Curiouser and Curiouser With You

Chapter 8: Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

The White Knight rode his white horse as it galloped heroically towards the Jabberwocky. His sword was already in hand, ready to strike the beast. His armor glistened through the small rays of sunlight while his face was protected by a helmet though his facial features were still clearly visible. Just as the Jabberwocky was about to snap in Hatter's direction, it turned its head as the White Knight's horse neighed proudly. Hatter backed away from the beast while it was distracted. Seeing the White Knight, Alice rushed towards Hatter's side. The two merely glanced at one another before focusing their attention on the White Knight who had just struck the Jabberwocky. The Jabberwocky shrieked in pain as the sword hit one of its wings. Blood glistened on the sword as the White Knight pulled it back.

Alice and Hatter mutually decided it was best to move away from the battle. Alice became fixated on the White Knight whose eyes were fierce with determination. The Jabberwocky's head traveled quickly towards the White Knight's horse in an attempt to bite it in the throat. However, the White Knight directed his horse back, just missing the attack. He then plunged his sword forward, piercing the beast in the neck. With a deeper thrust, the White Knight sent the Jabberwocky's head flying onto the ground. Blood spurted from its neck, sprinkling the White Knight and his horse with the warm liquid while the head rolled. Both the head and body squirmed for a few seconds as the creature exulted its last bit of energy. The dragon like body of the Jabberwocky then collapsed onto the ground and the head was still.

Alice's queasiness once again resurfaced at the sight of all the blood. There was enough blood to fill a tub or two. The sheer smell of it suffocating her nostrils sent shivers down her spine. Her surroundings began to multiply as her head appeared to spin.

"Alice," Hatter said as she felt his arms supporting her. "You're falling." Alice looked around to find herself leaning as though she were indeed about to fall.

"Keep her away from here," the White Knight instructed as he got down from his horse. "The blood is too much for her." Hatter frowned at the White Knight's comment. He knew very well why Alice was about to faint. Did the White Knight see him as some buffoon? He was not completely mad to the point where he had no common sense! Obediently, Hatter slowly led Alice away from the gruesome sight. Once Alice was no longer looking at the blood, her head began to clear. The smell bothered her but not to the extent where she was on the brink of fainting. It was not until her eyes caught sight of Hatter's injured arm that she began to feel uneasy.

However, Hatter did not notice Alice's uneasiness. His eyes focused on his hat that lay just a few meters away. Hatter calmly walked forward to pick it up. It was torn but nothing he could not fix (for he did not even think of replacing such a wonderful hat!). After brushing the dirt off it, Hatter placed his hat back on his head, where it belonged.

"What were you doing in the forest Hatter?" Alice could not help but to inquire now that her head was clear. Alice tried her best to keep her eyes off Hatter's arm until it could properly be cared for.

"I was looking for you," Hatter replied. "Dormy told us you were on your way to see the Caterpillar so I went to bring you back. When I was in the forest, I heard a scream. That's when I found you here." Alice remained silent after realizing Hatter managed to find the truth. "Really, Alice, why didn't you just tell me you were going to see the Caterpillar?"

"You know, you two are lucky I was hunting the Jabberwocky," the White Knight interrupted just as Alice was about to answer Hatter's question. The two stopped their current conversation and turned towards him. The White Knight had taken the liberty of removing his helmet, his almond hair resting on his shoulders. He held a sack in one hand that was once clearly a tan color but was beginning to turn red. A lump formed at the bottom of the bag where the red color was heavily concentrated. There was no doubt that the head of the Jabberwocky lay in the sack, still dripping with crimson blood, waiting to be fixed for a trophy of some sort in the White Knight's quarters.

"Thank you very much for saving us," Alice replied.

"I had everything under control," Hatter insisted, offended that Alice was thanking the White Knight instead of him.

"I could clearly see that by the way you ran towards the Jabberwocky without a weapon," the White Knight pointed out, simply jesting a bit. However, Hatter took the remark much more seriously than the White Knight expected.

