Disclaimer: I don't own Pirates of the Caribbean or any places, things, ideas, or characters therein. Those belong to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer. I also don't own Alice in Wonderland or any characters, places, things, or ideas therein. They belong to Lewis Carroll, Tim Burton, and Disney. I am making no monetary gain from this story, it was written for entertainment purposes only.
Summary: While searching for the Fountain of Youth, Captain Jack finds a fantastical world, an old friend, and some strange creatures… AlicexHatter, sequel to "Pirates and Hatters."
Warnings: A touch of violence, and rum, rum, rum…
Dedication: To jewel of athos and the ray-ray, both of whom were awesome inspirations during the conception of this sequel. You guys completely rock, and I hope you love this story!
Author's Note: At first I was just going to leave Pirates and Hatters alone, but then a lot of people expressed disappointment that Jack and Tarrant never got to see each other, and I admit that I was disappointed that they never got to see each other. So I decided to pen (type?) this sequel, which I see taking place post-At World's End but pre-On Stranger Tides. Kudos to whoever figures out where exactly Jack was when he landed in Underland… Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this story!
A Spot of Rum and Tea
It was great to be rid of the responsibility, he had to admit. And Barbossa. And especially that blasted monkey. (Though he did miss having something to shoot at when he got frustrated, which happened more often than not lately.)
But what wasn't so great to be rid of was his ship. Again.
"You know, Jackie," he told himself, downing another great gulp of rum, "maybe you're not meant to have the Pearl. Especially since you keep losing her…" He stopped to consider this for all of two seconds. "Nah."
After spending a good amount of time cursing that weasel Barbossa's guts out just for good measure, Captain Jack Sparrow reclined as best he could in his small boat and tried to go to sleep. Granted, it would be better if he were in his captain's quarters aboard the Pearl, but sleeping out under the stars wasn't so bad. Especially on clear nights when it was just the sky, the stars, the water, and him. It was nights like those that reminded him of why he'd become a pirate.
After one last drink of rum, he pulled his tri-corn hat down over his eyes and went to sleep. In the fresh light of a new day he'd look at the map and then at his compass, and it would be off on another day of adventure trying to find the Fountain of Youth. Though he was beginning to wonder if he ever would find it…
He wasn't sure how long he'd been asleep when he was abruptly wakened by the wave washing over the side of his boat and right over him. Coughing and spluttering, Jack straightened up, scrambling to try to get his bearings, to keep his boat from flooding out, and, most importantly, to figure out how his clear night had turned into this raging storm!
Another wave swept over the side, dumping water in faster than he could bail it out. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his compass and squinted at it in the occasional illumination the lightning offered. It showed him the direction of whatever his heart desired, and at that moment, his heart desired somewhere that was out of the storm!
The needle spun wildly for a moment, pointing this way and that before settling on dead ahead, unwavering even when he shook it. "Straight into the storm?" he shouted. "Are you crazy?"
It wasn't that he hadn't sailed through storms before, he had many times. It was that the storms he'd sailed through before had typically been while he was aboard the Black Pearl, which was quite a bit bigger and sturdier than the pitiful collection of boards he was currently in. But the compass had not (often) led him wrong before, so he would keep sailing forward and hope for the best.
For a while he was so occupied with his compass and trying to keep his pitiful sails from ripping in the wind that he missed the light. When he finally did see it, he nearly lost control of the sail he was so surprised. Then he was so entranced by the light, he nearly missed the most important thing: the light was coming from the center of a whirlpool.
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no!" he shouted. "This is not safety!" Turning, Jack scrambled to try to find the paddles, hoping they hadn't been swept overboard. Maybe he wasn't a match against the storm, but he would find the strength somewhere to get away from that whirlpool. He had no wish to die - not ever, but particularly not today.
He was only able to locate one paddle, but that was better than none! Thrusting it into the water, he rowed frantically first on one side, then the other, but soon realized he was making no headway. The combination of the storm and the great suction of the whirlpool was dragging the boat - and him - in.
