Rosebuds and Poker cards
A/N: My sister and I are fangirling over this manga, so here's the result.
"You're a strange kind of Alice, aren't you?"
It was curious question—as curious as it can ever be—as the figure clad in red, black, and white stared at him through the mask.
"Well, what defines an 'Alice' anyway?" He shrugs in his seat and stares at the joker mask, raising a brow at its design. It was colored white with devilish black eyes and a wide, mocking grin, its cheeks tinted with a mad flush of red; and a single black diamond was below its left eye.
"Well, anyone can be Alice." It laughed loudly, "All we gots to do is put on a blue dress, white apron, and some pretty blonde wig with a white ribbon to top it like icing on a cake." And he swore he heard it smack its lips.
"Really?" He was bored enough in this country.
"Of course!" It jumped from its seat and almost caused the table to fall, with its contents of several slices of different cakes, candies, and cold tea.
"Do you want to be Alice?" It asked with a forceful tone.
"What?" He was dumbfounded at the sudden change of atmosphere of the shop Hatter left him in. It was a candy shop and toy store combined into one. Blaringly loud colors are placed beside each other; neon green worms, brick red candied cherries, electric blue gum, bright yellow candied lemons..
"You don't want to be Alice, don't you?" It stood up and leaned close to him, the pointed nose almost touching his.
He was silent, was this person a regret out to kill him? A past Alice that wants to claim its place?
"You just want to be rid of this hellish world, right?"
"You want to get a life of your own, right?"
"You want to live, right?"
"That's why you're here, right?"
"To find a purpose in life, and you'll live when you do, right?"
A gloved finger rides its way from his cheekbone to his lips and down his chin. The questions were annoying beyond all things, but they were true. Much as they were shallow questions answerable with either a 'yes' or a 'no', they were difficult to answer.
He settles his thoughts and decides on a word;
"Maybe." He says with a confident smirk, because he just might be Alice everyone's so hopeful of.
The costumed figure pulls away, "You are a very strange Alice indeed." It nods as it settles back on its seat, facing him. It looks down at his half-untouched meal.
"Aren't you going to finish it?" It says with a childishly sad tone. There were scones with heavy cream and fruit syrup, cold-over fruit tea, raspberry muffins, and chocolate pudding in front of Alice.
He starts to say sheepishly, "Thanks, but I'm already full so—"
"It's impolite to leave your food untouched, after all the effort that the host has made." It states with its arms crossed over its chest.
"I ate half of everything!" He exclaims.
"Still, it means that you either ate it begrudgingly or decided to eat a piece of everything since you haven't eaten such good food." The two points were both against him so..
"Either way, I'm already full and Hatter—" He starts to stand from his seat, but its hand grabs him and prevents him from moving.
"Hasn't come back." It pulls out a deck of cards from its pocket, "So you stay here," It giggles, "And we'll play a game of cards."
He scoffs, "I'm not really interested in games."
"We'll make a deal. One win for one thing." It shuffles the intricately designed cards with its fingers, "It's only one game after all, unless you want to play more."
"Since I'm practically locked up in here," He glances to the door on his left, bolted, chained, and locked firmly, "Why not?" He sighs as the figure releases his wrist.
"Alright then," It smirks behind the mask, "For this game, it's either my identity or my cooking."
"What?" He asked confusedly.
"What you'll shove down that pretty throat of yours." It points a finger at his exposed skin.
He immediately flushes and averts his eyes from the disturbing mask, but the thought of an unfair game comes to him and he looks back furiously, "Hey! That's unfair, it's supposed to be an equal deal."
"It is." It says at it tosses the cards into the air, "One game from me, another game from you." The cards fall randomly as it catches them without fail.
"I thought you said it was just one game." A vein threatens to pop in his head.
"Unless you want to play more, of course."
"I guess you're just as bored as I am.." He drawls out and silently agrees.
"Through all of the eighty-eight people Hatter throws in my shop, I'd say that you're the strangest of them all." It hands him seven cards from the deck.
"That's a compliment, I hope?" He slowly takes the cards into his hand.
"Everything I say is supposed to be, but they aren't." It nods, "Not all of them, not really, it depends, so I guess it is."
"For someone dressed as a jester, you aren't entertaining." He says bluntly.
"For someone called Alice, you're different." It replies in the same tone.
"Hmph," He slumps back in his seat and they commence the game.
It was simple enough though, as if the jester wasn't even paying that much attention, whoever loses all of his cards first wins. The only trick is, that there are two cards, the ace and the jester, that you have to avoid taking from the opponent. When you are left with either the ace or the jester and another card, you have to hope that your opponent takes the joker or the ace. If you are left with both the ace and the jester, you lose.