"Really Hatter, you nearly lost an arm," Alice insisted.

"It was either that or you'd lose your entire lower body," Hatter retorted, growing angrier by the minute. Alice opened her mouth to protest however was having difficulty coming up with a response. It was true: Hatter had saved her life and nearly lost an arm in the process.

"All the same, may I offer you two to come back to the White King and Queen's castle? It isn't very far and we can fix your arm when we arrive," the White Knight offered, seeing the conversation was taking a rather negative tone. Hatter and Alice, who were still up and arms for an argument, ceased their talking. They both nodded, coming to another agreement that the argument would be dealt with later. The White Knight then went to his horse. He tied the sack to the edge of the saddle before mounting the majestic creature. The White Knight instructed his horse to march towards the two before he held out a hand to Alice. "You may ride with me if you like," Charles offered.

Alice turned towards Hatter before proceeding to take the Charles' hand. A frown of jealousy was still present on his face for a split second.

"You should. You still look a bit pale, after all," was Hatter's remark. Evidently, had Alice been perfectly healthy, Hatter would have objected to this action immediately.

Upon Hatter's suggestion, Alice took the White Knight's hand. He gently hoisted her up, allowing her to sit in front of him. The horse's mane was just below her fingertips. Cautiously, her fingers brushed through the horse's hair. It was not as bloody as before and she guessed Charles managed to clean his horse along with his armor quickly before interrupting the conversation. Her back rested against the White Knight's chest. Alice could feel his heart beat despite his thick armor. Her heart began to beat slightly faster than before as color returned to her cheeks. She jolted slightly as the White Knight instructed the horse to move. The horse turned itself around moving in the direction of the White King's palace.

At first, the small party traveled in silence. Alice felt rather awkward sitting in front of Charles on his horse while Hatter was forced to walk. Hatter did not appear to be bothered by the fact he was the only one traveling on foot. His stride was long as his arms swayed slightly with his movements. He tried with all his might not to cradle his injured arm in an attempt to keep some of his dignity. Hatter's eyes remained on the road ahead. However, Alice could not help but to pass occasional glances towards Hatter. Although he did act rather foolish, nearly getting himself killed, he still did so to protect her. Perhaps she should not have badgered him so much as she did.

When Alice realized she was not going to get much attention from Hatter, her eyes traveled elsewhere. The dark shadow that had casted upon the forest had now lifted. Animals scurried about their daily lives as normal. It appeared as though a Jabberwocky had never been in the forest. Her gaze shifted to the ground where the horse's hooves trotted forward. The side of its leg was covered with dirt. Upon closer examination, Alice realized the White Knight's horse was rather dirty. Even its mane possessed signs of rough traveling in addition to the minor traces of blood Charles missed. The White Knight's horse couldn't possibly have received all this dirt from the single battle that took place.

"How long were you hunting the Jabberwocky?" Alice inquired.

"Oh, a couple of days. It was terrorizing a town on the outside of the White King's square. Upon my first encounter, I lost my shield in the process. Luckily, I managed to trap it in the forest where it couldn't fly very high," the White Knight answered.

"You lured it to the forest?" Hatter remarked, a tone of disgust present as though this was a horrible action since both he and Alice were in the forest while the pursuit was taking place.

"I didn't know you two were in the forest," Charles responded defensively. "For a moment I lost the beast until I heard Alice scream." Alice shot a glare in Hatter's direction for his rude behavior. However, Hatter remained indifferent to Alice's silent reprimanding.

"We are glad you were here," Alice added in an attempt to sooth Charles from Hatter's recent remark. This comment seemed to bring up the White Knight's spirit as his posture raised his body on the horse with pride (though Alice could only partially feel the White Knight's body rise as she was sitting in front of him).

