Sine Qua Non
Ace x Alice
Alice once boasted her excellent sense of direction. She was always able to navigate through the forest with ease and thought he knew the place like the back of her hands.
Alice thought she couldn't get any more lost than she was at the moment.
She could not imagine what possessed her to be so desperate as to ask Ace for help. She supposed she was struck by the idea of her savior, her knight that would rescue her from the surrounding darkness.
'I should have known better than trusted Ace to be my savior.' A dismal sigh escaped her lips as she sat on the rightmost side of the tent, turning her head slightly to see Ace taking off his large, red coat.
Most would probably classify her as a fool for such trust in him, not because he was directionally challenged. There was a fact that everyone in Heart could agree on – Ace was dangerous.
She couldn't understand why. He appeared easygoing and docile in nature. It's amazing that the bloody twins even feared him. Then she realized that there was more to him than meets the eye. Underneath it all, he's a cold-blooded killer who smiles at the surrounding carnage and returning to Julius without a single scratch.
That would be impressive if it wasn't so unnerving.
"Like watching me, Alice?" At the sudden appearance of the knight, she scooted back, embarrassment blazing cheeks.
"H…hey! You're way too close to me! Stay on your side of the tent!" she scolded him, holding her pillow tightly against her chest.
With his most innocent smile, he assured her, "Aw, I wasn't going to do anything bad. I just wanted to know why you were looking at me while I was changing. Do you like watching me strip? If so, I'd happy to do more…"
"No, not necessary!" she hastily said, the heat in her face suddenly unbearable. "I was just… thinking that's all."
"Oh? About what?"
She remained completely silent, refusing to respond. If she told him what she was thinking, he'd most certainly be offended… or not really care. Still not wanting to risk it, she chose to remain silent.
That is until a hand reached towards her chest, prying the pillow out of her arms.
"Hey! What was that for?"
"You were taking too long to reply so I was planning on listening to your heart while I waited!" explained Ace with a smile.
"But don't I have a say in this? This is my heart after all."
The red knight beamed even brighter. "Okay! Alice, can I touch your chest?"
The young man merely sighed in disappointment. "Ah, darn! Oh well… I guess we have to do something else …"
A mischievous glint sparked in his scarlet orbs, inciting shivers of fear to run the length of her spine. Anxiety began to build in her throat. "Huh? What are you…?"
He brought his body suddenly over hers, pinning her down onto the floor of the tent.
"A… Ace…" He hushed her with a gentle touch of his gloved finger.
He whispered huskily, "Shh… such a naughty girl… calling out my name like that… I am a man afer all. Don't you understand that?"
Taking a moment to figure out what he was saying, her cheeks felt like they were on fire, all the blood in her system rushing into her face. She tried to open her mouth to protest, but her words were left in her throat when Ace smashed his mouth into hers. His tongue roughly demanded entrance, but her mouth remained firm and closed. He bit down onto her lower lip, teasing her. He then left her face and traveled to her ear, mutilating her lobe and laving it with his unrelenting tongue.
"Are you happy, Alice?" His words sent shivers up her spine, bathing her ear in a shuddering warmth. "Isn't this what you wanted?"
She didn't have the voice to respond. She didn't want this. No girl would want this. Her conscious cursed her for her naïveté, her foolish gullibility. She was to blame for not following her natural instinct and get away while she could.
'But I didn't…' That thought sounded in her head, expelling the incessant reprimands haunting her mind.
Maybe she really didn't know what she wanted. A part of her actually wanted to kiss him back as much as she feared him, be with him even if she was exposing herself to possible danger.
I don't like her to the same extent as you… but I certainly do have interest in her.
All of a sudden, a lump caught her throat, tightening her breathing passages until no more oxygen escaped her lungs.
What a fool… His affections – if it could be called that much – were just results of lust, not like and most certainly not love. She was merely a toy for him to play with, and he'd probably cast her aside when he got bored. She only caught is fleeting interest
Alice shouldn't want to be with him. In the end, she would be the only one who'd get hurt.
The knight grew tired with playing with her ear and roughly kissed the length of her neck to her cheek, his tongue swirling around her soft flesh.
Then she felt him grow taut, curiously lapping a certain portion of her face, not expecting something salty or wet. He pulled away to look at her face, examining her features with those striking ruby eyes.
