A.N.: This is my ending/continuation to Niphuria's "The Language of the Fan". It begins near the end of the first chapter of the original (if that makes sense...ah well). Hope you enjoy! As always, please review!
The dormouse stabbed and slashed at the foliage, weeds and grasses taking the brunt of her frustration. She'd been at it for nearly a half hour, but the only thing she'd gained from the intense exercise was sweat. The destruction was doing nothing to satisfy her anger. The thing that was bothering her was not something that could be solved by reducing it to shreds, but she had no other method available to her.
Mallymkun threw her sword at a mushroom with a grunt, and it stuck firmly in the thick stem.
"It's not fair!" she shouted at the mushroom, her voice nearing the highest pitch she could squeak in her agitation. "It's just not fair!"
"If life were fair, then I'd be able to nab all of the tarts I wanted from the royal kitchens without worrying about being caught by a cook or an angry, ladle-wielding hare," said a voice from a tree behind her. Mally whirled around to see the Cheshire Cat sitting on a low branch, watching her with a smile that did not meet his bright turquoise eyes, which looked down at her with concern.
"Chessur…!" Mally moaned, finding that she was without the usual scathing comment that she greeted him with on most days. She placed her head in her paws helplessly.
If she had had her sword in hand, Chessur wouldn't have dared come any closer for fear of a sharp stab in the eye. But since she was unarmed, the cat evaporated down to the ground beside her.
"What's eating you?" he asked, and then he winced at his poor choice of words. "I mean…"
"I know what you mean," said Mally, lifting her head and looking up at him. "And you of all people should know what's eating me."
"Well since it isn't me who's suddenly developed a taste for dormouse…"
Mally was not in the mood for jokes.
The Cat sighed. "It's the wedding, isn't it?"
They both knew what wedding he was referring to. Tarrant and Alice's wedding, barely even a week ago. Mally nodded, and then she hid her face again, her body quivering with suppressed sobs. Chessur wrapped his tail around her body comfortingly, and then she gave up the fight against tears altogether, crying into his fur.
The dormouse's infatuation with the Hatter was no secret to Chessur. Even before she'd admitted it to him, shortly after the Battle of Frabjous Day, he had been able to tell that there was much more between the man and the mouse than merely friendship or loyalty between soldiers. Tarrant himself had been oblivious to her affections, and now he was married to Alice, the Overland girl, the Queen's Champion.
"It j-just stinks!" Mally sobbed. "I c-c-can't be by the tea table anymore, c-can't see him looking at her, and the r-ring on her f-f-finger, Chess! It hurts me!"
"Hush, now…" Chessur purred, but Mally was beyond being consoled.
"And it's j-just not fair, Chess! It's not fair, because I'm the one who loves him! I do! N-Not Alice! She's in love with the Queen!"
Chessur's eyes widened. Mally clapped her hands over her mouth, looking horrified with herself. She hadn't meant to blurt that out…
"You're certain of this?" the cat whispered.
Mally hesitated, but nodded. "Her Majesty's had me at the castle, training her soldiers," she mumbled through her fingers. "So I've been there, to see… They've been flirting with each other for weeks, so subtly, Alice more obviously, with that Overland fan she's been carrying around…and they've made love. I know it. In the Queen's Chambers."
"But Mirana officiated Alice's wedding," Chessur said. "And she's set to marry the Prince of Purple tomorrow…"
Mally nodded again. "Because she has to," she said. "Because it's what the people want…"
She scowled and wiggled free of Chessur's tail, taking a few steps away from him before turning back, pacing back and forth.
"What other people want," she spat. "Why does it have to matter what other people want? Why should love be affected by what other people think? Love is love, be it man to woman, same sex, or even interspecies… Even in Overland. I've looked it up, Chess. In Overland, they'd call Alice and the Queen homosexual and Tarrant and I bestiality, neither of which have positive connotations. But what does it matter? It's still love, right?"
She glanced back at Chessur, who shrugged.
"I wouldn't know," he said. "I've never been in love. I'm not even sure if I know what it is. It seems to be an awful lot of trouble, anyway."
"Oh, it is," Mally agreed. "But it can also be the most wonderful thing… What is love, anyway?"
She sat down on a pebble and answered her own question.
"Love is caring," she said. "No, it's more than just that. Love is having someone there who you would do anything to help. Love is having someone who can make you laugh one moment and absolutely gallymoggers the next, but you can't imagine life without them there. Love is having someone that you can talk to and fight with and cry with and sit for hours and hours not saying anything at all, not even touching each other, just being side by side, and watching the stars. Love is having someone who knows just what to say to make you feel better about yourself, and even when they don't know what to say, they know how to be silent. Love is having someone there who it feels like you've been through everything with, and you want to go through even more with.
"Love is all that," the dormouse asserted. "And Tarrant's been all that, for me. We've shared more laughter and tears than I could ever count. He can be so infuriating in his insanity…but then he'll say something, when everything's going downhill and I just want to stab something, he'll say some so wonderful and sweet… He helped to put me back together after Horunvendush Day, even though he'd lost even more than I had, and after that…after that, I took care of him, kept him eating, kept talking to him, even when everything was so hopeless and all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and lie there until the world ended… We've fought with each other, we've fought alongside each other, and I wouldn't have it any other way…"
She sighed and looked down at the ground.
"I love him, Chess, I love him so much. And sometimes…back in those times when we could just sit and watch the stars…he'd look at me with this smile upon his face, not the crazy smile, a different one. One so warm and…and so rare… Whenever he looked at me like that, everything inside of me just felt so perfect, and I'd think that maybe, just maybe, he loved me too, and that he just didn't think that what he felt could be love, so he never said anything. I mean, how could it have been love? When the perfect happy ending was standing right in front of him, with her beautiful, human face and her lovely, pleasant demeanor and her heroic reputation, with everyone nodding approval, how could he possibly be in love with a…with a slurvish little dormouse?"
"You're not slurvish, Mally!" Chessur hissed. "You're not."
"Am I, Chess?" Mally demanded, staring intensely up at him. "What if I'm wrong? What if there is no love between Alice and the Queen, no love for me from Tarrant? What if it's all just some mad, selfish fantasy to justify how I feel, to make me think that I actually have a chance…?"
She shook her head helplessly.
"It's not mine to say. It's too late now, anyway. Tarrant and Alice are married and the Queen's getting married herself tomorrow. What I think has no bearing on any of that."
Mally walked over to the mushroom and pulled her sword free, sliding it into her belt.
"I can't avoid this wedding as easily as I did the last one," she said. "I'm supposed to be there, representing Her Majesty's army. Of course, the Champion and Royal Hatter will be there, too… Should be a blast," she added bitterly. "See you around, Chess."
The cat watched the dormouse walk off into the trees, thinking. If Mally was right, and Alice and Mirana were in love, then there was not just one but three females who were doomed to unhappiness by the marriages. But Underland needed the treaty between White and Purple, along with the prospect of heirs to take over the throne in the future, and the Woods needed, as Mally had called it, its "perfect happy ending…"
Which was more important anyway? The needs of a nation, or the happiness of friends?
"This," snarled Chessur. "Is why I never get involved in politics."
He began to gradually fade away, first his tail, then his body, and lastly his ever-present grin as he evaporated away. Before he made a decision, there were a few things that he needed to investigate for himself…