Ears still ringing from the clatter of Charlie's "early warning system," heart beating a heavy tattoo in his chest, Hatter ran from the shelter. Alice wasn't anywhere in his line of sight, but he held onto the faint hope that she was just outside the shelter. Until he looked up and saw a splash of dark plum hanging from a tree limb and his hope was dashed.
"No," he whispered, and then louder, "NO!" She wasn't just outside the shelter. Of course not. No, Just Plain Alice had gone to the Casino. She'd gone to look for Jack. "I need a horse," Hatter shot over his shoulder at Charlie even as he walked over to the velvet coat Alice had left behind, his gaze never leaving it.
Charlie was still muttering something about… hell, Hatter couldn't make heads or tails out of whatever the old fool was on about. Hatter stopped, lifted the heavy coat, the nap of the fabric soft in the palm of his hand. He couldn't help himself; he raised it to his face, breathed in her scent. It was almost as intoxicating as the most potent of his teas, now lost forever in his ransacked shop.
The damned coat hadn't been anything much when he'd pulled it from the rack and given it to her. The only thing that had made it stand apart from the dozen others hanging from the rack was its color, a shade that had complemented the purple of her tights, the blue of her very wet dress. The darkness of her hair and paleness of her soft skin. The intense blue of her eyes. He breathed in again and his eyes fluttered closed.
It was a simple coat from a rack filled with much flashier outerwear, given to Hatter as payment for services rendered. He hadn't asked where the coats had come from; it hadn't really mattered. But this one…
This one mattered.
This one belonged to Alice.