It takes place in the universe of Pixie Dust and Hydrogen, picking up at the end of Part 10 and ending shortly before the Epilogue. The story was originally conceptualized as a short scene of roughly 1000 words, but it was deleted from the main draft once it became clear that it no longer fit into the story's primary plotline.
"Seeing Red" is its author's first foray into any sort of Canon Character/OC ship.
- Chase Redford
- Lizzie Hearts
- Celadon West
- Mentions of others
Summary & Tags
Through the looking-glass, and what people were even doing there. Alternatively: Celadon West has a weakness for his favorite color, and Chase Redford is (sort of) the beneficiary.
Tags & Warnings: Missing Scene, Awkward Crush, One-Sided(?) Attraction (OC towards Canon), Puns & Word Play, Bilingual Character (Riddlish is the other language), Minor Blood, Blood Magic
This fic is rated T for Teen.
ruby slippers are red and shiny and so is chase's armor.
trash ship hell, population: me
Epinefairy is a thinly veiled epinephrine (epipen) EAH-verse equivalent.
As the world collapsed around Ever After High, Raven Queen and her friends were scrambling to find a way to save their world from the ominous doom foretold them... but far, far away in the quiet corners of Wonderland, a knight of a different color stood careful guard at the gates of Wonderland High, keeping watch over the 363-day holiday. And thus, it was only Chase Redford who saw as a startling, verdant figure appeared in a puff of deep orange smoke and flame.
"You're trespassing on school grounds, sir," he steadied himself, lifting his blade defensively. "School is not in session today. Please remove yourself from school property and attend in one hundred fifty one days--"
"Hm," a sly, black-lipped grin peeked out from beneath his wide-brimmed witch's hat. "One knight. You'd think they'd make it more of a challenge, if they didn't want people getting onto school grounds. Perhaps I should have a talk with your... principal."
"Our former principal has left school, and therefore it falls to the acting vice-principal to be principal," Chase scowled beneath his helmet. "And the current acting vice-principal is also the school attendance officer. Which means the person you want is me."
"Well," enunciated the wizard slowly, dark lips forming each syllable. "I suppose, then, it's a matter of principle."
"It is," Chase cautiously agreed.
A grim chuckle. "You give up your weakness too easily, knight. It almost makes me wonder-- how would you stand up against someone utterly unprincipled?"
Chase Redford had stood up very poorly, indeed.
Those were the rules of Wonderland, after all: the guy had un-riddled a riddle, or, perhaps, he'd re-riddled it. If this stranger were, indeed, without principle, then he would be ruled by neither principal nor acting vice-principal, meaning...
"I would be the school attendance officer," Chase pressed his lips together. "Acting vice."
"If you insist," the corner of the stranger's lip twitched upwards in almost a smirk. "Act vice, then. I'm waiting."
Rules were rules, and rules themselves were but words, given power. That was simply logic. The words of his label were the rules of his position that he would have to follow, come hell or high-tide-- those were, indeed, the laws and rules set forth by Wonderland's queen herself, a power much higher than principal of Wonderland high... or, as the case may be, the school attendance officer, acting vice.
And so, forced into this cruel play by the rules of Wonderland itself, Chase Redford tightened his jaw and gave himself into most inappropriate behavior for a school attendance officer on Wonderland High's 363-day holiday, the worst and wickedest vice any attendance officer could commit--
He stepped aside and opened the gate, "Please, take your time."
"Thank you," and with a confident step, Celadon West entered the halls of Wonderland High.
He strode across the floors at a brisk pace, the tile flooring much less active now that school was on holiday. His jacket billowed behind him.
Chase scowled at his unprincipled foe, hating to leave the halls of his school alone with so dubious a character. Technically speaking, he wasn't supposed to leave his guard at the front gate unless there was an intruder-- which this stranger was not, from a logical perspective, because he had been invited in-- but then he recalled that when someone was unprincipled, the acting vice-principal was only intended to be acting vice. And so, with the hefty clank of his armor, the Red Knight of Wonderland entered the halls, carefully shutting the door behind him, and stalked after the not-intruder.
"Who are you?" Chase demanded. "I'll need to see your transfer papers."
"Handling student transfers," West pursed his lips. "Isn't that the principal's job? What a shame that there isn't one."
Chase clenched his sword within his fist, sorely tempted to strike now. But, though there were no more principles, that was no reason for Chase to forsake honor as well.
