Testing Established Bonds
Eliza heaved a sigh when she returned to Arendelle, arriving just outside the palace, not far from the stables. She was about to head inside when she heard shouting in the distance, gasping lightly. She bit her lip, the sound of the guards' voices approaching as she searched for a place to hide. She crouched down, propping the small staff against the stone wall and hugged her satchel to her chest.
"Oh dear... they must be searching for me... I'm going to be in very big trouble..." She whimpered.
"Actually, I think they're looking for me."
Eliza jumped, getting to her feet as she searched for the source of the voice in the low light. "Who's there?!"
"Calm down, I'm not here to hurt anybody! Not surprised those guys are after me, of course Hiccup would go somewhere I'M not wanted." The voice said.
"Hiccup? How do you know him?" Eliza asked.
"I'm a part of his tribe." The individual stepped into the low light, Eliza blinking when she saw it was a young boy, a bit older than she, wearing a Viking helmet. "Astrid said Hiccup and his new girlfriend came to some weird place called 'Arendelle...' I was getting bored and hoped there would be dragons here, or at least some caves... nope! Just a boring castle with some uptight guards... their clothes are weird too."
"Oh..." Eliza blinked. "What is your name?"
"I am the great Gustav Larson, expert dragon rider." He put his hands on his hips.
"My name is Eliza... I am a guest here." She said.
"You have an awful funny way of talking... your accent I mean." Gustav said.
"Well, that's not very nice to say." Eliza crossed her arms.
"Didn't mean anything bad by it... it's just different." Gustav said.
"Oh... well, alright then. Hm... you're probably going to get caught if you stay out here. If you promise to not tell anyone I was out here after dusk, I'll help you inside so the royal militia doesn't place you in the dungeons." Eliza said.
"Sounds good to me... lead the way, I'm starving anyway." Gustav said.
The boy followed Eliza into the castle, the two sneaking into the kitchen area to grab some food. They were heading up the stairs when suddenly, Eliza jumped when her name was called.
"Oh, hey Eliza!" Olaf cried, waddling up to her. "Everyone has to stay inside because there's some kind of intruder here! They found another dragon!"
Gustav gasped then. "What is that thing?!" He pointed at Olaf. "You better leave my dragon alone!"
"Don't be afraid, he's my best friend Olaf." Eliza smiled. "Come, let's get you upstairs before someone finds you-"
"GUSTAV!" Hiccup shouted, storming into the room when he caught sight of the three. He grabbed the boy by his arm, hoisting him up a bit. "Do you have any idea the kind of pandemonium you're causing?! This kingdom is on high alert here! How did you even get here in the first place?"
"Hey Hiccup! I saw how you used one of those crystal ball things, so I snuck into your hut while Ruffnut and Tuffnut were fighting over who had more armpit hair. I just told it to go wherever you were, and I came to this weird place..." Gustav said.
"Oh, great Odin's ghost..." Hiccup groaned, rubbing his forehead. Merida, Anna and Kristoff all hurried into the room then.
"Did you catch the intruder?" Anna asked. "Are they from the Queen's forces?"
"Yes, and no..." Hiccup answered. "Everyone, this is Gustav, a very irresponsible and reckless Viking from my tribe!" Gustav hissed when Hiccup tapped the back of his head with his hand.
"Getting into trouble again, are ye? You're going to get a good beating, laddie!" Merida said, grabbing him by the ear. Though the two were the same age, she was certainly far more mature.
"Eliza, you need to get back to bed." Anna said, going over to the girl. When she noticed she was holding the odd looking staff, Eliza gasped when she inspected it. "What is this? Where did you get it?"
The young girl gulped, scrambling to come up with an excuse. She glanced at Merida smacking Gustav upside the head, the young man glancing over as he rubbed the side of his face. He heard Anna questioning Eliza, biting his lip. Well… she had tried to help him, he thought to himself… he supposed he owed her the favor.
