Last One Standing, by Hot Chelle Rae
I need this like air in my lungs
This element tears through my bones
It keeps me fighting
Well I, emotions that swim through my veins
A fever that shows in my face
I'm not hiding
And this fire is alive in your eyes
Well I can barely breathe
And I can hear the dark hearts marching
I won't go down easily
Stay here by my side
And we will be the last ones standing
Hold my hand and kiss me before the hearts collide
Cold, the feeling of fear on my skin
Dying to find a way in the silver lining
The stars, they burn out like dreams all around
Falling like rain to the ground
But you're still shining
And this fire is alive in your eyes
Don't wake me up
I feel your touch
Your love like blood runs through me
You consume me
Hatter sat in the grass, enjoying the stillness of the moment. Unaware of the events that would soon be unfolding, birds continued to sing in the trees. A cool breeze moved over the hill, ruffling his hair. Before him the Casino rose up, blocking out the blue sky; but it failed to hold his gaze. Instead his eye was drawn to the woman who stood several feet away, purple coat swirling around her thighs.
Alice was studying the Casino as if she could see right through the walls, her face set in determined lines. The shallow cut over her eye had stopped bleeding, but it added an air of danger to her beautiful face. She had only to tell Hatter what she wanted and he would do it; he would do anything for her, even fight this battle they had no way to win.
To be truthful, it wasn't only just for Alice. Something about her had rekindled the fire of rebellion in him that he'd thought died long ago. He wanted to make things better, wanted to be able help her undo what her father had done. For the first time in a long time, Hatter wanted to be proud of Wonderland.
He hoped like hell that reinforcements would be coming soon.
Hatter waited,tense and anxious. If his plan failed,he didn't know what he'd do,what further steps he could take. Beneath him Guinevere shifted, feeding off his nerves. He took a deep breath, tried to steady himself. The sword he clutched in his hand felt awkward and heavy, and he doubted it would be much use. Still, it was better than nothing. As long as Charlie kept up his end, there was a chance of saving Alice. And that's all he cared about.
"This is it," he said. He took a deep breath, forcing himself to focus. "You ready? One, two…hyaaa!"
Hatter kicked Guinevere in the sides, urging her forward into the Suits. He swung the sword, taking down two of the Queen's men.
"Hatter!" Alice cried.
And then the sword was useless; the Suits were pulling on his arm and he couldn't get another swing in. They were trying to pull him off the horse and he knew there were only a few seconds left to do anything useful.
"Charlie!" he called, turning to see where the Knight was. For a moment he thought the man had run away, but there he was looking incredibly magnificent on his whitewashed stallion.
"Hold, miscreants!" he shouted, wielding his own sword with much more accuracy.
Bolstered by Charlie's presence, Hatter let himself be pulled off the horse, quickly cocking back his fist and taking down another Suit. After that, it turned into a big of a free-for-all. Charlie had managed to stay on his horse, but Hatter was down on the ledge, swinging that right hand and trying to get to Alice.
"Hatter! Look out!" she cried. Hatter turned, catching a fist on his cheekbone courtesy of March. He shook his head, bright bursts of light springing up in his eyes. He was only dimly aware of Alice tackling March, using her tied hands as a hammer to pummel him with. And then March got an elbow up, hitting Alice in the forehead so hard that Hatter could hear the sharp crack of it. Blood immediately started to flow as she fell back, stunned.
"No!" Hatter was on March before the assassin could regain his feet. The two of them grappled, rolling along the ledge so that they alternated holding the dominant position. Hatter took some body shots, and gave back a few of his own.
When he saw the opening, he took it, and smashed his fist straight into that porcelain head. Wiring snapped and sparked under his hands, and March's body spasmed. With a cry of disgust, Hatter rolled and used that momentum plus his feet to push March over the edge.
He lay there panting, eyes closed, until Charlie came over and gave him a hand up.
"Some got away," the Knight said.
"They took Carpenter with them," said Jack. Up until that moment, Hatter had forgotten he was even there. But the Prince of Hearts was standing there, looking just as fresh as a daisy, with the Ten of Clubs at his side.
