Envisioning Ominous Dreams
Alice opened her eyes, exhaling slowly as she found herself basked in light coming from above ground as she stood in the decrepit train station. She glanced to the side to see remnants of blood splattered on the wall where she had first killed Bumby, pushing him right into the train's path. She returned her attention to the light, ascending the steps slowly. She raised a brow as she gripped the hand rail, glancing around when she reached the top. London had changed with her, a happy mingling between her Wonderland and the vast city. She walked along the cobblestone path that was sprinkled with patches of grass here and there, looking upon the buildings surrounded by large mushrooms, dice, other enlarged common objects. She stopped when a familiar face appeared before her, smirking lightly.
"Ah, Alice… we can't go home again. No surprise, really… only very few find the way, and most of them don't recognize it once they do. Delusions too, die hard; only the savage regard the endurance of pain as the measure of worth. Forgetting pain is convenient, remembering it, agonizing. But recovering the truth is worth the suffering; and our Wonderland, though damaged, is safe in memory… for now…"
Alice furrowed a brow then when the sky began to darken, a starless sky looming overhead. Wind began to pick up as she stood under a street light, the bulb inside flickering as one by one, each light lining the street began to go out until only hers remained aglow. She glanced up at it, narrowing her eyes slightly.
The voice was spoken in a soft whisper, but Alice could hear it above the wind as it blew her hair around, turning to slowly face the source of the voice shrouded in darkness. She knew that voice from anywhere, her breath hitching.
"Lizzie…" Alice breathed, about to step towards her when she gasped, the windows of all the buildings illuminating from the inside as flames burst from within.
"It matters not how many lives you save now, Alice. You failed to save mine." The voice spoke. "There is much you don't know… the pain I endured… the horror… it was always that place, that's all that mattered to you. Your Wonderland… your ridiculous subjects… a Queen of Fools is what you are!"
"Lizzie, I was a child…" Alice breathed, shutting her eyes tightly. "I've more than accounted for my sins… I only ask that you pass on as I have…"
"Pass on? Oh no, my dearest sister… I shall never pass on. For I am always a part of you… I will destroy you from the inside out, because I know you better than anyone."
Alice's expression changed as the voice did, becoming twisted with bitterness and distortion. Her eyes widened slightly as the individual began to near her, gasping as from all the windows, tentacles and flame began to burst outwards, shattering glass shards all over the street. Alice could not conjure any of her weapons, shaking her head as she began to panic.
"You are not my sister!" She shouted, gasping as a tentacle shot out from the shadows, wrapping around the lone street light, ripping it out of the ground and hurling it backwards. Cracks began to form where it was torn out, more flames bursting in the street as a result. Alice gasped as part of the ground collapsed under her feet, threatening to cave in.
"Your Wonderland shall fall… the Queen of Spades shall submit to the one true Queen. My empire shall rise, its foundation shall be built upon your downfall and despair!"
Alice fell to her knees when the ground shook again, crying out as it threatened to give way. She glanced up to see Elizabeth standing before her, lifting her face and grinning sinisterly.
"You… are not… my sister…" Alice's face darkened, gritting her teeth.
She felt hands take hold of her from behind, voices crying out to help her. She looked behind her to see thunder cracking in the sky, the white knight arriving on his horse as the steed neighed loudly, its front legs in the air. The white rabbit was trying to pull her back, Caterpillar flapping his wings and making the winds stronger. Alice glanced back that it was now the Queen of Hearts standing before her, her tentacles wrapping around Alice's feet. She gasped, her hands holding onto White Rabbit's tightly. A breath caught in her throat when she heard the sound of struggle, something leaping across the collapsing ground and taking Cheshire cat into its jaws.
"NO!" Alice cried, the winds becoming stronger as thunder cracked louder, rain pouring.
