Hatter catches Alice as she flings herself into his arms and holds her close to him. ‘Oh God, does this feel so good.’ Does this mean what he dares to think? “Alice…” he sighs, holding him to her.
She looks at him smiling. “Hatter, I thought you didn’t care. I thought all you wanted was this damn ring.” She buries her head in his chest, trying to not cry. He cares for her! The relief coursing through her body is almost too much.
Hatter hugs her harder and breathes in her scent; strangely enough it is slightly floral. He wouldn’t have thought his stubborn oyster would have such a feminine smell…
He can feel her shaking in his arms and realizes that he has really hurt her with what he said before. But, he shakes his head. It doesn’t matter, he is too selfish. He cannot let her go; he will never let her go. He finally understands his parents and their feelings for each other. He emphasizes with the emotions his parents through. He grew up hearing extraordinary stories about them, and just now, he knows why.
“Alice, honey. I am sorry. I…” Alice looks up at him. He looks like he is trying to say something but can’t get the words out. “Hatter, what is it?” Is he going to try to send her away again? She is not a damsel in distress, needing someone to always protect her. She is a black belt, this is something she is good at, and she has always been able to stand on her own. Now she has a feeling that as long as Hatter is with her, they can do anything.
Hatter tries to think, he has to tell her something. He needs her to understand that not all he says is a lie. But, the truth is, he can’t leave Wonderland. The longer he is here in this Kingdom, the more he knows Wonderland is alive. It is making its presence known to him. On the other hand, Hatter knows that he will never push her away, and will do anything to have her stay here with him. He already knows that there is a way that she can be here with him and he can feel Wonderland agreeing with him. Plus, he is getting a sneaky suspicion that a certain cynical being had not told the whole truth about which Alice…
“Alice. I just. Umm…” He reluctantly removes one arm from around her to rub the back of his neck and continues, “need to keep you safe. If something happens to you, I will go Mad.” He looks at her and tries to see if she is making sense of what he is saying. “I am trying to keep you safe. And there are things about me that I cannot tell you.”
He looks at her begging her to understand. “Not because I don’t want to, or that I don’t trust you! But, there are many lives hanging in the balance. I wanted you to leave, so that I can take care of my obligations and be able to tell you everything. I didn’t think it is right to bring you in on all these problems and I hate even the idea of keeping secrets from you. I especially don’t think this is your fight, and I don’t want you to be in danger, when I can have you safe.” But, from what he is feeling from Wonderland, he has a suspicion that it IS her fight. That she is here for a reason.
“I have obligations that no one in these two Kingdoms can know about. If anyone finds out about my secrets, it will start a war. A war of such proportions that what the Hearts did here will be a minor footnote in history, especially if anyone ever finds out…” He closes his eyes against the pictures in his head of his home, his parents, and their friends and… Alice, ‘Oh please not my Alice…’ destroyed. “…who I am.” He looks down at her.
Alice glances up at him, seemingly shocked at his face; the look was of pure torture.
Hatter takes her hands in his and brings them to his chest, “Alice…trust me. The only secrets I keep from you are not mine to give. That is why I am telling you now. I don’t want you to EVER have a reason not to trust me.” He looks at her while squeezing her hands, silently begging her to understand.
Alice stares at him and realizes that he is telling what he can. He will tell her everything he can. She can understand that he has obligations and promises given to others. To make sure she understands that she is important to him, Hatter is telling her that he has these secrets to make sure she understands why he can’t tell her. But these secrets…are they going to come in between them again?
“Hatter, I understand what you are saying; you have obligations to others that obviously have grave consequences if anyone ever found out. But, my question to you is…these secrets, are they going to come in between us?” ‘Are they the reason you hide so much of you away?’ She thinks. “I know I can trust you, but…” she looks away into the fire. She has never even come close to admitting this to anyone before, not since her father left. “I am starting to trust something to you, something that if you break it…I don’t know if I can deal with it. And if these secrets are going to-”
Panic rises in him, Alice cannot reject him. Oh, why, why, does this have to be so hard? He interrupts her, “Alice, the secrets are not going to come between us like that ever again. I won’t let them. You are my priority, my life, and I will take care of you. But, I need to deal with my obligations, my promises to others. After I deal with those, we can be free to be with each other with nothing kept from the other.”
