Summary: AU Comedy/Adventure. Buffy and Spike must learn to rely on each other as they hunt the deadly Jabberwock through a strange and wondrous world fraught with peril (and bad jokes).
A/N: Thank you to EnigmaticBlues for the beta work. Although this is my own bizarre version of Wonderland, some quotes and characters are courtesy of Alice in Wonderland and Jabberwocky, both written by the very gifted Lewis Carroll. Chapter titles courtesy of the song White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. Mr. Carroll please don’t spin-was merely for fun.
Disclosure: None of these characters are mine, nor will I make money from them. They belong solely to the imaginative pens of Joss Whedon and Lewis Carroll– I just wanted to watch Buffy and Spike wrest information from a Dormouse.
Rating: G 22,500 words complete
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
“Speak English, not whatever they speak in, um….”
Some Assembly Required
What the Dormouse Said
“According to the map, this is the last crossroad before the path ends around that bend. I can hear two voices faintly up ahead, although I can’t tell what they’re sayin’.” It bothered Spike a lot that the spell created a dampening effect in the forest that kept him from hearing or smelling as keenly as he normally did. He’d discovered this odd–and extremely unfair–phenomenon a little while ago when several animals unexpectedly ran across a fork in the path, surprising them both. “Slayer, what do you want to do? Go around? ”
“After walking for a solid hour, I’m ready for a break. Besides we agreed to follow the path the cat pointed out, so hopefully we’ll get some information at the same time.”
The path ended at a lovely shaded glade. A long linen-draped trestle table sat incongruously beneath several shady elms.
Buffy ran her eye along the table and noticed that at each empty seat were complete settings of fine, pale blue bone china, with silver flatware, polished to a high gloss, next to each.
Tamping down her excitement she saw that crowded together at the table’s far end amid a more jumbled collection of the same china and flatware were her favorite characters from
The others were carrying on a lively conversation literally right over his head, occasionally banging on the table for emphasis– making the china and flatware jump and clatter loudly.
Ignoring the fracas completely, the Dormouse slept on.
The Mad Hatter clutched what appeared to be a perfectly baked scone in his left hand, while punctuating his words with an oversized teacup in his right. Miss Manners would have silently approved of the pinkie finger extended, although probably not of the way he brandished the teacup for emphasis. Buffy watched as he made an especially salient point in his argument and sloshed tepid tea all over the tablecloth and the head of the Dormouse.
The Dormouse ignored both the point made and the tea dripping down his back and continued to snore.
Noticing the couple for the first time, the March Hare smiled brightly, waving them forward. “Hello. Do sit down and join us for tea.”
Buffy smiled, delighted. “We’d love to! Spike, would you please pour?”
Spike slid into a chair farther down the table from the exuberant Mad Hatter and reluctantly reached for the teapot. They needed information from the characters and the easiest way would be to play along. Clearly the Slayer didn’t want to run the risk of either character dumping the tea all over them, too.
He lifted the top from the oversized teapot and took an experimental sniff. The scent of freshly brewed Earl Grey gently wafted out. Satisfied they weren’t being poisoned by some concoction the spell had created, he poured the Slayer and himself a cup.
Setting the teapot on the table, he dredged up a phrase he’d forgotten he even knew. “One lump or two?”
Before Buffy could frame a reply, the March Hare trilled, “She’d like two!”–and flung two buttered scones at her head.
Watching Buffy shake crumbs out of her hair, the March Hare started giggling and immediately the Mad Hatter joined in.
She shot them an annoyed look and they both laughed harder, rolling around in their chairs and kicking the table legs, scattering the sheep resting beneath the table.
“Stop that!” Spike growled, hardly able to believe he was really here being ‘Mother’ at a tea party for these two Arkham escapees. He was supremely grateful that none of the poker players at Willie’s could see him now.
He scowled at the two characters. Their laughter had finally subsided– he would have throttled them both at this point if it hadn’t– and they were back to chattering utter nonsense a mile a minute and drinking tea again, while Buffy tried to break into the conversation occasionally with questions they both ignored.
Still scowling, he watched Buffy wipe her arm with a napkin after the Mad Hatter made another important and utterly nonsensical point. He wondered why the fates couldn’t have conspired to leave her The Last of the Mohicans or Mutiny on the Bounty. Those were the perfect stories for a Slayer–and him–so chock full of vicious savages, grisly massacres and traitorous sailors. But no, instead they had killer rabbits, annoyingly vague hovering cats and now this tea party with the daft. He fervently hoped that he’d run into the book’s real owner someday in a dark alley.
