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After all the chills and thrills of Halloween, All Saint's Day was very quiet by comparison.  But neither Reginald nor Alice were complaining.  After deciding that he didn't feel like opening the hat shop that day, Reginald declared that they should simply rest and enjoy the peace, and maybe have a soothing cup of tea or two to settle their stomachs after having a few too many sweets.

Alice had no objections to the plan, and they whiled away the hours sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea and exchanging stories about various Halloween's they had experienced.  There was a pause in the storytelling when Reginald went to retrieve the mail.  He was reading a letter when he returned, a smile on his face.  He sat back down and thanking Alice absently as she refilled his teacup.  Though her curiosity was piqued, she waited until he'd set the letter down before asking who it was from.

"Some old friends of mine.  I was wondering why they hadn't shown up by now, Halloween is Jack's best season."  Seeing Alice's confused look, he added: "Jack Skellington.  I'm sure you've heard of him."

Who hadn't?  It didn't really surprise Alice that Reginald knew the man some called "The Pumpkin King."  The performer was known for being eccentric (some would even say he was downright mad).  He showed up every year in the city once autumn hit, and disappeared by the first of the year.  People said he spent the rest of the time traveling, finding new and strange people and creatures and creations to add to his act, and learning everything he could about—well, everything.

"So why hasn't he come this year?"

Reginald opened his mouth, but quickly closed it again and shook his head, before finally saying: "I think the news would have more meaning with a bit more knowledge.  I have another Halloween story, if you'd like to hear it."

"Of course I would.  Is it a scary story?"

"No.  It's a love story."


*~*~*~*~*~*


Neither of them could quite remember just when they became friends.  They'd known each other for so long; it was difficult to remember a time when they hadn't been part of each other's lives.  It was Reginald who'd found the black-and-white pinstripe fabric for Jack's signature suit, and it was Jack who'd convinced him to call the hat shop "Mad Hatter's", telling Reginald to take the title for his own as a way of thumbing his nose at his detractors.  

And of course they both loved tinkering with anything they could get their hands on.  Reginald was the only one besides Jack who knew just how Jack's tricks and illusions worked, mostly because he'd helped to design and build most of them.  But Jack knew that his friend would never betray any of his secrets.
"Your friend should be arriving soon, Mr. Hargreaves.  Shall I go make some tea?"

"Sally, I've told you before, I hired you for your skills, not to act as a housemaid.  Never mind the tea, I'll see to it in a minute, and make a cup for you too."

He'd given up trying to convince Sally to call him Reginald.  He didn't like the formality, but he knew it was no good to try and push the issue.  It was disheartening that someone with such a brilliant mind as Sally's could be so timid and withdrawn.

What he knew about her past had been learned piecemeal throughout the year she'd worked for him.  She'd worked for M3 industries at one point, as an assistant to one Dr. Finkelstein, who was whispered to actually be a "mad" scientist.  But there were a lot of rumors about M3, most of which had to be absolute nonsense.

Sally had excelled at her work (mostly involving chemicals).  But then there had been an accident of some kind, no one was sure just what happened.  Whatever it was had caused an explosion that destroyed half a laboratory and a great deal of work, and had also turned Sally's skin a bluish gray pallor, after the chemicals from the exploding beakers and other glassware shattered on her.  The glass itself imbedded into her skin, and though the doctors did everything they could, Sally still ended up covered in scars.

Just to add insult to injury, she'd been discharged from M3; though Madame Maleficent had assured her that it was "it [was] what was best for her.  After such a trauma, surely she wouldn't want to work in such an environment, and she would be handsomely compensated besides."  Or as Reginald worked it out by reading between the lines, take this money and keep quiet, or you'll wish you had.

But the funds only lasted for so long, before Sally had to seek employment again.  The only problem was that no one wanted to hire her.  Everyone used M3 products, and no one wanted to be on the bad side of Madame Maleficent Malevolent.  Except for him.  Reginald supposed he should care, but when Sally first came into the hat shop, asking if he was in need of any additional help, his heart had gone out to the woman with such big dark eyes that looked so sad.  And when she'd shown that she had profound sewing skills, and several ideas in regards to the chemicals he used to make hats, he knew he was making the right choice.

Now, if he could only convince her how wonderful and talented she really was, and that she was still beautiful despite everything that had happened, she might actually be able to regain her confidence and have a life of her own, rather than spend the rest of her days hiding away in the hat shop.

