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Far From Home [Open - in the Jungle]

Hatter had come to a conclusion. It wasn't absolute, because he didn't quite trust his own mind to think of things in that way. But it wwas as close as he could get. It had taken him a week or more to reach the conclusion, but that was because it was so difficult to keep a single thought in his mind for so long. But the conclusion was this:

Women were insane.

Now, Hatter knew something about insanity. Quite a bit, really. You don't earn the title "The Mad Hatter" without good cause. He'd been the Mad Hatter for so long, that people tended to forget his real name. Himself included. Why bother with Reginald L. Theophilus III when 'Hatter' worked just as well? Besides, nobody but the Hare had called him 'Reggie' in over a hundred years. On a good day, he could remember how to spell it properly. Other days, he would launch pencils at the terrible Windowshade and make sailboats out of the paper. There were the occasional times when he could actually carry a conversation, if the topic was right (like tea) or if he was angry enough. He'd had some decent rows with the Dormouse. But for the most part, thoughts breezed through his mind like air currents. Some were easier to grasp than others. Some were rotten and moldy, so he avoided them. Others were threatening.

But that was madness. His insanity. Understanding it didn't make it any easier to control. Controlling it would mean facing those moldy throughts or the threatening ones, and Hatter didn't want to. He was scared to. So he lived that way, managed to survive, and living was made possible by some very strict routines that he followed every day.

Routines that she had destroyed.

Female insanity, Hatter had painsakingly put together, was completely irrational, completely emotional, and impossible to comprehend. One moment, Alice would be screaming at him, and the next, pressing herself against him for... who knew what reason? And then she would storm off, infuriated, the moment he tried to speak. For the love of tea, what was wrong with her?

All at once today, he had been afraid to go home. Home was his sanctuary, the place where things made sense to his fractured mind. But she had turned it into a nightmare, complicating his simple rituals, clearing away his small comforts with some evil she had called 'cleaning'. It wasn't safe there anymore. It had become twisted and confusing, a place of both fear and satisfaction. He couldn't, couldn't, wouldn't ask her, tell her, command her to leave, and he didn't know why. She'd broken down all the borders that had kept him going, and he didn't know if he liked it, or hated it.

So he fled. Running at first, then walking once he got tired. He hopped for a while, first on the right leg, then on the left. Then he switched around the order so both legs had been hopped on properly. This of course was off-balance, since the left leg had been hopped on twice in a row, while the right leg had gotten a break. So he started over, hopping with his left leg, then the right, right again, and left. By this time, both of his legs felt quite tired and rubbery, so he secured his hat tightly upon his head and walked on his hands for a bit.

Hopping on his hands quickly proved futile and made for slow progress when he fell over after each attempt. By the time he had finished falling over enough to balance out the number of bruises he had on either side of his body, his legs were sore, but recovered enough to start running again. They gave out much more quickly this time, and when Hatter finally came to a stop, he was far too exhausted to see where he was. Someplace with lots of trees. He collapsed, rolled to the side of the road, and passed out under a large plant with wide green leaves.

Tags: mad hatter, puss

From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/12/2007 16:03:32  

Puss had his own feminine dilemma, namely Carabosse who was still desperately mortal and terrified for her life. He'd shrugged off his native form weeks ago and become the usual prowling kitty he liked to be. Lately he let his travels from the safe haven he had built for Cara take him farther and farther away. She didn't seem to mind, or at least she didn't say, so he ventured further out with each urge to leave the nest.

He found himself now in the jungle with all of the exotic and dangerous plant life. He loved it out here, stalking through the trees and chasing down a tasty meal of mouse or some other small prey.

For the moment however he was entertained by the purposeful floppings of one, very mad hatter. He padded up on stealthy paws and curled his tail around the fat, green leaves covering his exhausted body. He lingered in curiosity, hoping the peculiar creature would wake up soon.
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/12/2007 19:13:27  

When Hatter became aware of his senses, it occurred to him that he was lying in the dirt. An immediate scowl crossed his face, and he sat up quickly, frantically brushing the dust, dirt, and mud from his shirt and jacket. It didn't work very well, considering his hands were also dirty.

