Chapter 16: To Be By Your Side, I’ll Do Anything

Hatter watches Alice leave him on horseback with Jackie boy, from the hill that he has found her on just a little while ago. Was it really just this afternoon?  He can feel his heart breaking, telling himself that it is for their plan, and he will be with her soon.   But nothing is helping with the physical pain he is feeling as she rides away from him.  ‘Never again.  No matter what anyone tells him, never again will they play this game.’  Her leaving him is bad enough, but for it to be with her ex boyfriend, who she has to act like she still loves?  That is the worse part.  He could take her leaving to accomplish something; with that there is always the choice of either going with her, meeting her somewhere, or at least hugging and kissing her good bye as he did this morning!

Charlie stands next to the dejected and defeated man watching her leave.  He can’t take it and is unable to understand why Harbinger is letting her go.  “I’m going after her.”

Hatter speaks without thinking, “No.” If anyone is going to go after her, it will be him.

Charlie stops shocked, and tells him, “I am sworn to protect her.”

Hatter realizes that Charlie is serious.  He can’t have him interfering with the plan and thinks quickly, “Your work here is done brave Knight.”

Charlie stands there staring at him.

Hatter sighs and glances at Charlie.  “You should be proud. You’ve done one hell of a job, but she’s in safe hands now.”  His, once he can get away from Charlie.  He will not trust Jackie boy with a bag of rubbish, let alone the most precious item in Wonderland.  He looks at Charlie. “Charlie, may I have a horse?”

Charlie stares at him, and says, “If you wait a moment Harbinger, I will be ready, and we can go after her.”

Hatter shakes his head. Why is Charlie making this so hard? He tells him, “Alice is where she wants to be.  Jack is better for her than I am.”  ‘In a pig’s eye!’ “I just need to go lose myself in the hills for awhile.” At least until Chess appears, tells him where Alice and Jackie boy are, and then he will be following them.

Charlie stands there shocked.  ‘Harbinger giving up on Alice?’  He never thought the day will arrive.  He figures he might as well help him ‘lose himself’ in the hills.  Then, since Harbinger won’t go after her, he will. “Come with me.”

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Jack leads the way through the forest.   Alice is behind him trying not to think of Hatter.  Chess is in front of her in the saddle, invisible, but she can feel him under her hand purring as she pets him absently.  She is trying to get her thoughts together; she knows Jack didn’t care for her, and Alice remembers the glee in his eyes as he put down Hatter.  How he had tied up Charlie, how he has gleefully used her father as a way for him to get her to come with him.  Anger flashes through her like fire.  She tightens her jaw so she won’t say anything; Jack will do well not to talk to her for awhile.  She focuses on staying on the horse and remembering the last few times she has been on a horse, with Hatter.

Jack glances back a couple of times, but doesn’t say anything seeing the look in her eyes.  He wonders why she is so upset.  He has learned a few things about Alice when he was with her in her world, and leaves her alone. He has to make sure they got back to the city in time to get her to her father.  Then he wonders about the man that she calls ‘Hatter’.  Who is he?

They stop to water the horses.  Alice is thinking of all the things that Jack has told her; she will be honest, and admit to herself that it had really hurt when she found out he has cheated on her.  Alice knows she would have been devastated if she didn’t have Hatter.  But all the same, she feels she deserves an explanation of who Duchess is, and hears what Jack has to say for himself.  She needs to finish anything that is between Jack and her, the sooner the better.

She stands up, looks down at Jack, watching him cool his neck off, and asks, “So who’s the Duchess?”

Jack remains kneeling in the creek and looks up quickly.  Alice is speaking with him!  He quickly answers, trying to keep her favor, “My Mother’s creature. An arrangement. I have no feelings for her, nor she for me.”

Alice continues to stare at Jack saying nothing.  She is remembering the Duchess’s reaction to her.  No matter what Jack thinks, Duchess cares for Jack.  With that, she wonders if Jack was being truthful about not having any feelings for Duchess.

When Alice doesn’t make any comments, Jack looks concerned, and tells her, “My heart belongs to you, Alice, completely.  You believe that, don’t you?” He is desperate that she understands.  He can’t lose Alice.