"Reg, where are you hiding?  I've got the greatest idea that I need to run by you, it involves scarecrows and fire and—oh, hello Miss Sally Patchwork, I didn't see you there.  How are you this lovely afternoon?"

"Hello, Mr. Skellington.  I'm well enough, thank you.  If you're looking for Mr. Hargreaves, he's in the kitchen making tea."

"For the thousandth and twelfth time, Sally, please do call me Jack.  And ha, making him do the manual labor, are we?  Good show.  Come along and join us, I want your opinion as well, you've a knack for discerning all the parts that would get me killed, which of course I'd very much like to avoid."

After the usual ribbing and name-calling, (which was how the best friends said I love you) they got down to business.  As usual, Jack had another scheme that at best would be another crowning success, and at worst would put have him dying a horribly fiery death, with very little leeway in-between.  Reginald was torn between telling him that he really shouldn't take such risks, and trying it out for himself.

They both did their best to make sure Sally was included in the conversation, though it wasn't always easy.  But she didn't seem to mind very much, and simply sat and drank her tea, or working on a bit of sewing, in-between answering the rapid-fire questions and comments Jack sent her way, or being amused as he did sleight-of-hand tricks.  By the time Sally left them to go home for the evening, they'd hashed out most of the details for the new spectacle, and Jack had gotten Sally to sew a loose button back onto his jacket in exchange for a silk flower he produced from nowhere.  She put the faux-bloom behind her ear, and wished them both a good evening.

"Lovely girl.  Don't know what she's thinking, working for a reprobate like you.  I've offered her a place in the company, but she refuses every time.  Can't imagine why, who wouldn't like to put on shows, entertain people, and travel the world in the off-season?"

"Probably because she thinks the only reason you're offering is to make her another one of your sideshow attractions," Reginald pointed out.

"Why, because of her color and scars?  Nonsense.  I mean, you see her often enough, she's still very pretty.  And more, she has a good heart, which is much more important."

Flippant as Jack could be, Reginald knew that the sincerity in his voice was genuine.  Not that the Pumpkin King could speak much about beauty.  He was tall and rail-thin, his skin stretching over his bones as if it had been left out in the sun to dry for too long, and when it was put back on had shrunk several sizes.  It also didn't help that having worn his make-up for so much of his life, it had seeped into his skin and left him stark white, with an extended skeletal smile and dark circles around his equally black eyes.  Reginald honestly couldn't remember what his friend had looked like before, or even what color his hair had been before he'd started shaving it (so Jack said.  Reginald suspected he'd just gone bald).

Reginald smiled.  "Should I be worried that you're going to steal her away from me someday?"

"And what sort of friend would I be if I did that?"  Jack asked, affronted.

"The kind you usually are," Reginald countered, and the two of them pretended to stare sternly at the other, before they gave up and burst out laughing.

Life continued on in much the same pattern.  But one evening everything changed.  No, that wasn't correct.  It wasn't that anything changed; it was that his perception shifted, and Reginald saw something that was so blindingly obvious he nearly turned in his evil genius card over not seeing it before.  But he refrained, after he decided that love wasn't something that eccentric geniuses were supposed to recognize in the first place.  

He noticed Sally first.  The way she looked at Jack whenever he was around.  The special smile she bestowed on no one but him, equal parts wistful and joy.  How she always hung on his every word, and treasured every bit of attention he bestowed on her.  When he finally realized what he was seeing, it was obvious that Sally was in love with Jack.  What was less obvious was whether or not Jack loved Sally in return, and if Reginald hadn't known the man as long as he had, he wasn't sure he would have ever figured it out.

After all, Jack was pleasant to most everyone, unless they got on his bad side.  In which case your best bet would be to change your name and flee the country before he could track you down.  And if you couldn't, hope that God would have mercy on your soul, before Jack certainly wouldn't.  

Honestly, Jack was usually so far off in his own little world it took quite a lot to shake him loose and see things in a different perspective (which Reginald at least was just self-aware enough to know was something he was also often guilty of).  To Jack, "all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" were his words to live by.  Life was one long performance, interrupted occasionally by real life happenings "backstage."  

It took a great deal of observation, as for once in his life Jack was actually being subtle.  But his hard work finally paid off.  It was such a small thing, but spoke such volumes that it was practically shouting.  After doing another of his tricks, Jack presented Sally with a little ivory thimble which had previously been transformed into a handkerchief.  Sally thanked him, telling him it was very thoughtful to have remembered her saying last week that she was in need of a new thimble, but that he shouldn't have gone to such trouble.

