A/N: Alright, I am really sorry about killing Charlie off but it had to happen. Don't worry I am a huge fan of marvel comics and lets face it no one there really stays dead for long....
She wondered if this was how the Hatter felt when his eyes turned orange.
The power swelling behind her even as she jumped off the raven she had created bolstered her abilities and before he could even move she brought her hand down upon his face. The crack sounded like lightening as her small fist connected with his corpse like face and he was thrown across the rocky outcropping and hit the rock face with terrific force.
As she landed on the ground she fell into a crouch, cocking her head to the right to watch his body slide from its place of impact to the ground, boneless and limp. To her surprise the veil of hair that fell into her eyes was inky black, even her nails seemed to be a black colour and as she raised her arm before her she could see every blue vein running beneath her skin and a soft black smoke rising off her as if she were on fire. She crawled smoothly along the rocky red ground like a lizard, her body moving with a smoothness she could not recall ever having. Somewhere deep inside herself she felt as if things had shifted, somewhere a part of her mind screamed at her to stop, that she was crossing some sort of line she was totally unprepared for. She didn't care. There were no more lines, they had all disappeared on the tide of her son's end. No right and no wrong. Just her and Stayne and her dead son far below them.
Her eyes turned upwards, looking at the pouring rain and not even starting as lightening cut across the hair, heralded by ear splitting thunder. She was so distracted by it she did not see him move, only noticing the impact of his foot to her side. Pain exploded in her ribs as she rolled across the plateau to the very edge and managed to catch herself. Stopping on her side barely a meter short of the edge she turned to look up at the man who had attacked her.
It had been almost a decade since she had last seen him but she was certain that had not looked as he did when she had last seen him. His face was that of a dead man's with sunken eyes and thick blue veins everywhere, his skin had taken on a transparency she thought hers must also have at this point. Large grooves and gouges that looked remarkably like fingernail scratches littered his features. He looked at her with eyes so black and shiny she was reminded of oil and she watched as black tears seemed to be trailing down his scarred and pocked face.
"I've been waiting for you," he growled out, she was not surprised to see even his teeth were inky and black, "I had expected you to be a little more punctual."
"I had expected you to be a little less vile," she sneered, slashing out at him just to have him avoid her claws "However it looks as if we both shall have to resign ourselves to the disappointment."
He laughed at her, a cold sound that made her heart beat fast. The blackness seeping from his every pore to pool at his feet in a slick mess. Even as he towered over her she stayed low to the ground, completely unafraid. The sadness and grief in her mind numbed her to everything else and a coolness passed through her as she looked upon him. Reaching down he grabbed her around the throat heaving her up to stand eye to eye with him. She felt her own feet leave the ground as he brought her to his face.
"You are so beautiful," he ground out, pulled her closer so that his lips were almost touching hers, "So much more beautiful now and you will be my Queen, the moment you cross the Outland mountains you will be a Queen."
"You killed my son!" she ground out, low and dangerous.
The power came out of her in waves and even as his grip on her neck tightened she threw her arms out and scored her nails across his cheeks, drawing out great slashes in the already paper thin skin. He let out a pained cry, throwing her to the ground so hard that she heard at least one of her ribs crack within her chest. Again pain exploded but she forced herself to roll out of the way and avoid his boot.
"Whore!" he roared at her as the skies screamed with him, the oily puddles he was leaving wherever began to draw in and he threw a hand out to her.
She moved swiftly, the smoke rolling off of her as she moved, obscuring his view of her. She threw her hands out and brought them together, bathing the area in a blackish of curling smoke, hiding her from sight and his thrashing hands.
"You dirty whore," he continued, turning in his place while he tried to locate her "I did you a service. I disposed of that little mutt, I am going to make you a great Queen and we will rule Underland."
She stalked the area, well aware that he could not see her while she saw him as clear as day.
"I will never be a Queen," she stated solemnly, "I have never wanted to be one. The only thing I ever wanted was to live in peace with my son. You took that from me Stayne. All you do is take what is not yours. This power you have, this is my power. It is mine to control and I have the ability to bestow it and take it away."
She reached out mentally to that hot core of her opponent, the centre of the void that had once been his soul and with all her will she pulled as hard as she could.
