A/N and disclaimer: I own nothing! Nor am I making any money off of this in any way. :) Other than that I completely intended for this to be a much shorter songfic and suddenly it grew. I planned to break it into chapters but I figure I'll post it in full here instead. The song is "Do What You Have To Do" by Sarah McLachlan and the movie is the new Alice in Wonderland by Burton and Disney. I just enjoy borrowing the universes for a short while. :)
What ravages of spirit
conjured this temptuous rage
created you a monster
broken by the rules of love
Mirana winced at the sound of crockery crunching beneath her shoe. No matter how often she ventured to the windmill to check on the Hatter she still found herself cringing at the destruction that he wrought each day. As she approached the tea tables she saw only the March Hare and the Dormouse, both silently gathering the largest broken shards of dishes and piling them at the end of the table. Without warning Thackery reached for a bit of scone, spun, at launched it at the White Queen. Mirana ducked and smiled as the hare cackled before going back to picking up the broken plates. Mallymkum's tail twitched and the mouse only shook her head, her laughter curtailed by today's destruction.
Turning from the destruction of the tea tables, Mirana walked slowly toward the door of the windmill, following the sound of a voice alternately ranting and sobbing. She was all too aware that this chaos had become a daily ritual. Two months ago Mally and Thackery had come to Marmoreal, asking for any assistance that she might be able to provide. As they described it, Tarrant had passed the first month after Alice's departure in a relatively calm anticipation. By the end of the second month not even Mally's voice could bring him out of the Madness that he would descend into.
"Every day at the end of brillig, he sees that she's not there and then…"
The mouse's explanation had left no room for doubt. The Madness would take him as he realized Alice had still not returned. In the beginning Mally could still calm him but each day the bouts of Madness grew longer and more violent. Since their visit Mirana had spent two months trying to calm the Hatter only to find that she could do no more than his friends and wait until each instance had passed. Each storm ended the same way: broken crockery and furniture, subdued friends, and a sobbing Tarrant, curled into a ball on the floor of the windmill, a piece of Alice's dress clutched tightly in his fist.
"Ye dinnae come back! Why did ye break yer promise?"
Mirana closed her eyes, her heart clenching at Tarrant's agonized howl. For long moments she stood outside the door to the windmill listening as silence finally fell and the only sound was the clinking of broken plates as they were sorted. She took a deep breath, opened her eyes and then stepped through the doorway. Tarrant Hightopp, Mad Hatter and Royal Hatter to the Queen, lay on the floor, his body shaking with sobs. Kneeling next to him she gently pulled his head to rest on her lap and stroked his hair, wondering for a brief moment where his hat had ended up during this Madness.
And fate has lead you through it
you do what you have to do
And fate has led you through it
you do what you have to do ...
"She's gone," he lisped, tears soaking the blue fabric that he clutched to his face.
"I know, Tarrant," Mirana replied just as softly. Two months of speaking the same words that offered him no comfort, knowing that he had endured twice that amount of Time's torture broke her heart.
Tarrant's breath hitched for a moment. "She's not coming back, is she?"
Every time she came to see him he asked that same question. Every time she could only give him one answer. "I don't know. It's not for us to know." And it truly wasn't. She had fought with Absolem and finally convinced him to show her the Oraculum in hopes of being able to give the Hatter a different answer. To her frustration the compendium refused to unroll beyond the present day. Absolem had been stubbornly silent on the matter of Alice's return as well. She knew the butterfly had the ability to travel between Underland and the land of Alice's birth but he refused to speak of their Champion.
With a sigh, Mirana turned her thoughts back to the broken man who lay in front of her. She noted with a healer's eye that he continued to waste away with each day. It was a slow process as Mally and Thackery continued to shove (or hurl) food at him every moment they could, but Tarrant's appetite had dwindled to almost nothing. The Queen knew that he could not go on like this. The Madness was consuming his reserves faster than he knew. Soon, it would burn him from the inside out, leaving nothing, not even a shell of the Hatter they all loved.
Mirana felt her own tears start to fall. There had to be something she could do to ease his pain, something to give him peace. She wiped away her tears with her free hand and knew that any remedy she might be able to find would only work if her Champion was a part of it, even indirectly. As she sat there, waiting for Tarrant's body to give into the sleep that always came at the end of these storms, she silently promised him that she would find a way to know why Alice had not returned as promised.
