Apologies for long notes.
I loved the Cheshire Cat in the books—loved him in the cartoon of 1951, and, when I got into it, his guiding, seer-like presence in American McGee's Alice (+Into Madness) was just lovely, but I'd like it to be known that while I was fond of him in Tim Burton's AiW, it wasn't even out when I first wrote this. This is from a hard-drive from quite a while ago that I've edited and revamped to include McGee's and, somewhat, Burton's versions of the Cat. I liked the idea of his abilities being 'evaporation skills', and the imagery that comes with it.
But quite a lot of this fic includes quotes from the book (and delightfully the game as well, it makes me happy that it took so much from the books :P), and a few quotes from the movie, but a lot, and I mean a LOT, is book and game quotes.
If you were looking for specifically Tim Burton's Cat in this YAHF, I apologize.
And if you're asking why I dredged this up, well, I read another fic (I'm sorry I can't remember the title or author, but you'll know who you are) with Xander as the Cat and Dawn as Alice (McGee's, for the both), and was reminded of my own fic, and was…
I dunno, but I hope you enjoy, see endnotes for things that might've confused you, but hopefully have been explained enough in the actual fic.
Truth in Madness
Chapter 1—A Cat-Like Grin
It was very, very tempting to talk the kid out of getting the $2 gun, but there were a few other interesting things in the Under $5 bin. He didn't feel like returning the fatigues from the army surplus so maybe he'd mix things up a bit, show off some creativity of the Xan-Man…. Maybe. Or he might skip all this and toss a sheet over his shoulder and call it a toga.
He was sorting through a handful of the small, bagged costume accessories when he caught sight of his girls.
"…wild with no repercussions."
"O-oh I don't get wild. Wild on me, equals spaz."
"Don't underestimate yourself, you've got it in you."
Willow caught sight of him and grinned, obviously thankful for the distraction techniques he was so great at. His expert distractibility. "Xander! What'd you get?"
He made a face. "Before I play distraction, Wills', whatever Buffy says you have in you, you have in you. Obviously—well, not to say you have anything like, in you in you, but… You know what? I'll take distraction for 500—if I had that kind of money. I was going to grab a fake gun and go as an army guy, but, y'know…" The kid who took the gun from the Under $5 bin brushed past, and he gestured after him with his handful of costume parts, shrugging.
"Too slow? And… that's not a costume." Buffy half-asked, head tilted, and his annoyance from earlier returned.
"Yep. Too slow, too weak, didn't feel like my street cred could get any better shaking down a kid for a toy gun… And I got fatigues from an army surplus at home. I'd say call me the 2-dollar costume king, baby—but, alas, my plan was foiled, so I'll have to earn my title some other way."
"Look, Xander, I'm really sorry about this morning…"
"Do you mind Buffy? I'm trying to repress."
Willow nodded her head. "Yep, repression is good for a soon-to-be monarch." Buffy rolled her eyes, smiling, and leaned against him. He allowed it, because he was the bigger person—not just literally, and also, y'know, contact good. Contact of the not hitting kind, very good.
"Okay, then, I promise from now on I'll let you get pummeled. And I'm sorry your costume plan didn't work out—but we can help you out with an alternative!"
Xander waited a half moment just to show he wasn't weak to her puppy-dog eyes, then,
"Thank you. And, y'know, I'd say something like 'curse you small child, for stealing my costume prop!' Except this is the hellmou…" he trailed off, because Buffy was interrupting their little touching reconciliation to look at… Well, all Xander could see was a Peter Pan-esque costume, and a blue poofy dress with an apron—
"Oh, are you thinking of going as Alice in Wonderland?" He didn't need to look at Willow to know she was all with the grimace, but that was an old, old argument, and Buffy was…
Going right past the blue poofy dress to a big, pink… thing. Xander really didn't know what to make of that much material. It was much poofier.
"I'm sorry, it's just… look at this." She fingered at the shiny material.
"It's beautiful." Xander was half-convinced Willow was saying that to keep the topic of Lewis Carol off the table.
He shook his head.
"Too bulky. I prefer my women in spandex."
Now if Buffy and Willow wanted to go as superheroes, he could get behind that. Willow certainly had the hair for Jean Grey or the Black Widow—though really, weird thoughts connected Willow and sex, so maybe not the great BW.
But Buffy might not have an issue with wigs like Wills' does, so she had a whole slew of characters open to her. She was already sort of a warrior princess, so she could totally pull off a short Wonder Woman…
He let himself soak that thought in for a moment.
He blinked when an old guy with a vague sort of smarmy accent pulled the extra-poofy dress from the wire model, and held it up in front of Buffy. It was very… Disney Princess. With extra, extra poof.
He really didn't know what to think of so much poof.
But she looked enchanted over it, and apparently Halloween would be a quiet night—really, thank you Hellmouth, for this fairly ironic holiday—so what could be the harm?
Especially when she gets the thing on discount; nowhere near the two-dollar-deal he was aiming for himself, but pretty good considering… poof. Just so much with the pink and poof.
The maybe-English guy put her dress in an extra large bag after she paid, and then she turned back to Willow and he. "So you were saying Alice in Wonderland earlier?"
He rolled his eyes. "Oh c'mon Willow, it's a book. Get over it."
Buffy looked between them, pouting a bit in the way she did when he and Willow had one of their grew-up-together moments.
"We had to read it in third grade. Willow didn't like it…"
"…And Xander did."
"Wow, Xander liking a book? Willow disliking a book? Maybe something funky is going to happen Halloween after all."
"The book just doesn't make any sense!"
"Yeah, and it's hilarious because of it! C'mon," he grinned, and made his voice all whispery and creepy the way Willow used to hate. "We're all mad here, Willow… OooOOOaaaaaooooowww—ow! There's also significantly less violence in Wonderland. It's all verbal insults and eating and drinking suspiciously labeled things."
"And head chopping. I just don't understand why you have to like the one classic book I don't like. It's much with the not making sense!"
"Exactly! I'm with the not making much sense-ness, so it's perfect!—wait." He tried re-arranging that sentence in his mind, before shaking it off as a non-matter.
"Wait, wait, so… Willow doesn't like the book because it doesn't make sense, and because it doesn't make sense, Xander thinks it's funny?"
"Seems like." Xander shrugged and started sorting through his handful of costume bits.
Little plastic bats, what looked like individual false fangs, a pirate's earring, a makeup fluffy brush thing, and what he first thought was fake centipedes but was actually false-eyelashes.
The Probably-English guy who gave Buffy a deal on her dress sidled up beside him.
"Thinking of going as a vampire, then?"