"I gave her that. I found it when exploring caves with my dragon and brought it with me… I thought she would like it more than me, it's not as good as treasure." Gustav said.
Eliza blinked, smiling lightly. "Y- Yes... he gave this to me. I had gotten him something to eat from the kitchen and he gave it to me to say thank you. I really like it, may I have it back, please?" Eliza asked, a hint of worry in her expression; she hoped Anna would believe the story.
"Well, alright..." Anna said, handing her back the staff. "Odd thing to carry around, let alone give to someone..."
"And you're going to sleep in the cold, dank dungeon tonight until ye learn to honor and respect your chief!" Merida shouted at Gustav.
Hiccup sighed, rubbing the sides of his head. "Merida, just... make sure that Fanghook is secured, Toothless was helping calm everything down outside. I'll take care of Gustav."
Merida nodded firmly, shooting Gustav a glare before she joined Kristoff in going back outside. Anna was escorting Eliza upstairs, smiling lightly at Gustav as she helped Olaf up the last step. He gave her a small wave before he was yanked aside by Hiccup.
"Alright, you are going back home and you can help Gobber with his welding." Hiccup said, Gustav glancing back behind him.
"Come on, Hiccup! Can't I stay for a day at least, please?" He asked.
"Absolutely not! Gustav, there is serious business going on here! There is a deranged monster out there and I don't need anyone else here making things more difficult, you're good enough at that as it is at home!" Hiccup exclaimed.
"I'll do anything! Those other guys at home are so boring, I want to DO something!" Gustav said, making Hiccup more and more frustrated.
"Fine. I will let you stay here on one condition. You listen to everything and anything I say, am I clear? If you sneak off or get into trouble even once, I'm giving you the boot." Hiccup said.
"Awesome!" Gustav smiled. "Where do I get to sleep?"
Hiccup smirked. "You, my friend, get to sleep in the stables."
"What?! You're joking!" Gustav exclaimed, throwing his hands up.
"Hey, I could just let Merida throw you in the dungeon if you prefer that." Hiccup smirked.
"Oh, alright..." Gustav groaned, Hiccup walking him out to the stables and locking him in.
"Maximus, keep a good eye on this one, he's a trouble maker." Hiccup said before heading back to the castle.
The white horse saluted Hiccup with his hoof before looking down at Gustav, narrowing his eyes at him before pointing his hoof at him, followed by his own eyes. The young boy sighed, rolling his eyes as he plopped down on a bale of hay. "Man, this stinks..."
Merida and Anna turned when Hiccup came back inside, heaving a sigh. "Well, that was annoying..." He said.
"I swear, that lad is going to get one of m' arrows up his kiester if he doesn't clean the potatoes out of his ears!" Merida sat down in a chair.
"Let's just thank Odin that it wasn't an actual threat. What was Eliza doing up this late, anyway?" Hiccup asked. "She was with him when I spotted him."
"I don't know... maybe she heard the commotion?" Merida suggested.
"She couldn't have from the bedrooms..." Anna said. "Which means she was already out here."
"Oh, I forgot what it was like to be a disobedient kid... am I already old at only twenty?" Hiccup asked.
"Let's just get some rest... we'll ask Eliza more in the morning." Anna said, all heeding her advice as they went to their respective chambers.
Bunny groaned, blinking his eyes open as light peeked in through the opening of the shelter. He wiggled his nose a bit, exhaling deeply as he moved to sit up a bit. He looked around before glancing down at his arm, tilting his head when he noticed that much of his skin had healed, some of the hair growing back. It was still a bit sensitive, but not nearly as painful as the day before. He heard shuffling, glancing over to see Alice keeping herself occupied.
"Alice...?" Bunny said quietly, the young woman turning upon hearing the sound and kneeling down by him.
"Are you alright?" She asked, feeling his forehead and holding his hand for a moment. "You appear much better..."
