Luna: Eeek, well I can forgive you all for pointing loaded rifles at my head. I have been stuck under massive writers block but I did my best to break it, writing prompts and snippets for my Tumblr peeps to try and keep myself inspired! So I'm sorry! And I make it up to you with over 11 pages of crazy. Feel free to yell at me in my review box~

This chapter is inspired by 'Fear and Loathing' by Marina and the Diamonds.

I've lived a lot of different lives
Been different people many times
I live my life in bitterness
And fill my head with emptiness

Got different people inside my head
I wonder which one that they like best
I'm done with trying to have it all
And ending up with not much at all.

III

NO LIGHT, NO LIGHT

III

Jack was not entirely sure what happened when his eyes opened again. Or he thought they were open. The water had been dark, pressing down from all sides like a thick tar of gravity turned solid around him, content to wash over him and leave him beneath. In the gloom and the oppressing weight of water, he could do nothing but silently panic. Jamie had disappeared, his lungs had filled to the point of bursting and there was nothing he could do to convince his limbs to propel him in the direction of air. There was no light to see by, and though the water stung his eyes he did not close them again. Someone else was there. Someone small, and familiarity rang in his head like brass bells, but all he could distinguish in that endless black was the small silhouette of a young girl draped in shadow reaching towards him from the dark, her eyes wider and brighter than the glittering gold of dreamsand. It hurt to look. He couldn't keep looking. The water glimmered with the light, refracting prisms everywhere as she drew closer and he closed his eyes again as cold hands cupped his face.

Time seemed to jump. One moment he was beneath the surface of the lake, the next, he was floating above it, some mixed up videotape memory of pressing the ice to breaking point and the wind cradling him in her gentle arms skipping like fingerprinted celluloid in his head. Nothing made sense. A new stirring in him coaxed the water free of his lungs, and it trickled from his mouth in steady pulses, freezing to the cold skin of his neck as he looked out over the frozen grounds with dispassionate eyes. They were a clustered group of misfits, those that watched him from the frosted clumps of wilting grass by the lake, a small girl gazing up with a hopeful glow of light across her rounded face and a boy curled into her as if she were, and she was, the only radiance left in the world. And...

That black cauldron of churning writhing shadows with a coaxing voice offering comfort in steady whispers. The Nightmare King. The name sent his insides into a frenzy, a need to be near, to leech into that overflowing tap of power and sap it clean that he had never really felt before. There was adoration there, hidden inside the fingers-crossed promises and the grandeur. Pitch Black, a man of feeling? It was enough to curl the corner of his mouth in a mocking smile. Such sentiment. Such exploitable weakness. Jack was repulsed by the thoughts that crept across the surface of his mind on scurrying legs like tiny spiders but still they came forth. Get close, enchant, draw the shadows in and take them with greedy fingers. So many voices that compelled him for actions that made no sense. Why would he want that?

He was touching ground before he had even voiced the need, unable to recall the descent and the grass, though frozen stiff seemed to bend away from him as though he was poisonous as he moved towards Pitch, a riot in his chest that screamed to reach out and drag the Shadowmancer beneath him, to stake claim, to tear every last ounce of his power away and swallow it down. Pitch was a menace. Too many of this own thoughts. Too many desires that overwhelmed reason. Too much chaos in the order of the shadows reign. Jack licked at the insides of his dry mouth with a cold tongue. Those were not his thoughts and yet he moved closer, hungry. Hungry for what?

His eyes travelled, a soft growling too muted to hear rattling in his throat as he looked upon the two human children again. Sophie. That was her name. How could he forget? Bedraggled and dirty as she was, her skin seemed to glow. There was something there that if he stared hard enough, seemed to surround her like a little halo emanating from her like she was a star in a black void, the only source of light. Jamie lay in her arms, seemingly in pain and he wondered why, or he tried. It was as if a hush fell over the world, no words in his ears even as he saw Sophie's mouth moving but he couldn't move his eyes from Jamie's shaking form and the whispering in his mind rose to a cacophony of sound. Take him. He has what you need. There are more of us. We want to have you. We want to love you and lead you. We must be completed. And he could feel the brush of his tongue against the back of his teeth as he spoke but the sound escaped him, as if it had been stolen from his lips as he dared to mouth the words. Sophie's eyes were round marbles, mirrors he could see himself in and... was that him? That dark waif-like figure that seemed to threaten with his offered hand rather than protect?

