Seeing Red and White
Anna sighed lightly as she finished braiding her hair, looking down sadly. She stared in the mirror for a few moments when she noticed someone in the doorway. She turned to look behind her, noticing Eliza moving away a bit upon being seen.
"Oh… Eliza, it's okay, you can come in. Did you need something?" Anna said. She had been made aware of the girl's situation and circumstances, the general facts at least. Eliza approached Anna cautiously, stopping a few feet away from her. "Did you want to sit with me?" She asked.
Eliza thought for a moment, glancing at the ground. "Okay." She said, smiling lightly. She came around, sitting at the small vanity beside Anna. "Miss Anna?"
"Hm?" Anna glanced down at her.
"Can you… make my hair like yours?" Eliza asked quietly.
"You want me to braid your hair? Sure!" She smiled, getting up and going around so she stood behind Eliza. She took a brush, gently combing the girl's hair before making a single braid. When she finished, she sat back down beside the preteen. "What do you think?"
Eliza's smile grew. "It's beautiful." She gently touched it as it hung over one shoulder.
"It is… now you have a braid just like Elsa-…" Anna's breath caught in her throat, frowning deeply. She sighed, forcing a smile.
Eliza frowned a bit, looking down. "You miss her, don't you? Your sister?"
Anna nodded. "I do. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."
"It's okay… I miss Alice too. She's not really my sister, but she kind of is, in a way. She said no matter what we'd be sisters."
"I wish Elsa and I were as close as you two are… we were once, but… then she became scared. She was afraid she would hurt me… so she stayed away." Somehow, Anna felt better speaking to Eliza about this… she may have only been a child, but she seemed incredibly understanding.
"Maybe Jack can bring her back here… he said he would try." Eliza smiled lightly. "Until then… maybe we can be sisters, so you won't feel so lonely."
As the girls talked, Kristoff was about to enter the room when he heard them conversing, listening silently outside the door and smiling to himself. It warmed his heart to see Anna's anxiety being comforted by the child.
"I would love for us to be sisters, Eliza. Maybe one day, Elsa and I can be together again… we can invite you to a royal ball, and we'll make the prettiest dress for you to wear." Anna smiled.
Eliza giggled, her eyes brightening. "Really?"
"Of course! What's your favorite color?" Anna asked.
Eliza thought for a moment, pursing her lips. "Blue."
"That's Elsa's favorite color too." Anna smiled softly.
Eliza smiled up at Anna for a moment before leaning in to hug her. Anna giggled lightly, hugging the girl back and gently petting her hair. She looked up, seeing Kristoff in the doorway, and the two exchanged a warm glance.
Olaf waddled over to the door then, poking Kristoff. "Hey! North is trying out Sven for his sleigh! You should come see!"
Eliza's head popped up, gasping lightly as she hid behind Anna and whimpered in reaction to the snowman's sudden presence. Anna glanced down at her before looking back at Kristoff and Olaf. She knew the child feared anything related to snow and ice, but she wanted to help her.
"Eliza… Olaf isn't going to hurt you. You don't have to be afraid." She said gently.
"But Miss Anna… he's made out of… the ice…" Eliza whispered fearfully.
Olaf blinked, tilting his head. "Hey Kristoff, why is she still scared of me? Is it because my nose is too big?" He frowned.
"No, Olaf. She had a bad experience when she was younger." Kristoff said, about to walk over to the girls, but Anna held up a hand, signaling to let her handle it.
"Here. Let me show you that he's a friend, just like you and I are." Anna smiled, and Eliza watched worriedly as Anna got up, walking over to Olaf and giving him a hug. The snowman was more than happy to oblige, giggling lightly. Eliza's worry turned to cautious curiosity, glancing from the snowman to Anna. "See? We hugged just like you and I just were. I'm perfectly fine."
Eliza held her hands to her chest, biting her lip as Olaf held his stick like arms out to her. "I like making new friends." He smiled. "It's okay, sometimes I poke people with my nose, but I won't hurt you."
The preteen glanced up at Anna, who gave her a nod. Eliza slowly took a step forward. Her feet shuffled across the floor, and it was in this moment she began to envision something. The floor became ice crackling in a circle around her feet. This made her gasp, hesitating as she took a step back. She looked up, seeing someone there where Olaf had been standing, but they were blurry, and she was unable to identify who it was.
"It's okay, it's okay, just… don't look down, just look at me."
"Miss Anna, I'm scared…" Eliza whimpered.
"It's alright, Eliza… just take your time. You can do this." Anna smiled lightly, kneeling by Olaf. "I'm right here for you. Just take one step at a time."
"I promise, you're going to be fine… you have to believe in me."