His scream was wrenching; pure unadulterated pain and she revelled in it. She tore at it again, stripping raw layers of power from him and pulling them back into the well of her own power, exposing his evil for what it was. The effort was taxing, exhausting but she kept a tight grasp on the thread of power connecting him to her. Suddenly she felt a pull, painful as a hot iron in her belly. Looking him she saw Stayne before her, his own nearly skeletal hand on the other side of their now visible line.
"I have fought my entire life for this," he gasped, "I will not allow myself to be brought down by your will again."
He tugged again and she gasped at the searing pain. Her eyes widening and her own abilities momentarily suspended. The black smoke rushed back towards her, as if it were still attempting to hide her to no avail. The only way she could describe the sensation would be having one's insides pulled out through their navel and even then it was a thousand times worse. Their connection was painful and primal and he was just as desperately dragging on it as she was.
"My ambition feeds this darkness," he continued, pulling her again, "I want what you have Alice and if you will not give it to me I will take it."
Again the sensation and she dropped to her own knees, the smoke dropping to the ground as if it had been weighed down to reveal Stayne almost atop her. His black eyes stared at her deeply, and his mouth curved into a smile. His hands wrapped around her throat and he pressed down, cutting off her air. She found herself strange all right with it. The desperation for air was superseded with the knowledge that she would join her son. Acceptance came to her almost instantly and a sort of sad peace ceased her struggles against him. She just looked at him passively. Perhaps this was for the best.
"It's a pity," he whispered lowering his face to place a sour kiss upon her lips, "you are so, so lovely. You would have made a good mother to my children and to think you wasted yourself upon that horrid little mistake and a man who was so weak in spirit he went mad when he was faced with death."
The words pierced through her subconscious and her thoughts immediately went to Charlie. Her sweet little boy. A thought of him suckling at her breast, a newborn sweet and innocent with no knowledge of who he was or where he had come from. His eyes had never been that cloudy baby blue, they had been a smoky olive. His first steps, he had seemed so small when he had been reaching out towards her as he finally let go of the edge of the wall and stumbled towards her trustingly. His first day at school, the first time she had seen other children be mean to him and how her heart had broken over and over again as his tears soaked the bodice of her dress. She remembered seeing his small body falling before her, just out of reach. Her son smashing against the unyielding rocks. He had done this. Stayne had done this and she was going to let him do it to others. If she didn't stop him here it would never end. The pain would go on and on and grow, putrefying Wonderland as it spread. The pain erupted within her. His hands stopped her from making noise but she didn't need air to display her feelings. The smoke returned, rolling off her in waves. The skies screamed her pain out for her and the heavens tossed out a tempest of pure rage. Alice could only think of her son, holding his little body to her chest and hoping against everything that she could bring him back even while she knew she could only grant death or slow it's progress, not reverse it.
She found the thread and this time she pulled it into her every part of herself, imbuing herself with Stayne's power, pulling it from his soul. He shrieking loudly, releasing her throat and allowing her a moment to gasp. She rolled over to her side, still aware of the pain of her broken ribs. She tried to stand but it became clear her injured ankle had not taken well to the fighting for she was no longer able to support herself on it. It didn't matter, it wasn't physical strength that she needed. Again she held tightly to the mental thread connecting them and pulled with every bit of power in her. She held onto the grief of her losing Charlie, of missing Tarrant all those years and the look on his face as he held their son's body. He would never know how wonderful Charlie had been, how intelligent and kind and talented. He would never know because Stayne had taken it away. Illosovic Stayne had taken all the wonder and potential that was her son and had dashed it upon the rocks. The sky screamed for her, long jagged bolts of lightening shooting across the sky. She watched as his face seemed to grown gaunt as the black magic tore its way out of his body, responding to her call.
"You made me," Alice hissed, crawling closer to him as he dropped to the ground.
She rolled him onto his back as realized she could now control the magic within him. He listened to her commands and let his hands fall to his sides. His breath came out shallow and painful, his eyes searched for some escape and she felt the glee of knowing there was nothing for him.
"You and your greed and the lies you fed everyone and your own cruelty," she kept going, crawling so that her head was looking over his.
She bent low so that her hand was planted at the crown of his head and she looked right into his eyes, starring down him. Black met Black. Fear met elation.
