Title: There Were Crumbs (In The Butter)
Author: Prentice
Rating: M
Fandom: SyFy's Alice
Pairing: Jack Heart/(Mad) Hatter.
Genre: Vaguely AU. Pre-Series. Hurt/Comfort. Drama. Romance.
Disclaimer: All property, including characters and setting, belongs to their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended and no money has been made.
Warnings: Pre-series. Mild Sexual Content. Violence. Dubious Consent. Recreational use of and overuse of stimulants. Unbeta'd.

Author's Notes: This is currently ongoing and unedited so beware of my dodgy grammar and slow updates. Also be aware that this fic is going to be vaguely AU, mostly due to the eventual relationship that develops between the Hatter and Jack Heart. More on that later, though.

Summary: It happened on a mid-week.

Chapter One – An Invitation to Tea and a Bit of Light Torture

It happened on a mid-week, a strange day on the calendar Hatter had always thought, because it was a bit too much in the middle of being the beginning of one thing and the ending of another to be worth its weight in anything other than headaches and heartaches. Nothing good ever happened to anyone on a mid-week, after all, even in a place like Wonderland – especially in place like Wonderland – so when what happened happens, he's not sure what to feel other than bitter disappointment that it had to happen on a mid-week. Of all days.

"I really don't know why I let you talk me into this," Hatter declared lightly, tone every bit as conversational as it would have been if they'd been discussing this over a nice hot cup of Club's Royal Black Tea back at his tea shop. He'd have even put a generous dollop of that new emotional-mixer from the Hearts' Casino in it for them – what was it called again? Euphoria?

Yes, that was it: Hearts' Casino's Euphoria. He'd have even put that in it for them, even if it was a strange bit of emotion that he couldn't understand the appeal of. The one time he'd tried it, it'd made him feel a bit too much like his favorite hat was going to float right off his head and drift away before he could catch it. He couldn't say he liked the feeling much, but it was a nice addition to the shop and kept the raging hordes coming back for more – and more and more – and that was nothing if not good business as far as he was concerned.

"I mean," he continued, blithely ignoring the quietness of his companions as they made their way along the edge of one of the many decrepit buildings, far enough away from the edge so they wouldn't fall off the sudden drop-off. "It's not as though I was sent an invitation, which is the only polite thing to do when inviting someone over for tea and a bit of light torture. In any case, I could have settled up the shop instead of rousing Dormy into a state of near mindless panic because I was leaving unexpectedly."

He sighed theatrically.

"He's very delicate, you know. Takes to fidgeting something awful when he's nervous. Or awake," he qualified dryly, "but a decent salesman all things told. I couldn't have asked for a better one."

Neither of his companions made to comment, their faces impressively, boorishly blank behind their dark sunglasses and pretentiously tailored suits, complete with embossed Aces on them. Hatter rolled his eyes. Hench-Suits of the Queen, always the same. Not a spit of personality in them.

Kicking a bit of rubble out of his way absently, he rounded the bend of the building, gaze immediately lighting on the dully gleaming hull of a White Rabbit's Scarab flying low between the buildings, its tethers released and dangling empty. For the moment, anyway. He had no doubt they'd be in use again…soon.

Stomach clenching tightly at the sight, Hatter quickly looked away, the all-too-familiar burn of self-loathing churning in his gut. He'd known for years now that he was playing a dangerous game; dipping from both sides of the deck, hoping that a little subterfuge here, a little white lie there, would keep him relatively safe and happy, but he'd never expected to feel guilty about it. He'd never thought he'd feel like he was slowly losing himself day by day – just like everyone else seemed to be – until the only way he could feel the smallest crumbs of happiness was if they were artificially induced by one of the Queen's latest "wonders".

Therein lie the problem, though: he didn't go in for that artificial stuff. Not anymore. It made his tea taste a bit like a dirty dishrag and, even worse, made him feel like a Jabberwocky had gotten a hold of his insides and stamped on them. It had done since the first time Dodo had, grudgingly and maliciously, introduced him to a rescued Oyster, whose vacant stare had resolved itself into a soul-deep shuddering pain when she'd looked up at him, body jerking in tiny spasms of movement that were uncontrolled and entirely involuntary. It had been horrifying and sickening, watching that poor woman writhe around on the man's floor, tears leaking out the corners of her eyes as she fought against the waves of agony that resulted from being hooked to the Queen's machines for far too long.

It was like re-growing a whole new limb; the woman had explained to him much, much later, her face sweat drenched and pale. It hurt so much and sometimes you wished you didn't have to feel anything ever again, but it was worth it. To feel happiness, your own happiness, and not have to worry about someone trying to steal it away or shuck it out of you like you were nothing more than a shell to be emptied. It made even the worst of the pain worth it in the end.

It was in that moment that Hatter had realized her and all the others they managed to secret away from the Casino would be all right. Oysters were amazing creatures, after all. They were resilient and fascinating, strong and startlingly complex. He'd known that then, even if the Dodo hadn't, so the little power-play the man had arranged was appallingly callous and disturbingly tactless, especially for someone so heavily entrenched in the rebellion against the Queen.

Personal motivations was where it was at in all this, where it mattered, and though Hatter was no saint and could admit that many of his own motivations were self-serving at best, he did want to help not only his people but the Oysters as well. They deserved it. If not just because his own people – the Wonderlanders who came into his shop looking for their next big thrill; their next scrap of emotion, even if it wasn't their own – probably didn't.

And anyway, Dodo was just a dinosaur, a relic of another time, who still remembered what it was like to live in a world that was made of order and reason, with the sure knowledge that any and all emotions came from within and not from a cheap glass bottle. Hatter didn't have that luxury. He didn't remember that time, doubted he was even alive for it, and so he couldn't follow a direct path like the Dodo. Instead he took a circuitous route, coming at the problem sideways, like he did most things.

Crumbs in the butter, he thought morosely, sending a weary glance over his shoulder. The Suits were still there, looking dark, stupid and forbidding. Grimacing, he shoved his hands into the deep pockets of his jacket. By the cards, he hated this. Hated every last thing about it, but he was honest enough with himself to know there was nothing for it. He had to go with them, even if his right hand ached to curl into a fist and feel the crunch of bone and sinew crumple beneath it.

Old habits died hard and, anyway, he couldn't risk it. Not without landing himself into a heap of trouble so thick he wouldn't be able to find his way out again. Sighing, Hatter balled his fists once, twice, three times before sliding them out to hang loosely at his sides. A few more paces and he reached up and shifted his hat, settling it more firmly against his crown. It wasn't his favorite; he never wore his favorite during audiences with the Queen, but it was awfully nice.

It was one he'd nicked from the Dodo, in fact. Some sort of strange cap, with a brim that only covered his face, that an Oyster had been wearing when he'd come through the Looking Glass. He wasn't sure what it was called – not that he'd asked, mind you – and wasn't exactly sure where Dodo had gotten it but it was interesting.

"Is this going to take long, do you think?" He mused aloud, not really expecting an answer. "It's just that, I've got this tea shop, you see, and it needs minding." He reminded them, just in case they forgot. It was hard to tell with Suits. They were basically walking automatons.

Not enough tea without Heart Casino Mixers, he suspected. They'd forgotten to feel for themselves, which probably lead to not thinking for themselves as well. The response he wasn't expecting never came, predictably enough.

Sighing heavily, he trudged onward, rolling his shoulders so his jacket settled more comfortably. Well, if they were going to be mindlessly humdrum, he would at least ask for a spot of tea after the torture. It was the least they could do for him.