He didn't think; he just reacted. He only had Alice's squeak of surprise to go on, and the lingering ripples in the Glass. He simply dove after her, not willing to let his Alice fall into some new danger without him by her side to protect her.
Hatter came to in the shadow of a mountain. Alright, that was his first impression. He second impression was, "Whoa, big guy!"
The enormous bald man looking down at Hatter frowned. "My goodness, are you alright?" he asked, his voice oddly soft and gentle for such a huge person. He extended a huge hand to Hatter.
Blinking rapidly, Hatter figured what the hell, and accepted the assistance to rise to his feet. He was still dazed from the fall through the Looking Glass.
The giant peered at him, then called over his shoulder, "Ling? Yao? There's someone hurt here."
Two more normally sized men joined them, and Hatter was distantly relieved to find he had not landed in some place where giants were common. He waved his hands depreciatingly. "No, no, I'm fine, really. A bit disoriented, is all."
"I don't like the looks of him," the smallest man growled.
"Yeah. He looks… shifty," agreed the skinny one.
"Now, Yao, Ling," chided the giant gently. "First impressions are not always accurate." He waved his friends aside and addressed Hatter again. "Did you mean to fall down outside Fa Mulan's house?"
"Um. No?" Hatter looked around. They were standing next to a tall wall, in what appeared to be a small rural village. "I think I'm lost, yeah?"
"Where did you mean to be?" asked the skinny one. Hatter hadn't yet determined which was Yao and which was Ling.
Hatter hesitated a moment before answering. Either he'd ended up in the right place, or he was more lost than even he could imagine. "Wonderland."
"Wonderland," said the short growly one. "Isn't that way over on the far side of the Park?"
"I think you are right, Yao," answered the giant. "If you'd like, my friend, I will show you the way to the Park. I'm sure you can get directions to Wonderland from there." He led Hatter around the wall to a dusty road. "Follow the road that way. In about an hour, you'll come to a crossroads. Take the road to the south-west: it will lead you straight to the Park." He paused, then added, "I think you should find the Book Shop. I'm sure the ladies there can help you."
"Right, brilliant. Ta very much," Hatter said, and headed off with a wave.
The countryside gradually changed from fairly open to forest. Hatter found the crossroads easily enough, but had a moment trying to determine which direction from there. After all, in Wonderland, direction was relative. He had no way of knowing which way was 'south-west.' There was a signpost, but he couldn't make out anything on it. After a few minutes mentally debating, he picked the bright and well-maintained route.
Hatter considered himself a city boy. Alright, he could ride a horse; big deal, it's not like common Wonderlanders had access to anything else. The Queen had controlled the Scarabs. Still, he was pretty sure these woods were not the Forest of Wabe, which meant he had no idea how long he'd be walking, and he was already getting pretty sick of it. After all, he hadn't reached this Park place yet, whatever it was.
After a few more hours of walking, Hatter came over a rise to see a break in the trees, and a large town spread before him. This town must be the Park, he decided. He made his way towards the place.
No guards, he noticed as he came into town. There were some official-looking types about, but they all just smiled at him. A few even said, "Welcome home," which he found a little odd. Still, seemed a nice, cheerful sort of place, but unlike anything he'd ever heard of anywhere near Wonderland. People cheerfully greeted each other. Spontaneous singing and dancing seemed to break out all over the place, and Hatter started to wonder if the whole town was high on Happy. He found himself edging closer to the walls and alleys, keeping out of the way of the bright sunshine.
Then he noticed a wooden sign with an open book carved and painted on it. Must be the book shop the giant recommended. He steeled himself and entered the shop.
To the right, a counter. To the left, a grouping of comfortable looking chairs. Rows of towering shelves filled with books took up the rest of the room, and lined the walls. He could hear tuneless humming coming from somewhere, but his attention was drawn to the pretty brunette behind the counter.
"Hello, can I help you?" she inquired with a smile on her face.
"'Ello, luv," Hatter gave her his most charming grin. "I certainly hope you can help me." He sauntered casually over to the counter, and leaned on it, giving the girl a flirtatious wink.
She chuckled. Hatter had expected a giggle; a chuckle meant the girl wasn't as taken in by his charm as he'd hoped. Instead, she seemed only amused by it. "Aren't you a regular Flynn Rider," she commented. Hatter didn't get the reference. "What are you looking for? A particular book?"
"A map, actually. Of the Park, and the surrounding area, if you have something like that."
"Oh sure, of course," she said, easily producing a glossy paper she unfolded and laid out on the counter. "Where do you want to go?"
Hatter looked down at the map. It was brightly colored, almost cartoonish in its layout. He noted several gates and roads leading out of town. "I'm looking for the best route to Wonderland."
