FanFic - Alice in Wonderland Contest
Part 1
by Danilise
Disclaimer: The following story is meant only in affectionate homage to a favorite book. No infringement intended.
Summary: Despite its title, this story is a borrowing and an adaptation of the characters and situations in Lewis Carroll's classic book, "Alice in Wonderland." This particular story is also a sequel-of-sorts to my first (and only other) dream fanfic, "Alex In Wonderland, Or What Alex Whitman Dreamt After Spending The Night In Jail." It is probably not essential to have read the first story, but it may help. [Note that this story takes place the day after "Blind Date" (rewriting a bit of the ending of that episode).]
Category: Contest Stories
Rating: PG-13
Authors Note: This story was written in response to a challenge posted on the web page. The challenge was to write an Alice in Wonderland fan fiction story that includes these elements: 1. Alice in Wonderland theme 2. Conventional couples 3. Rated R or below 4. Bonding in front of the TV 5. Nasedo as the Mad Hatter
Down, down, down. Would the fall *never* come to an end--

"Oh, man," Alex thought. "Not *this* dream again. Been here, done this--" He looked around at the walls of the rabbit-hole and said aloud to no one in particular, "This is getting to be pretty old, you know."

Down, down, down. There was nothing else to do, so Alex soon began talking again. "Okay, let's see if I can remember the last time I had this dream. I fell for a really long time, then it was over--" and suddenly, thump, thump! his fall *was* over, and down he came upon a heap of dry leaves.

Alex brushed himself off and climbed to his feet slowly, muttering to himself about repetitious recurring dreams.

After a moment, he looked up but it was all dark overhead; before him was another long passage, and the two White Rabbits that he had followed down the rabbit-hole were still in sight, hurrying down it. Away went Alex like the wind.

"Liz! Max!" called Alex. The two White Rabbits did not appear to hear him. So Alex hurried after them; when he turned the corner, the two White Rabbits were nowhere to be seen.

"It figures," said Alex grumpily, imagining all the different things two rabbits could get up to in the dark.

Alex walked in the direction the White Rabbits had gone, down a winding path past a manor house and into a wood. When he neared the tree on which the Cheshire Cat usually sat, Alex looked up, expecting to see the Maria Cat perched on a bough. But the Maria Cat was nowhere to be seen either.

"Now that's odd," said Alex to himself. "She has always been there before, talking a mile a minute about who lives in this crazy place and insisting I'm an alien and she's an alien and everyone's an alien."

Alex was beginning to feel uneasy. He thought back to how quickly the two White Rabbits had disappeared, and realized that had never happened in one of his dreams about Wonderland before either.

"Maria?" called Alex. "Where are you?"

He waited a little, half expecting to see her appear by inches on the bough of the tree, and the dream to continue as it had every other time; but she did not reappear, and after a minute or two he walked on in the direction in which he knew from his previous dreams the Michael Hare lived.

He had not gone much farther before he came upon the house of the Michael Hare, which was unchanged from his last dream about it. The chimneys were still shaped like rocket boosters, and the roof was still thatched with silvery metal. It was still so large and strange a house (being shaped like a flying saucer crossed with a house trailer) that he still almost hesitated to walk up to it, even though he had dreamt about it countless times before.

After a minute, Alex overcame his hesitation and walked towards the house, straight up to the table set out under a tree on the lawn in front of the house, where the Michael Hare and the Max Hatter were having tea, resting their elbows on the Dormouse who was named Isabel and who was fast asleep.

Alex sat down in a large armchair at one end of the table as he usually did in these dreams.

"Have some wine," the Michael Hare said in an encouraging tone, which was as *he* usually did in these dreams.

Alex looked around the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. He sighed. "I so don't want to go through this whole thing again," thought Alex, but all he said aloud was what was expected of him in the dream: "I'm sorry but I don't see any wine."

"There isn't any," said the Michael Hare.

"Now I'm supposed to say it wasn't very civil of you to offer it, and you're supposed to say that it wasn't very civil of me to sit down without being invited," remarked Alex.

"Well, it wasn't," said the Michael Hare rudely.

"And we're supposed to argue on this point for a while," Alex went on as if the Michael Hare had not interrupted. "And then Max will start asking riddles, yadda, yadda, yadda."

"Which Max?" asked the Dormouse suddenly. She had been roused from her slumber by the unusual conversation taking place around her, and had been looking at Alex for some time with great curiosity. This was her first speech in any of Alex's dreams about Wonderland.

For exactly that reason, her question took Alex completely by surprise. "You're not supposed to say anything in these dreams, Isabel," he said with some severity; "not until the end anyway, but usually not at all."