Hatter cups her face, and staring into her blue eyes, he tells hers softly, “Alice, I cannot be without you, I just tried to be and it was tearing me apart. But, I feel that I need to tell you that I am selfish. I was trying to send you away for your own good, because I have this need to keep you safe. I also want, no, I need you with me. I cannot let you go and I can not bear watching you in pain, it causes me pain. So I am selfish.” He searches her eyes to see if she understands. “I will do anything to keep you safe and with me, I promise. But, only…” He takes a deep breath, telling himself he has to give her a choice. He will not overrule his love, he will only support her. Hatter gently continues, “…if you want this. This is why I am telling you what I can. I promise to tell you everything the second I can. But, please, please Alice, give us a chance.” He has no shame in begging for her compassion. Hatter will do anything for the woman in front of him. Even walk away from her if that is her wish.
Alice stares back into his brown eyes and thinks of what he is telling her. She realizes that she feels the same, she wants him safe, and with her. While she does not have the secrets he has, not the life altering ones that will have wars erupt, who isn’t an enigma? Take Jack for instance. There is something about the ring and…
She thinks back through the last day, since the Great Library, and the confrontation with Dodo, Hatter has been keeping her safe. Alice can see in his eyes, and how he is pleading with her, he really wants her to be with him.
Alice looks up at him. Her decision made, “I want to be with you-”
Hatter grins and pulls her to him as he swings her in an arc. He is so happy! ‘My Alice wants ME!’ He realizes that he needs to control himself. He is his fa’s son and if he showed how he truly felt, there would be hiding who he is!
Alice is overjoyed; she has never felt this way, this total freedom, and lightness of her heart. She is scared, but in a wonderful way. She has no idea what the future holds, but Hatter is trying to be honest with her, and she can tell he is happy.
Hatter pulls her back, and looks into her eyes, how he loves her blue eyes and the emotions that are there for him to see. He moves slowly, giving her a chance to refuse, leans close, and kisses her. Hatter starts softly, his lips barely touching hers, moving gently, then as he feels her answering, he presses harder, pouring his feelings for her in that kiss. Their lips move in sync, and he pulls her tighter to him, never wanting to stop feeling, tasting, those lips of Alice.
Alice has never been kissed in that way before. She tries to keep her eyes open to watch his face, but with the kiss and the passions they are pouring into it, her eyes close. Luckily, Hatter pulls her closer to him as she feels her legs weaken with this kiss. If someone asked her to try to explain why this kiss is different from any other, Alice couldn’t explain it if her life depended on it. The closest she can get is that he is so careful and tender, but at the same time, he doesn’t treat her like she is porcelain.
They unfortunately need to stop due to lack of a minor thing called oxygen, or else they may have kissed until the end of time. Alice and Hatter lean their foreheads together and look in each other’s eyes, amazed by the feelings they see reflected, as they try to catch their breath.
Hatter reluctantly realizes it is getting quite late, and with the day they both have had, they need to either sit, or do something that does not require them holding each other up. Plus, he has some questions for her.
Hatter gently tells her, “Alice, while I would like nothing more than to spend the rest of the night standing here with you like this, we need to get some rest.” He sees her slightly crestfallen look. “Why don’t we go over to the bed and we can talk until we fall asleep, if that is alright with you. There is a lot I need to get off my chest and more I need to know.”
Alice is feeling the events of the day taking its toll, plus that kiss alone was enough to knock her off her feet. But, what does Hatter need to know? She frowns as she tries to figure it out.
Hatter mistakes her frown and hurriedly tells her, “Just talk and sleep, Alice. Nothing else.”
Alice realizes that he thinks that she thinks…Alice smiles trying not to laugh, but she nods to him indicating that it will okay with her. Hatter takes her hand, leans down to make sure the fire is banked. But, something occurs to her and before he starts to lead her to the bed Charlie had shown her earlier, she stops him.
Hatter feels her tug on his hand and looks back at her puzzled. ‘Why did Alice stop?’
Alice stares in his eyes, she asks him a question that she is dreading the answer to, “Hatter you don’t want the ring, right?”
Hatter looks at her puzzled, trying to think of what she is asking him. He finally asks, “What ring?”
Looking at him, he is genuinely puzzled, and she hears the same in his voice, Alice is relieved. With that simple statement from him, she comes to the conclusion that she trusts this man in front of her no matter what his secrets are, completely. She smiles, thinking there is nothing that can make her happier than this moment, except another one of his kisses.
Hatter is still perplexed, but watching her smile light up her face, he is beginning not to care. Then Alice holds up her hand with the ring on it, and realization dawns. He shakes his head, amazed that he forgot the ring, “Oh yeah, that ring. No, I don’t really want the ring. I used it as part of my argument only because it was the only thing that you believed. I couldn’t get you to stop quarreling with me, or finding ways to stay with me. No, Alice. I don’t care at all for the Stone of Wonderland, except that we may need it for the Looking Glass, in case you want to go home. But, it can go to hell for all I care.” ‘That way she will stay here,’ Hatter thinks to himself, staring at the woman he loves.
