Hatter is whistling as he goes back to his Alice. He is mightily pleased with himself, but then again, what man isn’t, when their girl declares their love to you. Not only while you are making love to her, but then proceeds to make sure that you understand afterwards, that it wasn’t just said in the heat of the moment? And if Charlie hadn’t interrupted…
Hatter will follow through on his promise to her. Hatter will marry her once they have accomplished what needs to be done. But, in his mind, it isn’t necessary. Alice is his, he is hers, and if anyone thinks otherwise, they will have to go through the other, and may the Gods help them. Hatter cannot believe his luck that Ratty had brought her to him. His life, his whole world changed when she walked into his Tea Shoppe. Then a flash of what could of happened if Ratty hadn’t brought Alice to him, Hatter couldn’t help it and shudders.
Hatter walks back through the trail in the trees and sees Alice sitting at the edge of their pool, with her lovely legs in it. He can’t help but feel the love and possession he has for her. Knowing she feels the same for him still amazes him. Hatter continues up to her, dropping his body down, curling around her.
“I told Charlie we will be along soon and that we still have some things to talk about.” As he speaks, he trails his hands down her arms. Hatter can’t resist her skin. He leans forward, and kisses her arms, moving slowly up her body, savoring her taste until he ends up at her lips. Hatter smirks when he hears her breath coming faster and then he kisses her softly. He leans back and pulls Alice against him. She sighs as she relaxes against him. Hatter watches the water and the stars reflected in there for a little bit, completely at ease with her in his arms.
“Hatter?” Alice cannot believe how he evokes such passion in her then calms her down. He makes this time together into something beautiful and loving. But, she can tell he is trying to decide something, and that he doesn’t know what to do. She is hoping that he remembers that he can talk with her.
Hatter looks down, letting his lips caress hers softly. He cannot get enough of her. But he remembers what she is asking him, and tells her, “Alice. What we need to do to finish all of this, conflicts with what I want to do now. Being here with you like this, but I’m worried, because we need to get moving on finding how your father is still alive, and seeing if we can topple the Queen.” He closes his eyes knowing that whatever the plan is, Alice will be in danger. But, Hatter knows from what Absolem has relayed through Chessur that she will need to be. But, with his promise, he’d just have to do whatever it takes to make sure she is as safe as he can make her.
Alice watches him having an internal argument. “Hatter, whatever is bothering you, can you tell me? Or is it one of those secrets?” She can’t wait until they can get past these secrets. Even though she knows about them, they are still hidden from her. The restrictions have hurt them both so much lately.
Hatter thinks about it. Is there a way he can tell her, but not tell her? He doesn’t know, but he knows that Alice can help him plan. “Alice. I will try. Mostly, it’s how can we do all that we need to do, and keep you safe? There are people out there that would hurt you, to hurt me. There are others that if they knew who you really are, would hurt me, to hurt you. I can’t think of a way to keep you safe. I made a promise to you and I can’t seem to be able to find a way around it.”
Alice thinks about it, her mind whirling away furiously as it commonly does in these types of situations. Something pops up and she clarifies, “Hatter, let me see if I understand. We need to get moving and make some things happen. To do this, we may both be breaking our promises to keep each other safe. Do I have the first issue outlined correctly?”
Hatter looks at her, trying to figure out what she is doing. But he answers her question, “Yes. That’s one of my concerns. Alice, I don’t think-”
She puts a finger on his lips and asks, “When you make a promise, does the magic, or whatever it is that enforces the promises, insist on the exact words, or the intent of the promise?”
Hatter drops his mouth open in shock. With that simple question, it throws what she is trying to clarify into perspective. “The intent, it’s definitely the intent.”
Alice looks up at him and asks, “Do you intend to put me in danger, or do everything you can think of to keep me safe? Because I promise you, I will do everything I can do, to try to keep you safe!”
Hatter understands. He sighs, agreeing with her.