She shrugged and asked again: "Which Max do you mean?"

"That Max," said Alex, feeling very confused by this turn of events and pointing to the Max Hatter. "What other Max is there?"

"Well," began Isabel; "there is the Max Hatter. Then there is Max the White Rabbit."

The Michael Hare nodded and said somewhat scornfully, "Max was always more rabbit than us."

Here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Alex stared at each one of them in turn. When his gaze landed on the Max Hatter, he frowned. This Max Hatter looked very different from the Max Hatter in his last dream, thought Alex. In fact, this Max Hatter didn't look like *Max* at all. Alex frowned as the Max Hatter who did not *seem* like the Max Hatter popped what looked like a Tic-Tac into his mouth.

Alex felt dreadfully puzzled. "I don't quite understand what's going on," he said as politely as he could since he did not want to alienate or offend either the Michael Hare or Isabel. "Who is this Max Hatter?" asked Alex. "Or should I ask who is this *Mad* Hatter since he obviously doesn't seem to be the *Max* Hatter?"

The Mad Hatter who was *definitely not* the Max Hatter smiled at Alex, and Alex didn't know why he shivered, but he did.

"He is the one we've been looking for, Michael and I," explained Isabel. "While Max has been off following his White Rabbit and then off becoming a White Rabbit himself, we have been trying to contact the Mad Hatter." Isabel looked very pleased with herself and Michael.

"He is the fourth," said the Michael Hare, nodding.

Alex felt his fear growing with every word. He shivered again and said without thinking, "I don't think you really want to be around him." Then another thought occurred to Alex, and he turned to the Mad Hatter who he now knew was Nasedo. "You did something to them, didn't you," he accused: "the Maria Cat and the two White Rabbits. You did something."

Nasedo smiled at Alex, his lips twisting into a broken, ugly smile.

And suddenly the table seemed to shift off the ground, and the wood spun away into a blur of green and brown and gray. Alex was buffeted by a strong wind....

And Alex woke up in his bedroom in a cold sweat.

* * * *

Alex looked for his friends first thing the next morning, determined to tell them about his dream. He had a bad feeling that his dream had been a bad premonition. After his dream, the whole idea of the fourth alien gave him the willies.

He heard Michael and Maria before he saw them. They were arguing under a tree in the quad apparently over a napkin holder. Alex wondered randomly if they would ever realize that their constant bickering was just another kind of courtship. And besides, Alex thought, he would have expected them to have gotten over the napkin holder thing by now.

As he approached them, it occurred to him that Michael and Maria were actually pretty cute together; both of them looked like they'd been caught in an electric storm sometimes, although he had to admit that Maria's hair usually did look more feminine these days.

He was almost on top of them before he noticed Liz and Max sitting under a nearby tree, enclosed in their own little world as usual. Alex guessed that they had patched up whatever differences had caused Max to run away from Liz after their kiss in front of most of the student body the night before. Clearly, they were making up for lost time, talking together in low voices with their bodies twined around each other. Alex rolled his eyes. Sometimes Liz and Max's "look-into-my-eyes soulmate thing," as Maria had christened it, was hard to stomach. And his stomach was already feeling a little the worse for wear after his dream last night

Alex dropped his book bag beside Max in an attempt to break the two lovebirds apart. "Where's Isabel?" he asked.

Liz and Max tore their eyes away each other long enough to look up him. Alex had never noticed before that moment how alike their intense, thoughtful expressions were. He stifled a grin. At least it looked like they were getting back together. If any two people had ever seemed meant for each other, it was definitely the two of them. And he was happy for them, really he was.

"She drove in with me this morning," Max said slowly. "She said she would meet us in the quad, but she had to run an errand first."

"You're looking for me?" Isabel asked, coming up behind Alex.

She smiled at him, and for the millionth time, Alex cursed the gods who had ensured that he was fatally attracted to an alien who had problems with well-intentioned romantic obsessions.

Isabel raised her eyebrows when Alex didn't reply, then leaned in close enough that he could smell her perfume or maybe kiss her hello--

But Isabel just unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and moved away quickly. She repeated her earlier question. "So you were looking for me, Alex?"

Alex swallowed nervously, feeling peculiarly naked with his top shirt button undone. "Actually--" his voice cracked so he cleared his throat and tried again: "actually, I was looking for everyone. I had this dream last night--"

Abandoning her argument with Michael, Maria pounced on Alex. "What dream? Was it another Wonderland one?"

Alex watched Michael watch Maria as she practically danced in her excitement. At that moment, Alex decided that he was never going to understand these Czechoslovakians. Michael was squinting at Maria, trying to pretend that she didn't affect him, that he didn't find everything about her unbearably cute, but he was just as obviously hung up on Maria as Max was on Liz.

