A/N: I wrote this in an attempt to get over a bout of writer's block so it's a bit scattered and pointless. Enjoy if you can but don't expect much- I've been rather tired and lacking in mental acuity.
Also- this is an episode tag set between 'Who's Alice?' and 'Bad Blood".Oh yeah- and the Voltaire serves no purpose other than to amuse me.
Heart of the Matter
Very often, say what you will, a knave is only a fool ~Voltaire
Alice stood imperiously in front of Will. All she needed was a decent dress instead of the moth eaten blanket she was currently wrapped in to rival Anastasia for queenliness. And even though she was asking a question Alice seemed less curious than her reputation would suggest. In fact, Will thought, all that curiosity she had been known for was probably just her stubborn streak misconstrued due to her former youth.
"Because I don't want to."
Her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed together. Will had suspected that answer wouldn't work but this was a conversation he hadn't wanted to have in the first place. He also had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn't going to be answering Alice's questions with just snide retorts and sarcasm.
"So you're telling me that I went through all that, risking my life, to get your heart back and you don't want it?"
Will sighed. She really was a most persistent thing. Hoping against reason that he could stop her questions, he tried a bit of honesty.
"It's not so much that I don't want it as I didn't want anyone else to have it."
Within the walls of Hatter's house, there was quiet. The windows shook with the force of the rain keeping them inside but there was almost no noise from within. Just the crackle of the fire next to him and silent heaviness of Alice's attention weighing him down. The blasted weather kept them pinned down under the nearest roof they could find and now her damnable glare kept him stuck in place. Not that there was any where to really go- Hatter's place wasn't that big and the rain really was impossible to walk through. The last mile they had gone to get to the abandoned hut had felt more like swimming than running and Will still wasn't very fond of water. So, with nothing else to do (except, perhaps, to build a bloody fort out of all the blasted hats), he simply stared back at her and waited for the inevitable.
Surprisingly, it was Alice who blinked first. She huffed as she plopped down next to him on the pile of pillows they had stacked up near the fire. She pouted and turned her glare to the dancing flames in front of her.
"I just don't understand why you wouldn't want it back where it belongs."
Will leaned over and wrapped another blanket over her shoulders. It smelled like dust and disuse but it was better than watching her shiver in her underclothes. Most of their clothes were hanging up around the room trying to dry but Alice's modesty dictated that some of their wet clothes remained on. Normally he wouldn't have much of a problem with the situation but, with the addition of the unwanted conversation topic, Will was feeling a touch vulnerable. So he covered her and wrapped himself up more tightly in his blanket.
"Aren't you afraid you'll never be able to love again?"
Will snorted and kept his attention on the fire. She really didn't understand, did she?
"That's what I'm hoping for."
"Don't be daft, Knave."
Her hand slid across the space between them and rested lightly on his. He turned towards her and saw that the stubborn frown had been replaced with a look of concern. Her eyes shown with care and worry. Compassion wasn't something Will was used to and he would have preferred the frown. A frown was much easier to deal with.
He shifted towards her and tried to just beg her to drop it without saying a word. Will gave her his best set of puppy eyes but Alice didn't bat a lash. Sighing deeply, he resigned himself to the force of her personality.
"I can love, Alice." The confession surprised her. Her eyes widened and he could see a reflection of the fire dancing within them. There was more than a hint of her notorious curiosity on her face and Will could see her restraining herself from bombarding him with questions. He felt a smile twitching on his lips- she really was like a little kitten with a string when something caught her attention. The smile died though as he sadly added, "I just can't feel it. I can't feel much at all. Well, except anger. But anger is the easiest emotion."
"If you can't feel it, how do you know you can?"
Will started to answer but stopped before a word could come out. There wasn't any good way to describe how to feel something that wasn't there. A bunch of ideas jumbled about in his head and he grabbed at one randomly.
"Have you ever touched a flower while wearing gloves?"