Alice’s smile gets bigger. Letting go of his hand, she walks over to the throne of the Red King. She slips the ring off her finger and puts it on skeletal hand. Alice looks over at Hatter, and tells him, “There, in case anything happens, it is back where it belongs.”
Smiling back at her, Hatter thinks to himself ‘If she only knew.’ He walks up to her, and takes her hand in his again, and tells her, “That’s a good place for it.” Looking at her to see if she has any other objections, he leads her through the Manor to the bed Charlie has shown her earlier when she got back from her bath. Hatter releases her hand to sit on the bed with his back resting on the headboard and gestures for her to join him. He then stops, and asks her, “Is this ok?” She shakes her head, grinning wryly as she climbs into bed to his side. He wraps an arm around her, tugging her between his legs. When she complies, he pulls her close to him, resting her head on his chest. Hatter rests his head on top of hers and sighs into her hair. He softly murmurs, “This feels good,” as he wraps his other arm around her.
Alice had been a little wary about sitting this close to Hatter, but feeling his arms around her, she relaxes. It feels safe in his arms and like she was home. Alice can also smell Hatter, his own scent that is purely him. She takes a deep breath, trying to place the smells, and realizes that it’s like a bouquet of leather and earl grey tea plus something that was uniquely Hatter.
Hatter wishes he didn’t have to ruin this perfect moment, but he needs to know. He can’t proceed with this relationship with her, not knowing. He is not one to steal another man’s woman, but this is Alice…’my Alice.’ And, if he has to fight someone for her, he will. The one thing he has learned with Alice is that you can’t just tell her what to do. Nor does Hatter ever want her to be someone like that. He loves her independence. But, he wishes to know how she feels and what he means exactly to her. He has a good idea that kiss that they just had definitely revealed quite a bit. But, there is…Hatter takes a deep breath and asks her, “Alice, there is just one thing I really need to know. What is Jack to you?”
Alice can’t help it, she tenses in his arms. Why does he need to know that? Of all the things they can talk about, he wants to know about Jack? ‘But, he doesn’t know what you are to each other Alice. Put the poor man out of his misery and explain why you feel this need to rescue Jack.’ Alice tries to explain Jack to Hatter, “Jack is a friend. He was more, but…how do I explain this to you?”
Hatter holds her, telling himself that he needs to wait, and hear this out. No making any rash decisions until she is done. He tells her, “Why don’t you start at the beginning? It always seems to work the best for me.”
Alice takes a deep breath, then starts, “Well, the beginning is hard to determine. But, I guess I will tell you the way I have it straight in my mind. Jack found me at my dojo and claimed he had been watching me through the window for awhile. He told me that he felt a pull towards me and that he needed to get to know me. He was impressed with how I had handled myself with the group of men I was practicing with.”
Alice is a little embarrassed to admit this but, “I was, umm, looking back at it, I felt rather flattered. Guys normally don’t appreciate their girlfriends being able to toss them around. I guess it injures their male pride.” She shrugs. She continues, “At least, that is what some of my exes have told me. Jack was very persistent. After a week of him coming every day to the dojo, sending me roses, and other little gifts, I finally agreed to date him.”
Hatter closes his eyes in pain of hearing how another man had wooed his Alice. He wishes that he can do the same for her, but is realistic to know that it will have to wait until after they have some peace in Wonderland.
Alice is thinking back to everything Jack had done to get her to date him. To her it had been a little overdone. She has a feeling that she will always know how Hatter feels for her and she will never need roses and all the stuff Jack showered her with. No, what she has with Hatter feels deeper. She resumes her story, “The date was romantic and I agreed to go out on more dates. To be honest, I was feeling very flattered that a man like him would pay attention to me, but there was no other feelings. Nothing like what I feel for you, I see that now, looking back at it.”
Alice looks up at Hatter and finds his brown eyes looking down at her. She reaches a hand up, to cup his cheek. She feels the scruff that she loves and tells him softly, “Hatter, he never made me weak in the knees from a kiss. Nothing I felt for him was anything more than a casual friendship. But I never have felt what I am feeling now; I thought that was what love was.” She watches him think about what she telling him. Then he nods, closing his eyes, and rubs his face into her hand. As they sit there for a second, connecting, Alice is made very aware of the fact they have something special. Hatter reaches up with one hand, and gently takes hers away from his face, holding it there for a second, kissing her palm, and then brings it down to his other hand. He nods to her to carry on.