"So, what's it going to be Alice?" It tosses the ace to the center of the table, on top of the rest of the cards. "What are you going to ingest?"
He thinks about it for a short while, but decides on the first choice. It's the first time he's seen the one in front of him, it might even be a regret out to kill him or someone else who wants to take his place as Alice.
"Who are you, wait," He scrutinizes his look, "What are you?"
"Well, since you've settled for that," It says as it stands up, approaching him.
He looks up to its mask, but something is shoved to his face; something soft and warm and—
"EEEEYAAAGHH!" His shout is muffled against a pair of…breasts. His arms flail wildly.
"Stop moving, I'm getting my card." It—she spoke. It's a she, isn't she? What else in the world could have that kind of chest? Too bad he hadn't noticed it earlier, her voice was still in a low robotic tone, probably from the mask she wore.
"You could have just told me!" He shouts furiously, face in a deep shade of red, as she removes herself from him.
"No one believes me." She says as she sits back down on the seat. "People rarely believe what entertainers say." She shoves a red and gold plastic card to his face.
"Hearts Jester. Anything for your humorous needs." He monotonously reads aloud. "That's all? Isn't there supposed to be a—"
"Wait until I disappear. Then crack the card in two. See what happens." She says as she gets up from her seat, exiting the room through the back door.
He stares at the card and at its simple border design. He looks up and there is no trace of her, so he cracks the card with a sigh.
Immediately, red smoke fills the room and a sudden firecracker-sound is heard. She appears in a loud burst of yellow sparks and red smoke, juggling four balls (black with a red heart, white with a black spade, red with a white clover, and red with a black diamond) and laughing maniacally.
"What will it be today, good sir?" She leans forward with a n all too-happy tone, and he's half-thankful that she isn't stepping on the food, maybe she isn't standing on anything at all.
"Something for the broken heart?" She tosses a bouquet of roses from her back.
"Or something for a lost cause?" She shoves a roll of money to his face.
"Maybe something for a good laugh?" She throws confetti above him.
He swipes a hand at his face, "Okay, okay, stop it already.."
She looks at him with the mask on and he swears he saw its expression change into a downtrodden frown. " But I'm not done yet.."
"I get it already, geez.." He rolls his eyes.
"I was about to throw you a puppy.." She sighs sadly, hoping down from the table.
"A puppy?" He exclaims, dusting the confetti, flower petals, and (probably fake) money she's thrown to him. "Do you do this everyday?"
"Only when they break the card," She plops down on her seat, "But it's mostly they need someone to shove their problems on, although there are times when there are pretty days when there are cakes and gifts and giggling children." She talks about birthday parties.
"How do they get the cards anyway?" He examines the card in his hands.
"I give it to them, or they find it lying somewhere, or they were given by someone whom I previously given the card to, or they enter the shop, or they just do."
"You don't make much sense." He shrugs, "but I get it."
"Nothing makes sense in Wonderland, Alice." She states calmly, "You should've known that since you came here."
"Yeah, sure." He whispers.
"How about another game, Alice?" The deck of cards mysteriously appears in her hands.
"You never told me who you are."
"You settled for your question, and I told you what I am."
"I wanted to know who you are."
"Then play another round."
He shrugs, "I guess I can waste some time."
"Time doesn't change in Wonderland."
So they play another round, and he swears that she purposely lets him win, again.
"Who are you?" He asks with a hint of anger evident in his voice.
"I'm what you could call an entertainer."
"That not what I asked for."
"And that's who I am. Next round, Alice?" Her tone in unchanging, its still in the same monotone.
They play another, and he wins for the third time in a row.
"Show me who you are, and tell me what you're doing in Wonderland." He demands.
"You're a very strange Alice, indeed. You ask for the impossible." She chuckles smugly.
"Why?" He narrows his eyes.
She juggles the divided deck, "You could have asked for the whereabouts of the White Rabbit like the last one, but you didn't. Instead, you waste your questions on such trivial things."
"We can play another round, as you said."
"We only play because I want to, also that you're a very curious Alice.."
"So show me who you are, you couldn't prance around wearing masks all day, could you?" He crosses his arm across his chest in impatience.
"You have a point there, Alice." She nods and places a finger on the chin of the mask, slowing lifting it up, "but I don't intend to show you yet."
"What?" He shouts impatiently, "I'm wasting enough effort already! I've had enough with you twisting the rules to your favor!"
"You're hungry Alice, finish this all, and then sleep over there." She points over to a colorful bed on the right corner, "By then you'd have enough energy to listen to the awful story of Rosebuds and Poker cards."
He scoffs, "You're playing me," He glares at the joyful mask.
"Why wouldn't I? You're far too interesting to be left untouched, Alice."
