wildforce71: Hatter trying to let Alice go (Hatter can't let go)
[personal profile] wildforce71
I grovel in awe at angel_negra's feet. Without her, this fic would not be even close to legible.

Post-series Alice (2009). Even in Wonderland, fairytales hadn't come true in a long time. Alice and Hatter face their Happy Ever After.




In the true tale, the Goose Girl’s maid was dragged through the streets in a barrel studded with nails.



It should have been the perfect fairytale ending. The evil queen and her court had been overthrown. The princess heroine had made peace with her past and redeemed both her loves; the young king who had ached to end his mother’s tyranny, and the conman searching for somewhere to belong. One would rule justly and fairly; one had followed her, abandoning everything he knew to be close to her. Now they were supposed to live happily ever after. That was how it worked.

But even in Wonderland, fairytales hadn’t come true in a long time.




First there’s the explanations to Carol. Hatter, ever adept at thinking on his feet, quickly weaves a half-lie about how he’s known Alice for a while now - feels like a lifetime, Alice puts in – but in the rush to get her to a hospital simply hadn’t thought to identify himself. He adds that he knows Jack a little and had worried about Alice, hence being nearby that evening. “Not that I think he’d’a hurt her,” he continues quickly when Carol raises an eyebrow. “Just – I wasn’t sure he was right for her.”

“Jack’s gone home,” Alice tells her. “Family emergency. And since we were – well, not sure where we stood – we decided to take a break. He doesn’t know when he’ll be back.”

The rest of the evening passes uncomfortably. Carol keeps calling him David; Alice keeps calling him Hatter, apparently not noticing Carol’s look each time she does. Hatter, who’s spent years taking note of everything around him, is starting to worry, just a little.

Finally Carol starts checking the time and he rises to his feet. “I should go. Lovely to finally meet you, Mrs Hamilton.” He brushes his lips over her knuckles, smiling charmingly, and is relieved when she smiles back. He doesn’t want to cause problems between Alice and her mother.

“I’ll walk you out,” Alice says quickly, hustling him out before Carol can object.

Outside she draws him into another deep kiss. Hatter is happy to oblige – it’s been a lot longer for him than it has for her – but it’s night time, and cool out, and after a minute she starts to shiver.

“Should go back inside,” he murmurs, loosening his grip on her.

“I can’t believe you’re here. What happened?”

“Well,” he smiles, “though I am rather high up in our new government, there’re still some people aren’t too happy with me. And there’s no more tea to sell; I’m faced with going legit. And...” He touches her cheek, so gently she can barely feel it, “you weren’t there. It wasn’t right.”

“Hatter...”

“Your mother’s waiting,” he reminds her. “You should go.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’ve got a place.”

“Can I see?” she asks brightly.

“No. It’s not ready yet.”

“Hatter...”

He kisses her gently. “Go back up to your mother. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You promise?”

He smiles. “Do you trust me?”

“Completely.”

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow.” He turns to walk away.

“Hatter!” Alice catches him after only a few steps, rubbing both hands through his hair to muss it up. He smiles faintly, feeling it settle back into its usual dishevelled state. “Tomorrow? Wear a hat.”



In the true tale, the Sleeping Beauty’s briars killed many who tried to reach her before her prince came.



“Hatter?”

“Mmm?”

She sits up from where she’s been leaning against him, turning to study him. “How are you earning money?”

“What?”

“Money,” she repeats. “You don’t have a job. You’ve got this apartment, furniture, food and clothes...” She gestures around at his living room.

“Oh. Jack Pratt is taking care of all that.”

She rolls her eyes, elbowing him for the comment. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Hatter! Why is Jack taking care of your bills?”

He shrugs, leaning around her to turn the TV off. This doesn’t seem like something she’s going to let go. “Services rendered.”

“What services?”

Hatter sits up, eyeing her. “You don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what?” She’s slightly defensive now, and he tries to remember to ease off. This isn’t her fault. She didn’t see what Wonderland was like after she left.

“You, an Oyster, walked into Wonderland and toppled the Queen.”

We did that...”

“You did it. You woke the Oysters, you turned the Carpenter against the Queen, you turned Jack against his mother...”

