Song I listened to for this chapter: Anthem of the Angels by Breaking Benjamin
Hatter wakes up in the morning and reaches for Alice. He can feel her through their bond, but he has a need actually to hold her at the moment. Knowing that she will be leaving soon is tearing him apart. He has a need to protect his Alice – he’s had it since the beginning, truth be told – so allowing her to leave without him goes against every protective, knightly instinct in him.
As much as she thinks Hatter is not her knight, that he can’t be since he’s her Mate and Charlie is her official knight, Hatter is truly her knight in all the ways that matter. In addition, Alice is truly his queen. While he is her king, in reality, she is the one that will devastate everyone if she is ever checkmated.
Hatter then catches himself and starts to chuckle. Not even a week as the king of the Kingdom of the Knights and he’s thinking in chess terms. He kisses Alice softly and tells her, “I will be back Luv.”
Alice sighs and sleepily answers, “Hurry back, Hatter, please.”
Hatter gets up, looks back at her, and leans down on the bed to kiss her brow. “Always. I love you.” He pulls the blankets up on her and watches her snuggle into his pillow before her body slightly relaxes enough to let her sleep again.
Hatter walks out of the bedroom and moves to the outer rooms. He then sits down heavily on the same couch that Alice had come to her conclusion the night before.
He knows his fa is determined to go with Alice. Moreover, will protect Alice with his life. He considers Alice his daughter and in fact, by the customs of the Outlands, when he and Alice became bonded, their family gained the others. Wonderland, in general, has adopted this tradition, but he knows that to his fa, Alice is truly his daughter. He will in fact fight or do whatever is needed to protect her, even against Hatter, his son. Hatter could not find someone more dedicated to keeping Alice alive besides himself, but Hatter has not left Alice’s side since they formed their Bond. Even the thought of being apart from Alice fills him with pain. How are the two of them going to survive?
Wonderland watches Hatter and sees Alice’s pain. She knows this will be hard on her champions, but it is needed. If the Oysters that don’t want to be here anymore don’t leave, there are going to be dire consequences. Alice needs to be there to make sure those that want to leave can, while the Oysters who want to stay, become Wonderlanders. The Oysters will trust her, one they believe to be their own.
Wonderland needs them also. The Rabbit Holes are no longer enough to bring newcomers to her anymore. The Looking Glass had helped when it was under the control of the Knights, even then it was meant to be under the control of Hatter and Alice later. However, the Queen of Hearts had disrupted Wonderland by bringing too many outsiders in. Wonderland couldn’t handle it, each of them is a loss of magic as she tries to make them believe. She shut down. She had started to awaken again when Alice came through but was still deeply asleep until the Kingdom of the Knights had recognized Hatter. Her youngest had woken her up, and when she looked at why she was happy to see Alice and Hatter together.
Since then, Wonderland finished waking up, becoming fully awake when Alice confronted the Queen of Hearts and investing her and Hatter with the powers that they will need. She worked with her daughter to crown them and then to rebuild the Kingdom. However, now all their chances belonged in these two’s hands. The Kingdom of the Knights and Wonderland had exhausted a lot of their power bringing the Kingdom back to its glory. It was needed, though; too much is to happen and soon. Wonderland also needs to work to bring back the lands and Kingdoms to their former power. She will need Alice and Hatter to accomplish the tasks given to them for her to bring all this to reality.
Alice wakes in the bedroom, feeling Hatter’s despair. She gets up quickly, moving through their rooms to find him on the couch holding his head in his hands. She sinks in front of him, shocked at the sight of Hatter looking so dejected. “I am sorry, Hatter. I won’t go if it will hurt you this much. Someone else can get my mom.” She cannot take her Hatter being like this. This is not the man she fell in love with, and if he is feeling this way before she leaves, what will he be like when she is in her world?
Hatter looks up at his Alice and asks her bluntly, “Will she come here for anything less than you asking her in person?”
Alice blinks and answers him truthfully, “I am not sure. But Hatter, you-”
Hatter closes his eyes and tells her, “We will survive. You are coming back to me, not leaving me to live permanently in your world. No matter what anyone will do, destroy the Looking Glass, block every Rabbit Hole, you will come back to me. I cannot think of anything else.”