He'd never felt so connected to his girls as when they all three made faces at the thought. English Guy held up his hands, eyebrows raised. "Pardon my assumptions, but fangs and bats bring about an image."
"Yeah, we aren't really a vampire sort of bunch, not in the way you're thinking."
Digging through the under-$5 bin, Xander came up with a pair of grey cat ears, a roll of fishing wire, and a black and white zebra tail. Eyeing his finds, along with what else he had in hand, he gave English Guy a speculative look.
"Well how about I go as the Cat?" he shrugged.
"Not the Mad Hatter? Wasn't he your favourite when we were kids?" Willow was still scrunching her nose, but the fact that she'd remembered that much made him smile.
"Hah, yeah, but if I could get a top-hat and wig and some sort of jacket all for under five bucks, something seriously wrong would happen immediately after, probably right on Halloween, too." English guy made a small noise, and Xander looked to see him half-raise a hand to his mouth.
"Bite your tongue? Hate it when that happens. So how about… mmn, three bucks for the face paint, cat ears, and teeth?"
English guy gave him a sort of sideways-look, and Xander grinned.
"C'mon, these won't sell, not when you've got like a dozen black cat ears over there, and what's a little make up and teeth between friends, huh?"
English guy looked him over for a moment, considering.
"$5, and you can take the tail, the twine, and the earring along with it. Not going to sell with just the one."
"Deal." Xander pulled a fiver from his pocket—he wasn't planning on spending even this much on a costume, but…
Money changed hands, and English guy gave him a sort of smug look. Xander wondered if he'd somehow been duped, but while he wasn't exactly swimming in cash, he wasn't going to hurt over a couple dollars.
"Enjoy your time as a cat."
He helped pull Buffy's huge-and-fluffy purchase from the store, the faithful pack mule, and wondered if stuffy and odd were the only two settings English guys came in.
So face paint was a bit harder to put on than he'd thought—he should have bargained for the little make-up brush thingy, too—but he smudges together black and white enough to get a stripy light-grey dark-grey thing going for him, and had used a little extra black paint to give himself a crease on his upper lip and an extra-wide grin that nearly reached his sideburns.
English guy must think Xander was more into the DIY aspect of costumes, but he wasn't, so he skipped over the fishing-wire whiskers for white painted on ones. Really, the guy had high expectations if he thought Xander would try for sticking-out-of-his-face sort of whiskers.
He thought for a moment that he should stop by the shop after the kids were escorted home, to show off his decent but not spectacular make-up job, and grinned—and then stopped, because that made his drawn on grin move weirdly, and he'd like to leave the freaking out to other people. For once.
The ears went on, and because he felt like it he added the gold hoop earring to one of the felt tips. A little bit of charcoal grey-ed up the zebra tail, and he was all set in army surplus pants and a black tank. He wasn't the Two-Dollar costume king, but he'd claim the lesser prize of the Fiver-Fiefdom happily.
He headed out with the fangs and face paint in his pocket—he'd try getting the teeth in at Buffy's, and hopefully she or Willow would be willing to take the make up off his hands—both literally and figuratively.
It might be charcoal dust and face paint being un-mixy, but if the English guy ripped him off in some way, it was for the hard to get off make up.
Buffy's mom didn't do up their house crazily, but with some fake cobwebs around and a pumpkin grinning toothily from their front doors it was a sight better than Xander's place.
He rang the doorbell, and made sure to grin extra wide. "Ready for Wonderland—" he stopped. Hey, look, Buffy's wearing a wig! Score the first for Wonder Woman fantasy!
"Buffy. Lady of Buffdom, Duchess of Buffonia, I am in awe. I completely renounce spandex." A little bit.
She smiled, and curtsied. "And don't you make a charming cat."
"That's Cheshire Cat, thank you."
"Willow and I can help fix your make up before we leave—oh, but wait till you see… Casper."
Willow was in full-out ghost garb, 'Boo!' written out across her chest. Xander thought he knew now what she and Buffy were talking about at the costume shop.
So yeah, poofy and pink looked amazing on the Buffster, but then both she and Willow looked good covered in dirt and leaves, so this was no surprise. Willow was… the ever-friendly ghost. Jesse could be a dick, but he'd been a good friend and always knew the right thing to say to Willow to boost her self esteem.
Both she and Buffy did indeed 'fix' his makeup, and added face paint to his hair and on his arms—he wished he'd worn some sort of jacket, now, since it seemed like he'd have unwashable stripes down his arms for a week now—and Willow was the one to figure out how the tooth cement worked with the fangs, and then they were off to school.
For a change, it was crawling with little kids, and a scattering of parents, and probably for the first and last time ever he felt a little in control entering the building.
Adults? Maybe. People his own age? Only if he can snark.
But kids? Kids he knew. He was the favourite older cousin on both ends of relative-bearing uncles and aunts, so while he could think of better things to be doing on a day like today, it wasn't exactly the hardship Principal Snyder made it out to be.
"Where's your body guard Harris? Did you help her do her make up, too?"
At least a dozen pirate-jokes came to mind, but they wouldn't change Larry's mind, and it wouldn't do anything at all good to start a fight… not to mention Buffy would pout like there's no tomorrow if he messed up his face paint.
He also thought he might puncture his lip if he got punched with these teeth in. So there was that.
When he got his kids for the evening (A soccer player, a lady bug, a butterfly, a Hangman, and a pixie/superhero as she couldn't decide which she liked better, and all the power to her for it), he decided it was his duty to share his years of experience with them, so that one day they may pass on his wisdom.
"Okay, on sleazing extra candy, tears are key. They'll get you the double-bagger. You can also try the old 'you missed me' routine, but it's risky. Only go there for chocolate. Understood?"
Nods and grins, and that's all he could hope for.
He skipped Mrs. Davis' house from tooth-brush-horror experience, and similarly avoided Mr. Rybak-of-the-rulers and Miss Penny-of-the-Breath-Mints, and nearing the end of the night he thought he'd trained the group well in the best route for Candy. Superhero/Pixie girl was grinning and smudged dark from holding his charcoal-coated zebra tail, and he might get in trouble for that, but he didn't think anyone could say they hadn't had fun, so.
So why was he getting a shiver down his spine?
He looked up and down the street for either of his girls, and while there was no sign of pink'n'poofy('n'gorgous, obviously), there might've been his white-sheet-compadré. Or another Toga guy.
Wow was he ever thankful he hadn't gone as a toga guy.
The hair of his arms were standing on end here they weren't painted down, and he was getting the feeling that maybe the nothing-happens-on-Halloween thing was big on the not happening.
He led his group closer to hers—they'd already gotten to that house, but then, they couldn't go much further without the possibility of being late to get the kids home—just in time for a full-body shiver and for him to see one of her kids attack Mrs. Walters, see Willow stagger back with her hands going to her throat.