What was it about Czechoslovakians, anyway? Alex wondered darkly. Couldn't they ever be honest about their feelings?

Something in that thought prompted Alex to steal a glance at Isabel, who was sipping a Diet Coke and looking like the impossibly gorgeous popularity queen she was. Alex sighed. There was definitely something to the differences between species stuff their biology teacher kept going on about at the beginning of last term.

Lost in his musing, Alex didn't realize that everyone was waiting for him to answer Maria's question. He wasn't so sure telling them all about his dream was such a good idea anymore. But then he looked at the five expectant faces around him and knew he had no choice but to finish what he'd started.

"Yes, Maria, last night I dreamt about Wonderland. I dreamt that Nasedo was in Wonderland. That Isabel and Michael had found him--"

Liz and Maria exchanged perplexed looks.

Max frowned.

Michael glared at Alex.

Isabel choked on her drink and stared at Alex. "How did you know we were looking for him?"

Alex shrugged. "I didn't know. It was just a dream. But I have these premonition dreams sometimes, and this one had all the elements of a bad premonition." He dropped the volume of his voice and checked their vicinity to make sure no one could hear him. "I think Nasedo is bad news. In my dream, he was definitely bad news. I think he did something to the Maria Cat and the two White Rabbits, uh, I mean, Max and Liz." Trying to ignore the confused and startled expressions on the faces around him, Alex briefly related his dream, toning down some of the weirder bits.

When he had finished, Max stood up. He looked at Michael then at Isabel then back at Michael. Alex could tell Max was ticked off about something.

Max stuffed his hands in his pockets, and Alex could tell that he was trying hard to project his usual controlled exterior as he addressed his best friend and sister. "Okay," Max began calmly. "Let's talk about what Isabel said ten minutes ago. Do you guys need to tell me something? What did you do last night?"

"I'm not going to stop looking for Nasedo because of some dream, Maximilian," Michael said, and it occurred to Alex that Michael sounded too defensive for what was a pretty simple question. But then, Michael was a prickly person at the best of times.

"That's not what I asked, Michael," Max said patiently. "What did you guys do last night? We need to understand so that we know what we might be up against."

The bell rang for the next class before either Michael or Isabel could answer Max's question.

Michael jumped up to head to class with more enthusiasm than Alex could ever remember him mustering anywhere near school. Michael tossed a sardonic "Later, Max" over his shoulder and was gone.

For half-a-minute, Max just stared after Michael. Then he turned to Isabel and tried again. "What's going on, Isabel?"

Isabel folded her arms over her chest and stared him down. "Well," she said bluntly, "if you hadn't been so completely out of it last night, Max, you might have come along too. As it is, you'll just have to wait until later to find out. Michael needs to be here when we talk about it. It's his vision quest."

"You guys did *not* do something about his visions without me. I told you I thought Nasedo was dangerous. Please say you didn't, Iz."

"Later, Max," Isabel said, echoing Michael. She tossed a swathe of blonde hair over her shoulder and flounced off to class.

Alex watched her swaying hips all the way across the quad.

"You know, she's still my sister, Alex," Max said dryly.

Alex felt his cheeks redden, realizing that Max had obviously noticed Alex's preoccupation with Isabel's hips. He pulled himself together and decided to give back as good as he got. "Sure, Max. And that's my best friend you're currently, um, snuggling."

Max laughed. "Touché." He stared thoughtfully in the direction his sister and best friend had gone, then shrugged and held out a hand to help Liz to her feet. "Ready for Biology?"

She nodded and smiled, and Alex could tell Liz and Max were already drifting off into their own little world again.

He turned to Maria who was watching Liz and Max wander off to class with their arms wrapped around each other with a slightly envious look in her eyes. Alex decided Maria could use some cheering up. "Looks like it's just you and me, DeLuca. Wanna walk me to class? You can protect me from the hordes of girls who loved our performance yesterday."

Maria snorted. "You wish." But she hooked her arm into his anyway, and they walked companionably towards the school building.

* * * *

After school, everyone met up in the Crashdown Café. They all crowded into a booth while Isabel and Michael explained their exploits of the night before -- the symbol burnt in the grass in front of the library, and the visions that led up to Michael's determination to contact Nasedo.

After their explanation, Max sat back and admitted that he didn't know what to do next. "Given what Hubble said and Alex's dream, I think this is probably a mistake, but I don't know what else to say except that I think we just need to wait and see."