Alice just stares at him, unable to answer him because it can blow their plan.  But she understands, Jack thinks he is in love with her.  The only thing is, now that she knows what the difference is between true love, and ‘like’, she feels sorry for him.  While Jack needs someone to put him on the correct path and to love him as he is, Alice is not the one; she never was.

Jack looks out on the hills as he tries to think of something, anything that will convince Alice of his sincerity.  But then he stands up quickly as a feeling of being watched makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up.  Looking around, he could find nothing that warrants the feeling.

Observing him, Alice asks, “Is someone there?” Hatter?  Hope rises in her heart; maybe she is not here alone.  She knows he will not let her go so easily with Jack without him close by in case something happens.  Nor did she want him to; in fact she has sent Chess to tell him where they are going.

“No, I don’t think so. Let’s get going.”  He clucks to the horses leading them out of the stream and goes to help Alice mount.  He misses touching her and will take any excuse to have his hands on her.

 Alice glares at him and mounts on her own; Hatter has showed her enough times that she can manage without his hands on her. Right now, even the thought of him touching her turns her stomach.

Jack sighs, disappointed.  He again wonders who Hatter really is to Alice.  To put more space between Alice and Hatter, he tells her they need to ride faster, and leads them down the track.

 As Alice rides past Jack, she catches a movement on the hill above them, and looks up to meet Hatter’s eyes.  She stares up wishing he is with her at her side; Alice knows he will do anything for her, unlike Jack.  Realizing that she can’t alert Jack to Hatter, she looks down, and pays attention to the track.

Hatter misses the connection even through the distance between them; he works to keep himself from going Mad. Alice needs him to stay sane, be there in case she requires his help. Hatter straightens, willing himself to be stronger; he needs to make sure she stays as safe as he can make her.  Staring out, he tells himself, soon this will be over and you can be planning your futures, together.

  As he is staring out, he sees a bright light.  Hatter immediately tries to see what it is, and when he could not determine what it is, he rode to check it out.  He is doing what he can to make sure no one interferes with Alice and Jackie boy.  He rides trying to keep quiet and soon is rewarded with hearing a very familiar song.

 “The wind and the rain, the wind and the rain. Hey, Nonny, Nonny. Hey-“

He rides up and shouts, “Charlie!” What is Charlie doing here?

Charlie scrunches in on himself frightened.  When he realized it was Harbinger, he straightens up as he yells, “Phaeton’s ghost.  You nearly scared me half to death.” Charlie was relieved that it was only Harbinger, but why was he here?

Hatter doesn’t care.  Why is Charlie here? “What are you doing?” Alice will be upset; Charlie was supposed to be safe for both of their sakes.  It had hurt both of them to see him tied up, like that. Alice had admitted to Hatter that she thought fondly of Charlie, like a grandfather.

Charlie answers him, “Out taking a little… jaunt.” He can see Harbinger is upset.  Maybe he didn’t completely give up Just Alice?

Jaunt?  Who says Jaunt?   Hatter tells him, “You’re following them.” He needs to protect Charlie for Alice.  And… for himself.  He cares for the old Knight.

Charlie is indignant.  He is sworn to protect Just Alice!  Where else will he be?  “So are you.”

Hatter shakes his head. If he lets the old Knight help him, he might get hurt, and Alice will be upset.  Hatter needs Charlie to be back in the Kingdom for everyone’s sake.

Charlie is riled up.  “Don’t you shake your head at me, when I gave you Guinevere; you said you are going to hide out in the hills.  Well these are not the hills.”  He straightens up proud of the point he made.

Huh?  Hatter is confused looking around the hills.  If these are not the hills, then where did Charlie think he was?  He realizes the Knight won’t give up and he needs to figure out a way to get him out of this without him getting hurt.  “Come on then. Try to keep up.”  Hatter rode off towards the City.  Thanks to Chess, he knows where to go.

He will keep Charlie safe along with Alice.  Hatter chuckles to himself, realizing he is adding more and more to his list of people to care about and to protect.  He has lived in the Red Kingdom for a very long time, managing not to connect in this manner to anyone.  Alice comes along, and he now has friends he works to keep safe with his life in under a week.

