This was my original entry for "056 Breakfast" of the 100 fanart challenge (see FanArt100 on DA) which I took down and replaced by "Breakfast in HorrorLand." This is another fic involving a portrayal of Slappy which is closer to the canon. (If you don't like the canon Slappy, why are you reading this fic?)
The darkness outside the basement window gave way to the gray of morning twilight, but Jillian could tell it would be an overcast day. She didn't mind that so much—if it had been a bright, cheery morning that beckoned the adventurous outside, she might've broken down sobbing to know she could never enjoy the outdoors again.
Not that these new eyes would sob for her.
She laid on her side atop the couch seat, fully clothed in yesterday's attire, tiny hands tucked under her cheek. The couch belonged to her friend, Harrison — or rather his parents. Jillian's own furniture had disappeared with the rest of her residence.
She supposed she should try to sleep, but her heart weighed too heavily inside her — not for her own plight. She had consented to this odd life ahead of her. But although she had made this bed and had chosen to lie in it, sleep could only be a stranger when her mind churned over the same bleak questions: where was her family? Were they suffering? Could she find them again?
Had Mary-Ellen killed them?
Her companion murmured something in his sleep, and he shifted closer, already buried in her black hair. His skinny arm twitched against her, wrapped around her torso like a latch. Jillian felt a momentary temptation to lift it off her and slip away from his possessive embrace, but she merely closed her eyes, reminding herself she needed him.
Yesterday, he was a horror, she thought sardonically. Now, he's my husband.
And as long as the two immortals shall live.
But Slappy had promised to deliver her family — their family, as he had put it. He might have been proud to be a villain, but he had a cunning mind, too. He knew his in-laws would be willing to take him in after he rescued them from an ill fate, and he needed a permanent home where no one would try to put him to sleep all the time. Especially a home where he could build his children.
If he could save her sisters and parents from Mary-Ellen, Jillian had resolved to be the doting mother her new husband wanted her to be. If her family came back safe, she might even let herself love him.
Soft footsteps crossed above them on the first floor. Harrison was up. And in the kitchen from the sounds of it.
Jillian raised her head, imagining her large friend. He probably slipped on jeans, but he'd be wearing the shirt he slept in since it was Saturday. His dark eyes would be half-closed at this early hour — or maybe they would be wide and somber, knowing his best friend lay in the arms of a monster. His dark hair would be messy, but he wouldn't think of combing it until he fixed himself breakfast. Harrison ate even when upset.
Just as she guessed, within minutes, a warm aroma wafted from above. Pancakes by the smell of it.
Breakfast, she thought dully as she lowered herself again, and her tired mind rolled the word around her freshly emptied head.
"Break my fast." If I don't have a stomach, will I only fast?
One hand slid to her wooden belly, flat like the rest of her doll torso. Her fingers brushed against Slappy's sleeve — she pulled back at first, but then she forced herself to grip the top of his hand. As if she had always wanted him to be her lover.
To save her family, she couldn't think like a human. She had to think like Slappy's wife.
Graduation waited a mere three weeks away, and at the moment the eighteen-year-old seniors in Jillian's Home Ec class only had to worry about the array of cakes they had to decorate with little frosted roses as Mrs. Halik had shown them. So, as the teens gossiped and chattered, it had been hard to overlook Carol Zahner, who seemed worlds away at Jillian's station.
She hadn't wanted to pry, even though Carol's vacant stares meant Jillian had done the bulk of the work. Jillian had heard that Carol's parents had started filing for a divorce, and it had fallen onto Carol to babysit her seven younger siblings while her folks saw their respective lawyers.
Still, as the class dismissed, Jillian sided up to the blonde girl as they headed toward their lockers to prepare for their daily departure.
"Hey, you okay?"
Carol's brown eyes seemed close to watering, but she nodded. "Yeah, just allergies."
Jillian pretended to buy that excuse. "Hey, I was thinking," she said. "Don't some of your brothers go to school with my sisters?"
She smiled gently. "If you want, maybe the next time you gotta babysit, you can bring the kids to my house. We got three T.V.'s, so they won't fight over which channel to watch."
Carol lowered her eyes. "I don't know if we'd be allowed," she said quietly.
Jillian shrugged easily. "Hey, if your folks let you, just let me know."
