Not buying the "happily ever after" for this story being so easy. All the oysters go home, then what? Complete and total chaos… unless Jack (and friends) can rise to the occasion. When you suddenly make a nation's only "cash crop" illegal, which is the entire basis of its already-struggling economy, well, Jack, you'd best have a plan, and a good one at that. Will Jack be a great monarch, or just another wienie royal beheaded by an angry mob, with Dodo swinging the axe? Will the Duchess be a loyal wife rather than a scheming opportunist? And most importantly, will Hatter and Alice's love story be legendary and totally smokin' hawt? We can only hope…
* * *
"And lots of other things."
Other things? What other things? Was she implying…?
"Alice. Please." The Looking Glass technician interrupted his thoughts, snatching Alice away.
"Really? I was just…" Just trying to figure out what to say. But no further words came.
"Just force yourself to breathe."
Hatter stared at the Looking Glass, himself forgetting to breathe. Other things. She's gone back through the Looking Glass, and she's invited him to visit her in… Oh, where was it, again? New York. Jack's voice interrupted his reverie.
"It's Hatter, isn't it?"
Startled, he looked at the king and answered, "Aye… 'Majesty."
The King extended his hand to Hatter, which he tentatively shook. "I wish to thank you for your service to this land, and for your assistance to Alice. I am in your debt, as is all of Wonderland."
Hatter shook his head, trying to focus on what he was saying and not that Alice had just disappeared through the Looking Glass. "You don't owe me anything."
"That is very gracious of you. I understand the Crown is currently in possession of your personal property as well as some real estate that was recently seized. Obviously the oyster teas will be destroyed, but the rest of your property shall be returned."
"I appreciate that, 'Majesty." Hatter hadn't given much thought to his tea shop since they'd escaped the Suits and Mad March outside of it; it had all been about survival. If he'd been anyone else, he might have resented Alice for losing everything. Instead, he'd been waiting for the inevitable day it all unraveled; he'd always accepted it as the risk of doing business. Dodo had accused him of playing both sides of the court to win two trophies; Hatter was not so naïve to think that would be his outcome. Still, with a new monarch, no oyster teas and disbanding of the resistance, he realized he might not be homeless but he was unemployed. He'd have to figure out what to do with himself in the reconstruction of Wonderland.
He realized the king was still talking. "Also, it has come to my attention that Charlie does not actually possess the title of White Knight. Therefore, I expect you to attend my coronation ceremony in two weeks, where you will both be knighted."
"Come again?" Did he just say Knight?
"Obviously more of an honorary title these days, but a token of my appreciation to you both. It will also extend you privileges at Court, and I expect you'll be there to attend the royal wedding, which is about three months away."
"Wedding?" he repeated, his mind still stuck on the topic of knighthood. "To the Duchess?"
"Indeed. Since Alice rejected my proposal, I will honor my commitment to the Duchess and make her Queen. The Duchess and I agreed that the right of first refusal for the crown belonged to Alice, the woman who saved Wonderland. The Duchess would willingly step aside for Alice to be queen, if she so desired it. But as we expected, Alice declined the offer. So, I shall marry the Duchess as planned and she will be crowned Queen of Wonderland."
"Alice turned you down?" Hatter looked surprised. He had just assumed that Alice leaving meant Jack never asked her to stay.
"I do truly care for Alice, but I began our relationship lying to her about my intentions. When she realized I'd been lying to her all along, about who I am and what my motives really were, I lost her affection. She realized that ultimately it was my kingdom and my cause that were most important, not her. So, I can't blame her for rejecting my offer… or for turning to you instead."
"To me?" Hatter was even more confused now. Didn't she just leave?
"Well, yes, I assume that's what she meant by wanting 'something else,'" Jack sighed, quickly continuing. "The Looking Glass will be devoted solely to returning the Oysters to their homes, at the approximate times of their disappearance or within a reasonable time period so as to raise as few questions as possible in their world. This is expected to take several weeks, I'm afraid. After that, however, you will be granted permission to travel," he paused, before continuing. "You can do me the honor of delivering to Alice her invitation to the wedding."
For the second time that day, Hatter found himself without words as Jack walked away, his Suits trailing behind him.
Jack turned just before walking out the door. "Oh, and do wear something suitable to the coronation. That is simply the ugliest shirt I've ever seen."