"You've ruined my life" she whispered, running her knuckles down the side of his face, dragging them to his hairline, "You made me kill the Jabberwocky, you fed the Red Queen's paranoia. You made me drink this poison you've been trying to spread and you've tainted my soul."
He didn't struggle, the darkness in his eyes receding as she continued to pull. His body far to weak to fight her. He stared up at her, looking at her upside down, black oozing from the side of his mouth.
"You are so beautiful," he whispered, a choked, sputtering sound over broken jagged teeth.
"A soul for a soul," she whispered softly, lowering his mouth to his.
She kissed him deeply, pulling all the power form his body and then his very soul. She inhaled it, drinking in the sensation. It was intoxicating, intense as she breath in his essence taking in his life and death and watching his power enter her and fill her totally. To take everything from him, every small piece of goodness he had ever had and let the darkness creep into her own soul by devouring his. The pleasure was so intense she found herself taking more and more, every part of her wanted him. Consuming him, making everything that was disappear. She let out a low moan of satisfaction, barely capable of containing herself.
Then she stopped.
Pulling herself from him with a desperate gasp she watched as he took in his own shuddering breath. No longer able to move, no longer able to fight and barely able to breath. She rolled backwards. To kill him would end her, she was sure of it. It was the line the Jabberwocky had crossed so easily, a line she was now skipping upon. The idea that it was so easy rocked her, one more moment and she would have done it, poisoned her soul and then spent the rest of her existence a slave to the blackness she was supposed to be safe guarding. Charlie would have been so ashamed of her. She let out a painful cry as her thoughts drifted to her son.
She turned to look at Stayne. He was upon the soaked ground, a long, lean living skeleton with scars and gouged out black hair. His eye patch gone and the eye fused shut while the rest of him looked as if every little bit of colour had been pulled out. He was little more then a corpse, no more dark magic existed in him, merely the seed of darkness that was the majority if his soul. An emptiness, a void of feeling. She should kill him, before he did this again but she couldn't bring herself to do it. There was no point. It was over. She was finished.
Without a word she pulled herself to her feet, limping painfully to the edge of the ledge. Then, without another word, Alice jumped into the sky and let the winds carrying her.
The infirmary at Marmoreal was a great deal busier then Mirana could ever remember it being previously. They had arrived merely two hours ago and already there were subjects large and small scampering about, attending to the wounded members of their party. Well, wounded member. And Iracebeth was more of a surprise then anything else. Even with the flooding that had apparently occurred in the last few hours and those that had been brought into the palace to escape the rising waters that could drown her kingdom her sister was her greatest concern. She looked down to the bed she sat alongside and watched as one of the doctors hovered over the small woman. Iracebeth had been delivered to them via the strangest creature, a large deer that had stated his name was Kusamlin and whose herd was currently grazing on her water logged lawns. Alice had ordered him safe guard the Red Queen and he was following orders thoroughly, refusing to leave until Alice herself returned. Mirana could not bring it in herself to be concerned about that, not when her sister was laying before her in this state. She had been horrified to see the extent of her sister's injuries. A vicious knife wound had torn open the Red Queen side and no one knew how she had managed to avoid bleeding to death. Her skin was paler then Mirana had ever seen it and she wasn't even wearing any powder and she was littered with bruises, cuts and scrapes at all stages of healing. A knowing chill ran down the White Queen's spine. Whoever had been beating Iracebeth had been doing it for sometime. Alongside her own vigil sat the Hatter, engrossed in his. His battered hands worried his pink handkerchief which was already stained with the orange of his tears. He hovered over a hospital bed within which was tucked the all too pale body of the child for some time before settling into his chair an hour ago. He had not moved since.
She turned her attentions back to her sister. She had watched as Iracebeth had awoken slowly, eyes adjusting to the light and her new surroundings. Her sister had looked at her in amazement and graced her with a grateful smile before turning her head to the side and seeing the boy. Then her older sister did something Mirana had never seen her do before, Iracebeth of Crims cried. Mirana had not known what to do. She feared her sentence exile had been too hastily made and judging by the Red Queen's condition her fears were very much affirmed at this point. She cared for her sister but the darkness in her was too threatening to run wild through Underland, her bloodlust to powerful to allow her a normal life. Still, when Mirana had seen Iracebeth's eyes looking up at her she had seen the change. Her sister was changed, for better or worse she could not say, but the change was there and it was plainly visible.