Grumbling under his breath, he neatly caught two sandwich plates aimed at his forehead, and snarled a warning at the March Hare– busily stretching halfway across the wide table for a third.
Meanwhile Buffy deftly pulled a butter knife away, lightly smacking the Mad Hatter’s wrist– he’d been about to butter the back of her hand after buttering his own–and looked at the sullen vampire. She caught his attention and winked. “Enjoying your tea, Spike? Everything alright?”
He ducked a flying spoon that missed its intended target by a wide margin. “I’m just fine, Slayer. In your own peculiar vocabulary, I’m peachy keen.” He frowned, his train of thought completely lost. “Now where was I?”
“Holding those sugar tongs and channeling my mom.” She grinned.
Giggling at his disgusted snort, Buffy turned to the March Hare. Although she knew it was a lost cause, she caught his eye and stated firmly, “And you– no more throwing things.”
As she expected, he ignored the admonishment and stacked cups and plates in front of the Dormouse. The dishes teetered and fell with a loud clatter that finally awakened the Dormouse.
With a wide yawn, the Dormouse slowly opened his eyes and sat up. Stretching, he looked all around the table before locking eyes with Buffy. Smiling cheerily at her, he quoted, “The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood!”
Spike set the teapot down with a thump. “What do you lot know about that?”
The Dormouse blinked at him. Shrugging, he poured spilled tea from a saucer into his cup.
Trailing his fingers through the jam pot, the Mad Hatter said, “Why, everything and nothing of course!” and threw a scone laden with the dripping jam at Spike.
“Watch the vintage leather!” Spike critically inspected the lapel of his duster, looking up just in time to avoid a second sticky scone aimed at his sleeve. Sailing through the air, it missed him by a whisker. He watched the scone splat against the back of his chair and slide slowly to the ground. It was just damn lucky he had a vampire’s reflexes.
Narrowing his eyes at the Mad Hatter, he stood up to move over a chair, but found it had spilled cream all over the seat. He glanced around for a cleaner chair.
Following Spike’s movements, the Mad Hatter’s eyes sparkled. Gleefully he jumped up from his own chair yelling, “Move one place down!!! Hurry now!! Down one place!!! Everyone!!! We must have clean places!! Wait, move three places down!! Three places!! No, four, make it four!! No, one will do!!”
The characters instantly leaped to their feet. Buffy quickly followed suit, and joined Spike in stumbling around the table in a parody of non-musical musical chairs, with the losers acquiring seats covered in tepid tea or spilled food. They tried to get the characters to simply move the tea things to the other, pristine end of the table but they emphatically refused.
The difficulty in grabbing a clean chair still reasonably close to the absolutely immobile teapot and food, compounded by the nonsense directions and marching orders continually shouted by the Mad Hatter and followed to the letter by the other characters, forced Buffy and Spike to play the game for what seemed to be forever.
Finally enough was quite enough.
Spike–having marched three times in two different directions around the entire table only to be told he wasn’t allowed to sit next to the Dormouse– finally reached his last nerve. “That’s it! I’m sittin’ right here, right now!” He dropped into a clean chair two places from his original seat.
“Oh, that’s a perfectly splendid spot.” The Mad Hatter responded placidly, sitting down two places away from the sullen vampire.
While the other characters happily found their own seats, Buffy blew out a long breath and seated herself across the table from Spike. She caught his eye and winked. For once his short fuse had been a blessing.
Spike caught her wink and a smile played across his lips. He shrugged eloquently.
Eyes twinkling, her own lips curved in response.
Once everyone was settled, Buffy politely passed the plate of scones to the dormouse– sitting next to Spike after all– and cooed, “Maybe you could tell us all about the Jabberwock now.”
He reached greedily for a fistful of scones. “After tea.”
The March Hare, busily cramming two buttered scones in his mouth at the same time, nodded vigorous agreement.
The Mad Hatter tipped his large hat and several playing cards fell out, fluttering to the table. Sweeping them into his hat again, he looked at Spike and said, “It’s terribly rude to talk during tea about anything of real consequence.” He stared up at the tree canopy and said, “How about the weather we’re having? It was very sunny yesterday, and it will be very sunny tomorrow, but today ‘twas quite brillig,” and burst into wild laughter.