"Is there something I can help you find?" Chase questioned, straining to be polite.
"Is there?" his hat seemed to shift, one side quirking upward with the movement of his brows. "There is something that I must find, yes. But you can't expect me to know whether or not you can help me find it."
"That would depend on what that something is," Chase frowned. "And for what reason you seek it."
"'Depend'... that's an interesting choice in words," another curling smile. "Particularly when, by any standards, my actions are wholly independent."
Maddening. Utterly maddening. Chase took a deep breath. He could deal with maddening. At least the stranger wasn't trying to be reasonable-- those types of villains were indeed the most irritating.
"That wasn't a request. It's a demand," Chase asserted. "What are you doing here? What are you looking for? And why?"
"I suppose I've been less than undemanding," West acknowledged, glancing curiously at the red, red armor on this figure. "But you were wrong about the request. That is exactly what this is... a re-quest to find the book referenced in this tome. As for my reasons... a gut feeling that I'll require a spell enclosed within sometime soon. Before the scheduled demise of the realms... perhaps even in time to stop it."
"The library, then," Chase answered, expression growing grave. "You are looking for the library. You should have spoken sooner."
"Would you have believed me if I had?" West's question came cuttingly. "Me, bearing hellfire and witchcraft and green skin?"
"I would have, if you'd told me the purpose of your visit," Chase insisted, yanking on West's sleeve to direct him down a hallway before it shifted away.
"You were more than willing to assume I was unprincipled a moment ago," West caught his breath. "Despite the fact I'd never even professed to it."
Chase furrowed his brow, attempting to recall the details of that exchange. He hesitated, "Are you?"
"Evil and unprincipled are two very different things," answered West ambiguously, pulling open the only door he could find, which could only be the correct one by process of elimination. "Your assistance is appreciated."
"You're... not unprincipled, then?" Chase seemed visibly perplexed, lifting his visor as if to visually assess the truth of that statement.
"There are easier ways to get past a knight than out-riddling one," West informed him matter-of-factly, easily using his magic to pull his required books from their perches on birdfeeders or wires. Like a silent threat, he bound a book to the table with a single spell as it desperately attempted to fly away.
Chase did not miss the implication. "Why didn't you?"
"Maybe I wanted something in exchange," West eyed him from head to armor-booted toe. It was odd, he thought, how very red the knight's lips were, almost as if they sought to emulate his armor.
"Like directions?" he asked dubiously. "Or my footwear?"
Like a kiss, West thought absently, lingering at the sight of that ruby-red, faintly glossy with saliva. He scowled, then, and pressed the unbidden, foolish thought from his mind as best as he could. It was getting to be ridiculous, his preoccupation with the color-- and if he continued down this path, it would not be very long yet before he was willing to do anything for a pair of silly red shoes.
He settled, eventually, on this request: "Like perhaps a translator from Riddlish to the common tongue?"
"That's all?" Chase's voice bore a hint of incredulity. He wore suspicion like a mantle, that reddest shine marred with a roaring fear.
"Well," West looked at him, his expression momentarily unreadable. At last, after much deliberation, "If you're offering, I have some interest in the feather on your helmet. I've always found the color red... fascinating."
"A feather," Chase agreed, still cautious. "A feather and translations... and no less."
West smiled softly and watched as the visor went back over his face and silence fell between them. He mourned those impulsive words he had suppressed, for a moment, laying that foolish crush to rest as best as he could.
And then, he agreed: "A feather and translations. No more."
This was how, Chase supposed, he ended up spending day 212 of Wonderland's school vacation crouched over a table in the school library, studying harder than he ever had while in school.
Technically speaking, as prerequisite for being formal attendance officer, acting vice-principal, and principal, he had already graduated-- more than once, in fact. But one does not get to be fluent in Common Fairytale and Wonderlandian Riddlish by skipping school, and he had attended Wonderland High not once, not twice, but four entire days. One more, and he could apply for a doctorate.
Still... by now he was certain of it. The witch-boy may yet possess principle, but he was decidedly evil.
Even now, though his eyes were shrouded still by that wide-brimmed hat, Chase could feel his gaze as it bore into him, seemingly scrutinizing his work. He hadn't been this nervous since his first day of school (and subsequent first graduation).
The stranger pursed his lips, black with the flush of blood. He spoke pointedly, "You work slowly."
Chase frowned, "I'm a chess piece. Chess is a slow game."