And then he was falling, and all he could do was hope it would be over soon.
For a moment after everything went silent and still, Jack remained lying in the bottom of his boat, clinging desperately to the seat to stay inside its relative safety. He was dripping wet, but at least he didn't feel like more water was falling atop him, especially not crushingly so.
Pushing his hat back a bit away from his eyes, he cautiously lifted his head and peeked over the edge of his boat. The differences were immediately obvious - he was somewhere completely different.
Overhead, the sky was so brilliantly bright that it almost hurt to look at it - day instead of night, as it had been only a moment before. The water he was floating in was much calmer, with only the occasional small wave lapping curiously at his vessel. Sitting up fully, deciding he was finally safe, he broadened the scope of his searching gaze, looking for any other familiar or striking features to try to help him figure out where he was.
For a moment he saw nothing but water and sky, until he'd turned three out of the four directions. There, in the distance - a rocky cliff rose above the water, the stones shining white against the blue sky and waves. Shading his eyes, Jack continued to look up, at last finding what looked like a rough path that led to the top. And at the top - were those turrets?
"It's a castle!" For a moment Jack just stared in openmouthed amazement at it. But then his rum-soaked brain finally caught on - that was just the type of topographical feature he'd been searching for - and he hurried back to his map. Running a finger along the surface of it, he desperately looked for any sort of item that resembled a castle on the map.
There were none.
"Where am I?" Rolling the map back up, for it was obvious it would be of no use to him now, he pulled off his hat and slapped his thigh with it. The way he saw it, he had two choices. One, he could aimlessly paddle around and try to find something that looked familiar, or two, he could row to shore, follow the path up the cliff, go to the castle, and find out if the locals were friendly. And if they had a map that would do him good and help him find his way back.
And rum. Rum would definitely be useful.
Sighing heavily, Jack plopped his slightly soggy hat back on his head and reached for his paddle, which thankfully had not fallen overboard during his time in the whirlpool. Unfortunately his last bottle of rum had, and he grumbled over its loss as he made for the beckoning shore. He really could have used a drink or five before he tackled that cliff, which was looking bigger and bigger the closer he got to it. For a moment he regretted his decision - and the entire set of events that led him to this cursed place to begin with - but ultimately decided thinking about it was a waste of energy. There was nothing he could do about it now.
Finally he reached the beach. Getting into the water, he tugged his boat up onto the shore, making sure it was far enough up so that the tide wouldn't carry it off if he was gone for a while. Then he searched out the path he'd seen from the water and started climbing, hoping it wouldn't take too long to get to the top.
The trail was easier to traverse than he'd thought it would be. Though steep, it looked well-maintained, cleared from any debris and smoothed so there would be no places to catch a foot and tumble. So wherever he was, they were used to sea-faring visitors, then. This was good.
Once he reached the top, he took a break. The sun was rather warm, and though it had been useful in drying out his clothes, it had been rather irritating without a breeze to offset its heat, especially during that rather long, if not arduous, climb.
So Jack dropped down on the grass and stared at the turret that was staring back at him from over the trees. It was completely white, except for the high windows, which glared like eyes, accusing him of being an intruder, like he didn't belong. Well, the windows didn't have to look so reproachful, because he knew he didn't belong there, and was trying to get out, thank you very much.
It didn't take him long to tire of the windows' intense glaring at him, so he stood up and continued on toward the castle. The sooner he got there, the sooner he could get answers, and the sooner he got answers, the sooner he could get back on the trail to the Fountain of Youth.
Jack stopped and whirled around. Hadn't that mist up by the tree just been looking at him? With big turquoise eyes, and a creepy grin?
You're imagining things, Jackie. Just go on. Turning back, he glanced up to make sure the turrets were still in front of him before continuing. It was the lack of rum, that's what it was. Without the rum, he was seeing things where things didn't - and couldn't - exist. Once he had rum and was on his way again, everything would be good.
