Memories and Nightmares 25

Jack was beside himself. He still couldn't believe it. He had a home, a real home with a real bed and someone to care for him. Okay, so the last part he would never admit to out loud but it was still very cool. Out of all the Guardians Jack had always felt closest to North. Sandy was a close second but North…North had opened his home to him and offered him a place to live even after Jack had turned it down twice before. The offer scared Jack so much more than he thought it would, so much so he expected Pitch to show up at any moment and taunt him about it. How in their right mind was afraid to have a home and family? Someone that had been ignored and left alone for three centuries that's who. But when he thought about it Jack couldn't help but worry about Pitch. The man had been alone much longer than him and that loneliness had driven him to do drastic things to get Believers. Sure Pitch was the Boogeyman and supposedly a bad guy but he deserved love and friendship too didn't he?

Standing at the edge of his pond he gazed up at the bluff and the little cave midway up that contained the only true home he had known the last 300 years. He didn't own much but he had collected a few odds and ends over the years. Some of it he wanted to take to his new home, not all just in case things didn't work out and North changed his mind but a few things to make his new room his own. Problem was he had no clue what he wanted to take with him. Nothing he own was in any decent condition and would look out of place in Santoff Claussen. He hung his head. Maybe he'd just leave everything here and get new stuff. People were always losing stuff. North might put him back on the Naughty List though.

Maybe he'd just take one thing then…after he found Pitch and talked with him.

"Hey Jack!"

The winter spirit turned in surprise and smiled brightly when he saw Jamie and some of the Burgess kids heading toward him. He hadn't seen them much that winter due to his duties and he felt a little bad now because the weather wasn't exactly perfect for a snow day. "Hey guys, what are you doing out here in the rain?" he asked as he ran a hand through his soggy hair.

"Sophie saw you through her window," Jamie explained, holding an umbrella over his head. "What's going on, Jack, it's only February? Why is it raining?"

"Yeah, there's hardly any snow left," Claude added. He pulled his hood further over his head.

Jack shrugged. "It's a long story. I'm sort of surprise the big M didn't keep the snow going while I was asleep?"

Jamie's brows bunched and he glanced at the twins mouthing "Big M?" "What do you mean asleep, Jack? What happened?"

Smiling, Jack shook his head. "Nothing to worry about, Jamie. Hey, you kids ought to head home. I'll make it snow soon, I promise but I've got a few things to do first."

The kids looked disappointed and shuffled about in the cold mud not wanting to leave.

Smiling at them Jack ruffled Jamie's hair. "Don't look you sad, tomorrow's a Monday. What do guys say to a snow day?" That made the kids all look up with bright eyes and smiles. "Alright then, off with the lot of you before I get in trouble for giving you all colds. Go on, it's not warm enough to play in the mud yet."

Jamie laughed and waved as he turned back up the path toward his house. "You promise, right? A snow day tomorrow?"

"Course, kiddo," Jack yelled after him. He lowered his voice as he turned back to his pond. "After I have a talk with a certain shade."

He hesitated and held his staff a little tighter. As much as he wanted to talk with Pitch he still didn't trust that man by any means. The last images of his nightmare still haunted him. The Fearlings had nearly turned him into one of them. Pitch had abandoned him to them and Jack couldn't understand why. He had thought that maybe, just maybe, they had come to an understanding of sorts. He must have been wrong. Maybe Pitch had just been using his nightmares to grow in strength once more. After all he had thrown Jack into some of the most horrid nightmares he'd ever had but he had also helped him learn his sister's name and rather Pitch meant to or not had also brought Jack a little closer to the Guardians, especially North and Bunny. He still couldn't believe Bunny had tickled him and been so playful. And he had made a new friend in Nightlight. If anything Jack needed to thank Pitch for that, right?

Pushing back his fear, Jack began to walk in the direction the old rotted bed that marked the entrance to Pitch's lair had been. It was next to impossible to find now that the bed was gone and hole covered. In fact there was nothing left to mark the entrance only dense dark woods. Nonetheless Jack searched for nearly an hour until the rain stopped and the air cooled with Jack's frustration. Snow began to fall as Jack found himself growing sad at not being able to find the Nightmare King. Why he was so sad he was unsure, he just needed to know why? Why did Pitch leave him? Did he want Jack as his Fearling Prince? He never got that impression from their previous encounters.

"What are doing here, Jackson?" Pitch's silky voice asked from the growing darkness.

