

The dark shades in a corner of the hallway began to swirl, forming into a long, sullen figure. He recognized the face that appeared from the shadows, and let out a relieved sigh.

"Pitch," He smiled, leaning once more on his staff. A nervous chuckle left him as the Nightmare King crept closer, looming over him, hands behind his back.

"And I mean it Jack. It wasn't appreciated."

There was a piercing look in his golden eyes.

Jack coughed, "Hey, don't look so serious. Are you really still mad about earlier? I personally thought I was helping you out- you know, with the whole 'causing distracting panic' and what not. Come on, you're not still mad about that, are you?"

Pitch, to say the least, was not amused. The man only continued to loom ominously in the shadows, holding himself in a tall, business manner. He tilted his head to the side, silently questioning Jack if that was really how he wanted to greet the Nightmare King.

Jack wasn't really sure what to think. North had obviously seen Pitch as a serious threat, enough to immediately point his swords towards the other man's throat. If someone like North was so cautious around this spirit, Jack was fairly certain he should be a little more careful around him. But something felt wrong about that thought.

"Neutral party" He thought to himself, "He wouldn't hurt a neutral party, right?"

He tried again, "I mean, look. It made North pass out. And- and did you see how disorganized everyone in that room was? Think about it, this could be a good start to some good, bona fide panic- isn't that what you wanted?"

Pitch quirked up an eyebrow, "You thought it was a good idea to cause widespread panic with a snowball?"

The winter spirit raised a finger, about to counter, but paused as the words sunk in. He shoved his hand in his pocket, defeated, "Ok, I'll admit, the snowball was a bit hammy. But come on, you can't say that wasn't at least a little good."

Pitch's eye twitched. The grey skinned man closed his eyes, letting out a deep, restrained breath. Jack could almost see the man counting down from ten in his head. For a brief moment, he wondered if he should be worried about that.

Pitch started slowly, the control hissing warningly in his tone,"I'll, graciously, let this little stint slide, just this once." He pressed his fingertips together, tipping them towards Jack in an almost pleading gesture, "But let's leave the extended planning to me from now on, shall we?"

Jack's smile deflated. "Oh, yeah. Sure thing."

The boogeyman must have caught the clip in Jack's tone, because he peered down at the boy with a renewed spark of interest. A small, dangerous grin sneaked across his lips, "We are continuing with the plan, aren't we Jack?"

The other looked up at the taller man cautiously. The almost gleeful light in Pitch's eyes was unnerving. Something about this shift in demeanor made the whole hallway seem smaller, the walls pressing in too close. If Jack wasn't careful, he'd find himself backed against a wall.

He gulped, "Well... yeah, of course-"

Pitch's eyes shined, pinning him in their intensity. They glowed, like a predator that had just cornered it's prey.

"Oh Jack, is that hesitance I hear?" The silverette jumped as, suddenly, Pitch was behind him- circling around him inquisitively. There was a smile in his voice as the shadows curved around them lazily, trailing behind the man like a snake dipped in tar, "Did a little kindness make you forget why we started this? I didn't think you as the soft type, Jack. You seemed so sure of yourself before, and now you're just going to let the guardians reel you in like this? After three hundred years of such abandonment too- are you really such a saint to forget all that? How... servile."

Jack's eyes narrowed, "No, it's not that, it's just-"

"What then?" Pitch mocked, "You'd rather run off with these, diplomatic buffoons? Honestly Jack, and I thought you had standards. Why else would they all leave you on your own for so long? I'd have thought you were better than that."

Pitch smirked as he came to the front of the winter spirit. The boy looked away, chewing his lip in thought.

The shadows closed in, nipping at Jack's heels.

Pitch leaned in, "Am I mistaken?"

Jack couldn't think of anything to say.

Eventually, he looked up, searching the gold irises intently. "They call you the Nightmare King."

Pitch seemed surprised by the response, stepping back from the boy.

"Oh, I see." The nightmare king hummed, nodding in approval to some thought in his head, "You see Jack, I don't think you understand what it is I do."

The winter spirit cocked his head, almost challengingly. He wasn't entirely sure what there was to misunderstand about such a name, "Really?"

"Really." There it was again- that cool, calculated smile, "I could always show you. If, perhaps, you were willing to slip away from your precious baby sitters for a while."

Jack scoffed. Now Pitch was just egging him on, he knew that.