Charlie is confused, but he tries to take control, “No, Harbinger. I am the Knight.  I will lead.” His pride is wounded.

Recognizing this, Hatter sighs, and lets him get ahead of him.

Charlie rides past him proud.  Then after a short distance, asks Hatter. “Which way do we go?”

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Alice and Jack are running and dodging their way through the city.   Alice remembers her last journey through the city and how Hatter made her feel safeish by walking on the ledge, having her walk next to the buildings.  Jack knows about her fear of heights and doesn’t think twice about pulling her along the ledges.  The differences in the two men make themselves more and more obvious. ‘Hatter!! I can’t take the time till I next see you!’ Alice grits her teeth and manages to follow Jack by her sheer will.

Jack jerks her down a ledge that led to a huge building.  “This way.” Then he stops, letting Alice stop in front of him.

Alice can’t believe her eyes as Jack stops behind her.  The size of the place and the huge clockwork apparatus in the middle where in her world would be a clock is a shock.  Only in Wonderland…  “What is this place?”

Jack looks around, and pulls her behind him, as they walked across the bridge.  He absently answers her, “The hospital of dreams. Just stay close by me.”   He then thinks of something, and tells her, “Keep your mark covered.  If the inmates realize what you are, I won’t be able to help you.”

That line is the last straw.   Alice almost pulls her hand from Jack’s; realizing he never really cared for her.  She thinks back to the past; Hatter never pulls her anywhere like she is a possession, never lets her go first if there is danger, and most importantly, he never, ever, tells her he won’t be able to help her.  Alice finds it hard to believe that she cared for Jack in the past

Jack is unaware of the thoughts in Alice’s head.  He is too busy thinking of what is to come with their meeting with Caterpillar.  He moves towards the reception desk and looks down at the receptionist in a nurses’ outfit playing with a cockroach trapped in a box.  Jack gave the codeword for today, “Oraculum.”

 The receptionist doesn’t look up or stop playing with the cockroach as she gets on the phone.

Alice is standing there watching the lady with a shocked look on her face.  Was this typical behavior of a native of Wonderland?  Is Hatter such a different person from the rest of Wonderland?  Before she could go down that road too much, she is reminded of Charlie.  How he cares for the two of them…

After a couple of minutes of silence the receptionist hangs up the phone, sighs and tells them in a bored voice, “He’s on the third floor.”

As they go up to the third Alice can hear screaming and laughter echoing around her. It unnerves her and she finally stops and asks, “What is that noise?”

Jack stops and listens for a second, as if he hasn’t been hearing the sounds this entire time.

Alice is shocked.   Seriously?  It doesn’t bother him?  Her compassion for the poor people who were screaming was overwhelming.  And Jack obviously didn’t feel anything.  What type of King would he make, or far more important, what kind of man does that make him?

Jack starts to straighten his clothes, and informs her, “The inmates. Try not to let it get to you; they can drive you mad.”

 ‘And that is reasoning he gives to himself as to why he ignores their pain?’  Alice stares at him, uncomprehending, feeling disgusted with the man in front of her.

Jack never stops his efforts to look polished, straightening his cuff as he tells her, “Now Caterpillar may seem very odd to you, but believe me, we’re among friends.”  He puts his arms down and gestures towards the door below them, “Ready?”

They walk into a Pompeian Bath room.  In the middle of the pool is a boat loaded with books.  Barely peering over the stacks is an older gentleman.   He nods his head upon observing them, and asks Jack, “Ah.  You have the ring?”

 Jack acts like an eager little schoolboy and reaching into his jacket tells Caterpillar, “Yes.”

Alice is surprised watching him.  She has never seen Jack act like this before.

Caterpillar calmly rebukes him, “No, no, no, no.”  He then explains to Jack. “Should the moment arise, I must be able to swear under oath that I have never laid eyes on it.”  He then pauses, and tells Jack, “Ask the girl to come closer.”

Jack bows slightly to Caterpillar’s wishes.  He then gestures towards the edge of the pool telling her, “Alice, come closer.”

Alice stares at Jack.  Is this another façade? She decides to play along and moves in the direction Jack indicates.  As Alice rounds the side of the pool, she notices that the water is absolutely clear.

