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Treading Darkness

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A young girl, around eight, leaned forwards, green eyes glittering as she held her breath in anticipation. Her facial expressions told all, her eyes widening and a gasp escaping pale pink lips as she heard Jamal go after Beauty in anger. She was about to say that he was so mean to Beauty that he had no right to attack her for saying no but just then the Beast jumped in. With an angry swipe he knocked the weapon from Jamal's hands and the young girl leaned onto her knees, baited breath. The deep voice of the narrator carried on, speeding up when the battle between Jamal and the Beast got quicker and deadlier. Beast was wounded again, a dagger in his massive side and he fell, off balance. Jamal saw this as his chance but Beauty threw herself at him, his grip on the sword and his balance failing. They both went tumbling over the edge of the balcony and green eyes welled with tears. Stubbornly the young girl refused to let them fall but instead hugged her stuffed horse closer to her chest.

There was a pause in the storytelling, one that brought the girl back down to earth, if only to remind her that these people weren't real and thus she didn't have to cry for them. The voice started up again and she leaned in, her imagination washing over her eyes and immersing her back into those stormy castle grounds.

The Beast had managed to drag himself up, despite his many injuries, and rushed to the balcony's side. There, fingers quickly loosing their grip on the edge, was Beauty. The Beast grabbed her by the arm and hauled her up, noticing that she had refused to let Jamal die and also had him by the hand.

Surprising herself and the storyteller, the young girl whispered reverently her epiphany, “That's why she's beautiful.”

Grey eyes flicked down quickly to his daughter in surprise before a warm smile overtook his face in an answering 'yes'. Proud, he returned to the story for now the Beast was dying and Beauty was crying. Her head and arms were flung over his chest, tears running down her face as she told him he couldn't leave yet, not when she'd just discovered how much she truly cared for and loved him. The light that suddenly glowed around Beast's body shone in the storyteller daughter's green eyes. A perfect reflection.

The light grew brighter until no-one could bear to look at it and just as suddenly as it had started, it ended. Where once the Beast laid, now was a Prince. The Prince sat up and looked right at Beauty. The smile he flashed her was charming but Beauty didn't move, didn't breathe. It wasn't until the Prince said “It's me Beauty.” and she saw the Beast's own kind eyes in his, that she hesitantly stepped forward. “Beast?” Beauty called and the storyteller's daughter was whispering a chant of 'yes yes yes'. The Prince's eyes crinkled like the Beast's would when he gave a that small tender smile just for her. “It is you...” Beauty whispered before she ran to throw himself in his arms, tears of joy and relief running down her cheeks. Everyone cheered, the newly transformed servants and ecstatic storyteller's daughter.

Bright green eyes shown up at her father as he ended the story with the celebration ball and he couldn't help but smile back at her. Her love always made him so incredibly warm and lucky.

“So now there's two Beautys!” She grinned up at Pitch, chubby cheeks pink and eyes glittering. His breath caught in his throat, the love in her eyes having the same effect on him as it always does. Then, so childlike and so innocent it nearly undid his heart, she asked, “So who was your Beauty, daddy?”

She knew he had a period of time where he was not such a good man from both her jaded mother and his honesty. He would and could never keep much from her and she deserved to know. Because she was his daughter, he loved her and because she needed to know and learn from his mistakes. To grow.

Without hesitation he smiled at her and said, “You.”

The loving hug was broken up too soon by the Chaperone’s cough and polite enforcing of the rules. Pitch hadn't even noticed the late time and with an apologetic smile he scooped up his daughter in his arms. She giggled, the sound soft, happy and floating. He smiled.

“Alright, it's time to go Sweety.”

She pulled a face, the frown looking almost funny on her. “No.”

“Sera.”

"But I want to stay!” She crossed her arms with a defiant pout.

“And I would very much like you to stay as well.” She smiled until she heard his 'however'. A pout fixated on her face even as her dad told her how much her mom probably missed Sera and would want to see her.

Sticking out a lower lip she finally caved, “Fine. But only 'cause you told me to.”

He smiled, something in his eyes that was almost sad and set her down on the ground. “That's my beautiful girl. Now how about a smile? No Sera, a pout is not a smile. Hmm... Let's see... I know what I can do..” He swooped down on her, smiling, and began tickling her until she couldn't hold back the laughter and he laughed too. They were both smiling until the Chaperone took Sera out the door to take her back to her mother.

Pitch's front door shut and it seemed as though the house had never been emptier, save for the shadows. He turned away, knowing better than to watch the car take his daughter away and sat down wearily in a plush arm chair. The empty air pressed down on his head, like being unable to pop his ears, the pressure building as his traitorous mind went a mile a minute. Thoughts piling up in his head, ranging from decent to more than depressed or dark and when the shadows started to look friendly, he stood up sharply. Straight backed he took a deep breath and marched determinedly over to his desk. If his mind was going to run a mile a minute, it might as well be working on something productive. Something good. Something that would help people, not wander into dark places better left untouched.

Robotically he pulled paper and pens out of a drawer. Pitch wasn't even watching, too busy pulling his thoughts back to safer places. He pulled out a folder stamped 'FBI', opened it and let his mind go. It could delve into deeper, darker places if it would help him figure out the Criminal's mind and where he was going. Here it was okay to be dark because being dark meant that he saw things, understood things that his other co-workers could not. Too good, too naive. Pitch wasn't. He wasn't any of those things. Pitch could get into the monster's head, see their thoughts and understand the choices and decisions they made and would make. And Pitch would catch them.

Chapter Text

It was something that could have come out of a horror novel. It was mangled, disturbing and chained to the swing that creaked. The sound echoed through the abandoned playground, the noise swallowed up once it hit the surrounding trees, but otherwise lingering, echoing, in this deathly silent place. The body was literally half frozen to the swing he was sitting on. His arms were stretched high above his head, each arm secured with tight, knotted rope so that his hands were clenched around the rusty chains that held the swing up. His hands and feet were covered in red frost and flecks of glassy red ice. His body was littered with injuries, all having stopped bleeding from either time or the cold. The mask that covered his face was what drew everyone's attention. Large, pointed horns branched off the top of the mask only off-set and balanced by the jagged fangs protruding around the mouth on the lower half of the mask. There were no eye holes in the mask.

Chief Roland stepped back from the scene with an exhaled breath. Well. At least they finally found Krampus. But who would have the guts to go after such a large gun, let alone do this kind of damage? Roland's eyes scanned the scene once again, waiting on the medical examiner to get here so they could remove the mask. What was behind the mask would probably not be good but if the attacker left the birthmark on Krampus alone, then they should be able to identify the body as Krampus'.

The attacker really did a number. Who would make this kind of spectacle of Krampus? Who was big enough to take on the hit this was surely going to send their way? Roland restlessly drummed his fingers against his leg, mind whirling. This was going to stir up a lot of things in the underground and really he wasn't sure he wanted to deal with that just now. Especially those that chose to do dirty business with Krampus.

“Chief Roland!”

He turned sharply at the shout and found a breathless field agent running towards him. From the burlap sack beside the body, the one covered in frost and bits of red ice, the agent had brought a single sheet of paper. In scrawling blue cursive was the signed name '-Jokul Frost'.

Mr. Frost? The mob leader Mr. Frost? Shit. This could be cause for an underground war if things got too out of hand too fast. What was Mr. Frost trying to start? Whipping around he grabbed the nearest agent by the arm and ordered “Get me Special Agent Pitch Black. Now.

The boy scampered off hurriedly and Roland groaned, his fingers clenching and unclenching in a nervous tick. This had better not be Mr. Frost's work or so help them all.


He arrived in a rush of black and scowls. The sea of agents parted for the tall figure, whispers like annoying buzzes in his ear making him want to swat them away.

“Well?” Came the gruff prompt, the man looking thoroughly unimpressed and standing pin straight in his long black coat.

Special Agent Pitch Black frightened most people and even some of Roland's best men were leery of the man. He physically towered over everyone, almost always seemed to be looking at something that should be wiped off the bottom of his shoe instead of a person and preferred to work only with the best. Himself. By himself. But he got cases solved, cold cases and ones just appearing. He was especially talented with mob investigations. The man took them down like they were wasps who he only needed a ladder to reach, dismantle, flush out and arrest. It was almost as if he was in their minds, reading why they did what they did and predicting what they would do next. He was almost always right. He always got his mark. The case he was currently on was the only mob to have eluded his grasp for longer than six months. The Jokul Frost mob.

“This way, please.” Roland said, gesturing for the man to follow. He did, hands clasped behind his back, silver grey eyes piercing the area around them, spine straight and thin lips set in a firm line. Roland began to fill Pitch in on the Krampus case. Everything from his pattern of stalking, kidnapping and then murdering children to his most recent mysterious drop off the grid. Krampus had no meetings planned with anyone when he disappeared, no business planned that they knew of, nothing. It was the perfect chance for whoever was after Krampus to strike. No one in the underground would suspect anything and the police would just think he had struck again, his absence meaning another poor child had been taken.

“And you think Frost is behind the killing of Krampus?"

Roland huffed out a sigh. “Yes. Our medical examiner confirmed it was Krampus. And in the sack beside the body was a paper with Mr. Frost's signature on it.”

Pitch pinned his chief with a flat look. “Frost is hardly such a brutal killer. In fact, he rarely kills and even then, it's done by one of his lesser men.”

Roland thought for a moment, he was no expert on the Mr. Frost case, that was why he had brought in Special Agent Black. “Do you think it could be a copy cat or impersonator? The signature doesn't match anything in our database, so we can't say for sure it was Mr. Frost. It could be an impersonator for all the forensics we have.”

Pitch snorted, “You don't have Frost's handwriting because he was never that stupid before.”

“Angry.”

Pitch blinked and then narrowed his eyes at the woman who had popped up beside the two men. They both stopped and Chief Roland nodded towards the redhead, introducing her to Pitch as their handwriting analysis.

“I'm sorry, what?”

Unperturbed by Pitch's attitude she totally skipped him and faced Chief Roland. “Angry. Furious, upset, whichever word you would prefer. With a touch of panic, the writing rushed, but mostly just angry.”

Roland nodded and took both the scanned copy of Mr. Frost's signature and the paper with the handwriting analysis. “Thank you Ms. Tara.” She nodded, gave a brief look to Pitch before turning on heel and leaving.

“You have an... interesting team here Chief.”

Roland gave a wry smile before replying, “Well, they get the job done. As do you Pitch.”

“Hm.”

Roland gave a small smile before starting to walk again. “We found the body attached to the swing. Our medical examiner pulled the body off already, but we have pictures of how he was found here.” A stack of pictures was handed over to the Special Agent before Roland continued again. “The stench was horrible when we pulled the mask off. Krampus' eyes had been gouged out. The mask also had no eye holes. Not sure if that was meant to be a message or not, along with putting his dead body in a children's playground. There was also a brown burlap sack found next to him. Inside was stacks upon stacks of damning information on Krampus, if it proves to be valid. So far, and we've only been able to go through a fifth of it, it's checked out. Victims, dates of the crimes, his disappearances, and some... more classified information.”

They had reached the crime scene, agents still milling around the swing and surrounding area, searching for more clues if any were left. Roland called over an agent and got his requested papers before turning and handing them to Pitch. The first was information, organized the way that standard police files did, and it showed the beginnings of a criminal record. It showed where Krampus' crimes had escalated from petty thefts and injured animals to stalking and kidnapping “naughty” children. In blue scrawl was the slanted, angry remark “The warning signs. Did money make them disappear?”

Pitch's eyes narrowed on the page, on the writing. Did money make them disappear? Why would someone pay off the police to keep this information down? That's not usually done unless the criminal was someone either in a high position, or had ties with someone like that.

“Kalaire DeLino.”

Pitch looked up, accepting the new piece of paper stating the name, past history, and descent into the pedophile and child trafficker 'Krampus'. The man was Kalaire DeLino, an ex-CSI Chief.

“We're looking into the ties and who may have possibly been the one behind the bribes, if there are any. But since this is bordering on being an inter-office affair the Department of Internal Affairs is thinking about taking over this case.”

Pitch nodded, still looking over both the sheets. “It says that he quit before he became Krampus, so that might give us some time. Unless the bribes are still active.”

Chief Roland nodded before handing another piece of paper over. “Among all the papers of information, there was also this.”

The blue scrawl stared back up at Pitch. Pinched together tightly with almost clipped loops in his writing. Slanted to the side like it was rushed and written when the paper was at an angle, was Mr. Frost's signature. Something else was off though.

“Is there anything else on this paper?”

Roland squinted at the paper in Pitch's grasp before replying that there was nothing else they had found. “Why?” It was just a blank piece of paper save for Mr. Frost's signature.

“Check it for... something else. There's something else written on this paper. His signature is all the way at the bottom of the page, like there's a message above his name. There's something he wants to tell us, if we pass his 'test'.”

“His test?” Roland stared at Pitch before relenting and asking why Mr. Frost would give them a test. Pitch gave him a funny look for a moment before replying, “That's just how Frost is. It's like a game to him.”

“A game. To what end?”

Pitch gave him a wry smile and excused himself to go back to his office to look over the more paperwork aspect of this case. That Pitch hadn't figured out Mr. Frost's mind yet worried Chief Roland. If his firecracker Special Agent hasn't cracked Mr. Frost yet, they may be in trouble. Tapping his fingers against his leg he watched Pitch leave, hoping that as bad as this murder was, maybe it would help Pitch get a jump on the Mr. Frost case. The faster they took down the Frost mob and it's leader, the better.


Keys clacked noisily, fingers pressing down on them too forcefully and too quick. Nervous chatter crowded the already noisy atmosphere and with every noise Pitch's head throbbed. He blamed it on his terrible morning, the idiot teen with bleached hair dumping his sugary 'cappuccino' down the front of Pitch's coat, the Krampus case colliding with his Frost case and the fact that none of the people in this office knew what a calm and quite atmosphere was. Or concentration. Pitch shut his eyes against the fluorescent lights that reminded him how little sleep he had gotten last night and tried to pretend that it didn't feel like his eyes were being stabbed. With needles. Two desks away someone dropped the box they were carrying and it smacked against the ground loudly. A shaky breath hissed out through Pitch's teeth and fingers combed through his black hair with the intent of massaging the migraine out through his temples.

Clearly he was not going to be very productive here. Not with his current temperament and the always gossip and chatter filled atmosphere here. As soon as the last of the papers came through from the brown sack, Pitch left.

He had the handwriting analysis, the papers from the sack were for the most part proved true, he had copies of the two pieces of paper Frost had written on and he had the two case files. That was all he needed. Well, that and some peace and quiet.

The peace and quiet he found at the local family owned coffee shop. Located in a back corner, away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world and often quiet during mid-day. It was as perfect as he was going to get right now and Pitch would gladly take it over the office. So he did. In the back corner booth, folders placed neatly in front of him closed, with scrap paper in a neat pile to his right, he sipped his black coffee in relief. He had just closed his aching eyes, ignored the chime bell on the front door as it rang, when a loud and entirely too cheerful voice rang out. Damn.

It carried on laughing with the cashier as he ordered a cappuccino and some sort of sweet desert that shouldn't be sold before three in the afternoon and Pitch tried very hard to remember that this place was as good as it was going to get. Even with some no-good teenager skipping high school and talking his tongue off to anyone who would listen.

And really, Pitch should have suspected it, should have been suspicious when it suddenly got quiet. He really shouldn't have been as startled as he was when a cheery “Hello!” chimed right by his ear, making him jerk his coffee, hiss at the hot liquid scalding his hand, and eyes snap open to bright blue.

“What?” he hissed, eyes narrowed as he wiped the stinging liquid off his hand, soiling his solitary napkin and shoving his files to the side, out of sight.

“Ah, sorry 'bout that. Didn't think I'd scare you.” He grinned, pearly whites showing and rubbed the back of his head with a hand nervously. “I just wanted to apologize for this morning.”

Bleached white hair stared at him mockingly in the face as the teen stood before him, glacier eyes matching his sweatshirt, and a sheepish grin aimed towards him. “Uhm, yeah. So I was going to say that if you need your coat cleaned,” The eyes flashed to the now barley present brown spot on Pitch's long black coat and then back up to Pitch's, “that I could pay for the cleaning bill. You know, since it was my fault.”

Pitch tch'ed and took another sip of his coffee, “I rather doubt you could pay for it, or that your parents would want to pay the bill for your mess, so just run back off to school.”

The light laughter surprised Pitch and Pitch was beginning to get annoyed with this young boy. There was absolutely nothing funny about offering to have his parents pay for a stain on Pitch's brand new leather coat when they probably couldn't afford to. All Pitch had wanted was a nice morning, that ruined all he was asking for was a quiet break from idiots and the office. Apparently that was too much to ask for.

“Oh don't worry about it.” He grinned at Pitch, something glinting in those blue eyes, “And I'm older than you think, grandpa.”

Why that little...

“But if you insist, I'll leave.” He gave a mock bow and before Pitch could add a snarky remark he left with a call over his shoulder, “But it was nice meeting you Mr. Grumpypants! Name's Jack by the way!”

Pitch stewed for a moment, indignant at being called a grandpa, and angry at himself for letting himself fall to banter with a mere teenager. He was old, but not that old. He had an eight year old daughter, he was not old.

Long, pale fingers clenched the bridge of his nose as he closed his eyes tightly. Frost. Right. Get back to the Frost case. Grey eyes opened slowly and he grabbed a blank sheet of paper. Now. What would get Frost so angry that he would go after Krampus? He had no known links to him, in fact, Frost stayed out of that market. His mob usually only worked the drug cartels and the Black Market. In the Black Market they usually only bought and sold stolen items and artifacts. Never people. Frost also killed far less people than most mob bosses. Not to say he was kind, because after a certain point death was rather welcome over some of his other methods, but he usually only killed the ones who betrayed him. There was a few kills, done by lower ranking members of his mob, that they had yet to understand why they were killed, but they were very few in number.

The analysis had said he was angry and panicked. The logical path from that was to assume that Krampus had done something to upset and possibly betray Frost. But the panic threw Pitch off a bit. He had, until now, yet to see something make Frost worried. Much less panicked. Anger can make people kill, make mistakes and go further than they thought. But panic?

Pitch tapped his pencil against the table and drained the last of his coffee without even noticing it. Robotically he pulled sheets out from his folder, starting with the ones with Frost's handwriting on it, if it even was Frost's handwriting. The paper that only had his signature on it stared up at him, mockingly. He knew something was there, but the lab had yet to turn up any results. They started with the hidden messages that were the hardest to detect, the hardest to find and Pitch wondered if maybe they had started off too complex.

Frost liked to play games, with his comrades and his enemies alike. If people weren't interesting, or he lost interest in them, they were gone. Removed. Sometimes never to be seen again. This was also Frost's first interaction with the police directly, as he had always flitted off the radar anytime they got too close before. He was elusive, like a winter fox hiding in the snow, in plain sight. Playing games. So maybe. Maybe Frost didn't have that high of expectations of the police. He had, after all, evaded them for six years, and now Pitch for six months.

A waiter walked by, glasses of tea balanced on her tray as she went to serve a table close to him. Lemons perched on the rim of each glass, ice tinkling and Pitch suddenly saw. Could it really be that easy?

“Waiter?” He called out, mind whirling, part glad at the epiphany and part insulted by the insinuation of it all. “I would like to order a tea.”

One quick drive to the office and Pitch was staring down the Forensic's department, scowl in place. All of them, shocked silent, stared at the lemon Pitch had slammed down on the table demanding to know what it was.

“It's a lemon, s-sir.” The young man pulled at his necktie nervously when Pitch leveled him with an impatient look. “W-well I don't see why you brought that to us...” He trailed off, feeling small and insignificant with Pitch staring him down.

Pitch pressed a look against them all, drawing out an unimpressed “Really.”

A short man 'har-umphed' impatiently, scowling at Pitch. “I don't see why ye think ya have the right to come marchin' in here like ya own the place, stop us from working just to try and humiliate us with some ridiculous-”

He was only saved the repercussions by a young dirty blond woman pressing forward through the crowd, voice soft but confident. “Lemon juice. Amateurs and kids use it to write secrete messages.”

Pitch nodded, lips pressed together thinly, but glad someone finally got it.

“Heat it up and the message shows up.” She paused, then turned sharply on her heel. “Brittney, get me Mr. Frost's signature. The original.”

“About time.” Pitch leveled a look with all of them. “Why has this not been tried before? What idiot said to skip it? Or was it simply not thought of by any of the idiots in this room?”

Silence reigned until the dirty blond spoke up again, sheet now in her hand. “Thought Mr. Frost would make it a more complex code to crack.”

“Wrong.”

To her credit, she didn't flinch at his tone even when he used his massive height to tower over her menacingly.

“He thinks the police to be morons, bumbling idiots if you so please, and he almost was proved correct. Always check the obvious first.” He stared at her intently until she finally spoke up, “Yes, yes. I get it but would you kindly move out of the way Special Agent Black?”

