A/N: IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ THIS OR YOU WILL BE REALLY CONFUSED.
Now, this story is based on a videogame called American McGee's Alice, and its sequel, Alice: Madness Returns. It's a fantastically horrible take on Alice in Wonderland, if you haven't heard of it.
Now, in this story, "Alice" has been to Wonderland many times in this case, and not just the two times that Lewis Carroll is famous for in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. What she does during these times is anybody's guess, and only one event is among these time periods is important. You will find out about that later. All you need to know is that Alice has fragmented memories, which she must collect in Wonderland, and that she often uses manifestations of childhood memories she does have to help her survive.
Quotes have been taken from many versions of Alice in Wonderland, so not all of this insane genius is mine. Considering most of the characters have lost their minds, please pardon any OOCness you may see present in this story.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Song Prompts: Taking Tea in Dreamland ~ American McGee's Alice soundtrack. Intro Mother Earth ~ Within Temptation. White Rabbit ~ Egypt Central. Alice, Alice ~ Victim Effect. And many others. Perhaps I'll make a playlist and post it on my profile.
Beyond Shattered Glass
Her eyes opened, and she was not surprised, even though she wasn't where she was supposed to be. Bulma wasn't usually where she was supposed to be anyhow, and she'd been to this particular place before, and so it does not stun her.
Her expression was impassive, because, really, she had gotten tired of this. World-jumping had never really been her favorite thing, and yet fate sought to make it her forte. She tucked her long blue hair behind one ear – she had missed it being this length, she realized – and looked down at herself; ah, her old blue dress, and the white apron. The bloodstains on the apron had disappeared, as usual, but then, for a long time now, she had not been surprised by a clean dress that was never washed. Besides, it would be dirty again soon enough.
Her surroundings would be considered bizarre by anyone else; she was in the midst of a thick jungle, or so it seemed, with murky swamps and huge, flat rocks that formed a sort of flooded path, and she herself was standing on a giant, lone lily pad with a diameter at least a foot longer than she, had she lain down. Everything was covered in moss and vines, and the air was layered with thin, morning fog that smelled slightly of old tea, rotten cake, and salt.
She deducted where she was immediately – the Vale of Tears – and decided that she might as well start walking, since it was never a good idea to sit still in Wonderland.
So Bulma hopped from the lily pad, which was slowly floating downstream, and onto one of the rocks. Her black boots didn't slip on the smooth, wet surface; Bulma rarely slipped here. She jumped from stone to stone, one foot on each, her arms spread out a bit for balance, until she'd made it across the river. Here, she found herself standing near a pool, the source of the swampy ground, which was formed by purple water coming from the eyes of a large statue of a young girl that looked suspiciously like her.
She remembered where this salty water could have come from, and Bulma decided right then that she'd never again touch Eat Me Cake if she could help it.
"Well, well," a voice purred above her. "Look who it is. Back from the dead, are we, Alice?"
Bulma looked up and spotted the source of the voice immediately; he was hard to miss. "Cheshire," she greeted curtly.
"Darling," he said, rolling his r's on purpose, his huge grin lighting up his face. "Do call me Goku. 'Cheshire' is hardly my name."
"Nor is mine 'Alice'," she replied snippily.
"Ah, but you are an Alice, are you not?" his huge grin widened, showing sharp, pearly teeth.
"No," she said, as she always did. "And I wish you wouldn't tease me so by repeating stupid questions."
He licked his bloodied canine, still grinning, and hopped down from his perch on the tree. Bulma took in his form; he was tall, pale, and his body was covered in sharp, jagged tattoos, which were most likely some sort of cultish devil nonsense as far as Bulma was concerned. The grey fur that covered his body stopped at his chest, and disappeared past the brim of his ripped, loose pants, and that was all he wore. His feet were bare, nails sharpened to a point, as were his fingers, and there was a hole in one of his sharply pointed, feline ears, which peaked out from underneath his wild hair on the top of his head. In the other ear, there was a large gold hoop, and despite this, the ear didn't seem to droop at all. His grin was pristine white, except for that one tooth that seemed doused in blood, and the two beside it, which were stained red on the nearest sides.
His long, scrawny tail waved at her, and he grinned his wicked grin again. Bulma looked at him coolly, and said, "You've gotten quite mangy, cat."
He snickered. "That I have, that I have. And you have gotten quite sour, Alice."
"Don't call me Alice," she repeated, "And I'm not sour."
"What's wrong with Wonderland, Cheshire?" she asked flatly, seeing as that conversation was going nowhere.
"What isn't?" he replied, examining his nails. His glowing golden eyes drifted up to her lazily, and he said with mock sympathy, "What's wrong, Alice?"
She scowled at him.
"What's wrong, Bulma?"
"My parents are…gone." Dead. She meant dead, but she said 'gone'. They were dead.
"What else is wrong, Bulma?"
"What's broken, Bulma?"
She nearly snarled and shook the memory. "I tire of your games, Cat," she said, glaring at him.
Goku blinked his golden eyes, and the tattoos that curled around them and up past his brow seemed to move for a moment. "Ah, well, you were never one to love the truth, Alice. Your whole world has been a lie, always." He paused, then added slyly, "Why, Alice, I'd even say you were afraid of it."
Her blue eyes narrowed. "I fear nothing," she said, matter-of-factly.
"Not even the Red Queen?" he purred.