Alice’s eyes sting with her tears as she watches her Mate work to control himself. His markings are coming out, but not like before when they showed his anger. No, these showed his utter despair. He understands why she needs to go but is so scared and worried about losing her.
Before she can tell him that she will stay, that nothing is more important to her than he is, Hatter grabs her and crushes her to him. He murmurs to her, “I am so sorry, Alice. I am soo so sorry. I cannot help it. I will go Mad if anything happens to you. You are my life, my soul, my Mate. I am so sorry to have you feel this.” He wishes he knew why he feels so awful. He is also feeling ashamed that he cannot handle this better and not push his feelings on his mate.
Alice closes her eyes and then explains to him, “Hatter, nothing matters more to me than you. If this is going to hurt you this much, there has to be another way.”
Hatter closes his eyes and tells her, “We can do this; you need to get your mum here.”
There is a knock on the door and the two reluctantly part. Hatter jumps up, pulling Alice to the couch then answers the door. He is shocked to see a man who looks familiar to him, but he can’t place him. Then as recognition dawns on him, Hatter’s eyes widen. “Fa?”
Alice looks up at the shock traveling down the bond. She moves to Hatter’s side and smiles. “Tarrant, if this is your attempt to blend in; you would be as bad as Hatter at blending in my world.”
Tarrant looks down at himself. Alice K had welcomed her husband and Mate and made it clear that while she loved him as he was, this is not a bad version either. “I am sorry, Alice, I thought with what Carpenter and Mirana had advised that I would blend better looking like this.”
Hatter just stares at his father completely shell shocked. He soon finds himself missing his fa’s eyes. They are truly the windows to his soul.
Alice puts her hand on her mate to soothe him as she answers her father, “You and Hatter would have the same problem, Tarrant. You are both way too good looking for my imperfect world.”
While Alice is speaking with Tarrant, Hatter snaps to. He realized that his fa was still very present in the man in front of him. He smiles as he hears the compliment and replies to his mate, “Well, we may then be able to take some of the looks off of you, Luv.”
Tarrant is watching his son and his daughter. He knows his son well and knows he is stressing about the separation that is coming. His Alice, Mirana, Chessur, and Absolem had discussed it. And had called upon Carpenter to give his input… Carpenter had advised that, while Tarrant looked like an ordinary person in his world, there would probably need to be some proof for Carol to believe in Wonderland. Mirana had given Tarrant a potion to revert to his usual self and then change back to this disguise. Absolem and Chessur, as well as Nivens, are all on standby if something should happen to the Looking Glass. As far as Tarrant can control, he has made sure this will be a quick mission to the world Above.
Hatter realizes that his father’s presence means there is no more time. He steels himself and concentrates on how much he loves Alice and to send that to her.
Alice feels Hatter’s emotions, and she turns back to him. Then she frowns and asks, “Has anyone gathered the Oysters and told Jack?”
Chessur appears slowly, grinning; he is sticking close to Alice. No matter what others think, he is going. However, he wants no one to know he is going; he seeks to be the hidden ace. “Luv, Jack is sworn to the Crown of Wonderland. Since Mirana is sharing that with you and Hatter, Jack needs to listen to you. But since I knew you and Hatter wanted to get this over as quickly as possible, I spoke with everyone this morning.”
Tarrant shakes his head at Chessur. He knows there is something up with his old friend. Nevertheless, he also knows Chess is protective of these two. Therefore, he keeps his mouth silent; glad for once his eyes won’t give him away so quickly. Mirana has warned him that his eyes will still change color, but it will be less noticeable. The markings though will appear, they will make their appearance as his sons did, as a black liner around the eyes. They will mirror his sons when he gets upset, but there will be no hiding them, they are part of the magic that makes up him and his son.
Alice sighs, knowing her departure can’t be delayed anymore while not wanting to let go of Hatter until the last possible second, asks Chessur, “Can you take all of us there after we get ready?”
Chessur nods sadly. He and Tarrant leave the two alone.
Alice feels Hatter grab her and crush her to him. “I love you, Alice. Please let me come with you.”
Closing her eyes, she tells him, “I want you to. But can you? Knowing something is coming, can we leave our friends to handle it without either of us here?”