"Alice?" Hatter ignored Jack, instead dropping to his knees and helping Alice get into a mostly upright position. There was a disgusting amount of blood on her face, like a mask, and it scared him even though he knew head injuries bled a lot. The skin over one eyebrow was split and still oozing; he pressed his hand against it.
"What…what did you do?" Alice asked, still a bit unsteady. Hatter pulled her to his chest, holding her steady and trying to stop his heart from racing at the sight of her, injured.
"Rescued you," he replied.
"Thanks," she said, offering him a weak smile.
Things had changed between Hatter and Alice since that rescue on the ledge. She'd stopped pushing him away, and he'd stopped letting her. He couldn't stand the thought of her in more danger, but he knew it was useless to protest. She'd been so upset about her father, about him not remembering her, but her sadness had turned to anger and determination. Hatter knew she'd not be leaving Wonderland without him, one way or another.
Feeling restless now, Hatter got up and paced in a loose circle. He should never have agreed to this half-cracked idea, especially once Jack had gotten on board with it. It was dangerous, and every cell in his body screamed at him to get Alice someplace far, someplace safe. She'd kick his arse for such a suggestion.
He tried to think it through, plot out all the ways they could win or lose, but there were too many variables. So much could go wrong. So much already had. He turned on his heel to make another pass round and found Alice blocking his way. Her expression softened when she looked at him.
"They'll be here," she said.
Hatter didn't know how she could be so calm about all this, so certain.
"What if…" he started to say.
Alice put her finger over his lips. "They'll be here."
"We'll go to the Casino, get word to the members of the Resistance that have been working there," Jack said. He rubbed hisw rists, which Charlie had just freed from the restraints. "There's a contingency plan in place for just such an eventuality."
"I want my father out of there," Alice said. She pressed Charlie's handkerchief to her head.
"Alice, our priority right now…"
"I don't give a damn for your priority, Jack!" Alice glared at him. "My father is my only priority."
"Perhaps we could mount a defense against the Casino?" Charlie offered.
Hatter and Ten shared a look of mutual consternation.
"Charlie, there's no way we could attack the Casino. Even with help from the inside." Hatter glanced at Alice and looked away quickly; he wished she'd wash the blood from her face.
"On the contrary, that could be just the distraction we need," Jack said thoughtfully. "Sir Charles, if you could get word to Gryffon…"
"If Caterpillar couldn't help us, what makes you think Gryffon will?" Hatter asked derisively. "We need to get Alice back through the Glass."
"I'm not leaving without my father, Hatter!"
"She can't leave without the ring," Jack said, speaking slowly as if to a small child. "The Suits who got away with Carpenter have the ring as well. We can do nothing without it."
"Then figure something else out!" Hatter snapped. "Alice, this is too dangerous." Why did she insist on choosing the course of action most likely to result in bodily harm?
"No, we can make this work," Alice said. "Jack, you go back to the Casino and get your people ready. Do you know how Charlie can find Gryffon?"
"I can give him a location and password," Jack confirmed.
"I shall go at once, Just Alice!" Charlie said, snapping to attention.
"Okay. Hatter and I will go to the Casino and wait for you there."
"Oi, I didn't agree to anything!" Hatter protested.
"Then stay behind!" Alice shouted, losing her temper. "You came here and rescued me. To what? Run away? Hide? I'm not doing that, Hatter! I'm getting my father out and if that means I have to tear the Casino down brick by brick, that's what I'm going to do!"
She looked fearsome in that moment and Hatter knew he was lost. There was no way to fight the fire in her eyes or the determined set to her mouth. Besides, if he didn't go along who would have her back?
"I'll come," he muttered.
Hatter lost himself in Alice's blue eyes, trying to believe as strongly as she did. He had the overwhelming urge to kiss her, to finally do what he'd wanted back in the forest. But now, as then, there was an interruption and the moment was lost. Again.