"Never any trouble for you, Sally Patchwork," Jack told her, grinning his usual grin.  When she looked down to admire the thimble, Jack's smile changed into something much softer, and his eyes looked at Sally with the same fervor he usually saved for when he was performing, which had always been his only real love.

Until now.

"Oh," Reginald said, in the tone of a "Eureka."  Jack and Sally both stared at him, and Jack asked what it was that brought on such a reaction.  Searching his addled mind for an excuse, Reginald spat out something finally figuring out how to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow in his multi-modal reflection sorter.

"Ah.  Well, good show then, Reg," Jack told him, and that was the end of it.

The only problem with his newfound knowledge was that Reginald had no idea what to do with it.  He couldn't just tell Jack.  If he even listened, he still couldn't guess how the Pumpkin King would react to being flat-out told to man up and tell Sally he was in love with her.  And he certainly couldn't tell Jack that Sally was in love with him.  Even if she hadn't shared her secret on purpose, he still felt honor-bound not to reveal it without her permission.  Which he would never get, and it was no use trying to get her to admit her feelings to Jack, not with how she viewed herself.  She would just say something completely ridiculous about no one wanting someone like her, if she said anything at all.  No, he wouldn't embarrass her like that.

Unfortunately, that left him with very few options, most of which were either too convoluted to work, or not convoluted enough.  He had such little experience in these sorts of matters, having never been in love himself.  

Finally, though, he came up with an idea.  It was sneaky, it was underhanded, and it was entirely possible it would all blow up in his face.  But it was the best shot he had, and would play into Jack's protective instincts, and also his animosity towards a rival.

As for getting Oogie Boogie to agree to it, that would be a challenge all its own.



*~*~*~*~*~*

Everyone knew about the on again/off-again rivalry of Jack and Oogie.  Each thought they were the best, and were impossible to convince otherwise.  Occasionally they would work together, but something would always come up and tear apart the fragile truce.  It didn't help that they each had different philosophies when it came to what they did.  While Jack could quote "scare people right out of their pants" unquote, he still maintained that it was all in good fun, and that while his performers were definitely creepy and often off-putting, they all had good hearts and made sure not to be too terrifying.  Except for the clown with the tear-away face.  As far as Reginald was concerned, well.  It was the stuff nightmares were made of.

Oogie Boogie, as he called himself, was a different breed entirely.  He went out of his way to be as frightening as possible.  He never took off his costume, a simple burlap sack that covered his rotund frame (and which he had painted to glow an eerie green in the dark), with a matching hood that hid his facial features in its deep recesses.  Who (or what) was under that hood was anyone's guess.  Even Jack wouldn't admit if he'd ever seen Oogie without it.  It was the mystery that really frightened people.  After all, there is nothing in the world so terrifying as the unknown.

That and the bug-eating he did during his act.  But that was more nauseating than frightening.  At least he had a surprisingly compelling singing voice.  The other performers were agreed that it was his singing that kept Jack hiring Oogie back.  And it was everything else that inevitably got him fired yet again.  They way he'd been trying to corrupt those three orphan siblings Jack had taken under his wing was especially terrible, and they'd almost been beyond hope before he'd known what was going on.

Which were all very good reasons not to go through with the plan.  But while Reg sometimes heard that little voice in his head that told him he shouldn't do certain things that could end in complete disaster, he'd gotten so used to ignoring it that even if it did chime in he'd never notice, even if the other voice that told him that he –should- do things that could end in complete disaster didn't shout so loud.

"Well, well, well, and who's this?  How do you do, my dear.  Welcome to my humble abode.  It ain't much, but it's what I call home."

Such a very, very bad idea, and even the voice that was usually on board with the insanity was having second thoughts about the whole thing.  But he carried on, making introductions as he and Sally set up all the components for Oogie's latest trick, using his love of gambling as a spring-board, there were giant metal playing cards, and things that swung, and spun, and there were all manner of dangerous-looking weaponry.  He hadn't been happy about building it, but Oogie paid well, and he needed all the practice (and cash) he could get, since his final interview with the Eccentric Inventors was coming up.  Even Jack couldn't fault him for that.

"So what is it you're going to do, Mr. Boogie?"  Sally asked.  Reginald had no idea how Oogie was able to make the mask grin (and frankly, he didn't think he wanted to) but however it was accomplished, it made for a grotesque sight.

"Why don't you find out for yourself, my pretty little miss?  I could use a lovely assistant."