So he follows her instruction, bored and out of his right mind.
What is taking Hatter so long, anyway?
He wakes up to the sound of ruffling sheets and determined breathing.
"You're a very different kind of Alice." She whispers against his ear and he shoots up, but her arms restrict him around his shoulder and her leg around his waist. His face flushes.
"Usually, I want to kick the Alice in the face or even slap their backs." She rolls over him and straddles his waist, pinning his wrists above is head. But at least he can get a clearer view of her; with an entirely white face, a line of black lines diamonds on he forehead, thick black eyeliner, and greenish-brown eyes. He thinks she's wearing a mask, but her lips are moving and her voice isn't as mechanical as it was before.
"But you're different." She leans closer and his face reddens even more, "And I don't like it."
"Oi, get off o—" White, chilling lips cut the rest of his retort and send electrifying jolts down his spine.
The movement of her mouth, and tongue, muffles the rest of his words.
He shouts furiously when she removes her mouth. "What are you doing?" His face is red and beads of sweat collect on his forehead.
"In fact," She lets go of his wrists and places her hands on either side of his chest. "I think Hatter's joking when he told me that you're Alice. You can't be Alice." She shakes her head in disapproval.
"Then what were you doing!" He exclaims, still angry at her action.
"Curiouser and curiouser, Alice."
"What the heck do you mean?" He sighs frustratingly.
She licks her lips. "You taste like cinnamon bread."
He looks at her disgustingly, "That's gross."
"Most of them taste like raspberry cream." He knows she's referring to the ones before him.
"Even more disgusting. Aren't the ones before me—" A realization dawns on him and he stops talking.
She places her lips on his again.
"They kiss better too." She states and blood threatens to burst out his nose. "I think I'll have myself some raspberry cake." She gets off of him and starts to move towards the cake counter.
"What would you like, Alice?" She glances at his unconscious form with blood dripping from his nose and a wacky grin on his face.
"Cinnamon slice it is." She decides for him.
"Rosebuds and Poker cards?" He says as he stands beside her. He's just woken up from a short nap and she's slicing a cake and a pie into eight on the counter.
"What about it?" She says as she picks up an orange napkin. "You're bleeding from your nose." She hands him the napkin and he takes it graciously, not noticing the red liquid from his nose.
"Thanks." He says quietly, wiping the residue off his face, "Your story? I've followed through everything you said, so what about it?"
"I'll tell it over cakes and pies." She serves them both; apple cinnamon pie for him, raspberry cake for her, and lemon tea for both.
He seats across from her, as from before, "Why Rosebuds and Poker cards?" He asks immediately.
"I honestly don't know; I just like the way it sounds." She sips her tea and he almost chokes on his.
"Maybe it's also because I was too young when I was put up in this sort of trade, as an entertainer and a shopkeeper."
"Mm-hmm." He takes a bite of the pie and its surprisingly good in spite of the amount he's eaten a while before.
"I was a child then, playing with gypsy ornaments and mixing alchemy ingredients until my family and I moved to Wonderland as cake traders, exchanging recipes and ingredients for others. The Queen welcomed us; well, he beheaded my father, and took my mother and sisters as mistresses. He didn't take me; I was lucky enough because he hated the color red. I have red hair, but I dyed it black since I still want to live. I had the rest of my childhood as an orphan working at the only thing we've had, the cake stall. I grew up and met the Hatter; we quickly became fairly good acquaintances. As you can observe, I have a wide variety of tea. I grew older and now here I am; with my shop serving as a fortress for Alice and the Madman." She said with no remorse.
"I'm sorry for your loss." He murmurs.
"It's alright, I've always wanted to live without attachment." She grins, "As for the jester part of me, it's basically an inclination since Wonderland has celebrations and people have nothing else to do than to follow around the orders of the Queen. I also needed the money to keep the store and myself afloat. The Queen's taxes are high when he wants them to be, and that's most of the time." She looks at the yellow-green liquid in her cup annoyingly, "It's as if he wants the economy to crash down."
"He's a man with too much want and too little need." He agrees with her.
"So you think of him unlike the rest of them," She stares at him curiously, "You are a very strange kind of Alice indeed."
"Why, isn't that the truth?"
"They say he's a good man with a noble control over the country. He kills because he wants everything to be peaceful."
"Psh, they have got to be kidding me.." He rolls his eyes in annoyance; the Queen can be a pain most of the time.
"You know, the eighty-eighth Alice was the closest one to become the true Alice." She states suddenly, getting past the long silence they had as they ate.
"And?" He asks expectantly.
"I hated her. I wanted to slap her head to the wall and see if her perfection has cracks." She smiles maniacally. "I was satisfied when I saw that it does."