"They're here!" Alice beamed and immediately headed off to greet Charlie. The Knight was riding at the head of a group of Resistance members, though Hatter only knew a handful on sight. There was no mistaking Gryffon, who strode down the hill in an almost palpable haze of power; he was clearly the leader here.
Hatter did a quick head count and estimated there were between twenty and thirty members of the Resistance on the hill. A sizeable amount, but he also knew there were far more Suits in the Casino, and with better weapons too. Again he was gripped with fear, for Alice and for the others. This was a fool's mission.
"Alice of Legend," Gryffon said, his voice booming and his sweeping gray moustache quivering. "An honor, my dear."
Alice shook his hand. "Thanks for coming so quickly."
"I brought as many of my people as I could, and Dodo's and Turtle's as well. Some wouldn't come."
"I'm grateful to those who did," Alice said.
"So what's the plan?"
"We wait for Jack's signal. Then we go in."
When they got back down to the Lake, Hatter pulled Guinevere to a stop and slid out of the saddle. Despite her protestations, he helped Alice dismount as well.
"Give me that," he said, holding his hand out for the handkerchief. When Alice relinquished it, he wet it in the water. "Come here."
Using gentle strokes, Hatter washed the blood from Alice's face. She stood perfectly still, big blue eyes never looking away. The slice on her forehead was no longer bleeding, but was starting to bruise and swell, and Hatter wished he had something to put on it.
"Thanks," she whispered. "For everything."
"Do you really think this will work?" Hatter asked.
"We have to try, Hatter. Not just for my father, but for the Oysters too. Someone once said something, about how evil can spread when good men do nothing. I can't do nothing."
"Then we'll do something. Together."
They didn't have to wait long to catch the notice of the Suits. A force to equal that of the Resistance spread out around the side of the Casino and held their position there. It was an uneasy standoff. Hatter wondered if any of the Suits were on their side.
"Do you know how many Jack has inside?" Alice asked Gryffon, echoing his thoughts.
"No more than ten," Gryffon replied. "And likely people in a position to help the Oysters. There won't be any Suits, but possibly some Spades."
Hatter wasn't cheered by that news. They'd probably have techs and some Diamonds, none of them much good in a fight. He had no idea what Jack's so-called contingency plan was, but he could only hope it was something effective.
"Do you have a plan?" Hatter asked. "Or are we to sit on our arses and wait to be picked off?"
Gryffon fixed him with a disdainful look. "I can see why Dodo chose not to come."
Alice choked off a laugh, and put a hand on Hatter's arm; he absently patted it.
"Be assured, Hatter," Gryffon said. "We are all well armed. We have a supply of boomers, and some archers if the Suits come in high. We push forward, engage the Suits, and give Jack a chance to work it from inside."
"It would help if we knew what he was doing," Alice remarked. "He has to get the ring, and get the Oysters and my father. He won't have enough help."
"That's what we're for, yeah?" Hatter sighed. "Bait to lure the Suits out."
"Perhaps not a glamorous part to play, but necessary all the same." Gryffon nodded to Alice and went off to talk with some of his men.
It was another forty minutes of standing around before things started to happen. Gryffon announced his intention of talking with the Suits and asked Charlie to accompany him.
"Are you mad?" Hatter asked in disbelief. "They'll shoot you as soon as you're in range!"
Gryffon shook his head. "Rules of engagement, Hatter. Negotiations first. There's always an opportunity to avoid violence and I must try, if there's even a small chance of success."
"I'm coming," Alice declared. Hatter rolled his eyes. Of course she was. Walk right up to the lion and poke it with a stick.
"Me as well," he said with a sigh.
They ended up a group of six – Charlie, Gryffon, Alice, Hatter, and two of Gryffon's most trusted associates, Unicorn and Dragon. Hatter couldn't help feeling that he was marching right up to the firing squad, the weight of the gun at his back a small comfort. Alice kept her chin up and her gaze steady, but her grip on his hand was tight and just a bit tremulous.
Six Suits came to meet them halfway across the large expanse of green grass, their hands up to show they were unarmed. Which wasn't precisely accurate, because Hatter knew their holsters were just as full as his. Still, both sides made a show of waving the metaphorical white flag. When they all came to a halt, there were only two or so feet of empty space between them. Gryffon and the Ace in charge each stepped forward.