Carol spun in her locker combination wordlessly. Jillian started to say goodbye, but then Carol turned to her.
"How much do you love your family?" she asked abruptly. "As a big sister."
Jillian halted at the odd question—she didn't associate with Carol much, but at the same time she didn't want to make her feel awkward.
"I'd do anything for Katie and Amanda," she said truthfully.
Carol nodded. "And if someone was bullying them, like a kid at school or a neighbor, what would you do?"
Jillian gave a strained smile — unfortunately, she had been in a position where she had discovered the kind of torment her younger sisters had suffered under cruel little hands, right under her own nose. However, Carol wouldn't believe her even if she did want to divulge that story.
"If somebody hurt my sisters," she said, "they'd better leave town before I caught them."
Carol slung her backpack onto her shoulders. "Then you understand."
Jillian raised an eyebrow. "Has some kid been picking on your siblings?"
Her schoolmate grimaced. "Something like that. I just don't know how to handle it. Mom and Dad won't listen," she whispered.
Jillian touched her arm, a gesture she usually didn't do for casual acquaintances, but she could sense Carol needed a morale boost.
"A big sister's gotta do what a big sister's gotta do."
Carol smiled weakly and left for the exit while Jillian headed to collect her things from her own locker. However, she had barely opened the metal door when Harrison strode up, grabbing her elbow.
"You weren't in study hall today," he hissed softly, his dark eyes bulging.
Jillian raised an eyebrow at his agitated face. "Did I need to be?"
Harrison usually sauntered through the halls, chill as a pint of rocky road, but he now seemed close to melting into a frantic puddle.
"I've been waiting all day to talk to you!" he returned, checking over his shoulder as if afraid someone would hear him. "We gotta go. Now." He tugged her.
Jillian grabbed for her books. "Hang on, Harris— "
"No, now." His large face had an olive complexion from the yard work he did after school for his dad's company, but now it looked ashen. "You'll know why."
Once her backpack was properly zipped, she followed him to his car, mounting her bike onto the latches on the roof. He shushed any attempt at questioning, and that disturbed Jillian more than anything he could have said.
He drove her downtown and parked his car outside a shop. He looked straight forward, clenching the steering wheel.
"Jillian," he said softly, "I didn't know how to tell you this. So, I'm showing it to you instead."
She looked out the passenger window. The store had a sign advertising old records and CD's at bargain prices for collectors. Nothing nefarious about The Who that she could spot.
"What am I looking at?" she asked.
"Out my side," he directed. "At the pawnshop."
She did as directed — and the heat left her face. Her heart thudded inside her chest like a volley of canon fire.
A tiny body sat in the window, gazing out at passersby with blue eyes. His wooden mouth, jaw slightly dropped, sneered at everything, as if he gleefully plotted the demise of everything he saw. He wore a dark-gray suit with buttons, and although he remained perfectly still with his hands in his lap, he almost seemed ready to spring through the glass and start claiming prisoners—or slaves, as he'd call them.
Jillian gripped her seat. Her breath struggled to reach her lungs.
Somewhere far away, Harrison said, "It's him, isn't it? His clothes are different, but…"
She nodded and managed to say in a tiny, strangled voice, "It's him."
She knew his creator had built a number of dummies with that face, but she would know this puppet no matter what he wore or what color he had been painted.
Slappy. The living dummy built from a stolen coffin and had his maker's evil inside him. The dummy whose soul went inside her when she was in sixth grade and almost ruined her life. The dummy who had wanted to enslave her — and marry her.
Harrison turned to her. "Do you think someone read the words to bring him to life?"
Jillian crouched down. Whether he was alive or not, she could almost feel his blue eyes staring at her.
"We gotta act like he's awake — and we gotta do something."
Harrison nodded. "We could buy him — and decide what to do."
Jillian shook her head vehemently. "I don't want to get near him without a plan first. We can't kill him — not without him possessing one of us." A shudder went through her at the memories.
"Let's meet together tomorrow," Harrison suggested. "We're sure to have a plan by then."
But planning required a calm mind, and seeing Slappy awakened tremors Jillian hadn't felt in years. She paced her bedroom, unable to focus on her homework.
"Why him? Why him?" she moaned, gripping her black hair.
