A/N: I felt inspired to do a fic based on that one scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast after Beast saves Belle from the wolves. This is also for "072 Fixed" from the 100 fanart challenge (see 100FanArt on DA). A little fluffier than what I usually write, but I wanted to do something lighter in tone with friendship stuff.
If you find the dialogue too on-the-nose or Jillian too flat as a character, advice is appreciated as to how to tweak things. :)
Okay, Jillian, the young woman said to herself, eyeing the little wooden person sitting on her basement couch. You have a talking dummy, and you just escaped from zombies. Any time you want to wake up is fine with me.
She sat on a folding chair on the other side of the rec room. She couldn't think of anywhere else to take Slappy until her family came home - assuming she could convince them the little nuisance was alive. Slappy had already proven that he could play possum.
At least Harrison had texted he was on his way over, she tried to console herself. She hadn't told him about Slappy yet - how could you explain that in a few texts? - but it was his fault she was in this situation to begin with.
"C'mon," Slappy rasped in a tinny sort of voice at his arm. "C'mooon." Although the corners of his mouth curled upward, Slappy's expression managed to look agitated as he glared at his right wrist, struggling to twist the screw back inside with just his fingers. His dangling hand flopped about as if it had gone numb.
She hugged her knees, studying the puppet, an unexpected specter from her past. He looked just as he had when Jillian's best friend, Harrison Cohen, had found him in a trash can after a ventriloquist show, way back in the sixth grade. His painted brown hair had been scraped in several places, and his smiling face had scratches. His jaw had been damaged, and his checkered sports jacket had been frayed and missed some of the large white buttons. After their misadventure with those Halloween decorations, his black shoes had been splattered with mud, and his baggy gray slacks now had several grass stains.
She breathed in slowly, still trying to process it all. Only that morning she had been paid by Harrison's parents to help clean their house to get ready for their realtor to sell it. Jillian had rummaged through the boxes for their upcoming yard sale, and she discovered the forgotten dummy. When they had been twelve, Harrison had asked Jillian's father to fix him, but Dad had been too busy with a coffee table at the time. Harrison took Slappy to his house and placed him on a shelf, but the longer Dad worked on his table, the less Harrison had held out hope of starting his own ventriloquist act. In the end, he moved onto other hobbies, and neither he or Jillian spared a second thought about the doll - until the Cohens had to clear out the junk in their basement.
Like a fool, Jillian had pulled out a piece of paper from Slappy's frayed jacket - and for the strangest reason, she had felt compelled to read them out loud. Then, as the sun set and Harrison had gone with his mother to the store, Pinocchio's creepy twin had grabbed Jillian's wrist, thanking her for waking him up.
She shuddered at the memory - his grip had been inviolable, and it had taken quick thinking on her part to make him loosen those indestructible fingers. Then she had kicked him across the room at the first opportunity and sped out of the house without her cell, charging blindly down the street without a thought as to where she headed. She had just wanted to escape a talking dummy.
...So, why had she brought him back to her house? Why didn't she just throw that disturbing doll across her dad's table saw in the next room and be rid of him for good?
Better question, why didn't he disappear when she opened her eyes?
Wake up now, she told herself again, digging her thumbnail into her white wrist and held it against the pain even when the other side of her arm began to feel odd.
Slappy still fiddled with his screw. And she still sat in her basement. Just a few feet from a living puppet.
And yet - she swallowed - Slappy hadn't been the only living inanimate thing she had encountered that evening.
She uncurled her legs - one of which had started to fall asleep - and she winced against the pain as she lurched her way to the window. Slappy raised her head as she passed, and she refused to meet his staring blue eyes. She gripped the concrete frame of the small window and pulled herself up as best as she could, peering into the darkness. She saw only grass and the fence, illuminated by the orange street lamp in front of her house and filled with looming shadows where its rays could not reach.
Aside from the breeze rustling the green, everything appeared still - but this was only one tiny view. Anything could be lurking out there, watching her from an unseen spot.