Everyone nodded, and Alex noticed that all of them except for Michael looked more than a little uneasy about the situation. But Max was right. What could they do until Nasedo revealed himself in some other forum besides a dream? At least now they were on guard.

A silence fell over the table until finally Isabel broke it. She gestured to Liz and Maria's noticeable lack of antennae or alien-head aprons, and asked: "So, tell me. Why do you girls have the night off, anyway?"

"It's TV night," Liz explained, putting an arm around first Alex's then Maria's shoulders since she was sitting between them. "Dad respects the ritual of our TV night."

"And we do get nights off from time to time, you know," Maria added, staring pointedly at Michael.

Michael squinted at her. "What is your problem?" he demanded.

And Alex exchanged a wry look with the others around the table. The air fairly sparked around Maria and Michael, and they just didn't get it. Well, he thought, probably Maria got it. But Michael had issues.

Unlike Max, who seemed to have gotten over his issues overnight. Alex made a mental note to pump DeLuca for information about what had happened between Liz and Max as he watched them make googly eyes at each other. It must have been some kiss last night to have sorted them out as much as it had.

As if to interrupt his musings on her love life, Liz poked Alex so she could slide out of the booth.

Everyone followed Liz's lead and vacated the booth. When they were all standing (somewhat awkwardly, Alex thought) in the middle of the café, Liz offered, "How about if you guys join us for TV night?"

"Oh no," Maria said immediately. "Not a good idea. Definitely not. That means Porcupine Head would be there, and that's not a good idea."

"Quit insulting my hair," Michael snapped.

Hoping to defuse the situation, Alex asked, "Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in?"

"Stay out of this, Alex!" Maria and Michael said together. And then they were off, arguing and bickering with each other, as much in their own little volatile world as Liz and Max were in their googly-eyed one.

Alex looked carefully at Isabel. "So. Looks like we get to pick out the movie."

Isabel smiled, a shy smile that not one of her clique-y friends could have ever imagined crossing her face. "How about Alice in Wonderland since you had that dream last night?"

"Sounds good. Let's herd the cats upstairs into Liz's living room." He turned to the other two couples and said loudly, "Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I vote for some serious bonding in front of the television tonight. Shall we adjourn to the Parker home theatre upstairs?"

* * * *

The only ones of the six who actually watched the movie were Alex and Isabel. They watched and chatted about the movie and shared theories about the political topicalities and mathematical constructs within Lewis Carroll's book, the whole time scrupulously avoiding the topic of Nasedo.

Maria and Michael didn't really watch the movie. Instead, they bickered quietly about the relative merits of cypress oil and Tabasco sauce as relaxants and food additives respectively. Occasionally, they threw in comments related to Alex and Isabel's conversation, but mostly they were in their own little world. They didn't talk about Nasedo either.

Glancing at Maria and Michael from time to time, Alex was surprised by how demonstrative they were with each other. Michael was almost smiling. Maria looked happy. Maybe Valentine's Day had gotten to them too, Alex thought. Or maybe whatever Liz and Max had was catching.

Liz and Max themselves were tangled up together on the sofa, ostensibly watching the movie and contributing to the conversation, but mostly wrapped up in each other, physically as well as figuratively. Liz was curled up against Max's chest, and Max was holding her and playing with her hair. When they weren't pretending to follow Alex and Isabel's conversation, they were whispering to each other and kissing in between whispers. Alex was sure they were definitely not whispering about Nasedo.

In all honesty, Alex found Liz and Max distracting. He was happy his best friend had found her soulmate, really he was. But he couldn't help wishing that he'd find the same.

Then his eye fell on Isabel's perfect profile, and he thought, maybe he had. Now if he could only convince her....

When the movie ended, Maria offered to drive Michael home, despite the fact, as she put it, he so didn't deserve a ride after the stunt he and Isabel pulled in front of the library. Michael protested volubly but accepted her offer anyway. And the four left in the living room could hear them arguing all the way down the stairs and into the street.

Isabel got up to leave too. She shot a wry look at her brother and Liz who were still lost in their own little world, then turned to Alex and asked, "Can I give you a ride home?" She nodded wryly in the direction of the couple tangled up together on the sofa. "I think Max is going to be here for a while."

Telling himself to act calm, cool, and collected, Alex nodded and followed her to the door.

Right before they left, Alex looked back at Liz and Max who were leaning into each other even closer than before. An irreverent parting shot related to the dream that had been the catalyst for this whole evening of bonding in front of the Parkers' television popped into his head, and he couldn't resist it--

"No more doing it like rabbits, you two," he said mock-severely. "That was just a dream."

As he shut the door behind himself and Isabel, Alex thought that the stunned looks on their faces were priceless, exactly like those credit card commercials.

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