"Gonna take a lot more to get rid of me." Bunny smirked lightly. "Especially with you taking care of me." Alice smiled lightly, taking a small canteen to hand to Bunny, thanking her lightly as he drank. He then noticed her side was bandaged. "What happened to you?"
"Don't worry, I'm perfectly fine. I just need to rebuild my blood." She smiled lightly. "It would take a lot to be rid of me also."
"I do not want to go through that again, Alice. It hurt too much." Bunny sighed. "Man... I'm in worse shape than I thought."
"It isn't that, Bunny." Alice replied, taking the canteen back when he finished it, placing it in a small trunk. "We're just reckoning with forces we haven't dealt with before. You weren't able to handle something of that nature."
"Yeah..." Bunny closed his eyes for a moment, shaking his head as he watched Alice once he reopened them. "Seems there's a lot of things I haven't been able to handle, lately."
"How do you mean?" Alice asked as she tidied up a few things. When he didn't respond right away, she glanced back. She read his expression as he stared into her eyes, Alice exhaling slowly. "Your mind must still be off from yesterday."
"Alice... I haven't stopped-... the feelings haven't stopped... no matter what I do. It's always on my mind, what could have been... what could still be." Bunny said lowly.
Alice sighed, going back over to kneel by Bunny, taking his hands into hers. "You know that it can't be, Bunny. My heart longs for Jack in this regard."
"Oh, trust me… if it was any other bloke, I wouldn't stand for it. I feel too much for you to just let you go with anybody." Bunny bit his lip. "I'm not holding it against either you… Jack is my best mate, but… I just can't shake this, Alice." He shook his head.
"It's because you have never felt like this before with anyone else." Alice replied. "This feeling has overwhelmed you because it has been your first experience… and you want so badly for those feelings to be reciprocated. But Bunny… I am not the one to properly do so. If I were to do that… we would both end up very hurt… and Jack most of all." She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "There is someone out there worthy of the love you have to offer, Bunny… and able to return it."
Bunny rubbed his forehead, exhaling shakily. He looked down at his arm, staring at it for a moment. "I would burn right now in that mountain... endure that pain... to erase the pain I'm feeling inside. I would wait an eternity… if it meant I could have you." He glanced up at Alice, who frowned deeply. "At least… at least I know I tried the best I could."
"You will do no such thing, Bunnymund." Alice said, her expression becoming serious. "You will not harm yourself or even imagine such an outcome for my sake. I don't like this sort of talk. I care for you too much."
Bunny furrowed his brows, bowing his head a bit. "Alice, I… I want to be able to let you be happy with Jack… I just don't know how."
"You're the guardian of hope." Alice smiled lightly. "Hope for a brighter future."
There was a silence between them for a few moments, before Bunny looked up at her again. "It won't be easy." He started. "But… if you could… if you could do one thing for me… it would be enough for me to go on… to accept that things are what they are."
Alice tilted her head curiously. "What did you have in mind?"
Bunny took a deep breath, his turn to give her hands a gentle squeeze as his eyes bore into hers, silently pleading. "… kiss me."
Alice's eyes widened a bit, blinking in surprise. "I beg your pardon?"
Bunny leaned forward a bit, biting his lip for a moment. "Please, Alice…" He spoke barely above a whisper, and Alice could hear the aching in his voice. "Let me at least… know what it feels like…"
Alice furrowed her brows deeply, unable to escape his gaze. "Bunny, I... I can't-"
"I'll take any heat that comes from this. I know I wouldn't have to ask if guilt wasn't an issue." Bunny said, his voice a bit husky now as he continued to lean forward.