Alice concurs and takes up the story again, “After we dated for umm…about three months, I invited him home for dinner, and to meet my mom.” She then frowns, remembering her mom’s so called Bring-The-Guys-To-Meet-Mom-and-Dinner Curse.
Hatter notices she has become quiet, and looking down, he notices the frown. He waits for her to continue, but when he realizes she is genuinely upset, he asks her gently, “What’s wrong?”
Alice tells him, as she remembers the feeling she had when her mom told her that she was unable to commit, “Something my mom said to me. That dinner at our house is the kiss of death for my boyfriends; I guess she is right again.” She closes her eyes in pain, why did her Mom have to make that observation at that time?
Hatter hears the note of hurt in her voice. Wanting to fix it, he tells her only the truth as he kisses the top of her head, “I guess we can prove her wrong together sometime.”
Looking up at him in surprise, Alice is speechless. In her world, guys don’t go out of their way to meet the mom. The way he says it, so offhandedly as though it was no big deal. She can’t believe her luck, and bursts out, “Really? Don’t you think this is happening so fast, are you sure-?”
Hatter reaches down and puts a finger on her lips. “Don’t you feel it, Alice? This is not some random feeling on my side. I am not lying, teasing or joking around. My feelings are so very deep for you and I feel inadequate to be able to use only words to explain them to you. I can only show them to you and hope that you will understand and reciprocate them.” Staring into her eyes intently, he tells her, “Alice, the only reason I will ever leave you is because you want me to, even then I will not go lightly. I promise. And, in Wonderland…” He hesitates, then lets her know one of the most eloquent powers of Wonderland, “Promises have power.”
Alice starts too slightly panic. It is way too soon! People just don’t fall in love this fast. It just doesn’t happen in real life!
She closes her eyes and tries to reason with herself, it doesn’t happen in real life? If it never happens then what is love at first sight? And while for them, it may have been lust at first sight, she will never forget the kernel of love she had felt in meeting him in his Tea Shoppe, but over the last day, a lot of trauma and living has happened. And their emotions have been forged in that furnace. With that realization, Alice thinks that Hatter is right; this is not something she has ever felt for anyone. Alice knows he will do anything to keep her safe, since that is all he has done since the Great Library. She has no doubt that he cares for her, as she cares for him.
Hatter looks down at her. While he rather watch her eyes, he can also scrutinize her face, and see her coming to a resolution. It looks like it is a decision he can be happy with. But, it is getting so late, and they need to get some sleep, after she finishes her story, and answers his question. He doesn’t want these issues hanging over them anymore. It has the potential to cause too much hurt for both of them if they don’t clear it away. He hugs her to him, and then softly prods her, “Please, continue.”
Alice looks up at him and nods. She thinks quietly to herself that he is so handsome in the firelight. She shakes her head slightly, getting her back on track. Where was she? Oh yeah. “We were at dinner with my Mom, and talking, and to think about it, he had been very curious about my family a little too much.”
Hatter tenses at the mention of family, “Alice, why would you say that? What stands out that made you think that?”
Alice thinks about what her mom, Jack and she, talked about that night, and answers, “My father went missing when I was 10. Vanished. He left everything behind and had only the clothes on his back. It happened the day my cat Dinah died. I was the last person to see him.”
‘Oh Alice.’ He hears the pain not only in her words, but he can tell from her words alone. She sounded very clipped, like she was trying to protect herself. He hugs her closer, giving her his support, “I am so sorry, that must have been hard.” He can’t think of how she must of felt, especially at such a young age. He tries to think of his fa missing at that time in his life. To be honest with himself, he cannot imagine his fa not being alive now. He feels Alice shudder in his arms.
Alice forces the memories away, they hurt when she lingers on them, “It is hard, not to know, never to know…and now…now, I just want to know what happened to him. So, Mom and I can move on, you know.”
Hatter moves one hand to rub her arm as he uses his right to hold her close to him. ‘My brave, brave Alice.’
Alice sighs as picks up her story again, she wants to hurry and finish this. “My mom leaves the room, trying to give us some time alone and he mentions he really wants to learn more about my family. Then he gets a text. That is when he really started acting weird. Asks if I want to meet his family right then. That we would be back by Monday and that we had to leave now. And that is when he gave me the ring.” She sits up straight remembering the thing that has haunted her, “Hatter! Jack said something that night that has bugged me ever since.” She turns around and looks into his eyes. She asks intently, “With what you and Dodo have said, the Ring is really important, right?”