She would've almost preferred Mary-Ellen over him. Mary-Ellen, the late plastic doll, had abused her sisters and had odd telepathic powers, but Slappy had been inside Jillian, had controlled her like a puppet, had worked his evil magic through her. Mary-Ellen had been as dangerous as a hidden snake, but she had died at Slappy's hand.
Slappy could never be killed.
If he is awake, will he try to marry me again? She whimpered at the thought. Slappy had wanted her as his wife — but he hadn't intended to keep her human. If Slappy had won, Jillian would have been turned into a... a...
A knock at her door drew her from those troubled images, and she hastily composed herself as her sisters pushed their way in without an invitation.
The twins resembled their dad, possessing longer noses and rounded chins, but they were both tall and thin like Jillian. Also like their sister, they had straight black hair, although Katie wore hers long, and Amanda kept hers in a manageable angle bob.
"What's with you?" Katie asked, raising an eyebrow as she strode to Jillian's desk to hunt for markers.
"Homework," Jillian lied. "Essays are brutal. I'm hoping to get enough A's to bump myself up on the grade ladder, even though I probably won't get valedictorian."
Amanda, more sensitive, crossed over and wrapped her arms around Jillian's waist. "Only three more weeks, Jill," she assured her, laying her dark head against her shoulder. "Then summer."
Katie gave an elaborate sniff. "Group hug!" she pretended to sob, holding her arms out like Frankenstein.
"Alright, you goofs," Jillian laughed as both girls made fake wails, but she held them tight, anchoring herself to them. "So, you girls are gonna be thirteen in two days," she commented, trying to shift their attention.
"What'd you get us?" Katie grinned, increasing her hold as if refusing to release her without an answer.
"Who says I got you anything?" Jillian teased.
Amanda dramatically frowned. "You have a sick sense of humor, Jill."
Jillian spent the rest of the afternoon helping with their school projects. Katie wanted to design the best science presentation she could on brine shrimp, and Amanda needed someone to listen to her oral report on Japan. Jillian decided against telling them about Slappy. They had been six when that dummy had terrorized them through Jillian, right after they had been freed from Mary-Ellen's tyranny. As bad as Jillian had had it, she didn't want them reliving those memories. Especially when they had enough to occupy them between school and their approaching birthday party.
By dinner, she felt better, but the need to think up a battle strategy against Slappy didn't lend well to an appetite. She excused herself before dessert and ruffled her sisters' heads as she went. Katie and Amanda gave her curious looks, but Jillian only smiled reassuringly.
The doorbell rang as Jillian passed. She flipped the front light on and answered it. She blinked at the girl on her stoop.
Carol shuffled her feet and held out a box about the size of a small suitcase.
"Hey," she replied with a twitch of her lips. "We're going to be out of town this weekend, so my brother wanted me to drop off your sisters' birthday present. The goof kept forgetting to bring it to school with him."
"I understand," replied Jillian. She accepted the box and laid it on the nearby bench. "I'm sure the twins will love it."
Carol nodded, trying to smile, but a look of dread crossed her large eyes.
"Well, I gotta get going— " she said, but her voice broke.
Anguish crossed her face, and she whirled away. "Excuse me!" she sobbed, charging back to the dark street.
Jillian leapt from the low porch and chased after her. Carol could out distance the other girls in gym, but she stumbled down the sidewalk, tripping over holes in the concrete and her own feet. She tried to suppress her sobs with her hands.
At the corner, Jillian finally caught her, gripping her elbow. "Hey, are you okay?"
"I'm f-fine now," she gulped, wiping her eyes.
Then fresh tears gushed down her cheeks. "Oh, Jillian! I'm sorry! I had no choice!" she wailed, twisting away.
Jillian frowned at her. "What are you talking about?"
Carol wept into her palms. "Don't hate me," she pleaded. "She was going to hurt my family! She was controlling my sisters. That doll wouldn't release them unless I brought her to your house!"
Jillian's veins went cold. "What doll?"
Carol shook her head. "I had to save my family! I'm sorry!"
Jillian spun away from her. She probably should have grabbed Carol and dragged her back to her stoop, but dread engulfed Jillian's senses. She sprinted toward her house, bolting onto the lawn — and then the green sparks appeared.
By the time she reached her door, the wind picked up.
She flung the heavy door open, but some invisible force knocked her back. She tumbled off the stoop steps, remembering just in time her old gymnastics class. She rolled and protected her neck.