"Finish the job, Jack. There is little left to stop you."

Pitch's voice over his shoulder cultivated a sharp ache in his chest that he tried to breathe past but it felt like rock, immovable and solid and the anger that rose in him sifted through it like it was nothing but sand. Why was he so hungry? There was no room. His body seemed far too small all of a sudden, over-full as if he were one person in a crowded space with no door to lead him out and the way his face moved, muscles shifting without his motion to do so, frightened him so deeply that the tingle beneath his skin purred in languid bliss. What was that? What was happening?

"We did not ask for your opinion."

And everything was black, too dark to see through and the echoes of that distorted voice made him shiver. Something warm pressed against his waist, long fingers clawed and dark against the pallor of his skin and Jack was more than aware of how naked he was without his hoodie. Where did that even go? His breath came in gasps that poured out of his mouth in mist as more of the dark creatures slinked around him, and where was the lake? Pitch was right there, just behind him... or he was but where did he go? And there was no ground, his feet hanging idly, suspended as he was in the Void.

'You think too much.'

'Don't fight.'

'We will protect you.'

The voices rose and ebbed with his harried breaths and he struggled to find a way out, a light, a sign but there was nothing in the black and he could not move, more clawed hands coming to encase him in their grip, gentle, claws making no mark upon him as they held him still and he could hear Sophie yelling, could hear her desperation in the questions she threw at him, and he tried to grasp them tightly, to use them as rope to pull himself out of the black but the hands help on, grip tightening to the point where beneath the numbness and the slick of black hands, he could feel a deep sense of wrong that hurt so deeply there was no way to voice it.

"You must take that which you lack to feel whole."

Pitch's voice seemed to meld into the shadows and the creatures inside of him writhed in agreement. Take it, they urged, the boy, the believer, he has what you need, take it-

Jack screamed. Wrapped his arms around his head, tucked himself into as tight a ball as he could manage and he screamed as if he could cast out whatever it was that burned through him. There were shadows inside him, leaking out from the sand that coursed through his veins. Jamie. Jamie had been taken under Pitch's wing, distorted, fed shadows until his purity had melted away like so much frost on a summer's day. Jamie, who had been rinsed clean in the lake with the hope of his own untainted memories. Jack felt dizzy and sick as the shadows clung to him, weighting him down and he felt the lake-water all around him again, suffocating and intense and he dared open his mouth one last time to scream, to fend off whatever it was that clung to him and sucked at his strength when he was interrupted by the last thing he expected.

"Jack?"

It was a soft voice. One he knew once upon a dream. One that he had not heard in over three hundred years with his own ears and as he looked up from the wooden table he lay face down upon, his hands unravelled from his hair, scalp tingling hotly at the abuse only to gaze into the warm brown eyes of his little sister. Emma was looking at him in the simplest of ways, her chestnut hair tumbling over her shoulders as she squinted at him, her voice echoing only a little as she tilted her head, "Are you alright? You look funny."

He couldn't even speak. Emma was dead. She was. It had been centuries. His memories...

But her face was perfect. The beauty mark that laced itself beneath her eye, the sway of her hair and the way her cheeks bunched as she smiled. She was almost too perfect. And the table beneath his hands was hard as he stared down past the mostly empty plate before him, able to pick out knots in the woodwork of it with his fingers. He could feel himself sat in a rickety chair, and the room around him was warm, soft candlelight darkening the tan across the backs of his hands. Tan? His skin hadn't held colour in centuries. Hadn't he been trapped in the Void? What was this?

"Jack, honey, eat your bread."