Alice continues, “The next thing is you’re concerned with, is that if someone found out what we mean to each other, they may try to hurt the other, to hurt us? That one is easy to solve, but hard to do. We need to keep our relationship from them.” She then turns to Hatter, beseeching him to come up with something else, “I don’t know if I can do that, Hatter. One, I am a terrible actress. And two, I don’t want to! I spent too much time apart from you… I-”
Hatter covers her mouth with his in a desperate kiss. He knows what she is saying and he agrees with her on both accounts. He has just won her love. Hatter wants to be normal, basking in their devotion, and live in the moment with her. With what he knows, he isn’t sure that normal will ever be a possibility for them. Which makes all this, and any future time they spend together, even more important. But, to have that chance, to be able to dream of a future with each other, they need to do this. Hatter breathes out slowly, leaning his head down to hers, using her close proximity to calm himself.
“Tomorrow will be soon enough for us to start that, luv. But, if we want a future together, we will need to do what we can. As long as they don’t know how much we care for each other, we should be ok. They may use the other to trap us, but hopefully not to hurt.” He wraps his arms around her, and holds her against him, rubbing soothing circles on her arm with one hand. They stay that way for a little bit until Hatter tells her that they need to go, Charlie has dinner ready. He kisses her again and then jumps to his feet holding out his hand to help her up. He waits as she puts back on her boots. When she is ready, he puts his arm around her waist as they walk to the trees.
As the path emerges Alice asks him “Hatter, how is it you know about this place, and why wouldn’t the trees let me out?”
Hatter answers her honestly “I can’t explain it. I just knew about it when I wanted some time alone with you, safe from everyone. I think I have a suspicion, but it has to do with those secrets. But, it’s just a suspicion.” He looks down and tells her, “Wonderland is alive, Alice. None of us know when it will decide to interfere. The Queen of Hearts doesn’t like to remember it and therefore neither does the court. Most of the City is unaware of it as well. But, there are those of us that are aware of it. My family has a special connection to Wonderland. I can’t say anything more than that, but maybe that is what is happening.” What he tells her is the truth. His fa’s side of the family is very close to Wonderland. But his mum is one of Wonderland’s Champions and Queens. There are not many Queens crowned by the land itself, so his connection is through both parents, and he has no idea what that will mean. He looks at Alice and wonders when Wonderland will make itself known to her.
Alice is puzzled, but with the magic and things she has seen so far, she can believe that the land itself is alive. She knows that after her questions from before that Hatter is now trying to push the limits of his promises to try to give her information. He really doesn’t like that he cannot tell her what they are and it bothers him, especially when she is worried.
They walk to the Manor relishing the time they have to be like this, knowing it will have to end soon.
Alice then realizes… “Hatter? What about Charlie?” Her heart stops, what about the old Knight, will they have to hide it all from him?
Hatter frowns down at her, “What about Charlie?” He is unsure what is making her upset about Charlie.
“Do we need to hide us from him?” Alice asks.
Hatter thinks for a second and then tells her, “He already knows Alice. We will need to trust him.” He answers her honestly. The old Knight has the ability to see through any subterfuge they try to do to hide their relationship. Plus Hatter feels that it will hurt Charlie’s feelings if they try to hide their relationship from him. Charlie honestly cares for the two of them.
Alice can smell the barbequed Borogrove and her stomach rumbles.
Hatter laughs, leaning down to her ear to comment, “Did our activities earlier make you hungry, luv?”
Alice looks up at him and laughs. “Maybe.” Alice cannot explain to anyone how he makes her feel so free and happy. She loves Hatter, and he loves her. That would have to be the answer.
Charlie turns around, and observing them, he sees Hatter and Alice laughing at each other, staring into each other eyes. He realizes that they have stopped playing games and have admitted how they feel for each other. Charlie can tell with how they act and move around each other, that they are more relaxed. The two of them know the other will be there if there is something wrong. They are a couple in for the long haul, and it is clear that the pair knows it, intimately. He is happy his young charges are together as they are meant to be.
Hatter and Alice look down to see Charlie smiling at them. “Come on down, Harbinger and Just Alice! There is plenty here for you!”