Eliza bit her lip, exhaling deeply as she took a step forward. "One…" Her toes curled as she forced herself not to look down, the person in her wavering vision still blurry. "Two…" She took another step, her legs shaking. "Three…!" She took the final step, losing her footing and gasping as she stumbled forward. When she did not feel the impact of the ground, she cracked an eye open, looking around to see that Olaf had caught her, smiling lightly.
"See? That wasn't so bad." He pat her head with his stick hand. "Hugs always help people feel better."
Eliza glanced from Anna to Olaf, a surprised smile growing in her expression as tears brimmed her eyes. She felt a huge weight being lifted from her shoulders, sniffling as she hugged Olaf closer to her. Anna and Kristoff watched on with heartwarming relief, realizing that they had just helped the young girl make a huge breakthrough.
Tooth and Sandy floated over, peeking in and smiling at the scene. They flew down to North, telling him that they had just transpired.
"North… look at how they're all helping each other… like a family." Tooth said.
"Yes… there is some good coming out of all this after all." North smiled lightly. "I just hope that Jack and Bunny are doing alright against Pitch."
"Me too… I'm really worried about them. We need to go help them, North." Tooth replied.
"No. We must stay here and defend the workshop. I want to help them also, but this is what we must do." North said. He saw something then, gasping as he looked up through the skylights. "Look! They are returning!" He called out to his Yetis to open the skylights, letting them in. Toothless landed as gently as possible, Jack's feet touching down soon after. Merida hopped off, going over to Jack and taking Hiccup. The other guardians came over to them.
"Is everyone alright?" Tooth asked, gasping when she saw Hiccup's condition. "Oh my goodness, let me help you…!" She said to Merida, she and Sandy helping her to his bedroom so they could get him proper care.
Jack went over to Toothless to help Alice, but Bunny scooped her up once he hopped off the dragon's back.
Jack extended a hand towards Alice. "Hey, let me help with-"
"I've got it, mate." Bunnymund cut him off, carrying her bridal style to her bedroom.
Jack shook his head with confusion, furrowing a brow. He opened his mouth to say something, but he turned when he felt North's hand on his shoulder.
"What happened?" North asked, concern in his eyes. "Did you have any luck?"
Jack sighed lightly, glancing back towards Bunny and Alice for a moment before shaking his head. "We put up a good fight… but so did they. The Queen hurt Hiccup pretty badly, and Alice… Pitch got to her."
North sighed worriedly, pinching the bridge of his nose as he nodded. "At least you all returned alive. We will help with Hiccup and Alice."
Eliza gasped when she saw Bunny carrying Alice into her bedroom, running to her doorway and up to her bed anxiously. "What's wrong with her?" She cried, looking up at Bunny. "Is she hurt?"
"Don't worry, little Sheila. Alice'll pull through. She's a strong one." Bunny replied.
Jack entered the room then, approaching Alice's bed. "Hey, uh… you need me to do anything?"
"I said I've got it. She shouldn't have all these people in here, she needs space." Bunny said.
Jack blinked in surprise. "Jeez Bunny, what's up with you?"
"Look, I'm just a little tense, alright?" Bunny sighed, plopping down in a chair he had pulled up next to Alice's bed.
"We're all tense, Bunny…" Jack huffed. "Fine, you obviously don't want me around for whatever reason, so I'm going to go check on Hiccup." He shook his head, walking out of the room.
Merida sat next to Hiccup's bedside, her hands gently holding one of his own. Tooth and Sandy had helped to bandage and clean him up, but he was still in pretty bad condition. Toothless sat on the other side of his bed, gently nudging at his face every once in a while and whimpering sadly. Merida barely acknowledged Jack when he walked in, stopping a few feet from his bed.
"How's he doing?" Jack asked.
Merida glanced up at Jack for a moment, and it was then she lost her composure. Her brows furrowed deeply, her eyes shutting tightly as she began to sob. Jack sighed lightly, walking over and pulling a small stool over to sit next to Merida, rubbing her back gently.
"I… I wasn't there for 'im…" She sobbed. "I was… I've never felt so helpless Jack… this is even worse than when I almost turned m' mom into a bear forever!"
Jack blinked at that, clearing his throat. "Look, Merida… this isn't going to be easy. What we're up against… it's going to take a lot to bring them down. Some of us are going to get hurt. But you can't blame yourself. You're here for him now. We all are. And we're here for you too."
She smiled for a moment at that, wiping at her eyes. "Thank you, Jack."
Jack smiled, giving her a nod. He glanced back, seeing that Anna was in the doorway, trying to get his attention. "Are you going to stay here?" He asked Merida. When she nodded, he looked up at Toothless. "I owe you big. You saved my butt back there."
Toothless swished his tail a bit, nodding lightly, but not as enthusiastically as he would have normally. The dragon had come to befriend them all during his stay thus far, but none could ever replace Hiccup. Jack got up, gently patting Merida's shoulder before walking out of the room. He walked down to Anna's bedroom, sitting next to her.
