They watched it happen. They watched as the nightmares he created from corrupting Sandman's dreams, dragged him back into the darkness of his lair. They thought nothing more of it. Pitch had been defeated. The nightmares would feed on his fear and he would never harm them or the children again.

Eight years later…

It was never meant to be like this. If we had known what would happen after we let the nightmares haul Pitch back into the darkness…

It's not our fault. We meant well. He had to be stopped, but…

We protect the children. That's our job.

We failed.

"I just wanna say again how much I absolutely hate this idea."

"We don't have a choice, Bunny." Tooth said for what felt like the hundredth time. Her emerald feathers ruffled as she flittered back and forth. "The Man in the Moon told us we have to do it." She frowned. "I don't like it either."

Jack peered down the dark hole. "I think we're forgetting the most important thing. Will he even hear us out?"

Bunnymund's ears twitched. "It's been eight years, Jackie-boy."

"Yeah, and correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't he festering a grudge for over a thousand?"

The Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny exchanged a look. "How are we getting down there?" Tooth asked.

Jack rolled his eyes. He knew an evasion when he heard one. "I just climbed down last time. Careful. It's steep."

They made it down the hole with only minor mishaps. Bunny slipped and accused Jack of making the path icy which the ice elf denied. "This place is bleak." Bunny commented.

"My poor little fairies were stuck here?" Tooth eyed the cages and suppressed a shudder.

Jack put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "The sooner we get Pitch, the sooner we can get out of here."

Bunny's ears pricked and he moved them this way and that. "I hear something. Come on." He bounded through the tunnel.

"Slow down!" Jack whispered. Trust the Easter Kangaroo to go running off in unfamiliar surroundings.

Tooth and Frost didn't have to go far, almost running into the Pooka who was standing over a drop and staring at something in absolute horror.

The Tooth Fairy and Jack followed his gaze and were taken aback by what they saw.

There were hundreds of nightmares—maybe thousands; a giant undulating mass of corrupted dreams in the middle of the cavern, but not as the three Guardians remembered them. No, these nightmares were mutated. These were bloated and twice their original size with dripping lamprey-like appendages extending from their horse-like maws. The horrible new additions were draped over the cold rocks and attached to the prone form of none other than Pitch Black. The Boogieman had seen better days. Curled in a fetal pose, Pitch's back, stomach, arms, and legs were being feasted on by the very creatures that he helped create. The Guardians watched in horrified fascination as a herd of nightmares removed their feeders and moved aside sluggishly for another group to take their turns.

"This is bad." Tooth whispered. She backed up. "Is he even still alive?"

"He has to be." Bunny frowned. "They wouldn't be eatin' on him if he wasn't."

"Oh g-" Tooth doubled over and was promptly sick. She looked pale. "So what's the plan?"

"There's no way those things are just going to let us take away their only meal." Jack murmured. He looked at Bunnymund. "We need a distraction."

Bunny's ears drooped. "I just knew you were going to say that, mate." He sighed. The pooka scaled the wall. He excessed the situation. Even if he managed to get the majority of the nightmares to follow him, would Tooth and Frost be able to get Pitch free from the ones that were feeding on the Boogieman? Pulling free one of his boomerangs, he took aim at the head of one of the feeding mares. The creature ruptured in a black, sandy mist and its death alerted the others to his presence. "Oi!" Bunnymund waved his paws in the air. The Nightmares bared their teeth. "Oh ho ho!" the pooka arched a brow. "Didn't like that, did we?" Bunnymund did a handstand and waved his rump at the horses. "Come and get it, you overgrown Shetland ponies!"

That did it. The nightmares charged en masse, only three staying to finish their feeding. Tooth and Jack could easily handle those.

The second the nightmares took up chase after Bunny through the tunnels, Tooth and Jack made their way down to Pitch and dispatched the remaining three. "Pitch?" Tooth leaned over and pressed a hand against the Boogieman's cheek. His eyelids fluttered but there was no other response.

Jack crouched down. "Is he…?"

"No." Toothiana shook her head. "But he's in a bad way. We need to get him to North and fast."

"Nothing faster than my tunnels." The Tooth Fairy and Jack started when Bunny landed beside them.

"What are you doing here?" Jack looked around. "Where are the nightmares?"

