Thanks so much to those who have read and reviewed and stuck with me throughout this journey. I'm in awe of how much attention this story garnered since Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been off the air for 8 years now. It really means a lot that you all like the story and even the simplest review telling me that you like it is like gold. I hope I will see you for the sequel.
Update for 10/01/11 for New Readers: The sequel is in full gear and the first two chapters are posted. The title is "Hatter on a Hellmouth" and it is listed in under "Alice, 2009 Crossovers" under the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" subsection. So if you liked this story, be sure to check out the sequel and let me know what you think!
Major thanks once again to Alaina Downs for allowing me to exchange ideas with her. Make sure you all check out her AU take on "Alice" called "Scarborough Fair"! And I swear it was only coincidence that she had the flu as well for we live very far apart haha.
Six months passed in Wonderland before Robert decided he had done all he could possibly do to smooth the path of recovery for the unfortunately large proportion of the population that had become addicted to Tea. Most of the oysters—people of Earth—had been returned to their homes and families. Their progress was lightly monitored by former Resistance operatives who now served as legitimate White Rabbit agents. These people had been abruptly torn from their lives and had had their minds and memories violated. It was a traumatic experience not likely to be recovered from in a mere week's time. All manner of support, especially financial, was to be given in the event these people needed psychiatric help to come to terms with what had happened to them. Though it was stressful on the depleted treasury of the monarchy, Robert extracted Jack's promise that he would do anything within his means to improve the lives of these people his mother had so deeply wronged.
There was some protest at carrying the same name, for the titles of White Rabbit and Suit carried dark, violent connotations many Resistance members did not want to be associated with. Never mind that many had served in those positions under cover for several years. The new King of Hearts quieted their protests with a stern reminder that the White Rabbit and Suit names had been tarnished by the actions of the former queen and now was their chance to regain the honor that was stolen from them.
A fraction of the oysters elected to remain in Wonderland. There were various reasons these people felt they could not or simply did not want to return to the world of their birth. Some had nothing to return to. No families, no wives or husbands, some had no jobs, and there were a few who had not even had homes. To return to that, they felt, was a fate worse than what the Queen of Hearts had had in store for them. So they petitioned the king for citizenship and were granted it on the condition they learn and adopt Wonderland customs and work for their food and lodging. But they would be assured jobs, homes, food, and security, something that could never have been done back in their native world. Secretly, Robert believed the king was grateful for the request for many of the natives were crammed into the Hospital of Dreams and its smaller sister clinics, too overwhelmed by addiction and withdrawal to be of any real use.
One of these people approached Robert at Diamond Manor one day several weeks after Alice and Hatter had departed Wonderland. He was a tall, thin man somewhere in his late thirties or early forties. He had reddish brown hair tied up at the nape of his neck into a stringy pony-tail. His clothes were thread-bare, but at least seemed to have been washed though there were still many permanent stains. He wore a pair of round glasses which seemed to have been broken several times throughout his life, but underneath those lenses rested a pair of thoughtful dark gray eyes.
"Mr. Hamilton, sir?" the man politely greeted.
Robert looked up from the stack of files he had been reading over. He regarded the man, immediately identifying him as an oyster though the green mark had been removed.
"My name is Stan Galicky and I just wanted to say…um…that I…uh…think I may have met your daughter Alice before coming here."
Robert's raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
The man shoved his hands into his pockets. Robert noted the way he continually watched his surroundings, as if he feared being attacked at any moment. At first he thought it was because of being abducted and waking up in a different dimension. But he quickly learned there was a very different reason for the way he acted.
"She probably doesn't remember me. But I was homeless back…in the other world, you see. And, well, to be perfectly honest, I'd rather be homeless here than be homeless there. I'm kinda lucky to be alive. Things there will just eat you alive."
It would be quite a while before Robert would learn that Stan meant this literally.
Stan scratched at the back of his head for a few moments in silence before plundering on. "And, well, I asked her for change while she was crossing the street with a bag of groceries. Most people just ignore that I'm there, but she didn't. She came right up to me and pulled out a bag of apples." He smiled, showing off his row of crooked, yellowed teeth. "Not exactly what I was expectin' but I guess beggars can't be choosers."
Robert felt it would be inappropriate to laugh at that remark, so he suppressed the chuckle which tried to emerge. But he felt a swell of pride in his heart at hearing of his daughter's sense of compassion, something her mother must have continued to nurture.
"But I think it's because of her that I'm here. I think those apples linked us, in a way. And if I could I'd like to thank her for leading me to this place. I never amounted to much back on Earth and I'm pretty certain I would have died homeless and alone. But here I think I can start fresh and make something of myself. I don't know if she'll ever come back to Wonderland, but I hear you're going back to her so…if you don't mind…" The man paused to reach into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out a small object.
Robert leaned forward, intrigued.
Stan cupped the object in the palm of his hands, staring at it with tender reverence. He then stretched his arm out towards Robert to indicate that he could take the object.
"If it's not too much trouble, I'd like you to give that to her as a thank you from me," he requested.
