Title: Somewhere South of Paradise
Disclaimer: All I own is the plot.
Summary: Hatter wanted to keep her.
Notes: Don't read if you get squeamish very easily. An AU from where Alice and Hatter meet. Written for the idea 'what if Hatter really worked for the queen as an assassin'.
Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.
Alice: How do you know I'm mad?
The Cat: You must be. Or you wouldn't have come here.
Alice in Wonderland- Lewis Carroll
The door to his office was open and he heard them coming down the hall. Hatter wondered idly who it was and what they needed. No one ever came around for any other reason, which was the way he liked it. Still he offered a cup of tea before he even turned around. It was only polite after all.
"No thank you," was the polite, if a little curt, response. The voice was female, which surprised him. They, as a gender, tended to shy away from the tea shop. "Who are you?"
He spun around. "A friend," Hatter paused and frowned. "I hope."
Ratty was the one accompanying her and he seemed intent on removing a rag wrapped around her arm. But Hatter was more interested in her. She was a pretty little thing, the wet blue dress clinging to her in places that drew his eye.
"I run the tea shop."
The rag was removed and Ratty yanked her arm forward. The green design was undeniable. It seemed Ratty had found himself a stray oyster.
"How did you get out of the scarab?" He asked as he moved to face his desk. It wouldn't do well for them to see what he was thinking. It was one of his faults, as March loved pointing out. He wore his thoughts for everyone to see.
"The beetle thing?" She asked. "I used a hair pin. And I…"
"Fell?" He guessed, turning back.
"As you can see," she motioned over herself, obviously annoyed at having to point out the obvious. "I'm drenched."
Yes he did. Hatter allowed himself to look her over for a few moments before he answered her questions. In reward, he learned her name was Alice and wasn't that irony. He remembered his own Uncle Hatter rambling about the Alice of Legend.
Hatter sent Ratty on his way, bubbling with more excitement then he would probably get from the bottle itself. It didn't matter. He knew the moment the man had a chance he would down the bottle in one gulp.
For a second he wondered if he should have warned Ratty not to. That the excitement would be too much and his heart would probably explode.
Then he shook his head. The less people who knew about the escaped oyster, Alice, the better.
That would mean the less people that would wonder what happened to her when he handed her over to the Queen.
Ratty was smelly anyways.
He did his very hardest not to stare up her dress as she came down the ladder. It wasn't like he was a pervert after all. But that didn't stop him from enjoying the way Alice felt under his hands as he helped her down. For a moment he wondered if it was possible to keep her existence from the Queen.
It wouldn't be hard to hide her, if he could just get rid of this insane idea of trying to save her boyfriend from the casino. The Queen wasn't known for her attention span so any search for her would stop soon enough.
Hatter wanted to keep her.
Suddenly, Alice was clinging to the rungs of the latter, looking slightly panicked.
It was the first expression he had seen on her face except defiance but for some reason he didn't enjoy seeing this particular emotion. That was strange. He tended to enjoy watching panic appear, but not on her. It just didn't seem right. "What's a matter?"
"I have this thing about heights."
He followed her eyes to stare straight over the edge. It was a long way down.
"Why couldn't you guys build the city on the ground?"
Where was the fun in that?
There was something strange tugging at his chest and he was shocked to realize that it was sympathy. Hatter frowned. "Look at me," he demanded. Alice's eyes stayed firmly on the ground. "Alice," he tried again, softer. Finally, there was eye contact and he held out his hand, which she took after a few moments of hesitation. "Try not to look down," he offered. "Okay?"
Alice didn't say anything but allowed herself to be led away from the edge.
Hatter wondered if Alice knew how easy it would be to take advantage of that little bit of trust she placed in him. One quick move and she would disappear over the edge, saving everyone a lot of trouble.
It wasn't an option though. Just the thought of it made him grip her hands tighter and want to pull Alice into the safety of his arms.
Strangely, that didn't bother Hatter as much as he thought it would.
Dodo seemed to be in a perpetually bad mood, something Hatter believed could be fixed with a well placed knife to the ribs. Sadly, that didn't seem to be a possible outcome for a while. Not while they still needed him.