Alice looks up at Hatter raising an eyebrow and asks, “Harbinger?”
Hatter shrugs. “He called me that when we are coming to get you and I guess it stuck.”
Alice slowly grins, “It fits you know…”
Hatter growls at her playfully and tells her, “Come on, Just Alice of Legend. Let’s eat.” He jumps away from her elbow and jogs down the path laughing, with her running after him.
They eat, talking about nonsense, and just enjoying each other’s company.
Charlie tells them some of the inventions he has created over the years and they are impressed. But all good things must end, so thus is dinner, and the polite conversation ended.
Hatter mentions they need to come up with a plan.
Charlie realizes that this is mainly for the two of them. He stands up, telling them not to worry; he will clean up later, and leaves.
Hatter sighs, pulling Alice closer to his side, running his hand up and down her arm. He can’t stop touching her. He barely can restrain himself from kissing her in front of Charlie, but he figures it will be a good idea to start holding back now.
Alice leans her head on his shoulder enjoying the peace. But, knowing they need to plan, asks him, “How will we find my father?”
Hatter starts thinking about it, absently kissing the top of her head. “I think we will need the Resistance to help.”
Alice groans. “I met those guys already.” Thinking Hatter must be desperate to think of using them again.
Hatter sits there thinking, trying to figure how to explain it all to Alice. Thank the Gods that he never promised to keep it all to himself. He has managed that with a lot of forethought.
Hatter notices she is shivering and moves her to between his legs so that he can try to keep her warmer. He wraps his body around hers, using it to shield her from the light wind blowing.
Turning his attention back to Alice’s question, he knows that they can go above Dodo. “Alice, you have the ring. Dodo is just one arm of the organization. If we get to the top man, he’ll help us in return for the ring. Right now, you’re a major player to everyone, you have the ring hidden, and no one knows where it is.” Alice made to interrupt him, and he hurriedly put his finger on her mouth, giving her a look. Her eyes widen and then she nods. He doesn’t want anyone to know, that he knows where the ring is. It is for her protection that no one knows that, since they will need to keep her alive to get to the Stone of Wonderland. This is him making a plan to keep her safe. And he knows she realizes it, when she continues the conversation.
Alice understands this is starting now. She is a little sad but she understands. This is what he needs to do for the promise. So she thinks for a moment and asks, “You know the top man?”
Hatter is trying to think of everything that might go wrong, and answers without thinking, “Yes.” Then he realizes that this is Alice! “No. Not exactly.” He grins down at her as she chuckles. “Nobody knows his true identity, but he goes by a code name ‘Caterpillar’.” He wonders again if there is more to the Resistance since they are all using names from his part of Wonderland. But, due to the lack of association, maybe people here thought those names are all legends. He then grins, thinking how it will be for the people here to meet their namesakes!
Alice can feel him laughing, looking up at him, seeing the boyishness that she loves come through and wonders what he is thinking. “Hatter?”
He looks down at her, still grinning, and answers his love, “I’ll tell you later. And I think you’ll enjoy it. It is part of the secret but, to tell you the truth, it is something that may be funny or very important.” He groans and rests his head on hers. “Alice, with what you did earlier, you may make the association that I am missing, but, damn these secrets!” Hatter’s eyes and skin goes black. This may be the thing that hurts his Alice.
Alice feels him tighten his arms, realizing that he is getting upset. She tries to calm him with him holding her so tight; she was unable to rest her hands on him to calm him. She did the only thing she can think of and calls his name softly, “Hatter.”
Hearing her plea for him, he slowly releases her as his anger and eyes fade back to normal. “I’m sorry, Alice. I-”
Alice interrupts him, “No reason to apologize. Is there any way you can tell me anything that might help me direct you where you need to go?”
Hatter thinks about it and tells her, “Not now. But, I will reflect on it.” He always thinks of ways to tell her anything. Just now with her help, he may be able to push the boundaries a little more.
Wanting to get this conversation over with, Alice asks, “How will we make contact to negotiate?”
