"Mary had a... li'...ttle laaamb... li'le lamb, li'le laaaaamb..." Hatter sang to himself with his eyes half closed. Rabbit was shoving him back and forth and clawing him around the waist to keep him from sending them both down.
"Godamnit, Hatter, stop swaying!"
"Maaryyyy! Oh'Haaare," he continued drawling. It made the trip to the hat-shaped house last an eternity, but Rabbit finally got them there and tugged him through the front door. Hatter flopped onto the couch and smiled to himself as Rabbit went into the kitchen. He came back with a glass of water and some aspirin.
"Here. Take these and drink up. You're gonna feel that alcohol in no time, I'm sure~. And by 'feel', I do not mean 'feel fuzzy butterflies and rainbows,'", "Hare" told him, though there appeared to be more than one of him for a second and Hatter's heavy hand didn't manage to swat away the pills, but landed over the edge of the couch and kept falling. Hatter's face met the cushion.
"I'ontwannit," he said, with his flattened cheek obstructing his speech. Rabbit lowered to the floor beside him and glowered.
"Oh, Hatta~, what has gotten into you? Since when do you drink until you're incapacitated?!"
"I'ma sad loney Hatter, tha'swhy."
"Oh, come on. One day without Hare being pappy-smappy by your side, and this is what you're reduced to?" Hatter paused for a second.
"Why're you referring to'urself in the thir'person?"
"Oh, I didn't say 'Hare', I said...'me here'," he corrected, but Hatter looked like he had entered a serious reverie. He propped himself up and his eyes wandered somewhere, which Rabbit found to be the mantel. There were pictures of all his friends, but one of Rabbit himself had been placed in the fore-front. "Oh, dear..."
"I'ust... I just feel bad about Rabbit. I thought I's getting somm'here with him, but I'on't... I'ont think'e likes me any," and he hiccuped in between, "more."
Rabbit let out a ragged sigh and reached over to pat Hatter on the knee. "There~, there~. Rabbit likes you plenty. He just needs his space."
"B'I want us't have more space togeeether," Hatter moaned, grabbing a throw pillow and smothering it with unrequited love.
"You can have more time together, but it will be as friends. Let's not get ridiculous, here~."
"But Haaaare, I... Do you'ver think some'n can love two bunnies?" Hatter's fingers stroked the pillow before Rabbit grimaced and yanked it away. He threw it to the side and put his hands on his hips, coming to stance and hovering over him.
"No, I do not! And I doubt either of us would appreciate it! Besides, you don't love m- Rabbit. You do not love Rabbit, I say! You love one single bunny and it's- it's me!" Hatter gazed up at "Hare", who still looked religiously prim before he bent down, grabbed each side of Hatter's face, and administered a less-than-passionate kiss. After their lips broke, Rabbit tried to convince his "partner" that he had enjoyed what just happened, but resorted to dusting off his shirt and clearing his throat. "Now you drink that water~ and do as I say! I've gotta go home!"
And Rabbit dashed off and hurried back to Hare's, where he flung himself up the porch steps and burst into tears in one of the rigid wicker chairs. "Waaaaaah! My life is ruined! ...And I didn't think it could get any worse," he whined. Just then, the front door abruptly opened.
"Sonny! Where have you been all this time?!" Rabbit broke his face away from his hands and his eyes rose to the figure in the doorway. His guest was practically Hare's replica if he were sixty and a woman. Rabbit straightened up and wiped off his face in embarrassment. "Are you alright? Did something come up?" He still really didn't know how to address this surprise. "Didn't you remember I was visiting? You were supposed to be at the train station at six'o'clock sharp! I had to call a taxi!"
"I-I'm sorry. Hatter was... very sick," Rabbit bullshitted, but it was partly true.
"Well! It must've been awful. I can't imagine it any other way if you would forget about your mother!" Rabbit stared at her for a long while, and she stared back through those red, retro glasses, her eyes beginning to squint with suspicion. "Well, come inside, Hare, I've been waiting for hours! And why in the world is your house such a pigsty? I didn't raise you to make messes like this!"
"I'm sorry," Rabbit responded blankly as they crossed the threshold.
"Oh, and I took the liberty of cleaning out your fridge. There was a science experiment in the back. And you know nutella's actually bad for you. I threw it out."
At this, his mother found a place on the couch, crossed her legs, and sipped at some tea while Rabbit stood in the doorway. "Well, sit down. Tell me everything new! Are you and Hatter getting married yet? It should've happened by now, I'd think."