She lowered her head quickly, imagining great big hungry eyes waiting for an opportunity to attack. "Will any more of those things come?" she croaked, unable to turn to the puppet near her.
"Better hope not," Slappy replied with a throaty growl.
Another tremor passed through her tall, thin frame, shaking her like a leaf. She slowly turned and leaned against the concrete wall, hugging herself. She'd take a hundred dummies over what was out there.
In her blind panic to escape Slappy, she had somehow retained enough sense left to try the Cohens' next-door neighbors for help. The Perkins had a large yard which they decorated as a graveyard, complete with fake zombies rising from the earth or standing with their arms outstretched. Jillian had ran across the lawn and pummeled the door with her fists - pressed the doorbell so many times - but they had not been home. She had ran back through the graveyard, trying for the next house.
At least, until a fake arm had grabbed her leg, sending her right into the dirt.
Then everything had started moving - and converging toward her like wolves after a lamb.
She had tried to run, but another hand had grabbed her. The zombie horde had surrounded her.
Jillian pressed her hands against her temples and crossed back to her chair but did not sit. She could still feel the plastic fingers - and hear the demanding, angry grunting - and smell the earth beneath her as she clawed the wet dirt in her attempts to regain her feet - she still had some of the black specks beneath her nails, she realized. She shoved her hands into her dirty jeans. Her heartbeat spiked again, as if she were back in those zombie's clutches.
I could have died, she thought, and her breath quickened. Those zombies would have ended her for sure.
But then he appeared.
Jillian quietly turned her head, peering at her damaged companion on the couch. An impossible thing - and he had kept her alive.
Just when she thought one zombie would go for her jugular, her homemade attacker had been knocked away by one of the poles from the Perkins' lawn decoration. And Slappy used his makeshift weapon to plow away the next monster. And another. He might have been small, but he had herculean strength. He had cleared an opening for Jillian to escape, but not without suffering a few blows himself.
Once free from the horde, she, in something resembling gratitude (or maybe just shock), had obeyed his command to get them somewhere safe. Jillian had regained her senses and had sprinted with him in her arms back to her house down the street. And they had carefully holed themselves inside the basement - for now.
He actually saved me. Why? she wondered warily. Why had he acted so menacing when he started talking to her? Was he playing a game? What impression had she made on him for him to endanger himself to help her? After she had placed him on the couch, he had barely said two words to her aside from telling her to be quiet so that he could think.
Slappy continued to fiddle with his wrist, but he had other injuries, if the odd shapes beneath his clothes gave any indication. He seemed capable of feeling pain from the way he grunted. Just looking at his dangling wrist made her own feel funny.
Maybe there's something I can do about that - since he helped me. She turned slowly and went quietly to the closed door which separated the rec room from Dad's workshop. She grabbed her father's flat head and Phillips-head from the collection on the wall, then returned to her rescuer.
Slappy raised his head as she approached him, staring hard at her. She couldn't begin to guess what thoughts hid behind those large blue eyes.
"Here," she said gently, "let me help. My dad and I used to do some woodwork projects together."
Slappy narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "What's the catch?"
"Just trying to be helpful," she replied. She reached for his hand, and after a calculating sweep of his eyes, he allowed her to take it. He gazed warily at the screwdriver in her hand, and a squeamish unease took over his visage, like a kid dreading a vaccine shot.
Jillian carefully examined his joint and got it properly aligned. She selected the Philips and aimed it into the screw. However, at the last moment he jerked his arm, and the screwdriver slipped and punctured his painted hand instead.
He yanked back. "That hurt, you idiot!" he snarled, cradling his damaged appendage.
Jillian glared. "If you'd hold still, it wouldn't hurt as much!" she retorted, matching his tone barb for barb.
He wiggled away from her, but he jabbed a harsh finger at her. "If you hadn't run into that fake graveyard, this wouldn't've happened," he accused.