He blinked, narrowed his eyes but moved aside anyway. She put the paper in a machine, heated it up and then pulled the paper back out. There, now a visible brown, was the scrawling clue. “You took too long-making me fix it.”

Pitch let it sink in before turning, coat flapping after him, to leave. Stopping, he faced back to the dirty blond. “You. Name.”

She turned back to him, hands on her hips. “You. Manners.” She began to laugh at his affronted look and scowl, “Kallie Ryuu.”

Narrowed eyes. “Very well Miss Kallie. Any of my evidence that comes down to this lab goes straight to you and I'll hold you personally responsible for the results.” His next look told her that while he was mildly impressed with her being the most intelligent of the idiots in the lab, he would not tolerate any more mocking of him.

“Yes sir.” She said, laugh held back behind her lips as she fought back a salute. He may have been the most frightening person in the entire building, but not every person was as easily cowed over. Some rose to the challenge. She could only hope that he took a partner that did the very same to him. The thought sent a laugh through her, wondering how his lover might rile him up, annoy him, just because they could get away with it.

“You took too long-making me fix it.”. What could that mean? Pitch rose from his desk, fixing and arranging things, putting everything up in it's proper place, before he got his jacket. Slipping it on for the crisp air outside, he grabbed his briefcase and left. What was waiting at home for him however, was nothing he was expecting. Lost in thought, he nearly tripped over it head first. Scowling down at it, there on his front step, was a clear package. A brand new, black, leather coat. Exactly the same as the one he was wearing, only free of the coffee stain. And attached was an infuriating typed card.

“To: Mr. Grumpypants:
I told you not to worry about it :P But since
you wouldn't let me get it cleaned, here's a new one. xP
Besides, just between the two of us, we both know that
dry cleaning never actually cleans anything. Later!
-Jack”

Chapter Text

Something was wrong. The Head Believers could feel it, down to their toes, when their boss walked in. Tan shoes smacked against the wooden floor paneling, the sound echoing in the hesitant silence, as he came down the hallway to their summoned room.

“Report.”

Several heads turned as their boss' voice rang out, cold and demanding. He marched in, head high, eyes icy and tan coat ironed straight.

“Yes-Sir!”

They turned to face him head on, the newer ones shaky, and addressed their boss with the respect he deserved and demanded. In order, each Head Believer reported. Sales on the Black Market, bids, reports on other Mob Bosses, drug trafficking, until they finally reached the police reports.

“The police has gotten Mr. Frost's notes from the bag.”

“Have they discovered the clue?”

“Yes, Sir.” The Head Believer of the Police Intel section quivered at the look given to him.

“Speak up boy. Who found it?” There was a dangerous tone in his voice and it took a moment for the boy to gather up his voice again. “T-they said the Mr. Frost Case leader was the one to crack it, not the Forensics Lab.”

“Of course not. They expect everything to be complex, how dull.” Blue eyes focused back on the boy again, hard. “Who is the case leader?”

“D-don't know, Sir. He was just recently employed at this branch and all of his records are restricted. Our spy can't even get access to his-”

The boss' hand held out to stop him did it's job. “Enough. Get me Toothiana.”

Widened eyes and a hasty retreat to get one of 'The Guardians' put everyone on edge. The Guardians were the highest ranking officers in the Frost Mob, besides Mr. Frost and his under-boss, MiM. MiM, or “Manny” as he was called within the mob, was scary. His earpiece fed him direct instructions from Mr. Frost. Most of the Believers suspected that most of what Manny said came directly from Mr. Frost's mouth. As a result, no-one dared disrespect or disobey Manny. Something like that would be just the same as disrespecting Mr. Frost and that was not a bridge anyone in the mob wanted to cross. Because while Manny scared the Believers, Mr. Frost terrified them. He was a force to be reckoned with and while no-one had seen his face, except maybe The Guardians, he still was an imposing figure. A threatening figure.

A woman came up, calm and not rushed despite the urgency the Believer tried to instil in her. Light footsteps that seemed to barely touch the floor, almost like she didn't walk and instead flew, but that's just ridiculous, left no sound. She was a whisper in the wind and her hair fell loosely just above her shoulders, bright colors interwoven into black locks. A feathery crown adorned her head and bangles that made no noise hung loosely around her wrists and ankles, feathers dangling.

“You called?” Voice light, but confident.

Manny faced her, blue contacts covering his eyes from her. “I've got a job for you, Toothiana.”

She inclined her head and Manny continued on, repeating the words fed to him through his ear piece. “This is an Intel Mission on the Mr. Frost Case Leader. I want to know everything, background history, current

status, every little secret no matter how deep it's buried. Do you understand?”

Black lashes fluttered against dark tanned skin before she smiled, purple eyes shining. “A full intel search? Oh, I'd be pleased. Dental work included?”

Manny dipped his head, small smile gracing his lips as he repeated “Of course.”

“Consider it done.” She turned, fingers already fiddling with her twin blades perched on her hips.

“Oh, and Toothiana.” A pause. “Your sister, Baby Tooth? She was requesting a mission to prove herself?”

Purple eyes locked with contact blue ones. Steady gaze, hardened resolve. “Yes.” She didn't dare voice any concerns she had for her baby sister. She was old enough to make her own decisions, to learn from her mistakes. As long as she didn't die.

“Mr. Frost has a mission for her. Intel only, no contact. If seen, she is to leave immediately. Secrecy is of the utmost importance.”

Toothiana didn't dare breath in relief, didn't dare utter thanks that it wasn't a contact mission, didn't dare show happiness at her boss making it an easy mission. She didn't dare. After all, she still didn't know the target. And Mr. Frost was in one of those moods.

“Mr. Frost has left a folder with her target on your desk for her. She should leave immediately.” Manny paused before giving her a look. If she wasn't seen, then she'd be fine. Not that high risk. Thank the moons. “As should you.” A pointed look and she returned it with an “Of course.” and her immediate departure.

The Guardians were the ones closest to Mr. Frost, Manny included. But that didn't mean he showed them mercy. He was still the head boss of the Frost Mob, he was still the leader. His rule was absolute and he had to enforce it, prove it, not be lenient and play favorites. He wasn't the nicest person, he was a Crime Lord, he was a Mob Boss, he was not kind. You can't be, not in these kinds of wars and lines of work. Living underground has it's effect on everyone. If you wanted a kind person, then you best go back up to the world above. And good luck. Evil lurks everywhere. Man kind has forgotten, but the truth from days of villages and fires, still burns true. The brightest lights, cast the darkest shadows.

“Enough Manny. You may return to your office.” The cool voice flitted through the earpiece and Manny didn't question it. He simply dismissed the remaining head Believers and retired to his desk. Though he couldn't help but let his thoughts wander to Frost. After what had just happened with Krampus, he and all of the Guardians were a bit worried for him. And wary of him. Manny didn't know all the details, but he had seen the aftermath. He had seen the look in Mr. Frost's eyes and then, Oh moon, the way he had descended upon Krampus in all that lightning fury. Manny shuddered to think upon how Krampus had looked after that. It had been a long, long time since Manny had witnessed that kind of unreserved fury from Frost.

---

Another body. Another dead criminal. Another puzzle. Special Agent Pitch Black was on the scene before they had even called his number.

Pitch stared down at the body. Dark skin, black tangled hair and a sharp jawline. The victim was female with a slightly crooked nose and had been shot twice. Once just missing the heart, the other hitting the target straight on. Someone new at killing, or something had startled the shooter causing the first hit to come so close to the target, but not hit it straight on. The victim was a criminal that went by the name of Black Aggie. She had been working in the illegal smuggling of arms across the borders when she had been shot and killed.

Grey eyes flickered around the surroundings. They were right at the border, a mile or so in, and surrounded by heavy forests. The was a road to the right about 60 yards away and two bloody puddles. One under the body and one some odd feet away. She had probably tried to retaliate in some way after the first shot, but didn’t make it far before the second shot went off.

He circled the body, looking around the area. There was nothing here to connect this murder to his case. It just was another murder that had popped up within the same sixty days as the Krampus murder had. There was no frost, no notes, no criminal history left behind, nothing. Nothing except the fact that this was another criminal killed with no-one claiming the credit for the deed. Black Aggie was in the process of smuggling in illegal weapons when she seemed to have been called off to the side, shot, killed and left there to rot. The deep gouges in the road led Pitch to believe that the shot had scared the rest of her crew and the cooperating crew into a hasty escape. Probably thought someone had caught on and up and left before they could get caught or killed too.

Still, it was strange that only Black Aggie had been attacked. If it had been a rival, they would have at least attempted to take over her crew, or at the very least take her cargo. But if that had occurred there would have at least been some multiple injuries, maybe even a few deaths. As it was, there was only one body and two puddles of blood 60 yards off the road.

Stepping back Pitch looked through the field agents to find his chief. Spotting him, he glided over to him easily, the pre-dawn light filtering in through the trees.

“Chief.”

“Wha-oh. Black.” Chief Roland placed a hand against his chest briefly and mumbled something about shadows and tricks.

“Who called in the body?”

Chief Roland nodded to him before looking back at the crime scene. He ran a hand through his hair before replying “A couple of hikers. In the dead of the night they got startled out of camp by the sounds of a bear. The wife was so freaked out by it that she refused to sleep in that spot. They got up to move camp and ran into the body.” There was a humorless smile on his face. “I don’t think she’ll be sleeping well for a few weeks at least.”

Pitch 'hmm’ed in thought, mind processing the various information. “So no apparent connection to the murder.” He unclasped his hands from behind his back to pull out his phone. Flicking the screen to life, he checked the time before putting it back in it’s holster. “Have them send the rest of the report to my office. I don’t think it’s connected to the Frost case but I’d like to make sure.”

“Sure thing. Have somewhere to be?”

Pitch looked at his Chief out of the side of his eye briefly before looking back at the scene before him. Making an affirmative hum he moved to return to his car. “I’ll be out of the office for the rest of the weekend. Contact me only if Frost makes a move or if there’s an emergency.” Then he was gone, disappearing into the still lingering shadows of the forest, intent on reaching his car before it hit full dawn.

----

When he picked his daughter up from their predetermined drop off spot, she had puffy eyes and pink cheeks. The stubborn jut of her chin made him pause in his asking of what was wrong. There was nothing he could ask that would get her to say what had happened until she was ready. Still, he hated to see his sweet girl unhappy, the frown that pulled at her lips seemed to weigh her down more than gravity ever could.

He pulled her into a hug, felt her stiffen before she relaxed in his hold. Over her shoulder and through her messy black tangles he looked her mother in the eyes and a moment of understanding passed between the two. He blinked and it was over, and he was helping Sera into his black car. He pulled a CD out from the holder attached to his sunshade and popped it into the player. The songs started off in a neutral tone before they slowly got happier, enticing his daughter to start lip synching to them before finally singing along with them softly. By the time they made it to his house, she had a small smile on her lips.

Ten minutes later of small chat, her favorite fairy tale book pulled off the shelf and held open on her lap, and she finally gave in. She was tracing the image of the Beast on one of the book’s pages when she said “Billy called me names today.”

“Did he now?”

She refused to look up at him and he put his hands in his lap, folded, but leaned closer to her, shoulders brushing. “Did you tell him that it wasn’t a very nice thing to do?”

She worried her lip, looking away from him and the book. “Yeah. But he kept calling me names and then said if I told the teachers he was being mean that I’d be a tattle tale.” She got more upset by the word, but still held in her tears.

“I see.” He said sagely, head nodding. “Well, did you tell him that you could take care of yourself without his input?”

“No.” She sniffled. “Because then he said-he said...” She trailed off, voice muffled by her shoulder and hair.

Wrapping a comforting arm around her shoulders he pulled her up against him, saying nothing but waiting patiently.

“He said it was my fault.”

“Your fault for what sweetie?”

She hesitated but he only waited, a comforting squeeze around her shoulders like a small hug. “My fault that you and mommy don’t like each other anymore and live far apart.”

He blinked, eyes momentarily wide before narrowing. Taking a deep breath, he allowed himself a few seconds before replying. “Now why would you believe that?”

She sniffled. “’Cause why else would you and mommy hate each other? You liked each other before I came!”

“Sweetie...” He pulled her away and moved her so she sat in front of him, face to face. Putting a finger beneath her chin, he titled her face up so she looked at him, eyes welling with tears. “Listen to me very carefully Seraphina.” Glassy green eyes widened and she nodded her head ever so slightly at his serious tone and look.

“You are in no way responsible for what happened between myself and your mom.” He gave a stern look to her when she began to protest and when she quieted he gave her a small smile. “And your mother and I don’t hate each other. We aren’t in love with each other like we used to be, but we love each other still. We’re still a family and I love her like a family member. We just aren’t in the kind of love where we kiss anymore.”

“She kisses Adam.” Sera said firmly, a pout on her face.

Pitch chuckled lightly, “Yes, well, your mother may be falling in the kissing kind of love with Adam.”

“But how come you two don’t?”

He gave her a small, sad smile. “You see, we fell out of that kind of love. But it wasn’t your fault. And I need you to understand that your mother and I both love you very, very much. We wouldn’t trade anything in the world for you.”

She seemed to accept that but then stubbornly persisted onto her next track of questioning, hurt still lingering. “But then why did Billy have to go and say such mean things?” Her pink lower lip jutted out, “That’s not nice! And he lied! Daddy, he lied!”

Pitch paused, thinking, when his eyes landed on the story book still laid open on her lap. Her forest green eyes followed his eyes to the pictures and then flickered back to his questioningly. Picking up the book gently he closed it and then showed her the cover. The Beast and the Beauty were featured on the front, it’s title embossed in gold shiny paint flowing across the top.

“You know honey, not all Beasts get cursed the same way.”

Green eyes blinked up at him and she rubbed the back of her small hands across her eyes. “They don’t?”

“No.” He said softly, thumb tracing around her eyes, wiping away tears. “Sometimes they’re not a Beast underneath like the Beast in the story. Sometimes they’re good underneath.”

“A Beauty.” She corrected and he nodded, a small sad smile on his face.

“Yes. A Beauty. But then sometimes they get tricked, or hurt and then they become a Beast. They think it’ll protect them from the things that hurt. But it just makes things worse. For them, and for others.”

“That’s sad.” she said softly. “Is that why Billy said those mean things to me?” He nodded, about to say that it might be a reason why when she said “But you never got ugly.”

Momentarily thrown he blinked before he chuckled, a soft, sad thing. “Oh but I did.” Memories from those dark times washed over him like unwanted ink and he forced a grin for her sake. “I got terribly ugly.” He leaned over her, using large hand motions to illustrate. “I was hideous! A true monster!”

She shoved at his chest, laughing, “was not! You just got paler!”

He sobered up immediately and leaned in close to his daughter. At her level he looked her in the eyes and said “I only got paler on the outside but on the inside I was a hideous Beast.” She needed to understand this. “I’m not proud of that. I looked normal on the outside but I was a monster, a Beast, on the inside. It's not how you look that makes you a Beast, it's what you do.”
Sera nodded, her answer to his unspoken question of understanding. “But you’re a Beauty now, right?”

A small smile with thin lips. “I would like to think so.”

“Think?” She pouted, pink lips pressing together to mimic his thin ones. “You are so!” And she threw her arms around his neck, clinging to him. “You’re here, with me, so you are.” Came her words muffled against his neck.

He chuckled, the vibrations making her nose tickle and she giggled when her laugh tickled his throat. “Yes, I am.” He scooped her up in his arms and grinned at her, “All because someone used her magic crayons on me and made me pretty all over again.” And with that he tossed her up a bit and caught her, her laugh buoying him above all his fears, his doubts and above all the evil.

----

Chapter Text

The first day of work after his weekend with Sera was always the hardest. Sometimes he got the most work done, sometimes he got close to nothing done. The things that remained the same each time however, was the lack of sleep, the frustration and the unease. With the empty house echoing back at him, the shadows pressing in and his ever running mind, he was almost sure to never get any sleep that first night. To have his light in the dark for the weekend was a blessing but it was always hard to go back to nights without her laugh and days without her smile. It made the dark seem blacker, more oppressive, more seeking, with hands that tugged, grabbed and whispered. To combat that, he threw himself into his work. He worked at twice the speed and half the patience level for idiocy. Today was no different.

Nothing connected Black Aggie’s death to Frost or to the Frost Mob so Pitch decided to list it as a dead end. He would, however, keep the file near by in case something else cropped up that would connect it to the Frost case, but for now, it was a dead end and it was time to stop wasting energy on it. Even if it had been done by the Frost mob, it was a lower ranking member and not one of the top five or Frost. Which meant that there was a higher possibility of it just being a revenge motive of said low ranking member than it being anything anything of importance.

There was nothing new on the information queries he made on behalf of Frost’s note. ‘You took too long-making me fix it.’ That gave way to thinking that perhaps Frost had left notes before, or hints about Krampus for the police to find. Theoretically, when the police didn’t catch him fast enough for Frost’s pleasure, then he would step in and fix the problem himself, thus the note. Which would also mean that the note wasn’t Frost’s first contact with the police. Pitch stared hard at the papers on his desk, frustration growing. Theoretically. This was all theory at this point because Pitch had yet to locate any said hints, or clues from Frost, or from anyone, about Krampus. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There was also the small, tiny, detail that this theory did nothing to explain the ‘panic’ that the handwriting analysis said was in his writing. The panic still stumped Pitch. Frost was known to not be scared of anyone, nor to allow anyone to take advantage of him. He always had an out and if he ever looked as if that was untrue, it was because it was all a part of his plan. He was a dangerous man, taunting enemies and getting away with it. He slipped out of everyone’s hands like fog, disappearing into the frigid night air. Unless he wanted to be caught, and then that was cause for even more worry. But all of this was off topic and he really needed to get back to brainstorming what could possibly get Frost so riled, so panicked that he would have it show in his handwriting as he went after Krampus.

Pitch massaged his temples, steadily ignoring the loud atmosphere that filled the air around him in his office building. Okay, so Frost thought he was fixing the Krampus problem by killing him off. So, Frost was acting as a sort of vigilante then, in Frost’s point of view. He took out the problem of Krampus kidnapping children and killing them by killing the man doing the evil deeds. Which doesn’t make Frost a hero, but then he doesn’t claim to be one. Just says that he took care of the problem, fixed it. Interesting. Frost has never before actively helped anyone, or fixed anything that wasn’t a problem for him. Could something have spurred this change in behavior?

Pitch looked up, zoning out for a bit as he just registered his energy levels resting dangerously close to zero. He would have to go out and get some coffee as the “coffee” here in the office always tasted a week old with something fermenting in it. His nose wrinkled in distaste at the thought. Well, time for his coffee run. Glancing at his clock when he pulled on his coat made him grimace. Rather, it was time for his two hour late lunch. That tiny cafe who’s name he couldn’t be bothered to remember was calling his name.

---

This time, Pitch looked up when he heard that happy, upbeat voice. He was flashing a toothy grin to the cashier as he talked. Blue eyes sparkling with life in a way that Pitch had long ago decided could only belong to the young; to the ones free of taint and tragedies. The cappuccino was handed off to someone on Jack’s left that Pitch couldn’t see for Jack eclipsing them. The cashier said something causing him to laugh and a higher, more musical laugh joined his. When Jack moved, Pitch saw her. A girl, in her early teens, with brown hair and Jack’s smile. It was then, when her eyes met his, that Jack turned and saw him. He didn’t have to wait long, a grin split across Jack’s face in the next instant and he was grabbing the girl, presumably his sister, whispering something to her and practically trotting over.

Since he was getting no-where fast with his case at the moment, Pitch decided he could humor them. And find out where Jack had found the money to buy him a completely new coat.

“Hello Jack.” He nodded, satisfaction at the brief look of shock on Jack’s face forming a small grin on Pitch's face, “Nice to see you again.” He looked to the girl, “And I don’t believe we’ve met yet.” Hmph. Never let it be said that he didn’t have manners. He just chose when and with whom to use them.

She smiled, a bit softer but every bit as impish as the boy’s. “Oh.” She said eloquently with a giggle, “I think you already know who I am, Mr. GP.”

He blinked, thrown a bit by the ‘Mr. GP’ but smiled none-the-less at her. “Really now?”

She nodded with an ‘Mm-hm!’, rocking back on her heels with her hands clasped behind her back, and for a second he was reminded of his daughter. He shook it quickly, trying to school his face into his usual bland polite look. “And how is that?”

She leaned it, grinning and Jack failed to stifle all of his laughter, as she whispered, “’Cause Jack said you were a detective, Mr. GrumpyPants.

Why that little-

“Emma!” She jumped back, flashing Jack a sheepish smile followed by her puppy-dog eye look. Jack tried to look stern but all he could manage was a mildly unimpressed look before it broke into open amusement. He rolled his eyes before ruffling her hair and ignoring her indignant protests, faced Pitch. “Sorry ‘bout that.” He grinned, not really looking all that sorry at all, the little imp. “This is Emma-”

“Your sister.”