"Why have you brought the Resistance here?" The Ace asked. He was an older man, graying at the temples. He kept all his focus on Gryffon, as if the rest of them were unimportant.
"We've come for the Oysters, and the man called Carpenter. We wish to take them peacefully."
"You speak of stealing the Queen's property," the Ace said. "You know this to be unacceptable."
Alice pushed forward. "Those are people, not property!"
"Alice, please…" Gryffon tried to move her back. The Ace narrowed his eyes.
"Alice? The Alice of Legend?"
"That's right," Alice said proudly. She was still clutching tightly to Hatter's hand and he gave it a squeeze. "You know what happened the last time an Alice came here; might want to rethink your position."
Hatter could see doubt in the Ace's eyes, and for a brief moment he felt a surge of hope. Maybe Gryffon had been right. Maybe they really could do this without fighting. And then it all went sideways.
Just when it seemed they had an advantage, an explosion ripped through the air. Everyone dropped to the ground, Suits and Resistance alike. Hatter moved so that he could shield Alice with his body, all the while looking frantically about to see what had happened. Had the Suits launched a boomer? Or did someone in the Resistance jump the gun?
The cause of the explosion seemed not to matter. Both sides immediately went on the defensive, and Hatter and Alice were caught right in the middle. There was no-where for them to go, nothing to hide behind as the bullets started to fly.
"Keep down!" Hatter shouted. "Stay close!"
Using knees and elbows, they crawled closer to the Casino. As far as Hatter could determine, it was their best chance. The Suits were surging ahead, their line thinning around the base of the building. If they could only get there, at least they'd have some solid concrete at their backs.
From behind them came the sound of metal striking metal and Alice froze.
"Alice! Come on!"
"Charlie!" she screamed, and Hatter could see tears running down her face. He looked back, but he could only see a mass of black jackets fanning out.
"He'll be fine. We have to go!" He hoped it was true, but his priority was and always would be Alice. She nodded her understanding, misery written large on her face, and they resumed crawling.
Hatter tried to listen to the action behind them, tried to hear if anyone was following, but the noise was too much. The Resistance started lobbing boomers, which only added to the general din. He just kept his eye on that blank stretch of wall and continued moving forward.
When they finally reached the minimum security of the concrete foundation, Hatter felt as if he'd been crawling for hours. His clothes were a wreck, and Alice had torn her red stockings. He tried brushing some of the dirt off, but it was pointless.
There was another explosion, and this time Hatter could feel it through the wall at his back. That was no boomer – it was coming from inside the Casino. Whatever Jack's plan was, it was clearly in motion.
"Did you feel that?" Alice asked.
"Jack," Hatter replied. He surveyed the more immediate scene. There was less shooting now as the Suits and Resistance engaged in hand-to-hand combat. There were still some of Gryffon's men up on the hill, taking aim with bows and arrows at the Suits who were now swooping in on Flamingos, dropping boomers.
"We need to clear that door," Alice said, pointing to where three Suits were hanging back.
"We don't know he'll be coming out that way," Hatter said.
"I have to do something!"
"Promise we'll get him out, Hatter. Promise that'll happen."
Hatter just stared at her, wishing he could give her what she wanted. He hated having to leave it all up to Jack, who was concerned only with his own agenda. Well, he was done with that.
"We clear that door and I'll go in," Hatter decided. "You stay here and make sure I can get back out."
He waited for her to argue, but she only nodded curtly. Together they hugged the wall, trying to move slowly as not to draw the attention of the Suits. Luckily the melee happening around them was a good distraction and they were able to get within a couple of feet before being spotted.
One Suit swung his pistol around, but Alice was there in an instant to kick it out of his hand. While she threw punches and elbows, Hatter charged the other two; they went down in a heap and he immediately started grappling with them for their weapons.