"What happened?" she finally asked, her face a mask of sorrow.
The Hatter turned to look at them, as if he were seeing the Red Queen for the first time, then he merely shook his head and turned his attention back to the still boy.
"Stayne," Mirana replied gently, "Threw him off the mountain face. We arrived too late."
Her sister said nothing more, merely curling into a small ball and crying, her crimson hair loose around her large head. Mirana simply took her seat next to the Hatter and Iracebeth, watching the poor man with just as much pity as everyone else seemed too.
He had truly gone mad in those moments after the boy's death and when the Gryphon had touched him and the madness had been stripped away she saw sorrow as she had not seen it before. Red and raw and exposed. The Gryphon had knocked him unconscious when the Hatter had attacked him in his blind rage. Her heart went out to the Hatter who was speaking very little as he sat alongside the body. The March Hare and Dormouse had come to see him to ask what had happened, they had said nothing when they witnessed the painful image of the man cradling his dead child in his arms. She would arrange a funeral for the boy, something tasteful and worthy of his bravery. The ravens had been telling him stories all day of Charlie's genius, charm and bravery when faced with a monster like Illosovic Stayne, secretly she wished she had killed him when he had asked all those years ago. This was her fault and she knew it.
"How is he?" a voice interrupted her revere.
She looked up to see the black eyes of the Gryphon before her. He was in his human form once more, his long white hair tied back into plait at the base of his neck, his lower half wrapped with a linen cloth and a golden belt. He moved gracefully, as if he still possessed a larger body then the one before him. His chiselled face observed her for a moment before he gave her a soft look.
"My Lord?" she asked gently, laying one hand upon Iracebeth and the other on Tarrant's shoulder.
"Lady Alice has defeated Illosovic Stayne," he stated as if he were merely asking for the time.
'That's wonderful," Mirana exclaimed with a smile.
He did not return it, merely walked to the clear side of the child's bed and sat down upon the side. Tarrant seemed to start at this but Mirana's hand upon his shoulder held him fast. His green eyes looked up at her with a childlike questioning and she smiled as reassuringly as she could before he returned to gazing at the body of his son.
"The cost was too high," the Gryphon said softly, "this was not as it was supposed to happen. I was too late to save the boy even though I promised Alice I would do. This mistake is mine."
There was a sort of hanging quality to the words that kept her quiet and she watched in amazement as he seemed to curve over the body of the boy, the golden glow of his features bathing the dead child in a soft buttery light. He titled the small head to the left and the right before placing a large golden hand on the child's chest. Tarrant started this time, moving to remove the hand but she held fast.
"Wait," she whispered to the Hatter and he stilled, his eyes still wide and careful.
The Gryphon bent lower, until his lips were nearly atop the child's. Then he exhaled.
Mirana had never seen anything like it before. Golden whisps exited his mouth like curling tendrils and even as his lips did not touch the boy's the golden light passed between them, flirting around the boy's mouth for a moment before rushing from the Gryphon to the child. She could only gaze in amazement as the child's body arched beneath the Gryphon's hand, which was still pressing down and holding him securely. She grabbed the Hatter around the arms as he struggled to get near the boy, and she had to call for Fairhaven to help hold him still.
The Gryphon kept the light upon him, bathing the boy in it and then the hand that was holding the boy down. The body arched up at the centre, following the movement of the golden man's hand as it rose higher and higher, lifting him into the air. Throwing his head back suddenly the Gryphon dropped backwards, landing on the mattress near the base of the bed and panting terribly. His brow looked to be soaked through with sweat, his skin seemed to loose it ethereal hue as he coughed and gasped in an attempt to catch his breath. However the child's reaction was much more interesting. The golden light was still all around the body, twisting around his limbs like vines upon a tree. He could see the pale skin being infused with light as it the gold itself was forcing warmth into the cold flesh and as the Gryphon dropped the child dropped to the bed himself. It took only a moment before the boy gasped painfully and began coughing himself, mimicking the White Lord's actions. his chest arched up and his eyes shot open suddenly. Mirana was not surprised to see that they were a pure golden colour, as if someone had bottled sunlight itself and placed it in is iris'. The boy gasped again turning to his side and coughing painfully. He reached over, pressing his hands to his side painfully and let out a small mewl of pain. In an instant she was at his side.
