Strangers on a Dance Floor

By LindsayR

Summary: He's never been so unsure in his life and hates that she won't even look him in the eye. Formerly titled 'Court Jester'.

Pairing: Jack/Duchess

Disclaimer: I own nothing. This all belongs to Lewis Carroll, Nick Willing, and the SyFy Channel.

Author's Note: Originally posted as 'Court Jester' I was half-asleep when it went up so I have gone back and edited it. I had a very hard time writing Jack's POV which is why this took so long to get out. Seether's cover of 'Careless Whisper' was in my head when I started writing it but I just couldn't give Jack an unhappy ending. Follow up to 'The Death of a Duchess'. Definitely read that first or this may be slightly confusing to follow.

I feel so unsure

as I take your hand

and lead you to the dance floor.

as the music dies, something in your eyes

calls to mind a silver screen

and all its' sad good-byes.

~ Seether 'Careless Whisper'

He watches with envy as she twirls around the ballroom in Ten's arms, a sunny smile on her face as something the Club says causes her to tip her head back and melodious laughter to flow from her lips. His hands clench tight and he has to remind himself silently that he is not jealous. His eyes roam over her body, taking in the pale gold gown shimmering under the twinkling lights as she moves, the dress clinging to her body from her left shoulder all the way to her hips before falling to the floor, revealing very little skin. He can just barely make out the new small butterfly tattoo on her right shoulder, a symbol of her time in Alice's world. The dress is the most demure one that he's seen her in for years, but then again, she's not Duchess anymore and Jessica Spade has no reason to wear extremely revealing clothing. She's not out to seduce anyone and even if she were it wouldn't be him. He had his chance with her. He smiles a soft smile full of what-might-have-beens as he watches her soft blond ringlets bounce when Ten spins her into Hatter's arms. Seeing her so happy without him he feels more like the court jester, a royal fool, than a king.

For five years he's never failed to notice that the deafening silence of his room echoes the silence of his heart since she walked away. The loneliness seeps in more each day and no matter how much paperwork he buries himself in or how many meetings he fills his days with, he cannot stop the incessant ache growing inside him. He misses her. The irony of falling in love with her when it's far too late is not lost on him. He's always made the wrong choice when is comes to following his heart and his actions toward Duchess…Jessica…are no different. He told Alice once that Duchess was his mother's creation, but he never took responsibility for the part he played in it. He left Jess at his mother's mercy, the beautiful girl of sixteen that loved him and whom he was supposed to protect, without a second thought.

She saved herself in the end, a testament to her strength, by doing what she had to in order to survive and yet he still looked at her with disdain and mistrust even after she saved his life. Still, she stood by him as his mother was removed from power. It was his second proposal to Alice that shattered his last chance with her and sent her running through the Looking Glass. It was a foolish act on his part because everyone knew that Alice had fallen in love with Hatter, but he'd been determined to hold on to something that was never real, ignoring the girl who'd always been there.

"Just ask her to dance, Jack," Alice's soft voice chides as she walks up to him, the pale blue of her wedding dress swishing softly.

His eyes drift to Jessica once again before darting away. "I no longer have the right," he sighs. He looks out at the dance floor to where Alice's mother Carol is dancing with Charlie. "How's your mother handling Wonderland?"

"She thought Hatter, Jess, and I were crazy until I pushed her through the glass. She's adapting though. She likes Charlie and thinks he's a riot. Finding out about dad was hard for her. It was easier for her to believe that he just walked away than to find out he was stolen from her. She'll be okay though." She glares at him. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing. I've pulled that same trick with my mom for years and it never works. You can change the subject and avoid speaking or dancing with her, but at the end of the night you'll still be alone another opportunity having slipped through your fingers. Ask yourself whether or not she's worth risking your pride and your heart, Jack. Besides, she might just surprise you." She smirks slightly. "Oh, by the way, Hatter sold the tea shop. To Jess."

"He sold it to her?"

"Kind of. Your mother gave her a spending account with lots of money that she hardly touched over the years. Hatter gave her the shop if she agreed to donate the money to charities in Wonderland. She loved the idea and is going to start her own business. Clothing most likely. The girl has a gift for fashion and knows most of the members of your court on a first name basis. I think she'll do well. Besides, Wonderland is her home. She likes my world and she's become my best friend so I'll miss her like crazy but she doesn't belong there. She wants a life here and she could make you happy. You know this, Jack. You're already in love with her."