She raised a blue brow. "Of course not," she said. "I never feared her. Why would you –"
"Well then, dear, I daresay you should kill her, and her playthings," the Cheshire Cat said impassively. "You're sufficiently qualified to kick some a- to boot these creature's nether regions." At her strange look, he added, "You know, dear, every adventure requires a first step. Trite, but true, even here. Go on then, be off."
Bulma exhaled slowly and decided not to kill the cat, and turned away from him towards her original destination. The cat climbed back up in the tree, and lay on his belly, and said, "Alice."
She paused, only because she knew he'd never call her by her name.
"Where are you going?"
She was silent for a moment, then stepped over a tree root and kept walking. "The Hatter's Mansion."
"Oh?" Goku murmured, crawling across the branches above her. "How dangerous. How foolish, Alice."
She lifted her chin in reply.
"You know," the Cheshire Cat murmured, "Confidence and rashness are sides of a single coin."
"As are stupidity and annoyingness," she quipped back.
"Hm," he said dryly. "If I didn't know any better, Alice, I'd say you insulted me. Nonetheless, I shall give you one piece of advice." At this, he stopped talking altogether.
Bulma gave him a prompting look over her shoulder.
"Haste makes waste, so I rarely hurry," he said, quite slowly. "But if a ferret was about to dart up my dress, I'd run."
She sniffed. "You don't wear a dress, Cheshire," she said, purposefully ignoring his cryptic warning, and with that, she walked away.
The Hatter's Domain was worse than she remembered it; now, it seemed dark and sinister, like it was haunted and rotted away. It still floated, high above her head, so she looked around for the eye-shaped crank that summoned a giant elevator that was formed like a giant glass teapot. She climbed into it, and it carried her up, and Bulma was left again to navigate through the twisting city that was the Hatter's Domain. As much as she'd have liked to avoid it, the Mansion was in the center of the tea-themed province, and to get to it, she would have to endure the creatures that patrolled the Domain like Automatons and the Hatter's Minions, who were small, green, big nosed creatures that thought it was a marvelous idea to use tea ware as weapons.
The Domain was full of giant tea-sets and clock pieces that floated unnecessarily far away from her, so Bulma jumped –
She loved being strong here, and she was thankful for the blue butterflies that flew underneath her feet and let her float, enabling her to get from place to place, as though on a chessboard.
The castle was strangely quiet; normally, the Hatter's domain was a loud, noisy, obnoxious place. And yet, all Bulma heard was the ticking of clocks and the occasional clink of what were obviously tea-cups and plates. But no singing was to be heard, and that was what surprised her.
But of course the Hatter's little minions were still wandering about, and their laughter she heard plenty of. So Bulma manifested her weapon, her Vorpal Blade (which, really, was merely an extravagant kitchen knife), and killed them, and wondered when the Hatter started using mechanical creatures to protect his domain. And how realistic they looked too, almost as though they were once alive.
But something was amiss; Bulma listened, and the further she went into the Domain, the louder it got. It sounded like the Doormouse's voice, talking through a system of loud speakers, and it said –
"A good worker is a live worker; free to live, and work!" Here, there was a small, ominous giggle, and then the voice continued.
"A bad worker is a dead worker; and vice versa. Don't be a bad worker; bad workers are slaves, and dead." And here, there was another giggle.
Bulma thought that was odd, because a dead slave – if indeed, they were enslaved, and it surely seemed like it – could usually be considered free, although in a generally bad type of freedom, and if they were dead, then they couldn't very well do any work, now could they?
"Payday for good workers has been postponed…indefinitely! Payday for bad workers is canceled!"
And then the message would repeat.
She decided that she very much disliked that message, and was relieved when, after passing through a large, round door, it slammed shut behind her, and the creaky voice could no longer be heard. Of course, beyond this door, there was a room filled with what appeared to be lava, so she was extra careful not to fall and slip into it while jumping from clock piece to clock piece. The metal was hot, and Bulma was glad for her tall black boots.
Eventually she navigated her way through the Domain, and the message started playing again. The repetitive nonsense of it just about drove her mad, and it was so hard to fight with that condescending, horrid voice droning in her ear and WHERE WAS THAT DOORMOUSE AND WHAT HAD GOTTEN INTO HIM?
Eventually she got away from it, and she continued looking for the Hatter. Her annoyance grew the farther she walked, and sometimes she saw the Cheshire Cat appear from thin air. He rarely spoke to her, simply flitted about and watched her fight before he would disappear again, but when he did speak, she was sure to ignore his ambiguous banter.
And then finally…finally, Bulma made it to the Hatter's Mansion. The big doors were tall and blood red, but somehow more menacing than she remembered. However, Bulma's patience had been worn too thin for her to be frightened, and as she had told that blasted cat, she didn't fear anything besides.
"Hatter!" she called as she approached the doors. "Hatter, you old fool, where are you?"
She whirled, and saw the Doormouse, and her blue eyes widened as she flinched back. "Pu'ar," she murmured, pityingly.
"Quiet, Alice, quiet," the Doormouse squeaked, and his metal joints creaked. Having shushed her, the poor thing laid back down beside the giant doors of the Hatter's Mansion and began to sleep.
Bulma approached him, and towered over him, and saw that parts of his previously whole body were now replaced by mechanical pieces. His legs had been substituted by small wheels attached at the hip, and a wind-up key was implanted in his back. There was a little cap tied to the top of his head too, although it was clear that the hat was not supposed to come off.
"Dormy," Bulma murmured.
She straightened, and turned, and she bit the inside of her check. "Hare," she said, by way of solemn greeting.
