When next Hatter awoke, the atmosphere was completely different; though still a bit fuzzy, he felt something soft underneath his body and a warm mass pressed against his side. A low purring sound caught his attention and reached out to whatever was making it. As soon as his fingertips brushed up against a furry ear, Hatter sat up to get a look...only to be met with surprise and mild disappointment when he discovered it was nothing more than an actual cat. Sensing movement on the bed, the feline raised its head to meet the mans' gaze and gave a short meow in greeting. "Aren't you a lovely little kitten" a pale hand began stroking behind the cats' ears and petting along its back resulting in the animals' purrs becoming louder and closing its eyes in contentment. "Maybe not quite as much as my
kitten, but beautiful all the same". The cat snapped its eyes open at the comment and narrowed them in a slight glare; it ceased purring and backed away a bit. From what he could see, the cat had all black-as-night fur and the most striking blue eyes Hatter had ever seen. And based on their posture and body language, it almost seemed like the cat was...insulted. But, how could that be? Fully anatomical cats can't understand human speech...can they?
Undertaker tried to sort through this particular occurrence when he glanced down and noticed that the clothes he wore weren't the same ones he was wearing earlier. In place of his suit, Undertaker was dressed in a matching set of pajamas with a black background and patterned with sugar skulls. "Where did these come from?" asked Hatter to no one in particular. It was then that Hatters' eyes wandered from the outfit to the bedding and soon, the interior of the room he was in: everything had been done up in black, white, silver, purple and various other dark colors. Various decorations of skulls, roses and nocturnal animals adorned the room; on one wall, there was even a mural of a nighttime landscape scene. The rest of the walls had bright stars nearly covering the surface painted on them. All in all, it was a room designed specifically for the person staying in it.
A room designed with the Mad Hatter in mind.
Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, Hatter decided to look around and explore his new location. However, another surprise met the silverette: on his feet were a pair of fluffy pink slippers. "What next; I find out I'm in the home of a chocolatier?" Pushing the thought aside, he stood up and went over to the door; when he opened it and poked his head out, Hatter was taken aback by what he saw. Outside the room was a hallway with forest green walls and a vaulted ceiling. Not much else had been placed as furnishings or decorations except for a painting or two. Hatter stepped outside and did a quick scan of both ends of the hall. It was then Hatter realized that he had no idea what he'd been doing prior to waking up in that strange room or even how he got here. "I'm...lost" Hatter said softly to himself. He tried to think, tried to remember something from before a few moments ago. Sadly, nothing came up and Undertaker just drew blanks.
Sensing his distress, the black cat lept off the bed and walked right up to his side, rubbing against his legs in what was meant to be a comforting gesture. Hatter looked down to see the feline acting friendly with him. "I suppose you forgive me for my comment". She let out a short mewl as if to say 'of course I do
'. "I guess it would be too much to ask if you knew where your master was?" Cocking her head to the side, the cat stared at him briefly as if confused; suddenly she got an idea and took part of a pantleg in her mouth, pulling forward to gain the mans' attention but not rip the fabric. Feeling something tugging at his pants, Hatter directed his gaze to the floor and watched amused as it appeared to be trying to lead him somewhere. "Exactly where do you want me to go, kitten?" She released the cloth and started running down the left hallway, but only about ten feet before turning her head and meowing at him as if saying, 'follow me
'. "What have I got to lose; an animal tour guide is better than none at all" Hatter mused with a sigh and walked to where the cat had stopped. Once he was close enough, she continued at a manageable pace to take them to their destination quickly, but slow enough so Hatter wouldn't get left behind.
"Following a black cat around a strange and foreign place; I must say, I feel a bit like Alice at this point".
After a few minutes, the cat finally stopped at a set of double doors and tapped it with her paw signaling that she wanted Hatter to open the doors. "Well, let's see what's behind door number one, shall we?" Grasping both knobs in his hands, he twisted them at the same time and lightly threw them open. Inside was a grand library with walls the same shade of green and an ornate carpeting. Hatter entered the room and looked around at everything; on one side was a large fireplace and an antique desk at the other end. Several leather chairs and couches were placed at different spots throughout the room and hanging from the ceiling was a large chandelier. "Uh...anyone in here?" Hatter called out.
The sole occupant of the room sat upright upon hearing somebody else inside; Hatter was surprised to see a familiar head of raven locks and long, white rabbit ears appear from behind one of the sofas. "Sebastian?" "Undertaker, this is a surprise" the White Rabbit greeted. "You're telling me; is this where you've-" Undertaker began, walking over to the front of the couch, but froze mid-sentence as soon as he saw all of the ravenette.
