Song I listened to for this chapter: Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars
Alice wakes in the morning with Hatter’s arms holding her close. She’s slightly confused until she remembers what they did when they got back to the privacy of their rooms. She also remembers how, after their lovemaking, Hatter had carried her into the bathroom and into the bath he had poured for them. Thinking on the talk in the bath, she was grateful for the clarifications regarding the differences between mating and marrying in this world. Smiling fondly, she remembers why he had needed to pour her a bath to help prevent her from being sore today after their activities.
As she moves, stretching her arms and body, Hatter murmurs to her, “Awake, luv?” He kisses her below her ear.
She turns in his arms, catching his look and laughs. “I take it these feelings and desire for each other is just not going to end anytime soon.” She pulls him down for a full kiss, their tongues dancing together. When they came up for air, she finishes, “And I am so glad it isn’t.”
Hatter smirks at her. He leans down to continue to kiss her when there is a knock on the door.
Then to Alice’s amazement and shock, the doorknob advises them, “Your father is here, David. I already told him it will be a couple of minutes until he can enter the room. And while we are talking, can you please take care of not repeating last night in regards to me?”
Hatter laughs and as he senses Alice’s shock and embarrassment vibrate through the Bond, he turns to her quickly. “Alice, it didn’t see anything! I swear I would not have done anything to embarrass you.”
His honesty pours down the Bond to her but she still doesn’t snap out of it. She just stares at Hatter.
Hatter grows concerned as he thinks quickly, trying to find a way to snap his love out of her shock. Then he smirks, leans down to Alice and kisses her passionately, pouring his love and desire down the Bond and into his kiss. When he feels her respond, he pulls back to look at her.
Alice looks up at him and sighs. She realizes she still has a lot to learn about Wonderland. “I don’t think I will ever learn everything about this place.”
Hatter laughs, kisses her lightly on the lips, and gets out of bed to find them some clothes. Alice leans up on her arms, watches him with her own smirk and the honest amazement that this beautiful man is all hers.
Hatter grabs himself some lounging pants, slips them on and grabs a pair of dark purple pajamas for her. She notices that they are a pants and a long sleeve set and looks up at him to see him grin.
Hatter leans down to her and huskily says, “Mine.”
The feelings that course down the Bond make her snap her eyes to him and notice him smirking at her. She quickly gets dressed and he tosses her a robe as he slips another one on while he moves to the door to open it for his fa.
Tarrant is studiously examining the tapestry on the opposite wall. Upon hearing the door open, he turns and smiles at his son.
Hatter glances reflexively at his fa’s eyes and notices they are a teal color, showing his love for his family and amusement at what he had heard out here. Hatter’s lips twitch at his fa and he sees the same twitch answering his in their shared amusement at his Bonded and her reactions to Wonderland. He indicates to his fa that he can enter their rooms and stands aside as he enters.
Alice walks up to Tarrant and hugs him, wishing him good morning. Tarrant grins and hugs her back, his eyes turning a light blue of love. People don’t normally touch him. To have Alice so matter of factually hug him good morning is nothing short of amazing to him. “Good morn to you, Alice.” He smiles and asks them, “I was wondering if you will join us for tea in the gardens? It will be just family and Mirana. We need to talk.”
Alice and Hatter look at each other then turn to look at Tarrant. He is amused to see the how deeply the Bond has already formed between them. “Nothing bad, but we know you will need to return to your Kingdom and we need to speak.”
Hatter stares at his fa, thinking, then nods. He has been feeling the Kingdom and Wonderland urging them to return. “We will also need to have the Duke of Clubs there, Fa. Can you arrange that, please?”
Tarrant nods and stands up. “We will be waiting on you.” He shares another amused grin with his son and leaves.
Alice sits there and thinks. She can feel both Wonderland and the Kingdom of the Knights urging her to return. She thinks for a second and tries something. Alice concentrates on the links and asks them both, “Why?” She feels them pause and then start pressuring her to return more strongly. She looks up at Hatter and sees that he is frowning, feeling the same thing she is. They both feel the link struggle to help them understand. Finally they feel a projection from the two of a sense of… needing to be protected?
“Hatter, how are we supposed to protect the land?” Alice is confused. Why would Wonderland have a need to be protected?
