He takes advantage of her naïveté one last time. BreakxAlice. Mangaverse. Oneshot.
c a n d i e s
The first time he does it is completely accidental. Alice has been living in the Rainsworth household for all of one day and a few hours of the night when he finds her tramping around the mansion as if it is her own.
Break still hasn't quite got his head wrapped around all of the delightful new circumstances that surround him now, what with the B-Rabbit revealing itself in human form. If he'd have to express his surprise aloud, it doubtless would come out in some form of, "Oh, now her usefulness has increased even more!", but in the privacy of the night only simple curiosity occurs to him when he sees her.
After all, he needs to get a better idea of her temperament if they're going to have a working relationship. Which is why he pops out of a nearby cabinet brandishing a candlestick to interrupt her midnight sulk – people's reactions to that are quite telling of their personalities.
She shrieks and stumbles back before throwing a kick; he diverts it with his wrist. "You're that damn clown! What are you, a stalker too?"
Only cascades of laughter answer her as she engages him in a mock struggle of fists while he keeps the candlestick aloft above them. When she calms, he skips to her side and joins her in her late-night stroll. "Not at all, Alice-kun. I was just wondering what would be keeping a fair maiden like you from her rest!"
She skitters away from him towards the other side of the hallway and pretends to ignore him. But after a few minutes his constant chattering causes her to grumble, "It's Oz," in the middle of his antics. Between pointed glares she tells him about some disagreement they had after dinner.
"What misfortune!" he exclaims. "But even though your argument was… ah…"
"Completely trivial! Trivial!" Emily butts in.
Alice swerves to punch him again and he hops a few steps back. "Emily, it's not nice to interrupt," he admonishes. "As I was saying, Alice-kun, no matter the scale of the conflict, there's always one guaranteed solution!"
"Ohhh? And a clown like you would know?"
"Even me, Alice-kun." He steps forward, producing an orange-and-purple swirl lollypop from his sleeve, and sticks it in her mouth. "Sweets!"
"Mmmph!" The smooth planes of her face crumple into annoyance, but her look of disapproval is ruined by the comical bulging of her cheeks. She tries to push it out of her mouth using her tongue, but he holds the lollypop firmly in place until suddenly her attempts to force it out stop. Then he removes his hand.
"Tasty, isn't it? You haven't had anything like it before, right?" How much else of the world have you forgotten in your time in the Abyss, deprived of all sensations?
Alice slides the lollipop out of her mouth and looks at it curiously, then at him. He takes his leave by slipping into a nearby broom closet, leaving the candlestick with her, and promptly forgets the incident.
Four days later, he's walking past a room from which Raven and Oz's agitated voices are rising when suddenly both become quiet and Alice's own voice spirals manically high above them, something about not giving her manservant permission to argue with seaweed-head and vice versa. He peeks in, wondering what has silenced them, only to see both Raven and Oz staring cross-eyed at two dessert pastries stuffed in their mouths. Alice catches sight of him then and huffs, turning away so she won't see his silly smile.
The second time, they are in Cheshire's territory, a land of drab painted colors and false, twisted staircases. Hands reach from the walls towards both of them as he runs through the warped hallway, Alice cradled safely away from those hands and the creatures that want to consume them whole and make them part of the madness.
When he lets her down, they are in front of an even bigger staircase. It is lime green against the red walls and pillars of the space, which feels like a parody of a living room with its fireplace and paintings. They leisurely climb the steps as he drops candy in a trail for his followers to find.
At last he reaches the large green door at the top of the staircase. He stands by it and waits for her, a hand about to push it open. But there is hesitancy in her step as she comes up to the door, a nearly imperceptible redirection of her eyes away from it.
"Why are you so quiet, Alice-kun?"
"I thought you'd be excited. One of your memories is behind this door, right?"
"How do you kn—" He cocks his head at her and she scoffs. "Yes, but it's not… the same feeling I get from most memories."
"Alice-kun?" She has wrapped her arms around herself.
"I don't want to go in."
He steps away from the door.
Placing both hands on her shoulders, he slides one up the scarf he knitted and against the coolness of her neck. Her breath catches. "What you are feeling is apprehension, Alice-kun." She won't look up at him. "It's a bit of a misleading feeling. It may make you want to stop where you are. But don't forget your goals. Focus on them like something sweet."