Jillian looked up, gaping at the doorway and the sight beyond.
Mary-Ellen stood in her house, at the foot of the stairs. The plastic doll's red lips curled into a sneer, and she waved at Jillian.
The girl climbed to her feet, only to be knocked back again, further across the grass. She opened her mouth to scream at the doll, but in the next moment her house vanished.
Jillian crawled on all fours to the edge of the large, rectangular hole in the ground that used to be her basement. Packed dirt and pipes met her, the latter spraying water into the void. The very foundations had disappeared with the rest of her home and family — her family — her family.
Where had Mary-Ellen taken her family?
She staggered to her feet, nearly toppling into the fresh hole. Neighbors spilled onto their front lawns, gaping at the empty space. Jillian barely registered their presence.
"...Mom, Dad," she choked out, knowing there would be no answer, but the words pushed through her lips. "Katie, Amanda..."
She stumbled away from the hole — there had to be a sign of where they had gone. The universe couldn't be so cruel as to snatch them away without letting her get them back.
"Mom… Dad…" Tears started to fall down her face, but they seemed to belong to someone else.
The forms of her neighbors came closer, forming a whispering half-circle. Then a large shape pushed through them.
"Jillian!" he cried, gathering her into his thick arms.
She trembled, and her knees almost gave out. She clung to her friend as if he were a rope above a bottomless pit.
"What happened?!" he said in her ear. "I saw it down the street. Is it—was it—magic?"
Mary-Ellen's magic. Doll magic. Strong magic.
She needed something stronger.
Jillian raised her head. "Get your car."
A flying brick through the pawnshop window did its job nicely. As the alarm shrilled, Jillian scooped Slappy into her arms and dashed back to Harrison's car.
"I'll pay for it," she told his askance look as she buckled her seat belt. "Once I got my family back."
Harrison accelerated, and Jillian held the puppet in her lap. She turned his small head toward her, staring into his blue eyes. A strange disconnection lay between them — her skin ought to have started crawling, but she felt no more scared than if she had held a kitten.
"Are you awake?" she whispered.
He didn't reply, not even to wink at her anxious face. She gripped his chin — an hour ago she wanted to get rid of him, but now she wouldn't let him leave until he helped her.
"If you're not awake, you will be soon — and you'd better pull through. After everything you did to me, you owe me something good."
She expected him to spring to life and grab her, but he didn't.
She looked ahead at the road, and in the distance a red light popped to green. She thought of the green sparks that had appeared around her house, and the invisible hand which had kept her from charging into her home. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks. She wanted to grab her hair and scream. Why didn't she punt that box into the road? Why hadn't she been there to grab that doll by the hair and fling her into the table saw again? Where had Mary-Ellen taken them? Was she hurting them? Were they still alive?
She used her shirt collar to wipe her face; then she studied Slappy's lifeless eyes, glaring even in slumber.
I'll do anything to get them back. Even make a deal with you — or something worse.
In a short time, Harrison turned onto their street. Police lights flashed in front of the empty lot of the Zinman residence. No doubt the officers were going around, asking questions, but Jillian's answers wouldn't satisfy them even if she felt like giving them an interview. Harrison pulled into his driveway, and the two hurried inside his house, which was nearly identical to her missing one. Fortunately, his parents were upstate helping his grandfather, so they had the place to themselves.
"What now?" Harrison asked as he flipped on the downstairs lights.
"Let's take him to the basement," she decided. "If he tries to escape, he won't be able to get up the stairs fast enough on his stupid legs."
She dumped Slappy into Harrison's arms and strode into the kitchen, collecting supplies.
As Jillian descended the stairs, Harrison gaped at the items in her hands. "Jillian— "
"It's in case we need it," she cut him off. "I'm not going to use his tactics unless I have no other way to convince him." She passed him the frying pan and lighter and crossed over to the dummy.
Harrison had propped him on the couch in the corner. The Cohens had attempted to convert their basement into a rec room like the Zinmans had done, but in the end the space had been used for storage.
Jillian planted her feet in front of her foe. She reached into his pocket and drew out the yellow slip of paper — no matter what he or anyone did, Slappy could not be parted from it for long. She held it up.
"Not too late to change your mind, Jill," Harrison said behind her.