Back at the palace, the party had ended early, and Hare had been cleaning ferociously. There had been no secret pool party, but that cake sure did make a splash. All of the Queen's flowers needed to be watered down, which was no good for them – they were hanging their heads as low as his when the night was through. The Queen had gone off to take a frustrated bubble bath so she could ruminate about "Hare"'s "emphasis" to her ball, the only thing that anyone would ever remember about it. Meanwhile, Hare, after what was accurately described by Rabbit as "an Olympics of servitude", and the Queen's comments about how he and Hatter were the most troublesome, uncivilized Wonderlandians ever, trudged up the stairs to Rabbit's bedroom. He did not want to lie in that bed despite how severely his muscles ached. He did not want to wash up in the bathroom and see himself in the mirror, or change into a nightgown. He did not want to be Rabbit anymore! And it was his need to be distant from Hatter that was worst of all!
He found, sometimes – not by any means often, but occasionally – that Hatter was superficially committed to him, that he really just needed to satiate his most carnal of appetites. After all, Hare was very good at bringing him food and sex. However, this being so, he looked back on it with a smile of relief in some sense, because it seemed Hatter had fallen in love with him all over again when he was trapped inside a 70-year-old rabbit. On top of that, while he was inside this 70-year-old rabbit's body, he had lured him into doing palace chores. Hare just wanted to jump in Hatter's lap and go on and on and on about how he was as sweet as chamomile tea with honey.
But. He. Could. Do. No. Such. THING!
Hare looked down to his gigantic, fuzzy, white hips, stretched his fingers over his dried, wrinkling face, felt the exhausting weight of his body when he dropped to the foot of the bed, which made the most obnoxious squeak ever, and started to cry. "OGHHH, THIS JUST WON'T DO."
Although for a few minutes, he sniffled and whined about the predicament, he absent-mindedly got up and started reading Rabbit's mail (if he was going to be him tomorrow he figured he might as well have a heads up). But it was just junk. He opened the drawer and inside he found some personal letters, and he had no reserve about reading them.
"Dear Uncle Carbuncle,
Thank you for all of those tasty candies from Chocolate City. I ate almost half on the same day they arrived, and then my mom took them away. Maybe that's good because I had a tummy ache later. I hope that you had fun going to that shopping place with the Queen. What do you think of the book "The Great Carrot Thief?" Mom does not believe that momeraths can chase a bunny in swarms. I still think it's funny, and we have the same sense of humor! Well, I should send this to you, and I have homework still to do. Write back soon!
Hare looked around, and sure enough, he found "The Great Carrot Thief" sitting on Rabbits nightstand. He smiled and read on.
Soon, he had gone through several letters that Rabbit kept in a neat stack inside the drawer, all between him and his nephew, with phrases shared such as "I'm proud of you," and "you're the only one who thought I could do it", "I want you to become more than a servant," and "it's too bad you live all the way in Wonderland." Hare's eyes were glossy all over again, so he had to stop.
He wandered over to the bed, undid the latches on his rollerblades, and tossed them away, then stretched over the mattress. When his head rolled over so he could see the nightstand, he came face to face with a picture of the gang from what appeared to be a birthday party. Rabbit was standing in front of a carrot cake while everybody else leaned in with goofy faces. For a moment, something flashed across his face concerning Rabbit that the Hare of yesterday would consider unforgivably sentimental, but just as he rolled over and reached for the knob of the nightstand, he was sure he heard something down in the royal gardens – something bold and soulful. After rolling one way, he rolled the other and approached the window. There were several woeberry trees obstructing his view, especially in the dark, but he could see that familiar man in purple bobbing his head with an acoustic in hands, singing his heart out. Hare knew he was drunk, but he was surprisingly more articulate through song.
"My loneliness is killing me~! AND IIII-"
"HATTER, what are you doing?!"
"I must confess, I still believe! Still believe!" He added in shameless falsetto.
"Hatter, you're going to wake up the Queen and I'll get in trouble!"
"When I'm not with you I lose my mind, give me a SIIIIIGN!" He paused when "Rabbit" cleared away from the window, his disappearance throwing him off a bit. He glanced around for a good minute, then decided to "woo" him back, sure he was just hiding behind the wall, throwing discretion over his enthusiasm. He took a deep breath. "HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TI-"
But "Rabbit" foot-ball slammed him. They both rolled into some shrubbery and sat up with leaves covering them. Hatter hardly noticed as he scooped up "Rabbit's" hands. "Rabbit, les'be friends. Les'be be really really good friends!"
"Rabbit" slapped away his hands. "No! We can't!"
"W-who's stooopping us?!" Hatter asked, leaning forward with breath that could light a match.
"The Queen, Hare, society."
"Oh, nonsenseee, I've got Hare's blessing!" He wailed, and "Rabbit" leaned forward to cover his mouth.