He had been altered too. There was a scar on his left cheek now, and over his right eye, and the furry brown ears on top of his head now looked matted and dirty. At the tips, there were two screws, although Bulma couldn't tell what they could possibly be for. His once sophisticated clothes were ratted and torn, as if he'd only worn that same red sweater vest, white shirt, and slacks since she'd last seen him. That, however, was hardly the worst of it.
His slacks had been cut away at the knee, revealing that his entire right leg had been replaced by a mechanical one from the knee down, as had his left, although the latter's big, furry foot was still organic by some strange means that Bulma didn't care to investigate. Despite the obvious function of these new legs, they hardly resembled legs at all, but instead, more like pieces that came from inside a clock. His left arm had been totally replaced as well, and instead of a hand, the limb seemed to resemble a large, ragged sword. There was a metal plate that fitted against the left side of his head, and that plate was attached to a curved piece that fitted around the back of his head, and attached to an eyeglass on the right side, held in place by a thin bar that connected to a bolt in his cheek.
"March Hare," Bulma said quietly, "Yamcha. What's happened here? Who did this to you?"
"Wonderland has gotten worse since you were last here, Alice," he said sadly, his accent think and very nearly Scottish. "The Red Queen…she's killing the land, Alice."
"But I –"
"If you stop her, this can all end," the March Hare murmured. He looked at the Doormouse sadly, and picked the little creature up in his good hand. "Pu'ar didn't deserve this," he hissed.
Bulma felt startled, but she looked placid. "How did the Red Queen do this to you?" she questioned.
He looked back at her. "No, Alice…the Hatter did."
Her blue eyes widened.
"He did this to us," the March Hare said. "He did this to the Insane Children, too, Alice. He put them in the Automatons. Didn't you see them, Alice?"
Her eyes grew wider with horror, and her brows knitted with the want to deny this. "No…"
The Insane Children…they were aptly named, the poor souls. They're existence in Wonderland was a mystery to her, and she'd never bothered to find out how they'd gotten there. They looked seemingly human, and that's what disturbed her, because regular humans weren't supposed to exist here, really. But exist they did, and the little creatures seemed to be everywhere inside the Hatter's Mansion, which, once upon a time, was an asylum. Now, or at least, previously, it was nothing more than a teahouse.
"The Hatter?" she repeated, just to be sure.
"Yes," the March Hare said. "That's why we've taken over his Domain."
She blinked. "Pardon?"
"We had to, Alice," the Hare explained solemnly. "Look at what he's done. Doormouse and I, we rule the Domain now. The Hatter is still trapped at Tea Time, and he finally lost it completely, more so than the rest of us. We took over the Domain without his knowing. As far as he is concerned, he is still the ruler." He paused, and said pointedly, "I'd like to keep it that way, Alice."
Of course he would. He certainly wasn't strong enough to defeat the Hatter. Bulma looked at the Doormouse suspiciously, remembering the message that sounded just like the little creature, and her blue eyes narrowed slightly at the Hare. Finally, she nodded, and he smiled, then said, "I imagine you'd like to see him, then."
Bulma said, "I would."
"Well, he is in his Mansion, you know. He's never late for tea, and it's almost six o'clock. He never misses six o'clock tea."
"You said he was still trapped at Tea Time," she reminded him. Trapped at Tea Time…the Hatter's punishment from the Red Queen for killing the time of a song, if she recalled correctly.
"Of course, of course, how else would he never be late?" the Hare laughed. "And he's never late to check on his experiments either; obsessed with time, he is!" He paused, then asked, "Speaking of which, how is the Queen of Hearts not like a typhoon?
Bulma frowned, and answered, "Both are powerful, destructive, and indiscriminately cruel. But the typhoon doesn't mean to be."
He laughed with delight, and looked as though he might clap his hands before he remembered that one was occupied with Pu'ar the Doormouse and the other was a sword. He said, "Good answer. Wrong. But good. Have some tea, Alice!"
"There isn't any," she said, looking at him disdainfully.
"Of course there isn't," he said, blinking. His eyeglass shimmered.
"Then it wasn't civil of you to offer any," she said in a clipped tone. She recited the line like a script, and before he could reply, she turned and pushed open the doors to the Mansion and walked inside.
"And just think, for a moment I almost believed he was sane," she muttered. "Stupid hare."
The Mansion was littered with giant tea sets, as she remembered, and Bulma had to kill a few more Minions and Automatons (although, for the latter, she was beginning to feel rather sorrowful, but also not sorry) in order to get by. Inside the Mansion was less difficult to navigate than the entire Domain, however, and Bulma eventually found a hall that she recognized.
"Having fun, Alice?"
She nearly jumped, but her expression remained neutral. "Cheshire, I've told you not to sneak up on me."
He materialized in front of her, his grin first, and the rest of his body after. "Yes, well, I hardly sneaked. You, dear Alice, simply aren't enough aware of your surroundings."
She narrowed her eyes again, and walked around him to continue her destination.
Goku disappeared and reappeared in front of her again. "My, you are rash today, Alice. Have you a reason to see the Hatter?"
"Have I reason not to?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips.
"Well, now, I'm sure you've seen his…work," the cat said dryly.
"Of course I have," she snapped, "and I've half a mind to cut him down myself if he can't stop it."
"Oh my," he chuckled, and grinned. His canines were sharp, and covered with fresher blood. "And how will you do it, Alice?"
"With the Vorpal Blade," she answered, as though it was stupid question.