"You've translated three titles," he enunciated the words slowly. "You must be twice as fluent as I am, and yet, I've still tripled your amount translated."
Chase clenched his jaw and buckled down. Villains gloat, he remembered. That was in Wonderlandian Heroics Class. Of course, he'd also been told that villains would tell you things that made sense only dubiously, and this one seemed to have a propensity for being altogether too reasonable.
"I need one book with a title that means 'Blood from a Stone,'" the stranger muttered, seemingly to himself. "The books I pulled should all be fairly strong contenders..."
Chase finished his translation. "That's the most complicated, roundabout way of putting any kind of meaning. I'm not even sure I understand what that means in Common Fairytale."
"Complicated!" the stranger seemed to jolt upwards suddenly. "Of course... upper level magic is complicated."
With a roaring spell that sparked like flame from his fingertips, he pulled a book from its perch on the eaves above, forcing the poor creature to land with a thud upon the nearest table.
"It seems that the title was the translation," the stranger began flicking through the pages of the book, and if Chase hadn't known better, he would have assumed that the witch had been an ordinary student, eager to learn-- albeit, eager enough to have broken into school while it was closed.
Suddenly, Chase was struck by a sudden realization, "You never told me your name. I'm the principal, and according to school rules, all students must make themselves known to me."
The stranger glowered beneath his hat, "Why do you want to know? I'm sure you've guessed by now that I'm not transferring here."
Chase straightened his back and bore down with all the confidence imbued upon him by The School Rules. "Transfer or not, you're still studying on school grounds-- and that's the definition of a student."
The stranger pressed his lips together, seemingly displeased at having been caught in that particular logic snag. "West. My name is West."
"That doesn't sound like a whole name," Chase began dubiously. He was familiar enough with the family name of the most notorious wicked witches, and caution set into him like an uncomfortably heavy meal.
"But it is a name. A surname, to be precise," West frowned. "You'll have to offer me something more if you want any of my other names. Particularly since you have yet to make good on your offer of translation."
"A knight always keeps his word," Chase insisted.
"And, apparently, his name as well. Though it matters little... I have the spell I wanted. The one from the reference table in the back of my own book. The one that is never actually referenced in-tome," West remarked, decidedly returning to the book. His fingers crackled faintly with flame as he cast, "From present to past, from past to the start... reveal the true tale at storybook's heart!"
Chase drew his sword, altogether too familiar with that cadence, so similar to the curse Wonderland once suffered. "Foul sorcerer, I--"
"You jump to conclusions too hastily," West lifted a hand in front of his face, as if to protect himself from a strike. "Lower your sword. I was undoing the disguise spell once cast on the book I brought with me... nothing more."
"And I'm meant to believe you?" Chase leveled his gaze to where he presumed the witch's eyes were, somewhere in the shadow of his accursed hat.
"Look at the book if you must," West defensively tugged his hat down further, his lips setting into almost a pout.
And there, writ in plain Riddlish above a tangle of illegible runes: "Reversed, Unwound, Words Concealed and Found." Chase fairly flushed with embarrassment as he sheathed his sword.
"I, um," he hesitated, unsure of what to do in this situation. Eventually he settled on an apologetic, "I was mistaken. Excuse me."
"I don't believe even Wonderland has a potion named 'Excuse Me'... particularly not when the offense is so grievous a crime as unprovoked attempted assault," West remarked. He withdrew his hand from over his face and held it out, as if expecting to receive something, "I think a fair exchange for an excuse of that level would be your name."
"My... name?" Chase hesitated. "Only my name?"
"Well," West gave pause, as if mulling over some other thought. He licked his lips in a manner that ought to have been thoughtful... but seemed almost self-conscious, instead. "If you're offering... I would not be opposed to your whole name."
"Nothing more?" Chase asked, feeling just this side of foolish for doing so. He reminded himself-- this person (though not wholly unprincipled) was likely evil, and he ought to be accepting any slack he was offered. Still, it was difficult to believe... "You would absolve my honor in exchange for my name?"
"Don't underestimate the power of a name," West replied enigmatically. "That is my price. Take it or leave it."
"My name is Chase," he volunteered. Then, after a moment's pause, "Chase... Redford. The, um, son of the Red Queen."
"Redford," West chuckled darkly. "Well. I enjoy collecting things that are red... but this may be the first time I've collected a name."
