A/N: This, believe it or not, is a fanfic of a fanfic: "Marriage is Just an Adventure into Madness" by the ever-talented Starlight623 (So it might be helpful to read that first... jus' sayin'...)

About a month ago, I had a dream about Starlight623's character Charlotte. I was describing it to one of my friends, and she encouraged me to write it all down & finish the story. It all snowballed from there. Now, three weeks and 4 chapters later, I'm still coming up with ideas. So bare with me guys, here's chapter one.

Charlotte and William Hightopp are the property of Starlight623 (I'm just stealing them for a while...)

Alice in Wonderland belongs to the creative genius that is Tim Burton. Oh, and that one company, you know, the one with the mouse... :]

It all began the night Alice left.

Well, I suppose it really all began the day that Hatter got terribly, dreadfully sick, but we're getting ahead of ourselves...

If you had been there that night, you would have seen a very strange sight indeed, well, at least, strange by the standards of the Otherworld, but in Underland, I'd say that this occurrence was downright normal.

They stood in front of the looking-glass, the four of them huddled in the cool darkness that constantly surrounded the castle.

"Are you sure about this, Alice?"

In any other situation, she might have rolled her eyes. People needed to understand that she had always been sure, from the moment that she had married her Hatter; she would do anything to save him. Anything. She nodded slowly, putting on a brave face.

"I'm sure, Mirana. This is the only way."

"But the children..."

"I'm leaving them in the excellent care of my best friend." Alice knelt down on the floor and held out her arms. "Come here, darlings." Two crying children ran into her arms, clutching at their mother with all of their strength. "Oh, my little loves, please don't cry," said their mother, fighting back tears of her own, "I'll be back before you know it."

"Oh mummy, can't we please come with you?" asked the girl, the eldest of the Hightopp children at age thirteen.

"Yes, mama!" cried the little boy, who was only seven ("-and a half!" as he would often interject), "Please take us with you!"

"Not this time, Will." She had gone to great lengths to make sure that the children didn't know just how dangerous this trip to the Otherworld could be. The disease had reached epidemic proportions, and she could not risk the rest of her family getting sick.

"Charlotte?" She asked, kneeling at eye-level with her daughter, "You must be the woman of the house now that I'm leaving, alright? You must take care of Will."

The girl nodded silently, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "I will, mummy."

Alice looked once more into both of their eyes, then gave them each another hug and kiss on the cheek. "Fairfarren, my loves." She whispered, untangling herself from their clinging arms. "Mirana? If anything should happen to me..."

"You don't need to say it, Alice. I'll make sure they are well taken-care of here. Just hurry back. Underland needs its champion."

Alice nodded once and bent to scoop up her bags. "I shall return as soon as I can. A few weeks perhaps, a month at the most." She adjusted her hat and took a steadying breath, sending the children one last tearful smile before stepping through the dark mirror...

"No mum don't go!" shouted Charlotte, springing up and out of her bed. She spun around, orange hair flying everywhere, confused. "Mum?" she whispered, squinting to see in the dark room. She ran, tripping in her haste, to her desk, where she knocked over a now-cold cup of tea rummaging around for a match. When she had found one, she scurried over to her bedside table and lit a candle, holding it up so its light flooded the room. She was alone.

"Just a dream, Lottie... just a dream..." she whispered, putting the candle back and returning to her bed. Gathering her knees up to her chest, she blinked back tears. She had had this dream almost every night for the last three years, and she always had the same reaction; waking up screaming in the middle of the night, not being able to fall back asleep for hours, then collapsing with exhaustion when the sun finally rose. This cycle had worn on ever since Alice's departure to the Otherworld, and it didn't show any sign of stopping. Charlotte knew she worried her friends, but there was nothing she could do. She just wanted her parents back.

"You're sixteen years old, Lottie, stop being such a baby," she scolded herself, sitting up straight. She brought a shaking hand up to her head and tried to smooth down her fly-away curls. At least I'm not breaking things anymore, she mused. At least that's some progress, and all without that potion Auntie Mirana tries to make me drink! Or that nasty cake-stuff she made me eat once...