…Or maybe was just dreaming. That was possible. Sometimes his dreams did weird things to him. Yes, that could be it. He was dreaming.
But he preferred the dream theory. Dreams meant when he woke up he would still have rum and be where he was supposed to be.
Eventually the trees thinned out, and he stood on a wide, gravel path lined on either side by more trees. They were shedding pinkish-white blossoms that coated the path ahead of him, stretching all the way up to wide double doors, also white.
Everything was white. What was with the color scheme, or lack thereof? I really need rum. I really, really, really need rum. Shaking his head, he continued on up the path, rocks crunching under his feet. Was this all really worth it?
He was almost to the doors when he heard voices and laughter coming from the garden to his right. He hesitated, debating whether or not to go ahead and knock on the doors. But if he could find the people the laughter belonged to - gardeners, perhaps? - and ask them for directions (and for rum), maybe he wouldn't have to bother with stuffy royalty. It was a good plan, he decided, and veered off the path into the garden.
It took a bit of searching, but he followed the voices as they became louder until he finally broke through the last bushes into a small clearing, batting away clingy bushes as they tried to snatch off his hat.
And then he stopped.
A long table covered in a white tablecloth stood in the clearing. It was obviously set for tea, with a tea set - not to mention innumerable sweets - atop it. The chairs all along the table were mostly filled, but not with normal tea takers.
There was a hare dressed in the most dilapidated clothes Jack had ever seen, clutching a teacup in one hand a spoon in the other; a little white mouse in a pink dress drinking from a thimble-sized cup; a big blue-furred cat with oddly familiar turquoise eyes and creepy grin; two round little boys who were arguing and slapping at each other with butter knives…
"Captain Jack!" And suddenly there was a blur of blue and white and gold rushing at him like a cannon shot, and he nearly fell over when whatever it was slammed into him. Slender arms wound around his shoulders and squeezed so tightly he could barely breathe. "Captain Jack Sparrow, I can hardly believe it's you!"
"Parlay?" he whispered, half-strangled.
The person (at least he thought it was a person) trying to strangle him finally stepped back, and he got a good look at her face. She was a bit older, and there was a light in her eyes and expression that had been lacking the last time he saw her, but he recognized her immediately. "Alice Kingsleigh! The girl who was trying to get home, I believe."
"Alice Hightopp," she corrected. And turning to indicate the garden and tea table, she smiled. "I made it, as you can see!" Turning back to him, she took his hand and started tugging him toward the table. "Come meet everyone else, Jack!"
He winced slightly and opened his mouth to inform her that he wasn't there to stay, and didn't have time to meet her strange friends, but she was on to the introductions by then. "Over there is Thackery, the March Hare. And next to him is Chessur, the Cheshire Cat. You've got to watch out for him, he's tricky. Across from him is Mallymkun, the Dormouse, and next to her are the Tweedles, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. And then here, at the head of the table-" She let go of him and moved to stand next to a man (finally, another human!) Jack hadn't noticed before. He was wearing a worn top hat over the most untidy electric orange hair the captain had ever seen (not that he'd seen anyone with orange hair before, that is), with a pale face, colorful clothes, and dark circles around eyes that were an orangey-red shade that was almost frightening. "And this," Alice continued, resting a hand on the man's arm, "is my husband, Tarrant Hightopp, Royal Hatter."
Immediately when Alice touched him, his eyes had faded into a bright, curious green, regarding Jack with an almost childish curiosity. "It would seem I owe you thanks, Captain Sparrow," he finally said. There was a pronounced lisp in his voice, and he spoke softly, as if afraid to offend.
"For what?" Jack asked. Usually when someone said that, they either tried to shoot him or hang him. He didn't see any guns or nooses, but he wasn't ready to take the strange man's words at face value, either.
"For protecting my wife while she was Up There." Hightopp made a vague motion before sliding his arm around Alice's shoulders.
"Yes, well, she's a lovely girl, and - wait, Up There?" Jack's mind finally caught up, and he nearly choked on the words. "What do you mean, Up There? Where is Down Here?"
