The Mad Hatter's Tea Party
Disclaimer: Don't own anything, apart from the devious plot and forms of character torture. XD XXXHOLiC belongs to CLAMP, Angel Sanctuary belongs to Kaori Yuki… those lucky people. I apologise if anyone sounds OOC, which tends to happen sometimes when I write crack-fic. The characters end up sounding like me talking. Sigh. Oh well. Enjoy!
It happened on a fine day. Clear blue skies, not a single cloud in sight. Oh yes, Watanuki was having a good day.
He hummed happily as he bustled around with the feather duster. The sun was shining, the wind blowing, the birds were singing, the flowers were blooming, the grass was growing…
'Enjoy yourself at work today, Watanuki-kun!'
He couldn't help giving a happy sort of wriggle and twirl as he replayed that sweet voice on loop in his head. Himawari-chan! Himawari-chan had told him to have fun at work! Oh, the bliss! Just the thought of her smiling and waving at him as he left school (so what if that Doumeki was standing right next to her that useless toad) was enough to make the sun shine in his gray sky! Oh, wait, the sun was shining. Moving on then.
So there he was, enjoying himself at work. It didn't matter that Yuuko, slave driver that she was, had set him to cleaning out the cupboard under the stairs. Nope, it was fine, perfectly fine. He was enjoying himself very much, thank you, as he carted a veritable mountain of junk out of that cupboard and into the courtyard for a little airing. Perhaps the fact that Yuuko wasn't barking out orders at him to get her sake, cook dinner, buff her nails, give Mokona a bath etc helped the enjoyment process. It did cross his mind at some point between his tenth and twelfth journey back to the cupboard that she was being exceptionally quiet and manageable today, and that there was an incredible amount of things inside it, considering the fact that it was just a broom closet. But Watanuki simply dismissed it from his mind and gave another happy wriggle and squirm at the imaginary sound of his beloved Himawari-chan's voice.
But alas, all good things have to come to an end.
He had just set a low table down on the lawn and was stretching the kinks out of his back when he heard that all-too-familiar sing-song summon: "Watanuki-kun!"
He sighed and slouched off to Yuuko's room. He was surprised to see her wearing some sort of frock, in place of her usual kimono. Maru and Moro were busy brushing her hair as she painted her lips blood-red. She batted her eyelashes at him, knowing that he hated it when she did that.
"Watanuki-kun! Tea for three please, and some cakes to go with it. Bring the tray out to the porch."
Watanuki blinked at her. "Tea and… cakes?"
Yuuko snorted impatiently at him. "Yes, do I have to repeat myself? And make it fast, our guest should be arriving any moment now. Oh, and one more thing, use the English tea set. And a large pot of black tea should do. And remember the sugar and cream." She waved her hand dismissively at him and turned back to check her reflection in the mirror.
Watanuki shrugged and meandered off to the kitchen. He had never known Yuuko to drink anything but sake, beer, other forms of alcohol and an occasional cup of green tea. Oh, and water on the occasions when she was recovering from hangovers. He set out the cups and saucers while waiting for the water to boil, and then made a foray into the cupboards to retrieve some cakes, dragging Mokona out of a (once full, now nearly empty) biscuit tin while he was at it. He arranged everything neatly on the tray and brought it out to the porch, ignoring the happy noises Mokona was making while wallowing in a nearby plate of pudding (that was meant for dessert tonight!), and the voice in his head (which sounded irritatingly like Doumeki's) commenting on his housewife tendencies.
His first thought was that Yuuko looked very odd sitting on the floor, with her legs hanging off the side of the porch, dressed in a frock. His second thought was that this was probably her twisted idea of a joke, but he was determined not to give her the pleasure of watching him crack. He set down the tray beside her with more force than necessary, making the china rattle, and then jumped off to the lawn.
"There's your tea, I'm going back to cleaning your stuff."
He marched over to the table that he had set down just before Yuuko had called him to her room, meaning to give it a quick wipe with a damp rag to get rid of the dust coating it. Instead, he stopped short and stared at it. Rather, he stared at what was on it. A black garden party hat complete with large blood-red bows and frills was sitting on a corner of the table. He swore that there had been nothing on it when he had left it. Hesitantly, he reached forward to prod the hat when…
"I wouldn't touch that if I were you." He whipped around and glared at Yuuko, who was pouring herself a cup of tea in the shade of the porch.
"Who says that I was going to touch it? Do I look as though I want to touch it?" he paused to take a breath. "Why shouldn't I touch it anyway?"
"The lady has a point, you know," a voice remarked conversationally behind him. "It is not good manners to touch things belonging to other people without prior permission."
Watanuki froze. In front of him, Yuuko was calmly pouring tea into another cup. He turned around slowly and almost screamed and died of fright.
There was a head sitting on the table now. The hat from before was perched now jauntily on said head, and the face that went with it was painted like a jester. Sharp eyes watched in cool amusement as his mouth opened and closed.
"Heee…" Watanuki gasped, making a sound like air escaping a balloon.
The head rolled its eyes and smirked slightly. "It is also not good manners to stare at strangers, much less gape at them with open mouths. Humans these days, no manners at all."
"Oh do stop scaring the boy or the tea will grow cold." Yuuko stated impatiently, adding a few sugar cubes to her tea.
"Since you asked so nicely." A hand joined the head and lifted the hat in salute to the stunned Watanuki. The rest of the body joined them, appearing out of the table as the head was lifted up by shoulders, a torso joining the hand, clad in a very smart, although flamboyant, suit with coattails, ending with a pair of wicked looking heels. The person then stepped lightly off the table and joined Yuuko on the porch, crossing long, elegant legs while picking up a cup daintily. "Lovely weather."
Yuuko set down her cup with a snort that sounded almost impatient. "To what do I owe this pleasure? I'm sure you didn't drop in to discuss the weather."
Watanuki stared at the… person… who had just appeared in the courtyard. At first glance, he thought that the head had belonged to a female. There was no mistaking the delicate structure of the face framed by carelessly swept wavy hair. But… he had never seen such a flat-chested female before, so perhaps it was a very pretty boy? Although he had never seen a male wearing such fancy costumes before…
"No, no, no, one certainly did not come just to discuss the weather. One heard from several less-than-reliable sources that there was a new human in here, thus, one merely wished to ascertain that fact and make his acquaintance."
"Indeed?" Yuuko raised an eyebrow.
"Indeed. Would one lie to you?" The mysterious entity winked playfully over the rim of the tea cup. "Well, one wanted to show you one's new hat too. But in any case, are you going to introduce the child or not?"
Yuuko beckoned Watanuki over. "Watanuki, this is Mad Hatter. Hatter-san, this is Watanuki Kimihiro… my slave."
The Hatter scrutinized Watanuki as he finally found the presence of mind to rant and scream at Yuuko for daring to suggest that he was her slave. Watanuki suddenly found himself face-to-face with him? her? as long nails raked lightly across his cheek.
"Fascinating," The Mad Hatter breathed, leaning closer towards Watanuki.
"Err…" Watanuki tried to pull away while his feet remained rooted in position, almost managing to accomplish a full backbend.
"I wouldn't try anything if I were you. I doubt Doumeki-kun would appreciate it if you stole Watanuki's first kiss. And you know how those temple people are about devils and such."
Watanuki turned red, then purple as he began screaming at Yuuko again. Mad Hatter simply laughed and laid a long finger across his lips, effectively silencing him. "Such a pity. If one cannot have you, then you will at least partake in this tea party."
Watanuki ended up sitting on the floor between Yuuko and their strange guest, clutching a cup of lukewarm tea tightly. His gaze swept alternately from the hat abandoned on the floor before him, to the very strange (even by the standards of Yuuko's 'ordinary' customers) person sitting to his right. There was a long silence until he finally worked up the courage to ask, "Who are you?"
"Yours truly is the Mad Hatter of course!" The Hatter tipped a conspiratorial wink at him and said in a stage-whisper, "And therefore it is quite safe to assume one is mad!"
Watanuki scowled and muttered to himself, "Doesn't take much brains to work that bit out." He gulped and turned a shade lighter as the Hatter's lips turned up slightly into a vaguely sinister smile.
"Let me rephrase that," Yuuko interjected as she pulled out her pipe and started stuffing it with tobacco. "This is the Mad Hatter, formerly known as Belial, now one of the seven Satans and Lucifer's right hand."
"Oh." Watanuki processed the information slowly. "So, the Devil wears hats?"
"No, no." The Hatter spun the hat around a cane that had magically appeared. "He prefers ski hats actually. Or beanies. Whatever they call them nowadays."
"Right." Watanuki nodded sagely, as though it was a very commonplace thing for the Lord of Hell to wear ski hats. Then, the realization sank in.
"Wait a minute. Did you say that…" he trailed off and stared at Yuuko, who nodded. "What the… hell…"
"A very nice place, incidentally." Mad Hatter interjected matter-of-factly while picking up a cake scrutinizing it, before shrugging and taking a bite. "So full of devious plots and plans with lots of demons to kill. Very exciting indeed."
"Oh… my…" he couldn't think of anything to say, so he simply sat there with his mouth opening and closing rhythmically for the second time that hour.
Mad Hatter eyed him with something akin to pity with a healthy dose of amusement before turning to Yuuko and commenting rather reproachfully. "Oh dear, one believes your servant has gone into shock. One did think that he would be used to it by now, given your thriving business."
"Right, business." Yuuko set her cup aside briskly and took a deep puff of her pipe. "What brings you here today, Hatter-san? The real reason."
"Nothing, really. One simply thought that it was about time one went to pay a visit to an old acquaintance." A casual flick of the wrist and Yuuko found a colourful bunch of flowers under her nose. She accepted them with a curt nod and raised an eyebrow. The Hatter sighed dramatically. "Oh, very well then. One confesses that yours truly got a little bored in Hell and decided to come up here to have some fun."
"More like you were following, or should I say, stalking, Lucifer, weren't you." Yuuko stated wryly as she blew a smoke ring into the air.
The Hatter's smile disappeared and the painted lips compressed into a tense line. "One has no say in what one's Lord and Master does. Especially with regards to Alexiel's reincarnation."
"Ah… I see." Yuuko put down her pipe and observed the now-serious Hatter. "The offer still stands, if you are interested."
The Hatter turned sharply and stared at Yuuko thoughtfully. "One admits that it is tempting. One has been contemplating it for some time, but, no, one is afraid that yours truly will have to turn it down. One is content with being His Majesty's right hand, if nothing more." The Hatter's gaze dropped to the hat sitting on the floor in front of Watanuki, before reaching out to pick it up and shake it slightly, transforming it into a top hat with a wreath of black roses around it.
"Well, it is about time one left. One was planning to drop in on a few other places while in this lovely city. I heard that Michael was in the area." Mad Hatter stood up and settled the hat at a jaunty angle, then picked up the cane and transformed it into a black parasol, slinging it carelessly across a shoulder. "One thanks you for the tea and delicious cakes."
The Hatter had stood to leave when Watanuki finally found his tongue again.
Mad Hatter looked down at him and raised an eyebrow. Watanuki cursed his mouth for speaking without thinking. Why oh why had he asked the Hatter to wait when he had no idea what he wanted to say? Oh, hang on, there was something that was bothering him…
"Um, I was wondering… are you male or female?"
He saw Yuuko sigh and shake her head as Mokona appeared at her side, probably having finished eating the pantry clean, and started rolling around on the floor laughing.
Mad Hatter smiled indulgently at him and leaned closer, tilting his chin up with one finger. Watanuki cringed away slightly, discomfited at the thought that he, she, it was a demon.
"Does it really matter," the Hatter mused, "what gender yours truly is? One is, quite simply, the Mad Hatter. And as long as one's Lord does not mind, one really does not care." The Hatter paused and muttered almost too softly for Watanuki to hear, "Not that he cares for one anyway."
Mad Hatter stepped away from Watanuki, leaving him squinting at the silhouette in the bright sunlight. The Hatter touched a gloved hand to the brim of the top hat and bowed once more. "One thanks the both of you for the company, and for the offer made previously. Perhaps, if things were different… In any case, one bids you good day."
With a smirk and wink, the Hatter sank into the shadows on the ground. Watanuki stared at the spot where the tip of the parasol had disappeared.
Yuuko picked up her pipe. "The Mad Hatter is the Mad Hatter. That's all there is to it."
"Right." Watanuki scowled at her. She wasn't being very helpful. "So, what was the offer he… she… Hatter-san mentioned?"
Yuuko took a deep draw on her pipe. "No one can enter this place unless they have a wish. Devils included."
Watanuki frowned and thought a while. "So?"
Yuuko lay back on the wooden floor and stared at the ceiling. "The Hatter has a wish. Has had it for a very long time, in fact. But the price to pay for that wish is high, even for one of the highest ranking in Hell. Hatter-san comes to visit every once in a while, but is, so far, still unwilling to pay that price."
"Then, what was that about things being different? Would that change the price?"
"Oh, no, the price would remain exactly the same, I should think." Yuuko rolled over onto her stomach and tickled Mokona with her pipe stem. "Let's just say that Hatter-san was once known as Belial, but now, only Lucifer is allowed to use that name. If it was Belial we were talking about, perhaps you would never have met Mad Hatter. But as things stand… well, I doubt that will be the last we see of Hatter-san." Yuuko paused and looked at Watanuki steadily for a long moment, such that he thought she had actually managed to get drunk on tea. Any sympathy he might have had for her vanished with her next remark:
"Well, get on with it! Clear the tray and clean the stuff out of the cupboard under the stairs! And when you're done with it, some cheesecake would go well with whatever we're having for dinner, don't you think so, Mokona?"
Watanuki grabbed the tea tray and stormed off to the kitchen in a huff, all thoughts of the mysterious visitor forgotten until he was clearing the cups and found a single black rosebud crushed under the teacup he had been using. Even as he reached out to pick it up, it morphed into a tiny black butterfly that fluttered out of the window and disintegrated in the afternoon sun.
Finally done! I meant for this to have much more humour, but it started turning dark towards the end and I couldn't really do anything about it given the whole situation.
For those who were wondering about the last few paragraphs, basically, Mad Hatter's wish is to have Lucifer love for him/her. Based on the manga, all s/he wanted was for Lucifer to notice her just once, and then s/he wanted to die. My take on that view is that in this story, the price s/he has to pay would be the risk of finding out that perhaps s/he never wanted Lucifer to care in that way, therefore ruining the illusion s/he had built and believed all those millennia ever since they met in Heaven. Does that make sense? Hope it does. And with reference to Belial, that's basically Hatter's name before s/he fell to Hell with Lucifer. So the implication is that if Hatter had remained as Belial (i.e.: before the decision to follow Lucifer until s/he got his attention or perhaps even before that) s/he would have no qualms as to loving Lucifer and have him love her in return. Very complicated and open to interpretation in any way I guess.
ARGH! I hate explaining. Things sound so weird when I type them out like that versus how I put it together in my head. Hope that explanation made sense anyway. If it doesn't, erm, ask me specific questions and I'll try to answer them?
Lastly, this story is dedicated to a very dear friend who will never have the chance to read this, or another fic that I was supposed to write last year.