"I don't even know her, Alice. Not really."

"That's not true. Time may have gone by quickly. You missed three years of her life and she's missed five of yours but you know her better than anyone. You just forgot that for a while."


"Ask her to dance, Jack. It won't kill you and won't break your heart any more than it has been." Then, before he can protest she shoves him onto the dance floor right into Hatter and Duch…Jessica.

"Perfect timing, your Majesty. I've been dying for another dance with my wife," Hatter says, smirking boldly, "but didn't want to leave Jess alone. The second most beautiful girl in Wonderland should never lack for a dance partner."

"You're just bias. She could never be second to anyone and Alice isn't from Wonderland," Jack says before he can stop himself, hands wrapping around Jessica's waist as Hatter spins her into his arms. She backs up quickly though, her eyes startled, pulling away from him. The quick retreat and the look of uncertainty in her eyes hurt more than he cares to admit.

"I'm sorry, Jack," she whispers, "You don't have to…"

She's not even looking at him, her eyes focused on the floor, hands twisting together, a reminder of the girl he left behind. She was never so timid as Duchess. He hates that they've become nothing more than strangers on a dance floor, unsure of the next step. Finally he takes a deep breath and holds out his hand, amazed that it's not shaking. "Please?" he whispers his voice rough with emotion.

For several moments she looks at him, evaluates him with wide, intense eyes before finally taking his hand. Just as she places her fingers within his own a soft, slow melody begins to play and he knows that Alice is behind it. Pulling Jessica close, he ignores the way she tenses slightly and looks anywhere but at him, and revels in the feeling of having her in his arms, slowly leading her around the dance floor.

She fits perfectly against him and smells of cherries and vanilla. He's on sensory overload with her body brushing ever so slightly against his and her scent wrapping around him. He never wants to let her go, wants to drown in her for the rest of his life, wants her to be the mother of his children, and wants to spend the rest of his life making up for the mistakes that he's made. He has to speak up though and tell her all of the thoughts in his head and heart. He'll lose her forever if he doesn't.

He runs his hands down her arms and pulls them up, wrapping them around his neck, molding their bodies together as he bends his head to whisper in her ear. "Stay," he says, his voice almost pleading. "Please stay. Be my queen. You already rule my heart so I'm offering you my kingdom too." His eyes drift close as he spills his heart out at her feet. "I'll never be the perfect man and am certainly not Prince Charming. I've taken you for granted and it's bound to happen again at some point. I'll probably forget an anniversary or two and will have trouble remembering your birthday. I'll be late for dinner and spend too much time in meetings. Still, in spite of all this, there's nobody in this world or the other who will do as much as I will to make sure that your dreams come true. I'll love you every day, forever and beyond. I'll never treat you so poorly again. And I'll never tie you up again either…unless you ask me to." The music fades away as he runs out of words, lost as to what else he could possibly say that would convince her to stay.

A slight grin tilts the corner of his mouth hopefully but it fades when she pulls away from him, taking all of her warmth and delicious scent with her. The thought that she's going to walk away again slices him to the core. She's silent for so long that his eyes close and his head drops slightly, shoulders slumping as he takes a step back. She's going to say no. It's no less than he deserves.

The soft touch of her hand on his draws his gaze back to her face and he's stunned by the unshed tears glistening in her eyes. "I've loved you since I was thirteen years old, Jack Heart. That's never changed. You have always been and will always been in my heart. I'm not the girl you knew though and certainly not the Duchess. We grew up and grew apart. I no longer know you and you don't know me either. Give me three months to learn you again and for you to learn me then ask again. Only, next time I want you on your knees and there better be a ring, but not the Ring of Wonderland. And yellow diamonds are my favorite."

He can't stop the feeling of elation that pours through him with her words. Relief fills him and he reaches out, pulling her to him, his mouth slanting over hers before she can protest. Her soft lips part under his and tongue tangles with hers while his hands slide over her body until they rest on her lower back, dangerously close to cupping her rear end. The moan that escapes her vibrates through his body and he finally pulls away panting when the sounds of clapping and cheers echo through the room.

He looks down at the beautiful woman in his arms and watches a pale pink blush steal over her cheeks causing him to grin like a Cheshire cat. It's not perfect. They've got a long ways to go as they re-learn each other again. Yet, for the first time in five years, he has hope and knows that everything is going to work out just fine. Three months isn't such a very long time and he looks forward to every minute of them because in the end Jessica Spade will be his Queen.