He snickered. "A single blade, take down the Hatter? My, my, Alice, you certainly have lost your marbles."
"I could do it, if I wished," she said firmly.
"And if not?" he asked.
"And if not," she repeated, "then there must be more than one way to skin a cat, if you'll pardon the expression."
For once, Goku's mocking grin disappeared, and the Cheshire Cat actually frowned. "Most unpleasant metaphor," he said disdainfully. "Please avoid it in the future."
Satisfied, Bulma turned and walked on.
Goku sighed and disappeared in a wisp of smoke, and reappeared floating horizontally beside her, his head propped up on one hand as though he was laying on a solid surface. "Do you know where you're going?" he asked.
"I have an idea," she replied simply, and didn't slow her pace.
"Do you?" he purred, floating so he was lying on her stomach, and his nose nearly touched hers. "Only a few find the way; some don't recognize it when they do; some don't ever want to."
"Enough with your riddles," she sneered, wafting her hand in front of her face, and he disappeared in another plume of smoke, only to appear again by her right shoulder.
He whispered, "I can't very well speak in anything else."
"Do you know where he is, or don't you?" she demanded.
"I can't know everything," he shrugged. "Pretend you're an orphan –" he gasped, and put a clawed hand over his mouth mockingly. "Oh, that was rude! You are."
Her blue eyes narrowed to slits. "Off with you. You aren't any help at all, you mangy little beast."
"But you know I can be," he grinned.
"But you aren't now, so off with you, and your foul breath."
He gave a final grin and disappeared, his teeth the last to go.
"Hatter! Hatter, show yourself, you idiot!" she yelled as she walked down more halls. "Hatter!"
She heard nothing, which usually meant something bad, but at the moment she didn't truly care. Eventually, she found a large, dimly lit room with chessboard tiles for a floor. The walls were painted a dark, olive green, and in the middle, they changed from drywall to wood, with elegant moldings that matched those of the ceiling. Much of these walls was hidden by shadows and blackened by curtains that hung over huge windows. Only one window, the largest, was uncovered in the farthest side of the room, and yet the room was still heavily shaded, as the window appeared to not have been washed for many years.
In the center of the room, there was a long, grand table made of fine mahogany, or rather, what used to be fine mahogany, and on that table was enough silverware for more people than could actually be seated there (because really, the table was too small for the room, and only sat perhaps 8 people), and a large, metal teapot sat in the middle of it. Besides that, the teacups and plates were simple white, although Bulma could swear she saw red on them in a few places. Absolutely nothing on the table matched, and that alone was enough to tell her who it belonged to, even if she'd found it in the middle of a graveyard.
"Hatter?" she called again, approaching the table.
A throat cleared behind her, and she whirled, drawing the Vorpal Blade. A shape moved out from behind one of the large curtains opposite the only uncovered one, and she saw part of a face surface from the shadows. Half of a deviously dark smile and one piercing onyx eye peeked out from what she knew was the brim of a black top hat.
"Hello, Hatter," Bulma said calmly, relaxing, and her blade faded out of her hand.
He stepped out quickly, his entire body coming into the light, and with a sweeping bow, he removed his top hat and placed it over his heart. "Welcome, dear Alice!" he cried upon straightening, putting his hat back on top of his flamed hair. "Care for a cup of tea?"
He was handsome, dashing, like she remembered, with flawless tan skin and coal black hair that matched his eyes. His teeth, unlike most people's in wonderland, save Cheshire's, were pearly white and perfectly straight, and if the Cheshire Cat's mischievous grin couldn't give you the willies, then the Hatter's maniacal one could. His attire was formal, consisting of a black waistcoat over a crisp red button-down shirt with a flipped up collar, and over that an elegant black waistcoat that was left unbuttoned. His trousers were the same shade of black, as were his shined shoes, and his short gloves were an almost brilliant white. Around his neck, there was an extravagant, black bow made of silk, and in his hand there was a black cane with an elegant silver handle. And of course, on top of his head there was a beautiful top hat, with a card reading 10/6 and a pair of scarlet roses tucked into the band.
He hadn't changed a bit.
"No tea, Hatter," she replied.
He looked surprised. "Why, Alice, how unlike you to refuse tea!"
She nearly rolled her eyes. "Don't call me Alice," she said, for perhaps what had been the hundredth time that day. "My name is Bulma, and you know it."
He smiled, although not nicely. "Ah, but you know that my name is Vegeta, and yet you insist on calling me by my title."
"You personally instructed me to do so," she informed him flatly.
He waved his gloved hand dismissingly. "Such a long time ago, that was. Dear Alice, I thought we were better friends than that by now."
She huffed. "Better friends indeed, after all the trouble you've caused me in the past."
His smile widened, and he motioned to the empty table. "Come now, sit, you're just in time for tea," he said again.
"I only take mine with friends," she replied, just to spite him.
As though forgetting their conversation mere seconds ago, he said, "Count me to be among them. Accurately. I mean, honestly. That's the truth. Oh, I quite forgot. You and the truth are not on familiar terms." With this, he grinned again, and sat down.
Bulma sat too, scowling. "What makes you say so?" she demanded.
He snapped his fingers, and the teapot rose on spindly metal legs, wobbled over to him, and tilted, pouring tea into his cup before it retreated to the middle of the table. He picked it up and sipped it, and leaned his cheek on his knuckles. "Well now," he said, "For starters, that psychiatrist of yours. You continue to let him tell you such lies, Alice, I'm amazed your head hasn't exploded with the absurdity of them."