He grinned, “Right on the mark, Mr..?”

“Black. Pitch Black.” The words were out before he had even decided to play along with this game.

A real smile lit up Jack’s face before it was replaced by a grin. “Ah! Well, it’s nice to meet you a third time, Mr. Pitch Black.” He did a mock bow, nudging his sister into a curtsy despite her lack of skirts. She played along anyways, giggling and eyes full of mirth.

“As you, Jack.”

“Mind if we join you?”

Well, it wasn’t like he was getting any work done anyhow. He nodded, somewhat sadistically thinking about how he ought to leave some work for his “team” to actually do. The time was spent in jokes and story-telling. His sister would retell all kinds of stories, all focusing on Jack and most meant to embarrass him. Apparently he had been talking about Pitch to her, wouldn’t shut up, if Pitch was to believe her. This was met with a childish glare from Jack who swiftly, and apparently without much of Emma’s notice, diverted the conversation to a completely different subject. It was a smooth transition and Pitch almost found himself swept away with it without having noticed the change. It was about a half hour in when Emma had finished her drink of sugar and coffee that Jack pulled out a waxy paper bag from his pocket. Cargo pants today, not jeans. Immediately the spicy smell wafted into the small shop when he opened up the bag. He flashed a grin at Pitch before waiting patiently as Emma grabbed one from the bag and bit into it already. Holding the bag out to Pitch in an offering, Pitch found himself noticing the specks and splotches of faded paint on his fingers and hands. The rest of his arms were covered in his traditional blue hoodie, but it wouldn’t be surprising if his arms were covered too.

“They’re just ginger snaps.” Jack prompted, shaking the bag for emphasis when Pitch didn’t respond. Shrugging he pulled the bag back to him, dug in it, retrieved a few before going to much on them.

“I don’t care much for sweets.” He replied, trying to get the little girl’s insistent stare off of him. It worked for a small while until she began asking about him. What did he do? Was it cool? Was it like on t.v.? Or were the t.v. shows just hoaxes like she thought? Though if she had to be honest, they were pretty amusing hoaxes but that was besides the point! What did Pitch do?

“So Jack. You like to paint?”

Blue eyes blinked at him before he laughed. “Ah, must not have gotten all the paint off.” He glanced down at his hands curiously before shrugging. “I do. Been mostly dabbling in different mediums. Today was acrylic, mostly I use watercolor. Washes off easier.” He laughed, continuing on, “Also makes the colors flow better. Well, in my biased opinion.”

“You’re not in high school then.”

It wasn’t a question but a statement and Jack grinned at him, teeth flashing white. “Told you I was older than you thought. I’ve already got my AA, just working on a Masters now. But Emma here,” He ruffled her hair again and she swatted at him, pink cresting her cheeks, “is going to major in Music.” The smile that he gave her was soft, something Pitch hadn’t thought he’d see. “She’s got real talent. Sings like an angel, don’t you Emma?”

“Jaaaack!” She whined, shying away but eyes proud saying if she had to sing right then, she would. If only to prove that she could.

“That kind of talent usually comes from a parent. Did your mom or dad sing?”

Like a door being slammed shut, silence fell on them. Emma looked down at her lap as she crunched slowly on her ginger snap and Jack’s eyes just flickered off to the side. Pitch saw him take a breath, force a smile and with an hand reaching under the table towards Emma, said “Yeah. Mom did.”

Just like that Emma’s head whipped up to face Jack, eyes searching and when she found what she wanted, she smiled. Small and hesitant but she smiled. “Dad couldn’t sing worth crap though.” He chuckled, face getting more warmth and happiness to it. “He scared away all the animals when he did. Mom found it hilarious, which of course made dad feel even more embarrassed.” Emma was soaking it all up like she didn’t ever really hear about their parents. Which meant that she didn’t.

Just how big of an age gap was there between the two?

“Mom could sing like an angel though. Always put you right to sleep when you were having a hissy fit.” He grinned at Emma, dramatically feigning injury when she punched him in the shoulder.

“I did not have hissy fits!”

“Did too!”

“Did not!”

And then they were both sticking their tongue out at each other childishly until Pitch cleared his through. All at once they both realized where they were and with whom and both their faces colored pink. “Ah-whoops.” Jack rubbed the back of his neck nervously, and gave a grin to Pitch. “You weren’t supposed to see that, right.” Jack looked off to the side and then suddenly went stock still.

“Jack?”

He was all arms, and legs, and movement. “Oh crap! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.” He hauled Emma up by the arm, flashed a grin to Pitch and saluted him. “See ya later Pitch!” And was gone before Pitch could reply. The silence following the flurry of movement that was Jack’s departure was heavy and empty. Pitch let a small smirk grace his lips as he tipped the cold coffee cup against his lips. They were an interesting pair, one with more questions than answers. Grey eyes glanced back at his forgotten folders and blank papers. Perhaps he would have to come here more often, figure out just what was behind those two kids. What made Jack tick the way he did.

He pulled out a pen, grabbed a blank piece of paper and got to work. The silence may have been heavy, but it was still light enough to allow him to work. The stress from earlier had seeped out of his body at some point without his acknowledgment and it was suddenly easier to concentrate than before. Yes, he decided, he would definitely come back here again. Especially since he had yet to figure out how Jack could afford to get him a brand new coat. They didn’t have parents around, so did they live with a relative? Or, since Jack was already in college with a completed AA, he was probably old enough to be his sister’s legal guardian and hold down a place for the both of them. But where was he getting the money to support his college, food, rent, Pitch’s jacket and not be in the least concerned about if his sister was going to be able to go to college? He said it like a sure thing, a guaranteed thing. No doubts. Hm. Curious.

He sat for a few minutes mulling things over before glancing back at his files. Everyone finds a way to do what they think they have to do. That was proven by many people, some even of unsavory backgrounds, backgrounds like that of Mr. Frost. Who knew? Maybe to keep from loosing each other, Jack takes on a less than favorable job. He’d seen it before, mothers and siblings working at strip clubs or drugs to support their family. They’d rather loose their dignity than each other.

Pitch blinked, mind whirling, rewinding then going forward again. They’d rather loose dignity than each other. They don’t want to loose each other so much that they’d do anything. People get emotional about ties to family, emotions make people unpredictable, unstable, sometimes erratic. They’d do anything to hold on to each other, sometimes even if it means they have to kill. Could Frost have something to loose? Someone to loose? Would that- back up. Pitch took a breath and then switched tracks. Okay. Krampus kidnapped children, did unspeakable things to them and then killed them. If he had gone after Sera, Pitch would have torn him limb from limb, law regardless. That was his little girl and that was that. Cover and reputation be dammed. It didn’t mean a thing without her and to be honest, his Beast would probably reign control again if that happened. It was hard enough the first time, to cling onto sanity and logic when they took her and his wife. Oh he had panicked at first when they said-

He had panicked. Panic. The Panic. If Frost had still been chasing Krampus when he wrote that letter, then that would make sense. Why else would Frost go after Krampus? A man of whom he had no business with, no association and no connections to. He had never seen the man, let alone talked or done business with him. But if Krampus had dared take someone Frost was attached to, then the man was going to Hell frozen. But Krampus only took children. Most of his kidnappings were on children aged 6-12, although occasionally he got the kids in their teens. Frost doesn’t deal with kids, he has none in his Mob, and he doesn’t associate with the families of his mob. They work for him and that’s it. So the next question is, does Frost have a kid? If he did, that would fit the age range, but no one, no one above or underground has even caught a whiff of a rumor about any kind of kid. That kind of thing is valuable knowledge, once someone knows, the whole underground knows. That’s a weakness to exploit, to hold for ransom, to torture, to use against him. Frost was also a young man, or so they said. No one but his highest ranking officers has actually seen him. Most people know of Frost by his methods, his ‘Guardians’, and his voice. He has trademarks, the frost and ice, his voice and his specialized weapons. But somehow, by voice and by information leak, it had been found out he was a young man. Impressive, given his status and his increasing levels of success at such a young age. So his kid would have to be considerably young.

But still, this explains the panic and the change in behavior. It wasn’t a change in behavior, him taking out Krampus. It was something that benefited himself, he was getting rid of the enemy. If Krampus had gone after his kid, then Krampus had just became Frost’s number one enemy. But if no one knows about Frost’s kid, let alone who it is, then how would Krampus have known? Pitch’s pen stilled for a moment, black had been taking over this page and the previous with theories. It was highly unlikely that Krampus would find out before anyone else when that wasn’t his style. Krampus didn’t have a preference for underground leader’s kids, he usually just took the kids out in public places, the ones openly misbehaving. Also, Pitch didn’t think that Krampus would willingly entice the wrath of The Mr. Frost. So that leads to the only other logical assumption. Krampus didn’t know. It was just pure luck, pure bad luck but luck none the less, that he picked Frost’s kid. But for Krampus to pick Frost’s kid, that means that the kid was out in public. Which, they could do no doubt, they weren’t known of, but how would they have a background? The kid would have to have a proper background to be able to walk around and participate in the above-ground world.

Pitch groaned, pulled out another sheet of paper and continued. Theories, these were all theories but it was the best lead they had so far. Oh what Pitch wouldn’t give for a real lead, a solid fact, a clue, something tangible. He could only hope that these theories would give them something to look for and lead them to a tangible lead. As it was, he had theories that Frost had a kid, and perhaps either made a completely made up background and birth certificates for the kid to function above ground without suspicion, the kid lived with some ‘trusted’ people- though that was hardly likely, Frost trusted no one. Even his Guardians were excluded from some of his more elaborate plan details. Or the kid and Frost led some kind of double life.

Oh Pitch’s head was pounding now. Still, these were the most logical theories behind the killing of Krampus and the panic in his handwriting on the note. Pitch wasn’t even positive that this killing was by Frost. Though, at this point, statistics said it was most likely him. No one was killed for impersonating Mr. Frost and the frost and ice left behind at the scene was a trademark of Frost’s. He just hadn’t personally killed before, hadn’t signed his name to any murders yet. Which would make this possibly Frost's first personal murder. That the knew of. So far.

God he needed some more coffee.

---

Down the hall, after three right turns you’ll come face to face with a brilliantly crafted set of double doors. Mahogany wood, finely carved with intricate details, frost & snow swirling along the door frames, and scenes of mass destruction and death dealt by blizzards and deadly ice covering the front of the doors. It’s a beautiful scene of death, winter and chaos. Hardly enough people notice it, in North’s point of view. He was the one who carved it, a hobby for his spare time when he’s not busy crafting new weapons, devising battle plans and leading people in wars.

Hardly enough people notice it because all of the people that enter through those double doors are too scared out of their minds to pay it any attention and most don’t ever come back out. At least, not on their own two legs. The ones that do, well, they’re too busy running as fast as they can with their tail between their legs. A spared life does not mean you are safe. Oh no. Never. You’re never safe from Mr. Frost. Not even his own Guardians are safe from his wrath. And they were usually the only ones to pass through those doors in both directions, without harm.

Push aside those doors, as Toothiana did, slipping between the smallest crack, and you’ll come to a large room. It had a frozen fire place, couches all around and an expensive 13th Century Armenian Rug centered in the middle of the room. It was majestic in it’s own right and still Toothiana slipped by all of that. She passed the stolen artifacts hanging on the wall, the ornate swords and staffs, art older than anyone in the mob, she passed them all to come to a simple door. Knocking in her light, but steady four knocks, she heard the answering “Come in.”

Leaving the room meant to impress, the room meant to intimidate friend and foe, she entered into a smaller room. It was simple, with a mahogany desk, again one of North’s pride and joys, two book cases against the walls and their mob leader. Jokul Frost. Or rather, Mr. Frost.

He was grinning. The mad kind of grin that screams he’s having fun and she almost grins as well. Instead, she all but floats and glides over to him, a small smile gracing her lips. She’ll be proper, there is a report to give after all, and this one has good news.

He laughs, already knowing.

“I have the report you requested.”

Glacier blue eyes glint, and his smile is brightened by white teeth. She always admired them, how they really did sparkle like freshly fallen snow. He chuckles because he knows the look in her eyes, but he says nothing else, waiting patiently for her report. He really was in a good mood. Oh how she loved to see Jokul like this, untethered, unworried and just him, just free.

She pulls out a thick file and places it on his desk, the thick bold letters of ‘FBI’ almost wilting in Frost’s absolutely ecstatic look as if they already know their doom and how they failed. She laughs at his look, the notes high and tinkling like the high notes on a xylophone. She explains how she got the files, how she stole them, because he always liked hearing how it was done. Something fascinated him about thieves and stealing and living in the shadows high on adrenaline. The way he looked sometimes, and the comments he made, how fully he understood the danger, the risks and some of the jokes from her trade made her wonder, made her think. But finally she gets to the information part, the other good part, and he falls quiet, waiting for it.

“His name is Special Agent Pitch Black.”

His eyes go wide, comically wide and for a moment she fears he’s not even breathing. He blinks finally, after too long, and he looks down at the file where she’s opened it and Pitch Black’s face stares back at him. And then he laughs. He’s laughing so hard tears are running down his face and Toothiana is caught somewhere between trying to figure out what’s wrong and just joining in herself. His laughter always was contagions. Just when he looks like he’s going to fall out of his chair he slowly calms down. He’s holding a hand to his chest, eyes are sparkling with mischief and something else she can’t quite pin down and he looks like he’s just heard the best joke ever. When he looks at the file again another laugh slips out as he realizes that the joke is real, that it is something that’s actually happening and that just makes it funnier.

He shakes his head, runs a hand through powdery white hair and tries not to start laughing all over again. “Oh Tooth, you don’t understand.”

She just smiles because no, she doesn’t, but she’s sure she’ll find out in due time anyways. Even if he didn’t tell her, she’d been around him long enough to pick out the clues. She tells him of how he joined the FBI a little over three years ago and how before that, he had gone by a different name. His curiosity piqued, she pulls out another folder with another picture and the same eyes stare up at him. But this time they’re gold, flecked with silver. He blinks, grins and pulls the photo closer. It’s Pitch Black alright, same high cheek bones and eyebrow bones, but his skin is tanner, way tan, and he has quite a bit more muscle on him.

“Found out he went by Kozmotis Pitchiner until about four years ago. He was a military commander, highly respected and highly efficient.”

Jokul Frost humms, pleased, and waits for her to continue, never once letting his eyes leave the photo. She gives all the history and information she has on him, how he was married, had a kid, got divorced and only has partial custody of his lovely daughter Seraphina. She talks about the purple hearts he got, the various other awards he earned in his time in the military and how he stepped out to spend more time with his family. She pauses here and watched as he looks up at her, sensing she has something more to say.

Toothiana is grinning by the time she says “Oh Jokul, there’s something else too.”

“Oh?” He challenges, looking all the like he’s going to stand up from his chair for this.

“There’s a... not exactly blank spot in his records, but it’s obviously been tampered with. It took some digging and a lot, a lot of charm for me to get this, but here.” In a slight of hand movement, where there was none before, now rests a simple, grey thumb-drive in the palm of her upturned hand. He plucks it out, his chilly skin causing goosebumps to travel up her arm for a few moments before fading away.

“See, there’s data there, but it’s been forged. It’s excellently forged, a professional for sure did it, but it doesn’t exactly match up. It seems like the forged data is there to try and overwrite the original, wiped data- to cover up the hole. I couldn’t crack it though, it was far too complex for me, I’m much better at stealing things than cracking codes, you know.” She smiles, watching the way he marvels at the thumb-drive and how the gears in his mind start turning, processing, analyzing. “But I thought you’d like it.”

“Like it? I love it!” He laughs, the sound echoing in the small room like it would on high mountaintops. He stands up, a quick and swift movement, and in a second he is across the room sweeping her up in a hug. Her purple eyes go wide, thoughts stuttering before she grabs her chance and hugs him back. It’s not often she gets this, it’s never in a place other than his office, but here when he’s comfortable enough to go barefoot, and he’s in a good enough state of mind, sometimes she gets this. He lets go too soon but she lets him, she knows better than to try and hold on, you could never keep him grounded for long. He was too wild, too flighty to stay in any place for too long. Cornering him would only reveal his claws. So she steps back and just lets the smile light up her whole face. She had just given him a puzzle, a challenge and you’d be sure he’d rise to it.

“Oh!” He turns back to look at her, he’d already crossed the room and was at the door, and says “Come with me Tooth.” She follows, watching him slip on his shiny black shoes, always have to look my best, as he disappears through the door. His dark blue suit is perfect, pressed just the right amount and just sharply enough to intimidate. There are snowflake cufflinks glinting in the light, but it's hard to distinguish from a distance. He has to be imposing, frightening, someone to be respected in order to keep his power properly. She doesn’t point out that the only ones who see his face is them, the Guardians.

He gestures to a couch as he grabs a familiar, old wooden staff and leans against it. “Baby Tooth did amazing.”

Oh! She’s off the couch before she even properly sat down on it. “That’s wonderful.” She gushes, a familiar sense of pride washing over her. “I didn’t realize that she had reported to you yet.”

Jokul grins like he knows something she hasn’t and in favor of explaining, he just laughs. “She didn’t trigger any alarms and I heard that she used a few moves known only to one other, you.”

Toothiana is practically preening from this news because Baby Tooth had done so well. So well! What an accomplishment, to be complimented by Mr. Frost! Then of course, Toothiana had known that he favored her, however much he put on a show to not, here in his quarters it was apparent that he did. No matter how much he denied it.

They talked for a while and she thinks he's getting it all out of his system. He doesn't normally talk this long with her, with any of them really, but then, nothing's been the same since the Krampus incident. For some reason Jokul still feels as if he need to be an imposing figure to them, like he's not entirely sure he can trust them, and they all know he's hiding something from them. It hurts a bit, considering how close all of them have gotten over the years, like they're their own dysfunctional, adopted family. But Toothiana figures it's for the same reason that he turned to this kind of life. One day she'll get the story out of him, but for now she'll just enjoy his company. She'll be near by, always within reach, for the times like these when he craves human company. He treats it like a drug, something he's starved of but keeps going back for hits. She wonders where he goes when he's not here, he doesn't stay underground all the time like the rest of them do. He goes out, he comes back different, not very, just small things change each time he comes back. It's just at the beginning and it fades until he's properly back into Mr. Frost mode. Right now it shows the most because something good must have happened, wherever he goes, and the fact that he's probably still adjusting to being him again. She doesn't know what happened exactly during the Krampus case, but she knows parts. Like the part that Jokul had never done that before and some small part of him, she's convinced, was scared of himself for it. Toothiana is convinced that a part of her Jokul broke that day, and she fears that she doesn't know how to fix it.

The moon is rising into the sky by the time he bids her well, for he has a puzzle to send off to a Special Agent Pitch Black and then a file to hack into and reveal it's treasures. She smiles and leaves, the door making no sound when it closes behind her. She's almost to her shared room when she runs into Baby Tooth- she'd just gotten back from her mission. Toothiana smiles, shaking her head, and congratulates her. They'll have sugar free hot chocolate in a sort of celebration once they head inside.

---

To: Special Agent Pitch Black
Knvye Vssbw rvc blqunqwi bl caxwgubls xmyu kbsswp guul uwpcwnz hwvpc vsa.

Chapter Text

“Run it again.”

Dilean, the head of security for the FBI building Pitch worked in, re-winded the scene yet again and played it. The scene was focused on the main office level of the building and was zoomed in on Pitch's desk currently.

“There.” An abrupt stop and careful rewinding of the scene in measured second intervals until they hit the second before the envelope appeared. 3:02:54 AM. Dilean had told Pitch as much already but Pitch had been adamant on seeing it for himself and making the call.

Pitch's eyes narrowed at the screen before he turned to the head of security. “If it arrived at nearly three after three, then they'd have to have entered the building before three and be on one of the security videos at such time.”

“Yes, but Mr. Black, I've already checked all the tapes. No one shows up after the last guard left at 2:15AM and nothing else has been moved. There's no doors opening and closing or boxes being moved on the tapes. So they've probably hacked the video surveillance- most likely it's been set it up on a loop.” Dilean held his own against Pitch's look and tiredly explained, “look. I get that you want evidence, I get it. You want who did it, I get that too. But I've been forwarding and rewinding these tapes for three hours now and I haven't seen squat. If you want evidence, you're not going to be getting it from the video feed.”

Relenting, because Mr. Dilean had a point and had clearly done his best, Pitch says “Fine. But check the audio files. Any noise that could tell us how they got in and what part of the building they got in through.”

A tired sigh was quickly masked as a yawn as forensics came in. “Mr. Black, the letter is safe.” Turning he followed her. She keeps the babbling to a minimum, merely states that it was clean of poisons and fingerprints. Still, he should probably open it in the lab just to be safe. So he does, humoring them of course.

