Disclaimer: I don't own Alice in Wonderland or any characters, places, things, or ideas therein. I am not claiming ownership, for we all know these items belong to Lewis Carroll, Tim Burton, and Disney. I am making no monetary gain from this story in any way, shape, and/or form.
Summary: On Frabjous Eve, the Hatter dreams… AlicexHatter
Dedication: To my awesome twin sister and beta jewel of athos. I hope you love reading it as much as I loved writing it, my dear twin!
Author's Note: On the night we watched Alice in Wonderland together, my twin sister requested a fic in celebration and gave me the prompts of Hatter shouting: "Death! Death to the tyrant! Death to the Bloody Big Head!" and "Spoon" to work with. Seeming like fun prompts, I accepted the challenge, and this is what I came up with. I see this as taking place soon after the balcony scene between Alice and Hatter. Thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoy!
Death to the Tyrant
She believes Underland is nothing more than a dream.
That Idea, in and of itself, didn't really bother Tarrant Hightopp, the Mad Hatter, that much. For after all, Underland wasn't a very happy place to live at that moment (though it was happier now than it had been even a day ago). However, calling Underland a dream meant that, by proxy, she was calling him a dream, a figment of her imagination.
In some ways Tarrant found that flattering, for who wouldn't want to be included in the Alice's imagination? But, at the same time, that was a frightening concept for him. He remembered himself, he had thoughts of his own, he could remember Time before Alice came to Underland. So didn't that mean that he was real? That Alice was wrong?
Bad thought, bad thought. Even so much as thinking Alice was wrong could possibly make things go very badly on the Frabjous Day, especially since he was hoping she'd find what she needed, believe Underland was real (for really, how could it not be real since he'd lived there his entire life, and been there since before Alice came even the first time?), and slay the Jabberwocky.
Tarrant paced back across the floor nervously. Alice had had her moments of being strong, such as when she'd rescued the Vorpal sword and escaped with it, but overall she seemed so nervous she was almost timid. And the thought of sending her out to face the Jabberwocky, one of the worst beasts ever to exist in Underland, made him almost break out in hives. It felt like such an evil thing to do - like if he condoned sending her out to face the Jabberwocky, he was as bad as the Bloody Big Head herself.
I'll do it myself. I'll step up as the Queen's Champion myself. I'll make sure Alice doesn't have to face that monster. I'll do it. I will. Spinning back, he snatched off his Hat and set it on the nightstand before crawling into bed atop his covers, still fully clothed. He lay on his back, staring up at the moon-washed ceiling, trying to get his frantic mind to be quiet enough so he could sleep.
The voices of his Madness clamored away inside his head, making it ache fiercely, until he was finally so tired he couldn't stay awake any more, and his worst fears manifested themselves into nightmares…
He was running, tearing through halls dripping with red, doubly so since his vision was hazed over in crimson from anger. Every step almost seemed to be taking him further away from his goal instead of bringing him closer, but he couldn't stop trying. He had to get there in time. He couldn't fail. He'd failed too many times in his life, and he couldn't let this be another on the ever-expanding list.
Nearly losing his footing as he rounded the next corner, he caught himself on the wall and managed to regain his balance before he fell. He had no time for falling. Running on, he tried not to be angry at Alice for coming to the Red Queen's fortress to rescue him, but he couldn't really be angry at her, for he would have done the exact same thing in her position. And wasn't the Vorpal sword here?
But Alice hadn't come for the sword. She'd come for him. And that had gotten her into trouble so deep that he wasn't sure there was a way out of it, though he was sure as tea and scones going to try.
As he neared his goal, the sounds that had already wrenched his nerves into a mess of knots became even clearer. The Bloody Big Head's high-pitched voice screamed out her order with such relish that it nearly curdled Tarrant's blood, almost freezing him in place. It was only through sheer force of will that he managed to keep himself moving.
He burst through the doors, blinking rapidly to adjust his eyes to the bright sunlight flooding the courtyard beneath the Red Queen's lofty perch. A quick glance showed her surrounded by her sycophants (liars, falsifiers, and cheats, every one of them); a crowd of terrified slaves around the raised wooden platform where Stayne presided over a hooded man who stood over Alice, who knelt with her shaking hands braced against the chopping block, blonde curls spilling over her shoulders to frame her terrified face.
"Stop!" he shouted.
Every head in the place whipped in his direction, shocked murmurings going up from every direction. But he only had eyes for Alice, who was for once her right-proper Alice-size, still kneeling with her head in great danger of being separated from her shoulders.
Seizing the frail opportunity, his mind spinning with images of being locked in a cell just out of reach of Alice's all night and enduring her being dragged away from him at first light for just this reason, Tarrant ran for Alice.
She must have seen the desperation on his face, the intent in his eyes, for she shot into motion herself, just escaping the sharp blade of the axe as it landed where her neck had been only a breath of a second before. A few curls of blonde hair tumbled away, chopped off by how close the blow had come to being true.
And then suddenly the Jabberwocky was there, interposing its huge body between him and Alice. Its flaming red eyes locked on Tarrant with malicious intent, and he was forced to scramble away from his intended direction to avoid the creature's lashing tail and raking claws.
"Alice!" He dodged to the left, hearing the JubJub bird's haunting screech somewhere above him (had the Bloody Big Head released it, too?) as he resumed his former course.