"Are you feeling alright?" Anna asked, forcing a smile, but Jack could see the concern in her eyes. He knew exactly what she wanted to know.
"Yeah…" He sighed lightly, closing his eyes for a moment as he shook his head. "Anna, I… I'm going to keep trying to get through to her. But right now… Pitch has her so tightly wrapped around his finger, I-"
"I need to go to her, Jack. The only way she will get away from those people is if she sees me." Anna furrowed her brows.
"Anna, I already said that isn't a good idea… what if she thinks it's a trick?" Jack asked.
"I can't just sit here, I need to see her!" Anna cried, biting her lip. She bowed her head, Kristoff coming in the room to sit beside her and hold her hand comfortingly.
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Kristoff asked.
"I… I don't want anything to happen to you two." Jack said to him. "That would only hurt Elsa more and drive her more into the darkness."
Kristoff nodded. "I wish we could do more to help."
"It's okay…" Jack said. "I promise, I will do whatever I can to bring Elsa back."
Anna sniffled, dabbing her face with a handkerchief. "I appreciate it… really, I just miss her so much…"
Jack smiled sadly. "I know the feeling." He sat and spoke with Anna and Kristoff a bit longer before saying goodnight, heading up to his loft.
Bunny sighed lightly, glancing over at Eliza as he noticed she was dozing off, resting her head against his arm as she fell asleep.
"Poor little ankle biter… worked herself up into exhaustion." He said to himself. He looked up when Tooth floated into the room.
"Hey… oh, Eliza's tired… I should help her to bed." Tooth hovered near them, getting Eliza to her feet. "I'll be back in a second." She helped the girl shuffle herself to bed, leaving Bunny alone with Alice. He looked back to her, taking one of her hands into his paw. As he gently graced his "thumb" over her long fingers, he snorted lightly, shaking his head before letting it fall back for a moment.
"Damn it, Alice…" He whispered. Pitch's words hung about in his mind, and he was unable to cease dwelling upon them.
"She will never feel for you the way you feel for her. Don't deny it… it's blossoming inside you like tulips in spring…"
Of all people, Bunnymund never wanted Pitch to be right about something relating to himself. How could he not even realize the gradual closeness between him and Alice in these last few weeks? Indeed, their initial meeting had been quite harsh; he had felt near hatred for her then. When had the animosity between them dissolved, exactly? When had he begun to actually enjoy being around her, start caring for her? He could not find the answer, but these new feelings developing inside him towards her… he again mentally cursed himself for Pitch hitting the nail on the head, but… these feelings scared him.
Bunny realized then that before this all started, he never even had an opportunity to feel these things towards anyone else. After all, how could he when he spent most of the year getting his little eggs colored and sent out to the surface in time for the break of spring, for centuries? When the only people he interacted with were with the guardians? Sure, there was Tooth, and she was indeed beautiful, but he saw her as one of his dearest friends, almost like a sister. He never felt what he felt now for Alice, towards her… no, what he felt now was completely different.
"You fear that she'll feel, what you feel, for someone else…"
Bunny exhaled sharply, closing his eyes and hanging his head. What a fool he was, allowing Pitch's words to affect the way he was acting… he felt badly now for how he snapped at Jack. They may have had their differences in the past, and they still at times maintained a friendly rivalry, but they were still friends, and he at least owed Jack an explanation. Hoping Jack was still awake, he resolved to leave Alice for now, regrettably placing her hand back by her side and patting once before leaving the room.
Jack sighed as he stared out the window, deep in thought as well. The tranquility was broken when he heard someone coming up his loft, glancing over to see Bunny. He rolled his eyes, looking back out of the window.
"Hey, Jack." Bunny started, approaching him.
"Hey." The ice guardian could hear the calmness in Bunny's voice, choosing to acknowledge him based upon that.
"Look, mate... I feel rotten for barking at you earlier, and... I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I have a lot on my mind right now... it ain't an excuse, but..." Bunny said, scratching behind his ear with his back foot as he crouched down.
Jack sighed, turning a bit to face him. "I told you before Bunny, we're all tense. All the more reason to avoid fighting with each other."
"Yeah..." Bunny said as he stood up straight. "So, um... want to talk about it?"
"Talk about what?" Jack tilted his head.
"I dunno... whatever you're thinking about." Bunny shrugged.
Jack blinked at Bunny, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. "Look, Bunny... if there's something you want to talk about, you don't have to dance around it. I think we're at the point where we can at least be real about whatever's going on."
Bunny exhaled, bowing his head as he crouched down again. "I dunno how to really start... with all this going on, it's... a lot of this stuff is new to me."
"What do you mean?" Jack raised a brow.