It's the blank white envelope found on his desk with a simple blue ink “:)” on the front. 'Found you' it seemed to say. Pitch knew that blue ink, and a smiley? Well, one could hardly guess. He rolled his eyes but opened the envelope anyways, protective gloves a precautionary. To be honest, you couldn't be too safe when dealing with Mr. Frost. He did, after all, find it funny to send lethal substances to people whom he thought wasn't paying enough attention.

No powder inside, so that was a good sign. Instead, inside was just a single blue sheet of paper folded in thirds. Before he could even unfold the paper, in a very familiar, now memorized, white scrawl was “To: Special Agent Pitch Black”. Someone gasped. Pitch unfolded the paper. “Knvye Vssbw rvc blqunqwi bl caxwgubls xmyu kbsswp guul uwpcwnz hwvpc vsa.” White ink.

The edge of Pitch's mouth quirked up in amusement. Always playing games, Frost, always playing games. And of course killing off the people who refuse to play or to play by the rules. This was a game to see, it seemed, if Pitch was good enough, smart enough. Pitch could play this game.

“Oh.”

Pitch blinked, looked up at the offender making such noise for her to say “it's a word puzzle!”. Well duh. He could see that, thankyouverymuch-not. Before Pitch can even make a scathing remark, the paper is plucked out of his hands by some green leaf blond and she's bouncing over to a computer with it. She's typing away, plugging the code into her computer to first determine the type of word puzzle and then crack it when an error message pops up. There's a clip-art image of a finger being wagged back and forth with the text reading “Tsk. Tsk. No cheating Mr. Black.”

Pitch's eyes widened. Frost had gotten into the computers. Into the FBI's computers. Getting in was one thing, hacking past the firewalls and passwords, but it was another to plant something like this. If it was a virus and not just a hack, then it would have been detected upon start up unless-

A 'ping' noise and another pop up. This one had an animated handful of snowflakes falling down. She must have continued trying to crack the code despite the warning... It read “Now, now. Don't make me rash, staff. This one's for Mr. Black.”. The mouse pointer hovered over the X and Pitch spoke up, slightly amused but using a bored tone, “I wouldn't do that.”

“I'll just go through the internet then, not our software. Shouldn't be able to tell what I'm doing then. It's probably only tracking our code breaking software.”

He says nothing, just leans back and waits, watching. If he cracks a smile when the third pop up pings with a frowny face and a “I warned you.” then it could be blamed on the blond's stupidity. If he can't help but chuckle darkly when suddenly, across all the computers in the room, flashes a “Good Bye >:3” followed by the immediate power down of every computer and electronic device in the building, then he blames it on the blond and Frost. Damned Frost. And when all the power in the building shuts down, Pitch can only continue his deep, dark, amused chuckle. It scares the hell out of the room's occupants and that's just fine with him.

It takes three hours to get everything up and running again after that. By then, Pitch has already cracked the cryptogram. His own handwriting stares up at him from the paper. Amidst all the failed attempts at cracking it, the mathematical workings of it out and all the little notes scrawled everywhere on it, is the answer. Black, pinched scrawl saying “Black Aggie was involved in something much bigger than herself years ago.” Damn.

----

It was getting colder out. The cool air brushed against Pitch's warm skin, goosebumps rising on his flesh until he adjusted to the temperature. It was a nice change, he decided, too tired of the same dull things over and over. Not that Frost ever kept things dull, or even the same. But the office and it's ways were always the same. On repeat, over and over. File this paperwork, enter these keywords into this database and search, do more paperwork, yell at the assistants in the way and so on.

October, he remembered, brought the start of the cool weather and the late changing of the leaves in this area. The beginnings of oranges, reds and yellows. It was... Nice. In a way. He shrugged to himself, continuing his walk along the sidewalks, trying to not breathe in the exhaust smoke of passing cars, as the change of scenery compared to his stale office scenery was a welcome thing. In the distance, the small shopping strip came into view, a small, boring building facing the road with a thin sidewalk out in the front of it. Parking, sparse, was located in the back. A little, rink-a-dink thing on the far end of the shopping strip was the coffee shop, and the bell above the door chimes lightly as he pushes it open. A gust of warm air, heated by their small heating system, blows into his face. He blinks away the dryness and approaches the cashier, who by now is used to not only his order choice of black coffee but also to his attitude, and doesn't even have to place an order. Pitch wasn't sure why he kept coming back to this little coffee shop. It was nothing special, even if it's coffee highly out rated whatever his office claimed was their free “coffee”. Perhaps to get away from the idiots, and for the occasional mental break from his cases. He seemed to think better, see things from a slightly different perspective after having his lunches at the coffee shop. Perhaps that was it. A small break and becoming more productive. That was acceptable.

The door chimes as another customer ducks in, the cool, crisp air coming into the shop briefly before being warmed up by the shop air. The boy passes the cashier, instead grabs a chair from Pitch's table, spins it and sits down facing Pitch, arms resting on the back of the chair that is now facing Pitch as well as the boy. Bleached hair, blue eyes and a cocky grin stares him in the face. Giving a silent appraisal, Pitch raises the coffee cup to his lips and takes a sip, silent.

A blinding grin, teeth flashing in the shop's soft lighting. “You're in here an awful lot, Mr. Black who drinks straight black coffee.”

Wanting to wipe that shit eating grin off of his face, Pitch rises to the challenge, calmly replying “You're in here quite frequently as well, Mr. Overland.”

White, speckled with black, eyebrows shot up.

“Oh. You did research.” The cocky grin is back and Jack tips the chair forward onto two legs and invades Pitch's personal space. “What, are you interested in me, Mr. Black?”

Pitch rolled his eyes. “Hardly.”

To which Jack, somehow, finds it appropriate to respond with the absurd waggling of his eyebrows suggestively. He doesn't get far before he cracks up. “Careful now, Mr. Black, someone might catch you smiling.”

He absolutely was not smiling! If anything, at the most, this could be called a quirk of the lips at Jack's childishness.

Jack only laughed, the chair legs smacking against the tile as he returned the chair to all four legs. “Anyways. I'm always in here. College student and all that jazz. Gotta have my caffeine fix for all those late night deadlines.”

“Oh?” Pitch leaned on his elbows, chin resting on his hands, one folded over the other, and watched Jack. “Procrastinating and then blaming it on a lack of time?” He tsk'ed and was rewarded with a crooked grin. “I hardly think a loaded spring like you needs any additional help to be more annoying, hopped up on caffeine and sugar.”

Well....” Jack drawled, shit eating grin right back in place. “I'm sure you don't want to hear about all my reasons-”

“Excuses-”

“anyways.” He grinned so much Pitch was surprised his cheeks hadn't fallen off yet. “So. Since you did some research on me, that means it's okay for me to do the same, right?” His cheeks would have to fall of at some point.

“Since when is it-”

“okay to do research on an FBI agent?” Jack laughed, the light glinting and catching in his ice blue eyes. “Relax, you look so tense! First time I met you, remember?”

Pitch's lips dragged down in a grimace at the memory of sticky sugar spilt and drying all over him. He'd been about to enter the FBI building when Jack had crashed into him with his sister's cappuccino. Effectively ruining his brand new leather jacket.

“Figured you didn't look the type to be an assistant or a newbie.” He shrugged, the movement lazy and sluggish, uncontrolled.

“So Jack, how did you manage to find a replacement?” Maybe after he got the answer, he wouldn't feel the need to indulge in this childishness nonsense that Jack always seemed to bring with him and-Oh, that was a wicked grin.

“Secret.”

Grey eyes blinked at him once. Twice. Then an “I'm sorry, come again?”

A toothy grin, the one of a victor. “It's a secret.” He's resting his chin on his forearms, leaning forwards, still grinning like a bobcat. Like a winner. Because he knows exactly what Pitch wants and he is reveling in the fact that he's not going to give it to him. “What? Can’t handle not knowing everything?” A slow growing smirk, “or could you not find it in your research?” the and it bothers you was implied.

The bugger, insulting his info gathering abilities. Or rather, the assistant's info gathering abilities seeing as how this was too trivial of a thing to be looking into compared to the mess Frost was creating. The incompetent assistant had only said that nothing substantial showed up. No grandfather's will, or inherited bank accounts. The siblings were orphans, no living relatives left to be donating money, so there were very few options left. Scholarships, multiple jobs, one really good job and maybe he sells his own art. Still, that leather jacket was expensive. Pitch would know, he had to shell out the cash for it the first time. He'd just have to do the research himself, it seemed, since the office assistants were apparently no good. When he found the spare time. He snorted. He'd have the spare time when he had Frost in cuffs.

“Something funny, Mr. GP?”

The grin fell swift and hard while Jack started laughing all over again. “Relax! I'm just joking around. You have to learn how to let go and have a little fun sometimes Pitch.”

“I have plenty of enjoyable moments, though I hardly expect you to believe that.”

“Oh? Then what do you do for fun, Mr. GrumpyPants?” He merely grinned in response to Pitch's narrowed glare.

“Crossword Puzzles, for one.”

Jack blinked at him. “Seriously? Pitch that's not-that's something you do during your morning coffee in the newspaper.”

Pitch scoffed and sipped at his rapidly cooling coffee. “I do not do the ones in the paper. They are far from challenging or mind stimulating.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “No. Just no. Okay, so you do, like, level ten crossword puzzles. Big woop. I'm talking about something fun!” He's leaning forwards over the back of the chair now, talking with big hand gestures with white hair falling over wild blue eyes. “Something that gives you a thrill. Something with a sense of ecstatic joy or accomplishment. An adrenaline rush sometimes. Something fun!”

He was going to just pick something off-hand to make the young man shut up but Jack was looking at him. Watching. Like he really did want to know the answer. So Pitch took a moment and thought about it.

“Catching criminals.” He answered finally.

“Catching criminals?” Pitch could practically see the gears in Jack's head whirling. Trust the college kid to understand this when the most intense thing he's probably done was break into a school after hours. From all of his sister's stories, the kid was a prankster. Did everything for a reaction, probably didn't even understand the fulfillment of a job well done. Of something being carried out, that you had to do, and it being done and the feeling of accomplishment. Of locking up criminals who shouldn't be allowed to live, much less be near people they can cause harm to.

“So, the whole putting them in jail thing, or the actual catching them part?”

Pitch knew the smirk he was wearing at that question was more of a sharp toothed predator grin than an human's smug expression and he embraced it. He hadn't expected Jack to catch on, to get that little bit of information and to go with it. But since he had... Lacing his fingers together on the table, he leaned just the tiniest bit in, teeth catching sharply in the shop's lights, and said “the catching.”

Jack smirked, something sparking in his eyes. “Tell me.”

For some reason that Pitch doesn't understand, he obliges. He tells himself it's to educate the kid, but it's not that. Still, he tells him. How it feels to crack the pattern, to find out where they'll be next and to be right and catch them. The chase, the fight, the take down. Smothering out criminal rings, mobs, gangs, to keep them from further harming anyone. The figuring out of who did what, the challenge that Pitch always rises to and to almost always wins. It's the thrill of the chase, the adrenaline rush of working undercover, the seconds before and during the ambush. The feeling of accomplishment and pride when it's all over and he knows that they can't hurt anyone else anymore. He tells Jack all of this and realizes, when he's finished, that Jack is the most attentive audience that he's ever had on this subject. It was strange and somewhat... enjoyable. Though, for a twenty one year old to be interested, to the point of silence event, in this. It's strange. No unheard of, but usually those people want to go into this field, but all Jack is going to school for is art.

“Well.” Jack drawls, content grin on his face as he leans back and stretches his arms above his head. “I dare say you do have fun.” His shoulders pop and he quits stretching, a content sigh escaping his lips at the release of pressure. “But really, you need to have fun more often. Show off that sharp grin of yours more often.”

He frowned. “It's not like you can take down a mob everyday. These things take time. Careful planning and analysis.”

“I'm not saying they don't.” Jack said, waving a dismissive hand in the air, “It's just...” He paused, looking like he was having trouble finding the right words for a brief moment, “it's just that it doesn't seem like you've had fun recently”

He had too. It was quite fun scaring the living hell out of all those idiots at the office with his cackling laugh when Frost had killed the power. His laughter bouncing off those concrete walls in the dark- oh how they had reacted.

“I mean, when's the last time you actually had a lot of fun? The last time you took someone down?”

“Jack...”

“What? Are you, like, stuck?”

Thank you, Jack. Thank you so much for bringing that up. It's not like he comes here to get away from work or anything like that. Not at all. Just like it's not like he's not giving it his all to take down the Frost mob and it's infamous leader. But so far he's got a handful of theories, two dead bodies and a vague clue about the reasons to Black Aggie's death. That may or may not have been done by Frost or his mob. He'd be a lot further along if the power hadn't been cut, resulting in him having to do a manual search of paper trails and criminal backgrounds and history. Those damned manilla folders. He was beginning to hate that color- tan or cream or whatever the hell the name of that color was.

“No.”

“No?” Jack's face screws up in confusion, “then what's-”

“Technical difficulties.”

Jack started laughing, the sound loud in the quiet shop background, and almost jarring until he beings to speak again. “I'm sorry. We're experiencing technical difficulties right now. The FBI will resume once they figure out how the hell to fix it. Please remain seated at your desks and wait for the FBI to resume momentarily.” Jack recited, computer generic voice impersonation almost dead on paired with his flat look that broke into an open grin at the end.

A small amused grin wound it's way onto Pitch's face without his notice. “Ha. Ha.” He said dryly before checking the time. “Ah. You'll have to excuse me Mr. Overland.” He stood from his seat and gathered up his half full coffee cup and napkin. “I'm afraid I have to go see if the FBI, has indeed, fixed the problem.” He caught Jack's grin as he pushed his chair back in properly.

“Ah, my apologies for keeping you Mr. Black.” Jack rose, spinning the chair on one leg until it faced the table again and was tucked in swiftly without noise. “I do hope they are able to fix it.”

Pitch sighed, playing the part perfectly. “If they have not then I shall be forced to offer my expertize.”

A dramatic gasp. “And work amongst the idiot-uneducated? How dreadful!” A hand against his chest, blue eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Agonizing really.” Pitch concluded with a solemn nod.

Jack thrust his hand towards Pitch. “Well, farewell Mr. Black and best of luck to thee.”

Firmly grabbing the pale hand, he shook it and then tipped his head in farewell. It was here that Jack's facade cracked and a chuckle escaped. A warning for the laughter that followed shortly after. The one where Pitch may or may not have joined in as he left the shop. The door chimed behind him as it shut and Pitch found he didn't quite mind the smile on his face as much as he normally did.

Chapter Text

When it happened, there wasn’t any sign. Pitch was sitting at his desk, getting irritable at the absurd amount of time the lab tech was taking to bring back his things, and the rest of the office was the same as usual. Loud, chattering and inconsiderate of anyone trying to get any real work done. Ten minutes past and Pitch had exhausted his patience and stood abruptly from his chair. A few stares that were quickly relocated with a simple glare and he was on his way down the room to the elevator. Everything was normal, no one tried to talk to him in the elevator and instead shuffled their feet awkwardly and stared at the door as if their will could open it alone. Pitch, as usual, said nothing about it and instead sipped his horrible excuse of coffee while he waited for the elevator to hit the basement floor.

They hit the first floor and stopped there first where his co-worker just about flew out of it in his haste and disappeared into the crowded lobby. Secretaries taking phone calls, redirecting lines, and business people coming in and out of the doors. None wanted to ride the elevator when they saw who was in it and instead found other things to occupy themselves and Pitch only dared to let the small grin grace his features after the metal doors shut again. He took another sip.

The elevator groaned once, probably needing a maintenance check soon, and then slowly descended until it hit the basement floor. Metal doors sliding open swiftly let him out into a linoleum floored hallway with numerous doors. Gliding out, Pitch didn’t even pause as he chucked the cup into the trash bin by the door, the mandatory no food and drinks being something obeyed by all. Least there be another issue like the one of ‘88.

Stalking down to the door he required, he put a hand on the handle, straightened his back more to appear larger, taller, more menacing and went to berate Ms. Ryuu on her failure to get his stuff back to him in a timely manner. The door didn’t open.

Curiously Pitch looked down at the doorknob, tried it once more, then twice and decided yes, it was indeed locked. But why? Stepping back he looked down the hallway both ways noticing that all the doors were shut. Which wasn’t really a surprise or anything out of the normal, but a locked door was something new. Even if they were handling something likely to contain a virus, or radioactive things, there would have been a sign, or a code issued. Calmly Pitch turned and walked up to the next door on the same right side of the hallway. Nothing unusual about the doorknob. Slowly turning it he heard the click of metal against metal resistance in the lock.

Hm. Turning and walking back to his original door Pitch tried the next method. He knocked. Seconds passed and nothing. Interesting. He waited around another minute, knocked again and got no response. Nodding his head he turned and left. As quietly and discretely as he could, he tried every doorknob on the other side of the hallway that he passed on his way to the elevator. Locked.

Pressing for the elevator he stepped on when it arrived and pressed his office floor. Up to the fourth floor he went and when the elevator doors opened, everything was as he left it. Too loud, oppressive and filled with chatter. The lights were bright and many desks had papers strewn about on them in a mess that some people called an ‘organized chaos’. Making his way back to his desk he sat down, pulled a pile of papers from his filling cabinet, set them on his desk and pretended to look through them as he made an assessment of the room. All of the regular associates supposed to be here today were. Except for Raline, but she called out sick almost more than she didn’t. So none of that was surprising.

Flicking sharp grey eyes down at his papers he shuffled through them trying to find something he could bring up to his boss. For his opinion, of course. Perhaps the backgrounds on all four murders that seemed to be tied to Frost’s case? Pitch stared down distastefully at the papers. He hated bringing up things to anyone before he had fully solved anything, but it seems he would have to now. He wanted to know what catastrophe sealed off the labs. The labs were involved in many different aspects of the company. They did forensics, handled evidence and dealt with viruses both human based and electronically based.

Relenting he grabbed the papers, stood and made his way to his boss’s office, formulating his conversation as he walked up the steps that lead to the floor that overlooked the desks on the main floor where Pitch sat. The door was shut, but that was normal, so Pitch knocked. There was a thumping like someone had startled and dropped a stack of papers while Pitch waited silently outside of the door. Muffled talking with a low sense of urgency and then the door was held open for Pitch. Nodding to the man who had already regained most of his composure holding the door, Pitch stepped through to see his boss and a few other bosses of different areas of expertise.

“Did I come at a bad time, Chief Roland?”

Roland looked at Pitch and shook his head, the small, almost grim, smile that was always there still present on his face. “Ah, not at all Pitch. What was it that you have?”

Nodding politely with the barest of head tilts to the other men in the room, he walked up to Roland and proceeded to then ignore them. “On the Frost case.” Pitch continued on, without pause even when he felt the room atmosphere change just slightly, “The latest victims thought to be tied to him have some common interests with one another. There’s two criminal organizations that at least three of the victims share backgrounds with.” Roland’s desk was a mess, there was papers strewn about and for a slightly OCD man, that was not per the norm. “Per organization, it’s not the same three people.” Two men behind him shifted their balance on their feet and the man in Pitch’s peripheral vision glanced at another man just out of sight while he rubbed his wrist. “The first organization-” Pitch stopped when Roland held his hand up to quiet him and Pitch allowed him.

“Special Agent Pitch Black, I know why you’re here and what you’re up to, so why don’t you just close the door and we can all get to work here.” Pitch ignored the spluttering of one of the men as he closed the door and took a comfortable seat in front of the desk. It was likely to be a long explanation and he didn’t want to intimidate the other bosses into not being able to explain properly.

“Calm down Reganald. Special Agent Pitch Black here is the leading agent on the Frost case and had thus far, been the only one to make any headway on the case. Additionally, he is in an estranged kind of contact with Mr. Frost himself, which is the closest any one agent has been able to accomplish. In case you’ve forgotten his track record, Mr. Black here has a case success rate of 93%.”

Grumbling but relenting, the other men took chairs or stood by Roland’s desk. Mr. Roland himself looked at Pitch from his chair and started, “There has been a security breach.”

Pitch nodded. That explained the locked doors down below.

“The hacker got in and went through personnel records.” Roland locked eyes with Pitch. “The focused on all the employees that had access with anything to do with the Frost case. Employees that had access to any evidence, to the paper work, to computers that worked on anything related with the case, and to you and your team.”

“And you think it was Frost.”

Roland glanced around the room at all the other members before he looked back at Pitch. “The hacker also got into security. It got codes, times, guard names and shifts and all the personal information to all the before mentioned workers.” He gave a sigh weighed down with stress and responsibility and his fingers clenched and unclenched from a tight clasp to a loose one and back again. “So as I’m sure you’ve already figured out, that means he knows where everyone lives. Including you.” Roland almost looked around the room, Pitch could see him start to and then stop, before he gave Pitch a sympathetic look that started a rage building in Pitch’s chest. It was gone like a fire disappears in a blink when ice water is dumped on it when Roland said, “they know about your daughter.”

“And you think it’s Frost.”

