Summary: Alice has come and gone from Underland as a child and now as a Champion. She touched many hearts in the realm, but her actions may have permanently broken the fragile sanity of the Hatter. A story that addresses Alice's eventual (and promised) and promised return, and the Hatter's reactions as he fights to regain some semblance of normalacy in his feelings for her.

Rating: Right now, it's pretty safe with a T. Eventually, this will probably move closer to a M...but it'll be a while.

Pairings: Alice and The Mad Hatter

Disclaimer: I own nothing that has to do with Alice in Wonderland (2010). It is property of the various owners, Mr. Carroll and Mr. Burton to name a few. I just want to play in the world of Wonder/Underland for a bit with the lovelies that reside there. This is purely a creative/entertainment endevour and not for profit. No infringement is intented!

Author's Note: First attempt at an Alice in Wonderland piece, so be gentle. This piece is an attempt at getting a plot bunny out of my head. Please, bear with me and feedback is always greatly appreciated. This is in response to the question, What if Alice's return to Underland didn't save the Hatter's sanity? Would she still love him? Would he still love her? Let me know what Everyone thinks. Thanks!

Prologue: The Hatter's Hell

It was dreadfully unfortunate, being tied so completely to the curious Girl who appeared from the rabbit hole all those many years ago. The entire realm was tied to Her, to be sure, but none more so than the positively unique Mad Hatter. From her first tumble through the rabbit hole, when she was simply a slip of a child, Alice had claimed the heart of the Hatter. To be sure, it was not a passionate love at first; he was her playfellow and fellow conspirator against the tyranny of the Queen of Hearts, a child trapped in the form of an adult.

When she left the first time, to grow into becoming the White Queen's Champion, the Hatter's life slowed and turned into the never-ending Tea Party after a disastrous disagreement with Time. The Hatter, and his fellow lunatics, were swept into a daily chaotic cycle of tea-time and plotting the downfall of the Bloody Red Queen. But by night, when the whole of Underland slept, the Hatter locked himself into the Windmill House and destroyed tea services, hats, and the tools of his trade in the nonsensical ranting that bordered on a desperate plea for Alice's return. Thackery and Mally could do nothing to dissuade his nightly fits of madness except remove everything from his ramshackle workshop that would cause him permanent damage and sent a silent request to the Fates to save their Hatter from a further slip into delirium.

For years, if one could measure Underland time in such an archaic unit as a year, this was the Hatter's routine—tea, rebellion, and destruction. The Hare and the Dormouse watched from the mismatched tea tables each day as the Hatter's eyes grew dim with hopelessness, and then watched as his eyes glowed a terrible shade of yellow-orange by night as his rage overtook all other emotions. The Hatter slipped further and further into his rage, slowly becoming utterly unable to do anything but seethe against the confines and rules of Underland; he no longer spoke with a gentle, confused lisp, but instead spoke with a rough brogue that made him nearly impossible to understand to all but his very closest friends. They were losing hope, Thackery and Mally and even Chessur, when the Fates saw fit to answer their desperate requests; Mctwisp had led Alice home to Underland to become the Champion who would slay the Jabberwocky.

Though it took days of exposure to the oddities of Underland for Alice to get her needed muchness back, the Hatter 's disposition changed back instantly into the gently lisping madman, the brogue only appearing at times of rage and rebellion. All-consuming was the Hatter's desire to save Alice and to support the White Queen's rebellion. He watched as Alice grew into her muchness and became, as the maddening Caterpillar had stated, "Alice, at last." And when it was time for her to step out as the Champion, he watched with pride and trepidation; and when she took down the frumious Jabberwocky he heard himself breath a sigh of relief—it was over and the White Queen would cleanse the realm of the Red Queen's tainted rule.

The Hatter had never been more delighted than as he watched the head of the Jabberwocky clatter down the stairs; he had never been more desperate for her to stay than when Alice was handed the vial of Jabberwocky blood. When she smiled at him and whispered, "Back before you know it..." the Hatter felt is heart break and his mind slip into madness as he watched her disappear.

"She'll nae come back ta Underland. Broke 'er promise, didnae care fer us. Nae care fer a ravin' 'Atter." Each word was punctuated by his pacing steps, the floorboards of his Hat-Making shop creaking under the constant strain; the Hatter stopped sleeping soundly when Alice left Underland again and it drove him madder than the mercury in the hat-making process. Even Thackery and Mally began to avoid being alone with the Hatter; his madness gave way to his Outlandish temper and he lashed out with hatpins and throwing knives, aiming for anyone who dared speak to him about Alice and her supposed return.

"Alice's gone 'way ta Uplands, ta 'er London'n civility." A loud crash reverberated as a porcelain teapot shatters against the scarred wooden door, and Mally cautiously raised her head out of her hidey-hole.

"Hatter! Please...try to calm down! The great lump of a Champion will return when she finishes her Upland tasks...She promised after all..." The dormouse was prepared to duck down back into the hole if the Hatter lobbed something her way, and yet he did not take the opportunity. Instead he just stared, mouth agape at the very notion that Alice would bother returning to this backwards place of oddments, that she would return to him.

"Stop livin' 'n ye 'ead, Mally. Lass took 'er chance 'n ran. Nae lookin' back ta wretch'd 'Atter. Aye, she promised, 'n I were fool 'nough to believe words spoke outta kindness, than take 'er meaning and understand she didnae mean te return." His eyes grew dangerous and his words became rushed, Outlandish seeping into his words and muddling meaning for Mally to understand. He turned his back to her and started the litany of curses against himself for his own weaknesses and desires.

The dormouse knew it was time to tell the White Queen of the Hatter's behavior; perhaps she would be able to see past the murky waters of madness and reach the Hatter before he lost the small amount of sanity he had left to grasp. Determined, she began the journey to the White Queen; the Hatter may not love her as she adored him, but she wouldn't stand by and allow a fixable mistake to tear apart the fragile Hatter any more than it already had. And, she mused to herself as she ran through the grove of TumTum trees, if the Queen could do nothing to bring back her wandering Champion, then Mally would.