Hatter clenches his fists and walks away from her. He’s emotional and is trying to control it. He finally admits, “You’re right. But. I … DO…. NOT….LIKE… THIS! You belong with me, Alice. I belong with you. I will follow you down to hell itself to be by your side. I cannot explain how I feel. But it feels as if when you leave, something will happen, and it worries me, Alice.”
Alice watches him, thinking. She then calls aloud, “Absolem.”
Absolem comes to her call and seeing how upset David is, lands on his shoulder instead of hers. He looks up at David and asks, “Silly boy, why are you stressing Alice out? By going this early, she is actually preventing what is making you feel this way.”
Hatter looks at Absolem in shock. Absolem takes the quiet and explains to him, “Stupid boy, you need to be thinking of ways to not show that she is gone, instead of working yourself into Madness when she leaves.”
Hatter thinks on what Absolem said and sighs. “I know Absolem. I hate that I can’t stop doing this, what is wrong with me?”
Absolem’s head frowns. Now that David has said something, Absolem realizes this is not normal for the man he knows. He asks David seriously, “What are you feeling?”
Alice answers for him in a shocked voice, “Anxious, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like the whole world is resting on your shoulders. There is something coming. There is something wrong.”
Hatter and Alice’s eyes lock. That’s it. That’s what they both are feeling, though Hatter stronger than Alice. Some of it is due to his own feelings on what is to come, after hearing how his fa was when his mum is Above. But so much more is due to something…else.
Absolem looks at both of them and asks, “When did this start?”
Hatter is still staring in Alice’s blue eyes when he absently answers, “Since we entered the Kingdom. I’ve had a feeling that someone was watching us. I still have that feeling, but I also feel as Alice said. There is something coming, and we need to be together to face it. Otherwise…”
Absolem stares at the two of them in shock and tries to get him to clarify, “Otherwise, what David?”
Alice answers softly, “Otherwise it will be as if we never existed. What’s going on?”
Absolem sits there stunned. He finally tells them both, “You need to be together to face this, yes. But you two shouldn’t know that!”
Alice finally turns and pins down Absolem with a look. Someone or something is messing with them. Alice looks back to Hatter and tells him softly, “I do not like this. Something is wrong, and you know my feelings on being destined to do anything.”
Hatter nods and he tells her, “Go quickly, Luv. If you are not back by morning, I’ll come after you.”
Alice smiles, remembering when she had told him the same thing. She nods and then turns her attention to Absolem. “You and I will be talking soon, Absolem. You’re lucky that I have a time limit.”
Absolem nods and tells her softly, “You weren’t to know since it is not something to be talked about. Be careful. Call me and I will hear even in that world.” Alice nods and walks away, turning back only when Absolem calls out to her, “Be careful. You’re not just taking David’s heart with you.”
Hatter watches her leave and then turns his head to stare at Absolem. “Out with it. This is why I am letting her go without me watching her last steps from this world.” His markings darken with his controlled anger. He knows Alice will feel it, but hopefully his fa and her sense of how he must be working to control himself will diminish it.
When Alice sends a wordless question through the bond, he sends reassurance that he loves her and is not angry with her. When the question comes again, he realizes she is worried something is happening and sends his assurance he is fine and reinforces his love for her. Then he turns and stares at Absolem. He will have answers from the Guardian.
Absolem stares at the king, for that is what Hatter is acting like now, and tells him, “Wonderland knows there is something wrong, and something is coming. She exhausted herself and this Kingdom to let you be at least physically on the same level as the other Kingdoms. David, everyone is feeling this, not just you and Alice. You two are more attuned to it since you have such a strong Bond with each other and with the Kingdom of the Knights. I suspect it is because to both of you, the love you have for each other knows no bounds. The Kingdom is accepting of this and encourages it. So you allow a stronger land bond than most since there is never going to be a conflict. The Kingdom and Wonderland accept that you both will kill for the other, and they will do what it takes to keep each of you safe.”
Absolem laughs, “In fact, they both are working to keep you both together. I have never seen anything like it, David.”
Hatter looks at Absolem as he thinks. He frowns then asks, “I know I received a promise from Wonderland that she will do all she can to keep Alice and me together. She keeps repeating that Alice’s and Hatter’s belong to each other. As much as Alice’s and Chesire cats do.”
Absolem thinks on this. “David, what is going on? The last time Wonderland was this active was when Oberon and Tatiana were the rulers.”