"Gave 'em the slip." Bunny smirked. "Don't know if you noticed, mate but they were a little on the fat side. Must not have been getting any exercise while they were gorging themselves on…" the Pooka finally noticed Pitch. "Crikey! He looks awful."

It was true. Pitch's face was drawn tight with pain. There were scars and scratches across the Nightmare King's face and the flesh was scraped away where the nightmares' extra "mouths" had attached themselves to his skin.

Toothiana examined Pitch's face and touched it gently. "These must have been from when he was dragged down here." Tooth commented as a way of breaking the silence. "Shouldn't they have healed?"

"Not if he didn't have enough strength left to do it." Bunny frowned. "Nightmares must have started chowin' down the second they landed. Eight years of this. Unable to heal himself and unable to die. Can't think of a worse hell."

Jack chewed on the inside of his cheek. "We should head back to North's."

Everything hurt.

"Pitch? I told you to bring him back unharmed!"

Everything hurts.

"Hey, hey, hey! We didn't do this! The nightmares did!"

Make it stop.

"Clear a bed and push it into the main chamber. Manny's light should undo damage."

No. No more.

"Oh my gosh! Guys! I think he's starting to come to!"

Please no more! Stop it!

"Bloody hell! He's puttin' up quite the fight for somebody who looks like he's on death's door!"

Stop it! Stop it!

"Pitch, it's us! We're not trying to hurt you."

No more! Stop it! No more pain! No! No! No!

"He doesn't understand. Sandy, knock him out."


North paced impatiently. Pitch was being bathed in Man in the Moon's silver light. The Guardian of Wonder didn't know what he expected when he requested the others retrieve the Nightmare King. Eight years had passed without so much of a peep from their enemy and they had all thought it was a good thing, but…

Pitch deserved to be punished that much was true, but not like this. Eight years. It could have gone on for many more. One of the elves jingled next to him. It carried a platter of cookies and smiled up hopefully at him. North smiled down at it and took one, but didn't eat it. He was still watching Pitch. When Sandman had been forced to use his dreamsand, he noticed that the image formed from Pitch's dream was that of a little girl. "Who was she?" he wondered aloud. A sister like Jack's perhaps?

Man in the Moon's light started to withdraw. North went over to Pitch's bed and studied him. Most of the feeding marks were already healed and the others would soon follow suit. "Phil," he called to the dark brown yeti. "Have the elves to prepare a room for him, I have preparations to make."

Pitch groaned as he rolled over. Where am I, he sat up and looked around. Certainly not in his lair, that was for sure. This place was too warm. Too bright. Too sweet. He could hear the sounds of growls and hammering. Oh fantastic. He was in North's Ice Palace. Though he was loathed to leave the softest bed he'd ever had the pleasure of sleeping on, Pitch knew that it was best not to delay the inevitable. There had to be a reason he was here and not being eaten alive by his nightmares and if he wanted that reason he'd have to face the Guardians. Pitch placed his feet on the cold wooden floor. The Boogieman looked down. Frowning, he reached back towards the bed for its thick woolen cover. Wrapping the blanket around his waist, Pitch fumed quietly. Who had the gall to undress him? Pitch squared his shoulders then threw open the door. The hallway led out to the workshop. The second the yetis and elves saw him all work came to a halt. Pitch sneered, "Take me to your master."

Two yetis ushered him through a door. North had been speaking with Tooth and Bunny while Jack lounged on the table watching as the Sandman dozed beside him. Sandy had to be nudged awake and he blinked in confusion upon spotting Pitch. They all looked visibly shaken to see Pitch up and about.

"Ah, Pitch." North stepped forward. "So good to see that you are better."

Pitch didn't answer. He studied each of his enemies one by one, trying to gauge who could tell him what. The Boogieman settled on a direct approach. "Why am I here?" he turned to North.

"Ah yes, you would be wanting explanation." North clapped his hands. "But first, fruitcake?" he displayed the platter. Pitch's lip curled. Santa sighed and tossed the plate away. No one ever wants fruitcake. "Very well. You were brought here in hopes of redemption." North explained. "The Man in the Moon has decided that maybe you can learn the error of your ways."

Pitch was taken aback by this. Redeemed? "I don't want your bloody redemption!" he snarled. "I want power and to be believed in!"