Alice's eyes crossed a bit as her eyelids fell at half mast, her breathing quickening as she lowered all defenses. She allowed Bunny to close the space between them, but tried to maintain some control. It was very rare that Alice allowed herself to be vulnerable to anyone, but she made one exception for someone she held close to her heart. She let Bunny gently pull her up next to him, and was actually surprised that his lips were not rough and stubbly... they were soft and silky, Alice having to admit to herself that for someone with hair covering most of their body, this felt quite nice. Despite her efforts, she soon became lost in the kiss as her arms slowly moved to hold him, her fingers lacing delicately through his fur. Bunny's arms coiled around her, one arm wrapped around her lower back to hold her steady and the other threading through her hair. Bunny growled lowly, the sound muffled as he effortlessly lifted Alice about an inch off where she was seated to rest her down on the other side, his hands now massaging her sides in circular motions as one of Alice's hands moved to his chest, her hand gently clenching and releasing the heavier fur there. Things had become far more heated than either of them had expected, the romantic tension between them progressing quickly. As long as she didn't stop him, Bunny did not hesitate to deepen the kiss, taking everything that was being so graciously given to him. The only thing that broke the kiss was when they finally stopped for air, their breathing heavy as they found it difficult to tear away from the other's stare.
It was then that reality began to seep in for Alice, and she finally willed herself to look away as she realized in that moment, how far she had allowed this to go in a manner of short minutes.
Jack snickered when he heard Pitch growl with frustration in the distance, continuing to help Vanellope assemble some form of a kart that they had started the night before. It was nearly afternoon, heading back to the shelter to see if there was any change in Bunny's condition. He quietly entered the shelter, about to approach when he saw in the low light, Alice was sitting quite close to him, having sat up after their heated moment. Jack took a step back, furrowing his brows in shock and trying to avoid being seen.
"Bunny..." Alice whispered as he leaned back down, planting kisses on her face. "... I can't do this... I can't do this to him." She closed her eyes, the soft sighs escaping her lips betraying her conscience. "... Bunny, please..."
Jack staggered a bit away from the shelter, running one hand through his hair before crouching down. He let his head hang, swearing under his breath as he exhaled sharply, tossing his staff aside carelessly as he rested his hands on the back of his neck. He shut his eyes tightly for several moments, slowly rising to his feet as he placed his hands into his hoodie's pocket, kicking at the dirt lightly. He glanced up, biting his lip as his mind became restless.
Meanwhile, Ralph frowned lightly as he approached where Elsa was still cooped up, sighing lightly when he saw she still had the small shelter she and Pitch had previously been sharing still encased in ice. He approached cautiously, bending down a bit to try to peer through the thick layer of ice.
"Elsa?" Ralph called out, biting his lip a bit when he received no reply. "Elsa, it's me, uh, Ralph..." He said, tapping lightly on the ice with a finger. His eyes widened when it began to crack then, reeling back as the ice crumbled and created a pile of chunks on the ground. He held his hands to his chest, gulping a bit when Elsa emerged out of surprise. "Oh man, I am so sorry! Ugh, I should know by now that I break anything I touch! I only tapped it, I swear..." Ralph groaned. "I am such an idiot..." Elsa raised her brows as Ralph continued with his string of apologies. She had felt miserable after the whole ordeal with Pitch, but for some reason, Ralph's charade brought a smile to her face as she began to giggle lightly. Ralph stopped, blinking at her in reaction. "Wait a second... you're not angry?"
"Of course not..." Elsa touched her mouth lightly with her fingertips as she giggled. "It was just an accident... I can always make more ice."
Ralph's expression slowly melted into a smile, chuckling nervously as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, that's... that's great, I mean... of course you can make more ice, it's just that um... you know... people usually get angry... and yell and... tell me to get lost when I'm around because I... wreck everything." Ralph sighed, clearing his throat.
Elsa frowned lightly at this, approaching Ralph. "Neither of us can help who we are, Ralph. People were afraid of me when they first learned about my powers... but then I was able to use them to help my people. It's not necessarily what our gifts are that can be negative... it's how we use them."
"Yeah... I remember when you told me that. I still don't know how anyone could be afraid of you or hate you, you're really be-..." Ralph caught himself at the last second, his spine stiffening. "U- Um-..." He coughed lightly into his hand as he scrambled for something to say. "... y- you're really... beyond awesome! Y- Yeah, if there was a word better than awesome you would... you would be that, yeah." Ralph's face was as red as a cherry now, shifting on his feet uncomfortably.