Hatter and Absolem stare at each other, completely stumped.
Alice walks out of the room and is enveloped in her father’s arms and feels Chess’s comforting weight on her shoulders.
Tarrant holds his daughter to him and tells her softly, “The faster we do this, the sooner we will be back where we belong.” When he feels her nod, he looks Chess in the eyes. He knows Chess is coming with them. There’s not much that gets past the first Champion of Wonderland.
Chess takes them to the Looking Glass Hall then turns himself invisible when they arrive. He tells them both, “Make no mention of me. I will be here.”
Alice nods, acknowledging the wisdom of having a secret like Chess on their side. She steps away from Tarrant, needing to show her strength. While the Bond is still there, she suddenly can feel Hatter’s anger surging through it. She stops.
Tarrant looks at her, worrying that the separation is already too much. “Alice?”
Alice looks at her father and bluntly says, “Hatter is infuriated.” She closes her eyes to concentrate on finding out what is wrong with her mate. She receives his love the first time, then when she resends the feeling again, she is reassured that he is fine and that he loves her and misses her. He needs his anger to deal with something.
Alice looks up at Tarrant and tells him, “He’s fine, but, as I said, angry.”
Tarrant stares and says her gently, “Alice, your Bond should be hurting you both right now. But you are acting as though he is in another room. You two are closer than anyone I have heard about, even closer than Alice and I and our separation right now is painful.”
Alice turns and seeing everyone still walking in the room; she answers him, “It hurts some, but I feel his love for me as always. I also know he is alive. Tarrant, I went through a time that I thought he was dead, by my actions. Nothing will hurt as bad as that. At least not in this world. To be honest, I am scared stiff what will happen when I step through the Looking Glass.”
Before either can say anything, Jack walks briskly into the room. He stops and stares at Alice. He quickly controls himself, moving forward to greet her.
Tarrant had actually growled at the look Jack gave Alice. When Jack walks over to greet Alice, he steps in front of her and tells the kingling, “Ye be lucky me son is not ‘ere to han’ ye yer guddler’s scut to ye on a platter.” His eyes flash at Jack and, seeing the Mad Hatter in front of him, the younger man stumbles back.
Alice is working to control her anger. Hatter had warned this man away from her. Nevertheless, Jack cannot seem to control himself. She finally gets her feelings under control and prays Hatter had been distracted. She then asks Jack, “You didn’t think I would come without a member of my family with me?”
Jack stares at her, and she relents enough to tell him, “Jack, I love Hatter. All you are doing is jeopardizing your Kingdom by not letting your obsession with me end. I’m not interested in you in that manner nor will I ever be interested in you as more than a friend. And even that is barely there since you are most inclined to test our patience!” Alice is a little shocked at the phrasing coming from her, but it fit.
Jack stares at her and then sighs. “Alice. I cannot explain how I feel. I love the Duchess, but I feel compelled to be with you.”
Alice looks at him and tells him in a flat tone, “It is called guilt, Jack. You lied to me. Treated me horribly. And you have no idea what you did wrong. You need to find your emotions. I think you are as bad as most in Salazum Grum and forgotten what it feels like to feel your own emotions. Think and work on this Jack. I believe that you will need to figure this out to handle what’s coming.” With that, Alice turns her back on him and faces her fathers.
Carpenter had joined Alice while she was facing down the King of Hearts. Between himself and Mirana, they have healed most of the Oysters. He works for the Hearts still, acknowledging his debt to the poor Oysters as they are called now. He also realizes after speaking with Mirana, that if Carol came back to him, Alice and Hatter would have family in all of the Kingdoms. She didn’t flat out tell him, but he realizes that is important.
Alice flies into her father’s arms and tells him, “I love you, Daddy. I’ll try to bring Mom back.”
Tarrant watches Alice with Carpenter. He is leery of the man. While he is Alice’s father, there is something that feels…wrong about him.
Tarrant finally gently touches Alice’s arm and says to her, “You need to put the Stone of Wonderland in the receptacle. It will recharge the Looking Glass while we take care of other business.”
Jack finally speaks up, “The Stone of Wonderland has been in my family’s possession-”
Tarrant speaks up quickly and archly asks Jack, “It and the Glass belong to the Kingdom of the Knights. Are you suggesting that Alice gives you her engagement ring?”