Chapter Text

It felt like hours. Like days. Like half of eternity he sat there staring forward, the blank concrete wall acting as the prefect screen for his mind’s projection. Blank blue eyes stared at that wall, unseeing it for the movie, the nightmare, the terror that ran across it in his mind. Screaming, so loud and interrupted by pleadings, the beggings of a man knowing he’s to die in the most horrific way. A dead man’s last resort, the last bit of instinctual yearning to survive. It’s a mindless thing, a purely instinctual thing, because there was no way a man like Krampus would want to live at that point. His face was maimed beyond belief and he would never, ever, see out of his eyes again. Blind to the world with his last images painted in frosty blue, hard ice eyes and crimson blood. Maybe the flashing of teeth in a ruthless, sick, smile. By that point Karmpus wouldn’t have been able to walk. If he had succeeded in begging for his life, it would have been a miserable thing. Blind, unable to see anything, much less all those dirty deeds he did to the young and innocent. He would be confined to a wheel chair, unable to get around without an aid because if he could neither walk nor see, how was he to get anywhere? To do anything? To enjoy anything? But then a wretch like him deserved nothing, even death was too good a gift for him but Mr. Frost was too far gone to stop now. Not for all the pleadings Krampus screamed out, cried out, whimpered out and finally whispered out with his dying breaths.

And Mr. Frost stood there, staring down at the joke of a man, at the curse of a man, and he lay in a broken heap, crimson blood staining the snow around him in a mockery of a snow angel. Frost stood there, shaking, his hands dripping in the red that slowly drained out of his vision. Every joint, every limb froze up in a flash freeze, unmoving and unmovable. Unshakable but for the small, minute shakes that ran up and down Mr. Frost’s body. Stealing in a sharp, cold breath that stung his tongue he waited a moment. There it was. The small movement. The gasp. The feeble movement of the man’s chest that said he was still alive. Mr. Frost turned his head to the side, not quite looking to his men nor quite looking away from Krampus.

“Men. You know what to do.”

They started, wrenched out of their shock to come to arms. Wide eyes and a new respect. There was only three of them there. They had never seen their leader before today. And today they had seen him in his rage. In his icy fire. In the whirling winds, in the icy gales, that take life, that kill, that destroy. They had seen Mr. Frost in all his winter rage. They had seen winter kill. And it killed slowly. Agonizingly. Brutally. Without remorse.

They knew this was their leader, the one there was whispers about, the one never seen in person. This was the person who spoke directly into MiM’s earpiece. This was the man that killed, that did whatever it took to accomplish his ends. This was the man that commanded their entire mob. This was Mr. Frost.

They didn’t hesitate when given the order. They’d been prepped on what to do and they had seen what Mr. Frost could do. Would do. Heaven help them if they ever wanted to betray the mob. Heaven help them if they wanted out.

As his men, his ‘believers’ scrambled out into the murder scene, though technically Krampus was still alive, albeit just barely, he saw a shift. Without turning his head away from his believers he both felt and heard the crunching of snow and the displacement of winter’s chill as his body guard stepped up by him. He didn’t acknowledge the man, didn’t say anything to his Guardian, just watched ahead, making sure the believers got the job done right. He was a silent presence beside Mr. Frost.

Dark, tanned skin contrasted darkly against Mr. Frost’s own pale, glittering in the moonlight skin. Dark black tattoos, markings from his past carried on proudly, ran up and down his arms with a multi-part but single image tattoo on his forehead. He stood, posture straight, and was trying very hard not to shiver in the winter’s night chill. He had forgone the jacket out of last minute preparations. Instead he was clad in jeans, black boots and a simple grey tank covered by a sleeveless leather vest. They had been watching, tracking down the wretched predator and once he had been found, Mr. Frost tore after him, minimal men, and no trained killers in his team. Aster had to run to catch up, an easy feat, but one he was half unsuspecting of having to do. Frost had been acting oddly, especially oddly. He was flighty, and that was a bit normal but the thing that totally threw all the Guardians was that he was twitchy. And trigger happy. Couldn’t sit still, was constantly on the comms with MiM demanding instant updates the minute they were found and in his computer room. The computer room. The room set aside for Frost, the one with computers upon computers off the grid, separate from the mob’s computer system, and was then trained onto Krampus, maps, global location devices and even a couple satellites that he had hacked into. None of the guardians were quite sure how Frost had, or who Frost had gotten to hack into the satellites, but it was an impressive feat of intelligence and power that it was done.

When they had finally caught up to Krampus it was as if a switch had flipped in Mr. Frost. It was heard and seen with an audible click and just like that, Krampus was a dead man. Only Krampus hadn’t figured it out yet. Everyone else though, they knew.

There was a cold fury reigning in those glacier blue eyes. Something so cold it burned.

It started normal, as normal as Mr. Frost could get, but with a touch of held back fury. The calm before the storm. The blackest night before the dawn. The moment before death. The pause, the clock frozen, snow suspended in air, the silent sound before the lunge. Before the kill. Before the torture. Before Frost.

When the believers were done gathering up the fragmented pieces of Krampus, keeping everything still barely hanging on, Frost turned away. The snow had been cleared, the warm blood frozen and disposed of. Foot prints erased as best as could be done on short notice.

“Come.”

The single word from their leader shook them down to their core, the bitter edge of ice slicing through the freezing air. There was no moon tonight. There was no light to illuminate the path. There was nothing but darkness here and it was descending faster and heavier as the night wore on.

He left, dark blue suit pressed to sharp edges blending into the night. White snowy hair blending in with the softly drifting snow fall. He left and they followed him. To the park. Where Krampus was tied up in ropes and chains, a mask shoved onto his face in the most painful way. The blood still stained Frost’s hands. He pulled dark gloves over them.

The sack was left, already ready and it was thrown beside the body. Beside Krampus who was almost gone if not already. Arms chained above his head to never grab another kid again. To never harm, hurt, kill or defile ever again. Eyes forever blinded to never watch his dirty deeds ever again, to never see the beauty of the world ever again, to never ever look at a child ever again. Mr. Frost stared at him coldly, hands clasped behind his back, and it was a long time before he spoke. He didn’t know if the monster was still alive or not, didn’t bother to check because it didn’t matter. All that mattered was done.

“Never again Krampus.” Frost cocked his head to the side slightly before a small, sick, bittersweet smile wound onto his face. Krampus had picked the wrong child, had picked the wrong man to mess with. “Never again.” And his teeth flashed, a sharp white and then he was gone.

But the blood stayed.

And the screams never left. They haunted him. At night in his bed, in his office during the day, when he went to pick up his sister from school. They stayed. Screams for mercy. Krampus gave no such mercy to his victims, so why should Frost? Then he would shake because he couldn’t become like Krampus, like a monster. He wasn’t a monster, he would never hurt a child. He would never cause hurt undeserved. But then. He had killed a man. And the only people that killed, that murdered people were monsters. But Jack didn’t kill that man, that monster, Mr. Frost had. Not Jack. Never Jack. Never Jackson. Jackson couldn’t even defend himself much less his family against those kinds of monsters. But Mr. Frost could. Mr. Frost could save people. Mr. Frost could remove monsters like that from the world so no child would ever be harmed again, not in that way at least. Mr. Frost could get rid of the murderers, the monsters, the scum that didn’t deserve to live. Mr. Frost could do it.

Mr. Frost looked away from the white concrete wall of his office and looked down at his hands. They were dripping, blood gliding off of his hands and onto his pressed suit pants. His eyes flew open as his hands began to shake, the blood further dripping onto his pants and splattering across his desk. The crimson staining the wood much like it had stained the white snow that night. Krampus was screaming, dirty pleas and blood tears running down his face and all he could see was red. Crimson blood.

Frost rubbed his hands roughly against his pants, rubbing the blood off but it only stained his pants and when he pulled his hands back they were still covered in blood. In human blood. In the blood he saw himself, a murderer, with no mercy. He heard the pleas and he ignored them, drove the ice further into Krampus’s body, cut him deeper on the arms, on the everywhere he wanted and the warm blood began to melt the ice and ran down the ice to his hand, burning, searing heat that just kept going, kept traveling up his arm and the screams would. not. stop. And the blood was still there, why couldn’t he get rid of it? It never came off, bleach didn’t get rid of it and then Krampus’ pleas, his screaming, it got louder and-

“Mr. Frost?”

Jack choked back a gasp mixed with a sob as he came crashing back down to reality. Two hard knocks, more similar to bangs than actual knocks, sounded again. Jack looked up, eyes undialating from his recent attack as he sat back. Straightening his posture he watched the wooden door to his small office quit shaking from the force of the knocks. He took a deep breath and let it go shakily. He did it again until the next one didn’t shake.

“Come in North.”

Pale hands clasped together on his desk, he watched impassively with dark blue eyes as the large and muscular Russian man came to a stop at his desk. The man towered over Frost, his frame more than twice the size of Frost’s in width, muscle and his height was nearly two to three heads taller. He held himself the way a proud and fierce warrior would and dark inked tattoos covered his forearms, the coat sleeves bunched up to the elbows, a habit done when North begins to worry. Which was never a good thing. Frost flicked blue eyes to his own hands quickly, relief soaking in at the visual confirmation of pale, pale skin.

Mr. Frost nodded his head to the chair in front of his desk and watched as North sat heavily, knowing the chair would support him since North was the one to craft it. North crossed his arms, Naughty over Nice tattoos, and looked at Frost with worried blue eyes.

“What are your concerns North?”

North’s mouth opened, never one to beat around the bush before suddenly it snapped shut without a sound. He leaned back, evidently warring with himself before he leaned forward, hands clasping the edge of the desk as he peered intently at Frost.

“We are- I. I am...” He trailed off, visibly looking like he was searching for the correct word before just shrugging and retreating back to headstrong way of doing things. “I am concerned.” Rushing head first into things.

Frost raised a brow at him. “You are concerned with what?”

“You.”

Frost blinked once then twice. The first because he had to make sure that’s what North had said, the second to banish all signs and tells from his own eyes. Mr. Frost could not be seen with any emotions such as surprise, worry or any of the such. Mr. Frost always had to be calm, collected, and always on top. Mr. Frost always knew what was going on at all times, he was always in the know, he was never, ever, surprised. Mr. Frost could not be found out to be loosing his touch in this brief moment of weakness. He could not.

“Continue.” Came the cold, almost bored prompt.

North shifted in the chair before speaking again, seeming to try and put at least a little forethought into his words this time. Careful as he should be around the leader of the Frost Mob. But having to think now as he probably just came to this worry and decided to come face it head on as soon as it was known of.

“Ah, you see. You’ve been different, shall we say? Since Krampus. Was wanting to know dat all is well. Da?”

“Well of course all is well North. The target was taken care of, was he not?”

North regarded him carefully with watching blue eyes. “Da. But was wanting to know that you are still fine. Krampus was first kill.”

Frost laughed, the sound like the harsh cracking of ice, and said “He is hardly the first person to be killed. You should know this North, my Fearless Battle Leader and former Bandit King.”

But North would not have it. Bright Blue eyes staring intently into Frost’s own dark ones. There was a twinkle in them, of knowing and that knowing scared Jack more than anything else North had said. “He is first personal kill.”

Frost said nothing. Jack couldn’t say anything. Instead, Frost looked at North impassively, letting nothing show and waited for him to move on. He stared until North’s shoulders hunched inwards just slightly, in a forlorn hint of defeat and until North shifted somewhat uncomfortably before clearing his throat and talking again. “Also, I have been noticing a pattern.”

Well, that was not surprising, North was in fact his battle strategist, it would be sad if he hadn’t. Not to mention that Pitch was finally on the verge of cracking it as well. Only took four murders. Heh.

“I was thinking. Would be better if you confirmed so I could better help, no?”

Narrowed eyes to play the part and a tint of anger to the words “Are you insulting my methods? Saying you would be better at this?”

“What?” Wide blue eyes. “No! No, of course not! Was merely suggesting two minds may be more helpful than one.”

“Hm. Very well.”

North blinked at him as if he had not expected such a quick relent. “Ah.. Good! Is good!” He grinned, happiness alight in his blue eyes. “I have been suspecting that we are going after those that used to be in The Cassowaries, da?” When given the nod that confirmed it, North all but grinned. He now knew for sure who they were hunting, was just a bit closer he hoped to Frost and now only had to figure out why. But one thing at a time. “Now then, we have already gotten three of the lower ranking members as Krampus was not a part of that mob.” No, there had been a different reason for Krampus’ death. Something more personal, something more recent, something more had triggered that. It was an act of rage, fear, worry and love if North had ever seen one like it. He had been in many wars, seen many battles and he had seen death and fire and rage done for every reason imaginable with love, fear, hate and revenge leading them all. “So are you hoping to scare the mob first, draw the leader out or are we making them all disappear?”

There was a cruel smile on Frost’s face, it thinned his lips to a pale shade and he looked every bit a mob leader and less the Jokul Frost they knew. “It’ll be like they never existed at all.” Mr. Frost looked down to the side of his desk where there was a folder filled with files. With personnel files. With bios and backgrounds and every possible diggable detail on each person. Of all the monsters. Of every monster that worked for The Cassowaries.

“They’ll all disappear, one by one.” He looked to North, that cruel smile still on his face and said “But the leader is last. The leader, he’s mine.”

North left the stranger in his boss’ office with word that he would return with a battle strategy. North left the stranger there and wondered what happened to Frost, to the young man North and the Guardians had begun to get closer to until Krampus. He wondered where the young man had gone to, had gone through and when he reached the others, he only looked to them and saw that they felt the same. Something had happened, something had changed and they were beginning to loose Frost before they ever had him fully. As much as he was a mob leader, North couldn’t help it. Jokul was still a young man, he was still a boy. For not the first time in his profession, North wondered if what he did was what he should be doing.

Toothiana flitted over to him, a gentle and soft hand on his shoulder as she gave him a small, but sad, comforting smile. “We’ll figure it out.” She said softly and he nodded. “Da. We Will.” Voice strong and confident because Nicholas saint North did not ever loose a battle he sought to win.

Bunnymund crossed his arms, tattoos worn with pride much like North’s, and gruffly asked, “Well? Who are we up against?”

Sandy nodded, face drawn and darker than usual.

“The members of the disbanded mob The Cassowaries.”

Silence reigned as it settled over them all.

“Weren’t they the ones that...” Tooth trailed off softly as she recalled the mob.

North nodded sadly.

“And Frostbite here wants us to go after the leader?”

North shook his head at Bunny, “No my friend. He wants to get rid of all of them. Anyone that ever worked for them. He wants them all dead.”

Sandy stood silent off to the side, thinking. Blond disheveled hair sticking up in points as he rested his chin against his hand in thought. The deepest thinker of the group was dressed in a yellow suit that glittered slightly in the light, as if he had bits of glitter, or sand, littered on his suit.

“But why would he-”

Being the shortest of the group by being at least half the height of anyone in the group meant Sandy had to jump up and down as he signed to them frantically. A mute meant he had to get their attention without sound and then sign to them.

Toothiana tilted her head to the side as she read through it before a soft gasp made her cover her mouth with her hand. “The children.

Oh.

Bunnymund gave a gruff smirk, tinged with sadness as it was. “If that’s the case, then Frostbite ain’t as far gone as you think mate.”

Sandy nodded, signing away that if Frost was still protecting the kids, even if it was in this way, then he wasn’t too far gone to reach. But Sandy didn’t sign everything he was thinking and instead lapsed back into his own silence and mind as the rest of the group continued to discuss things. Ever since Krampus. And Krampus wasn’t part of The Cassowaries, so there was a separate reason for Krampus’ death. One the Sandy was pretty sure he knew about. What he didn’t know, was how badly the murder effected Jokul and the reasoning for his dispatching of The Cassowaries. If the sinking feeling in his gut was anything to go by, as North would say it was, then this was not going to go anywhere good. Snapping his fingers as a thought hit him he had to stare up sheepishly at his friends who all turned to him. Embarrassed he signed to them that it was nothing, but he did have to go back to his office. He had a few things to look up.

When Sandy left it was with a heavy heart and a small amount of guilt. He had a few people to check with before he would be able to confirm any suspicions but he still felt as if he should have done something before. If he had, if he had been more diligent, more concerned, then maybe it wouldn’t have come to this. Sandy sighed wearily, a hand dragging down his lightly tanned face before he opened his door. A shrill ringing shocked Sandy into jumping and yanking his hand off the doorknob but it was only his phone going off. He grinned at the name, happiness alight on his face as he entered his office, phone in hand. However, pressing ‘open’ on the text message caused all the color to drain from his face.

“Someone knows.”

Chapter Text

Sanderson was still staring at his phone in a muted horror when it rang. Vibrating in his hand it shook and slowly, with a grim face, he accepted the call.

“Sanderson.”

He nodded even though he knew it couldn’t be seen, phone pressed against his cheek and took a deep breath. Manny calling usually didn’t mean anything good.

“This is urgent otherwise I’d use our usual methods. Listen. Is there anything suspicious going on in your field? I’m on my way to Mr. Frost now and he’ll probably want a full investigation of all employees as well as known locations on all agents currently unaccounted for in this very moment.”

Sandy’s eyes rose, surprise and worry clear on his face. After checking that his office door was closed he pulled the phone away from his ear and began typing. On the other end it would be read out from text to speech for Manny.

Nothing unusual on my end but I’ll double check the employees and all activity. What is the emergency?

“Good.” A heavy sigh. “Or bad. Check with their families too.” A pause and then Manny’s voice dropped lower before he spoke again. “It’s a Code 9.”

A Code 9!

“Yes. And as a result of the Code 9, files on all sleeping based drugs and the purchase history of Scopolamine have been compromised as well as a few others.” There was some distant murmuring followed by a deafening silence before Manny spoke again. “I’ve got to go, I trust you’ll get back to me in proper time.”

Sandy nodded and heard the click of the phone before shutting his as well. A Code 9. Who was able to hack into their system? Oh this was going bad fast, first his friend’s breach and now the mob’s breach. Rolling up his sleeves Sandy stalked over to his computer, flicking it alive with a swipe of the mouse. After he checked all his section’s whereabouts he could get to work on figuring this Code 9 out. Their security was near impenetrable, who could have gotten though that?

He glanced at his phone, short fingers pausing on the keyboard for a moment, before he resumed again. First this and then he’d text to get more information. It’d been to long since he’d talked with his old friend anyways. A shame it was about something so unpleasant. But if they had indeed gotten to what his old friend feared, then there would be a lot of work to do on top of the mess here.

___

 

“Mr. Frost, there’s been a security breach.”

Mr. Frost hissed, turning at the sound of Manny walking in, hair displaced and suit wrinkled.

“Where?”

“Three places and counting. You should see it for yourself sir.”

Mr. Frost about growled but stalked ahead of Manny to the mob’s computer room, looking over Head Believers’ shoulders. It went without saying that he was their boss, the temperature dropping sharply and by the air he put off. Never mind the fact that he was as described and followed by MiM. There was a stuttering before the Head Believers sitting at the desk regained their typing speed, searching for the attacker through the cyber networks.

“What’s been breached?”

A collective flinch from the harsh and cutting way his voice ran up their spines. “At least five different locations, boss. And counting.”

Narrowed dark blue eyes. “I did not ask how many. I asked where.

A sharp intake of breath and then “Personnel files, though nothing seems to have been altered at least. The Hit List, also unaltered, and Past Hits. The most current two is the outgoing sales of all sleeping based drugs and our specific purchase history of the particular drug Scopolamine.”

Frost clicked his tongue in his mouth, thinking, mind whirling as he casually asked, “Sanderson has been made aware, correct?”

“Affirmative.”

“Good. Alright. For right now, just monitor.”

“S-sir? You don’t want any offensive action?”

Frost shook his head. “No. Those attacks are merely a distraction. I want to know what the attacker is really after.”

“But shouldn’t we at least raise our defenses on-”

Frost cut in sharply, “No.” He pinned the Believer with a hard look. “If we were to do that, what do you expect would happen?”

It was a challenge. A test. The Believer shook before considering his options. “It would... lead the attacker to where our most sensitive information is. Because he would be able to tell the defense levels had changed on certain files and not others, sir.”

Frost nodded his agreement but the Believer didn’t exhale in relief until yet. Not until he saw his boss’ look after his next comment. “I have a scanner running, trying to pinpoint who the hacker is as well as running him through our list of hackers and their previous known hits.”

“Good.”

Mr. Frost loomed over them, each Believer trying their hardest to not screw up in front of their Mob Boss. In front of the Mr. Frost. Calculating blue eyes watched the screens intently, following their hacker’s trail.

“Ronin, you are trying to trace his location, correct?”

He jumped but continued to work. “Yes sir. Since he registered on our radar, sir.” Did Mr. Frost know all their names? Why would he bother with something as trivial as knowing the names of all one hundred believers he had? What else did he know that they all thought was too inconsequential to him?

“At what time?”

“At 1500 hours on the dot, sir.”