She glanced up to see Caterpillar battling a fearsome creature in the air, wings flapping erratically as he defended himself against the dreadful Jabberwocky. Her screaming could be barely heard above the winds, tears streaming down her face when a black horse sped past her, the Knave of Hearts battling fiercely against her White Knight, the struggle lasting for several minutes before she witnessed, to her horror, her beloved Knight fall from his horse. Her eyes slowly moved to rest on the White Rabbit as he held her hands tightly, their gaze locked for several moments before she heard an alarming sound echo through the wind and thunder. She shook her head, but could not stop its sharp claws as it swooped down from behind her, capturing the vested Rabbit in its clutches and carrying him away. She shrieked as she reached her hands out, being dragged back as she was lifted, turned to look right into the Queen's eyes.
"You shall lose them all… one by one, those still loyal to you shall succumb to my power… Queensland shall reign once more… and you shall be the one who is excised." The Queen grinned wickedly, opening her mouth wide as Alice cried out. "OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!"
Jack jumped a bit when Alice burst awake, breathing heavily as her hands shot to her neck. Her eyes were wide; her whole body was trembling as she slowly came to. After a few moments, he gently placed a hand on her shoulder, turning her slightly to look at him.
"Hey… it's okay." He started, the hand moving to pet her hair lightly. "It was another nightmare." He sighed lightly. "Alice, they're getting worse…"
"I think I would know that." Alice spoke finally, sighing also as she rubbed her forehead, closing her eyes for a moment. "Did I make a ruckus?"
"A little… I heard you from down there… I was meaning to check on you anyway, but… Alice, I don't understand, there's no way that Pitch can be-"
"This has nothing to do with him." Alice said, sitting up a bit straighter as she looked at him.
"Alice… you and I both saw her meet her maker; I don't think anyone could survive one of Toothless' flame blasts, it's no wonder they went after him to make Wick." Jack snickered a little. "Speaking of which… he's giving Bunny a real workout downstairs, I think it'll help you feel better."
"Yes, because that's going to fix my problems…" Alice said, heaving a sigh when Jack frowned at her. "Jack, I'm sorry… I know you're trying to help…" She leaned towards him a bit, the two resting their foreheads together. "It's just… this has been a repetitive struggle for weeks now…"
"The nightmares will go away, Alice… just give it time, they will. You're with us now, and we'll help you through it." Jack said softly, gently tilting her head up as he leaned in to kiss her. She closed her eyes, kissing him back for a minute or two before breaking it, smiling lightly at him.
"Well, I suppose that makes your words a bit more convincing." She said, enticing a chuckle from him. Their moment was interrupted when they heard shouting from downstairs, both glancing towards the ladder as Tooth floated in.
"Oh, good Alice, you're awake… Jack, I swear, I cannot deal with those goofballs down there! Bunny is going to need anger management any day now and North is focused more on keeping the workshop orderly than actually trying to correct what Wick is doing!"
Jack groaned, rubbing his face. "Alright, just give me a second to get down there, you and Sandy can take a break for a little while." He glanced over at Alice. "You up to this?"
"I suppose as much as I can be… at least he's not intentionally trying to turn us into ashes…" She said, her feet touching the floor as she went over towards the ladder.
As she and Jack descended, getting to the main level of the workshop, they both stopped when Bunny sped past them, Alice waving her hand in front of her face as smoke lingered behind him.
"Bloody hell! Oi, that's it, I'm done for! Put it out, you blokes, for the love of eggs in baskets someone put my bloody tail out!" He shouted, stumbling over himself. He burst outside, throwing himself into the snow and rolling around a bit before exhaling. He then jumped up, crying out once more. "Crickey, it's too cold!" He sped back in, marching up to Wick as he gulped. "Alright, I have had it up to HERE with you! You're nothing but a brainless-"
"Will someone kindly explain what on Earth is going on here?" Alice finally interjected, stepping forward. North burst into the room with a block of ice then.
"Bunny! I have the ice, simply sit your kiester on this and it will put the flames right out-… oh. It is done?" North raised his brows.
"Well thanks, mate, where were you about five bloody minutes ago?!" Bunny threw his hands up. "I'm trying to tell this gumby to tone it down with the fire and everything, then he decides to light my rear end on fire! Oh no, take your time, why don't you!"