"Well, you can't have it." Bunny snapped. "Look, here's the deal. You can either stay up here where we can keep an eye on you or you can go back to your little hole in the ground. Man in the Moon is trying to give a second chance."

Pitch stared at the rabbit. He couldn't go back. Not with the nightmares waiting for him. "What are the terms of this…agreement?"

"You would stay here." North told him. "Working to repair the damage you did when you try to destroy us. You are still meant to be punished but Manny believes that isolating you was too harsh. "

Pitch's lips thinned. Harsh was an understatement.

"We can't risk you corrupting anything or trying to take over again." Tooth fluttered forward. She held a box in her hands and she gave it to North. He opened it and displayed two thick gold bracelets etched with strange runes.

Pitch glanced at them. He lifted one of the bracelets so he could examine it closely. "And these would be?"

The Guardians looked almost...ashamed. "You wear these to dampen your powers." North said finally.

"Dampen my…? No!" Pitch dropped the jewelry like it burned him, reeling backwards and almost tripped over the blanket around his waist. "I see this for what it is!" he spat. "You mean to tame me! Good little Pitch! Harmless Pitch! I won't let you take my powers! It's all I have!" his voice broke at the end and he cursed his weakness.

"It wouldn't be forever." Tooth tried to console him. "If you prove yourself we'll have them removed. And," she added quickly. "It's just your ability to create the nightmares and your shadow control."

"Oh! Is that all? Silly me!" The Nightmare King wanted to throw their offer back into their smug faces. It wasn't enough that they had ruined his one chance to be someone again, but now this! This was just too much. Pitch took several calming breaths. He glanced at Sandman and was enraged to see pity in the little man's eyes. "So let me get this straight. I refuse your offer and you send me back?" he put his arms behind his back and clasped his hands. Pitch's face was calm. "I assume you saw what awaits me. You had to, seeing as you were the ones who took me away from it." He started walking around North. "And you're saying that if I don't agree to this…farce," Pitch spat. "You'll knowingly send me back? Am I supposed to believe that?"

Bunnymund was in front of him in a second. He grabbed the Pitch behind the neck and yanked him forward. "You tried to kill us." He hissed. "You tried to ruin all that we stood for and you tried to hurt the children that we've sworn to protect." The Pooka's eyes flashed. "Either take the deal and put on the bracelets or I'll drag you back and toss you to your mares myself!"

Pitch's eyes widened. "I think you truly mean that." He said softly.

"You better believe it." The Easter Bunny snorted and released him.

Pitch rubbed the back of his neck where Bunny's claws had pricked him. "Very well." He turned back to North. The Nightmare King held out his arms. North wasn't satisfied and he signaled for a yeti. The yeti tied a scarf around Pitch's eyes. "What is this for?"

"Bracelets have to be locked with key. Key must be hidden." North said to him. "You're doing the right thing, Pitch." He whispered. He placed the box in Phil's hands and removed the bracelets.

Pitch kept silent, but they could see tears starting to trail down his face. He almost jumped when he felt the cold metal touch his skin. "Easy now." North murmured, as if he were talking to one of his reindeer. The bracelet's twin clamped down onto his other wrist. "The key," he heard North order.

North locked the bracelets into place and handed it back to an elf that ran off with it to who knows where. "It is done." He sounded tired.

Pitch's eyes were uncovered. The bracelets glittered under the light. "That's it?" he scoffed. "I was expecting—" he screamed as a searing pain shot up his arms. "What is this?" Pitch demanded. Trickery! Oh, he should have known better than to trust these fools! Pitch fell to his knees, screaming in agony. The Guardians were rooted to the spot, unsure of how to help. There was no need. As quickly as the pain had started it ended, the heat bled down his arms and back into the bracelets. Pitch's chest heaved; his brow was drenched in sweat, his bottom lip bled from where he bit it in an effort to stifle his screams, and his whole body trembled. He stared down at the bracelets and noticed that the carved runes were dyed black. His powers, locked away in these insignificant little trinkets.

So that's it, he chuckled sadly. That's the end of old Pitch. Pitch swallowed. He ignored North's helping hand and trudged back to his room.

The Guardians all sighed with relief. "What would we have done if he said no?" Tooth asked as soon as Pitch was gone.