"I seem to deal with your absurdity just fine," she quipped.
He laughed heartily. "True, true! But nonetheless, it's almost as if you force yourself to believe in them, Alice. And such nonsense they are. Why, they nearly put Wonderland nonsense to shame, and that's quite a feat. We're not supposed to have sense, you know."
"I know," she said agitatedly. Suddenly reminded of why she'd come here in the first place, she asked, "What's happened to the March Hare and Doormouse?"
"I altered them," he said simply, putting his tea down.
Bulma's eyes narrowed. "And the Insane Children?"
His dark eyes met her light ones, and he said solemnly, "They were dying, Alice."
Her brow rose. "Dying?"
"Yes, dying," he repeated. "We're all dying, Alice."
Her eyes widened. "Please tell me you mean that literally and you're not just an insane psychopath that wants eternal life."
"Oh no, we're all dying," he said firmly. "The land is dying, Alice. Wonderland is sick."
She looked him over suspiciously, and said, "Then why haven't you altered yourself?"
He stood abruptly, stepping away from his chair, and gingerly took off his tailcoat, as though it might rip. He turned then, and showed her his back, and she gasped.
Over his spine, the edges of what appeared to be a large gear stuck out of his back.
"Hatter…" she whispered, her fingers pressed against her mouth. "What have you done?"
"I was dying, Alice," he explained, and he put his tailcoat back on. Suddenly, it was as if the gear was never there at all.
"The Hare said you used him for an experiment," she accused. "Have you really tried to save them, or are you simply madder than before?"
He gave a small chuckle. "That, dear Alice, is up for debate." He walked over to the uncovered window and folded his arms behind his back. "The Red Queen is responsible for all this destruction," he said softly, gazing out at his darkened Domain.
Bulma stood up and went to join him. "That may be, but you've made your people miserable."
"Have I?" he questioned, not looking at her.
"You have, Hatter," she said.
"I don't believe so," he said, and his eyes finally slid to hers. He turned suddenly and clasped her hands, like he was begging her to see it his way. "Don't you see, Alice? Without me, they'd all be dead. No one can survive here now. What I did, I did to save them. What I did…it was genius, Alice."
"No!" she screamed harshly, snatching her hands away. "What you've done to your people, to those Children, it's as bad as what was done to me in Rutledge, Hatter! You stop doing these things, or I'll kill you myself!"
He drew back, his eyes wide with surprise. "I…that's not true, Alice."
"It is true!" she snapped. She pointed to an Automaton that she could just barely see through the dirtied window. "Tie them up to an electric chair next, why don't you?" she hissed.
"How dare you –"Vegeta started angrily.
"How dare you! You had no right to destroy these people's lives like that. I want it to stop, Hatter. No more. I swear I will kill you myself." Even as she said this, her fingers twitched, ready to summon her blade at any given moment.
The Hatter took a deep breath and let it out slowly. His brows knitted. He said, "Rutledge, Alice?"
"Yes," she said softly. "As bad as Rutledge. Worse, maybe."
He let out a weary chuckle and combed his fingers through some of his hair, pushing his hat back. "Well then. That's…right unfortunate," he said, and for a moment he looked ashamed.
Bulma was quiet.
Vegeta cleared his throat. "I apologize for upsetting you, Alice."
"Then you won't do it again," she said calmly, and she turned to stare out the window once more.
The Hatter was silent, but he nodded.
Bulma said, "Good."
Vegeta asked, "What brings you back to Wonderland?"
She shrugged. "Hell if I know."
"Planning to defeat the Red Queen this time?" he inquired. She opened her mouth, but he interrupted, and said, "Evil woman, she is. Have you any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?"
Bulma sighed and rubbed her temples. "I didn't want to come among you mad people again," she muttered.
The Hatter put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her close from behind, and with a wicked grin on his face, he leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here."
Bulma looked out the window towards where she knew the Red Heart Castle was, and she replied, "I know that."
The Hatter straightened and said, "Let's have tea."
So they sat, and the Hatter snapped his fingers, and the teapot poured tea for both of them on its own, and a violin player was summoned, or rather, a violin that played itself was summoned. Bulma expected that metal arms and legs sticking out of the wood, and all the gears inside, would cause an awful sound, and much to her dismay, the tune played was eerie, off key, and filled with sharp, horrid notes.
"What will you do now that you're…activities have been halted?" she asked, sipping her tea.
"Something I like, I suppose," he replied plainly, taking a drink himself.
"What do you like to do, Hatter?" she reiterated. Normally, she liked talking to the Hatter, despite his nonsensical chatter, but he still grated on her nerves often.
"I like what I do is the same as I do what I like, don't you agree?" he asked seriously. "So I do."
Bulma sighed. "You hopeless cretin."
The violin, which played quietly before, suddenly began to play louder, sharper notes, until it sounded like a botched version of something you'd waltz to. Upon this change, the Hatter calmly set his teacup down and rose again, solemnly, and suddenly slammed his fist on the table. "Dance with me, Alice," he commanded.
She wrinkled her nose. "You don't have to ask so rudely."
He brightened immediately – to accommodate her – and in a tone that implied they were the greatest of friends, said, "Dance with me, Alice!"
She sighed and shook her head at him, but he went around and took her hands anyway, pulling her to her feet. He spun her around, away from the table, with all the grace of a prince. She looked him in the eye, thinking him to be teasing her, but she saw an almost kind look in the dark orbs, as though he had missed her.