"I- It was an accident… I'm still having trouble keeping my flames low grade…" Wick said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.
"You've always had it out for me, don't deny it!" Bunny exclaimed, gesturing to his tail, now lacking adequate hair. "Look at this! Do you have any idea how long this will take to grow back? If this isn't presentable by next Easter, I'll be the laughing stock for the next half millennium!"
Jack couldn't help but snicker, Alice elbowing him lightly as she couldn't help but smirk in amusement either. He earned himself a glare from Bunny, Alice clearing her throat as she stepped forward. "Bunny, I will help your tail, it will need treatment. As for you Wick, I think you've done quite enough today, perhaps you should take a few moments to relax."
"… HE should take a few moments to relax?!" Bunny exclaimed. "He's the one causing pandemonium around here! He better NEVER come to my Warren or I'll-"
"Bunnymund, enough!" Tooth exclaimed, sighing as she rubbed her temples. "Can we all just take a break…?"
Alice ushered Bunny upstairs, still muttering to himself angrily. Wick floated over to Tooth, his head bowed. "I really didn't mean it… he made me nervous and I accidentally let off too much a flame… he was standing too close. I tried to put it out but I just kept burning things…"
Tooth sighed lightly, placing a hand on Wick's shoulder. "It's alright, Wick. After being taught to use your powers to fight and harm others, it's going to be a while before you get a handle of them. We're going to try to be as patient as possible, but you'll get it down pat someday."
Sandy poked his head out from where he had been hiding, sighing and wiping his brow with relief as he floated over, taking Tooth's hand and kissing it lightly. He patted her arm before glancing at Wick, sighing lightly and tilting his own chin up, smiling and pointing to it, as if to tell Wick to keep his hopes up. He gave him two thumbs up, earning a smile from Wick. Sandy pursed his lips a bit, forming a sand picture of candy and holding his hands out.
"Sandy, you're going to spoil your appetite, and your teeth!" She sighed when Sandy pouted. "Now you're just saying it's good practice as an excuse, I wasn't born yesterday, mister!"
"Alright…" North started as he approached them. "This has been rough start, but tomorrow will be a great day for us all to clear our heads. We will be seeing our friends and having a day of merriment, yes? This will be good for all of us, and to see how they are recovering as well."
"Yes, I miss Anna and the others… I wonder if Merida and Hiccup will be there?" Tooth inquired.
Upstairs, Alice had Bunny sitting in a small basin of water mixed with different herbs and soothing formulas, taking a cloth and dipping it in the water before squeezing the excess from it. She reached over, dabbing a couple other spots where he had been singed. He hissed lightly, Alice exhaling sharply.
"It's okay, I can handle it." He said quietly, Alice nodding in response and resuming what she was doing.
"And here I thought you were swift, Bunny… you're going to have no hair left if you can't keep up with him down there." Alice replied.
"I seriously hate that guy…" Bunny groaned, letting his head fall back for a moment. "Almost lost an ear the other day; can you believe he said he was just trying to cut one of North's ice cubes for him? I swear, he's going to slice my head clean off in my sleep."
Alice chuckled lightly, shaking her head. "Seems like I'm not the only one who has that concern… but in all seriousness, I think he just had a problem with finding his sense of stability. It's going to be a slow, but gradual process."
Bunny frowned lightly at the first part of Alice's statement. "Wait… you're not still having nightmares, are you?"
Alice sighed. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't… and they're not lessening in their hostile nature, either."
Bunny bit his lip, placing his hand on Alice's shoulder gently. "Maybe tomorrow will help you too… it's been stressful for all of us."
"I suppose… trust me, the last few weeks have been better for me than most of my life has offered. It's just… I keep having this feeling… this lingering, tense feeling that I can't seem to rid myself of." Alice said.
"That's partly all our faults, really. We've been so focused on getting Wick up to speed to being a proper guardian; a decision I will NEVER understand… that we've been leaving you to your own devices. Believe me, I'd rather stick with you any day over that oversized gourd down there." Bunny smiled.
"I know, and I appreciate the sentiment." Alice smiled back.
