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Mad Wonderland

Chapter Text

The head of the Jabberwocky lay still on the battlefield. In the distance, the Red Queen's screams and that of her knight still rang out. The White Queen stood before Alice, whose armor shimmered while the Vorpal blade shone proudly in her hand. All of the good forces of Underland stood watching as the White Queen addressed Alice – Tarrant Hightop, or as his friends knew him, the Mad Hatter, stood front and center, glowing with pride of Alice's triumph. "The blood of Jabberwocky," said the White Queen. "You have our everlasting gratitude. And for your efforts on our behalf…" She handed the girl a vial full of bright purple liquid.

Alice inspected it, then looked up at the Queen. "Will this take me home?" she asked tentatively. Unseen by her, the Hatter's eyes widened slightly, then looked down in sadness. He'd hoped Alice would at least stay to celebrate her victory.

The Queen seemed sad as well. Her lips were smiling but her eyes looked sad as she answered, "If that's what you choose." She then stood back with the Tweedles, Mallyumkin, Baynard, Chershire, and the two Rabbits and to let Alice make the decision on her own. With a smile, Alice popped the lid on the vial and started to raise it to her lips when a voice came from behind her.

"You could stay," the Mad Hatter whispered hopefully, having approached Alice from behind. He looked into her eyes with a hint of anticipation.

Alice turned to him and smiled. "What an idea. A crazy, mad, wonderful idea." The Hatter smiled at her, believing she was about to agree. But the grin slid from Alice's face and her brow furrowed as she looked down. "But I can't," she said. The Hatter felt himself grow sadder than he'd felt since Alice had left the first time. His smile too, faded as she explained, "There are questions I have to answer, things I have to do."

The Hatter's face remained carefully expressionless as without looking at him, Alice raised the vial to her lips. He wanted to stop her, to grab her hands and tell her that he wanted her to stay, not just for a while but perhaps forever. He wanted to take her into his arms and hold her as he longed to for a while now, to tell her that she could remain in Underland with him and never return to Overland, where things were frightfully strict and patterned, and hardly anyone was mad. Most of all, he wanted to tell her the feelings he had for her, though he didn't quite understand them himself. But even more than that, he wanted her to be happy, and he knew that she'd miss her life in Overland terribly is she did stay in Underland with him. So though his heart was screaming at him, he remained still and silent as she drained the vial in a single gulp. She met his eyes and smiled, saying, "Be back again before you know it."

Just her voice made the poor Mad Hatter want to weep for he knew she wouldn't come back. He forced a smile and the smallest of chuckles and said quietly, "You won't remember me."

Alice's grin faded once again and she protested, "Of course I will, how could I forget?" But Tarrant knew the truth – it had taken her over ten years to come back to Underland again after the first time, and then, she hadn't remembered a bit of it, convinced she was only dreaming and that he, the Hatter, was only a figment of her imagination. How long would it take her to return again, if she ever did at all? Without her, he might lose his head completely before that day came. He simply looked at her for a moment, and she returned his gaze, then spoke.

"Hatter?" she asked. "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

A smile played at the corner of his mouth as she remembered his riddle and he gave her the only answer he had: "I haven't the slightest idea." She smiled and for a moment he was overcome with the desire to pull her close to him and kiss her, but he held back. Instead, he leaned close to her, fighting the urge to kiss her cheek and whispered, "Fairfarren, Alice." Her brow furrowed before she understood it to mean 'farewell' and he reluctantly pulled away, both knowing and fearing it would be the last time for a very, very long time that he'd be so close to her. He stared at her for as long as he could before she faded away in front of him.

In her view, he seemed to turn to black and white and then fade away altogether, and she wished for a second that she could stop the transportation for she was almost certain he had something more to say, but the last thing she saw of him were his brilliant green eyes before he faded away from her sight completely.

On the battlefield, Tarrant stood alone, unable to tear his gaze away from the spot where Alice had been standing. One of his discolored hands reached out as though to grasp her but she was gone, and he was unsure if he'd ever see her again.