"It hurts," the small melodic voice whispered to her, his trusting eyes staring into hers.
She was enchanted.
"Where does it hurt?" she asked softly.
"My side." the boy replied weakly, "And my shoulder."
It was then he looked around, his head tilting and an all too familiar look upon his face.
"I had a dream that I died," he started slowly, as if he were trying to decipher it all in his mind, "and that a black monster had come to eat me and my mother was there..."
His eyes fixed upon her and only her, "Have you seen my mother? I've been looking for her for so long..."
A coolness seemed to spread across the air and for a moment Mirana feared that perhaps this was not all over. Her eyes sought out the Gryphon obviously incapable of defending anyone in his state and then to Fairhaven who quickly drew the vorpal sword. A swirling cloud of darkness entered the room, a total contrast the the light decor. Mirana tensed, already stepping in front of the small child. It was totally unnecessary as the black smoke twisted and curled, mixing together to create the form of a woman and then dropping to the floor as it trailed behind her like the train of a dress.
She was stunning, there simply was no other word for it. She stood before them, her skin lily pale but no longer dead looking. She seemed to gleam with a silvery light, as if the Gryphon's gold had met its mate. Her dress was inky black and cut in a Grecian style with two strips of cloth running from her shoulders down to her waist, covering her breasts but leaving her breast bone fully exposed. Between the V of her clavicles sat a large black diamond, perfect and glittering. The clothing was tied at her waist with a silvery chain and the dress left her hips exposed just a little. Her hair was dark black but held the same curl it always had and it shone glossy in the twilight.
Her expression was one of impassivity, her eyes completely black with absolutely no whites. She looked mournful, sorrowful and she stood where she had appeared and did not move.
With one word Mirana watched the image of Alice change. Her mouth dropped open, the black in her eyes seemed to recede. She shook her head for a moment, almost as if in a daze. Behind her Charlie had crawled to the ground, slipping off the bed while still cradling his sore side and shoulder but his eyes were brilliant and excited. He moved towards her, limping at his top speed.
She moved quickly, rushing towards him and dropping lower to scoop him in her arms then enclosing him totally and completely, burying her face in his red curls and pressing him to her. She pulled back suddenly and began peppering his face with tears and kissing, twirling him around in her arms. As her long curls rose into the air it seemed their own colour was returning. Mirana could only watch, she had never seen someone look so beautiful. She could not recall her own parents, very few people in Underland were able to do that but she liked to think in that moment that her mother might have loved her and Iracebeth as much as Alice seemed to love her son. The little boy clung onto her, his legs wrapped around her waist and his good arm holding tight to her neck.
"I thought I lost you," Alice kept repeating, forcing the boy's head from her shoulder so she could see him.
Mirana could see tears running down her face.
"Oh my baby," she sobbed softly, pressing him to her body tightly, "My sweet boy. Never do that to me again Charlie, do you hear me never again."
"I'm sorry Mummy," the boy was crying, "I'm sorry."
The entire crowd in the infirmary could only stand and watch. For all the things she had seen, monsters, magic, queens, kings, princes, gods and creatures of both nightmare and dreams this was perhaps the most touching and magical scene Marmoreal had ever beheld.
"So you will allow us to remain in Marmoreal for a time your majesty?" Alice asked pleasantly as she sipped her tea.
Mirana nodded gently, balancing her own tea cup upon her pure white saucer as the two sat upon the terrace looking out to the massive chessboard cut of the gardens. The cherry trees were in bloom, setting a light pink hue over the perfectly composed land and Alice smiled at the simplicity of it all. It's loveliness was absolute and Marmoreal had been a pleasant place to be for the last day or two, a much needed sanctuary in the wake of the last few days.
"I would be honoured to have you for as long as you would like to stay," The White Queen replied, taking a sip from her cup before raising an eyebrow at Alice, "Strange I hadn't thought we had any black teacups."
Alice grinned and took a drink from her own, "You don't your majesty. It seems this has been happening to most of my things as of late."
The Queen gave an amused smile, "In truth, that does not surprise me. And please Alice, call me Mirana. I think, at this point, station has been lost to us. You are, after all, a Queen of sorts."
