Author's Note/Disclaimer: I'm happy to have reworked this short piece I wrote over a year ago, since I realize now how much potential it had to be an interesting oneshot. Basically, this piece was originally a drabble–less than five hundred words long–when I originally posted it as part of a writing exercise. Then, I really didn't have a perspective of how to write the sudden romantic discovery of Jack Skellington or Sally's attitude to finding true love. I came back to this piece first for my revisions list, and am glad I did.
Thanks to Pumpkin Lore, Holly xx, Imaginative Light, Anne Oying, Lovely Louise, and the Black Silhouette Angel for your lovely reviews on the original drabble and for all the folks that made it such a popular short in my archive. If any of you are still out there, I hope you enjoy this rewrite as much as I do.
"The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a 1993 film by Disney/Touchstone. I don't claim to own any characters in the film, I just write fanfiction.
Much like the first Halloween snows that had fallen earlier that evening, Jack Skellington's mind was in a whirl of wonder. So much had happened that December night. He had tried to be Santa Claus, only to fail and remember his true calling–as the one and only Pumpkin King. He had come to the jolly old elf's rescue, defeating an old foe and rescuing a dear friend as well. He had believed that he had lost everything, only to find what he truly needed. He found home, purpose, and love. And after Halloween Town was covered in a blanket of white, he found the rag doll in the graveyard and discovered how much he truly cared for her.
The two ghouls gazed up at the spare few stars above their heads, sitting together on a large crypt–no resident haunt there to mind, of course. Jack had wrapped his bony fingers around her tiny, soft hands as they simply stared into the "pumpkin patch in the sky" or "the eternal shadow," as some creatures called it. Neither had spoken since their kiss on the Spiral Hill, and they were both content to sit there in dreamy silence anyway.
Jack wondered sitting there how he hadn't seen the way he cared about Sally before that night. He supposed that since she always worked in her creator's laboratory, he had never been able to get to know her well. Or maybe her shyness was the reason he hadn't seen it. In any event, he had always found her to be a beautiful, smart creature, but he never felt the strong surge of feelings he had in his bones before that evening. It was mysteriously new.
"So," Sally started, breaking the silence with a quiet, nervous start, "I hope I didn't make you rush into something that…"
Jack lowered his gaze to look into the rag doll's eyes. "Rush into what?"
"Well, I…What I mean is, I hope I didn't make you rush into, well, being with me just to make me happy. I-I mean, not that I wasn't happy before or anything, but–"
"Sally," Jack interrupted the rambling rag doll, "I don't understand. I know it might be difficult to say, but could you start over again?"
Sally took an undead breath of air and said, "All right. I've wanted this for so long…longer than I can even remember, but I don't want it if it's not the same for you." She paused, looked into Jack's wide eye sockets, and continued, "I don't want you to pretend to…well, love me if you don't."
She then held her legs and looked out at the graveyard beyond, trying to avoid his gaze and process the bold things she had just said. Jack could tell that it had taken all of her courage to say that, but that courage was soon replaced by her trademark shyness. Luckily for her, he found her shyness adorable.
"Sally," he said, putting a skeleton hand on her shoulder, "I wouldn't be here with you if I didn't love you back."
"R-really?" Sally stammered.
"By my very bones," Jack replied, drawing her closer to him as he gazed up at the sky once again. "I admit though, it's a strange thing."
"–Falling in love," he said, and after that let all his romantic thoughts go free, "When we were in Oogie's prison, it was as though I saw who you really were, or at least more of you than I knew before. I realized how much you cared about me." He grinned wider. "–Someone really cared for me out of sheer love, not because I'm the king!"
Jack paused and looked at her intently. Sally was silent, but smiled back.
"At that moment, I wanted to be with you more than anyone. I realized that you were the most amazing person I knew," Jack continued, "I mean–well, where do I start? You were so brave to face Oogie on your own! And you tried to warn me about my Christmas the whole time. You knew something terrible was going to happen, and I–" He frowned and turned away. "–Oh Sally, why didn't I listen to you?"
"Jack… it's not your fault," she said. "Your Christmas was a wonderful idea. It just–it didn't quite work."
Jack nodded. "It was a wonderful idea," he said with a sigh, then looked back into Sally's wide eyes, "–but not as wonderful as you."
Sally grinned, but it soon faded into a grimace and she hid her face in her tiny rag doll hands. This startled the Pumpkin King, who was leaning in for a kiss.
"Please stop," she muttered.
"Huh?" Jack asked, not understanding. "Sally, was it something I said? Did I upset you?"
"Well," Sally started, peeking out of her hands for a moment before hiding again, "–I guess I'm just not used to it…these nice things you're saying about me."
Jack gave her a puzzled look. "Don't be modest. You should be proud of yourself for all you did. I'm sure that your creator is proud of you."
She shook her head and lowered her hands. "No he isn't, and that's why I'm not used to it. He never said things like that."
"Oh," Jack mouthed, the realization of how damaged Sally was by living in that laboratory hitting him quite suddenly. He didn't want to think of Dr. Finkelstein, a friend of his, being cruel or indifferent to her, but he knew that there had to be more to her life than what he had seen from the outside.
"Well, if it bothers you that much, I won't gush. However," Jack paused and took the opportunity to steal a short kiss, "–I still think that you're wonderful."
With a wide, love-struck grin, Sally rested her head on Jack's clavicle and sighed. "I must be dreaming this," she said.
Jack frowned. Even if she thought otherwise, the rag doll deserved to feel loved. "Sally…"
"Shh," Sally interrupted before kissing Jack's lips. "I don't want to wake up yet."