Feeling his hand on the small of her back, she wishes she can shrug off Jack’s hand.  Her disgust for him is complete.  She actually feels completely ashamed of the fact that she had found him appealing to her.

Caterpillar stares at her, and sounds disappointed as he mentions, “Oh.  You’re not as tall as I imagined.”   He then pauses and then asks, if curious, of Jack, “Ask her if she’s scared.”

Like an obedient little child, Jack turns around and asks “Alice, are you-?”

Alice can’t take it anymore.  “I heard him.”  She snaps testily. Realizing what she did, she calms herself down, and tells Caterpillar, “You can ask me yourself, you know.  I’m right here.”  She fidgets with her hands and wishes Hatter is here and holding her hands.  She concentrates on their plan; she will deal with Jack later.

Caterpillar doesn’t blink an eye and asks her, “When did you last see your father?”

Alice stares at him uncomfortable with the blunt question.  She notices Jack staring at her also.  She has a flashback of Hatter and Dodo in the Great Library. ‘Alice you better be strong, so you can go to the next step of the plan and find out where your father is!’  She answers the question. “When I was ten.”

Caterpillar looks disappointed.  “Ten?  A long time ago.”

Alice is tired of the games and the cryptic responses.  “Where is he?” Why would it matter to Caterpillar about her age then?

Caterpillar turns and takes a pull of his hookah.  Alice turns to Jack, confused.  Jack noticing her confusion touches his chest lightly.

Before Alice can ask more, Caterpillar puts down his tube, and turns to her. “Your father is a very difficult man to reach.  We’ve been tracking him for a long time, but never got close enough to pop the question, never once.  And do you know what it is we want to ask him?”

Alice is really getting tired of these questions.  “No.” How would he expect her to know this?  She has been in Wonderland for four days, no idea where her father is.  Alice works to control her anger, not liking that it seems to be all she feels.

Caterpillar asks her, “You’re not even ready to hazard a little guess?”

Alice tries to think.  What is he talking about?  How can she hazard a little guess when she has no idea what he is talking about?  She glances at Jack, but he is no help as usual.  She decides to ask what she thinking, maybe that might get her somewhere. “What are you talking about?”

Caterpillar looks a little disappointed that she doesn’t guess.  He tries to explain, “Horizons, my dear. I’m talking about bright new horizons, and that’s where you come in.”

Oh Good Lord, will he ever come to the point or not answer another of her questions with riddles? Wait.  What did he ask? “Where I come in?”

Caterpillar finally answers a question without a riddle. “Yes. When you first met Jack, did you think it is a happy accident, the fickle finger of fate?”

Alice stares at him. She is right.  Jack doesn’t care for her at all.  She is an assignment.  She glances at Jack and he at least had the decency to look a little ashamed.  She closes her eyes for a second.  She thinks of how many times he had reeled her out with his lies and then cut the string and let her fall.  The only thing is, he doesn’t realize that she is in love with Hatter.  “Wasn’t it?” She wishes Hatter was here with her, remembering all the times when she was in his arms, there seemed nothing that could hurt her.  Because life seemed hell bent in trying to hurt her.

Caterpillar looks at her, sees the pain in her eyes, and takes pity on her.  He indicates to Jack to pull the boat over.  As he does, Alice stands there thinking, and reminding herself, that she has to keep up appearances.

Caterpillar walks off the boat, and asks Alice, “Walk with me.  I will take you to your father, but to do so, you will see some disturbing sights that you need to view to understand your father.”

Alice follows, still shocked, and trying to figure this cryptic man that is walking next to her.

They walk down a hall that has… large white balloons that give the impression of being soap bubbles as decorations everywhere?  What is with the decorating here in Wonderland?  Grass and plants inside the city buildings, 60’s retro look in the ultra plush casino and soap bubbles in a mental hospital?  The only place that is up to her terms of normal is the Kingdom of Knights, but then she didn’t know what it looked like before it was in ruins.

As she walks down the hall, she looks in one of the windows and sees a lady sitting on a chair upside down. This shocks Alice and she stops, looking into the other windows around her.  What were they doing to these poor people?