She closed her eyes. "In for a penny," she said, more to her clamoring heart than to Harrison.
Then she read the words: "Karru marri odonna loma molonu karrano."
She released the paper, letting it flutter to the floor. She watched Slappy, but the motionless dummy didn't acknowledge them.
"We need you, Slappy," she said. "You can be evil another time, but you will help us."
Slappy stared without any response.
"You can't play dead with me," she said. "I know you better than anybody else."
Then she grabbed him before she could let herself change her mind. She held him in front of her and made him face her. She searched his smirking face for signs of life. He stayed as still as the grave, but she knew those words had to have worked.
"I know you're alive," she croaked out. "I know what the words mean — because you told me all about that ancient language when you lived inside me." Her voice trembled as the words tumbled from her lips, but she kept going, saying whatever came out. "You lived inside me for five days before we got you back into your own body. You tried to marry me — Jillian Zinman."
A flicker of recognition appeared in his blank stare. His lower lip shifted slightly.
"Mary-Ellen is back — remember her?" she urged. "She sliced your body in half on my dad's table saw. Don't you want to get even with her? She's taken my family, Slappy. My entire house. I don't know where any of them are — but you're ten times the magician she is. You can get them back. And I'll pay you."
Her hands shook against him, but she refused to drop him.
"I'm eighteen now," she continued. "I'm willing to consider — to consider — agreeing to go out with you for one date. If you like it, I'll give you another. And another." She couldn't bring herself to use the word marriage, but hopefully that would convince him to act.
She waited a moment, then asked, "Will you help me, Slappy?"
He gazed at her silently. Then he raised his head — and his smile morphed into a frown. His eyes swept up and down as if she were a large insect. Then he shoved his hands against her forearms, forcing himself out of her grip.
Jillian took a step back out of reflex, but she kept her eyes firmly on him.
He fell on his knees and pushed himself to his leather shoes. He glared up at her, and his teeth appeared behind his red lips in a sneer.
"Who says I still want you?" he demanded.
She stared at him. "What."
Slappy straightened his little dark-gray suit, raising his head. "Figured you'd come crawling back someday," he rasped. "You might be standing on the platform, babe, but this steam train's left the station. I only go for a higher caliber of women."
Her jaw clenched. "Which is?"
Slappy fluffed the red carnation near his collar. "This puppet wants to be a papa, and he'll only take a girl who'll be the kind of mama he needs." He snorted at her. "I don't need a woman who will raise my children to be upstanding citizens. You might be cute, but you're too much of a saint for my tastes now. I need a sinner."
Jillian glared at him. Then she let out a long breath. "I tried doing this the nice way. Guess I have to do it the Slappy way."
In a flash she yanked the frying pan from Harrison's hands and swung. Hard.
Right at Slappy's head.
The dummy ducked — he ducked.
The pan missed him by a hair's breadth.
Jillian managed to keep her balance.
Slappy staggered back, startled. His sliding jaw dropped.
Jillian adjusted her body and swung in the other direction — this one knocked him off his feet, sending him into a pile of cardboard boxes.
She made a grab for the lighter in Harrison's hand — her best friend danced away, raising it out of her reach. He looked at her in sick surprise.
She couldn't waste time grappling for it. She spun back to Slappy who struggled with the mountain of storage on top of him. She approached him slowly, gripping the frying pan. The puppet slung the boxes off him, gawking at her in wonder and confusion.
Jillian stopped a short distance from him, her green-eyed stare cold. She spoke quietly, "If I killed your body, your soul will go into one of us. If that happens, we'll make you help us anyway. So, you can help us in your own body or a human body. Your choice."
Harrison shuffled uncomfortably behind her, but she ignored him.
Slappy gazed up at her. His blue eyes blinked as if spotting her for the first time. He leaned forward.
"You really want your family back that much?"
"What do you think?"
He touched his chin, thoughtful. A wicked grin crossed his cruel face.
"Do you want it enough to, maybe, swing your frying pan into that guy's face?" he asked, gesturing. "That's Harrison Cohen, isn't it?"
Jillian frowned at him. She tried a different tactic.
"If Mary-Ellen finds out you're still alive, she might try to take you next," she pointed out. "She might force you to marry her or something horrible."
His eyebrows quirked. "Maybe," he agreed. "But if you want my help, swing that skillet, baby."