A sudden, unwarranted tightness unfurled in his stomach, nearly making his heart of a clock stop ticking. He had never felt such a sensation. How could such liquids make him react like this? He tried shaking it off with a laugh and kissing her harder, with more intensity, but he just couldn't take his mind off those watery green eyes.
"Alice…?" He murmured.
"Are you there?" A familiar called out. Both their heads turned towards the entrance of the tent. A mop of dark azure appeared.
"Julius?" Alice gasped out in surprise.
Ace rolled off Alice to properly face the clock master, greeting with a wave of his hand, "Hi there, Julius! What are you doing out here so late?"
"Alice never came back to the tower so I decided to look for her." His stormy blue orbs narrowed, sneering at the innocent-looking knight. "…It seems I was right to start look. I worried for her purity."
Alice felt herself bob her head in agreement. 'So did I…'
"Come on, Alice. I'll walk you back to the tower."
She quickly rose to her feet and followed the cobalt-haired man out the tent.
'He's only interested,' she told herself as she glanced back to a see Ace just waving goodbye. What was she expecting? For Ace to take hold of her and refuse to let her leave? Run after her?
She would have laughed it hadn't placed such a heavy weight on her heart or prevented air from passing her throat.
'He is just interested…'
And he wouldn't feel anything if she left.
Two days. She had kept count. She spent two days avoiding Ace.
She couldn't bear to see him again. She didn't even know how to act around him anymore. She would make a mad dash for the woods whenever he came to see Julius and race back and hide when he went back out. The process itself was very tiring… but she forced herself to endure it. She just couldn't bear to see him…
At the moment, Alice wandered absently around the forest, losing herself in her thoughts. She hoped to find some denotation of life, any sound that could fill the emptiness.
All she found was irrevocable silence. Her soundless surroundings were disconcerting, nearly suffocating her. She craved the companionship of another human being, to hear another voice and end the solitude.
'At least whenever Ace was around, our time together was kinda fun…' She shook her head of such thoughts.
Perhaps it was better she didn't see Ace. Perhaps it was safer. Maybe this is how things should be. She forced herself to be contented by the thought, unable to shake off cumbersome tightness blossoming in her throat.
"Who do we have here?" Her heart suddenly ceased beating, a nervous anxiety spiking her veins.
All around her were faceless people. Even without eyes, she could feel them boring imaginary holes in her skull, a bone-chilling malice emanating form their beings.
"Hey! That's the girl that's boarding with the clock maker!" one said. "What an interesting turn of events."
Alice fearfully asked the congregation, "Who are you?"
"Our identity is of no importance," answered another, "But we surely are more interested in your relationship with the clock maker."
One of them asked, "How upset do you think he'd be if the girl returned to him in a million bloody pieces?"
Alice gasped, a disturbing chill running down her spine.
"I don't know. Shall we find out?" Before Alice could escape, two faceless people grabbed hold of her arms, preventing her from running away. Her eyes widened in horror as another advanced towards her, a deadly switchblade poised in her hands.
Gently brushing the cool blade around her skin, her assailant assured, "Don't worry. I promise your death will be quick and painless."
Was this how her life was going to end? It was frightening to even think about. She snapped her eyes shut. Only a miracle could save her now. Deep in her heart — she couldn't help it — but she hoped that a certain someone could rescue her, her knight would swoop in and save her when she needed him most. Like that would happen.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you!"
Her heart started to beat a little faster. She opened her eyes, seeing her human constraints fall to the ground. A puddle of crimson pooled formed from underneath them.
The knife flew from her assailant's hand, a long, bloody sword pressed to her neck. She snarled, "Y… you! You're that stupid person that helps the mortician."
With a carefree smile on his lips, he replied, "Yep, that's me! Now can you please let me and my friend go?"
Alice turned all around her surroundings, watching as the group suddenly brandished weapons of varying shapes and sizes. A faceless challenged, "Oh? Why would you want to do that? That's not your job, now is it? So why not you step away from the girl, and we'll let you pass."
"Ah, don't let my attire fool you!" Alice then quickly glanced at Ace's clothing, noting the familiar bloody cloak and the silvery mask held in his has gloved hands. "I actually am a knight." Everything then fell into a quiet hush, regarding the knight incredulously. Even the foreigner was aghast. His ruby orbs glanced over towards her. "Alice's knight."