As Alice stares around her, uncomprehending, Caterpillar starts to educate her on Teas.  “You see, the effects of your powerful emotions on our frail senses are devastating.”

Alice listens to him; her instincts were telling her that she needs to pay attention to Caterpillar, something important will be said.

Caterpillar stops in front of one of the windows to better explain.  The patient in the window was falling head first continuously.  You can see the wind pushing her hair and clothes back as though she was really falling at a fast rate of descent. Alice can see the background was also moving, giving the perfect impression of the lady inside was falling to the earth.

Caterpillar advices them,  “Patient 243 can’t get the precious high of ‘flying high’ out of her system, so we’re bringing her back down to earth in a controlled environment.”

Alice looks quickly back to the older man.  He is so earnest!  Then out of the corner of her eye she observes Jack looking shocked, as though he has never really SEEN the people in here.

Caterpillar moves them past the next patient, a naked man ten times bigger than normal squished into a small room watches them.  Caterpillar instructs them, “Patient 671 drank too much ‘self-importance’, so we’re shrinking his considerable ego little by little back to its original size.”

Jack walks by in a shocked state.  Alice has a feeling that he never really looks at the patients here, just uses it as a handy meeting place.

Caterpillar continues his education of Alice, “We’re all vulnerable; mix the wrong feelings together, the right kind of bad with the wrong kind of good, and you’ll wind up with a total breakdown.”

Alice looks at him quickly.  She feels like something has prodded her, telling her that this is important.  She looks around and can’t figure it out.

Both Caterpillar and Jack look at her, trying to see what is affecting her.  When she doesn’t enlighten them, they indicate that she exit a door to her right.  To her surprise as they walk outside, the building exterior does not resemble the building she came into or the interior.

Caterpillar motions for her to continue walking and continues his teachings. “The Oysters, your people, are contaminating our world.  They must go back, dead or alive, before it’s too late.”

Dead or alive?  Does no one really care about the Oysters?  Or are they all just cattle to the inhabitants of Wonderland? Before she can get angry and blow the plan, she asks quickly, “What does my dad have to do with that?”

The answer she gets in reply shocks her.  “He’s the only one who can release them.”

Alice’s curiosity comes to the front and she has to ask. “Why?” If Hatter was here he would get that amused look to his face.

Caterpillar answers her question, “Our undercover operatives successfully smuggled him here earlier today. It is the most dangerous operation we’ve ever mounted.  They are brave men.” He then stops, turns to Alice, and looks her in the eyes, “But I must warn you, he is not the same person you knows as a child.”  Is that pity in his eyes?

Alice blinks in shock.  In the back of her mind, she wonders if she will ever feel anything than shock in the world.  But before it could bother her too much, her curiosity strikes again, and she asks, “What do you mean?”

Caterpillar feels for Alice.  He tries to explain to her. “He’s…how can I put it?  Stuck.  We’re hoping that you can help clear away his cobwebs.”  He then looks at Jack.

Jack straightens and nods. He will try to salvage what he can and explain it to Alice.

Alice is confused.  She has gained some ability since being in Wonderland to think on her feet, but too much is happening.  “I don’t understand.”

Jack steps in and tries to make sense of what Caterpillar is telling her. “I came to your world to find you, Alice, because we need your help.”

Alice is trying to make sense of what they are saying… ‘My help?  What do they need my help for?  What is going on?’  She stares at Jack trying to understand.

Caterpillar realizes that something is wrong, and tries to tell her again.  He needs to pull her attention from Jack.  He states to Alice, “Only you can wake him, Alice.”

All of it came into sharp focus.  Everything Jack has done how he has acted.  She is so angry, how dare he treat her like that! She barely controls her anger, and spits out to Jack, “So everything we had…is about my dad?”  He used her! He should be happy that all she did was snap at him!

Jack recoils, thinking quickly, realizing he is going to lose Alice…to that, that man!  He remembers the oaf telling Alice, ‘it is all an act’ and tries to salvage what he can. “It wasn’t an act, Alice.  I really do love you.  But you have to understand, your father holds the key to our future.” He pleads with her, desperate for her to understand.