And I have the sense to recognize that
I don't know how to let you go
"Alice…," Tarrant whispered once more before he fell into the oblivion of sleep.
Every moment marked
with apparitions of your soul
I'm ever swiftly moving
trying to escape this desire
Slamming the office door behind her, Alice paced around her small office, her hands clenching and unclenching as she fumed. She was tired of men and their assumptions that because she was unmarried that the only thing on her mind was to find a husband. Not only that but this latest idiot had decided to try to persuade her with more…physical actions than with words. Alice had been stunned for all of a few seconds before her body reacted on instinct, pushing the would-be suitor back just far enough for her knee to make a connection with a very sensitive part of his own body.
As soon as the man had released her, she'd found one of the butlers and asked him to make sure the "gentleman" never showed his face at her home again. Now she found herself in the office, full of rage and with no outlet to vent it upon. Two years she had been fending off unwanted proposals and advances. Two years of dealing with increasingly forward men. Two years of knowing that there was only one man whose hands she wanted on her, whose lips she wanted to taste.
As though she had been deflated she sat on the edge of her desk and felt the anger disappear only to be replaced by the familiar ache of regret and longing. Alice knew that she had returned to Upland only to say her goodbyes and to set Lord Ascot on the path she knew her father had envisioned. Discussions had kept her here another two months and when she had finally been able to make her way back to the rabbit hole she was stunned to see it was gone. Not filled in, but gone as if it had never been there.
Alice buried her face in her hands as she remembered that most upsetting day. Hours had passed as she had searched the gardens for any sort of hole that might have led her back to Underland. There had been one moment where she'd thrown herself to the ground at the base of the old tree and pleaded with the earth to open up once more for her.
Lowering her hands she looked around the office. "Obviously that didn't work," she said, bitterly.
In the years that had passed she went through the motions, worked as an apprentice and then trader in her own right with the Company, declined any offers of courtship and maintained the façade of a respectable and sane young woman.
Once she was alone at the end of each day she felt the mask slip and her cracks showing through. It seemed an odd thing to notice but she swore she felt a bit more mad every day. She peered into every mirror, searched the ground around every tree and swore she heard a familiar voice calling her name as if from a great distance. She dared not breathe a word of her true thoughts to anyone, not Lord Ascot nor even her mother. Alice had read the stories of asylums where they put such folks who were mad and she had no desire to end up in one while she still could pretend.
Her hands came up to cover her ears, trying to block out the anguished cry that haunted her each day and her controlled mask broke. "I'm sorry!" she cried out, slipping off the desk to keel on the floor. "I've tried, Hatter! I've tried so hard to come back." Tears fell from her eyes, soaking into the light grey of her skirt. It had taken her many months to realize why she so desperately wanted to return to Underland. It wasn't that she knew she belonged there or that she missed her friends.
It was the thought of one man she knew was waiting for her.
The look in his eyes as he bid her farewell tormented her constantly. Alice knew her memories of him would never fade, as he'd feared they would. Instead they stayed as clear as ever, turning her dreams into a mix of nightmares and dreams of the sort that left her gasping and reaching for a man who wasn't there. She passed the days working and negotiating, trying to avoid thinking about the man with orange hair and green eyes that shaded to yellow or red depending on his mood. Her efforts were sometimes successful, allowing her a few moments of peace before she was alone and consumed with thoughts of her Hatter once more.
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do
Slowly Alice wiped the tears from her face and pushed herself to her feet. Every day she cried until the tears ran out and every day she pulled herself back up, trying to cling to a small hope: that the Hatter, her Hatter, would find a way to bring her back. After two years she had to admit, there wasn't much hope left but she clung to it even so. "You know that time moves differently there, Alice," she said to herself, reaching into the pocket of her skirt for a handkerchief. As she blew her nose and tried to breathe evenly she smiled. "And for some, Time isn't on speaking terms with them."
Her smile faded as she wondered how long had passed in Underland and then how long it had seemed to Tarrant. If these past two years had seemed like twenty to her, what would they seem like to the Mad Hatter? Would he have forgotten her and moved on in his madness?
No, she thought shaking her head. She simply couldn't bear that thought. Alice refused to believe that he would have forgotten her and her promise so easily, not when he had waited for so many years for her most recent return. And yet, if he hadn't forgotten her…what was he going through? Was he angry with her? Did he fall into the Madness more often? Were Mallymkum, Thackery and Chessur watching out for him? She winced at the idea of him even sharing a fraction of the pain she felt. If her own emotions were nearly too much for her to bear, how would the mad man that she dreamt of be able to suffer through them?