She nodded, her face alight with inquisitiveness but she remained blessedly quiet for once. Her hand still rested a top of his and he intertwined their fingers together before he continued.
"So you know what it's like to feel the pressure but be numb to the details. That's what it's like for me- touching something delicate with muffled fingers."
Alice stared down at their hands with a wistful expression. After a few moments of uncharacteristic silence, she looked back up at him.
"I wi- would like you to be able to feel the details again."
She had said it earnestly as her thumb drifted back and forth along the side of his finger. The sensation should have been distracting but, combined with the warmth of the fire and the sound of the rain on the roof, Will found the whole situation rather soothing. For the first time since they'd come back to Wonderland, they were warm and sleeping on something far closer to a bed than the ground they had become accustomed to of late. Hell, even the wretched weather was pretty bloody useful- for once, no one was trying to sneak up them while they slept because no one would want to be out in that blasted rain.
"There's not really any point in it right now, Alice."
She yanked her hand back with an abruptness that reminded Will of plummeting out of the sky when Silvermist let him fall. It felt like the whole world dropped out from under him and he was drowning in her disappointment.
"No point right now? When will be a good time for you to put your heart back where it belongs? Would next week be a better for you, Will?"
The best offense with Alice was not a better defense; no, no, no- changing the game was the way to go when she was this annoyed. Confusion was far more effective than sarcasm.
"How many times did you check to see that I wasn't looking when you shucked off your wet things?"
The question threw her. She sat up, blinked a few times and cocked her head to the side like a puzzled puppy. As Will looked at her, he realized that the very thought that he would peek hadn't occured to her in the slightest. Somewhere deep inside something fluttered but Will ignored it.
"I didn't. Not once. Should I have?"
A grin slid across Will's face. Her sudden suspicion was adorable despite the the very real possibility of getting slapped. He couldn't stop a laugh from escaping though so he quickly followed it with a declaration of innocence.
"Don't worry, love, I didn't sneak a single glance. I even shut my eyes when I turned around because you were throwing up shadows on the wall back there."
The look on her face was worth the risk of getting wacked across the face. It wasn't a smile or a smirk. It was a twist of the lips- the bemused half smile of someone who doesn't know whether to laugh or sigh and roll their eyes. Honestly, Will was just glad her hand hadn't twitched.
"Why ask me if I looked then?"
"Because you are the only one I know who might not've kept at least one eye on me. I can't think of a single other person who'd trust me like that."
It hurt to admit. Not much but there was a sting to the truth.
"Why are we talking about trust?"
"Because you were asking about love."
A seemingly simple answer- actually more complicated than Will wanted to explain. But he knew he would have to explain even if he didn't want to. Spending the past few months with Alice had taught him that.
"What does that have anything to do with it?"
Will stared at her. For someone so clever, she could be awfully dense sometimes.
"How can you love someone you don't trust?"
Shivering, Alice sank back down and shrugged her blanket back into place up over her shoulders. "What about Lizard? She likes you."
Hunching down deeper into the pile of pillows and desperately wanting to use one of Alice's wishes for an electric blanket, Will leaned on his side and peered closely at Alice's face. It didn't look like she was joking but, clearly, she had to be. Of course, if he was wrong...
"I taught Lizard how to be a thief. If there's one person who know exactly why they shouldn't trust me, it would be her."
"Fine," Alice huffed. She rolled onto her side to face him and Will felt a tinge of concern as an idea sparked behind her eyes. "What about An-"
"But she still cares, Will. It's obviou-"
"No, Alice. Just no."
She sighed. A loud, deep sigh that didn't just slip out- it heaved. It was almost comical and for one very brief second, Will was tempted to tell her exactly why Ana would never be an option again but not talking about it was much easier.
"Well, how about-"
"Alice!" Will interrupted for a third and hopefully last time. "Face it- you need trust for love. And if there's only one woman who even has the potential to actually love me and I'm helping her on her quest to save her boyfriend- tell me, love, where's the point in putting that blasted thing back in when it won't do nothing but cause me pain?"