“Hatter, none of that is...”

“Shush, not done yet. You turned the Suits against the Queen, that’s not even supposed to be possible. You saved the Oysters and started Wonderland back on its’ way to a new Golden Age.”

Alice is shaking her head, tears standing in her eyes. “None of that is true.”

“No,” he agrees, and she’s startled into raising her head to stare at him. “Not all of it. But it’s how you’re seen, in Wonderland. The Legend has two Alices now. And not all the Queen’s followers went down with her. Half the White Rabbits are still missing, some of the Suits are still suspect...anything happened to you, it’d be a huge coup for their side.”

“And that’s why you’re here.” Her voice is flat and she sits back, away from him.

“Was me or Charlie, and I didn’t think you’d like that much. Mind you, it took a while to talk him out of it.”

“So that’s why you came,” she repeats.

“What?” He suddenly realises what she means. “No! Alice...”

“It was longer on your side. Would you have even come, Hatter?”

“Of course I would. That was my excuse, not my reason. Alice...” He touches her arm and she shrugs him off, scrambling to her feet and taking a couple of steps away. Hatter rises but doesn’t move after her, letting her keep the couch between them. “The Looking Glass is locked down, Alice. No one can use it for any reason. Believe me, I’d’ve been through on your heels otherwise. Jack knew, but he couldn’t just send me. There has to be a reason, an excuse.”

“I wasn’t enough?”

It breaks his heart to hear the heartbreak in hers. “For me, yes. You’re everything, you know that. But Jack’s council were very clear. And since they don’t exactly trust me, there wasn’t much I could do. Not until Jack got a threat against you.” He gestures around. “He bullied the council into it. This place, and my wage. But it’s nothing. An excuse, Alice. I’d have found a way, I promise I would.”

She drops her head and he risks going to her, gently tucking her hair behind her ear. “If the mirror’s closed,” she says softly, “there can’t be any danger to me.”

“There are always ways,” he tells her, and he feels so old suddenly. Months battling a council who couldn’t see beyond his past, fighting to be heard when only Jack would even believe him, struggling to help with only Charlie by his side – he’s so tired of having to justify himself. But Alice can ask anything of him. He’s known that for a long time now. “Charlie attached himself to me for weeks, never left me alone. He was so afraid I’d do something stupid. I was desperate to get here, I’d’ve done anything. Please, tell me you hear that, at least.”

“I hear it,” she says softly.

He watches her for a moment, hand dropping back to his side. “D’you want me to leave?”

“No,” she says, and he nods quietly, relieved.

“I would have found a way to get to you. I swear it.” He ducks his head a little, catching her eye. “Do you trust me?”

“Completely,” she whispers, but it’s soft and broken and neither of them believe it.

Hatter sighs, holding out a hand. Alice doesn’t move and he grimaces, switching and offering her his left hand instead. It bothers him, a little; she knows he keeps tight control of his right hand, that it never holds anything more firmly than he wants.

She lets him lead her back to the couch, and she curls against him when he sits. “I love you,” he says quietly.

“I love you,” she echoes, and maybe she believes it, he can’t tell.



In the true fairy tale, Cinderella’s stepsisters cut off their toes and heels and the slipper filled with blood.



“Hatter, are you awake?”

He hums a response. They’re lying on Alice’s bed, her head on his chest and their fingers tangled together – though in deference to Carol, the door is open and they’re fully clothed, apart from their shoes. Hatter even debated taking off his hat, but it’s resting over his face instead. His free hand is stroking Alice’s hair, and he hasn’t been this content in a long time.

“Really,” she insists, and there’s a hint of laughter in her voice. “I want to talk to you.”

“So talk.” His voice slurs slightly and he frowns. Letting go of her hair, he props himself up on one elbow in an effort to wake up. He hadn’t realised how close to sleep he is.

Alice waits until he settles back down. “How long was it on your side?”

He tries, he really does, but his sleep-fogged brain can’t make anything of that. “What?” he says eventually.

“On your side of the Looking Glass. All the time I spent there, it was less than an hour here. You can’t have been far behind me, if you were the one who found me on this side.”

