A/N: I am the one inspired to write, a one shot about a picnic on a moonlit night. :D Those who watch 'Nightmare Before Christmas' before both holidays (and any other that strikes their fancy) will recognize the snippet from 'Sally's Lament' as well as other bits and pieces from the film incorporated with hopes of making readers smile as they share Halloween Eve with Jack and Sally.
Sally Stitch was enjoying the cool night breeze and her view of Jack Skellington's tower. A swirl of wind ruffled her red yarn hair and whisked autumn leaves into the stone bedchamber, along with something else. Accustomed to hearing the faint echo of cackles, howls, or screams, the animated girl was surprised to hear a melancholy sigh.
Leaning out, she noticed the Pumpkin King's windows were open. He was pacing back and forth. Every time she caught a glimpse of Jack's adorable skull, Sally longed to go to him and ask what was wrong.
For days, although everyone else in Halloween Town was happily preparing for the big night, their leader seemed only to be going through the motions. The ghost-like charm Jack was renowned for had faded to a shadow of its former appeal. His famous grin was now a faint smile.
Although the stitches on either side of her lips continued to turn up, Sally's mouth became a line of determination. She crossed to her desk and wrote a message to place in a bottle. Tapping down the cork, she returned to the window and scanned the pavement below. If Dr. Finkelstein wasn't so controlling, she would visit Jack in person. As it was, the scientist thought that because he made her, he owned her. Rather than listen to another rant about her ingratitude, she preferred to wait for someone to pass by.
Sure enough, after a short while, three irredeemable little monsters came marching her way. Sally called down, "What have you found, Shock?"
The little witch looked up and shook a tiny bag, smiling. Her companions scowled. Lock raised his devil mask to shout, "How do you know she found it?"
Barrel snickered, eyes gleaming behind his skeleton mask. "Maybe because she always finds things?"
Shock straightened her hat, preening. "It's true, but this time I'm not giving my find to Oogie Boogie. I'm keeping it." Proudly, she held up a skeleton key.
Hearing the name of the only truly mean creature in Halloween Town made Sally shiver. The few times they'd crossed paths, Oogie had leered at her. Once, he'd even stroked her leg. Shuddering in remembrance of a rough yet squishy touch, the girl duly admired the key and listened politely to Shock's plan to use it to 'find' more things around town. When the witch paused, Sally asked, "Would you do me a favor?"
"Is it something easy?" asked Lock.
"Is there something in it for us?" enquired Shock.
"Would Dr. Finkelstein be mad?" Barrel said eagerly.
"Yes," answered Sally.
"Hooray!" the trio chorused.
In return for a bottled banshee scream, Lock, Shock, and Barrel agreed to deliver a note to Jack's house. After lowering it down in a basket, she sat down to wait. It was hard to sit still. Trying to be patient, Sally sewed a new patch onto her dress. She made the stitches very, very tiny.
Up in his tower retreat, Jack Skellington paced back and forth trying to figure out why he felt so dissatisfied. It was like an empty place had opened inside him. It wasn't quite as bad as the sink hole that swallowed three houses at the edge of town. He could still smile at the thought of scaring the bravest out of their pants. Still, the anticipation that had filled him year after year wasn't there. What had been a joy was now only a job.
Hearing the melodious screech of his doorbell, bony eyebrow ridges lifted in surprise. He wasn't expecting any visitors. Pleased to be distracted, Jack bounded down the stairs, pulling the front door open with a flourish. The sight of three imps changed his intended hearty greeting to a wary one. "Boogie's Boys! What are you doing here? I won't tell you what I've planned for Halloween, so don't even ask."
Lock pouted. "Jack, you hurt our feelings."
Shock, clasping hands behind her back, simpered. "We might think you don't like us."
Barrel warned, "We might not deliver your message."
If he had eyes, they would've rolled. Narrowing his sockets, Jack demanded, "Hand over the message or no trick or tricking this Halloween."
Lock, Shock, and Barrel huddled in a circle for a moment before the devilish part of the trio thrust a bottle into skeletal hands and backed away.
"We'll be…er…behave," promised Lock.
"Your girlfriend's waiting for an answer," Shock said coyly, batting her eyelashes.