His head turned faster than he intended, vision blurring in a dizzy cartwheel of spinning before he managed to focus on the woman sat beside him. Mother. And though her face had been just a blur the last time he had seen it, a lack of patience and a child's excitement as Emma had tugged him towards the frozen lake so he could teach her how to skate, her face was vivid to him now. The upturn of her small nose, the wearied lines creasing out from her warm eyes and the worried purse of her mouth. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out and she offered him a tired smile, her short hair choppy and uneven, as if it had been hacked at with a blunt knife.

"I tore my favourite dress today." Emma's bright voice seemed to brush off the strange reactions of her brother, drawing both elder Overland's attention and she tipped her chair back on two legs from the table, kicking her feet with enthusiasm as their mother shot her a disparaging look, "Climbing trees. And Jack ripped his shirt but he didn't want to tell you."

A smile overtook his lips unbidden and Jack let out a muffled laugh, "You little sneak. You promised you wouldn't say anything." And Emma's smile seemed wrong somehow, the little quirk of her mouth before she grinned so cynical that it looked alien on her.

"We can fix them both. Momma can teach us how..."

"Oh honey, we won't have enough thread for the both of you. We can fix your dress. I'm sure Jack won't mind." Mrs Overland reached over to pat Emma's hand where it lay limp on the table, urging her in quiet tones to settle all four legs of her chair back on the ground and in the distraction, Jack shifted the small pieces of bread he had left from his plate to Emma's. She never seemed to get enough food. Growing girls needed it, especially Emma. Her weak immune system was not strong enough to survive the harsh colonial winters on less than a half plate of food every night.

"Sure we will! I went to the Bakers today and they gave me something special." And Emma was lifting a small sackcloth bag from the floor by her feet onto the table, dragging it over the wood as she stood from her chair and circled her mother to stand at her side, tugging at the strings with eager frustration and Jack was concerned at the bleaching of colour from their mother's face as she reached out to grab at the bag, "No, Emma-"

"We'll have plenty of thread." And Emma's eyes were black pits of the deepest nothingness Jack had ever seen, her smile far too cruel to be her own and all he wanted was to tear that bag from her fingers as she pried it open, pouring handful after handful of shorn brunette hair onto the table where it curled and spilled like ink dripping into the gaps of the wood, spreading across the table towards him. Emma was laughing, her voice a deeper, darker meld of many than he cared to hear and she sounded so like... so like the shadows that held him tightly in the Void, so like them that he couldn't bear to look away from her, much as he loved her, for fear of what they would do wearing her face.

"You," His voice was a whisper, "What have you done?"

"Jaaaccckkk~" She sang his name at him, as she had once from a memory box a decade past, in twisted and darkened voices that polluted the word, that made him hate it and he stood up from his chair fast enough to make himself cant forward as the world tilted, his mothers mortified face evaporating, the room around them watered down into the velvet thick black that held him before but Emma was still there, a familiar silhouette as she floated towards him. The lake. She had been in the lake. She had- but it wasn't her. Emma was gone.

"Don't fight us, Jack." She reached out with pleading hands, her smile so fractured and false that the emotion in her request was tainted by it, "Don't fight me."

He yanked away, avoiding her touch only to feel another turn him away and he found his face pressed into the chest of the Nightmare King, his limbs his own but he didn't know what to do with them now that he could move them. What had just happened? Was that real? Was that a memory?

The familiar crackle of melting ice over lake-water woke up little parts of his mind like the filtering of little noises after a deep sleep, the grass beneath his feet both soft and hard and sensational and though the darkness around him was thick, it was not the Void. The familiar hum of a voice like melted chocolate eased at his senses, and he felt both brittle and indelicate all at once as Pitch's fingers soothed with difficulty through his frozen hair, doing nothing to block out the undercurrent of voices urging him to actions he could see behind his eyes as he blinked, "They're whispering, whispering, whispering..."

It was like having a circle of people vying for his attention, a prompt from every angle that persuaded and cajoled, and he, bound in the centre and unwilling to move in any direction, felt the pull from every single voice and it threatened to tear him to scraps. His hands fisted in his hair before he knew he'd even moved them. Had he moved them? He must have. They clenched tight in ice and silk and pulled hair enough to sting, but he did not stop, "They have so many voices..."