"He wouldn't have." Bunnymund replied. "He couldn't risk going back to that."

"Yes," Tooth pressed. "But what if he had?"

The Pooka frowned. "Well, we would have been right buggered. I mean, you did seal up Pitch's tunnel right, Sandy?"

The Sandman nodded. Now that their one food source was gone there was a chance that the nightmares would move out in search of more fear to feed on. The hope was that with enough time they would eventually starve to death.

"Never pegged you for an actor, Bunny." Jack smirked.

Bunnymund looked over at him. "There's a lot you don't know about me, Snowflake."

Jack's cheeks flushed and he rolled his eyes heavenward. "Anyway, the important thing is that it worked and Pitch is here. Now we just have to see if it has any effect."

"For the sake of the children, I hope that it does." North said quietly.

North knocked on Pitch's door. It had to be him as the yetis weren't brave enough to risk it given his current mood. Pitch crawled out of bed and donned his blanket. "What is it?" the Boogieman knew he sounded churlish but he was past caring.

"I had yetis repair your clothes." North handed Pitch his folded cloak and leggings. "There was a considerable amount of damage."

"Yes." Pitch's tone was even. "The nightmares found that they inhibited their ability to reach my flesh, so they tore at them. If that's all." He moved to shut the door.

"Eh," North maneuvered his bulk and pushed his way inside. "I wanted to bring up the subject of your chores."

"Chores?" Pitch could feel the rage bubbling inside of him. "You expect me to do chores?"

"Da." North took the Nightmare King by the arm and led him out of his room. Pitch tried to dig his heels into floor, but North was too strong. He ignored the quizzical stares and whispers in their direction as Santa dragged him through the workshop. They stopped a few feet down from the door of North's office. They stood before a wooden plaque nailed to the wall. Under the plaque was bowl-shaped holder. "This is you." North tapped a wooden figurine of Pitch complete with a scowling visage.

Pitch smirked. "Appropriate."

North smiled, choosing to take that as a compliment. "I thought so." He reached into his coat and pulled out a white disk the size of a half dollar. He showed it to Pitch. Sweep hallways, was written across it. He plopped the disk into the holder. "Every morning you must check here to see what must be done."

Pitch sneered. "I'm to be your servant then? Your scullery maid. Sweeping floors like a good little peasant." he snarled. "Shall I wash your knickers as well?"

North looked confused, obviously not picking up on the sarcasm. "No, I wash those. You just do what is put in bowl."

Pitch seethed. He tore at his hair. "You listen to me, fat man." He jabbed a finger under North's nose. "I am the Nightmare King! The Boogeyman! I don't sweep. I don't do chores! That is beneath me."

North shoved Pitch against the wall. He leaned down to look the Boogeyman in his frightened gold eyes. "You are Boogeyman, yes. Nightmare King, not so much. Your subjects turned on you. We want to help you. Let us." He clapped his paw of a hand onto Pitch's shoulder. "Chores may be beneath you, but you will do them. Even Jack helps out when he stays over."

Pitch frowned. "And if I refuse? Let me guess. You'll send me back to the nightmares."

"Nyet. I just won't feed you." North smiled. "You are not guest. You are part of my household and so you will work." He took a step back. North pointed back at the board. "If it is in bowl, you do it. End of story. Now, go get rest. Your day starts early tomorrow."

Pitch stalked back to his room, anger and displeasure rolling off him. The bastards. The freaks! They think they can just order me around like this? He slammed his door and slumped down onto his bed. I refuse to be treated like some insignificant— His eyes suddenly fell to his wrists where two still-healing wounds were visible under the bracelets. Pitch closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the headboard. What could he even do? He was no threat and they all knew it. They're probably all laughing at me. Patting themselves on the backs for a job well done. To hell with them all.

And it was then Pitch considered another scenario. The Guardians were hoping that he would fail. They were just itching to send him back to cave to be devoured by the nightmares. That was what these silly chores and bracelets were really about. They think that they can break me. Pitch bared his teeth in a snarl. I'll show them. They can't break me. I'm stronger than them.

There was a knock on the door. Pitch shot up and walked over to it. He threw it open. "Now listen here—" Pitch blinked. There was no one there. Or so he thought. Pitch looked down when he felt a tug on his covering.