"I only wish I could have arrived sooner," the White Knight replied sincerely as he indicated Hatter's arm. Hatter clenched his teeth upon this remark as he felt his dignity slowly being stripped away once more. He would have liked nothing more than to comment on the White Knight's remark however he knew it would not be a very civil thing to do. Not to mention, Alice would become angry with him again had he the nerve to say something in his defense. "How is your arm by the way Hatter?"

"It's not so bad," Hatter lied. His arm was throbbing; blood was still dripping out of his arm. With each step he felt weaker at the loss of blood. If they did not arrive soon, he would be the one to fall unconscious. Of course, he refused to allow anyone to witness even a glimpse of this.

"We should be there momentarily," the White Knight replied as they were now exiting the forest. Alice squinted her eyes as the three came into direct contact with the sun once again. In the far distance, a tall castle stood silently.

"I thought you said we would be there momentarily," Hatter remarked with irritation as he saw how far the castle was from where they were currently positioned.

"It's not so far if we could gallop," the White Knight said defensively. He had completely forgotten the three were traveling at a slow pace instead of allowing his horse to run at top speed. "I merely lost my conception of time."

"Indeed," was all Hatter said.

Not wanting the small quarrel to continue (for she felt Hatter might add something to his remark at any moment), Alice was about to offer a solution until a horse's neigh was heard not far off in the distance. The White Knight's horse neighed in response. In just a few moments, another knight clad in armor appeared before them. It did not take the three long to realize from the white horse that the knight was the other White Knight.

"I'm glad that you are here cousin," the White Knight remarked to the new guest.

"Cousin?" Alice inquired.

"Why yes. We're cousins," Charles answered. The White Knight's cousin removed his helmet. He was remarkably similar to that of the White Knight. His long, dark brown hair was tied back and his almond eyes were full of glee.

"I've been searching for you. I was afraid the Jabberwocky got the best of you," the cousin replied, smiling.

"No, no. I took care of the beast," the White Knight replied reassuringly. The White Knight then gestured to both Alice and Hatter. "You remember former Queen Alice and this is her friend Hatter." Alice frowned slightly at the White Knight's mention of her being a queen.

"It is a pleasure to meet you again Queen Alice," the White Knight's cousin replied. "And Hatter."

"Likewise," Alice replied as politely as possible, attempting to refrain her frown. Hatter made no notion to respond: he merely nodded in acknowledgement.

"If it isn't too much trouble, would you mind bringing Hatter to the palace? He's been injured and requires assistance right away," the White Knight interjected.

"Certainly," the White Knight's cousin answered. With that, Hatter was hoisted up onto the second White Knight's horse.

"Hold on," the White Knight stated before both horses went into a gallop, heading in the direction of the White King's palace.

The White King's palace was very different from that of the Queen of Hearts. The castle walls were made of pure white stone. Angelic figures guarded the castle all around, each as innocent looking as the last. Portraits hung along the walls: some of fair maidens and others of dashing knights. Archways possessed the most careful carvings. Alice stares intriguingly at the elaborate decorations. She felt she could have gazed at the castle for hours. It was as though she was no longer in Wonderland but had instead stepped into a fairy tale.

"Alice, this way," Charles remarked as she had stopped in the center of the hall. Alice quickly escaped her day dreaming. She and Hatter followed the White Knight into his quarters.

Warmth immediately filled Alice as she stepped inside the White Knight's room. A roaring fire stretched its heat amongst the room. The lack of windows (there were only two) provided little light from the outside. Golden curtains concealed the White Knight's bed. The golden curtains appeared to stand out enormously in the nearly all white room. A small table was situated on the far end of the room opposite to where the bed was. The White Knight walked over to a cabinet resting on the side of the wall near the table's location. He brought out some bandages and a gold bowl.

"Someone should be bringing the hot water any moment," the White Knight informed the two. "I shall return momentarily. I must inform the White King of the slain Jabberwocky." Without another word, the White Knight left Alice and Hatter in his room to attend to other knightly duties.

