Someone was pounding on the door. Alice groaned, shifting in her seat and opening her eyes blearily. She felt hot. Blinking, she pulled her right hand out from beneath her bedroom blanket to rub her eyes. Glancing at the sleeve, she realized she was wearing her plum jacket. Why do I have this on? she thought, and why is this blanket out here? What time is it? Tossing the blanket to the floor, she pealed off the jacket. Looking around the dimly lit room, her eyes fell on Jack. Instantly, the events of the evening crystallized through the haze of sleep. Jack! oh God, how long was I out? Why is it so hot in here? Where's Hatter?
"Alice!" a familiar voice joined the pounding, as if on Que, "Alice, open the door!"
The pounding grew louder, almost as though someone were hitting the door with a sledgehammer. Alice stood, a wave of dizziness washing over her. She paused, grabbing the edge of the chair with one hand and grasping her head with the other. Her forehead was drenched with sweat. She closed her eyes, allowing the dizziness to pass. Looking at Jack, she took a tentative step towards him. When the dizziness didn't return, she moved closer, intent on making sure he was alright.
"Alice!" the voice on the other side of the door had taken on a note of panic, "Alice, it's Hatter! Open the door!"
The door rattled with the pounding. Looking towards it, Alice immediately changed directions. If Hatter keeps this up, the neighbors are going to call the cops, she thought.
"Hatter, calm down," she called out, approaching the door. She paused a moment before touching the lock, not in the mood to get hit by it, "Hatter, calm down, I'll let you in."
The pounding subsided and she reached for the handle. Swinging the door open, she was in time to catch a momentary flash of relief cross Hatter's face. As quickly as it was there, however, it vanished, replaced with one of annoyance.
"Wot the bloody hell are you doin' not answerin' the door then?" he exclaimed, barging into the room past her. Alice jerked, her face narrowing into a glare.
"I'm sorry," she replied, her tone biting with irritation, "I fell asleep."
"Right," responded Hatter, almost distractedly as he looked around the room, "Where's Jack?"
"On the couch. What's going on?" Alice replied, her tone gentler then before. She caught a glimpse of Hatter's face, seeing the agitated movement of his too wide eyes. She approached him slowly, taking his hand in hers, "What did you find?"
Hatter looked down at their joined hands for a moment. An unreadable emotion peaked across his profile, before he closed his eyes to gain control of his breathing. He's worried, Alice realized to herself. Which meant whatever he found was far worse then Jack had implied.
Looking up at her, she saw Hatter's face had been drawn back into a serious frown. His brown eyes were muddled now; laced with confusion, fear, and a dash of just barely constrained anger. The combination merged to give the dark orbs just a glint of madness. For the first time since she'd known him, Alice felt a twinge of fear towards Hatter.
"More questions then answers," he replied, gently squeezing her hand.
Turning away from her, he stalked towards Jack's prone form. Alice took a step to follow him and paused. Walking over to the thermostat, she turned the temperature down from ninety to sixty. I'll have to call a repair man to fix that, she thought, not remembering turning it up herself. Glancing up, she saw Hatter pull of his jacket and toss it across the back of the chair she'd been sitting on. Taking the seat, he tipped back his hat and grabbed hold of Jack's free hand, jerking it forcefully towards him. The king let out a low moan at the sudden movement, opening his eyes. He looked at Hatter with confusion, before turning his eyes on Alice. They were filled with pain.
"Hatter!" Alice called, crossing the room as her boyfriend reached across the couch to to grab at the king's other arm, "Hatter, what are you doing?"
Again, Hatter seemed not to hear her as he pulled the weakened king's hands to his face, examining them. For his part, Jack tried to pull free of Hatters hold without hurting himself further. His side ached as he bit down a cry barreling its way up his throat. Stiffening his jaw, he tried to rotate himself to a position of better leverage. Hatter held him tightly, his eyes gleaming almost to the point of madness, the family curse.
"Hatter, stop," Alice ordered, grabbing hold of his arms, "Hatter, let him go!"
Surprisingly, he listened. Releasing his hold on Jack, Hatter slummped back in the chair. Alice kneeled beside him, stunned and worried. Falling back himself, Jack gingerly pushed himself up on the couch. His ribs ached still and his wrist had begun to join them. Glaring over Hatter, he found his anger washed away with sudden wave of pity and surprise. The madness that had appeared in the fellow man's eyes was gone now, apparently mastered and caged by the etheral beauty that had ensnared himself once upon a time. Now, Hatter's eyes were simply wide with an almost child-like confusion.
"There was blood, Alice," he choked, his voice almost haunted, "On the Glass. The entire room smelled of it. I saw it on the mirror."