Sandman smiled up at him and waved. He pointed to the top of his head. A small axe formed. It was placed inside what looked like a grave and covered with a mound of dirt. Sandy held out his hand.

Pitch's eyes hardened. He stepped back; his eyes never leaving Sandy's and slammed the door as hard as possible.

Sandman sighed and floated away, a disappointed look on his face.

It was one of the elves that came up with the idea. He had noticed North putting a disk into Pitch's chore chart. He also noticed that whenever Pitch saw what was on it he would scowl, but immediately go off and do it. So he told the other elves, they snuck into North's office, and they began writing down other chores for Pitch to do. Their chores.

It wasn't a bad thing, they reasoned. The Boogeyman was supposed to be helping and he was supposed to be punished. So why not add more?

One day, one of the yetis spotted what the elves were doing. He supposed that he should tell North about it, but then he had an even better idea. The yetis could get to bed earlier if they didn't have to sweep the workshop at night. If they could get to bed earlier they could wake up earlier and make even more toys. So, the yeti wrote down Sweep Workshop and placed it inside the holder.

Pitch woke the next morning and made his way to his chore board. One week. He'd been stuck here for a week. It was humiliating the things he had to do. Dishes, mopping—dusting! It was almost unbearable, but Pitch did it anyway just to prove that he could.

Pitch came to a halt. Usually, North only placed one or two disks inside, but today his chore board was filled to the brim. Pitch almost screamed he was so angry, but he controlled himself. This is obviously their doing. He decided. The Boogeyman narrowed eyes. Yes, that made sense. North expected him to complain; to give him a reason to send Pitch back to the nightmares. "They won't break me." Pitch whispered. "They won't."

Bunnymund usually stuck to his Warren once Easter was gone, but he found himself hanging around North's shop more these days. He scratched at his ear as he warmed himself by the fire. Hopping through the castle Bunny saw Pitch hard at work scrubbing the floor, above the Boogieman, floated Jack who was earbashing the poor bloke while he worked. The Pooka cleared his throat. "Jack, why don't go grab a bikkie from the kitchen. They have those purple frosted ones ya like."

Jack shrugged and left. Bunny settled into a seat and stared at Pitch. "Don't I even get a 'thank you'?" he asked Pitch.

"I don't have time to muck about with you, rabbit. I have too much to do."

Bunny rolled his eyes and shifted his position in the chair. "I gotta say I'm surprised you're doin all this. I was expectin' more whingeing from ya."

Pitch ignored him. The Pooka pulled out an egg and started painting on it. He could see why Jack had been yakking. With the Boogeyman working there was a need to fill the silence. "I don't get what your problem is, mate. You could stand to be a bit grateful."

Pitch slipped the brush back into the water before putting it back to the floor. "Yes, grateful." His tone dripped with venom. "Forgive me, it must be the stench of cleaning products, but what exactly am I supposed to be grateful for?"

Bunnymund leaned forward. He jabbed his paintbrush at the King of Nightmares. "For starters, you should happy you're not tucker for those nightmares. And you should be glad that North was nice enough to give ya a place to stay." He leaned back in the chair and went back to painting. "Tooth and I both said no to that. Hurt or not you're still a psychopath."

That got Pitch to acknowledge him. "I never asked for your kindness. I didn't ask for your bleeding charity! I was doing fine on my own!"

The Pooka laughed at that. "Right! We all saw how well you were doin'!"

Pitch ground his teeth. He didn't have time for this. "Why don't you just leave? I'm busy and I'm sure that you'd probably prefer eye-banging Frost while he's not looking."

Bunny's fur ruffled. "W-what did you just say?" he hopped down.

Pitch smiled innocently. "I think you heard me. Does the little ice elf know you want to shag him?"

"You must like cheesing me off, Pitch." Bunny ground his teeth. "But I'm better than this." He turned to leave. As he approached the door he saw a bucket of coal. North kept them all over the place for some reason. Bunny tipped it over and the coals skittered across the clean floor. "Looks like you missed a spot."

