I don't own Alice in Wonderland or any of its characters. Based on the 2010 Tim Burton film.
Tarrant and Stayne each share a horrific tale with the other. How long do they have before yet another story claims them and ensnares them helplessly within its dreadful clutches?
I Can Top That
"But why won't you listen to me?" the girl whined.
"I have been listening and despite my best efforts I can't tune you out!"
"But you are my true love and I'm yours! Why can't you just accept that?"
Tarrant Hightopp stopped his mad pacing through the Tugley Woods and seized the girl by her shoulders, staring into her eyes with what he hoped was the appropriate amount of irritation mixed with venom.
"Now see here, Bubb...uh...Jen..."
"Bubblegum Gen," the dark-haired girl said eagerly.
"Right; Bubblegum Gen. Now see here, why is it that you think you are my true love and I'm yours? If I loved you I'd know it, right? I'm a mad man, and if I were in love I'd know it despite my being mad!"
"But your madness isn't letting you see the truth!" Bubblegum Gen whined again. "I have my backpack with everything in it that I own! I fell down the Rabbit Hole! I wound up at your Tea Party! I even slayed your dreaded Jabberwocky. I'm even...even..."
Tarrant sighed. "Even what?"
"I'm...I'm Alice's great grand-daughter!"
"That's..." Tarrant's face screwed up in disgust, "that's even worse. I love Alice and that will never change. Why ever would I even consider loving a descendent of hers? Can't you see how utterly disgusting that is?"
"Um...well..." The girl's eyes flicked about as she desperately tried to come up with a better reason for the Hatter to love her.
"Well, I'm not really her grand-daughter. I just said I was so that you'd try and see that we are really and truly meant for each other!"
"Oh, so I should fall hopelessly in love with a liar and a girl, who, just because she fell down the Rabbit Hole and slayed the son of the first Jabberwocky, because she insists that we are 'meant to be?'"
The girl gaped and her wide blue eyes searched his face frantically. "Well...yes, actually."
Tarrant rolled his eyes. He let go of the girl and continued on his way.
The teen-aged girl scurried after him.
He stopped again and faced her, his eyes beginning to take on an orange tint. "Now what?"
Without replying, Bubblegum Gen hurled herself at the Hatter and wrapped her arms around him. She kissed him full on the mouth.
Tarrant was so stunned that he was at a complete loss of what to do. However, when the girl's tongue tried to pry its slimy and uninvited way into his mouth he knew that he had had more than enough.
He shoved her backwards and she stumbled.
"Stop it!" he roared. "I don't love you, I'll never love you, and you can just go back to your world for all I care!"
"But nobody loves me or understands me up there!" Bubblegum Gen said, beginning to cry.
"Nobody loves or understands you down here, either!" Tarrant snapped, at his wit's end.
She sniffled and tore the backpack from her shoulders. She unzipped it. "Here," she said, trying to stifle her sobs, "I have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!"
"Great galumphing Bandersnatches!" the Hatter roared. "I don't care! Now just leave me alone!"
But both stopped and fell silent as a rustling was heard nearby.
"What's that?" the girl whispered, terrified.
"A bandersnatch, I hope," Tarrant murmured. And then he darted away, blending into the foliage as the fearsome beast came thundering down upon one of the most annoying girls Tarrant had ever had the misfortune of meeting.
"Well..." Stayne said, slugging down some of his ale, "that is quite the tale, Hightopp!"
"I know!" the Hatter said, shuddering at the memory. "How can anything be worse?"
"Oh, believe me, I can top that!" the Knave said. "Care to hear one of mine?"
The Hatter leaned forward. "Really? You have an equally horrific tale to tell?"
"Indeed," the Knave rumbled. "Lend me your ear..."
Stayne was battling a girl who claimed to be from the twentieth century. The girl was drop-dead gorgeous, and Stayne had almost fallen in love with her for her beauty alone. Thankfully, however, she wasn't Large, so his heart had just barely escaped her other-worldly charms.
They were in the Court Yard at Salazen Grum and she had managed, somehow, to tame the Bandersnatch and steal the Vorpal Sword. Surprisingly, the sword was able to be utilized for fighting something other than the Jabberwocky. Stayne found himself fending off blow after blow.
Where had this girl learned to fight? She had only been in Underland for a day, and rumour had it that Tarrant Hightopp had fallen madly in love with her. This girl had miraculously managed to free him and the dormouse from the dungeon, and now she had the Vorpal Sword and was wielding it like a professional soldier! How could this be?
"I have Muchness!" she cried out, in answer to his unspoken question. "I'm destined to save Underland, win the Mad Hatter's love, and become the best friend of the White Queen!"
Stayne was so astounded by this bluster that he stopped fighting. The girl, Alicia, also stopped.
"I'll see you tomorrow on the true field of battle. You don't stand a chance against me and my friends!" she cried out. "Down with the Bloody Big Head!"
The Bandersnatch thundered out of his hut, stopped by the girl, and she swung effortlessly onto his back.