"Oh, Hatter," she sighed, glancing across the room to the mirror over the fireplace. "I wouldn't wish this pain on you." Walking across the room she reached the mirror and touched its cool and all-too-solid surface. "Maybe I should wish that we had never met to spare us both." Even as the words left her mouth she knew that it was a wish she could never make. Though the pain threatened to tear her apart she would rather live with that than never have known the Hatter. "I miss you." Her voice was soft and choked with emotion. Alice bowed her head and closed her eyes, fingers still resting on the surface of the mirror. "Tarrant, please find me."
But I have the sense to recognize
that I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go
Alice did not see the bright blue butterfly that had been resting on her windowpane. It flapped its wings once, twice and then flew away into the cloudy London sky.
A glowing ember
and burning slow
Deep within I'm shaken by the violence
of existing for only you
Brillig came and went now without a single soul taking tea outside the windmill. The White Queen spent every afternoon at the lonely spot, watching over Tarrant and trying to persuade him to drink of the potions that she brought. He would drink without seeing her, his voice carrying on a soft, one-sided conversation with a young woman who was only a ghost in his mind. Mally and the Hare tended to him the rest of the time, talking to him and attempting to break through this deep melancholy madness that he had finally fallen into.
"Ye shoul'nae hae lef', my Alice," he whispered, the brogue of his native speech only a shadow of what it had once been. Mirana shook her head and stood the empty potion bottle in her hand. Tarrant's eyes were only half open, their color a dull yellow. "Can't you find your way back?" he asked, the lisp returning for a moment. The trio of his friends could only watch as his fingers twitched, reaching out toward an empty corner of the room. "I can't see you as clearly, Alice. Oh, Alice…"
Unable to bear anymore, Mirana turned and walked outside the hare and mouse trailing after her. Mally tugged on the Queen's gown and waited until the woman had blinked away her tears and looked down at her.
"He won't be able to go on like this for much longer, will he?" she asked, trying to hold back her own tears.
Mirana shook her head. "No, he won't." She knelt and held her hand out for Mally to scamper onto then stood again. "He's missing a part of himself," she said, staring at bright eyes of the tiny mouse. "The Madness is taking over that empty space and eating what's left of Tarrant."
Tackery pulled a sugar cube out of his pocket and tossed it up in the air before catching it. "It's Alice 'e needs, Mally." The hare's eyes were unusually clear for a long moment then he hurled the sugar at the closed windmill door with a giggle.
Mally turned to look at the Queen. "Why didn't she come back?"
Mirana shook her head. "I don't know. I've searched the past months to find a glimpse of her or her reasoning and I've seen nothing!" The last word was nearly spat out as Mirana's frustration showed through.
"I think I might be able to shed some light on that subject," a silky voice drawled. All three turned to dusty tea tables in time to see Chessur appear above a broken tea pot.
Mirana stepped closer and Mally hopped off her hand and onto the table. "What do you mean, Chess?" the Queen asked.
The cat smiled as a familiar blue butterfly joined the group at the table. "He means that I've found why Alice wasn't able to come back," Absolem stated.
"So tell us!" Mally shrieked, pulled her sword and aiming it at the Cheshire Cat.
Chessur purred and twitched his tail out of her reach. "She has to die," he said quietly, his normal grin diminished slightly.
Gasping, Mirana felt her hands flutter in shock. "Die?"
"The cat is correct," Absolem said, his wings flapping slowly. "What holds her in Upland is the last tie of blood to her land of birth. It cannot be brought by her own hand, Your Majesty," he stated to halt their next questions.
"You can't expect that we…?"
"Of course not. I don't think that any of us could bring about such pain, even to bring her here." Absolem looked offended.
"An accident, Your Majesty," Chessur purred and the Queen felt a rush of relief. "The Oraculum has shown that Alice will suffer an accident quite soon. However in order to be brought here, alive, I'll have to catch her and bring her partway through the looking glass. Once she's there she'll be in Death's grip and I won't be able to help. She will need to be pulled the rest of the way."
"That won't be a problem," Mirana said, her spirits finally rising for the first time in many months. "We can easily find —"
His antennae twitching, Absolem interrupted her. "No. There is only one person who can pull her through, who will not let go no matter how hard Death pulls the other way." He stopped here as the meaning of his words hit the Queen.