Alice shook her head at that statement, "Stayne went on about that for some time. I am no Queen, I never wanted to be one nor shall I ever be one. I can't be a Queen, goodness, like this I'm hardly Alice."
The White Queen considered her words, looking at the younger girl with a kindness inherent in her very nature she shook her head, "We don't get to choose those sorts of things my dear. It is something fate chooses for us. I had no choice but to be a Queen, it was what I was born to. And although I was born the daughter of a King and Queen I can tell you were born for royalty as well."
"Mirana, " Alice stated, lowering her cup and saucer to the table and staring at her seriously, "I am not a Queen."
The White Queen laughed gently and took her own cup up once more, "I shall not argue with you upon the matter. I feel time will reveal all. Now, tell me have you spoken to Tarrant?"
Alice stopped and looked at the woman for a moment before lower her own eyes to her land. Her hands worried at her black dress. She had been avoiding the Hatter for the last few days, holed up with Charlie and no one else. In fact being without her son now was something of a risk as the young boy seemed to panic when she was out of sight. She was strongly reminded of when he was a toddler and she could not even use the lavatory without him standing outside of the door. She was concerned for his mental state and truth be told that was a wonderfully convenient excuse for her to avoid having a conversation with Tarrant. Of course the likelihood of her being able to speak to him was small considering whenever she saw him her tongue seemed to go dry within her mouth and her heart tried to crawl up her throat. In her defence he seemed just as terrified of both her and Charlie, heading in the opposite direction whenever he saw them.
"You haven't then." the Queen sighed.
Alice's head shot up, "Not on purpose, I mean, yes of course I haven't spoken to him. Um, what was I saying again?
The Queen chuckled, shaking her head and Alice felt her cheeks flush.
"I suppose I shall have to sooner or later," she replied with her own sigh, taking her cup in hand again and draining the dregs, "I had hoped to put it off some."
"Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today," Mirana replied easily, "He has waited for you you know. All this time he has loved no other woman but you. You have nothing to fear, when he looks at you it's with love in his eyes. The same love I see in yours right now."
Alice nodded softly, placing her cup on the table once again. Her eyes gazed over the brilliant dawn of Wonderland. It seemed as if her life in London was a million worlds away. Things had changed so much in such a short time.
"What if he doesn't like Charlie?' Alice asked quietly, "What if he's upset about him? I never meant to keep him a secret it just sort of happened."
The Queen looked at her with slightly smile, "I cannot say that he will be pleased he was not told sooner but I can promise you that the moment you entrusted you child to his arms before you went off to battle Stayne he stayed at that boy's side. No matter how badly seeing the child like that hurt him he sat at his side, waiting for you to return. Even though he has not spoken to the boy he loves him. I fear he is frightened of him, he has never been a father and his own was... not ideal. He will not go to you Alice, you must go to him. If that is what you want."
Alice bit her lip as the conversation turned to other matters. So many unresolved issues surrounded Tarrant and her own feelings not withstanding she knew that he deserved the choice and here he was giving it to her. She was certain should she decide that he would never speak to his son her lover would respect that. He had not come out of his workroom in the castle since the infirmary and even then he had not spoken a word to them, he had merely disappeared. Again it was her choice, to walk away or towards him but she knew that this time she must be certain. With Charlie and Tarrant both on the line this matter was too serious for her to change her mind after the fact. Alice toyed with her diamond necklace and then looked at the black tea cup with the small images of silver ravens in flight upon it. Some questions were never meant to be asked, their answers were far to plain to be spoken out loud.
Embracing in the middle of his workroom with the sun fading at his back Tarrant, the Mad Hatter of Marmoreal, stood by his original assessment. Of all the wonders Underland had to offer an Alice kiss was the most spectacular of them all.
A/N- Well, all finished. Thanks so much to everyone for sticking with me through this, sometimes when I felt it was just going nowhere it was all the awesome support that kept the story going. There is a lot of stuff that I have purposely left in the air because the second part to this story is currently in the works. In the next one I will be looking more at the Alice/Hatter/Charlie relationship, Alice and Charlie's place in Wonderland and I plan on introducing a new antagonist. Please stick around to follow me a little further down this rabbit hole ;)