Hatter feels Alice’s arms fall away from him as they hit the water hard. No! He tries to grab her and can’t find her…
The water pulls her away from Hatter. She frantically tries to grab him, but only manages to grab his hat. She lets herself go limp, remembering her swimming lessons. She is pulled deeper and then starts to float up. When she realizes she must have slip past the pull of the flamingo sinking, she starts kicking up in the direction she has been floating up to. Her lungs are burning and she is fighting the urge to take a breath. ‘Just a little bit more Alice!’ Just before she gives in to the pressure in her lungs, she feels something grab her, and push her up to the surface. As she breaks the surface, she takes a gasping breath of the sweetest air she has ever breathed.
Hatter can’t find her! ‘Where is Alice? Gotta find her!’ Hatter frantically tries to pierce the dark depths. ‘Wait what is that?’ As he is looking down, he sees a flash from her arms as she is trying to make it to the surface. He realizes she is slowing down. ‘Alice, don’t give up!’ He dives back under the surface, grabbing her, and helps propel her up ahead of him. He breaks the surface of the lake after her and hears her gasping for air. He treads water helping support her until she catches her breath. He feels her relax in his arms. Hatter realizes she is trying to float and help him out. As she moves her hand in his direction, he notices she has something in her hand… his Hat?!? “Alice, while I admit I am quite fond of that hat, you didn’t need to risk your life for it.”
Alice chokes and then starts to laugh weakly. ‘Only Hatter!’ She turns in the water to face him and he looks in her eyes.
Hatter leans down and kisses her, oh so softly. Pulling back, he looks deep in her eyes. “Alice…” he breathes and feels relief pour through his body that she is okay.
Alice looks back at him, realizing that he has been scared when she had been pulled away from him. She reaches up and cups his cheek softly.
He leans into it and sighs; Hatter acknowledges that being in the middle of the lake is not the place for this. But, how he needed that kiss and knowing she was here with him. He straightens and looks at her. “Can you swim?”
She nods still staring at him. Alice needed the kiss and more importantly needed him just as badly.
“Right, then, why don’t we take this somewhere solid where we can finish this?” He then grins, releasing his dimples at her.
She smiles back, leans close to him and tells him… “Race you!” before she takes off.
Hatter treads water for a couple of seconds surprised, then a grin makes its way across his face, and he takes off after her.
They make it to the shore and collapse on the beach. Alice looks over at him and says, “I told you, I would win.”
Hatter glances at her as he lay gasping for breath. ‘Where did she learn to swim?’ “Well, when you cheat like that, of course, you are going to win!”
They grin at each other. Playful times like this are rare for the two of them, and they were enjoying this interlude, before reality comes back to them again.
Then Alice remembers, and sits up straight, gasping out, “Charlie!” She feels bad to have forgotten him, even though they had just made it to safety.
Hatter glances around, and then jumps up, extending his hand to her to help her up. On the way to the shore, Alice had tossed his hat to him, and he has it in his other hand. “If he made it, there should be some tracks.” He doesn’t want to think negatively, but Alice and he, who are a lot younger, and not wearing any armor, barely made it to shore. Charlie…
Alice looks around trying to see if she can see Charlie. She turns around to say something to Hatter, and oh my!! Hatter stands there, with his hat in his hand, looking at her, and she feels her heart go faster. ‘Yum, Wet Hatter!’ She can now understand his fascination with her in a wet dress. She realizes he is staring at her and has his trademark sly grin spreading across his face, showing his dimples to devastating effect on her. She smiles at him.
Hatter moves closer to her, putting his arms around her, and pulls her close to him. Looking down at Alice, he murmurs to her “My Alice…” and then kisses her. This kiss is not a soft sweet kiss of relief and affirmation that she is alive. No, Hatter demands immediately entrance into her mouth and she surrenders herself to him. He immediately takes possession of her mouth and Alice moans. This kiss is him claiming her as his. As she returns his kiss with a passion that surprises her, her arms go up to his shoulders and hold on.
‘Oh god, yes!’ They both think.
They kiss for a few moments longer and eventually wind to a stop catching their breath. They stare at each other. Hatter pulls her to him and holds her tightly, “Alice. I thought I had lost you, I was so scared that Mad March was going to use you to hurt me and…” He trails off, holding her tight in his arms. He doesn’t want to let her go, ever.
