Disclamier and A/N: This story was based off of and inspired by "When Curiosity Met Insanity," a wonderful world of brilliant artwork, stories and comics about the hatter, Reginald L. Theolphilus III, and an older Alice Liddell by bri chan. You can check out her work on deviantart as bri chan, or her comics on livejournal. This is a continuation of her unfinished comic entitled "The Dance." If you'd like to catch up on the back story of this Hatter and Alice, please browse the comics on her livejournal site: curiousinsane! They're brilliant! However, its not required to enjoy my story - I hope! Don't forget to review; thanks!

The Problem with Tea and Ladies

A Work in Progress by Britt, based on "When Curiosity met Insanity"

Chapter One

The March Hare and the Mad Hatter

"She said what?!"

"She said yes! Yes, for the hundredth time, my dear fellow, yes! You know, for a rabbit, your hearing isn't very good."

Oh, there was nothing wrong with the March Hare's hearing. Fact was, he just couldn't believe what he was hearing. Seeing the front page story that morning had been hard enough for him. After glimpsing the picture of the dancing couple and the large headline heralding their new, blossoming, so-called love, he could only imagine what the poor girl must have been going through all day. Alice Liddell was a dear friend after all, and he was wary of any man in the kingdom pursuing her. That Jack Sparrow was notorious for taking and breaking hearts almost on a daily basis. But ever since the Mad Hatter had gotten it into his head to woo and court her, the rabbit had been on pins and needles. He'd been surprised enough that the first date for the couple had gone as well as it had. Of course it had been far from perfect, but the two had come out relatively unscathed. But to merit a second date, and so soon at that, was just beyond all belief for him. Unless…

"You bribed her again, didn't you?" the March Hare accused sternly.

The clashing, colorfully dressed man named Reginald L. Theolphilus III, or simply the Mad Hatter, looked rather scandalized at such a notion. His dark brow rose high towards the bill of his over-large, bright green hat, and his mouth fell open in shock. He placed a gloved hand upon his chest somewhat dramatically, his expression turning to one of pure innocence. "You should be ashamed of yourself, Ears! Really, I'm offended that you would assume the only reason Miss Liddell would want to spend time with me is because I forced her to. If I weren't such a forgiving hatter, I might feel upset - yes, terribly upset indeed!"

The March Hare was not amused. "Oh really? Tell me again, Reg; how was it, exactly, that you last convinced Alice to be your date to the dance?"

"That is neither here nor there," Reginald replied calmly, hardly missing a beat.

Oh, but the March Hare remembered the tale quite well. Reginald had awoken Alice in the middle of the night to serenade her like a bad version of Romeo to his Juliet in the famous balcony scene. He'd pursued her, climbing up a tree in an attempt to make his way into her bedroom, but the tree had had other plans in mind. With the cracking of a branch, he was literally seconds from falling to his death, so he'd given her an ultimatum. Poor Alice had accepted it so as to keep him from stupidly hurting himself. And of course, he'd seen nothing wrong at all in getting a date in this manner. He was stubborn to the last.

The March Hare sighed in defeat, knowing he was fighting a losing battle. Reginald very rarely, if ever, saw reason. "Just… remember to stay on your best behavior, alright, Reg? Can't be too forward on a second date, you'll just end up ruining things."

"Would you rather I was too backward, then? Or perhaps too sideways? Upside-down does have its appeal, I must say."

The sad thing was that Reginald was most likely being perfectly serious. Then again, he wasn't called the Mad Hatter for nothing.

"At least tell me you're not planning on wearing that this evening."

Reginald looked shocked yet again as he spun around from the full-length mirror he'd been admiring himself in. Facing the March Hare, he held his arms out, motioning down to what was his normal attire: over-large green hat upon his curly, white-haired head, similarly large, bright orange duster buttoned up over the clashing blue vest, dark pants and large shoes. "Why? What's wrong with it? Not enough… sparkles?" He got that look in his eyes, that fond, hopeful look of pure longing that could only mean he was thinking about one of his overly sparkling shirts hanging up in the closet…

"NO! No sparkles!" the March Hare quickly put his foot down as if he were scolding a small child. Reginald might as well have been one, for the way his sanity and maturity level fluctuated so. And he did look rather disappointed, at first… until he glanced back into the mirror and was distracted with his image once again. He returned to posing, quite ridiculously, and flashing toothy smiles, complete with the signature two front buckteeth.

The March Hare sighed again, and could only offer a silent prayer of luck to Miss Liddell.

Alice Liddell

The hour was now almost six o'clock, and to say that Alice Liddell was nervous was the world's biggest understatement. She was truly beside herself with worry. Why had she accepted Reginald's invitation? How could she possibly survive another evening with him? Oh sure, the dance hadn't been a complete disaster and there had been some nice moments. Swing-dancing with him had been quite enjoyable, however, before the night had ended, he'd tried to kiss her not once, but twice! Being a first, well, almost-date, she had not allowed it. It simply would not have been proper. No matter that close proximity with him had made her pulse quicken and her cheeks warm. He was the Mad Hatter! He was quite mad! There was absolutely no way she could have let him kiss her!

