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 normalcy 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 endeavor and not for profit. No infringement is intended!

Chapter the Second: Madness begets Madness

The Queen had a suite set up for Alice and assigned some of her most prized hand-maidens to wait on her champion; the Queen felt responsible for the state of Alice and the Hatter and she wanted to help the pair. Alice's suite, with lush bedding, soft carpets, and countless closets of clothing, was nestled in-between the Queen's own rooms and the rooms she had given the Hatter for his stay. She wanted them close in case they needed her, and she wanted them each to have the opportunity to see one another while still having a sanctuary to retreat back to if things because a bit too tense between the two.

She had Mally fetch the Hatter from his rooms—he'd thrown several hats at her the last time she stopped into his rooms, and seeing Mally might do him some good. She steered Alice into her suites and straight to one of the large, walk-in closets on the far wall. Within a few minutes, Alice was dressed in court finery and her hair was tied up in an ornate knot—she still looked tired, frazzled, but beautiful. Her eyes still held a sense of muddled madness, but at the mention of the Hatter, her eyes brightened and she looked to the doorway, hopeful to see him again.

With a quiet smile, the Queen led Alice out into a small sitting room, where a tea tray was set out for two. She gave Alice a little nudge and had her sit down and wait for the Hatter to appear. After a few minutes of waiting, with Alice's foot bobbing impatiently, she heard the Hatter coming long before she saw him. There was swearing and sputtering, his Outlandish nature coming through in his loud brogue, "Mally, ye damned fool. She'll nae be here. Falsehoods. Lies. Lass ran, an' I didnae blame 'er. Left 'er 'Atter. Deserved it..."

Had Alice not been given specific instructions by the Queen to keep her seat and not rise until the Hatter was in her presence, she would have gone bolting from her chair to gather him up and beg for forgiveness. Instead, she gathered her wits and sat calmly, waiting for him to come around the corner. She smiled in spite of herself when she heard Mally insist, for the fifth time, that yes, Alice was here waiting for him, and no she wasn't leaving him again. Despite all of the dormouse's faults and rage, she knew how to calm the Hatter's moods...

It took a few more minutes for the dormouse to lead the Hatter around the corner, and by the time he appeared, Mally had calmed him enough that his brogue had slipped back into a soft lisp. He was, once again, the gentle madman, looking forward to seeing a long-ago friend. His top hat was gripped tight in his stained fingertips and he tried desperately to put himself have to rights before speaking to Alice.

She stood, smoothing her dress from where it had been rumpled as she offered the Hatter a small smile. "Hullo, Hatter...I've missed you..."

The Hatter blinked, his eyes a warm, welcoming color. "A-alice? You've come back? For good...?" His voice cracked, sounding almost childish in nature as he took a step closer to Alice. "You'll not leave me-us-again...?"

She fidgeted again, her hands gripping tight to the edge of her skirt. She shook her head, still looking a bit punch-drunk, "Not intending on leaving...didn't mean to leave the first time...not for so long. I had things, responsibilities to take care of. Things I thought I needed to take care of. I'm sorry, Hatter..." She started speaking, mumbling quicker and quicker as she got more and more tense. Her words were tumbling out rapidly, becoming less and less clear.

The Hatter, with his eyes catching the subtle movements of the blonde woman standing before him, tried to offer a smile, a reassurance. He tried to keep himself calm, barely noticing when Mallymkin slipped from the room completely to give the two a bit of space. "Lass, ye need not apologize. Yer back, safe an' sound..." he reached out a hand, gently ruffling her hair as he fell into a softer version of his brogue, lisping and mad as anything. He wanted to comfort her, but his words only brought tears. He was confused and anxious—he was at a loss for if the words were helping his friend, his Alice, or if they were hurting her. His madness, frustrations, and anger fueled his confusion—he wanted to gather her up and embrace her, but he didn't know how she'd react, didn't know if his approach would be welcome.

He settled for pulling her down onto the seat in front of the tea tray, and with a smile that barely reached his eyes, he lisped out a soft, "We're almost late for tea, my dear. We should start there. Mustn't be late for tea..."

Because he couldn't bring himself to decide if he should be angry or overjoyed at Alice's return, the Hatter decided that he would need tea and good company while he let his mind, and Alice's too, catch up with her return in Underland.