Then everything suddenly became still. All breath refused to enter or escape her lungs, her heart rocketing to her throat. All she could do was stare at Ace, thinking for a moment – just a brief fleeting second – that he really meant it.
She then was brought down back to reality when the girl at his mercy pulled out yet another knife. "Kill them."
The knife zeroed in on Alice's head. Ace knocked her out of the way, slicing his sword cleanly through the faceless's abdomen.
The brunette avoided it, but fell back, knocking her head into a tree. Her senses dulled, her perception grew dizzy and scent of blood that pervaded throughout the air, the cries of those before they were dead.
She could barely see the person that stood before her, aiming a knife straight for her person. Then everything in her line of vision seemed to give way, melting into a miasma of bright scarlet.
Blinding glimmers of flames danced behind her tired eyelids, slowly extricating her from the chilling shadows. She wasn't even certain whether she wanted to wake up and missed the comforting numbness. Her head was pounding. She couldn't remember how she got such a headache. Everything was simply a blur.
Of course, she could remember one thing.
"You're a really heavy sleeper!" Her heart suddenly skipped a beat, noticing an unusual warmth by her side. She opened her eyes, staring incredulously at the person lying beside her.
She gasped out breathlessly, "A… Ace?"
"Hi there, Alice!" merrily said the brown-haired knight, tucked quite comfortably next to her in the bed sheets.
Alice was at a loss for words. She didn't know what to do. She could only think of doing one thing.
"Dammit, Ace! Why are you in my bed?" she shouted in outrage, smacking his face right across with a pillow.
"Ha, ha! It's nice to see you're alright! Still as lively as ever," the brown-haired knight said with a light laugh. "You got me worried there. You have to be careful. You shouldn't be walking the forest by yourself. You could have gotten more than that little bump on your head."
Realization flooded into her, recalling the terrifying turn of events that transpired earlier. She tentatively touched her skull, wincing as she felt where she tiny bump.
'That's funny… I thought I got seriously hurt before…' That red she saw… wasn't that her blood? If it wasn't hers, then who could it possibly…?
Her green orbs suddenly glimpsed at the jacket that sat crumpled on the floor along with a cloak, noting the surprising amount of scarlet...
She leapt out of the bed, grabbing a long ribbon of bandages from the table. "Where is it?"
Ace didn't move a muscle. "Where's what?"
"You idiot! You know what I'm talking about," yelled Alice, stumbling to grab hold of the sheets.
"I really have no idea what you're talking about," he insisted, "And aren't you a naughty one? Why are you trying to move the blanket?"
She refused a response, ripping the blanket off his person. The sheet fluttered onto the ground. Her heart nearly stopped beating. Her eyes started to sting at the sight.
"Idiot… you're anidiot!" She cried as she sat limply on the floor. His black jacket was tarnished with a wide gaping tear, exhibiting a large gash of dried blood. She tried standing up, but merely fell back down. It took all her willpower to contain an onslaught of tears.
He then appeared by her side. "Hey, don't get up. You're still hurt. You need your rest."
"B… but you never got hurt before, and now because you tried to save me, you got a really bad injury!" She said guiltily, her fingers fumbling to unbutton the jacket. "You didn't have to be the big hero."
A chuckle resonted through his body. "I did. I wanted Alice alive. I'd be very upset if her heart didn't beat anymore. Unlike me, she's irreplaceable. It doesn't matter if I get hurt. Once Julius gets his hands on my clock, someone new will take my place anyway." He placed a gentle hand on top of hers. "You don't have to take care of me. I'll be fine. I'm expendable, after all."
Then the sobs grew too much to contain. "No, stop talking like that! I wouldn't want to lose you!"
"Shh… don't cry, Alice. Don't cry," he crooned as she sobbed in his shoulder. "Perhaps… it's better if I'm gone. Then you wouldn't be in so much danger, and you wouldn't be scared anymore."
"I don't care!" Ace froze, looking down at the crying brunette."Didn't you say you're my knight? As long as you're here, I always know you'll be me. To me, you're irreplaceable." He was rendered completely speechless, staring at her with clear incredulity. "Please… let me bandage you up…"
With a smile on his lips, the young man complied, slowly unbuttoning his jacket and letting it fall to the floor. Wiping away the tears, Alice swiftly began her work and taking care of his wound.
She sniffled once more. "T… there! You should be all good."