"So sorry I'm late, everyone. Shall we go on with- Oh!"
Jack spun around at the voice from behind him, nearly tripping over his own two feet before he finally managed to stop himself. Standing before him was a vision of living white - white dress, white skin, white hair. But her lips and nails were stained black, and her eyes were dark as the night he'd just left, but not nearly as unkind. Her hands, which had been floating delicately at her sides, had lowered a bit in obvious surprise. The crown on her head suggested she was royal, but she didn't look like any royalty he'd ever seen before. For one thing, she was nice. And for another, she was nice.
"And who - are you?"
For a moment he couldn't seem to find any words to say, then scrambled for his hat and snatched it off. "Captain Jack Sparrow, milady, at your service." He bowed deeply in her direction. What's the matter with you, Jackie? Royalty is your enemy. Remember?
"He's my friend from Above," Alice interjected from behind him. "The one I told you about."
"Captain Sparrow." Mirana tilted her head a bit in his direction, a graceful smile now touching her lips. "I'm Mirana, Mistress of Marmoreal, White Queen of Underland."
Well, that explained the white décor. "And - this is Marmoreal? Underland?"
"They're two separate places," a drawling voice announced in his ear.
Jack jumped away, turning to see the blue cat from earlier - Chessy? No, Chessur? - now floating in the air next to his head. "Eh?" He wasn't sure if he was questioning the cat's words (the cat could talk?) or its actions.
Those big turquoise eyes narrowed. "This-" a sweep of his paw indicated the garden and the castle "-is Marmoreal. Everything else is Underland. Understand?"
"But isn't Marmoreal in Underland?" Poor Jack's rum-lacking brain was having a bit of trouble keeping up with it all. He wished he could just wake up so he could go find the Fountain of Youth (which was turning into more trouble than it seemed to be worth) and rum (not necessarily in that order).
"Chess is playing with you," Mirana said, sending a pointed look in the cat's direction. "Now then, Captain Sparrow, will you please join us for tea?" A graceful motion with her hand indicated the table.
"I - um - thanks." He was just dreaming, so what was the harm? He inched toward the table, eyeing the Hare, who looked ready to throw something, and the Dormouse, who was standing with her arms crossed, holding a hatpin in one paw. Jack realized belatedly that the little white creature was using it as a sword.
By the time he'd finally taken his seat, everyone else was in theirs and were in the midst of sorting out the tea-things. Feeling very out of place and utterly confused, Jack accepted the teacup one of the little round boys (Tweedledee? Or was that one Tweedledum?) handed him.
"So, Jack," Alice said from down the table, "did you get your ship back?"
Biting down a growl of frustration, he set down his teacup and nodded. "As a matter of fact, I did," he said.
"Excellent!" Alice exclaimed. "Is it here in Underland, too?"
"I - ah, well, I did bring my ship with me, yes. But it's not the Pearl." He looked down at the swirling, steaming brown liquid in his cup, somehow feeling ashamed.
"N-Not the Pearl? What happened to it?"
Despite the fact that he was in a fantastical land where animals could talk and cats could float, Jack didn't think Alice - or anyone else, for that matter - would believe him if he said that it had been swallowed by Davy Jones's critter and he had spent some time in the Locker. And then it was stolen by that swine Barbossa, who would be drawn and quartered the moment Jack caught up with him, yes.
…But he couldn't say any of that. "I - well, she was stolen," Jack said. And that was the truth, just not all of the truth. "I was looking for her again, as well as the Fountain of Youth, when I found myself - here."
"Here as in Underland or here as in Marmoreal?" one of the Tweedles asked him.
"He means here as in Marmoreal, of course," the other scoffed.
"Well how was I supposed to know? He said 'here,' that could've meant either one."
"I mean here, just here," Jack said, a little irritated.
"The Fountain of Youth?" Queen Mirana was staring at him now, her cup of tea halfway to her lips.