As she was mulling over all the attempts that had been made to bring her back from the brink on insanity, a knock came at the door. "...Lottie?" a timid voice asked from the door frame, "can I come in?"

Charlotte's focus abruptly snapped back to the present. "Will?"

"Yes," he said, pushing open the door a tiny bit. He was still quite small for a ten-year-old, and came to Lottie's room in the castle whenever he had a bad dream or wanted to ask her a question. Sometimes these things simply could not wait until the morning to be discussed.

"Come in," She said, shifting over so he could sit next to her in bed. He pushed the door the rest of the way open and ran to her bed, scrambling to sit up next to her.

"What is it, Will?"

"I heard you shouting again."

She sighed. Apparently she hadn't done a well enough job sound-proofing her room. She made a mental note to work on that later, then promptly forgot about it.
"Are... are you okay?" asked the little boy, wondering if he should be comforting his sister.
"I'm perfectly fine, Will," She said, jumping up to a standing position on top of the bed. She grabbed his hand and yanked him up as well, and began jumping up and down on the covers. "Fit as a fiddle!"
Will giggled, and soon they were both full out laughing, bashing each other with pillows, and certainly making enough noise to wake the whole castle up.
After a few minutes of this, they both collapsed onto the now-untidy bed, tears of mirth streaming down their faces.
"Shhh..." Shushed Charlotte with a finger over her lips, trying to stifle back her own laughter.
Will nodded, biting down on his knuckle, the occasional giggle escaping his lips. Charlotte draped a sisterly arm over his scrawny shoulders, pulling him in for a hug.
"See? I'm alright. I just miss mum and dad, That's all."
The younger Hightopp instantly sobered, snuggling in closer. "Do you think mum's alright?"
Charlotte thought over this for a second, then nodded. "Mum's alright, Will. In fact, she's better than alright! She's probably back on her way to Underland right now with the cure for Daddy's sickness. Then we'll be a right proper family again!"
Their father was very sick indeed. One day, he had been making hats as always, humming happily to himself, the next, he was bed-ridden, unable to stand on his own and fading ever faster into the madness. The White Queen had tried potion after potion, cure after cure, but nothing had worked. She eventually gave up, relinquishing to the fact that this was an above-land sickness, and they would just have to wait until the royal hatter got better.
He didn't.
It had now been three years since Tarrant had fallen sick. He was cooped up in the highest tower of Marmoreal, and the children had not been allowed to see him, because he could be contagious. After Alice had gone to the Otherworld to try to find the cure for Hatter's mysterious illness, the looking-glass had also been placed in that room, and the doors were guarded day in and day out.

At first, Charlotte and Will had gone on numerous "adventures" to the tower, trying to get in to see their father, but their path had been barred every time. Eventually, they stopped trying to force their way in, and decided to wait. Their mother would be back soon, and everything would be made better. But soon, weeks faded to months, and months to years. Charlotte was now a young woman, and Will wasn't a little boy anymore. They had lived in the castle for these three years, under the care of Mally, Thackery, and The White Queen, waiting for the return of both their parents.

"C'mon, Will." Charlotte said, moving to get under the covers. "Let's sleep. How 'bout I tell you a story?"

Will sleepily crawled under the covers next to his big sister, nestling into her side. "Yes, please..."

She pulled the blankets around them both, smoothing down his wavy blond hair. "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe." she whispered, quoting the poem their father used to recite to them when they were younger, "Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch... Will?"

But the youngest Hightopp was already asleep, his head bobbing against her ribcage. Charlotte smiled, the sighed, leaning over to blow out the candle. Yes, something had to be done to fix their family.

But what?


Couple of notes:

Fairfarren means "Farewell, May you travel far under fair skies"

The 'story' that Charlotte tells Will is "The Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carrol. Tarrant quotes this same passage in the movie as he and Alice are on their way to Marmoreal.

Reviews would be much appreciated, thanks everyone!