“It was longer,” he says softly.

“How much longer?” She sits up, turning to face him. Shifting her weight, she lets go of his hand to brace herself, and he tucks it behind his head, thinking.

“Months, anyway,” he says finally. “I stopped counting after a bit. Turns out rebuilding a country’s hard work, ‘specially when the new king only trusts three other people.”

“Three? You and Charlie...”

“The Duchess.”

“The Duchess?” she repeats in surprise.

“She saved him from the casino.” He shifts slightly, watching her. “He doesn’t love her. But he is fond of her, and she’s very smart. Spent a lot of time with the Queen, so she knows what not to do, at least.”

“Well, that’s nice,” Alice mutters.

“Aare you jealous?” Hatter asks, amused. He can afford amusement, now.

“No,” she says unconvincingly.

“You are! You’re jealous of Jack Pratt –“

She pokes him in the ribs and they have a brief wrestling match. It ends when Carol walks across the living room, heels clicking on her beloved wooden floors, and they both freeze guiltily, listening to make sure she isn’t coming past the door. Hatter winces; Alice is, completely unintentionally, leaning heavily on one of the scars that decorate his torso. They’ve never really healed right, not in all the months since then. He’s come to consider them a gift from the Tweedles, to make sure he’ll never forget his betrayal.

“He is not a prat,” Alice whispers.

“Anything you say,” Hatter agrees, voice strangled. “Please move...”

“What?” Startled, she shifts her weight in the wrong direction. Hatter bites back a yell as spots dance in front of his eyes; rolling to one side, he dumps Alice off and onto the floor. Sitting up, he curls around the scar.

“Everything alright?” Carol calls.

“Fine, Mom! I knocked some books over!” Alive yells, reaching out to shove the door partway closed. Lowering her voice, she adds “Hatter?”

“I’m fine,” he assures her without moving. “You just hit a sore spot. Give me a second.”

She kneels between his legs, one hand warm on his knee. After a moment he uncurls, easing back to lie across the bed. Alice straddles him, one knee either side of his hips, and pulls his shirt up; Hatter rolls his eyes but shifts his weight to help.

“I thought we were being respectful of your mum?” he points out mildly. She doesn’t answer, intent on what she’s doing.

He knows the moment she sees the scar; her whole body tenses. He doesn’t look down, he doesn’t need to. He sees the marks every day, just as fresh as the day they escaped the casino together.

“Hatter,” she breathes, fingers hovering over the scar without touching it. “What is...”

“Present from the Tweedles,” he tells her, and he’s pleased his voice is light and airy. Catching her fingers, he draws them down to touch the scar. “Touching doesn’t hurt. Just don’t put too much weight on it.”

“Tweedles?” Her fingers are so light he barely feels them, tracing over the scar and then across to the next one.

“Uh. Dee and Dum. You met them, in the...” He gestures vaguely. “Room with the desk, and no floor.”

“I thought they went down with the casino.”

“That’s what we’re hoping. No one’s seen them since, anyway. Hey...” He lifts his head to watch her draw away, sitting on her heels. “What’s wrong?”

“Those are fresh.” She gestures and he pulls his shirt closed, suddenly uncomfortable. It takes him a moment to realise what she’s talking about; she thinks the marks are fresh, that he’s gotten them since she left.

“Nah. They just heal weird. They’re fine long as there’s no real weight on ‘em.” He tugs her hand until she climbs off him, lying next to him again; she’s so careful not to put any weight on him that he finally has to laugh.

“Hey!” she protests, but she’s laughing as well.

“If I promise to tell you if you hurt me,” he says finally, “will you stop that? Honest, they don’t hurt.”

“Deal,” she agrees, curling against him. It’s not quite as comfortable as before – they’re lying across the bed instead of along it – but he wouldn’t trade it for anything.




In the true tales, Cinderella’s stepmother was given a pair of red-hot iron shoes and forced to dance herself to death.


The fights always start out so small. Hatter never sees them coming. Alice is strong-willed and stubborn, and he – well, no one’s ever accused him of being too bright. He can never tell when to let things go, not until it’s too late and they’re screaming at each other. Not that that happens often, luckily.