Hatter’s eyes widen and he tells her, “We are Champions of Wonderland, Alice.”
Alice thinks and asks him, “I thought your parents were the Champions?”
Hatter sighs and settles behind her as he informs her, “They are, Alice. But we are also Champions. Think of it this way. The White Kingdom has them as its champions. Mum defended it mostly and she is Mirana’s Champion. Me fa is Wonderland’s Champion more than Mirana’s but when they bonded, they became each other’s champion. We are the Champions of the Kingdom of the Knights. Well, I guess technically I am, and you are the Champion of Wonderland, but you get the idea.”
Alice tries to understand, but then her stomach rumbles, and Hatter laughs. “Come on, luv, let’s get ready and get some food in you.”
Alice sighs as she gets up and moves to the bathroom, asking Hatter, “Find me something comfortable to wear, dear?” She senses his love come through the Bond and smiles. Alice moves to the mirror and gets ready. After she cleans up, she tries to do something with her hair. Alice is frowning at herself in the mirror when Hatter moves behind her and hugs her. She smiles at him and says, “I can’t seem to do anything with it. Do you know what I can do? Or do I look ok?”
Hatter looks at her with love in his eyes and answers her, “When I see your face, there is not a thing that I would change, luv, cause you are amazing just the way you are.” She grins at him and he thinks to himself, ‘Hatter you are one lucky man to find her.’
Hatter hands her some pants in dark blue and a cream-colored silk shirt. He is wearing black pants and a paisley shirt with navy blue and cream colors.
Alice shakes her head as she dresses and asks, “Is everything I wear now going to have these colors in them somehow?”
Hatter chuckles as he answers her, “Well they are our colors, luv. Watch Mirana and you will see her colors in everything she wears and the same thing with the Hearts. Be happy they are easy to match other colors to. I always felt sorry for Mirana having to wear nothing but white all the time.”
Alice smiles and agrees. “Well, I guess we need to go and see what’s going on.”
Hatter smiles down at her and pulls her into his arms, kissing her. He looks down at her and asks with concern in his voice, “Alice, how are you feeling?? I didn’t hurt you too much last night-”
Alice kisses him and puts all of her feelings from last night into her kiss. Hatter groans in her mouth as he senses the feelings flowing through the Bond and from her kiss. She looks in his eyes when she pulls back and tells him, “Hatter, you know how I feel about you. The greatest thing about this Bonding…is there are no doubts between us anymore. You will know if you do something I dislike as I will know if I do something you don’t like.”
Hatter smiles down at his love. “I love you, Alice Hamilton. I cannot wait until I can call you Alice Hamilton Hightopp Hatter.” Then he grows mischievous and asks, “We can always drop the Hamilton from our name you know…”
Alice is confused and cocking her head to the side and says, “I don’t understand.”
Hatter grins at her and says, “Well, since we took the thrones on our Bonding, our names will be combined. But we can just be the Hightopp Hatters.”
Alice is still confused and Hatter laughs. “C’mon, luv, and I will try to explain.” He releases her and offers her his arm. She looks at him and, raising an eyebrow, asks, “No hat?”
Hatter looks like he is affronted and says to her, “I know you like me hair, Alice. But to exit our rooms without a hat? That would be blasphemous!” As they move through the bedroom, he grabs the cream newsboy hat sitting on the table by the door and puts it on as they exit the room.
Alice gives the doorknob a confused look and Hatter laughs again. He has not felt this great for a while. However, his Alice is his in every way. He proved that last night when he claimed her again as his. His eyes darken momentarily as he thinks back to what had made him so protective of his mate. He can feel Wonderland telling him there is a use for Jack still. However, the slurvish man had dared to look upon his mate with lust in his gaze. He had proved his love to her in every way he could think of. Life cannot go much better for him.
Alice is happy until anger spikes through the Bond causing her to look up at Hatter in shock. She notices the dark eyes and his glare. She stops and cupping his face in her hands, she asks, “Hatter?”
Hatter snaps out of his thoughts with the touch of her hands on his face. He looks down as her worry vibrates through the Bond and the look on her face shows the same. He softly tells her, “I was remembering last night and how amazing you were, luv. But then, I also remembered the reason why I had been so rough with you.” He stares down at her.