"Willow!" His shout was almost lost amongst the screaming, and he giggled, grin widening when the girl with butterfly wings took off and got caught up in the branches of a tree. Willow collapsed, and while it wasn't where he would have stopped for a nap, he couldn't fault her dramatics.
He wondered how he knew her. Willow. Lovely name, but the trees might find issue with her decision to use it.
A little horned being ran past, and might have been gutted if he hadn't drifted to the side, feet barely grazing the concrete as he twisted to look after it. What a curious place.
Utterly lacking in colour, but curious nonetheless.
"Xander?" He turned to look, and found Willow—the girl, not the tree—apparently done with her nap.
"You know you've lost your sheet." He wondered if she'd noticed she'd lost much more than that. Some people could be sensible to notice things like that, others… Well. Not everyone could be Alice, but then, that was rather the point of being oneself in the first place. You couldn't be everyone. He grinned, and looked at his hands. Hands were different. He wiggled his fingers, flicking the claws out and wondered how Alice got anything done with such funny little digits.
"Xander, stop joking around! This is no time for jokes, and I'm a little on edge right now!"
"Purrfect. When you're not on edge, you're taking up too much space."
He grinned, words tripping off his tongue in a mad scramble half-remembered as said before. He blinked at her, and swiped a paw—hand?—through her.
"Though it looks rather like you're not taking up any space at all! I think in this instance you might wish to be a tad less on edge, if you expect to do anything in this world." He grinned. He could understand being insubstantial every once in a while, but her situation seemed a bit… permanent. He blinked at her again, head tilted just so, and understood.
"Ah, I see, you are not usually so dead as you are now, are you? And not in the usual way, either."
"W-what? I don't…"
His grin widened a fraction. "You're dead. But you didn't die. And you weren't killed. Why would you want to do a thing like that?"
"I didn't want to die—be dead! I didn't try for—" words escaped her as she gestured at herself. It was interesting that she didn't go through herself. He supposed it was all a matter of perspective, to be substantial to yourself and no one else.
"Well I like what I do is the same as I do what I like, don't you agree? So I do, so you do. So why?"
He straightened, a thought tap-dancing through his mind.
"Where is Alice? This isn't Wonderland…"
"Oh no, you're not…"
"No, you don't… hmm, how could you not know… no, you do know Alice, or know of her. Makes a certain sort of logic. Who is Xander? How are you Willow that I know when you're obviously Willow that I don't?"
She frowned. "That you don't what?"
"That I don't what, what?"
"That you don't what—no, you couldn't have chosen any other costume? Oh god, the costumes. I dressed up like a ghost for Halloween, and now I am a ghost, and you were… Oh no. Oh no, no, no… you dressed as the Cheshire Cat…"
His tail curled in interest, and he was beside her in a half-instant.
"I dressed as myself? Well I suppose it's only fair, but why would you dress as a ghost—ah, I see. The perfect crime, in that it's not a crime at all, and not suicide either, not technically." He snapped his fingers because he could, and smiled because it was natural.
A sound like a Dandelion roar made him bare his teeth beyond the norm and he yowled a warning bluff at the fanged being—it ran, which was a welcome change. For all that this was not Wonderland, there was pleasantness to be had where no one knows how cowardice warred with his natural curiosity. Where they ran, not knowing he'd dissipate to In Between at a threat.
"No! They're all people in costumes! We can't hurt them! We can't—Buffy!"
What happened next had him wondering at his own madness, as Willow asked the Lady what to do when faced with rather large opponents… and the girl fainted. He tilted his head, unimpressed.
A small being in green pattern ran past, shooting a… gun, yes, that's what they were called, though he hadn't the clearest idea how he knew that.
In any case, the two fanged beings—demons?—ran from the noise.
"Are you okay? Buffy, are you hurt?"
"…Buffy?" Her voice was pitched high, breathy; she sounded like a rose. Not terribly bright, roses.
"She's not Buffy."
"Who's Buffy?" He had a vague inkling, another's thoughts in his head like particularly dodgy catnip, and laughed at Willow's mutterings.
"So much fun," he agreed. Words bubbled up from the recesses of his mind—of Xander's mind?—and he smiled wide. "Buffy. Lady of Buffdom, duchess of Buffonia… and slayer, too. She has many titles…" At the hopeful look Willow gave him, he let his grin grow wider, watched her eyes do the same. "Still me. Your Xander has interesting thoughts."
The year the brunette spouts is boring, though Willow finds meaning in it—it does not explain or dismiss Not-Buffy's complete and utter dullness, though.
"… your dress, everything is strange, how did I come to be here?
"Breathe, okay, breathe, you're going to faint again." She turned eyes wide. "How are we going to get through this without a slayer?"
He tilted his head, and abruptly sees that Willow does not know that the rules have changed. His eyes flash, and her attention stays on him. "Your view conceals a tragedy. The whole truth you 'claim' to seek eludes you because you won't look at what's around you! There's no method in this Madness!"
"What do you mean, what, please, what does he mean? Why is he dressed so?"
"You seek to use the rules of chess to play checkers; things are at once simpler and more complex than you imagine."
"But if we can't figure out how to turn everything back—"
He rolled his eyes, but a swell of affection for the ghostly girl made it soft.
"Predictably rash. It's not a question of 'if', Willow, it's 'when'. You hope for Order… Abandon that hope! A new law reigns in this Wonderland, my dear Willow; it's very rough justice all around. We're all at risk here, always, and just as much now as yesterday." He twisted his head around to glare at the beast that thought to sneak behind him. "You, be on your guard." It scrambled back, and he thought it must be a rather easy existence in this world.
For a moment he rather thought he'd only get more questions—before she'd been trained out of it, Alice had been rather full of demands for explanations, as if there were ever any right answers. Ah, he missed her already.
But instead, she only looked rather alarmed, clutching her throat, and the brunette didn't look much better.
"Your… your head… You…"
At least until the brunette darted around to hide behind him, pointing at an upcoming… thing.
"A demon! A demon!"
She would be amusing if she was insane, but ignorance is simply boorish.
"What a curious thing to travel in…" Thoughts of cars, and buses, and general transportation flashed through his mind, and he wondered what use he had for something like that. The main use of evaporating skills would be for travel, after all.
A thought—he debated sharing it, decided to see what would happen, first.
Willow suggests retreat, and the unasked for affection from earlier makes more sense.
The house they go to is neither over large or too small—you could open the door yourself without a team to push or pull, but you could also enter without first shrinking oneself to the right size. It was all rather staggering, in a way.
"How boring is your life that you don't need a magnifying glass to find your house?"