That didn't mean he wouldn't still jump for the bait, "Are you serious? Stay here for another 'parent-teacher' conference from hell? No thank you."

Pitch's smile only grew with that. He looked like he was about to say more, when his head turned sharply to the right. His eyes scanned the hallway.

"Someone's coming." He noted, unconcerned, "No matter. We'll just have to continue this conversation later. Though, soon."

"Soon?" Jack could almost feel his ears perk up.

The other let out a small chuckle, "Yes. I'm be seeing you, momentarily, Jack. Until then."

As soon as he had appeared, Pitch was slipping into the darkness. The only trace of the boogeyman was the too-dark shadows, and a certain metallic taste in the air.

Just as Pitch's toes had disappeared into the wall, the sound of claws skittering across slick floors reached Jack's ears. Bunnymund slid around the corner, almost falling over in his attempt to change direction. The pooka just barely skid to halt as he approached Jack, who flinched at the killer carpet-burn the rabbit must be getting from his ordeal.

Bunny searched around frantically, checking all of the corners of the hallway, even in Jack's pocket, (causing a completely manly squeak from Jack) before he finally stepped back, relaxing a bit.

"I thought I heard you talking to Pitch." Bunny explained, to Jack's bewildered expression.

"Well... There's no Pitch here."

Bunny's expression dead panned almost instantly, "Alright- no. We are not going through this again." The pooka straightened up to his full height, not even bothering to smooth down his ruffled fur, "I don't even care if it was Pitch or not- I know I heard you talking to someone, mate. You look pretty much on your lonesome right now- so who were you talking to? And don't you dare try and blame it on the eggnog again. I'm clean. We had it tested."

Jack blinked. He honestly wasn't sure if the small noise that left him was from trying not to laugh, or trying not to cry. He figured it was a little bit of both.

Just how much of this could he get away with?

The winter spirit took a deep breath, as if readying himself for a confession, "Alright- you caught me. I- I was talking to my staff."

Bunny paused, "Your staff?"

Jack nodded. A poor imitation of a sweet smile plastered on his face.

"You were talking to your staff?"

"Hey! You shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. It can be quite the conversationalist if you listen. It has the most interesting things to say about aesthetic philosophy."

"Um, Jack. Boy. For the sake of your and my mental health- stop talking."

Elves, admittedly, did not understand much.

Most of their limited knowledge was used to perfect the booming toy industry of Santoff Clausen, and making excellent gingerbread houses, of course. It was all an elf ever needed to know to be successful in life.

Though, that didn't mean they didn't realize when something was wrong.

Far from it, in fact. It only took the general elf population a total of ten minutes to realize their employer was engaged in battle, along with his little friends- which was quite an impressively short amount of time, for an elf.

And of course they saw when the big bad sandman (not the the silent, elf manhandling one. After all, this one was quite tall, dark, and seemed to really like the sound of his own voice.) appeared above the globe. Nor did they miss when the ice-bringing chimney sweep flew up to confront the man, only to be caught in what North might have explained to be a "hug of evil" (Which elves didn't quite understand, since all hugs seemed to spawn from pure evil, in their experience.)

It was true, elves did not understand much- but they did see the looks of shock that the little elf-popsicle-maker seemed to have frozen onto the gaurdian's faces since his arrival. The looks of being hopelessly lost that were plastered across the room as the big-meanie poofed away, snowflake man still trapped in the hug of utter doom.

And while the elves assumed that this would have been a good thing, considering that their feelings towards the boy were lukewarm at most, the guardians did not seem to think the same.

They all looked to each other.

"Alright," The giant teddy bear (not a teddy bear? Teddy Bunny? It was a great debate amongst the elves' Friday coffee group) said, after several moments of silence, "Can we all agree that that was really Pitch?"

Simultaneous nodding.

"Ok, good. Now can we All. Agree. that Jack was kidnapped this time?"

"Yeah..." "да." Fervent nodding.

"Ok, now that we've got that taken care of- are we going to bloody do something about it?!"

The guardians jump to attention, running off in various directions, all in search of the little ice-man, and the scary sandman.

However, the elves did not notice any of this. They had long since wandered off, distracted by a new shiny thing or noise maker. And the guardians, in turn, left them in peace.

Jack was never sure how to feel about towns at night.