Hatter realizes this is important to her. He answers her, trying to figure out where she is going, if he only wasn’t so tired! “Yeah.”
Alice continues to stare into his brown eyes as she tells him, “Jack told me that the ring has been in his family for years.” They stare at each other; Hatter realizing what she was about to say, as she asks, “How did Jack get it from here then?”
Hatter tries to think of what the answer is, but soon shakes his head in defeat. He has the feeling that the answer is right there in front of him, but he is too tired to find it. “Alice, we can figure this out in the morning. I feel like the answer is right there, but I can’t think of it. I have had a nagging feeling all this time about what you have said and other pieces of information. I have a bad feeling about him.”
Hatter looks down at her. ‘How to explain this without sounding jealous?’ He decides to just ask, and explain as he can, “Alice, please don’t go off to find him without me. I have this feeling that if we separate that it will not end well for us. I will help you find him and get the answers you need. Just please do this for me, wait for me.”
She nods in agreement.
Hatter sighs in relief. Now, to see about getting some rest for the two of them. Hatter asks, “Is that it?”
Alice can feel her eyes getting heavy and thinks about his question, “Well…there is just one more thing, when he offered me the ring, I refused, and kicked him out of the apartment. No hesitation. At all.”
Hatter grins to himself hearing that, as he stares at the fire.
Alice sighs, and tells him, “But, somehow he had slipped the ring in my pocket, thus starting this chain of events. And, Hatter?”
Hatter thinks to himself that he may like Jack. If he is the reason that Alice is in Wonderland, he may even thank the man, after he shows him that Alice is his now, of course. When Alice says his name, he looks back down at her.
Alice stares in his eyes, wanting to make sure that if nothing else, that she has said before stays with him, this will. “I did decide earlier on the ride here that he is a friend. I am loyal to my friends, but he is no more than that, a friend. I just want to know answers to my questions. That is why I brought him up earlier. I need to rescue him so I can find out what he knows…so that I can close that chapter in my life. I want to start a new one with you. I am also so very grateful to him for landing me in this world; otherwise we never would have met.”
Hatter can’t help himself and smiles as he relaxes. He is happy to hear her say that. He leans forward and gently kisses her forehead. Still smiling, he tells her softly, “I think we need to get some sleep. We can discuss this more in the morning.”
Alice smiles at him, understanding that he is telling her he still cares and still wants what this is between the two of them to continue. Hatter is more than she thought when she first met him. So much more.
Hatter takes his hat off and tosses it in the direction of the bed post negligently. He then nudges her to get off the bed so he can get more comfortable, and make sure the blanket is free, in case they need it. When he is sure that the bed is as cozy as he can make it for her, he tells her, “Alice, come lie down, this should be a bit better for sleeping.” Unable to resist, he smirks at her.
She laughs and lies down next to him. “Will you never change?” Alice is on her side, facing him.
Hatter puts his arm around her, pulling her closer to him as he nuzzles her hair, asking, “Do you ever want me to?” He closes his eyes in bliss as he feels her close to him.
Alice smiles and says, “No.” Her last coherent memory is him laughing lightly and pulling her closer as she falls asleep.
During the night, something wakes her up. Alice sits up and notices Hatter is tossing and turning on the bed. She realizes he must have woken her up. She then hears him muttering, but she can’t make out what he is saying.
Sighing, Alice just sits there for a few minutes staring at him; he really is quite handsome to look at. How did she get so lucky?
Deciding to visit the bathroom before trying to go back to sleep. Alice slides off the bed. She is hoping that maybe Hatter will have calmed down. She smiles. Who knew that their discussion that had started so bad earlier would end up so well?
Alice wanders off to use the bathroom. After she finishes she heads back holding onto her jacket, not paying attention, as she is thinking about Hatter and what the morning may bring.
Alice jumps when she hears a voice say: “So this is the dumb broad that everyone is wanting.” Before she can move, a vice like grip on her arm swings her around, making her drop her coat, and another hand covers her mouth. “You don’t want the old bag of bones to get hurt do you?” She nods slowly, staring at the ceramic rabbit head freak, and finds herself wondering; ‘Where did they get the Brooklyn accent? Focus Alice!’ If only she can get a little bit of space she could…
“Now, listen here, if you don’t want anyone hurt,” and from everywhere came what Hatter had referred to as suits, from the woods around her, “You will be quiet and come along.” She nods. As he turns, she notices her coat. Hopefully Hatter will understand, she didn’t leave on her own…
The rabbit head stares at her and then grabs her arm again painfully. “No fancy stuff, you better behave.” He then marches her away from the Kingdom.