The brunette just stared, but clutched at his arm—it seemed as though she had discovered he was Mad, yet still deemed him the safest to cling to; he'd evaporate from her grip if she weren't both clutching and petting he fur of his arm. It was pleasant.
Contact good, he half-remembered.
The house they entered had pictures of blond versions of the nameless brunette, and also of Willow, and also a boy he supposed was Xander-who-was-He. All two-legged and human.
He flicked his ear, deciding this was acceptable. Xander looked the male clone of Alice, and what thoughts that drifted from his consciousness were pleasant in tone, if not order.
He ignored the blind panic of the Brunette as she refused to consider the truth around her. Instead he stuck his head through the wood of the door to see who was knocking.
His sudden, grinning appearance again scared the beast into retreat, and it was amusing enough that the Brunette's foolishness could be dismissed.
"I want to go home," she pouted.
"You are home… she couldn't have dressed up like Xena?" He laughed, understanding the reference and Not, and wondered again if he should share his thoughts…
"Every picture tells a story." He says instead, aiming to calm Willow. "Sometimes we don't like the ending. Sometimes we don't understand it. She does not like it, understand it, and does not even want to know the story. Do you know the logic of the house guest?"
Willow hesitantly shook her head. If he didn't know better, he'd think she didn't want to hear what he had to say!
"A good guest does not overstay, a perfect guest stays home! She is a guest who wants to be home, but isn't. Do you blame her?" He would have said more, perhaps more of these strangely borrowed words if he could not keep to his own, but there was screaming outside.
He was cowardly, for sure, but found that he put himself at risk due to his natural curiosity—however, Xander's thoughts and instincts said otherwise. Xander's thoughts and instincts said to help, regardless of threat.
He raised an eyebrow at Willow, unimpressed despite himself.
"Your friend is foolishly brave. I will return shortly."
Appearing in the midst of running and fighting was not how things usually went—it was commonly the reverse, but rescue was an even stranger beast to bear. The screamer—and oh how this new, borrowed part of him laughed at the thought—was familiar, and flailing, and it was obvious that she was different from his fellow costumed cohorts by the way she fought back.
He was not one for fighting, but no cat would fight with slaps when claws were an option.
Grabbing her was simple, and the small retreat of the beasts surrounding her made his uncharacteristic rescue even simpler.
It was a bit of a game to scare the beasts that followed once the girl was inside, the best game of peek-a-boo ever played, and he was laughing when he heard the girl—Cordelia—snipe at Willow. "And you went mental when?"
"Never," he answered from over her shoulder, grinning at Willow. "If she were Mad we'd have more interesting conversations."
"Ugh! You're such a creeper! What's with the name game?"
"A lot's going on…"
"No kidding! I was just attacked by Jojo the dog-faced boy. Just look at my costume! Do you really think that PartyTown's going to give me my deposit back? Not likely."
He looked at the scratches in her clothes, and in half a moment had a jacket to give her. It looked vaguely familiar, so he supposed the closet he'd taken it from was his own. Interesting.
He'd never had need to faze one limb elsewhere, before.
He was getting all sorts of new, useful thoughts.
Cordelia—the much more interesting brunette—seemed pleased when he draped the jacket around her shoulders.
"Thanks… Is that fur?"
"Okay, you guys stay here while I go get help. If something tries to get in just fight it off."
"W-well it's not our place to fight. Surely some men will protect us…"
"What's that riff?"
"It's like amnesia, okay? They don't know who they are. Just… sit tight."
He thought privately that Amnestic Buffy would be more fun than the Lady, and drifted in front of Willow before she could make her escape.
"Xander's interest and affection for you has made me stay so far, but why should I remain when you leave?"
For a moment Willow looked stern, before the expression crumpled.
"Can you please stay and look out for them? For me? Please?"
He tilted his head, feeling a surge of fondness for her. She was not his Alice, but she was Xander's Willow. "I will stay until the physically stronger ally arrives." He flicked his fingers through her playfully, shooing her and her confused expression away
"Who died and made her boss?"
He laughed, grinning wide. "She did."
He was not one to do much heavy lifting—except where he as Xander was, somewhat—so he alternated between cuddling the Lady and helping Cordelia stack furniture across the windows and doors.
This world was dull and lacked colour, lacked Alice, but Xander had found people who knew how to make a Cat happy. Physical affection was somewhat lacking, in Wonderland.
Cordelia had started to complain about the cuddling, at least until he'd cuddled her, too, purring deep in his chest, and now she was mostly quiet and scowling. His cuddling kept the Lady quiet, too, and he wondered if he should try this next time Alice was speaking of logic and rules where there were none.
And then tall, dark, and broody walked in.
"Oh good, you guys are alright. It's total chaos out there."
He giggled and tucked his face in Cordelia's hair, laughed harder when the Lady moved to hide behind their combined bulk.
"Who are you?"
"This is the physically stronger Ally," he said, eyes gleaming in the low lights at the look it got him.
"Okay, someone want to fill me in?"
A name fluttered to the forefront of his mine, and then another. He untangled himself from around Cordelia, and moved to circle the other man.
"Is your name Angel, or Deadboy? Xander has many names for everyone, so it does get confusing…"
"What are—Buffy, what's going on? Buffy?"
The other man stepped once towards the Lady, and she stepped back, back again, and got squinted at for her trouble. "You—what's with your hair?"
Cordelia got her voice back from wherever she put it down for cuddling, "They don't know who they are—except, maybe, Xander, I don't know—everyone's turned into a monster, it's just a whole big thing… Angel, how are you?"
The Lady huffed, and pouted. "I don't want new people around, I want to go home."
He sighed and gave her a long look.
"Ah, Lady. We can't go home again. No surprise really. Only a very few find the way, and most of them don't recognize it when they do. Delusions, too, die hard." He spared a glance for Angel. "Only the savage regard the endurance of pain as the measure of worth. Forgetting pain is convenient, remembering it—agonizing. But recovering the truth is worth the suffering and my Wonderland, though damaged, is safe in memory... for now. But memory is a fickle thing, dearest Lady, and you are in a unique position of both being here, and not, which is common for me, except at the end of the night, the you that never experienced this will be home, and the you that is here will leave only a shadow of yourself on your host…"
He laughed. "However, the longer I stay, the more of me stays, and much of me mixes with your friend Xander. At the end of the night, your Xander will be here, but how much of me remains depends entirely on timing. I will be elsewhere, too, both wholly and partially, as I am always many places at once, so this is no hardship to me."
Cordelia nearly went as wide-eyed as the Lady.
"So… not Xander, then."
"What? The longer you're possessing Xander, the more of you will stick around? You couldn't have said that earlier, when Willow was here?"