Turning back to her, he smiled and nodded. "You've heard of it? You know where it is?"
Very carefully, Mirana set her teacup down and folded her hands in front of her. "Captain Sparrow, I haven't so much heard about the Fountain of Youth itself, but I have heard of its effects." Lifting her hand, she indicated everything around them, and for once Jack wasn't irritated by not knowing if she meant Marmoreal or Underland when she said, "In point of fact, Underland itself has some properties that are similar to those of the Fountain. Quite similar, in fact."
"How similar?" Jack questioned interestedly.
"Youth, Captain. Years and years of youthfulness." She hesitated. "Just don't pick an argument with Time. It's quite uncertain what would happen if you do."
"Aye," came from down the table where Hightopp sat. "He'll stop altogether for you, and that's if you're lucky."
They were talking about time as if it was an actual person. For a moment Jack considered getting up and leaving the tea table and this band of loonies behind, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. For one thing, he'd been wondering what happened to the sweet girl Alice that he'd met in China what felt like forever ago, who had been so nice to him when he'd basically been down on his luck. And here was his answer. It would be rude to get up and leave so soon after arriving.
That, and he was finding himself more and more fascinated with Queen Mirana. She was unlike anyone he'd ever met before, and in this case, that was a good thing. Maybe.
"Ah - call me Jack, please, I insist." The words slipped out before he could stop them, but he didn't regret them at all once they were out. Smiling somewhat sheepishly, he accepted the scone Mirana was offering him and bit into it, surprised when he tasted rum.
Mirana didn't seem to notice the way his eyes widened in surprise and pleasure. "And any friend of Alice's is a friend of mine. Please, at least while we're at the table, call me Mirana."
Jack nearly choked on the (delicious!) bite of scone he'd just taken. "Ah - aye."
Smiling satisfactorily, Mirana turned to say something to the Hare (Thackery, was it?) sitting next to her. The creature's wide eyes hadn't left Jack since the latter had sat down, and he was balancing his cup in his hand as if he were considering throwing it. It was something else, this feeling that he should be ready to duck at any moment. Though right then he was wishing he could slink under the table and vanish. Whatever was the matter with him? He'd met pretty girls before - look at Alice, after all.
But none like the queen, a voice in his head whispered.
Oh, shut up, he thought back irritably. She's royal.
"These scones are delicious," he said when he caught Mirana looking at him again. "They taste like rum."
"Rum?" One dark eyebrow quirked upwards.
"It's a drink. Delicious drink. Where I come from. Up there, you know." He waved vaguely at the sky. "Tastes like - well, these scones." He patted his jacket, hoping he had at least a little bit of it left so he could offer it to her to taste, but was disappointed. The last bottle really had gone overboard in the whirlpool. "Unfortunately I don't have any with me, or I'd let you try some."
Mirana eyed the scone in front of her, then turned to the hare again. "Thackery, what did you put in these?"
The Hare had made them? Gingerly swallowing his most recent bite, Jack carefully lowered the rest of his scone to his plate. For some reason it didn't taste all that appetizing anymore. Though Alice and her husband didn't seem to see any problem in eating them…
"The usual. Spoon." The last was said as the creature held his spoon up to his nose, so close his eyes crossed.
Mad. The entire lot of them are off their heads. Jack stole a glimpse out of the corner of his eye. Except maybe for Alice. And Mirana…
The Queen sighed. "I don't know exactly what it is, Capt- Jack, but apparently there's something in Underland that is the equivalent of your rum." She smiled somewhat apologetically, then reached for the closest teapot. "More tea?"
"Yes, please." Whatever was the matter with him? He hadn't taken tea in as long as he could remember, and now here he was, acting like he was sitting at the bloody queen of England's tea table, for the Pearl's sake! He drank rum! That's what he drank. Not tea. Rum!
This place was giving him quite the reaction, though he wasn't sure if it was completely negative, yet anyway.
"So, Captain Sparrow, what kind of ship do you captain, exactly?"