Jack sputters to a stop and asks, “Engagement Ring?”
Alice watches him and answers, “Yes, engagement ring. The Stone of Wonderland belongs to Alice Kingsleigh. She gave it and the Kingdom to Hatter. He is my Mate and fiancé. Jack, this is more than enough, I will not give up the ring.” Alice has determined that the Stone of Wonderland stay with her since it seems to affect people as the One Ring did to the inhabitants of Middle Earth. The only ones that seem immune to it are Hatter and herself. For that reason alone she will keep it out of other people’s hands. Also, this way the Looking Glass cannot be used without them knowing about it.
With that in mind, she asks Tarrant, “How long will the Stone need to be in there? I don’t want the Looking Glass being active without me here.”
Tarrant smiles at her and tells her, “I will keep an eye on it. Wonderland will let me know.”
Alice nods, accepting his word, turning to the people in the room. She raises her voice, “Excuse me.”
The crowd turns to face her, many recognizing the woman who had freed them. They have heard the story about how she and the other man who had helped her, have become married in a fashion, and that she is now queen of her own kingdom with the same man.
As Alice smiles at the other Oysters, she tells them, “You have a choice. You can go back to the world Above, as the Wonderlanders call our world, or you can stay here. If you stay here, you will need to accept Wonderland. If you cannot do that, you will remain Oysters and eventually will have a need to go home. If you wish to return, we will help you return to the time you left, but you will not be able to return here afterward. If you have any questions, please come forward.”
One woman steps forward and asks, “Milady, or whatever I should call you, what if we want to stay, but have family in the other world?”
Alice frowns and absently tells her, “You can call me, Alice.” She then sighs and softly asks Chess to bring Hatter. She needs him; she is not sure her instincts are correct. She needs his intuitive nature in regards to Wonderland.
She feels the weight leave her shoulders and then return. Then Hatter appears in the room with Absolem on his shoulder.
Hatter looks around to see what is going on. Once he is done assessing the place, he moves to her side immediately and looks down at her, needing the sight of her face to calm him, eyebrow raised questioning why she needs him.
The people in the room can see the love that these two have for each other. Hatter did nothing more than look down at her and she up to him, but there is no mistaking the love passing through them for each other.
After Hatter makes sure she is fine, he leans down and tells her softly, “We will talk about what had made you so angry, Luv. Though I have a pretty good suspicion.” He had seen Jack in the room when he did his glance.
Alice looks up at him and replies just as softly, “I took care of it, this time, Hatter. If that didn’t solve it, then we will settle this.” She stares up at him seeing if he can accept it.
Hatter grins at her and putting an arm around her; he turns to face the Oysters as well as everyone else in the room. He asks, “’Ello. I know I was called here in regards to a question proposed to me, Alice. What is the question, please?” The woman sighs to herself; he sure is handsome! and asks again, “I was just wondering if we want to stay, what about our families?”
Hatter frowns and looks down at his mate. “What are your thoughts, Alice?”
Alice leans into him and answers, “My instinct says to allow them back, but they only have as long as it takes for my jaunt into the world Above.”
Hatter nods, absently kisses her head as he ponders the pros and cons. He holds her to him, needing the contact with her after what he has learned from Absolem. He finally asks her quietly, “Alice, are you sure you can allow that?”
Alice sighs and asks him, “Hatter, what can actually happen? Does the tattoo fade away?”
Hatter looks down and frowns. Carpenter, Tarrant, and Jack are all standing close, watching the Bonded pair. Carpenter speaks up, keeping his voice as soft as theirs, “The tattoo fades if they believe in Wonderland, or they go back to Above. They will have no physical proof, Jelly Bean.”
Hatter relaxes, and Alice sends her agreement at the same time. He turns to the lady and asks her name.
She smiles and answers, “Betty.”
Hatter grins at her, flashing his dimples, and tells her in that slightly higher tone he uses with strangers, “Betty, Alice here is traveling in the world Above with me family. Once she accomplishes her task or the following morning, the Looking Glass will be closed. If you do not make it back in that time, you will not be allowed to return to Wonderland.” As he finishes speaking, he is watching the rest of the crowd. They all look thoughtful. He thinks of his fa and Alice in the world Above, and reminds them all, “You will be sent back to the time you were taken from that world. If you have a thought to hold Alice hostage, it will do no good. Either it will not make a difference, or if you manage to do it, you will need to deal with me.” This last is said in a flat voice that leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is a threat. A lot of them look up at him and see the markings spreading from around his eyes.
