Chapter 15: It Comes With a Price

Hatter and Alice turn to face Jack.  Alice remembers last night and how upset Hatter had been by the mere mention of Jack.  How is he going to handle facing him in person?  She is concerned and quite frankly scared.  Plus she wonders, what is Jack doing here?

Hatter barely keeps calm, he is holding on to his temper by a mere sliver of control.  The only thing that is helping is the knowledge that Alice will be in danger, not only from their plan failing, but from her promise being broken.  He keeps telling himself that he cannot let himself get too upset, but this Knave of Hearts has hurt his Alice in the past!  And he is here. What else will he do to her?  Hatter can’t help himself and moves in front of Alice to protect her.

Before anything else can be done or said, Charlie interrupts them. “I know what you’re thinking, how can anyone sneak up on me, of all people, and in my own Manor too?”

Hatter and Alice look appalled at what Jack has done to their friend, knocking him out, and then hog tying him.

Jack at least has the sense to look abashed.

This is too much for Hatter, grabbing a stick, he runs up to take on Jack with a stick. ‘You call yourself a Prince?’ He knows that he is pushing it too much, but he can barely hold on to his temper.

Jack scoffs at him, not knowing he is playing with fire. “You think you can take me on with that?”

Hatter clenches his teeth, trying to keep in most of what he wants to say.  He can’t keep it all in and replies as scathingly as he can, “I’m not an old man.”  Hatter barely hears Charlie’s protest.

Alice can see that Hatter is trying to keep his temper.  She can’t blame him, since she can’t believe that Jack did that to Charlie, and she quite literally wants to beat the shit out of him.  Who calls himself a Prince then takes out an old man and hog ties him?  She takes a deep breath and runs to step in between the two men.  She has to get Hatter to calm down before he loses it. “Look, nobody is fighting unless it is me, and I am a black belt, remember?”  She is trying to warn Jack that she will take him on with Hatter.

She sees Jack flinch slightly, remembering the day he had left.  Alice had thrown him on the ground easily and then replies to her with scorn in his voice, “Who’s your friend?”

Alice almost flinches; this is not going to go over well. She prays and hopes, wishing she could remind Hatter.  ‘Please Hatter, remember our plan!’  As she is saying the words she hates herself for them. “Just a friend.” She wishes she could be sick as she catches Hatter’s reaction.

Hatter clenches his fist.  He knows without a doubt that she loves him, but hearing those words come out of her mouth to a man she dated in the past, about him, hurt.  ‘Hatter!  Alice is trying to stick to your plan and to her promise.’

Jack replies jealously, “Yes, you two look pretty friendly.”

Alice can’t believe the man in front of her.  Is he trying to provoke Hatter?  She thinks quickly trying to defuse the situation. “You jealous Jack?”

“A little.” Jack admits reluctantly.

She can feel the rage rolling off of Hatter.  She prays that he can continue to keep his temper.  Then an idea comes to her.  Acting quickly she asks Jack, “Did I hear that right? The guy who’s engaged to a Duchess is worried about me?”

Alice would of have wept with relief if she could, as the sound of light purring reaches her ears; Chess heard her and is here.  Hopefully he can help her keep Hatter from losing it.  She has no doubt that Jack would be one of those people in the know of who Hatter really is if his Madness appeared.

Hatter feels Chess’s weight on his shoulders, and he realizes what Alice has managed to do; she worked Chess’s name in the conversation to give them an ally.  He finds himself admiring his Alice and her quick thinking.  He isn’t sure what Chess can do, but having a friend here did help some.  Now if he can only get through this without killing the sodding cad in front of Alice.

Jack looks insulted. “You know that is just an act.”

Alice got angry. She bitingly retorts, “No, I don’t.” She is glad she has Hatter; he never talks to her like this.  Alice then has a glimpse of insight, and realizes Jack is not lying, it is just an act; everything he does is an act.

Jack then instructs her, fucking instructs her, “Come, I’ve brought you a horse.  Let’s get out of here.”

