Disclaimer: I own nothing of Alice. Belongs to the SyFy Network and all that jazz. Same with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and any words borrowed from the Jabberwocky poem. Also do not own the elements borrowed from Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland.
A/N: An insight into Hatter's mind and past while he's being interrogated at the Casino...
Hatters were mad. Always had been. At least, that's what his da told him.
Don't think, can't think, lie, pretend, forget the truth. Riddles, think of riddles.
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
David was inclined to think perhaps his father was exaggerating when he spoke about their ancestors. The Hatters were a proud clan, but there was always something a little off within them. Some thought it was brain rot, brought on by working with mercury. In the past, his forefathers had served in the Royal Hatter capacity to the rulers of Wonderland (though one had been demoted to page for reasons now forgotten and unimportant). Stained fingers and patchy hair, perpetual tea parties and recitations about the Jabberwocky slayer were the minimal effects.
The thing was, the family madness stemmed not just from outside forces, but inside the soul. Everyone was a little mad in Wonderland, but few could say they inherited the level that came with the Mad Hatters. And strangely enough, they never appeared to be mad to begin with. It lay dormant, but the insanity needed a trigger, a catalyst to cause the bubbling brew to boil over in the blood (Hatter preferred alliteration to rhyme, if he was honest. And there was precious little he was honest about anymore). All it would take was a spark, and the hot rush of madness would engulf the clan member, and that would be it.
It manifested in different ways, the intensity of emotion amplifying the process. Some of the family were inclined to different shades of madness, their Defining Madness as it were. His da was Mad with Purpose, driven to excel and achieve the best that he could to define his life. His legacy was a shining one, one that Hatter did not feel he could ever live up to. Da was one of the first leaders of the Resistance, proposing the idea of making safe houses around the great city headed by hand-chosen contacts who could play both sides of the game. He handpicked his own son to do so, so Mad was he to make the machine get the oil it needed to get off the ground. Da ran the first Tea Shop, marketing Oysters to save them. And he trained David to do the same.
It should be noted that this Madness, much like the other manifestations in the blood, had led to his demise. Still, he met his execution head on (or off, David mused morbidly), baring his neck for severance with the Purpose of keeping the Resistance safe from the Queen's authority. He hated what he had to do to achieve that Purpose, but it was still done.
Too much, Tweedles. Hurts to think, to lie…must say nothing. Remember your riddles, lad, hide the truth in lies. Say nothing. Don't think.
"The clockwork's not ticking properly."
David was not that driven. Not with Purpose, not enough to go truly mad. He'd never been Mad about anything in his life. He was the anomaly in the Hatter clan, having nothing to be Mad about in his entire life. Admittedly, his life was shorter than others in the grand scheme of Wonderland, but he never had something to be crazy about.
Certainly there were times that he was in over his head, where he wasn't thinking properly. Recent events involving a certain Alice, Just Alice as she'd termed herself, had caused him to forget himself. He was through playing both sides of the game; running his mouth no longer kept him out of trouble. False philanthropy aside, he wanted to do his part for his people now, and it had to take an Oyster to almost literally kick his ass to do so.
But David still wasn't mad. Not for selling the Oyster tea, not for running the game, or smuggling, or being part of the Resistance in an effort to live up to his family's legacy. Once, when he was younger, he remembered being taken to a specialist, one who examined the Madness of his clan with great interest. The doctor had shrugged his shoulders when he escorted young David out of his office. His Madness was there, hiding deep down inside, but it would take more than an Idea or a Moral Inclination to call it out.
Funny how to anyone else, he would be considered normal. His family had nicknamed him the Freak Hatter (the unkind relations, anyway).
Don't think, can't think, hurts too much to speak, hurts to much not to. Alice, where's Alice? No, don't think about Alice, dear. Riddles, lad. Riddles.
"Maybe crumbs in the butter…"
He had once thought he'd been Mad to Prove Himself, to show himself as good a Resistance member as his Da. He figured that with his smooth talk and cool calm, it could get him anything from both the Suits and the Fighters, and he'd be better. The desire flamed out when he realized that he didn't actually want to be that person, that he didn't want to Prove Himself at the cost of his own life. It was still part of the legacy, though, to fight for the downtrodden of Wonderland.
Back before the Hatters were called Hatters, back before Wonderland was permanently called Wonderland, a great-grandfather had been a Resistance fighter. Another Red Queen, formerly of Hearts, another psychotic House of Cards to be tumbled down. The Alice had helped weaken the Line of Jabberwocky, making them into mindless beasts (dangerous still, but not with an intelligence that their blood used to bear), and the Mad Hatter then had charged into battle behind her.