Pitch's comforting words were a lull he could not get himself to pay attention to, but the sound was soft and he lost himself in it, tilting his head back awkwardly to gaze up with unfocussed eyes at the stern features, the heavy brow that made those eyes even more golden, the aquiline nose, the long thin line of lips that moved so sensually that he couldn't help but remember their kiss in the nigh un-navigable caverns of the Lair. It hadn't been what he wanted at the time, so hot and heavy and he felt manipulated but the stir in his gut that enjoyed it rose in him now and he bit back everything in him that needed to feel that again. To sweep away the whispers and the painful thoughts and the loss and the confusion and just press his mouth to...

No, no no NO! He tried to push away. He wanted to. Something else did not, and it sifted through him like smoke, coiling high and encouraging him closer and oh god, if he could kiss that mouth. Enchant him. Draw him down into your arms and never let him go and we can take from him. Feed us...

Jack clenched his eyes shut as the whispers ate at him and he wasn't even sure which were his thoughts any more. The muted hunger swelled inside of him like an angry beast and he trembled against the taller spirit, knowing that Pitch too, would see him turn upon Jamie. Would see him rend him apart and steal the shadows that lay trapped inside of him clawing for their new vessel. The boy had not been completely swept clean in the lake, stained by those segments of few that that had no way out. At the mere thought of completion the shadows inside of him swarmed up en masse and Jack felt his eyes slit open just enough to gaze upon his meal. He's right there, helpless, waiting. It won't take much. Complete us. Draw us out. Draw us in. And he wanted. Much as he loathed himself for it, he wanted so badly to do just that. To bite and chew and swallow and feel the darkness slide down his throat. For the fight to stop. For it all to become easy again.

Sophie climbed to her feet, unsteady and nervous as she met his eyes and her fear was both palpable and dim. She was afraid, not for herself, but for her brother and it rolled out of her in waves, like lighthouse beams straight from her heart into the open air. That fear was delicious, and yet it lacked nutrition, naked and feeble compared to ones fear for their own self. This child, this little girl dared challenge him? He quite liked that. Challenge meant a fight, meant bloodied fingers and tearing teeth, and they could do that. They had not had such good spoils in years. Oh, we can teach her fear, the voices whispered.

Pitch was speaking again but Jack couldn't hear it, just the resonance of his voice, the purr of underlying menace and yes... a fission of something electric tingled along his nerves and made his mouth water. Discourage, undermine, destroy with niggling doubts and sow seeds of despair. That was the very essence of Pitch. Selfish jealousy. Practical entitlement. Give me what I want, and I may hurt you less. Play my game, and you might survive it.

Yet Sophie stood tall as an eleven year old could manage under the wrathful stare of an elder spirit, "I will not move."

The words were strong. Too strong. Too much, and Jack tried to back into the arms that held him, tried to stop himself from leaning forward as he did. The demons inside him wanted to pounce, and the urge to tear the human girl into strips was strong enough to spill over inside him and make his hands ache as he curled them into fists. No. Not Sophie. You can't. But they wouldn't listen. And the hands were on him again in the dark, hushing him quiet and soothing him to sleep, but he would not go and as he fought, more hands joined them until he couldn't see himself beneath the sea of them.

'We don't want to hurt you.'

'But we will if necessary.'

Blinding pain streaked through his head like a gun-shot, loud and fizzling as if live wires had been pressed to wet skin and Jack tumbled into the darkness as he was wrenched from control, the shadows rearing up to suck him down and all he heard before he was locked deep into the dark prison of himself were the threat of distorted whispers given strength in his voice.

"That is fine by us."

III

Tooth awoke to an unfamiliar ache in her spine, as the bones popped and her feathers ruffled, the precious warmth inside of her from the little believer she had come to think of as a dream and nothing more doubling in size and heat. Her wings fluttered, a scarce movement not even visible but the fact that she could feel the muscles twitch and her wings respond as they never had coaxed her scarred face into a timid smile. Is this what Bunny felt? Was this the strength of Hope?