Harrison stepped toward her, still holding the lighter. The lighter she could've used to get Slappy to help her family, but he hadn't let her grab it.
"Jillian..." he said carefully, trying to catch her eye.
She gazed at him, biting her lip. Then she lifted the pan.
"Sorry, Harr'," she whispered — and swung.
But Harrison dodged. Before she could draw her pan back, he grabbed her wrist.
"What is wrong with you?!" he demanded, jerking the pan from her grasp.
"She's a woman who knows what she wants," said Slappy, getting to his feet. "And she'll do what it takes to get it." His eyes brimmed with fierce delight. "And maybe she's the kind of girl I'll want after all."
Jillian twisted out of Harrison's grasp and stepped closer to the dummy. Harrison grabbed her shoulder, but she pushed him off.
Facing Slappy, she said in a steady but forced voice, "If you'll save my family, we'll talk."
Slappy shook his head. "Ah-ah-ah! If I'm going to do this, I want my payment upfront." He folded his arms. "Not that I'll marry a human. Once we say our vows, you'll be turned into a doll — remember?"
Jillian shuddered. She pictured herself as a wooden body, spending eternity beside Slappy — but what was an eternity compared to her sisters never living to see their birthday? Her parents snuffed from existence before their time? Or enslaved by a plastic doll?
She clenched her hands. "My family first, then a wedding."
"So that you can cheat me once you got your merchandise back?" he growled. "Marry me now. Right here. Or I won't do it. Even if you destroy my body."
She glared at him — maybe she ought to destroy him, but her bluff about controlling him anyway would probably fall apart if he just used his host to repair his old body — like last time.
Her thoughts turned again to her family — and she imagined Katie and Amanda, huddled together and sobbing while Mary-Ellen used her magic to torment them. Would she torture them? Her parents?
Her jaw clenched. "If we get married," she said slowly, "your body won't magically become… 'correct,' will it?"
Slappy narrowed his eyes. "What kind of question is that?" he demanded in disgust.
"A fair one," she retorted.
"You think I'd do something so revolting with you?" he shot back. "There are some things even I wouldn't consider, not for all the slaves in the world." He fiddled with the parallel lines of buttons on his suit, looking away. "Besides," he rasped, "once you're a dolly, you'll be as 'incorrect' as me — which is how I've always preferred you, Jillian Zinman."
Harrison moved beside her. "You can't seriously be considering this!" he hissed. "What about graduation? What about college? You'll throw your life away if you do this!"
Jillian raised her eyes to meet his. "What do you suggest we do to find them?"
Harrison faltered, but he took her hand. "I love them all too," he said, "but they wouldn't want you to get with him to save them."
"Maybe," she whispered, "but I don't have any other options."
She spun from Harrison and stepped in front of Slappy. She dropped to her knees, leveling their height difference.
Wooden hand clasped flesh. Slappy looked round, searching. His eyes lit up, and he reached for a jump rope that Harrison's mom used for exercise.
"Not traditional, but it'll do, dearest." He wrapped it around their linked digits.
"Jillian, there's gotta be a different way," Harrison tried again.
She ignored him.
Her new husband stirred beside her, drawing Jillian out of her thoughts. She stared straight ahead at the storage boxes, but her hand remained clasped on his.
As Slappy climbed out of his slumber, he seemed to remember he had a companion this morning, and his arm tightened around his bride in a squeeze that could've been described as affectionate. He propped himself on his other elbow and leaned over to kiss her temple.
"What a stunning way to start the day," he rasped, kissing her wooden ear next. "You have no idea how long I've waited for this, dearest."
She resisted the impulse to close her eyes and block him out. Instead, she pressed his hand.
He turned his palm over to squeeze her fingers. Then he removed his arm, only to stroke her black hair.
"If I had my way," he told her, "our honeymoon would be done in style. But maybe someday…" He kissed her cheek next.
"Get my family back, and my dad will pay for a trip," she rasped back, her voice now as shrill as his but femininely pitched.
"So impatient," he teased. "But Slappy will get his family back, dearest. A honeymoon is just gravy." He sat up and tugged her arm for her to join him. His eyes twinkled as he pulled her onto his lap.
"Always wanted to be a puppeteer," he murmured, sliding his hand against the hole in his wife's back. He snickered as he kissed her cheek again. "This is going to be so much fun, love."
