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One last sunrise

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It is exactly one year after the battle of Easter, when Sandy spots Pitch Black, sitting on the rooftop of the Bennett house. For a moment, remembering too well how the Boogeyman almost killed him, Sandy is tempted to bring out his whips to teach him a lesson. But something, perhaps the memory of other (and better) times, makes him hesitate. There is something different about Pitch Black, but he can’t quite put his finger on what it is.

Instead, he alerts Pitch of his presence, by sending a stream of Dream sand right past him and into the Bennett household, despite how it is close to dawn.

Pitch Black glances up towards him, but makes no other move, or sound, until Sandy floats down to sit next to him, his arms crossed as he scowls at the Boogeyman.

“Hello Sandy.” Pitch says, the tone of his voice sounding quiet, as if he doesn’t want to disturb the residents of the house underneath them. “Don’t worry… I’m not here to do anything to the boy. I thought about, but…” He shrugs. “I decided I’d rather just sit here and just think for a while. Maybe watch the sunrise.”

Sandy frowns. He can’t ever recall the Boogeyman having behaved like this before. He is always snarky, always ready for banter. Pitch Black does not do ‘quiet and contemplative’, and it unsettles Sandy quite a bit to see him like this.

What’s wrong? He signs.

Pitch just shrugs.

“Nothing you need to concern yourself with, Sandy.” He says, looking away. “Let’s just say, that… I’ve had a whole year to think more seriously about some things. How things could have been different.”

Such as how you should not have been attacking us in the first place? Sandy asks, just a bit sharp. He can’t help himself, and he knows it, because a part of him is still very angry, furious even at how Pitch would literally stab him in the back to get to his goals, rather than face him in open combat…

“Among other things,” Pitch sighs.  “I mean… look where it got me.”

He looks out across the view of the woods that can be seen from the Bennett house.

“I’m as alone as I ever was.”

Sandy frowns, as they sit in silence for a while. It is true, he thinks, that Pitch’s attack was rather desperate. He glances up at the moon, and thinks back to the previous year. Of how Pitch was then, so sure of his victory, his venomous words of threat at the Tooth Palace (“It’s your turn not to be believed in!”)

Had this been a plot he had been in on (though he would never allow himself to betray the children in this way), Sandy would have agreed on that it had been a desperate plan. And perhaps it might even have been a successful one, had they not had Jack with them. He had been the wild card that tipped the balance in their favor, despite the hardships they faced.

The Dream Guardian sighs, making a small huff of dream sand as he does so. And then frowns when he notices something else. There’s a Nightmare standing by one of the other houses, but it’s not so close, that it begins to corrupt any of the dream sand that has already been sent that way. In fact, it seems to just be grazing, like any normal horse would.

“It’s already had its fill.” Pitch murmurs, noticing where Sandy is looking. “It’s been there, watching me all night, feeding on my fear. The others are probably spread over the town. ”

Sandy frowns. He didn’t think there were that many Nightmares left when they defeated Pitch last year. And he tells Pitch as much, seeming to only recall there being about ten or so, when they dragged Pitch away.

“They found their own way of multiplying,” is all Pitch says. “I don’t know if there will be more, or how long they will last.” He sighs, sounding almost wistful. “We will see, I suppose.” And once again, Sandy is reminded of a long time ago, a time before the Dark Ages, before hate and jealousy ruined their friendship.

But that was the thing with power, wasn’t it? It got to your head…

Pitch… He signs carefully. The Man in the Moon never truly wanted you gone. But he couldn’t let you run amok either. That’s why he wanted you to become a Guardian.

“I am aware of that.” Pitch replies, glancing up towards the sky. “We’ve talked. For the first time, in a very long time, he finally decided to speak to me. Better late than never, but there you have it.” He closes his eyes, lowering his head.

“And of all things, despite everything… He told me he forgave me.”

Sandy is surprised at that, but he is once again distracted by the strange tone in Pitch’s voice. It alarms Sandy, though he honestly can’t say why. And for some desperate reason, he decides to reach out with an old idea, hoping for it to catch on.

If he has forgiven you… then it’s not too late to join us.

'To join me,' a quiet part of him wants to say, but Pitch’s tired gaze stops him, especially when the Boogeyman gives him a sad smile.

“But that’s the thing, Sandy.” He says. “It is too late.” He lifts his head, looking towards the horizon and then seems to sigh, as if finding some sort of relief.

“Look. The sun is coming up.”

Around them, the sky has slowly changed color, changing from its deep dark blue, to lighter violet, and to rose. On the horizon, across the buildings they’re watching, the first rays of the sun are appearing. Sandy can feel the warmth across his body… and then, much to his shock, he sees that the Boogeyman doesn’t cast a shadow. The light goes right through him!

That is what he meant, when he said the Nightmare had been feeding on his fear. He knew what was coming, and yet he had been keeping his condition secret, been using the last of his strength to hide the fact, that he is fading.

Sandy feels his eyes water when the Boogeyman looks at him with a tired, relieved smile. His expression is like that of someone who has suffered for a long time, and finally is finding relief from the pain.

“I’m glad you were here with me at the end,” Pitch says quietly. “So I wasn’t completely alone.”

You were never alone! Sandy tries to sign desperately, but it comes out in a desperate jumble. You could have come to me! I could have done something!! And the Fear! You said so yourself! There will always be Fear!

Pitch shakes his head. “There will always be fear,” he agreed. “But I am not needed for it to exist. The Nightmares will see to that now, I think.” he says, and then gives a heavy sigh. “It would make quite a sight, wouldn’t it? Nightmares running across the night sky, spreading fear and bad dream.“ He smiles wistfully, closing his eyes.

“I should have allowed this to happen a long time ago. I was just… scared. But not anymore. I think I have needed this to happen for a long time.” He then looked to the Dream Weaver, giving a final, small smile, before he looks to the rising sun.

“Goodbye Sandy.”

Sandy reaches out for him, As if to try and grab him. But all he grasps is empty air, as the Boogeyman fades away completely.

He doesn’t realize he is crying until he tries to breathe, and lets out a heaved sob. It’s not fair… It shouldn’t have ended like this.

Down in the garden nearby, he hears the lone Nightmare giving a mournful whinny, and he looks down to see that it turns to wander off, disappearing into the shadows, possibly searching for a place where it is still night.

‘I don’t know if there will be more, or how long they will last.’ Pitch’s words echo in Sandy’s mind and the Sandman frowns before he rubs at his eyes, trying away the tears.

He will keep an eye on the Nightmares. Make certain, that they don’t run rampant. There must be a balance, and with them being creatures that were made from Dreams as well, who would be better suited to watch over them, until the Man in the Moon says otherwise?

And Sandy has no doubt that it will be a hard job. But someone has to do it.