Usual disclaimer - I have no rights to the characters of Alice in Wonderland, nor do I make any money on this. Read, and enjoy!
Rated M for content and explicit adult material in later chapters. Once again, thanks for taking time to peruse. On to the reason you came here, the story itself.
This one came to me as a daydream, what if the Hatter came to our world instead of Alice returning to his? It just grew from there.
"He seems to be having a quiet night." The doctor took a quick glance at his clipboard, and then turned back to the steel door with a number thirteen above it. No name was taped to the door, no way other than the number above to pick it out of the other steel doors in this particular hallway. Flipping through the papers on his clipboard, the taller doctor continued. "After yesterday, I'd figure he'd be climbing the walls, or at least going through his usual pacing and shrieking. It usually takes him longer to settle down from one of his fits." He peeked through the bars of the tiny opening that counted as a window on the door. The subject of the conversation was curled up on his cot, twitching now and again, but otherwise sound asleep.
The other person in the hallway laughed, but kept the noise to a minimum. The shorter doctor knew that too much racket at this time of night would upset the patients, and it was turning into a quiet night for more than their topic of discussion. "He's usually quiet after a stint in the hobby room. Completely insane or not, he is a genius with cloth and wire. All he makes is hats for some reason, but if it gives us a silent night, then..."
"Yes, all the better for him as well as us. The physician's still not sure if that orderly will regain feeling in her fingers from that episode yesterday. If not for working with patients like this for years, I'd never believe someone that said it was possible to actually bite someone's fingers off through the bone. What did he think, that human tasted like chicken? What set him off this time? He's pretty harmless most of the time, if left alone."
The shorter doctor shrugged. "All we have to go from is that she mentioned to one of the nurses on duty that her niece was getting ready for school, she's going into kindergarten, and then said that name."
"That name? Oh, I understand now."
"Yeah. In spite of us warning her time and again, she had to mention the name Alice. And we received in return his usual response. He looked up, those eyes of his changing colors in that manner we've still not figured out. Then he went to his usual routine. Absolute rage, and him babbling in that uncouth lingo he slips into occasionally. It took five shots of Thorazine just to slow him down enough to get her free. The other patients, they've learned not to get in his way. It's sad when those with little grasp of reality are afraid of another poor soul in here."
The taller doctor took another look at his papers, then shrugged. "Considering he's psychiatry's dirty little secret, we're lucky she quickly settled for a fat severance pay check, and a good recommendation to a local nursing home. The worst she has to worry about there is one of the men mistiming their Viagra dose and feeling a bit frisky from it, or some old lady boring her to tears with photo albums. So I checked on him for some history, he has files with dating that... well, it's completely unbelievable. There's no way he could be that old."
"He's been institutionalized longer than the standard of clean sheets for the madmen. And yes, it's all true. He doesn't look a day over the age he was when caught in London. There's pictures to back those files up."
"If only we could talk to him, really get through to him just once, imagine what he could tell us of that time."
"Useless, completely useless. He's the original madman, and he's lucky he was found in the time of Bedlam, and not during that wonderful era where the insane were burnt at the stake. And what could he tell us, really? The various colors of the walls in the institutions where he's lived for the last hundred and fifty so years? One day, someone will be bringing breakfast and find him dead in his sleep. That file will finally be closed, and most likely locked up somewhere to collect dust. No one will remember him after a generation or so, and that might be for the best."
"You might be right. Imagine, being trapped in your own head for that long, no way to get through to those around you. No family known of, no one even sure if he's told us his real name. That would drive anyone insane." The taller doctor took a moment, then continued. "Oh well, I've got to get some sleep. Tomorrow waits for no one, except that poor soul on the other side of that door."
"You must give her time. Patience is a virtue, and it is high time your practiced some of it." Mirana smiled to take any sting from her words, but the other side of her conversation didn't seem to have caught the slight jab. "You must remember, time in her world is much different than here. What is a long time for us, might have only been a few months up Above. Your connection, or lack thereof, to Time makes things move differently for you. After all, she did promise, and our Champion is not one for breaking her word, no matter how long it takes her to follow through." Mirana set a gentle hand on Tarrant's shoulder, and he sighed.
"I scoff at Time, ha ha. But... There has to be a way to get her back. She said she'd come back, she promised, she's late for tea, there's so much of Underland that I want to show her, and I can't show it to her if she's not here, she has to be here to see here, so she has to come back..." The words rolled from Tarrant, flowing faster and faster until...
"Hatter!" It was a single word, from Mallymkun, that brought him to a halt.
"I'm fine," he muttered, a faint blush creeping over his white face. Rubbing his hands together for a moment, he continued on a calmer line. "I am quite aware that Time is a picky little bastard, but there has to be a way. Please, my dear White Queen, tell me that you've a way to get her back here, back home where she belongs."
Mirana sighed. "There's limits to my power, my dear Hatter. I shall see what can be done, but I cannot promise something that might be quite impossible." She withdrew her hand, and continued. "It might take quite some time for a solution to be found, I do not want to blind you to that possibility. Things take time."
"Alice would think of six impossible things before breakfast, a fine practice for anyone with that much muchness. I'm quite sure that you can help me with this, I have full faith in your abilities." Tarrant grinned, and bowed. Then he headed out of the throne room, humming to himself. Mirana glanced over at Mallymkun, and slightly shook her head. The dormouse answered the unspoken question, resisting the urge to grump too loud.
