Disclaimer: If these characters were mine, you wouldn't be reading about them on FF. If they were, you'd be watching a new show of mine and I'd be getting paid. That's logic. This ain't.
"You…want me to stay?"
"Hell no!" Hatter replied, his voice rising an octaves he rolled his eyes.
The almost hopeful smile on Alice's face shrank as his panic grew. She couldn't stay here. This was in no way her world, and she'd never belong. No matter how much he wanted her to. Plus, the girl was like a death magnet; he'd lost count of the number of times she'd almost gotten him killed. Despite raising his chances of dying a young death, he wanted to pursue her. Not that he would, but he wanted to. Maybe he really was mad.
Aside from all that, she'd be entirely too close to his royal Airs and Graces for his liking.
"No, really, you should go. I mean, I'm sure you've had enough of Wonderland to last a lifetime," he shot her nervous smile.
His stomach was twisting itself in knots as she nodded in agreement. Oh, he needed Tea. Or maybe just tea. And food. When had he eaten last?
"Yeah, you're right. It'll be good to…get home. But hey, you could always come visit me."
"Yeah, yeah! I could. It'd be fun. Um, we could…do pizza."
Oh, he could slap himself for that. Pizza? Really? Stop thinking about food! Love of your life in front of you here, about to walk out of your life forever.
"And, you know, other things."
Oh, bless Alice! She'd given him a way to scramble out of his little fumble. He needed to recover from this. He needed to work up some nerve and say what he really wanted to say before she was gone. He needed to tell her that he loved her and wanted to be with her and –
Say it, man!
"Alice, I –"
A man in white and plastic, a scientist, walked up and took Alice by the elbow.
"Really? I was just…"
The scientist didn't even look at him and was already leading Alice away, toward the Looking Glass, toward her world. Away from him. Maybe he shouldn't tell her. Maybe this was a sign he really should let her go? Maybe it wasn't.
Why was he still standing here?
Alice stopped on the first step leading up to the Looking Glass platform, just below Jack. Hatter rushed up to her through the crowd. She smiled tentatively.
"We're ready for you to go through now," the scientist said.
"You can wait! We're in the middle of somethin' 'ere," Hatter fairly growled at the man who cautiously backed away when fixed with a glare.
Hatter didn't look away until the man was well away from them and Alice's arm. Once certain of her safety, he turned his attention to Alice and held out the jacket she'd given back moment ago.
"I want you…to keep this."
Charlie could have come up with something smoother than that. And that man had probably never even had a girlfriend!
"I can't –"
"Of course you can. Think of it as something to remember me by. Come, come, we don't have all day."
At his urging, Alice complied, turning around to let Hatter slip the jacket on. She turned back to face him, straightening the jacket and rolling up the sleeve.
"Okay," she let out a nervous huff of air. "So…that's that."
"T' be sure," he nodded. "That is that."
Hatter scratched the back of his neck while Alice glanced off nervously. The two shifted awkwardly around each other for a moment, with Jack looking between the two with a mixture of curiosity and annoyance.
"Alice, could you –" the scientist cut himself off at Hatter's dark glare.
Couldn't the man see he was trying to do something very important here?
"Hatter, he's right. I should go."
Go, go, go! Why must everyone go all the time? Of course, he didn't really care if everyone else ran off a cliff at the moment as long as they left him and Alice alone. He'd gladly push that science guy off first. And Jack could go tumbling after. He felt a smile tug at his lips.
Alice put her hand on his shoulder.
"I guess I'll see you when I see you."
"Yeah, later," he said with as much nonchalance as he could muster. As it was, his voice cracked.
Her hand moved down his arm and dropped away as she turned back to the glass. He could see her look back at him from the glass. She stepped closer.
What was he waiting for? A big, green, neon sign to pop over her head to cue him?
This was your last chance, Hatter. She's walking towards the Glass. Three steps away, and you're gonna let it end.
"Alice, I –"
The scientist's hand touched her back and pushed her through with a warning of, 'Try to breath.' The surface of the Glass rippled a moment after she was gone. Very slowly, Hatter turned his eyes on the scientist.
"You 'ave gotta be the rudest, little, pooch-screwin' –"
Hatter whirled around, fully prepared for a fight. Mentally, anyway. Physically, he was bruised, bloody, and sure to be scarred for life. The things people do for love, right?
Prince – pardon –King Jack, on the other hand, was pristine and decked out in a new suit.
"Why does no one let me finishes sentences here? What is your problem? There some new rule I don't know about, ya Majesty?"
"Hatter, would you listen for a moment?"
Normally, he wouldn't behave so…passionately. Rather mad actually. But it really came with the title, and now seemed as good a time as any to let it out.
"Certainly! Should I curtsy while his Kingship speaks to save time?"
Jack raised a hand to his temple as if to stave off a massive headache.
"It's quite possible," Jack began, and Hatter bent his knees in a mock curtsy, "that I hate you. Alice does not. I couldn't care less whether you're happy or not, but I care about Alice."
Some small, sensible part of Hatter's brain told him not to make a comment along the lines of, 'Oh, I didn't know one was supposed to lie and mislead the ones one cared about.' He tried very hard not to.
"What are ya sayin'?"
Jack stared at him with a resigned expression.
"I still have an apartment in her world. This," he pulled an envelope out of his jacket pocket, "has the key, her and my address, and some money."
Hatter accepted the envelope and snorted, incredulous.
"Are you serious?"
Instead of answering that, Jack said,
"Get out of my sight before I change my mind."
The King of Hearts straightened his jacket and stepped away from Hatter. He took a careful step forward, almost experimentally. Was Jack really going to just let him go? And people called him mad.
Let's look at the pros and cons real quick. Wonderland was his home. His friend-like people were here. His family, too. Though, he didn't really talk to them. He had his shop, but the place had been kind of trashed, and most people weren't interested in regular tea.
But if he went to Oysterland, Alice was there. He'd have some cash, a place to stay, and he could pick up anything relatively fast. And Alice was there.
It wasn't green or neon, but as far as signs, your rival for fair maid handing you the keys to the castle was a pretty good one.
With that thought in mind and not one look back, Hatter pushed aside all doubts and fears and jumped through the Looking Glass after Alice.
A/N: the first of what I hope to be many for this fandom. If it's crap, forgive me. It's not my…usual cup of tea. Yeah, I went there!