It was easy to judge a city during the day, when Jack could see it's people milling around and how many children were sitting around, just waiting for a snow day to blow in. Day time was when the kids were willing to run outside in their pajamas at the first sign of a flurry, or looked like a good snowball fight would brighten their whole week.

Night was completely different. It was a bit obvious, when he thought about it, but it still surprised him once in awhile, when the sun sank below the hills and the children wandered back to their homes. When the streets were as quiet as his snow and the ice sparkled in the lamplight. Sometimes, he liked sticking around to see the Sandman begin his work, but more often than not, the wind scooped him up and tossed him to some other part of the world, leaving when the quiet still seemed calming, before the silence began to feel lonely.

The moon was shadowed behind the clouds, that night- but as far as Jack could tell, Pitch had set them down in a place that looked like any other residential area, of any town. There were no lights in windows.

Jack's face was pressed up against the glass of one of the house's windows, careful to keep his frost confided to the edges of the pane. A little girl rested within the bedroom, golden sand twirling above her head. All in all, the scene of every child's nighttime, from Jack's experience.

It made everything all the more puzzling.

"What are we doing here?" He asked, after he couldn't keep his questions locked up any longer.

He glanced back at the man materializing behind him. Some black sand swirled around his fingers. He regarded it with passing interest, "You are about to see what I do."

Jack nodded, looking to him expectantly. Pitch quirked an eyebrow, making a circling "turn around" motion with his finger, pointing to the window. The boy turned back around, watching the room carefully.

A bit of the black sand squeezed it's way under the glass, floating about the room until it found the brightly shining dream. Jack was about to ask what was happening, when Pitch came up beside him, shaking his head and bringing his finger to his lips with a "shh."

So Jack continued to watch.

He had a feeling he knew, when the black sand began ensnaring the gold. He knew he knew what was happening, when the child twitched in her sleep and tossed in unease. He knew what this was- a nightmare- and that feeling of wrong grew and grew inside his chest again. A dark, spidery horse was cantering around the girl's head as her tossing and turning grew more and more erratic.

She was scared. A sudden mantra of save, help, protect shot through his head like a heartbeat.

"Pitch-" Jack's voice sounded very small, especially as he looked to the shadow king beside him, "You- you've got to stop it. It- it's hurting her!"

To his horror, the man only shhed him gently again, "Just a little longer- There. Look."

His bony finger was pointed back to the room, but Jack hesitated before looking back through the glass. Jack had always tried to make kids feel better, to make them happy. To just watch as a child suffered was growing more and more unthinkable by the second. If he saw the girl so scared and not having fun he was afraid he would jump into through the window and freeze the whole room- and who knew what Pitch would do then.

He did look back, however, when light flooded through the glass.

The girl had woken up, tears pooling in her eyes, the fear still etched into her face, even though the dark mare was gone. She was running out of the room. Jack failed to see how this was any better. Now not only was the child scared, but now she was alone and out of bed and probably so cold.

Then, but then- two adults entered the room, each holding one of the little girl's hands. Her parents, he thought. He unconsciously found himself stepping closer to the glass, pressing his fingertips against the pane when the three sat down on the child's bed, each taking the small girl into their arms. Though he couldn't hear anything through the screen, he saw as the tears turned slowly into smiles, smiles into laughter as the parents comforted their child from a night terror- a nightmare, no more.

Jack couldn't take his eyes off the scene.

"This is where the guardians fail, Jack." The boy didn't look away from the window, but he felt the nightmare king coming closer to the house, "They think of me as an embodiment of fear, just for the sake of fear. But really, if you actually looked, you'd see that children need a little fear, to really appreciate the world around them."

The little girl was being tucked back into bed, safe and sound.

"Think of how dull their lives would be, if everything was nice and wonderful all of the time." Pitch continued, sighing lightly, " They'd grow bored so fast. A little fear gives them a thrill, makes everything seem exciting again."

Lights were put out, doors closed. The little girl was smiling, happy, all the more eager for a good dream.

"There- don't you see how happy she is now?" Pitch pointed vaguely at the girl, new dream sand forming above her closed eyes. Jack finally looked to the man, and found him staring pensively into the room, and for that moment- everything seemed serene, "The fear shows them their doubts, and helps them squash them. If they ever feel alone, I help them realize that they're not."

His yellow eyes turned back to Jack, "I help everyone realize they're not alone."

It made sense, it made painful sense. And the longer he spent looking into those piercing eyes, the dimmer and more distant the wrong feeling became. Because it was true- he wasn't alone anymore.