Sebastian was wearing black slippers made to look like cats and dressed in a babydoll styled gown with a bright pink bust and sheer black mesh material for the skirt. A thick, cream colored blanket draped across his lap concealing that fact that he had on matching panties underneath the babydoll. The Hatter instantly broke out into crazed laughter at the sight, much to Sebastians' chagrin. After a minute or two, he finally calmed down enough to speak. "I must say, that's an interesting fashion choice". "I'm five months pregnant; what's your
excuse" Sebastian snappishly retorted.
At that statement, all remaining amusement died instantly and the silverette sobered up completely. In his initial excited state, Hatter failed to notice any physical changes in the rabbit, but now that he was more focused...green eyes went straight to Sebastians' abdomen, which in fact had a slightly protruding tummy. "Oh...congratulations; who's the father?" "My husband, who else?" That next statement had Hatter even more confused; how long had he been asleep? What other events could he have missed and when did Sebastian even meet and develop feelings for someone romantically? Hatter pondered these questions and just noticed the rabbit stand from his seat on the couch with the blanket being held up and wrapped around his form to cover himself.
"Where are you going?" asked Hatter, still a bit dazed. "I would rather be alone right now; Naomi can help with whatever you might need". With that, Sebastian took his leave and disappeared through the double doors to his room; Hatter was by himself again with only a random feline for company. Not knowing what else to do, Hatter sat down on the couch and tried to process what all just happened. "Sebastian is pregnant...and married; where the hell was I when that started?" [If I had to guess...you were probably preoccupied with your own life, maintaining the illusion that you're perfectly happy how it's been going so far]
came a womans' voice, speaking to Hatter. Said man looked up and twisted around trying to locate where it was coming from. [I'm down here
] Directing his attention to the floor, Hatter was met with the cat standing on its hind legs and balancing its front paws on the cushion. [Hi there; I'm Naomi
] she greeted, staring straight at him.
"Alright, it's official; I've completely lost my mind" the silver haired male groused to himself. Narrowing her eyes, she let out a low growl; suddenly, the cat transformed before his very eyes and taking the shape of a human. A woman now stood in front of Undertaker; a woman with medium brown skin tone, black ears on top of her head and a matching tale. "You're crazy like a fox, but you are not mentally ill; I would know" the woman chastised, arms crossed over her chest and a slight admonishing scowl on her face. At that moment, an image flashed through his memory while he sat there inspecting the feline-turned-female. Those same deep blue orbs and midnight fur were still present, but appearing more human-like and the fur coat replaced by a mane of long black hair.
Pointy ears and long hair...
Along with the image, which was a foggy silhouette, Undertaker also experienced a brief sensation of being stabbed all over his body with knives. Naomi instantly switched gears, sitting next to Hatter and wrapping her arms around him upon noticing he'd begun to shiver slightly. "Sōgi..." Naomi brought a hand up to his forehead, "you're burning up" she exclaimed, concerned. "Come on, let's get you back to your room". Hatter was unresponsive as Naomi brought him to his feet and led the man out of the library.
Back inside the room, she helped Hatter into bed; after performing a preliminary reading on his current emotional state, Naomi cast a spell that would serve two purposes: making him sleep for several hours and giving him selective amnesia. "I promise I'll be back; I just need to check on Sebastian" Naomi whispered to the silverette. Right as she turned around and started to exit the room, Hatter caught a glimpse of a retreating figure just before the enchantment finished kicking in and causing him to fall asleep.
With one patient situated, Naomi shifted back into her animal form and ran as fast as she could to Sebastians' room. Special walkways, tunnels and doors had been built in as part of the castles' design so all the female ravenette needed to do was enter once she arrived at the correct area. Poking her head through the tiny entrance, she gave a short mew to signal her presence and padded inside. The room itself was a mishmash of features that suited the personal tastes of both occupants: wallpaper depicting a garden of several different types of flowers and various breeds of kittens nestled among them, overhead light and table lamps with Tiffany bird pattern lampshades, matching side tables and blue and gold swirled carpeting. On opposite sides were two doors each: one leading to a bathroom and the other to a large walk-in closet. In the middle of the room was a large antique styled four poster canopy bed with burgundy curtains drawn closed. Walking over to the bed, Naomi slipped underneath the drapes and climbed up onto the mattress. Despite the darkness, Naomi was clearly able to see Sebastian curled into a ball as much as his pregnant stomach would allow and almost completely hidden under the cream blanket.
The White Rabbit knew Naomi would be coming to check on him at some point; having detected her presence before she actively announced it, he just lie still waiting for her to approach him. [Sebastian?
] At first, he remained silent; Naomi stepped a bit closer to see if he was even awake. Finally, in a voice barely above a whisper, he spoke "I hate that man". [Who, Undertaker; I agree he shouldn't have laughed at you, but that's not-
] Naomi was cut off mid-sentence at the sight that met her eyes; Sebastian was now sitting upright, holding the blanket to his chest. His eyes were slightly puffy and red rimmed indicating he'd been crying at some point. "Undertaker has a hair trigger on his sense of humor, so he'll pretty much laugh at everything and anything that he finds amusing. I am referring to my perverted husband" Sebastian spoke again, in a louder voice.
