Beneath a sprawling wooden arch painted in red were a set of golden doors, and through their windows, light was broken by a group of shadows. With them came the sounds of stamping feet and light chatter. Everyone inside the quaint little Chinese restaurant looked from their dinner and gaped their mouths when the Queen of Wonderland came marching through with her nose raised and her hands on her hips. Behind her was a rabbit who held to the door and bowed in desperate gallantry, then all of the usual suspects followed.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum crossed their arms and bobbed their heads immediately, taken by the smell of steaming pork fried rice and general tso chicken. Hatter and Hare, meanwhile, were finishing up a previous exchange with a bunch of pointed, impish squints and smirks, though for a moment Hare looked a little sheepish about it.
Anyway, the Queen was pissed, and that's all that really mattered. The hostess at the front desk was taller than her, but she could tell right away that in the worst case, the Queen could mop the floor with her, with pure sass.
"Your Majesty, what an honor that you come to our restaurant!" She tried. The Queen's eyes bulged, and she spoke with her nose still high:
"Get me a table for six. And don't make me wait like some commoner!" Her company darted their eyes around uncomfortably while the frowning hostess surveyed the crowd. During her short wait for the table, the Queen tapped her foot and glowered at her unsuspecting audience. "What are you looking at?!" And the whole restaurant applied themselves to the plates in front of them as if there was nothing more interesting.
Once the group was taken to a table, everyone sat down except for the Queen, who watched her chair as if she expected it to slide out on its own. Rabbit took a glance at her and shot up so suddenly that the tablecloth caught to the Velcro on his wrist cuffs was yanked up, clashing silverware and sending their table-mates for a jolt. He laughed nervously and pulled out her chair, but she plopped down and continued to wait. Rabbit took her menu, opened it, and placed it in her hands, still laughing as painfully as ever. Once there was no longer a spectacle, the others raised their menus to their faces and started muttering to each other about the more appealing dishes.
Very unfortunately, the Queen's temper was not Rabbit's only problem. He was sitting next to Hare, who was giggling and slapping Hatter, and the combination of sounds all seemed rather indecent to him, even if he wasn't bothering to check what was going on. Suddenly, the Queen slammed down her menu. "Where the hell is the wait-", but suddenly he was right behind her.
"Welcome to Wutang Gardens, Your Highness! Can I get you and your fine friends something to drink?" he asked, in a pleasantly tenor voice, hands behind his back.
"Alcohol," she said. Everyone at the table fell silent. "Your finest glass of wine. Whatever. Just bring it right now."
"Okay, and you, sir?"
"I'll have the same," Rabbit murmured.
"Excuse me, but do you have the fruit smoothies in kiwi flavor?" Hare cut in. "I didn't see it here on the list!"
"We don't have smoothies, sir." A few rolls of chub appeared below Hare's mouth as he sunk into his seat. Hatter patted Hare's arm and leaned towards the waiter.
"That's fine. Bring us a whole pot of oolong tea. No, make that two."
"You're not going to drink two pots," Rabbit interrupted. "And I should remind you that Her Majesty is taking the bill tonight."
"That's exactly why we're living it up while we can! Oh, and if you could," Hatter said, turning to the waiter, "a basket of fortune cookies would be nice."
Rabbit rolled his eyes and only half paid attention while the Tweedles ordered their drinks, but as soon as the waiter hurried away, he heard Dee clear his throat. "Uhhh, Your Majesty, if you don't mind me asking, why are you upset tonight?"
"Ohhhh! It's a long story. That Duchess is- look, that's not the point. I brought you all here to make an announcement." Without much enthusiasm, she stood up. "There's going to be a ball tomorrow at the palace. Wonderland's 127th Independence Day Ball, to be exact. And you're all invited, I guess." She swished her hand and sat back down, looking over to a nearby fish tank instead of giving one ding dangle about their reactions. Despite this, the group whooped like frat boys cheering someone's hundredth shot of tequila. That is, except Rabbit, who rolled his eyes and sighed audibly. Hare swayed in his direction and gave him his most unconcerned smile.