"Great gooly moogly," he muttered, taking a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe off his hands, and then begin the painsaking task of removing the streaks from his jacket.

It was after several minutes of this that he noticed the cat. He froze in place, eyes flickering over to it. Then, with sudden speed, he dropped back to the ground at eye level with the feline, staring back into its eyes, unblinking.

Hatter was good at the Staring Game. He'd had a lot of practice with the strange man living in his mirror.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/13/2007 10:20:27  

Puss was terribly amused and just as good at the staring game. He narrowed his eyes to slits and gazed back at the strange man laying on the ground.

He wanted to speak, but thought it would be more fun to play along for a bit than to ruin the introductions with words and prose. He smirked in his kitty way, a whisker twitching as he hunkered down for a nice, long stare.
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/13/2007 10:32:25  

The game held up for a long time. Hatter's eyes had teared and watered, trying to lubricate the orbs since he was refusing to blink.

Finally, he spoke. "You haven't disappeared yet."

Perhaps it was an odd thing to say. But Hatter was accustomed to certain felines who chose to fade away during this Game, leaving behind only his eyes and a maddening grin.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/13/2007 10:38:33  

Puss blinked and laughed. "No. I haven't," he replied. "I'm not the sort to begin a game and end it with an invisibility act."

He grinned now, though not the maddening kind of grin and gave a brief bow to his worthy opponent. "I have never met someone who could out-stare a cat good sir. I am entirely honored to have come against you in a fine round of staring."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/13/2007 10:48:43  

Talking cats were nothing out of the ordinary. Polite talking cats were. Hatter furrowed his brow. "Er. Okay." He let the words settle themselves in his head for a moment, rearranging them into something he could understand. That was when he realized he'd been paid a compliment. A compliment!

A wide grin spread over Hatter's face. But it was quickly extinguished. He was talking to a cat, after all. You couldn't trust cats.

Hatter gave him a look, then asked, wary, "Do you like tea?"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/13/2007 11:09:44  

"I adore tea," Puss said delightedly, though a little confused by the seemingly erratic moods of the man with the hat. "You don't happen to have any?" he asked. "I could forage for some snacks if you'd be interested."

And then Puss felt very rude. "Oh, you must pardon me, please. I haven't even properly introduced myself. I am Puss de Carabas and honored to meet you."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/13/2007 11:28:17  

The smile returned to Hatter's lips. Anyone who liked tea was tolerable by definition. "Of course I have tea!" he said, shocked by the implication that he might be without. "I ought to have a few scones...." Another look was shot at the cat. "You like scones too?"

Hatter slid off his hat, and dug inside. he first thing to come out was a large, red and white checkered blanket. Because a proper tea party should never be held on the ground. Since he didn't have a table or chairs, the blanket would have to do. Then came out cups and saucers, a sugar bowl, a creamer willed with thick cream, and a teapot that was still seeping steam. And a small plate of scones and sugared biscuits.

"Honored?" Hatter frowned at the cat. "To meet me?" this was something new. Normally people were rather frustrated and annoyed when they met Hatter.

A thought struck Hatter then, and he nodded with understanding. "Ah. You must be new in Wonder... in Ozland." With a flourish, he tipped his hat to the cat. "I am the Mad Hatter."
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/13/2007 11:37:00  

Puss watched in amazement as more and more wonderful, delightful smelling things came out of the hat. He didn't comment, only gazed in awe, his jaw slightly ajar. "Scones," he said dreamily, "are lovely. I haven't had a proper tea in so long."

He smiled at the hatter's incredulity. "I am honored to meet most anyone who can carry a teacart in their hat," he said.

Then he laughed, easily and aiming to put the easily disarmed Hatter at ease. "You must be new to Pentamerone. We're in the Rajani Jungle Mr. Hatter."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/13/2007 11:47:37  

"It's a good hat," Hatter said, tipping it stylishly on his head. "I made it myself."