"I mean... see, we guardians have a routine. North works on his toys to get redy for Christmas every year, I work on my eggs all year, Tooth and Sandy-... you know the deal. This has completely thrown me off."
"It's thrown us all off, Bunny." Jack stated.
"I know that, Jack, but I..." Bunny bit his lip, trying to collect his thoughts. "Things that I've never really... considered before... things that would fall outside my schedule... you know, you do the same thing year after year and you just get used to it. It's, it's amazing... I have been all over the world, I've sent my little eggs everywhere, I've seen egg hunts all around, but I've never really... there is so much I really don't know about, Jack."
"I'm not really following you." Jack said, trying to understand his furry friend.
"Alright, you... you were human once... do you remember anything about like, I dunno... like, things never stay the same for humans, do they? Things are always... changing."
Jack stared at Bunny flatly. "I don't remember much about being human, but..." He held his hands up, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, you are totally confusing me."
"I'm trying my best, Jack!" Bunny exclaimed, becoming frustrated with himself.
Jack exhaled slowly, not wanting to make Bunny tenser than he already was. "Can you be... a little more specific?"
Bunny sat in thought for a moment, wringing his paws together. "I just... Pitch said some stuff to me during this last scuffle, and-"
"Wait, wait. You're telling me you're acting like this over something that PITCH said to you?" Jack frowned. "Why would you even think about taking anything he said seriously-"
"Because he was right, mate." Bunny held his head in his paws for a moment, exhaling sharply.
"Right about what? Bunny, he's only trying to instigate fights between us." Jack said.
"He was right about... about how I feel towards... towards Alice."
Jack turned his head a bit, furrowing a brow. "What?" A covetous feeling swelled within the ice guardian without warning, making him stand to his feet. Despite how he tried to remain calm, he couldn't shake what was suddenly keeping him on edge.
"I can't explain it too well... I just feel really... protective of her all of a sudden, and-"
"You think this has anything to do with what happened in the 'spa area,' you think?" Jack exclaimed.
Bunny straightened up, blinking at this before holding his hands up defensively. "Now mate... that was a complete accident... I was just as embarrassed as everyone else was. What I'm talking about now, has nothing to do with-"
"Hooooold up, Bunny. You cannot stand here and tell me that it was 'nothing.' That sort of thing is never just nothing, whether you meant for it to happen or not." Jack pointed a finger at him. "So whatever 'this...'" Jack waved his hands towards Bunny. "... is, it's not happening."
Bunny furrowed his brows, shaking his head. "I should have known this was a bad idea... who the hell said I needed your approval?" He jabbed a finger at Jack's chest. "I'm not good enough, is that it?"
"No, Bunny!" Jack exclaimed. "That's not what I mean!"
"It is what you mean, don't deny it!" Bunny glared at him. "You think I don't stand a chance because I'm not some pretty boy like you are!"
"Will you just listen?" Jack shouted. "You have no idea what Alice has been through, this... what you're suggesting may not be good for her right now."
"Why? Because you want 'er all for yourself, don't you?" Bunny spat.
"Can you please not make this into a competition?" Jack groaned.
"So you admit it then? Pitch was right, I can't believe that sorry bloke was right!" Bunny tugged on his ears.
"Bunny, what is wrong with you? You're seriously going to let him mess with your head like this?" Jack exclaimed.
"I'm out of here, mate." Bunny said, moving to storm down the ladder. Jack would not have this; he wasn't going to let Bunny leave until they sorted out this dilemma. He extended his staff, an ice spark shooting through the air and Bunny suddenly found himself unable to move. "What the- Jack! Unfreeze my feet RIGHT NOW." Bunny demanded through gritted teeth.
Jack walked around so he could be face to face with Bunny. "Just listen to me, Bunny." He said as calmly as possible. In that moment, Jack began to question his own feelings for Alice. There was a great sense of trust between them, Alice entrusting her most personal stories and experiences with him, and vise versa. He knew in his heart of hearts that he too began to feel a growing closeness to her, but as he would explain to Bunny now, he had a reason for retaining his feelings. "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you, or... that you don't deserve to be happy." He looked at Bunny flatly when he scoffed before continuing. "... but there are things that Alice has... there are people who have done things to her in the past... that may make her not want to think about something like this right now."
"I know about the doctor, Jack. Just because she talks to you more doesn't mean I'm stupid-"
"It's got nothing to do with the doctor, Bunny." Jack interrupted. "In that asylum she went to after the fire..." Jack exhaled, not wanting to betray Alice's trust and go too far into detail. "Some of the things they did to her there... it... she's so unstable already Bunny, and... I know she cares for everyone here... but... something like how you feel, or I feel... if we just..." Now it was Jack's turn to try to collect his thoughts. "We need to just think about this carefully. She may be put off if we just blurt out how either of us really feels about her. What I'm saying is... wait for her to make the first move."