They danced a traditional waltz for a little bit, the Hatter all the while chatting things in her ear like "That White Rabbit of yours refuses to let me fix his clock! Two days late, the crooked old thing!" and "Did you know, that silly Red Queen still thinks I killed Time? Why, if you knew Time as well as I do, you'd not dream of wasting it, never mind killing it!"
"Mmhmm," Bulma said absentmindedly, her boots clicking on the checkerboard floors. "Hatter, have you…seen the Hare and Doormouse lately?"
"I've seen them," he answered. "Plenty of times."
"And?" she prompted.
"Well, the Hare is tall, with big ears and a fat nose –"
"Hatter! I meant, is there anything about them that you noticed? Anything strange?"
He spun her faster, and the violin speed up to match him. "Well, you should say what you mean then. And yes, now that you mention it," he replied, as though having an epiphany, but he didn't say anymore after that.
Bulma pressed her lips together and fought the urge to stab him. "What did you notice, Hatter?"
"I noticed that the Doormouse sleeps an awful lot."
She glared; that was normal. "And?"
"And?" he questioned, and he picked up speed again. So did the violin.
"They are always so late for tea!" he scowled heavily. "You'd think they'd know when to show up for tea, Alice."
She scowled too, then tried, "I heard the Doormouse talking over a speaker system on my way here."
"Did you?" he said, looking surprised.
"Yes. He said some things I found…rather off."
"Off his tea!" the Hatter cried. "That must be why they don't come anymore. The poor fools are off their tea."
She sighed. "No, Hatter, I mean I found what he said to be rather strange."
"Well then, you should sa – "
"Say what I mean, I know. Hush. He was going on about good workers and bad workers. What do you know about that?"
The Hatter frowned, and his eyes darkened. "What does he know about good and bad? They're hardly different."
She gaped, then said, "Well, according to his message, he seemed to think so too. And, Hatter, that is not true."
"One plus one is two, that's true, except when it's not," Vegeta said informatively.
She wanted to slap her forehead, but one of her hands was clasped firmly in the Hatter's gloved one, and the other was busy trying to hold on to his shoulder, as he had again picked up speed.
Deciding to change the subject, she asked, "Have you any idea what's wrong with Wonderland?"
"Wrong?" he repeated. "Wrong? Nothing wrong, dear, Wonderland is lovely! Besides the Red Queen, you know. Dear Alice, you should kill her. That'd make me right happy, Alice, everyone happy! And my, my, dear girl, you certainly could use a haircut. And your neck needs a trim! Alice, have you any Earl Grey?"
Despite nearly being used to Wonderland's strangeness, this pattern of speech certainly struck her as odd. She opened her mouth to say that no, she didn't have any Earl Grey, but the Hatter interrupted her again and said, "Now, you can't deny a man his Earl Grey, Alice, why that simply won't do. How cruel of you Alice! Early Grey!"
"Hatter, I don't have any –"
By time she'd gotten that much of her sentence out of her mouth, his footsteps had gotten so fast that Bulma was nearly tripping over her own feet. He began to do nothing except spin her in circles until the room was beginning to be a blur. The violin played so quickly that her head was starting to hurt, because it sounded so insane and manic, and the Hatter cried, "Cruel thing, you tease! The insolence! The arrogance! The inexorable table manners! They are destroyers of Wonderland! Defilers! Diluters! Derangers! Delightful! -"
"STOP IT!" she screamed, and he stopped so suddenly that it should have been impossible. Bulma, however, was still spinning, and the only reason she didn't go flying was the anchor that one of his gloved hands provided. The violin had stopped too, and the room fell to eerie silence, only broken by the sound of her boots stomping about until she was as far away as the Hatter's arm would let her go.
She waited for the room to stop turning in circles around her, and when her vision cleared, she yanked her hand away and screamed, "Hatter, calm yourself! Behave, you insane maniac!"
He merely frowned at her.
Bulma stomped her foot.
The Hatter blinked, then very calmly went back to the table and sat down, sipping his tea. Too angry to do much else, she joined him, and folded her arms, but she wouldn't drink any more tea.
"Alice," the Hatter said, looking at her and taking another sip before he continued. "You aren't so much fun as you were."
She smoothed her bloodied apron over her blue dress, and said curtly, "I've grown up, Hatter, as a person must. You, on the other hand, have stayed the same. Always playing your foolish games."
The Hatter sipped his tea again and said, "Yes, well. You've lost your muchness, but I can't do a thing about that."
She said dryly, "My muchness."
"Yes, yes," he said, matter-of-factly. "I'm certain it started with that hobby horse of yours. Everything was a nail, wasn't it? Miss Hammerhead, they could have called you. First off was your search, freighted with fear and fragmented memories. And now that Red Queen again! Never time for tea. And while you're off lollygagging about, we're ruined, Alice! Now we're all mad here, and that's as good enough an excuse for going to hell in a teapot as any."
Ignoring his banter about her past adventures and her habit for using toys as weapons, she jumped up from the table, her hands slamming down harshly on the wood, and she shouted, "Lollygagging! Have you forgotten, Hatter? While I was busy having tea with you and that stupid hare, my family burned! It's your fault I'm alone, or have you forgotten?"
The Hatter set down his empty teacup, which the teapot promptly filled. He clicked his tongue at her and said, "Well now, I never forced you to stay for tea, now did I? If I recall correctly, I was the one who woke you up in the first place. And I never forget, dear, never. Besides, forgetting is just forgetting, except when it's not. Then they call it something else. I've tried to remember what that was, but I can't."