He squinted at the cat. "No, no, no... I live in... well, it used to be Wonderland, but then things changed and now everyone calls it Ozland, but it's still Wonderland, but I didn't change, not until she came along, so I'm still the Mad Hatter -- just Hatter, by the way -- even if she calls me Reginald, I know my name is Reginald L. Theophilus III, but I'm still Hatter, of Wonderland."

He looked around slowly, taking in the scenery for the first time. "Um. Jungles... what are jungles?"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/13/2007 12:05:35  

"A milliner as well as an avid connoisseur of tea." He was doubly impressed before becoming highly confused. He struggled to follow the rest of the conversation and smiled slowly. "Of course Hatter," he said warmly and then gestured around at their surroundings. "This is the jungle," he said brightly and sipped at his cup of tea. "Oo, delightful," he said before looking around again. "Jungles are sort of overgrown, lots of vegetation, crazy, wild animals." He grinned and picked up a delicious looking scone. "Fun to ramble around in, especially if you really are mad."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/13/2007 12:18:17  

Hatter stared at the cat. "I am a hatter! Not a milliner! This is a right fine top hat," he said, sweeping it off his head and showing it to the cat. "See the felt? All hand-stitched, that is. Cured it myself. I make all sorts of fine-quality hats. Not just those dainty little foppish things a milliner sells to silly ladies that don't know the difference between quality and ostentation."

He picked up a cup of tea, sipping it carefully. Even if he was a bit angry at the name-calling, it wouldn't do to take it out on the tea.

He paused for a moment at the thought of 'crazy, wild animals'. Back at home, all the creatures knew that taking a bite out of Hatter would likely result in death by mercury poisoning. Did animals in the jungle know that?

"What sort of animals?"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/13/2007 12:23:38  

"I did not mean to offend," he said quickly, enjoying the interesting, if clearly insane company. "I wonder if you do commissions," Puss said, wondering if he might tempt the Hatter to make something wonderful for him.

"As for the animals, I have only run across a few, but I am by far a clever and cunning cat and made quick escapes without incident," he said proudly. "I have heard stories about some truly terrifying beasts, but I doubt they're as big and bad as the tales."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/14/2007 17:17:27  

Hatter was fluffed up and ready to lay in some more arguing on the exact differences between hatters and milliners, when the word 'commissions' stuck in his mind, like a fly in... flypaper.

He tried to appear thoughtful. "I've been known to do some... custom work. From time to time."

At the mention of 'terrifying beasts', Hatter relaxed visibly. "Oh, good. They won't want to bother with me, then."
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/17/2007 12:36:35  

Puss wasn't sure if the man was merely egotistical or insane; he was beginning to think that the Hatter had married the two into some new, delightful personality disorder. "Ah, I do have trouble finding hats to fit my head, and round my ears," he said, avoiding the subject of beasts altogether. "If you would be so interested I would love to see what you might cook up for this particular cat."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/17/2007 17:54:06  

Hatter simply hadn't quite gotten the notion through his head that this wasn't Wonderland. Or even Ozland. Any 'terrifying beasts' from his home knew not to taste Hatter. It was amazing that he had survived all the mercury that he used to cure felt. None of the Wonderland inhabitants wanted to take the same risk.

Thoughts took a bit of time to get through his mind. It was quite disorganized in there, after all. And the thought going in rarely seemed to coincide with the one concluded.

But some things, you never forgot. No matter hos many personality, behavioral, and cognitive disorders there were to work around. While munching on a scone, Hatter tilted his head this way and that, examining the shape of the cat's head, the distance between his ears.

"A Balmoral would sit properly. You are entirely the wrong shape for a skully. A beret could be cut to fit properly around one ear, and leave the other free for style. A fedora would be too tall in the wrong spots. You'd have to loop it under your chin and it would make the brim sag. A capuchon would be delightful but impractical. And would require a chin strap as well. You're completely wrong for a cloche. A windsor cap may also work, but lacks any sense of style. It's rather dull. I refuse to work on a kepi or a tuque - I have taste, after all. I confess I have a flair for the capotain. How high would you like it to be? Do you want to keep the sun from your eyes, or to show some flair of fashion? A cavalier hat would be quite fashionable. A deerstalker would be not only inappropriate but a fashion faux pas. I can also make a trilby, but not out of rabbit. I have a friend who would protest."