From his pocket, he pulls out a hard candy and twists the wrapper until a bright red disc falls into his gloved hand. This he holds to Alice's lips until her mouth reluctantly accepts it. He laughs – he knows an insatiable spirit when he sees one because he is the same. "Although the cherry ones do sometimes taste like medicine. But the longer you stand out here consumed by doubt, the worse you will feel."
She covers his hand on her neck with her own. Through both of their gloves he senses a slight warmth. Then she pushes his hand away and straightens the scarf around her neck.
"Of course. You don't need to lecture me, clown. And this tastes horrible."
"Perhaps the strawberry next time, Alice-kun. Ladies first," he says, and pushes open the door.
His plan hinges on her moving forward, and he can't have her jeopardizing it. Alice is still so young and inexperienced emotionally that coercing her into doing as he wishes takes little effort. Yet that doesn't mean he feels nothing when she runs out of the room whimpering not a minute later.
The third time, he is by her side when she wakes up after her single glass of alcohol. Naturally, he greets her by popping out from under her bed. Her reaction is the same as before, except her movements to kill him seem more sluggish.
Soon enough she collapses back onto her tangled covers. "Enough. I feel dizzy and horrible."
He sprawls lazily on the bed next to her, noting how tired she must be when she fails to react to his proximity. "A hangover after only one glass? My, my, I didn't expect your intolerance for alcohol to rival even Raven's."
"Don't compare me to seaweed-head," she mutters. "More importantly, why are you in my room?"
He grins. "Why, Alice-kun, do you really not remember what happened last night?"
"As I remember it, you got down on your knees and confessed your undying love for me, Alice-kun."
All of the color drains from Alice's face.
"What th—who the hell do you think you're kidding?"
She jumps up from the bed faster than he'd expect from her hung-over state and attempts to club him over the head – ah, such a familiar gesture. They race around the room until she trips forward from dizziness, and he catches her to lay her gently on the carpet. She curls into herself and stares off into space when he sits next to her.
"Why are you really here?"
"It saddens me that you think I need a reason," he teases, pulling out a lollypop from his sleeve. He waves it in front of Alice's face, then pops it into his own mouth when she fails to respond. "Actually, I'm here to tell you today's plan! It's very exciting – you haven't been to an opera house before, have you?"
Actually, he doesn't need to be here at all. He's going to go over the day's activities formally to everyone at breakfast anyway. It's just that he has somewhat of a bad feeling about today. He has more than a slight hunch of what price Rufus Barma might want him to pay for his information. And before something in their group dynamic shifts because of that—
"…what can I do to get rid of this headache?"
—he wants, maybe selfishly, one more moment of normalcy.
"I shouldn't be asking you, should I?" She glares at him from her sideways position on the floor.
"Nonsense, Alice-kun! Everyone knows that the surest cure for a hangover is sugar!" From his pocket he pulls out a little tin of round hard candies, unwraps one, and pokes it into her mouth with a gloved fingertip.
"Really?" Alice mutters doubtfully, transferring the candy to one cheek.
He leaves the tin of candies with her before he exits her room and, thirty minutes later, pretends to be just as confused as everyone else when the sugar rush only aggravates her headache and causes her to be more irritable at the breakfast table.
The fourth time, it hasn't yet been the three days he'd promised Liam he'd need to get accustomed to the blurriness of the world when Alice storms in.
He drops his hand from his face and sits up against the many pillows propped at his back. "Now Alice-kun, why are you wearing that most unbecoming scowl?" Even though he cannot see her, there is a certain harsh quality to her breathing and a heaviness in her steps that implies her facial expression cannot be pleasant.
"What? Surprised to see me in my own room?"
"I didn't know it was yours," she groans, "just trying to hide from that maniacal girl who wants to fry my head with a curling iron."
He laughs. "Well, you made a good choice even by accident. The lady won't think to come here and disturb me in my state."
"Hmph." Her footsteps echo louder towards him.
"There're some pastries on the nightstand. Help yourself," he offers.
"I know, I know." She sounds rather annoyed. "Sweets are the answer to everything, right?"
"You've learned well, Alice-kun." Suddenly something hard invades his mouth, colliding against his teeth with a clatter and nearly bruising his gums. He recognizes it – a sugary lolly, strawberry-and-cream swirl.
She giggles snidely. "You bet I have! But you really should have dodged that. Finally getting old, clown?"
"I guess so." He lets out a quiet, merciless laugh at the irony of her words – and is promptly drowned out by Alice's yelp of surprise.
"What—what is this?"