She knew Tarrant was barely able to lift his own hand much less find the strength to tear Alice from the grip of such a tenacious creature as Death. The hope that she had begun to feel slowly faded from her heart. "And if he cannot do this?"
Chessur looked at her with sad eyes. "Then she will be lost to us as well."
They fell into silence then, all of them considering that very real possibility. Mirana knew well that the Oraculum rarely showed future events unless they were unable to be changed. Which meant that Alice would die in her own land soon. If they couldn't rouse the Hatter by then…
"Ye ken tha' I can do this," a raspy voice said from behind them. Thackery leapt into the air with fright and scampered behind the Queen's skirts. The others turned to see the familiar sight of the Mad Hatter standing in the doorway. He had one hand braced on the doorjamb and his clothing hung off of a much thinner frame but his eyes…
Mirana found herself smiling. Tarrant's eyes glowed red with determination.
"I never doubted that you could," the cat said smoothly, floating to hang upside down in front of the man.
Tarrant smiled, his eyes focusing on Chessur, then turning to each of his friends in turn. "She's my muchness," he said, no trace of lisp or brogue in his voice now. "I'll not lose her to Death or any one else again."
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
Alice woke that morning to realize that she wasn't immediately struck by the sense of missing something. It wasn't that she was feeling complete or happy, but rather that she was existing. It was strange to go through her morning rituals and realize that her heart no longer felt as though it was tearing itself to shreds. The blank feeling that she had risen with seemed to have covered even those pains. She knew that the longing to return to Underland hadn't disappeared but it felt as though a wet blanket had been thrown over her, the heaviness smothering everything for the moment.
As she prepared to leave the house to make a trip to the bookstore, she glanced at the mirror in the living room. For just a moment she would have sworn that she'd seen a very familiar silhouette laid over her own reflection. Alice hurried to the glass and looked at it closely, running her fingers over the surface but feeling only the hard resistance that had mocked her for years. "Hatter," she whispered and in her mind she could almost hear his voice, calling her name softly. Blinking away the tears, she turned away from the mirror, took a deep breath and headed out into the street, toward the waiting carriage.
"Stop calling for her! Save your energy for the right moment!"
"She's right there, Mally! She saw me. Ouch!"
"And I'll stick you again if you don't stop interfering with Chess and Absolem's plan."
"She'll wan' scones!"
"Hush, you bloody hare! And you, Hatter, you wait until Absolem shows you the moment."
The streets weren't incredibly busy as it was still early in the day. Alice told her driver to stop the carriage at the corner and explained that she'd be ready to leave again at lunch time. She thought that perhaps a morning of walking might help to clear away the heavy blankness she had woken with. Her first stop in the bookstore allowed her to browse for a moment, choosing two books to give as gifts this coming Christmas. As she arranged to have them delivered to her home she glanced over her shoulder, certain she was being watched from the doorway but no one stood there.
The shopkeeper drew her attention back to the matter of her purchases and she tried to smile at him. "I apologize," she said and finished giving him her home address. After she was finished she stepped back out onto the sidewalk and glanced around for any sign of a familiar face or anyone paying extra attention to her. When her eyes found nothing she sighed and decided to walk toward the park that was down the road. Alice let her mind wander and she realized that she'd never told Tarrant that she loved him. She gave an unlady-like snort as she reminded herself that she hadn't even told herself that secret until six months after returning.
Still, she wished there was a way that she could let him know. It might cause more harm, it might ease some pain or it might do nothing at all for the Hatter, she didn't know which would be the case. The knowledge that she loved him and would not see him again had killed her slowly for over a year. Perhaps this new feeling of blankness was a reprieve of sorts. Alice wondered if it was possible to cry out all of one's emotions completely.
Lost in her thoughts as she crossed the road, Alice never saw the two stray cats that leapt in front of a team of horses drawing a large carriage. The felines spat, hissed and in their fight leapt onto one of the horses. The horses reared as the cats yowled and leapt again, their fight moving to the street between the horses legs. Then as their fear took complete hold they began to run, picking up speed and never noticing the young blonde woman who had stepped out onto the cobblestones, heedless of their panic.