Jack saying that to her, reminds her of Hatter, and she fights to retain control of her anger.  She continues to tell him in a short tone, “So I don’t believe this.  So you’ve been lying to me this entire time?”

Caterpillar realizes they have made a serious mistake, and tries to reason with her, “Would you have believed him if he’d told you the truth?”

Alice swings around at him and yells at him “I don’t know.  Maybe!” She is starting to lose it.  Hatter would have recognized the signs, but neither of these men knows her that well.  Thankfully, Alice is keeping Hatter in the forethought of her mind.  This is the only thing helping her control her emotions.  But unless this rollercoaster of feelings didn’t end soon, even that will not work.

Caterpillar backs away from her anger. He has not seen someone get this angry without the assistance of Tea.  There are rumors of a clan in the White Kingdom, but no one in the Red Kingdom has the will or even the need to be emotional.  This is why the Tea’s are so addicting.

 Jack tries to pull her attention to him, trying with everything he can come up with, not to lose Alice. “You’re right.  I should’ve been more honest. But I can’t turn back the clock.”  He begs her as she swings back to him again, “Please, Alice, will you help us?”

She stares at him unable to say anything, she is so angry.  She draws breath to tell Jack off but Caterpillar interrupts her. “Alice, our world depends on it.”

Both Alice and Jack swing around to stare at him in surprise that he will say something like that.

Caterpillar turns, glad he had interrupted the fight he can see coming.  Right now is not the time for that.  He leads the way through the door, Jack grabbing Alice’s arm, pulling her through the door, and up on the rooftop.

 As Alice looks around, Caterpillar hits a button, and the roof…unrolled?  Before Alice can get over the shock of the roof she sees three people appear.  One of them looks just like, “Daddy?” The words are out of her mouth before she is aware of saying them.

Alice runs over to her father with Caterpillar and Jack running behind her.  Before she can hug her father, he asks, “Who’s this?”

The jolt of hearing that is enough to bring her up short. “It’s me, Daddy.” Did he not know his own daughter?

Her father stands there. “Another one of your tricks, Jack Heart?” He speaks with a sneer in his voice towards Jack.

Alice listening to him speak, feels as though it is a blow to her heart.  He never speaks like that. While she will be one of the first to say Jack deserves it, her father never would have said it.

 “Don’t you know your own daughter?” Caterpillar asks him, unconsciously repeating what Alice had already asked.

Her father laughs. “Daughter?” He sounded incredulous.

Alice thinks back to what Caterpillar has tried to tell her and realizes she is going to have to try to wake him up, but she isn’t sure how.  She remembers Hatter telling her to start at the beginning, so she takes his advice, and starts to tell her father, “You left when I was a kid.” She starts to fidget with her coat wishing again for a familiar hand in hers.

Caterpillar tries to help Alice, and tells the Carpenter, “The White Rabbit kidnapped you many years ago and the Doctors adjusted you to work in the laboratory.”

As Alice steps forward, Jack follows her not wanting her to get too far away.  He has come to the realization that he is going to lose her and wants to do everything he can to keep her.

Alice tries to tell her father, “We’ve missed you so much.  Mom tries not to show it, but-“

Her father interrupts her asking quizzically, “Mom?”

Alice looks at him with tears in her eyes.  He doesn’t remember his wife? “Carol? Your wife.”

Robert chuckles, and speaks to Jack and Caterpillar, “You really think this charade is going to turn me against the queen?”

“Don’t you remember anything?” Alice demands of her father.

 Caterpillar and Jack glance at each other

Robert draws up insulted, and tells her proudly, “I remember my work at this institute, bioreductive enzymes, chemically-induced synesthesia, shadow theory.”

Alice interrupts him and asks desperately, “What about your family, our little yellow house?”  Her voice quavers, her eyes brimming with tears. The emotional rollercoaster is taking over her ability to control it.

Robert stares into her eyes, and begins forcefully, “I lived-!” but, as he stares into her eyes, he feels a vague memory trying to come up, “I lived…alone in an apartment.” But this comes out weak.

Alice feels some hope.  She tries to remember something else that may help, “Ray-you remember him, your friend with the boat?”

Robert loses the vague memory, and demands, “What is the point of all this?”