Sebastian lied back down, resting on his side; wanting to comfort him, Naomi crawled under the covers and inserted herself into his arms while rubbing her head against his chin as a nonverbal request for cuddles. Sebastian readily obliged and started petting the kanjōko. [Do you really mean that?
] The question itself was rhetorical and asked mainly as a courtesy; both knew that the raven haired males' statement was an empty one and lacking any sincerity. Naomi took his silence to mean that the answer was 'no'. "Don't you have to look after the Mad Hatter?" asked Sebastian absentmindedly. [Not for awhile; I put a spell on him to make him sleep for several hours, give or take. What really has me concerned is his fever
] At the mention of 'fever', Sebastian immediately became alert to the situation. "Hatter is sick?" [Unfortunately, yes; although I think a partial cause for it comes from an emotional trigger. Either way, I strongly advise you to keep your distance given your current condition
] "What emotional trigger; last I heard of what was going on in Wonderland is that he'd rescued a cat from the aftermath of a big storm".
[I only made a cursory reading of his emotional state, so I don't have all the details; all I can say for certain at this point is something terrible happened to make Undertaker think about suicide...albeit incredibly briefly. I also gave him temporary amnesia to allow for an easier recovery of his physical ailment and facilitate a stronger defense against his mental one
] [But we can talk more about this later; for now, I want you to rest because I can sense your fatigue
] "Very well". Sebastian closed his eyes and instantly started to drift off, Naomi still held to his chest like a stuffed animal.
* * *
When next Hatter woke up, he found himself back in 'his' room. Only this time, his confusion was accompanied by a dull pounding headache and an all-over clammy feeling about his person. "You're awake" came a voice in the room. Sitting upright, Hatter scanned around to locate the source of the sound. Green eyes fell on another man in a chair near the bed and sewing some kind of cloth. "What are you doing?" Hatter asked, though his voice came out slightly hoarse. "Putting the finishing touches on a baby outfit". Brushing aside his bangs, Hatter took a closer look at the man; his features strongly resembled those of the White Rabbit, but one of the key differences between him and this man were the short black ears on top of his head. Suddenly, it dawned on the man that he hadn't introduced himself; setting aside the cloth, he stood up and gave a slight bow. "Allow me to introduce myself: I am Claude Faustus, head butler of this castle and an esteemed member of the White Queen's court". "White Queen; now just who would that be?" asked Hatter, confused. Claude approached Hatter, saying nothing else at first; removing one of his gloves, he placed the palm over his brow and checking his temperature. "You seem to be a tiny bit better, so I shall take you to my mistress and everything will be made clear". With two short claps, the raven haired servant summoned a woman with purple hair in a bun on her crown and wearing a black and silver two piece outfit.
"You called, Mr. Faustus?" asked the woman. "Could you please escort our guest to see the queen; my presence is required elsewhere at the moment". "Of course sir". She retreated from the room and came back quickly with a wheelchair. He was about to question the reason for the chair when the woman interjected. "We've received specific instructions from Naomi to ensure you don't overexert yourself while recovering from your illness; hence why I have brought this to push you around in" she answered the unasked query, gesturing to the wheelchair. Moving it closer to the bed, Hatter stood up and sat back down in the chair in one fluid motion despite the minor weakness in his body. "By the way, my name is Heather" the woman greeted. "And don't bother introducing yourself; we already know who you are, Mr. Hatter" Heather added in a cheery tone. All parties exited the room: Claude turning left and Undertaker and Heather turning right down the hallway.
Most of the trip to where the queen was went by in silence. "You are being uncharacteristically quiet; is anything wrong?" asked Heather. "Oh, not really; just thinking about all that's been going on. Though for the life of me, I can't seem to recall how I ended up in this place" replied Undertaker. "Well, don't you worry about a thing; all will become clear very soon". "If you say so" Undertaker retorted, not feeling very optimistic about the purple haired womans' claim.
Claude was going at a somewhat fast pace to reach his destination, having shifted into his wolf form.
In almost no time at all, he was outside the door to his and his husbands' bedroom. Immediately, he started working through what problem may await him inside.
The ravenette had just returned from hunting when one of the servants walked up to him with a slight scowl. "Valerie, is something wrong?" Claude asked, taking note of not only the brunettes' expression, but her body language as well. "You bet your ass there is; I suggest talking with your hubby after that crazy hat guy wakes up". "And don't ask me what ya did cause it ain't my place ta tell ya!" Valerie added snappishly.
Switching back to his human form, Claude mentally prepared himself as best he could and knocked on the door.