Bunny calmed, somewhat understanding Jack's words. He'd seen several of Alice's mental breaks already, and he knew that something so simple could be enough to trigger it. "So how can she 'make the first move,' if she has no idea what we feel?"
Jack sighed, shrugging a bit. "There's just too much going on right now for her to be worrying about something like this. And it should be the same for us too. We have a lot on our backs right now. Can we just… wait until later to deal with this?"
"You forget you're talking to a bunny here, mate. I'm not one to just wait on things." Bunny replied.
Jack gritted his teeth for a moment, starting to become fed up with Bunny's attitude. "I'm not kidding around!"
"Huh, that's a miracle." Bunny rolled his eyes.
"Ugh, you know what? Fine, you can go, okay?" Jack threw his hands up. "You are impossible!"
"So is me getting out of here, you have my feet frozen to the bloody floor, you wombat!" Bunny shouted.
Jack waved his staff angrily, flopping into bed as Bunny stormed off. When he realized that his attempt to apologize to Jack had simply turned into another argument, he rubbed his forehead with his paw. "Oi… that was a headache." He was about to go back to his room when he heard something from Hiccup's room. He peeked inside, seeing Tooth talking to Merida and placing a comforting hand on her back. When she noticed Bunny in the doorway, she cleared her throat.
"Oh, hey, Bunny… I had come back to talk to you but you weren't in your room." Tooth said. She glanced back at Merida before quietly excusing herself, floating over to Bunny to whisper to him. "She hasn't left his side all day… she should really get some rest but no matter what I say, she refuses to budge…" She glanced back at them, Toothless watching Hiccup sleepily, his head nodding off as he struggled to stay awake.
Bunny closed his eyes for a moment, taking in a deep breath. "Which room does she sleep in again?"
"That one down there…" Tooth poked her head out the doorway, pointing down the hall to show Bunny.
"Alright." Bunny nodded. "I'll handle this Tooth, you should get some sleep."
"Are you sure?" She smiled when Bunny nodded. "Okay… and… if you need to talk about anything… I'm here." She smiled, hugging her furry friend warmly. He returned the hug, thanking her before she floated to her own resting area.
Bunny glanced at Merida for a moment before leaving the room. Merida sighed as she closed her eyes, giving Hiccup's hand a gentle squeeze. She was not just a fierce warrior; she was also a fierce friend. Out of all the people she met, she had become closest with Hiccup. She would not rest until he showed some kind of recovery, forcing her glowing eyes to stay open. Moments later, she looked up when Bunny came in the room, plopping something down on the floor. She raised a brow, looking up at him.
"What's this?" She asked.
"I know you aren't going to leave this room tonight, Merida." Bunny started. "So here's your mattress for you to sleep on. I'm guessing it would be better than sleeping on a hard wood floor." Bunny smiled.
The young woman looked from the mattress to Bunny, a gentle smile slowly forming in her expression. "Thank you, lad."
"Let me know if you need anything." Bunny gave her a nod. "He'll come 'round. He's got plenty of care here." He said goodnight to her briefly before heading back to his bedroom.
Merida sighed lightly, rising from the chair for the first time since she sat herself in it, moving that aside to pull the mattress so it was parallel to Hiccup's bed. She set up her pillow and blankets, looking back over at the unconscious Viking. She observed his face for a moment, exhaling slowly. She bit her lip, placing a gentle hand against his right side as she leaned down. Her thick curls cascaded around her face as she closed her eyes, planting a small kiss on his cheek where a scratch was. She then stood up straight, taking one more look at him before settling down onto her mattress, closing her eyes.
"That Astrid lass of his must miss him to pieces…" Merida said to herself tiredly before falling asleep.
Gobber gently pat Valka's back as she wiped her eyes. Nothing could ease the pain of a mother who had lost a son, and lost her son was. Deciding that it was best if she had as much space as possible, Fishlegs, Ruffnut, Tuffnut, Snotlout, Eret and Astrid all headed outside, starting a fire. They sat in a circle, a thick silence filling the air. Hiccup and Toothless' disappearance had affected them all, each coping a bit differently. Astrid's eyes welled up with angry tears, the first to make a move as she took a stick, throwing it irritably into the fire before getting up, pacing around tensely. They all glanced up at her, knowing she was taking this far from well.
"Astrid…" Eret started.
"If you're going to try to offer me some 'comfort speech,' save it." She snapped, crossing her arms as she let her head fall forward. She shook it for a few seconds, kicking the ground angrily. "We all just have to face the fact that Hiccup has abandoned us."
"He wouldn't just abandon us, Astrid… he may not be the toughest Viking out there, but he wouldn't just go running to who knows where with his tail between his legs." Snotlout said.