His grin widened, and Angel took a menacing sort of step forward. He drifted forward, and then upwards until he could look eye-to-eye with Angel. "What of the living matter to the dead?"
When Angel tried to swipe at him he danced back, laughing, drifting to sit on top of the furniture piled in front of the main window.
"Why should we trust you to tell the truth?" Angel demanded. The fluttering brunette—not at all like his Alice, that one, wouldn't survive a day in Wonderland—clutched her hands to her chest, eyes blank with panic.
Hmph. Utterly boring, that one.
But there is a way to have some fun…
His grin widened further.
"Hmm, how about we make things interesting, then. I will tell you one truth you don't want to hear, and then one truth you do want to hear… the truth is so much more interesting, after all."
No one looked happy, but then there was violence surrounding them… Alice would enjoy this.
"So, what happens when you notice an unfortunate crush, and find yourself unable or unwilling on acting on it, hmm?" His eyes settled on the Lady, half-wishing his Willow could be here to hear this.
"You focus your attentions on someone you know will never return your feelings."
"You're saying, Xander…" Angel trailed off, and craned his neck to look down at the Lady. Her attitude did not match up with Xander's internal profile, and he was rather pleased to dismiss her as boring. He smirked when Angel turned back to him.
"And, in Xander's case, has a strong dislike of those who make him feel like he has to show off his affections beyond what he's comfortable with." He smirked. "Honestly, it's all rather simple."
He couldn't help but laugh, reviewing the few half-memories he had of his apparent hosts situation. Xander had a lovely malleable mind, open to all possibilities in conversation as they should, but… Hmm.
He took a moment to wash behind his ears, and decided on which truth to dole out. They wanted so many… but then, did he ever say he would tell them the truth at once? It seemed as though they wanted and needed so many truths, all while lying to themselves, so…
"And for a truth that you want to know, I suppose these three facts roll up into one currently important truth; It's a specific spell that caused the events of this night, it was intentionally cast, and it can be easily broken, if you know how. I don't know how, but I'm sure it'll be obvious when we get there. I suppose now that you're here I can go back to Willow… I did only promise to stay until you showed up. We'll have to play more of the game later, but for now I'm feeling bored."
"What? You knew I'd show up? Xander—what sort of cat did Xander dress up as?"
He gave a short wave to the Lady and Cordelia, waggling his fingers, and started to disappear.
Willow was where the interesting things were at, so maybe he'd grab her and bring her back to the group, maybe also… who? G-man, Giles?
When nearly all of him was gone and away to the In Between, he remembered that Angel had asked a question, and he blinked, his grin all that was left of him.
"Why the Cheshire Cat, of course!"
He perched on top of one set of bookshelves, and looked down at Willow and Giles.
"L-let's, let us review, ah, everyone became whatever they were masquerading as?"
"Right, Xander was the Cheshire Cat, and Buffy was an 18th Century girl."
Giles blinked, glasses in hand, and didn't seem to know where to look.
"A-and, ah… your costume?"
He laughed and jumped down to the floor, swiping a paw through Willow when she gave him a wide-eyed look.
"Why she's a ghost, of course!"
Giles opened and closed his mouth, looked him over, and said "yes, erm, a ghost of what, exactly?"
Willow crossed her arms, darted a look at him, and glared at Giles. "T-this is nothing! You should have seen what Cordelia was wearing, a unitard with cat things, like ears and stuff."
He pushed a stack of papers off the desk to hear the sound they'd make—"Oh, hmm, I wish you hadn't done that," says Giles—and gave Willow a look. "Oh? Is there a problem with cat things?"
"No, no not you Xander—or, well not you as the Cheshire Cat, you're just, erm, would you prefer I call you, or…?"
He shrugged with a smile and sat where the stack of papers once were. "I have no preference. Xander is as good a name as any, and that name at least won't make trees bluster at the presumption." He gave her a look just to be clear he was indeed talking about her, and blinked. "Oh, right, Cordelia seems to think I should tell you that you have a sort of time constraint on a solution. I don't think it matters much, as by the end of the night no matter what you do things will be back to your definition of normal."
"Time constraint? And Cordelia didn't turn into a feline, did she?"
"Hmm, yes, and no, Cordelia is all human, not a whisker in sight. I don't suppose you know anything about evaporating skills, do you?"
"Hmm? Well, yes—oh, well I suppose that is how you got in here! Fascinating, really—"
He rolled his eyes. "Yes, well repetition is boring, so I will not say everything again, but instead say that this spell has more on the line for your Xander than anyone else—you know, of course, that those with evaporation skills are multifaceted, yes?"
Giles was busy cleaning his glasses, and he was tempted to interrupt to tell him they were already clean, but Giles was also nodding. "Yes, yes, well, research suggests that it takes a certain sort of, well, mind to employ the, er, skill…" Giles trailed off, and he nodded.
"Yes, you must be mad enough to see the logic in the air and the In Between… but to see that you must have your mind in several places at once—hard to do with complete sanity, you understand."
"W-well, no, I don't think I do, but then I don't have this evaporating skill."
"Quite right. However, try to twist your mind to understand this—in several dozen universes there are several dozen me's, and at any one point I, that is to say the me that is present now and then and everywhere at once, will experience several dozen universes at the same time. You see?"
The part of him that he was recognizing more easily as Xander found pleasure in the puzzled look on the Watcher's face—oh, another title, another name, how lovely.
"Umm, so there might be a hundred Cheshire Cats in a hundred universes, but you experience it all as one person—ah, being?" He smiled at Willow, delighted. It looked as though she'd possibly sprained something on the way, but she'd gotten there.
"Yes, exactly. And this universe is convincingly sane enough not to have me in it—or at least, it was. What do you suppose happens now that I'm here?"
"Um, you're… here until the spell or whatever it is gets broken?"
"Not quite. The longer I stay in one place, the more of me remains and, spell or no, 'contrary as a cat' is not simply a saying."
"Wait, wait, how do you know this? This is simply not written anywhere…"
Giles started flipping through papers and books, almost at random. Well, whatever gave him comfort. He smiled at the thought.
"Yes, well, with a thousand universes to remember and exist, a boring little universe such as this is not hard to interpret. I can even tell you all you'd need or want to know about the spell, but, hmm, perhaps relocating to not-Buffy's house would be rather more interesting."
Grabbing a handful of Giles' jacket, and placing an arm around where Willow's waist would be if she were corporeal, his grin grew wild.
"Now I've never tried to do something like this before, but this is a night of new experiences, so let's see if I can't bring you with me, hmm?"