Before Alice can lose her temper, ruining the plan, Hatter jumps in front of her and tells Jack, “She’s not going anywhere with you.”

Jack doesn’t even turn to answer him, “You know she can’t stay here.”

Alice gets hold of her temper and knows she needs to stop this. “Look, stop it, both of you.” She turns, grabs Hatter’s arm, and softly tells him and Chess, “I need to know about my Dad.”  She hopes that will remind them both of the plan.  She turns back to Jack, “Is he here?” She hopes Jack knows and was not messing with her head again.

He turns to face her and answers her with a sincere look on his face. “Yes. He’s alive and well. And if you let me, I’ll take you to him.”

Hatter barely looks away from Alice.  If it had not been for Chess’s claws, he wouldn’t have.  Hatter knows he is in danger of losing it.  His Alice.  Hatter has noticed that she is losing her temper with the slurvish dog, and gloats for a second, until he hears Chess whisper “Help her.”  Hatter is upset with himself that he forgot what they are trying to do, but…

Alice can’t believe how hard this is.  ‘We have to fool all of Wonderland, Alice.’ Unfortunately, this is one of the people they absolutely have to deceive.  As all this crashed in her head, plus her worry for Hatter and the ten year old self that the Doctors have brought to the fore, Alice starts to crack around the edges.  She answers Jack in a small child’s voice, “Really?”

All of Hatter’s rage drops away as he feels like someone is stabbing him in the heart when he hears her talk in that voice.  He had heard it first when she had told him her father is alive at the beach.  He feels Chess’s claws again, and uses it as an anchor to stay sane, and not murder the Prince of Hearts; he is hurting Alice again.  Hatter is fighting his instincts not to kill the person who is causing his love such pain, and not to take her in his arms, to bring her back to the Alice he loves.

Jack feels victorious for a second and then tells her, “But, we’d better get going. We don’t have much time.”

Alice is trying not to cry.  She is being torn in two: her father on one hand and Hatter in the other.  The conflicts are merged only because of Hatter’s plan, but she knows the conflict would end with her being hurt.  She has already made her decision earlier; there is absolutely no doubt with whom, in the end, she will be with.  Shoving this all away from her, she asks Jack, “Where is he?”

“We are moving him into the city and if we hurry, you can see him by nightfall.” Jack tells her softly. He is winning against this man.

Alice picks up on what he is saying and tries to get them some more information. “What do you mean, ‘Moving him’?”

 “I have people helping me.” Jack answers cryptically.

Hatter can see how Jack is playing Alice; he is barely holding it together even with Chess’s help.  Before he can stop himself, he growls, “What people?”  He can’t stand here anymore not saying anything.

Jack ignores Hatter. Secure in the knowledge that he has Alice where he wants her, he asks, “Do you want to see him or not?”

Alice is trying to think.  It is like a spell is being woven around her.  “Yes of course… right.”  She is silently screaming for someone to help her.  What is going on?  “Wow, umm okay.” The cracks in her psyche are getting wider.

Hatter can’t explain it, but he feels like he is losing her. Remembering his words to her a couple of days ago that he will fight for her, he steps up to her, demanding of her, “Don‘t tell me you trust this guy.”  Alice turns to him… with a look a relief?  What is going on here? Hatter is starting to grow more and more worried.

Alice wishes she can hug Hatter.  She stares at him and tells him, “He knows where my dad is.”  ‘Please Hatter, help me!’ She doesn’t feel like she can keep this up much longer, she feels like everything is falling apart in her.  That she is getting close to the edge she was at just yesterday.

He looks in her eyes, and realizes something is going on.  It suddenly dawns on him that when they made this plan, they didn’t discuss her feelings for her father.  She is falling apart like she did at the beach, and with her having the additional strain of keeping their feelings a secret, acting like she still cares anything for Jack; she needs him to help her.  He thinks of the one thing that is most likely to get her angry.   “He’ll say anything to get his hands on the ring!”