"What, you don't like a good party?" He asked. Rabbit, in an uncomfortably slow fashion, turned his face in Hare's direction and grimaced as if he were looking at the foulest thing on Earth.
"Do I need to ahnswer~ that question?" He waited for more than a confused expression from Hare, but it never came. "Apparently so. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but it's my busiest time of yea~. I prepare for the ball several months in advah~nce and Her Majesty is refusing to hire catering this time." The Queen shot her eyes back at them and looked like she was beginning to fume again. Rabbit's voice died down as he continued, "needless to say, we're both rather anxious about it."
Suddenly, the drinks arrived, and from then, the rest of the group was making light chat while Rabbit and the Queen focused intently on their wine glasses. While she eyed the fish tank, his gaze was wandering to the Chinese cook behind the glass, flipping veggies over a bright orange fire and spicing them while they were still in the air. He could imagine the heat of the the room behind that glass, as hot would be the kitchen as he popped a thousand hors d'oeuvres out of the oven, repeatedly, for a whole summer evening.
Meanwhile, Hare was making that indecent giggle again, and Rabbit glanced to that pair only to find that there were fortune cookie crumbs all over their laps, a pile of fortunes next to teacups with upright chopsticks for spoons, and they were playing two hand-held Connect Fours under the table. Hare seemed to have won when he shouted "BINGO!" loud enough to bring all attention to him, then carried on with a new game.
Once the Queen had had a glass of wine, she became a lot more candid about her issues with the Duchess, so much so that when the food was ready, she told everyone to wait so she could finish her story about how, at Princess University, she had to play powderpuff football against Duchy's team and how Duchy had, in a desperate attempt to steal the ball, grabbed and twisted her boobs. It was a discussion no one was particularly interested in having besides herself, but Rabbit threw in a few "I'm so sorry to hear that"'s to keep her from getting flustered with the lack of enthusiasm.
The Tweedles had enough sense to be quiet, but Hatter thoughtfully chewed on an egg roll and pondered aloud in the most tactless fashion, "why don't you just get over this shit?"
The Queen's eyes began to enlarge like two inflating balloons. Hare must've been wearing non-prescription glasses that day, because he had no idea when he chimed in with "yeah, I mean, Hatter and I sometimes grab each other's boobs – it doesn't mean anything. In fact, it might even mean a really good thing!"
"EXCUSE me, Hatter and Hare, but if that's really the way you feel about this, then clearly you weren't paying attention. Perhaps I should explain our past all over again!" As the words were uttered, she rose from her chair and pointed her finger to the air quite indignantly. Hare just chuckled while Hatter shook his head, ready to make some matter-of-fact statement.
"Oh, Your Majesty, all we're trying to say is love, hate – whatever it is, you're far too invested not to be gay. Hare and I learned that the hard way."
The Queen dropped her mouth to the tabletop as they carried on like nothing had ever happened and proceeded to do-si-do at the side of the table. Some kind of orientally themed music started up, complete with flutes and gongs, and they began to sing a song that had nothing to do with lesbianism and instead was an ode to the pleasure of ethnic outings. The whole restaurant watched as they found conveniently placed fans on a divider and strolled behind it, shaking the fans before their faces and swaying their man-curves like two bashful, Asian beauties. Hare was actually a little bit convincing, that is until he bent over and sent Rabbit's face into his own soup. Meanwhile, the Tweedles sat rigidly in their seats as Hatter came swaying behind them with a curtain as a sash.
The "audience" wasn't sure what the hell to make of this outburst, as apparently our most beloved Wonderlandians were not a reliable representation of the rest of them, but the few who weren't stunned by the dancing and the music coming from an undetermined source tried to clap appreciatively. The Queen just poured herself some more wine.