Hatter is in full control, but anything threatening Alice, especially right now, will get no compassion.
Hatter holds his mate closer and the markings slowly fade back. Tarrant steps closer to his son. He lays a hand on him, doing nothing more than supporting him. Hatter nods and calms even more before he sends a nudge to Alice. He has frightened the Oysters, but he doesn’t want to calm their fears, afraid that would dilute his threat. That’s Alice’s job.
Alice turns, sending her love and need for Hatter to continue to hold her through their bond, and smiles, feeling his love and need come back as his arm wraps tighter around her waist. His other is loosely there, but if something happens, he can draw his sword and be able to push her behind him. She smiles remembering all the times he had held her hand with probably the same intentions.
Looking out at the crowd and thinking of Hatter’s comments, she advises the Oysters, “Please come and tell us your decision. If you have any other questions, we will answer them.”
Betty walks up to them and smiles. Hatter smiles back at her, noticing her Glow is almost gone, she is about to become a Wonderlander either way. She tells the two rulers, “I want to bring my children here, but I’ve noticed there are few kids. Will this be ok?”
Alice and Hatter both feel Wonderland’s glee and grin. Hatter answers her, “It will be more than ok. And we offer our Kingdom for your residence. It is entirely up to you, but there are pluses to each Kingdom, and you are welcome to choose which you want to live in.”
Alice glances back at Tarrant, and he nods to her. “Betty, why don’t you go ahead and get a head start. Tarrant here will escort you to the Looking Glass and advise you of what you need to know to get back.” She watches Tarrant take her to the side.
Hatter and Alice deal with everyone. Jack also helps, working with some of the people. He is quite good at it, remembering his time in the world Above, but he is the one that has the most interesting issue. The children that had goaded Alice into action want to stay.
Alice looks up at Hatter, lost. She then drops down to their level and asks them, “What about your families?”
Angela shyly smiles at the pretty lady in front of her and answers, “We are orphans, and we were on the way home from school to our foster home. They were only scheduled to be our foster home until the end of next month. Can we please stay here?”
Hatter looks down at them then glances at his fa. Tarrant nods slightly, Alice K and Tarrant will take them in if Mirana doesn’t first.
Dropping down to their level, Hatter says to them both, “You are both welcome to stay here. My fa and mum will take you home after Alice’s errand. If my aunt doesn’t mind, you will live with them in a castle, if not, you can either come live with Alice and I or whomever you would like. Does this sound okay?”
Angela and her little sister Aurora smile and fling themselves into Alice’s and Hatter’s arms. Hatter wraps his arms around his mate and these precious children. He would take care of them, but he has a sneaking suspicion that he and Alice will become their uncle and aunt instead. Mirana will take to them with no issues.
As the room clears, Alice and Hatter can feel the impending separation. When it is clear that it is time for Alice to leave, Hatter turns to her and pulls her into his arms. He murmurs to her softly, “I love you, Alice. Come back to me. And if you are not back by morning, nothing will stop me from coming after you. Nothing.”
Alice nods and then tells Absolem, “Take him home.”
Before Hatter can protest, Absolem takes them both back to the palace.
Alice stands there, her tears falling down her face. She then turns to Tarrant. “Is everything ready?”
Tarrant nods, walks over to the receptacle for the Stone of Wonderland and removes it. He hands it back to his daughter and watches as she puts it back on.
Jack watches all of this quietly. What he just saw showed him that he has no chance with Alice. He will put his feelings aside; there is no way he can ever even hold a candle to Hatter’s devotion and love for Alice.
Alice sighs and feels Chess’s weight settle on her shoulders again. She does not know where he went during that time they were working with the Oysters, but she welcomes him back silently.
Tarrant leads his daughter to the Looking Glass, telling her to take a deep breath and step forward. She does so and steps through the Looking Glass. Tarrant follows closely behind her.