Chase swallowed. There was something incredibly humanizing about knowing a witch did not merely go around cursing people for fun, that even he had hobbies as simple as collecting red knickknacks. It was, indeed, nearly impossible to keep from thinking for a moment that this was just a normal student. Perhaps malicious and unruly, but more or less normal.
He would have to be cautious around this one, Chase thought, lest he infringe upon more rules than he already had. He was still upset at having been tricked into acting vice, but those actions could not be undone-- all he could do now was supervise and minimize any damage done upon his school, even though thus far, the visitor seemed only interested in using the library.
The witch thumbed through a few pages in his new tome, the one which had previously recorded the magiphysical properties of Wonderland, particularly the alterations from the Cursing. Now, its title read two tales anew-- one side containing The Sorceress' Tale, and the other, bearing The Queen's Story. West's mouth twisted into a frown for a moment, and he turned back to the first book, which had begun to ruffle its pages in anticipation. Lithe fingers flicked through the pages urgently, as if seeking something quite specific.
His frown deepened. "Does your offer of a translation still stand?"
"Rules are rules," Chase answered, hesitant. "And a knight cannot go back on his word."
West shoved the book in his direction. "I can understand enough to know that the list at the top is for spell components... but the list itself..."
"It looks like a recipe for blood pudding," Chase looked at it dubiously. The riddles were familiar enough to him, very nearly identical to those contained in a cookbook he knew. "Coconut water from the far reaches of Bandersnatch Bay. Butterfly scales, willingly given. Wonder from its source at the Well of Wonder. Add three drops of blood and stir with a wand of ebony. My, um. My mom serves it at parties."
"I don't intend to eat it," West finished writing the list down. "Your debt has been fulfilled... I should cease imposing on you."
Chase straightened his back, somehow more alarmed by the thought of letting this stranger from his sight than having this stranger in his school (where at least he was capable of enforcing his own rules). "You intend to leave?"
"Yes," West replied shortly. Perhaps a bit wryly, "Someone mentioned I was trespassing."
Something about the utter lateness of that comment struck Chase as equally frustrating and hilarious.
"I, um," Chase began slightly. Eventually, he managed, "Watch out for the flying elephants on the way. They wouldn't reschedule Catapult Day, even after the End of the World Address."
"Your warning comes a little late," West snorted. "I... had an incident with them on my way over."
"I... could go with you. As a guide, I mean," Chase explained hurriedly. "To... prevent things like that. Especially because of your re-quest. A knight should always protect those who need it, and, well, rules are rules."
"Noted," West turned his head to the side. "I have informed you of my... magical capabilities?"
"I mean, yes, you have," Chase nodded slowly, recalling that he was, indeed, dealing a witch.
"And a principal should not leave his school," West reasoned. "As it would be acting vice."
"Well... rules are rules," Chase agreed, hesitating slightly.
"I suppose the matter comes down to whether you find me unprincipled or evil," he concluded, turning deftly and departing the library, books tucked into his coat. "Since, apparently, you consider me the present student body. A principal may not leave his school, but that seems perfectly within bounds of what a school attendance officer, acting vice might do."
Normally, Chase Redford would have called a school-wide student trial to decide the matter fairly: evil or unprincipled? Intentionally malicious, or merely ruthless in achieving his goals? However, the school court was only one person now, sans the one on trial. As the only member of the student body or faculty present, it would fall to Chase to be judge, juror, prosecutor, and defense all in one-- a heretofore unprecedented occurrence.
He made his decision.
"Wait, West," Chase called out, his brilliant red armor clanking as he hastened his step. "I have a horse... it'll be faster to go that way."
"You sound very certain," surprise crossed the visible half of West's face-- perhaps more shocked by the judgement than the offer. "You don't even know where I'm going."
"Coconut water, butterfly scales, Wonder itself, and ebony-wand," Chase recited as if he'd had the list memorized for years. "I'm used to running errands for Mom. I know where those are."
"I'm afraid I'll have to owe you for this one," West frowned. "I hate being in debt."
"Well, if you're offering," Chase hesitantly lifted the visor of his helmet, shimmering red. "I wouldn't be opposed to the rest of your name?"
Something softened about the witch in that moment, something like a warmth that had seeped into his bones. He seemed gentler, for a second, the air around him less sharp.
"Celadon," he answered, barely above a whisper. "My first name is Celadon."