She found it much easier to crawl up to the bars this time, much easier to find the strength in her legs to lift herself up and gaze at the hollow globe and upon it, (she had to look away and back again to make sure she was not seeing things) two lights blazed, one a healthy beacon, the other shuttered and flickering. Both in the same place. Both in Pennsylvania.

"Impossible." Her voice croaked out, thin and raspy and she coughed a little to clear her throat and her hands clenched that much tighter around the bars as the cage began to rattle, her crest flaring as an unexpected wash of belief swam through her small, shivering body. The Tooth Queen collapsed, eyes wide as she settled her hands to the cold floor of the cage, her feathered breast heaving as she drank in air like water and she didn't understand. What was this power? Who were these children? What was happening?

Tooth couldn't find it within herself to move, couldn't suppress the gasp that rattled out of her as the Russian Doll wobbled on its wooden base across from her, the sad downcast face gleaming just a touch healthier than it had the last time she'd looked upon it and the cage shifted again, swinging on its rusty chain as another bolt of light lit her through. Her centre seemed to spark to life within her, the warmth of memories unfolding, blossoming like a flower deprived of sunlight and suddenly awash with it. The feeling was surreal, and bursting with life and joy and...wonder.

The doll toppled to its side, rolling the small distance to hit the cage wall beside her, and the painted face upon its surface, North's face, the face of the Guardian of Wonder was looking up at her with those wonderful blue eyes.

III

After too close a call encountering both Pitch and the cluster of fearlings that festered inside of what remained of Jack, Sophie's thrilled laughter echoing in the tunnels was a sound Aster had never thought he'd hear again. It rang throughout the twist of underground mazes as a long note of sound both in front and behind them as Aster raced towards the Warren, just enough light to reflect the healthy sheen on the moss coating the curving walls as they passed and highlighting the many blooms that stretched from beneath the Pooka's feet in their wake. Aster was excited to see his home, relieved that the children that clung to his back seemed unharmed for the most part, and most of all he was grateful that he had gotten there in time.

He had Babytooth to thank for that.

When she had burst out of the darkness from the bearing of the lake, he could scarce believe his eyes. She was frantic, her twittering loud and distressed as she fluttered through the air, face twisted in a painful grimace as she forced her wings to carry her. The rumpled state of them, painstakingly smoothed by gentle hands (Sophie's no doubt) had given her enough strength to fly, but only that. She had no direction, no power and she flew low to ground, dropping to it several times as she tried to stay adrift on the breeze.

Brave little soldier.

Though he could not understand her, the point of her fingers and the pleading in her mismatched eyes were enough to tell him what her voice could not and he was quick to summon a tunnel, foot hitting ground in so familiar a way, that nostalgia flooded him for a brief moment. He had left her in a soft mossy nook well below the surface as he'd sprung up from the safety of the tunnel to find the children. She was one less thing to worry about if she was secure in the underground.

Sophie's face had brightened a great deal when he had tipped the little fairy into her hands, as if the very sun was alight beneath her skin, her smile wide enough to hurt as she tucked Babytooth against her cheek in a careful nuzzle, "Little bird, I was so worried!" And the tiny creature had pressed her palms to Sophie's face with a look of such complete adoration that Aster had seized, remembering a time when Babytooth had looked at Jack with such love. He had pushed the thoughts away quickly, sweeping a trembling Jamie, who had yet to say anything, and an elated Sophie up onto his back as he charted a mental course for home.

There would be no time to think on Jack until they were safe within the Warren.

III

Detaining the winter spirit long enough to put him under the influence of the Nightmare sand had been more struggle than Pitch had anticipated and the fact that the Rabbit had successfully snatched Jack's last puzzle piece from directly beneath his very nose irked at him with a violence he had not felt in an age. This was unacceptable.