He stared at Alice, his expression making her heart both plummet to her stomach and constrict in sympathetic pain. She had never seen him so out of it before. Even when he found her in the casino, beaten and bruised as he was, he still had a purpose and sense to guide himself by. Now, he just looked lost. Blinking, she reached up to run a hand through his hair, before resting it on his cheek. She realized that now he was going through the nightmare she had gone through. The sudden, horrible realization that one might never see any part of one's world ever again. She remembered the crushing fear the realization brought her and the way he had promised to make sure he was okay. God only knew how far she would go to do the same for him.
"And you just assumed the blood was mine?" Jack spoke up suddenly, a hint of offense hardening the words like steel. The pair turned a simultaneous glare at him.
"I wonder what could have given him that idea, Jack," said Alice, her tone cold and defensive, "Maybe if you hadn't shown up at my door looking like you were on the loosing end of a fight...."
She paused, feeling Hatter pull her hand down. Looking at him, she saw a small, grateful smile twitch to life on his face. Nodding in Jack's direction, he squeezed her hand. Turning back to Jack, she saw he was looking down and away from her, as though ashamed.
"I'm sorry, Alice," he said, "I shouldn't have come. You have no right to be involved..."
"You keep saying that," interrupted Alice, noting the way he avoided apologizing to Hatter, "Involved in what?"
Jack looked up at her.
"Wonderland has fallen to chaos," he replied and when neither responded continued, "The Oys- your people's emotions were only the beginning. Or rather, they were the first clue to a deeper problem. Reconstruction after my mother's....regime was going smoothly..."
He paused to settle back more comfortably in the couch, "The second commands for the resistance were doing what they could to help the addicts stem off their need for emotions," He shot hatter a look of contempt. Alice felt him stiffen in response, his grip on her hand tightening, "A few weeks in, the economy was beginning to take a turn for the better and then it attacked."
"Wot attacked?" said Hatter. There were few things in Wonderland strong enough to manage a sizable assault on the inhabited portions of the world on their own. Those capable tended to be peaceful, however. Or rather, they kept to themselves in their forest domain and didn't bother anyone but those stupid enough to go wandering by themselves in the forest. If that had changed, it meant a whole new level of trouble unlike any he'd ever even heard of. Jack met Hatter's eyes, his gaze unwavering.
"The Jaberwocky," he replied.
Alice felt a chill run down her back. The Jaberwocky she remembered. The feel of utter disbelief as she ran for her life from the butt-ugly creature and the tremors beneath her feet as it chased after her. If she closed her eyes, she could almost feel its hot, stinky breath and bits of spittle across her face as it roared, unable to eat her and Hatter.
"Tha's not possible," she heard Hatter exclaim, "The Jaberwocky's peaceful....mostly."
He added the last bit as Alice shot him an incredulous look.
"Peaceful!" she replied, "It tried to eat us!"
"Well, yeah, but..." Hatter began.
"You were going to use it against March!" Alice interrupted.
"Well, yes, but," Hatter continued, slightly flustered, "We were in its forest. The stupid things don't come out unless provoked."
"Be that as it may," Jack suddenly interrupted, sounding annoyed, "It did. It destroyed the cities main dock and injured several people."
Alice turned towards him, frowning. Jack met her gaze, his expression as solemn as a poker player's.
"What does this have to do with the mirror being broken?" she asked, knowing she was out of her element on Wonderland affairs. Even in helping in the downfall of the Queen of Hearts, she knew she had blundered through most of the action.
"I was about to ask the same question," said Hatter, "Ev'n if things are actin' contrary to nature...."
"It's a polution of worlds," Jack interrupted coldly, "Our world and this. This place," he paused to glance around the apartment, "Is so much younger....it's possible it's adapted to the effects. Wonderland can't. The mirror was broken to prevent the exchange, to dam the river."
"So you did break it," Hatter said, his voice growing dark.
"No," Jack replied, looking Hatter in the eye, "I never touched it.....beyond going through. I came to tell you about the decision of the court and to give you the choice of returning to Wonderland or staying here. It was broken as I came through. Hence my....state."
"Are you saying someone tried to assassinate you?" Alice interjected. Jack turned to her.
"I don't know," he replied honestly, "All I know is Wonderland is without a ruler and I have no way to go back."
"And why should we believe you?" Hatter said quietly. His eyes dropped to look at the ground between his knees, a few strands of hair falling to hide them.
"Because it's the truth," Jack replied exasperatingly, "Because....."
His voice drifted off, leaving the three in silence.
A.N. Yes, a new chapter, finally! So...there's trouble in Wonderland, big surprise. :P Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, I will try updating asap. Reviews make for a happy writer!