Rabbit stood up to find a bathroom and clean himself up as things got back to whatever normalcy they were beforehand, but he found that Hare was following him. By the time they'd reached the hall, Hare tried for his attention.
"Hey, are we both going to the bathroom? What do you know!"
He didn't know why, but Rabbit stopped walking and turned around. Hare smiled. "All that dancing sent the tea straight through the tubes, you know? Mind if I go first?" Rabbit gaped at him incredulously, still with bits of string bean and peanuts in his goatee. In fact, most of his face was stained with the color of a butternut squash.
"Are you mad?-"
"Well-. I think Hatter rubs off on m-"
"That was rhetorical! My Carrots, I can't believe what a moron you are!"
Hare was sincerely taken aback, but all the same, his brow furrowed. "Wow, Rabbit, wh-... don't you think that's kind of mean?"
"Oh, sure! It possibly could be, you know?!" He answered, in what was the highest voice Hare had ever heard him use. "I suppose one has to fight stupidity with fire every now and then. I mean, you saw the mood the Queen was in! She isn't a happy drunk, I should tell you, and now I have to pay for it."
Behind them, an elderly Chinese lady with a long green tunic had stopped in her tracks with a teapot in hand, surveying the fight with shameless curiosity. Hare tugged at the bottom of his lapels and nervously chortled.
"Come on, Rabbit; we didn't do anything out of the ordinary. Hatter and I were just having a good time."
"That is exactly the problem! You two are consistently troublesome for everybody! I wish you'd have a little more consideration."
"We do have consideration! Dinner was way too tense – it was practically screaming for a musical intervention. Maybe if you stopped clenching your asshole so tightly, you'd have noticed." Rabbit gasped.
"You have some serious nerve, Mr. He'a~. I don't care what kind of 'fun' you have; what you really do is give the Queen high blood pressure and make me want to go to Bunny Solitary Confinement!" And he had some type of weird fit as if he may be struggling out of an invisible straight jacket. "And to think, just yesterday you were trampling through my garden and making strange noises in the bushes while I was cleaning the courtyard. I SHOULD'VE MADE USE OF THAT MOP WHEN I HAD THE CHAH~NCE!"
"Oh yeah? Well-," but just as Hare was about to accuse Rabbit of having the wrong reaction to his ball-busting shenanigans, the lady who had observed their entire fight showed up at their side, a foot shorter than both, but very slyly staring, as if they were two puppets she was about to add to her collection.
"Cookie?" In her hands was a random tray and cushion holding highly presentable fortune cookies.
"Oh, no thanks, I already had like ten of them."
"I don't eat anything He'a~ eats," Rabbit added.
The Chinese lady squinted at them. "You eat the cookie and like them. In my family, you don't refuse food! Some people starve in my country!" And she went off in her mother tongue so passionately that Hare and Rabbit clashed hands just trying to take the cookies as quickly as possible. "So glad you like the cookie," she finished, her tone suddenly sweetened by their obedience. She bowed and walked away, leaving Hare and Rabbit glaring at each other. Rabbit darted for the bathroom and slammed the door, then fell into the other side of it and sighed raggedly.
Hare did the same, unconsciously tearing the plastic around his fortune cookie. As he cracked the cookie, he was far too full to eat it, but he pulled out the fortune. Inside the bathroom, Rabbit found himself doing the same. Both read the message inside the cookie aloud.
An adventure soon begins, its prize reflected in another's eyes.
When what you see is what you lack, then selfless love will change you back.
At its last word, Rabbit was jolted around, sinking down to the floor as the entire room began to tremble. Hare stared wide-eyed as the diamonds on a nearby light fixture jiggled like eels. To protect their sensitive bunny heads, they both rose their arms above their ears and curled up until the trembling ceased. Then, Hare stood up and started to smile. "What a rush!" And he went to join the others. He found the group on their way to the door, and Hatter turned around, lending his hand for Hare to hold.