She was seething. How dare he! Lollygagging?! Of all the nerve! While she'd been dreaming about having tea with him in Wonderland, her house had caught fire, and her entire family burned to death with it. The White Rabbit, her beloved Rabbit, he had been the one to tell her that she must awaken if she were to survive. And this hatter, this mad lunatic, had the nerve to –
Yell her awake. That's what he had done; he'd yelled at her. She'd woken up, and survived…alone.
She almost sent him a sharp comeback that was entirely unethical, unthankful, and unforgiving before she remembered that any argument with him was pointless. He was mad, perhaps more so than he'd been before, and there was no saving him.
"What am I to do with you, Hatter?" she murmured, sitting back down.
He answered softly, "Well, for starters, you could call me by my name."
"I don't like to. It reminds me that I'm fond of you, you crazy fool."
He laughed. "Do you fear liking me, Alice? Does that make you as mad as a hatter?" he asked, grinning.
"I fear nothing," she said automatically. It was a line she had recited many times.
"Fear is the crack that might flood your brain with light," he said wisely. "You must have a dark little mind, Alice."
She said nothing to this.
"What's with all these questions about the March Hare and Doormouse, Alice?" Vegeta asked suddenly.
She blinked, remembering her vow. Bulma, however, though she'd very much like to be, was not one to like the truth, as Cheshire constantly reminded her. So, she answered cryptically, "It only seems like they've quite a bit of leeway in the Domain, is all."
His eyes darkened. "Really." It was not a question.
"Yes. Had you ever had need for workers before, Hatter?"
"None at all," he answered, his voice sounded deepened. "Only patrol minions, and a few servants to make my tea."
"I see," Bulma said, and she picked up her teacup.
The Hatter was quiet for a moment, the brim of his top hat casting a heavy shadow over his eyes. He stood up suddenly, his again empty cup clattering against its little coaster. "Forgive me, Alice," he said formally, stepping away from his set and taking a respectful bow. "I have something to attend to. I'll only be a minute…please, stay here."
And with that, he snatched up his cane and left the room.
Well that wasn't suspicious at all.
She walked down the halls, at a regular pace that wasn't at all rushed, as though she was merely wandering about aimlessly. She was, in a way; the Hatter had been gone for what seemed like an unnecessarily long time. So, Bulma had set out to look for him, as she wasn't much one for following orders anyway. So far, she'd seen nothing, only a few minions who now lay in a pool of their own blood, and that was about it. She'd heard no strange noises, no howling laughter, and hardly any clinking of plates – although there was some, a little bit.
"Hatter?" she called, glancing down hallways. "Where has that psychopath gone?" she muttered to herself. "I'll not wait here all day for him. I've better things to do with myself. Hatter!"
Eventually she felt that she had searched all the nice areas of the Mansion, so she took a hall that looked especially dingy, and a few more random twists and turns (she figured that, if she were to get too hopelessly lost, the Cheshire Cat could be summoned, and the Hatter would probably find her anyhow) until she found herself in a part of the Mansion that consisted of mostly large pipes and metal gears grinding all over the place. It was dimly lit, and the only sources of light were dull red, and very nearly sinister. This, she figured, was where the workers were, and wondered how the Hatter couldn't have noticed such a thing.
"Trapped at teatime," she said, annoyed. "What an inconvenience…a mental one, that is. How does one get trapped at a time, anyhow?"
The farther she went, the dirtier the place got, and the quieter, and although the gears were still grinding, there seemed to be no workers anywhere. The machines she saw were large and crude, and any person who tried to monitor them was clearly in grave danger. Far in the background, and fading slightly the more she walked, Bulma heard, "A good worker is a live worker; Free to live, and work! A bad worker is a dead worker; and vice versa…"
"Stupid mouse," she growled.
But still, pieces of her conversations with the Hatter and the supposed new Domain rulers were starting to add up the more she looked around the place.
"We took over the Domain, Alice. We had to."
"A good worker is a live worker!"
"We took over the Domain without his knowing. As far as he is concerned, he is still the ruler…I'd like to keep it that way, Alice."
"What I did, I did to save them. What I did…it was genius, Alice."
"Look at what he's done. Doormouse and I, we rule the Domain now."
"Don't you see, Alice? Without me, they'd all be dead."
"The Red Queen…she's killing the land, Alice."
"None at all…only servants to make my tea."
"PAYDAY FOR GOOD WORKERS HAS BEEN SUSPENDED…INDEFINITELY!"
"One plus one is two, that's true, except when it's not."
And suddenly, one plus one didn't quite add up to two.
"HATTER!" Bulma roared.
And then, she heard it; a splat, and a thud, and, echoing, a drip.
Bulma turned a corner, leading to the shortest hall she'd seen yet, and a dead end one, by the looks of it. It was heavily shadowed, or at least, more so than all the previous ones, and only lit by a single red light that just barely allowed her to make out a figure.
She stepped closer, and stopped short. Her blue eyes widened, then narrowed viciously, and her fist tightened.
The Mad Hatter stood with his back to her, his cane now revealed to be a hidden katana and dripping in dark blood. Red pooled thickly on the ground at his feet, and spread along the metal floors. She glanced past him and saw a body hidden in the shadows.
A body with large ears.
And this body was so mangled and bloodied that she could barely recognize it, but she knew…those ears, they told her.
Her beloved White Rabbit.
Her breath quickened, and rage began to boil within her. The Hatter turned and looked at her over his shoulder, and though his face was shaded by his hat, she could see his dark eyes gleaming as he came down from his murderous high.
