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Fulfilled Hopes

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Bunny stopped in the middle of shoveling new clay into the bottom of the paint river and violently shivered. “So that’s what that was,” he muttered. He shook himself and tipped the shovel over, then used the back of it to spread out the clay. “Well, that makes all of this a lot less urgent.”

“Okay, are you being cryptic on purpose, or because you’re used to talking to yourself, or what?” Jack asked. He stopped what he was doing and leaned on his shovel like he would lean on his staff. Soon enough, he and Bunny would be done with changing out the bed of this section of the paint river, and they would dam up another ten feet or so, dig out the riverbed that was contaminated with nightmaresand, and replace that with fresh clay, too.

In a nearby meadow, North was herding elves around to pick up every grain of nightmaresand they could find. Their little fingers were ideal for the job, though Bunny had made a face when North told him that the elves would be trading sand grains for cookie crumbs. Not that it was a bad way to get the elves to do what they were supposed to, but Bunny tended to prefer higher quality, or at least not so horribly stale, sweets in the Warren.

Still…with the pause he had taken to ask his question, Jack looked down the length of the paint river that was still contaminated, and the size of the meadow the elves were supposed to sweep, and couldn’t help but groan. If he wasn’t immortal, he’d despair about the amount of time restoring the Warren was going to take.

It was hard not to hate Pitch after a week of shoveling clay because of something he did.

“I’m cryptic because it’s a weird situation and I’m not sure how to explain it to you,” Bunny said, jolting Jack away from musings on why his immortal muscles could even get sore.

“I could do with something weird,” Jack said. “What we’ve been doing has been unpleasantly not weird.”

Bunny raised his eyebrows. “All right, here goes: Pitch and Sandy are back together again. In their on-again, off-again, romantic relationship, if that’s what you want to call it.”

“Uh, what? I think I have some clay in my ear,” Jack said.

“No, I’m sure you heard me right,” Bunny said.

Jack stared at him. “So. Um. I kind of think I need a more detailed explanation than that.”

“In a minute,” Bunny said. He took a few steps toward North. “Hey! You can give the elves a break!” he called. “Pitch and Sandy—”

Bunny had barely said this when North gave a shout of joy and jogged over to Bunny and Jack. “They are back together? Finally! It has been so long! I was almost starting to worry about them.”

“Yeah, well, if they can stay together this time, that’d be great,” Bunny said. “Just to keep things simple. I doubt that’ll happen, though.”

“Okay, so, start in the middle and tell me in random pieces, I don’t care,” Jack said, “but I really need to know what’s going on. Pitch? And Sandy? The same Pitch and Sandy that I’ve seen and know?”

“They have been part of a cycle of perfect love and perfect hatred for eons,” North said. “And they will be part of this cycle for eons to come! Their relationship is cosmic, a meeting of two fundamental principles of the world of imagination!”

“North appreciates the drama more than the rest of us,” Bunny said. “But that’s basically it. Pitch and Sandy, when they’re not fighting, are one of the most uncomfortably-into-each-other couples you could ever care to meet. They have various excuses—not understanding social norms, making up for lost time, etc., but it can still be really awkward, at least when they’ve just reunited. Personally, I think the awkwardness is what Pitch wants, but anyway. The important thing to know, though, is that it’s not a ploy on either of their parts. They really do love each other at these times, and maybe even when they’re trying to kill each other. Either way, when they’re not together, both of them harbor deep hopes that they’ll be together again someday. I can feel that, and I can feel when that hope is fulfilled, too. And that’s what I felt just now.”

“We should go and tell Tooth at once,” North said.

“This is…I think I wish I had known?” Jack said, looking puzzled. “But I…” he frowned.

“You’ll get used to it eventually,” Bunny said. “But the point of all this is, I think Sandy and Pitch now can work together to get all this nightmaresand out of the Warren.”

North nodded. “Yes, since they are reuniting so soon after a fight that involved all of us, that is usually a time where Pitch can be convinced to do reparations other than—ha! Other than what he does with Sandy.”

Bunny closed his eyes. “North…ugh. But—eh, whatever, I’ll deal with anything as long as we don’t have to find every grain of sand ourselves.” He sighed. “Let’s go tell Tooth, and see if she can help us figure out where they are, so we know to avoid that place for a while.”