A sudden crash and cessation of all the humming drew everyone's attention. A tall and extremely garishly dressed man appeared from the stacks. "Wonderland!" he pronounced, then peered suspiciously at Hatter. "What do you want in Wonderland?" He was wearing the most god-awful hat Hatter had ever seen atop his white hair. The next most obvious feature was the man's bulbous nose, which he looked down over at Hatter.
Hatter raised a brow. "Me business is me own, yeah?"
The man puffed up a bit. "Where are you from?"
Annoyed at being questioned like that, Hatter shot back, "What's it to you?"
Before the man could react to that, the brunette cut in. "Reggie! You don't get to harass my customers, even when Alice isn't here."
"Alice?" Hatter asked, surprised. How long did it take him to come through the Glass?
"You know Alice?" the brunette asked, taken aback.
Thoughtlessly, Hatter answered, "Yeah, she's who I'm looking for."
"What?" The white-haired man stepped right into Hatter's personal space and poked a finger at him. "What do you want with Alice?"
Hatter slapped the finger away with a glare. "She's my girl, yeah?"
"Alice is NOT your GIRL! Alice is MY precious cricket! How dare you – are you from that Ing-Land place?" The man looked about to explode.
"REGGIE!" the brunette bellowed. Both men turned to her. "I swear, you start a fight in here, Reginald Theophilus, I'll make sure you're never allowed in here again! I'll… I'll… I'll make Pheobus throw you in jail! I'll tell the Queen of Hearts you stole her tarts – AGAIN."
Terror washed over Reggie's face. "You wouldn't! I HATE messenger duty!"
At mention of the Queen of Hearts, Hatter started edging away. He didn't know how the Queen took back power from Jack, but the sooner he found Alice and got them out of here, the better. He could probably figure out how to get to Wonderland without the map.
"I'm sorry, sir," the brunette turned her attention back to Hatter. "Reggie's a little, um, unstable where Alice is concerned. How do you know Miss Liddell?"
Hatter then experienced what Alice once called a "conversational break". They'd been arguing vigorously, when suddenly she raised a hand and announced that she suspected they were fighting about different things. And she was right – they were arguing because in his world, the subject of the fight meant something completely different than her world. Once they explained what each thought they were fighting about, it turned out to be no fight at all, simply a misunderstanding.
"Miss Liddell?" he repeated. The name did ring a vague bell in the back of his head.
The brunette nodded. "Miss Alice Liddell."
A shudder ran through Hatter. Alice Liddell – The Alice of Legend. "Bloody hell," he muttered. "I'm in the past!" He peered at Reggie again. "You're…. you're the Mad Hatter?" he asked weakly.
The man sneered a bit. "Merely a colloquial title. I am Reginald Theophilus the Third." He stuck his face right into Hatter's face. "WHO are YOU?"
"Hatter. David Hatter."
Before anyone could react, the brunette burst out laughing. "Oh my god! I have TWO Hatters in my shop!" She snorted, then pounded on the counter. "Why, god why? Too bad Alice is off today."
"Belle," the original Mad Hatter whined.
"Go on, then." She started shooing both men out of the shop. "Reggie, you take David here to Wonderland, and get this all straightened out there with Alice. Go on, out!"
Moments later, both Hatters found themselves looking at the closed door of the shop.
Hatter whipped off his trusty tan porkpie and ran his hand through his wild hair a few times, trying to come to grips with his situation. As far as he could tell, he was standing on the outskirts of Wonderland, 150 years before his time, with the man whose name…title, whatever… he'd usurped for his own.
Said man was peering down at him. Alright, having several extra inches of height wasn't fair at all, Hatter decided.
"So… Wonderland?" he asked, pasting a polite smile on his face.
"What are your intentions with Alice?" the white haired man demanded.
Hatter rolled his eyes skyward. One track much? He thought. "Right, very long story short – your Alice, as in Miss Liddell, is not MY Alice. However, I think my Alice IS actually wandering about. We both fell through the Looking Glass, so I presume she's around here, and seems to me that Wonderland is a good place to start looking."
The original Hatter peered at him suspiciously for another minute, as if trying to determine the sincerity of that story. Finally he shrugged. "Alright, follow me." He strode off quickly, leaving Hatter to trot after him.
A man stood alone on a balcony overlooking the lush palace gardens. He watched every sunset in this fashion, his manner one of patient waiting.
A rustle of silks and laces heralded the arrival of the lithe and lovely Queen of this land. She moved to stand beside the man, silently joining him in his evening vigil.
As the sun finally sank below the horizon, the man sighed heavily. Another day gone without the return of his beloved.
"Tarrant…" the Queen said softly, resting a gentle hand on his shoulder. He smiled at the sympathy in her voice.
"It will be soon," Tarrant assured her. "Very soon."