It was simple enough to obtain a wand of ebony, particularly since they were prone to grow on trees nearly at random, here in Wonderland. But the butterflies seemed to refuse being found, terrified witless that day by the extradimensional vibrations. It was a long, long time before they managed to find one who possessed enough presence of mind to give their scales willingly.
Enough time had passed that night was beginning to fall, and though it seemed to do so quite irregularly in Wonderland, sometimes setting in the middle of the day, Chase had quite adamantly insisted that Wonderland was umpteen times more dangerous in the dark than in the light, and it would be wise to set up camp, at least until the nighttime let up. Preferably with as large a fire as they could create.
"Fire," West creased his brow, thinking on the plethora of fearsome Wonderland creatures and wondering which among them would fear fire. "I can do fire."
"The rules of Wonderland permit fire to take more forms than its original," Chase warned. "I would be cautious. Rules are rules... but unruly objects are the most dangerous. It is for this reason Wonderland has such powerful Queens, so that no being is without ruler."
"I suppose your mother, the Red Queen told you that," West let the corner of his mouth curl up, amused. "I suppose fires in Wonderland are prone to spontaneously bursting into bubbles?"
"Strawberry jam, actually," Chase reported solemnly. "And some... are rebellious enough to try turning into blueberry."
"Will you be assured if I say that conjured Hellfyre will answer to me only?" West turned his face to the side curiously, revealing the side of a smooth, green cheek. "If you prefer, I might have spell components for Faerie-Lights on me, as well, though they're somewhat... flightier."
Chase swallowed, unable to wholly shake off the discomfort of that name. "Even in Wonderland... nothing dares to touch Hellfyre."
West lowered his chin, unable to keep a brief expression of hurt from crossing his face. "The name doesn't mean anything, you know. It's just sulfur that's been charged with magical celestinium..."
"It's fire that behaves like water," Chase frowned. "And forest fires are against the rules at every campsite, designated or not."
"But like water, it doesn't catch on anything unless you spill it. Like water, it can be contained within a vessel," West insisted. He hesitated for a second, "And like water, it cleans things. I... have a lot of experience with it."
A strange expression crossed Chase's face for a moment, and his visor fell down as he lowered his chin. "It's true what they say, then, about the Witches of the West?"
"That depends," West crossed his arms defensively, his own hat-brim dropping over his face. "Are you asking about the hereditary allergy to clean water? Or are you asking if the legends are true, if our souls are so unclean that water can melt us?"
"It... is only an allergy, then?" Chase questioned.
"Maybe," West tisked. "How can I know what happened for my ancestors to have developed an allergy to water? My family history isn't exactly well-documented."
"Look, I... I'm sorry I asked," the knight shook his head and lifted his visor once more. "It's just... I thought it might have been a curse?"
"A curse that has yet to be broken after ninety-nine generations of witches," West snorted. "There's no such thing."
"No, really, I get it," Chase frowned, "I mean... the Red Queen is less of a villain and more of an antagonist in Wonderland's story, but I get it. I just... I shouldn't have asked."
West sighed, but relented, "Do you want the fire, still, or are you more interested in strawberry jam at the moment?"
"Fire. Just, um," Chase fumbled for something that could possibly serve as a brazier. Eventually, he settled on removing his helmet and turning it upside down. "Just use that for now. I don't really have anything else that's not, um, flammable."
"That sounds like you're looking to have your helmet cleaned for free," West seemed to relax a little, accepting the helmet with only the slightest of hesitations.
He withdrew something yellow and chalky from one of his pockets, sprinkling a handful of pebbles inside. A flicker of something hot and red curled around his fingertips, then, magic celestinium drawn from the air, and in a mere moment more, the inside of the helmet was vividly alight with orange plumes of flame and smoke.
"That's... not the same hellfire they speak of in legend," Chase cautiously proposed. "That's not even the same hellfire you appeared in. It doesn't... smell the way it was described."
"Astute of you to notice, but it is the same," West lowered his gaze, something about the way Chase appeared in this light so strikingly red. "There's a lot less of it than usually placed in the legends... there's a lot less of it than I used to teleport to Wonderland High. It's less acrid in small quantities."
"If I didn't know better, I would say it smells of french toast," a small smile flickered at the end of Chase's lips. "Burning french toast, I mean."
"It sounds like you're pretty familiar with that," West ventured a smile, faintly amused.