Her eyes darkened with controlled fury. "Hatter," she said. "I'm truly sorry it has to be this way."
He turned to face her, his sword gripped tightly. He met her eyes, challenging her.
The Vorpal Blade appeared in her hand, and she lunged. Her feet left the ground once, and that was all she needed to get to him. Her arm stretched out, and she slashed.
Blood spurted from a thick slice that ran from his left shoulder to his right hip, putting crimson splatters on her face. His body jerked, and when he stumbled, she grabbed his shoulder and slammed him into the wall to her left. His top hat fell off his head to the bloodied ground below, and she thrust the blade into his heart.
Blood spurted from his lips, and he sank to the dampened ground. He choked and coughed up more dark red, his hand shaking as he prodded gently at the knife that remained in his chest. He sputtered, "Aghh…A-Alice…"
She crouched in front of him and grasped the knife handle again, and yanked it out. He jolted forward with a pained cry, then collapsed back against the wall again.
Bulma looked at the blood on the Vorpal Blade with a scrutinizing gaze, and realized something. "You didn't even fight me," she said accusingly.
He gave a strangled laugh. "Well, I…h-how can I –" he choked again. "How can I kill…the Alice? Wonderland needs you…much more than it does me."
"Stupid Hatter," she cursed.
He was so powerful. Her talent came from the raw power of being The Alice, but his…his was earned, practiced, trained. How strong he had been…he could have killed her, if he'd really wanted.
A strange sound surfaced from his throat, and blood dribbled down his neck. He whispered, "Alice?...Bulma."
Ah, so he could say her name.
"What?" she asked coldly.
"Will you…Bulma, promise me that you'll…save Wonderland," he pleaded quietly. "D…defeat the Red Queen." He shivered violently, another splatter of blood flying from his lips. "Please…please save us."
Her blue eyes searched his face carefully, and she said, "Hatter –"
"Promise me!" he forced out. His gloved hand, stained red with blood, grasped her fingers. "Promise me…"
Her brows knitted – good God, what had she done? – and she looked away for a moment. When she finally looked back at him, her eyes were sad, though her expression impassive. "Hatter…I've already killed the Red Queen."
His obsidian eyes widened with horror. "W-what?" he stuttered.
Bulma murmured, "I killed her…the last time I was here, Hatter. Years ago."
"No…" he whispered, shaking his head. "It can't…it's not possible…you're lying to me, please –"
She caught his face in her hands, her blade making a loud clank as if fell to the metal floors. "It's true, Hatter," she said. "It's true. She's been dead, Hatter. It's not her that's killing Wonderland. It's been under her reign for so long, it just…it didn't know. The land didn't know any other way to be, and neither did its inhabitants. Wonderland can't be saved, Hatter. I'm sorry."
His eyes darted across her features, searching for a lie. Finding none, the dark orbs fell to his lap, and he rasped, "It's not fair."
Bulma was quiet for a moment. She murmured, "Rest, Hatter."
He looked at her slowly, his eyes already fluttering shut.
She whispered, "Rest, Vegeta."
His last breath was wavering, and his eyes fell shut. His head slid slowly towards his shoulder, and he made no movements after that.
Bulma stood up, and she looked towards the body of the White Rabbit. She saw it then; a gleam of metal in the red light, and the unmistakably brown fur, and the small shape of the Doormouse's shredded corpse a few feet away.
She had killed the Hatter for nothing.
Bulma picked up the Vorpal Blade, its edge scraping the floors as she lifted it. She turned and began walking down the halls again, and never once looked back.
She surfaced from the maze of the Hatter's Mansion much more quickly than she had before. The big doors loomed in front of her, cold and uninviting.
Her pace did not waver, and neither did her expression or her resignation. "Leave me alone, Cheshire."
Goku frowned, and took in the blood on her dress, and vanished.
Bulma pushed open the doors.
Her eyes opened, and she was not surprised, even though she wasn't where she was wanted to be. The cold, pale white rooms of Rutledge Private Clinic and Asylum: Home of Wayward & Lost Souls very nearly seemed to burn her eyes.
She shifted in the stained white hospital bed, her straightjacket preventing most of her movement. Her blue hair brushed at her neck, like crawling insects, and she had no way to fix it. The silence in the room threatened to unnerve her, but she didn't allow it.
Her pale features held no emotion, and she said nothing. Her blue eyes moved around the room as the miserable tyrant of reality slapped her in the face like a punishing school teacher. She would never leave Rutledge.
She couldn't promise the Hatter anything. She couldn't help herself, never mind anyone else. She was not The Alice. She was not noble. She was not a savior, not like they'd made her out to be.
Wonderland can't be saved, she thought to herself. And neither can I.
In a normal hospital, many miles away, a man lay in his stiff bed, comatose. A nurse was moving about, straightening things and cleaning what she deemed too dirty.
The man was handsome, young, with tanned skin and black hair that seemed to stand up like a flame, no matter how much anyone might mess with it. He was fairly short, with defined features and a figure that seemed strangely healthy for a man who had been asleep for years.
The nurse wiped down the last of the counters in the room, and quietly straightened the covers, making sure that he was as comfortable as he could be before she took her leave. Her shoes tapped softly on the linoleum floors, and the door made a soft click behind her.
After a moment, the man's obsidian eyes opened, very slowly.
I hope that made as much sense as nonsense can. If anyone has questions, I'd be happy to answer them.