Alice gave a little scream of pain and Hatter glanced up to make sure she was okay. He was distracted just long enough to catch a fist to the temple, and then bright colors were blooming before his eyes for the second time that day. Simply reacting, he clenched his right hand and brought it down without aiming at all. He caught one of the Suits in the collarbone, which fractured under the power of his fist.
"Hatter!" Alice was suddenly there, a gun pointing in the face of the other Suit, hers having been knocked cold. She was breathing heavily, her eyes wide and bright. She wore adrenalin well.
"You okay?" Hatter asked, getting to his feet. He pulled the Suit up by his shirt and gave him a firm rap on the chin, knocking him out as well. The one with the broken collarbone just lay on the ground, moaning. Hatter divested him of his weapon.
"I'm fine. He pulled my hair." Alice rubbed at her head, wincing.
"Stay here, Alice." He pressed one of the extra guns into her hand. "Keep the door clear, but be safe. If you need to run, run. Don't worry about me."
"Hatter, I…" Alice faltered for a moment. "Don't take any chances, okay?"
"I'll get your father," he promised, knowing he had no right to do so.
Alice reached out and grabbed Hatter by the front of his leather coat. She pulled him close, pressing her lips to his. He hesitated only a moment before wrapping his arms around her and kissing her back. The rest of the world simply fell away as a fire started burning in his belly.
"Be careful," Alice gasped, taking a step back. "Please."
"You, too," Hatter said. He felt as if he must have the goofiest smile on his face, but he couldn't help it. Kissing Alice was all he'd imagined and more, and he wanted nothing more than lose himself in her. He settled for pressing a kiss to her forehead, and then he went through the door and into the Casino.
The Casino was chaos, though at first Hatter couldn't see any of it. What he noticed was how empty the hall was that he was in. There was screaming – lots of screaming – but it was coming from somewhere else. He hadn't taken more than a step or two before there was another rumbling explosion, one that nearly had him off his feet. Chunks of plaster fell to the floor, sending up puffs of white dust.
Hatter had the distinct feeling that he was running out of time and so he got moving, running down the hall until he came to a flight of stairs leading up. He went up two levels before he found people, mostly Diamonds, who were likewise on the run. He reached out and snagged one by the arm, jerking her to a stumbling halt.
"Oi! Where are the Oysters?"
"What?" The Diamond's green eyes were wide and scared, and Hatter resisted the urge to shake her.
"Gone. They're all gone." She pointed a wavering finger towards the nearest window and Hatter released her. The window looked out on a small patch of grass bordered by trees, on the opposite side of the Casino from the raging battle. From his vantage point he could see people fleeing the building and heading for a path that led into the treeline. There were several Diamonds, technicians and Spades, but plenty of others that Hatter felt sure were the Oysters. He couldn't tell if Carpenter was with them.
"Bullocks!" He'd promised Alice and he wasn't about to break that promise. He took off running in the direction his helpful little Diamond had gone. There were more stairs, going down this time, and then another bank of windows. These looked out at the fighting and it was hard to determine who had the upper hand. The archers had abandoned the hill and were heading down to join the melee.
And then Hatter's heart stopped when he saw a familiar purple coat in the midst of the fray. Alice had abandoned her post at the door and was exchanging blows with a Suit.
"Alice!" He banged on the window, but of course she couldn't hear. Hatter felt torn now. Did he keep up the search for Carpenter or help Alice? In another second the decision was made for him when she went down and didn't immediately get back up again.
"No!" Heart in his throat, he went in search of more stairs. He needed to get back to ground level. When he finally got where he needed to be, he couldn't find a door. Growling in frustration, he went to the nearest window. He flexed his right hand and pulled his arm back; the glass shattered and he hurried through the opening he'd made, heedless of the rivulets of blood that ran down his arm.
There were several bodies strewn on the grass, Resistance and Suits alike. Hatter didn't know if they were dead or just knocked out, and he didn't care. He got the sense that things were starting to slow down as the combatants began to tire. They also finally seemed to be aware that something was happening inside the Casino; the whole building was shaking now, chunks of decorative trim dropping like little bombs.
"Pull back!" Hatter shouted. "It's gonna go!"