"My mom employs many chefs," an oddly fond expression crossed Chase's face. "But french toast is one of the things she keeps trying to make by herself... everyone must practice their Fairytale French, after all, and rules are rules."
"I suppose that sounds... logical, to an extent," West's lips twitched upwards at the ends.
"She might not be the most maternal of people, but she tries," Chase admitted, "Besides... she took me in when nobody else would. That has to count for something."
"You're... not related?" West furrowed his brows, perplexed.
"We are. Just... not by blood," Chase insisted, drawing his mouth into a scowl. "It's complicated. I'm proud to inherit her legacy, that's all that matters."
"I should have worded myself more clearly," West apologized. "I suppose that makes us even, then. I was just... surprised. Some witches believe that bloodline is everything."
"Are you one of them?" Chase narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing.
"The origin of your blood is less important than what you do with it," West self-consciously touched the cover of the book he carried. "The situations where blood can be important... those are few and far between."
Chase pursed his lips, moistening them so they glistened red. "You never did mention the purpose of your re-quest."
"One of those rare situations where bloodline might be of import," West's gaze flickered from a red mouth to blue eyes. "But not yours."
He furrowed his brow for a moment before thinking on the spell recipe he'd helped translate. At last, Chase recited a lesson long ago given: "Wonderlandian Heroics 101... 'blood pudding is only a type of blood-- that is, blood of the pudding variety.' It can be used as a substitute in cases of medical emergency."
"Blood transfusion spell," West admitted, seeming all-too weary.
"Copper, stop," Chase pulled the reins of his metal horse to halt. "The sun is almost gone now... we'll have to stop here for the night. It's too dangerous for travel."
"Is it... safe to rest?" West seemed dubious about stopping at all.
"The fire will keep unfriendly creatures away," Chase assured him. "And, being made of metal, my loyal steed will have no difficulty staying awake for first watch... isn't that right, boy?"
The horse gave a metallic whinny in reply.
"Very well, then," West dismounted from where he'd been sitting side-saddle, far more used to riding brooms than clockwork equines. "I suppose... I have not yet suffered for having followed your advice."
The trees fell in the grove where they'd spent the night.
"That was close," Chase shook his head, catching his breath once they'd escaped from danger. He brushed branches and brambles from his horse's armored surface. "Falling apart like that... it's completely against the rules assigned to trees. Somehow, I thought the end of the world would come down all at once."
"It's worse in Ever After, you know," West mentioned quietly, still panting from the exertion of running. "In some places, entire lakes have disappeared."
"And... Wonderland?" Chase hesitantly questioned, unsure if he even wished to hear the answer.
"Wonderland, Neverland, Oz... everything," pronounced West, solemn.
And after that, regardless of the dangers of the dark, they rode forth for Bandersnatch Bay. The thought was too unsettling to allow for further rest.
They had been obtaining the second-last ingredient upon the list when it happened.
It had been a strange, terrifying thing to think of, and even more fearsome when he'd believed it was his destiny. But now, when it was beginning to happen, West did not think it was so very terrible.
And thus, for a moment, he merely stared at the droplets of liquefied flesh sliding into his palm, starting to run down from the tips of his fingers. Then, with a calm and even voice, he announced out loud: "I'm melting."
Chase froze in the midst of arranging his horse's saddlebag. "What?"
"I believe I'm melting," West held up his hand, the skin of his fingertips beginning to pool in his palm's cusp. "It must have been from gathering the coconut water... I suppose calling it 'water' as opposed to 'juice' has made all the difference. I just thought you should know in case I finish liquefying on the way to the Well of Wonder portal. Try not to let it slow you down, in any event. Time is of the essence."
It was rather like watching a lit candle begin to melt, except that it was was not wax but flesh-- green though it may be, but human. Chase's stomach turned.
"That's... you're asking me to just let you melt?" his voice was incredulous.
"If you wish for this re-quest to come to its conclusion, yes, that's what I'd suggest," West replied, though he swallowed thickly. "I suppose it doesn't matter much to me, anymore, as I'll cease to exist either way. If you would find it too... distracting... I suppose I could just stay here."
"Of course it would be distracting... as a knight, I can't just allow someone to die when there's anything I can do to stop it," Chase seemed to revile the very suggestion. "That's against the rules!"
Determined to handle the matter stoically, West merely replied, "You can thank the Princess of Hearts for, er, loaning me her book, if you both survive. I should apologize for any stains that ensue from my liquefied remnants in advance."