"Gee, thanks, Alice!" he said cheerfully, "Well who knew little Alice could be so naughty! If you wanted me to take off my shirt, you should have only asked!"
And… the old Ace is back.
She crossed her arms crossly over her chest and sneered, "Maybe I should have let you bleed to death. You must be fine if you still insist on saying such stupid things!"
"Oh, you wouldn't do that!" Her delicate brow arched upwards in confusion. "If you did, then that means I wouldn't be able to do this!"
Alice suddenly fell back to the ground, her arms pinned down, his body pressed against hers. "A… Ace, we really shouldn't…."
"Why not?" She suddenly was at a loss for words. His breath mingled with hers, his mouth seemed so close – so dangerously close. Gently brushing against her flesh, he spoke huskily, "I think this is something that will make the both of us feel a lot better…"
Before she could offer any protests, his lips suddenly captured hers. Her eyes suddenly slid to a close, her mind becoming totally blank.
She knew he was dangerous, but no matter what she did, she couldn't stay away from him.
She would risk everything just to be with Ace.
"Alice? Ace?" The knight lifted himself off from the brunette's person, turning to face the owner of the tower.
"Oh, hi there, Julius! I was just checking on, Alice! She's fine!" He said cheerfully.
"So I've noticed…" His gaze on the brown-haired man was merciless, desiring nothing more than to smash his clock into tiny, little pieces. "If you are fine, then I suggest you get going, Ace." Placing his jacket back on his person, Alice watched as Ace obeyed sauntering out from her bedroom door. Julius's voice caught her attention. "Alice, I suggest you go back to bed. You need you're rest."
Alice sleepily nodded her head, crawling back into the bed and under her sheets.
'Perhaps having his interest is fine…' The thought rolled into her sleepy mindset, mingling with her tired yawn. 'As long as I have a little bit of Ace, I think I'll be just fine…'
Getting to her room wasn't as hard as he thought. Sure, it was miles above the ground, situated at the highest point of the tower, but that was only a mild setback for someone like Ace. He could do anything if he put his mind to it.
After all what he and Alice went through, he doubted Julius would be so kind as to let him see her without his supervision. Julius would probably just cast him aside, telling him to come back at a more appropriate hour. Alice needed sleep.
'But I want to see her…' He vowed not to wake her. It was Ace's most innocent gesture – just peek into her room to check up on her and leave. It was so simple. Neither Julius nor Alice would know he even dropped in.
The brown-haired knight silently leapt through the tower window, landing gracefully onto his feet. With a brisk, hushed stride, Ace sauntered over towards Alice's bedside. A sense of relief relaxed his features as he sat himself beside her. It was amazing to see her sleeping so peacefully, as if her life wasn't in danger hours before.
"You're so fragile, you know that?" he whispered, unconsciously moving a brown tendril from her face. It was as if she was a doll made out of porcelain; one small mistake and she would shatter into thousands of pieces. He did like testing her limits, see how hard he could push her until she begs for mercy. Seeing her in situations like the one before?
He laughed at himself and his strange behavior. She always did make him do rather odd things…
'I better get going. Julius would get upset if he saw me here.'
As he tried to rise to his feet, planning to escape through the window, something tugged his arm down.
"Mmghr…" mumbled the sleepy girl, her hand grasping her jacket's sleeve.
"Come on, Alice…" he told her, trying to pull his sleeve out of her hands. "I have to go or else Julius will kill me!"
He shouldn't have expected her to hear him. Her mind was still deep in a sleepy daze, her hand still holding onto his sleeve.
As Ace finally liberated himself from her hold and treaded quietly towards the window, a small, weak voice sounded, "A… Ace…"
His composure faltered; his resolve wavered. The knight slowly turned around.
Alice was still fast asleep.
And in her sleep, she had called his name.
'…Maybe Julius won't be too upset if I stay here for a night. I can probably deal with it.'
Slipping his red coat off his broad shoulders, he settled himself inside the sheets beside her.
To me, you're irreplaceable.
"I'm irreplaceable, huh?" He gently placed his ear against her chest, listening to her heart palpitate in a melodic rhythm.
This sound… this beautiful heart sound… he had never heard anything like it in his life.
'As long as Alice is here, I will always protect her, so that this heart will continue beating.'
She was his sine qua non – his most irreplaceable person. Ace would much rather die than let her get away from him.
Random A/N Notes: Hope it was okay!
Thanks for reading~