He looks at her disturbingly.
"She called the Hatter with the whiny voice she had, and he became mad at me. It's alright, because the look on her face when her head met the stone wall was priceless." She flashes him a toothy grin. "She was the best Alice and I hated her." She repeats.
He dared to ask, "Why?"
"Because she's boring me, it's like she wants to kill me with boredom. Boredom is never a good thing in Wonderland." She raises a gloved hand and pats his cheek. She opens her eyes and looks intently at him. "You're different, and different's good. But I don't like you."
She's confusing him, making him run in circles over and over.
He groans, "Why don't you?"
"Because you're a man. I don't like men." Her other hand goes to his face and two of her fingers are on either corner of his lips, pulling it into a forced smile. "Usually, I love them."
His cheeks flush and he dares to ask with a confused look in his eyes, "So, you love me?" He says through the pressure her fingers apply on the corner of his lips.
"Why should I?" She stretches his grin wider, before taking her hands to her sides.
"But you said—"
"I wouldn't have kissed you twice if I don't."
He was awestruck, his mouth agape and his cheeks flushed with red.
"Then again, I've kissed many other Alices in the past."
"I don't get you." He eyes narrow at her calm expression.
"What's there to get, Alice? You've already got me."
"Now, I don't know whether to believe you or to just go with whatever you're telling me."
"Isn't that what you've been doing all along? Blindly agreeing because you're annoyed out of your mind and you just want to get out of here? Out of this crazy woman's cell and get the life you want?" She bombards him with questions rapid succession.
"Yes or No, Alice. It's as simple as that. Either the one or the other." She closes her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest.
"I don't know. I don't know. I don't know!" He shakes his head as his maddening tone increases with every repetition.
"You know Alice," She says in the midst of his cries, "I don't know whether to slap you the wall because you're gravely different, or to kiss you because you're as strange as what Wonderland is ever going to get."
"Do whatever you want, Alice." She smiles approvingly at him, "Just make sure the White Rabbit dies before you kill him." She uses metaphors to say what she wants. "I want to juggle his corpse while I dance on the Queen's throne." Her assuring stare meets his determined one.
"You're quick to get over mind-twisting questions, Alice." She comments.
"I'm just.. Maybe I am Alice." He averts his gaze and hear her shift her position.
She's standing from her seat and is pulling his face to meet hers, "Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. It's always the third choice with you, isn't it? The choice that was there from the beginning, but not there to be seen, hasn't it?" Her grin meets his.
"Probably." He says confidently.
"Because you're straying too far from the story, I either want to kiss you or to smack some sense into you." Her grin matches his, "Or both, at the same time, or one after the other, whichever one might prefer."
His grin stops, "I'd rather not, but the first choice would be better."
She drops his head and chuckles, "I would love you if I did, but I didn't."
He frowns, "So what's it really? You—" he chokes on his own breath, "love me?"
She shrugs. "I would, but I don't. I could, but I haven't. I don't know."
He smirks, "So, it's a 'maybe' then?"
"It's either one or the other, that's the order that keeps everything in place in Wonderland." She states, "And you're destroying it by choosing something that shouldn't be there in the first place."
"You love me for it." He's quick to be smug.
"I would, but I don't, Alice." She groans playfully. "Of all the things I've said, at least try to get that." It's great that thick white make-up covers the red flush on her face.
"Get what? I've already gotten you, haven't I? You said so before." His confidence levels are higher than the norm as he uses her words against her.
"Funny Alice. You could replace my job any day." She rolls her eyes at is dry humor. "But no, you haven't. But you're getting quite close."
"Thought so." He smirks.
"Not that close, you're quite far; being as young as you are. I can't even believe I kissed you twice, I would've been beheaded."
"Just admit it."
"You're a minor by my standards, Alice. Then again, I've always loved to play with the hearts of everyone in my shop; men, women, children, pets.."
"Do you break them, though?"
She tilts his head at him, who's practically enjoying himself in their conversation, "Curiouser and curiouser you are, Alice." She murmurs, but her expression brightens at her next statement. "Of course I don't, but sometimes I do, and sometimes I want to, but I don't, but sometimes I do when I want to, and if you ask about this time—" She pauses, "I honestly don't know what to do with it, and I hate you for that Alice."
"You love me for it."
Her smug look meets his. She then wonders why Hatter's taking too long. The thought disappears at the idea of an obsessive girl named Regret.
"Curiouser and curiouser." He repeats her words.
It's decided. He drives her absolutely mad.
And she likes it.
A/N: Le finish. I'm proud of this one because I kept on giggling like a schoolgirl while I was writing it, a day's worth of typing like mad. Read and review please! *smile*