Despite the pain from his burns, it seemed to dissipate with her smile; it always warmed his heart when her expression did, sighing contently as tension left his shoulders. As he found however, to his disappointment, not long after that warm feeling would envelop him, he always felt a sense of bitter sweetness wash over him. Though Alice was a guardian now, though she could stay with them always from this point onwards, there was one heartbreaking fact that would always snap him back to reality.
Her heart belonged to Jack.
It didn't help him any when she went around him, sitting behind him to massage his shoulders. He smiled sadly; she knew it always calmed him when she did that, but it did nothing to lessen the discomfort in knowing he could never completely have her. He held nothing against her now, but it was still something he had to deal with silently.
Before all of this, he never had time to even think of things like finding love, having those experiences because he was always on a schedule. Time never stopped to wait, so neither could he. Eggs needed to be painted, wicker baskets needed to be woven, preparations for the Easter season had to be made year after year to bring the renewed hopes and dreams of children to blossom with the spring. It had been a distraction for so long, but it could no longer do that service for him with Alice always around him, her presence a constant reminder of what his heart now longed for.
To be shared with another.
His train of thought was broken when Jack entered the room, the ice guardian crouching down near him.
"Hey, feeling okay?" Jack asked, an ounce of concern in his features.
"I'll be fine… I've been through worse." Bunny replied, straightening up and leaning forward a bit to gently allow his shoulders to slip away from Alice's fingers. He didn't want to make a problem between them; despite the gesture being harmless in nature, he didn't want to risk it. He was in no mood to set Jack off unintentionally. As if he could read his mind however, Jack rolled his eyes playfully.
"Bunny, it's fine, I know you like when Alice rubs your shoulders. She's still everyone's friend here, I'm not going to stop that." Jack said.
Alice smiled lightly at Jack, getting to her feet and placing the damp cloth on the rim of the basin to hang. "Well, all this activity had made me work up an appetite. Let's make something and keep Bunny company."
"Sounds good to me…" Jack smiled. "You want anything?"
"Just the usual is fine." Bunny nodded. "Thanks, mate."
Alice and Jack headed downstairs, making something to eat for themselves. Bunny sighed, resting his head on his knees as he concentrated on his thoughts once more.
"Oh… hey Alice, I'll catch up with you." Jack said suddenly. "I just realized that Eliza isn't awake yet."
"Hm… indeed, she's overslept today… I'll make her something while you fetch her." Alice smiled, continuing downstairs as Jack roamed down the hall towards the child's bedroom.
When Jack slowly opened her door, he smiled lightly as he saw her sleeping peacefully. She had adjusted well since the end of the prior turmoil, the last couple months or so bringing her much solace despite the trouble with getting Wick assimilated into his new guardian life. Thankfully, the two got along well, always enjoying some of the candy he would offer to her. Jack crouched down, gently shaking her shoulder a bit to wake her.
"Hey, sleepyhead… time for someone to get up." He said quietly.
Eliza shifted a bit, blinking her eyes as she rubbed them. She sat up, smiling sleepily. "Good morning, Jack." She yawned, stretching her arms. "One more day, right?"
"Yup. You get to see your friends again." Jack nodded.
"I miss Olaf. I miss reading stories to him." Eliza frowned a bit.
"Don't worry, after we get everything settled I can take you more often to visit them…" Jack ruffled her hair. If Pitch wasn't living with them, he would even trust to let her stay there for a few nights at a time… neither he nor Alice were willing to do that, both still quite wary of the Nightmare King.
"Have you had breakfast yet?" Eliza asked.
"No, Alice is getting some ready for us. We're going to eat in Bunny's room today, he's not feeling too great…" Jack said as he helped the child out of bed.
"Oh no… did Wick burn him again?" Eliza asked.
"I'm afraid so…" Jack replied as they headed down the hallway.
"Perhaps I can kiss the burns so they can get better like last time." Eliza smiled.
Jack chuckled nervously. "I don't think you'll be kissing them this time, Eliza…"
"Why not?" The child tilted her head.