Hatter paused there for a moment, rubbing his chin. Where was Hare? He'd kept tea warm and ready for her, and had waited and waited and waited, at his table, but Hare hadn't returned. Instead, Alice had.

And then, things had just gone wrong and wronger.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/17/2007 18:39:15  

Puss was impressed and quite happy about this serendipitous meeting.

"I should have a whole wardrobe of hats with all of the options you have presented me," he said cheerfully. "In truth I have no concern for height or whether it keeps the sun from my eyes. I simply have an adoration for hats and I do like to appear fashionable. Also I am not entirely certain a hat made of rabbit would suit me, so there are no worries about protests. How long would it take you to make a hat?" he asked, wondering how many he'd be willing to work on him for, and at what cost.
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/17/2007 18:50:16  

Oh dear. That was a question. Hatter looked back at the cat, let the words bounce around in his mind for a while, and scratched his head. "Um. From the time I start to the time I finish."

He hadn't been able to track the hours ever since Time had abandoned him. And Hatter couldn't remember the last time he'd made a hat. He made them, obviously, and he knew how. Sometimes a particular thing would catch his attention and not let go until it was completed. Other projects would end up covered in dust kitties and carefully cleaned every few months to measure their dust-catching ability.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 05:58:59  

Puss couldn't fault him for that answer, since it was true.

"Then I shall ask another question perhaps, do you ever work on many hats at once?" He grinned, a whisker twitched and he reached up to scratch a spot just behind his ear. "I would consider an entire wardrobe from such a skilled Hatter," he said warmly, making sure to put emphasis on the word and drive home that he got the point about the difference between milliner and hatter (while he really didn't understand, the offense taken was enough to make him not want a repeat of that vocabulary faux pas).
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/19/2007 09:31:54  

Hatter furrowed his brow. "I've only got two hands," he said, frowning. That wouldn't make it very possible to work on more than one at a time, right?

It had been a long time since he'd made hats. The knowledge was there, it was still in his brain. But the memories of his days as a professional hatter were long, long gone.

The conversation and the line of questioning was starting to distress him just a bit. Hatter took a drink from his tea, wondering if the cat was going to ask any more.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 11:20:31  

"Then I shall humbly request that you make me a hat, any hat you think would suit me. And should you like to perhaps another hat after that. I will gladly pay you for your services, however I'm not certain which currency you'd like to use. I am a great fan of barter myself."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/19/2007 11:23:51  

"Do you know anything about girls?" Hatter asked abruptly. "Or... tall girls. Not really a girl, so much. Female. Um. Older than a girl. The beautiful ones. Like, when they move in and start doing things like rearranging your teapots and throwing away the dust-kitties under the sofa?"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 12:25:33  

Puss laughed at the dust kitties comment. He'd never heard them called that. "I know a bit about women," he conjectured. "Not all of the deep, tell-all secrets. But I am aware of some of the ways to deal with those delightful, mysterious creatures."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/19/2007 15:24:36  

"Will you tell me?" Hatter asked. "For a hat? Is that a..." he fumbled for the right words. "... good trade?"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 15:35:27  

"Probably not," Puss said honestly, "unless you value advice as good trade for the first hat and the beginning of what could become a beautiful working relationship."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/19/2007 15:50:39  

"I need the advice!" Hatter cried, nearly (but not quite!) spilling his tea in the sudden agitation. "I don't know why I can't tell her to leave, when she does everything wrong! She rearranged the tea pots!" The look he gave Puss seemed to be fully assured that there could never be a greater sin.