Today what started it was that Alice walked home without waiting for him. It happens, on and off, but Hatter’s been uneasy for a couple of days, restless and feeling watched, and it’s making him snappy.

“I was done and you weren’t. I can travel ten blocks on my own.” Alice’s movements telegraph her irritation. She’s clearing dishes away and Hatter wonders idly if any of them will be left in one piece when she’s done.

“You didn’t let me know. I went to meet you.” Hatter is very carefully not moving, gripping the back of the nearest chair.

“I’m sorry! But if you’re not there when I finish, I come home. That’s how we do it. I don’t need you to follow me all over the city.” She looks up sharply, watching him. “I don’t, do I? No one’s come through?”

“Not...no –“ he has to admit. He has no proof, after all, just suspicions, and he knows that won’t mean anything to her.

“Then I’m fine. Honestly. I managed in Wonderland...”

“You nearly died in Wonderland!”

“I nearly died because you tried to sell me to gun toting rebels!” She slams the cupboard closed, leaning against it with her arms folded tightly across her chest.

“I was trying to help you.”

“How, exactly?”

“Alice...” he groans, turning away.

“No, come on!” She takes a step towards him. “How was it going to help me? Dodo wasn’t going to let me go, so what was the plan? Hand me over and forget about it? Another successful transaction?”

“Hey!” He whirls on her. “Everything I did for you, you still think you were just another transaction?”

“I was worth your usual cut, wasn’t I? What was your cut, Hatter?”

“Not enough,” he mutters, and knows by the way she glares he’s said the wrong thing. “My cut went back to the Library in food and supplies. Dodo knew that. And anyway, the rebels sent Oysters home! Got them out of the Queen’s reach. He’d have done it for you, too, you’d have just given him the ring.”

“If I’d given him the ring,” Alice says through gritted teeth, “he’d be running Wonderland instead of Jack, and you’d probably be dead.”

“You’d be safe,” Hatter points out.

“That’s not...” She takes a deep breath. “Not the point.”

“No. The point is, I’ve done an awful lot of good for you since that mistake.”

“Oh?”

Hatter takes a breath, trying to even his tone. “I got you away from the Resistance...”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure I saved you from Dodo.” She’s back to leaning against the cupboard, arms tight against herself. Hatter is holding himself very still, afraid of what he’ll do if he lets loose.

“I got you away from March – leaving my Shop to be destroyed, thank you very much –“

“Oh, yes, where you made a living from selling emotions sucked out of human beings.”

“I saved you from the Tweedles—“

Charlie saved—“

“I got you out of the casino—“

“By crashlanding us into a lake—“ She’s shouting now, but so is he.

“I went in there again after you! I got captured, for you! I got tortured, for you!”

“I didn’t ask you to do any of that!”

“I killed my brother for you!”

They both freeze. Hatter is breathing fast – too fast, there are dots in front of his eyes – and Alice is staring at him, wide-eyed.

She makes a move towards him and he jerks into motion, heading for the door. She’s too far away to stop him, but she stays on his heels on the way down the stairs and out of the building. “Hatter...”

“No.”

“No, what?” She’s still keeping up, hovering just behind him. He can’t see her, and he won’t turn to look.

“No, I didn’t kill anyone for you, it was all for...Alice, I can’t, not now...”

She catches his shoulder, spinning him around. He lets her do it, but he shrugs her grip off as he turns. “Hatter.”

“I can’t.

“Alright,” she agrees, and he wonders distantly what he looks like if she’s dropping it that easily. His Alice is many things, and stubborn is not the least of them. “But don’t run away from me. Let me come with you.”

“I have to move,” he warns her, and she nods.

“Let’s move, then. Let’s do that. Let me go back and get our coats, though, ok? It’ll only take a minute.”

“Yeah,” he mutters.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” she repeats.

“Yeah. I’ll be here.”

It’s closer to five minutes – there are a lot of stairs leading to their apartment – and Hatter is pacing, desperate to move, when she comes back. He doesn’t wait for her, shrugging the coat on as he moves, and she doesn’t try to make him, catching up after a moment. He speeds up until he can feel it, and she keeps pace without complaint.