This time he didn't jump when that blamed cat somehow managed to appear directly next to his head. It was probably since he was still so preoccupied with his tea versus rum issue, though it might have been because he had been looking at the queen. Again. "I - ah - at the moment? A rowboat, really. Only a little bigger. Has a bit of a sail, so when I have a good wind I don't have to row. But other than that…" He shrugged.
"And your Pearl? What kind of ship is it?" Those glowing turquoise eyes were looking a little too shrewd for Jack's liking.
"Missing," he said flatly. Turning away from the cat, he looked down at the mouse - Mallymkun, if he remembered correctly. "That's a very interesting sword you have there. Are you any good with it?"
"Am I any good wi' it? I'll 'ave ye know I wen' up against the Bandersnatch and won, thank ye very much!" A quick brandish of her hatpin and a mutinous glare made it clear what she thought of his question.
It sounded impressive, but then again, Jack didn't know what a Bandersnatch was. Probably another strange creature that talked, or vanished, or grinned, or did something mad. "Forgive me for questioning your skills," he said dryly.
Mumbling under her breath, the mouse sheathed her hatpin and stalked back over to her miniature teacup. "Bunch of gallymoggers, those Otherlanders," she muttered.
Mirana touched his arm to draw his attention, and Jack jolted slightly. It felt like someone had touched him with a hot brand, and if he lifted his sleeve, surely there would be marks there, the exact size and shape of the queen's slender little fingers. "How long will you be staying in Underland, Jack?" she questioned him.
From down the table, he saw Alice's head turn. She stared at him intently, as if equally interested in his response. Again wishing he could slide under the table and vanish, he said, "I don't know. I actually need to be getting back, I think. I've got to find the Pearl, and find that Fountain, and - and lots of other important things," he finished lamely.
Even the Hare, who was still sitting poised to throw that blasted teacup, looked disappointed in his answer.
Almost immediately, Jack felt the need to fill the sudden silence. "Though I - ah - don't know my way back Up There. But if I do find my way back, I'll come visit?" He was used to lying - he was a pirate, after all, and his kind usually did make their living (and stayed alive, period) by lying. But he'd never felt this awful about it, even though he didn't know if it was an intentional lie or not.
"Do you have any Jabberwocky blood left, Mirana?" Alice asked softly. She wasn't looking at Jack, but at her husband, who was quietly studying his teacup, a stormy expression on his face.
"I might," the queen replied. Murmuring an apology, she stood and drifted off in the direction of the castle.
"What blood?" Jack asked, staring after her.
"The blood of the Jabberwocky," Alice replied, finally looking at him. "It's a dragon-like creature. Its blood will grant you whatever you wish after you drink it. If you do choose to return to Otherland that way, all you have to do is think of the place you wish to appear, and you will go there once you've left here."
By now Jack had abandoned the thought that this all could be a dream. Too many things were adding up in evidence that it wasn't. And, besides, scones as good as those couldn't possibly exist in a dream. And if it were a dream, there wouldn't be rum at all, in any form. "So you've done it before?"
Alice nodded. "Once."
"And you regretted it." Jack didn't have to make it a question, he could see the pain in her eyes.
"I did. But I'm here now, and have no intention of ever drinking any more Jabberwocky blood and going to Otherland again. My home is here, with my husband and my friends."
Jack sighed inwardly. He didn't often think about belonging somewhere (mostly because he had the Pearl or was on the sea, at least, and didn't want to think about it, and he felt like he belonged well enough there), but he was doing an awful lot of it now. Alice had gotten what she wanted. Why couldn't he get what he wanted?
And what is that, Jackie old boy?
He didn't know. In fact, he wasn't sure he knew anything anymore. Other than that he really needed some rum, either to clear his head or help fog it all over so he wouldn't have to think, he wasn't sure which.
And then Mirana was there again, almost seeming to materialize at his side like that cat (who he noticed was gone again, but he wasn't interested enough to find out where the critter had gone). "Here you are, Captain."