Elsa smiled nervously as well, hugging her arms a bit. "Thank you." She thought Ralph was awkwardly charming, appreciating the kindness of his intent. She realized that, at least in this regard- that he was quite harmless, but also very inexperienced with the real world. Deep down, a growing concern of where his heart would be led came to a surfacing realization; if his heart were to be broken, she did not want to be the one responsible. "So... where is Vanellope this morning?" She asked, deciding it was best to change the subject.
"Oh, um... last I saw, she was drawing pictures on Pitch's face with black colored frosting... he was sleeping on a tree. I saw him chasing her around later on, but that kid is faster than I think even she realizes. They must have made up though, because he's helping her build a kart." Ralph chuckled lightly. "She's one heck of a kid... she told me she was keeping Pitch 'out of trouble.'"
Elsa sighed, smiling sadly. She was actually surprised that Pitch was doing anything for Vanellope, especially after the way the two had quarreled in the recent past. "I'm glad he's being nice to her... somewhat." She said.
Before either of them could say anything, they heard the sound of an engine roaring, Elsa jumping and holding her heart as she was unfamiliar with the sound. Vanellope drove up to them, beaming as a vehicle made from various scrap metal, some brush and branches from the forest accenting it, and four different tires of relatively similar size but each a different style, was presented to them. Vanellope glitched out of the gigantic vehicle with what was possibly the largest smile in her entire existence.
"Ralph look, look, look! It's got a sunroof up there and a back hatch, and it's so big inside! My old kart could fit in there! O- Oh and also, it's got a secret compartment on the floor and a HUGE engine in the front! It runs on nightmare fuel and it goes up to one hundred nightmare power!" Vanellope exclaimed.
Elsa smiled, not understanding anything the child was talking about, but it warmed her heart to see her happy. She glanced over at Pitch, leaning up against a tree and wiping a brow, heaving a sigh from exhaustion. He looked up at her when she approached, her expression becoming a bit uneasy. She had certainly not forgotten about the conflict from the prior evening, sighing lightly as Pitch straightened up a bit.
"My Nightmares most likely traveled through all time and space to find the parts to assemble this vehicular monstrosity... I labored the entire night, I didn't get an ounce of rest..." He exhaled deeply, looking at Elsa as she frowned lightly. "I suppose I deserve it... my actions on the battlefield were not entirely honorable." He stood to his full height then, taking a step closer to envelop her hands in his. "You're right, Elsa... you can never replace Lady. Do you know why that is?"
Elsa exhaled sharply. "Because I'm not divine like she is."
"Incorrect." Pitch replied. "You are most certainly divine to me, Elsa... but the love that Lady and I shared was unique, it was special for us. And the love I share with you is also unique... and special between you and I. If I were to lose you, moon forbid it... not one in the universe could replace you. Even if I were to find another to give my heart to... a part of me would always grieve for you, just as a part of me shall always grieve for Lady."
Elsa nodded slowly, taking in his words. "I can understand that." She looked up at him. "Can you explain one thing to me, then?"
"Of course." Pitch replied, giving Elsa's hands a gentle squeeze.
"... what is your fixation with the Queen?" Elsa asked.
Pitch did not expect this to be her inquiry, closing his eyes for a moment as he exhaled slowly. He bowed his head for a moment, gathering his thoughts before answering.
"She isn't an open book... someone that can be easily manipulated, as it was what I had done to others in the past. No, she is the one who attempted to manipulate me... and she was so close to doing so, she is still able to sway me with very little effort. It both fascinates and frightens me, Elsa... how my heart is so easily drawn back into the darkness. A part of me wants to resist it for all it's worth, while a small fragment wants to experience it, venture into the unpredictable and dangerous nature she embodies." He furrowed his brows deeply when Elsa became visibly upset, lifting her chin gently. "But it is not what I truly want. It is always you who brings me back, your light... like the radiant sun drawing me out of the depths of the ocean, allowing me to breathe once more. Above all things Elsa, I shall now and forevermore choose you."