Hatter ponders her question and answers her, “I’ll slip back into the city and I’ll make contact. You can stay with Charlie here in the Manor, you’ll be safe here.”
Alice agrees, with a stipulation of her own, “How long do I wait until I come after you?”
Hatter shakes his head and asks, “There is no way I can get you not to, is there?”
Alice shakes her head. She will stay here this time because she knows that it is tearing him up to not have her safe with his promise. But, if he is not back, nothing will keep her from coming after him as he had came after her.
Closing his eyes, Hatter answers her “I’ll leave in the morning. If I’m not back by nightfall, do it your way.” And he will do everything in his power to make sure he will be here by then.
Alice sits there not saying anything. She thinks back to Mad March’s comments to her about Hatter and worries.
Hatter becomes anxious. “Alice?” He gets no response. He shifts her in his arms so he can see her. “Alice, what’s wrong?”
Alice looks up at him, her face sad. “Hatter, you will be safe, right?” She needs him to come back to her.
Hatter realizes she is not only sad, but she is scared of losing him. He pushes her up, standing before motioning for her to stay there. He goes, and finds Charlie, telling him they will be back later. On his way back, he grabs a couple of blankets. Walking back to her, he grabs her hand, turns down the path and tugs her hand gently. When she follows him willingly, they head down the trail back to their oasis. Alice trails after him trying to figure out what he is doing.
He makes it to the oasis and the trees move aside. Once through, he drops the blankets on the ground and pulls her close to him, hugging her. “Alice, I will always be safe. I have you to come back to.” He then pulls her away, searching her eyes. “I brought you here for us to talk and to be alone for our last night.”
“Talk?” Alice asks questioningly.
“Alice, we are about to have to fool all of Wonderland.” He looks at her, hating himself, and hoping that she will not despise him also for this suggestion. “We need to have them think you are still in love with Jack.” She flinches. “I know, luv. I know. Hopefully we can pass it off and you will not have to see him.” He flexes his right fist. “I will have more than a couple of things for him if I see him.”
Alice stares at him, realizing that his eyes and skin are turning black. She gasps. “Hatter!”
He breaks out of his thoughts with a start, pushing Alice behind him as he readies himself to defend her, searching the surrounding area to see what alarmed Alice. He can’t find anything, but when he turns back to her, she is standing there staring at him with her hands covering her mouth. He goes to her quickly and holds her close. “Alice, what is it?”
“Your eyes, Hatter, they turned black, and so did your skin.” She burrows into his arms. She is not scared of him; she knows he will never hurt her. But the change and the suddenness of it going away frightened her.
Hatter freezes. His eyes and skin changes? “Alice… I…” He takes a deep breath. He asks Wonderland, ‘How can I tell her what is going on? ‘ It is a trait from his fa, one that they all thought he didn’t share with his fa.
Alice can tell this is news to him and it worries him. “Hatter?” He literally gapes at her. It would normally amuse her to see him speechless, but it is worrying her now. “Hatter!” He looks at her unable to say anything.
“May I help in this matter?” In front of her, a pair of turquoise eyes appears then a face and then a body of a dark grey and turquoise striped cat. She gasps, moving closer to Hatter.
Hatter just stares at his friend, frustrated, and literally unable to speak. All he can do is hold Alice. Damn these promises!!!
“I am Chessur, the Cheshire Cat. Da-Hatter is caught by the promises he made. He cannot talk until something is done about them, since he just broke one of the promises unintentionally. But the ones he made to you are saving him. The two promises are conflicting against each other, and almost cancel each other out, but one is much older, and there are many more layers on it.” Chess floats by tapping one of his claws against his head. He then turns on himself and floats in front of Alice. “You should feel honored, since there are very few cases of this happening. Promises gain weight the longer they are around. But they also gain power depending on the feelings of the one making them. Hatter has put a lot of emotions behind his promise to you, it almost caused the ripple.”
Alice is confused and still wary of the Cheshire Cat. She can’t remember if it is friend or foe to Alice of Legend in the book. Ripple?