Alice tries again, not knowing what it is that helped him almost remember last time.  If Hatter had been here, he would have heard the warning signs of her starting to lose it. The little girl’s voice is back as Alice tries to reach her father, “Grapefruit and wheat germ.  That’s what you like for breakfast.  And on Sundays, sometimes we would go to that brunch place in Waverley, and you would throw chickpeas at the ducks.”  She gives a watery smile at the memory.

Jack is uneasy, but he doesn’t think anything is wrong, but then he doesn’t know Alice well enough to stop what is happening.

Robert again, can almost remember something, like a dream… “Your mother…” then he takes his eyes off of the strangely familiar girl in front of her, seeing Jack Heart, and his voice hardens, “will be very upset when she hears about this, Jack.”

Alice stares at him, her desperate hope shatters. “You don’t even know who I am.” And she starts to break down.  ‘Hatter!’  She needs him so much.

Robert can’t handle looking at the girl crying in front of him.  It feels… wrong.  He doesn’t even think as he tells her, “Don’t cry, Jelly Bean.”  Then he realizes what he says and looks at her in shock.

As Alice stands there shocked, Caterpillar jumps at something that may help him wake up and remember Alice.  “Jelly Bean? Is that your special name for Alice?”

Alice looks up at her father, lip trembling, and tells him, “That’s what you used to call me, and when our cat Dinah died, you held me in your arms for a whole hour, remember rocking me?”  Alice tries to get control over her emotions and tries to think of something that might help him remember.  Ah!  The watch!! “Remember this?” as she pulls the watch out of her pocket and holds it.

Robert can almost remember something crucial, he curiously asks, “What is it?”

Alice’s hopes soar and you can hear it in her voice.  She answers him, “It’s your watch. You always wore it.”

Robert shakes his head, and tells her, holding out his hand, “I’ve never worn a watch. We don’t need them here.”

Alice glances up at him and sees he is looking at her. ”It’s kind of broken, but it never really kept good time anyway, and you didn’t seem to mind.”  She gives him a watery smile and puts the watch on him.  Once it is on him, she pats it, glancing at him again, and says, “There.”  Robert looks up from the watch and stares at her and she smiles.  He is remembering!  Before she can say anything else, she hears gunshots. Her father has her under his body, shielding her faster than a blink of an eye. Alice is completely blown away, not understanding how he could move her that fast.

Suits pour onto the roof yelling, “Hold it right there!”  As they surround the small group, the two men with her father stick their hands in the air, Jack puts his hands out like he can protect everyone, and calm them.  Her dad releases her, shocked at his instinct to protect her.  The suits are yelling things at them, more confusing than frightening as they talk over each other, “Stop right there.  Don’t make a move.  Come on.  Freeze.”

Alice’s heart drops when she sees Mad March.  He walks up to them telling them, “I’m a little disappointed.  I expected a bit more of a struggle.”  He then turns and asks Alice all of a sudden, “Where’s Hatter?”

Alice is surprised at his question and answers honestly, “I don’t know.” Her mind flashes back to their earlier conversation and at that second, she is happy Hatter is not with her.

 Mad March stares at her and then turns around and tells Jack Heart, “We picked up your trail outside the city. Excuse me; you weren’t that difficult to track.”

The Ten of Clubs steps forward and asks Carpenter, “Are you alright?”

Carpenter thinks fast, still going with the instinct to protect this girl.  If he admits anything, then they will hurt her, but this way, she might get some leniency.  “They kidnapped me, tried to turn me against the queen with some hogwash about being this girl’s father.”  He can’t look at the girl while he tells this story.  He is such a bad actor!

Ten of Clubs chuckles at the absurdity, and then walks up to Jack Heart, telling him in a low voice, “You’re gonna break your mother’s heart.”  He truly hates the Knave of Hearts.  But, if Jack would ever get his deal together and overthrow his mother, the Ten of Clubs will be there.  His promise ensures that.

 Jack glares at him and won’t back down.  The Clubs had no choice but be servants of the Hearts.  This was the punishment for their outspokenness during the War with the Kingdom of the Knights.