However, Jillian raised her eyes as Harrison's footsteps thudded above their heads. The smell of pancakes had grown more prominent.
Although she had no appetite, she said, "Mary-Ellen was able to eat. Can we?"
"Never tried before." He raised an eyebrow, amazed. "Are you actually hungry?"
She shook her head. "Not at all."
He cocked his head, reflective. He gazed at the ceiling, then grinned at her.
"First time for everything." He shifted her off his lap and swung himself to the floor. "Isn't the first breakfast a married couple has together supposed to be special?"
Jillian clenched her jaw a little. "Yes, Slappy."
He lifted his head. "Dear."
His eyes grew fixated on hers. "I want you to call me 'dear,' Jillian." He held out his arms to help her to the floor.
She drew in a breath for a sigh, but those muscles no longer existed. Instead she gave him a smile.
Harrison griddled a whole box of pancake mix, but he sat at the table and stared blankly at the high stack he had mounted on a plate. He picked at the edge of one flapjack and tore off a piece, but he let it drop onto the empty plate he had laid out for himself. He swirled his glass of Sunny Delight, but he didn't feel like taking a sip.
My best friend is a doll, he thought, and I didn't save her.
He should have slung Jillian over his shoulder and carried her upstairs until she could think clearly. He should have refused to drive her to the pawnshop and instead made her talk to the police—
Even he had to scoff at that one. What could the police have done against magic?
He could empathize with Jillian over her loved ones. Mr. Jonathan and Ms. Martha Zinman had been part of his life ever since the first grade, when they caught Jillian tricking Harrison into eating that bowl of mud. When his parents went on unexpected trips, Harrison slept over at the Zinmans' house until he was old enough to stay home alone. He had also known the twins since they were infants, and he used to help Jillian babysit them. He once had to flex his muscles in front of a playground bully before that obnoxious kid stopped pulling their hair.
If only that could work on Slappy, he thought bitterly.
He remembered the first time he saw Slappy, doing a show with a ventriloquist named Jimmy O'James. The act had basically been Slappy verbally abusing Jimmy, and at the time twelve-year-old Harrison had foolishly found it all a riot. So much so, he actually thought he had struck gold when he discovered Slappy, broken and tattered, in a trashcan. Then he doomed his own best friend by taking Slappy to show her and leaving him at her house.
After Slappy had been brought to life, he had held a six-year-old hostage to get his bride. He had hurt Jillian with a hard headbutt when she refused to marry him, and he had called it a love tap. Then after Mary-Ellen had destroyed his body, he had continued to hurt Jillian by making her his puppet until they got him back into his own coffin-made body.
Harrison buried his face in his hands, gritting his teeth. He had punched the boxing bag up in his room until his knuckles ached — and he almost punched a hole in the wall just thinking about Jillian next to Slappy in the night. Maybe the puppet had no interest in a physical marriage, but Jillian deserved better than a husband like him who altered her body and who bragged over how evil he was. Anyone deserved better.
An image flashed across his mind, and he saw Slappy in that trash can again, grinning up at Harrison with a broken jaw. Jimmy had knocked him out, and in the diary which the kids had found at his abandoned house, the ventriloquist claimed he had no clue how he had done it. But it had to have happened in the altercation, right?
Jimmy had been a broad-shouldered man, and Harrison now possessed both a greater strength and size than Jimmy had back then. Harrison had been on the school wrestling team, which had earned him a sports scholarship. He could have taken on Slappy — if only he had tried harder...
Harrison sat up as the basement door opened in the hall outside the kitchen. Awkward footsteps crept toward him, and soon Slappy guided Jillian into the room, holding her up as she eased one ligneous leg in front of the other.
She looked like a wooden, painted version of her former self, but her round green eyes looked wider, and her figure had become flat like Slappy's. She wore her clothing from yesterday, a blue blouse and jeans, now miniaturized. Her black hair needed a comb. Her new sliding jaw wobbled a little when she brought her legs down too hard.
Harrison couldn't tear his eyes away, no matter how much his heart ached to see her.
Slappy climbed into the kitchen chair beside Harrison and pulled Jillian to sit on his other side.
"You're a natural, dearest," he complimented. "You should've been born a doll."