"So what are you suggesting then?" Astrid asked tensely.
"Something must have happened to him…" Fishlegs said.
"What, what do you 'suppose' happened to him, huh?" Astrid shouted. "There have been absolutely NO threats against this tribe since the fall of Drago, ZERO! We have seen absolutely nothing, so if there was ANYONE trying to attack this village, you think we may have seen something or someone by now?"
"What do you think happened to Hiccup, Astrid?" Ruffnut asked.
Astrid's expression hardened, closing her eyes tightly for a moment. "I already told you. He abandoned us. He couldn't handle being the chief, so he ran off like a coward!" Astrid growled as she grabbed a rock from off the ground, tossing it into the lake. "That's right, you're a coward!" She shouted out to the lake. "Wherever you are, I hope you're happy! I hope that not caring about us anymore is worth it!"
Eret got to his feet, going over to the fuming young woman. He tried to take her hand, but she yanked her arms from him. "Astrid come on, you know Hiccup loves you-"
"Shut up!" She snapped, angry tears rolling down her cheeks. "All of you just shut up!" She plopped down to the ground, beating her fist into it a few times as she began to sob quietly. Her abrasiveness finally broke down with her emotions as she allowed Eret to come near her. Since he had become a part of Berk's tribe, Eret has become close with Hiccup and his friends. He hated to see everyone miserable like this, but Astrid wasn't just miserable, she was FURIOUS. He didn't know much about her relationship with Hiccup of course, it was none of his business. However, he kept to himself the possibility that even if Hiccup were unharmed right now, that if he ever returned, Astrid may very well kill him upon arrival.
Still, he couldn't help but place an arm around her shoulders as she sobbed furiously, her head falling to rest against his chest. They had conducted a search every day for the past several weeks now, marking where they had ventured on a map; alas, their efforts had been fruitless, not even finding a small trace of either him or Toothless. He, along with the others, worried for him and hoped that wherever he was that he was alright; until then, he would do what he could to help the tribe, and comfort the scorned Astrid in her emotional state.
Pitch opened his eyes, gritting his teeth and growling lowly in annoyance. Again, he was here in this room, this room of pink and white. Again, this same recurring vision had come to him. What was its purpose? What was its motive? What was it trying to achieve? He saw Elsa, her back turned to him. She turned, revealing that she was holding what looked to be Anna as a child. Pitch narrowed his eyes warily, glancing up at Elsa. She stared back at him, silently extending her arms to hold little Anna to him. Figuring it was best if he allowed the vision to progress with his participation so that he may yet find a point in all this, he took the child into his arms. When he looked down upon her in his arms, he then realized something.
She was dead.
He shook his head in confusion before looking up, blinking when the mysterious woman from the last vision was now staring at him instead of Elsa. Who was she? What was she to him? She stared into his eyes pleadingly before they flickered down to what rested in his arms. When Pitch's eyes followed her gaze, he realized that a porcelain doll had replaced little Anna, holding it up to inspect it closely. He barely was able to look upon it for a moment when suddenly, the roar of a train filled his ears, the window behind the woman bursting open as the windows of the train sped by in a blur, seeming to never end. The light flickered with the passing windows, and Pitch gasped as he took a step back. He placed the doll aside, staring into the eyes of the woman. Why did they captivate him so? Why did they seem to draw him in with their radiance? Her lips whispered something, but they could not be heard over the sound of the roaring train. She then seemed to look past him, and Pitch turned to see what she was looking at. The long, seemingly unending train whirled around Arendelle as it did last time. Pitch exhaled sharply as the great kingdom fell into decay and ruin. He turned back, his feet planted to the floor when the woman approached him, her eyes fluttering closed as she leaned in to whisper into his ear. When he heard her voice, his heartbeat, rarely unsteady, began to quicken.
"She is being taken… as you were taken… she may bring you back… but if her light goes out… forever shall you both remain in the darkness."
Pitch furrowed his brows in deep bewilderment at the words spoken to him. When the young woman stepped back, he saw it was Elsa once more, turning to look at the doll he had previously placed on the bed. His eyes widened a bit as black ooze began to drip out of the doll's eyes, Elsa walking over to hug it to her. When she turned, she was once again holding little Anna, the child decaying right before his very eyes. As Elsa walked closer and closer to the window, her skin hardened, her movements were becoming stiff and struggled, deep cracks had appeared before she fell, she and little Anna shattering into millions of pieces. Smoke filled the room, the roar of the train filling the air once more as Pitch felt himself being carried away from the vision, closing his eyes and allowing himself to surface back into consciousness.