However, he did have his uses. Realizing the 'his oyster' was wearing the Ring of Wonderland for starters.
Dodo was always a bit high strung though. So when he pulled out a gun and shot him it really wasn't as big of a shock as it probably should have been. It was enough of a distraction for Alice to escape, which he was grateful. The last thing he wanted was for her to end up in their hands.
Somehow Dodo managed to pin Hatter after he took off, keeping his right arm incapacitated and taking his anger out on Hatter's face. (Thank Wonderland that March hadn't been there to see it. He would have never let Hatter live it down.) Then the weight was suddenly gone and he looked up in time Dodo receive a kick to the face from a crimson leg. He snatched up his hat and glanced over to see Dodo hit the ground beside him, dazed.
"Come on, Hatter."
He was yanked to his feet and pulled along, glancing back in awe. "How did you do that?" Hatter was shoved into the elevator and Alice had it moving in seconds. Strange really, because he knew the machine was temperamental most of the time. They must have been lucky.
She was magnificent, glaring down at him, seeming unfazed by everything that happened while he lay gasping on the floor, the stone of wonderland glinting on her finger.
Unfortunately, she that also made her too dangerous to let run free.
As they left the library, Hatter made a note to himself to send word to the Queen in the morning, while Alice slept.
Except he didn't.
It would have been easy to allow Mad March to grab them. Alice would have been on her way to the Queen and he would have been released to go back to the tea shop, no one the wiser. But something stopped him.
Hatter wanted to believe it was the thrill of the chase, a game of cat and mouse with March was always great fun, but there was something in the pit of his stomach that said that it just wasn't true.
As crazy as it seemed, he found himself liking the little oyster. Alice was a spitfire, all aggression and courage and morals wrapped up in a pretty little package. Hatter bet the path of destruction they would leave in their wake would be delicious, if he could just get this boyfriend out of her head.
He wondered if the Queen would let him keep her.
Jabberwockies were nasty creatures but none too bright. He couldn't help but laugh as it nearly impaled itself on one of the spikes.
Alice stared at him like he was crazy.
The strange ranting man probably would have been amusing any other time but right now he was just annoying. Dabbled in the black arts his arse. Hatter would be surprised if the man could conjure a bunny, much less anything high level. The knight's crazed ranting only got worse after he saw the ring on Alice's finger.
Charlie the Knight did seem to have a few tricks up his sleeves, though. He covered up the tracks well enough that Hatter wondered if even March would be able to follow them. And he had to admit, riding with Alice pressed against his back was a pleasant feeling.
It reminded him just how long it had been since he had been laid. The attentions he received from various diamonds and clubs working at the casino had long since bored him. Maybe that explained why he was reacting so strangely to the oyster.
Alice was still intent on saving that boyfriend of hers, unfortunately. Even as he argued against it, citing reason and rationality, two things which he usually avoided at all cost. It was certainly a pity. But that kind of loyalty, he had to say it made her appeal even more. Somehow he didn't think it was just lust after all. "Jack's a lucky guy."
"What?" She snapped.
Still, as Hatter slipped off into a deep dreamless sleep, a certain part of him wondered just how much the Queen would pay for a Knight.
The first thing he realized when he woke up to loud squawking was that falling asleep against a fence was a very bad idea if the crick in his neck was anything to go by. The second thing that one very pretty lady was missing. "Where's Alice?" There was something welling in his chest, uncomfortable and painful. It was panic.
Charlie was too busy flailing around like a chicken with his head cut off to notice.
Hatter chose to ignore him, catching sight of the familiar purple jacket hanging off the rung of a ladder. "No," he denied. It couldn't be. She wasn't stupid. She wasn't suicidal. But she was loyal and he was sure in that moment that it wasn't a good thing. "NO!"
The Queen would kill her and she wouldn't hesitate. It didn't matter that Alice had the courage to stand against her or the strength and ability to out run some of her best men. It didn't matter just how much Hatter cared about her, how much he wanted to protect her and keep her safe. None of that mattered. She would be seen as a danger and terminated as such.
There was only one thing to do.
He turned to Charlie. "I need a horse."