Alice thinks, then shakes her head and asks Hatter, “Do you really think there is any way I would ever pick Jack Heart, the man who lied to me, faked a relationship with me just to use me to get to my father, cheated on me, and more importantly, insulted the man I love?”
Hatter looks in her eyes, smiles, and answers, “Well, I guess if you put it that way, then no, I don’t think you would ever pick Jack Heart.” Then his face grows serious, “Alice, I love you so much. I will never let you go even if the Bond would allow it. To have that…man even look at you the way he did – it not only insults our bond, our love, and me, it also insults you. You do not want him, you do not think of him that way, and for him to covet you… that is what makes me angry. Alice, this is Wonderland. If not for Wonderland wanting us to be together, his feelings could make life hard on us.” He searches her eyes, hoping she can understand what he is trying to tell her.
Alice stares back at him, his love and sheer need for her to understand what he is talking about traveling through the Bond to her. Wonderland and the Kingdom of the Knights hasten to let her know that they want them together. Then they show her something that shocks her, Alices and Hatters belong together. Just like Alices and Cheshires also have a special connection. That will always preempt a kingling.
Alice’s eyes widen and so did Hatter’s when they receive the information. Hatter immediately starts to tell her, “Alice! I-”
Alice moves closer and kisses him quiet. When she is done, he stares down at her and she can feel his worry. She sends him her love and tells him, “All Wonderland is telling us is there is no way she would have given in to Jack’s wishes. She may have ‘helped‘ by having Ratty bring me to you, but that is all. We fell in love by ourselves. If you doubt it, think back on all we went through. How I tried to deny it and when you actually fell in love with me. I know when I fell in love with you and I felt nothing of what I feel when Wonderland is pushing.”
Hatter nods as he thinks back to the Library and her caring about the refugees. That is his defining moment when he realized that he had fallen for her. From that point on, he just fell more in love with her every minute. He smiles, remembering when she stopped him to say thank you when they hid the boat and trusted him enough to put her hand in his.
Alice smiles at the love flowing through the Bond and asks him, “Better, Hatter?”
Hatter smiles and tells her softly, while he sends his love through the Bond, “I love you, Alice. You are just so brilliant.” He pulls her in his arms and kisses her. He feels her melt in his arms as he holds her. Reluctantly Hatter breaks the kiss and tells her softly, “We need to keep moving, or we will scandalize the castle here shortly.” He smirks down at her.
“Hatter, what is with the names?” Alice is still trying to understand what he meant earlier.
Hatter sighs as they move down the halls. “Bonded couples usually take each other’s last names. Married couples take the males. My parents took the Bonding tradition, and we can choose which we would like to do. However, Hamilton is now part of our Royal names as well as the Bonding status. I was teasing you, forgetting you don’t know our traditions, luv. It was quite naughty of me to suggest dropping your name.” He grins down at Alice.
Alice stops and stares at him, “You mean we are saddled with Alice Hamilton Hightopp Hatter and David Hamilton Hightopp Hatter?”
Hatter frowns and tells her, “Actually my full name was David Kingsliegh Hightopp Hatter before and now is David Hamilton Kingsliegh Hightopp Hatter, Bonded to Alice Hamilton Kingsliegh Hightopp Hatter, Champions of Wonderland and the King and Queen of the Kingdom of the Knights.”
Alice stops mid-stride and stares at him in horror. Hatter stops as quickly as she does, not wanting to trip her up, as he nods, “You’re right, luv, that’s a big mouthful to say.”
Alice starts laughing at his face and Hatter grins down at her. “We’ll see what we can do, luv.”
Alice smiles back and moves with him as they walk to the Tea Table. She remembers the way from when they had gone to Tea when they first arrived in the White Kingdom. Then she realizes that it had been only two days ago.
Tarrant looks up as his son and daughter enter the Tea area and smile at them. He is overjoyed at watching the two of them as their Bond deepens. He is also happy his son gets to experience the love and joy that is a Bond. There is bad that goes along with it, but, when isn’t there bad to make the good even more enjoyable?
Hatter seats his Bonded and then drops into his chair. “Morning Mirana, Mum, Fa. Thanks for joining us, Duke.”
The Duke of Clubs clears his throat and tells him nervously, “My name is Santiago, Santi for short, Your Majesties.”