"He's gone bleeding mad, your Majesty. All he does is wander around looking for Alice. He's sometimes convinced she's here in Underland, and they're playing hide and seek. Other times, it's like he's another person completely. He'll get talking on something, then lose his way through the conversation. He talks to himself a lot now, more than usual." Mally shook her head. "He was a bit odd before. Mad, mind you, but still enough there to hold a conversation at tea time. Now... He's leaving us, in a way I don't think anyone but Alice can bring him back from."
Mirana leaned back on the throne, then turned to Mally. "His mind is wandering, trying to find his own solution to his problem. If this gets too out of hand, I might have to confine him to Marmoreal, for his own safety and the protection of others. Worse, he might find his own way to that land, but that might also destroy him, both mind and body. Alice is the only one from Above that ever came here, and none of us have gone up for extended periods of time. The rules are different, from Above and Under, strange to each other."
"And if you can't bring back Alice?"
"Then our Hatter might just be insane enough to go to her instead."
Tarrant could not believe his eyes, and was seriously considering that this was all a figment of his deranged imagination. This could not be London, the home of Alice. The streets were so strange and filthy, the air full of the stink of rotting food and a strange fog that made his skin itch. There was not a sign of green, no grass or trees, rather depressing if you asked him. Where did one set their tea tables up, if not in a nice clearing where the grass underfoot would help hold them steady? Also, no one knew of Alice, no one could point him in the right direction, and there were so many directions to choose from. Though a piece of the sky could be seen far above these towering buildings that intimidated him so, it was still like there was no air to breathe. This is Above, this place of loud people and dirty streets and stinky rain? His Alice, no, not his, Alice lived in this land, had left Underland for this?
People looked at him oddly as he asked them where Alice was. They would raise an eyebrow, and most didn't even bother to answer him. The looks from some of the people made him rather upset. After all, he was properly clothed and all clean. He didn't smell, so what was the point of all that sniffing and glaring from these people? Even worse, no one knew where she was. Certainly someone of such muchness would be known even by the children in this strange city. She was a Champion after all, the slayer of the Jabberwocky, but no one knew where she lived or worked.
Then came those men in uniform. It was an odd uniform, even more odd than the clothes the people around him wore. Their clothes were black, with many buttons, far too many buttons than actually needed. He liked buttons, buttons could make a break a suit's look, but really, were that many really needed? And their hats? Downright horrid, they were in desperate need of a good hatter. The men in uniform asked him his name, and he was more than willing to give it to them. After all, they might be able to point him in the right direction, those in authority were supposed to help out the subjects of the kingdom, right?
But then they grabbed his arms and started taking him somewhere, somewhere that had nothing to do with Alice. Fight! They were keeping him from Alice, that would not do! One of the uniformed men swung something at the back of his head, and he witnessed stars in his vision.
Then all went dark.
Alice leaned back, trying to get the crick out of her lower back. The ledger in front of her was forgotten for a moment. Part of her mind was still in China, even though she had been back in London for a few months. Such an interesting country, filled with people that had so many secrets. She vaguely smiled, remembering their tea. It was almost like Tarrant's creations, but not quite. Nothing could quite match that taste, at least as far as she could tell. Tea time was so boring now, filled with gossip and matchmaking, not flying cups and spoons. So very tame, very normal. She hated it.
Sighing, she slammed the ledger closed, and stretched once again. Lord Ascot had been quite pleased with her negotiations in China, and a thriving trading center in that country was pouring cash into the coffers at a rapid rate. She had been considering purchasing back some of her Father's company, but that would mean more responsibility, and Alice was more interested in her dreams than monetary discussions. At least in her dreams, Tarrant was waiting for her, and would tap his pocket watch and admonish her that she was once again late for tea.
Lord Ascot had mentioned in passing last time they spoke that time was being kind to her, her face still in youth while her mind continued forward. She had to resist the urge to giggle at that comment. Someone important to her had issues with Time, and he had offered her his Time so she'd stay always young. She had no idea if Tarrant's offer would work in this world, but she was convinced that it would. Tarrant never promised anything he could not deliver, he was too much of a gentleman to lie to her. Even months as sea had done nothing to her face and skin, in spite of the warnings of Margaret that the salty winds would ravage her. In time, she was warned, her pretty face would not last forever.
Time. Something that was weighing on her mind, if not on her face and body. She had been so ready to head back to Underland, or as she called it as a child, Wonderland. But the grounds of Lord Ascot's manor house had been renovated during her time on the ocean waves, and no matter how carefully she had hunted, Alice had not been able to locate a particular rabbit hole to go back. After several searches, she had given up on that location, and had settled into hoping McTwisp would made another appearance and lead her to what she now considered her true home. Twice he had led her there, certainly he could solve this aggravation once again.
She had a promise to keep, to a man that she felt more for every day that passed in London. Somehow, some way, Alice would find her way back to that land that was more a home for her than anything left in the Above world. She would return, and let that Hatter know she loved him. They would sit down for tea with Thackery and Mally, dodge teacups and saucers, and gaze into each others' eyes. Those eyes haunted her, seeming to watch from behind windows and around corners. Somehow, she knew he was waiting for her just as anxiously as she was wanting to get back to him.
He would complain, he would protest, and then they would confess their love for each other. She would wait for him, in that most Virtuous way, in spite of all the pressure from her Mother and sister. Even with money no longer being a worry, her Mother in particular was worried that Alice would be alone for the rest of her life. But, she was never alone. Her beloved was just a bit out of reach at the moment, waiting for her, she just knew it. Time ignored him, so he'd be the proper right age for her. She would return, and all would be well in Underland.
She just needed some time to find her way back.