Hatter managed to lose Charlie around the entrance of the casino. Charlie tried to find a back way in. He strolled right through the front door.
The blades were shiny and pretty, almost deceptively so. Hatter was well aware how dangerous they were. They had the ability to slice through people like they were butter. And right then he was imagining how they would look slowly slicing through the very delicate rosy skin of a certain heart.
He had been too late. Alice had already been handed over to the doctors. As unstable as he was, these two took it to a completely different level. Most of the time they killed those they were interrogating before they even got their answers.
Knowing that the Queen would never get her answer should have made him feel better.
But it didn't.
"You look very unharmed for someone who's been harboring a oyster." A mechanical voice came from the doorway. It sounded offended by the thought.
"And you look absolutely ridiculous. Especially for a dead man. What the hell did they do to you?" Hatter sat his tea down and leaned back in his chair, frowning at his friend.
The white rabbit head stared back blankly. "I recognized the jacket that the oyster was wearing as you ran. It was one of yours."
"I've never known you give anyone one of those coats anymore than one of those hats you are so fond of." The white rabbit head tilted sideways. Curious. "Strange."
"Very," Hatter agreed.
March continued to stare and Hatter refused to fidget under his gaze. There were a few more moments of silence between them as Hatter sipped his tea. "You like her."
"I like a lot of things."
There was silence in the room.
March cleared his throat even though he didn't have a throat, just an area where wires disappeared into his torso. But March was always silly like that. "The Queen will understand that you had a job to do, and should your oyster disappear about the same time then so be it."
"She won't rest until she has the ring."
"She'll never get it anyways." His tone was one he had heard from the man often; one that said 'silly little boy'. Usually it grated on his nerves. Right now he really didn't care. "You know that."
March couldn't know what he was saying and Hatter said as much. The insane rabbit replied by hauling Hatter out of his seat, causing the tea to spill to the floor, and shove him towards the door.
Hatter barely managed to stop before he face planted into it and turned back to his friend. "Why are you doing this?"
"I haven't had this much fun for months. Even before I died," March answered truthfully, picking up a knife. "Plus," he added. "It'll piss the cow off to no end."
Outside, a pair of suits jumped as maniacal laughter echo through the hall.
Saving Alice turned out to be simpler than he thought. And a bit more fun too. Especially after he found Charlie wondering the halls. It seemed the insane ranting did have its uses. Hatter was glad he hadn't ratted Charlie out to the Queen after all.
Hatter got to bust a few heads and found out that Alice's boyfriend wasn't as perfect as originally thought.
All in all, it was a good rescue.
"Where's the ring?" He asked her later, as they dried out by the fire. The landing could have been better but nothing would drag him from the high he was on.
"Safe," was all Alice said.
For the first time in a long time, Hatter didn't push it. He was just happy she was there and unbroken.
In the background, Charlie sung.
Alice wanted to go back.
He wondered if maybe he had gotten there too late after all. Maybe they had managed to break a part of her that he hadn't noticed until now.
Then she started talking about her father.
There was Wonderland in her, he thought as she spoke. That had been obvious from the beginning. But he had written it off as something that happened to an oyster as they spent time here. Hatter never spent time around any before so he never knew better.
But now he did. A part of her belonged here.
"What'll I do?" She asked him, worried. "If I get stuck here."
Hatter reached out and ran a finger through her hair. "Then I'll make sure you're okay." I'll take care of you, he didn't say. His hand landed on her neck. She didn't jump or move away. In fact, she seemed to lean into the touch. The warmth of her skin soaked into him and he could feel the blood rushing just under her skin. And he didn't want to see it spill, he thought wondrously.
Yeah, he was definitely gone.
Then Jack showed up and it all went to hell.
Alice wanted to go back to the casino. So she did. But she didn't take the ring with her. In fact, she refused to tell any of them where it was.
Hatter watched as she was captured by Mad March, after talking with Caterpillar, along with the Prince. He couldn't say he felt very bad when he saw Jack's head hit the ground. It was what the two-timing bastard deserved. Soon they were chained up and hauled off.
And he did want he knew he would.
He followed her.
"Mad Hatter," the Queen greeted, sounding almost fond as she turned from the cocoon. "Welcome back. I trust your hunt was successful."
