A soft, chilly breeze blew by as a form neatly landed on the forest floor. The moon shone brightly above, casting shadows in every dark corner and crevice of the forest.
The spirit of winter gazed down at a patch of dirt where the grass refused to grow, expression unreadable. For some reason he felt drawn to this area like a magnet, like he couldn't just simply turn and fly away. He didn't know how long he'd stood there, or what he was even waiting for to happen, and yet he didn't move, something invisibly rooting him to the spot.
Was it regret…? No, that couldn't quite be it…
"I don't need your pity, Frost."
Jack gasped softly as that same sardonic voice he'd become so well acquainted with spoke, turning to look behind himself.
A shape moved among the trees, on the outer dark reaches of the clearing. The teen reflexively gripped his staff a little harder, even though he knew that the danger was minimal – barely a chance of threat at all.
"Well, you're getting it so tough luck," came the stark reply as Jack hesitantly approached.
Silently, the tall figure stepped out from the shelter of the trees, silver-yellow eyes skeptically glancing over the guardian of fun, black cloak trailing along the forest floor behind himself.
"Why are you here?" The boogeyman questioned, narrowing his sights as he began to pace. "Shouldn't you be off freezing a drainpipe or icing the roads or something of the like?"
"I finished early today," Jack replied dryly. "Shouldn't you be off hiding under beds and scaring little children?"
Instead of a snappy retort like he'd expected, Pitch simply turned and glided back into the forest, blending into the darkness almost instantly. For whatever reason, Jack felt a small pang of alarm and hurried to follow.
"Hey, wait. Come back," he called after king of nightmares, glancing around before spotting his form briskly gliding between the trees up ahead. Pitch carelessly inclined his head, not breaking his pace.
"Why? So you can mock me?"
"That's not why I'm here," Jack said, lifting off of the ground and flying over to him. Without warning, Pitch sharply turned to face him, making the white-haired teen halt in his tracks. Anger was not present in the boogeyman's tone; instead he spoke with dry amusement.
"What, are the guardians bored of you already?" He said, idly raising one hand up before himself, a bit of black sand swirling around his fingertips before falling to his palm, some spilling off the side of his hand. Too weak to even exert the tiniest bit of power. "Or did they send you to finish me off?"
Jack frowned and shook his head. He wasn't even sure if Pitch could be gotten rid of permanently or not but that wasn't why he had come here either way. Besides, it just didn't seem right to attack when the other was so… weak.
"No and no…"
Pitch dipped his head slightly, narrowing his eyes and growling out between his teeth.
"Then get lost, Jack."
With that, he turned and began to drift away again.
"Hey!" A bit of desperation had crept into his tone without his consent. The guardian pursued relentlessly, not letting Pitch get out of his sight. If he did, there was no telling where he would go. "Wait, listen I'm…" he didn't want to say 'worried' or 'concerned', "…curious."
The boogeyman stopped.
"Curious?" He repeated incredulously, scowling as he faced Jack again. Moonlight beamed down through the canopy of leaves, allowing the winter spirit to see the look of cautious suspicion on the nightmare king's face. "About what? About me?"
Jack's feet touched the ground again and he took a careful step forward.
"Well, yeah…" He said slowly, "I mean, you have to have been doing something since…"
A sudden laugh broke from Pitch's lips, the sound humourless and mocking.
"Aww, is this your way of saying you were worried about me? How touching."
"No, it's not like…"
The boogeyman gave a loud, dramatic sigh, feigning a look of hurt as he shook his head.
"Oh, you wound me deeply, Jack."
"Look would you just…!" The teen felt his frustration spike and he cut himself off. Why had he come out here again? He wasn't even sure what he was trying to get across and he was in half the right mind to just turn around in leave.
Yet, for some reason, he couldn't.
"I want to know why." He finally said after a few moments of silence.
"Why what? Why I did all of this?" Pitch replied, his tone dropping back to a serious one as he gestured around himself. "I believe I already explained that."
"You didn't explain everything," the winter spirit continued. "You told me once that we don't have to be alone, but then why would you choose to be…"
"The Boogeyman?" Pitch finished when Jack trailed off. He gave a short chuckle and shook his head before gesturing to himself and fixing the boy with a hard look. "You think I chose to be this way? You're a lot more naïve than I thought."
The guardian was silent, merely staring at him as he continued talking. The nightmare king had begun to pace once more, passing in and out of shadows as he went.
"It's my nature to spread fear and misery; it's what I was born to do," he said, and for a moment it seemed like he was talking to himself, sadness creeping into his tone as he gazed up into the sky. But then he turned and pointed a pale finger at the teen. "You, on the other hand, were born to spread fun and joy. I can't simply ask you to stop being Jack Frost now, can I?"
"You almost did." Jack pointed out, remembering their exchange in the arctic when Pitch had tried to turn him over to his side, and how tempting the offer had been, if only briefly. He couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if he had joined…
Jack shook his head. That was a ridiculous thought.
Pitch gazed at him, looking like he was about to say something else for a moment but changed his mind. Instead, he scoffed.
"Not the point. Now," he said, beginning to walk off once more, "leave me alone."
The winter spirit's gaze drifted to the ground as everything fell silent again aside for the wind gently rustling the leaves above.
"You don't have to be alone."
The nightmare king paused at Jack's softly spoken words, closing his eyes.
"You don't know what it's like to be hated for something you were meant to do. There's nothing more that can be said." He said, his tone solemn and quiet. "Please, just go."
Jack sighed, feeling a stab of sympathy in his chest. He may not have known what it was like to be hated, but he did know what it was like to be ignored. And was that really so different?
Pitch froze when he felt arms encircle his waist, eyes snapping open as he looked down in disbelief. He frowned, entirely confused by the foreign gesture and unable to think of what to say or do. So instead he merely let himself relax in the guardian of fun's embrace, his hands slowly lowering to rest atop Jack's, eyes staring straight ahead into the darkness.
"You don't have to be alone," Jack murmured against his back, tightening his grip slightly, "and I don't think you want to be."