Oh thank God!   She knows she loves Hatter, but for him to get a grip on his temper, to be able to tell her something that he knows will piss her off, something she can concentrate on. She yells back at him, “No, he hasn’t asks for the ring. He doesn’t want the ring.  Do you, Jack?”  She gives him one last glance and turns to Jack.

Hatter stares at her.  He feels Chess rubbing his head on Hatter’s neck in support.  Alice needs him to help her keep it together.  Chess lets him know he will help as much as he can also.  What a sad pair the two of them make. He is reminded of how he felt before, that as long as they were together, they can stand anything.  ‘But, then you two are not together.  You can’t touch or do anything to even to suggest that you two are together.’

Jack answers her.  “Yes I do.”

Alice stops, shocked.  She didn’t think he will just admit it! “You do?”

Hatter realizes she is floundering again “It’s just all an act.”  He watches her just stares at Jack, still in shock.

Jack looks her in the eye, and tells her gently as though he is speaking to a child, “We need the ring to get you home.  The Looking Glass won’t work without it.”

Hatter has to walk away; he wants to kill the Knave.  He can feel Chess trying to calm him down but the man is playing on her emotions to get what he wants.  He hears her whisper, “Yes, of course.”  And knows he has to act.  ‘Don’t be selfish Hatter, you were once and this is what happened because of your choice.’  “Don’t be fooled by this, Alice. He’s working for his mother.  Blood and water, remember?”

Alice’s eyes flick to him, realizing that he is trying to tell her that, that while he is trying to help her, he is battling his own problems that he has from his father.  She works to pull herself together knowing she has to be strong for him.

Jack finally answers something that Hatter has said, but continues to refuse to acknowledge him. “Then, why am I alone? Why aren’t there five hundred suits at my back? And how did I find you here in the middle of the forest? You think I just followed my nose?” He is fighting for Alice.  This man could never give her what he can.  Alice is who he wants and he always gets what he wants.

Hatter realizes that is something that has bothered him. “How did you find us?” He needs to help keep Alice calm.

Again, Jack snubs him by not looking at him, but seeing the same question on Alice’s face he answers, “You sent for me.”

Hatter blinks.   “Come again?”

Jack softly tells Alice, “I’m the agent who’s supposed to escort you to Caterpillar.”

Hatter feels so very relieved when he hears Alice ask from beside him, “You know Caterpillar?” She was too quiet for way too long.  His Alice normally has no issues asking questions or inserting her opinion.  He loves her for it, and it worries him that she is not being herself.  Oh, Alice, I will do my damndest never to put us in this situation ever again!

 “Very well.” Jack affirms. “Caterpillar recruited me into the Resistance.”  Jack turns away and walks as he speaks.  He misses Hatter quickly grabbing Alice’s hand, and squeezing it, giving her the assurance that he is still here, still loving her.  But, before Jack turns around, he releases it. “That’s why I stole the ring and escaped to your world. It is supposed to trigger a coup. Unfortunately, well, you saw what happened. But, if you give us back the ring, we can give it another try.”  He stares into her eyes trying to convey his honesty.

Alice focuses on what he is saying, and states, “You want to overthrow your mother.”  She can’t blame him since she has seen how the Queen treats her son, but to overthrow your own mother?

Hatter looks at her, trying to understand. Jack wants to overthrow his own mother?

Jack is still trying to convince her, and answers truthfully, “I’ve see what she’s done in close-up and I know, perhaps better than anyone, if I don’t stop her, she’ll destroy Wonderland.” He goes in for the kill as he sees it. “So, who are you going to trust to get you and your father back home… a resistance insider and future King, who’s already scheduled your return trip through the looking glass, who cares for you more than anyone else in the world,” then he gives a look of disgust towards Hatter, believing he has won her over. “or this man?” His obvious disgust for Hatter colors his voice.

