|No Fixed Abode
Author: Funky In Fishnet PM
Hatter's a man with a foothold in two worlds. But there's only one Alice.Rated: Fiction K - English - Romance/Drama - Hatter & Alice H. - Words: 1,927 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 3 - Published: 03-16-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6828409
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I own nothing. It's all SyFy and Lewis Carroll
NO FIXED ABODE
Hatter didn't know how the Oysters could stand it, living in a world half-done. Couldn't they see it? The frayed edges, the gaps everywhere? Didn't people fall through them? No one seemed worried. No one even talked about it. They just kept on walking like they weren't going to tumble down. Living impossible lives. It didn't make sense.
Not much did in Alice's world. A lot of the food tasted strange, and there were still parts that Hatter couldn't properly get his head around, like jay walking and movie theatres and the postal service. But then he'd walk through it all and think, Alice walks these stones and hears this noise.
It kept him clinging to the skin of this place. Maybe that was how the Oysters did it too.
Jack's money helped. Hatter got himself a place to live. It was close to Alice and to a promising-looking teashop on the corner. It didn't take him long to fill his flat with beautiful things. Things he scavenged and enjoyed haggling for. Things he found and things he fixed. Coloured glass in jars, and pieces hung on the walls. Things that caught the light and sounded like chimes. Maybe it was a little bit of Wonderland to sing him to sleep.
He started collecting teapots and weird little metal kettles. They marched along shelves and window sills. No matter what Alice said, he was never going to get used to coffee. The teashop staff came to know him. Sometimes he worked a shift or two there. To pass the time, and build up his own Oyster money, and make his own unaided steps in this world. He wanted to keep pace with Alice.
He found a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice of Legend. It was amazing how much the Oysters had gotten right and so laughably wrong. A proper fairytale, full of enough truth to catch hold of people. He scribbled notes in the margins. Sometimes he woke up amongst his growing fort of books and thought for a wild moment that he was back in Wonderland and flinched, expecting Dodo's bullet.
Sometimes he worked at Alice's dojo, answering the phone – definitely one of the cleverest Oyster ideas, phones, even if he couldn't always get them to work right. Other times he put up posters and handed out flyers and juggled with his hat at his feet. There was envelope-stuffing and couriering. He had his own bicycle. He might crash it once or twice because he was looking at the sky and the buildings reaching up to catch hold of it. That wasn't his fault.
He spent a lot of his free time folding paper animals, because he liked how they looked in his kettles and cups and Alice always smiled when she saw them. He wanted to trace that expression, and remember that he'd caused it. It made a feeling lick at his insides, like Happiness and Pleasure all cocktailed together. An Alice feeling.
When he kissed her, he gulped down every sound that she made and savoured every vibration. He kept one hand on her heartbeat, not wanting to miss any tiny thing. More often than not, Alice would move them so that he was looking up at her instead of the other way round. He liked that and the look in her eyes and the way she moved over him. He wanted to trace it all. Nothing in a bottle compared to it.
They both hated the leaving part. It made Alice's mouth hard and wary. He didn't blame her and she never asked him not to go. Instead, they held onto each other and he pressed reminders into her skin. He was coming back. Wonderland had been home but it had its holes too. And it didn't have Alice.
He was coming back. He'd left Alice his favourite hat and a paper frog.
Going through the mirror had started to feel shorter and easier. Charlie was waiting for him. In full armour, of course. It was a miracle he didn't smell worse considering he practically lived in his uniform.
"Ah, you have arrived," Charlie said, his version of a greeting. "Mustn't keep the King waiting. Hop to it!"
"Nice to see you too, Charlie. I'm fine, thanks for asking."
Charlie sniffed, and talked non-stop as he led the way. He extolled the many virtues of his job as Knight in Chief, teaching the next generation so that Wonderland would actually have a full legion of tinheads and not just the one. Hopefully they wouldn't all be as boiled in the brain as Charlie. One was probably an asset sometimes, a full brace hardly helpful.
Jack's Palace was as impressive as ever, all warm-toned stone and crisp lines. Like mixing two worlds together. That was Jack's mantra. The Suits let them through, after searching Hatter thoroughly. As though Hatter couldn't possibly hide a knife on him that they'd never find. That was insulting.
Jack was expecting them in the throne room. Of course he was. Up on his high horse. Not that the chair itself was ever all that high off the shiny floor now. It was the principal of the thing. Hatter dug his fingers into his coat pockets – chains, shells, sweet wrappers, Oyster coins, pins, buttons, a paper donkey – and rounded the last corner before the enormous carved wooden doors heralded his destination. Subtle.