Willow doubled over gagging, and Giles looked rather green, but altogether they didn't seem too worse for wear. Cordelia shrieked, and Angel burst through the door, fang-faced—Cordelia shrieked again at the sight of him.
"Oh my god you ARE a vampire? How has Buffy not staked you?"
He laughed, and gave Angel a rather suggestive look.
"Well if he'd bend over long enough, I'm sure she'd be happy to oblige—"
The grin fell from his face, and Willow gagged again when he bent to pick it back up.
"Ugh, I can't believe I just said that, I just… hmm. I suppose Xander is rather uncomfortable thinking about Buffy and Sex…" He blinked. Looked around.
"Where is the Lady?"
Angel lost his 'game face', and immediately shifted to his 'brooding face'.
He sidled up to Angel and draped an arm around his shoulders. He got a particular look for the action, but he wasn't shrugged off, so he assumed Angel wasn't against cuddling any more than the Lady or Cordelia were. "Aww, it's difficult explaining things like possibly harmless vampires one-on-one, isn't it?"
"B—ugh, Xander never do that again. But, Buffy is gone? Where?" Giles looked about the room, as if the Lady would jump out at any moment.
To be fair, he waited a moment to see if she would do just that, before shrugging.
"I'll go find her, you all…" he wiggled his fingers, and gestured between them. "You all… talk, do sane things, share information—unless that's not something sane people do."
Angel stepped between him and the door, and he moved forward to hug him around his middle. That took some of the menace out of his frame, and the demand that followed sounded less threatening than he was sure Angel was aiming for.
"Why are you going to go after her?"
"Because she's more likely to run from you, and the sooner you all break the spell, the sooner the Lady will be Buffy, and the less of me that will stay with Xander past this night. I don't mind sticking around, not a such, but I prefer Wonderland to… this. Besides, Neither Buffy nor Willow are my Alice, but Willow titters and twitches like Rabbit… and the male I'm… possessing, he rather likes them both. Even if he doesn't like you over much."
Monstrous children were everywhere, and the part of him-that-is-Xander noticed a few actual Vampires out and about, looking baffled but gleeful running with the temporary monsters.
Whether or not it was Willow, Giles, Cordelia, and Angel who did it, or someone else entirely, this spell would be broken before midnight.
He only wondered if it would be broken soon enough. He wasn't lying when he said he didn't mind this world…
But he really wasn't lying when he said he preferred Wonderland.
But for now he was looking for the Lady.
"Oh, Lady! Laaaady!"
Perhaps he should leave it to the In Between places and try finding her that way… There was more than half a chance he'd end up somewhere else entirely, but it might be worth a shot.
"If that's how you think you'll get a girl, mate, I've got some news for you…"
The blond looked familiar, and had his game face on—didn't balk at his grin, either, which made a change of pace from the other beasties he'd met so far.
It either made him interesting or run-away-able.
He frowned, tilted his head.
Run-away-able? No, it made him either interesting or the sort of person he would soon be running from.
But run-away-able was shorter, and fun, and maybe that was why Xander mangled words so much. And it wasn't like you couldn't understand what he meant…
"Oi, I don't appreciate being ignored."
And oh, there was the feeling of needing-to-run. But he wasn't frightened, not in his usual way. He wasn't sure if he liked Xander's particular brand of bravery. It was odd.
"Oh, don't mind me, reliable sources say I'm Mad."
"Well that's mean." He got the impression there was a joke in there, somewhere, and tilted his head sideways.
"I quite agree with them. To begin with a dog's not mad. You grant that?"
"I suppose so," said the Blond.
"Well then," he went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm Mad." He grinned wide, purr like a motor in his chest. It was quite easy to be pleased, he was finding, which didn't seem like such a sane thing. Sane people find it so easy to fret, to worry, to allow their insides to twist them into some strange upright thing. For beings who pranced about on only two legs, they certainly had interesting concepts of stability.
Though he thought he rather liked Xander… maybe. Probably. He was certainly interesting enough, but did that translate into like…
"That is the question…"
The blond vampire frowned, a rather drastic expression with his game face on.
"What question is that, hmm? C'mon now, share with the rest of the class…" He spread his arms, and the short demons at his side looked warily between Spike and he. His grin widened, and he flashed his teeth at the shorter one.
"Oh, there are many questions, many with answers, many with answers I don't think you'll properly give…"
"Oh? That sounds like a challenge. Let's hear one of those questions."
Oooh, cocky. He liked and disliked it, but mostly thought it was amusing. Hmm. As the night wore on, his opinions on matters were getting rather… mixed.
But which question to ask? He blinked, remembering from reading and from experience, and found his smile widening.
"Well I don't suppose you know why a Raven is like a Writing desk, do you?"
Spike—he wondered if it was another nickname?—blinked, then answered,
"Depends on what they have to say, don't it?"
Spike didn't blink when he made a single move and appeared right in front of him, ignoring the chaos around them, ignoring the way the two shorter demons jumped back, and he looked the vampire over, pleased.
"That," he said with a purr, "is a good answer." There were so few people who knew how to give a good answer.
He tilted his head, and tapped a finger on Spike's chest.
"You wouldn't happen to be related to my Alice, would you?"
He got a laugh in response. "Well she'd be dead by now if she was," and he was jerking away from the vampire at the thought of his Alice being dead—had a thought that perhaps he should go look for her. Was tempted to simply leave these three to their own devices, to go find Alice on a night like tonight… His whiskers twitched at a thought.
It might not be his Alice, though… The idea of encountering a fake with presumptions of friendship had his tail lashing.
And he still had to find the Lady… his Lady, he supposed. She wasn't as interesting as Alice, not by half of a half, but she was his. Buffy, from his-not-his Xander-memories seemed much more interesting. He thought he might like her. Another thought, and he turned back to a bemused-seeming Spike. He was rather thankful for the bemused-seeming…ness, as otherwise he rather thought he'd need to be running, or at the very least escaping.
"You're looking for my Lady, aren't you?"
"Nah, not if your lady is also your Alice, though hey, if you've seen the Slayer around…"
He flicked an ear, nodding.
"My Alice is my Alice, and my Lady is only my Lady for tonight, before she's back to being Buffy…" he smiled. "Buffy, Lady of Buffdom, Duchess of Buffonia… you know, I once belonged to the Duchess, but then she went around trying to eat mad women…." He trailed off, before focusing on Spike. He felt the serious truth weigh on his words, making his tongue heavy, "I think you'll find you'll soon lose the taste for madwomen, too."
Spike scoffed, but seemed more amused than anything.
"You'll find that my tastes can be whatever the fuck they want to be, mate… but is sanity required for this conversation? 'Cause I'm getting the feeling you're as rattled as my Dru."