Mr. Frost gave a curt nod and kept watching the screens. Seven minutes and the hacker had already breached Personnel files, the Hit List, Past Hits, Ongoing sales of sleeping based drugs and their specific purchase history of Scopolamine. Did they really find the hacker or did he willingly reveal himself after getting what he wanted and this was just a cover or a distraction?

Without even looking away lest he miss something, he barked out orders. “Manny. Status report from all Head Believers and The Guardians. I want to know if anything is out of the norm. Anything. Ronin, how close are you?”

“He’s not making it easy sir. He’s using various satellites and bouncing the signal across them. I can’t get a decent hit on him.”

“Oh course he’s not making it easy. Would you like to be caught?”

Ram straight Ronin’s spine went. “No Sir.” He had forgotten who he was speaking to.

“Daniel.”

“Yes sir.”

“Increase the security on everything. Evenly.

“Yes sir.”

“Manny. Report.”

Manny rattled off his reports, nothing unusual. A few believers were out sick but accounted for. Same for those not currently on base. Frost kept rapt attention on the screens, watching.

“Ronin.”

“Not yet Sir.”

“Type faster.”

“Yes Sir.”

Nothing the hacker was going after now was of any importance or connected to any of the previous hits. Now he was just trying various doors that were being slammed shut in his face.

“Ronin.” Frost warned.

“Almost ther- Damn!”

Vanished. The hacker had just up and vanished. Frost kept watching the screens. He could still be there but now just invisible to their radar or he could really be gone.

“Last satellite he bounced off of.”

“One hanging just over the Southern Isles.”

Frost clicked his tongue in his mouth. “Daniel, full status report on everything. Everything that was touched and everything that wasn’t. Compare everything to the backup data, but don’t put both on the same server or computer. Run a full virus check and report back to me as soon as it’s done or as soon as you find anything that doesn’t match up.”

“Yes sir. Right away sir.”

“Ronin.”

“Yes sir!”

“Run Program Gama, Code Blue. I want to make sure the hacker is gone and not just hiding. Report to me when that’s done.”

“Yes sir.”

“Manny. With me.”

Manny dipped his head to the believers in the room before swiftly following the sharp clacking of Mr. Frost’s shoes on the linoleum flooring. He was in a mood. He was hardly ever this noisy unless he was agitated, though that was a given considering the recent situation.

They didn’t get more than halfway to Mr. Frost’s office when North’s bellowing voice rang across the hall. “Jokul!”

Mr. Frost whipped his head around, not in the mood for pleasantries, ice in his eyes.

“Is important, promise.”

Rolling his eyes Frost waved him off to follow in a jerky motion of restraint and along the way ran into Toothiana who followed silently, only noticed as a speck of color in their peripheral vision. Doors slamming, elaborate carved designs followed by plain bare wood and then a heavy silence in the small office room.

He didn’t kick off his shoes, he didn’t sit down in comfort and he didn’t offer them seats. He leaned against the far corner in his office and stared them down with swirling blizzard eyes. “Speak.

“Report from Nightlight!” North rushed out, bellowing voice drowning everything else before anyone even had the chance to open their mouth. “Is not good.”

“Elaborate.”

“Ah, Nightlight says there is funny tail.” North paused here furrowing his eyebrows before continuing. “Said that you would understand when said ‘Could not shake the tail when in bunker, bells or noise.’”

“Who.” It was almost a snarl, just below the normal talking volume but promising something darker, something colder. The Guardians watched carefully, words held on tongues and eyes analyzing. He caught that, their every movement, the analytical looks, the subtle pushing of the hidden button on their bracelet or belt. He did not care, not now, not with this on the line, let the others come. Let Bunnymund and Sanderson rush in. Let them all be here to witness his anger, his fury. It’ll keep them out of his way. It’ll teach them to not mess with what was his.

North began again softly, unlike himself, for the sake of Jokul. “He could not say. Did not know who. Could this be in relation to the Code 9?”

Frost hadn’t noticed that he had stalked forward, fingers clenching into the edges of his desk, crescent moons in the wood. He leaned back, a conscious act to maintain his posture and to keep his anger in check. He still didn’t sit, but he took a step back from the desk and took a calming breath. It would do no good to get angry here. None of these people were his enemy. They were all accounted for and knew nothing of her. He took another breath to remind himself how to breath.

“We will wait for the others since you had the foresight to call them.” He spoke coldly, eying them all there, letting it be known that nothing got past his notice. The others were there quick enough, knocking and then being allowed in with a curt nod that had Toothiana calling them in.

Bunny and Sandy took one look at Jokul and understood the situation. It was thin ice here, a storm brewing on the edges and it would be best to hold one’s tongue until they figured out just what was going on. It was repeated, the news from North, after a commanding look. Sandy tried not to pale and instead watched Jokul intently. Jokul had never told any of them who Nightlight watched. In fact, he never told them what Nightlight did for him, just that he was employed by Jokul Frost personally. Any messages from him were to be immediately transferred to Jokul. Immediately. No matter what was going on. Which meant it had precedence, had priority over the mob itself. All of The Guardians had their suspicions, their theories, as to what or who it was that had that high of importance. All but Sandy. And Sandy was watching him too intently, held Frost’s eyes when they locked together and Sandy knew too much.

No matter. They would all know soon enough.

Toothiana flitted closer to the desk, slowly enough as to not be too startling with her movement, and began in a soft voice. “There is something else Mr. Frost.”

He inclined his head to her, silent permission to continue as he kept eyes locked with Sandy. Searching.

“I was doing a check up on Pitch Black and his progress.” That ripped his eyes from Sandy’s to hers. She smiled apologetically. “It seems that there has been an, I guess you could call it, an renewed vigor on the case.”

“What caused it?”

She paused but never broke eye contact with him, violet eyes steady. “A security breach.” She ignored the stiffness that suddenly increased and continued on. “It seems that their personnel files were hacked into. All of the hacked files belonged to people working on or with the Frost Case. Yesterday.”

North cursed in Russian.

Sandy caught Frost’s eyes and then nodded before gesturing to all of The Guardians including himself.

Jokul growled before agitatedly running a hand back through his white hair. “Nothing said here is to be repeated. Understood?”

Serious nods.

“Nothing said here is to ever have been said.”

Nods.

“Good. Sanderson, make sure the door is firmly locked in place.” When given the A-OK, he continued on. Confident in the sound proof room but shaking inside from the thought of revealing this information to anyone because after this, he wouldn’t be able to be above ground much longer. And because people would know. He ran another hand through his hair, eyes closing briefly as he slumped in his posture.

“I will not hesitate to kill anyone in this room who betrays this information or even pretends that it exists.” Opening bright blue eyes he slouched back even more and shoved his hands into his pockets. A hoodie would have worked better for this but Jack was supposed to be Mr. Frost right now, so no familiar hoodie.

“Nightlight is my bodyguard.” He slanted a tired look to his bodyguard Bunny who was beginning to look insulted and angry, “Not me ‘Roo, not me personally. But he’s my bodyguard. He guards someone more important than me.”

Tooth looked at him like he might break and honestly it looked too much like his mother that Jack was afraid he might lapse into either anger or depression, neither of which would help much right now. Casting his eyes away from her and swiftly avoiding North for similar reasons he landed on Sandy who gave him a smile. An acceptance. A look of encouragement and damn it if Jack didn’t almost roll his eyes and smile at Sandy good-naturedly.

“As you all know, I live half my life above-ground.” Nods all around even though said fact had never been spoken aloud before. “I have to. Because if I don’t then she wont have a proper life.” Relaxing more with the help of Sandy and the lightened load of letting something so heavy off his chest, he sank down into his office chair. Black leather that he idly picked at while speaking. “I have a younger sister. She means more than my life. Which, of course as you know, makes her a liability.” He locked eyes with them. With North who’s understanding was beginning to bloom onto his face. With Tooth who looked like she might cry, already knowing. With Bunny who’s eyes were guarded no doubt remembering his old Tribe. And with Sandy who looked as if this was nothing new to him and who tried to show more understanding and sympathy than sadness.

“Is that the reason for Rule 14?” Tooth inquired softly, drifting forward looking to give him some kind of physical comfort. He backed away from the desk, leaning back into his chair away from her seeking. A soft “yes.”.

“That makes her a right walking target Frostbite.”

“You think I don’t know that ‘Roo?” A biting edge to his words as protectiveness wound it’s tight coils around him. “It’s why I have different names above ground and below. It’s why she has no idea of this place, is guarded by Nightlight and why I keep a very, very close eye on her.”

“Is reason behind everything, No?”

Frost cut his eyes to North, peering deep into those baby blue eyes, trying to figure out how much he knew. How much he suspected. How much Frost could deflect and redirect without suspicion. Sometimes Frost cursed picking such intelligent Guardians. Every advantage was needed in this underground world but some were double edged swords and he was about to get cut.

Sandy knocked softly against Frost’s desk and glacier blue eyes looked down to the golden tanned man. Gold and Blue. Krampus? He signed.

“Krampus.” Jack agreed.

A light touch on his arm and Jack had to fight the reaction to jerk away and brandish a weapon. When had she snuck up on him? When had he stopped paying attention to everything in this room and out? When had he let his guard down?

Shoving his heart back down into his ribcage where it belonged he looked up to Tooth. Bright colors a shocking contrast against her dark skin but somehow working with it. The fluttering of dark lashes as violet eyes shut and then reopened with a question.

He should not allow it. Not with all the people in his office. Not with more than just her here. Not with The Guardians of whom he’s supposed to keep up a certain appearance with. He was not supposed to show weakness. To show feelings. That was how being a Mob Boss worked. Show any of that and your underlings lynched you. Dethroned you. Killed you. And if he was dead who would protect Emma? Emma. Emma who almost got taken by Krampus. By Krampus. Oh god how had he almost let that happen? And just like that Jack was allowing the light hug from Toothiana who almost looked hard pressed to not just gather him up, fly him away and keep him locked tight in her embrace. It brought back flashes of short brown hair and the sharp smell of peppermint. He jerked out of her embrace and had to work to pull back his frantic thoughts. The memories washing over him were doing drastic things to him, a shaking from the cold raking his body and when had it gotten so hard to breath? Just a minute ago the air had the smell of peppermint and pine needles in it and now it was so stale and unmoving and Jack couldn't, could not seem to suck in enough air to keep him from tipping over. It was too close. The walls were too close. They were pressing in on him and all he could hear was the desperate screaming and crying of other kids his age. Of the stale air, unmoving and pulling them under, drowning them in it. The gross and invasive smell of tobacco and other things, of other drugs he didn't know the names of, clawing it's way through the air to suffocate them. It was in his chest, it was in his lungs choking him and-

“Jokul!”

Someone was shaking him and oh god it burned-Please Stop. PleaseStopPleaseStopPLEASESTOP-

“JOKUL!”

Green.

“Mate!”

Green green eyes. Nothing like the dirty white hanging sheets and grey-no, stop. Stop that. Don't think about that. Focus on the green. The green eyes like fields. Like forests. Like the forest outside his home in the Summer, green green fields. Green leaves everywhere, sunlight broken up by the shadows of the green green leaves.

Jack blinked open hazy blue eyes and looked around him. Too close. Too close!

“Back.” It came out as a raspy hiss and he hadn't meant that to be that awful but it worked. They moved away and he could breath again. After a few more calming breaths he rose his eyes to meet theirs.

They had backed away as instructed, no longer hovering over him like over protective parents. Jack laughed nervously, running a hand through his hair as he glanced at Bunny. He chuckled to himself silently, still shaking. At least Bunny didn't hover like an over protective parent. More like a brother ready to smack Jack senseless for scaring him.

“You back Mate?” He was eying him warily but already Jack could see the tension begin to leach out of his broad shoulders.

“What's the matter 'Roo? I give you a scare?” It was weak and the grin even more so but Bunny humored him. Like always.

“Right bloody galah. I ought to whack you one, might get some sense knocked into that thick skull o' yers.”

Jack smirked. “Didn't work the first few times, what makes you think it'll work this time?”

Bunny huffed in a fake annoyance and grumbled, “This time I'll pin you down and make sure it works. Maybe give you a right few more whacks for good measure.”

“Only if you can catch me.” A toothy grin flashed and Jack was feeling a lot better. Already closing the doors on his recent attack, already pushing it to the far back of his mind where it could rot with all the others. The only problem was that he was Jack right now when he needed to be Mr. Frost. But bickering with Bunny had always been like that. Forgetting who he was supposed to be and just reacting. It was nice. But generally with only Bunny in the sparring room, not with watchers close enough to hear the exchanged banter.

“Glad you're back Jokul.”

He looked up at the concerned Tooth, her smile not quite reaching the corners of her mouth tinged with worry as it was. He gave her a disarming smile and she all about melted.

“Alright. Pull up a chair. It's going to be a fairly interesting one.”

He got looks from everyone in the room but Sandy which was annoying because Jack still could not figure out how Sandy knew so much about him and just exactly how much he knew about him. One day he'd have to figure out how Sandy knew so much without seeming to ever have to dig for information. Jack paused.

It was always strange when he found himself wandering across thoughts that entailed knowing the Guardians longer than just the present day. It had always made more sense, been safer, to just consider them walking away one day and becoming his enemy. Or him having to leave them. Though with how much information they had on him, he'd probably be killed if they ever turned on him. He really didn't have it in him to kill them if they left, he'd probably just have to close up shop and hide in a very very deep hole while hoping for the best. Because how was he supposed to kill them? Bunny? Who sparred with him and was so unbelievably outraged when he found out the leader of the Frost mob was a eighteen year old kid? That had been priceless!

And Tooth, who he couldn't really look at too hard without seeing his own mother. Nevermind the differing colors in her hair and skin, it was the way she acted around him. The mothering tendencies she had and how she mentored just about everyone. And if she was to go, what would her younger sister do? Baby Tooth. Of whom he loved like his own baby sister. He could never steal family away from anyone, much less her. That was the sort of thing monsters did.

And North, who showed him how to fight with sabers. Who took such delight in his new toys and weapons. His eyes just lighting up when Jack found wonder and amazement in the new weapon North had just brought him. Even if Jack had somehow found a way, North's yetis would find him and take him down, no matter where he hid. And he couldn't protect Emma and give her the normal life she deserved if he was constantly on the move, being hunted down.

And Sandy. Sandy. Jack still doesn't know how Sandy found him or why he even wanted to join. He was suspicious at first because everyone in the drug business knew of Sanderson Moonzie. You did not cross Sandy and get to live. Sure, he didn't really “technically” kill you, just more of an eternal slumber and all that, but still, you're not really alive. But Sandy had found Jack, in his early years of the Frost mob, shortly after it began to be a real thing and not just a cover that existed but not really. It had been a solid thing for a year when Sandy first began watching him. Or at least, that's when Jack noticed Sandy watching him. Three months after his fifteenth birthday and Jack had just been returning from the above-ground world to his headquarters when Sandy had interfered with him. No one had known what Mr. Frost looked like then. No one knew his age, no one knew anything other than he had “Icey cold eyes and a bloodlust that burned” and the of course mandatory “You never, ever, want to cross Mr. Frost. But Sandy? He knew. He didn't get caught up in Jack's sly lies and swift switching of topics. He didn't believe Jack when he said he was a grunt, joined the mob to help support his family and that he didn't even know what Mr. Frost looked like. Sandy had looked at Jack with old gold eyes and known. It was like instead of being looked through, he was looked into. And that scared Jack more than anything else had in years.

“Ready when you are mate.”

Jack looked up and nearly laughed himself silly. This was utterly ridiculous. This was simply preposterous. When the hell had he decided to trust these people so damn much? When had he decided that he trusted them with his life? And by extension, his sister's?

This time he did laugh. The tears at the corners of his eyes weren't of joy, but they weren't of sadness either. Jack just couldn't pinpoint the time when they had all just snuck in past all his barriers and wound up as far tucked into him as they apparently were. Without him even knowing.

Sandy smiled at him. Bunny was grumbling about whacko gumbies, Tooth was confused but smiling and North just joined in with his booming laugh. Jack quieted slowly and still Sandy was giving him that ever present and comforting smile. Of course Sandy would have known. Of course.

Silly old wishing star. Finding Jack's deepest wishes and granting them in such a way that not even Jack could shove them away through guilt and fear. Silly old wishing star.

It didn't really look like another death threat was going to be taken seriously right now and who was Jack kidding anyways? They already knew enough to get him killed, so if they hadn't now, there was no point in holding the rest of this back for that fear. He was going to need their help if he was going to do this. If he was going to take down that monster that lead The Cassowaries and was currently in hiding but no doubt continuing his brutality.

“I'm going to need your help.” He pinned them each with a look, eyes locking momentarily on each pair. “All of your help.”

North grinned and leaned forward. “Who is next target?”

Jack grinned. “Not Who, North. It's what.”

Chapter Text

Pitch was pacing back and fourth. Shadows clung to every crevice and the moon was hiding. He snarled at that thought because of course when he needs the light, it’s gone. Just like last time.

Squeezing his eyes shut he tries not to holler in frustration.

How? How could they have gotten in? It didn’t make sense, or maybe it did and that’s why Pitch was so furious. He had been good, had his tracks professionally erased and covered. They should not have been able to dig up that information. But yet, somehow someone had accessed it, let alone began trying to crack it.

Pitch snapped, cursing the dresser his foot had caught and smashed into. The house was too dark, too dark but he should he do as he wished, it would be quite literally a beacon to the very people trying to attack him. What he wanted to do was turn every light on in his house at eleven o’ clock at night and burn the shadows trying to get inside his head. As it was, he couldn’t do that because that would be an anomaly in what he usually did and only make him more of a target and more suspicious. He didn’t want them to know he was on to them. He wanted them to think he only knew about the FBI hack. Not his personal hack.

But the shadows were cloying, digging, whispering. It would be too easy, it would be too easy. He could just slip back, listen to the whispers for just a second too long and he’d be back. His tainted stained past, the man that was him but not. He’d be back.

Pitch turned around at the kitchen, ignoring the shadows that moved out from under the fridge, tendrils reaching for his ankles like clawed fingers. He paced from the kitchen again, through his living room, the hall and into his room where he promptly turned around again and repeated the cycle. The pacing helped him think. The movement kept him from seeking tendrils, kept his eyes focused on his path instead of shadows that don’t move but look like they do and kept him from surrendering to the darkness. Blood rushing, hands twitching because he couldn’t figure out what to do with them and while his mind was whirling the whispers wouldn’t stop.

His past was dark. It was dark and buried and it needed to remain that way. That was the reason it was deleted from every part of intelligence he could find and replaced with other data to overwrite what couldn’t be 100% erased. That was the same reason why certain places had fires, had databases and files burnt to ashes that scattered on the winds. Not exactly legal but then he hadn’t been the one to do it.

Pitch clasped his hands behind his back together, trying to regain some semblance of calm but only succeeded in getting more agitated and moving them to in front of him. He gestured all the time while he spoke and with the way his mind was running it was almost the same as if he had been talking aloud. Only the fear of bugs, there were none he checked- but you can never be too careful, kept him from voicing his thoughts aloud, talking through them and sorting them out audibly.

He stepped over a snag in the rug, he’d have to fix that tomorrow, and ran through everything again. Cold facts first then formulas, speculations and theories. Facts first.

He reminded himself again, Facts first, when he scowled at the whole predicament.

A deep breath and a very hard, almost visual, shoving down of feelings and anxieties.

First, the FBI had been hacked. They only accessed files on the personnel working on the Frost case. That meant him, his team and everyone in the forensics lab that had touched Frost evidence plus the team that had handled the Krampus case.

Second, after the FBI breach, Pitch had waited a few hours, as to not draw attention to what he was doing just in case he was being watched, and then checked on his other things. His other things. What did he even call it? There wasn’t really a proper name to call it and anyways he hadn’t wanted a proper name to call it because he didn’t want to be calling it anything that could be caught or noticed. A frustrated groan and then a deep breath released as slowly as Pitch could currently manage.

Facts. Emotions later. Or possibly never. Inner Dialogue later. Okay. So he waited half a day before checking in on his things. He still knew the way, the basic hacking he was shown to do in order to check up on it. He was checking up on the blank/sorta filled in spot in his records. His records in the FBI, in the basic government records (like the dmv) and in the last place he didn’t like thinking about. Here, with the methods he was taught, he could check up on if anyone had accessed the files, specifically this spot, when they had done so and if they did anything. It was a blessing as much as it was a curse. The first year after all of it was done, he checked it on a near constant basis. Daily and sometimes more than once a day. He had run himself ragged with fears, paranoia and anxiety because what if someone saw it while I wasn’t looking and now it’s too late for me to run or protect my little girl and it’ll be all my fault that I didn’t check sooner to notice sooner to prevent it from happening because I would have known. And then he promptly worried himself to death with the next ever present anxiety of what if someone sees me checking it so much and it raises alarms and then they look into why would someone be looking into this on particular spot? Or what if I get caught checking it? They’ll look up....