Alice relaxes in his arms and realizes that he needs this just as much as she does. The temptation to stay here forever is a very big consideration for her. She revels in the feelings of feeling safe and cared for in his arms. She has a feeling that nothing can happen to her in his arms. But, she feels something pressing in her side, and she has to break their embrace when she realizes what it has to be.
Hatter stares at her shocked that she pulled away. He watches her reach in her pocket and pulls out, a man’s watch? It is way too big for her and… “Alice. What is it?”
Alice looks up at Hatter, and answers him absently, “It’s my father’s.” She still can’t wrap her head around on how her father is here. ‘In Wonderland. Why?’
Hatter doesn’t understand what she is saying, her father’s? “Father?” Didn’t Alice tell him the other night that he vanished without a trace when she was ten? He knew the Looking Glass had time traveling properties, but they were to go back in a person’s life. Never into the future.
Alice stares at Hatter. She is still trying to figure out the how’s and why’s, and the meanings behind all this, she answers him distractedly, “He’s here.”
Hatter cocks his head to the side, and tells her, “I don’t understand” How can they go from such passion, to standing here apart from each other, Alice growing more and more distant from him every second? And what is she what is talking about, her father? Hatter begins to get a bad feeling and knows he needs to get some answers about all that happened in the casino.
Alice knows there is something she needs to figure out, something that is bothering her. Her instincts were kicking in trying to tell her that there is something wrong. She frowns trying to think and grows impatient with herself. She can’t get her thought straight!
Alice looks at Hatter in an attempt to calm herself, so that she can solve what is bothering her, and sees that he is confused. She realizes he has no idea what she is thinking. She tries to explain to him, and hopefully this will help her figure out what is wrong. Talking with Hatter always seems to help; he has some uncanny ability to ask the right questions or to say something that makes it all fall into place in her head.
Alice gazes at Hatter with hope and frustration in her eyes. She reveals to him what she knows, hoping it will all make sense to one of them, “Jack slipped me his watch.” She shows him the back of the watch and tells him, “R.H.” Alice is completely unaware that her voice was becoming childlike as she spoke.
Hatter looks at her and sees her face. It breaks his heart to hear her and see her like this. This is not his Alice. This is a scared little girl in front of him. One who had lost her father and is being given false hope that he is here. At that moment Hatter truly hates Jack Heart for what he was doing to his love.
Alice is still trying to prove to Hatter that the watch is her fathers, “Robert Hamilton. I know this watch. It is stopped at the exact time and date that he disappeared, March 23rd. He is in the casino somewhere…” She looks at Hatter. He looks so sad. ‘Why? What is she missing?’
Hatter then tells her softly, “He’s lying, Alice. Your father has been here too long. Oysters only last maybe a year at the most on the casino floor.” He watches her face fall and pulls her to him. “I’m so sorry Alice. I am so very sorry, luv.” He can feel her crying in his arms and feels like an ass for making her cry.
“Jack…” And she realizes that is what bothered her. Jack HAS lied to her. He lied in the worse way possible in her mind. She can take being lied to, but to tell her he loved her, to treat her like she was his one and only. For him to ask her to come, and meet his parents, while offering her a ring? That was a lie to the heart. And for that, she couldn’t forgive him.
Alice realizes that she can’t hold in the betrayal, heartbreak, and everything that has happened to her in the casino anymore. She breaks in Hatter’s arms and all he can do is hold her.
Hatter’s skin around his eyes as well as his eyes turn black, as he holds her, feeling like he is being torn in two. His Alice is broken and he doesn’t know how he can fix this. He holds her tighter, stroking her hair, trying to calm them both as he closes his eyes, and prays.
He does everything he can think of to calm her down. He tells her, “You’re not alone Alice. I will take care of you.” He feels her calming, as he whispers to her, holds her, and as he calms her down, the black leaves his eyes…
Alice feels Hatter holding her and trying to comfort her. She knows this has to be something he doesn’t want to see, but she is so tired of holding it all in. She hears him whisper in her ear, “You’re not alone Alice. I will take care of you.” And she realizes that is why she can break. He will be there to catch her every time.
She looks back at him and he looks down. Her love for this man keeps growing every day. She really needs to tell him this, but right now, it is enough for her to get through this day.
Hatter takes one hand form around her, and wipes her tears away, searching her eyes to see if she is alright. “Alice, I am so sorry.”
