By Rule of the Roses

Summary: A terminally ill Cheshire Cat finds himself bedridden upon realizing he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease. As his health slowly diminishes, he receives bouquets of flowers in various colors and numbers from a particular Hatter. Will he wither and die like the roses or will a miracle happen?

Note: Are You Alice? belongs to Ninomiya Ai

It was a leisurely day in Wonderland. The streets were packed with people going to and fro, their destinations often unsure. Most everyone in Wonderland - human or creature - hardly paid any attention to a particular being amidst their own: the Cheshire Cat.

The Cheshire Cat was reckless, careless and whatever other trait that required the less suffix that described his ignorance to his safety and health. On that day, perhaps the most shocking news came to the ears of the normally jolly creature.

He had been identified with a rare disease that would gradually and rapidly deteriorate his health, practically sucking out the life from him.

This caused grievance of massive proportions for the Chesire. He had needed to stay confined to be monitored by those hoping to find a cure to this rare disease.

Today marked the Cheshire's stay in what they called a hospital for a full week. And just as any other day, he had no visitors. And this upset the Cat inwardly, but kept a smile for those who came to check up on him at different intervals.

'Am I going to die like this...? Alone...?' the Cheshire thought forlornly to himself, heaving a great sigh as he glanced out the window at the many people walking along the streets.

Inside the building was someone who DID pay the Cheshire Cat any attention, although discreetly. He made his way down the hallways in search of the Cheshire Cat's designated room, hoping to pay him a casual visit. Not fully understanding it himself, he brought along a small bouquet of flowers.

A knock came to the door.

Quickly checking it off as one of the staff, the Cheshire called out, "Come in."

The door swung open as the man tipped up his hat. It was the Mad Hatter.

Cheshire wheeled around and blinked at his arrival. "Hatter? What brings you here?"

"You, apparently," came the Hatter's blunt reply, holding up the lavender roses.

Ears perking at the sight, the Cat approached him and took the flowers he identified as roses. "I don't think I deserve to be given any attention by YOU of all people, Hatter..." he said quietly.

"Then you're unaware what those roses signify," the Hatter explained, closing the door behind him.

"SHOULD I be aware?" Cheshire asked apprehensively, giving a double take on the roses.

"Yes," Hatter answered with a small smile. "But alas, I can only stay so long. I shall come visit again... perhaps tomorrow," he offered before excusing himself.

As the Hatter left the Cheshire back to his lonesome, the Cat wondered what indeed the lavender roses meant.

And this was what he wanted to find out. The Cheshire asked everyone of the staff who came into his room since the Hatter's visit if they knew. It was a nurse who came in late that night who told him what it meant: Love at first sight.

Blushing when he heard this, the Cheshire Cat began to look forward to the Hatter's subsequent visits.

But the Hatter did not come as he said he would the following day. Nor the next day after that, causing depression to befall the Cheshire once again. His health showing signs of failure with each passing day.

On the third day, the Cheshire woke up to a bouquet of yellow roses on his table, along with a card that read: 'Your first bouquet held exactly 6 roses. This, as you would possibly count, has 15.'

"Whoever sent that must be apologizing to you for something," the nurse who had a knowledge of roses told him with a warm smile.

"Apologizing...?" The Cheshire confirmed with a small frown.

"Yes. But considering they're yellow they hope to brighten up your day," she consoled, fluffing up his pillow for him.

"What do 6 roses mean?" the Cheshire asked as he gave them to the nurse to put in a new vase, being unable to get out of bed.

"6... means they want to be yours," she answered from memory.

Watching as the nurse transferred the roses the Cheshire smiled at the sight. 'I'd gladly let you be mine... But... you need to come...' he thought sadly, his heart that began to love for the first time slowly growing weaker.

Days passed and the Hatter had still not come. Only the roses seemed to find their way to the Cheshire, each different in quantity and color. The third bouquet came: 20 orange roses.

The rose expert was the one who brought them in. "I believe the gentleman who sent this wants to start a relationship with you," she told him.

"And the quantity?" the Cheshire asked desperately.

A fond chuckle. "He took the liberty of writing it here on the card," she said, handing it to the Cheshire.

It read: "Believe me, I am sincere towards you."

This, for some reason despite the prolonged physical absence of the Mad Hatter, caused the Cheshire Cat to tear up, suddenly missing his presence.

The Cheshire Cat knew not if what he felt was love or the rapid deterioration of his heart. But he was sure that there was a feeling lingering for the Hatter.

And then the fateful day arrived. The Cheshire Cat was close to death now, and the doctors had regrettably informed him that they could not find a cure. Unable to get up or move most of his body now, the Cheshire cried while laid out on his bed.

There was a knock on the door. And a few moments later, opened. A bouquet of red roses was the first to enter, followed by the Hatter.

"H...Hatter... You... finally came..." the Cheshire spoke out in barely over a whisper.

"I see you got my other flowers," Hatter replied quietly as he moved up to the bedside, spotting the three vases.

Silence passed for a while before Hatter spoke again. "These... are for you," he offered.

"What... is the implication this time?" Cheshire asked weakly with a smile.

"Red means 'I love you'. 33 means... saying 'I love you' with great affection," Hatter explained with a small smile as he placed them into a new vase awaiting it along with the rest.

"Hatter..." Cheshire choked out, managing to raise his arm slightly.

Spotting this, the Hatter quickly grabbed his hand gingerly.

"I... I... I love... you too..." Cheshire said, finding it more and more difficult to speak.

Gripping his hand just a little tighter, Hatter pursed his lips hard and nodded firmly, leaning over and kissing the back of Cheshire's hand.

'If there was anything... Absolutely anything I could do to save his life... Please...' Hatter begged in his mind to the higher being.

'I... don't want to die like this...' Cheshire thought. 'I... want... to be with Hatter... Together... with Hatter... Forever...'

The Cheshire's arm fell limp for a few minutes, causing the Hatter to shake uncontrollably.

The hint of a tear became evident from the Hatter's eyes as it slowly trailed down his cheek. 'I... love you, Cheshire. Please... Please don't go!' he cried out in his mind.

And as the drop fell to their joined hands, it was as if life was breathed into the Cheshire Cat as he suddenly inhaled and exhaled, his eyes snapping open.

"H-Hatter...?" he croaked out before realizing that he could lift his arm. "I...I'm alive...?"

"You're alive?" the Hatter repeated in a choked voice, quickly wiping away the now flowing tears from his eyes.

"Your love saved him," the nurse said softly from the door. "A miracle love was the ultimate cure to his illness."

Cheshire slowly smiled as he turned to Hatter. Without being told, they moved in for an endearing embrace and what they counted as their first kiss.

A love that would last a lifetime.