Elsa gasped as she came to, glancing around as she realized she was on the floor. She groaned as she stood up, holding her head as she shuffled over to sit on her mattress. She looked down at her arms, rolling up her right sleeve and gracing her fingertips over the skin of her forearm. Shaking her head, she concluded that what she had experienced must have been some sort of twisted nightmare. What had occurred before she passed out was a blur, but one thing that came to mind then was the hurt expression of Wick. What had possessed her to snap at him the way she did? He had been kind to her since the very beginning, and she had come to behold him as a dear friend. She was about to get up to seek him out, when she noticed something. Her eyes were drawn once again to the broken mirror upon the cavern wall, and her eyes widened in shock when she was met with quite an unusual sight.
There was no reflection of her.
The young woman jumped to her feet, striding cautiously over to the mirror, reaching out a hand to touch its cracked surface. She retracted the hand to run them both through her hair, biting her lip as she began to sob. She fell to her knees, hugging herself as she stared into the mirror. Elsa felt as if her mind was slowly deteriorating; why was she even there? Did she even have a goal anymore? She glanced up then, gasping as she saw the reflection of someone standing near where she would be. Her tears had blurred her vision, gasping as she shot to her feet and whirled around. There, standing before her… was herself… however, she had a far more sinister appearance, grinning darkly as she neared the fearful ice queen.
"Wh- Why are you here…?" Elsa breathed.
"Don't you see? Look at how… frightened you are…" The alternate Elsa chuckled as she neared her. "I'm concerned that you just don't have the strength to control your fear… or your powers… how do you expect to rule Arendelle…?"
"Stop… please…" Elsa whimpered.
"How about I rule as Queen for you?" The alternate Elsa grinned darkly, reaching out to grab Elsa's shoulders.
Elsa gripped onto her alternate's arms, trying to pry her hands off as the two wrestled to the ground. Biting her lip, Elsa was pushed to her breaking point as she screamed, shoving the alternate off of her. Ice spikes began to grow out of the walls around them as the alternate held her hands back, her fingertips starting to become frozen by Elsa's power. Elsa grit her teeth, her eyes staring intensely into her alternate's as she tried to freeze her arms. When she thought nothing could stop her, something broke her concentration.
She gasped, looking up to meet Wick's gaze, his hand outstretched. She tilted her head, her eyes following his to look down. She gasped when she did, throwing herself back as she scrambled to press her back against the wall. Pitch, not her evil alternate, stood slowly, but by some miracle, he was not enraged from the attack. He knew that Elsa had just seen a mirage in his place, slowly approaching the gasping girl as tears fell down her cheeks. Despite the circumstance, Pitch questioned his own demeanor just as a part of Elsa did. Why was he being so understanding? The only thing he understood was darkness and nightmares, he should not have resolved to act in such a empathetic manner.
But he was.
He knelt before the young woman as Wick watched on worriedly from several feet away. Perhaps, Pitch thought, the visions he had been experiencing were contributing to his unusual behavior. There was no denying that the visions were conveying some sort of connection between them, but did there mean there had to be? Was it his choice to decide? He knew what it was like to be on the sticking end; he thought perhaps the expression upon Elsa's face was not much different than his when he realized that his own nightmares had turned on him when he had been defeated by the guardians. When everything, absolutely everything he had turned against him-
He inhaled deeply then.
Pitch knew Elsa's mind well, as her fear filled memories linked her life together like the chains she carried, the burden of her curse. He had seen when her subjects unexpectedly learned of her power, how they all ridiculed her, accused her, fought against her. She had watched everything she loved either become lost to her or turn on her.
It was then, that Pitch concluded that their similarities ran so much deeper than he initially realized. Was this the connection that his visions were trying so hard to convey to him? Was this young woman meant to be more than simply just a pawn in his game of achieving domination over the guardians and their allies?
Before he could utter a word to her, Elsa broke the thick silence between them with a hushed whisper. "What's happening to me?"
Pitch exhaled slowly as he tried to form an answer in his mind. "You are going down a very, very dark path, Elsa." He replied. "It isn't a road you are familiar with… and if you continue along it, you may not find your way back."
Wick slowly approached her, holding his hands to his chest. When he stopped, Elsa stared at him for a few moments before getting to her feet, throwing her arms around him as she sobbed into his shoulder. Wick frowned deeply as she apologized, hugging her close. Pitch decided that it would be best if Wick comfort her instead of him; after all, how much of a comfort could the Boogeyman be? He left the area, going back to his own to dwell on his own thoughts.
Meanwhile, Bumby smirked lightly as he sent a new group of puppet children to join the others, chuckling to himself. As he dismissed them, he turned upon sensing someone approaching him. The Queen kept her large hands folded, craning her head a bit to observe the new group of puppet children.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
"Preparing a new batch..." Bumby replied. "It's all a scavenger hunt... which children are out past their bed time... which children are unwanted, never paid attention to, never missed... those are the ones you snatch up first."