Not understanding that Puss was trying to help him, Hatter offered, "How about two hats? For...what you said? They're very very good hats!"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 15:56:20  

Puss frowned a bit. If it were anyone else they might attempt to take advantage. Fortunately for Hatter, Puss was far too honorable to take that sort of liberty. "One hat will do good Hatter," he said gently and offered his best kitty smile.

"Is the problem that this divine woman is rearranging your things or that she won't leave your house?" he asked easily, because those seemed to be the two most pressing issues for the man with the fabulous hat.
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/19/2007 16:03:18  

"Yes," Said Hatter. "No. Both?" He reached up and tugged at the brim of his hat, pulling it down until it covered his eyes. Like the ostrich, he seemed to think that this hid him from view.

"She arranges and she cleans and she drinks my unbirthday wine and reads silly romance books and then she yells at me and I yell at her and then she hugs me and it's all nice and sweet and warm and I don't want to let go not ever ever ever so I say something and she yells at me again and storms away and I can't live like this!"

Hatter at this point had pulled his hat over him so well, that only his feet were sticking out from the bottom. A few brain cells bumped together as a floating spood bounced off his forehead, and Hatter realized that the cat wouldn't hear him if he was this far away. So Hatter pulled himself out of his hat, dusted off the precious, hand-made felt, and looked at Puss.

"What was the question?"
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 16:10:55  

"Oh dear, you do have a problem," Puss said, though he used his mildest possible tone in doing so. "You like this girl very much?" he asked softly, though it wasn't so much a question as an assumption and he wanted confirmation.
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/19/2007 16:29:29  

Hatter considered the implications of that. Did he like her? What was it to like something? He liked jam. He liked wiggly things. He liked things that were shiny. Oooh, shiny. Shiny was pretty. Pretty! He liked pretty things. He liked... hats. And blue. He liked sweet things to eat.

What didn't he like? He didn't like rude people. He didn't like big, scary things. He didn't like having his house in disarray when he just wanted to go home and make sure that the Lampshade hadn't caused havoc in his absence. He didn't like when the sun came up too soon, or when it set too soon.

Where did Alice stand in that list? She was yellow and blue and pretty, which he liked. But she was rude and loud and made the house in disarray when he just wanted to go home and make sure that the Lampshade hadn't caused havoc in his absence.

And she was soft and sweet and smelled nice. And she tasted a bit like tea when he kissed her.

Hatter wibbled. And nodded.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/19/2007 17:05:58  

"I will level with you sir, cohabiting with the feminine species is a bit of a trial, particularly when there are feelings involved. What needs to be done is the establishment of boundaries," he said wisely.

He wanted to pat the poor Hatter on his shoulder and wish him luck. Puss had enough experience with women to know they were no picnic, particularly to live with. He offered a friendly smile. "You need to figure out what is off limits to your lady friend and tell her so."
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/20/2007 15:44:38  

Hatter blinked at the cat, trying to figure out if he was even speaking the same language anymore. When Puss surged ahead and translated, the poor hatter threw up his hands.

"Wait, wait, wait. How are we going to level? Do you grow bigger, or should I shrink? I don't see any mushrooms, but I may have some biscuits..."

He also didn't like trials. He remembered another trial once, with the Knave of Hearts. It had been some business about tarts. Tarts were tasty, but scones were far better. Second only to tea.

He hadn't even tried the word after 'sir'.
From: [info]carabas_cat Date: 11/23/2007 07:44:54  

"Oh my," Puss said quietly. "I mean merely to be honest with you when I say level. It is a figure of speech." He smiled softly. This poor beleaguered Hatter was perhaps too broken up to really understand the more flowery aspects of Puss' trained court speech.

"I am not certain the best way to go about this. Perhaps if I may invite myself to tea at your residence and I could meet your lady friend for myself. I may be able to help you talk to her, if you like?"
From: [info]as_a_hatter Date: 11/28/2007 10:36:25  

Hatter looked at the cat eagerly, and nodded. "Yes! Yes, please! Please?"

The pitifully distressed frown was both tragic and comical on his face.
Community: [info]pentamerone
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