"Everything alright, Hare? Dee said he saw you and Rabbit swishing your hands around a lot."
"Didn't you feel that earthquake?!"
Hatter squinted. "Nooo...?" Hare squinted back, but Hatter dismissed it. "Sheesh, I can't wait to get home. All that dancing sent the tea straight through the tubes, you know?"
"Where's my designated driver?!" The Queen's voice suddenly boomed from behind them. They had to stand around waiting for an additional five minutes while the Queen told the hostess how hard it was only having one personal servant. When Rabbit appeared, he was cleaned up but still legitimately pissed off. He ignored Hatter and Hare and held the Queen's shoes while she wobbled into the royal car.
"I'm serious, Hatter! There was an earthquake! It must've been at least a 4 or 5!"
"You're shitting me! There was no earthquake!"
Hare shook his head in a disapproving way at his partner and dug his spoon into his Ben & Jerry's Cinnamon Bun ice cream, but Hatter had the nerve to crawl across the couch and hover over him. Hare scrunched up and made sure the spoon reached its destination, then said with a full mouth, "forget it; you're not getting a taste."
"A taste of what, if I may ask?"
"The-", he started, but Hatter kissed him and retracted with a very flat, mischievous grin. Hare set the ice cream on the coffee table as innocently as possible, then army-rolled off the couch and escaped across the carpet. After he pulled himself up, Hatter was already pursuing him around the house. After a round through the kitchen and up and down the hall, they ended up on either side of the living room, Hare keeping the coffee table between them no matter which way Hatter turned. At a particularly opportune moment, Hare darted down the hall again, but slipped on the worn floor by the door as Hatter caught the back of his suspenders. They both went down. Not only that, but they rolled out the "OUT" door and started smothering each other at the bottom of the stairs, with Hatter's hat brushing against the tablecloth of the tea table.
Hare giggled, but began to tell him "alright, that's enough." Naturally, nothing happened, so Hare stretched his face as far away as possible and extended his arms between them. "Hatter, get off of mee~!" But Hatter just found a way to roll him over and hold him at the waist. "HEY!" Hare reiterated, much louder. Hatter stopped.
"Is there a problem here?" Hatter asked. Shit, and he had to be so handsome when he did.
"There certainly is, Mr. Hatter!"
"And what is it?"
"I'm not in the mood!" Hare answered, as easily as he would tell someone he preferred his hotdogs without onions. Except, in this case, he wanted no hotdog at all. Hatter scrunched up his face at this realization.
"What do you mean, you're not in the mood? We've been at it like rabbits! Forever! Or-, wel-, a few months anyway."
"Trust me, we're nothing like rabbits." Hare rolled his eyes, and then swung his leg off of Hatter, deciding to lie there thoughtfully. "I just think we've been having a little too much sex, Hatter. We used to spend this time inventing and... talking about our feelings."
"You know, for the record," Hatter tried, "you say plenty about how you feel during sex, it just isn't coherent."
"But that's just one way I feel!" Hare stood up and raised his hands. "Besides, I don't think you deserve it after what happened the other day." Hatter stood up immediately and loomed over him.
"What did I do?!"
"...You erased my answering machine!" Hatter's jaw dropped. "Without asking!"
"You told me you had listened to all the messages and that they were from your mom!"
"That doesn't mean that you can just make decisions about what to do with them! I might've needed some information," Hare explained.
"Okay," Hatter said with a blank face. "I'm sorry." Hare leaned from side to side, his eyes remaining on Hatter. "I'll never do it again. Never, ever, ever, even if- you ask me to, I'll say 'no, Hare, it would be best if their fate rested in your hands. I know how important this is.'"
Hare just stood there.
"Am I starting to look more attractive now?" Hatter asked.
He began to nod his own head, but Hare gave him a slow wag of the finger and went back into the house to find his ice cream. He let Hatter have a little taste, though. Of the ice cream, I mean.