Alice's head thumped down as though her whole body had simply given up on the conversation. Will could hear her talking but the pillows muffled the words. It was probably for the best that he couldn't understand her. She apparently had a lot to say and it didn't sound like anything he wanted to hear. When she finally ran out of things to say to the pillow, her head popped up and she tried a different tactic. "What if you met someone new? Someone who wouldn't think to distrust you immediately?"
Will couldn't help but laugh. "I'm helping you take on an evil sorcerer and a queen who once had her jester juggle joke-telling decapitated heads as after dinner entertainment. Anyone who would want to get involved with me now would have to be as dumb as rocks, Alice, and I don't fancy stupid women."
"But you've met women before," Alice protested. "You were with Silvermist while Caterpillar had a bounty on you. That had to be a dangerous time for you."
"Silvermist? Oh Alice, that wasn't about love. That was about..." Will paused and shifted a bit as he tried to think of a polite way to say it. "That was biology. I didn't need a heart for that. Now, are done with this or do you have some more questions that'll lead to awkward conversations? Because this has been fun. Really."
Alice glared at him. He knew she would but what he didn't anticipate was the impish little smirk that appeared and quickly stretched into a full blown grin. In a sing songy way, she asked, "If you're not a member of the Court of Hearts anymore, why do you still wear the sigil on your underclothes?"
"I've got a warped sense of humor and they were on sale after Valentine's Day."
Alice burst out laughing and Will joined in. She might be moodier than a drunk jabberwocky but Alice's smile was always infectious. He simply couldn't help but return it even if he was feeling a bit chagrined from getting caught wearing-
"Did you peek?"
Alice buried her head in the pillows and her whole body shook. Will couldn't tell if it was with laughter or from the cold but he was guessing the it was the first from the eruption of giggles.
"You peeked! I can't believe you! I'm over here acting like a perfect gent and you're over there eyeballing my... hearts?"
"It was barely more than a blink," Alice managed to get out between gales of laughter. "I swear, Will. Wait- Will, what are you doing? Knave?"
Will pounced. Alice squealed and tried to dodge but he was able to snake his arm around her waist. He pulled, she wriggled away and they both laughed until it hurt as they wrestled their way around the room. When the dust settled and the pillows were piled back up in front of the fire, Alice was sprawled out under the blankets with Will tucked up close next to her. Alice tried to inch away from Will but he let out a low growl and tightened his grip.
"Stop your squirming, love. A warm body is far better than a thin blanket."
Her body tensed up but she stopped moving away so Will considered it a win. He pushed her wet mop of hair up out of his way so he wouldn't end up chewing on it during the night and stuck his nose against the back of her neck. She squeaked and jolted forward.
"You're cold," Alice whined.
"I know. That's why I'm using you to warm up."
"But you said this would be warmer than a blanket and it's not!"
"It will be if you just wait a bloody minute!"
Will could hear her gritting her teeth but she stayed still so he resisted the urge to irritate her. It would have been so easy too. A couple of words or a hand drifting where it didn't belong. But she was warming up and he didn't want to sleep cold if he could help it. And, as he thought that, Alice shifted slightly away from him.
"Damn it, Alice! You got the fire on one side and me on the other. I've only got you. Now snuggle up."
"Snuggle up?" Alice flopped over and propped her head up on her hand. Sounding more amused than curious with her question, she smirked and asked, "Did you honestly say snuggle up?"
"Yes. I did. And I meant it." Will tried for a fierce frown but failed as Alice curled up next to him. She let her head drop to his shoulder and Will leaned over to spread her hair out behind. Hopefully the fire would help dry out her mess of hair sometime before the next century. Her damp shirt was still chilly but her cheek burned and her arm was a line of fire across his chest. Alice shifted a bit before finding a comfy position and it was only a few minutes later before the ice in Will's blood began to thaw.
