Nightmare Before Christmas Fan Fiction ❯ Black and Red ❯ Jack ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Sally shivered in the chilled air. The leaders should have been back by now. She saw a warm light in the distance and hurried toward it. It was a house. She didn't know there was a house so deep in the woods. She got to the door and knocked, hoping for a kind wife to let her in. A young man opened the door. She was shivering. He looked alarmed and a voice so familiar it hurt washed over her.

"Oh, you poor thing! Come inside! Quickly now, by the fireplace."

Jack looked different. He was still tall, which was nice. He had pale skin, eyes of slime green, and hair of black that was cut nicely. He was stirring something over the fire that was so nice and warm. He spooned something into a bowl and handed it to her.

"Here you go…" he trailed off as he stared in her eyes. "Sally?"

"Jack, where have you been?"

Jack's cheeks warmed, turning red. "Here. The human town's only an hour's walk from here. I come here when I need to get away from Halloween Town." He paused and looked her up and down. "You've been in my house. More specifically in my room."

It was Sally's turn to blush. "What makes you say that?"

"Dr. Finkelstein would never give you that potion. He's too protective of you. I thought I'd forgotten to do something. I didn't close the potion cabinet."

"Or your closet," Sally said with a nod.

They looked at each other and laughed. Sally pressed close. He was so warm… Jack laughed.

"You're too cold. Eat this stew. It will make you feel better."

"It's weird that I have to eat now," Sally muttered as she was seated at a table and handed a spoon.

"Technically you and I don't have to. The humans do, but we're not human. It just gets really uncomfortable if we don't eat." Jack took a sip of coffee. "What do you say, Sally? How do you like being human?"

"I don't know. Food actually fills me up, so I have a full belly. That's nice. My senses are different, too. Everything feels different. Not better really, but different," she said between mouthfuls of the stew. "What's in this?"

"Water, carrots, potatoes, peas, salt, pepper, and venison. Simple recipe, but one I remember from my childhood. Put over fire and heat to boiling, then simmer for an hour. Spoon out, let cool, then eat."

"Your…childhood? Jack were you," she paused and whispered the last word, "human?"

Jack's eyes grew dark and his face tightened. "Sally…"

"You weren't always a bone man?"

"No, Sally. I wasn't. I was a plain human once upon a time. Most of the Holiday leaders were, except Bunny. We're all very old though. I believe that Sam is the youngest at a hundred or two."

"I don't understand. Why did you never tell me?"

"It's not something I like to remember. My life wasn't good at all before Oogie and Halloween Town. Then Oogie decided he wanted to be the leader of Halloween Town and…it all went downhill."

"You really were friends with Oogie once upon a time, weren't you?"

"Yes. Good friends. You could say he helped me become what I am."

Sally nodded and held out her bowl. "More?"

Jack obliged and filled a bowl for himself. For several minutes, the only sounds in the room were eating. They finished and Jack went and cleaned the bowls. He got out two glasses and a wine bottle.

"Wine, madam?" he asked with a grin.

"Wine? The doctor never lets me have wine," she said, smiling back. "But what he won't know won't hurt him."

"One glass apiece," Jack warned as he poured the red liquid evenly into both glasses. He then corked the bottle and put it away. "A toast, my dear!" he said with a tender smile. "To good company."

"To good company," she said and took a sip. She sputtered. "Oh my!"

Jack laughed. "Careful, Sally. It's a bit strange at first."

"I noticed."

They drank slowly. When the wine was gone, Jack cleaned the glasses and put them away. He sat back down.

"Something's bothering you."

"I went to the other Holiday leaders, Jack. They're looking for you."

Jack's face stilled and he looked away. "Why would they do that? That would make it sound like they cared for me."

"They do, Jack. They just don't know how to express it. They're scared of you."

"So?"

"Scary doesn't mean the same to them as it does to us."

"I know that…somewhere in my skull. But that doesn't change how I feel."

"They're probably looking for me. They're sure to check here."

As if she'd been heard, there was a knock on the door. Jack frowned and got up, opening the door. Sandy stood there He looked up into the human's face. The other Holiday leaders blinked up at him. The height gave him away.

"Jack?"

Jack looked angry and slammed the door in their faces. He nodded sharply and spun around, going to sit down in his chair again. Sally placed her hand on his.

"That wasn't very nice Jack."

"I don't feel like being very nice."

Sandy came down the chimney, easily skirting the pot of stew and fire.

"Jack, please."

Jack crossed his arms and turned away. Sandy sighed and opened the door, letting the others in.

"So ya did leave 'cause 'o us," Patrick said after taking in the rest of the room.

No answer.

"C'mon Jack," Bunny said, frowning. "Talk to us."

Jack slowly turned his head to glare at them; the faint outline of flames surrounded his eyes. "Oh, like you talk to me?"

They flinched, drawing back in fear. "Come now Jack. You don't understand."