At that moment Jack both disgusts and angers Alice.  ‘Hatter is worth a hell of lot more than you!’ She has to stop herself from striking out to kill Jack.  She also feels disgusted with herself for ever being involved with him.  She shudders and looks to Hatter.

Hatter is shocked that Jack attacked him in that way.   He is also never so upset with the promises he has made.  ‘Future King?   Well, Jackie boy, I am one too, and I definitely love her more than you do.’  The only problem is, he can’t fight for her on the same playing ground, at least not yet.  He forces himself to look like he gives up at that moment, when that goes against everything he is.  Why is it all I ever wanted is comes with a price?

Alice stares at Hatter as he looks like he gives up.  She is so shocked, that when Jack asks her where the ring is she tells him, “It’s where it belongs.”  ‘Alice, trust him! Hatter will never give up on you!’

She turns, and glancing at the Red King.

Jack follows her look and seeing it glint on the Red King’s hand, goes over to get it saying “Well, well.”

Charlie has rolled over somehow, and murmurs in wonder, “Under my very nose.”

Hatter has seen the look come over Alice’s face and then the sheer determination of not giving in to her feelings.  He can’t let it lie; he has to let her know he still cares.  “I wish you all the luck in the world, Alice.”

Alice turns to him and pleads with him. “You’re coming with us, Hatter.” She needs him so badly!

He realizes that she hasn’t had time to think it all the way through.   He tries to tell her what he has already realized, that Jack somehow knows he is the competition for Alice, and will do what he can to remove him from her sight.   Jack just didn’t realize that Hatter has already won.  “I don’t think I figure in the future King’s plans.”

Alice’s eyes widen.  ‘Jack is trying to separate us!’  She turns to Jack and states to him, “He’s coming with us.”

Jack puts away the ring in his coat pocket and pats it as if making clear to him it is safe.  Jack thinks quickly on his feet, Hatter has to give him that, when he answers, “Caterpillar is very clear. The resistance will only help you on their terms. You must come alone.”

Alice wouldn’t, can’t give up.  “But Hatter’s stood by me.” This is hard enough with Hatter here with her, but for him to leave her?

Jack’s jaw tightens and he tells her, “It’s for your own safety and for your father’s.” ‘What is with her devotion to this man?’

Before Alice can put their plan in jeopardy, Hatter steps up to her, and softly tells her, “Hey.  I wouldn’t want to go with this guy anyway.”

Alice thinks of what she was told by Chess last night, and asks desperately, “What will you do?”

Hatter realizes she is worried about him.   He tries to reassure her as much as he can under the situation.  “Me?  You kidding?”  Alice notices his tone of voice.  He is lying.

Hatter glances at Jack giving him the ‘can you believe her look’, but in actuality telling Alice who he is playing for.   “I’ll be fine. Believe me.  You’re better off with this guy.”  His voice drops the entire time and then tells her in his normal voice, “Go.”  Hatter turns around and leaves.  He can’t take it anymore.

He whispers to Chess, “Please look after her, help her.  She needs you more than I do.”

 “But David…”  Chess objects.

Hatter cuts him off. “CHESS!  If I know you are with her, then I can keep calm.  But right now… please.”

Hatter feels Chess leave his shoulders saying softly, “Very well.”

Alice watches him leave and feels like running after him.  Jack comes, grabs her by the arm and tells her to follow him.  She stumbles after him feeling like a zombie.  All of a sudden she feels a weight on her shoulders and a soft head rubs itself on her.

 “Hatter wants me with you, luv.  I tried to argue, but then, I never did enjoy arguing.”  Chess softly tells her in voice that Alice can barely hear.

Alice sighs knowing she can’t say anything.  She feels Chess tighten on her shoulders like a hug and tells her softly, “It had to happen, but he loves you.  Take comfort in that, luv.”

Alice thinks back to what he has told her before: “I would die for you, Alice.”  She thinks in her head, ‘you must live for me too, Hatter.’

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1 Comment

  1. missrissa81

    How can there only be 2 more chapters of this?? On to 16!!

    Reply

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