AN:In this AU just assume that Pitch met Jack some 150 years before the movie takes place, and offered for Jack to stay with him. In this story it's already been about ten or twenty years since then, so Jack and Pitch are pretty familiar with each other. Also, I did not come up with the name 'Fiery Bastard'. This was the name Jack came up with for one of Pitch's fearlings in a different fic. Unfortunately I saw it some time ago and can't seem to find the story or the author now. If anyone knows either, please inform me so I can give them proper credit and bookmark their story!
Fear is A Funny Thing
They were screaming.
Thalia, the little girl who helped her father work the farm.
Thomas, who refused to let go of childhood.
Jason, Kaleb, Penelope, Rose, Mike, Jaclyn, Heather, all the kids from around the village
And Seth, the little boy who couldn't walk without help, but refused to ever miss the chance to play out in the snow.
They were all screaming.
Hanging on for dear life as the ice capsized around them, leaving them floating on what small bit of safety they had. Hanging on for dear life, and slipping. Slipping into the icy waters that lay below, still screaming. Screaming as they fell beneath, the water stealing their breath. Screaming as they became trapped, unable to surface, unable to swim.
Jack grabbed at them, desperate. He couldn't let them drown, he couldn't. They were young, they didn't deserve to die. This couldn't happen, this couldn't happen, this COULDN'T HAPPEN! He couldn't, wouldn't, let it happen.
Not to them. Just not them.
But they passed right through him. Just as they always had. Just as they always would. Just as they were never going to have a chance to do ever again, he had to, he had to. He had to save them.
But he couldn't touch them. Couldn't touch them, couldn't help them, couldn't stop their fall or pull them up.
There was nothing he could to.
Their fingers slipped through his, their bodies sinking into the water.
And suddenly, the wind left him. And the ice beneath him broke. And he was falling too.
And now. Now there was no one to save him.
The bodies of the children floated around him, they scratched at the surface of the ice, unable to escape, unable to break free.
Seth's little body floated through his own. He never stood a chance. He had fallen in the second things had gotten shaky. The boy couldn't walk, couldn't swim.
And now he was dead. Dead. And not coming back. Not coming back to play in the snow.
None of them were.
Not coming back to hug their mothers, fathers, siblings.
All because he was too weak, too powerless to save them. He couldn't save them.
And he couldn't save himself.
He scratched relentlessly at the surface of the ice, but couldn't make a crack. His own element was betraying him.
He didn't have the strength to stay afloat any longer and was now just drifting, sinking, to the bottom of the lake bed.
He couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe, and he didn't know what to do.
He was choking, he could feel himself being chocked, deprived of air, as if something were constricting his windpipe.
He clawed at his throat. He had to get air, had to, had to, had to.
He had to save any of the children that were still alive.
He had to hold his breath.
He had to throw off whatever was choking him.
But he couldn't.
He opened his mouth in a silent scream, and water came pouring into his system as the edges of his vision started going black, as he scratched at his throat, scratched until he thought he was going to bleed, as he cried out for anything, anyone, to help.
And as he felt the frigid water slowly slip inside his veins, as he felt the skin of his throat break, as he watched the small bodies floating around him, as he felt the water, the pressure, all of it, as he felt all of it drowning him… he couldn't do anything.
That's what Pitch awoke to.
Usually, he wouldn't mind. Terror was something he lived off, thrived off of. A little screaming would typically be exactly the sort of thing he needed to kick start his day.
It would be. If it weren't for who was screaming.
Pitch was up and moving without a second thought, transporting himself through the shadows of his lair. He glided from shadow to shadow across the cavernous rooms, ignoring the fearlings that trailed after him.
In a matter of moments he was standing in the one room that let any amount of diminutive natural lighting into his lair.
Jack thrashed around on the bed, the sheets twisted around him, crying out as he clawed at his throat.
Pitch felt his heart clench a bit at the sight. He couldn't tell whether this nightmare was brought about by one of his fearlings (if it was, whichever had caused it would have hell to pay later), or one of natural occurrence, but he hated seeing the typically cheerful child in such a distressed state. It felt wrong.
"Jack," he called softly, stepping out of the shadows.
The child didn't respond. He merely kept tossing and turning, his blunt fingernails marking his neck red as a small whimper escaped him.
Pitch's brow creased with worry.
Even on the occasions when Jack did experience nightmares, it was rare for them to be this severe.
The boogeyman approached slowly, still calling softly to the young teen.