Spike opened his mouth to reply, but Buffy shot him a warning look and he clamped it shut again. Gritting his teeth he continued the charade. “The weather is fine. In fact I’d call it Wonderful weather. Now, who wants more tea?”
“I most certainly do.” The Mad Hatter held his cupped hands out in front of him.
It took every single ounce of willpower Spike possessed to pour the steaming tea in a cup.
Six more buttered scones later–three applied liberally with thick strawberry jam and covered in sticky treacle– and the Dormouse was finally coaxed into telling Buffy and Spike that the famed Vorpal blade was housed at the palace “near the Tum Tum tree” and owned by the Queen of Hearts.
Three cups of tea filled liberally with cream and sugar, and showing the March Hare and the Mad Hatter a few tips to improve their aim pointed Buffy and Spike in the direction of the palace.
The last thing she saw before they lost sight of the trio was the Mad Hatter and the March Hare scrambling to gather scones to throw at the Dormouse, while the oblivious Dormouse fed pieces to a lamb beneath the table.
“Slayer, look at this. There’s something here you should see.”
Buffy rose from where they’d been resting by a tiny stream and started working her way through the milling sheep. She and Spike had managed to lose several at the tea party but still had at least two dozen with them. They were hard to count accurately since every one of them looked alike, and none of them ever stayed still- they milled around them both constantly, but it appeared to Buffy that for every mile she and Spike walked, the spell manufactured two more–making the flock of sheep one big smelly pedometer.
Wrinkling her nose, she pushed one of the more persistent and smellier lambs out of her way. Hopefully the Jabberwock had a really bad sense of smell, because if the wind was against them, they were pretty much doomed. Listening to all the noise, she prayed that it was deaf, too.
She cleared the last lamb– a particularly muddy one that oddly, grunted like a pig– and finally reached Spike’s side. “What is it?”
“This is where we are now, next to this small stream.” Avoiding several patches of large, bright blue bird droppings– all those berries!– he leaned the parchment up against a tree, so Buffy could see over his shoulder.
“You called me over here for exactly what? You know I don’t read old.”
“Slayer, just take a real look at the map.”
She squinted at the squiggly lines and circles. “Huh. It’s not blank any more, there are lots of words filled in– of which I can still read exactly zero.” She frowned. “Couldn’t you have just said that while these tired piggies were still dipped?”
He shot her a look. Gah, the woman could be a real pain. “As soon as I unrolled the map, the words appeared. The only thing I can figure is we’ve finished enough of the game to receive some sort of achievement award. The path we’re on leads to the palace and it doesn’t look too far away. There’s a word printed there that means ‘Monarch’ or possibly ‘Leader’.” He shrugged. “My Latin’s pretty rusty.”
“Doesn’t matter. We know it’s the Queen, since the Mad Hatter told us, although I suppose it’s good to have that confirmed since, well, Mad.”
She traced the path with her finger. “Spike, the Queen’s palace is adjacent to the gray area where the Jabberwock hangs out.”
He nodded. “We need to grab the Vorpal blade from the Queen and nip over there. I’ll find the beastie right quick, you slay it and we’re back in Sunnyhell in time for dinner.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Just a figure of speech, Slayer.”
“Uh huh. You know, the Queen wasn’t all that easy to deal with in the real story. I seem to remember lots of heads rolling all around, and don’t forget that we killed her rabbit. We’re going to need some kind of angle to get close to her without a serious problem ensuing.”
His turn to raise the eyebrow. “You’ve been listening to your Watcher again. I thought you were channeling Rupert for a moment, with the ensuin’ and all.”
She scowled. “Why? Because I happen to throw an SAT word into the convo now and then? I so knew that word before Giles said it at the meeting yesterday.” At his skeptical look she raised her chin. “Anyway, don’t change the subject. You know it’s not going to be easy to get close enough to the Queen to figure out the location of the sword, much less take it.”
“Because it couldn’t be too bloody easy,” he replied wryly. “After all that cuts down on all the enjoyment we’re havin’.”
She smirked. “Well, it was enjoyable watching you panic over getting jam smeared on your coat.”
Rolling the map up it was his turn to scowl.
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