Alice loves being warm, because all she could remember before emerging into this world was cold. Not a shivering cold like winter, or a pleasurable one like ice cream, but the cold Alice had known was a lack of heat, the pure emptiness of life that was the black of the Abyss. She’d wait, half-bored, half-expectant, crouching in the darkness, waiting for some Trump or a rival Chain to cross her territory of broken rubble and discarded, misshapen children’s toys. That cold loneliness was all she knew before Oz came and the contract was made between them.
Now, his warmth was at her back as they sat in the bay window, looking out toward the wooded fields. He once told her that she like the sun to him, but Oz didn’t realize that he had his own light too, and she noticed that shining glow dim in her manservant.
“What are you thinking about now?”
His tilted his chin upwards. “That… the sky is beautiful,” he said through lidded eyes. His tone scared her. “Terrible things have happened, but the sky’s still blue.” Oz shifts in his seat again, slumps against her. “Today comes around again, like it’s totally natural, a given. I find lots of things like that to be infuriating, somehow.”
The resignation sparks something in her. Humans can be so hard to understand (no, Alice doesn’t think of herself as completely human sometimes, but now is not the moment to dwell on that). That droop in Oz’s voice, one that usually contains a bounce like golden bells, it’s, well, almost unnatural. Or at least not-Oz. Alice wanted to pluck that not-Oz quality out from his throat and make him sound like himself again.
But so much has happened after the horrors at Yura’s mansion. That failed Tragedy. Alice frowned, thinking about that night, and squinted out the window. She wished she could be B-Rabbit and all-powerful, and she’d punch that smirking sun out of the sky for daring to shine and pretend everything was the same like Oz had said.
She couldn’t punch anything that big and that far away, but another idea came to mind. Alice recalled Lady Sharon, and the giggle in her voice weeks ago, when Alice asked why people liked to bite each other’s faces.
“They’re not bites,” she had explained and leaned in to press her lips on Alice’s cheek. It felt wet and a little warm. The strong whiff of honeysuckle came to Alice’s nose, making her wrinkle it and give a little grimace. Lady Sharon pulled away, a doting smile on her face. “That’s called a kiss. People use their lips to express affection.”
“Affection?” Alice had scratched her head at that. “So they are like love bites?”
At that comment, Lady Sharon immediately lifted her fan over her face and squealed, “Alice, you are too cute!” though Alice didn’t get a better explanation than that.
Now, leaning over, Alice pressed her lips against Oz’s ear. She would attempt this affection. She wanted to give Oz back some of the warmth he had lost. Old instincts from the Abyss rose up within (fight, defeat, kill). Her teeth pressed against flesh. Oz scolding in a tired voice: “Alice, you mustn’t do that to people so easily-” Both of them tumbled onto the window bench.
“”Shut up.” It wasn’t working. Maybe Alice wasn’t doing this hard enough.
The taste of blood (alone).
He had a wisp of a smile on his face. “That hurts,” he said, that old joking tone resurrected, as faded as a ghost.
But still warmer. Maybe. She leaned back, licking her lips. Oz playfully moved aside, hiding his expression as he slipped off the bench.
She watched as a beam hit against his retreating back, glinting against his hair. Alice wished she could cup that light into her palms but knew it would only slip between her fingers, infuriating and beautiful.