AN: Hello to all of my loyal readers! As I promised you all months ago, I was going to write an Alice in Wonderland one-shot that centered around Tarrant making that lovely dress that was revealed near the end of Just a Dream and Nothing More. I've finally finished it, and all in one day to boot! It's a little sad and angst-ridden, but it needed to be. And I got to delve into Hatter's world for a bit.

Just to clarify, this little tidbit of a story takes place from the beginning of the story to about, oh, say, the end of the fourth chapter. It basically outlines what Tarrant had been up to before Alice made her grand appearance in Underland. It attempts to sum up at least a few months where Tarrant was absent in the story. It doesn't, however, sum up the two years Alice was gone. Just a few months in between.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, once again. Except the dress. I could get away with that...

Hope you enjoy!


Tarrant would never have admitted it to anyone, but he was slowly losing his mind. And it was all a certain young woman's fault. He had tried to conceal it for the sake of his friends, but it was still all too clear what was happening to him. His sanity was slipping through his fingers quicker than he could grasp at it.

It was all her fault, with her lying tongue and stabbing deceit. He had believed her words at first, falling into them like a man possessed. His dream for her return though, sweet as it was, soon came to an abrupt halt.

She was never coming back. His bruised heart beat the words through his body. She had never intended to come back; it had all been a selfish lie, something to ease the pain in his aching body before the cold truth settled around his bones. Alice had lied, intentionally or not, and her words were slowly burning a hole in his sanity.

It was rather fortunate for him that he had something other than his torturous thoughts to occupy his time. He wasn't sure when he had started working on the dress that hung on the mannequin in front of him, but he vaguely remembered holding the blue silk in his hands and thinking of only one name.

Alice.

It was cruel, the way Fate taunted him so. The way that he had stumbled upon the fabric hiding in a corner of his workroom seemed too obvious to be ignored. The white lace and blue silk seemed to call to him, whispering words that she had spoken to him long ago, back when she was close enough to touch. When he could feel her hands on his skin, her breath in his ear...

It seemed to him that he began the dress in a trance, as he couldn't remember the exact moment that he decided he would make it. If he had even made a conscious decision. His mind was wandering further and further into oblivion, and he couldn't fetch it back for the life of him.

He would pause in creating the dress, hardly knowing what he was doing. He would rub the fabric through his calloused and bandaged fingers and be reminded of her. Of her golden hair, her bright eyes and her warm smile. The smile that she reserved for him, as his selfish mind believed.

But something as pure and good as Alice surely couldn't be interested in him. He was just a mad hatter, regardless of his reputation as the best milliner in the land. Alice was too beautiful and innocent to ever hope to know him as more than just a friend.

She was bright sunlight, and although she may have tried, she could never penetrate his twisted and black core. Alice would merely scrape the surface of his battered heart and walk away from it more hurt than he would have liked. He hated for her to be hurt, and so he separated himself from the making of the dress. Tarrant knew that if he associated the dress with her he would tear it down until scraps of blue and white fluttered around him like snowflakes.

And then he would be back where he started.

So he continued his work, absorbing himself into it while ignoring everything else. Several of his friends, even the White Queen herself, had tried to talk some sense into him. He wouldn't hear their kind words of worry, or let them reach him. He couldn't, because then the world he had constructed for himself would come crashing down. And his thoughts of Alice ever returning would go along with it.

That was why he became so shocked when, one day, he found himself unable to finish the dress. It sat on the mannequin, mocking him. Confirming all of his fears as if it could speak to him. As if it could tell him that Alice wasn't returning, so what was the point in completing a dress that she would never wear?

And as Tarrant glared back at the offending dress, he mentally answered the unasked question. He was working on the dress because it reminded him of her, as she stood with him on the balcony the night before the Frabjous Day, as she fought the Jabberwocky even though she was terrified of it, as she told him that she had to leave.

He was working on the dress because it brought back memories of Alice, and those remnants were the only things left to remind him what she looked like, how her hands felt as they touched his face, how her smile could light up a darkened room.

The reason why he was making the dress was also the very reason why he couldn't finish it. For if he completed it, then he couldn't work on it anymore, and his last tenuous connections with Alice would break and fall into nothingness. And then his existence would cease to matter to himself, as well as anyone else in the world.

He could only live in a world where Alice was beside him, whether it was through memories or flesh and blood.

So he left the dress, standing it in the very corner that he had discovered the fabric in so very long ago. Perhaps one day he would summon the courage to finish it but Tarrant knew that unless Alice returned, the dress would gather dust in silence.

But he wouldn't let all his time spent on it go to waste. He wouldn't allow the dress to rot, to let the ruthless moths have their way with it. Because as long as the dress remained, Tarrant knew that he wouldn't completely lose his last pieces of sanity. As long as the dress remained, the tortured milliner would gain some respite from his demons.

As long as he could hold onto that dress he felt close to Alice, and nothing could possibly break that bond. He had resolved himself to not live a life without her in it, and this was his final lifeline.

With a heavy heart, he turned away from the dress and the visions it was stirring up and back to where he had abandoned his hats so many months ago. He realized how hungry he was, how dry his throat had become, and he knew that he hadn't eaten anything since starting the dress. Still not fully prepared to take any nourishment in, Tarrant turned around to give the dress one last longing look before leaving his workshop.

"Fairfarren, Alice."

And with that he shut the door, closing the dress in darkness.


AN: So, there you go. The end of the story basically starts at the time where Tarrant began to wander around Underland without any real purpose, as Mirana reflected upon in chapter five. Poor man. He really has been through so much.

So now he basically leaves the dress until Mirana asks him to make one for Alice's ball at the end of the story. But you clever readers already knew that, didn't you? :)

Read and review, as always!