Jack stared at the vial of violently purple liquid dangling in front of his face, and more than that, at the delicate white fingers holding it. Reaching up, he gingerly took the little glass container, feeling that flame shoot through him again when his fingers brushed hers. She called me 'Captain.' Face it, Jackie, you'll never be good enough for a royal. Specifically, her. What's gotten into you, anyway? The sea is your only mistress. You know that.
"It won't let you take your boat with you," Alice said. "It will only take you."
Shrugging, he shook his head and flipped open the top of the container. "Don't need that rickety old thing anyway," he said. "I'm going back to the Pearl."
"Just a moment." Alice stood, hurried around the table, and came to kiss his cheek. "Thank you, Jack. It was good seeing you again. And, once more, good luck finding your Pearl."
"It was nice seeing you too, luv." He lifted his gaze to Hightopp, who'd come to stand right behind his wife. "Ah - nice hat," he said, shrugging.
The other man grinned, revealing a gap between his two upper front teeth. "You too, Sparrow," he said. Reaching up, he tilted his own with bandaged fingers.
Alice looked back and forth between them, shaking her head. "I still cannot believe how much the two of you look alike," she murmured.
Jack stared at Hightopp, who stared back. At the same time they both shook their heads, mutually agreeing that Alice had lost her mind on that count. The captain turned and waved hesitantly to the creatures still sitting at the table, most of whom waved back. The hare simply laughed and finally chucked the cup at him, forcing him to duck so the piece of china smashed against a nearby tree and not his head. "Nice to meet you, too," he muttered.
And then he was gazing at Mirana, who calmly had her hands clasped before her. She was studying him with those intense dark eyes, which were looking a bit stormier than they had the first time he'd seen them. "Fairfarren, Captain Sparrow," she said. "I am glad to have met you, and wish you well in your journeys and pursuits."
"Ah - fairfarren to you, as well. I hope your rule is long and peaceful." He sketched a quick bow, feeling oddly numb as he lifted the vial of weird-sounding-and-looking blood to his lips and took a great gulp of it.
And then he pictured the deck of the Black Pearl, a grin on his lips. Barbossa, you rat, I'm coming back for my ship.
Alice Hightopp quietly entered the balcony, unsurprised to find her friend standing at the railing, one hand on her telescope, the other folded across her middle. Her gaze was turned out toward the sea.
"Oh, Alice." After her initial startle, the White Queen managed a thin smile before turning back to her telescope. "I am beginning to regret giving him that blood. I keep asking myself why I did something that could possibly lead him to harm, since I have taken vows to keep from causing harm to any living thing, but then I tell myself that he is from Otherland, so it perhaps does not apply to him the same way, and besides, he's out of my hands anyway, but…" She stopped and sighed heavily. "Why is it this way, Alice? Whatever is the matter with me?"
Leaning on the balcony next to her friend, Alice followed the queen's gaze out to the water, which shone and sparkled with the silver light from the moon and stars. "You miss him," she said. "I miss him, too. He's - quite the man. Reminds me a good bit of Tarrant."
Mirana chuckled. "That he does. The two do resemble each other quite closely. But Jack's different. He's - oh, would you listen to me." A hint of irritability inched into her voice at the end, but was gone almost as quickly. "I've never met such a strange person in my life. Is it that way where you come from with everyone?"
"No. Jack Sparrow is his own person, I must say. He's quite the pirate." Alice watched Mirana's face carefully, wondering if she had known or somehow figured out that particular facet of the captain's personality.
But the White Queen merely nodded, a knowing expression on her face. "I sensed he wasn't completely forthcoming," she said. "And so did Chess. I knew what that cat was up to with all those questions." Mirana shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I'll never see him again, anyway. He's back in Otherland, having forgotten all about us. He's probably back on his ship, sailing the seas, quite happy with his lot." She didn't sound the least bit bitter about it, merely tired and resigned.