Elsa stared at him for a few moments, blinking the collecting moisture out of their eyes. "There shouldn't even be a choice to begin with." She said barely above a whisper.
Pitch extended his hand to tuck a strand of Elsa's hair behind her ear. "For many centuries I have known nothing but how to do the wrong thing; to spread darkness, cause harm to others, to care for no one in this universe... I did nothing but fulfill my own selfish desires. I am trying to be a whole person again... to be but a fraction of the man I once was. I will not forgive myself for the pain I cause you in this time... but I ask that you... you guide me. Help me to do the right thing, do not allow me to fall again. As long as you allow me, I will be your humble servant."
Elsa surprised Pitch when she took a step forward, embracing him lightly. "I'm not going to ask you to be a humble servant... I just want you to be faithful to me..."
Pitch closed his eyes gently, returning her embrace as he pet her hair. As Ralph was listening to Vanellope's rambling and watching her jump around excitedly, he saw Elsa and Pitch out of the corner of his eyes. His gaze gravitated to them, frowning slightly as he felt his heart sink. His concentration was broken when he was pelted with something, groaning as he rubbed his head. He turned to see Vanellope grimacing at him, hands on her hips as she tapped her foot.
"Excuse me, Earth to stinkbrain! You're not paying attention!" Vanellope exclaimed.
"Oh, uh… sorry, I got distracted." Ralph replied apologetically.
"Yeah, I can see that…" Vanellope rolled her eyes, walking back up to him. "You know, if you really like her, just tell her."
Ralph nearly choked, glancing from the other two to Vanellope. "Are you crazy?! She would probably reject me faster than a cabinet would a dented quarter and Pitch would stop at nothing to give me a 'game over!'"
Vanellope gave him a flat look. "Look pal, if you're not going to nab the cookies out of the jar, then don't cry and mope about it. Go for it or don't, it's up to you."
Ralph glanced over at the couple as they spoke quietly to each other, sighing longingly.
Alice finally emerged from the shelter, exhaling sharply as she shook her head for a moment. After quickly scanning the area, she noticed Jack sitting not far away with his back facing her, making ice patterns on the ground. She took in a deep breath, trying to act natural as she approached him. When he heard nearing footsteps behind him, he glanced over his shoulder to see Alice, forcing a smile.
"Hey… feeling okay?" He asked.
"Quite well, thank you…" Alice replied.
Jack looked past her for a moment, nodding his head towards the shelter. "Anything going on with Bunny?"
Alice cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Y- Yes… he's actually awake… I came out here to fetch you."
Jack nodded, raising a sarcastic brow. "Okay. He and I could use some quality buddy time; though, I can't say he'll enjoy the time he spends with me as much as he did with you just now." When Alice tensed up, avoiding his gaze, his expression became serious, taking in a deep breath when Alice closed her eyes. "I know you love him, Alice."
"… I love you more." Alice replied quietly, opening her eyes to look at him sorrowfully. "I'm sorry. I meant no harm to you… I made it very clear who I desire to be partnered with."
Jack nodded slowly, taking one of her hands to lightly kiss the top of it. His eyes flickered up to her when he heard the familiar sound of a shudder escape her lips. He had no idea why, perhaps it was a newly discovered fetish of hers that she became aroused by his cold touch, but he wasn't going to question it.
"Well… you may want to stay clear of us for a while…" Jack smiled sarcastically, having a few things to say to Bunny. "… and not because we're going to be all 'lovey dovey.'"
Alice furrowed her brows a bit, pinching the bridge of her nose as Jack walked away. "He may very well need Emily to resurrect him when Jack is through with him…" She said to herself.