Disclaimer: Oh, I wish…
Author's Note: Written because deep inside I had this burning desire for a Young!AlicexHatter and didn't find one anywhere. If you've seen a good one around, I'd really appreciate it if you send me a link.
So, about this. I tried hard to keep The Hatter's character intact, as well as try and invision Child Alice by incorporating her attitude from the book and the absolutely miniscule glimpse of her you get in the remake. I also really tried to write this as love, and not pedophilic older guy wants young booty call. That's not how it is.
This will be a multi-chaptered piece, so hopefully you'll stick around. Things get interesting. So enjoy!
It's not her.
It was the first thought that shot through The Hatter's mind.
This is not her.
He watched in silence as the young woman peeked around the room. The sinking fear in his stomach was becoming cold, extinguishing the weak flame of hope that had begun to kindle in his heart.
This was not his Alice.
He remembered his Alice, and well.
She sticks her toes in the warm sand of the bank, wriggles them in wonder. "I've never been to the shore, you know," she informs him matter-of-factly, as if the simple idea that he hadn't known this greatly offended her. "I'd rather much like to explore it."
He lays sprawled there, eyes fastened to the beautiful child before him. She is not looking at him; instead she keeps her eyes firmly rooted to the course ground. But he can tell by the sound of her quickened breathing, the faint thump of her beating heart that she is watching him from the corner of her eyes, waiting for him. Waiting for him to take the bait.
He shifts slightly, tan hands sleepwalking through the sand, catching her pale digits in his own. "Do you," he murmurs against the soft flesh of her arm, words muffled against the gentle vanilla of her skin. He feels her edge closer to him in the sand, and when he looks up, one brilliant blue orb is staring intently at him.
"Let's explore, shall we?"
They watched from behind the door quietly, like voyeurs observing an intimate moment. His brow furrowed when he watched her gaze around almost desperately, not yet noticing the small, corked bottle fading in stealthily atop the circular table.
Shouldn't she remember this from before? He thought worriedly, but with that thought came another: Could she have forgotten me as well?
No. She couldn't have, he reassured himself. His comforting was half-hearted and he knew it.
Could she have?
"Yech," she says. He watches with interest as her lips curled into an irritable half-frown. "I'm all wet!" she looks to him as she expects an answer.
He shrugs in response, if only because he is too busy wringing his own clothing out to respond. "Well, of course," he says finally, grinning at her. He crouches in an attempt to become eye level with her; finding himself a few inches short, he giggles in amusement at the strange feeling of having to look up at the young child. "What else could you have expected of a Caucus Race? We were racing underwater, you know."
She considers this, or at least pretends to do so. She rubs her chin in mock thoughtfulness, then bobs her head as if, ahh, she's come to an understanding. She looks very adult, much too adult for his liking.
"I like you much better short." She announces. Her fists are planted firmly on her hips as she rocks back and forth with feigned importance.
He raises a fiery brow at this. "And why is that?"
"Simple," she chirps, and her rough lips graze against his forehead with deliberate slowness. He finds himself mildly shocked at this, and then surprise melts into happiness. She never ceases to surprise him.
The child bends her knees until she is level with him. "It's much easier to kiss you this way."
"Shouldn't she remember all of this from before?" Mallyumpkin remarked crossly, bringing life to his unspoken fear. The cold knot in his stomach sank a bit lower.
"She's the right one. I'm sure of it. Just give her a chance." He disagreed. Mallyumpkin sent a dark look his way, but eventually she unfolded her furry arms and settled them on the hilt of her sword.
"I'll take your word for it for now," she muttered darkly. She stroked the hilt fondly before glancing up at him. "But if you're wrong…" she trailed off threateningly. The others murmured their agreement, but he didn't hear them. His face was flush against the door, watching, now, as she finally discovered the bottle and downed a large gulp. She didn't remember any of this.
But she had to.
The fruit is bruised and brown, filling the air with its half-rotten scent. He turns it over in his hands, hardly minding that as he did so, a thick, golden brown substance trickled into his palm and down his arm. He inspects it curiously.
"Hatter?" something rustles in the darkness, and he turns his attention away from the apple. She is sitting up, no longer covered by his jacket which served as a blanket. Her eyes are half-lidded from sleep and her face is pink and clammy from the closeness of the fire. "What are you doing?"
"Thinking," he replies honestly. He straightens from his half-crouched position. He still holds the decayed fruit.
He knows she is now intrigued; from the corner of his eye he spies her sitting straighter, body turned completely towards him. He notices with great worry that his coat is dangerously near to the flames.
"Alice," he says, a slight whine slipping into his voice, and bright child that she is, she understands immediately. Grabbing the coat, she hauls it into her lap and sends him an apologetic look. She pats the cloth down gently to show that it was okay, stopping only when he smiles briefly.
As he glances upon her, he drinks in the sight of her sleepy form. Thin, pale shoulders that resist all weather's attempts to brown them. Messy, golden hair that sweeps to one side, pooling over a single bony shoulder. Blue eyes that remain wide with wonder no matter the time.
The edge of his lips twitch, then bloom into a full-blown grin.
"About what?" she asks under the mask of politeness, but he sees beyond the façade to her real reason: raw, unadulterated curiosity.
"About…something." He muses, avoiding her question intentionally. He wants to see where this leads.
Pursing her lips, she swings her legs from out under their covers, laying bare her stocking covered thighs. He averts his eyes as the skirt of her dress rides upward, flashing a tantalizing bit of milky flesh into the night air. She strides towards him, and once again he is shocked with how absolutely adult she manages to act sometimes.