Harrison grabbed his SunnyD and chugged it to keep from saying something he might regret.
Jillian's enlarged eyes peered at Harrison quietly. Then she turned her head toward her husband, cuddling against his shoulder — or maybe trying to ignore the world.
Slappy snapped his fingers and pointed to the high breakfast stack. "A flap-jack for my Jill, garçon." Then he snickered. "These pancakes are as flat as your face, Hairy Son."
Harrison ignored him and rose to grab another plate. He stabbed a few cakes with a fork and laid them in front of the dolls, and both picked off a piece with tiny fingers to sample.
Jillian nibbled hers carefully. She turned to her husband. "I can taste it."
"You have my deepest sympathies," Slappy joked while his own piece bounced inside his mouth. "Hey, Hairy Son, you know you're supposed to take the food off the stove before you smell smoke, right?"
Harrison didn't answer him, instead keeping an eye on Jillian as she reached to tear a second piece. "Is it enough?" he asked. "I can fix you eggs if you want. Or grab some fruit."
"It's fine, Harr'," she rasped out.
"You want coffee?" he offered. "I can make you a pot. Or run to Dunkin Donuts and get you something."
"She's fine," Slappy chorused, shooting Harrison a suspicious look. He wrapped a possessive arm around his wife. As Jillian picked at another bit of pancake, the dummy raised up the edge of a second one, only to let it flop.
"This is as rubbery as your brain, Hairy Son," he said. "Cows take less time to eat grass than the poor soul who tries to chew this."
Harrison rolled his eyes and started to cut up his own pancake.
"We could probably weaponize these," the puppet went on. "Or turn them into instruments of torture. If we needed someone to spill their secrets, we'd just threaten to make them eat your cooking. I've seen road apples more appetizing than this garbage." He let out a long laugh.
"I think it tastes fine," Jillian said quietly.
Slappy looked at her sharply. "Don't contradict me, woman," he warned.
Harrison's fingers clenched around his fork. He did NOT just—
He shot to his feet and lurched for Slappy. The puppet's jaw dropped as Harrison grabbed the front of his shirt. With an animal cry, Harrison flung his tiny body to the floor like a football, and he slammed himself atop the wooden goon, pinning him.
"Harrison, don't!" Jillian screeched, grabbing the chair. "We need him!"
Harrison glared right in Slappy's face. The dummy's arms were under him, unable to swing.
"Don't you EVER talk to her like that again!" he growled through his teeth at Slappy's shocked face. "If you hurt her — if even the paint on her pinky gets scratched — I WILL come after you. I can't kill you, but I can make you live through a LOT of bad things."
Slappy's mouth opened and shut several times, but he could only gawk in silence for a short while. Just like a bully on a playground, he shrank back at the sight of a bigger kid.
"Easy," he stammered. "Easy. It was a joke— "
"No, it wasn't," Harrison cut him off. "You might've been built for evil, but you'd better be an angel to that girl. Are we clear?"
Slappy nodded rapidly until it looked like his head would fly off. Harrison finally pushed himself off the dummy, shoving him a few feet. Slappy scrambled away on all fours. He returned to his seat, but he now sat on the other side of Jillian.
Jillian looked at Harrison, and for a moment gratitude mingled with exasperation. Then she returned to her breakfast.
"So, what's your plan, puppet?" Harrison asked testily as he took his place again.
Slappy's eyes darted to him. After a moment he said, "First off, we'll find this girl, Carol. We'll get her to tell us where she got Mary-Spellin'-Error. I'd bet my sliding jaw that whoever taught the doll how to make Jillian's house disappear would've been the owner before Carol or the one before that. I'll probably be able to cast a locator spell."
"Probably?" Harrison demanded.
"Figure of speech," the dummy shrugged. He turned his head to Jillian, smiling. "I have a vested interest in getting my in-laws back. Somebody will have to babysit our children on date nights, right, dearest?"
Harrison gritted his teeth as Jillian looped her arm around his — not out of any affection, but this new manipulation of hers.
Plot twist: Jillian becomes evil like Slappy wanted, which leads to his painful demise, but the power of family/friendship love brings her back, Darth Vader style.
If this is the first time you're reading one of my fics, know that the things marked as part of the 100 fanart challenge are one shots — they will not be updated. These fics are about staying in practice and experimenting with writing skills.