"Always," he answered. Hatter moved to stand beside her and saw Alice there, trapped inside the cocoon.
"Hatter?" Her voice was muffled.
"Ooo," the Queen replied. "It seems the little oyster remembers you."
He hummed. "What are you planning to do with her?"
"Sending her back through the looking glass is the plan." Suddenly, she lit up and turned to him. "Unless you have a better idea." The Queen looked utterly delighted by the prospect. "You and Mad March always have the very best ideas."
Hatter refused to look toward Alice, not wanting to see the accusal or betrayal that would be in her eyes. He merely tilted his head to the side, looking thoughtful. "I might have a few."
The Queen laughed with glee, clapping. He could see a smile cross the King's face at the action. It was almost enough to warm his heart. Hatter wanted to puke.
He glanced over at Mad March quickly. March just tilted his head quizzically. Hatter had the strange feeling that he was disappointed.
There was a faint look of disgust on the Queen's face when he turned back. "I can't even begin to see what my son saw in it."
"Me either," he said, watching as Alice slid to the ground in despair. I'm sorry, Hatter wished he could say. Forgive me.
March took one look at him, then one look at Alice in the cocoon and said, "Your rescue attempt sucked."
"An execution," the Queen announced from her throne the next day. "A beheading I think. We haven't had a public execution in a while."
The Suits twittered in the audience, some with excitement and others with disgust.
"Mad Hatter will do the honor." She watched him expectantly.
Hatter bowed. "As my Queen commands."
A hand reached out and grabbed Hatter's shoulder as he passed by.
"I thought you actually cared about Alice." Jack glared at him.
Hatter was tempted to tell him exactly where to stick his holier than thou attitude. He really wasn't in the mood.
"But you don't, do you? I have to admit, even I was believed it. I actually thought that The Mad Hatter cared about someone other than himse--." He was cut off as he felt himself thrown against a wall, a strong hand wrapped around his throat.
Jack tried to jerk away, but stopped when he felt a sharp blade pressing right above the hand.
"Don't you dare assume you know what I'm feeling," Hatter hissed, pressing the knife down firmly. A thin line of blood appeared around the edge.
Jack gapped at him, struggling to pull away from the hand. All he managed to do was draw more blood. Hatter could feel it begin to slide down his fingers.
Unfortunately he couldn't kill him.
As Hatter released his grip, the Prince slid to the floor, his legs not supporting him. He gasped and coughed, his hand automatically going to this throat and pressing against the wound there.
"You might want to get someone to look at that," Hatter said as he turned and headed down the hall.
"You're insane!" Jack's horse voice called after him.
Hatter just smirked and licked the blood from the blade.
"It is time."
Hatter stepped out into the courtyard, Mad March beside him. They were dressed in their court best at the request of the Queen. She looked over them approvingly.
Alice was already chained to the block, looking far more composed than he'd ever seen anyone there before. But he could see a slight quivering to her form.
"Hatter," Alice said, her voice quiet. "Hatter, don't do this, please."
"Shhh…" He ran a hand through her hair comfortingly.
Walrus handed him the ax.
Alice began struggling against the chains.
The Queen smiled.
He lifted the blade.
Hatter jerked, startled, almost losing his grip on the ax. His eyes immediately went toward the crowd, where he saw Carpenter pushing his way through, Jack right behind them.
"Restrain them!" the Queen ordered.
They didn't even make it to the front of the crowd before they were over taken by a mob of suits.
"Do not make me regret sparing your life," she hissed to her son. "And you," the Queen turned toward Carpenter, who was still struggling against his captors. "Luckily, you still have your uses. You won't remember a thing about this when I get through."
"Now," she turned back to the stage. "Off with her head!"
Hatter lifted the blade again.
And brought it down.
The chains holding Alice down to the block shattered.
"Mad Hatter!" the Queen shrieked, outraged. "What do you think you are doing?!"
Hatter shoved Alice behind him, his grip on the ax tightening. "Stay behind me. I don't want you to get caught in the crossfire."