Deep breath.

It had been accessed. That was in the past and there was nothing, nothing he could do to change that. So he needs to work on what he can influence. Like the distribution of information and damage control. That he could influence. If he knew who had hacked into his information.

Frost was the first suspect. Seeing as how he was Pitch’s active case and the subject of his ongoing investigation. It could be a retaliation. Black mail. It could be anything really, it was Frost. He liked playing games and doing the least expected thing, even when that thing is usually the most expected thing in every other case. He threw people off like that.

But it could be someone else. Right now it would be all too easy to cast the suspicion on Frost, and wouldn’t he just love that?, and get away with the hacking. All of the FBI’s attention would be put onto Frost and the few other main case suspects while the real hacker got away clean. Did Frost even know how to hack? He could always hire someone to do the hacking for him if he didn’t know how to.

Back to the point Pitch.

Meaning, it could just as easily be Frost as someone else.

He groaned, massaging his thumbs into his temples as his head pounded and the floor shifted in the darkness. Looking up he found himself in the living room, the sofa right behind him and gratefully he sank down into it.

He had to protect Sera and to do that he had to figure out who has the information. The who determined heavily on how to protect her, which methods, what lines, what suspicions, what everything. This is important. He has to figure out who did this.

If it wasn’t Frost, who? It could be any of the suspects of other ongoing cases, but then why would they only attack files to do with Frost? No, it couldn’t just be a random suspect retaliating. They would have to be connected to Frost in some way for any of the information they got to be useful in any other way than just placing the blame on Frost and spooking the FBI. When you hacked the FBI, the stakes are so perilously high that you don’t just hack the FBI to shift blame to someone else. You get information and shift the blame to someone else.

Pitch growled at the dark t.v. in front of him, made an effort to not bang his shins on the coffee table when he got up from the sofa, and stalked into the kitchen. Grabbing some random mug out of his cabinets unerringly, he turned, grabbed a single serving coffee cup, shoved it in the machine, pressed the button and tried to very hard to not count the seconds until he could get his coffee. At this rate, he may as well make a whole pot of coffee but if he did that now, that would be admitting that he was going to be up all night. Which he absolutely was not going to be because that was ridiculous and he should have it figured out well before dawn. He needs a proper night of sleep to look like nothing is wrong tomorrow after all.

So. Related to the FBI and to Frost somehow. What had Pitch been doing lately with the Frost case?

Reflexively he shut the machine down during it’s first beep of being ready, swiped his cup and made his way back to the dark living room.

He had been searching up any leads on Frost. The murders thought to be by Frost. The victims’ backgrounds. Jackson Overland. Various mobs the victims were in. The codes Frost keeps sending. Past history of any mobsters that used games and codes for ulterior motives. And a variety of other small things.

He took a sip of his near scalding coffee and hissed out steam when it burned his tongue, brain waking up a bit more just as much from the pain as from the incoming caffeine.

There had been no new leads. Nothing. Absolutely nothing and as infuriating as that was, at least that was that many less possible suspects. There were no witnesses that saw anything, no police reports, no one connected to any leads on Frost. The victims of Frost couldn’t retaliate, but their current gangs could. Pitch paused, staring blankly into the darkness that was to the left of his t.v., stealing another scalding sip. He had heavily researched all the victims backgrounds, scouring for a connection. And he had found it. There was two distinctive gangs that at least three out of the four victims had all been a member of at some point. Could that be something? Could the gangs be afraid of the FBI gathering too much information on them, hack into the system to see how much information they had and then plant the blame on Frost? That was certainly possible...

The coffee was gone and Pitch glared at the cup he could barely see in his hand before standing to make another.

What else, what else? He had looked up Jackson Overland, that annoying kid that bothered Pitch all the time in that rink-a-dink coffee shop. Thousand watt grins that spelled out trouble and the younger sister who could sing. The siblings that only had each other yet somehow made not only enough money to go to college but to pay for Pitch’s leather coat with no worries. Could Jack be messed up in some bad people?

Pitch swiped the second cup and in the same motion unplugged the noisy machine as he turned on heel and headed back to the sofa. He picked up a stray pencil on the way and tucked it behind his ear. There was paper on the coffee table if he remembered right, and as he sat down, he pulled the sheets closer to him. A stolen sip of near molten coffee and Pitch grabbed the pencil from behind his ear and blindly began writing down his thoughts on the papers he couldn’t see.

If Jack was messed up with bad people, what kind of people would he be involved in? He certainly liked mischief but he seemed too loyal to his sister, Jack couldn’t hide that from him, to be messed up for just because he wanted to or for any reason other than money really. It could explain his lack of concern over money. But then generally when people worked for unmentionable people, there was always a fear of being cut off from said money. It’s what made their workers keep coming back and left them unable to leave.

Pitch frowned unconsciously. It would be bad for such a young kid to get messed up in those kinds of people and trouble. And would Jack be in with the kids of bad people that had access to such elite hackers? Hackers that could get in and out of the FBI without being caught/traced?

Pitch’s pencil stilled as he hit another mental road block. Grumbling under his breath he tipped the mug back to get another sip of molten coffee and hissed when none came. Sending a withering glare to the empty mug he could feel in his hand but couldn’t see, he clanked it down onto the table and leaned backwards into the sofa. His head rested on the top of the cushion backed sofa and he stared unseeingly at the dark ceiling. Much less visible shadows up there, less things that shouldn’t be able to move, moving.

It was going to be a long night.

- - - - - -

 

Despite the front Jack put on, he was nervous as hell. He had tried to get to the coffee shop at the regular time, which really wouldn’t have been an issue if he hadn’t ducked out of his art class half an hour early, but he still got there before Pitch. The paint on his skin itched and he idly picked at it before swatting his own hand away. He needed to leave the paint on his skin, reinforce the image of Art Major College Kid Jack. He scowled. Kid. Ugh. But still, the paint would reinforce the image of him being insignificant and “too small” to be involved in anything bigger than college pranks. Hopefully. Pitch was perspective. Jack smirked at that thought because honestly it was refreshing to interact with someone as sharp as Pitch. Dangerous, especially now- yes, but still refreshing and utterly fun.

Jack leaned back in his wooden chair, the two legs creaking ominously but he stretched back anyways. Shifting the bulk of his weight forward while he pulled his arms up above his head he stayed balanced. Mostly. When both elbows popped he sighed in relief and smacked back down onto all four legs.

Forcing himself to not check the time again, because that was out of the norm for him even if other college kids did that all the time, he took a sip from his hot white chocolate. It had a long, thin, stick of peppermint sticking out the side of the cup adding just a kick of mint and spice. Something that lingers, burning on his tongue as he leans back on two chair legs again, stretching out.

He really shouldn’t be out in the open right now, with how much he’s been showing his real face around within his mob, but he doesn’t want to draw any attention to Jackson Overland by disappearing suddenly on Pitch. He might get a hero complex and demand to find out what happened and- Jack snorted before falling into quiet chuckles because yeah, right. Like Pitch would have a hero complex. He snorted again before he could stop himself. He may have been a bit more successful than was safe in piquing Pitch’s interest in him, but he sorely doubted he would get all upset and run after a disappeared teen with bleached hair who was probably more a menace on society than an worthy addition to it.

The bell on the shop door rang dimly in the back of Jack’s head so he was not at all surprised when a deep voice, right next to his ear, asked “Now what could possibly be so funny?”

Jack snapped his chair back onto all fours quickly, added a flinch for effect, and then beamed up at Pitch with a mildly surprised look on his face. “Pitch!”

The tall FBI agent rolled his eyes at Jack’s behavior but there was a tilt in those thin lips that hinted at amusement of Jack’s fright and the man picked a chair across the small table from Jack. Jack took it like the win it was and grinned at him again.

“I do hope that your talking to yourself hasn’t gotten so prominent that it’s now your source of amusing conversation.”

The drawling voice was deep and seemingly unamused but Jack knew better than that. So with a casual fling of his shoulders in a shrug he leans back over his drink to get a swig through the hollow peppermint stick and grins cheekily up at Pitch.

“So,” Jack drawls while leaning back into his chair, “does this mean you’re going to pick up the job and give me entertaining conversations?” There’s that unimpressed look and Jack continues on into it, trying not to look too amused, “You know, so I don’t have to talk with myself like a crazy person.”

Pitch arches an almost non existent eyebrow to Jack at that, “Like?” Pitch scoffs and there’s a glint in his eyes and oh wow Jack can really see the flecks of gold in his silver eyes with the lighting in this place.

“Did you always have silver eyes?” It’s a blunt, out of the blue question that has Jack flinching back into his chair as he realizes what he’s done. Open mouth. Insert foot. And possibly a thought to voice filter.

Pitch eyes the boy in front of him carefully for a moment before asking back, “Did you always have blue eyes?”

The boy blinks then leans forward slightly, resting his forearms on the edge of the table as if he’s just found a way in. The cheeky monkey then replies with a simple “No.” and Pitch could have smacked himself because wasn’t that in the file he had gotten of Jack?

Seeing his chance Jack leans forward more, shot fox grin in place and presses “So fess up, were they?”

Pitch groans, rubs his temple and then rests his chin on his hand. “No.”

Jack laughs “Score!” and chugs down another few gulps of his drink before wiping the cream off his face with the back of his hand. “So, what color were they originally? I’m putting money on Gold!”

“Oh? Are you quite sure about that?”

Jack grins, “Positive.” Which he was given he already saw photos, but he would have been sure anyways because of the flecks. You didn’t just change eye colors without retaining some of the previous color.

“Hmm..” Pitch makes a show of looking it over before commenting off-hand that maybe he should make Jack bet real money just to be sure. The kid’s reaching for his wallet before Pitch realizes he’s taking it to heart and Pitch has to stop this because that was just ridiculous and he was not loosing money to a twenty one year old.

“Fine, fine. You’ve got it right. They were gold.” The victorious grin is almost blinding and Pitch can’t stop himself from asking, “So Jack, what made yours change from brown to blue?” He had seen those flecks but they could be contacts too and really the files hadn’t said anything about why they had changed or how.

“Oh? Cool, you have eyes too.” Pitch rolls his eyes at this comment of him being able to see the brown flecks and motions with his hands for Jack to get a move on with what he wanted to hear.

“Yeah, yeah.” Jack mutters with a smile on his face. It’s a blink and then the kid’s looking down at his cup, swirling the peppermint stick in circles through the liquid. There’s a more stiff set to his shoulders now and Pitch is just about to formulate a why when bright blue eyes look up at him suddenly with probably the most fake grin Pitch has ever laid eyes on. “Contacts.”

He frowns, unimpressed and more than a little insulted. “Lie.”

Jack grumbles, makes a show of shifting around to get comfortable, folding his legs beneath him on the chair and he crunches down on the peppermint stick. “Buzz kill..” Comes out mumbled and probably meant for Pitch to hear but still he waits patiently because such reluctance to explain a simple thing as eye color means there’s more to it than just a color change.

“I, uh..” He fumbles and Pitch realizes that this is the most unconfident he’d ever seen the boy. His shoulders are slumped just the slightest bit and he seems to be subconsciously curling around his cup. There’s nervous movement in his fingers and he twirls the peppermint stick between his fingers like a mini baton. “I fell in an ice lake when I was younger.”

There’s silence so Jack sucks in another breath and plunges into it again. “Docs said the shock did it.”

There’s another moment of silence, though this one isn’t quite so uncomfortable, more of just letting things settle before Pitch quietly asks, “your hair?”

It’s a rueful smile he gets in return, “Nah- different reason for that.”

So not bleached or dyed then.

Jack cocks his head to the side before asking, “Not gonna ask about that?”

Pitch gives the hint of a bittersweet smile and says “I know better than to press too hard.”

Clearly uncomfortable with all of this Jack struggles for a diversion and settles on “So, how about yours?”

It’s apparently not any better and really Jack could have kicked himself for it because when did he ask or say things without thinking them through? He’d had that problem with Bunny and Sandy but really he was supposed to be being careful here and now there was a shadow over Pitch’s face that might be dangerous but more just seemed regretful and mournful.

“Stress.”

That was definitely not it but Jack let it go.

“So no coffee today, Mr. Black?”

A weak attempt at humor met by a slightly stronger attempt at teasing, “Skipping class today, Mr. Overland?”

Jack stuck a tongue out at him before a strange look crossed Pitch’s face. “I’d be careful where you’re putting that, Jack.”

“Oh?”

Pitch hummed committedly and rested his hands on the table in front of him, one on top of the other.

“What are you going to do about it?” Jack taunted, confidence oozing off of him in a way that made Pitch just want to wipe it off his face.

So Pitch casually remarked, “Someone might make a grab at it. Teach you some manners.”

“You couldn’t catch me.”

“You want to bet on that?”

“I might.”

Jack’s cocky, too cocky but then Pitch is rising to it and when Jack sticks his tongue out at Pitch again in defiance, his ashy pale hand snaps out to grab it. He’s about to grab it when the thought of how inappropriate this all is flashes through his mind and he hesitates towards the end allowing Jack to successfully escape, laughing and not seeming to find anything wrong with all of this.

“Missed me, missed me~” He sings, leaning the chair back on two legs again before snapping them back down on all fours. He grins at Pitch, “Guess you’re too slow, old man.”

It’s a taunt, Pitch knows it, it’s a taunt to agitate him and make him react like he did when he first met Jack but right now it just drives home the point of how inappropriate he was acting with Jack. Jack who’s frowning at him now, cocking his head to the side as those blue eyes watch him. Had Jack always been so analytical?

“Hey, what’s up?”

Pitch shakes his head and forces a neutral expression onto his face. He makes an excuse about being late to getting back and tries to ignore Jack’s frown because apparently the boy can keep track of how long it’s been versus how long Pitch’s regular breaks are and that might be inappropriate too, Pitch isn’t too sure right now but he needs to get back to his office so he can think and not look like a cougar or whatever it is in front of the general public because oh wouldn’t the journalists have a field day with that.

The door shuts noisily behind him and the stray thought about how this visit had not gone at all how he had planned crossed his mind. Though, usually visits with Jack were less than planned and more of a de-stress time and distraction from work at the coffee shop but really he had meant to ask Jack about his job.

Pitch groans, pauses on the sidewalk and argues with himself silently. He really, really did not want to go back because then he’d have to face Jack and whatever the hell had just happened. Not to mention explaining his hasty retreat. And then wouldn’t that just be suspicious? Him returning just to “politely inquire” about his job? But it was important he watch his response and gauge if Jack is messed up with some bad people because Sera.

Pitch groans, rolls his eyes at himself and begins formulating a more sly, less suspicions way of getting Jack to talk about his work. He’s about to turn around and head back in when all of a sudden a body slams into him.

“Oh I’m so so sorry!”

Pitch retracts his glare once he recognizes the younger sister of Jack and pauses once he sees her. There’s dust and some dirt in her hair, which seems to be sticking up in various places with a few tangles, and she’s pale. Granted the siblings were pale normally but she had none of her natural pink flush in her cheeks and she was shaking minutely. Pupils blown from an adrenalin rush as she jumbled some words together again.

“Sorry, sorry, so sorry. Listen, uhm, have you seen Jack? I need to get to Jack. Is he in there? Nevermind I’ll just go check real quick-”

“Emma?” It’s a question but Pitch can hear the worry and alarm laced in it and sees Jack’s blue eyes flicking around their surrounding before Emma nearly launches herself at Jack. There's incoherent whispered babbling in Jack’s chest and after a moment Jack turns steely and his arms wrapped around his sister turn stiff.

“Is everything alright?”

Jack’s head whips up to face Pitch from it’s place on Emma’s and for a moment it looks like Jack forgot Pitch was even there. There’s a guilty look on his face and he gives a hesitant smile. “Sorry Pitch, gotta go kick some butts.”

Watching him, Pitch narrows his eyes.

Feeling the need to elaborate at that Jack says “Some brats need to be taught a lesson in manners.”

And then Jack and his sister, who is not quite so pale as before but is still clutching Jack’s hand like a lifeline, disappears before Pitch can formulate a question. He’s staring at the spot they left and his mind is whirling because the fear on her face was much more potent than a bully’s mark.

 

 

Chapter Text

This is ridiculous. This is absolutely ridiculous and Pitch is still following the Overland siblings. It’s not that he’s bad at it, because he’s not. He’s really not. He blended in with the crowd when they walked through the main of town. Almost lost them at the ice cream stand, but he found them right after as they slipped out through the bustle into a side street. He’s about ten feet behind them but following people had never been a hard thing for Pitch. It was the whole being unnoticed thing. In his past, when he’d had to do it, it was usually a tailing of someone and letting them figure out they’re being followed without actually seeing where he was. The growing paranoia, the mounting dread all piling down on the victim making them shake, get nervous, make more mistakes and generally be easier to catch. He would reappear here and then suddenly over here and now the shadows were going to swallow the man whole and The Nightmare King’s voice is bouncing off from this ally way- no wait- now it’s coming from above him and he's going to die in just the most painful way he just knows it. He just knows it...

But Pitch doesn’t want the Overland siblings to know someone’s following them- which is a lot easier done when you’re not someone they know familiarly and when you usually have a few other people to trade off with when tailing them. He doesn’t want them panicked and dialing the police or running into some random street to ditch a tail. He just wants to follow them without suspicion, and preferably without having to explain to his Chief why he’s following a college kid and his younger sister, and make sure they’re going to be okay. Pitch wants to see if the fear on her face was from someone else other than a bully. Like a gang they got messed up in or some bad people they’re making drops for or what. Because while Jack wouldn’t endanger Emma for fun, Pitch could see Emma getting threatened and Jack’s defending of her getting him roped into a gang. And when gangs led to gang fights and “social visits” everything just begins escalating from there and then there’s no telling what Jack may have gotten caught up in while trying to protect his baby sister.

The Overland siblings dodged down another side ally, this one dirtier than the previous and now Pitch has the growing certainty that whatever they’re messed up in, it’s not going to be good. He’s giving it a breather, counting the seconds before he’ll attempt to turn the corner and debating the merit of fire escapes and roof tops. He hadn’t sprung around and ran on roof tops in a few years, and years longer for legal reasons. The nagging in the back of his head comes out and is just beginning to make him question why he’s tailing them instead of sending others to investigate and how maybe Pitch doesn’t exactly want to turn the Overlands in just yet and why is that Pitch? when his cell phone shrills loudly in the alleyway. Hands flying to the offending noise maker on his hip he jams all the buttons on the side of his phone until it silences. Heart banging loudly against his chest he bites back his cursing and his eyes flick around, already knowing his cover is blown and he needs to get the hell out before they figure out it was him tailing them.

It’s a quick dodge into another ally way, a quick sprint down that one, to a jog out of another ally that leads to the main road and he slows to a fast pace walk. He counts as he breaths in and out, the adrenaline still rushing through his blood and with the experience of his past, resists the urge to look behind him and instead uses the windows of the shops he’s passing to check behind him. Heart still pounding and his breathing still requiring conscious thought to slow down, he jumps just the slightest when the stupid phone goes off again.

He rips it off it’s holster on his hip and hisses into the receiver “What?

Silence then a careful wording of “It’s Mr. Frost. He’s left something for you.”

Pitch doesn’t know how to feel. He growls, fists a hand in his hair at his temple and pulls, still walking down the street. “When?” He finally hisses out, mind not at all ready to be pulled in all these different directions. Half of his brain was still fixated on the ally he left the Overland kids in with that look of fear on Emma’s face. The other half is whirling and anxious about the new challenge, about Frost’s new challenge. Because Frost was challenging, intellectually challenging. And Pitch had a feeling he was getting close.

“Just now. Our mail man came up with a delayed package. Got held up at the office he said, then misplaced and he was just now getting it to us. It was marked ‘Time Sensitive’ otherwise he would have just delivered it tomorrow morning with our mail instead of doubling back.”

The Overland kids were gone by now- no real way of tracing and tracking them down now. He’d have to try next time he saw them. If he saw them again. Jack was clever but he had a big mouth that was bound to get him in trouble. Pitch groaned, palm pressed to his eyes.

“Everything okay Pitch?”

“Yes. No. Fine. I’m coming back but I need five competent agents. Competent. None of those green leafs or slackers. I need some real workers who aren’t going to just shrink up into stuttering messes.”

Chief Roland laughed, a sound that belayed his thoughts of just about everyone having that reaction with Pitch but didn’t object. Pitch didn’t feel the need to stress that there ought to be at least ten agents in that building or so that could work competently so five should not be an issue so he just clicked the phone shut again. Another check in a passing window reflection showed him clear so he made his way back to the office, mind in two different places. What did Frost leave for him this time? And What was happening to the Overland siblings?

- - - -

They investigated the mail man. They investigated his route, the people he could remember bumping into that were out of the ordinary, the tapes at the office he got his mail from and they investigated the people on shift when the package had arrived. They couldn’t pin point exactly where the package came in because at one point two different mail trucks had a problem with their back hatches opening just short of their back room destinations and of course the two just happened to be close enough that all the mail got messed up together and what do you know? Both trucks had been tampered with but no other fingerprints besides the employees so no telling which truck it came from or how it got into the system.