Alice smiles at him and gently advises him, “Santi, in private, please drop the Majesties. If what Hatter has been telling me is true, we will be together for a long time and I really don’t want to be Majestied to death.”
Santi shakes his head and tells her honestly, “Alice, life is going to be much more interesting with you around.” He smiles at her.
Hatter watches the interaction with his mate and their advisor and grins. “The first thing we need to do is return to the Kingdom. It and Wonderland are pressuring us to return. Not bad enough for us to need Chess to return us, but enough that we need to be leaving either today or within the next few days.” He is aware that by using his name, they run the chance of Chess listening in, but Hatter isn’t worried about it too much.
Mirana nods and tells them, “I have been feeling the same pressures and, quite frankly, this worries me. The last time Wonderland was like this was when the Jabberwocky attacked the Hightopps.” Tarrant, Alice K, and Hatter’s faces fall. They, along with Alice Hamilton, are all that remains of the clan that once had boasted of producing some of the top artisans of Wonderland and was numbered among the most prolific clans of all of Wonderland.
Alice K frowns, thinking of what is needed to protect her son and daughter, and asks Hatter, “Have you kept in practice, son?”
Hatter nods and answers his mum. “As much as I can without letting anyone see. My main weapon in the Red Kingdom was me sledgehammer and trying to act like I was a bumbling idiot while I fought.”
Alice looks at her mate and asks, “You had another weapon?”
Tarrant laughs, “David is one of the best swordsmen in Wonderland, Alice. He was trained by two champions since he could walk and the best of Mirana’s guards. Any weapon he is quite proficient in, but give him anything that resembles a sword or knife, and he is the best.” His eyes glow with pride as he looks at his son.
Alice then remembers Hatter picking up a stick to defend them against Jack back at the Manor and looks quickly at Hatter. “So at the Kingdom when you…”
Hatter looks back at her and replies softly, “I could have definitely defended you and beaten him, Alice. Nevertheless, you made it possible for me to keep my head. Now we know why the madness was so close and why we were both so upset. It was going against the Bonding for us to do what we did. It was only because Wonderland helped and we already loved each other so much and were not denying the Bond that made it possible.”
Mirana looks on with interest and asks, “You two were already Bonding and voluntarily separated from each other?” She has never heard of something even being possible. Alice and Tarrant are the closest that she has heard of a Bonded pair being able to do that. However, they had been in the beginning stages and had not been physical with each other. Chess had insinuated to her that Alice and David had been intimate by that time.
Alice K is impressed as well, but she brings them back to business and asks her daughter, “Alice, what weapons are you proficient at?”
Hatter laughs and quips to his mum, “Her body. And I don’t mean what it does to me, but she is a lethal weapon with just her body.”
Alice blushes and tells her namesake, “I am a black belt in many different methods of what is called Judo. It uses the force of an attacker’s strength against them without the use or need for weapons. My sensei told me that I excelled in being able to predict attacks and was starting to teach me what is commonly known in my world as Akido. I had just started to learn those skills the week before I came here. I’m also the chess player that no one could beat in school.”
Alice K’s eyes widen as she murmurs, “A chess champion and now the Queen of the Chess Pieces. How fitting. I had seen some monks during my travels doing some sort of defense using only their hands. Is this the same?”
Alice thinks and answers, “I believe so. During the time you had been in our world it would have been monks using it.”
Hatter watches his mate and Mum interacting and is relieved that neither holds a grudge against the other. He is also interested to learn that his Alice is a chess champion.
Tarrant speaks up. “Alice, you may have noticed that David is faster than what you think is normal. The longer you are here, the more you will have the same quickness and abilities as he does. You and David are already faster and stronger than normal due to Wonderland investing you with the Bond to the land. Because you are a Wonderlander, your skills will be more enhanced, and you will have the potential to be the best in the physical enhancement, and there will be a special skill talent on top of these that is yours alone. Everyone here that is a native has a skill that they excel in more than others, physically and another extra skillset. David’s is thought to be his swordsmanship and his physical enhancement is his right arm.”
Wonderland tries its best to show her what Tarrant is trying to tell her. Every person native to Wonderland is quicker and stronger than a person who was never born here could ever dream of, even Alice K. Being invested with the Bond to the land, she and Hatter will be even more powerful and have additional abilities. There is a slight hint that there is more that has to do with their bond itself, but Wonderland shows her how quick Hatter is and shows her how her own abilities are being enhanced. The other abilities that Tarrant didn’t touch on were the natural magic all Wonderlanders possess and the advanced healing they also have.