As a hasty retreat was made on both sides, Hatter finally found Alice. She was lying in the grass, the bruise on her forehead standing out starkly against her too-pale skin. He pressed one trembling finger to her throat and released a pent-up breath when he felt the steady thrum of her pulse. Heedless of whatever injuries she may have sustained, he scooped her up and held her close. They needed to get as far away as possible.
Though he was able to get some distance, when the Casino imploded the shock wave knocked Hatter to his knees. He clutched Alice tightly, trying to protect her head as debris went flying. The noise was deafening and the air was soon choked with dust and dirt and smoke. He staggered back to his feet, coughing and squinting as he tried to see which way to go.
When arms came out of the smoke, trying to take Alice from him, Hatter snarled and tried to turn away. It took a moment for the ringing in his ears to lessen enough to make out that someone was speaking to him.
"…take her, Harbinger. I will protect her."
The smoke shifted in the breeze and there he was, the White Knight resplendent in armor that had acquired several new dents and dings. Hater felt hysterical laughter bubbling up and pressed his lips together to keep it from escaping. He gently transferred Alice to Charlie's arms and followed behind as they headed back up the hill.
The air was a bit clearer up there and Hatter could see a ragged line of Suits and Resistance standing side-by-side, everyone agog at the burning rubble that used to be the Casino. Apparently he'd been wrong in thinking the techs would be of little help, and he wondered how much of that had actually been Jack's plan.
Hatter forced himself to look away from the destruction. Charlie was starting to struggle a bit with Alice's dead weight, so Hatter took her back. He carefully sat down and set her in his lap, her head lolling against his shoulder. A quick inventory revealed a blooming bruise on her jaw and what seemed to be a broken wrist. He yanked his tie over his head, belatedly realizing he'd lost his hat, and used it to bind Alice's wrist until something better could be arranged.
"Alice. Love, can you hear me?" He patted her gently on the cheek. "You need to wake up now, Alice."
He started to worry that she'd hit her head. Surely she'd have come round by now. Hatter smoothed her hair back, thin fingers searching for bumps and bruises, and finding none.
"Look there!" Charlie said, pointing.
The Casino survivors were making their way along the top of the hill, emerging from the wooded area nearby. There were definitely Oysters, mingled in with the techs, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades. Jack had made it through as well, Duchess clinging to him like a limpet. The Queen of Hearts was there, though her hands were bound and she was looking a bit worse for wear. There was no sign of the King of Hearts, but Hatter saw the man he'd been looking for.
"Alice! Wake up, love. Your dad is here. He made it!" He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Please. Please wake up now."
Behind him, Gryffon went to meet Jack; he kept a hand clamped on his arm, which had a through-and-through bullet wound. Charlie seemed torn, but eventually he went along as well to offer his services. Hatter knew it was only a matter of time before Carpenter sought them out.
"Alice, don't do this to me. Please. I can't do this without you." He pulled her tight up against him, trembling slightly now that things had settled down a bit. They'd survived the battle, something he'd thought impossible earlier that day. And even though he'd only known Alice a few short days, he wasn't sure he could survive without her. She'd changed him, made him want more. All he wanted right now was her.
"Hatter?" It was little more than a soft moan, but his heart leapt at the sound of it. He loosened his grip, watching as Alice's eyes fluttered open. "Are we alive?"
Hatter couldn't help the grin that spread across his face. "Well, I wasn't so sure about you for a while there, love."
Alice snuggled against him, the arm with the broken wrist folded against her chest. "Mmm. This is nice."
It was clear that she was still out of it, but Hatter didn't mind.
"I had a dream I kissed you."
"That was no dream, love," he assured her.
"Oh. Good." Alice pressed a kiss to his neck. "I told you it would all work out."
"You were right. We make one hell of a team, you and I."
Hatter was content to sit there with Alice in his lap forever, though he'd known the moment wouldn't last. Carpenter found them, his yellow leather jumpsuit spattered with blood and dirt.