Before she reaches him he tucks his hands behind his back, shielding the fruit from her piercing gaze as well as managing to smear it across his under shirt.
"What are you hiding from me?" she says, curiosity growing in her voice.
"A something," he says playfully. He wonders if she knows he's playing her own game; laying the bait, then laying in wait. "Guess what it is and I'll show you. Better yet, answer my riddle and I'll show you."
"Why must I answer a riddle?" she objects. "Why can't you just tell me what it is?"
"Because," he says gleefully. "It would be far too easy that way."
She pouts, then gets on tiptoe to try and see over him. But she was a child, and much smaller than he was. So instead she frowns and stuck out her lip. "Fine," she says. "Give me the riddle."
"Alrite," he winks, deliberately stalling - she was adorable when she was irritable, "What's brown on the inside, but wormy underneath? What is adored by those of smaller sorts, but loathed by those with teeth?"
He waits patiently as she deliberates. Finally, he sees the sparks go off, and she turns to him excitedly and blurts, "A rotten apple!"
"Right you are, my child." He praises as he lifts her, careful to look away when her skirt once again creeps up dangerously, and carries her off to her bed in the campsite before returning dutifully to his own.
His doubt was well along the steady transition into despair when Nivens whispered, "Well, she's found the cake."
Sure enough, a very small person was digging into the tiny pastry, spewing even smaller crumbs as she bit down.
His doubt hesitated for a moment. Perhaps he had been wrong to doubt her so quickly? Watching her intensely, he felt the warm flicker of hope beginning to build up once again in his chest. As he gazed at her she began to grow until she was flush against the roof, head cocked at a very uncomfortable looking angle.
"Well, she's certainly as stupid as the last Alice." Mallyumpkin mumbled before realizing what she had said. Furry hands flew to her mouth, and she looked at him with something akin to horror. "Excuse me. I spoke rashly without thinking. I- I –"
"No harm done," he said breezily, although he felt himself tensing up at the comment. "You're allowed to speak as you wish, dear friend. I'm no Red Queen." He reminded gently. Mallyumpkin looked down shamefully, but she nodded.
Inside, the young woman was grasping the small bottle with the intent to drink to her proper size. A beam of shaky light from the lamps above wavered upon her, and in a single moment, the Hatter realized something that had never come across his mind.
She had aged.
"Hatter," she says in that queer way that made it sound like 'Hatta'. Secretly, he enjoys the way she says his name, but as she has never asked him, he has found no need to bring it up. "What's it like being an adult?"
The question stops him in the middle of his pouring tea. He puts the kettle down unceremoniously, sloshing its hot brown contents all along his hand and sleeves.
It was an odd notion, especially since the Hatter himself had never really pondered it.
He'd never actually considered himself an adult. Adults were people who made important decisions, did things that weren't fun but pretended they were, and, most importantly of all, did the stuffiest things imaginable and called them 'trendy'. The most important decision he'd ever made had consisted of what sort of tea did he want to try that day, and whether or not he should offer his guests a scone or two.
So, of course, when the question was thus thrust upon him, it caught the madman a tad bit off guard.
"I don't really know," he says after a moment, tapping his chin ponderously. "It's a bit like…like being a fat hermit crab."
"Hermit crab?" she squeaks, but he ignores her remark and continues,
"A hermit crab that's eaten too much, and then some ocean tide comes along and pulls him out of his nice, comfortable shell and plops him down into a shell that is much too tight for his own skin and much to stuffy for him to think straight. And then since he's so tight in his shell all he can do is sit around and pay taxes." He finishes with a shrug, sipping his tea as if to say 'Ah, well.'
"I wasn't aware crabs had to pay taxes. Odd," she wonders softly, and her eyes sparkle in that way that the Hatter enjoys more than the odd way she calls his name.
"All's odd in Underland." He remarks, setting his cup down carefully. "If you wouldn't mind passing me a scone?"
She complies, but he can tell she's still thinking about something, because her face stays screwed up and her mouth is a thin line.
"Something the matter?" he asks, averting his eyes only for a moment to pour Mallyumpkin a thimble full of tea.
"I…" she begins, but trails off as if not sure what to say.
"I, we, me, see, hot tea, smelly pe – "
"Hatter!" she chides. He offers a rueful smile and a sheepish shrug.
"I was going to say peanuts," he giggles, lying through his teeth and the both of them knowing it.
"I'm not ever going to grow up," she says suddenly after pausing to allow his giggle fit. "Ever."
He raises a fiery brow in question.
"It's stupid, and horrid. Why should I have to grow up and do things I don't like? I don't have to. And I won't." she adds defensively, as if he's going to try and convince her otherwise.
He wonders how he is to respond to this.
"An interesting life choice," he settles for at last, leaning across the table. "And one I hope you pursue."
The virgin gold of her hair had faded with time to a trodden on blonde-brown. The delicate curves of her face had long since melted, leaving behind only sharp edges and jagged angles. Her pale skin was still the same, but it had garnered a pasty, yellowy tint since he'd last seen it.
Alice was no longer a young child. She was a full-fledged woman.
She had aged so much he found himself feeling a bit disgusted.
Not disgusted, he chided himself immediately. Just…shocked. Because the girl you've…missed came back looking like a completely different person.
They began to move away from the door as the young woman began to advance towards it, and he heard Mallyumpkin whisper into his ear, "It's not our time yet to see her, Tarrant. We'd better shove off before she sees us."
He nodded slowly, moving to a standing position before he turned. He cast one last glance back towards the door.
Was that the Alice he'd dreamt of? Possibly. Possibly not. Would she remember him? Possibly. Possibly not. Would she still love him, as she told him all that time ago?
Possibly. Possibly not.