North stretched. He had finished carving seventy new toy designs for the yetis and he was in need of a break. Turning off his record player, he took the remaining cookie off of the platter on his desk and walked out of his office. He nodded at the yetis, hard at work with the toys. North dodged the elves, cursing them quietly for being underboot again. Nicholas North made his way to the kitchen to get a glass of milk or something else to wash the taste of that last cookie of his mouth (why did it taste like spit?) and was greeted by the sight of Pitch scrubbing furiously at a cast iron pot. "Good day," he called in greeting to the Nightmare King. "Hard at work I see. Good, good." North turned to the cupboards to seek a cup, missing the look of contempt that passed over Pitch's face. "You know, Pitch." North said when he turned back. "The others are coming over this evening. You are free to join us."

Pitch kept his eyes on his work. What had the yetis cooked in here last night? Tar? "I'd rather not." He answered. "I suspect I'll go to bed after dinner."

North frowned. The Boogeyman always seemed to go bed after the evening meal. North chuckled, an attempt to mask his frustration. "Come now. You can go to bed later. Socialize. Be part of group!"

Pitch stood and took the pot over to the tap. Maybe if he soaked it whatever gunk was caked inside would break free. "I don't recall socializing being part of the deal."

"It would do you good." North tried.

"I'm not interested. Besides," Pitch dried his hands. "I'm usually too tired."

North threw back his head and laughed. "From doing a few chores? That is good one. That is funny!" He wiped a tear of mirth away. When he looked at Pitch what he saw, made the Guardian step back.

The Boogeyman's eyes flashed and his nostrils flared with barely contained anger. "I'm a joke to you?" he spat at North. "A few chores? Is that supposed to be funny? Forgive me if I fail to see the humor in the situation." Pitch grabbed the scrub brush and threw it back under the sink. "If you'll excuse me, I have more work to do, but you have fun at your little get together. Tell you what, I'll make sure that the silver gleams for you and your guests!" he elbowed past North and stalked out the kitchen.

Later that evening North recalled the situation to his friends. "You have to give him time," Tooth gave his hand a pat. "He has to get used to all of this. Pitch needs time to adjust."

Bunny snorted and nibbled on a cookie. "And maybe when he does he'll join us for tea and biscuits? Tooth, even if Pitch 'adjusts' what then? He'll never be a Guardian and he'll never forgive us for binding his powers." Bunnymund looked at North. "Just be grateful he hasn't poisoned your food."

There was an awkward pause as more than one pair of eyes examined their drinks and snacks.

North frowned. "I try to include him because whole mess started because he felt alone, but now he is doing it on purpose."

"You're doing it wrong." Everyone looked at Jack. The ice elf shrugged. "Pitch probably thinks that the reason you're so keen to hang with him is because Manny told you to. He probably sees it as yet another way for us to keep tabs on him."

Nicholas let out a frustrated growl. "I am not trying to keep tabs on him! I am trying to befriend him. I am trying to show him that he does not need to feel like this is punishment."

Jack frowned. "North, this is a punishment."

"Well, yes," North floundered. "But what I mean is—" he was saved from having to explain by a raucous commotion coming from the workshop. "Now what?" North hefted himself out his chair.

The others followed him out of curiosity. Tooth fluttered by North's shoulder. "Maybe one of the yetis got its fur caught in a toy's gears again?" she suggested.

"That only happened once." North looked around. "What is it?" he asked the yetis. "What is going on?"

One of them was pushed forward and it quickly yammered something. North's sapphire blues widened. He threw back his head and whooped. "Yetis reached halfway quota early!"

Sandman, Bunnymund and Tooth all applauded. Jack looked confused. "What does that mean?"

"It means they made the amount of presents it usually takes six months to make and they did it earlier than usual." Tooth grinned. "It's only happened two other times. Oh, I'm so proud of you all!" her baby tooth fairies squeaked their approval as well.

"Not only did they reach it, but they made so many that we are now ahead of schedule! This calls for celebration!" North jabbed a finger in the air. The yetis looked at him with anticipation gleaming in their eyes. He waved at them. "Yes, yes! Break out the Yeti-Wine."

That was met with a resounding cheer from the yetis that lumbered off to retrieve their goods. Jack looked at Bunnymund and noticed the Pooka looked alarmed. "What's Yeti-Wine?"

The Easter Bunny scowled. "An evil drink."

"Bunny!" The Tooth Fairy chastised. "It's a beverage that the Yetis mix up."