Alice and Hatter did not say anything to one another as they awaited the arrival of the hot water. All the while, Alice pondered whether or not to begin answering Hatter's question as to why she had gone to see the Caterpillar in the first place. Yet, just as her other attempts of confession had failed her, each time Alice was about to begin the conversation, something stopped her from letting out even a single word.

"I really don't want to be interrupted by whoever is bringing the hot water," Alice used as another excuse to herself as to why she refused to begin the touchy subject.

Meanwhile, Hatter was still irritated from the White Knight's ravishing performance in the forest in addition to his admirable hospitality. If Hatter were to say anything, it was sure to come forth as a rude remark. But Hatter didn't want to be rude to Alice; he wanted to be rude to the White Knight. Of course, Hatter knew very well he was barking up the wrong tree by starting any sort of argument with the White Knight in Alice's presence.

Luckily, this awkward silence ceased within a few minutes as a servant brought in a tray. On the tray rested a pure white teapot. At first, Alice thought the lack of color in the teapot to be rather odd after having seen the assortment of colorful teapots Hatter possessed.

"Well, at least they had the courtesy to bring some tea," Hatter remarked.

"Oh, I'm sorry sir but there is no tea: just herbal hot water," the servant replied politely.

"What sort of person brings a teapot with no tea?" Hatter could not help but to say as a tone of confusion filled his voice. This was a rather odd castle. There was always tea present with a teapot. That was why teapot had the word tea in it.

"Hatter," Alice could not help but to sigh at his remark.

"I could fetch some tea for you if you like," the servant offered.

"That's quite all right. We can manage without tea," Alice replied. Hatter was about to protest: he really could use a nice cup of hot tea right now. However, already seeing signs of oddity, Hatter kept quiet. They would most likely be unable to create a cup of tea to ultimate perfection as he was able to do at any given moment. Without another word, the servant departed, leaving Hatter and Alice once again silent within the White Knight's chambers.

Alice quietly walked to where the teapot with hot water lay. She lifted the pot, bringing it over to the small table where the golden bowl lay. Hatter instinctively followed her. While Alice proceeded to pour the hot water into the bowl, Hatter sat in one of the chairs next to the table. He watched her steadily as she came to realize there was nothing to clean Hatter's wound with.

"Perhaps we should find someone else to assist me," Hatter suggested as Alice began searching the cabinets for a rag.

"Why?" Alice inquired, slightly offended.

"Well…you did nearly faint in the woods…," Hatter responded carefully.

"Oh, right," Alice remarked. She had nearly forgotten about such feelings after once again engaging herself in the never ending debate of when to inform Hatter of her leaving Wonderland. Finally finding a rag, Alice brought it to the table. She then stared thoughtfully at the door. "Perhaps the servant that was here earlier was meant to do it…"

"I don't think so," Hatter replied. "I believe the White Knight expected you to do it."

Alice cocked her head to the side as Hatter's statement confused her. If Charles saw her behavior upon seeing the Jabberwocky's blood decorating the ground, why would he expect her to clean Hatter's wound? That seemed rather silly. Yet, at the same time, Charles was very forgetful even though he did not like to admit it.

"The White Knight lives in a palace where someone of your age is already considered an adult. He expected a woman, you, to do a woman's job," Hatter explained.

"Charles wouldn't think such a thing!" Alice retorted. Alice now convinced herself Charles must have forgotten about the previous events in the woods. And, if what Hatter said was true, he must have also forgotten their conversation in the Queen of Heart's palace about Alice leaving Wonderland to become an adult. Still, it was a rather important thing to forget so easily…Hatter's comments were only causing Alice to feel more agitated.

"I'm not saying what he was thinking was wrong. I am simply saying he doesn't realize you are still a child," Hatter attempted to clarify. It was as though Alice expected him to speak ill about the White Knight.

"I am not a child," Alice countered defensively.