That seemed promising. Perhaps later, if he had the time, he'd seek out Spike's Dru… He frowned. But not now. Not yet, at least. The universe said no, and in this instance he'd listen. The universe was lucky.
"A limited quantity. You're not mad enough to be rejected. You're like them, of them in a way, but not them. I should say 'not us', for I'm them, but you are on your way. The way is clearly marked." He shook himself, confused in a way he hardly ever was. "What? Other people's words are tripping off my tongue, but that makes them mine… Mine as my Lady is Mine, you understand." He looked at Spike. "Mine like Buffy is Mine—or will be. Or is Xander's, I suppose… And later, Buffy might be yours, but not tonight." He gave Spike a considering look, curious of a future he likely wouldn't see first hand.
"And what do you mean by that?"
Oops, and there's the menace. He moved to the upper branches of a nearby tree, an unhappy noise leaving his throat, and Spikes eyes found his in the darkness. He shook his head.
"You were told something about tonight, yes? Hmm, but not told all of it, not told you wouldn't succeed. Not told you would, either."
Spike stalked forward, shaking his head.
"If there's anything I learned looking after Dru, mate, is that nothing's set in stone. What do you know?"
"Nothing set in stone except the carving—she will die—has died, before, but her substance is not meant to be part of the rubble, not yet."
"Why? Are you protecting her?" Spike was close, now, closer than was comfortable, so he moved to the next tree, and the rustle of branches made Spike change course.
"Not quite, not quite. I need to find my Lady for my Willow's peace of mind—hers is not a mind that excels in chaos, but Xander is exceedingly fond of her… No, I must find my Lady… But your prospect, the possibilities your intentions bring up, they make me uncomfortable." He gave him a rather unimpressed look. "I believe I know that way and I'd rather not travel further along it…" he scrunched his nose, "but this one has a strange sense of loyalty, where fight or flight is replaced with wait with witticism." He grinned. That was a rather good word—and not even one he'd had to make up. Witticism. But his Lady was wandering the streets, and this was not Wonderland where conversation came before conflict.
He sent himself In Between, his mouth lingering only long enough to stick tongue out at Spike's litany of cusses, such a dirty mouth, before he was scattered to the winds of In between.
A being half the size of either Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum, but with the equivalent oral hygiene was holding his Lady against a wall, seeming to take delight in her tear-streaked face, and the rage he'd felt earlier returned.
She was not his Alice, but you did not manhandle his Lady. Not any more than you'd dare speak of Alice and Death in the same breath.
In this instance, the melding thoughts of he and Xander were in agreement; they tackled the pirate, yowling, and slammed him into the wall. The pirate swung a fist, but there was no shoulder for him to make contact with—he wrapped his tail around one leg and tugged, swiping with claws and baring his teeth; he grinned wide to show off all of them, in all their gleaming sharpness.
He kicked him twice for good measure, and the pirate went down, boxes and bags of packing-peanuts falling down on his head. It gave him a strange sense of closure to have beaten up that pirate.
One of the boxes was rather large, and just big enough for him to fit in, he guessed—he was about to curl up in it to find out, bafflingly, when his Lady let out a scream. "He's a vampire!"
He looked to find, of course, Angel.
He turned to his Lady, and gathered her into his arms for a cuddle. She went quiet before, and maybe it would get her to stop screaming.
"Shh, shh," he crooned, "yes, he is, but he is a comparatively good vampire… we're friends with him, you understand? Or you are… It's why we trusted him with you, understand?"
The look Angel was giving him was an amusing mix of dumbfounded and scowling—presumably for the cuddling, and the idea had him laughing.
He released his Lady and moved instead to wrap Angel up in his arms. "See? He would not get cuddles if we didn't trust him."
Angel didn't seem to know what to do with that, but his Lady was reassured.
She still looked worried, but hurried closer so he could wrap an arm around her; he pulled her close, into a three-way cuddle with Angel.
He grinned up at the man.
"Now is this a situation you're really going to scowl at?"
Angel rolled his eyes, and awkwardly hugged back, huffing when that got him a smug look.
"Cuddling," he informed him, "is infinitely more useful than brooding. Remember that, after tonight."
And then, of course, there were demons, and two things became abruptly clear to him.
For one, if he existed in this universe for much longer, there would be more of he than Xander left afterwards.
For another, he knew where the spell must originate from, and that was useful information.
He released his Lady and Angel, certain in a precarious sort of way that he should go, now, but there were also demons, and his Lady and Angel in range of danger, and—
So he wraps himself back around the two, and brings them In Between with him, too.
He's not actually certain what he's supposed to do at the costume shop, but Giles is there—gives them a particular Look, but he's not interested in that quite yet.
Maybe later, if he has the mind for it, but he's—what was that phrase? Riding by the seat of his pants?
While it sounded completely uncomfortable, it did sound about right for this situation—
He recognized the other man, vaguely, as the costume guy. The Other English Guy was staring, and he grinned wide, wider, until even Alice would look away.
Perhaps there is time for one more bluff.
He—Ethan, perhaps?—is on the ground, but it's nothing to pick him up—
Or at least it was, until Ethan's plucked from his hands by Angel, and his Lady is cowering into his side, and really much as he loved the cuddles, this was not the time.
He drifts just behind Angel's shoulder, allowing his Lady to clutch his hand, and laughed when Angel shook the other man hard enough to rock his head.
"Admiring your handiwork? I rather thought returning to the scene of the crime would be dull, but…" he bit at the end of the 't', and would have continued if he hadn't felt the pull, the drag of time across his pelt scraping away at Xander and rubbing his essence into the wounds. "I'll count to, hmm, five, and after that I'll have to figure out something drastic."
The other man sneered, and glanced at Giles. "Not even going to threaten me yourself, Ripper?"
He laughed again. "Oh no, no, no, I'm simply giving you five chances, and myself twenty seconds, to figure out an alternative that doesn't end with Xander a personality-shaped smear on this universe… So One," he drifted his Lady closer to Giles, G-Man, 'Ripper', the Watcher, "Two," he got his Lady to let go of his hand, "You're not really going to—"
"Four," he spoke over him, drifting to the ceiling to look around the darkened store, looking over the sparse displays.
He blinked, eyes settling on a mannequin in the corner, and grinned.
"Five. What happens when I put on a costume, right now?"
"Now wait one moment, let's just talk about this—"
In a blink he was across the store, pulling a green blotchy patterned headband over his forehead, slung a large plastic gun over his shoulder, and a plastic machete went through a belt-loop.
He turned to the group, and said, "I think I'm supposed to be a Soldie—"
Lieutenant Harris looked over the fuckers in his way, and ran towards the biggest threat, the big guy in leather. If he was going to go down as fucking unfit for duty, then so were all these other assholes. Crazy my ass.