Alice heaved a sigh, glancing up the clock for what was probably the twentieth time in the last minute. Of course, time had neither jumped forward nor backward, although she suddenly found herself wishing it would magically jump to midnight. Then, the date would most certainly be long over and she'd already be home asleep in her warm bed.

Unless… for some reason, so terrible as to be nearly unthinkable to her at the moment, the date was not over by midnight. At this unnerving revelation, Alice's blue eyes widened even more, and her hands clutched the arms of her chair with an even tighter death grip. There she sat stiffly, dressed a bit more modestly than she had the previous evening at the dance. She wore a high-necked, burgundy dress, complete with black lace and a bit of frill, but not too much. The sleeves were long and stopped just past her wrists. She looked like quite the Victorian woman, really. Hardly any skin was revealed, which was just how she preferred it, especially when she was going to be around that man. Her golden hair, so rarely not tumbling free, had been pulled back into an intricate bun. No sooner had she begun to worry and conjure up many alarming reasons why Reginald might still be holding her captive at midnight, that a much too cheerful knock sounded from the door.

After yelping and jumping about a mile into the air in surprise, Alice heard an all too familiar voice accompany that knock.

"Oh, cricket! I'm here!"

He also sounded very chipper, but she found that it did not annoy her. Quite the contrary: it caused her body to slowly begin to relax a little. The voice was familiar, after all. Why should she be nervous about that? Untangling herself from the chair, she took a little breath, regained as much of her composure as she could, then walked over to the door and opened it.

Her nerves instantly returned.

Standing before her was not the Mad Hatter who had wormed his way into another date with her that morning, but the same strange Victorian gentleman from the previous night whose return she had been somewhat fearing. No clashing outfit and no hat, even his white hair had once again been slicked back and held with a tie. The only thing that was familiar was… his vest, worn beneath the dark brown, blue-pinstriped suit jacket. This vest was not the normal blue, but instead one that featured a bright orange splash of color and sparkles. A lot of sparkles. As much as that should have annoyed her, she found it did not. Instead, it almost had her smiling. Almost. This was the Reginald she knew.

And the Reginald she knew was unpredictable as ever. When she opened the door, he had initially begun to greet her. "Why, my dearest Miss… Liddell..." However, he trailed off when he looked up and really saw her. His toothy, slightly buck-tooth prominent smile faltered and his brow rose, bright eyes widening a bit as he froze. Clearly, her appearance could still stun him on the second date.

At first, Alice was surprised, and the nerves and butterflies returned, pounding ever harder beneath her breast, likely to give her a heart attack. Frowning, she self-consciously looked down at her dress. Had she spilt something on it or forgotten to button some buttons? But, no. After a few heartbeats, the frozen, awed Reginald swallowed, then exaggeratedly placed a hand upon his chest, right over his heart. His forehead creased, and he stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth thoughtfully, as if listening to something that only he could hear in very deep concentration. Alice was bewildered as ever, and she hesitantly began to ask him what he was doing. However, he quickly held out his other hand to ward off any comments she tried to make. Finally, he nodded as if satisfied, then returned to his natural composure.

"Oh yes, there it goes! Terribly sorry about that," he explained smoothly, arching a brow, "you see, my heart skipped a few beats at the very sight of you, and I just had to make sure it was up and going again." Another toothy grin that was rather cocky now returned to his lips as he offered her his arm to escort her to their horse-drawn carriage. "Shall we?"

Oh yes, he certainly thought himself the professional now! Alice wasn't quite sure what she thought of him yet, but his corny comments were rewarded with a very small, if slightly wary smile.

"Ah… yes, thank you," she managed, reaching out to take his arm. Curious as she was to see just where he planned on taking her that evening, she could not help the one dry thought that passed so clearly through her mind at that moment.

Here we go again.

Alice and Reginald

For the couple, the carriage ride was mostly uneventful... more or less.

Reginald had settled beside Alice into the carriage with a respectable space between them. His gloved hands had been dutifully placed in his lap, fingers entwining and fiddling restlessly with each other. It was all he could do not to carelessly toss an arm around her shoulders as they rode. But, no. Couldn't go ruining things. She was a challenge he did not intend on ruining. Alice was, well, special, as he'd explained to good old Ears, too. And the March Hare had reluctantly agreed, only hesitant because he still hadn't been quite sure how felt about the odd couple. Not that the hatter had known this, of course.

"I'm absolutely delighted you decided to join me this evening, pumpk- Alice," he finally managed, correcting himself from once again calling her by one of his many nicknames.

He looked over at her with those big, hopeful eyes of his... and suddenly inched a bit closer to her. He couldn't help himself, really. His mind had a mind of its own. At least his hands still obeyed him, and didn't remove themselves from his lap. "Do hope you brought a large appetite with you."

Alice, on the other hand, had almost immediately taken up a stiff stance once again, her own hands also in her lap, but gripping the fabric of her dress. She could not help but be extremely aware of their close proximity in the close carriage, despite the space between them. The space seemed to shrink by the minute. Oh, she knew she should have been comfortable with the familiarity she had with the man sitting beside her. However, her mind kept playing tricks on her. This man, after all, did not look like the man she was so used to. No, he looked much too debonair. The proper gentleman. Shouldn't that have made things easier?

When he spoke, she whipped her head around too quickly to face him, eyes wide. Remembering his words, she nodded.

"Yes, of course, I…" she trailed off in equal surprise when he looked at her with those eyes. Oh, no. Was he scooting closer to her? Alice gulped audibly, quickly going into deer - in - the - headlights mode, then forced herself to nod again, this time with a slightly more frenzied air.

That was really the extent of their carriage conversation. Reginald seemed to pick up on her unease, and luckily reminded himself to back off… all the while keeping a positive attitude about things. The night had only just begun, after all. When they had arrived at their destination, Alice was the first to step out of the carriage… and face yet another surprise. This was certainly the biggest yet.

Towering into the sky before her was none other than Cinderella's Castle, there on the park grounds.

Now, the castle's main dining floor served dinner to park guests during the day. Another floor, similar to the main one, however, served only characters like herself and Reginald. But. The food was exquisite and did not come cheap. Not only that, but the castle was a well-known spot for set-in-stone couples - mainly the princes and princesses. As such, Alice never ate there.

Reginald quickly reappeared at Alice's side, bringing her out of her stupefied reverie. When she looked up at him, the worry and nervousness was quite evident upon her flushed expression.

"We're eating here?" she squeaked.

Reginald looked very pleased with himself, his chest puffed out proudly. While she was out of her mind with fear, he rather looked forward to flaunting this lovely woman upon his arm. He nodded, offering her his arm again. Alice took it hesitantly while wondering if it was too late to say she'd forgotten that she had to wash her hair tonight and would he please take her home. Instead, she forced herself to be strong, silently hoping that it would all be over very soon.

With the castle decorated as beautiful and lavishly as it was, the large dining room was certainly no different. The sound of dinner conversation and silverware being used hit Alice's ears first before they walked in. Immediately, she felt under-dressed. Ariel and Prince Eric were sitting at a nearby table, both dressed in their finest. At another table was Snow White and her prince, looking equally nice. Alice wanted very much to hurry past these tables to their own, but unfortunately, Reginald had other plans in mind.

Whose to say what, exactly, he was thinking, but then again, he was the mad hatter. The world would probably never know.

"Hullo there, Red! How's the fish taste today? Splendid, splendid!" he hollered out, although there really was no need to shout, resulting in Ariel sending him a death glare that he ignored. She was not eating fish, of course, but that hadn't stopped him from declaring that she was.

His short attention span turned to Snow White and her Prince as he paused by their table. He detached himself from Alice long enough to clap the prince heartily on the shoulder.

"Hello, ol' chap! Good to see you... say, you don't mind, do you?" Reginald had suddenly reached over across the table to snatch up White's spoon, hardly waiting for an answer from either. He held it up to his face, frowned, then opened his mouth wide and breathed once on the spoon heavily. Then, he reached up and polished the spoon with his sleeve. Now that it was good and clean, he examined his reflection in the spoon, his free hand going up to primp his hair while his teeth bared a big grin. He gave one nod of satisfaction, before -

"Why yes, I am still the fairest of them all!" he proudly announced, the inflection of his voice rising characteristically when he spoke. He returned the spoon to a now fully disgusted and outraged Snow White, before turning back to Alice, offering his arm once again. Of course, he failed to notice that the Prince had to hold his rather put-off princess back from attacking Reg. "Come, my dear!"

He finally led her to their very own table, leaving the others to whisper and gossip in varying degrees of irritation behind their backs. Not that he noticed, of course.

As for Alice, throughout this entire ordeal… well, she looked purely horrified, naturally. She'd been too embarrassed to look at any of the princes and princesses to even begin apologizing for her date's behavior. He hadn't meant a word of it, and no doubt it had all been done in good fun, but they were none the wiser. Not only that, but the hatter and Alice has been "outed" as a so-called couple that day in the paper. It didn't matter how true or untrue it was, it was there, and everyone knew, and then he had to go and behave like this, so now she was completely frazzled. As such, Alice ducked her head down and hurried after Reginald to their table.

It was going to be a long evening.

A/N: Don't forget to review! More to come soon!