She shakes her head, and divulges to him the reasons behind her breakdown, “Jack….” Her voice breaks, and she tries again, “I found out he is engaged, to a Duchess.”
Hatter feels his hatred grow for the Knave of Hearts. He is just like his grandfather! He takes a deep breath and states what he knows she is having a problem stating, “He was two-timing you. Alice.” He stares into her blue eyes, hoping she knows, he won’t, can’t, even comprehend anyone doing that to her, much less him being the one doing it. Hatter has an intense desire to disclose to Alice, with their relationship and feelings so new, but yet so consuming for both of them, how he feels. “I wouldn’t, couldn’t, even imagine anyone doing that to you. Nothing like that will ever be a remote possibility with me, Alice. I am so sorry. I wish I can say something else, but nothing I say is coming out right.” He looks at her, his face softening he declares his feelings to her, “Alice, I love you. And I will do whatever it takes to make you happy. But, I know that there is little I can say…”
Alice looks at him shocked. ‘He said it to her.’ She looks up at him opening her mouth… and then hears a voice that she has given up hearing again, singing, “Hey nonny nonny…” She looks up at Hatter’s face, “You hear that? “ Her face glows with hope that Charlie is okay and it is not her imagination.
He looks back at her happy also. The hope in her face along with the flash of what he hoped was love makes him overjoyed. He tells her with joy and disbelief evident in his voice, “I don’t believe it.” Hatter takes her hand and they jog over to where the voice is coming from.
“Hey Nonny, nonny, the wind, and the rain, the wind, and the rain… Hey, nonny, nonny.”
They come through the bushes “Charlie!”
Charlie jumps up and grins at them, “Ah! Thank Vilnius. I was just about to go back in the water and look for you again.” Alice drops Hatter’s hand, as she runs to Charlie, and hugs him. He hugs her back… and hugs her.
“All right, yeah, okay.” Alice tries to get Charlie to stop by patting his back, getting harder and faster as he didn’t release her.
Charlie gets the idea. “Oh,” and pats her back one last time and releases her.
Hatter grins at the interplay, and has to ask, “How did you get ashore with all that armor on?” Alice comes back to him, and he casually puts his arm around her waist, and pulls her closer.
Charlie smiles at the sight of the two of them together and answers Hatter, “I’m a Knight. Besides I invented a very useful little whirly-majingamathing which I can’t tell you about. It’s classified, patent pending, very hush-hush that short of thing.”
Hatter feels a vague sort of unease come through him and heeds his instincts. “We should get off this beach before we get spotted.” Alice looks like she is going to say something and he quickly puts a finger on her lips. “Alice. Please let me take you back to the Kingdom. We can talk there safer.”
Alice looks in his eyes, realizing that just as she needed to break down, Hatter needs some time to come to grips that she is here safe with him. She nods and they turn to help Charlie gather his armor. They are taken aback when they realize he is fully dressed and is waiting on them. “How does he do that?” Hatter mutters.
Charlie turns and starts to lead the way off the beach telling Hatter, “The horses are this way, Harbinger.”
Hatter just had to ask, “Horses?”
Charlie answers his question, “Yes, Arthur and Guinevere found me, and are waiting patiently.”
Hatter shakes his head. Either Wonderland has a hand in that, or Charlie has some very talented horses. Thinking more on it, Hatter thinks it must be a combination of both.
Hatter and Alice follow Charlie.
Once they get to the horses, Hatter realizes the extra saddle pad is still in place. But he has had enough of Alice being behind him. He is still very aware of how close she had been to having a bullet in her due to her being behind him on the pink flamingos. Hatter decides that he has had enough of Alice being in danger. He motions for her to get on.
She looks back at him questioning him, “Hatter?”
Hatter explains as he adjusts the stirrup to accommodate her height, “Go ahead and get in the saddle. I will be behind you and will hold you in place and direct Guinevere.”
Alice looks at the horse and back at Hatter. “Why are you riding behind me?” She was looking forward to riding behind him and resting her head on him.
He grins at her and replies, “Do I need a reason to want to hold a pretty girl in a very wet dress in my arms?”
She smiles back remembering the line from when they had first met.
He helps her mount the horse and then swings up effortlessly behind her. Hatter puts his arms around her and murmurs in her ear, “You know if you are tired, you can lean back against me…”
Alice looks at him smiling and asks, “Are you going to repeat all your lines?” But, inside, she is melting. His suggestion will make it possible for her not to only get some rest, but she will also get to have his arms around her.