"Hmm?" He has no idea where to direct his eye, so he busies himself taking the lollipop out of his mouth and leaning over slowly to put it on the nightstand.
Alice slaps him on the shoulder – another movement he really should be learning to detect – and he drops the lollipop held in two fingers. He hears it clatter to the floor and massages his shoulder ruefully.
"That's just like Alice-kun, manhandling me even though I'm supposed to be resting!"
"Stop joking, you idiot! How do you explain this?"
Blood? Oh. She can only mean on the white sheets and blankets. He's tasted copper more than once this morning upon waking, and he's had no way of knowing whether those pristine white handkerchiefs have caught all of the blood droplets his body insists on bringing up through those wretched coughs.
"Oh, those are from yesterday. I just haven't had the servants come in to change my sheets yet. Don't worry about it."
"They look new. And I'm not worrying," she adds hastily.
"I know," he answers.
He hears a soft plop and feels the weight of the bed shift as she sits somewhere near his feet. With forced casualness, she says, "So, are you gonna die or something?"
"Rest assured, I'm not planning to go that soon. I'm perfectly fine."
"Now Alice-kun, when have I ever—"
"Right now." He sighs as the tone of her voice shifts. "You haven't looked me in the eye since I came in."
The bed shifts again as he feels her crawling nearer until he can faintly discern something very close to his face. He feigns squinting and leans back. "What?"
He can hear her breath as it progresses from an unruffled normal rhythm to a gasp and then tapering to louder, harsher breaths from her mouth.
He presses a finger to her lips, a little left of center, but it would do. "I am just fine."
"How long are you going to tell me—everyone—lies like that?" she demands, snatching his hand away from her mouth.
"As long as you want to believe them," he murmurs. "Two days, Alice-kun, and you wouldn't have noticed. I just overworked myself a little bit, but don't believe I'm going away so easily."
She draws back slowly. Did it not work? he wonders. Not like all the other times?
He stretches out his left arm towards the nightstand. "Could you hand me one of those cakes?" When he feels the weight of the soft pastry in his palm, he knows she'll believe him for now.
The last time—
A clattering of heels on the stained ground.
—he is nearly gone. He can barely register the sound of someone's voice through the harsh noise of his own coughing and the enormous pressure constricting his chest, culminating right outside his heart where that ugly clock is ringing and ringing.
Still, he can sense someone rummaging in his jacket pocket and then feels the softness of his own handkerchief covering his mouth and catching the blood that he can't seem to keep inside of him. A hand is on his shoulder and someone crouches next to him.
"What's… happening?" he whispers. Doubtless he wouldn't even be found if not for his coughing, because he can barely produce his voice.
A low voice trembles close to him. "The Baskervilles gained the last door. Oz's seal just moved again. It's only one mark away from… And I'm so weak now. I can barely transform. When I'm sucked down with him, I'll be completely human."
He reaches out blindly for something of her and finds her wrist. "Shouldn't you be with him?" After all, this battle is surely lost.
"It's pointless. I'll only make it worse. And you… don't talk, you idiot clown!"
He tries to smile through unresponsive muscles. "Why not? It's about the only thing I can still do at this point." Almost all of his senses are gone now. Everything is dim and hazy – even her voice, which should ring and light up all of the air around him. But he can barely feel the ground he's lying against.
"Shut up! It's not like you're going to die!" Oh, so that's how it is.
He tries to pull her closer. She seems to follow him.
Through parched lips, he manages to whisper, "So how about it, Alice-kun? Will you allow me to deceive you just once more if I say things like 'don't worry' and 'I'll be fine'?"
He takes advantage of her naiveté one last time.
Or he wishes he could, anyway. He knows she is past that point.
Something warm touches the side of his face. A finger against a splatter of blood on his cheek. Warm and cool – that's how he'd been distinguishing his world these last few days.
"You don't really like salty things, do you? Because they taste like this." The finger smears the blood away. Then, to his surprise, he hears the crinkling of paper before she slips something into his mouth. "You prefer these."
The texture, the round shape – it can only be a hard candy. He can't taste it, nor the blood in the inside of his mouth.
But she understands. He is insatiable, always hungry for something he cannot grasp, just like her.
Two hands descend on his shoulders and a warmth touches his lips. Yet the sensation seems to be leaving him almost as soon as it begins. That's alright. He can imagine her on the inside of his closed eyelid, on the surface of the candy he can still feel on his tongue.
I haven't been able to taste anything for weeks.
Yet this is… sweet.