Just Alice, the Alice David knew, was a fighter, too. Not enough to slay a Jabberwocky, but she had taken on the Suits and held her own. She did not have a sledgehammer of an arm, but her kicks and jabs were deadly enough that she didn't need brute force. But he wasn't Mad for a Fight. He was good at defending himself, but he wasn't bloodthirsty enough to be Mad for it.
Don't think about Alice. It isn't safe. Don't think about anything.
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?!"
With the appearance of Alice, gears ground at a faster pace, all channels were open, and plans went into motion more quickly than Hatter could ever had imagined. How could a singular girl, woman really, who half the time looked bedraggled and soaked to the bone, be the point around which everything revolved? A pretty girl, an Oyster, in a blue dress that matched her eyes…
Best not think about Alice now, Hatter dear, best not. Not here, not here. Oh, have I made a rhyme?
His eyes stared straight ahead, suffering the electric prods as best he could. He had to keep his mouth shut, couldn't let them find the Great Library, couldn't let them hurt Alice, not his Alice. His silence would protect everyone, especially Alice. Three phrases repeated, out his mouth from his brain, and in them he found solace. In them he found a safe haven for all.
Don't think. Don't hurt me, stop, no, don't hurt Alice, not-his-Alice-not-the-library-not-Alice.
"The clockwork's not ticking properly!"
He felt fried, muscles weak and jaw aching from clenching too hard. A punch to the temple, a jab at the eye, neither made him talk. Frumious Tweedles, they were having their fun at his expense. Still, he was not about to say anything they wanted to hear. He'd sworn to protect the Resistance at any cost, and now, he was living up to that promise.
Because they needed to get the Oysters out of Wonderland, for the betterment of everyone. Because Alice was an Oyster. Because he needed to shield her with his silence.
Riddles, lad, do you remember your riddles? Or have you become the riddle?
"Maybe crumbs in the butter!"
David was breaking, he was in pain, strapped to a chair and enduring torture that one wouldn't do to a dying animal. Exhaustion, his feelings all muddled up. Where was Alice? Where was he?
"Tell me where the Great Library is."
The robotic voice of the Queen's pet assassin cut through the haze, and Hatter just looked at him. The body of an old foe paired with some household jar that could've been bought from any secondhand store. Hatter would've laughed if he didn't know of the danger lurking behind the blank face of Mad March. The baleful glance Hatter directed at the rabbit head (how did the Carpenter work that one out?) spoke volumes. He wouldn't give out the library's location, not while he drew breath. And he needed to live.
He needed to live for Alice.
"Yeah, didn't think you'd crack."
Hatter glared. Nobody ever expected him to crack, to break into madness to save his own skin. He couldn't be mad if he wanted to be. He'd never been Mad before.
Not before Alice.
The amalgamation of man and mechanized cookie jar chuckled under its breath, toying with something up his sleeve. His harsh accent battered Hatter's ears, causing him to grind his teeth in frustration.
"In that case, there's no need to keep you alive."
Don't toy with me. Don't speak, don't think. Watch. See. Learn. Breathe.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little bat. How I wonder what you're at…" Mad March crowed, revealing a switchblade, pointedly tossing it from hand to hand. Slithy man-machine. If he had a true face, Hatter imagined it would be pulled into a smirking sneer. He twitched, glimpsed his bindings, and stared straight ahead again.
Your riddles and rhymes, lad, remember them…where's Alice?
No, can't die, must live…why is a raven like a writing desk, Alice?
As the blade swung down, he pushed back. The fight became a blur, the chair became a shield, and Hatter rippled with energy. His eyes burned with intensity as he stared down his opponent. Something inside him turned to white-hot fire.
Must live, must live for Alice, must get out, find Alice! Blue dress, brown hair, fighting Alice! Alice-with-eyes-that-see-more-than-Just-Hatter! Fight for Alice! Frabjous Alice…
The Mad March jabbed and twisted the blade, his rage making him crazy for Hatter's blood. Slicing the sledgehammer free, the assassin managed only one more wide arch before his world—and face—crumbled under Hatter's punch.
Hatter stood over the writhing, headless mess, giggling madly. The rush of adrenaline was nothing he'd ever dealt with before. So much more was churning inside him than he'd ever felt in his life, rotating around a pretty girl in a wet dress and a fire in her soul that he wanted to match. He closed his eyes, tilted his head back, and breathed deeply, dissipating the haze that had surrounded him. He was so…beamish. Cutting loose his remaining bond, he found his way out of the dripping, oozing interrogation room.
He glanced back one more time, watching Mad March shudder and shut down.
"Why is a raven like a writing desk?" he whispered to himself, a smile gracing his split lips.
Can you tell me why, Alice? I have a feeling you can.
Hatters were mad. Always had been, and always for their own reasons.
And David Hatter was Mad for Alice.
A/N 2: Like it? Have an opinion on it? Review it, if you so choose, then!