She'd lifted her awkward skirts and was running toward him across the wooden stage, and he could see that she was planning to leap off it. He braced himself to catch her when she did, but then she didn't jump. She just halted suddenly at the edge, teetering unsteadily, her gaze tearing from his in surprise.
It was only then that he saw the sharp blade that had seemed to blossom from the center of her chest, and he glimpsed it a second before it withdrew. Alice's body dropped soundlessly forward and off the platform. He tried to run faster, but was unable to get there in time to catch her before her body slammed into the dusty ground.
For a moment Tarrant was torn between the desire to check on Alice and to tear Stayne, who was calmly cleaning off the blade of his sword as if he hadn't just murdered Underland's most important inhabitant, limb from limb with his bare hands.
His fear for Alice won out. He landed on his knees in the dirt next to her, gently taking her shoulders and rolling her over so he could see her face. His panicked breathing caught on itself as he frantically pushed waves of her curly blonde hair off her face so he could see her expression.
The moment he saw her glassy eyes and crimson-coated lips he knew he was too late. So swiftly he didn't have time to try to dampen or control it, anger-fueled Madness boiled up inside him, snapping the last fragile thread of sanity even the Thought of Alice had maintained for so long.
Letting out a completely inhuman howl of rage and pain, he spun away from Alice's broken body, flaming red eyes focusing on the woman above him who had destroyed so much. "Death! Death to the Tyrant! Death to the Bloody Big Head!" His shout was so loud he thought his throat would explode from the effort of producing such volume, and he was sure those as far away as Marmoreal would hear it.
He was only able to see a flash of the terror on the Red Queen's face before the Jabberwocky was there again. It opened its ugly mouth wide, crackling purple energy gathering inside it. And then he saw the final thing that his Clan had on that day so long ago…
"Death! Death to the Tyrant! Death to the Bloody Big Head!" The shout tumbled from his lips as he shot upwards, heart pounding so hard it felt like it was going to tear itself apart. He looked around, expecting to see the Jabberwocky and the Red Queen and Stayne, but instead he saw other, kinder, familiar faces around him.
And, at the forefront, there was Alice, blonde hair a tangled mess around her pale face, hands out as if she wanted to touch him but was afraid to do so.
"A-Alice?" For a moment his mind flashed back to how she was in his dream (no, nightmare), her eyes glassy and unfocused, her lips stained with her life-force.
Before he could stop himself, his instincts got the better of him and he'd thrown himself at her, frantically clinging as if he'd never let go (and to be honest, he didn't really want to!). His arms were around her shoulders, his fingers buried in her hair, his face tight against her neck, inhaling the scent that he'd come to recognize as Alice's even though she'd been in Underland for such a short time. She was warm, she was solid, she was real, and most desperately and wonderfully importantly, she was Alive!
"Hatta'!" A sharp poke in his arm followed the outraged shouting of his title, and he jerked away from Alice as if burned. He looked down at his friend Mallymkun the Dormouse, who was brandishing her hatpin sword and looking apt to murder. "Let the girl breathe, ya big lump!" she scolded.
It was only then that he truly registered the presence of the others in his room. The White Queen was there, somehow looking as regal and poised as she always did, though this time she wore a dressing gown instead of her usual ball-style dress. Chess was floating above all their heads, tail drooping nervously, ears laid back flat, eyes a little wider and grin not as pronounced as usual. Thackery stood back a bit, shuddering, clutching a spoon in his paws.
"I'm sorry," Tarrant whispered. He avoided all their gazes, twisting his fingers together anxiously. It had been a very long time since he'd had such a horrible Nightmare.
"What happened?" Alice prompted softly.
"You were screaming loudly enough to wake all of Underland," Mirana added. Her hands dropped a bit in concern.
"It was nothing," he whispered. He didn't want to share the details of that atrocity his mind had created with anyone, let alone Alice.
"Nothing is for bit-scones and poppy-seeds," Thackery declared emphatically, though his words were nonsense. He brandished his spoon regally, then noticed it and brought it so close to his nose he almost went cross-eyed. "Spoon," he said, in wonder at his new-old discovery.
Tarrant swallowed hard, suddenly feeling more than nervous at all the pairs of eyes on him. That was almost worse than the single pair of glowing red eyes of the Jabberwocky in his dream. "I-I can't," he whispered. "Can't talk about it. Not tonight." Probably not ever.
Mirana turned toward the door. "I'll go find a potion to help you sleep," she said.
Sniffing in derisive disappointment, Chess wisped away into smoke. It was obvious he'd been expecting something more exciting.
Mally murmured something that sounded at the same time apologetic and reassuring, taking Thackery with her as she left the room.
Alice continued gazing at him for a long moment, her eyes thoughtful. Then she reached out and smoothed a lock of wild, frizzy orange hair away from his face before leaning forward and pressing a kiss to his forehead. "No more nightmares," she whispered. Then, smiling reassuringly, she turned and drifted out of the room with as much grace as the White Queen.
And when Mirana returned to Tarrant's room, she found him fast asleep, a smile on his lips. Gently closing the door behind her, she left him undisturbed, knowing that he didn't need her potion to sleep nightmare-free the rest of the night.
For Tarrant Hightopp, a kiss from Alice was far better than any draught from any world could ever be, real or not.