Alice heard someone behind her on the sidewalk scream and it pierced her thoughts enough to make her turn curiously. As she did, she had just enough time for her mouth to open in shock at seeing the horses bearing down on her before they crashed into her and she was trampled beneath their hoofs and carriage wheels. What the onlookers never saw was a grey Cheshire cat pop into existence beside Alice, pass through her and evaporate again. When the crowd reached the fallen woman they only knew that she had left this life.
Absolem's voice was commanding in the Hatter's ear and he shoved his torso through the mirror, feeling the Queen's guard gripping his legs. He reached through the darkness, unable to see anything and cried out, "Alice!"
Out of nowhere he felt a small hand grasp his and he tightened his fingers around it. It had to be his Alice's hand! Sure enough, the darkness cleared enough for him to see her frightened face, the rest of her wreathed in a strange swirling mist. Her eyes focused on him and the terror on her face changed slowly so-slowly to hope.
"Hatter," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Dinnae let go a' mae hand!" he commanded, his eyes a fiery red. She nodded and reached out with her other hand to strengthen her grip on him.
From around them rose a mocking laughter. The mist around Alice solidified and began to look more and more like a large arm holding her. As the mist swirled up it formed into a hooded shape, much larger than Alice had ever been after eating Upelkuchen. The laughter seemed to coming from this shape and Tarrant knew that this was one of Death's forms.
"You think that you can claim her from me, Outlander?" the voice chuckled, tightening its grip on Alice and making her wince.
Tarrant gripped Alice's hands with both of his own and growled. "Nae. I promise tha' I will."
Alice shrieked as Death tightened its grip again and she kicked out at the form, her legs passing harmlessly through the mist. "Let me go!" she yelled, directing an angry glare at Death.
The dark form laughed again. "You have died, Alice Kingsley, and still you fight." The mist swirled and reformed where it was facing her, not seeming to notice that Alice and the Hatter's linked hands were passing directly through the middle of its torso. "I will give you a choice."
Alice looked at it warily, never loosening her grip on Tarrant's hands. "What choice?"
"I will return you to life in your world of birth. You will survive the fate that befell you. You may or may not be able to find a path to Underland again but you will be alive and have that chance as I will not come for you again for many of your years."
Tarrant's eyes widened as he heard the first offer. To have Death swear an oath to stay away for so long was unheard of. He wished that he could see Alice's face but the hooded form blocked his view of her. Terrified that she would choose before hearing the second option he held his breath.
Alice's voice cut through the sudden silence. "What is the other choice?"
Death smiled. "Your death. You can choose to go with this Outlander and return to his world but you will never again be allowed through to your birth land. No more paths will be opened to you, Alice Kingsley."
Swallowing, Alice closed her eyes. She could go back and survive the accident. She could continue to live and try to find a path to Underland. She could continue to hope that the Hatter would find her again and she'd be able to travel both worldsn. Or she could accept her death in Upland and her exile from her family and life there in order to know that she would be taken to Underland.
Then she felt a gentle squeeze on her hands and knew that she had made this choice long ago. There was never any need to think it over.
"I choose to go through the looking glass." Alice's voice was clear and strong.
Almost immediately the hooded figure and mist surrounded Alice began to fade. "We will meet again, Queen's Champion," the mocking voice said before the mist disappeared completely.
Without the resistance that had been pulling Alice in the opposite direction she found herself being yanked forward, toward the Hatter and then they collided, tumbling backward through the looking glass as the Queen's Guard pulled both through.
And I have sense to recognize but
I don't know how to let you go
Alice found herself in a most undignified heap with the Hatter on the floor. She tried to extricate herself gently but found that he only wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.
"You're back! You came back! I knew you would! Well, I didn't know that you'd choose to come back when he gave you the choice but you did and now we can have tea and Thackery and Mally are so upset that you're late but here you are and—"
"Hatter," Alice said, pulling back enough to look at him. "Tarrant!"
The sound of his name from her lips brought him to a halt. "and…Fez…" He blinked at her. "I'm fine."
She laughed and leaned into his embrace once more. "Yes, we both are." She sighed happily. "Thank you."
Now it was his turn to be surprised and lean back. "For what?"
"For not letting me go."
"Did you ever doubt?"
She smiled, her cheek pressed against his chest. "No," Alice replied. "Not truly." She reached for his hand and laced her fingers with his. "It was quite mad of you to do so."
His laughter filled the room. "I wouldn't know any other way."
Alice giggled, listening to his laughter subside to a chuckle and knew that for the first time in two years she was finally where she wanted and needed to be.
I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go