There was some kind of meeting going on when the doors opened. But Charlie's clattering arrival drowned out any voices and then there was just Jack, in a sharp black suit, and his Duchess at his side. Hatter fixed a corner of an eye on her. She always smiled like she had knives hidden away ready that she was really looking forward to using. Hatter was pretty sure that one day she'd use them on him when he was arguing with Jack. A bloody regular occurrence, because that was the way things went with Jack. Some things weren't meant to change.
"Thank you, Charlie." Jack nodded at him in thanks and dismissal.
Charlie saluted and turned sharply to leave, muttering sideways at Hatter. "Show some respect. Remove that hat."
Hatter rolled his eyes. The hat stayed on. His hands remained his pockets. God, he hated this part.
"Everything's fine. Can I go now?"
Duchess arched an eyebrow. Hatter checked the exits were still where they usually were. Doors could be tricky. Jack took a step towards him. He asked about the Oysters and anyone who'd asked after him, how his cover story of foreign travel was working out. Hatter had brought him a newspaper, as requested. Then the inevitable finish.
"How is Alice?"
This part rarely changed. Because Alice was Alice. She smiled, she worked, she laughed. She felt good under Hatter's hands. She looked better in his hats. Sometimes she had nightmares. She'd packed away all the papers, maps, and photographs that had daisy-chained her towards her father. She'd shown Hatter the box. It was all she had left of her dad – roads that went nowhere.
"She's still Alice," Hatter summed up, etching out an invisible pattern on the floor with the toe of his shoe.
Jack nodded, like he could hear the unsaid words anyway. Hatter shifted restlessly. Had he mentioned how much he hated this part? He had people to see. This place, and the people in it, gave him the creeps. He didn't vocalise that thought though. The Suits might not have had the chance lately to dish out a good beating. And Duchess was pinning her assessing gaze on him, as though she knew exactly what he was thinking. Right. Knives.
Jack inclined his head and there was the dismissal, at last. Hatter backed out of the room quickly. He didn't bow before he left. Alice often asked about Jack. The times she didn't, the gap where her question would be spoke loud enough and so Hatter told her that Jack was good. Most of the Landers liked him – the fact that he wasn't the Queen and didn't rule like her weighed heavily in his favour - and having him at the top was working out well so far. 'So far' being the key phrase. But according to Hatter's very thorough sources, there were no hints of rebellion brewing against Jack's rule, above or below ground. Not even from the Queen's former supporters. So far.
Dormouse was doing well, getting help in restructuring a new kind of tea shop that actually served tea and taking bets on the croquet on the side. The library had stayed hidden, thanks to Jack. There was still a hospital somewhere too, behind whatever impenetrable veil Caterpillar was so masterful at constructing. Hatter wanted to know his tricks.
He avoided Dodo, because that bird stayed armed and angry, and checked in on Duck. Half the floral section hadn't been seen since the Casino's collapse. There was still so much loss. Hatter could feel it biting at him. Jack didn't want any of that forgotten, even if the majority of his courtiers did. At least, that was the gossip that was travelling with the flamingos. Hatter agreed with Jack, not that the King was ever hearing it from him.
Wonderland was being held together. It was getting there. Hatter sat under one of the lattice-work trees and toyed with a yo-yo. He set his hat over his eyes and rested while he could. Soaked it all in, the familiarity, the sewn-together parts, the shifting shade. Saw old friends, those that were left, arranged meetings for needed produce and labour because he still had contacts and Jack couldn't be everywhere at once in his vast kingdom.
It was a few days, maybe a week, before Hatter was able to make the jump back into Alice's world. No one was there to see him off, thank God. So he shrugged off the nutter in the white coat who was trying to manhandle him, and leapt unaided, with the lightning bolt thought of Alice on the other side. For seconds, it was like flying.
Then it was concrete and suddenly hard hurt in too many limbs. No blood, just bruises, and all pain. Scratch what he'd said; it never got any easier. Hatter took a moment to let the world stop spinning around him. Then he found his feet.
He took a deep breath of the city air, still so strange and gritty but almost familiar now. He saw the holes everywhere. Heard the car horns and the shouting people, like he was being heralded home. Home. Didn't that reverberate.
He walked, eyes on the sky, surrounded by odd cracked laughter, glass breaking, tinny music, the potent smell of beer, posters he'd put up, songs he'd been part of. He thought Alice walks these stones and hears this noise and so do I.
He always would. Because she was Alice and she had his favourite hat. His heart staccatoed - Alice, in his hat.
Avoiding the gaps, he grinned at the old man moon that didn't have an Alice and started running.