Back in the Kingdom of the Knights, Hatter falls to his knees. The Bond is stretched so thin; he feels like his soul has been ripped in half and is hanging by a string. Not able to hold it in, Hatter screams.
His mum is in another room; she had bowed her head and sent her love to her husband and Mate. She gets up, swaying slightly. Once she can walk, she moves to help her son.
Alice gasps as she exits the Looking Glass. She trips and would have fallen if Tarrant had not caught her as he exited the Looking Glass. His face is tight, but other than that, there is nothing showing of the anguish he is feeling from the bond with his Alice now stretched thin.
Alice grasps her middle, wrapping her arms around herself as though she is trying to hold herself together. Tarrant pulls his daughter to him. He soothes her as she sobs. “Alice, shhh. Calm down. He is waiting for you on the other side of the glass. Chess will make sure we will be able to get back to Wonderland.”
Trying to calm down, Alice tells Tarrant, “I just didn’t expect it to feel like that. How did you survive this the first time?”
Tarrant sighs and tells her softly, “I nearly didn’t. Alice had less trouble, but I…”
Chess purrs trying to help and says softly, “Tarrant is a fool and admitted the Bond to himself. He put himself through torture.”
Tarrant closes his eyes remembering. He replies, “But it helped her, Chess. Not only in our separation, but it helped her defeat the Jabberwocky.”
Alice looks up at her father and tells him, “You have to be the bravest person I know of.”
Tarrant smiles down at her and asks, “Can we get moving? I would really like to get this over with.”
Alice nods. It still hurt, but the bond is still there. As they move through the warehouse, Alice asks, “Is the Glass safe here?”
Tarrant nods. “It is magical and will make sure of its safety. The only thing that can destroy it is you and Hatter.”
Alice stops and looks at Tarrant in shock, “Hatter, and I can destroy the Looking Glass?”
Tarrant nods, taking her elbow to help them keep moving through the maze. “You have the Stone of Wonderland. You are the ones destined to control the two items.” He shrugs. “It makes sense if you think about it.”
Alice chuckles as they exit the warehouse. She leads the way to her flat. As they enter the building, she takes a deep breath. She opens the door and lets them into her old home.
Carol hears her daughter come in, and she asks, “Did you find Jack, sweetie?”
Not hearing an answer right away, she walks out and stops in shock. Her daughter is standing there in different clothes than what she had left in just 10 minutes ago. She also looks different, in pain, but more settled. Next to her is an older gentleman standing close to her. He has reddish brown hair and hazel eyes. He lays a gentle hand on Alice’s arm, and when she looks up at him, he indicates Carol.
Alice turns and sees her mom. She smiles and runs towards her. “Mom!” She pulls her into a hug. She has missed her mother dearly.
Carol hugs her back, shocked. She finally says, “Good heavens Alice, you have been gone only five minutes! Who is this, what happened to your clothes and you?”
Alice pulls back and stares at her mom. Then Carol sees the ring on Alice’s hand, and she smiles. “Are you going to accept Jack’s suit?”
Alice and Tarrant blanch. Alice closes her eyes and tells her mom, “Mom, we need to talk. It may have been 5 minutes to you, but it has been a little more than a week for me.” Then Alice pauses and says to herself. “Little more than a week. So little time for so much.”
Tarrant can’t help himself, and he laughs. He manages not to giggle at the last second. However, Alice’s statement is so true. In about a week’s time, his son fell in love, then Bonded to the woman beside him. They overthrew the Queen of Hearts and then became rulers themselves. His son came back bringing him a daughter that he loves very much.
Carol is not sure of the strange man by Alice’s side. She feels a strange familiarity with him, but she knows she has never seen him before. And her daughter, who normally is not a trusting person, is completely relaxed in his presence.
Alice watches her mom stare at Tarrant and sighs. “Mom, please let’s sit down and I will explain as much as I can. And what I can’t, Tarrant will.” Alice has no idea how she will explain this. The deadline given to her by Hatter is also on her mind, as is the pain she knows he must be in. She wants to curl in on herself and cry. The Bond is there, but nowhere as strong it normally is. It’s as if it is a whisper of a dream of love. She still loves Hatter. There is no doubt about that. What is missing is the constant presence of him; knowing he is there, where he is, feeling him. That is what is missing plus something even more basic. With the Bond in place, she is whole. That’s the best explanation; Hatter is her other half in every way.