"You make a surprisingly good pillow, Will."
"Glad to be of some use."
It should have been awkward- sleeping so close there wasn't even a line of air between them- but, instead, it was oddly comfortable. Warm, dry and not being currently chased- that was the best they could hope for while in Wonderland. Will was starting to drift off when Alice began fidgeting. It was subtle but her squirming pulled him out of his downward spiral into sleep.
Will had heard that before. He'd even heard it in that tone before. "What's nothing?"
"Will, I... it's just," Alice's voice drifted off. She let out a deep breath and, with a chagrined expression, gave a small tap on his chest. "It's a little disconcerting."
"Oh. I forgot about that. Sorry." With his free hand, Will reached up and found the small indent just to the left of the center of his chest. He began tapping and felt the familiar thud reverberating through his rib cage. "Is that better?"
Alice perked up for a moment before she dropped her head down and put her ear close to where his heart should be. She looked puzzled but that faded to a relaxed sort of contentment. Yawning, she settled back down against him and said, "It sounds almost like the real thing."
"The tempo is off," she murmured.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Knave, I'm sure you're wrong. Here." Reaching behind her, she grabbed Will's hand and tugged. After a few moments of awkward fumbling and contorted twisting, Alice had his hand firmly pressed between her shoulder blades. She wriggled back to a comfortable position as a dull thud thumped under his hand. There were better places to take a pulse but Will didn't want put his hands there for fear of losing them. Alice spoke and could feel that, as well, in the palm of his hand. "See, you were a little off. The beat is-"
"Hush, love," Will cut her off and wondered absently if she was going to get a bit of pay back for all the times he had interrupted her tonight. Closing his eyes, he tried to focus on the rhythm. Once he thought he had it, he modified his tapping to match it. "I'm trying to concentrate."
Apparently he had gotten it right because Alice hummed with approval. She must have also trusted him to keep it up because she ignored his request for quiet and said, "It's going to be odd to fall asleep to a heartbeat but wake up to silence."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I can do this in my sleep."
"It used to bother me as well. Couldn't sleep much for weeks after Ana yanked out my heart. It was just too quiet," Will admitted. Muscle memory and old habits kicked in and Will's finger kept moving without him needing to thinking about it. "I'll wake up still tapping and not realize it until I go for a cup of tea."
"We have tea?"
"We're at Hatter's, Alice. There's probably more tea than hats here and that's saying something."
She gave a light laugh and Will could feel her smiling. Her cheeks scrunched up and Will couldn't help but grinning with her as she relaxed against him. Finally warm and with Alice's heartbeat echoing in his chest, Will felt a strange sensation. It was something he hadn't felt in so long he hadn't just forgotten what felt like- he hadn't remembered it at all.
"Go to sleep Alice."
It wouldn't work. Couldn't work. She never listened. Would never listen. She'd probably stop breathing if he told her that she needed air just to spite him.
"What are we going to do after we find Cyrus?"
He knew it wouldn't work.
"You two will live happily ever after and I'll head home to watch the telly." He felt her jaw muscle twitch against his shoulder and he answered before she had a chance to ask the question. "Don't ask. It would take to long to explain. The important parts are that you'll be happy and I'll be out of Wonderland."
"What about your happily ever after?" Alice yawned again and Will could tell she was struggling to stay awake but losing the fight.
"Not everyone gets that kind of ending to thier story. And even if everyone did, I still don't think I'd get one. Remember, every good story ends with the villain getting what he deserves."
"Don't be foolish, Will. You're not a villain," Alice protested as her eyelids drooped. Will thought she must have been half asleep already because she added in a slurry mumble, "You're my dearest friend in all the worlds and I don't think I could have a happily ever after if you weren't happy too."
There it was again. That flicker of something lost so long ago it felt strange to find it once more.
"Don't worry, love. I'm happy right now."