"Really? Because just yesterday you announced you would be passing into adulthood. Meaning, you are not an adult yet," Hatter could not help but to point out sarcastically knowing full well he had cornered Alice. But he did not care. He was the one who had went searching for her in the woods. He was the one who had saved Alice from the Jabberwocky and was perfectly willing to distract it in order to insure Alice's safety. Yet, here Alice was, defending the White Knight, attempting to create a completely flawless human being: even taking it so far as to claim she had reached adulthood. Meanwhile, her passage into adulthood was the very reason she would no longer be visiting Wonderland as frequently as Hatter desired. She always claimed him to be the mad one yet Hatter could not help but to think Alice was just as mad as he was.

Alice frowned in response, acknowledging what she had stated yesterday as utter defeat sunk in. She sat in a chair across from Hatter sharply. The two glared at one another.

"Give me your arm," Alice said, irritation filling her voice. Hatter's expression immediately transformed.

"I think you are being a bit rash," Hatter pointed out calmly, clearly now concerned.

"It's no good to leave your arm the way it is. Who knows how long it could take to find someone to assist you," Alice replied sharply.

"I think I can manage…I hardly feel a thing now," Hatter replied.

"That's not a good thing Hatter!" Alice exclaimed, now concerned as her anger was quickly subsiding. Here they were, arguing away meanwhile Hatter's arm could be on the brink of amputation. She had heard countless of stories from Lorina in which soldiers who were not treated right away would suffer multiple amputations and would usually die from the results. Countless images filled Alice's mind as these stories completely engulfed her. Of course, she couldn't tell Hatter any of this, least she should send him panicking as well. "Give me your arm," Alice repeated.

Seeing Alice's stressful expression, Hatter reluctantly held out his arm for her to see. She couldn't see much at first only the fact that his coat sleeve and shirt sleeve underneath were completely torn. Stains of crimson blood covered what remained of the sleeves. Alice cautiously pushed aside the remaining sleeves to find a deep gash in Hatter's arm. While it was unpleasant to look at, it still was no where near the amount of blood she had seen when the White Knight decapitated the Jabberwocky. Yet, at the same time, Alice felt as though there should have been a more serious wound.

"It isn't so terrible," Alice replied.

"...Oh, I had nearly forgotten. Jabberwocky have something in their saliva that allows their injuries to heal at unusually fast rates," Hatter replied. Alice simply nodded in acknowledgement at this new information though she really wished Hatter had informed her sooner.

"But, if the Jabberwocky is a predator, wouldn't that allow animals it has injured to heal and therefore escape?" Alice inquired.

"The Jabberwocky usually takes care of its meals before then…we were walking for quite some time you know," Hatter explained. The tension in Alice's shoulder's faded away as she picked up the rag and placed it in the golden bowl filled with hot water. The two remained silent as Alice began to clean Hatter's wound, having guilt consume both due to the argument that had occurred only a few moments ago. The blood surrounding the wound quickly faded, leaving only the point where the Jabberwocky's tooth came into contact with Hatter's flesh. Alice attempted to think of something, anything to end the silence and hopefully cheer Hatter up.

"Oh!" Alice exclaimed as she recalled her talk with the Caterpillar. Hatter stared towards her, curious as to why she had exclaimed with such enthusiasm. "I found the answer to your riddle Hatter!" Hatter merely looked confused, not understanding what Alice was talking about. "'Why is a raven like a writing desk?'" Alice recited as she recalled Hatter's riddle. Hatter perked up, awaiting the answer.

However, after waiting for three seconds with no answer, Hatter exclaimed, "Well? What is it?"

"Guess," Alice teased. Hatter racked his brain of any possible solutions, staring into an unknown void as he attempted to find an answer to the riddle.

"I don't know. I've been searching for years for the answer and I still haven't got a clue!" Hatter concluded.