"Alice? Is she okay?" The man dropped to his knees in the grass, one hand tentatively reaching out for his daughter. Hatter found himself quite unwilling to share her.
"Daddy?" Alice's brow furrowed, then all at once reality seemed to click back into place for her and she sat up quickly, knocking her head into Hatter's chin. "What…where's the Casino?"
Hatter opened his mouth, but it was Carpenter who answered. "It's gone. Destroyed. Once I…when I remembered, I had to set things right. I helped Jack put it right."
"You remember me?" Alice asked, her voice small and tentative.
"I remember everything, Jellybean. And I'm so sorry."
Carpenter opened his arms and Alice threw herself into them, tears running down her face. Her father nodded at Hatter, and he nodded back. He was loathe to leave her, but thought the two of them needed some time. Besides, he'd never liked being the third wheel.
Before he could stand up, Alice grabbed hold of his hand, tugging him back down. "Where are you going?"
Hatter shrugged. "Thought you could use some time."
"Daddy, this is Hatter. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here right now. He's saved my life so many times in the last few days. He's a hero."
The way she was looking at him made Hatter's breath catch in his throat. No-one had ever looked at him that way before, with such adoration. He knew he didn't deserve it; he'd not been the one to rescue Carpenter, after all.
"I can't thank you enough," Carpenter said. He shook Hatter's hand vigorously.
Hatter flushed, unaccustomed to such praise. "I…uh…I should go see Gryffon. Back in a sec, yeah?"
And he left Alice and Carpenter to reconnect.
Dust still drifted in heavy clouds around the remains of the Casino, and Hatter thought it might take a while for it all to finally dissipate. It was quiet up on the hill now; Jack had been ferrying people back to Wonderland City on Scarabs. The problem was that Hatter didn't know what he was going to do. The business of selling Tea had now effectively ended, and it's not like he had a lot of backup skills to put to use. For the first time in a long time, he was at a loss.
"Hey." Alice came to stand beside him, the purple coat now slung over one arm. Her wrist had been set and bandaged, but the medics had left the cut on her forehead untouched. His own arm was dotted with red antiseptic.
"I thought you'd gone," Hatter said, striving for nonchalance.
"We've been through a lot together, haven't we?" she asked. "I feel like it's been weeks instead of days."
"Yeah, well, running for your life has a way of skewing time." Hatter kept his gaze firmly locked on the rubble field below, ignoring the way Alice's hair was blowing in the breeze and fighting the temptation to reach out and touch her. "You better hurry or you'll miss the last Scarab back to the City."
"It left ten minutes ago, Hatter."
He looked around, surprised. It was true, all the Scarabs were gone. And with them all the people who'd survived the day. He and Alice were the last ones standing there on the hill.
"Why didn't you go with your father?"
"Because I wanted to go with you. He'll be waiting for us at the Palace. I thought maybe we could take the scenic route back."
Hatter looked her in the eyes, finally. And saw that she meant what she said. He reached out and took her hand in his, a little thrill running through him when her fingers curled around his and squeezed.
"Do you trust me?" he asked.
"Completely," she replied.
With a grin, Hatter leaned in and kissed her. And this time there were no interruptions, no battles being fought, and no immediate danger to give everything a frantic edge. He thought it might well be the sweetest kiss he'd ever shared, because it was more than just a kiss; it was a promise of things yet to come.
"Let's go," Hatter said. "I know where we can get a horse."
Alice laughed. They turned their backs on what was, and walked towards their future. Together.
AN: This is dedicated to Alaina Downs, who has been very patient with my absence from this fandom. Right now my muse is pulling me in other directions, but I'd started this song fic ages ago and got stuck, and I've been determined to finish it. I promise that Hatter and I will be back together soon, and I hope you'll wait for me! LOL!
This song fic was born completely from the song. When I first listened to it, I had an image in my head of Alice and Hatter standing on a hill, gearing up for a big battle. Then I just had to figure out the why of it! ::grins:: Hope you like it!
I'm going to use this chapter to conclude the Songs. I promise that I'll be back with more Hatter fics, I just don't know when. Stay tuned!