Jillian rose to her feet, towering at her full height over him. "If you didn't scare me like a jerk, I wouldn't have ran into it," she shot back.
His eyes narrowed, and he let out an unrepentant scoff. "You need to grow a backbone, girl."
"And you need to learn someone manners, puppet."
Slappy barked a hoarse laugh. "I'm a nice guy - when someone's worth my time."
Jerk! Jillian wanted to snap back, but she reminded herself that she had just turned eighteen and had better things to do than getting into a name-calling war with a doll. She held her knuckles against her waist. "Do you want my help or not?" she asked testily.
Slappy glowered at her, but after a moment of considering it, he extended his arm again. "Don't mess up," he warned.
"I didn't plan on it," she said, dropping to one knee. What an ingrate! she fumed as she realigned the screw again and spun the tool. Served her right for trying to be nice to a rude creep. She could remember some of the stupid routine he had done with Jimmy O'James, and his behavior seemed to be the same both on and off the stage.
But - and she took a glimpse at his scrunched-up face - he had gotten this damage helping her. It was his fault she had ran into those zombies, yes, but he could have left her to fend for herself. Maybe he had a decent bone - or screw - somewhere in his tiny body.
"By the way," she said, "thank you for saving me."
He opened one eye. "Well, if real zombies had tried to eat your brains, they'd starve."
Jillian gave a brief shake of her head. Had anyone taught him basic decency? Yet now didn't seem like the best time to indulge in an etiquette lesson. As the screw dug deeper into its once snug hole, she could tell it wouldn't hold for long, but if Dad came home soon, she could ask for his advice.
As she gave the screwdriver a final spin, she asked, "How did those things come alive?"
Slappy opened the other eye. "My brothers."
Her eyebrows shot up. "There's more of you running around?"
"If you can call it that," he snorted, flexing his arm. After a satisfied nod at her handiwork, his smile broadened slightly. "I'm the cute one."
"I bet you are," she snorted, not unkindly. She then had a vivid image of several puppets resembling Slappy chanting horrible spells around a bubbling cauldron. "Your brothers made those things come alive?"
"I'm sure of it," he replied darkly. "Wood's had it out for me for ages, and Wally's just a mad scientist with a spell book. They've pulled this stupid stunt before, but I didn't think they'd find me so quickly."
"Wood and Wally," she repeated, furrowing her brow. The names sounded ridiculous, even cutesy, but clearly their skills were nothing to laugh at. She could still hear those homemade zombies stalking toward her, faster than anything seen in movies, grunting and hissing as they tried to seize her. She cringed at the memory, glad that Slappy had been on her side during that ordeal. "They don't sound much like Glinda, huh?" she said sympathetically.
"They make the Wicked Witch look like a pussycat," he replied, leaning back against the couch. "They're both jealous of me."
"Don't insult me," he replied. He swept a hand over himself. "Who wouldn't want to be all this? If I weren't myself, I'd die of envy! Haha! Adonis wishes he could have half my looks!" His body, although still broken, seemed to grow more animated as he made his jokes - which probably weren't entirely jokes.
She covered the smile which snuck onto her lips. "What about your parents?" she asked. "Who built you?"
His comedic energy diminished slightly. "The toy maker died a long time ago," he said hoarsely. "But I was his best invention. Wood and Wally can't hold a candle to me if the playing field was even. That's why they cheat - but I can cheat just as bad!" he declared.
Jillian nodded, but her heart sank at this new information. Two more living dummies in the world. And they were both evil. And almost got her killed trying to attack the puppet she now had in her basement.
A cold frost crept down her spine. Would the brothers try to attack again? Would they come after her for helping Slappy if they were really that wicked? Her family? Should she fix Slappy and send him on his way?
No. She couldn't knowingly send a living creature to its doom. But what could a human with no magic do against dummies casting dark spells?