Jack gave a surprised yelp despite himself. He whirled around, his staff raised before he could think better of it. The shade was standing under a large pine tree with one of his Nightmares, grooming it as if it was the most ordinary thing it the world to do. But it wasn't that which surprised Jack, it was the use of his full name. No one had used it before. It sounded so alien yet at the same time Jack knew it was his name. Jackson Overland Frost.

"I…ahh…I wanted to see if you're okay," Jack said hurriedly, gaining a surprised look from Pitch. "I mean when I woke up you were gone. Sandy said it was because of Nightlight but…the last thing I remember was you shoving me away and then Fearlings attacking me. Did you send them after me?"

Pitch's eyes widened in surprise. In 300 years he had never heard Jack talk so much. He had changed a lot since joining the Guardians. It took a moment to decipher the boy's words but when he did he was a little insulted and confused. "No," he said finally. "And you needed fear those rogues again. They've been dealt with. I see Nightlight destroyed any I may have missed."

"Yeah…you destroyed your own Fearlings?" Jack asked as he lowered his staff and leaned against it. "Why?"

"Why indeed?" Pitch murmured.

"Thank you."

Turning by to Onyx, his favorite Nightmare, Pitch gave a curt nod. "I am the King of Nightmares, Jack. I will not allow anyone to take what is mine."

Jack's brows rose and he gave an amused grin. "So I'm yours? How so?" The look Pitch gave him made Jack incredibly nervous and he took a step back, remembering the way the Fearlings had touched him and slithered over him in a mocking touch of affection and seduction. "I'm not interested in belonging to anyone in any way so my answer's still no."

Pitch gave a snort as if the boy's answer was utterly amusing. "Don't flatter yourself, boy. My interest in you is much more complicated than a simple infatuation."

"Okay…" The boy flexed his toes in the mud. He looked nervously at his feet before looking back at the shade. "You know you don't need to be alone. I know the Big Four are still pissed about last Easter but…"

"You sound like Seraphina," Pitch said with a bitter laugh. "What would you have of me, Jack? Would you have me become a Guardian, protect the children's dreams and hopes? I am the Nightmare King! I bring fear and nightmares not hope and wonder."

"But fear is a powerful tool, it can be used to protect."

An animalistic snarl tore through Pitch and to Jack horror the Nightmare King grew ten times his size and the shadows within the darkness grew with him until the loomed over Jack threateningly. Jack staggered back in horror and raised his staff to defend himself but didn't fire. He was terrified but he could not blast them even though he knew he should.

"I spared you this time, Frost but do not fool yourself into thinking you are special to me. I will destroy the Guardians and conquer this world and not you or your puny friends will ever stop me," the Boogeyman snarled, looking monstrous as his fingers turned to long deadly claws as Nightmares reared around him, kicking at the air above Jack's head. "Soon they'll grow up and forget all about you and then you'll be alone once again."

Jack scrambled back in fear. He was wrong; Pitch hadn't changed, if anything he was worse now. "We'll stop you," he said but right now Jack couldn't fight Pitch alone. "We'll always stop you."

"Run away, little boy," Pitch taunted as the ice elf was lifted into the wind and whisked away to some place safe. The Nightmare King waited until the child was a safe distance away before returning to his normal form. He closed his eyes and ran a hand through Onyx's mane as he pressed his forehead against his pets. "It's safer for him this way," he told himself. "It's safer if he stays as far from me as possible. He'll be less of a temptation and I won't hurt him."

Onyx whinnied and rubbed against her master.

"It is better this way," Pitch told himself, although he would never believe it and would always continue to watch over the boy. If there was one thing he would always do it would be to watch over Jack Frost whether or not the boy ever realized or appreciated it. Sometimes the best way to protect the ones you love was to protect them from yourself even if it meant pushing them as far away as possible. At least Pitch knew that the Guardians would now look after Jack as well and help keep the darkness away. And while Jack may hate him for this in time he may come to understand. Perhaps one day they would be able to become a family or perhaps the Guardians would finally do away with the Nightmare King.

Okay, I was going to keep this going, but I think I'll end it here because it ties up to Finding Understanding pretty well which should follow this, of course they'll be a few things contradicting both stories such as how Jack and Nightlight meet and such. For those who want to see Pitch become a Guardian please read Finding Understanding, those some spelling and grammar mistakes but I hope to go through all my fics in the near future and fix them until them please forgive my mistakes and enjoy them.