Ten of Clubs just stares back, cocky with Mad March and the suits around him.  He then walks over to Caterpillar. “Well, well, well, well!   The mysterious Caterpillar apprehended at last. You realize this brings an end to the Resistance finally and forever.”

Alice watches them with a heavy heart.  This is supposed to end the Heart’s regime and, more importantly to her, free Hatter from his promises, and now it is all going to fail because of her!

Before Alice can do anymore panicking, Caterpillar looks over at her, smiles and raises a hand to her holding….a mushroom?   He then eats the mushroom and disappears in an explosion of sound and smoke.  Everyone jumps and the Ten of Clubs gives a small smile, which he quickly hides…

He turns around and gets everyone moving off the rooftop.

Hatter and Charlie make it in the city with the horses.  Hatter’s heart has been beating faster and faster since he heard the gunshots.  Charlie has barely been able to hold him back and cautions him to remain calm.  Hatter only does it since he knows he will have broken Alice’s promise if the markings come out.

 They guardedly make it to the side of the building only to notice a bunch of suits walking down the ramp.  They jump back to make sure they were hidden, looking around the corner just in time to notice that Jackie boy has failed to keep Alice safe.

Charlie mutters, “Black day.”

Hatter looks over at Alice, His Alice! being caught and roughly pushed down the ramp.  Hatter speaks without being aware of it, “Okay.”

Part of the plan is to get to her father.  But he is unsure how far along the plan she has gotten before the suits showed up.  And what is Carpenter doing there also?  Hatter realizes he needs to get into the casino with Alice and has to get Charlie out of here.  He thinks quickly and thinks of a plan so outrageous that if for some reason Charlie goes with it, he can get both of them out of here.  If nothing else, the last remaining Knight will be safe.  Even better would be if Charlie would realize the plan is insane and may be able to get them some help.

Hatter turns to Charlie and spells out the plan, “Okay I know there are a lot of suits out there, but if we let them get to the casino, there’s gonna be a whole lot more.  We have to take ‘em now.”  He watches Alice and Mad March, making sure that Mad March is not hurting her.  He also is waiting for Charlie to realize the insanity of the plan.

Charlie agrees with the plan initially, but then thinks it over, and finally has to ask, “Are you serious?”

Hatter smiles secretly to himself and then answers Charlie, “Yes.  We’ve got surprise on our side, and we got horses.  You see the bottleneck over there?  If I go in swinging and keep the suits busy for a few seconds, that might give you just enough time to get in there, grab Alice and gallop away.”  Insane the plan is, but will Charlie realize it and flee?

Charlie sits there trying to even think of how this can even work.  “Bottleneck?  Swinging?” He is frightened for Just Alice, but this plan was not well thought out.  They were going to get hurt!

Hatter pushes the envelope, hoping against hope… “I’m gonna need a sword.” As he turns away again to check on their progress he hears Charlie mutter… “No, I can’t…”

Hatter turns to him as though he hasn’t heard a word against the plan from Charlie and says “Okay, show me what Knights are made of.”  As he walks away he mentally slaps himself but he hopes Charlie will come to his senses; Hatter’s has gone away the second Alice is captured.

Charlie is still trying to understand, and answers with a drawn out, “Yesssss.” He follows Hatter to the horses and rides to the bottleneck.  He is on autopilot trying to think of how this can work.

Hatter is worried, Charlie needs to leave!! He tries to warn him, “This is it.  You Ready?  One, Two… Now!”  He rides in the fray swinging his sword, determined to harm as many suits as he can before they take him down.

He hears Alice scream, “Hatter!”  as they pull him off his horse.  He looks around and at first thinks Charlie is coming, “Charlie!  What the…” then realizes Charlie has remained sane, and is running away as Hatter has hoped.  He breathes a quick sigh of relief before they slam him into the ground, holding him down.

Alice can’t believe that Hatter risked himself to save her!  He is the one who told her she couldn’t rescue him if he gets caught.  And here he is? “No!!! Get off him! Hatter!” she shrieked desperately.

Before she can warn him Mad March walks up and looks down at Hatter.  Hatter’s eyes widen and he struggles some more.  He hears Mad March comment “What a nice surprise.”

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1 Comment

  1. missrissa81

    There are no words for how much I love this story!!! Hatter!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

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