His movements were quick, precise, easily slicing through the suits on the stage that tried to stop him. Blood splattered on his suit. He turned in time to see Alice flip one of them over her shoulder. The spade just sort of blinked as the ax was buried in his chest. It made a very interesting sound as he pulled it out.
"Stop him!" demanded the Queen.
Walrus nodded but was stopped before he could even reach his gun.
The stunned expression on Walrus' face as he ax was embedded in his chest would have by itself made the whole thing worth it.
"No!" She yelled. "Suits!"
The Suits moved into action, only to find themselves face to face with Mad March, who was holding the bloody ax. "I would rethink that move. It would not be wise."
None of them were stupid enough to make a move.
"Let them go," Hatter demanded of the clubs. Both Carpenter and the Prince were immediately released.
"You idiots! Don't let them go," the Queen said. She turned to her suits. "And you all, stop them. Go through Mad March if you have to."
March chuckled darkly. Most of the clubs flinched back.
"This is over, Mother."
"Don't be stupid. This isn't over. Not by a long shot. This is my kingdom and the only way is my
"Not anymore." Jack nodded to the suits that stood behind him. "Take her away."
"This is outrageous!" Four suits surrounded her and hauled her away as she yelled. The King of Hearts followed right behind them, looking a little dazed.
"Well then," Hatter turned back to Alice, wiping the blood off of his face. "That was fun."
"Fun?" Alice asked, incredulously. "You call that fun?"
Hatter frowned. "Well… yeah." He shifted uncomfortably, eyes downcast, ready for the disgust and outright rejection that was to come.
The next thing he knew Alice had grabbed him by the collar of his jacket and yanked him down, pressing their lips together. He slipped an arm around her waist trying to be careful not to get blood on her dress. But she either didn't notice or didn't care because she pressed herself up against him.
Then Alice hauled her fist back and smashed it into his nose.
"Stop being such a baby," Alice said as Hatter pressed the ice pack against his nose. "It's not even broken."
He sniffed and eyed her wearily. She just smirked and snuggled up against him as he slipped an arm around her waist.
Jack seemed to actually be pouting. Luckily the Duchess was there to make him feel better.
Hatter was relieved to see that Alice didn't seem bothered by it.
"Where the hell have you been?" Hatter asked.
Charlie frowned. "Why defending the parameter, of course!" he answered. He motioned toward the windows with a grand gesture.
Hatter looked past him, out through the glass.
Nearly two hundred skeletons, dressed in armor, stood at attention there.
And they said he was mad.
Hatter laughed and patted the Knight on the shoulder. "Good job."
"Are you going home?" Hatter heard Jack ask Alice early the next morning.
"Probably. At least to take my father home. I have a feeling that there are few things we need to explain to my mother. I haven't decided whether I'll stay or not yet."
"No matter what you decide, Alice, you will always be welcome in Wonderland," Jack replied. Then he glanced over her shoulder to where Hatter and Mad March had been conversing. "However, if you do go, is there anything I can do to convince you to take those two with you?"
Hatter had to hold back the urge to stick his tongue out at him.
Alice laughed. "I'll see what I can do."
That prompted an approving nod from Jack followed by a dirty look from Mad March. Well, Hatter assumed it was a dirty look. March was generally expressionless since he got the new head but Hatter was getting better at reading these things.
"What about your mother?"
"That hasn't been decided yet. It's not up to me. That decision has been given to the Spades." A slight smile crossed his face. "My father has been beside her all night."
There was a frown on Alice's face.
"Have no fear though. She will be appropriately punished." How very diplomatic and royal that sounded, the pansy. "But we will return the oysters to their world. All we need is the ring." Jack looked at Alice, who smiled softly in reply.
She moved toward Hatter and slid a hand inside his jacket.
"Now Alice," he grinned, "as much as I approve, and I do, believe me I do, I hardly think this is the time or the place--." Alice's other hand came up to cover his mouth.
Her hand slipped inside one of his inside pockets, grabbed something and pulled back out. Hatter couldn't help but blink in surprise when she opened her fist, revealing a familiar ring.
The Stone of Wonderland. It had been in his pocket the whole time.
Alice grinned at him and pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Like I said. Safe."
From behind him, Mad March began cackling.