"Very alcoholic," North put in. "I don't usually let them have it because next day they are useless." He made a face. "Is why I give them next day off to recuperate." North's eyes twinkled. "Would anyone like a glass?"

Tooth visibly paled. "Oh dear." her feathers fluffed out. "Would you look at the time? I should be on my way back to my palace. So many teeth to gather."

North grabbed her by the arm. "Come on, Toothiana," he coaxed. "One glass will not hurt."

"Don't believe him." Bunnymund growled. "That's the devil's grog he's tryin' to push down your throat."

Tooth's brows knitted. "I was only supposed to stay for a bit. Have snack, chat with you guys, check on things," she said nervously.

North's smile widened. "One. Glass."

Toothiana sighed. "Oh alright. One glass but no more! I can't be flying all willy-nilly."

"Excellent!" North cheered. "Anyone else? Sandy?" the little man nodded, hesitantly, a number 1 flashed over his head. "Good!"

"I want some." Jack announced.

"You what? North, no!" Bunnymund had to put his foot down. "He's just a kid!"

"He's standing right here." Frost frowned. "And I'm over 300 years old!"

"Right! Practically a baby!" Easter Bunny snapped.

"Oh, Bunny. Let Jack have a little fun." Tooth giggled.

The yetis burst back into the workshop carrying large barrels on their great, furry shoulders. The elves scampered around, handing out crystals goblets to everyone.

Easter Bunny groaned as he took one. "This is going to end in tragedy."

"Come on, Kangaroo." Jack teased. "Lighten up."

"Says the bloke who never had to suffer through a Yeti-Wine hangover before."

The ice elf looked at him quizzically. "You've had it before."

"Yep. Last time the yetis reached the Quota. Five hundred years ago."

"And you still remember it?"

Bunnymund grimaced. "Pain like that sticks in your mind."

Soon the wine was flowing and North watched happily as his friends talked about the last time they had it. Noticing movement out of the corner of his eye, North spotted a bedraggled looking Pitch walking pass. "Pitch!" he boomed. The Boogeyman practically jumped. "Share some wine with us. Come. Be part of group."

Pitch sneered. He eyed the gathering distastefully. "I'm going to bed."

"Have a drink." North persisted. He had a smile on his face, but his tone said there was no room open for discussion. "Sit."

Pitch narrowed his eyes. "I'm going to bed." His tone was equally firm.

"You will sit."



"Bed!" and with that he was gone.

North gaped in astonishment. Next to him, Bunnymund was finishing his first glass. "You can't win 'em all, North."

With a look of determination, North got to his feet and grabbed two pitchers. He filled them with the Yeti-Wine, balanced two goblets and marched in the direction of Pitch's room.

The Easter Bunny sighed. "Tragedy," he repeated solemnly as he poured another glass.

Pitch was just about to pull down the covers when North barged into his room. The Boogeyman's eyes went comically wide before he slipped back behind a mask of condescension and disapproval. "Is this going to be a common occurrence?" he sat down. "You barging into my room like you own the place?"

North arched a bushy eyebrow. "I do own place." He pointed out. The Guardian of Wonder used his hip to nudge Pitch further down and placed the wine and goblets on the bedside table. He handed Pitch a goblet who in turn just stared at it. "You will drink with me." North told him and he moved to fill the Nightmare King's cup.

Pitch moved away. "I don't think so." He frowned.

North frowned and moved to take a firm hold on the other spirit's wrist. He filled the goblet to the brim and then poured one for himself. "Drink."

Pitch stared down into his cup, twirling the liquid contents. "What is this?" It was probably poisoned. There was no way he'd drink before North.

North seemed to guess why he was hesitating. He took a big gulp from his own glass and smiled, brightly. "Yeti-wine. Is good, yes?"

Pitch sighed. He knew there was no way out of this. Maybe if he finished this swill North would get bored and leave. The Yeti-wine was a deep, ruby red and smelled sweet. Pitch sniffed it and brought the goblet closer to his lips. He took a careful sip. His golden eyes went wide.

North puffed with pride. "Is good, yes?" he asked again.

"Yes," was Pitch's amazed reply. "You say the yetis made this?"

North nodded and topped off his glass. "Da. They make it themselves."