"Understand? I understand that you don't like me. I understand that you want nothing to do with me. I understand that you don't give a damn about my Holiday. I mean, it's not very hard to understand. It's quite obvious, actually."

"Jack, none of that's true!" Sandy gasped. "We just…don't understand you and your Holiday. It scares us."

"And what's wrong with fear?" Jack demanded. "As long as no harm actually comes, it's quite a pleasant sensation."

"He's right. It is fun," Sally put in.

"How is it fun?" Bunny snorted.

Jack raised his eyebrows. "A signal travels through the brain to the amygdala. The neurons fire a chemical out into two spots in the brain. The chemical is called glutamate. The first place it goes makes us freeze or jump involuntarily. You cannot control it because the signal goes very deep into the brain to a place where little voluntary thought occurs."

He paused. "The second signal goes to the hypothalamus and triggers the part of the nervous system that's automatic and causes the 'fight or flight' instinct. The signal elevates blood pressure and heart rate. The thing that's so fun about it is the adrenaline that rushes through the body. It's that rush you feel when you get scared."

There was dead silence.

"You've really got this scaring thing down to a science, don't you?" Sam asked.

"I've always tended to obsess over things. I was curious. And curiosity killed the cat you know," Jack said with a smile.

"See, that," Sandy said loudly. "That right there is what bothers us. Or me at least."

Jack frowned. "My curiosity?"

"No. The way you flippantly refer to death or other dark things."

"Yes, and the citizens of your town have quite off putting characteristics about them," Squanto said.

"Off putting? They're all extremely charming. Except for Oogie, Lock, Shock, and Barrel." Jack was given wide eyed looks so he asked, "Like what?"

"That fellow with the ax in his head," Sandy said immediately.

"Behemoth? Oh, he's a little slow, but he's gentle as a black cat."

"You don't understand," came the dry reply.

"Then please, enlighten me."

"Ya really don't know what's so off-puttin' 'bout him?" Patrick asked, scrutinizing the human Jack.

"No."

"He's got an ax. In his head."

Jack blinked at them. "So?"

"Jack," Sandy said patiently. "Do you see humans walking around with axes in their heads?"

Jack looked utterly shocked. "No! That isn't very smart! It would kill them!"

"And this doesn't bother you about Behemoth?"

Jack laughed. "Of course not! He's already dead!"

Sandy pressed a hand to his forehead. "How does that make it alright?" he asked in exasperation.

Jack blinked. "I don't understand."

"Let's get off of the subject of Behemoth. What about those vampires? Do they really suck blood?" Eros asked, looking disgusted.

"Of course," Jack replied. "They're vampires."

"How does that not disturb you?"

"If you think that's bad, you should have seen the Banshee."

"Banshee?" Sally asked. "I don't remember a Banshee."

"She was here…" Jack did some quick calculations. "Six hundred years ago? I think so, yes. Give or take a decade or two."

"What happened to her?" Squanto asked curiously.

"She left. The people tend to do that. The doctor, Oogie, and I are the only ones that have been there since the beginning."

"Where'd she go?"

"Nobody knows where the citizens go when they leave," Jack said with a shrug. "Some of us can't follow them, like me and the doctor and Oogie and Sally. We aren't like the others. I think the Mayor's going to stay for a lot longer, too. That's just the ways the cards fall."

"So…they die?" Sandy asked.

"Most of them are already dead. I think it's just their time to move on, wherever they need to go. I used to try and follow, but it doesn't work like that. I'll never know where they go, but that's okay. I'm busy in Halloween Town."

"Why do you say that I can't follow?" Sally asked, brushing her hair back.

"You have the same sense that the doctor has. He passed it on to you. I'm glad. That means I could marry you and not have to live with the knowledge that you'd leave me one day."

Sally's cheeks flushed at the word 'marry' and Jack looked thoughtful.

"Sally, would you marry me?" he asked suddenly.

Sally blinked. "What?"

Jack walked over to the cabinet, pulling something out and holding it in between his fingers and his thumbs. He walked over and got down on one knee.

"Marry me, Sally. I love you."

He held out a spidery necklace with a black diamond set in the center of a heart. Sally gasped and gingerly took the necklace.

"Jack, where did you find a black diamond?"

"I've been all around the world, so it wasn't that hard. The doctor cut it for me. I've already asked his permission, and he's granted it. I just haven't been up to proposing. I must apologize for that. Forgive me for my selfishness."

"Oh, Jack, it's okay! It's okay!"

"So do you accept?" Jack asked hesitantly.

"Of course I do, Jack!" Sally exclaimed, tears in her eyes.

He took the necklace and slipped in onto her neck. She touched it gently and looked up at him.

"I love you, too, Jack," she said gently.

They kissed, a slow, yet very light kiss.

"It's about time you got engaged, my boy," Eros sighed happily.