Likely the beast had taken the brat-lings to the Warren. That one place that Pitch could not follow. Sanderson had never had a particular haven, preferring to lounge in the skies and take whatever cloud for his own. The Tooth Palace had been particularly easy to locate, the buzzard preferring climates closer to the equator. The Cossack had been ridiculously stereotypical, that or the myths about 'Santa Claus' were too close to the bone. The Warren? Legend told of the myriad of tunnels that rode the Earth's crust like veins beneath skin and though he had found the entrance to many of those tunnels, he had never found the core, the root of the system. After the Pooka had been put into Baby Bennett's cage, that hadn't seemed to matter and he cursed his oversight.

Hopefully it would not be an oversight for long. Jack had been to the Warren. It wouldn't be hard for the fearlings to extract the information concerning its whereabouts from his mind, as defensible as he was capable of making it. They were inside him now and while such a sudden administration of so many at once could prove unstable, he rather relished the surprise that came with not being able to predict Jack's movements.

Jamie had been an event that had taken time, and even then he had proven unwilling and rebellious in certain circumstances. His careful feeding of fearlings and shadows had taken over three years before the boy was stable enough to use the power granted him with enough control that he could be left unsupervised but the dedication had been necessary at the time. Jack had been the intended recipient of the possession, true, but the way in which had come about was unplanned and potentially hazardous, what with the already potent supply of untapped darkness fuelling his system. Without an anchor, there was no telling how he would react to what was inside of him.

Jack had begun to stir long before Pitch was ready for it, and why should he not? With his body as a vessel for more than a decent percentage of the Nightmare sand, his adaptation towards its strength was only a matter of time. With the added force of the severed fearlings inside of him, it was a small wonder he hadn't woken up sooner, blue eyes venomous as they looked up from where Pitch had tossed the winter spirit into the nest of dark pillows, and the Nightmare King stared him down with equal ferocity, mouth a drawn line and brow furrowed in deep shadow, "You will cease your petulance this instant."

The blackened veins that patterned down the side of Jack's face seemed to throb a solid black for a single second as he rose to his knees among the cushions, a frown across his lips so very serious that it was doubtful Jack would ever display such an expression without the shadows influence. His hands flexed at his sides, much as they had by the lake when he had longed to sink his fingers deep into Jamie Bennett to pull free the last of the darkness he'd needed to feel whole.

"We were fully capable of dealing with the Pooka." Jack's many voices seemed to echo twice as long in the caverns of the Lair and his hands fisted in the cushions as they had the first time. Pitch could not decide what was more stunning. Seeing Jack then, so wholesome in his Guardian potential, trapped beneath ground with his frustration and fear painted across the air in artistic brush strokes, or now, streaked with black and eyes like daggers as though he could reach up and pull the elder spirits centre from his chest and crush it between his snarling jaws.

"You think you were, but you were charging blindly. He could have taken you too-"

"Do not attempt to baby us, General." The voices that escaped Jack's lips were barely distinguishable as such as they clashed together in sibilant hissing and bitten out words, "We are far older than you..."

Pitch stiffened, fingers lengthening into blackened claws at his side as he fought the urge to reach out and tear the little upstart up by his throat until he begged forgiveness for ability to spit out such bold statements. It didn't matter that he knew that Jack was not the one speaking at present, but the words felt like brands against his mind, a title he had not used since he did not wish to remember when cutting strings inside him that held back his barely restrained temper, "I am not that man. To think otherwise would be a mistake on your part."

Jack, or the many that lurked behind his eyes, blinked lazily at him, a small shift in his expression taking him in one tiny step, from fierce anger, to a smug sense of pride, "Soft spot, Pitch-in-er?"

He couldn't help it. Red sparked across his vision and he lunged at the winter sprite, Jack slipping out from beneath him as Pitch swept down to grab at him, flitting up to cling to the uneven walls, a laugh so wholly himself and yet splintered into many different voices at the same time as he hung from the shadows of the cavern, fingers wrapped around them as if they were ropes for him to climb, so easily attuned to them in such a short amount of time that the elder spirit was almost taken aback. That was why, he told himself, when Jack bared his teeth in a warning smile before he leapt, Pitch did not think to move, charging forwards to catch the flighty creature before a solid kick to his stomach sent him sprawling inelegantly onto his back in the nest of cushions with an ungainly grunt.