"Because it can produce a few notes, though… they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" Alice answered. Hatter paused to think over this solution, making sure it made sense. Even if it did not make sense, Hatter would never know nor would he analyze it for very long to ensure it was a logical answer.

"It's the best answer I've ever heard," Hatter declared, convinced that this solution was acceptable.

"It's the only answer you've ever heard," Alice pointed out, smiling.

"All the more reason for it to be the best," Hatter replied. Now, with both their spirits up, Alice continued her chore with more enthusiasm. She was already beginning to wrap the bandages around Hatter's arm. However, this became difficult at times as Hatter began to fidget with excitement. "You know what this means? We'll have to come up with even more riddles for the Caterpillar to solve!" Hatter remarked. "How about this one?"

While Hatter began to conjure a riddle, Alice could not help but to be reminded that they wouldn't be able to create more riddles together as Hatter wished.

"I really do not want to put an end to his pleasant mood," Alice thought to herself.

"No, it must be done," Alice answered herself. She had waited long enough to tell him. It simply had to be done. "Hatter," Alice said, her voice sounding distant in her mind.

"Yes?" Hatter inquired, stopping all current activity to listen to her. Alice took a deep breath before continuing.

"Thank you…for saving me," Alice said. Inside her head, Alice argued with herself once more as she was unable to tell Hatter.

"You're welcome," Hatter replied happily, finally achieving the recognition he deserved. "Though Alice, you never answered my question." Still arguing with herself, Alice only provided a confused expression. "I asked you in the woods why you wanted to visit the Caterpillar. Well…I suppose I'm asking it again."

"Um…well…you see…" Alice began, choking on her own words at the very idea of having to tell him.

"Come on now, don't be shy," Hatter teased, completely oblivious to the seriousness of his question. Alice continued to struggle with her words. How was she to begin this conversation? What should she say?

"Hatter…remember how I told you I was going to have to visit Wonderland less often?" Alice began as calmly as possible.

"Yes…," Hatter answered awkwardly considering he had just mentioned it moments ago during their argument. "Did you go to ask him if there was a way for you to keep visiting Wonderland as often as you have been?"

"Not exactly…," Alice answered sheepishly, turning away from him. "You see…the truth is…in order for me to become an adult…I can't…I can't…" She looked towards Hatter to find his gleeful expression had changed once he realized whatever she was attempting to say was rather serious. However, just as the first attempt to tell Hatter had been torture, this time was no different. She tried to push the words out of her mouth, to force them forward. "I can't come back to Wonderland! This is my last visit." While the news she was now delivering was utterly terrible in her eyes, Alice could not help but to feel a sensation of relief. She had finally made peace with herself.

Hatter was stunned from the news. His expression was completely blank. Alice leaving forever? Was this...was this possible? After being acquainted with Alice for eight years it seemed impossible for her to suddenly slip out of his life just like that. Something inside Hatter suddenly clicked. It was as though a fog had been lifted over him. Why he was so jealous of the White Knight and even Milo interacting with Alice now made more sense than ever. Just as he was able to find the answer to his riddle "why is a raven like a writing desk?" he was able to find an answer to his unusual behavior when in the presence of Alice. He was in love with her. While this revelation sent his heart beating furiously he could not help but to be dismayed. He only came to this wonderful revelation because he was about to lose the one thing he loved most forever. In consequence, an overwhelming sadness began to engulf him.

"Hatter..." Alice remarked gently, lightly squeezing his hand, bringing him back to Wonderland.

"Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Hatter inquired, hurt that he only had a short time to spend with Alice while knowing his full feelings for her.

"I tried to tell you," Alice replied, feeling guilty. "But you looked so upset. I didn't want to hurt your feelings."

"Is that why you were crying the night of the concert?" Hatter further inquired as Alice's odd behavior was now beginning to make sense.

"Yes," Alice confessed as though she were on trial.

"Do you want to go?" Hatter could not help but to ask. While he wanted what was best for Alice, at the same time, he hoped she at least wanted to stay. It would hurt even more if she actually wished to leave, knowing full well the two would never see each other.