Hatter watches his mate absorb all the information and again thanks Wonderland for showing her more than they can explain. He is also glad his fa had said something since he had forgotten all about Alice being a native to Wonderland.
Alice sighs once Wonderland had shown her what they mean and inquires, “So what are we going to do? I understand that we need to get back to the Kingdom. But, quite frankly, it’s going to need some major work to get it back to the way it was.”
Santi speaks up, advising her and Hatter, “My Clubs are moving there now. There will be others that will also feel the call of the Knights moving in them and will come. Charlie has agreed to train them. There are already reports that the Kingdom is not in as bad physical shape as we had previously thought.”
Alice stares at him wondering how the Kingdom could not be a wreck and Hatter laughs at the look on her face. “Alice, this is Wonderland. It and the Kingdom are working to make sure we are not sleeping in the barn anymore. You have to learn that Wonderland can do anything it puts its mind to in regards to itself. What happens to its inhabitants… well that is why it needs Alice’s and Champions.”
Wonderland pressures them again and everyone, even Santi is shocked to learn it needs Alice’s for another reason also. It leaves them with that vague information and the feeling of urgency.
Mirana, feeling the urgency pressuring them, speaks up. “Some of my knights already feel the call and I will send them with you. I will also send some of the card soldiers with you to help with defense.”
Alice frowns in confusion thinking of the suits and seeing this, Mirana explains, “My sister, Iracebeth had actual card soldiers, Alice. When Alice defeated the Jabberwocky and my sister, they entered into my service. Constance didn’t want them; she felt they betrayed her parents. She kept the card motif, but used Wonderlanders that were addicted to Tea or in some way were tied to her so they couldn’t betray her. She just called them suits to differentiate them.” Alice nods, thanking her for the information.
Hatter speaks up and tells them, “We need to get moving soon. When can you be ready Santi and when can we leave, Mirana?”
Tarrant watches his son take control and his eyes reflect his feelings of pride. He will be better as King with his Alice as his Queen than his Alice and he would have been. David’s Alice is already more compassionate than anyone but Mirana, and with what he has seen, he can easily imagine her being more so in the future.
Preparations for their departure are made and everyone leaves to get what they can ready. Alice and Hatter make their way to their rooms, and Chess appears in front of them. “Good day to you two.”
Alice grins at the Cheshire Cat and quips back to him, “Good afternoon to you too, Chess. How have you been?”
Chess turns on his back and lazily tells them, “Fine, love. I heard my name earlier and found a council being held. Interesting wasn’t it?” He is inspecting his paw as he speaks with them. “Amazing what one with evaporating skills can learn isn’t it?”
Hatter laughs and asks him with a knowing look, “And nothing to do with curiosity does it, Chess?”
Chess’ smile grows larger and he tells them airily, “I have no earthly idea what you might be speaking about, dear David.” His purring can be heard quite clearly.
Alice and Hatter are laughing at their friend as they move through the palace to their rooms.
Hatter asks him, “Is there a point in this, Chess? I hate to be rude, but we have a lot to accomplish in a very short time.” His mind is ticking away all they need to have finished before they leave today. Time seems inclined to work with them for once.
Chess sighs as he turns, floating in front of them on his stomach and tells them as though bored, “I am just wondering when we are leaving. I was called away before I heard that piece of information.”
Alice picks up on the we and asks, “Are you joining us, Chess?”
Hatter looks back at Chess with interest; the Cheshire had not knowingly joined in on any expeditions to his knowledge.
Chess yawns and answers her, “It has been boring here for the last few centuries. I figured I could follow you two and see something new.” In reality he finds himself needing to be around Alice. Alice Kingsliegh had pulled at him, but never as strong as this Alice does.
Hatter is skeptical but he can see the pluses in having Chess with them. “We’ll be leaving as soon as everyone is ready. Alice and I are going to our rooms to get our stuff together, and then after a quick stop to the armory, we will be at the stable seeing who will agree to be our mounts.”
Chess nods and tells them, “Fairfarren until then, dear David and Alice.” He evaporates slowly, until just his grin is left before it is gone too.