She’s quiet until he speaks. He isn’t saying anything earth-shattering – we should try that restaurant, I heard that movie’s good, that’s a nice coat in that window – but as long as he talks, she answers, and when he stops she falls silent. It’s strangely comforting.

When some of the need to move has been bled off he finds a small park, sits down on a bench. Alice slides onto the seat beside him, tucking one leg under herself so she can watch him.

“ ‘Member March? The rabbit head thing?” he says after a moment.

“Yes.”

“He wasn’t always a rabbit head thing. He was Resistance, once, even. Until the Queen and the Tweedles got him.”

“When did you...”

“In the casino, the second time. The Tweedles wanted to know where the Library was. He knew I wouldn’t tell. He sent them away and tried to kill me. I got free and...” He shrugs, ducking his head into his shoulders.

She nods, absorbing it for a moment. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry I said that. It wasn’t for you, not really. He was gonna kill me.”

“Sorry,” she repeats softly, turning so she can lean against him. Hatter doesn’t move at first; after a few minutes, he realises he’s rubbing her arm, gently. It’s surprisingly comforting; he’s never really been tactile, but it’s easy with Alice. It’s even more comforting that he’s using his right arm, and despite how agitated he is, she isn’t showing any wariness.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and she nods. He can’t see her, but he can feel the motion against his shoulder. “I shouldn’t’ve said those things.”

“Me neither. Do you want to come home?”

“I won’t sleep tonight,” he says after a minute. “I’ll walk you back, and then...I dunno. I’ll find something.”

She touches his right hand, easing it open. “Don’t hit anything that can hit back,” she says softly.

“I won’t,” he promises. His right hand is just as strong here as it was in Wonderland, and he’s learned to be even more careful with it. Humans can’t crack brick without also cracking bones.

Alice rises to her feet, linking her fingers through his, and they walk home together.


There is no mercy for wrong-doers in fairytales. And Hatter has no illusions about himself.


“Wait. Just...wait.” Hatter twirls his hat, trying to calm his racing thoughts. They’re fighting again, and he’s so tired of it. He knows she’s tired of it too. They just can’t seem to stop.

“I don’t want to fight anymore,” he says finally. “Maybe we should...”

“Take a break?” Alice suggests, and her voice is thick with bitterness and betrayal.

“No.” He deliberately keeps his tone mild. “Start over, I was going to say.”

“Start what over?”

“Everything. All of it. Right from the start, get to know each other all over again.” She’s retreating, he can see it in her, and he hurriedly continues, “We didn’t exactly learn much about each other in Wonderland, and these months here – they’ve been like a dream, Alice, but we’ve not learned much, have we?” Smiling, he adds, “ ‘Cept that we can both hold a grudge.”

“We’ve learned things,” she says stiffly.

“Not the right things.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” she protests.

He doffs his hat, bowing. “David Hatfeld. Pleased to meet you.” She doesn’t answer, and he stage whispers, “Alice, love, it doesn’t work so well if you don’t join in.”

“You can’t just say that,” she says distantly, and his heart stops for an endless moment until she continues, “If we haven’t been introduced, you can’t use my name. It’s impolite.”

“My apologies.”

“Alice.” She holds out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, David.”

“Hatter.” He lifts her hand to kiss her knuckles, adding, “My friends call me Hatter.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Hatter. It’s an unusual name. Where did you get it?”

He draws a breath, ready to spin a wonderful tale full of derring-do. She’ll be drawn in, she’ll be amazed, she’ll be astonished, and some of it will even be true.

Then he looks at her, and reconsiders.

“It’s a family nickname,” he tells her quietly. “My father, and his.”

“Thank you,” she says, and everything she isn’t saying is on her face.

Hatter kisses her – he can’t help it – and then draws back, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Tell me something about you, Alice.”

“My boyfriend is the best person I know.”

“Something I didn’t know,” he teases her, and she laughs, and the sun comes out.


Fairytales are overrated anyway.


Two strangers learn to fall in love again
I get the joy of rediscovering you
Oh girl, you stand by me
I’m forever yours
Faithfully.

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