Title:The More Things Change
Fandom:Joker no Kuni no Alice
Pairing:Joker / Alice
Rating:PG
Summary:Joker can't remember the last time anyone thanked him, especially not for doing something as simple as fulfilling his Role. The change is intriguing to say the least.

o . o . o . o . o . o .

"This is... a Christmas present?" Joker stared at the brightly wrapped box with some bemusement. Holding it delicately in his hands, he slowly turned his attention back to the girl in front of him. "For me?"

"I wanted to say thank you." Hands clasped politely in front of her, Alice smiled before clarifying. "For changing the seasons, that is. I had a lot of fun spending Winter with everyone at Clover Tower."

"You're very welcome, of course." A wide grin eased its way across his lips as Joker tipped his hat in artful half bow. "Anything for a lovely young lady such as yourself."

"Che... What about me? Don't tell me you were too cheap to get me anythi- mmh!"

"Joker!" Quickly covering the mask on his hip with a hand, Joker gave the girl an apologetic smile. "Please forgive him Alice, he's been cranky all day today."

The mask made an indignant sound as Alice looked on with a wry expression.

"If it's a gift from you then we must accept it graciously." Joker continued, speaking more towards the mask than her. Scolding the second Joker with a sharp rapt of his knuckles against the white surface, he turned back to her with a smile. "So, thank you, Alice."

"You're welcome." Watching him cheerfully examine the gift, she tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture before speaking hesitantly. "I wasn't quite certain what to get. It's only a little something really..."

"Nonsense. I'm sure it's lovely." Joker brushed her concerns aside loftily. Tilting the package slightly in an effort to to gage which way would be best to go about unwrapping it, he finally forwent any attempt at delicacy and simply plucked the bow off. The brightly colored paper was shredded and chucked nonchalantly over a shoulder. "Oh, here we are."

Down to the last layer, his good eye crinkled in excitement as he yanked open the box. Tissue paper fluttered to the group around him.

"Cards?" The mask spat. "Why the hell would we need more of those?"

"I'd just noticed that the deck we normally play with is sort of worn. Not that it's a bad thing." She added quickly, flushing slightly under the mask's scrutiny. "I'd just thought you might be able to use some new ones."

"That's-"

"It's a wonderful gift." Joker interjected, treating the girl to a warm grin. "That you've given so much thought to our time spent together, I'm touched. Truly."

"...touched in the head, maybe."

Joker gave a deep, soul felt sigh and Alice's lips twitched despite her best efforts.

" 'Cranky?' " She repeated.

"Horribly so."

"Hey! Don't talk about me like I'm not here, bastards!"

"How about this then? I'd been saving this for Dee and Dum, but they're probably overrun with Halloween candy anyway..." Digging through the pockets of her apron, Alice brought out a candy cane. Leaning forward to hook it lightly in Joker's belt next to the mask, she tipped her head inquiringly. "Now you have a present as well. Better?"

"What- That-" The mask choked out a surprised sputter as Joker burst into a fit of laughter. "I don't take well to bribery, ya hear me?"

"Not bribery." Alice retorted evenly. "A token of friendship."

"You..." The mask mumbled incoherently before giving one last show of indignation. "This proves nothing!"

"Merry Christmas to you as well, Joker." It was a sign of how thoroughly entangled she'd become in Wonderland that Alice corrected herself almost immediately. "Though, since it's not actually Christmas here. I suppose I should be saying Merry Un-Christmas."

Wiping away tears of mirth, Joker shook his head chidingly at the mask.

"Very well played, I do believe she has you beat, Joker. It just doesn't do to accuse our guest of something as heinous as bribery, after all." He looked up to meet Alice's eyes, an amused grin on his lips. "Still, it's been quite awhile since I've seen him flustered by anyone. You truly are an unusual young lady."

"So, I've been told." Alice returned the grin wryly.

"If I might ask one last favor then before you have to go? Something to cement our newfound friendship?" The new set of cards was already moving in his hands. Arching in graceful curves through the air as Joker shuffled them with the innate skill of a master performer. "Join me in a game or two to help break in my spectacular new deck?"

Alice hesitated only slightly before nodding in consent.

"Just for a little while though, all right?" She slid into her usual seat. "I have errands I ought to run before I go to work."

"Of course." He tilted his head to the side, his grin widening almost imperceptibly. "I'll try not to detain you for too long."