Stayne could only watch helplessly as she rode away.
The following day he found himself at his Queen's side.
"Your Majesty," he said, "the girl has the Vorpal Sword, uncanny fighting skills, and the friendship of the Bandersnatch, not to mention the entire resistance. I think we should cut our losses and retreat."
Stayne knew when a cause was lost. Whenever an alternate sort of reality appeared in Underland and a misunderstood and unloved girl from Above appeared, the side of Red always lost. Iracebeth, for some reason, never remembered these hiccups in Time and Space, and always refused to back down.
"Stayne, we will win and this girl will fall. I'll kill my sister and Underland shall be mine once and for all!"
Stayne sighed in resignation. He knew that yet another humiliating battle was upon him. He groaned and readied his sword. His Queen refused to back down and issued the challenge.
At first Stayne had dared to hope that the girl would actually lose against the Jabberwocky. It's flame licked at her body and she dropped the shield. Hope surged in his breast as she hurried up the stairs. But then she stiffened in determination, not seeing the creature's tail lash towards her back.
The Hatter cut its tail off and the Red Queen roared for everyone to begin to fight because the Hat Man had interfered.
Rolling his eyes, Stayne headed into battle. As he had expected, the Hatter found him and began to fight him in earnest. However, he was also playful. Stayne's usual reflexes somehow magically deserted him and he was clumsy with his weapon and his feet lost their surety.
The Hatter cackled maniacally and took a pin from his top hat. He began poking at Stayne with it; his shoulder, towards his eye, and then his rear. Angrily, Stayne tried to reclaim his inexplicable lost skill with a sword, but to no avail.
The Hatter kicked him in the arse and laughed in mad glee. "You'll fall here today!" he giggled. "You'll fall and I'll marry the perfect and utterly gorgeous creature who has come to slay the Jabberwocky and save us all!"
"The girl is just like every other girl who periodically comes here who isn't the real Alice!" the Knave said, trying to reason with the Hatter. "Don't you remember all the others? They just keep coming! Whether they call themselves descendents of Alice, lonely misfits, or misunderstood Gothic chicks, they are all the same! You fall in love with them all, win the day, marry them, and then you end up committing suicide a few months later out of despair!"
"Now why would I commit suicide? She's my one and only true love!"
"Because she really isn't!" Stayne cried out desperately. "She just writes herself and you that way! But when the story ends, you end up madder than ever, miserable beyond belief, and if you are lucky, Underland lets you die so you can escape! These insidious creatures are called 'Mary Sues' and 'Mary Sue Fan-girls' and they cannot be killed! They can only be defeated...perhaps."
But the Hatter was no longer listening. His eyes blazed orange and then red, and he danced around the Knave to a rhythm only he himself could hear.
When the Mary Sue chopped off the Jabberwocky's head, Stayne fell to his knees.
"Kill me now," he groaned. "It doesn't matter. I'll come back and be the buffoon again. It's bound to happen. It always does."
But, Stayne knew, if he was sort of lucky, he would be the love interest next time. Of course he wouldn't be his true self; he would be a watered down parody. He'd be a misunderstood creature with a hidden heart of pure gold that no-one had ever seen before. But the girl would see it and coax it out. She'd love him for his true niceness and bear him many children.
But, oh, to have a person write him with a real woman! Oh, wait, that was indeed happening! But Stayne only found those precious stolen moments from time to time. Maybe, after this dreadful nightmare of an episode was over, he could visit his real wife and family and be himself again. Maybe the writer had a new story or chapter up at that mysterious place called 'Fan Fiction Dot Net'...
But not this time. The White Queen had the crown again and he found himself shackled to Iracebeth. Again. They were sent out to the wilderness. Again. Months later he heard that the Hatter had committed suicide by drinking pure mercury. And he pitied him.
Tarrant shuddered in pure revulsion. "How did I not remember that until now?" he whispered, horrified. "I remember it now! That girl..." He shuddered again. "Alicia! Oh, my! She had me under some sort of horrible spell! I did indeed long for death. I finally had to take it into my own hands to escape her insidious clinginess and neediness and her constant blathering about finally escaping her own dreadful life."
"Yes," Stayne replied. "They always bring it to us and expect us to fix their own pathetic little lives. Or they expect to live out a fantasy with us. However, you are the lucky one."
"How so?" the Hatter challenged, sipping his mead. "I get stuck with them almost all the time!"
"Yes," Stayne replied, "but you are seldom made out to be the buffoon who gets his arse kicked and forgets how to use a sword! Besides, you aren't stuck with the big-headed whining wench."
"Oh, right," Tarrant agreed. "I suppose that is worse, in a way."
"Now what?" Stayne asked. "How long do you suppose we have until we are both caught up in that awful alternate reality thingy again?"
Tarrant looked at his watch, which, thankfully, was ticking. "Something tells me about a day."
Stayne waved to the bartender for another round.
"Then I suggest, my mad friend, that we drink ourselves into a stupor first."
Tarrant raised his mug in a toast. "I couldn't agree more."
And they did.