Alice wanted to assure her friend that wouldn't happen, but couldn't do so. After all, hadn't she forgotten Underland at first when she'd gone back? It wasn't until after she'd been back for a while that she remembered, and more than that, remembered it all as being real. And she had stayed a lot longer in Underland than Jack had. And she wasn't soaked in rum, either…
Turning, Mirana patted Alice's shoulder. "It's alright, dear friend," she said. "You don't have to try to find words to reassure me."
That was a good thing, because Alice had been having a horrible time of it. "I'm sorry, Mirana."
"I think I'll go drink some tea and go to bed. Another long day tomorrow." Offering a brave, albeit false, smile, Mirana turned to go. But halfway across the balcony she paused, sighed heavily, and returned to her telescope. "One last look," she said. "Just in case."
Alice could tell by the slump in the queen's shoulders that she'd seen nothing. She wished she could somehow find a way to make everything better for her friend, her Underland-sister.
"Well, good night then, Alice. I shall see you in the morning. Sleep well." Mirana turned once more and drifted toward the doors into the palace, her hands at half-mast in obvious disappointment.
She turned to follow, but a glimpse of something made her pause. She considered the telescope for a long moment, then shrugged. What can it hurt? Leaning over, she positioned her eye and peered through.
At first she thought she was imagining things. But then she realized that those were black sails on the horizon, and a quick adjustment of the lens showed a figure standing at the wheel of the ship, one hand guiding the ship, the other holding a compass. However, the man's gaze was focused straight ahead - he almost appeared to be looking right at her.
"Mirana!" she cried breathlessly. "Come here, quickly!" It didn't occur to her that she'd just given an order to royalty, and to be honest, it didn't occur to the queen, either.
"What, Alice?" Mirana sounded like she hardly dared hope that her friend had seen what she could not.
Stepping away from the telescope, Alice positioned her friend in front of it. "Look!" She pointed toward the horizon. "He's back - and he's got the Black Pearl with him!" He did it. Somehow that rum-soaked old pirate did it!
The White Queen took one look and stumbled back, her eyes impossibly wide. "What do I do, Alice?" she asked. "I don't - what do I say?"
Alice gave her friend a gentle push. "Go meet him. And tell him the truth - it's the best place to start."
Mirana nodded once, slowly. Her hands lifted to her hair briefly, then moved down to smooth her skirt. Then she shook her head, seeming to shake herself out of her stupor at the same time, and she hitched up her skirt a bit and ran, at quite the pace that Alice had never seen the polished royal take before.
She remained at the railing of the balcony, watching as a few moments later a vision in white burst through the front doors and took off down the garden path, wispy smoke that was Chessur in protective mode following her (because, for all his pomp and seeming indifference, he really did consider himself somehow indebted to the White Queen, and genuinely glad she was ruling again), out the front gates, and toward the path on the cliff that led down to the beach.
"Was that Mirana that ran past me a moment ago?"
Alice turned away, quite sure that Mirana and Jack would settle things quite well in their own way without her looking on, too. Going to her husband, she took his hand and led him back toward the castle's interior, and then their own room. "An old friend has come back," she said. "And I think Mirana has decided to take a walk on the beach in the moonlight. I hear it is quite - ah - romantic."
Tarrant's eyebrows went up, and he smiled knowingly. "That it is," he agreed. "That it is."
Despite all the uncertainties they all now faced, having another Otherlander in Underland, there was one thing they were all sure of: Life would never be the same again. For any of them.
In the end, I have no idea where the little flirtation between Jack and Mirana came from - it just kind of wrote itself in, and then I couldn't seem to be able to write it out - and who am I to stand in the way of true love? The idea intrigues me, though, since Jack is so pirate-y and Mirana is so - fairy-like. Perhaps that old saying about "opposites attract" really has something to it. So in the end Jack found his Fountain of Youth, just not in the way he expected, and kudos to those who guess that the Bermuda Triangle was the place where Jack found the water-entrance to Underland. I hope you all enjoyed this story, it was a blast to write, and thanks for reading!