She glanced at his angry expression - not just angry, but bitter in a way only somebody who had experienced familial betrayal could know. And Jillian knew something about betrayal.
She pushed herself out of the kneeling position to give relief to her leg and sat beside him on the couch. "I know what that's like - having a jerky family, I mean," she said softly. "My sisters have done all sorts of awful things to me. They once put shaving cream in a pie I used for my old clown act. Ruined the birthday party entirely and got me in trouble." She exhaled at the horrible memory. Katie and Amanda had claimed they never did it, but that'd been a bald-faced lie. That hadn't even been the worst thing they had done, but it stood out in her memory since they had managed to do that brand of cruelty in the first grade.
Slappy met her gaze. "Wood is a terror," he replied, "and Wally tried to siphon out my soul to raise our toy maker from the dead."
She cringed. "Oh, yuck!"
The dummy nodded. "And they act like I'm the one who don't deserve life." He scoffed.
Jillian stared, lost for words. Poor guy, she thought. If that's his family, no wonder he has such bad social skills.
Then the puppet looked at her. "Did you say you have a clown act?" he snorted.
"Ages ago," she replied, gesturing over her shoulder. Those failed birthday parties had sucked the joy right out of her attempts at making money. "Though sometimes I feel like I want to become Harley Quinn and teach the twins a lesson. My best friend and I worked hard on our act."
"Did you make children cry in your costume?" he tittered.
Sure, they had cried, but it hadn't been from her appearance. "No. Our clown act just stunk."
He tapped his chin. She could see gears working behind his eyes as he looked her up and down, contemplative. Then he seemed to reach some silent decision because his raspy voice changed slightly. "I could've made it a real scream for you," he said. "I just love slapstick. I think it takes a real artist to appreciate the humor in pain."
"Yeah," she agreed, and she pointed to Dad's VHS collection by the TV. "I grew up watching The Three Stooges. I probably couldn't be as funny as them, but I was kinda inspired by them to be a clown. That, and just liking the circus."
He smirked. "You could pass for a decent Moe," he snickered. "You have the mug for it, ya chowderhead."
She only smiled in response and privately tried to get a read on him. Was he mentally an adult or a child? Clearly, she couldn't judge him strictly on human behavior, but he seemed juvenile with his jokes, yet his eyes had an intelligent look which she didn't see in kids. Could a dummy's mind develop, or did they emotionally plateau?
As she mused over the psychological aspects of living dolls, Slappy raised a sleeve and exposed a wobbly elbow. "Do this one next," he ordered.
She obliged, and besides a brief flinch, he stayed perfectly still for her. He watched her face rather than her hands, as if trying to analyze her in turn. "So, you're a carpenter's daughter then?"
"I guess it's not untrue," Jillian replied. Although her dad was an accountant by trade, he had learned a lot about carpentry way back in the Boy Scouts, and he had installed a table saw in their basement. "We made a doll house together once and a few stuff for Mother's Day."
Slappy nodded, and his grin seemed a little self-satisfied. "Lucky me. At least you're good for something besides decoration."
"You sure know how to get on people's good sides," she cracked. "How could Jimmy O'James throw you away?" But as soon as she said it, she felt a dawning of cold realization - had Jimmy thrown out Slappy fully knowing he was alive? Had that been an attempted murder? Had that been why Slappy punched him, in self-defense?
Slappy raised an eyebrow, studying her. "You know Jimmy?"
"Not personally," she admitted, changing her tone. "He left town years ago." Harrison and she had biked out to his house about a week after Slappy has been thrown away because Harrison had wanted to see if he had an extra dummy in better condition than Slappy. The ventriloquist had packed up without a word to his neighbors.
Slappy's face grew serious. "What year is this?"
She told him.
His adjustable eyebrows knitted together. "Six years," he muttered. "I've been asleep for six years."
Jillian paused at that, and she felt a little sorry for him. He must feel like a coma patient waking up to discover how much he had missed. Poor guy. Jillian finished his elbow and gave him a small pat. "Well, if you want me to catch you up on stuff, just ask," she offered.