His palm was beginning to drip eerily down his wrist. Chase willed himself to look away.
"There must be something that can stop it, Celadon," he implored, trying not to think of how that sight made his stomach drop like a stone.
West did not bother to insist that he preferred his surname. "I have an Epinefairy potion in my dorm room. But by the time of my arrival, the dose will be insufficient... if I am solid enough to even ingest it. I ought to apologize for wasting your time."
"But the universe--"
"--will be fine, though they will have to obtain blood the normal way," West exhaled, utterly resigned. He murmured, "I suppose they were right about where leads the road of good intentions."
A thought flickered partway through Chase's mind, and he grasped onto it, "Yesterday, you appeared out of nowhere in this burst of Hellfyre..."
"Cross-portal teleportation isn't possible... Newt's third law of dimensional magic," West winced, beginning to feel the melting spread to his nerve endings and discovering that it was actually quite painful, more painful than expected. "I'm sure you already know that rules are rules, but laws are laws. But... I suppose, if I could get to the other side of the Wonderland portal in the next half-hour..."
"Rules are rules," Chase asserted, grabbing West by his good wrist, and trying to ignore the way his off-hand was still dripping away. "And rules state that I have to get you there in time."
"That doesn't sound like a normal rule," West mounted the horse behind him.
"That's the good thing about being principal," Chase lowered his visor. "Occasionally, you get to make rules."
It was a ridiculous sentiment, West thought. An absolutely ridiculous sentiment, but a wonderful one, and he felt something not unlike the color red bloom beneath his bosom. Or, perhaps, that was the sensation of melting-related shock finally catching up to him. One or the other, he decided dizzily.
True to what he'd promised, Chase and his steed made record time across Wonderland's countryside, skidding to a stop just beside the well. Better than his word, indeed, for he had made it to the location designated by the map-book in scarcely over twenty minutes, Copper's gears very faintly emitting frictive sparks.
"Butterfly scales, willingly given... coconut water, ebony wand," West listed, drawing the last spell component into a waterskin with finality. "Wonder from its source at the Well. I can use my own blood on the other side."
Chase's eyes clung to where flesh and blood ran together in a dark, ruddy-green stream down West's left sleeve. A bitter taste seemed to fill his mouth at that, and perhaps more impulsively than he ought to, he drew the edge of his sword and nicked his own thumb upon it intentionally, dropping three drops exactly into the waterskin of ingredients.
"It's taken care of," Chase answered sternly, but his tone became nigh ineffective a second later, when he licked the shallow cut at his thumb closed. His own red, red blood seemed to stain his lips like ruby, brighter red than even they had been before, and West, more than ever, was tempted to make his foolish request for a kiss.
Instead, he answered this: "You didn't have to do that... I hate being in debt."
"Then go, and make sure you live," the corner of Chase's tongue flicked a last bit of blood from his lip. "Live, and pay me back later."
And as West fell forth into the Well of Wonder's portal, bearing back the objects they had so sought, his thought was not about the re-quest, nor the solemn information thus uncovered, but rather that he had forgotten he was still one feather shy of a fulfilled promise.
It was getting to be irrational, this strange fascination with the color red.
He returned the Map-Book to Lizzie, later that night, murmuring a curt apology and an explanation for why it was needed.
"Well!" she'd huffed. "I should say you ought to be sorry! Though... I suppose, given that the spell you found did save a life or two, I shall most magnanimously pardon you from immediate beheading. In any case, you had better stay well away from Wonderland in the days to come... why, I do so ever wonder whom you offended so during your visit!"
"I was not aware I had offended someone," West bristled visibly, thinking of only one person he could have possibly offended.
"Yes, well," Lizzie straightened herself regally. "I was requested to deliver this to you from Lord Redford the Red Knight, incidentally also the school attendance officer, acting vice-principal, and principal of Wonderland High. I haven't the fraggliest idea what you might have done, but I can quite easily assume what a token like this might mean in the realm of knightly battle."
She extended to him a single red feather.
West was silent for a moment. Then, "The Red Knight of Wonderland... Chase Redford?"
"A proper queen is always well-informed on such important matters," Lizzie lifted her chin. "Of course it is from Chase Redford; there is no other Red Knight."
His heart beat furiously at the very thought. He bade it quiet as he swallowed, and attempted to speak:
"I'll... pay him back for it."
And, from beneath the shadow of his hat, West smiled.