Jack turned to look at them, looking them over. "I'm still waiting for an apology."

He got six of them, all at the same time, and all very profuse. Jack stared at them for several long moments before he spoke.

"Very well, I forgive you. But you really needn't be afraid of most of the citizens of Halloween Town. Oogie and three very misbehaving children are the exceptions. If you're afraid, try going up to talk to them. Alright?"

"And you especially don't need to be afraid of Jack," Sally said firmly.

Sandy smiled. "I guess you're right my dear. Even when he is a skeleton."

"I'm not a skeleton," Jack said immediately.

They blinked at him. "Then what are ya?" Patrick asked.

"I'm a bone man."

"There's a difference?" Bunny asked.

"Of course," Jack said matter-of-factly.

"What's the difference?"

Jack and Sally glanced at each other.

"I presume you know, my dear?" Jack asked lightly.

"The doctor told me when he explained the bats and the spiders to me. He said that you hate being called a skeleton."

"I am not a skeleton. I am a bone man," Jack said after a brief smile at Sally. "There is indeed a difference, though I don't think it would be polite to explain it in front of Sally."

Their jaws dropped and Jack stifled a laugh. It seemed they already knew the difference. Sally yawned and Jack immediately checked the time.

"It is time for bed," Jack said firmly. "Sally, there's a guest room over there. I'll bring an extra quilt in there for you. Sandy, you can take my room. The rest of us will have to sleep on the floor. I have some padding that should make it more bearable."

They set it up and Jack bid Sally good night. He curled up on the floor and quickly fell asleep, wrapped in a warm blanket. For a while he knew nothing but pleasant darkness, but it didn't last.

"Firebug!" the girl called.

Jack looked up. Fire was dancing in front of him, and he was burning leaves and sticks, holding his hand as close to the fire as he could without getting burned. He was a thin boy, rather tall for his age. His eyes were slime green, his skin was paler than most humans, and his hair was black and unkempt. He tossed the rest of his stick in.

"The elders have told you about your penchant for fire. I shall tell them that you are playing with it again," the boy beside the girl said.

"Snitch," Jack said.

"Calling names, Firebug?" another boy taunted, a cruel look in his eyes. "You really should not. A monster like you does not belong with normal people."

Jack said nothing, well accustomed to the words. They wouldn't stop with just words this time, though, and the bone man knew it. The child had had no idea. The first hit took him by surprise and he stumbled back, blood on his cheek. They didn't stop there, though. The fists descended again and again, splitting skin and cracking bone. The child Jack writhed screaming for it to…

"S-stop!"

…but it didn't. They continued. Jack screamed as a knife was plunged into his skin…

"Jack! Wake up!"

"Stupid Firebug!"

Icy water started the poor Pumpkin King awake. He gasped, surging to his feet and looking around wildly. He saw the Holiday leaders looking rather tired, and Sandy was holding a bucket.

"What was that all about?" Sandy asked.

There was the sound of a door opening and Sally peaked out.

"Nightmares Jack?" she asked with a yawn.

"Yes," he said tightly.

"Wonderful."

"Not really. They weren't the pleasant kind," Jack said, wrapping his arms around himself.

Sally came out. "Jack?"

"See, this is why I don't talk about my past," Jack said, spinning around. "I don't like to remember it, Sally."

"Past?" Patrick asked.

"Let's just get back to bed."

"Jack, what happened?" Sandy asked.

"No. I won't talk about it."

"Jack, please."

Fire suddenly exploded out of the fireplace, which had started to dim. Everybody screamed and dove away, except for Jack. Ghostly flames seemed to surround him and he looked taller.

"I. Said. No," Jack said through gritted teeth. "Now I'm going to bed. Good night."

The fire calmed down and Jack slipped back into his bed. Sally shut the door to her room again, and the others slipped into their own places. An hour later, Jack was still awake. He checked to see if the others were asleep then slipped outside. He let the tears fall. He was shaken. He hadn't seen a dream like that in so long…. He had hoped they would never plague him again. He crumpled, sobbing quietly. A hand was placed on his shoulder.

"Sure you don't want to talk about it?" Sandy asked, sitting down beside him.

Jack shook his head. "I don't want to."

"At all?"

Jack paused, wiping tears away; more fell, rendering the action useless. "Why are people so cruel to those who are different?"

Sandy sighed. "I remember when I was a normal human. I was teased constantly for my good attitude, and I had some really dark moments when I was alone. But when I found my true calling, everything changed. Everybody loved me suddenly. It took quite awhile before I was sure that they were serious."

"Were you beaten and knifed and burned?"

Sandy paused. "What did they do to you, Jack?"

"Everything they could to make my life miserable."

"Well, we care for you, even if we don't show it properly. Now come on. You might not be human, but you do need sleep."

"Sandy?"

"Yes Jack?"

"Thank you."


Chapter 3
Chapter 5
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