The cat turns on himself again and twirls in the air as he thinks. The movements are surprisingly… calming.
Alice feels Hatter try to comfort her, but she can tell he is still having problems and turns to Chessur. “Chessur, what can I do?”
All of a sudden, she can hear a noise… like purring? “Unfortunately, nothing can be done, but to listen to what I have to say. And make a promise in return.”
Hatter’s body stiffens and he stares at Chess. Promises are what led to this mess!
Chess stares back at him and softly tells him. “I was sent. This needs to happen. She needs to know some, but cannot know all, but just enough to protect you.”
Chess then turns literally in on himself and asks, “Luv, what do you call yourself?”
Alice looks up to Hatter, silently asking him if it is ok. He looks down at her and nods. “Alice.”
Chess then perks up, evaporating all but his head, staring at Alice as he moves closer. “Alice?” He disappears and appearing next to Hatter’s head he tells him, “I think I understand. But you know… Alices and Cheshires go back a ways too.”
He then evaporates and his head appears, his tail unfurls from under his shin and straightens, revealing the rest of his body in front of Alice. “Alice, the trait you noticed is one from his father. One we didn’t know about until recently. But, it is a well known one to certain people, and will give away who he is. It happens when they get angry. It can happen when they are passionate about something, but usually it happens when the ones they love, are being threatened in some way.” He chuckles, remembering when Tarrant threatened him at the Tea Table. “But, now to the promise; you need to try to protect him from showing this, you cannot tell anyone. Some people will know what it means when it happens.” Alice nods, agreeing to the promise.
Chess then looks at Hatter. “Are you aware of when it happened?”
Hatter shakes his head as he thinks.
Chess floats up to him, looking in his eyes, and tells him softly, “Two nights ago. And you are progressing rapidly. We had hoped it would be better now, but I think I know why it is not. But most people weren’t around your father when it happened to him.”
Hatter thinks for a second of what Chess is telling him and realizes that it started when he realized Alice goes missing. He had warned her he would go Mad, but he thought he had controlled it. “Chess,” Then Hatter stops shocked that he can talk.
Chess looks at him and nods, “She knows enough that you can talk. Good thing Mirana phrased your promises so well.”
Hatter nods also. “Chess, I haven’t lost control though…” He had kept his Madness from taking over by the grit of his teeth. Or so he had thought all this time.
Chess nods and tells him, “You have your mother and Alice to thank for that. Your mother helped with the control, and Alice helped, because you got her back. Your father went Mad and at the time, there is no one there to help. Later, nobody but your mother could bring him out of it so easily. And she didn’t come back to him until later. You will never be like your father.”
Alice listens and tells herself, ‘No, he won’t. I will never leave him like that!’ She turns to Hatter, gazing up at him, and asks him, “What is it that made you so upset this time? If it’s Jack, then we will no-”
Hatter stops her, and tells her, “This is the only way the plan will work. The way Jack has treated you,” Hatter takes a deep breath to get a grip on his temper, then he continues, “He is a slurvish…” Hatter stops unable to continue, his temper and his love for Alice making it hard for him to condone what Jack had done to his Alice.
Alice reaches up with her hands and frames his face, “I get the idea, Hatter.” They stare at each other, brown eyes warm with love to blue ones filled with love and trust.
Chess coughs, hating to interrupt their time together; he knows it will be rare for them to be alone now and with all that will be happening. But he needs to part to them the last bit of information from Absolem, “Unfortunately Alice, Hatter is right. For your plans to work, you will need to give the impression that you still care for Jack. This will not be easy. But,” Chess looks at David. “I have been given orders to watch over both of you.” He floats over to Alice. “Hatter knows how to call me, but all you need to do is say my name in any way. And my name to my friends is Chess.”
Alice smiles at him and asks, “Are we friends then, Chess?” She acknowledges the quirkiness of the Cheshire, but feels like he will be a great friend to the both of them.
The purring noise got louder and he floats closer. “Dear Alice, when you and Hatter became close, so did we. Fairfarren, Alice, Hatter.” And Chess evaporates.