Now all his voices were yelling at him.  He should have just tried the direct approach and hoped for the best.  Too late now.


*~*~*~*~*~*


"Wait just a moment," Alice said, interrupting the story.  "I know that trick you're talking about.  That Oogie Boogie fellow, and Jack Skellington—I saw them.  I had just moved in with my flatmates, and they talked me into going to the Halloweentown show.  I was there that day!"
"Then you know what happened?"

"Yes, though now there's a bit more context to it.  That frightful Oogie Boogie had who I can only presume was Sally within the confines of the trick, along with—wait, why was there a man dressed as Father Christmas with her?"

"No, no, that was the year after," Reginald told her.  "That's a whole different story; remind me to tell it sometime.  No, it was just Sally."

"I recall now, yes.  I remembered being so terrified for that poor woman, surrounded by so many blades and such—Reginald, how could you do that?"

Reginald just smirked, leaning in and saying softly.  "Quite simple: I didn't.  They weren't –real-, of course.  But Jack didn't know that, and was able to play the triumphant hero, which was a new role for him; though I think he enjoyed it.  And in fact Sally was pretty capable herself, and helped him subdue Oogie Boogie. . ."

  
*~*~*~*~*~*

"Sally, you were magnificent," Jack told her, as he held her close, ignoring propriety completely.  He was also ignoring Reginald, who had alerted him to what was going on in the first place.  But that was all right, it gave Reginald a chance to eavesdrop on the conversation while he tied up the unconscious Oogie Boogie (better safe than sorry, though it would all come out later that the entire thing had been perfectly safe, which both he and Oogie knew.  Still, at least for the moment it was best to keep up appearances).

"I was?  I didn't feel magnificent.  I just felt terrified," Sally admitted.  She didn't seem in any hurry to tell Jack to let go, and in fact rested her head on his chest.  "You were the one who was magnificent, Jack."

"I was only—" Jack paused a moment, before grinning.  He put one bony hand under Sally's chin, tilting her head up so he could meet her eyes.  "You called me Jack."

With her coloring, Sally tended to blush closer to purple than red, but it was still obvious what the flush in her cheeks was.  "I'm sorry, I didn't realize I had, Mr.—"

"Oh no, no, no," Jack interrupted.  "You can't go back to that, not now.  I hate you calling me Mr. Skellington; it breaks my heart a little bit more every time I hear it.  I just want to be Jack.  And most of all, I just want to be your Jack."    

"My?  Oh my.  My Jack?"

"Your Jack," the skeletal-faced man said fervently.  "I've been your Jack since the day we met, Sally Patchwork, and I'll be your Jack always, 'til the day I die and beyond it."
Reginald turned away when the kissing started, and got the various ghosts, goblins, wolves, vampires, witches, devils, and so forth to clear away, taking Oogie Boogie with them.  He was sure the whole thing would be revealed eventually, and decided maybe it was better to be back home when it happened.  One never knew how the Pumpkin King would react.

Besides, he had to start drawing up an advertisement for a new hat-shop assistant.  He'd be sad to lose Sally, but he'd survive, even if he doubted he'd ever meet someone with such exceptional sewing skills ever again.

He also decided he'd get started on wedding hats for the happy couple.  After all, when dealing with a master of fright and a woman who knew how to make things go boom even better than he did, bribery was always an option.


*~*~*~*~*~*

"I'm only glad Jack realized I did it all for their own good, and that if he did scare me to death he'd end up feeling bad about it, and that Sally wouldn't approve," Reginald said, which was his version of a "and they all lived happily ever after."

He hat maker and inventor leaned back in his chair, looking pleased with himself over his successful matchmaking.  Alice just shook her head, refusing to cater to his ego.

"Lovely story, I'm sure," she said dryly.  She really did think it was lovely, but wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of letting him know how sweet she thought he'd acted, even if it had been in his own unique, insane way.  At least not when he was looking like the Cheshire cat who'd gotten the cream.  "But why did you need to tell me all that just to explain the pleasant news in their letter?"

"Actually, it wasn't so much the letter that'll have more of an emotional impact now.  It's the photograph."