"Hard to believe." Pitch muttered before taking another drink. He closed his eyes and savored the taste. Yeti-wine was like fire and silk. Sweet but not too cloying, it warmed Pitch down to his toes. "May I have more?"

North was more than happy to oblige and he practically grinned as he poured the Boogieman a refill.

Pitch deep into his third cup and North was into his fifth by the time they started conversing. North was leaning against Pitch's headboard while the Nightmare King spoke. "I really made a mess of things, didn't I?" Pitch slurred.

"You just wanted to be believed in." North told him and helped himself to more wine. "You just went about it wrong."

Pitch nodded glumly. "You don't know what it's like." He whispered. "Working so hard and knowing that no one will acknowledge it. I was so tired of living in the dark. So tired of being…alone." Pitch held up his cup. North poured more wine and some of it sloshed over the side and onto the floor. They both looked at the red puddle and giggled. Pitch frowned. "You don't know how lonely it was. None of you do. You have the elves and yetis. Toothiana has her mini-fairies and the rabbit has those," Pitch frowned. "Egg…things I suppose."

North snorted. "They would not be so good for conversation, I think."

Pitch grinned. "I suppose not." He pressed his forehead against North's arm. "Thank you," he whispered, "for saving me. You could have just left me down there and no one would have been the wiser. No one would have cared. The world would have kept spinning. I thought that Frost…he was so like me. No one believed in him either. I thought he would join me." Pitch smiled sadly. "We didn't have to be alone anymore. We could have been a family. I just wanted a family…" he took another drink.

"You have potential to be good person, Pitch." North placed an arm around the Nightmare King's shoulders and pulled him into a side-hug. Pitch snorted dismissively. North shook his head. "Is true!" he protested. "You want what we all want. Companionship and to be believed in, but you just wanted to get it in the wrong way."

Pitch looked at him. His eyes were shining from unshed tears. "Forgive me," Pitch rubbed his fists into his eyes. "I believe this wine is making me maudlin."

North gave him a pat on the back. "You don't have to be alone anymore." He made a sweeping gesture with his hand. "This can be your home. We can be your friends. We can be your family."

Pitch stared at the Guardian for a moment, looking into North's sapphire blue eyes as if he were searching for something. He leaned up and kissed North gently. Pitch sat back and blinked in a daze as North stared at him in shock. "I'm sorry." He spluttered. "I have no idea why I—mmph!" North had quickly closed the distance between them and pulled Pitch flush against his body. Pitch closed his eyes and returned the kiss hungrily. North smelled of cookies and the Nightmare King found the scent comforting. His large body was so incredibly warm and powerful arms wrapped themselves around Pitch's middle.

North could taste the wine on Pitch's tongue as he sucked on it gently. The Boogeyman moaned quietly and broke away to suck in a big gulp of air. North took the opportunity to attack the vulnerable gray flesh of his neck, sucking and nipping. Pitch moaned and threaded his fingers in North's white hair, tugging gently. The Guardian chuckled before moving his kisses up and back in the direction of the Boogeyman's lips. He nudged Pitch backwards until the Nightmare King was lying back against his pillow. North's hand played along Pitch's chest, slipping inside his cloak to tease over the nipple inside, before slipping out and continuing further down where it massaged Pitch's growing bulge. North soon grew tired of that and slipped his hand inside Pitch's trousers, gripping and stroking the hardened treasure inside.

Not to be outdone, Pitch turned his body slightly so that his back was to North's chest and stomach and pressed back against North's arousal. He rubbed against it and smiled when it elicited a moan from the Guardian. Pitch swallowed a cry when North tightened his hold. They stayed like that, North rutting against Pitch as the Boogeyman thrust into his palm. North's warm breath puffed over his ear. Almost there, Pitch groaned. Just a little more. Just…a… "By the Moon!" Pitch cried out. His seed spurted over North's hand. The Guardian of Wonder moaned huskily in Russian as his hips jerked against Pitch's thigh. North fell back onto the bed with a satisfied grunt. Pitch had to nestle in close since the Guardian was taking up most of the bed. He looped an arm around North's belly and rubbed his cheek against the soft red shirt. North chuckled and placed a possessive arm around the Boogeyman.

The rest of the Yeti-wine set forgotten on the table as both the Nightmare King and North drifted off to sleep.