He smirks at her. “Well, this time you might react better to them, so yeah!”
She laughs and leans into him. He tightens his arms and then kicks Guinevere into following Charlie. They ride behind Charlie relaxing in the moment, enjoying being together without something happening.
Alice thinks drowsily about how it will be nice to fall asleep in Hatter’s arms. Then she sits up realizing what has been bothering her, “Hatter! Mad March knows how to get in the Kingdom!” And will be gunning for Hatter!
Hatter straightens in fear for Alice, then feels Wonderland and the Kingdom murmur to him that they will be safe this time, “Alice, I can’t tell you how I know, but trust me. We will be safe. Relax and see if you can get some sleep. I didn’t tell you, but you were up all last night. You spent an entire day and night in the casino.”
Alice looks back at him in shock. So long? No wonder she is exhausted and drowsy. She leans back into him, and he takes one arm and wraps it around her. “I’ve got you Alice, sleep.” Alice relaxes in his arms and she slowly falls asleep to the sound of the leather creaking, feeling the horse rocking and Hatter’s arms around her. She was safe and loved.
Hatter looks down and smiles. He keeps staring at her, unable to keep his eyes off her. She is so beautiful. He looks up briefly, seeing Charlie looking back at him, and nod. There will be nothing to wake Alice.
He realizes that things need to come to a head. After what the Queen has done to Alice, he realizes that it is time to end this. He sighs and whispers, “What I wouldn’t do for a friend from home.”
“You rang?” Hatter looks up ready to defend Alice then to his shock; he observes a pair of turquoise eyes looking back at him. Recognizing them, he hurriedly glances at Charlie, and sees that he is still up ahead singing softly to himself. Then he looks down at his Alice making sure she is asleep.
“Chess…” He breathes. “What are you doing here?”
Chess blinks at him and replies in his lazy voice, “You don’t think we would let you be without any supervision?” Chess becomes fully corporeal and then evaporates back out to his eyes. “Besides, Absolem tells me to tell you that you are right, and the time is now, he is quite insistent about it really.” Chess opens his eyes fully and tries to wheedle him, “Do you know what he is talking about, David? He is being so very secretive.”
Hatter blanches at his given name. He doesn’t like it, but all of his friends uses it back home. And then he realizes why Absolem is being so secretive. “Chess, if I tell you, I would be breaking a promise. Do you really want me to do that?”
The Cheshire Cat blanches, and hurriedly tells him, “No! Plus if your father found out I did that, I would become a new hat in his collection. Not to mention your mother…”
Chess then notices the sleeping woman in Hatter’s arms. “Hmm and whom is thissss?”
Hatter tightens his arms around his Alice. He knows Chess won’t hurt Alice, but he can’t help it. He just got her back.
Chess catches the action and looks quickly into Hatter’s face. “Oh, my. You’ve gone and done it now haven’t you? Fell in love.” He peers at her and sees the Glow on her arm. “And an Oyster! Well, you are your father’s son aren’t you?” Chess looks up and almost becomes fully corporeal on the look he sees in Hatter’s face. He needs to get back and let Absolem know in case this changes their plans!
Hatter takes a second to calm himself. He did ask for a friend. “Chess… please. Let me tell them on my own…” He really just needs some time with Alice. When they deal with all of this with the Queen, it will be time for his parents to meet Alice. Or if things become too dangerous, he will send her to them to keep her safe.
The Cheshire Cat looks at him and softly tells him. “They would be happy for you, David.”
Hatter nods and tells him, “I have no doubt. But I need some time. Tell Absolem that I understand and will get started.”
Chess nods and starts to fade out. Then his full head becomes corporeal and he says, “I almost forgot. Absolem also says that the father IS alive. I hope you know what that means since I could have told you that your father is fine…”
Hatter looks at him shocked. Alice’s father is alive? This must be something important if Absolem is letting him know. “Thank you, Chess. I think that is the final piece I may need. Will you bring them when I call?” He will need his parents and Mirana if they managed to depose the Queen of Hearts. Mirana alone will be needed to calm everyone.
Chess nods and disappears.
Hatter sighs, already missing his boyhood friend. Then he feels a weight around his shoulders and a voice telling him, “Be safe, David. I would be most terribly aggrieved if something should happen to you. Call for me if you have need of me.” The weight from his shoulders lessens and disappears.