Slappy didn't seem hear her. "How old?" he murmured. "How old would she be…"
Slappy's head snapped up, and he glared as if she had been eavesdropping on a private conversation. "None of your business." He jerked his sleeve back down to his wrist.
She leaned back, scowling at first, but then she asked, "What are you gonna do now?"
"Fix an old mistake," he replied. He folded his arms, looking toward the tiny basement windows. "My brothers probably cast a location spell that would activate if I were awake. If they're not in town now, they will be. We have to keep on the move."
Jillian held up her hands. "Who's 'we'?"
He frowned. "Don't be a chicken," he chided. "I saved your neck. You can save mine."
She looked away. Gratitude only went so far. "What can I do?" she asked evasively.
"Whatever I tell you," he replied. "Grow a backbone, Jillian."
"I prefer to have the will to live," she said dryly.
"You don't have much of that if you aren't going to help." He jabbed her knee. "You let me pull the strings, kid, and we'll both survive this. Once you fix me up, we gotta leave this place before anything else sneaks up on us." He gestured at the window.
Jillian's head snapped up, expecting to see some other monster staring back at them, but only a black square met her. She let out a long breath, instinctively reaching for her phone - and then she remembered her recent text conversation. "My friend, Harrison, is coming over in a few minutes," she told him. "You can trust him."
Slappy raised an eyebrow. "How do you know he's coming?"
"Text," she replied - then remembered he had been asleep for several years. "It's this thing you can do with your phones, where you can write to people."
He sat up. "Did you tell him about me?!" he demanded.
"Of course not," she glared. "He'd never believe me. But if you want help, I can't do it by myself. We need Harrison too."
The toy glowered. "You think so?" he sneered childishly, but his voice had a slight hesitance.
She nodded. "Harrison believes in odd stuff like Bigfoot, so he won't faint or anything like that. And he won't try to expose you either," she added. "He believes that if Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster were ever proven to exist beyond a doubt, then scientists shouldn't exploit them. And you're a lot more sapient than those creatures."
"I'm a lot more sapient than you humans," he threw back, but his eyes shifted side to side in thought. Then he nodded reluctantly. "Fine. I'll trust him. For now," he said with a growl. Then he squinted his eyes at her. "And don't you get any ideas about trying to expose me either, Jillian."
She drew an X over her heart. "Trust me. When this is all over, I'm going to pretend it's just been a dream."
"Wonderful." Then the glare eased from his face. He lifted his ankle with his hands. "Do my leg next, will ya?"
She nodded. "Sure."
He pulled back the cuffs of his baggy slacks, revealing a slightly splintered unpainted leg. Jillian got to work. Some weak glue could hold the leg until Dad could look at it, and his joints needed tightening as well. Jillian used a feather touch, checking his face for his response. He watched her carefully, wincing at times, but his gaze remained otherwise steady on her.
Fun fact about the Slappy canon - In the books where Jimmy O'James appears, Slappy never once calls him "slave." That goes with the idea that Slappy is basically a schoolyard bully who sees preteens as easy targets, but he views adults (i.e. people who can do actual damage) as threats and changes his tactics. So, if you think Slappy deciding to rethink his approach to dealing with Jillian, a legal adult, instead of calling her "slave" is OOC, just know that there is some canon precedent.
Wally's just a mad scientist with a spell book - This is a characterization I use for Wally in a HorrorLand fic which may or may not be posted someday. In any case, while Slappy's Nightmare is mostly one long dream sequence, Jimmy gets a mysterious package with a dummy in the final chapter after Slappy wakes up, so I exercise some artistic license with what Wally would be like in the real world. Since he presumably was around when the toy maker was alive (back before Stine retcon the back story for the Slappy's World series), I kinda imagine him as being the toy maker's assistant who applies his (odd) understanding of the scientific method to learning how to apply magic.