The Queen narrowed her eyes. "And what of our foes? What place on your 'to do' list do they fall?"
"Fret not, your grace... there is no need to seek them out." Bumby replied.
"They will not cease until we are all annihilated!" The Queen hissed.
"Of course they won't. They are all like children themselves... we must act as adults do; spare the rod, spoil the child, as I say. Each time they come here to have a tantrum, we simply let them tire themselves, let them slink back with their boo-boos, and they will stay cooped up in their bedrooms until they are well enough to try to demand what they want again. It's a simple process, really."
"I do not care what happens..." The Queen continued. "All I want is for Alice to suffer unto damnation!"
"And so she shall, your majesty... believe me, I desire to see her suffer as much as you." Bumby said.
"Destroy Alice Liddell... so that I may rightfully reclaim Wonderland... and then you may do whatever you wish." She said lowly, straightening up before slithering along her way.
Bumby narrowed his eyes at the Queen as she took her leave from him; she was quite persistent, he couldn't deny that. It was a quality she and Alice both shared, and it was quite irksome. He glanced up then to see Pitch, his hands folded behind his back as he headed to his resting area. Though he kept himself poised, he could sense an increased tension about him. Bumby's eyes panned to the direction Pitch had come from, smirking lightly when he saw it was Elsa's area. He straightened his tie a bit before deciding to see what was going on for himself.
When he entered, he stopped several feet from Elsa and Wick, who was comforting the distraught young woman. He cleared his throat audibly to get Wick's attention.
"You can go, I'll take it from here." He stated plainly.
Wick glanced up at him, looking from Elsa to Bumby. "But... she needs me. I'm her brother."
"Do as you're told. You can occupy yourself by ordering the puppet ranks. Now leave." Bumby replied coldly, nodding his head towards the area's exit.
Elsa placed a gentle hand on Wick's. "It's alright, Wick. We can speak more later."
Wick glanced at Bumby warily before extending his hands to Elsa, making a small chocolate appear. He gently handed it to her before rising and floating out of the room.
Bumby shot a glare at Wick as he floated out, returning his focus to Elsa once they were alone. He approached her, offering his hand. "Come now dear, surely you're uncomfortable sitting on the ground like that? The bed would be much better seating."
Elsa bit her lip, extending her hand to take his. They sat on the edge of her mattress, and the young woman sighed. "I feel like I'm losing my mind."
"It is the change, Elsa. I told you once already; the cost of forgetting is high." Bumby replied.
"But why do I keep seeing myself... it is as if she is trying to end me." Elsa asked.
"Because a part of you is resisting the change. You must overcome that. The only person standing in the way of your progress is yourself. Once you pass that obstacle, the change will happen. Once you surpass that obstacle, I will be there to assist you."
"What will happen to me, when the change is finished?" Elsa asked.
"You will have no fear... just as Pitch wants." Bumby smiled lightly. "And then none shall ever question you again. Anything you desire, you shall have."
Elsa exhaled sharply, looking down at her hands. "Maybe I'll finally have some... some control over my life."
Bumby gently lifted her face, observing it. "You remind me so much of her."
"Who?" Elsa asked.
"Elizabeth. Alice's elder sister. The unfortunate soul perished with her family in the house fire... Alice will accuse me as the cause until her dying breath, but those who are guilty always try to place their crime upon another. It's how they survive. She was a pretty girl, much like yourself. She had quite an edge to her, no doubt. If only I had kept a closer watch over her, perhaps she would still be here. I assure you, I shall not make the same mistake with you." Bumby explained.
"I appreciate that." Elsa nodded, smiling lightly in gratitude.
Meanwhile, Pitch sat in deep thought. "She is being taken… as you were taken… she may bring you back… but if her light goes out… forever shall you both remain in the darkness." He repeated to himself the words that the mysterious woman had spoken to him in the vision, exhaling sharply with frustration as he rose to his feet, pacing around. Why was he dwelling so much in these visions, all of a sudden? He was the Boogeyman, what care did he have for silly dreams? A part of him felt a strong meaning in them however, a small part. What the meaning could be, exactly, eluded him, and this only added to his frustration. So what if Elsa shared similar experiences in their nature, similar suffering? So what if she wanted the same thing as him, to just be believed in, rather than being labeled as a monster? Why was he so concerned about the young woman's welfare, when in the past he would never even give that a moment's thought? The answer seemed to be hidden in plain sight, right within his grasp, but he hissed as he simply could not see the answer, he could not see the reason behind his internal conflict.
As Pitch paced, the Queen watched him silently from the shadows. She could sense something still present within the deepest recesses of his heart... it was shrouded in darkness, but it still remained; but more importantly, it was coming to surface, reaching closer and closer ever slowly.