There was that subtle pressure, somewhere deep in his chest. His thoughts pushing and pushing until- something- small, buried deep- snapped.

Pitch's grin was sympathetic, if not a just a little too knowing.

Something squeaked out of him before he could stop it, "Do you mind if I try something?"

Jack almost punched himself for the slip when the nightmare king shot him a questioning look, "That depends."

He laughed nervously- he was doing a lot of that, lately, "Alright... just, bare with me for a second."

Slowly, as if not to startle him, Jack set his staff down in grass. Jack turned to take a step forward, but paused. A stream of "Dear god, what am I doing?" practically tap danced through his head. Pitch was still staring at him quizzically.

He took a deep breath. Slowly, he inched forward until he was within arms length of the man. His arms raised hesitantly, and he reminded himself briefly of a robot trying to pick up a box.

He dusted the thought from his mind with a scowl- this was awkward enough already, imagination. Thank you.

Jack leaned forward on his toes, like he wanted to fall over. His hands inched and inched until his fingertips were just about to brush the other's shoulders. However, catching the semi-patient, semi-blank look in Pitch's eyes, he shrunk back.

"No, no." He mumbled, "This isn't going to work."

Rolling on his heels, he quickly shuffled over to Pitch's side, the man's gaze following the winter spirit out of the corner of his eye. When he settled, Jack was face to face with Pitch's shoulder. One of Jack's arms tried to creep up around the other's front, but he decided halfway through that that was wrong too. He tried the other arm, attempting to circle around the shoulders in front of him.

He had to reach up obscenely high to do so.

Another option- out.

Jack started reaching around the arm nearest his face- but then he thought of how resorting to hugging a single arm made him feel small, clingy, and pathetic all at the same time.

He reasoned that a side hug was not the way to go, either.

The silverette continued his little circle around. He didn't even bother stopping at the back, with Pitch glancing over his shoulder and having to stare up and up at the wide range of black. Then he was at the left side, which wasn't any different than the right side, and thus, didn't help him at all.

He was back at the front before he knew it, a slightly defeated pout adorning his face.

"Ok, one more try." Jack spread his arms out, looking for all the world like he was about to jump off a cliff, flapping his arms about in an attempt to fly, "Don't... be alarmed by this."

He closed his eyes, bolted them shut the way one would lock out the sight of one's death.

Then, he fell.

Vaguely, he was aware that his arms were wrapped around Pitch's middle, the white tuffs of his hair tucked under a slender chin. He didn't want to think about, though. He couldn't think about it, really, as he found himself lost in the long forgotten feeling of secure, warm, and thank you.

After a brief, surprised intake from both the boy, and the victim of his hug, Jack was half shocked, half relieved to feel a pair of arms circle his shoulders.

For a moment, the night was completely still.

And if Pitch's hands gripped his shoulders just a little too tightly, then he paid it no mind.

And if the shadows curled possessively around his wrists, when the nightmare king led them off into the darkness, neither of them mentioned it.

"Jack. Jack? Jack!"


"You've been 'hugging' me for past half hour."


"... Are you going to let go now?"

"... Hmph."


Explanation time!

Ok, so this is chapter is REALLY late for a slew of reasons I'm sure you're all not interested in hearing. So I'll just say it has to do with the holidays, and school, and life. XD I'm sorry about the delay, and it definitely made me rush to get this out, so this chapter is obvious a little out of whack. Promises to a better chapter next week!

With that out of the way: HOLY SMOKES. 83 follows- over 60 favorites, you guys are AMAZING. It's awesome to know that there's people actually enjoying this little train wreck of mine. XD With that- I'd like to thank the people that reviewed:

Letizia-chan, Tsurai no Shi, myrddin767, isthisparadise, thunder angel13, Firekat Archer, ztanita, darkangel325, The Bloodless, The White Grim, Product Of A Sick Society, Reid Phantom, blackkyu, and vistor Auggie- Thank you all SO MUCH for your reviews! They really keep me going- it's like brain food! :)

So to all the rest of you- thank you for reading! Leave a review if you want me to have ammo for my ever-fighting war against Writer's Block!

And, once again, sorry for the seriousness. I tried to add some humor- but my mind kept saying "No! It must be serious!" So, yeah. The goofiness and humor will be back full swing next chapter, if you're here for that. 3