Barrel doubled over with laughter. Ignoring the mischief makers, Skellington uncorked the bottle and read the note inside with interest.
Jack, Will you join me for a Halloween Eve picnic at our usual place and time? Sally
Cheered by his friend's thoughtfulness, the skeleton frown became a grin. Nodding to the wide-eyed onlookers, Jack said, "Tell her 'Yes!'"
Incorrigible to the end, they lined up to do the conga back to Sally, singing,
La-la-la-la-la-la-la Yes! La-la-la-la-la-la-la Yes!
Chuckling, the Pumpkin King checked the time. In another hour, he would leave to meet Sally. Taking the stairs three at a time, Jack called up to his ghost dog, "Zero! Pick me out the liveliest bat tie. We're going on a picnic!"
While the trio was singing and dancing their way back to Finkelstein's observatory, Sally paced back and forth, resisting the urge to jump out the window. The children hadn't been gone long. It was better to wait than to have to reattach limbs. Sewing was fun, but not that much.
Almost tumbling out of the window in eagerness, Sally repeated hopefully, "Yes?"
"Yes!" the three troublemakers shouted. Sniggering over the way she clasped her hands together in happiness, they waved goodbye. Sally noted that Shock appeared to ask a question while lifting the bottled banshee scream. Painted eyebrows rose when she heard, "To the Mayor's…!"
Heading to a small chest, she smirked. The two faced Mayor relied too heavily on Jack to make decisions. He deserved a fright. Taking out an outfit, she pondered whether to change into the heavily patched skirt and top or remain in the dress Jack said was so becoming she should wear it everyday.
The decision was made. Shoving the clothes back into the chest, she hurried out of the room. Climbing the stairs to the doctor's laboratory, a muffled invective could be heard. Entering the chamber, she asked, "Yes, Doctor?"
Perched on his wheelchair, the small scientist with a large brain sat holding his head, complaining, "This experiment is not working out as I had anticipated." The cat skeleton on the work table was twitching. Sally's eyes widened in dismay when Finkelstein opened the lid to his cranium and ordered, "Massage my gray matter. Perhaps that will help."
Her insides churned at the thought. Thinking quickly, she said, "I've heard a hot toddy helps even more. Why don't you give the matter a rub while I go make it for you?"
Raising a gloved hand to his jiggling brain, the scientist replied, "Very well, but be quick about it!"
Down in the small chamber set aside for cookery and other household experiments, Sally opened a cabinet and withdrew several bottles. After heating the ingredients in a small cauldron, she added the last of the deadly nightshade and took a sniff. Painted lips curved. The whiskey camouflaged nightshade wonderfully. Pouring the toddy into a tankard, she returned to the doctor's side. It wasn't the nicest thing to do, poisoning him in order to escape, but she couldn't help it. She was restless. He looked at her suspiciously. The girl smiled her prettiest smile, vowing not to poison a drink again.
She would put it in his soup next time.
Patting her hand, Finkelstein drank the toddy. Within minutes, he was slumped over the table, snoring away. His lips looked funny, flopping about. She covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. Backing out of the room, Sally hummed part of a song that had been running through her mind. It was only a melody so far, but she knew the words would come to her. They always did, sooner or later.
After packing a picnic basket, she stepped out into the moonlit night. A gust of wind lifted her hair and skirt. Giggling, she sang in her soft, high voice, "I sense there's something in the wind…" Humming the rest of the song in progress, she pirouetted before skipping the rest of the way to the cemetery.
At the same time Sally was opening the wrought iron cemetery gate, Jack was finishing a game of 'ghost in the graveyard' with Zero and the other spirits. They got such a kick out of him being the 'ghost' hiding amongst the tombstones while the group tried to find him. When one of the seekers drew near, he jumped out with a blood-curdling scream and tagged them. They became the ghost and attempted to catch someone else, and so on, until everyone reached the 'base' of Zero's grave.
An excited bark brought Jack's attention to the graceful figure waiting for him beside a headstone. Straightening the lapels of his pinstriped tuxedo, the skeleton's grin was sheepish as he approached. "Good evening, Sally."
"Good evening, Jack."