"Let's just say that his arm wasn't the thing that got singed today…" Jack replied as they entered Bunny's room.
"Hey, little ankle biter." Bunny smiled, Eliza giggling as he ruffled her hair.
"Everyone keeps making my hair untidy…" She said, fixing it.
Alice entered the room then, placing down a tray as she handed a plate to Jack, Bunny, and Eliza, keeping one for herself. "How is my little sleepy head faring this morning?" Alice asked.
"I'm okay… still a bit sleepy." Eliza replied.
"Hm…" Alice leaned over, lifting her face a bit. "You do seem a bit pale. I hope you aren't coming down with a cold…"
"Wouldn't be too hard being that she lives in the tundra." Bunny said as he wolfed down his food.
"I suppose you're right… Jack can get away with living here because of his nature, but I must speak to North about establishing my own province." Alice said.
"Well, Sandy doesn't have one… he's a drifter, that one." Bunny said.
"No kidding, Bunny." Jack rolled his eyes playfully.
"Yes, but you are forgetting something…" Alice smiled. "I have an entire world up here at my disposal. I simply need a space to fill it."
"Yeah, I'd like to meet that March Hare bloke you keep talking about." Bunny said.
"I believe you're referring to the White Rabbit." Alice chuckled.
Jack collected the plates once finished, bringing them downstairs. After doing so, he started to look through the pantry, pursing his lip a bit.
"Hey Jack, what're you looking for?" Tooth asked, fluttering over to him.
"Do you know if we have any cold medicine around here?" Jack asked. "Alice said Eliza might be getting one…"
"I don't think North has any… guardians never get sick after all, so there's no real need for it." Tooth replied.
"Darn." Jack pouted a bit. "I'll have to find some today… just in case."
Tooth smiled. "Jack… seeing you taking such good care of Eliza, you and Alice together… it really makes me happy. Having a family like that… it's a wonderful thing. Remember to always cherish that."
Jack nodded as Tooth gently pat his shoulder. As she fluttered off, he couldn't help but notice a degree of sadness in her smile, tilting his head a bit. Before he could think on it further, he heard North calling for him. He headed to his office, poking his head inside.
"You called?" Jack asked.
North gave Jack a nod, standing to his feet. "Walk with me."
As they wandered about the workshop, Jack raised a brow, glancing at North as he remained silent for a while. "So… is this your way of saying you want to get out more often or something?"
"Jack, last night, I had a dream." North started. "And in this dream, I saw the path you took to get to where you are now. I saw how you wandered the Earth, searching for a purpose, how you were chosen as a guardian, thwarted Pitch the first time… and came to accept your new role. I then saw your journey into the past, and what would have become of all of us if you had not taken leadership." He stopped, glancing at Jack and smiling.
Jack blinked in surprise at this. "You… how did you… you saw what happened in the past- the future- whenever it was?"
"Yes, I did. And I realized, though we have yet to reach the time you had come from, that what transpired will remain with all of us." North said as they resumed walking. "But Jack… despite all of the good that has come from your actions in your past, there is still risk for negative consequences."
"What do you mean?" Jack asked.
"The last few months have been very calm, peaceful." North said. "However, we do not yet know its full effect upon the world… we have much to discover, Jack."
Jack nodded. "Well… I can definitely say that some good things happened for me… I hope to say the same for you guys… our friends… the children."
"I believe it is safe to say that it has." North smiled. "You have truly come a long way, Jack." He gently patted Jack's shoulder. "I'm going to rest for a bit, it's been a long morning..."
"Yeah, let me check how Wick is doing. I think Bunny is covered... literally." Jack chuckled lightly as he headed up the stairs. When he poked into Wick's room, he noticed the Halloween themed guardian sitting on the edge of his bed, his head resting in his hands sadly. "Hey, Wick? Everything okay?"
A low grumble was emitted. "No one likes me because I mess everything up. I'm gonna end up back in the book again."
Jack smiled lightly as he approached him. "Well, you're kind of official now... so no book for you. Looks like you're stuck with us."