When Jack still didn't stir, Pitch reached out, grabbing hold of his flailing limbs and placing a hand on his forehead.
"Jack," he whispered again, stoking the boy's hair back. "Jack, wake up."
Pitch frowned when the boy continued to struggle against him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, before strengthening his grip on Jack's arms.
"Jack," he said firmly, as he gave the boy a gentle shake, lifting him up into a sitting position. The boy thrashed in his grasp, choked sounds escaping him. "You're dreaming, little fox. You need to wake up!"
Jack's eyes flew open as he gasped for air, bolting upright. His eyes darted around wildly, searching for a threat as he fought against Pitch's grip. The boy's breathing was labored as he continued to choke on dry sobs.
"Jack. Jack, calm down," Pitch reprimanded gently as he kept his firm grip on the boy's forearms.
Jack stilled, but his rapid breathing didn't slow and his eyes unseeing, still stuck in whatever world the nightmare had spun for him.
Pitch grimaced as he felt the boy's violent trembling, and pulled him close, tucking Jack's head under his chin and stroking the stark white hair.
Jack's shoulders shook and his body jolted with each heaving sob, and dry hiccup. Pitch just continued to rub small comforting circles on his back, whispering comforting words in the boy's ear and cooing softly to him.
"It's okay," Pitch soothed. "You're okay. It was only a dream. Everything's alright now. You're safe."
After a long while, Jack's tremors finally seemed to recede and his breathing evened out again. But the boy didn't bother to leave Pitch's embrace quite yet, and just let his head rest on the man's shoulder, still trying to reorient himself.
Finally, he pulled back a bit to look up at the boogeyman.
"Are you alright?" Pitch asked softly.
Jack nodded. "Yeah. I'll be fine," he croaked.
Pitch nodded, and slowly released the boy, letting Jack lean back against the headboard of the bed.
A comfortable silence fell over them as they both sat on the bed, Jack letting his eyes drift closed while Pitch still stroked his hair back.
Eventually Pitch felt Jack had calmed down enough to ask, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Jack just shrugged, refusing to meet his eyes. "Just- Just the typical stuff. They were-… The kids from the town they were drowning… And I-I tried to save them but… They just passed right through me. Like always." He took a shuddering breath. "And then I was drowning too and I just- I just couldn't do anything. I just… I-"
"It's okay," Pitch shushed the boy gently, stopping him from going into a full blown panic attack. "It was only a dream."
But he really was going to have to look into this. It seemed like nearly all of Jack's severe nightmares somehow revolved around drowning. And Pitch honestly couldn't place why. There was no reason for a winter spirit to have some underlying fear of something so closely related to his element.
Jack drew his knees to his chest and Pitch lowered his hand as the winter spirit raked his fingers through his own hair, tangling them in the white strands.
"That's the thing though," he said quietly. "It may have just been a dream, but it's still true. If they were ever in trouble- if any of them were… there would be nothing I could do. Whether they were drowning, or falling from a tree or cliff, or being chased by wild animals, anything… I wouldn't be able to save them. I'd still be powerless…"
Pitch drew back a bit with a sigh. "You're not powerless, Jack. Far from it. If it came down to it you'd be able to find a way to save them."
Jack just shrugged, refusing to meet his gaze
Pitch frowned before continuing, "But… if you'd rather, I could always see what I could do about the matter."
Jack shook his head, finally looking back up at the Nightmare King. "No thanks, Pitch. I appreciate it and everything, but I don't want to be feared. That's your thing. Not mine."
And he knew that. Of course he did. Pitch could respect Jack's values and where they differed. But it didn't prevent him from becoming frustrated at his lack of ability to help out the young spirit.
"Are you sure?" he pressed.
Jack nodded. "Yeah. Besides," Jack's eyes suddenly lit up as he shot Pitch a cheeky smirk, "I wouldn't want to steal your thunder."
"Steal my thunder?" Pitch scoffed, the corners of his lips twitching. He knew the problem was far from dealt with, but he was glad for the teen's change in demeanor. "I think you forget who you're talking to, dear boy."
"I'd show you up and you know it," Jack said, his smile bordering on maniacal. "In fact, I'd probably be so great at it; you'd be out of a job."
"Oh, really?" Pitch raised a brow wryly.
Now that Jack was perking up a bit, he had a feeling the winter spirit was going to be just fine.
"Yup. I'd be the best boogeyman the world's ever seen," the boy boasted, before pausing for a second. "… You know. If I lived past the assassination attempts.
Pitch rolled his eyes. "For the last time, none of them 'have it out for you'."
