Title: Sandy Knows Best (or: 5 ways Sandy has to look after his fellow guardians)
Characters: Sandy looking after everyone
Warnings: none (spoilers for movie, maybe? Otherwise none)
Summary: For a bunch of powerful immortal beings, the people Sandy cares about aren't very good at taking care of themselves. Sandy does his best to look after them, one at a time.
Sandy knows what’s wrong even before he drops into the Warren. It’s that dark point in December when everything that can be prepared in advance was finished weeks ago, yet it’s still too early to start work on anything that must be fresh for Easter morning. Worse, Bunny has obviously taste-tested the batch of dark espresso truffles he sends with North every Christmas Eve.
There is a temptation to scold Bunny–he invented coffee, he knows it’s bad for pookas–or put him down for a nap, but Sandy knows that won’t help. Instead, Bunny must be coaxed to sit still long enough for a good brushing (after chasing him across the Warren), treating his jitters like a physical itch.
Sub-vocal grumbling accompanies the first few strokes though the thick fur on Bunny’s chest and shoulders. Sandy can read how the tension lessens until he is ready to stretch out and present his back to be brushed. Already his ears are cocked politely back towards Sandy instead of tracking the ordinary sounds of his own Warren, almost as if he can hear the whisper of dreams no louder than one grain of sand brushing against another.
Sandy is the only one who is allowed to scratch behind Bunny’s ears and at the back of his neck. By the time he moves his hands to rub over Bunny’s cheeks and jaw he can feel the vibration of a low ‘purr.’
The feeling of Bunny’s chin rubbing over his shoulder makes Sandy smile. Stray fur sticks to him and it tickles, he’s been told he even smells like Bunny after their brushing sessions, but he doesn’t mind. What matters is that peace has been restored, complete with the silent but eloquent touch-drunk Bunny version of ‘you’re my best friend.’
It’s been a good year for North. Each new surge of belief augments his strength as children in the earliest time zones wake up to their Christmas gifts. Yetis swarm around the moment he lands, making noises of distress over the state of the sleigh and cooing as they unharness the night’s last team of reindeer (yeti cooing is far too gravelly to reassure, but the reindeer know it means food and pampering and prick their ears eagerly).
Sandy moves through the crowd to North’s side with ease and finds his old friend practically humming with the high of concentrated belief. Sandy could never handle the boom-and-bust cycles of a seasonal job, but North thrives on it.
He drags North along by the arm, nodding absentmindedly at the giddy plans he’s already making for next Christmas. Left to his own devices in this state, North will push himself until both physical and magical strength run out and he collapses.
So they have a little tradition. Sandy makes sure North takes a long enough detour to eat the hearty meal laid out for him (even Santa cannot live on cookies alone) and brush his teeth, then leads the way upstairs and past the door to his workshop.
Every year North digs in his heels and protests that he just wants to start one toy prototype, just one! And Sandy has to stop and fix him with a glare that speaks volumes.
North may be undisputed master of his domain and his holiday, but even he knows when to give up and let Sandy put him to bed. Sandy spins dreams of adventures in worlds unknown above North’s head, and brushes stray crumbs from his beard with a fond smile. Powerful as North is, someone has to look after him.
Tooth is ahead of schedule tonight. She’s waiting with a cloud of her miniature attendants for his dreams to send the children into a nice, deep sleep. Sandy motions for her to come up and join him. He loves when she perches on his cloud for a moment, and it’s no accident when her beautiful feathers are highlighted and caressed by his golden glow.
The mini fairies dart through his streams of sand, happy for the unexpected chance to play. One fluffs up and wallows in his sand cloud until Tooth scolds her. Tooth would never do something so unladylike as taking a dust bath in dream sand. Not in public, anyway.
Even when her wings aren’t whirring, Tooth is never completely still. She chatters to Sandy, the rhythm of her voice carrying pleasantly over the whisper of sand, and no matter how fast he signs she never misses a word.
Some nights Jack joins them, and he and Tooth chase and laugh like the children they protect while Sandy plays along by trying to catch them. Tooth is vibrant, all bright color and life, and Sandy has sworn to himself that he won’t let her palace become her cage ever again. She belongs out in the world.
Tooth doesn’t approve of naps while on the job, of course, not even for a few minutes. Instead Sandy fills the sky with fantastic creatures from the constellations far beyond Earth to make her smile. (Some will inevitably slip into the children’s dreams, but it’s good for them to sometimes see beautiful things they don’t understand.) And when they embrace before they return to their work, a fine dust of dream sand sticks to her feathers, ensuring that she will have only the sweetest dreams when she finally allows herself to rest.
When Sandy sends out his dreams, one of the streams of sand takes off in an unexpected direction, winding away into the woods around the town of Burgess. Sandy has found lost children more than once by noticing his sand leading somewhere it never has before. He follows the wayward trail of their dreams and guides them to sleepwalk a little closer to home, to where they will be more easily found, and watches over them as best he can. This time, however, he knows exactly who he’s going to find at the end of the golden trail.
Jack is sprawled out under a tree with no hint of his usual grace, snoring quietly. The ground is lumpy with rocks and roots under a layer of ice. Like Sandy, he can fall asleep just about anywhere if he’s tired enough.
Sandy shakes his head fondly at Jack’s choice of bed. He gently shifts Jack from the uneven ground to a soft drift of snow left over from Jack’s last storm. He piles snow over Jack for his blanket, making sure to cover up his bare feet and taking care not to jostle the staff Jack clutches even in sleep the way a normal child might clutch a favorite stuffed animal.
Once Jack is safely tucked in, cold and cozy, Sandy presses a goodnight kiss to his forehead.
Jack doesn’t like being treated like a child, and he usually runs off when they try to look after him. Yet he always thanks Sandy for giving him sweet dreams.
The dream Sandy gives Jack tonight is one of family, though he leaves it up to Jack’s sleeping mind who he wants to see. The sand twining above his head whispers of smiling faces, of arms open to welcome him, and unconditional love.
They meet in moments of twilight, the after-sunset and before-sunrise that bracket their night’s work. Pitch is still weakened, still angry, all shadows and sharp edges, but he doesn’t always push Sandy away.
Sandy won’t give the Nightmare King a full dream. He wants to. He sees Pitch’s loneliness and pain and despair and longs to take it away for even a few short hours. The sand even whispers the dreams it would give Pitch: of a single child who believes in him as her one and only guardian, who clings close to his side because she knows he will protect her from everything she fears. The gentle murmur of his dream sand and the shrill cries of nightmares are mutually exclusive languages, so Sandy hopes that Pitch can’t understand what the sand says.
Dreams turn to nightmares at Pitch’s touch unless Sandy is directly controlling them. Pitch seethes under the surface with fear of those dreams, and Sandy is a little afraid as well, of the harm his gift might do. Even if he can’t offer a dream, he can at least take away that gnawing loneliness for a short time.
Sometimes Pitch sulks to himself, or rants over Sandy’s silence, but most often they face each other across an improvised game board. They’ve played every game either of them remembers or can invent that can be put together with pieces of dark and light.
Not that he thinks it will keep Pitch out of trouble to have an outlet for his strategizing, but Pitch needs someone to match his wits against before he drives himself mad. His laugh when he corners Sandy betrays how much he enjoys their games. Anyway, Sandy enjoys beating Pitch that much more when they don’t have the world on the line.