And he handed over the sepia-toned picture and letter.  She recognized Jack from his performances, and while she couldn't recall Sally from her vague memories, it wasn't difficult to tell that she was the woman in the picture, sitting in a chair with her husband standing over her.  Reginald was right, despite the scars, she was still beautiful.  What really captured her attention, though, was the baby in Sally's arms.  Alice turned her attention to the letter

"Sorry we couldn't make it this year, little Reg's not quite old enough to travel yet.  Learning a few new tricks here, can't wait to show them off next time we see each other.  Also, have a smashing new illusion for you to build for me.  Sally and I both send our love, and she says that she can't wait to meet this Alice of yours.  Neither can I, for that matter.  Any woman who can put up with you for an extended period and not run away screaming is a keeper.  

Happy Halloween, and don't get into too much trouble without me,

Jack and Sally Skellington, and baby Reginald"


"A keeper, am I?"  Alice said, raising an eyebrow.  Reginald had the decency to blush.  "Just what exactly have you been telling your friends about me?"

"Just that you're brilliant, beautiful, far more patient with me than I deserve, but still knowing when to put me in my place.  You know, the truth."

There really wasn't anything to say to that.  Nothing Alice felt she –could- say, anyway.  Not yet.  Perhaps not ever.  Instead, she said: "So how exactly did the debacle with Father Christmas happen, anyway?"

Reginald's smile was a little strained for a moment, but he recovered quickly, and chuckled softly.  "Well, it all started a few months before Halloween.  See, Jack wanted to extend the act to other holidays, and got it into his head to create a scary Christmas. . ."
Once again, a Halloween fic that almost didn't make it up on time. Believe it or not, I planned to have this up last Friday. But I only got about half of it written, and then on Saturday I had a wedding, so I was too distracted. So I was going to finish it on Sunday, but then I woke up with my head feeling like it was being stabbed from the inside out. Which leaves me here, feeling slightly better, and with only a few hours to go until I'll be handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. And tomorrow I'll not only be looking after my three-month-old niece, but it's also the start of National Novel Writing Month, so I'll be furiously trying to reach my word-count in-between bottle feedings and nap time.

Rest, what's that?

Anyway, hope you all enjoy it. I had absolutely no time to edit, so apologies for any typos. Hope you all have a lovely Halloween ^_^

Disclaimer: Not mine, all Disney, Lewis Carroll, Tim Burton, and so forth. The only thing that belongs to me is the setting, which also belongs to :iconramblinquixotic: And as always, thanks to Bri and Rain for the inspiration.
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:icongilove2dance:
Gilove2dance Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2012
GAH! They named their baby Reg ^_______^ I can so see Reg and Jack being dear friends :la:

"A keeper, am I?" Alice said, raising an eyebrow. Reginald had the decency to blush.

MELTED INTO A PUDDLE OF GOO!!! THEY ARE TOO CUTE!! :glomp:
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:iconstephygtz:
StephyGtz Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I jsut start this obession with Jack and sally to the point to do a pic of jack proposing sally and now I find this on your gallery? haha I love you! <3! you are helping to fill even more my obsession!!!! XD LOVED!
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:iconemmyscarlet:
EmmyScarlet Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2011
I saw the pic (and fave'd it too). It's really cute. And yay, even more love for me. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy ^_^

If it makes you feel better, I didn't get into Nightmare Before Christmas until a few years ago. I actually heard the song "Jack's Lament" before I ever saw the movie, it's on one of my Disney CD's. After hearing that, I knew I had to watch the movie. And thus my adoration for Jack (and Sally too) was born.
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:icontheflamesfightback38:
TheFlamesFightBack38 Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I love you. I hope you know that. That was the best remake of Nightmare Before Christmas I've ever seen. You just kicked Emma Bull right out of my 'favorite writer' slot.
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:iconemmyscarlet:
EmmyScarlet Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2011
Man, I'm getting a lot of love today. It's really nice. I'm glad you liked it, I knew I just had to get Jack and Sally in the BtLS-verse somehow.

I had to look up Emma Bull, and now I wonder why I've never heard of her before. I may have to add a few more books to my to-read list.
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:icontheflamesfightback38:
TheFlamesFightBack38 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Oh, you should absolutely read Emma Bull's book, War For The Oaks. By far, the best book I've ever read. I think, given your implied opinions about love and art and stuff, you'll enjoy it.
But because of this story, you've still bumped her from the "favorite artist" spot. ^_^
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:iconryu-forte:
Ryu-Forte Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2011
What a wonderful story! A great piece of writing to add your stash of awesome gallery. :D
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:icontartarus-staff:
tartarus-staff Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2011  Student General Artist
I officially love you right now. i hope you know that. this piece of literature is amazing!
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:iconemmyscarlet:
EmmyScarlet Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2011
Well, I know it now. Thank you, dear ^_^
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