Jack moved over him in one step, light-footed in a way he had always found appealing, to grind a bony heel into his sternum, the wide slash of bare chest exposed by his robe exposing him to skin cold enough to burn. Jack's laugh lit up the cavern but it was wrong on a note that disturbed the entire cadence of it and the grin that graced his mouth was so obscene that it did not seem to fit his face as he directed it full force down at the elder spirit pinned beneath his scant weight, "Was that it?"

And it was so like Jack, so care-free and mischievous that, forgiving the melting pot of different tones in the voice, Pitch could just about convince himself that Jack was in on it. That he was playing along. That couldn't be right, he thought, staring up into eyes so clouded with shadows they seemed to move behind the blue, sentient and writhing, alight with a fierce need that slipped through his grasp as he tried to define it.

Pitch offered the younger spirit nothing as he knocked his foot away with a backhand strong enough to unbalance him on the plush bedding, cupping long fingers behind his knee before Jack could move and pulling him down into the cushions, ignoring the many voices made one that protested as he rolled, his robe catching around his legs until he had the boy pressed into the nest by his bare shoulders, admiring how well the smaller spirit fit into his hands.

Jack looked so very ethereal in the dark, a white canvas bled through with streaks of thick paint, ancient terrors crawling through his head and hoarfrost twining dark sand through his veins and for just a moment, Pitch stopped to appreciate what he had made. The beauty of it. Cold and dark. He hadn't lied when he'd said they melded well. Jack was testament to that. And he would be beautiful. When he found his equilibrium, when he managed to coax those shadows to bind him, to unite with him as only a wilful teenager could, then he would be perfect.

Chilled fingers tickled over the bare skin of his chest, Jack's attention drawn to where his hand was touching, circling a specific area that reminded him all too easily of what lay there. The burn mark, Pitch realised, from the hands of the younger Bennett child that had dared to touch him. A good half-palm and the length of two fingers had stamped itself into his ashen skin in a tone pale enough to resemble a human scar with no raised tissue. Jack traced the shape with inquisitive fingers, and Pitch almost relaxed into the caress as sharp claws dug into his chest and he yanked Jack's hand away, feeling the bones grind in the thin wrist as he pressed it flat to the cushions, "None of that."

And it was Jack that looked back at him this time, eyes darting in every direction as if he sought out the very shadows that lived inside him, tense as a bowstring and trembling just the same and lips parted in shallow gasps that sounded suspiciously like a whimper but couldn't be from the way those eyes narrowed at him and the wrist he held down pushed against his grip with a sudden surge of strength. Pitch shifted closer, drawn to the way that mouth opened and the voice he waited for poured out of it.

"Let me up." Jack turned his face away to swallow like something had caught in his throat, black lashes kissing his cheeks in quick flutters and all Pitch could focus on was the length of neck bared to him, the soft dip of Jack's clavicle and the delicate collar bones that stretched paper thin skin. He wanted to mark that skin, rip into it with his teeth so that when the shadows dared mock him with those eyes and that mouth again, he would have the ability to gaze upon the wound with sadistic pleasure and know that he had caged them too, in a prison of his own making.

Instead, he took a gentle grasp of the boys jaw, turning his attention away from the wall he was using as a distraction from the spirit that held him, and Jack's eyes flickered up to meet with his own fast enough for him to feel the breath hitch in the frost sprite's chest. Pitch could see it, the little cracks inside his head. Jack's face was very expressive, so very soulful and drenched in melancholy and it was only as he arched up towards him that Pitch saw just how much. Did he want...

Never one to refuse an invitation, he pressed his lips to that parted mouth and licked inside of it without teeth clamping down to refuse him and the chill sent a palpable shudder through his core that severely tested what little restraint he had. Oh, bliss...