He was about to knock again when a voice sounded from in the room; [Come in, Claude] He did as told, slipping inside and shutting the door behind him. [I take it Sōgi is awake] "Yes and his fever has improved to a degree; Heather is pushing him in a wheelchair as per your warning against overexertion". [Very good; should I leave the two of you alone to talk or do you want me to stick around Sebastian?] "We'll be fine, Naomi; besides, Undertaker could use a friend right now" the rabbit spoke softly to the feline. [If you're sure] Naomi jumped down through the curtains and sauntered over to the door; just before she completely left, Claude swore the cat had muttered something under her breath that was an insult to the wolf. However, it was too indistinct to clearly decipher so the golden eyed man could only speculate as to what she called him.
A pale hand drew back the curtains, opening them and serving as a silent signal for Claude to approach. Hesitantly, he walked forward and stopped in front of the bed; Sebastian was sitting up, head down slightly and staring straight ahead at nothing in particular. The Wolf stood there in silence, unsure if he should say anything; the quiet of the room was broken when the White Rabbit finally spoke after a couple of minutes.
"I am not some piece of ass you can shamelessly ogle and play with whenever it suits you". Claude's eyes widened at the statement; it seemed the situation was more serious than he initially thought. "You can't honestly believe that's all I value you for?" Claude asked, his features betraying the hurt he felt at such an accusation. "Only recently did I start thinking so; exhibit A" Sebastian pulled down part of his covering to show the baby doll and gesturing to his torso. Understanding flashed through his head and the bespectacled man gave him a guilty grin. "I confess; my actions as of late have been rather deliberate, but I can assure you it was never my intent to make you feel like a sex object". "Could've fooled me" the rabbit bit back sardonically. "Sebastian..." Claude began, taking the others' hand into his own and gently stroking it with his thumb, "you were the best thing to ever happen to me; I love you with all my heart and the only detail I would change about our story is when we had to keep our relationship a secret". "You know why, Claude". "That didn't mean I was happy about it" Claude growled out through clenched jaws.
Realizing that his anger was rising, Claude closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths to calm himself. Pale lips moved but no sound passed through indicating that he was speaking something to himself; from the shapes his mouth made, Sebastian knew that Claude was counting. The Wolf had a bit of a temper that would sometimes get out of control, but he always did his best to ensure that said anger was expressed safely and never intentionally directed at his husband and friends. Once he felt calm enough, Claude continued to speak, "My point is...I hated the secrecy with a passion and when I first got your correspondence informing me of your pregnancy, one of the emotions I experienced was elation". Claude took Sebastians' hand in both of his own and kissed the top of it. "And now that you have given me something even more amazing and wonderful" one of his hands went to Sebastian's stomach and began to gently stroke it, "I want everyone to know what we've made...your looking sexy as hell in maternity lingerie is just an added bonus". Sebastian playfully swatted him on the shoulder for the comment. "I understand and I'm happy you took the news so positively, but think about how I feel in all of this".
"What are you feeling, love?" "Lately...my desire has been diminishing and just recently, there was an incident with Hatter". Suddenly it dawned on him and concern became evident in his features. "Because of the pregnancy" Claude stated more than asked; Sebastian nodded in confirmation. "Have I forced you at all before now; was there ever a past instance when we've made love that you only did it for my sake?" Sebastian shot him a sympathetic smile and said, "I believe I said 'lately' Claude; you've been good about respecting boundaries so far". "Am I forgiven then?" "We'll see, Faustus" Sebastian replied with a teasing tone. "Let's go join the others". "Good idea". Sebastian stood up and wrapped the blanket around himself, preparing to walk out the door...however, the rabbit was immediately lifted off his feet and cradled in Claudes' arms. "Allow me kitten". Sebastian blushed at the nickname and turned his head away slightly, but didn't object to being carried.
They soon reached the solarium, Naomi, Heather and Hatter already situated and waiting on a tufted leather sofa in the room. "About time you got here" Naomi exclaimed impatiently. Claude lightly scoffed at the comment and placed Sebastian in an armchair across from the others; he himself choosing to stand at his side. "Sebastian..." Hatter began, "I offer my sincerest apologies for how I reacted to your...choice in attire. I meant nothing by it and I am truly sorry if I hurt your feelings". The rabbit gave him a small smile and replied, "It's alright Hatter; I understand it can be hard for you to control yourself". "Still, a gentleman shouldn't mock an expecting mother; by the way, how long have you two been an item?" "Almost two years now". "But like any relationship, it didn't exactly have the smoothest beginning" Claude added. "Naomi, why don't you start off the story first". "My pleasure". Naomi stood from her seat and sauntered over to stand in front of the fireplace, "I remember everything like it was yesterday; Claude and I were making our regular trip through Wonderland gathering information on current events, the goings-on of various residents and other subsequent tidbits. We weren't due back for a week, so we split up and decided to take advantage of the warmer weather".