Age Six: No Such Thing
author's note: Okay, so this is the chapter that started it all, that inspired me to write this whole she-bang. My muse also reminded me that Pitch is a fear
spirit. He should probably do something besides give nightmares to a child that likes
them. Thus, the first two paragraphs.
Age Six: No Such Thing
Pitch missed the Industrial Era; London was so much darker
then. Why, on particularly rainy days the sky was overcast enough that he could spend the entire day there if he wished it. Not that he ever did but the promise of it had been nice all the same. Factory children had such potent nightmares as well; horrid dreams of losing limbs or dying from the very machines they controlled.
Now, Pitch was stuck traveling in the shadows by day and waiting for night to fall. At least the rain-thick clouds made traversing the city before dusk a little easier. It was early enough to scare tourist and natives alike away from unwelcoming, though harmless, alleyways. In the Underground he was the monstrous visions people saw on the other side of the racing train's windows, warning them of the real
monsters in the dark.
When the promised rain started to fall however, Pitch was left with little to amuse himself in the city. He could go elsewhere, where it was
night until it was late enough to visit Xander. Strange how his days revolved around the boy nowadays. Pitch could not deny the attachment he felt towards his only true believer. It pained him to leave the boy in such squalor on the Hellmouth
but he was not allowed to interfere. No spirits were as long as The Powers decreed the fate of humanity.
Still, the Guardians pushed against the limits of their restrictions and it was not in Pitch's nature to play nice. The only question remained was, how could he look after Xander without The Powers crying foul? At least the man in the Moon did not care, as far as Pitch could tell, with his close ties to Xander.
A whimper and inhuman fear drew Pitch's attention further down the alleyway he lurked in as he schemed. Curiosity drove Pitch into inspecting the tattered and rain-soaked box the noise came from. Inside it was perhaps the most hideous mutt of a puppy Pitch ever saw. It's shaggy coat was matted, covered in filth and already smelling to high heaven. He couldn't guess the breed, it was more than likely a mix, but the size and hair indicated some kind of terrier. Large soulful brown eyes stared up at Pitch just barely through the fur on its face and its pitiful tail started to wag so strongly its whole body shook.
It reminded him of Xander, especially those eyes.
Children like animals, don't they?
Pitch looked down at the bathed and groomed puppy, feeling satisfied and proud of his efforts. The wretched thing actually looked presentable. Though its fondness for licking Pitch's fingers was becoming irritating. Did nothing fear him properly anymore?
At least its fearlessness made the mutt suitable for Xander.
"Hey Pitch," the six year old greeted from the desk where he was doing his homework. The boy became rather studious after Pitch expressed an interest in what the boy was learning. Almost nightly Xander proudly showed off his well-graded homework and tests, when he had them. Pitch did not understand the boy's need for his approval but he gave it regardless. "You're here early," Xander added as he finished the last of his homework and turned to the Nightmare King.
Pitch shrugged, not sure how to respond to such a statement. "I brought a gift," he said instead holding out the stubbornly finger-licking puppy.
"Whoa- a puppy! You got me a puppy!?" Xander excitedly exclaimed as he rushed over to examine the animal. The boy's eyes had grown large like North's, full of wonder Pitch supposed, as he carefully took the dog from Pitch's hands. With a sneer of disgust Pitch grabbed a tissue and did his best to remove dog slobber from his hands.
"I'm glad you like her," Pitch said simply as he watched the two bond. This could hardly be considered interfering, North gave children multiple
gifts annually if they were on the 'nice' list. Pitch felt rather accomplished with himself until Xander suddenly looked sad. "Alex?"
"I can't keep her. Mom and Dad won't let me Pitch. I-I want to but they'll just make me get rid of her," Xander complained, on the verge of crying.
Well, he knew there was a flaw in his plan somewhere. Sighing, Pitch accepted the puppy back and frowned in thought on what to do... and the puppy was also back to licking his fingers.
"I suppose I could leave her at North's. His security is horrible and it's close enough to Christmas I'm sure he'll find a home for her," Pitch mused aloud.
"North's?" Xander asked confused, head-tilting slightly to the side as he tried to see Pitch's bowed face.
"Santa Claus," Pitch amended absently as he twiddled his fingers to watch the puppy try to use her paws to hold them still. Now he was getting attached to the wretched thing.
Xander's expression twisted strangely in disbelief and puzzlement. "But there's no such thing as Santa Claus."
Pitch froze. His whole body felt as if it had been turned to stone. He had to be hearing things, imagined those words. Slowly Pitch raised his head to stare at Xander, eyes possibly wide with wonder. If wonder felt like being hit on the bead by a heavy object.
"What?" Pitch managed to choke out. "You don't- you don't believe
in Santa Claus?"
Cautiously Xander nodded. "So? Neither does Willow but she says that's cause she's jewish."
Pitch laughed then, little more than a puff of air leaving his mouth with a "hah". Then he laughed again a little longer than the first. Soon he was laughing uncontrollably, practically crying from mirth as he clutched the helpless puppy to his chest.
"You're weird," Xander stated once Pitch stopped laughing.
"What about the Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Sandman?" Pitch asked as he set down the puppy and grabbed Xander's shoulders. He could not fight the grin growing across your face.
"Uh, no?" Xander said cautiously, watching Pitch warily. "Who's the Sandman?"
Pitch bit his lip and bowed his head, shoulders shaking as he contained another bout of laughter. Gratefully, Pitch hugged Xander.
"You're a treasure, Alex," Pitch said eventually.
"Pitch, you're acting really weird," Xander complained.
"Well, it's not everyday I come across a child that believes in me but not the Guardians," Pitch explained. Last time was more than likely in the Dark Ages when such a thing did not matter.
"Who?" Xander asked.
Pitch opened his mouth to explain but then paused. Why should he help the Guardians gain another believer, his
believer? If Xander did not already know there was no need to tell him.
"It does not matter," Pitch said instead, after a moment. He let go of Xander and picked up the puppy once more. "Since you can't keep her, perhaps I will for you," Pitch commented idly, secretly pleased he managed to distract Xander. "You have to name her though. Pick a good one."
Xander smiled as he petted the puppy and thought carefully. Eventually he smirked up at Pitch, expression positively devious. "Bratty," he declared.
Pitch laughed, remembering just where the name came from. "A fine choice," he agreed.
I so wish i didn't need the puppy for this 'chapter'. Necessary mcguffin.