The breathy way she spoke sent a tingle down his spine. Looking forward to their picnic, he offered his arm. "Shall we?" Sally smiled and placed her hand on his sleeve. Jack bid farewell to the phantoms and escorted her to the best picnic spot in Halloween Town. 'Lookout point' was a hill that overlooked the forest beyond. Although rumour had it that deeper into the woods the trees were alive and green, the stand bordering the town had been killed by fire and stood like exquisite blackened statuary.
Shaking out a blanket, Sally patted the fabric beside her and offered a bottle. "Why don't you do the honors?"
Dropping down beside her, Jack smiled with anticipation. She brewed the best illusions. The instant he popped the cork, a bevy of ghostly butterflies flew out of the bottle and fluttered around them. "They're lovely." One landed on red hair. Bony fingertips reached for a butterfly and played with a skein of silky yarn. "You're lovely too. More than I ever imagined."
"What do you mean?"
It was hard for Jack to think clearly. Tingles were very distracting. Staring into her eyes, he confessed, "When the doctor asked me to draw a picture of the perfect girl, I didn't think he could create her, but now, I don't think my drawing did you justice."
She leaned toward him. "You don't?"
He shook his skull. "No." Taking her hand, he said, "You're better than perfect. You're real." Her smile was bewitching. Sally's face was so close; he couldn't help but notice how red her lips were. How would they feel? Before Jack could find out, bat wings sprang out, poking the girl in the cheek.
Wishing a grave would open up and swallow him, the skeleton glared at his tie. "Down, boy!" Apologetically, he touched the imprint. Her face was so soft.
Sally's voice was even softer when she asked, "Is there…something you want to tell me, Jack?"
Finkelstein was his friend. He couldn't admit to wanting to kiss her! Jack said the first thing that came to him, "I'm restless."
Pretty eyes stretched wide. "Restless?"
"Hmmm?" Jack had to close his eye sockets to remember unromantic restlessness, explaining, "I'm not…content…like I used to be. Halloween should be the happiest day of the year."
"But it's not?"
Her understanding tone unleashed a torrent of words. "No, it's just another day. I'll scare far and wide and return for a triumphant finale. Everyone will cheer. The mayor will hand out awards. As usual, the vampires will win 'Most blood drained in a single evening'. The leeches will protest, as always." Abruptly, he levered his bones upright and threw out his arms, shouting, "I'm so tired of those bloody complaint letters!"
Sally's shock brought him out of his self-pity. "Yes, I am Jack, the Pumpkin King. I have responsibilities I can't give up." Extending a hand, he said, "My dearest friend, thank you for the picnic. If you don't mind, I'm going to take a walk, get my skull on straight for Halloween." He assisted her to her feet and folded the blanket, placing it into the basket along with the empty bottle.
She took the handle with a sweet smile. "Farewell, my friend."
Impulsively, he stepped close and bent towards her. At the last moment, he lost his nerve and kissed Sally's cheek instead of her lips. Even her stitches were silky. He sighed.
Once Jack and Zero moved out of sight, Sally raised a hand to her cheek. The spot that had received a kiss still felt warm. Or maybe that was her insides, which felt all gooey and melting. Her knees felt weak. Gazing up at the stars, she heaved a sigh that was so deep it almost hurt. Eventually, her knees regained their strength and Sally was able to return home. Passing Jack's house, her steps slowed and wobbled.
A trio of musicians, camped outside the gate, watched her with interest. "Working on any new songs, Sally?" the sax player asked.
She stopped and obligingly hummed a melody. The corpse band became more animated as they attempted to play it. Praising their efforts, she said goodnight and continued on to the observatory. Finkelstein's snores could be heard from the entry hall. Climbing the stairs to her room, Sally knew she would receive a terrible scold when the doctor awoke, but didn't care. Spending time with Jack was well worth it.
Feeling as though the night had come full circle, Sally rested her arms on the window sill and gazed out into the darkness. Far off in the distance, a small red light gleamed. Zero… She smiled wistfully. Would she ever be free of Dr. Finkelstein? Would she and Jack be together? A capricious breeze whooshed past. Her smile became dreamy as words drifted into mind. One day, everyone would see.
We're simply meant to be…