"Fiery Bastard is out to get me and you know it!" Jack exclaimed, pointing an accusing finger a Pitch.
"He is!" The boy cried. "Think about it! Fire and ice! We're natural enemies!"
"Are you sure that's the reason, and not the fact that you continue to give my fearlings ridiculous names like 'Fiery Bastard'?"
Jack pointedly ignored him. "You remember that time that I got trapped in your lair and almost fell off one of the cliff edges? I swear that was him!"
"I'm sure," Pitch replied dourly.
"Just you watch! One day, I'm just going to be minding my own, when suddenly bam! He attacks, and I'm dead!" Jack splayed his fingers dramatically, but Pitch could see the small smile pulling at the boy's lips. "And then you'll feel awful for never believing me."
Pitch finally broke, and just laughed. "I'll keep that in mind."
Jack scowled at him playfully, before soon dissolving into laughter along with his caretaker.
Eventually their chortles died down and they were just left smiling at one another like idiots.
Pitch was just happy to see Jack at peace, or whatever semblance of it the boy had, again. It was still a strange occurrence of him, trying to calm someone's fears instead of stoke them. But it certainly wasn't unpleasant. Just different. He only hoped he was doing more good than damage when trying to help the boy.
"Hey, Pitch," Jack called, drawing the boogeyman out of his thoughts. "Can you… I mean, will you…"
Pitch smiled softly at the young spirit. "Would you like me to stay until you fall asleep again?"
Jack gave him a sheepish smile, and nodded.
Pitch just chuckled and said, "Alright. But I'm can't promise you that my presence will bring good dreams."
Jack shrugged, smiling contently as he laid back down, resting his head on the pillow. "I think I'll be okay."
Pitch just smiled down at the child, running his fingers through Jack's hair once more, until the boy was gradually lulled back to sleep.
Pitch didn't know how to help Jack gain any believers, he didn't even know if he could, considering he himself no longer had many. He didn't know how to cure Jack of his nightmares, and he didn't know why he dreamed of drowning to begin with.
But the one thing he knew, regardless of anything else, is that he would continue to always be there for Jack. Because he wouldn't trade his relationship with the winter spirit, for anything in the world.
AN: So I wrote this late at night. There are probably a lot of mistakes, but I hope it's not too awful. But this idea wouldn't leave me alone, so I figured I might as well get it out of my system.
This story actually came from a headcannon of mine, so if you'd like to know how it originated, ere it is:
I've seen a lot of people on tumblr, and the like, Pitch fans (which I am one of myself) specifically, mentioning being angry and disappointed in Jack for rejecting Pitch's offer to join him just because 'fear is bad'. As well as people pointing out that Pitch can't help wanting to cover the world in fear because it was how he viewed the way the world should be and couldn't control that, or his place as the boogeyman. Some people believe that Jack should have rejected Pitch because he killed Sandy, and not because he was saying that fear, and essentially Pitch, was bad. But I disagree with this. See, when Jack says he doesn't want to Join Pitch he says "No, they'll fear us, and that's not what /I/ want." He's not rejecting fear as a whole, he's saying that HE doesn't want to be feared. You see when Pitch made his offer, I believe if he had just stuck to the whole companionship/family deal, Jack would have had a much harder time refusing, or at the very least THAT is when Sandy's murder would have been brought up. But by going off on his 'cold and dark, let's rule the world together' spiel, Pitch was unwittingly attaching strings to the deal. He was saying 'join me, and take on my ideals, goals, and values' without realizing it. He didn't even think that Jack's own values might clash with his own, and that there may have to be some amount of compromise. I doubt the thought ever even crossed his mind. Jack was a kindred spirit and understood why he was doing the things he was. But because his offer made it sound as if Jack would have to let go of his own ideals to join him, Jack refused. Because Jack isn't interested in being feared. He understands what Pitch is going through, and he understands his anger. He knows that he could easily have found someone who understands him. But because Pitch asks him to conform to his values and his goals, he won't take the offer. Fear is Pitch's thing. Not Jack's. And that's were this story came in. As seen in what small portion of dialogue revolving around it, Pitch let's Jack retain his own values while staying with him, and recognizes that the teen doesn't want to be feared. I believe that it's entirely possible that if Pitch had found Jack about a hundred years or so before the events of the movie and made this offer, WITHOUT any strings attached, then Jack probably would have agreed rather easily.
Well, that was my long, rambly, and pointless headcannon that was longer than the story.
Hope you enjoyed!