Jack mewled, tugging hard at the wrist that lay pinned in the cushions, trying to pull it free but Pitch wouldn't let him and as the boys other arm circled the back of his neck to pull him down into that open mouth, he let his weight fall over him, trapping one leg beneath him as Jack twined the other high over his hip to press him close. The shock of that greedy mouth, cold and enticing, and the stroke of a willing tongue unravelled him in stages, the small noises that filtered out between the mash of lips and nipping teeth enough to tempt him to consume the fey creature writhing up into his body heat.

Jack was both soft and hard against him, the gentle fall of snow and the raging fury of the arctic as he rolled his hips up high, clawing in desperation at the elder spirits shoulders, dragging down slow against the leg stemmed between his thighs and the moan that left his throat was a pretty drawn out thing that awoke fire in the pit of his stomach. Pitch pressed down harder, near burying the slender figure into the cushions, cornering him until there was nowhere to hide except in the snare of his arms and the wet temptation of filthy kisses.

"Mine." And he pressed his lips to wherever he could reach, the rounded curve of the boys chin, the tip of a pale nose, over closed eyelids and catching on the tear tracks that stained the swell of his cheekbones, but that did not stop him. He didn't mind whatever reasoning Jack used to encourage himself to accept the advances. He didn't mind if Jack was thinking about anything but the moment, or if he was using it to distract himself from the hell his life had become. So long as he was there, spread wide and waiting for one person. So long as that person was him, he didn't mind.

As ashen fingers trailed down over the bared skin of his chest, dipping dangerously low over his stomach, Jack flinched away, stirring to unexpected life as his leg loosened from the tight coil he had bound the Shadowmancer in to kick at the cushions, trying to sit up but with no space to do so, "Stop."

And his voice was like cracked glass, sharp and broken at the same time, the sand that had all but faded to muted trickles beneath his skin flaring up black and bold as marker lines over the flesh of his ribs as he pushed at Pitch with his fee hand.

The elder spirit reluctantly complied despite the urge in him to keep the boy down and to touch and taste until every part of himself was soaked in the younger's scent, struck by a burst of irritation when Jack avoided his gaze, pink tongue licking at his swollen lips as he slipped out from beneath him to climb from the nest, leaping into the shadows for a hasty exit and they welcomed him with open arms. It was amazing really, how well he was attuning to them and how they accepted him in turn. It would be almost alarming if he hadn't hoped for such speedy development.

He found the frost sprite sitting forlornly in a hanging cage some time later, blue eyes blank and staring at nothing with his head pressed against the bars, lips murmuring too quiet for him to hear and arms wrapped so tightly around himself he looked smaller than he ever had and Pitch wanted to sweep him up and return him to the comfort of soft pillows but he doubted the fearlings would respond well to him interrupting their delicate process so he moved away without a word. The faster they bonded with Jack, the faster he would have his Darkling Prince.

"I suppose I should thank you for your interference, bird." He couldn't help but gloat as he gazed up towards the Tooth Fairy's cage, "Without it, Jack would not have progressed as far as he has and you have only yourself to blame for encouraging him to step so far out of the realms of my control. You could have caused irreparable damage."

There was no reply and that in itself was bothersome. After so many years in the shadows, he loathed being ignored more than anything he could recall and despite how much belief he had garnered since he had squashed the Guardians near ten years past, it still rankled at him when he was not immediately blessed with the attention he so rightfully deserved. The breathing-featherbed had a lot of nerve. Pitch rose, riding the darkness of the Lair as Jack rode the North Wind, his mouth curling in irritation, "Queen as you claim to be, I would pluck every single one of your blasted feathers for cushions if do not cease your insolen-"

He had accepted many surprises since Jack had awoken, adjusted many plans to incorporate whatever challenges he hadn't accounted for with every decision made outside of his own influence. What he hadn't expected to find, was an empty cage. His roar of anger was loud enough to echo back long after he had suppressed it as he clutched at the bars, staring with molten rage at the single glimmering turquoise feather laying innocently in the bottom of the steel trap.

The Tooth Fairy and The Guardian of Wonder were gone.

III

Luna: DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN~ *jazz hands*