The object was a small wooden sculpture of Alice depicted in extraordinary detail with the addition of a pair of outstretched wings sprouting from her back. Even though the carving barely spanned the entire width of his hand, Robert could make out the individual feathers in the wings. He had carved the features of her face with that fierce determined expression so well that Robert almost wondered if Alice had agreed to sit for this. It must have taken years to develop and hone a talent as magnificent as this.
"This is…brilliant, Mr. Galicky," Robert praised as he turned the sculpture over in his hands.
The man's face reddened and he ducked his gaze. He was clearly not used to receiving compliments. "Aw, well, I had a lot of time to get it right back in the old world."
"I'll see that she gets it and that she knows it's from you," Robert promised him. What he did not tell him was that he was not sure how his daughter would react to being viewed as an angel or divine being. She did not strike him as the type to see flattery in that.
Stan's homely, pock-marked face split into a wide, grateful smile. "Thank you, sir."
Robert kept the miniature, angelic carving of Alice in a little mahogany box lined with ivory velvet provided by the Duchess of Diamonds. He would miss the young woman who had proved herself to be a hostess of endless compassion and generosity. At least it appeared the king was still set upon marrying her, but when the marriage would take place was anyone's guess. The couple were taking their courtship slowly, putting the more imperative matter of the state of the realm above their own personal desires.
When the day of his departure dawned some six months after Alice and Hatter had left, Robert left for the Looking Glass Hall with an Honor Guard of six Suits. The King of Hearts and his betrothed sent their regrets that they could not be there to see him off. He had already said his farewell to the duchess the week before when she had departed to accompany Jack on his rounds about the realm. Other than that, he had not really formed any emotional attachments here while he had been the Carpenter, for that had not been part of the nature of that ruthless scientist. Robert was convinced that if such a man had been allowed to exist in his home world, the man would have been a dangerous sociopath. Brilliant, yes, but without a lick of compassion or conscience to hold him back from dark paths.
According to Alice, the date she had gone through the Looking Glass had been March 26, 2009. He could scarcely believe nearly a full decade into the 21st Century had passed while he had been obliviously carrying on these gruesome tasks in Wonderland. This meant the date of his return would be the ninth of April at noon. Alice had been adamant he return during the daylight hours.
As the technician punched the date code into the operating pad, anxiety attacked Robert's mind like a ravenous beast. He had left the world in March of 1998. There was going to be a full eleven-year gap of history for him to absorb. Bill Clinton had been president of the United States when he had been taken. There had to have been at least two, possibly even three presidents since then. What about his beloved field of science? What discoveries and advances had been made there that he would have given his right arm to be part of? How would he ever re-assimilate back into a society he had most likely been declared dead by for the past eleven years? What would his dear wife think? Would she recognize him or would she turn him away?
When the surface of the mirror rippled to life, Robert's entire body froze. He knew that he was supposed to move forward, but fear paralyzed him to the point where he felt like his lungs could not expand to take in air. For a devastating moment he found it impossible to return. The changes would be too great for his old, battered soul to contend with. No one would accept him. It would be better for him to stay here, after all. At least here he knew what he was doing. The world of his birth had become the strange, foreign place. The unknown.
"Sir?" one of the Suits asked in concern.
The man's voice inexplicably drew Robert's gaze down to the box he held in his hand which held the carving of Alice rendered by that kindly homeless man Stan. He had all but promised the man he would give this to Alice. And he did want to see his daughter again as well as his beloved wife. He forced himself to breathe and focused his mind on their faces, shutting out the raucous cacophony of fearful, paralyzing thoughts which sought to trap him in place.
"Y-yes, I'm ready," answered Robert with far more confidence than he felt. He slowly placed one foot in front of the other, his pace gradually picking up the closer he came to the Looking Glass.
"April 9, 2009; 12:00 in the afternoon, sir," the technician reported crisply.
"Thank you," Robert replied as he ascended the stairs. He tucked the box away in the bag he had slung over his shoulder, hoping it would be protected during the disorienting journey through the trans-dimensional plane. The surface of the Looking Glass was smooth and still, concealing the mysteries of its existence in a simple reflective guise. Robert knew that once he was back in his old world, he would never view a mirror the same way again.
He warred with himself once more. Alice and Hatter were waiting for him on the other side. He could not disappoint them. But there was still so much to fear, too many variables that were unknown and unpredictable. Wonderland had become familiar, comforting, and safe in its own perverse way. He quelled those fears by reminding himself that he was a scientist, and it was the unknown that was their bread and butter. Only backwards soothsayers of the Dark Ages feared the unknown. A man of science should embrace it and think of it as nothing more than more opportunity to learn and discover.
With that in mind, Robert took a deep breath and stepped through the Looking Glass.
Most of you will probably hate me for ending it like that. But, seriously, I can't tie everything up here otherwise this story will never end. You'll just have to arrive to your own conclusions or wait for the sequel to see how it pans out for Robert. I have…plans for him *rubs hands together evilly*.
Please review, if only to tell me how much you hate me for leaving it like that. I hope you all enjoyed the ride and thanks again to those who have supported me throughout this endeavor. It would not have been possible without you!