"Of course not!" Alice could not help but to cry out as her eyes were beginning to fill with water. "But it's the only way."

Just as Hatter was about to speak, Charles re-entered the room. Alice quickly wiped her eyes before he could see. Charles' smile faded as he realized something was amiss between the two.

"I hope I was not interrupting something," Charles remarked apologetically.

"You weren't interrupting anything," Alice replied. Hatter gloomily watched Charles walk over towards the two. As he eyed the White Knight, the one who treated Alice as an adult, something clicked in his twisted brain. The White Knight had treated Alice as an adult when in actuality Alice was not as far from growing up as Hatter had originally thought.

"You told the White Knight about leaving, didn't you?" Hatter exclaimed at the sudden realization. Alice lowered her head at Hatter's comment.

"Yes..." Alice managed to murmur.

"Who else did you tell?" Hatter demanded, becoming more upset upon realizing he was not the first to know of this. It did not help that the White Knight was told of this before himself. What if the March Hare knew? No, that was unlikely. But he bet that sleeping Dormouse knew exactly what was going on the entire time! The nerve of him to keep silent about such important information and then to blame poor Milo! Then again, it was likely Milo was aware as well. Had he and the March Hare been the only ones uninformed about this?

"Just...a few people..." Alice answered sheepishly. Hatter slowly began to sink in his seat.

"Alice, were you able to figure out what must be done in order to leave Wonderland?" Charles inquired. He was relieved to be able to speak about this in the open now instead of worrying whether or not Alice had informed Hatter.

"Yes," Alice replied though she still felt uncomfortable discussing such matters in front of Hatter. She could see him wince slightly at the remark. "I must go up the rabbit hole."

"That makes sense," Charles replied though there was a hint of uncertainty in his voice. At least Alice was not the only one who felt the Caterpillar's advice to be rather odd. She only hoped that wasn't some sort of riddle! Alice waited a moment in hopes Hatter would respond. However, he remained silent as he traveled deep within his thoughts.

"I suppose," Alice replied.

"If you would like, I can escort you there," the White Knight offered.

"Alice isn't going up the rabbit hole!" Hatter proclaimed rather suddenly sending the two to jolt from their positions as he slammed his hand on the table, rising from his seat.

"Hatter..." Alice began.

"I don't care what I said before, Alice. This isn't right for you," Hatter continued. Hatter had made up his mind: there was no way he was going to lose Alice immediately after realizing his feelings for her. She wasn't going to simply walk out of his life one day and be gone the next.

"Hatter, don't you think you're being a bit rash?" The White Knight offered calmly.

"No, I'm not. Thank you for your hospitality but Alice and I are going to see Time," Hatter replied as he moved away from his seat.

"Time?" Alice inquired.

"Yes, Time. If there is anyone who can solve this problem, it's Time. And he will like you very much Alice," Hatter said as he took Alice's hand and began to lead her out of the White Knight's room.

"Hatter, I think you are letting your feelings get in the way of what's best for Alice," the White Knight remarked just before they left. Hatter stopped dead in his tracks. Alice gazed up at Hatter to find his muscles tensing. He obliviously began squeezing her hand tightly. Hatter turned his head back towards the White Knight.

"If I know Alice then she is most definitely not ready to grow up yet," Hatter replied.

"But she will have to eventually," Charles pointed out sadly. "You can't keep her in Wonderland forever. No one can."

"I'm not going to just sit by and let-," Hatter began but had to stop himself briefly before continuing, nearly confessing his feelings for Alice, "-my friend leave me forever." Hatter waited for the White Knight to counter his statement. However, the White Knight merely sighed. Hatter glanced down at Alice. She did not offer to say anything but merely stared up at him, mystified by his statement. Hatter took her hand more delicately before leading her out of the White King's palace towards where Time lived.


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