"Seems like it's the other way around." Wick sighed, glancing over at Jack as he sat next to him. Over the last few months, Wick's relationship with the other guardians had come along steadily, but it had been a rocky journey. With Bunny, there was still much hostility between them. "Bunny hates my pulp."
"Well, I'll tell you from experience that it takes a little while for Bunny to warm up to people... saying a lot for me." When Wick didn't laugh at the joke, Jack nudged his shoulder a bit. "Look... there was a time I thought I was nothing but a screw up too. It takes time to really find yourself... fit in. But it'll happen. North... he's pretty smart, and he knows you mean well now."
"What's the point if I keep accidentally setting things on fire? I don't want to do that to the children..." Wick pouted.
"No... you just have to keep working at it. All this time you've used your powers destructively. You just have to reteach yourself. Figure out what works and what doesn't." Jack pursed his lips for a moment. "Hey, you can conjure stuff for s'mores, right?"
Wick perked up, nodding. "Chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers! That's easy."
"Test your powers on making s'mores. When you can make them without burning them to a crisp... then you'll know." Jack suggested.
Wick's hollow eyes widened a bit. "You really think I can do it?"
"Sure! Just keep at it, like I said. You'll get it eventually." Jack pat his shoulder before getting up. He was about to walk away when he was stopped by Wick getting up to hug him, smiling and rolling his eyes. "Alright, alright, that's enough..."
Meanwhile, Alice and Eliza had gone downstairs to play a game of chess after tending to Bunny, now resting from the activity of the morning. When Eliza took one of Alice's pawns, she chuckled lightly.
"You're definitely becoming more proficient at this game." Alice said.
"That's because I have a good teacher." Eliza smiled lightly, taking Alice's white piece to place over on her side. "But Alice, I was wondering something..."
"What is it?" Alice asked as she moved one of her pieces.
"Why aren't the pieces content with their own side? Why do they have to take over another kingdom?" Eliza asked.
"Because then there would be no game today, and that would be quite boring, wouldn't it?" Alice chuckled as it was her turn to move again. When she saw Eliza's smile fade a bit, she tilted her head. "Is something the matter?"
"Just..." Eliza started, moving one of her pieces. "I've been having these... dreams... but I don't think their dreams... they're memories, I think."
"What sort of dreams?" Alice asked, wondering if like she, Eliza was also still suffering from surrealistic nightmares each night.
"Well... it starts out with me in my bedroom... but then I hear a sound. I leave my room and everything is dark. I see... a light in the distance, and I hear voices. I follow the lights, and I see mother and father. The lights form squares... like a chessboard. Each time I get to a light, I remember something... happy. But to get to the next happy memory, I have to go through the dark... and I see something... bad."
"What do you mean, 'bad?' A bad memory?" Alice asked.
Eliza nodded. "Alice... I think life became very hard after Jack died." She frowned.
Alice stopped, her eyes widening a bit. "Eliza, exactly how many memories have you had? And for how long..?"
"I can't remember... and it's been for a few weeks now... it started with just someone calling my name... they said I must keep progressing forth to win the game." She glanced up. "It's why I was asking why the pieces aren't happy with remaining where they are..."
Alice went around to crouch a bit near Eliza, hugging her close. "It's because some individuals feel they need to take something from others... that's all that satisfies them."
Eliza hugged her back, biting her lip. "At least we're going to see Anna and Olaf tomorrow..."
Alice nodded, having a thought then. "Yes... so am I. Perhaps it will do us all some good to get some fresh air."
"... may I take a nap after our game? I still feel sleepy..." Eliza asked.
"Of course. I'll tell the others to not disturb you." Alice said.
The finished their chess game, Alice walking Eliza up to her bedroom and quietly shutting the door. She closed her eyes for a moment, concerned by her words and what resurfacing memories could be afflicting her. She honestly knew very little of Eliza's life prior to coming to Houndsditch, but she began to realize that Jack wasn't the only one who suffered subsequent to his passing in the lake. She hoped for the rest of that day to pass peacefully, and for the next day to come swiftly, a much needed break for all of them.