"No, you do not! I don't give you permission to cheat on me with Rabbit!" Hatter squinted. "Listen, I am exhausted, Hatter. I had to clean up cake for hours! Life in the palace just... doesn't permit what you want from me!"
"Bu'we'll make it wooork! ...I know what to do - les'run awayyy together!" And he tried to grab the guitar again and play a little tune. "It'll be beautiful~~!"
"No! We're all staying in Wonderland, godamnit!"
"But I love you!"
"You don't love me! You love Hare, you idiot! HARE!"
"WHAT'S THAT RACKET OUT THERE?" They heard the deep, angry voice of the Queen project from an upstairs window, which was suddenly filled with light. By now, Hare had heard her sudden objections to things he was doing all day long, and he recoiled and even twitched, but as he got to his feet to evade the situation altogether, Hatter flung his arms around his ankle. Hare had to tug himself free and kicked Hatter in the face in the process, but Hatter quickly pursued him, even if his path was a little zigzagged.
"I SAY, WHO'S OUT THERE?" they heard the Queen in the distance, but they were already escaping the garden.
At that same time, Rabbit was scuttling in his penny-loafers from the house. She was a prying and domineering woman! He had to get away, and he realized while they were watching Lifetime that he had never confronted the Caterpillar about this problem. There was a chance he'd seem like he needed a cozy stay at Wonderland Psychiatric Hospital, but it really didn't matter because if he didn't have this sorted he would do more than seem like it.
To his utter dismay, when he burst into the darkness like his escape was granted to him, June was quick to react. He was sure, even, that he'd seen her throw her teacup over her shoulder and bolt for him as soon as he was leaving! "Hare, where are you going?!"
Back with Hare, Hatter was asking the same question with a little less clarity, and both of them were now breathing like they were a few huffs away from asthma attacks. Hare had to think quick, so he hid behind a tree and waited for Hatter to pass. Once his companion had wandered off, he took a different direction and ended up in the Mushroom Forest. With much less haste, he walked through while catching his breath and squeezing the cramp in his waist. But from somewhere nearby he heard footsteps and equally accelerated breath. He didn't dare speak, but the breath kept getting close, until finally he bumped right into the source.
They both broke into shouts.
"Rabbit!" Hare gripped Rabbit's arms and let out a ragged sigh of relief. "Oh, God... Hatter's chasing me."
"Well, your mother is chasing me!"
"Ma? What the hell's she doing here?"
"I could ask you! He'a~, we've got to do something about this right now! Her Majesty may've fired my ass, but I want my life back! I cahn't take this torture any longer! You have truly saint-like patience to manage that hatted man, and I only had to do it very occasionally today. Furthermore, no offense, but your mother is insufferable."
"Well, I could say the same about living at the palace! I've been working all day! I know just what you mean about Bunny Solitary Confinement!"
"Listen – I am sorry about the cake. We all know it was Hatta~'s fault."
"Oh, no, we couldn't blame him-"
"Yes, we could! Her Majesty truly has it out for you. The treatment I've received from her today over very little offenses proves it. I want to speak with her... somehow... provided my safety is assured... provided I get my body back!"
And before he knew it he was sobbing. Hare shook his head in disbelief. "Oh, Rabbit, that's one of the nicest things you've ever said to me!" And Hare cried, too. They threw themselves in each other's arms and wet each other's shoulders with tears. "You work way too hard, Rabbit!"
"I know, I know..."
"I had no idea Hatter could be so nice to you. It made me feel like a real jerk!" And the sobbing continued, so loudly and passionately that neither noticed that the texture beneath their fingertips changed. Rabbit was clutching a stiff button-down shirt and his arms closed around his Buddy in Angst much more easily. Hare's cries were muffled beneath nothing but fuzz. They broke apart and slowly began to pat each other.
"My carrots, He'a~, we changed back!"
"What the hell is all this racket?" A sleepy baritone voice asked from just behind a few mushrooms. They looked around and saw a mountain of rolls nearby, slightly jiggling in the dark, night's breeze. Before they could properly react, they heard Hatter's voice cast from nearby, still as desperate to find his bunny as before.
Hare and Rabbit both cut through the mushrooms and looked up to the shadow of the Caterpillar's.
"Sorry about that. We're just running away from Hatter. He's drunk and confused."
"Well, I'm trying to get some bloody rest! Here, take this," and he handed Rabbit some kind of object that he felt up and down until he could identify it as a frying pan. In short distance, there was a pool of moonlight dipping through the treetops. Rabbit stepped there, where Hatter could see him, but turned towards Hare.
"You don't mind, do you?"
"I'll make one exception," Hare answered.