Tarrant watches his daughter and finally tells her, “Alice, I promise you it will be ok. Once we are back, you will feel it again. Trust me.” He doesn’t want to give too much away, but he can see Alice slowly giving in to the despair. He knows from personal experience, if she does that, it will be a tough journey. Since she and Hatter are Bonded, he is not sure what would happen to the other. His mate is working with Hatter with the same goal. They will not lose their son and daughter to this.
Carol watches the interaction between Tarrant and her daughter. She does not trust this man, but there is no mistaking the care he is expressing for Alice. Finally sitting down, Carol waits for her daughter to continue.
Alice feels Chess nuzzle her, and he tells her so softly she can barely hear him, “I am here, Alice. I will lose neither David nor you to the Bond separation. I will return you immediately to David if I think you are about to lose it, no matter if Tarrant is touching you or not.” Alice relaxes a little more.
She looks up at her mother and starts her story, “Like I said, it’s been more than a week…”
Hatter looks up at his mum. “She’s gone.”
Alice K. looks down at her son and gently tells him, “Alice will be back. You know she loves you.” She is keeping her own tears to herself while watching her son fall apart in front of her.
Absolem is on Hatter’s shoulder, not having moved since he brought Hatter back per Alice’s request. He knew as soon as they were gone, Alice would leave. But hearing Hatter after the shock of the Bond stretching almost to the breaking point and him brought physically to his knees will stay in his memories.
Now he tries to calm the King of the Knights down. “Alice has Chess and Tarrant with her. Chess will bring her back no matter what. But Hatter, concentrate on your Bond. Alice and you have an unusually strong bond. It is still there.”
Hatter stares at Absolem as he tries to do what he has suggested. He needs this. His biggest fear is to lose Alice. He will do whatever it takes for her to be safe and with him. He soon finds what Absolem is speaking about. He feels a whisper of their Bond hidden in his mind and heart. Hatter closes his eyes in relief.
Alice K. watches her son and gives up the minuscule hope that he will be her little boy again. She knew it would never happen, but there is always a chance. Watching him now, she doesn’t want that chance, not if he had to deal with this pain.
Her namesake is nothing to be upset about. She has started to come to her roles on her own and she is a strong woman, even if she does not see it herself. As Tarrant will say, she has a lot of muchness to her.
Hatter stands up. He needs to be seen, to make sure that the dread he feels about Alice being gone doesn’t become a reality. Hatter holds his arm out for his mum to take.
Alice K. looks at it and then at her dandy of a son. “Hatter, if you leave here in those clothes, anyone who knows you will know there is something wrong. You’re wearing the same clothes.”
Hatter smiles at his mum, but none of his dimples show. He tells her, “I spent days in the same clothes with Alice. But I will change if it makes you feel better.” He turns and moves to his and Alice’s private chambers.
Alice K. sits down and rests her head in her hands. This is hard, but Tarrant had been adamant, the two of them with all their friends need to keep Alice and Hatter from despair. If they fall into it, especially Hatter, it will be hard to overcome. Moreover, since the two of them are so strongly Bonded, it may reach between the worlds to drive the other to the same state.
However, Alice K. is feeling the separation also. She wants her husband here with her.
Hatter comes out of their rooms wearing a pair of black slacks, with a dark blue shirt and cream tie; simple, but still an effective way to use their colors. He doesn’t really care that much, this is passing time to make Alice be safe for her return.
When he moves to his mum and offers his arm to her again, she rises from the couch and takes it. They move out of the rooms.
Charlie and Santi are conversing quietly in the main hall. They both look up to see Hatter moving towards them with his mum on his arm. They glance at each other, nodding at what they see, then move towards the king and champion.
Santi reaches Hatter and Alice K. first. After giving a minor bow, he says, “There is not much to do right now, Hatter. But if you are up to it, we need to discuss logistics and where to put everyone.”
Hatter looks at Santi and tells him softly, “That will need to be done later. Alice is unavailable right now, and she would be the best to consult with about that. How many people do we have in the Kingdom, and what are their roles? How are they being fed? We need to get away from relying on the Kingdom and Wonderland and start supporting ourselves.”
This is the hardest thing Hatter has done, but he will do this and more if it means Alice is safe.