Meanwhile Pitch was investigating the box.

It had a return address, but it certainly wasn’t Frost’s. He wasn’t that stupid or ignorant to believe they wouldn’t hold some small belief that it could be his address. No. It was someone else’s and it was placed there for a reason. To make the FBI look into that individual. But why?

So 152 Rifle Street, PA was being investigated.

Pitch stared down at the brown box. It was a normal cardboard box- had been checked for bombs, poison and all other sorts of things. They’d even x-rayed it and found a metal winky face in one side of the box. A semi colon with an end parenthesis. Pitch may or may not have rolled his eyes without scowling. So taking careful movements and peeling the tape off, lest a box cutter cut something important, Pitch opens the box.

Inside there’s fake snow covering the bottom and a shit ton of glitter that covers just about everything. Grimacing now, despite the crowd, he reaches in and pulls out the first envelope. While it’s getting checked out, Pitch pulls out the large square of wood. It’s half an inch thick and 1sq ft quite literally. Flipping it over he finds one side blank and the other painted upon. Blankly Pitch stares at it.

 

 

 

crossword puzzle

 

The painted side has rows divided up into squares that cross and branch off into other rows made up of squares in straight, angular lines. The painted parts are indented, carved out of the block and then painted white with black outlines and numbers. Pitch takes a deep breath because it’s a cross word puzzle and he almost grins. But not yet, not yet, he’s got to see the letter first. He’s got to see the whole thing, appreciate the whole masterpiece and once the letter’s done, Pitch calmly grabs it and begins reading it.

“Hey Mr. Pitch Black!

How’s it going? We should really hang out sometime!

Things seem to be picking up pace around your little office.

A little fairy told me of some interesting things happening.

Care for a talk?

I promise I wont misbehave.

Much. ;)

-You know you wanna, Frost”

Pitch spluttered, cheeks thankfully not getting hot, and stared at the offending letter that was dripping glitter all over the floor before chuckling to himself under his breath. He handed the letter off and watched, amused, as they read it and their faces colored appropriately.

Always causing a scene, Frost.

Though, that gave to a pause, Frost wanted to talk with him. With Pitch, not the FBI, but with him, Pitch. Frost liked Pitch best, which was understandable since he was the only one to get even somewhat close to Frost before Krampus. After Krampus, Pitch kept solving those codes of his. So it was a reasonable assumption that Pitch intrigued, or at least entertained, Frost for at least the moment. But a phone call. How would that work? Would Frost call the FBI or Pitch’s cell phone? No.. That didn’t sound right. He ended the note with ‘You know you wanna’ implying that Pitch would have to make the decision on to call Frost or not. Hm. Deep in thought but still functioning, Pitch sought out the envelope to the letter.

Feeling around the inside of the envelope he caught it. Pulling out a folded paper, made of thinner stationary than the written letter, he unfolded the sheet. Blank. Of course. What did Frost take him for? And old man who couldn’t remember the first test?

As Pitch had predicted, when heated up properly, there was writing.

It was for the cross word puzzle.

 

Across

4. A fear of home

5. Closer still than any other

6. The phobia of an abused kid

8. Corrupt and dirty, worked for the King of Scum

9. Most dangerous bird in the world and common to New Guinea

10. Something, that when it gets out of hand, can foil even the greatest of people

12. Newspapers and the Media like to cause this but not help stop it

13. Batman

14. The police and justice system summed up

15. The FBI since at least the 1990's (Hint: It's not a compliment but honest words)

16. A bird that steals others' nests by imitating their eggs

 

Down

1. Techniques to determine details about a given person

2. A place society dumps unwanted children (It's not hell, but sometimes it's worse-Luck O' the Lottery)

3. A brother of one's father or mother

5. A relationship in which one lives off another while harming and killing the other

7. Inconvenienced or annoyed

11. People who guard and protect (those that shouldn't be needed but are)

17. Scottish origin, meaning 'Red'

 

Well. That was certainly interesting. Although it didn’t seem to be as challenging as Pitch was suspecting Frost to pull. Still while some clues were stagnant like most cross word puzzles, others were rather opinionated... He'd have to look it into that. Studying the cross word puzzle again he sees the black circles surrounding seemingly random boxes. A letter per circle. So. Solve the cross word puzzle, then you get the letters. It would be too easy for them to be unscrambled so Pitch was going to go with the assumption that he’d have to unscramble them himself. After all, Frost would probably mock him if he expected it any other way because where was the fun in that?

A secret message then. Interesting. Grabbing a near by sheet of paper, because no way was he going to mess up that fine piece of evidence, he got to work. His eagerness beginning to show. He would have this done in no time at all. He ate these kinds of puzzles for breakfast and it would be interesting to see where it leads to from there because after all, this seemed to be an ongoing set of puzzles so what would be next?

Chapter Text

 Crossword Puzzle Solution

UODTKASSYUSUEBDGSRO

 ‘Todays Sudoku Burgess’

Sudoku Puzzle

The poor editor of the Burgess Times didn’t even know what was coming. Bewildered he watched as cops from Raquine, a city an hour’s drive away, came storming in. At the head was their chief of the Burgess Police leading the entourage.

“Uhm! Can I help you??”

“Sorry Dale, they need to investigate you and the person in charge of today’s Sudoku.”

The man in his late forties blinked at the officer. “I’m sorry. Did you say this had something to do with our Sudoku?”

A short investigation later revealed that their editor usually in charge of the Sudokus had been on a paid vacation so Dale had just scrounged up an old Sudoku from years past and called it a night. No leads there with either of the personnel. Excluding the curious snowflake riddled note stuck to the back of Dale’s shirt of course.

‘Ah, ah. Didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you, Mr. Black? -Frost’ The back of the page, once pulled off the bewildered man, read

‘Before Everyone Hates me, remember the Gore of krampus, the Hate, the Sick @t krampus’ Core. you need to remember within your unseeing Fever that One in the Hand is worth more than Two in the Bush. this remains the same when regarding monsters & murderers.’

Back at the office Chief Rolland finds Pitch is grinning like a mad man, the sight frightening away any people near, as he finished up the last of the Sudoku. Adrenaline coursing through his veins because the sooner he got this done, the sooner he could get Frost on the phone. Oh he wouldn’t be stupid enough to use his own voice, or at least Pitch hoped not because that would just be a huge disappointment, but he would be one step closer to figuring out how he worked. Their techs would be mashing buttons left and right trying to get a lock on Frost while Pitch was trying to pick apart Frost’s word choices, mannerisms and just about anything he could get access to. How did Frost’s mind work? What made him feel the need to play with the cops in the literal sense of play? What events shaped him to act the way he does and can they figure out those events, go through their database matching people his age to those events and then land him? Oh the possibilities! And all the possible ways this could turn out. There could be a break through, they could get a lock on him, or he might accidentally reveal something he hadn’t meant to or maybe he’ll just throw another puzzle at them. Though it was curious, how he kept bringing up other mobs and how they were monsters. Though Frost made no claim to not be a monster, he obviously considered all those his mob had killed or burned to be much worse monsters than he.

“Pitch.”

He didn’t flinch, didn’t even look up from his completed Sudoku puzzle, just made a non committal noise to his chief as his mind continued running.

“Agent Black.” Came the sigh. “I have more for you.”

He looked up at that, arching a barely there eyebrow and looked at his chief unimpressed until he was handed a copy of a note book paper. With tape marks on it. Looking at it, he read it before flipping it over and grinning once again.

“Ah.” He cast a look at his chief. “Have you any idea what he did?”

An head shake.

“Neither do I.” The grin stretched across his face, too pointed and sharp to be normal and Pitch got a thrill from it. “But I will.”

 

Chapter Text

There was a hesitance palpable in the room. In their steel encased room that doubtlessly had many, many concealed satellite dishes and antennas on the top of it. Sitting at the top of a two story building, something built exclusively for surveillance, intelligence and the likes.

The thrill pulses through Pitch’s body as everyone sets up. Stagnant air threatens to choke them, dust heavy and cloying but Pitch brushes it off his shoulder, nothing was going to bog him down today. Not now. Not with this. Frost was clever but so was Pitch. That phone number was memorized in his head, fingers itching to call but waiting for the signal. They had to have everything ready, everything had to be perfect first.

Phone records showed that the phone had been bought in cash, eight years ago. No lead. In fact, none of the current employees remembered selling that particular model or at least, not that one specifically. Additionally, there was only two remaining workers that worked at the store nine years ago. A whole lot of dead ends. Nine years though. That’s some planning. Nine years ago Frost knew he’d need a burner phone. Though the Frost mob hadn’t shown up until four years ago and even taking into account when the name “Mr. Frost” had first started showing up, that was still only seven years ago. So just what was Frost involved in before his mob?

“We’re ready when you are Special Agent Black.”

Pitch grinned.

“The trace will begin once you dial the number.”

“Affirmative. Dialing now.”

1-

He hoped he had disguised his thrill, his sort of almost glee at finally, finally being able to make solid contact with Frost.

(707)

Even if it was through an automated voice.

247-

There would still be speech patterns to analyze and then of course the fact that most automated voice converters had to have access to the internet.

6955

And even if it was prerecorded, if they could identify the automated voice by the program, they could eliminate computers and systems not compatible with that program and-

“Hello Mr. Black.”

Not even half a ring and he picked up. Frost was expecting him. Pitch grinned.

“Hello Frost. I must say, you do not sound as I had imagined.” The voice was too gruff, too old to be Frost’s. He was younger, this sounded like a middle aged man. One who likely worked in construction for some years, if the gravely undertone to his voice was anything to go by.

“Oh? You were imagining things about me?”

The person speaking didn’t nearly do it justice. Nothing like the inflections and pace Pitch could read off of the notes Frost sent.

“Imagining how to catch you of course.”

“Of course.”

It didn’t seem likely that this was a prerecorded phone call. Was he using one of his underlings to speak for him? That wouldn’t be unheard of. There was rumor that Frost never publicly showed up anywhere, instead having his second in command, Manny, stand in as Frost for him.

“So Frost, why exactly request a phone call? You’re hardly one for pleasantries.”

“You wound me-” BANG

The entire room was silent. A thud was heard over the phone line, some scuffling and then a new voice on the line.

“Terribly sorry about that. I apparently wasn’t very clear with my instructions before. I do hope you’ll take my apology for the interruption.”

A breath then, “Of course. May I inquire as to what they messed up?”

The new voice was shaken, wavered a little before strengthening again. “I told them to repeat what I had typed word for word.” A shaky ‘tsk’. “Good. At least this one can manage that much.” A pause. “They apparently didn’t believe me when I said words could mean life or death.”

Pitch could feel the sardonic smile from here.

“The next one I shall burn.”

That was a curious term. “How so?”

A laugh. “Oh, ever perceptive and intrigued. There’s a reason I like you, Mr. Black. I will burn them, through you of course, letting out all their deepest secretes, agencies they work for, acts they’ve committed and well... If you don’t arrest them, I can certainly think of some people who would be very willing to take them off my hands...”

Pitch glanced back at the techies but none had gotten a hit yet. He could see the signal pings on a number of satellites from where he sat. Chief Roland waved him on to keep talking. Obviously he couldn’t ask about the captives, that would just be deflected with games so what could he ask about?...

“Frost. Do you accept responsibility of the recent killings of-”

“Mr. Black, did you enjoy my games?”

He blinked, opened his mouth to redirect the conversation and was cut off “Tsk, tsk. I expect better of you Pitch.”

Expected better of- how was he not-

“Honestly, it will be such a loss if you were to succumb to your agency’s level. Ugh.”

Right. Of course. That’s what he wants.

“Temporary lapse, I assure you. I have to say Frost, the area code amused me.”

“Oh? I’m glad. I thought it was a nice touch. Obviously you had no trouble getting the correct one.”

“Obviously.”

A quick glance over his shoulder, no trace yet. Of course.

Might as well cut to the chase then, if it was going to be a long one. Have to keep his attention or Frost was liable to simply hang up on him.

“So, Frost, who has scorned your games so badly that you’re dropping hints about them?”

“Hints?” The voice scoffed. “Really Pitch?”

There was a list to Pitch’s right. A list that held all the previous tenants of 152 Rifle Street, PA. A second paper held a list of all the answers to the crossword puzzles and any connected information they could come up with. There was distaste to the agency and the police in general. There were references to the perceived inadequacy of the police, to his Guardians, to troubled childhoods and birds. Birds. One, the Cassowary, turned into ‘The Cassowaries’ a very dangerous, very large gang. One that no longer existed. But when it did, it lurked on the edges of parents’ nightmares and their work made Pitch’s stomach revolt. There was the connection between Cassowary, Black Aggie, Ecophobia and Chiraptophobia. Black Aggie who ‘Worked for the King of Scum’ could only be referring to the leader of The Cassowaries. And the connected words did nothing to help the already disgusting reputation of the gang and it’s activities. In the cross word puzzle, the Guardians’ implied they needed to guard and protect, though they are under the assumption they shouldn’t have to. Which connects to vigilante. The thing they considered themselves.

“We are inadequate, are we not?”

There was a pause of silence then, “You got it. Well done Pitch. You are the first one to discover how truly disappointing and how utterly horrible you lot are at your ‘job’.

A calculated pause on Pitch’s part, a breath to be prepared and then he forges ahead, hoping this next question doesn’t make Frost hang up immediately.

“When did we fail you?”

There’s a stunned silence on both ends of the line as Chief Roland looks at Pitch. He says nothing, clearly horrified they would loose the line and bewildered at Pitch’s line of questioning until Roland realizes the phone line is quiet, not dead.

It was working. They were prolonging the call still. And possibly getting more of a lead on Frost depending on how he answered.

“This is not about me. I see you there Pitch. Sitting back pin straight, eyes glued to the screen as your little newbie techies type away trying to scry away my location. You need to focus on the real problem here.”

It hit. Pitch held in his breath because it hit. Something had happened in Frost’s past. Something had happened to Frost personally. Something that had led to his distrust in the police. To his feelings of the police’s inadequacy. Because he had been in need before, reached out, and the police had failed him. But the police cover so many aspects. What could it possibly be that they failed him in? He surrounds himself with his Guardians, so perhaps it was protection? Family? Maybe someone was murdered? It’s not a specialized part of the police either, it’s the whole force, the whole term ‘police’ that he-

Pitch looked up suddenly at Chief Roland who had elbowed him hard in the side. Narrowed eyes relenting as he realized he had drifted off and he had to be here now. He had to work what he had now, with Frost and try to get more.

More personal questions were liable to get him hung up on rather quickly, so changing tracks back to what Frost wanted temporarily would be a safer bet for now. “There is no gang with the name ‘Starling’.”

“Is that your professional opinion Mr. Black?”

Resorting back to last names proved he was still mistrusting of Pitch to behave in the way he had anticipated. That blow obviously diminished his mood and quite possibly his confidence.

“We found your breadcrumbs of The Cassowaries.”

Silence.

“What does the name Starling have to do with The Cassowaries?”

Silence.

A mounting frustration on the police’s side.

Then a gasp behind Pitch’s head. He whirled around in the chair, sole of his shoe scuffing the floor as he made the chair stop spinning and the techie was talking urgently to Roland. But Pitch could catch snippets of it and saw the image for himself.

A laugh came from the other end of the line and Pitch snapped his attention back to Frost.

“Ah. You finally caught it. Do you like it Pitch?”

He heard it then. The techie shrank from Pitch’s glare but the screen still read that the call had finally been traced back to their building. It was their own damn satellites they were bouncing off of and following the trail. He had hacked their line.

A new trace was started and men deployed to check the building's perimeter but apparently they would be too late because Frost’s next words sounded like the closing of their conversation.

“Tell me, Pitch, why do you think the two are connected?”

A begrudging pause, “Because they are both bird names.”

“And?”

“You put both of them on your own puzzle. In your own game.” Pitch dug his nails into the desk in front of him. Headache brewing because just when they made a step forward, it seemed as though they were making two steps backwards. How could they possibly be so stupid as to not notice he was hacking their line? Their own connection bouncing off of satellites so he couldn’t find Frost for an attack?!

“Krampus. Was I wrong?”

A crash and a tech’s swearing in the background as computers began to malfunction one by dreaded one. “What?” Oh, the papers. The time line. Krampus’s crimes. All that paperwork left at the scene.

“Was I wrong Pitch?”

“No.”

“You’re obviously distracted. I think I’ll take my leave now.”

“Frost!”

“Yeah yeah, till next time Kozzy.”

Time froze.

The blood in Pitch’s veins froze. He could have sworn he could see his breath, would he have looked. Instead his eyes were straight ahead, at that screen that displayed the wave lengths when Frost spoke. He couldn’t move. He was frozen to the spot, not even sure if he was breathing. Was he breathing? Breathing wasn’t important right now. Kozzy. Kozmotis. Kozmotis Pitchiner. It wasn’t rocket science but with the hacks so close. Was Frost really the one that hacked the FBI? Could he be the one that hacked his- no. No one knew about that. Frost couldn’t have possibly... But then, no one knew about it but somehow someone had hacked it. Oh god, if Frost got a hold of that information there was no telling what he would do with it. Pitch could quite possibly be his puppet and oh god he could say something right here and then he would loose Sera and if it made it to the news then Sera would never be safe and how would he-

“Pitch Black!”

That was Chief Roland.

“Get a hold of yourself Agent Black!”

A snickering comes from across the phone line.

How...” It’s a low, gravely and dangerous sounding voice but the phone voice has bigger problems with probably gun to his head and instead continues on again unaffected. “Are you paying attention now?”

How Frost.”

“Have you figured out the birds yet?”

Frost. The birds have nothing to do with each other. How did you come across that name?”

“Are you sure?”

-Click-

The dial tone is loud but the resonating clang of the metal chair being thrown back under the table when Pitch leaves is louder. The whole thing had been recorded. Granted the FBI knew he used to go by Kozmotis Pitchiner, that wasn’t a secret really. But for a criminal to get a hold of that information when it’s not public?

“Pitch. You need to calm down.”

That’s Chief Roland. Pitch can’t find it in himself to care.

“Special Agent Pitch Black you need to calm down right now.”

“Or what?” Pitch almost snarls, eyes feral and anger simmering beneath his skin because everything could be at stake right now and that fool had so casually said his old name. So casually. Distantly Pitch is aware of fingernails pressing deep into his palms but they're his own and it doesn't matter because Frost had said that name so casually.

“Or you might make a rookie mistake- no don’t glare at me, I’m your Chief and you had better follow me into my office so we can sort this out.”

He follows. Possibly because he’s so caught up in his thoughts that he probably couldn’t navigate to his car, let alone drive home safely.

There’s a bottle of water in his hands and Pitch stares at it wondering when it got there. And now that he was thinking about it, when had he gotten to Roland’s office and when had he sat down in one of the chairs? The doors were closed and blinds shut so it must have been at least three minutes of sitting, with how methodical Roland was about those things.

“Ready?”

Pitch looks up at Roland’s question and lets out a breath that nearly deflates him.

“Frost very well may have been the one to hack the agency. You saw how easily he hacked onto our own signal to call us.”

His chief nods, taking a seat at his desk and patiently stares at Pitch. “You think this because he called you Kozzy?”

“Nickname for Koz. Short for Kozmotis.”

“Ah. Your old name.”

The appearance of Roland’s nervous tick, the drumming of fingers against his leg, was somewhat comforting. It meant he wasn’t the only one nervous and upset.

“It’s not in the public records.”

“No.” Roland conceded, “but it used to be. He could have had a man that knew you or your name before you became Pitch Black and locked all that information away.”

Oh. That was possible. Logical. He still could have been the hacker and his personal hacker too, not just the one from the FBI hack, but it was also possible that he knew the name from before.

“He could have just tested it out to see how I reacted... And I just gave him everything he wanted.” He groaned, fingers twisting through black locks as he bows his head in frustration.

“Rookie mistakes. You need to keep calm.”

Pitch says nothing and after a moment Roland chuckles, “I never dreamt I would ever get to say that to you.”

Silver eyes look up through hair and hands unimpressed at Roland who only laughs again. “Oh come on Pitch, you’re the ever calm and in control agent. I’ve never seen or even heard of you loosing your cool before.”

A brief flare of anger at himself before it dies out because he has to rethink everything and there’s no time for anger if it’s only going to distract him. “All the more reason that I should not have lost my cool.”

Roland laughs and there’s a hand on Pitch’s shoulder so suddenly that he’s tensing up but it’s gone in the next moment as Roland walks to the door. “It happens to everyone Pitch. I would rather you have one now instead of later during a vital moment. It was a little unnerving that you hadn’t made one before.”

Pitch snorts, ready to snark back but the door opens and Roland says he’ll be back but that Pitch should stay and cool off and just like that the simmering is back. Under his skin. Itching.