Once they dragged Hatter back to Hare's, he was back to singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and Rabbit had to explain that he was so sick that Hare had to retrieve him for constant observation. June had been standing on the porch huffing and puffing over her son's consistently odd behavior, but her face broke into concern when Hare was dragging Hatter's body up the stairs by the armpits. Both of the bunnies laid him down on Hare's bed, looking down on him, and quickly stole a moment to themselves as he babbled something about birds. "So..." Hare started.
"Let's just never~ talk about this again. And... we will never return to that restaurant. I don't think the Queen much liked it anyway."
"Right," Hare agreed.
They closed the door on him and went back down to the kitchen, but June seemed to be suspiciously quiet at the sight of this tall, white Rabbit of ripened age in her son's house, a newly regal air about him, although he also had a few leaves in his fur.
"The White Rabbit. I'm surprised to see you here..." she said. Rabbit darted his eyes around.
"Well, you know, I had to help He'a~..."
"At nearly midnight?"
"Well, I can tell when a friend is in trouble. Hatta~ was far too heavy for one bunny to carry. Now, if you'll excuse me, I should head back to the palace." He curtly bowed at the both of them and shared a knowing glance with Hare, with something of a smile on his face.
June cleared the doorway for him with a sheepish grin and waved her hand in his direction in her daintiest manner. Hare took a moment to gaze at that bunny with admiration, but caught a similar expression on his mother as he had found on Hatter all day. "Mom, don't even."
Rabbit's knees were so sore at this point that his legs were beginning to go numb. He trudged up the same palace stairs that had lead Hare to his bedroom, changed into his pajamas, but noticed his nightstand drawer was ajar. He checked inside and gasped. Where was it?! He looked all around and finally checked under the mattress. "Agh, good... he didn't find my dir~ty joke book."
Just then, there was knocking on the door.
"Ahh! Coming, yo'a~ Majesty!"
He opened it up, and there was the Queen in her heart-patterned nightgown and hair-curlers. "Rabbit – I could've sworn I heard someone singing in the garden a little while ago. Did you remember to close all of the gates?"
"Uhhh, uhh, well, actually, very recently I went to check. I'm terribly sorry if it was-"
"Oh, no, it's nothing. I was just making sure. You never quite know how a ball will end, especially this one. Here," she said, and presented an envelope. "It's your paycheck. I'm giving it to you early. You did a good job today, Rabbit, especially after what happened with that buffoon. The guests even gave you tips. It's all in here."
Rabbit swelled with glee and accepted the money, then held it to his chest, his eyes beginning to glitter with tears. "Oh, I missed you!" Without thinking, he reached for the Queen and hugged her tightly. When he let go, she had tensed in the shoulders and retracted from the doorway.
"Yeees, well, goodnight..." Rabbit watched her walk away. Then he closed the door with one hand and covered a yawn with the other.
Everyone in Wonderland, truly everyone, slept like a log that night. Wonderland was four hours ahead of Alice's world, but she had to spend just as much time finishing the homework she hadn't touched all day, and flopped into bed still in her jeans. The Tweedles had done so much of their own mischief, including finding their way to Hatter's hot-tub without his permission, that their beds became landing pads. The Queen had had her share of excitement, not always positive, and gave herself permission to sleep in, and following her lead, Rabbit pressed the snooze button for an entire hour. Hatter's liver spent the whole night recuperating from his chosen prescription for loneliness, and Hare, though he no longer had the body which had done all of yesterday's deeds, was as exhausted as if he did.
Finally, Hatter rolled over into Hare's arms, who was propped up in bed, peeking out the window at his sun-splashed garden, where the rims of plants glowed, and the morning sky was a color as tasty looking as cantaloupe. "Ogh, my head..." Hatter murmured. Hare knew all about it and stroked the hair out of his face. Eventually, he opened his eyes and found their angle peculiar. "Where are we?"
"We're at my place," Hare answered. Hatter squinted before dropping his face to Hare's chest again. "Hehghehgh, you were so drunk last night, I had to take care of you." Hatter thought this one out.
"...Wasn't there a ball?"
"Yes... Don't worry, you had a good time. Too good, actually."
"Y'know, it's funny, because I had a dream I was there... and I was... I was serenading Rabbit, and he was looking out a window, like, like Romeo and Juliet." He started to laugh much harder than for Hare was prepared, so Hare forced himself to giggle. Then, Hatter curled his arms around him more tightly. "Mmm... I missed you."
"Heehgghghg, good... Yes, yesterday was very busy. But, you know... absence made the heart grow fonder." For a long moment, Hare just smiled and waited.
Shortly after, June's feet were sliding across the hall carpet in fuzzy pink slippers. She was approaching Hare's room and sipping a cup of coffee. She inhaled, about to say something to the closed door, when her ears caught the unmistakable sound of a mattress squeaking rhythmically. With extreme caution, she backed away and went back down the stairs.