His machete was out and slashing at his throat—he was fast, though, and ducked out of the way.
A chick was shrieking, and the littler fucker the leather guy had been holding was within striking distance, so he did.
He dodged, too, but slower, and he clipped his collar bone—fucker went down.
He'd have followed to finish the job except leather guy was back, and holy FUCK his face!
On top of that he then ups the fucked up factor and shoves him back hard enough to go through the fucking window!
He tucked and rolled, broken glass scratching up his arm, and fuck, maybe he was crazy—or he really was surrounded by monsters.
Hell, there was a blond one right there, and he had more monsters with him.
Well fuck that.
"Fucking finally, and is that a slayer I smell—oi!" Blondie jumped back quick as the other fuck face, and he looked just as fucking surprised. He reversed his grip and slashed, slashed again and caught one of the other similarily-fucked-looking guys through the throat—and the guy turned to dust! The littler demons were growling and retreating, and he was just about roaring with laughter because this was just SO FUCKING GREAT!
"Crazy am I? Unfit for fucking duty, am I? Then bring it on motherfuckers!"
Blondie broke his grip on the machete—along with a couple of fingers, the fucker—but he'd gotten his MP5 up and man did he have an itchy trigger finger!
From back inside the—what the fuck, a costume store? This wasn't Iraq—he heard a guy shouting, "Tell me how to stop the spell!" The recoil was better than he remembered, but he wasn't a fucking leftie and his hand fucking hurt, so his shots went wide; made a pretty mess of the remaining glass in the window, though, and if it killed the guy in leather that would be a bonus. Fuck, did he have any grenades left? He wanted to bring everything to the fucking ground.
"Janus! Break the statue before he kills us all!"
Leather guy was back and wrestling his MP out of his hands, so he kicked and elbowed and fucking bit when Blondie got into the mix. There was a crash somewhere behind them.
"Get the fuck offa me you demonic cunts! You motherfuck—ow, ow, OWOWOWOWOW! What the hell let me go!" Holy hell he had the worst migraine of the century! And also broken fingers, definitely some broken fingers happening, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!
Xander got a look at Angel in gameface looking surprised, and Spike—Well that wasn't good. That was much with the not-goodness. His eyes went wide.
"Let me go! Let me go! Is it mad to pray for better hallucinations? I do not need to be in the middle of this!"
He shoved the toy gun in Spike's face and scrambled to get away, shoving—
He turned towards Angel, sudden and smooth despite his flailing, and said, "Your curse is not as permanent as you think."
He blinked, opened his mouth, closed it, and then decided that little bit of weirdness could take a back seat to the fact that Spike was right there, right, right there, and he wanted to be far, far—oh look, Buffy!
She was wielding a coat rack with some ferocity—or at least he assumed from the sound, because he couldn't currently handle things like, oh, seeing, or standing, or anything else really, because wow his head hurt. Like really, really achy.
He was more than half-certain he was sitting on broken glass—because thanks Angel, really appreciated the throwing—but he couldn't really do more than sit and press the heel of his palms into his eyes. The demons who'd been with Spike turned out to be kids he recognized from Willow's group—
"Willow? Where's Willow?"
His head ached, a few fingers felt absolutely crushed, and he had glass in his arms and ass, but hey, he'd been there when Buffy had been dead. She hadn't been dead for more than a few minutes, and yeah after some CPR she came back and kicked ass, but there was some shitty things that happened after that—and Willow had been dead for like, what? A couple of hours? Though she had been conscious as a ghost, so maybe… Ugh, and what about Buffy—he assumed she was alright, what with the ass-whoopage and the sound of running, but then there was also Cordelia, and hadn't he stabbed a guy? The English Guy?
He shook his head, regretted it immediately, and decided for the moment to sit very, very still.
Breathed in, and out, in, and out, in long measured breaths while it felt like his brain was getting fried and scrambled.
A large dark shape was kneeling beside him, but it wasn't Angel's hand that settled on his shoulder.
"Xander? Are you alright?"
"Yeah Buff… I'm, ah, I'm just going to sit here. For a bit. With my eyes closed. And I think I'll need a few fingers taped." Because they were definitely broken.
Fingers—unbroken, and decidedly more feminine than his own—carded through his hair, and he didn't even mind that he was smudging face paint all over his hands and on Buffy, because while they had things they needed to do, people to check on—and kids to get home, actually—it could wait a minute.
I hope you enjoyed, and also hope that in this rewrite things aren't as choppy in places as I fear.
Roughly 2-3k of this fic was written way, way, waaaay earlier, back in like 2005, and while I did get rid of some of it, I tried to keep in a lot of it. It got spread out, some, which I fear makes things a bit choppy in areas (feel free to mention things you see), so my apologies for that.
And, as I said in the pre-fic note, here are some clearing-up type things.
Quotes: I used at least 18 quotes, most of them adjusted to fit the story
POV: Might be confusing, but the Cheshire Cat doesn't refer to himself as anything, really. In the Books he's 'said the Cat', but I generally don't think animals register people-names like people do. More like every pet has a name that actually just means "Pay attention". So lots of 'He thought/said/whatever'. Apologies for any confusion.
Evaporating skills: A Tim Burton name for the Cat's quirky ability, and I like the imagery involved in it.
Cheshire Cat abilities: above mentioned evaporation skills, autonomous use of his body parts to the rest of his body, insanity, and also a bit of a seer-like accuracy when giving advice.
*^That last one was inspired by American McGee's Cheshire Cat's guiding role, as it sometimes seems more than a little precognitive.
Insane!Soldier: I like the idea that whichever costumes you got from Ethan's, your perception of it changes how you're changed by it. I imagine if Willow thought all ghosts were vengeful spirits, she probably wouldn't have gotten up as a dead-er version of herself. Canon-Soldier!Xander introduced himself as a Private, I imagine he'd be more take-charge-y if he'd introduced himself as a Corporal. The Cat couldn't quite perceive a sane soldier, so… yeah. And book!Wonderland isn't terribly violent, beheadings aside, so army/soldier probably equates to the Red Queen's card soldiers in the Cat's mind (maybe), so, violent.
Spike: Head!Canon that Spike has a soft spot for the crazies.
And hopefully I got anything that might need clearing up. I'm working on the next chapter now while the inspiration is here, but I'm not sure how far this fic will go. If ch2 doesn't work out, I'll post a chapter letting you know this is an odd one-shot.
But I'm working on the next chapter now, so…
Let me know what you think :)
Also, check out League of Super Critics in "Alice In Wonderland - Nostalgia Critic," link below if it'll show: